Colds, The Flu and Oral Health: Is There a Connection?

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Did you know that when you practice good oral health habits you’re investing in your overall health? While researchers are only beginning to uncover these connections, the findings are significant. Let’s take a closer look.

It all begins with bacteria

When teeth and gums are not properly cared for, bacteria builds up, causing plaque to form and inflaming the gums. When gums become inflamed, bacteria can easily sneak under the gums and enter the bloodstream. Bacteria in the bloodstream can infect tissues throughout the body and make you sick.

An increased risk of developing pneumonia and chronic disease

This ripple effect of poor oral health can be a major risk factor in developing serious diseases, like pneumonia. In fact, a lot of bacteria in the mouth will increase the likelihood of developing pneumonia after a cold or the flu, sometimes by 100%.

And it’s not just pneumonia. Oral disease shares common risk factors with other chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. These risk factors include diet, tobacco, alcohol, hygiene, injuries, stress and socioeconomic status.

While it’s difficult to say at this point whether the relationships between poor oral health and chronic disease is due to association or causation, it reinforces the importance of taking good care of your teeth and gums. To learn more about the connection between oral health and other diseases, check out one of our recent posts here.

Toothbrush care tips

During cold and flu season, vigilance is your best defense. In addition to healthy eating, routine handwashing and getting enough sleep, it’s important to practice good toothbrush care. At Eggert Family Dentistry, we recommend tossing your toothbrush after any cold or flu to avoid the likelihood of reinfection. We also recommend washing your hands before you brush and floss, rinsing your toothbrush well and allowing it to air dry after each use and keeping family members’ toothbrushes separate from each other in order to avoid cross-contamination. And regardless of the season, don’t ever share a toothbrush!

Are you experiencing any tooth pain or discomfort? Have dental health questions? Need to schedule a recare visit? Give Eggert Family Dentistry a call at 651.482.8412!

 

Ways Oral Health Can Affect Your Overall Health and Wellness

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Cavities aren’t the only thing that flossing, brushing, and regular visits to Eggert Family Dentistry can protect you from. In fact, the mouth can be considered a window into your body, giving you information about potential medical disorders and problems your body may be battling.

How could your oral health be affecting your overall health? Here are some physical ways that the two are connected.

Health Conditions Related to your Oral Health

Your mouth can reveal a lot about your overall health. In fact, some systemic diseases like HIV or diabetes are found by oral signs and symptoms, such as lesions.

Although not conclusive, studies have found connections between oral conditions like Gum Disease and the following physical conditions:

  • Heart Disease: Gingivitis, or oral inflammation due to bacteria, can potentially cause inflammation throughout the body which can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Poorly Controlled Diabetes: When you have diabetes, your risk of gum disease increases. In turn, chronic gum disease can make diabetes more difficult to control by causing insulin resistance.
  • Pre-term Birth: Gum disease can potentially increase the risk of pre-term delivery. The theory behind this is that the toxins released by oral bacteria get to the placenta and cause problems between the growth and development of the fetus.

Saliva as a Diagnostic Tool and a First Line of Defense

Your saliva can actually be a tell-tale sign to a doctor that something may be wrong with your body. In fact, for newborn babies, saliva is one of the most pivotal diagnostic tools in determining stress levels because cortisol levels can be found in saliva. And for those prone to diseases like osteoporosis, bone-related proteins in saliva can indicate bone loss.

Did you know that saliva is also one of your bodies’ main defenses against bacteria and viruses? Because of the antibodies and proteins (histatins) that saliva carries, it can fight off diseases and harmful invaders.

How can I protect my oral health?

If you didn’t already have a case for taking good care of your mouth, hopefully understanding the connection your oral and physical health have with one another may help you. Here are some ways to maintain a healthy smile!

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled brush (Contact Eggert Family Dentistry for recommendations on brushes!)
  • Floss every day
  • Get a new toothbrush every couple of months and pay attention to bristles
    Regularly go to the dentist (we recommend coming to see us at least two times a year!)
  • Stay away from smoking or using tobacco products

Taking Charge of your Health & Wellness Journey

As we approach a new year, now is a great time to start making resolutions to take control of your health and wellness journey! Journey is a key word here, as each small step in the right direction will make a big difference.

At Eggert Family Dentistry, we believe that your oral, mental health, and physical health are related and important components of your wellness journey. If you’re ready to begin the first step toward a healthier you, we recommend making an appointment with your primary physician as well as with Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff at 651.482.8412 or by contacting us here.

Oral Care Tips for Cold & Flu Season

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Like it or not, cold and flu season is upon us. While we can’t always avoid getting sick, there are some things to keep in mind when a cold or the flu hits your family. Here are some important tips from your friends at Eggert Family Dentistry to help you protect your teeth and gums when you’re under the weather!

Tip #1 – Continue to maintain good oral hygiene

When you’re not feeling well, your energy level is typically lower which translates into lower motivation. Continue to brush and floss twice a day to combat bacteria and protect your teeth and gums.

Tip #2 – Choose sugar-free options

Sugar erodes enamel and contributes to tooth decay. When you’re sick, it’s easy to reach for sugary cough drops and sugary sports drinks. Instead, soothe your throat and replenish your electrolytes with sugar-free options and show your teeth some love.

Tip #3 – Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated is always important but when you’re sick, this is especially true. Not only does proper hydration aid your kidneys in balancing electrolytes and help reduce mucus and congestion, but it also helps you combat the effects of cold and flu meds. Antihistamines, pain meds and decongestants can cause dry mouth, an uncomfortable condition that makes you more prone to cavities. Sip on water and suck on sugar-free cough drops to keep saliva active, which helps rid your mouth of harmful bacteria.

Tip #4 – Gargle with salt water

Frequently gargling with salt water ticks multiple boxes: It helps keep your mouth hydrated, it kills bacteria that causes bad breath and plaque and it soothes a dry or scratchy throat. Win-win-win!

Tip #5 – Rinse and spit after vomiting

While it may seem logical to reach for your toothbrush after vomiting, it’s best to wait 30 minutes and rinse your mouth with water and spit in the interim. This helps cleanse your mouth from stomach acid and allows your saliva to reach a more neutral pH again. Brushing too soon can abrade the enamel softened by the acid.

Tip #6 – Toss your toothbrush

Did you know that the flu virus can live on moist surfaces, including toothbrushes, for up to 72 hours and strep bacteria can live for up to 48 hours? It’s best to err on the side of caution and use a cold or flu bug as an opportunity to swap your old toothbrush out for a new one!

At Eggert Family Dentistry, we want you to enjoy a healthy mouth year-round. If you haven’t already, give us a call to schedule your winter recare visit at 651.482.8412!

 

Stress, Anxiety and Your Oral Health

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

It’s estimated that 40 million Americans battle an anxiety disorder, the effects of which can be debilitating. Anxiety can cause panic attacks, headaches, depression, muscle aches, fatigue…the list goes on. What most of us don’t consider, however, is the effect that anxiety can have on our oral health.

Common oral side effects

Bruxism: Stress and anxiety cause tension in the jaw which can lead to teeth grinding. If you suspect you’re grinding your teeth, speak with Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff about a night guard to help protect your teeth from stress-related wear and tear.

TMD: When you experience stress or anxiety, you may clench your teeth and jaw. This tension causes stress on the temporomandibular joints which can cause temporomandibular disorder or TMD. At times, TMD can also be related to sleep and how you are (or are not!) sleeping. We have the ability to help you recognize signs and symptoms that your sleep may be broken or unhealthy. As with bruxism, Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff will likely recommend some kind of in-the-mouth appliance to ease jaw discomfort and protect these joints from wear. Learn more about TMD in one of our recent posts here!

Dry mouth: Many anti-anxiety medications, while effective at relieving anxiety, can reduce the production of saliva, leading to dry mouth. Without adequate saliva, it’s difficult for your mouth to rinse out food debris and plaque which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. It’s especially important to keep your mouth lubricated by sucking on sugar-free candy, chewing sugar-free gum and drinking plenty of water. Also, if you struggle with dry mouth, it’s especially important to brush and floss regularly as well as rinse with antibacterial and fluoridated mouthwash. Talk with us at your next recare visit as there are products we can recommend to help your dry mouth.

Lichen planus: Among other symptoms, stress can increase systemic inflammation. Inflammation increases the likelihood of developing mouth ulcers and white, lacy lines in the cheeks, known as lichen planus. This condition can cause a painful, burning sensation in the mouth and left untreated, has been linked to mouth cancer. Although it cannot be eliminated, you can reduce the symptoms of this bothersome condition in a number of ways. Learn more!

Cavities and gum disease: People who experience anxiety are more prone to dental phobia and therefore, oftentimes, avoid regular dental visits. When this occurs, oral health deteriorates and the instance of cavities and gum disease skyrockets. If you struggle with dental phobia, speak with Dr. Elizabeth and Dr. Jeff. They would love to explain our dental comforts and discuss how we can partner with you to make your visits as easy as possible!

Cold sores: Although the herpes simplex virus must be present for cold sores to develop, stress and anxiety can trigger an outbreak. It’s important to treat cold sores with an over-the-counter cream immediately to reduce the chances of spreading the virus to others.

Take charge of your oral health

Therapy, medications and regular exercise are just a few ways to reduce stress and anxiety before they wreak havoc on your oral health.

At Eggert Family Dentistry, we know that your mental health affects your oral health and we believe that they are both equally important components of overall wellness. If you’re concerned that your oral health is being compromised on account of stress or anxiety in your life, we recommend making an appointment with your primary physician as well as with Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff at 651.482.8412.

Learn more about the connection between mental health and oral health here!

How to Get a Flawless Floss

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

FlossFlossing guilt. The phenomenon is real. We know flossing is important for maintaining dental health yet many of us don’t incorporate it into our daily routine. Worse yet? At regular dental checkups, according to the American Association of Periodontology, up to 25% of us stretch the truth about our flossing frequency. (As if it isn’t evident by our swollen gums from our hasty, pre-visit floss!) Let’s cut out the excuses and commit to investing daily in our dental health by taking a look at guidelines for an easy and effective floss and addressing some common questions.

HELPFUL FLOSSING POINTERS
• There are two common types of floss – nylon and monofilament. Nylon floss has a lower price point and comes in waxed and unwaxed varieties and different thicknesses and flavors. Monofilament floss, on the other hand, is a single-strand floss that doesn’t shed or tear and is typically made of plastic or rubber. You will often hear us recommend woven floss as our favorite type of floss. Woven floss is made of multiple fibers twisted together and is a very effective way to pick up significantly more plaque.

• Break off 18-24” of floss and wind it around either your middle or index fingers on both hands and secure it with each thumb.

• Don’t snap the floss into place which can be extremely painful and irritating to your gums. Instead glide the floss back-and-forth between your teeth in a sawing motion.

• As you floss, roll the dirty ends of the floss around your finger to avoid reintroducing the plaque and bacteria you’ve already removed.

• When you insert the floss between your teeth curve the floss into a “c” shape around each tooth and slide it up and down. Be sure to target the left, right and back sides of each tooth.

• Out of sight but certainly not out of mind. The back of your mouth is just as prone to plaque buildup as the rest of your mouth. Remember to floss behind the back side of your back teeth!

A FEW COMMON QUESTIONS

How about those floss forks?
According to the ADA, floss forks are not as effective as strand floss because it is much more difficult to create the C-shape and curve the floss around each tooth. Additionally, they are not environmentally friendly and cost significantly more per use than traditional floss.

When is the best time of day to floss?
The optimal time of day to floss is right before your last brushing of the day. That way your teeth have the maximum amount of time to enjoy their particle-free environment. But, like we have told many of you before, flossing anytime during the day is better than never flossing!

If you are concerned about your smile and want to ensure proper care, Eggert Family Dentistry would love to help! Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have!

Gingivitis: An Overview & Prevention Tips

By Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Gingivitis – inflammation of the gums – is no laughing matter. Typically caused by a bacterial infection, gingivitis is all-too-common and if left untreated can result in periodontitis and tooth loss and increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and lung disease. Fortunately, proper care goes a long way in keeping away this unwanted guest. Here’s everything you need to know to identify, treat and ultimately prevent gingivitis.

HOW DOES IT ALL BEGIN?
Plaque, a thin layer of bacteria, forms on and between your teeth every day. This is why daily brushing and flossing is absolutely imperative. If plaque is allowed to sit on or between the teeth it will harden into tartar, or calculus, which forms a layer of protection for bacteria. With tartar as its accomplice, these bacteria can make their way below the gum line, setting up camp and infecting the gums, causing the condition we know as gingivitis.

SYMPTOMS OF GINGIVITIS
So what kind of havoc exactly does gingivitis wreak? Unfortunately the list is long, some symptoms of which include:

• swollen, tender, discolored or bleeding gums
• bad breath
• sensitive teeth
• pain when chewing
• pus within the gums
• gums that pull away from teeth
• loose teeth

HOW IS GINGIVITIS DIAGNOSED?
Dr. Jeff and Dr. Elizabeth Eggert or one of our wonderful hygienists will measure the depth of any pockets around your teeth with a small ruler. This is a good way to check for inflammation of the gums. A healthy depth is 1-3mm. We will also examine your dental x-rays to look for evidence of bone loss.

TREATMENT
Many methods of treatment exist for healing gums and teeth from the effects of gingivitis. In addition to regular brushing, flossing and mouthwash, deep periodontal cleaning with a process called scaling and root planing is an effective technique for removing tartar and the underlying bacteria that cause this gum disease. We also have the option to introduce laser energy into the gingival pocket, which has been found to be another way to kill those nasty bugs! There are also a number of effectual antibiotic medications in the form of injected gels, mouthwashes, antiseptic chips and oral antibiotics.

RISK FACTORS THAT INCREASE YOUR PROPENSITY FOR GINGIVITIS
While there are many ways to be proactive in warding off gingivitis including incorporating proper daily dental care and limiting or eliminating tobacco and alcohol consumption, there are also a number of additional risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing gum disease. Some of these risk factors include diabetes, a compromised immune system, crooked teeth, pregnancy and the intake of certain oral medications likeoral contraceptives, steroids, anticonvulsants, calcium channel blockers and chemotherapy.

PREVENTION
Daily dental care is the best defense against gingivitis. Thorough brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing and rinsing with mouthwash is a great start. A soft-bristled toothbrush is less irritating on the gums and just as effective as a medium or hard-bristled brush. Also, a diet rich in calcium, essential vitamins and B12 is a great way to bolster the health of your teeth and gums as well as your overall health. Last but certainly not least, regular dental recare visits, including a professional cleaning, are fundamental. Dentists and hygienists have tools to remove stubborn and hard-to-reach plaque and tartar that regular toothbrushing and flossing can’t.

If you’re concerned about your smile and want to ensure proper care, Eggert Family Dentistry would love to help! Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have!

Stay Healthy This Holiday Season

How Oral Health and Heart Disease Are Connected

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Did you know that gum disease and heart disease may be connected? It’s true! Your oral health can indicate if other medical conditions exist long before you’re feeling unwell. Gum disease and heart disease may share an even stronger connection.

A Study of Heart Disease Studies
Recently, researchers analyzed the findings of more than 120 scientific studies. Together, they found a connection between gum disease and heart disease. But doctors still aren’t sure if this connection is direct or causal.

This wide-spread data base found gum disease as a risk factor in coronary artery disease, stroke, and diseases involving the blood vessels and arteries. One study found a direct link between gum disease and clogged arteries in the legs.

But despite the findings, there still isn’t a consensus on whether or not gum disease increases your risk for heart disease. What doctors do know is that the bacteria that causes gum disease can spread through your blood stream and into your heart. The bacteria can cause damage and inflammation within the heart. People with gingivitis or advanced periodontal disease are more likely to have heart disease, too.

Gum Disease Symptoms
While doctors may not be certain of a direct link between gum disease and heart disease, we recommend patients don’t use that as an excuse to ignore their gum health. Red, swollen and sore gums that bleed when you floss, brush, or eat are signs of gum disease. So are recessed gums, bad breath, and loose teeth. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, please contact Eggert Family Dentistry to schedule a consultation.

Preventing Gum Disease
Fortunately, preventing gum disease is easy. Brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily as well. And if you smoke, stop. Visit us at least twice a year for your recare checkup. Feel free to ask us about the link between heart disease and gum disease during your checkup. Also let us know if you already have heart disease. We’ll take extra care to evaluate your gum health and recommend appropriate treatment.

Ready to discover if your gums are in good shape or may be indicating underlying health issues? Schedule your recare appointment with Eggert Family Dentistry today.

 

‘Tis the season for choosing just the right gift!

We have received a number of emails, calls and questions from patients about Waterpiks. Waterpiks can make wonderful gifts.

Waterpiks are effective at forcing food particles and flushing bacteria out from in between the teeth and below the gums where floss can’t always reach, the surge of the water is an excellent source of stimulation as well. All of these things aid in healthier gums. Waterpiks cannot take the place of flossing, however, because floss mechanically removes plaque off the sides of the teeth and slides through the contacts between the teeth, a very important action needed to help prevent cavities.

If you have any compromises that don’t allow you to floss like braces or health or dexterity limitations, then the Waterpik can be a very helpful oral hygiene tool. Beware though, They can be messy and just like flossing they do take practice to be successful.

We recommend, floss to loosen plaque and then use the Waterpik to flush away loose plaque & food debris, followed by brushing with a fluoride toothpaste.

So by all means add a Waterpik to your daily routine , Santa knows just where to find one!

Teen Nutrition Tips for a Healthy Mouth and Body

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Have you noticed how busy teens are today? In addition to school and a few hours of homework every night, they’ve got soccer practice, dance lessons, and marching band. On weekends, the stress continues with all-day tournaments and a packed social calendar. While being so on-the-go, it’s easy to see how good eating and oral health habits get pushed down the priority list. We’ve definitely seen it with our own teenage boys Peter and Luke!

But building a healthy mouth and body during adolescence is one of your teenager’s most important jobs. The habits they build now will last long into adulthood. That’s why Dr. Elizabeth and Dr. Jeff encourage their teen patients to take the time to slow down, make healthy eating choices, get enough sleep, and of course carve out time at the beginning and end of their days to brush and floss.

Here are a few healthy tips to share with your teen.

You Are What You Eat (and So Is Your Mouth)

Food is the fuel our body uses to build muscle, grow healthy bones, and help the brain to function optimally. Your mouth is ground zero for the food you eat. If that food is high in sugar and very acidic, it wreaks havoc on your teeth and gums. It’s not that great for the rest of your body, either, since sugary foods provide little or no nutrition.

The great news is that the foods that are healthy for your teeth and gums are also healthy for your entire body. Whole foods rich with fiber and protein provide excellent nutrition without leaving sugars behind on your teeth. Drinking lots of water helps your brain and body stay hydrated and working efficiently. It also helps wash away any food left in your mouth after eating.

Take the Time to Eat Breakfast and Brush and Floss Your Teeth

Think about it—when you get up in the morning, your body has not eaten for hours! It needs fuel to wake up and get moving. Fiber and protein-rich breakfasts provide great nutrition and keep you feeling full all morning. Try a breakfast burrito or egg sandwich on a whole-grain English muffin.

Morning breath is usually enough of a motivator to brush your teeth in the morning. But after a full day of school, homework, and practice, it’s tempting to collapse into bed without brushing and flossing.

Think about it—all the sugar and food particles from the entire day will sit in your mouth for hours if you don’t brush and floss! All that sugar is a feast for bacteria that causes tooth decay. Yikes!

We encourage our teen patients to create and stick to a bedtime brushing and flossing habit. It only takes a few minutes and goes a long way toward maintaining a healthy mouth. Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff may also recommend sealants to support your good habits. Sealants fill in the grooves in the top of your back teeth. These areas are hard to clean and are prone to decay. Sealants help make your job a lot easier.

Has it been awhile since you’ve seen us? Schedule your recare appointment with Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff today.

What You Need to Know about Having a Tooth Removed

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert



Permanent teeth are supposed to last forever. But sometimes, it’s better to part ways with a troublesome permanent tooth than keep it around. Here’s a look at why we may recommend removing a tooth and what you can expect during your tooth extraction appointment.

Why We Might Recommend Removing a Tooth

Damage from trauma or tooth decay is the most common reason we recommend removing a tooth. Sports injuries, falls, and other accidents can cause irreparable damage to teeth. So can severe tooth decay that affects the root of the tooth.

An infection or risk of infection may also cause enough damage to cause us to recommend an extraction. Severe gum disease is another reason we pull teeth. Sometimes, the gum tissue that supports the tooth becomes so infected that the tooth becomes loose and needs to be pulled.

Other times, we may recommend removing a tooth if it is crowding its neighbors. This is especially common for patients who are getting braces. Pulling a tooth may be the best option for properly aligning your smile or allowing other teeth to erupt.

What to Expect during Your Tooth Extraction Procedure

After a consultation with Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff, we’ll help you decide if the tooth should be extracted at our office or with the oral surgeon. Sometimes a local anesthetic is enough to numb the area and safely and completely remove the tooth. Other times, you may decide that undergoing IV sedation is best for you.

Once the anesthetic kicks in, we’ll remove your tooth. This can be as simple as using forceps to pull the tooth out of its socket. But sometimes, we have to cut away gum and bone tissue to better expose the tooth so we can remove it more easily.

Once the tooth is removed, we’ll pack gauze into the socket to stop the bleeding. Sometimes, we’ll add a few dissolvable stiches to close the gum edges. During the healing process, a blood clot forms in the socket. If it becomes loose after your extraction, it causes a painful condition called dry socket. If you experience pain in the area of your pulled tooth, come back to see us. We’ll add a dressing over the socket to reduce the pain as a new blood clot forms.

What to Expect after Your Tooth Removal

After your procedure is complete, we’ll share your at-home recovery plan with you. You can expect some discomfort at the site of the extraction for a few days. We’ll recommend over-the-counter painkillers or prescribe a painkiller depending on the extent of the procedure. Applying ice to the site after the procedure can reduce swelling. Avoid spitting or rinsing your mouth for 24 hours after your procedure. This will allow the clot to form and avoid a painful dry socket.

It’s okay to continue to brush and floss your teeth. Just avoid the extraction site. We also recommend patients stick to liquid or soft foods for the first few days to promote healing.

What We Need to Know from You before Removing a Tooth

Removing a tooth is one of the most common and safest dental procedures we perform. But sometimes, patients have an underlying medical condition that may complicate the extraction. If you’re prone to infection, are immunocompromised, have liver disease, have a heart defect, or have an artificial joint or heart valve, please let us know so we can refine our treatment plan.

If you’re experiencing pain from a damaged tooth, schedule an appointment with Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff. We’ll perform a thorough exam and recommend your appropriate next steps.