The ailment we commonly called gum disease is actually series of related diseases, all of which involve the tissues that surround the teeth. It's sometimes thought of as a “silent” malady, because its symptoms — bad breath, soreness, or bleeding of the gums — may be masked by other conditions. Or, they may simply be disregarded.
But don't ignore these symptoms! Left untreated, periodontitis can have serious health consequences. Here are five things you should know about this disease.
Gum disease is a chronic inflammatory disease.
That means it's a disease related to a natural response of the body's immune system (inflammation), and it develops over time (chronic). Gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums, may be the first step in the disease's progression. Left untreated, it can be followed by destruction of the periodontal ligament (which helps hold the tooth in place), loss of the supporting bone, and ultimately tooth loss. But it doesn't stop there.
The effects of gum disease aren't confined to the mouth.
In fact, recent research has suggested a connection between periodontal disease and chronic diseases in the whole body. There is evidence that severe periodontal disease is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases (like heart attack and stroke), pregnancy complications, and other conditions. It is also believed to have an adverse effect on blood-sugar control in diabetics.
Gum disease is caused by the bacteria in dental plaque.
Oral bacteria tend to build up in a colony of living organisms called a biofilm. Of the many types of bacteria that live in the mouth, only a relatively few are harmful. When oral biofilms are not regularly disturbed by brushing and flossing, the disease-causing types tend to predominate. Once it gains a foothold, treating gum disease can become more difficult.
Prevention is the best defense.
Good personal oral hygiene, carried out on a daily basis, is probably the best defense against many forms of periodontal disease. Proper brushing and flossing is effective in disrupting the growth of dental plaques. Lifestyle changes — like quitting smoking and reducing stress — are also associated with lessening your chance of developing the disease. Genetics also seems to play a part, so those with a family history of periodontitis should pay special attention to preventive measures.
Prompt, effective treatment is critical.
Bleeding of the gums is never a normal occurrence. But sometimes this (and other symptoms of gum disease) may be overlooked. During routine dental checkups, we can detect the early signs of periodontal disease. We can then recommend an appropriate treatment, from routine scaling and root planing (a cleaning of the teeth) to other therapies. So, besides brushing and flossing regularly, don't neglect regular examinations — they're the best way to stop this disease before it becomes more serious.
If you have concerns about gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Understanding Gum (Periodontal) Disease” and “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”
Years ago, if you hadn't received braces by the time you finished high school odds are you would never pursue orthodontic treatment. Most adults wouldn't have even dreamed of wearing braces! Thankfully, today, clear aligners have quickly become a popular alternative for adults who have mild to moderate crowding or spacing of teeth.
Unlike traditional orthodontic “braces” in which small (metal) brackets are attached to the teeth, clear aligners use a sequence of individual, clear, removable “trays” to straighten teeth. These trays completely cover each tooth and gradually move the teeth into new improved positions. Clear aligners can be used to realign mildly crowded or tipped teeth, to close small spaces between teeth and even treat elongated teeth.
Your clear aligners will be computer-generated based on current dental records. If you would like to find out if you are a candidate for orthodontic treatment using clear aligners, we will need a full set of records to properly assess your case starting with a thorough examination, taking radiographs (x-rays) of your teeth, jaws and skull, as well as photos and impressions of your teeth that can be used to create models. If you have a good bite, which means that your back teeth fit together properly, clear aligners should be a viable treatment option for you. However, if your upper and lower jaws don't align properly, resulting in a severe overbite or underbite, you will more likely need traditional orthodontic braces to straighten your teeth and improve your bite.
Each patient presents unique dental challenges. Cases vary, but you can expect to have to wear the aligners all day except when eating, for an average of anywhere from six months to two years. But don't worry about what others might think — clear aligners are barely noticeable at all.
If you are ready to improve your smile with this state-of-the-art orthodontic treatment, call our office today. To read more about clear orthodontic aligners, and to view photos that compare traditional orthodontics to clear alternatives, please read the article “Clear Orthodontic Aligners: An Alternative For Adult Orthodontics” in Dear Doctor magazine.
Refined sugar — most commonly consumed as table sugar or high fructose corn syrup — has developed a reputation as Public Health Enemy #1 among many consumers. These consumers are seeking ways to cut back or even eliminate refined sugar from their diets.
But that may be easier said than done because of our innate “sweet tooth” — the basic human desire for the taste of sweetness in our food. It's been demonstrated to have a biological basis, tapping into the “feel good” reward centers of our brain. For many of us, this desire is a craving that begs to be satisfied.
Artificial sweeteners are now used by many consumers to satisfy this desire apart from refined sugar. The question is, are they safe for your health and well-being? And when it comes to your teeth, do they hinder or promote good oral health?
As to the first question, all the major types of artificial sweeteners (saccharine, aspartame, sucrolose, acesulfame K and rebaudioside A) have undergone rigorous test trials and research for many years. The result, amid wide scientific agreement, is that they indeed are safe if consumed in acceptable levels, and all are FDA-approved.
In recent years different kinds of sweeteners called sugar alcohols (like Xylitol) have been approved as safe and are growing in popularity. The biggest difference between these and the traditional artificial sweetener is a low presence of calories while artificial sweeteners contain none.
So how do these two categories affect dental health? Of greatest significance is that, unlike refined sugar, these sweeteners do not feed the growth of decay-causing bacteria in the mouth. In fact, there is some evidence that sugar alcohols may actually reduce bacteria levels.
While there are still some concerns that artificial sweeteners may contribute to overeating or metabolic problems, there are no current official guidelines against their use. And when used moderately, there is evidence that Xylitol may even be an effective weapon in the fight against tooth decay.
If you would like more information on artificial sweeteners and how they may affect 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 “Artificial Sweeteners.”
Now in your adult years, you feel you’ve functioned pretty well even with a few misaligned teeth. You may also think having them straightened at this point may not be worth the effort and expense.
But there are solid reasons — beyond, of course, the psychological and social benefits gained from a new smile — why straightening teeth even as an adult can be a wise investment. Orthodontics not only enhances your appearance but may also improve your long-term oral health.
Restores proper oral function. Teeth that are aligned properly will tend to function properly. Although you can still chew, speak and smile with teeth that aren’t quite aligned properly, over time you’ll put more stress on both the teeth and the jaws, which could lead to more wear than what normally occurs with aging. By re-aligning teeth to a more normal position you could be extending the life of your teeth and reducing your risk of other functional problems.
Reduces the risk of periodontal (gum) disease. Some people with misaligned teeth are more susceptible to periodontal disease. Besides difficulties with bacterial plaque removal (a must to avoid gum disease), a person with misaligned teeth can also encounter more defects involving bone and gum tissues like gum recession that can contribute to the progression of gum disease. By straightening teeth (and performing plastic periodontal surgery if needed), we can reduce this risk dramatically — as long as we’re performing periodontal treatment for existing gum disease before and during orthodontics.
Facilitates tooth replacement. When we lose a tooth, the mouth’s natural mechanism is to move remaining teeth to fill the void left by the lost tooth. This can make it difficult to position a dental implant or similar tooth replacement in a functional and aesthetically appealing way. By applying orthodontics to move drifting teeth back into their proper place, we restore the best condition for achieving success with a tooth replacement.
The best way to know how much you could benefit from orthodontic treatment is to visit us for a full dental evaluation. From there, we can help you decide if treatment for straightening misaligned teeth is right for you.
If you would like more information on orthodontic 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 “Why Straighten Teeth.”
Perhaps you've heard about dental implant surgery — or maybe you've been told you are a candidate for the procedure. You may already know that today, implants are the “gold standard” of tooth replacement options. It's no wonder why: They have a documented success rate of over 95%, and can last a lifetime. But if you're put off by the thought of implant surgery, then it may be reassuring to learn the following five facts.
1. The entire implant process is planned before surgery is done.
This usually involves taking radiographs (X-rays), and sometimes CT scans, as precision guides to implant placement. Before the minor surgical procedure begins, we have already examined the bite and the bone structure, and determined exactly where the implant will fit in. There should be no surprises during the surgery — which is only one phase of the implant process.
2. Implant surgery uses the highest-quality materials and state-of-the-art techniques.
The implant itself is fabricated of commercially pure titanium, or a titanium alloy. This metal has a unique property — it's capable of osseo-integration, which means it can actually fuse with bone. During the implant procedure, the bone is handled with utmost care: it's gently prepared to receive the implant, and cooled with water to prevent tissue damage. If you don't have enough of your own bone tissue to support an implant, it has even become routine to restore bone with grafting techniques.
3. The surgical procedure itself is generally painless.
Almost all implants are placed using local anesthesia — typically, a numbing shot. If you're especially anxious about the procedure, it's possible to be given sedatives or anti-anxiety medications beforehand. Of course, we will make sure you don't feel any pain before we begin! Some mild vibration is generally all that you may experience during the procedure, but it's very rarely a cause for concern.
4. There is little discomfort following the procedure.
On the day of surgery and perhaps the day after, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID) of the aspirin or ibuprofen family is usually all that's needed to control minor discomfort. You may also be given a prescription for antibiotics and/or a mouth rinse to aid healing.
5. The result: Natural-looking teeth that can last a lifetime.
Implants have become dentistry's premier option for replacing missing teeth. Their placement involves minimally-invasive techniques, and has a success rate higher than any other tooth replacement system. And, given proper care, they can last for the rest of your life. Could you ask for more?
If you have questions about dental implant surgery, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Dental Implant Surgery” and “Dental Implants.”
This website includes materials that are protected by copyright, or other proprietary rights. Transmission or reproduction of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use, as defined in the copyright laws, requires the written permission of the copyright owners.