‘Tis the season to be merry—and with plenty of edible goodies! During the holidays, families fill their homes with all sorts of delectable treats for friends and loved ones. But there can be unintended consequences with all this joyous feasting, and not just added pounds come January: eating more sugar could increase your risk for dental disease.
We’re not here to throw a wet blanket on your holiday fun. Instead, we have 4 commonsense tips to help you keep your holiday snacking from ultimately causing tooth and gum woes.
Blend in healthier choices. The problem with sugar is that it’s a prime food source of disease-causing oral bacteria. The more sugar available in the mouth, the more these bacteria multiply and increase the disease threat to your teeth and gums. So, try reducing sugar by adding savory treats like nuts or flavored popcorn to your sweeter offerings. And don’t forget cheese and other dairy—eating dairy products along with sweets can help blunt some of sugar’s effect on bacteria.
Avoid “grazing.” While it’s tempting to do so during the holidays, continuous snacking increases the mouth’s acidity, which is like Superman’s kryptonite to your tooth enamel. The longer acid directly contacts your enamel, the more it can soften it and open the door to tooth decay. Saliva neutralizes after-meal acid; but if you’re constantly snacking, you could prevent saliva from completely buffering the acid present. So, limit your snacking time—or better yet, reserve your sweet treats for mealtime.
Don’t neglect your hygiene. The hectic pace of the holidays can interfere with people’s normal routines. Don’t let that happen to your daily practice of brushing and flossing. These essential hygiene tasks clean your teeth of a disease-causing biofilm called dental plaque. Miss a few days and the accumulated plaque could trigger an infection that could damage your gums and ultimately your teeth. You can help avoid this by brushing and flossing every day.
Don’t brush right after eating. The mouth’s acidity naturally increases during and just after eating. As we alluded to earlier, saliva’s on the job getting the mouth back to a more neutral state and reducing the effect of acid on enamel. That takes about an hour, though, and in the meantime your enamel may be in a slightly softened state. If you brush right after eating, you might inadvertently brush tiny bits of enamel. So, wait an hour or so after eating before you brush.
The holidays are all about enjoying friends and family and ringing in the new year. Follow these tips to ensure it’s a healthy and happy one for your teeth and gums.
If you would like more information about dental care during the holidays, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “6 Tips to Help Prevent the Erosion of Tooth Enamel.”
Every year many parents learn their “tweenager” or teenager needs their bite corrected, often with specialized orthodontics. Imagine, though, if these families could go back in time to when their child’s poor bite was just developing to stop or slow it from forming.
Time travel may still be science fiction, but the approach suggested isn’t. It’s called interceptive orthodontics, a group of techniques and procedures performed during the early stages of jaw development. The focus is usually on getting abnormal jaw growth back on track, enough so that a poor bite won’t form.
The upper jaw, for example, may be growing too narrow, reducing the amount of available space for tooth eruption. If it isn’t corrected, teeth can erupt out of position. To correct it, an orthodontist places a palatal expander in the roof of the child’s mouth (palate). The appliance applies gentle pressure against the inside of the teeth, which stimulates the jaws to develop wider.
The expander works because of a separation in the bones at the center of the palate, which later fuse around puberty. The pressure applied from the expander keeps this gap slightly open; the body then continues to fill the widening expansion with bone, enough over time to widen the jaw. If you wait until puberty, the gap has already fused, and it would have to be reopened surgically to use this technique. Ideally, then, a palatal expander should be employed at a young age.
Not all interceptive techniques are this extensive—some, like a space maintainer, are quite simple. If a primary (baby) tooth is lost prematurely, teeth next to the empty space tend to drift into it and cause the intended permanent tooth to erupt out of place due to a lack of space. To prevent this an orthodontist places a small wire loop within the space to prevent other teeth from moving into it.
These are but two examples of the many methods for stopping or slowing a developing bite problem. To achieve the best outcome, they need to be well-timed. Be sure, then, to have your child undergo an orthodontic evaluation around age 6. If an interceptive orthodontic approach is needed, it could eliminate the need for more extensive—and expensive—treatment later.
The electronic cigarette (e-cig), the much-acclaimed smoking alternative, has recently been linked to hundreds of lung-related illnesses and deaths among otherwise healthy young adults. But dentists were actually among the first to sound alarm bells on the potential harm of “vaping,” particularly to dental health.
If you're vaping as a substitute for smoking, you may be trading one set of oral health risks for another. Many dentists believe vaping may be no safer for your mouth than traditional tobacco.
An e-cig is a small, handheld device that holds a mixture of water, flavoring and chemicals. The device heats the liquid until it becomes a gaseous aerosol the user inhales into their lungs. Proponents say it's a safer and cleaner alternative to smoking. But, like cigarettes, vaping mixtures can contain nicotine. This chemical constricts blood vessels, decreasing nutrients and infection-fighting agents to the gums and increasing the risk of gum disease.
And although vaping flavorings are FDA-approved as a food additive, there's some evidence as an aerosol they irritate the mouth's inner membranes and cause mouth dryness similar to smoking. Vaping liquids also contain propylene glycol for moisture preservation, which some studies have shown increases a buildup of plaque, the bacterial film most responsible for dental disease.
All of these different effects from vaping can create a perfect storm in the mouth for disease. So, rather than switch to vaping, consider quitting the tobacco habit altogether. It's a solid thing to do for your teeth and gums, not to mention the rest of the body.
As we commemorate the Great American Smokeout on November 21, this month is the perfect time to take action. Here are some tips to help you kick the habit.
Don't try to quit all at once. Your body has developed a physical connection with nicotine, so quitting “cold turkey” can be extremely difficult and unpleasant. Although different approaches work for different people, you may find it easier to overcome your habit by gradually reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke each day.
Enroll in a cessation program. There are a number of step-by-step programs, some involving medication, that can help you quit smoking. Talk to us or your doctor about using a cessation program to end your tobacco habit.
Seek support from others. Beating the smoking habit can be tough if you're trying to do it solo. Instead, enlist the help of family and friends to support you and keep you on track. Consider also joining a supervised support group for quitting smoking near you or online.
Smoking can harm your dental health and vaping may be just as harmful. Distancing yourself from both habits will help you maintain a healthier smile and a healthier life.
If you would like more information about the effects of vaping and tobacco use, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Vaping and Oral Health” and “Smoking and Gum Disease.”
Dental health isn’t limited to just the teeth. Taking care of your gums is essential as well. Unfortunately, gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a common problem affecting many adults, even those who take good care of their teeth. Below, dentists Drs. John Lynch, Sheila Lynch, and Frances Lynch of Lynch Dental Center in Chicago's Loop discusses periodontal disease, its symptoms, and its treatments.
Basic information about periodontal disease
There are two types of periodontal disease: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is the less invasive and more common form, affecting as many as 65 million American adults. Periodontitis is a more severe form of gingivitis, usually affecting people who have gone many years without visiting their dentist in The Loop. Those who use tobacco are at particular risk for developing periodontitis. Both forms of periodontal disease are caused by bacteria-laden acid breaking down the gum tissue; this is the same process that causes decay to develop on the teeth. Untreated gingivitis will inevitably progress into periodontitis, which leads to bone and tooth loss and has been linked to systemic problems like heart disease and stroke.
Symptoms of periodontal disease
The first sign that you have gingivitis is often the presence of blood during brushing or flossing. This is due to inflammation and may also present as swollen, reddened gum tissue. As periodontal disease progresses, the gums may recede, or shrink, which can cause tooth sensitivity due to exposure of the roots. Bad breath and tooth loss may accompany advanced periodontitis. Any of these signs warrant a visit to your dentist in Chicago's Loop for an evaluation.
Treatment of periodontal disease
The good news is that if caught early, gingivitis is curable and often only requires a deep cleaning procedure known as scaling and root planing. This treatment, performed by our trained dental hygienists at Lynch Dental Center manually removes tartar buildup from the teeth and gums, allowing the tissue to heal. Medicated mouthwash or oral antibiotics may also be needed to help reduce the bacteria. More advanced periodontal disease often needs more invasive treatment, including gum surgery and skin or bone grafts. It’s important to know that all forms of gum disease are treatable and working with your dentist in The Loop will help to prevent any complications.
If you think you have periodontal disease in any form, contact Lynch Dental Center, located in both in The Loop in Chicago and in River Forest, IL, for an appointment with one of our dental team members today. It’s never too late to make good decisions about your dental health!
Root canal therapy provides an effective treatment when infection or inflammation threatens your tooth's overall structure. This therapy, performed by Drs. John, Sheila, and Frances Lynch of Lynch Dental Center in Chicago and River Forest, IL, can end your pain and save your tooth—read on to learn how!
Why are root canals needed?
Root canal therapy is necessary when the soft pulp in the center of your tooth becomes inflamed or infected. Although this pulp once played an essential role during the formation of your tooth, it is no longer crucial to your dental health once your teeth are fully formed. During the therapy, your dentist removes the pulp and replaces it with a filling, thus eliminating the infection and saving your tooth.
How can I tell if I need a root canal?
You don't have to be in excruciating pain to need a root canal. In fact, during the initial stages, your pain may be mild, and only occasionally occurring. Unfortunately, the pain will return and may become strong, steady, and throbbing if you ignore it. Your pain might also increase when you consume foods/beverages if you have an infection or inflammation that are hot, cold, or sugary
Other symptoms can include gum tenderness/swelling, the darkening of your tooth, or a bacterial abscess. If you have an abscess, you may experience severe pain in your tooth and jaw, fever, swollen lymph nodes, swollen gums, pus around the tooth, or general facial swelling. Call your dentist immediately if you notice any of these symptoms, for abscesses are considered dental emergencies.
What happens during a root canal?
Despite the jokes, root canal therapy isn't painful—you will receive a local anesthetic prior to the start of the procedure, thus eliminating discomfort during any part of the treatment. After your dentist removes the inflamed or infected pulp, they will clean the interior of the tooth, and shape the root canals before adding a rubber-based filling. With the pulp removed, your tooth will return to healthy, pain-free state!
Concerned? Give us a call
If you're worried about your dental health, schedule an appointment with Drs. John, Sheila, and Frances Lynch of Lynch Dental Center in both River Forest and Chicago, IL. Dial (708) 366-6411 for the River Forest location, or (312) 263-3235 for the Chicago office.
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