As a dental professional, you’re no doubt well aware of the negatives of temporomandibular joint syndrome or TMJ.
The temporomandibular joint connects the mandible (or lower jaw) to the temporal bone (or skull) in front of the ear. Other specific facial muscles that connect to the lower jaw are responsible for chewing.
When the pain of TMJ has been too much for over-the-counter pain meds, it’s been known for dentists to prescribe strong pain relievers such as prescription-strength ibuprofen. Patients have also been treated with low doses of tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline to relieve pain symptoms, but also to control bruxism and sleeplessness.
Furthermore, it’s not uncommon for patients to be offered muscle relaxants for their TMJ-related issues.
Then there is an array of therapies, like oral splints and even physical therapy used to treat the condition. If the patient is suffering enough, there’s also a mandibular or multi-joint surgery that can be performed. Really though, this list of treatments is only scratching the surface.
In fact, recently, Botox injections have been utilized to treat TMJ syndrome ‒ with a great deal of success.
How Useful Are TMJ Treatments?
A small anecdotal study involving 26 patients from 2012 discovered that Botox could substantially decrease the pain associated with TMJ for up to three months. It also could increase mouth movements.
There were two other studies, published respectively in 2003 and 2008, that revealed similar results.
Of the participants in the 2003 study, 90% displayed symptom relief after failing to respond to more conventional treatment methods.
As is the case with most experimental treatments, these small sample sizes aren’t enough for most experts to offer their 100% stamp of approval. Yes, the results are undoubtedly encouraging.
Still, to endorse the full effectiveness of Botox treatments for TMJ disorders, experts need to investigate the results of further studies.
Are There Any Side Effects to Botox Treatments for TMJ?
Despite the potential for positive results, Botox treatments for TMJ do come with side effects.
Pain, redness at the injection site, muscle weakness, and bruising at the injection site is common in the first week after treatment. More serious side effects include headache, respiratory infection, flu-like illness, nausea, and temporary eyelid droop.
Then there’s a chance that your patients might experience a fixed smile for up to 6 to 8 weeks. This condition is a result of the paralyzing effect that’s brought upon by Botox treatments.
A Breakdown of the Procedure
One of the primary benefits of Botox treatments for TMJ disorder is that it’s a nonsurgical, outpatient procedure. Meaning, it’s non-invasive. It’s performed right in the dental office and only lasts from anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes.
Commonly, there are at least 3 injection sessions that span throughout a several-month period. The number of injections required depends on your patient’s needs and the severity of their condition.
Botox can be injected in a patient’s forehead, temple, jaw muscles, or anywhere else in the face/head area where there are pain symptoms. Resulting pain from the injection itself is minimal. It resembles a bug bite, and a cold pack or numbing cream can help to ease any discomfort.
Patients will generally experience improvements several days after the treatment. Though they can return to regular activities immediately after leaving your office.
When Should Botox Be Used to Treat TMJ?
While this treatment is more synonymous with cosmetic enhancement, it’s increasingly being used in the dental industry therapeutically.
Botox injections treat the symptoms of TMJ instead of the syndrome itself. Meaning, it’s meant to soothe the jaw tension, teeth grinding-induced headaches and lockjaw that can result from TMJ syndrome.
Still, at this point, Botox treatments for TMJ disorder are only experimental. It’s considered to be an off-label approach that has yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. As such, these injections are currently only an alternative when more traditionally successful methods haven’t been able to give patients relief.
If you’re a dental professional, it will serve you well to read this Hygiene Town article that recently caught our eye.
The article highlights the many positive features of air polishing and the fact that, despite scientific evidence demonstrating its value, it has yet to become widely accepted among many registered dental hygienists.
Air polishing has proven to be successful with plaque and stain removal. In fact, it’s shown to be three times faster than rubber cup polishing! So, why aren’t more of us using it?
The truth is that air polishing, for whatever reason, has been riddled with naysaying...and these myths are part of the reason it hasn’t seen widespread use.
Let’s look at the facts about air polishing!
Myth #1: Air Polishing is Too Messy
This myth is based on what used to be the truth. In generations past, air polishers sprayed all over the place. However, in recent years, things have changed.
Older air polishing devices could only be used at full power. They also clogged too quickly, and many practitioners didn’t have the knowledge and experience to shield their patients from the abundance of overspray.
Nowadays, air polishers offer far more control and precision.
Myth #2: Patients Dislike the Taste
Similar to the above myth, the taste factor of air polishers did use to be a legitimate gripe of patients and hygienists alike.
Initially, the powder being used was a salty sodium bicarbonate that revolted both children and adults.
Fortunately, most models now include a non-sodium option.
There’s also a substance known as Sylc therapeutic prophy powder being utilized in air polishing systems. It’s a calcium sodium phosphosilicate or bioactive glass.
Although the Sylc does possess 450 mg sodium, this is far milder than the 2,000 to 3,000 mg found in a sodium bicarbonate—a staple of the old method.
Further studies, however, indicate similar results between cleaning methods. Regardless, air polishing has never been proven to be less effective at cleaning teeth when compared to other treatments!
Myth #4: Air Polishing Makes Teeth Overly Sensitive
This myth, unlike a few of the other ones, isn’t rooted in facts at all. The reality is that this myth couldn’t be any further from the truth!
Air polishing will offer comfort to your patients with even the most sensitive teeth. It’s an extremely gentle method that necessitates no heat or pressure being placed on tooth surfaces.
Furthermore, due to the acclaimed gentleness of air polishing, it’s an ideal technique to use when cleaning around delicate implants.
Myth #5: The Aerosol Spreads Bacteria
Dental professionals perform an array of procedures, including air polishing, that requires hand tools that produce an influx of particles and splattering. They can contain microorganisms (aerosols) from the oral cavity of the patients, which are believed to possess bacteria and fungi. It’s feared that this can lead to cross-infection for dentists and dental hygienists.
Yes, you do have to adhere to prevention methods to keep safe—but it’s no different from any other treatment. Furthermore, studies have proven that aerosol exposure is not a significant occupational hazard.
Myth #6: Air Polishing Equipment is Too Expensive
Unfortunately, many dental professionals do consider air-polishing equipment to be too expensive.
But this assumption doesn’t consider the return on your investment.
Even if you’re paying for a more expensive polisher, your patients will appreciate the results and keep coming back to you as their trusted dentist or dental hygienist.
After debunking these myths, we hope that you’re more open to air polishing. It’s an undoubtedly affordable, safe, and effective teeth-cleaning method that will help your patients achieve optimal oral health!
It’s a fact: millennials are now the single biggest generation in both Canada and the U.S. There are over 83.1 million American millennials and about 10 million to the north.
So, why aren’t you seeing more of them in your practice?
You’re not alone if you’ve had difficulty bringing this generation of potential patients on board. Sure, you’ll see them in for the occasional extraction or filling...but when it’s time for a regular cleaning, millennials aren’t inclined to call back.
It’s not that Gen Y doesn’t want or need dental care ‒ but they often require a different tact than you’d take to recruit and retain your usual patients.
Why Gen Y Isn’t Always An Easy Win
In a recent article for HygieneTown, RDH Katrina Sanders lays out a few of the things that make the millennial generation (people born between 1983 and 1997) different when it comes to their approach to dental care.
First, many millennials experienced divorce in their families growing up. Because of this, they tend to wait longer to marry and have children (if they do at all.)
Older millennials took on significant student loans and graduated at the height of the Great Recession, leading many to unstable career and financial situations. Many work part-time, multiple jobs or flexible hours.
Millennials also saw their parents and grandparents, many of whom committed decades of service to their employers, suffer job loss during the Recession.
What does this all mean for you as a dental professional? Well, as Sanders explains, these tendencies affect Gen Y’s attitude about going to the dentist. Understanding these traits can go a long way in helping you attract more millennial patients and keep them coming back after the initial treatment!
1. Involve Millennials in Their Dental Care
Back in university or hygiene school, you might’ve learned to look at a patient’s involvement in their healthcare through scales like the Health Belief Model or Dental IQ. But millennials don’t always fit the book.
Although they are often highly educated and concerned about their health, millennials are also notorious for scrutinizing the ins and outs of anything they spend their money on. They need to truly believe in what they’re ‘buying’, even when it comes to oral healthcare.
Unfortunately, many millennials simply don’t consider regular dental checkups or teeth cleanings worth missing a day of work. Taking time off is tricky when you’ve got multiple employers and family obligations packed into one schedule.
Any practice that can offer weekend or evening appointments has a huge advantage when it comes to winning over this generation of patients.
4. Offer Financing Options
For better or worse, millennials are willing to shop around for a dentist, especially when they’re on a tight budget. As Sanders illustrates in her HygieneTown piece, most
millennials will respond to a proposed dental treatment in one of three ways:
Agree to have the treatment, but request several monthly payments broken up over an extended period.
Look for another dentist that can provide the same treatment at a discount.
Ask you to dull the pain, but not cure the problem.
Fact is, fewer millennials have insurance coverage than previous generations, and we know that those without insurance are more likely to avoid getting proper dental care due to cost. But if you can offer an alternative to paying out-of-pocket, it will win over millennials who are likely to become long-term patients and a great referral source.
5. Keep In Touch
But it’s not always an aversion to phone calls or dental bills that keeps millennials out of the chair.
Between a growing career, a young family and a world of constant distraction, sometimes dental care just falls off the radar.
This is where it helps to reach out to patients outside office hours. To start, following up after the appointment by text or email is an incredibly simple way to make a connection and remind them you care. You can continue fostering that connection via social media, sharing blogs, videos and resources.
Remember: millennials aren’t your enemy! They have all the same needs as your other patients, and they’re a valuable source of business ‒ especially as the older ones are settling down and starting families. A bit of flexibility on your part can go a long way in winning them over as dental patients.
You’ve got a talented team, but you need patients to fill their chairs in order to keep the practice growing! The second you get complacent is when you fall into a rut.
While not every incoming phone inquiry leads to new patients, fine-tuning that aspect of your practice management will do wonders for your patient acquisition. The following tips will help you turn more phone prospects in patients at your dental practice.
1. Don’t Hold Out on Insurance Details
Put yourself in your potential patients’ shoes. Of course, many of them are nervous about their appointment – but on top of that, they’re worried about finances and insurance.
People tend to avoid treatment when they’re worried about their insurance coverage. So, be sure that you make clear what is available on any given patient’s specific policy.
Delve into as much detail as possible over the phone so there’s no room for confusion. It’s integral to let prospective patients know that your practice has a relationship with most providers.
2. Stay Alert in Case of Urgent Appointments
You could miss out on a lot of potential business if you close the door on last-minute bookings. Flexible appointment options are a major draw to patients who don’t already have a regular dentist.
Consider leaving enough time open in your schedule for patients who need to see you immediately. If someone just cracked a tooth and can’t find an appointment, they’ll be eternally grateful if your dentistry was the one that saved the day. And voila! You now have a patient for life.
3. Provide Two Distinct Appointment Options
Your schedule comes first, of course, but you want to do your best to work with your patients’ schedules as well. One simple way to do this is to offer two potential appointment times over the phone.
First, ask the prospective patient whether they would prefer an earlier or later timeslot. From there, offer two potential time slots in that period (e.g., morning, afternoon, evening). The prospect feels less pressured to settle for an inconvenient time and empowered by the freedom to choose a time that works for them.
The quicker you can sort out a time, the less the patient can hum and haw over their personal schedule!
4. Be Transparent
Treat every phone call with care. In fact, treat each phone call with the same attention to detail you apply to cleanings and fillings!
When your patients ask how long the appointment will take, it’s not necessarily about the seconds on the clock. Really, they’re trying to gauge the seriousness and intensiveness of the work being done.
Give your potential patients a reason to trust you by walking them through their treatment during the initial call. Giving them a step-by-step breakdown of everything from the initial check-in process to the X-rays, cleaning, and billing will go a long way.
Remember to ask for a cellphone number so you can text the patient to send them a reminder for their upcoming visit!
5. Be Upfront About Pricing
We get it – money is always a touchy subject in this profession. That’s exactly why it’s important to get ahead of the subject and speak confidently and transparently about your payment options.
Start at the low-end of the price range where appropriate and emphasize that the needs of each patient will vary. It’s fair to state that while every crown starts at a certain cost, you’d need to see the patient’s teeth first to provide a more accurate price assessment.
Some patients will always be difficult to satisfy, but it still pays to be transparent in this regard. Better to lose an impossible prospect over the phone than to argue with one in the dentist’s chair!
You know it just as well as I ‒ dental hygienists provide pivotal, foundational services that keep a dental practice thriving. We work hard every day to make a difference in the lives of our patients and work functionally alongside dentists and other dental professionals.
In some ways, you could say that we’re the face of the dental field.
So, do we deserve a raise?
Not sure where to start or how to approach your boss about asking for a pay raise? Below, I’ve listed a few suggestions that I’ve picked up over the years from other veteran hygienists. All of these will help you to put your best foot forward when it’s time to have that all-important conversation!
1. Understand Your Contributions
Blindly asking for a raise won’t get you far, but conducting a thorough “self-review” before requesting a meeting with your boss will help you build a foundation for a powerful argument.
As hygienists, we spend our days caring for each of our patients while assuaging their fears, guiding them toward better oral health, and ensuring that their experience in the dental chair is a positive one. With all this in mind, it’s easy to forget that our practices are businesses, too!
Examine how you contribute to the overall functioning of the practice as a business, and use these facts to defend your request for a pay raise.
2. Back Yourself Up
Never underestimate the power of backing up your request with the facts.
Document your increase in production, list the ways that you’ve improved your place of employment, include patient reviews that you’ve collected during your self-review, and let your boss know whether you’re responsible for an increase in returning patients.
When scheduling your meeting, avoid late afternoon or after-work hours.
At the end of the day, both you and your boss are likely to be tired (and maybe even a tad cranky). Not only does this mean you won’t perform at your best, but your request may more easily be shrugged off or flat-out denied. Instead, try for a lunch meeting.
Also, consider aligning this conversation with annual reviews or your anniversary as an employee, but don’t ask for a raise if your office has just invested in some new, expensive equipment! If this is the case, wait a bit.
4. Have Some Numbers in Mind
Your boss is likely to be more responsive to your request for a raise if you’ve already considered the increase you’re looking for.
Don’t put them in a difficult spot by requesting a raise and leaving the numbers completely up to them. Instead, requesting a specific increase will not only move the process along more smoothly but also open the door for further discussion and negotiation.
Balance is key here. By asking for too much, you risk appearing self-important and unprofessionally unrealistic. However, don’t ask for so little that you’re not fighting for what you deserve!
There’s a lot to be said for an attitude that’s balanced with both confidence and humility.
While it’s important to assert your self-worth, dedicate part of your meeting to emphasize how grateful you are for the opportunities you’ve received as part of the practice. Let your boss know that you’re always looking for ways to give back and make the office a better place.
You’re asking for the practice to value you, so be sure that you value the practice right back!
6. Prepare for Possible Outcomes
In a perfect world, your conscientious request for a raise would be honoured without question.
In reality, however, the results of your meeting may not be so simple. Regardless of whether or not you deserve a raise and regardless of how thoroughly you’ve proved your worth to your boss, your request may be declined simply because the office is financially unable to honour your request. This does not mean that your boss doesn’t value your contributions!
If you’re denied a raise, you may consider negotiating some non-financial benefits such as equipment upgrades, commute reimbursement, or vacation pay.
Above all, remain professional throughout this process; no matter the outcome, take pride in yourself and in your work. If at first you don’t succeed, wait several months and try again!
Geographic tongue, an inflammatory condition in which red, smooth patches without papillae appear on the surface of the tongue, is generally harmless. However, the pattern of these red patches (often called “islands”) may appear dramatically “geographic” in some patients and cause cosmetic concern. Often, these smooth, red patches will also migrate across the tongue, hence geographic tongue’s other name—benign migratory glossitis.
That said, let’s dive into how you might diagnose geographic tongue, some symptoms to be aware of, and the available treatment options.
Symptoms of Geographic Tongue
In most cases, geographic tongue is asymptomatic, but the inflammation can become uncomfortable for some patients. Aside from the appearance of physical symptoms, patients with geographic tongue may also experience increased sensitivity or tongue tenderness.
Sensations of pain or burning are sometimes reported when those with geographic tongue consume foods and beverages which are spicy or highly acidic.
Diagnosing Geographic Tongue
Due to its dramatic, characteristic appearance, diagnosing geographic tongue is typically rather straightforward and can be confirmed with only an outward examination of the tongue—it's the management of this diagnosis which makes your awareness of the condition so important.
Understanding Geographic Tongue’s Implications in Overall Health
If geographic tongue is harmless and infrequent, you may be wondering why it’s essential to understand its signs and symptoms in order to make an appropriate diagnosis.
As a dental professional, the role you play in the overall well-being of your patients is crucial—by having awareness of geographic tongue and its implications in an individual's overall state of health, you become a valuable contributor to their quality of life.
And, while geographic tongue is generally considered idiopathic, ongoing research suggests that it may actually be a manifestation of systemic disease.
For example, scientific literature has suggested a relationship between geographic tongue and psoriasis, indicating that geographic tongue could be an oral manifestation of this skin condition. As a result, it’s recommended that general practitioners and dental professionals work together prudently to check for oral symptoms in psoriatic patients and to check for skin lesions in otherwise healthy individuals diagnosed with geographic tongue.
Others have posited that geographic tongue might be caused by vitamin B deficiency or irritation from alcohol or particular foods. For reasons we don’t yet understand, geographic tongue appears less frequently in people who smoke and more commonly in those with allergies.
In other cases, however, geographic tongue manifests in otherwise healthy individuals, complicating the search for a direct cause or consistent association with other diagnoses.
It’s critical that you partner with a patient’s other healthcare providers in order to suggest appropriate management, especially when the patient experiences physical discomfort or anxiety surrounding geographic tongue.
For example, you might recommend rinsing with lukewarm saltwater, alkaline rinses, or anesthetic rinses to provide relief for mild cases of geographic tongue, or you may suggest that a patient follow up with their dermatologist if you suspect that their geographic tongue may be linked to a skin condition like psoriasis.
It has also been reported that some psoriasis patients who utilize systemic treatments have found improvement in their oral health and symptoms of geographic tongue, too.
Your Role as a Dental Professional
While we don’t fully understand the reasons why geographic tongue occasionally manifests, your prudence in identifying this condition during routine dental hygiene appointments and examinations can make all the difference in how a patient manages their overall health.
Remain aware of your duty to consult with their other providers and be prepared to provide information in order to educate the concerned patient. Your contributions will lead not only to better oral health but also to improved overall wellness.
Dentistry is as noble a profession as it gets, filled with some of the most caring people on earth. Still...it’s always taken a special kind of human to look someone in the eye, tell them to open wide and then courageously yank their teeth out!
Visiting the dentist is no longer something most people lose sleep over...however, the same cannot be said of decades gone by. The age-old practice of the tooth has changed so much thanks to modern medicine and state of the art machinery. Dentistry has not always been so painless!
Let’s dig in to the long, rich and occasionally painful history of dentistry, including a few fun facts you probably didn’t learn in hygiene school.
1. Barbers Used to Double as Dentists
These gentlemen were known as barber-surgeons. It may seem quite barbaric to have the local barber extracting teeth and bloodletting, but it made sense in the medieval times, since it left more doctors available to attend to the war wounded.
Nothing quite like getting your wisdom teeth carved out with the same blade you were just shaved with!
2. Ornamenting Teeth Was All the Rage
The ancient Mayans used to bejewel their teeth by chipping at them and embedding small gemstones with glue. Although the outcome would be a dazzling and mesmerizing smile, the process was certainly not for the faint of heart.
In the industry today, this ancient practice by the Mayans isn’t too far from the modern practice of bejeweling your teeth...without the gruesome chipping part, of course. Nowadays, they’re called tooth gems, which some people use to give an extra shine to their smile.
3. Ever Wondered Where Toothbrushes Came From?
The need to maintain dental hygiene is not a 21st century phenomenon. In ancient times, people would snap a supple twig and chew the edges to spread out the fibers. Even today, some people prefer the twig toothbrush over the conventional toothbrush.
The Europeans used a rag and salt or soot for brushing their teeth until the English inventor William Addis invented toothbrush. This was in 1780 but by 1498, Chinese artisans had invented the toothbrush as we know it by using animal hair as bristles.
If you’re feeling naturally inclined to use a twig toothbrush, then you can consider trying a twig from the toothbrush tree.
4. Anesthesia Was Gross and Ineffective
Archigenes was a tooth doctor back in 15 A.D Rome. His idea of anesthesia for dental works was ointment made from hair-raising ingredients including roasted earthworms, spikenard and spider's crushed eggs. He would drill into your tooth then apply the ointment to relieve pain.
It’s hard to imagine that ointment would actually reduce pain, yet it was widely used ‒ maybe the sheer shock of having dead spider babies smeared on your gums was enough to kill the pain?
5. The Electric Chair and Teeth Have a Lot in Common
What does an electric chair have to do with teeth? Well, luckily not much...other than the fact that the inventor of the electric chair was also a dentist by profession and a professor who taught dental medicine at the then-University of Buffalo School of dental medicine in New York.
The good news is that he invented the electric chair in the mid 1800s specifically for the purpose of execution and not dentistry. It’s a mild relief knowing that Southwick had no intention of experimenting the efficacy of electric current on tooth cavities.
6. Dentist Power Drills Were Powered By Feet
You might know that the dentist attending to the first president of the United States, George Washington, invented a foot engine to power his dentist's drill.
What you might not have known is that he used his mother’s spinning wheel making it into a torque to power the drill!
7. Dentistry Was a Lonely Profession
Until the year 1960, dentists were expected to do everything while attending to their patients. They would handle every procedure and tool on their own with no assistance! The result was weary and lonely dentists.
This continued until four-handed dentistry was introduced, providing two extra hands (and a lot of camaraderie!) to help.
8. Tooth Decay Was Caused By Worms!
...Just kidding! Of course that was never true. But for a time, that’s what people really believed.
After all, worms drill holes, and tooth decay is characterized by holes in teeth. This was a logical conclusion at the time. This old explanation for tooth decay was so believable it carried on in many cultures until the 1900s.
Today, we’re thankful for miracles like Novacaine and other tools and treatments that make your life (and the lives of your patients) easier. But we should also be thankful reflecting back on the dentists of old. Though they may have been misguided at times, they’re the ones who made it possible for us to offer the quality of care we can today!
You’re happily enjoying your favorite ice cream when suddenly you are met with a sharp pain in your mouth. If you have found yourself in this unpleasant situation, you could be suffering from dental hypersensitivity.
Dental or dentin hypersensitivity is a common, painful condition in which exposed dentinal surfaces produce sharp pain when exposed to air or hot, cold, sweet or very acidic foods and drinks.
It can affect any age group however is slightly more common in women and seems to peak between the ages of 20 and 40. Though temporary, the pain can become chronic with acute episodes. It can affect a single tooth or a variety of tooth surfaces, most often the canines and premolars of both arches.
Cause of Dental Hypersensitivity
Under normal conditions, the underlying layer of the tooth immediately surrounding the nerve is covered by tooth enamel and gums. Over time, the enamel layer can grow thinner and the gums recede, exposing the dentin surface. Any conditions wherein the dentin are exposed can lead to hypersensitivity.
Risk factors for developing dental hypersensitivity include:
Gingival recission due to periodontal disease
Gingivitis (inflamed and sore gums)
Xerostomia (dry mouth)
Using a hard-bristled toothbrush
Dental procedures (dentin sensitivity can increase after professional cleaning or tooth restoration procedures)
Treatment for Dental Hypersensitivity
Many people with dental hypersensitivity avoid dental treatment. This is not advised, as visiting a dentist can help rule out the underlying causes of your tooth pain.
Your dentist can determine the root cause of your tooth sensitivity and will be able to recommend the appropriate treatment to ease your discomfort and worsening of your condition. Different treatments for managing dentine hypersensitivity may be tried and modified based on the results.
Your dentist may recommend any of the following treatments:
Desensitizing toothpaste: This toothpaste is available over-the-counter and can sometimes block pain after several applications. Your dentist can recommend the product which is best for you.
Fluoride: Your dentist might apply fluoride to your teeth to strengthen tooth enamel and reduce pain. or may also prescribe a fluoride that you can apply at home.
Desensitizing or bonding: Exposed root surfaces may also be treated by applying bonding resin to the gum surfaces.
Surgical gum graft: A small amount of gum tissue can be removed from another part of your mouth to replace any missing gum tissue, to reduce its sensitivity.
Root canal: If no other method is proving to be successful in treating tooth sensitivity, your dentist may recommend a root canal, known to be the most successful technique for eliminating tooth sensitivity.
Good dental care and oral hygiene are important for prevention and reoccurrence of dental hypersensitivity. Be sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristle brush and gentle strokes. When drinking acidic liquids, such as citrus juice, coffee or wine, drink water to balance the acidic levels in your mouth.
Your dental self-care routine should include regular flossing followed with teeth brushing to prevent plaque build-up which can lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease. Flossing removes plaque and bacteria that you cannot reach with your toothbrush.
Your oral health indicates your general wellness. It can be startling if you notice you have receding gums.
Receding gums can be painful, but they are also treatable.
But what is it and how can we treat it?
What Is Gingival Recession?
Gingival recession, or gum recession, is the process for which gum tissue surrounding the teeth is slowly worn away or pulled back. This then exposes the tooth or even the root of the tooth.
When this occurs, gaps form between the gum line and the teeth. These “pockets” allow for disease-causing bacteria to build up easily within the mouth.
Gum recession is a very common problem for many dental patients. And because it is a subtle build-up, most people don’t even notice they have it!
Early signs are typically the following:
Tooth appears longer than normal
A “notch” is felt near the gum line
Leaving gum recession untreated can result is severe damage to the supporting gum tissue and bone structure. The teeth themselves can be damaged then, which can result in tooth loss.
Causes of Gum Recession
There are many typical habits people do every day that can be causes of gum recession. Treatment, in turn, is often dependent on the cause.
Aggressive Brushing or Flossing
Ever heard the saying, “too much of a good thing is a bad thing”? This applies to brushing and flossing as well.
Gum tissue is a very soft and sensitive material.
The enthusiasm for oral health care is great, and many people lack such a thing, but in moderation. The Journal of Periodontology has done a study on aggressive brushing and hard toothbrushes. They found that hard brushing leads to more recession of the gums.
To summarize: it’s important to use a soft toothbrush and to brush not scrub your teeth. Brushing isn’t supposed to be painful!
Abnormal Positioning or Crooked Teeth
Misalignment of teeth can cause overlapping of teeth or gaps between.
When teeth aren’t coming together evenly, the force placed on the gums and the bone structure of the teeth can cause recession.
Similarly, lip or tongue piercings can have the same effect. The rubbing from eating or talking that is caused from the metal can irritate the tissue eventually wearing down the gum line.
Do you notice that you wake up with a headache? This is a sign of grinding teeth in your sleep.
Grinding your teeth can not only cause gum recession but also can be the cause of many maladies. So, it’s important to talk to your doctor when you notice it!
While it can be the cause of many things, it is easily treatable with a mouth guard or several other options.
Your genetics determines a lot about your health and body. And that includes your mouth.
The characteristics about your gum tissue is determined by your genetics. If one or both of your parents have gingival recession, you are more susceptible to getting it too.
Poor Oral Health
With poor oral health, you are at risk for many bacteria including periodontal disease.
Gum infections like periodontal disease, wreck gum tissue and the supporting bone structure. Actually, gum disease is the main cause of gum recession.
Treatment for Gum Recession
Gum recession in mild cases is very treatable!
When you catch gum recession early, it means you likely won’t need professional treatment. Though you might not need professional care, it’s important to have your dentist identify and instruct you accordingly on treating it.
Simple steps like evaluating your flossing habits or using a different toothbrush can help.
But if you have a more serious case of gum recession there are a variety of treatments to support you. Depending on the severity and cause, you may need surgical treatment.
Your dentist will decide the best course of action for you. This would include determining how you could benefit from scaling and root planing.
Your oral health is extremely important, since your mouth is a good indication of your overall wellness. Contact your dentist if you notice anything out of the ordinary.
And no, we don’t mean like Chatty Cathy next door does.
Your oral health is more important than you might think. It can indicate and give clues about your overall health.
Problems you have in your oral cavity can actually affect the rest of your body in many ways.
Learn about how your oral cavity links to other health conditions and your general health.
From Oral Health to Overall Health
Our mouths can contain more than 6 billion bacteria. In other words, it’s packed with bacteria.
Though some of this is good bacteria and actually helps prevent disease, some can cause serious illness. Think about it this way: you mouth is a gateway to the digestion and respiratory regions of your body for intrusive bacteria to infiltrate.
Now the body’s natural defenses paired with a good oral health routine, keeps bacteria in check. But without daily brushing and flossing, the bacteria can become infectious. This can result to gum disease, tooth loss and eventual tooth decay.
One thing that some people don’t always consider is the importance of saliva. Saliva is the main method of washing away food and neutralizing the oral cavity of acids while also protecting microbes that can lead to disease.
Medications such as antihistamines, painkillers and antidepressants can sometimes reduce the flow of saliva. This in turn prevents the saliva from removing the harmful bacteria.
Conditions That Can be Linked to Oral Health
So what specific conditions can be linked to the health of your oral cavity?
Well your oral health can contribute to the following conditions:
This is an infection of the inner lining of your heart chambers. When bacteria from another part of your body, such as your mouth, enters your bloodstream, eventually reaching the heart and attaches to areas within your heart. Typically, the areas that the bacteria attaches to are damaged already.
Without treatment quickly, endocarditis can lead to life-threatening complications as it damages and even destroys the valves of your heart.
Cardiovascular disease often is referring to the chamber of the heart that becomes narrowed or blocked blood vessels. This can lead to chest pain, stroke or a heart attack.
It is not understood why or how cardiovascular disease is connected to oral health but research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke could be linked to the inflammation caused by oral bacteria
Your hormones undergo a lot of change throughout the pregnancy, making you more at risk for gum and bone disease.
Not only that but periodontitis has been linked to low birth weight and premature birth.
Pneumonia is a very serious infection found in one or both of the lungs. It is caused by bacteria that enters into the lungs that causes inflammation in the air sacs within your lungs called the alveoli. Breathing is difficult because the alveoli fill with fluid.
The bacteria that enters through the mouth can be breathed into the lungs and cause pneumonia.
Conditions that might affect your oral health include:
Gum disease is found more often and more severely in those who have diabetes. Diabetes reduces the resistance your body has towards infections which also means your gums are at risk.
It is common for people with HIV/AIDS to have pain within the mouth such as mucosal lesions and other oral problems.
Osteoporosis is a bone disease that results in weakened bones that are brittle and break easily. Depending on the severity, bones may break from a fall or from as little as sneezing.
From an oral standpoint, this would affect the bone structure of your mouth as well. Periodontal bone loss and tooth loss as well as damage to the bones of the jaw are common with severe cases.
Some other conditions linked to oral health includes eating disorders, arthritis, certain cancers and Sjogren’s syndrome.
How Can You Protect Yourself?
We’ll start with your oral health.
It’s important to take care of your oral health because it’s linked to so many other parts of the body and can have some serious effects.
Practice good oral hygiene! But what does that look like?
Brushing your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled brush