Posts for tag: oral health
A woman during pregnancy naturally pays close attention to her general health, instinctively knowing it affects her developing baby. Ironically, it's also common for a woman during pregnancy to neglect her dental health, due to new physical restraints and fatigue that make regular tasks more difficult and tiring.
But pregnancy is no time to drop your guard: due to hormonal changes, a woman is more susceptible to disease and tooth decay. This can lead to increased sensitivity and gum inflammation that may develop into what's known as pregnancy gingivitis. This is of great concern during pregnancy, as the oral bacteria responsible for gum disease can cross over from mother to baby through the placenta. This could cause an inflammatory response by the mother's body that might result in a preterm birth with a low birth weight for the baby.
There are some things you should do to maintain vigilance. First, you should schedule an appointment with us at the beginning of your pregnancy to discuss and prepare a dental care plan. We can advise you more fully about how pregnancy affects your dental health and what we can both do about it.
A healthy diet from the beginning and throughout pregnancy will provide your child with the nutritional building blocks for his or her developing teeth, which begin to form around the sixth week. You may also develop cravings for certain foods, especially sugary or starchy snacks, which increase your risk of tooth decay. If at all possible, try to limit your intake of these kinds of foods or substitute raw fruits, vegetables or dairy products instead.
Oral hygiene is critical during this time in your life. Daily gentle brushing with a soft bristle toothbrush and flossing will help reduce the level of bacteria that causes gum inflammation. And, if you do notice sensitivity, swelling or bleeding from the gums, you should visit us as soon as possible for examination and treatment. It's also very important during your pregnancy that you schedule regular cleaning appointments. Because of hormonal changes, it's common for gum inflammation to become exaggerated making you more vulnerable to bone loss.
Remember: caring for your oral health when you are pregnant is just as important for your baby as it is for you.
If you would like more information on the relationship between pregnancy and oral health, 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 “Pregnancy and Oral Health.”
It’s time for your semi-annual visit to our office. As we prepare for your examination and teeth cleaning, we may also take a moment to check your blood pressure.
No, you’re not in the wrong office. The fact is, blood pressure screenings in dental offices are becoming more prevalent. The reason is twofold: as one of your healthcare providers, we may be able to identify a problem with your blood pressure that has previously gone unnoticed; and hypertension (chronic high blood pressure) and any drugs you may be taking for it can affect your dental health and how we provide treatment.
Hypertension, the medical term for high blood pressure, is usually regarded as any sustained pressure greater than 125/80 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury). It’s been identified as a major cause of cardiovascular disease, a family of heart-related diseases that affect an astounding 80 million people in the United States. Chronic hypertension has gained a reputation as “the silent killer” — many people are unaware they have it and if left untreated can lead to more serious conditions such as stroke or heart attack. It’s also a symptom of diabetes, even in the absence of other symptoms.
As part of your healthcare team, we’re in a good position to screen for hypertension and other general health problems. At the same time, hypertension is an important factor in dental care, especially if you are on regulating medication. Many anti-hypertensive drugs have side effects, such as dry mouth, that can affect your oral health. Your pressure status and medications may also affect the types and dosages of local anesthetics we would use during procedures; many of these constrict blood vessels (known as vasoconstrictors), which can elevate blood pressure.
A simple blood pressure check could reveal a health problem you didn’t even know about. It also helps us provide you with better and safer dental care.
If you would like more information on the effects of high blood pressure on your dental health, 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 “Monitoring Blood Pressure.”
Have you heard the news about red wine? Every so often, the fruit of the vine is touted for some potential health benefit. Several studies over the past few years have suggested that it could help prevent heart disease and even certain types of cancer — only to have their conclusions called into question by new research. Just recently, newspapers trumpeted a new study from the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry suggesting that certain chemicals in the vino might one day be used to help prevent cavities!
So is red wine good for your health, or isn’t it?
The jury’s still out. But there’s one thing we do know: Regardless of whether it has any affect on cavities, red wine is one of the major culprits in tooth staining.
Of course, it’s not the only offender: Coffee and tea, tobacco in any form, certain foods and some types of medications can all cause extrinsic stains on teeth — that is, stains that affect the exterior surface of the tooth. In addition, intrinsic stain — those that arise from the interior of the tooth — may be caused by root canal problems, or by certain dental filling materials.
If you have stained teeth — whether from red wine or another cause — can you do anything to make them whiter?
Oftentimes, the answer is yes — but finding the best way to do so can be challenging. You can begin by identifying habits and dietary factors that could cause staining. Then, reduce or eliminate the stain-causing factors, and enhance the beneficial ones. For example: stop smoking, modify your diet, practice regular, effective oral hygiene… and come in to the dental office twice a year for a professional cleaning and check-up. In addition, check whether any of your medications could cause staining or reduced saliva flow — a major contributor to the problem.
If making these changes isn’t enough to control teeth staining, the good news is that a number of treatments are available that can help bring your teeth back to a pearly shine — or even give you the “Hollywood white” smile you’ve always wished for. Depending on the cause of your teeth staining, and your desired level of brightening, these treatments can range from professional bleaching to porcelain veneers.
If your smile needs a little help to look its brightest, contact us or schedule an appointment to find out what we can do. For more information, see the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Staining” and “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered.”
We’ve all heard about potentially negative health effects from the sugar that’s added to many of our favorite foods. So these days, lots of us are trying to cut down on our consumption of sugar — not only to lose weight, but also to help prevent maladies like diabetes and heart disease. We can’t help noticing those pastel-colored packets — pink, yellow and blue — on the rack of our favorite coffee shop. But now we’re wondering: Are those sugar substitutes a good alternative to natural sugar? And which one should we choose?
Artificial sweeteners have been around for decades. Six different types (including the ones in the colorful packets) are currently approved as safe by the Food and Drug Administration; a couple of older ones (notably cyclamates) have been banned for many years. In addition to those zero-calorie sugar substitutes, low-calorie sweeteners called sugar alcohols (for example, mannitol and xylitol) are often used as food ingredients. So what’s the difference between them — and which one is best?
That’s not so easy to answer. If you have a rare genetic condition called phenylketonuria, you should avoid aspartame (the blue packet), because your body can’t process the substance. Otherwise, the choice may come down to a matter of taste. Even though they are FDA-approved, some controversy (both fact-based and far-fetched) remains about the long-term safety of sugar substitutes, and their usefulness in preventing obesity and other diseases.
Yet it’s clear that for some people, the consequences of consuming too much sugar could be much worse. So if you’re at risk for diabetes or certain other diseases, sugar substitutes can be an important tool in maintaining a healthier diet. They also have another health benefit: sugar substitutes don’t cause cavities. Further, some sugar alcohols (xylitol in particular) have the property of stimulating saliva flow, and have been shown to actually impede the formation of cavities. Oral health is an important (if sometimes overlooked) component of your general well-being, and several studies have pointed to a link between oral and systemic diseases — for example, diabetes and heart disease.
As with so many aspects of our health, there seems to be no “magic bullet” to cure all our diet-related problems. But used in moderation, artificial sweeteners can be a valuable part of the effort to improve our overall health and well-being. For more information on this topic, see the Dear Doctor article “Artificial Sweeteners.”
When Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi wanted to help her kids develop good oral health habits, the gold-medal-winner made good use of a family connection: Her father Jim Yamaguchi is a practicing dentist in the San Francisco Bay area who treats her entire brood. As she said in a recent interview, when she suspects the kids may be spending a little less effort on oral hygiene than they should, she playfully admonishes them: “You've got to brush your teeth better than that. Papa-san is going to know!”
Not all kids are lucky enough to have a grandpa who's a dentist — but every child can learn how to help take care of his or her oral health with age-appropriate techniques, plus plenty of parental guidance and encouragement. What's the best way to help your kids develop good oral hygiene routines? We're glad you asked!
Through babyhood and the toddler years, parents have the main responsibility for keeping kids' teeth clean. But as they begin to put away pacifiers and cease sucking thumbs — around ages 2 to 4 — children can also begin to help with their own oral hygiene routine. By then, kids will probably be used to the feel of gentle brushing, and may be eager to try it themselves.
A soft-bristled brush with a pea-sized dab of toothpaste is all they need to get started… along with a good dose of parental patience. Show them how to wiggle the brush back and forth from the gum line, and all around the upper and lower teeth, both in front and in back. At first, they will probably need plenty of help. But after the age of 6 or so, as their manual dexterity increases, so will their ability to get the job done.
You'll still have to check their work periodically — but you can also teach them how to do it on their own: Have your child run his or her tongue over the tooth surfaces. If they feel smooth and silky, they're probably clean too. If not… try, try again. This test is a good guideline to brushing effectiveness — but if you want to know for sure, use a temporary dye called a disclosing tablet (available at many drugstores) to reveal unseen buildups of plaque bacteria.
What else can you do to give your children the best chance at keeping a healthy mouth and sparkly teeth? Set a positive example! Make sure you (and your kids) eat a healthy diet, get moderate exercise, limit between-meal treats — and visit the dentist regularly. The encouragement you'll get after having a good dental checkup will make you feel like a gold medalist — even if the praise isn't coming from grandpa.
If you would like more information on how to help your child develop good oral health habits, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Dentistry & Oral Health For Children” and “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”