How sleep apnea is treated through holistic dentistry

How Sleep Apnea is Treated Through Holistic Dentistry

It is estimated that as many as 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. If you are among them, you’ve probably heard of CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines. Those who’ve experienced CPAP machines know how effective they are, but can also testify to the discomfort involved in using them. This discomfort leads to low adherence, which means that many people who need them don’t use them as often as they should. The other key trouble with CPAP machines is that while they alleviate the symptoms, they don’t treat the causes of sleep apnea.

So, how can a holistic dentist help?

A holistic (or integrative) dentist will look for causes of sleep apnea, not just the symptoms. Major causes of sleep apnea actually include poor alignment of the jaw, and of the tongue, which are all things your dentist can help treat. These conditions can include:

  • Retrognathia: Poor alignment of the jaw can often be seen when the lower jaw is pulled back. This can push the tongue and the pharyngeal tissue backwards, restricting the airway and causing sleep apnea.
  • High tongue: Dr. Mandanas also looks for a higher than average tongue level. During sleep, the tongue relaxes and falls back. If it is larger than usual or set higher, it could block the airway when it relaxes, causing you to struggle to breathe when you’re asleep.
  • Mouth breathing: This can be caused by either a bad habit, sometimes brought on by a persistent cold, or by a developmental issue such as a collapsed arch. Mouth breathing is sometimes a symptom of an underlying issue which is also causing sleep apnea. However, mouth breathing can also cause sleep apnea itself as well. The tonsillar tissue at the back of the throat is designed to catch and kill bacteria before they enter the lungs. Excessive use, caused by constant mouth breathing, can cause this tissue to swell and lead to sleep apnea. Nose breathing, on the other hand, has many benefits – for example, nose hairs filter bacteria before they enter the airway; nitric oxide gas in the nasal passage kills bad bacteria; nasal passages warm air before it enters the lungs.
  • Tongue positioning: The tongue is a strong muscle and over time it shapes the mouth. Improper positioning of the tongue can, therefore, lead to mouth breathing and sleep apnea as we age.

What treatments can a holistic dentist provide?

The treatment naturally depends on the cause of sleep apnea. For tongue issues, retraining exercises can help by teaching the tongue where to sit while not in use. However, if your sleep apnea is caused by retrognathia, Dr. Mandanas may prescribe a mandibular advancement device (MAD). This device prevents the lower jaw from slipping back during sleep.

Like the CPAP machine, a MAD is worn during sleep. However, unlike a CPAP machine, a MAD is much less restrictive, allowing the patient to roll over and sleep in their preferred position. As treatment progresses and the jaw learns to stay in the new position, the MAD is adjusted to gradually push the lower jaw forward. It’s a really effective treatment.

Dr. Mandanas is also studying Advanced Light Force (ALF) therapy for patients who need a more advanced treatment than mandibular advancement. The ALF device works by applying light pressure to the interior of the teeth and facial bones to adjust the cranial structure, enacting neurological as well as physical changes by using the natural forces of the body for advanced sleep apnea patients. It is able to be worn during the day and is almost invisible to others, making compliance so much easier and delivering great results!

What are my options?

When you visit Dr. Mandanas, she will assess the causes of your sleep apnea and recommend the best treatment plan for you. The integrative options discussed above are covered by most insurances, although that coverage does depend on the exact nature of your sleep apnea.

If you or a family member suffers from sleep apnea and you are interested in Dr. Mandanas’ approach as an integrative dentist, contact us during office hours to schedule an appointment! We look forward to seeing you.

Holistic Dentistry

What is Holistic Dentistry? We Answer Your FAQs

If you’re curious about holistic dentistry, you’re in the right place. Maybe you’ve come across the concept while researching local dentists on the internet; perhaps a friend or family member has recommended holistic dentistry. Either way, you’re looking to try something different.

Holistic dentists have the same credentials as regular dentists. In my case, I have a DDS, and I’ve been a general dentist for 17 years. Over time, I developed an interest in sleep breathing disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea. I’m passionate about craniofacial anatomy and development, which can be the source of many sleep issues in children and adults. The past few years have taken me professionally into a new direction of integrative dentistry. It is exciting and fun for me as I continue to grow and learn how to be a safer and more effective provider. Basically, I’m committed to having an open mind about natural approaches to oral health.

This is pretty common for holistic practitioners. Most of us practiced traditional dentistry for years before making the switch to our current models of practice. It’s really simple – the word “holistic” simply means “whole.” We look at the role dentistry plays in optimizing your overall health and wellbeing. That’s why we prioritize natural remedies and avoid harmful materials wherever possible. We will also typically ask more questions about other aspects of your health – for example, diet, sleep, mental health – than regular dentists.

However, we still do the things you’d expect in general dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, orthodontics, dentures, implants, and more. This includes checking for things like cavities and gum disease, performing clinical and radiographic examinations, conducting preventative care for things like custom mouth guards, and taking care of all your needs for things like fillings and crowns. Remember, we’re fully-qualified dentists, so we’ll take care of your needs.

Keep reading, because we’ll answer a few more FAQs below.

Ready to get started? Schedule an appointment today.

What does a holistic dentist do?

Holistic dentists do all the same things as regular dentists, but as we said before, we focus on whole-body health. Because of that, our scope of work is slightly wider than regular dentists.

For example, we can help treat things like sleep apnea. We can provide non-invasive treatments that consider all the factors at play and work naturally with the body to find a solution. A major cause is poor alignment of the jaw and tongue, which can be corrected. Mouth breathing is another, which can be treated through referral to a physical or speech therapist. Tongue positioning is another frequent factor, which can also be improved. Talk to us about alternatives to CPAP machines.

The concept of mouth-body connection is also very important. We know the mouth doesn’t function in isolation from the rest of the body, so we ensure the connection between the mouth and the body is optimized. That’s why your holistic dentist may ask you about things like diet, lifestyle, and mental health, before recommending a treatment. We want to ensure it works for you.

How do holistic dentists treat root canals?

Root canals are one area where you’ll notice a significant difference. Holistic dentists address root canals with extreme caution and attention to detail, because we understand that 100% sterilization of the root canal is difficult to achieve. We also know that some sterilization chemicals are toxic, such as formaldehyde, which can be harmful. On top of that, we know that bacteria left in the canal can lead to diseases like breast cancer and heart disease. It’s a big decision to make.

Obviously, prevention is always better than a cure in cases like this. However, if the problem becomes serious enough to prompt a discussion about root canals, you might find your holistic dentists recommends something like total extraction of the tooth instead. The treatment will vary on a case-by-case basis, so if you have concerns around this, talk it through with your dentist.

What do holistic dentists use for fillings?

Holistic dentists avoid harmful materials, which means we favor alternatives to things like mercury amalgam silver fillings. Studies have shown that these fillings can have adverse effects on patient health, such as accumulation of bacteria around decaying fillings, sensitivity, weakening of the teeth, and more. We recommend replacing them with modern composite fillings.

If your amalgam fillings show signs of wear or decay, you’ve had issues with them in the past, you’re concerned about the level of mercury in your mouth, and you’re concerned about the aesthetics of silver fillings, please talk to us about modern alternatives. They’re a great alternative for small to medium restorations and may be the right option for you. Ask your dentist!

Concerned about mercury filling removal? Read more about this procedure.

Do holistic dentists take insurance?

Yes, holistic dentists take insurance. Remember, we’re fully-qualified dentists! However, some treatments we recommend may not be covered by insurance – it can vary from company to company. If you have any concerns, please discuss it with your insurance provider.

If you have no insurance, you may wish to consider joining our membership club. We take care of the preventative dental care of all our members with a monthly subscription, saving you money. Our adult membership is just $38/month (with a $50 lifetime activation fee), and it includes two professional dental cleanings per year, 1-2 doctor exams per year, necessary x-rays, one emergency exam per year, and $15% off all other treatments (although some exclusions may apply).

We value loyalty and we launched this program to simplify payments for preventative care. If you’d like to learn more about our membership club, please click here.

Best holistic dentist in Anchorage, Alaska

Here at Mandanas Dental, we understand that properly addressing the needs of our patients allows them to live healthier, fuller lives. Think about it: food is our fuel, and it enters our bodies through our mouths. We ensure your mouth is healthy so your body can function as it should.

We don’t overbook. Instead, we reserve your time exclusively, without interruptions. This means you get to spend the time you need with Dr. Mandanas. She will talk to you about your health goals before even taking an x-ray, and after completing a thorough examination, she’ll review her findings with you and develop a personalized plan to achieve the best results possible.

We’re committed to making your dental treatment comfortable, convenient and rewarding. That’s why Mandanas Dental is the best holistic dentist in Anchorage, Alaska.

Ready to schedule an appointment? Contact us today!

Why Do I Need to See an Integrative Dentist

Why Should I See an Integrative Dentist?

Integrative dentistry is an exciting new perspective for your regular dental check-ups. Rather than just looking at your mouth and trying to keep it healthy in isolation, an integrative dentist (also known as a holistic dentist or biological dentist) looks at the way your mouth impacts your overall health. Integrative dentists recognize that good oral health is only a single element of what’s needed to optimize your wellbeing.

When we discuss the best treatment for your dental issues, we’ll also take factors like mental health, sleep disorders, behavioral disorders, lifestyle, diet and more into consideration. We also actively look for natural alternatives to traditional treatment methodologies when they are proven to be effective. We always prefer to use the least invasive techniques possible to reduce damage and protect you from chemical exposure.

Of course, integrative dentists do all the things you expect from a normal dentist. They can take care of all your dental issues, including:

  • Clinical and radiographic examination for hidden dental problems
  • Inspecting the teeth for cavities and any signs of wear and tear
  • Inspect the gums for signs of gingivitis or gum disease
  • Professional teeth cleaning
  • Emergency dentistry
  • And much more.

We simply recognize that the mouth is the gateway to the body, and that by taking care of the mouth, we can help optimize whole-body health.

How Dr. Mandanas became an integrative dentist

Dr. Owen Mandanas worked as a general dentist for 17 years. Eight years ago, however, she began helping people with sleep disorders, through the use of dental appliances. We’ve discussed the treatment of disorders like sleep apnea in our blog before – you can read more about it here. Dr. Mandanas particularly likes the use of alternatives to CPAP machines, such as mandibular advancement devices. These devices push the jaw forward while you sleep, which helps to keep your airway open.

This experience led her to look into other ways she as a dentist could help patients in other ways. Her view of the role dentistry plays in healthcare more widely began to change as she began studying new techniques and working with other holistic practitioners, including medical doctors, nurse practitioners, naturopaths, and chiropractors.

Today, Dr. Mandanas is affiliated with multiple professional organizations, in both traditional dentistry and integrative dentistry. These include the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine and the Academy of Clinical Sleep Disorders Disciplines, and the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, which awards the SMART certification for mercury amalgam filling removal (click here to read more).

Why not just see a normal dentist and a doctor?

There are lots of advantages to seeing an integrative dentist, but the most important reason to choose this option is because they are more aware of the impact dental issues have on the rest of the body than a traditional dentist. Often, they may identify potential issues that you can then raise with your doctor. It doesn’t matter what the issue is; early detection and prevention is always the best way to optimize and protect your health.

What types of issues can integrative dentists address?

Sleep apnea is just one example of this, because Dr. Mandanas can suggest different treatment options you can talk through with your physician. This is a large part of her practice, and she’s passionate about studying craniofacial anatomy and development. She approaches every new patient with an open mind and is committed to finding the right solution for you.

Oral microbiome is another. Your mouth is home to the second most diverse community of micro-organisms in your body, after your gut. In fact, more than 700 species of bacteria live on the hard and soft surfaces of your teeth. The balance can be disturbed by external factors, such as your diet, which can cause problems like gum disease. This is something we can talk about during a routine appointment. Read more about it here.

Oral health also has an impact on serious diseases like diabetes, which comes with risks of periodontal disease. This is the name of a common infection of the gums that can lead to bone loss in the jaw and teeth. It starts as plaque and causes inflammation of the gums as it progresses. Diabetics with severe periodontal disease have an increased risk of things like kidney disease, heart attack, stroke and eye issues. Click here to read more.

These are just a few examples, but hopefully they help explain the “big picture” of dentistry. It’s not enough just to look after your oral health, you need to view your mouth as the gateway to whole-body health.

Want to learn more about integrative dentistry? Get in touch today!

Here's Why Your Oral Microbiome Is So Important

Here’s Why Your Oral Microbiome Is So Important

Humans are not really single organisms, we are really superorganisms, coexisting with our microbiome!

We have three or four microbiomes in our bodies: oral, gut, skin and vaginal. Here we’ll discuss the oral microbiome and its relationship with the gut. We’ll cover some research that reveals how your oral microbiome affects whole-body health.

What is the oral microbiome?

Your mouth is home to the second most diverse community of micro-organisms in your body, after your gut.

In fact, it is home to over 700 species of bacteria that colonize both the hard and soft surfaces of your teeth.

Humans and their microbiomes evolved together over millions of years to create a superorganism, or holobiont, that represents a mostly harmonious symbiotic relationship. We keep them healthy, and they keep us healthy!

How does the oral microbiome get out of balance?

The balance in our oral microbiome can be disturbed by modern-day lifestyles and diets.

This lack of balance is called dysbiosis, and it allows disease-causing bacteria to grow, which can cause problems like caries, gingivitis, and periodontitis.

In particular, our modern consumption of excess refined sugar, as well as consumption of acidic drinks, and even cigarette smoking all impact the oral microbiome.

What happens if my oral microbiome is unbalanced?

Changes to the composition of the microbiome can have large impacts on human health.

There are bacteria in your mouth which convert nitrates in your food into nitrites. These nitrites are then swallowed and get converted into nitric oxide, which has been shown to be highly important to cardiovascular health.

Although the effects of these chemicals on health are still debated, there is some evidence that balance is key to staying healthy.

Even consuming fairly small amounts of nitrates has been shown to have positive effects such as reducing blood pressure and improving heart function. However, the nitric oxide which is produced has also been suggested to have negative effects on cells. It may not have been solved yet, but it’s clear that diet has more of an impact on your health than you might think!

On top of this, it is now accepted that “bad” oral bacteria exist in healthy mouths in low numbers. Oral disease isn’t actually the result of outside infection, but of something causing this bacteria to multiply out of control.

One particular dental issue caused by diet is caries. Carbohydrates in diet can be fermented into acids by oral bacteria, which leads to the demineralization of the tooth enamel. This then causes caries.

This isn’t to say you should stop eating carbs entirely! People have eaten them for centuries without having to much trouble, and they’re a great source of energy. However, sugar, a carbohydrate, is now eaten in way larger quantities than your oral microbiome can deal with, which is why 92% of American adults have had caries.

If you think you may have caries, or just need to make a routine appointment, you can learn more, or contact us!

We're Your Anchorage Holistic Dentist. Here's What That Means.

We’re Your Anchorage Holistic Dentist. Here’s What That Means.

Out of all the options for dental care in Anchorage, why should you go to your local, holistic dentist?

It’s true that other dentists offer many of the same services that we do, including general and cosmetic dentistry, implants, dentures, and sedation. It’s also true that we have all the same credentials.

So what makes us so different?

Your Anchorage holistic dentist considers some traditional dentistry practices harmful to the human body, whether or not they are beneficial to the teeth and gums. We provide natural alternatives to these traditional dental treatments that promote the health of your teeth and gums without harming your overall health.

Read this article and explore the links to see what we mean. If you agree with our perspective, you may want to switch to your Anchorage holistic dentist.

Ready to make the switch to your Anchorage holistic dentist? Send us a message or give us a call at (907) 276-5522!

1. Your Holistic Dentist Cares About the Health of the Whole Body

Your dental health has a greater impact on your overall health than you may think, affecting things like:

Explore the links above that interest you. We have done a lot of research on the connections between dental health and mental and physical health. The treatments you receive at our office are designed with this information in mind and will always promote your overall health, not just your dental health.

2. Your Holistic Dentist Looks for Natural Alternatives

Whenever a dental issue arises, we will recommend the most natural, non-invasive treatment first, such as:

All these treatments are intended to cause the least damage to your mouth and body and protect you from exposure to unnecessary chemicals.

3. Your Holistic Dentist Wants to Make Change for the Better

Many of the alternative dental treatments we provide are in response to patient discomfort and illness with traditional treatments. There are two in particular that we are most passionate about.

Our primary motivation is to provide dental care that is in your best interest.

If you have found that some of these topics are important to you, we would love to talk. Let’s get you in for an appointment with your Anchorage holistic dentist. Send us a message or give us a call at (907) 276-5522!

You Can Have Sleep Apnea and Not Know It - Here Are the Signs

You Can Have Sleep Apnea and Not Know It – Here Are the Signs

It is estimated that 80% of people who have moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea go undiagnosed. That’s a shocking statistic when you consider how detrimental sleep apnea can be to one’s quality of life!

As an integrative dentist, I (Dr. Mandanas) have a few ways to identify patients who are more likely to have sleep apnea than others. I cannot provide diagnoses, but by looking at facial structures, I can tell you if it might be a good idea for you to ask your doctor about sleep apnea. I also have some alternative treatment methods for patients who suffer from diagnosed sleep apnea but cannot tolerate CPAP!

Early Warning Signs of Sleep Apnea

If you are reading this blog, it is likely that you have already done some research into the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea. Snoring, choking at night, and chronic exhaustion during the day are all important symptoms that should not be ignored, but the root cause of sleep apnea is actually in the anatomy of the jaw and tongue.

1. Retrognathia (Poor Jaw Alignment)

Retrognathia is a developmental deficiency affecting the lower jaw where it is set back further than it should be. In a properly aligned jaw, a ruler can be set against the chin, lips, and nose such that all three of these facial features touch the ruler in an almost perfect line with each other. Here is an example of a properly aligned jaw (after) versus a retrognathic jaw (before):

Source: Deskgram

When the lower jaw is set back, the tongue and other mouth tissues are pushed backwards in the throat, creating the airway blockage that causes sleep apnea.

2. High Tongue Placement

You might think that a tongue is a tongue, and that all tongues operate pretty much the same way. That is not entirely true! Different people have different anatomical structure of the face, making some tongues set higher and lower in the mouth than others. People who have high tongues tend to have more trouble with sleep apnea. When we sleep, the muscles in our mouth relax and our tongue collapses into the back of our throat. In a mouth with a high tongue, it is more likely this will cause airway blockage.

3. Mouth Breathing

Mouth breathing can be a bad habit that you were never able to kick or it can be the cause of a developmental deficiency such misalignment of the upper jaw or a collapsed arch. Either way, if someone is a mouth breather, it is likely that they also suffer from sleep apnea.

The tonsils in the back of the throat are filters designed to catch bacteria and fight it off. Your tonsils can usually handle the amount of bacteria you throw at them on a given day, that is, unless your mouth is open 24/7. Mouth breathing can cause swelling of the tonsils that block the airways.

4. Tongue Positioning

The tongue is a powerful muscle. Ever wondered why the top of you mouth fits your tongue just right? You might think you were born that way, but the reality is, your tongue has been hard at work over the course of your life applying slow but steady pressure to shape your mouth for a perfect fit.

Some people do not have as much luck, and their tongue does not fit in the top of their mouth. This is called a collapsed arch, and it is caused by not positioning one’s tongue in the right place in the mouth. The tongue is supposed to rest on the top palate just behind the front teeth. Improper tongue positioning can cause collapsed arches and mouth breathing, both of which can cause sleep apnea.

If you are experiencing any of these signs–especially combined with other symptoms of sleep apnea–you are probably wondering what can be done! At Mandanas Dental, we provide an alternative treatment to the CPAP machine called a mandibular advancement device (MAD). The device is comfortable and easy to use. Learn more about our sleep apnea services!

What Is the Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique? Get SMART About Your Fillings

What Is the Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique? Get SMART About Your Fillings

In a previous article, we discussed five reasons why you should get your mercury amalgam fillings removed. We mentioned that our own Dr. Mandanas is trained in the safe removal of mercury amalgam. But what does that mean?

The Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique or “SMART” was developed by the International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology (IAOMT) as a set of scientific research-backed safety recommendations and protective measures for the removal of mercury amalgam silver fillings. It was built on traditional practices of safe removal combined with new conventions as scientific research continues to make new discoveries regarding mercury amalgam fillings. The technique protects both people and the environment from the harmful impact of mercury vapors and amalgam particulate. It is presented as a set of recommendations and not requirements, so it is up to the discretion of licensed practitioners to determine how they will use SMART in their practice. For this reason, it is important for you, the patient to be educated in SMART so that you can be an advocate for your own safety and the safety of those around you!

The Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique (SMART)

The Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique is fully outlined by the IAOMT but it can be summarized into ten steps. Be sure to view the IAOMT’s detailed outline for a complete understanding of the SMART process. Generally speaking, SMART involves the following requirements:

  1. In order to prevent mercury amalgam from getting into the liquid waste of the dental office and releasing into the environment, the dentist should install an amalgam separator in their wastewater system.
  2. The room where the mercury amalgam removal procedure occurs should have proper air filtration systems in place and any windows should be opened to remove the mercury vapor and amalgam particles released by the procedure.
  3. Before the procedure, the patient should be given a mixture of charcoal (or a similar absorbent material) and water to rinse and swallow unless she declines or if she has a medical reason now to take it.
  4. The patient, dentist, and dental personnel involved in the procedure should all be wearing protective gowns and covers to protect them from mercury amalgam particulate.
    • The dentist and dental personnel should also be wearing non-latex nitrile gloves, face shields, hair/head coverings, and a proper mask.
    • The patient should also be wearing a nasal mask, a non-latex nitrile dental dam, and a saliva ejector beneath the dental dam.
  5. An oral aerosol vacuum should be used within two to four inches of the patient’s mouth.
  6. Significant amounts of water and an evacuation device should be used to reduce heat and capture mercury discharges.
  7. The mercury amalgam should be removed in as large of pieces as possible.
  8. After the procedure, the patient’s mouth should be thoroughly flushed with water and rinsed a second time with the charcoal mixture.
  9. The dentist and the dental personnel should comply with all federal, state, and local regulations for the proper cleaning and disposal of all mercury-affected clothes, covers, equipment, and surfaces.
  10. Protective equipment should continue to be used during the maintenance of the suction system.

If you are interested in getting your mercury amalgam fillings safely removed, get in touch with Dr. Mandanas! As mentioned previously, Dr. Mandanas is fully trained in the SMART process and she will be an advocate with you for your safety. Dr. Mandanas is an integrative dentist who views the body as a whole and cares about the effects of dental materials, including mercury amalgam, on the rest of the body.