My Blog

Posts for category: Oral Health

By E. Thomas Elstner Jr., DMD
May 02, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
GumDiseaseCouldImpactMoreThanYourOralHealth

Preventing periodontal (gum) disease not only preserves your teeth and gums, it might also benefit the rest of your health. There's growing evidence that gum disease has links to other systemic diseases.

Gum disease usually starts with dental plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles, which triggers a bacterial gum infection. Left untreated, the infection advances and steadily breaks down the gums' attachment to teeth.

This can create large ulcerated areas that are too weak to prevent the passing of bacteria and toxins into the bloodstream and other parts of the body. There's growing evidence from epidemiology (the study of the spread and control of disease) that this bloodstream transfer, as well as the inflammation that accompanies gum disease, could affect other body-wide conditions or diseases.

Diabetes. This chronic condition occurs when the body can't adequately produce insulin, a hormone that regulates sugar (glucose) in the blood, or can't respond to it. Diabetes can inhibit healing, cause blindness or lead to death. Both diabetes and gum disease are inflammatory in nature, and there's some evidence inflammation arising from either condition may worsen the other.

Heart disease. Heart attack, congestive heart failure, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases are a leading cause of death. Like diabetes and gum disease, these heart-related conditions are also characterized by inflammation. There are also specific types of bacteria that arise from gum disease that can travel through the body and increase the risk of heart disease.

Arthritis. An autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis causes debilitating pain, particularly involving the joints, and leads to decreased mobility. Interestingly, many newly diagnosed arthritis patients are also found to have some form of periodontal disease—the two diseases, in fact, follow a similar development track. Although this may hint of a connection, we need more research to determine if there are indeed links between the two diseases.

Regardless of any direct relationships between gum disease and other conditions, preventing and treating it can improve both your oral and general health. You can lower your risk of gum disease by practicing daily brushing and flossing and undergoing regular dental cleanings to remove plaque. And at the first sign of gum problems, see your dentist as soon as possible for early intervention—the earlier the better.

If you would like more information on oral health care, 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 “Good Oral Health Leads to Better Health Overall.”

By E. Thomas Elstner Jr., DMD
April 22, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
AnEatingDisorderMayShowItselfinTheMouth

Although dental care is our primary focus, we dentists are also on the lookout for other health problems that may manifest in the mouth. That's why we're sometimes the first to suspect a patient may have an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are abnormal dietary patterns that can arise from mental or emotional issues, the most common being anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Each has different behaviors: Anorexics abnormally restrict their food intake (“self-starvation”), while bulimics typically eat heavily and then induce vomiting (“binge and purge”).

Although bulimics are more likely to binge and purge, anorexics may also induce vomiting. That practice in particular can leave a clue for dentists. While vomiting, powerful stomach acid enters the mouth, which can then soften and erode tooth enamel.

It's the pattern of erosion a dentist may notice more than the erosion itself that may indicate an eating disorder. A person while vomiting normally places their tongue against the back of the lower teeth, which somewhat shields them from acid. The more exposed upper teeth will thus tend to show more erosion than the bottom teeth.

A dentist may also notice other signs of an eating disorder. Enlarged salivary glands or a reddened throat and tongue could indicate the use of fingers or objects to induce vomiting. Lack of oral hygiene can be a sign of anorexia, while signs of over-aggressive brushing or flossing may hint of bulimia.

For the sake of the person's overall well-being, the eating disorder should be addressed through professional counseling and therapy. An excellent starting point is the website nationaleatingdisorders.org, sponsored by the National Eating Disorders Association.

The therapy process can be lengthy, so patients should also take steps to protect their teeth in the interim. One important measure is to rinse out the mouth following purging with a little baking soda mixed with water. This will help neutralize oral acid and reduces the risk of erosion. Proper brushing and flossing and regular dental visits can also help prevent dental disease.

An eating disorder can be traumatic for both patients and their families, and can take time to overcome. Even so, patients can reduce its effect on their dental health.

If you would like more information on eating disorders and dental care, 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 “Bulimia, Anorexia & Oral Health.”

KevinBaconsMango-SlicingTrickandOtherWaystoRidFoodBetweenYourTeeth

During the COVID-19 quarantines, stir-crazy celebrities have been creating some “unique” home videos—like Madonna singing about fried fish to the tune of “Vogue” in her bathroom or Cardi B busting through a human-sized Jenga tower. But an entertaining Instagram video from Kevin Bacon also came with a handy culinary tip: The just-awakened film and TV actor showed fans his morning technique for cutting a mango to avoid the stringy pulp that gets between your teeth. After cutting a mango in half, he scored it lengthwise and crosswise to create squares and then turned the mango inside out for easy eating.

With his mango-slicing video garnering over a quarter-million views, the City on a Hill star may have touched a nerve—the near universal annoyance we all have with food stuck between our teeth. Trapped food particles aren't only annoying, they can also contribute to a bacterial film called dental plaque that's the top cause for tooth decay and gum disease.

Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible to avoid stuck food if you love things like popcorn, poppy-seed muffins or barbecue ribs. It's helpful then to have a few go-to ways for removing food caught between teeth. First, though, let's talk about what NOT to use to loosen a piece of stuck food.

A recent survey of more than 1,000 adults found that when removing something caught between our teeth, we humans are a creative lot. The makeshift tools that survey respondents said they've used in a pinch included twigs, safety pins, screwdrivers and nails (both the hammer and finger/toe variety). Although clever, many such items are both unsanitary and harmful to your gums and tooth enamel, especially if they're metallic or abrasive.

If you want a safe way to remove unwanted food debris, try these methods instead:

Brush your teeth: The gentle abrasives in toothpaste plus the mechanical action of brushing can help dislodge trapped food.

Use dental floss: A little bit of dental floss usually does the trick to remove wedged-in food—and it's easy to carry a small floss container or a floss pick on you for emergencies.

Try a toothpick. A toothpick is also an appropriate food-removing tool, according the American Dental Association, as long as it is rounded and made of wood.

See your dentist. We have the tools to safely and effectively remove trapped food debris that you haven't been able to dislodge by other means—so before you get desperate, give us a call.

You can also minimize plaque buildup from food particles between teeth by both brushing and flossing every day. And for optimally clean teeth, be sure you have regular dental office cleanings at least twice a year.

Thanks to Kevin Bacon's little trick, you can have your “non-stringy” mango and eat it too. Still, you can't always avoid food getting wedged between your teeth, so be prepared.

If you would like more information about effective oral hygiene practices, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Daily Oral Hygiene.”

By E. Thomas Elstner Jr., DMD
March 23, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: loose teeth  
SeeYourDentistASAPIfYouHaveaLoosePermanentTooth

Unless you're 6 years old and on speed dial with the Tooth Fairy, a loose tooth isn't a good feeling. It's also a sign something is wrong in your mouth. If you don't take prompt action, you may lose that tooth for good.

To begin with, teeth are held in place by an elastic tissue known as the periodontal ligament. The ligament lies between the tooth and bone and attaches to both through tiny fibers. The thing to note about the ligament is that it does allow for tooth movement, which serves as a “shock absorber” against the forces generated while biting and chewing.

But that movement is normally so slight, you won't perceive it. If you do, chances are there's a problem with the ligament attachment, which may have been damaged due to trauma or disease.

A hard blow to the face could certainly damage both the teeth and their attachments. But it can also happen if one tooth extends out farther than the rest and absorbs more stress during chewing. You could encounter similar damage if you attempt DIY orthodontics or wear tongue jewelry.

The more common source of ligament damage, though, is periodontal (gum) disease, usually caused by dental plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles left on tooth surfaces. If not treated, the infection can advance deeper into the gum tissues (and eventually the supporting bone), causing the ligaments to weaken and detach. In fact, a loose tooth is often a sign of well-advanced gum disease.

If you notice a loose tooth, you should make an appointment with us as soon as possible. Our first step is to ascertain the underlying cause and initiate any needed treatment. We may also want to splint a loose tooth to adjacent teeth to prevent excessive movement while the ligaments heal and reform their attachment to the tooth.

There will be times when a loose tooth is beyond repair. In that case, it may be best to remove the tooth and install a life-like replacement like a dental implant. But that's not inevitable. If at all possible and practical, we'll try to save your loose tooth.

If you would like more information on loose permanent 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 “When Permanent Teeth Become Loose.”

By E. Thomas Elstner Jr., DMD
March 13, 2021
Category: Oral Health
WhyEarlyDentalVisitsCouldBrightenYourChildsDentalHealthFuture

By the time your child reaches their first birthday, they may have only a handful of primary teeth. So, should you schedule their first dental visit or wait until they're older?

Absolutely schedule it—a dental visit at age one is one of the most important steps you can take to protect and promote your child's dental health. Starting routine dental care at this early stage can help ensure they enjoy healthy teeth and gums now and in the future. Here's why.

Keeps you a step ahead of tooth decay. Children can experience a rapidly advancing form of tooth decay called early childhood caries (ECC). If not prevented—or treated promptly should it occur—ECC can quickly destroy primary teeth. If they're lost prematurely, future permanent teeth may not erupt properly. Regular dental visits can help prevent or diagnose decay before it causes major damage.

Intercepts problems before they grow. Dental problems, especially bite-related, usually appear in late childhood or early adolescence. But they can start much earlier with signs only a dentist might be able to detect. Early treatments can correct or minimize a developing bite problem, saving you and your child more extensive treatment later.

Reduces your child's dental visit anxiety. The dental office can be an unfamiliar environment for a child that can trigger anxiety. But children who start dental visits sooner rather than later are more apt to adapt and view visiting the dentist as a routine part of life. You may also want to consider a pediatric dentist who not only specializes in children's dental care and development, but may also promote a “kid-friendly” treatment environment.

Promotes the importance of dental care. Beginning regular dental visits shines the spotlight on your child's dental needs and development. As a caregiver, you can gain important insight and support from your dentist toward ensuring your child's teeth stay healthy and develop normally. As a side benefit, increased attention on your child's dental care may increase the same for your entire family.

The first years of a child's life sets the foundation of their dental health for the rest of their lives. You can help make sure that foundation is as sound as possible by beginning early dental visits.

If you would like more information on effective dental care for children, 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 “Age One Dental Visit.”