Posts for category: Oral Health
Over the last decade, the use of e-cigarettes—popularly known as vaping—has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. It's the "in" thing, especially among younger adults, fueled by the widespread idea that it's a safer nicotine delivery system than traditional smoking.
But growing evidence is beginning to say otherwise—that people are simply trading one unhealthy habit for another. Besides a possible link to lung disease, vaping may also adversely impact a person's oral health.
An e-cigarette is a handheld device that heats a mixture of water, flavoring and chemicals into a vapor inhaled by the user. As with traditional cigarettes, nicotine is the active ingredient in vaping mixtures, and perhaps just as addictive. One vaping cartridge, in fact, can equal the nicotine in 20 tobacco cigarettes.
Nicotine is a good starting point for analyzing vaping's potential harm on oral health. In short, nicotine is not your mouth's friend. It constricts oral blood vessels, that in turn decreases oxygen, nutrients and infection-fighting agents delivered to the gums. Individuals who routinely ingest nicotine therefore have a much higher risk for gum disease.
And, although the various flavorings in vaping mixtures have pleasant-sounding names like "cotton candy," "mint" or "cherry crush," these additives can also cause oral problems. There's some evidence that when the flavoring chemical transforms from a liquid to a gas, it may dry out and irritate the inner membranes of the mouth. This in turn can increase the risks for bacterial infection leading to tooth decay or gum disease.
There's also evidence other substances in vaping liquids may also prove unhealthy, even carcinogenic. This raises concerns among many doctors and dentists that vaping could eventually prove to be a prime cause for increased oral cancer.
Given what we know—as well as what we don't—it's wise to avoid either smoking or vaping. We know the first habit definitely puts your oral health at risk—and the growing evidence shows the latter may be just as harmful. Avoiding both habits may be in your best interest—not only for your overall health, but for your mouth as well.
If you would like more information on vaping and oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Vaping and Oral Health.”
What's a habit? Basically, it's a behavior you consistently perform without much forethought—you seemingly do it automatically. They can be good (taking a bath every day); or, they can be bad (devouring an entire bag of chocolate chip cookies every day). Our goal, therefore, should be to develop more good habits than bad.
One other thing about habits: we start forming them early. You might even have habits as an adult that began before you could walk. Which is why helping children develop good habits and avoid bad ones remains a top priority for parents.
Good habits also play a major role in keeping your teeth and gums healthy. Habits like the following that your kids form—or don't form—could pay oral health dividends throughout their lives.
Daily hygiene. Brushing and flossing is the single best habit for ensuring healthy teeth and gums. Removing disease-causing plaque on a daily basis drastically reduces a person's risk for tooth decay and gum disease. So, start forming this one as early as possible—you can even make a game of it!
Dental-friendly eating. To paraphrase a popular saying, "Your teeth and gums are what you eat." Dairy, vegetables and other whole foods promote good dental health, while processed foods heavy on sugar contribute to dental disease. Steer your child toward a lifetime of good food choices, especially by setting a good example.
Late thumb-sucking. It's a nearly universal habit among infants and toddlers to suck their thumbs or fingers. Early on, it doesn't pose much of a threat—but if it extends into later childhood, it could lead to poor bite formation. It's best to encourage your child to stop sucking their thumbs, fingers or pacifiers by age 3.
Later-developing bad habits. Children often come into their own socially by the time they've entered puberty. But while this is a welcome development on the road to adulthood, the pressure from peers may lead them to develop habits not conducive to good oral health—tobacco, drug or alcohol use, or oral piercings. Exert your influence as a parent to help them avoid these bad oral habits.
If you would like more information on best dental care practices for children, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”
Millions of Americans live with osteoporosis, a degenerative bone disease that can turn a minor fall into a potential bone fracture. Literally meaning "porous bone," osteoporosis causes the natural marrow spaces in bone tissue to progressively grow larger and weaken the remaining bone.
Many osteoporosis patients take medication to slow the disease's process. But due to the dynamic nature of bone, some of these drugs can have unintended consequences—consequences that could affect dental care.
As living tissue, bone is literally "coming and going." Certain cells called osteoblasts continuously produce new bone, while others called osteoclasts remove older tissue to make way for the new. Drugs like bisphosphonates and RANKL inhibitors interrupt this process by destroying some of the osteoclasts.
As a result, more of the older bone remains past its normal lifespan, helping the bone overall to retain strength. But ongoing research is beginning to hint that this may only be a short-term gain. The older, longer lasting bone is more fragile than newer bone, and tends to become more brittle and prone to fracture the longer a patient takes the drug. This tissue can also die but still remain intact, a condition known as osteonecrosis.
The femur (the large upper leg bone) and the jawbone are the bones of the body most susceptible to osteonecrosis. Dentists are most concerned when this happens in the latter: Its occurrence could lead to complications during invasive procedures like oral surgery or implant placement.
Because of this possibility, you should keep your dentist informed regarding any treatments you're undergoing for osteoporosis, especially when planning upcoming dental procedures like oral surgery or implant placement. You might be able to lower your risk by taking a "drug holiday," coming off of certain medications for about three months before your dental work.
As always, you shouldn't stop medication without your doctor's guidance. But research has shown drug holidays of short duration won't worsen your osteoporosis. If you're already showing signs of osteonecrosis in the jaw, a short absence from your prescription along with antiseptic mouthrinses and heightened oral hygiene could help reverse it.
Fortunately, the risk for dental complications related to osteoporosis medication remains low. And, by working closely with both your dentist and your physician, you can ensure it stays that way.
If you would like more information on osteoporosis and your dental care, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Osteoporosis Drugs & Dental Treatment.”
Fans everywhere were recently saddened by the news of musical legend Eddie Van Halen's death. Co-founder and lead guitarist for the iconic rock group Van Halen, the 65-year-old superstar passed away from oral cancer.
Van Halen's rise to worldwide fame began in the 1970s with his unique guitar style and energetic performances, but behind the scenes, he struggled with his health. In 2000, he was successfully treated for tongue cancer. He remained cancer-free until 2018 when he was diagnosed with throat cancer to which he succumbed this past October.
Van Halen claimed the metal guitar picks he habitually held in his mouth caused his tongue cancer. It's more likely, though, that his heavy cigarette smoking and alcohol use had more to do with his cancers.
According to the American Cancer Society, most oral cancer patients are smokers and, as in Van Halen's case, are more likely to beat one form of oral cancer only to have another form arise in another part of the mouth. Add in heavy alcohol consumption, and the combined habits can increase the risk of oral cancer a hundredfold.
But there are ways to reduce that risk by making some important lifestyle changes. Here's how:
Quit tobacco. Giving up tobacco, whether smoked or smokeless, vastly lowers your oral cancer risk. It's not easy to kick the habit solo, but a medically supervised cessation program or support group can help.
Limit alcohol. If you drink heavily, consider giving up alcohol or limiting yourself to just one or two drinks a day. As with tobacco, it can be difficult doing it alone, so speak with a health professional for assistance.
Eat healthy. You can reduce your cancer risk by avoiding processed foods with nitrites or other known carcinogens. Instead, eat fresh fruits and vegetables with antioxidants that fight cancer. A healthy diet also boosts your overall dental and bodily health.
Practice hygiene. Keeping teeth and gums healthy also lowers oral cancer risk. Brush and floss daily to remove dental plaque, the bacterial film on teeth most responsible for dental disease. You should also visit us every six months for more thorough dental cleanings and checkups.
One last thing: Because oral cancer is often diagnosed in its advanced stages, be sure you see us if you notice any persistent sores or other abnormalities on your tongue or the inside of your mouth. An earlier diagnosis of oral cancer can vastly improve the long-term prognosis.
Although not as prevalent as other forms of cancer, oral cancer is among the deadliest with only a 60% five-year survival rate. Making these changes toward a healthier lifestyle can help you avoid this serious disease.
If you would like more information about preventing oral cancer, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “How a Routine Dental Visit Saved My Life” and “Strategies to Stop Smoking.”
As parents, we want to do everything possible to help our kids stay healthy—and that includes their teeth. And just like other aspects of their health, it's better not to go at dental care alone. That's why we recommend beginning your child's regular dental visits no later than their first birthday.
You may think that's a bit premature, given the few teeth a child may have when they're a year old. But there are solid reasons why early childhood dental visits are a smart move, especially if you're playing the long game for their future dental health and development.
Minimizes damaging tooth decay. If a child loses just one primary tooth to decay, it could have an adverse, cascading effect on their developing bite. Dental visits begun sooner rather than later are more likely to catch and treat tooth decay, as well as provide other preventive measures that can ensure primary teeth aren't lost prematurely.
Provides you a partner for your child's dental care. A child's dental development and health depend on what you do in the home—daily oral hygiene, monitoring for signs of disease and avoiding habits that promote tooth decay. Regular dental visits help support the home front by providing you helpful insight and advice for supporting your child's dental health.
Identifies bite problems early. Although they usually develop gradually, there are often early signs of an emerging bite problem. Pediatric dentists especially are trained to notice early signs of an abnormal bite and refer you to an orthodontist for interventional treatment.
Reduces your child's dental visit anxiety. The unfamiliarity and clinical nature of a dental office can make a child susceptible to anxiety that could follow them into adulthood. Early childhood dental visits help normalize the dentist's office for your child, reduce anxiety and make it more likely they'll continue seeing the dentist later in life.
Life can be hectic with an infant in the home. But getting into the routine of regular dental visits at an early age is a worthwhile investment in healthier teeth and gums—now and in the future.
If you would like more information on good dental care practices for your child, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Age One Dental Visit.”