Posts for category: Oral Health

TakeStepsWhileWearingBracestoDeterWhiteSpotFormationonYourTeeth

Correcting a poor bite not only creates a more attractive smile, but ultimately a healthier one too. But braces, a common way to correct bites, could put your teeth and gums at higher risk for disease while wearing them.

That's because the brackets and wires that make up braces can get in the way of cleaning your teeth of dental plaque, a thin bacterial film that causes disease. Plaque can accumulate in these obstructed dental areas, and could lead, in one possible scenario, to a problem you may not even notice until after the braces come off—white spots on the teeth, or white spot lesions (WSLs).

WSLs occur because of "demineralization," a process caused by acid from bacteria stripping the enamel in these spots of underlying minerals like calcium. As a result, the spots look chalky and opaque in contrast to the rest of the enamel's normal translucence.

Even though more difficult with braces, daily oral hygiene remains the best defense against WSL formation. Fortunately, these difficulties can be overcome with the help of specialized tools like an interproximal toothbrush, which can get under and around braces better than a regular brush. A water flosser device, which clears away between-teeth plaque with pulsating water, can be just as effective as dental floss and easier for orthodontic patients to use.

Orthodontic patients can also make their mouths "less friendly" to harmful bacteria by cutting back on sugary snacks or acidic beverages like sodas, energy or sports drinks. It's also a good idea to avoid alcohol, tobacco or caffeine, all of which can diminish saliva flow needed to keep the mouth healthy.

If WSLs do occur, it's possible that they may eventually remineralize on their own after the braces come off. We can also foster remineralization with over-the-counter or prescription-grade fluoride pastes or gels, or apply fluoride directly to the affected teeth. In advanced cases, we can often inject a tooth-colored resin beneath the white spot to stabilize it and make it appear less opaque.

In any event, it's always a good idea to keep a close watch on your teeth during orthodontic treatment. Staying vigilant and proactive will help you avoid disease while wearing braces.

If you would like more information on dental care while undergoing orthodontic treatment, 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 “White Spots on Teeth During Orthodontic Treatment.”

SedationCanAlleviateAnxietyandOpentheWayforNeededDentalCare

Discovering how pain and anxiety complicated disease care, many ancient civilizations turned to natural substances like root herbs or alcohol to ease their effect. Today, we've developed more effective agents, which enable patients to undergo many treatments they would otherwise be unable to endure.

There's been immense progress in particular in methods for reducing patient anxiety during dental treatment. In contrast to physical pain, anxiety is more aptly defined as mental discomfort. Dental anxiety, the apprehension a person feels at the prospect of dental care, can be serious enough that a person avoids dental care altogether, even with serious teeth or gum issues.

Adages like "Just suck it up and get through it" can be hollow words to someone with serious dental anxiety. Today's dentist understands that anxiety is very real and a serious impediment to care. Fortunately, modern dentistry has effective measures to alleviate it.

This commonly involves an approach with two phases. In the first, the patient takes an oral sedative an hour or so before the appointment to produce an initial calming effect. In the second phase at the appointment, the dentist initiates intravenous or IV sedation, a deeper application that continues throughout the treatment session.

With IV sedation, we deliver the sedative medication through a small needle inserted into a patient's vein, placing the patient in a highly relaxed state. Unlike general anesthesia, which renders a patient unconscious, sedated individuals remain somewhat awake, often able to respond to verbal commands or physical stimuli.

In further contrast to general anesthesia, IV sedation doesn't require assisting patients with breathing or circulation. Even so, one of the treatment staff will continue to monitor vital signs while the patient is sedated.

Since the introduction of Pentothal in the 1930s, the first sedative used for medical and dental procedures, we've developed other safe and effective sedatives that flush from the body quickly and have few after-effects. Many have an amnesiac effect, so that the patient remembers little or nothing at all about the procedure.

Sedation therapy can accomplish two things. First, an anxious patient can have a more positive experience during dental treatment. And, as these positive experiences accumulate, a patient prone to anxiety may develop a readiness to receive treatment before a problem goes too far.

If you would like more information on dental sedation techniques, 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 “IV Sedation in Dentistry.”

By Dr. Dulat
April 12, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: nutrition   tooth decay  
EnergyDrinksCouldPoseaThreattoYourTeeth

In the last few years, energy drinks have begun to offer strong competition to traditional "pick-me-up" drinks like tea or coffee. But while the proponents of energy drinks say they're not harmful, the jury's still out on their long-term health effects.

With that said, however, we may be closer to a definitive answer regarding oral health—and it's not good. The evidence from some recent studies doesn't favor a good relationship between energy drinks and your teeth.

For one, many energy drinks contain added sugar, which is a primary food source for the bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease. Increased bacteria also increase your chances of dental disease.

Most energy drinks also contain high levels of acid, which can damage the enamel and open the door to advanced tooth decay. The danger is especially high when the mouth's overall pH falls below 5.5. Energy drinks and their close cousins, sports drinks, typically have a pH of 3.05 and 2.91, respectively, which is well within the danger zone for enamel.

A research group recently put the acidity of both types of beverages to the test. The researchers submerged samples of enamel into different brands of beverages four times a day for five days, to simulate a person consuming four drinks a day. Afterward, they examined the samples and found that those subjected to energy drinks lost an average 3.1 % of their volume, with sports drinks faring only a little better at 1.5%.

Although more research needs to be done, these preliminary results support a more restrained use of energy drinks. If you do consume these beverages, observing the following guidelines could help limit any damage to your teeth.

  • Limit drinking to mealtimes—eating food stimulates saliva production, which helps neutralize acid;
  • After drinking, rinse out your mouth with water—because of its neutral pH, water can help dilute concentrated acid in the mouth;
  • Wait an hour to brush to give saliva a chance to remineralize enamel—brushing before then could cause microscopic bits of softened enamel to slough off.

There's one other alternative—abstain from energy drinks altogether. In the long run, that may turn out to be the best choice for protecting your oral health.

If you would like more information on the effects of sports or energy drinks on 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 “Think Before You Drink.”

NoClueWhyYourMouthFeelsScaldedItCouldBeThisOralCondition

It's common for people to sip freshly brewed coffee or take a bite of a just-from-the-oven casserole and immediately regret it—the searing heat can leave the tongue and mouth scalded and tingling with pain.

Imagine, though, having the same scalding sensation, but for no apparent reason. It's not necessarily your mind playing tricks with you, but an actual medical condition called burning mouth syndrome (BMS). Besides scalding, you might also feel mouth sensations like extreme dryness, tingling or numbness.

If encountering something hot isn't the cause of BMS, what is then? That's often hard to nail down, although the condition has been linked to diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, acid reflux or even psychological issues. Because it's most common in women around menopause, changes in hormones may also play a role.

If you're experiencing symptoms related to BMS, it might require a process of elimination to identify a probable cause. To help with this, see your dentist for a full examination, who may then be able to help you narrow down the possibilities. They may also refer you to an oral pathologist, a dentist who specializes in mouth diseases, to delve further into your case.

In the meantime, there are things you can do to help ease your discomfort.

Avoid items that cause dry mouth. These include smoking, drinking alcohol or coffee, or eating spicy foods. It might also be helpful to keep a food diary to help you determine the effect of certain foods.

Drink more water. Keeping your mouth moist can also help ease dryness. You might also try using a product that stimulates saliva production.

Switch toothpastes. Many toothpastes contain a foaming agent called sodium lauryl sulfate that can irritate the skin inside the mouth. Changing to a toothpaste without this ingredient might offer relief.

Reduce stress. Chronic stress can irritate many conditions including BMS. Seek avenues and support that promote relaxation and ease stress levels.

Solving the mystery of BMS could be a long road. But between your dentist and physician, as well as making a few lifestyle changes, you may be able to find significant relief from this uncomfortable condition.

If you would like more information on burning mouth syndrome, 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 “Burning Mouth Syndrome: A Painful Puzzle.”

By Dr. Dulat
February 01, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: thumb sucking  
LateThumb-SuckingCouldCauseBiteProblems

Of the many concerns pediatric healthcare providers hear from parents, thumb-sucking is definitely on the short list. Such a worry isn't totally unwarranted—persistent thumb-sucking could influence poor bite formation.

But if you have an infant or toddler who can't seem to keep their thumb out of their mouth, there's no need to panic—yet. Thumb-sucking is a nearly universal habit among young children, but the vast majority won't suffer any long-term harm from it.

That being said, though, it can become a problem if the habit continues on into late childhood, especially as permanent teeth begin to come in. That's because of the habit's relationship with the transition that occurs in child's swallowing patterns.

Babies initially thrust their tongue forward as they swallow, which helps them maintain a seal on the breast or bottle. This causes the jaws to remain partially open and not completely shut together, what's known as an open bite. Later, when weaning off milk for solid food, the pattern will change as the child begins moving the tongue down and away as they swallow. This in turn allows the jaws to completely shut.

Thumb-sucking often coincides with the initial infant swallowing pattern, and it usually fades about the time the child is moving into the more adult pattern. Persistent thumb-sucking, however, interferes with that process, essentially extending the open bite longer than normal, which in turn creates the conditions for poor bite development. Thumb-sucking can also put undue upward pressure on the front teeth, which could disrupt their alignment.

If thumb-sucking causes these conditions to develop, a child could eventually need extensive orthodontic treatment later in childhood or adolescence to correct their bite problems. The better course, though, is to avoid this by encouraging your child to end their finger-sucking habit, preferably by the age of 3.

It was common in years past to coat a child's thumb with something spicy that although not harmful was definitely not pleasant to taste. Today, most care providers recommend a more positive approach like offering praise or rewards to a child when they avoid sucking their thumb.

It may take time, but persistence and patience can win out. And, the biggest winner in ending thumb-sucking will be the child's long-term oral health.

If you would like more information on the dental effects of 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.”