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My Smile is Up Here: The Link Between Oral Health and Breast Cancer

As you may know, OctoBCAber is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women in the United States. In fact, 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. In 2011 alone, an estimated 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the United States, along with 57,650 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer and almost 40,000 deaths. Most people are aware of the major causes of cancer, such as smoking, alcohol use, etc., but few realize the effects oral health can have on the likelihood of this deadly diagnosis.

According to the Journal of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment women may be 11 times more likely to develop breast cancer of their lifetime if they have poor health or gum disease. In a survey of 3,273 women, the study found indications that women with chronic periodontal disease had an elevated occurrence of breast cancer. Additionally, the World Health Organization conducted a long-term study between 1985 and 2001 and also concluded that gum disease increases the risk of breast cancer.

Poor gum health and periodontal disease is known to increase the risk for a number of other serious health problems and chronic diseases. These include:

Pneumonia: Oral bacteria can be aspirated into the lungs and cause respiratory diseases.

Prostate Cancer: In 1986, Dr. Dominique Michaud of the Imperial College of London conducted a study of over 48,000 men wherein he concluded gum disease increases the risk of prostate cancer by 14 percent.

Heart Disease: Researchers have found that people with gum disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from heart disease as those with heathy gums.

The top preventive measures for keeping gum disease at bay are regularly flossing your teeth and seeing Dr. Waters for professional maintenance and checkups.


The Dental Extra Mile – Other Healthy Habits Besides Brushing and Flossing

We have all heard that brushing and flossing your teeth regularly is essential to keeping your smile healthy, but the fun doesn’t need to stop there. These two habits alone will generally do a good job at keeping plaque and tartar at bay, but there are other things you can do if you want to keep your smile extra healthy. Here are some examples of  “dental extra credit” for those who want to take their oral hygiene to the next level.

Mouthwash: First and foremost, mouthwash helps to freshen your breath by killing odor-causing oral bacteria. It can also help prevent cavities from forming by strengthening your tooth’s enamel. This is most effective if the mouthwash contains fluoride, so be sure to check the back label when choosing a brand.

Tongue Scrapers: Your teeth aren’t the only collectors of oral bacteria. You tongue can also house odor-causing bacteria that may linger despite brushing and flossing. By scraping your tongue every morning, you can remove much of this and improve your breath and oral health too! Look for a tongue scraper in the oral hygiene aisle at any grocery store.

Rinse After Meals: While flossing daily does a great job at keeping your teeth clear of food particles, a quick rinse with water or mouthwash after meals can provide a little extra protection against cavities.

Revealing Tablets: Want to be graded on how well you’re brushing? Chewable revealing tablets will leave a colored residue wherever there is plaque. Use these to perfect your brushing technique.

Multivitamins: Like any part of your body, your teeth require vitamins and minerals to stay strong. Your teeth and gums need Vitamins D, B, C and A as well as Iron and Calcium to remain healthy.

Root Canals: Easier Than You Think

Even today, root canals have a bad reputation and are rarely mentioned in a positive light. This has its reasons; half a century ago, root canals and dentistry as a whole, usually meant moments of discomfort in an unfamiliar setting. Luckily for you, Dr. Waters and our staff here at The Waters Dental Group go out of our way to ensure that we recommend a trusted specialist who will provide you with total comfort and put your needs first. Thanks to advances in modern dental technology, specialists are now able to both diagnose the conditions necessitating a root canal and perform the procedure with ease. This means a quicker, more comfortable experience for you! So what exactly is involved in this infamous treatment? Read on.

When is a Root Canal Necessary?

A root canal is a type of endodontic treatment. Endodontic treatments deal with the inside of the tooth, or the “pulp” that surrounds the nerves and blood vessels. This layer is normally protected by the hard, shiny enamel that forms the chewing surface of the tooth, but is susceptible to infection and inflammation if the enamel layer is breached. This can result from a variety of causes such as deep decay, a crack in the tooth or repeated dental procedures on the tooth. If left untreated, this inflammation can lead to discomfort or infection.

The Process

A trusted specialist that we personally recommend will begin by completely numbing the oral nerve that provides sensation to the effected tooth and surrounding area. Then, the doctor will carefully remove the inflamed pulp and shape the pocket inside the tooth for a filling. The tooth is then thoroughly sealed so that it won’t cause discomfort in the future. To complete the process, the doctor will place a dental crown on top of the root canal to further protect the tooth and restore it to full functionality.

If you have any questions or feel that you might need a root canal, please don’t hesitate to our office at 815-786-2146.

Hot and Cold – Understanding Tooth Sensitivity

Here in Sandwich, we’re not strangers to the cold, but the recent weather is hard to enjoy. If you’re one of millions of people across the United States that suffer from tooth sensitivity, you may be feeling pain in your teeth with every breath of cold air you breath, or every sip of the warm tea you poured to try to help you warm up.

What is Tooth Sensitivity?

Receding gum lines and weakened enamel decrease the amount of protection your teeth’s dentin (the tissue under the enamel) has against hot and cold. Tooth sensitivity itself is relatively common but comes in varying degrees; some people feel only slight discomfort when eating cold foods or drinking hot beverages, where others experience significant pain.

If you’re having mild tooth sensitivity, you can simply avoid hot and cold foods (though avoiding cold air in Chicago right now could be a bit of a challenge). Acidic foods can also cause discomfort to those with tooth sensitivity, so keep these out of your diet too. For a more proactive approach, look for desensitizing toothpastes at the supermarket, but keep in mind that these usually take several weeks before the effects can be felt so don’t rely on them to help right away.

If your tooth sensitivity is causing you noticeable pain, it’s a good idea to see a dentist, as we have alternative methods of treatment that can provide more permanent protection.

How to Avoid Developing Sensitive Teeth

If you don’t have sensitive teeth, count yourself lucky! You can keep that lucky streak going by using soft-bristled toothbrushes and brushing softly to avoid wearing down gums. Excessive consumption of sugary drinks can make your teeth more sensitive, so drink water instead of soda. Finally, see a dentist often to make sure your tooth and gum health are always the best they can be!

What Makes A Good Dentist?

You may have had several different dentists throughout your life and you can probably say which was best and which was worst, but defining what makes a dentist really good can be difficult to do.

Often, what makes a dentist memorable is a combination of how they are able to connect with patients on a personal level and the treatment patients receive at their practice. Therefore, in addition to being excited about the field of dentistry, experienced, and up-to-date on all the latest advancements, it’s important for dentists to have some of the following personality traits.

Personable: Being generally good-natured and easygoing makes patients feel comfortable right away. The more comfortable a dentist is with patients, the more likely those patients are to feel comfortable while at the practice.

Good Listener: It is critical for dentists to understand your concerns and issues before they make any recommendations for treatment. Any misunderstandings on the part of the dentist can forever damage their credibility and trustworthiness with a patient.

Caring: This one may seem to go without saying but it is important to note that the best dentists are those that care about people, even outside of their practice. Some people have a natural instinct to help others whenever possible, and certainly all the best dentists do.

Trustworthy: Since so many patients are anxious about seeing a dentist, it’s critical that dentists carefully explain the procedures and then follow through with what they promise. The best dentists are able to put even the most nervous patients at ease.

Dr. Waters and staff here at The Waters Dental Group seek to exemplify these traits on a daily basis in both our personal and professional lives. We would love to hear about your experiences at our practice so feel free to leave your story in the comments!

Do Oral Piercings Hurt Your Teeth?

The price you pay for looking hip and cool could be your teeth. Though lip and tongue piercings are enjoying a level of popularity with the younger generations, there are real risks to your oral health after getting them.

In the case of tongue piercings, the barbells can cause damage in several ways. First, longer barbells can wear teeth down over time, particularly in cases where the patient subconsciously plays with the piercing between their teeth. It’s also possible to accidentally bite down on the barbell, which is likely to chip or crack teeth and may require surgery to repair.

Lip piercings are more likely to damage gums, as they typically rub against them all day long, but they can also damage teeth through constant wear. When studs are used, it is possible to bite down on them accidentally while eating, again chipping or cracking teeth.

Both lip and tongue piercings can cause periodontitis, which is when the gums pull away from the teeth. In advanced cases, teeth can become loose and even fall out completely.

Another common concern with oral piercings is the possibility of infection. In the cases of oral infection, the entire body can pay the price if the bacteria gets into the bloodstream. Even if it remains in the mouth, this bacteria can spread and increase the chances of getting periodontal disease.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons of oral piercings to decide whether or not to get them. At The Waters Dental Group, we want to be your oral health partner, and are glad to discuss the risks with you and to help you make a safe decision.

If you do decide to get an oral piercing, getting regular checkups at the dentist becomes even more important! If you’re looking for a Chicago-area dentist, give us a call.

The Benefits of Flossing

Dental_floss_(whole)While brushing has fortunately become a common behavior among Americans, flossing seems to struggle to reach the same level of acceptance. According to the American Dental Association, only about 50% of Americans floss daily and an alarming 18% never floss at all!

Flossing’s unpopularity could be due to how uncomfortable and even painful it can be once gingivitis has been allowed to set in. The trick is therefore to make it a part of your daily routine – once your gums heal, flossing can become one of the easiest parts of your morning!

The reason your dentist asks you if you’ve been flossing every time he/she sees you is because it’s a truly important part of any oral health plan. Brushing a couple of times a day is critical to removing plaque from the surface of your teeth but it is simply too ineffective at cleaning between your teeth to be relied upon exclusively. Mouthwash serves its own purposes and can be very effective at reducing cavities and disease but it is also unable to do the work of flossing.

The most basic goal of dental cleaning is the removal of tiny food particles that can become breeding grounds for the bacteria that, with enough time, can break down the enamel of your teeth and harm your gums. Flossing daily helps to do this and therefore protects you from decay and bad breath. By protecting you from these smaller problems, flossing helps to prevent bigger issues like cavities.

As with brushing, flossing incorrectly can do more damage than good. It’s important to consider your gums when flossing – take care not to drag the floss across your gums too hard. Your primary focus should be on scraping both sides of each tooth. This may seem time-consuming but the benefits are absolutely worth it!

The Anatomy of a Tooth

There’s a lot more going in our mouths than many of us realize. Teeth are complex structures and play many important roles in our daily lives. Understanding the anatomy of teeth can help us make sense as to why we brush and floss, and why we need regular dental checkups!

The part of the tooth that you can see above the gum line is called the crown, and the outer surface of the tooth is the enamel. Enamel is the hardest part of the tooth and yet it can still be compromised when the bacteria in food isn’t effectively brushed or flossed away after meals. In these cases, when plaque (the film of bacteria that covers our teeth when we eat foods with sugar) remains on the tooth and mixes with certain minerals, it becomes tartar, which is difficult to remove on our own. Getting rid of tartar is just one of the important things that we need dentists for!

The majority of the tooth’s structure is called dentin, which is beneath the enamel. Dentin are living cells that secrete hard minerals and protect the inner part of the tooth. When dentin is exposed due to compromised enamel, we usually experience a heightened sensitivity to hot and cold foods.

Layers of tissue called cementum and the periodontal ligament reside between the dentin and the jawbone to firmly hold our teeth in place. When we don’t take good care of our teeth by flossing, these parts of the tooth’s anatomy can become inflamed, which we call periodontitis. Keep in mind that this is different from gingivitis, which is the inflammation of the gums and an indicator that plaque and tartar are building up in our mouths.

Finally, inside the root, there is a pulp cavity that holds the nerves and blood vessels inside of each tooth. It’s this part of the tooth’s anatomy that an endodontist targets with root canal surgery.

When you think about it, practicing good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing every day is an easy way to take care of all these different parts of the tooth’s anatomy. It may not seem like such a big deal if you let some plaque build up but knowing that it can quickly turn into tartar which can affect your enamel, your dentin, and even reach further into the tooth to cause damage, you should realize the importance of regular cleanings and dentist visits!

Use It or Lose It!

Each year, patients miss out on scheduling the dental treatment they need, deserve and have insurance to cover. Unfortunately, dental insurance dollars don’t roll over into the next year, leading to a significant waste of your valuable insurance payments. Bottom line: when it comes to dental insurance, what you don’t use, you lose!

Have you taken full advantage of your dental dollars? Every year dental insurance companies make big bucks when you miss out on the full dollar amount of your coverage plan. Don’t let this be you!

Unlike medical insurance, dental insurance and dental plans provide you with an allotted amount of money to spend on your care each year. This means you may have extra left over that will disappear if you plan, like many, renews in January! It is always a good plan to try to maximize what your dental insurance will cover this year so that next year’s benefits can be used for any unexpected treatment that may come up. Have you been thinking about getting a whitening treatment? What about cosmetic veneers? Now is your chance to take full advantage of your dental insurance.

For many plans, as of January 1, 2015 (varies depending on plan), you will again be required to pay 100% of your annual insurance deductible before any dental benefits are paid by your insurance company. Now is the perfect time to achieve the smile you’ve always wanted and seize the dental dollars you deserve!

Call at our office today at (815) 786-2146, and together let’s make sure you are in excellent dental health for the New Year and getting the full value of your insurance. We look forward to seeing you soon! Remember, if you don’t use it, you lose it!

Everything You Need to Know About Brushing Your Teeth

The importance of oral hygiene has been understood by mankind for a very long time. Archeologists have uncovered toothbrushes, recognizable even by modern standards, dating back to the 10th century in China. Even before then, ancient cultures used chew sticks to clean their teeth. In some parts of the world, chew sticks are still popular and widely used!

In the United States, it is recommended by the American Dental Association to brush your teeth at least twice a day, and toothbrushes with soft bristles are generally recommended to the majority of people.

Why Do We Brush?

Throughout the day, your teeth become covered with a filmy substance that turns into plaque if left undisturbed. This process can happen very quickly, and even more so if your diet is high in sugars and simple carbohydrates that rapidly break down into simple sugars.

Unchecked plaque can lead to gum disease and cavities. While these can cause pain and an unattractive smile, poor oral hygiene can also have negative impacts throughout your entire body!

Can Changing Your Diet Eliminate the Need for Brushing?

Avoiding foods that are high in sugars, particularly between meals, can have a positive impact on your dental hygiene (and really, your overall health). However, even common foods that can be quite healthy, like rice and bread, become sugars when they begin to break down. Whatever your diet, it’s still a good idea to brush a couple of times every day.

Is Brushing More Than Twice a Day Good or Bad?

Brushing your teeth too much can actually have some negative impacts on your oral hygiene, particularly if you don’t brush with a gentle touch. The abrasion on your gums caused by brushing is minimal but if you brush several times throughout the day, every day, it can begin to add up to cause receding gum lines.

The good news is, this means you don’t have to worry about brushing your teeth all the time! Once in the morning and once before you go to bed is perfect.

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