Conquer Tooth Decay with Sugar? | Alhambra Dentist

Yes! A new kind of sugar, called xylitol, when incorporated into chewing gum, can not only prevent tooth decay, but may also help “re-mineralize” or heal small cavities that have not penetrated the enamel, according to an article published in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA). This article states, “The evidence is strong enough to support the regular use of xylitol-sweetened gum as a way to prevent caries, and it can be promoted as a public-health preventive measure.”

To understand how xylitol can prevent tooth decay it is important to understand how cavities are formed. Sugar does not directly cause cavities. Rather, sugar introduced into the mouth is converted into acid by bacteria (e.g., Streptococcus mutans) in dental plaque. The increased acidity of the plaque causes “demineralization” of the enamel, which is the highly mineralized, hard covering layer of the crown of the tooth. The reason xylitol is effective in preventing cavities is that its chemical properties does not allow microorganisms to convert it into acid. Furthermore, unlike common sugars, xylitol does not decrease the pH (increase acidity) in dental plaque that would result in more acid formation. In fact, chewing xylitol gum has been shown in some studies to lower plaque formation. Other studies seem to indicate that regular use of xylitol gum can “re-mineralize” enamel undergoing the initial stages of chemical breakdown.

Xylitol tastes almost the same as sorbitol-sweetened gum (sugar-free gum). Xylitol, according to the JADA article, is more beneficial “in terms of reducing caries risk than does sorbitol-sweetened gum.” Sorbitol-sweetened gum is a “low cariogenic sweetener” rather than a “non-cariogenic sweetener”, such as xylitol.

Xylitol contains only 2 grams of sugar in two sticks of gum. Substituting some xylitol products in the diet can significantly reduce caloric intake. Consider the fact that the average consumption of all sugar is 141.5 pounds per capita in the U.S. in 2003. Much of the sugar intake has come in the form of sodas and juices, both of which have replaced milk and formula in the diets of infants and young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics has strongly opposed the practice of manufacturers of sodas and juices in contracting with school districts for the sole right to stock vending machines in the schools, known as “pouring rights.”

Another interesting discovery is that the regular use of xylitol may interrupt the transmission of cavity-causing bacteria from mother to child, according to a study from Finland. It was reported that there was a “significant reduction in the colonization of mutans streptococci” in the saliva of the infants in this study which involved 195 mother-infant pairs. The cavity rate of the children in the xylitol group was 70% lower than the other groups.

It is recommended by some dental experts that it is beneficial to have a regimen of chewing xylitol-sweetened gum three to five times a day for minimum of five minutes to inhibit plaque accumulation and chemical breakdown of enamel. In combination with regular home care and visits to the dentist, xylitol can be a beneficial adjunct to maintaining your smile for a lifetime. Check with your dentist as to whether xylitol may be right for you.

If you would like more information about cavity prevention, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

Snoring Treatable by Dental Device | Alhambra Dentist

A physician, Dr. Smith (not his real name), mentioned at his dental visit that he snores heavily and that recently his condition has been diagnosed as obstructive sleep apnea. Dr. Smith said that he had read that a certain kind of dental device can treat this condition and wanted to know whether he is a suitable candidate.

Sleep apnea occurs where there are episodes of cessation of breathing lasting 10 seconds or longer during sleep. The failure to breath triggers the brain to awaken briefly in order to reinitiate the breathing process. These arousals are so brief that they generally go unremembered. But the results of these frequent interruptions are daytime sleepiness, which may lead to disruption of work and social life. Difficulties with concentration, memory are some of the other symptoms. Severe sleep apnea may lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, heart attack and stroke.

Sleep apnea is estimated to affect about of 10% men between the ages of 30 to 50, but also has been found in both sexes of all ages. The most frequent form of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, in which the cessation of breathing is most often caused by excessive relaxation of the muscles at the back of the throat.

Dr. Smith was aware that medical remedies include the use of continuous positive airway pressure (C- PAP) which involves the use of wearing a mask over the nose and mouth. Air from a compressor forces air through the mask to keep the airway open. Surgical procedures involve the excising of excess tissue at the back of the throat, such as enlarged tonsils and adenoids. However, Dr. Smith cannot sleep with the C- PAP mask and does not want surgery. He was interested in the mandibular advancement appliance that has been used to treat obstructive sleep apnea.

This dental device consists of two retainer-like plastic covers. One fits over the upper teeth and the other over the lower teeth. These two retainers are joined together by “connectors” which maintain the lower jaw slightly more forward than normal. By advancing the lower jaw (mandible) forward, the diameter of the throat is increased. More importantly, even if the muscles at the back of throat relax, the throat is prevented from collapsing. This forward placement of the mandible can prevent the blocking of breathing found in obstructive sleep apnea.

A mandibular advancement device was made for Dr. Smith. A subsequent polysomnograph (sleep study) confirmed that while Dr. Smith was wearing the oral device, he had no apnea episodes. His “oxygen saturation rate” was back to normal and he felt great. The snoring has greatly diminished to where it is almost unnoticeable to his wife. He has continued to wear this kind of appliances for the past four years.

If you or your spouse suffers from the snoring of the other, there is hope. Visit your dentist. If you also notice that he/she has apnea episodes where breathing stops for 10 seconds or more, please see your physician to rule out sleep apnea. If you have sleep apnea, be sure you follow your doctors’ instructions as to how to deal with this condition. Ask your physician if a mandibular advancement device could be a consideration.

If you would like more information about obstructive sleep apnea, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

Virtual Reality Has Become Reality in Dentistry | Alhambra Dentist

For Implants: Dentist Places Virtual Implants into 3D Computerized Image of Your Jaw Then Computer-Generated “STENT” Guides Implants to Place – No Incision Needed

Virtual reality has become reality in dentistry – for dental implants. Virtual reality in the form of 3D imaging is changing the practice of dentistry. With state-of-the art digital imaging, dentists can analyze the anatomy of the patient’s jaw without surgery, which saves time and money and shortens implant recovery time, according to the International Congress of Oral Implantologists (ICOI). ICOI further states that it’s like having the patient’s jaw on the computer screen and helps make implants the most predictable procedure in dentistry today. By incorporating advanced, highly precise computer-guided technology, dental implant surgery has made implant procedures faster, highly predicable and long-lasting with a success rate of 97 percent.

Life-like 3D images are obtained by means of specialized CAT scans. Assisted by specialized software computer systems, the dentist is able to precisely measure volume, shape and density of the bone and location of sinuses. Just as importantly, the precise location and distribution of nerves and blood vessels are also determined and measured with high precision. This eliminates uncertainty about which spots in the jawbone are the right sites for the placement of implants and what angulation of the implant ought to take. In this way the precision of the CT scan and implant surgical planning software gives the dentist a vivid, precise 3D simulation (virtual reality) of the patient’s mouth to pinpoint potential problems and plan the entire implant procedure in advance with confidence.

In planning the procedure, the dentist considers the computerized data and the clinical examination results and general health information of the patient, as well as the subjective preferences of the patient. The dentist then determines which, out of a myriad of types, shapes and sizes of implants, would be the most appropriate and optimal for the best long-term function of the implants. Furthermore, where anterior teeth are involved the dentist will particularly assess and control the cosmetic effect the implant will have on the smile. The dentist may also generate a simulated image of the implant crowns during the consultation appointment. This way the patient can see a virtual reality of the new smile and further indicate preferences in terms of appearance. Based on the totality of information, the final implants are chosen. Then the dentist prescribes a “stent” or a guide that will precisely direct the implants into the correct location at the correct angulation. According to the prescription the implant manufacturer will fabricate this stent.

At the implant placement appointment the stent is used to guide the implants into the exact spot and at the exact angulation that the dentist had pre-determined on the computerized 3D image of the jaw. Generally no incision or cutting or lifting (flap elevation) of the gum is necessary. Rather, the implant is simply inserted, with a minimal disturbance to the site. Most single implants do not take more than one hour. Routinely, healing is rapid and uneventful.

If you have questions regarding your particular needs, consult with your dentist.

If you would like more information about virtual dental implants, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

Why General Health Is Important to Dental Treatment | Alhambra Dentist

Nellie, age 42, went for a dental checkup for the first time in ten years. Routine blood pressure monitoring disclosed that her blood pressure reading was abnormally high (180/115). No dental treatment was rendered. She was immediately referred to a physician and was diagnosed and treated for hypertension, high blood pressure. Her physician told her that if left undetected her condition could have led to a heart attack or stroke. She returned for dental treatment after her condition stabilized.

Nellie’s case is the result of the kind of routine screening dentists generally conduct to look for medical conditions that need medical attention. In addition to hypertension, one of the most common medical conditions that are of particular concern to dentists is “mitral valve prolapse,”a malfunction of a heart valve that leads in backflow (regurgitation). These abnormal heart valves are said to be susceptible to bacterial infection that originate from oral sources. In such cases, prophylactic (preventive) antibiotic, such as amoxicillin, should be taken before dental treatment is begun.

Diabetes is sometimes suspected when the patient presents with a family history or diabetes and severe, uncontrolled periodontitis (gum disease). In this case the patient may be referred for a medical checkup and blood test.

Another common problem is that of “dry mouth” (xerostomia). This condition may be associated with such conditions such as diabetes and menopause. But dry mouth is also a common side effect of over 400 commonly prescribed drugs. Patient suffering from dry mouth are especially susceptible to gum disease and dental caries (cavities). If there is no apparent cause for dry mouth, the patient is referred for medical consultation. If it clear that dry mouth is associated with a diagnosed disease or side effects of medications, treatment planning will probably include home application of topical fluoride with gels, rinses and fluoride toothpastes. To reduce risk of gum disease, more frequent deep cleanings, anti-bacterial rinses, topical administration of antibiotics and home application of anti-bacterial solutions.

These are just a few examples of conditions your dentist will be concerned with at your dental checkups. Feel free to discuss any medical issues, even those you suspect may not relate to your dental treatment. You may be surprised at how medical condition affect dental health, and vice verse.

If you would like more information about the ways your general health can affect your dental health, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

Denture Problems: Instant Cure with Affordable Dental Implants | Alhambra Dentist

Denture wearers most often have problems with looseness of the fit. In the vast majority of cases this is because, while dentures do not change dimensions, bone and gum do. This soft and hard tissue shrinkage is further accelerated by the forces of mastication and bruxism (common habit of grinding and clenching the teeth). Over time, the gap between the denture and the underlying gum and bone increases. Some patients have the ability to adapt to this looseness, sometimes with the help of denture adhesives. Others develop “denture sores” that persist and simply limit their diet to soft, nutritionally deficient foods. Poor nutrition can lead to a cascade of common health problems, such as obesity, high blood sugar and diabetes, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disorders. Emotional and self-esteem issues are often the result. On the other hand it is amazing how new; well-fitting dentures can elevate the mood and sense of well-being in the patient who had been suffering with ill-fitting dentures.

Recent advances in implantology have allowed denture patients to have existing, functional dentures to be attached to “one-stage, immediate loading implants” in one visit. The best news is that these “mini-permanent implants” are substantially less costly than conventional two-stage implants.

Through a procedure, called “minimally invasive micro-surgery,” your dentist can place an implant that measures 1.8 mm (less than one tenth of an inch) in diameter and one-half inch in length at appropriate locations in the jaw. No incision or stitching is needed. Generally four implants are required for the lower denture and six for the upper denture. Discomfort is minimal and patients generally can eat immediately afterwards.

Where the current dentures are serviceable, there is no need to make new dentures. If necessary it is possible to “reline” the denture when the implants are being done.

There is also welcome news for gaggers or anyone who prefers not to have anything covering the roof of the mouth. With upper implants holding the denture in place, the roof of the denture is no longer necessary, and can be removed.

Discuss your denture needs with your dentist and see whether you are a good candidate for mini-implants. You will be pleasantly surprised at how easy this can be done.

If you would like more information about dental implants, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.