By Ronald Ritsco DMD, MS
November 29, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   smoking  
HeresWhySmokingCanBeHazardoustoYourDentalHealth

During his exploration of the Americas, Christopher Columbus encountered a native in a canoe loaded with water, food and a strange bunching of leaves. This marked the first European encounter with tobacco, a discovery that still haunts us to the present day. Today, millions smoke tobacco—and many suffer serious health problems as a result, including dental diseases like tooth decay and gum disease.

The American Cancer Society is sponsoring its 44th annual Great American Smokeout this November 19 when health providers across the country encourage smokers to kick the tobacco habit. Dentists will certainly be among them: Studies show that smokers are five times more likely to lose teeth than non-smokers due to a higher incidence of dental disease. Here's why.

Increased plaque and tartar. The main cause for tooth decay and gum disease is dental plaque, a thin, bacterial film that builds up on teeth. Brushing and flossing, along with regular dental cleanings, can keep plaque and its hardened form tartar from accumulating. But substances in tobacco restrict the flow of saliva needed to curb bacterial growth. This in turn can increase plaque accumulation and the risk for disease.

Hidden symptoms. Your gums often “tell” you when you have early gum disease by becoming swollen and red, and bleeding easily. But if you smoke, you might not get that early warning—the nicotine in tobacco interferes with your body's inflammatory response, so your gums, although infected, may look normal. By the time you find out, the infection may have already spread, increasing your chances of tooth loss.

Slow healing. Nicotine can also constrict the mouth's blood vessels, slowing the delivery of nutrients and infection-fighting antibodies to your teeth and gums. As a result, your body may have a harder time fighting tooth decay or gum disease, and diseased tissues can take longer to heal. Slower healing can also complicate the process of getting dental implants.

Increased oral cancer risk. Although it's not as prevalent as other cancers, oral cancer is still among the deadliest with a dismal 50% survival rate after five years. Smokers are six times more likely than non-smokers to develop oral cancer. But by quitting smoking and other forms of tobacco, you could reduce your oral cancer risk to that of a non-user in just a few years.

Kicking the smoking habit often takes a monumental effort, but it's worth it. Quitting not only improves your overall well-being, it could help you gain healthier teeth and gums. To learn how, see us for an up-to-date dental exam—we can show you how getting Columbus's most notorious discovery out of your life could do wonders for your smile and dental health.

If you would like more information about the effects of tobacco on your oral health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Smoking and Gum Disease” and “Strategies to Stop Smoking.”

AToothinaDayImplantCouldGiveYouaPerfectSmileFromDayOne

Getting a new implant tooth in only one day sounds too good to be true. But it's true—up to a point. Whether or not you can undergo an immediate crown replacement (attaching a crown to an implant right after surgery) will depend mostly on the underlying bone.

Traditionally, an implant crown isn't attached until several weeks after surgery to allow bone cells to grow and adhere to an implant's titanium surface (osseointegration). The gums are sutured back in place to protect the metal implant until it develops a durable hold within the bone. But this also leaves you with a noticeable missing tooth gap during the integration period.

A “tooth in a day” procedure gives you a full smile right after implant surgery. There is one catch, though—this first crown will be temporary and it won't be able to receive biting pressure.

Until the bone and implant fully integrate, attaching a full-sized permanent crown can damage the implant. To avoid this, the initial crown is slightly shorter than the future permanent crown. This prevents it from contacting solidly with teeth on the other jaw while biting or chewing, which can generate enough force to potentially damage the implant.

If you undergo an immediate-load crown on your implant, you'll have to return later for the full-length permanent crown. In the meantime, though, you'll avoid the embarrassment of a missing tooth in your smile.

With that said, the target bone must be healthy and intact for you to undergo a “tooth in a day” procedure. That isn't always the case with missing teeth—over time, bone volume can gradually diminish. The subsequent loss can complicate implant placement, which must be exact to achieve the most natural outcome. If extensive bone loss exists, you may need grafting to build up enough bone to adequately support an implant.

Even if an implant can be placed, the bone may still be too weak to allow for immediate crown placement. In that case, the traditional procedure may be the best course to allow the bone and implant to fully bond.

To determine if you're a candidate for a “tooth in a day” implant procedure, you'll first need to have a thorough dental exam that includes an assessment of bone health. If it's sound, you may be able to have a full smile right after implant surgery.

If you would like more information on dental implant restorations, 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 “Same-Day Tooth Replacement With Dental Implants.”

By Ronald Ritsco DMD, MS
November 09, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition  
ThatEnergyDrinkYouTakeforaBoostMightBeHurtingYourDentalHealth

Although energy drinks are but a blip on the historical timeline compared to coffee or tea, they've displaced these traditional stimulants among nearly half of today's adolescents and young adults. But these sweetened “processed” drinks are also controversial among healthcare experts—particularly the effect they may have on dental health.

Besides the added sugar found in many energy drinks—a prime food source for harmful bacteria—many energy drinks and their cousins sports drinks contain significant amounts of acid. High levels of acid soften and erode tooth enamel, which can lead to tooth decay.

During one experimental study, portions of tooth enamel were subjected to a number of name-brand energy and sports beverages. Over the course of a few days, researchers recorded significant enamel loss, especially involving the energy drink samples.

Abstaining from both energy and sports drinks is a sound way to avoid enamel erosion (the best hydrator, it turns out, is simply water). But if you do wish to continue consuming these beverages, here are a few common sense precautions for reduce the risk of harm to your teeth.

Partake only at mealtimes. Among its many abilities, saliva is able to neutralize oral acid and bring the mouth to a neutral pH level within 30 minutes to an hour. But if you're sipping on high-acid beverages throughout the day, your saliva may not be able to compensate effectively. Drinking energy drinks only during a meal helps saliva do its acid-buffering job better.

Rinse with water afterwards. Rinsing with a little water after eating or drinking something acidic can help reduce the pH levels in the mouth. That's because water is by and large neutral on the acidic/alkaline scale. Because it's not adding more, rinsing with water dilutes any concentrations of acid that may still be lingering in your mouth.

Don't brush immediately. Brushing is essential to overall hygiene, but if you do it right after you eat or drink, you could be doing more harm than good. That's because elevated acid levels that naturally occur after consuming foods and beverages can temporarily soften and demineralize the surface enamel. Brushing could remove microscopic bits of softened enamel. If you wait an hour to brush, you'll be giving saliva time to “re-mineralize” your enamel.

If you would like more information on the role of beverage acid in dental disease, 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 “Think Before Your Drink.”

WhyKathyBatesChoseThisAlternativetoBracesandsoMightYou

Kathy Bates has been a familiar face to filmgoers since her Oscar-winning performance as Annie Wilkes in Misery. She's best known for playing true-to-life characters like Wilkes or Barbara Jewell in last year's Richard Jewell (for which she earned her fourth Oscar nomination). To keep it real, she typically eschews cosmetic enhancements—with one possible exception: her smile.

Although happy with her teeth in general, Bates noticed they seemed to be “moving around” as she got older. This kind of misalignment is a common consequence of the aging process, a result of the stresses placed on teeth from a lifetime of chewing and biting.

Fortunately, there was an orthodontic solution for Bates, and one compatible with her film career. Instead of traditional braces, Bates chose clear aligners, a newer method for moving teeth first introduced in the late 1990s.

Clear aligners are clear, plastic trays patients wear over their teeth. A custom sequence of these trays is developed for each patient based on their individual bite dimensions and treatment goals. Each tray in the sequence, worn in succession for about two weeks, places pressure on the teeth to move in the prescribed direction.

While clear aligners work according to the same teeth-moving principle as braces, there are differences that make them more appealing to many people. Unlike traditional braces, which are highly noticeable, clear aligners are nearly invisible to others apart from close scrutiny. Patients can also take them out, which is helpful with eating, brushing and flossing (a challenge for wearers of braces) and rare social occasions.

That latter advantage, though, could pose a problem for immature patients. Clear aligner patients must have a suitable level of self-responsibility to avoid the temptation of taking the trays out too often. Families of those who haven't reached this level of maturity may find braces a better option.

Clear aligners also don't address quite the range of bite problems that braces can correct. Some complex bite issues are thus better served by the traditional approach. But that gap is narrowing: Recent advances in clear aligner technology have considerably increased their treatability range.

With that said, clear aligners can be an ideal choice for adults who have a treatable bite problem and who want to avoid the appearance created by braces. And though they tend to be a little more expensive than braces, many busy adults find the benefits of clear aligners to be worth it.

The best way to find out if clear aligners could be a viable option for you is to visit us for an exam and consultation. Like film star Kathy Bates, you may find that this way of straightening your smile is right for you.

If you would like more information about tooth straightening, please contact us or schedule a consultation.

By Ronald Ritsco DMD, MS
October 20, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene  
ProtectYourselfFromGumDiseasefortheHealthofYourMouthANDYourBody

October is National Dental Hygiene Month, when we call attention to the importance of keeping those pearly whites clean. Brushing and flossing, along with regular dental cleanings, protect your teeth and gums from dental disease. It might also lessen the risk or severity of heart disease, arthritis—or even dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

Sound far-fetched? A number of years ago, researchers noticed that people with periodontal (gum) disease were also more prone to systemic conditions like chronic heart and lung diseases, diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis. The common thread: inflammation, the body's response to infection or trauma.

Inflammation in and of itself is a necessary part of the healing process. But if it becomes chronic, as it often does with a gum infection and these other systemic diseases, this defensive response meant to aid healing can instead damage tissues.

We've also learned that inflammation arising from gum disease may worsen inflammation associated with other systemic conditions. It can work the other way as well: If you have an inflammatory disease, your risk for gum disease goes up and any gum infection can be more acute.

What we've learned recently, though, might be even more concerning: Results from a recent study are showing some evidence of a link between gum disease and dementia and decline in cognitive ability. The study, published in the journal Neurology this past July, followed approximately 8,000 Americans for twenty years. Participants came from a variety of locations and demographic subsets, and were on average in their early sixties with no signs of dementia at the beginning of the study.

Of the participants who completed the study, about 19% had developed dementia. Of these participants, those with severe gum disease and tooth loss were slightly more likely to have dementia than subjects with healthy teeth and gums.

At the very least, these studies raise more questions about the connections between oral and general health, calling for further exploration. One thing's for sure, though—healthy teeth and gums play an important role in the overall quality of life and health. The time and effort required for the following are well worth it to maintain a healthy mouth.

  1. Brush and floss your teeth every day without fail;
  2. Visit your dentist at least twice a year for professional cleanings;
  3. Eat a “tooth-friendly” diet low in sugar and rich in vitamins and minerals (especially calcium);
  4. See your dentist as soon as possible if you notice swollen, reddened or bleeding gums.

We all want to stay fit and active throughout our senior years. Taking care of your teeth and gums—especially with daily oral hygiene—is a key part of the formula for a long and happy life.

If you would like more information about the importance of dental hygiene to overall health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “10 Tips for Daily Oral Care at Home.”





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