Posts for: January, 2022
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.”
If you notice a loose tooth, don't wait! Call your dentist ASAP. That loose tooth may be in danger of being lost or damaged permanently—and you won't know if that's true without having the tooth examined.
To understand why, let's first consider how your teeth are normally held in place—and contrary to popular belief, it's not primarily through the bone. The actual mechanism is a form of gum tissue called the periodontal ligament attaching the tooth to the bone. This ligament secures teeth in place through tiny collagen fibers that attach to both the tooth and bone.
The periodontal ligament can effectively secure a tooth while still allowing for some movement. However, these ligaments can come under attack from periodontal (gum) disease, a bacterial infection primarily caused by dental plaque. Without aggressive treatment, the infection can destroy these tissues, causing them to eventually detach from the teeth.
This can result in loose teeth, which is, in fact, a late sign of advanced gum disease. As such, it's a definite alarm bell that you're in imminent danger of losing the teeth in question.
Treating a gum infection with accompanying loose teeth often has two components. First, we want to stop the infection and begin the healing process by removing any and all plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) on tooth surfaces. This includes deposits below the gum line or around the roots of the tooth, which may require surgery to access them.
Second, we want to help stabilize any loose teeth while we're treating the infection, which can take time. We do this by using various methods from doing a bite adjustment of individual teeth tat are getting hit harder when you put your teeth together to splinting loose teeth to healthier neighboring teeth. We may also employ splinting when the tooth is loose for other reasons like trauma. This provides a loose tooth with needed stability while the gums and bone continue to heal and reattach.
Securing a loose tooth and treating the underlying cause isn't something you should put off. The sooner we address it, the more likely you won't lose your tooth.
If you would like more information on permanent teeth that become loose, 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 “When Permanent Teeth Become Loose.”