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MO Bad Grades for the Show-Me State

Missouri Dental Health rankings
Missouri scored poorly in both physical and dental health categories.

A few years ago we told you about our Missouri dental health rankings, which were not great. Unfortunately, our streak of unfavorable ratings has continued.

A recent report published by the United Health Foundation took a look at America’s Health Rankings. Missouri – the 18th-largest state – ranked 43rd out of 52. The study’s main focus was on overall health, including access to physicians, affordability of care, and the prevalence of chronic and/or preventable conditions. We rank in the bottom 20% of states in deaths caused by both cancer and cardiovascular disease. But there were numerous categories that Missouri scored poorly on that were specific to oral care. 

The Show-Me State has the 9th-lowest number of dentists per capita, with just 48.5 per 100,000 residents. And despite our cautionary tales, Missouri has more active smokers –21%– than 40 other states. This last statistic can clearly be linked to our high cancer death rate, but what does the other data say about dental care? 

Behind the Numbers

Some of the individual metrics point to more disturbing trends. There is an increasing lack of access to dental care for Missourians, mirroring statistics in the medical area healthcare industry. Another study by the Commonwealth Fund highlighted the number of Missouri adults who have gone without a dental visit in the past year. That number has increased steadily, outpacing the national average since 2014. The number of adults missing six or more teeth due to decay, infection, or gum disease also increased. Other studies have also shown our state lagging behind nearly all others in adequate dental care for adolescents.   

Not Just About Mouth Health

We will point out (again!) how closely dental health is tied to overall health. Research proves that oral infections and periodontal (gum) disease are more closely associated with:

  • Cardiovascular diseases, including stroke and congestive heart failure 
  • Diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Low birth weight 

Not coincidentally, Missouri scored poor ratings for all these conditions. Maybe it’s time we took a closer look at how overall health may be affecting your dental health and vice versa. If you have questions, just ask us at your next appointment. We can offer tips for making sure you (and your mouth) stay healthy!

Gum Disease: What’s Below the Surface?

gum disease
If your gums aren’t healthy, neither is your mouth.

We spend most of our time talking about teeth. As dentists, we can’t avoid it – that’s just what we do. However, dentistry is about far more than just the 32-ish teeth that most of us have in our mouths.

Breaking News: Your gums are just as important! Healthy gums cushion teeth while chewing, and help protect against decay. But sometimes gum disease gets in the way of them doing their job. Usually, this is caused by built-up plaque resulting from poor dental hygiene. But in some cases, there is a genetic predisposition or an immune disorder behind it. Too often, though, gum disease is caused by smoking, which increases the risk by 100% in tobacco users, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

 

The two main types of gum disease are:  

Gingivitis

When plaque builds up, bacteria can flourish. And not the good bacteria we’ve told you about — this kind causes red and inflamed gums. Over time, this can lead to pain and bleeding during brushing, which prevents proper cleaning and compounds the problem. If left unchecked, gingivitis can potentially lead to the more-serious ailment below.

 

Periodontitis

This condition is an infection within the gums, which can lead to tooth loss and even permanent damage to the jaw. The infection grows when gum and bone separate from teeth, creating pockets where toxins collect. The condition slowly erodes the tissue surrounding teeth, loosening the socket and eventually leading to tooth loss and possible bone damage.

 

A Pound of Cure

The best way to avoid these conditions is to brush and floss — regularly and effectively. Be sure to let us know if you have any prolonged redness or tenderness in your gums.

 

Keep your athlete smiling!

mouthguards 1
Mouthgaurds protect teeth and can even prevent concussions!

It’s that time of year – soccer fields are full and spring training has given way to games on the baseball diamond.  Unfortunately, many young athletes are playing without mouthguards and putting their teeth at risk for injuries.

In recent years, there has been a groundswell of awareness around concussions and Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).  t’s easy to forget that mouth injuries are more common than brain trauma in young athletes. Data from recent studies show that there are between 1.5 and 3 million sports-related concussions annually. Sad bonus fact: only around half of all incidents are reported and treated. But those numbers pale in comparison to the estimated five million teeth that are avulsed (see last month’s blog) each year. The majority of these incidents are related to sports activities, according to a study published on Crest’s DentalCare.com website.mouthguards protect teeth

Since we last told you about mouthguards for young athletes, there haven’t been any significant design or technological breakthroughs. However, with the continued progression of online and mail order options, new companies have entered the market and there are many more choices available today. Science Daily has even reported that some custom mouthguards have been shown to reduce the chances of concussions.

Which Mouthguard is Best?

The simple answer is — the one your athlete is most comfortable wearing. If they hate the feel of it, most likely it will end up unused in their gear bag. You obviously want the most inexpensive option, so start with lower-priced models. If they are uncomfortable or unusable, you can work your way up until you find the best fit. However, your athlete may have special needs like braces or a pronounced over/under-bite. Many younger kids may also just be fussy about “how things feel” in their mouth. In those instances, we suggest buying up to a more advanced guard with a balance of comfort and protection. The news and information website Heavy.com recently profiled its Top 10 mouthguards. While it’s hardly a comprehensive list of all options, it does give a good overview of brands, types, and features of each.

If you have questions about sports mouth protection — either for your child or yourself — ask us at your next appointment.

Root Canals – How Much Ouch?

root canal
While they’re not ideal, root canals aren’t as unpleasant as you might think.

Did You Know?

Earlier this month there was actually an official celebration of Root Canal Awareness Week. Even though it’s not something most would “celebrate,” the procedure isn’t as bad as its reputation suggests.

What They Are

The pulp at the center of your teeth contains nerves, blood vessels, and other soft tissue. A damaged tooth or unfilled cavity often allows decay to spread unchecked. This can lead to infection and permanent damage to the root of the tooth. At this point the options are extraction of the infected tooth or a root canal.

Since we obviously want and need our own natural teeth whenever possible, root canals are usually the best treatment option. Under local anesthesia, the affected pulp is carefully removed and placed with a solid filler, usually a natural polymer prepared from latex made from the Percha tree. The affected tooth is then fitted with a crown that will last decades if cared for properly.

What to Expect

The entire procedure usually lasts less than 90 minutes, and is only slightly more uncomfortable than a regular filling. However, there can be another pain — the cost. It’s usually around $1,000, depending on the tooth and the degree of damage. Though many insurance plans cover the cost of root canals as medically necessary procedures, co-pay amounts can vary, and some don’t cover them at all. So your best bet is to avoid needing one. Which — it turns out — is pretty easy to do.

Just BRUSH! Dental experts estimate that the average person spends around 48 seconds brushing their teeth — far less than the 2-3 minutes recommended by dentists. Since many root canals result from advanced cavities or decay, the other main tactic to avoid root canals is to see your dentist regularly. When we do visual exams and take x-rays, it allows us to spot problem areas before they become big issues.

Have you made your next six-month appointment? Besides checking your mouth, we’ll give you this special Root Canal Prevention kit – For FREE!