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Posts for: December, 2013

NancyODellSpeaksOutOnHerExperiencesWithPregnancyGingivitis

When it comes to sensitive gums during pregnancy, Nancy O'Dell, the former co-anchor of Access Hollywood and new co-anchor of Entertainment Tonight, can speak from her own experience. In an interview with Dear Doctor magazine, she described the gum sensitivity she developed when pregnant with her daughter, Ashby. She said her dentist diagnosed her with pregnancy gingivitis, a condition that occurs during pregnancy and is the result of hormonal changes that increases blood flow to the gums. And based on her own experiences, Nancy shares this advice with mothers-to-be: use a softer bristled toothbrush, a gentle flossing and brushing technique and mild salt water rinses.

Before we continue we must share one important fact: our goal here is not to scare mothers-to-be, but rather to educate them on some of the common, real-world conditions that can occur during pregnancy. This is why we urge all mothers-to-be to contact us to schedule an appointment for a thorough examination as soon as they know they are pregnant to determine if any special dental care is necessary.

Periodontal (gum) disease can impact anyone; however, during pregnancy the tiny blood vessels of the gum tissues can become dilated (widened) in response to the elevated hormone levels of which progesterone is one example. This, in turn, causes the gum tissues to become more susceptible to the effects of plaque bacteria and their toxins. The warning signs of periodontal disease and pregnancy gingivitis include: swelling, redness, bleeding and sensitivity of the gum tissues. It is quite common during the second to eighth months of pregnancy.

Early gum disease, if left untreated, can progress to destructive periodontitis, which causes inflammation and infection of the supporting structures of the teeth. This can result in the eventual loss of teeth — again, if left untreated. Furthermore, there have been a variety of studies that show a positive link between preterm delivery and the presence of gum disease. There has also been a link between an increased rate of pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy) and periodontal disease. Researchers feel this suggests that periodontal disease may cause stress to the blood vessels of the mother, placenta and fetus.

To learn more about this topic, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Pregnancy and Oral Health.” And if you want to read the entire feature article on Nancy O'Dell, continue reading “Nancy O'Dell.”


MonitoringBloodPressureisImportantforBothYourGeneralandOralHealth

It’s time for your semi-annual visit to our office. As we prepare for your examination and teeth cleaning, we may also take a moment to check your blood pressure.

No, you’re not in the wrong office. The fact is, blood pressure screenings in dental offices are becoming more prevalent. The reason is twofold: as one of your healthcare providers, we may be able to identify a problem with your blood pressure that has previously gone unnoticed; and hypertension (chronic high blood pressure) and any drugs you may be taking for it can affect your dental health and how we provide treatment.

Hypertension, the medical term for high blood pressure, is usually regarded as any sustained pressure greater than 125/80 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury). It’s been identified as a major cause of cardiovascular disease, a family of heart-related diseases that affect an astounding 80 million people in the United States. Chronic hypertension has gained a reputation as “the silent killer” — many people are unaware they have it and if left untreated can lead to more serious conditions such as stroke or heart attack. It’s also a symptom of diabetes, even in the absence of other symptoms.

As part of your healthcare team, we’re in a good position to screen for hypertension and other general health problems. At the same time, hypertension is an important factor in dental care, especially if you are on regulating medication. Many anti-hypertensive drugs have side effects, such as dry mouth, that can affect your oral health. Your pressure status and medications may also affect the types and dosages of local anesthetics we would use during procedures; many of these constrict blood vessels (known as vasoconstrictors), which can elevate blood pressure.

A simple blood pressure check could reveal a health problem you didn’t even know about. It also helps us provide you with better and safer dental care.

If you would like more information on the effects of high blood pressure on 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 “Monitoring Blood Pressure.”


TreatingChippedTeethACommonSportsInjuryAmongKids

One went over the handlebars of his mountain bike. Another got an elbow going for a lay-up. For a third, it was that tricky maneuver on her new snowboard...

These are just a few of the ways that kids' teeth can be injured. (No doubt, parents can think of plenty more.) The good news is that modern dentistry offers more options than ever for treating the injury and restoring the appearance and function of the teeth.

Teeth that are fractured or dislodged are a serious condition that requires immediate, comprehensive treatment. The majority of dental injuries, however, are less severe: most often, they involve chipped teeth. If chips occur in the upper front teeth — as some 80% of dental injuries do — even small flaws can have a big affect on the appearance. And, especially in the teenage years, appearance can mean everything.

In many cases, small chips in the teeth can be repaired effectively using a procedure called “bonding.” In this treatment, we use a tooth-colored material made by mixing a plastic matrix and a glass-like filler, which provides adequate strength and aesthetic qualities similar to the natural teeth. In fact, this composite material can be matched to an individual's tooth color so accurately that it's hard to notice any difference.

Composite resins can be successfully bonded to most healthy teeth — and they offer some advantages over other restoration methods, particularly for children and teenagers. The bonding procedure avoids making tiny “undercuts” in the natural substance of the tooth, while metal fillings need to “lock in” to the tooth's structure. This means that bondings generally require less tooth preparation, which usually makes bonding a quick and relatively easy method of restoration.

It's true that, over time, some bonded restorations may not stand up to the tremendous biting forces of the jaw as well as porcelain restorations — but in young people whose permanent teeth have large pulp (nerve) chambers, the removal of too much tooth structure could compromise the long-term health of the tooth. Later on, we can look at performing a different type of restoration.

If you have questions about cosmetic bonding or sports-related dental injuries, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Repairing Chipped Teeth” and “An Introduction to Sports Injuries & Dentistry.”


By Phil Hart, DDS
December 04, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   smoking  
QuittingtheSmokingHabitCouldVastlyImproveYourDentalHealth

Even after decades of health warnings, approximately 45 million Americans smoke cigarettes. Although three-quarters will attempt to quit at some time in their life, most won’t be successful because smoking is both pleasurable and highly addictive.

Still, it’s in your best health interest to quit, and not just for your general health. Besides bad breath, reduced taste perception and dry mouth, smokers also face higher risk for tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease.

Quitting is difficult because of the addictive nature of nicotine, one of tobacco’s main ingredients. Nicotine causes the brain to release dopamine, a chemical that regulates our sense of pleasure and reward. In time, this effect transcends the physical sensation — smokers soon rearrange their social, work and family life to accommodate it. For those attempting to quit, the physical and emotional effects of withdrawal are daunting.

Yet, there are a number of effective quitting strategies. Smoking is a behavior you’ve learned and reinforced over time that you must now “unlearn.” You should begin by analyzing your own particular smoking habit — when you smoke, what prompts you to smoke, what activities do you associate with smoking, etc.

Most people will find an abrupt halt to cigarette smoking all but impossible. Instead, gradually reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke each day over several weeks; a weekly 20% reduction over the previous week is a good norm. As you reduce to just a few cigarettes, you’ll be forced to choose when to smoke those “precious” few. You can also use “brand fading,” in which you switch week by week to brands with increasingly lower amounts of nicotine.

You should also attempt to replace the smoking habit with more positive habits. Keep your hands busy holding items like pencils, straws or stress balls. Snack on healthy foods, chew sugarless gum with Xylitol, and drink plenty of water. You might also join a support group of other smokers trying to quit so you don’t have to face the habit alone.

It may take several weeks to break the smoking habit. The results, though, are worth it — you may extend not only your life but the life of your teeth too.

If you would like more information on how to stop smoking, 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 “Strategies to Stop Smoking.”