Posts for category: Oral Health
We are in that tricky time of year when the weather can feel like summer one day and winter the next – and the transitional temperatures found in both fall and spring create the best conditions for colds and flus to spread. While the main goal is to minimize your symptoms when you’re feeling congested or fighting a cough, remember to think about your oral health too.
- Cough drops can relieve symptoms, but try to suck on sugar free drops, and be sure not to have too many of them during the day. Some have active ingredients that could increase your heart rate, so you should think both about your teeth and your overall health when you pop one in your mouth.
- Congestion can cause you to breathe through the mouth, which can lead to dry mouth, a condition that sets the stage for the growth of bacteria, and can cause tooth decay and even gum disease. Some common cold medications can further dry out your mouth, making it difficult to stay hydrated. Be sure to drink plenty of water and consider using a humidifier to keep the air inside moist when your mouth is dry.
- If you have a cold and feel pain in your upper teeth, or around your cheeks and nose, that may be a sign of a sinus problem. Sinusitis can resolve on its own, but if it lingers on and is accompanied by ongoing heavy congestion, you should see your doctor, and find out if an antibiotic might be recommended.
- While washing your hands is one of the best ways to avoid getting a cold, note that germs and bacteria that grow in your mouth can make you sick if you don’t brush and floss regularly and change your toothbrush every few months. Colds are more likely to linger and pneumonia more likely to develop in those who don’t practice good oral health.
Fall is a beautiful time to year, and far from the biting cold and snow we will experience in just a few short months, but it can still bring with it colds and coughs. Being smart in how you take care of yourself can make a pretty season seem even brighter.
It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon, one you plan to spend outdoors gardening before starting up the grill for a family barbeque. Unexpectedly, your garden shovel gets caught on a rock, and when you try to free it, the handle smacks into the side of your jaw. It hurts, but the pain will go away. Nothing to worry about. But later, as you’re preparing to grill burgers, the pain feels worse and you notice it’s hard to close your jaw so your teeth meet. Plus, it feels a bit swollen inside your cheek. It occurs to you that you should call someone, but maybe it can wait until Monday morning – or can it?
Facial injuries like this happen all the time, and not just to kids. Some injuries can wait, and others can’t, so how do you know when to drop everything and get help? If you have severe pain, bleeding, swelling or other signs of infection, broken teeth or trouble moving your jaw, don’t wait to get help. Contact your dentist immediately, or if the office is closed, head straight to the emergency room. Some injuries need immediate attention to avoid further damage, and there's no way for you to know for sure if your injury falls into that category.
Here’s a summary of how to handle some common injuries:
CHIPPED OR DAMAGED TOOTH – Rinse your mouth with warm water right away. Use gauze to stop any bleeding and then apply ice to your face to reduce swelling. Contact your dentist or oral surgeon as soon as possible, and if you have the pieces of broken tooth, bring them with you to your appointment.
DISLODGED TOOTH – If you have the lost tooth, hold it by the crown (not the root), rinse it in salt water and if possible fit it carefully back in its place in the mouth. If that proves difficult, put the tooth in a cup of milk or salt water to preserve it and contact your dentist immediately. Teeth restored within one hour have the greatest chance of survival, and soaking the tooth, or placing it back in its proper position in the mouth, will help to sustain it.
INFECTIONS – Signs of an infection include redness, tenderness or swelling around the site of the tooth. Infections are most often found around the root of the tooth or in the spaces between teeth and gums. Infections are serious conditions, and if left untreated tissue and surrounding teeth can be damaged. If you suspect an infection, rinse your mouth with salt water and see your dentist as soon as possible.
INJURIES TO TONGUE, CHEEKS, GUMS OR LIPS – Injuries to these soft tissue areas of the mouth are often accompanied by excessive bleeding. To control bleeding, rinse your mouth with a salt-water solution, and apply gauze or a dampened tea bag to the site of the injury. Be sure to contact your dentist or oral surgeon. However, if you can’t reach your doctor, and the bleeding doesn’t stop, continue to apply pressure and go to the hospital emergency room.
FRACTURES – Falls, fights, car collisions and other accidents can sometimes lead to broken bones. The nose and cheekbones are especially vulnerable to fractures. Another common area for facial fractures is the mandible or jawbone, which runs from your chin to just below your ear.
These fractures need immediate attention. Contact an oral surgeon, or your dentist, if you have any of the symptoms listed here – or if you suspect a fracture.
- Bruising, swelling and tenderness along the jaw or below the ear
- Misalignment in the bite, meaning your teeth don’t fit together properly
- Difficulty opening or closing your mouth
- Trouble chewing and swallowing
- Numbness in your lower lip or chin
- Jaw pain that doesn’t go away
- Double vision or numbness in the face or jaw area
- â€‹Swollen eyelids or sunken eyes
TMJ – The join that connects the upper and lower jaw is particularly vulnerable to injury, and treatment for this sensitive joint is critical. If you suspect an injury in this area of the jaw, be especially vigilant about seeking immediate help. There’s no reason to panic, but have it looked at right away to ensure you don’t cause further damage and complicate your treatment.
INJURIES TO THE JAW, CHEEKS, MOUTH OR FACE - An oral surgeon is specially trained to manage these sensitive areas. There is no one easy answer to how these injuries will be treated, but be sure to see your dentist or oral surgeon immediately if you have symptoms of an injury. If necessary, go directly to the emergency room, as some fractures can have life-threatening complications if not treated right away.
What do you do for a facial fracture?
If you suspect a fracture or serious injury to the face, apply ice to decrease pain and swelling and minimize tissue damage. Use the ice for 15-20 minutes out of every hour, and keep your head elevated. Try not to sneeze through the nose or blow your nose, and don’t put any pressure on the sensitive area. Concussions are another possible complication, so be alert to headaches, nausea, sensitivity to light or noise, problems concentrating or general feelings of confusion.
The symptoms listed here are just a guideline. If you have any reason to suspect a bump, fall or accident caused any harm to your mouth, face or teeth, do not hesitate to seek out help from your dentist, oral surgeon or the emergency room. You may be fortunate, and not have a serious issue or fracture. However, if you do need treatment, you’ll be glad you sought out help right away.
While older adults have many of the same symptoms and concerns as younger patients, they are at higher risk for many oral health problems. Other medical issues, financial concerns and less attention to their teeth and gums can all contribute to a decline in oral health, and impact their overall health.
Nearly 1/3 of older adults have untreated tooth decay, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is associated with a higher incidence of gum disease, which is associated with diabetes, heart disease, stroke and respiratory disease.
Whether caring for natural teeth or dentures, those 65 and older should continue to follow the same dental regimen they did in their early years. Some of the issues that often arise, and complicate their dental care, include:
- Living on a fixed income
- No access to dental insurance after retirement
- Limited access to transportation
- Denture-induced tissue inflammation
- Dry mouth from medications
- Gum disease and decay of the roots of teeth
- Uneven jaw bone caused by tooth loss
- Thrush - an overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth
- Increased risk of oral cancer
One problem often leads to another. Patients with severe arthritis can’t brush and floss effectively. Those with missing teeth or ill-fitting dentures find it difficult to eat a healthy diet. If taking multiple medications, patients often experience dry mouth, which can make it difficult to chew and eat properly, and lead to cavities and gum disease.
The best solution is to floss and brush your teeth thoroughly twice daily, using a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Aim to visit the dentist twice a year for a cleaning and oral exam. The cost of that visit is small compared to the cost of neglecting your mouth. Use an antibacterial mouth wash to reduce the risk of plaque and gum disease. Most importantly get to know your mouth. Pay close attention to any pain or sensitivity. It is better to address a problem sooner than later, especially if something doesn’t feel right.
If patients lack dental insurance, and paying out of pocket is not an option, find out whether Medicare or Medicaid covers your dental visits. Unfortunately, routine dental exams are not always covered, but medically-necessary procedures generally are, so in the case of a serious issue, you may be reimbursed.
The good news is that getting older, in itself, is not the problem, and people are keeping their teeth for longer now than ever before. However, those who take good care of their teeth, understand their limitations, and respond quickly when issues arise, are most likely to maintain their oral health - and their overall health - long term.
Although sports are popular all year long, spring time brings a big increase in outdoor activity for both adults and children. While we all want to enjoy the warmer weather, our kids need to be especially careful – and take precautions – when playing sports, biking, skate boarding or using any kind of motorized vehicles.
Just as you automatically fasten a seatbelt in the car, parents must similarly protect themselves and their children during outdoor sports or activities. Helmets, mouth guards and face guards are the best way to protect the head, brain and delicate areas of the face. These devices are continually being reinvented to make them both more comfortable and more effective, so find out what is recommended for your child’s sport or activity, and seek out the newest technology so you know your child is getting the best protection possible.
Not all helmets are created equal. Different sports and activities require helmets of different shapes and materials to provide the best protection of your head and brain. Also, it is important that helmets fit properly, and that straps be adjusted in order to maximize both comfort and effectiveness. Having not just protective gear, but properly-fitting gear, can make all the difference.
For some activities and sports, helmets with face guards are recommended. Catchers in baseball, as well as lacrosse players, will require specialized types of facial protection, so be sure to find out what your child needs in advance.
Mouth guards have come a long way, and the newer versions are made with synthetic materials that are sturdy, lightweight, and make it easy for the wearer to breathe. The least expensive kinds, which are generically shaped, but can be softened through boiling and then fitted to a specific bite, are not as comfortable, but are fine for gym class or casual athletes. Your dentist can make a custom-fabricated mouth guard that will be much more comfortable and durable, something to consider for serious athletes.
There are five criteria to consider when being fitted for a mouth protector, according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. The device should be:
- • Fitted so that it does not misalign the jaw and throw off the bite
- • Lightweight
- • Strong
- • Easy to clean
- • The proper size to cover the upper and/or lower teeth and gums
TREATING FACIAL INJURIES
While it is better to try to prevent injuries in the first place, sometimes, even with the best precautions, concussions or other injuries will occurs , and an Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon should be consulted in the case of broken bones in the face, cheek, jaw or mouth. They have the most experience and expertise in treating facial fractures, and understanding the implications both from a medical and dental perspective. Since these injuries can affect sight, swallowing or even breathing, it is important to seek out appropriate treatment immediately. The Oral Surgeon will work closely with any other doctors on the case to ensure the best possible treatment.
There’s no reason to abstain from spring’s beautiful outdoor weather and bountiful activities. The key is to protect yourself and your children from injury, and then if one happens to occur, remember that Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons understand the complexities of facial injuries, and are specially trained to diagnose and treat them successfully.
While the medical community is still learning about the link between oral health and heart health, one thing is clear: taking care of your teeth and gums can help reduce your risk of heart disease and other serious medical conditions.
Periodontal or gum disease is characterized by inflammation or swelling of the gums, and may be a warning sign of problems elsewhere in the body. When plaque builds up and clogs the arteries, this is an inflammatory process that can limit the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart and brain, increasing the risk of a heart attack of stroke. Inflammation is the body’s response to injury or infection, and should be taken seriously anywhere it occurs.
Most of the bacteria that grows in our mouth is harmless. The body will naturally keep bacteria under control, and taking care of our teeth and gums aids in that process. However, if we don’t practice good oral care, that bacteria can multiply and lead to infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.
Some studies have shown that bacteria from the mouth can travel into the bloodstream and contribute to the development of heart disease. Whether this is proved true or not, it is important to keep your teeth and gums clean and free from inflammation and infection. And if you already have a heart condition, you should let your dentist or dental specialist know, and give them a list of any medications you take.
Bacteria and inflammation are also linked to other health issues including diabetes, dementia and some cancers. The exact relationship is not clear yet, but we know that link exists.
The best way to ensure optimal oral health and reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and other serious medical conditions is to practice good oral hygiene:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day
- Floss at least once every day
- Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months — or when the bristles show signs of wear
- Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings
You should always pay close attention to the health of your teeth and gums -- and be aware that what happens in the mouth may be a warning sign for what is happening in the rest of the body.