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Healthy Horizons Blog

Natural Horizons Wellness Centers Provide Dental Care During Pregnancy

dental-care-pregnancyYou can expect to see your body change in many ways during pregnancy, including changes to your mouth and teeth. Many of these changes are the result of hormone fluctuations as you move through each stage of your pregnancy.

Fluctuations in hormone levels can leave your mouth vulnerable to bacteria and the development of plaque, both of which can lead to tender gums during your pregnancy. Changes in hormones can also increase your risk for tooth decay.

A few dental problems to look for during pregnancy include:

  • Gum inflammation
  • Advanced gum disease
  • Non-cancerous tumors on the gums

Gum inflammation, known as gingivitis, is most common during the second trimester. Gingivitis causes gums to swell, bleed a little and become tender. Pregnancy can also worsen periodontal disease, which is an advanced form of gum disease.

Pregnancy tumors are non-cancerous overgrowths of tissue on the gums, usually in the second trimester. These tumors are raspberry-like in appearance, bleed easily, and usually disappear at the end of the pregnancy. Many healthcare professionals believe the tumors develop as the result of plaque.

Pregnancy, Plaque, and the Health of Your Baby

When you are pregnant, your mouth does not develop more plaque but your body is less able to fight off plaque. When hormone levels are steady, especially estrogen and progesterone, they work efficiently to reduce plaque after it develops. Fluctuating hormone levels, however, do an inconsistent job of clearing up plaque and leave you at risk for gum disease.

One of the most important things to remember is that whatever affects you also affects your baby. Some studies suggest that periodontal disease increases the risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes, including low birth weight, preterm birth and miscarriage.

Dental Hygiene during Pregnancy

When you are pregnant, continue the same dental hygiene practices you always use — brush with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day, floss and see your dentist regularly. Brushing helps remove plaque and flossing strengthens your gums while reducing your risk for gingivitis and periodontal disease. Here are some more tips for making dental hygiene more comfortable and effective during pregnancy:

  • Brush three times a day if plaque is a problem
  • Try a softer toothbrush if pregnancy has made your gums are swollen and tender
  • Use an antimicrobial mouth rinse for added protection from plaque
  • Rinse your mouth with water after vomiting from morning sickness to reduce tooth exposure to stomach acids
  • Rinse your mouth with baking soda and water to neutralize acids after vomiting
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin C; avoid sugary foods and beverages
  • Drink water after meals and between meals to rinse away plaque and stomach acids

Be sure to schedule regular dental checkups at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers during your pregnancy. Always tell your health care professional that you are pregnant, especially before undergoing X-rays or starting a new treatment plan. At Natural Horizons Wellness Centers, we have the experience and expertise necessary to reduce plaque, help prevent gum disease and improve the health and well-being of you and your baby.

Diabetes And Oral Health

diabetes-oral-careDiabetes increases your risk for dental problems by impairing your body’s ability to fight off the bacteria in your mouth. Diabetes is a medical condition characterized by high blood sugar levels, also known as hyperglycemia, which creates an environment in your mouth that allows bacteria to flourish. Left untreated, excess bacteria can contribute to the development of gum disease and dental infections.

Diabetes Increases Your Risk for Oral Health Problems

People with diabetes — even those with well-controlled blood sugar levels — are prone to infections. Diabetes also slows down healing so you recover from infections slowly. Poorly controlled diabetes can lead to a variety of other dental problems, including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth loss
  • Thrush or other fungal infection

Diabetes and infection together can create a vicious cycle where hyperglycemia promotes bacterial infections, and infections can drive up blood sugar levels. Keeping your mouth healthy can help you control your diabetes to prevent this dangerous cycle from beginning in the first place.

Bacteria, food and saliva come together to form sticky plaque immediately after you eat. Development of this plaque stimulates the release of acids that destroy your tooth enamel. In time, plaque turns into tartar and builds up under the gum line. As plaque remains on your teeth, it becomes more destructive and increasingly difficult to remove. The bacteria in the plaque inflame your gums in a way that leads to gum disease; hyperglycemia makes gum disease worse.

Symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Red, swollen, bleeding gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Chronic bad breath
  • An irregular bite or dentures that suddenly fit poorly

Reduce Your Risk for Oral Health Problems Associated with Diabetes

To reduce your risk for dental infections, see your dentist at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers at least twice a year. During your appointment, your dentist will look for signs of high bacteria count, infections and gum disease. Professional cleanings reduce your risk for gum infections in a way that helps break that cycle of infections and high blood sugar levels. Our dentists can also show you the best way to take care of your teeth and gums every day.

You will learn helpful tips, such as holding the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against your gums and using gentle, back-and-forth motion all over your teeth for at least two minutes. We can also help you learn effective flossing techniques to control plaque in places your toothbrush cannot reach. If you wear dentures, our dentists will ensure a proper fit to reduce gum irritation, mouth sores and thrush.

The health professionals at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers can also help you quit smoking if you are a tobacco user. Tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes and even smokeless tobacco can damage gum tissue, cause receding gums, and accelerate bone and tissue loss in a way that leads to tooth loss. Tobacco products can worsen dental conditions caused by diabetes.

If you have diabetes, make an appointment today with Natural Horizons Wellness Centers to learn more about controlling your blood sugar levels and improving your oral health.

Natural Horizons Wellness Centers Help You Conquer Your Fear Of The Dentist

shutterstock_195239507If the thought of sitting in a dentist chair sends you into a white-knuckled cold sweat, you may have dental phobia.

Fear of dentistry is common and often deeply rooted in the psyche of normally fearless people. Anxiety is often the result of a painful or particularly frightening experience during a childhood visit to the dentist. Many old-fashioned dental techniques were effective but quite uncomfortable.

Experiences outside the dentist office can deepen your fears. Offhand comments by a parent or authority figure, such as, “Brush your teeth or you’ll have to go to the dentist,” make dental care sound more like a punishment than a health care necessity. Movies and television shows often incorrectly depict dental care as more painful and traumatic than it is in reality.

Overcoming dental anxiety can be a major problem, even for routine exams, cleanings and other minor procedures. You know you need to overcome dental phobia to have a beautiful and healthy smile for a lifetime, but you may not know where to begin.

Modern Dentistry at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers is Nearly Painless

Fortunately, modern technology like that used at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers allows dentists to provide nearly pain-free care. Needles that dentists use to inject numbing agents are much thinner than they used to be, for example, and are disposable. In the old days, dentists used to sterilize needles between patients. Repeated use blunted the tips of these needles, which caused more pain with injections. Today’s disposable needles are ultra thin and very sharp.

Dentists also use improved techniques and medications that cause less pain. These methods allow your dentist a great deal of control over pain medication and numbing agents from the beginning of the procedure to the end. This means you are comfortable throughout your entire dental visit.

Our dental professionals have a wide variety of these tools available to ease pain, along with sedation dentistry that puts you into a light sleep and IV sedation for a deeper sleep. We also offer conscious sedation, where you remain awake but do not experience the anxiety.

We perform this new, comfortable approach to dentistry in a quiet, relaxing environment to help relieve your tension. At NHWC, we also offer distraction techniques, such as listening to pleasant music or watching television, which effectively take your mind off your dental worries.

Your dental professionals at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers would like to share a few helpful hints for overcoming dental anxiety:

  • Tell your dentist about your anxiety so they can take special measures to help you relax
  • Ask questions to help you understand what will happen during your appointment
  • Establish a signal that tells your dentist that you are uncomfortable and need to stop the procedure

At Natural Horizons Wellness Centers, we have helped countless patients overcome their fear of dentistry. We have designed our offices to be calming and comfortable, and our dental professionals are always patient and considerate. If you have dental anxiety but need dental care, make an appointment with Natural Horizons Wellness Centers today. We take the worry out of dental care for you.

Why You Should Visit Your Dentist For Sleep Apnea

sleep-apneaSleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening condition where breathing stops and starts repeatedly throughout the night. More than 18 million people in the United States suffer from sleep apnea, according to the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, and many are not receiving treatment from the proper health professionals.

There are two types of sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea happens when your brain sends the wrong signals to the muscles that control your breathing. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when tissue at the back of your throat collapses to block your airway. Some people have a combination of both types of sleep apnea. Your dentist can help in cases of obstructive sleep apnea.

Snoring is one of the main symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, also known as OSA. Collapsed tissue at the back of your throat prevents air from moving freely through your airway. The tissue obstruction chokes oxygen delivery throughout your body. Each time your oxygen levels drop too low, you wake up for just a moment. The sound of your own snoring may even pull you out of a deep sleep.

In addition to snoring, OSA causes a variety of annoying and sometimes dangerous problems. Because of the oxygen deprivation and the interruptions in sleep due to snoring, many people with OSA do not sleep well and are excessively tired the next day. This can lead to mistakes or dozing off at the workplace, at home or even behind the wheel of an automobile. Chronic sleep apnea also increases your risk for high blood pressure, arrhythmia, stroke and heart failure, according to the American Heart Association.

Many people do not seek treatment for sleep apnea. Those who do seek treatment usually ask their general practitioner for advice, where they receive a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. While CPAP works, many find it difficult to sleep with the cumbersome mask.

A growing number of people with OSA are turning to their dentists for solutions to sleep apnea. Most people do not realize that a dentist has the expertise and tools necessary to treat obstructive sleep apnea safely and effectively.

Natural Horizons Wellness Centers Offers Dental Care for Sleep Apnea

Your dentist at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers can help you get your sleep apnea under control. Your dentist will perform a comprehensive dental examination, note your medical history, and listen to your experiences with snoring and other sleep problems to determine if you suffer from OSA. The Natural Horizons Wellness Centers dentist may then recommend you wear a custom oral device while you sleep and fit you for the device.

These plastic devices hold the tissues of your throat in place while you sleep to keep your airway open. They are somewhat like night guards or retainers worn after braces with a top and bottom piece that fit over your teeth.

To function properly, these devices must fit well. Your dentist will send molds of your teeth and mouth to a device manufacturer, who will make a device custom fit to your mouth. Your dentist will modify the devices if necessary to ensure a perfect fit, and teach you how to insert and care for the device.

Make an appointment with Natural Horizons Wellness Centers today to learn more about why you should visit your dentist for sleep apnea treatment.

 

The Difference Between TMD And TMJ

tmj-tmdMedical terms can be confusing for consumers, and even sometimes for some doctors and dentists. One of the best examples is the confusion between TMJ and TMD. Many people mistakenly say they suffer from TMJ.

What they really mean is that they suffer from TMD, which is an acronym for temporomandibular disorder. TMD is a medical condition affecting the temporomandibular joint where the jaw meets the side of your head. The bones, muscles, and cartilage that make up the temporomandibular joint — TMJ for short — allow you to move your jaw to chew, speak and yawn.

You have two TMJs, one on each side of your head, just in front of each ear. You can feel your TMJs function by placing a finger in front of each ear then opening and closing your jaw.

When your jaw joints are working well, muscles move your lower jaw smoothly up and down, and even side to side. A small cartilage disc in the joint itself, located just in front of your ear, prevents your jawbone from grinding against the bones of your skull.

Problems with the bones, muscles or discs of the temporomandibular joint may cause pain and other symptoms associated with TMD. Injury to the TMJ may increase the risk for symptoms of TMD, as can arthritis or other illnesses that cause joint inflammation or dysfunction. Misaligned teeth may also cause discomfort in the temporomandibular joint. In many cases, doctors can never positively identify the source of temporomandibular disorders.

Scientists do not know how many people suffer from TMD, but the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research suggests as many as 10 million Americans may struggle with symptoms of TMD.

TMD Causes Symptoms in Your TMJ

Temporomandibular disorders cause symptoms affecting the temporomandibular joint. Symptoms may worsen and ease over time.

TMD causes a variety of symptoms that can appear when you chew, speak or yawn, including:

  • Pain in the chewing muscles or near the ear
  • Jaw muscle stiffness
  • Limited jaw mobility or locked jaw
  • Painful clicking, popping or grinding when you open or close your mouth
  • Changes in the way your upper and lower teeth fit together

Pain occurs when the cartilage slides out of place or rubs against nearby nerves as you move your jaw. Popping and clicking can happen when cartilage snaps back into place. Spasms or malfunctions in the muscles serving the temporomandibular joint can cause pain and tenderness in the TMJ.

Natural Horizons Wellness Centers Provide Safe and Effective Treatment for TMD

Fortunately, Natural Horizons provides safe and effective treatment for TMD that begins with a comprehensive evaluation of the temporomandibular joint, including a physical assessment of the affected area and careful notation of your medical and dental history. Your healthcare professional at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers may order X-rays and other imaging tests to detect any underlying problems that may be causing symptoms of TMD.

Your healthcare providers at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers can then create an individualized treatment plan based on your specific needs. Treatment usually begins with conservative therapies, such as dietary changes, stretching exercises for jaw muscles, ice and non-prescription pain relievers. Your practitioner may recommend painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs or muscle relaxants. Stabilization splints and other medical devices may help. Surgery may be possible when all other options fail.

Make an appointment with Natural Horizons Wellness Centers today for safe and effective treatment for TMD tomorrow.