Dentist - Bozeman
1226 Stoneridge Drive
Bozeman, MT 59715
If you see blood when you brush or floss your teeth, it generally indicates a problem with your oral health. You may think you are brushing too hard, but this is not usually why gums bleed. The usual culprit is dental plaque.
Plaque is the sticky, whitish film of bacteria that forms on your teeth every day. If you brush regularly, you probably remove most of it — but some may remain behind and accumulate where your teeth meet your gums, particularly between your teeth. As the bacteria build up, along with by-products of their metabolism (the chemical reactions that maintain their lives), they cause inflammation, called gingivitis, in the adjacent gums.
Bleeding gums are an early symptom of gingivitis. Continuing contact with plaque at the gum line can cause your gum tissue to separate from nearby teeth, creating pockets in which the inflammation becomes even worse. The process leads to periodontal disease (“peri” – meaning around, “odont” – tooth). The increasing infection can eat away the bone that anchors the teeth, leading to possible tooth loss. Periodontal disease is not an uncommon problem. About 90% of the population has bleeding gums at some time or another, and approximately 10% go on to develop periodontal disease.
When you lose bone around your teeth, the gums separate from the tooth and “pockets” form between your teeth and gums. The inflammation and infection may continue within the pockets even if your gums have stopped bleeding when you brush. That's why it is important to have regular dental exams — to check up on and stop periodontal disease before it has a chance to cause serious damage.
There may also be other reasons for bleeding gums that have to do with your general state of health. Women who have elevated levels of hormones caused by birth control pills or pregnancy may experience an increased response to plaque that makes their gums bleed more easily. Increased bleeding in your gums can also be caused by some diseases or as a side effect of some medications.
The most important way to prevent bleeding gums is to learn proper brushing and flossing techniques so that you effectively remove plaque from your teeth on a daily basis. If you are not sure you are using the right techniques, make an appointment and have us demonstrate at your next dental visit.
With all the best intentions, some plaque may remain. Plaque that is allowed to stay on your teeth hardens into a substance called tartar or calculus. This must be removed periodically with a professional cleaning by me or by our hygienist.
With not too much effort, you can ensure that your teeth are clean and plaque free, and your healthy gums no longer bleed.
A number of factors can lead to dental caries (tooth decay). To find out if you are at high risk, ask yourself these questions.
Is plaque visible in my mouth?
Dental plaque is a whitish film of bacteria that collects on your teeth. If it is clearly visible, it means that there is a lot of it. Among the bacteria in the plaque are those that produce tooth decay, particularly in an acidic environment. (A normal mouth is neutral, measured on the pH scale, midway between the extreme acidic and basic ends of the scale.)
Do I have a dry mouth?
Saliva protects your teeth against decay by neutralizing an acidic environment and adding minerals back to the outer surface of enamel of your teeth, so reduced saliva is a high risk for caries. Many medications can cause dry mouth as a side effect.
Do I eat a lot of snacks, particularly unhealthy ones?
Frequently eating sugars, refined carbohydrates, and acidic foods promotes the growth of decay-producing bacteria. The more frequently you eat, the longer your teeth are bathed in sugars and acids. Acidic foods not only promote bacterial growth, they also directly cause erosion of the tooth's hard surface by softening and dissolving the minerals in the enamel.
Do I wear retainers, orthodontic appliances, bite guards or night guards?
These appliances are recommended for various conditions, but they tend to restrict the flow of saliva over your teeth, cutting down on the benefits of saliva mentioned above.
Do my teeth have deep pits and fissures?
The shape of your teeth is determined by your heredity. If your teeth grew in with deep grooves (fissures) and pits in them, you are at higher risk for bacterial growth and resulting decay.
Do I have conditions that expose my teeth to acids?
If you have bulimia (a psychological condition in which individuals induce vomiting), or GERD (Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease), your teeth may be frequently exposed to stomach acids that can cause severe erosion to your teeth.
Do I already have cavities?
Visible cavities can range from those only visible with laser technology or x-ray examination to those a dentist can see with a naked eye. If you already have small cavities, you are at high risk for developing more.
Do I have white spots on my teeth?
White spots are often the first sign of decay in a tooth's enamel. At this point, the condition is often reversible with fluorides.
Have I had a cavity within the last three years?
Recent cavities point to a high risk of more cavities in the future, unless conditions in your mouth have significantly changed.
If you have any of these indications of high risk, contact us today and ask us for suggestions for changing the conditions in your mouth. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Decay.”
Dentistry has ventured into the new area of sleep medicine by helping snorers — and their exasperated sleeping partners — with custom-made anti-snoring devices. These oral appliances, which resemble orthodontic retainers or sports mouthguards, keep the snorer's airway clear and the bedroom quiet. To see how they work, you have to understand the mechanics of snoring.
Snoring occurs when the upper airway (back of the throat) becomes blocked by the tongue or other soft-tissue structures, such as large tonsils or a long soft palate. The vibrating of these obstacles creates the sound we call snoring.
Snoring is often worse when sleeping on one's back because that position encourages the lower jaw to fall back and the tongue to close off the airway. This is where Oral Appliance Therapy comes in. These custom-fitted devices are designed to keep the upper airway open during sleep by pulling the lower jaw forward, which in turn brings the tongue away from the throat. Dentists, and our office in particular, are the only source for Oral Appliance Therapy.
People who snore should have a thorough examination to rule out Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a potentially dangerous condition in which airflow can be cut off completely for 10 or more seconds (“a” – without; “pnea” – breath), reducing blood-oxygen levels. Chronic, loud snoring is a common finding with OSA.
Please remember that sleep is an integral part of health and well-being. In fact, we spend about a third of our lives doing it. If you are snoring or have any sleep-related breathing disorders that are waking you or your bed partner, be sure to tell our office. There are plenty of examples of the havoc wreaked by sleep-deprived individuals. Remember the Exxon Valdez?
To learn more about the topic of oral appliance therapy, please see the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sleep Disorders & Dentistry.”
Both diabetes and gum (periodontal) disease are chronic inflammatory diseases that have negative consequences for millions of people worldwide. But before we continue, let's define these two diseases:
Periodontal disease is a condition in which biofilms of dental bacterial plaque stick to teeth near the gum lines causing the gum tissues to become inflamed and infected. If not treated properly and in an early stage, it can cause severe damage to the bone that supports the teeth, resulting in tooth loss. It occurs in the absence of good oral hygiene which includes ineffective daily brushing and flossing and neglecting to see your dentist.
Diabetes is a chronic condition in which blood glucose (sugar) levels become excessive. Glucose is the body's main source of sugar for energy. The hormone insulin, among other mechanisms, normally controls glucose. Prolonged elevated blood sugar levels are harmful and ultimately can even be life threatening if left untreated. With type 1 diabetes, insulin injections (shots) are required to maintain the proper blood sugar levels because the body no longer produces its own blood sugar. Type 2 diabetes is generally less severe and can usually be treated with a combination of diet and medication.
And while both of these diseases share the same common enemy, you, there is scientific evidence revealing links between the two. Diabetes increases the risk factor for developing periodontitis, and conversely, periodontal disease makes it more difficult for diabetics to control blood glucose levels.
Learn more about these two diseases and their relationship by reading, “Diabetes & Periodontal Disease.” Or if you have diabetes but haven't had a dental exam and cleaning in a long time, contact us today to schedule a consultation. You can also use this consultation to discuss any questions or concerns you have about your oral health and its relationship to your diabetes.
The beloved title of “mother” unfortunately does not come with a manual. If it did, it would certainly contain a section in which mothers-to-be could learn about the impact that pregnancy has on both their general and oral health. For example, did you know that during pregnancy the normally elevated levels of female hormone progesterone can cause inflammation in blood vessels within the gum tissues making the gums bleed? It typically occurs in response to less than adequate daily oral hygiene; however, it is just one important fact that all pregnant women should know.
There are numerous studies that have revealed that oral health during pregnancy can have a significant impact on the child growing inside you, and in particular, it has a direct relationship on your baby's developing and future oral health.
Periodontal (gum) disease can also be a factor in your baby's birth weight. In fact, there are a variety of studies supporting a positive link between pre-term delivery and low birth weight babies in the presence of severe periodontal disease in pregnant women. And there is also a correlation between the severity of periodontal disease and the possibility of an increased rate of pre-eclampsia or high blood pressure during pregnancy. This is another reason why it is important to see a dentist for an evaluation of your oral and dental health as soon as you know you are pregnant.
Please note that the goal of sharing these facts is not to scare you, but rather inform you so that you can be an educated mother-to-be. After all, you should be as healthy as possible for the most important job in the world and this includes both your oral and general health. Learn more about your body and discover the many relationships between mother and child as you read the Dear Doctor article, “Pregnancy And Oral Health.” Or if you want to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions, contact us today.