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Coping with Dental Fears in Looming Nitrous Oxide Shortage

When a deadly explosion tore through an Airgas nitrous oxide plant in Cantonment, Florida in August of 2016, the last thing anyone was thinking about was their teeth. But after the dust settled and the victim was laid to rest, both the medical and food industries were left with the startling realization that a nitrous oxide shortage was a very real possibility.  Unfortunately, despite Airgas’ attempts to shift manufacturing of their laughing gas to other plants, they are still falling short on production nearly a year later. As a result, they have cut back shipments to foodservice companies who typically use the gas as an aerosol to create things like whipped cream. Despite these efforts however, the medical community is still feeling the pinch of the shortage, and patients around the US who have come to rely on laughing gas to get them through anxiety-ridden dental procedures are now faced with the reality of having to attend their dental visit without the aid of this popular relaxer. Dr. Michele Simpson of Wilmington, North Carolina understands what the nitrous oxide shortage means to practices like hers. She's also aware of how it can impact her patients, however, there are things patients can do to help get them through their dental anxiety without the help of laughing gas.

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Dentists Caution Against Growing Foreign Dental Tourism Trend

As health insurance costs skyrocket and more and more employers are declining to offer dental coverage as part of their compensation packages, Americans with costly dental work are feeling the pinch in their wallets. To get the care they need without breaking the bank, many patients are traveling beyond borders to undergo procedures that can often cost three or four times more in the US. But a growing number of dentists are cautioning patients that when you undergo dental procedures in some foreign clinics, you may not be getting the bargain you think you’re getting.

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Could Your Dentures Be Making You Sick?

It is estimated that at least 20 million Americans wear some form of denture- ranging from a partial to a full set of teeth. But despite these high numbers, many dentures or partial denture wearers have not been properly trained in the care and cleaning of these dental devices. This can cause huge problems for the wearer- ranging from ‘dirty’ looking teeth to bad breath to an increased risk for illnesses. So, what can you do to make sure you or your loved ones are properly cleaning these helpful oral appliances? Keep reading to find out.

Nobody really wants to get dentures. Having dentures means you have lost the last remains of your natural teeth, and must now put in a device that doesn’t always feel great or stay put properly. Perhaps this is why many older patients who have had dentures for many years don’t wear them as frequently as they could. The good news is that today’s dentures are more comfortable and natural looking than ever before. New denture wearers never have to experience those awkward dentures of years past, and those replacing older dentures may actually want to wear their new ones, even if no one will see them. But while dentures do replicate the look and feel of natural teeth, what they do not do is replace the need for proper cleaning and oral hygiene.

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Could You Be Diagnosed with Diabetes at Your Next Dental Exam?

A recent study by the University of Amsterdam and published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care found that patients with periodontitis were twice as likely to have undiagnosed Type 2 Diabetes as those with less severe forms of gum disease. We spoke to Dr. Michelle Simpson of Wilmington, North Carolina about this study and what it could mean for the future of diabetes diagnosis.

An estimated 422 million people suffer from the condition known as diabetes. Here in the U.S., that number hovers around 29 million with another 8 million cases undiagnosed. Unfortunately, those numbers appear to be growing. In fact, it’s estimated that 37 percent of Americans over the age of 20 are already pre-diabetic, a condition that if not corrected will inevitably lead to full-blown diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder categorized by the body’s inability to process blood glucose properly. It causes blood glucose (or blood sugar) levels to rise to a state called hyperglycemia, making the body resistant to insulin and causing the pancreas to make extra insulin at first, and not enough insulin as the disease progresses. Patients with diabetes have shorter life spans, and frequently suffer from a host of other complications including increased risk of heart disease, lower-limb amputations, blindness, dementia, sexual dysfunction and kidney failure.

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The Surprising Reason You May Have a Toothache Right Now

Spring. It’s a time of renewed hope. The snow melts, the birds return, the flowers, trees and grasses bloom. But along with all those wonderful perks, many people experience a major downside: tooth pain. So, what could be causing this unexpected discomfort and what can you do to prevent it? We asked Dr. Michelle Simpson of Wilmington, North Carolina for some insight into this surprisingly common problem.

Imagine waking up one beautiful spring morning to chirping birds, blue skies and the most excruciating tooth pain of your life. You take great care of your teeth, never miss a cleaning (okay, maybe you miss a cleaning here or there) and when you went to bed last night your teeth felt fine. What gives? Well, if you’re like many people this time of year, you could be suffering from allergies, thanks to the influx of new pollens returning to the air. But why would allergies hurt your teeth? 

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When Dental Implants Don’t Work

When dental implants were introduced to consumers in the late 1960’s, they offered new hope to patients who thought they’d never have the look and feel of ‘real’ teeth again. Since then, dental implants have steadily increased in popularity, earning a reputation as the luxury alternative to dentures. Today, though still expensive (the average cost of a full set is around $35k, though some sets have cost nearly triple that), dental implants are now becoming more mainstream. But like any medical procedure, they are not without risks. We spoke to Dr. Michelle Simpson of Wilmington, NC about what happens when dental implants don’t implant.

To most people who get dental implants, they are well worth the time, pain, and expense incurred to have them installed. But many patients do not realize that implants carry with them a risk of failure – and when they fail, it can cause irreparable damage to your gums and jaw bone. That’s why it’s important to know the risks associated with dental implants.

"Dental implants are titanium screws that are implanted into the jaw bone. Once the screws have successfully adhered to the bone (a process called osseointegration) and the bone and gum have healed, an abutment is placed on the titanium post. From there, artificial teeth are created and attached to the abutment," says Dr. Simpson. The implant process is done in stages, which are completed over several months. This allows for healing between each stage. But according to Dr. Simpson, "Sometimes, even despite the allotted healing time the implant doesn’t properly bond to the bone."

While there are many factors which may cause the osseointegration process to fail, new research is shedding some light on a surprising reason. A recent study by McGill University in Montreal found that certain medications may be to blame for some osseointegration failure. In the study of 728 patients, those who took antacids during the osseointegration process had more than double the risk of implant failure (6.8%) than those who did not take them (3.2%). On the other hand, patients who took beta blockers (a medication is taken to reduce blood pressure that works by blocking the hormone epinephrine) were found to have the lowest risk of implant failure – just .6%, whereas those who did not take beta blockers had a 4.1% chance of implant failure. It is believed that because antacids decrease calcium absorption (and have been found to increase the risk of bone fractures), they make it harder for dental implants to osseointegrate to the jaw successfully. Conversely, according to Dr. Simpson, "Beta blockers have been shown to increase bone formation in other studies- so their use in dental implant patients actually increased the body’s ability to accommodate the implant."

What this means for future implant patients is still unknown, there is a good chance that beta blockers may play a role in the healing process. In the meantime, Dr. Simpson says the research can help dentists provide more information to their patients about what to avoid during the implant process. "Now we know to tell patients to limit their use of antacids. Whether that means they need to cut back on certain foods or find a different medication that doesn’t affect the bone metabolism, it will empower them to have the best odds at a successful implantation."

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Alzheimer’s Drug Could Heal Cavities

Dental occlusions, or cavities, are the number one dental problem facing American adults today- with nearly 90% of people between the ages of 20-39 possessing at least one filling in their teeth. But when it comes to treating cavities, very little has changed since the 1830’s when the first amalgam fillings were used- that is, until now. Recently, a team of scientists at King’s College in London made headlines after finding success treating cavities with a new drug in development for the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease- and their findings could change how we treat cavities forever.  Wilmington, NC’s Dr. Michelle Simpson explains.

Though it hasn’t even hit the market yet, the drug Tideglusib is already causing quite a stir in the medical and dental communities- for its ability to help both Alzheimer’s patients and surprisingly, regrow the dentine in the teeth of laboratory mice. Recently, a group of researchers at King’s College in London set out to discover if the stem-cell-encouraging drug Tideglusib can be used to help more than Alzheimer’s patients. To conduct the study, researchers drilled small holes in the teeth of test animals and then filled those holes with tiny, biodegradable sponges soaked in the drug Tideglusib. As the teeth absorbed the Tideglusib, the sponges dissolved, and the holes in the teeth healed shut on their own. "This is important because unlike with fillings that simply act as a semi-permanent patch which re-fills the damaged area of the tooth, Tideglusib healed the damaged teeth- eliminating the need for fillings entirely," explains Dr. Simpson.

Next up for Tideglusib is more clinical trials- this time with actual cavities- not just holes drilled into healthy teeth. If the King’s College team is able to demonstrate success with tooth decay, then human trials will likely follow, and hopefully someday in the near future, Tideglusib will be approved for use in treating cavities. In addition to trials for the treatment of dental occlusions and Alzheimer’s disease, the drug is also in testing for use in patients with Myotropic Dystrophy and teenagers with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

So, what does a dentist think about Tideglusib potentially healing cavities? "It would be wonderful," says Dr. Simpson. "I actually think it would help patients take better care of their teeth because they would be less afraid of getting fillings or having teeth extracted, and less afraid to visit their dentist in the first place. If I were to tell a patient ‘if we catch your cavity before it has a chance to worsen, we could heal it’ I think they’d be a lot more likely to come in at the first sign of a problem. Instead of waiting until the pain is unbearable, and losing the tooth."

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Veneers vs. Crowns: Which is Best for You?

If you read a lot of celebrity news, you’ve probably already heard a lot about porcelain veneers- which celebrities have them, which celebrities need them, and how much better their teeth look after getting them. If you’ve ever wondered if veneers are right for you, keep reading. Dr. Michelle Simpson discusses these handy little porcelain facings, and the many ways they can benefit your smile.

One of the most common questions we get about porcelain veneers is, what are veneers- and how are they different from crowns? Veneers are porcelain facings that are adhered to the front of your tooth to improve the look of your smile. They are often used on teeth with chips, undesirable shapes, permanent discoloration, or other damage that is only on the front facing surface of the tooth. Conversely, crowns are cap-like fillings that offer 360-degree coverage that encompasses the entire tooth’s surface- so, it not just the front of the tooth. Crowns are most often used when a tooth is broken, or when too much of the original tooth has already been replaced by fillings and attempting another filling or veneer carries too much of a risk. In terms of insurance, whereas veneers are usually considered cosmetic, crowns are generally considered more of a necessity and are often at least partially covered by some insurance plans.

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Meet Dr. Michele Simpson!

For over 22 years, Dr. Michele Simpson has been practicing the art of dentistry – but did you know that her original passion was not for teeth, but for music? That’s right- Dr. Simpson initially majored in music in college and intended to be a musician or music teacher. She even dreamed of touring Europe, playing her bassoon with the symphony. In fact, she still plays the bassoon today!

So how does one go from gifted musician to gifted dentist? It all started with a part-time, after school job. A college student at the time, Dr. Simpson answered an ad for a dental assistant- no experience necessary, and was hired on the spot. She remained on the job for several years, and as graduation neared, she realized that she not only loved the practice, she loved the work, too. It was then that she decided she no longer wanted to pursue a career in the music industry- and broke the news to her family that she wanted to go to dental hygienist school. Thankfully, her mother had loftier goals for Dr. Simpson. "My mother said ‘are you kidding me you’re almost finished with four years of college, please just go to dental school and be the dentist.’" And the rest, as they say, is history.

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Could this Common Chemical Be Disrupting Tooth Enamel Development?

Back in 2012, when the FDA banned the chemical Bisphenol- A (or as it is more commonly known, BPA) in baby bottles and children’s sippy cups, parents breathed a collective sigh of relief. But as it turns out, this ban may not have been enough. Recent studies have found that BPA is present in many more products than initially thought- and the chemical itself does far more damage than scientists were previously aware. We spoke to Wilmington, NC dentist Dr. Michele Simpson about the findings of the newest study on BPA- and what these findings could mean for the development of your child’s teeth.

So what exactly is BPA- and why is it so bad? BPA, along with similar chemicals bisphenol S and bisphenol F, are chemicals added to in some plastics to add strength and durability. First developed in 1891, BPA was not widely used until 1955, following a 1953 discovery by two separate scientists that the compound was nearly unbreakable. Since then, it has been used in a wide array of products- from cups to cash register receipts, and even as a liner in aluminum cans that acts as a barrier against rusting. However, in 1992, a Stanford University researcher by the name of Dr. David Feldman made a startling discovery about BPA when studying estrogen activities. Feldman and his research team noticed the presence of an "estrogenic molecule" in a plastic container of yeast growing in the lab. The researchers realized the yeast was not synthesizing the estrogen itself- the estrogen was literally leaching out of the plastic container. The experiment was then replicated in a glass container, and shockingly, the estrogenic molecule did not appear.

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Can a New Augmented Reality Game Finally End the Tooth-brushing Battle?

A new augmented reality (AR) game is creating a buzz in the dentistry world. The game is called Grush, and it was designed to teach children proper brushing – all while having fun. The game’s designer, Dr. Yong Jing-Wang, created Grush after his own son had difficulty taking proper care of his own teeth. Now Grush is available to families all over the world – but is a video game toothbrush really a good idea? We spoke to Dr. Michele Simpson of Wilmington, NC about Grush and the scores of other teeth brushing apps on the market.

While Grush is certainly not the first app to make cleaning teeth into a game, it is definitely the first app of its kind. Most tooth-brushing apps on the market today fall into two categories. One variation uses toothbrush ‘timers’ that offer some kind of tutorial or game to children while the app counts the time spent brushing (and usually encourages brushing for 2 minutes). The other is strictly a game, where players actually use their own hands to ‘brush’ the teeth on the characters of the app - with no relation to the actual player brushing.

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Is Something Leaving a Bad Taste in Your Mouth?

Most people have experienced a bad taste in their mouth they couldn’t get rid of fast enough- but what if that taste lasted more than a few days and nothing you tried made it any better? If this sounds familiar, you could be suffering from a condition called Dysgeusia. The word Dysgeusia literally means "distaste" in Greek. It is usually characterized by an unpleasant metallic taste in the mouth. Dr. Michele Simpson of Wilmington, NC discusses the causes of Dysgeusia and what you can do to treat it.

Dysgeusia can be caused by a number of different things, such as conditions of the body or medications. Things like hormonal changes due to pregnancy, or even zinc deficiency have been known to cause Dysgeusia, and it can also be caused by medications and treatments like chemotherapy, albuterol asthma inhalers, and iron supplements. So why is it so hard to fix? The answer may surprise you.

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Why Do We Accidentally Bite Our Cheeks While Chewing?

If you’re like most people, you have most likely experienced the pain of accidentally biting the inside of your cheek while chewing – and then continuing to bite the same spot over and over for days, because it’s now in the way of your bite. But why do we do this- and what can we do to stop it? We asked Dr. Michelle Simpson of Wilmington, NC to give us the lowdown on cheek biting.

Though frequent or intentional cheek biting can be a sign of a bigger problem, such as TMJ disorder or a nervous or stress related condition, most of the time when cheek biting occurs, it's merely accidental and no cause for concern. Still, cheek bite injuries are particularly frustrating because they feel like they take forever to heal. This is probably because not only is the injury now right in the way of our bite, causing it to be re-bitten, but it can also become irritated by certain foods- especially if it’s an open or fresh wound. Unfortunately, unlike an external wound, we can’t just put some bacitracin on it and cover it with a bandage. Thankfully the mouth really does heal faster than the rest of the body, so if you can manage to not re-injure it repeatedly, it should theoretically clear up quickly. If you do want to help it along, Dr. Michelle Simpson recommends rinsing your mouth with salt water or alcohol-free mouthwash after eating, to keep the injury clean. It is important to keep the injured area clean because any wound in the mouth is susceptible to infection thanks to the plaque and bacteria already present in the mouth.

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Can a Smartphone Device Tell You How Healthy Your Mouth Is?

A new device called "Mint" is taking the ‘breath-check’ to a new level. With the Mint device, Gone are the days of trying in vain to smell your own breath by breathing into your cupped hand. The device allows you to check your breath by breathing into a wireless plastic meter that connects via Bluetooth to your smartphone, delivering your results to via app. The device is not only useful for hygienic purposes, but according to manufacturers Breathometer and Philips Sonicare, the device could also save your life. Dr. Michele Simpson of Wilmington, NC discusses this groundbreaking new technology.

When Charles Michael Yim appeared on the television show "Shark Tank" in 2013 to introduce his "Breathometer" breathalyzer device, little did he know he’d make history by securing not only an investment by all five ‘sharks’- but the first million-dollar investment in the show’s history. Yim’s original product, the Breathometer device is a personal breathalyzer device which connects to your smartphone and delivers an accurate blood/alcohol reading via a coordinating app. Mint is the company’s newest venture- designed not just to detect bad breath, but to also give an "oral report card" which scores your oral health based on the readings from your breath. Scores range from A to F, with A being excellent breath, and F being breath so bad it could be a sign of serious problems.

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Good Oral Health Begins At Birth

Your baby’s first year is full of many firsts. First smile, first laugh, and maybe even a clap or a crawl too. Another momentous first? Your baby’s first tooth. But if he or she only has one tooth, do you really need to see a dentist? Should you be brushing that tooth? How soon is too soon to begin caring for your child’s teeth? Dr. Michele Simpson offers some pointers on how to care for your new baby’s oral health from infancy and beyond.

During your child’s first year of life, they will likely be seen by the pediatrician at least a dozen times. Between the first few hospital check-ups, then the bi-weekly, weekly and finally monthly well-baby visits, their growth and development are monitored very closely. If your child is healthy, this is usually all you need until teeth begin to erupt. The first tooth shows up around the 6th month, but many children have gotten them earlier, and many more much later. We like to see children start coming to the dentist at around age 1, provided there are teeth present.

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My Child Knocked Out a Baby Tooth! Now What?

Baby teeth. They’re the set of teeth that are meant to be lost. The set that if your child loses accidentally, you don’t panic over, or worry about saving or replacing. But did you know that in some cases you actually can save baby teeth that are lost accidentally? Dr. Michele Simpson of Wilmington, NC explains.

Picture this: Your son is running on uneven pavement, and his shoe catches a raised tile, sending him flying through the air. He lands, taking the impact on his top, central incisor- knocking the tooth clean out. Now, what? At this moment, you have a few options. You can consider the tooth a lost cause and introduce your son to the tooth fairy a little early, or according to Dr. Michele Simpson, there may be hope of saving the tooth and having a dentist re-implant it. But time is of the essence!

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Congenitally Missing Teeth: What Does it Mean, and What Can You Do About it?

The human mouth is designed to hold 32 permanent "adult" teeth, including four wisdom teeth. Sometimes, however, the mouth has other plans. Believe it or not, it is possible to be born with less than a full set of adult teeth. The number missing can range anywhere from one missing tooth to all 32. Dr. Michele Simpson of Wilmington, NC explains why some people are born without a full set of teeth – and what can be done to correct this.

The medical term for congenitally missing teeth is hypodontia. Hypodontia is classified as missing up to five adult teeth, while missing more than five adult teeth is referred to as oligodontia, and missing all your permanent adult teeth is clinically known as andontia. But while these conditions may seem bizarre to some, they are actually much more common than you may think!

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The Origin of the Tooth Fairy

If you grew up in the United States, it’s a safe bet that you’ve probably at least heard of the tooth fairy. The tooth fairy is a mythical sprite who is said to fly into children's’ bedrooms at night, to take fallen baby teeth that were left under children's’ pillows for her- and swap those teeth out for a reward (usually money). But where did the story of the tooth fairy come from?

If you look around the world at traditions to celebrate lost teeth, you will find that many other countries have their own very similar myths- but the use of a humanoid fairy is only found in America. In Spanish-speaking countries, for example, children leave their teeth out at night for a rat or mouse named Ratóncito Pérez. In France, children also leave their teeth for a mouse, but his name is La Petite Souris. Unlike the tooth fairy, though, traditions like La Petite Souris have been found in French literature dating back to the 17th century. The first mention of the American tooth fairy only dates back to 1927, in a playlet entitled "The Tooth Fairy." Unfortunately, the 8 page, three-act children’s play doesn’t go into any detail about the fairy herself, or how her tradition got started.

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Teething Tablets: What You Need to Know Right Now

Parents across the country were recently shocked to learn that the Hyland's Teething Tablets they've trusted to provide "natural" relief for their teething babies may have caused 400 "adverse events" in children (e.g.,. Fever, lethargy, seizures, etc.) and the deaths of ten infants. While these claims are still under FDA investigation and have not yet been verified, the FDA recently issued a warning to parents to stop giving children the tablets until a full investigation could be conducted. So what's a mom to do? We spoke to Dr. Michele Simpson of Wilmington, NC about what this recall means for families- and what you can do to make teething easier in its wake.

It is important to note that what many are calling a Hyland's "recall" is not, in fact, a recall at all. Hyland's products were never actually recalled, and tablets may still be available at your favorite store- but once they're gone, they're gone. While US-Based Hyland's stands by their products, they have opted to voluntarily stop selling the tablets in the United States, but continue selling their teething products in foreign markets. As a result, your local store may choose to keep the tablets on shelves and sell off their inventory- or, in the case of stores like Walgreens and CVS, they may voluntarily pull the tablets off shelves just to be safe.

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Lower your risk of heart attack by brushing your teeth?

You already knew that brushing your teeth benefits your oral health by reducing your risk for cavities and gingivitis. But did you know that you can also reduce your risk of another very common, but very serious illness? Believe it or not, brushing your teeth can reduce your risk of heart disease, too.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 610,000 Americans die from heart disease each year. That is a staggering one in four deaths caused by the same, often preventable illness. We've all heard basic heart disease prevention tips like eating right, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking; but you can now add brushing your teeth to that list, too.

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Michele Simpson DDS

Wilmington Dental Office

3317 Masonboro Loop Rd • Suite 140 • Wilmington, NC 28409

(910) 550-3959