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Hagerstown Dentist | Optimal Gum Health for Seniors

Dentist in Hagerstown

Dentist in HagerstownFor seniors, it is imperative that gum health is a top priority. As you age, your risk of developing periodontal (gum) disease increases. Periodontal disease is both preventable, and in many cases, reversible. When left untreated, it can lead to more serious complications such as bloody or swollen gums, and even tooth loss. Even more alarming are the numerous studies connecting periodontal disease to other serious illnesses. Here’s what you need to know about gum health as you age.

Periodontal Disease and Your Overall Health

Periodontal disease has been linked to serious health issues. In fact, a recent study conducted by the University of Southampton and King’s College London uncovered a link between periodontal disease and an increase in the rate of cognitive decline in those who suffer from early Alzheimer’s disease. In patients with periodontal disease, the study found cognitive decline underwent a rapid change, occurring six times as fast on average.

Periodontal disease has also been found to increase your risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke. Risk factors for these serious issues increase with age, among other causes, and it is especially important to limit potential risk factors where possible. This can be as easy as improving your gum health with a visit to our office.

The Numbers You Need to Know

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, moderate or severe periodontal disease was found in over 14% of seniors aged 65 to 74. The number increases to more than 20% for those over 75 years of age. Men were found to be more likely than women to have moderate to severe periodontal disease. Smoking was also found to have a significant impact. The same study showed 32% of current smokers had periodontal disease, compared to 14% for those who never smoked.

Steps You Can Take

As you age, it is essential to keep up with your gum health. Doing so is an important link in lowering your risk factors for other serious ailments such as heart disease, stroke, and the impacts of Alzheimer’s disease. You can keep your gums healthy by brushing twice each day for a full two minutes. Be sure to regularly floss your teeth as well. Flossing is an effective way to clean the hard-to-reach cracks and gaps where plaque builds up. Schedule a visit with our team for a complete gum evaluation. We can work with you to devise a course of action to ensure healthy gums.

Good Nutrition Leads to Healthy Mouths

Dentist in Hagerstown

At Valley Dental Associates, we know the most common oral health diseases are tooth decay and periodontal disease (or gum disease), and both are among the easiest to prevent. One of the most common ways we recommend to boost your oral health is by improving your diet, because you (and your mouth) truly are what you eat. A healthy diet can lead to a healthy mouth and body, while an unhealthy diet can lead to the exact opposite.

The Role Nutrition Plays
While diet is not the only factor that leads to periodontal disease, studies suggest the disease may be more severe among patients whose diets lack essential nutrients. Poor diets will generally lead to a weaker immune system, leaving your body susceptible to all kinds of ailments, including periodontal disease.

A Well-Balanced Approach
There is no “magic” diet that we can recommend to improve your oral health, but the most important thing is to seek a well-balanced approach in your eating. While fad diets that emphasize one food group over another may help you lose weight in the short-term, they probably will not provide all the nutrients your body needs in the long run.

Meals should include a balance of lean meats or other healthy protein sources, colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats. Foods containing substantial amounts of sugar and salt should be consumed in moderation.

Soda and Sugar: A Dangerous Duo
Millions of gallons of soda are consumed every day in America, but sipping a cold soft drink can be very harmful to your teeth. Many of these beverages wear down the enamel that protects the teeth, which weakens and even destroys them over time. The American Beverage Association estimates that soft drinks account for almost 30 percent of all drink consumption in the U.S., averaging an annual total of about 50 gallons per person (up from only 20 gallons in the 1970s). For healthy teeth and a healthy body overall, try to limit your soda intake.

Sugar is another ubiquitous treat in our daily lives. When we eat sugar, naturally occurring bacteria in our mouths convert it to acids that attack tooth enamel. Consuming too much sugar can swiftly lead to tooth decay, cavities, and gum diseases like gingivitis. Most people do not even realize how much sugar they consume each day. It’s important to limit your daily sugar intake by reading the labels of all the food you eat, and sticking with natural food sources that are low in sugar, especially ones that minimize added sugar, such as fruits and vegetables.

If you have questions about your diet and how it may be affecting your oral health, talk to Drs. Winebrenner, Franklin, Thomas, and Patel about it. See you soon!

How Computers Help Dental Implants Look Natural

Dentist in Hagerstown, MD

Never before have dental implants looked as natural and aesthetically pleasing as they do today. With the help of computer-aided design and computer aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM), Drs. Winebrenner, Franklin, Thomas, and Patel and our team are able to create implants with impeccable fit and finish. Although these technologies have been in use since the 1980s, it’s only recently that they became efficient and cost-effective enough to be useful.

Drs. Winebrenner, Franklin, Thomas, and Patel can also take digital scans of your teeth, providing a much more in-depth and accurate representation of them when compared to traditional X-rays. This scan can be used to create a physical model of your teeth through the use of 3D printing technology, allowing for the utmost in accuracy when planning your implant treatment.

Since each of our patients are unique, these CAD/CAM technologies offer a highly customized approach to implant dentistry that helps avoid the “one-size-fits-all” ways of the past. The goal is to have an implant look and function as closely as it can to the tooth it’s replacing. That’s why these implants are typically milled using ceramic or composite resin — materials chosen due to their durability and resemblance to teeth.

Even the planning of your surgery can be aided and guided by computers. 3D CT scans create a digital representation of your mouth including all significant anatomical markers. This data is imported into planning software which, coupled with CAD/CAM implant technology, is able to 3D print surgical guides that snap into place over a patient’s teeth. This means less risk for surgical error and much more accurately placed dental implants.

The main benefits of CAD/CAM dental implants are that they:

  • Are extremely accurate for every patient, down to 50 micrometers
  • Have better long-term results and more natural-looking implants
  • Can be manufactured quickly, the same day in many cases

Of course this is just a quick summary of the benefits, and a computer-modeled implant may not always be the best option. If you have questions about the dental implants or the technologies we use to make them look as natural as possible, feel free to contact our Hagerstown, MD office.

What’s the best dental floss?

Dentist Hagerstown

Dental floss is similar to a lot of products that depend mainly on the consumer’s preference. Fact is, floss comes in a wide variety of flavors, coatings, and other variations, but all types of floss essentially do the same thing. After all, that is what is most important: that the dental floss you buy is functional—cleaning the areas in between your teeth. If you want to know what the best dental floss is, the answer is the kind that enables you to successfully and regularly clean those areas. So to help you find the right type of floss for you, here are some options.

Flavored Dental Floss

Many people that floss prefer a flavored dental floss because it freshens their breath even more than unscented floss. The latter can also take on the smells associated with bacteria in your mouth. And we all know how bad that can be. So, if flavored dental floss is what you prefer, and it allows you to floss your teeth regularly, then it is automatically best for your mouth.

Flossers

There are also products on the market called flossers, which usually consist of a plastic instrument with strung floss and a pick on the opposite end. This option can be both effective at cleaning the areas in between your teeth and scraping off plaque. These flossers also come flavored in mint and various other varieties.

Gentle Dental Floss

Some people find that typical dental floss is too harsh on their gums. For that reason some companies make floss with soft coatings that are less abrasive on the gums. For the most part these types of floss are just as effective as regular floss, and for those people that require a more sensitive approach to flossing, especially when just starting out, this is the best option.

Of the aforementioned options, it is difficult to name an absolute best type of floss. However, Drs. Winebrenner, Franklin, Thomas, and Patel and our team say that the type of floss that works best for you, giving you the greatest chance of succeeding at regular flossing, is the best. For more information on floss, contact our Hagerstown, MD office.

Choose Chocolate on Valentine’s Day

Dentist Hagerstown

From a student handing out sweets for her classmates to an older married couple exchanging boxes of candy, Valentine’s Day is the time of year when people like to show affection by gifting sugary treats to their loved ones. Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of Valentine’s Day candy, you can celebrate the holiday in a healthier way by making dark chocolate your confection of choice.

Contribute to Your Health

According to the Cleveland Clinic, studies have shown that the cocoa beans used to make chocolate contain flavonoids, which can help protect the body against damage from various toxins. Flavonoids may also help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to the heart and the brain. Dark chocolates typically contain a higher amount of flavonoids than other types, making them a great choice for chocolate lovers. However, you should keep in mind that many companies produce chocolate that is so heavily processed that the flavonoids are largely eliminated. Your best bet is to look for high-quality dark chocolates and cocoa powders that have undergone minimal processing.

Protect Against Cavities

If you think there’s no way candy could ever be beneficial for your teeth, think again. The Texas A&M Health Science Center has reported that the tannins present in cocoa beans may actually help prevent cavities by interfering with bacteria’s harmful interaction with teeth. Just like with flavonoids, tannins have been found to be present more often in dark chocolates, rather than milk chocolates, giving you another great reason to choose the richer, sweet varieties.

Avoid a Sticky Situation

One more benefit of choosing chocolate over other candies is that it is less likely to get stuck in the crevices and spaces between teeth. Gooey sweets like taffy can stay lodged in the mouth for longer periods of time, putting you at a greater risk for developing cavities. When you choose your chocolate, be sure to avoid types that also contain sticky ingredients like caramel or marshmallow, and instead opt for the plain varieties.

Remember that the health benefits you can receive from dark chocolate are largely based on eating the candy in moderation. With that being said, it’s easy to make this delicious and health conscious switch when you’re out shopping for your sweetheart, friends, loved ones, and yourself. Have fun satisfying your sweet tooth this year and Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at Valley Dental Associates!

How Does A Tooth Decay?

Dentist Hagerstown, MD

When acids are allowed to erode tooth enamel long enough to leach calcium and other minerals from your enamel and dentin, a process called demineralization occurs. This rapidly leads to tooth decay unless reversed by good oral hygiene and professional dental cleanings at our Hagerstown, MD office. Acids responsible for tooth decay come from the wastes of mutans streptococci and lactobacilli bacteria that thrive in dental plaque, a substance that is the leading cause of periodontitis.

Where do demineralizing acids come from?

Dietary sugars comprise the bulk of tooth-decaying acids, including table sugar, cooked starches, fructose, glucose, and lactose. In fact, as soon as you bite down on a sugary cookie or into a French fry, bacteria start digesting sugars, breaking them down and eventually excreting them as demineralizing acids. As this bacteria colony grows and becomes organized, plaque develops and forms that tough, yellowish coating you often see on the tops of teeth at the gumline.

Plaque is the Problem

Dental plaque is a filmy type of nesting place for bacteria that also keeps acids pressed against tooth enamel. Since plaque cannot be removed by brushing, it is important that a person who suffers tooth decay visit Valley Dental Associates immediately so we can use special tools to scrape and thoroughly clean teeth.

Signs of Tooth Decay

Early tooth decay and cavities remain asymptomatic until demineralization creates a hole deep enough to reach the tooth’s inner tissues and nerve endings. Eventually, tooth decay will cause tooth sensitivity, toothache, vague pain when biting down on the affected tooth, and possibly pus seeping around a tooth’s gum line if the decay creates an infection. If treatment is delayed long enough, a decaying tooth may loosen, crumble, and ultimately fall out, which leaves an empty or partially empty socket.

Preventing Tooth Decay

Getting regular checkups with Drs. Winebrenner, Franklin, Thomas, and Patel, brushing and flossing twice a day, and eating fruits or crunchy vegetables at snack time instead of a candy bar or doughnut are the three best ways to keep your teeth healthy, white, and where they should be: in your mouth.

Women’s Hormones and Oral Health

Hagerstown Dentist

At Valley Dental Associates, we know that hormones affect a woman’s mood, but did you know they can also impact the health of a woman’s mouth? Women are susceptible to gum disease at different times in their lives, and research shows that hormonal highs and lows are part of the problem. According to studies, there are five situations in women’s lives during which hormone fluctuations make them more susceptible to oral health problems: puberty, their menstrual cycles, pregnancy, menopause, and birth control pill usage. So just what happens and how can you help protect your oral health? Drs. Winebrenner, Franklin, Thomas, and Patel and our team have outlined the five hormonal situations and provided a few tips and tricks to fending off potential issues.

Puberty – The surge of hormone production that occurs during puberty can increase the blood flow to the gums and change the way gum tissue reacts to irritants in plaque. As a result, a woman’s gums may bleed during the act of brushing and flossing.

Monthly menstruation cycle – Hormonal changes (especially the increase in progesterone) occur during a woman’s menstrual cycle. These changes can lead to red swollen gums, swollen salivary glands, canker sores, or bleeding gums.

Pregnancy – Hormone levels tend to fluctuate during pregnancy. As a result, women are at greater risk to develop a condition called gingivitis, the early form of gum disease. Drs. Winebrenner, Franklin, Thomas, and Patel may recommend more frequent professional cleanings during your second or early third trimester to help reduce the chance of developing gingivitis. Please let us know if you are pregnant during your visit.

Menopause – Women are known to experience numerous oral changes as they age. These oral changes can include greater sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages, a burning sensation in your mouth, or dry mouth. Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, can result in the development of tooth decay and gum disease because saliva is not available to moisten and cleanse the mouth. It is important to know that dry mouth can also result from many prescription and over-the-counter medications. The gradual loss in estrogen that occurs with menopause also puts older women at risk for loss of bone density, which can lead to tooth loss. Receding gums, which expose more of the tooth surface to potential tooth decay, can be a sign of bone loss in the jawbone.

Birth control pills – Some birth control pills contain progesterone, which increases the level of that hormone in the body. Women who take pills with progesterone may develop inflamed gum tissue due to the toxins produced from plaque. Be sure to tell us if you are taking an oral contraceptive during your visit.

To prevent gum disease, we recommend:

  • Brushing your teeth at least twice a day with a toothpaste containing fluoride
  • Flossing at least once a day
  • Eating a well-balanced diet
  • Avoiding sugary or starchy snacks

Drs. Winebrenner, Franklin, Thomas, and Patel and our team at Valley Dental Associates encourage you to visit our Hagerstown, MD office and practice good oral health habits at home.

The Invisalign® Treatment Process

Hagerstown, MD Dentist

Invisalign is gaining traction as a sought-after solution for orthodontic problems. Unlike traditional braces, which require the placement of brackets on teeth and the connection of unsightly wires, Invisalign works nearly invisibly (as its name suggests). Particularly for those who do not wish to draw attention to their orthodontic work, Invisalign provides an attractive solution.

Consultation with a Treatment Provider

Our practice has received specialized training to work with Invisalign. During your consultation appointment, Drs. Winebrenner, Franklin, Thomas, and Patel will assess your smile needs. In some cases, the type of problem may not lend itself to correction through Invisalign, and we may offer an alternative solution.

Creation of a Custom Treatment Plan

Invisalign works using a series of customized clear trays that fit almost perfectly over the teeth. To create these trays, Drs. Winebrenner, Franklin, Thomas, and Patel will take X-rays and impressions of your teeth. These are submitted to a specialized laboratory that makes a 3D image of your smile. This is used to create a specialized treatment plan that provides an estimate of how long treatment will take.

Arrival of Custom Trays

Once your customized trays have arrived, the treatment begins. For Invisalign to work properly, you must wear the aligners 20 to 22 hours per day, removing them only to eat, drink, and brush your teeth. The trays gently draw your teeth into proper alignment, correcting your orthodontic problems as you go about your everyday life.

In general, you will replace your aligners with a new set every two weeks. This is to encourage your teeth to continue moving throughout the treatment process. You’ll need to check in with our Hagerstown, MD office every six weeks or so to ensure treatment progresses smoothly.

Beautiful Smile: Complete!

Once you complete your individualized treatment plan, you’ll have the smile you’ve always dreamed of. Like with traditional braces, Drs. Winebrenner, Franklin, Thomas, and Patel may recommend that you wear a retainer to ensure that your teeth remain in their new positions.

When snoring becomes more than just annoying: The dangers of sleep apnea

Hagerstown, MD Dentist

Sawing wood. That’s what your wife calls it when you wake her up with your snoring. This type of scenario plays out in homes around the world, and couples have to find a way to make light of the nocturnal annoyance. Snoring can become more than just an irritating nighttime disturbance, however. It can be the first sign of a potentially serious sleep disorder.

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which breathing repeatedly pauses throughout the night. Possible symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring loudly and feeling tired after a full night’s sleep.

Three health problems linked to sleep apnea

Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed and untreated, which puts you at a greater risk of developing health problems. While being robbed of quality sleep can take its toll on you, sleep apnea can also result in the following.

  1. High blood pressure. When you wake frequently throughout the night, it causes your body’s hormonal systems to become unbalanced and go into overdrive. This results in high blood pressure.
  2. Heart disease. The disrupted oxygen flow caused by sleep apnea increases your chances of having a heart attack or stroke. The cutoff of oxygen makes it difficult for the brain to regulate the flow of blood in the arteries.
  3. Excessive daytime sleepiness. Daytime fatigue often results in impaired judgment and slow reaction times, and this may increase your risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident.

Lifestyle changes like losing weight, avoiding alcohol, and quitting smoking are often enough to cure sleep apnea. Medical treatment is also a potential solution. Surgery, oral appliances, and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which is a treatment involving a specialized breathing mask, are all possible ways to resolve the problem of sleep apnea.

If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea, or to schedule a visit with Drs. Winebrenner, Franklin, Thomas, and Patel at our convenient Hagerstown, MD office, please give us a call! Our entire team at Valley Dental Associates look forward to giving you back a full night’s rest!

It’s a Wrap: Ending the year with a smile!

Dentist in Hagerstown

People have been ushering in the New Year for centuries but it became an official holiday in 1582 when Pope George XIII declared January 1st to be the day on which everyone would celebrate the New Year. At midnight people would yell, holler, and blow horns to scare away the evil spirits of the previous year so the New Year would be joyous and filled with opportunity. Nearly 500 years later, we still greet the New Year by whooping and hollering, but in a celebratory manner instead. Whether you intend to ring in the New Year quietly at home in the Hagerstown, MD area or have plans to join the countdown at a gala extravaganza, these tips can help you ring out the old and usher in the new with a smile.

Tips for a Happy New Year’s Eve Celebration from Valley Dental Associates

  • Be Safe. There’s no way to predict the behavior of others on New Year’s Eve, but you can be responsible for your own behavior to keep yourself safe. If adult beverages will be part of your celebration, plan on spending the night wherever you are or line up a designated driver to bring you home after the party is over.
  • Enjoy Family and Friends. Spending time with the important people in your life is what makes the holidays enjoyable. Coordinate your schedules and choose New Year’s Eve activities that everyone in the group will enjoy. You don’t have to go to a party to ring in the New Year; some people like to go bowling, see a movie, or have a great meal at home.
  • Accessorize with a Smile. Whether you dress up or have a quiet dinner with family and friends, one of the best accessories you can add to your attire is a beautiful smile.

New Year’s Eve is a time to gather with friends and family, reflect on the year that’s coming to an end, and look forward to the new one with anticipation. Enjoy this transitional holiday in a way that’s safe, healthy, and fun. After all, counting down until the clock strikes 12 marks the beginning of a full year of opportunity ahead of you. From Drs. Winebrenner, Franklin, Thomas, and Patel, have a great new year!.