Things to look out for during pregnancy

Every woman wants to maintain their own health during pregnancy and to take whatever steps are necessary to give the baby the best possible start.

There are a few factors in your oral health to look out for during this time.

One consideration is that its common for pregnant women to have the urge to eat between meals. The risk is that frequent snacking on carbohydrate-containing foods can encourage tooth decay.

Bacteria in your mouth called plaque can convert the sugar and starch in your mouth into an acid that attacks tooth enamel. After repeated attacks, tooth decay can result.

So, when you need a snack, try to choose foods that are nutritious for you and your baby such as raw fruits and vegetables and dairy products.

During pregnancy, your bodys hormone levels rise considerably. Gum problems, such as gingivitis, are especially common during the second to eighth months of pregnancy. They may cause red, puffy or tender gums that bleed when you brush.

This is an exaggerated response to plaque caused by higher levels of progesterone in your system. Your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings at some stages to help you avoid problems.

Occasionally overgrowths of gum tissue, called pregnancy tumors, appear on the gums during the second trimester. These localized growths or swellings are usually found between the teeth and are thought to be related to excess plaque.

They bleed easily and are often surgically removed after the baby is born.

Studies indicate that pregnant women who have severe periodontal (gum) disease may be at increased risk for pre-term delivery, which in turn increases the risk of having a low-birth-weight baby.

So its particularly important to maintain good oral health during pregnancy. Make sure you clean your teeth carefully and visit your dentist regularly.

Is it safe to have an X-ray while pregnant?

Some women worry about whether its safe to have an X-ray exam while they are pregnant.

This can cause them to put off treatment they need.

However, untreated dental infections can pose a risk to the fetus, and dental treatment may be necessary to maintain the health of the mother and child. Sometimes this will mean an X-ray is necessary.

Radiation from dental X-rays is extremely low but every precaution is taken to minimize radiation exposure.

For example, a leaded apron reduces exposure to the abdomen and should be used when a dental radiograph is taken.

In addition, a leaded thyroid collar can protect the thyroid from radiation, and should be used whenever possible. The use of a leaded thyroid collar is strongly recommended for women of childbearing age, pregnant women and children.

Overall there is no reason to avoid dental radiographs (X-rays) while pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to become pregnant.

Follow your dentists advice and ask questions if you have any concerns.

How to overcome problems with teeth grinding

When under stress, many people find themselves grinding their teeth or clenching their jaws.

This habit actually has a name – bruxism – and often it’s something we do when we sleep.

It can be caused by stress and anxiety and it can also be due to sleep disorders, an abnormal bite or missing and crooked teeth.

It can lead to symptoms such as dull headache or a sore jaw.

Your dentist can fit you with a mouth guard to protect your teeth during sleep.

Severe grinding can lead to painful or loose teeth and this can lead to fractures in your teeth.

Taking stress out on your teeth in this way can lead to long term damage so, if stress is the cause, you need to find a way to relax!

Relaxants, counseling and even exercise may help reduce stress and tension and can be a big help to your teeth.

How a bridge can bring back your smile even with missing teeth

If you’re missing one or more teeth, it probably affects your smile and you may also notice a difference in chewing and speaking.

But there are options available to help you restore your smile and limit other problems.

For example, a bridge – sometimes called a fixed partial denture – replaces missing teeth with artificial teeth.

Bridges help maintain the shape of your face, as well as reducing the stress in your bite by replacing missing teeth.

They literally bridge the gap where one or more teeth may have been previously.

The restoration can be made from gold, alloys, porcelain or a combination of these materials and it is bonded onto surrounding teeth for support.

Bridges can be removable so that you can take them out and clean them or fixed and so can only be removed by a dentist.

An implant bridge attaches artificial teeth directly to the jaw or under the gum tissue.

Your dentist will recommend which approach is best for you.

Whatever type of bridge you choose, its success depends on its foundation. So it’s very important to keep your remaining teeth healthy and strong.

How smoking affects your teeth

While the general effects of smoking on your health are well-known, it can also have significant effects on your oral health.

Here are some of the ways smoking can harm your oral health and hygiene:

– Oral Cancer
– Periodontal (gum) disease
– Delayed healing after a tooth extraction or other oral surgery
– Bad breath
– Stained teeth and tongue
– Diminished sense of taste and smell

Research suggests that smoking may be responsible for almost 75% of adult gum disease.

Tobacco products damage your gum tissue by affecting the attachment of bone and soft tissue to your teeth. One effect is receding gums which expose the tooth roots and increase your risk of tooth decay or to sensitivity to hot and cold in these unprotected areas.

Cigar smoking is equally a major risk and even smokeless tobacco products contain a variety of toxins associated with cancer. Smokeless tobacco can also irritate your gum tissue.

Giving up smoking will provide a significant boost to your oral health as well as giving you the chance to live longer.

The causes of bad breath

Bad breath – also known as halitosis – is an unpleasant condition that can cause a great deal of embarrassment.

And, for many people, its made even worse by the fact they don’t even know that they have it.

There are many possible causes for bad breath so, if you think you might have the problem, talk to your dentist.

What you eat affects what you breathe out. Certain foods, such as garlic and onions, contribute to objectionable breath odor and even dieters may develop unpleasant breath from infrequent eating.

If you don’t brush and floss daily, particles of food remain in the mouth, collecting bacteria, which can cause bad breath.

Bad breath can also be caused by dry mouth (xerostomia) which occurs when the flow of saliva decreases.

One of the reasons why its especially important to talk to your dentist about bad breath is that it may be a sign of an underlying medical problem such as respiratory tract infection or gastrointestinal problems.

Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth can also be a warning signs of gum disease.

Smoking can also cause bad breath, stain teeth and reduce your ability to taste foods.

For all these reasons, you shouldn’t put up with the problem of bad breath. Talk to your dentist and find out what might be causing the problem.

Diagnosing jaw problems and pains – TMD and TMJ

More than fifteen percent of American adults suffer from chronic facial pain.

Common symptoms can include pain in or around the ear, tenderness of the jaw, clicking or popping noises when opening the mouth or even head and neck aches.

There are two joints and several jaw muscles which make it possible to open and close the mouth. They work together when you chew, speak, and swallow.

These structures include muscles and ligaments, as well as the jaw bone, the mandible (lower jaw) with two joints, the TMJs.

The TM joint is one of the most complex joints in the body. Located on each side of the head, these joints work together and can make many different movements, including a combination of rotating and gliding action when chewing and speaking.

Several muscles help open and close the mouth. They control the lower jaw (mandible) as it moves forward, backward, and side-to-side.

Both TM joints are involved in these movements. Each TM joint has a disc between the ball and socket. The disc cushions the load while enabling the jaw to open widely and perform rotating and translocational movements.

Any problem that prevents this complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working together properly may result in a painful TMJ disorder.

If you are suffering from this type of pain, your dentist can help identify its source with a thorough exam and appropriate x-rays.

Often, the problem is a sinus or toothache or it could be an early stage of periodontal disease.

But for some pain, the cause is not so easily diagnosed.

The pain could be related to the facial muscles, the jaw or temporomandibular joint, located in the front of the ear.

Treatments for this pain may include stress reducing exercises, muscle relaxants, or wearing a mouth protector to prevent teeth grinding.
They’ve been successful for many and your dentist can recommend which is best for you.

How cancer treatment can affect your oral health

More than 1 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year and many of them will develop problems with their oral health as a result of their cancer treatment.

While its natural that theyll be focused on their cancer treatment, its important not to overlook the importance of a dental examination as part of the process of maintaining overall health.

For example, radiation therapy of the head and neck area may lead to certain complications such as dry mouth, sensitive lesions in the oral cavity, hypersensitive teeth, rapid tooth decay and difficulty swallowing.

Chemotherapy and other medication can also have significant effects in the mouth.

To help prevent, minimize and manage such problems, the dentist and oncologist can work together before and during cancer treatment.

Many medications lead to dry mouth, which can lead to a higher risk of gum disease and other problems. The dentist may therefore recommend a saliva replacement, an artificial saliva that is available over-the-counter at pharmacies.

Frequent fluoride applications may also be recommended.

If you are receiving treatment, schedule regular screenings with your dentist and contact your dentist or physician immediately on any sign of mouth infection. This may have serious implications for your overall health.

Your dentist and physician both want your treatment to be as safe and effective as possible.

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.

How your oral health links with your general health

Research has shown strong links between periodontitis (advanced form of gum disease) and other health problems such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and bacterial pneumonia.

And pregnant women with periodontitis may be at increased risk of delivering pre-term and/or having babies with low birth weight.

However, just because two conditions occur at the same time, doesn’t necessarily mean that one condition causes the other. The relationship could work the other way.

For example, there is evidence that diabetics are more likely to develop periodontitis and have more severe periodontitis than non-diabetics.

Alternatively, two conditions that occur together may be caused by something else.

In addition, people who smoke or use alcohol have a higher than average risk of developing periodontitis and other conditions, including oral cancer.

Research is looking at what happens when periodontitis is treated in individuals with these problems.

The aim is to find out whether periodontitis does have an effect on other health problems.

If one caused the other, improvement in periodontal health would also improve other health problems.

While the research is not yet conclusive, the potential link between periodontitis and systemic health problems, means that preventing periodontitis may be an important step in maintaining overall health.

In most cases, good oral health can be maintained by brushing and flossing every day and receiving regular professional dental care.