THE TRUTH ABOUT SOME COMMON DENTAL MYTHS

The profession of dentistry has experienced an amazing evolution over its lifetime. References to tooth decay can be found in various ancient texts. At one time, a local barber would provide haircuts and pull troublesome teeth in the same shop. Dentistry evolved from these humble beginnings to what we know today: a structured medical discipline where patients benefit from evidenced-based care. Oddly enough, though, several oral health myths and misconceptions have failed to fade away....

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SIMPLE STEPS TO MAINTAIN YOUR ORAL HEALTH

On the list of common reasons people avoid the dentist, cost is usually near the top. It is a fact — some dental treatments are expensive. However, you have some control in working to avoid pricey dental procedures. Two of the best ways to avoid needing expensive dental treatments are to visit a dentist regularly for an exam and cleaning and following proper dental hygiene advice every day.

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COMMON SLEEP DISORDER WREAKS HAVOC ON THE BODY

The National Sleep Foundation estimates over 18 million adults in the United States, or about one in every 15 people, suffer from sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that interrupts breathing, resulting in disruptive sleep. Individuals suffering from obstructive sleep apnea will experience a repetitive (partial or complete) airway collapse throughout their sleep, which prevents air from reaching the lungs.

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WHEN YOU'RE BRUSHING FOR TWO

seven times more likely to deliver prematurely (before 37 weeks) and give birth to underweight babies when compared to moms with healthy gums.


Pregnancy Tumors

These are another common condition during pregnancy. They are an overgrowth of tissue that occurs most often between the teeth, generally during the second trimester. These bumps are not cancerous and usually go away on their own after the baby is born. They appear red and almost raspberry-like and bleed easily due to an increased number of blood vessels. In more severe cases, pregnancy tumors may become bothersome and prevent normal eating and speaking. In such instances, a dentist can safely and quickly remove the affected tissue under a local anesthetic. As plaque, a sticky film containing bacteria, is often a trigger for the presence of pregnancy tumors, following good oral hygiene practices can help avoid their development.


Morning Sickness

Morning sickness can wreak havoc on an expectant mother’s oral health. Stomach acid that makes its way into the oral cavity can weaken and damage

tooth enamel, the outer protective covering of the teeth. After an episode of vomiting, it is best to rinse the mouth with water or mouth rinse. Wait 20 to 30 minutes before brushing because that may spread acid around the mouth rather than removing it.


Dietary Considerations

Expectant mothers should know frequent snacking on foods high in carbohydrates and sugar leads to a better environment in their mouth for the creation of bacteria called Streptococcus mutans. This bacteria produces acid that weakens enamel and increases the risk of tooth decay. Vegetables, lean proteins and low-fat dairy are healthier snacking options. Also, keep in mind foods eaten during regular meals typically cause less harm than snacking throughout the day because more saliva is released during a meal. Saliva helps remove food from the mouth and eliminate cavity-causing acid. Drinking plenty of water while reducing the consumption of sugary drinks also helps eliminate acid and will help with overall oral hygiene. When you’re unable to brush after meals or snacks, rinsing the mouth with water is another helpful way to reduce acid.


Brushing for Two

In addition to an association between periodontal disease and premature birth or low birthweight, an expectant mother whose oral health and hygiene are lacking can pass destructive bacteria to her newborn, increasing the baby’s risk for developing a cavity very early in life. A baby’s teeth can start to decay as soon as they appear. Besides helping the baby avoid the potential pain associated with treating a cavity, protecting these teeth is essential for eating, speaking and much more.


It is important for women to maintain good oral health before becoming pregnant and to continue visiting their dentist during their pregnancy. Having regular dental checkups will help prevent oral problems and allow early detection of the issues that do occur while they are easy to treat. In addition to visiting a dentist regularly and alerting them to any changes in oral health, oral hygiene practices such as brushing at least twice daily and after each meal when possible, using a fluoride toothpaste approved by the American Dental Association and flossing at least once per day are also beneficial. Following these tips will give both mom and baby a reason to smile.   

DR. RONALD SINGER

Dr. Stacie Maggard is an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry. Her clinical interests include general, implant and cosmetic dentistry for all ages. More information about UK Dentistry is available at www.ukhealthcare.uky.edu/dentistry.

more articles by dr Stacie Maggard

There is no shortage of things to think about when you’re pregnant, from prepping for baby’s arrival to squeezing in enough rest. Unfortunately, some areas such as oral health are overlooked during pregnancy. Hormonal changes as well as behavioral changes occur for many women during pregnancy, both of which can directly affect the mouth. As the baby’s wellbeing can be impacted by the oral health of the expectant mother, special attention should be placed on oral health and any concerns should be addressed early on by a dentist.


Pregnancy Gingivitis

Inflammation of the gums during pregnancy, also known as pregnancy gingivitis, is caused by hormonal changes that increase blood flow to the gingiva or gums, causing them to be tender and swollen. They may even bleed during brushing or flossing. This is the most common oral health problem facing expectant mothers; up to 40 percent of women are affected with pregnancy gingivitis. It is important to recognize the symptoms and visit the dentist before it progresses. Oral bacteria present in an expectant mother’s mouth has the ability to affect both child and mother. Left untreated, pregnancy gingivitis can lead to a more serious condition called periodontal disease or gum disease. With periodontal disease, an expectant mother may experience bone loss in the jawbone, which could lead to teeth loosening or even tooth loss. Additionally, periodontal disease is associated with premature birth or low birthweight. A study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association found women with chronic gum disease were four to