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Posts for category: Oral Health

By Bruce E. Hanley DDS
January 10, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: fluoride  
ALittleFluorideGoesaLongWayinProtectingYourFamilysTeeth

A popular Sixties-era hair cream touted their product with the tagline, "A little dab'll do ya!" In other words, it didn't take much to make your hair look awesome.

Something similar could be said about fluoride. Tiny amounts of this "wonder" chemical in hygiene products and drinking water are widely credited with giving people a big boost in protection against tooth decay.

A Colorado dentist is credited with first noticing fluoride's beneficial effects early in the Twentieth Century. Although many of his patients' teeth had brownish staining (more about that in a moment), he also noticed they had a low incidence of cavities. He soon traced the effect to fluoride naturally occurring in their drinking water.

Fast forward to today, and fluoride is routinely added in trace amounts to dental care products and by water utilities to the drinking water supply. It's discovery and application have been heralded as one of the top public health successes of the Twentieth Century.

Fluoride, though, seems a little too amazing for some. Over its history of use in dental care, critics of fluoride have argued the chemical contributes to severe health problems like low IQ, cancer or birth defects.

But after several decades of study, the only documented health risk posed by fluoride is a condition called fluorosis, a form of staining that gives the teeth a brown, mottled appearance (remember our Colorado residents?). It's mainly a cosmetic problem, however, and poses no substantial threat to a person's oral or general health.

And, it's easily prevented. Since it's caused by too much fluoride in prolonged contact with the teeth, fluorosis can be avoided by limiting fluoride intake to the minimum necessary to be effective. Along these lines, the U.S. Public Health Service recently reduced its recommended amounts added to drinking water 0.7 milligrams per liter (mg/L) of water. Evidence indicated fluoride's effectiveness even at these lower amounts.

You may also want to talk with your dentist about how much fluoride your family is ingesting, including from hidden sources like certain foods, infant formula or bottled water. Even if you need to reduce your family's intake of fluoride, though, a little in your life can help keep your family's teeth in good health.

If you would like more information on the benefits of fluoride in dental care, 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 “Fluoride & Fluoridation in Dentistry.”

By Bruce E. Hanley DDS
December 31, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   osteoporosis  
SomeOsteoporosisTreatmentsCouldImpactDentalCare

Millions of Americans live with osteoporosis, a degenerative bone disease that can turn a minor fall into a potential bone fracture. Literally meaning "porous bone," osteoporosis causes the natural marrow spaces in bone tissue to progressively grow larger and weaken the remaining bone.

Many osteoporosis patients take medication to slow the disease's process. But due to the dynamic nature of bone, some of these drugs can have unintended consequences—consequences that could affect dental care.

As living tissue, bone is literally "coming and going." Certain cells called osteoblasts continuously produce new bone, while others called osteoclasts remove older tissue to make way for the new. Drugs like bisphosphonates and RANKL inhibitors interrupt this process by destroying some of the osteoclasts.

As a result, more of the older bone remains past its normal lifespan, helping the bone overall to retain strength. But ongoing research is beginning to hint that this may only be a short-term gain. The older, longer lasting bone is more fragile than newer bone, and tends to become more brittle and prone to fracture the longer a patient takes the drug. This tissue can also die but still remain intact, a condition known as osteonecrosis.

The femur (the large upper leg bone) and the jawbone are the bones of the body most susceptible to osteonecrosis. Dentists are most concerned when this happens in the latter: Its occurrence could lead to complications during invasive procedures like oral surgery or implant placement.

Because of this possibility, you should keep your dentist informed regarding any treatments you're undergoing for osteoporosis, especially when planning upcoming dental procedures like oral surgery or implant placement. You might be able to lower your risk by taking a "drug holiday," coming off of certain medications for about three months before your dental work.

As always, you shouldn't stop medication without your doctor's guidance. But research has shown drug holidays of short duration won't worsen your osteoporosis. If you're already showing signs of osteonecrosis in the jaw, a short absence from your prescription along with antiseptic mouthrinses and heightened oral hygiene could help reverse it.

Fortunately, the risk for dental complications related to osteoporosis medication remains low. And, by working closely with both your dentist and your physician, you can ensure it stays that way.

If you would like more information on osteoporosis and your dental care, 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 “Osteoporosis Drugs & Dental Treatment.”

3ThingsYouCanDotoKeepHolidaySweetsFromInterferingWithYourDentalHealth

In his iconic poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," Clement Moore wrote of children sleeping "while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads." Indeed, sweet treats are still interwoven into the holidays—and a prime reason why we tend to put on pounds during the season. It may also be why your next dental visit might come with some unpleasant news.

The starring actors in much of traditional holiday snacking and feasting are naturally-occurring or added sugars. Carbohydrates like refined sugar in particular can dramatically affect your dental health if you over-consume them, because they can feed the bacteria that causes both tooth decay and gum disease.

There are ways, though, to reduce their impact on your teeth and gums. You can, of course, go "cold turkey" and cut refined sugar out completely, as well as curtail other carbohydrates like refined flours and fruit. It's effective, but not much fun—and what are the holidays without fun?

More in line with "moderation in all things," there are other ways to minimize the impact of carbohydrates on your teeth and gums during the holiday season. Here are a few of them.

Limit refined sugar. While you and your family may not be up for banning sugar during the holidays, you can reduce it significantly. For instance, prepare more savory items rather than the sweeter kinds. If you must go for sweet, opt for naturally occurring sugars in fruit or dairy rather than refined table sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

Eat sweet treats with meals. Constant snacking often comes with the holiday season. And, why not—all those abundant goodies are just begging to be eaten. But noshing all the time never allows your mouth's saliva, which neutralizes the enamel-eroding acid produced by the bacteria fueled by sugar, a chance to finish its buffering. Instead, try as much as possible to limit treats to mealtimes.

Use different sweeteners. There are a number of alternative sweeteners to regular sugar, both natural and artificial. Some work better in baked goods, while others are more suitable for candies or beverages. Xylitol in particular, a sugar alcohol, actually discourages oral bacterial growth. You can also use natural sweetening agents like stevia or erythritol to help reduce refined sugar in your treats.

Even if you normally limit carbohydrates, it's understandable if their consumption rises during the holidays. That's why it's important you don't neglect daily brushing and flossing to help control bacterial plaque, the main driver for dental disease. Both effective oral hygiene and reining in the sweets will help your teeth and gums sail through the holidays into the new year.

If you would like more information about protecting your oral health during the holidays, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Bitter Truth About Sugar.”

By Bruce E. Hanley DDS
December 01, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: dental injuries  
HeresWhatToDofor4KindsofDentalInjuries

Although kids are resilient, they're not indestructible. They're prone to their share of injuries, both major and minor—including dental injuries.

It's common for physically active children to suffer injuries to their mouth, teeth and gums. With a little know-how, however, you can reduce their suffering and minimize any consequences to their long-term oral health.

Here are 4 types of dental injuries, and what to do if they occur.

Chipped tooth. Trauma or simply biting down on something hard can result in part of the tooth breaking off, while the rest of it remains intact. If this happens, try to retrieve and save the chipped pieces—a dentist may be able to re-bond them to the tooth. Even if you can't collect the chipped pieces, you should still see your dentist for a full examination of the tooth for any underlying injury.

Cracked tooth. A child can experience intense pain or an inability to bite or close their teeth normally if a tooth is cracked (fractured), First, call the dentist to see if you need to come in immediately or wait a day. You can also give the child something appropriate to their age for pain and to help them sleep if you're advised to wait overnight.

Displaced tooth. If a child's tooth appears loose, out of place or pushed deeper into the jaw after an accident, you should definitely see a dentist as soon as possible—all of these indicate a serious dental injury. If they're unavailable or it's after hours, your dentist may tell you to visit an emergency room for initial treatment.

Knocked-out tooth. Minutes count when a tooth is knocked completely out. Quickly locate the tooth and, holding it only by the crown and not the root, rinse off any debris with clean water. Place it in a glass of milk or attempt to place it back into the socket. If you attempt to place it back into the socket, it will require pressure to seat the tooth into position. You should then see a dentist or ER immediately.

A dental injury can be stressful for both you and your child. But following these common-sense guidelines can help you keep your wits and ensure your child gets the care they need.

If you would like more information on pediatric dental treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By Bruce E. Hanley DDS
November 21, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth pain  
BothToothDecayorGumDiseaseCouldBecomeSomethingFarWorse

While mouth pain can certainly get your attention, what exactly hurts may be difficult to identify. It might seem to emanate from a single tooth, or a group of teeth. Then again, it might not be clear whether it's coming from teeth or from the gums.

Still, it's important to pinpoint the cause as much as possible to treat it correctly. One of the main questions we often want to answer is whether the cause originates from within a tooth or without.

In the first case, tooth decay may have entered the pulp at the center of the tooth. The pulp contains nerve bundles that can come under attack from decay and transmit pain signals. Incidentally, if the pain suddenly goes away, it may simply mean the nerves have died and not the infection.

The decay can also spread into the root canals leading to the root and supporting bone, and then make the jump into the gum tissues. One possible sign of this is the one mentioned earlier—you can't quite tell if the pain is from the tooth or the surrounding gums.

The root canals could also serve as a transportation medium for infection in the other direction. In that case, gum disease has advanced into the bone tissues around a tooth near its roots. The infection can then cross into the tooth. Again, both a tooth and the gum tissue around it can become diseased.

We have effective treatments for individual occurrences of interior tooth decay or gum disease: The former usually requires a root canal treatment to remove infected tissue and fill and seal the tooth from future infection; we alleviate gum disease by removing the dental plaque causing it and helping the gum tissues to heal. But combined tooth and gum infection scenarios are more difficult to treat, have a poorer prognosis and may require specialists.

To reduce the risk of either tooth decay or gum disease developing into this greater problem, it's best to take action at the first sign of trouble. So, see your dentist as soon as possible when you encounter oral pain or if you notice swollen or bleeding gums. The earlier we treat the initial outbreak of disease, be it tooth decay or gum disease, the better your chances of a successful and happy outcome.

If you would like more information on tooth pain, 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 “Confusing Tooth Pain.”