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!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Voters in Wichita, Kansas, Reject Fluoridated Water

The first paragraph is directed towards my fellow dentists.  Pssst... Hey you guys... who wants to relocate with me to Wichita?  There is going to be a surge in dental decay for the folks there in the upcoming years.  The misinformed citizens of this city have allowed fringe activists promoting myths and pseudo-science, to influence them to vote against public water fluoridation.  As we know, without fluoride in the water supply, the people will miss out on the easiest, most cost-effective method to ingest the proper amount of fluoride to strengthen their teeth!!!  There are going to be a ton of decayed teeth requiring restorative work!  Talk about a potential gold-mine!  

Ahem.  Pardon my facetiousness.

This is a link to the original story published by The Wichita Eagle.  

Now, I'm all for personal liberties, and I'm generally against government intervention in our lives, so I can appreciate the citizens of Wichita telling the government to stick-it!  Was it the right decision though?  I would answer with a resounding: no.

As reported in the article, the groups against water fluoridation in Kansas include:  Fluoride Free Kansas, Wichitans Opposed to Fluoridation and the Kansas Republican Assembly.  Their claims include fluoride having 'potential side-effects,' such as 'fluorosis-related staining of teeth, cancer, thyroid disease and reduced intelligence.'  They are also concerned that the fluoride added to the water is acquired in a dangerous, unregulated, artificial means.  In addition, (similar to fictional satirical character General Jack D. Ripper of the movie Dr. Strangelove), they claim that fluoridation is 'mass medication' forcing people to ingest a chemical against their will.  For their sake, I hope they're using non-fluoridated water to mix and drink their kool-aid!

Passionate local politician Mark Gietzen, who is against water fluoridation had this to say to 'The Wichita Eagle,' "There’s no proof that fluoride does any good. It certainly does less good than xylitol gum... -the- most outlandish unproven thing the fluoride people come up with is a 40 percent reduction in cavities."

This gentleman is not impressed with a proven [yes, proven (article one, article two)] 40% reduction in cavities???  Cavities that would cost the person hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to treat over the course of their life?  A 40% reduction in cavities in exchange for adding 0.7 parts per million fluoride to the public water (increasing your water bill from 15-91 cents per month).  Would he be more impressed with a reduction of cavities of 75%?  99%?  I doubt it. The underlying issue here for this politician isn't the health ramifications, and it's not the cost of the process either; it's the government involvement removing his freedom of choice that has him so upset.  Again, I can understand a healthy suspicion of government involvement; however with overwhelming evidence-based, peer-reviewed scientific research proving the safety and efficacy of water fluoridation, your fears can be assuaged. 

That's right, I, a dentist, am telling you that having fluoride in the water will prevent you from having to see me as regularly to treat dental decay!  You would think that dentists would rally with the ‘anti-fluoride’ crowd to encourage more decay in citizens to drum up business!  However, as dentists, we are first and foremost medical providers, practicing preventive medicine.  Therefore, we are very much in favor of water fluoridation to protect the health of our patients’ teeth and the public at large.

Unfortunately for the people of Wichita, the scientific & medical community was railroaded by the loud (ie. ignorant) fringe-sector of anti-fluoride zealots.  Hearing that a dangerous chemical (fatal if consumed in concentrations 10,000-20,000 times the amount in an 8oz glass of fluoridated water, so the word ‘dangerous’ may be slightly misleading) can be added by our untrustworthy government into our water supply would certainly make any law-abiding citizen fearful.  Fear is a powerful emotion that can easily influence an otherwise rational person to behave irrationally, in this case, ignoring scientifically backed facts, to vote the wrong way.

The American Dental Association developed a fantastic pdf publication in 2005 entitled Fluoridation Facts, that is meant to answer questions community members may have when considering fluoridation for their water.  The publication even states at the beginning that “A number of these questions are based on myths and misconceptions advanced by a small faction opposed to water fluoridation. The answers to the questions that appear in FluoridationFacts are based on generally accepted, peer-reviewed, scientific evidence. They are offered to assist policy makers and the general public in making informed decisions.  The answers are supported by thousands of credible scientific articles, including the more than 350 references within the document. It is hoped that decision-makers will make sound choices based on this body of generally accepted, peer-reviewed science.”

I hope the citizens of Wichita who voted against water fluoridation will read this publication, if for no other reason than to educate themselves on science-based facts on water fluoridation, instead of the nonsense presented by the loud and aggressive fringe activists.