Lansing's Dental Discussion

Posts for category: Oral Health

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
April 07, 2019
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene  
SpringIntoBetterOralHealth

What does spring mean to you? The season officially starts on March 20th, but depending where you live you might start seeing the signs earlier or later. We often think of spring as a time of new beginnings—when the first green buds appear and the earth wakes up from its winter sleep. Spring is also a great time to break out of those old winter routines and make positive changes in your life; for example, learning to manage stress, improving sleep habits and getting more exercise. To those worthy aims, we'd like to add one more suggestion: This spring, make it a goal to improve your oral hygiene!

Maintaining good oral hygiene often results in fewer cavities, reduced gum disease and better checkups at the dental office. But for some people it can mean a lot more. A growing body of research points to a connection between oral health and overall health—especially when it comes to systemic (whole-body) diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis and others. In many instances, improving oral health can lead to better management of these diseases.

So how do you start improving your oral hygiene? Glad you asked! Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, AND floss once a day—every day! Use a soft-bristled toothbrush for gentle, effective cleaning.
  • Limit between-meal snacks to give your mouth a chance to neutralize the acids that can cause tooth decay.
  • Stay away from sweetened and acidic drinks like soda (even diet), so-called "sports" and "energy" drinks, and other foods and beverages with a high sugar content.
  • Drink plenty of water to increase production of healthful saliva and keep your whole body properly hydrated.
  • Visit the dental office regularly for checkups and professional cleanings. This is essential for good oral hygiene. A professional cleaning can remove hardened plaque deposits that can't be cleaned effectively at home. A thorough dental exam can find and resolve small problems before they become big headaches (or toothaches)—and even help prevent them from happening!

Practicing good oral hygiene is the best way to keep your smile healthy for your whole life. And having a bright, healthy smile is a great way to greet the new season!

If you have questions about oral hygiene, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Good Oral Health Leads to Better Health Overall,” and “10 Tips For Daily Oral Care at Home.”

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
February 26, 2019
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   gum disease  
TakeCareofYourGumsTakeCareofYourHeart

At this time of year, hearts are everywhere you look, so it's fitting that February is American Heart Month, a time to focus on cardiovascular health. Cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease and stroke, is the number one cause of death around the world. But did you know that there's a link between the health of your heart and the health of your mouth?

People with advanced gum disease have a higher risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event, but what is the connection? For one, oral bacteria found in gum disease can enter the bloodstream, where it has been found in artery-clogging plaque. In addition, untreated gum disease has been determined to worsen high blood pressure, a major contributor to heart attack, stroke and heart failure. One study reported that when gum disease was treated, high blood pressure fell by up to 13 points. But perhaps the most significant common denominator between gum disease and heart disease is inflammation, according to many researchers.

Gum disease is the most common inflammatory disease, affecting nearly 50% of US adults over 30, and 70% of those aged 65 and older, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The body's inflammation response is a key weapon in fighting infection. However, when there is chronic low-level inflammation such as occurs with untreated periodontal (gum) disease, many adverse health effects can result. In one Harvard University study, chronic inflammation was found to triple the risk of heart attack and double the risk of stroke.

The relationship between gum disease and heart disease is still not completely understood, but there's no denying that a connection exists between the two, so it's worth doing what you can to take care of both your gums and your cardiovascular health. Here are some tips:

  • Eat a heart-healthy—and gum-healthy—diet. A diet low in refined carbohydrates, high in fiber, vitamins C and D, antioxidants and Omega-3s has been shown to lower inflammation, benefitting your gums and your heart.
  • Quit smoking. Using tobacco in any form is a risk factor for developing both gum disease and heart disease.
  • Take care of your oral health. Gum disease can often be prevented—and reversed if caught early—simply with good oral hygiene, so be diligent about brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once a day.
  • Come in for regular cleanings and checkups. Regular cleanings can help keep your gums healthy, and an examination can determine if you have gum disease. Be sure to tell us about any medical conditions or medications.

As you think about what you can do to take care of your heart health and overall health, don't forget your gums. If you have questions about how to improve your oral health, call us or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Good Oral Health Leads to Better Health Overall” and “Carbohydrates Linked to Gum Disease.”

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
February 06, 2019
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
GetRelieffromCrackedCornersoftheMouth

If you’ve noticed redness or small skin cracks at the corners of your mouth, you may have a common infection known as perleche or angular cheilitis. Depending on its cause, there are ways to treat the redness and skin cracking to lessen your discomfort.

The term perleche comes from the French word “lecher,” meaning to lick. This is derived from the tendency of perleche patients to constantly lick the area to ease irritation; unfortunately, this also helps perpetuate the inflammation. Once the skin is broken the area is commonly infected by yeast called candida albicans.

Initially, perleche may arise from a variety of sources, most of them locally from either inside or around the mouth, although it can be triggered by a general body infection or disease like diabetes or cancer, or vitamin or iron deficiencies. Inside the mouth reduced saliva flow, tissue inflammation under a rarely cleaned denture (denture stomatitis), pressure on the mouth corners caused by a collapsed bite due to missing teeth and similar conditions can elevate the risks for infection. Around the mouth wrinkling or “marionette lines,” deep lines that extend from the mouth to the chin due to aging or environmental exposure, can contribute to crack formation. Drooling during sleep or as a result of orthodontic treatment is also a contributing cause.

The main focus of treatment for perleche is to bring any infection under control. This can be accomplished with a course of oral or topical antifungal (yeast-attacking) medication. If the infection has spread into the mouth or throat we might then prescribe a troche, a small lozenge designed to dissolve, which you would rinse with and then swallow to affect other portions of the mouth. Steroid or zinc oxide ointments applied directly to the skin can control inflammation and serve as a barrier agent with antifungal properties to promote healing.

If the cause is more related to dental problems (ill-fitting dentures or missing teeth), then it’s important to have these addressed and treated. You may also consult a dermatologist for treatments to lessen wrinkling around the mouth that might also contribute to chronic cases of perleche.

If you would like more information on cracked mouth corners, 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 “Cracked Corners of the Mouth.”

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
January 07, 2019
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene  
ANewResolution-Floss

Now that we’re into the New Year, it’s a good time to look over your list of resolutions. Did you remember to include dental health on your list? Here’s one simple resolution that can help keep your smile bright and healthy through the New Year and beyond: Floss every day!

Your oral hygiene routine at home is your first line of defense against tooth decay and gum disease. While brushing your teeth twice a day effectively removes much of the food debris and dental plaque from your teeth, brushing alone is not sufficient to remove all the plaque that forms on your teeth and around your gums. For optimal oral health, flossing once a day is also necessary.

Which teeth do you need to floss? Any dentist will tell you, “Only the ones you want to keep!” And yet according to a national survey of over 9,000 U.S. adults age 30 and older, nearly 70% don’t floss every day, and nearly one third admit that they don’t floss their teeth at all. Unfortunately, if you don’t floss, you’ll miss cleaning about a third of your tooth surfaces. When plaque is not removed, this sticky film of bacteria releases acids that cause cavities and gum disease. With dental floss, however, you can clean between the teeth and around the gums where a toothbrush can’t reach.

Flossing is an essential component of good oral hygiene. Still, daily flossing seems to be a harder habit to get into than brushing. Some people tense up their cheek muscles while flossing, making it harder to comfortably reach the back teeth, so remember to relax as you floss. If unwaxed floss doesn’t glide easily between teeth, try waxed floss. If you have trouble using traditional dental floss, you can try threader floss, which has a rigid tip, interdental brushes, floss picks, or a water flosser, which cleans by way of pressurized water.

It’s not too late to add one more resolution to your list, and flossing is a habit that will go a long way toward keeping you in the best oral health. And along with good dental hygiene at home, regular professional dental cleanings and checkups are key to a healthy smile. If you would like more information about maintaining excellent dental health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Daily Oral Hygiene” and “Flossing—A New Technique.”

PracticeDailyOralHygienetoPreventCalcifiedPlaqueFormation

If you’ve ever heard your dentist or hygienist talk about “calculus,” they’re not referring to a higher branch of mathematics. The calculus on your teeth is something altogether different.

Calculus, also called tartar, is dental plaque that’s become hardened or “calcified” on tooth surfaces. Plaque begins as soft food particles and bacteria that accumulate on the teeth, and more so if you don’t properly clean your teeth every day. This built-up plaque becomes both home and food source for bacteria that can cause tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease.

Because of this direct link between plaque and/or calculus and dental disease, we encourage everyone to perform two important oral hygiene tasks every day. The first is to floss between your teeth to remove plaque as you are unable to effectively reach those areas with a toothbrush.  Once you loosen all the plaque, the other really important task is a thorough brushing of all of the tooth surfaces to remove any plaque that may have accumulated since the last brushing. Doing so every day will catch most of the softer plaque before it becomes calcified.

Once it forms, calculus is impossible to remove by brushing and flossing alone. That’s why you should have regular cleanings performed by a dental professional. Dentists and hygienists have special tools called scalers that allow them to manually remove plaque and calculus, as well as ultrasonic equipment that can vibrate it loose to be flushed away with water.

In fact, you should undergo dental cleanings at least twice a year (or as often as your dentist recommends) even if you religiously brush and floss daily. Calculus forms so easily that it’s nearly inevitable you’ll accumulate some even if you have an effective hygiene regimen. Your dental team can remove hardened deposits of calculus that may have gotten past your own hygiene efforts.

If you haven’t been consistently practicing this kind of daily hygiene, see your dentist to get a fresh start. Not only will they be able to check for any emerging problems, they can clean your teeth of any plaque and calculus buildup so that you’ll be able to start with a “clean” slate.

Calculus can be tenacious, but it not impossible to remove. Don’t let it set you up for an unhealthy experience with your teeth and gums.

If you would like more information on reducing plaque buildup, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
October 29, 2018
Category: Oral Health
TheMajorBenefitsofEarlyChildhoodDentalVisits

For a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums, it takes a lifetime of personal and professional care. Starting your child’s daily hygiene with the first tooth eruption is a must; but you should also consider beginning regular dental visits in their early years, around or before their first birthday.

There’s evidence that early dental visits hold a number of benefits that could lead to reduced oral care costs over their lifetime.

Familiarity with professional dental care. Children need to feel comfortable and safe in their surroundings, especially new places. Beginning dental visits early improves the chances your child will view the dentist’s office as a regular part of their life. It’s especially helpful if the dental professional has training and experience with young children to put them at ease.

Early monitoring for dental disease or other problems. A young child’s teeth are highly susceptible to tooth decay. Dental visits that begin early in a child’s life increase our chances of detecting any developing dental problems early. In addition to treating decayed teeth, your child may also need preventative actions like sealants or additional fluoride applications to protect teeth if they are at a higher risk for disease. As the child develops, we may also be able to catch early bite problems: with interventional treatment, it may be possible to reduce future orthodontic costs.

Parental help and support. As we discuss your child’s dental care with you, we’ll be able to provide essential information and training for how to care for their teeth and gums at home. We’ll also be able to ease any common concerns you may have, such as thumb sucking or other oral habits, as well as give you sound advice and techniques for dealing with these problems.

As with other areas of childhood development, starting off on the right foot with oral care can make all the difference to their future dental health. The sooner you begin regular dental visits with your toddler, the better their chances for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.

If you would like more information on dental care for children, 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 “Taking the Stress out of Dentistry for Kids.”

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
October 19, 2018
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth wear  
3AreastoWatchtoAvoidExcessiveToothWear

Just like other parts of your physical body, teeth naturally wear as we get older. Just the effect from chewing during hundreds of thousands of meals in a lifetime can take its toll.

But there are some factors that can make tooth wear worse. By addressing them promptly should they arise, you can keep age-related tooth wear to a minimum.

Here are 3 areas to watch for to avoid excessive tooth wear.

Dental disease. Tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease are most responsible for not only the loss of teeth but for compromising tooth health overall. But the good news is they’re largely preventable through proper oral hygiene practices to remove bacterial plaque, the main trigger for these diseases. Prompt treatment when they do occur can also minimize any damage and help your teeth and gums stay strong and healthy.

Your bite. Also known as occlusion, the bite refers to how the upper and lower teeth align with each other when you bite down. When they don’t align properly, regular chewing and biting can create abnormally high forces in the teeth and cause them to wear unevenly and more rapidly. Correcting the bite through orthodontic treatment won’t just improve your smile, it can improve bite function and decrease accelerated tooth wear.

Bruxism. This is a general term describing habits like teeth clenching and grinding in which the teeth forcefully contact each other beyond normal parameters. There are a number of causes for bruxism, but for adults it’s typically related to stress. Over time, bruxism can accelerate tooth wear and cause other problems like TMD. There are a number of ways to stop or at least reduce the effects of bruxism like relaxation techniques or a night guard worn during sleep that prevents the teeth from making forceful contact.

If you suspect you’re experiencing any of these factors, see us for a full examination. We’ll then be able to discuss your condition, the potential impact on tooth wear, and what we can do to protect your teeth.

If you would like more information on protecting your teeth as you age, 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 “How and Why Teeth Wear.”

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
October 09, 2018
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene  
GoodOralHygieneIsntJustforTeeth

In October, the American Dental Hygienists’ Association sponsors National Dental Hygiene Month to remind everyone that having good oral health is directly related to practicing good oral hygiene at home. This includes brushing twice each day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing at least once per day. But sometimes we forget that dental hygiene applies not just to your teeth but also to anything you regularly wear in your mouth. This includes removable dentures (full or partial), clear aligners, nightguards, mouthguards and retainers. If you (or your kids, or seniors you know) wear any of these, please review the three appliance-care tips below.

1. CLEAN IT. Just like natural teeth, an oral appliance worn every day needs daily brushing. But toothpaste isn’t an appropriate cleanser for these devices; it’s too abrasive. The grainy particles it contains are great for scrubbing plaque and bits of food from the hard enamel coating of teeth—but they can actually leave little nicks in the plastic of your oral appliance, creating areas for bacteria to hide. This can eventually cause odors and stains. Instead, clean appliances with liquid dish soap or denture paste. Buy a separate brush for your appliance—don’t use the same one that you use on your teeth. It can be a very soft regular toothbrush, nail brush or denture brush.

2. RINSE IT. After cleaning your appliance, rinse it thoroughly. But don’t use hot water—and never boil an oral appliance to sterilize it! Your device was custom-made for your mouth, and it needs to fit precisely to do its job. Hot water can warp the appliance and change the fit, possibly rendering it useless or even harmful. For example, a warped orthodontic aligner might not move teeth into the correct position. Remember: the goal is to kill bacteria, not your appliance!

3. STORE IT. Keep your appliance in a safe place—away from curious pets and toddlers. When you are not wearing it or cleaning it, your device should be packed away in its case or soaking overnight in water or a cleaning solution according to your original instructions.

If you have any questions about oral appliance care or oral hygiene, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “10 Tips for Cleaning Your Oral Appliance” and “10 Tips for Daily Oral Care at Home.”

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
September 19, 2018
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene  
BrushingandFlossingHardtoDoConsiderYourPowerOptions

Brushing and flossing are foundational to good oral health and an essential part of daily life. Practicing both these habits removes most disease-causing bacterial plaque from tooth and gum surfaces.

It doesn’t take much to manually perform them — a quality soft-bristle toothbrush, fluoride toothpaste and string floss. But what if you have a physical impairment that makes performing these tasks difficult to perform — or your mouth condition requires a little more “power” to adequately access and clean surfaces?

You do have power options for both brushing and flossing. Electric toothbrushes, of course, have been available since the 1950s. As with other technology, they’ve improved in quality and affordability over the last few decades. They’re available in various sizes, rechargeable or battery, and each with their own claims of cleaning ability.

The ultimate question, though, is: are they as effective at removing plaque as manual brushing? That’s been the subject of a number of comprehensive studies, including one conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration, a research organization. They evaluated a number of powered toothbrushes over various lengths of time. They concluded that some powered toothbrushes with a rotation-oscillation action had a statistically significant (though modest) reduction in plaque compared with manual toothbrushes.

As to flossing, admittedly it does take some dexterity to accomplish effectively. Traditional string flossing is also difficult if not impossible for people with braces or similar access restrictions to the teeth. An oral irrigator (or water flosser) is a viable alternative. Water flossers work by pulsating water at high pressure through special tips at the end of a handheld or countertop device. The pressurized stream penetrates between teeth and below the gums to flush away plaque.

Are water flossers effective? According to one recent study orthodontic patients were able to remove up to five times the plaque between teeth as those who used only a manual toothbrush.

When considering alternatives to your manual toothbrush or string floss, speak with us first. We’ll be happy to guide you toward the best form of brushing and flossing to do the most good in your situation.

If you would like more information on oral hygiene options, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.



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Holly A. Scott-Hetchler DDS, PC 919 Chester RdLansing, MI 48912