Posts for category: Oral Health

AntibioticResistanceRequiresAction-andaChangeofAttitude

The development of antibiotic drugs is widely considered one of the greatest medical achievements of the last century. Their widespread use has turned life-threatening diseases like cholera, strep throat or bacterial meningitis into manageable, treatable ones. It’s no exaggeration to say antibiotics changed the face of healthcare, including dentistry.

But this gleaming sword for fighting dangerous diseases has a double edge because our biological “enemies” can adapt to the microscopic attacks against them. This has created an ironic conundrum: as antibiotics have proliferated in both the amount and frequency used they’ve become less effective against ever-resistant organisms.

This unfortunate situation has been helped along by a widespread, misguided practice in the medical profession, created by a “better safe than sorry” philosophy, to use them to treat any illness. This has morphed in recent decades into using antibiotics as a preventive measure in those not even exhibiting signs of disease, which then evolved into using antibiotics as a feed additive for livestock. As a result, antibiotic drugs have made their way into the food chain to accelerate, in many people’s opinion, bacterial and viral resistance.

What can we do then as “super-bugs” are on the rise, like Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) which is resistant to the most common antibiotics?

Certainly, continuing research into creating new antibiotics that address resistance is vital. But it won’t be enough: we — both healthcare providers and patients — must also change our approach and attitude toward antibiotics. This means putting in place better prescription guidelines that reduce the application of antibiotics for only those conditions where it’s absolutely necessary. And, we must restrict their use as a preventive measure, particularly in regard to their use in livestock feed.

This will take a change in everyone’s mindset, our professional standards and guidelines, and perhaps our laws. Thankfully, many are seeing the looming danger, and change is already happening. But time is of the essence, and the future depends on it — not just for people today but also for tomorrow’s generations.

If you would like more information on prudent antibiotic use, 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 “Antibiotics: Use and Abuse.”

DoYourDenturesandMouthaFavorTakeThemOutatNight

People who’ve lost all their teeth have benefitted from a solution that’s been around for generations: removable dentures. These appliances have helped millions of people chew and eat food, speak, and smile confidently.

But for all their benefits (including affordability) there’s still some things you need to do to get the most out of them like cleaning them daily or having us check them regularly for damage and wear. And, there’s one thing you shouldn’t do: wear them around the clock. Not removing them when you sleep at night can harm your oral health and reduce your dentures’ longevity.

Dentures are fitted to rest on the gums and the bony ridges that once held your natural teeth. This exerts pressure on the underlying bone that can cause it to gradually dissolve (resorb). This loss in bone volume eventually loosens your denture’s fit. If you’re wearing them all the time, the process progresses faster than if you took them out each night.

The under surfaces of dentures are also a prime breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. Besides unpleasant odors and irritation, these microorganisms are also the primary cause for dental disease. Research has found that people who sleep in their dentures have higher occurrences of plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food remnants that cause periodontal (gum) disease. They’re also more prone to higher levels of yeast and the protein interleukin-6 in the blood, which can trigger inflammation elsewhere in the body.

To avoid these and other unpleasant outcomes, you should develop a few important habits: remove and rinse your dentures after eating; brush them at least once a day with dish or anti-bacterial soap or a denture cleanser (not toothpaste, which can be too abrasive); and take them out when you sleep and place them in water or an alkaline peroxide-based solution.

Be sure you also brush your gums and tongue with an extra soft toothbrush (not your denture brush) or wipe them with a clean, damp washcloth. This will help reduce the level of bacteria in the mouth.

Taking these steps, especially removing dentures while you sleep, will greatly enhance your well-being. Your dentures will last longer and your mouth will be healthier.

If you would like more information on denture care and maintenance, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

PrudentUseofX-RaysinChildrenProvidesthemostBenefitattheLowestRisk

It’s important for your child’s current and future health that we watch out for tooth decay. Taking x-rays is a critical part of staying one step ahead of this common disease.

But while x-ray imaging is commonplace, we can’t forget it’s still a form of radiation that could be potentially harmful, especially for a child whose tissues are rapidly developing. We must, therefore, carefully weigh the potential benefits against risk.

This concern has given birth to an important principle in the use of x-rays known as ALARA, an acronym for “As Low As Reasonably Achievable.” In basic terms, we want to use the lowest amount of x-ray energy for the shortest period of time to gain the most effectiveness in diagnosing tooth decay and other conditions.

A good example of this principle is a common type of radiograph known as a bitewing. The exposable x-ray film is attached to a plastic devise that looks like a wing; the patient bites down on it to hold it in place while the x-ray exposure takes place. Depending on the number of teeth in a child’s mouth, an appointment usually involves 2 to 4 films, and children are typically spaced at six months apart. Frequency of x-rays depends on your child’s tooth decay risk: lower risk, less need for frequent intervals.

Each bitewing exposes the child to 2 microsieverts, the standard unit for radiation measurement. This amount of radiation is relatively low: by contrast, we’re all exposed to 10 microsieverts of background radiation (natural radiation occurring in the environment) every day or 3,600 microsieverts annually. Even two appointments of four bitewings each year is a fraction of a percent of the background radiation we’re exposed to in the same year.

This conservative use of x-rays is well within safe parameters for children. As x-ray technology continues to advance (as with the development of digital imaging) we anticipate the exposure rate to diminish even more. Prudently used, x-rays remain one of our best tools for ensuring your child’s teeth are healthy and developing normally.

If you would like more information on the use of x-rays with children, 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 “X-Ray Safety for Children.”

ActorDavidRamseyDiscussesBabyBottleToothDecay

Cavities can happen even before a baby has his first piece of candy. This was the difficult lesson actor David Ramsey of the TV shows Arrow and Dexter learned when his son DJ’s teeth were first emerging.

“His first teeth came in weak,” Ramsey recalled in a recent interview. “They had brown spots on them and they were brittle.” Those brown spots, he said, quickly turned into cavi­ties. How did this happen?

Ramsey said DJ’s dentist suspected it had to do with the child’s feedings — not what he was being fed but how. DJ was often nursed to sleep, “so there were pools of breast milk that he could go to sleep with in his mouth,” Ramsey explained.

While breastfeeding offers an infant many health benefits, problems can occur when the natural sugars in breast milk are left in contact with teeth for long periods.  Sugar feeds decay-causing oral bacteria, and these bacteria in turn release tooth-eroding acids. The softer teeth of a young child are particularly vulnerable to these acids; the end result can be tooth decay.

This condition, technically known as “early child caries,” is referred to in laymen’s terms as “baby bottle tooth decay.” However, it can result from nighttime feedings by bottle or breast. The best way to prevent this problem is to avoid nursing babies to sleep at night once they reach the teething stage; a bottle-fed baby should not be allowed to fall asleep with anything but water in their bottle or “sippy cup.”

Here are some other basics of infant dental care that every parent should know:

  • Wipe your baby’s newly emerging teeth with a clean, moist washcloth after feedings.
  • Brush teeth that have completely grown in with a soft-bristled, child-size toothbrush and a smear of fluoride toothpaste no bigger than a grain of rice.
  • Start regular dental checkups by the first birthday.

Fortunately, Ramsey reports that his son is doing very well after an extended period of professional dental treatments and parental vigilance.

“It took a number of months, but his teeth are much, much better,” he said. “Right now we’re still helping him and we’re still really on top of the teeth situation.”

If you would like more information on dental care for babies and toddlers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “The Age One Dental Visit” and “Dentistry & Oral Health for Children.”

GoodOralHygieneJustasImportantforImplantsasforNaturalTeeth

Dental implants are known for their durability as well as life-like beauty. Thanks to their unique construction and ability to integrate with bone, they have a very high success rate and can last for decades.

But while they’re less problematic than other restorations, we still can’t “set them and forget them.” While the implants themselves aren’t susceptible to disease, the supporting gums, bone and adjacent teeth are. If you want them to last as long as possible, you’ll need to care for them and the rest of your mouth through daily oral hygiene and semi-annual office cleanings.

With that said, there are a few differences in how we perform hygiene tasks with implants. This is due to the way in which they attach to the jaw, as the titanium post is inserted directly into the bone. Natural teeth, on the other hand, are held in place by the periodontal ligament, a strong connective tissue that lies between the teeth and bone. The ligament holds the teeth firmly in place while also allowing minute tooth movement in response to changes in the mouth.

The ligament also has an ample blood supply that assists with fighting infection that may arise in the tooth and its supporting gums. Without this extra source of defense, infections that arise around an implant can grow quickly into a condition known as peri-implantitis and lead to rapid bone loss that could cause the implant to fail.

That’s why you and your hygienist must be ever vigilant to the buildup of plaque, the bacterial film that gives rise to dental disease, around implants and adjacent teeth. This includes removing plaque buildup from implant surfaces, although your hygienist will use tools (scalers or curettes) made of plastic or resin rather than traditional metal to avoid scratching the implant’s dental material. They’ll likewise use nylon or plastic tips with ultrasonic equipment (which uses high vibration to loosen plaque) and lower power settings with water irrigation devices.

Keeping infection at bay with effective hygiene is the number one maintenance goal with dental implants. Doing your part along with your hygienist will help you get the most of this investment in your smile.

If you would like more information on oral hygiene with dental implants, 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 “Dental Implant Maintenance.”



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Merrell Family Dentistry

(828) 692-1210
713 Oakland St Hendersonville, NC 28791-3647