Action steps to prevent gum disease

Gum disease is a major cause of tooth loss in adults but it can be prevented or reversed if you take the right steps.

Its caused by plaque a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. These bacteria create toxins that can damage the gums.

However, you can help avoid gum disease by caring properly for your teeth and having regular dental checkups. These are some steps you can take to keep your teeth and gums healthy:

Brush your teeth well twice a day: This removes the film of bacteria from the teeth. Be sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush that is in good condition. Toothpastes and mouth rinses containing fluoride strengthen the teeth and help prevent decay.

Clean between your teeth every day: You need to remove the bacteria and food particles that a toothbrush can’t reach so you should clean between your teeth with floss or interdental cleaners every day. Your dentist will show you how to do this properly without injuring your gums.

Even if you already have early stage gum disease, it can often be reversed by daily brushing and flossing.

Eat a balanced diet: A good diet based on a variety of foods from the basic food groups, such as grain products; fruits; vegetables; meat, poultry and fish; and dairy products will help your teeth. Its also a good idea to limit snacks between meals.

Visit your dentist regularly: To prevent gum disease, its important to have regular dental checkups and professional cleaning.

Taking the right steps will help you avoid gum disease and can even reverse it if you catch it in the early stages.

The power of panormaic x-rays

X-rays are extremely valuable for helping dentists identify issues that may not show up on normal oral examination.

The three most common types of dental X-rays are the bitewing, periapical and panoramic X-rays.

Panoramic X-rays give a broad overview of the entire mouth – supplying information about the teeth, upper and lower jawbone, sinuses, and other hard and soft tissues of the head and neck.

Unlike other X-rays, where the film is placed inside the patients mouth, the panoramic film is contained in a machine that moves around the patient’s head. So they are very easy to use.

Panoramic X-rays are often used to check wisdom teeth but they will also reveal deep cavities and gum disease. They are also useful to help patients with past or present jaw problems or those who require full or partial removable dentures, dental implants, or braces.

They can also be valuable in assisting people who are suspected of having oral cancer or have had recent trauma to the face or teeth.

Panoramic X-rays play an important role in thorough dental examinations and are recommended at least every five years or so for most patients.

The facts about oral cancer

Oral cancer is not as well known as other types of cancer but it can represent a life-threatening risk if not identified early.

– It strikes an estimated 35,000 Americans each year
– More than 7,500 people (5,200 men and 2,307 women) die of these cancers each year
– More than 25% of Americans who get oral cancer will die of the disease
– On average, only half of those diagnosed with the disease will survive more than five years
– African-Americans are especially vulnerable; the incidence rate is 1/3 higher than whites and the mortality rate is almost twice as high

Although the use of tobacco and alcohol are risk factors in developing oral cancer, approximately 25% of oral cancer patients have no known risk factors.

There has been a nearly five-fold increase in incidence in oral cancer patients under age 40, many with no known risk factors.

The incidence of oral cancer in women has increased significantly, largely due to an increase in women smoking. In 1950 the male to female ratio was 6:1; by 2002, it was 2:1.

The best way to prevent oral cancer is to avoid tobacco and alcohol use.

Unusual red or white spots can form in and around the mouth. These are often harmless but they can be cancerous or pre-cancerous.

Identifying and removing these early enough is a major factor in reducing the incidence of cancer.

So knowing the risk factors and seeing your dentist for regular examinations can help prevent this deadly disease.

Your saliva and why its so important

You probably don’t give too much thought to the saliva in your mouth but, if you think of it like a bloodstream you’ll realize how important it is.

Like blood, saliva helps build and maintain the health of the soft and hard tissues.

It removes waste products from the mouth and offers first-line protection against microbial invasion that might lead to disease.

Saliva is derived from blood and therefore can also be used to detect disease.

Saliva enhances enamel protection by providing high levels of calcium and phosphate ions. It contains the minerals that maintain the integrity of the enamel surface and helps protect against caries.

When salivary flow is reduced, oral health deteriorates – much in the same way body tissues suffer if blood circulation is disrupted.

Patients with dry mouths (xerostomia) experience difficulty chewing, speaking and swallowing. A major cause of dry mouth is medication – almost eighty percent of the most commonly prescribed medications lead to dry mouth.

Chewing gum after a snack or meal stimulates salivary flow, clearing food from the mouth and neutralizing plaque acid.

Your saliva is important to your oral health both for preventing disease and in helping to diagnose problems.

Maintaining proper nutrition as an older adult

Maintaining proper nutrition is important for everyone, young or old but many older adults find it difficult to eat a balanced diet.

They may avoid meats, raw vegetables and fresh fruits because they have trouble chewing or swallowing.

These problems can be caused by painful teeth, ill-fitting dentures, dry mouth or changes in facial muscles.

Others find their sense of taste has changed, sometimes due to a disease or certain medications.

As a result, older adults often have diets lacking in calcium, protein and other nutrients essential to dental and overall health.

A balanced diet has to be based on the five food groups:
– Milk and dairy products
– Breads and cereals
– Meats and dried beans
– Fruits
– Vegetables

Sometimes a multi-vitamin or mineral supplement will help but its best to use supplements only after discussion with your physician.

If your teeth are stopping you from eating the food you enjoy or that you need for good health your dentist will be able to help you find a solution.

How sugar in your diet affects your teeth

The sugar content in the food you eat has a big effect on your teeth and gums.

When bacteria (plaque) come into contact with sugar in the mouth, acid is produced, which attacks the teeth for 20 minutes or more. This can eventually result in tooth decay.

Thats why drinking sugar-filled sodas, sweetened fruit drinks, and non-nutritious snacks can take a toll on teeth.

This is particularly true for children as their eating patterns and food choices affect how quickly they develop tooth decay.

Foods that contain sugars of any kind can contribute to tooth decay. However, almost all foods, including milk or vegetables, have some type of sugar. Many of them also contain important nutrients that are an important part in our diet.

To help control the amount of sugar you consume, read food labels and choose foods and beverages that are low in added sugars. Soft drinks,candy, cookies and pastries often contain added sugars.

Common mouth sores: causes and cures

Mouth sores can be very annoying and painful and can have many causes.

The causes can range from infections – bacterial, viral or fungal – to a loose orthodontic wire or a denture that doesn’t fit or a sharp edge from a broken tooth or filling.

But mouth sores may be symptoms of an underlying disease or problem.

So, if you’ve had any mouth sore that lasts a week or longer, its a good idea to get your dentist to check it out.

Here are some of the most common mouth sores:

Canker sores: These are small ulcers with a white or gray base and a red border. They appear inside the mouth and are not contagious though they often return. Problems such as poor immune systems, viruses or fatigue and stress may be involved. They usually heal on their own after a week or two.

Cold sores: Cold sores are annoying and painful. They are also known as fever blisters or Herpes simplex and are groups of fluid-filled blisters. They often erupt around the lips and sometimes under the nose or around the chin. Cold sores caused by herpes virus type 1 are very contagious and the virus stays in the body. Cold sore blisters usually heal in a week by themselves.

Candidiasis: This fungal infection (also called moniliasis or oral thrush) occurs when the yeast Candida albicans reproduce in large numbers. It is common among denture wearers and people who have dry mouth syndrome are very susceptible to it. The focus is on preventing it or controlling the conditions that caused the outbreak.

Any mouth sores that last more than a few days should be checked with your dentist.

You might have gum disease without even knowing it

Gum disease also known as periodontal disease – is an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth and its a major cause of tooth loss in adults.

But its usually painless so you may not even know you have it.

Its caused by plaque a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. These bacteria create toxins that can damage the gums.

The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. In this stage, the gums can become red, swollen and bleed easily. At this stage, you can usually still reverse the disease by daily brushing and flossing.

The more advanced stage of gum disease is known as periodontitis. At this stage, the gums and bone that support the teeth can become seriously damaged. The teeth may then become loose, fall out or have to be removed by a dentist.

Its therefore very important to look out for any signs of gum disease. These signs include:

– Gums that bleed when you brush your teeth
– Red, swollen or tender gums
– Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
– Bad breath that doesn’t go away
– Pus between your teeth and gums
– Loose teeth
– Change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
– Change in the fit of partial dentures

If you notice any of these signs, contact you dentist quickly and theyll help you take action to make improvements.

Solving the problem of bad breath

Bad breath – which is also known as halitosis – is a worrying problem that can also be embarrassing.

But theres no need to put up with it. If you suffer from bad breath, your dentist will be able to suggest a range of solutions.

Your dentist will be able to spot problems such as gum disease, dry mouth or other disorders. Thats why its important to maintain good oral hygiene, schedule regular visits to the dentist and have professional cleaning.

Make sure you brush your teeth twice a day and clean between your teeth each day using floss or interdental cleaners. Don’t forget to brush your tongue, too!

If your dental check up shows that your mouth is healthy, your dentist may refer you to your family physician as sometimes bad breath can be a sign of other health problems.

If the odor is due to periodontal (gum) disease, sometimes professional periodontal cleaning is needed to remove the bacteria and plaque that accumulate. And your dentist may recommend a special antimicrobial mouth rinse.

Keeping your mouth healthy and stopping periodontal disease are essential to reducing bad breath.

So make sure you schedule regular dental visits for a professional cleaning and checkup.

How braces can be made to look good

Orthodontic appliances such as braces can be used to help straighten out crooked and crowded teeth.

This is not just about looking better; it also helps improve your dental health.

How they look may determine how you feel about wearing them but, these days, braces can be as inconspicuous as you want.

Brackets the part of the braces that attaches to each tooth can sometimes be attached to the back of the tooth, making them less noticeable.

The brackets can be made in a wide range of different materials such as metal, ceramic or plastic.

They can also be designed to look appealing. For example, they may be clear or tooth-colored. There can also be shaped in a variety of ways like hearts and footballs or created in favorite colors.

You could even go for gold-plated braces or glow-in-the-dark retainers!