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How Missing Teeth Can Affect Your Health

March 12th, 2020

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, an estimated three out of four Americans suffer from gum disease. In milder cases, the disease is called gingivitis. More severe cases are called periodontitis. Despite the prevalence of periodontal disease (and it is very common), only three percent of people who suffer from periodontal disease get treatment for it. Gum disease has been linked to other serious diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

Periodontal Disease Is Common Among Americans

The Journal of Dental Research published the findings of a joint study from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). The study compared the full periodontal exam that participants received for this study against partial periodontal exams participants received for an older study.

The results show the rate of periodontal disease today could be as much as 50 percent higher than earlier estimated. Shockingly, this means that about twice as many Americans as previously believed suffer from gum disease – either moderate or severe.

The Link between Chronic Illness and Periodontal Disease

Many people who have chronic medical problems don’t have dental insurance, or the money to spend on dental care. Not surprisingly, this and a lack of understanding about proper oral hygiene leads to situations in which an initially minor problem turns into something far more severe, and probably preventable.

Gum diseases and cavities are caused by infections. When you get a cavity, the infection develops in the tooth itself. You may never feel anything, so unless you get regular, twice-a-year dental exams, you might not know there is a problem.

With gum disease, the infection occurs in the bones and tissues that form the gums and support the teeth. The tissues that surround teeth, and the bones that lie below the gums, are necessary to hold your teeth in. When those aren’t strong enough to support your teeth, you lose them.

Tooth loss has been linked to heart diseasediabetes, and an increased risk for kidney disease. Gum disease and severe infections in the mouth can spread to other parts of the body faster than people realize. A healthy mouth is alkaline. It’s vital for you to maintain an alkaline pH to keep harmful bacteria away.

When people eat, their pH changes, and the environment inside the mouth becomes more acidic. Since the typical American diet is very acidic, harmful bacteria thrive in the mouth. Typical foods include breads, grains, starches, and sweets – the foods people love the most. Since it isn’t always possible for people to brush after every meal, the mouth pH remains acidic, and the acid contributes to faster tooth erosion.

What does all this mean for you? The health of your mouth is more important than you realize. Get those regular dental exams, and make sure that you and your family keep to a regular routine of brushing and flossing. Good oral hygiene can help prevent periodontal disease, and that will lower your risk of tooth loss.

Is gingivitis preventable?

March 4th, 2020

The earliest sign of gum disease is called gingivitis (sometimes called periodontal disease), and is an inflammation of the gums. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to gum tissue loss, loss of bone that supports the teeth, and eventually tooth loss. The good news is that gingivitis is easily treatable. Better yet, gingivitis is nearly 100 percent preventable.

Gingivitis is usually caused when plaque and bacteria accumulate on the gums, generally due to poor oral hygiene. A patient with gingivitis will have red and puffy gums that will likely bleed when he or she brushes or flosses.

It is almost entirely within our patients’ power to prevent gingivitis by brushing and flossing on a daily basis. In addition to good oral health habits, regular visits will also help with early detection. We can often detect minor inflammation and other signs of gingivitis before it causes any discomfort or issues.

If left untreated, gingivitis will eventually progress to periodontitis, a breakdown of the tissue and bone that support the teeth. Smokers, women who are pregnant or menopausal, people with heart disease, diabetes, epilepsy or HIV infection, and people who suffer from poor nutrition are more likely to have gum disease.

To learn more about gingivitis, or if you suspect you have gingivitis, we encourage you to give us a call our office today!

Cleaning Your Teeth—Time for a Refresher Course!

February 27th, 2020

Let’s face it, by now, brushing our teeth is something we pretty much do on auto-pilot. A quick brush after breakfast, a minute or so at night, floss when we think of it. Done. But take a few minutes to review these cleaning tips, and see if a few small adjustments to your routine could make all the difference at your next checkup at our office.

  • Tools

Some of us prefer brushing with a manual brush. Some like the electric brush for ease and comfort. Whichever form of brush you choose, be sure that it fits comfortably in your mouth, reaches everywhere it needs to, and has a handle that is easy to grip. There are many bristle options available, so if you are an energetic brusher, or if you have sensitive gums, try a soft bristled brush for gentler brushing.

If you haven’t been exploring the floss aisle lately, there are now many varieties available to suit your particular needs. Besides the traditional floss, there are coated flosses for easy gliding between teeth that fit closely together, dental tape-style flosses to fit teeth with wider spacing, and even flosses designed just for braces that thread between the wires and brackets. Talk to us at your next cleaning for product suggestions if you think there’s an easier, more comfortable option out there for you.

  • Technique

With proper technique, any toothbrush and floss you choose will do a fine job of removing plaque.

Brushing? There’s a tried and true method for success. Place the toothbrush at a 45° angle at the gum line. Be sure to brush the outside, inside, and chewing surface of each tooth thoroughly. Remember the expression, “Massage, don’t scrub.” Over-vigorous brushing can actually irritate gum tissue and damage enamel. An electric toothbrush should provide a continuous brushing motion without needing any pressure from the brusher. This might be the model for you if you have a too-vigorous approach to brushing, or sensitive teeth and gums. If you like your manual brush, again, give a soft-bristled brush a try!

As for flossing? That harmless-looking little string can cause gum damage if used too forcefully. You can accomplish the placement and cleaning power you need by easing the floss down to the gumline and flossing with gentle pressure against the tooth surface. If you have any questions about technique, remember—we are always happy to let you know the best cleaning methods for your specific needs.

  • Timing

Of course, the best tools and the best technique in the world won’t be effective unless you put the right amount of time into brushing and flossing.

The standard rule is two minutes of brushing in the morning and two minutes at night. If you wear braces or have other special circumstances, we might recommend brushing after every meal. And if you brush after breakfast, give your teeth half an hour or so to remineralize. This natural process uses the calcium and phosphate ions in your saliva to strengthen tooth enamel after it’s been exposed to any acidic foods in your breakfast.

Thorough flossing can be accomplished in a few minutes, and might be needed only once a day. But again, depending on your individual needs, we might have other recommendations. Let’s review what works for you at your next visit—we can tailor suggestions for a brushing routine to your unique needs.

It’s a great idea to review your brushing habits periodically to make sure you are getting the most out of those minutes you spend cleaning your teeth. There won’t be a test at the end of this review, and you won’t get a gratifying grade or a gold star. What you will get is much more important—better checkups, fewer cavities, and healthy teeth and gums. Happy cleaning!

Brushing Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making

February 20th, 2020

It’s great that you’re enthusiastic about your dental health! Here are some tips from our team to make sure you are getting the most out of your brushing by avoiding common mistakes.

Choose the right brush

In almost every case, a soft brush provides the right amount of bristle-strength to clean your teeth and gums effectively. Hard bristles can damage sensitive enamel and gum tissue, so treat yourself kindly. Also, choose a brush head that’s the right size for your mouth, since a toothbrush that’s too large can be uncomfortable and unable to reach all the areas you need to brush.

Don’t keep your brush too long

Three months is about the average life of a toothbrush. Over time, bristles become frayed or worn and lose their effectiveness. It’s also a good idea to replace your brush after an illness.

Be gentle

Even with a soft brush, it’s possible to brush so hard that your enamel and gums are affected. Think of yourself as massaging your teeth and gums rather than scrubbing them.

Use proper technique

Using a “sawing” back-and-forth motion is hard on your enamel and misses plaque and debris between the teeth. Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle, especially at the gumline, to gently remove plaque. Use short strokes or a circular motion to clean as much of the surface and between the teeth as possible. Make sure you cover all the surfaces of your teeth: outside, inside, and chewing. And don’t forget your tongue!

Take your time

Brushing twice a day for two minutes each time is the standard. Most people brush much less; try using the stopwatch on your phone or a two-minute timer to make sure you are spending enough time brushing. On the other hand, if you brush too hard or too often, remember that over-brushing can lead to problems for your gums and enamel.

Your daily routine might be fast and furious, but your dental routine requires a gentle, methodical approach. Ask at your next visit to our office, and we will be happy to help you design the perfect brushing practices for your busy life.

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