How excess weight gain can be harmful to teeth and gums
Obesity has long been recognised as a significant health issue. Although currently in the news because of its negative effect on Covid-19 recovery rates, it has long been known to be a contributor to heart disease and diabetes (more of that later). Our reliance on convenience foods and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle means that more and more of us are becoming at risk from this growing problem.
Although there may be medical advances at some point in the future that can help to prevent weight gain, the reality is that much of it is currently down to our own behaviour and even changing just a few simple habits could make a big difference to both our general and oral health.
In today’s Clock Tower Dental Clinic blog, we look at how obesity can have an impact on your teeth and gums along with a few simple tips to set you on the right path.
One of the biggest causes of obesity is our diet. Not only do many of us eat too much for our current lifestyle, but we often end up eating foods that are not healthy for us. Many of these contain high quantities not only of fat, but also of sugar. Even many savoury ready meals contain this as it enhances the flavours and helps to preserve food longer as well. We can call this ‘hidden’ sugar as although we know when we eat cake, for example, that we are eating sugar, we may be unaware of it in other foods where we wouldn’t expect to find it.
Although this is a problem, it would be less so if we were careful not to eat so many foods that are blatantly high in sugar. The obvious examples being in cakes, chocolates, sweets etc. Even some supposedly healthy foods such as breakfast cereals are very high in sugar indeed. As patients of our long-standing Epsom dentists will know, high sugar consumption is likely to lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
One common consequence of being obese is the increased risk of diabetes. This can be very dangerous and can affect many of the essential organs of our body. The increase of glucose in our saliva if blood sugar is not controlled is an obvious risk factor, but diabetes can also damage our blood vessels and reduce blood flow to our gums, making disease more likely.
If you have diabetes, we recommend that you see a dental hygienist every three months for a scale and polish so that we can help to manage any gum health issues.
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University can be a life determining experience but don’t neglect your teeth
There are many good reasons for going to university. The most obvious of these is to further your education, and for many of you, to gain the qualifications needed to pursue your chosen career.
University life offers so much more though and many lifelong friendships, and relationships, will be made during this time.
For many of you, it will be your first taste of independence too, especially if you are going to a university that isn’t in your home town. This can be exciting, although it can create problems as well.
The reality is that in order to function well and healthily, much of our life is relatively routine. When we are away from home for the first time, some of these routines are likely to change, or even disappear altogether. Unfortunately, our oral care is sometimes included in this!
Student life may have come a long way from episodes of ‘The Young Ones’ which older patients of our Epsom dental clinic may remember. Few students will be cooking up Neil’s lentil curry and will be eating a lot more processed food instead. Although Neil’s curries may have looked revolting, processed foods are likely to be far more harmful for your teeth and gums.
Many processed foods contain fairly high quantities of sugar. This is the case even for savoury foods where sugar is used to enhance the taste. Cakes, biscuits etc are obviously high in sugar but savoury foods should not be ignored either. So much has been written about sugar and tooth decay that we probably don’t need to discuss this, but do make sure to include plenty of fresh food in your diet, perhaps supplemented with the occasional processed food ‘treat’.
It is worth mentioning that even non-sugar processed foods can be harmful to your teeth and gums. Junk food is well known to lead to obesity and this, in turn, makes diseases such as diabetes more likely. As readers of the Clock Tower Dental Clinic blogs will know, patients who are diabetic are at a much higher risk of gum disease than those who aren’t.
Alcohol and drugs
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As dentists open for business, cosmetic dentistry will soon make a welcome return
Slowly but surely, we are emerging from the lockdown period which has seen us socially isolated and adrift from the things that we’re used to. Gone, for now, are the gyms, the theatres and live music but some entertainments and establishments such as pubs, are slowly starting to open again. The good news for our Epsom patients is that the Clock Tower Dental Clinic is also open to patients once more and we all look forward to seeing you again soon.
As with other dental practices across the country, our priority is to treat those who were not able to access emergency treatment during lockdown and who may be in pain or have badly damaged teeth that need treating. This may mean that other treatments such as cosmetic ones might be delayed a little. We expect these to be available again soon though, and you may wish to use this time to consider your options for improving the appearance of your teeth and smile.
Discoloured and stained teeth
Lockdown may not have been kind to our teeth. Although it will have varied according to the individual, most of us will have had coping mechanisms to help us through, possibly including comfort eating, drinking more than usual and perhaps even starting smoking again for some ex smokers. All of the above and the fact that you will not have been able to see a dentist, means that not only problems such as tooth decay were likely to occur, but also the way that our teeth look is likely to have been affected. This is particularly so for their whiteness.
Many commonly consumed foods and drinks can cause staining of the teeth. These include tea, coffee, red wine or foodstuffs like dark coloured berries, soy sauce, curries and more. Although diligent oral care at home will help to remove this, over time, a darkening of the tooth surface is almost inevitable.
There will be some of you too, who sometimes have whitening procedures repeated to maintain a consistent level of whiteness of your teeth. As such, some of you will have had to miss appointments due to our temporary closure and are likely to have noticed a deterioration in the whiteness of your smile.
All is not lost though, and we should soon be able to help that white smile to return! There are two key procedures that we can use to achieve this.
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Getting oral health back on track as dentists re-open
With the ongoing easing of lockdown restrictions, and a seemingly gradual reduction in the number of new cases of Covid-19, this is probably a time to be cautiously optimistic about the future. For sure, things won’t go back to the where they were immediately, but finally, we do seem to be returning to some sort of relative ‘normality’ in the UK.
As part of the easing of lockdown restrictions, patients are once again able to visit the Clock Tower Dental Practice. You will notice quite a few changes regarding your appointments and the protections that we have put into place for the safety of both our patients and staff and you can read about these here.
Understandably, a number of you will not have been able to receive treatment for a troublesome dental problem while we were closed. Our first priority then is to do what we can to restore any teeth that have become damaged or suffered from tooth decay during lockdown, starting with the most urgent cases. In today’s blog, we will take a look at some of the more common treatments that are used to achieve this.
Where tooth decay is present or where a small part of the tooth has broken away, a dental filling is probable unless the damage is more extensive. Although amalgam has long been the traditional material used for this, more and more people are opting for tooth coloured fillings, sometimes also used as part of a general smile makeover, instead. In addition to the obvious benefit that white fillings are less noticeable, they are also long lasting and bond well to the natural part of the tooth; often meaning less preparation of the tooth is required. Unlike amalgam, this material does not shrink which helps to prevent the problem of decay that can form around the edges of the filling.
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Some of the changes you might see when dentists open again
Like other dental practices around the UK, the team members at the Clock Tower Dental Clinic have been waiting for news on when they might be able to open again following the Covid-19 lockdown.
As many of you will have seen, this has now happened, with dentists able to open from last Monday. Unfortunately, as dentists were given very little notice of this, many will need to remain closed for a little time until new safety guidelines are put into place.
Re-opening a local dental practice whilst the virus is still circulating, is not simply a case of unlocking the front door and getting back into things the way that they were unfortunately. Patient and staff safety must be at the heart of what we do, especially at this moment in time. We are currently evaluating the guidance that we have received and today’s blog covers some of the main changes our Epsom patients are likely to see when they join us again for treatment.
The first thing to say is that we will only open our doors for face to face appointments again once we are sure that all possible measures are in place. Whilst we can deep clean and make sure that equipment is fully sterilised, one of the biggest challenges is sourcing the PPE equipment that you will see our team wearing. As you can probably imagine, demand for this is very high and sourcing sufficient to keep the practice running is not straightforward. Please rest assured that we are doing all that we can to purchase the necessary PPE so that we can open as soon as possible.
Because of the need for social distancing and thorough cleaning after seeing each patient, the number of patients that can be seen each day will be reduced. We will endeavour to see and treat the most urgent cases first, before moving on to more routine appointments.
Given the current restrictions, this may take some time so please bear with us whilst we do our best to help those most in need and do also please take good care at home to clean your teeth and gums well to help avoid any problems such as tooth decay.
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Lockdown may have exaggerated this problem for some of our Epsom patients.
As many of our patients will know, we have had to cancel a significant number of previously made dental appointments. As we had to close suddenly due the Covid-19 situation, this will have included some scheduled treatment appointments as well as a large number of check ups. A few of those awaiting treatment may have since had these carried out at an urgent dental care hub if the problem became more urgent, but for most patients, it now means waiting until such a time that we can open again and treatments or check ups can be performed.
This is an inconvenience at the very least, and for some patients it probably also means managing discomfort from dental pain by using painkillers. This is a far from ideal situation and we will try to address it as soon as we possibly can.
There is one category of patient that we are particularly concerned about and that is those who suffer from dental anxiety, or phobia.
A challenging time
As anyone who suffers from significant anxiety about seeing a dentist will know, it can be a real challenge to overcome this enough to actually go through with the visit. Because of the additional challenges surrounding the Coronavirus and the isolation of lockdown, it is quite likely that these patient’s anxiety levels will have become even higher and there is a real possibility that they may not follow through with any rearranged visits when we are able to offer them.
As we have said before, the Clock Tower Dental Clinic firmly believes that preventative dental care is essential to keep teeth healthy and to avoid invasive treatments brought along by a failure to have oral health professionally monitored. We do encourage patients suffering in this way to do their best to see us and to call us if you are feeling especially anxious so that we can try to help the situation.
As we know, failure to detect and treat dental problems in the early stages will almost certainly mean that the problem will worsen and require even more invasive treatment than would have been the case initially. Usually, when it reaches this stage, not having treatment is no longer an option, even for the most nervous patient.
How we can help you
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Oral healthcare in our senior years
The older we get, the harder it can feel when it comes to making big changes in our lives. For some, this may be about insecurity in doing so, whilst for others it may simply be that they have arrived at a time in their life where they are perfectly happy where they are.
It is always good to have some challenges in our lives though, even if they are minor ones. To help with this, the team at the Clock Tower Dental Clinic have set out a fun challenge to our older patients to see if they can improve the health of their teeth and gums.
Not just about appearance
Some of our older patients may feel less concerned with the way that their teeth look now than they used to be. Not everybody feels this way of course, and cosmetic dentistry is popular with our older as well as younger patients. For those who are less concerned about the appearance of their teeth though, this could also lead to relaxing their teeth cleaning habits.
Whilst there are certainly aesthetic benefits to be had from good quality brushing, the key reason for cleaning our teeth is to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. If we believe that we brush for aesthetic purposes only, we will also then leave our teeth and gums less healthy than they should be.
Problems caused by poor cleaning and care
The most obvious problem that occurs if you don’t clean your teeth well enough is that you are liable to suffer from tooth decay. Whatever age you are, a toothache can be very painful, and, at the present time, will very likely to be untreatable until practices are able to open again. Cavities will also weaken a tooth and potentially put it at a greater risking of breaking than when it can be filled straight away.
Tooth loss is not unusual in older people, although not inevitable. Years of gradual wear and tear are likely to have an effect and whilst losing any teeth is undesirable, replacements for the odd missing tooth means that you can eat and smile as you normally would. Too much neglect though can lead to multiple tooth loss and this can mean that you may find eating certain foods more difficult than usual, taking away much of the enjoyment.
Whilst our Epsom dental practice can replace missing teeth with dentures or dental implants, a little more care in brushing and flossing your teeth could prevent the need for these procedures altogether.
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Our Epsom dentists look at the oral health care of young children during lockdown.
Good oral health care is important for all ages; from the very young to the very old. It isn’t simply a case of having nice looking teeth either; teeth and gums in poor condition can affect what we eat and also, in some cases, have an impact on our overall well-being.
At the Clock Tower Dental Clinic, we sometimes hear patients say that they wish they had known, when younger, what they know now as adults about taking care of their teeth and gums. It is fair to say that the earlier that the importance of good oral health care can be ingrained in our lives, the better.
The Coronavirus has very few plusses going for it, but one thing it has provided for many of us is more time, and specifically more time with our children. This does bring a number of challenges of course, and how it affects you might depend on your living arrangements and how many children you have. Even in challenging situations though, there will be opportunities to learn things together with your children.
In addition to reading and other school work that they might have been set, we would like to suggest that you use a few minutes each day to introduce them to the basics of looking after their teeth. This doesn’t have to be particularly technical for younger children, but grasping the basics early on will be highly beneficial as they grow older.
To help parents include this in their daily education routine with their children, our Epsom dental team have put together, in bite size chunks, a few suggestions that you might wish to consider.
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Helping our Epsom patients maintain good oral health care at this challenging time
It has been nearly three weeks now and there is every indication that we will be instructed to maintain this ‘lockdown’ period for even longer before restrictions can be gradually lifted. We know that it is a challenge for many of our patients as it is for us.
As you will likely be aware, all dental practices, including the Clock Tower Dental Clinic have had to close for all but urgent dental advice. This means that we are currently unable to monitor a patient’s general mouth health or to carry out minor restorative treatments such as fillings.
It is important therefore, that at this time, we pay even more attention than usual to looking after our teeth and gums. A minor toothache caused by tooth decay will make these long weeks seem even longer and will not be treated quickly until dental practices are allowed to open again.
As most of us probably have more time on our hands than usual, this is a good opportunity to look at ways that we can take even better care of our teeth and gums.
Brushing and flossing
These are the bedrocks of good oral health care. Take a look at your toothbrush. Are the bristles worn? Have you had the toothbrush for more than 3 months? If the answer to either is yes, then it is time to change it, or change the head of an electric one. We appreciate that this may not be the ideal time to do this, but if you are currently going to the supermarket for your weekly shop, adding a new toothbrush to your shipping list will help you keep your mouth in good health. If not, make a note to change it as soon as possible.
Then we come on to the actual brushing. Night time shouldn’t be an issue because that part of our routine has probably not changed a great deal. Our morning brushing might be different though. Most of us will have a routine before we go to work, possibly brushing just before we leave the house. As many of us will not be currently working, it is easy to let this slip. We recommend that you find a new regular time spot to brush your teeth, perhaps straight upon waking or before you go for your morning walk.
Do you floss your teeth? If you don’t, now is a really good time to start. Around 80% of us in the UK do not currently use dental floss. This is bad news and adding this to your daily regime can make a real difference to your gum health. Floss helps to remove both bacteria and food debris from between the teeth and this is an area where decay and gum diseases such as gingivitis often take hold. Although some patients claim to find this tricky, we feel that, with the help of one of the many instructional videos available, you should be able to master this reasonably quickly. As we are probably spending more time on our laptops etc, why not use just a little bit of this to learn how to floss correctly?
Take extra care with what you eat
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With the added challenge of Coronavirus, stopping smoking makes more sense than ever
It is impossible to escape news about the Coronavirus and nor should we. It is, of course, important that we keep up to date with the latest official information so that we can avoid it as best as we possibly can.
As far as your dental appointments go, our practice is still open and will remain so unless the situation changes and we will advise all patients should this be the case.
In the meantime, our Epsom patients can rest assured that we are doing all that we can to maintain a hygienic environment for the safety of both staff and patients.
As we know, the Coronavirus attacks the respiratory system. How badly it affects us will depend on a number of things but logic says that someone with healthy lungs will probably fare better than those who already have a compromised respiratory system.
This brings us to smoking.
Why you should stop
The Clock Tower Dental Clinic has long advocated that our patients stop smoking, largely for reasons that we will discuss shortly. Specific to the Coronavirus though, chief medical officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty, recently told MPs that those who smoke are likely at greater risk of the virus because of their potentially reduced immunity and lung function. He also said that now might be a good time for anyone thinking about stopping smoking, to do so; a sentiment that we agree with.
As more information comes out about the harm that smoking causes, it is surprising that some people actually start the habit. We appreciate that those who have smoked for a long time may find it very difficult to give up, but it is worth the effort and you will find very few people who have quit who wished that they hadn’t.
It isn’t just respiratory issues that smoking can cause though. Other general health issues such as heart disease and cancer are a greater risk if you smoke. There are also a number of oral health issues which we will quickly recap on today.
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