Posts for category: Oral Health

By Ian Park, DDS
January 22, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
FortheSakeofYourTeethandGumsAvoidUsingE-Cigarettes

Over the last decade, the use of e-cigarettes—popularly known as vaping—has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. It's the "in" thing, especially among younger adults, fueled by the widespread idea that it's a safer nicotine delivery system than traditional smoking.

But growing evidence is beginning to say otherwise—that people are simply trading one unhealthy habit for another. Besides a possible link to lung disease, vaping may also adversely impact a person's oral health.

An e-cigarette is a handheld device that heats a mixture of water, flavoring and chemicals into a vapor inhaled by the user. As with traditional cigarettes, nicotine is the active ingredient in vaping mixtures, and perhaps just as addictive. One vaping cartridge, in fact, can equal the nicotine in 20 tobacco cigarettes.

Nicotine is a good starting point for analyzing vaping's potential harm on oral health. In short, nicotine is not your mouth's friend. It constricts oral blood vessels, that in turn decreases oxygen, nutrients and infection-fighting agents delivered to the gums. Individuals who routinely ingest nicotine therefore have a much higher risk for gum disease.

And, although the various flavorings in vaping mixtures have pleasant-sounding names like "cotton candy," "mint" or "cherry crush," these additives can also cause oral problems. There's some evidence that when the flavoring chemical transforms from a liquid to a gas, it may dry out and irritate the inner membranes of the mouth. This in turn can increase the risks for bacterial infection leading to tooth decay or gum disease.

There's also evidence other substances in vaping liquids may also prove unhealthy, even carcinogenic. This raises concerns among many doctors and dentists that vaping could eventually prove to be a prime cause for increased oral cancer.

Given what we know—as well as what we don't—it's wise to avoid either smoking or vaping. We know the first habit definitely puts your oral health at risk—and the growing evidence shows the latter may be just as harmful. Avoiding both habits may be in your best interest—not only for your overall health, but for your mouth as well.

If you would like more information on vaping and oral 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 “Vaping and Oral Health.”

EnjoyThatNibbleofCheese-ItsAlsoBenefittingYourOralHealth

Mystery writer Avery Aames once said, "Life is great. Cheese makes it better." Billions of people around the world would tend to agree. Humanity has been having a collective love affair with curdled milk for around 8,000 years. And, why not: Cheese is not only exquisitely delicious, it's also good for you—especially for your teeth.

No wonder, then, that "turophiles" have a day of celebration all to themselves—National Cheese Lovers Day on January 20th. In honor of the day cheese aficionados would definitely make a national holiday, let's take a closer look at this delectable food, and why eating it could do a world of good for your dental health.

As a dairy food, cheese contains a plethora of vitamins and minerals, many of which specifically benefit dental health. Every bite of velvety Gouda or pungent Limburger contains minerals like calcium and phosphate, which—along with the compound casein phosphate—work together to strengthen teeth and bones.

Cheese also helps tooth enamel defend against its one true nemesis, oral acid. Prolonged contact with acid softens the mineral content in enamel and may eventually cause it to erode. Without an ample layer of enamel, teeth are sitting ducks for tooth decay. A nibble of cheese, on the other hand, can quickly raise your mouth's pH out of the acidic danger zone. Cheese also stimulates saliva, the mouth's natural acid neutralizer.

Because of these qualities, cheese is a good alternative to carbohydrate-based snacks and foods, at home or on the go. Carbs, particularly sugar, provide oral bacteria a ready food supply, which enables them to multiply rapidly. As a result, the opportunity for gum infection also increases.

Bacteria also generate a digestive by-product, which we've already highlighted—acid. So, when oral bacterial populations rise, so do acid levels, increasing the threat to tooth enamel. By substituting cheese for sweets, you'll help limit bacterial growth and these potential consequences.

You may get some of the same effect if you also add cheese to a carbohydrate-laden meal or, as is common with the French, eat it as dessert afterwards. Often a tasty complement to wine or fruit, cheese could help blunt the effect of these carbohydrates within your mouth.

In a world where much of what we like to eat doesn't promote our health, cheese is the notable exception. And our enjoyment of this perennial food is all the more delightful, knowing it's also strengthening and protecting our oral health.

If you would like more information about the role of nutrition in oral health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Nutrition & Oral Health.”

AMinorProcedureCouldHelpanInfantWithThisNursingProblem

Newborns come into the world eager and ready to partake of their mother's milk. But an anatomical quirk with some infants could make breastfeeding more difficult for them.

The structure in question is a frenum, a tiny band of tissue connecting softer parts of the mouth with firmer parts, like the upper lip to the gums, and the tongue to the floor of the mouth. If they're abnormally short, thick or tight, however, the baby might find it difficult to obtain a good seal around the mother's nipple.

Without that seal, the baby has a difficult time drawing milk out of the breast and as a result, they may attempt to compensate by chewing on the nipple. The sad outcome is often continuing hunger and frustration for the baby, and pain for the mother.

To alleviate this problem, a physician can clip the frenum to loosen it. Known as a frenotomy, (or a frenectomy or frenuplasty, depending on the exact actions taken), it's a minor procedure a doctor can perform in their office.

It begins with the doctor deadening the area with a numbing gel or injected anesthesia. After a few minutes to allow the anesthesia to take effect, they clip the frenum with surgical scissors or with a laser (there's usually little to no bleeding with the latter).

Once the frenum has been clipped, the baby should be able to nurse right away. However, they may have a learning curve to using the now freed-up parts of their mouth to obtain a solid seal while nursing.

Abnormal frenums that interfere with nursing are usually treated as soon as possible. But even if it isn't impeding breastfeeding, an abnormal frenum could eventually interfere with other functions like speech development, or it could foster the development of a gap between the front teeth. It may be necessary, then, to revisit the frenum at an older age and treat it at that time.

Although technically a surgical procedure, frenotomies are minor and safe to perform on newborns. Their outcome, though, can be transformative, allowing a newborn to gain the full nourishment and emotional bonding they need while breastfeeding.

If you would like more information on tongue or lip ties, 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 “Tongue Ties, Lip Ties and Breastfeeding.”

HereIsWhatYouCanDotoHelpYourKidsSnackHealthieratSchool

In addition to daily oral hygiene and regular dental visits, a tooth-friendly diet can boost your kid's dental health and development. You can help by setting high standards for eating only nutritious foods and snacks at home.

But what happens when they're not home—when they're at school? Although public schools follow the Smarts Snacks in Schools initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, those guidelines only recommend minimum nutritional standards for foods and snacks offered on campus. Many dentists, though, don't believe they go far enough to support dental health.

Besides that, your kids may have access to another snack source: their peers. Indeed, some of their classmates' snacks may be high in sugar and not conducive to good dental health. Your kids may face a strong temptation to barter their healthy snacks for their classmates' less than ideal offerings.

So, what can you as a parent do to make sure your kids are eating snacks that benefit their dental health while at school? For one thing, get involved as an advocate for snacks and other food items offered by the school that exceed the USDA's minimum nutritional standards. The better those snacks available through vending machines or the cafeteria are in nutritional value, the better for healthy teeth and gums.

On the home front, work to instill eating habits that major on great, nutritional snacks and foods. Part of that is helping your kids understand the difference in foods: some are conducive to health (including for their teeth and gums) while others aren't. Teach them that healthier foods should make up the vast majority of what they eat, while less healthier choices should be limited or avoided altogether.

Doing that is easier if you take a creative, playful approach to the snacks you send with them to school. For example, if you send them to school with their own snacks, add a little excitement like cinnamon-flavored popcorn or cheese and whole wheat bread bites in different shapes. And make it easier for them with bite-sized snacks like grapes, baby carrots or nuts.

You can't always control what snacks your kids eat, especially at school. But following these tips, you may be able to influence them in the right direction.

If you would like more information on helping your child develop tooth-friendly snacking habits, 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 “Snacking at School.”

YourDentistMayBeAbleToProvideYouWithaSleepApneaSolution

Morning tiredness, brain fog and snoring are just some of the indicators of a medical condition known as sleep apnea. And, it's worse than waking up on the wrong side of the bed—over time, sleep apnea could increase your risk for heart disease or other life-threatening conditions.

Sleep apnea occurs when air flow becomes restricted during sleep, usually by the tongue blocking the airway. As oxygen levels begin to fall, the brain signals the body to wake up to "fix" the air flow problem.

As this arousal may only last a second or two, you may not remember it when you awaken in the morning. But it can happen numerous times a night, depriving you of the deep sleep your body needs for rest and repair.

Fortunately, there are ways to treat sleep apnea. In extreme instances, you may need surgery to correct anatomical defects causing the condition. For most cases, though, the most common treatment is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which consists of a portable pump delivering pressurized air through a face mask that keeps the throat open while you sleep.

Used by millions of patients, CPAP can be quite effective. Some patients, though, feel uncomfortable using a CPAP machine for various reasons. If you're one of those unhappy CPAP campers or you would like to consider a possible alternative, your dentist might have the answer: oral appliance therapy (OAT).

An OAT device is worn in the mouth during sleep to prevent the tongue from falling back against the back of the throat and blocking the airway. There are various forms of OAT appliances, but they're all custom-made by a dentist to fit an individual patient's mouth. They work best for mild to moderate sleep apnea in which the tongue is the primary culprit in airway blockage.

If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, you should undergo a complete examination by a doctor or dentist to confirm it. If you've been diagnosed with mild to moderate sleep apnea, talk to your dentist about an OAT device. You may find OAT can provide you the relief you need for a better night's sleep.

If you would like more information on oral treatments for sleep apnea, 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 “If You Snore, You Must Read More!