Posts for category: Oral Health
If you're over thirty, you have a fifty-fifty chance of contracting gum disease and your odds worsen as you get older. But your fate isn't sealed, especially if you know what to do to prevent this harmful disease.
But before we discuss your prevention strategy, let's look first at oral bacteria, the basic cause for gum disease. Although most bacterial strains in your mouth are benign or even beneficial, a few can infect your gums. And, the more of them there are in your mouth, the higher your risk for infection.
These bacteria multiply with the help of a sticky biofilm called dental plaque, providing them a ready source of food and shelter. Plaque and its hardened form tartar accumulate daily on dental surfaces, particularly if you don't practice daily brushing and flossing.
Once a gum infection begins, the body unleashes an inflammatory response to isolate the infected tissues from healthy ones. As a result, the gums can become swollen and reddened, and may easily bleed. If you see signs like these, you should seek treatment as soon as possible to stop the infection's advance.
And, advance it will, spreading ever deeper into the gums until it threatens the supporting bone. At this point, with the gums becoming detached from the teeth and the bone compromised, the affected teeth could be in imminent danger of loss.
These basic disease processes underscore the importance of one thing—the daily removal of bacterial plaque through brushing and flossing. The bacteria that cause disease don't thrive well in an environment devoid of plaque.
But even if you're diligent about your hygiene, you may still miss some plaque; this can then calcify into tartar, which is likely impossible to remove with brushing and flossing. That's why you need dental cleanings at least every six months to remove stubborn tartar and any lingering plaque.
Regular dental visits also increase your chances of early gum disease detection. The earlier we're able to diagnose and start treating an infection, the better the outcome.
Gum disease can begin and advance quickly, sometimes without you noticing. But daily brushing and flossing, regular dental cleanings and prompt attention at the first sign of trouble can help you stay ahead of this harmful disease.
If you would like more information on preventing gum disease, 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 “How Gum Disease Gets Started.”
A popular Sixties-era hair cream touted their product with the tagline, "A little dab'll do ya!" In other words, it didn't take much to make your hair look awesome.
Something similar could be said about fluoride. Tiny amounts of this "wonder" chemical in hygiene products and drinking water are widely credited with giving people a big boost in protection against tooth decay.
A Colorado dentist is credited with first noticing fluoride's beneficial effects early in the Twentieth Century. Although many of his patients' teeth had brownish staining (more about that in a moment), he also noticed they had a low incidence of cavities. He soon traced the effect to fluoride naturally occurring in their drinking water.
Fast forward to today, and fluoride is routinely added in trace amounts to dental care products and by water utilities to the drinking water supply. It's discovery and application have been heralded as one of the top public health successes of the Twentieth Century.
Fluoride, though, seems a little too amazing for some. Over its history of use in dental care, critics of fluoride have argued the chemical contributes to severe health problems like low IQ, cancer or birth defects.
But after several decades of study, the only documented health risk posed by fluoride is a condition called fluorosis, a form of staining that gives the teeth a brown, mottled appearance (remember our Colorado residents?). It's mainly a cosmetic problem, however, and poses no substantial threat to a person's oral or general health.
And, it's easily prevented. Since it's caused by too much fluoride in prolonged contact with the teeth, fluorosis can be avoided by limiting fluoride intake to the minimum necessary to be effective. Along these lines, the U.S. Public Health Service recently reduced its recommended amounts added to drinking water 0.7 milligrams per liter (mg/L) of water. Evidence indicated fluoride's effectiveness even at these lower amounts.
You may also want to talk with your dentist about how much fluoride your family is ingesting, including from hidden sources like certain foods, infant formula or bottled water. Even if you need to reduce your family's intake of fluoride, though, a little in your life can help keep your family's teeth in good health.
If you would like more information on the benefits of fluoride in dental care, 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 “Fluoride & Fluoridation in Dentistry.”
Most childhood sicknesses are highly treatable and quickly fade from memory afterward. But there's one viral infection that can reappear years later, albeit in a different form and this time it might not be as forgettable. It could even impact your dental care.
Varicella, more commonly known as chicken pox, is a viral infection that mainly affects children. Fortunately, the itchy blisters and other symptoms associated with it usually clear up on their own. But the virus itself, varicella zoster virus (VZV), can remain behind and become dormant.
Fast-forward a few decades, and the child once with chicken pox is now an adult, usually over 50. In 20-30% of former chicken pox patients, the virus reactivates as a new infection known commonly as shingles.
Shingles often begins with an itching, burning or numbing sensation on the skin that develops into a severe rash. Because of its effect on surface nerves, the rash often takes on a striped or belt-like pattern on the skin. A shingles outbreak can also cause fever, fatigue and pain, the latter of which in rare cases can be quite severe.
Shingles in its early stages is also highly contagious, transmitted easily through either physical contact with the skin lesions or through airborne secretions. This is especially troubling for certain groups: pregnant women, patients undergoing cancer or other serious disease treatment, or those with compromised immune systems. For them, shingles can pose a significant risk for complications.
Because of its easy transmission, and the danger it can pose to certain groups, dentists typically postpone treatment—even routine dental cleanings—for patients experiencing a shingles outbreak, especially a facial rash. Once their outbreak subsides, those procedures can be rescheduled.
If you develop what you think is shingles, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Certain prescribed antiviral medications can ease the symptoms and hasten recovery, but they're most effective if started within three days of the onset of the disease. There's also an effective vaccination for shingles recommended for people over 60 to help avoid the disease altogether.
One other thing! If you do develop shingles and have an upcoming dental appointment, let your dentist know. Better to reschedule your visit after you've recuperated than to put others' health at risk.
If you would like more information on shingles and dental care, 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 “Shingles, Herpes Zoster.”
When it comes to helping your child avoid tooth decay, it's all hands on deck. Tooth decay can not only harm their current set of primary teeth, but the loss of even one tooth could lead to bite problems later on.
And, even if you're doing all the right things—daily brushing and flossing, limiting sugar consumption and regular dental visits—your child might still develop cavities. If so, it may be necessary to add a boost of prevention with topical fluoride applied by your dentist.
With its enamel-strengthening properties, fluoride plays an important role in dental disease prevention. For decades, manufacturers have added fluoride to toothpaste. And, many water utilities now add tiny amounts of fluoride to their drinking supply.
According to a number of studies, these fluoride applications are effective weapons against tooth decay. But direct applications of fluoride to tooth surfaces can provide even greater benefit to children with a higher susceptibility for decay.
Topical fluoride is usually applied by means of a gel, foam or varnish. In varnish form, it's brushed on the teeth, while dentists apply the foam solution within a tray fitted around the teeth. The gel application can be administered by either method.
Although these topical applications use a higher concentration of fluoride than you find in toothpaste, it poses no serious danger to a child's health. But because high doses of fluoride can lead to staining, topical applications are only administered periodically during childhood.
The only short-term health concern is if the child accidentally swallows some of the mixture during application. This can cause symptoms like an upset stomach, vomiting or headache. Dentists, however, take a number of precautions to prevent accidental ingestion in order to avoid these unpleasant side effects.
The benefits, though, appear to well outweigh this minor risk. In a review of several scientific studies involving nearly 10,000 children, there was an average 28% reduction in decayed, missing or filled teeth in those children that underwent topical fluoride treatments.
If you want to know more about topical fluoride treatments and whether they can help your child avoid tooth decay, talk to your dentist. This fluoride booster could help further protect them from this destructive dental disease.
If you would like more information on helping your child avoid tooth decay, 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 “Fluoride Gels Reduce Decay.”
We're all interested in how our toothpaste tastes, how it freshens breath or how it brightens teeth. But those are secondary to its most important function, which is how well our toothpaste helps us remove dental plaque, that thin bacterial film on teeth most responsible for both tooth decay and gum disease.
Daily brushing and flossing clear away dental plaque, resulting in a much lower risk for dental disease. But while the mechanical action of brushing loosens plaque, toothpaste helps complete its removal. It can do this because of two basic ingredients found in nearly every brand of toothpaste.
The first is an abrasive (or polishing agent), a gritty substance that boosts the effectiveness of the brushing action (which, by the way, alleviates the need for harmful aggressive brushing). These substances, usually hydrated silica, hydrated alumina or calcium carbonate, are abrasive enough to loosen plaque, but not enough to damage tooth enamel.
The other ingredient, a detergent, works much the same way as the product you use to wash greasy dishes—it breaks down the parts of plaque that water can't dissolve. The most common, sodium lauryl sulfate, a safe detergent found in other hygiene products, loosens and dissolves plaque so that it can be easily rinsed away.
You'll also find other ingredients to some degree in toothpaste: flavorings, of course, that go a long way toward making the brushing experience more pleasant; humectants to help toothpaste retain moisture; and binders to hold bind all the ingredients together. And many toothpastes also contain fluoride, a naturally-occurring chemical that strengthens tooth enamel.
You may also find additional ingredients in toothpastes that specialize in certain functions like reducing tartar buildup (hardened plaque), easing tooth or gum sensitivity or controlling bacterial growth. Many toothpastes also include whiteners to promote a brighter smile. Your dentist can advise you on what to look for in a toothpaste to meet a specific need.
But your first priority should always be how well your toothpaste helps you keep your teeth and gums healthy. Knowing what's in it can help you choose your toothpaste more wisely.
If you would like more information on oral hygiene products and aids, 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 “Toothpaste: What's in It?”