Posts for: May, 2014
Did you know that roughly 75% of Americans suffer from some sort of gum disease? Gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) refers to the progressive loss of attachment between the fibers that connect the bone and gum tissues to the teeth, and the consequential loss of the tooth-supporting bone itself.
As you get older, your chances for developing gum disease increase significantly. Here are a few other factors that might put you at a higher risk for developing gum disease:
- Family History. 30% of the population may be genetically susceptible to gum disease. Luckily, there are new tests that can assess if you are at risk. However, even with good oral hygiene, studies have shown that genetically susceptible individuals may be 6 times more likely to develop gum disease.
- Tobacco. Smokers are four times more likely to develop periodontal disease. Smokers have more disease-causing biofilm bacteria and collect it more quickly. They also lose more attachment between the teeth and gums, which leads to more loss of bone that supports the teeth.
- Bleeding Gums. Some people mistakenly think that it is normal for their gums to bleed when they brush. In fact, this is an indication that you are not brushing and flossing effectively and a common symptom of gum disease. Pregnant women are also more likely to have bleeding gums, because elevated hormone levels may cause gum tissues to be more responsive to bacterial biofilm, thus bleeding more easily. That is why we recommend that pregnant women have regular cleanings at three to four month intervals.
We often refer to gum disease as silent, because symptoms may not appear until the disease has advanced. For this reason, you should conduct a self-assessment to identify if you are at risk.
- Have your gums receded and/or do your teeth appear longer?
- Are any of your teeth feeling or getting loose?
- Do your gums appear red or swollen?
- Have you recently had a tooth or teeth extracted because they were loose?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you may be at risk for gum disease. You should make an appointment with our office so that we can conduct a thorough examination and prescribe treatment, if necessary.
If you would like more information about gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Assessing Risk for Gum Disease.”
Advancements in dentistry have created an abundant source of treatments for restoring health and vitality to diseased teeth and gums. Unfortunately, not all of these treatment options may be in your financial reach. Fortunately, there are some affordable restorative options, as well as cost-effective treatments that could buy you time until you can afford a more permanent solution.
Your first step is a dental examination to evaluate your current oral health and possible future treatment needs. If you’re not already showing symptoms of tooth decay or gum disease, we would evaluate your probable risk for future disease development. Risk assessment enables us to recommend a prevention strategy that is relatively inexpensive and may save you on more expensive dental procedures in the future.
If the examination reveals some current problems, it may be necessary to prioritize. Painful or abscessed teeth are a dental emergency and should be treated as soon as possible. Other conditions, like mild gum disease would be next in line; however, a word of warning: the longer you postpone treatment for many of these conditions, the greater the likelihood of subsequent bone and tooth loss, which will lead to more extensive — and expensive — treatment.
There are also new alternatives to traditional treatments that are less costly but still have many of the benefits. For example, less-costly glass — or resin-based fillers are becoming a popular option for restoring decayed or damaged teeth. Though not quite as durable as more expensive options, these new materials are life-like in appearance and work well on repair sites on non-biting surfaces.
You should also look to one other resource for managing the costs of dental care — us, your dental team. While we want your teeth and gums to be as healthy as possible, we also understand “wallet” issues. We can work with you on financial matters to ensure you’re getting the effective care you need, including payment plans for more expensive treatment processes, working with your dental insurance plan, and recommending affordable treatment options.
The key is to develop a long-term care plan targeted to your individual dental needs. Knowing where we need to go — and adapting treatment strategies that match your resources — will help you get the best dental care you can afford.
If you would like more information on dental care treatment options, 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 rare now to encounter a news story about an infection spreading among a group of dental patients — a rarity thanks to the development of standards and procedures for infection control. As these standards have improved over the last few decades, the prevention of infection stemming from dental treatment has become more effective and easier to perform.
Like other healthcare providers, dentists are held (and hold themselves) to a high legal, moral and ethical standard to stop the spread of infection among their patients, and both governmental authorities and professional organizations mandate safety procedures. The United States Center for Disease Control regularly publishes recommendations for disinfection and sterilization procedures for all healthcare providers and facilities, including dental clinics. Dental and medical licensing bodies in each U.S. state also mandate control procedures and have made continuing education on infection control a condition of re-licensure.
For both medical and dental facilities, blood-borne pathogens represent the greatest risk of infection. These viral infections spread through an infected person’s blood coming in contact with the blood of an uninfected person, via a cut or a needle injection site. One of the most prevalent of these blood-borne diseases is hepatitis. This disease, which can severely impair the function of the liver and could be fatal, is caused by either of two viruses known as HBV and HCV. Any medical facility that encounters blood through needle injection or surgical procedures (including blood transfusion and surgical centers, and dental offices) must have a high degree of concern for controlling the spread of hepatitis and similar viral diseases.
Infection control protocols cover all aspects of potential exposure, including protective wear for workers and patients, proper disposal of contaminated refuse and disinfection of instruments and facilities. These comprehensive procedures not only keep patients safe from viral exposure, they also protect healthcare providers who experience greater exposure and risk for infection than the patients they serve.
Thanks to this strong emphasis on infection control, your dental visits are reliably safe. If you do have concerns, though, about the risk of infection during a dental visit, please let us know — we’ll be happy to discuss all we do to protect you and your family from infection.
If you would like more information on infection control, 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 “Infection Control in the Dental Office.”
While our children are small, we want to make sure they receive the best (and safest) care — that’s why a parent’s job can include finding the most comfortable stroller, picking out the best-rated car seat… and making sure kids get top-quality health care. When it comes to dental care, some parents are surprised to learn that a child’s first visit to the dentist should take place before his or her first birthday. If that seems too soon, keep in mind that recent evidence-based studies show that starting dental visits prior to age one not only reduces oral health costs, but also ensures that kids will have more pleasant dental experiences in the future.
What are the top five ways to help ease young kids through their earliest trips to the dental office? We’re glad you asked.
- Stay calm — even if dental visits make you a little nervous yourself. Kids pick up almost instantly on non-verbal cues, positive or negative. A few soothing words and a gentle touch can go a long way toward calming any worries they may have.
- Explain — but not too much. Let them know what to expect in the most basic terms, but leave talking about the nuts-and-bolts of it to us. We pediatric dentists go to great lengths to make children feel safe and comfortable in our care, and we can tell kids all they need to know in age-appropriate terms they can easily understand.
- Model healthy behavior — both in and out of the home. In the early years (and later, too), parents are the primary role models for their kids. Don’t just tell your kids — show them how you brush and floss your teeth regularly, and let them know why you avoid soda and “energy” drinks, and limit sugary snacks to after mealtimes.
- Learn how to maintain good oral hygiene — Did you know that tooth decay is the second most common disease in humans, after the common cold? Babies aren’t born with decay-causing bacteria — but one in four picks up oral bacteria from their caregivers! You can help prevent cavities by developing healthy habits. Where can you learn more? From us, of course! Next time you come in, ask us how to keep teeth sparkling clean and decay-free. And, of course, look for more tips in our blog posts.
- Get it done in Year One — We can’t say it enough: Starting children out right, with appropriate early dental care, can help set them up for a lifetime of good checkups and healthy teeth. And isn’t that something we all want for our kids?
If you would like more information about children’s dental visits, please contact us or schedule an appointment. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Taking the Stress Out of Dentistry for Kids” and “Age One Dental Visit.”