July, 2010

Help Your Gums - Quit Smoking

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

It is well known that smoking contributes to harmful bacteria in the mouth and that oral bacteria are responsible for gum disease.  Scientists have also known that when smokers quit, the microbe population in their mouths change.  What they didn’t know was whether or not smoking could reverse the colonization of bad bacteria.

A new study, which was reported in the July issue of the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, found more good reasons to quit smoking.  Patients with chronic gum disease that quit smoking while undergoing treatment had lower number of harmful bacteria in their mouths.  Even more impressive – the number of good bacteria increased!  A win-win situation for the patient in many ways.

A long term study completed by researchers from The Ohio State University and Newcastle University showed that those study participants that quit smoking had a reduction in their levels of harmful bacteria and an increase in health-associated or “good for you” bacteria.  “These results indicate a critical role for smoking cessation counseling in periodontal therapy for smokers,” according to the report.

This study did not include patients that used other forms of  tobacco, only smokers.  It will be interesting to see if anyone completes a similar study using smokeless forms of tobacco.

Diagnosing and treating gum disease in its early stages is best.   However, if you have been living with chronic gum disease for some time don’t despair.   Treatment for gum disease has changed significantly over the years and a healthy smile is easier to achieve that you might guess.  Call my Toccoa, Georgia office today at 706-886-9439 to schedule your appointment – and if fear or anxiety have been keeping you from visiting the dentist remember that my team and I specialize in making sure your visit is calm and relaxing.

Sweet Tea and Natural Fluoride

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Black tea is the most popular beverage in the world and here in the South we love our Sweet Tea.  Tea drinkers gain several health benefits including protecting their teeth because of the naturally occurring fluoride contained in brewed black tea (we’ll talk about the added sugar another day).  While we have known about the natural fluoride in tea for some time, new research from the Medical College of Georgia suggests that the levels are higher than previously thought.

Fluoride is known to help prevent dental cavities and many municipal water supplies add fluoride to drinking water for just that purpose.  When fluoride  is consumed in excessive amounts  over long periods, however,  it can cause bone problems.

Dr. Gary Whitford decided to look at the tests used to detect fluoride levels in tea after reviewing data from four patients with advanced skeletal fluorisis, a disease caused by too much fluoride consumption.  The link between the patients who suffered from this rare condition was excessive tea drinking.  Each of the patients drank between 1-2 gallons of tea a day for a decade or more.  When the tea brands used by the patients were tested using a traditional testing method the fluoride amounts seemed very low.

Dr. Whitford knew that the tea plant was unusual in that it accumulates large amounts of fluoride and aluminum in its leaves.  Testing was then done using a diffusion method that breaks the chemical bonds between the fluoride and aluminum allowing all of the fluoride to be measured.  The amount in each sample was 1.4 to 3.3 times higher than previously measured.

“The additional fluoride from drinking two to four cups of tea a day won’t harm anyone” according to Dr. Whitford.  “The bottom line is to enjoy your favorite tea, but like everything else, drink it in moderation.”

If you have questions about protecting your teeth from cavities or if you drink way too much Sweet Tea and have concerns please contact my office at 706-886-9439.   My team and I proudly pamper patients from Stephens, Banks and Franklin counties.

Save Your Heart - Brush Twice A Day

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

A new study reported in the British Medical Journal, 2010 reports that regular twice-a-day tooth-brushing is associated with lower risks of heart disease.  The study also showed decreased levels of inflammatory markers C-reactive protein and fibrinogen, which are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, when study participants brushed with higher frequency.

The study was designed to discover whether tooth-brushing had an association with C-reactive protein and fibrinogen and the risk of heart attacks.  Study participants showed that those who reported less tooth-brushing had a 70% increase in their risk of cardiovascular disease events when compared to those who reported brushing their teeth two times a day.

Researchers also found that people who brushed their teeth less than twice per day had increased levels of both C-reactive protein and fibrinogen.  Because periodontal disease is believed to contribute  to inflammation, researchers believe that systemic inflammation could be part of the underlying mechanism that links oral health and heart disease.  Gum infections may add to the inflammatory burden on the body, which results in higher risks of heart disease.

According to the authors of the study, the results strengthen the link between oral hygiene and heart disease.  The study findings also suggest the poor oral hygiene plays a role in increasing the risk of heart disease because of systemic inflammation.

Does all this mean that brushing twice a day will completely protect you from a heart attack?  Of course not – the study does prove, once again, the importance of healthy gums and teeth to your overall well-being.  My patients report many reasons for avoiding proper dental care – one of the more common reasons is anxiety or fear of dental treatment.

Here at Wilbanks Smile Center my team and I work with you to alleviate your anxiety and allow you to receive the treatment you need.  Sedation dentistry may be a good choice for you.  Please contact my Toccoa, Georgia office at 706-886-9439 and we can discuss your concerns and offer you several options to make your visit more comfortable.  Remember, your dental health is reflected in your overall health – please call today.

TMJ Pain - Tips to Try

Friday, July 16th, 2010

There are many causes for temporomandibular joint dysfunction and, treatment for the disorder will vary for each individual.  Until you can visit my office for diagnosis and treatment here are some ideas to help relieve your discomfort.

  • Do NOT chew gum.
  • Apply cold packs. Apply an ice pack to the side of your face for 10 minutes (wrap in a towel to protect your skin).   Reapply after 20-30 minutes.
  • Eat a soft diet. Stick to soft foods such as yogurt, mashed potatoes, cottage cheese, scrambled eggs and soup.  The idea is to rest your jaw muscles as much as possible.  Don’t eat hard, crunchy foods like raw carrots, pretzels or really chewy foods.
  • Avoid opening your mouth too wide. Try to keep your mouth movements small when you yawn.  Do not order the overstuffed sandwich or the double bacon cheeseburger.  You will be more comfortable if you avoid extreme jaw movement.
  • Hold the Phone. This means hold it with your hand, not between your ear and shoulder.
  • Don’t Rest Your Chin - Do you rest your chin on your hand?  Time to stop.  Also, check your pillow position at night – find a comfortable position that doesn’t place pressure on your face or jaw.
  • Lips Together, Teeth Apart – Practice keeping your teeth slightly apart to help avoid unconscious clenching or grinding of your teeth during the day.
  • Try Over The Counter Medications. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofin (Advil, Motrin, etc.) can be purchased at your local retailer.  Follow the dosing directions carefully and remember to always have food in your stomach before you take these medications (see #3 above) because they can injure your stomach lining.

Hopefully these tips will help alleviate some of the pain, headaches and other symptoms you are experiencing until your appointment.  Remember, these tips are not a treatment for temporomandibular joint dysfunction and will not replace proper diagnosis and treatment. Correctly treating your individual case is necessary to avoid further damage to the jaw joint.

In  Toccoa, Georgia and surrounding areas please contact my team at 706-886-9439 today to schedule your consultation.  Relief from the pain and headaches associated with TMD are only a phone call away at Wilbanks Smile Center.

Headaches and TMJ Symptoms

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is your jaw joint.  It is the hinge that connects your lower jaw to the upper part of your skull.  The joint is extremely complex and flexible allowing movement both up and down and side to side.  This allows us to talk, chew, yawn with a wide range of motion.  The muscles surrounding the joint control the movement and position of the jaw.

A temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) is a problem with the jaw joint and surrounding muscles.  Symptoms of TMD include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw, face, neck or shoulders
  • Limited range of opening the mouth
  • Clicking or popping noises in the jaw
  • Difficulty or discomfort chewing
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Swelling in the jaw area
  • Dizziness
  • Tinnitus or ringing in the ears or a feeling of “fullness” in the ears
  • Ear aches
  • Toothaches

With so many varied symptoms it is not unusual for patients to visit many different specialists and undergo many tests before finally being diagnosed correctly.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above you may be suffering from TMD.  In my Toccoa, Georgia office I can perform a clinical examination to determine whether or not your jaw joint is the cause of your symptoms.   Treatment options for TMD will vary by patient depending upon the severity of the problem and the underlying cause.

I will discuss some basic, conservative self-care techniques in my next blog.  While these techniques will not replace proper treatment they may make you more comfortable until your appointment.

TMD problems do not typically “go away” and putting off treatment may only make the problem worse.  Please contact Wilbanks Smile Center today at 706-886-9439 to schedule a consultation.  If you are avoiding treatment because of anxiety please let us know your concerns – we want to make your visit comfortable and relaxing.

Dental Fear? Ways to Make Your Fear Disappear!

Friday, July 9th, 2010

As many as four out of five Americans admit to being afraid of the dentist and up to 25% of adults are so afraid that they don’t get the dental care they need.  Every day more research shows that healthy teeth and gums are a contributor to your overall health.   Avoiding gum disease can protect you from heart disease, diabetes, some types of cancers and for pregnant women, can even help your unborn baby.

People who are afraid of the dentist usually have one of three types of dental fear -

  • Dental anxiety is a reaction to something unknown such as a procedure you have never had before
  • Dental fear is a reaction to something that is known or perceived to be known such as experiencing treatment from an uncaring dentist or being told horror stories by friends or family
  • Dental phobia is an extreme type of dental fear which may cause a physical fear response such as fight-or-flight

There is help available for those suffering from anxiety and fearfulness about dental procedures.  At Wilbanks Smile Center I offer several options to help you get the care you need without anxiety.  Sedation dentistry or relaxation dentistry uses medication to relax the fears away.  Combine this with my  highly trained, caring team and your healthy, beautiful smile is finally within your reach.

Contact my team at 706-886-9439 for more information about your sedation dentistry options.

Are Dental Implants Right for You?

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

A dental implant is basically an artificial tooth that replaces a tooth that has been lost.  Implants are perfect for replacing just one tooth or many.  They can even be used to anchor dentures.

The implant itself is a small titanium device that is placed in your jaw to act as an artificial tooth root.  Your jaw bone grows around the anchor and holds it in place.  Not only does this provide a solid base for your new tooth but placing an implant protects you from bone loss in the area where you have lost the tooth.

Ideal candidates for dental implants have healthy gums and enough bone to support the implant – but since most things in life are not “ideal” there are options that I can discuss with you about getting your mouth ready for an implant.

As I said, the implant itself serves as an artificial tooth root – the part that you will see is the special crown that is placed on top of the implant.  These crowns are color matched to your existing teeth and very lifelike in appearance.  Since the implant is permanently placed in your mouth no one will ever know you have a replacement tooth – you do not have to remove it for cleaning.  Just brush and floss regularly.

If you are missing a tooth or teeth and are unhappy with the gap in your smile or are unhappy with the bridge or partial denture that you are currently wearing please contact my Toccoa, Georgia office today.  My team and I will be happy to explain your options and help you decide if a dental implant is the right choice for you.

Treating Cavities Without Drilling

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

New research reported in the journal ACS Nano suggests that someday cavities may be healed using a new peptide.  This new peptide is embedded in a soft gel or flexible film and placed next to the cavity.  It encourages the cells inside the tooth to regenerate.  The new gel could help avoid drilling into decayed teeth.

Researcher Nadia Benkirane-Jessel stated “It’s not like toothpaste”, which is designed to prevent cavities.  “Here we are really trying to control cavities (after they develop).”   The research into this new peptide could change the way cavities are treated.

Millions of cavities are treated by dentists each year.  Drilling teeth and filling them is very safe and the most effective way of saving a decayed tooth.

The French researchers used a peptide called MSN or melanocyte-stimulating hormone which has previously been shown to encourage bone regeneration.  The team theorized that bone and teeth are fairly similar so they tested whether the MSH would help teeth regenerate as well.  The researchers applied either a film or gel containing MSH to decayed mice teeth.  After about a month the cavities had healed according to Benkirane-Jessel.

The researchers caution that regenerating a tooth from within would probably be useful in only a small number of cases and that most cavities would still need to be drilled and filled.  Whatever the outcome, it will still be many years before the product of this research reaches dental offices and consumers.

In the meantime, preventing cavities is your best bet which means brushing and flossing.  Visit your dental hygienist at least twice a year for a professional cleaning.  If you do develop a cavity ask how it will be filled.  I am proud that Wilbanks Smile Center is a mercury free office – old fashioned mercury or silver fillings are never used on my patients.

If you have a concern about your old silver amalgam fillings please contact my team at 706-886-9439 to discuss how your smile can become mercury free.  Until teeth are able to heal themselves we have plenty of safer alternatives for your treatment here at my Toccoa office.

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