Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) jolted our collective consciousness in the 1980s. The deadly disease caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) had no known cure and, at the time, no effective treatment.
HIV is a retrovirus, a virus with a genetic makeup and reproduction system differing from other kinds. After taking up permanent residency in the body, HIV begins “hijacking” the replication process of cells in the body's immune system and replacing it with a copy of its own. This destroys the cells' ability to protect the body from hostile organisms. As the virus affects more and more cells, the patient's condition ultimately develops into AIDS.
An estimated 35 million people worldwide (1.2 million in the U.S.) are currently infected with the virus. Thanks to new antiretroviral drugs, though, HIV can be kept from accelerating into AIDS. While their condition remains serious, many HIV positive patients can now live long and relatively normal lives. Even so, having the virus requires them to pay close attention to their health, including their mouth.
Even while stalled from becoming AIDS, HIV can still cause oral problems for 30 to 80% of patients. The fungal infection candidiasis (also known as thrush) is the most common of these problems, which appears as lesions, cracking skin or creamy white patches on the tongue or palate that easily bleed. Patients also have higher risks for dry mouth, oral cancer and periodontal (gum) disease.
HIV positive patients must practice diligent daily oral care and see their dentist for checkups regularly. Prevention, early diagnosis and treatment can keep gum disease and other damaging conditions under control. Monitoring oral health is also important because certain mouth conditions could be an early sign the infection is entering a new advanced stage in the body that requires additional attention.
Keeping vigilant in all aspects of health is a way of life for someone with HIV. Such vigilance, though, can help them maintain a healthy mouth and even prolong their life.
Want to know the exact wrong way to pry open a stubborn lid? Just ask Jimmy Fallon, host of NBC-TV’s popular “Tonight Show.” When the 40-year-old funnyman had trouble opening a tube of scar tissue repair gel with his hands, he decided to try using his teeth.
What happened next wasn’t funny: Attempting to remove the cap, Fallon chipped his front tooth, adding another medical problem to the serious finger injury he suffered a few weeks before (the same wound he was trying to take care of with the gel). If there’s a moral to this story, it might be this: Use the right tool for the job… and that tool isn’t your teeth!
Yet Fallon is hardly alone in his dilemma. According to the American Association of Endodontists, chipped teeth account for the majority of dental injuries. Fortunately, modern dentistry offers a number of great ways to restore damaged teeth.
If the chip is relatively small, it’s often possible to fix it with cosmetic bonding. In this procedure, tough, natural-looking resin is used to fill in the part of the tooth that has been lost. Built up layer by layer, the composite resin is cured with a special light until it’s hard, shiny… and difficult to tell from your natural teeth. Best of all, cosmetic bonding can often be done in one office visit, with little or no discomfort. It can last for up to ten years, so it’s great for kids who may be getting more permanent repairs later.
For larger chips or cracks, veneers or crowns may be suggested. Veneers are wafer-thin porcelain coverings that go over the entire front surface of one or more teeth. They can be used to repair minor to moderate defects, such as chips, discolorations, or spacing irregularities. They can also give you the “Hollywood white” smile you’ve seen on many celebrities.
Veneers are generally custom-made in a lab, and require more than one office visit. Because a small amount of tooth structure must be removed in order to put them in place, veneers are considered an irreversible treatment. But durable and long-lasting veneers are the restorations of choice for many people.
Crowns (also called caps) are used when even more of the tooth structure is missing. They can replace the entire visible part of the tooth, as long as the tooth’s roots remain viable. Crowns, like veneers, are custom-fabricated to match your teeth in size, shape and color; they are generally made in a dental lab and require more than one office visit. However, teeth restored with crowns function well, look natural, and can last for many years.
So what happened to Jimmy Fallon? We aren’t sure which restoration he received… but we do know that he was back on TV the same night, flashing a big smile.
If you would like more information about tooth restorations, please contact us or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Porcelain Crowns & Veneers” and “Artistic Repair Of Front Teeth With Composite Resin.”
In the last half century, fluoride has become an effective weapon against tooth decay. The naturally occurring mineral helps strengthen enamel, the teeth's hard, protective cover.
Although it's safe for consumption overall, too much during early tooth development can lead to fluorosis, a brownish, mottled staining in enamel. To avoid it, a child's daily consumption of fluoride should optimally be kept at around 0.05-0.07 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, or an amount equal to one-tenth of a grain of salt per two pounds of weight.
The two main therapeutic fluoride sources have limits to help maintain this balance: utilities that fluoridate drinking water are required to add no more than 4 parts fluoride per million (ppm) of water; toothpaste manufacturers likewise only add a small amount of fluoride compared to clinical gels and pastes dentists apply to teeth for added decay protection.
But drinking water and toothpaste aren't the only sources of fluoride your child may encounter. Even if you have a non-fluoridated water supply, you should still keep a close watch on the following items that could contain fluoride, and discuss with us if you should take any action in regard to them.
Infant formula. The powdered form especially if mixed with fluoridated water can result in fluoride concentrations 100 to 200 times higher than breast or cow's milk. If there's a concern, use fluoride-free distilled or bottled spring water to mix formula.
Beverages. Many manufacturers use fluoridated water preparing a number of packaged beverages including sodas (two-thirds of those manufactured exceed .6 ppm), soft drinks and reconstituted fruit juices. You may need to limit your family's consumption of these kinds of beverages.
Certain foods. Processed foods like cereals, soups or containing fish or mechanically separated chicken can have high fluoride concentrations, especially if fluoridated water was used in their processing. When combined with other fluoride sources, their consumption could put children at higher risk for fluorosis.
Toothpaste. Although mentioned previously as a moderate fluoride source, you should still pay attention to how much your child uses. It doesn't take much: in fact, a full brush of toothpaste is too much, even for an adult. For an infant, you only need a smear on the end of the brush; as they grow older you can increase it but to no more than a pea-sized amount.
If you would like more information on fluoride and how it strengthens teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Fluoride & Fluoridation in Dentistry.”