Jim Erpenbach DDS

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The Tale of the Tooth Fairy

No one ever sees her, but you know when she’s been there.

She only visits at night.

She searches under your pillow while you’re sleeping.

She wants your teeth.

Sounds a little scary? Don’t be afraid – We’re talking about the Tooth Fairy!

Most Americans are familiar with the tale of the sweet, tooth collecting sprite that visits at night, looking for teeth that have fallen out. She kindly leaves a few dollars under their pillow as payment, and then goes on about her merry way. It’s a popular story in the United States, and one that most children look forward to experiencing, but do you know how the Tooth Fairy got her start? Dr. Erpenbach gets a lot of questions about the Tooth Fairy when treating his littlest patients , but the real story of the Tooth Fairy may even surprise some adults.

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Apple Cider Vinegar: Does It Hurt Your Teeth?

 The apple cider vinegar craze has been increasing in popularity over the last few years. This super sour drink has been touted as a panacea for everything that ails you. Avid apple cider vinegar drinkers claim it does everything from reducing inflammation to improving allergies, and even increasing your metabolism to help you lose weight. Other claims include that it increases energy- and still, others swear by it as a cleaning product! While apple cider vinegar may have some benefits, it should be used with care and be sure to rinse after using.

The reason behind this warning is that apple cider vinegar is extremely acidic. It is high in acetic acid, a substance that is known to be extremely damaging to tooth enamel. The pH of apple cider ranges between 2.5 and 3.0 in comparison to water, which is typically about 6.5 to 7.2.

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Potential Link: Study Connects Periodontal Disease to Liver Damage

 A study presented at the 2017 International Liver Congress in Amsterdam has linked severe cases of periodontitis to cirrhosis of the liver. The study was made up of 184 cirrhosis patients who were tracked for an average of one year to look for causes of cirrohosis, which leaves the liver permanently scarred. Patients in the study were given health assessments, include oral health exams.

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New Studies Show that Teeth Can Get A Boost from Grape Seed Extract

Dental researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry have identified a natural compound found in grape seed extract to be a potential way to strengthen teeth and give extra support to dental filling. The study examined the ability of this compound to strengthen dentin, the tissue that lies below the hard, outer, bone-like tooth enamel.

Researchers on the project sought to solve the common problem of filling or restoration failure. Dental fillings, whether made of mercury amalgam or composite materials, eventually begin to weaken and break down. Mercury amalgam fillings are estimated to last on average 12.8 years and composite resin fillings last on average 7.8 years.

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Oral Health Speaks for your Total Health

Many people know the old saying, "the eyes are the windows to the soul," but do you know that the mouth is the window to the body? It’s true. Your mouth can tell your dentist a whole lot about your overall health. Dr. Erpenbach is a member of the American Academy of Oral-Systemic Health and is a firm believer that the health of the mouth can impact the rest of the patient.

The presence of gum disease is often a red flag for dentists. Not only because it is evidence that something is wrong in the mouth, but because it is a contributor to heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, and even low birth weight and preterm births. Gum disease is caused by the presence of disease-causing bacteria, and mouths are full of bacteria. These disease-causing bacteria, which flourish in dental plaque, increase inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to illness or infection.

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Many Reasons for Bleeding Gums, Never Ignore it!

Bleeding gums are a problem for many people. There are several reasons why your gums may be bleeding- but no matter what the reason is, you should talk to your dentist about what is happening when you brush. In most cases of bleeding gums, Dr. Erpenbach can provide an effective treatment to cure the condition and get patients back to great oral health.

Reasons behind bleeding gums include:

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Bulk Restorations Fall Short

Bulk restorations are a popular way for dentists to treat cavities. Although they are popular with many dentists, they may actually not be the best method of treatment. Dr. Erpenbach does not use bulk restorations to treat cavities and uses biomimetic dental restorations instead.

Bulk restorations became popular because they allowed dentists to fill cavities faster. They require fewer steps that metal amalgam fillings, which means dentists were able to treat patients faster, ultimately giving them the ability to treat more patients during the day, too. Unlike metal amalgam fillings, there is no risk of exposure to poisonous mercury; a factor that makes them more popular with patients, Another benefit is that they are tooth-colored versus the telltale silver amalgam, which makes it less obvious that the patient has fillings.

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Researchers Find Rheumatoid Arthritis May Be Caused by Mouth Bacteria

Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful joint condition suffered by 1.5 million Americans according to the Centers for Disease Control. The condition, also known as RA, is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system targets healthy synovial tissue located around the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis can be triggered by illnesses or certain medical conditions, but researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found a link between RA and a particular type of bacteria found in the mouth. These new findings may lead to new treatments for patients suffering from RA, as well as methods of prevention.

These bacteria are known to cause periodontal infections but have also been found to cause RA. These bacteria confuse the body, which mistakes its own tissue as foreign invaders. This confusion prompts an immune system response in order to destroy these imagined foreign bodies by attacking the tissue of the synovium. The synovium, also known as the synovial membrane, is the soft tissue found in the joints that serve to cushion the joints as they move or glide.

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Damage Control: Stopping Pulp Disease Early On

When tooth decay goes untreated, cavities form in the tooth’s hard outer enamel. These cavities are a gateway for bacteria to reach the rest of the tooth. When bacteria reach the inner living pulp of the tooth, the pulp becomes diseased and patients typically experience extreme pain and sensitivity, along with infection. Diseases that impact the dental pulp can lead to total tooth loss. There are treatments available to treat dental pulp disease, but some of these treatments may also lead to emergency extractions.

There are several types of pulp disease, medically known as pulpitis that infects the soft, sensitive living tissue called the pulp. These different types range from reversible or mild pulpits to dangerous infections caused by pulp exposure. All of these types are painful and cause serious infections or tooth loss.

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The Attack on Teeth

It’s happened to many people – and it may have happened to you, too. Your dentist found a cavity, so you need a filling. You get the filling in order to take care of your tooth, but soon after, you may find that you're filling didn’t quite work out as planned. Now you are heading towards a root canal or may even be facing a tooth extraction. This situation can be frustrating, overwhelming, and many times painful, but the good news is that it is also avoidable by seeing a dentist that specializes in biomimetic dentistry, like Dr. Erpenbach. Dr. Erpenbach explains the steps he takes as a biomimetic dentist to preserve the teeth while treating them for tooth decay.

One of the most important parts of the biomimetic treatment of tooth decay is creating a good environment for the restoration. To do this, all decay must be removed or neutralized to prevent further destruction. Careful steps are used to remove the decay in order not to disturb or injure the sensitive nerves and living tissue inside the tooth.

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Manage Your Mouth Guard

April is National Facial Protection Month, sponsored by the American Academy of Sports Dentistry. During April, the AASD encourages youth and adult athletes to wear mouth guards to protect the teeth from injury or trauma during athletics or sporting events. Wearing a mouth guard will definitely help to protect the teeth, but improper care of the mouth guard will negatively impact oral and total health.

There are several types of sports mouthguards on the market. Some are basic off the shelf types or stock types that do not need any preparation before using. Boil and bite guards are another type, and must be softened in boiling water and formed around the teeth by biting down. Another type is a personalized protective guard designed by a dental professional through impression mold casting.

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How to Positively Influence Your Children to Take Care of Their Teeth

Family and friends often influence the way we think and how we behave. These groups influence us from sports teams we like to the music we listen to, and even to the clothes we wear. Researchers have also found that family and friends even influence how we with think about and care for our teeth.

Boston University’s Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine determined through extensive research of families living in Boston’s public housing that individuals with good oral health were taught how to practice proper oral hygiene by their family or peers. Conversely, individuals with negative oral health conditions were not encouraged or instructed by their family and friends to practice good oral hygiene.

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Scientific Advances Aid Dentists

Science plays a significant role in dentistry – and research studies frequently help dentists to develop new ways to treat patients. Dr. Erpenbach makes it his mission to be informed and educated on hot topics and current news in dental research, and he also endeavors to learn new techniques in order to best treat patients. This blog explains a little bit about the roles science and technology play in dentistry, and why they are highly valued in his practice.

Science and technology have advanced considerably over the last 40 years. Old methods of dental restorations are no longer taught, so the way dentists perform restorations has changed. Many dentists are now using new methods that use biomimetic, or lifelike, materials that bond tightly to the tooth itself, versus techniques of old that used mercury amalgam or other materials to restore the teeth after decay.

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E-Cigarettes Are Not A Safer Alternative According to Experts

Dentists have long known about the impact of cigarette smoking and the use of nicotine products on the teeth and gums. The foremost impact is to the total health of the patient who smokes or uses products containing nicotine by increasing their risk of developing oral cancer. Additional risks of using these products include tooth decay, periodontal infections, and gum tissue loss. Many patients have made the switch from smoking to electronic cigarettes in order to reduce the risks to their health. While many patients have been lulled into thinking e-cigarettes is a safer option, new research has found that these alternatives still post a significant risk to users’ health and are not as safe as once thought.

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New Dental Stem Cell Research May Help Teeth Heal from the Inside Out

When thinking about treating tooth decay, most people think about fillings. Fillings then make them think about the drill. The drill may lead them to think about pain. Pain makes them want to skip their next dental checkup. But, what if dental technology advanced enough to allow the teeth to heal from within, thus giving patients the ability to skip the drill and the noise and pain associated with it? Researchers at King’s College in London have unlocked the power of dental stem cells found in tooth pulp to heal the tooth from within.

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Dentistry as a Philosophy

The first thing you notice about Dr. Erpenbach is that dentistry is not just his living, but it is also his passion. He regards dentistry, specifically biomimetic dentistry, to be an art form. This viewpoint colors his approach to his patients, the tools and techniques he uses, methods of restoration he chooses, and how he educates his patients.

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What Can Fluoride Do for You?

Most people know that brushing and flossing are essential steps to take in order to have healthy teeth and gums. But brushing and flossing are not the only way to protect dental health. Many dentists offer fluoride treatments as an extra protection for their patients to help fortify their teeth against bacteria and tooth decay.

Cavities and tooth decay occur as a result of bacteria that form around the teeth and gums. These bacteria live in dental plaque, the clear sticky biofilm that covers the teeth and gums. These bacteria produce acid that destroys tooth enamel over time. This process is called demineralization. Plaque can be brushed and flossed away, but when patients do not routinely brush or floss, bacteria are able to feed and flourish as a result of food particles left behind in the teeth. The more bacteria, the more acid they produce. The more acid present means an increased risk of damage to the teeth.

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Skipping Your Dental Check Up? You Just Increased Your Risk of Pneumonia.

It is well-known that there is a link between oral health and cardiovascular health. But there’s also another proven health link between oral health and pulmonary health. Specifically, between the health of the mouth and a patient’s risk of developing pneumonia. A 2016 study performed by the Infections Diseases Society of America suggests that visiting the dentist twice a year may prevent the occurrence of bacterial pneumonia infections by reducing bacteria in the mouth.

Pneumonia is an infection in the lung that inflames the alveoli, or the air sacs of the lungs. The alveoli are important to the lungs because that is where the gasses of breathing are exchanged; oxygen is converted to carbon dioxide. Pneumonia can cause one or both of the lungs to fill with fluid. This fluid blocks this important gas exchange and makes breathing difficult. Over 1 million Americans are diagnosed with pneumonia each year, of which roughly 50,000 of those diagnosed die. Pneumonia can affect patients of all ages but is more likely to be deadly in patients that are very young or very old, and in patients with chronic health conditions like lung disease or autoimmune disorders.

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The Tale of the Tooth Fairy

No one ever sees her, but you know when she’s been there.

She only visits at night.

Continue reading
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Possible Vaccine Against Periodontitis in the Works

Chicken pox? There’s a vaccine for that. Flu? That, too. Even shingles? Yep, shingles. There are many vaccines on the market, and new vaccines being developed to fight off different diseases every year. Currently, a new vaccine is being developed to fight a very common, but yet hard to treat disease. This disease is periodontitis, a serious form of gum disease that can cause bone loss and has severe health consequences for its sufferers. Scientists at the University of Melbourne are currently researching and refining a vaccine against periodontitis, in hopes to eliminate the disease, or at least change the way it is treated.

Periodontitis is usually diagnosed during a dental checkup, when during an examination, it is discovered that pockets have developed along the gum line. The pockets are deeper than 3 millimeters and are the perfect place for bacteria to live and flourish. It can impact the mouth in different ways, and some patient’s see infections in just one quadrant of the mouth, while others experience an infection in their entire mouth. The disease causes swelling, redness, severe bad breath, and bleeding of the gums, which can make eating, drinking and even brushing the teeth painful. If the condition is severe, painful abscesses can develop and put the patient’s health at risk through infection, inflammation, and even malnutrition if the eating becomes too painful. Periodontitis can even impact dental implants and dentures.

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