Posts for: July, 2014
When it comes to sensitive gums during pregnancy, Nancy O'Dell, the former co-anchor of Access Hollywood and new co-anchor of Entertainment Tonight, can speak from her own experience. In an interview with Dear Doctor magazine, she described the gum sensitivity she developed when pregnant with her daughter, Ashby. She said her dentist diagnosed her with pregnancy gingivitis, a condition that occurs during pregnancy and is the result of hormonal changes that increases blood flow to the gums. And based on her own experiences, Nancy shares this advice with mothers-to-be: use a softer bristled toothbrush, a gentle flossing and brushing technique and mild salt water rinses.
Before we continue we must share one important fact: our goal here is not to scare mothers-to-be, but rather to educate them on some of the common, real-world conditions that can occur during pregnancy. This is why we urge all mothers-to-be to contact us to schedule an appointment for a thorough examination as soon as they know they are pregnant to determine if any special dental care is necessary.
Periodontal (gum) disease can impact anyone; however, during pregnancy the tiny blood vessels of the gum tissues can become dilated (widened) in response to the elevated hormone levels of which progesterone is one example. This, in turn, causes the gum tissues to become more susceptible to the effects of plaque bacteria and their toxins. The warning signs of periodontal disease and pregnancy gingivitis include: swelling, redness, bleeding and sensitivity of the gum tissues. It is quite common during the second to eighth months of pregnancy.
Early gum disease, if left untreated, can progress to destructive periodontitis, which causes inflammation and infection of the supporting structures of the teeth. This can result in the eventual loss of teeth — again, if left untreated. Furthermore, there have been a variety of studies that show a positive link between preterm delivery and the presence of gum disease. There has also been a link between an increased rate of pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy) and periodontal disease. Researchers feel this suggests that periodontal disease may cause stress to the blood vessels of the mother, placenta and fetus.
To learn more about this topic, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Pregnancy and Oral Health.” And if you want to read the entire feature article on Nancy O'Dell, continue reading “Nancy O'Dell.”
X-ray diagnostics have revolutionized our ability to detect early or hidden cavities, paving the way for better dental care. But x-ray exposure also increases health risks and requires careful usage, especially with children.
A form of invisible radiation, x-rays penetrate and pass through organic tissue at varying rates depending on the density of the tissue. Denser tissues such as teeth or bone allow less x-rays to pass through, resulting in a lighter image on exposed film; less dense tissues allow more, resulting in a darker image. This differentiation enables us to identify cavities between the teeth — which appear as dark areas on the lighter tooth image — more readily than sight observation or clinical examination at times.
But excessive exposure of living tissue to x-ray radiation can increase the risk of certain kinds of cancer. Children in particular are more sensitive than adults to radiation exposure because of their size and stage of development. Children also have more of their lifespan in which radiation exposure can manifest as cancer.
Because of these risks, we follow an operational principle known as ALARA, an acronym for “As Low As Reasonably Achievable.” In other words, we limit both the amount and frequency of x-ray exposure to just what we need to obtain the information necessary for effective dental care. It’s common, for example, for us to use bitewing radiographs, so named for the tab that attaches the exposable film to a stem the patient bites down on while being x-rayed. Because we only take between two and four per session, we greatly limit the patient’s exposure to x-rays.
Recent advances in high-speed film and digital equipment have also significantly reduced x-ray exposure levels. The average child today is exposed to just 2-4 microsieverts during an x-ray session — much less than the 10 microsieverts of background radiation we all are exposed to in the natural environment every day.
Regardless of the relative safety of modern radiography, we do understand your concerns for your child’s health. We’re more than happy to discuss these risks and how they can be minimized while achieving maximum benefits for optimum dental health. Our aim is to provide your child with the highest care possible at the lowest risk to their health.
If you would like more information on the use of x-rays in dentistry, 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 “X-Ray Safety for Children.”