Posts for: August, 2014
When you’re trying to maintain a good oral hygiene routine, your toothbrush is bound to see a lot of action. Day in and day out, it gets used about twice a day, every day — morning and night, whether you’re feeling great or under the weather, in a hurry or not. And it's stored in the bathroom: a moist environment with the potential for exposure to plenty of bacteria (and not just the ones that live in your mouth). So after all of that service, does your toothbrush itself need any particular care or cleaning — and do you need to worry about getting sick from brushing?
Let’s answer the last question first. It’s very unlikely that you can re-infect yourself with an illness (a cold, for example) from using your own toothbrush. That’s because once you’ve been infected, the antibodies that are built up in response to the invading germs will generally prevent you from getting the same disease for some time afterward. Using someone else’s toothbrush, however, is a never a good idea — especially if they are sick (whether they show any symptoms or not), and doubly so if the bristles are still wet. It’s very possible to transfer all kinds of bacteria — even the bacteria that cause tooth decay — from person to person this way.
Can bacteria really survive for any length of time on your toothbrush? The short answer is yes, as they can (and do) live almost everywhere. But for people in a normal state of health, there’s no real reason to worry: Through long exposure, your body is generally quite capable of defending itself from these microorganisms. The American Dental Association states, “[T]here is insufficient clinical evidence to support that bacterial growth on toothbrushes will lead to specific adverse oral or systemic health effects.”
However, if you or a family member have a compromised immune system (due to radiation treatment, chemotherapy or disease, for example), it might make sense to take some precautions. Using an antibacterial mouthrinse before you brush can reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth — and on your toothbrush. Washing the brush afterward with an antimicrobial cleaner or sanitizer can also decrease the level of bacteria that remains on the toothbrush.
For everyone else, it’s best to follow a few common-sense steps for toothbrush care: Rinse your brush with tap water after you use it, to remove any remaining toothpaste and debris; store it upright, where it can air-dry before it’s used again (not in a closed container, where bacteria can thrive); and get a new brush every three months. Your toothbrush is a major weapon in the fight against tooth decay — keeping it in good shape will help you maintain a healthy mouth and a healthy body.
If you have questions about toothbrushing or oral hygiene care, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Hygiene Behavior.”
Her parents Will and Jada are Hollywood royalty, who helped her land her first acting role when she was 7. She released a hit single, “Whip My Hair,” before she had quite reached the age of 10; shortly afterward, she was signed to a record label. Yet the young singer and actress Willow Smith has at least one thing in common with plenty of ‘tweens and teens across America: She needed to wear braces to correct problems with the alignment of her teeth.
Why do braces seem to be a part of growing up for so many kids? One answer is because they work so well. Braces apply gentle pressure to the teeth through a thin, flexible wire called an archwire. Attached to the teeth with a metal or ceramic bracket, the archwire exerts a light force which causes teeth to gradually move into better positions. Sometimes, when additional force is needed, elastic bands or other appliances may be used in conjunction with braces.
Most everyone is familiar with the silvery metal “tracks” of traditional braces. But did you know that there are a number of other options too? For a more inconspicuous look, you may be able to have braces with tooth-colored ceramic brackets; then, only the thin archwire will be visible in your mouth. It’s even possible in some cases to place the metal wires and brackets on the tongue side of the teeth. With this system, called lingual braces, the orthodontic hardware is truly invisible.
What if you didn’t need metal braces at all? Some people can get good results using a system of clear plastic aligners instead of braces. The aligners are worn 23 hours a day, but can be taken off for cleaning and for important events. They work best for correcting mild or moderate alignment problems.
Still, plenty of people feel that if they’re going to wear braces, they might as well flaunt them. That’s why some types of braces are available with bands that come in different colors. When Willow’s brother Jayden wore braces, he was reported to favor red and black ones. Jayden, who is about two years older than his sister, had his braces removed just before Willow got hers put on.
So if it turns out that you need braces, remember that lots of your favorite celebrities wore them too. And keep in mind that, depending on your own situation, you may have several options to choose from.
If you would like more information about braces or orthodontic treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “The Magic of Orthodontics” and “Orthodontics for the Older Adult.”
If you occasionally notice mildly irritating red patches on the top surface of your tongue, you may be one of the three percent or less of the population with a condition called benign migratory glossitis. It’s also known as “geographic tongue” because the red patches often resemble land masses on a world map.
While the symptoms may be discomforting, geographic tongue isn’t a cause for serious concern. The red patches are caused by the temporary loss of papillae, tiny bumps that grow on the surface of the tongue, which may appear and disappear repeatedly over a short time period (ranging from hours to days). As its medical name implies, this form of glossitis isn’t cancerous or contagious; it’s referred to as “migratory” because the red patches often appear to move around while changing size and shape. An outbreak can cause a mild burning or stinging sensation, and some people also encounter numbness in the patchy areas.
While there isn’t a firm consensus as to geographic tongue’s exact cause, there do appear to be triggers for it including stress, hormonal changes and mineral or vitamin deficiencies (particularly zinc and Vitamin B). There also seems to be a connection with psoriasis, a skin ailment characterized by redness and scaling — a number of people will experience both conditions. Geographic tongue appears more often in middle-aged, non-smoking adults, particularly women during hormonal fluctuations (as during pregnancy or ovulation). Individuals with deep grooves on their tongues called fissures are more susceptible as well.
There’s no cure for the condition, but there are some treatments that can help alleviate any accompanying irritation. Depending on what we find during examination, we may prescribe anesthetic mouthrinses, antihistamines, steroid ointments or other treatments to help manage discomfort. It may also be helpful to limit your intake of foods during outbreaks that may increase irritation, including high acidic foods like tomatoes or citrus fruit, as well as eggplant, mint, spicy foods and alcohol (including certain mouthwashes).
If you experience these occasional patchy outbreaks on your tongue, please schedule a visit with us for a full examination. We may be able to reduce your discomfort and certainly put your mind at ease.
If you would like more information on geographic tongue, 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 “Geographic Tongue.”