Posts for: July, 2013
Halitosis (bad breath) is a major personal and social concern — so much so that Americans spend nearly $3 billion annually on rinses, mints and gum to freshen breath. While helpful in alleviating occasional bad breath caused by oral dryness (brought on by stress, eating certain foods, prescription medications, smoking or consuming alcohol), those with chronic halitosis require a much different treatment approach.
That's because there are a number of possible causes for chronic halitosis, among them: xerostomia (chronic dry mouth), caused by mouth breathing; periodontal (gum) disease; or candidiasis, a yeast infection caused by some antibiotics. It may also arise as a secondary symptom of systemic diseases like liver disease, diabetes or cancer.
The most common cause, though, is bacteria. Many types of oral bacteria can produce terrible odors, most notably volatile sulphur compounds (VSCs) with their “rotten egg” smell. Because of its relative dryness and difficulty in cleaning, the back of the tongue is a wonderful environment for bacteria to multiply and thrive.
If you suffer from chronic halitosis, our primary objective then is to try to uncover its specific cause, which will determine what course of treatment we would recommend. First, what is your experience with halitosis — have others noticed it or just you? Next, we would consider your medical history — have you had any health issues with your ears, nose or throat, or experienced any gastrointestinal disorders or lung problems? What kind of medications do you take, and are your kidneys and liver functioning properly? We would also perform a thorough dental exam for any signs of tooth decay, gum disease or a dry, coated tongue as well as look at your diet and lifestyle choices, like smoking or alcohol use.
Having a better idea of what may be causing your bad breath, we can then tailor a treatment plan that might involve, among other things, treatment for tooth decay, a periodontal cleaning (scaling), instruction on better oral hygiene and tongue cleaning with a scraper or brush, or the removal of third molars where debris may be accumulating in the gum flaps.
Finding the cause of bad breath can take time, but is well worth the effort. The end result is a treatment plan that works.
If you would like more information on understanding and treating chronic halitosis, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Bad Breath: More than just embarrassing.”
If you are one of the millions of Americans with missing teeth, then you're probably aware of some of the obvious side effects. You may feel self-conscious during conversations or simply avoid smiling altogether to conceal your dental issue. It is not uncommon for missing teeth to affect your confidence, but did you know that there are other problems that result from tooth loss?
For starters, if you have lost enough teeth, eating may become more difficult, in particular healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables. This is one of the main reasons that inadequate dental care frequently results in nutritional deficiency.
Another very serious issue that results from missing teeth is bone loss. We sometimes refer to this as a “hidden consequence,” because you may not actually see or feel this issue right away. Did you know that bone is actually living tissue that needs constant stimulation to maintain its form and density? Thus, when a tooth is lost, the bone in the jaw that surrounded and supported that tooth melts away. There is a 25% decrease in width of bone during the first year after tooth loss and an overall 4 millimeters decrease in height over the next few years. The longer you have missing teeth, the greater the loss of bone.
As bone loss continues, it can actually affect the structure of your face. If you lose your teeth early in adulthood, by age 45 you might start to notice sunken cheeks. By age 60, your cheeks and lips will lose their support, resulting in a collapsed and aged look. If your teeth are not replaced, this process will continue, and you will be in danger of losing much of the structural support of your lips and cheeks.
Luckily, we can use dental implants to not only restore your smile, but also to halt this bone loss. Implants look, feel and function like your natural teeth and are made of titanium, which has the unique ability to fuse with your living bone. Among the many benefits of implants, they continue to provide stimulation to your bone, preventing further bone loss.
With a success rate of more than 95%, implants are the best long-term solution for tooth replacement.
If you would like more information about implants and bone loss, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”
The old saying, “If it ain't broke, don't fix it,” doesn't really apply when discussing your wisdom teeth. It's great if they are not bothering you, but don't wait for problems to develop before you take action. This may seem counter-intuitive, but you should know that the best time to have your wisdom teeth removed is when they are not causing problems.
Why do wisdom teeth cause problems?
Wisdom teeth are so-called because they appear at ages 17 to 25, the age of supposedly attaining wisdom. They are also known as third molars and are farthest back in your jaws. For some people they come through the gum-line only partially, or they may not erupt into the mouth at all. Unerupted they have the potential to cause problems associated with the neighboring teeth and surrounding gums.
You may have heard of “impacted” wisdom teeth. This means that they are impacted or forced against neighboring structures, teeth or bone that prevent them from coming into the mouth in correct biting position. Since they are your last teeth to come in, space for them may be severely limited. They may push into the teeth that are already in place, becoming stuck as they try to erupt. When wisdom teeth are trapped like this below the gum line and are pushing against neighboring teeth, these molars can cause problems such as infections, cysts, or gum disease.
My wisdom teeth seem OK, so why remove them?
The dilemma is that if you wait until you feel pain connected with your wisdom teeth, their neighboring teeth may already be in trouble.
Another reason to remove these back teeth before they cause problems is that it's a good idea to have your surgery while you are young. Younger, healthy patients with no infections at the site have the best chance of having their wisdom teeth extracted without complications, with an easier recovery and uneventful healing.
Of course, each situation is different. Make an appointment with us for an examination and a consultation to discuss the risks and benefits of removing your wisdom teeth. For more information read the article “Removing Wisdom Teeth” in Dear Doctor magazine.