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Cosmetic Dentistry 101

What is one of the first things you notice about someone you meet? For many people, they notice someone’s smile. After all, who doesn’t want a nice bright smile? Straight teeth make you feel more confident. But that’s not all. Having a beautiful smile is about more than just looking good. Fixing dental imperfections that affect your appearance can also improve your bite, dental health, and well-being.

What is cosmetic dentistry? 

When you think of cosmetic procedures, you might be thinking of a nip here or a tuck there. But when it comes to your teeth, what is cosmetic dentistry? Cosmetic dentistry is the term typically used to refer to dental procedures that improve the appearance of your teeth or bite.

Keep in mind; most dental procedures should be beneficial cosmetically. For example, a procedure, such as a bridge or an implant not only improves the function of your teeth but also has a cosmetic benefit.

What are the Benefits of Cosmetic Dentistry?

Who doesn’t want to look their best? An obvious benefit of cosmetic dentistry is it improves your appearance. But there is an old saying that beauty is more than skin deep.”

Improving your smile does more than enhance the way you look. Fixing dental imperfections can also boost your self-image and confidence. Even a subtle change in your teeth and smile can make a difference in how you feel.

When you think about changing your life, a visit to your dentist is probably not the first thing that comes to your mind. But feeling better about your smile and how you look is often a game changer. If you feel confident, it can change your outlook on things, which affects all areas of your life.

How Can Cosmetic Dentistry Improve My Smile?

So, you’re sold on the idea of a healthy mouth and improving your smile. But what are your options? We’re glad you asked. Procedures that may improve the appearance of your teeth and in many cases the functioning include the following:


A veneer is a thin piece of material placed on top of a natural tooth to correct or repair chipped, strained, or misaligned teeth. Veneers are usually made of resin material or porcelain. If you’re having more than one tooth repaired, veneers adhere to each individual tooth to improve your smile. Your dentist will be sure to match the veneer with the color of your other teeth to create a natural appearance.


A crown is a prosthetic tooth that is made of various materials including ceramic, stainless steel, and porcelain. Crowns are an excellent option to repair a broken or weak tooth. Usually, crowns are needed if a tooth is too weak to be repaired with a filling alone. Opting for a crown is a great way to improve both the function of a tooth and the appearance.

Usually, it takes two appointments to have a crown. During the first appointment, the decay from your tooth is removed, and the tooth is filled and prepared, so it supports the crown. An impression of your teeth is taken, and the permanent crown is made in a dental lab. Your dentist will match the color of the crown to your other teeth, so it blends in naturally.

A temporary crown is placed while you wait for your permanent crown to be made. During your second appointment, the crown is placed over your tooth and cemented in place.

Teeth Whitening

Teeth whitening is one of the easiest ways to enhance your smile. As we age, our teeth often lose their natural brightness. Eating and drinking certain things, such as coffee, red wine, and berries can also stain teeth.

Whitening can take your teeth from a yellowish hue to a white smile. Both at-home and in-office teeth whitening are available. At-home whitening is often a convenient option for many people.

At- home whitening involves wearing custom-made trays and a whitening agent. The whitening agent placed in the trays comes in preloaded syringes, so it’s user-friendly. Trays can be worn overnight or during the day.

Custom-made trays fit your teeth better than over the counter store bought products. Wearing a custom-made tray helps the whitening agent cover every angle of your teeth, which provides optimal results.

It’s helpful to wear the trays on consecutive days until your teeth are your desired color. The number of days it takes to reach your desired shade depends on how discolored your teeth are. Keep in mind, teeth whitening products will not brighten veneers or crowns.

How Do I Know What Procedure is Right for Me?

With all the cosmetic dentistry options you have, how do you know what is best? The dental problem you are hoping to correct plays the biggest role in which procedure is most appropriate. In some cases, you may have more than one option that would work well.

It’s also essential to determine if any cosmetic dental issues are due to an underlying problem, such as gum disease. A thorough dental exam helps your dentist identify any problem areas.

Choosing the best cosmetic dental procedure may also depend on several factors, such as your cavity rate, periodontal health, and your bite. Your dentist will work with you to determine what type of cosmetic dentistry is right for you. The bottom-line is if you are unhappy with your smile, you can do something about it. There are several ways to enhance both your appearance and dental health!

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Tooth Whitening for a Bright Smile

Watch any Hollywood awards show, and you’ll see celebrities flash their bright smile as they walk the red carpet. Did you ever wonder how they get their teeth so white? Even good genes don’t prevent tooth discoloration from the foods and beverages we drink and eat. Fortunately, you don’t have to be rich and famous to achieve a pearly white smile.

Why Teeth Become Discolored  

If you don’t have super white teeth, you’re not alone. Many of us have varying degrees of discoloration that range from off-white to yellow to deeper golden hues. Yellow and gold may be on your color wheel, but not when it comes to your teeth. So, what causes those nice white teeth we have as kids to take on a darker tinge?

Even if you have healthy teeth, you’re not immune to tooth discoloration. There are several reasons your smile may not be as bright as it used to be. Some discoloration may just be due to genetics. Yep, blame it on your family. Genetics may play a role in the brightness and thickness of your tooth’s enamel, which in part determines if you have whitewashed teeth.

Aging is also one of the most common reasons some people experience tooth discoloration. Your teeth have a few different layers. The enamel is the outer layer. Under the enamel is an inner layer called dentin, which has a yellowish tint. As we age, the enamel may thin, which causes the dentin to show more and makes the teeth appear discolored.

Certain foods and drinks can also lead to discoloration. For example, red wine can stain your teeth. Unfortunately, white wine doesn’t reverse the discoloration. But seriously, many common foods and drinks can contribute to discolored teeth. In addition to wine, cola, blueberries, and tea can sabotage your bright smile.

In some cases, side effects from medication may be to blame for discolored teeth. Certain medications, such as high blood pressure drugs, can cause discoloration of the teeth. Trauma to the teeth can cause changes in the tooth’s structure, which also leads to discoloration.

One of the biggest culprits for yellow teeth is smoking. The chemicals in cigarettes, especially tar and nicotine, often lead to discoloration. The longer a person smokes, the worse the discoloration usually becomes.

What Can You Do About Discolored Teeth?

Whitening your teeth can cause an immediate positive change in your self-esteem and appearance. Having a bright smile helps you talk and laugh with confidence.

Pretty much everyone wants a nice white smile, but they may not know how to achieve it. The goods news is tooth whitening has never been easier. Over the counter whitening products, such as mouthwash, toothpaste and whitening strips are available to brighten your teeth.

Your best bet to get a whiter smile is at-home bleaching with custom-made bleaching trays and whitening products. The custom-made trays fit your mouth better than over the counter products. A better fitting tray makes the difference in your results. A custom-fitted tray helps ensure every angle of your teeth gets consistent coverage by the whitening product. Plus, the products dispensed through your dentist typically have a higher concentration of the bleaching agent, which means you get better results.

Keep in mind; no product can whiten your teeth several shades in only a few minutes. Chemically, the whitening agents cannot penetrate deep enough into the teeth to whiten teeth dramatically in a short time. For best results, tooth whitening should be done on consecutive days for a week or two or until the desired shade is reached.

Teeth whiteners are usually safe for most people. Some people may have some tooth or gum sensitivity. If tooth sensitivity occurs, try delaying whitening a few days. In most cases, tooth sensitivity is only temporary and usually disappears in a day.

Remember that tooth whitening does not work on bridges and crowns. Depending on the shade of discoloration, it may not be effective on all teeth. Talk to your dentist to determine what method of tooth whitening may be most effective for your situation. Always follow the instructions, since the overuse of whiteners may harm the tooth enamel.

Keeping Your Pearly Whites Bright

Once your teeth are pearly white, you want to keep them that way. Although certain factors that contribute to tooth discoloration, such as age and genetics, are uncontrollable, you can still do several things to keep your teeth looking good. Consider the following suggestions to keep your smile bright:

Stop smoking: If you smoke, you probably already know that it is bad for your overall health. It is also bad for your teeth. Smoking cessation programs, medications, and nicotine patches are available to help smokers break the habit.

Keep diet in mind: Once your teeth are whitened, they can become discolored again depending on your eating and drinking habits. If you want to keep your teeth white, consider the foods and beverages you eat and drink. Consider limiting certain things that stain the teeth, such as coffee, tea, and cola.

Use a straw: When you’re drinking certain beverages, such as cola or coffee drinks, using a draw limits the amount of contact the stain causing dyes have with your teeth.

Practice good oral hygiene: One of the best ways to keep your teeth white naturally is by practicing good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily. Have regular checkups and get your teeth professionally cleaned as recommended by your dentist.

Consider touchups: You can’t expect to whiten your teeth once and have it last a lifetime. To maintain a bright smile, you may have to use tooth whitening products periodically. How often you have to do a touchup depends on lifestyle factors, such as the foods and drinks you consume and whether or not you smoke. Talk to your dentist to make sure you are not using whitening products too often.

Use an ADA approved whitening toothpaste: To maintain your bright smile between touchups, consider using a whitening toothpaste. To be sure the toothpaste is approved by the American Dental Association, look for the ADA seal on the package.



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Dental Care Before and During Pregnancy

When you see a positive sign on a pregnancy test, your first thought is probably not to share the good news with your dentist. But keeping your chompers in good shape and your gums healthy is essential during pregnancy for several reasons.

Ideally, you should schedule a dental checkup before you become pregnant. If any dental issues are found, they can be treated ahead of time. After all, once you’re a mom-to-be, you’ll have enough to think about. You don’t need to add toothaches or gum disease to the list. Treating dental problems means one less thing to worry about.

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What You Should Know About Emergency Dental Care

No one wants to deal with a dental emergency, but stuff happens. Ignoring a problem or waiting too long can lead to extensive, and expensive dental work. Knowing what to do in a dental emergency can prevent complications and possibly save a tooth.

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Maintaining Good Oral Health

When you think of being healthy, what comes to mind? Is it maintaining a certain number on the scale, a healthy heart or having perfect, six-pack abs? Maybe it’s all of the above. Good health may mean different things to different people. One thing most of us can agree on is we want to feel and look our best.

To stay healthy, you might eat right, do Zumba or slather on sunscreen when you hit the beach. All of the above are good habits to stay healthy. But how often do you consider your oral health as part of living a fit, healthy lifestyle? You might be surprised to find out your oral health plays an important role in your overall wellbeing.

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Dental Care and Your Kids   

If you have kids, you know they sometimes beg for everything from the coolest toy to staying up 5 more minutes. But let’s face it, your kids are probably not begging you to take them to the dentist. Still, regular dental checkups are essential for kids from a very early age. From toddlers through their teen years, children should see their dentist regularly to prevent dental problems and maintain good oral health.

Starting Dental Care Early

Good dental habits start early. Your child should have their first dental visit even before they have a full set of choppers. According to the American Dental Association, children should have a dental checkup by their first birthday.

Dental checkups from an early age set the stage for good dental habits and help your child develop a positive attitude about going to the dentist. If you start early, by the time your little one is starting first grade, he will be going to the dentist like a pro!

Early checkups also help prevent tooth decay. If your baby’s teeth are just going to fall out, you might wonder why the fuss? But cavities in baby teeth put your child at a higher risk of developing cavities in their permanent teeth.

Dental visits also educate parents on the proper way to care for their baby’s teeth. Your dentist can offer advice on typical dental concerns and provide tips on how to get your little ones to brush.

Common Dental Concerns

Got questions? Your dentist has answers. It’s common for parents to have questions about common dental issues. For example, along with their favorite stuffed animal and a nightlight, your little one may find thumb sucking comforting. But should you worry? Probably not.

Most kids outgrow thumb sucking by about age three or four when they no longer find it comforting. If your child is holding onto the habit a bit longer, you may want to talk to your dentist about your concerns.

Tooth decay may also be a concern for parents. It might be surprising, but about 25 percent of kids develop a cavity before kindergarten. Bacteria in your child’s mouth feeds off sugar, which is why you should avoid putting your baby or toddler to bed with a bottle of milk or juice. The fluid can pool in their mouth, and tooth decay can develop.

Trauma to the teeth can also be an issue. Wobbly toddlers can fall and bump their mouth, knocking a tooth loose. If you have a little athlete, they can also injure their teeth playing sports. You can’t prevent every fall your toddler takes or an elbow to the mouth on the playground. But the good news is when your child is playing sports, mouth guards can offer protection against broken teeth.

Mouth guards are needed if your child is involved in certain activities, such as hockey, football and lacrosse. Mouth guards may also be a good idea if your child participates in other activities that have a high fall risk including skateboarding and skiing.

Think about it. You would not send your pee wee football player out on the field without pads or your tee-ball player up to bat without a helmet. Consider a mouth guard an important part of your child’s sports gear. A mouth guard cushions any blows to the mouth that your child may get and may prevent a tooth from being damaged.

Healthy Habits for Good Dental Health

Your nine-year-old is probably not thinking about what they can do to maintain good dental health. So it’s up to you to help your child develop good dental habits that will last a lifetime.

You can start with proper brushing and flossing. When your kids are little, you’ll have to do it for them and gradually teach them how to brush. Consider getting a vibrating toothbrush or one that plays music so your kids know how long to brush.

As we all know, it’s best to avoid giving your kids too many sugary treats. Although an occasional piece of candy or a couple of cookies is not going to hurt, eating sugar filled foods all the time spells trouble for your child’s teeth. When your kids do have sugary foods or drinks, be sure they brush their teeth or rinse their mouth to wash the sugar away.

Secrets for a Good Dental Checkup for Your Kids

When the time rolls around for your kids to have a dental checkup, there are a few things you can do to make it go smoothly. Consider a few of the following suggestions:

Make it fun: Although a trip to the dentist is not quite like going to an amusement park, it can still be a positive experience for your kids. Talk about how they will get a new toothbrush, pick out flavored fluoride and select a prize from the toy box. Make it a good experience and praise your child for a job well done.

Keep your cool: If your child is freaking out when he hits the dental chair, don’t stress. Getting upset won’t help the situation. Try to avoid jumping up and leaving, which will only make it harder the next time around. Instead, talk calmly and reassuringly to your child and work together with your dentist to help him/her relax.

Check your anxiety at the door: Maybe you’re a little gun-shy when it comes to seeing the dentist. Your kids can pick up on your emotions. So if you start to sweat when you get to the dentist, your child may also get stressed. Take a few deep breaths and put your nerves aside.

Explain what they can expect: If you have little kids, use age- appropriate language they will understand. For example, a three-year-old is not going to understand details about cavities and tooth decay. Keep it simple. For school age kids, be honest about what they can expect without scaring them. For instance, you can explain a procedure without using the words drill, needle or hurt repeatedly, especially in the same sentence.

Remember, good oral health is important for overall wellbeing. Plus, those little pearly whites have to last your child a long time. Start your kids off right on the path to good dental health!

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Common Dental Issues And How To Fix Them

Think about all that biting, chewing and talking you do all day long. Your teeth are under quite a bit of strain. It’s no wonder dental issues might occur from time to time.

When you think of dental problems, cavities and gum disease might come to mind. But there are also other common dental issues that can range from embarrassing to interfering with good oral health. Here are a few of the following common dental problems and what you can do about them.


Bad Breath

Ask yourself a few questions. Do people always offer you gum? Has anyone ever threw a breath mint in your mouth as you were talking? Do people slowly back away as you speak? If you answered yes to any of the above, you might have halitosis.

Don’t worry, halitosis is not deadly. Halitosis is the technical name for bad breath, and it’s a pretty common dental issue.

Whether it was those garlic fries you ate last night or the cup of coffee you just guzzled, everyone gets bad breath from time to time. But bad breath can occur for other reasons. For example, postnasal drip, tooth decay and gum disease can also all cause bad breath.

The good news is if you have stubbornly stinky breath, there are several things you can do to keep your breath fresh. Maintaining good oral hygiene is a must to prevent bad breath. Brush twice a day, use mouthwash and floss daily. Don’t forget to brush your tongue, which has more bacteria on it than you might realize.

But scrubbing your teeth until they gleam is not enough. It’s essential to see your dentist twice a year for regular checkups, professional cleanings and to catch problems early. If you’re concerned about bad breath, don’t hesitate to talk with your dentist, just pop a mint first.


Dry Mouth

We probably all have experienced that feeling as if we had a mouth full of cotton. Whether it’s meeting a blind date or giving a speech at work, you might develop that sticky, dry feeling in your mouth. An occasional dry mouth due to nerves is normal. But if you’re dealing with a dry mouth on a daily basis it can be more than just a nuisance. A chronically dry mouth can increase your chances of tooth decay.

If you’re wondering what salvia has to do with gum disease, the answer is a lot. After you eat, saliva washes away particles of food left behind. It also contains certain minerals that help protect the teeth. When saliva is lacking due to chronic dry mouth, your risk of developing plaque and gum disease increases.

Dry mouth can occur as a side effect of taking some medications. It can also be a symptom of certain medical conditions, such as Sjorgren’s syndrome. But dry mouth can be treated. Treatment for dry mouth should include a visit to your dentist. Your dentist may prescribe a treatment to help you produce more saliva or suggest antibacterial mouth rinses and more frequent cleanings to prevent gum disease.


Sensitive Teeth

Who doesn’t love an ice cream cone on a hot summer day or a cup of hot chocolate on a snowy night? But both can make you wince if you suffer from tooth sensitivity. Hot and cold food and drinks can lead to pain for people who have sensitive teeth.

It might not only be hot or cold foods and drinks that cause pain for people with sensitive teeth. Sweet foods and even breathing in cold air can cause pain in some cases. Teeth sensitivity often gets worse over time.

What happens is your teeth might develop tiny cracks, or your gums can recede, which exposes the nerve root. Your tooth enamel can also become worn down over time. Certain medical conditions, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, can lead to an erosion of the tooth enamel. Drinking and eating highly acidic foods and beverages can also speed up how fast your tooth enamel wears away.

The first step to treating sensitive teeth is a trip to your dentist, who can recommend toothpaste options that have low levels of abrasives. Your dentist may also recommend treatments including fluoride varnishes and fluoride rinses or gels, which are formulated to decrease teeth sensitivity.

In addition, be sure to give your teeth a little TLC. Vigorous brushing or using a hard toothbrush, won’t help your teeth and may even damage the enamel.  Use a soft bristle toothbrush and clean your teeth without brushing too aggressively.


Teeth Grinding

It might sound like a freight train roaring through the night. But wait a minute; it’s just you grinding your teeth in your sleep. Although some people unconsciously clench their jaw while they are awake, most clenching and teeth grinding happens while you are sleeping.

If you grind your teeth, you might not know about it until your spouse tells you. In fact, teeth grinding may bother your partner more than it does you. But teeth grinding or clenching can have several negative effects.

Teeth grinding can cause more than those not-so-gentle nudges from your partner during the night. Jaw pain, morning headaches and loose or worn down teeth can all develop due to teeth grinding.

So what’s up with all that clenching and grinding your teeth while you sleep? Researchers are not exactly sure why some people grind their teeth, but stress may be a cause. Misaligned teeth may also cause teeth grinding in some cases.

But you don’t have to just live with teeth grinding. Finding ways to relax and unwind, such as listening to music, practicing yoga or doing deep breathing exercises may help you relax before bed.  Often times an occlusal bruxism guard is recommended.  This appliance is used to equilibrate your bite which can help relax your muscles. Also, talk to your dentist about restorative or orthodontic dentistry to fix misaligned teeth that may be contributing to teeth grinding.

At Sullivan & Carothers D.D.S., we’ve seen all of these problems and more, so if you are struggling with any of these common dental problems, give us a call at (512) 396-4288, we’d be more than happy to help!

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Implant or Bridge? A guide to deciding how to replace your missing tooth

Missing a tooth?  

A toothless smile on a baby is adorable. But on an adult, not so much. If you lost a tooth due to trauma or tooth decay, you know how embarrassing, and frustrating it can be. You might be self-conscious when you talk and even reflexively cover your mouth when you smile.

Consequences of a Missing Tooth

But a missing tooth is not like a bad hair day and just about appearance.  Even if you only have one missing tooth, and it’s not visible when you smile or talk, it can have a significant impact on your dental health. For example, when you have a tooth missing, the nearby teeth may drift towards the gap leading to shifting and misaligned teeth.

If shifting teeth are not enough to freak you out, your jawbone under the missing tooth can also start to wear away. Here’s what happens: although you don’t realize it, teeth make contact with each other all the time when you chew and talk. This contact provides stimulation to the jawbone. Without the stimulation, the jawbone can eventually deteriorate.

If enough bone is lost, it can affect the way you speak and even your appearance can change. Losing bone decreases support of your facial structures. Have you ever noticed that someone without teeth has a sunken-in or sagging facial appearance? A sagging facial appearance makes you look older than you are. Considering how much effort most of us put into looking younger, this is just somewhat counter productive.

Options: Bridges and Implants

Yikes! If all the effects of missing teeth sound like a big deal, it is. The moral of the story is if you have a lost tooth, now is the time to do something about it. Fortunately, when it comes to replacing missing teeth, you have options. Both bridges and dental implants are good choices to restore one or more missing teeth. But before you decide which procedure to go for, it’s important to understand what is involved with each.

A dental bridge is just like what it sounds; a replacement tooth that spans the gap or creates a bridge between two teeth. If you opt for a dental bridge, it typically consists of two crowns and a prosthetic tooth in the middle. The crowns are placed on the adjacent teeth to hold the bridge in place. Before the bridge is placed, the teeth on both sides of the missing tooth have to be shaped so the crowns can fit.

Back in the old days, the only way to restore missing teeth was dentures and bridges. But now dental implants are also an option.  A dental implant works somewhat differently than a bridge. An implant does not just replace the missing tooth, but also replaces the tooth root. So why does that matter? Replacing the root can prevent the breakdown of the jawbone, which is optimal.

The way it works is an incision is made in your gum and an implant post is surgically placed. Now don’t freak out. You’ll be numb during the surgery and won’t feel anything. The site is given time to heal so the implant can integrate into the jawbone. New bone cells grow on and around the implant, holding the post in place.

After the implant has integrated into the jawbone, a connecting piece, called an abutment, is attached to the post. Lastly, a prosthetic tooth is placed on the abutment. Implants can be used to replace one tooth, as well as a full set of teeth.

Pros and Cons of Implants and Bridges

As with most things in life, there are pros and cons to both implants and bridges.

Advantages of Implants

  • Implants can lasts a lifetime, with proper care
  • Implants are easy to clean around
  • Acts like your natural teeth and can prevent bone loss that often occurs if you don’t replace a missing tooth
  • Does not require any drilling of the adjacent teeth


  • Implants are often more costly than a dental bridge
  • Not everyone may be a candidate for the procedure
  • Dental bridge may need to be replaced at some point
  • Some people find a dental bridge a bit harder to clean around than an implant

Dental bridges don’t involve surgery, and can usually be completed quicker and usually cost less than implants.

How to Choose Between a Bridge and an Implant

So with two good options, how do you decide what’s right for you? At Sullivan and Carothers, DDS, our dentists will go over all the pros and cons of each procedure and answer any of your questions.

When you’re thinking it over, there are several things you may want to consider.

  • What are your time constraints? The implant process often takes longer than a bridge. Once the implant is placed, you have to allow time for the bone to integrate with the implant.  This ensures long term success.
  • The health of the adjacent teeth. This may also play a role in your choice. If you opt for a dental bridge, the teeth on both sides of the missing tooth need to be strong enough to support the bridge. Some people don’t want to involve the neighboring teeth, which may make them lean towards an implant.
  • The amount of bone available for an implant. If your tooth has been missing for a while, some bone loss may have started. But in some instances, procedures, such as a bone graft, may be performed so the implant can be completed.

Remember, when it comes to choosing between a dental bridge and an implant, there is usually no right or wrong choice. What it often comes down to is your circumstances and personal preference. The important thing is to take action, replace the missing tooth and restore your smile and confidence!

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Why Treating Sleep Apnea is so Important

Why Treating Sleep Apnea is so Important

Does this sound familiar? You’re fast asleep, and you’re suddenly awakened by the sound of a freight train. But hold on; it’s just your partner snoring. Or maybe you’re on the receiving end of a not so gentle nudge to stop your snoring. The thing is sometimes snoring may be more than just annoying. Snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea.

If you or a loved one has sleep apnea, you probably already know it can interfere with getting a good night’s sleep. Sleep apnea leads to poor quality sleep because it causes frequent pauses in breathing overnight. Although the pauses are brief and usually only last a few seconds, they can occur 20 or more times an hour overnight.

Although someone with sleep apnea may not become fully awake during pauses in breathing, their sleep cycle is still affected. Sleep is fragmented, which results in a variety of consequences. Imagine waking up 20 times or more an hour. It’s no wonder sleep is not restful.

There are three types of sleep apnea including mixed, central and obstructive with the latter being the most common. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) develops when tissue in the rear of the throat collapses or sags and blocks the airway.

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea  

Sleep apnea is pretty common. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, about 18 million people have sleep apnea. But sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed. Many people are not aware of the symptoms or dangers of untreated sleep apnea, so they don’t seek help.

In addition to snoring, symptoms of sleep apnea include morning tiredness and headaches. But not everyone who snores and is tired in the morning has sleep apnea. If you want to get to the bottom of a snoring problem, a sleep study is a good way to start.

A sleep study is a pretty straightforward test. You’ll be monitored overnight while you sleep. During a sleep study, your heart and respiratory rate, along with your oxygen level and eye movements are monitored during different stages of sleep. Your doctor will review your symptoms, along with the results of the sleep study to determine if you have sleep apnea.

More than Sleepiness

After a bad night’s sleep, you probably know how you might be dragging the next day. We’ve all been there; cranky, tired and desperate for coffee. But for people with obstructive sleep apnea, poor sleep is a chronic problem and can affect several areas of their life. For example, a lack of good sleep can lead to daytime sleepiness, fatigue, decreased motivation and poor work performance. But that’s not all, sleep problems can lead to mood disturbances, including depression, and can impact relationships. Sleep deprivation can also increase your risk of a motor vehicle accident.

Medical Conditions Associated with Sleep Apnea

It’s clear that sleep apnea if left untreated, can have a lot more serious consequences than just leaving you tired and irritable the next day. But you might be surprised to learn how many serious medical conditions are associated with sleep apnea. In fact, potential consequences of sleep apnea are downright scary.

For instance, sleep apnea is associated with a variety of potentially life-threatening conditions including heart disease, strokes and diabetes. According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 50 percent of people who have obstructive sleep apnea also have high blood pressure. Researchers theorize the pauses in breathing and hormonal changes that can occur overnight may contribute to hypertension.

Certain cardiac conditions are also linked to sleep apnea. So what gives? How can sleep apnea lead to heart disease? Researchers are not exactly sure how sleep apnea increases your chances of developing heart disease and having a heart attack. But remember, if you have sleep apnea, your breathing stops and starts often overnight. During these pauses, the oxygen level in your blood decreases. One theory on how sleep apnea can lead to cardiac problems is the decreased oxygen levels in the blood may damage the vessels that supply blood to the heart.

Another problem is the damage that is done may not just occur overnight while you’re sleeping. Doctors believe that the decreased oxygen levels at night may trigger various physiological changes that continue during the daytime even during normal breathing.

If cardiac conditions and hypertension were not enough, sleep apnea is also linked to diabetes. In fact, according to the International Diabetes Federation, about 40 percent of people with obstructive sleep apnea will develop type 2 diabetes. Although being overweight is a risk factor for both sleep apnea and diabetes, some studies indicate the association between the conditions may be independent of obesity.

Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea

Since sleep apnea may lead to serious medical problems, it’s easy to see why treatment is important ASAP. But not all treatment is right for every patient. There are different treatment options that may work for people with sleep apnea, depending on the severity of your symptoms and your preference.

What works for one person may not work for another. That’s why at Sullivan and Carothers, DDS, we take an individualized approach to treatment. For example, some people may benefit from using an oral appliance. A dental device, which is custom made, fits over your teeth and is worn at night. Although it might not sound pretty, the device can be an effective treatment. An oral appliance works by pushing your lower jaw forward and holding your airway open when you sleep. Our dentists will work together with your doctor to make the appliance and monitor its effectiveness.

Another option to consider is using a CPAP machine. CPAP is short for continuous positive airway pressure. If you use CPAP, you’ll wear a mask over your nose, which is attached by a hose to a small, CPAP machine. The machine is about the size of a shoebox or smaller. The machine generates air pressure, which is delivered to your airway through the mask. The pressure keeps your airway open while you sleep.

In most cases, an oral appliance or CPAP will be used to treat sleep apnea. But in cases where neither treatment works, surgery may be an option. There are different types of surgical procedures depending on your situation.

Keep in mind, many people with mild to moderate sleep apnea can be treated without surgery.  But one thing is for sure, treating sleep apnea can decrease your risk of certain conditions and improve your sleep and overall quality of life.

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Cosmetic Dentistry: More Than a Beautiful Smile

Should You Consider Cosmetic Dentistry?

Maybe you had a perfect set of pearly whites, but time took its toll. A crack here and a chip there can detract from your smile. Or you might have always had some bothersome dental imperfections, such as a gap between your teeth.

Either way, if you’re considering improving your smile, cosmetic dental procedures may be the way to go. Let’s face it; your appearance also affects the way you feel. If you’re unhappy about your smile, it can waver your confidence, leaving you self-conscious. Being happy with your smile compliments your overall dental health and well-being.

But it doesn’t stop at aesthetics and a strong self-esteem. Some procedures, such as those that repair cracked or chipped teeth, can also correct discomforting or painful dental problems, such as your bite or tooth decay.

What is Cosmetic Dentistry?

If you’re considering having a dental procedure, your first question may be: what is cosmetic dentistry? Some dentists define cosmetic dentistry as a procedure which is done to improve the appearance of the teeth.

But if you think about it, most dental procedures, such as crowns, implants and bridges, not only improve oral health, they also improve a person’s smile and have cosmetic benefits. So even if a procedure is done for the health of your teeth, all dentistry should be aesthetically pleasing.

But there are also some cosmetic procedures that are simply done to improve your appearance and are considered elective. Wait a minute. Making a deliberate trip to the dentist when you don’t absolutely need to? Sounds crazy right? But even procedures that are done primarily for aesthetics, such as tooth whitening, can have significant benefits. Although it does not improve the functionality of your teeth, having a brighter smile can boost your self-esteem and who doesn’t want that?

Cosmetic Dentistry Options  

Although we all have things about our appearance that we’re not too happy about, some issues are more of a concern than others. There are various types of cosmetic dentistry procedures ranging from simple to complex that may work for you.

The type of procedure recommended may depend on what you want to correct, your budget and time constraints. Remember not every imperfection needs to be corrected. What is a priority to one person may be no big deal to another.

Cosmetic dental procedures can help treat a wide variety of problems including gaps and misshapen teeth, cracked teeth and broken teeth. Whether you want subtle changes, major repairs, or anything in between, there is a variety of procedures available to improve your smile. Consider some of the following options:

Teeth Whitening: Even if your teeth are in good shape, they may not be as white as you like. Over the years, teeth can easily discolor. A cup of java may help you get going in the morning, or a glass of red wine might help you unwind at the end of a day. But both can stain and yellow your teeth. At Sullivan and Carothers, DDS, we offer at-home teeth whitening, which is a convenient and easy way to brighten your smile. If you are either looking for something fast or do not feel you would wear the trays at home, we offer several in-office bleaching options.

Bonding: Bonding is a simple and cost-effective way to improve the appearance of chipped teeth, lengthen teeth and close a gap between teeth. Bonding involves using a composite resin, which is shaped and polished to match your other teeth.

Veneers: Veneers are another cosmetic dentistry option, which involves placing permanent thin porcelain fronts on your teeth. Veneers are a good option to reshape worn teeth, restore discolored teeth or fix chips.

Implants: Dental implants are not only for cosmetic purposes, but they also provide restorative benefits. An implant replaces both the tooth root and the natural tooth using an implant post and an artificial tooth. It’s a great option to replace one or more missing teeth.

How can you Benefit from Cosmetic Dentistry?  

When you first think of cosmetic dentistry, you might think it’s entirely about appearance. But having a nice smile and being happy with how you look is not about being superficial. It’s about increasing your self-confidence. Everything from your love life to your job is affected by how confident you are.

Think about it. If you’re self-conscious about your teeth and smile, it can make you feel insecure in social situations and limit the things you do. You might even try to hide your teeth. Do you reflexively cover your mouth when you smile or laugh.

Cosmetic dental procedures may be elective as opposed to essential. But in many cases, they can also improve your dental health and provide restorative benefits. Enhanced appearance and improved dental health are not mutually exclusive. Replacing a missing tooth with a bridge or implant improves your smile. But it may also prevent your teeth from shifting and decrease bone loss in your jaw. So you’re not only leaving looking and feeling better, but you also improve your dental health.

While cosmetic dentistry won’t fix all of life’s problems, it can change the way you see yourself. Keep in mind, even small changes can have a big impact. Sometimes small steps are all it takes to boost your self-esteem. Improving your smile is about taking control of your life and making the changes you want. Having a smile you’re happy with may mean you smile more often, which is always a plus!

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