We all know it’s important to maintain good dental hygiene, but let’s be honest: nobody actually likes going to the dentist. Although the polished feeling across your teeth following a cleaning can’t be beat, dental health is something most of us tend to put off.

But it turns out pregnant women tend to put it off even more. Misconception, discomfort, and general fear are probably the most common reasons for this neglect, but it’s especially important pregnant women maintain good oral health because there is a link between oral health and pregnancy.

60-75% of all pregnant women are affected by inflammation of the gums.

As we all know, the hormonal changes brought on during healthy pregnancy can have all sorts of effects on the expectant mother. In terms of dental health, however, the effects are particularly important to monitor. According to the American Dental Association, 60-75% of all pregnant women are affected by inflammation of the gums, known as gingivitis. Because of its direct relationship to the increase in hormones, as well as changes in diet and eating habits associated with pregnancy, this condition is sometimes called “pregnancy gingivitis.”

But if gingivitis is allowed to worsen, it can become periodontitis, a serious gum disease that studies suggest is associated with preterm low birth weight. Mothers with poor oral health risk passing cavity-causing bacteria to their babies.

Pregnancy and dental health linked.

What can you do for your oral health to help ensure a healthy pregnancy?

So, soon-to-be-mommy, what can you do for your dental health that will help ensure a healthy pregnancy?

  • Schedule an appointment for a comprehensive oral evaluation and risk assessment, making sure to inform your dentist if you’re pregnant or think you’re pregnant. Most non-emergency dental procedures can be conducted during pregnancy, and your dentist may recommend extra cleanings during the second and early third terms of pregnancy to help control gingivitis.
  • Limit your number of between-meal sugary snacks. While this might be a challenge, it’s important to remember gum disease is always lurking.
  • Brush and floss regularly as you always do, right?

Understanding the link between dental health and healthy pregnancy is essential. Practice good dental hygiene and your kids will thank you!

What tips do you have for staying on top of your oral health during a pregnancy? Share your experience a comment below!

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For those affected by diabetes – almost 8% of the American population by some estimates – related health problems can complicate your life.  Potential circulatory, vision, kidney, and nerve issues require diabetics to carefully monitor their blood glucose levels and manage their disease. But periodontal disease, or gum disease, is also a significant related illness for diabetics to keep in mind.

Almost 8% of the American population is affected by diabetes.

Diabetes and periodontal disease can be prevented.

Periodontal disease in patients with inadequate blood sugar control is higher than in those with good control of their diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease that affects how your body regulates blood sugar (glucose). Diabetics have too much glucose in their blood and, left unmanaged, that condition can wreak havoc on many of the body’s delicate systems.

High glucose levels in saliva make diabetics particularly susceptible to periodontal disease. Bacteria can thrive in that glucose-rich environment, which leads to plaque, an acid-producing film that can permanently damage teeth and gums. Diabetes also lowers the body’s ability to fight infection, permitting periodontal disease to worsen rapidly.

These factors make it essential for diabetics to learn to manage their disease diligently. The incidence of periodontal disease in patients with inadequate blood sugar control is higher than in those with good control of their diabetes.

Warning signs and prevention

Warning signs of periodontal disease include the following:

•    Swollen, red, or tender gums that bleed easily
•    Gums that are receding from the teeth
•    Changes in your bite or the way your teeth fit together
•    Changes in the fit of partial dentures

Diabetes and periodontal disease are both manageable.

Left unchecked, periodontal disease can damage the gums and bone supporting the teeth and lead to tooth loss.

To further prevent periodontal disease, diabetics should:

•    Brush and floss their teeth daily
•    Schedule regular dental check ups and cleanings
•    Maintain a balanced and healthy diet, particularly with regard to blood sugar management
•    Communicate clearly with your dentist about your condition and whether or not it is under control

Dry mouth (Xerostomia) is a common condition among patients with diabetes. This also can lead to periodontal disease because saliva aids in the washing away of bacteria-producing food particles. Your dentist can recommend a saliva substitute as well as fluoride washes to compensate for a reduction in saliva.

Diabetes and periodontal disease are both manageable. By maintaining healthy oral hygiene habits, from cleaning to diet, diabetics can ensure a healthy defense against periodontal disease.

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If the mere mention of the word “dentist” makes you tense, you’re not alone. As many as 20% of Americans have said they avoid going to the dentist altogether due to anxiety or fear. Fortunately, there are many different ways to deal with dental anxiety or dental phobia (which results in even deeper panic than dental anxiety). With a little effort, those fears can be overcome – and your health doesn’t have to suffer.

Experts agree that acknowledging the cause of one’s dental anxiety or dental phobia is the best first step toward overcoming it.

Causes of dental anxiety or dental phobia

Commonly-reported reasons why people have dental anxiety or dental phobia include the following:

Previous bad experiences. An insensitive dentist or a scary memory from a childhood dental visit or embarrassment over dental issues can build up steam over time to create debilitating dental anxiety.

Powerlessness. Lying down in a chair and allowing someone to probe around your mouth without being able to see what’s going requires an enormous amount of trust. There’s no denying we have very little control over what happens once the dentist starts an examination of our mouths.

Dental phobia may be dangerous to your health.

Dental Phobia’s Curse: Dental anxiety overshadows the reality that neglecting oral health can lead to grave consequences.

Scary anecdotes. Everybody’s heard a nightmare story or two about dental visits gone horribly wrong. They tend to spring to mind just as you’re reclining in the dental chair, don’t they?

Fear of pain. This seems to be universal. Unexpected pain is commonly known as a “bummer.”

Often our dental anxiety or phobia overshadows the reality that neglecting dental health can lead to grave consequences. Increasingly, medical science points to a connection between oral health and overall body health. If we’re to maintain a healthy body, dental anxiety and dental phobia cannot be allowed to stand in the way.

Tips for dealing with dental anxiety or dental phobia

Here are five tips for making headway against dental anxiety or dental phobia:

1.  Communicate. Talk to your dentist about your concerns. Remember that a dentist is a trained professional. You aren’t the first patient to come in with dental phobia. Working with your dentist on your anxieties can take the pressure off trying to manage them alone. Just the act of expressing verbally what’s been locked in your head can lighten the load too.

2.  Relax. Practicing some form of deep breathing or meditative exercise like yoga is a great way to put your body ahead of your mind. If your body is relaxed, it’s very difficult for your mind to be anxious.

3.  Distract yourself. Often, the sounds of a dentist’s office are enough to get one’s mind racing. Drills, sounds from other examination rooms, and general office conversation can trigger anxious thoughts. Many dentists now offer their patients mp3 players loaded with a wide selection of music or audio entertainment to shut out the auditory stimulus that fuels dental phobia.

4.  Plan. Try to schedule your dental appointments at times when you won’t be otherwise under pressure. Squeezing an exam between meetings or during a short lunch will only serve to put the pressure on.

5.  Sedation. Finally, you can always discuss sedation options with your dentist. Various sedatives offer a range of choices, from light relaxation to completely putting you under for the duration of your visit.

Dental anxiety and dental phobia is very common. No one needs to go through it alone. Acknowledge the fear, talk it out, and above all, put your dental health above your anxieties. The resulting smile is worth it.

Have you overcome dental phobia? How did you tame your anxiety? We’d love to hear your story!

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Fear of the Dentist

Kid's dental needs change.

From childhood through the teenage years, your children’s oral health needs change.

 

Our teeth are meant to last our entire lives. Pediatric dental care is caring for them properly in the first part of our lives. It is essential if we’re to enjoy them later on.

But that doesn’t mean that our children’s dental health needs are the same from childhood through the teenage years. Pediatric dental care can guide us along the way from baby teeth to fully mature adult teeth.

Young mouths need to be cared for, even if baby teeth haven’t come in yet. Oral bacteria can grow with or without teeth (and can also spread through saliva from mother to child), so starting a regimen of good oral hygiene habits early on is essential.

Start building good pediatric dental care habits

Wiping your baby’s gums after feedings with a clean, damp cloth will help remove food particles and the bacteria they produce. Once baby teeth begin to erupt, brushing gently with a child’s sized toothbrush and water will do the same. Usually tooth eruption begins around the six-month mark and is your reminder to schedule an appointment with your child’s dentist.

Pediatric dentistry guidelines encourage establishing a “dental home” for your child by their first birthday, a place where he or she (and you) can feel comfortable, ask questions, and receive guidance on what’s best for those new baby teeth.

By the time your child can be trusted to spit (rather than swallow) toothpaste, start using a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste for brushing. You should assist your child with this practice until the age of 6.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Another very important issue for baby teeth is Early Childhood Caries (ECC), or Baby Bottle Tooth Decay.

Read: Early Childhood Caries: The Truth about Sippy Cups

Many parents feed their toddlers sugary drinks in bottles or sippy cups. These bacteria-producing liquids tend to pool around the front baby teeth when administered this way, creating concentrated areas for potential decay. Avoid giving your child juices or sweetened water in a bottle or sippy cup, and don’t let your child fall asleep with these in hand (or mouth!).

If your water supply lacks proper levels of fluoride, pediatric dental care techniques can assist your child with fluoride washes and applications to strengthen baby teeth enamel. 

Once solid foods are introduced to your toddler, maintaining good eating habits will go a long way toward ensuring those baby teeth are replaced with healthy adult teeth. Besides providing excellent nutritional value, fruits, vegetables and whole grains can also leave less fuel for plaque to grow with. Adequate exposure to fluoride is a must for young children. If your water supply lacks proper levels of fluoride, pediatric dental care techniques can assist your child with fluoride washes and applications to strengthen baby teeth enamel.

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Dental hygiene as children grow older

As your child grows, their dental hygiene habits can slack off. School, sports, activities, friends, and junk food can all conspire to get in the way of good oral hygiene habits. Reminding your adolescent or teen that their baby teeth are gone and their adult teeth are the last set to come in is important. Also, hormonal changes can make teens susceptible to gingivitis and other periodontal diseases due to extra gum sensitivity. Make it easy for your teen to brush, floss and eat well. Plenty of healthy snacks around the house are a good way to avoid the temptation of junk food.

Tobacco – whether smoking or chewing – puts your teen at great risk for periodontal diseases, not to mention oral cancers.

Many teens require orthodontics, which require even greater vigilance in the oral hygiene department. Follow your orthodontist’s instructions on the proper way to keep braces and retainers clean.

It really all comes down to the oral hygiene habits you began practicing with your young child. If they can make brushing at least twice daily, flossing, and eating smart a priority, their teeth will likely last well past their own children’s formative years.

Do you have experience transitioning a child through the phases of dental care? What’s your best tip for others who are going through this now? Let us know in the comments section!

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