Poor Oral Health Increases Pneumonia Risk

oral health pneumoniaSeveral studies have found a link between poor oral health and pneumonia. The elderly, children, and people with weakened immune systems are at greatest risk.

A study by researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine found that changes in bacteria in the mouth occurred before patients developed pneumonia. They concluded that those changes contributed to development of the disease. Other studies have found a relationship between cavities, gum disease, and pneumonia. Researchers in one study found a link between oral health and pneumonia even when they controlled for the number of medications, smoking, and other medical conditions.

Scientists believe that pneumonia and other respiratory infections can develop when fine droplets from the mouth and throat that contain bacteria make their way into the lungs. These droplets can cause abscesses, inflammation, and infection. They can also worsen existing medical conditions. Even patients without teeth are at risk because dentures can harbor bacteria. Some studies have noted that patients with gum problems who develop pneumonia are at greater risk of dying from the disease than those do not also have gum disease.

Dentists say it is especially important to practice good oral care during the winter, when the cold temperatures can weaken people’s immune systems and make them more susceptible to viruses and bacterial infections. Dentists recommend brushing the teeth for two minutes twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing once a day, and reducing consumption of sugary foods and beverages. Rinsing with an antibacterial rinse can also remove food and bacteria. Elderly patients who wear dentures should clean them with products specifically designed to remove food and bacteria from dentures, not with regular toothpaste.

People should also visit the dentist at least twice a year, and more often if they have any specific concerns. People who take medications regularly should be aware that many drugs can affect oral health. Patients should tell their dentist about any medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, that they take.

Toothscan Will Monitor Oral Health at Home

ToothscanToothscan, a device that can help users monitor their oral health at home and detect problems early, is currently under development and should be available next year.

The device, which is similar in size to a toothbrush, utilizes spectroscopy to measure oral health. Using Toothscan does not require any special treatment of the teeth. It beams a powerful light on the teeth that is reflected back to a sensor. Toothscan measures and interprets irregular reflections and can detect changes in tooth enamel before they are visually apparent. It will allow users to diagnose dental problems early so that they can seek treatment from a dentist before the problem progresses.

The data can be synchronized wirelessly with a PC, tablet, or smartphone. The Toothscan app allows users to monitor their dental health on a daily or weekly basis. It can make recommendations on the right toothpaste, when to replace a toothbrush, and when to visit the dentist. The more often it is used, the better information and guidance it will be able to provide.

Toothscan can be used by the whole family. It can keep a separate log for each individual to monitor oral health over time and note any problems that are developing. This can encourage users to work on their brushing and flossing habits and seek treatment when necessary.

Toothscan is designed to be used by both dentists and by patients at home. It is intended to help patients detect problems so that they can seek dental treatment, not to replace dentists. According to dentists, the best way to avoid dental problems is to practice good oral hygiene and to detect issues early. Toothscan’s designers hope that it will be a tool that can improve the dentist-patient relationship.

Toothscan is being developed by Tesla Studios Limited. The team is working on making it as small as a toothbrush and perfecting the algorithms that interpret the information and communicate with devices. The company expects to begin selling Toothscan in November 2015.

Is Tooth Whitening Right for You?

tooth whiteningTeeth can become stained over time from food, beverages, and smoking. Many people decide to try tooth whitening treatments to get pearly whites.

Both in-office and at-home tooth whitening treatments use peroxide-based bleaching agents. At-home tooth whitening products have 3 to 20 percent carbamide or hydrogen peroxide concentrations. In-office whitening treatments contain 15 to 43 percent peroxide.

The stronger the solution, and the longer it is left on your teeth, the whiter your smile will become. However, keeping a solution with a high concentration of peroxide on your teeth for too long can dehydrate the teeth and cause sensitivity.

Results can vary from person to person. Tooth whitening is most effective for people with yellow teeth and works less well for people with brown stains. If your teeth are gray or purple, bleaching probably won’t work at all. In-office and at-home bleaching treatments will not whiten porcelain crowns or composite tooth-colored bondings.

Tooth whitening treatments performed in a dentist’s office are often used with heat and/or light. This, combined with their higher concentrations of peroxide, increases their effectiveness. It generally takes several 30- to 60-minute visits to lighten teeth three to eight shades. Some treatments, such as Zoom whitening, can be done in one two-hour treatment.

If you would rather bleach your teeth at home, you have several options. At-home whitening treatments are generally less expensive than those done in a dentist’s office and have less dramatic, but noticeable, results.

Tooth whitening strips and gels are applied directly to the teeth with a brush or thin strips once or twice a day for 10 to 14 days. Results last four months or longer.

Other treatments use a tray similar to a mouth guard that is filled with a peroxide-based gel or paste and placed over the teeth. The tray must be left on for one to several hours per day for up to four weeks. Tray-based whitening treatments can be bought over-the-counter or custom-made by your dentist.

The least expensive option is a whitening toothpaste. These contain chemicals or polishing agents that remove stains and lighten teeth about one shade without using bleaching agents. Some whitening toothpastes contain peroxides, but they are not left on the teeth long enough to have a whitening effect.

In order to keep your smile white, you should brush and floss your teeth daily. You should also avoid foods and beverages that could stain your teeth, such as black tea, coffee, red or white wine, sports drinks, sodas, berries, other strongly-colored foods, and sauces, such as soy, tomato, and curry.

Talk to your dentist before you try an at-home tooth whitening treatment. Bleaching can make teeth sensitive, and improperly using at-home kits can burn or bleach your gums.

Short-Term Orthodontics Can Straighten Teeth Quickly

short-term orthodonticsMisaligned teeth can affect one’s appearance and contribute to many other problems, such as periodontal disease, temporomandibular joint disorders, headaches, and neck, shoulder, and back pain. Many adults could benefit from orthodontic treatment, but some decide against it because of the time that treatment requires (typically two to three years) and the unattractive appearance of metal brackets and wires.

Short-term orthodontics allows patients to improve their smiles and overall oral health easily in a fraction of the time required for traditional orthodontics. Treatment can straighten teeth in six to nine months.

Short-term orthodontics can be used to treat many problems, including extrusions, intrusions, rotations, and tipping. Short-term orthodontics is used to straighten the upper and lower front teeth, not the teeth in the entire mouth.

This treatment can be used as long as the jaw and mouth are fully developed and there is a healthy occlusal foundation that requires minimal adjustment. Most adults with misaligned teeth are good candidates for short-term orthodontics.

This type of treatment typically uses brackets and wires that are similar in color to teeth, making it a more aesthetically pleasing solution than traditional braces. It is also less expensive than other orthodontic treatment.

Lucid-Lok (Six Month Smiles) wires gently and consistently apply pressure to move the teeth. If you choose this treatment, your dentist will take impressions of your upper and lower arches and send them to the Six Month Smiles Processing Center, where a bracket specialist/technician will create a customized patient kit that includes bonding trays.

The brackets will be accurately positioned in the bonding trays so they can be placed precisely. Your teeth will be etched, rinsed, and dried, and then an adhesive will be applied. The bonding trays will be seated intraorally, the brackets will be light-cured onto your teeth, and tooth-colored wires and ties will be attached and adjusted.

In order to maintain the effects of the treatment, you will need to wear a retainer or mouth guard. If you do not, your teeth can move back into their original positions.

Patients with Some Heart Conditions Need Antibiotics before Dental Procedures

dentist antibioticsSome dental procedures, such as a root canal or tooth extraction, can allow bacteria from the mouth to enter the patient’s bloodstream. Infective endocarditis occurs when the lining of the heart or valve becomes infected by bacteria, fungi, or other organisms. It is most likely to occur in patients who have abnormal heart valves or who have had heart surgery. Infective endocarditis can also occur in people who are healthy and do not have a history of heart disease, although this is less common. It can lead to serious medical problems, including heart failure or leakage of the heart valve.

The American Heart Association recommends that patients with the highest risk of developing infective endocarditis take antibiotic prophylaxis, a dose of antibiotics before undergoing dental procedures. This includes people with a prior history of infective endocarditis; prosthetic heart valves; valves that have been replaced with prosthetic material; and many congenital heart anomalies, including single ventricle states, transposition of the great arteries, and tetralogy of Fallot, even if the problem has been corrected.

Patients with some other heart problems are at lower risk of developing infective endocarditis and do not need to take antibiotics prior to undergoing dental procedures. This includes patients with valves that have been repaired without prosthetic material; hypertrophic cardiomyopathy; mitral valve prolapse with valvular regurgitation and/or valvular thickening; most other congenital cardiac abnormalities, including patent foramen ovale; unrepaired ventricular septal defect; unrepaired patent ductus arteriosus; acquired valvular dysfunction (mitral or aortic regurgitation or stenosis); atrial septal defect, ventricular septal defect, or patent ductus arteriosus that has been successfully closed with surgery or a catheter-based procedure; physiologic, functional, or innocent heart murmurs; mitral valve prolapse without regurgitation or valvular leaflet thickening; mild tricuspid regurgitation; coronary artery disease; simple atrial septal defect; previous rheumatic fever or Kawasaki disease without valvular dysfunction; or placement of a pacemaker or defibrillator.

The American Heart Association recommends that patients who are at the highest risk of developing infective endocarditis take one dose of antibiotics in the form of a pill or liquid one hour before certain dental or oral procedures. Patients who are allergic to penicillin can take an alternate antibiotic one hour before the procedure. Patients who cannot take oral medications can receive an antibiotic injection 30 minutes prior to the procedure.

People who are at risk of developing infective endocarditis should follow good oral hygiene practices. This includes brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, and having cleanings twice a year.

Bonding Can Easily Restore a Tooth

teeth bondingDental bonding is a relatively simple procedure that can be used to repair a decayed, chipped, cracked, or discolored tooth. It can also close spaces between teeth, make a tooth appear longer, change the shape of a tooth, protect a root that is exposed by gum recession, or be used as an alternative to an amalgam filling.

Bonding involves applying a tooth-colored resin material, which is a durable plastic, to the tooth and hardening it with a special light. This bonds the material to the tooth to improve the patient’s appearance.

Anesthesia is generally not needed for a bonding procedure, unless it is being used to repair a decayed tooth. Little advance preparation is necessary. Your dentist will roughen the surface of the tooth and apply a conditioning liquid. This will help the bonding material adhere to the surface of the tooth.

Your dentist will choose a shade of resin that most closely matches the color of your tooth. Next, he or she will apply the putty-like resin to the tooth and mold and smooth it into the desired shape. Your dentist will use an ultraviolet light or laser to harden the material and then trim, shape, and polish it to make it match the rest of your tooth’s surface. The procedure takes about 30 to 60 minutes per tooth.

Dental bonding is much easier to complete and is much less expensive than other treatments, such as crowns and veneers, which need to be made in a lab and require multiple visits to the dentist’s office. Bonding can usually be done in just one visit. Bonding requires removal of less tooth enamel than is required for crowns or veneers.

The resin used in bonding is stain resistant, but it does not resist stains as well as crowns. Bonding material is not as strong and does not last as long as a crown, veneer, or filling. Bonding resin can chip or break off a tooth over time. Due to these limitations, some dentists recommend bonding only for small cosmetic changes, temporary correction of cosmetic defects, and correction of teeth in areas with very low bite pressure, such as the front teeth. Bonded material typically lasts from three to 10 years before it needs to be touched up or replaced.

Bonded teeth do not require special care. You should follow normal brushing and flossing practices and visit your dentist for regular checkups. To avoid chipping, do not chew your fingernails, pens, ice, or hard foods or use your bonded teeth to open things. If you notice any sharp edges or if something feels unusual when you bite down, call your dentist.

A ‘Bad Bite’ Can Cause Ear Problems

ear painMany people experience problems with their ears, including pain, pressure, a feeling of fullness, difficulty clearing the ears, a ringing sound, and dizziness. If you have any of these problems, your dentist might be able to help you find and treat the cause.

There are several clues that can indicate that your ear problem is caused by a dental issue and not something else. Dental-related ear pain usually affects only one ear and feels very deep. The pain may travel down your neck, to your temple, or to the back of your head. The pain may become worse when you move your jaw. You may experience sore or tender muscles around your jaw joints or a clicking, popping, or grating sound in your jaw joints. Your jaw may also shift to one side when you open your mouth wide.

The ears and jaws are located very close to each other. The two joints that attach the jaw to the skull are located just in front of the ears. The area that separates the jaw joints from the ear canals is extremely thin.

The ear bones and jaw bones are closely related. They start out as one bone and separate as an embryo develops. The bones in the ears – the hammer (malleus), anvil (incus), and stirrup (stapes) – are the smallest bones in the human body. A muscle called the tensor tympani controls the movement of the hammer, controls the vibrations of the ear drum, and protects the inner ear from loud noises.

The nerve that controls the tensor tympani muscle also controls the muscles responsible for chewing. Signals sent through that nerve affect both the muscles in the jaw joints and the muscles in the ears.

A bad bite can be caused by poorly aligned or missing teeth. This makes the muscles have to work harder to bring the teeth together and can eventually make them become worn out. This can cause the muscles to become shortened and stiff and to go into spasms, which can pull the jaw joints out of alignment and cause pain or other ear problems.

If you experience problems with your ears, visit your dentist to find out if they could be caused by a bad bite. You should also consult an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor who can look for other possible causes.

3D Printing Can Create Crowns in an Hour

Electronic 3D Plastic Printer During Work In School LaboratoryNew 3D printing technology is making the process of getting a dental crown much quicker and easier.

Normally a dentist drills into the damaged tooth to get a good fit, makes a mold of the tooth, and sends it to an outside lab that scans and digitizes its 3D structure. The lab sends the digitized image back to the dentist, who can make modifications. Then the image is sent back to the lab, where the crown is made. The crown is sent to the dentist’s office, and the patient must return to have the permanent crown inserted. During the two or three weeks that the process takes, the patient must wear a temporary crown.

However, 3D printing can change all of that. A dentist can use a small camera to scan the misshapen or damaged tooth and send the information to a milling machine located in the office. The machine can carve the crown from a block of porcelain in about 15 minutes. The dentist then prepares the crown and inserts it on the tooth. The whole process can be completed in about an hour while the patient waits, thus avoiding the need to wear a temporary crown and come back for another appointment.

The process uses computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM). The technology is not currently widespread, but as more patients hear about it and dentists recognize its benefits, it may become more popular.

3D printing technology cannot be used for all crowns. The scanners cannot see below the gumline, so if there is damage to the tooth below the gumline, it will still be necessary to make a mold. The carving process cannot produce the intricate detail of a real tooth, so it is still necessary to make a mold of a visible front tooth.

What Are Supernumerary Teeth?

supernumerary teethIt is normal to have 20 primary teeth and 32 permanent teeth. Hyperdontia is a condition characterized by the presence of extra, or supernumerary, teeth. The extra teeth can be located in any part of the mouth and can develop from separate tooth buds or from the splitting of permanent tooth buds.

Supernumerary teeth can occur in both primary (deciduous) and permanent teeth, but they are much more common among permanent teeth. There can be either one or several supernumerary teeth present. Most cases involve a single tooth. The most common supernumerary teeth are permanent anterior incisors in the upper arch, followed by upper and lower fourth molars.

About 1 to 4 percent of people have at least one extra tooth. Supernumerary teeth are equally common among males and females in deciduous teeth, but among permanent teeth they are twice as common in males as in females.

Supernumerary teeth are divided into several groups. Conical teeth are peg-shaped and are usually located in the front of the mouth. Tuberculate teeth have two or more tubercles, or cusps. They are very rare and usually occur in pairs. Supplemental teeth occur as duplicates in the series of normal teeth. They are generally located in the lateral incisor, premolar, and molar regions. Odontoma teeth can be completely disorganized or can resemble the normal teeth structure.

The cause of hyperdontia is not clear, but dentists have several theories. Some believe the extra teeth are caused by abnormal division of a tooth, while others believe they are caused by hyperactive dental lamina. Supernumerary teeth may also be caused by genetics.

Extra teeth can cause many problems. They can displace adjacent teeth, prevent normal teeth from erupting through the gums, or lead to crowding in the mouth. All of these problems require that the supernumerary teeth be removed.

Cysts can form if a person has extra teeth. Supernumerary teeth can also cause resorption of the adjacent teeth’s roots in some parts of the mouth. In those cases, the extra teeth need to be removed immediately.

Supernumerary teeth are not always problematic. If they do not cause any of these issues, they can be left alone.

Oral Health Can Affect Athletic Performance

sports oral healthA paper just published by dental experts supports the notion that oral health can impact athletic performance.

A group of British and North American dental experts published a Consensus Statement in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. They say that simple and inexpensive measures, such as better brushing and flossing, could improve athletes’ performance.

Cyclist Sir Dave Brailsford introduced the theory of marginal gains, which holds that small gains in areas that are not normally associated with athletic performance can lead to significant improvements in sports. According to the Consensus Statement, improving oral health could have the same marginal gains as expensive physical therapies.

The link between oral health and athletic performance was first studied at the 1968 Olympic Games. At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, 30 percent of all medical visits were for dental issues. Eighteen percent of athletes said oral health negatively affected their performance, and 46.5 percent had not seen a dentist in the past year, despite a requirement that athletes have a dental exam within 12 months of the competition.

Many athletes have been found to have tooth decay, eroded enamel, gum disease, infections around wisdom teeth, and impacted molars. Athletes with oral health problems can experience pain, problems eating and sleeping, systemic inflammation, lack of confidence, and other problems that could affect their performance.

Athletes from wealthy and poor countries are affected at equal rates. The oral health of athletes is similar to that of non-athletes living in poor communities without access to adequate dental care.

The authors of the Consensus Statement point to several reasons for their findings. Athletes tend to consume high-carbohydrate diets and sports drinks that can erode tooth enamel. They can also experience dry mouth while competing. Eating disorders can be a factor in some sports where weight is important. Athletes may also not be aware of the importance of oral health and its link to performance in sports.

The authors recommend that athletes pay more attention to brushing with fluoride toothpastes and mouth rinses and flossing. They also advise athletes to choose water or hypotonic drinks instead of sports drinks.