Archive for June 2011

Tobacco and Oral Health

June 30, 2011 | Posted Education

  • tobacco products include cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and SNUS
  • tobacco-use is the number one cause of preventable disease, disability and death in Canada
  • cigarette smoking causes about 30 per cent of cancer deaths in Canada
  • there are over 4,000 chemicals in a cigarette, cigar or pipe, 69 of which are known or suspected to cause cancer
  • there are over 3,000 chemicals in spit tobacco, 28 of which are known or suspected to cause cancer

Oral Cosmetic Effects of Tobacco Use

Tobacco use causes:
  • persistent bad breath
    • discoloured teeth


    Oral Health Effects of Tobacco Use
    Tobacco use is linked to an increased risk of:
    • tartar build-up
    • gum and bone disease (smoking increases risk by four times)
    • jaw bone loss
    • shifting teeth
    • oral cancers – tongue, mouth, gums, tonsils, pharynx
    • mouth sores
    • cavities
    • altered sense of taste and smell
    • delayed wound healing
    • sinusitis


    You can quit! We can help.

    Smokers’ Helpline has proven tips and tools to help you quit tobacco use and increase your chance
    of being successful. For free, personalized and non-judgmental support, advice and information
    connect to quit today.
    • Call toll-free 1 877 513-5333
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      All services are available in English and French. Interpreter service available by phone in over 100 languages.

      Sources: Canadian Dental Health Association : College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario : World Health Organization : Canadian Cancer Society


      With summer coming, we like to think that life might slow down a bit. The kids are out of school…your summer vacation plans are coming up and you are excited about that.

      For most of us, our work schedules slow down in the summer. Unfortunately, that is not a situation that applies for all of us. And even if we enjoy less stress in the summer, before you know it, fall will be here bringing back a full schedule of events…and stress!

      While some stress can be good for us, most of us are aware that too much stress can have a negative impact on our hearts or blood pressure. However, what you may not be aware of is that too much stress can also impact your oral health.

      Stress can affect your oral health in either a direct or indirect manner. For instance, one indirect affect is that people under stress are more likely to neglect their hygiene routines or make unhealthy food choices.  Either of these can have a negative impact upon oral health.

      For instance, a failure to properly brush and/or floss on a regular basis can leave behind more food particles on the teeth and gums. This can attract bacteria and lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

      With respect to food choices, highly stressed individuals tend to choose foods of convenience. That usually means more processed foods with higher sugar or starch content. Unhealthy eating habits like this can also compromise your oral health.

      These indirect affects show how stress can impact our lifestyle choices. However, stress can also have a direct impact on the well being of your mouth. For instance, people who experience higher levels of stress are more susceptible to a condition known as bruxism.

      Bruxsim refers to the grinding of the teeth, usually at night while sleeping. It can lead to headaches, earaches, chronic facial pain and even the uneven wearing of the teeth. Many people suffering from bruxism wear night guards while they sleep to help alleviate the symptoms.

      Stress has also been linked to dry mouth by affecting the ability to produce saliva. Saliva is very important to keeping the mouth clean and people with dry mouth are also more likely to suffer other oral health care concerns, including bad breath.

      Canker sores are also more common with stress. The link between cankers and stress is not clearly understood. And while cankers are usually harmless, they can be painful.

      Of course, stress can compromise your immune system. And when immune systems are not working efficiently, gum disease can become a problem as you are less able to deal with the bacteria that can build up in your mouth. A strong, unstressed immune system can be one of your best defenses against gum disease.

      So if you think stress is causing you to suffer from any of these conditions, talk to your dentist. These problems might only add to your stress and your dentist wants to help alleviate it. Because alleviating stress is a healthy habit…and healthy habits lead to healthy lives.

      Dr. George Parry

      Dental Surgeon

      You know the test! Things look ok but something still does not “feel” right to you. You might use the expression that it does not pass the “smell” test.

      Well, as unpleasant a thought as it may be, your mouth may be in a similar state of health. All your teeth are there and they appear to be nice and white. But that “smell” test is emitting an odour that says something is wrong.

      Truth be told, one in four Canadians suffers from bad breath that cannot be controlled with regular brushing, flossing or dental treatments. Of course, mouthwash or breath mints do little more than cover up the problem for a very brief period.

      These people might be surprised to learn that their bad breath may indicate a more serious, underlying health issue. Perhaps some form of local infection in the respiratory tract might be the cause. However, it may also be a sign of sinusitis, bronchitis, untreated diabetes or kidney or liver issues. All of these medical conditions need to be treated by a physician.

      In most cases, however, bad breath is the result of poor oral hygiene. If you are not brushing and flossing on a regular basis, food particles can be allowed to build up between your teeth. These particles attract a lot of bacteria. Keep in mind that your mouth is a nice, warm moist home which bacteria naturally finds very attractive! Add in some decaying food particles and you will have some very happy bacteria!

      Of course, this can lead to further more serious oral health issues. The build-up of bacteria can penetrate the gums resulting in gum disease, also known as periodontitis. This can result in gum recession, tooth loss and even bone loss in the jaw. More seriously, these harmful bacteria will have an easy access route to your blood system and may spread their infections to other parts of the body, including the heart and lungs!

      So don’t be afraid to see if your breath passes the “smell” test. Just cup your hand over your mouth so that your breath is directed toward your nose. Then exhale. If something does not smell right, you might have to pay greater attention to your brushing and flossing habits.

      The best news is that good oral hygiene practices, including regular visits to your dentist, will usually be sufficient to alleviate your breath problems. You may find that is all you need to do to turn your unpleasant odour into something that passes any smell test. Of course, if you are a smoker, quitting that habit may also be necessary to improve your breath.

      Anyway you look at it, getting rid of bad breath is good for your confidence and also good for your health. So make sure you are not having trouble with the “smell” test. Because eliminating bad breath is a healthy habit…and healthy habits lead to healthy lives.

      Dr. Peter Georgopoulos

      Dental Surgeon

      Life never stays the same! In fact, we all familiar with the concept that the only constant in life is change. That truism is applicable to your dental needs as well, perhaps even more for women than men.

      The fact is that dental needs for women change dramatically at different times in life. It probably would not come as much of a surprise to learn that these changes correspond with the biological changes women experience along the way.

      For instance, when a young woman enters puberty, her body undergoes dramatic hormonal changes. Some women notice that this can affect the health of their gums. There can be a tendency for their gums to become more inflamed and prone to bleeding.

      The concern at this stage is that inflamed gums are more likely to be penetrated by the bacteria that are always found in the mouth. This can increase the risk of developing periodontal disease. If the bacteria enters into the bloodstream, it may cause or aggravate more serious  health conditions, such as infections, heart conditions, diabetes or even oral cancer.

      The good news is that puberty does pass! However, young adult women are not out of the woods. If you are using birth control to reduce the risk of pregnancy, you should be aware that inflammation of the gums is also a side effect of some forms of birth control.

      For women who are pregnant, the hormonal changes can again inflame the gums, leaving you susceptible to periodontal disease and bacterial infections. However, it is not just your own health that could be at risk now. The health of your developing baby can also be compromised.

      Woman who are in poor oral health during pregnancy are more likely to experience a premature delivery. Babies born prematurely have significant more health challenges, some of which could affect them for their whole lives!

      Then when you think you have survived all the tough stuff and the golden years of retirement are just around the corner, along comes menopause! Many post-menopausal women suffer from decreased bone density. This can increase the risk of tooth loss as well as broken or chipped teeth.

      Despite all of this, the good news is that most of the negative effects can be offset by a good oral health care regime. That means regular brushing and flossing, as well as visiting your dentist as least twice per year. Your dentist may recommend more frequent visits if your oral health care needs require it.

      If you notice that your gums or your daughter’s gums remain inflamed for  prolonged periods, schedule an appointment with your dentist to discuss this fact. You do not need your dentist to tell you that hormonal changes can play havoc with a woman’s body. Making sure you look after your oral health during these challenging times is a healthy habit…and healthy habits lead to healthy lives.

      Dr. Bao Nguyen

      Dental Surgeon

      Making the right choices with the food we eat is beneficial on so many levels. But just because the snack you choose is otherwise healthy, do not assume it is always good for your teeth!

      The fact is that even healthy snacking can cause tooth decay! The choice is not always what you are eating. When you are eating it and how often are also relevant considerations.

      The reality is that most foods, even healthy ones, contain some sugar and/or starches. When these foods come into contact with the bacteria we routinely have in our mouths, they will begin a reaction that produces acid. This can cause acid erosion of the teeth.

      Some foods, including healthy fresh fruit choices, are notorious for having a high acid content. The higher the acidic level in the food, the greater the likelihood that you could experience acid erosion if you consume that food too often.

      That brings up one of the points. Frequent snacking can be detrimental to the health of your teeth! Every time an acid producing food is consumed, you place your teeth at risk.

      And it is not as if the acid build-up will be short lived. In fact, your teeth become susceptible to the effects of acid erosion for as long as 20 or 30 minutes after you have finished your snack! That is a long period of time in which a significant level of damage can occur.

      You might think you can curb the effects by brushing right after your snack. However, brushing at that time could cause more damage. When your mouth is in the midst of an acid build-up, the enamel is temporarily softer. Brushing at that time could cause further damage to the enamel, wearing down your defenses to the acid you are trying to protect against!

      Obviously we are not suggesting you refrain from brushing. Just keep in mind that when you brush can be very important to the health of your teeth!

      And so too can how often you snack. If you are the type of person who keeps snacks in the desk at work and nibbles a little bit all day, you may be constantly exposing your teeth to the forces of acid erosion.

      A wiser course of action would be to plan your snacks in conjunction with meal schedule. Your snacks should obviously be healthy and we are not suggesting you make them so large as to dramatically increase your caloric intake.

      But snack sizes should be sufficient to fill you up to the next meal. You do not want to fall into the trap of constantly eating small snacks all day, thereby maintain high levels of acid in your mouth.

      If you are noticing unusual sensitivity in your mouth, talk to your dentist. It just may be that your snack schedule is compromising the health of your teeth!

      In the meantime, keep in mind that healthy eating habits can include what and when you eat. So take the time to plan both. Because planning your meals is a healthy habit…and healthy habits lead to healthy lives.

      Dr. Wayne Perron

      Dental Surgeon

      While spring has been wet and cool, the promise of warmer weather for the summer seems just ahead. And as the summer clothes come out, teens and young adults bring out their new fashions, complete with tattoos and piercings that might make some of us parents a tad squeamish.

      It may be hard for us to remember, but we probably did the same thing to our parents. Guys with long hair and pierced ears caused quite a furor when many of us were younger. Today, a pierced ear on a guy seems so tame!

      Perhaps that is part of the issue and we as parents have to accept that our kids have a desire to push the envelope, just as we did. But as parents, we have a responsibility to educate our kids to make wise choices, just as our parents tried to.

      And when it comes to piercings, there is a lot more to think about other than just how cool it looks. Particularly if we are talking about piercings of the lips, cheeks or tongue.

      It may not be pleasant to think about it, but the tongue is prime breeding ground for bacteria. Millions of these organisms make their home in this small little area of the body. In fact, as much as 70% of the bacteria found in the mouth make their home on the tongue.

      Bacteria build-up on the tongue can cause serious health concerns. Bacteria are live organisms. They like to grow and they like to move. Just because they start at the tongue does not necessarily mean they will stay there. They may easily move to the teeth and gums. And bacteria at the gum line it can cause periodontal disease.

      More serious problems, such as infections, can occur if the bacteria find its way into the bloodstream. These infections may not necessarily remain in the mouth. Blood flows throughout the body and it can transport those bacteria wherever it goes.

      Keeping your tongue clean by brushing it is always important. If you are thinking of getting your tongue or lips pierced, you have even more reason to keep your tongue clean. The piercing creates an open wound that gives easy access for the bacteria to get into the blood stream. Just think of the infections that could result!

      Even if you manage to avoid any infections from the piercing, you have created a great place for bacteria to accumulate. People with pierced tongues who fail to properly clean around the piercing are more likely to have bad breath that those without piercing.

      We certainly recommend against piercings, but we recognize that the desire to be edgy and cool may trump good health advice. Should that be the case, it is vital that you keep the area around the piercing as clean as possible.

      Regular visits to your dentist can help in this regard. S/he will be able to let you know if there are any early signs of infection around your piercing. Because avoiding the spread of infection is a healthy habit…and healthy habits lead to healthy lives.

      Dr. Martin LaBoissonniere

      Dental Surgeon