Jim Erpenbach DDS

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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.

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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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The Download on Dry Mouth

Up to a third of the American population reports having experienced symptoms associated with the occasional bout of dry mouth – feeling thirsty or dehydrated cracked lips and even bad breath. These symptoms are usually remedied by increasing water intake and a quick refresher with a toothbrush. However, many people experience chronic dry mouth conditions, and for these patients, a cure goes beyond just drinking more water.

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Seek to Preserve, Not Destroy

If you ask most people what they know about biomimetic dentistry, they’ll probably return your question with a question – something along the lines of "Bio-what?" That’s because, despite the fact that more dentists are choosing to practice this type of dentistry each year, biomimetic dentistry is still a relatively unheard of dental specialization. Dr. Erpenbach not only practices biomimetic dentistry, but he is also a pioneer in this field. He also works to educate other dentists on this topic and is a teaching mentor on minimally invasive and preventative dentistry.

Biomimetic dentistry is dentistry that that focuses on tooth conservation. Conservation means keeping the tooth in its original and best natural state. This means when biomimetic dentists treat patients for cavities and tooth decay, they use light touch tools like air abrasion to gently remove only the affected area without impacting the healthy enamel around it. Biomimetic dentistry also uses materials to repair the teeth that are similarly structured to the tooth’s enamel. In fact, the word biomimetic means "to mimic nature". By using materials that are similar in nature to the tooth enamel, repairs, and restorations, like fillings, to adhere tightly to the tooth and results in restorations that last.

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If You Have Dental Phobia, It May Not Just Be In Your Head - It May Be In Your DNA, too!

Nearly one-third of American adults avoid going to the dentist. Some people are embarrassed over the state of their oral health; some people are afraid of the cost they associate with dental work, and some others just do not want to take the time to go in for a checkup. Others suffer from dental anxiety or dental phobia, or a fear of the dentist. Dental phobia may not just be a psychological impediment to going to the dentist; it may also be a genetic trait according to researchers at West Virginia University.

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Can Bad Dental Hygiene Cause Colorectal Cancer?

The oral-systemic link is a theory in dental and medical professions that bridges the health of the mouth with the total health of the body. For dentists and dental professionals that believe in the oral-systemic link, diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis can lead to not only to tooth and bone loss but also to major health complications. The health complications include conditions like heart attack, stroke, diabetes and now even colorectal cancer.

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The Truth Behind Your Tooth

Do us a favor. Take a quick look at one of your teeth. Any tooth. What do you see? You may see the enamel of your tooth appears hard and solid. Your tooth may evidence of decay or coloring that may give clues your dental and overall health. The shape of your tooth might tell you its specific function, such as biting, tearing, or chewing. But what you cannot see when you look at your tooth is the very delicate balance of the tooth’s design. Teeth are not rocks – they really are a divinely inspired work of art and architecture. Dr. Erpenbach likens the structure of the tooth to the Pantheon in Rome – unchanged and still structurally sound after many ages. Dr. Erpenbach believes that to be able to provide patients with the best care and maintain, repair, and protect the structure of the tooth, and dentists should understand the delicate design behind its make up.

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If Mercury is Poisonous - Why is My Dentist Still Using It?

Dental patients with more than eight amalgam fillings may have higher levels of mercury, according to a new study from the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health. The study, which will be published in the journal, Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, later this year, is the first of its kind to show a definitive connection between amalgam dental fillings and mercury levels in the body. High levels of mercury exposure can impact health and result in muscle atrophy, vision impairment, and neurological disorders. This research bolsters new movements in dental medicine to treat teeth using biomimetic, or lifelike materials, instead of traditional mercury amalgam.

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Drilling Down to the Nanoscale of Tooth Enamel May Help Patients Avoid the Drill

A September study published in the journal, Science Advances, by the University of Sydney, took a deep dive into the science of dentistry – right down to the subatomic particles that make up the tooth’s enamel. Working with material and structural engineers, scientists and dentists working on this research were able to identify nanoparticles of the tooth. This identification aids in determining exactly how these nanoparticles play a role in the development of the tooth’s enamel. This research is of significant value to dentists because it brings further understanding of the chemical structure of the tooth’s enamel and how it gets its strength. Dentists can use this knowledge to better fight cavities and prevent tooth decay.

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My toothpaste has WHAT in it?

The Food and Drug Administration ruled that beginning September 2017 that the sale of nonmedical-grade antibacterial soaps and sanitizers containing Triclosan and 19 other chemical ingredients would be banned. Triclosan is an ingredient that was introduced in 1969 as a pesticide but has been used in hospital settings. Triclosan is now found in a variety of household and personal care products - including toothpaste. Yes, toothpaste. The controversy surrounding this ingredient has spanned over 50 years and stems from concerns over its long-term impact on human health and the environment. Dr. James Erpenbach, D.D.S., often hears questions from patients concerned about the use of Triclosan.

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Gum Care and the Oral-Systemic Link

September is National Gum Care Month. This event typically comes and goes without much fanfare for the average American, but many dentists recognize it is a chance to bring awareness to gum health and gum disease prevention. Some of these dentists recognize National Gum Care Month as an even greater opportunity to educate patients on how gum health impacts their overall health.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, over 90 percent of American adults suffer from gum disease. The most common form of gum disease is gingivitis; inflammation and irritation of the gums caused by bacteria trapped in the mouth when plaque builds up. Gingivitis causes gums to hurt and bleed, and bleeding gums are a gateway for serious infections.

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Protect Your Oral Health During Pregnancy

For many women, pregnancy means a lot of appointments. Checkups are necessary to ensure mother and baby are in good health, test blood sugar, and genetics and include ultrasounds, too. Pregnancy also means patients should make another appointment - with their dentist.

Pregnant women should make routine trips to the dentist a part of their prenatal care plan because pregnancy has a significant impact on a woman’s dental health. 50 percent of women experience periodontal disease during their pregnancy. This is because of the hormonal changes in the body brought on by pregnancy. This can trigger tooth decay, gingivitis, and tooth loss. If left untreated these conditions lead to infections that cause complications during pregnancy that impact both mother and child.

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