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Posts for category: Oral Health

By Applewood Dental
January 11, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay  
AddressTheseRiskFactorstoPreventToothDecay

Put teeth in contact with acid from oral bacteria and you've created the conditions for tooth decay. Also known as caries, tooth decay is the most common human disease on the planet, responsible for destroying countless teeth.

We fortunately have effective treatments for arresting decay and minimizing its damage. But it's a far better strategy to prevent it in the first place—a strategy well within your reach if you and your dentist can reduce your individual risk factors for the disease.

Of these risk factors, there's one in particular we can't control—the genes we inherit from our parents. Researchers estimate up to 50 possible genes can influence whether or not a person develops cavities. Fortunately, though, most think the overall genetic influence has minimal impact on a person's oral health.

And although there's not much about your genetic makeup regarding cavity development that you can change, there are other factors you can definitely do something about. Here are 3 of the most important that deserve your attention if you want to prevent tooth decay.

Dental plaque. The main trigger for tooth decay and other dental diseases is a thin film of food particles on tooth surfaces called dental plaque, the main food source for the bacteria that cause disease. You can reduce this risk by removing plaque daily with brushing and flossing, along with a professional cleaning every six months.

Saliva. This essential bodily fluid helps prevent tooth decay by neutralizing acid. Problems can arise, though, if you have insufficient saliva. If you suffer from "dry mouth," you can improve saliva flow by talking to your dentist or doctor about changing medications, drinking more water or using saliva enhancement products.

Diet. Bacteria feed mainly on sugar and other refined carbohydrates. So, the more sweets, pastries and processed foods you eat, the more bacterial growth you can expect to occur. By changing your diet to more whole foods like fresh vegetables, protein and dairy, you may be able to reduce bacterial growth and your risk for decay.

Tooth decay always happens for a reason. By addressing these and other controllable risk factors, you may be able to stop decay from forming.

If you would like more information on preventing and treating tooth decay, 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 “What Everyone Should Know About Tooth Decay.”

By Applewood Dental
December 27, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay  
TheresMoreWeCanDoAboutToothDecayBesidesDrillandFill

Until recently, the standard treatment for tooth decay remained essentially the same for nearly a century: Remove any decayed structure, then prepare and fill the cavity. But that singular protocol has begun to change recently.

Although "drilling and filling" saves teeth, it doesn't fully address the causes of decay. In response, dentists have broadened their approach to the disease—the focus now is on an individual patient's particular set of risk factors for decay and how to reduce those.

At the heart of this new approach is a better understanding of oral bacteria, the true cause of decay. Bacteria produce acid, which can erode tooth enamel and create a gateway into the tooth for decay to advance. We therefore want to lower those risk factors that may lead to bacterial growth and elevated acidity.

One of our major objectives in this newer approach is to reduce plaque, a thin film of food particles used by bacteria for food and habitation. Removing plaque, principally through better oral hygiene, in turn reduces decay-causing bacteria.

Plaque isn't the only mechanism for bacterial growth and acidity. Appliances like dentures or retainers accumulate bacteria if not regularly cleaned. Reduced saliva flow, often due to certain medications or smoking, limits this fluid's ability to buffer acid and acid reflux or acidic beverages like sodas, sports or energy drinks can disrupt the mouth's normal pH and increase the risk for enamel erosion.

Our aim, then, is to develop a long-term strategy based on the patient's individual set of oral disease risk factors. To determine those, we'll need to examine their medical history (including family), current health status and lifestyle habits. From there, we can create a specific plan targeting the identified risk factors for decay.

Some of the elements of such a strategy might include:

  • Daily brushing and flossing, along with regular dental cleanings;
  • Fluoride dental products or treatments to strengthen enamel;
  • Changes in diet and excess snacking, and ceasing from any tobacco use;
  • Cleaning and maintaining appliances, as well as monitoring past dental work.

Improving the mouth environment by limiting the presence of oral bacteria and acid can reduce the occurrence of tooth decay and the extent of treatment that might be needed. It's a more nuanced approach that can improve dental health.

If you would like more information on tooth decay prevention and 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 “Tooth Decay: How to Assess Your Risk.”

DontWaittoHaveYourChildsMouthBreathingCheckedandTreated

It's normal for your child to breathe through their mouth if they're winded from play, or if they have a stuffy nose from an occasional cold. But what if they're doing it all the time, even at rest? That could be a problem for their overall health—and their oral health as well.

Although we can breathe through both the nose and the mouth, our bodies naturally prefer the former. The nasal passages filter out allergens and other harmful particles, as well as warm and humidify incoming air. Nose breathing also helps generate nitric oxide, a highly beneficial molecule to physical health.

We switch to mouth breathing when we're not receiving sufficient air through the nose. For chronic mouth breathers, something has obstructed or restricted the nasal passages like allergies or enlarged tonsils or adenoids.

Mouth breathing especially can affect a child's oral health because of the relationship between the tongue and jaw development. During nose breathing, the tongue rests against the roof of the mouth (palate), where it serves as a kind of mold around which the growing upper jaw can develop.

When breathing through the mouth, however, the tongue falls against the back of the bottom teeth. If this becomes chronic, the jaw may develop too narrowly, depriving the incoming teeth of enough room to erupt and leading to a poor bite.

If you notice things like your child's mouth falling open while at rest, snoring, irritability or problems with concentration (associated with poor sleep due to blocked nasal passages), then consider having a doctor examine them for a possible nasal obstruction. You should also check with your dentist to see if your child's jaw development has been affected. If caught early, there are interventional measures that could get it back on track.

Even after correction of a nasal obstruction, a child may still find it difficult to readapt to nose breathing because of a "muscle memory" for breathing through the mouth. In that case, they may need orofacial therapy to retrain their muscles for nose breathing.

It's important to stay aware of any signs of chronic mouth breathing with your child. Diagnosing and treating the condition early could help them avoid other problems later in life.

If you would like more information on the effects of mouth breathing on jaw development, 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 “The Trouble With Mouth Breathing.”

By Applewood Dental
December 12, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay  
RecurringSinusInfectionsCouldBeaSignofToothDecay

It seems like every year you make at least one trip to the doctor for a sinus infection. You might blame it on allergies or a "bug" floating around, but it could be caused by something else: tooth decay.

We're referring to an advanced form of tooth decay, which has worked its way deep into the pulp and root canals of a tooth. And, it could have an impact on your sinuses if the tooth in question is a premolar or molar in the back of the upper jaw.

These particular teeth are located just under the maxillary sinus, a large, open space behind your cheek bones. In some people, these teeth's roots can extend quite close to the sinus floor, or may even extend through it.

It's thus possible for an infection in such a tooth to spread from the tip of the roots into the maxillary sinus. Unbeknownst to you, the infection could fester within the tooth for years, occasionally touching off a sinus infection.

Treating with antibiotics may relieve the sinus infection, but it won't reach the bacteria churning away inside the tooth, the ultimate cause for the infection. Until you address the decay within the tooth, you could keep getting the occasional sinus infection.

Fortunately, we can usually treat this interior tooth decay with a tried and true method called root canal therapy. Known simply as a "root canal," this procedure involves drilling a hole into the tooth to access the infected tissue in the pulp and root canals. After removing the diseased tissue and disinfecting the empty spaces, we fill the pulp and root canals and then seal and crown the tooth to prevent future infection.

Because sinus infections could be a sign of a decayed tooth, it's not a bad idea to see a dentist or endodontist (root canal specialist) if you're having them frequently. Treating it can restore the tooth to health—and maybe put a stop to those recurring sinus infections.

If you would like more information on the connection between tooth decay and sinus problems, 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 “Sinusitis and Tooth Infections.”

By Applewood Dental
December 07, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: cosmetic dentistry   aging  
3WaysAgingCouldDimYourSmileandWhatToDoAboutIt

Know how to get the better of an age-guesser at the carnival? Smile! A recent study found that people tend to underestimate a person's age if they're smiling.

If true, smiling—naturally associated with youthfulness—might help you look younger than you are. Unfortunately, many older people smile less, self-conscious about the effects of aging on their teeth and gums. Their smile doesn't have the same zing as when they were younger.

If that's how you feel about your smile, a cosmetic dentist can help. Here are 3 common age-related problems a skilled dentist can help you improve.

Discoloration. After decades of eating, drinking and possibly smoking, teeth enamel can yellow and dull. But there are ways to brighten discolored teeth. One simple measure is to undergo teeth whitening with a bleaching solution. On a more permanent note, bonding tooth-colored materials, porcelain veneers or life-like dental crowns to teeth can mask stains and other imperfections.

Wearing. Speaking of all those meals, you can expect some teeth wearing later in life that makes them look shorter, and their shape and edges sharper rather than softer and rounded like a youthful smile. Dentists can improve the appearance of worn teeth by reshaping and contouring them to soften harsh edges. A procedure called crown lengthening can reposition the gums to display more of the teeth. Veneers or crowns can also transform the appearance of severely worn teeth.

Receding gums. There's also a contrasting gum problem. What some call "getting long in the tooth," The teeth look longer because the gums have receded from their normal coverage. This is often caused by gum disease, which older people encounter more than other age groups. After treating the infection, the gums may need help regaining their former position by grafting donor tissue to the area to encourage regrowth.

The effects of aging on teeth and gums are quite common, but you don't have to live with them. With a few appropriate techniques and procedures, your dentist can bring back the smile you once had—or one even better.

If you would like more information on maintaining a youthful smile, 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 Your Dentist Can Help You Look Younger.”



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