Be Good to Your Gums

January 26th, 2022

You brush and floss thoroughly twice a day. You have regular checkups. Everything seems fine on the periodontal radar. Sometimes, however, even healthy gums can become sensitive and irritated. Is it something you did? Maybe! Here are some common causes of gum irritation and sensitivity that you might not be aware of.

  • Brushing Bravado

One of the most important tools for gum health is one we use at least twice a day—the simple toothbrush. Two minutes at night and two in the morning reduce the bacteria and plaque that lead to serious gum disease, known as periodontitis. And while preventing tooth decay and gum disease are the primary goals of brushing, let’s also protect delicate gum tissue from injuries and irritation caused by too-forceful brushing.

Try using a brush with soft bristles and brushing with short strokes and gentle pressure, especially if you know you have a tendency to be a bit heavy-handed. Massaging rather than scrubbing will clean teeth and gums just fine.

  • Fierce Flossing

Just because we can use dental floss to slice cakes or cookie dough logs doesn’t mean we should apply the same pressure to our gums! While a firm sawing motion seems like the obvious way to clean between teeth and gums, you can actually cause irritation and bleeding that way.

Insert the floss between your teeth carefully, bring it to the gumline, and move the floss with gentle pressure up and down and around the tooth surface. This technique will make sure that you remove food particles and plaque from beneath the gumline without causing your gums any trauma. Ask us about the best flossing techniques—we know them all.

  • Appliance Aches

You know how helpful your braces/retainers/mouth guards/dentures are. You just wish that your helpful appliance was a little less irritating to sensitive gum tissue.

This is a problem that often disappears as you get used to your new appliance. But if pain or irritation persists or gets worse, give us a call. We want to make sure your appliance fits properly, and make any necessary adjustments to ensure your comfort.

  • Peroxide Problems

Most home whitening kits use peroxide-based gels or treated strips to remove surface stains from the teeth. Those same bleaching agents that make enamel whiter can also cause gum sensitivity and irritation. If you use whitening strips or gel trays, be careful to keep the peroxide solution away from gum tissue. But because these systems are one-size-fits-all, that is often easier said than done.

If you have sensitive gums, one solution is a professional office whitening. We’ll check on your gum (and tooth) health first, and monitor and protect your gums throughout the procedure. If you still want to whiten at home, we can create custom trays for you that will provide more complete exposure to the whitening solution for your teeth, and less exposure for your gums, than over-the-counter products.

  • Still Smoking?

Studies have shown a strong link between gum health and smoking and other forms of tobacco use. Smokers are much more likely to suffer from gum disease than non-smokers, and those who have smoked for a long time, or who smoke heavily, have an even higher risk of developing periodontal disease. Some studies suggest that smokers don’t respond as well to treatment as non-smokers.  Unfortunately, it appears that smoking and tobacco use help mask the obvious symptoms of gum disease (redness and bleeding), which could lead smokers to delay getting treatment. If you smoke, talk to us about ways to quit.

We talk a lot about periodontal health because it is so important. Periodontitis can lead to infection, loss of bone around the tooth, and even eventual tooth loss. If you are suffering from any of the signs of gum disease—swelling, redness, bleeding, pain—give our Mill Creek office a call. Whether it’s as simple as making a few lifestyle changes, or a problem requiring professional dental treatment, being proactive with your dental care is more than good for your gums—it’s good for your health!

Suffer from Dental Anxiety? Not a Problem.

January 19th, 2022

If you suffer from dental anxiety, we understand that paying a visit to our office can seem like a nearly impossible mission. Regardless of what the root of that anxiety might be, we’re here to tell you that at Mill Creek General Dentistry, you have no need to be nervous. Our office is dedicated to making your dental experience as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

One of the best things to do if you experience dental anxiety is call our office in advance to let us know. By notifying us in advance, you give us the opportunity to provide you with the dental care you need in the way you need it.

We can prescribe a relaxation medication for you. During your appointment, we can provide a little bit of laughing gas to put you more at ease, teach you some behavioral techniques for relaxation, and make sure you’re never in the dark about what’s happening.

If dental anxiety makes you feel embarrassed, please be assured that you’re not alone. Studies show that as much as 75% of adults suffer some degree of dental anxiety! It might be helpful to remember that your doctor’s goal is the same as yours: We are here to keep your oral health in check so you can be your healthiest self. We certainly don’t want to make you uncomfortable in the process.

If you have any questions about other ways in which we can accommodate you during your visits, please don’t hesitate to contact our Mill Creek office!

Does chronic stress impact periodontal health?

January 12th, 2022

Many studies over the past several years have focused on this question. Since we will all face stressful situations during our life, it is a good question to ask. This question also delves into the mind-body connection—the psychological having an effect on the physical and vice versa.

Studies were performed as far back as the 1940s and continue today. Many of them have shown that stress "downregulates" or hinders cellular immune response. The most common periodontal diseases related to this stress-induced downregulation are gingivitis and periodontitis.

It is believed that stress and depression contribute to a state of chronic inflammation within the body. Stress also raises levels of cortisol in your body, which has been linked in studies to higher levels of tooth loss and deeper pockets between the gums and teeth.

Perhaps the biological side of this equation makes sense, but an important factor is that people who are stressed and/or depressed tend to neglect oral hygiene and other health-promoting activities. The studies seem to support both the behavioral and biological effects as risk factors for periodontal disease.

Here are some things you can do to help prevent stress-related periodontal problems:

  • Daily relaxation –You may consider meditation or yoga. Both have been proven effective at easing stress.
  • Practice good oral hygiene – Don't let your oral hygiene fall by the wayside. Doing so will obviously have a detrimental effect on your oral health. You should also aim to quit smoking if you do smoke.
  • Get regular dental checkups – Getting regular checkups will help you to spot anything that's amiss before it gets out of hand. You can speak with your dentist if you have any pain or concerns and have them take a look.

Stress is something that affects all of us but it can be managed. Each one of us may manage it in a different way. Find what works for you and always make sure to keep up with your oral hygiene routine. For more information about stress-related periodontal issues, schedule an appointment with Dr. Kerry Olszewski at our Mill Creek office.

Make this the Year You Stop Smoking

January 5th, 2022

It’s a new year, and it couldn’t come fast enough for many of us! Let’s do our part to make this a better year in every way—and you can start by making this the year you quit smoking once and for all.

You know that smoking is very damaging to your body. Smokers are more likely to suffer from lung disease, heart attacks, and strokes. You’re at greater risk for cancer, high blood pressure, blood clots, and blood vessel disorders. With far-reaching consequences like this, it’s no surprise that your oral health suffers when you smoke as well.

How does smoking affect your teeth and mouth?

  • Appearance

While this is possibly the least harmful side effect of smoking, it’s a very visible one. Tar and nicotine start staining teeth right away. After months and years of smoking, your teeth can take on an unappealing dark yellow, orange, or brown color. Tobacco staining might require professional whitening treatments because it penetrates the enamel over time.

  • Plaque and Tartar

Bacterial plaque and tartar cause cavities and gum disease, and smokers suffer from plaque and tartar buildup more than non-smokers do. Tartar, hardened plaque that can only be removed by a dental professional, is especially hard on delicate gum tissue.

  • Bad Breath

The chemicals in cigarettes linger on the surfaces of your mouth causing an unpleasant odor, but that’s not the only source of smoker’s breath. Smoking also dries out the mouth, and, without the normal flow of saliva to wash away food particles and bacteria, bad breath results. Another common cause of bad breath? Gum disease, which is also found more frequently among smokers.

  • Gum Disease

Smoking has been linked to greater numbers of harmful oral bacteria in the mouth and a greater risk of gingivitis (early gum disease). Periodontitis, or severe gum disease, is much more common among smokers, and can lead to bone and tooth loss. Unsurprisingly, tooth loss is also more common among smokers.  

  • Implant Failure

Tooth implants look and function like our original teeth, and are one of the best solutions for tooth loss. While implant failure isn’t common, it does occur significantly more often among smokers. Studies suggest that there are multiple factors at work, which may include a smoker’s bone quality and density, gum tissue affected by constricted blood vessels, and compromised healing.

  • Healing Ability

Smoking has been linked to weakened immune systems, so it’s harder to fight off an infection and to heal after an injury. Because smoking affects the immune system’s response to inflammation and infection, smokers suffering from gum disease don’t respond as well to treatment. Smokers experience a higher rate of root infections, and smoking also slows the healing process after oral surgeries or trauma.

  • Dry Socket

Smoking following a tooth extraction can cause a painful condition called “dry socket.” After extraction, a clot forms to protect the tooth socket. Just as this clot can be dislodged by sucking through a straw or spitting, it can also be dislodged by the force of inhaling and exhaling while smoking.

  • Oral Cancer

Research has shown again and again that smoking is the single most serious risk factor for oral cancer. Studies have also shown that you reduce your risk of oral cancer significantly when you quit smoking.

Quitting smoking is a major accomplishment that will improve your life on every level. It’s always a good idea to talk to Dr. Kerry Olszewski for strategies to help you achieve your wellness goals for the new year. Make this the year you stop smoking, and the year your health improves in countless ways because you did.

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