Posts for category: Oral Health
It is sometimes hard to believe all of the features and characteristics that we inherit from our parents. Whether you're tall, short, blue-eyed or blonde, you can usually attribute some of these features to your mother and father. Of course, the downside of genetics is that diseases and disorders are also linked to genes.
Well, you can add gum tissue to that list as well! Genetics actually determines whether you have what we call “thin” or “thick” gum tissue. How does this work? Well, the type of gum tissue you have relies heavily on the shape of your tooth, which indeed is genetically-coded. If you have a triangular tooth shape, you'll likely have thin gums. If you have a squarer tooth shape, you'll usually have thick gums.
So, what can you expect from each tissue type?
If you have a thin gum tissue type, you are more likely to have gum recession. Watch out for the following signs of gum recession:
- Sensitivity to hot or cold, even without the presence of dental decay
- If you have crowns on your teeth, you may see a dark gray line at the gum line from the metal casting beneath the crown
- Small dark triangular spaces between teeth
On the other hand, if you have a thicker tissue type, your gums are more vulnerable to dental disease through a condition called “pocketing.” This happens when bacterial plaque causes your tissue to become inflamed, lose its attachment to the teeth and develop a pocket. Pocketing can result in bone loss, and, in worst-case scenarios, tooth loss.
It's important to note that while we use these terms to categorize different tissue types for treatment decisions, your tissue may also fall somewhere in between the two varieties.
So, how can you prevent gum disease? Daily oral hygiene is the best way to ensure proper care of your gums, no matter what type you have. Be sure to brush twice daily (use a soft toothbrush) and floss regularly at night. Floss gently until you hear a squeak, but watch out for your gum line. And of course, continue to visit us two times a year, so that we can assess whether you are in danger of developing gum disease.
If you would like more information about genetics and gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Genetics and Gum Tissue Types.”
When you or a family member takes a traumatic hit to the mouth, what should you do? Besides immediate first aid, your next action will depend on the extent of damage to any teeth. What you do and when you do it may even determine whether an injured tooth is eventually saved or lost.
If a tooth has been completely knocked out, you have about five minutes to replace the tooth in the socket to give it the best chance of reattachment and long-term survival. While we can certainly perform this action in our office, getting to us within five minutes may not be possible. Fortunately, any person can perform this action on site (see the article linked below for basic instructions on replantation). If for some that's not possible, you should control bleeding at the tooth site with direct pressure, place the recovered tooth in milk or the patient's saliva, and see us as soon as possible.
If, however, the injured tooth has been obviously knocked out of line but not completely detached from its socket, you have a small cushion of time to seek dental treatment — but not much. For this degree of injury, you should see us within six hours of the incident. We will be able to determine the exact nature of the injury, and treat the condition by moving the teeth back into proper position and splinting them.
You have up to twelve hours for broken or chipped teeth still in their normal position. Try to locate and save any broken-off fragments — it may be possible to re-bond them to the teeth. Although it may not be as urgent as other situations, you should still seek treatment as soon as possible. A broken tooth could leave the inner pulp exposed — a situation that left untreated could lead to eventual tooth loss.
Traumatic injuries to the mouth can have serious consequences for your long-term dental health. With our consultation and treatment efforts, we can help you save an injured tooth.
If you would like more information on caring for dental injuries, 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 “The Field-Side Guide to Dental Injuries.”
Diabetes and periodontal (gum) disease are two types of inflammatory conditions that have more in common than was once thought. There is strong evidence to show that each of these diseases is a risk factor for the development and growth of the other. Studies have also found that treating one condition successfully may have a positive impact on the treatment of the other.
From the Greek meaning “to pass through the urine,” diabetes mellitus causes an abnormal rise in blood glucose level that can't be adequately controlled by insulin, the body's primary hormone for that task. Either the pancreas can't produce an adequate supply of insulin (as with Type 1 diabetes) or there is resistance to the hormone's effects (as with Type 2 and gestational/pregnancy diabetes). If you are a diabetic patient, you face many difficult issues with your health: your body develops an altered response to inflammation that may severely inhibit wound healing. You also may become more prone to chronic cardiovascular disease.
Periodontal (gum) disease describes a group of diseases caused by dental plaque, a whitish film that contains infection-causing bacteria. As infection rises within the gum tissues, the auto-immune system of the body responds to this threat and inflammation results. If the person is also a diabetic, this response may be impaired and may have a direct effect on how severe the periodontal disease progresses.
Periodontal disease can also affect your blood glucose level, if you are a diabetic. A number of studies have demonstrated that diabetic patients who have improved control of their periodontal disease through better oral hygiene and dental treatments have shown improvement in their blood sugar levels. There's even some evidence that effective periodontal treatment that reduces inflammation may improve the body's sensitivity to insulin. Likewise, bringing diabetes under control with supplemental insulin or positive lifestyle changes can help lessen the likelihood and severity of periodontal disease.
To sum it up, if you have been diagnosed with some form of diabetes, taking care of your teeth and gum tissues can have a positive impact on your diabetes. Likewise, making healthy changes in your lifestyle to bring your diabetes under control can reduce your risk for periodontal disease.
If you would like more information about periodontal disease and its effect along with diabetes, 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 “Diabetes and Periodontal Disease.”
If you were recently in an accident or received a hard hit while playing sports and you have been feeling jaw pain ever since, you may be suffering from a serious injury. It is important that you make an appointment with us immediately, so that we can conduct a proper examination, make a diagnosis and prescribe a suitable treatment. Even if the pain is lessening, you should still make an appointment.
Without seeing you, we have no way of definitively diagnosing the cause of your pain. However, here are a few possibilities:
- You displaced a tooth or teeth.
- You indirectly traumatized or injured the jaw joint (TMJ — temporomandibular joint). This trauma will cause swelling in the joint space, and the ball of the jaw joint will not fully seat into the joint space. If this is the issue, it is likely that your back teeth on the affected side will not be able to touch. Over time, the swelling should subside, allowing the teeth to fit together normally.
- You may have a minor fracture of your lower jaw. The most common is a “sub-condylar” fracture (just below the head of the joint), which will persist in symptoms that are more severe than simply bruising and swelling.
- You may have dislocated the joint, which means the condyle or joint head has been moved out of the joint space.
All of the above injuries can also cause muscle spasms, meaning that the inflammation from the injury results in the muscles on both sides of the jaw locking it in position to stop further movement and damage.
The most critical step is for you to make an appointment with our office, so we can conduct a physical examination, using x-rays to reveal the extent of your injury. We'll also be able to see whether the injury is to the soft tissue or bone.
Treatment may involve a variety of things, including anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant medications. If your teeth have been damaged, we'll recommend a way to fix this issue. If you have dislocated your jaw, we may be able to place it back through gentle manipulation. If you have fractured your jaw, we'll need to reposition the broken parts and splint them to keep them still, so that they can heal.
Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. A recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that nearly half of Americans older than 30 had some signs of periodontal disease. That's more than 64 million people.
How much do you know about this potentially serious disease? Take our quiz and find out.
True or False: Gum Disease is caused by bacteria in the mouth
TRUE. Of the hundreds of types of bacteria that occur naturally in the mouth, only a small percentage are harmful. But when oral hygiene (brushing and flossing) is lacking, these can build up in a dental plaque, or biofilm. This often causes inflammation of the gums, the first step in the progression of gum disease.
True or False: Gum disease is more prevalent among younger people
FALSE. Gum disease is most often a chronic disease, meaning that it progresses over time. Statistics show that as we age, our chances of developing gum disease increase, as does the disease's severity. In fact, according to the study mentioned above, about 70% of adults 65 and over have mild, moderate or severe periodontitis, or gum disease.
True or False: Bleeding of the gums shows that you're brushing too hard
FALSE. You might be brushing too hard — but any bleeding of the gum tissue is abnormal. Gum sensitivity, redness and bleeding are typically the early warning signs of gum disease. Another is bad breath, which may be caused by the same harmful bacteria. If you notice these symptoms, it's time for a checkup.
True or False: Smokers are more likely to develop gum disease
TRUE. Not only are smokers more likely to develop gum disease, but in its later stages they typically show more rapid bone loss. Smoking also prevents the warning signs of gum disease - bleeding and swelling of the gum tissues - from becoming apparent. Other risk factors for developing the disease include diabetes and pregnancy (due to hormonal changes). Genetics is also thought to play a role in who gets the disease — so if you have a family history of gum disease, you should be extra vigilant.
True or False: The effects of gum disease are limited to the mouth
FALSE. Numerous studies suggest that there is a relationship between periodontal health and overall health. Severe gum disease, a chronic inflammatory disease, is thought to increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and stroke. It may also lead to complications in pregnancy, and problems of blood-sugar control in diabetics.
So if you have any risk factors for gum disease, or if you notice possible symptoms, don't ignore it: let us have a look. We can quickly evaluate your condition and recommend the appropriate treatments if necessary. With proper management, and your help in prevention, we can control gum disease.
If you have concerns about gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Understanding Gum (Periodontal) Disease” and “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”