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September 13, 2011

A+ for oral health: Help your child make the grade!

School and extracurricular activities are in full swing.  While it’s important to help prepare your child for class projects, piano lessons, and football, you’ll also want to make sure your children’s teeth and gums are ready for the new school year.

Tooth decay is one of the most common childhood diseases.  More than half of children ages 5 to 17 have had at least one cavity or filling in their lifetime. Being proactive about protecting your child’s teeth from plaque, tartar, and decay can prevent gum disease and begin a lifetime of consistent oral healthcare.

A daily schedule that includes brushing and flossing is essential to preventing pediatric dental decay. Returning to the structure of the school year should help make such a schedule easier to follow.

Maintaining healthy family eating habits will help your son or daughter choose to eat foods that promote good oral health. Plan well-balanced meals and avoid sugar-loaded foods. It is also important to limit drinks and foods with a high acid content.

With Halloween just around the corner, it’s a good time to continue educating your child about tooth decay and why candy and sugary snacks should be enjoyed sparingly. You might also try some candy alternatives, such as xylitol-infused candies or sugar-free licorice root lollipops, which research has shown fight dental bacteria and plaque.

Call Dentistry in Buckhead today if you live in the Atlanta area and would like a family dentist who understands parenting firsthand.  As a family man and father, Dr. Peter Pate knows that you want the best for your kids, and he’ll help you by providing excellent dental care in an inviting, comforting atmosphere. Call 404-266-9424 and schedule your family’s checkups today.

August 8, 2011

Heart Health Linked to Dental Health

Research has linked gum disease to increased risk for heart attack, but more recent research also shows a link between plaque and endocarditis, an inflammation of the inner lining of the heart. The most common cause of endocarditis, in fact, is related to the same bacteria that cause cavities.

Streptococcus mutans, or S. mutans for short, is one of over 600 bacteria that call your mouth home. Some of the bacteria in your mouth are good, some bad. S. mutans is definitely one of the bad. This bacteria lives in the complex matrix of plaque, that sticky, stinky substance you try to brush and floss away. S. mutans can enter the bloodstream through a tear or cut in your gums.  This might be the result of brushing and floss too aggressively, or it may occur during a dental procedure. If your immune system does not destroy the bacteria, within seconds it can travel to the heart and colonize on the heart valves. This causes the heart valves and chambers to swell, and this is bacterial endocarditis – a potentially fatal condition.

If you are a heart patient, please, please, please tell your dentist before having any dental work performed. You may need antibiotics prior to your dental procedure.  Your cardiologist will make this decision based on the specifics of your situation, and should write your dental premedication prescription, if needed.

Researchers hope that a saliva test will be created to assess a patient’s risk for endocarditis. A certain protein, CNM, present in high levels in some people, allows the S. mutans bacteria to colonize in the heart. The more CNM a person has, the more prone he or she may be to endocarditis. A test that determines if a person is at increased risk would allow the dentist to administer a greater dose of antibiotics before treatment, thus making the body more adept at killing the S. mutans bacteria that enter the bloodstream.

You can reduce your risk every day with diligent brushing and flossing and the use of mouthwash. The less plaque you have in your mouth, the less risk you have of endocarditis from S. mutans bacteria.

Dr. Pate and his team stay on top of research like this so that we can take excellent care of you and your family. If it’s time for a checkup, call Dentistry in Buckhead today at 404-266-9424.