Posts for category: Oral Health
One of the toughest enemies your teeth face is dental plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles. Accumulated dental plaque can trigger both tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease, which is why removing it is the true raison d'etre for daily brushing and flossing.
But if you do indeed brush and floss every day, how well are you fulfilling this prime objective? The fact is, even if your teeth feel smooth and clean, there could still be missed plaque lurking around, ultimately hardening into tartar—and just as triggering for disease.
The best evaluation of your brushing and flossing efforts may come at your semi-annual dental cleanings. After thoroughly removing any residual plaque and tartar, your dentist or hygienist can give you a fairly accurate assessment of how effective you've been doing in the plaque removal business.
There's also another way you can evaluate your plaque removal ability between dental visits. By using a plaque disclosing agent, you can actually see the plaque you're missing—otherwise camouflaged against your natural tooth color.
These products, usually tablets, swabs or liquid solutions available over-the-counter, contain a dye that reacts to bacterial plaque. After brushing and flossing as usual, you apply the agent to your teeth and gums per the product's instructions. After spitting out any remaining solution, you examine your teeth in the mirror.
The dye will react to any residual plaque or tartar, coloring it a bright hue like pink or orange in contrast to your normal tooth color. You can see the plaque, and perhaps even patterns that can show how you've missed it. For example, if you see brightly colored scallop shapes around the gum line, that's telling you you're not adequately working your toothbrush into those areas.
The dye eventually fades from the teeth in a few hours, or you can brush it away (and fully remove the plaque it disclosed). Although it's safe, you should avoid ingesting it or getting it on your clothes.
Regularly using a disclosing agent can give you excellent feedback for improving your hygiene techniques. Getting better at brushing and flossing will further reduce your risk for dental disease.
If you would like more information on daily plaque removal, 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 “Plaque Disclosing Agents.”
Finding out you have a cavity can be an unwelcome surprise. The truth is, though, it didn't happen overnight, but the result of ongoing conditions in the mouth.
Those conditions usually begin with harmful oral bacteria. As a life form, these bacteria need food and lodging, which they readily find from the carbohydrates in your diet. The bacteria and food remnants form a thin biofilm that accumulates tooth surfaces called dental plaque. The bacteria in turn produce oral acid, which can soften and erode the teeth's protective enamel. As bacteria multiply the mouth's acidic levels rise, making cavity formation more likely.
But there's also a flip side to this scenario: Interrupting bacterial growth can help prevent cavities and other dental diseases. Here's how you can do just that.
Remove plaque buildup. It's a simple principle: Deprive bacteria of their refined carbohydrates to reduce their toxicity and remove daily plaque buildup with brushing and flossing. For an added boost, see your dentist at least twice a year for a thorough dental cleaning.
Curtail snacking on sweets. Bacteria love the refined sugar in pastries, candies and other sweets as much as we do. Thus, constant snacking on sweets throughout the day could actually foster bacterial growth. Instead, ease up on your sugar intake and limit sweets to meal times only.
Rinse after sugary drinks. Sodas, sports or energy drinks also provide bacteria with added sugar. They may also contain added forms of acid that further lower your mouth's pH level into the acidic danger zone for teeth. Make it a habit, then, to rinse out your mouth with clear water after drinking one of these beverages to dilute excess sugar or acid.
Take care of your saliva. Saliva neutralizes acid even more than plain water, usually in 30 minutes to an hour after eating. By contrast, not having enough saliva increases your risk for decay and other dental diseases. So, be sure to drink plenty of water, monitor medications that might interfere with saliva production, and use saliva boosting products if needed to keep your saliva production healthy.
If you would like more information on managing your dental health, 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 “Cost-Saving Treatment Alternatives.”
It's common for people to sip freshly brewed coffee or take a bite of a just-from-the-oven casserole and immediately regret it—the searing heat can leave the tongue and mouth scalded and tingling with pain.
Imagine, though, having the same scalding sensation, but for no apparent reason. It's not necessarily your mind playing tricks with you, but an actual medical condition called burning mouth syndrome (BMS). Besides scalding, you might also feel mouth sensations like extreme dryness, tingling or numbness.
If encountering something hot isn't the cause of BMS, what is then? That's often hard to nail down, although the condition has been linked to diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, acid reflux or even psychological issues. Because it's most common in women around menopause, changes in hormones may also play a role.
If you're experiencing symptoms related to BMS, it might require a process of elimination to identify a probable cause. To help with this, see your dentist for a full examination, who may then be able to help you narrow down the possibilities. They may also refer you to an oral pathologist, a dentist who specializes in mouth diseases, to delve further into your case.
In the meantime, there are things you can do to help ease your discomfort.
Avoid items that cause dry mouth. These include smoking, drinking alcohol or coffee, or eating spicy foods. It might also be helpful to keep a food diary to help you determine the effect of certain foods.
Drink more water. Keeping your mouth moist can also help ease dryness. You might also try using a product that stimulates saliva production.
Switch toothpastes. Many toothpastes contain a foaming agent called sodium lauryl sulfate that can irritate the skin inside the mouth. Changing to a toothpaste without this ingredient might offer relief.
Reduce stress. Chronic stress can irritate many conditions including BMS. Seek avenues and support that promote relaxation and ease stress levels.
Solving the mystery of BMS could be a long road. But between your dentist and physician, as well as making a few lifestyle changes, you may be able to find significant relief from this uncomfortable condition.
If you would like more information on burning mouth syndrome, 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 “Burning Mouth Syndrome: A Painful Puzzle.”
Today, when you undergo treatment to repair or replace problem teeth, you have the advantage of the most advanced dental materials ever developed. These materials help make current dental restorations not only more lifelike, but also more durable than they've ever been.
“Durable,” however, doesn't mean “indestructible”: The same microscopic enemies that damaged your natural teeth could also undermine your dental work. True, the actual materials that compose your dental work are impervious to bacterial infection. But your restoration is supported by natural teeth, the gums or underlying bone—all of which are susceptible to disease.
If these supporting structures weaken due to disease, it could cause your filling, veneer, bridge or other restoration to fail. But here's how you can minimize this risk and help extend the life of your dental work.
Practice daily hygiene. The main cause for tooth decay or gum disease is a thin film of bacteria and food particles on your teeth called dental plaque. Brushing and flossing each day removes plaque and helps ensure your teeth and gums, and by extension your dental work, stay healthy and sound.
Eat less sugar. Disease-causing bacteria feed primarily on carbohydrates, especially added sugar. By reducing your intake of sugary snacks, foods and beverages, you can help deter the growth of these harmful bacteria and reduce your risk of dental disease.
Reduce teeth grinding. The involuntary habit of grinding teeth could shorten the longevity of your dental work. Your dentist can help by developing a custom-fitted guard that prevents your teeth from making solid contact with each other. You may also benefit from relaxation techniques to reduce stress, a major factor in teeth grinding.
See your dentist regularly. A dental cleaning with your dentist removes any plaque you may have missed, as well as a hardened form called tartar, which further reduces your disease risk. Your dentist may also detect and treat early forms of dental disease and limit any damage to your dental work.
Taking steps to keep your mouth free of disease will optimize your dental health. It will also help protect your current restorations from damage and loss.
If you would like more information on caring for dental work, 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 “Extending the Life of Your Dental Work.”
When you smoke, you're setting yourself up for problems with your health. That includes your teeth and gums—tobacco has been linked to greater susceptibility to both tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease.
Smoking in particular can have a number of adverse effects on your mouth. Smoke can burn and form a thickened layer of the mouth's inner membranes called a keratosis. This in turn can damage the salivary glands enough to decrease saliva production, making for a drier mouth more hospitable to harmful bacteria.
Nicotine, the active chemical ingredient in tobacco, can cause the mouth's blood vessels to constrict. This causes less blood flow, thus a slower flow of nutrients and antigens to teeth and gums to ward off infection. Taken together, smokers are more likely than non-smokers to suffer from dental disease.
The impact doesn't end there. The conditions in the mouth created by smoking make it more difficult for the person to successfully obtain dental implants, one of the more popular tooth replacement methods.
Implants generally enjoy a high success rate due to their most unique feature, a titanium metal post that's imbedded into the jawbone. During the weeks after surgery, bone cells grow and accumulate on the implant's titanium surface to create a lasting hold.
But the previously mentioned effects of smoking can interfere with the integration between implant and bone. Because of restricted blood flow, the tissues around the implant are slower to heal. And the greater risk for dental disease, particularly gum infections, could cause an implant to eventually fail.
Of the rare number of implants that fail, twice as many occur in smokers. By removing smoking as a factor, you stand a much better chance for implant success. If you're considering implants and you smoke, you'll fare much better if you quit smoking altogether.
If you can't, at least stop smoking a week before implant surgery and for a couple of weeks after to increase your mouth's healing factor. Be sure you also keep up daily brushing and flossing and regular dental visits.
Smoking can increase the disease factor for your teeth and gums. Quitting the habit can make it easier to restore your oral health.
If you would like more information on the impact of smoking to oral health, 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 “Dental Implants & Smoking.”