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Quit Smoking to Save Your Smile

April 25th, 2018

You’ve likely heard that smoking increases risk of lung cancer and emphysema. But did you realize that your cigarette habit also has an impact on your smile? Chronic smokers suffer from increased dental problems that make their smiles unsightly. Understanding how smoking affects your oral health may provide the momentum you need to kick the habit for good.

Cosmetic Changes Associated with Smoking

Cigarettes contain more than 600 ingredients that, when lit, create in excess of 4,000 chemicals. Of these chemicals, many are known carcinogens while others have been shown to have serious negative effects on health. The nicotine and tar in tobacco products are absorbed by the enamel of your teeth. The result is yellowed teeth that look unsightly; with heavy smoking, your teeth may eventually turn nearly brown in color.

The chemicals in cigarettes and cigars also cause your teeth to become less clean. Smoking is associated with a build-up of tartar and plaque on the surface of your teeth. Over time, this increases your risk of developing cavities and other oral health problems. Furthermore, pursing your lips while smoking leads to wrinkles around your mouth, which detracts from your smile.

More Serious Dental Conditions

In addition to having unsightly teeth, smoking can cause serious health conditions. Because of the carcinogens in cigarettes, smoking is associated with an increased risk of oral cancer, which can be deadly. Smokers are also more likely to develop gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss. You may experience an increased loss of bone within your jaw, which will cause significant problems later in life.

Treatment for Smoking-Related Oral Health Problems

Dr. Mark Olson and our team at Chippewa Valley Dental Health will tell you that the best defense against smoking-related oral health problems is to ditch your nicotine habit. By decreasing the amount of nicotine and other chemicals you consume, you can decrease your risk of oral cancer and gum disease. Remember to mention your smoking habit when you’re at our Eau Claire, WI office. We frequently treat smokers and can recommend smoking cessation programs to help you quit. Dr. Mark Olson can also advise you about whitening treatments and gum disease prevention activities that ensure you’ll have a beautiful smile for years to come.

Good Teeth Lead to Sporting Success

April 18th, 2018

You already know that taking care of your teeth can help prevent tooth decay and the need for extensive work such as root canals or implants, which can be inconvenient and expensive. But the benefits of good teeth can go far beyond having an attractive smile and being able to crunch carrots and chew meat.

The American Dental Association explains that healthy teeth are linked to a lower risk for heart disease and diabetes. Furthermore, recent research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine states that good teeth can improve athletic performance among elite athletes.

Researchers examined the oral health of nearly 300 athletes in 25 sports at the 2012 Olympics in London. They looked for conditions such as dental caries, gingivitis, dental erosion, and periodontal disease, and asked about recent visits to a dentist.

Study investigators also asked athletes whether their oral health interfered with quality of life or athletic training and performance. The study concluded that poor oral health and fewer dental visits led to interference with preparation for competition.

This can happen for a few reasons. Tooth pain can disrupt sleep, which leads to slower reaction times. Oral health conditions can indicate chronic inflammation in the body, which means suboptimal performances on an elite level. Tooth pain can interfere with focus during training and competition.

Unfortunately, merely taking good care of your teeth won’t turn you into an Olympic gold medalist. However, the benefits can still be worthwhile. Even if healthy teeth provide little if any detectable gain in your athletic abilities, the potential benefits of maintaining a healthy mouth clearly go far beyond an attractive smile.

Practicing good oral hygiene and seeing Dr. Mark Olson regularly can promote your physical health, and maybe – just maybe – you will start to achieve an advantage over your weekend athletic opponents.

Antibiotic Prophylaxis or Pre-Medication

April 11th, 2018

At Chippewa Valley Dental Health, we know the human mouth contains a lot of bacteria. A bacterium can travel through your body with routine activities that are a normal part of daily living. You spread bacteria when you brush or floss your teeth, when you chew, and when you swallow.

For most people, bacteria don’t cause any problem. For some people, however, especially those who have chronic medical conditions, specific cardiac conditions, or whose immune systems are compromised, bacteria that spreads throughout the bloodstream can lead to much more serious bacterial infections.

The goal of pre-medication or antibiotic prophylaxis, Dr. Mark Olson will tell you, is to prevent bacterial endocarditis, a serious infection of the endothelial heart surfaces or the heart valves. The condition is also called infective endocarditis. A small population of people with certain health problems has a high risk for contracting this potentially deadly bacterium.

The American Heart Association states that people at greatest risk for contracting bacterial or infective endocarditis are:

  • Patients who underwent cardiac valve surgery in the past
  • Those who have suffered past incidents of infective endocarditis
  • Patients who have mitral valve prolapse, resulting in or causing valve leakage
  • People who have had rheumatic fever or any degenerative cardiac condition that produces abnormalities in cardiac valves
  • Patients who suffer from certain congenital heart diseases

For these patients, any dental procedure may cause bleeding, and prophylactic antibiotic administration is recommended as a preventive measure.

Other patients who require prophylactic antibiotics

The American Association of Endodontists extends recommendations to patients who have undergone joint replacement surgery within the past two years, suffer from type 1 diabetes, or have immune deficiencies from diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or HIV; cancer patients whose immune systems are suppressed because of radiation or chemotherapy; people who have had organ transplants; and hemophiliacs.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry also includes people who suffer from sickle cell anemia, as well as patients who suffer from conditions that require chronic steroid therapy.

Typical endodontic procedures for which antibiotic prophylaxis is recommended include root canal therapy (when it involves going deeper than the root apex), surgical tooth extractions, and any other dental, endodontic, or periodontal procedure during which the doctor anticipates bleeding.

Although different medical societies and organizations offer these guidelines as a way of identifying patients for whom prophylactic pre-medication is essential prior to dental procedures, dentists will take each patient's medical history and personal risk factors into consideration. Some doctors may choose to administer antibiotics following a procedure, especially for patients who have previously suffered from oral infections either as a result of dental procedures or that necessitated oral surgery.

For more information about antibiotic prophylaxis, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Mark Olson, please give us a call at our convenient Eau Claire, WI office!

Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April 4th, 2018

Happy Oral Cancer Awareness Month! We know oral cancer can be kind of a scary topic, but it’s worth using this opportunity to learn about the disease and spread knowledge so everyone becomes more aware. The more we know, the better we can work to prevent it!

Oral cancer is exactly what it sounds like: cancer that occurs anywhere in the mouth. It could occur on the tongue, the lips, the gums, the tongue, inside the cheek, or in the roof or floor of the mouth. Every  year, more than 8,000 people die from oral cancer. It’s a truly deadly disease.

The reason oral cancer scores a higher death rate than other common cancers such as testicular cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, thyroid cancer, cervical cancer, or even skin cancer, is because it often goes undetected until it's become too advanced and has spread to another part of the body.

So what causes this devastating disease? There is no clear answer, but some potential causes have been identified. By being aware of these, we can be alert and promote prevention of this illness:

  • Age: Most patients who develop oral cancer are above the age of 40. If you’re over 40, make sure your doctor checks for signs of oral cancer and that you stay on your dental hygiene regimen.
  • Tobacco: Excessive tobacco use, whether in the form of cigarette smoking or tobacco chewing, can be a substantial contributor and cause of oral cancer. So that’s another reason, among many, you should avoid tobacco.
  • Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption can put you at risk because alcohol converts into a chemical called acetaldehyde, which damages the body’s DNA and blocks cells from repairing the damage. When paired with tobacco, the dehydrating effects of alcohol make it even easier for tobacco to infiltrate mouth tissue.
  • Sun exposure: Your lips need SPF, too! Repeated sun exposure increases your risk of contracting cancer on your lips, especially the lower lip.
  • Diet: Not getting all the nutrients you need, from vegetables and fruits for instance, can weaken your immune system and make you more vulnerable to the disease.

Obviously, many of these causes relate to lifestyle choices, which we have control over. It's all about balance, being aware, and making small tweaks to our habits if we need to.

If you’re concerned that you may be at risk for oral cancer, give us a call to talk about a screening. And if you’ve been putting off a visit to our Eau Claire, WI office, now is an excellent time to schedule one. Regular visits to the dentist can be the first line of defense against oral cancer!

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