Posts for category: Oral Health
Teeth are naturally strong and durable — if we can prevent or control dental disease like tooth decay or gum disease, they can last a lifetime. Still, teeth do wear gradually as we age, a fact we must factor into our dental care as we grow older.
Sometimes, though, the wear rate can accelerate and lead to problems much earlier — even tooth loss. There are generally four ways this abnormal wear can occur.
Tooth to tooth contact. Attrition usually results from habitual teeth grinding or clenching that are well beyond normal tooth contact. Also known as bruxism, these habits may occur unconsciously, often while you sleep. Treatments for bruxism include an occlusal guard worn to prevent tooth to tooth contact, orthodontic treatment, medication, biofeedback or psychological counseling to improve stress coping skills.
Teeth and hard material contact. Bruxism causes abrasion when our teeth regularly bite on hard materials such as pencils, nails, or bobby pins. The constant contact with these and other abrasive surfaces will cause the enamel to erode. Again, learning to cope with stress and breaking the bruxism habit will help preserve the remaining enamel.
Chronic acid. A high level of acid from foods we eat or drink can erode tooth enamel. Saliva naturally neutralizes this acid and restores the mouth to a neutral pH, usually within thirty minutes to an hour after eating. But if you’re constantly snacking on acidic foods and beverages, saliva’s buffering ability can’t keep up. To avoid this situation, refrain from constant snacking and limit acidic beverages like sodas or sports drinks to mealtimes. Extreme cases of gastric reflux disease may also disrupt your mouth’s pH — seek treatment from your medical doctor if you’re having related symptoms.
Enamel loss at the gumline. Also known as abfraction, this enamel loss is often caused by receding gums that expose more of the tooth below the enamel, which can lead to its erosion. Preventing and treating gum disease (the leading cause of receding gums) and proper oral hygiene will lower your risks of receding gums and protect tooth enamel.
If you would like more information on tooth wear, 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 and Why Teeth Wear.”
While it doesn’t garner the star power of blood, saliva is still an important bodily fluid. A true multi-tasker, saliva contributes in many ways to the function and health of the body, from stronger teeth to more efficient digestion.
Here are six ways saliva helps your mouth and body function properly and stay healthy.
The mouth’s natural cleanser. Bacteria are responsible for much of the dental disease that plagues us, particularly tooth decay and gum disease. Saliva clears the mouth of food remnants, bacteria’s primary feeding source, after we eat. This leaves a cleaner mouth and fewer bacteria to cause infection.
The immune system’s partner. Saliva contains an antibody called Immunoglobulin A (IgA) that attacks disease-causing microorganisms. Along with secreting other antibacterial agents like lactoferrin and lyzozyme that curb the growth and development of bacteria, saliva serves as the body’s first line of defense against pathogens entering through the mouth.
Acid neutralizer. The optimal oral environment is a neutral pH of 7. Many of our foods and beverages, though, are highly acidic, which can raise the mouth’s acid level. The acidic environment causes the minerals in tooth enamel to soften and dissolve (a process called de-mineralization). Saliva restores the balance by neutralizing any remaining acid after we eat (a process that takes about 30 to 60 minutes).
Mineral replacer. Even under normal conditions, enamel will de-mineralize to some extent whenever the mouth becomes acidic. Saliva restores some of the enamel’s lost minerals like calcium and phosphate while it’s neutralizing acid. If fluoride is also present in saliva from fluoridated drinking water or toothpaste, it too is absorbed by the enamel making it stronger and more resistant to acid attacks.
Digestion enhancer. Saliva lubricates the mouth while we eat, making it easier for us to chew (and taste) our food. Saliva also releases the enzyme amylase as we chew to break down starches before the food enters our stomach. The end result is more efficient and comfortable digestion.
The wave of the future in diagnostics. Like blood and urine, saliva contains genetic and disease markers that could tell a physician if a patient has a certain condition. Since collecting a saliva sample is much easier than with these other bodily fluids, diagnosing disease with saliva will become more prevalent as more calibrated devices reach the market.
If you would like more information on the role of saliva in the body, 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 “Saliva.”
The Tooth Fairy has been easing the process of losing baby teeth for hundreds of years — at least 500 years according to one authority on the subject. Her name is Brady Reiter, and while she looks only age 11 in earth years, she is actually a 500-year-old Tooth Fairy; at least she plays one on DVD.
Brady is the star of Tooth Fairy 2, a new DVD comedy also starring Larry the Cable Guy as a novice Tooth Fairy doing penance for questioning the existence of the magical sprite who leaves payment under pillows for lost teeth.
In a charming interview with Dear Doctor magazine, Brady says it wasn't very difficult to play an ancient tooth fairy trapped in a child's body.
“I'm kind of more mature than an average 11-year-old because I have older brothers and sisters,” Brady told Dear Doctor. “It was kind of just connecting with my inner 500-year-old. It was very fun to play a character like that!”
Brady also enjoyed working with Larry, who dons a pink tutu and fluffy wings for his role.
“In hair and makeup every morning, he'd be making all these jokes,” she said. “He just cracked us up 100 percent of the time!”
But as much fun as Brady had on the set, her character, Nyx, is all business. And that's how Brady, who recently lost her last baby tooth, has always believed it should be.
“My whole life I thought the Tooth Fairy is just like Nyx,” Brady said. “They know what to do, they come in, they're professionals, you don't see them and they never make a mistake and forget your tooth. Just like Santa Claus, tooth fairies are very professional.”
Brady also told Dear Doctor that she is very excited to be helping the National Children's Oral Health Foundation fight childhood tooth decay as spokesfairy for America's ToothFairy Kids Club. The club offers kids personalized letters from the Tooth Fairy along with lots of encouraging oral health tips and fun activities.
If you would like to enroll your child in the club — it's free! — please visit www.AmericasToothFairyKids.org. And to make sure your child's teeth and your own are decay-free and as healthy as possible, please contact us to schedule your next appointment.
While she was pregnant with her son Camden Jack Cutler, 25-year-old Kristin Cavallari noticed an odd occurrence in her bathroom sink: “Every time I floss, my sink looks like I murdered somebody!” the actress and reality-TV personality exclaimed. Should we be concerned that something wicked is going on with the star of Laguna Beach and The Hills?
Before you call in the authorities, ask a periodontist: He or she will tell you that there's actually no mystery here. What Cavallari noticed is, in fact, a fairly common symptom of “pregnancy gingivitis,” a condition that affects many expectant moms in the second to eighth month of pregnancy. But why does it occur at this time?
First — just the facts: You may already know that gingivitis is the medical name for an early stage of gum disease. Its symptoms may include bad breath, bleeding gums, and soreness, redness, or tenderness of the gum tissue. Fundamentally, gum disease is caused by the buildup of harmful bacteria, or plaque, on the teeth at the gum line — but it's important to remember that, while hundreds of types of bacteria live in the mouth, only a few are harmful. A change in the environment inside the mouth — like inadequate oral hygiene, to use one example — can cause the harmful types to flourish.
But in this case, the culprit isn't necessarily poor hygiene — instead, blame it on the natural hormonal changes that take place in expectant moms. As levels of some female hormones (estrogen and/or progesterone) rise during pregnancy, changes occur in the blood vessels in the gums, which cause them to be more susceptible to the effects of bacterial toxins. The bacteria produce toxic chemicals, which in turn bring on the symptoms of gingivitis — including painful and inflamed gums that may bleed heavily when flossed.
Is pregnancy gingivits a cause for concern? Perhaps — but the condition is generally quite treatable. If you've noticed symptoms like Kristen's, the first thing you should do it consult our office. We can advise you on a variety of treatments designed to relieve the inflammation in your gums and prevent the harmful bacteria from proliferating. Of course, your oral health (and your overall health) are prime concerns during pregnancy — so don't hesitate to seek medical help if it's needed!
How did things work out with Kristen? She maintained an effective oral hygiene routine, delivered a healthy baby — and recently appeared on the cover of Dear Doctor magazine, as the winner of the “Best Celebrity Smile” contest for 2012. And looking at her smile, it's no mystery why she won.
If you would like more information about pregnancy gingivitis, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Expectant Mothers” and “Kristen Cavallari.”
One of the possible side effects of dental work is the introduction of oral bacteria into the bloodstream, a condition known as bacteremia. Although not unusual — it can also occur when you eat or brush your teeth — bacteremia could trigger a dangerous infection for some patients.
For many years, we in the dental profession have taken extra precautions with two such categories of patients: those with congenital (“at birth”) heart conditions who are more susceptible to infective endocarditis, a life-threatening infection of the heart lining or heart valves; and patients who’ve undergone joint replacements and are at a higher risk of developing blood-borne infections at the replacement site. It’s been a standard practice for many years to administer antibiotics to patients in these two categories sometime before they undergo a dental procedure as a way of curtailing the effects of any resulting bacteremia.
Recently, however, the guidelines for antibiotic pretreatment for dental work have changed as two major medical associations have revised their recommendations on the procedure. The American Heart Association (AHA) now recommends dentists administer antibiotic pretreatment only to heart patients with a history of endocarditis, artificial valves or repairs with artificial material, heart transplants with abnormal heart valve function and other similar conditions.
Likewise after a series of joint studies with the American Dental Association on infections in dental patients with orthopedic implants, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons no longer recommends pretreatment for artificial joint patients. It’s now left to the dentist and patient to determine whether antibiotics before a procedure is appropriate based on the patient’s medical history. For example, premedication may still be prudent for joint replacement patients with compromised immune systems caused by systemic illnesses like cancer or diabetes.
Although the guidelines have narrowed, it’s still important for you tell us about any heart condition you may have, or if you’ve undergone any type of joint replacement therapy. It’s also advisable for you to discuss with your primary doctor how your condition might be impacted by any proposed or scheduled dental procedure. Our aim is to always minimize any risk to your overall health as we treat your dental needs.