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Take Care of your Teeth
October is National Dental Hygiene Month, so let’s start this special section with some interesting dental statistics.
- 15–20% of U.S. adults from 33 to 44 years of age have some form of gum disease.
- In adults between the ages of 20 and 64, 91% have dental caries and 27% have untreated tooth decay.
- 16% of people in the U.S. suffer from tooth erosion, the third worst in the world.
- 12% of Americans grind their teeth.
- Only 7% of Americans say they are happy with their teeth.
- 34% of Americans suffer from tooth sensitivity with one-quarter of Americans saying they experienced more tooth sensitivity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Straightening Out Common Myths About Adults and Braces
by Tori Hebert
Research shows that smiling can have an impact on numerous aspects of a person’s life, including their mood and how well they handle stress. More adults than ever are choosing to seek a straighter smile. In fact, according to the American Association of Orthodontists, one out of four orthodontic patients today are adults.
“Braces have evolved considerably since the adults of today were teens,” says Dr. Craig Crawford with Crawford Orthodontics. “Orthodontics is certainly not just for kids. We are able to deliver excellent results that not only improve the appearance of teeth, but also improve overall oral health, which is of more concern for adults. Crooked teeth or a bad bite can contribute to gum and bone loss, tooth decay, abnormal wear of the tooth enamel and surfaces, headaches and jaw joint pain.”
You are Too Old for Braces to Work
It’s never too late to enjoy a straight smile. Misaligned teeth are never “too old” to be corrected. Braces work by applying gentle pressure on the teeth, gradually pushing them to the correct positions. It is the same principle, whether the patient is 12 or 52.
You Need a Referral to See an Orthodontist
Some patients believe they need their dentist to refer them to an orthodontist, but that isn’t necessary. It’s common in the medical system to need a referral to see a specialist, but that is not the case for orthodontics. You can make the decision yourself and it won’t affect your coverage if you have insurance.
Braces Need to Be Worn for Years
Many patients tend to overestimate how long they will wear braces, regardless of age. Every treatment plan is different, but technology has helped accelerate the process and treatment today typically lasts between six months and two years.
Braces are Unsightly and Will Look Ridiculous on an Adult
An adult who is already self-conscious about their smile does not want to draw more attention to it during orthodontic treatment. They may also be concerned about maintaining a professional appearance. Fortunately, there have been many advances in orthodontic technology. Braces are much smaller than they once were and there are a variety of options that do not require the traditional metal bracket and wire, Ceramic, tooth-colored braces are available and blend in with the teeth’s natural enamel. They are also more comfortable than traditional metal. Another option is clear, removable aligners.
Orthodontic Treatment is More Painful for an Adult
Braces from the 20th century, when many of today’s adults had braces, may conjure images of metal brackets and wires that cause pain and discomfort to your entire mouth. Modern adult orthodontics utilize smaller, more efficient devices that are also gentler. A little orthodontic wax and pain relievers can help ease any discomfort. If clear aligners are chosen, there are no sharp edges at all – just smooth surfaces.
If you are ready to look into braces for yourself, the first step toward a straighter smile is a consultation. “Once you are properly screened for periodontal and dental health, there really is no age limit for braces,” says Dr. Crawford.
And that’s something to smile about!
For more information about braces for adults, call Crawford Orthodontics at (337) 478-7590 or visit www.drcrawfordorthodontics.com.
Oral Health Leads to Overall Health
Your oral health is more important than you might realize. Your oral health can offer clues about your overall health and problems in your mouth can affect the rest of your body.
“There is a synergic relationship between oral health and overall health,” says Dr. Michelle Corcoran, dentist and owner of Peppermint Sage Dental Wellness. “Because the mouth is where your digestive tract begins, the mouth is a window into the health of the body.”
What’s the connection between oral health and overall health?
Like other areas of the body, your mouth teems with bacteria — mostly harmless. Because your mouth is the entry point to your digestive and respiratory tracts, some of these bacteria can cause disease.
Normally the body’s natural defenses and good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing, keep bacteria under control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.
Certain medications — such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers, diuretics and antidepressants — can reduce saliva flow. Saliva washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect you from microbes that multiply and lead to disease.
Studies suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with a severe form of gum disease (periodontitis) might play a role in some diseases. “Gum disease is linked to heart disease, strokes, diabetes, bacterial pneumonia, and Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Corcoran says. “Gum disease is the most common chronic inflammatory condition in the world and the mouth can act as a portal of entry for infection. Ongoing inflammation in your mouth can allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream, which may lead to more inflammation in other parts of your body, such as causing clot formations leading to strokes and heart disease.”
Certain diseases, such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS, can lower the body’s resistance to infection, making oral health problems more severe. “Some studies point to a reciprocal relationship between gum disease and diabetes,” adds Dr. Corcoran. “When you treat periodontal disease, many studies have shown a decrease in A1C levels, which indicates an improvement in your blood sugar levels.”
Dr. Corcoran also says pregnant women with gum disease have an increased risk for delivering preterm and/or low birth weight babies.
Maintaining good oral health:
- In addition to brushing, flossing, eating a balanced diet, and getting regular checkups,
- Dr. Corcoran says another important factor in oral health that is just recently being recognized is preventing mouth breathing. “Nasal breathing is better for you on so many levels; it helps prevent dry mouth (which decreases your risk of cavities), helps maintain a good mouth pH, and increases your nitric oxide levels naturally. When I see a patient come in who claims they eat very little sugar or processed foods, but still has cavities, the first thing I think is that they are mouth breathing. If they cannot pinpoint mouth breathing during the day, then they might be doing it at night while sleeping. At that point, if they meet certain criteria, I usually refer them to a sleep specialist to have a sleep study done. They may be snoring at night.”
- Tell your dentist about the medications you take and about changes in your overall health, especially if you’ve recently been ill or you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes. And contact your dentist as soon as an oral health problem arises. Taking care of your oral health is an investment in your overall health.
Peppermint Sage Dental Wellness is located at 632 W. McNeese St., Lake Charles. To make an appointment with Dr. Corcoran, call 337-478-2960.
Sources: Dr. Michelle Corcoran and mayoclinic.org
What conditions can be linked to oral health?
This infection of the inner lining of your heart chambers or valves (endocardium) typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to certain areas in your heart.
Although the connection is not fully understood, some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
Pregnancy & birth complications
Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
Certain bacteria in your mouth can be pulled into your lungs, causing pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.
A bone-weakening disease, is linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss. Certain drugs used to treat osteoporosis carry a small risk of damage to the bones of the jaw.
Other conditions that might be linked to oral health include eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers, and an immune system disorder that causes dry mouth (Sjogren’s syndrome).
Regular Dental Care Keeps Teeth, Gums & Wallet Healthy
by Kristy Como Armand
Imagine biting into a delicious, juicy steak and trying to chew it with just your front teeth. These teeth aren’t meant for chewing, so you’d have a problem. Not having healthy teeth to chew your food increases your risk of choking and is also harmful to the teeth that are trying to do the job, which were not meant to handle the pressure of chewing.
Hopefully, this analogy will help you understand the need to keep all your teeth healthy, but it does take a commitment. “Most people accept that performing routine maintenance on their vehicles helps prevent bigger repair costs down the road, but don’t always apply the same concept of preventive care to their oral health,” according to Dr. Rolando Tapia with Robinson Dental Group.
With inflation reaching a record level this year, many people are cutting back on spending, but Dr. Tapia cautions against skipping regular dental visits as part of your personal budget cuts. “We understand it may seem like it won’t make a difference if your teeth and gums look okay to you and you don’t have any pain, but it’s important to look at the big picture. Routine dental exams and cleanings can keep your teeth healthy, which will help you save money over time buy preventing more serious – and costly – problems from developing.”
One of the biggest concerns is gum disease, or periodontal disease. According to Dr. Tapia, gum disease ranges from gingivitis, a mild and common form that causes inflammation of tissues around the teeth, to more serious forms like periodontitis, where the inflammation affects the connective tissue supporting the teeth. It’s estimated that half of Americans over the age of 30 have periodontitis, and it’s the primary cause of tooth loss in adults.
“When someone has gum disease, they are basically suffering from a chronic, low-grade infection,” he explains. “This means the entire immune system is weakened and the whole body is at higher risk as a result.”
Gum disease can affect people of all ages. It may affect the entire mouth or can be limited to one or two teeth. The condition is caused by not brushing and cleaning teeth properly. Symptoms include bleeding gums, persistent bad taste in the mouth and chronic bad breath and loose teeth. “A sure sign your teeth need attention is if your gums are swollen, tender, and bleed when brushed,” says Dr. Tapia. “If left untreated, plaque will continue to build up, and the gums will recede. In advanced cases, some teeth may become loose and need extracting.”
He adds that problems such as gum disease, cavities and plaque buildup are all problems that, when left untreated, have the potential to progress into much more serious conditions,” says Dr. Tapia. “At that point, the condition will cost more in money and time to correct. This is why we stress preventive care. It really is an investment that will save you from much bigger dental expenses, not to mention pain and stress, in the future. Consistent dental care is the best line of defense for healthy teeth, gums, and your wallet.”
For more information on dental health, or to make an appointment, call Robinson Dental Group at (337) 474-3636.
The good news is there’s plenty you can do to prevent gum disease. Robinson Dental Group offers the following tips for gum disease prevention:
- Brush, floss and clean your tongue every day. Plaque is the enemy. Brushing thoroughly at least twice a day and flossing once a day will help combat it. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles so you don’t harm the gum line.
- Change is good. Every three months, buy a new toothbrush and throw the old one away. Bacteria can accumulate and the bristles become worn, making brushing ineffective.
- Look for the seal. Choose oral care products that are proven safe and effective. They will be marked with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. The ADA reviews all advertising claims for any product bearing the seal.
- Limit sweet snacks & drink water. Eating sugary snacks can cause tooth decay. When you put sugar in your mouth, the bacteria in the plaque digests the sugar and turns it into acids, which can dissolve the tooth. In addition, drinking water will dilute and flush the sugar, acid and toxins from the mouth.
- See your dentist regularly. Regular dental visits and professional cleanings are essential to good oral health. Tartar, a rough, porous deposit, can only be removed when your teeth are professionally cleaned.
Find the Best Toothbrush for You
by Angie Kay Dilmore
Most people brush their teeth hundreds of times every year as an essential part of their daily routine. But how much thought do they put into the kind of toothbrush they’re using? Manual or powered? Hard or soft bristles? Angled or straight heads? One that cost a few dollars or a hundred dollars? How do you know which is best for your oral health? Local dentist Dr. Erin Moore Seale with Seale Family Dentistry recommends a toothbrush that is easy-to-use with a soft bristled brush. “Firm or even medium bristles can cause enamel abrasion and gum recession which may lead to sensitivity or more severe long-term problems.”
Read on for more considerations when choosing a toothbrush:
What’s your comfort level? Look for a toothbrush that feels comfortable and is effective. The brush head size should fit easily into your mouth. For adults, aim for a half-inch wide and 1-inch tall. Children need smaller brush heads and larger handles. Dr. Seale says larger handles are also helpful for the elderly or people with arthritis.
Press pause on plaque. Multilevel or angled bristles with rounded tips remove plaque better than conventional, flat-trimmed bristles.
Manual or electric?
Dr. Seale says electric or battery-powered toothbrushes don’t clean your teeth better than regular brushes. “Research shows there is no difference in efficacy between a manual and electric toothbrush if the brusher uses it diligently.” Some evidence suggests that powered toothbrushes with rotating and oscillating bristles can be more effective than manual toothbrushes because they clean those hard-to-reach areas. And they tend to be better for people with braces and people with uneven tooth surfaces. Some powered toothbrushes have built-in timers and sensors that tell you where to brush and if you’re brushing too hard. But Dr. Seale adds that brushing technique is far more important than toothbrush type. Ultimately, the decision is a matter of personal preference and how much you want to spend.
Time for a new toothbrush? Dentists advise you replace your toothbrush or change the brush head if the bristles look worn or every three to six months.
Opt for extra assurance.
Still unsure of what brush to buy? Look for a toothbrush with the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Approval. Or discuss options with your dentist.
At the end of the day, the best toothbrush for you will be the one you’re most likely to use and is effective against cavities and gum disease.
Roundup of Best Toothbrushes
Best Electric Toothbrush
Philips Sonicare ProtectiveClean 5100
Improve your gum health up to 100 percent with a safe and gentle experience vs. a manual toothbrush. Voted Best Overall by buyersguide.org. $89.95 on Amazon
Best Adult Brush
CURAPROX – CS 12460 Velvet Toothbrush
This special toothbrush feels like velvet for your teeth, featuring 12,460 filaments that make brushing a daily ritual vs. a chore. Globally defined as the “gold standard” of manual toothbrushes, CURAPROX’s CS 12460 Velvet features incredibly soft filaments that are densely packed to remove plaque and debris from every nook and cranny in the mouth. $8.49 at Curaprox.us & Amazon.com.
Best Kids Brush
Stesa Kids Toothbrush
Features soft bristles, dust cover, bright colors, and a suction cup bottom to make brushing fun. $9.99 for a 50-pack on Amazon