Posts for: February, 2014
Your dental care would be much more limited without our ability to see “below the surface” with x-ray imaging. But since x-rays passing through the body are a form of radiation, could your exposure from them be hazardous to your health?
It depends on exposure dosages and, of course, the amount you have been exposed to over your lifetime. But, decades of research have demonstrated that exposure to dental x-rays during your regular office visits are only a fraction of the radiation you normally encounter from the natural environment every year.
X-rays have the ability to pass through body tissues, but at different rates for soft tissue like skin and muscle and hard tissue like bone. This effect creates shadows on exposed film; the differentiation is in such detail that a trained technician can interpret not only internal structures, but defects such as fractured bone or, in the case of dentistry, signs of tooth decay and bone loss from gum disease.
But like other energy sources in our environment, x-rays do emit radiation that in high doses can be dangerous to living tissue. The amount of exposure is measured in millisieverts (mSv), a unit that allows for comparison of doses from different sources of radiation. Scientists have calculated that we’re normally exposed to between 2 and 4.5 mSv every year.
By contrast, a single digital periapical image taken of a tooth is equal to 1 microsievert (μSv), or one thousandth of an mSv; a full mouth series (between 18 and 20 images) creates an exposure of 85 μSv, or 85/1000 of one mSv. In addition, advances in technology have further reduced the radiation exposure from x-ray imaging. For example, digital imaging has reduced exposure during full mouth x-rays from seven to ten days of equal exposure from normal background radiation to half a day, and with no loss in image quality.
In effect, dental x-rays pose little to no risk for patients. Still, understanding that x-ray imaging does expose patients to radiation, dentists follow certain protocols and safety precautions. For example, dentists will place a lead apron around their patients’ chest area during an x-ray exposure.
As your dentist, we’re happy to address any concerns you may have about x-ray radiation exposure. But rest assured, the x-ray devices used in your dental care, so necessary in the fight against tooth decay and other diseases, are safe and reliable.
If you would like more information on the use of x-ray technology and safety, 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 Frequency and Safety.”
Your body’s organ systems are interlinked — what happens in one system may affect another. An example of this is the interrelationship between periodontal (gum) disease and cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Medicine has discovered a common link between these two different conditions — inflammation. A result of the body’s defense mechanisms, chronic inflammation is damaging to both your mouth and your heart. Inflammation can destroy the gum’s soft tissue and underlying bone and lead to tooth loss. In the cardiovascular system, inflammation can begin and accelerate the buildup of plaque within arterial blood vessels (atherosclerosis). This inhibits the flow of oxygenated blood to both the heart and brain, which sets the stage for a heart attack or stroke.
Gum disease begins with poor oral hygiene. When brushing and flossing aren’t performed on a regular basis, or not performed adequately, it allows a thin layer of bacterial plaque called biofilm to build up on the teeth. The bacteria cause infection in the soft tissues of the gum that triggers the chronic inflammation. Because it’s often unaccompanied by other signs of infection like fever, a patient may not even be aware of it. There’s evidence now that inflammation caused by moderate to severe gum disease can contribute to a similar response in blood vessels.
We can treat the gum disease and reduce or eliminate the inflammation. This first requires the removal of all plaque and calculus (harder deposits) on the teeth, down to the root level. It may require surgery to access these areas and to help regenerate some of the lost tissue and bone that support the teeth. It’s also important to institute proper oral hygiene — effective daily brushing and flossing, semi-annual office cleanings and checkups.
In a similar way, you should address signs of inflammation in your cardiovascular system, including blood pressure management and the control of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Because both gum disease and CVD share many of the same risk factors, you can positively impact both your oral and general health by eating more nutritional foods, engaging in regular exercise and quitting tobacco products.
Treating any symptom of inflammation is important to improving your total health. By bringing gum disease and its accompanying inflammation under control, you may in turn help your heart and blood vessels.
If you would like more information on the relationship between heart and gum diseases, 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 “The Link Between Heart & Gum Diseases.”
Periodontal or gum disease is a serious condition that could lead to tooth and bone loss. Unfortunately, you may not even realize you have it — the disease in its early stages can be difficult to detect. If you know what to look for, however, a few signs can tell you something isn’t quite right.
Bleeding gums after brushing, for example, are a likely indication that your gum tissues are inflammed due to an infection caused by bacterial plaque. Coupled with chronic inflammation from the body’s response to the infection, the unhealthy tissues bleed easily.
As the disease progresses, you may also notice changes in your gums’ appearance: redness at the gum line, as well as some slight swelling. Receding gums expose more of the tooth below the enamel crown. As roots become exposed to the oral environment, you’ll begin to notice painful sensitivity to hot or cold. In time, the disease may cause bone loss producing other signs like loose teeth or teeth shifting from their original position.
In some cases, gum disease can cause a painfully acute abscess. This occurs when the bacterial infection becomes isolated in a pocket of space between the teeth and gums. As the body attempts to fight the infection, its defenses are overwhelmed and the abscess becomes painful, swollen and filled with pus.
If you encounter any of these signs, it’s important to take action quickly to minimize the damage and stop the disease’s progress. Our first priority is to remove as much bacterial plaque and calculus as possible and may consider antibacterial and antibiotic treatments. This may take more than one session, but it’s necessary in stopping the disease.
Long-term success, though, will depend on improved oral hygiene (brushing and flossing), regular office cleanings to remove difficult to reach plaque and calculus, and checkups to monitor the condition of your gums. You can also lower the risk of reoccurrence with improvements in diet and life-style (such as quitting smoking). Instituting better hygiene and lifestyle habits, as well as keeping alert to any signs of recurring disease will go a long way in preserving your teeth and overall oral health.
If you would like more information about periodontal disease and its effect on your health, 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 “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”
It is not often that you find a celebrity who is willing to speak candidly about any cosmetic or restorative dentistry that he or she has had. Instead, most prefer that their fans just assume that their dazzling “Hollywood” smile is something that just happened naturally. However, that is not the case with Kathy Ireland, the former Sports Illustrated cover girl, current business mogul and founder of kathy ireland Worldwide, a billion dollar marketing and design firm. In a Dear Doctor magazine cover story she talks openly about her dental experiences, injuries and treatment so that people worldwide can understand what may be possible for them.
For Kathy, it happened several years ago when she was playing with her husband and children in their driveway. Kathy decided that she would stand in her children's wagon and surf across their driveway. Instead, she ended up “face-planting,” as she describes it, in a freak accident that left her with a broken nose, split forehead and several broken teeth. She recalls that it sounded like a watermelon had smashed. Luckily, her husband, an emergency room physician, was on hand to care for her. Kathy is just as thankful to her cosmetic and restorative dentist who restored her trademark smile with some veneers and a dental implant. Today, the only reminder she has from this accident is a small scar on her nose that she covers with a little makeup.
You would think that this accident would be enough trauma for one person; however, Kathy describes an earlier accident where she knocked out a tooth and then later knocked it loose again. Kathy also wanted to take the time to let readers know that her dental implant experiences were “pretty easy.” She did recall, “hearing all the sounds while all of it was going on” and then added, “but I have to tell you, that after being a mom and having kids, going to the dentist...is like going to the spa!” She said that she has even fallen asleep in the dental chair.
To learn more about Kathy Ireland, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Kathy Ireland.” Or if you think cosmetic or restorative dentistry is right for you, contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your specific goals.