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Posts for: September, 2014

By Applewood Dental
September 29, 2014
Category: Oral Health
FiveFactsaboutGumDisease

The ailment we commonly called gum disease is actually series of related diseases, all of which involve the tissues that surround the teeth. It's sometimes thought of as a “silent” malady, because its symptoms — bad breath, soreness, or bleeding of the gums — may be masked by other conditions. Or, they may simply be disregarded.

But don't ignore these symptoms! Left untreated, periodontitis can have serious health consequences. Here are five things you should know about this disease.

Gum disease is a chronic inflammatory disease.

That means it's a disease related to a natural response of the body's immune system (inflammation), and it develops over time (chronic). Gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums, may be the first step in the disease's progression. Left untreated, it can be followed by destruction of the periodontal ligament (which helps hold the tooth in place), loss of the supporting bone, and ultimately tooth loss. But it doesn't stop there.

The effects of gum disease aren't confined to the mouth.

In fact, recent research has suggested a connection between periodontal disease and chronic diseases in the whole body. There is evidence that severe periodontal disease is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases (like heart attack and stroke), pregnancy complications, and other conditions. It is also believed to have an adverse effect on blood-sugar control in diabetics.

Gum disease is caused by the bacteria in dental plaque.

Oral bacteria tend to build up in a colony of living organisms called a biofilm. Of the many types of bacteria that live in the mouth, only a relatively few are harmful. When oral biofilms are not regularly disturbed by brushing and flossing, the disease-causing types tend to predominate. Once it gains a foothold, treating gum disease can become more difficult.

Prevention is the best defense.

Good personal oral hygiene, carried out on a daily basis, is probably the best defense against many forms of periodontal disease. Proper brushing and flossing is effective in disrupting the growth of dental plaques. Lifestyle changes — like quitting smoking and reducing stress — are also associated with lessening your chance of developing the disease. Genetics also seems to play a part, so those with a family history of periodontitis should pay special attention to preventive measures.

Prompt, effective treatment is critical.

Bleeding of the gums is never a normal occurrence. But sometimes this (and other symptoms of gum disease) may be overlooked. During routine dental checkups, we can detect the early signs of periodontal disease. We can then recommend an appropriate treatment, from routine scaling and root planing (a cleaning of the teeth) to other therapies. So, besides brushing and flossing regularly, don't neglect regular examinations — they're the best way to stop this disease before it becomes more serious.

If you have concerns about gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Understanding Gum (Periodontal) Disease” and “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”


By Applewood Dental
September 26, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition  
GoodNutritionImportantforYourMouthandYourBody

Your general and oral health go hand in hand — whatever is going on with the rest of your body can also affect your teeth, gums and other mouth tissues. That's why it's essential that you eat a diet with the right balance of healthy foods, while cutting back on unhealthy ones that contribute to tooth decay and other health issues.

When we refer to healthy foods, we mean foods with high nutritional value. These kinds of foods provide nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and water) that build strong bodies (including teeth and gums), fight disease and help our bodies maintain good function on the cellular level.

A healthy diet has three components: variety, eating several different kinds of foods with a wide range of nutrients; balance, eating a proper portion from different food groups; and moderation, eating portions that are enough to meet energy needs and cellular health while not overindulging. It's important to remember that excess carbohydrates, proteins and fats are stored as body fat, which has an impact on a healthy weight.

In addition, you should also bear in mind how certain foods can have a direct effect on your teeth and gums. Foods with added sugars (such as refined sugar or corn syrup) and starches are a rich food source for decay-causing bacteria; naturally occurring sugars found in fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products are not as great a threat. In this regard, the best approach is to decrease the amount of processed foods in your diet, while increasing your intake of whole foods.

You can also help deter tooth decay with certain foods. Eating cheese after a sweet snack helps prevent an increase in the mouth's acidic level, a contributing factor in tooth decay. Eating plant foods that require chewing stimulates saliva, which also helps prevent a rise in the acidic level.

Proper nutrition is a key component in maintaining overall good health. It's just as important for keeping your teeth and gums healthy and functioning.

If you would like more information on nutrition and the part it plays with your 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 “Nutrition: Its Role in General and Oral Health.”


By Applewood Dental
September 18, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: loose teeth   gum disease  
DeterminingtheCauseofToothLoosenessKeytoEffectiveTreatment

A loose permanent tooth isn’t normal — it represents a serious threat to the tooth’s survival. There may be a chance to save the tooth, however, if we can determine the cause of the looseness and treat it appropriately.

Teeth are normally held securely in place by the periodontal ligament, an elastic tissue that attaches to both the teeth and the bone. Certain conditions, however, can disrupt this attachment. The most common is advanced periodontal (gum) disease, an infectious condition caused by bacterial plaque. It can severely inflame and damage the surrounding gum tissues resulting in bone loss. As the bone is lost, the periodontal ligament is lost as they detach from the teeth. In fact, tooth looseness may be a fairly late sign of the disease.

Another major cause is teeth grinding (bruxism) and clenching habits that result in excessive biting forces. Usually stress-related, teeth grinding and clenching generate forces on the teeth outside of their normal range. As a result the periodontal ligament can become stretched, inducing tooth looseness.

Our treatment approach depends on which condition is causing the looseness, best assessed with a thorough dental examination. If gum disease is the culprit, the main treatment is to remove as much bacterial plaque and calculus (tartar) as possible using various techniques such as scaling or root planing (accessing and cleaning root surfaces). It’s also imperative for you the patient to start and maintain an effective hygiene regimen of daily brushing and flossing, along with professional cleanings every three to six months depending on your degree of vulnerability to gum disease. Subsequent healing will stimulate tissue reattachment to the teeth.

In the case of excessive biting forces, we primarily want to reduce their effect on the teeth. Treatment can include muscle relaxants or anti-inflammatory drugs, or a custom-fitted bite guard to minimize biting forces from teeth grinding during sleep. In some cases we may opt to reshape the biting surfaces of teeth through removal of small amounts of surface enamel: this will reduce the biting force by altering how the upper and lower teeth contact. It’s also possible to splint loose teeth to more stable teeth, joining them like pickets in a fence. This helps relieve the biting force on teeth with significant loss of bone support.

If you notice a loose tooth, you should make an exam appointment with us as soon as possible. The sooner we can diagnose the cause and begin treatment, the less chance you’ll lose your tooth.

If you would like more information on loose teeth, 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 “Loose Teeth.”


SavingaBabyToothistheBestOptionforPermanentToothDevelopment

Our “baby” teeth begin appearing around six months of age — by age 10 or 13, they’ve largely been replaced by our permanent teeth. Though their lifespan is relatively short, baby teeth play an important role in our dental development. In fact, saving a damaged baby tooth is an extremely important treatment goal even though they will be eventually lost.

Baby teeth perform a number of functions as our mouth and facial structure develops during our formative years (infancy to early adulthood). Besides providing a means to chew food, baby teeth aid speech by providing contact points for the tongue while speaking. They help us relate to others socially through smiling and other facial gestures. And, in relation to our long-term development, they serve as both guides and “placeholders” for our permanent teeth until they’re ready to erupt.

Thus, a permanent tooth’s development could be stymied if its counterpart baby tooth is lost prematurely. It could come in misaligned or not erupt fully if adjacent teeth have drifted into the open space. The resulting malocclusion (bad bite) could require long-term orthodontic treatment with higher costs than treatments to save the baby tooth and avoid the misalignment.

There are various treatments to prevent and save at-risk baby teeth. Even a badly decayed tooth might be saved with a pulpotomy, a similar treatment to a root canal but less invasive. This is often followed with a stainless steel crown to cover the remaining tooth and restore some of its form and function.

If it’s not feasible to save a baby tooth, we may recommend installing a space maintainer that prevents other teeth from drifting into the resulting space until the permanent tooth is ready to erupt. This orthodontic appliance usually consists of a metal band cemented to an adjacent tooth with an attached stiff wire loop that extends across the gap and rests against the tooth on the other side. Although effective, space maintainers can break or become dislodged, require extra monitoring and are often cosmetically unappealing.

In any event, the primary goal should be to save a baby tooth, if possible. Doing so will prevent more serious long-term problems for permanent teeth.

If you would like more information on the importance of baby teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.


By Applewood Dental
September 02, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tmd   tmj   jaw pain  
DeterminingtheRealCauseofJawPainisKeytoEffectiveTreatment

You’ve suddenly noticed a significant amount of pain radiating from your jaw, so severe you can barely bring your teeth together.

First things first: with this level of pain you should see us as soon as possible. There are a number of possible causes, but only a thorough examination will give us the correct diagnosis and answers we need to develop a plan to treat the cause and alleviate the pain.

With that said, here are a few possible causes for that severe jaw pain.

Injured or diseased teeth. Although the pain you feel seems to come from the jaw in general, the true source may be an individual tooth that’s been traumatized or infected. Because of the interconnectivity of nerves throughout the oral structure, the pain could be radiating from the teeth to the jaws. By effectively treating the affected tooth, we may in turn reduce the jaw pain.

Trauma around the joint. If you’ve taken a physical blow to the area around the jaw joint, the resulting swelling in the joint space is keeping the head of the jaw joint (the “condyle”) from seating in the space properly. You may also notice the upper and lower teeth in the back of your jaw won’t touch. As the swelling from the injury subsides (aided by anti-inflammatory drugs that also reduce pain), the joint should eventually return to its normal position.

Jaw fracture. The most common jaw fracture occurs in the area just below the condyle. The pain is usually much more severe than you might experience with indirect trauma. Fractures are normally treated by repositioning the broken bone and immobilizing the area to allow healing.

Joint dislocation. The injury you’ve sustained may have actually moved the condyle out of the joint space. If this is the case careful manipulation may be needed to reseat the condyle back into place, along with anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling.

TMJ or TMD. Muscle spasms can cause significant pain with similar symptoms, including limiting jaw movement. Only an examination with x-rays (to determine if it’s a soft tissue or bone-related injury) can narrow down the possibilities to the true cause. The sooner we make that determination and begin treatment the better you’ll feel — and the less likely the injury will result in irreversible damage.

If you would like more information on the causes of jaw pain, 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 “Jaw Pain — What’s the Cause.”




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