Jim Erpenbach DDS

Call Us Today: 865-240-2035

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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Restore Teeth, Don't Destroy Them

From youth to mental age, getting restorations done on a cracked, chipped or extracted tooth may seem trivial.  A cost to pay.  Time to spend in a dentist’s office.  Many young adults simply skip over getting the restoration work done because they aren’t in immediate pain and the damage isn’t impacting their ability to bite and chew comfortably at the moment.  But putting off dental restorations can cost big in the long term.  Dr. Jim Erpenach offers many ways to restore teeth and not break them down. Traditional dentistry uses techniques and procedures that require cutting away healthy tooth structure. Dr. Erpenbach prefers more conservative methods through biomimetic dentistry. By saving as much healthy tooth as possible, the repairs are stronger and will last much longer.

Dr. Erpenbach wants to take every step to ensure a patient can keep their natural teeth. Nature created the greatest tooth structure possible so why destroy it or remove it? When a patient loses an adult tooth that has not been properly restored, the body’s natural response if to begin shifting other teeth in their positions to fill in the empty space.  If too many teeth are lost, the patient can end up with unsightly gap teeth and a reduced bite force. This needs to be avoided. 

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The Importance of Trust

One of the key elements of a good dentist-patient relationship is trust.  Many people choose a dentist based on an ad in the yellow pages, a google search, or from a directory of providers on their dental insurance plan, but choosing the right dentist that makes you comfortable, treats you well, and makes you want to come back is not that simple.  Dr. Jim Erpenbach believes that it is important for dentists and their patients to have a mutual trust and respect.

By stepping foot in a dentist’s chair, you are giving the dentist and his or her staff a great deal of power and control over you.  You are trusting that they are going to find and appropriately treat your gum disease, cavities, and any other oral problems they see.  You are trusting that they are not going to recommend and charge you for unnecessary work that doesn’t fit within your budget.   You are trusting them to manage any potential pain the procedure might cause, and in the event you are put under general anesthesia you are trusting them with your unconscious body.

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The NASA Technology that Goes in Your Mouth

It’s been in use since the 1980s, but most people never knew, that the bonding agents used for braces and porcelain veneers and a variety of other dental purposes was actually derived from NASA research developing porcelain tiles that were fused to the metal heat shield of the Apollo space capsule.  Dr. Jim Erpenbach is a dentist who specializes in fitting patients with veneers and other dental restorations.

The team at NASA was tasked with creating a thermal protection system to prevent the 1650⁰C atmospheric re-entry heat from destroying space craft that were returning to earth.  They developed an alloy called Tilite that was capable of absorbing heat at the same rate as ceramic tiles it was used to mount on the space shuttle, while at the same time eliminating the stress and strain of the porcelain against metal. 

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A Biomimetic Approach to Avoiding Root Canals

One of the most common and painful oral health problems people encounter is when an oral infection spreads to the interior of the tooth resulting in the need for a root canal.  Dr. Jim Erpenbach offers a biomimetic approach to taking care of your teeth that is less invasive and preserves more of your natural tooth structure. This results in reducing the chances of ever needing a root canal!

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The One Candy That’s Good for Teeth

June is National Candy Month, and with that in mind, we wanted to share with parents that there is actually one candy that studies have found benefits teeth.  When you or your child decide to indulge, it’s good to know that dark chocolate has properties that are actually beneficial to your teeth and overall health.  Dr. Jim Erpenbach offers traditional and biomimetic dental services in the Knoxville, Tennessee area.

Studies in the US, Japan and the UK indicate that extracted compounds found in the cocoa bean, the main ingredient in chocolate, are actually as effective, or more effective, than fluoride at fighting tooth decay.  This compound, called CBH, is used in some toothpastes and mouthwashes.  CBH is antibacterial and aids in the prevention of plaque buildup.

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New Study Identifies Link Between Gum Disease and Breast Cancer

In December, 2015, the University of Buffalo published a study of more than 73 thousand post-menopausal women found that those with periodontal disease were at 14% higher risk of developing breast cancer.  The women who developed breast cancer were studied over 6.7 years as part of the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study and did not have cancer at the start of the study.  Dr. Jim Erpenbach offers periodontal services to help patients keep gingivitis and other periodontal disease at bay.

Breast cancer, is merely a new addition to an already extensive list of diseases that have been linked to gum disease.  Inflammation of the gums has been linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke, diabetes, pericarditis, dementia, Alzheimer’s and a number of chronic autoimmune conditions.  Additionally, research has shown that poor oral health also correlated with more rapid cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients, and 6 times greater morbidity rate for patients with kidney disease.

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Chewing Gum Can Be Good for Your Child’s Teeth

Every parent knows that daily brushing and flossing are the key components to your child’s preventive dental care.  But there are other things parents can do to help ensure their children enjoy good dental health.  Dr. Erpenbach believes that maintaining a healthy balance of bacterial flora in the mouth is another important part of preventive care.

Using an antiseptic mouthwash like Listerine or Scope can help eliminate bad bacteria.  One way of protecting the good oral flora in your child’s mouth is preventing dry mouth.

Dry mouth can be caused by climate, diet, medication and a variety of other problems, but there is one way to minimize dry mouth that children find to be a lot of fun.  Chewing sugarless gum that is sweetened by an ingredient called Xylitol has been clinically proven to help produce saliva, thereby helping eliminate dry mouth.

In addition to helping eliminate dry mouth, chewing a Xylitol based gum can also help your child exercise the muscles that control the jaw and stimulate the roots of the teeth to promote bone density and growth of new teeth.

To choose the right sugarless gum to promote your child’s dental health, look for Xylitol on the label.  Some gum brands are made specifically for this purpose and will list Xylitol as an active ingredient.  These products can be found at Whole Foods and other organic grocery providers.  Other sugarless gums that contain Xylitol as the main ingredient can be just as beneficial.  You can identify whether xylitol is the main ingredient by it being listed first in the order of ingredients on the nutritional label.

To schedule a regular professional cleaning and checkup for yourself or your child, contact our office at 865-240-2035.

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What is Oral Systemic Dentistry?

Just as the eyes are considered windows to the soul, the mouth is the gateway to the body.  We use our mouths to eat, to breathe, to chew, to talk, and so many other things that are easily taken for granted.  Oral Systemic Dentistry came about from the partnership between medical practitioners and dentists who understand that oral health is linked to overall health.  Dr. Jim Erpenbach, D.D.S., partners with patients and their physicians to make sure that signs of disease evident in the mouth are examined to determine when they are indicative of systemic health problems.

Researchers have found links between the bacteria found on teeth and in the gums, often referred to as oral biofilm; and chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.  Mouth sores can indicate any number of chronic illnesses, and getting routine professional cleanings and examinations by an OHS dentist can be the first line of defense in preventing or minimizing the effects of these conditions.

Researchers have not verified the cause effect relationship between oral biofilm and chronic illnesses, but studies have proven that reduction of bacteria in the mouth correlates with less disease activity in the body.

Dr. Erpenbach recommends patients floss and brush their teeth at least twice a day, and get routine professional cleanings every six months.  To schedule your next cleaning, contact our office at 865-240-2035.

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How is Biomimetic Dentistry Different From Traditional Dentistry?

Biomimetic Dentistry is a special discipline of dentistry that stems from the philosophy that what the dentist does should preserve and imitate nature as much as possible.  Traditional dentistry, referred to as Amputational Dentistry by the Academy of Biomimetic Dentistry involved restorative materials and procedures that required extensive drilling and breakdown of healthy teeth and tissue to support the creation and application of crowns, bridges and fillings.  Dr. Erpenbach offers patients a biomimetic alternative that is far less invasive.

The hallmark of the Biomimetic approach is the effort to preserve as much of the natural tooth and use bonding agents to repair cracks and chips before more damage occurs.  Ideally, one takes care of his or her teeth and does not need fillings or tooth replacements, but when the damage is done, a Biomimetic dentist will take the least invasive approach to repair the tooth and prevent further decay.

There is also a strong emphasis on preventative care and maintenance to prevent future problems.  Sealants can seal the tooth away from bacterial intrusion preventing the need for more invasive fillings and root canal procedures.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment, contact our office at (865) 240-2035.

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How to Prepare for For Dental Implants

After deciding to take the leap and get dental implants, many patients want to know what they should do to prepare for their big day when the implants will be placed.  Dr. Erpenbach believes that preparation and aftercare can play a big role in the success of your implant placement and your satisfaction with the results.

A few weeks prior to implant placement, we will take your medical history, ask about any medical conditions or illnesses that might affect the surgery and its outcome.  You may be prescribed antibiotics to clear any infections you may have prior to the procedure to help prevent the spread of bacteria into the bloodstream.

We recommend that if your dental habits were not stellar before, that you take extra care to make sure you are brushing and flossing after every meal.  A dental hygienist will perform a tooth cleaning and examine your teeth and gums to make sure that there are no signs of gum disease.

Gum disease can leave pockets of extra tissue between the gums and teeth where bacteria can get trapped and cause peri implantitis, an inflammation of the gum tissue around the implant that can cause failure for the implant to bond with the jawbone.

Once your implants have been placed, they require the same care as regular teeth.  Regular brushing and flossing should continue as usual.  There may be tenderness at first, but this will go away in a week or two and you can resume eating as usual.

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The Virtue of ClearCorrect Over Traditional of Clear Braces

Currently, for those who need their teeth straightened or their jawline adjusted, there are a variety of options:  traditional braces, clear braces and ClearCorrect.  Dentist, Dr. Jim Erpenbach offers ClearCorrect alignment as a less damaging alternative to braces.


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The Virtue of ClearCorrect Over Traditional of Clear Braces

Currently, for those who need their teeth straightened or their jawline adjusted, there are a variety of options:  traditional braces, clear braces and ClearCorrect.  As a leading practitioner of biomimetic dentistry, Dr. Jim Erpenbach offers ClearCorrect alignment as a less damaging alternative to braces.
The key difference between ClearCorrect and traditional or clear braces is that instead of a system of brackets adhered to the tooth surface and manipulated by a wire, whereas the ClearCorrect method for tooth realignment is a series of clear removable orthotic aligners that are gradually swapped out every three weeks.
So why choose ClearCorrect?
Traditional and clear braces are fixed to the surface of the tooth and cannot be removed until the realignment is complete.  This can be problematic to brushing and flossing, leaving teeth and gums vulnerable to bacteria caught in or around the wires and brackets leading to tooth decay and gingivitis.  As an alternative, ClearCorrect orthotics are worn at all times except when eating, brushing and flossing, and may be removed for those purposes.
When braces are removed after alignment is complete, there can be a difference in tooth color when tooth staining has occurred but not underneath where the brackets were adhered.  Because ClearCorrect aligners are removed for eating, brushing and flossing, there is no danger of visible differences in coloration of teeth.
The cement used to adhere brackets to the teeth can also cause damage to teeth as brackets fall off or get removed.  Solvents and tools used to remove brackets at the end of realignment can leave tiny, even microscopic holes in the surface of the teeth so small that regular brushing cannot remove bacteria to prevent cavities from forming on the front side of the teeth.  Because ClearCorrect aligners do not adhere to the teeth, this does not present an issue.
And of course the most obvious reason to most people is cosmetic.  Even clear porcelain braces are visible up close, while ClearCorrect is barely noticeable to most people.
To schedule an assessment to determine if you or your child is a candidate for ClearCorrect, contact our office at 865-240-2035.

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What you should know about bleeding gums.

When our gums bleed, the typical response is to do nothing and assume we just need to get in a better homecare routine. The problem with that mindset is that when the gums are bleeding it's not just a warning sign. It means there's already an infection. Infection in the gums can become a serious problem for both the teeth and the rest of the body.

Gums pull away from teeth naturally, but should only recede about 3mm. Anything more than that could be a sign of gum disease. Once gum disease gets going, it begins to destroy tissue and bone structure that supports the teeth. The first stage of gum disease (gingivitis) can be reversed. But once a certain amount of damage has been done to the bone, we can't get it back naturally. That's why tooth loss is often an end result of gum disease. 

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