Posts for category: Oral Health

ReducingInflammationCouldBenefitYourMouthandYourHeart

February is all about hearts—and not just on Valentine's Day. It's also American Heart Month, when healthcare professionals focus attention on this life-essential organ. Dentists are among those providers, and for good reason—dental health is deeply intertwined with heart health.

The thread that often binds them together is inflammation, a key factor in both periodontal (gum) and cardiovascular diseases. In and of itself, inflammation is a vital part of the body's ability to heal. Diseased or injured tissues become inflamed to isolate them from healthier tissues. But too much inflammation for too long can be destructive rather than therapeutic.

This is especially true with gum disease, an infection triggered by bacteria in dental plaque, a thin film that forms on the surface of teeth. If it's not substantially removed through daily brushing and flossing, along with regular dental cleanings, bacteria can grow and increase the risk of gum disease.

The infected gum tissues soon become inflamed as the body responds. This defensive response, however, can quickly evolve into a stalemate as the infection advances and the inflammation becomes chronic.

Arteries associated with the heart can also develop their own form of plaque, which accumulates on the inner walls. The body likewise responds with inflammation, which further hardens and narrows these vessels, leading to restricted blood flow and an increased risk for heart attack or stroke.

While it may seem like these are two different disease mechanisms, the same inflammatory response occurs in both. In fact, recent research seems to indicate that inflammation occurring via gum disease increases the likelihood of inflammation within the cardiovascular system. So, the presence of gum disease could worsen a heart-related condition—and vice-versa.

But the research also contains a silver lining. Controlling inflammation related to your gums could help control it elsewhere in the body, including with the heart. And, you can achieve that control by avoiding or reducing gum disease, which in turn can ease inflammation in your gums.

To sum it up, then, taking care of your teeth by brushing and flossing daily and seeing your dentist regularly to prevent gum disease could benefit your heart health. And, effectively managing chronic heart disease could also help you avoid an infection involving your gums.

You should also be alert to any signs your gums may be infected, including swollen, reddened or sensitive gums that seem to bleed easily. If you notice anything like this, see your dentist ASAP—the sooner you receive treatment, the easier it will be to get the infection—and inflammation—under control. Your gums—and perhaps your heart—will thank you.

If you would like more information about the links between dental disease and the rest of your health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Link Between Heart & Gum Diseases.”

DontWaittoHaveYourChildsMouthBreathingCheckedandTreated

It's normal for your child to breathe through their mouth if they're winded from play, or if they have a stuffy nose from an occasional cold. But what if they're doing it all the time, even at rest? That could be a problem for their overall health—and their oral health as well.

Although we can breathe through both the nose and the mouth, our bodies naturally prefer the former. The nasal passages filter out allergens and other harmful particles, as well as warm and humidify incoming air. Nose breathing also helps generate nitric oxide, a highly beneficial molecule to physical health.

We switch to mouth breathing when we're not receiving sufficient air through the nose. For chronic mouth breathers, something has obstructed or restricted the nasal passages like allergies or enlarged tonsils or adenoids.

Mouth breathing especially can affect a child's oral health because of the relationship between the tongue and jaw development. During nose breathing, the tongue rests against the roof of the mouth (palate), where it serves as a kind of mold around which the growing upper jaw can develop.

When breathing through the mouth, however, the tongue falls against the back of the bottom teeth. If this becomes chronic, the jaw may develop too narrowly, depriving the incoming teeth of enough room to erupt and leading to a poor bite.

If you notice things like your child's mouth falling open while at rest, snoring, irritability or problems with concentration (associated with poor sleep due to blocked nasal passages), then consider having a doctor examine them for a possible nasal obstruction. You should also check with your dentist to see if your child's jaw development has been affected. If caught early, there are interventional measures that could get it back on track.

Even after correction of a nasal obstruction, a child may still find it difficult to readapt to nose breathing because of a "muscle memory" for breathing through the mouth. In that case, they may need orofacial therapy to retrain their muscles for nose breathing.

It's important to stay aware of any signs of chronic mouth breathing with your child. Diagnosing and treating the condition early could help them avoid other problems later in life.

If you would like more information on the effects of mouth breathing on jaw development, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Trouble With Mouth Breathing.”

VictoriaBeckhamsToothsomeCollection-AllofHerChildrensBabyTeeth

In one respect, celebrities are no different from the rest of us—quite a few famous people love to collect things. Marie Osmond collects dolls (as well as Johnny Depp, reportedly); Leonardo DiCaprio, vintage toys. And, of course, Jay Leno has his famous fleet of cars. But Victoria Beckham's collection is unusually "familial"—she's kept all of her four children's "baby" teeth after they've fallen out.

Best known as Posh Spice of the 1990s group Spice Girls and now a fashion designer and TV personality, Beckham told People Magazine that she has an "entire bucket" of her kids' primary teeth. And, she recently added to it when her nine-year old daughter lost another tooth earlier this year.

You may or may not want to keep your child's baby teeth, but you'll certainly have the opportunity. Children start losing their first set of teeth around age 6 or 7 through early puberty. During the process, each tooth's roots and gum attachment weakens to the point that the tooth becomes noticeably loose. Not long after, it gives way and falls out.

Although a baby tooth doesn't normally need any help with this, children (and sometimes parents) are often eager to accelerate the process. A loose tooth can be annoying—plus there's often a financial incentive via the "Tooth Fairy!"

First off, there's not much harm in a child wiggling a loose tooth—it may even help it come out. It's also possible to help the tooth safely detach sooner by taking a small piece of tissue, folding it over the tooth and giving it a gentle downward squeeze. If it's loose enough, it should pop out.

If it doesn't, don't resort to more forcible measures like the proverbial string and a door—just wait a day or two before trying the gentle squeeze method again. Once the tooth comes out, the empty socket may bleed a bit or not at all. If heavy bleeding does occur, have the child bite down on a piece of clean gauze or a wet tea bag until it stops. You may also have them eat softer foods for a few days to avoid a resumption of bleeding.

Beyond that, there's little else to do but place it under your child's pillow for the Tooth Fairy. And if after their "exchange" with that famous member of the Fae Folk you find yourself in possession of the erstwhile tooth, consider taking a cue from Victoria Beckham and add it to your own collection of family memories.

If you would like more information about losing baby teeth, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Importance of Baby Teeth.”

TheresMoreWeCanDoAboutToothDecayBesidesDrillandFill

Until recently, the standard treatment for tooth decay remained essentially the same for nearly a century: Remove any decayed structure, then prepare and fill the cavity. But that singular protocol has begun to change recently.

Although "drilling and filling" saves teeth, it doesn't fully address the causes of decay. In response, dentists have broadened their approach to the disease—the focus now is on an individual patient's particular set of risk factors for decay and how to reduce those.

At the heart of this new approach is a better understanding of oral bacteria, the true cause of decay. Bacteria produce acid, which can erode tooth enamel and create a gateway into the tooth for decay to advance. We therefore want to lower those risk factors that may lead to bacterial growth and elevated acidity.

One of our major objectives in this newer approach is to reduce plaque, a thin film of food particles used by bacteria for food and habitation. Removing plaque, principally through better oral hygiene, in turn reduces decay-causing bacteria.

Plaque isn't the only mechanism for bacterial growth and acidity. Appliances like dentures or retainers accumulate bacteria if not regularly cleaned. Reduced saliva flow, often due to certain medications or smoking, limits this fluid's ability to buffer acid and acid reflux or acidic beverages like sodas, sports or energy drinks can disrupt the mouth's normal pH and increase the risk for enamel erosion.

Our aim, then, is to develop a long-term strategy based on the patient's individual set of oral disease risk factors. To determine those, we'll need to examine their medical history (including family), current health status and lifestyle habits. From there, we can create a specific plan targeting the identified risk factors for decay.

Some of the elements of such a strategy might include:

  • Daily brushing and flossing, along with regular dental cleanings;
  • Fluoride dental products or treatments to strengthen enamel;
  • Changes in diet and excess snacking, and ceasing from any tobacco use;
  • Cleaning and maintaining appliances, as well as monitoring past dental work.

Improving the mouth environment by limiting the presence of oral bacteria and acid can reduce the occurrence of tooth decay and the extent of treatment that might be needed. It's a more nuanced approach that can improve dental health.

If you would like more information on tooth decay prevention and treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Decay: How to Assess Your Risk.”

KickingtheSmokingHabitBoostsYourHealthIncludingTeethandGums

Quitting smoking is hard. The love affair between your brain and nicotine chains the habit to your daily life. But it's still worth the effort to quit to save your health from disease—including those that impact your teeth and gums. And, there's no time better to launch your "kick the habit" project than the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout day this November 18.

As to smoking's impact on your teeth and gums: Two-thirds of America's 32 million smokers contend with gum disease. A smoker's risk for tooth decay is also higher, as well as their prospects for implant failure.

So, why is smoking hazardous to your oral health?

Primarily, nicotine constricts oral blood vessels, which in turn reduces the nutrients and antibodies reaching the teeth and gums. Your mouth thus struggles to fight bacteria that cause tooth decay or gum disease.

Inadequate blood circulation can also hide signs of gum disease like swollen, reddened or bleeding gums. Instead, a smoker's gums may look deceivingly healthy, although you may have a gum infection that could be well advanced when it's finally diagnosed.

Gum or bone grafting also depends on good blood flow, or the grafts may not fully regenerate new tissue. The situation's similar for an implant: Its titanium post needs bone to grow and adhere to its surface to acquire sufficient strength and stability. But slow wound healing due to poor circulation can interfere with this process and cause an implant to fail.

For your mouth's sake, as well as the rest of your body, quitting smoking could help you avoid these problems. But as an ingrained, addictive habit, your body needs to "unlearn" it to stop it. Here are some ideas to help make that process easier.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy. Under your doctor's guidance, you can take medications that deliver nicotine to the body without smoking, and gradually reduce its concentration. This approach can be costly, however, and cause unpleasant side effects.

Brand fading. With this technique, you continuously switch to cigarette brands with less nicotine. This gradually acclimates your body to lower concentrations of the chemical, and eventually wean off it entirely. Here's an online site listing nicotine strength by brand.

Don't do it alone. Quitting smoking doesn't need to be a solo act. Developing relationships with those who don't smoke or who are also quitting can make it easier. One way is to attend a smoking cessation group for support and encouragement from others who're also trying to quit.

Above all, speak with your doctor or dentist to learn more about what you can do to stop smoking. It can be difficult, but the rewards—especially for your oral health—are well worth it.

If you would like more information about smoking and oral health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Strategies to Stop Smoking.”