Sunday, June 24, 2018

When a Dry Mouth Is Caused by More Than Just a Lack of Water

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July 23rd is World Sjögren's Day. It’s named after Dr. Henrik Sjögren (pronounced SHOW-grin), the Swedish ophthalmologist who noticed a connection between patients he was seeing with dry eyes, and patients who suffered from a consistently dry mouth. Further investigation resulted in the discovery that these symptoms where caused by an immune system attack on these patients' moisture-producing glands. Today, approximately 4 million Americans live with this chronic disease, and many more go undiagnosed. Let’s take a quick look at the symptoms, and learn more about this disease that causes more than just the occasional parched mouth.

What is Sjögren's?

Sjögren's is a chronic autoimmune inflammatory disease in which people’s white blood cells attack their moisture-producing glands. However, it has also been known to cause dysfunction of other non-exocrine organs such as the kidneys, gastrointestinal system, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas, and the central nervous system. While you may not have heard of Sjogren’s, you’re likely aware of world tennis star, Venus Williams, who discovered she had the disease herself in 2011.

What are the primary symptoms?

Among individuals with Sjögren's, the most common symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, and dry eyes and mouth. However, since these symptoms can also point to other illnesses, Sjögren's is often misdiagnosed, or not diagnosed at all. This is such a pressing concern for medical professionals involved in diagnosing and caring for Sjögren's patients, they have made it their mission to cut the time to diagnosis in half by 2017. Currently, the diagnosis isn’t typically made until a person with Sjögren's has been suffering with symptoms for 4.7 years on average – a fact that often leads Sjögren's patients to experience complications related to the disease like cavities, oral thrush, and vision problems.

When does it develop? Can kids be affected?

Sjögren's can develop at any time, affects women more commonly than men, and (while rare) can also affect children.

If I have Sjögren's, does my dentist need to know?

Yes, without a doubt, your dentist plays an important role in the management of Sjögren's. They may also be the first person to suggest you see a specialist for further examination. Since Sjögren's affects the body in a variety of ways, patients often work with a team of medical professionals, including rheumatologists and ophthalmologists, who work together to help patients control this complicated illness.

For more on the importance of saliva, and how it affects your teeth and overall health, read perhaps the best article on saliva you’ll ever read in your life, on the European Food and Information Council’s website. Saliva is indeed, amazing stuff!

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Friday, May 4, 2018

Yes, Coffee Might Actually Be Good for Your Teeth

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If you have a desire to stain your teeth, consuming multiple cups of coffee a day is a sure way to get you there. That much you likely already know. What you may not know, though, is that drinking coffee in moderation can actually help you protect your teeth,  because of coffee’s unique anti-bacterial properties. And, coffee isn’t alone in this regard. Tea, too, has some pretty marvelous properties, despite its propensity to stain teeth as well! So, if you’re a fan of a cuppa’ warm joe or tea in the morning, read on … you’ve got one more reason not to give it up!

The main reason coffee and tea are good for you? Antioxidants.

Scientists believe antioxidants (polyphenols and catechins, specifically) help reduce inflammation in the body, aid in reducing cholesterol and high blood pressure, and protect against heart attack and stroke. They also help reduce inflammation in your mouth.  Find ‘em in fruit, vegetables, red wine, coffee, and chocolate to name a few.

If you do want a good reason to keep drinking coffee and tea, though, the trick is to consume each without cream and sugar (sugar and cream feed bad bacteria). You may also want to enjoy them “warm” as opposed to excessively hot. There is some speculation about how the temperature of your beverage can affect the lining of your esophagus. Visit this article for more on that concern.

Fluoride, trigonelline and caffeine
  • Tea: The benefit? Fluoride!
    We all know that at prescribed and monitored levels, fluoride is good for our teeth. But did you know black tea contains fluoride because of how its leaves absorb fluoride from the soil? More, it seems, than the plain glass of water coming out of your faucet, even! This, of course, can have good and bad complications for your teeth. If you drink from a non-fluoridated water source, ask your dentist or physician if they think it may be beneficial to drink a bit of tea from time to time. Over-consuming black tea, though, has been shown to affect rates of skeletal fluorosis.

    So, as with anything in life, moderation is key. And any time you want to start doing more of something you’re not doing already, from ingesting new foods to ramping up the exercise, always consult with your family physician first.
  • Coffee: The benefit? Trigonelline!
    Trigonelline is what’s known as an alkaloid. And this alkaloid appears to be of specific benefit to our teeth. It’s found in its highest levels in Arabica coffee beans, and research suggests it interferes with cavity-causing bacteria’s ability to adhere itself to tooth enamel. Research is ongoing, but it does seem to be another feather-in-the-cap of your morning “joe.”
  • Tea and Coffee: The benefit? Caffeine!
    Ah, caffeine – beloved and vilified. Yes, we know. And, we know that caffeine can cause some people to experience anxiety and increased stress, which could lead to teeth grinding and clenching. And that is most certainly NOT good for your teeth. Or, jaw. Or, bone structure, in general.

    Where caffeine is a benefit, though, is in its apparent ability to impact longevity in patients with oral cancer. And, that’s something to think about. Read up on the study yourself and make a decision that’s best for you. Recent research also suggests caffeine in coffee may help protect individuals from liver cancer as well.
SO! Everything in moderation, right? If you like a morning beverage, we hope this little primer gives you a bit more to think about!

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Baby Pacifiers – A Quick Look at the Pros and Cons.

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Baby Pacifiers – A Quick Look at the Pros and Cons.

To pacify or not to pacify, that is the question! If you’re a parent, or currently expecting, you’ve probably heard every possible recommendation and condemnation you’ve ever wanted to hear regarding pacifier use.

What is a dedicated, thoughtful parent to do?

Well, we’re here to help. And, it’s not as cut and dry as you think. In fact, we’re pretty sure you may just be surprised by our second biggest “pro.” 

The Biggest Pros
It’s a superb calming mechanism: It would be difficult for many-a-parent to imagine being able to soothe a crying, restless baby at the doctor’s office, on a plane, or at naptime without a trusty pacifier nearby. Pacifiers are most certainly named appropriately.
May help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): This is a biggie. The Mayo Clinic reports that having a child suck on a pacifier at naptime and bedtime might reduce the risk of SIDS. 
The Mayo Clinic also suggests that if you're breast-feeding, you should “wait to offer a pacifier until your baby is 3 to 4 weeks old and you've settled into an effective nursing routine.”

The Biggest Con
Extended use can create tooth development concerns: Extended thumb sucking, tongue thrusting and pacifier use beyond the arrival of your child’s primary teeth can be problematic for the development of a proper bite. 
Each of these habits tends to place undue forward-pressure on upper teeth and reverse, downward-pressure on bottom teeth – both of which can impact the proper development of a child’s jaw.

Your dentist and pediatrician can work with you to help curb these habits, but awareness is the most important first step.
What about the Baby Bottle?
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay: Streptococcus mutans, the bacterium that contributes to tooth decay, is fond of teeth no matter if they're in your mouth or your baby’s.

As a general rule, you’ll want to limit snacking, avoid placing anything sweet on a pacifier or bottle to get a baby to take to it, and avoid sharing your spoon with your child.

Because a diet high in refined carbohydrates contributes to larger populations of this bacterium, and sharing a spoon transfers the bacteria that exist in your mouth to your child’s mouth. Infants have very little of this bacterium to begin with, but you have lots! And, yes, it’s contagious! 
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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Banish That Canker Sore!

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There’s hardly anything more irritating than a canker sore. Sure, they’re tiny and only last a few days, but when you’ve got one, just about every word spoken and every bite taken hurts like all get-out.

What exactly are those little buggers, and how in the world can you ease the pain fast?

We’ll fill you in, and share our “canker-sore-be-gone” grocery list that’ll help save the day.
What Exactly is a Canker Sore?
To know the medically proper name for a canker sore is to understand why it hurts so much.

A canker sore is actually an ulcer. An Aphthous Ulcer to be exact. These painful ulcers come in two forms, minor and major, and are surprisingly experienced by only about 20% of the U.S. population.

Minor cankers (common in people between the ages of 10 and 20), are the smaller of the two, as the name would suggest, and last about 7-10 days.

Major cankers can last from two to six weeks, have noticeable depth, and often have irregular borders. This type of sore is more common after the age of 20, and is essentially a recurrent canker, returning to a site previously impacted by a minor canker.
Who Gets Cankers?
While cankers affect both genders, girls tend to get them more often, likely because of hormonal fluctuations.

Aside from that, most people are believed to get cankers due to genetics– and the condition is triggered by spicy, salty or abrasive foods.

If you or your kids are among those unlucky people gifted with canker sore genetics, there is hope! Arrest the pain and speed up the healing process with this short shopping list:

Rinses (use four times a day)
  • Hydrogen Peroxide – Equal parts peroxide and water
  • Salt and baking soda – Add a half teaspoon of both to 4oz. of water
Numbing Agents
  • Brands like Orajel® and Kank-A® can provide relief
Protective Pastes
  • Milk of Magnesia – dab on a cotton swab and use four times daily after the hydrogen peroxide rinse.
  • Baking Soda and Water Paste
Antimicrobial Mouthwashes

If your children have a sore lasting beyond the two-week mark, make an appointment to see your doctor to evaluate their case. Prescription medications might be necessary to bring them much-needed relief.

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Saturday, January 6, 2018

Seven Tips to Avoid Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

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Seven Tips To Avoid Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Cavities – they're not just for adults. Streptococcus mutans, the bacterium that contributes to tooth decay, is a rather indiscriminate little purple menace, and is quite fond of teeth no matter if they're in your mouth or the mouth of your baby. Keeping their mouth as clean as you keep your own can help you stay ahead of early childhood cavities, and only read about baby bottle tooth decay instead of experiencing it firsthand.

With that in mind, here are seven tips that can help you in the fight against Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans), and keep baby bottle tooth decay at bay!

  1. Limit Snacking: Whenever a person consumes any type of food or beverage, the pH level lowers and the mouth becomes more acidic to aid in digestion. This first step in our digestion process ends about 30 minutes after we eat, and the pH returns to normal to help protect our teeth. When we snack, though, our teeth remain bathing in this acidic environment, wearing down tooth enamel, and providing a breeding ground for S. mutans. The same, of course, is true with infants who feed continually, or without a long enough break. You can counter this effect by planning mealtimes with a reasonable start and finish time. Ask your dentist or GP for the best advice for your child.
  2. Avoid The Sugar Dip: Some parents are prone to dipping pacifiers in substances like honey or sugar to acclimate a child to using the device. This is generally a bad idea. For the same reasons you wouldn't want to suck on a honey stick, you shouldn't give one to your child as well. Bad for the teeth.
  3. Don't Share The Spoon: Here's a surprise! Did you know that tooth decay can be transmitted from one person to another? By sharing your child's feeding spoon, you can actually transmit S. mutans living in your mouth to your child. If you want to use a spoon to show your child it's okay to eat in this fashion, you're best off using your own spoon, and then doing a little slight-of-hand-swicheroo.
  4. Keep A Washcloth Nearby: For children who currently do not have teeth, use a washcloth to clean their gums after eating. Think of this as tooth brushing 101.
  5. Brush Away: And, for those lucky enough to have teeth already, use a child-safe toothbrush to clean away any food debris after a meal. It's good training for your child, and good for their teeth as well!
  6. Fill The Bottle Wisely: Avoid putting anything in your child's bottle except formula, breast milk or milk. Anything sweet or sugary will just further promote decay.
  7. Obey Naptime Rules: Restrict bottle usage prior to bedtime, or at least brush or wash their mouth prior to bed. Allowing a child to sleep with a bottle is considered to be the number one reason for baby bottle tooth decay as the bottle tends to continually drip into the child's mouth. For more on why this is important, see tip, #1.
As you can see, avoiding tooth decay in children is really quite simple, and involves many of the same rules we have to follow as adults.

For more information on children dental care visit our Pediatric Services Page.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Is Your Tooth Still Sensitive After A Filling?

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These days, a trip to the dentist is a fairly uneventful affair. Patients report comfort levels far exceeding those in the recent past; pain relief medications are more effective and take effect more rapidly; and materials used in treating patients are more adaptive to tooth structures than ever before. Each of these improvements is designed to provide patients with the best clinical outcome and a degree of comfort previously unheard of. However, for a small percentage of patients, post-appointment pain can still crop up and linger for days or weeks on end. Why?

It’s Good To Be You – Sometimes.

Excluding rare instances of product malfunction or dentist error, the main reason a tooth is likely to hurt after a filling has to do with many highly individual factors in your mouth. The structure of your teeth, past dentistry, personal habits (like clenching and grinding), and even the durability of the blood vessels, tissues, and nerves within your teeth, play a part in whether you remain pain-free after your anesthetic wears off.

What Can Bring About the Pain?
  • Heightened sensitivity: If you consider yourself to have sensitive teeth, a trip to the dentist is probably going to make them feel worse for a while. That’s mostly because prior to your visit, your teeth have, in a way, been “hiding out” underneath a bunch of plaque and tartar. No good for the health of your teeth, for sure, but that gunk can mask sensitivity when it covers recessed areas. Once your hygienist removes that barrier, you’re going to experience more sensitivity as a result. Toothpaste for sensitive teeth can help – so please ask your dentist for recommendations.
  • Material used: When filling teeth today, many dentists tend to gravitate toward the use of composite materials. They’re flexible and durable, insulate the tooth from extremes in temperature, and bond so efficiently that less of the tooth needs to be removed to place the filling. That said, despite their proficiency in dealing with temperature, composite fillings can cause increased sensitivity when the filling is deep, or if it’s placed on an area of the tooth that experiences greater “flex.” For example, a filling completed along the cheek or tongue side of the mouth may hurt for longer than one completed on the biting surface, because of the unique stresses the tooth experiences at that location.
  • Pulpitis: Just as any surgeon will tell you “all surgery is risky,” all restorative work is traumatic to teeth. When a tooth requires a filling, the extended vibration and heat from the drill can cause the pulpal tissue within the tooth to swell. This can result in a condition known as pulpitis. In most cases, the swelling that results from this overstimulation is transitory, and fades as the tooth heals itself. Occasionally, though, the tooth fails to deal with the trauma, and the result is irreversible pulpitis. When this happens, the unfortunate remedy is often a root canal procedure.
  • Uneven Bite: The most common cause of pain after the placement of a filling is a “high” or uneven bite. This occurs when a filling placed on the biting surface of your tooth is uneven with the opposing tooth. When this happens, your bite might feel a bit “off.” The good news is, it’s not really anything to worry about. All you’ll have to do is revisit the dentist and they’ll smooth out the filling so it fits more naturally with its opposing tooth.

How Long Will the Pain Last?

This is the $64,000 question – and the most difficult to answer. The short answer is, it depends. It depends on your overall health, the health of your teeth, and the exact reason for the pain you are experiencing. In the vast majority of cases, pain that exists after a restoration tends to dissipate within a few days.

However, if pain persists beyond a week, you should call your dentist to inform them of your symptoms. Depending on the type of work you had done, your dentist may decide to perform additional X-rays, or suggest you wait a bit to see if things settle down with the passage of time.

Believe it or not, it’s not unheard of for some patients to experience discomfort for months after a filling is placed. The key is to be in communication with your dentist so you can monitor the situation correctly. While certainly not ideal, maybe you can find some comfort in the idea that you are as unique as you’ve always thought you were!

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Cold Sore Treatments That Actually Work

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Cold Sore Treatments That Actually Work

If your children are among the more than 40% of Americans who get cold sores, they’ll be the first to tell you that having one is far from a pleasant experience. So, when your kids start to notice that familiar tingling sensation that signals an outbreak, what can you do to help? What actually works?

Well, quite honestly what "works" when it comes to cold sores, is management.  Specifically: preventing, treating, and eliminating the transmission of this most annoying of viruses. Here’s how to do it:

Cold Sore Prevention

The old adage "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," is certainly true when it comes to cold sores, so knowing what causes them to surface is key. The number one and number two reasons are a weakened immune system and exposure to rapidly changing weather. To tackle the weather, encourage your children to have lip moisturizer with sunscreen on hand to protect their lips from the sun, wind, and cold. To boost the immune system, be sure your children are getting enough sleep, and share with them any sage advice you may possess regarding dealing with stress.

Also, as with most things in life, what's good for the waistline is good for our immune system. Here are a few dietary suggestions that can help boost the immune system, and keep cold sores from cropping up:

  1. Eat Raw, Alkalizing Foods: Fruits and vegetables are super-good for us. Have your kids consume as many of them as they enjoy. 
  2. Top-up On Cruciferous Vegetables: Clinical studies are beginning to suggest that veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale are of great benefit to cold-sore sufferers.
  3. Avoid Arginine: Cold sores need the amino acid arginine to grow, so if you can limit the excess intake of this amino acid, it may be possible to keep frequent outbreaks at bay. Nuts, chocolate, oats, and some protein shakes are high in arginine, and can be major cold sore triggers. 
By merely eating well and getting regular rest, it is possible to avoid several outbreaks a year.

Cold Sore Treatment and Remedies

Preventing a cold sore from appearing is indeed the best medicine. When a cold sore does make an appearance, though, here are a few things you can suggest your children do to minimize its pain, size, and duration.
  1. Ice It! At the first sign of tingling, grab an ice cube, wrap it in a paper towel, and have your child place it on their lip where they feel the cold sore coming on. Often two back-to-back applications of an ice cube until it melts can dramatically reduce the pain and swelling that accompanies the sore.  
  2. Slather It? Not Now, But Later. Cold sores love warm, moist environments, and this is precisely the environment presented to a cold sore when it is slathered in cream for days on end. Experiment with this, but it’s often best to let it dry out to the point where it is no longer painful, and then begin applying cream or lip balm to minimize splitting. As the cold sore resolves itself, it's best to keep lips moist to prevent bleeding, which also aids in the healing at this stage.

Eliminate Transmission of Cold Sores 

Be sure to let your kids know they should avoid sharing food, utensils, towels, toothbrushes, or any other item that could come in contact with their mouth. Doing so will help avoid spreading the virus to others. Kissing and other aspects of intimacy that involve the mouth should be avoided entirely. Also, be sure they know to avoid touching the cold sore and then later touching their eyes or genital area. In fact, the best course of action is to suggest they avoid touching their mouth at all during an outbreak, and not again until after the scab has dropped off completely, AND healed over. This can take some weeks. As always, thorough hand-washing habits are a must as well.

Having a cold sore is not the end of the world, and your kids will get used to having them. Nine out of ten people get at least one cold sore in their life, so there is no need to hide in the closet. Help your children to understand triggers, find solutions that work, and keep others healthy by avoiding spreading the virus. Stay healthy!

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