In this regular blog, Dr. McDill and Dr. Rosenzweig from Alpine Dental Health answer a variety of dental health topics. Do you have a question you'd like them to answer? Email the doctors today at drmcdill@alpinedentalhealth.com or drrosenzweig@alpinedentalhealth.com.


Making Your Dental Health a Priority

For oral health, most of us know the drill: brush twice a day (at least), floss once a day, visit your dentist twice a year, and so on. However, many people neglect regular dentist visits, daily flossing, and thorough brushing. Sadly, dental health is often not a high priority, and tooth decay, gum disease, and other health issues are the result.

What’s the Big Deal?

Maintaining your dental health is not only important to preventing painful cavities and tooth loss, but it affects your overall health as well. Your mouth is the gateway into your body, and if it’s infested with bacteria, there is a higher chance you’ll have health issues elsewhere. For example, an infection in your gum tissue can spread to other areas, causing inflammation in various blood vessels and potentially leading to heart complications.

Neglected Teeth

Neglecting your dental health allows bacteria to multiply on the surfaces of your teeth and in other areas of your mouth. This leads to a variety of problems, including these:

  • Tartar buildup: Bacteria form in filmy layers of plaque on your teeth and gums, and if left alone for more than a day, this plaque will harden into tartar. Tartar is difficult to remove, making the likelihood of tooth decay much greater.
  • Cavities: Cavities are holes in your teeth that result from bacteria. As you eat, bacteria feed on substances in your mouth (particularly sugar) and produce an acidic substance. This acid eats into the enamel of your teeth, leaving holes that can result in deeper infection.
  • Gum disease: Bacteria don’t just affect your teeth. If they get under the gum line, they cause the gums to recede from the teeth, leaving pockets. Over time, these become infected, and bone loss can occur. Early stages of gum disease are fully reversible with proper dental hygiene, but if it’s not properly treated, it can result in irreversible bone loss around the teeth.
  • Tooth loss: Whether it’s a cavity that has penetrated deep into the tooth or decay of the bone holding it in place, neglecting your dental health can eventually lead to tooth loss. If this occurs, costly and uncomfortable measures like dentures or implants may be in order.

Poor dental health has also been linked to cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, pregnancy complications, and lung conditions. By keeping up on your dental health and making that a priority in your life, you help maintain your overall health.

Start Early

Ideally, dental hygiene should begin early. Habits are more easily formed at a young age, so teaching children to brush and floss daily will ingrain them with a lifetime of good habits. Later in life, their dental hygiene habits will be unlikely to change; so if they don’t have them, they will have a much harder time with their oral health.

A Few Pointers

Most people know that dental health is important, but they’ll still be a little lazy about it. The reason for this is likely because it can be a pain and simply inconvenient. Dentist visits might be expensive, flossing may be uncomfortable, and brushing thoroughly might seem like a hassle. If this is the case, remembering a few facts might help out:

  • Time: The time it takes to maintain oral health is comparatively small. Just two minutes twice per day to brush, a minute to floss, and you’re set. When it comes to dentist visits, it’s just a couple hours out of every year to keep your teeth in good shape.
  • Prevention: The costs of routine dental care might seem hefty, but compared to the expense of dealing with a complex health issue, such as advanced periodontal disease, bone loss, and cardiovascular problems, it really is a worthwhile investment.
  • Diet: Dental health isn’t just about brushing and flossing. Like every other part of your body, your teeth need certain nutrients and minerals to stay healthy. Eating foods with plenty of calcium, vitamins A, C, and D, and phosphorous will keep teeth strong.
  • Sports safety: If you or your children play sports, wearing a fitted mouthguard will keep teeth from being knocked out of place.

Simple daily habits supplemented with routine dental checkups keep your oral health in good shape. Your teeth, gums, and overall health will thank you for making it a priority.

Gummy Vitamins and Your Teeth (6 Things You Need To Know)

gummy vitaminsGummy bears—and candies in general—have always been well known for being bad for your teeth, but now they have taken on a new role as a health food product. Gummy vitamins have found a solid place on supplement aisles, as ironic as that may sound. However, it’s not too surprising. After all, kids love gummy bears, and making them healthy just seems like a good idea.

But is it really? Here, we’ll look at a few of the pros and cons of gummy vitamins and your teeth to see whether they might not actually be the worst idea ever.

A Few Pros of Gummy Vitamins

It’s actually quite clever to inject a tasty treat with all the vitamins and minerals your child will need for the day. This makes taking your vitamins quite appealing, and it affords a few benefits. These include:

  • No struggle: Kids like sweet, chewy candies (as do most adults), so gummy supplements are an easy way to get your children the vitamins they need without having to win an impossible argument or resort to force-feeding.
  • Easy to swallow: For children who can’t—or won’t—swallow whole pills, gummy vitamins provide an easy solution. They can be chewed and swallowed with no fuss or risk of choking.
  • Additional vitamins: Finally, of course, there’s the fact that they do provide important vitamins. These usually include vitamins A, B, C, D, and E, zinc, calcium, and various others, all of which help fill in some of the gaps left by your child’s normal diet.

In general, the American diet is deficient in certain vitamins, making a supplement a fairly easy way to get missing nutrients. Producing that supplement in gummy form makes it even easier, and in many cases children will not only gladly take their vitamins, but ask for more.

And Now the Cons

Of course, the fact that your child may beg you for more gummies should be a red flag. Coating a nutritional supplement in sticky, delicious sugar comes with its own risks, among which are the following:

  • Risk of overdose: The appealing, sweet taste of gummy vitamins poses a risk for overdose. Some companies are careful not to include certain nutrients that could be dangerous if taken in excess. Others not so much. There are numerous cases of parents taking their children to the emergency room due to them downing the entire bottle.
  • Tooth decay: It’s only a small amount per supplement, but sugar still feeds bacteria. The fact that the sugar is in gummy form makes it more likely to stick to teeth, increasing the odds of bacteria growth, plaque, and tooth decay.
  • Weaker than normal multivitamins: In general, gummy vitamins actually contain less in the way of vitamin content than regular multivitamins, making them less effective while still introducing a bit of extra sugar into your diet.

The risks posed by gummy vitamins makes them far more harmful than helpful in many cases. Combining candy with vitamins may not necessarily be the worst idea ever, but it certainly isn’t the best one either.

What to Do

If you’re already using gummy vitamins, there are some ways you can reduce the risks. Try including vitamins with meals instead of making them a treat, educate your child on the need to eat healthy, and help them form good dental hygiene habits. Make sure they understand that their vitamins are there to help them get those extra nutrients they might not get from food alone.

Also, it’s never a bad idea to switch to other options. Consider preparing healthier meals or switching to chewable tablets that won’t stick to your child’s teeth. These options can eliminate the risks of gummy vitamins and your teeth while promoting overall health.

Dental Health and Heart Disease – Is There a Connection?

heart disease and your teethYou might have heard that taking care of your oral health could prevent heart disease. It’s certainly true that there is a correlation between the two since research shows that those who suffer from poor oral health—and more especially from gum disease—have a higher risk of heart disease. There are a number of lines of evidence that suggest that taking care of your teeth and gums could help your heart, even if the research hasn’t pinned down an exact connection.

Shared Effects of Dental Health and Heart Disease

Periodontitis (gum disease) and heart disease involve some of the same effects on the body. These shared effects include:

  • Inflammatory proteins: Levels of CRP (C-reactive protein) in the bloodstream can be used to determine someone’s risk of heart attack. The higher the levels, the more the risk. The amount of this protein also increases in those with moderate to severe gum disease.
  • Bacteria: Many of the types of bacteria associated with periodontitis are also found in hardened arteries that contribute toward heart disease.

The fact that both diseases are associated with inflammation and similar bacteria is strong evidence that there may be a connection between the two.

Common Risk Factors

It’s possible that the connection is not so much between oral health and cardiovascular disease in and of themselves, but rather in the habits that predispose an individual to them. Both periodontitis and heart disease share some of the same risk factors. The following factors indicate an increased likelihood that an individual might develop either gum disease or heart health issues:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Old age
  • Inflamed arteries

The main point here is that the two could occur together, even if one doesn’t necessarily cause the other. Each could stem from the same factors, but might otherwise be unrelated.

Causation?

As the research stands now, there is no evidence that poor oral health causes heart disease. While the research shows that there is a correlation—one is often found with the other—no direct links have been found between the two.

Still, there is reason to believe that there might be a connection, but more research will be needed before we can determine what that connection might be. Some possibilities include:

  • Poor oral health could cause heart disease: Poor oral health leads to increased levels of certain bacteria in the mouth, and those bacteria could find their way into the bloodstream.
  • Heart disease could lead to periodontitis: Conversely, the bacteria associated with atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) may find their way into the mouth. There might be other causation effects at work as well.
  • Both just happen to be caused by similar factors: It could simply be a case where the same risk factors for one also happen to lead to the other. Habits that lead to heart disease coincidentally
  • contribute toward gum disease as well.
  • Some combination of these: It’s also quite possible that there is a more complex relationship between poor oral health and cardiovascular disease than a simple “one causes the other” scenario. Each could feed into the other, and their similar risk factors could affect each one in individual ways.

Again, there isn’t any conclusive evidence to indicate the exact connection, but there is still reason to believe that there is one. As it stands now, however, there is only a correlation, nothing more.

Dental Care

Taking care of your teeth could help your heart, but you shouldn’t look to prevent heart attacks or strokes only by brushing and flossing daily. Habits such as keeping a healthy diet and exercising regularly are definitively shown to reduce the odds of heart disease, so those should be incorporated into your daily routine.

This doesn’t diminish the importance of keeping up on your dental health, however. It might not necessarily spare you from a heart attack, but keeping up on oral hygiene has other benefits in that it prevents tooth decay and gum disease. Always be sure to brush, floss, and visit your dentist regularly to keep up on your oral health.

5 Things to Know About Teeth Whitening

is tooth whitening right for youA bright, sparkling smile can make all the difference in your appearance and be the first thing people notice about you when you walk into a room. Teeth naturally dull from wear and tear and certain medical issues, and some habits like smoking, drinking, and eating certain foods can speed the process. But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with dingy and discolored teeth. Thanks to professional teeth whitening, you can get your dream smile in a safe environment. Here are five things you need to know about teeth whitening:

It’s not for everyone. Professional teeth whitening in a dentist’s office is the best method and the one that produces the highest-quality results. Before the whitening procedure, most dentists will perform a consultation to discuss your dental history, overall health, and teeth goals. This consultation is important to discuss any nagging dental issues, as many teeth and gum problems will need to be addressed before teeth whitening can occur. In general, children younger than 16, those with orthodontic treatments, or patients who are pregnant or breastfeeding are discouraged from teeth whitening.

There are teeth whitening treatment options. One look at the oral health aisle at the store will tell you there are lots of choices when it comes to teeth whitening, but the treatments typically fall into two categories: a take-home treatment or an in-office treatment. Take-home kits use special trays created from molds of your teeth, which are then filled with whitening gel and applied for a few days in a row. Treatment in the dentist’s office may produce quicker results and uses a whitening gel and a special light.

It’s safe. Most teeth whitening procedures use a peroxide-based system. Professionally applied treatments typically have 35%-40% hydrogen peroxide, while over-the-counter products have up to 10% hydrogen peroxide. These types of peroxide compounds are regularly used in a variety of dental treatments and have been for years; there is strong scientific evidence that the compounds and treatment are very safe. However, the FDA doesn’t regulate teeth whitening products, and there has been some inconclusive evidence regarding the effects hydrogen products can have on teeth in very highly concentrated amounts. The American Dental Association puts a seal of approval on many dentist-distributed teeth whitening products. It’s important to note that not every safe product has the seal; however, with proper application they can still be used safely.

tooth whitening in colorado Most people experience sensitivity. Teeth whitening, especially when performed by a dentist, is a fairly low-risk procedure, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any side effects. The most commonly reported side effect is sensitivity, but other people report irritated gums or blistering. Talk to your dentist if you notice any of these occurrences after your treatment. Your dentist can help eliminate or minimize sensitivity.

Results are different for everyone. There are a lot of factors related to teeth whitening. Some people have healthier tooth enamel, or stains that are easier to break through, so their teeth get whiter faster. Others may have built-up stains that take longer to remove. Speak with a dentist before starting a teeth whitening treatment, either at home or professionally done in an office, for advice and recommendations.

Pregnancy and Your Teeth – 5 Things You Should Know

pregnant woman brushing teeth
Your body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy, from the weight gain and changing hormones to stretching muscles and organs. But one of the most important changing areas is a part of your body you use every day—your teeth. Your pearly whites and everything else in your body play a major role in your overall and pregnancy health. Here are five things you should know about your teeth and oral health when you’re pregnant.

Dental health affects you and the baby. The health of your teeth can impact your overall health, even if you’re not pregnant. However, when you are pregnant, you are brushing and flossing for two, and the health of your mouth can affect the baby. Poor dental health allows more bacteria in your mouth, which is then passed through your bloodstream to the baby. These bacteria can cause a number of the problems, the most common of which is a low birth weight.

Don’t be afraid to visit the dentist often. Because things change so quickly during pregnancy, it is recommended to visit the dentist multiple times over the course of nine months. Frequent dental visits can keep your oral health in line and alert you to problems as they arise, instead of when they turn into something bigger down the road. Make sure your dentist knows you are pregnant, as that can affect the treatments and medicine you receive.

pregnant blonde woman brushing her teethContinue to brush and floss every day. Pregnancy means it is even more important to continue good, basic dental habits. One of the most important things you can do is brush your teeth at least twice a day with an ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste and floss daily. Even simply brushing and flossing can control or prevent many pregnancy-related dental issues. If you have a high-risk pregnancy or existing dental problems, your dentist may recommend a more intense dental treatment. Morning sickness and frequent vomiting can cause tooth enamel to erode, so dentists recommend rinsing your mouth with water mixed with a teaspoon of baking soda in addition to frequent teeth brushing.

Good eating can help dental health. Eating fruits, vegetables, and foods rich in calcium and nutrients can greatly improve your oral health. Many problems can also be lessened by drinking more water. A common pregnancy problem is “dry mouth,” which is often combined with headaches, a stuffy nose, and chapped lips. The best way to get rid of dry mouth is to drink lots of water so the mouth stays moist.

Some problems go away on their own. One of the most common dental issues during pregnancy is known as pregnancy gingivitis, or sensitive gums that are red and swollen. Many women also report that their gums bleed during routine teeth brushing. These problems are typically caused by increased hormone levels and not necessarily from a woman’s dental health practices. In general, pregnancy gingivitis typically starts around the second month of pregnancy and hits its peak during the eighth month. Although the condition isn’t pleasant, it goes away on its own after the baby is born.