3 Signs It’s Time for a Dental Checkup

When you begin to feel something is amiss in your mouth, it’s probably due to an underlying issue and it may be time to get help ASAP!

You shouldn’t wait and hope it will go away on its own as it could turn into something much more serious. Most times, it’s very much advantageous to tackle the problem at the earliest possible stages. Here are three signs it’s time to schedule a dental checkup right away:

1. Dry mouth

We all have experienced this “cotton mouth” feeling at some point. However, a chronic dry mouth is a more serious condition that, when left untreated, can have consequences.

Dry mouth was by far the most commonly reported oral ailment in a recent survey conducted by the American Dental Association of 15,000 adults in the United States. Dry mouth was especially reported by older people. In cases like this, the salivary glands are usually unable to produce enough saliva to fight mouth diseases and neutralize mouth acids.

This condition at times can be caused by changes in medications as well as some other systemic conditions. You should seek treatment as soon as possible so you don’t put yourself at the mercy of tooth decay or periodontal disease. If you feel like your mouth feels abnormally dry on a regular basis, talk to your dentist and book a dental checkup right away.

2. Tooth pain

About one-third of the people surveyed by the ADA pointed out tooth pain as their greatest oral problem. Most times, this is caused by an abscessed gum, a decayed tooth or similar conditions.

This won’t go away on its own, and in most cases delaying treatment may complicate things even further as well. If your tooth suddenly begins to cause pain, consider getting a dental checkup immediately.

3. Chewing difficulty

If you’re finding it difficult to bite and chew, you’re not alone. Many of the ADA survey respondents revealed this as a major dental problem.

Like the case with tooth pain, chewing difficulty could be caused by a decayed tooth, a cracked or loose tooth, as well as the jaw joint disorder temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJD/TMD.

TMJD can make it quite difficult for sufferers to bite and chew, which can also impact nutrition.

Regular dental checkups have huge benefits. Many times, your dentist may be able to identify problems before they even manifest or become a more serious problem.

If you have any of these oral health issues affecting your comfort, make an appointment right away for a proper dental checkup. You can schedule a visit or contact us today at 970-812-0355 for more information.

Dental Tips You May Not Have Heard

As with most professions, dentists must complete continuing education and training each year to stay current. But even if they weren’t required to, many dentists would still do it, because the more you learn, the more you grow. The same should apply to patients! Learning more about caring for your oral health means you can take better care of your teeth and live a healthier life in the process. Here are some tips for caring for your teeth that you may not have known but that can make a positive change in your oral health and hygiene.

Don’t Rinse Your Toothpaste

A lot of us brush our teeth and then what do we do? We grab a cup of water and swish or gargle and spit, washing away all the fluoride our toothpaste could be leaving behind. Of course, we don’t want you to swallow your toothpaste, but next time you brush, skip the swish and just spit out your paste. This will leave all the beneficial parts of the toothpaste behind on your teeth so they keep working even after you’ve stopped brushing.

And while we’re on the topic, make sure your toothpaste does contain 1,350 to 1,500 parts per million (PPM) of fluoride.

Watch Your Sugar Intake

Sugar has a bad reputation these days, and for good reason. It has been linked to everything from obesity to diabetes to, of course, cavities. The sugar itself doesn’t cause the cavities, though – it’s the acid byproduct of the bacteria that eat the sugar off your teeth. This bacteria wears through your enamel and causes cavities. But sugar tastes so good, doesn’t it? We’re not asking you to cut sugar entirely from your diet (although that would be ideal), but experts recommend no more than 8 teaspoons of sugar per day. And while that may seem like a lot, when you look at how much sugar is in the foods we regularly consume without even realizing it, many people may consume that just at breakfast.

Floss at Night

There doesn’t seem to be an official guideline about what is the best time to floss, but it makes a lot of sense to floss before bed. This removes all the food and plaque accumulated between the teeth during the day and keeps the teeth free of debris overnight. Of course, it won’t hurt to floss again in the morning (in fact it would help tremendously!), but if you are going to floss only once a day, make it count.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Lesko, please call 970-812-0355.

Selfies and Oral Health

You hear about them all the time in the news – people getting in trouble for taking them, people getting hurt while taking them, even people taking lessons on how to take them. They’re those photos we snap of ourselves with our smartphones known as “selfies.” But while some people are quick to decry the selfie culture that we as a country have adopted, selfies, for all their controversy, can still do some good in the world.

A recent study conducted with researchers in India and at the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine found that tooth-brushing behaviors changed when participants took selfies while brushing their teeth.

“First the participants were re-trained on how to brush their teeth properly by the researchers in the study,” says Fort Collins, Colorado, dentist Dr. Allison Lesko, “and then they were sent home with instructions to record themselves via video or selfie brushing their teeth.”

The participating university students submitted two weeks’ worth of brushing selfies to the researchers in the project for analysis, and what the researchers found was nothing short of fascinating.

“They found slight modifications in the photos and techniques captured in the selfies,” says Lesko.

So what do researchers think motivated these changes?

“The researchers believe the participants modified their techniques because they knew someone was watching, but also because they were actually trying to improve their brushing technique to the new way they were taught to brush in the study,” she says.

According to Lesko, that’s good news.

“It showed the researchers that these participants wanted to make positive changes, and that the snapping of the selfies was kind of a motivator to stick with that – because they knew in a sense that someone was watching them while they brushed,” Lesko says.

Lesko says that while the study was small, there are still some very important takeaways. For example, the idea that photographing yourself could help positively reinforce a new behavior such as a better way to brush your teeth. Another benefit?

“You can bring those selfies to the dentist with you and have your own dentist evaluate your brushing technique,” she says. “If you’re doing something wrong or inefficient, we can give you pointers or lessons and you can conduct your own home study like the one that Case Western conducted and see if taking selfies while you brush changes anything about your own brushing technique.”

Tooth Fairy Index Shows Dropping Tooth Payouts

Since the early 1900s, many American children have participated in a fun tradition that combines a childhood rite of passage with a bit of fun and mystery. That tradition is the tooth fairy, and chances are, whether you’re a parent or a child, you’ve at least heard of her.

The earliest known mention of the tooth fairy tradition dates back to the 1920s in a play called “The Tooth Fairy,” though other countries and cultures have their own versions of tooth fairies that date further back. For example, children in France leave their teeth for a mouse they call La Petite Souris. In Spain, children leave their teeth for Ratoncito Perez, a rat or mouse, depending on who you ask.

What all these traditions have in common – besides the taking away of baby teeth in the night – is that each figure leaves behind a prize in the form of a trinket or money. Getting paid for body parts you don’t need anymore? Not a bad deal if you think about it! But recently, the tooth fairy has been making headlines about just what she’s leaving behind when she takes those precious baby teeth away.

“Apparently, the going rate for baby teeth is dropping,” says Dr. Allison Lesko, a dentist from Fort Collins, Colorado.

She’s not wrong. According to a recent Delta Dental survey, the average payout for a baby tooth dropped 43 cents here in the United States in 2018. Using an admittedly adorable chart called the “Tooth Fairy Index,” Delta Dental provides average rates for tooth payouts around the globe.

For instance, children receive an average of 3.26 euros per tooth in Ireland, and $4.88 CAD in Canada. Here in the United States, the annual average is now just $3.70. So why the drop?

“I’d say budgets are tight, but I think part of it is parents rewarding kids with different types of prizes than monetary,” says Lesko. “I’ve heard some parents offer extended screen time or later bedtimes, which don’t cost anything but are a big deal to kids.”

The survey also found that children’s first teeth netted a higher payout than subsequent lost teeth, at an average of $4.96, and the rates per tooth vary depending on where in the United States the child resides.

“Here in the western part of the country, we average a little bit higher per tooth at $4.91,” Lesko says. “But in the Southern United States the average is only $3.91, and the Northeast is around $3.75 per tooth.”

Oral Bacteria Could Cause Stroke

With nearly 800,000 people suffering from stroke in the United States each year, finding out what causes this debilitating type of brain attack is more vital than ever. The fifth-leading cause of death in America, stroke is the No. 1 cause of “serious, long-term disability in the United States,” according to strokecenter.org.

A stroke is a disease that affects the arteries of and leading to the brain. Strokes happen when an oxygen-carrying blood vessel either becomes blocked by a blood clot or ruptures. This causes the cells of the brain to become starved for oxygen, and the brain begins to die. Though it is not known exactly what causes a stroke to occur, a new research study has uncovered a new link between stroke and your oral health that may shed some light on this mysterious condition.

In an ongoing study examining the effects of bacterial infection on the development of cardiovascular diseases by researchers at Tampere University in Tampere, Finland, researchers analyzed something called “thrombus aspirates,” which they removed from 75 patients who had suffered strokes. When the DNA in these aspirates were duplicated and studied, researchers found that nearly 80 percent of the aspirates held DNA from oral bacteria.

So, what exactly does this mean? We asked Fort Collins, Colorado, dentist Dr. Allison Lesko to help make sense of the findings.

“A thrombus is a blood clot, so in the case of these patients, the thrombus aspirates that were removed was the clot that caused the stroke,” she says. “So when they removed this clot and dissected it, they found DNA from oral bacteria inside it. This means the oral bacteria that causes cavities and inflammation in the mouth can travel to the brain and play some role in the formation of blood clots that may cause stroke.”

And that’s more bad news for patients with periodontal disease or who have an overabundance of oral bacteria.

“We already know that the bacteria that causes periodontal disease can contribute to a variety of other serious and deadly conditions, ranging from oral health issues to diabetes, heart disease, cancer and high blood pressure,” says Lesko. “It has even been recently linked to Alzheimer’s disease. It’s certainly motivation to take better care of your oral health.”

Lesko says that while it is not yet known what the exact link between oral bacteria and stroke is, in order to reduce any potential risk between the two, take excellent care of your oral hygiene and you may inadvertently lower your risk.

“That means brushing twice a day, for two minutes minimum, and flossing at least once a day,” Lesko says. “It’s fast, it’s easy and it will make you look and feel great.”

Managing Oral Health with Diabetes

With more than 100 million Americans suffering from diabetes or pre-diabetes, it has never been more critical to raise awareness of this devastating condition. The disease, which occurs when the blood sugar is too high, can cause dangerous complications throughout the entire body – literally from head to toe. One place where diabetes can take its most dangerous toll is inside the mouth, which is why it’s crucial to take extra diligent care of oral hygiene if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Here are just a few steps you should add to your routine.

Keep Blood Sugar Under Control

The best way to maintain your oral health and your total body health is to keep your diabetes well controlled. This means maintaining a healthy body weight, eating the recommended foods, caring for teeth properly, and taking diabetes medications and other medicines as prescribed. This will allow your body to spend less time struggling to survive and allow it to fight infections and cavities as needed.

Eat Well

Eating well doesn’t just benefit your blood sugar and weight – it benefits your teeth, too. Eating a diet rich in protein and fiber and low in sugar will lower your risk of cavities and periodontal disease.

Quit Smoking

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, smokers are 30 to 40 percent more likely to develop diabetes than nonsmokers. If that’s not reason enough to quit smoking, consider what smoking does to your oral health. From stained, discolored teeth to bad breath to an increased risk of heart disease and numerous types of cancer (including oral cancer), smoking is bad news for the entire body.

Care for Your Teeth

This one seems pretty obvious, but it bears repeating. Taking excellent care of your oral hygiene can not only help save your teeth and prevent cavities and periodontal disease, but it can also decrease your risk of developing diabetes in the first place. Not sure where to start? Brush your teeth at least twice a day for a minimum of two minutes each time and floss at least once a day.

Visit Your Dentist Regularly

If you are healthy and have healthy teeth and gums, you may be able to get by on one dental cleaning per year. But if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, it’s imperative that you visit the dentist at least twice a year. Your dentist can help remove tartar buildup at the gum line that can allow dangerous bacteria to get into your bloodstream through your gums. She can also keep an eye on any changes to your oral health biome that could spell danger for your diabetes, such as new abscesses, cavities, loose teeth and periodontal disease.

Navigating diabetes can be stressful, but with the right steps in place, managing oral health care with diabetes doesn’t have to be.

Need to discuss diabetes and oral health with Dr. Lesko? Make an appointment today at 970-812-0355.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet Improves Periodontal Disease Symptoms

You’ve probably heard it before: Diet and exercise can make a dramatic improvement in nearly any condition that ails you. But a new study from the German Research Foundation published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology has found that a diet that is said to reduce inflammation can also improve the symptoms of periodontal disease.

Periodontal, or gum, disease is caused by inflammation of the gums. It happens when plaque and bacteria enter the gums and bloodstream, causing red, tender gums that bleed during brushing or flossing. Early-stage gum disease is called gingivitis – and it’s completely reversible with diligent oral health care. But often times it is not treated and can turn into full-blown periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease doesn’t just affect the gums – it can cause everything from gum tissue and tooth loss to bone loss. Recent studies have also linked it to cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even Alzheimer’s disease.

So, how common is periodontal disease? According to the Centers for Disease Control, a reported 47.2 percent of American adults suffer from some stage of periodontal disease, and as age increases, so too do the number of periodontal disease cases.

“It’s a very big problem we’re not talking enough about,” says Dr. Allison Lesko, a dentist from Fort Collins, Colorado.

That’s because many people simply don’t realize how serious it is – or how deeply it affects the rest of the body.

But now, there may be a helpful solution on the way in the form of a diet.

“Researchers found that when they prescribed nothing more than a diet change to a group of 15 participants, there was a significant reduction in the severity of periodontitis symptoms,” says Lesko. “That same change was not present at all among the control group.”

So, what was the big change that caused such dramatic results?

“The diet was anti-inflammatory,” says Lesko.

That means it was specifically designed to include foods that reduce inflammation in the body. It was rich in foods like legumes, fruits, nuts and fish, and low in foods containing sugar, dairy and trans fats.

Upon consuming the special diet for eight weeks, researchers noticed a marked reduction in inflammation and bleeding in the study participants, who did nothing else to change their lifestyle during the study.

“They didn’t brush more or floss their teeth – they literally made no changes other than to adapt this anti-inflammatory diet, and that alone improved their periodontal disease symptoms across the board,” Lesko says.

So, should you use an anti-inflammatory diet to treat your own periodontal disease?

“Making positive changes to your diet can’t hurt,” says Lesko. “But we still want to see patients take better care of their teeth, and that means both brushing twice a day and flossing.”

Developmental Disabilities Complicate Oral Hygiene

Properly maintaining a child’s oral hygiene can be a challenge for any parent, but for a parent of a child with a developmental disability, this challenge can be even greater, especially when that child refuses to see a dentist. But now, a cry from parents of children with developmental disabilities is gaining steam, and it could effect change in the dental community.

“The first problem many parents face is even getting their developmentally disabled child to care for their teeth at home,” says Dr. Allison Lesko, a dentist from Fort Collins, Colorado. “Getting a child to feel comfortable with a routine or to sit still long enough to brush and floss teeth is a tall order. And some may even need these steps performed for them if they are unwilling or unable.”

As big a problem as this is for younger children, it can become an even bigger problem as the child in question ages.

“At some point, the resistant child will become a teen and an adult, and will hopefully be responsible for managing their own hygiene, but this may not always be possible,” Lesko says.

When this happens, it opens a veritable Pandora’s Box of other dental issues.

“Those teeth they won’t brush develop cavities. They develop periodontitis. It goes from being a maintenance issue to something in dire need of treatment, but that becomes even harder than just getting them to brush their teeth,” says Lesko.

Worse yet, many families cannot afford to provide the kind of dental care needed for their developmentally disabled child, no matter their age.

“Often, sedation dentistry is the best option for treating these cases, but many dental insurance plans won’t cover the sedation portion of the procedure,” says Lesko. “So parents are forced to pay for that out of pocket.”

Even with reduced rates and payment plans, many parents still can’t swing the added expense.

“It can be too high of a cost for an annual or bi-annual cleaning,” says Lesko, “so many parents just skip the dental visits altogether.”

So, what’s a parent – or a patient – to do in this situation?

“All we can do right now is lobby the insurance industry for better coverage for these types of situations,” says Lesko. “Or speak to your family dentist about your options. Preventative care – even expensive preventative care – still saves money in the long run over fixing a problem that has gotten out of hand.”

Tooth Stem Cells Could Someday Save Lives

Parents who think they missed the boat by not banking their baby’s cord blood may soon have another chance to save precious stem cells that may benefit their children in the future. A new report from the United States National Center for Biotechnology Information has found that baby teeth can be saved and stored for use in a wide range of medical treatments, from fighting cancer to re-growing bones, treating diabetes and repairing eyesight.

“It’s still a new technology and it’s not available to consumers yet, but it’s coming,” says Fort Collins, Colorado, dentist Dr. Allison Lesko. “And when it does, it will be a game changer.”

The study found that teeth up to 10 years old could be used to harvest stem cells, which can be used to replicate any cell in the human body.

“So just because the stem cells are harvested from a tooth doesn’t mean they have to be used to replace a tooth,” says Lesko. “They will be able to replicate bones, tissue and organs from all around the human body.”

Currently, stem cells can be harvested from umbilical cord blood, bone marrow and even body fat, but because baby teeth contain bone marrow, they too are a source of stem cells.

“Bone marrow can be painful and difficult to extract, especially from a child,” says Lesko. “Extracting it from teeth will be a painless way to get the same benefits.”

As for the time-sensitive nature of extracting stem cells from cord blood, that complication isn’t as big of an issue with tooth marrow.

“The best part of doing it this way is that you don’t need to bank the teeth by a specific time,” says Lesko. “The stem cells can be harvested and banked as they fall out, naturally as your child grows – but only up to about age 10.”

But don’t just throw the teeth under the pillow and wait for the tooth fairy to take them.

“This type of banking will require some advanced planning,” says Lesko. “Most likely you will need to have a preservation kit on hand to keep the tooth from drying out before the stem cells can be extracted.”

Navigating Allergies at the Dentist

For parents of children with food allergies, navigating life can be a major challenge. Having to read labels and package inserts for products most of us take for granted can be stressful, frustrating and downright scary. Still, many parents must go out of their way to educate themselves about what ingredients are in these products and how they affect their child – something that is made even more difficult when you add in everyday stressors like work and family. Even the most vigilant parents can miss things. That’s what happened when one family missed the dairy-based ingredient added to their severely milk-allergic daughter’s prescription toothpaste, an omission any parent could relate to.

The family, from California, received a prescription for a special fluoride toothpaste for their daughter. Unfortunately, their 11-year-old had a severe milk allergy, a condition the family was well versed in. They considered the problem well managed, but in a move that would later prove fatal, they did not check the ingredients on the new toothpaste. Unfortunately, their young daughter had an immediate reaction at first use and died at the hospital later that night.

“It’s a devastating loss but one we don’t encounter often,” says Dr. Allison Lesko, a dentist from Fort Collins, Colorado, who did not treat the family.

Lesko says that while the accident is a rare occurrence, there are safeguards parents can take to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

“First, let your dentist know what allergies your child has, either on your medical intake forms or as a verbal reminder at any treatment,” says Lesko.

Another sound practice that the young girl’s family got right?

“Stay prepared,” says Lesko. “The parents in this case had an epi-pen and inhaler on hand for emergencies. They did the right thing by administering these medications to try and save their daughter.”

Keep these emergency products in close proximity to a child with life-threatening allergies at all times, and make sure the products have not expired between uses.

“Familiarize yourself with rescue product expiration dates and make sure to replace them before they expire,” says Lesko. “Add it to your calendar or set a reminder on your smartwatch or phone.”

Last, do what the child’s family had grown accustomed to doing over years of managing their daughter’s allergy.

“Learn the names of ingredients to rule out possible contamination,” says Lesko. “In the case of this young woman, her toothpaste contained Recaldent, a milk-based protein.”

Both Lesko and the victim’s family encourage parents to ask questions of any practitioner who is prescribing a medication.

“You never know what could be in a product – and you should never be afraid to ask. Even if your practitioner doesn’t know, we can find out for you,” says Lesko.