Posts for: August, 2013
If your gums appear reddish, puffy and bleed easily — especially at the margins where they meet your teeth — instead of their normal pink, you have gingivitis (“gingiva” – gums; “itis” – inflammation). Gingivitis is one of the first signs of periodontal disease (“peri” – around; “odont” – tooth) that affects the tissues that attach to the teeth, the gums, periodontal ligament and bone. Other common symptoms of periodontal disease include bad breath and taste.
If periodontal (gum) disease is allowed to progress, one possible consequence is gum recession exposing the root surfaces of the teeth. This can cause sensitivity to temperature and touch. Another sign is that the gum tissues may start to separate from your teeth, causing pocket formation; this is detectable by your dentist or hygienist. As pocket formation progresses the bone supporting the teeth is destroyed leading to loose teeth and/or gum abscesses. Unchecked or untreated it leads to tooth loss.
Inflammation, a primary response to infection is actually your immune (resistance) system's way of mounting a defense against dental plaque, the film of bacteria that concentrates between your teeth and gums every day. If the bacteria are not removed, the inflammation and infection become chronic, which literally means, “frustrated healing.” Smoking is a risk factor for periodontal disease. Smokers collect plaque more quickly and have drier mouths, therefore, cutting down or quitting smoking can reduce the severity of gum disease. Stress has also been shown to affect the immune (resistance) system, so stress reduction practices can help here as well as in other parts of your life. Gum disease can also affect your general health especially if you have diabetes, cardiovascular or other systemic (general) diseases of an inflammatory nature.
Periodontal disease is easily preventable. The best way to stop the process is to remove each day's buildup of plaque by properly brushing and flossing your teeth. Effective daily dental hygiene has been demonstrated to be effective in stopping gingivitis. It sounds simple, but although most people think they're doing a good job, they may not be. Effective brushing and flossing requires demonstration and training. Come and see us for an evaluation of how well you're doing. Regular checkups and cleanings with our office are necessary to help prevent gingivitis and periodontal disease. In addition if you already have periodontal disease you may need a deep cleaning known as root planing or debridement to remove deposits of calcified plaque called calculus or tartar, along with bacterial toxins that have become ingrained into the root surfaces of your teeth.
Gum disease is often known as a silent disease because it doesn't hurt, so see our office for a periodontal exam today.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions about gingivitis and periodontal disease. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Understanding Gum (Periodontal) Disease.”
While most people can expect to have a temporary case of bad breath after eating spiced foods like garlic, smoking, drinking coffee or wine, odor that persists and becomes chronic is not something to take lightly. We can help diagnose the underlying cause of your bad breath, making both you and the people around you much happier!
Chronic bad breath, also known as “halitosis,” affects about 25% of Americans to some extent. Treating the condition effectively requires a thorough oral examination to uncover the source of the odor. Although some forms of bad breath can be caused by medical conditions like diabetes, lung infections, even kidney failure and cancer, between 85% and 90% of cases originate in the mouth. There are more than 600 types of bacteria found in the average mouth and, given the right (or, should we say, wrong) oral environment, dozens of these bacteria can produce foul odors including a “rotten egg” smell from the production of volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs).
Some of the oral causes of bad breath include:
- Naturally occurring bacteria found on the back of the tongue that thrive on food deposits, dead skin cells and post nasal drip (Yuck!);
- Dry mouth, after sleeping, especially when an individual breathes through his or her mouth;
- Unclean dentures;
- Decaying or abscessed teeth;
- Diseased gums; and
- Infected tonsils.
Once the exact origin of the odor has been determined, we can tell you what form of treatment you'll need to successfully banish the bad breath for good. If your problem is merely the result of poor oral hygiene you can play a large role in turning your situation around. In any case, treatments for mouth-related halitosis can include:
- A careful, at-home plaque control routine using dental floss and a special toothbrush designed to clean between teeth — nobody really knows how to properly clean without professional instruction;
- In-office and at-home tongue cleaning using a tongue scraper or brush;
- Instruction on how to properly clean your dentures;
- To treat underlying gum disease, periodontal therapy in the form of a deep cleaning, also known as scaling or root planing; and
- Extraction of wisdom teeth that exhibit debris-trapping gum tissue traps.
So if you are ready to toss your breath mints away and pursue a more permanent solution to rectify your mouth odor, call our office today to schedule an appointment. For more information about the causes of bad breath, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Bad Breath: More Than Just Embarrassing.”
Whether you are a serious or “weekend” athlete, you know the importance of protecting yourself against injury. While looking after your joints, ligaments and bones may garner most of your attention, you shouldn't neglect looking after your teeth and mouth as well. In fact, there are more than 600,000 emergency room visits each year for sports-related dental injuries. A knocked out tooth could eventually cost you $10,000 to $20,000 in dental treatment during your lifetime.
The best protection is really quite simple — wear a properly-fitted athletic mouthguard. Researchers estimate that mouthguards may prevent more than 200,000 dental injuries annually. Be aware, though — not all mouthguards are alike or provide the same level of protection.
Mouthguards generally fall into three types. Stock mouthguards are the least expensive of the three, and also the least effective at protection. They come in limited sizes and can't be customized to the wearer. “Bite and Boil” mouthguards are made of thermoplastic that becomes pliable when heated (as when boiled in water). In this state the mouthguard can be pressed into the wearer's teeth, which hardens to that fit once the thermoplastic cools. However, the fit isn't exact and they don't always cover the back teeth. Also during the heat of competition, the mouthguard softens and loses some of its stability and protection.
While more expensive than the other two types, a custom-fitted mouthguard made by a dentist provides the best level of protection. Made of a tear-resistant material, they are more comfortable to wear than the other types and cover more of the interior of the wearer's mouth.
A properly fitted and worn mouthguard protects the mouth and jaw area in a number of ways. It cushions the soft tissue of the lips and gums from cuts and abrasions caused by contact with sharp teeth surfaces after an impact. It absorbs and distributes forces generated in an impact that can cause tooth loss or even jaw fracture, and also cushions the jaw joint (TMJ) to reduce the likelihood of dislocation or other trauma.
A custom-fitted mouthguard can cost hundreds of dollars, but that price is relatively small compared with the physical, emotional and financial price you'll pay for an injury. This investment in your oral health is well worth it.
If you would like more information on the use of athletic mouthguards, contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Athletic Mouthguards.”
A woman during pregnancy naturally pays close attention to her general health, instinctively knowing it affects her developing baby. Ironically, it's also common for a woman during pregnancy to neglect her dental health, due to new physical restraints and fatigue that make regular tasks more difficult and tiring.
But pregnancy is no time to drop your guard: due to hormonal changes, a woman is more susceptible to disease and tooth decay. This can lead to increased sensitivity and gum inflammation that may develop into what's known as pregnancy gingivitis. This is of great concern during pregnancy, as the oral bacteria responsible for gum disease can cross over from mother to baby through the placenta. This could cause an inflammatory response by the mother's body that might result in a preterm birth with a low birth weight for the baby.
There are some things you should do to maintain vigilance. First, you should schedule an appointment with us at the beginning of your pregnancy to discuss and prepare a dental care plan. We can advise you more fully about how pregnancy affects your dental health and what we can both do about it.
A healthy diet from the beginning and throughout pregnancy will provide your child with the nutritional building blocks for his or her developing teeth, which begin to form around the sixth week. You may also develop cravings for certain foods, especially sugary or starchy snacks, which increase your risk of tooth decay. If at all possible, try to limit your intake of these kinds of foods or substitute raw fruits, vegetables or dairy products instead.
Oral hygiene is critical during this time in your life. Daily gentle brushing with a soft bristle toothbrush and flossing will help reduce the level of bacteria that causes gum inflammation. And, if you do notice sensitivity, swelling or bleeding from the gums, you should visit us as soon as possible for examination and treatment. It's also very important during your pregnancy that you schedule regular cleaning appointments. Because of hormonal changes, it's common for gum inflammation to become exaggerated making you more vulnerable to bone loss.
Remember: caring for your oral health when you are pregnant is just as important for your baby as it is for you.
If you would like more information on the relationship between pregnancy and 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 “Pregnancy and Oral Health.”