Chewing tobacco is as much a part of our sports culture as the national anthem. What once began as an early 20th Century baseball player method for keeping their mouths moist on dusty fields has evolved into a virtual rite of passage for many young athletes.
But the persona of “cool” surrounding smokeless tobacco hides numerous health threats — including disfigurement and death. What isn’t as widely recognized is the degree to which chewing tobacco can adversely affect your teeth, mouth and gums.
Need more reasons to quit? Here are 4 oral health reasons why you should spit out smokeless tobacco for good.
Bad breath and teeth staining. Chewing tobacco is a prime cause of bad breath; it can also stain your teeth, leaving your smile dull and dingy, as well as unattractive from the unsightly bits of tobacco between your teeth. While these may seem like superficial reasons for quitting, a less-than-attractive smile can also have an impact on your self-confidence and adversely affect your social relationships.
The effects of nicotine. Nicotine, the active ingredient in all tobacco, absorbs into your oral tissues and causes a reduction in blood flow to them. This reduced blood flow inhibits the delivery of antibodies to areas of infection in your mouth. This can cause…
Greater susceptibility to dental disease. Tooth decay and gum disease both originate primarily from bacterial plaque that builds up on tooth surfaces (the result of poor oral hygiene). The use of any form of tobacco, but particularly smokeless, dramatically increases your risk of developing these diseases and can make treatment more difficult.
Higher risk of oral cancer. Besides nicotine, scientists have found more than 30 chemicals in tobacco known to cause cancer. While oral cancer constitutes only a small portion of all types of cancer, the occurrence is especially high among smokeless tobacco users. And because oral cancer is difficult to diagnose in its early stages, it has a poor survival rate compared with other cancers — only 58% after five years.
The good news is, you or someone you love can quit this dangerous habit — and we can help. Make an appointment today to learn how to send your chewing tobacco habit to the showers.
If you would like more information on the effects of chewing tobacco on general and oral health, 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 “Chewing Tobacco.”
Academy Award-winning actress Kathy Bates knows how important it is to present your best face to the world — and one of the most important features of that face is a beaming smile. But there came a point when she noticed something was a little off. “I've always had good teeth, but it seemed to me as I was getting older that they weren't looking as good,” Kathy explained in a recent interview with Dear Doctor magazine.
That's when she decided it was time to take action. Kathy had orthodontic treatment when she was in her fifties, and she keeps her smile bright with tooth whitening treatments. She uses a kit provided by her dentist with a safe, effective whitening solution.
Of course, a bright, healthy smile looks great anywhere — whether you're on the red carpet or “off the grid.” And you don't have to be a Hollywood star to have professional whitening treatments. In fact, teeth whitening is one of the most popular and affordable cosmetic treatments modern dentistry offers.
The basic options for professional teeth whitening include in-office bleaching or take-home kits. Both types of dentist-supervised treatments offer a safe and effective means of getting a brighter smile; the main difference is how long they take to produce results. A single one-hour treatment in the office can make your teeth up to ten shades lighter — a big difference! To get that same lightening with at-home trays, it would take several days. On the plus side, the take-home kit is less expensive, and can achieve the same results in a bit more time.
It's important to note that not all teeth can be whitened with these treatments. Some teeth have intrinsic (internal) stains that aren't affected by external agents like bleaches. Also, teeth that have been restored (with bonding or veneers, for example) generally won't change color. And you can't necessarily whiten your teeth to any degree: Every tooth has a maximum whiteness, and adding more bleach won't lighten it beyond that level. Most people, however, find that teeth whitening treatments produce noticeable and pleasing results.
What about those off-the-shelf kits or in-the-mall kiosks? They might work… or they might not. But one thing's for sure: Without a dentist's supervision, you're on your own. That's the main reason why you should go with a pro if you're considering teeth whitening. We not only ensure that your treatment is safe — we can also give you a realistic idea of what results to expect, and we will make sure that other dental problems aren't keeping you from having a great-looking smile.
How often does Kathy Bates see her dentist for a checkup and cleaning? “I go about every four months,” she noted. “I'm pretty careful about it.” And if you've seen her smile, you can tell that it pays off. If you would like more information about teeth whitening, please contact us or schedule an appointment. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered” and “Teeth Whitening.”
While most dental problems are caused by disease or trauma, sometimes the root problem is psychological. Such is the case with bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder that could contribute to dental erosion.
Dental erosion is the loss of mineral structure from tooth enamel caused by elevated levels of acid in the mouth, which can increase the risk for decay and eventual tooth loss. While elevated acid levels are usually related to inadequate oral hygiene or over-consumption of acidic foods and beverages, the practice of self-induced vomiting after food binging by bulimic patients may also cause it. Some of the strong stomach acid brought up by vomiting may remain in the mouth afterward, which can be particularly damaging to tooth enamel.
It’s often possible to detect bulimia-related erosion during dental exams. The bottom teeth are often shielded by the tongue during vomiting, so erosion may be more pronounced on the unshielded upper front teeth. The salivary glands may become enlarged, giving a puffy appearance to the sides of the face below the ears. The back of the mouth can also appear red and swollen from the use of fingers or objects to induce vomiting.
Self-induced vomiting may not be the only cause for dental erosion for bulimics. Because the disorder causes an unhealthy focus on body image, bulimics may become obsessed with oral hygiene and go overboard with brushing and flossing. Aggressive brushing (especially just after throwing up when the tooth enamel may be softened) can also damage enamel and gum tissue.
Treatment must involve both a short — and long-term approach. Besides immediate treatment for dental erosion, a bulimic patient can minimize the effect of acid after vomiting by not brushing immediately but rinsing instead with water, mixed possibly with a little baking soda to help neutralize the acid. In the long-term, though, the eating disorder itself must be addressed. Your family doctor is an excellent starting point; you can also gain a great deal of information, both about eating disorders and treatment referrals, from the National Eating Disorders Association at their website, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.
The effects of bulimia are devastating to mental and physical well-being, and no less to dental health. The sooner the disorder can be treated the better the person’s chance of restoring health to their mind, body — and mouth.
If you would like more information on the effect of eating disorders on oral health, 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 “Bulimia, Anorexia & Oral Health.”
Even though a child’s primary (“baby”) teeth eventually give way, it’s still important to treat them if they become decayed. Primary teeth serve as guides for the emerging permanent teeth — if they’re lost prematurely, the permanent tooth may come in misaligned.
If the decay, however, affects the tooth’s inner pulp, it poses complications. A similarly decayed adult tooth would be treated with a root canal in which all the pulp tissue, including nerve fibers and blood vessels, are removed before filling and sealing. Primary teeth, however, are more dependent on these nerves and blood vessels, and conventional filling materials can impede the tooth’s natural loss process. It’s better to use more conservative treatments with primary teeth depending on the degree of decay and how much of the pulp may be affected.
If the decay is near or just at the pulp, it’s possible to use an indirect pulp treatment to remove as much of the softer decay as possible while leaving harder remnants in place: this will help keep the pulp from exposure. This is then followed with an antibacterial agent and a filling to seal the tooth.
If the pulp is partially exposed but doesn’t appear infected, a technique called direct pulp capping could be used to cover or “cap” the exposed pulp with filling material, which creates a protective barrier against decay. If decay in a portion of the pulp is present, a pulpotomy can be performed to remove the infected pulp portion. It’s important with a pulpotomy to minimize the spread of further infection by appropriately dressing the wound and sealing the tooth during and after the procedure.
A pulpectomy to completely remove pulp tissue may be necessary if in the worst case scenario the pulp is completely infected. While this closely resembles a traditional root canal treatment, we must use sealant material that can be absorbed by the body. Using other sealants could inhibit the natural process when the primary tooth’s roots begin to dissolve (resorb) to allow it to eventually give way.
These all may seem like extraordinary efforts to save a tooth with such a short lifespan. But by giving primary teeth a second chance, their permanent successors will have a better chance of future good health.
If you would like more information on treating decay in primary teeth, 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 “Root Canal Treatment for Children’s Teeth.”
Accidents can happen to your mouth, especially if you have an active lifestyle. For example, a sudden blow to the jaw while playing sports or exercising could result in a chipped tooth. And, while the internal tooth structure may be fine, the effect on your appearance can be disheartening.
Fortunately, we have techniques and materials to restore your smile after an injury. Bonding with composite resin is one such procedure: it’s ideal for mild to moderate chipping, especially in highly visible front teeth.
Composite resin is a dental material made of various substances mixed to match the color and texture of natural teeth. The composite is usually made of inorganic glass filler blended with a plastic-based matrix and joined together with a chemical “coupling” agent. The ratio of filler to matrix will depend on the type of tooth and damage — for example, back teeth, which encounter higher biting forces, require a composite with more filler for added strength.
To begin the procedure, we first prepare the damaged tooth by applying microscopic etchings (often with a chemical solution) that create tiny depressions or “undercuts”: these help create a seamless bond between the composite and the natural tooth. We then apply the composite in layers with a bonding agent, building up layer upon layer until we’ve achieved the desired shape for the tooth involved.
Bonding with composite resins doesn’t require much tooth preparation, can be placed quickly and is relatively inexpensive. Because of the wide spectrum of color possibilities, composite resins are superior to traditional amalgam (metal) restorations in creating a more life-like appearance. Its application, however, can be limited by the amount of tooth structure needing to be replaced: because it isn’t as strong as the tooth structure it replaces, the more tooth structure the bonded composite resin attempts to replace the less likely it can stand up over time to normal bite forces.
Still, composite resins are ideal for mild to moderate damage or disfigurement. If you’ve suffered such an injury, be sure to visit us to see if bonding with life-like composites is the right solution for restoring your smile.
If you would like more information on bonding with composite resins, 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 “Repairing Chipped Teeth.”
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