Our Blog

The Effects of Biting Your Nails

June 23rd, 2017

Also known as onchophagia, the habit of nail biting is one of the so-called “nervous habits” that can be triggered by stress, excitement, or boredom. Approximately half of all kids between the ages of ten and 18 have been nail biters at one time or another. Experts say that about 30 percent of children and 15 percent of adults are nail biters, however most people stop chewing their nails by the time they turn 30.

Here are four dental and general reasons to stop biting your nails:

1. It’s unsanitary: Your nails harbor bacteria and germs, and are almost twice as dirty as fingers. What’s more, swallowing dirty nails can lead to stomach problems.

2. It wears down your teeth: Gnawing your nails can put added stress on your pearly whites, which can lead to crooked teeth.

3. It can delay your orthodontic treatment: For those of our patients wearing braces, nail biting puts additional pressure on teeth and weakens roots.

4. It can cost you, literally: It has been estimated that up to $4,000 in extra dental bills can build up over a lifetime.

Dr. Bryan Shanahan and our team recommend the following to kick your nail biting habit:

  • Keep your nails trimmed short; you’ll have less of a nail to bite.
  • Coat your nails with a bitter-tasting nail polish.
  • Ask us about obtaining a mouthguard, which can help prevent nail biting.
  • Put a rubber band around your wrist and snap it whenever you get the urge to gnaw on your nails.
  • Think about when and why you chew your nails. Whether you are nervous or just bored, understanding the triggers can help you find a solution and stop the habit.
  • If you can’t stop, behavioral therapy may be an effective option to stop nail biting. Ask Dr. Bryan Shanahan and our team for a recommendation.

Dental Infections

June 16th, 2017

Dr. Bryan Shanahan and our team at the office of Bryan J. Shanahan, D.D.S. will tell you that dental infections can be very serious; sometimes, they develop into a life-threatening situation. Cavities are caused by acid-generating microorganisms that deposit themselves on teeth surfaces. Over time, acid erodes tooth enamel, compromising tooth strength. The major culprit or cause of cavities is sweets, but even diet soda plays a substantial role in tooth erosion, largely because the phosphoric acid it contains alters the oral pH. Cavities can pave the way for other, more serious infections to develop.

Types of infections

Pulpitis

Pulpitis is an inflammation of the tooth pulp. It typically occurs when cavities get deep enough to allow infection to reach the pulp. When this happens, bacteria travel through the pit or fissure that the cavity created. It can also develop from a fractured tooth. The symptoms may include moderate pain that comes and goes. Pain may intensify when cold liquids touch the pulp.

Periodontitis

Periodontitis is a consequence of chronic gingivitis, which occurs when the supportive bone structure of the tooth erodes, causing the periodontal tooth ligament to detach from the tooth. Kids between the ages of 12 and 17 and adults over age 30 are most likely to develop this disease. In severe cases of periodontitis, a periodontal abscess may form. Symptoms of the infection typically include redness, sensitivity to touch, and swelling.

Pericoronitis

Pericoronitis is an infection that occurs when food particles and other microorganisms get trapped under gum flaps. It typically happens when impacted wisdom teeth erupt. Pain at the site of the infection is a common symptom. You should try to prevent food particles from lodging in the gingivitis flaps.

Dental abscesses

A dental abscess is one of the most serious dental infections anyone can get. It begins at the base of the tooth, but without treatment can spread rapidly. When the abscess is more severe, the bacteria spread, often very rapidly, and cause severe facial swelling, pain, and discomfort.

The best way to minimize the risk of developing a dental infection is by practicing good oral hygiene, making sure that food or other particles aren’t trapped between the teeth for too long, flossing, using oral rinses that bear the ADA seal of approval, and seeing the dentist regularly. If or when there are any symptoms of infection, even if the only symptom is pain, be sure to visit the dentist. Early intervention may prevent the infection from escalating into something far more severe, painful, and costly to treat.

To learn more about dental infections, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Bryan Shanahan, please give us a call at our convenient Flagstaff, AZ office!

Dental Implants vs. Natural Teeth

June 9th, 2017

If you're considering getting an implant, you'll most certainly have questions for Dr. Bryan Shanahan. You might be wondering how a dental implant compares to a real tooth. Let's look at some of the differences between implants and natural teeth.

It should be noted that one of the primary goals of implant dentistry is to try to provide the same form and function as your natural teeth. However, with that in mind, know that an implant is not a tooth. An implant does not decay and does not have dental pulp or periodontal membrane like teeth.

An implant won't always work in every case, but they do have some great advantages when they are called for. Some advantages of an implant:

  • Often last for decades without needing to be replaced
  • Create a functional and aesthetically pleasing replacement for your missing tooth
  • Don't require surrounding teeth for support
  • Do not decay like natural teeth
  • Can be fixed or removable
  • Are able to replace single tooth or multiple teeth

There are downsides to implants where natural teeth win out. The disadvantages of implants include:

  • Higher cost compared to traditional dentistry
  • It's a surgical procedure which requires a period of healing afterward
  • Fracturing of fixtures and loosening of screws can occur (only in about 5% of patients)
  • Since there is no cushion between the implant and the bone, fracturing of crowns and bridges is more common with implants than with natural teeth, though this is rare.

It's best to speak with Dr. Bryan Shanahan about your options regarding implants. Let us know what you want to achieve and we'll work with you as best we can to accomplish that. And don't hesitate to contact our Flagstaff, AZ office for further questions about the procedure.

The Effects of Sleep Apnea on Dental Health

June 2nd, 2017

Sleep apnea is an increasingly common medical condition, and one that can have a truly devastating effect on the waking life of the sufferer. Those who suffer from the disorder may find that they suffer any or all of the following side effects:

  • Saliva has several important jobs, and one of them is to protect and heal your tongue, your gums, and the inside of your mouth. Snoring and sleep apnea dry out your mouth, meaning there isn’t enough time for your saliva to do all this vital work.
  • Over an extended period of sleep apnea, it’s likely that the sockets of your teeth will begin to dry out overnight as a result of your gasping for air and snoring between breaths. If this happens too frequently over a long a period of time, it can start to loosen your teeth.
  • Those with sleep apnea often also practice bruxism, which is the habit of clenching and grinding your teeth together as you sleep. This can lead to all manner of problems, including TMJ disorder, damage to the enamel, headaches, and toothaches.
  • For obvious reasons, sleep apnea does not lead to a particularly good night’s sleep. This means that sufferers are often tired and irritable, and suffer from the many other ill effects of sleep deprivation.
  • While it is unclear whether the reasons behind this are correlative or causative, it has been suggested there are links between sleep apnea and cardiac arrests, depressive disorders, Type Two diabetes, cancerous tumors, “silent” strokes, and various complications of pregnancy.

While sleep apnea can be a troubling condition, Dr. Bryan Shanahan and our team at the office of Bryan J. Shanahan, D.D.S. will tell you it is eminently treatable. There are a number of ways to combat it, ranging from simple sleep hygiene to use of a CPAP machine. Of course, if it is possible for you to reduce your weight a little in a safe and healthy way, some have found that is also helpful in combating the problem. Sleep apnea is very easy to treat, once it has been correctly identified.

If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea, or if you would like to know more about the condition, please give us a call at our convenient Flagstaff, AZ office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Bryan Shanahan.