Q: WHAT IS BRUXISM? 

A: It is characterized by the grinding of teeth, accompanied by clenching of the jaw. Most people do not know that it is happening to them. In many instances, a sleeping partner will notice the bruxism before the person experiencing the problem is even aware of it. Bruxism causes abnormal wear of teeth, tooth sensitivity, notching of teeth at the gumline, fractured teeth, gum recession, loosening of teeth, and migraine-like or tension headaches. There is not a definitive cure of bruxism, but mouthguards, bite adjustments, and repair of damaged teeth can reduce the signs and symptoms of this condition. 

Q: HOW LONG SHOULD ONE BRUSH?

A: One should spend at least two minutes brushing teeth, twice a day. To make sure you are doing two minutes worth of brushing, set an egg timer or invest in a toothbrush with a built-in timer. Spend your two minutes wisely: brush the front and back of the teeth, the chewing surface, and in between the teeth. Flossing and tongue scraping would also improve the overall health of your mouth. 

Q: HOW DO EATING DISORDERS AFFECT ORAL HEALTH? 

A: By interfering with the proper nutrition of the body, eating disorders can have a devastating effect on a person's overall health and oral health. Bad breath, sensitive teeth, tooth erosion, changes in the color, shape and length of teeth, and bleeding from oral tissues may be signs of an eating disorder. Professional help, nutritional counseling, and a good support network play a crucial role in the recovery process. 

Q: HOW DO DENTISTS SCREEN FOR CANCER? 

A: During routine check-ups, a dentist will feel for lumps, or irregular tissue changes in your neck, head, cheeks, and oral cavity, and will examine the mouth for sores and discoloration in the soft tissues. You can help prevent oral cancer by abstaining from all forms of tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption. Regular dental examinations every six months allow for early detection, which in turn increases the survival rate of cancer patients. 

Q: WHAT IS A CROWN? 

A: It is a cover or cap that restores the tooth to its normal shape and size, and can strengthen and improve the appearance of the tooth. A crown is prescribed when the tooth has suffered significant damage, and restoring it with a filling will further weaken the remaining tooth structure. Crowns can prevent the tooth from fracturing, and prevent a cracked tooth from suffering further damage. 

Q: WHAT SPORTS POSE A THREAT TO YOUR ORAL HEALTH? 

A: Any contact sport can potentially cause injury to the teeth, jaws and oral tissues. A custom mouthguard made by a dentist offers protection for your teeth, and decreases the likelihood of broken teeth, jaw fractures, cerebral hemorrhage, and neck injuries caused by the lower jaw jamming into the upper jaw or being pushed back into the temporomandibular joint. Inform Dr. Bustamante of any sports in which you may be involved, so he can give you tips on how to best protect your mouth, face, head, and neck during these activities. 

Q: WHAT IS PERIODONTAL (GUM) DISEASE?

A: It is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth. Gingivitis is the mildest form of the disease, and there is usually little or no discomfort until it is too late to intervene. It begins with inflammation of the gums caused by plaque around the teeth. In the early stages, treatment involves regular visits for a professional cleaning at least every six months, followed by proper daily cleaning at home. If left unchecked, the fibers that hold the tooth in place will breakdown and create pockets that will be filled with bacteria. Over time, a severe infection may develop with pain and swelling, and the tooth may loosen and require removal. Daily brushing and flossing, reducing or quitting smoking, eating a healthier diet, protecting your teeth form the effects of bruxism; these lifestyle changes will minimize your risk of developing gum disease. 

Q: HOW ARE CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE AND PERIODONTAL (GUM) DISEASE CONNECTED? 

A: Cardiovascular disease presents in several forms. These include high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and heart failure. Studies have suggested that the chronic inflammation of the gums and surrounding tissue (gingivitis and periodontitis respectively), can be indicators for cardiovascular problems. In 2005, a study showed that the presence of bacteria in the bloodstream known to cause periodontitis was associated with an increased level of blood vessel thickening typically seen in heart disease. By practicing proper oral hygiene at home and visiting your dentist every six months, accompanied by a healthy diet and exercise, you can improve both your oral and overall health. 

Q: HOW ARE GUM DISEASE AND DIABETES RELATED? 

A: Diabetes reduces the body's resistance to infections. If bacteria are left to accumulate around the gums and teeth, they will form a sticky film that produces toxins that lead to chronic inflammation. This, in turn, may have the potential to affect blood sugar control and contribute to the progression of diabetes. Let your dentist know if your blood sugar is under control, as this will affect the frequency of your dental hygiene visits, type of dental procedures that you will be able to tolerate well, and length and time of the appointment. 

Q: WHAT HAPPENS TO MY MOUTH WHEN I SMOKE? 

A: Smoking reduces blood flow, and with it the supply of important nutrients to your gums and bone around the teeth. Smoking facilitates the accumulation of bacteria in plaque, reduces the amount of saliva in your mouth, and the heat from smoking causes the death of important cells in your mouth. Saliva reduction increases the likelihood of tooth decay. Nicotine and tar discolor your teeth, and the tar will adhere to the crevices in the teeth. The roof of your mouth will become inflamed and turn red. Smokeless tobacco eats away the gums, and the site where it is placed is 50 times more likely to develop oral cancer. Lastly, cigars are not a safe alternative to cigarettes as they also contribute to increasing the risk of oral, lung, larynx and esophageal cancers. Removing the stain off the teeth will be temporary if one does not quit cigarette smoking. 

Q: WHAT CAN I DO TO RELIEVE DENTAL ANXIETY? 

A: In general, avoid caffeine and sugary foods before a dental appointment. Eating high-protein foods produces a calming effect on the body. During your appointment focus on breathing to keep your oxygen levels normal, thus decreasing the feeling of anxiety. Also, some dentists prescribe and administer medications to help patients relax during a dental appointment. Speak to Dr. Bustamante about your fears so that he may address your concerns and answer any questions you have. 

Q: WHAT DO HORMONES HAVE TO DO WITH A WOMAN'S ORAL HEALTH? 

A: Hormonal fluctuations can bring about changes in women's oral health. During puberty, hormonal fluctuations may gums susceptible to gingivitis, making your gums appear red and swollen. Menstruation can bring about increased development of cold sores and canker sores. Pregnancy is associated with a very common form of gingivitis conveniently known as "pregnancy gingivitis". During this period, women may also experience dry mouth, which puts her at risk of gum infections and decay in her teeth. Oral contraceptives may cause gum tissue changes and may slow down healing of tooth extraction sites (dry socket). Menopause may bring oral changes that include pain, burning sensation of the mouth, changes in taste and dry mouth. You and Dr. Bustamante can create a treatment and prevention plan that can help you maintain good oral health throughout your life. 

Q: WHAT DO I DO WHEN A TOOTH IS KNOCKED OUT? 

A: Immediately call Dr. Bustamante for an emergency appointment. Only touch the crown of the tooth because touching the root will damage the cells necessary for bone reattachment. Gently rinse it in water to remove dirt, but DO NOT scrub it. Place the tooth in your mouth, between your gums and cheek to keep it moist, or else immerse it in milk. Getting to your dentist within 30 minutes can make a difference between saving and losing a tooth.