My Blog

Posts for category: Oral Health

By Tiffany C. Leung, DDS
November 12, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tmj disorders   jaw pain  
PersistencePaysOffinFindingReliefFromChronicJawJointPain

Tenderness; headaches; difficulty chewing; excruciating pain. These are a few of the symptoms you could endure with a jaw joint or temporomandibular disorder (TMD or TMJ). This group of disorders disrupts the daily lives of millions of people around the world.

This month is TMJ Awareness Month, to shed light on these debilitating conditions and how best to manage them. Although controlling TMD isn't always easy, it can be done with the right blend of treatments.

The temporomandibular joint—actually a pair of joints connecting the lower jaw to the skull on either side of the face—is "ground zero" for TMD. These are ball-and-socket joints similar to the hip or shoulder, but with a unique addition—a cushioning disk that lies between the adjoining points of the two bones that temper the forces generated when you eat, speak or bite down.

Researchers believe TMD can arise from a variety of sources, including traumatic injury, psychological stress or mechanical dysfunction within the joint and cushioning disk. These problems can create blood flow constriction, which in turn causes the accumulation of chemical waste byproducts in the jaw muscles. This in turn and cause the muscles to spasm and become inflamed and sore.

Treatments are also as numerous as the possible causes of TMD. But for the most part, they range along a continuum of conservative to aggressive approaches.

On the conservative end, doctors treat TMD as a joint problem and borrow heavily from orthopedics. These types of treatments include the use of anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxing medications, icing or heating, stretching exercises, physical therapy and massage. Dentists may also provide mouth guard appliances for patients with clenching or tooth grinding habits to decrease biting forces.

On the more aggressive end are interventions like orthodontics or dental work. But, while these were common recommendations 20-30 years ago, it's no longer thought to be necessary for treating most TMD disorders and should not be recommended as a cure or solution for TMD.  At the furthest extreme is actual jaw surgery to relieve symptoms or repair damage within the joints. The latter, however, has not yet amassed a solid track record, and should be considered as a last resort.

Finding the right combination of therapies to give consistent relief sometimes requires a bit of trial and error. Most doctors recommend starting first with the most conservative methods before considering more aggressive measures. You should also undergo a complete dental exam to see if teeth or gum problems are contributing to your symptoms.

TMD can make your life miserable. But with some persistence and patience, you can find what works for a life without pain and dysfunction.

If you would like more information about managing TMD, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Seeking Relief From TMD.”

By Tiffany C. Leung, DDS
October 13, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition  
HereIsWhatYouCanDotoHelpYourKidsSnackHealthieratSchool

In addition to daily oral hygiene and regular dental visits, a tooth-friendly diet can boost your kid's dental health and development. You can help by setting high standards for eating only nutritious foods and snacks at home.

But what happens when they're not home—when they're at school? Although public schools follow the Smarts Snacks in Schools initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, those guidelines only recommend minimum nutritional standards for foods and snacks offered on campus. Many dentists, though, don't believe they go far enough to support dental health.

Besides that, your kids may have access to another snack source: their peers. Indeed, some of their classmates' snacks may be high in sugar and not conducive to good dental health. Your kids may face a strong temptation to barter their healthy snacks for their classmates' less than ideal offerings.

So, what can you as a parent do to make sure your kids are eating snacks that benefit their dental health while at school? For one thing, get involved as an advocate for snacks and other food items offered by the school that exceed the USDA's minimum nutritional standards. The better those snacks available through vending machines or the cafeteria are in nutritional value, the better for healthy teeth and gums.

On the home front, work to instill eating habits that major on great, nutritional snacks and foods. Part of that is helping your kids understand the difference in foods: some are conducive to health (including for their teeth and gums) while others aren't. Teach them that healthier foods should make up the vast majority of what they eat, while less healthier choices should be limited or avoided altogether.

Doing that is easier if you take a creative, playful approach to the snacks you send with them to school. For example, if you send them to school with their own snacks, add a little excitement like cinnamon-flavored popcorn or cheese and whole wheat bread bites in different shapes. And make it easier for them with bite-sized snacks like grapes, baby carrots or nuts.

You can't always control what snacks your kids eat, especially at school. But following these tips, you may be able to influence them in the right direction.

If you would like more information on helping your child develop tooth-friendly snacking habits, 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 “Snacking at School.”

By Tiffany C. Leung, DDS
August 04, 2021
Category: Oral Health
SafelyRemoveaLooseBabyToothforaHappyToothFairyEncounter

Although Santa Claus has Christmas and the Easter Bunny has Easter, neither of these mythical characters has a day just for them (unless you count the Feast of Saint Nicholas in early December). Not so the Tooth Fairy: According to NationalToday.com, August 22nd is National Tooth Fairy Day, in celebration of this favorite sprite of children.

And, there's good reason for the love—he (or she, if you prefer) comes bearing gifts. Well, not technically a gift: the deal is a tooth in exchange for a treat. Now, what the Tooth Fairy does with all the millions of teeth obtained, no one knows. But that he/she has a huge potential supply is undeniable.

The teeth sought are a specific kind—primary ("baby") teeth that start showing up on the jaw a few months after birth and then gradually fall out by adolescence. Kids have around twenty of these teeth for the potential under-the-pillow exchange.

Here's how it happens: The roots slowly begin to dissolve and the gum tissues holding the tooth in place detach. The sure sign this is occurring is the tooth's noticeable looseness. The process continues naturally, and with no help from us, until the tooth falls out.

But children especially can grow impatient—a wiggly tooth becomes annoying, not to mention all that "earning potential" just hanging there. And so, there's an understandable urge to help it along. But some methods for doing so are problematic—tying a string to the tooth and yanking, for example. Trying to remove a tooth not quite ready can result in excessive bleeding or damage to the tooth socket.

Depending on a tooth's degree of looseness, there is a way to take it out safely. You can do this by draping a piece of gauze pad over the tooth and grasping it firmly between your fingers. Then, gently give the tooth a gentle downward pinch or squeeze. If it's loose enough, it should come out. If not, simply wait another day or two and try again.

A tooth ready to come out doesn't normally bleed much. If it does, have the child bite down on a clean piece of gauze or a wet tea bag for a few minutes until the bleeding stops. They might also eat softer foods for a few days to avoid a resumption of bleeding.

Of course, the tooth inevitably comes out whether you help it along or not. In the event it does away from home, make up some kind of small container your child can carry with them to secure the lost tooth. It's a fun project—and we wouldn't want to lose the opportunity for that profitable encounter with You-Know-Who.

If you would like more information about caring for children's primary teeth, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Losing a Baby Tooth.”

By Tiffany C. Leung, DDS
July 25, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene  
HowtoFindJusttheRightToothbrushforYou

If you think there's not much difference between toothbrushes, a quick look on a retail oral care aisle might change your mind. About the only thing toothbrushes really have in common are a handle and bristled head.

Choosing the right toothbrush, therefore, might seem overwhelming. But choose you must: Your toothbrush is an essential tool in the fight against tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. Without it, your odds for developing dental disease skyrocket.

Along with flossing, brushing is the best way to remove daily plaque buildup, that bacterial film most responsible for dental disease. Brushing also minimizes the buildup of tartar, the hardened form of plaque that's just as harmful as softer plaque. And, brushing stimulates your gum tissues to help prevent or lessen inflammation.

But back to all those brushes—with so many options to weigh, how do you come up with your best choice? Actually, there are some basic tips that can help you narrow things down.

Bristle stiffness. Considering other cleaning chores, you might think you'll need a stiff brush. The opposite—a soft-bristled brush—is usually true. Your toothpaste's mild abrasives and the mechanical action of brushing perform most of the plaque removal. And stiffer brushes could irritate and damage your gums or tooth enamel, leading to bigger problems.

Size and shape. Through a little trial and error (and advice from your dentist), you may find a brush with an angled or tapered neck helps you get into difficult places, especially around the back teeth. If you have problems with grip, you may also opt for a brush with a large diameter handle. Bottom line: Choose a brush you feel comfortable handling.

ADA Seal of Acceptance. Common on dental product packaging, this seal indicates that after rigorous testing the item meets the high standards of the American Dental Association, and that it does what the packaging says it does. Even so, some quality brushes don't have this seal, so ask your dentist their opinion on a particular brand.

There's one more critical component—how well you use your toothbrush. For that, ask your dentist or hygienist for tips on better brushing. Combining the right brush and technique goes a long way toward avoiding dental disease.

If you would like more information on choosing the right toothbrush for you, 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 “Sizing Up Toothbrushes.”

By Tiffany C. Leung, DDS
June 25, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
DoThisForaHealthierMouthandOverallWell-Being

Health is on everyone's mind, especially after dealing with COVID-19 this past year. Beyond the immediate concerns of coping with this novel coronavirus, many are taking a closer look at improving their overall well-being. If that describes you, then don't forget this very important component of good health—your teeth and gums.

It's easy to see the body as just a collection of individual organs and anatomical structures. But in reality, all these individual parts are intertwined—if one part is unhealthy, it could directly or indirectly impact the health of all the others.

That's especially true in the mouth. There's some evidence that both tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease can increase inflammation throughout the body, and worsen conditions like diabetes. And problems like chronic jaw joint pain or teeth loss could make it more difficult for the body to meet its nutritional needs.

In other words, you need to take just as much care of your teeth and gums as you do the rest of your body. In recognition of Oral Health Month this June, here's how.

Clear away plaque. Dental plaque, a thin bacterial film that accumulates daily on tooth surfaces, is the most common cause of tooth-destroying dental diseases. Removing plaque buildup every day with brushing and flossing is the single best thing you can do personally to maintain optimal oral health.

See your dentist. Even so, the most thorough hygiene regimen can miss a few plaque deposits. These can then harden into tartar (or calculus) that's nearly impossible to remove with brushing or flossing. A regular dental cleaning clears up any lingering plaque and tartar to further lower your disease risk.

Eat a "tooth-friendly" diet. A diet high in carbohydrates (particularly refined sugar) and processed foods can spell trouble for both the body and the mouth. But whole foods rich in micronutrients like calcium, potassium, or vitamin D, strengthens your teeth and gums against tooth decay or gum disease.

Maintain your dental work. Dental work like fillings, crowns, implants or bridges aid dental health and function, not to mention appearance. But they can wear over time, so keep up regular dental visits to assess their condition and make any needed repairs. Be sure you also clean them and the rest of your mouth daily.

A healthy body depends on a healthy mouth. Following these steps for better oral health will go a long way in achieving optimum physical well-being.

If you would like more information about best oral health practices, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Daily Oral Hygiene.”