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Sleep Apnea: What a Dentist Can Do

March 3rd, 2021

You find yourself drowsy and irritable all day. Or you have trouble sleeping, and when you do, you snore loudly throughout the night punctuated with silent pauses where you aren’t breathing at all. Or your loved ones tell you that you’ve been keeping them awake with your snoring or frightening them awake when you gasp for breath. Whatever symptom may have brought you to the doctor, you’ve been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, and now it’s time to get this sleep disorder under control.

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the tissue in the back of the throat relaxes, partially blocking the airway, or structural problems in the mouth and throat (such as enlarged tonsils or tongue) obstruct air flow. The tissue around the air passage vibrates with every breath causing those annoying snoring sounds. More dangerous, an obstructed airway means that there is not enough oxygen getting into the lungs. The struggle to breathe wakes us, interrupting the deep sleep we need to function. Untreated, the results of sleep apnea can range from drowsiness and irritability to a greater risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Luckily, there are several approaches to combatting this form of sleep apnea, including life style changes, surgery or breathing machines, and orthodontic appliances.

  • Lifestyle Changes

Sleep apnea is more likely to affect those who are overweight, smoke, use alcohol, take certain medications, or sleep on their backs. If you can make changes in your lifestyle that will restore the quality of your sleep, this is a great first option.

  • Surgery or Breathing Machines

Sometimes obstruction of the airway is caused by structural problems in the throat or mouth. Tissue can be reshaped or removed during surgery to widen and stabilize the breathing passage. Or you might be prescribed a machine such as a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, which blows pressurized air through a tube and mask to keep the airway open during sleep.

  • Oral Appliances

Dr. Richard Mullens and Dr. James Nguyen can also be an important resource if you struggle with obstructive sleep apnea. Many people suffering from this disorder prefer an oral appliance for its effectiveness, comfort, and convenience. One common oral sleep appliance is designed to support your lower jaw in a forward position. This jaw movement increases the open space of your airway as you sleep. Other appliances can prevent the tongue from blocking the airway and obstructing air flow. These appliances resemble mouthguards and retainers, and, like them, are custom made just for you. We will recommend the type of appliance best suited to your needs, and will take a model of your mouth and teeth so that a lab can craft an appliance that will be a perfect fit. We will adjust it for comfort if necessary, instruct you on its use and care, and schedule follow up treatment to make sure the appliance is treating your sleep apnea as efficiently as possible.

Whether you opt for a change of lifestyle habits, a CPAP machine, surgery, or an oral appliance, it is important that you treat this sleeping disorder. Left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can have many serious consequences. If you suspect you might have sleep apnea, talk to us during your next visit at our Jacksonville, FL office. You deserve a good—and healthy—night’s sleep.

Osteoporosis and Dental Health

February 24th, 2021

What do we know about osteoporosis? We may know that this disease makes the bones more brittle and vulnerable. We may know that osteoporosis is the cause of many a broken hip or curved spine as we age. We may even know that, for a number of reasons, women are far more likely to develop this disease. What we may not be aware of is the impact osteoporosis can have on our dental health.

“Osteoporosis” means “porous bones.” It is a disease that makes the bones more likely to fracture or break, as the body’s careful balance of absorbing old bone tissue and replacing it with new healthy bone tissue is disrupted. We lose bone tissue faster than we can create new, dense bone tissue. Why is this important for our dental health? Because the fitness of our teeth depends on the fitness of the bones surrounding and securing them in our jaws.

How does osteoporosis affect dental health?

  • Osteoporosis reduces density in the bones and bone tissue that hold our teeth in place. Studies have shown that women with osteoporosis have significantly more tooth loss than women without the disease.
  • Periodontitis, or gum disease, can also cause deterioration in the bone surrounding the teeth. This is a time to be proactive with gum health to avoid infections and further bone loss.
  • Denture wearers may find that their dentures no longer fit properly due to changes in bone structure. Bone loss needs to be addressed promptly to avoid having to replace dentures.
  • Rarely, bone-strengthening medications for osteoporosis can lead to serious jaw problems after dental procedures that involve the jawbone (such as extractions). Always tell us any medications you are taking before we schedule any dental treatment.

Unfortunately, osteoporosis often has no symptoms at all—until the first bone fracture. Checking our bone density is important as we age, and one way of discovering changes in bone density is through your regular dental checkups at our Jacksonville, FL office. We can pinpoint changes in your X-rays through the years and will recommend that you see your physician if there is any indication of bone loss. If you have already been diagnosed with the disease, we have ideas to help maintain the health of your teeth and bones.

Many factors can increase your chance of developing osteoporosis. Age, illness, personal habits, medications, diet, genetics—any number of conditions can affect our bone health. Talk to us about osteoporosis. Dr. Richard Mullens and Dr. James Nguyen would like to work with you to provide prevention and treatment to keep your teeth and bones strong and healthy for a lifetime of beautiful smiles. And that’s certainly good to know!

Water: It’s Not Just for Brushing!

February 17th, 2021

We turn on the tap and it comes rushing out. We walk down the hall at work or school and stop at the fountain without even thinking about it. It’s the one item on the menu we most likely won’t have to pay for. Let’s face it—we’re probably taking water for granted. So let’s take a moment and look at the many wonderful things that drinking water does for our teeth and dental health!

  • Cleaning Our Mouths

We can’t always brush right after eating to get rid of food particles. Bacteria feed on the sugars and starches left behind, and produce acids that lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Drinking water with our meals washes away lots of this food residue and dilutes the amount of acid our teeth are exposed to. 

  • Protecting Our Teeth

Water helps with saliva production, and saliva distributes important minerals such as fluoride and calcium to our teeth. This process helps strengthen enamel that might have been eroded by acidic foods and bacteria and makes our enamel less vulnerable to cavities.

  • Preventing Cavities and Dry Mouth

Fluoride is a mineral that strengthens the structure of our teeth. Because so much of our water is fluoridated, you can get this essential mineral with every glass. If you don’t have access to fluoridated water, or if you tend to drink only bottled water (which may or may not have fluoride), please talk to Dr. Richard Mullens and Dr. James Nguyen about the best way to strengthen and your teeth and help prevent cavities.

Drinking the recommended amount of water per day also helps prevent dry mouth, a condition caused by decreased saliva production. Saliva not only helps remineralize our teeth, as mentioned above, but also works to wash away bacteria and acids that lead to cavities, gum disease, and bad breath. Luckily, we can help ourselves stay hydrated with most liquids, as well as fruits and vegetables that are rich in water content. But the easiest, most effective and often least expensive way to hydrate is with water.

Water just can’t be taken for granted. It’s a marvel of cleaning, protection, and prevention—and it’s calorie-free!

DIY Cures for Bad Breath

February 3rd, 2021

Are you afraid to open your mouth because you have bad breath? You’re not alone bad breath or Halitosis happens to everyone, at one time or another. If you have chronic bad breath there could be a number of reasons, including:

  • Gum disease
  • Sinus problems
  • Bacterial infection in your mouth
  • Stress
  • Strong odor from something you ate
  • Dry mouth

The good news is, none of the causes of bad breath are serious, and they can all be treated. There is a long list of DIY home remedies that have proven effective. Before you try any of them you should be evaluated by Dr. Richard Mullens and Dr. James Nguyen to make sure you do not have a serious oral infection. Of course, you should also always practice good oral hygiene. If you go a week without brushing your teeth, your bad breath is going to be horrible!

1. Cinnamon Mouthwash

Cinnamon is known to help prevent bacteria in your mouth, and lemon has strong citrus properties that will eliminate your bad breath problem.

Preparation

  • Put a half teaspoon of cinnamon in a jar or bottle that has tight fitting lid.
  • Next add the juice from two lemons freshly squeezed lemons.
  • Combine all of the ingredients in a cup of lukewarm water and pour into your jar.
  • Shake the jar well and set it aside for two to three hours.
  • Before using the mouthwash always shake it well.
  • Gargle and swish one to two tablespoons of the mouthwash for about a minute

2. Tea

Black and green tea are beneficial in prevent bad breath. Black tea aids in controlling plaque and bacteria that can cause bad breath. Green tea contains antibacterial properties that fight off the natural occurring germs in your mouth, keeping your breath fresh. Both black and green tea contains polyphenol, a property that can prevent the formation of the foul odor caused by bacterial growth.

Preparation

  • Steep a black of green tea bag in one cup of hot water and drink one to two cups a day to keep your bad breath away.

3. Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil contains natural antiseptic and anti-fungal properties that help kill bacteria and fungi in your mouth, caused by particles of food left behind.

Preparation

  • You will need one teaspoon of tea tree oil, peppermint oil, and lemon oil.
  • Combine all three in eight ounces of lukewarm water and stir well. Use daily as a mouthwash to get rid of your bad breath.