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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 denture 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.

 

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Dental Cavities on the Rise


Dental caries, or as they are more commonly known, cavities. They’re those pesky little spots of decay in your teeth that form when your below-the-surface tooth enamel breaks down, causing the surface enamel to collapse, and creating a sinkhole in your tooth. But what causes cavities in the first place, and why are they on the rise?"According to recent data, cavities are increasing across every single age group in America," said Dr. Michele Simpson of Wilmington, North Carolina. "Which is ironic, because today there are more tooth care products on the market than ever before."But according to Simpson, the increase in cavities may not be entirely about hygiene."A recent study at the University of Zurich found that genetic enamel defects may be caused by not just bacteria on the teeth, but by the strength of the enamel itself," explained Simpson. "Basically, some teeth have stronger enamel than others, and those with weaker enamel have less protection against cavities."

It’s in His KissAnother surprising cause of cavities?"Believe it or not, it may be your parents," says Simpson.Simpson is referring to the numerous studies that have shown that the bacteria responsible for causing cavities can be easily transmitted between parents and children, and even children and peers. Known as "vertical transmission," the bacteria can be transmitted via saliva if the parent or person doing the transmitting has serious, untreated tooth decay. Transmission from peer to peer or sibling to sibling is known as "horizontal transmission."According to Simpson, vertical and horizontal transmission occur most frequently at a time in a child’s life when they’re at an especially high risk for tooth decay. The natural immunity to S. Mutans bacteria (the bacteria responsible for tooth decay) we develop over time has not yet developed, and the initial passive immunity passed from the mother to child during pregnancy has worn off."All it takes for vertical or horizontal immunity to pass from one person to another is a kiss or a shared cup or utensil," said  Simpson. "It really is as simple as that."Is Prevention Possible? So, what can we do to prevent this type of bacterial transmission? After all, most parents aren’t going to stop kissing their kids."I wouldn’t say don’t kiss your kids," said. Simpson. "But maybe try to avoid kissing them on the mouth if you haven’t brushed your teeth recently. Also, avoid sharing cups, straws, utensils, toothbrushes, or anything else that has been in your mouth. I know it’s easier said than done, especially when your toddler grabs your drink off the table, but all the more reason to keep current with your dental exams and maintain excellent oral hygiene between cleanings."

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Baby Teeth Offer Autism Clues


A recently released study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has found a connection between prenatal and postnatal exposure to some metals, and autism spectrum disorder, also known as ASD. Conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, the study used naturally-shed baby teeth to measure levels of lead, manganese and zinc in children with and without ASD. The study analyzed the teeth of 32 pairs of twins and 12 individual twins to control genetic influences.

To measure the metals, researchers used lasers to cut out thin layers of the tooth’s dentin, much like dendrologists do when they use dendrochronology to date tree rings. By extracting dentin in this manner, researchers can measure metal exposure at various stages of the tooth, and by proxy, the child’s development.Lead Exposure May Hold a KeyWhat the researchers found was that baby teeth from the children with ASD had higher levels of lead and lower levels of both manganese and zinc compared to the children who did not have ASD. Even more fascinating, those levels stayed relatively similar throughout the child’s development, with lead levels peaking shortly after birth. Children with ASD were also found to have lower manganese levels both in the womb and shortly after birth. Zinc levels were lower in utero among the children with ASD, but those levels increased dramatically after birth, surpassing the levels of the neurotypical children at the same stage."We are really beginning to see just how important a barometer the teeth are to whole-body health," said Wilmington, North Carolina dentist Dr. Michele Simpson. "This study is just one more glimpse into how extremely connected the different systems of the body are to each other."The authors of the study conclude that autism spectrum disorder and early exposure to certain metals may be linked, but that the key to determining why some children develop ASD and others don’t lie in how the body processes those metals.Teeth May Offer Future InsightIn addition to the groundbreaking findings regarding ASD, many in the medical community are optimistic about the possibilities that baby teeth may hold in shedding light on other developmental disorders, like ADHD."Dentin samples and dental stem cells from shed baby teeth are showing lots of promise in both understanding and treating many different disorder," said Simpson. "A recent study in England used dental stem cells extracted from baby teeth to treat children with autism and even showed improved developmental markers in areas like language and memory. It will be exciting to see what other medical breakthroughs teeth will play a role in in the future."

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Crazy Dental Myths Debunked!


  Myths, legends, and mysteries. They are as much a part of the human tapestry as proven facts. But while some, like Bigfoot and that one about getting sick from not dressing warmly enough, won’t seem to go away, here are a few of the weirdest dental-related myths that have been thankfully dis-proven over time.

Swallowed gum stays in your stomach for seven years.

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Not Sleeping Soundly? It Could Be Sleep Apnea.


According to American Sleep Apnea Association, an estimated 22 million adults in the United States suffer from the sleep disorder known as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea occurs most frequently in men over the age of 40 who are overweight or obese, though it has been seen in patients of all ages, weights, and genders.

There are three main types of sleep apnea. The most common type of sleep apnea is called obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway of the throat is blocked while sleeping. This happens when while lying down, the tongue rests on the soft palate of the throat, and like a domino effect, the soft palate leans on the throat, closing it.

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Feeling Tongue Tied About Ankyloglossia?


 

 Ankyloglossia, or "tongue tie" is a common childhood ailment that occurs when the lingual frenulum connecting your tongue to the bottom of your mouth fails to separate in utero. An estimated 3 million babies are born each year with tongue ties, and while tongue ties are found in babies of both genders, for some reason, they’re more common in boys than in girls. Furthermore, while it is unknown what exactly causes tongue tie, it can sometimes be associated with certain genetic factors. Dr. Michelle Simpson discusses what exactly a tongue tie is, and how to correct it.

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Veneers Aren’t Just for Your Teeth


 If you’re one of the 81 percent of people who believe their smile is unattractive, or the 28 percent who refuse to show their teeth in photos on social media, you could be a candidate for porcelain veneers. Porcelain veneers are thin porcelain strips that are fitted onto the tooth and then adhered into place. Porcelain veneers can improve the look of the color, shape and texture of the teeth. Usually placed on the front-facing surface of your teeth, veneers give you the beautiful smile you’ve always dreamed of, without having to undergo lengthy procedures like braces, crowns, or dental implants.

But the benefits of veneers go way beyond just your teeth! Having a beautiful smile doesn’t just improve your appearance, it can improve your entire life! And here are the facts to back that up. 

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Keep Forgetting to Brush?


 We get it- life gets busy. No matter how old you are or what you do for a living, it can be easy to forget to do simple everyday things like brushing your teeth if you’ve already got a lot of plates in the air. Unfortunately, forgetting to brush your teeth just once a day can increase your risk for cavities, gum disease, and even periodontitis, which can lead to a lot of other dangerous problems, including tooth and gum loss, and even jaw loss. So, when we say brushing twice a day is important, we mean it!  So, what can you do if you find yourself struggling to remember that all-too-important second brushing each day? Here are some cool new ways to remind yourself to take care of your teeth!

The "Tooth" App. The tooth app is a pretty simple, free app, but brilliant in its simplicity. It has three major functions, all designed to help adults remember to brush their teeth better

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Could It Be Gingivitis?


 If you’ve ever brushed or flossed your teeth and noticed your gums were bleeding, it could be the sign of a condition called gingivitis. It is estimated that more than 75 percent of adults in America have some form of gum disease. The most common and earliest stage of gum disease is gingivitis. Patients with gingivitis may experience redness and swelling of the gums, elongated teeth due to receding gums, and the patient’s gums may bleed during brushing or flossing. But while gingivitis itself is not that serious of a condition, if left untreated it can quickly escalate to full-blown periodontitis, which can cause everything from tooth loss to bone and tissue loss. Thankfully, gingivitis is reversible with proper oral health care.

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Wisdom Teeth Removal Patients Should Beware of Dry Socket


 Just like getting your driver’s license or taking your SAT’s, getting wisdom teeth removed has become somewhat of a rite of passage for young adults in America. In fact, it is estimated that nearly 85 percent of American adults have had their wisdom teeth removed.   Wisdom teeth (also known as third molars) are the third and last set of adult molars to erupt in the adult mouth, as well as the most common set of teeth to be removed.  This is because wisdom teeth can often become impacted, a condition which occurs when wisdom teeth do not fully erupt. But while partially erupted teeth may not seem like a big imposition, impaction causes many painful side effects, including crowding, inflammation, infection, cysts, cavities and even damage to the other nearby teeth. Worse still, the longer you keep your wisdom teeth, the greater the risk of damaging the rest of your healthy teeth.

"That’s why we recommend getting them removed when you’re a teenager or young adult," said Dr. Michele Simpson of Wilmington, North Carolina. "But even if we remove wisdom teeth before they begin to cause other problems in the mouth, removing them is not without its own set of risks the patient should be aware of." One such complication is a condition called "dry socket," which happens during the healing process following the removal of wisdom teeth."When your wisdom teeth are removed, the space left behind is essentially an open wound until the gum heals," said Simpson. "To protect your gums and jaw bone, a clot forms in that opening. This clot will eventually break up and go away, but if it becomes detached before it has had adequate time to heal, you can develop a very painful condition called dry socket."Dry socket, or alveolar osteitis is what happens when the bone and nerves in the opening of the wound become exposed to food, drink, air and anything else that the patient may put in their mouth during the healing process. So, what can you do if you think you’ve developed dry socket?"If you suspect you have dry socket, check in the mirror and see if you see a clot in the opening of the incision," said Simpson. "If there’s a red spot there, you’re probably just experiencing normal post-extraction pain, but if there’s a whitish spot and no clot, call your dentist or oral surgeon. They’ll have you come in and get the socket cleaned out, and may fill it with a special oral dressing or medicated paste to keep it protected until the gum heals on its own."Thankfully, while dry socket can be incredibly painful, it’s also easily preventable and easily correctable," said Simpson, "To decrease your risk of developing dry socket, you should avoid doing things like smoking, drinking hot fluids and drinking with a straw. Unfortunately, some medications may also increase your risk of developing dry socket, including oral contraceptives."Simpson also recommends cutting back or quitting smoking, and if you do use oral contraceptives, scheduling your extraction for days when you are on the lowest dose of estrogen."It’s very important that you are up front with your medical history, but also that you follow the post-op care instructions provided by your doctor as closely as possible. This will give you the lowest possible risk of unnecessary complications."

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Why Choose Invisalign?


 Is your smile a little less perfect than you’d like it to be? Do you have minor crowding or rotations that you’d like to correct without having to commit to traditional wire brackets? You may be an excellent candidate for the tooth straightening system known as Invisalign.

Invisalign works by creating a series of custom-molded, transparent plastic trays that you wear over your teeth to slowly adjust the positioning of your teeth over time. Most treatments last between 3-12 months, depending on how many trays you need to achieve your desired results.

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Does Brushing Your Teeth Affect Your Appetite?


For years, people trying to lose a few extra pounds have been offered tips like ‘If you get hungry, just brush your teeth," and for many people, that advice has proven to be sage. But as writers at the magazine Popular Science recently discovered, that wisdom doesn’t hold true for everyone.  Following some recent engagement with fans on their Twitter page, the brains behind Popular Science discovered a surprising number of their followers believe that brushing their teeth actually makes them hungrier, not the opposite. So, which is true? Both ideas can’t be right- or can they?

 

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Say Goodnight to Morning Breath


If you’re one of the estimated eighty million unlucky people in America who wakes up each morning with less than minty-fresh breath, you’re not alone. In fact, approximately thirty-five to forty-five percent of people on earth suffer from the condition known as halitosis, or as it is referred to in the morning "morning breath" – that combination of bad breath and equally bad taste in your mouth that only seems to show up after sleeping. So, what causes morning breath- and what can you do to stop it?

Morning breath is that sour, Sulphur-laden odor in your mouth that shows up after you’ve been asleep. Much like the term ‘morning sickness,’ however, morning breath is a bit of a misnomer. Morning breath can strike anytime you wake up- even after a mid-day nap. Morning breath is caused by the bacteria in your mouth that normally nosh on the carbohydrates left behind after you eat. However, once you brush your teeth and rinse all those carbohydrates away, they have nothing to snack on until your next meal- so they move on to the proteins in your mouth, which can be found in your saliva and mucous membranes. The breakdown of the proteins is what causes the Sulphur smell that most of us associate with morning breath.

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Reading Teeth: What Morphopsychology Says About Your Personality


We recently read a fascinating article about the art of "morphopsychology," which is essentially reading the shape of one’s teeth to determine their personality type- but is there any merit to it?

In morphopsychology, there are supposedly four shapes of teeth, each shape possessing its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Individuals possessing that tooth shape are said to personify the traits associated with their tooth shape. The shapes are as follows:

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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.

Though production of nitrous oxide has been hampered since August, when the FDA announced that nitrous oxide supplies were depleting to record lows back in January, they assured Americans the supply would be restored by the end of February. Unfortunately, their estimates were off and the shortage continues. Many dental practices around the US are using their last tanks, and some are already out. So, what does this mean for patients who grapple with the very real fear of the dentist, or odontophobia?Simpson, who provides nitrous oxide for sedation in her practice says patients who rely on laughing gas to get them through their appointment shouldn’t be dissuaded from keeping their appointments.

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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.

According to the North Carolina-based research firm Patients Beyond Borders, an estimated 500,000 patients per year cross the border to Mexico for dental care each year, and that number is on the incline. In fact, Patients Beyond Borders estimates that global dental tourism is increasing at a rate of about 15-25% a year, with most Americans heading to Mexico or Costa Rica for dental procedures, followed by Turkey, South Korea and Malaysia, to name a few. So, what’s the big deal? If patients are saving money and getting the care they need, that can’t be a bad thing, right? Not so fast, says Wilmington, North Carolina dentist Dr. Michele Simpson."When you cross the border to any foreign country for care, you could be putting your health at risk," Simpson said. "In the US, we have numerous safeguards in place to protect the patient from unsanitary or unsafe practices or practitioners. In foreign countries, while there may be standards, you don’t know how strictly they’re enforced, or if there is recourse at all if something goes wrong." Whereas in America, doctors have a litany of organizations in place to make sure the highest standards are met, not every country requires as much "That’s part of why the costs in the US are higher," Simpson said. "Because doctors must carry malpractice insurance, licenses, permits- many of these safeguards are expensive, but they’re worth the investment in your health and safety."

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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.

The University of Amsterdam study used glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) stick tests to evaluate the blood of 313 patients. Shockingly, researchers found that the higher the patient’s HbA1c, the more frequent and severe the patient’s periodontitis. Furthermore, nearly 50 perecent of those patients with some stage of periodontitis were at a minimum pre-diabetic.

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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? 

"It’s not really the allergy itself that’s hurting you," Simpson said. "It’s the sinus pressure." Your sinuses are positioned directly above your top layer of teeth, which means if there is pressure on your sinuses, there’s a good chance you’ll feel that pressure in your teeth, too. Worse yet, because that pain isn’t caused by a specific tooth, it can often be felt in all your teeth. "Sinus pain can radiate throughout the top jaw and in extreme cases, through the lower jaw as well," Simpson said. The bad news for people with sinus-related dental pain, is that it could last the entire allergy season, depending on how severe your allergies are. In some areas of the U.S., allergy season can last two weeks, while in other areas it can last up to three months. For people with pollen allergies, that can be agonizing. But there is good news, too- the symptoms of sinus pain and pressure can often be alleviated with an OTC allergy medication. "I definitely recommend visiting your primary care physician or allergist if you believe you’re experiencing the effects of a pollen allergy,"  Simpson said. "Because there is so much overlap between allergy season and cold and flu season, it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to medication." If beginning an allergy medication regimen doesn’t help alleviate the pressure on your teeth, Simpson recommends visiting your dentist to rule out any dental problems. "There could be a number of things causing you tooth pain in addition to sinus pressure, anything from cavities to an abscess to TMJ disorder," Simpson said. "Unfortunately, none of these things are problems you want to leave untreated, so do yourself a favor and get your mouth checked out just in case."Simpson also cautions that tooth pain may not be the only symptom of allergies in your mouth- swelling of the tongue and lips, and even itchiness inside the cheeks and roof of the mouth can all indicate an allergy. "If you are experiencing an allergic reaction, it’s important to be seen by a doctor as soon as possible, especially if your lips or tongue are swelling. These are signs anaphylaxis, and could be life-threatening," SImpson said. Another important thing to remember? Just because you have never had seasonal allergies before doesn’t mean you don’t have them now, allergies can appear at any age, even if you’ve been exposed to the same pollen for your entire life. "People often think that it's only new pollen exposure that triggers allergic reactions, but you can theoretically go 40 years without any problems and wake up one day with a severe allergic reaction to the trees right outside your door,"  Simpson said. "The same thing happens all the time with food allergies."For those who are experiencing side effects of seasonal allergies, the good news is that this too shall pass, along with the sinus pressure and tooth pain, which according to Simpson is no cause for long-term concern. "Though this type of tooth pain may be uncomfortable, it poses no risk of long-term damage," she said. "If allergy medication isn’t going far enough to reduce the pressure, speak to your physician or dentist to see if there’s something else that can be taken to help reduce some of the pressure- and always use medications as directed by your doctor."

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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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Michele Simpson DDS

Wilmington Dental Office

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

(910) 550-3959

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3317 Masonboro Loop Rd
Suite 140
Wilmington, NC 28409