Posts for category: Oral Health
Since boxers first began using them a century ago, athletic mouthguards are now standard safety equipment for most contact sports. Without them, dental injuries would skyrocket.
But a recent study in the peer-reviewed journal, General Dentistry, indicates there’s another important reason to wear a mouthguard for contact sports or exercise: you may be able to significantly reduce your risk for a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), better known as a concussion. It’s believed the mouthguard absorbs some of the force generated during contact, resulting in less pressure to the brain. That reduction is even more significant if your mouth-guard has been custom-made by a dentist.
That last finding is important, because not all mouthguards on the market are equal. There are three basic categories of mouthguards — stock, “boil and bite,” and custom. Stock mouthguards come in limited sizes; they’re relatively inexpensive, but they provide the least level of protection. “Boil and bite” can be customized after purchase to the wearer’s bite, but they don’t always provide complete coverage of back teeth. Custom mouthguards are designed and fashioned by a dentist; they’re relatively expensive (running in the hundreds of dollars), but there’s ample evidence they provide the highest level of protection from mouth injuries.
The General Dentistry study also corroborates custom mouthguards’ effectiveness in preventing concussions. The study followed approximately 400 football players from six different high school teams. While all the players wore the same type of helmet, half of them wore custom-made mouthguards and the other half wore stock guards. 8.3% of the athletes wearing stock guards experienced a concussion injury; by contrast only 3.6% of those with custom guards sustained an injury — greater than half fewer occurrences.
The study also highlights the need not to rely solely on helmets or other protective headgear for concussion prevention. It’s important to include mouthguards along with other athletic protective gear to lower injury risk as much as possible.
So when considering how you can provide the optimum injury protection for you or your child, be sure to include an athletic mouthguard, preferably one that’s custom-made. We’ll be happy to advise you further on what you need to know to prevent traumatic dental injuries, as well as concussions.
If you would like more information on custom-fit mouthguards, 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 “Mouthguards.”
Sugar and your teeth--do you really understand how the two interact? For decades, doctors and patients alike have pointed to sugar as the bad guy in tooth decay. While it is true that sugar contributes to dental cavities and other health issues such as obesity, it's just part of the decay process and only one of the ingredients in foods that can erode tooth enamel.
How teeth develop cavities
Dental cavities form when naturally-occurring bacteria in the mouth feed on and thrive in plaque build-up on the tooth surface and at the gum line. Plaque, which eventually turns to the hard tartar that the dental hygienist removes from the teeth, forms from the debris and film left on teeth after eating. While oral bacteria love the sugar in snacks such as candy, soda pop, and other "sweets," these micro-organisms enjoy the carbohydrates in grains, fruits and veggies, too--yes, "healthy snacks."
The tooth-eroding bacteria hang around in the mouth for 30 minutes after a meal or snack, and they secrete acids that decay enamel, and if left untreated, the softer dentin and pulp inside the tooth. Tooth decay can progress to the bone, resulting in abscess and tooth loss.
What to do about sugar and other food residues
The American Dental Association is adamant on these safeguards against tooth decay:
- Limit sugary snacks. This goes for children--and adults, too.
- Dessert is better than snacking in between meals. Dessert ends your meal, limits the amount of time the sugar is in the mouth and helps stop the acidic bacteria from feasting on sugars and starches.
- Brush with a fluoride toothpaste as soon as possible after eating. Floss daily.
- Watch the texture of desserts and candies. Sticky and soft is worse than foods with a firmer texture because saliva can wash less sticky foods away more quickly and easily.
- Consider sugar-free gum and candies to keep your sweet tooth healthy.
What to eat instead of sugar
Nutritionists recommend natural and whole foods rather than those which are highly processed. Select a wide range of foods from the traditional 5 groups. Include items such as:
- fruits and vegetables
- grains and cereals (pretzels, bagels and low-sugar cereals)
- cheese, milk, and low-fat yogurt
- meats such as chicken
- seeds and nuts
Modern Touch Dentistry
Jolanta Pajek DDS wants to encourage you in achieving and keeping the healthiest and brightest smile possible. At Modern Touch Dentistry in Appleton, Wisconsin, Dr. Pajek and her staff will be happy to discuss nutritional choices that are good for your teeth. They offer a wide range of preventative, cosmetic and restorative dental services for the whole family. Call the Fox Cities area office today for an appointment: 920-993-8682.
Periodontal (gum) disease is the most likely cause of a loose, permanent tooth. This progressive infection causes damage to the gums and bone tissues that hold teeth in place, leading to looseness and ultimately tooth loss.
Gum disease, however, isn’t the only cause: although not as common, excessive biting forces over time may also lead to loose teeth. The excessive force stretches the periodontal ligaments that hold teeth in place, causing the teeth to become loose.
This condition is called occlusal trauma. In its primary form, the patient habitually grinds or clenches their teeth, or bites or chews on hard objects like pencils or nails. Generating 20-30 times the normal biting force, these habits can cause considerable damage. It can also be a factor when gum disease is present — supporting bone becomes so weakened by the disease, even normal biting forces can cause mobility.
If you recognize the early signs of grinding or clenching, particularly jaw soreness in the morning (since many instances of teeth grinding occur while we sleep), it’s important to seek treatment before teeth become loose. The symptoms are usually treated directly with muscle relaxants, an occlusal guard worn to soften the force when teeth bite down, or stress management, a major trigger for teeth grinding. The sooner you address the habit, the more likely you’ll avoid its consequences.
If, however, you’re already noticing a loose tooth, treatment must then focus on preserving the tooth. Initially, the tooth may need to be splinted, physically joined to adjacent teeth to hold it in place while damaged tissues heal. In some cases, minute amounts of enamel may need to be removed from the tooth’s biting surfaces to help the tooth better absorb biting forces. Other treatments, including orthodontics and gum disease treatment, may also be included in your treatment plan.
If you notice a loose tooth, it’s critical you contact us as soon as possible for an evaluation — if you delay you increase the chances of eventually losing it. The earlier you address it, the better your chances of preserving 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.”
Model Christie Brinkley's smile has been a symbol of America's optimism since the seventies. Particularly well known for being the cover model for three consecutive Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editions, Brinkley still has a fresh-faced American girl-next-door beauty that starts with her cheerful smile, which transmits the message that all is well.
Brinkley's modeling career began when she was “discovered” in Paris in the seventies, at the age of 18. As she explained in an interview with Dear Doctor magazine, it was like a fairy tale. She had gone to study art in Paris, where a fashion designer spotted her walking down the street. “He told me later he immediately thought, ‘That's the girl!’” she said.
Brinkley attributes her famous smile to a combination of good genetics (she inherited her mother's “beautiful straight teeth”), combined with the intelligence to practice good oral hygiene and have regular dental appointments. She never needed to have work done to prepare her for the modeling life; but as a teenager, she said, she wished she could wear braces because she thought the “coolest kids had them.”
Although dental restorations were not needed to enhance her beautiful natural smile, she did have two dental implants after she fractured two rear molars in a bad helicopter crash while back-country skiing, and she says she is thankful for dental implant technology because it looks and feels so natural.
Brinkley said that her smile led directly to her assignment as spokesperson for a brand of oral rinse and mouthwash products. She is also concerned about the environment. Her company Christie, Inc. is designing environmentally friendly products.
Her advice to everyone is to smile more. “I think a smile makes EVERYONE beautiful! It's the greatest gift we give each other... It's an expression of friendship, love and peace!”
Ah, the baby teeth: those cute little pearl buttons that start to appear in a child’s mouth at around 6 to 9 months of age. Like pacifiers and bedtime stories, they’ll be gone before you know it — the last usually disappear by age 10-13. So if the dentist tells you that your young child needs a root canal, you might wonder why — isn’t that tooth going to be lost anyway?
The answer is yes, it is — but while it’s here, it has some important roles to play in your child’s development. For one thing, baby teeth perform the same functions in kids as they do in adults: Namely, they enable us to chew, bite, and speak properly. The primary teeth also have a valuable social purpose: they allow us to smile properly. If a baby tooth is lost prematurely at age 6, the child may suffer detrimental effects for five years or more — and that’s a long time for someone so young!
Even more important, baby teeth have a critical function in the developing mouth and jaw: Each one holds a space open for the permanent tooth that will eventually replace it — and it doesn’t “let go” until the new tooth is ready to come in. If a primary (baby) tooth is lost too soon, other teeth adjacent to the opening may drift into the empty space. This often means that the permanent teeth may erupt (emerge above the gum line) in the wrong place — or sometimes, not at all.
The condition that occurs when teeth aren’t in their proper positions is called malocclusion (“mal” – bad; “occlusion” – bite). It can cause problems with eating and speaking, and often results in a less-than-perfect-looking smile. It’s the primary reason why kids get orthodontic treatment — which can be expensive and time-consuming. So it makes sense to try and save baby teeth whenever possible.
Procedures like a root canal — or the similar but less-invasive pulpotomy — are often effective at preserving a baby tooth that would otherwise be lost. But if it isn’t possible to save the tooth, an appliance called a space maintainer may help. This is a small metal appliance that is attached to one tooth; its purpose is to keep a space open where the permanent tooth can come in.
If your child is facing the premature loss of a primary tooth, we will be sure to discuss all the options with you. It may turn out that preserving the tooth is the most cost-effective alternative in the long run. If you have questions about your child’s baby teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.