February is all about hearts—and not just on Valentine's Day. It's also American Heart Month, when healthcare professionals focus attention on this life-essential organ. Dentists are among those providers, and for good reason—dental health is deeply intertwined with heart health.
The thread that often binds them together is inflammation, a key factor in both periodontal (gum) and cardiovascular diseases. In and of itself, inflammation is a vital part of the body's ability to heal. Diseased or injured tissues become inflamed to isolate them from healthier tissues. But too much inflammation for too long can be destructive rather than therapeutic.
This is especially true with gum disease, an infection triggered by bacteria in dental plaque, a thin film that forms on the surface of teeth. If it's not substantially removed through daily brushing and flossing, along with regular dental cleanings, bacteria can grow and increase the risk of gum disease.
The infected gum tissues soon become inflamed as the body responds. This defensive response, however, can quickly evolve into a stalemate as the infection advances and the inflammation becomes chronic.
Arteries associated with the heart can also develop their own form of plaque, which accumulates on the inner walls. The body likewise responds with inflammation, which further hardens and narrows these vessels, leading to restricted blood flow and an increased risk for heart attack or stroke.
While it may seem like these are two different disease mechanisms, the same inflammatory response occurs in both. In fact, recent research seems to indicate that inflammation occurring via gum disease increases the likelihood of inflammation within the cardiovascular system. So, the presence of gum disease could worsen a heart-related condition—and vice-versa.
But the research also contains a silver lining. Controlling inflammation related to your gums could help control it elsewhere in the body, including with the heart. And, you can achieve that control by avoiding or reducing gum disease, which in turn can ease inflammation in your gums.
To sum it up, then, taking care of your teeth by brushing and flossing daily and seeing your dentist regularly to prevent gum disease could benefit your heart health. And, effectively managing chronic heart disease could also help you avoid an infection involving your gums.
You should also be alert to any signs your gums may be infected, including swollen, reddened or sensitive gums that seem to bleed easily. If you notice anything like this, see your dentist ASAP—the sooner you receive treatment, the easier it will be to get the infection—and inflammation—under control. Your gums—and perhaps your heart—will thank you.
If you would like more information about the links between dental disease and the rest of your health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Link Between Heart & Gum Diseases.”
One of the easiest ways to upgrade your smile is to have your teeth whitened. In just one dental visit, whitening could transform your teeth from dull and dingy to bright and gleaming. And with a little care and occasional touch-ups, your new and improved smile could last for years.
But perhaps you're not one to rush into things—particularly when it may affect your health—and you'd first like to know more about this popular dental procedure. Here, then, are answers to a few frequently asked questions about teeth whitening to help you decide if it's right for you.
Is it safe? Although whitening solutions use a bleaching agent like hydrogen peroxide, it's only a small percentage of the total mixture. As long as you use the solution as directed by the manufacturer, whitening your teeth won't pose any harm to your teeth.
Do I need a dentist? There are several effective bleaching products available for whitening your teeth at home. But because it's usually a stronger solution used by a professional, whitening may not take as long to realize results, and the effect may last longer. A professional whitening might also help you achieve your desired level of whiteness better than a home kit.
Are there side effects? Your teeth may become sensitive right after whitening, especially if you already have sensitive teeth. To reduce this possibility, you might begin brushing with a desensitizing toothpaste a couple of weeks prior to your whitening session, as well as reduce your frequency of subsequent whitening procedures.
Any reason to avoid whitening? If your teeth are short or you have a gummy smile, whiter teeth may not be as attractive. You may also have internal discoloration, something teeth whitening can't change. And if you have dental work, you may wind up with natural teeth that are brighter than an adjacent veneer or crown. Your dentist can better advise you after a thorough dental exam.
To get the answer to other questions you may have, or to find out if whitening is right for you, consult with your dentist. If you are a good candidate, though, teeth whitening could very well change your smile—and your life.
If you would like more information on teeth whitening, 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 “Important Teeth Whitening Questions…Answered!”
In one respect, celebrities are no different from the rest of us—quite a few famous people love to collect things. Marie Osmond collects dolls (as well as Johnny Depp, reportedly); Leonardo DiCaprio, vintage toys. And, of course, Jay Leno has his famous fleet of cars. But Victoria Beckham's collection is unusually "familial"—she's kept all of her four children's "baby" teeth after they've fallen out.
Best known as Posh Spice of the 1990s group Spice Girls and now a fashion designer and TV personality, Beckham told People Magazine that she has an "entire bucket" of her kids' primary teeth. And, she recently added to it when her nine-year old daughter lost another tooth earlier this year.
You may or may not want to keep your child's baby teeth, but you'll certainly have the opportunity. Children start losing their first set of teeth around age 6 or 7 through early puberty. During the process, each tooth's roots and gum attachment weakens to the point that the tooth becomes noticeably loose. Not long after, it gives way and falls out.
Although a baby tooth doesn't normally need any help with this, children (and sometimes parents) are often eager to accelerate the process. A loose tooth can be annoying—plus there's often a financial incentive via the "Tooth Fairy!"
First off, there's not much harm in a child wiggling a loose tooth—it may even help it come out. It's also possible to help the tooth safely detach sooner by taking a small piece of tissue, folding it over the tooth and giving it a gentle downward squeeze. If it's loose enough, it should pop out.
If it doesn't, don't resort to more forcible measures like the proverbial string and a door—just wait a day or two before trying the gentle squeeze method again. Once the tooth comes out, the empty socket may bleed a bit or not at all. If heavy bleeding does occur, have the child bite down on a piece of clean gauze or a wet tea bag until it stops. You may also have them eat softer foods for a few days to avoid a resumption of bleeding.
Beyond that, there's little else to do but place it under your child's pillow for the Tooth Fairy. And if after their "exchange" with that famous member of the Fae Folk you find yourself in possession of the erstwhile tooth, consider taking a cue from Victoria Beckham and add it to your own collection of family memories.
Historically speaking, implants are a recent blip on the centuries-long march of dental progress. But few innovations in dentistry can match the impact of implants in its short history on dental function and appearance.
Dental implant therapy has already established itself as a restoration game-changer. But it also continues to improve, thanks to a number of emerging technologies. As a result, implant restorations are far more secure and life-like than ever before.
Here are 3 examples of state-of-the-art technologies that continue to improve this premier dental restoration.
CT/CBCT scanning. Functional and attractive implants depend on precise placement. But various anatomical structures like nerves or sinuses often interfere with placement, so it's important to locate these potential obstructions during the planning phase. To do so, we're increasingly turning to computed tomography (CT). This form of x-ray diagnostics is the assembly of hundreds of images of a jaw location into a three-dimensional model. This gives us a much better view of what lies beneath the gums.
Digital-enhanced planning. Implant success also depends on careful planning. And, it isn't a one-sided affair: The patient's input is just as important as the dentist's expertise. To aid in that process, many dentists are using digital technology to produce a virtual image of a patient's current dental state and what their teeth may look like after dental implants. This type of imaging also allows consideration of a variety of options, including different sized implants and positions, before finalizing the final surgical plan.
Custom surgical guides. To transfer the final plan details to the actual implant procedure, we often create a physical surgical guide placed in the mouth that marks the precise locations for drilling. We can now produce these guides with 3-D printing, a process that uses computer software to produce or "print" a physical object. In this case, the 3-D printer creates a more accurate surgical guide based on the exact contours of a patient's dental arch that's more precise than conventional guides.
Obtaining a dental implant is a highly refined process. And, with the aid of other advances in dental technology, it continues to provide increasing value to patients.
If you would like more information on restoring teeth with dental implants, 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 “How Technology Aids Dental Implant Therapy.”
If you're of a certain age, there's a good chance you've had your third molars—wisdom teeth—removed. At one time, extracting these particular teeth was a common practice, even if they hadn't shown any signs or symptoms of disease or dysfunction. But now, if you have a son or daughter coming of age, your dentist may recommend leaving theirs right where they are.
So, what's changed?
Wisdom teeth have longed been viewed as problematic. As the last of the permanent teeth, they often erupt on a jaw already crowded with other teeth. This can cause them to come in out of position—or not at all, remaining partially or totally submerged (impacted) beneath the gums.
Misaligned teeth are more difficult to keep clean of bacterial plaque, which in turn raises the risk of tooth decay or gum disease. Impacted teeth can put pressure on the roots of neighboring teeth, which further increases the risk for disease or bite problems.
To avoid these common problems associated with wisdom teeth, dentists often remove them as a preemptive measure. Given their size and possible root complexity, this is no small matter: Removing them usually requires oral surgery, making wisdom teeth extraction one of the top oral surgical procedures performed each year.
Today, however, many dentists are taking a more nuanced approach to wisdom teeth. While they still recommend removal for those displaying signs of disease or other problems, they may advise leaving them in place if the teeth are healthy, not interfering with their neighbors, and not affecting bite development.
That's not necessarily a final decision, especially with younger patients. The dentist will continue to monitor the wisdom teeth for any emerging disease or problems, and may put extraction back on the table if the situation merits it.
The key is to consider each patient and their dental needs regarding wisdom teeth on an individual basis. If warranted, removing the wisdom teeth may still be warranted if will help prevent disease, keep bite development on track and optimize oral health overall.
If you would like more information on wisdom teeth, 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 “Wisdom Teeth: Coming of Age May Come With a Dilemma.”
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