A Closer Look At Our Teeth

Park Ridge DentistWE USE OUR TEETH all day, every day, for chewing, talking, and flashing big smiles at friends and family, but what are the structures that allow our teeth to do so much? Let’s take a look at what our teeth are made of.

Layer 1: Tooth Enamel

The portion of each tooth that we can see above our gum tissue is the crown, and it has three different layers. On the outside is a protective layer of enamel, the hardest substance in our entire bodies. It has to be so that we can chew our food effectively. Unlike bone, enamel isn’t made of living cells, so it can’t repair itself as easily. It’s also vulnerable to acid erosion. We can protect it with regular brushing and flossing, dental visits, and by cutting down on acidic and sugary foods and drinks.

Layer 2: Dentin

Underneath that hard layer of enamel is dentin, which is softer and more yellowish. Like bone, dentin is calcified living tissue. Microscopic tubules run through it from the pulp to the enamel, which is how we are able to feel temperature in our teeth. If you’re experiencing tooth sensitivity, your enamel might have worn down enough to expose these tubules.

Layer 3: Dental Pulp

At the very core of each tooth is a chamber containing dental pulp, tissue consisting of nerves and blood vessels that keep the tooth alive and give sensation. This includes pain receptors that warn us when something is wrong with the tooth, such as tooth decay reaching the pulp.

Getting Down To The Roots

Like with icebergs, there’s more to teeth than we can see on the surface. The root extends deep into the jawbone, held in place by tiny periodontal ligaments and supported by gum tissue. The roots themselves are hollow. Nerves and blood vessels run through canals in the roots up to the pulp chamber in the crown.

Unlike the crown, the root of the tooth isn’t protected by enamel. Instead, it’s covered in a slightly softer substance called cementum. Cementum and healthy gum tissue work together to protect the root,but gum recession can leave it vulnerable.

Taking Care Of The Whole Tooth

We need all of these components for our teeth to stay strong and healthy, which is why we should keep oral health and hygiene as a high priority. Regular dental appointments and good brushing and flossing habits are essential for taking care of the outside of our teeth, and good nutrition helps keep them strong from the inside out!

Thank you for being part of our practice family!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

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Nitrous Oxide: Having A Gas At The Dentist

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MOST OF US HAVE at least heard of laughing gas, the whimsically-nicknamed sedation method used by dentists, even if we haven’t had it ourselves. But what exactly is laughing gas, and why is it so closely associated with dentistry?

Nitrous Oxide From Discovery To Dentistry

Laughing gas is a colorless, odorless gas. It consists of two nitrogen atoms and one oxygen atom bonded together. The way it works is not entirely clear, but studies do indicate that it reduces a patient’s perception of pain and increases the release of dopamine.

In 1772, Joseph Priestly first isolated the compound nitrous oxide. It wasn’t until 1799 that Humphry Davy discovered the relaxing, euphoria-inducing effects that earned it the name laughing gas. Several decades later, in the 1860s in Germany, nitrous oxide found its place in dentistry, and we still use it today.

Is Laughing Gas Safe?

The nitrous oxide used in a medical setting is very safe, because exposure is carefully controlled. The masks dentists use to administer the gas first delivers pure oxygen, followed by a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide. The limited exposure produces temporary effects that reduce pain and help the patient relax during a procedure. In rare cases, it may cause side effects like headaches, shivering, sweating, nausea, or fatigue.

Recreational use of nitrous oxide, on the other hand, is no laughing matter because few to none of the factors that make it safe in a medical context are present. The gas is kept cold enough to cause frostbite to the mouth, nose, and throat if inhaled directly, and it is stored at such high pressure that it can damage the lungs. Outside of a medical professional’s hands, laughing gas can also cause asphyxiation because it isn’t properly mixed with oxygen.

Laughing Gas Versus Dental Anxiety

For patients who suffer from dental anxiety, laughing gas can be especially helpful. Foregoing dental treatment because of anxiety and fear will only give the problem time to become worse. Laughing gas is one option to help anxious patients relax and feel comfortable during a dental procedure, or even during a routine dental appointment.

Still Have Questions About Laughing Gas? Just Ask!

If you’d like to know more about the effects of laughing gas and its uses in dentistry, we are happy to answer your questions! Give us a call or schedule an appointment so that we can discuss this and any other dental health concerns you may have.

Our patients’ comfort is one of our highest priorities!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

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What To Look For In A Toothbrush

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ON THE SURFACE, a toothbrush seems like just another item on the grocery list, but choosing the best one for you can be tricky. There are several factors to take into account, such as bristle softness, grip feel, head size, and whether to stick with manual or go electric. That’s why we’re here to help make your selection process easier!

Toothbrush Qualities To Look For

Have you ever noticed that the toothbrushes you bring home from dentist appointments have very soft bristles? This is no accident. Hard bristles might seem like they’re better equipped to clean away plaque, but they could be damaging your teeth and gums while they’re at it. We recommend choosing a toothbrush with soft bristles. This is particularly important for anyone with sensitive teeth or gums.

The next thing to look for is the size of the brush head. Mouths and teeth come in different sizes depending on age and genetics, which is why toothbrush heads have a range of sizes available. Find the toothbrush that matches the size of your mouth. Just like bristle hardness isn’t an indication of effectiveness, having more bristles doesn’t make the brush better if it won’t fit easily around your teeth.

You might think that a toothbrush’s handle is its least important part, but a toothbrush with the wrong kind of handle is a difficult toothbrush to use. Is your toothbrush comfortable to hold and easy to maneuver, or does it slip in your hand? The better you are able to hold your toothbrush, the better it can clean your teeth. This is a particularly crucial consideration for people with arthritis or other conditions that make it difficult to grip objects.


Manual Or Electric?

This is one of the biggest debates when it comes to choosing a new toothbrush. A lot of people swear by their electric brushes while others claim manual ones are better. Some electric toothbrushes can do a better job of removing plaque, but it’s up to you to decide if that is worth the greatly increased price tag. Electric toothbrushes can be particularly beneficial to orthodontic patients who have to brush around braces, people with dexterity problems, and even children!

Out With The Old Toothbrush, In With The New

Regardless of what type of toothbrush you have, remember to always replace it between three and six months, and store it upright somewhere it can fully dry between uses. If you still have questions about what to look for in a toothbrush, just ask us! We want to make sure all our patients have the best tools for keeping their teeth healthy and clean.

Put that new toothbrush to good use!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

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Side-Effects: Medications And Oral Health

MEDICAL PROBLEMS ARE things none of us ask for but many of us have, and with medical problems come medications. Unfortunately, along with medications come side-effects, and these often have a negative impact on oral health.

The Delicate Balance Of Our Mouths

Our oral health does best when our mouths can stay close to a neutral pH — neither acidic nor basic. The food and drink we consume tends to temporarily disrupt this pH balance, and so does medicine. When children eat chewable vitamins or drink syrupy medicine that contains sugar, it feeds their oral bacteria, which excrete acid onto their teeth. This acid wears away at their tooth enamel.

Another common problem with children’s medication comes from asthma inhalers, which can lead to the development of oral thrush (white fungus patches in the mouth). The easiest way to avoid any of these issues is to encourage our children to rinse with water after eating vitamins, using their inhalers, or drinking cough syrup.

Oral Side-Effects Of Medications

Even if the medication doesn’t do any damage while you’re ingesting it, it can still be harmful to your mouth over time, so let’s look at some of the side-effects that might show up after starting a new medication.

  • Dry Mouth. This is the most common oral side-effect of over-the-counter and prescribed medications. Our saliva is our first line of defense against bad oral bacteria, and when it dries up, it leaves us vulnerable to tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Abnormal bleeding. Some medications contain blood thinning components, and this makes it easier for us to bleed. If you start noticing more bleeding from your gums after brushing, it could be because of the medication.
  • Inflamed gums. Gingival overgrowth (or excessive growth of gum tissue) is a side-effect of several medications, and it increases the risk of gum disease.
  • Change in taste. Heart medications, nervous system stimulants, and anti-inflammatory drugs can leave a bitter or metallic taste in your mouth or interfere with your sense of taste in general. While unpleasant, this side-effect isn’t necessarily serious.
  • Bone loss. In rare cases, drugs used to treat osteoporosis can cause a loss of bone tissue in the jaw, putting patients at risk of tooth loss and gum recession.

Your Dentist Can Help!

No matter what medication you take on a regular basis, whether prescription or over-the-counter, it’s critical that your dentist knows about them. Sometimes, the oral health side-effects can be minimized or stopped, but only if the dentist knows! So if you’re taking medications, especially if you’ve noticed any of the above problems, make sure to mention them during your next dental appointment!

Remember to speak up about your medications!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth The Healthy Way

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EVERYONE LOVES A good sweet snack once in a while, but unfortunately, that includes the bacteria in our mouths. Those little germs’ favorite food in the world is sugary treats, and the more sugar they get, the more they put our teeth at risk of tooth decay. So how can you satisfy your sweet tooth without giving your harmful oral bacteria a treat? By snacking healthy!

A Few Healthy Treats To Enjoy

Sometimes it seems like the healthy snacks are the ones that take longer to make or cost more, but that isn’t always true! So before you reach for that jelly-filled doughnut or bowl of ice cream, take a look at some of these quick, affordable, tasty options that are better for your teeth:

  • Coconut whipped cream with strawberries. Coconuts are exceptional bacteria killers and they can also reduce the amount of plaque build up, and strawberries are great for scrubbing away plaque too! Coconut whipped cream is a great substitute for dairy whipped cream because it’s low in sugar and high in healthy fats.
  • Frozen dark chocolate bananas. This treat is great because bananas are full of important nutrients that help keep teeth and gums strong, and dark chocolate is good for your teeth too. (You could also switch things up and put the coconut whipped cream on the bananas and the dark chocolate on the strawberries!)
  • Fruit smoothies with yogurt and applesauce. Toss your favorite fruits in a blender, but instead of adding sugar or ice cream, use unsweetened applesauce and frozen yogurt for a refreshing smoothie that is low in sugar!
  • Yogurt and granola. Yogurt is one of the best sources of probiotics. Crowd out that harmful bacteria in your mouth with the good bacteria in yogurt. Yogurt is also a great source of calcium for building strong teeth.
  • Fruit Bowls. You can never go wrong by throwing together a bowl of berries and sliced fruit. While fruit does contain natural sugar, eating it whole is much healthier than drinking fruit juice (which isn’t much better for your teeth than soda). The fiber in the whole fruit makes it harder for the sugar to reach your teeth (or your digestive system!), and you get all the great vitamins too!

Check out this video for a brownie recipe that leaves out the refined sugar!


Want More Healthy Snack Ideas?

If you like these healthy treats and want more, we can help you find them! From sugar substitutes in baking to easy on-the-go snacks, we have you covered! And don’t forget to keep up your other good oral health habits, such as brushing twice daily for two minutes, flossing, and scheduling those regular dental appointments!

And don’t worry, we have sweet teeth too!

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The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Five Types Of Dental Fillings

dentist in park ridgeIT’S NEVER A GREAT feeling when the dentist tells you that you have a cavity, especially when you’ve been diligently brushing and flossing to keep your teeth healthy. The next step after a cavity is discovered is typically a dental filling. Fillings come in several different materials that have their own advantages and disadvantages, so let’s take a look!

1. The Classic: Amalgam Fillings

Amalgam fillings are what you might think of as “silver” dental fillings, though they’re actually composed of a mixture of tin, copper, silver, and mercury. They have been used for over 150 years! The reason dentists have been using them for so long is that they are strong and long-lasting, and they are also the least expensive option. However, they’re very noticeable and tend to darken over time, so if you want something that blends in, amalgam fillings probably aren’t the ones you want.

2. Low Profile: Composite Fillings

Composite dental fillings are made of acrylic resin and powdered glass. Unlike amalgam fillings, they can be colored to match your teeth, which is part of what makes them so popular. They do wear out faster, though, and aren’t always the best choice for teeth that take the greatest chewing pressure.

3. Putting On The Ritz: Gold Fillings

Gold fillings aren’t made of pure gold, just like amalgam fillings aren’t made of pure silver, but they are some of the most durable fillings available, capable of lasting more than two decades. They can’t corrode like amalgam fillings, and they’re very strong. Unfortunately, they are also very expensive, costing between six and ten times more than amalgam fillings.

4. Delicate Yet Realistic: Ceramic Fillings

Ceramic fillings are mostly made of porcelain. This makes them another low-profile option, and not only are they tooth-colored, they’re also stain-resistant! The drawbacks of ceramic fillings are that they are more brittle than composite fillings, and they are also nearly as expensive as gold.

5. Down To The Roots: Glass Ionomer Fillings

The final type of filling is resin or glass ionomer fillings. These are made of acrylic and fluoroaluminosilicate, a component of glass. They are typically used as cement for inlay fillings, for fillings in the front teeth, and for fillings when the decay extends into the root of the tooth. They are also used on baby teeth. Weaker than composite resin, glass ionomer fillings might only last around five years, and they don’t match the color of teeth as closely.

No matter what filling you get, your tooth will still need plenty of love and care!

 

 

Bring Your Questions To The Experts!

Still have questions about the different types of fillings? Just ask us! You should also come see us if you’ve noticed any problems with existing fillings, such as damage or a separation between the filling and the tooth. A loose or damaged filling could lead to worse complications for the tooth, so don’t wait to schedule your appointment!

We love our patients!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

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The Big Scoop On Tooth Sensitivity

park ridge family dentistDO YOU GET a painful jolt through your teeth every time you try to enjoy a bite of ice cream or a sip of fresh coffee? If you do, then you’re familiar with the woes of tooth sensitivity, and you’re not alone. More than half of adults between the ages of 20 and 50 experience some degree of sensitivity in their teeth, and children can have sensitive teeth too.

So why does this happen? Well, to understand tooth sensitivity, it helps to know about the structure of a tooth and how the different layers function.

The Anatomy Of A Tooth

The crown of each tooth is covered in a thin layer of hard enamel. Beneath the enamel is dentin, a bony substance with thousands of microscopic tubules running through it. These tubules are how the nerves in the pulp at the core of each tooth can detect what’s going on at the surface.

Causes Of Sensitivity

Most often, tooth sensitivity occurs when the enamel wears away, which could be the result of teeth grinding, erosion from acid, or even improper brushing. Without enamel, the tubules in the dentin become exposed. Once that happens, eating or drinking anything hot or cold — sometimes even sweet or sour — will give the tooth a nasty shock.

Another major cause of sensitivity is root exposure. Teeth roots don’t have that layer of enamel; their main defense is the gums. Gum recession, which can also be caused by teeth grinding or improper brushing, leaves the roots vulnerable. Other causes of sensitivity include cavities and having a chipped or fractured tooth.

How You Can Protect Your Teeth

If you do have sensitive teeth, there are several ways to fight back. First, start using a soft-bristled brush if you aren’t already, because hard bristles may further damage the enamel and gum tissue. You can also switch to a toothpaste specifically formulated for sensitive teeth. We recommend Sensodyne and ProEnamel.  Finally, avoid sugary or acidic foods and drinks, particularly soft drinks.

What Our Practice Can Do

Make sure to come to us if you begin experiencing tooth sensitivity, even if your next regular appointment is months away. We can strengthen your teeth with a fluoride varnish, perform dental restoration work on areas with enamel loss, recommend a gum graft to cover exposed roots, or prescribe a desensitizing toothpaste. We’ll also make sure there aren’t any other problems with your teeth!

We’re here to make sure your smile stays healthy and strong!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Childhood Tooth Injuries

dentist in park ridgeWHEN WE PICTURE the ideal childhood, we usually think of children playing on playgrounds and exploring nature with their friends. They discover the world around them, imagine fantastical worlds beyond it, play games, and make friendships that could last a lifetime. As wonderful as that image is, it often comes with bruises and scraped knees — and, sometimes, tooth injuries.

So what can parents do to minimize their children’s risk of tooth injuries while they play? It’s easy enough to remember a mouth guard during actual sporting activities, but sports games and practice aren’t the only situations that can lead to a lost or chipped tooth.

Home And Play Tooth Safety Tips 

Here are a few simple tips for keeping your children’s teeth safe around the house and when playing with friends.

  • With babies and toddlers, the most common culprit for tooth injuries is the bathtub. Never leave a young child unattended in the bathtub, because they could easily slip and hurt their teeth.
  • When your child is playing with friends and using objects such as frisbees or balls, have a discussion with them about safety. Make sure they know how important it is not to aim for each other’s heads.
  • Using playground equipment like the monkey bars, jungle gym, and swings can easily lead to tooth injuries. Make sure to talk to your children before they start playing so that they will know to be careful.

Adult supervision and open conversations about safety are the most crucial components of reducing the risk of injury. By utilizing them, you could help your child avoid the need for major dental work. Just as important in that regard are their daily brushing and flossing habits and their regular dental checkups, because healthy teeth are harder to injure.

What To Do When Accidents Happen

While it is possible to reduce the risks of your child injuring a tooth, not all accidents are preventable. In the event a tooth does get knocked out or chipped, don’t panic. If the tooth isn’t already loose when it gets knocked out, and especially if it’s an adult tooth, try to put it back in place and come straight to the dentist. This will give it the best chance for reattachment.

If it isn’t possible to put the tooth back in place, the next best thing is to place it in a glass of milk to keep the root alive. In any case, bring your child to the dentist as quickly as possible. The faster you arrive at the dentist, the better the chances are of saving the toothDo not clean the tooth or put it in water! This will kill the root!

 

 

They Grow Up So Fast

Childhood never seems to last as long as we, the parents, wish it would. Our practice can’t make it last longer, but we hope this advice will help make it a little safer. If you have any questions for us about child tooth safety, feel free to ask or come see us. If not, we look forward to seeing you and your child at their next regular check-up!

Be careful with those teeth, but don’t forget to have fun!

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The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Teaching Your Child To Floss

family dentist park ridgeFLOSSING IS AN ESSENTIAL part of keeping our teeth clean and healthy. So how do we pass this crucial habit on to our children? This is one hurdle of parenting we’re happy to help you clear!

Why Does Flossing Matter?

You might wonder why it’s so important to include flossing when it’s hard enough to get your children to brush. Keeping baby teeth healthy is crucial because they are placeholders for adult teeth, and a toothbrush alone simply cannot get rid of all the decay-causing plaque lurking in between them. Just as important is that the earlier children learn good dental hygiene habits, the easier it will be for them to continue those habits into their teens and adulthood.

When To Start Flossing

Your child probably won’t have the dexterity to floss their own teeth until they’re around five years old, but as soon as they have teeth that are close together (usually around two and a half years old), you should start flossing for them. Try to floss each night so you can create a daily habit with them. Consistency is crucial to helping them see it as simply part of their day.

Flossing With Your Child

Knowing how to floss your own teeth and teaching a small child how to floss are very different things. Here are a few tips to make it easier.

  • If you begin gently flossing their teeth daily while they’re still toddlers, they should be used to it and maybe even eager to take the reins by the time they’re old enough to try it themselves.
  • Explain why flossing is so important. If your child understands the purpose behind flossing, it will help motivate them to do it.
  • When they’re ready to try it, show them how to pull out the right amount of floss (about a foot and a half), and loosely wrap it around their middle fingers to hold it in place, leaving an inch or two of floss to get up close between the teeth.
  • Help them gently insert the floss between their teeth using a back and forth motion without snapping their gums. Curving the floss around each tooth in a C-shape will make the process more gentle.
  • Teach them to always move the strand along so that they’re using clean floss on each tooth. If they’re using the same part of the floss the whole time, they’re just moving the plaque around instead of removing it!
  • Emphasize that flossing is something that big kids do, and encourage them to do it by themselves once they have the hang of it. They’ll be excited to do something so grown up!

If your child is struggling to figure out flossing, an easier alternative to traditional floss is using flossers or floss picks. They’re more expensive than floss, but they also require much less coordination.

Need A Professional Demonstration?

Building good dental hygiene habits is about more than teaching them the right technique. It’s also about giving them the right perspective: dental hygiene isn’t an unpleasant chore, it’s quick and easy and makes our teeth feel great! If you’re struggling to convince your child of the importance of good dental hygiene, maybe a fun, professional demonstration at Davis & Engert Dentistry can help!

We’re happy to help you train a new generation of daily flossers!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Saliva: Oral Health’s MVP

park ridge ilSALIVA IS SUCH an ordinary thing that you probably haven’t given it much thought, but it’s actually as important to the healthy function of our mouths as oil is to a working car engine. Saliva is an essential component of our ability to eat, taste our favorite foods, and speak, it’s crucial to a healthy immune system, and it’s our first line of defense against many oral health problems.

Saliva Production And Stages

In a healthy mouth, saliva is produced continuously by the salivary glands, which are located under our tongues and in our cheeks. These glands produce between two and six cups of saliva every day! Saliva is 98-99 percent water, and the rest consists of proteins, digestive enzymes, antimicrobial factors, and electrolytes.

Depending on where food is in the digestive process, saliva goes through a few different stages: cephalic, buccal, oesophageal, gastric, and intestinal. When you smell something delicious and your mouth waters, that’s the cephalic stage! Actually eating moves it to the buccal stage, which helps us swallow food. The oesophageal stage helps move swallowed food down the esophagus.

The last two stages are less pleasant, but still important. If you’re about to throw up, your salivary glands work overtime in the gastric stage so that the stomach acid won’t do as much damage when it comes up and out with the partially digested food. The intestinal stage is similar, activating when the body doesn’t agree with food that reaches the upper intestine.

Saliva And Oral Health

There are many reasons we have saliva, but the most important role it plays for your teeth is keeping your mouth’s pH balanced and flushing away remnants of food to keep everything clean. Eating food tends to make our mouths more acidic, and even though the enamel on our teeth is the hardest substance in our bodies, it only takes a pH of 5.5 to start dissolving it. Many of the foods we eat are far more acidic than that, which makes saliva critical in protecting our teeth.

The antimicrobial factors in saliva also fight bacteria, protecting us against gum disease and bad breath. Growth factors in saliva are why injuries in your mouth (like a burned tongue or a bitten cheek) heal faster than injuries elsewhere on the body. And those are just the benefits to oral health, but saliva does much more.

When The Spit Runs Dry…

All of these benefits are why dry mouth is such a serious problem. It can happen for a number of reasons. Our mouths tend to go dry in stressful situations. We also tend to produce less saliva in old age. Drug use, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all cause dry mouth as well. Unfortunately, many prescription medications cause dry mouth as a side effect.

Let’s Get That Mouth Watering!

If you’ve been experiencing dry mouth for any reason, schedule an appointment with us. We can discover the cause and get that saliva flowing again so that you won’t miss out on any of its great health benefits!

Thank you for trusting in our practice!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.