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Posts for tag: oral health

By Constance E. Smith, DDS
April 08, 2015
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   cold sore  
IrritatingColdSoreOutbreakscanbeControlledThroughMedication

Although normally benign, a cold sore outbreak can be irritating and embarrassing. Understanding why they occur is the first step to minimizing outbreaks.

The typical cold sore (also known as a fever blister) is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Type I, medically known as “Herpes Labialis” because it occurs on or around the lips. This virus is not to be confused with HSV Type II, which causes a genital infection. Unlike most viruses, HSV Type I can cause a recurring sore outbreak in certain people. Most viruses tend to occur only once because the body produces anti-bodies to prevent further attack; it’s believed HSV Type I, however, can shield itself from these defenses by hiding in the body’s nerve roots.

These cold sore outbreaks often occur during periods of high stress, overexposure to sunlight or injuries to the lip. Initially you may have an itch or slight burning around the mouth that escalates into more severe itching, redness, swelling and blistering. The sores will break out for about a week to ten days and then scab over and eventually heal (unless they become infected, in which case the healing process may go longer). You’re contagious between the first symptoms and healing, and so can spread the virus to other people.

In recent years, anti-viral prescription medications have been developed that can effectively prevent HSV outbreaks, or at least reduce the healing time after an occurrence. The most common of these are acyclovir and valcyclovir, proven effective with only a few possible mild side effects. They can be taken routinely by people with recurring cold sores to suppress regular outbreaks.

While HSV Type I cold sores are more an aggravation than a health danger, it’s still important for you to see us initially for an examination if you encounter an outbreak. It’s possible for a more serious condition to masquerade as a cold sore or blister. A visit to us may also get you on the right track to reducing the frequency of outbreaks, as well as minimizing discomfort when they do occur.

If you would like more information on the treatment of cold sores, 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 “Cold Sores.”

By Constance E. Smith, DDS
March 24, 2015
Category: Oral Health
ActressJennieGarthSharesTipsforMakingOralHealthFun

Plenty of parents use little tricks to persuade young ones to eat their vegetables, wash their hands, or get to bed on time. But when actress Jennie Garth wanted to help her kids develop healthy dental habits, she took it a step further, as she explained in a recent interview on Fox News.

“Oh my gosh, there's a froggy in your teeth!” the star of the '90s hit series Beverly Hills 90210 would tell her kids. “I've got to get him out!”

When her children — daughters Luca, Lola, and Fiona — spit out the toothpaste, Garth would surreptitiously slip a small toy frog into the sink and pretend it had come from one of their mouths. This amused the kids so much that they became engaged in the game, and let her brush their teeth for as long as necessary.

Garth's certainly got the right idea. Teaching children to develop good oral hygiene habits as early as possible helps set them up for a lifetime of superior dental health. Parents should establish a brushing routine with their kids starting around age 2, when the mouth is becoming filled with teeth. A soft, child's size toothbrush with a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste and plenty of parental help is good for toddlers. By around age 6, when they've developed more manual dexterity, the kids can start taking over the job themselves.

Here's another tip: It's easy to find out how good a cleaning job your kids are doing on their own teeth. Over-the counter products are available that use a system of color coding to identify the presence of bacterial plaque. With these, you can periodically check whether children are brushing effectively. Another way of checking is less precise, but it works anywhere: Just teach them to run their tongue over their teeth. If the teeth fell nice and smooth, they're probably clean, too. If not... it's time to pull out the frog.

And don't forget about the importance of regular dental checkups — both for your kids and yourself. “Like anything, I think our kids mirror what we do,” says Garth. We couldn't agree more.

If you need more information about helping kids develop good oral hygiene — or if it's time for a checkup — don't hesitate to contact us and schedule an appointment. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”

By Constance E. Smith, DDS
March 09, 2015
Category: Oral Health
WhileUsuallyBenignLichenPlanusLesionsShouldStillbeExamined

If you’ve noticed a small sore in your mouth, it’s possible you have a non-contagious disease known as lichen planus. Although usually benign, it’s still a good idea to have it examined and monitored.

The condition is so named because its lesions are similar in appearance to lichen, the algae and fungi organism often found on rocks and trees. It’s believed to be a type of autoimmune disease, in which the body treats some of its own cells as foreign and reacts adversely to them. Certain medications and substances may also cause a lichenoid reaction. Besides the inner cheeks, gums or tongue, lichen planus may also appear on other skin or mucous surfaces on the wrists, legs or fingernails.

When it appears inside the mouth it usually resembles a lacy pattern of white lines or ulceration. Gum tissues may become red and inflamed, with some soreness after brushing or eating. Although there’s no known cure for lichen planus, it rarely causes serious problems — in fact, you may not even be aware you have the condition unless pointed out during a dental exam. It may, in time, fade away.

If the lesions do become bothersome (painful, itchy or overly-sensitive), there are some ways to ease discomfort: brushing with a soft toothbrush (to minimize irritation), flossing, and avoiding acidic or spicy foods and beverages which have been known to cause flare-ups. Managing stress is also helpful, and a topical steroid may be prescribed for more severe outbreaks.

Perhaps the greatest concern with lichen planus, though, is it may resemble more serious conditions, particularly oral cancer. The only way to be certain that it is a benign condition is to perform a biopsy on some of the affected tissue. If you notice a problem, be sure to visit us for a complete examination. And regardless of whether you have the condition or not, regular oral cancer screenings, as well as limits on alcohol consumption and stopping use of tobacco, will also reduce your risk of oral cancer.

Odds are if you have a case of lichen planus it isn’t causing you any problems. If it does cause you discomfort, though, you can take steps to ease your symptoms.

If you would like more information on lichen planus and similar oral conditions, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By Constance E. Smith, DDS
December 19, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   bacteria  
FiveFactsaboutBacteria

Bacteria are bad… right? They can cause diseases like pneumonia, strep throat, and tooth decay. They are the reason we wash our hands with soap (or antibacterial gels) and cook (or refrigerate) our food. Yet it turns out that bacteria are also necessary to keep our bodies healthy — and new research is showing just how important these tiny microorganisms are to our well-being. Here are five facts you should know about bacteria.

The bacteria in our bodies outnumber our cells by a factor of 10 to 1. An estimated 100 trillion bacteria live inside the average human — but because they’re so small, they make up only 1-3 percent of our body mass.

The collection of bacteria we harbor is called our “microbiome.” Like the groundbreaking study of human DNA called the Human Genome Project, recent research is leading to a “map” of our bacterial makeup. This revolutionary study is called — you guessed it — the Human Microbiome Project.

No two people have exactly the same microbiome. But in general, the bacteria that live in a particular spot on the body (the mouth, for example) play the same roles in different individuals. Research has also shown that a healthy microbiome looks very different from a diseased microbiome.

In terms of bacteria, the mouth is one of the best-understood areas of the body. It has long been known that tooth decay can result when “bad” oral bacteria begin to outnumber their “good” counterparts. Now we are gaining a better understanding of how certain lifestyle factors — like cigarette smoking — may influence the bacterial balance in the mouth.

Understanding the microbiome may lead to new treatments for disease. Researchers hope that one day, certain serious diseases could be controlled by bacterial “transplants” that re-balance an individual’s microbiome. Maintaining a healthy microbiome could also help prevent many diseases.

So by all means, don’t stop brushing your teeth or washing your hands — this helps control bacteria that could harm you — but do remember that not all bacteria are harmful. One day, an infusion of bacteria might just cure your illness.

By Constance E. Smith, DDS
November 03, 2014
Category: Oral Health
FromModeltoMogulKathyIrelandMaintainsaSparklingSmile

You may have seen Kathy Ireland on the cover of Sports Illustrated, but did you know that she is now a business mogul?

Through it all, Ireland has kept her model good looks, and that includes a bright, glowing smile. In a recent interview with Dear Doctor magazine she said that keeping her smile has required ongoing maintenance and more.

It seems that Ireland is a bit of a daredevil. She described a moment of fun with her children when she tried to stand in their wagon and “wagon surf” across her driveway. It ended badly when she crashed into her parked car and suffered a broken nose, split forehead and several broken teeth. “I learned that my love of adventure exceeds my coordination,” she commented.

Ireland was born in Glendale, California in 1963. She demonstrated her drive to succeed early in life, starting at age 4 when she and her sister sold painted rocks from their wagon. Later she had a paper route. She began modeling at 17, with the goal of earning enough to pay for college or to start a business. In her successful modeling career she graced the covers of Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Harper's Bazaar and Sports Illustrated. Her first cover for Sports Illustrated, the publication's 25th Anniversary Swimsuit Edition, was the magazine's best-selling swimsuit issue to date.

In 1993 she founded her marketing and design firm, kathy ireland Worldwide. Now a billion-dollar industry, the firm sells fashions such as wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses, as well as a wide range of items for home and family.

She has also written a number of books teaching others how to be successful — based on her own experience — as well as three children's books.

Discussing her oral health, Ireland says that she required serious professional assistance on more than one occasion. When she was a child she knocked out a tooth and later knocked it loose again. As an adolescent she wore braces for about three years. After the driveway incident she needed numerous veneers and dental implants to replace a lost tooth and restore her smile.

Her maintenance routine includes regular flossing and brushing, and she has her teeth cleaned every six months. She keeps up on her reading about the latest in research on dental health, and encourages her three children to floss and brush their teeth, to limit eating sweets and to do what they can to avoid injuries to their mouths and teeth.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about how to maintain your own smile. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Kathy Ireland.”