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Posts for category: Oral Health

By Edward C. Smith, DMD, MPH, LLC
December 24, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
AsWinterLoomsHereare3ThingstoWatchFortoProtectYourOralHealth

Here in the Western Hemisphere, sunlight hours steadily shrink day by day as we approach December 21st. This shortest day of the year marks the winter solstice and the official start of its namesake season. Love it or hate it, winter can have an impact on your health—including your teeth and gums.

Fortunately, winter doesn't sneak up on you—you can see it coming as the days wane. And, knowing what's up ahead gives you time to get yourself—and your mouth—ready. Here, then, are 3 things to prepare for during the winter months to protect your oral health.

Holiday eating. Winter starts off nicely enough with a bevy of festivities. But that could also mean you're eating more carbohydrates—particularly refined sugar—that feed the bacteria responsible for tooth decay and gum disease. To lessen your chances of dental disease, exercise moderation while eating sweets and other holiday goodies. And, don't neglect your daily brushing and flossing routine.

Winter weather. Winter's chill could trigger some unpleasant oral experiences. If you suffer from tooth sensitivity, for instance, colder temperatures can worsen your symptoms. Harsh and windy conditions also make you more susceptible to chapped lips. For the former, be sure you're using a toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth. For the latter, apply lip salve to your lips that offers sun protection (SPF+) while you're outside.

Cold sores. You may be more apt to get sick during winter. That's because shorter days and more of your skin covered against the cold means you may absorb less Vitamin D from sunlight, leading to a weakened immune system. In addition to infections like colds and flu, this might also make you more susceptible to cold sores forming around your lips and mouth. If you feel a sore coming on, be sure to keep the area clean and apply an appropriate topical antibiotic cream to curtail any infection.

Winter also signals the beginning of a new year—the perfect time to get back on track with your dental care. If you haven't done so already, schedule a visit with your dentist for a cleaning and a checkup. By following these guidelines, you're sure to sail through the frigid winter months toward a brighter spring.

If you would like more information about dental care throughout the year, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Bitter Truth About Sugar.”

By Edward C. Smith, DMD, MPH, LLC
December 14, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: facial pain  
ThereMayBeaSolutionToYourFacialPain

Physical pain is unpleasant—but not knowing why you're hurting makes it worse. Thousands of people encounter such as experience when parts of their face suddenly and mysteriously erupt in pain.

Often, though, the mystery can be quickly solved—more than likely, it's a nerve disorder known as trigeminal neuralgia (TN). Typically seen in people over 50 (and in more women than men), TN is a chronic condition that produces brief episodes of acute, spasmodic pain.

The source of this pain is the trigeminal nerve, which courses down each side of the face. Each nerve consists of three distinct branches that serve the upper, middle and lower areas of the face and jaw.

Physicians usually find that a blood vessel has come in contact with the nerve at some point, and the resulting pressure has damaged the nerve's outer insulative layer (myelin sheath). This causes the nerve to become hypersensitive at the point of contact, overreacting in a sense to the slightest touch (even a wisp of wind) on the face and jaw.

TN isn't the only source of facial pain. It can also accompany other conditions like TMD, which is why it's important to undergo a diagnostic examination. If you are diagnosed with TN, there are a number of ways to manage it. The most conservative approach (and the one usually tried first) is the use of medications to block pain signals from the nerve to the brain or to lessen abnormal nerve firing.

If medication proves ineffective or there are other factors related to age and health, you may be a candidate for a surgical solution. In one such procedure, a surgeon inserts a thin needle into the affected nerve and selectively damages some of its fibers to prevent the transmission of pain signals. Another procedure relocates the impinging blood vessel, which then allows the nerve to heal.

These surgical methods are effective but they can cause side-effects in rare cases like numbness or hearing impairment. It's best then to discuss with your doctor which approach would be best for you and your life situation. Ultimately, though, there are ways to relieve you of this painful condition.

If you would like more information on treating facial 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 “Trigeminal Neuralgia.”

By Edward C. Smith, DMD, MPH, LLC
December 04, 2021
Category: Oral Health
OlympiansPoleVaultingAccidentPutstheSpotlightonDentalInjuries

British pole vaulter Harry Coppell had an unpleasant mishap right before the Tokyo Olympic games. During a training vault, Coppell glanced the top bar to loosen it, which then fell on top of his face on the mat. The impact broke one of his front teeth nearly in two and severely damaged others.

Coppell posted the accident on Instagram, along with a photo of the aftermath. "I hope @tokyo2020 has a good dentist around," he quipped in the caption. Alas, after several hours with a dentist, one of the injured teeth couldn't be saved, although the chipped tooth remained. Needless to say, the Olympian's smile took a beating along with his teeth.

Fortunately, through the marvels of cosmetic dentistry, Coppell can eventually regain his attractive smile. Still, though, his experience is a blunt reminder that sports and other physical activities do carry some risk for dental injury, especially for active young adults and children.

A chipped tooth is the most common outcome of a traumatic dental injury, but not the only one: you might also suffer from a displaced, loosened or even knocked-out tooth. And, even if the teeth don't appear injured after face trauma, there could be underlying gum and bone damage that requires prompt emergency care from a dentist.

Of course, preventing a dental injury is far better than treating one that has occurred—and wearing an athletic mouthguard is your best bet for dodging such a bullet. A mouthguard's soft plastic helps absorb the force of a hard impact so that the teeth and gums don't. This important protective gear is a must for anyone who plays sports like football or basketball, or enjoys physical activities like trail biking.

When it comes to mouthguards, you have two general categories from which to choose. The first is called a "boil and bite," often found online or in sporting goods stores. These usually come in general sizes that can be customized further by softening in hot water and then having the wearer bite down while it's soft (hence the name). This personalizes the guard to fit the individual wearer.

The other category is a custom mouthguard created by a dentist from an impression of the wearer's mouth. Because of this specialized fit, custom mouthguards aren't usually as bulky as boil and bites, and are typically more comfortable to wear.

The key point, though, is that a mouthguard can help you avoid a serious dental injury, regardless of which category you choose. It could mean the difference between a forgettable incident or dental damage that could impact your life for years to come.

If you would like more information about preventing and treating dental injuries, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Athletic Mouthguards.”

By Edward C. Smith, DMD, MPH, LLC
November 24, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   gum disease  
KickingtheSmokingHabitBoostsYourHealthIncludingTeethandGums

Quitting smoking is hard. The love affair between your brain and nicotine chains the habit to your daily life. But it's still worth the effort to quit to save your health from disease—including those that impact your teeth and gums. And, there's no time better to launch your "kick the habit" project than the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout day this November 18.

As to smoking's impact on your teeth and gums: Two-thirds of America's 32 million smokers contend with gum disease. A smoker's risk for tooth decay is also higher, as well as their prospects for implant failure.

So, why is smoking hazardous to your oral health?

Primarily, nicotine constricts oral blood vessels, which in turn reduces the nutrients and antibodies reaching the teeth and gums. Your mouth thus struggles to fight bacteria that cause tooth decay or gum disease.

Inadequate blood circulation can also hide signs of gum disease like swollen, reddened or bleeding gums. Instead, a smoker's gums may look deceivingly healthy, although you may have a gum infection that could be well advanced when it's finally diagnosed.

Gum or bone grafting also depends on good blood flow, or the grafts may not fully regenerate new tissue. The situation's similar for an implant: Its titanium post needs bone to grow and adhere to its surface to acquire sufficient strength and stability. But slow wound healing due to poor circulation can interfere with this process and cause an implant to fail.

For your mouth's sake, as well as the rest of your body, quitting smoking could help you avoid these problems. But as an ingrained, addictive habit, your body needs to "unlearn" it to stop it. Here are some ideas to help make that process easier.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy. Under your doctor's guidance, you can take medications that deliver nicotine to the body without smoking, and gradually reduce its concentration. This approach can be costly, however, and cause unpleasant side effects.

Brand fading. With this technique, you continuously switch to cigarette brands with less nicotine. This gradually acclimates your body to lower concentrations of the chemical, and eventually wean off it entirely. Here's an online site listing nicotine strength by brand.

Don't do it alone. Quitting smoking doesn't need to be a solo act. Developing relationships with those who don't smoke or who are also quitting can make it easier. One way is to attend a smoking cessation group for support and encouragement from others who're also trying to quit.

Above all, speak with your doctor or dentist to learn more about what you can do to stop smoking. It can be difficult, but the rewards—especially for your oral health—are well worth it.

If you would like more information about smoking and oral health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Strategies to Stop Smoking.”

By Edward C. Smith, DMD, MPH, LLC
November 14, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: sleep apnea  
YourDentistMayBeAbleToProvideYouWithaSleepApneaSolution

Morning tiredness, brain fog and snoring are just some of the indicators of a medical condition known as sleep apnea. And, it's worse than waking up on the wrong side of the bed—over time, sleep apnea could increase your risk for heart disease or other life-threatening conditions.

Sleep apnea occurs when air flow becomes restricted during sleep, usually by the tongue blocking the airway. As oxygen levels begin to fall, the brain signals the body to wake up to "fix" the air flow problem.

As this arousal may only last a second or two, you may not remember it when you awaken in the morning. But it can happen numerous times a night, depriving you of the deep sleep your body needs for rest and repair.

Fortunately, there are ways to treat sleep apnea. In extreme instances, you may need surgery to correct anatomical defects causing the condition. For most cases, though, the most common treatment is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which consists of a portable pump delivering pressurized air through a face mask that keeps the throat open while you sleep.

Used by millions of patients, CPAP can be quite effective. Some patients, though, feel uncomfortable using a CPAP machine for various reasons. If you're one of those unhappy CPAP campers or you would like to consider a possible alternative, your dentist might have the answer: oral appliance therapy (OAT).

An OAT device is worn in the mouth during sleep to prevent the tongue from falling back against the back of the throat and blocking the airway. There are various forms of OAT appliances, but they're all custom-made by a dentist to fit an individual patient's mouth. They work best for mild to moderate sleep apnea in which the tongue is the primary culprit in airway blockage.

If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, you should undergo a complete examination by a doctor or dentist to confirm it. If you've been diagnosed with mild to moderate sleep apnea, talk to your dentist about an OAT device. You may find OAT can provide you the relief you need for a better night's sleep.

If you would like more information on oral treatments for sleep apnea, 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 “If You Snore, You Must Read More!