Oral Care: More Than Just Teeth

Image courtesy of adamr FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of adamr FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There is a huge disconnect between your mouth and the rest of your body. People don’t realize that not caring for your mouth will have systemic effects. Poor oral hygiene has been linked to everything from pre-term, low birth weight babies, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Oral Cancer

How often do you go to your family doctor and have them look in your mouth? Yeah, thought so. Seeing a dentist or hygienst regularly is the only way to ensure you’re having a good oral exam. Though not the highlight of my career, I’ve referred three patients to an oral pathologist for cases I thought were oral cancer. I’m sad to say I was right all three times. Only one of the three was a smoker too. One was an older lady who mentioned she had a cold core that just wouldn’t heal, though I can see how she thought it may be a cold sore, I was sure she needed a second opinion. All her gardening in the hot sun without protection was likely the cause. The third was an older lady from Greece whose son did all the translating. When he mentioned she was having trouble swallowing, I pressed the issue and did an introral and extraoral exam, something didn’t feel right to me and it turns out she had a large tumor around her voicebox.

Periodontal Disease 

Periodontal disease can range from gingivitis to sever disease (teeth falling out). I see it all. I have had patients with disease so bad their teeth have literally fallen out in my office doing an exam. It amazes me the pain people will go through before seeking professional help. If you’re at the stage of teeth starting to become mobile, your attachment tissues and bone have been affected. If you have an infection that sever in your mouth it will get into your blood stream…all blood pumps through your heart. Is this risk worth it?!

If you went to the bathroom and washed your hands in routine fashion and they bleed you would probably freak out, right? So why do so many people think bleeding gums from routine brushing and flossing is normal? Blood=problem.

I’m keeping it real here and 99.99999% of the population, me included, has a few trouble areas in their mouth and routine flossing or brushing may get a bit of bleeding. Bacteria sneaks its way into tiny nooks that get missed sometimes, we’re human. But if you’re getting bleeding every time you brush or floss, it’s an indication that there’s something going on or you’re doing it incorrectly. Most of the time bleeding is an indicator that the patient needs to change their technique and do it MORE often. Bleeding doesn’t mean stop.

Dentures Shouldn’t Be An Option

I hate hearing that people don’t care about their teeth because they will always have dentures as an option. No matter how much you may hate your teeth, YOUR teeth are always better than dentures. Ask anyone who wears them. They’re a pain in the ass. They need to be fit and adjusted often, can get infected underneath if not cared for properly, in the case of full dentures you loose so much of your ability to taste your food. Ask anyone who is in dentures if they would rather their real teeth and I’m sure they will all agree they would rather have natural teeth no matter how they may look.

Restorative dentistry has come a long way there are options beyond dentures for replacing missing teeth. Depending on how deep your pockets are you could get implants but when we’re talking about $3500-5000 per tooth not many people can afford a whole mouth!

Nothing is as good as you’re God given teeth. Take care of them and they should last a lifetime. It’s not rocket science. Eat well, brush and floss regularly and have regular dental exams and cleanings. If something isn’t working for you ask for help! If it’s something I can help with via e-mail I’d be glad to but you should see a dental professional regularly.

Do you have any crazy dental stories? 

If you’ve missed my past posts, be sure to check them out:

A Closer Look at Electric Toothbrushes

April is Oral Health month. As a dental hygienist I feel the need to share as much oral health information with as many people as possible, so this week I will do a few posts on the topic. I hope you all enjoy and learn something new!

I’ve already done a few posts related to dentistry. If you’ve missed them, be sure to check them out!

I like to think that I practice very conservative dentistry. I don’t use super fancy lasers available and never recommend products to patients just for the sake of promoting a brand. It’s just not my thing. I also rarely suggest something for a general population. Though we all have teeth that need proper care and maintenance, other than the standard ”brush and floss” I usually have individual plans for each patient. The only other thing I can think of that I would recommend for the general public is electric toothbrushes.

Why Electric?

Simply put, unless you’re brushing your teeth by perfect textbook technique (Yes, there is a proper technique) electric brushes are more effective than manual brushes. Few people care to put the effort into brushing their teeth as properly as they should. The electric toothbrush has proven over and over to remove more plaque/food/debris than manual toothbrushes.

What Type?

When looking for an electric toothbrush you want a head that is soft or ideally, extra soft, round and one that oscillates rather than vibrates back and forth. Like this:

Source: OralB

Source: OralB

Studies have shown, brushes that oscillate (spin in circles) are more effective than vibrating only brushes. Quite honestly, since I’m offering unsolicited advice, this is the only electric toothbrush type you should buy. If your prefer the other types that’s fine too but you’d probably be just as fine with a normal manual brush, save your money.

Gold Standard

The gold standard of electric toothbrushes would have to be the Oral B Triumph. At a pretty price of well over $100 you’re looking at an investment. Trying to maintain my honesty, though this is a fantastic product, I just can’t recommend anyone spend that money when the same company produces my personal favorite and most recommended, the Oral-B Vitality.

The Vitality is rechargeable and uses the same heads as the Triumph…sort of seems like a no brainer huh? You have to be careful as some ”electric” brushes don’t even have batteries you change, once it dies you have to throw it out! For about $20 you can buy the Vitality with a few choice of head options (I prefer and recommend the ”sensitive” or ultra soft head for anyone), and you can buy refills.

Source: Amazon

Source: Amazon

I try to price dental products wherever I go so I can recommend the cheaper places for my patients. The best prices I find in store for electric toothbrushes and replacement heads are Walmart and Costco, sometimes Amazon is good too but I find them to be hit and miss.

Anyone Can Use Electric Toothbrushes 

A lot of people think because they have crowns, bridges, implants that they can’t use an electric brush, that it may somehow damage the porcelain or gold work. The opposite is true. If you want to prolong the length of your restoration using an electric brush will help maintain your tissues better and more effectively clean your restoration.

As you can see from the above picture, the Vitality even has an ortho option for those with braces.

When I have a patient who uses an electric brush it’s usually quite obvious. If I suspect one of my patients use an electric brush I ask and my hunch is almost always right. Sometimes electric brushes are used because kids think they’re cool or guys think they’re a neat gadget, I don’t care why you choose to use one, if it works for you and is the motivation you need to brush your teeth all the power to you!

Finally, while we are on the topic of toothbrushes, there is a neat summary video from mojohealth containing ten tips for maintaining your oral health.