We're all familiar with optical illusions, which our brain visually perceives in a way different from the actual reality. A kind of optical illusion may also happen in your mouth: Your teeth appear to have gotten "longer." They haven't actually grown—instead, the gums have shrunk back (or receded) to reveal more of the tooth.
Unfortunately, this isn't an amusing visual trick! Gum recession isn't healthy, and it could endanger your teeth.
Receding gums occur for a variety of reasons. Some people are simply more genetically disposed to recession because they've inherited thinner gum tissues from their parents. You can also damage your gums through over-aggressive brushing.
But the most common cause for gum recession is periodontal (gum) disease, caused by bacteria inhabiting a thin biofilm on tooth surfaces called dental plaque. The more plaque present on your teeth, the more plentiful the bacteria, which can sharply increase your risk of infection. Unless treated, gum disease can eventually weaken the gums' attachment to teeth that can then cause the gums to recede.
Normally, the gums cover and protect the tooth roots from bacteria and other hazards, similar to the way enamel protects the tooth's visible crown. But teeth lose this protection when the gums recede, exposing them to disease-causing bacteria and other oral hazards.
Fortunately, there is hope for receded gums. The primary way is to first treat the gum disease that caused it: If the recession has been mild, this may help the tissues regain their former coverage. More severe recession, however, may require highly technical grafting surgery with donor tissue to promote new tissue growth at the site.
But the best approach is to avoid recession in the first place by preventing gum disease. This requires removing bacterial plaque daily through brushing and flossing, as well as regular dental visits for more thorough cleanings. Dental visits are also important if you have a higher risk profile for gum recession like thinner gum tissues.
Gum recession isn't just an inconvenience. It can put your oral health at long-term risk. But you may be able to avoid its occurrence by practicing daily oral hygiene and seeing your dentist regularly.
If you would like more information on gum recession, 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 “Gum Recession.”
More than 50 million Americans care for an adult neighbor, friend or family member who can't care for themselves. A major part of that care is looking out for their health—including their teeth and gums.
Being a caregiver to someone is a labor of love—but it can be overwhelming. And with oral health especially, it's easy to miss signs of an emerging issue in their mouths that could impact the quality of their lives.
But you can be proactive about your loved one's oral health. In recognition of Family Caregivers Month in November, here are 4 guidelines that can help you ensure their teeth and gums are as healthy as possible.
Make oral hygiene easier for them. Brushing and flossing are basic to a dental disease prevention strategy. But an adult who needs care might have trouble performing these tasks: They may lack the cognitive ability or physical dexterity required. For the latter, larger handled-tooth brushes, floss threaders or water flossers can provide them better maneuverability. With cognitive decline, though, you may have to personally assist them with their hygiene tasks.
Watch for dry mouth. Also known as xerostomia, chronic dry mouth is caused by a lack of adequate saliva needed to fight disease-causing bacteria and to neutralize acid that can erode tooth enamel. For a variety of reasons, older adults are more prone to chronic dry mouth than other age groups. When this occurs, speak with their doctor about their medications (some can cause xerostomia). And, encourage your loved one to drink more water or use products that boost saliva production.
Accompany them to the dentist. Just as you would with other aspects of their health, become an active participant in their dental care. Forging a partnership with their dentist can provide you the information and guidance you need to better manage their daily home care. You can also bring up issues you've noticed with their oral health that can help guide their dentist's treatment.
Monitor their existing dental work. Your loved one may have full or partial dentures, or dental work like crowns or bridges. These existing restorations extend their dental function and protect their oral health from further disease. It's important, then, to have existing dental work checked on a regular basis to ensure its in good shape and functioning properly.
As the old saying goes, "Healthy mouth, healthy body." This is especially true for adults who need ongoing care. Keeping their teeth and gums are as healthy as possible will help them enjoy better health overall.
Until recently, the standard treatment for tooth decay remained essentially the same for nearly a century: Remove any decayed structure, then prepare and fill the cavity. But that singular protocol has begun to change recently.
Although "drilling and filling" saves teeth, it doesn't fully address the causes of decay. In response, dentists have broadened their approach to the disease—the focus now is on an individual patient's particular set of risk factors for decay and how to reduce those.
At the heart of this new approach is a better understanding of oral bacteria, the true cause of decay. Bacteria produce acid, which can erode tooth enamel and create a gateway into the tooth for decay to advance. We therefore want to lower those risk factors that may lead to bacterial growth and elevated acidity.
One of our major objectives in this newer approach is to reduce plaque, a thin film of food particles used by bacteria for food and habitation. Removing plaque, principally through better oral hygiene, in turn reduces decay-causing bacteria.
Plaque isn't the only mechanism for bacterial growth and acidity. Appliances like dentures or retainers accumulate bacteria if not regularly cleaned. Reduced saliva flow, often due to certain medications or smoking, limits this fluid's ability to buffer acid and acid reflux or acidic beverages like sodas, sports or energy drinks can disrupt the mouth's normal pH and increase the risk for enamel erosion.
Our aim, then, is to develop a long-term strategy based on the patient's individual set of oral disease risk factors. To determine those, we'll need to examine their medical history (including family), current health status and lifestyle habits. From there, we can create a specific plan targeting the identified risk factors for decay.
Some of the elements of such a strategy might include:
- Daily brushing and flossing, along with regular dental cleanings;
- Fluoride dental products or treatments to strengthen enamel;
- Changes in diet and excess snacking, and ceasing from any tobacco use;
- Cleaning and maintaining appliances, as well as monitoring past dental work.
Improving the mouth environment by limiting the presence of oral bacteria and acid can reduce the occurrence of tooth decay and the extent of treatment that might be needed. It's a more nuanced approach that can improve dental health.
If you would like more information on tooth decay prevention and treatment, 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 “Tooth Decay: How to Assess Your Risk.”
It's been a rough year for all of us, but especially for Simon Cowell. The famous entrepreneur and brutally honest talent judge on American Idol and America's Got Talent underwent emergency back surgery in August after an accident on a new electric bike. But the good news is he's well on his way to recovery—and well enough in October to undergo another, less-stressful, procedure: a smile makeover with dental veneers.
This latest trip to the dentist wasn't Cowell's first experience with the popular restoration, wanting this time to update his smile to more closely resemble what he had when he was younger. He even brought along some older photos for reference.
Veneers aren't exclusive to celebrities like Simon Cowell, as thousands of people who get them every year can attest. These thin wafers of porcelain bonded to teeth can mask a wide range of defects, from chips, wear or discoloration to slight tooth gaps or misalignments. And every veneer is custom-made to match an individual patient's dental dimensions and coloring.
If you're thinking about a smile upgrade, here are a few reasons to consider dental veneers.
More bang for your buck. Compared to other transformative cosmetic options, veneers are relatively affordable, with the cost dependent largely on the extent of your dental needs. Still, dental veneers are an investment that can give long-lasting yields of a more attractive smile and even a completely new look.
Little to no tooth alteration. In most veneer cases, we need only remove a small amount of enamel so the veneers don't appear bulky (the alteration is permanent, though, so you'll need a veneer on the tooth from then on). It's also possible to get “no-prep” veneers requiring little to no alteration.
Durable and long-lasting. Continuing improvements in porcelain and other dental ceramics have led to stronger forms that can better withstand the biting forces your teeth encounter every day. Although you'll still need to be careful biting into hard items, your veneers can last for several years.
Easy to maintain. Veneer cleaning and maintenance is much the same as with natural teeth—daily brushing and flossing, and regular dental cleanings and checkups. Outside of that, you'll need to watch what you chomp down on: Veneers are strong, but not indestructible, and they can break.
As Simon Cowell knows, getting veneers isn't difficult. It starts with an initial visit so we can evaluate your dental health and needs. From there, we can present options on how to update your smile.
If you would like more information about dental veneers, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Porcelain Veneers” and “No-Prep Porcelain Veneers.”
If you think brushing and flossing and regular dental visits are all you need to do to avoid dental disease, you're missing a key component in your prevention plan. What you eat could also help close the door on tooth decay or gum disease—or open it even wider if you're eating nutritionally deficient foods.
Let's look first at the latter scenario. Like us, the oral bacteria most responsible for dental disease also have to eat to survive and thrive. And, often like us, they have a favorite food—provide them ample amounts of that and they'll continue to multiply and raise your risk of disease.
That favorite bacterial food is simple carbohydrates, particularly refined sugar. A diet heavy in added sugar can increase oral bacteria, which in turn elevates your chances of a gum infection. Bacteria's main by-product, acid, may also increase. That's bad news for your teeth. At high levels, acid contact softens and erodes enamel, the precursor to tooth decay.
Obviously, then, a "tooth-friendly" diet should be low on sugar and other simple carbohydrates like refined breads, pasta or pastries. Soda, energy and sports drinks high in both sugar and acid should also be avoided or restricted to mealtimes. You should also be careful with how much fruit you're eating as their natural sugars can also feed bacteria.
A well-rounded diet, however, isn't simply about avoiding foods—you'll also want to include foods that help you build and maintain healthy teeth and gums. That includes:
- Fiber-rich plant foods: Their fiber reduces the effects of any carbohydrates and they're packed with nutrients;
- Whole grains: Whole grains don't promote decay as refined products do, and chewing them stimulates saliva flow for neutralizing acid;
- Fresh fruits: Eaten in moderation, fruits can provide a bevy of vitamins and minerals. But avoid dried fruits as their sugars are more concentrated;
- Dairy: Milk-based products, particularly cheese, contain nutrients like Vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus, which strengthen teeth against dental disease.
For the most part, a diet that promotes overall well-being will also provide optimum benefits for your dental health. Along with your dental hygiene efforts, eating the right foods can help protect your teeth and gums from both tooth decay and gum disease.
If you would like more information on how better nutrition can boost your dental 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 “Nutrition & Oral Health.”
This website includes materials that are protected by copyright, or other proprietary rights. Transmission or reproduction of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use, as defined in the copyright laws, requires the written permission of the copyright owners.