Thursday, 7 January 2016

On Star Wars, New Year Resolutions and The Speaking Tooth

Beyond the spaceship travels, lightsaber duels and a constant struggle for power between good and evil, Star Wars is about Jedi wisdom that we earthlings can well heed. And as is with a new beginning, we are riding high on hopes, dreams and resolutions for 2016. Here are some of the finest treasure of words from the Star Wars to realize them this year. 

1. "These are your first steps" (The Force Awakens). When Rey accidentally stumbles upon Luke Skywalker's lightsaber, she has a premonitory vision as soon as she touches it. The Force is strong with her, and she hears Obi-Wan Kenobi speak these words. 

It is indeed the beginning of a new year and of the promises you have made to yourself, and these are your first steps. You will stumble, lose hope, fear the future and feel belittled by the times to come. But that is how the first steps always are. If you can hold on to your hopes and dreams, you will learn to walk steady through moments of weaknesses. 
 And if you have never been to a dentist before, or have been delaying scheduling your dental appointment, make your first steps this year. A dental check-up can detect and treat most dental problems at an early stage. 
 When you realize the limits of your strengths and abilities in your first steps, what will see you through?

2. "I can't believe it." "That is why you fail" (The Empire Strikes Back). Luke Skywalker's X-wing is stuck in a bog, and he does not believe that he is powerful enough to free the huge starfighter. To his amazement, Yoda uses the Force to effortlessly accomplish it and wittily retorts to Luke's disbelief. 

 You must be able to imagine yourself at the end of your journey. If you cannot truly believe inside that you can achieve what you have resolved to, the efforts will always be lacking and the vision will always be clouded. 
 Believe that you can be healthy, in body and in mind, and you will find ways for it to happen. If you can envision a healthy you, you will find you do not have to push yourself to brush and floss daily!
 If you can believe today that you will fulfill your resolve, can you let go? 

3. "Your focus determines your reality" (The Phantom Menace). Qui-Gon Jinn wants to train the little boy Anakin in Jedi arts, so that he may fulfill the prophecy and bring back balance to the Force. When he is not permitted to do so by the Council, which considers the boy dangerous, Qui-Gon asks Anakin to learn from him by observing him closely. The little boy indeed goes on to fulfill the prophecy later - even though not in any way close to how Qui-Gon would have imagined!

 You have walked the beginning and learnt to believe in yourself. You must now learn to hold on to your belief, your thoughts and aspirations. The Dark Side beckons in mysterious ways, and if you lose your focus for one moment, you may wake up the next moment on the other side. Your focus should be intense and unwavering, however long it takes. 
 If you are looking for healthy gums and teeth, do not lose your focus after the initial few appointments. Dental treatments take time and sittings, and if you can patiently see them through, there lies a future of good health for you. 
 To keep your focus and belief in place, what weaknesses should you look out for?

4. "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." (The Phantom Menace). Yoda sees through young Anakin's mind when he denies being afraid in front of the Council. Untrained in Jedi arts and lacking the wisdom, Anakin sees no fault in fear that arises out of attachment to his mother. The Jedi masters, however, realize the importance of being mindful of one's feelings - both good and bad. His fear of losing his beloved indeed pulls Anakin to the Dark Side later on, and makes him suffer within. 

 To truly love someone, you must be able to let go of that person without fear of losing him or her. To truly win something in life, you must be able to free yourself of the fear of losing. Fear allows a negative thought to creep into your mind, and your mind becomes lost in fighting the fear instead of fighting to win. 
 If it is fear that overwhelms your mind when you think of a dentist, you are not alone. But in your company are those who suffer from tooth ache and dental diseases. It would be much wiser to subdue your fears and seek good dental health before suffering starts. 
 If you can believe in yourself, focus on your goal and detach yourself to give up fear, what are the chances you will win? 

5. "Never tell me the odds" (The Empire Strikes Back). The Millennium Falcon is being pursued by enemy starships, it has developed a technical fault preventing them from jumping to lightspeed, and now they face an asteroid field in front, the mathematical probability of navigating which successfully is 1 in 3720. Han Solo fearlessly steers his shipmates through the asteroids and lands them to safety, or at least, he so believes! 

  However impossible it may seem, however far in time it may seem, if you truly want something you should pursue it with all your heart. With every step you take forward, the odds will improve on their own in your favor. 
 When it comes to your health, there are no guarantees. Make sure you follow the best health practices and seek the best treatments for healthy teeth and healthy body. 
 How hard should you try and how many times?

6. "Do. Or do not. There is no try" (The Empire Strikes Back). Yoda, reluctant to admit Luke as his student because of his impatient and reckless nature, is faced with his student's lack of enthusiasm in changing his beliefs. But Yoda, having trained Jedi for 800 years, shows him and makes him understand the power of the Force. 

 For a person who fully commits to his goal, who has given up the fear of losing, there are no half-hearted steps. They who believe they might win or lose - try, they who believe they might win today or tomorrow - do. 
 If you have made a new year resolution to be healthy, fully commit yourself to eating healthy and exercising regularly. Avoiding sweets and snacks will not only help you beat the calories, but keep you dentally fit too!
 Now that you understand the secret to success, will everything fall in place for you?

7. "You can't stop change any more than you can stop the suns from setting" (The Phantom Menace). Little Anakin is happy to be freed from slavery and be going with a Jedi, but also does not want to leave his mother. Shmi Skywalker, who has taught her son to be compassionate and helpful, altruistically imparts another wisdom to him to help clear the doubts in his mind. 

  Things will never fall into place till the end. As soon as you adjust to the times now, they will change and present you with more challenges. You have to be willing to carry on with the same enthusiasm and belief that you showed at the start to taste success. 
 If your dentist established dental health for you, it does not absolve you of the responsibility of taking care of your gums and teeth. Dental disease can come again, and you must schedule annual dental checkups. 


Tuesday, 15 December 2015

A chocolate a day keeps the dentist away...and more for your sweet tooth!

"Never fall in love with a dentist", said my senior colleague and good friend in the first year of dental school. If we were to heed every word of wisdom from our well wishers, wouldn't this world have been a wonderful place? The falling in love was a beautiful experience - the youthful euphoria of a new found meaning of life, the heart pumping adrenaline every time I thought of her, a different world where every little thing was poetic, and a sudden ear for music that sank deep and echoed long. But it was his words that echoed back when the time came to voice my feelings to her. You see, complicated as girls are, she "simply loved" chocolates as a girl and "really hated" chocolates as a dentist. With her having showed me both her sides on two different occasions, was my proposal supposed to include this evil bliss or not? After having a word with her best friend, I asked her out one evening - "The sweetness in your person eclipses the sweetness of my chocolates", hoping to hold my feet in both the boats. Did I succeed in making the sweet dentist smile? 

"Never fall in love with a dentist"

 Chocolates have been proven to be good for the health of your gums and teeth, and they have other health benefits as well. Why then the common belief that chocolates cause dental cavities and bad teeth? It is actually other ingredients in your chocolate bar, like sugar and caramel, that will stick to your teeth and cause cavities. So if you love chocolates, don't let the thought of your dentist keep you from giving in to the temptation next time. Just make sure to rinse your mouth thoroughly after you have had a chocolate. 

 Here are 5 reasons why chocolates are good for your teeth:

1. Chocolates prevent cavities in teeth: Chocolates are made from cacao beans, which contain a compound theobromine. Theobromine, along with some other minor constituents of cocoa, like oleic and linoleic acids, inhibit the bacteria that cause dental cavities. The amount of theobromine contained in a one ounce dark chocolate bar can make the tooth harder than the routinely done anti-cavity fluoride treatment. It comes as no surprise then, that theobromine toothpastes are already in the making.

2. Chocolates are good for gums: Cocoa is also rich in another group of useful compounds - flavanoids. Flavanoids have strong antioxidant properties. While we have all read about the numerous health benefits of antioxidants in the body, when it comes to teeth, antioxidants prevent the progression of gum disease. Tannins, that give dark chocolate its dark color and bitter taste, prevent the formation of plaque - which is the beginning of gum disease. 

3. Chocolates prevent bad breath: Polyphenols in chocolates fight off the bacteria that cause bad breath. 

4. Chocolates can help prevent memory loss: How is memory loss linked to dental health? Well, no studies on it yet, but you might just remember to brush and floss before getting into bed!

5. Chocolates release feel good hormones: Endorphins are the feel good chemicals of body, that produce a sense of euphoria when for example, you laugh, exercise, meet a loved one or have sex. Chocolates produce the same hormones from the brain. It also contains phenylethylamine and anandamide ("anand" in Sanskrit means bliss or delight), which give you a high. Again, how is feeling good linked to dental health? Lots of studies have shown a correlation linking anxiety and depression to poor dental health.

 She opened the box of chocolates. "Why are two chocolates missing from here?"
 "I was feeling nervous on the way here. Needed something to boost my endorphin levels, so had one!"
 She frowned, and I thought all was lost. She did like confident guys, I knew. 
 "What about the second one? You had that too?" There was an obvious tone of displeasure in her words. 
 "Yes I did", I said, trying to sound unperturbed. 
 "So that I don't forget the promises I make to you today for the rest of our life."
 "Our life?" 
 And she smiled. 

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Dentist's hands in your pockets!

Are you one of those who doesn't like going to the dentist with full pockets? Many don't. They have a feeling, dentists tend to empty them out. They will tell you a lot of reasons why, mesmerize you with terms more dreadful than the germs that cause them. Gingivitis, periodontitis, halitosis. But in the end, it all boils down to your pockets. It seems how deep your pockets are, the more trouble you are in with your teeth.
 Wait! What pockets were you thinking here? I am talking about gum pockets!
 In a healthy mouth, gums firmly encircle the tooth all around, with very little space between the gums and the tooth. When the gums are not cleaned by proper brushing, germs anchor in these spaces and start to form deposits called as calculus or tartar. The calculus or tartar pushes the gums away from the teeth forming pockets. As gum disease progresses, the gum or gingival pockets keep deepening and the teeth become weaker. This gum disease causes problems such as bleeding gums, swollen gums, bad breath and loose teeth.

So is proper brushing alone sufficient to prevent gum pockets? Here is what more you need to do for healthy gums:
1. While brushing will clean the gums at the front and back, you also need to clean the gums in between the teeth. This is done by flossing. 
2. Rinse your mouth thoroughly after every meal. 
3. Ensure a healthy, nutritious diet rich in fruits and vegetables, grains, legumes and dairy products. 
4. Do not use toothpicks regularly. If food gets stuck in between your teeth very frequently, consult your dentist. 
5. Smoking is a strict no for healthy gums. 
6. Visit your dentist once every 6 months or annually for routine check-up and dental cleaning. 
 Dental cleaning (dental scaling) is done to remove the tartar from gums and restore their health. If the gum disease has progressed to very deep pockets, after removing tartar the gums and root surfaces of the teeth may need to be cleaned surgically too. Having healthy, natural teeth is always better than having any artificial replacements like dental implants or crowns and bridges; and advanced gum treatments offer hope when deep gum pockets threaten to take a tooth away. 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Capping a tooth after RCT: 'Trick or treat?'

If you think dentists are scary, ever wondered how good a dentist's costume would be for a Halloween treat? Knowing what all I do as a dentist, I wouldn't have any kid pulling a dental prank on me for sure!

 Whenever you get a root canal treatment (RCT) done, you are always advised to get a cap, or more technically a crown done for the tooth to keep it from falling apart. And it often sounds like "Get the cap treatment done or you will be tricked into more dental treatments". How true is that?  If you are reading this blog hoping I will say otherwise, you have knocked the wrong door. Here are some of the many reasons why you should get a tooth capped after RCT:

  1. The tooth was already weakened by the cavity that made the root canal treatment necessary. Your dentist further drilled a big hole right in the center of the tooth to get to the canals. So your tooth is now basically like a hollow shell, ready to cave in the next time you treat it with popcorn or hard candies. A cap or crown will encase the tooth from the outside and bear all loads. 
    A root canal treated tooth is liable to fracture without a cap or crown because its core structure has been removed. 
  2. When the root canals are cleaned, their blood supply is cut off. This dehydrates the tooth and makes it brittle. 
  3. When the root canals are cleaned, their nerve supply is cut off. This means you are less likely to realize when you are putting excessive pressure on the tooth. 
  4. If a root canal treated tooth fractures, there is little the dentist can do. It needs to be removed and all the time and money spent for your root canal treatment goes in vain. And if you think, losing the tooth is getting rid of the problem once and for all, you are in for more trick or treat! The empty space will, over time, cause shifting of other teeth with more cavities and gum problems. To prevent that, you need a dental implant or a bridge done.
  So, a cap or crown after RCT gives the tooth strength to bite like your natural tooth, longevity to survive like your natural tooth and beauty to look like your natural tooth. The only trick now is in making the right choice for your crown.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Root Canal Treatment can save your broken teeth and roots!

Men are oinomaniacs and women are oniomaniacs; men love wine, women love shopping. What are people obsessed with teeth called - Endodontists, or more simply, root canal specialists! While studying to become an endodontist, we are trained in theory and practice on how to save the hopeless teeth - teeth that other dentists will readily extract to replace with an implant. However badly broken the teeth, whatever root pieces that remain - it hurts our pride to remove a tooth.
  There are obvious benefits of saving a tooth with root canal treatment over dental implants, that include both health and cost benefits. Did your child break his tooth while falling? Have you been carrying a broken tooth from some accident in the past? Has your tooth decayed and broken to leave just a small piece in your mouth? Have your teeth worn down to the roots with passing years? All these teeth can be saved by root canal treatment (RCT). Even if you have been advised to have these teeth removed for artificial tooth replacements - like dental implants or crown and bridge, you must ask your dentist once - is it possible to save these teeth with root canal treatment? Your dentist might seek a specialist (endodontist) opinion or himself lay down the pros and cons of saving the tooth. Then, as per his expert advice and your understanding of the treatment options, you may choose to either save the tooth or have it removed and replaced.

If you can survive it - RCT will save your teeth!
   Caps or crowns can be made on these roots after root canal treatment - giving it both the looks and longevity of your natural teeth. If you earlier lost some teeth and few of these roots remain, after root canal treatment they can be used to support dentures on them (overdentures). These dentures will be more stable in their place than the conventional dentures, that tend to keep falling out.
  You may wonder how a tiny piece of root can be used to support a full tooth crown, or even a denture. While you understand how a cap or crown can be made on a normal tooth, with broken teeth and roots its hard to imagine what will the crown or denture sit on! Because we do not have any crown structure to support an artificial cap, we take support both from the crown and root. 

   So are you afraid of having your tooth pulled out? Do you want to hold onto your natural tooth for as long as possible? Do you hesitate to smile because of your broken teeth? Or does the cost and time needed for a dental implant make your nervous? Thank your Endodontist - for it may not yet be time to dig a grave for your tooth!

'Take my Bad Breath away'

During the shooting of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part I, Hollywood actress Jennifer Lawrence ate garlic and tuna fish and didn't brush her teeth before kissing co-star Liam Hemsworth! "I gave him fair warning", she said. While warning all people who come close to you might be an option, if you are looking for better (read more social) ways of getting rid of your bad breath, follow the tips below. 
 Bad breath, also called halitosis, may be a sign of many underlying health problems. However, 90% of the times it originates from the mouth only. Bad breath becomes a problem in socializing, with friends and partners, lowers your confidence and self-esteem and may be a precursor for more health problems to follow. So here's how to deal with it. 
  • Gum disease, dental cavities where food gets lodged and dental abscesses are all common causes of bad breath. Get a dental checkup done to have these problems attended to. 
  • Certain kinds of foods are associated with bad breath and you should avoid these till you feel the bad breath is cured. They include onion, garlic, meat, spicy curries, cauliflower, cabbage, coffee and dairy products. 
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol for at least 2 weeks to curb bad breath. 
  • Raw fruits and vegetables are rich in fibers that help to reduce bad breath and should be consumed more often. 
  • Drink plenty of water and do not let your mouth feel dry anytime. This is the most common cause of bad breath in summers, in people who exercise in the gym and in children who spend a lot of time outdoors. It is not necessary to drink a glass of water every time. A frequent sip of water to keep your mouth moist may be enough. 

Common causes of bad breath or halitosis
  • Another common cause of bad breath is prolonged sinusitis. Infected sinus contents drain through your nose behind the mouth leading to halitosis. To add to that, the anti-allergics commonly used to manage sinusitis lead to drying of the mouth - further worsening the problem of bad breath. See your physician for best management of chronic sinusitis. 
  • Brush your teeth thoroughly twice daily - once in  morning and once before retiring to bed. However, brushing the teeth excessively may do them more harm than good. Your brushing technique should be proper, as advised by your dentist. Use a soft, small toothbrush to clean the back of the tongue gently every time you brush your teeth. The back of the tongue is the most likely source of your bad breath if your gums and teeth are in good shape. 
  • Clean in between the teeth using a dental floss or interdental toothbrush at least once daily. Food debris frequently clings to these surfaces of teeth that cannot be cleaned by brushing alone. Bacteria in your mouth grow on these food particles to produce bad breath. 
  • Rinse your mouth thoroughly after every meal. If you are taking all the above precautions, you do not need to brush every time you eat. Simply rinsing will tackle the bad breath.
  • If you wear any kind of denture or appliance, make sure to clean it as advised. 
  • Use mints or sugarfree chewing gums to stimulate salivary flow and keep your mouth healthy. Chewing on natural products such as cloves (laung), aniseed or fennel (saunf), cinnamon (dalchini) and cardamom (elaichi) also stimulates salivary flow and freshens your breath. 
  • Many people troubled by bad breath resort to mouthwashes for prolonged periods. While it is best to ask your dentist about the mouthwash you can use, make sure your mouthwash does not contain alcohol. Alcohol dries up the mouth and adds to your bad breath rather than lessening it. Mouthwashes containing zinc have been shown to be particularly effective in combating bad breath. 
  • Visit your dentist every 6 months or at least once a year for regular dental checkup and cleaning. 
  • If the problem persists despite all measures, it is advisable to talk to your physician, as the bad breath may indicate an underlying disease. There are tests available to analyze the type and origin of bad breath. 
Sometimes its better to keep your mouth shut and let people wonder if you are a fool, than to open it and remove all their doubt. - Mark Twain

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Getting a tooth cap or crown done? Know your options...

While we all love Jack Sparrow for his morbid ways and enticing smile, how many of us are willing to woo the damsels with metal caps on our teeth? Unless ofcourse, as Jack says to Elizabeth, "One word love: curiosity.... You want to see what it's like."

  In general, there are four types of caps or crowns that can be made for your tooth:

Metal crowns
  1. Metal cap: This is a low cost, high strength option, but keep cosmetics out of the need here. The cap is generally grayish to silver in color, but can also be made in gold - provided you are willing to pay for your ostentatious choice. Now losing its appeal to ceramics, many pirates who have sailed with Jack Sparrow still demand it; and many dentists - because of its proven longevity.
  2. Metal - Ceramic cap: This type of crown has metal inside for strength with tooth colored ceramic or porcelain fused to the metal on the outside. These types of crowns have been in use since the 1950's and have been a favorite with dentists and patients for their reasonable cost and cosmetics. The cosmetics are impaired by the darkness of metal showing at the margins, through the cap itself or when the overlying ceramic gets chipped or worn away with time.

    Metal - Ceramic Crowns
  3. Cosmetic Ceramic cap: Full Ceramics, though relatively new, are set to surpass the use of metal - ceramic crowns. The major reason for this is their natural tooth-like appearance, and the ability to maintain that cosmetic value over time. The cost is definitely more than metal - ceramic cap, but then you cannot 'put a cap' on beauty. The only question here is of their strength and longevity. The best brand in this class of dental crown materials, as of today, is IPS E.max.
    IPS E.max: High on Cosmetics
  4. Zirconia Ceramic cap: There is a wide range of materials in full ceramics used today in dentistry. As a universal rule, whenever the material is stronger, it is less cosmetic in terms of giving you the natural tooth appearance. Zirconia crowns are the strongest (and costliest) of all materials, but their natural appearance will be less than the cosmetic ceramic crowns like IPS E.max (however, still better than metal - ceramic caps). The most common brands - Lava and Bruxzir warranty their crowns, but the warranty may not cover all possible problems that can arise with the capped tooth.
'The Hammer Test' claimed by Bruxzir
Lava crowns and bridges

  So where does this leave you? In today's world where people are changing their smartphones and jobs with every new opportunity; where brands are endorsing their added features more than the standards of originality; it is hardly surprising that full ceramic crown is the rising trend. Is that a wise choice? While there is no substitute for the dentist's judgement for what is best for you, you must make your priorities clear to the dentist when you get a cap or crown done for your tooth.The best strength and cosmetics are the pride of zirconia crowns; while the best compromise of strength, cost and cosmetics lies with metal - ceramic caps. However, if cosmetics is what matters the most, for that beautiful, sparkling smile - there is nothing like IPS E-max.