Posts for: July, 2013
Every pregnant woman knows that her body will go through a series of profound changes as it's making a new life. Along with the alterations in overall size and changes in eating and sleeping patterns, pregnancy also affects the teeth and gums. Here are some answers to common questions women may have about oral health during pregnancy.
1) What's the most important thing I can do for my baby's oral health?
Maintain your own dental and general health! Eat a healthy and balanced diet — it provides the nutrients, vitamins and minerals needed for proper development of your baby's teeth and bones. While food cravings and aversions are common, try to at least limit your intake of sugary snacks to mealtimes. Don't neglect the good habits of brushing, flossing, and seeing your dentist regularly. This will help minimize the possibility of tooth decay or gum disease.
2) Does pregnancy make me more susceptible to gum disease?
Yes. “Pregnancy gingivitis” (“gingival” – gum tissue; “it is” – inflammation of) may develop from the second to the eighth month. This is mostly due to elevated hormone levels. In the presence of gum disease, pregnancy hormones may stimulate the production of prostaglandins, which cause inflammation of gum tissues. Occasionally, benign growths called “pregnancy tumors” may also appear on the gums during the second trimester. If they don't resolve themselves, these may be surgically removed after the baby is born.
3) With all my other concerns right now, why is the health of my teeth and gums so important?
Several studies have shown a link between periodontal (gum) disease, pre-term delivery and low birth weight — conditions which put some newborns at greater risk for health complications. There's also a correlation between more severe periodontal disease and an increased rate of pre-eclampsia, a potentially serious condition. But treating periodontal disease decreases the level of inflammation-causing prostaglandins. That's one reason why you should come into our office for an evaluation as soon as you know you're expecting.
4) Is it safe to get dental treatments while I'm pregnant?
Dental examinations and routine treatment during pregnancy is generally safe for both mom and baby. If you need non-urgent dental care, it may be most comfortable in the first five months of pregnancy. Situations requiring urgent care are managed as they arise, to treat pain and infection and to reduce stress to the developing fetus. Under the watchful eye of your dentist, it's possible to have anesthesia, X-rays and dental medications (if needed) without undue risk. So don't let worries about dental treatments keep you from coming in for a check-up!
If you would like more information about pregnancy 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 articles “Pregnancy and Oral Health,” and “Expectant Mothers.”
It is sometimes hard to believe all of the features and characteristics that we inherit from our parents. Whether you're tall, short, blue-eyed or blonde, you can usually attribute some of these features to your mother and father. Of course, the downside of genetics is that diseases and disorders are also linked to genes.
Well, you can add gum tissue to that list as well! Genetics actually determines whether you have what we call “thin” or “thick” gum tissue. How does this work? Well, the type of gum tissue you have relies heavily on the shape of your tooth, which indeed is genetically-coded. If you have a triangular tooth shape, you'll likely have thin gums. If you have a squarer tooth shape, you'll usually have thick gums.
So, what can you expect from each tissue type?
If you have a thin gum tissue type, you are more likely to have gum recession. Watch out for the following signs of gum recession:
- Sensitivity to hot or cold, even without the presence of dental decay
- If you have crowns on your teeth, you may see a dark gray line at the gum line from the metal casting beneath the crown
- Small dark triangular spaces between teeth
On the other hand, if you have a thicker tissue type, your gums are more vulnerable to dental disease through a condition called “pocketing.” This happens when bacterial plaque causes your tissue to become inflamed, lose its attachment to the teeth and develop a pocket. Pocketing can result in bone loss, and, in worst-case scenarios, tooth loss.
It's important to note that while we use these terms to categorize different tissue types for treatment decisions, your tissue may also fall somewhere in between the two varieties.
So, how can you prevent gum disease? Daily oral hygiene is the best way to ensure proper care of your gums, no matter what type you have. Be sure to brush twice daily (use a soft toothbrush) and floss regularly at night. Floss gently until you hear a squeak, but watch out for your gum line. And of course, continue to visit us two times a year, so that we can assess whether you are in danger of developing gum disease.
If you would like more information about genetics and gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Genetics and Gum Tissue Types.”
Like the ones worn by kings and queens of old, dental crowns were traditionally made of that most “royal” of metals: solid gold. This style of crown is still going strong after over a hundred years, but recent advances may have stolen some of its luster. Want to learn more about the different materials from which crowns can be made? Read on!
Gold crowns have stood the test of time, and many still consider them the best. Gold is one of the earliest materials to be successfully used for making crowns, and when properly done, it also lasts the longest: over 50 years in some cases. For these and other reasons, many dentists prefer to get gold restorations for their own teeth.
But in recent years, the use of gold crowns has been in decline — especially when the crown is for one of the front teeth. Why? In one word: aesthetics! With the advent of porcelain and porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crowns, many people have opted to go with these more natural-colored tooth restorations.
PFM restorations have been in use for some four decades. They combine the strength of precious metals (gold or platinum) with the appeal of a finish that appears more like a natural tooth. With proper care, a PFM restoration may have a functional life of around 20 years.
With their pearly luster and semi-translucent sheen, all-porcelain crowns have an incredibly lifelike appearance. Porcelain itself is a glass-like material, which is specially modified to add strength when it's used in dentistry. In the past, there were some problems with brittleness in all-porcelain restorations. Today, newer formulations have been designed to avoid these issues.
High-tech materials that have recently become available to dentistry include a polycrystalline ceramic substance called zirconium dioxide or “Zirconia.” It shows great promise in terms of aesthetics and strength, and is the subject of much ongoing research. One day, it may replace other materials and become the new “gold standard” of crowns.
Depending on the particular situation, one or more of these materials may be considered for your crown.
If you would like more information about crowns, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Porcelain Crowns & Veneers” and “Gold or Porcelain Crowns?”