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Heart Disease and Oral Health

June 16th, 2021

Is there a link between oral health and heart health? This is a question that has been receiving a lot of attention in recent studies. While as yet there is no definitive study that proves oral health has an effect on overall heart health, there is also no definitive proof that oral health doesn’t affect heart health. So, what do we know, and, just as important, what should we do?

What do we know? One clear connection exists between gum disease and endocarditis, a rare, but potentially very serious, infection. When we neglect our gums, they bleed more easily. When gum disease advances, the gums pull away from the teeth. This creates pockets which can harbor more bacteria and plaque, leading to infection and even tooth and bone loss. And this bleeding and infection can be serious not only as a matter of dental health, but for your heart as well.

Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart and the heart valves. When bacteria from other parts of the body, including your mouth, make their way into the blood stream, they can attach themselves to damaged areas of the heart. The resulting infection can become very serious, very quickly. If you have damaged heart valves or artificial valves, have an artificial heart, or have any type of heart defect, it is especially important to prevent gum disease from developing. Regular dental care will help prevent bleeding gums and infections, and reduce the danger of oral bacteria entering the bloodstream. Always let us know if you have any issues with heart health, and we will tailor our treatment for all of your procedures accordingly.

What else might link oral health and heart disease? Because an increased risk of heart disease has been found in patients with moderate or severe gum disease, there has been much speculation as to a possible cause-and-effect connection. For example, the plaque inside arteries which leads to heart attacks has been found to contain certain strains of periodontal bacteria. Other studies have searched for a causal relationship between inflammation resulting from gum disease and inflammation leading to heart disease.  The body’s immune response to periodontitis and its potential consequences for heart health have also been examined. So far, there has been no clear evidence that treating gum disease prevents the occurrence or recurrence of heart disease.

So what should we do? This is the easy part. Keeping your gums and teeth healthy will increase your quality of life in immeasurable ways. And it’s not difficult! Regular brushing, flossing, and dental exams and cleanings at our South Bend, IN office are the key to lasting oral health. If this also keeps your heart healthy, that’s the best possible side effect.

Your Toddler’s First Dental Visit

June 9th, 2021

It’s common for toddlers to be wary of strangers, but their first experience at the dentist shouldn’t be a scary one. Drs. Bonni Boone, Susan Cocquyt, and Lori Risser and our team have five tips for you to make your child’s first visit to Erskine Family Dentistry easy as pie!

  1. Bringing your child to one of your own appointments before his or her first dental visit can calm your little one’s nerves. This gives your son or daughter the opportunity to get familiar with our office and see a cleaning isn’t very scary.
  2. Our big dental chair can be fun! Toddlers love games, and seeing the chair go up and down can make it seem like an amusement ride rather than sitting down for an exam.
  3. Drs. Bonni Boone, Susan Cocquyt, and Lori Risser and our team hand out cool toothbrushes and stickers to kids after their appointment. Your child will love the fun-colored toothbrush and can look forward to a post-appointment prize at the next visit.
  4. Schedule your appointment for a time that sets you up for success. Bringing your child to our South Bend, IN office an hour before he or she is due for a nap may be a tantrum just waiting to happen.
  5. Kids love books! Try reading your toddler bedtime stories about what happens at the dentist before you come in for the appointment. We recommend Dora the Explorer’s Show Me Your Smile, written by Christine Ricci.

Water Features

June 2nd, 2021

Heading for the beach! Hiking to the lake! Keeping cool with a tall, frosty glass of ice water in a foreign bistro, or taking a refreshing gulp from the fountain in the park! Hot weather has arrived, and water is something we’re more conscious of now than most other times of the year. Even so, water as a dental feature? Glad you asked!

  • Recreation

Whether you want to bask in the heat or escape it, heading out for a day in or on the water works. And while you’re protecting your skin with sunscreen, think about protecting your teeth and mouth as well. With one small slip, any physical water sport—water skiing, water polo, surfing—can result in damage to your teeth or jaw. Bring—and use—the mouthguard you wear for sports like basketball or biking, and make sure you have a summer of smiles ahead of you.

  • Refreshment

Summer has a beverage menu all its own. Iced coffee and iced tea, a cooler full of sodas, fresh lemonade, fruity cocktails—so many refreshing ways to beat the heat! And we would never suggest that you turn down every frosty summer temptation. But do be mindful that dark beverages like tea, coffee, and sodas can stain teeth, sugary and acidic ones are damaging to your enamel, and alcoholic drinks can be dehydrating. Water, on the other hand, is always a healthy choice. It’s helpful for keeping your mouth and teeth clean, it often contains the fluoride that helps fight cavities, it’s hydrating—and, it has no calories! Be sure to make water a significant part of your summer beverage menu, and your body will thank you for it.

  • Rinse & Restore

Water’s importance to our bodies can’t be overstated! From major organs to individual cells, we need water. And one major benefit of proper hydration is healthy saliva production. Why is that important? Saliva plays a vital role in preventing cavities. It washes away the food particles that oral bacteria feed on, reducing their ability to produce the acids that lead to enamel erosion and cavities. Saliva even helps neutralize acids already in the mouth. Finally, saliva contains important calcium, phosphate and fluoride ions which actually help restore enamel strength after it has been exposed to oral acidity.

Summer goes by all too quickly. Protect your teeth during these warm, active months with a mouthguard. And whether you spend your free time outdoors, or visiting people and places, or keeping cool at home, be mindful of dental-friendly beverage options and always stay hydrated. You’ll be ready to greet fall with a beautiful smile and healthy teeth. “Water Features”? Perhaps a better title would be “Water Power”!

How can I protect my child's teeth during sports?

May 26th, 2021

Sports are great for children for a variety of reasons. Children can develop their motor skills, learn how to solve conflicts and work together, and develop their work ethics. As a parent, you may recognize the benefits of sports, but also naturally worry about your child’s health and safety. Your job goes beyond providing a water bottle and making sure your child follows the rules of the game.

Although you may not think of your child’s teeth first when you think about sports, accidents can happen that affect your children’s teeth. A stray hockey stick, an errant basketball, or a misguided dive after a volleyball are examples of ways a child could lose a tooth. In fact, studies show that young athletes lose more than three million teeth each year.

Becoming a Better Athlete to Protect Teeth

Becoming a better athlete involves refining skills, learning the rules of the game, and being a good sport. These components are not just about winning. They are also about safety. Young athletes who are better ball-handlers and who are careful to avoid fouls and penalties are less likely to have harmful contact with the ball, teammates, or opponents. Children who are better roller-bladers are less likely to take a face plant into the blacktop, and more likely to save their teeth. Being a good sport and avoiding unnecessary contact is one way to protect teeth.

Proper Protective Equipment for Teeth

If your child is in a sport that poses a high threat to teeth, it is essential for your child to wear a mouthguard. Mouthguards fit your child’s mouth and consist of soft plastic. Drs. Bonni Boone, Susan Cocquyt, and Lori Risser can custom fit a mouthguard if generic ones are uncomfortable. While children may resist wearing a mouthguard initially, your persistence in insisting that they wear it should be enough to convince them. A helmet or face mask provides additional protection.

While prevention is best, rapid treatment can improve the situation if your child does happen to lose a tooth during sports. Rapid implantation can work in about ten percent of cases. To learn about ways to save a lost tooth, contact our South Bend, IN office.

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