My Blog

Posts for tag: oral health

By Midwest Smiles Family Dentistry
May 10, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
WhileTreatingDentalDiseaseProtectingGoodBacteriaisaHighPriority

You can't rid your body of the trillions of bacteria that inhabit it—nor would you want to. Many of the thousands of species taking up residence in and around you are beneficial to you.

That includes the bacteria in your mouth living together in an invisible community known as a "microbiome." Our immune systems gradually learn to discern between those that mean us well and those that don't, and for the most part leave the former alone.

But although harmful bacteria are in the minority, they can still cause devastating infections like tooth decay and gum disease. Fortunately, we've identified their "base of operations"— a thin film of leftover food particles, that when joined with bacteria is referred to as dental plaque. Plaque buildup serves as the primary food source for harmful bacteria.

We can prevent disease by depriving bacteria of this food source—by brushing and flossing daily to remove plaque buildup. Oral hygiene, along with regular dental care, is the best way to reduce harmful oral bacteria and our risk for disease.

Without these measures disease can develop and advance quickly, damaging the teeth, gums and supporting bone. And in cases of advanced gum disease, dentists often turn to antibiotics to reduce bring rampant bacteria under control.

But we've learned the hard way that overused antibiotic therapy can cause more harm than good. For one, it can create resistance within the bacteria we're targeting that often render the antibiotics we're using impotent.

Furthermore, antibiotics can't always discern "good" bacteria from "bad." Beneficial strains may be destroyed in the process, leaving the rich bacterial "microbiome" in our mouths a wasteland. And as we're learning, our health could be worse for the loss.

To avoid this, we're beginning to use treatment applications that narrowly target malevolent bacteria while avoiding more benevolent strains. One helpful advance in this matter was the development of the Human Oral Microbiome Database HOMD, part of which has enabled us to precisely identify the individual bacteria that cause certain diseases. This has made it easier to target them with specific antibiotic drugs.

We still have much to learn about the microscopic world within our mouths. As we do, we can better cooperate with those "inhabitants" that help us maintain our health while fighting those that cause us harm.

If you would like more information on oral bacteria, 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 “New Research Shows Bacteria Essential to Health.”

By Midwest Smiles Family Dentistry
February 19, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   pregnancy  
MaintainYourDentalCareDuringPregnancyForYouandYourBaby

Hearing the words, "You're going to have a baby," can change your life—as surely as the next nine months can too. Although an exciting time, pregnancy can be hectic with many things concerning you and your baby's health competing for your attention.

Be sure, then, that you include dental care on your short list of health priorities. It may seem tempting to "put things off" regarding your teeth and gums. But there are good reasons to keep up your dental care—for you and your baby.

For you: a higher risk of dental disease. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can trigger outcomes that increase your dental disease risk. For one, you may encounter cravings that include carbohydrates like sugar. Bacteria feed on sugar, which can cause both tooth decay and gum disease. This change in hormones can also trigger a form of gum disease called pregnancy gingivitis.

For your baby: dental-related complications. Some studies show evidence that a mother's oral bacteria can pass through the placenta and affect the baby. This may in turn spark an inflammatory response in the mother's body, creating potential complications during pregnancy. Other research points to what could result: Women with diseased gums are more likely to deliver premature or underweight babies than those with healthy gums.

Fortunately, you can minimize dental disease during pregnancy and protect both you and your baby.

  • Keep up regular dental cleanings and checkups during pregnancy;
  • Limit consumption of sweets and other sugary foods;
  • Brush and floss every day to remove dental plaque, which feeds bacteria;
  • See your dentist at the first sign of swollen, painful or bleeding gums;  
  • And, inform your dentist that you're pregnant—it could affect your treatment plan.

Although it's wise to put off dental work of a cosmetic or elective nature, you shouldn't postpone essential procedures. Both the American Dental Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists approve of pregnant women undergoing therapeutic dental work.

Dental care during pregnancy shouldn't be an option. Maintaining your oral health could help you and your baby avoid unpleasant complications.

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 “Dental Care During Pregnancy.”

By Midwest Smiles Family Dentistry
December 11, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Resolvedfor2022HealthierTeethandGumsandaMoreAttractiveSmile

That rumble you hear is 2022 about to roar into your life on New Year's Eve—so, you better get hopping on those resolutions! And rather than go with the old standbys—exercising more, losing weight or taking up a new hobby—consider trying, à la Monty Python, "something completely different": doing something special for your teeth and gums.

Actually, we're talking about two goals in one: improving your overall oral health and enhancing your smile. Here's how you can make 2022 your year for a healthier and more attractive smile.

Daily oral hygiene. One of the biggest hindrances to your smile's health and appearance is dental plaque. This thin bacterial film that accumulates on tooth surfaces is the number one trigger for tooth decay and gum disease. Its crusty appearance also dulls your teeth and robs them of their natural shine. Resolve, then, to brush and floss every day to remove dental plaque and brighten your smile.

Regular dental visits. There are a number of benefits for twice-a-year dental visits. For one, a professional dental cleaning removes any plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) you might have missed with daily cleaning—and your hygienist may complete the session with polishing paste to ramp up your teeth's shine. It's also a chance for your dentist to examine your teeth and gums for signs of disease.

Veneers or crowns. It's common for even healthy teeth to have some unattractive flaws. Veneers, custom-made shells of porcelain bonded to the face of visible teeth, can mask those imperfections. For more serious defects, we may recommend a full porcelain crown that not only protects a vulnerable tooth, but can certainly improve its looks.

Dental restorations. There are several ways to replace a missing tooth and restore both its function and appearance. Currently, the gold standard for dental restorations is the dental implant, which can be used to replace individual teeth or support dentures or bridges. Implants can also improve the long-term health of supporting bone.

Orthodontics. Crooked teeth aren't just unappealing—they're also harder to keep clean, and thus keep healthy. But we can straighten them with braces or clear aligner treatments to boost both your oral health and your smile. And, you can undergo orthodontics even if you're well past adolescence—as long as you and your mouth are reasonably healthy, you can have your teeth straightened at any age.

If you've resolved this year to improve your smile health and appearance, then don't delay. See us beginning in the new year to get started on a treatment plan. By the time you're ringing in 2023, you can have a healthier mouth and a more amazing smile.

If you would like more information about transforming your oral health and smile, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implants: Your Third Set of Teeth.”

By Midwest Smiles Family Dentistry
December 01, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
AHealthyDietIsanImportantPartofYourDentalDiseasePreventionPlan

If you think brushing and flossing and regular dental visits are all you need to do to avoid dental disease, you're missing a key component in your prevention plan. What you eat could also help close the door on tooth decay or gum disease—or open it even wider if you're eating nutritionally deficient foods.

Let's look first at the latter scenario. Like us, the oral bacteria most responsible for dental disease also have to eat to survive and thrive. And, often like us, they have a favorite food—provide them ample amounts of that and they'll continue to multiply and raise your risk of disease.

That favorite bacterial food is simple carbohydrates, particularly refined sugar. A diet heavy in added sugar can increase oral bacteria, which in turn elevates your chances of a gum infection. Bacteria's main by-product, acid, may also increase. That's bad news for your teeth. At high levels, acid contact softens and erodes enamel, the precursor to tooth decay.

Obviously, then, a "tooth-friendly" diet should be low on sugar and other simple carbohydrates like refined breads, pasta or pastries. Soda, energy and sports drinks high in both sugar and acid should also be avoided or restricted to mealtimes. You should also be careful with how much fruit you're eating as their natural sugars can also feed bacteria.

A well-rounded diet, however, isn't simply about avoiding foods—you'll also want to include foods that help you build and maintain healthy teeth and gums. That includes:

  • Fiber-rich plant foods: Their fiber reduces the effects of any carbohydrates and they're packed with nutrients;
  • Whole grains: Whole grains don't promote decay as refined products do, and chewing them stimulates saliva flow for neutralizing acid;
  • Fresh fruits: Eaten in moderation, fruits can provide a bevy of vitamins and minerals. But avoid dried fruits as their sugars are more concentrated;
  • Dairy: Milk-based products, particularly cheese, contain nutrients like Vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus, which strengthen teeth against dental disease.

For the most part, a diet that promotes overall well-being will also provide optimum benefits for your dental health. Along with your dental hygiene efforts, eating the right foods can help protect your teeth and gums from both tooth decay and gum disease.

If you would like more information on how better nutrition can boost your dental health, 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 “Nutrition & Oral Health.”

By Midwest Smiles Family Dentistry
August 03, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
CrackedMouthCornersHowtoResolveThisIrritatingProblem

In addition to the usual tooth and gum problems, dentists also see patients with soft tissue infections in and around the mouth. One of the more common of these is the irritation or "cracking" of the corners of the mouth.

Formally known as angular cheilitis (or perleche, a French word, meaning "to lick"), cracked mouth corners are localized irritations made worse by saliva accumulation or an accompanying yeast infection. They're prominent among children and young adults who drool during sleep or while wearing orthodontic braces.

Older adults can also develop cracked mouth corners because of deep wrinkle lines around the mouth ("marionette lines") or tissue irritation from wearing dentures. Teeth loss, especially in the back of the jaws, can weaken facial support leading to collapse of the bite, which can contribute to angular cheilitis.

The condition can cause anything from minor discomfort at the mouth corners to a yeast infection that spreads throughout the mouth and throat. Whatever the symptoms, treatment usually begins with antifungal medication in the form of a mouthrinse or a topical ointment. The dentist may also prescribe a steroid ointment like zinc oxide paste to control inflammation and serve as a barrier against infection.

If the infection has spread beyond the mouth corners, patients may also need to use an antibacterial mouthrinse (usually chlorhexidine) to clear up the infection and help prevent a relapse. Besides cleaning their appliances with chlorhexidine, denture wearers with angular cheilitis should also take their dentures out at night to reduce the chances of a reoccurrence.

Along the same vein, patients who contend with frequent cracked mouth corners and who have missing teeth should have those teeth replaced by some form of restoration. If that involves dentures, it's important to maintain a good fit with them to reduce the chances of tissue irritation. And patients with deep wrinkle lines around their mouth may be able to lessen them through dermatological treatment.

Even though cracked mouth corners rarely pose a major health problem, the discomfort they cause can be a drag on your daily life and activities. Remember that you don't have to suffer—a visit to your dentist could start you on your journey toward relief from this irritating problem.

If you would like more information on angular cheilitis and similar mouth conditions, 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 “Cracked Corners of the Mouth.”