THE TRUTH ABOUT SOME COMMON DENTAL MYTHS

The profession of dentistry has experienced an amazing evolution over its lifetime. References to tooth decay can be found in various ancient texts. At one time, a local barber would provide haircuts and pull troublesome teeth in the same shop. Dentistry evolved from these humble beginnings to what we know today: a structured medical discipline where patients benefit from evidenced-based care. Oddly enough, though, several oral health myths and misconceptions have failed to fade away....

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SIMPLE STEPS TO MAINTAIN YOUR ORAL HEALTH

On the list of common reasons people avoid the dentist, cost is usually near the top. It is a fact — some dental treatments are expensive. However, you have some control in working to avoid pricey dental procedures. Two of the best ways to avoid needing expensive dental treatments are to visit a dentist regularly for an exam and cleaning and following proper dental hygiene advice every day.

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COMMON SLEEP DISORDER WREAKS HAVOC ON THE BODY

The National Sleep Foundation estimates over 18 million adults in the United States, or about one in every 15 people, suffer from sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that interrupts breathing, resulting in disruptive sleep. Individuals suffering from obstructive sleep apnea will experience a repetitive (partial or complete) airway collapse throughout their sleep, which prevents air from reaching the lungs.

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DOES MY KID NEED A CUSTOM OR OFF THE SHELF MOUTH GUARD FOR SPORTS?

The consequences of dental and facial injuries for youth are substantial because of the potential for pain, psychological effects and economic implications. Common injuries include chipped or broken teeth, nerve damage to a tooth and tooth loss. Parents and guardians should be proactive in educating their children about the importance of using a mouthguard. They should provide a proper-fitting mouthguard for use during sports and activities.


Initially used by professional boxers, the mouthguard has been used as a protective device since the early 1900s. The mouthguard helps prevent fractures and dislocations of teeth by providing a cushioning from the blow to the teeth or jaw. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) places mouthguards in three categories:


Type I: Custom-Fabricated Mouthguard. This category of mouthguard is a custom-made piece created in a dental office. An impression of the child’s upper and lower jaw is taken. A stone model of the teeth will be produced from the impression. Using a vacuum- form machine, a custom cushioned mouthguard is created on the stone dental model. The mouthguard is removed from the model,

trimmed and prepared for delivery. The mouthguard will cover all the teeth and usually is made for the upper jaw. The benefit of a custom-fabricated mouthguard is it is superior in retention (keeping its shape), protection and comfort. As an added bonus, school colors can many times be incorporated into the mouthguard. Disadvantages of this option include cost and time involved.


Type 2: Mouth-Formed Mouthguard. This category of mouthguard can typically be found in sporting goods stores. Mouth-formed, also known as boil-and-bite mouthguards, are made from a thermoplastic material adapted to the mouth by biting into the mouthpiece after soaking it in hot water for a short period of time. Once placed in the mouth, the mouthguard is also shaped using the fingers and tongue. While this type of guard is most commonly used among athletes because it is a quick and typically less expensive option than a custom-fabricated mouthguard, the level of protection, retention and comfort provided varies greatly.


Type 3: Stock or Preformed Mouthguard. This category of mouthguard can also typically be found in sporting goods stores. The largest drawback of stock sports mouthguards is they are a one-size- fits-all type of option. The sizes offered are often small, medium and large. They are designed for use without any modification and must be held in place by clenching the teeth together to provide a protective benefit. Clenching a stock mouthguard in place can interfere with breathing and speaking and therefore is considered to be less protective. As this option is the least protective method, dentists generally do not recommend their use over other options.


The attitudes of officials, coaches, parents/guardians and players about wearing mouthguards influence their usage. Although coaches are perceived as the individuals with the greatest impact on whether players wear mouthguards, parents/guardians view themselves as equally responsible for promoting mouthguard usage. An effective mouthguard should be comfortable, durable and easy to clean. It should resist tears and hold its shape and should not restrict player breathing or speech.


Fortunately, many sports teams recommend or require athletes to use mouthguards, but even in cases where they are not required, it is still recommended they be worn at all times, especially during high-impact sports. This advice applies to youth as well as adults involved in sports or recreational activities. With the possibility of costly dental bills, it is better to be safe than sorry.    

DR. RONALD SINGER

Dr. Ronald Singer is an assistant professor in the division of Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry. More information about UK Dentistry is available at  www.ukhealthcare.uky.edu/dentistry.

more articles by dr Ronald Singer

It only takes something as quick as one soccer ball or basketball hitting a face to affect a smile forever. All sporting activities have an associated risk of dental trauma due to falls, collisions and contact with hard surfaces or sports-related equipment.


The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recognizes the prevalence of sports-related dental and facial injuries among children and the need for prevention, which is why the organization encourages the use of a mouthguard to help protect teeth, lips, cheeks and gums. The mouthguard creates a barrier between the upper and lower teeth to prevent them from crashing together during impact, as well as protecting the teeth from being hit by something outside the mouth such as a puck, stick, elbow or ball.


Currently in the United States, high school football, lacrosse and ice hockey require a mouthguard during play. Popular sports such as baseball, basketball, soccer, softball, wrestling, volleyball and gymnastics lag behind, lacking this injury- prevention guideline. Beyond sports, mouthguards can offer protection for a number of other recreational activities, too. Youth participating in leisure activities such as skateboarding, roller skating and bicycling can also benefit from appropriate protective equipment.