I. Stephen Brown, DDS
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Archive for September, 2020

Vaping and Periodontal Disease

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

Vaping has grown in popularity over the last few years. It is seen by many as an alternative to smoking cigarettes, offering a healthier option for smokers. By using e-cigarettes, it’s believed that individuals will avoid many of the health complications associated with traditional tobacco cigarettes. As a result, you’d expect dentists to be over the moon at the prospect of something that reduces the consumption of cigarettes. It’s well known that cigarettes cause a lot of oral health problems – most notably staining and periodontal disease.

However, while vaping might be ‘healthier’ than smoking, it’s certainly not healthy. In fact, research suggests there is a strong link between vaping and periodontal disease. This is down to the chemicals present in e-cigarettes and how they interact with your mouth. Some dentists argue that they might be worse for your oral health than traditional cigarettes.

What is vaping?

Vaping is a term used to describe the act of using e-cigarettes. For all intents and purposes, an e-cigarette is an electronic version of a typical tobacco cigarette. Of course, it is built out of entirely different things and uses technology. The science behind vaping is pretty straightforward: a liquid is heated to generate vapor, which is then inhaled by the user.

A typical e-cigarette will have a few key components:

  • A replaceable inhaler cartridge – this contains the e-liquid that is heated. You can buy many different cartridges of liquids in loads of various flavors. Most e-liquids are made of vegetable glycerin, polyethylene glycol, flavoring, and nicotine/THC.
  • A heating chamber – this is known as the ‘vaporizer’ as it produces the heat that turns the liquid into a gas. It is usually either built into the inhaler cartridge or the main body of the e-cigarette.
  • Rechargeable battery – all vape pens/e-cigarettes will have a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Obviously, this is required to heat the heating chamber. It is connected to a circuit board that’s often linked to an LED light telling the user when heating is occurring.

Many people choose to vape as it is seen as the best way to stop smoking. The nicotine concentration is far lower – and some e-liquids are completely nicotine-free. The feeling of having an e-cigarette in your hand makes your body associate it with the feeling of smoking, so it’s easier to adapt and slowly decrease your nicotine consumption. However, some of the ingredients in these devices are bad for your oral health.

How does vaping damage your oral health?

Primarily, the concerns stem from the three main ingredients in e-liquids:

  • Propylene glycol (PG)
  • Vegetable glycerin (VG) & flavorings
  • Nicotine

The sole purpose of PG is to act as a carrier for the e-liquid. You can’t taste it, it doesn’t smell, and it is used in many different products throughout the food industry. The problem is that it is directly ingested through the mouth when vaping. As this happens, PG will break down into propionaldehyde, lactic acid, and acetic acid. These things all have a direct impact on your oral health! Specifically, they’re shown to break down enamel and soft tissues in the mouth. Thus, PG can cause gum issues and potentially pave the way for cavity formation. It’s also found that it can cause dry mouth, which is a very bad condition as it makes it easier for cavities to form.

VG isn’t that dangerous when used on its own. While it is a sugary liquid, it will not cause cavities. The issue is that VG is used alongside other flavorings to make the vape liquid taste better. Here, the combination of VG and flavorings leads to a massive increase in both microbial adhesions to enamel and biofilm formation. This was discovered by a study in 2018, and it also found that enamel hardness decreased by 27%. In essence, this combination leads to more bacteria in the mouth, weaker enamel, and the perfect breeding ground for cavities.

Lastly, you have nicotine – a product that’s also found in traditional cigarettes. The effects of nicotine on oral health are known by many. Essentially, it can stem the flow of blood to the gum tissue, which can cause gum disease. Excessive nicotine use has been linked to tooth loss due to severe periodontitis. Granted, the concentration of nicotine is far less in e-cigarettes, but there’s still enough to cause problems.

To summarize, the ingredients in e-liquids will increase the likelihood of tooth decay forming, causing cavities in the mouth. There are also very strong links that suggest periodontal disease is more likely with regular vaping. Nicotine is still a prime culprit, but the VG and PG are also at fault. Ultimately, using these chemicals in your mouth is not a good idea as it can cause gums to recede and bleed, which causes teeth to fall out.

Additional concerns about vaping

As well as the ingredients, vaping devices present another serious threat. The lithium-ion battery has been known to explode when being used. Seeing as this product is used in your mouth, the likelihood of oral health complications is very high. While this doesn’t have a direct impact on periodontal disease, it’s still worth thinking about.

The dangers of periodontal disease

Clearly, all oral health issues are serious. However, periodontal disease is one of the biggest challenges as it often goes untreated. The main danger is that your gums will slowly start to fade away. They recede further and further until they expose the roots of your teeth. This weakens the supporting structures of your teeth and makes you more prone to tooth loss.

Thankfully, periodontal disease can be treated, and the effects can be reversed. It’s a simple case of cutting out bad habits and following a strict oral hygiene routine. You will also benefit from some periodontal disease treatment by a qualified periodontist.

If you’re in need of periodontal treatment, don’t hesitate to contact us today. Schedule an appointment with Dr. I. Stephen Brown for a full consultation. This will identify your main problems and allow Dr. Brown to formulate the perfect treatment plan to repair your gums.

Cracked Teeth Due to Grinding During COVID-19

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020

History will remember 2020 for its many stress-inducing challenges. The world has undergone drastic changes, increasing the tension that most people feel. As a result, Dr. I. Stephen Brown and his team have seen more patients with cracked teeth than ever before. This problem seems to stem from excessive grinding due to mass amounts of stress. It led to Dr. Brown dubbing this problem the ‘COVID-clench.’

The good news is that the technology exists to treat this problem. Dr. Brown can craft custom appliances that fit in your mouth, preventing excessive grinding at night. If you suffer from the COVID-clench, this could be the perfect treatment to make your night easier.

How does grinding cause cracked teeth?

Teeth grinding – or bruxism – is a condition that affects millions of patients across the US. It’s a relatively serious condition in that it can lead to severe tooth damage. To make matters worse, most people with bruxism don’t realize they have it. Teeth grinding is a subconscious act that manifests itself due to stress or other conditions. It happens without thinking about it, usually when you’re in bed at night.

Naturally, your teeth are very hard – after all, they’re designed to break through food and chew things for years on end. In fact, one study revealed that tooth enamel is harder than steel, but breaks much easier. Therefore, teeth grinding presents a serious problem as you have two hard surfaces moving against one another. When this happens day after day, your teeth wear down, and the enamel starts to chip away.

As you may already know, enamel’s primary purpose is to protect your teeth. It’s essentially a protective layer that stops the rest of the tooth from being damaged. When it begins to wear down, what do you think will happen? A lack of enamel means the tooth is exposed, making it more prone to severe issues. As the grinding continues, your unprotected teeth move against one another, causing cracks to form.

What is COVID-clench?

COVID-clench is a term coined by Dr. Brown that relates to a common issue seen by dentists across the country. While the world entered lockdown, dental practices were busier than ever. Dentists saw more patients with cracked teeth than ever before – was this a coincidence? Or is it directly linked to the effects of COVID-19.

The exact causes of teeth grinding are hard to pinpoint as anyone can fall into this bad habit. Nevertheless, studies point to a link between emotional stability and bruxism. To summarize, individuals with high levels of stress are found to grind their teeth more often. Therefore, Dr. Brown believes that the stress of COVID-19 is causing more people to grind their teeth. You may stay up late every night worrying about your job, health, or financial future. All of these things are significant concerns during a pandemic. As a result, you could start grinding your teeth as an impulsive reaction to this stress. Hence, the COVID-clench is born. It is simply no coincidence that there has been an increase in cracked and fractured teeth alongside an ongoing pandemic.

What happens when cracked teeth are left untreated?

Some patients will have cracked teeth that can be left alone. These are surface cracks that provide no pain and present no further issues. There’s no need to have them treated, but you can if you want.

However, deeper cracks need to be treated as soon as possible. When they’re not, they will gradually get worse. Consider what a crack does on the surface of a rock. It weakens the entire structure, making the rock more prone to breaking apart. The same happens with your teeth; if cracks are deep enough to cause pain, they will eventually lead to fractures or chips of your teeth coming out.

Ultimately, this can leave you with a very painful tooth that needs to be extracted. Or, the entire tooth falls out of its own accord. Either way, it’s recommended that you consult with a dentist if you notice any pain or cracks in your teeth.

How are cracked teeth and bruxism treated?

Cracked teeth can be treated in numerous ways depending on the severity of the crack. Some cracks are dealt with using composite bonding to fill in space. This restores the look and function of the teeth. For more severe cracks, a crown may need to be placed on the tooth, protecting it from further damage. It’s not uncommon for the deepest cracks to require root canal treatment if the pulp is exposed. Extractions are also common if the tooth is damaged beyond repair, paving the way for tooth-replacement treatments.

Moreover, all of these treatments are pointless if the cause isn’t addressed. You can restore your teeth, but the cracks will come back if the grinding persists. This is why you must treat bruxism alongside the cracks. Dr. Brown and his team can provide you with the best treatment for this problem. His office contains the best scanning technology to craft custom-made oral appliances that fit in your mouth. This will protect your teeth from grinding and can be worn at night to prevent the COVID-clench from doing its damage.

Naturally, you should also work on dealing with the issues that cause you to grind your teeth. During a pandemic, it’s hard to reduce stress and feel less tense. So, some protective oral appliances work best to ensure your teeth don’t suffer from excessive grinding. Over time, your grinding may subside, so you can stop wearing your mouthpiece to bed.

Contact Dr. Brown for a Zoom consultation

Do you suffer from cracked teeth due to excessive grinding? If so, contact us to schedule a consultation. Appointments are available in the office, but you can begin with a virtual consultation on Zoom. This ensures that your problem is assessed and treatment is deemed necessary. The consultation is entirely free, and you can schedule your in-office appointment at the same time. Here, you will undergo a thorough exam and assessment before being scanned for your custom-made oral appliance.