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In: Oral Health

With summer in full gear, it’s easy to fall into the sugary trap of so-called ‘healthy’ cool-down treats. You’d be surprised at how quickly your sugar consumption can sky rocket as you reach for another slice of refreshing mango (a whopping 13grams of sugar in only 3oz) or another cup of fruit sorbet (roughly 35 grams!). And while it’s always a better choice to go with natural sugars—like you find in fruits and vegetables, it should still be in moderation…because at the end of the day, sugar is still sugar and will cause the same damage to your pearly whites that added sugars—such as corn syrup, fructose, etc.—can do.

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Giving your dental hygiene a little extra TLC doesn’t only give you a set of healthy and shiny white pearls; it can also keep your heart healthy.

Although the connection between the two isn’t conclusive, studies have shown that the mouth breeds the warning signs to many systematic diseases—including heart disease. Many of the risk factors for gum disease are the same as those for heart disease and stroke: such as tobacco use, poor nutrition and diabetes. Generally, people who have chronic gum disease are at higher risk for a heart attack, according to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). Gum disease (called gingivitis in its early stages and periodontal disease in the late stages) is caused by plaque buildup along and below the gum line. Some researchers have suggested that gum disease may contribute to heart disease because bacteria from infected gums can extricate, enter the bloodstream, attach to blood vessels and increase clot formation; which in turn decreases blood flow to the heart, causing blood pressure to rise and increasing the risk of a heart attack.

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Some of the warning signs of gum disease include:

  • Red, tender or swollen gums
  • Teeth that are loose or separating from each other
  • Gums that look like they are pulling away from the teeth
  • Bleeding gums while brushing or flossing
  • Persistent bad breath or bad taste in your mouth

Although, regular dental cleanings and exams can help remove plaque and tarter build up, bacteria and early detection of gum disease, it’s important you keep up with proper oral hygiene at home by brushing and flossing on a regular basis.

To help lower the risk of gum and heart disease, you can:

  • Quit smoking
  • Stay active
  • Manage your weight
  • Control your blood pressure

If you have a history of any cardiovascular (heart & artery) disease, it’s noteworthy to let your dental professional know as it may require them to adjust the type of treatment you are receiving. Be sure to keep them up to date with prescription or over-the-counter medicine you are taking—including any supplements, vitamins or herbal pills as your dentist might ask you to stop taking something before a specific treatment.

Remember to carefully follow your physician’s and dental professional’s instructions about health care, and use any prescription medications, such as antibiotics, as directed.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that a baby’s’ and toddler teeth are not as important because they “just fall out anyway”. This sentiment couldn’t be more wrong.

Starting your child off with good dental habits—even before a tooth makes its grand appearance—can help keep their teeth healthy, strong and protected for decades to come! Baby teeth preserve the spacing for the permanent ones, not caring for them properly can lead to tooth decay and/or gingivitis, which can affect the spacing of the permanent teeth.

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A cavity develops when a tooth is exposed to acid frequently — for example, if you ingest foods or drinks containing sugar and starches—the repeated cycles of acid attacks cause the enamel to continue to lose minerals. A white spot may appear where minerals have been lost. This is a sign of early decay. Although enamel can be repaired from the minerals in your saliva and the fluoride in your toothpaste, it can also weaken and destroy overtime, creating a cavity.

Ways to avoid cavities and tooth decay:

  • Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle of milk, formula or juice—the sugar will stick to the teeth
  • Don’t leave the bottle in the childs mouth for a long period of time, especially if they are not feeding from it
  • Drink water after every meal/bottle feeding
  • If water is not available, run a damp washcloth over their teeth

You can begin to clean your baby’s mouth as early as a few weeks after birth: using a clean, damp washcloth to wipe the gums—do not use toothpaste until your child has teeth. Once teeth have begun to appear, use a very soft bristled child-size toothbrush with a smear of toothpaste twice a day; if teeth are touching, then make sure you also gently floss on a daily basis.

After the age of 3, you can increase the amount of toothpaste used, to pea-size while reminding them to try not to swallow. They still need to be supervised but by the age of 4-5, they should be getting a good grasp of brushing correctly—in a circular motion for 2 minutes, twice a day.

Now the fun part—when most children consider this their leap into ‘big kid world’ and the tooth fairy makes her glittery debut—losing the baby teeth.

Around the age of 6, a child’s baby teeth loosen as their roots begin to dissolve, making way for the ‘adult’ teeth to settle in permanently. As exciting as this milestone is, you have to make sure the tooth isn’t to be yanked out if it’s not ready; this could lead to infection. However, you can help its progress by wiggling it. Sometimes, it can take months before a loose tooth falls out, other times it can be as simple as it coming out by being stuck in food—it might even be swallowed! But rest assured, there is no harm if that happens

Right when you thought your child’s teething stage was over, here it comes again—thankfully less painful and dramatic.  Be prepared for some complaints of pain in the back of the mouth and even up the jaw line; these are the six-year molars poking through that are now replacing baby teeth. Have some fruit popsicles and ice cold water handy to help ease the discomfort. Child Ibuprofen is also safe.

As your child gets into the pre-teen and teenager years, they begin to take greater pride in their appearance, but they seem to miscalculate the work it entails to maintain a healthy smile. Add in their new found independence and social lives and they’re just too busy to be giving extra attention to their teeth. But did you know that dental decay is the most common chronic disease in young people between the ages of 5 and 17?

And although thorough brushing and flossing help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth, toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the grooves to remove food and plaque.

Dental sealants act as a barrier to prevent cavities. They are a plastic material usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars) where decay occurs most often and protect these vulnerable areas by ‘sealing out’ plaque and food. They are very easy to be applied: your dental professional just paints them onto the tooth enamel where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens. They can last for up to several years.

Make sure to schedule regular dental checkups to ensure the sealants don’t need to be reapplied and that no other dental issues are arising.

Do you ever wake up with a sore jaw and you’re pretty certain you weren’t in a fight? Teeth grinding (or bruxism as it’s medically known as) is most likely the culprit. One in three people suffer from bruxism—often caused by stress, pain or fear but sometimes from a more serious cause such as an abnormal bite or missing/crooked teeth.

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A lot of us don’t even realize we’re chronic teeth grinders until symptoms like dull headaches, sore jaws and tense muscle begin to occur; and by that point some damage may have occurred to your teeth such as:

  • Tooth sensitivity
  • The chewing surfaces of teeth are flat
  • Enamel has worn off
  • Fracturing, loosening or losing of teeth

Severe grinding may even wear down the teeth stumps and result in bridges, crowns, root canals, implants and even dentures to be needed

It’s vital to seek dental treatment if you believe you suffer from bruxism. Your dental professional can help pin point the cause of your grinding and examine your mouth for signs such as teeth wear and jaw tenderness. They may offer you a custom made mouth guard to wear while you sleep—to absorb the strength of your teeth grinding and clenching. Other tips they may offer are:

  • Try to avoid stressful situations
  • Stay away from coffee, pop, chocolate or any other food and drink containing caffeine
  • Try relaxing your jaw before bed by applying a warm washcloth against your cheek
  • Stop chewing on pens, pencils, fingernails and even stopping to smoke can help
  • Try to self-train yourself to not grind or clench by positioning your tongue between your teeth, this helps train the jaw muscles to relax.

As surprising as it may sound, teeth grinding is not just limited to adults; your little ones can suffer from it too! Anywhere from 15%-33% of children up to the age of 11 will grind their teeth at certain times in their lives—the majority being when their baby teeth are breaking through as well as when their permanent teeth come in.

Although it’s rare for any problems to occur from grinding of the baby teeth, they still can suffer from a sore jaw, headaches and/or tooth sensitivity, and should be monitored carefully.

Some tips to help your little ones stop their teeth grinding can include:

  • Massaging them to relax their muscles
  • Offering an over the counter pain medication if they are grinding from teething pain
  • Decrease their stress before bed
  • Making sure they are well hydrated as dehydration can be a cause of teeth grinding
  • Avoid a lot of pop, chocolates, sport drinks and juices

The good news is that excessive treatment is not needed as most children will lose the habit once their teeth have fully grown in.

Those undergoing cancer treatment have to endure a lot – the path to better health is a difficult one. But there is one aspect of cancer treatment that isn’t widely known: how it negatively affects dental health, including the teeth, gums, salivary glands and other oral tissues.

When there are pre-existing dental issues such as cavities, abscesses, or gingivitis, the infection may become worse during treatment. Gums are more likely to become swollen and painful, with a higher probability of bleeding. Mouth sores may also occur during chemotherapy, and other mouth irritations often worsen.

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These side effects can be painful, but there are ways to minimize & prevent them. As October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, we’ve compiled the information you need to know about dental health during cancer treatments.

  • Medication: There are specific medications that can ease discomfort and prevent sores – these can be prescribed by a doctor. Pain medicine, such as Tylenol or stronger, may also be used. Always avoid using aspirin or non-steroidal medication (Advil, Motrin) during chemotherapy, as they can cause bleeding. For dry mouth, artificial saliva can be helpful.
  • Work with your dental professional: Your dental hygienist and oncologist can work together to make you as comfortable as possible. Continuing with regularly-scheduled dental appointments so your hygienist can monitor your oral comfort and make changes as required is also important.
  • Oral health routine: Unless otherwise recommended, continue to gently brush teeth twice per day with fluoride toothpaste, and gently floss once a day. If gums are sore or bleeding, avoid those areas but continue to floss the remainder of your teeth.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking at least eight glasses of water or juices daily can be helpful with many dental side effects including dry mouth, or xerostomia. Using lip balm can help prevent your lips from cracking, and cool mist humidifier will add much-needed needed moisture to your home.
  • Food & drink: There are certain foods that you may want to avoid, such as spicy dishes, and anything that is difficult to chew. Tomato and citrus juices will also irritate any mouth sores you may have. Avoiding caffeinated and alcoholic beverages is a smart idea, as they both promote mouth dryness. Some find that chewing sugarless gum or is helpful with their dry mouth.

With these tips and ongoing care from your dental professionals at DentalX, we can ensure that you are as comfortable as possible during treatment. Feel free to share this post during Breast Cancer Awareness month, and help others take the necessary steps to prevent these oral health side effects.