Hannah Bronfman, well-known DJ and founder of the health and beauty website HBFIT.com, took a tumble while biking a few years ago. After the initial pain and bruising subsided, all seemed well—until she started experiencing headaches, fatigue and unexplained weight gain. Her doctors finally located the source—a serious infection emanating from a tooth injured during the accident.
It's easy to think of the human body as a loose confederation of organs and tissues that by and large keep their problems to themselves. But we'd do better to consider the body as an organic whole—and that a seemingly isolated condition may actually disrupt other aspects of our health.
That can be the case with oral infections triggered by tooth decay or gum disease, or from trauma as in Bronfman's case. These infections, which can inflict severe damage on teeth and gums, may also contribute to health issues beyond the mouth. They can even worsen serious, life-threatening conditions like heart disease.
The bacteria that cause both tooth decay and gum disease could be the mechanism for these extended problems. It's possible for bacteria active during an oral infection to migrate to other parts of the body through the bloodstream. If that happens, they can spread infection elsewhere, as it appears happened with Bronfman.
But perhaps the more common way for a dental disease to impact general health is through chronic inflammation. Initially, this defensive response by the body is a good thing—it serves to isolate diseased or injured tissues from healthier tissues. But if it becomes chronic, inflammation can cause its own share of damage.
The inflammation associated with gum disease can lead to weakened gum tissues that lose their attachment to teeth. But clinical research over the last few years also points to another possibility—that periodontal inflammation could worsen the inflammation associated with diseases like heart disease, diabetes or arthritis.
Because of this potential harm not only to your teeth and gums but also to the rest of your body, you shouldn't take an oral injury or infection lightly. If you've had an accident involving your mouth, see your dentist as soon as possible for a complete examination. You should also make an appointment if you notice signs of infection like swollen or bleeding gums.
Prompt dental treatment can help you minimize potential damage to your teeth and gums. It could also protect the rest of your health.
If you would like more information about the effects of dental problems on the rest of the body, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Link Between Heart and Gum Diseases.”
The term wisdom teeth dates back to at least 1848 (some accounts say 1668) and is believed to result from the fact that these teeth come into your mouth somewhere between the ages of 17 and 25. This age range corresponds to adulthood when you’re presumed to be wiser than you were and to college age, a time when you’re seeking wisdom.
Wisdom teeth are actually molars. Your dentist calls them third molars (or thirds) because they are the third tooth of this type in your mouth. Your first molars come in behind your last baby tooth at around age 6 and your second molars come in around age 12 behind the first molars.
As you can imagine, by the time you get to your wisdom teeth, they’re pretty far back in your mouth! If you lived in the Stone Age, your diet would consist mainly of food that is tougher to chew. Your jaw would be longer and stronger to process this type of diet and you would have room for your wisdom teeth. Or if you lived at a time when people did not know how to care for their teeth properly, you might lose some of your other teeth before adulthood, creating space for your wisdom teeth to erupt and serve as additional teeth for chewing and grinding your food.
Today, there are some people who have enough room for their wisdom teeth to come in to the mouth, but even for these people, the teeth are difficult to clean and they often develop cavities or gum disease. Many more people do not have enough room so their wisdom teeth either only partly come in (partial eruption) or fail to come through the gumline at all (your dentist may call these impacted teeth).
Should you have your wisdom teeth out? You should consult your dentist since each situation is unique. In general, dentists often recommend removal when wisdom teeth are:
• trapped under the gumline and not likely to erupt on their own (impacted)
• causing problems or potentially problematic (This includes items like infected teeth or gums, pain, bad breath, cysts connected to or around the teeth and other pathology.)
• in a position where they rub or cause damage to other teeth or to your tissues. For those of you who have had braces, this is often why your orthodontist will recommend that you have your wisdom teeth removed.
When should you have your wisdom teeth out? Though it’s tempting to wait until your wisdom teeth bother you to have them out, there are some benefits to having them out while you are younger. Your jawbone gets more rigid as you age. Young adults have bone that gives a little and this makes removing the tooth less traumatic. Healing also occurs at a quicker pace when you’re younger.
Though I don't remove wisdom teeth, if you’re having a problem with your wisdom teeth and don’t have a dentist, I invite you to contact my office for a consultation. Please call 440-960-1940 or use the contact form on my website at www.drjrobb.com
August is the traditional "kickoff" month for football season with student athletes representing the vast majority of players. And, while a new season promises to be exciting for both players and fans, there are risks for potential injury to jaws, teeth and gums.
If your household includes a football player (or other contact sport participant), you'll want to do everything you can to reduce their chances for injury or long-term damage. That involves two aspects: prevention and immediate first aid after a potential injury.
In terms of prevention, your student athlete should wear a mouthguard to protect their teeth and gums from blows to the face or mouth. Constructed of soft, pliable plastic, these oral devices cushion an impact from a hard contact that might otherwise seriously injure them. A mouthguard should be worn for any physical activity associated with the sport—including practices.
There are various styles of mouthguards, but most fall within two categories: a retail version known as "boil and bite;" and a custom mouthguard created by a dentist. Regarding the first kind, as the name implies, a boil and bite is first softened with hot water right out of the packaging. The wearer then places it in their mouth while it's still soft and bites down to create an individual fit.
A boil and bite guard can achieve a reasonable fit and provide adequate protection for a wearer. But to gain a precise fit that provides better comfort and protection, a custom-made mouthguard by a dentist is worth the extra cost. We create a custom mouthguard using an impression mold of the individual wearer's mouth. The resulting guard is thinner and more compact than the typical boil and bite.
An athletic mouthguard can drastically reduce the risk of serious injury during sports play, but, as with any element of risk, it can't reduce that risk to zero. It's important then to know what to do if a rare dental injury does occur.
The key is to act quickly, especially if a tooth has been knocked out of its socket. Putting it back into the socket as soon as possible could help save the tooth long-term. To know what steps to take for this and other kinds of dental injuries, it's good to have a reference guide handy. Here's a printable dental injury pocket guide that gives you detailed instructions for dental first aid.
Sports participation can have a lasting, positive impact on your child. But the specter of injury can also have an impact, definitely not positive and with long-term consequences. With regard to their dental health, you can make that possibility much less likely.
If you would like more information about protecting your student athlete's teeth, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Athletic Mouthguards.”
There are many reasons a dental insurance might deny payment. It is important to remember that dental insurance is designed to help you pay for your care, but it was never intended to become the only way you pay for your dental care. Another important thing to remember is that if you have insurance through your workplace, your employer chooses the plan and what it covers. With those two thoughts in mind, let’s look at some of the common reasons that an insurance doesn’t pay:
Deductible: A deductible is the amount of money that you have to pay for your care before your insurance kicks in. To further complicate matters, some preventive procedures are not subject to the deductible. So you might be able to get your dental cleanings and check ups done but if you have a high deductible plan and need a filling, you might have to pay for that first filling out of your pocket. Until you have paid your deductible on applicable services, your insurance will not pay for your dental care.
Waiting Period: Some insurances will not cover certain services until you have had the plan for a certain amount of time. This seems to apply most often to fillings and major services. If you have treatment during the waiting period’s time, you have no benefits for that service. So if there is a particular reason why you are buying insurance (needing a crown, for example), check to see if there is a waiting period for that service before you buy the plan (or at least before you schedule)!
Exclusions: Almost all dental plans have certain services that they exclude from coverage, meaning that they will not pay anything for these procedures. Cosmetic services, such as teeth whitening, are a good example of this. Your insurance will not pay for a procedure that is excluded from your plan. Exclusions vary from plan to plan, so if you’re looking for insurance to help pay for a specific procedure (such as a dental implant), make sure to pick a plan that does not exclude them.
Limitations: Most dental insurances place limits on certain procedures. This includes how often they will pay for a service (frequency limitation) and reasons why a certain procedure can be performed. If your insurance specifies a frequency limitation of 2 dental exams a year, and you have 3, the insurance won’t pay for the third one. If your insurance says it will cover a cleaning once every 6 months, and you have your second one at 5 ½ months, the insurance will not pay for the cleaning. If your insurance will pay for a crown once every 5 years per tooth, it will not pay to replace your crown if it is 4 years old. If your insurance specifies that a tooth must have 3 surfaces filled in order to qualify for a crown, and you want to put a crown on an unfilled tooth, the insurance may deny payment (unless you and your dentist can show a really good reason for needing the crown that meets another criteria that the insurance company has in place.) Limitations vary from plan to plan, and sometimes you (and we) have to read carefully to find out what they are.
Exhausted Benefits: Dental insurances specify a maximum amount per year that they will pay toward dental care (most often $1,000-$2,000). Once the insurance has paid that amount, it will not pay any more until the next benefit year begins. One of the common beliefs we hear is that “I get two free cleanings a year.” Those cleanings might be “free” to you, but the insurance company picks up the cost for them. The cost is incorporated into that maximum amount per year. If you’ve already spent the maximum on other services, the insurance will not pay for your cleaning—you will (should you choose to schedule it).
For any dental services sent to insurance, both you and your dentist should receive a statement from your insurance company. That statement usually contains a message which will say why the payment was not sent. (If you have problems understanding it, call your dentist’s office or your insurance company to ask for an explanation.)
*Note: The information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare professionals.
Dr. Jennifer Robb is a general dentist with a practice in Lorain, Ohio. She is currently accepting new patients. If you would like an appointment, please call 440-960-1940 or use the contact form at www.drjrobb.com to let us know your phone number so we may call you.
Getting dental implants is going to require surgery. But don't let that concern you—it's a relatively minor procedure.
Currently the “gold standard” for tooth replacement, an implant consists of a titanium post surgically imbedded in the jawbone. We can affix a life-like crown to a single implant or support a fixed bridge or removable denture using a series of them.
Because placement will determine the restoration's final appearance, we must carefully plan implant surgery beforehand. Our first priority is to verify that you have adequate jawbone available to support an implant.
Additionally, we want to identify any underlying structures like nerves or blood vessels that might obstruct placement. We may also develop a surgical guide, a retainer-like device placed in the mouth during surgery that identifies precisely where to create the holes or channels for the implants.
After numbing the area with local anesthesia, we begin the surgery by opening the gum tissue with a series of incisions to expose the underlying bone. If we've prepared a surgical guide, we'll place it in the mouth at this time.
We then create the channel for the insert through a series of drillings. We start with a small opening, then increase its size through subsequent drills until we've created a channel that fits the size of the intended implant.
After removing the implant from its sterile packaging, we'll directly insert it into the channel. Once in place, we may take an x-ray to verify that it's been properly placed, and adjust as needed. Unless we're attaching a temporary crown at the time of surgery (an alternate procedure called immediate loading), we suture the gums over the implant to protect it.
Similar to other dental procedures, discomfort after surgery is usually mild to moderate and manageable with pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen (if necessary, we can prescribe something stronger). We may also have you take antibiotics or use antibacterial mouthrinses for a while to prevent infection.
A few weeks later, after the bone has grown and adhered to the implant surface, you'll return to receive your new permanent crown or restoration. While the process can take a few months and a number of treatment visits, in the end you'll have new life-like teeth that could serve you well for decades.
If you would like more information on dental implants, 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 “Dental Implant Surgery.”
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