When it comes to teeth and gums, knowing ways to care for them beyond the everyday routine of brushing and flossing can be beneficial to your oral health. One way to accomplish this is by considering how to provide a deeper clean to reach those hidden areas and remove more of the lingering plaque and tartar that regular efforts often miss.
Why Do I Need a Deep Cleaning?
The structure of the mouth, teeth, and gums makes it nearly impossible to easily reach all the areas with a toothbrush. Specific techniques are needed to remove developing decay, bacteria, and tartar which can lead to cavities, gum disease, and other oral health issues.
Essentially, a deep cleaning involves removing the mouth bacteria and food debris that accumulates above and below your gum line. At regularly scheduled dental cleanings, the focus is more on the surfaces of your teeth, in spaces between teeth, and the areas around the gumline. A specialty deep cleaning, called scaling and root planing, seeks out the hidden areas and can help prevent future dental issues.
How Can I Deep Clean My Teeth While at Home?
There are some specific tasks you can do at home to help deep clean your teeth. Most of these require that you upgrade your normal brushing and flossing products and consider ways to get a better clean.
Upgrade your Toothbrush
Select a toothbrush that is designed well for reaching smaller areas of the mouth. Make sure it is soft-bristled so as to more effectively remove plaque and protect your gums and teeth enamel in the process. Find one that you can hold comfortably for at least two minutes as you slowly make your way around your mouth.
Clean and Sanitize Your Toothbrush After Each Use
Without cleaning your toothbrush after each use, you run the risk of leaving traces of bacteria and re-introducing it into your mouth the next time you brush. To keep it clean, always rinse the bristles slowly under hot water prior to and after brushing.
Between brushings, soak the toothbrush in an antibacterial mouthwash. You may even want to go one step further and utilize a modern UV toothbrush sanitizer to destroy any accumulating bacteria. Replace your toothbrush every two to four months or more often if necessary.
Choose Thin or Thick Floss
Choose a floss depending on the particular spacing of your teeth. Thinner floss is good for when your teeth are closer together. For teeth that have larger gaps or spacing, a thicker one will work best. Floss at least once per day, but preferably after every meal.
Another option is to buy a water flosser, which can limit bleeding and also make the experience more fun. You may want to limit its use to certain days of the week when you can take it slow and focus on a deeper cleaning.
Use a Specialty Toothpaste
Search for a toothpaste that will eliminate bacteria and prevent plaque build-up while also strengthening teeth enamel and gums.
Be sure to review the ingredients. Fluoride can be helpful in maintaining a healthy smile, slowing the loss of minerals within the teeth enamel and reducing cavity development. If you’re not sure you will benefit from fluoride, discuss it with your dentist first.
Rinse with a Stronger Mouthwash
Choose a stronger mouthwash than those that address bad breath only. Such mouthwashes can treat the build-up of tartar or plaque on your teeth, and fast swishing can force debris and hidden bacteria out of their hiding places and away from your teeth and gums. Make sure the one you choose does not contain alcohol.
Use a Combination of Household Items
A select group of household items can help you deep clean and soothe teeth and gums at home, especially if you suspect gum disease is developing. Start by combining equal parts water, salt, and hydrogen peroxide. Slowly add baking soda until it makes a paste. Gently brush your teeth and massage your gums with the paste, then rinse your mouth with lukewarm water.
Deep cleaning is an essential step in maintaining a healthy mouth and smile, and these are certain things you can do at home to help. After that, consider scheduling an appointment with your dentist to discuss how a professional deep cleaning will be beneficial.
How Can a Dentist Help?
If your oral health needs additional help beyond routine cleanings and at-home efforts, talk with your dentist about a procedure called scaling and root planing. Pockets at the base of the gums can indicate periodontal disease, and to alleviate these or prevent further damage, this deep cleaning procedure may be able to help.
Essentially, scaling and root planing is a deep cleaning method that goes under your gum line to access the structures found there. Two steps are involved.
Scaling: Scaling involves the removal of plaque and tartar build-up from above and below the gumline, cleaning out any deep pockets between your teeth and gums.
Root Planing: Using a special technique, the roots of your teeth are exposed and smoothed out, enabling the gums to have a better chance at re-attaching to teeth.
Contact Lifetime Dental to Schedule a Deep Cleaning
Practicing good oral hygiene is often enough to keep your mouth and smile healthy. For times when you need a little extra help, a deep cleaning may be necessary. Dr. Richard Barry and his team here at Lifetime Dental Health can do this for you. Contact our office today and schedule a consultation to learn how you can benefit from a professional deep cleaning.
As a new school year approaches, you may suddenly feel rushed and anxious, trying to prepare without missing anything important. In addition to compiling necessary school supplies and adjusting schedules, you will also want to make sure your child develops and maintains good oral hygiene to help avoid surprises later on.
The days and weeks before the new school year arrives is the perfect time to prepare and implement practices to ensure your child’s dental health is at its best and remains that way throughout. Here are five tips to help.
1. Establish a Dental Routine
A lax in dental routines can happen during the summer, and you can use the start of the new school year as a reason to establish a better one going forward. Let your children practice, including brushing twice daily and flossing at least once. The more they do this, the more the routine will become a habit, and you won’t have to constantly remind them.
You can also attach the dental routine to other tasks your child follows each day. For instance, have them brush their teeth after they get dressed for school each morning or after changing into pajamas at night.
Be sure to always keep supplies on hand, such as their favorite toothbrushes or toothpastes. Take your child with you to buy the supplies and let them choose a favorite-colored toothbrush or one with their favorite character.
2. Make Dental Care More Fun
Children have a lot going on today. Friends, homework, sports, playing games, and more fill their schedules daily.
Dental health, then, is most likely not in their top 10 list of fun things to do. Yet, there are ways you can encourage them, especially if they are younger, and make dental care more fun.
Consider ways that your child will enjoy. This may be giving them stickers each time they brush or other such small reward that they cherish.
You also have an abundance of choices when it comes to toothbrushes today. Some light up or play music as your child brushes. This music and lighting can continue for two minutes, ensuring the child brushes for that allotted time. There are also digital toothbrushes, with some including games to keep children engaged longer. Another option is to buy a fun timer to set each time they begin brushing.
3. Schedule Dental Visits
With such a wide variety of things going on during the school year, it’s easy to forget about scheduling regular dental exams and cleanings. Mark your own calendar before the chaos of back-to-school arrives, and call your dentist to schedule these appointments in advance.
A pre-back-to-school cleaning and exam can ensure your child starts out with no dental issues that can cause problems and possibly lead to unexpected absences. Set up the next appointment as well, usually in six months, so you won’t have to rush to make it when the time arrives.
Your dentist may also recommend your child receive fluoride treatments or sealants to protect teeth. A fluoride treatment involves your dentist applying fluoride, usually in gel form, to help protect against cavities. A sealant serves to seal any dips or grooves in teeth, preventing the build-up of decay that can lead to cavities and even gum disease.
Another discussion to have with your dentist during your initial appointment is to ask about mouthguards. This will particularly be important if your child plays any type of sport.
4. Promote Healthy Eating and Avoid or Limit Sugar
Back-to-school lunches and snacks require planning and preparation. To help ensure your child’s teeth remain healthy, try to promote healthy eating and, as much as possible, avoid or limit sugar intake.
Consuming too much sugar can damage teeth, leading to cavities and encroaching tooth decay as well as gum disease.
Limit amounts of candy and other sweets your child consumes throughout the day. Also, avoid giving them too many juices as these often contain a high amount of sugar. If these juices are important to your child, limit them to just 4-6 ounces per day.
Ideas to include in lunches or serve as snacks include:
Fresh fruits, such as apple slices
Fresh vegetables, like carrot sticks
Try sitting your child down and discussing what healthy eating is and why it is important. Involve them when planning and preparing their own healthy lunches and snacks.
5. Encourage More Drinking of Water
Drinking water not only keeps your child hydrated, but it can also help to remove any lingering bacteria in the mouth or build-up of plaque on teeth.
Let your child pick out a refillable water bottle to take with them to school and encourage them to drink more of it throughout the day. You can also include fresh fruits, such as strawberries, to freshen the water and provide a different taste every so often if needed.
Contact Lifetime Dental Health for Back-to-School Care
Before the new school year arrives, contact the team at Lifetime Dental Health to schedule all your child’s dental needs. An initial examination and cleaning can start your child off on a positive note, and regularly scheduled appointments can help them stay there. Call our office today to get started.
Pain is a protective mechanism that signals a health issue to your body, whether that health issue be minor and resolvable, or more worrisome. Jaw pain can happen to anyone as a result of jaw bone pain, muscle injury, nerve damage, clenched teeth, trauma, or even other bodily systemic factors.
First, it is important to understand the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Yes, that is a mouthful!
The TMJ is a joint that combines the maxilla (upper jaw bone, right above your top row of teeth and below your nose) and the mandible (lower jaw bone, more commonly referred to as the jaw). If you have jaw pain, you might have a TMJ disorder.
Sometimes, jaw pain can be referred to as temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder (TMD)which includes jaw pain related to jaw muscle injury or pain.
Common risk factors of a TMJ disorder include:
Trauma or injury to the jaw
Genetics or family history of TMJ
Arthritis or Connective tissue disease
Bruxism (gnashing one’s teeth at night)
It’s important if you’re experiencing jaw pain to monitor when and how often they have symptoms of jaw pain. By tracking your own symptoms, you can provide important details to our dental team or healthcare provider. This can lead to accurate and pain-relieving treatment for TMJ, TMD, or other jaw pain.
Symptoms of Jaw Pain
Jaw pain might present as mild, moderate, or severe. Everyone has different thresholds for pain, however, it’s important to always remember that pain is a signal to your body that something is wrong. Seeking out medical advice for jaw pain can help you locate the origin of such pain and hopefully resolve symptoms.
Below are some symptoms that a person with TMJ, TMD, or jaw pain might experience. These symptoms are listed to help you identify possible manifestations of this issue at home. If you believe you have any of these symptoms, please contact our team and set up an appointment.
Pain or tenderness of the jaw
“Locking” or popping of the jaw
Clicking or grinding sounds when moving one’s jaw
Jaw pain when chewing
Jaw pain upon waking up, after possible teeth-gnashing in one’s sleep
Aches around face, ears, neck, or jaw
Toothache or tooth pain
Tooth burning or sensitivity
Causes of Jaw Pain
There are common and rare causes of jaw pain that can be assessed and treated by your dental team.
Trauma, or injury, is one of the most common reasons for jaw pain. Someone who has experienced trauma to the face, possibly during an athletic activity, could have a face or jaw fracture and should get a facial x-ray. Another injury, a strain, might occur if a person is holding their jaw or neck in an abnormal position for too long. This should be a self-resolving injury, but that person should still seek out an x-ray to distinguish fracture versus strain. Finally, a person might dislocate their jaw, by opening their mouth too wide.
Arthritis or connective tissue disease, which includes abnormalities of jaw cartilage tissue or bone, can also be a possible cause of jaw pain. For example, if a disc in the jaw that typically protects and cushions movement is broken down due to arthritis or displaced, then you can experience jaw pain.
Tooth infections can also lead to jaw pain because the pain in one’s teeth can radiate to the jaw. Tooth nerves are very sensitive and can lead to burning or sharp pain! Dry sockets from surgery or cracked teeth can also lead to pain. All of these conditions can be assessed at your local dentist.
Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is a common habit that does not always lead to jaw pain. However, if someone feels like their jaw often involuntarily locks, or they have jaw pain in the morning when waking up, they might be grinding their teeth in their sleep. This can lead to jaw pain.
In less common cases, some people might have jaw pain that is secondary to other infections or bodily changes and not associated with TMJ disorder, such as:
Nerve pain, referred to as trigeminal neuralgia
Coronary artery disease
These other bodily changes often present with specific signs. For example, someone with coronary artery disease will feel chest pain that radiates to the jaw. In this instance, it is recommended that this person seeks out emergent medical treatment. If a woman is pregnant, her hormones might cause bone weakness, thus leading to jaw pain. If a person often experiences cluster headaches or suspects nerve trauma after ruling out other causes of jaw pain, that person can consult with a neurologist.
What If I Have Jaw Pain?
The first step to take if you have jaw pain is to pay close attention to your symptoms and report them to a trusted healthcare provider. At Lifetime Dental Health in Columbus, OH, our dental team will perform x-rays and jaw examinations for patients. These thorough examinations can help identify the origin of jaw pain and possible TMJ or TMD.
From there, if there is no connection between the jaw pain and the mouth/teeth, patients might be referred onward to neurologists or other specialized care to solve the mystery.
There aremany recommend treatments for jaw pain, including at-home treatments:
Reduce jaw movement. Try to avoid stress to reduce jaw-clenching.
Eat mostly soft foods. Avoid chewy or tough foods, like gum, gummies, beef jerky, apples, caramel, and tough meat. Avoid foods that are extremely hot or cold, which might trigger sensitivities or pain.
Apply ice packs or a warm moist towel to the jaw, intermittently. If applying an ice pack, place it in a plastic bag and wrap it in a towel to avoid ice burns. Leave it on for 10 minutes, or only as long as it is comfortable, and then remove for 10 minutes, and repeat as needed. For applying a warm moist towel, ensure the water is not too hot that it will burn your skin. The warm water might relax jaw spasms.
Gently massage your painful jaw. Using two fingers to press your jaw in a circular motion. Practice gently stretching your jaw, but do not stretch your jaw if it hurts.
Take over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief.
Our dental team might also recommend or prescribe a mouth guard, muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory or steroid medications, or antibiotics as needed. In some cases, a person with jaw pain might benefit from tooth extraction, root canal therapy, Botox injections, or jaw surgery. These procedures tend to be rare and only done when a person is properly diagnosed first.
Prolonged, or constant, jaw pain is unlikely to resolve on its own. If pain persists or becomes severe, it is important to contact your dental team and have them assess your jaw and teeth. Immediately seek medical attention if you have shortness of breath or are unable to swallow or if chest pain accompanies your jaw pain.
If you have jaw pain that you would like to have assessed, contact us here at Lifetime Dental Health.
Your teeth are composed of nerves, blood vessels, connective tissue, and enamel. When a tooth is damaged, either from bacteria (an untreated cavity), prior dental work or trauma, or decay, a tooth infection can form.
A tooth infection can happen to anyone. People who have weak immune systems, smoke, cannot keep up with regular dental hygiene, or have dry mouths are more likely to get tooth infections. Cavities, or holes in the teeth from decay, are very common and can easily be filled by any dentist. However, if cavities are left untreated, further damage can occur, leading to an infected tooth that needs more serious treatment.
What Is an Infected Tooth?
An infection occurs in the body when bacteria begins to invade and spread. For example, someone who has pneumonia has a bacterial infection of the lungs and needs treatment. A child who has an ear infection will usually be prescribed antibiotics to fight off bacteria. An infected tooth occurs when bacteria find entrance into damaged teeth. This bacteria then starts to spread, furthering the infection.
Teeth infections might present as abscesses, which cause intense pain secondary to pockets of pus in the teeth. Such infections can spread to the gums, surrounding teeth, bones, or blood and body. This is what makes treating an infected tooth extremely important.
Symptoms of an Infected Tooth
Below are some symptoms that might indicate a tooth infection or infected teeth. These symptoms are listed to help you identify possible manifestations of this issue at home. If you believe you have any of these symptoms, please contact our Lifetime Dental Health team to set up an appointment.
Tooth pain or toothache
Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold foods
Pain when eating or chewing
Disagreeable taste in your mouth
Fever or subjective fever at home
Neck swelling (lymph nodes will appear swollen)
Tenderness of the mouth, gums, or teeth
Loosening or loss of the tooth
Drainage of a sore in the mouth, especially near the tooth socket
Sometimes tooth pain can present as sharp, burning, gnawing, throbbing, aching, or dull. Any level of pain in the tooth could indicate infection or some other dental problem, so ensure that you follow up with a professional.
Effects of a Tooth Infection
Symptoms of a tooth infection, like pain or sensitivity while eating, can often be disruptive to your life. Unfortunately, in a tooth that is infected, these symptoms will not resolve on their own. The only way for these symptoms to resolve is with treatment.
Common treatments for a tooth infection include:
Incision and drainage: The team at Lifetime Dental Health cuts into the infected area, opening a small pocket that allows for bacteria-filled pus to drain. This removal of pus leads to healing.
Root canal: Our team drills into the center of the tooth, removing the pulp, which contains infected nerves and vessels. The tooth can survive without pulp if it is a mature adult tooth. Afterward, a crown is typically placed to protect the tooth.
Antibiotics: These are typically given supplementally to an incision and drainage or root canal procedure to fight off remaining bacteria.
Tooth extraction: if an infection is severe, the tooth might need to be removed from the socket to prevent the infection from spreading to other teeth or the body.
Even if you feel comfortable managing the symptoms of an infected tooth, you can experience surprising and unexpected complications that can arise from leaving an infected tooth untreated. Many people do not realize how interconnected dental health is to the health of the rest of the body, and that their teeth are connected to the vascular, or blood, system, and nervous system.
Surprisingly, an infected tooth can lead to three unique adverse effects: sepsis, meningitis, and Ludwig’s Angina.
Sepsis is a bacterial infection of the blood that is typically moderate or severe and must be treated with intravenous (IV) antibiotics in a hospital setting. People who are more at risk of getting sepsis are elderly adults, people with weakened immune systems, people with medical conditions, and children. However, anyone with an untreated infected tooth is at risk for sepsis.
High fever, swollen lymph nodes, rapid heart rate, entire body aches are emergent signs that sepsis has occurred. Someone with these signs should immediately seek emergency care.
Other signs of sepsis include shortness of breath and hyperventilation. The skin might appear to be pale or mottling, or an abnormal blue-ish tie-dye color of the skin. Sepsis is a serious complication. Early treatment of sepsis is crucial to knocking out the infection and protecting one’s body.
Another unknown possible effect of an untreated tooth infection is meningitis. Because bacteria have the ability to move from a tooth to the bloodstream, bacteria also have the ability to invade the nervous system. The nervous system includes the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
Once bacteria get into the nervous system, they can cause inflammation and damage to the brain and spinal cord. A severe manifestation of this inflammation is a bacterial disease called meningitis. Bacterial meningitis is another serious effect that can lead to prolonged hospitalization and be life-threatening.
Signs of meningitis include neck rigidity, difficulty moving the neck from side to side, pain in the neck, fever, prolonged and severe headaches, decreased level of consciousness, altered mental status, fatigue, and even seizures. It’s surprising that an infected tooth can lead to meningitis, and it is a risk that not many people know. Please seek emergency treatment if these symptoms develop.
Thirdly, a surprising effect of an infected tooth is the development of Ludwig’s Angina. This complication occurs when bacteria from the infected tooth spread to the throat. Throat pain, throat swelling, shortness of breath, difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing, difficulty eating, difficulty breathing, fever, neck pain, and ear pain can be common symptoms of Ludwig’s Angina.
If this adverse effect develops, it is typically treated with antibiotics. A person who feels shortness of breath or difficulty breathing should seek emergency care. Throat swelling can prevent you from getting the oxygen you need, and in some cases, leads to intubation, or stabilization of the airway with a tube. This is one of the most severe scenarios for Ludwig’s Angina.
These three surprising effects may be interesting and intimidating. However, now that you are knowledgeable about the causes and effects of an infected tooth, you are prepared to seek out treatment in a timely manner if suspicious of a tooth infection.
If you think you have an infected tooth and want to get your teeth assessed, contact us here at Lifetime Dental Health.
Dental care procedures, such as teeth cleanings, inserting a crown, or performing a root canal, can occasionally result in bleeding of the gums. While bleeding is always minimized, some bleeding is unavoidable in dental procedures. There are typically no long-term effects nor high risks associated with slight gum bleeding.
However, in general, a person can bleed more while taking blood-thinning medications. Therefore, patients who are on blood thinners should inform our dental team prior to undergoing any dental care.
What Are Blood Thinners? Anticoagulants and Antiplatelets Explained.
Antiplatelet and anticoagulant medications, colloquially referred to as blood thinners, are important medications that can help reduce the chance of blood clots in a high-risk patient. Anticoagulant medications act upon blood cells by slowing down or preventing the process of blood cells forming clots, known as coagulation. This “thins” out the blood, making it flow more easily through the veins, and subsequently, making it flow more quickly and easily out of an open wound.
These blood thinners can often be prescribed to someone who has coronary artery disease (CAD), a congenital heart defect (CHD), a history of clots, a history of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a history of pulmonary embolism (PE), or a history of cerebrovascular accident (CVA), also known as stroke.
Occasionally, blood thinners are prescribed after surgery to prevent post-surgical clots. Blood thinners are typically halted or discontinued prior to surgery to prevent bleeds during surgery.
Because these are serious medical conditions, most patients who are prescribed blood thinners are aware of the reason for their medications. Some patients who deal with polypharmacy are not aware of every medication function, and therefore, should get a list of current medications from their healthcare provider before seeking dental care.
Antiplatelet medications work specifically to stop platelet blood cells, which do most of the binding together in coagulation, from clumping together.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Advil or ibuprofen can also cause blood thinning, although not always. Furthermore, NSAIDs are typically not taken on a daily basis, like anticoagulants and antiplatelets.
What to Know About Dental Care on Blood Thinners
If you are only taking blood thinners (anticoagulants, antiplatelets, NSAIDs) for a temporary condition or finite amount of time, such as use for one week after surgery, then the smartest decision usually is to postpone dental care if possible until after the cessation of using blood thinners.
However, dental care can be done safely when on blood thinners. If you are taking blood thinners daily or indefinitely, stopping the use of blood thinners is generally not feasible. In fact, there can be more risk in stopping the use of blood thinners for patients who need them (which can lead to the aforementioned medical conditions, like clots, stroke, or heart attacks in at-risk patients) than with dental care with blood thinners.
Dental prophylaxis, or teeth cleaning, is a common dental procedure that dentists can most likely provide while a patient is on blood thinners. While bleeding can occur, there are many techniques in dental care to staunch or slow bleeding. One example is the use of gauze to staunch bleeds. Furthermore, the practice of minimally invasive dental techniques, suctioning and hemostatic devices, and even simply biting down during certain parts of a procedure, can reduce bleeding.
As long as our dental team is fully informed about your medication use, they can come up with a safe dental care plan that specifically caters to your use of blood thinners.
A thorough examination of medical history should include any current medications, medication or food allergies, medical conditions, genetic conditions, surgical history, major cardiac event history, dental history, dental surgery history, pregnancy status, alcohol or smoking or drug use, level of hydration, and labs such as clotting factor presence and Internalized Normal Ratio (INR) or Partial Thromboplastin Time (PTT).
By assessing these factors, you can be most prepared and knowledgeable about your own health. If you do not know this medical history information, you can contact any prior physician’s office or your primary care physician to obtain a medical record. Labs can be obtained at standard lab testing facilities or at an urgent care, emergency room, or physician’s office, depending on the situation.
Other dental procedures can often incorporate more bleeding than simple dental prophylaxis.
Some examples of these dental procedures are:
Scaling and deep teeth cleaning
Dental crown placement
Tooth extraction or removal
Biopsies of teeth or gum tissue
Wisdom teeth removal
If you’re taking blood thinners on a long-term basis, then you should inform our dental team, physician, and any specialists to identify the best course of action for upcoming dental procedures. This will be a unique decision from patient to patient.
Sometimes, the best way to protect oneself is through thorough communication and support from professionals. That is why it is important to consult with our dental team and your prescribing physicians about blood thinners prior to dental care.
Moving Forward: Care for Oral Bleeding
So what if you are on blood thinners and have oral bleeding after dental care?
Oral bleeding after dental care may occur after a procedure, but it is usually well-controlled and short-lived. Some simple bleeding might last for around 30 minutes after surgery, but it can be controlled through the use of gauze. Drinking cold or room-temperature fluids from a cup is recommended.
Some behaviors to avoid limiting oral bleeding after dental care:
Excessive spitting or rinsing out the mouth
Drinking hot beverages
Eating sharp foods like chips, popcorn, or nuts
Using a straw, which might irritate or poke gums (unless a straw is needed to prevent choking)
If you have bleeding from your gums or mouth for several hours in a row, and it is constant and non-staunchable with gauze, you should call your doctor. Alternatively, if you feel worried about the amount of blood loss you’ve experienced, you can go to an emergency care facility. Although this is highly unlikely in a patient who is on blood thinners, if you are experiencing large blood clots coming from the mouth, you should seek emergency care as well.
Most people can obtain safe, healthy, and beneficial dental care while on blood thinners. Dental health is connected to heart health and happiness, so it’s important not to neglect dental care because of mild worry. This information is intended to help educate, empower, and inform all patients on blood thinners.
For further questions about blood thinners and dental care, contact our dental team here at Lifetime Dental Health.
The mouth is the opening to many joys in our lives. Our complex oral and periodontal system helps us eat delicious foods, stay hydrated, talk to friends and family, and even breathe in the air.
But you may not know that the mouth is full of vibrant bacteria at all times. These bacteria are considered “good” bacteria, specifically known as normal flora, that help protect the mouth from outside threats and damage. Saliva works to protect the mouth too, by neutralizing harmful acids and breaking down food.
The mouth can be particularly vulnerable, as well. Along with the nose, the mouth is one of the primary openings through which bacteria and viruses can enter. Bacteria can enter the throat, lungs, teeth, or even the gums, and can proceed to infect other areas of the body, leading to the potential for advanced infections.
Fortunately, there have been strong evidence-based connections that protecting one’s oral health, especially nurturing healthy gums, can also lead to a healthy immune system. A healthy immune system can prevent someone from getting, or getting severely sick from, bacterial infections.
First, it is important to understand the steps and foundation behind oral health.
A few important steps to help protect your oral health are listed below:
Brushing your teeth at least twice per day with fluoride-containing toothpaste
Flossing your teeth, preferably daily
Brushing your gums and tongue, preferably daily
Reaching the back of your mouth when brushing
Attending regular dental appointments, at least every 6 months
Reducing consumption of food and drink that damages tooth enamel
Treating tooth cavities, decay, damage, or infections
When you don’t protect your oral health, you’re at higher risk of bacterial infections, as mentioned earlier. Bacteria can enter through the mouth, leading to lung infections (pneumonia), heart infections (endocarditis), or cardiovascular disease. There are typically other factors that must come into play to lead to such advanced infections and diseases, however, many people have no idea that poor oral health can lead to heart disease.
Oral health can also be made more difficult if you have diabetes, are pregnant, have a weakened immune system, have osteoporosis, have dementia or Alzheimer’s, is immobile or bed-ridden, are severely ill, or cannot perform their own dental care.
Due to its connectedness to the whole body, oral health should always be prioritized when it is possible.
Fortunately, there are dental professionals, including the team at Lifetime Dental Health, who can help you to accomplish dental hygiene goals.
What is the Immune System?
The immune system is a combination of bodily features that protect the body from disease and sickness, such as bacterial invaders. There are many parts to the immune system, including external barriers and internal protective measures.
The skin is the first line of defense. Thick skin cells and antibacterial secretions from the skin prevent bacteria from entering the body
The mucosal lining of the mouth is another external barrier. Mucus is secreted by the epithelial cells of the throat to trap bacteria. Cilia, little hair-like projections from the throat, also trap bacteria. Together, these barriers push bacteria out of the body
Internal Protective measures:
Bone Marrow creates immune cells, such as lymphocytes, macrophages, B cell antibodies, T cells, and more. These immune cells are innately wired to fight off bacteria.
Immune cells are also enriched in the spleen, which helps bolster their ability to fight.
Next, immune cells need to find their way to the infected areas of the body. Sometimes immune cells travel via the bloodstream, but more often, immune cells travel via the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system acts like a highway, similar to the vascular system of blood, that allows immune cells to travel around the body. Lymph cells and lymph fluid live within this system, ready to fight off infections at any time. When bacterial infections occur in the body, lymph nodes can become swollen via a process called inflammation. This allows the swollen area to expand in size, creating room for the incoming immune cells.
How Healthy Gums Boost the Immune System
Keeping one’s gums healthy can have a very positive effect on the immune system. If a person has healthy gums, it is a sign that they have been practicing good oral hygiene and that there are no periodontal infections present.
Healthy gums will appear as normal-sized and pink, without any swelling. When gums become swollen, especially chronically swollen, or red, this is a sign that gums are unhealthy. The body’s immune system responds to bacteria through inflammation of gum tissue because all of the immune system’s internal protective measures must arrive at the location where bacteria are and begin fighting the infection.
Redness, swelling, and bleeding can be signs of this internal fight between the immune system and bacteria in unhealthy gums.
So in order to keep the immune system healthy and happy, it is important to protect one’s gums.
Some habits to keep gums healthy include:
Use a soft-bristled toothbrush
Replace your toothbrush at least every 3 months
Do not forget to floss and/or use mouthwash to remove food particles between the gums. Floss at least once daily if possible. Do not press floss too forcefully into your gums, or you might cause damage
Reduce the number of sugary foods and “added sugar” foods in your diet
Avoid tobacco use if possible
If you would like to come to Lifetime Dental Health for a cleaning or a regular check-up of your gums, please contact us today.