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Posts for category: Oral Health

By John Chaney, D.D.S.
September 24, 2019
Category: Oral Health
Tags: jaw pain   tmj disorders  
TwoMouthandFacePainDisordersandWhatYouCanDoAboutThem

Chronic pain affects the quality of life for an estimated 50 million adults in the U.S. alone. The American Chronic Pain Association designates September as “Pain Awareness Month” to highlight the many conditions that cause chronic pain and strategies to manage them. Among these are conditions that can involve your oral or facial health. Here are two painful mouth and face disorders and what you can do about them.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD). TMD is a common condition often seen in the dental office. The temporomandibular joints connect the lower jaw to the skull and facilitate activities like eating or speaking that require jaw movement. If they and their associated muscles become inflamed, this can trigger debilitating chronic pain. If you suffer from TMD symptoms, make sure we know about it so we can make your dental visits as comfortable as possible.

When possible, avoid irreversible and invasive treatments for TMD that may permanently change your bite, such as surgery or having teeth ground down. Instead, most healthcare professionals recommend a more conservative approach. Try the following tips to alleviate TMD pain:

  • Eat soft foods so you do not aggravate the jaw joint.
  • Avoid extreme jaw movements like suddenly opening your mouth very wide.
  • Use ice packs and moist heat to relieve discomfort.
  • Ask us about jaw exercises to stretch and relax the jaw.
  • Practice stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation, yoga, tai chi or taking short walks to clear your mind.

Burning Mouth Syndrome. The sensation that the mouth has been burned or scalded without an obvious cause is most common among women during menopause. While researchers can’t yet pinpoint clear causes for it, the list of suspects includes hormonal changes, neurological or rare autoimmune disorders or medication-induced dry mouth.

The first step to treatment is an oral exam along with a complete medical history to identify any possible contributing factors. Depending on the results, we can offer recommendations to manage your symptoms. The following tips often help:

  • Keep your mouth moist. We can recommend an artificial saliva product or medication to increase saliva flow if needed.
  • Change your toothpaste if it contains irritating ingredients.
  • Identify and avoid foods and beverages that seem to precede an episode. These may include spicy foods, coffee and alcoholic beverages.
  • Quit smoking, as this is often linked to burning mouth episodes.

The pain and discomfort caused by these and other oral conditions can put a dent in your life. A visit to your dentist, though, could be the first step to finding relief.

If you would like more information about oral conditions that produce chronic pain, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Seeking Relief From TMD” and “Burning Mouth Syndrome.”

By John Chaney, D.D.S.
September 04, 2019
Category: Oral Health
Tags: dental care  
DentalOfficeInfectionControlProtectsYouFromViralInfection

Visiting the dentist for regular cleanings and needed dental work can do wonders for keeping your teeth and gums in tip-top shape. But if you’ve seen or heard about infections occurring in healthcare facilities, you might be a little concerned that your trip to the dentist might expose you to one. Don’t be! You and your family will be out of harm’s way because your dental team has made protection from viruses, bacteria and other infectious agents a top priority. To highlight this effort, the American Academy of Oral Medicine commemorates each September as “National Dental Infection Control Awareness Month.”

As a healthcare provider, dentists have a legal, moral and ethical obligation to protect patients (and staff members too) from infection through what are known as “standard precautions.” These include barrier protection, disinfection and sterilization practices, and safe disposal of contaminated items.

But dentists and their professional organizations don’t stop with the minimum requirements—they’re committed to a higher standard when it comes to infection control. The bedrock for this commitment is adherence to an infection control checklist developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), updated regularly. This in-depth checklist recommends several best practices and protocols, including:

  • Creating a written infection control plan that outlines all practices and procedures to be followed by the provider and staff;
  • Barrier protection, including the wearing of disposable gloves, face shields or gowns by providers as appropriate;
  • Proper disposal methods for used items;
  • Proper hand washing and other hygiene practices before and after treatment procedures;
  • Proper disinfection and sterilization of instruments and equipment;

Most licensing bodies also require that dentists and their staff undergo continuing education in infection control, usually every two years.

Because you as a patient have a right to know the details about your medical and dental care, you have public access to infection control guidelines and requirements. You can also ask your dental provider about what steps they take to protect you and your family from infectious disease. They’ll be glad to answer any questions you have to put your mind at ease about your safety.

The dental profession’s commitment to patient and staff safety has drastically reduced the risk of any infection. Rest assured, your dental visit will be beneficial for your oral health—and safe for your general health too.

If you would like more information about infection control in the dental office, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Infection Control in the Dental Office” and “Shingles, Herpes Zoster: A One-Sided Facial Rash.”

By John Chaney, D.D.S.
August 15, 2019
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition  
MakeSureYourKidsTeethAreReadyforSchool

With summer winding down, parents are turning their attention to their kids' upcoming school year. August is often a busy time for families rushing to buy school supplies and fresh sets of clothes and shoes. Although hectic, these last few weeks before school starts are also ideal for focusing on dental health.

As you prepare for the school year, be sure to include these dental health items on your to-do list.

Make a dental appointment. Start the school year off right with a dental cleaning and checkup. Along with daily hygiene, dental visits are key to disease prevention and optimal oral health. Make those appointments early, though: Most dentists report an upsurge in patient visits this time of year.

And if you haven't already, set up an orthodontic evaluation: Having an orthodontist examine your child around age 6 could uncover an emerging bite problem. Early intervention might prevent the need for more costly future orthodontic treatments.

Plan for healthy school snacking. While kids are home on summer break, it's probably easier to keep an eye on the quality of their snacks. But being away from your watchful gaze at school means your children may encounter snacks that are not quite up to your tooth-healthy standards.

Even though schools adhere to federal nutrition standards for food provided on school property, many dentists don't believe they go far enough. Your kids' classmates can also be a source of unhealthy snack choices, so plan ahead to provide your kids an array of snacks to carry to school that they like and that support healthy teeth and a healthy body.

Get a custom mouthguard for your student athlete. If your child is going to play football, basketball or some other contact sport, make sure they have dental protection. A hard impact to the face can cause significant dental damage that's costly to treat, but a mouthguard worn during play can protect the teeth and gums by cushioning the blow.

You can purchase retail mouthguards at your local sporting goods store. Your best option, though, is a mouthguard custom-made by your dentist based on your child's individual mouth measurements. Although more expensive, custom mouthguards offer superior protection, and they're more comfortable to wear.

When the school bell rings, you want your kids as prepared as possible. Make sure their teeth and gums are ready too. If you would like more information about best practices for your child's dental care, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Snacking at School” and “Athletic Mouthguards.”

By John Chaney, D.D.S.
August 05, 2019
Category: Oral Health
Tags: gum disease   smoking  
SmokingCouldIncreaseYourGumDiseaseRisk

Although periodontal (gum) disease starts with the gums, the teeth may ultimately suffer. An infection can damage the gum attachment and supporting bone to the point that an affected tooth could be lost.

The main cause for gum disease is dental plaque, a bacterial biofilm that accumulates on teeth due to ineffective oral hygiene. But there can be other contributing factors that make you more susceptible to an infection. Smoking tobacco is one of the most harmful as more than half of smokers develop gum disease at some point in their life. If you’re a heavy smoker, you have double the risk of gum disease than a non-smoker.

There are several reasons why smoking increases the risk of gum disease. For one, smoking reduces the body’s production of antibodies. This diminishes the body’s ability to fight oral infections and aid healing. As a smoker, your body can’t respond adequately enough to the rapid spread of a gum infection.

Another reason for the increased risk with smoking are the chemicals in tobacco that damage the connectivity of gum tissues to teeth that keep them anchored in place. The heavier the smoking habit, the worse this particular damage is to the gums. This can accelerate the disease and make it more likely you’ll lose affected teeth.

Smoking can also interfere with getting a prompt diagnosis of gum disease because the nicotine in tobacco reduces the blood supply to the gums. Usually a person with an infection may first notice their gums are reddened or swollen, and bleed easily. Smoking, however, can give a false impression of health because it prevents the infected gum tissues from becoming swollen and are less likely to bleed. As a result, you may learn you have the disease much later rather than sooner, allowing the infection to inflict more damage.

There are ways to reduce your disease risk if you smoke. The top way: Kick the smoking habit. With time, the effects of smoking on your mouth and body will diminish, and you’ll be better able to fight infection.

You should also practice daily brushing and flossing to keep plaque at bay, followed by regular dental cleanings to remove hard to reach plaque and calculus (tartar) deposits. You should also see your dentist at the first sign of trouble with your gums.

If you would like more information on the prevention and treatment of gum 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 “Smoking and Gum Disease.”

By John Chaney, D.D.S.
July 26, 2019
Category: Oral Health
Tags: facial pain  
YoucanGetRelieffromFacialPain

Each year doctors treat about 150,000 new cases of severe facial pain. If you're one of those people, you don't have to suffer—there are ways to gain relief from these painful episodes.

Those recurring episodes are known as trigeminal neuralgia (TN). As the name implies, the source of the pain are the trigeminal nerves, which originate in the brain stem and extend on either side of the face. Each is divided into three branches (hence the "tri" in trigeminal) that serve the upper, middle and lower parts of the face and jaw.

TN can involve one or more of these branches, resulting in mild to severe pain that can last for several seconds. Jaw movements like chewing or speaking can trigger an episode, as well as a light touch to the face.

There are various proposed causes for TN, including links with inflammatory disorders like multiple sclerosis, which damages the insulating sheathing around nerve cells. The most common cause, though, appears to be a blood vessel pressing against the nerve. The compression causes hypersensitivity in that area of the nerve so that it transmits pain at the slightest sensation.

Other conditions like jaw joint pain disorders (TMD) or a dental abscess can cause similar pain symptoms, so it's important to get an accurate diagnosis. If your doctor does identify your condition as TN, you may then need a comprehensive approach to treatment involving a team of care providers, including your dentist.

For the most part, TN can be managed, beginning with the most conservative approach to gain relief, often with medications to block the nerve's pain signals to the brain or decrease abnormal nerve firings. If that proves insufficient, though, more intensive treatments are available.

One possible treatment for an impinging blood vessel is a microsurgical procedure to expose the affected nerve and relocate the vessel. While this can be effective, the surgery does carry some risk of facial numbness or decreased hearing. If the risks are too high for conventional surgery, an alternative procedure uses a precise beam of high-dose radiation to relieve the pressure from the vessel.

The most important thing to know about TN, though, is that it is possible to control it and relieve future pain episodes. If you're experiencing these symptoms, see your dentist or doctor for an exam and accurate diagnosis.

If you would like more information on trigeminal neuralgia, 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 “Trigeminal Neuralgia: A Nerve Disorder that Causes Facial Pain.”