Posts for: September, 2013
Already read every “What to Expect” book twice over? Think you know something about how pregnancy affects your teeth and gums — and vice versa? OK, ace — test your knowledge by taking the quiz below. No peeking at the answers!
Myth or fact: The calcium in baby's teeth comes from mom's teeth.
MYTH. Calcium is needed to build baby's teeth and bones, but it should come primarily from the mother's diet, not her body. If an expectant mom's diet contains too little calcium, however, this essential mineral may be supplied from calcium stored in her bones. That's one reason why a proper diet — with an adequate intake of dairy products, plus dietary supplements, if recommended — is important throughout pregnancy.
Myth or fact: Developing symptoms of periodontal disease is common during pregnancy.
FACT. The levels of many hormones, including progesterone, are higher during pregnancy. When periodontal disease is present, progesterone stimulates the body to produce prostaglandins, which cause inflammation of blood vessels in the gum tissue. This can result in a disease called pregnancy gingivitis. Excess growths of gum tissue called “pregnancy tumors” may also develop. These benign growths are probably related to dental plaque.
Myth or fact: Untreated dental infections pose a risk to the fetus as well as the mother.
FACT. Studies have shown that pregnant women with severe periodontal disease are at greater risk for preterm birth and low birth weight babies, and may be susceptible to an increased rate of pre-eclampsia, a serious complication. This seems to be due to the fact that oral bacteria can trigger inflammatory responses in other parts of the body — even the placenta. That's why a dental evaluation is so important at the first sign of a potential problem.
Myth or fact: All moms should take fluoride supplements to help their babies form strong teeth.
MYTH (for now). The benefits of parental fluoride supplements are poorly studied, and at present remain controversial. Although baby's teeth begin forming in the second month, fluoride works best after the teeth have erupted in the mouth. So, at present, this practice isn't recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
Myth or fact: Once your baby is born, it's OK to feed them pre-chewed food or slobber over them.
Myth (we gave that one away). First of all, it's gross. Second, while your baby isn't born with the bacteria that cause tooth decay, this behavior can transmit them from you to her, causing dental problems down the road. So don't do it. But do come in for a dental evaluation as soon as you know you're expecting. And have a safe and healthy pregnancy!
If you would like more information about pregnancy and 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 articles “Pregnancy and Oral Health,” and “Expectant Mothers.”
Removable partial dentures (RPDs) are a common replacement option for multiple lost teeth. However, they're not the best long-term option; in fact, one particular type of RPD could be a poor choice if you wish to wear them long-term.
Made primarily of plastic, these RPDs are sometimes referred to as “flippers” because of how the tongue can easily flip them out of the mouth. While some people see them as a permanent replacement for their lost teeth, in reality plastic-based RPDs are a transitional replacement — a stepping stone, if you will, to a permanent solution. They are most useful during healing following a periodontal procedure or during the waiting period after implant surgery.
However, they can pose problems to your long-term oral health if worn permanently. Because of the manner in which they fit to the gums and any remaining teeth, they tend to settle into and compress the gum tissues. If you have gum disease, they force infection deeper into the tissues. They also allow and promote bacterial plaque growth. This in turn may lead to increased incidences of decay and gum disease.
On the other hand, a metal RPD, ideally made of cast vitallium or gold alloy, fits more snugly and accurately in the mouth. They still can cause increased plaque and food retention, but if the wearer also adheres to sound daily oral hygiene practices, regular dental checkups and diligent care of the RPD, they can be used successfully for many years.
Although a metal RPD costs more than its plastic counterpart, they cost less than more permanent teeth replacements. They are lighter in weight than plastic RPDs and fit more securely to deflect the forces generated by biting.
In considering your options for replacing lost teeth, you should not view plastic transitional RPDs as a permanent solution, but rather as a temporary one until you can obtain a more permanent solution. And although not the most optimal choice, the metal RPD could be considered a more permanent cost-effective solution.
If you would like more information on your options regarding removable partial dentures, 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 “Removable Partial Dentures.”
Because its symptoms can be easy to overlook, gum disease is sometimes called a “silent” malady. But don't underestimate this problem! Untreated periodontal disease can progress into a serious condition, possibly leading to tooth loss and even systemic (whole-body) health issues. With proper preventive measures and appropriate treatment, however, the disease can be controlled.
The root cause of periodontal disease — actually, a group of related diseases, all of which affect the tissues surrounding the teeth — is the buildup of bacterial plaque (also referred to as biofilm) around the gums. While hundreds of types of bacteria live in the mouth, only a comparatively few are thought to be harmful. But when oral hygiene (namely, brushing and flossing) is inadequate, the environment in the mouth becomes favorable to those harmful types.
The disease often begins with inflammation of the gums called gingivitis. It symptoms include bad breath, bleeding gums, and soreness, redness, or tenderness of the gum tissue. However, in some people these early warning signs are ignored, or masked by the effects of harmful habits like smoking.
Gum disease is chronic; that means, if left alone, it will worsen over time. Periodontitis, as it progresses, causes damage to the ligament that helps hold the tooth in place, as well as bone loss. This may become increasingly severe, and ultimately result in the loss of the tooth. Severe periodontitis is also associated with whole-body (systemic) inflammation, which has been linked to an increased incidence of cardiovascular diseases, like stroke and heart attack.
But there's no reason to allow gum disease to progress to this stage! Prevention — that is, regular daily brushing and flossing as well as regular dental cleanings — is a primary means of keeping this problem at bay. Plus, every time you have a regular dental checkup, your gums are examined for early signs of trouble. Of course, if you notice the symptoms of gum disease, you should come in for a check-up as soon as you can.
There are a number of effective treatments for gum disease. One of the most conservative, routine ways are those regular dental cleanings we referred to earlier, usually called scaling and root planning. Using hand-held and ultrasonic instruments, the buildup of plaque (tartar) is carefully removed, sometimes under local anesthesia. A follow-up evaluation may show that this treatment, carried out on a regular schedule, is all that's needed. Or, it may be time for a more comprehensive therapy.
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.”
Did you know that tooth decay (dental caries) is the second most frequently occurring disease — surpassed only by the common cold? It can start as soon as toddlers sprout their first teeth and by middle age, more than 90% of adults are affected by the problem! Fortunately, you can significantly lower your risk for decay. The key is to nurture health-promoting (protective) factors in your mouth while discouraging those that are disease causing (pathologic).
The top two traditional steps can't be stressed enough:
Good Oral Hygiene. Diligent brushing and flossing, along with routine professional cleanings, help limit a buildup of bacterial plaque (biofilm). This whitish film is attractive to decay-producing bacteria (among the many types of bacteria — including beneficial ones — that normally live in the mouth). These microbes like to snack on sugars and carbohydrates (perhaps part of that bagel you had for breakfast or the midafternoon candy bar), and in the process they produce acid. A healthy oral environment has a neutral pH — a perfect balance between acids and bases. But in a more acidic environment, minerals in the protective enamel of your teeth start to dissolve, exposing the dentin and root surfaces underneath that are even more vulnerable.
Sensible Diet. Keep decay-producing bacteria in check by limiting your intake of sugars and carbohydrates; the bacteria need these nutrients to grow and reproduce. Choose products containing natural sugars, such as those in fruits and vegetables, over those containing added sugars, such as sodas and candy. Be aware that Xylitol, an “alcohol sugar” used in some chewing gums and dental products, can actually help reduce pathogenic bacteria. And don't forget that frequent consumption of acidic foods and beverages, such as sipping coffee during the day, can create an acidic environment in your mouth that can contribute to decay by eroding tooth enamel and weakening its defenses.
Individual Risk Factors
You also may have individual risk factors as well that our office can help you identify and address. For example, the shape of everyone's teeth varies and some of us have more valleys, tiny grooves and pits than others. These likely places for bacteria to congregate can be the most difficult to reach with a toothbrush, but invisible sealants can be applied to prevent bacteria from reaching those areas.
If you would like more information about tooth decay and prevention, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Decay” and “Tooth Decay — How To Assess Your Risk.”