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Understanding Cavities

January 29th, 2016

Getting a cavity seems like delayed punishment for eating that special dessert every weekend or for the few days you forgot to floss. When you are doing everything right with minimal exception and a cavity is diagnosed, it is discouraging. Knowing how cavities form and what causes them is valuable in knowing how to prevent them. In this blog post, Dr. James P. Gagliardi will help you understand cavities!

A cavity is not a one-time event. It is actually a symptom of a disease called caries. Tooth decay is a result of an active infection and condition in the mouth. There are ingredients to this infection, which include bacteria, acid, your tooth, and a food source. The main bacterial culprit is S. Mutans. Bacteria live in a housing structure called biofilm. This offers them protection, food, and an ideal replicating environment.

Biofilm can be healthy if there is a balance of good bacteria. When you have caries, the numbers of “bad” bacteria increase and produce an environment where they thrive and therefore cause tooth decay. A main indicator of this is a pH measurement of your saliva.

Several factors can influence the biofilm pH. Foods and beverages all have different pH levels. The lower the number, the higher the acidity. Since acid promotes tooth decay, a beverage like soda will promote a cavity. Water, being neutral, is a good choice to promote healthy oral pH. Healthy eating can still cause cavities. Here is an example of a highly acidic, yet traditionally healthy meal:

Toast with store-bought strawberry jam, and a cup of cottage cheese topped with fresh cranberries.

Instead, here is a better choice, which involves mixing acidic healthy foods with alkaline (non-acidic) foods to reduce the overall pH:

Toast with almond butter, and Greek yogurt topped with fresh blueberries.

The first example will result in a very low pH in the mouth and even in the rest of the body. The second meal mixes highly acidic blueberries with an alkaline Greek yogurt. Dairy products from cows are highly acidic. Toast is acidic because of the yeast and almonds are alkaline.

A natural buffer is saliva. Whenever mouth breathing or medications compromise the saliva flow, the pH is going to drop and caries can go rampant. Getting a cavity is not just about the sweets or forgotten flossing sessions. It is about the pH levels and bacterial management.

For more helpful tips about how to avoid cavities, contact our Fircrest, WA office.

Oral Health Problems: An indicator of overall health problems?

January 22nd, 2016

If you are like many people, you might think of your oral health as separate from your overall health. After all, most dental coverage plans are distinct from health care coverage. However, your oral health goes far beyond being able to chew nutritious and enjoyable foods. Oral health problems may be an indicator of a variety of other health problems.

Links between Oral Health and Overall Health

In the late 1980s, researchers noticed a trend among patients who had recently suffered from heart attacks. As the Journal of the American Dental Association reported, they observed that these patients were more likely to have dental caries or cavities, periodontitis or inflammation around the tooth, and other forms of gum disease. Later studies found similar results, and dentists and doctors now recognize poor oral health as a risk factor for a variety of heart conditions, such as heart attacks, atherosclerosis, and coronary heart disease.

There are even more links between oral health problems and overall health problems. Some individuals do not find out that they have Type 2 diabetes until a dentist sees that they have periodontitis. If you have diabetes, worsening periodontitis can indicate that your diabetes is not under control.

Poor oral health is also associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Furthermore, poor oral health puts you at higher risk for respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, because harmful pathogens can enter your body through your mouth.

Take Care of Your Teeth

Keeping your teeth healthy remains important, especially as you grow older. Older adults are more prone to dental caries and other oral health problems, as well as to chronic diseases. While taking care of your oral health might not prevent a specific disease, a healthy mouth is a significant factor in your overall health.

You can take care of your teeth by continuing to brush twice a day and floss every day. Avoid consuming too many sugary and starchy foods, and drink water after each meal or snack to rinse your teeth. See Dr. James P. Gagliardi for regular checkups, and contact Fircrest Dental Arts Center if you have any concerns about your teeth or gums.

Do I lose my wisdom if I lose my wisdom teeth?

January 15th, 2016

The third molars have long been known as your “wisdom teeth,” because they are the last teeth to erupt from the gums – usually sometime during the late teens to early twenties. This is a time in life that many consider an “age of wisdom”; hence the term, “wisdom teeth.”

Extracting the third molars does not have any effect on your actual wisdom … and Dr. James P. Gagliardi and our staff are sorry to say that holding on to them can’t make you smarter, either. So if you somehow feel that you became wiser and smarter when your wisdom teeth appeared, chalk it up to age rather than teeth.

In fact, you may just be showing how smart you are by having your wisdom teeth removed. Mankind once relied on the wisdom teeth to replace teeth that were damaged or missing, thanks to a poor diet. But dietary changes and advances in modern dentistry make it possible for many people to hold on to their teeth for many decades, which eliminated the need for third molars.

For many people, wisdom teeth cause nothing but problems: becoming impacted, irritating surrounding gum tissue, or even causing other teeth to become crooked or overlap. By removing them, patients often enjoy a lower risk of decay, infection, and aesthetic complications.

So rest assured that extracting your wisdom teeth will have no effect on your immediate or long-term intelligence.

Women's Hormones and Oral Health

January 8th, 2016

At Fircrest Dental Arts Center, 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? Dr. James P. Gagliardi 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. Dr. James P. Gagliardi 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

Dr. James P. Gagliardi and our team at Fircrest Dental Arts Center encourage you to visit our Fircrest, WA office and practice good oral health habits at home.

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