Posts for category: Oral Health
We all experience that unpleasant "cotton-mouth" feeling now and again. But what if it happens all the time? Chronic dry mouth is more than unpleasant—it could be a medical condition that threatens your oral health.
Chronic dry mouth is a sign you don't have enough saliva present. That's a problem because we need saliva to keep our teeth and gums healthy by neutralizing the oral acid that erodes tooth enamel. Saliva also supplies antibodies to fight infection.
A saliva deficiency could be the result of lifestyle habits like drinking alcohol or smoking, metabolic diseases or treatments like chemotherapy or radiation. More commonly, though, it's a side effect from a medication you're taking.
Given the heightened risk it causes to your teeth and gums, what can you do to alleviate chronic dry mouth?
Review your medications. If you're taking prescribed medications, talk with your pharmacist or doctor about possible oral side effects associated with any of them. If so, it may be possible to switch to an alternative medication without the dry mouth side effect.
Don't use tobacco. Regardless of whether you smoke, dip or chew, tobacco use can interfere with saliva production. Kicking the habit not only improves saliva flow, it may further reduce your risk for oral diseases, especially oral cancer.
Drink more water. Saliva is mainly composed of water—so, be sure your body has plenty of it to facilitate saliva production. It's a good idea to sip extra water throughout the day, and especially before and after you take medication.
Practice oral hygiene. As a general rule, brushing and flossing every day is pivotal in preventing dental disease—but it's especially important with dry mouth. Be sure, then, to brush twice and floss once every day. You should also see your dentist at least every six months for dental cleanings and checkups.
Chronic dry mouth could be setting you up for future dental disease. But taking steps to alleviate it while practicing daily dental care could help you avoid that unhappy outcome.
If you would like more information on alleviating chronic dry mouth, 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 “10 Tips for Dealing With Dry Mouth.”
Until recently, the standard treatment for tooth decay remained essentially the same for nearly a century: Remove any decayed structure, then prepare and fill the cavity. But that singular protocol has begun to change recently.
Although "drilling and filling" saves teeth, it doesn't fully address the causes of decay. In response, dentists have broadened their approach to the disease—the focus now is on an individual patient's particular set of risk factors for decay and how to reduce those.
At the heart of this new approach is a better understanding of oral bacteria, the true cause of decay. Bacteria produce acid, which can erode tooth enamel and create a gateway into the tooth for decay to advance. We therefore want to lower those risk factors that may lead to bacterial growth and elevated acidity.
One of our major objectives in this newer approach is to reduce plaque, a thin film of food particles used by bacteria for food and habitation. Removing plaque, principally through better oral hygiene, in turn reduces decay-causing bacteria.
Plaque isn't the only mechanism for bacterial growth and acidity. Appliances like dentures or retainers accumulate bacteria if not regularly cleaned. Reduced saliva flow, often due to certain medications or smoking, limits this fluid's ability to buffer acid and acid reflux or acidic beverages like sodas, sports or energy drinks can disrupt the mouth's normal pH and increase the risk for enamel erosion.
Our aim, then, is to develop a long-term strategy based on the patient's individual set of oral disease risk factors. To determine those, we'll need to examine their medical history (including family), current health status and lifestyle habits. From there, we can create a specific plan targeting the identified risk factors for decay.
Some of the elements of such a strategy might include:
- Daily brushing and flossing, along with regular dental cleanings;
- Fluoride dental products or treatments to strengthen enamel;
- Changes in diet and excess snacking, and ceasing from any tobacco use;
- Cleaning and maintaining appliances, as well as monitoring past dental work.
Improving the mouth environment by limiting the presence of oral bacteria and acid can reduce the occurrence of tooth decay and the extent of treatment that might be needed. It's a more nuanced approach that can improve dental health.
If you would like more information on tooth decay prevention and treatment, 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 “Tooth Decay: How to Assess Your Risk.”
Here in the Western Hemisphere, sunlight hours steadily shrink day by day as we approach December 21st. This shortest day of the year marks the winter solstice and the official start of its namesake season. Love it or hate it, winter can have an impact on your health—including your teeth and gums.
Fortunately, winter doesn't sneak up on you—you can see it coming as the days wane. And, knowing what's up ahead gives you time to get yourself—and your mouth—ready. Here, then, are 3 things to prepare for during the winter months to protect your oral health.
Holiday eating. Winter starts off nicely enough with a bevy of festivities. But that could also mean you're eating more carbohydrates—particularly refined sugar—that feed the bacteria responsible for tooth decay and gum disease. To lessen your chances of dental disease, exercise moderation while eating sweets and other holiday goodies. And, don't neglect your daily brushing and flossing routine.
Winter weather. Winter's chill could trigger some unpleasant oral experiences. If you suffer from tooth sensitivity, for instance, colder temperatures can worsen your symptoms. Harsh and windy conditions also make you more susceptible to chapped lips. For the former, be sure you're using a toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth. For the latter, apply lip salve to your lips that offers sun protection (SPF+) while you're outside.
Cold sores. You may be more apt to get sick during winter. That's because shorter days and more of your skin covered against the cold means you may absorb less Vitamin D from sunlight, leading to a weakened immune system. In addition to infections like colds and flu, this might also make you more susceptible to cold sores forming around your lips and mouth. If you feel a sore coming on, be sure to keep the area clean and apply an appropriate topical antibiotic cream to curtail any infection.
Winter also signals the beginning of a new year—the perfect time to get back on track with your dental care. If you haven't done so already, schedule a visit with your dentist for a cleaning and a checkup. By following these guidelines, you're sure to sail through the frigid winter months toward a brighter spring.
If you would like more information about dental care throughout the year, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Bitter Truth About Sugar.”
You're doing the right things to avoid the return of gum disease: brushing and flossing every day, dental visits on a regular basis and watching for symptoms of another infection. But while you're at it, don't forget this other important part of gum disease prevention—your diet.
In relation to oral health, not all foods are alike. Some can increase inflammation, a major factor with gum disease; others strengthen teeth and gums. Carbohydrates in particular are a key part of this dynamic.
The body transforms these biomolecules of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen into the sugar glucose as a ready source of energy. But glucose levels in the bloodstream must be strictly controlled to avoid a harmful imbalance.
When elevated the body injects the hormone insulin into the bloodstream to bring glucose levels into normal range. Eventually, though, regular injections of insulin in high amounts in response to eating carbs—known as "spikes"—can increase inflammation. And, inflammation in turn increases the risk and severity of gum infections.
So, why not cut out carbohydrates altogether? That might be akin to throwing out the proverbial baby with the bath water. A wide range of carbohydrates, particularly fruits and vegetables, are a rich source of health-enhancing nutrients.
It's better to manage your carbohydrate consumption by taking advantage of one particular characteristic: Not all carbohydrates affect the body in the same way. Some cause a higher insulin response than others according to a scale known as the glycemic index. It's better, then, to eat more of the lower glycemic carbohydrates than those at the higher end.
One of the latter you'll definitely want to restrict is refined sugar—which also happens to be a primary food source for bacteria. You'll also want to cut back on any refined or processed foods like chips, refined grains or pastries.
Conversely, you can eat more of a number of low glycemic foods, most characterized as "whole", or unprocessed, like fresh fruits and vegetables, or whole grains like oatmeal. You should still, however, eat these in moderation.
Better control over your carbohydrate consumption is good for your health overall. But it's especially helpful to your efforts to keep gum disease at bay.
If you would like more information on nutrition and your 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 “Carbohydrates Linked to Gum Disease.”
Although there are several potential problems people could encounter involving their teeth, gums or mouth, most fall into three basic categories. That's the finding of a recent survey conducted by the American Dental Association of more than 15,000 U.S. adults.
These categories are a triad of symptoms, each of which could arise from a variety of causes. If you're encountering any one of these, you should see your dentist as soon as possible.
Tooth pain. A toothache—or any form of pain from the mouth—could be sign of a number of possible issues. It could mean you have a decayed tooth, especially if the pain is sharp and localized. It could also indicate a gum abscess (accompanied by red and puffy gums), a sinus or ear infection, or inflammation of the jaw joints. The intensity, duration and location of the pain are all clues to its actual cause and what treatments it might require.
Biting difficulties. Does it hurt when you bite down? Among other things, you could have a loose tooth or one that's deeply decayed. The former could be the sign of advanced gum disease, which itself must be treated and the tooth stabilized (splinted) to other teeth. If the problem is advanced decay, you may need a root canal to remove diseased tissue from within the interior of the tooth, which is then filled and crowned to prevent re-infection.
Dry mouth. We're not talking about that "cotton mouth" feeling we all get now and then. This is a chronic condition known as xerostomia in which the mouth feels dry all the time. Xerostomia has several causes including smoking or treatments for cancer or other serious diseases. It might also be a medication you're taking, which has reduced your mouth's saliva production. Because dry mouth could lead to dental disease, you should take steps to relieve it.
Even if you're not having symptoms like these, there may still be something going on in your mouth that needs attention. That's why you should see your dentist on a regular basis, besides when you notice a problem, to keep your oral health in tip-top shape.