Archive:

John D. Luker, DDS
997 Clocktower Drive
Springfield, Illinois 62704
(217) 546-8330

 

 



Posts for category: Oral Health

KeepanEyeonYourFamilysFluorideIntake

Fluoride is a critical weapon in the war against tooth decay. But this natural chemical proven to strengthen tooth enamel has also aroused suspicion over the years that it might cause health problems.

These suspicions have led to rigorous testing of fluoride's safety. And the verdict from decades of research? We've found only one verifiable side effect, a condition called enamel fluorosis. Caused by too much fluoride present in the body, enamel fluorosis produces white streaks and patches on teeth, and can develop into darker staining and pitting in extreme cases. But other than having an unattractive appearance, the teeth remain sound and healthy.

Fortunately, you can reduce the risk of fluorosis by limiting fluoride exposure to within recommended limits. Fluoride can show up in processed foods and other substances, but the two sources you should focus on most are oral hygiene products and fluoridated drinking water.

Dentists highly recommend using toothpaste with fluoride to fight tooth decay. But be careful how much your family uses, especially younger members. An infant only needs a slight smear of toothpaste on their brush for effective hygiene. At around age 2, you can increase the amount to about the size of a vegetable pea.

As to drinking water, most utilities add fluoride to their supply. If yours does, you can find out how much they add by calling them or visiting cdc.gov ("My Water's Fluoride"), where you can also learn more about recommended levels of fluoridation. If you think it's excessive, you can switch to water labeled "de-ionized," "purified," "demineralized," or "distilled," which contain little to no added fluoride.

Even if your fluoridated water is within recommended levels, you may wish to take extra precautions for infants nursing with formula. If possible, use "ready-to-feed" formula, which usually contains very low amounts of fluoride if any. If you're using the powdered form, use only water with the aforementioned labeling for mixing.

Before making any drastic changes that might affect your family's fluoride intake, consult with your dentist first. And be sure you're keeping up regular dental visits—your dentist may be able to detect any early signs of fluorosis before it becomes a bigger problem.

If you would like more information on maintaining the proper fluoride balance with your family, 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 Development and Infant Formula.”

E-CigsCouldbeJustasHazardousforYourTeethandGumsasCigarettes

More than 20 million people in the United States use electronic cigarettes or e-cigs as an alternative to tobacco smoking. While many users believe "vaping" is a healthier alternative to regular cigarettes, recent research into the health effects of e-cigs could put a damper on that belief. There's particular concern among dentists that this popular habit could harm users' dental health.

E-cigs are made with a chamber that holds the liquid vaping solution and a heating mechanism to heat the liquid and vaporize it. Users inhale the vapor, which contains nicotine and flavorings, as they would a traditional cigarette.

The nicotine alone can be problematic for dental health as we'll see in a moment. But the vapor also contains aerosols that some research indicates could damage the inner skin linings of the mouth in a similar fashion to the smoke of traditional cigarettes. One study by researchers with the Université Laval in Quebec, Canada found evidence that e-cig vapor increased the death rate of mouth cells, and led to greater cell irregularities over time.

According to other studies, there's evidence that e-cig vapor may disrupt the balance of the oral microbiome, the communities of both beneficial and harmful bacteria that normally live in the mouth. The imbalance in favor of more harmful bacteria could increase the risk for dental disease, particularly periodontal (gum) disease.

Finally, nicotine from e-cigs seemed to create similar conditions in the mouth as it does with tobacco. Nicotine in any form can constrict blood vessels and reduce the body's ability to fight infection and to heal. Research indicates both forms of nicotine increase the risk for dental disease and make treatment more difficult.

These findings only identify conditions created by e-cigs that could be problematic for future dental health. Although we don't fully understand the long-term health effects of this new habit, based on the evidence so far the mouth may not fare so well. It's looking like e-cigs may be no safer for your teeth and gums than the cigarettes they replace.

If you would like more information on the health risks of electronic cigarettes, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

EatingDisordersMayContributetoDamagedTeethandGums

While most dental problems are caused by disease or trauma, sometimes the root problem is psychological. Such is the case with bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder that could contribute to dental erosion.

Dental erosion is the loss of mineral structure from tooth enamel caused by elevated levels of acid in the mouth, which can increase the risk for decay and eventual tooth loss. While elevated acid levels are usually related to inadequate oral hygiene or over-consumption of acidic foods and beverages, the practice of self-induced vomiting after food binging by bulimic patients may also cause it. Some of the strong stomach acid brought up by vomiting may remain in the mouth afterward, which can be particularly damaging to tooth enamel.

It’s often possible to detect bulimia-related erosion during dental exams. The bottom teeth are often shielded by the tongue during vomiting, so erosion may be more pronounced on the unshielded upper front teeth. The salivary glands may become enlarged, giving a puffy appearance to the sides of the face below the ears. The back of the mouth can also appear red and swollen from the use of fingers or objects to induce vomiting.

Self-induced vomiting may not be the only cause for dental erosion for bulimics. Because the disorder causes an unhealthy focus on body image, bulimics may become obsessed with oral hygiene and go overboard with brushing and flossing. Aggressive brushing (especially just after throwing up when the tooth enamel may be softened) can also damage enamel and gum tissue.

Treatment must involve both a short — and long-term approach. Besides immediate treatment for dental erosion, a bulimic patient can minimize the effect of acid after vomiting by not brushing immediately but rinsing instead with water, mixed possibly with a little baking soda to help neutralize the acid. In the long-term, though, the eating disorder itself must be addressed. Your family doctor is an excellent starting point; you can also gain a great deal of information, both about eating disorders and treatment referrals, from the National Eating Disorders Association at their website, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.

The effects of bulimia are devastating to mental and physical well-being, and no less to dental health. The sooner the disorder can be treated the better the person’s chance of restoring health to their mind, body — and mouth.

If you would like more information on the effect of eating disorders on 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 “Bulimia, Anorexia & Oral Health.”

MouthguardsReduceRiskofConcussionaswellasDentalInjuries

Since boxers first began using them a century ago, athletic mouthguards are now standard safety equipment for most contact sports. Without them, dental injuries would skyrocket.

But a recent study in the peer-reviewed journal, General Dentistry, indicates there’s another important reason to wear a mouthguard for contact sports or exercise: you may be able to significantly reduce your risk for a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), better known as a concussion. It’s believed the mouthguard absorbs some of the force generated during contact, resulting in less pressure to the brain. That reduction is even more significant if your mouth-guard has been custom-made by a dentist.

That last finding is important, because not all mouthguards on the market are equal. There are three basic categories of mouthguards — stock, “boil and bite,” and custom. Stock mouthguards come in limited sizes; they’re relatively inexpensive, but they provide the least level of protection. “Boil and bite” can be customized after purchase to the wearer’s bite, but they don’t always provide complete coverage of back teeth. Custom mouthguards are designed and fashioned by a dentist; they’re relatively expensive (running in the hundreds of dollars), but there’s ample evidence they provide the highest level of protection from mouth injuries.

The General Dentistry study also corroborates custom mouthguards’ effectiveness in preventing concussions. The study followed approximately 400 football players from six different high school teams. While all the players wore the same type of helmet, half of them wore custom-made mouthguards and the other half wore stock guards. 8.3% of the athletes wearing stock guards experienced a concussion injury; by contrast only 3.6% of those with custom guards sustained an injury — greater than half fewer occurrences.

The study also highlights the need not to rely solely on helmets or other protective headgear for concussion prevention. It’s important to include mouthguards along with other athletic protective gear to lower injury risk as much as possible.

So when considering how you can provide the optimum injury protection for you or your child, be sure to include an athletic mouthguard, preferably one that’s custom-made. We’ll be happy to advise you further on what you need to know to prevent traumatic dental injuries, as well as concussions.

If you would like more information on custom-fit mouthguards, 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 “Mouthguards.”

TestYoureBrushingandFlossingSuccesswithaPlaqueDisclosingAgent

Brushing and flossing your teeth provides a lot of benefits, including a brighter smile and fresher breath. But the primary benefit—and ultimate goal—is removing dental plaque. This biofilm of bacteria and food remnants on tooth and gum surfaces is the number one cause for dental disease.

Brushing and flossing can effectively keep plaque under control. Unfortunately, plaque can be a stubborn foe, hiding in areas easily missed if you're not thorough enough.

So how do you know you're doing a good job brushing and flossing? One quick way is to use your tongue or dental floss to feel for any grittiness, a possible sign of remaining plaque. Ultimately, your dentist or hygienist can give you the best evaluation of your hygiene efforts during your three or six-month checkup.

But there's another way to find out more definitively how well you're removing plaque in between dental visits: a plaque disclosing agent. These over-the-counter products contain a dye solution that stains plaque so it stands out from clean tooth surfaces.

A disclosing agent, which can come in the form of tablets, swabs or a liquid, is easy to use. After brushing and flossing, you apply the agent according to the product's directions. The dye reacts with plaque to stain it a distinct color. You may also find products with two-tone dyes that stain older and newer plaque different colors to better gauge your overall effectiveness.

You then examine your teeth in the bathroom mirror, looking especially for patterns of missed plaque. For example, if you see dyed plaque running along the gum line, you'll know you need to concentrate your hygiene there.

After observing what you can do to improve your future efforts, you can then brush and floss your teeth to remove as much of the dyed plaque as you can. The staining from the dye is temporary and any remaining will fade over a few hours.

Using a disclosing agent regularly could help you improve your overall hygiene technique and reduce your risk of disease. Ask your dentist for recommendations on products.

If you would like more information on improving your oral hygiene, 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 “Plaque Disclosing Agents.”