If your gums bleed when you brush your teeth, it’s unlikely the cause is brushing too hard. The more common reason (especially if you’re experiencing little to no pain) is periodontal (gum) disease caused by the accumulation of bacterial deposits known as dental plaque and calculus where your teeth and gums meet.
This bacterial dental plaque results in an infection in the soft tissues of the gum; the body responds to this infection with antibodies, which in turn cause the gums to become swollen, or inflamed. As this biological “war” rages on, both the infection and inflammation become chronic. The tissues are weakened from this disease process and bleed easily.
Bleeding gums, then, is an important warning sign of possible gum disease. As the infection progresses the normal attachment between the teeth and gums begins to break down and form pockets in the void. The infection will continue within these pockets, eventually spreading deeper into the gums and bone. The gum tissue may begin to recede, resulting in bone loss and, if untreated, to tooth loss.
In the early stages of the disease, bleeding gums could be the only symptom you notice. It’s possible the bleeding may eventually stop, but this doesn’t mean the disease has, and is more likely advancing. If you’ve encountered bleeding gums, you should visit us as soon as possible for a complete examination.
There’s a two-pronged approach for treating gum disease. The first prong — and top priority — is to remove as much of the offending bacterial plaque and harder deposits (calculus) as possible, along with the possibility of follow-up antibacterial and antibiotic treatment. This may require more than one session, but it’s necessary in stopping the disease. The second prong is instituting proper oral hygiene: daily brushing and flossing (using proper techniques we can teach you) and semi-annual professional cleanings in our office to remove any plaque or calculus not removed with brushing.
Bleeding gums is your body’s way of telling you something isn’t right with your gums. The sooner you seek diagnosis and treatment, the better your chances of halting the damage caused by the disease.
If you would like more information on bleeding gums as a warning sign of gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Bleeding Gums.”
Did you know that severe tooth decay is America's #1 chronic childhood disease? Actress Brady Reiter didn't know either — until she became the star of the movie Tooth Fairy 2, and then joined forces with the National Children's Oral Health Foundation: America's ToothFairy®.
“Before, I didn't even realize what can happen to kids if they don't take care of their teeth,” 11-year-old Brady recently told Dear Doctor magazine, after viewing photos of children suffering from severe tooth decay. “There are kids in America who don't know that it's important, or they just don't have the resources to be able to take care of their teeth or to go to the dentist.”
This young Tooth Fairy knows just how magical — and vital to a child's self-esteem — a beautiful smile can be.
“When you feel bad about opening up your mouth and smiling, a kid's confidence just goes down the drain,” she said.
NCOHF recently tapped 11-year-old Brady to head the America's ToothFairy Kids Club, which offers kids personalized letters from the Tooth Fairy along with lots of encouraging oral health tips and fun activities — free!
“I'm really excited to be part of it,” Brady told Dear Doctor. “Kids learn how to take care of their of smile by joining this club. By supporting America's ToothFairy, we can help kids in need get dental care and have a healthy smile too. It's really amazing!”
While lots of kids get an occasional cavity, millions of children have tooth decay so severe that it interferes with their ability to eat, sleep, and concentrate in school. The good news is that tooth decay, a bacteria-induced infection, is preventable.
“When kids join the club, they learn how to prevent tooth decay. When families support this great cause, we can help kids in need. And that's what feels great — that we really can make kids' futures better.”
If you would like to enroll your child in the club — it's free! — please visit www.AmericasToothFairyKids.org. And to make sure your child's teeth and your own are decay-free and as healthy as possible, please contact us today to schedule your next appointment.
Chronic pain and reduced function of the jaw joints, muscles and other surrounding tissues is generally known as a temporo-mandibular joint disorder (TMJD or TMD). It’s also possible that sufferers of TMD may also experience chronic pain in other parts of the body.
TMD affects from 10 million to 36 million American adults, mostly women of childbearing age. Although the exact causes are still elusive, most researchers believe this family of conditions arises from a combination of gender, genetic, environmental and behavioral factors. This may also hold the key to its connection with other painful conditions in the body.
About two-thirds of patients with some form of chronic jaw pain or disability also suffer from three or more similar medical conditions, including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, headaches or sleep disturbances. Investigating the connections between these conditions is a fertile area for developing treatment strategies that would benefit all of these associated conditions.
In the meantime, there are both thermal and surgical treatments for alleviating and managing pain associated with TMD. About 90% of TMD patients respond well to thermal treatments, including hot and cold compresses applied to the jaw area and hot baths. Surgical treatment, however, has a mixed result: some studies show only a third of those undergoing surgical procedures experience noticeable pain relief and restored function and nearly half indicate worse symptoms after the surgery.
The best approach is to begin with an examination by your primary physician or specialist to be sure you are not suffering from a medical condition mimicking the symptoms of TMD. If this should eventually lead to a diagnosis of TMD, you should first try thermal techniques with over-the-counter pain relievers to ease the symptoms. A diet with softer foods that don’t require strenuous chewing may also prove helpful.
If you receive a recommendation for extensive bite treatment or surgery, you should discuss this thoroughly with your dentist, or even seek a second opinion. Surgical treatments in particular are not reversible and the results may not be favorable.
For more information on TMD and networking opportunities with other patients, be sure to visit the TMJ Association (www.tmj.org) on the Web.
If you would like more information on chronic jaw pain, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Chronic Jaw Pain and Associated Conditions.”
Mike Tyson's gap-toothed smile is part of athlete-turned-celebrity's signature look. During his two-decade career as a professional boxer, the former heavyweight champion has been known for both giving — and occasionally receiving — knockout punches. But the story of how he lost one set of front teeth is a bit more unusual.
In a recent interview with the Las Vegas Review Journal, Tyson's wife Kiki stated that one of the champ's major dental dilemmas didn't come from blows inside the ring. In fact, she said, Tyson lost the teeth after being head-butted by his pet tiger, Kenya.
It's too bad Tyson wasn't wearing a mouthguard before he decided to play with kitty.
Fight fans know that boxers always put in a mouthguard before they enter the ring. But the pugilistic pursuit is just one among the two-dozen-odd sports for which the American Dental Association recommends the use of custom mouthguards. Others include baseball, skateboarding, surfing and bicycling. (Maybe horsing around with tigers should be added to the list!)
Why is it so important for participants in athletic activities to use this piece of protective gear? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, sports-related dental injuries account for over 600,000 emergency-room visits each year. Many of these injuries require further dental treatment; some may lead to tooth loss and require costly replacement. Not wearing a mouthguard makes an athlete 60 times more likely to sustain harm to the teeth, according to the American Dental Association. So there's really no contest.
You can find basic, off-the-shelf mouthguards in limited sizes at many sporting goods stores. But for a reasonable cost, we can provide you with a properly fitted dental appliance that's custom-made just for you. Starting with a precise model of your teeth, individual mouthguards are crafted from impact-resistant materials which are designed to be strong, comfortable, resilient — and effective.
Research shows that custom-made mouthguards offer superior quality and protection. So if you or your loved ones like to get out on the playing field, don't neglect this important piece of sporting equipment. And watch out for the cat.
You've probably heard that thumb sucking can be harmful to your child's mouth, but do you know why?
Keep in mind that thumb sucking is completely normal in children up to a certain age. In fact, 95% of babies suck their thumb! This is because it provides them with a sense of security and a way to test and learn about their new world. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that parents and caregivers encourage children to cease this habit by age three.
Many children stop sucking thumbs by themselves between the ages of two and four. However, if you are having issues getting your child to stop after this point, you should inform us at your next appointment. Thumb sucking can actually block your child's front teeth from fully erupting and can also push the teeth forward. The number of hours per day and how much pressure your child applies will affect how far out of position the teeth end up. Excessive thumb sucking can also cause your child's jaw to develop incorrectly. This is why it is so important to stop sucking habits before permanent teeth start to erupt.
There are many creative ways that you can help your child cut back and eventually stop sucking his or her thumb. You might try to implement some behavioral management techniques, such as offering rewards after your child goes a length of time without thumb sucking. If your child is old enough to understand consequences, you can simply try explaining what will happen if he or she keeps up with this habit. If you continue to have trouble, speak with us at your next appointment and we can discuss other options, such as a mouth appliance that blocks this habit.
If you would like more information about thumb sucking, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How Thumb Sucking Affects the Bite.”
This website includes materials that are protected by copyright, or other proprietary rights. Transmission or reproduction of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use, as defined in the copyright laws, requires the written permission of the copyright owners.