The “Harmless” Habit That Could Make Your Teeth Fall Out. Literally.

The “Harmless” Habit That Could Make Your Teeth Fall Out. Literally.

Do you wake up some mornings with a headache of origins you can’t define? Do you experience vague muscle pain in your face? If so, you may be experiencing symptoms of bruxism. What’s bruxism? You likely know it by its more informal name – two names, actually: “clenching” and “grinding.” It’s also not something you’ll want to ignore, because bruxism wears down the surface of your teeth and sets you up for cavities and tooth fractures. Severe cases can even contribute to tooth loss. Let’s find out how to stop this menace in its tracks.

What Causes Bruxism?

Many factors can combine to create a bruxism habit. Stress and anxiety are believed to be leading causes, as are a misaligned bite, missing teeth, and sleep abnormalities. Some medications can also trigger episodes, as can neurological or musculature illnesses.

Why Should I Be Concerned About Teeth Grinding? Isn’t It Normal?

Teeth grinding may be common, but it’s not “normal,” per se. Because the stresses of bruxism affect the entire jaw, this pressure can create cracks and chips in teeth, and over time can contribute to a shortening of lower face height due to bone loss. If that sounds scary, it should. It’s also a change you’ve seen before – in individuals who have lost all their teeth and do not wear dentures. We’re pretty sure that’s not a look you’re aiming to achieve.

How Do I Know I Have a Problem, and What Treatments Are Available?

In many cases, your dentist will see evidence of bruxism in your X-rays, and on the surface of your teeth, and will alert you to the problem long before you exhibit a single symptom – particularly if you sleep alone. Occasionally however, you may start to clench and grind in between visits and begin to notice symptoms on your own. If that’s more like your situation, and you find that you often wake with a sore jaw, a headache that goes away shortly after rising, or if a loved one tells you your teeth are making clickity-clankity noises all night, mention it the next time you’re in the office.

As far as treatment goes, because the causes of bruxism are varied, the treatments vary as well. If your doctor determines stress is the primary cause, they may recommend you abstain from excessive caffeine and alcohol, and attempt some form of daily relaxation. Even something as simple as a warm bath before sleeping can work wonders. If your bite is a concern, they may suggest you visit an orthodontist for an evaluation, and if prescription medicine or neuromuscular illnesses are believed to be the cause, referral to the appropriate specialist would be part of your plan to break the habit.

In each of these cases, though, your dentist and/or physician will likely recommend a splint, or occlusal mouth guard to protect your teeth and bone from further damage. These protective devices are easy to wear, and contrary to what you may believe, will not impede your ability to get a good night’s sleep. In fact, they tend to enhance the quality of your sleep so you’ll wake up more refreshed.

So, check with your dentist! Many people go years without being aware they’re clenching and grinding since it takes time for symptoms to show in your mouth. Getting a mouthguard or splint once you know you have this habit, though, will help you with headaches and muscle pain now – and tooth trouble down the road.

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Are My Gums Receding? And Why?

Smiles of Spokane

Progressive change can be difficult to notice, especially when it occurs to us and not someone else. Changes occurring along our gum line certainly fall into this category, and since recession is measured in millimeters it’s especially easy to miss.

So, how much gum erosion is normal, and what causes it? Let’s take a look.

Is Gum Recession Normal?

Gum recession is often considered a normal part of aging. Even the expression “long in the tooth” stems from our gum line receding and exposing more of our teeth as we age.

However, there is nothing normal about gum recession. Luckily, for most of us it can be prevented.

Rather than keep things as they are, embracing gum recession as the well-paid price of wisdom, be vigilant against gum erosion!

Though there are a host of factors that contribute to the erosion of your gumline, a vast majority are preventable.

The Biggest Offenders

  • Clenching or grinding your teeth
  • Over-vigorous, or improper brushing
  • Aggressive flossing
  • Exposure to acids in sports and energy drinks
  • Tobacco use
  • The frequent use of whitening products

All the above causes of gum loss can be prevented. All of them. If you grind your teeth at night, wear a mouth guard. If you brush as though you’re sanding down the statue of David, learn proper technique from your dentist, or from a video online. Bleeding a lot when flossing? You’re not slicing cheese – go easy, there, friend! If you smoke, drink too many energy drinks, or chew tobacco, cut back, or stop altogether. None of that stuff is good for you in any way imaginable. And lastly, if you’re trying to look like a movie star by abusing whitening strips, you can stop now. Your teeth have got to be super-white already!

Be Proactive

What’s next? How can you tell if your gums are receding faster than the Amazon rainforest?

Well, the most proactive step is to visit your dentist. In fact, if you’re going regularly, your dentist has been monitoring the recession for some years now.

If you’ve ever noticed your dentist poking around in your mouth, all while reciting numbers to the hygienist, they’re probably doing two things: measuring the recession of your gums, and gauging the depths of your gum pockets. Both speak to the health of your gum line.

So, the next time you hear your dentist reading off what seem like lottery number, just ask about the health of your gums … your dentist will be happy to keep you in the loop.

The first sign of gum recession is usually tooth sensitivity, so be on the lookout. Reduce, or eliminate the above discussed habits, and ask your dentist how you’re doing in terms of taking care of your gums.

With a little bit of knowledge and proactive behavior, no one will ever say you’re long in the tooth. And, that’s a good thing!

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What are Dental Veneers, and When are They Used?

Dental Venners. Are they right for you?

Strikingly-white, straight, perfect teeth. It’s something we all want – and especially so during our teen years. Whitening kits and toothpastes can help, and sneak-arounds like sipping coffee and soda through a straw can also aid the cause. But what do you do when one of your kid’s teeth gets cracked or chipped – or is genetically off-color or misshapen? Dental veneers may be the answer.

What is a Veneer?

A “veneer” is a wafer-thin layer of material molded to the surface of a tooth to correct a chip or crack, or to enhance its cosmetic appearance. Veneers are made of either porcelain or a composite synthetic resin, such as acrylic polymer or polymethyl methacrylate. These materials are used in dentistry because of their ability to create a strong bond with the tooth, and their ability to mimic the natural color of adjacent teeth. Veneers can either be placed directly onto a tooth at the dental office, or fabricated off-site in a dental laboratory.

Which Type of Veneer is Right for My Child?

There are two types of veneers, and the choice as to which one to use should be made less based on one’s desire (or apprehension of the procedure), and more on the design of your child’s teeth.

  • Traditional Veneers: Traditional veneers are applied to teeth much in the same manner a crown is applied. That is, weak or decayed areas of the tooth are removed, and the tooth is “shaped” to provide a mounting place for the veneer.Even healthy teeth require a minimal amount of re-shaping to ensure a natural look when the veneer is applied. The reason for this is that the veneer itself has a certain degree of thickness, and to not whittle down the tooth would result in a “bulky,” unnatural-looking tooth when compared to adjacent teeth.
  • Prep-less Veneers: On the other hand, with prep-less veneers, there is very little (if any) removal of tooth material. This can be ideal, but is generally limited to situations when there are existing spaces between teeth (like a gap between two front teeth), or when the tooth being treated is smaller than adjacent teeth.

Making the Right Choice

As you can see, deciding on which veneer to choose is as important as the decision to get one in the first place. If you think dental veneers may be an option for your child, speak with your doctor for help in making the right choice.

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Summer Vacation Ready Smiles

Summer ReadySummer is here and so is the fun vacation you spent all year planning for!

So, while you’re thinking about where you’ll go, where you’ll eat, and what you’ll see along the way, don’t forget to plan a visit to your dentist as well. Doing so can save you from the misery of a dental emergency that will surely spoil even the best planned getaway.

The Best Plan of Action

Now, we’re pretty sure, visiting the dentist is the last thing you want to do before a relaxing vacation. Yet we’re also fairly certain that discovering a painful cavity mid-trip isn’t on the agenda either – especially if you’re going overseas.

Can you imagine having to look for emergency dental care in some remote part of the world?

Ouch!

Truth is, a quick check-up can catch a future crisis before it ever materializes, and this is one of the beautiful things about dentistry.

Imagine, for example, if you had a bone in your leg that was weak for one reason or another, and a strong impact upon that leg could cause it to break. Nine times out of ten, you would never even know you had this issue until your leg actually broke and you were laying in the emergency room.

With dentistry, however, oral exams, x-rays and other tools allow your dentist to ferret out problems before they present themselves, and that’s why visiting prior to vacation can help.

So, about a month prior to departure – or at least two weeks before you go – schedule a visit. Your dentist will explore your mouth for any loose crowns or teeth that could cause a problem, and identify any cavities that are close enough to the nerve to cause an abscess or pain.

If you’re traveling by plane, air-pressure in the cabin can cause a recently drilled tooth to be overly sensitive, so you’ll want to be certain to plan your visit at least a month ahead of time if you’re flying.

Of course, any surgery such as the removal of wisdom teeth, or a root canal should be scheduled in significant advance, and if you wear braces, you’ll want to visit your orthodontist as well.

Visiting your dentist prior to vacation might actually be one of the easiest things to plan this summer. You’ll depart with a fresh clean mouth, and the confidence that a sneaking dental emergency won’t be appearing in your vacation scrapbook this year.

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Things You Should Know about Your Teeth as You Age

Smiles-of-Spokane-Aging-TeethIf you’ve ever considered the prospect of living without teeth as you age, it’s probably caused you considerable amount of distress just thinking about it. Multiple tooth loss can indeed be traumatic and costly, and, for some, the remedies are less than ideal. That said, you’ll be pleased to know that aging itself isn’t much of a contributor to tooth loss, and that many people live their entire lives with nearly all of their natural teeth intact. So what’s the best way to ensure you’re among this coveted group?

Let’s face it. We all want to keep our natural teeth. Here are a few ways to ensure you do just that as you move along in years. And remember, there is no defined age where problems start to arise, so thinking ahead regardless of your current age is always a good idea.

  • Periodontal Disease: Without a doubt, periodontal disease is the number one destroyer of smiles. There is no cure for this leading cause of adult tooth loss in North America, and once it begins, it can only be proactively and professionally managed. So, here’s the familiar refrain: maintain your regular visits, and if you’re placed on a periodic maintenance routine where you visit your dentist more than twice a year, be sure to keep those appointments. Keeping those appointments will help you keep your teeth.
  • Systemic Disease: There are a host of diseases that can adversely affect oral health, (diabetes, heart disease, etc.) so being mindful of this connection, and maintaining an open door of communication with your doctor and dentist while undergoing treatment may help you minimize the effects these diseases can have on your teeth.
  • Poor Habits: We all know a diet high in sugar, starch and acid harms surface enamel and lessens a tooth’s ability to protect itself from decay. You may not know, however, that smokingand excessive alcohol consumption can also do significant harm. For example, both cigarette smoke and alcohol rob gum tissue of the moisture needed to keep it healthy, leaving it acidic and prone to decay, and smoking can interrupt the mouth’s natural healing mechanisms. More benign habits can also damage teeth and consistently gnawing on objects not designed to be in the mouth all day, like pencils, pipes, paper clips and ice cubes, are not good habits to pursue. Additionally, using your teeth as a vice to open bottles and rip apart bags is best left to those among us committed to losing teeth, not keeping them.
  • Prescription Medication: Lastly, certain prescription medicines can dry out the mouth in ways similar to smoking and alcohol, so if you’re taking prescription drugs, be sure to keep your hydration in check as per your doctor’s recommendations, or use chewing gum with Xylitol to help maintain saliva production throughout the day.

So, as you can see, allowing your “permanent” teeth to live up their name really isn’t that difficult. The old TV image of every grandpa throughout the land dropping his teeth into a bedside jar at the close of the day is far from a reality for the majority of today’s seniors, and it doesn’t have to be for you either. Maintain a solid oral care routine, and ask your care providers about keeping a healthy mouth throughout your years, and you’ll be well on your way to ensuring your teeth stay just where you want them to be – in your mouth.

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Another Reason Not To Skip Your Dental Visits

Melanoma-Screening-Dr.-Todd-RogersSkin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. It’s also among the most preventable and curable when caught early. Believe it or not, Dr. Todd Rogers is a critical partner when it comes to detecting this form of cancer.

What is melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer, and one of the most serious.

Researchers are not certain as to its causes, but according to studies completed at the University of Minnesota, repeated exposure to the sun is considered a “commonly associated factor.”

That said, even though melanoma is understood in layman’s terms to be a “skin” cancer, we can’t always prevent it by applying sunscreen. Biologically speaking, melanoma can manifest anywhere melanocytes exist, whether that’s in our skin, mouth, heart, or other tissues.

It’s precisely for this reason that maintaining regular visits to your dentist can literally save your life.

How does the dentist help and what are the symptoms?

As with any cancer, early detection is key. And a regular visit to your dentist who can see more areas of your mouth at close range is your best course of action. There are signs and symptoms, however, that should elicit concern if you experience them.

If you have a frequent sore throat, difficulty chewing and swallowing, and red or whitish patches within your mouth, you should see you doctor. Likewise, changes in the color, shape or size of skin pigmentation should prompt a visit to the doctor.

How often do I have to have my mouth checked for this?

Dr. Todd Rogers will review your mouth and neck to look for any abnormalities or changes in tissue at every appointment. This exam often takes place without you even being aware it’s happening, but if you’re ever curious, just ask Dr. Todd Rogers to walk you through it during your next appointment.

Due to their ability to detect cancerous lesions early, an oral cancer screening can literally save your life. Dr. Todd Rogers may also offer additional screening opportunities using special medical screening devices. These also help with early detection by illuminating mouth tissue with a special light.

Ask if your doctor has such a device in their office, or can recommend you to a physician who does.

It’s worth repeating …

Your teeth aren’t the only things in your mouth worth protecting. So be sure to visit Smiles of Spokane regularly for an oral health screening. Dr. Todd Rogers plays a critical role in the early detection and treatment of oral cancer concerns, so get that checkup!

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Tooth Removal and Socket Preservation

 

Smiles-of-Spokane-Socket-PreservationWhen we experience the loss of a tooth, either through trauma or decay, the bone that surrounds the tooth undergoes a remarkably quick process known as resorption, where the bone is broken down at the cellular level and dispersed elsewhere throughout the body.

Essentially, because the body believes it no longer needs this bony material due to the tooth’s absence, it reclaims this material into the body for other use.

While this might sound like nothing to worry about, your dentist is likely to suggest socket preservation to prevent a host of further complications that accompany this rather intriguing bit of biological science.

What Is Socket Preservation?

Socket preservation is another name for what is clinically known as a bone graft. Essentially, it’s a stopgap measure for filling in the hole where the tooth used to reside, so it can heal in preparation for later treatment.

If nothing were done to stop this dissipation of bone it would likely destabilize your neighboring teeth, and make future implants and other forms of prosthetic devices unlikely to work.

Aside from the clinical consequences of bone loss, what might concern you more is the fact that the bone height determines our facial features, and a loss of that height due to an unpreserved socket can alter one’s appearance dramatically. Because of this, many dentists prefer to proactively stunt this resorption by using a bone graft.

There are four types of bone grafts that can be used at the time of the extraction, to preserve ridge integrity. They are:

  • Autograft: Bone harvested from patient’s own body
  • Xenograft: Bone grafts or collagen from bovine or porcine origin
  • Allograft: Block bone graft from a cadaver
  • Alloplast: Synthetic biomaterials such as PLGA, hydroxyapatite, tricalcium phosphate, bioglass – ceramics, etc.

Generally speaking, a bone graft is a surgical procedure where one of the above materials is layered into the socket where the tooth used to exist.

There is a great variety to the type and procedure involved in bone grafts, and much is dependent on your dentist, your budget, the quality of the extraction performed, your overall health, your oral health, and the type of material to be used.

However, since preserving the bony ridge of your mouth is critical to future restorative work and your appearance, it is wise to consider the procedure if recommended. The benefits of socket preservation are many, chief among them the overall continual health of the other teeth in your mouth. Ask Dr. Rogers if you have more questions about this procedure.

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Pregnancy and Oral Health

 

Pregnancy and Oral HealthBaby on The Brain?

If you’re considering getting pregnant, or are already expecting, concern over the status of your teeth might not be at the top of your list as of late. However, if you’re early enough into a pregnancy, or planning one, you should actually schedule an appointment to see your dentist sooner rather than later.  If your stack of pregnancy-related reading material hasn’t already included a chapter on oral health, let us help by providing you the short version as to why you should make that appointment soon.

Good oral health is the key to good overall health. You know that already. And during pregnancy, your oral health contributes to the health of your baby. Here are a few things to be mindful of in the coming months as you plan your pregnancy:

  • Visit Smiles of Spokane early: Generally speaking, dental work can be safely performed through the first half of the third trimester, but earlier is always better – preferably before pregnancy. The American Dental Association has pointed to research linking premature birth and low birth weight to women with periodontitis (gum disease): a sure enough reason to schedule a full check-up early. While this might seem like something you can brush off if you’re not already suffering from gum disease, that wouldn’t be wise. Why? Hormones, and the sneak-attack caused by Pregnancy Gingivitis.
  • Pregnancy Gingivitis: Hormones play a pivotal role in a woman’s life, and during pregnancy they’re out in full-force. During pregnancy, this natural rise in hormones causes an increase in blood flow to gum tissue which can cause some women to experience swelling and tenderness in their gums. This increase in blood flow also tends to cause gum tissue to exaggerate the way it reacts to existing plaque in the mouth, and can trigger what is known as “pregnancy gingivitis.” If ignored, gingivitis leads to the aforementioned periodontitis, and a true cause for concern during pregnancy. That’s why it’s so important to see your dentist as early as possible.
  • Pregnancy Tumors: While the name might cause you some concern, these benign growths, which frequently appear along the gumline, are more of a nuisance than anything else. Only about 10% of women get them, and typically in the second trimester. Like pregnancy gingivitis, they’re usually the result of increased hormonal activity and improper oral care.

As you can see, Dr. Todd Rogers can and should be one of your many allies in the path to motherhood. So see us at Smiles of Spokane early, and as often as is suggested during your pregnancy. You’ll be pleased you did, and so will your baby!

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Signs of Gum Disease and Your Health

 

Unhealthy Gums and Your HealthSmiles-of-Spokane-Gum-Disease

Do you suffer with red gums, or is the roof of your mouth swollen? Without fail, you follow your dentist’s orders to keep your teeth and gums healthy — but did you know that the condition of your mouth can also shine light on other health problems? Some dental conditions, such as bad breath, pale gums and red gums, can be signs of gum disease. But other oral symptoms may point to seemingly unrelated health problems. (Hint: Eroded teeth could be a sign of an eating disorder or chronic heartburn.)

If you have gum disease, you’re not alone. More than 1 out of 2, or 64.7 million Americans, have mild, moderate, or severe gum disease, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Gum disease ranges from unhealthy gum swelling, called gingivitis, to serious tissue and bone destruction. In the worst cases of gum disease, you will lose teeth.

Healthy mouths are full of bacteria, mucus, and other food particles that form a sticky, colorless “plaque” on the teeth. Normally, you get rid of plaque by brushing and flossing regularly. But when plaque builds up because of poor oral hygiene, it causes inflamed, bleeding gums or gingivitis.

Gingivitis is the mild form of gum disease. Good oral health habits — brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily, getting regular dental checkups, and not smoking — can help prevent and reverse gingivitis.

Plaque that is not removed hardens into tartar. This will lead to increased bleeding and a more serious form of gum disease, called periodontitis. With this advanced gum disease, the unhealthy gums pull away from the teeth and form small pockets that can become infected. If periodontal disease goes untreated, the bones, gums and connective tissue that support the teeth are destroyed.

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, certain people have a higher risk of gum disease than others. Risk factors for gum disease include:

  • Aging
  • Diabetes
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Hormonal changes in girls and women
  • Medication
  • Other illnesses, such as AIDS and cancer treatments
  • Smoking

Taking care of unhealthy gums or gum disease can save your teeth. Here are some lifestyle and home remedies to consider:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day
  • Use a soft toothbrush
  • Replace your toothbrush every three months
  • Floss daily
  • Use an over-the-counter mouth rinse after brushing to reduce plaque
  • See your dentist regularly for professional dental cleanings and mouth checks
  • Don’t smoke

Take a look at these oral symptoms to find out what they could be telling you about your health.

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