Posts for: March, 2015

By James P. Watts, DMD
March 16, 2015
Category: Oral Health
EatingDisordersMayContributetoDamagedTeethandGums

While most dental problems are caused by disease or trauma, sometimes the root problem is psychological. Such is the case with bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder that could contribute to dental erosion.

Dental erosion is the loss of mineral structure from tooth enamel caused by elevated levels of acid in the mouth, which can increase the risk for decay and eventual tooth loss. While elevated acid levels are usually related to inadequate oral hygiene or over-consumption of acidic foods and beverages, the practice of self-induced vomiting after food binging by bulimic patients may also cause it. Some of the strong stomach acid brought up by vomiting may remain in the mouth afterward, which can be particularly damaging to tooth enamel.

It’s often possible to detect bulimia-related erosion during dental exams. The bottom teeth are often shielded by the tongue during vomiting, so erosion may be more pronounced on the unshielded upper front teeth. The salivary glands may become enlarged, giving a puffy appearance to the sides of the face below the ears. The back of the mouth can also appear red and swollen from the use of fingers or objects to induce vomiting.

Self-induced vomiting may not be the only cause for dental erosion for bulimics. Because the disorder causes an unhealthy focus on body image, bulimics may become obsessed with oral hygiene and go overboard with brushing and flossing. Aggressive brushing (especially just after throwing up when the tooth enamel may be softened) can also damage enamel and gum tissue.

Treatment must involve both a short — and long-term approach. Besides immediate treatment for dental erosion, a bulimic patient can minimize the effect of acid after vomiting by not brushing immediately but rinsing instead with water, mixed possibly with a little baking soda to help neutralize the acid. In the long-term, though, the eating disorder itself must be addressed. Your family doctor is an excellent starting point; you can also gain a great deal of information, both about eating disorders and treatment referrals, from the National Eating Disorders Association at their website, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.

The effects of bulimia are devastating to mental and physical well-being, and no less to dental health. The sooner the disorder can be treated the better the person’s chance of restoring health to their mind, body — and mouth.

If you would like more information on the effect of eating disorders on oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Bulimia, Anorexia & Oral Health.”


By James P. Watts, DMD
March 06, 2015
Category: Oral Health
TheTigerandMikeTysonsTeeth

Mike Tyson's gap-toothed smile is part of athlete-turned-celebrity's signature look. During his two-decade career as a professional boxer, the former heavyweight champion has been known for both giving — and occasionally receiving — knockout punches. But the story of how he lost one set of front teeth is a bit more unusual.

In a recent interview with the Las Vegas Review Journal, Tyson's wife Kiki stated that one of the champ's major dental dilemmas didn't come from blows inside the ring. In fact, she said, Tyson lost the teeth after being head-butted by his pet tiger, Kenya.

It's too bad Tyson wasn't wearing a mouthguard before he decided to play with kitty.

Fight fans know that boxers always put in a mouthguard before they enter the ring. But the pugilistic pursuit is just one among the two-dozen-odd sports for which the American Dental Association recommends the use of custom mouthguards. Others include baseball, skateboarding, surfing and bicycling. (Maybe horsing around with tigers should be added to the list!)

Why is it so important for participants in athletic activities to use this piece of protective gear? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, sports-related dental injuries account for over 600,000 emergency-room visits each year. Many of these injuries require further dental treatment; some may lead to tooth loss and require costly replacement. Not wearing a mouthguard makes an athlete 60 times more likely to sustain harm to the teeth, according to the American Dental Association. So there's really no contest.

You can find basic, off-the-shelf mouthguards in limited sizes at many sporting goods stores. But for a reasonable cost, we can provide you with a properly fitted dental appliance that's custom-made just for you. Starting with a precise model of your teeth, individual mouthguards are crafted from impact-resistant materials which are designed to be strong, comfortable, resilient — and effective.

Research shows that custom-made mouthguards offer superior quality and protection. So if you or your loved ones like to get out on the playing field, don't neglect this important piece of sporting equipment. And watch out for the cat.

If you have questions about mouthguards, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Athletic Mouthguards.”