Friday, September 21, 2012

Dreaming of better gum health

How much sleep did you get last night? If it was six hours or less, you could be at increased risk for gum disease progression. A 2007 study in the Journal of Periodontology looked at the way lifestyles affect a person’s periodontal health and found that lack of sleep was one of the biggest factors in gum disease. People who had slept at least seven hours were less likely to experience advancement of the disease, leading researchers to speculate that a lack of sleep may reduce the body’s immune response, which then contributes to gum disease progression.

Another major lifestyle factor was smoking. More than 40 percent of participants in the study who experienced a progression of gum disease were smokers. This may seem obvious, but it reinforces the idea that tobacco use affects far more areas of a person’s health than just the lungs. Other influential factors identified in the study included high stress levels and daily alcohol consumption. Many of these factors are related, so it’s important to be self-aware. For instance, high stress levels may cause a person to lose sleep, which can then lead to progression in gum disease.

By fixing one contributing factor, other problems may be lessened, as well. Your True Care Advantage dental plan dentist can help you identify signs of periodontal disease and show you specific ways to stop it from progressing. By making changes to your lifestyle, you can quickly get back on the path to oral health.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Regular dental visits prevent advancement of oral cancer

You already know that avoiding tobacco products is one key to preventing oral cancer. But according to the American Dental Association, there is a second strategy that is equally important: scheduling regular visits with your dentist. If not detected early, only about 50 percent of people diagnosed with oral cancer will survive after five years. That is why it is so vital that you have your mouth examined every six months by a trusted dentist. He or she will identify anything out of the ordinary that may be signs of cancer or pre-cancer and advise you on the smartest steps to take next.

The ADA suggests that oral cancer is often preceded by the presence of “clinically identifiable pre-malignant changes” that may appear as white or red spots in the mouth. If caught early and removed by a dentist, these spots never have the opportunity to become cancerous – or deadly. Visiting a dentist on your True Care Advantage dental plan on a regular basis will help ensure that any changes in your mouth are caught at the earliest possible stage.

Also, remember that even if you do not smoke or use other tobacco products, you are still at risk for oral cancer. Research discovered by the ADA shows that up to one quarter of all oral cancer patients did not use tobacco. African-Americans also face higher risk factors, so talk to your dentist and develop a plan to prevent oral cancer. It could save your life!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Is your tooth cracked?

Believe it or not, it’s possible to not be aware of a cracked tooth in your mouth. Many cracks are so small that they cannot be seen with the naked eye, or sometimes even an X-ray. To determine which tooth is cracked, dentists often ask patients where they are experiencing sensitivity to temperature as well as sticky, sweet, or sour food. They make also ask where the pain is centralized while chewing. According to the American Dental Association, cracked teeth hurt because “the pressure of biting causes the crack to open.” Once that pressure is released, the crack quickly closes, and the person feels a sharp sensation of pain. Even further, cracked teeth can cause the pulp inside the tooth to become irritated or even damaged.

In advanced cases, a dentist may have to perform a root canal to save the tooth. Treatments for cracks range from bonding to complete extraction, depending on the severity of the crack. Teeth can crack for a variety of reasons, including chewing on hard candy, nuts or ice; uneven chewing pressure; grinding of the teeth; and experiencing an accident that involves a hit to the mouth. The ADA suggests that the most important thing to remember is that regular dental checkups help prevent tiny cracks from becoming a large problem.

If you experience pain or sensitivity in a tooth, do not continue to chew on that side of your mouth. Call your True Care Advantage dental plan dentist and have him or her identify the source of your pain. Treated early, cracks can be easily repaired without stress to your mouth or your wallet.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Signs your dentures need replaced

Despite common perceptions, dentures do experience normal wear and tear and eventually need to be replaced. In cases where the teeth are beginning to show signs of considerable wear or are becoming loose, your True Care Advantage-plan dentist will make brand new dentures to fit the changing structure of your mouth. According to the American Dental Association, a person’s mouth naturally changes with age. For instance, bone and gum ridges can recede, which in turn shifts the jaw alignment. All of these changes can result in loose dentures that need to be remade.

In cases where people ignore their ill-fitting dentures, they may experience sores or infections and have difficulty chewing. The ADA suggests that loose dentures may even change people’s facial features, so it is important to talk to your dentist if you notice any loosening of your dentures. Experts recommend that people with dentures still see the dentist regularly for exactly that purpose. Check-up visits allow the dentist to take note of any changes in the dentures and check the mouth for signs of oral cancer.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Protect your child’s teeth by monitoring their diet

It is common knowledge that too many sweets can lead to tooth decay, but research points to another food group that parents should watch out for: starches. Starch can be found in a wide variety of foods – even so-called “healthy” ones like crackers, bread, pasta and pretzels. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests checking food labels for the presence of sugars and starches and then limiting those foods to mealtimes instead of as a snack. When consumed with other foods and drinks, sugars and starches are more easily washed away and removed from around a child’s teeth. For the same reason, sticky-sweet foods like dried fruit are more likely to damage your child’s teeth because they often get stuck in the crevices.

One common trap that many parents fall into is giving their child access to sugar-laden condiments, like many kinds of ketchup and salad dressings. These types of foods are not always associated with being sweet, but they often have lots of added sugar and can cause problems for kids who like to dip everything from chicken nuggets to apples. Finally, for very young children, experts recommend never putting them to bed with any liquid other than water. Juices and even milk are full of sugars that can sit on your child’s teeth while they’re sleeping and produce cavity-causing bacteria. To be safe, ask your True Care pediatric dentist for her input on your children’s diet. She can recommend healthy foods that are good for their bodies and their teeth.