Simple Facts on Gum Disease and Smoking

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is a type of infection considered to be opportunistic by nature. This is the result of the interaction between a host’s (patient)ability to fight infection and bacteria in dental plaque. The ability of the host to fight infection can also be affected by some factors including genetics, environment and acquired risk factors.

One of the most common acquired risk factors is smoking tobacco. Various studies have proven that smoking has a direct link to certain diseases such as, pneumonia, cardiovascular disease, cancer and the list goes on and on and on.

In comparison to a non-smoker, a patient who smokes has a 2.5-3.5 % chance of developing gum disease. According to recent clinical studies, 40% of patients with gum disease may be attributed to smoking. Evidence shows that loss of supporting structures of the teeth (gums and jaw bone) tend to be greater in smokers, therefore resulting in increased risk of tooth mobility and tooth loss.

So how does smoking increase the severity of gum disease?

Tobacco smoke contains carbon monoxide which has a direct impact on blood oxygen in healthy gums. This type of oral environment encourages the growth of anaerobic bacteria causing gum disease. As the anaerobic bacteria presence increases, the severity of gum disease also increases. Nicotine in tobacco smoke is known to be vasoconstrictive (stops bleeding via compression of blood vessels). This vasoconstrictive effect prevents blood from flowing around the gums. As a result, cells that fight bacteria-causing gum disease cannot effectively reach the site of infection.

The most important thing to remember is that smoking alters how our body responds tofight infection in the supporting tissues (gums and jaw bone) of our teeth. Prevention of gum disease is the overall key.

If you have any further concerns about the effects of smoking, gum disease and its potential detrimental effect on your overall oral health and quality of life, our dentists, Dr. Rouel Vergara and Dr. Ben Barrera will be happy to discuss this with you.

 

 

Dentine Hypersensitivity: Simple solutions for a common dental problem

Do you get short sharp pain every time you have hot or cold food or beverages, such as

coffee or ice cream?  Does tooth brushing or flossing make you wince occasionally?

If you answered YES to these 2 questions, you may be suffering from a common problem called

Dentine hypersensitivity

~ also known as tooth sensitivity.

 

Tooth Sensitivity is one of the most common dental problems in our society.

Even though varying data exists regarding the occurrence of dentine hypersensitivity globally, clinical findings demonstrate that 1 in 5 people suffer from this dental condition.  There are many factors why patients suffer from this.  Some of the common causes of tooth sensitivity include tooth decay, worn out tooth enamel, cracked tooth, exposed root surface of the tooth due to gum disease or aggressive tooth brushing techniques leading to gum recession.  Proper diagnosis of dentine hypersensitivity is the first step in addressing this common dental issue.

What are the simple solutions to treat dentine hypersensitivity?

1.  Get your teeth checked!  As mentioned earlier, proper diagnosis of this dental condition is the first step.

2. Your dentist may recommend a specially formulated toothpaste (e.g. Sensodyne) for use twice daily.  Its active ingredients have dual action:  primarily to provide a nerve calming effect, as well as initiate tooth protection through surface re-mineralization.

3. Dentist-supervised in-office dental products (e.g. high concentrated fluoride gel, varnish, mousse or desensitizers) can be applied by a dental health care professional.

4. If the conservative approach does not work, your dentist may recommend other treatment options depending on the cause of tooth sensitivity.

If you are suffering from this condition and have concerns about its possible cause/s and treatment options, you are more than welcome to call our clinic here at Erina to book a consultation with any of our dentists.

Til next time!  

Dr. Rouel Vergara DMD

 

Dental 101: Teeth Whitening, Crowns and Veneers, Dental Implants

Everywhere you go these days, you are never short of seeing advertisements and billboards of people with perfect, shiny, white teeth! There are a myriad of products out there ranging from whitening toothpastes, boxed take-home teeth whitening kits from the pharmacy or "smile bars" in a shopping centre, to professionally supervised in-chair teeth whitening procedures from your preferred dentist.  How do you choose what the right treatment is for your teeth and for your particular needs?  IS your need purely cosmetic or does it go further than that?

To take the guessing aside, here is some background information from the Australian Dental Association on Aesthetic Dentistry.  It would be worthwhile having a read of this and then consulting a dental health professional to assess your current oral condition to find the most suitable solution for you...

 

Aesthetic dentistry, often incorrectly referred to as “cosmetic dentistry”, is the term used to describe treatments which change the way your teeth look. There is far more involved than simply changing the appearance of your teeth.

While a cosmetic procedure like tooth whitening is included in aesthetic dentistry, the field is mostly concerned with Orthodontic treatments which restore function such as teeth straightening, and Prosthodontics, which involves the insertion of teeth prostheses such as crowns, veneers and dental implants.
 

Central Coast Dental Fillings Consultation

Teeth Whitening

As the name suggests, this treatment is all about lightening stained or discoloured teeth.

While you can buy over-the-counter, use-at-home toothpastes and strips, your dentist is best qualified to determine if you need teeth whitening, and can use a stronger bleach than you can at home, with greater safety and expertise.

You may be tempted to go to a shopping centre booth or a beautician to get your teeth whitened but neither are suitably qualified and could cause irreversible damage to your teeth and gums. DIY bleaching comes with all sorts of risks, and old wives tales treatments such as rubbing strawberries, lemons, or even bicarb of soda on your teeth, do a lot of damage to your teeth for no real whitening gain.

Keep in mind is that crowns, veneers and fillings don’t change colour when you have your teeth whitened.
 

Veneers

Veneers are thin, tooth-coloured porcelain or glass/plastic layers fixed onto the front of your teeth that can be a suitable option if you have teeth with gaps, that are stained, discoloured, broken or chipped, crowded-in or crooked, oddly-shaped or badly-aligned.

Crowns

If your broken or decayed tooth needs to be rebuilt, it’s likely your dentist will use a crown to do the job. Crowns are generally made from materials such as porcelain, and porcelain/metal combinations. Not only do they make your teeth look more attractive, but they also give them added strength, durability and stability.


Teeth straightening

Using corrective items like braces and plates, your dentist will line up your teeth with your jaw so you not only look better but have better use of the affected teeth. Once considered unsightly, braces, a key part of teeth straightening, are now much less noticeable than they were, in some cases being all but invisible.


Dental implants

If you’ve got lost or missing teeth, your dentist may use implants to replace them. Not only will your smile immeasurably improve but you’ll enjoy a better quality of life too. Your dentist is best placed to advise on the most suitable option for your teeth, and any decision on changing the look and function of your teeth should always start with them.

Source:  Australian Dental Association (www.ada.org.au)

Dental 101: Fillings

In keeping with the Dental Health Week theme, we thought we'd go back to basics and provide some information on the different dental services that you can expect from your general dentist practitioner such as ourselves.  The Australian Dental Association provides fact sheets on the typical issues or scenarios that we face and we will be posting it here for your reading pleasure.  

Fillings

While prevention through brushing and flossing is definitely better than cure when it comes to caring for your teeth and gums, should tooth decay develop, your dentist has a range of options for restoring your teeth's shape and function.

Fillings, however, are often the first course of action when dealing with tooth decay.Your dentist will examine your teeth, and using X-rays to pinpoint the location and extent of the decay, and decide if a filling is required.


An array of filling materials

If it is needed, the material used, each of which has advantages and disadvantages, will depend on a number of factors including which tooth is being filled and the way your teeth fit together.

Amalgam
Amalgam is durable and inexpensive, but requires more of the tooth to be removed, and can blacken with age. While the use of amalgam is increasingly giving way to resin, it is still in use and quite safe and there is no need to replace your amalgam fillings just for the sake of it.

Composite resin
Resin makes up most of the "white" or "tooth-coloured" fillings, but is not as strong as amalgam, gold or porcelain.

Glass ionomer
While it's not as durable as resin, this silicon-based cement bonds well to your tooth and is often used to fill baby teeth.

Gold & Porcelain
While highly-durable, gold doesn't look as good as more natural-looking materials. Similarly-durable, porcelain doesn't discolour like resin or glass ionomer. However, both take longer to prepare, meaning more appointments.

Temporary fillings
Short-term fillings are used following root canals which require multiple appointments, where a tooth nerve needs to be "settled down" prior to further treatment, or during emergency treatment.


After the filling

Don't be alarmed if your tooth feels sensitive to things like pressure, air, sweet foods or temperature following treatment. This is fairly common and usually subsides within a few weeks. If the sensitivity persists beyond that, see your dentist.
 

When good fillings go bad

Constant wear and tear can cause fillings to wear, chip or crack, opening the seal between the tooth and the filling, and allowing food particles and decay-causing bacteria to slip in and potentially cause an abscess. However, if you're seeing your dentist regularly, they'll this way before it becomes serious.
 

Crowns

Your dentist may restore your tooth with a crown rather than a filling. Usually made of gold or porcelain, they're a customised tooth-shaped cover designed to protect the structure of the tooth, often used where a large filling needs to be replaced but where there's not enough tooth left to support a filling.

SOURCE:  Australian Dental Association (www.ada.org.au)

 

Dental Health Week: Women and Oral Health

Dental Health Week is the Australian Dental Association's major annual oral health promotion event which kicks off on the 1st of August and concludes on the 7th.  Its aim is to educate Australians about the importance of maintaining good oral health in every aspect of their lives.

This year, the ADA will be focusing on women and their oral health.  Recent studies have revealed that many women are unaware that significant changes in their life also presents substantial change in their oral health.  

Here are some of the life changing stages in women that can affect the health of their mouth

Puberty in Girls

Puberty is one of the momentous life stages in women. During puberty, there’s a lot of things happening in the body. This includes increases in sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. An increased level of hormones can elevate blood volume in the gums. This condition can result in “puberty gingivitis”, which is characterized by swelling and redness of gums. Gums bleed more easily than usual especially when irritated by food particles and plaque.

Menstruation

Although the effects of menstruation varies from one female individual to another, the increased amount of sex hormones in the body coupled with build-up of plaque can result to swelling and bleeding gums. This is considered to be a temporary form of gingivitis. Fortunately, this condition disappears once her period begins. Women taking oral contraceptives (“the pill”) may find a similar kind of gingivitis seen in pregnant women. This condition is known as “pregnancy gingivitis”. 

Pregnancy

The stage of pregnancy in a woman’s life is considered to be exciting.  As the condition of the body changes during pregnancy, so does the mouth’s. Oral health can be affected due to hormonal changes. Pregnancy gingivitis is a common gum condition characterized by puffiness of gums. This condition is considered temporary but can also progress further if ignored.

Although not all pregnant women suffer from morning sickness, there are some who do. Unfortunately, this can affect the teeth.  Acid in the vomit can erode the teeth.  Brushing immediately can cause more damage to teeth by stripping away the enamel.

Menopause

Women between the ages of 47 and 55 undergo menopausal stage. This is characterized by a declining level of hormones. Unfortunately, this stage also presents different oral health effects such as dry mouth, swollen gums, burning sensations and altered taste.  Some of the medications taken by women going through menopause can also have a detrimental effect on gums and teeth.

No matter what life stage you are in, there’s no need to suffer from these hormonal changes. Brushing, flossing and seeing your dentists regularly will help manage these different oral health conditions. 

If you have any further questions and concerns about women and oral health, I highly recommend that you seek professional dental advice as soon as possible.

 

 

Dental Erosion

Dental erosion, also known as erosive tooth wear, is a common oral condition which involves the loss of the enamel (hard structure of the teeth) due to acids from food and drinks or acids coming from the stomach.  These acids can easily dissolve the hydroxyapatite crystals (what makes up the hard part of the tooth) of the enamel leading to surface loss. 

How does dental erosion happen?

Whenever you eat or drink anything acidic, the tooth enamel softens and loses some of its mineral content.  Saliva then acts to cancel out the acidity and bring your mouth back to its natural balance. However, there are times when acid attack happens a lot and your mouth doesn’t have a chance to repair itself.  This leads to the enamel being brushed away bit by bit until the tooth surface is lost. When the enamel is worn away, sensitivity and pain may ensue following contact with hot, cold or acidic food and drinks.

There are also some medical conditions that can cause dental erosion, such as bulimia and reflux.  Vomit contains a high level of acid, therefore patients who suffer from these conditions have a higher risk of dental erosion.

How can I help prevent dental erosion?

Plain, still water is still the best drink for your teeth.  But if you are a lover of fizzy drinks, alcopops, sodas, carbonated drinks, fruit juices (particularly citrus juices), you have to be very careful with  your consumption and limit it during meal times.  Either drink quickly or use a straw so that the fluids do not have much contact with your teeth.  After intake, you can finish off with milk or cheese, which helps to cancel out the acid or chew sugar-free gum to help produce more saliva to counteract the acid in your mouth after eating.  If brushing your teeth, wait an hour after eating acidic food and drinks to allow for your teeth to build up its mineral content again.  Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste.

How can it be treated if I am suffering from dental erosion?

Dental erosion doesn't always necessitate a treatment, but with regular check-ups from your dentist, the problem can be prevented from getting any worse.  Protection of the enamel and dentine underneath will help prevent sensitivity.  In many cases, bonding a filling into the tooth is enough to repair it, or fitting a veneer or crown over the tooth is helpful for more severe conditions.

If you have any further concerns about this issue, it is highly recommended that you seek professional dental and medical advice as soon as possible.  

INFECTION CONTROL: An area of focus in dental practice

Media attention in recent times has put a spotlight on breaches in infection control standards in dental practices, causing public worry and fear.   As an infection control educator in Australia and New Zealand, I cannot emphasize enough how this should be at the forefront of every dental health provider’s mind.

The good news is that the Dental Board of Australia has strict guidelines on infection control that outline how to prevent or minimise the risk of spreading infectious diseases in dental practice.  This is readily available for all dental practitioners to implement, therefore there’s no excuse for them not to have one in place. 

As a patient, you have the right to know whether your dentist is compliant with these guidelines or not, so that you can be confident that your health is not at risk.

Standard Precautions of Infection Control in the Dental Practice

  • Hand Hygiene:  Since hands are the most common mode of disease transmission, it is important that your practitioner regularly cleans his/her hands before and after patient treatment.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):  This involves wearing of gloves, masks, gowns, protective eye wear for the health care worker, and protective eye wear for the patient.  This is to protect the skin and the mucous membranes from exposure to infectious or potentially infectious materials in spray or splatter.
  • Environmental Surfaces:  Dental health care providers must know the contaminated zones and clean zones within the operatory area.  Contaminated areas must be cleaned and disinfected following every patient’s treatment.
  • Patient Care Equipment:  This includes reprocessing of instruments that must comply with Australian and New Zealand Standards AS/NZS 4815 “All steps necessary to make a contaminated reusable device ready for its intended use”.  Each reusable instrument must be cleaned, inspected, sterilised using steam sterilisers (also knows as “autoclave”) and stored in a clean, dry place.  This process needs to be monitored and if possible, tracked regularly.  Any disposable single-use items must be disposed of after use.
  • Injury Prevention:  This involves the handling of sharps, contaminated waste, and the management of spills and potentially infectious matter.
steribay.jpg

Our sterilisation bay

where each instrument goes through a stringent process to ensure the safety and health of our patients.

It is imperative that all dental practices have infection control protocols in place.  It is an obligation by law that each registered dental practitioner complies with the standards.

At New Leaf Dentists, we take our infection control very seriously and have stringent protocols to ensure we continuously comply with Australian Standards.

I hope that this information will guide you in knowing what to expect from your preferred dentist in the area of infection control.

 

'Til next time!

Dr. Rouel Vergara DMD

The Importance of Optimum Oral Health During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is one of the most exciting moments in a woman’s life. I personally can attest to this fact as I was able to experience my wife’s excitement and joy during all her 3 pregnancies. 

But did you know that pregnancy could lead to dental problems in some women? One of the most commonly overlooked pre-natal assessments is oral health. Based on recent studies, it was estimated that only between 22-34% of women consult a dentist during pregnancy. Just for the record, pregnancy itself doesn’t damage your teeth automatically. 

So what are the most common oral health problems during pregnancy? 

Pregnancy Gingivitis

This is considered as the most common oral disease in pregnancy. About 60-75% of pregnant women develop this condition. It is also estimated that half of these figures are pre-existing. During pregnancy, the combination of changes in oral environment and levels of female hormones can lead to decrease in immune system in the mouth leading to redness and swelling of the gums.

Periodontitis (Gum Disease)

Periodontitis is an irreversible condition that affects both jawbone and gums. This oral disease is more destructive compared to gingivitis. Additionally, this disease affects approximately 30% of women of childbearing age. Recent studies have also shown a direct link between gum disease and pre-term birth as well as low birth weight.

Dental Decay

Changes in female hormones and oral environment can result in increased acidity in the mouth. This can lead to demineralization (softening) of the tooth surface and resulting in cavitation (holes).

Pregnancy Oral Tumor

Pregnancy oral tumors are localized infection caused by increased levels of hormone (progesterone) and irritants (e.g. plaque, bacteria, etc.).  Although this oral disease is not as common as gingivitis, pregnancy oral tumor can affect 5% of pregnant women.

So if you are an expecting mum or if you are planning on getting pregnant, here are my top 5 professional recommendations:

1.    Prevention is better than cure. Include “Visit the dentist” on your to do list. It is more ideal to do dental elective procedures before getting pregnant.

2.    Make sure you have an excellent oral hygiene regimen. You are less likely to have dental problems if you already have good oral hygiene. 

 3.    Minimize high sugar food intake and consider a low-sugar diet instead. This will decrease the risk of dental decay.

 4.    Increase your Calcium and Vitamin D intake during pregnancy. These will assist in protecting your bone mass and provide nutritional needs to your developing baby.

 5.    Quit Smoking! Smoking will increase the risks of oral diseases such as gum disease. In addition, smoking also has a direct negative impact on your baby’s health.

If you have any additional queries and have concerns about pregnancy and oral health, it is highly recommended that you seek professional dental advice as soon as possible.

 

Dento-Facial Makeovers: What is it?

As we see it, a smile is not just about the teeth. 

Our whole face consists of skin, muscles and soft tissues that move constantly. Everyday exposure to different elements and pollution add to the wear and tear of facial skin. Unfortunately, this wear and tear can result to unpleasant features etched in our skin.  Wrinkles, lines, grooves and depressions are the battle scars of life. They are the result of decreased production of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid that help support and provide volume to our skin.

The interplay between the mouth and surrounding structure of the face is responsible for the harmonious appearance of your face as a whole.

A dento-facial aesthetic makeover is about enhancing your smile by restoring the natural beauty of your facial structure using safe, minimally invasive techniques and materials.  This is done through facial injectables such as Botulinum Toxin Type A (BTx-A, commonly referred to as "Botox" TM), a purified natural protein that is injected into the skin to work on the underlying muscles of the face (ie. anti-wrinkle injections that relax the muscles and allow the skin to become smooth and more youthful-looking, such as areas of the forehead, frown lines, crows feet, smoker's lines, bunny nose and minimising a gummy smile).  Another way to enhance your look is through dermal fillers in the form of Hyaluronic Acid (HA), which help hydrate and provide volume to our skin to keep it looking young (ie. lip fillers, filling lines and grooves and sunken areas of the face). 

Consultation with Dr. Vergara

Why choose a dentist for your facial enhancements?

This is simply because a dentist’s training and expertise is all about the understanding of facial structures and anatomy. Knowing where all the nerves, blood vessels and muscles in the face are crucial to not only achieving the best results, but also avoiding potential complications. 

If you have further queries regarding dento-facial makeovers and how it can improve your smile and overall appearance, I highly recommend you to talk to a certified dento-facial aesthetic provider, such as Dr. Rouel Vergara and Dr. Benjamin Barrera here at New Leaf Dentists.

Oral Health and Cancer

 

February 4, 2016 was World Cancer Day.  Its theme, “We Can .I Can.”, focuses on how every individual can play a role in decreasing the burden of cancer.  As a dental health professional, it is important that we provide and increasecommunity awareness about cancer.

worldcancerday.jpg

According to Dr Peter Aldritt, Chair of the ADA’s Oral Health Committee, “We urge cancer patients and people living with cancer to be aware of the possible oral health side effects that could arise during and after treatment. There are a number of simple things that patients can do to make their experience of treatment that little bit easier.”  

Receiving cancer treatment will always be the main priority for a patient. However, it is important that cancer patients seek consultations with their dentist about their diagnosis as soon as they can. It is essential that a thorough full oral health assessment is done prior to undergoing cancer treatment. It is always advisable that patients have healthy teeth and gums before commencing their cancer treatment.

The most common side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the following:

1.      Ulcers in the mouth

2.      Gum infections

3.      Bleeding gums

4.      Dry mouth

5.      Altered taste

Unfortunately for patients, these oral complications may last for months or years. These can cause discomfort and pain for some. 

Here are a few simple tips that can minimise oral health discomfort:

1.      Keep mouth moist by sipping water frequently

2.      Minimise caffeine intake such as coffee or tea – reduces dehydration

3.      Avoid sugary food and drinks

4.      Avoid acidic food and drinks

5.      Avoid hard, dry, spicy food

6.      Chew sugar-free gum – helps stimulate saliva in the mouth

7.      Use dry mouth gel or spra

If you have any further questions and concerns about how cancer and its treatment can affect your oral health, I highly recommend that you seek professional dental advice as soon as possible.

Dr. Rouel Vergara DMD