How Does Oral Health Affect Heart Health?

heart monthFebruary marks the beginning of a month-long dedication to heart health. It’s officially known as American Heart Month, and its purpose is to raise awareness of the risks associated with heart disease. Many people know that things like smoking and a poor diet can cause troubles with the heart, but at our dental office in Sacramento, we also know that your oral health can affect your heart health.

The Mouth is the Window to Whole-Body Health

You may have heard the expression that the eyes are the window to the soul, and while that may be true, another part of your body can tell you a lot about your overall wellbeing. The truth is, your mouth can give your dentist in Sacramento insight to other problems that may be going on in the rest of your body. More specifically, researchers have found a connection between gum disease and an increased risk for heart disease.

More About Gum Disease

Gum disease is a serious dental problem that requires early treatment to resolve. Without proper intervention, gum disease can lead to tooth loss and other health concerns throughout the body. In fact, the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) has concluded that people who have gum disease are at increased risk of having a heart attack or developing heart disease. This happens because the bacteria that cause gum disease have a pretty easy path into the bloodstream and can raise the levels of something called C-reactive protein (CRP). High levels of CRP can cause some scary problems such as:

  • Blood clots
  • Stroke
  • Inflamed arteries
  • Heart attack

Signs of Gum Disease

Some of the most common signs of gum disease are easy to explain away and some may think they’re actually normal. However, any of the following signs could mean that you may have gum disease.

  • Swollen, red, or tender gums
  • Bleeding while brushing or flossing
  • Consistently bad breath
  • Chronic bad taste in the mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Gums that appear to be pulling away from the teeth

If you notice any of the signs of gum disease, it’s important to see your Sacramento dentist as soon as possible.

The team at our Sacramento dental office wants to encourage all of our patients and neighbors to practice a good oral hygiene routine at home as well as get professional teeth cleanings and dental checkups at least twice a year. These appointments can help catch and treat gum disease before it has a chance to cause bigger, more serious complications.  

Don’t leave your heart at risk, call to schedule an appointment today.

Can Dental Problems Be Linked to Vitamin Deficiencies?

vitamins in palmWe are well into winter, and that typically means we spend less time soaking up the sun, and in turn, our bodies get less vitamin D. While there’s a well-known link between overall health and even happiness and vitamin D, it may surprise you learn that there’s also a strong correlation between a lack of vitamin D and oral health problems. Our dental office in Sacramento wants to help our patients not only understand why vitamin D is so important for oral health but also learn other ways (besides sunshine) to get it.

Why is Vitamin D Important?

Getting a healthy dose of vitamin D daily not only helps boost our immune systems, but it can also help keep us healthier. Vitamin D keeps blood pressure low, aids the pancreas in producing insulin, and lowers the risk for infections including, but not limited to, gum disease. However, when we aren’t getting enough vitamin D, our bodies and teeth are at risk.

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to osteoporosis, increased risk for type 1 diabetes, and even breast, colon, or prostate cancer. But the dangers don’t end there. Numerous studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency also increases the risk of dental decay. This is because vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphate — both of which are crucial for building and keeping strong tooth enamel. Without an adequate intake of vitamin D, our teeth are at risk for weakening and developing cavities.

Where to Get Vitamin D

The sun is a great way to fuel our bodies with vitamin D. But during winter months it becomes difficult to spend time outside enjoying the sun’s rays. To compensate, it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D from somewhere else. Some great ways to keep up with your vitamin D intake is by:

  • Eating Eggs and Fatty Fish
  • Drinking Milk
  • Taking Supplements

Don’t Forget the Calcium

Perhaps vitamin D’s most important job is helping us absorb calcium. The truth is, without vitamin D our bodies don’t absorb nearly enough calcium to protect our bones (and our teeth!) from deterioration. Make sure to pair foods high in vitamin D with those containing a lot of calcium such as:

  • Dairy products
  • Leafy green veggies
  • Nuts

Providing your body with the right amount of vitamin D is important not only for your body but also for your oral health. Make sure your diet is packed with enough vitamin D and calcium to protect your smile. As always, our dental office in Sacramento is here to help get and keep your smile healthy for life.

Stress & Oral Health

woman and stressEven though the craziness of the holidays is behind us, it doesn’t necessarily mean our stress levels have decreased. Everyday life can certainly cause anxiety and contribute to more stress. As many people know, stress can impact our health and overall well-being, but did you know stress can also contribute to oral health problems? Today, the team at our Sacramento dental office will cover some ways your oral health may be affected by stress.

Increased Jaw Pain

When we’re overly stressed, our bodies respond in different ways. Sometimes we aren’t even aware of how our bodies are reacting. One common side effect of high stress that can go unnoticed is tooth clenching and grinding. When we continuously grind or clench, we place unnatural, increased force on our teeth and our jaw joints. Not only can this cause teeth to break or chip, but it can also increase jaw pain. If left untreated and clenching and grinding continues, you could develop TMD (also known as TMJ).

Gum Disease

Gum disease is often caused by poor dental hygiene, but there are other factors that can put you more at risk for developing it. Stress just so happens to be one of those things. Studies show a positive link between prolonged exposure to high levels of stress and a greater risk for gum disease. If not treated promptly by your dentist in Sacramento, gum disease can contribute to concerns throughout the body such as heart disease and tooth loss.

Canker Sores

These annoying and often painful sores can seem to pop up out of nowhere, and the truth is nobody truly knows what causes them. However, research has concluded that canker sores seem to have some sort of correlation with both certain foods and also high stress. Unlike cold sores, canker sores aren’t contagious, just annoying, and should go away on their own.

Relax & Protect

The best way to protect your oral health against the damaging effects of stress is to find ways to relax and lower stress levels. Some healthy relaxation methods include:

 

  • Eating. Giving your body the nutrients it needs to function properly can help fight off stress. Balance your diet with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Sleeping. Many Americans don’t get enough sleep regularly, and when we’re tired our bodies aren’t able to adapt and overcome stressful situations as easily. Try to get the recommended 7-9 hours of shut-eye every night.
  • Moving. Exercising helps our bodies release more endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and testosterone, all of which help make us feel happy and good and lower stress. Go for a walk, hop on a treadmill, or take a yoga class.

 

As you embark on a new year, make a commitment to yourself to keep stress low. Your body and your mouth will thank you.

Root Canals Are Painful, And Other Dental Myths

frustrated woman

When it comes to dentistry, there are many common myths and misconceptions that could actually hurt your smile and oral health rather than help. At our dental office in Sacramento, we believe in preventive dentistry and giving professional dental advice in order to protect your teeth. That’s why we want to debunk several of the most common dental myths we often hear about.

Myth: Root Canals Hurt

When patients are told that they need to have a root canal, the first reaction we usually get is fear over the pain they think they’re about to endure. The truth is, root canals have a bad reputation that just isn’t true. Many times when a root canal is needed it’s because a tooth has severe decay. This decay can cause some serious pain and sensitivity. Root canal treatment actually relieves that pain by removing infected parts of the inner tooth — the source of pain. A root canal is a common procedure done under local anesthetic and is completely pain-free.  

Myth: Lemon Juice Can Whiten Teeth

Thanks to the popularity of the internet and people from all backgrounds sharing “life hacks” on social media platforms, it’s not surprising to hear of DIY tooth whitening methods. One, in particular, that’s concerning to your dentist in Sacramento is using lemon juice to remove tooth staining. In actuality, lemon juice is highly acidic and using it in an attempt to brighten your smile can cause irreversible damage to your tooth enamel. Once acid eats away the protective enamel, teeth are exposed to harmful bacteria and plaque. This increases your risk of cavities and decay.

Myth: Baby Teeth Aren’t That Important

Since baby teeth are meant to fall out, many people assume that it doesn’t matter when we lose them. However, quite the opposite is true. Baby teeth are important for several reasons including holding the space for permanent adult teeth, helping develop speech, and aiding in chewing. When baby teeth are lost before their natural time, nutrition can be affected, speech difficulties may develop, and teeth may start to shift and become crooked.

Myth: You Don’t Need to go to The Dentist if You’re Not in Pain

One of the biggest myths out there is that you only need to see a dentist when you’re experiencing a problem. In fact, seeing the dentist regularly can greatly help prevent a problem from ever happening. Regular dental cleanings and checkups can diagnose any problems early when treatment is easier and less expensive.

When it comes to your dental health, trust the professionals. If you have any questions about how to best care for your smile or if it’s time for a checkup, call our Sacramento dental office to schedule an appointment today.

Acid Reflux & Dental Health

man wonderingEven though acid reflux is a condition that originates in the stomach, it can affect other areas of the body, including the mouth. The truth is, people who suffer from acid reflux can be at greater risk for oral health concerns than those who don’t. Our dental office in Sacramento is here to help anyone dealing with acid reflux understand how it can negatively affect dental health and what you can do to reduce your risk.  

How Acid Reflux Affects the Mouth

A natural and important part of proper digestion includes the production of stomach acids. These acids help break down food so the body can digest what we eat. But these acids don’t always stay in the stomach. They can creep up the throat and into the mouth. Normally saliva in the mouth helps neutralize the acid and wash it away before it has a chance to cause damage. But when someone has acid reflux, which may also be referred to as GERD, stomach acids make their way up into mouth repeatedly. This leaves the mouth and teeth exposed to the acid. It’s this consistent exposure to the acid that causes damage to teeth.

Acid Leads to Tooth Damage

Acid is one of the worst things for teeth as it eats away at the protective enamel and leaves teeth at increased risk for decay, cavities, and other problems. As this erosion occurs and teeth are damaged, the need for dental treatment such as fillings, a root canal, or a dental crown may be required to help restore the tooth’s structure. Some signs that your teeth may have some level of acid erosion include:

  • Increased sensitivity
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Painful abscess

Reduce Your Risk

Many times acid reflux can be treated or the symptoms can be minimized through the use of a doctor-recommended medication. Additionally, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of damage caused by acid reflux including:

  • Chewing sugar-free gum to help promote saliva production to rinse away acid
  • Using a fluoride toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth to strengthen enamel
  • Quitting smoking and drinking alcohol to reduce acid reflux episodes
  • Seeing your dentist in Sacramento every six months to catch any problems early.

If you suffer from acid reflux and are worried about your dental health, we welcome you to call our Sacramento dental office to schedule an appointment today. We will take a close look at your overall oral health and talk with you about the best way to protect your teeth against the dangers of acid reflux.

How Diabetes Affects Oral Health

diabetic testerWhen it comes to all of the health complications that can go hand-in-hand with diabetes, oral health is often overlooked. At our Sacramento dental office, we want our patients and neighbors to know just how drastically diabetes can affect oral health, and precautions that those with diabetes should take to keep their mouths healthy.

The Diabetic and Oral Health Connection

All diabetics know that diabetes directly affects blood sugar, also known as glucose. Glucose is important for our bodies as it fuels our brains and provides muscles with energy. But when someone has diabetes, their body is unable to properly regulate insulin, causing glucose levels to rise. If left untreated or if blood glucose levels aren’t managed properly, diabetes can raise the risk of heart disease, kidney disease, and other whole body health problems. Diabetes can also increase the likelihood of developing gum disease, infections, and dry mouth.  To help reduce the risk of these additional health problems, follow the tips below.

  • Keep Blood Sugar Numbers Stable

Even though diabetics are at more risk for serious health problems, proper management of glucose levels can minimize that risk. Nearly 30 million Americans have diabetes, and they all need to work hard to keep their blood sugar numbers within a healthy range. In fact, it’s one of the best ways that diabetics can lower their chances of developing other health complications as a result of diabetes.

  • Eat Well

Everyone, whether diabetic or not, should do everything they can to eat a well-balanced diet. Fueling your body with fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and proteins can do wonders in protecting overall health and keeping glucose levels in check. Limiting sugary foods and drinks is great for managing your diabetes and is something your dentist in Sacramento recommends.

  • Practice Good Oral Hygiene

Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once a day not only helps protect teeth, but can also help protect against increased blood sugar. Without a good hygiene routine, oral health is put at risk for decay, tooth loss, and gum disease. This is concerning for anyone but particularly for diabetics. Gum disease is an infection that affects the gums, and like any type of infection, it can cause blood sugar to rise and make diabetes difficult to manage.

At our dental office in Sacramento, we’re here to help our community get healthy and stay healthy, even when patients have health concerns that may not appear at first to have any effect on oral health. The truth is that many diseases, including diabetes, have a connection to the mouth. If you have diabetes and notice anything unusual about your oral health, do not hesitate to give us a call. We’re always happy to help or answer any questions you may have.

These Treats Are Worse for Teeth Than Candy

candy applesWhen it comes to candy-filled holidays like Halloween, we usually caution our patients to enjoy sweet snacks and candy in moderation. And with good reason. It should come as no surprise that sugar is one of those things that concerns the team at our dental office in Sacramento. Afterall, sugar is a dentist’s worst nightmare, right? Maybe not. It turns out that there are some snacks out there that can be worse for your smile than sugar-packed candies.

What’s the Big Deal About Sugar Anyway?

Before we dive into some of the surprising snacks that are scarier to oral health than candy, it’s important to take a look at why sugar is such a concern. When we eat foods or drink beverages with high sugar content we essentially feed the bacteria that live in our mouths. This bacteria then releases an acid as a byproduct of their feasting. The acid is what contributes to decay and cavities as it wears away the protective tooth enamel, leaving teeth exposed to bacteria and more acid.

Other Spooky Snacks

While candy will always be one of those things that your dentist in Sacramento will encourage you to eat in moderation, there are other snacks that are also a concern.

Citrus & Dried Fruits

These are surprising treats that can be dangerous for your grin but usually fall under the healthy category. It is fruit, after all. But certain fruits are highly acidic, and as we know, acid is bad for teeth. Citrus fruits such as grapefruit will quite literally eat away tooth enamel and leave teeth at risk. Dried fruit is also a healthy snack that’s not so great for your smile. These super sticky fruits can get stuck on teeth and are loaded with sugar. The longer the sugar is left around, the more the bacteria will eat it, and more acid is produced.

Crackers & Chips

Chips and crackers are perhaps more surprising that fruits as cavity-causing treats. Even though these foods aren’t sweet and don’t typically contain a lot of sugar, if any, they can still be a threat to oral health. Blame it on the high starch content. These starches affect your body similarly to the way sugar does. This is due to their high glycemic index. Foods with a high glycemic index will increase blood glucose and will feed bacteria in the mouth, just like sugar. The result is more food for the bacteria, more acidic byproduct, and more risk for cavities.

Do Your Part to Limit Your Risk of Decay

We’re not here to tell you to completely avoid candy this Halloween, or to quit eating certain fruits, chips, and crackers forever. Like anything, these things can be enjoyed in moderation. But our Sacramento dental office does encourage you to also drink plenty of water when snacking on foods that are known to increase the risk of decay. Most of all, have a happy and safe Halloween!

Is Chewing Gum Good for Teeth?

woman chewing gumGum may be your go-to fix to temporarily get rid of bad breath. Or maybe you just like to chew gum and there’s always a pack nearby. But is this sweet treat good for your teeth and overall oral health? Our dental office in Sacramento has the answer.

Gum Can Be Good, But Not All Gum is Good Gum

The truth is, chewing gum after a meal when you can’t brush or floss can help remove plaque or food particles that stick around after lunch. It can even help stimulate saliva to neutralize acids and wash away bacteria. But some gum may do more harm than good.

If your chewing gum of choice contains sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or saccharine, chances are that it’s contributing more to the problem of bacteria and acid than helping it. But gum containing Xylitol is a different story.

Why is Xylitol Beneficial?

Xylitol looks like sugar, tastes like sugar, but doesn’t act like sugar once it’s in the body. It doesn’t increase blood sugar levels and doesn’t affect oral health the same way traditional sugar does. Regular sugar and many of the sugar substitutes will feed bacteria in the mouth with a delicious meal, making these bacteria happy and more than willing to stick around. After bacteria feed on sugars they give off an acid byproduct. This acid puts tooth enamel at risk of erosion and increases the chance of decay. But Xylitol functions differently.

Even though bacteria will still feed on Xylitol in the mouth, they aren’t getting any nutrients from it. This starves bacteria and it can die off. This also means that bacteria aren’t excreting the damaging acids that contribute to decay. That’s not all.

Xylitol gum can:

  • Prevent tooth decay
  • Starve bacteria
  • Prevent oral inflammation
  • Reduce your risk for gum disease

Is Xylitol Safe?

Xylitol isn’t only found in gum but actually occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables. It is safe for humans but occasionally, some people have experienced negative, yet not serious, side effects when they ingest too much. Some of these common side effects include gas, bloating, diarrhea, or other discomfort.

The next time you’re looking for a piece of gum to cover up the lingering smells of lunch, choose a brand that includes Xylitol. It can not only freshen your breath, but protect your oral health in the process. However, nothing is as good for oral health as brushing and flossing regularly and maintaining biannual visits to your dentist in Sacramento.

Tooth Pain Tips

woman with toothacheTooth pain can be unbearable and effect more than just the tooth alone. The whole mouth may feel the discomfort caused by a toothache, and some people also experience severe headaches. While relief may seem to be nowhere in sight, the team at our dental office in Sacramento has a few tips that you can try to relieve tooth pain.

Top Toothache Tools

Toothaches are unpredictable, and there’s really no telling when one may hit. Be prepared by knowing a few tools and tricks you can use to ease the pain.

  • Floss. A piece of floss can work wonders in relieving pain if the toothache is caused by a piece of food lodged between teeth or under gums. Gently guide the floss between the affected tooth and up under the gum line to remove any debris. Do not floss too much or too hard as this can cause more pain.
  • Cold Compress. Use an ice pack, a bag of frozen veggies, or regular old bag of ice to help reduce swelling and ease pain. Wrap your cold pack of choice in a lightweight towel or shirt and apply it to the face near where the pain is coming from. Keep it there for about 15 minutes at a time, giving yourself breaks in between icings.
  • Anesthetic. Head over to your nearest pharmacy or grocery store and pick up an over-the-counter oral anesthetic product. These gels or liquids will numb the area of application for a short time allowing you a bit of a break from the pain.
  • Salt Water. Mix some salt into warm water and gently swish it around in your mouth a tiny sip at a time. The salt will help remove any fluid that may be putting pressure on the nerves. Don’t swallow the solution but rather spit it out after each rinse.
  • Anti-inflammatory Medicine. Many anti-inflammatories can also help reduce tooth pain by decreasing swelling and pressure on the nerves. Choose the best option for you and use as directed. Do not follow the old wives’ tale of placing a pill directly on the gums or tooth as this can be harmful.

It’s important to note that all of these tips are to be used for temporary relief. Don’t let a toothache fester for too long. Call your dentist in Sacramento for an appointment as soon as possible.

Protect Yourself from Toothaches

Now that you know what to do if you get a toothache, we want to tell you two easy things you can do to help prevent one in the first place.

  • Visit our Sacramento dental office at least twice a year so we can monitor your oral health and treat any problems before they lead to a surprise toothache.
  • Brush your teeth every morning and every night to wash away bacteria that can lead to decay, and floss once a day to remove anything that may be lurking under the gum line.

If you’re suffering from a toothache or it’s just time for you to visit a dentist, we welcome you to call us to schedule an appointment today.  

Gum Disease vs. Gingivitis

worrying womanWhen it comes to gum disease and gingivitis, there’s often a bit of confusion between the two. Are they the same thing or are they different? Can they be treated the same way or not? What does it mean if you’re told you have one or the other? Not to worry, our dental office in Sacramento is here to help answer your questions.

A Closer Look a Gum Disease

Gum disease is ultimately a term used to describe an infection in the gums caused by a buildup of plaque that wiggled its way under the gum line. But gum disease itself has three stages that are all still commonly referred to as gum disease — gingivitis, periodontitis, and advanced periodontitis.

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the earliest and most mild form of gum disease. When caught early gingivitis can be treated successfully and any damage that may have occurred can be reversed.

Periodontitis

The second stage of gum disease occurs if gingivitis is not caught and treated quickly. Known as periodontitis, this more severe stage of gum disease not only affects the gums but also the bones and tissues that hold teeth in place. Treatment may not reverse any damage already done but can help it from progressing any further.

Advanced Periodontitis

Advanced periodontitis is more severe yet and can’t be reversed. In this stage, the plaque buildup has caused substantial damage to the bone and tissues. Teeth may feel loose or appear to have shifted position and they may even fall out.

How to Know if You Have Gum Disease

In its early stages gum disease may not show any signs or symptoms, or at least not any that might raise concern. That’s one reason knowing all the symptoms of gum disease is important.

  • Bleeding while brushing or flossing
  • Bad breath
  • Loose teeth
  • Pain when chewing
  • Receding gums
  • Swollen, red gums

How Gum Disease Affects the Body

We already know that gum disease may lead to tooth loss if not caught and treated early, but gum disease has also been linked to several serious systemic concerns including:

  • Lung disease
  • Cancers
  • Osteoporosis
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes

There’s a lot you can do to help protect yourself against gum disease including avoiding some of the known factors that increase the risk of developing it, such as using tobacco. You should also brush and floss everyday and maintain appointments with your dentist in Sacramento every six months.

We’re always welcoming new patients at our Sacramento dental office and would love to see you! We welcome you to call us today to schedule an appointment.