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How do I know if my gums are receding?

January 19th, 2018

Gum recession, a common result of gum disease, occurs when the gum tissue that surrounds the teeth wears away or pulls back, forming pockets between the gumline and exposing more of the tooth. Gum recession occurs gradually, so you might not know that you have it. Left untreated, gum recession can result in tooth loss. In addition, there are several studies that suggest that gum disease is associated with modest increases in coronary heart disease. Here are five ways to know if your gums are receding.

1. Healthy gums are firm, light pink, and very elastic. If your gums don’t fit that description, then it’s time to visit our Colonial Heights office. Red, swollen gums are a common symptom of gum disease, and may lead to gum recession.

2. Do your gums bleed easily when you brush or floss? If you have gum recession, even if you brush gently and with toothpaste specifically designed for sensitivity, it may still result in bleeding.

3. When you look in the mirror, do you see more of a tooth than you used to? This is one of the easiest ways to tell if you have gum recession. When gums recede, more of the tooth is visibly exposed. Look for lines or notches along the bottom of the teeth, as this typically indicates areas where the gums have receded.

4. One of the first signs of gum recession is tooth sensitivity. Does it hurt when you bite down or chew? The more gums recede, the more painful it is going to be. However, before you experience tooth sensitivity or pain, you may notice awkwardness when you bit down. When gum recession occurs, teeth can shift slightly, making it feel as if they are not properly aligned.

5. Loose teeth are a symptom of advanced gum recession and periodontal disease. In other words, the supporting bone structure of the teeth has already begun to deteriorate. If left untreated, it will result in tooth loss.

From deep cleaning (scaling) to gingival tissue grafting surgery, there are several ways to combat gum recession and periodontal disease. How gum recession is treated depends on how far advanced it is. Talk to Dr. Bates about what options are best for you.

A Strong Start to the New Year

January 15th, 2018

It’s still hard to believe that a brand new year is here! We hope you’ve all been enjoying the beginning of 2018. While it can be hard to get back in the groove of things after all the delicious holiday food and quality time with friends and family, there are things you can do to make sure you get the most out this fresh start!

First, prioritize what you want to get done this year. It’s helpful to set up a time frame for yourself that is realistic and that will keep you on track. Then, start with the easiest task on your list. It will help give you momentum! Lastly, make it a habit to continuously review and revise your tasks as you accomplish them.

Dr. Bates loves to jump right back into it after a long holiday and often finds that a workout in the morning can be a great way to get the productivity for the day going. He usually tries to work out 3-4 times a week to stay balanced. Another thing that helps him stay grounded? Praising his staff. It may sound cheesy, but anyone can benefit from spreading some positivity!

In the spirit of having a strong start to the year, we of course recommend staying on top of your dental hygiene. Like with many things in life, consistency is key. The goal (if it hasn’t already been accomplished) should be to brush and floss so often that it almost becomes a reflex and it blends seamlessly into your lifestyle. You might even consider eliminating foods and drinks that are high in sugar. Your teeth will certainly thank you!

The work week can get busy, leaving you with less time to do things like cook or get some relaxation. When it comes to cooking, meal planning is a great way to tackle the “I’m too busy to cook” issue. Dr. Bates loves Meatless Monday, where he throws together a quick, easy recipe sans meat. Baking chicken and fish are also healthy and quick alternatives.

If you carve out some time for yourself to relax (and we highly recommend that you do!) you may want to check out the book Displaced Person by Ella Schneider Hilton. It’s at the top of our reading list this year! And we don’t know about you, but we are definitely planning on making more time for travel and quality time with old friends.

We hope you’re all having a lovely start to the year and we can’t wait to see you in the office soon!


Xerostomia: Big Word, Common Problem

January 12th, 2018

Xerostomia might sound like a serious and rare condition, but it’s more common than you think. If you’ve been feeling like your mouth is constantly dry, you may already be having your first encounter with it.

Xerostomia refers to when you have a dry mouth due to absent or reduced saliva flow. Now you might assume this is not a big deal, but a lack of saliva can threaten your dental health or worse, because it can be a sign of a bigger overall problem.

Some of the more common symptoms to watch for are a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, a burning sensation on the tongue, and of course, a significant lack of saliva. Because xerostomia entails a reduction in saliva, you have less of a buffer between your teeth and the food you eat, which makes you more vulnerable to cavities and tooth decay. It also means that food is more likely to get stuck in your mouth.

So what causes xerostomia? There can be many different culprits. One of the most common causes involves medication. If you’re taking antidepressants, muscle relaxers, anti-diarrhea medicine, anti-anxiety medicine, or antihistamines, this could be the reason for your xerostomia.

Dry mouth may also be a warning sign for other health issues. These can include lupus, diabetes, thyroid disease, arthritis, or hypertension. Patients that receive any kind of chemotherapy might also experience xerostomia as a side effect of their treatment.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of dry mouth, there are several things you can do:

  • This may seem obvious, but you should drink generous amounts of water. If you’re taking any of the medications known to cause xerostomia, a glass of water before and after administering the medication could be helpful.
  • Avoid heavily caffeinated drinks, since they will dehydrate you further.
  • Opt for a mouthwash that contains little to no alcohol.
  • Consume excessively sugary or acidic foods in moderation, if at all.
  • Try adding a humidifier to your room while you sleep, to add moisture to the air you’ll be breathing.

As always, stay on top of your brushing and flossing routines, and if you feel you might be suffering from xerostomia, please let Dr. Bates know during your next visit to our Colonial Heights office. We’re happy to recommend products we’ve found to be successful in treating xerostomia.

Is periodontal disease contagious?

January 5th, 2018

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of adults age 30 and over suffer from some form of gum disease. Caused by plaque buildup, gum disease is an infection of the tissue that surrounds and supports the teeth. In its advanced stages, it is known as periodontal disease. If left untreated, it can result in the loss of tissue and bone that support the teeth, causing teeth loss. It’s a preventable condition seen far too often by Dr. Bates.

Research between periodontal disease and other diseases is ongoing. Some studies have indicated that gum disease is linked to other health conditions such as stroke or diabetes. Furthermore, while most factors that lead to periodontal disease are dependent on the individual (genetics, diet, poor oral hygiene) there is a possibility that periodontitis is capable of spreading from one person to another.

What the Research Says

Periodontitis is a gum infection, and the bacteria that cause the gums to become infected travels in saliva. Researches have used DNA coding techniques to track the path of infection from one person to another. In other words, kissing and close contact play a role in the transmission of the infection, so if you’re married to a spouse with periodontal disease, then your chances of having gum problems are slightly increased. Other studies have indicated that saliva contact is common in family settings through coughing, sneezing, and shared utensils and food. Children with parents who have periodontal disease are at a somewhat higher risk of developing it. At the same time, just because you exchange bacteria with your loved ones doesn’t mean you will get periodontal disease.

It is important to note that the scientific evidence supporting the spread of periodontal disease is limited and ongoing. The best way to prevent gum disease is through proper plaque control, which includes brushing, flossing, mouthwash, and twice a year trips for professional cleanings. Contact our Colonial Heights office if you have any questions about periodontal disease.