Posts for tag: oral health

By Orthodontics for Children and Adults
December 22, 2014
Category: Oral Health
BleedingGumsMeanSomethingisWrong

If you see blood when you brush or floss your teeth, it generally indicates a problem with your oral health. You may think you are brushing too hard, but this is not usually why gums bleed. The usual culprit is dental plaque.

Plaque is the sticky, whitish film of bacteria that forms on your teeth every day. If you brush regularly, you probably remove most of it — but some may remain behind and accumulate where your teeth meet your gums, particularly between your teeth. As the bacteria build up, along with by-products of their metabolism (the chemical reactions that maintain their lives), they cause inflammation, called gingivitis, in the adjacent gums.

Bleeding gums are an early symptom of gingivitis. Continuing contact with plaque at the gum line can cause your gum tissue to separate from nearby teeth, creating pockets in which the inflammation becomes even worse. The process leads to periodontal disease (“peri” – meaning around, “odont” – tooth). The increasing infection can eat away the bone that anchors the teeth, leading to possible tooth loss. Periodontal disease is not an uncommon problem. About 90% of the population has bleeding gums at some time or another, and approximately 10% go on to develop periodontal disease.

When you lose bone around your teeth, the gums separate from the tooth and “pockets” form between your teeth and gums. The inflammation and infection may continue within the pockets even if your gums have stopped bleeding when you brush. That's why it is important to have regular dental exams — to check up on and stop periodontal disease before it has a chance to cause serious damage.

There may also be other reasons for bleeding gums that have to do with your general state of health. Women who have elevated levels of hormones caused by birth control pills or pregnancy may experience an increased response to plaque that makes their gums bleed more easily. Increased bleeding in your gums can also be caused by some diseases or as a side effect of some medications.

The most important way to prevent bleeding gums is to learn proper brushing and flossing techniques so that you effectively remove plaque from your teeth on a daily basis. If you are not sure you are using the right techniques, make an appointment and have us demonstrate at your next dental visit.

With all the best intentions, some plaque may remain. Plaque that is allowed to stay on your teeth hardens into a substance called tartar or calculus. This must be removed periodically with a professional cleaning by me or by our hygienist.

With not too much effort, you can ensure that your teeth are clean and plaque free, and your healthy gums no longer bleed.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about bleeding gums. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Bleeding Gums.”

By Orthodontics for Children and Adults
December 19, 2014
Category: Oral Health
TheresaBattleGoingOn-AndItsInYourMouth

Your teeth are under constant attack from bacteria that normally live in your mouth. When these bacteria thrive, they create acid that begins to dissolve the minerals in your enamel (the outer layer of your teeth). In your defense, your saliva protects against these bacteria and adds minerals back to your enamel. Let's take a look at this ongoing battle, and what you can do to sway it in a positive direction.

The outer covering of your teeth, the enamel, is made mainly of the minerals calcium and phosphate. The enamel protects the interior layer of your teeth, the dentin, which is similar in composition to bone. Although it is the hardest substance in your body, the enamel is still vulnerable to attack.

Your mouth is normally full of saliva, which washes over your teeth and maintains a balance between acids and bases. The terms “acids” and “bases” refer to a scientific measurement, the pH scale. Your mouth's pH is usually in the middle of the scale — neither acidic nor basic, but neutral. This is important in controlling the bacteria in your mouth.

You may be surprised to know how many bacteria live in everyone's mouth. More bacteria live in a single mouth than the number of people who have ever lived on earth. Some of these bacteria can cause tooth decay. Let's call them “bad bacteria.”

When the bad bacteria attach themselves to dental plaque — a film that builds up on your teeth every day — they begin to consume sugars that are in your mouth from foods that you have eaten. As the bacteria break down these sugars and turn them into energy, acid is produced as a by-product. This turns the saliva from neutral to acidic.

At a certain level of acidity, minerals in your enamel start to dissolve. This is called “de-mineralization.” It means that more calcium and phosphate are leaving the tooth's surface than are entering it. Early de-mineralization of the enamel shows up as white spots on a tooth.

Fortunately, healthy saliva can return calcium and phosphate to the enamel, or re-mineralize it. De-mineralization and opposing re-mineralization are constantly battling in your mouth. However, if too much enamel is de-mineralized, bacterial acid can go on to attack the next layer of your teeth, the dentin. As this process continues, you develop a dental cavity.

How can you protect your teeth? The first level of defense is regular removal of plaque, so that the bad bacteria do not get a foothold. In an office visit we may also recommend products such as sealants, antibacterial agents, topical fluoride, calcium and phosphate supplements, pH neutralizers, special toothpaste and rinses, which may help your particular situation.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about tooth decay. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Decay — The World's Oldest & Widespread Disease.”

By Orthodontics for Children and Adults
August 29, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
PreservingorRestoringTeeth-BothPathsLeadtoBetterOralHealth

A wise man once said, “No man is an island.” Something similar could be said about our teeth — their health and vitality are intricately linked with a person’s general health. Missing teeth in particular can set off a chain reaction that leads to bone loss, an issue for both your health and appearance.

Bone is composed of living cells that go through normal cycles of growth and resorption (the dissolving of mineral composition in the bone). In our early years, there’s more growth than resorption as our skeletal structure develops; in adulthood the cycle tends to equalize between the two phases. In our later years, the cycle tends more toward resorption.

The action of biting and chewing actually helps keep the cycle on track as the generated forces stimulate bone growth. When teeth are missing, though, the bone no longer receives this stimulation and will resorb at a higher rate. This is especially a concern for people who’ve suffered a complete loss of their teeth.

This bone loss may in turn trigger a number of related problems. The jaws may no longer close properly, leading to painful stress in the joints. Nutrition suffers as food choices become limited due to the lack of teeth and bite problems. And, a person’s appearance may change as well — the bone loss shortens the look of the face and causes the person to appear much older than they are.

Because of these potential problems, we should do everything we can to preserve and prolong natural teeth. But if preservation isn’t an option, then some form of restoration should be pursued. Dental implants in particular may actually prevent and even reverse bone loss. Bone has an affinity with titanium (which is what the implant is made from) and will attach and grow around it over time. This not only anchors the implant, it also increases bone mass where it may have been prematurely lost.

Caring for and preserving your natural teeth is one of the best things you can do for the health of your jawbone. If you lose your teeth, though, there are ways to restore them and protect bone health — and your smile — at the same time.

If you would like more information on the effects of tooth loss, 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 “New Teeth in One Day.”

By Orthodontics for Children and Adults
August 20, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition  
WorkWithYourChildsSchooltoEncourageHealthySnackFoods

There’s a new focus on children’s nutrition by both parents and schools; in fact, many school districts have instituted policies that encourage children to eat more nutritional foods and snacks. Regarding snacks in particular, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released new regulations for the Smart Snacks in Schools Initiative that call for more whole grains, fruits and vegetables and less fat, sugar and salt in snack foods.

These regulations will help fight obesity and related medical problems like diabetes, but many dentists don’t believe they go far enough in one particular area — the consumption of sugar, a major cause of tooth decay. Dentists also feel the guidelines are too generous in the amount allowed for highly acidic beverages like sodas, ice tea, sports drinks and energy drinks that increase the risk of enamel erosion and tooth decay.

You may also be concerned about how much sugar your child is eating, and for the most part you’re able to manage their intake when they’re at home. But what can you do to influence their snack choices and habits when they’re at school?

For one thing, get involved with your child’s school and with other parents. Let school officials know your concerns about the sugar, fat and salt content of the snacks offered in the school’s vending machines and food service, and work to implement policies that discourage less nutritional snack foods. You should also set limits for your children about what snacks they can buy at school — along with explaining why they should avoid certain kinds of snack foods in favor of others. And, be sure to send healthy snacks along with them when they go to school that are bite-sized and fun.

It’s also important to help your children limit how often they snack and avoid “grazing” — nibbling on snack food for hours on end. Grazing can cause the mouth to be continuously acidic and never allow saliva an opportunity to neutralize the acid. You can also suggest similar policies to school officials, such as shutting down vending machines at certain times of the day.

Nutrition is essential to good health, in the mouth as well as the rest of the body. As a parent, it’s your job to see that your children eat nutritiously — enlisting their schoolâ??s help will make that job a little easier.

If you would like more information on dental-friendly snacking, 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 “Snacking at School.”

By Orthodontics for Children and Adults
August 01, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene   oral health  
PlantoKeepYourNewHygieneHabitonTrack

The most important thing you can do for your dental health is to develop a daily habit of removing plaque, the bacterial film that builds up on your teeth and the leading cause of tooth decay and gum disease. You know you need to do better — but as with other daily habits that require discipline, it can be a challenge.

One way to make it easier is to develop a plan — a step-by-step process you can use to keep your hygiene habits on track. Here’s a suggested template for such a plan.

Step 1: Partner with us for hygiene training. As with other habits, going at it alone can be daunting. As your dental office, we have the knowledge and experience to advise you on the right toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and other products to use, and to train you on the best techniques for brushing and flossing.

Step 2: Develop an evaluation system. It helps to know if your hygiene efforts are effective. You can evaluate for yourself how well you’re doing by running your tongue across your teeth (does it feel smooth?), rubbing floss against the sides of your teeth (does it make a squeaky sound?), or looking for signs of bleeding or bad odor. We can also perform tests, such as using disclosing solution dyes to reveal plaque or regular dental exams to identify any indications of disease or decay.

Step 3: Maintain the change in your behavior. The biggest obstacle for sticking with a new habit is discouragement — if you don’t eventually see progress you can easily give up. Our regular interaction with you and your own evaluations will provide valuable insight as to how you’re progressing. These tangible indications build confidence and help you cement your new habit into place.

Every new habit starts with a burst of enthusiasm. To become permanent, however, it must continue on once the “newness” wears off. By developing a plan like the one described above, you’ll be more apt to continue practicing your new hygiene habit until it becomes a permanent part of your daily life. The dividends can be healthy teeth and gums for a lifetime.

If you would like more information on an oral hygiene plan, 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 “Oral Hygiene Behavior.”