Pregnant Women Have an Increased Risk of Oral Health Problems

pregnancy oral healthPregnant women are at risk of developing some oral health problems that they would not have to face at other times. The two most common dental problems associated with pregnancy are gingivitis and tumors. Hormonal changes during pregnancy are responsible for these problems.

It is estimated that 40 percent of pregnant women develop pregnancy gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums. Symptoms can include red gums that bleed when brushing, severe swelling, and bleeding gums. Pregnancy gingivitis usually appears between the second and eighth months.

Higher levels of the hormone progesterone can make it easier for the bacteria that cause gingivitis to grow, make gum tissue more sensitive to plaque, and exaggerate the body’s response to toxins caused by plaque. If you already have gum disease, being pregnant can make it worse.

You can prevent pregnancy gingivitis by brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, and using an antimicrobial mouth rinse. It is also important to get your teeth cleaned by a dentist or hygienist while you are pregnant.

Gum disease during pregnancy has been linked to premature birth. Women with gum disease are four to seven times more likely to deliver premature and underweight babies than mothers who have healthy gums.

A pregnancy tumor is a large lump with deep red pinpoint marks that forms on inflamed gum tissue, usually near the upper gum line. The lump glistens and may bleed and crust over. The tumor can make it difficult to eat and speak. A pregnancy tumor is not cancerous and cannot be spread to other people. It is a severe inflammatory reaction to irritation, typically from food or plaque.

Although pregnancy tumors can appear at any time, they usually occur in the second trimester. About 10 percent of women develop pregnancy tumors. They often occur in women who have pregnancy gingivitis. Pregnancy tumors are also known as pyogenic granuloma, granuloma of pregnancy, lobular capillary hemangioma, and pregnancy epulides.

Pregnancy tumors usually disappear after the baby is born. If a tumor makes it difficult to eat, a dentist or specialist can remove it with a simple procedure performed with local anesthesia. In about half of cases, the tumors return. If the tumor is not removed, the dentist can identify and treat its cause. You can reduce your chance of developing pregnancy tumors by following good oral hygiene guidelines.

The Link between Obesity and Oral Health

obesity oral healthObesity is a growing epidemic in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately two-thirds of adults and one-fifth of children are overweight or obese.

Overweight and obese people have a higher risk of developing many chronic inflammatory diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and arthritis. People who are obese tend to have higher levels of tooth decay, more missing teeth, and fewer needed fillings than non-obese people. Poor diet, uncontrolled heartburn, and poor oral hygiene contribute to dental problems. Obese individuals also tend to visit a dentist less frequently.

Obesity appears to increase the risk of developing periodontal, or gum, disease. Fat cells produce chemical signals and hormones that increase inflammation throughout the body. This can weaken the immune system, which makes an individual more susceptible to gum disease. Inflammation can also decrease blood flow to the gums and cause gum disease to progress faster. The link could also be caused in part by lifestyle characteristics, such as consuming sugary foods.

If it is treated, the progression of periodontal disease can be stopped, the health of the gums can be improved, and the supporting bone, gum tissue, and ligaments can be restored. This can be achieved by thoroughly cleaning the teeth and gums to remove tartar and plaque and scraping infected tissue from pockets in the gums. Surgery may be needed to treat deep pockets or reshape the bone or surrounding tooth structure. Antibiotics may also be needed to treat infection.

After undergoing bariatric surgery, patients need to eat smaller meals and may experience vomiting. This can affect oral health by causing acid erosion. Overeating can also lead to regurgitation and reflux, which expose teeth to acid. Medications given to patients after bariatric surgery can cause dry mouth that can affect oral health.

Proper oral hygiene can reduce the risk of oral health problems. The American Dental Association recommends brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush and flossing daily. Not smoking, eating a healthy diet, avoiding sugary foods and beverages, and visiting a dentist regularly can also reduce the risk of problems.

VELscope® Vx Can Help Dentists Detect Oral Cancer Early

VELscope Vx oral cancer detectionThe VELscope® Vx Enhanced Oral Assessment System allows a dentist to use a handheld scope to identify oral cancer and tissue abnormalities that might not be visible to the naked eye. It is intended to supplement traditional head and neck exams.

VELscope® Vx is different from other devices used for oral examinations because it does not require dyes or prolonged testing procedures. A dentist can perform a VELscope® exam in two minutes as part of a regular hygiene appointment.

Traditional oral mucosal examination tools use reflected light to examine tissues in the mouth. VELscope® Vx uses fluorescence to let dentists see cellular, structural, and metabolic activity changes in the mouth.

The VELscope® Vx handheld device emits a harmless bright blue light that makes the oral mucosa, or soft tissues in the mouth, naturally fluoresce. Fluorophores cause natural tissue fluorescence. When they are excited by blue light, fluorophores emit light at a longer wavelength, such as green.

Abnormal fluorescence patterns can help the clinician spot a variety of conditions. Tissues that are affected by trauma, disease, neoplastic lesions, and fungal, viral, or bacterial infections fluoresce differently than healthy tissues. Any area that fluoresces abnormally can be examined further to determine the cause.

Exams with VELscope® Vx can detect oral cancer early, when the five-year survival rate is as high as 83 percent. When detected later, the five-year survival rate can fall to 50 percent. Oral cancer can have several causes, including the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), tobacco use, frequent or excessive consumption of alcohol, a compromised immune system, and a history of cancer.

Smart Mouth Guard Can Diagnose Teeth Grinding

smart mouth guardTeeth grinding, or bruxism, is a common condition that affects one in five Americans. It can cause a host of other problems, including jaw pain, headaches, damaged teeth, and insomnia.

Bruxism can be a challenge to diagnose. The most common way is to monitor a patient overnight at a sleep clinic. The most likely cause of teeth grinding is stress. It is usually treated with therapy to help the patient reduce stress.

A team of researchers from the University of Florida have designed a smart mouth guard as a simpler and less expensive alternative that they believe will help dentists diagnose and treat bruxism. It has sensors that detect the amount of force the teeth are applying to the mouth guard and which teeth are grinding.

This information can be sent to the patient’s dentist via a mobile device so that the dentist can analyze it and devise a solution to the problem. The smart mouth guard can help treat bruxism if it is worn regularly, which can reduce the number of clinical sessions a patient needs.

The researchers believe a version of their mouth guard could also be helpful for athletes who participate in contact sports, such as football. Accelerometers could measure forces affecting the head and warn of a possible concussion. Other sensors could determine if a person is dehydrated or has a body temperature that is too high. These features could be beneficial to both athletes and firefighters.

The mouth guard recently won second place in an international competition for applications for microtechnologies that was held in Anchorage, Alaska. The researchers do not know when their mouth guard will be available for purchase or how much it will cost.

Study Finds Americans Lie to Dentists about Flossing

Flossing TeethA study released on June 23 revealed that 27 percent of adults lie to their dentists about flossing their teeth. Some dentists believe the actual figure is much higher, based on the condition of their patients’ teeth and gums. The study also found that a third of people dislike flossing so much that they would rather do other unpleasant activities, such as clean the toilet, wash dishes, sit in traffic, or listen to small children crying on an airplane.

The survey was conducted by the American Academy of Periodontology. The AAP surveyed 2,021 adults in 10 major cities across the United States. New Yorkers were the most likely to floss every day. Another study conducted by the AAP found that only 40 percent of Americans floss every day and 20 percent never do.

Flossing removes plaque, a sticky film of bacteria and saliva, from between the teeth and below the gum line. If it is not removed, plaque can harden into tartar. Plaque contains over 500 forms of bacteria. Those bacteria cannot be removed from below the gum line by brushing alone.

Bacteria can cause inflammation, which can lead to periodontal disease. Untreated gum disease can cause receding gums, tooth decay, and tooth loss. Gum disease can contribute to many other health problems, including heart disease and some forms of cancer. About half of Americans have periodontal disease.

Gum disease can be prevented with proper oral hygiene. That includes brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, and visiting a dentist for regular checkups and cleanings.

If you have trouble flossing, there are other options besides traditional floss. Proxabrushes are skinny brushes that can fit between teeth, and Stim-U-Dent picks or toothpicks can be used to remove plaque. If your teeth are close together, however, you will need to use floss.

Some bleeding during flossing is normal because it means the floss is clearing out an infection. However, pain is not normal and means you are doing it wrong.

Altadonics Dentures Can Improve Your Smile

Altadonics DenturesDentures can restore the function and beauty of a smile for patients who are missing teeth or who need to have teeth extracted. Unfortunately, the process of having a denture made can often take weeks, making life difficult in the interim. Altadonics Dentures can provide an immediate alternative to allow a patient to leave the dentist’s office with a set of dentures right after teeth are extracted.

The A-Tran Denture System for Immediates can provide a patient with an immediate clear-based treatment denture, as well as a final pink denture created in a lab. The two dentures are identical in fit and comfort, which means the patient will always have a set of dentures available, even if one set needs to be adjusted or repaired.

The Very Best Denture maintains the original denture’s comfortable fit and allows the dentist to make cosmetic enhancements with set teeth that are longer and have a lighter color. This type of denture generally requires three appointments for an initial consultation and mold impression, try in, and fitting of the finished product.

Altadonics’ Assurance Denture is an exact copy of the patient’s current set of dentures. It can maintain the length and function of the patient’s original denture. The purpose of the Assurance denture is to have a spare copy of the original denture. This process takes two appointments for the initial consultation and mold impression and delivery to the patient.

Altadonics Dentures use a multi-patented system that allows a dentist to store a patient’s 3-D denture image indefinitely. This means that if the patient loses the denture, a new set can be made immediately, without the need to go to the dentist’s office and have impressions made and sent to a lab.

What Causes Tooth Enamel Erosion?

toothbrush with toothpasteEnamel is the material that covers the crown, the visible part of a tooth. It is the hardest tissue in the human body. Enamel is translucent. The inner material, the dentin, givers a tooth its color. Coffee, tea, soda, red wine, and cigarettes can stain tooth enamel. Regular cleanings can remove many surface stains.

Enamel protects teeth from damage caused by chewing, biting, crunching, and grinding. It also protects teeth from hot and cold temperatures. If enamel chips or cracks, the body cannot repair it.

Erosion occurs when acid wears away tooth enamel. It can be caused by drinking soda and fruit drinks, dry mouth, a diet high in sugars and starches, acid reflux disease, gastrointestinal problems, medications, genetics, and environmental factors, such as friction, wear and tear, stress, and corrosion.

Saliva plays an important role in keeping teeth healthy. It coats the enamel in calcium and other minerals that protect it. Saliva also dilutes acid that can cause erosion, removes food particles and bacteria from the mouth, and boosts protective substances that fight bacteria and disease. However, saliva is no match for excessive amounts of acid.

Plaque is a sticky film caused by saliva, food particles, bacteria, and other substances that forms between teeth and gets into tiny holes or pits in the molars, around fillings, and next to the gum line. Bacteria in plaque can change starches in food into acid, which can erode tooth enamel and cause pits.

The symptoms of enamel erosion vary depending on how severe the problem is. Erosion can cause sensitivity to sweets and hot or cold foods; yellowing of the teeth; cracks and chips; and cupping, or indentations on the teeth. If enamel erodes, teeth can develop decay, which can enter the main body of the tooth. The decay can affect tiny nerve fibers, which can lead to a painful abscess or infection.

In order to prevent enamel erosion, you should brush and floss your teeth daily and visit your dentist for exams and cleanings.

Avoid drinking acidic beverages, such as soda and citrus juice, or drink them with a straw and then rinse your mouth with water.

Snacking frequently increases the amount of time acid is in the mouth. Rinse your mouth or brush your teeth after eating snacks.

Chewing gum boosts saliva production up to 10 times. Chew sugar-free gum with xylitol between meals.

If you have dry mouth, you can reduce your risk of enamel erosion by drinking more water.

Brush with a fluoride toothpaste to strengthen your tooth enamel. You can also use a fluoride mouthwash and talk to your dentist about sealants. Be careful to avoid overexposure to fluoride because it can lead to fluorosis, or defects in tooth enamel.

Enamel erosion can sometimes be treated with bonding to protect the tooth and improve appearance. If the problem is more severe, it may be necessary to cover the tooth with a crown.

Drinking More Water Can Help Prevent Cavities

mouth rinsingBrushing and flossing every day and consuming less candy and sweets can reduce the risk of tooth decay. Nevertheless, even with proper care and a relatively healthy diet, many people of all ages still get cavities. One cause that many don’t often think about is acid.

Acid can wear away at tooth enamel and lead to cavities over time. Many beverages that seem harmless, or even healthy, are full of acid that can damage teeth. Orange juice, for example, contains citric acid. Tea has tanic acid, and soda, even the sugar-free kind, contains phosphoric acid. All of these drinks can contribute to tooth decay.

In order to prevent cavities, you should remove traces of these beverages and food particles from meals and snacks before the acid can attack your tooth enamel. If you can’t brush your teeth, there is another simple solution: drink water.

One of saliva’s main functions is to bathe teeth and wash away acid and food particles that could lead to decay. If you don’t rinse your mouth after eating or drinking, traces of whatever you consumed stay in your mouth and bathe your teeth with acid. Your mouth will eventually produce saliva that will wash it away, but that could take hours. You can remove traces of food and acid quickly simply by drinking a glass of water after eating or consuming other beverages.

Drinking water after meals and snacks is no substitute for proper oral hygiene. You should still brush your teeth twice a day, floss once a day, and visit your dentist for regular exams and cleanings to prevent tooth decay.

Overcoming a Fear of Needles

needle phobiaNeedle phobia is a common problem that affects many people of all ages. It is estimated that about 20 million Americans suffer from a fear of needles.

Needle phobia is a problem that needs to be taken seriously. Fear of injections causes many people to completely avoid seeing a dentist, which can allow conditions to go untreated until they lead to severe problems. Untreated oral health problems can contribute to other conditions, such as heart disease, and can cause conditions such as oral cancer to go undetected.

People with needle phobia experience severe symptoms that go far beyond simple anxiety. They may faint, feel nauseated or dizzy, sweat, have a rapid heartbeat, have a rise in blood pressure followed by a sudden drop, have difficulty sleeping, resist violently, and have feelings of panic.

Many people do not know why they are afraid of needles. Experts believe their fear could be a response to past negative experiences. People with a needle phobia may have had a traumatic or painful experience involving a needle. They may have been physically or emotionally restrained and forced to undergo a painful procedure that involved a needle. They may have experienced a loss of control due to restraint or force, or they may have been affected by seeing or hearing about a parent’s or sibling’s painful experience with a needle.

If you suffer from a fear of needles, look for a dentist who has experience treating patients with needle phobia. Consider having a procedure done with a laser. This allows a dentist to perform the procedure without any needles in most cases. Your dentist can also sedate you with general anesthesia, which will put you to sleep, or give you conscious sedation, which will put you into a sleep-like state. Your doctor or dentist might also prescribe anti-anxiety medication. If your child suffers from a fear of needles, take his or her favorite toy to the dentist’s office or use distraction techniques, such as reading or singing songs, to help your child relax during the procedure.

What Causes Alveolar Bone Loss?

alveolar bone lossTeeth are anchored to the jaw by the alveolar bone, otherwise known as the tooth socket. This anchoring gives teeth the strength to support the pressure of chewing. The alveolus is the part of the alveolar bone that encases the root. A tissue called cementum at the base of the root holds a tooth to the alveolar bone. The upper jaw (maxilla) and lower jaw (mandible) both contain alveolar bone. A ligament holds the teeth in place and provides additional support.

Dental problems and habits can lead to the loss of alveolar bone over time. This can cause the bone to resorb, or dissolve, and can eventually lead to tooth loss if it is not treated.

If a tooth is extracted and not replaced, the jawbone can deteriorate. Natural teeth stimulate the jawbone through chewing and biting. If a tooth is missing, the alveolar bone no longer receives stimulation in that area, which can cause the jawbone to resorb. The rate and amount of deterioration varies from person to person. It is worst in the first 18 months and continues throughout life.

Gingivitis and periodontitis are gum diseases caused by plaque, a sticky, colorless film caused by food particles and bacteria that adhere to teeth at and below the gum line. Untreated gum disease can lead to pockets, or spaces, where the gums separate from the teeth. If gingivitis progresses to periodontitis, the gum tissue and alveolar bone can deteriorate, which can lead to tooth loss.

Unanchored dentures are placed on top of the gums and do not stimulate the alveolar bone. This lack of stimulation can cause the bone to resorb over time, which can lead to loosening of the dentures and problems eating and speaking. It may become impossible to hold dentures in place, even with strong adhesives, and a new set may be needed. Some dentures are supported by anchors that stimulate and preserve alveolar bone.

With a bridge, the area without a natural tooth does not receive stimulation in the alveolar bone. This can be corrected with a bone graft procedure.

If a tooth is knocked out or broken, that can lead to bone deterioration. A bone grafting procedure can restore function and promote new bone growth.

If teeth are misaligned, a tooth without an opposing tooth structure can over-erupt and cause deterioration of the alveolar bone. TMJ problems, normal wear and tear, and lack of treatment can also contribute to bone deterioration.

Osteomyelitis is a bacterial infection that affects the jawbone and bone marrow. It can lead to inflammation and a reduction in blood flow to the bone. The condition usually requires antibiotics, removal of the affected bone, and a bone graft.

Both benign and malignant facial tumors generally require removal of a section of the jawbone and reconstructive bone grafting.

Some birth defects cause missing portions of teeth, facial bones, jawbone, or skull. A bone graft can be used to treat these conditions.

If the upper molars are removed, air pressure from the maxillary sinus can cause resorption of bone. This can lead to enlargement of the sinuses, or hyperneumatized sinus, a condition that can be treated with a procedure called a sinus life.