Can periodontal disease cause premature birth?

Several studies show that there is a link between periodontal disease in pregnant women and premature birth. What is the link and how can you protect yourself?

good oral health in pregnancySeveral epidemiological studies seem to support the theory that there is a link between periodontal disease in pregnant women and premature birth. For instance, one study suggested that pregnant women with periodontal disease are as much as seven times more likely to have babies that are born too early or have a relatively low birth weight.

Why does periodontal disease cause premature birth?

Although the connection between periodontal disease and premature birth seems clearly to be existing, researcher are still not certain about the reasons for this connection.

One theory is that periodontal disease triggers increased levels of the biological fluids that induce labor. In other words, the regulators that are supposed to send the message that birth is to begin are produced elsewhere in the body and the message is sent prematurely. Some of these regulators are called prostaglandins, and they can be produced by different diseases, among which is gum disease.

Another theory is that oral bacteria from the mother is transferred directly into the uterus, causing localized inflammation and adverse pregnancy outcome.

Maintain good oral health during pregnancy

Whatever the reason for the connection between gum disease and preterm birth, it is clear that it is crucial for pregnant mothers to maintain good oral hygiene through the whole pregnancy. Discomfort in connection with the pregnancy such as nausea may at times make it difficult to keep up the good oral hygiene habits from before the pregnancy, but with determination and good support from your dental health professional is it not impossible.

One advice that many pregnant mothers have benefitted from is to buy a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head. If you suffer from nausea, a smaller toothbrush will make it easier to reach the teeth in the back of your mouth without causing too much discomfort. The soft bristles will also be more gentle on your gums, which might be extra sore during your pregnancy.

Some pregnant mothers experience more serious dental health problems during pregnancy, such as bleeding gums, loose teeth and bad breath despite frequent brushing. If you experience such problems, you might benefit from a visit to your dentist or dental hygienist. They can help evaluate the condition of your gums, make you aware of areas that you need to pay more attention to and teach you how to care for your own oral health and thereby the health of your baby.

Help for those suffering from dry mouth

A dry mouth can cause much frustration and pain for those suffering from it. What causes dry mouth and what can you do about it?

Are you suffering from dry mouth?A dry mouth can cause much frustration and pain for those suffering from it, since your saliva is important for chewing, tasting, swallowing and speaking. Because saliva also contains enzymes that protect your teeth, dry mouth leads to an increased risk of cavities and other oral health problems such as bad breath. For those wearing dentures, a dry mouth can also affect the stability of the dentures, since saliva normally works as a natural adhesive.

There are many reasons why people suffer from dry mouth. Among the most common are:

  • Medicine: Many kinds of medicine have dry mouth as a side effect – e.g. diuretics, anti-depressives and muscle relaxants.
  • Depression, anxiety and nervousness often result in dry mouth.
  • Snoring at night or breathing through your mouth during the day dries out your mouth.
  • Ageing: Dry mouth often occurs naturally as you grow older.
  • De-hydration: Dry mouth can be a sign that you’re not drinking enough fluid.

Some of the most popular advice for relieving problems caused by dry mouth are:

Oral hygiene:

  • Make sure to brush your teeth after each meal in order to protect your teeth from caries.
  • Regular check-ups: Visit your dentist or dental hygienist often (e.g. every 3 months) for a check-up.

Stimulating saliva flow:

  • Chewing gum: Chewing gum increases your saliva flow. Just make sure the gum is SUGAR FREE. Some kinds of chewing gum even contain fluoride for extra protection.
  • Eat fresh pineapple or use a little lemon juice or vinegar on your food.
  • Drink fruit juice or water containing fresh lemon juice. When eating or drinking sour foods, make sure to rinse with water afterwards in order to protect your teeth from the acid.

Keep you mouth from drying out:

  • Always carry a bottle or a glass of water, so you can rinse your mouth often,
  • Drink a thin oatmeal soup.
  • Use artificial saliva or OraMoist Dry Mouth Patch.
  • Ask at your local farmacy for other remedies against dry mouth.

Avoid:

  • Smoking – tobacco dries out the mucous membranes.
  • Eating sour foods between meals in order to protect your teeth from the acid.

If you think your medicine might be the cause of your dry mouth, try speaking to your doctor about a possible change in medication. If there is nothing to be done about the causes of your dry mouth, mention the problem to your dentist or dental hygienist. They will be more than happy to give you advice.

Do you have the flu? Can you visit the dentist?

What if your flu coincides with an appointment at the dentist? Should you still go? Here are some things to consider before making your decision.

Hygienic standards protect against spreading the flu at the dentistIt is not uncommon for people to suffer from a flu several times every year. Common symptoms of respiratory infections and flus include sneezing, coughing, secretion from the nose, soar throat, stuffy nose and trouble breathing. Often, your whole body is affected and you will experience muscle pain, headaches, nausea and maybe even a fever. But what if your flu coincides with an appointment at the dentist? Should you still go? Here are some things to consider before making your decision:

Is it contagious?

It is probably no surprise to anyone that the flu is contagious. But what is the risk of spreading or contracting a flu in the dentist’s chair? In most countries there are laws requiring dentists to adhere to certain hygiene standards. According to these standards, dentists must desinfect the clinic and sterilize all instruments between each patient. Dentists will also in most cases choose to wear gloves, surgical masks and ‘glasses’ in order to protect both themselves and the patients. If these hygienic standards are followed, the risk of spreading viral and infectious diseases at the dental clinic is minimized. As a further precaution, the dentist can avoid using water spray and make sure to open the windows between patients.

In some cases – e.g. epidemics such as the swine flu – doctors might advise all patients to stay at home while suffering from the flu in order to avoid spreading the disease. This advice should be respected and the dentist will be understanding if you make sure to cancel your appointment as early as possible.

Can it be done?

Will it be possible for the dentist to examine you and/or treat you in your present condition? If you are having a cold or a flu, you might be suffering from a stuffy nose. During dental treatment you might not be able to breathe through your mouth. Consider, therefore, whether your condition will make it too difficult for the dentist to perform the needed treatment.

If you are still in doubt whether or not to visit the dentist with a flu, you can choose to call your dental office, explain your symptoms and ask their advice.

Are your teeth sensitive? What can you do?

If you suffer from sensitive teeth, you are not alone. Sensitive teeth is a very common problem, which affects most people now and then. Where does the pain come from and what can be done about it?

Are your teeth sensitive?If you suffer from sensitive teeth, you are not alone. Sensitive teeth is a very common problem, which affects most people now and then. Some only feel pain from their teeth when they eat something very cold or drink something very hot. For others the teeth are so sensitive, that even a cold wind on their teeth can be a very painful experience. Why are teeth sometimes sensitive and what can be done about it?

If you experience any kind of pain from your teeth, you should always consult your dentist to make sure that the pain is not caused by more serious problems such as cavities or periodontal disease. If your dentist has already ruled out these causes, you will probably be diagnosed with sensitive teeth. Teeth become sensitive when the nerve inside the tooth is stimulated. The nerve of the tooth does not distinguish between hot, cold or any other stimulus. In whatever way the nerve of your tooth is affected, it will feel the same: painful. Normally your tooth enamel offers the necessary protection and your teeth shouldn’t be sensitive to cold, warm, sweet or sour. When for some reason a part of your tooth is not protected by enamel, the result is sensitive teeth. There can be several reasons, why a person develops sensitive teeth:

Exposed tooth roots

Normally the crown of your tooth is protected by enamel and the root surfaces are protected by the gums. But sometimes the gum line recedes, leaving your root surface exposed and sensitive. This can happen if your brushing technique has been incorrect for a while:

  • Do you use a hard toothbrush?
  • Are you a little rough, when you brush?
  • Do you use circular movements or back-and-forward movements with your toothbrush, when you brush?

The correct technique for brushing your teeth is to use a medium soft toothbrush and not press it too hard against the gums. If the brushes on your toothbrush are bending outwards rather than standing straight, this is a sign that you need to be less rough. If your gums turn white while you brush on the edge between the teeth and the gums, this is another sign that you are using too much pressure. The correct brushing technique also involves small circular movements rather than straight movements back and forward across the teeth. Your dentist or dental hygienist can instruct you on the proper brushing technique.

Another common reason for exposed tooth roots is periodontal disease, which causes the bone and the gum to recede. Gums that have receded cannot return to their place, so it is important to prevent them from receding in the first place.

Worn teeth

Teeth that are worn can be very sensitive as well. Some people grind or clench their teeth, when they are stressed or while they sleep. Teeth grinding wears down the teeth and makes them sensitive. The first layer to be worn off is the enamel. When the enamel is gone, the next layer (called dentine) is exposed. Dentine is not as hard as the enamel and does not offer the same protection. This might cause your teeth to become sensitive.

Cracked teeth

If your teeth are sensitive, but there are no exposed root surfaces or signs of wear, the reason might be a crack in the tooth. Most people have small cracks in their teeth and never feel pain from them. For others, even a tiny crack can make a tooth extremely sensitive.

What can be done?

Proper oral hygiene is a must in order to treat your sensitive teeth. Learn how to brush properly and thoroughly without causing damage to your teeth and gums. Even if your gums have already receded, keeping the root surfaces plaque free is an important step toward making them pain free. If the root surfaces are covered in plaque, they will be more sensitive, since the plaque produces acid which etches away on the root surface. If, on the other hand, the root surface is clean, the surface will be able to create a protective layer and will be less sensitive.

Use the right toothpaste

Toothpaste containing fluoride helps protect your teeth. The fluoride combines with the calcium in your saliva to ‘harden’ the surface of your teeth. Some people even find it very helpful to leave a layer of toothpaste on the sensitive spots on their teeth after they have brushed.

It is also possible to buy desensitizing toothpastes, which help block transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve.

What the dentist can do

If the more simple measures mentioned above do not work, your dentist might be able to help you in other ways. A fluoride gel can be applied in the clinic or a hard sealer (usually made of a plastic material) can be applied over the sensitive part of your tooth in order to protect it mechanically. If you have a very sensitive root surface, which has also become concave from brushing, a filling can be laid which will offer protection and make the tooth less sensitive.

It is worth noting, however, that if your brushing technique continues to be incorrect, neither varnishes nor fillings will last very long before you have brushed them away and your teeth are sensitive again.

If the reason for your sensitive teeth is wear from grinding or clenching your teeth, you might need to think about why you have this habit. If the reason is stress, consider doing something about the stress. If it is just a bad habit and it is not possible to stop, you can have your dentist make a mouth guard. A mouth guard will not take away your habit, but it will at least protect your teeth from being worn and increasingly sensitive from it.

Other more radical measures against sensitive teeth is capping of the tooth or even root canal therapy, which takes out the nerve of the tooth and puts and end to the pain altogether.

Bad breath – causes and solutions!

Bad breath is hard to talk about but not so hard to cure. Why do people have bad breath and what can be done about it?

Bad breath causes and solutionsBad breath is a big problem for many and is still a big taboo in most places. It is a pity that bad breath is so hard to talk about, because it is not very hard to do something about. This article will deal with two questions concerning bad breath: Why do people have bad breath and what can be done about it?

Why do I have bad breath?

Many people are convinced that their bad breath comes from their stomach, but recent research has proved that most cases of bad breath are caused by germs on the surface of the tongue. In fact, it is estimated that germs on the tongue account for as much as 90% of all cases of bad breath. Simply put, the germs release gases that cause the bad smell. If you examine your own tongue in the mirror you will discover that it’s surface is actually very rough. Especially the area near the root of your tongue is a perfect breeding ground for the germs that cause bad breath.

Another connection between germs and bad breath is that germs can build up as plaque and eventually cause gum disease (periodontitis) and cavities. Plaque in itself can cause bad breath, but especially periodontitis and cavities can cause a very bad smell from the mouth because of the kind of germs that live in cavities and deep periodontal pockets.

Tonsil stones (or tonsilloliths) are yet another reason why some people suffer from bad breath. Tonsil stones are whitish/yellow little lumps that sometimes accumulate in the small pits on the surface of your tonsils. The lumps consist of sulfur-producing bacteria and debris from your mouth and nose and they can both taste and smell bad.

What can be done about bad breath?

If your bad breath is caused by plaque, you will need to work harder on your dental hygiene. Maybe you already brush your teeth at least twice a day or even more often – but are you thorough enough? Do you make sure to brush every surface of all your teeth (even the difficult-to-reach ones in the back of your mouth) or do you tend to brush the same few teeth every time?

If your bad breath is caused by cavities or periodontitis you will need to see your dentist for treatment. These problems cannot be solved by improving your oral hygiene alone. Your dentist or dental hygienist will probably also advise you on how to maintain a high standard of oral hygiene and how to avoid bad breath in the future. You can talk openly to your dentist or dental hygienist about your bad breath. It is their profession to deal with these things and there are no taboos in the dental clinic.

If your teeth are already healthy and your dental hygiene is good but you still suffer from bad breath, you might need to start cleaning your tongue as well. Your tongue can be cleaned by brushing it with your toothbrush. If brushing your tongue with your toothbrush makes you gag, you could try to use a tongue scraper which is especially designed for cleaning the tongue and treating bad breath.

If you see little white lumps or tonsil stones on your tonsils and you think they are the cause of your bad breath, you might be able to squeeze them out by pressing a finger or a Q-tip against the bottom of the tonsil and pushing upward. If your gag reflex prevents you from sticking fingers or Q-tips in your throat, the tonsil stones might be removed if you simply flex your throat and swallow. If you are not successful at any of these methods, your dentist can help you.

Hopefully the advice in this article can help you do something about your bad breath. Do not accept bad breath as part of your life. It might be a sign that something is wrong or – to look on the bright side – it might be a surprisingly easy problem to solve!

Smoking and periodontal disease – what’s the connection?

Although dental hygiene is a must in order to avoid periodontal disease, there are some factors that increase the risk. Among these is smoking. Some studies suggest that the risk of developing periodontal disease is up to 11 times higher for smokers than for non-smokers. But why is it so?

tooth-healthy-medical-illustration

Periodontal disease is a very common problem, which most people will suffer from at some point in their lives. Although dental hygiene is a must in order to avoid periodontal disease, there are some factors that increase the risk. Among these is smoking. Some studies suggest that the risk of developing periodontal disease is up to 11 times higher for smokers than for non-smokers. But why is it so?

Smoking and your gums

One reason that smoking is a risk factor for developing periodontal disease is that nicotine makes the blood vessels in the gum tissue constrict, which reduces the amount of oxygen in the area. Without oxygen for the cells, the body’s ability to defend itself against bacterial infection is reduced.

Nicotine and cytokines

Another effect of nicotine is that it triggers an over-production of immune factors called cytokines, which can be harmful to cells and tissue. When nicotine is combined with certain oral bacteria, the cytokines multiply and become even more harmful to the oral tissues.

Makes periodontal disease ‘invisible’

Another tricky thing about smoking and periodontal disease is that the effect of nicotine can make the periodontal disease ‘invisible’. The constriction of the blood vessels results in less bleeding from the gums. Since bleeding gums are normally an indicator for periodontal disease, the disease might not be discovered as easily. It is therefore vital that your dentist makes a thorough examination of your gums and measures your gingival pockets regularly in order to get an exact idea of your periodontal status.

Other kinds of smoking

The impact of cigar, pipe and waterpipe smoking is largely the same as that of cigarette smoking. Passive smoking is also thought to increase the risk of periodontal disease, although not by as much as ‘active’ smoking. Since nicotine gum also constricts the blood vessels in the mouth, there has been speculations that nicotine gum might also be a risk factor in developing periodontal disease. No studies have confirmed these speculations yet, though.

Effect on treatment prognosis

Apart from being a risk factor for developing periodontal disease, smoking also negatively affects the prognosis of treating periodontal disease. Because of the effect of the nicotine, the gum tissues do not heal as well for smoker as for non-smokers. Many dentists and dental hygienists will therefore offer advice on how to quit smoking as part of their treatment plan for periodontal disease.

Oral cancer – the risk factors

Oral cancer is a cancer form which is often overlooked. Nonetheless, this form of cancer is the largest group within the cancers in the head and neck region. It is also a form of cancer which is on the increase. Read more about the risk factors here…

oral cancer mouthOral cancer (cancer located in the mouth, tongue or throat) is a cancer form which is often overlooked. Nonetheless, this form of cancer is the largest group within the cancers in the head and neck region. It is also a form of cancer which is on the increase. Knowledge about the risk factors that might lead to oral cancer is essential in order to prevent and fight this serious disease. This article will list the factors that are most commonly accepted as risk factors for developing oral cancer:

Tobacco

Smoking is a leading risk factor for developing oral cancer. The use of tobacco affects and causes changes in all of the cells that are exposed to the smoke. Both the entire oral cavity, lungs and larynx are therefore at risk of developing cancer.

Smokeless tobacco

Smokeless tobacco in the form of chewing or spit tobacco has in some places been advocated as a low-risk form of tobacco use because it does not cause lung cancer. But when it comes to oral cancer, the risk of developing cancer is not less. To the contrary, smokeless tobacco has been identified as a risk factor in developing oral cancer as well as pancreatic cancer as well as several other oral diseases.

Alcohol

Alcohol abuse (defined as more than 21 standard drinks in one week) is a large risk factor for developing oral cancer. When alcohol abuse is combined with tobacco, the risk of developing oral cancer increases by 15 times. It seems that alcohol and tobacco works together synergistically in the development of cancer, possibly because the alcohol weakens the cells’ natural defense system against the effects of tobacco.

Virus

The human papilloma virus, especially version 16, is a sexually transmitted virus which has recently been proved to be a risk factor for developing oral cancer. It might even be replacing tobacco as the main causative agent for developing oral cancer in patients under the age of 50.

Radiation

Ultraviolet light (e.g. from excessive exposure to sunlight) is a risk factor in the development of lip cancer. With the increase in knowledge of the damaging effects of excessive sunbathing, this form of cancer is on the decrease. X-rays are another source of radiation. The small doses of x-rays used in the dental clinic normally do not pose a risk. It is worth to remember, though, that radiation exposure is accumulative over a lifetime and should not be taken too lightly.

Nutrition

Some studies indicate that a diet low on vegetables and fruit might be a risk factor in developing oral cancer. In contrast a diet rich on fruit and vegetables may offer protection against many types of cancer.

You can read more facts about oral cancer on www.oralcancer.org

Dental health and your teeth

Dental hygiene dental care beautiful teethYou eat with them. You speak with them. You smile with them. In fact, you spend most of your life with them. What are they? Your teeth.

As long as they don’t cause you pain or problems, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about your teeth. They are, however, a very important member of your body and deserve your care and attention.

Good dental health starts early in your life with good habits for dental hygiene and regular visits at the dentist. Dental health, though, has nothing to do with how many fillings you have or how many (or few) teeth you have left. Dental health is about the condition of your teeth and gums right here and now. Even a mouth with only very few teeth can be healthy, if good dental hygiene is maintained. At the same time a mouth full of pearly-white teeth can be diseased and unhealthy if for some reason the oral hygiene is suffering.

This website has been established to help you achieve and/or maintain good dental health. If you treat your teeth well, they will be your loyal partners for life.

A nutritious diet for healthy teeth

Your diet has a greater influence on your dental health than most people realise. Everyone knows that too much sugar combined with poor dental hygiene causes cavities. But your diet’s influence on your oral health goes far beyond this and started already before you were born.

A healthy diet means healthy and strong teethYour diet has a greater influence on your dental health than most people realise. Everyone knows that too much sugar combined with poor dental hygiene causes cavities. But your diet’s influence on your oral health goes far beyond this and started already before you were born.

While the teeth are formed

Already during pregnancy it is important that the mother gets the recommended amount of minerals and vitamins through her diet in order for the teeth of her baby to develop properly. The fetus starts to form teeth already in the 8th week after fertilization and from the fourth month they develop continually.

At birth, most of the crowns of the teeth are mineralized, although they will not be visible in the mouth untill about 6 months later. After the child is born the roots of the teeth continue to develop and the need for a proper diet thus continues. In fact, the forming of the teeth does not end before age 18, when the wisdom teeth normally erupt.

Diet and the development of muscles and jaws

Developing teeth not only need nourishment for mineralizing. Your diet is also important for the development of your oral muscles and the growth of your jaws. More and more children need braces because their jaws have not grown enough to make room for the erupting teeth. This happens when the child eats too much soft food that does not require much chewing. Hard vegetables and coarse-grained foods are very beneficial for the development of a child’s muscles and jaws.

Your diet and cavities

Cavities are the result of a combination of plaque and sugar. Plaque is a layer of bacteria that is formed automatically within a short time after you brush your teeth and which will continue to build up untill you brush them again. Plaque in itself does not cause cavities. It is only when sugar is added to the plaque, that the bacteria in the plaque start to produce the acid which breaks down the tooth. At the same time sugar alone does not cause cavities if there is no plaque on the teeth. Since it is normally not possible to keep your mouth 100% plaque free, it is important to be aware of the amount of sugar you take in through your diet. It is especially the sugary snacks in between meals that damage your teeth. If you are constantly adding sugar to your plaque, your teeth will be under a constant acid attack. Your mouth needs a break between meals so that your saliva can neutralise the acid and restore the natural balance in your mouth.

If you are in the habit of snacking between meals, consider eating sugar free candy or chewing gum. Be aware that many ‘healthy’ snacks such as fresh or dried fruit and biscuits also contain sugar, although in a less unhealthy form than the refined sugar in cakes and candy. Vegetables (especially carrots) are the least ‘damaging’ snacks, since they contain very little natural sugar.

Give your teeth a break

Also try to limit your consumption of sugary and/or sour beverages. A bottle of soda or juice can often last for hours if you are only sipping from it now and then. This habit is very damaging to your teeth, though. Research has shown that it normally takes around 20 minutes for your mouth to restore it’s natural acid balance after you have eaten. This means that if you are snacking all through the day e.g. by eating candy of drinking softdrinks, the acidity in your mouth will be constantly out of balance and your teeth will be under constant attack. Instead of quenching your thirst with sugary drinks, consider a more healthy alternative such as milk or water.

Brush!

If you absolutely need your sugary snacks and beverages, remember that cavities arise from a combination of sugar AND plaque. A clean tooth will not develop a cavity, so remember to brush your teeth completely clean at least two times per day.