Action steps to prevent gum disease

Gum disease is a major cause of tooth loss in adults but it can be prevented or reversed if you take the right steps.

It�s caused by plaque � a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. These bacteria create toxins that can damage the gums.

However, you can help avoid gum disease by caring properly for your teeth and having regular dental checkups. These are some steps you can take to keep your teeth and gums healthy:

Brush your teeth well twice a day: This removes the film of bacteria from the teeth. Be sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush that is in good condition. Toothpastes and mouth rinses containing fluoride strengthen the teeth and help prevent decay.

Clean between your teeth every day: You need to remove the bacteria and food particles that a toothbrush can’t reach so you should clean between your teeth with floss or interdental cleaners every day. Your dentist will show you how to do this properly without injuring your gums.

Even if you already have early stage gum disease, it can often be reversed by daily brushing and flossing.

Eat a balanced diet: A good diet based on a variety of foods from the basic food groups, such as grain products; fruits; vegetables; meat, poultry and fish; and dairy products will help your teeth. It�s also a good idea to limit snacks between meals.

Visit your dentist regularly: To prevent gum disease, it�s important to have regular dental checkups and professional cleaning.

Taking the right steps will help you avoid gum disease and can even reverse it if you catch it in the early stages.

Is it safe to have an X-ray while pregnant?

Some women worry about whether it�s safe to have an X-ray exam while they are pregnant.

This can cause them to put off treatment they need.

However, untreated dental infections can pose a risk to the fetus, and dental treatment may be necessary to maintain the health of the mother and child. Sometimes this will mean an X-ray is necessary.

Radiation from dental X-rays is extremely low but every precaution is taken to minimize radiation exposure.

For example, a leaded apron reduces exposure to the abdomen and should be used when a dental radiograph is taken.

In addition, a leaded thyroid collar can protect the thyroid from radiation, and should be used whenever possible. The use of a leaded thyroid collar is strongly recommended for women of childbearing age, pregnant women and children.

Overall there is no reason to avoid dental radiographs (X-rays) while pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to become pregnant.

Follow your dentist�s advice and ask questions if you have any concerns.

Diabetes and your dental health: How your diet can affect your teeth

When diabetes is not controlled properly, high glucose levels in saliva may create problems that lead to an increased risk of tooth decay.

Your teeth are covered with plaque, a sticky film of bacteria. After you eat food that contains sugars or starches, the bacteria react with these sugars to release acids that attack tooth enamel. This can cause the enamel to break down and may eventually result in cavities.

Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and cleaning between your teeth with floss or an interdental cleaner helps remove decay-causing plaque.

Plaque that is not removed can eventually harden into calculus, or tartar. When tartar collects above the gumline, it becomes more difficult to clean thoroughly between teeth. This can lead to chronic inflammation and infection in the mouth.

Because diabetes reduces the body�s resistance to infection, the gums are among the tissues likely to be affected.
Periodontal diseases are infections of the gum and bone that hold your teeth in place. Patients with inadequate blood sugar control appear to develop periodontal disease more often and more severely, and they lose more teeth than those who have good control of their diabetes.

Because of the lower resistance and longer healing process, periodontal diseases often appear to be more frequent and more severe among persons with diabetes.

You can help reduce these risks through good maintenance of blood sugar levels, a well-balanced diet, good oral care at home and regular dental checkups.

How your oral health links with your general health

Research has shown strong links between periodontitis (advanced form of gum disease) and other health problems such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and bacterial pneumonia.

And pregnant women with periodontitis may be at increased risk of delivering pre-term and/or having babies with low birth weight.

However, just because two conditions occur at the same time, doesn’t necessarily mean that one condition causes the other. The relationship could work the other way.

For example, there is evidence that diabetics are more likely to develop periodontitis and have more severe periodontitis than non-diabetics.

Alternatively, two conditions that occur together may be caused by something else.

In addition, people who smoke or use alcohol have a higher than average risk of developing periodontitis and other conditions, including oral cancer.

Research is looking at what happens when periodontitis is treated in individuals with these problems.

The aim is to find out whether periodontitis does have an effect on other health problems.

If one caused the other, improvement in periodontal health would also improve other health problems.

While the research is not yet conclusive, the potential link between periodontitis and systemic health problems, means that preventing periodontitis may be an important step in maintaining overall health.

In most cases, good oral health can be maintained by brushing and flossing every day and receiving regular professional dental care.

How older adults can handle dry mouth and taste problems

Reduced saliva flow that results in a dry mouth is a common problem among older adults.

It is caused by certain medical disorders and is often a side effect of medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, pain killers and diuretics.

Some of the common problems associated with dry mouth include:
– Constant sore throat
– Burning sensation
– Problems speaking
– Difficulty swallowing
– Hoarseness or dry nasal passages

Left untreated, dry mouth can damage your teeth. Without adequate saliva to lubricate your mouth, wash away food, and neutralize the acids produced by plaque, extensive cavities can form.

Your dentist can recommend various methods to restore moisture. For example, sugar-free candy or gum stimulates saliva flow, and moisture can be replaced by using artificial saliva and oral rinses.

Another issue that can affect older adults is a loss of appetite due to a change in your sense of taste. Besides an age-related decrease in the sense of taste and smell, certain diseases, medications and dentures can contribute to a decrease in your sense of taste.

Whether you are suffering from dry mouth or problems with your sense of taste, your dentist will be able to make suggestions to help.

Understanding your wisdom teeth

Many patients ask whether wisdom teeth are really necessary since so many people have them removed.

The fact is that wisdom teeth are a valuable asset to the mouth when they are healthy and properly positioned.

However, problems can occur that sometimes make it better to have them removed.

For example, when the jaw isn’t large enough, the wisdom teeth can become impacted – misaligned or unable to grow in properly. They may grow sideways, emerge only part way from the gum or remain trapped beneath the gum and bone.

The reasons wisdom teeth may have to be extracted include:
– The teeth have only partially erupted. This leaves an opening for bacteria which cause infection.
– There is a chance the wisdom teeth will damage adjacent teeth.
– A cyst forms which may destroy surrounding structures such as bone or tooth roots.

Ask your dentist about the health and positioning of your wisdom teeth.

Your dentist will tell you if there are any issues and will recommend any steps needed.

How to make visiting the dentist easy for kids

Your child should have their first trip to the dentist by the time they are 18 months old and it’s good to make the process as easy as possible for them from the start.

Dental staff are used to dealing with young children and they will know how to make them feel comfortable.

Sometimes, children under three may be treated on the parent’s lap. In this case, the parent sits in the dental chair facing the dentist, and the child is on their lap.

The dentist will tell the child what he or she is going to do in terms they can understand. They will usually have fun dental toys they can use to help.

They will start with an oral examination checking the teeth present and looking at the development of the jaw, gums and soft tissues.

Naturally, as in any new situation, some children are initially unsettled but this is usually short-lived as they get used to it.

Parents can help by ensuring they are calm and relaxed as any anxiety will transfer to the child.

With older children, the parents may stay in the background though sometimes children behave better when the parent is not in the room!

Work with your children and your dentist to find the best way of ensuring they get the treatment they need with minimum worries for everyone.

Different types of fillings and restorations

Nowadays, thanks to advances in dental techniques and materials, patients have a much wider range of choices when they have to repair missing, worn, damaged or decayed teeth.

For example, materials such as ceramics and polymer compounds that look more like natural teeth help dentists create pleasing, natural-looking smiles.

The traditional materials such as gold, base metal alloys and dental amalgam are still widely used as they have many advantages.

The strength and durability of traditional dental materials continues to make them useful in many situations. For example, they are good when fillings are required in the back teeth because the pressure of chewing is high in that area.

The choice of the best option will depend on several factors such as the patient’s oral and general health, where and how the filling is placed and the number of visits needed to prepare and adjust the restored tooth.

The choice about which option is best depends on each individual�s needs so you should discuss the options with your dentist.

The risks of oral piercing

Young people today choose to make a variety of fashion statements affecting not just the clothes they wear but also their bodies through tattoos and piercing, for example.

Oral piercing may be something they feel looks good but it can lead to problems where they end up needing medical or dental treatment.

Oral piercing can often lead to symptoms such as pain, swelling, infection, increased saliva flow and injuries to the gum tissue.

There can be severe bleeding if a blood vessel is in the path of the needle during the piercing.

Swelling of the tongue is also a common side effect and, in extreme cases, this can block the airway and lead to breathing difficulties.

Other possible problems include chipped or cracked teeth, blood poisoning or even blood clots.

Infection is a very common complication of oral piercing because of the millions of bacteria in your mouth.

Of course, the jewelry itself also causes risk. It can be swallowed or cause damage to your teeth.

So, while young people may feel piercings in the mouth look cool, a great smile will look a lot better in the years to come.

How dental x-rays help improve your oral health

Many diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissues cannot be seen when your dentist examines your mouth so an X-ray examination can reveal important additional information:

For example, X-rays can help show:
– Small areas of decay between the teeth or below existing fillings
– Infections in the bone
– Gum disease
– Abscesses or cysts
– Developmental abnormalities
– Some types of tumors

The way they work is that more X-rays are absorbed by the denser parts (such as teeth and bone) than by soft tissues (such as cheeks and gums). This creates an image called a radiograph.

Tooth decay, infections and signs of gum disease appear darker because of more X-ray penetration. The interpretation of these radiographs allows the dentist to safely and accurately detect hidden abnormalities.

The frequency of X-rays (radiographs) will depend on your specific health needs.

Your dentist will review your history, examine your mouth and decide whether you need radiographs and what type.

When you are a new patient, the dentist may recommend radiographs to establish how the hidden areas of your mouth currently look to help identify changes that occur later.

X-rays can help identify and treat dental problems at an early stage and so can save time, money and unnecessary discomfort.