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Heart Disease and Oral Health

March 20th, 2019

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, more than 200 million Americans suffer from some degree of inflammation of the gums. Over the past decade, researchers have published studies that link the bacteria involved in periodontal disease to cardiovascular disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have connected oral infections to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and low birth weights.

Studies suggest bacteria that cause periodontal disease are also responsible for causing a thickening of the carotid arteries, which increases the chance of a heart attack or stroke. Further research is being conducted to understand the link between oral health and heart disease better.

What is periodontal (gum) disease?

Dr. Robert Klein and our team at Highland Dental hear this question all the time. Periodontal disease is an infection. Our mouths are filled with bacteria, and this bacteria forms plaque. If the plaque is not removed through brushing, flossing, and regular cleanings at the dentist, it hardens into tartar. If gingivitis (gum inflammation) is not treated early, it can advance to periodontitis. Bacteria get under the gum tissue and erode it as well as the bone that supports the teeth. The gums eventually pull away from the teeth, and infected pockets form.

Proving that periodontal gum disease is connected to heart disease has been difficult for researchers. However, there are two theories about to what might connect the processes.

  • Bacteria are released in the bloodstream through chewing and tooth brushing. The same species of bacteria that causes gum disease has been discovered in the plaque in arteries in the heart.
  • Inflammation in the mouth is a catalyst for inflammation throughout the rest of the body.

Practice good oral health habits

While the link between periodontitis and heart disease is not yet fully understood, you can prevent the possibility of health complications by practicing good oral health. It’s recommended that you brush and floss twice a day, as well as visit your dentist twice a year for a cleaning and exam. Oral health should not be taken for granted. By preventing oral diseases, you’re also minimizing the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

To learn more about the connection between heart disease and oral health, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Robert Klein, please give us a call at our convenient Liberty office! A clean mouth leads to a happy heart!

How safe are dental X-rays?

March 13th, 2019

Dr. Robert Klein and our staff rely on digital X-rays to help us diagnose oral conditions and process images at incredibly high speeds. You can also view digital X-rays in real time while we examine your mouth with an intraoral camera and upload the images to a software program. A chairside computer monitor lets you see these images as we refine areas of concern to ensure an accurate diagnosis.

But are dental X-rays safe?

Yes! They emit 80 percent less radiation than exposure-type X-rays and provide detailed images to improve diagnosis and treatment. We can now detect dental problems in their earliest stages without subjecting you to unnecessary radiation. The amount of radiation released by digital X-rays is “negligible,” which means the amount is so small, that it can be safely disregarded.

Safe enough for children and pregnant women, digital X-rays detect microscopic pitting in tooth enamel and other abnormalities in the oral tissues that might have remained undetected with traditional X-rays. When Dr. Robert Klein and our staff discover dental caries in their earliest stages, we can initiate treatment measures that will effectively prevent cavity development, tooth decay, and potential tooth loss.

Patient appointment lengths are shortened with digital X-rays as well, because images are immediately viewable and do not require the exposure time associated with old-style X-rays.

How Digital X-Rays Differ from Traditional X-Rays

Instead of using cardboard-contained film, we insert a small sensing device about the size of a pen in your mouth and engage the digital X-ray machine by manually manipulating control buttons. Within seconds, images appear on the monitor that can later be stored in your file or sent to another doctor for further examination.

The increased resolution afforded by digital X-rays means that patients are able to understand the seriousness of their dental issues better, and are more inclined to follow through with procedures recommended by Dr. Robert Klein.

Safer, Better and Faster

For detection of cancerous tumors in their early states, digital X-ray technology offers vast improvements over film X-rays because of its cutting-edge image processing capability. Early detection of oral cancer and dental caries is the best way to prevent any type of oral health problem from exceeding the treatable stage.

What is a crown?

March 6th, 2019

Dr. Robert Klein and our team at Highland Dental hear this question all the time. Millions of people have dental crowns that artificially restore the chewing surface of a tooth. Also known as caps, these restorations surround the entire portion of the tooth that is above the gum line. Crowns are custom fabricated to match the color, shape, and size of other teeth and are visually undetectable to others. Several types of materials can be used to create crowns, including stainless steel, resin, metal alloys, porcelain fused to metal, or ceramic. When properly cared for and accurately fit, crowns can stay in place for a decade or more.

There are many reasons to get a dental crown, including:

  • To restore a broken or cracked tooth
  • To protect a tooth after a root canal
  • To restore a severely decayed tooth
  • To help anchor a dental bridge
  • To complete a dental implant
  • To protect a tooth that is at high risk for developing decay
  • For cosmetic purposes

Getting a dental crown

The process of getting a dental crown begins at our Liberty office. X-rays are used to ensure the teeth are healthy enough to receive a crown. If the roots and surrounding bone are in satisfactory condition, the tooth will be numbed, filed, and reshaped in preparation for the crown. If the tooth root is not healthy, a root canal may be necessary first.

After the tooth is prepared, a special paste is placed over the upper and lower teeth to make impressions. These impressions serve as blueprints for the dental laboratory responsible for making the crown. They also help ensure the position of the new crown will not negatively affect a patient’s bite. The prepared tooth is protected by a temporary crown while the permanent one is made. When ready, the permanent crown replaces the temporary crown and is cemented in place.

To learn more about crowns, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Robert Klein, please give us a call at our convenient Liberty office!

What's the connection between gum disease and diabetes?

February 27th, 2019

People who have diabetes are usually familiar with many of the other health risks they face, including damage to the nerves, eyes, heart, and kidneys. But did you know that if you have diabetes you also have a much greater chance of developing gum disease? It's true, and like other diseases related to diabetes, the risk potential severity of gum disease is directly related to how well blood sugar is controlled.

The Causes

In diabetics, there are two primary mechanisms that increase the risk of developing gum disease, also called periodontal disease:

  • Bacterial growth: Bacteria love sugar including the glucose found in blood and bodily fluids. Elevated levels of sugar in saliva can provide a very hospitable environment for bacterial growth. The risk may be elevated if your gums bleed.
  • Circulatory changes: In diabetes, the blood vessels become thick, making it more difficult for blood to carry oxygen to the gums and to carry away harmful waste products. This decrease in circulation can weaken the mouth's natural resistance to decay. If you smoke, circulation can become even more compromised, significantly increasing your risk of periodontal disease.

Preventing Gum Disease

If you're diabetic, the number-one key to preventing gum disease is to make sure you do all you can to keep your blood sugar under control. In fact, studies show diabetics who have excellent control of their blood sugar levels have no more risk for gum disease than those who don't have diabetes. Here are some other tips to keep your gums healthy:

  • Floss your teeth gently, curving the floss so it can gently reach just below your gum line to remove plaque and food particles. Rinse your mouth when you're done flossing.
  • Use a soft-bristle brush to brush teeth twice daily, using small circular motions. Avoid pressing too hard on tooth surfaces.
  • Brush your tongue gently to remove germs that can hide there.
  • Use an anti-bacterial mouthwash to kill germs that are hard to reach.
  • Keep track of how well your blood sugar is controlled and let Dr. Robert Klein know at each visit.
  • Be aware that having diabetes may mean it takes you longer to heal after undergoing oral surgery.

Most importantly, be sure to visit our Liberty office for regular checkups and tell Dr. Robert Klein about your diabetes so you can be sure to get the care you need. Follow these steps, and you can enjoy healthy teeth and gums for years to come.

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