Management of Oral Habits

As we have learned from our previous blog post, oral habits are pretty common especially in young kids. We’ve also discussed how these habits can cause unsightly changes to teeth and/or jaws.

In this second article, we will now focus on treatment.

Thumb Sucking:

Thumb sucking is caused by many different things, and it’s important to determine what the underlying issue is before rendering any treatment or intervention.

First of all, you should know that thumb sucking is actually a self-soothing habit for kids, but it can be detrimental to the alignment of the teeth in the long run.

In most cases, kids simply grow out of it without any intervention, while others just can’t bring themselves to stop it. Extreme cases, meanwhile, can be solved only with the help of a child therapist.

Discontinuation should occur spontaneously and not forced upon the child. Once the habit is completely stopped, only then can definitive treatment be rendered.

The sooner or earlier the habit is stopped, the more likely the changes that occurred will correct itself. One way to do so is by counseling the kid.

The success of counseling depends on the kid’s level of understanding – that is, his or her ability to understand the troubles thumb sucking can cause. Counseling is therefore more appropriate for older kids.

Besides counseling, another approach is the so-called reminder therapy. This is for kids who need additional help in stopping the habit. It involves putting a cue – can be a bandage, a bitter substance, etc. – on the patient’s finger to serve as reminder that they should not put their finger into their mouth. But be sure to emphasize over and over again that the cue is a just reminder and not some sort of punishment.

Also, praising the kid for stopping the habit can help a lot. The reminder therapy may also be combined with a reward system, wherein if the kid is able to discontinue the habit within a specified amount of time, he or she will be given a reward. If either counseling and reminder therapy proves to be ineffective, only then will installation of preventive appliances be necessary.

Tongue Thrusting:

Management of tongue thrusting comes in two methods.

The first one involves the use of an appliance similar to a mouth-guard or it can also be a more permanent appliance adjusted by the dentist on a regular basis.

The other approach is by training the patient to change his or her swallowing pattern. This is achieved through a series of exercises called the orofacial myofunctional therapy. Such method sorts of “re-educate” the muscles into following the right swallowing pattern. The orofacial myofunctional therapy offers high and long-term success rate.

Lip Sucking:

There really isn’t much we can do to stop the lip sucking habit; nonetheless, steroids and antibiotic ointments may be applied to provide relief on irritated areas.

Bruxism:

Intervention is usually not necessary since most kids outgrow bruxism. But for those who don’t, there are a couple of treatments that can help. These include fabrication of mouthguards, performing stress-reducing exercises, removal of interferences on biting surfaces of the teeth, and referral to appropriate specialists to rule out any medical or psychological problems.

The first step is consulting your dentist to determine which of these options would be most appropriate for you or your kid’s case.

Nail Biting

The simplest, most practical solution to this habit is applying nail polish to discourage the practice. Behavioral therapy may also be helpful, but kids would probably prefer nail polish since it can also make their nails look attractive. And since nail biting has been linked to obsessive-compulsive behaviors, severe cases of this habit – which, in some cases could also involve finger biting – may therefore require the use of some anti-depressants.

Oral Habits and How They Affect Your Entire Dentition

Oral habits are commonly observed mainly among babies, young children, and in adults as well. Not only do these habits cause unsightly damage to the teeth and/or jaws, but they can also be expensive to repair or dangerous if left untreated.

That is why it is important to address any undesirable oral habit as soon as possible. Intervention can be something as simple as patient education and behavior modification but oftentimes, the use of dental appliances is necessary.

With all these in mind, we have come up with this list of most common oral habits and why they should be discontinued if you want to keep that nice, sparkly smile.

Thumb Sucking:

Thumb sucking, or finger sucking in general, is the most common oral habit especially in young children although they tend to outgrow it at about age five.

This habit, especially if it has persisted for long, can cause problems such as (but not limited to) open bite of the front teeth, flared upper incisors, tipping of lower incisors, misalignment of the future permanent teeth, and deformities of the roof of the mouth.

These problems vary in intensity, and are dependent on factors such as the aggressiveness, duration, and frequency of the habit and the position of the thumb in the mouth.

Lip Sucking:

Like thumb sucking, lip suck is another common oral habit in young children.

It often results to chapped, inflamed lips. Severe lip sucking, wherein the lower lip is tucked behind the upper front teeth, causes the upper front teeth to flare out and the lower front teeth to tilt towards the tongue side. This results to these teeth not being in contact with each other when the mouth closes.

Tongue Thrusting:

Tongue thrusting, otherwise known as reverse or immature swallow, is characterized by the tongue moving in a forward position towards the upper central incisors during swallowing.

Infants exhibit this habit up to six months of age at which point they lose this reflex to give them the ability to chew solid foods. But if it persists, tongue thrusting can lead to open bite and other orthodontic problems.

Bruxism:

Bruxism pertains to the non-functional grinding of teeth, which usually occurs during sleep. It affects patients of all ages.

Children, in particular, also grind their teeth even when awake. This habit is caused by a myriad of factors, which include:

1) systemic factors like stress, nutritional deficiencies, metabolic disorders, allergies, mental retardation, and musculoskeletal problems,

2) local factors include high restorations that interfere with biting and chewing.

Grinding erodes the tooth enamel and therefore results to increased susceptibility to decay and faster wear of teeth. It also leads to jaw pain.

Chewing Ice:

Munching on ice cubes may seem like a harmless habit, but unfortunately it can crack, chip the enamel of your tooth. That’s because although the enamel is the hardest substance on our body, it is not designed for crunching ice.

Nail Biting:

Biting on something that you’re not supposed to bite is not good for your teeth. Your nails are no exception. Aside from potentially cracking or chipping the tooth enamel and restorations (if any), it can also expose you to the bacteria that thrives under your nails. Infection can occur, and while it is not necessarily bad for your teeth, it is bad for your overall health.

Tooth Be Told: 10 Interesting Facts About Dentistry

Amazing facts about our teeth – check. Fun facts about dental care – check. Want more? Here is another list of interesting facts. And this time, it is all about the profession itself.

1. The early dentists were blacksmiths and barbers.

The practice of dentistry started in as early as 1800s, with extractions being the most popular dental work. But there was no such thing as dentistry back then, more so professional licensed dentists people can go to.

Majority of dental procedures were performed instead by blacksmiths and barbers because they had the most appropriate “tools” to get the job done.

2. The advice to “visit your dentist twice a year” was invented by a toothpaste company.

Yes, that good old, one of the most popular advices you’ve ever known did not come from your loving dentist. It was actually invented by an ad agency for the popular toothpaste brand Pepsodent. And although most dentists would really ask you to come back every six months, the interval still depends on the overall health of your mouth and your level of care for it.

3. Teeth from dead people were once the most popular tooth replacement option.

When dentures weren’t invented yet, people have their missing teeth replaced with teeth of dead people. These teeth were put into place through surgery, as though they were the modern dental implants.

One popular figure who had such a frightening tooth replacement was no other than the United States’ first president George Washington.

4. The wires in your dental braces were developed by NASA.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration – yup, that one. They developed those modern dental wires that are activated by your body heat.

In addition, these wires are also non-magnetic, which means that they won’t set off those metal detectors, nor will they rust. How cool is that?

5. Tooth colored fillings were introduced in the 90s.

The introduction of tooth-colored restorative materials in the 90s, along with other cosmetic dental treatments such as bleaching and veneers, led to what is known as the era of esthetic dentistry.

But dental bonding, or the mechanism through which the filling sticks onto the surface of your teeth, was actually developed decades prior by Swiss chemist Oskar Hagger.

6. Our ancestors believed that toothache is caused by worms inside the tooth.

A toothache is hard to endure, that’s for sure. We will try everything just to get rid of it – and so did our ancestors.

Unfortunately, though, they did not have the knowledge we have today. The most widespread misconception they had about toothache is that it is brought about by small worms that reside inside the teeth.

In Germany, these worms were described as eel-like while the English described them as red, blue, or gray in color. Some cultures even went as far as saying that these worms were from devils.

7. Our ancestors – again – had weird ways of treating toothache.

Some use different seeds and wax, while others do it with a bunch of chants and magic words or by kiss to a donkey. But the worst, and arguably the most disgusting of them all, is exchanging saliva with a frog.

8. In medieval Japan, black teeth are attractive.

While having that picture perfect white smile is considered ideal, it wasn’t always so. In medieval Japan, white teeth were said to be ugly and black teeth were the standard of beauty.

The Japanese custom of blackening the teeth is known as ohaguro, and the people of Japan did it for various other reasons.

Samurais did it to show loyalty to their masters, while Geishas did it because it provides good contrast to their makeup. Some women also stained their teeth black to let others known their married status.

9. The practice of restoring teeth goes way back to the Ancient times.

In Egypt, fillings were made from malachite or resin. The Romans, meanwhile, had more impressive technology using gold. Other filling materials used by our ancestors include honey, beeswax, crushed eggshells, gum, stone chips, and read this: bird poop.

10. Dentures were a common wedding gift.

That is, in the British Isles. During those times, old people expect that they will lose all of their teeth eventually so having a denture ready would be perfect.

Tooth Be Told: 10 Fun Facts About Dental Care

After the 10 amazing facts about the teeth in our previous article, here are more dental facts for you.

But this time, we will focus on some facts about oral hygiene. Some of them you probably know already, while others you may not be aware of yet.

1. The Earliest Toothbrushes were Made of Twigs.

Even though they didn’t have that fancy electric toothbrush that we use today, the practice of keeping the teeth clean has been there for quite a very long time.

According to archaeological evidence, the Ancient Egyptians used twigs – often of cinnamon and neem – to brush their teeth.

Some people are still using twigs (of these trees) today because they have antibacterial properties in addition to being just as effective as modern toothbrushes.

2. The First Commercial Toothbrush was Manufactured in 1938.

The first commercial toothbrush made with nylon bristles was invented by DuPont Chemical Co. and produced in 1938.

Before that, the first early toothbrushes closest to the modern ones are those made by the Chinese at around 1498. The handle was made from bamboo, while the bristles were derived from the hair of pigs or horses.

3. The World’s First Toothpaste Dates Way Back in 400BC.

The oldest toothpaste recipe was from the Egyptians, and included dried iris flower, black pepper grains, mint, and salt.

Modern dentists say that it indeed makes the teeth feel clean and fresh, but the overall formula was nonetheless unpleasant.

India and China, on the other hand, used honey, ground egg shells, and soot for their toothpaste. Other civilizations even used gross stuff like crushed bones in their formula.

It was in 1873 when the first commercial toothpaste became available courtesy of Colgate. It is the minty toothpaste that we use today.

4. You Should Brush Your Teeth About 30 Minutes After Eating.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to brush your teeth immediately after eating.

While it is true that you have the most debris on your teeth right after a meal, it is also when you have the highest amount of acids in your saliva to partially digest the food you’ve just eaten.

These acids, if combined with immediate tooth-brushing, can actually contribute to the wearing away of the tooth enamel.

It is therefore advised to brush your teeth after at least 30 minutes. By then, the acid levels are much lower.

If you can’t stand the thought of not cleaning your mouth after eating, you can just rinse it thoroughly while waiting for 30 minutes to pass.

5. A Pea-sized Amount of Toothpaste is Enough to Clean Your Teeth.

In most toothpaste ads, you would see that the paste covers the entire part of the brush that has bristles on it. But the truth is, you don’t need to put that much.

The general consensus is that a pea-sized amount is enough to clean all of your upper and lower teeth – using more than that won’t give you any added benefit.

6. Dentists Recommend Brushing Your Teeth for Two Minutes.

On the average, it only takes us 48 seconds to brush our teeth. This is less than half of the time dentists recommend, which is two minutes.

7. Electric Toothbrushes are not Necessarily Better Than Manual Toothbrushes.

When it comes to choosing between electric and manual toothbrushes, neither one of them is better than the other.

Electric toothbrushes are easier to use, but there aren’t any evidence which prove that they clean better than manual toothbrushes. Manual toothbrushes can be just as effective if used properly.

8. People Who Don’t Floss Miss Cleaning 35% of the Total Surfaces of Their Teeth.

No matter how well or how many times you brush your teeth, you won’t be able to clean all of them if you don’t floss.

According to studies, brushing only cleans about 60% of tooth surfaces. Flossing is for cleaning the surfaces in-between teeth, which makes up 35% of tooth surfaces.

9. Dairy Products can Help Protect Your Teeth.

Some foods are bad for your teeth, but there are also those that help protect and promote their health. These include dairy products like milk and cheese, which are much healthier alternative to your sugar-loaded snacks.

Cheese, in particular, is loaded with calcium and phosphorus that helps reduce pH levels in the mouth and induce remineralization of the tooth enamel.

Aged cheddar, Monterey Jack, and Swiss cheese have been found to protect the teeth against tooth decay.

10. Fiber-Rich Foods Help keep Your Teeth Naturally Clean.

Another food group that is beneficial for your pearly whites are those fiber-rich munchies like apples, pineapples, celery, and carrots. These foods help clean your teeth as you eat them. They also stimulate salivary flow which, in turn, helps neutralize the acids that cause tooth decay.

Tooth Be Told: 10 Amazing Facts About Your Teeth

Those little pearly whites in your mouth are some of the most amazing parts of the body. In the first part of this article series, learn a thing or two – or should we say 10? – about your teeth.

1. The hardest substance in the body is the one that makes up your teeth.

The tooth enamel, or the hard tissue that makes up the outer surface of the tooth crown, is the hardest substance in the human body.

It is the most highly mineralized body tissue, even more mineralized and harder than the bone. Its chemical makeup is in fact similar to the structure of concrete and cement!

The enamel is made to be hard and durable in order to protect the very sensitive innermost part of the tooth, which is the dental pulp.

2. Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease.

Although preventable, tooth decay remains as the number one most common chronic disease of children, particularly in the 6 to 11 age group; it is also the most common among adolescents.

Tooth decay is about 4-5 times more common than asthma.

3. Teeth start to form before birth.

Babies start to develop their first set of teeth, called the deciduous or primary teeth, even before they are born.

These teeth form during the fifth week of gestation, but won’t erupt until the child is at least 6 months old.

Six months is the time it takes for the tooth buds to push through the gum tissue and become visible in the mouth as baby teeth. The first teeth to erupt are the lower central teeth.

4. A baby may be born with one or more teeth.

As mentioned earlier, most babies won’t have teeth until after six months of age, but some are already born with one or more teeth.

A tooth that has erupted at birth is called a natal tooth. One in every 3000 babies is born with one or more natal teeth.

A neonatal tooth, on the other hand, is a tooth that erupts during the first month of life. Both are characterized as having weak roots. These teeth must be removed because they cause problems in breastfeeding.

There are numerous cases of babies born with multiple teeth, with the record holder being Sean Keaney. Keaney was born on April 10, 1990 with 12 teeth.

All of them were extracted to prevent feeding problems. He grew his complete set of primary teeth at 18 months.

5. Newborn babies do not have the bacteria that cause tooth decay.

The microorganisms that cause tooth decay are the Streptococcus mutans. This species generates acid using sugar from diet. The acid can dissolve tooth enamel and eat away the soft tissues underneath.

The mouth of a newborn is free from these harmful bacteria. They only get it when infected by another person, typically their mom.

It happens when the mom kisses the child, blows in the baby’s hot food (or drinks) when she feeds him/her, eats from the same spoon, or lets the kid use her toothbrush.

6. The teeth are the only body parts that cannot heal themselves.

The tooth enamel is the only tissue in the human body that remains unchanged throughout a person’s life. It is not a living tissue like any other tissues in the human body; hence, it does not have the capacity to repair itself.

If a tooth gets decayed, chipped, or broken, it cannot regenerate so you need to go to your dentist to have it repaired.

7. You can reattach a tooth that has been knocked out.

That is, if you put it back within 15 minutes of being out of its socket. You can make it survive longer by holding it in its crown and washing it first under running water for a few seconds, then storing it in milk.

If there’s no milk available, you can store it in your mouth – on the area between your molars and the inside of the cheek.

Don’t put it in tap water! Go to your dentist immediately, preferably within 20 minutes, to have it replanted.

8. Your teeth are as unique as your fingerprints.

Your fingerprints are unique – and so are your pearly whites. Every one of us has a unique set of teeth. No two individuals have the same, exact set of teeth – not even twins.

That is why like fingerprints, dental records are also used by investigators in identifying the dead. They can give clues about a person’s age, sex, ethnicity, lifestyle, etc.

9. Some people are born and grow up with no teeth at all.

The condition is called anodontia. It is an extremely rare genetic disorder characterized by the total absence of the primary, permanent, or both sets of teeth.

The opposite of anodontia is hyperdontia, a condition wherein the number of teeth that grows exceeds the normal count – 20 for primary teeth, 32 for permanent teeth including the wisdom teeth.

10. The irrational fear of dentists is known as odontophobia.

Odontophobia is the fear of dentists. It is also used to describe the fear of receiving dental treatment. The term is only used for individuals who have excessive or unreasonable fear, and not for those who develop fear due to traumatic dental experience/s in the past.

Diabetes and Oral Health – It’s a Two-Way Street

Diabetes mellitus affects nearly 30 million Americans – that’s more or less 10% of the population. And every year, approximately 2 million new cases are being reported and there are more than 8 million people who don’t even know they have diabetes.

In one of our previous articles, the connection between oral and systemic health were discussed and we have diabetes in that list. In this article, we will go into detail about the association between oral health and this metabolic disease.

The oral manifestations of diabetes

Diabetes, particularly if poorly-controlled or uncontrolled, can affect every part of the body and the oral cavity is no exception. It decreases salivary flow and increases your risk for tooth decay. It also causes your gums to become more inflamed and bleed easily.

Gum disease modified by diabetes tends to progress much faster. Most importantly, diabetes can also lead to poor wound healing and increased susceptibility to various oral infections. Poor wound healing is of the main reasons why your dentist would require medical clearance first before you undergo invasive procedures like root planing and extraction.

Diabetes and gum disease

The most common oral disease in diabetics is gum disease, affecting one in every five diagnosed individuals. In older the patients with poor blood sugar control, the risk is even higher and the symptoms are more severe. Severe forms of gum disease, it turn, causes blood sugar to rise. The relationship between the two is pretty much like a cycle because they affect one another.

How your dentist can help you

Your dentist’s role is to treat any oral infection that’s contributing to your high blood sugar. Depending on what treatment you need, your dentist will first require you to secure a medical clearance from your physician to ensure that nothing will go wrong during your dental treatment.

For tooth decay, the treatment options would be restoration, root canal treatment, and extraction depending on the extent of decay. Restoration and root canal treatment often do not need a medical clearance, but extraction always does. On the other hand, the treatment for severe forms of gum disease is scaling and root planing and it also requires a medical clearance.

Aside from treating your existing oral infections, you dentist will also give you oral hygiene instructions specific for your case. You will also be advised to go on regular dental visits for monitoring and professional cleaning. Some dentists request their patients to undergo a lab test for HbA1c, which shows how well you control your blood sugar for the past three months.

Your plan of action

While the professional care provided by your dentist is beneficial in improving your oral health, it will be for nothing if you don’t do your part. For one, follow all the oral hygiene instructions provided by your dentist and be sure to show up on your scheduled dental checkups and professional cleaning. If you’re smoking, it’s best to quit immediately.

With regards to your diabetes, take all your prescribed medications on time and exactly as instructed. Start a healthier lifestyle by eating healthily and exercising. Good blood sugar control will improve your overall health, especially your immune health which will fight off any infections not just in your mouth, but in your entire body as well.

The Effects of Medications on Your Oral Health

During your first dental check-up, one of the things your dentist will ask you about is the medications you are currently taking or have taken within the past months.

Certain medications – over-the-counter, prescription, and herbal preparations – can affect oral health. As these drugs become more available, there will more and more medication-related oral side effects seen among patients.

Information about your medications should help your dentist and medical doctor to work together in developing an appropriate treatment plan for you and ensuring that you will be safe during treatment.

Dry Mouth

A common side effect of many medications is xerostomia, which is more popularly known as dry mouth. It occurs as a result of decreased salivary flow. Saliva helps prevent tooth decay by neutralizing acids produced by the oral bacteria, and decreased amounts of saliva mean increased risk for tooth decay.

Medications that can cause dry mouth include anti-inflammatory, antihistamines, anti-glaucoma drugs, antihypertensives, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, antipsychotics, anti-retrovirals (for HIV-positive individuals), and narcotics. Radiation treatment to the head and neck can also damage the salivary glands, leading to dry mouth.

To manage dry mouth, your dentist will prescribe saliva substitutes. These won’t treat the condition but only provide temporary relief. You will also be advised to avoid sugary foods and drinks, and brush your teeth right before going to bed and at least once during the day.

Alterations in Taste and Smell

Taste and smell disturbance is also a common side effect especially of medications that leave a bitter or metallic taste in the mouth. Examples of such are antidepressants, stimulants, cardiovascular agents, NSAIDs, respiratory inhalants, and nicotine skin patches.

Gingival Hyperplasia

Gingival hyperplasia pertains to the enlargement of the gum tissue. It is often associated with immunosuppresants and medications for epilepsy, heart diseases, and high blood pressure.

Abnormal Bleeding

Alterations in normal blood flow are often caused by medications such as aspirin, steroids, and anticoagulants like heparin and warfarin. Aspirin and anticoagulants, in particular, are used as blood thinner to prevent common conditions such as strokes and heart attack. If you plan to undergo tooth extraction or any other procedure where bleeding is anticipated, it is important to tell your dentist about these drugs to prevent excessive bleeding during the operation.

Tooth Discoloration

Tooth discoloration is often seen as a side effect of antibiotics, particularly tetracycline, which causes bright yellow to dark brown staining. The staining occurs most often in developing teeth of young children and unborn baby of a mother who uses it. Other antibiotics that can cause staining are ciprofloxacin and minocycline. Minocycline can cause staining even in fully-developed teeth.

Tooth Decay

Some medications can cause tooth decay due to their high sugar content. These include syrups, cough drops, vitamins, antacids, and some oral anti-fungal agents. Long-term use of these medications increases your risk of developing tooth decay, unless you practice good oral hygiene.

Given the side effects discussed about, you now know how really important it is to tell your dentist about the medications you are taking so he or she tailor the most appropriate dental care plan for you. Always provide an accurate history of your medications – both prescription and non-prescription – and inform your dentist of any changes in medication use.

How Smoking Affects Your Oral Health?

Smoking is bad for the health – a fact that all of us know. It is responsible for 90% of lung cancer cases and about 30% of all reported cases of cancer.

It also increases one’s risk for heart attack and shortens lifespan by 10-15 years on the average.

Simply put, smoking is the singlemost important preventable cause of illness and death.

Based on how smoking is performed, it should not come as surprise that this habit also affects the health of the teeth and oral tissues.

For one, it can cause bad breath as well as dulled sense of taste and smell, but that’s just the beginning of something far worse.

Here are the other possible oral health impacts of smoking, as well as other forms of tobacco products:

It Increases Your Risk for Oral Diseases

All forms of tobacco products – pipes, cigarettes, and even chewing (smokeless) tobacco—increases one’s risk for oral disease, most especially gum disease and tooth decay.

It does so by interfering with the normal function of the body’s immune system, making it harder to fight off bacteria and other disease-causing microorganisms.

Smokeless tobacco, in particular, can irritate the gums and cause it to pull away from your teeth and recede.

Gum recession exposes the tooth roots, which leads to the sensitivity of the teeth involved. This, in turn, makes eating and drinking uncomfortable.

Exposed tooth root also increases risk for decay, especially since smokeless tobacco also contains sugars.

A report by the Journal of the American Dental Association revealed that smokeless tobacco users are more likely to develop tooth decay than non-users.

Furthermore, smokeless tobacco also has sand and grit that can wear down the teeth and make gum disease worsen much faster.

It has been shown that bone loss and gum recession are more severe smokers and smokeless tobacco users than in individuals with no such habits.

It Masks the True Severity of Oral Diseases

Gum disease is characterized by the presence of red, swollen gums that bleeds easily when you brush or floss.

As the disease get worse, the gum tissue starts to break down and pull away from the teeth, forming what is known as periodontal pockets.

This pocket will get deeper and deeper as the supporting structures are continually destroyed. Eventually, the teeth will become loose and eventually fall out.

In smokers and smokeless tobacco users, the symptoms of gum diseases are not as apparent as those in non-users. They have much less gum bleeding, redness, and the gums look normal overall.

This gives the impression that the gum tissue is healthy when in reality, there is destruction underneath.

It is therefore extremely important for tobacco users to have regular dental visits to evaluate the true condition of their gums.

It Encourages The Accumulation of Plaque and Calculus

The main cause of gum disease and most oral diseases is plaque. Gum disease is an infection caused by the bacteria that grow in the dental plaque.

The harmful substances produced by these bacteria, along with the immune system’s reaction to them, results to the breakdown of the soft tissues and bone.

Calculus, more popularly known as tartar, is the hardened form of plaque. It has a rough surface that where plaque can stick to, leading to further accumulation.

Smokers and tobacco users tend to have more plaque and calculus compared to non-users. The increased accumulation is attributed mainly to decreased salivary flow.

Poor Response to Treatment

Smoking and tobacco use not only increase your risk of developing gum disease, but they also makes treatment much more difficult, unpredictable, and less likely to succeed.

This is especially true if it is an oral surgery treatment like dental implant placement.

That’s because the nicotine in tobacco causes the blood vessels to constrict, resulting to impaired blood flow. Impaired blood flow means less oxygen delivered to the tissues, and this affects wound healing and overall response to treatment.

Oral Cancer

Cancer is probably the greatest health threat posed by this nasty habit.

Aside from lung cancer, smoking has been proven to increase the risk of oral cancer, as well as cancer of the throat and esophagus.

It may also lead to cancer of the bladder, kidneys, and several other organs. And according to the American Cancer Society, patients who continue the habit after cancer treatment will develop second cancers of the mouth, throat or larynx.

When smoking or tobacco use is coupled with alcohol consumption, the health effects can be even more devastating.

Oral Diseases and Systemic Health

The importance of our oral health does not end with having that nice-looking smile – it is also essential to our general health and well-being.

A healthy mouth not only allows for good nutrition of the physical body, but it also enhances self-esteem and overall well-being.

Furthermore, experts have known for quite some time that the mouth is connected to the rest of the body, and may therefore give signals about any underlying disorder that the body is experiencing.

The mouth like most areas of the body contains a lot of bacteria, most which are harmless. Under normal circumstances, our body’s immune defenses coupled with good oral hygiene can keep these bacteria under control.

However, if there’s lack of proper oral hygiene, the amount of bacteria grows into amounts that the body can no longer handle, leading to oral infections. The most common of these are tooth decay and periodontal disease.

Recognizing that oral health infections can have adverse effects on general health is essential for your dentist to devise an appropriate oral health care program.

Listed below are the systemic conditions that can affect or be affected by oral health in one way or another.

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetics are more prone to oral infections than any other patients with systemic diseases. Periodontal disease is so among diabetics that it is often referred to as the sixth complication of the disease. It pertains to the inflammation of structures that support the teeth, which include the gums, attachment apparatus, and bone. The severity of inflammation is often indicative of how well the diabetes is under control.

Diabetes mellitus and periodontal disease is actually a two-way street, as severe forms of periodontal disease can also affect the patient’s blood sugar levels.

Treating diabetes helps in the resolution of periodontal disease in the same manner that treating periodontal disease leads to better control of blood sugar levels. Other oral diseases associated with diabetes include dry mouth and tooth decay. Dry mouth can also increase one’s risk of developing periodontal disease.

Heart disease

It has also been suggested that periodontal disease is linked to heart disease, most especially bacterial endocarditis. The association between the two is mainly brought about by periodontal inflammation which is triggered when the oral bacteria enter the bloodstream and attach themselves to the blood vessels that supply the heart. In endocarditis, the bacteria go as far as into the inner lining of the heart.

Periodontal disease can also cause any existing heart conditions to worsen. This necessitates the use of prophylactic antibiotics in a patient who wishes to undergo dental treatment – especially procedures where bleeding is anticipated (i.e. extractions, implant surgery, etc). Your dentist and cardiologist will determine if you need prophylactic antibiotics.

Stroke

Due to their effect on the blood vessels, there also exists a relationship between oral infections and cerebrovascular accident – a.k.a. stroke. This relationship is based on several studies which evaluated oral infection as a possible risk factor for the disease. The results revealed that most patients who have had stroke were more likely to have an existing oral infection compared to the healthy participants.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weak and brittle bones, is often associated with bone loss in periodontal disease. The connection is in the drugs used to treat the condition, which can cause some damage to the jawbone. As the density of the jawbone continues to decrease, the teeth will no longer have that solid foundation to support them. This ultimately leads to tooth loss.

Respiratory Disease

According to research, the bacteria found in the oral cavity may be aspirated into the lungs and cause respiratory diseases, the most common of which is pneumonia. Such relationship is frequently observed in patients with periodontal disease.

Cancer

Arguably the most dreadful of them all is the association between oral diseases and cancer. Studies say that individuals – men, most especially – who suffer from periodontal disease are more likely to develop kidney, pancreatic, and blood cancers compared to those with good periodontal health.

Now, aren’t these some very good reasons for keeping your mouth and teeth healthy from now on? If you suffer from any of these conditions, better consult your dentist now for specific instructions on how to maintain your oral health.