Pregnancy is an exciting time in a woman’s life — but it can also generate a lot of questions about both the mother’s and the baby’s health. The realm of dental care is no exception.
Here are a few of the questions we frequently hear from expectant mothers, along with our answers.
Does the baby’s tooth calcium come from my teeth?
This question is frequently asked by mothers who may have had dental issues and are worried they’ll pass on these problems to their baby. Simply put, no — a baby developing in the womb derives minerals like calcium for their teeth and bones from the mother’s diet, not her teeth. What an expectant mother can do is be sure to eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in nutrients and minerals like calcium.
Am I at heightened risk for dental disease during pregnancy?
Pregnancy does cause significant increases in your body’s hormones, particularly estrogen. This can cause changes in the gum tissue’s blood vessels that may make you more susceptible to periodontal (gum) disease (commonly called “pregnancy gingivitis”). It’s also possible later in pregnancy to develop non-cancerous overgrowths of gum tissues called “pregnancy tumors.” The heightened risk for gum disease during pregnancy calls for increased vigilance in monitoring gum health.
What should I do to take care of my teeth?
It’s important to brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day with ADA-approved fluoridated toothpaste to remove plaque, a thin layer of bacteria and food remnants that adhere to teeth. You should also floss daily and consider using an anti-plaque/anti-gingivitis mouthrinse. And, of course, you should see us for regular office cleanings and checkups, or if you notice swollen, tender or bleeding gums, or other abnormalities.
Should I take prenatal fluoride supplements?
This sounds appealing as a way to give your baby a head start on strong tooth development. Studies on its effectiveness, however, remain slim and somewhat inconclusive — we simply don’t have enough data to make a recommendation. What does have a solid research record is the application of fluoride to teeth in young children just after they appear in the mouth — studies involving over a thousand teeth have shown 99% cavity-free results using topical fluoride applications with sealants.
If you would like more information on dental care during pregnancy, 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 “Expectant Mothers.”
What would it take to get you to give up tobacco? For major league baseball player Addison Reed, it took the death of his former coach, Tony Gwynn. Gwynn, a Hall-of-Famer who played for the San Diego Padres in addition to coaching at San Diego State, was just 54 years old when he died of oral cancer. As soon as Reed heard the sad news, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ relief pitcher says he knew what he needed to do: He took every can of smokeless tobacco he owned and dumped them all in the trash.
“It’s just become a habit, a really bad habit,” Reed told an interviewer at MLB.com. “It was something I always told myself I would quit.” But quitting took him many years — in fact, Reed admitted that he first started using smokeless tobacco as a junior in high school.
People begin using tobacco — in the form of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or smokeless types (snuff, chewing tobacco, or dip) — for a variety of reasons. One major draw is that they see others doing it. And, while smoking is prohibited in most all Major League venues, the use of smokeless tobacco has remained fairly widespread.
Smokeless tobacco isn’t a safe alternative to cigarettes. According to the National Cancer Institute, it contains 28 carcinogenic agents. It increases the risk not only for oral and pancreatic cancer, but also for heart disease, gum disease, and many other oral problems. It’s also addictive, containing anywhere from 3.4 to 39.7 milligrams of nicotine per gram of tobacco — and its use has been on the rise among young adults.
But now the tide may be turning. After Addison Reed’s announcement, his former college teammate Stephen Strasburg (now a pitcher for the Washington Nationals) resolved that he, too, would give up tobacco. “[The] bottom line is, I want to be around for my family,” said Strasburg. Mets left-hander Josh Edgin has vowed to try quitting as well. It’s even possible that Major League Baseball will further restrict the use of smokeless tobacco at games.
What does this mean for you? It may just be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for… to stop using tobacco. Dentists have seen how quickly oral cancer can do its devastating work — and we can help you when you’re ready to quit. The next time you come in for a checkup, ask us how. Your teeth and gums will thank you — and your family will too.
Dentists go to great lengths to save an adult permanent tooth. Even though restoration technology is incredibly advanced, none can completely replace the biological function of natural teeth. Treating a diseased tooth to preserve it is a high priority in dentistry.
It would seem, though, that a child’s primary (baby) tooth might not warrant the same treatment. Since the tooth eventually detaches from the jaw to make way for a permanent tooth, why save it?
It is worth the effort, because primary teeth provide more than a chewing function: they also serve as guides for their permanent successors. When they’re lost prematurely, the permanent teeth may not come in correctly, leading to a malocclusion (poor bite). Other areas of development, like speech and dental bone growth, may suffer as well from the longer time gap between the premature loss and the permanent tooth eruption.
Saving an infected primary tooth should be considered, especially if significant time remains in its lifespan. Due to differences between primary and permanent teeth, though, the treatment approach isn’t the same. For example, the body gradually absorbs the roots of a primary tooth (a process called resorption) as the permanent tooth beneath erupts applying pressure to the primary roots (this is what enables its eventual detachment). Dentists must factor this process into their diagnosis and treatment plan for a primary tooth.
The level of treatment may vary depending on how deep the infection has advanced. If the decay is limited to the tooth’s outer layers and only partially affects the pulp, the innermost layer of the tooth, a dentist may remove as much soft decay as possible, apply an antibacterial agent for any remaining hardened infection, and then restore the tooth with filling materials.
For deeper infection, the dentist may remove some or all of the pulp, disinfect and clean the area, and then fill and seal the empty space with a filling. A filling material like zinc oxide/eugenol paste should be used that’s capable of resorption by the body to coincide with the natural root resorption. After treatment, the tooth should continue to be monitored for changes in appearance or gum swelling, just in case the infection returns or advances.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, treating a primary tooth as you would its successor is worth the effort. Your child will reap the health benefits, both now and long after the primary tooth is gone.
If you would like more information on endodontic treatment 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 “Root Canal Treatment for Children’s Teeth.”
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.
Lashinda Demus holds the U.S record in the 400 meter hurdles, with a time of 52.47 seconds, the third fastest ever recorded. While her twin 5-year-old boys cheered her on, she brought home a silver medal from the 2012 London Olympics. But when it comes to her full set of upper and lower braces, there's no silver to be seen!
Demus is a top-ranked competitor, a wife and a mom — and an adult who is currently in orthodontic treatment. With her orthodontist's approval, she chose clear ceramic braces. These are just one of the treatment options available to adult patients, many of whom prefer a less noticeable style of orthodontic appliance.
As many as three-quarters of adults are thought to have some form of orthodontic problem. Common issues include teeth that are crowded too closely together, or ones that have drifted too far apart after an extraction or other tooth loss. It is believed that straightened teeth are easier to clean and better for chewing — they can also improve an adult's social life, and even his or her career prospects!
Some grown-ups may hesitate to consider orthodontic treatment because they remember the “railroad tracks” they saw in junior high school. In fact, there have been many changes in orthodontic appliances in the past few years. Two popular choices for adults are colorless braces (the kind Demus wears) and clear orthodontic aligners.
Colorless ceramic braces are made of high-tech composite materials. They resist staining, and are less noticeable because their translucent appearance blends with the teeth. Often, a single wire is the only part that's plainly visible. Sometimes it's even possible to place them on the lingual (tongue) side of the teeth.
Clear aligners are an alternative to braces that are available to adults and teens. Instead of wires and attachments, these consist of a series of transparent, removable trays that are placed over the teeth and worn 20 hours per day. Over a period of six months to two years, the teeth are gradually straightened as you progress from one computer-designed tray to the next. Best of all, you can remove the trays completely to clean your teeth, and for important occasions.
Which one is right for you? It depends. While aligners have been successful in treating mild to moderate spacing issues, more difficult problems with the bite may require a more traditional form of braces. Also, there are a few health problems which might need to be attended to before orthodontic treatment is begun. The best way to learn about your options is to come in for a consultation. But remember: if you want a better smile, it's never too late.
If you would like more information about orthodontic choices, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Orthodontics For The Older Adult” and “Clear Orthodontic Aligners.”
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