Posts for: October, 2012
It may alarm some people, but finger or thumb sucking is a completely normal activity for babies and young children. In fact, sonograms often reveal babies sucking a finger or thumb while still in the womb! However, if children are allowed to suck fingers, thumbs or pacifiers indefinitely, it can become problematic, with serious consequences particularly as they get older.
The list below contains important facts about thumb sucking and pacifiers that all parents of young infants should know.
- The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that parents and caregivers encourage children to stop thumb sucking by age 3.
- Recent studies have shown that pacifier use after the age of two may cause long-term changes in the mouth; thus these researchers recommend stopping pacifier use by 18 months.
- If thumb and finger sucking habits do not stop soon enough, the upper front teeth may tip toward the lip or not come into the correct position in the mouth.
- Most children who suck their thumbs or fingers tend to stop between the ages of 2 and 4.
- For obvious reasons, a pacifier habit is often easier to break than a finger or thumb-sucking habit.
- One tip for encouraging older children to stop this habit gradually is to use behavior modification with appropriate rewards given at pre-determined intervals to refrain from using a pacifier, or sucking fingers or a thumb.
Be sure to inform us if any of your children suck their fingers, thumb or a pacifier so that we can begin monitoring their development. Our general recommendation is that you schedule an appointment around your child's first birthday.
Root canal, or endodontic (“endo” – inside; “dont” – tooth) treatment, is often wrongly perceived as a highly unpleasant experience and one that causes tremendous pain. However, the truth is that the procedure actually relieves the pain being caused by an infected and inflamed tooth pulp (inside of the tooth). Advances in dentistry have made treatment virtually pain free and it can be completed relatively quickly, usually in a single visit. Left untreated, infection can spread into the bone immediately around the tooth's root, so prompt attention is the best course of action.
If the term “root canal” still sends shivers down your spine, don't despair. Here is some information that should help put your mind at ease.
- Root canal treatment is necessary when deep decay or trauma has caused the inside (pulp) of the tooth to become inflamed or infected. Symptoms of infection can include sharp pain when biting down, lingering pain after consuming very hot or cold foods, a dull ache and feeling of pressure near the infected tooth, and tender gum tissue surrounding the infected tooth.
- After a local anesthetic is administered to numb the infected tooth and its surrounding area, we will make a small opening on the chewing surface of the tooth. This will allow us to remove dead and dying tissue from the pulp and to then clean and disinfect the root canals. Using small instruments, we will shape the canals and seal them with biocompatible filling materials.
- You may feel slight tenderness at the treated site for a few days, but this is quite manageable and can be relieved with over-the-counter (OTC) non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen. You should refrain from chewing on the treated tooth until your follow-up appointment. A crown or other restoration may be needed to protect the tooth and restore it to full function.
If you think you might be a candidate for a root canal treatment, schedule an appointment as soon as possible. If you would like to learn more about the process of root canal treatment, please read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Common Concerns About Root Canal Treatment.”
Often perceived as a cancer that only affects older adults who have a history of heavy tobacco and alcohol use, oral cancer is now on the rise among younger adults as well. New research has found a link between oral cancers, and the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a disease that is primarily spread through oral sex.
Importance of Screening: If you're concerned about oral cancer, rest assured that our office routinely carries out a cancer screening exam on every patient. We have several ways to painlessly detect abnormal tissues in their earliest stages. In addition, please contact our office if you experience any of the following signs or symptoms:
- White and/or red patches in the mouth or on the lips
- A bleeding or ulcerated sore in the mouth
- A sore anywhere in your mouth that doesn't heal
- Persistent difficulty swallowing, chewing, speaking, or moving your jaw or tongue
Although all of these symptoms can also be signs of less serious problems, be sure to alert our office if you notice any of the above changes.
Prevention: you can take a proactive role in preventing oral cancer by:
- Conducting an oral self-exam at least once a month. Use a bright light and a mirror, look and feel your lips and front of your gums, the roof of your mouth, and the lining of your cheeks.
- Scheduling regular exams in our office. The American Cancer Society recommends oral cancer screening exams every three years for people over age 20 and annually for those over age 40.
- Refraining from smoking or using any tobacco products and drinking alcohol only in moderation.
- Eating a well balanced diet.
- Practicing safe sex.
Nightly snoring can be a sign of a dangerous condition called sleep apnea (from “a” meaning without and “pnea” meaning breath). When someone snores the soft tissues in the back of the throat collapse onto themselves and obstruct the airway, causing the vibration known as snoring.
If the obstruction becomes serious, it is called obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. In such cases the flow of air may be stopped for brief periods, causing the person to wake for a second or two with a loud gasp as he attempts to catch his breath. This can cause heart and blood pressure problems, related to low oxygen levels in the blood. The obstruction and mini-awakening cycle can occur as many as 50 times an hour. A person with this condition awakens tired and faces the risk of accidents at work or while driving due to fatigue.
Studies show that sleep apnea patients are much more likely to suffer from heart attack, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, brain damage and strokes.
What can be done to treat OSA?
Snoring, apnea, and OSA occur more frequently in people who are overweight. So start with losing weight and exercising.
At our office, we can design oral appliances to wear while sleeping that will keep your airway open while you sleep. These appliances, which look like sports mouth guards, work by repositioning the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate and uvula (soft tissues in the back of the throat); stabilizing the lower jaw and tongue; and increasing the muscle tone of the tongue.
Another approach is to use a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) bedside machine. These machines send pressurized air through a tube connected to a mask covering the nose and sometimes the mouth. The pressurized air opens the airway so that breathing is not interrupted.
Much less frequently, jaw surgeries may be recommended to remove excess tissues in the throat. These would be done by specially trained oral surgeons or ear, nose and throat specialists.
Diagnosis and treatment of OSA is best accomplished by joint consultation with your physician and our office. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss snoring and OSA. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Sleep Disorders and Dentistry” and “Snoring and Sleep Apnea.”