Posts for: June, 2012

By Sarah J. Morris, DDS, PLLC
June 23, 2012
Category: Oral Health
SleepApnea-aHiddenDanger

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.”


By Sarah J. Morris, DDS, PLLC
June 15, 2012
Category: Oral Health
BetterDentalHygieneMeansaHealthierHeart

Did you know that studies have shown a relationship between gum disease and heart disease?

The common link is inflammation. This means that if you reduce inflammation caused by gum disease (periodontal disease), you also reduce your risk for heart attacks and strokes. The methods we stress for good dental hygiene — consistent effective brushing and flossing, regular professional cleanings by a hygienist, and dental treatment when needed — are also important for the maintenance of a healthy cardiovascular system (from cardio, meaning heart, and vascular, meaning blood vessels).

Here's how it works. Dental plaque is a film of bacteria that settles on your teeth near the gum line every day. When you brush and floss, you remove as much of this bacterial film, or biofilm, as you can. Bacteria that are not removed multiply and produce acid products that begin to dissolve the enamel of your teeth. They also irritate your gum tissues.

Your immune system tries to remove the bacteria and their byproducts through inflammation, your body's way of attacking substances that shouldn't be there (such as bacteria). However, long-term inflammation can be harmful to your own tissues as well. Inflammation in your gums, a symptom of periodontal disease, can destroy gum tissue, bone and the ligaments that hold your teeth in place.

Ongoing inflammation can also increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. Bacterial byproducts of periodontal inflammation have been shown to cause the liver to manufacture a protein called CRP (C-reactive protein) that spreads the inflammation to the arteries, where it promotes formation of blood clots.

Of course, other factors are also related to an increased incidence of cardiovascular disease. These include smoking, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and physical inactivity. Family history and depression can also influence gum disease and heart disease.

Diet is another factor. You have probably heard of “good” cholesterol (HDL) and “bad” cholesterol (LDL). The bad one, low-density lipoprotein or LDL, is found in animal fats. It can cause an accumulation of fat breakdown products (also called plaque, but a different substance from dental plaque) inside your arteries. The arteries become narrow, so that they can be easily blocked, resulting in heart attacks and strokes. Studies have shown that inflammation of the lining of the blood vessels accelerates this effect.

If tests show that you have high levels of LDL, your doctor may advise you to modify your diet and take specific medication to reduce arterial plaque. You will also be advised to make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk factors. Lowering your weight, getting more exercise, and stopping smoking can have a positive effect on your heart health — and so can improving your dental hygiene to combat periodontal disease.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about the relationship between gum disease and heart disease. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Link Between Heart & Gum Diseases.”


By Sarah J. Morris, DDS, PLLC
June 07, 2012
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: denture  
TheArtandScienceofCreatingWell-FittingDentures

Even with modern knowledge about oral health and how to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, more than 25 percent of Americans have lost all their teeth by the time they are 65. Perhaps they did not have access to dental education, quality care or treatment. Whatever the reasons, those who suffer from “edentulism” — the complete loss of all permanent teeth — also suffer from poor self-image, impaired nutrition, and reduced quality of life.

Removable full dentures are often the solution of choice for those suffering from edentulism. Dentures can be made to look good and feel great; but successful denture-wearing demands the collaboration of a skilled dentist and a willing patient.

A set of well-fitting full removable dentures starts with detailed planning. We need to work out where each tooth will be placed and how the upper and lower teeth will meet together. To do this, we make use of photos taken before the teeth were lost, as well as using the facial features as a guide. You as the patient have to decide whether you want your dentures to look much like your natural teeth did, including any gaps and uneven areas, or whether you want to make your new teeth more regular and uniform than the originals.

In addition to the size, spacing and locations of the teeth, decisions must be made regarding the colors and textures of the part of the denture that fits over and looks like gum tissue. Photos can help with this aspect as well. Ridges can be added to the section of the denture behind the upper front teeth to aid in natural speaking and chewing.

The upper and lower dentures must be designed so that in the process of biting they stabilize each other. This is called “balancing the bite.” This is necessary for normal function and speech.

All this careful planning and design are only the beginning. The dentures will be created in a wax form, tested and modified. They are then completed in a dental laboratory, where the new teeth and gums are created out of a special plastic called methyl methacrylate. With careful planning, skill and artistry they are made to look like natural teeth and gums.

At this point the role of the denture wearer becomes vitally important. He or she must relearn how to bite, chew, and speak while wearing the dentures. As the dentures press down on bone and gum tissues, over time some bone will be lost. This will require coming in for frequent checkups and modifications to make sure the dentures continue to fit well and comfortably.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about dentures. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Removable Full Dentures.”




Dentist - Fort Worth
2551 River Park Plaza
Fort Worth, TX 76116
817-732-4419

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