Why Oral Health Is So Important: A Window to Your Overall Health!

Chances are, you’ve heard before that different systems of your body are interconnected.  If one of them goes out of whack, it can work like a domino and knock over one or more of your other systems.  So you might think you’re having a problem with one part of your body, but it could be originating from a completely different place.

Take your teeth for example.  Many people think that neglecting your oral health care is just going to leave you with bad teeth.  That’s bad enough, but it can also cause health problems in other areas.

Here are a few things that can happen because of poor oral health.

Endocarditis

So the big problem for many people in the oral health system is endocarditis.  It works like this:  If you don’t properly brush your teeth, you already know that it can cause plaque deposits to form.  It also causes gingivitis and these two together can be deadly.  The bacteria from the plaque can cause disease if it enters the blood stream.  But the gingivitis provides it with the entrance to the bloodstream.

When your gums bleed from gingivitis, it’s an open wound that will let the bacteria travel through your body.  If this happens, the bacteria can go after the valves of the heart and cause heart disease and failure.

Premature birth

This one is a little harder to explain.  It has been established that there is a link between periodontitis and premature birth.  But why?  Periodontitis is a weakening of the bone that holds your teeth in place.  If it gets too bad, your teeth will fall out.

What does this have to do with pregnancy?  Experts think that infection is caused by the disease weakening the mother’s immune system.  If the placenta comes in contact with this infection, then it has a natural defense—it gets inflamed.  But this defense can cause pre-term labor that can lead to serious health problems for the baby.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

For years, we’ve known that dental health decreases when a person develops dementia.  As people forget how to care for themselves, naturally dental care is affected and cavities and gum disease are common.  But what if it worked the other way, as well?  We’ve already seen that bacteria from gingivitis can get into the bloodstream.  One recent study suggests that this bacteria can also attack the brain, possibly causing Alzheimer’s or dementia.

The bottom line is that your dental health isn’t just some secondary issue that you don’t need to focus on.  Your total body health is important and oral healthcare is just one piece of that puzzle.  If you allow your teeth and gums to deteriorate and dental disease set in, then you are setting yourself up for a host of possible health problems down the line.

Tips For Eating When You’re Dealing With Mouth Conditions

Eating is supposed to be an enjoyable experience.  However, certain dental and mouth conditions can make eating not only a nuisance but also a painful task.  While not eating isn’t an option, choosing what you eat can lessen both issues and pain.

  • Braces.  Eating can be quite a challenge during the first few painful weeks in. Brackets are poking into your gums and cheeks, and you just can’t seem to chew properly.  How long will eating be a challenge? Most people find that they are more comfortable and can chew food more properly in 2 to 3 weeks after the braces go on.  In the meantime…
    • Slow down. Chew slowly and carefully, and cut your food into small pieces. Forget about taking big bites of anything, or wolfing down your food.
    • Stick to soft foods like over-steamed veggies, applesauce, and nutrient rich smoothies.
    • Stay away from nuts, seeds, and popcorn.  These will get stuck in the brackets and can be difficult to remove.
    • Treats should be cold to temporarily dull the pain of the braces – ice cream, popsicles, or frozen yogurt.
  • Dry mouth.  Certain treatments, medications, and other diseases can cause dry mouth.  Talk to your dentist or doctor if your dry mouth is not due to a known source.  There are some foods that can mitigate dry mouth issues.
    • Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless candy to stimulate saliva flow.
    • Limit your caffeine intake because caffeine can make your mouth drier.
    • Sip water regularly to keep your mouth from getting too dry.
  • Dental Erosion.  Erosion is the loss of tooth enamel caused by acid attack. Enamel is the hard, protective coating of the tooth, which protects the sensitive dentine underneath. When the enamel is worn away, the dentine underneath is exposed, which may lead to pain and sensitivity.
    • Acidic foods and drinks such as fruit and fruit juices – particularly citrus ones including lemon and orange – contain natural acids, which can be harmful to your teeth.
    • Fizzy drinks, sodas, pops and carbonated drinks can cause erosion. Even the ‘diet’ brands are harmful.
    • Chew sugar-free gum after eating. This will help produce more saliva to help cancel out the acids which form in your mouth after eating.
    • Try to finish a meal with cheese or milk as this will help cancel out the acid.
  • Sore mouth or throat.
    • Eat soft, bland, creamy foods high in calories and protein, such as cream-based soups, cheeses, yogurt, or pudding.
    • Chop your food. Chop up your meat, poultry, or fish into small pieces or put it through the blender. You can mix it with a sauce or low-fat gravy.
    • Avoid rough foods such as dry toast, pretzels, and granola.
    • Avoid tart, acidic, spicy, or salty foods. Stay away from citrus and tomato-based foods.

Eating is an activity that cannot be avoided – keeping your body strong by feeding it proper nutrients and vitamins will allow mouth issues to heal as well.

Dealing with Dental Anxiety: How Can Sedation Dentistry Help

If you long for a relaxing visit to your dentist that is free from anxiety, you are not alone. While a little anxiety is normal before your dental visit, it can become a big problem if it keeps you out of the chair altogether. It can put you in the situation where, after finally visiting the dentist after years of avoidance, you learn that tooth decay and gum disease has created damage that could be irreversible. Luckily, there is a solution for you!

What Is Sedation Dentistry?

In sedation dentistry, sedatives are administered to the patient that will help them remain calm and relaxed through a dental procedure. These can be administered in a variety of ways including tranquilizers, depressants, anti-anxiety medications or nitrous oxide.  Dentists are doctors who have training and experience administering medications like these.

Help with Minor Anxiety

Nitrous oxide is an excellent choice for most patients. Sometimes referred to as laughing gas, nitrous oxide can be regulated to provide you with the amount of sedation you need. When used before a local anesthetic, the injection will not be uncomfortable and you should not notice any pain during your procedure.

If you plan to use nitrous oxide, you can drive yourself to your appointment. In most cases, you will be fine to drive after your treatment because the sedation wears off quickly. Nitrous oxide can also be used along with other sedation techniques to produce a higher level of sedation.

Another option is oral sedatives, available in a liquid or pill form. If you experience moderate anxiety levels, you can be given a tablet to take before your appointment. This type of sedation is beneficial in relieving the anxiety that can build before your procedure. However, if you choose this method, you cannot drive yourself to your appointment.

Help with major dental anxiety

If you experience extreme levels of stress and anxiety about dental treatment, you may wish to discuss deep sedation or general anesthesia. With these techniques, you will be barely conscious or unconscious during your procedure. You will not feel discomfort or pain. Once you have experienced dentistry with a sedation technique, your anxiety level may decrease on its own.

Because the effects of sedation can significantly impair the patient’s senses, a patient undergoing sedation dentistry must be accompanied by someone as the patient will not be able to safely drive after the procedure, and someone should stay with the patient for 2 to 4 hours afterwards.

According to some experts, nearly 30 percent of adults in the United States experience fear and anxiety over dental services, and this fear keeps many people from voluntarily visiting the dentist. Regular dentist visits for cleanings and dental exams help prevent serious dental health issues. The avoidance of dental care is detrimental not only to dental health but also to overall health and wellness.

Receding Gums: How to prevent receding gums and what can be done about them

Receding gums are a condition where your gums pull back from the tooth surface, exposing the root surfaces of your teeth. Receding gums are most common in adults 40 and over. For this reason, it’s often misconceived as a normal sign of aging.

This is a serious consequence of poor oral health, which may lead to tooth loss. There are a variety of treatments available depending on the severity of tissue loss. The earlier the diagnosis and treatment of receding gums, the better the outcome.

Receding gums don’t automatically mean that you have gum disease, though. It’s true that gum disease is the leading cause of gum recession, but there are many other causes of gum recession including:

  • Overly aggressive brushing or flossing. It’s great to be enthusiastic about oral care, but according to an article in the Journal of Periodontology Online, you should make sure that you’re brushing, not scrubbing! Never use a toothbrush that isn’t labeled “soft.”  When you don’t use soft toothbrushes and brush too hard, the gum cells are scrubbed away and the teeth enamel is removed.
  • Genetics. Your gums’ characteristics are determined by your genetics, just as the rest of your body is. If one or both of your parents have gum recession, you’re at a higher risk for receding gums.
  • Abnormal tooth positioning. If your teeth are not in alignment to one another, gum recession can occur.
  • Grinding your teeth. Do you often wake up with a headache? Does your spouse or partner complain that you grind your teeth? This habit can be the cause of many dental issues other than gum recession, so let your dentist know right away if you think you are grinding your teeth. Teeth grinding can be treated easily and painlessly with a mouth guard and several other options.
  • Trauma to gum tissue. The gum tissue may recede when a traumatic injury has occurred on a tooth or teeth.
  • Poor oral health. If your oral health habits are questionable, gum recession may be a result of periodontitis.

Working with your dentist, you can determine the root cause of your gum recession and come up with a treatment plan.

If you’ve been diagnosed with gum disease, depending on the severity, you’ll likely be presented with a few different treatment options. Scaling and root planning is a careful deep cleaning below the gums, while gum surgery is a more serious option that is reserved for the most advanced cases of periodontitis.

If gum recession is serious, a procedure called gum grafting can restore lost gum tissue. This procedure involves taking gum tissue from somewhere else in the mouth and grafting or attaching it to the area that has lost gum tissue.

Gum recession can happen slowly, so it’s important to take a good look at your gums and teeth every day. If you notice receding gums and you haven’t been to the dentist in a while, make an appointment soon.

The Effects of Sugar On Your Teeth: Halloween Edition

As the ghosts and ghouls make their way through the Halloween festivities, there’s one thing to keep in mind: sugar can seriously damage those pearly fangs.

Your mouth is full of hundreds of bacteria. Most of them are necessary to your mouth’s health, but there are some that actually cause damage. This harmful bacteria is what causes cavities. It feeds on sugars you eat to create acids that destroy tooth enamel, that shiny outer layer of the tooth. This bacteria builds up in plaque and stays on your teeth until it’s removed by brushing, flossing, using mouthwash, or with the help of a dental hygienist.

Water Works

This is why it’s important to eat balanced meals, drink lots of water, and brush often. Did the water tip surprise you? Dehydration is detrimental to mouth health. Did you know that your saliva is a key player in repairing your teeth? It contains calcium and phosphates that strengthen and repair the acid damage. If you’re dehydrated, you can’t produce the saliva necessary to counter the acid. Here’s a great tip for you: swish with water first thing in the morning to get your saliva glands working so you can begin the day with a bad bacteria counterattack. Fluoride is also a vital mineral and is found in most toothpastes, mouthwashes, and some water. Keep in mind that your saliva and fluoride can only do so much. If you produce more acid than they can counter, your enamel will break down and allow cavities to form.

Sugar High

Too much sugar can also lead to gum disease, a condition that affects over 50% of the American population. It’s a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the gum tissues and the bones supporting the teeth. A recent study proved that advanced gum disease can also cause (and create complications for) heart disease and Type II Diabetes. It can also cause complications in respiratory diseases and increase the risk of stroke. You can have gum disease without having cavities and vice versa, but you should know that gum disease is harder to spot in the early stages.

Sans Sugar

Of course, if you’re the one handing out the Halloween treats, there are some great alternatives to sugar. You can offer up alternative treats like temporary tattoos, playful plastic jewelry, fun accessories like pirate patches, arts and crafts items, fun school supplies, games, and coloring kits. There are great food alternatives, as well. Sugarless gum is great since it has no sugar and also stimulates saliva. Mini boxes of raisins or bags of pretzels, string cheese, cereal bars, and more are great options.

If sugar must be consumed to keep the costumed kiddos happy, make sure they brush their teeth thoroughly with a fluoride toothpaste and floss daily. Sticky, hard, and chewy candies can keep causing damage long after they’ve been eaten, so try to stay away from those. Limit candy to the end of a meal or right before a tooth-brushing session.

Planning ahead: Tips for picking a dental insurance plan during open enrollment

Picking dental insurance during open enrollment may seem like a headache, but we’ve broken it down for you in a way that will help you make the right decision. Remember, dental health is a key factor in your overall body health, so make sure you’re getting the coverage you need.

First, let’s talk about the types of coverage and the two categories available.

You have dental coverage in two ways: Inclusive or Stand-alone

You can purchase health plans that include dental coverage or purchase separate, stand-alone dental plans. Make sure you compare the prices and coverages. A health plan with dental means you make one premium payment. A separate dental plan means you pay for both a health and a dental premium, so two payments.

You should know that you can cancel a stand-alone coverage at any time, but the inclusive packages will be more complicated. You can only change to another health plan without dental benefits during Open Enrollment unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. If you have a job-based plan, check with your employer to see if they have different open enrollment periods. Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is also open for application and enrollment at any time since they are government programs. For all others: Open enrollment for 2017 is from November 1st through December 15th.

There are two types of categories: High Coverage or Low Coverage

High coverage has a higher premium (your monthly payment) but you have lower deductibles (the payment you make before your insurance starts its coverage) and copayments (a fixed fee you pay for a covered service). This means you pay more up front, but less when you use dental services.

A low coverage level has lower premiums but higher deductibles and copayments (also known as copays). This means you pay less each month, but more when you visit the dentist in person.

When you compare plans, you should make note of the following:

  1. Plan cost per month
  2. Deductibles
  3. Copayments
  4. The services covered by the insurance plan

Here are our top tips to help you during your enrollment period.

  • Choose a plan that fits the needs of you and your family. If you have tough costs like braces or intense dental work ahead, it may save you money to go with a higher coverage. If your kids play sports, make sure you look into emergency dental work services.
  • Shop around for the best deal. If there are multiple policies available, look through the options. You won’t be able to get a dental plan through the Marketplace unless you’re buying a health plan at the same time, so keep that in mind, as well.
  • Read the fine print. You want to know how long it will take for the insurance plan to pay for serious or expensive procedures.
  • Take the time to do the research and your mouth will thank you for it.
  • Call us!  We’re happy to help you understand what you might be selecting so that you can get the best plan for you and your family!

Tooth Sensitivity: How to deal with it and understanding why your teeth are sensitive

If you’ve ever felt pain or aching sensitivity when you eating something cold, hot, or sweet, you aren’t alone. Tooth Sensitivity affects 57% of the population. At least 40 million adults in the United States have suffered with it, since it can come and go over time. So why does it happen and how can you deal with it?

Tooth sensitivity can be caused by so many different things!

  • Worn tooth enamel from using a hard toothbrush or aggressive tooth brushing
  • Gum recession which exposes the root to the elements
  • Hard enamel erosion due to highly acidic foods and beverages. It can also be eroded because of acid reflux or bulimia.
  • Use of abrasive toothpastes like some whitening formulas that also contain sodium pyrophosphate (the key ingredient in tartar-control toothpaste!)

Preventing tooth sensitivity is easier than you think! Twice a day, make sure you spend at least two minutes brushing your teeth with a non- or low-level abrasive toothpaste. Lay off the acidic foods and drinks as much as you can. Want to know if you’re brushing too hard? Look at your toothbrush. If your bristles point in multiple directions, you should ease up on the pressure. Also, buy a new toothbrush!

What if you already have sensitive teeth? You can use a toothpaste marketed for sensitive teeth. If you use tartar-control toothpaste, consider switching to a different one. That key ingredient of sodium pyrophosphate mentioned above may be the culprit, and you’ll be able to tell in just a few days! Fluoride treatments are also an option, though the most effective ones are the treatments prescribed by dentists.

If you have cold sensitivity, will warm compresses help? Likewise, if you have sensitivity to hot beverages, will ice or cool beverages help? Keep track of what you eat and the temperatures of those items (hot, cold, room temperature, etc.). Write down anything that helps ease your symptoms. You may find a pattern that helps you figure out the source.

When do you need to see a dentist? If a tooth is highly sensitive for more than four days and reacts to hot and cold temperatures, you need to see a dentist. It’s best to make sure the sensitivity is something you can treat at home, rather than ignore something like a cavity or abscess that’s in the beginning stages.

How do I describe my symptoms? Clarify exactly where the pain originates from and how long it lasts. List the trigger points: hot beverages, cold air, sweets, etc. You want to let him or her know if anything helps with the pain, as well. This is where tracking your progress really comes in handy.

Your dentist may prescribe several treatment options that can include a change in oral hygiene habits to special protective coatings (like in the cast of dentin hypersensitivity, or super sensitive teeth as a medical condition).

Tooth sensitivity can be caused by root exposure, hard enamel breakdown, or oral hygiene habits that caused problems you weren’t aware of. If you notice that your teeth are sensitive, take a step back and evaluate what may be triggering your problem, and you may just be able to stop it yourself!

Simple Ways to Prevent Periodontal Disease


Periodontal disease is when bacteria in plaque builds up between the gums and teeth. This causes major inflammation in your mouth  which can force the gums and supporting bone structure to deteriorate. To make matters worse, gum disease has been flagged as triggers for other health problems throughout the body such as heart disease and diabetes.

Symptoms include red, swollen, or tender gums, pain in your mouth, bleeding while brushing, flossing or eating food, sensitive or loose teeth, sores in your mouth, persistent bad breath, and more. Millions of people don’t know that have this serious infection, but there’s great news. This chronic inflammation can be prevented.

Here are some simple ways to prevent periodontal disease and maintain a healthy mouth:

Brush your teeth

Brush after meals to help remove food debris and plaque trapped between your teeth and gums. Make sure you brush your tongue, as well, since that’s a prime location for bacteria. Use a soft-bristled brush and be careful to keep the aggression down. Over-brushing can cause it’s own problems, too.

Floss

Floss once a day to help remove those stuck food particles and plaque buildup that brushing may have missed. If flossing is difficult for you, consider using a special wooden or plastic pick recommended by your dentist. There are special brushes available, as well.

Swish with mouthwash

As a final attack, use mouthwash to catch the food and plaque brushing and flossing may have missed. You’ll want to use one that has the ADA seal of approval as it has been certified as safe to use.

Know your risk

Age, smoking, diet, genetics, diet choice, and hormones can all affect your likelihood of getting periodontal disease. Smoking decreases circulation that keeps the gums healthy. It’s also one of the largest contributors to gum disease. Eating a well-balanced diet can work wonders on your teeth (and overall body) health. Did you know that highly acidic foods and drinks can cause further degeneration of the gums? Sugary foods create a feeding frenzy for bacteria growth, as well. If you indulge in a sweet snack, make sure you brush and swish with mouthwash to help flush the area immediately after.

See your dentist. 

Get an annual exam. Your dentist can measure any recession you may have and set up treatment before it becomes an issue. There are many things to consider such as the color and firmness of your gums as well as any pockets that may have formed because of recession.

Periodontal Disease affects more than just your breath, gums, and teeth. If left untreated, your chances of developing (or having complications from) heart disease and/or diabetes increases dramatically. Chronic inflammation is a dangerous thing for your body, and once you know you have it, don’t ignore it. It can lead to costly surgeries and implants. Your mouth is an essential part of your body and quality of life. Don’t let this preventable disease destroy your health.

Schedule an appointment with your dentist today!

What to do if you’ve broken a tooth?

You went out with some friends and decided to play a little mini golf. You’re laughing and having a great time. As your best friend draws back to hit the ball into the windmill lighthouse, the shot goes wild. Suddenly before you have a chance to duck out of the way, the ball comes flying and hits you square in the mouth. Ouch! After recovering from the initial shock of the blow you feel a sharp edge on one of your teeth. Your tooth is broken…. Now what do you do?

Well, unfortunately a broken tooth isn’t something that you can just “fix” with an at home remedy. A broken tooth requires the skilled work of a dentist to restore its integrity. However, there are some pretty critical things you will need to do immediately afterwards to help the situation before you pay your dentist an unplanned visit.

A Step by Step after you bust your tooth

  1. Rinse your mouth out with warm water. Be careful not to use water that is cold or hot. The break in your tooth may have exposed some nerve endings and will send a very unpleasant shock of pain through your mouth with extreme temperature changes.
  2. Apply pressure to any bleeding areas in your mouth. You can use a piece of gauze or even a tea bag. Do this for at least 10 minutes. If bleeding continues with the same intensity, consider a trip to the ER for possible stitches.
  3. Ice it. Apply to swollen areas on your lips or cheeks to help minimize swelling and some pain.
  4. Take some over the counter pain meds! A broken tooth is no joke and hurts like a son of a gun. No need to suffering any more than necessary.
  5. Temporary aid. If it’s going to be a little bit before you are able to see your dentist you’ll need to make a quick trip to your local drug store. Most stores carry temporary dental cement. Apply it to the broken area of the tooth until your dental appointment.

What does the dentist do?

  1. Bonding – For chipped or cracked teeth a dentist will often go with a composite bonding for repairs. They roughen up the surface of your tooth a bit more, apply a conditioning liquid, and then form the putty over top and sculpt it to restore the shape again.
  2. Crowns – If your tooth is badly chipped, you may need a crown. A crown is made of porcelain and placed over your damaged tooth. It will be created in a lab and attached with the aid of anesthesia. This will allow your tooth to be able to withstand bite pressure again without pain.
  3. Implants – Sometimes when you break a tooth, the entire tooth may be knocked out or the majority of it causing the tooth to die. In this case you might need a dental implant. You will need to undergo surgery to have titanium screws placed in your jaw to act as anchors for the new tooth to go over top and become a new permanent feature in your smile.

Ways to Deal with TMJ

If you have pain when you chew or yawn, you may already be familiar with TMJ. TMJ, also known as temporomandibular disorder, is usually caused by inflammation of the chewing muscles.

Here are some great ways to deal with TMJ! Please keep in mind that you shouldn’t push through your pain. If it hurts, stop! These should help, not hinder you.

Massage

There are two types of massage that are the most effective when dealing with this painful condition. A kneading massage is a powerful remedy. To do this yourself, feel for the muscles of your lower jaw, directly behind your molars and right below the cheekbone. Here’s a quick way to find it: touch the corner of your mouth and walk your fingers back toward your ear until you feel a flat piece of bone. Massage gently in firm circular motions to help ease the pain. Experiment with the areas surrounding this spot to see if you find some relief.

Friction massages are amazing on the lower part of your jaw at a place called the mandible muscle. Use firm, gentle, and constant pressure on this muscle for maximum effectiveness.

Stretching Exercises

Gentle stretching may help ease some of the pain. Start with your mouth closed and your jaw as relaxed as possible. With teeth slightly apart, slowly open the mouth as wide as you can while looking up with your eyes. Hold this position for a few seconds, and then slowly close it. Quick, snapping motions could make things worse, so go slow in this entire stretch. Once your mouth is closed again, move jaw to the left (while looking to the right with your eyes). Hold for a few seconds, and then move back to the center. Repeat this stretch in the opposite direction. It may look a little silly, but it really works!

Heat and Cold

Apply ice packs to the side of your face and temple area for around ten minutes. Do some simple jaw stretches. When the ten minutes are up, hold a warm towel or washcloth to the side of your face for five minutes. Do this a few times a day.

Over-the-counter Medications

NSAIDs (naproxen or ibuprofen, for instance) can relieve swelling and muscle pain. Follow the recommended dosages! With NSAIDs, as with most medicines, taking more than the recommended dose can harm your body. This is a short-term solution.

Here are some additional tips!

  1. When you brush and floss, be careful not to open your mouth too wide.
  2. If pain continues for longer than a week, or if stretching and opening your mouth causes pain, you should see a dentist or doctor.
  3. Keep your teeth slightly apart to relieve pressure on the jaw, especially if teeth grinding is the reason for your TMJ flare up.
  4. Don’t rest your chin on your hand or hold the phone between your shoulder and ear.
  5. If you wake with TMJ pain in the morning, consider a night guard to lessen grinding.

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