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Michael D. Weitzner - Dental

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Contributing Experts

Michael D. Weitzner, D.M.D., M.S.

Dental

Make Mother's Day a healthy one for you and your baby

Posted by Michael D. Weitzner – April 26, 2012

In May, we celebrate our mothers and thank them for all that they have done for us. It's also a good time to think about the impact that moms have on their children. A common expression is that when you're pregnant, you're eating for two - but did you know that you're also brushing for two? When you take care of your teeth and gums, it can positively impact your baby, both before and after birth.

Being pregnant can be hard on your teeth and gums. If you have morning sickness, it can be difficult to brush and floss, and if you're vomiting, the acid can harm your enamel. Eating more often can increase your risk of tooth decay, especially if you choose sugary snacks. And hormone changes can lead to an increased risk of gingivitis, a gum disease caused by plaque.

During pregnancy, it's important to work hard to keep your mouth healthy. Gum disease has been associated with an increase in the risk for pregnancy complications including diabetes1 and preeclampsia, a condition where toxins build up in the blood and cause high blood pressure and other symptoms.2

Even after you give birth, the health of your mouth affects the health of your baby. If you have gum disease or tooth decay, germs from your mouth can be passed to your baby by kissing or sharing a spoon.3 Those germs can later cause decay in your baby's teeth.

In short, dental care during pregnancy is not only safe but is good for both your health and the health of your baby. In addition to seeking professional care, it is also important to get proper nutrition and to take a little extra time with home care.

Here are some tips on keeping your mouth healthy during pregnancy:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice daily using fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss at least once a day.
  • Rinse daily with a fluoride mouthwash.
  • Choose healthy foods like fruits and vegetables, and avoid sugary or starchy snacks and soda.
  • Visit your dentist at least once during your pregnancy. He or she can clean your teeth and help you control any tooth decay or gum disease.

Again, a dental visit is safe any time during your pregnancy.

By taking good care of your mouth while you're pregnant, you're giving your baby a great start on a lifetime of excellent oral health. Thank you for reading – and happy Mother's Day!

  1. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments, NIH Publication No. 11-1142, July 2011, no copyright
  2. Mayo Clinic, Preeclampsia, April 21, 2011
  3. American Dental Association, Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
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Improve your odds against oral cancer – check out these signs

Posted by Michael D. Weitzner – March 26, 2012

When I talk to people about oral health, a topic that gets a lot of buzz is oral cancer. Most people have no idea that this disease strikes more than 35,0001 people in the United States each year.

These are scary stats to be sure, but there is good news when it comes to oral cancer. There are signs you can look for and steps you can take that can improve your odds against this disease. In fact, the National Institutes of Health Reports that the 5-year survival rate for oral cancer diagnosed early is 75% compared to 20% for oral cancer diagnosed late.2 Sharing this kind of important information is the reason I decided to blog this year-to get the word out.

I bet you're thinking: "I don't smoke. I don't chew tobacco. This blog is not for me." Before I lose you to Kathleen Zelman's terrific nutrition blog, you should know that there are other risk factors when it comes to oral cancer, including drinking alcohol and, we're coming to find out, HPV (the human papillomavirus).3 And then there are those who get oral cancer who have none of these risk factors. What I'm saying, then, really is that everyone should know about oral cancer-you, your family and your friends.

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month-a great time to learn about oral cancer and share what you learn with those you love.

So what should you look for? Here are some signs of oral cancer:

  • Red and/or white spots in your mouth or on your lips
  • Sores in your mouth or on your lip that don't heal
  • Unusual changes to the surface of your mouth or lip tissue
  • Bleeding in the mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Ear pain
  • Numbness of the tongue or other mouth parts
  • Jaw swelling

Your dentist looks for these signs each time he or she sees you for a regular exam, so visiting your dentist regularly (for most people that means twice a year), for check ups is important, but if you notice any of the signs, be sure to make an appointment with your medical doctor or dentist immediately.

Dentists now have new and more effective tools to detect oral cancer than in the past, including something called light contrast screening, which lets a dentist tell the healthy tissue from the unhealthy. Another test, called brush biopsy, is often done as a follow-up to light contrast or if there is an obvious area of suspicious tissue. A dentist uses a brush to take a tissue sample from the suspicious area and then sends it to a lab.

Both screening tests are performed in addition to traditional manual screenings. If abnormal tissue is detected, the dentist will refer you for a full-scalpel biopsy, where a small amount of tissue is removed from the mouth and sent to the lab, to determine a definite diagnosis and possible treatment.

Screening for oral cancer should be part of every routine dental exam and will go a long way to improving your odds. Make sure your dentist includes it in your exam. I hope you found this information helpful. Thanks for reading, and I hope you see you next month, too.

  1. American Cancer Society, 2007
  2. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research/National Institutes of Health, last modified Feb. 14, 2011.
  3. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research/National Institutes of Health, last modified Dec. 23, 2009
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Getting your child off to a lifetime of great dental health

Posted by Michael D. Weitzner – Feb. 1, 2012

Welcome to my first monthly blog about dental topics. I want to first thank the Source4Women online community for giving me the opportunity to write about dental health, which is an important part of your overall health. Normally, I'll be posting my blogs the third Wednesday of the month, but I wanted to post this blog earlier since it's National Children's Dental Health Month.

This is an excellent time to think about oral health in babies and children. I'm going to provide you with some healthy habits that can last a lifetime.

Many people think that baby teeth are unimportant. They fall out anyway, right? The fact is that baby teeth are very important. When a child has unchecked tooth decay, it may lead to poor eating habits, speech problems, oral infections and discolored, crooked and damaged adult teeth. Additionally, it's important to keep baby teeth healthy and in place to ensure the permanent teeth come in properly.

The good news is that it's very easy to get into good habits that promote oral health in children-habits that will stay with them for a lifetime.

The first thing to know is that the health of your mouth impacts your children. Children pick up on your habits and imitate them. If they see you brush and floss, they will. You play a very important role in your child's oral health.

And, did you know that bacteria from your mouth can be passed on to your children by sharing a spoon or through kissing? It's true, so take care of your own teeth. Brush at least twice a day and see a dentist twice a year.

Tips for caring for baby's teeth and gums:

  • Never put baby to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, fruit juice or sweetened liquid. When these liquids pool in a baby's mouth, they form a sugary film on the baby's teeth, leading to decay and infection.
  • Starting at birth, clean baby's gums with a soft cloth and water. As teeth begin coming in, start brushing baby's teeth with a soft bristled toothbrush, using a little dab of fluoride toothpaste.
  • Schedule baby's first dental visit when his/her first tooth comes in, usually between the ages of six-12 months of age.

Tips for caring for children's teeth and gums:

  • Help your child brush twice a day with a small amount of fluoride toothpaste. When your child is pre-school age, assist with brushing to make sure teeth get clean and that your child does not swallow toothpaste, which can lead to tooth stains. When a child is between the ages of seven and eight, he/she is generally able to manage final brushing on his/her own, but you may still need to help.
  • Begin flossing when back teeth begin to come in. This is important because toothbrush bristles cannot reach back teeth, leaving those teeth vulnerable to bacteria which causes decay.
  • Limit sugary snacks and drinks between meals. When sugar comes in contact with teeth, the teeth are attacked by decay-causing acids for 20 minutes or more. Encourage healthy snacks instead.
  • Take your child to the dentist regularly and ask about fluoride supplements, which make the tooth enamel strong. For most children, that means visiting the dentist twice a year.
  • Sealants are a fast, easy and painless way to protect back teeth from decay, and they are usually covered as a preventive service by most dental plans, requiring little or no out-of-pocket costs.

Be sure to take advantage of the preventive benefit and visit your dentist regularly. By taking a few simple steps, you can start your children down the road of good oral health.

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