703-528-3336
1-855-VA-SMILE
1515 Wilson Blvd., Suite 103
Arlington, VA 22209

"I have high anxiety during dental visits. Not this time!" — Alexa H.

Sleep Apnea, Jaws, and Gums

IN JUST THE UNITED STATES, sleep apnea affects over 18 million adults and up to 20 percent of children who habitually snore. Sleep apnea is a disorder involving brief, repeated interruptions to normal breathing during sleep. In addition to being potentially life-threatening, this disorder can be very harmful to oral health.

The Different Types of Sleep Apnea

There are different ways sleep apnea can occur. The most common is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), caused by a blocked airway — typically the tongue collapsing against the soft palate, which then collapses against the back of the throat, leaving no space for air to get through. A rarer form is central sleep apnea, in which the brain fails to signal the respiratory muscles to keep breathing. Some people experience a combination of the two, which is called complex sleep apnea.

In any type of sleep apnea, the brain reacts with alarm to the lack of air and forces the person to wake up and take a breath. Even though this process is over in seconds and they usually remember nothing, it can happen hundreds of times in a single night. We need uninterrupted sleep in order to be fully rested, so even tiny interruptions can have a very detrimental impact on quality of sleep.

Okay, But How Does That Affect Oral Health?

On top of struggling with the effects of sleep deprivation like exhaustion, morning headaches, and trouble concentrating, sleep apnea affects oral health in a number of ways. People with OSA are more likely to struggle with moderate to severe periodontitis (gum disease), but they are even more likely to develop temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD).

A sleep apnea episode happens when the throat relaxes, and studies have shown that the jaw tends to reflexively clench in an effort to keep the airway open. This TMD issue leads to other problems, including pain when chewing, chronic headaches, neck and shoulder pain, and even damaged teeth.

The Dentist Is Your Best Ally

Dental side-effects are so common in sleep apnea cases that the dentist is often the first one to recognize the signs and diagnose it. That’s only one way keeping up with your regularly scheduled dental appointments can benefit your overall health, not just your oral health. Common treatment options for sleep apnea patients include nighttime dental devices that push the tongue or lower jaw forward and CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines.

Sleep Healthy, Smile Healthy!

We all need good sleep in order to feel our best, so if you’ve been living with sleep apnea symptoms, your next dental appointment could change your life. Stop by our practice today or give us a call to schedule a dental exam, and we’ll be able to discover if sleep apnea is the cause. Then you’ll be on the path to a better night’s sleep and a healthier smile!

Sleep tight, wonderful patients!

Top image by Flickr user anoldent used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

What Makes Teeth Sensitive?

IF YOU CAN’T REALLY enjoy ice cream because every bite sends a nasty jolt through your teeth, then you know what it’s like to deal with tooth sensitivity. You aren’t alone in that; at least one in eight people in the U.S. has sensitive teeth, including kids. So why does this happen to so many of us?

Dental Anatomy 101

To understand how teeth become sensitive, it helps to know a little about the structure of a tooth. The part above the gums is the crown, which is made of three layers. The outermost layer is the tooth enamel, which is the hardest substance in the body. Beneath that is the softer dentin layer, which is a lot like bone. The innermost layer is the pulp, which contains nerves and blood vessels.

Exposed Nerves and Tooth Sensitivity

The way the nerves in our dental pulp detect what’s going on at the surface is through the thousands of microscopic tubules running through the dentin. However, if the enamel wears too thin, these tubules can become exposed. Then the nerves inside the teeth feel way too much, which can be painful, particularly when eating or drinking anything hot or cold or even sweet or sour.

Other Causes of Sensitivity

Root exposure is another major cause of sensitivity. Unlike the crowns of our teeth, the roots don’t have a layer of enamel to protect them; that job is performed by the gum tissue. Gum recession, sometimes the result of chronic teeth grinding or of overbrushing, leaves the roots exposed and vulnerable. Sensitivity can also be caused by cavities or an injury that chips or fractures a tooth.

Protecting Your Teeth

There are a few ways you can fight back if you have sensitive teeth, and it starts with switching to a soft-bristled toothbrush if you aren’t already using one. Hard bristles can cause additional damage to the enamel and gum tissue, and soft bristles are more than enough to effectively clean your teeth. Switching to a toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth can also help, as can cutting down on sugary or acidic foods and drinks (especially soda).

The Dentist Is Here to Help

If you’ve been suffering tooth sensitivity in silence, schedule a dental appointment to discover the cause. In addition to the things you can do to reduce sensitivity on your own, there’s a lot the dentist can do, such as applying a fluoride varnish to strengthen your enamel, performing dental restoration, prescribe a desensitizing toothpaste, or recommend a gum graft if needed to cover exposed roots.

Keeping your smile healthy and strong is our top priority!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Spotlight on Women’s Oral Health

WHEN YOU THINK of the differences between men and women, oral health concerns probably don’t appear high on the list. In reality, men and women face very different challenges with maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Women have a few advantages that men don’t while struggling with being more at risk for certain issues.

Oral Health Conditions More Common in Women

Two conditions impacting oral health that women are much more likely to have than men are temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ) and Sjögren’s syndrome. TMJ is chronic pain or soreness in the jaw joints and is most commonly caused by bruxism (chronic teeth grinding), but can also be caused by joint structure, vitamin deficiency, stress, arthritis, or hormones. 90 percent of people diagnosed with TMJ are women.

Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks salivary glands and tear ducts (leading to dry mouth and dry eye), as well as other tissues and organs. Dry mouth can make chewing and swallowing more difficult, but it’s also dangerous to oral health. We need our saliva to wash away leftover food particles, neutralize the pH of our mouths, and fight oral bacteria.

How Hormonal Changes Affect Teeth

The major hormonal changes a woman experiences during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause can all affect oral health. During puberty and pregnancy, gingivitis and gum inflammation are common, which is why good oral hygiene habits are essential in these conditions. That means daily flossing and twice daily brushing with a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste.

Women going through menopause are likely to experience dry mouth and bone loss. Bone loss in the jaw can compromise the gums and the roots of teeth. We recommend discussing these things with the dentist, ideally before any symptoms begin to appear.

Eating Disorders Versus Oral Health

Eating disorders are far more common among teenage girls than among teenage boys. In fact, twice as many girls develop these dangerous disorders than their male counterparts. Eating disorders are devastating to every system in the body, including oral health.

Malnutrition, including vitamin and mineral deficiency, can lead to a variety of oral health problems because teeth and gums lack the raw materials to maintain themselves. Another way eating disorders affect oral health is through acid erosion in the case of bulimia.

Those suffering from eating disorders should seek psychiatric help to begin the mental recovery process, but recovery for dental health will require help from dental professionals and a rigorous dental hygiene routine.

Team Up with the Dentist for Better Oral Health!

It might seem after learning all of this that women must be much worse off than men in the oral health department, but they do have a major advantage: women, on average, are better at taking care of their teeth. Women are more likely to keep good oral health habits, including scheduling regular dental appointments. They’re also more likely to go to the dentist when experiencing tooth pain, instead of trying to tough it out. All this means that the effects of these problems are greatly reduced.

We love working with our patients to keep those smiles healthy!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Cold and Flu Season and Oral Health

COMING DOWN WITH the flu is never any fun, but it’s still no time to let up on your oral hygiene routine. The same applies if you get a cold. With flu and cold season starting up, we thought this was a good time to share some tips for maintaining good oral health through one of these common illnesses.

Brushing and Flossing Can Help You Feel Better

As well as you can while sick, try to remember to brush and floss as usual. It’s not just about the comfort of maintaining some part of your normal routine, or about getting some small sense of accomplishment out of it — no, brushing and flossing can actually make you feel better!

Keeping your mouth as clean as possible is a real boost to your overall sense of well-being. A clean mouth helps you feel rejuvenated and refreshed, so don’t let the simple habits of brushing and flossing fall by the wayside while you’re sick. Getting rid of oral bacteria can only help while you’re fighting a cold or the flu!

A Stuffy Nose Leads to Dry Mouth

If you can’t breathe out of your nose because of congestion, then obviously your only option is to breathe through your mouth. That’s never great for oral health, because it tends to dry things out. We need our saliva to fend off bacteria and wash away food debris, and dry mouth significantly increases the risk of tooth decay.

Sometimes the medicine we take to help with a cold or the flu (such as antihistamines, pain relievers, and decongestants) can actually make the dry mouth situation worse. Keep this in mind and make sure to drink plenty of water and, when possible, breathe through your nose.

Congestion and Bad Breath

Have you ever noticed a snotty taste when you have a cold? Well, it can also be a smell, in the form of bad breath. This happens because of post nasal drip, or excess mucus leaking down the back of the throat. It’s easy for bacteria to multiply in this situation, which leads to unpleasant smells — yet another reason why brushing and flossing are just as important when we’re sick!

Cut Down on Sugar

The bad bacteria in our mouths love when we eat sugar, even when it comes in the form of a cough drop. Sucking on a sugary cough drop is just as bad for our teeth as sucking on a hard candy, which is why it’s a good idea to choose a sugar free cough drop for your throat-soothing needs.

Rehydrate with Water

We tend to reach for beverages like orange juice, sports drinks, or sweetened tea when we’re sick. If we do, we should remember to rinse with water afterward to wash away any leftover sugar, but we should really be drinking water more than anything else. It will make up for the fluids lost due to flu or cold symptoms, and particularly if it’s the stomach flu, it helps to protect the teeth from the damaging effects of stomach acid from frequent vomiting.

Have Questions About Oral Health?

If there’s anything else you’d like to know about the relationship between oral health and common illnesses like colds or the flu, just give us a call! We want all of our patients to have the tools they need to stay as healthy as possible in addition to specifically having good oral health.

Feel better soon!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

What to Do When a Toothache Strikes

TOOTHACHES CAN HAPPEN for a number of reasons. It’s important to know what to do about them, because they don’t always happen when the dentist’s office is open. Do you have a plan for how to deal with an after-hours toothache?

Major Causes of Toothaches

Tooth decay is the main culprit behind a painful tooth, but there are others too, from gum disease to pulp inflammation to dental abscess to an actual injury to the tooth. Teeth that are impacted in the jaw can also be painful. In addition to all these, tooth sensitivity can be uncomfortable, and sometimes the problem traces back to simple congestion or a sinus infection.

Managing Dental Pain Until the Appointment

If at all possible, come to us right away with your dental pain, but as we mentioned before, toothaches don’t always respect office hours. Here are a few things you can do to keep the pain level manageable until you can see us:

  • Apply a cold compress near the sore area
  • Use over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pills or topical medication
  • Reduce inflammation by rinsing and spitting with warm saltwater (do not swallow)

Ways to Prevent Future Toothaches

No one who has already had a toothache wants to have another one. They can’t always be prevented, as in cases where sinus infections or an injury were the cause, but aches and pains that result from poor dental health are ones patients can often prevent with the right habits.

The most important of those habits are brushing and flossing. Brush for twice a day for two full minutes using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste and floss daily. Also cut down on sugary foods and drinks that feed harmful oral bacteria, and make sure to schedule a professional dental cleaning and dental exam twice a year.

Why are these regular appointments so important? It’s very difficult to completely avoid tartar buildup without professional cleanings, and tooth decay doesn’t always have symptoms at first. If a dentist doesn’t catch it early on, it is unlikely to go away on its own and much more likely to get worse and become a painful (and expensive) problem.

We’re Here for You and Your Teeth!

As much as we don’t enjoy feeling pain, it’s the body’s natural alarm system to signal when something is wrong, and we need to pay attention. If you have a toothache, no matter what you think the cause is, schedule an appointment so that we can get to the bottom of it and recommend next steps.

It’s never too soon to see us about a dental problem!

Top image by Flickr user Edward Webb used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Fluoride and Cavity Prevention

IF YOU LOOK AT ANY tube of toothpaste with the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance, you’ll see fluoride listed as the active ingredient. Trace amounts of fluoride are also added to the drinking water in many communities to further promote strong and healthy teeth. But what is fluoride and how does it work?

A Brief History of Fluoride in Drinking Water

First, let’s take a look back at the fascinating history of this mineral. It all starts in Colorado Springs at the turn of the 20th century. Dentists in the town encountered numerous cases of “Colorado brown stain” — tooth discoloration that, bizarrely, was connected to a lower rate of cavities. Today, we call that fluorosis. Eventually, they traced it back to the water supply and discovered naturally occurring fluoride to be the cause.

Dentists were curious to see whether it was possible to keep the cavity prevention without any of the staining by lowering the level of fluoride, and they were right! When fluoride was first added to the public water supply in Grand Rapids, Michigan, it reduced the rate of childhood dental caries by a whopping 60 percent, with no adverse effects except for occasional cases of mild fluorosis.

Today, more than half of the U.S. population lives in communities with fluoridated water, and the CDC considers community water fluoridation “1 of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century,” benefiting young and old, rich and poor alike. It’s similar to drinking milk with vitamin D, baking with enriched flour, or even using iodized salt.

Fluoride and Teeth

So how does fluoride actually protect teeth? It does it by helping to remineralize weakened tooth enamel and reverse the early signs of tooth decay. Brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste gives a topical benefit, while fluoride from foods and drinks serves as an ongoing benefit by becoming part of your saliva, where it can provide continual remineralization.

For more details about how this works, check out this short video:

The Right Level of Fluoride: A Delicate Balance

As was the case in Colorado Springs a hundred years ago, it’s definitely possible to have too much fluoride. This is why it’s important to spit after brushing with a fluoride toothpaste instead of swallowing and only use tiny amounts of toothpaste when brushing the teeth of babies and small children, if any. It’s also why fluoridated water supplies maintain the level at a very low 0.7-1.2 parts per million. Using more fluoride than the recommended amounts won’t increase the positive effects, but avoiding it entirely will make it harder to prevent cavities.

Ask Us About Fluoride

There’s a lot of information out there about fluoride, and not all of it is from credible sources like the ADA and CDC. If you have any questions, feel free to ask! We want to make sure our patients are confident and informed about the tools they have to keep their teeth healthy and strong!

Our favorite sight is a patient’s healthy smile!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

The Hazards of Oral Piercings

FROM CLOTHING TO HAIRSTYLE to cosmetics to accessories, our personal style is how we portray who we are, and this can include piercings. However, where clothing and hairstyles are very rarely health risks (we hope), the same isn’t true of piercings. Oral piercings, specifically, pose several risks to healthy teeth and gums.

Risks of Tongue and Lip Rings

No piercing is entirely safe. Even basic earlobe piercings aren’t entirely risk-free, as they can become infected or there may be an allergic reaction to the metal. The same risks apply to oral piercings, but there are also additional ones with those.

  • Damage from fidgeting: it’s difficult to resist fidgeting with any foreign object in the mouth, but doing that with a tongue or lip piercing can result in chipped or cracked teeth, damage to fillings, and injuries to the soft tissues of the gums, lips, or tongue.
  • Nerve damage: tongue piercings can cause temporary or even permanent numbness in the tongue because of nerve damage, which can affect speech, chewing, and even sense of taste.
  • Gum recession: a piercing can wear gum tissue away by friction, exposing the roots of the teeth and leaving them much more vulnerable to decay.
  • Infection: many species of bacteria live in our mouths. We can control them with good oral hygiene, but piercings bring that bacteria much closer to the bloodstream, which can result in pain, swelling, and infection.
  • X-ray trouble: piercings show up very brightly on X-rays, and they can obscure important areas, making it easier for cavities to go undetected.
  • Drooling: foreign objects in the mouth stimulate the salivary glands. Piercings can trick them into working overtime, producing a lot of drool.

Oral Piercings and Braces Do Not Mix

The risks are even greater for orthodontic patients, because it doesn’t take much for a piercing to get tangled up in the orthodontic hardware. If this happens, it can damage the braces and cause injuries around the piercing site. We strongly urge orthodontic patients to wait until their treatment is over before getting an oral piercing.

How to Properly Care for a Piercing

We’re not here to forbid our patients from ever getting these types of piercings, we just want to be sure they are fully informed of the risks involved. If it still seems like a good idea, it’s also important to know the ways to manage those risks. Being diligent with oral hygiene is the most obvious one, but there are others too. None are as effective as removing or never getting the piercings, but they do make a difference:

  • Clean the piercing site after every meal or snack to prevent bacteria and food debris from building up.
  • Remove all piercings during physical activity like sports to minimize the risk of injury.
  • Check that the piercing is secure so that it can’t come loose and become a choking hazard.
  • Go to the dentist at the first sign of infection, including symptoms like swelling, pain, or unusual redness, as well as chills, fever, or shaking.
  • Don’t click the piercing against your teeth. Be very gentle with how you move it so that it doesn’t cause chips and cracks.

Your Oral Health Is Our Top Priority

We’re always here to help our patients maintain healthy teeth and gums, which is why we’re not the biggest fans of oral piercings. To learn more about how a piercing can impact your oral health or how you can minimize these risks, just give us a call or drop by our practice!

We look forward to seeing you and your beautiful smiles!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Bleeding Gums: Causes and Treatment

BLEEDING GUMS ARE the most common symptom of gum disease, but that’s not the only thing that can cause this problem. Let’s take a closer look at bleeding gums, the various causes, and what we can do about it.

Gingivitis and Periodontitis

Over time, plaque (a sticky, bacteria-filled film that coats our teeth) builds up along our gumlines if we aren’t careful enough in our brushing and flossing routines. Eventually, plaque hardens into tartar, which irritates the gums, making them more likely to bleed and leading to gingivitis, or the early stage of gum disease.

More advanced gum disease is periodontitis, where the infection impacts the jaw and supportive tissues connecting the teeth to the gums as well as the gums themselves. Tooth loss is a major concern at this stage, so don’t let it get this far!

Vitamin C and K Deficiencies

If your gums are bleeding but you don’t have gum disease, ask your doctor to check your vitamin C and K levels, and make sure you’re including good sources of these vitamins in your diet, such as: citrus fruits, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes, and bell peppers for vitamin C, and watercress, kale, spinach, lettuce, mustard greens, soybeans, and olive oil for vitamin K.

Overbrushing Damages Gum Tissue

It’s also possible (though uncommon) to damage gum tissue to the point of bleeding (and worse) simply by brushing too hard. Remember when you’re brushing that you aren’t cleaning out tile grout; you’re cleaning soft, living tissue, and gentle brushing is enough. It’s best to use a brush with soft bristles. One way you know you’re probably brushing too hard is if the bristles quickly become bent outward.

A New Flossing Routine

Sometimes flossing for the first time in a while can cause a little bleeding, but this is no reason to stop flossing. The bleeding should clear up after a few days if there isn’t another cause, but make sure that you’re gentle on your gums when you floss. You want to get beneath the gumline, but avoid pulling straight towards the gums when getting between your teeth. Instead, work your way down carefully with a back-and-forth motion.

Protecting Your Gum Health

The first step to having healthy gums is good dental hygiene. This includes twice-daily brushing for a full two minutes with that soft-bristled toothbrush, daily flossing, and twice-yearly visits to the dentist. A good way to soothe tender gums is by swishing with warm salt water (but don’t swallow it). You might also want to consider switching to an electric toothbrush. They’re better at cleaning and you’re less likely to brush too hard with them.

Let the Dentist Take a Look

If you’ve noticed your gums bleeding when you brush or if they’ve felt sore or swollen lately, the first thing to do is to schedule a dental appointment. The dentist can determine what the source of the problem is and recommend the right next steps to take to get back to great gum health!

We love our patients’ healthy smiles!

Top image by Flickr user nøpe used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Conquering Dental Anxiety

EVEN THOUGH WE know, logically, that going to the dentist is a safe, normal, and important part of staying healthy, many of us don’t find it particularly fun to lie flat on our backs while someone pokes around our teeth and gums. For some people, the very thought of visiting the dentist fills them with anxiety, and it could even be a full-blown phobia. That’s why we’d like to put our focus on helping our patients overcome their dental anxieties and fears.

Dental Anxiety Statistics: You Are Not Alone

Fear of going to the dentist is fairly common, with an estimated nine to 15 percent of Americans completely avoiding visiting the dentist because of anxiety and fear. That means up to 40 million Americans are taking a serious gamble with their dental health. Putting off a basic twice-a-year cleaning out of fear leaves patients much more susceptible to tooth decay and painful infection. It’s always better (for your wallet as well as your health) to view dental care as preventative, not just reactive.

Why Does Dental Anxiety Happen?

A lot of people who avoid the dentist due to dental anxiety or fear do so because of a previous negative experience they had that soured them on the concept of dentistry altogether. The feeling of not being in control is another reason people might be nervous. We understand this, and we’re dedicated to helping our patients feel comfortable so that they can move forward with the right professional oral health care to keep their teeth strong and healthy for life.

History and Pop Culture Skew Versus Modern Dentistry

If you’re worried about going to the dentist, that might be because history and pop culture have given you the wrong idea. Before World War II made anesthetics the norm, dental procedures were uncomfortable, to say the least. The field has come a long way since then, even though movies and TV haven’t done much to update cultural expectations. Modern dental offices maintain a high standard of comfort and care for patients.

Tips for Overcoming Dental Anxiety

There are a few things you can do to reduce your dental anxiety.

  • Come visit our practice before your appointment, especially if this is your first time coming in. Familiarize yourself with our space and members of our staff so that it doesn’t seem so foreign on appointment day. You might even want to bring someone you trust along with you.
  • Learn as much as you can about what happens in a typical dental appointment. If you take away the mystery, it will help you regain a sense of control.
  • Talk to us about your anxiety. When we know this is something you struggle with, there’s more we can do to help you.
  • Bring a distraction like headphones and a playlist of relaxing music to your appointment.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Dental Professionals

Your care and comfort are our top priorities. If you or someone in your family struggles with dental anxiety and it’s interfering with getting needed dental care, we’d love to schedule a time for you to come to our practice so that you can get used to the facility and get to know our team. We can answer any questions you may have.

We hope to see you soon!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

The Impact of Diabetes on Teeth and Gums

ONE OF THE MOST common complications of diabetes is gum disease, and that isn’t the only way diabetes is hard on teeth and gums. Diabetes and oral health have a close relationship. If the diabetes isn’t carefully controlled, it will be much harder to maintain good oral health, and vice versa.

What Does Blood Sugar Have to Do with Oral Health?

You’ve probably already heard that sugar is bad for oral health. The harmful bacteria in our mouths love to eat leftover sugar stuck to our teeth after we enjoy a tasty treat. Unfortunately, high blood sugar is just as delicious to harmful oral bacteria. High blood sugar also weakens the immune system, making that same bacteria harder to fight. This leaves diabetic patients more vulnerable to tooth decay and oral inflammation.

Diabetes and Gum Disease

An estimated 22 percent of diabetics (both type 1 and type 2) have gum disease. It might only be in the early stages of inflammation (gingivitis) or it might be much more advanced (periodontitis), threatening the health of the teeth, gums and even the supporting bone. If the bacteria causing the gum disease makes its way into the bloodstream, it can threaten overall health too.

Symptoms of gum disease include red, swollen, or bleeding gums, bad breath, gum recession, and looser teeth. Other problems associated with diabetes can also increase the risk of gum disease, such as dry mouth, impaired ability to heal, burning mouth syndrome, more frequent and severe infections, enlargement of salivary glands, and fungal infections.

How to Fight Back Against Diabetes

Fortunately, good oral health is still achievable even for patients struggling with diabetes, and maintaining good oral health will make it easier to keep good control over diabetes. Brush twice a day for two full minutes with a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste, floss daily, be careful with sugar intake, and avoid smoking. If you’re doing all of this and scheduling your recommended number of yearly dental appointments, you’ll be on the right track!

How Diabetes Can Impact Orthodontic Treatment

We want everyone to have healthy, properly aligned smiles, but gum disease can make it difficult or impossible to begin or continue orthodontic treatment. That’s why it’s even more crucial for diabetics who are current orthodontic patients or who are considering orthodontic treatment to maintain careful control of their diabetes and their oral health.

Take Advantage of Good Resources

We want to emphasize the importance of those regular dental visits. The dentist can recognize warning signs before you can and recommend adjustments to the daily oral hygiene routine before any problems can get worse. The dentist and the doctor can also work as a team to help keep you, your teeth, and your gums healthy — just make sure to keep them both up to date!

We’re ready to fight for your oral health!

Top image by Flickr user Kolin Toney used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
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