Some health issues related to your Oral Hygiene

Since I am kind of an introvert, social gatherings don’t attract me much. Office parties are equally boring. It was only this year that I had some different experience as I got to meet someone from a different field of expertise. He was a friend of my boss. He happened to be an assistant in a dental office.

We were discussing work-life hassles casually. I was suffering from a bad headache since the past few months and was telling the same to him. It was then that I came to know about his profession. In lending me a piece of advice on dealing with my headache, Mr. Richard (the friend of my boss), went on to explain how a person’s dental health could trigger several other health issues!

Interestingly enough, I not only listened to whatever Mr. Richard related that day, but also came back home and researched a lot on the topic.

How does your oral health interfere in your overall well-being?

You can consider the mouth to be like a “window” to your inner body. Since the oral cavity is hugely responsible for whatever enters your body, a good oral care is crucially necessary for maintaining a healthy body. Lack of proper brushing and flossing can lead to building up of plaque inside your mouth. Remember, not only the number of times you brush is important, but also the duration for which you brush!

Oral Hygiene To-Dos for a better living 

  1. Brushing at bedtime is a must– It is essential to get rid of the germs and plaque that accumulates in between our teeth all through the day. So, brushing before going to your bed is a golden habit for your oral well-being
  2. Clean your tongue too– Gently brush your tongue each time you brush your teeth, because, plaque can build up in the tongue also, thereby causing a foul breadth.
  3. Use fluoride containing toothpaste– Fluoride has been clinically proven to be most effective in fighting germs and preventing tooth decay. Therefore, fluoride is an important factor to be considered, much more than the whitening powers or flavors of your toothpastes!
  4. Flossing once regularly – Flossing is not only needed to get rid of the tiny bits of food from between the teeth gaps, but it also stimulates your gums thus keeping them active. Even older people with arthritis who find it painful to floss should try to do it just for once in a day, even if for a lesser duration.
  5. A mouthwash– When flossing becomes too difficult or painful for any other dental issue, a mouthwash does the job. Make sure you make use of either of these for an enhanced oral care!
  6. Avoid sugary and acidic foods– Foods with a high sugar content turn acidic inside the mouth. Acid adversely affects the teeth enamel by eroding it partly. Therefore, too much of not only citrus foods, but also sugary juices harm your teeth! Even if you are consuming them, preferably get your teeth brushed and your mouth cleaned thoroughly after having them.

So what happens when you neglect your oral health?

When bacteria builds up to such a level, that it spreads and enters your body, you might be in serious trouble! Let us check out the various health issues that are related to your oral health, in this post:

  • Premature Birth:  Medical issues like premature birth or low birth weight are often related to oral illnesses like periodontitis (inflammation of the gums caused by bacterial infection.)
  • Endiocarditis:  Endocardium is the inner lining of your heart. An infection in this area is known as endocarditis. It occurs when germs from other parts of the body, such as the mouth, spread through the bloodstream and attach the damaged areas of the heart!
  • Heart diseases:  Research suggests that certain cardiovascular problems could be related to oral infections.
  • Dementia:   Bacteria from gingivitis may enter the brain through the nerve channels in the head or through the bloodstream. This might lead to the development of an Alzheimer’s disease.

Now, conversely, there are certain health conditions that affect your dental health condition. In fact, the number of illnesses than can adversely affect oral health are indeed many. To list a few among them are:

Diabetes:  Raised blood sugar levels puts the gums at greater risk. Therefore, people with diabetes are found to be more prone to periodontal diseases than others,

HIV/AIDS:  Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.

Osteoporosis:  Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become weak and brittle. Therefore, it is often responsible for loss of jawbone mass and tooth loss as a consequence.

Alzheimer’s disease:  People with Alzheimer’s disease face this. As the alzheimer’s disease progresses, a person oral health deteriorates too.

As mentioned above there are many other conditions that render oral problems. For instance, the Sjogren’s Syndrome is an immune system disorder that causes dry mouth syndrome in the victim. A good oral hygiene is therefore almost a dire necessity, if you wish to stay fresh and healthy for as long as you can.

 

 

The River Within

Have you ever stood beside a rushing river and watched the current carry wood and leaves quickly past? Your blood pulses through your body at a similar pace. Every twenty seconds, blood completes a round trip from head to toe. This closed system averages 100,000 miles of veins, arteries, and capillaries and delivers many vital components to sustain life.

Sometimes the system breaks open and dangerous invaders enter the bloodstream. While we often think of a cut or scrape on the skin as the entry point, the lining of the mouth offers an ideal backdoor. Over thirty square inches of tissue cover the mouth and provide a home to billions of bacteria. A unique collar of gum tissue surrounds each of the teeth, and a few potent strains of bacteria can take up residence in this hidden enclave. These microorganisms produce toxins, and the immune system reacts to them with a rush of inflammation. The delicate vessels of the gums deteriorate from the reaction, and bleeding begins.

It doesn’t take long for potent bacteria to enter the river of life. Within seconds, they’re reaching the fine vessels of the brain and slipping through the coronary arteries. They’re meandering into joints, organs, and fetuses of expectant mothers. In 2010, scientists at Case Western Reserve University were asked to investigate a stillborn case in a 35-year old mother who suffered from gum disease. Plaque samples from the woman’s teeth tested positive for the precise strain of oral bacteria discovered in the stomach and lungs of the fetus.

“Once the bacteria are in the blood, they can go almost anywhere,” Yiping Han, a Case Western Reserve professor of periodontics and pathology said. “The placenta is an immuno-suppressed organ, compared to other organs like the liver and the spleen. And that makes it easy for the bacteria to colonize the placenta.”

While this single case shouldn’t create anxiety for expectant mothers, it highlights the importance of dental health. Oral bacteria may aggravate the body in different ways, and damage may come in various forms. From a 30,000 foot view, chronic inflammation anywhere in the body can exacerbate other conditions. Diabetes is known to worsen gum disease, but the opposite is also true: Gum disease negatively influences control of blood sugar. On a microscopic level, oral bacteria have been identified in the lining of damaged coronary arteries.

Read More: Periodontitis is stated to be the sixth complication of diabetes. Prevalence of severe periodontitis in diabetics as compared to non-diabetics has been found to be 59.6%

Cancer, Too?

As the search for a cancer cure intensifies, a preventive focus still promises the best defense against the disease. While many people don’t correlate unhealthy gums with cancer, recent research does draw a link. In a study of 48,000 men, those with a history of gum disease carried a 36 percent increased risk of lung cancer, a 49 percent increased risk of kidney cancer, and a 54 percent higher risk of pancreatic cancer. We still don’t know all the reasons why, but saving your teeth could mean saving your life.

If bleeding gums could be patched together, they’d be equivalent to a 2×2 inch open wound on the skin. Saturated with bacteria, a gash of this size anywhere on the body needs attention. When gum disease remains uncontrolled in the mouth, the door stays open indefinitely as a large wound. As a result, a steady supply of bacteria ends up in areas of the body they don’t belong.

Here’s To Your Health

Every effort you make to keep your mouth healthy helps ensure you’ll keep your teeth for the rest of your life. The evidence continues to build that a preventive focus may add years to your life, too. Dental care that combines your efforts with our periodic oversight will keep you smiling and active for years to come!

Goodbye Cavities?

With winter upon us, the common cold shows us why it’s aptly named. Rhinoviruses, responsible for many episodes of congestion, coughs, and sore throats, transmit through the population during every season. But research suggests that this virus replicates better at a temperature a few degrees below the body’s core temperature. Plus, people tend to share closer spaces inside during colder weather. Cozy areas make virus transmission easier.

Many people are surprised to learn that tooth decay is the next most common disease afflicting the population. The bacteria that cause cavities thrive in the mouth, but babies aren’t born with them. They’re an infection that’s often passed from mothers or caregivers once teeth start to appear. Since 92% of adults report at least one cavity, dental fillings are familiar to just about everyone.

What If…

Exciting new research suggests that the way we repair teeth damaged from cavities could change in the years ahead. Consider this:

  • A British team discovered that aspirin enhances the function of stem cells found inside teeth. They found that low-dose aspirin significantly increased the expression of genes that help form dentin, the primary tooth structure usually damaged by decay. This influence helps the tooth create new structure to repair damaged portions.
  • Another research team found that a particular chemical could cause cells to heal small holes in mice teeth. Researchers placed a biodegradable sponge soaked in the drug inside the cavity. This step led to complete, natural repair of the damaged area!
  • Another study demonstrated that a small electrical current could be used to draw new minerals into teeth, producing a stronger outer layer that’s more resistant to bacterial acid.

A vaccine to prevent cavities has been explored for over 40 years. In 1972, a British team reported they were testing one on mice, but fundamental challenges remain today. In the meantime, a host of new materials that mimic natural tooth structure allow us to restore damaged teeth and create healthy smiles. Scientists continue to produce advanced porcelains and resins that can be securely bonded into place. Sometimes the most trained eye can’t discern where the tooth ends, and the filling begins!

Solutions For Every Scenario

When enough damage leads to tooth loss, dental implants offer the ultimate solution for optimal function and confident smiling. Precise 3D imaging and advanced implant components set the foundation for predictable results. Whether replacing single teeth or securing loose dentures, implants can be life-changing!

In our evolving world, dental research continues to enhance the lives of our patients. We follow and evaluate advancements in dentistry, then choose those that serve you best. We’re here to be a resource for you and your family, so feel free to our team with any questions we can help you explore!

Soda, Sports Drinks and Teeth

Every time you step into a mini-mart, you’re faced with a host of options to squelch your thirst. A rainbow of colors in plastic bottles compete for your attention, and creative marketing often transforms sugared water into a fountain of youth. When it comes to your teeth, does it matter what you choose? How does a bottle of cola or a sports drink affect your teeth and general health?

Everybody knows most of these drinks include a lot of sugar, but it’s easy to overlook how much they carry. A little quick math can help you visualize the carbohydrate burst that occurs with the first sip. The nutritional label reports the number of grams of sugar in a serving, and there are 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon. If a bottle shows 20 grams in a single serving, picture it as 5 teaspoons.

While a 12-ounce soda used to be the norm, 20-ounce bottles are now considered standard. But many of the labels show the grams of sugar for an 8-ounce serving, and they frequently report 2.5 servings in a bottle! Calculating the numbers on a typical label indicates you’ll consume over 19 teaspoons of sugar in this soft drink. Take a look at this one:

The bacteria that cause cavities use sugar for energy and produce acidic waste that erodes tooth enamel. Syrupy drinks provide an ideal power source to keep this population thriving while instigating an insulin spike in the bloodstream. The colossal sugar load also drives the liver to convert sugar into fat. Chronically elevated insulin creates insulin resistance, a condition that contributes to a range of diseases. From cavities to cancer, sugared drinks help fuel many of the health problems afflicting people today.

An Acid Problem

Sugar forms a vital part of the formula that produces tooth decay, but it’s the acid that ultimately causes enamel to dissolve. The normal pH of your mouth rests around 7, but tooth structure begins to erode when the acidity drops to 5.5. Soda can send the pH of the mouth into a nosedive, making the mouth 1000 times more acidic than needed to start damaging teeth. A review of many ingredient labels shows citric, phosphoric, and carbonic acids in the mix. It may take 15 minutes for the mouth’s pH to return to normal after the last sip, and that means a steady diet of sugary drinks can alter the mouth for hours each day.

Diet sodas often hover around a pH of 3.2, far into the range that damages teeth. It’s a good thing that sugar is missing, but a steady exposure to high acidity can still lead to a weakening of tooth enamel. Artificial sweeteners may have long-term general health effects that we’re yet to understand fully.

Limit The Damage

The best strategy for the sake of your teeth and overall health is to enjoy fresh water on a regular basis. If you’re going to drink soda, consider the following tips:

  • Drink soda or sports drinks through a straw to minimize your teeth’s exposure.
  • Rinse with water right after drinking one of these beverages.
  • Avoid brushing your teeth for 30 minutes after drinking the beverage. This practice allows your mouth to return to normal pH before the teeth undergo the light abrasion of brushing.
  • Avoid drinks that list acids on the ingredient label.

If you consume a sports drink during strenuous exercise or enjoy an occasional soda with a meal, there’s not a lot of reason to worry. Commit to keep sugar exposure to a minimum and drink more fresh water: Your teeth and your body will thank you!

Why do Some Dental Cleanings Cost More?

Not all dental cleanings are created equal. Find out why some hygiene appointments cost more than others and learn how you can save time and money in the dental chair.

A “regular” cleaning is clinically called prophylaxis or a prophy cleaning and is a preventative measure to prevent periodontal disease. It includes removing plaque and tartar from tooth surfaces and just below the gum line. Sometimes, especially if you haven’t been to the dentist in a while, the buildup of tartar and plaque is too much to remove with the hand instruments that our hygienists use and, in some cases, requires the use of anesthetic and more than one visit, resulting in a costlier dental appointment.

This is when a “simple cleaning” goes from being a preventative measure to a treatment and maintenance measure. When this happens, you might be told you need a periodontal cleaning, root planing, or a deep scaling. These cleanings remove the tartar that wedges itself below the gum line and irritates and inflames the gum, causing what’s called gingivitis.

Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease. Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums causing bleeding, red swollen gum tissue, and bad breath. A cleaning and more frequent professional hygiene appointments can treat and usually reverse this stage of gum disease so long as you follow a regular at-home maintenance routine and commit to a strict professional hygiene schedule.

Time to Deep Clean

If gingivitis is left untreated, it can turn into periodontitis. At this stage, tartar builds up between the gum and tooth root creating periodontal pockets that can no longer be cleaned with regular at-home care. A more frequent recare schedule, usually every three to four months, and specialized equipment including ultrasonic scalers can remove the buildup and help the pocket stay clean, so no further damage is done. Think of tartar as a wedge between the tooth and the gum. The more it builds up, the harder it is for you to clean yourself. And the more the tartar builds up, the more the gum is pushed from the tooth. It’s a cycle, and the only way to effectively clean below the gum line is having a qualified dental professional remove it with specialized equipment.

dentist-and-patient

Once periodontitis progresses to a point where the bone starts to recede, it is considered advanced periodontal disease which includes bone loss due to extensive pocketing. This causes loose teeth which can result in lost teeth and a shift in your bite if not properly taken care of. If too many teeth are lost, it can radically alter your bite and cause worse problems than a gap in your smile. At this stage, regular cleanings are no longer effective, and we may recommend one of many procedures to help manage the infection, like laser periodontal treatments, bone grafting, or time release antibiotics placed in the periodontal pocket itself. Each of these treatments requires dedication to an excellent home care routine, so the efforts of your hygienist and dentist don’t go to waste.

An Ounce of Prevention

The good news is, gum disease can be prevented with regular professional cleanings and a good home care routine that includes daily flossing and brushing for two minutes at least twice a day. A little extra time spent on proper home care and regular cleanings can help save a lot of time and money down the road.

Use ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Don’t Let Your Dental Benefits Go to Waste

For most patients, dental benefits renew each January, while others renew on an enrollment date or fiscal year. Studies have shown under 3% of PPO dental plan members use all of their allotted benefits each year. This could mean thousands of wasted hard-earned dollars per family.

Most traditional dental benefit plans have yearly maximums and specified coverage limits on procedures (100% coverage on cleanings, 80% on restorative treatment, etc.). Some plans have a deductible on larger treatments too.

Some employers offer a flexible spending account, or FSA, instead of or in addition to dental coverage to help offset deductibles and coverage limits. Each year, the employee specifies an amount of money to be put in the FSA account, which is usually accessible through a debit card. For example, if your dental insurance covers a root canal at 80%, the FSA account could be used to pay for the remaining 20% that would otherwise be an out of pocket expense.

But don’t wait until mid-December to schedule an appointment, because many dentists will be booked solid with patients trying to use up their plan benefits. If you haven’t been in recently, make an appointment or call the office and see if there’s any outstanding treatment in your record that could be done. Are you overdue for a cleaning? Do you have a filling that needs to be replaced? Now is a great time to start getting those appointments on the books.

Whether you have traditional dental coverage or an FSA account, here are some tips to maximize your dental benefits and reasons why you should use them before the new year.

Unused Benefits- Each year your yearly maximum renews and you forfeit any unspent money. Many plans range from $1,000 to $1,500 per year or more. If you have been delaying treatment or only going for cleanings, that’s money flying right out the window.

You’re Throwing Money Away- If you are paying for dental coverage but only going in for cleanings, you’re not recouping much of the money you spend on your annual premium. It makes much more sense to use every last dollar of available dental coverage to offset the cost of the benefits. For example, if your $400 annual premium buys $1,000 worth of coverage and you’re not using it, you’re effectively throwing away $600 of “free” money.

Plan Deductibles Reset- Some dental plans have a deductible on more extensive procedures like root canals or crowns. When the plan restarts, so does the deductible. If you’ve already paid the deductible and need another procedure, it might be worth getting it done in the same year and saving a little money.

You Might Be Able to Overlap Needed Treatment- Most dentists don’t recommend postponing treatment, especially if it’s a two-step procedure like a root canal followed by a crown. If you have a tooth that needs a lot of work you may be able to overlap the treatment between this year and next. This reduces your out of pocket cost and repairs your tooth in a timely fashion before there is any further damage.

Schedule Treatment Before Any Fee Increases- Occasionally your dentist raises his or her fees to offset the high overhead of running a dental practice. Dental offices have some of the highest overhead expenses in any industry and most of them happen behind the scenes. Liability insurance, the cost of state-of-the-art equipment to enhance the patient experience, training for that equipment, and single-use items like gloves and sterilization pouches continue to increase. Getting scheduled for any outstanding treatment now could save you a little money down the road.

Maybe you’ve been considering redoing an old crown that’s a shade too dark or want to replace those amalgam (silver) fillings with tooth-colored composite. Or perhaps you’ve been delaying a large treatment plan. Whatever the reason, you work hard for your money. Even if your dental coverage is paid by your employer, it’s still considered part of your salary. You wouldn’t throw part of your paycheck away, so why waste money by leaving needed treatment undone until it becomes a larger (and more expensive) problem? Use your benefits before the end of the year and make your mouth and pocketbook smile!

Not Just Pulp Fiction: The Truth About Dental Abscesses

What is an Abscess?

An abscess is an infection. There are two types of dental abscesses. A periapical abscess, which happens at the root of a tooth and a periodontal abscess which happens in the gum. A periapical abscess can occur when decay gets into the nerve chamber, killing the nerve and pulp tissue. Sometimes a traumatic injury or crack in a tooth can damage the delicate nerve inside, resulting in the death of the nerve. Periodontal disease is a chronic gum infection that can weaken the bone and may result in bone and tooth loss if untreated. It can also trigger widespread infection throughout the mouth. Regardless of where in the mouth the infection occurs, if it goes untreated for too long, a pus-filled area forms and that is called the abscess.

What are the Symptoms?

Symptoms of an abscess include:

  • Severe pain and a throbbing toothache that can radiate to the jawbone, neck, or ear
  • Hot or cold tooth sensitivity that lingers
  • Pressure sensitivity
  • Fever
  • Facial swelling
  • Bad breath
  • Soreness in your neck and jaw from swollen lymph nodes
  • Rotten or sour taste in your mouth

It’s important to mention that sometimes an abscess causes no pain, or sometimes the pain goes away suddenly. The discomfort of a toothache is usually caused by the buildup of fluid or gases inside the tooth as the nerve dies. Sometimes the infection works its way into the gum, creating a bubble on the gum. Once this bubble pops, the infection begins to drain into the gum tissue and mouth, and the pain goes away. This doesn’t mean that the infection is getting better, it just means the pressure is relieved.

Treatment

Once an abscess has been diagnosed, there are a few methods of treatment. Antibiotics can be prescribed to destroy the bacteria, but the central issue of an infected tooth, dying nerve, or periodontal disease must still be dealt with.

If your abscess is due to a dying nerve, a root canal may be recommended to clean out the infected tissue, shape the canals and place a rubber-like material in the canals to seal them. A crown or cap might be put over the tooth to help preserve the remaining tooth and prevent further breakage.

If the infection has gone too far and affected the root of the tooth, an extraction might be suggested, and an implant with a crown on top may be put in its place.

If your abscess is due to periodontal disease, root planing and scaling may be done. This is a deep cleaning done with anesthetic and specialized instruments. Sometimes lasers are used to help sterilize the pocket to help prevent bacteria from reinfecting the area.

Preventing an Abcess

While you can’t always avoid a sudden traumatic impact causing a nerve to die, there are plenty of ways you can prevent decay-related infections and periodontal disease:

  • Visit your dentist for regular checkups and professional cleanings
  • Brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day
  • Replace your toothbrush every three or four months and never, ever share it with anyone
  • Drink tap water or fluoridated bottled water
  • Watch your sugar and carbohydrate intake because they are bacteria’s favorite food
  • Use a mouth rinse before bed so it can sit on your teeth overnight

With a little care, you can help prevent an abscess and periodontal disease before they develop, saving yourself the inconvenience and pain of a toothache and the expense of major treatment.

Electric Toothbrushes Offer One More Reason to Smile

Little has changed design-wise in the 2,000-plus years since toothbrushes have been around. Even the Ancient Babylonians knew the importance and attractiveness of clean teeth. From their thin, frayed-end twigs to the hog-hair bristled bamboo brushes used by the Chinese in the 15th century, they all have the same general shape and function. Since the 1960s, when the first electric toothbrushes became available in the U.S., technology has continued to advance, and now they are a staple on grocery store shelves and in dentist’s offices.

Different Brands, Similar Functions

Each electric toothbrush brand has its unique twist, but they all have standard features that make brushing easier.

Some oscillate or rotate while others use ultrasonic technology. Some have simple on/off switches that run for two minutes and beep at 30-second intervals alerting you to change to a different side of your mouth. Others have multiple settings like an extended brush timer button, massage settings to stimulate gum tissue, and sensitive teeth settings which reduce the motor speed and force.

However, it’s just as easy to brush too hard with an electric toothbrush, so a gentle hand is always best. Brushing too hard can cause tooth abrasion and gum problems. Some brushes feature special sensors which stop the brush from rotating or vibrating if too much pressure if sensed so you can train yourself to use a gentler hand. With an electric brush, gently holding it to and moving it along the teeth is all the pressure you need.

A Little Independence Can Make All The Difference

Electric toothbrushes are an excellent idea for everyone, but for people with arthritis, cognitive impairments or those who have suffered a stroke, an electric toothbrush can be a little breath of independence that gives a boost of self-confidence. Just a little control over your health can mean the world in a patient’s recovery process or overall longevity. For a patient with arthritis or patients with muscle-control issues, this allows you to hold the brush gently and let it do all the work. Most electric brushes have a timer, too, so you don’t have to worry about not brushing for the right amount of time.

Giving Small Hands Some Help

dentist-and-patient

Electric toothbrushes are also great for children. Studies have shown that children don’t have the dexterity to brush their teeth unaided until they can tie their shoes. While a parent should still help small children with brushing and flossing, an electric toothbrush gives an older child the ability to brush their teeth while giving the parent the comfort knowing the brush is doing the bulk of the work. The timer makes sure they are brushing for the full two minutes.

Not an Easy Way Out

An electric toothbrush can help compensate for coordination problems due to age and medical issues, but using one is not an excuse to skip regular cleanings and exams. You should consider asking for help if brushing and holding a toothbrush is difficult. Combined with regular cleanings and exams, an electric toothbrush is merely one cog in the wheel of your oral health care regimen.