The Syracuse Patient's Guide to Dental Facts

Dental Facts

Visit this page weekly to learn about fun dental facts.
We will try to mix it up with fun, interesting facts along with important informational facts too.

A crown is a restoration that covers, or “caps,” a tooth to restore it to its normal shape and size, strengthening and improving the appearance of a tooth. Crowns are necessary when a tooth is generally broken down and fillings won’t solve the problem. If a tooth is cracked, a crown holds the tooth together to seal the cracks so the damage doesn’t get worse. Crowns are also used to restore a tooth when there isn’t enough of the tooth remaining to provide support for a large filling, attach a bridge, protect weak teeth from fracturing, restore fractured teeth, or cover badly shaped or discolored teeth.

To prepare the tooth for a crown, it is reduced so the crown can fit over it. An impression of the teeth and gums is made and sent to the lab for crown fabrication. A temporary crown is fitted over the tooth until the permanent crown is made. On the next visit, Dr. Argyle will remove the temporary crown and cements the permanent crown onto the tooth.

Crowns require more tooth structure removal, hence they cover more of the tooth than veneers. Crowns are customarily indicated for teeth that have sustained significant loss of structure or to replace missing teeth. Crowns may be placed on natural teeth or dental implants.

What is the difference between a cap and a crown?

Crowns should last approximately five to eight years. However, with good oral hygiene and supervision, most crowns will last for a much longer period of time. Some damaging habits like grinding your teeth, chewing ice or fingernail biting may cause this period of time to decrease significantly.

To prevent damaging or fracturing the crown, avoid chewing hard foods, ice, or other hard objects. You also want to avoid teeth grinding. Besides visiting Dr. Argyle and brushing twice a day, cleaning between your teeth is vital with crowns. Floss or interdental cleaners (specially shaped brushes and sticks) are important tools to remove plaque from the crown area where the gum meets the tooth. Plaque in that area can cause dental decay and gum disease.

Gum disease, or periodontal disease is a chronic inflammation and infection of the gums and surrounding tissue. It is the major cause of about 70 percent of adult tooth loss, affecting three out of four persons at some point in their life. Periodontal diseases include gingivitis and periodontitis.

Bacterial plaque – a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on the teeth – is recognized as the primary cause of gum disease. If plaque isn’t removed each day by brushing and flossing, it hardens into a rough, porous substance called calculus (also known as tartar).Toxins produced and released by bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. These toxins cause the breakdown of the fibers that hold the gums tightly to the teeth, creating periodontal pockets that fill with even more toxins and bacteria. As the disease progresses, pockets extend deeper, and the bacteria moves down until the bone that holds the tooth in place is destroyed. The tooth eventually will fall out or require extraction.

Yes. Genetics is also a factor, as are lifestyle choices. A diet low in nutrients can diminish the body’s ability to fight infection. Smokers and spit tobacco users have more irritation to gum tissues than non-tobacco users, while stress can also affect the ability to ward off disease. Diseases that interfere with the body’s immune system, such as leukemia and AIDS, may worsen the condition of the gums. In patients with uncontrolled diabetes, where the body is more prone to infection, gum disease is more severe or harder to control. Pregnant women experience elevated levels of hormones that cause the gums to react differently to the bacteria found in plaque, and in many cases can cause a condition known as “pregnancy gingivitis.”

Signs include red, swollen or tender gums, bleeding while brushing or flossing, gums that pull away from teeth, loose or separating teeth, pus between the gum and tooth, persistent bad breath, a change in the way teeth fit together when the patient bites and a change in the fit of dentures. While patients are advised to check for the warning signs, there might not be any discomfort until the disease has spread to a point where the tooth is unsalvageable. That’s why patients are advised to get frequent dental exams.

In the early stages of gum disease, most treatment involves a special cleaning called scaling and root planning, which removes plaque and tartar around the tooth and smoothing the root surfaces. Antibiotics or antimicrobials may be used to supplement the effects of scaling and root planing. In most cases of early gum disease, called gingivitis, scaling and root planing and proper daily cleaning achieve a satisfactory result. More advanced cases may require surgical treatment, which involves cutting the gums – sometimes with the assistance of a laser – and removing the hardened plaque build-up and recontouring the damaged bone. The procedure is also designed to smooth root surfaces and reposition the gum tissue so it will be easier to keep clean.

Removing plaque through daily brushing, flossing, and professional cleaning is the best way to minimize your risk. Dr. Argyle can design a personalized program of home oral care to meet your needs.

The general dentist usually detects gum disease and treats it in the early stages. Some general dentists have acquired additional expertise to treat more advanced conditions of the disease. If the general dentist believes that the gum disease requires treatment by a specialist, the patient will be referred to a periodontist. The dentist and periodontist will work together to formulate a treatment plan for the patient.

Sticking to a regular oral hygiene regimen is crucial for patients who want to sustain the results of periodontal therapy. Patients should visit Dr. Argyle every three to four months (or more, depending on the patient) for spot scaling and root planing and an overall exam. In between visits, they should brush at least twice a day, floss daily, and brush their tongue. Manual soft nylon bristle brushes are the most dependable and least expensive. Electric brushes are also a good option. Proxy brushes (small, narrow brushes) and other interdental cleaners are the best way to clean between the recesses in the teeth and should be used once a day. Wooden toothpicks and rubber tips should only be used if recommended by Dr. Argyle.

Medical experts estimate that more than 30 million American adults snore on a regular basis. Snoring or gasping sounds during sleep are caused by the vibration of relaxed, floppy tissues that line the upper airway (or throat). When you sleep, muscle tone decreases throughout your body, and your throat muscles relax, causing the soft palate and the uvula (fleshy structure that dangles from the roof of your mouth) to vibrate as you breathe in and out.

The severity of this disorder varies. It can be a mild nuisance that disturbs a restful night’s sleep or a symptom of the more serious, progressive disorder called sleep apnea. A history of snoring may precede development of more serious sleep disorder symptoms, including excessive daytime sleepiness, memory impairment, morning headache, poor work performance and loss of sexual drive.

While snoring by itself is not life threatening, it can interfere with a good night’s sleep for you, the snorer, and also affect your partner’s ability to get quality sleep. Scientific research has found that partners of snorers lose up to an hour of sleep a night because of the nuisance.

You can make positive lifestyle changes to minimize your snoring such as:

  • Lose weight
  • Quit smoking
  • Get treatment for allergies if you have them
  • Limit or avoid alcohol use and sedatives
  • Sleep on your side instead of your back (when you sleep on your back, your tongue falls backwards into your throat, which can narrow your airway and partially block airflow)

Both fall into the category of sleep-disordered breathing. Simple snoring represents a mild disorder in which breathing becomes very loud but the upper airway is only partially obstructed during sleep.

Snoring is a common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea. However, unlike mild snoring, sleep apnea is a serious medical disorder that occurs because the airway is totally obstructed during sleep and the patient stops breathing completely for 10 seconds or more. In one night, a sleep apnea patient may experience hundreds of “apneic events” (or involuntary breathing pauses). If your partner hears loud snoring punctuated by silences and then a snort or choking sound as you resume breathing, this pattern could signal sleep apnea.

An estimated 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. This disorder may raise your blood pressure and decrease the flow of oxygen to your brain. Studies have shown that patients with this potentially life-threatening disorder are so fatigued during the day that when driving, their performance is similar to a drunk driver. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to impaired daytime functioning, high blood pressure, heart failure and possibly stroke. While snoring and sleep apnea are related disorders, not all snorers will develop sleep apnea and not all sleep apnea patients snore.

Oral appliance therapy is one way to effectively manage snoring and sleep apnea and may be used in conjunction with other therapies. Some appliances hold the tongue forward via a suction bulb to open up the air passage. Mandibular repositioning appliances reposition and maintain the lower jaw (mandible) in a protruded position during sleep. Nasal sprays also can provide relief for snorers whose nasal passages are blocked due to swelling or increased mucous. A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) system delivers pressurized air through a mask that fits over the nose during sleep, keeping the airway open. Therapy may last for several weeks or months and require follow-up visits.

In some cases, surgery may be required to eliminate snoring. Procedures can include any of the following: traditional surgery, outpatient laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP) to remove the uvula (not recommended for sleep apnea patients), nasal surgery to remove obstructions in the nose or to correct a deviated septum, and somnoplasty, the removal of part of the soft palate using a low-intensity radio frequency signal.

If you experience any symptoms associated with snoring or sleep apnea, consult with Dr. Argyle so he can properly diagnose your condition or, if necessary, refer you to a specialist. If Dr. Argyle suspects you suffer from sleep apnea, he may refer you to a physician or a sleep specialist. For a proper diagnosis, you may have to undergo an overnight sleep study, which measures heart rate and how many times breathing is interrupted.

If you have been diagnosed with snoring or obstructive sleep apnea, Dr. Argyle can work closely with your physician to implement and manage the prescribed therapy. Often a simple device can be may to help position your lower jaw forward while you sleep to prevent your snoring or sleep apnea. Call us at 801-774-0600 to find out more!

Fighting Tooth Decay Using Xylitol to Prevent and Control Cavities

If there's one thing that all dentists have in common, it's that they regularly see young patients with tooth decay. Roughly 42 percent of children ages 2 to 11 have had decay in their primary teeth, while approximately 32 percent of children ages 9 to 11 have decay in their permanent teeth. Although it's vital for all patients to brush and floss every day, children in particular can improve their oral health by adding xylitol to their daily oral hygiene routine, according to an article published in the July 2010 issue of AGD Impact, the monthly newsmagazine of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).

"Sugary foods and sticky candies can be difficult for children to resist, but they are a serious source of tooth decay, particularly when they get stuck in the crevices between teeth," says Scott Cayouette, DMD, FAGD, spokesperson for the AGD. "Additionally, many children consume large amounts of soft drinks and sports drinks, which are known to have a high acidic pH and sugar content—a recipe for disaster in terms of tooth decay." These dietary factors—combined with the possibility that children are drinking more unfluoridated tap or bottled water—might explain why the rates of tooth decay are rising.

However, Dr. Cayouette notes that xylitol gives dentists another weapon in the battle against tooth decay. "Xylitol provides a simple solution for tooth decay in children," he says. "It's a natural sugar that doesn't cause cavities and can actually help to prevent them."

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol found naturally in trees, fruits, and vegetables. It's also found naturally in the human liver, which is why it is safe for humans to consume. Unlike table sugar, which breaks down in the mouth and creates an acidic, cavity-promoting pH, xylitol does not break down and therefore does not create any harmful acids.

Xylitol can be found in an array of products—including candies, mints, lemonade mixes, all-purpose sweeteners, and certain brands of chewing gum—which can help patients fight cavities without forcing them to drastically change their daily oral hygiene regimen.

Research suggests that patients should consume between six and 10 grams, or three to five servings, of xylitol per day. "It's also important for patients to consume xylitol throughout the day and not all at once," Dr. Cayouette says. "The more often that xylitol interacts with the bacteria in your mouth, the better—that way, it's always fighting cavities."
While there is no quick fix for eliminating tooth decay, xylitol may offer a realistic way to counteract the problem, especially among the most vulnerable populations.
"Parents may wonder why a dentist would recommend that their young patients consume a sugar-like substance," says Dr. Cayouette, "but with more education, they will realize that xylitol is a natural product that can help to prevent cavities."

Although xylitol is safe for humans, it is important to note that there is one population—a furry one—that cannot tolerate the sweetener. An article published in the February 2010 issue of AGD Impact reports that, even in small amounts, xylitol can be deadly to dogs. For this reason, it's important to keep xylitol-containing products out of your canine's reach.

Provided by the Academy of General Dentistry.
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