Grand Oaks Dental Blog
Posts for: August, 2014
X-ray diagnostics have revolutionized our ability to detect early or hidden cavities, paving the way for better dental care. But x-ray exposure also increases health risks and requires careful usage, especially with children.
A form of invisible radiation, x-rays penetrate and pass through organic tissue at varying rates depending on the density of the tissue. Denser tissues such as teeth or bone allow less x-rays to pass through, resulting in a lighter image on exposed film; less dense tissues allow more, resulting in a darker image. This differentiation enables us to identify cavities between the teeth — which appear as dark areas on the lighter tooth image — more readily than sight observation or clinical examination at times.
But excessive exposure of living tissue to x-ray radiation can increase the risk of certain kinds of cancer. Children in particular are more sensitive than adults to radiation exposure because of their size and stage of development. Children also have more of their lifespan in which radiation exposure can manifest as cancer.
Because of these risks, we follow an operational principle known as ALARA, an acronym for “As Low As Reasonably Achievable.” In other words, we limit both the amount and frequency of x-ray exposure to just what we need to obtain the information necessary for effective dental care. It’s common, for example, for us to use bitewing radiographs, so named for the tab that attaches the exposable film to a stem the patient bites down on while being x-rayed. Because we only take between two and four per session, we greatly limit the patient’s exposure to x-rays.
Recent advances in high-speed film and digital equipment have also significantly reduced x-ray exposure levels. The average child today is exposed to just 2-4 microsieverts during an x-ray session — much less than the 10 microsieverts of background radiation we all are exposed to in the natural environment every day.
Regardless of the relative safety of modern radiography, we do understand your concerns for your child’s health. We’re more than happy to discuss these risks and how they can be minimized while achieving maximum benefits for optimum dental health. Our aim is to provide your child with the highest care possible at the lowest risk to their health.
If you would like more information on the use of x-rays in dentistry, 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 “X-Ray Safety for Children.”
Life lessons are learned in the most surprising places. This is no different for celebrities. Take, for example, Florence Henderson, an actress, singer, philanthropist, author and star of the hit television series, The Brady Bunch. As she told Dear Doctor magazine, her experience with having four impacted wisdom teeth removed — at the same time — “...only made me more aware of how important dental care is.” She continued, “This is why I have always gone every six months for a check up.”
Another important lesson we want to share is the fact that even if your impacted third molars (wisdom teeth) are not bothering you or causing any pain, you may still need to have them removed.
Why? Having a tooth submerged below the gum, pressing on the roots of other teeth is problematic; the tooth should be removed so that you can avoid major dental problems before they occur. For example, it is not uncommon for us to find an impacted third molar pressing against the roots of the adjacent second molar. Furthermore, because the enamel crown of this impacted tooth is trapped below the gum, we sometimes find an infection, gum disease or even cyst formation occurring.
Often, the best time to remove a wisdom tooth is when it is not causing any problems. This is because a painful wisdom tooth or pain in the area of the wisdom tooth may be a sign that significant damage has occurred or is occurring. It is also better to remove wisdom teeth when you are young, as young healthy people with no prior infections at the site provide the best opportunity for us to remove the tooth with no complications.
To learn more about impacted wisdom teeth, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Removing Wisdom Teeth.” Or if you suspect or already know that you have an impacted wisdom tooth, contact us today to schedule an appointment so that we can conduct a thorough examination that includes x-rays. During this private consultation, we will also address any questions you have as well as your treatment options. And if you want to read the entire article on Florence Henderson, continue reading “Florence Henderson.”
Water is essential to life. It’s relatively abundant and affordable in the United States, with treated water averaging about $2.00 per thousand gallons. It’s also critical to dental health as part of oral hygiene and as a vehicle for added fluoride to protect against tooth decay.
Water is also big business. We Americans drink an estimated 85 million packaged bottles of water every day. As with any profitable business, there’s no small marketing hype by the bottled water industry, including claims of superiority over community tap water.
These claims should be examined more closely. One advocacy group, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), subjected several brands of bottled water to independent analysis with some surprising results. Many of the samples contained disinfection byproducts, wastewater pollutants like caffeine or drug residue, heavy metals and, in some cases, bacteria. While none of the contaminants found exceeded legal limits, companies weren’t forthcoming with consumers on the possible presence of these substances in their product.
If fluoride is one of those unidentified substances in bottled water it could affect the dental health of an infant or small child. While fluoride is a proven cavity fighter, infants and smaller children can ingest too much for their body weight. For this reason, parents often use bottled water to mix with formula, believing it to be fluoride-free, when in fact it may not be.
Because bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, it isn’t subject to the more rigorous standards for tap water administered by the Environmental Protection Agency. Manufacturers also aren’t required to identify the source of their water, the methods and degree of purification and testing for contaminants. There are independent organizations that seek those answers on behalf of the public. For example, EWG publishes a Bottled Water Scorecard online (www.ewg.org/research/ewg-bottled-water-scorecard-2011) with ratings and information on different brands of bottled water.
If you have concerns about your tap water, you may want to consider another alternative to bottled water — in-home water filtration. EWG also has a guide on various types of filtration methods at www.ewg.org/tap-water/getawaterfilter.
The purity of your water greatly impacts your family’s health, including your teeth. Distinguishing between fact and hype will help you make better decisions about the water you drink.
If you would like more information on water quality and safety, 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 “Bottled Water: Health Or Hype?”