Friday, January 23, 2015

Don't Trust Television!

This shouldn't be a new concept to anyone.  All television programming has biases, hidden motivations, and agendas.  In addition often with news shows or talk-shows, misinformation is spread (either through accidental ignorance or through purposeful means to help influence ratings).

I just watched a 10 minute clip of a television talk-show that features several medical 'professionals' who give 'health advice' to the in-studio audience and to us viewers.  Today they had a woman on, probably in her 30's, who claimed to be losing her teeth due to grinding them tightly.  The narrative on the show was that the woman drank too many sugary, fizzy drinks over the years, and would grind her teeth during so-called 'stressful periods of her life,' which subsequently led to the breakdown or loss of her teeth.

As a dentist I will arrive at my assessment of the situation shortly, but first I want to put myself in the shoes of the average viewing member of the audience:  'Holy smokes, this lady's consumption of soda-pop and grinding her teeth at night caused the teeth to become rotten and snap out of her mouth?  Good heavens!  I occasionally drink soda-pop, and when I experience stress in my life sometimes I grind or clench my teeth!  Let me look in the mirror to see how close my teeth are to snapping off!'  At this point the viewer might run to the bathroom and look at his or her teeth, carefully examining them, wondering when the inevitable breaking and snapping might begin!  Maybe the viewer calls up their dentist to set up an appointment to have treatment rendered immediately!  After-all, the woman in the show was given a custom-made night-guard to protect her against grinding her teeth!

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the far more likely cause of her current dental problems:  recreational drug abuse, namely (but not limited to) methamphetamines.  There is even a dental condition named for this particular abuse:  Meth Mouth. 

Ta-da!

But wait, this was never mentioned in the television program!  That is correct... it was not.  However let me describe the woman's mouth a bit more carefully.  1) This woman had multiple missing teeth which had been previously extracted.  2) When you are a chronic bruxor (ie. tooth grinder), the chewing surfaces become smooth or have even-edges with each other (through attrition), and often you may even see notched-areas along the gumline on the facial surfaces of the teeth (abfraction).  Her remaining teeth had neither the chewing wear pattern nor the abfraction.  3) She did however have rampant tooth decay in all of her remaining upper teeth.  Horrible, horrible decay!
 
Now let’s be logical here folks:  Millions of Americans consume carbonated beverages every day... without developing decay.  Millions of Americans grind their teeth... without them 'snapping off.'   Soda-pop is not a healthful food product, and grinding your teeth can be uncomfortable for the jaw-muscles and lead to tooth-wear, but the combination of the two does not automatically lead to 'rampant dental caries' (ie. decay).


Let's go back to the woman saying she experienced periods of her life that were 'stressful.'  Perhaps what she meant was, "I was suffering from CHRONIC ILLEGAL DRUG ABUSE!"  The behavior of methamphetamine abusers includes:  1) Craving and consuming very sugary food products and drinks.  2) Teeth grinding.  The meth will also dry out your mouth, making for an environment that the decay-causing germs thrive in!  Together with the fuel from the sugar, it is no surprise that the germs are able to act so aggressively in these people!

I cannot for the life of me guess why the show wouldn't at least comment on this potential cause for her problem.  I mean, if she never touched drugs, couldn't the show say, "…And she never took drugs!"  But nope!!!

In my opinion it is grossly irresponsible for this television show to mislead their viewers with scare-tactics, in order to create a buzz and drum-up ratings.  After-all, the show had real-time Twitter comments from viewers expressing shock and awe at the woman’s poor dental health.  If my suspicions about this woman’s problems are correct, then it is also irresponsible of the 'professionals' in this show to gloss over the actual etiology of her current condition (giving her a night-guard to wear), instead of a referral to a substance abuse rehabilitation facility.


Turn off your television folks, especially these kinds of garbage 'advice' shows.  Ask yourself if these ‘professional’ hosts were so adept at rendering fantastic medical or dental care, why aren't they out there working on patients instead of being a talking-head on a TV show?  Oh snap!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Ira Shannon DDS

There's a common misconception that dentists want their patients to consume more sugar to help drum-up business.  In reality, the cornerstone of dentistry in 'prevention, prevention, prevention.'  In fact, the dental profession has been at the forefront of the anti-sugar brigade for decades!

Take dentist Ira Shannon who wrote a landmark article for the ASDC "Journal of Dentistry for Children," discussing the percentage of sugar in breakfast cereals.  What's most shocking is this article was published in the 1970's!!!

The Ludington Daily New printed the crux of the article in their newspaper on Thursday, August 19, 1976.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Dentistry From the Heart 2014

I participated again for the fourth year in a row for the day of free dentistry at Dr. Bob's Niagara Falls office.  I saw a handful of patients and provided tooth extractions, dental-cleanings and a few fillings to round out the day.  The patients were very appreciative, and it left me with a satisfied feeling as usual!

Here's a screen-shot of the local news station's article announcing the event:


Thursday, May 22, 2014

I'd rather Emma Thompson join Twitter!

Emma Thompson was quoted this week saying "I'd rather have root canal treatment for the rest of my life than join Twitter." 

As a dental professional who renders endodontic therapy (ie. root canal treatment) on at least a weekly basis, I can say that I would much rather this Oscar-winning actress just sign up for Twitter.  

For a patient, a root canal treatment may sound scary, but is often a relatively painless, boring procedure that may take one or two visits.  For the dentist however, root canal treatment can be an incredibly tedious procedure!  It involves looking through a microscope or magnifying glasses at a tiny window inside of a person's tooth, and then navigating the incredibly narrow canals with tiny instruments... all very tedious and exhausting!

In comparison, signing up for Twitter requires very little time, and limits users to 140 characters per post.  That sounds pretty easy-going to me!

Of course, Miss Thompson is less impressed by the CONTENT she reads on Twitter than the ease in using the social-media platform; however saying she would rather have a lifetime of root canal work sounds like more of a punishment for the dentist than anyone else!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Dentistry is a Sedentary Profession

In dental school, I was instructed to sit for all procedures with the exception of oral surgery (ie. pulling teeth).  I was promised that this would save me from numerous health problems (stemming from back pain).  This positioning translates to hundreds upon thousands of working-hours spent sitting on my butt while I render dental care.  

Popular Science recently ran an online article entitled “7 Ways Sitting Will Kill You.”  Those seven ways are:  Chronic Disease, Reduced Life Expectancy, Kidney Disease, Poor Mental Health, Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome, Death from Colorectal Cancer, Death (Just Death!).  

A couple of years ago, I started to transition to standing while delivering treatment.  Guess what?  With proper angulation of the hand-mirror and careful chair adjustment (ensuring the patient’s comfort), neither my assistant nor I have suffered any crippling back issues or musculoskeletal problems at all!  Of course, I am only providing anecdotal evidence of how I have been able to implement this technique.  However, I find it comical that the only branch of dentistry where I ever find myself physically tired or strained, is oral surgery (where standing was recommended!), and even then, it is a rare occurrence.  

If you're a dentist, work in the dental field, or work any kind of desk-job where you're sitting most of the day, take a look at the article to read about the dangers of sitting all day long! 

I have been experimenting with getting my feet moving while I have some down-time if a patient reschedules, or while I am writing chart notes.  More on this topic in a future update!

Friday, November 15, 2013

"Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal"

Mary Roach, the author of 2003’s "Stiff," recently published a book that is more to my taste:  "Gulp:  Adventures on the Alimentary Canal."  The book discusses little known facts, quirky historical stories, and current research on food-tasting, saliva production, digestion, and it even delves into the bowels of… our bowels.

The chapter that I really sunk my teeth into discussed saliva.  Having participated in salivary research under the oral biologist, Dr. Libuse Bobek at the State University ofNew York at Buffalo, I thought I already knew a great deal about saliva, but I had to swallow my pride as I learned a great deal more.  Don't be turned off by this topic folks; saliva is nothing to spit at!


The saliva of babies for instance contains more of the enzyme (lipase) necessary to break down fat, so they can digest milk easier.  As the baby grows and is introduced to new foods, the enzyme amylase becomes predominant (to break down carbs).  This enzyme in our saliva is why a potato chip will rapidly dissolve into mush after only a couple crunches in our mouths.

The author goes further on the discussion of enzymes, making an interesting connection between our saliva and laundry detergent.  The enzymes used in detergents to clean food stains from our clothes are in fact digestive enzymes (amylase, protease and lipase).  Don't worry though, these enzymes are not derived from an army of people spitting into jugs at the Tide and Wisk factories (they're extracted from fungi infused with the genes to produce these enzymes).


Another interesting tid-bit that Mary Roach shares is the fact that smells and scents do not stimulate saliva.  In other words, regardless if you smell a batch of freshly baked chocolate cookies, or take a whiff of that pepperoni pizza you just picked up at Pepe's, your mouth won't produce any more saliva than it would normally produce.  So, it turns out that the cartoon clip showing a hungry wolf salivating when smelling the 3 little pigs is as equally unrealistic as the clothing being worn by these talking animals!

Finally, Erika Silletti, the scientist followed and interviewed by author Mary Roach, makes reference to the area of research that I studied; namely, that saliva has antimicrobial properties in the form of proteins called mucins.  Even when the proteins of the spit are broken down, the small protein pieces (peptides) that remain behind have equal if not better germ-killing attributes.  As a specific example, proteins are normally dozens to hundreds of amino acids in length, whereas the very effective germ killer MUC7-12mer I studied was only 12 amino acids in length.  Obviously even though our mouths are known to be filled with millions of germs of multiple varieties, our saliva has the ability to regulate and control what thrives and what dies in the oral environment!

So, do yourself a flavor (oops, I meant 'favor') and pick up a copy of this entertaining and educational book.


(Of course if you think books are just dead-weight, maybe Mary Roach's book "Stiff:  The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers" is more up your alley)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Ron Swanson's Tooth Prank

Normally, extracted teeth are retained in the dental office and processed with biological waste, however TV character Ron Swanson demonstrates a compelling reason for a patient to keep their recently extracted tooth.  Enjoy!