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Diabetes and Our Teeth

November 9th, 2021

DIABETES, WHETHER TYPE 1, 2, or even gestational, makes it more difficult to maintain good dental health. There is a reciprocal relationship between oral health and diabetes, meaning that it’s harder to keep your teeth and gums healthy if you aren’t carefully managing the diabetes, but the diabetes also becomes harder to control if you aren’t prioritizing oral health.

An Overview of the Types of Diabetes
All three types of diabetes impact oral health, but they work in different ways. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed early in life, and it involves the pancreas being unable to produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes (up to 95% of cases) is usually diagnosed decades into adulthood, and it involves the body failing to use insulin efficiently to regulate blood sugar. Gestational diabetes affects some pregnant women, who become less able to regulate blood sugar during pregnancy.

What Does Blood Sugar Have to Do With Oral Health?
Sugar is very harmful to teeth and gums because it’s what oral bacteria love to eat. Sugar in the bloodstream is also a problem, which is where diabetes comes in. High blood sugar is rough on the immune system and makes it hard for the body to fight back against pathogens — including oral bacteria. It leaves diabetic patients more vulnerable to oral inflammation and tooth decay.

Gum Disease and Diabetes
Over 20% of diabetics develop a form of gum disease anywhere from the early stages of inflammation (gingivitis) to advanced gum disease (periodontitis) that threatens the teeth, the gums, and even the supporting bone. Untreated gum disease can take a toll on overall health and even become life-threatening if the bacteria reach the bloodstream.

Gum disease symptoms to watch for include chronic bad breath, the gums becoming swollen, red, and prone to bleeding, receding gums, and loosening of the teeth. Any one of these symptoms could indicate poor gum health, and diabetes increases the risk of other problems such as slower healing, worse and more frequent infections, dry mouth, enlarged salivary glands, fungal infections, and burning mouth syndrome.

Diabetes Can Complicate Orthodontic Treatment

No matter what’s causing it, gum disease can present a challenge for orthodontic treatment. Parents of kids with type 1 diabetes should take extra care to help them keep their diabetes under control and to promote good oral health. Then, if they need braces, their treatment will be able to go forward and they will be able to enjoy the benefits of properly aligned teeth.

Controlling Diabetes Leads to Better Oral Health Outcomes
Diabetes adds a complication to many elements of daily life, but it is perfectly possible to reach and maintain good oral health while diabetic. Good oral hygiene habits like daily flossing, twice-daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush, and regular dental checkups are all essential. So is being careful with sugar intake!

The Dentist Can Help You Fight Diabetes!
Regular dental exams are essential for everyone, but especially for anyone with diabetes. The early signs of a dental problem aren’t always obvious to people who don’t work in the dental field. The sooner they can be caught by a dentist, the easier it will be to deal with them. Your physician can also work with your dentist towards the shared goal of managing your diabetes as well as your oral health. That’s why it’s so important to keep both of them in the loop!

Let’s fight for your good oral health together

Have a Dentist-Approved Halloween!

October 19th, 2021

SPOOKY SEASON HAS been lots of fun this year, and Halloween is just around the corner. As much as we love indulging in the fall activities, the spooky decorations, the fun costumes, and the scary movies, we’re not as excited about the sugary-loaded treats. That’s why we’re here with tips on how to fully enjoy Halloween while keeping it much healthier for your teeth!

What Are the Worst Halloween Candies for Our Teeth?
The reason sugar is bad for our teeth is that harmful oral bacteria love to eat it. They then excrete acid as a waste product, and even though tooth enamel is a very hard substance, it is highly vulnerable to acid erosion. This is why sour, sticky, and hard candies are so bad for our teeth.

Hard candy takes time to dissolve, bathing our teeth in sugar. Sticky candy brings all that sugar directly to the bacteria on the surface of our teeth and gums. Sour candy cuts out the middleman because it’s already acidic!

The Good News: Chocolate and Xylitol
If you’re worried that we just eliminated most of the contents of your Halloween bag, you’ll be happy to know that certain types of chocolate can be pretty good for our teeth. Chocolate contains compounds like flavonoids and polyphenols, which slow tooth decay, limit oral bacteria, and fight bad breath.

The catch is that the more sugar chocolate contains, the less those healthy compounds matter, which is why dentists prefer dark chocolate. It’s even better if it contains nuts (unless you have an orthodontic appliance or a nut allergy).

Anything sweetened with xylitol instead of sugar is also much better for your teeth. Not only is this sugar-free sweetener inedible to harmful bacteria, it actually hurts them! The trouble is that there aren’t many xylitol options for the candy bowls besides sugar-free gum, but hopefully that will change before too many more Halloweens.

Protecting Your Teeth From the Effects of Sugar
We aren’t here to tell our patients to quit all sugar immediately, but there are still ways those of us with a strong sweet tooth can fight back against what sugar can do to our teeth:

Restrict candy consumption to mealtimes instead of snacking on it between meals. This will give your saliva a chance to neutralize your oral pH and wash away traces of sugar.
Drink water after eating candy to rinse off some of the sugar.

The Dentist Is a Fantastic Resource
You aren’t alone in the fight to keep your teeth healthy; the dentist is on your side! That’s why it’s so important to schedule regular dental exams. If you haven’t already, right after Halloween is a great time to start!

We wish all our patients a spooky, healthy Halloween!

Beware of TikTok Dental Fads!

October 12th, 2021

UNLESS THE DENTIST is on TikTok, it’s not a great platform to get dental health advice from. This year we’ve seen a number of alarming do-it-yourself dental procedures trending, and we want to nip those in the bud for our patients.

Filing Teeth
A number of TikTok videos have shown teens and young adults trying to even out their smiles by using nail files to wear down the chewing surfaces. This is a very bad idea. Once tooth enamel is gone, it’s gone forever, and amateur tooth filing can lead to fractures, tooth sensitivity, and infection. Dental health professionals will sometimes file teeth, but we are able to do it safely because we have training and use the proper tools.

“Veneers Check”
A similar (but worse) trend involves TikTokers filing their teeth down to pegs prior to getting crown restorations. This is horrifying and can easily result in complications like nerve damage and the need for root canal therapy. Anyone unhappy with the appearance of their smile (especially when their teeth are healthy) should speak to a dentist about professional cosmetic treatment instead of irreversibly damaging their own teeth.

DIY Hydrogen Peroxide Whitening
Some TikTokers are using 3% hydrogen peroxide to whiten their teeth, which can cause gum irritation and long-term sensitivity. This is not a safe way to achieve professional whitening results cheaply. It’s much better to ask the dentist for recommendations on whitening toothpaste, whitening strips, or professional in-office and take-home treatments.

Homemade Braces
Another dangerous trend we’ve seen on TikTok is teens trying to correct their own orthodontic problems using everyday items like rubber bands. DO NOT DO THIS. At best, it won’t work and will need to be corrected by a professional. At worst, it could turn out the way it did for David Campbell. The rubber bands he used seemed to be disappearing at night, but really they were slipping under his gums, where they strangled the roots of his teeth. The teeth could not be saved.

Leave your dental treatment to the pros!

Protecting Your Gums From Recession

October 7th, 2021

YOU’VE PROBABLY HEARD the expression “long in the tooth.” It conjures up the image of gum recession as a synonym for growing old, and yet gum recession isn’t always connected to age. This oral health problem is when the gingival tissue shrinks away from the crown of the tooth, slowly exposing more of the root. The extremely gradual nature of gum recession is why we tend to associate it with age, but it can start as early as childhood for a number of reasons.

Genetics and the Risk of Gum Recession
One risk factor for gum recession that we can’t do anything about is genetics. Some people are unlucky enough to have more fragile gum tissue or less jaw bone to support the gums all the way up to the crowns of their teeth. The good news is that other factors that contribute to gum disease are easier to control, so even those with a genetic predisposition can still minimize it.

Bruxism Is Bad for the Gums Too!
A chronic teeth-grinding habit, or bruxism, leads to a wide variety of oral health problems, including an increased risk of gum recession. The constant harsh friction of the teeth puts a lot of pressure on the gums and can damage them over time. Bruxism can be a very difficult habit to break, especially sleep bruxism. If grinding is something you struggle with, talk to the dentist! You have great allies in this fight.

Gum Disease Makes the Gum Tissue Vulnerable
The more advanced gum disease becomes, the more it destroys the supporting gum tissue and bone around teeth, which is why it’s ultimately the main cause of gum recession. The best way to maintain good gum health is by being diligent in keeping up with dental hygiene habits.

Brush (gently) twice a day, floss daily, and make regular dental appointments a priority. The professional cleaning you get from the hygienist is essential because brushing and flossing alone can’t remove plaque that has hardened into tartar. Plaque and tartar both cause irritation to the gums the longer they remain.

Gum Recession Can Happen to Kids?
The causes of gum recession in adults also apply to kids, which is why it’s important to help them with proper brushing and flossing (especially avoiding overbrushing) and pay attention to whether they have a grinding habit. Childhood gum recession could also happen as the result of an injury to the mouth. The best treatment is prevention through building and maintaining good oral health habits.

Take Care of Your Gums!
If you want to learn more about how to prevent gum recession or you’re worried that your gums may beginning to recede (remember that the process can be extremely slow, so it can creep up on you), schedule a dental appointment! The dentist can help you look after your gum health and discuss treatment options if they’re necessary.

We’re rooting for our patients’ healthy gums!