Good oral health doesn't just happen. It is often the byproduct of a long-term care plan developed by a patient with their dentist. The plan's strategy is simple—stay well ahead of any potential threats to teeth and gum health through prevention and early treatment.
We can categorize these potential threats into 4 different areas of risk. By first assessing the state of your current oral health in relation to these areas, we find out where the greatest risks to your oral health lie. From there, we can put together the specifics of your plan to minimize that risk.
Here, then, is an overview of these 4 risk areas, and how to mitigate their effect on your oral health.
Teeth. Healthy teeth can endure for a lifetime. But tooth decay, a bacterial disease that erodes enamel and other dental tissues, can destroy a tooth's health and longevity. Our first priority is to prevent decay through daily brushing and flossing and regular dental cleanings. We also want to promptly treat any diagnosed decay with fillings or root canal therapy to limit any structural damage to an affected tooth.
Gums and bone. Teeth depend on the gums and bone for support and stability. But periodontal (gum) disease weakens and damages both of these supporting structures, and may lead to possible tooth loss. As with tooth decay, our highest priority is to prevent gum disease through daily hygiene and regular dental care. When it does occur, we want to aggressively treat it to stop the infection and minimize damage.
Bite function. Misaligned teeth and other bite problems can diminish oral health over time. A poor bite can impair oral function, leading to structural dental damage. Misaligned teeth are also harder to clean and maintain, which increases their risk for dental disease. Correcting these problems through orthodontics or bite adjustment measures can help alleviate these risks.
Appearance. How your smile looks may or may not be related to your mouth's health and function, but an unattractive smile can affect your emotional health, and thus worthy of consideration in your overall care plan. Improving appearance is often a mix of both cosmetic and therapeutic treatments, so treating a tooth or gum problem could also have a positive impact on your smile.
If you would like more information on long-term dental care strategies, 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 “Successful Dental Treatment.”
Today, when you undergo treatment to repair or replace problem teeth, you have the advantage of the most advanced dental materials ever developed. These materials help make current dental restorations not only more lifelike, but also more durable than they've ever been.
“Durable,” however, doesn't mean “indestructible”: The same microscopic enemies that damaged your natural teeth could also undermine your dental work. True, the actual materials that compose your dental work are impervious to bacterial infection. But your restoration is supported by natural teeth, the gums or underlying bone—all of which are susceptible to disease.
If these supporting structures weaken due to disease, it could cause your filling, veneer, bridge or other restoration to fail. But here's how you can minimize this risk and help extend the life of your dental work.
Practice daily hygiene. The main cause for tooth decay or gum disease is a thin film of bacteria and food particles on your teeth called dental plaque. Brushing and flossing each day removes plaque and helps ensure your teeth and gums, and by extension your dental work, stay healthy and sound.
Eat less sugar. Disease-causing bacteria feed primarily on carbohydrates, especially added sugar. By reducing your intake of sugary snacks, foods and beverages, you can help deter the growth of these harmful bacteria and reduce your risk of dental disease.
Reduce teeth grinding. The involuntary habit of grinding teeth could shorten the longevity of your dental work. Your dentist can help by developing a custom-fitted guard that prevents your teeth from making solid contact with each other. You may also benefit from relaxation techniques to reduce stress, a major factor in teeth grinding.
See your dentist regularly. A dental cleaning with your dentist removes any plaque you may have missed, as well as a hardened form called tartar, which further reduces your disease risk. Your dentist may also detect and treat early forms of dental disease and limit any damage to your dental work.
Taking steps to keep your mouth free of disease will optimize your dental health. It will also help protect your current restorations from damage and loss.
If you would like more information on caring for dental work, 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 “Extending the Life of Your Dental Work.”
Hearing the words, "You're going to have a baby," can change your life—as surely as the next nine months can too. Although an exciting time, pregnancy can be hectic with many things concerning you and your baby's health competing for your attention.
Be sure, then, that you include dental care on your short list of health priorities. It may seem tempting to "put things off" regarding your teeth and gums. But there are good reasons to keep up your dental care—for you and your baby.
For you: a higher risk of dental disease. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can trigger outcomes that increase your dental disease risk. For one, you may encounter cravings that include carbohydrates like sugar. Bacteria feed on sugar, which can cause both tooth decay and gum disease. This change in hormones can also trigger a form of gum disease called pregnancy gingivitis.
For your baby: dental-related complications. Some studies show evidence that a mother's oral bacteria can pass through the placenta and affect the baby. This may in turn spark an inflammatory response in the mother's body, creating potential complications during pregnancy. Other research points to what could result: Women with diseased gums are more likely to deliver premature or underweight babies than those with healthy gums.
Fortunately, you can minimize dental disease during pregnancy and protect both you and your baby.
- Keep up regular dental cleanings and checkups during pregnancy;
- Limit consumption of sweets and other sugary foods;
- Brush and floss every day to remove dental plaque, which feeds bacteria;
- See your dentist at the first sign of swollen, painful or bleeding gums;
- And, inform your dentist that you're pregnant—it could affect your treatment plan.
Although it's wise to put off dental work of a cosmetic or elective nature, you shouldn't postpone essential procedures. Both the American Dental Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists approve of pregnant women undergoing therapeutic dental work.
Dental care during pregnancy shouldn't be an option. Maintaining your oral health could help you and your baby avoid unpleasant complications.
If you would like more information on dental care during pregnancy, 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 “Dental Care During Pregnancy.”
It's a common fantasy to imagine you're the main squeeze of one of the world's most desirable humans, but it was real life for Priscilla Wagner Beaulieu. In the late 1960s she was married briefly to heartthrob Elvis Presley. Unfortunately, sex symbols often remain so even after they put a ring on it. In a recent People interview, Priscilla revealed how she always felt uneasy leaving Elvis alone with anyone—even going so far as to accompany him while he was having his teeth cleaned.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), most of us don't need a chaperone during our six-month dental hygiene visit. We might, however, encounter a different problem: finding time for a cleaning amidst a hectic work and family schedule. And because nothing looks or feels wrong inside the mouth, many justify putting it off to a more convenient time.
But semi-annual dental cleanings are an important part of dental disease prevention and as important as your daily hygiene practice. Here, then, are 3 reasons to keep your twice-a-year dental cleanings right on schedule.
Removing pesky plaque. Just like daily oral hygiene, the main purpose of dental cleanings is to remove disease-causing plaque and its calcified form, tartar. They're necessary because even if you're a brush-and-floss "ninja," you can still leave some plaque behind. These deposits can then harden into tartar, which usually can only be removed with a hygienist's specialized tools and techniques. A professional cleaning ensures your teeth and gums are as free of plaque and tartar as possible.
Identifying "silent" disease. Just because you haven't felt or noticed anything lately doesn't mean your teeth and gums are disease-free. In fact, both tooth decay and gum disease can run "silent" with no noticeable signs on display. But a routine visit often involves x-ray imaging or other diagnostics—not to mention the astute eye of an experienced dental professional—that can identify disease you might not otherwise notice.
Getting a little extra smile pizzazz. Besides causing disease, plaque and tartar can do something else: dull your smile. A thorough dental cleaning not only removes the plaque, but also helps uncover a more attractive smile hiding below the gunk. Hygienists often follow a cleaning with a polishing paste that further boosts your smile's brilliance and beauty.
If it's been a while since your last dental visit, there's no time like the present to get back on track—so make your appointment today. Whether you come alone or have your watchful honey with you, regular dental cleanings will keep your teeth and gums healthy—and your smile bright.
Millions of Americans live with osteoporosis, a degenerative bone disease that can turn a minor fall into a potential bone fracture. Literally meaning "porous bone," osteoporosis causes the natural marrow spaces in bone tissue to progressively grow larger and weaken the remaining bone.
Many osteoporosis patients take medication to slow the disease's process. But due to the dynamic nature of bone, some of these drugs can have unintended consequences—consequences that could affect dental care.
As living tissue, bone is literally "coming and going." Certain cells called osteoblasts continuously produce new bone, while others called osteoclasts remove older tissue to make way for the new. Drugs like bisphosphonates and RANKL inhibitors interrupt this process by destroying some of the osteoclasts.
As a result, more of the older bone remains past its normal lifespan, helping the bone overall to retain strength. But ongoing research is beginning to hint that this may only be a short-term gain. The older, longer lasting bone is more fragile than newer bone, and tends to become more brittle and prone to fracture the longer a patient takes the drug. This tissue can also die but still remain intact, a condition known as osteonecrosis.
The femur (the large upper leg bone) and the jawbone are the bones of the body most susceptible to osteonecrosis. Dentists are most concerned when this happens in the latter: Its occurrence could lead to complications during invasive procedures like oral surgery or implant placement.
Because of this possibility, you should keep your dentist informed regarding any treatments you're undergoing for osteoporosis, especially when planning upcoming dental procedures like oral surgery or implant placement. You might be able to lower your risk by taking a "drug holiday," coming off of certain medications for about three months before your dental work.
As always, you shouldn't stop medication without your doctor's guidance. But research has shown drug holidays of short duration won't worsen your osteoporosis. If you're already showing signs of osteonecrosis in the jaw, a short absence from your prescription along with antiseptic mouthrinses and heightened oral hygiene could help reverse it.
Fortunately, the risk for dental complications related to osteoporosis medication remains low. And, by working closely with both your dentist and your physician, you can ensure it stays that way.
If you would like more information on osteoporosis and your dental care, 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 “Osteoporosis Drugs & Dental Treatment.”
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