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.

Things to look out for during pregnancy

Every woman wants to maintain their own health during pregnancy and to take whatever steps are necessary to give the baby the best possible start.

There are a few factors in your oral health to look out for during this time.

One consideration is that it’s common for pregnant women to have the urge to eat between meals. The risk is that frequent snacking on carbohydrate-containing foods can encourage tooth decay.

Bacteria in your mouth � called plaque � can convert the sugar and starch in your mouth into an acid that attacks tooth enamel. After repeated attacks, tooth decay can result.

So, when you need a snack, try to choose foods that are nutritious for you and your baby such as raw fruits and vegetables and dairy products.

During pregnancy, your body’s hormone levels rise considerably. Gum problems, such as gingivitis, are especially common during the second to eighth months of pregnancy. They may cause red, puffy or tender gums that bleed when you brush.

This is an exaggerated response to plaque caused by higher levels of progesterone in your system. Your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings at some stages to help you avoid problems.

Occasionally overgrowths of gum tissue, called “pregnancy tumors,” appear on the gums during the second trimester. These localized growths or swellings are usually found between the teeth and are thought to be related to excess plaque.

They bleed easily and are often surgically removed after the baby is born.

Studies indicate that pregnant women who have severe periodontal (gum) disease may be at increased risk for pre-term delivery, which in turn increases the risk of having a low-birth-weight baby.

So it’s particularly important to maintain good oral health during pregnancy. Make sure you clean your teeth carefully and visit your dentist regularly.

How space maintainers help children have healthy teeth

Space maintainers can be crucial to the dental health of a child.

When a child loses a baby tooth early through decay or injury, the other teeth can shift and begin to fill the vacant space.

If this happens, the problem is that, when the permanent teeth emerge, there’s not enough room for them.

This can lead to crooked or crowded teeth and difficulties with chewing or speaking.

To prevent that, the dentist can insert a space maintainer.

This holds the space left by the lost tooth until the permanent tooth emerges.

Space maintainers might be a band or a temporary crown attached to one side of the space.

When the permanent tooth emerges, the dentist removes the device and protects the child’s future smile.

The process of installing Invisalign

Invisalign is a system of clear mouthguards that can be used instead of braces to help straighten teeth.

The big advantage is that Invisalign looks better and is more comfortable than braces.

However, not everyone is a candidate for using the system so you with have to check with your dentist.

If an orthodontist certified in Invisalign says you can benefit from the system, they will take impressions of your mouth, write up a detailed specification and then send everything to a high-tech lab.

Next, the lab will show the orthodontist a preview of the appliances.

The lab then makes a series of “aligners” – depending on the situation, you may need between 12 to 48 aligners.

After the impression of the teeth is taken, it will normally require a visit to the orthodontist every six weeks.

Some patients will be advised to wear metal braces for a period and then switching to Invisalign when their mouth is ready.

For many people Invisalign provides an ideal way of making their smile look better.

What to do if your tooth cracks

While our teeth are normally very strong, they can crack for a number of reasons.

Reasons could include tooth decay, trauma/injury, grinding of the teeth or a stress fracture.

Sometimes, our jaw may be stronger than our teeth and the teeth can fracture when we bite heavily on food.

We can protect our teeth in some circumstances – for example it may be advisable to wear a mouthguard during sports.

Taking proper care of the teeth and regular visits to the dentist will help keep your teeth in good shape.

If a tooth cracks, it may become painful if the nerve is exposed and the area can become tender.

If this happens, rinse your mouth with warm water to clean the area and apply a cold compress to reduce swelling. Then call your dentist immediately.

Treatment will depend on where the tooth has fractured, how close it is to the nerve and the overall condition of the tooth.

A cracked tooth may be repaired with silver alloy, gold, porcelain or plastic. Or it may require a crown or overlay or bonding, which applies porcelain or enamel to the fractured tooth.

If you contact your dentist quickly, they will be able to take the most approriate action to preserve the tooth as much as possible.

What will it be like living with dentures?

People who are new to wearing dentures naturally have many questions about how their life will change.

New dentures may feel awkward for a few weeks until you become accustomed to them. The dentures may feel loose while the muscles of your cheek and tongue learn to keep them in place.

During this time, it’s not unusual to experience minor irritation or soreness. You may find that saliva flow temporarily increases.

As your mouth becomes accustomed to the dentures, these problems should diminish.

Dentures can be made to closely resemble your natural teeth so that little change in appearance will be noticeable. Dentures may even improve the look of your smile and help fill out the appearance of your face and profile.

Eating will take a little practice. Start with soft foods cut into small pieces. Chew slowly using both sides of your mouth at the same time to prevent the dentures from tipping. As you become accustomed to chewing, add other foods until you return to your normal diet.

Continue to chew food using both sides of the mouth at the same time. Be cautious with hot or hard foods and sharp-edged bones or shells.

Initially you may also find that wearing dentures changes how you speak. Pronouncing certain words may require practice. Reading out loud and repeating troublesome words will help. If your dentures “click” while you’re talking, speak more slowly.

You may find that your dentures occasionally slip when you laugh, cough or smile.

After your dentures are fitted, you’ll have a few follow-up appointments with your dentist to take care of any initial issues and to answer any questions you have.

Taking care of your teeth and gums during pregnancy

Your oral health is an important part of your overall health and this is never more true than during pregnancy.

Good oral health habits not only help prevent oral problems during pregnancy, they also help the health of your unborn child.

What you eat during your pregnancy affects the development of your unborn child – including teeth.

Eating a balanced diet is necessary to provide the correct amounts of nutrients to nourish both you and your child.

Your baby’s teeth begin to develop between the third and sixth month of pregnancy, so it is important that you receive sufficient nutrients – especially calcium, protein, phosphorous, and vitamins A, C, and D.

There is a common myth that calcium is lost from the mother’s teeth during pregnancy.

In fact, the calcium your baby needs is provided by your diet, not by your teeth. If your diet does not provide enough calcium, your body will provide this mineral from stores in your bones.

If you have an adequate intake of dairy products – the main source of calcium – or take any supplements your obstetrician recommends – this will help you get the calcium you need.

To help prevent tooth decay and periodontal disease, brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque. Be sure to clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners.

Make regular visits to your dentist during your pregnancy to ensure the best possible health for you and your baby.

How medication and anesthesia can help make your visit to the dentist easier

Your dentist will do everything possible to make your visit as relaxed and comfortable as possible.

Depending on the treatment you are receiving, there are several medications available to help.

Some drugs control pain, some help you relax and others put you into a deep sleep during dental treatment.

The best approach will depend on the type of procedure being undertaken, your overall health – including any history of allergies – and the degree of anxiety you feel.

Some of the options your dentist might discuss include:

Analgesics: These are the most commonly used drugs for relief of toothache or pain following dental treatment. They includes aspirin, acetaminophen and anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen. There is a separate category of ‘narcotic analgesics’ – such as those containing codeine – which are used for more severe pain.

Local anesthesia: Topical anesthetics are applied to mouth tissues with a swab to prevent pain on the surface level. They may also be used to soothe mouth sores. Injectable local anesthetics prevent pain in a specific area of your mouth during treatment by blocking the nerves that sense or transmit pain and numbing mouth tissues.

In other cases, your dentist many recommend sedation or general anesthesia.

Your dentist will discuss the best approach to suit your needs.

How space maintainers help children have healthy teeth

Space maintainers can be crucial to the dental health of a child.

When a child loses a baby tooth early through decay or injury, the other teeth can shift and begin to fill the vacant space.

If this happens, the problem is that, when the permanent teeth emerge, there’s not enough room for them.

This can lead to crooked or crowded teeth and difficulties with chewing or speaking.

To prevent that, the dentist can insert a space maintainer.

This holds the space left by the lost tooth until the permanent tooth emerges.

Space maintainers might be a band or a temporary crown attached to one side of the space.

When the permanent tooth emerges, the dentist removes the device and protects the child’s future smile.

How cancer treatment can affect your oral health

More than 1 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year and many of them will develop problems with their oral health as a result of their cancer treatment.

While it’s natural that they’ll be focused on their cancer treatment, it’s important not to overlook the importance of a dental examination as part of the process of maintaining overall health.

For example, radiation therapy of the head and neck area may lead to certain complications such as dry mouth, sensitive lesions in the oral cavity, hypersensitive teeth, rapid tooth decay and difficulty swallowing.

Chemotherapy and other medication can also have significant effects in the mouth.

To help prevent, minimize and manage such problems, the dentist and oncologist can work together – before and during cancer treatment.

Many medications lead to dry mouth, which can lead to a higher risk of gum disease and other problems. The dentist may therefore recommend a saliva replacement, an artificial saliva that is available over-the-counter at pharmacies.

Frequent fluoride applications may also be recommended.

If you are receiving treatment, schedule regular screenings with your dentist and contact your dentist or physician immediately on any sign of mouth infection. This may have serious implications for your overall health.

Your dentist and physician both want your treatment to be as safe and effective as possible.