Posts for category: Oral Health
Taking care of your teeth is a lifetime commitment, if you want your teeth to last a lifetime. But it can be especially challenging if you're wearing traditional metal braces. With a little extra attention, though, you can reduce the risk of dental disease during orthodontic treatment.
The goal of oral hygiene is to remove biofilm, a layer of leftover food particles called plaque that is a haven for disease-causing bacteria. Orthodontic braces make access more difficult for performing oral hygiene. A little extra effort and attention, though, can make a big difference.
First, be sure you're eating a healthy diet and avoiding unhealthy snacks (especially those high in carbohydrates) between meals; this will discourage the growth of bacteria in the mouth. You should also limit your intake of sodas, sports or energy drinks since their high acidity contributes to tooth enamel erosion.
Although more difficult for someone wearing braces, brushing is still essential to good hygiene. Begin by holding a soft, multi-tufted bristle brush at a 45-degree angle, and then brush the surface area between the gum and the braces all the way around. Return to your starting point and brush the area from the braces to the edge of the top of the teeth in the same direction. Be sure you do this for both the upper and lower jaw and on both the cheek and tongue side.
Flossing is also more difficult, but not impossible. Instead of conventional floss thread, you can use special floss threaders, small interdential brushes, or an irrigation device that sprays pressurized water to remove food particles between teeth.
Above all, it's important to keep up regular office visits with us. In addition to monitoring overall dental health, we can also apply or recommend additional fluoride products to help strengthen teeth or prescribe antibacterial rinses to reduce the mouth's bacterial level.
Keeping up a good daily hygiene regimen and regular checkups will ensure that the smile you gain from wearing braces is healthy as well as beautiful.
If you would like more information on oral hygiene while undergoing 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 “Caring for Teeth During Orthodontic Treatment.”
In modern times, metals have played an important role in tooth preservation and restoration. From the dental amalgam used for a century and a half to fill cavities to the titanium alloy of dental implants, your dental care would not be as comprehensive as it is today without them. But could these metals, so important in providing oral health, cause an allergic reaction in some people?
An allergy is an exaggerated response of the body’s immune system to any substance (living or non-living) it identifies as a threat. The response could be as minor as a rash or as life-threatening as a systemic shut-down of the body’s internal organs. An allergy can develop with anything, including metals, at any time.
A low percentage of the population has an allergy to one or more metals: some surveys indicate 17% of women and 3% of men are allergic to nickel, while even fewer are allergic to cobalt and chromium. Dermatitis patients seem to have a higher reaction rate, some allergic even to metals in jewelry or clothing that contact the skin.
Dental amalgam, an alloy made of various metals including mercury, has been used effectively since the mid-19th Century to fill cavities; even with today’s tooth-colored resin materials, amalgam is still used for many back teeth fillings. Over its history there have been only rare reports of allergic reactions, mainly localized rashes or moderate inflammation.
The most recent metal to come under scrutiny is titanium used in dental implants. Not only is it highly biocompatible with the human body, but titanium’s bone-loving (osteophilic) quality encourages bone growth around the implant’s titanium post inserted into the jawbone, strengthening it over time. But does titanium pose an allergic threat for some people? One study reviewed the cases of 1,500 implant patients for any evidence of a titanium allergy. The study found a very low occurrence (0.6%) of reactions.
The conclusion, then, is that the use of metals, especially for dental implants, carries only a minimal risk for allergic reactions and none are life-threatening. The vast majority of dental patients can benefit from the use of these metals to improve their oral health without adverse reaction.
If you would like more information on metal allergies with dental materials, 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 “Metal Allergies to Dental Implants.”
There are some people, particularly women around the age of menopause, who experience an uncomfortable burning and dry sensation in their mouths most of the time. The exact cause of this condition, known as “burning mouth syndrome,” is often difficult to determine, though links to a variety of other health conditions have been established. These include diabetes, nutritional deficiencies (of iron and B vitamins, for example), acid reflux, cancer therapy, and psychological problems. Hormonal changes associated with menopause might also play a role.
If you are experiencing burning sensations and dryness, please come in and see us so we can try to figure out what's causing these symptoms in your particular case. We will start by taking a complete medical history and getting a list of all the medications you are taking as some drugs are known to cause mouth dryness. We will also give you a thorough examination.
In the meantime, here are some ways you might be able to get some relief:
Give up habits that can cause dry mouth such as chronic smoking, alcohol and/or coffee drinking, and frequent eating of hot and spicy foods.
Keep your mouth moist by drinking lots of water. We can also recommend products that replace or stimulate production of saliva.
Try different brands of toothpastes, opting for “plain” varieties that don't contain the foaming agent sodium lauryl sulfate, whiteners, or strong flavoring such as cinnamon.
Keep a food diary of everything that you put into and around your mouth (including food, makeup and personal care products). This might give us some clues as to what's causing your discomfort.
Check with us about any medications you are taking, either prescription or over-the-counter. We can tell you if any are known to dry out the mouth and maybe help you find substitutions.
Reduce stress in your life if you possibly can. This might be achieved through relaxing forms of exercise, joining a support group for people dealing with chronic pain, or seeking psychotherapy.
Dentists have been saying for years that it helps to see children as early as possible — ideally, around the time they reach one year old. Just recently, an evidence-based study was released that backs this up: It shows that starting dental visits prior to age one actually reduces the cost of oral health care, and helps ensure that kids have pleasant dental experiences in the future.
Why do young children need to go to the dentist if they only have one or two teeth (and they’re baby teeth, to boot)? For one thing, those early dental visits get a child used to the new sights and sounds of the office: the big chair, the shiny equipment, and the friendly staff who will be taking care of them. And even at this tender age, it’s not too soon to check for signs of decay, make sure gums are healthy, and show everyone the best techniques for keeping up good oral hygiene in a growing mouth.
Still, it’s natural for a child to be a little nervous before an office visit. (Even grown-ups have been known to show some anxiety at the dental office from time to time.) To ease their way through, there are several techniques you can borrow from behavioral psychology to help make the experience as stress-free as possible.
First… just relax. Remember that kids quickly pick up on non-verbal cues that tell them something’s wrong — so try and stay positive, and keep smiling. You should prepare the little ones for what’s coming — but not too much information, please! We go to great efforts to make children feel safe and comfortable in our care, and we can tell them all they need to know in age-appropriate terms. In fact, most of your child’s first dental visit may consist of a show-and-tell about what we do and what tools we use.
Another thing to keep in mind is that parents are the major role models for their children, both in and out of the home. Kids naturally follow along — in both good and bad ways. If parents take good care of their own teeth, it helps kids develop good oral hygiene habits too. That includes brushing and flossing regularly, limiting sugary snacks between meals, and avoiding non-nutritious drinks — not only sodas, but also so-called “sports” and “energy” drinks, which can be extremely high in sugar and caffeine.
Of course, regular visits to the dentist should also be a part of every adult’s oral hygiene program. If your child sees you relaxing in the chair, it’s much easier for them to do it too. And that’s good for everybody’s health.
If you would like more information about children’s dental visits, please call our office to schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Taking the Stress Out of Dentistry for Kids.”
Caring for a young child can be overwhelming at times. Sometimes, it may feel like you can't read enough books to learn the correct way to do everything from potty training to feeding. It's also important to teach your child healthcare habits during these crucial years, so that they continue these habits for a lifetime!
Here are a few simple ways you can help your child to institute lifetime oral care habits.
- DO: Encourage your Child to Brush Every Day with Fluoride Toothpaste. Fluoride will help make your child's teeth more resistant to tooth decay. You should use a thin smear of fluoride toothpaste for children under age two and a pea-sized amount for older children. At age two, you can also begin empowering your child to brush, but make sure that you supervise and finish the job. Your child will probably need your help until around the age of six.
- DON'T: Share your Germs. Did you know that children are not born with the bacteria that cause tooth decay? In fact, the bacteria are transmitted to them from adults! You should never share a cup or spoon with your child. Also, next time you kiss your child, kiss him or her on the cheeks instead of the lips. Believe it or not, you can transmit harmful bacteria through this quick little kiss.
- DO: Limit your Child's Sugar Intake. When your child consumes sugar, the bacteria use the sugar to produce acids that dissolve tooth enamel, eventually leading to tooth decay. Saliva can neutralize those acids, but it needs enough time, 30 to 60 minutes, to work its magic. That is why it is important to limit sugar intake between meals.
- DON'T: Give Your Child a Bottle at Night. Juice, milk and even breast milk contain sugars that promote tooth decay, in particular during sleep, when less saliva is being produced. So, though it may be tempting, do not let your child go to bed with a bottle.
- DO: Take your Child to the Dentist Early. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that all children have their first dental visit by the age of one. Your toddler will benefit from regular dental visits, because we will monitor tooth decay, correct brushing techniques and also, most importantly, ensure that he or she is comfortable in the dental chair.
- DON'T: Allow your Child to Suck His or Her Thumb Past Age Three. Thumb sucking for comfort is a very normal behavior for babies and toddlers. However, if your child constantly sucks his or her thumb past the age of three, it can affect teeth alignment and jaw development.
If you would like more information about oral care for your child, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dentistry and Oral Health for Children.”