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Oral Health

Age and Oral Health

Baby boomers looking for the warning signs of adult-onset diseases may be overlooking key symptoms in their mouth that should signal alarms about their overall health. According to a survey commissioned by the Academy of General Dentistry, 63% of baby boomers (ages 45-64) with an oral symptom considered to be a key indicator of a more serious health condition, were unaware of the symptoms’ link to the condition. Boomers’ failure to recognize that oral health holds valuable clues could negatively impact their overall health.

Caring for Braces

Braces are applied to teeth for various reasons, including poorly aligned jaws, crooked, crowded and missing teeth, or a bad bite (also called malocclusion).

People who wear braces must be diligent in ensuring that food particles and other debris do not get trapped in the network of brackets and wires. In addition, brackets can leave stains on enamel if the area surrounding them is not cleaned on a daily basis.

Daily oral hygiene such as brushing, flossing and rinsing are a necessity. Some people with orthodontic appliances can benefit from using water picks, which emit small, pressurized bursts of water that can effectively rinse away such debris.

Keep in mind that braces and sticky foods don’t mix. Crunchy snacks and chewy substances should be avoided at all costs because they can cause orthodontia to be loosened or damaged.

Space Maintainers
Space maintainers are helpful dental devices that can help teeth grow in normally following premature tooth loss, injury or other problems. If your child loses a baby tooth early through decay or injury, his or her other teeth could shift and begin to fill the vacant space. When your child’s permanent teeth emerge, there’s not enough room for them. The result is crooked or crowded teeth and difficulties with chewing or speaking. Space maintainers can help ensure that proper spaces are maintained to allow future permanent teeth to erupt.

Denture Care

Dentures today are made from very advanced materials designed to give you a natural appearance. However, keep in mind that, just like your teeth, dentures should be cared for with the same diligence. This means daily brushing and regular visits to your dentist.

Here are some simple techniques for keeping your dentures clean:

  • Remember to rinse and brush your dentures after every meal, and soak them in denture solution overnight. This also allows your gums to breathe while you sleep.
  • People can brush their dentures in a variety of ways. Some people use soap and water or a slightly abrasive toothpaste. Popular denture pastes and creams also can be used.
  • Avoid using highly abrasive chemicals or pastes, or vigorously brushing with hard bristled toothbrushes. These can scratch or even crack dentures.
  • Hold your dentures gently to avoid loosening a tooth.
  • Clean your dentures with cool or tepid water over a water-filled sink. Hot water may warp a denture. A small washcloth placed in the bottom of the bowl will ensure that your denture isn’t damaged if it falls.
  • Soak your dentures overnight in any commercially available product like Efferdent or Polident, and remember to rinse your dentures before placing them back in your mouth.
  • Remember to use a separate toothbrush to clean your own natural teeth, as well as all of your gum tissues. In lieu of a toothbrush, a soft washcloth may be used to wipe your gums.

Emergency Care

A knocked out tooth or bitten tongue can cause panic in any parent, but quick thinking and staying calm are the best ways to approach such common dental emergencies and prevent additional unnecessary damage and costly dental restoration. This includes taking measures such as application of cold compresses to reduce swelling, and of course, contacting our office as soon as possible.

Flap Surgery

Your bone and gum tissue should fit snugly around your teeth like a turtleneck. When you have periodontal disease, this supporting tissue and bone is destroyed, forming “pockets” around the teeth. Over time, these pockets become deeper, providing a larger space for bacteria to thrive and wreak havoc. As bacteria accumulate and advance under the gum tissue in these deep pockets, additional bone and tissue loss follows. Eventually, if too much bone is lost, the teeth will need to be extracted.

Flap surgery is sometimes performed at the specialist’s/periodontist’s office to remove tartar deposits in deep pockets or to reduce the periodontal pocket and make it easier for you or your dental professional to keep the area clean. This common surgery involves lifting back the gums and removing the tartar. The gums are then sutured back in place so that the tissue fits snugly around the tooth again.

Fluoride Facts

For decades, fluoride has been held in high as an important mineral that is absorbed into and strengthens tooth enamel, thereby helping to prevent decay of tooth structure. Fluoride is a compound of the element fluorine, which can found throughout nature in water, soil, air and food. By adding fluoride into our drinking water, it can be absorbed easily into tooth enamel, especially in children’s growing teeth, which helps to reduce tooth decay.

Just drinking public water will provide a certain measure of fluoride protection. But for years, health professionals have endorsed the practice of supplementing our intake with certain dietary products, and topical fluorides in many toothpastes and some kinds of rinses. Certain beverages such as tea and soda may also contain fluoride. Certain kinds of dental varnishes and gels may also be applied directly to teeth to boost fluoride intake.

It is generally NOT safe to swallow toothpastes, rinses, or other products containing topical fluoride. In rare cases, some people may be overexposed to high concentrations of fluoride, resulting in a relatively harmless condition called fluorosis, which leaves dark enamel stains on teeth.

Infection Control

Gloves, gowns and masks are required to be worn in all dentist offices today, and after each patient visit, disposable PPE (gloves, drapes, needles, and scalpel blades) are thrown away, hands are washed, and a new pair of gloves used for the next patient. All hand instruments used on patients are washed, disinfected and/or sterilized with chemicals or steam after each use. One of the most effective methods for preventing disease transmission (washing one’s hands) is practiced in our office. It is routine procedure to wash hands at the beginning of the day, before and after glove use, and after touching any surfaces that may have become contaminated.

Maxillofacial Surgery

When facial reconstruction, including procedures involving the oral cavity, is called for, a specialist is needed. A maxillofacial surgeon performs surgical procedures of the neck and head area. Common maxillofacial procedures include denture-related procedures and jaw surgery.

People who have worn dentures for a long time can sometimes experience loss of gum tissue and even bone, mostly from the wear and tear of the appliance on the soft tissues of their mouth. Maxillofacial surgery, including bone grafts, manipulation of soft tissues or even jaw realignment, may be performed to correct such problems.

Protruding chins, crooked or buckteeth or misaligned teeth are good candidates for maxillofacial surgery, too. In some people, jaws do not grow at the same rate; one may come in larger than the other, or simply not be aligned properly with other bony structures in the skull. This can cause problems other than appearance issues; an improperly aligned jaw can cause problems with the tongue and lips, and speech and chewing problems as well. Jaw surgery can move jaws into their proper place.

Heart Disease

Poor dental hygiene can cause a host of problems outside your mouth, including your heart. Medical research has uncovered a definitive link between heart disease and certain kinds of oral infections such as periodontal disease. Some have even suggested that gum disease may be as dangerous as or more dangerous than other factors such as tobacco use. A condition called chronic periodontitis, or persistent gum disease, has been linked to cardiovascular problems by medical researchers.

Infections and harmful bacteria in your mouth can spread through the bloodstream to your liver, which produces harmful proteins that can lead to systemic cardiac problems. That’s why it’s critical to practice good oral hygiene (daily brushing, flossing and rinsing) to keep infections at bay.

Mouth Rinses

The Food and Drug Administration classifies mouth rinses into two categories: therapeutic and cosmetic.

In general, therapeutic rinses with fluoride have been shown to actually fight cavities, plaque and gingivitis.

On the other hand, cosmetic rinses merely treat breath odor, reduce bacteria and/or remove food particles in the mouth. They do nothing to treat or prevent gingivitis.

People who have difficulty brushing (because of physical difficulties such as arthritis) can benefit from a good therapeutic mouth rinse.

Caution: Even rinses that are indicated to treat plaque or cavities are only moderately effective. In fact, regular rinsing with water and use of good quality fluoride toothpaste are just as or more effective.

Nutrition and Your Teeth

It has long been known that good nutrition and a well-balanced diet is one of the best defenses for your oral health. Providing your body with the right amounts of vitamins and minerals helps your teeth and gums, as well as your immune system, stay strong and ward off infection, decay and disease.

Children should eat foods rich in calcium and other kinds of minerals, as well as a healthy balance of the essential food groups like vegetables, fruits, dairy products, poultry and meat. Fluoride supplements may be helpful if you live in a community without fluoridated water, but consult with our office first. (Be aware that sugars are even found in some kinds of condiments, as well as fruits and even milk.)

Allowing your children to eat excessive amounts of junk food (starches and sugars) – including potato chips, cookies, crackers, soda, artificial fruit rollups and granola bars – only places them at risk for serious health problems, including obesity, osteoporosis and diabetes. The carbonation found in soda, for example, can actually erode tooth enamel. Encourage your child to use a straw when drinking soda; this will help keep at least some of the carbonated beverage away from the teeth.

Oral Piercings

Oral piercings (usually in the tongue or around the lips) have quickly become a popular trend in today’s society. With this popular trend, it is important to realize that sometimes even precautions taken during the installation of the piercing jewelry are not enough to stave off harmful, long-term consequences such as cracked or chipped teeth, swelling, problems with swallowing and taste, and scars. There is also a possibility of choking on a piece of dislodged jewelry, which makes it important to ask if the risks are warranted.

One of the most serious long-term health problems that may occur from oral piercings come in the form of damage to the soft tissues such as the cheeks, gums and palate, as well as opportunistic infections. A tongue piercing is a common form of body piercing. However, tongue piercings have been known to cause blocked airways (from a swollen tongue). In some cases, a tongue piercing can cause uncontrolled bleeding.

Preventive Program

Our program is designed to help prevent new cavities, preserve teeth that have been restored and manage periodontal disease. Here are some helpful recommendations to keep you healthy:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day in a circular motion with a soft bristled toothbrush aimed at the gum
  • Floss every night in an up-and-down motion while keeping the floss in a U-shape and against the tooth surface
  • Avoid smoking
  • Avoid sticky sugary foods
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Use antiseptic and fluoride rinses as directed
  • Have sealants placed on young permanent teeth

Prevention Tips for Children

Infants

  • Conditions like gum irritation and thumb sucking could create problems later on and babies who suck their thumbs may be setting the stage for malformed teeth and bite relationships
  • Avoid “baby bottle tooth decay,” which is caused by sugary substances in breast milk and some juices, which combine with saliva to form pools inside the baby’s mouth
  • Do not allow your baby to nurse on a bottle while going to sleep
  • Avoid dipping pacifiers in sweet substances such as honey, because this only encourages early decay in the baby’s mouth
  • Encourage your young child to drink from a cup as early as possible

Teething, Pacifiers and Thumb-Sucking
Teething is a sign that your child’s gums are sore, which is perfectly normal. You can help relieve this by allowing the baby to suck on a teething ring, or gently rubbing your baby’s gums with the back of a small spoon, a piece of wet gauze, or even your finger.

For babies under the age of 4, teething rings and pacifiers can be safely used to facilitate the child’s oral needs for relieving gum pain and for suckling. After the age of 4, pacifiers are generally discouraged because they may interfere with the development of your child’s teeth.

Moreover, thumb sucking should be strongly discouraged because it can lead to malformed teeth that become crooked and crowded.

Primary and Permanent Teeth
Once your child reaches the age of three, we suggest that you make your child’s first visit appointment at our office. Every child grows 20 primary teeth, usually by the age of three. These teeth are gradually replaced by the age of 12 or so with a full set of 28 permanent teeth, and later on, four molars called “wisdom teeth.”

It is essential that a child’s primary teeth are healthy, because their development sets the stage for permanent teeth. If primary teeth become diseased or do not grow in properly, chances are greater that their permanent replacements will suffer the same fate. For example, poorly formed primary teeth that don’t erupt properly could crowd out spaces reserved for other teeth. Space maintainers can sometimes be used to correct this condition, if it is spotted early enough.

Brushing
Babies’ gums and teeth can be gently cleaned with special infant toothbrushes that fit over your finger. Water is suitable in lieu of toothpaste (because the baby may swallow the toothpaste). Parents are advised to avoid fluoride toothpastes on children under the age of two.

Primary teeth can be cleansed with child-sized, soft-bristled toothbrushes. Remember to use small portions of toothpaste (a pea-sized portion is suitable), and teach your child to spit out, not swallow, the toothpaste when finished.

Fluoride
Fluoride is generally present in most public drinking water systems. If you are unsure about your community’s water and its fluoride content, or learn that it has an unacceptable level of fluoride in it, there are fluoride supplements your dentist can prescribe. Your child may not be getting enough fluoride just by using fluoride toothpaste.

Toothaches
Toothaches can be common in young children. Sometimes, erupting teeth cause toothaches, but they also could indicate a serious problem. You can safely relieve a small child’s toothache without the aid of medication by rinsing the mouth with a solution of warm water and table salt. If the pain doesn’t subside, acetaminophen may be used. If such medications don’t help, contact your dentist immediately.

Injuries
You can help your child prevent oral injuries by closely supervising him during play and not allowing the child to put foreign objects in the mouth. For younger children involved in physical activities and sports, mouth guards are strongly encouraged, and can prevent a whole host of injuries to the teeth, gums, lips and other oral structures.

If the tooth has been knocked out, try to place the tooth back in its socket while waiting to see our office. Remember to hold the dislocated tooth by the crown—not the root. If you cannot relocate the tooth, place it in a container of cold milk, saline or the victim’s own saliva. Place the tooth in the solution.

First, rinse the mouth of any blood or other debris and place a cold cloth or compress on the cheek near the injury. This will keep down swelling.

For a fractured tooth, it is best to rinse with warm water and again, apply a cold pack or compress. Ibuprofen may be used to help keep down swelling.

If the tooth fracture is minor, the tooth can be sanded or if necessary, restored by the dentist if the pulp is not severely damaged.

If a child’s primary tooth has been loosened by an injury or an emerging permanent tooth, try getting the child to gently bite down on an apple or piece of caramel; in some cases, the tooth will easily separate from the gum.

Irritation caused by retainers or braces can sometimes be relieved by placing a tiny piece of cotton or gauze on the tip of the wire or other protruding object. If an injury occurs from a piece of the retainer or braces lodging into a soft tissue, contact our office immediately and avoid dislodging it yourself.

Sealants
Sealants fill in the little ridges on the chewing part of your teeth to protect and seal the tooth from food and plaque. The application is easy to apply and typically last for several years.

Seniors and Oral Health

More and more people are avoiding the need for dentures as they grow older, going against the notion that false teeth are a normal part of growing older. In fact, there’s usually no reason for you NOT to keep your teeth your entire life, providing you maintain a healthy balanced diet and practice good oral hygiene.

People who suffer from arthritis or other problems of dexterity may find it difficult and painful to practice good oral hygiene. Thankfully, industry has responded with ergonomically designed devices such as toothbrushes and floss holders that make it easier to grasp and control. You can also use items around the house to help you. Inserting the handle of your toothbrush into a small rubber ball, or extending the handle by attaching a small piece of plastic or Popsicle stick may also do the trick. Floss can also be tied into a tiny loop on either side, making it easier to grasp and control the floss with your fingers.

Tobacco

Recent studies have shown that there is a direct link between oral tissue and bones loss and smoking. Tooth loss and edentulism are more common in smokers than in non-smokers. In addition, people who smoke are more likely to develop severe periodontal disease.

Many studies have shown that smoking can lead to higher rates of dental implant failure. In general, smoking cessation usually leads to improved periodontal health and a patient’s chance for successful implant acceptance.

Women and Tooth Care

Women have special needs when it comes to their oral health because the physical changes they undergo through life (menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth, breast-feeding and menopause) cause many changes in the body, some harmful to teeth and gums.

Lesions and ulcers, dry sockets, as well as swollen gums, can sometimes occur during surges in a woman’s hormone levels. These periods would be a prime time to visit the dentist. Birth control pills have been shown to increase the risk of gingivitis, and hormone replacement therapy has been shown to cause bleeding and swollen gums. Gum disease can also present a higher risk for premature births. Some research has shown that women may be more likely to develop dry mouth, eating disorders, jaw problems such as temporomandibular joint disorders, and facial pain—all of which can be difficult from a physical and emotional standpoint.

Taking care of your mouth with proper oral health care is essential, and can go a long way to helping you face the physical changes in your body over the years.

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