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Posts for category: Oral Health

By DeMartin Dental Associates, PC
December 14, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
4ThingsYouCanDotoFosterBetterOralHealthforaPersonWithDisabilities

According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 billion people around the world have a disability. That's one in eight individuals of all ages who may need assistance managing their daily lives. One area in particular that often requires caregiver attention is oral health, which isn't always easy.

Depending on the disability, addressing a disabled individual's health needs can be overwhelming—and such concerns may be even greater now due to COVID 19. In light of all these and other pressing issues, caring for a disabled person's teeth and gums could easily take a back seat.

But oral health has a far greater impact on a person's health than just their mouth. Inflammation related to gum disease, for example, could worsen other systemic diseases like diabetes or heart disease. And, unhealthy (or missing) teeth could inhibit a person in meeting their nutritional needs.

But you can effectively manage their oral health by keeping your focus on a few principal items related to dental care. In recognition of International Day of People with Disabilities this December 3rd, here are some practical guidelines for ensuring your friend or family member maintains their oral health.

Stay consistent with daily hygiene. Brushing and flossing can be very effective toward preventing dental disease, but only if it's consistently practiced every day. Someone with a disability may need help maintaining that consistency, so be sure you set a regular time and place for them to brush and floss to help reinforce the habit.

Make brushing and flossing easier. These twin hygiene tasks may also pose challenges for a disabled person who has issues with physical dexterity or cognitive function. You can help ease those challenges by making sure they have the best tools to help them perform the task at hand, like large-handled brushes, flossing picks or water flossers.

Brush and floss together. For some individuals with a disability, a caregiver may need to perform their hygiene tasks for them. But even if they're able to do it for themselves, it may still be overwhelming for them on their own. In that case, brushing and flossing with them, and injecting a little fun into the activity, can help positively reinforce the habit for them.

Accompany them to the dentist. If you're heavily involved in a disabled person's daily oral care, you may want to go with them and sit in on their regular dental visits. This is a time when you and their dentist can "exchange notes," so to speak, to better be in sync with what needs to be done to improve your loved one's oral care.

If you would like more information about disabilities and oral care, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Aging & Dental Health.”

By DeMartin Dental Associates, PC
November 24, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   diabetes  
DiabetesCouldImpactYourOralHealth

More than 1 in 10 Americans has some form of diabetes. This metabolic condition disrupts the body's regulation of glucose in the bloodstream, giving rise to health problems like slow wound healing, frequent infections and blindness—and it's the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. It can affect every aspect of your health including your teeth and gums.

Fortunately, people with diabetes can manage it through medication, diet and exercise. Even so, the disease could still have a profound effect on physical health. The mouth in particular becomes more susceptible to a number of oral conditions with diabetes.

In recognition of American Diabetes Month in November, here's how diabetes could put your oral health at risk for other diseases and what you can do about it.

Gum disease. Diabetics are at high risk for severe periodontal (gum) disease because of a characteristic shared by both conditions: inflammation. What is normally a healing response of the body to infection or trauma becomes destructive if it becomes chronic. Studies show that, due to their inflammation connection, diabetes can worsen gum disease, and gum disease can make it harder to bring diabetes under control.

Dry mouth. Chronic dry mouth is another possible consequence of diabetes that harms oral health. It's the result of the body not producing enough saliva. Because saliva supplies antigens to fight infection and neutralizes oral acid, which erodes tooth enamel, inadequate saliva increases the risk of both tooth decay and gum disease.

Thrush. Also known as oral candidiasis, thrush occurs when the fungus Candida albicans spreads along the inside surface of the mouth. This fungal infection can produce painful white lesions that make it difficult to eat or swallow. Complications from diabetes, including dry mouth and raised glucose levels in saliva, increase a diabetic's chances of developing thrush.

Implant complications. An implant's stability depends on the healing period after implant surgery when bone cells grow and adhere to its titanium surface. But because diabetics can experience slow wound healing, the bone may not fully develop around the implant and eventually causing it to fail. Fortunately, this is less of a problem if the patient has their diabetes under control.

So, what can you or someone you love with diabetes do to avoid these oral health pitfalls? For one, practicing daily brushing and flossing—and seeing your dentist on a regular basis—is paramount for reducing the risk of any dental disease. Additionally for diabetics, consistently keeping your condition under control will likewise lessen the impact it may have on your teeth and gums.

If you would like more information about diabetes and oral health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Diabetes & Periodontal Disease.”

By DeMartin Dental Associates, PC
November 14, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay  
TheresMoreWeCanDoAboutToothDecayBesidesDrillandFill

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.”

By DeMartin Dental Associates, PC
October 15, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: nutrition   oral health  
HereIsWhatYouCanDotoHelpYourKidsSnackHealthieratSchool

In addition to daily oral hygiene and regular dental visits, a tooth-friendly diet can boost your kid's dental health and development. You can help by setting high standards for eating only nutritious foods and snacks at home.

But what happens when they're not home—when they're at school? Although public schools follow the Smarts Snacks in Schools initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, those guidelines only recommend minimum nutritional standards for foods and snacks offered on campus. Many dentists, though, don't believe they go far enough to support dental health.

Besides that, your kids may have access to another snack source: their peers. Indeed, some of their classmates' snacks may be high in sugar and not conducive to good dental health. Your kids may face a strong temptation to barter their healthy snacks for their classmates' less than ideal offerings.

So, what can you as a parent do to make sure your kids are eating snacks that benefit their dental health while at school? For one thing, get involved as an advocate for snacks and other food items offered by the school that exceed the USDA's minimum nutritional standards. The better those snacks available through vending machines or the cafeteria are in nutritional value, the better for healthy teeth and gums.

On the home front, work to instill eating habits that major on great, nutritional snacks and foods. Part of that is helping your kids understand the difference in foods: some are conducive to health (including for their teeth and gums) while others aren't. Teach them that healthier foods should make up the vast majority of what they eat, while less healthier choices should be limited or avoided altogether.

Doing that is easier if you take a creative, playful approach to the snacks you send with them to school. For example, if you send them to school with their own snacks, add a little excitement like cinnamon-flavored popcorn or cheese and whole wheat bread bites in different shapes. And make it easier for them with bite-sized snacks like grapes, baby carrots or nuts.

You can't always control what snacks your kids eat, especially at school. But following these tips, you may be able to influence them in the right direction.

If you would like more information on helping your child develop tooth-friendly snacking habits, 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 “Snacking at School.”

By DeMartin Dental Associates, PC
October 05, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: osteoporosis  
OsteoporosisCanCauseComplicationsForSomeTypesofDentalWork

October 20th is World Osteoporosis Day, putting the spotlight on this degenerative bone condition and the impact it has on millions of people. Not only does it significantly increase the risk of potentially life-threatening fractures, but it can also indirectly affect dental health.

This connection arises from the use of certain treatment drugs that ultimately could lead to complications following some forms of dental work. These particular drugs, mainly bisphosphonates like Fosamax™ and RANKL inhibitors like Prolia™, destroy bone cells called osteoclasts, whose function is to clear away worn out regular bone cells (osteoblasts). With fewer osteoclasts targeting them, more older osteoblast cells survive longer.

In the short-term, a longer life for these older cells helps bones afflicted by osteoporosis to retain volume and density, and are thus less likely to fracture. Long-term, however, the surviving osteoblasts are less elastic and more brittle than newly formed cells.

In the end, these longer living cells could eventually weaken the bone. In rare situations, this can result in parts of the bone actually dying—a condition known as osteonecrosis. The bones of the body with the highest occurrences of osteonecrosis are the femur (the upper leg bone) and, of specific concern to dental care, the jawbone.

The effect of these medications on the jawbone actually has a name—drug-induced osteonecrosis of the jaw (DIONJ). Fortunately, there's only a 1% risk of it occurring if you're taking these drugs to manage osteoporosis. It's also not a concern for routine procedures like cleanings, fillings or crown placements. But DIONJ could lead to complications with more invasive dental work like tooth extraction, implant placement or periodontal surgery.

It's important, then, that your dentist knows if you're being treated for osteoporosis and the specific drugs you're taking. Depending on the medication, they may suggest, in coordination with your physician, that you take a "drug holiday"—go off of the drug for a set period of time—before a scheduled dental procedure to ease the risk and effects of osteonecrosis.

Because infection after dental work is one possible consequence of osteonecrosis, it's important that you practice thorough oral hygiene every day. Your dentist may also prescribe an antiseptic mouth rinse to include with your hygiene, as well as antibiotics.

You may also want to talk to your doctor about alternative treatments for osteoporosis that pose a lower risk for osteonecrosis. These can range from traditional Vitamin D and calcium supplements to emerging treatments that utilize hormones.

Osteoporosis can complicate dental work, but it doesn't have to prevent you from getting the procedures you need. Working with both your dentist and your physician, you can have the procedures you need to maintain your dental health.

If you would like more information about osteoporosis and dental care, please contact us or schedule a consultation.