June, 2010

What is Malocclusion?

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Malocclusion is the term dentists use to describe an overbite or under-bite.  An overbite is a common orthodontic condition in which the upper teeth over-lap or fall over the lower arch of teeth.  An under bite is when the upper teeth fit inside the arch of the lower teeth.  While an overbite may be unsightly, it will probably not cause any major health concerns but left untreated, an under-bite may eventually lead to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) which affects the jaw joint, resulting in pain while opening the mouth, headaches and a wide range of other symptoms.

These types of bite disorders can be resolved in my office using orthodontics.  Orthodontics is a specialty of dentistry that treats improper bites, crowding of the teeth and tooth irregularity.   Options for correcting malocclusion are regular braces or, in some cases, Invisalign.

Invisalign is a series of clear, removable aligners that are used as an alternative to traditional metal braces.  These series of clear aligners slowly move the teeth into the proper place.   Correcting these types of bites with Invisalign is a terrific alternative to old metal braces.  With advances in Invisalign technology over the past several years treatment for more severe cases of malocclusion is now possible.

If you have any questions regarding overbite or under-bite or how orthodontics can help you achieve a healthy, beautiful smile please contact the Wilbanks Smile Center at 706-886-9439.  My team and I proudly provide a complete range of dental care and pampering to patients in Toccoa and the surrounding counties.

Grinding Your Teeth In Toccoa

Friday, June 25th, 2010

Stress does bad things to your body.  Scientists keep learning more about the negative effects that stress has on our physical health.  But did you know that stress also takes a toll on your teeth?

There are so many reasons people are overstressed right now – worries about job security, housing values, retirement plan values, just to name a few.   Dr. Jennifer Ashton, a television medical correspondent, discussed this matter on the CBS Early Show several weeks ago.  According to her report dental offices  across the country  are seeing more and more people abnormally grinding their teeth.

Grinding the teeth in this manner is called Bruxism.  Dr. Ashton explained how teeth grinding can do more than just damage the teeth – it can also affect the muscles surrounding the head and neck which leads to other problems including temporomandibular joint dysfunction or TMJ.

Typically patients do not even know they are grinding their teeth.  Many times their spouse complains about the grinding noise at night and that is how the problem is discovered.  You may be grinding if you have these symptoms:

  • Unusual headaches, especially in the morning
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Facial pain
  • Jaw joint pain
  • Biting the inside of your cheek

Protecting your teeth and jaw joint from TMJ and other damage caused by bruxism calls for a visit to our office.  While my team and I can’t get rid of the stress in your life, we can offer you a serene, relaxing environment where we can create a custom orthotic appliance that will save your teeth, jaw joints and muscles from further damage and allow them to heal.  A healthy, happy jaw joint will relieve your painful symptoms such as headaches and muscle spasms.

Protect your teeth and overall health by scheduling a consultation to discuss your dental health needs.  Please call our Toccoa, Georgia office at 706-886-9439 to find out how my team and I can help your stress related grinding and  pamper you a little too!

Is Sedation Dentistry Right for You?

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Extreme anxiety and fear of visiting the dental office is more common that you might think.  Every week I speak to patients that delay or avoid dental treatment for years.  Reasons for dental fear vary; family stories about bad experiences, perhaps there was a painful procedure in the past, a fear of getting numb, a claustrophobic feeling in the dental chair.  Whatever your reason – my team and I understand that the anxiety you feel is real.

Putting off dental treatment only leads to higher expense and additional treatment requirements because the existing problems only get worse over time.  Teeth don’t ever heal themselves.

What would you think if you knew you could sleep through your dental appointment, no anxiety, no fear?  Sounds promising?   Sedation dentistry may be  the answer to solving your problem.  Modern dental offices are very different from the dental care our parents experienced, and our office is different than most modern dental offices. You will find our staff very warm, caring and ready to help you deal with your anxiety. Our team and  sedation dentistry can help you achieve the healthy, beautiful smile you have only dreamed of – while you are dreaming!   Under sedation, years of dental avoidance and neglect can be repaired during just one visit.

In the Toccoa, Georgia area, cosmetic dentistry and restorative dentistry are available to you without anxiety.  Please contact my office, Wilbanks Smile Center,  today at 706-886-9439 and let’s talk about the best approach for your dental needs.

Top Ten Reasons You Might Have Gum Disease

Friday, June 18th, 2010

When my patients are informed that they have developed gum disease they usually ask why.  The reasons vary for each person but here is a list of risk factors:

  1. You smoke cigarettes or use chewing tobacco.  The use of tobacco is one of the biggest risks for gum disease because it decreases your ability to fight infection.  It also interferes with healing and makes it more likely that your gum disease will be serious enough to cause tooth loss.
  2. Your mom or dad had gum disease.  If you have a family history of this problem then you have an increased risk of developing gum disease yourself.
  3. You are female and are having hormonal changes.  You could be going through puberty, menopause or pregnancy.  All three stages of life increase your risk.
  4. You have a serious disease that affects your ability to fight infection.  Leukemia, AIDS, and uncontrolled Diabetes cause you to be at greater risk.
  5. You have a lot of stress in your life.  Stress weakens your immune system meaning you will be more open to infections of all kinds.
  6. You have an unhealthy diet.  A poor diet that includes lots of carbohydrates and sugary foods help make plaque grow on your teeth.  Not eating enough fruits and vegetables means that you are not getting the vitamins and minerals your body needs to keep your immune system strong.
  7. You take certain medications – Birth control pills, calcium channel blockers (for high blood pressure and heart problems), some seizure control medicines, chemotherapy drugs and androgen blockers (used to treat prostate cancer).  Don’t stop your medication – you need it!  Just make sure that your health history is up to date and that I know what medications you are currently taking.
  8. You rarely floss.
  9. You don’t brush your teeth after each meal.
  10. You don’t remember to visit your dental hygienist regularly for professional dental cleanings.  Most patients are expected to come in for cleanings and exams every six months.  If you have gum disease or are at high risk for gum disease your appointments will be more often.  Don’t skip these appointments – they are important!

Please contact my Toccoa, Georgia office today at 706-886-9439  if you have checked off any of the numbers on my list.  My team and I can help you achieve a happy, healthy smile.  If your gum disease has already caused tooth loss ask about your options including implants.  Your comfort and convenience are very important to us so remember to let us know if dental visits make you anxious and learn more about sedation dentistry options offered.

FDA Announces New Review of Mercury Fillings

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said it will convene a dental advisory panel in December of this year to “review scientific issues that may affect the regulation of dental amalgam”.  The dental amalgam the FDA is referring to is the old silver filling material that has been used for dental fillings for almost 200 years. Amalgam is made up of small particles of various metals mixed together with mercury. As a filling material it is cheap and easy for a dentist to use. Is it the best material for restoring your teeth? I don’t think so and I believe maybe the FDA may be thinking that way too.

In 2009 the FDA concluded that dental amalgam was a safe and effective restoration but reclassified the substance so that special controls were required. Since 2009 the agency has received several petitions raising questions about the final rule and special controls.  Mercury is a  known neurotoxin and scientists agree that dental amalgam fillings do leach mercury into the mouth but studies vary widely as to the amount.  Continued exposure to mercury has been associated with various health problems including neurological and mental disorders, birth defects, autoimmune diseases and birth defects.

The FDA panel has stated it will focus on the potential risk of mercury fillings to pregnant women, fetuses and young children. A group particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of mercury.  I am proud that here at Wilbanks Smile Center we are mercury free!  Contact my Toccoa, Georgia office immediately at 706-886-9439 to discuss how I can help you become mercury free too.  Safe removal of old mercury fillings and replacement with modern, tooth colored dental restorations will not only make your smile more beautiful but also protect you from the dangers of old mercury fillings.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Depression and Possible Links to Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Possible  links between depression and 0bstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have been studied for many years.  According to research published in the Journal Chest and the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine in 2007 and 2005 by Dr. Daniel Schwartz  treating OSA definitely improved depressive symptoms, sometimes dramatically.

“Lack of motivation, lack of interest in daily activities, fatigue and tiredness may be seen by the patient and their physician as depression, but it may be sleep apnea,” said Schwartz who is medical director of University Community Hospital in Tampa.

More recently, Dr. Stacey Ishaman and a team at Johns Hopkins University compared patients diagnosed with OSA and a group of patients without OSA.  Significantly more patients in the Obstructive Sleep Apnea group met the diagnostic requirements for depression versus the non-OSA patients.  The research also noted that the severity of the sleep apnea was a very good predictor of the severity of the patients’ depression.

What does this mean for you? Estimates show as many as 12 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea but up to 90% don’t know they have it.  If you suffer from extreme fatigue even after a full-nights sleep you may be part of this statistic.  The lethargy and fatigue are among the many symptoms of OSA that match symptoms of depression.

Many patients avoid getting a diagnosis of their possible sleep disorders because they have heard horror stories about the most common treatment, the CPAP machine.  While CPAP treatment is currently considered the first line therapy for OSA most patients have trouble continuing the therapy in the long term.  Sleeping with the masks and tubing is problematic for many, others find the apparatus leads to sore throats, puffy eyes and sinus problems.  There is another treatment option for mild to moderate sleep apnea.

Oral Appliance therapy is highly effective and avoids the discomfort of sleeping with the CPAP machine.  Oral appliances are suggested for patients who have mild to moderate sleep apnea and for those patients with more severe apnea who cannot tolerate CPAP therapy.

In Northeastern Georgia, your experienced Dental Sleep Medicine practitioner is Dr. Joseph Wilbanks.  Please contact us today at  706-886-9439 to arrange a consultation with Dr. Wilbanks to discuss your obstructive sleep apnea treatment options.

Oral Appliance Therapy for Sleep Apnea

Monday, June 7th, 2010

People suffering from severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may be more likely to gain more weight over time than those people with less severe OSA according to a  study by Dr. Mark Brown at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.  “OSA is a disorder characterized by decreases or cessation of breathing during sleep.  Obesity is a known risk factor for the disorder; however, it is hypothesized that the effects of OSA itself may predispose patients to weight gain,” said Dr. Brown.

As Dr. Brown stated, being overweight puts you at much higher risk for having obstructive sleep apnea.  But could the OSA have caused the weight gain in the first place?  Or is it a circular pattern of OSA leading to weight gain which leads to more severe OSA?  Many questions  surround our understanding of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) but there is undeniable proof that when left untreated the disease can be deadly.

Many patients who have been diagnosed with OSA are not treating and managing their disease properly because they cannot tolerate using the CPAP machine.  While sleeping with the CPAP machine is usually the first treatment offered to patients, mild to moderate sleep apnea can be treated effectively using an oral appliance.  These oral appliances are worn while you sleep and gently move your jaw forward to keep the airway open.  There are no masks or tubes to deal with making it much easier for patients to comply with the treatment.  The oral appliance is easy to travel with and since it doesn’t require electricity is perfect for camping.

Dr. Joseph Wilbanks would be happy to discuss your treatment options for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.  Contact our Toccoa, Georgia office today at 706-886-9439 to arrange your consultation.  A good night of sleep, free from the CPAP machine is closer than you think.

Bad Breath and your Tongue

Friday, June 4th, 2010

Patients sometimes complain that their tongue is sometimes a different color – white, yellow or even black.  The reason for the color change is something known as Geographic Tongue.  This description simply means a tongue that has lots of grooves and fissures in it.  This “geography” gives lots of hiding places for anaerobic bacteria to live and breed.  These bacteria cause bad breath.  A geographic tongue does not mean something is wrong with your tongue, it simply means your body is shaped that way. The fix for the problem of bad breath and a funny colored tongue is simple – keep your tongue as clean as possible

Most patients brush their teeth, floss and they are done.  But tongue scraping or cleaning is also necessary.  This  process is something that the majority of people in the United States don’t do on a daily basis but it is vital to keeping your breath fresh.   You don’t need an expensive piece of plastic or special mouth rinses, all you really need is a simple tongue scraper (your neighborhood drug store or dollar store has inexpensive versions) .

Starting at the base of your tongue scrape in slow, sweeping strokes from back to front.  Don’t go so far back that you gag but try to get as far back on the base as possible.  You don’t have to press hard, but use several strokes to cover your whole tongue.  Following this you can also spread a small dot of toothpaste on your tongue.  Hold it there while you brush your teeth and then spit – don’t swallow the toothpaste.

Make tongue cleaning a regular part of your daily dental cleaning routine and enjoy fresher breath and a healthier mouth.  For more information on geographic tongue and bad breath contact us at 706-886-9439.  Wilbanks Smile Center is a full-service dental practice including orthodontics, root canals, dentures, implants and sedation dentistry.  We love to pamper our patients!

Night Time Eating Bad for Teeth and Waist

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

We all know that eating late at night is a real easy way to gain weight but it seems that midnight snacks are also bad for your dental health.  A study discussed in the August issue of Eating Behaviors reveals that eating food late at night contributes to tooth loss.  This outcome was not dependent upon the types of food eaten.  The researchers think that the reason could be reduced saliva flow at night.

During the day our saliva is constantly bathing our teeth and washing away food particles.  At night this production dries up.  The study about dental health and late night snacks was conducted by researchers at Copenhagen University and the University of Missouri – Kansas City.  Using data from a large World Health Organization medical study they looked at the oral health, eating behaviors and general health of the subjects.  They discovered that about 8% of the subjects were night-time eaters (they ate after dinner or woke at night to eat).

Even after taking into account the type of food eaten at night, whether it contained sugar or carbohydrates (both favorite foods of oral bacteria which cause gum disease), the people who ate at night lost more teeth than people who didn’t eat at night.  The researchers strongly suggest that everyone should have only water during the final hour before bedtime and then brush their teeth.

If you are a midnight snacker living in Banks, Stephens or Franklin counties contact our Toccoa, Georgia office today at 706-886-9439 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Joseph Wilbanks.  Remember, your comfort and convenience is important to us – we love to pamper our patients!

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