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Oral-Systemic Health

September 23rd, 2020

Oral-systemic health is the idea that oral health is a critical and interconnected component to a patient’s overall health and well-being. Studies show that people who have poor oral health are more likely to have other health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or a high likelihood of stroke.

Some of the data suggests that oral pathogens may trigger up to 50% of heart attacks, and that the oral bacteria P. gingivalis may cause a 13.6-fold increase in patients’ risk of a heart attack.

Still, the exact relationship between oral and overall health isn't fully known — whether one causes the other or how treating one might affect the other. But it should serve as a warning call to anyone suffering with poor oral health, especially periodontal disease.

More studies need to be conducted to establish the precise link between the two, but whatever it is, one thing is certain: good oral hygiene makes for good oral health. Many dentists and doctors realize the need to work together as a cohesive healthcare team to improve and maintain the health of their communities.

The American Dental Association says oral health is essential to overall health, and not just a luxury. They are setting goals to reduce the amount of tooth decay in low-income communities for both children and adults.

So what is a patient about this information regarding oral-systemic health? Here are some tips to increase and maintain your overall well-being:

  • Have an effective oral hygiene routine. Brush twice a day for two minutes each time, floss daily, clean your tongue, and avoid sugary beverages.
  • Visit your dentist regularly. Regular cleanings and checkups at your dentist’s office will keep your mouth clean and ensure you’re taking good care of it.
  • Eat a healthful diet. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and natural, unprocessed foods contributes to the overall health of your body.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of pure, clean water throughout the day. A good rule of thumb is to drink eight eight-ounce glasses a day.
  • Relax, destress. Stress can play a big role in all forms of disease. Take time during your day to relax, meditate, stretch, and allow your body and mind to rest.

If you have questions about your oral health and how it may be affecting your general health, feel free to ask Dr. K Cavallari during your next visit to our Virginia Beach, VA office.

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Planning Your Vegetarian Diet with Your Oral Health in Mind

September 16th, 2020

If you’ve been following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you know that there’s much more to living a healthy life than simply avoiding meat products. Making sure your diet includes enough protein, as well as any nutrients that are primarily available in animal products, takes planning, and there’s no one-menu-fits-all solution.

Why? Because there’s no one menu that will suit all vegetarians. Specific vegetarian diets can allow for many different options:

  • Vegan—a plant-based diet which excludes meat, fish, dairy, and egg products
  • Ovo-vegetarian—includes eggs as a dietary option, but no dairy
  • Lacto-vegetarian— includes dairy as a dietary option, but no eggs
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian—a meat-free diet which allows both dairy products and eggs

If you are a pescatarian, who eats fish on occasion, or a flexitarian, who sometimes includes meat in a meal, your menu options are even broader.

So let’s look at the big picture—a healthy vegetarian diet is really more concerned with the foods you do eat for nutrition rather than the foods you don’t. You can create a meal plan rich in all your essential nutrients with a little research, no matter which type of vegetarian diet is your go-to choice.

And while you’re constructing your ideal menu guidelines, don’t forget about your dental nutrition!

In terms of keeping your teeth and gums their healthiest, what important vitamins and minerals are often missing from vegetarian and vegan diets? Let’s look at three of them.

  • Calcium

Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and tooth enamel. Without enough calcium, a weakened jawbone leads to loose, and even lost, teeth. The acids in our food and the acids created by oral bacteria also weaken the minerals in enamel, including calcium. These weak spots can eventually become cavities. A diet rich in calcium not only supports the bones holding our teeth, but can even help repair, or remineralize, enamel which has been weakened by acidic erosion.

For vegetarians who include dairy in their diets, dairy products are a great way to include calcium. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are traditional and rich sources of this mineral.

For vegans, it’s a bit more challenging, but still doable! Non-dairy foods providing calcium include dark green vegetables (kale, broccoli, spinach), certain types of tofu, and fortified cereals, juices, and non-dairy milks.

  • Vitamin D

Now you’re ready to put that calcium to work by making sure you have enough vitamin D in your diet. Vitamin D not only helps keep our bones healthy, it also enables our bodies to absorb calcium. Bonus—it’s been linked to better gum health in several studies.

So how to get more vitamin D? If you eat dairy, most dairy products have been fortified with vitamin D. If eggs are a part of your diet, egg yolks are a great source. Pescatarians can enjoy the benefits of vitamin D from fatty fish such as tuna and salmon.

Because we get most of our vitamin D from sun exposure or foods derived from animals, plant-based foods are not a practical way to obtain the vitamin D you need. But, just as non-vegetarians can get plentiful vitamin D from fortified dairy products, vegans also have options. Try adding cereals, juices, and non-dairy milks fortified with this essential nutrient to your diet, or take a vegan vitamin D supplement.

  • Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy red blood cells, nerve cell development, brain function, and DNA production. (This is why it’s especially important for pregnant and nursing women.) Vitamin B12 can also impact your oral health. A B12 deficiency can cause a swollen, sore, or inflamed tongue, loss of taste, and gum, tongue, and mouth ulcers.

Unfortunately, vitamin B12 is reliably found only in animal foods and nutritional yeasts. If you would prefer an egg-free and dairy-free diet, look to B12 supplements or B12-fortified cereals, plant-based milks, energy bars, and other vegan options. This is a good subject to discuss with your physician, because even supplements and fortified foods might not provide enough B12.

In fact, Dr. K Cavallari can be vital resources when you’re planning your healthiest vegetarian diet. The next time you visit our Virginia Beach, VA office, ask for recommendations for supplements if you’re concerned that diet alone can’t provide for all of your nutrition essentials. Finally, care should be taken to ensure that, even with supplements, you get the proper amount of the vitamins and minerals you need.

As a vegetarian, you are used to the concept of care. Whether it was concern for nutrition, the planet, the animal world, or another reason that drew you to a vegetarian diet, be sure to care for your body as well as your dietary choices. Careful planning can ensure a diet which supports not only your general health, but your oral health, for a lifetime of nourishing—and well-nourished—smiles.

Questions on Dental Implants? We’ve Got You Covered.

September 9th, 2020

Whether you’ve lost a tooth from decay, are preparing for dentures, or were born with a gap where a tooth should have been, you could be a candidate for dental implants.

Dental implants have changed a lot since their debut in 1965, thanks to continuing advances in design and technology. Today, you no longer have to worry about whether dental implants might have a negative aesthetic impact on your smile.

So what are dental implants? Pretty much what they sound like: An implant is a replacement tooth that substitutes for a missing natural one. It gets placed through several steps; it’s a process that can take a few months.

The initial step involves the surgical implantation of the implant root, which resembles a small screw. After that’s placed, the top is covered with gum tissue to enable it to heal faster. This is an essential phase in the process, since this portion of the implant will serve as the base of support for everything else.

In the second step, the implant gets uncovered and an implant restoration (or crown) is created and affixed to it. After that, you’ve got yourself a new tooth!

While dental implants require a little special care, it’s all easily manageable. All you have to do at home is make sure you brush and floss your implant daily, the same as you would for any other tooth. Although an implant can’t develop a cavity, if something were to get stuck in it, that could lead to a gum infection.

If you have any other questions about dental implants, give our Virginia Beach, VA office a call!

Is a Loose Tooth a Lost Tooth? Not Necessarily!

August 26th, 2020

When we were small, a loose tooth wasn’t a reason to be worried. On the contrary! It was a time to celebrate: A permanent tooth on the way. A sign that you were growing up. Perhaps even a lucrative visit from the Tooth Fairy. Losing a baby tooth had quite a few benefits.

Now that we’re grown, no such benefits are in store for us, because a lost adult tooth is gone for good. That’s why any time you notice a loose tooth you need to call your dentist immediately. With prompt dental care, that tooth might be saved.

But first, a word about how our teeth stay firmly rooted in the jaw.

  • The visible part (crown) of a tooth is protected by a layer of enamel. The root below is covered with a protective layer called cementum.
  • There is a socket for each tooth in the alveolar bone of the jaw, where each root is firmly attached within the socket by the periodontal ligament which surrounds it.
  • This ligament is made up of connective tissue, which attaches both to the cementum covering the root and to the alveolar bone. It not only holds the tooth in place, it cushions the tooth from the daily pressure of biting and chewing.
  • The gums surround the teeth and bone, protecting them from bacteria.

If the tooth, bone, ligament, or gums suffer damage, the result can be a loose tooth.

Treating a loose tooth

The treatment you receive will depend on the reason your tooth is loose. There are many situations which can lead to a loose tooth or teeth, and many treatment options available to you. Some of the common causes and potential treatments include:

  • Accident or Trauma

If you have suffered a tooth or jaw injury as a result of an accident or trauma, it’s very important to see Dr. K Cavallari immediately. You should be carefully examined to determine whether there is damage to other teeth or the jaw.

In some cases of damage to the periodontal ligament or tooth, even if your tooth is loose or extruded (partially out of its socket), it can be stabilized in place so that the ligament and tissue around it has time to heal.

We’ll make sure the root, nerves, and blood vessels are still intact, position the tooth back in its socket, and then anchor it to the adjacent teeth with a flexible splint for several weeks. In the case of an alveolar or a root fracture, a rigid splint may be used.

Splinting gives the periodontal ligament and bone surrounding it time to heal while keeping your injured tooth from further displacement.

  • Bite problems & Bruxism

Your teeth are designed to withstand a lot of pressure—in fact, in some ways, pressure is essential for healthy teeth and bone. The normal pressure of chewing and biting stimulates bone tissue in the jaw. When a tooth is lost, that stimulation is gone and the result is gradual bone loss in the area underneath the lost tooth.

But sometimes, the pressure exerted by a malocclusion (bad bite) or bruxism (tooth grinding) is too forceful. The connective tissue which holds the teeth in place is damaged by these forces, and loose teeth can be the result.

If your bite problem is caused by a tooth or teeth which are a bit too high, the enamel can be carefully contoured and reshaped. In some cases, splints, either temporary or permanent, can also be used to stabilize several adjacent teeth so that any biting or chewing force is spread over the section as a whole.

If you grind your teeth, a night guard can be custom fitted to provide relief from the pressures and impact of tooth clenching and grinding. This special kind of mouth guard is known as an occlusal splint.

  • Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis causes a loss of bone density throughout the body. Studies suggest that this disease can affect bone in the jaw, leading to weaker bone and looser teeth. Your physician will provide your best medical alternatives, and be sure to let us now if you are taking medication for osteoporosis before we plan your dental treatment.

  • Periodontal Disease

Gum disease is one of the major causes of loose—and lost—teeth. Early gum disease, called gingivitis, should be treated promptly to avoid a more serious condition called periodontitis. Periodontitis can cause the gums to pull away from the teeth, creating pockets for bacterial growth and infection. Left untreated, this infection results in connective tissue and bone loss.

If you have serious gum disease, it’s always best to call a periodontist, a specialist trained in the treatment of the gums, periodontal ligaments, and bone surrounding the teeth.

Deep cleaning procedures such as scaling and root planing, topical and oral antibiotics, and oral surgeries such as flap surgery or bone and tissue grafting can help reverse the effects of periodontitis. Bone loss cannot be reversed, but a graft can replace lost bone and allow healthy tissue to regenerate.

  • Pregnancy

Hormonal changes can cause the ligaments and bone around your teeth to loosen, which can lead to loose teeth. While this might be an alarming development, it’s generally a temporary condition. Talk to your dentist about how to take care of your teeth and gums during your pregnancy.

Hormonal changes can also make your gums more vulnerable to irritation and infection. In fact, swollen and tender gums are often one of the first signs of pregnancy. That’s another reason it’s very important to keep up with dental hygiene during pregnancy. If your gums are red, swollen, bleeding, or tender, give our Virginia Beach, VA office a call. Dr. K Cavallari can be especially helpful if gum problems persist.

What to do if you have a loose tooth?

  • Call your dentist immediately. Timely professional care can mean the difference between saving your tooth and losing it.
  • Avoid wiggling the tooth. This could loosen it further.
  • Protect your loose tooth. Eat soft foods, and try not to chew near the affected area. And while a liquid diet might sound like a good idea, no straws, please. Straws require suction, which can further dislodge your tooth.
  • Keep the area clean, gently.

What to do if a tooth can’t be saved

Baby teeth become loose and fall out because the permanent teeth coming in erode the smaller roots holding them in place. That’s why it’s so easy for parents to help their child’s wiggly baby tooth find its way from mouth to Tooth Fairy.

Adult roots, however, involve alveolar bone, ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves, so an extraction really needs to be done by a professional. You should also be examined to discover the reason for the tooth loss, and to prevent further damage with additional treatment as needed.

If you do lose a permanent tooth, there is still much that can be done to restore your smile. Modern implants are almost indistinguishable from natural teeth, and, what’s more, they function just like natural teeth to stimulate the bone beneath them. Periodontists are specialists in tooth implant procedures, so give us a call to discuss your options.

Finally, a loose tooth is never a cause for celebration, but, with proper dental care, a loose tooth doesn’t always lead to a lost tooth. Restoring a firm bite and a heathy, confident smile? That’s a reason to celebrate!

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