Posts for category: Oral Health
When it comes to your dental health, the saying “You are what you eat” is especially true. With the main functions of chewing and biting, your teeth must be strong and durable to get their jobs done. Achieving strong healthy teeth involves regular preventive care -- and it also requires eating a healthy diet that gives your body the nutrients needed to maintain strong teeth.
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.”
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.”
As America's toughest trainer on the hit television program The Biggest Loser, Jillian Michaels helped people learn that they hold the power to change. And if anyone knows about the power of changing oneself, it is Jillian Michaels. In her recent interview with Dear Doctor magazine, Jillian discusses her childhood, the trauma of being overweight as a teenager (5' 2" and 175 pounds), and the day her life forever changed when she started martial arts training at a gym. “I started training when I was 17 and always loved it but never thought it would end up being my career,” she said.
Jillian also reveals that when she was a child, she broke her two front teeth and had them repaired with crowns. She added, “Now, I generally wear a mouthguard if I am doing anything where my teeth have any chance of being knocked out.”
When it comes to replacing teeth that are broken or damaged from trauma, or teeth that are damaged because of dental decay, grinding habits, or acid erosion, crowns may be your best option. And because the tooth enamel is damaged, a bit more of it must be removed before we can place a crown. Generally speaking, we must remove about 2 millimeters of tooth structure to place a crown. Once the crown is placed, the tooth will always require a crown, as this is an irreversible procedure. However, the good news is that a crown not only mimics the look and feel of a natural tooth, but it is also the optimal long-term solution. On average, a crown last between 5 and 15 years and requires no special maintenance. In fact, you should treat your crown as you do your natural teeth, with a daily cleaning regimen of brushing and flossing and routine dental examinations and cleanings.
To learn more about crowns or other cosmetic procedures, contact us today to schedule an appointment so that we can conduct a thorough examination, discuss any questions you have as well as what treatment options will be best for you. Or to learn more about crowns now, you can continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Porcelain Crowns & Veneers.” And to read the entire interview with Jillian Michaels, please see the article “Jillian Michaels.”
Q: What is a gummy smile? I’ve never heard that term before.
A: You may not have heard the phrase, but you’ve probably noticed the condition. A “gummy smile” occurs when too much gum tissue (in technical terms, over 4 millimeters, or about one-eighth of an inch) is visible in the smile. Different people have different ideas about when this issue becomes a problem… but if you feel it detracts from your appearance, there are several ways dentists can treat a gummy smile.
Q: What can cause a smile to appear “gummy”?
A: A number of factors can contribute to this perception. One is simply that an excess of gum tissue is covering up the teeth. Another is that the teeth themselves are relatively short; this can be a natural anatomical feature, or it can result from the teeth being worn down by a grinding habit or another cause. In some cases, the problem is that the upper lip is hypermobile, meaning it rises too high when you smile. And in rare instances, the upper jaw is proportionately too long for the face, making the gums and teeth extend down too far.
Q: What’s the best way to fix this condition?
A: It all depends on what is causing the smile to appear gummy. If it’s too much gum tissue, a periodontal procedure called “crown lengthening” can be used to remove the excess tissue and reveal more of the teeth. If the teeth themselves are responsible, they can be crowned (capped), or covered by porcelain veneers. A hypermobile lip can be controlled temporarily with Botox injections, or permanently with a minor surgical procedure. Jaw problems present the most complex condition, but can be successfully treated with orthognathic (jaw-straightening) surgery. Orthodontic treatment may also be recommended in conjunction with these therapies.
Q: I’m unhappy with the way my smile looks, but I’m not sure exactly what’s wrong. What should I do?
A: A great-looking smile comes from the harmonious dynamic between teeth, lips and gums. If you feel your smile could use a little improvement, we can help you identify the things you like about it, and point out the things that need improvement. Working with an experienced cosmetic dentist is the best way for you to get the smile you’ve always dreamed about.
If you’d like more information about cosmetic gum treatments or cosmetic dentistry in general, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Gummy Smiles.”