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Monthly Archives: January 2021

Lip and Tongue Ties

DID YOU KNOW that it is possible to be tongue-tied in a medical sense? That’s right, it’s not just an expression. Lip ties and tongue ties are what we call it when the thin pieces of tissue that connect the upper lip to the gums and the tongue to the floor of the mouth are thicker and tighter than usual. These pieces of tissue are called frenula (frenum singular).

What’s Normal for a Frenum?

A normal frenum is supposed to be thin and highly elastic. This allows free mobility of the lips and tongue, which we need in order to chew, swallow, and talk normally. When the frenum under the tongue is too restrictive, it makes it harder to pronounce words correctly or chew effectively. Some people with tongue ties can’t even touch their tongues to the roofs of their mouths! They also can’t use their tongues to clean pieces of stuck food away.

A lip tie affects the frenum between the upper lip and the gums. Infants with lip ties may not be able to effectively latch when breastfeeding, and it can cause a large gap between the front teeth when they grow in as well as increasing the risk of gum recession.

Frenectomies: Untying Lips and Tongues

Fortunately lip and tongue ties are easy to correct, thanks to a simple surgery called frenectomy. A frenectomy removes or reduces the abnormal frenum. It can be done quickly and there isn’t a long recovery period afterward. The doctor simply numbs the area and makes a small incision in the frenulum to release the lip or tongue. One technique to make recovery time even shorter and further reduce the risk of complications is to use laser surgery.

This procedure is one worth learning more about if you believe you or your child might have a lip tie or a tongue tie, particularly if it’s causing pain or discomfort, in addition to the complications mentioned above. After the surgery, make sure to follow the doctor’s instructions carefully so that recovery will be as quick and smooth as possible!

Who Can Diagnose a Tongue or Lip Tie?

Most of us are fortunate enough to have thin, stretchy frenula that don’t get in the way of the movement of our lips and tongue, but if you or your child are having difficulties, a dentist is a good person to see to get a diagnosis. The dentist can then determine whether a frenectomy would be a good solution.

We love taking care of every part of our patients’ smiles!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Dentistry

SLEEP APNEA AFFECTS over 18 million adults in the United States alone, as well as one of every five children who habitually snore. Dental professionals are often the first ones to notice the signs of this disorder, because it can be very harmful to oral health.

How Does Sleep Apnea Work?

Sleep apnea can work in different ways, depending on the cause. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to signal the respiratory muscles to keep breathing during sleep. Much more common is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is caused by the airway becoming physically blocked. Typically, the tongue collapses against the soft palate, which in turn collapses against the throat, sealing off the airway. Complex sleep apnea combines OSA and central sleep apnea.

Whatever the cause of the interrupted breathing, the outcome is the same. Not breathing sets off all the brain’s alarm bells, waking the person up to take a breath. It happens so quickly that most people with sleep apnea never remember waking up, even if they’re waking up hundreds of times in a single night. They still feel the effects of not getting a full night’s sleep, however, through symptoms like exhaustion, morning headaches, and difficulty concentrating.

What Does Sleep Apnea Have to Do with Teeth?

In addition to the short-term and long-term effects of sleep deprivation, people with OSA tend to be more vulnerable to developing moderate to severe periodontitis, and they’re also more likely to have trouble with their jaw joints.

Studies have shown that the jaw tends to reflexively clench during a sleep apnea episode to try to keep the airway open. All that strain can result in temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD), which have symptoms like pain when chewing, chronic headaches, damage to the teeth, and neck and shoulder pain.

Dental Professionals Can Help

The reason dentists are often the first health providers to recognize the signs of sleep apnea and diagnose it is that dental health effects are a common complication. (Just one of many reasons why regular dental appointments are so important, not just for oral health but overall health.) Treatment for sleep apnea typically involves continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines or nighttime dental devices that push the lower jaw or the tongue forward.

Healthier Sleep Leads to Healthier Smiles!

Getting a full and restful night’s sleep is critical if we want to feel great and have the energy we need to go about our days. If you suspect you or someone you love might be missing out on good sleep due to sleep apnea (snoring is a major sign), your next appointment with us could be life-changing.

We wish all our patients a good night’s sleep every night!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Tooth Sensitivity: Causes and Treatments

NOTHING RUINS A COZY mug of hot cocoa faster than the jolt of pain from sensitive teeth. As many as one in eight people in the U.S. deal with tooth sensitivity, including kids! What causes it and what can we do to protect our teeth?

Understanding Dental Anatomy

In a healthy tooth, there is the protective outer layer of enamel, then the porous, bony middle layer of dentin, and finally the pulp chamber at the center, which contains nerves and blood vessels. The way the nerves in the pulp chamber get sensory input (for things like pressure and temperature) is through the thousands of microscopic tubules that run through the dentin.

Too Much Sensory Input

When the protective enamel layer wears away, the tubules in the dentin become exposed, and the nerves suddenly get much more stimulation than they like. This is what makes enamel erosion one of the main causes of tooth sensitivity. Without enamel, the nerves get a nasty shock whenever anything too hot or cold, or even too sweet or sour, touches the outside of the tooth.

What Else Causes Sensitivity?

Root exposure from gum recession also leads to sensitivity. The enamel only covers the crown of the tooth, not the roots, which are protected by the gums. If the gums recede due to teeth grinding, overbrushing, or gum disease, it leaves the roots exposed. Cavities and tooth injuries can cause sensitivity as well.

Are You Protecting Your Teeth?

Fortunately for all of us, there are ways to fight back, even if our teeth are already sensitive. Using a soft-bristled brush will help prevent further enamel erosion or gum recession. We don’t actually need stiff bristles to clean our teeth effectively. There is also special toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth. Avoiding sugary and acidic foods and drinks (particularly soda) is also a good idea.

The Dentist Can Help!

Don’t suffer tooth sensitivity in silence; let the dentist know! In addition to being able to determine the cause of the problem, the dentist can do things to help protect your teeth, such as applying a fluoride varnish to make your enamel stronger, prescribe a desensitizing toothpaste, or in a severe case, perform a dental restoration or recommend a gum graft to cover exposed roots.

Our top priority is keeping your smile healthy and strong!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

What’s Different About Women’s Oral Health?

HEALTH CONCERNS CAN BE a lot different for women than for men, and that even includes dental health! Women face a different set of challenges than men do in caring for their teeth and gums, as well as having different advantages.

Which Oral Health Conditions Are More Common for Women?

Did you know that 90% of people diagnosed with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) are women? TMD is chronic pain or soreness in the joints of the jaw. It’s typically caused by bruxism (teeth grinding), but joint structure, stress, arthritis, vitamin deficiency, or hormones could also be responsible.

Another condition women are more likely to be affected by than men is Sjörgen’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks parts of the body, particularly salivary glands and tear ducts, causing both dry mouth and dry eye. In addition to making chewing and swallowing difficult and uncomfortable and interfering with the sense of taste, dry mouth is dangerous to oral health.

Hormonal Changes Can Affect Teeth

Puberty, pregnancy, and menopause all come with major hormonal changes that can impact oral health. Gingivitis and gum inflammation are more common during puberty and pregnancy, which makes good daily dental health habits like brushing and flossing even more important under these conditions.

Menopause is associated with a higher incidence of dry mouth and bone loss in the jaw. This bone loss can compromise the gum tissue and the roots of teeth, which is why it’s important to discuss it with the dentist (preferably before any symptoms have even begun).

Eating Disorders Are a Serious Oral Health Problem

Women aren’t the only ones who struggle with eating disorders, but they are certainly twice as common among teenage girls as teenage boys. Eating disorders are incredibly dangerous and damage every system in the body, including teeth and gums. It’s a two-pronged attack on oral health: malnutrition weakens the oral tissues and the immune system while acid erosion (in the case of bulimia) destroys tooth enamel.

We encourage anyone struggling with an eating disorder to seek psychiatric help so that they can begin the mental recovery process. The dental health recovery process will likely require help in the form of a rigorous dental hygiene routine and professional attention from the dentist.

The Dentist Is the Expert on Women’s Oral Health

With all these risk factors women face in keeping their teeth and gums healthy, are there really any up-sides? Yes, actually, and it’s a big one. Women tend to be better than men at taking care of their teeth! Women are more likely to maintain good oral health habits, and they’re also better at keeping up with their regular dental exams and getting the dentist’s help when they experience tooth pain (as opposed to trying to tough it out), so even if they are more susceptible to certain problems, the impact is reduced!

We love working with our female patients!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
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