Posts for category: Oral Health

By Brookside Dental Care
February 10, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: gum disease  
ReducingInflammationCouldBenefitYourMouthandYourHeart

February is all about hearts—and not just on Valentine's Day. It's also American Heart Month, when healthcare professionals focus attention on this life-essential organ. Dentists are among those providers, and for good reason—dental health is deeply intertwined with heart health.

The thread that often binds them together is inflammation, a key factor in both periodontal (gum) and cardiovascular diseases. In and of itself, inflammation is a vital part of the body's ability to heal. Diseased or injured tissues become inflamed to isolate them from healthier tissues. But too much inflammation for too long can be destructive rather than therapeutic.

This is especially true with gum disease, an infection triggered by bacteria in dental plaque, a thin film that forms on the surface of teeth. If it's not substantially removed through daily brushing and flossing, along with regular dental cleanings, bacteria can grow and increase the risk of gum disease.

The infected gum tissues soon become inflamed as the body responds. This defensive response, however, can quickly evolve into a stalemate as the infection advances and the inflammation becomes chronic.

Arteries associated with the heart can also develop their own form of plaque, which accumulates on the inner walls. The body likewise responds with inflammation, which further hardens and narrows these vessels, leading to restricted blood flow and an increased risk for heart attack or stroke.

While it may seem like these are two different disease mechanisms, the same inflammatory response occurs in both. In fact, recent research seems to indicate that inflammation occurring via gum disease increases the likelihood of inflammation within the cardiovascular system. So, the presence of gum disease could worsen a heart-related condition—and vice-versa.

But the research also contains a silver lining. Controlling inflammation related to your gums could help control it elsewhere in the body, including with the heart. And, you can achieve that control by avoiding or reducing gum disease, which in turn can ease inflammation in your gums.

To sum it up, then, taking care of your teeth by brushing and flossing daily and seeing your dentist regularly to prevent gum disease could benefit your heart health. And, effectively managing chronic heart disease could also help you avoid an infection involving your gums.

You should also be alert to any signs your gums may be infected, including swollen, reddened or sensitive gums that seem to bleed easily. If you notice anything like this, see your dentist ASAP—the sooner you receive treatment, the easier it will be to get the infection—and inflammation—under control. Your gums—and perhaps your heart—will thank you.

If you would like more information about the links between dental disease and the rest of your health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Link Between Heart & Gum Diseases.”

By Brookside Dental Care
January 31, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene  
PromoteDental-FriendlyHabitsinYourKidsForLong-termOralHealth

What's a habit? Basically, it's a behavior you consistently perform without much forethought—you seemingly do it automatically. They can be good (taking a bath every day); or, they can be bad (devouring an entire bag of chocolate chip cookies every day). Our goal, therefore, should be to develop more good habits than bad.

One other thing about habits: we start forming them early. You might even have habits as an adult that began before you could walk. Which is why helping children develop good habits and avoid bad ones remains a top priority for parents.

Good habits also play a major role in keeping your teeth and gums healthy. Habits like the following that your kids form—or don't form—could pay oral health dividends throughout their lives.

Daily hygiene. Brushing and flossing is the single best habit for ensuring healthy teeth and gums. Removing disease-causing plaque on a daily basis drastically reduces a person's risk for tooth decay and gum disease. So, start forming this one as early as possible—you can even make a game of it!

Dental-friendly eating. To paraphrase a popular saying, "Your teeth and gums are what you eat." Dairy, vegetables and other whole foods promote good dental health, while processed foods heavy on sugar contribute to dental disease. Steer your child toward a lifetime of good food choices, especially by setting a good example.

Late thumb-sucking. It's a nearly universal habit among infants and toddlers to suck their thumbs or fingers. Early on, it doesn't pose much of a threat—but if it extends into later childhood, it could lead to poor bite formation. It's best to encourage your child to stop sucking their thumbs, fingers or pacifiers by age 3.

Later-developing bad habits. Children often come into their own socially by the time they've entered puberty. But while this is a welcome development on the road to adulthood, the pressure from peers may lead them to develop habits not conducive to good oral health—tobacco, drug or alcohol use, or oral piercings. Exert your influence as a parent to help them avoid these bad oral habits.

If you would like more information on best dental care practices for children, 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 to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”

By Brookside Dental Care
January 21, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition  
EnjoyThatNibbleofCheese-ItsAlsoBenefittingYourOralHealth

Mystery writer Avery Aames once said, "Life is great. Cheese makes it better." Billions of people around the world would tend to agree. Humanity has been having a collective love affair with curdled milk for around 8,000 years. And, why not: Cheese is not only exquisitely delicious, it's also good for you—especially for your teeth.

No wonder, then, that "turophiles" have a day of celebration all to themselves—National Cheese Lovers Day on January 20th. In honor of the day cheese aficionados would definitely make a national holiday, let's take a closer look at this delectable food, and why eating it could do a world of good for your dental health.

As a dairy food, cheese contains a plethora of vitamins and minerals, many of which specifically benefit dental health. Every bite of velvety Gouda or pungent Limburger contains minerals like calcium and phosphate, which—along with the compound casein phosphate—work together to strengthen teeth and bones.

Cheese also helps tooth enamel defend against its one true nemesis, oral acid. Prolonged contact with acid softens the mineral content in enamel and may eventually cause it to erode. Without an ample layer of enamel, teeth are sitting ducks for tooth decay. A nibble of cheese, on the other hand, can quickly raise your mouth's pH out of the acidic danger zone. Cheese also stimulates saliva, the mouth's natural acid neutralizer.

Because of these qualities, cheese is a good alternative to carbohydrate-based snacks and foods, at home or on the go. Carbs, particularly sugar, provide oral bacteria a ready food supply, which enables them to multiply rapidly. As a result, the opportunity for gum infection also increases.

Bacteria also generate a digestive by-product, which we've already highlighted—acid. So, when oral bacterial populations rise, so do acid levels, increasing the threat to tooth enamel. By substituting cheese for sweets, you'll help limit bacterial growth and these potential consequences.

You may get some of the same effect if you also add cheese to a carbohydrate-laden meal or, as is common with the French, eat it as dessert afterwards. Often a tasty complement to wine or fruit, cheese could help blunt the effect of these carbohydrates within your mouth.

In a world where much of what we like to eat doesn't promote our health, cheese is the notable exception. And our enjoyment of this perennial food is all the more delightful, knowing it's also strengthening and protecting our oral health.

If you would like more information about the role of nutrition in oral health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Nutrition & Oral Health.”

By Brookside Dental Care
January 01, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: shingles  
ACaseofShinglesCouldImpactYourUpcomingDentalVisit

Most childhood sicknesses are highly treatable and quickly fade from memory afterward. But there's one viral infection that can reappear years later, albeit in a different form and this time it might not be as forgettable. It could even impact your dental care.

Varicella, more commonly known as chicken pox, is a viral infection that mainly affects children. Fortunately, the itchy blisters and other symptoms associated with it usually clear up on their own. But the virus itself, varicella zoster virus (VZV), can remain behind and become dormant.

Fast-forward a few decades, and the child once with chicken pox is now an adult, usually over 50. In 20-30% of former chicken pox patients, the virus reactivates as a new infection known commonly as shingles.

Shingles often begins with an itching, burning or numbing sensation on the skin that develops into a severe rash. Because of its effect on surface nerves, the rash often takes on a striped or belt-like pattern on the skin. A shingles outbreak can also cause fever, fatigue and pain, the latter of which in rare cases can be quite severe.

Shingles in its early stages is also highly contagious, transmitted easily through either physical contact with the skin lesions or through airborne secretions. This is especially troubling for certain groups: pregnant women, patients undergoing cancer or other serious disease treatment, or those with compromised immune systems. For them, shingles can pose a significant risk for complications.

Because of its easy transmission, and the danger it can pose to certain groups, dentists typically postpone treatment—even routine dental cleanings—for patients experiencing a shingles outbreak, especially a facial rash. Once their outbreak subsides, those procedures can be rescheduled.

If you develop what you think is shingles, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Certain prescribed antiviral medications can ease the symptoms and hasten recovery, but they're most effective if started within three days of the onset of the disease. There's also an effective vaccination for shingles recommended for people over 60 to help avoid the disease altogether.

One other thing! If you do develop shingles and have an upcoming dental appointment, let your dentist know. Better to reschedule your visit after you've recuperated than to put others' health at risk.

If you would like more information on shingles and dental care, 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 “Shingles, Herpes Zoster.”

By Brookside Dental Care
December 22, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: gum disease  
TroublingDataSaysSmokingMarijuanaCouldWorsenGumDisease

It seems with each new election cycle another U.S. state legalizes marijuana use. It remains a flashpoint issue that intersects politics, law and morality, but there's another aspect that should also be considered—the health ramifications of using marijuana.

From an oral health perspective, it doesn't look good. According to one study published in the Journal of Periodontology a few years ago, there may be a troubling connection between marijuana use and periodontal (gum) disease.

Gum disease is a common bacterial infection triggered by dental plaque, a thin biofilm on tooth surfaces. As the infection advances, the gum tissues become more inflamed and lose their attachment to teeth. This often results in widening gaps or "pockets" between the teeth and gums filled with infection. The deeper a periodontal pocket, the greater the concern for a tooth's health and survivability.

According to the study, researchers with Columbia University's College of Dental Medicine reviewed data collected from nearly 2,000 adults, a quarter of which used marijuana at least once a month. They found the marijuana users had about 30 individual pocket sites on average around their teeth with a depth of at least 4 millimeters. Non-users, by contrast, only averaged about 22 sites.

The users also had higher incidences of even deeper pockets in contrast to non-users. The former group averaged nearly 25 sites greater than 6 millimeters in depth; non-users, just over 19. Across the data, marijuana users appeared to fare worse with the effects of gum disease than those who didn't use.

As concerning as these findings appear, we can't say that marijuana use singlehandedly causes gum disease. The condition has several contributing risk factors: diet, genetics, and, most important of all, how well a person manages daily plaque removal, the main driver for gum disease, through brushing and flossing.

Still, the data so far seems to indicate using marijuana can make gum disease worse. Further studies will be needed to fully test this hypothesis. In the meantime, anyone using marijuana should consider the possible consequences to their oral health.

If you would like more information on marijuana and oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.