February was National Children’s Dental Health Month which is a time when the dental profession focuses on the dental needs of children, particularly under-served or children at risk.  The highlight of the month is Give Kids A Smile Day (GKAS) when dentists and dental auxiliaries all over the country volunteer their time and talents to providing free dental care to kids in need.  This volunteer effort can be in the form of putting in time at a participating local community dental clinic or opening up their own facilities to provide dental services to kids for the day.  Give Kids A Smile Day is a joint effort of the American Dental Association,  State Dental Associations, and individual dentists and dental auxiliaries.

This year GKASD was February 5th and for the sixth strait year The Furey Dental Group participated by opening our clinic and providing dental care to kids from our surrounding communities who are currently not receiving regular dental care due to economic hardship and lack of dental insurance.  Give Kids A Smile Day is always a high energy day where we try to take care of as many kids as we can fit into the day but we always have a lot of fun with the kids and feel good at the end of a busy day knowing we have been able to do some good for the kids in our community who are often forgotten.  This year was no exception.  We provided care for 22 kids with services including exams, x-rays, cleaning, fluoride application, oral hygiene instruction, sealants, fillings, extractions, and root canal treatments.  In our clinic we provided over $7,700 in dental care for the day which was up from the $5,500 in services we provided last year.

Unfortunately there are still many kids who are not getting the care they need.   Give Kids A Smile Day is a great event but it really only scratches the surface of the need for care in these under-served population of kids.  As our federal and state government wrestles with ideas to reform our current health care system so that quality health care might become more accessible to more Americans we, in the dental profession, are continuing to try to do what we can to address the needs of the under-served with efforts such as GKASD.

We are proud and happy to be a part of GKASD.  The smiles on the faces of the kids and the appreciation we receive from the parents is our reward for one busy day of work.

“Mini” Implants – Are they right for you?

The most significant advancement in dental restorative care that I have seen in my 28 years of practice has, unquestionably, been the development of dental implants.  Dental implants have revolutionized the way we approach the replacement of missing teeth by offering alternatives to conventional removable dentures and fixed bridges.  Anchored permanently in the jaw bone, they offer the stability, function and esthetics that rival natural teeth.  With a success rate of over 95%, they have become the standard of care for the replacement of missing teeth, but relatively few people who could benefit from the placement of dental implants actually have them done due to the relatively high cost (typically $2000-$3000 per implant), frequent lack of insurance coverage, and the often times need for bone grafting procedures to allow adequate support for the implant in the jaw.  It has been estimated that almost 40% of the adult population in the U.S. could benefit from dental implants while only between 2-3% have taken advantage of the procedure.

With the introduction  of small diameter or “mini” implants, dental implants are now becoming accessable to more and more people.   Mini implants are similar to standard implants in the way they integrate to the bone but they are narrower, typically 1.7-2.4 mm in diameter compared to  3.75-6.0 mm for standard or wide body implants.  They are, therefore, easier to place, do not require as much bone so the need for bone grafting is often eliminated, and are generally 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of a conventional implant.   A significant advantadge of mini’s is that they can usually be put into function immediately where conventional implants often require a 3-4 months integration period before a crown or a prosthesis can be attached to them.

There are some limitations to mini implants.  Whereas conventional dental implants have proven themselves to be very successful in replacing anything from a single missing tooth anywhere in the mouth to replacing a whole arch of missing teeth in a broad range of bone conditions, mini implants are better suited for use in the stabilization of removable full and partial dentures and in the support of some short span fixed bridges.  Although they require less bone than a conventional implant, they do require a dense quality to the bone which may limit them in some areas of the mouth such as the posterior maxilla.  Placed in the appropriate sites, mini implants are proving to be just as predictable and secure as conventional implants.

Perhaps the strongest indication for the use of mini implants is in the stabilization and retention of removable dentures, especially lower dentures.  Millions of people suffer from the pain and embarrassment of dentures that don’t stay put during eating or talking because of inadequate bone support.  The placement of a few simple mini’s to support a “jumping” denture can be life changing.  With a simple, painless procedure involving less than an hour of time a denture wearer can regain a level of comfort, stability, function and confidence they never thought possible at just a fraction of the cost of conventional dental implants.

So if, like millions of others, you suffer with loose dentures or missing teeth but never thought you could afford the cost of dental implants or didn’t want to endure the surgical bone grafts needed to support implants, think again.  Mini implants may fit your needs perfectly.  Ask your dentist  or contact our office to find out if mini’s might be right for you.

Healthy Gums Keep Joints Moving

Maintaining a healthy mouth has many health benefits, and researchers at Case Western Reserve University of Dental Medicine and the University of Cleveland have found one more – improved joint health.  In a May 2009 study, the researchers found that individuals who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, experienced reduced arthritic pain, a decreased number of swollen joints, and a lessened degree of morning stiffness after they received treatment for, and were subsequently cured of, their gum disease.  These findings strengthen the link between oral health and overall systemic health.

Thanks For The Recognition

We are honored to be named the “Best Place for Dental Care” by readers of the Lillie News in their Readers’ Choice Awards 2009.  This recognition is particularly gratifying as it represents the views of people right here in the community where we work and live and where many of the top dental practices in the Twin Cities are located.  Thanks to all those who voted and for your ongoing support throughout the year.

This award follows our recent recognition again as a “Top Dentist” by both Mpls/StPaul  (both general and cosmetic catagories) and Minnesota Monthly magazines in their yearly Top Dentists issues.  These  listings are the result of surveying people within the dental field and therefore represent the views of our dental colleagues and peers.  We have also, once again, been recognized as a “Top Dentist in America” by the Consumer Research Council of America.

We would like to express our sincere appreciation to all those who contributed to making The Furey Dental Group one of the most recognized dental practices in the Twin Cities.  I personally would like to acknowledge my dedicated team who is resposible for everything we have accomplished.  To me the award really means  “Top Dental Team“.

Candy and Gum to prevent decay?

It’s hard to grasp the idea that chewing gum and eating candy, which are typically considered “bad” for your teeth, can now be beneficial when Xylitol is the sweetener. This goes against conventional wisdom, but it’s true. Xylitol is the “good sugar” that now makes it possible to treat dental disease with candy and chewing gum.

We now know that chewing xylitol based gum four to five times a day, after meals and snacks, will reduce plaque biofilm accumulations. According to research, eating xylitol sweetened candies over a four day period with no oral hygiene leads to a 50% reduction in plaque. Recommending candy and gum as a first line approach to the prevention of decay and periodontitis rather that focusing on toothbrushing may seem like a stretch, but when you look at the evidence, you will likely get better results with xylitol than with brushing.

Caries (dental decay) research shows that the addition of xylitol several times each day can result in the reduction in the need for restorative care by 70% compared to controls. This level of caries reduction is also seen when mothers chew xylitol based gum which changes the oral flora they pass on to their children.

Just how xylitol works to accomplish these impressive clinical results is interesting. It has to do with the cell wall transport system of the bacteria in dental plaque and the chemical structure of xylitol. Xylitol is a 5 carbon sugar compare to the 6 carbon structure of most other sugars. This smaller structure allows the xylitol molecule to easily enter the outer cell membrane of the bacterium but is not allowed through the inner cell membrane because the cell does not recognize it as a nutrient source. The cell must therefore expend a considerable amount of valuable energy to pump the xylitol molecule back out of the cell. Repeating this pumping action over and over expends so much energy that the cell is essentially exhausted and does not have enough energy for normal metabolism which produces acids and plaque components. Further research may reveal that xylitol has other effects on cell metabolism that contribute to its effectiveness as a plaque reducer.

Who would have thought that gum or candy could be so good for our dental health?!

Welcome to our redesigned web site.

This is my first blog entry and I would like to take this opportunity to talk about my vision for this blog.  My hope is that you, the readers of this blog, will consider me as you would a close friend or trusted relative who happens to be a dentist.  Someone who will give you advice and information based on a genuine concern for your well being and over twenty seven years of experience, education and involvement in dentistry.  Not someone who is trying to promote himself or any particular products or services.  I hope that readers will find this blog informative, useful, relevant, interesting and maybe even a bit entertaining on occasion.  I will not shy away from controversy but will try to be fair and honest, even if not always unbiased.  I’m really looking forward to this blog because I actually love talking about dentistry and, as some of you already know, that has been something that has been a bit more difficult for me due to a vocal chord disorder (more on that in a future blog).  While I foresee this blog as being primarily focused on dentistry, I consider anything remotely related to be fair game.  New technologies and philosophies will be discussed as well as stories of actual people whose lives have been significantly impacted by dentistry.  Most of all I hope that this blog will be directed by you, the reader.  Please let me know if there are any particular topics you would like me to address or questions you would like answered.  Any and all comments are welcome.

Thank you for your attention and keep checking back.

Donated Dental Services

For our seventh straight year we are proud to be a volunteer provider for Minnesota Donated Dental Services (DDS).   Since 2003 419 Minnesota dentists along with almost 100 dental labs have provided $3,912,605 in donated dental care to people who are elderly, disabled, and/or medically at risk.  This past year in Minnesota 213 patients received $903,451 in dental care.

Nationally, DDS has enlisted the help of over 15,000 volunteer dentist and 3000 dental laboratories and have transformend the lives of thens of thousands of people who are

Teeth Whitening 101

Teeth whitening has become the most in demand elective dental procedure in recent years.  In fact, with the proliferation of over the counter products that claim to whiten teeth, it has become a multi billion dollar industry world wide.  With all the options out there including a host of “do it yourself” products, professionally administered programs, and tooth whitening retail centers, how do you choose what is right for you?

It may help to start with what “whitening” really means.   Since over the counter products are not regulated by the FDA and are, therefore, not subject to any specific standards, the term “whitening” is being used to market any product that contains cleaning or bleaching chemicals often without regard to actual effectiveness.  Some products even use coatings that you essentially paint on your teeth.  For our purposes we will define teeth whitening as the process of actually lightening the intrinsic color of the teeth by reducing the saturation of organic pigments, both natural and acquired, within the tooth enamel resulting in a whiter, brighter color through the chemical process of oxidation/reduction or, as some say, bleaching.   Many “whitening toothpastes” make their whitening claims based on their ability to remove stains due to their abrasive properties and may, in fact, result in whiter appearing teeth, but they would not fit our definition of changing the actual color of teeth.

All effective tooth whitening systems need to do two things.  First, they must contain an effective whitening agent.  In most cases this is a form of hydrogen peroxide or a chemical that releases hydrogen peroxide through a chemical reaction.  These are essentially bleaching agents and can occur in a variety of concentrations which can effect the rate and effectiveness of whitening.   Second, a whitening system must provide a vehicle for applying the chemicals to the teeth and holding them in contact with the surfaces of the teeth for a long enough period of time for the chemical reaction to occur.  Depending on the strength and the chemistry involved this may take anywhere from twenty minutes to several hours.  This vehicle can be in the form of a gel that can be applied to strips (Crest White Strip) or placed in preformed or custom molded trays or retainers.  They can also be viscous solutions that are applied to the teeth with an applicator by a dental professional (ZOOM).  The combination of whitening agent and delivery system will determine how much teeth will whiten, how fast teeth will whiten, and weather the system can be purchase over the counter or professionally administered.

Over the counter systems vs professionally administered:   The benefits of over the counter systems such as Crest White strips are convenience and cost.  These systems usually use an adhesive strip or sometimes a foam tray to deliver the bleaching agent to the surfaces of the teeth and hold it there long enough for a reaction to occur.  The usual protocol is to apply the product a couple if times a day for about 20 minutes a time for about two weeks.  These systems can give a good result if you are diligent about how you apply the materials to the teeth and are compliant with the protocol.  For some people with less than perfectly straight teeth it can be a challenge to fit the strips or trays in a way that gives an even, consistent result.  Improper placement of a strip can result in a stripped or banding effect.  Also, some people with very broad smiles may find that the strip doesn’t reach far enough back to lighten the molars which may show in the smile.  Another potential disadvantage of over the counter products are that they are often used in cases where a person may not be a good candidate for bleaching.  People with existing restorative work on their teeth or with certain developmental conditions such a mottling or tetracycline discolorations may find that bleaching may make their teeth look worse.  Ideally, you should consult with your dentist or hygienist prior to starting any teeth whitening program.

Professionally administered systems either use custom trays and bleaching agents of varying strengths or in office “one hour” systems such as “Zoom Advanced Whitening”.  With these systems you get a professional assessment and the most effective whitening concentrations available.  You also get professional monitoring during the process to assure that your teeth are responding as expected and to make necessary adjustments if not.  The most common professionally administered system is the custom tray systems such as “Night White” or “Day White” by Discus Dental.  The use of a custom tray insures a perfect adaptation of the tray to the teeth resulting in an even and complete coverage of bleaching agent to the teeth surfaces.  The bleach lined trays are worn either at night during sleep or for 15 – 30 minute sessions during the day depending upon the bleaching agent used.  Typical treatment time is about two weeks.  For those who want immediate results (“I’m going to be in a wedding this weekend”) or who don’t want to deal with the at home protocol there is the in office “one hour” whitening systems (i.e. Zoom).  These systems use a powerful, fast acting bleaching agent that is applied directly to the teeth by a dental professional.  Often a special light is used to accedlerate the reaction.  Great results can usually be achieved in about one to one and half hours.  Some of the shopping mall centers employ this technique but without the oversight of a dental professional.  These professional systems tend too be more expensive ($200-$400 for tray systems and $400-$600 for in office systems) but give the advantage of optimal effectiveness and professional oversight.

Whatever system you use expect a certain amount of ongoing maintenance to keep your smile bright.  Usually a day or two of tray or strip use every few months is sufficient but individual needs will vary depending upon dietary factors and individual characteristics of teeth.