Complete Family Dentistry Blog - Waukesha , WI
Posts for: March, 2012
Periodontal (gum) disease, though it may be invisible to everyone but your dentist, can have a powerful effect on your entire body. Not only is it dangerous to your teeth and jaws, but it can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke, cause preterm births in pregnant women, and affect blood sugar control in diabetics.
Diabetics are our subject for today. Symptoms of diabetes include abnormally high levels of glucose (a form of sugar) in the blood, leading to frequent urination, excessive thirst, blurred vision, unexplained weight loss, and loss of energy. The disease can also cause severe complications in various parts of the body.
Normally, glucose, your body's main energy source, is kept under control by a hormone called insulin, which is made by an organ called the pancreas. In type 1 diabetes, a person's pancreas does not produce enough insulin to deal with all the glucose in his or her blood. In type 2 diabetes — a condition related to increased age, physical inactivity, overweight, and heredity — the pancreas may produce enough insulin, but the body is not able to use it effectively. This condition is called insulin resistance.
People with type 1 diabetes need insulin to survive. Type 2 may be treated with exercise, diet, medications, and insulin supplements.
Serious complications of diabetes range from kidney failure, blindness, and nerve damage to infections that do not heal, gangrene and amputation of limbs.
Diabetes and periodontal disease seem to have reciprocal effects on each other. Diabetics are more likely to have periodontal disease than non-diabetics; and those with periodontal disease are likely to face worsening blood sugar control over time.
Periodontal disease (from “peri”, meaning around and “odont”, meaning tooth), is caused by dental plaque — a film of bacteria that settles on your teeth and gums every day. It's what you remove with daily brushing and flossing. Any bacteria that remain cause inflammation, which can lead in the worst cases to loss of bone and eventual loss of teeth.
The close relationship of diabetes and periodontal disease probably results from changes in the function of immune cells responsible for healing. Inflammation is a part of normal wound healing — but chronic or prolonged inflammation can destroy the tissues it was meant to heal. This may be a major factor in the destructive complications of diabetes.
Many of these complications begin in the blood vessels. Like the eyes and the kidneys, gum tissues are rich in blood vessels. Gum tissues are also under constant attack from bacteria. If you are a diabetic, effective plaque control, along with regular professional dental cleaning, can have positive effects not only on periodontal disease, but also on control of your blood glucose level.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about periodontal disease and its connections with diabetes. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Diabetes & Periodontal Disease.”
There's a lot to like about dental implants, today's state-of-the-art tooth-replacement system. We consider them the best choice for replacing missing teeth because implants are:
You may not realize this, but when a tooth is missing, the bone underneath it begins to melt away. That's because bone needs constant stimulation to rebuild itself and stay healthy, and it receives this stimulation from teeth. It's a delicate balance that's disrupted by the loss of even one tooth. Because implants are made of biocompatible titanium, they actually fuse to the bone and prevent bone loss.
The fusion of implant to bone is an extremely solid connection. Not only does it offer a strong replacement for a missing tooth, but it can also offer support to other tooth-replacement methods such as fixed bridges or dentures. By themselves, these other methods would not preserve bone and might even hasten its loss in the case of dentures. But with implants, bone-loss is prevented — as is embarrassing and uncomfortable slippage of dentures.
When you receive your implant, it is left alone for a few months to complete the fusion process described above. Then it is topped with a crown made of a realistic tooth-like material. The result is so convincing as a tooth replacement, only you and your dentist may be able to tell it's not a natural tooth.
Dental implants have an amazing success rate — over 97%. And once they fuse to the jawbone, they should never need replacement. In fact, they will likely outlast the crowns to which they are attached, but this is not a problem. Implant crowns are precision components that detach for easy replacement, should the need arise.
Implants have a higher initial cost than other forms of tooth replacement, but when you consider how long they last, they are very economical. Consider it an investment in your health, appearance and self-confidence.
You can read more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”
Important Dental Tips for Children Ages 0-3
Zero to Six Months
The Big Picture
When a new baby is born, the mother is usually overwhelmed with her new responsibilities. There are three important things to remember at this stage.
At about 6 months of age, the mother should ask her baby's doctor about fluoride supplements for the baby. Depending on the amount of fluoride in the drinking water and whether the mother is breast-feeding or bottle-feeding, the doctor may prescribe fluoride drops or a vitamin-fluoride combination for the baby. The fluoride actually affects the baby teeth and the permanent teeth while they are forming to make them stronger and more resistant to cavities. All prescriptions of fluoride should be followed through with because fluoride ingested at this age can prevent cavities later. If the drinking water is not fluoridated - or if the family uses bottled water for drinking and cooking - these supplements should be continued until the child is 16 years old and all of the permanent teeth are formed.
Preventing "Early Childhood Cavities"
The second important thing to remember with a newborn baby is to NOT put them to bed with a bottle. It is MUCH easier never to start this bad habit than it is to stop it when the baby teeth start coming in. Letting a baby sleep with a bottle - or nurse continuously, if breast-feeding - can cause serious dental cavities, called "Early Childhood Cavities." It is important to note that while many experts agree that breast-feeding is healthier for your baby, breast milk can cause Early Childhood Cavities just as whole milk or formula can.
Early Childhood Cavities are characterized by a unique pattern of decay beginning with the upper front teeth, and followed by the primary molars, in order of eruption. This disease can result in cavities, pain, tooth loss, infections, and loss of sleep.
Cleaning Baby's Gums
The third message for this age group is to instruct caregivers to clean their babies' gums daily. After feedings, the caregiver should use a clean, damp washcloth, finger cot or gauze square to gently wipe baby's gums and tongue. If the baby has teeth before six months, be sure to clean them too. Mother's Oral Health is Still Important It's also important for the mother to continue caring for her own teeth, for her own sake and her baby's health. New research shows that the more unfilled cavities a mother has, the more cavity-causing germs she has. These cavity-causing germs can be passed on to baby by daily contact such as sharing food and letting baby stick her fingers in her mother's mouth. This is yet another reason to have any cavities filled. To remember: 1. Clean baby's gums daily 2. Avoid putting baby to bed with a bottle 3. ask your doctor or dentist about fluoride supplements.
Six to Eighteen Months
The Big Picture
At about 6 months of age, the baby teeth begin to erupt. The last baby tooth comes in at about 24 months of age.
The Importance of Baby Teeth
Many people don't understand how important baby teeth are. Healthy baby teeth are needed for biting and chewing, which affects the nutrition of young children. Children who have their front teeth extracted early because of Early Childhood Cavities have trouble eating fresh fruit, meat, and vegetables. These are important foods! Baby teeth also hold space for the permanent teeth. If the baby teeth are lost early because of cavities, permanent teeth may come in crooked. Baby teeth are also needed for speaking clearly. Children who do not speak clearly may not do as well in school.
Preventing Early Childhood Cavities
At 6-12 months of age, babies should begin drinking from a sippee cup. Most children begin reaching for things at this age and that makes it a perfect time to introduce a drinking cup. At 12-14 months, babies should be weaned from the bottle.
Caring for Baby's Teeth
When baby's first teeth come in, they should be cleaned daily. Caregivers should use a soft, child-sized toothbrush or a clean, damp washcloth to gently clean the teeth and gums. But in every case, once the baby reached the age of three, it's time for the first dental checkup! Caregivers should also be encouraged to lift baby's lip and check for cavities. Cavities at this age would look like small white or brown spots. If baby has suspicious spots on her teeth, a dental appointment should be scheduled immediately. If these cavities are discovered in their earliest stages, the treatment should be minor.
1. Serve juice/milk in a sippee cup (at 6 months)
2. Avoid letting baby walk around with a bottle
3. Wean baby from the bottle at 12-14 months
4. Clean baby's teeth daily
5. Visit the dentist for a checkup at three years
The Big Picture
Toddlers should be off the bottle by now. Caregivers who have not yet weaned their babies from the bottle need to be warned that their children may develop serious cavities if they continue using a bottle. These families should be instructed to continue to check for signs of early cavities by lifting the baby's lip to check teeth. Early cavities are white or brownish spots. If the caregiver sees brown or white spots on the teeth, the child should see a dentist immediately.
Children this age usually snack often. Sweet and starchy snacks like chips and crackers should be limited. Constant snacking on sweet or starchy foods can cause cavities. Each time baby drinks soda pop or eats sweet or starchy foods, there is a 20 minute "acid attack" on the teeth. Constant snacking causes cavities because the slowly-eaten snack creates a longer "acid attack" on the teeth.
Caregivers should continue daily brushing of their babies' teeth in the morning and at night, before bedtime. Use a small "pea-sized" dab of fluoride toothpaste on the brush as soon as the child is able to spit out. At this stage, children can also try to begin brushing their own teeth, but caregivers will definitely need to help the child. Most children do not have the coordination to brush effectively by themselves until they are six-to-eight years old.
1. Limit the number of times toddler eats snacks each day
2. Brush toddler's teeth after breakfast and before bedtime
Common Questions and Answers
Can I transmit periodontal/gum disease to my baby?
Yes. Cavity-causing germs can be transmitted through contact - like when baby puts hands in your mouth, and then in his/her own mouth. That's why it's so important to keep you own teeth and gums healthy.
Is it ok if my child sucks his/her thumb?
Thumbsucking is normal for infants; most stop on their own by age 2. If your child continues, try to discourage it by age 4. Thumbsucking beyond age 4 can lead to crooked, crowded teeth and/or bite problems.
Is it ok for my baby to use a pacifier?
Yes, but don't dip it in sugar, honey or sweetened liquid. In addition: Try to have your child give up the pacifier by age 2. Keep in mind that while a pacifier and thumbsucking create no health difference for the child, a pacifier may be a better choice because it can be easier to wean child from a pacifier than from thumbsucking.
When should I start cleaning my baby's teeth/gums?
Begin cleaning baby's gums within the first few days of birth. This gets baby used to having his/her mouth feel clean. Daily brushing should begin once the first tooth has erupted, but continue to clean and massage gums where there are no teeth yet.
What is the best way to brush a toddler's teeth?
Use a small, soft-bristled brush. Use a circular or wiggling motion on all tooth surface, especially where the tooth meets the gumline. Once your toddler is able to spit out, use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste on the brush. Families should ask their dentist to demonstrate during the child's dental visit.
When should I start using fluoride toothpaste for my child?
When your child is able to spit. Fluoride is safe and necessary to keep teeth strong, but only at appropriate levels. Younger toddlers tend to swallow toothpaste in excess amounts, and this may lead to fluorosis, which causes discoloration of the teeth.
I use bottled water at home, and it's not fluoridated. Is this ok?
If you use bottled water for drinking and cooking, or if your community water is not fluoridated -be sure to tell your doctor or dentist. They may prescribe fluoride supplements for the baby.
Your smile is one of the first things people notice, but if your pearly whites have lost their luster, chances are you might be hesitant to show them. As we age, our teeth naturally darken, and certain substances can leave teeth stained or discolored, making you appear older. One easy way to turn back the clock is to have your teeth whitened; a safe, painless, and non-invasive way of achieving a young, healthy-looking smile.
Causes of Tooth Discoloration: Exposure to high-levels of fluoride and taking tetracycline antibiotics during childhood can stain the teeth's structure. Smoking cigarettes and using chewing tobacco can also cause tooth discoloration, as well as foods containing tannins such as red wine, coffee and tea. In addition, poor brushing techniques and not flossing regularly cause bacteria to build on teeth resulting in yellow stains.
The Whitening Process: Our office can help you to achieve a brighter smile using either an in-office procedure or an at-home whitening kit. We can help determine the best treatment for your budget, time frame and individual needs. If you choose to have professional whitening done in our office, we will utilize a prescription strength gel sometimes even activated by a concentrated light source. This procedure offers immediate and long-lasting results in less than an hour. After a single treatment, teeth are typically six to ten shades lighter and with proper maintenance, can last five years or longer.
At-Home Results: For those seeking more gradual results, another option is to use custom-fit trays, which our office will make for you to use at home to whiten your teeth. This is generally less expensive, and is very effective at lightening teeth several shades, although it may take a week or longer to see optimal results.
Choosing the Best Procedure: For some people, teeth whitening may not offer adequate results. If you have thin enamel, chipped, uneven or crooked teeth, we may recommend applying porcelain veneers to restore your damaged teeth. Veneers are bonded to the front of teeth to give your smile a straighter, more uniform appearance.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss any questions you may have regarding teeth whitening. Read more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Teeth Whitening: Brighter, Lighter, Whiter.”