Sunday, March 28, 2021

How Gum Disease Affects Your Heart

You do everything you can to take care of your health. From maintaining a healthy diet to exercising regularly, you make your health a priority. But if you’re not equally as diligent about your oral health, your heart may be in jeopardy.

Recent research suggests that there’s a strong link between gum disease and heart disease. While the two may not seem like they have much in common at first glance, the more you learn about their connection, the easier it is to see how they’re related.

Gum Disease
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, typically starts out as an inflammatory gum infection called gingivitis. It’s caused by a buildup of plaque — a sticky film of bacteria — on your teeth and gums. As gum disease progresses, it can advance to periodontitis, which happens when plaque sits in small pockets beneath the gum line.

Heart Disease

Coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease, is caused by an entirely different type of plaque called atherosclerosis, which is made from cholesterol and fat. This gradual buildup of atherosclerosis is a serious health concern if left untreated. It’s one of the leading causes of heart attack.

How They're Connected

While medical experts don’t know exactly why gum disease increases your chances of developing heart disease, they believe that untreated periodontitis can cause bacteria from your mouth to travel through your bloodstream, which clogs your arteries and raises your risk of heart infection.

As your arteries become clogged with plaque and bacteria, they can narrow and harden, preventing oxygen-rich blood from reaching the heart.

How You Can Protect Yourself

Gum disease is certainly not the only condition that’s been connected to heart disease. Diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), poor diet choices, and unhealthy lifestyle habits all increase your risk of heart disease.

However, you can protect your gums and heart by making yourself aware of the early warning signs of gum disease, before it advances to periodontitis.

The most common gum disease symptoms include:
  • Gum inflammation;
  • Bleeding gums;
  • Gum sensitivity;
  • Pain when chewing;
  • Loose teeth;
  • Receding gums;
  • Halitosis (bad breath);
Inflamed gums are typically the earliest warning sign of gum disease, so it’s important to talk to your dentist about your symptoms at the first sign of trouble. Early intervention and gum treatments, such as deep cleanings, scaling, and root planing, can help reduce the symptoms of gum disease and protect your heart from infection.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Why Does Sugar Make My Teeth Hurt?

Picture this: you're gorging on leftover Halloween candy. You take a bite of a fun-size chocolate bar and instead of sugary goodness, you get a flash of blinding pain in your tooth! What's the deal?

Hosted by: Stefan Chin

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Why Dental Sealants for Kids

Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease in the US. In Washington State, nearly 40% of kindergartners and 58% of third graders have cavities. This might sound dire, but it doesn’t have to be: cavities are preventable.

In addition to brushing, flossing, and regular checkups, dental sealants are another important measure for protecting kids’ teeth against decay. But despite their importance, many parents don’t know much about dental sealants — how they work, whether they are safe, and what they do to protect kids’ teeth.

So, what exactly are dental sealants, and why do kids need them?

Why Kids Need Dental Sealants

Early cavity prevention is extremely important. Cavities in baby teeth lead to cavities in permanent teeth, and to a lifetime of oral health problems. Preventing cavities before they start sets kids up for success — which is where dental sealants come in.

Cavities don’t happen overnight — they are more like a slow erosion. The bacteria in our mouths feeds off sugar in foods we eat. This process leaves behind nasty acids, which weaken our enamel little by little. A dental sealant is a protective coating placed on the chewing surfaces of your child’s back teeth, or molars. Sealants fill the deep grooves that are hard for kids to properly clean when brushing.

In this way, dental sealants are like little tooth-sized levies — one more barrier protecting our children’s teeth against the slow erosion caused by bacteria and acids.

When Should Kids Get Dental Sealants?

The ADA recommends dental sealants for kids ages 5 to 14. Ask your dentist about dental sealants for your child as soon as their first permanent molars come in, between the ages of 5 and 7. Another set of dental sealants can be applied when kids get their second set of permanent molars, usually between age 11 and 14.

Dental sealants are also a good preventive measure for any teenager particularly prone to cavities.

Are Sealants Covered by Dental Benefits?

Dental sealants are considered a preventive benefit, just like regular exams and fluoride treatments. Most plans cover preventive services and dental sealants at 100%, so your child gets all their protective sealants at little or no out-of-pocket cost.

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Saturday, March 20, 2021

Should I Pull Out My Child’s Loose Tooth?

Forget tying your child’s loose tooth to a piece of string and attaching it to a doorknob (Or a foam dart gun. Or even a drone.). There is an easier and safer way to help your child wiggle that loose tooth free.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Improve Your Smile with These Tips from Dental Experts

The Doctors share tips about keeping your tooth enamel, the dangers of trying to move your teeth yourself, and how to stop grinding your teeth!

Sunday, March 14, 2021

How Can I Get My Child to Brush Her Teeth?

Does your child run in the other direction every time you reach for the toothbrush? Get some tried-and-true tips for making brushing fun from a dentist who’s been in your shoes.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Dead Tooth: Signs and Symptoms

Your teeth are strong —- really strong. In fact, tooth enamel is the hardest substance in your body. But strong as they are, your teeth aren’t superhuman. In fact, teeth can die just like any other living thing. And if you end up with a dead tooth, it is no laughing matter.

Not only can a dead tooth be unsightly and painful, but it puts you at risk for serious infection, abscess, and tooth loss. Because of this, it is important to know the symptoms of a dead tooth and understand when to seek treatment.

What is a Dead Tooth?

It’s strange to think of a tooth as dead. After all, isn’t it just a lump of enamel attached to your jaw? Actually, no. The outer layers of your tooth — the enamel, dentin and cementum — are hard and bone-like. But beneath this armor lies a chamber of soft, sensitive pulp that is very much alive with nerves, connective tissue, and blood vessels.

Like any other part of the body, when your tooth pulp loses its blood supply, it eventually dies. (I’ll get to how this happens in a minute). When the pulp in your tooth dies, your tooth becomes what dentists refer to as a non-vital, or necrotic, tooth. This non-vital tooth is what we commonly call a dead tooth.

Dead Teeth and Infection

Dead pulp isn’t actually the worst part about a dead tooth. According to the American Association of Endodontists, your teeth need their pulp as they grow and develop. However, once a tooth fully matures, it can be retained and function without the pulp because the surrounding tissues continue to nourish the tooth.

But this doesn’t mean you can just leave a dead tooth alone. The inside of your tooth stays healthy in part because living tissues transport white blood cells and other immune cells to the tooth pulp. When a tooth dies, this access is cut off. Without these immune cells, the pulp chamber can become a breeding ground for infection.

It goes without saying that an infection in your mouth is bad. But an infection caused by a dead tooth is particularly troublesome. Because the infection is deep within your tooth, it can spread to the bone and space around a tooth’s root(s). If left untreated, this infection can create a pocket of pus known as an abscess, and may cause significant pain and swelling.

As I said, a dead tooth is no joke. But what exactly causes a tooth to die in the first place?

Causes of a Dead Tooth

The two primary causes of a dead tooth are decay and trauma.

If decay reaches the center of your tooth either through a crack in the tooth or through an untreated cavity it will inflame the pulp. To protect itself, the blood vessels inside the pulp constrict. But eventually, without enough blood supply, the pulp dies.

A tooth can also die if it sustains a trauma such as a sports injury. If your tooth pushes upward into the bone or gets knocked out, the nerves can get pinched, cut off or damaged. If the blood supply at the tip of the tooth’s root is severed, the pulp dies from lack of blood flow in much the same way as it does from untreated decay.

Smell, Color and Other Symptoms of a Dead Tooth

Now that you know the seriousness of a dead tooth, you should understand the signs and symptoms.

Common symptoms of a dead tooth:

  • Discoloration: A dead tooth often looks yellow, grey, or slightly black.
  • Smell: A dead tooth sometimes smells bad or causes a bad taste in your mouth. This is from tooth decay or other infection.
  • Pain: This pain comes from inflammation and infection in the pulp cavity or surrounding bone.
  • Pimple at the gum line: This is a sign of a chronic tooth abscess that has made its way through the bone to the surface of your gums.

Treating a Dead Tooth

A dead tooth is commonly treated with endodontic therapy, commonly termed a root canal. During a root canal, your dentist or endodontist drills a hole in the top of your tooth and cleans the dead material out of the pulp chamber and root(s). The canal(s) in your tooth root(s) are then filled with a rubber-like material to seal against bacteria and future infection.

Depending on the level of damage, the dentist sometimes places a metal or plastic post inside your tooth to keep a filling in place. In many cases a crown may be placed to further protect and restore your tooth.

If your dead tooth can’t be saved, or if for other reasons you and your dentist choose not to do a root canal, your dentist will likely recommend extracting your dead tooth. This empty space can then be replaced with an implant, partial denture, or bridge.

Contact your dentist right away if you sustain an injury to your teeth, or if you suspect your tooth is decayed. Your dentist will assess your teeth and all the structure and tissues in your mouth, and recommend the best course of action to keep your smile healthy and strong.

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Monday, March 8, 2021

History of Women in Dentistry

Did you know that women make up approximately 50% of dental school graduates but only 30% of practicing dentists in the US identify as female?

And while at first glance that number might not seem impressive, it is when you consider how far women have come in the field of dentistry.

March is Women's History Month and to celebrate, we’re taking a trip through time to explore the journey our foremothers and she-pioneers have taken to get us to where we are today.

Emeline Roberts Jones

A native of New England, Dr. Jones married practicing dentist Daniel Jones in 1854 at the age of 18. Her husband believed that women had no place in dentistry due to their “frail and clumsy fingers”, but Emeline persisted.

She studied extractions and fillings in secret and by the time she turned 19, she had extracted and filled over a hundred teeth. After showing her husband what she was capable of, he invited her to work alongside him and in 1855, she became the first practicing female dentist in the United States.

Lucy Hobbs Taylor

Like Emeline, Lucy Hobbs Taylor was not content to give up on her dream of practicing dentistry. But at the time, dental programs were not admitting women. At least, not until Lucy came along.

After being denied entry into the Eclectic Medical College in Cincinnati, Dr. Taylor took her education into her own hands and reached out to the faculty for training. After studying under a supervisor from Eclectic Medical College, Lucy applied to the Ohio College of Dentistry. But because she was a woman, the college denied her entry. So again, she reached out to a member of the OCD’s faculty, Dr. Jonathon Taft to continue her education.

In 1861, Dr. Taylor opened her own practice in Cincinnati and began practicing dentistry. It was only then, after 7 years, that the Ohio College of Dental Surgery awarded her a DDS in 1866, making her the first woman to ever graduate from dental school.

Ida Gray

Born in Tennessee and orphaned as a child, Ida Gray quickly rose to prominence in the dental field. After moving to Ohio to live with her aunt, Dr. Gray took a job working in the dental office of Dr. Johnathon Taft (yep, the very same Jonathan Taft that tutored Lucy Hobbs Taylor!).

Under his tutelage, Ida was admitted to the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in 1887, graduating 3 years later with a DDS and became the first African American woman in the United States to do so!

M. Evangeline Jordan

Before Minnie, or “M” for short, started down the path toward dentistry, she worked as an elementary school teacher in California. So, it’s only natural that when she did discover a passion for oral healthcare, her efforts would be focused on children.

In 1909, M opened her own practice in the Los Angeles area and focused solely on the dental needs for children. She introduced ways to ease children’s fear of the dentist and became the first person to specialize in pediatric dentistry.

She also pioneered preventative care in children, publishing papers on the connection between diet and oral health and advocated for a healthier diet consisting of milk, whole grains, and vegetables. Sound familiar?

Jeanne C Sinkford

At the tender age of 16, Dr. Sinkford enrolled at Howard University. Originally pursing a degree in psychology and chemistry, Jeanne found her calling in dentistry and enrolled in Howard’s dental program.

After graduating, she went on to teach prosthodontics, work part time at her dental practice, and pursued a PhD in physiology at Northwestern. She rose up in the ranks, eventually chairing the prosthodontics department at Howard and completing a pediatric dentistry residency in 1975.

That same year, Dr. Sinkford was named the dean of the dental school at Howard University, becoming the first female dean at a US school of dentistry, where she remained for 16 years.

Kathleen O'Loughlin

In 2009, Dr. O’Loughlin was appointed the Executive Director of the American Dental Association, becoming the first woman to hold that position since its founding in 1859.

Before that, though, she had a rich career in the dental industry, graduating with her bachelor’s cum laude from Boston University in 1973 and a doctorate summa cum laude from Tufts in 1981. Currently, Dr. O’Loughlin holds faculty appointments at Tufts University and the University of Illinois at Chicago and previously served as president and CEO of Delta Dental of Massachusetts.

At the time of her acceptance as ADA’s executive director, Dr. O’Loughlin cited her father “who as a socially conscious practicing dentist was my role model and inspiration.” That inspiration continues today and her work as executive director has focused on improving public oral health in underserved communities.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

National Dentist's Day

Today is National Dentist's Day, an opportunity to spotlight regular dental cleanings and checkups. Dr. Cary Berdy talks about the importance of consistency in oral hygiene.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Candy and Cavities

Pediatric dentist and Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota Pediatric Dental Clinics, Dr. Dan Shaw, explains how sugar affects teeth and why some candy may actually be worse than others.