Gum disease is literally no laughing matter. Not only can it cause you distress, pain and give you troubles doing daily tasks, it can impact your overall health. Gum disease is linked to an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, coronary heart disease, preterm birth, oral cancer, diabetes, arthritis and pneumonia aspiration. Like many health issues, if you can catch it early, there may be viable treatment options to help you. There are four stages of gum disease: gingivitis, early periodontitis, moderate periodontitis and advanced periodontitis.
Gingivitis is what you typically think of when you think of gum disease. It is that pink in the sink inflammation of the gums that tells you something isn’t quite right. This is the first stage of gum disease and the least serious. What causes it is plaque on your teeth that is not removed and the easiest treatment is to get the plaque removed with regular brushing and flossing and a dental cleaning. You may also experience swollen and tender gums. If you are experiencing these symptoms, see your dentist as soon as you can to get your gingivitis under control.
With the above symptoms added to some inflammation of the gums and early bone loss, this is called early periodontitis. Approximately 30% of people who have gum disease are at this stage. It can be identified and differentiated from gingivitis through an x-ray at the dentist’s office, where they will see abnormal attachment levels to the teeth, as well as the state of the bone health.
If there is bone loss when your dentist does the x-rays, this can signal moderate periodontitis. The tartar has penetrated through the gum tissue and could then progress to the most serious form of gum disease – advanced periodontitis.
Only about 10-15% of gum disease patients go on to experience the advanced stage of it, which may also become a chronic disease. In this case, there is a loss of the supporting bone and then of the tooth itself. Chronic gum disease will worsen as a patient ages. A deficiency in the immune system and/or
combinations of disease-causing bacteria in the mouth could be the culprit. If this stage is left untreated, bone loss will progress in a cyclical pattern with periods of rapid disease progression followed by some recovery and then the cycle repeats. Treatments for the varying stages of gum disease include scaling and root planning, medication and surgery.
Where your health is concerned, knowing your family history is always important as many diseases and ailments are genetic and/or run in the family. What about bad teeth? Are cavities, gum disease and other problems with your oral health related to your family history?
Nature vs. nurture
Living within a family, you often pick up their habits and teachings. If your parents aren’t keen on oral health care, eat foods that are bad for your teeth and don’t regularly visit a dentist, you may be apt to follow in their footsteps. After all, your parents are the ones who show you how to brush and floss as a child and if it wasn’t important to them, it may not be important to you as you grow older. In this case, poor oral health may not be a biological issue, but a nurture issue.
Those who lack the funds to visit the dentist, perform proper oral health care and eat healthy will definitely see the effects of this on their oral health. The poorest members of our society, which include a large portion of children, will have an increased risk of cavities and gum disease simply because they can’t afford to care for their teeth. With 32% of people not having dental insurance, only 80% of Canadians visit a dentist regularly. In these situations, poor oral health is an indication of running in the family, simple because poverty is often generational.
To say something truly runs in the family, it can mean that you have a family history of it because of biological reasons – i.e., a genetic disposition to the ailment. Bad teeth are no exception:
– Periodontal (gum) disease may be caused by a genetic predisposition in 30% of the population.
– The gene DEFB1 may be to blame for people with a greater risk of cavities in permanent teeth.
– Genetics play a minor role in oral cancer (lifestyle factors play a much larger role).
– The size of your jaw is determined by your genetic makeup and will determine if you have misaligned teeth.
Asking the question “do bad teeth run in the family”, your answer can be a definitive yes, but it can be attributed to a number of factors, as you can see above. But, this doesn’t mean you are destined to suffer with cavities, bleeding gums and bad breath. Take care of your oral health, regardless of what
runs in the family and teach your children to do the same.
Imagine sheer pain when using your facial muscles – for chewing, talking, yawning or any other mouth function – that’s the basic definition of TMD. Also incorrectly called TMJ, TMD refers to the disorder of the TMJ – the temporomandibular joint. The syndrome or disorder (TMD) is pain in the
temporomandibular joint (which is basically your jaw joint) caused by a number of factors. The pain isn’t just in the jaw, but can radiate around the head, neck, ear and the rest of the face. The jaw can lock, click or pop when using, which can cause discomfort and pain as well. Your TMJ moves in two ways – rotating and hinging – and allows you to move your mouth to perform the actions it needs to do. There is a soft disk of cartilage that lies between the bones and absorbs the shock to the TMJ when you perform those actions and basically distributes the force throughout the joint. Most of the time in TMD the cause is that this piece of cartilage in the joint has slipped out of place, but there are other causes.
Causes of TMD
The main cause of TMD is trauma to the face. Microtrauma occurs when the trauma is internal, such as from grinding or clenching the teeth. Constant grinding and clenching may cause the teeth and jaw to become misaligned, leading to a TMD diagnosis. Macrotrauma happens after an accident or injury to the face, where there is some dislocation of the jaw or damage to the cartilage. Rheumatoid arthritis is a nasty autoimmune disease that causes issues all over the body, but can also affect the TMJ. It destroys the cartilage and the bone and causes joint deformity. Osteoarthritis does a
similar thing as the joint degenerates and there is a loss of cartilage in the joint. That combined with trauma will cause TMD.
Signs of TMD
The signs of TMD can be obvious or can start off subtle. They include:
– Pain in the facial muscles
– Pain in the jaw joints
– Radiating pain in the neck and shoulders
– Ringing in the ears/hearing loss
– Clicking or popping sounds in the joint
– Grating in the jaw joint
– Swelling of the face or mouth
– Jaw locked in a wide open position
– Jaw can’t open fully
– Bite feels off and teeth don’t fit properly together
– Muscle spasms
– Trouble swallowing
How to get help
If you have been experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should see your health care or dental professional right away. If your jaw is locked, you should seek emergency help. Blood tests, x-rays, ultrasound, CT scans and/or MRI scans may be performed in order to give you a diagnosis.
Everyone has excuses as to why they don’t floss. In fact, 50% of North Americans don’t floss daily and almost 20% don’t even floss at all – ever. Not having time or not believing it is important are the two biggest excuses. Flossing literally takes two minutes out of every day. That leaves you 1,338 minutes in the day to everything else you need to do. Here’s how you can find those extra two minutes in your day:
Set your alarm earlier
Sure, you need that extra sleep, but will two minutes of lost sleep in a day hurt you? No, but not flossing will. In fact, if you don’t floss it could cost you more time with extra dental visits to fix the cavities, gum disease and other issues you’ll have because you don’t floss.
Do it while you watch television
Flossing is so easy, you can do it anywhere and at anytime. You don’t need to brush, floss, rinse, when you can enjoy sitting on your couch, flossing your teeth while they figure out who the killer is on CSI. Keep some floss and tissues in the drawer on your coffee table or in your kitchen. When you sit down to relax, get the floss out and go to town. Ever better, if you having popcorn while watching your favourite shows, you really want to keep the floss handy, because those kernels can wreak so much havoc on your pearly whites!
Do it while on the telephone
If you spend too much time on the telephone either for business or personal reasons, and most of that time is spent listening, why not get a headset or put it on speakerphone and floss while you listen? If the conversation is mind-numbing, you can at least feel somewhat productive that you are getting your oral health taken care of in the meantime.
Do it while on the treadmill
If you always find the time to exercise, you definitely make your health a priority. Your oral health needs to be a priority too. Grab some floss and take care of your teeth while you walk on the treadmill. If you weight train, do a tooth or two between sets. Of course, if you are at a gym doing these things, it may be socially frowned upon.
Do it while sitting in traffic
If your commute is long and stalled and you sit in traffic for a better portion of it, why not give yourself something to do and get the floss out? If you take public transit, the other passengers might not like it much, but in the privacy of your own vehicle: go for it!
There are a few momentous occasions in a child’s life that mark them growing up – when they sleep through the night, when they sit up, when they walk, when they independently use the washroom and when their teeth come in. The fun part about teeth coming in is that everyone notices that the gummy smile is gone and in its place are some beautiful pearly whites. But, when do these teeth come in and when do the rest start poking their way through? As well, when do they lose these baby teeth and get their permanent teeth? Read on to find out.
First teeth eruption
Every child is different, but in a general sense, many babies get their first tooth – their central incisors on the bottom – between five to eight months of age. Of course, you’ve definitely heard the stories of babies having teeth poking through earlier and later and this is just an average age range. Next to come in may be the lateral incisors (the ones next to the centrals) at seven to ten months of age. The top teeth may protrude at the same time from about six to ten months for the central ones and eight to twelve months for the laterals.
Canines and molars
While babies can still bite with their incisors, they have a hard time chewing with those teeth. Their canines usually come in around 16-20 months of age on the top and bottom and the first molars appear around 11-18 months of age. The second molars are much later and appear around your baby’s second birthday, give or take about 6 months each way.
These permanent teeth come in without replacing a baby teeth and don’t usually erupt until a child is between six and seven years old (hence the name). They are also called primary molars.
You’ll start realizing your baby is no longer a baby when instead of having baby teeth erupting, those little ones are falling out. Get your quarters ready, because the tooth fairy will now be making regular visits to your house. Those first central incisors will be the first to fall, at around six to seven years of age. Grade two is when you usually see those class pictures of smiling kids with no front teeth. The next to fall are the lateral incisors around seven to eight years of age and the canines follow at around nine to eleven years. Molars fall out around 10 to 13 years of age. Those six-year molars never fall out, as they begin as permanent teeth. You can expect that your baby will have some teeth by one year of age and that they’ll stop losing them in their early teen years.
Going to the dentist is really never on anyone’s favourite things to do list, as sometimes you experience pain, discomfort and general anxiety. There are ways to help the pain and discomfort and those come in the form of dental anesthesia. There are a number of options for helping numb or reduce pain at the dentist.
Given by way of a dental syringe injection, the most commonly used local anesthesia is Lidocaine. Lasting about 1.5 to 2 hours, it is a numbing drug used either in block form to numb one entire region of your mouth or as in infiltration, which numbs a smaller area. What type of work you are getting will dictate whether you get the block or the infiltration. Along with the numbing agent, you may also be injected with a vasoconstrictor (to make the numbness last longer), sodium hydroxide (which helps the drug work) and sodium chloride (which helps get it into your blood). You may feel a sting when being injected with a local anesthesia, but after that, the area in your mouth where the injection was placed will feel numb for several hours.
If you have severe anxiety or panic, or the procedure is going to be long or painful, you may need to have general anesthesia to “put you to sleep” during the procedure. Only dentists who have training in anesthesiology may use general anesthesia on their patients. Sleep may include a twilight sleep or where you are completely unconscious.
Otherwise known as laughing gas, it provides a sort of euphoric feeling to the patient taking it. While you will still feel pain, you won’t care as much and will feel more calm and sedated during the procedure. You may use this prior to local anesthesia being used or during the procedure. Nitrous Oxide is often used with children having dental procedures done.
Topical anesthetics are most often used before placing the local anesthesia to numb the area where the needle will go. It comes in a gel, liquid, ointment, patch or pressurized spray and usually contains benzocaine or lidocaine. Only a small amount is applied before the needle is placed into the gums. As with all anesthetics, each has its own risks and rewards. Speak to your dentist if you’ve ever had trouble having an anesthetic administered. Luckily, because there are a number of options available, most patients will be able to use at least one in order to have their dental work completed.
It is always great to have choices, especially when at the dentist, but having the knowledge to make those choices is important. When your dentist asks you whether you’d like composite or amalgam fillings, you probably don’t know what to answer. This article will let you know the difference between
each so you can make a more informed choice the next time you need a filling.
What is an amalgam filling?
Basically the most old-school of the fillings, amalgam fillings are what you think of when you think of a cavity filler and have been used for over 100 years. Silver in colour, they are made from amalgam metallic alloy, which is a mix of copper, silver, tin and elemental mercury. Held in place by the shape of the cavity, amalgam fillings last for 20 or more years.
What is a composite filling?
Made of a plastic resin that is mouldable and then cures to hard with exposure to special light, composite fillings are basically glued in place. These white fillings can be matched to the colour of your teeth so you can’t tell that you have any fillings and can adapt to any size of cavity. They last
approximately 10 years or longer and have been in use for over 40 years.
What is the better choice?
One of the main pros of a composite filling is that it is aesthetically pleasing. With the amalgam filling, it is very hard not to notice the distinctive silver colour inside of your mouth when you talk or smile. As well, amalgam fillings may darken over time, as the filling tarnishes, whereas the composite filling stays true to its colour. In a practical sense, the pros of amalgam fillings are that they are harder and easier to place in hard to reach locations. They work well for people who grind their teeth and who will wear away at the soft composite filling. There is also greater longevity for amalgam fillings, as well as much less upkeep, as composite fillings will develop cavities along their edges if proper oral hygiene isn’t done regularly. Many dentists will recommend composite fillings simply because it is most preferred by patients. Many patients are worried about the level of mercury in amalgam fillings, although it has been proven to be a safe amount, even if you swallow your filling. Either way, what sort of filling you get is a personal choice and one that should be discussed with your dental professional.
There are a few standard pieces of advice in life that your mother may have given you as a child:
• Brush your teeth
• Don’t go to bed angry
• Exercise regularly
• Wear a helmet
• Put on sunscreen
• Take your vitamins
Of course, you should always listen to mom, because she knows what she’s talking about. While all of these pieces of advice are important, the last one could be more important than you think, especially when it comes to oral health.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin is important for your overall health, including making sure your systems are working well and that your body can fight infection. You can make vitamin D in your body, simply by getting some sunshine. As well, it is in a few foods like fatty fish, fortified dairy products and cereals, cheese and eggs, and you can take supplements. Unfortunately, many people don’t get enough vitamin D.
Why are we lacking Vitamin D
Because skin cancer is a scary reality, many people choose to slather themselves and their children with sunscreen regularly. While this is a great cancer preventative, it also causes them not to absorb the vitamin D from the sunshine they are getting. As well, with the proliferation of technology, many people aren’t getting outside as much as they used to and are missing out on this key vitamin. Vitamin D is linked to lower rates of tooth decay
Unfortunately for those lacking in vitamin D, this can have severe consequences on your oral health. Studies have found through clinical trials that vitamin D levels are decreasing in people, while dental caries are increasing. The studies found that vitamin D is associated to a 50% reduction in tooth decay.
Some experts also believe that you can “heal” cavities with Vitamin D, as one study on children found promising results that cavities can be reversed with diet. The group of children in the study who ate a grain-free diet, with nutrient-rich foods and took vitamin D found nearly all of their cavities were healed. While it isn’t suggested that any person or parent try to reverse cavities with vitamins and diet, it just shows the importance of vitamin D to our oral health. Speak to your doctor or dentist about taking vitamin D supplementation for children with problems with tooth decay or cavities.
Sometimes you don’t know that you have it, other times its fairly obvious to you and everyone around you: bad breath is not an adjective that you want people to use when describing you to others. Whether your bad breath is caused by your recent lunch, your medication or an oral health issue, there are ways to mask it naturally, at least for a few hours, until you can get home and deal with the problem.
Parsley (and many other herbs)
There’s a reason many of the best restaurants adorn your meal with a sprig of parsley. Not only is it a great digestive aid, it can help with your bad breath. It is especially helpful with garlic breath as it uses a process of enzymatic deodorization. If you don’t have parsley, another herb will do (although not as well), especially ones in the mint family.
Another great food for helping digestion, it also can help relieve your bad breath symptoms. The active cultures work to rid you of the bad smells in your mouth and even further down if needed. The great thing about yogurt is that it can often help cure bad breath with long-term use.
Green and black tea
Much of bad breath can be caused by bacteria growth and green tea inhibits bacteria, which ends up reducing those compounds that make you smell. Unlike coffee, which is often a cause of bad breath, green and black tea help keep plaque from forming and can destroy the acids in your mouth that cause tooth decay, improving your breath in the process.
Have you ever heard the advice that tells you that if you can’t brush your teeth, eat an apple? While apples contain sugar (so you don’t want to use them frequently as a replacement for brushing), they also help with the production of saliva, which helps to rebalance your oral ecology and reduce bad breath. Citrus fruits and berries that are high in vitamin C are also responsible for reducing bacteria in the mouth, which can help combat bad breath.
Sometimes bad breath is caused by dryness in the mouth, which is commonly seen in morning breath situations. Have a drink of water and moisten up that mouth and watch your bad breath dissipate.
Yes, chewing gum can help reduce bad breath, as many men and women who’ve popped one before a date know well. It helps to mask the odour, but also to increase saliva production, essentially rinsing the mouth of plaque and bacteria.
Of course, if your bad breath is chronic and not caused by your food choices, you should definitely see your dental health professional and rule out a medical issue or oral health problem. Teeth that are rotting or gingivitis both can cause bad breath and rather than mask the issue, you should fix it before it gets worse and causes much bigger problems than stinky breath.
Many believe that expiry dates and replace by dates are a marketing ploy to get consumers to buy more, thinking they “have to”. When it comes to your toothbrush, are the recommended times to replace your toothbrush a ploy, or is it really important to change your toothbrush as recommended?
What are the recommendations?
Generally, most dental professionals will tell you to change your toothbrush every three months. If you have been sick, it is also recommended that you change your toothbrush. If your brush is frayed and worn down before the three-month period is up, this is another chance to replace your brush.
Why do dental professionals recommend changing your toothbrush regularly?
There are quite a few reasons why you should change your toothbrush, the largest of which is because a new toothbrush is much more effective at cleaning the teeth and removing plaque than an older one. Over time, the bristles get worn down and frayed and aren’t able to do the same job they did when the brush was new. This puts you at risk of developing cavities or gingivitis. After you’ve been sick with either a bacterial or viral infection, it is important to change your toothbrush so you don’t transfer the bad bacteria back to yourself. Your toothbrush can be home to more than 100 million bacteria, including ones that can make you very sick.
Why should you change your toothbrush regularly?
Many may think that every three months or sooner in some cases is too often, but consider the spend to change your toothbrush. You can get a new toothbrush for $1, although some higher-end toothbrushes can be bought for around $10. You can even get a free toothbrush at your regular dental visit. By changing your toothbrush as recommended, you ensure that you get a proper cleaning, so your oral hygiene efforts aren’t wasted. If your toothbrush isn’t doing its job because it is worn out, your dental hygienist will have to do the job instead, which could cost you money and time and could also be painful. If you don’t change your toothbrush after an illness, you could transmit the illness back to yourself, which results in not only your discomfort, but also time off work and more time spent not feeling great.
It is well worth it to make a switch, especially after a gastrointestinal illness. Change your toothbrush every three to four months. If you find it hard to remember, buy a year’s worth of toothbrushes in advance and then set the change date on your calendar every quarter.