Oral Health is the start to overall health!

Everybody has heard from their dentist and hygienist to brush their teeth at least twice a day with a soft bristled toothbrush and to floss daily. Most of us have heard it at nausea and dread the dentist asking if we floss. At Central Park Dental Aesthetics, we believe in a strong preventive approach to healthcare and believe that a healthy body starts with a healthy mouth. Flossing is just as important (if not more important) than a balanced diet and exercise. Flossing brushes the portion of tooth that is covered by your gums. It removes the plaque and tartar from the gum pockets and reduces the bacteria load.

Without flossing, the bacteria and toxins in the gum pockets cause an inflammatory response in our gums. This causes our gums to swell, become red and sensitive and can be a source of bad breath and bleeding. Overtime, our bodies will recede away from the calculus causing bone loss and gum recession. The bone and the gums are the foundation to our mouths. If we lose the bone support, we will lose our teeth even if the teeth are healthy and cavity free!

Floss before you brush your teeth. Take a piece of floss (can be a piece of floss attached to your fingers or attached to plastic holders) and place it adjacent to your tooth. Rub the floss up and down alongside to the tooth to remove any plaque or debris. Make sure to get underneath the gums! Remember that each tooth contact has two sides to floss. Brushing will remove all the loosened bits from flossing. Repeat daily for a healthy bright smile!

Does your child snore?

A normal healthy child should not snore, grind their teeth or have labored breathing. Children that snore show a sign that their airway is insufficient which could lead to numerous developmental and growth problems. If your child snores, ask the right questions to get your child help so they can thrive and grow up healthy and strong!

Q. How is the snoring affecting my child’s ability to grow and thrive?

A. A child snoring is a sign that they are not getting enough oxygen while they sleep. If they are not getting enough oxygen, their body is not properly resting, recovering and growing because the brain is focused on trying to get the body back up to normal oxygen levels. This can lead to night terrors, bed wetting, ADHD, trouble focusing at school, daytime drowsiness, irratiblity and so much more

Q. What needs to be done so my child doesn’t snore?

A. Depending on your child’s development and craniofacial structure, the treatment can be as simple as teaching the child to breathe through their nose, or wearing different appliances that can help grow the jaws and airway, or surgical intervention. If your child is a mouth breather, try to encourage the child to close their mouth and breathe through their nose with their tongue suctioned up to the roof of their mouth. Nighttime/sleep appliances have shown to be extremely helpful in changing their airway to help eliminate snoring and promote proper growth. Surgical intervention is always a last resort or if its discovered that there is an anatomical problem that cannot be corrected without surgery.

Are your Migraines from grinding your teeth?

Are you getting tension headaches, trouble focusing, blurred vision that lead to migraines or headaches that just won’t go away? One contributing factor towards your migraines may be coming from your mouth and jaw. When you clench your jaw or grind your teeth, you put stress on your temporomandibular joints (TMJ) that connect your mandible to your skull. Think of your mandible being compressed into your skull -the cartilage getting pushed out of the way and the head of the mandible pushing into the base of the skull. This can cause an inflammatory response which will create pressure on the brain which leads to a migraine.

Don’t think your teeth can be contributing to your migraine? If you have teeth that aren’t properly aligned where the front teeth protect the back teeth and the back teeth protect the front teeth, you are predisposed to bruxism (grinding). If you’re missing a tooth, you’re adding different stresses, like biting harder on one side of your mouth than the other, to your oral environment which can lead to bruxism. If you’re chewing gum frequently, you are putting strain on your jaw which can lead to TMJ problems which lead to bruxism.

Ask your dentist what they can do to help your reduce the frequency of your migraine! Many times it is as simple as decompression of the TMJ which can be done easily with a properly designed nightguard. There are numerous treatments associated with aiding in migraine reduction that can vary from aligning your teeth properly, so you’re utilizing both sides evenly and simultaneously, to craniofacial growth to remodel the TMJ and increase your airway to allow for physiological solutions that will improve your oral health and reduce your migraine frequency and severity. Improving your oral health can help with the migraines!

Nasal Breathing Vs. Mouth Breathing – Which is Better?

Humans are obligatory nasal breathers. Nasal Breathing is essential for our oral health and overall health. Nasal breathing helps humidify, filter and warm the air prior to getting to our lungs to make the air optimal for absorption. Furthermore, nasal breathing releases nitric oxide which is important in our immune response and vasoregulation. Nasal breathing allows us to utilize our entire lung capacity while mouth breathing only allows us to use the top two thirds of our lungs. Nasal breathing helps drive the parasympathetic nervous system which allows our body’s to rest, restore and digest. Nasal breathing can increase the amount of oxygen in our bloodstream by as much as 20%

Mouth breathing dries out our mouth causing xerostomia. Xerostomia is the number one predictor of tooth decay (cavities), periodontal disease (gum disease), and bad breath. Mouth breathing significantly increases your chances of snoring and developing obstructive sleep apnea. Mouth breathing has been connected to anxiety, asthma, poorer athletic performance, chronic fatigue and can exacerbate ADHD.

Check in with yourself a couple times a day to make sure your lips are closed and you are breathing silently in and out through your nose. This will help keep your mouth healthier and your body healthier. Can’t breathe through your nose? Contact us to see ways we can help transform your breathing to improve your oral health and your overall health!

Read About our Office Prevention Tips in the NY Times!

A Dentist Sees More Cracked Teeth. What’s Going On?

When I reopened my dental practice in early June, the tooth fractures started coming in: at least one a day, every single day that I’ve been in the office.

Cinemagraph
Credit

By Tammy Chen, D.D.S.

“How’s your dental practice?” a friend of mine asked, brow furrowed, concern evident on her face.

I’ve seen this look a lot recently. Since the onset of the pandemic, with a citywide shutdown and social distancing measures firmly entrenched, more than a handful of friends and family members have presumed I must be on the brink of closing. But I let her know that I am busier than ever.

“Really?” she asked. “How’s that possible?”

“I’ve seen more tooth fractures in the last six weeks than in the previous six years,” I explained.

Unfortunately, that’s no exaggeration.

I closed my midtown Manhattan practice to all but dental emergencies in mid-March, in line with American Dental Association guidelines and state government mandate. Almost immediately, I noticed an uptick in phone calls: jaw pain, tooth sensitivity, achiness in the cheeks, migraines. Most of these patients I effectively treated via telemedicine.

But when I reopened my practice in early June, the fractures started coming in: at least one a day, every single day that I’ve been in the office. On average, I’m seeing three to four; the bad days are six-plus fractures.

What’s going on?

One obvious answer is stress. From Covid-induced nightmares to “doomsurfing” to “coronaphobia,” it’s no secret that pandemic-related anxiety is affecting our collective mental health. That stress, in turn, leads to clenching and grinding, which can damage the teeth.

But more specifically, the surge I’m seeing in tooth trauma may be a result of two additional factors.

First, an unprecedented number of Americans are suddenly working from home, often wherever they can cobble together a makeshift workstation: on the sofa, perched on a barstool, tucked into a corner of the kitchen counter. The awkward body positions that ensue can cause us to hunch our shoulders forward, curving the spine into something resembling a C-shape.

If you’re wondering why a dentist cares about ergonomics, the simple truth is that poor posture during the day can translate into a grinding problem at night.

Second, most of us aren’t getting the restorative sleep we need. Since the onset of the pandemic, I’ve listened to patient after patient describe sudden restlessness and insomnia. These are hallmarks of an overactive or dominant sympathetic nervous system, which drives the body’s “fight or flight” response. Think of a gladiator preparing for battle: balling his fists, clenching his jaw. Because of the stress of coronavirus, the body stays in a battle-ready state of arousal, instead of resting and recharging. All that tension goes straight to the teeth.

So what can we do?

You’d be surprised how many people are unaware that they’re clenching and grinding. Even patients who come into the office complaining of pain and sensitivity are often incredulous when I point it out. “Oh, no. I don’t grind my teeth,” is a refrain I hear over and over again, despite the fact that I’m often watching them do it.

Awareness is key. Are your teeth currently touching? Even as you read this article? If so, that’s a sure sign that you’re doing some damage — your teeth shouldn’t actually touch throughout the day at all unless you’re actively eating and chewing your food. Instead, your jaw should be relaxed, with a bit of space between the teeth when the lips are closed. Be mindful, and try to stop yourself from grinding when you catch yourself doing it.

If you have a night guard or retainer, devices that keep the teeth in proper alignment and prevent grinding, try popping them in during the day. These appliances provide a physical barrier, absorbing and dispersing pressure. As I often tell my patients, I’d much rather you crack a night guard than crack a tooth. Your dentist can custom make a night guard to assure proper fit.

And since many of us will be continuing to work from home for months, it is imperative to set up a proper work station. Ideally, when seated, your shoulders should be over your hips, and your ears should be over your shoulders. Computer screens should be at eye level; prop up your monitor or laptop on a box or a stack of books if you don’t have an adjustable chair or desk.

Consider, too, that in our new home offices, it’s not uncommon to roll out of bed, find a couch, then sit for nine hours a day. Try to mix it up with some standing, whenever possible, and incorporate more movement. Use each and every bathroom break, or phone call, as an opportunity to take more steps, no matter how small your home or apartment might be.

At the end of the workday, I advise my patients to — excuse the very technical, medical term here — “wiggle like a fish.” Lie down on the floor on your back, with your arms extended straight above your head, and gently wiggle your arms, shoulders, hips and feet from side to side. The goal is to decompress and elongate the spine, as well as release and relieve some of that tension and pressure.

If you’ve got a bathtub, consider taking a 20-minute Epsom salt soak in the evening. Focus on breathing through your nose and relaxing, rather than thinking about work, scrolling through emails, or contemplating your kids’ back-to-school schedule (easier said than done, I know).

Then, right before bed, take five minutes to quiet your mind. Close your eyes, suction your tongue to the roof of your mouth, and breathe in and out through your nose, in and out through your nose. It’s a decidedly low-tech solution, but deep breathing is one of the most effective ways to stimulate the vagus nerve, which controls the body’s parasympathetic nervous system.A counterpart to the fight or flight response, the parasympathetic nervous system triggers the body’s “rest and digest” mechanism, slowing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, allowing for more restful, restorative sleep. The more relaxed your body, the more likely you are to wake up with less tension in the jaw. That means less grinding at night.

Teeth are naturally brittle, and everyone has tiny fissures in their teeth from chewing, grinding and everyday use. They can take only so much trauma before they eventually break. Think of a wall that has a tiny spider crack that, with weathering, can become bigger and bigger until it becomes a gaping hole. We want to prevent any added stress from grinding that could cause these microscopic cracks to propagate into larger cracks and, ultimately, a catastrophic failure requiring root canal, a crown or other major dental treatment.

If you haven’t already done so, make an appointment with your dentist. Stay up on your six-month screening and cleaning schedule.

And if you do nothing else, get a night guard.

Tammy Chen is a prosthodontist and the owner of Central Park Dental Aesthetics in Midtown Manhattan.

Click here to read the original article in the Times.