Mind & Body
Dental Health Month
2/4/2019 1:13:58 PM
Dental Health Month

February is also National Dental Health Month. Some people may not realize that dental health is related to heart health. You’ll find that story on page 54. You’ll also find tips to care for your teeth and prevent tooth decay and gum disease, as well as a story on the advances and benefits of braces for adults. Chew on these stories!

Healthy Teeth, Healthy Heart?
Could your brushing habits be affecting your risk of heart disease? 

It’s possible. According to Harvard Health, people with oral health issues such as gum disease exhibit higher rates of cardiovascular issues like heart attacks and strokes. 

"It’s clear that a link between oral health and heart health exists,” said Dr. Tim Robinson of Robinson Dental Group in Southwest Louisiana. "The evidence shows that people with poor oral health are more likely to have a heart attack.”

The question is, why? Scientists have several theories: 

Bacteria in the mouth can spread to the rest of the body. Microorganisms found in gum disease, a widespread condition that leads to tooth loss, have been found in blood vessels elsewhere in the body and can be linked to vascular damage.

Poor oral health increases levels of inflammation throughout the body. Moderate to severe gum disease causes an increase in C-reactive protein (CRP), a protein that rises during whole-body inflammation. CRP is used to measure a person’s risk of heart attack.
The connection could also be explained by shared risk factors, like smoking. Smoking is a major cause of both gum disease and heart disease. Other shared risk factors include lack of access to healthcare and lack of exercise. 

Whatever the cause, the takeaway is simple.

"Prioritizing your overall wellbeing, including oral health, will significantly reduce your risk of all sorts of diseases and conditions, especially heart disease," said Dr. Robinson. "All parts of our body are interconnected, and the health of one area has a major impact on everything else.” 

Know the Signs
Gum disease, or periodontitis, occurs when bacteria in plaque builds up between the gums and teeth, and it’s a major cause of tooth loss in adults. The American Academy of Periodontology lists the symptoms of gum disease as follows:
  • Red, swollen or tender gums, or other pain in the mouth
  • Bleeding while brushing, flossing or eating hard food
  • Gums that are receding or pulling away from the teeth, causing the teeth to look longer than before
  • Loose or separating teeth
  • Pus between the gums and teeth
  • Sores in the mouth
  • Persistent bad breath
  • A change in the way the teeth fit together when one bites down
  • A change in the fit of partial dentures
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. According to the American Heart Association, warning signs of a heart attack include the following: 
  • Chest discomfort
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweats, nausea or lightheadedness

Prevention is all about maintenance and avoiding behaviors that are proven to put you at risk. To prevent gum disease, it’s important to prioritize the following:
  • Brush multiple times a day, especially after meals
  • Don’t forget to brush the tongue, a hotbed for bacteria
  • Replace your toothbrush at least every three months
  • Floss daily
  • Rinse with mouthwash
  • Maintain regular dental visits
  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid sugar, drink plenty of water, and eat foods high in nutritional value
  • Heart disease prevention: 
  • Control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Maintain a healthy diet and weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Limit alcohol
  • Don’t smoke
  • Get enough sleep
  • Manage stress
  • Manage diabetes

Robinson Dental Group has offices in Lake Charles, Moss Bluff, and coming soon to Sulphur. For more information, go to robinsondentalgroup.net.

Dental Care: Brush Up on the Basics
by Taylor Trahan Henry

It’s something you do twice a day, every day. But are you doing it correctly? In the early morning rush or the too-tired-to-care evening, it’s easy to breeze right through brushing and flossing without taking the time your oral hygiene deserves. 

"Taking care of your teeth can help prevent a multitude of issues like bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease,” says Dr. Harry Castle with Oak Park Dental in Lake Charles. "It can also help you keep your teeth as you age.” 

Brushing your teeth twice a day is the first, and biggest, step you should take for improved dental health. Your toothbrush should fit comfortably in your mouth and should be replaced every three months or when the bristles become frayed. You should also change toothbrushes if you have been sick with a cold, flu or other viral infection. Electronic or battery-operated toothbrushes can help reduce gingivitis more effectively than a manual toothbrush. They are also great options for patients with arthritis or other issues that make it difficult to brush effectively.

Now that you’ve got the right equipment, form is key, says Dr. Castle. Hold your toothbrush at a slight angle, aiming the bristles towards the space where your teeth meet your gums. Brush all surfaces of your teeth – outside, inside and chewing surfaces – gently with a short back-and-forth motion. Don’t forget to brush your tongue, too! 

Storing your toothbrush properly will help keep bacteria, mold and yeast growth at bay. Always rinse your toothbrush after brushing and store it in an upright position to allow it to air-dry. Although it’s safe to store your brush in a holder or bag to travel, Dr. Castle says you shouldn’t routinely store it in an enclosed container. This can trap moisture and provides an ideal breeding ground for germs. 

"While proper brushing is the first step, flossing allows you to clean the areas of your mouth that the toothbrush can’t reach,” says Dr. Castle.  Break off about 12-18 inches of dental floss and wind most of it around the middle finger on one hand and then wind the rest around the middle finger on your other hand. Then, get a tight grip on the floss with your thumbs and forefingers. Gently guide the floss between your teeth. When you reach your gum line, follow the curve of your tooth back down. Be sure to unwind fresh floss as you go along. Once you finish flossing be sure to rinse your mouth vigorously to remove any loosened particles. Water will do the trick but mouthwash can add an extra layer of improved dental hygiene. 

"Your oral hygiene depends mostly on you developing healthy practices,” says Dr. Castle. "But no matter how diligent you are, everyone should visit their dentist at least twice a year for a checkup and cleaning.” 

Your mouth also serves as a helpful tool in detecting early signs and symptoms of disease. Cleanings and regular check-ups can be preventive for both your dental health and your overall health. Problems that start with oral hygiene can cause other illnesses within the body. "Gum disease can put you a risk for serious health problems like heart attack or stroke,” warns Dr. Castle.

When it comes to oral hygiene, you’re never too young to get started. While parents can teach their children these habits early on, they should also begin dental care with a dentist. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that a child go to the dentist by age 1 or within six months after the first tooth erupts. 

For more information on oral hygiene and proper practices or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Harry Castle, visit oakparkdental.com or call 337-478-3232.

More Adults are Embracing Orthodontic Treatment
by Kristy Como Armand

When you think of the typical patient in an orthodontist's office, an awkward middle schooler with a mouth full of metal brackets may come to mind, but things have changed. Not only are more adults seeking a straighter smile in record numbers, there are more choices than ever in materials for achieving the results they want. 

According to the American Association of Orthodontics, adults today make up nearly half of orthodontic patients hoping to get that perfect smile.

"Braces have evolved considerably since the adults of today were teens,” says Dr. Craig Crawford with Crawford Orthodontics. "We have more convenient options that deliver quicker results for adults. In addition to improving your appearance, orthodontics can also improve your oral health, which is of more concern for adults. Crooked teeth and a bad bite can contribute to gum and bone loss, tooth decay, abnormal wear of the tooth enamel and surfaces, headaches and jaw joint pain."

Dr. Crawford says there are a variety of reasons an adult may decide the time is right to seek orthodontic treatment. Some are experiencing crowding, which can become more noticeable in adulthood. In some cases, gum disease has caused teeth to move, changing the person's bite. "Many adults decide to get braces simply because they just want to look better,” explains Dr. Crawford. "Quite a few of our adult patients have wanted braces for years, but their family may not have been able to afford them when they were younger. Now that they are adults, they can take care of this part of their appearance for themselves."

Also contributing to the rise in adult orthodontic patients is improvement in orthodontic technology, such as transparent aligners, which make treatment much less noticeable. The main reason more adult patients choose clear aligners is that they appear invisible. Dr. Crawford says this helps conceal the fact that the patient is undergoing orthodontic treatment, which can be embarrassing for some adults. Clear aligners can help hide existing gaps, another appealing cosmetic benefit. For mild cases of misaligned teeth, these may only need to be worn at night, a very popular option for adults.

"Unlike traditional braces, our adult patients also love having the ability to remove their clear aligners when they eat and brush their teeth,” says Dr. Crawford. "This gives patients the freedom to eat what they want and to continue their usual hygiene routine of brushing and flossing.” 

Dr. Crawford says when traditional braces are required, newer clear, ceramic brackets, instead of shiny metal, are an option that appeals to adult patients. The ceramic brackets blend in with the teeth's natural enamel and are also more comfortable than traditional metal. Newer, space-age wires apply an even, gentle pressure over time, making it a much more comfortable process compared to the painful, vice-like adjustments many teens experienced in the past.

Another big advance that adults appreciate? Much fewer messy, chalky impressions. Crawford Orthodontics uses a new intra-oral scanner to take a series of rapid digital photos of teeth that are used to create 3D models used by Dr. Crawford to formulate a customized treatment plan. 

These advances have also led to shorter treatment time, which is more appealing to adults considering braces. Dr. Crawford says on average, adults can expect orthodontic treatment to last 12 to 20 months.

If you are ready to look into braces for yourself, the first step toward a straighter smile is a consultation. "Once you are properly screened for periodontal and dental health, there really is no age limit for braces," says Dr. Crawford.
And that's something to smile about.

For more information about braces for adults, call Crawford Orthodontics at (337) 478-7590 or visit
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