My Blog

Posts for category: Oral Health

ProtectYourTeethandGumsDuringPhysicalActivities

As part of his "New Frontier," President Kennedy greatly expanded the President's Council on Physical Fitness. Sixty years later, it's still going strong—now as the President's Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition (PCSFN)—supporting physical activity and nutrition initiatives for better health. That would also include your mouth: Healthy teeth and gums are an important part of a healthy body.

The PCSFN designates each May as National Physical Fitness and Sports Month to spotlight the important role sports and exercise play in maintaining overall physical fitness. And what's good for the body is also generally good for your mouth.

But while you're out on the field or in the gym, there are some potential pitfalls to watch for that could create problems for your teeth and gums. Here are a few of them, and what you should do to avoid them.

Neglecting oral hygiene. As spring weather warms up, many of us are eager to rush out the door for exercise and other physical activities. But don't leave before taking care of one important item—brushing and flossing your teeth. These hygiene tasks clean your teeth of dental plaque, the thin bacterial film most responsible for tooth decay and gum disease. Plaque should be removed daily, so take the time to brush and floss before you kick off your busy day.

Sports drinks. A quick scan around sports or fitness venues and you're likely to see plenty of sports drinks in attendance. Although marketed as a fluid and nutrient replacement after physical exertion, most sports drinks also contain sugar and acid, two ingredients that could harm your teeth. Try not to constantly sip on sports drink, but drink a serving all at one time (preferably with a meal). Better yet, unless your physical activity is especially strenuous or prolonged, opt instead for water, nature's original hydrator.

Blunt force contact. A pickup basketball game is a great form of physical exercise. But a split-second blow to the face could damage your teeth and gums to such extent that it could impact your dental health for years to come. If you're a regular participant in a contact sport, wearing a mouthguard will significantly lower your risk for oral injuries. And for the best comfort and protection, have us fit you with a custom-made mouthguard—it could be a wise investment.

Our bodies (and minds) need regular physical activity to stay healthy—so by all means, get out there and get moving. Just be sure you're also looking out for your teeth and gums, so they'll stay as healthy as the rest of your body.

If you would like more information about protecting your dental health during physical activity, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Think Before You Drink” and “Athletic Mouthguards.”

ThumbSuckingandTongueThrustingCouldCauseaPoorBite

There are many things to be concerned about with your infant. Thumb sucking shouldn't be one of them—at least not yet. Practically universal among young children, the habit normally fades by age four with no real harm.

If it persists beyond that age, however, it can lead to a poor bite (malocclusion). Late thumb sucking may also have a connection with another problem—the inability of a child to transition from an infantile swallowing pattern to an adult pattern.

A baby while swallowing thrusts their tongue forward to help create a seal around a breast or bottle nipple during nursing. This normally changes about age 4, though, to a positioning of the tongue against the roof of the mouth when swallowing. But if they don't transition and continue to thrust the tongue forward, it can place undue pressure on the front teeth and cause them to develop too far forward.

The result may be an open bite, in which a gap exists between the upper and lower teeth even when the jaws are shut. An open bite can also happen with late thumb sucking, but instead of the tongue, their thumb presses against the teeth.

As to thumb-sucking, parents should encourage their child to stop the habit beginning around age 3, if they haven't already begun to do so. The best approach is to use some form of positive reinforcement such as praise or treats. The sooner the habit ceases after age 4, the lower their risk for developing an open bite.

You may also need to be alert to continued tongue thrusting while swallowing, which may still continue even after they no longer suck their thumb. In that case, your child may need orofacial myofunctional therapy (OMT), a series of exercises directed by a trained therapist to retrain the muscles involved with swallowing. This therapy could further help a child properly transition to an adult swallowing pattern.

Open bites can be corrected orthodontically later in life. But by being alert to your child's oral habits, as well as the way they're swallowing, you and your dentist may be able to intervene and eliminate or at least lessen the development of this type of problem bite.

If you would like more information on how to manage thumb sucking, 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 Thumb Sucking Affects the Bite.”

TheCausesofChronicJawPainMightBeSimilarToFibromyalgia

Chronic joint pain (temporomandibular joint disorder or TMD) in and of itself can make life miserable. But TMD may not be the only debilitating condition you're contending with—it's quite common for TMD patients to also suffer from fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a condition with a variety of muscular and neurological symptoms like widespread pain, joint stiffness, headaches and tingling sensations. These symptoms can also give rise to sleep and mood disorder, as well as difficulties with memory. Fibromyalgia can occur in both males and females, but like TMD, it's predominant among women, particularly those in their child-bearing years.

In the past, physicians were mystified by these symptoms of body-wide pain that didn't seem to have an apparent cause such as localized nerve damage. But continuing research has produced a workable theory—that fibromyalgia is related to some defect within the brain or spinal cord (the central nervous system), perhaps even on the genetic level.

This has also led researchers to consider that a simultaneous occurrence of TMD and fibromyalgia may not be coincidental—that the same defect causing fibromyalgia may also be responsible for TMD. If this is true, then the development of new treatments based on this understanding could benefit both conditions.

For example, it's been suggested that drugs which relieve neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain may be effective in relieving fibromyalgia pain. If so, they might also have a similar effect on TMD symptoms.

As the study of conditions like fibromyalgia and TMD continues, researchers are hopeful new therapies will arise that benefit treatment for both. In the meantime, there are effective ways to cope with the symptoms of TMD, among them cold and hot therapy for inflamed jaw joints, physical exercises and stress reduction techniques.

The key is to experiment with these and other proven therapies to find the right combination for an individual patient to find noticeable relief. And perhaps one day in the not too distant future, even better treatments may arise.

If you would like more information on the connection between TMD and other chronic pain conditions, 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 “Fibromyalgia and Temporomandibular Disorders.”

NotGettingaGoodNightsSleepYourDentistMayBeAbletoHelp

If you live an average lifespan, you'll spend more than 200,000 hours in blissful slumber. It's not a waste, though: You absolutely need this much sleep to maintain optimum physical and mental health. That's why the National Sleep Foundation recognizes each March as Sleep Awareness Month to highlight the obstacles to a good night's sleep. One such obstacle is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)—and if you have it, we may be able to help you reduce the harm it may be causing you.

OSA is the blockage of the airway during sleep, usually when the tongue relaxes against the back of the throat. As the oxygen level falls, the brain arouses the sleeper to restore airflow. This only takes a few seconds before the person slips back into sleep, but it can occur several times an hour.

As this scenario repeats itself night after night, the person becomes deprived of the deeper stages of sleep they need to stay healthy. The long-term effect can even be life-threatening: Besides chronic fatigue and “brain fog,” there's also an increased risk of high blood pressure, disease or other serious health conditions.

But there are ways to reduce chronic OSA, the most common being a therapy known as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). A CPAP machine, prescribed by a medical doctor, consists of a small pump that streams pressurized air into the mouth through a hose and facemask; the increased air pressure in the mouth helps keep the airway open. It's a proven method, but not always a favorite with some patients who find it uncomfortable and restrictive to wear every night.

If you're in that camp regarding CPAP therapy, an alternative may be possible: oral appliance therapy (OAT), which dentists can provide. Worn in the mouth during sleep, this custom-fitted mouthguard-like appliance repositions the tongue so that it doesn't block the airway. There is a variety of mechanisms, but most involve a hinge that positions the lower jaw forward, which in turn pulls the tongue away from the back of the throat.

These less invasive OAT devices may be an alternative to CPAP therapy for people who have mild to moderate OSA and find CPAP machines difficult to use. If you've been diagnosed with OSA and CPAP therapy hasn't been a good fit for you, speak with us about an OAT device. It could help you overcome this common disorder and get the deep sleep you need for a healthy mind and body.

If you would like more information about a dental approach to obstructive sleep apnea, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sleep Disorders & Dentistry.”

OnWorldOralHealthDayTakePrideinYourMouthWithTheseCareTips

Do you remember your first new car? It purred like a kitten with a brilliant finish you could see a mile away. And my, oh my, the attention you gave it: cleaning, polishing, regularly checking the fluids and other maintenance. That's what comes with pride of ownership—and it's an equally fitting attitude to have with your mouth.

World Oral Health Day is a great opportunity this month to renew your care for your mouth and its primary inhabitants, your teeth and gums. This March 20th, the FDI World Dental Federation wants you to “Be Proud of Your Mouth” for all it makes possible in your life: helping you eat, helping you speak and, of no lesser importance, helping you smile.

So how can you show pride in your mouth?

Keep it clean. Brushing and flossing are the two most important tasks you can do to prevent dental disease and ensure a healthy mouth. It takes only five minutes a day to clear away accumulated dental plaque, a thin film of bacteria most responsible for destructive tooth decay and gum disease. The only catch? To get the most from your oral hygiene efforts, you'll need to brush and floss every day, rain or shine.

Keep it fed. The food your teeth help you eat also benefits them—if they're the right foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables, proteins and dairy items like milk or cheese all contain vitamins and minerals that strengthen teeth against disease. On the flip side, there are foods you should avoid, particularly processed foods and snacks containing added sugar. Sugar feeds the oral bacteria that causes disease.

Keep it maintained. Routine dental visits are just as important for your mouth as routine mechanic visits are for your car. During these regular visits, we'll thoroughly clean your teeth of any missed plaque, especially a hardened version called tartar. It's also a time for us to look more closely at your teeth and gums to uncover any emerging problems that require treatment.

With a little time, effort and discipline, you can protect your teeth and gums from disease, and help them to be as healthy as they can be. The dividends will spill over into the rest of your life, with additional benefits for your physical, mental and social well-being. A healthy mouth is vital to a healthy life.

So, take pride in your mouth and make a commitment today to care for it. And if you haven't seen us in a while, an appointment for a dental cleaning and checkup could be your best move toward healthier teeth and gums.

If you would like more information about best dental care practices, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Daily Oral Hygiene” and “Dental Hygiene Visit.”