Our Blog

Is Jawbone Loss Normal As We Age?

August 26th, 2020

Some bone changes are a normal part of aging. Bone density starts decreasing around the age of 30, hormonal changes affect bone strength as we grow older, and the mineral content of our bones can change over time. Even as we live longer, healthier lives, some changes in our bones are often a normal part of the aging process.

But note we said “often,” not always! Decades ago, a sunken jaw, thinner lips, sagging facial muscles, and an altered profile were considered just another normal consequence of aging. This “collapsed” look was caused by bone loss in the jaws, especially the mandible, or lower jaw.

Today we know that maintaining size and density in our jawbones is important not only for our appearance, but for better oral health. Even better, we know several easy practices to keep those bones their healthiest. And, should your jawbone be affected by bone loss, Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis can offer many options to restore both function and appearance.

  • Take Care of Your Teeth

Brushing twice a day, flossing daily, using fluoride toothpaste, seeing your dentist for regular exams and cleanings—when you follow recommended dental hygiene practices, you are doing more than simply preventing cavities; you are making sure you keep your teeth for a lifetime. And, because tooth loss inevitably leads to bone loss over time, you are protecting your bones as well.

The bone tissue which supports our teeth needs the stimulation of biting and chewing to stay healthy. Without that stimulation, bone area under a missing tooth gradually shrinks. The bone tissue is resorbed into the body, which, in a relatively short amount of time, can lead to a noticeable sunken spot where the tooth used to be. A dental implant will provide the tissue stimulation that a natural tooth would, and will prevent future bone loss in the jaw. And even if bone tissue has already been lost, Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis can recommend surgical bone grafting to achieve the right bone area and density to hold an implant.

  • Don’t Neglect Your Gum Health

One of the most common causes of bone loss in the jaw is periodontal disease. For older patients, gingivitis, left untreated, can eventually lead to periodontitis (severe gum disease). This condition leads to the formation of pockets between your gums and teeth that become home to bacteria and infection. This infection can cause deterioration in the bone structure supporting the teeth.

Making sure you schedule regular dental exams will allow Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis to treat any signs of periodontitis when they are first detected. If you have any of the symptoms of gum disease, it’s important to treat the cause of these symptoms as soon as possible to protect your gums, teeth, and the jawbone beneath them.

Gingivitis can be reversible with proper care. Deep cleaning procedures such as scaling and root planing, topical and oral antibiotics, and oral surgeries such as flap surgery or bone and tissue grafting can help reverse the effects of periodontitis. Bone loss cannot be reversed, but a graft can replace lost bone and allow healthy tissue to regenerate.

  • Consider implant-supported dentures

If you have suffered major tooth loss that requires a full or partial denture, consider appliances that are supported by implants. Remember, the loss of a single tooth causes resorption of the bone beneath it. If you are missing several or all of your teeth, your jawbone will shrink over that entire expanse of the alveolar ridge, the part of the jawbone which holds your teeth in their sockets.

Because dentures provide no stimulation to the underlying bone, normal bone resorption takes place. To add to the problem, the pressure of the denture on the ridge causes the bone to wear away further. As the bone continues to deteriorate, you will notice that the dentures no longer fit as well as they once did. For this reason, dentures often need to be replaced after a few years.

Implants, on the other hand, provide the same kind of pressure and stimulation to the jawbone that natural teeth do. The denture is securely attached to the implant, and doesn’t put harmful pressure on the bone below. Besides their natural appearance and secure fit, preventing further bone loss is a wonderful additional benefit of choosing dental implants to anchor full or partial dentures.

  • Don’t Ignore Bone Loss

Thanks to modern medicine, we can combat even normal bone aging with diet, exercise, and medication. Thanks to modern dental medicine, we know that a shrinking jawbone is not an inevitable part of the aging process.

If you have lost a tooth or teeth, or if you have suffered an abscess or serious gum disease, you might be at risk for bone loss. Beyond making us look older, a shrinking jaw can affect speech, eating, and the alignment of our remaining teeth.

You can do a lot to keep your teeth and gums healthy, which will keep your jawbone—and your profile— healthy as well. But if you have suffered lost teeth or bone loss, contact our San Mateo, CA office. As periodontists, we have the knowledge, skill, and experience to help counteract the effects of tooth and bone loss, leading to a lifetime filled with healthy and beautiful smiles.

If You Have Dental Anxiety, Let’s Talk About Your Sedation Options

August 12th, 2020

Sometimes people feel a tiny bit nervous when they sit in the dental chair. And sometimes it’s more than a tiny bit. If your anxiety over dental procedures is leading you to postpone scaling and root planing to treat your periodontitis, if the fear of oral surgery outweighs regenerating lost bone tissue or a gum graft, if dreading an implant procedure means you would rather live with tooth loss than give our San Mateo, CA office a call, give us a call! Sedation dentistry might be just the procedure you need to make dental anxiety a thing of the past.

Depending on your preferences, there are several levels of sedation Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis can provide to make your visit more comfortable.

  • Minimal Sedation—this type of sedation leaves you calm and conscious, and you respond normally to verbal directions.
  • Moderate Sedation—sometimes called “conscious sedation,” this option will leave you awake, relaxed and able to follow directions, but you will probably have little memory of the procedure afterward.
  • Deep Sedation—a deeper level of sedation where you cannot be roused easily or respond to instructions. It is unlikely you will remember much or any of the dental treatment.

Our office is trained to administer and monitor all these forms of sedation. Because sedation in all its varieties is a regular part of our practice, we have the medical knowledge and skill to provide you with a safe and comfortable dental experience.

And we will prepare you with all the information you need to decide on any dental treatment, including sedation. We will describe the procedure in detail, and discuss any possible risks. If you have any health conditions or take any medications that might interfere with sedation, we can discuss your options with you and your doctor to make sure you are a good candidate. We will explain any preparations you should take, and let you know if there is a window of recovery time needed in our office while the sedation wears off.

Don’t let yourself suffer dental pain or discomfort because you suffer from dental anxiety! Please call us to discuss your sedation options. Whether you choose oral, inhaled, or IV sedation, we are trained to administer your treatment gently and safely. Above all, we want to help you keep your smile the heathiest it can be, and that only happens with proper dental care. Let us work with you to make that care as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

Planning Your Vegetarian Diet with Your Oral Health in Mind

August 5th, 2020

If you’ve been following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you know that there’s much more to living a healthy life than simply avoiding meat products. Making sure your diet includes enough protein, as well as any nutrients that are primarily available in animal products, takes planning, and there’s no one-menu-fits-all solution.

Why? Because there’s no one menu that will suit all vegetarians. Specific vegetarian diets can allow for many different options:

  • Vegan—a plant-based diet which excludes meat, fish, dairy, and egg products
  • Ovo-vegetarian—includes eggs as a dietary option, but no dairy
  • Lacto-vegetarian— includes dairy as a dietary option, but no eggs
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian—a meat-free diet which allows both dairy products and eggs

If you are a pescatarian, who eats fish on occasion, or a flexitarian, who sometimes includes meat in a meal, your menu options are even broader.

So let’s look at the big picture—a healthy vegetarian diet is really more concerned with the foods you do eat for nutrition rather than the foods you don’t. You can create a meal plan rich in all your essential nutrients with a little research, no matter which type of vegetarian diet is your go-to choice.

And while you’re constructing your ideal menu guidelines, don’t forget about your dental nutrition!

In terms of keeping your teeth and gums their healthiest, what important vitamins and minerals are often missing from vegetarian and vegan diets? Let’s look at three of them.

  • Calcium

Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and tooth enamel. Without enough calcium, a weakened jawbone leads to loose, and even lost, teeth. The acids in our food and the acids created by oral bacteria also weaken the minerals in enamel, including calcium. These weak spots can eventually become cavities. A diet rich in calcium not only supports the bones holding our teeth, but can even help repair, or remineralize, enamel which has been weakened by acidic erosion.

For vegetarians who include dairy in their diets, dairy products are a great way to include calcium. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are traditional and rich sources of this mineral.

For vegans, it’s a bit more challenging, but still doable! Non-dairy foods providing calcium include dark green vegetables (kale, broccoli, spinach), certain types of tofu, and fortified cereals, juices, and non-dairy milks.

  • Vitamin D

Now you’re ready to put that calcium to work by making sure you have enough vitamin D in your diet. Vitamin D not only helps keep our bones healthy, it also enables our bodies to absorb calcium. Bonus—it’s been linked to better gum health in several studies.

So how to get more vitamin D? If you eat dairy, most dairy products have been fortified with vitamin D. If eggs are a part of your diet, egg yolks are a great source. Pescatarians can enjoy the benefits of vitamin D from fatty fish such as tuna and salmon.

Because we get most of our vitamin D from sun exposure or foods derived from animals, plant-based foods are not a practical way to obtain the vitamin D you need. But, just as non-vegetarians can get plentiful vitamin D from fortified dairy products, vegans also have options. Try adding cereals, juices, and non-dairy milks fortified with this essential nutrient to your diet, or take a vegan vitamin D supplement.

  • Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy red blood cells, nerve cell development, brain function, and DNA production. (This is why it’s especially important for pregnant and nursing women.) Vitamin B12 can also impact your oral health. A B12 deficiency can cause a swollen, sore, or inflamed tongue, loss of taste, and gum, tongue, and mouth ulcers.

Unfortunately, vitamin B12 is reliably found only in animal foods and nutritional yeasts. If you would prefer an egg-free and dairy-free diet, look to B12 supplements or B12-fortified cereals, plant-based milks, energy bars, and other vegan options. This is a good subject to discuss with your physician, because even supplements and fortified foods might not provide enough B12.

In fact, Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis can be vital resources when you’re planning your healthiest vegetarian diet. The next time you visit our San Mateo, CA office, ask for recommendations for supplements if you’re concerned that diet alone can’t provide for all of your nutrition essentials. Finally, care should be taken to ensure that, even with supplements, you get the proper amount of the vitamins and minerals you need.

As a vegetarian, you are used to the concept of care. Whether it was concern for nutrition, the planet, the animal world, or another reason that drew you to a vegetarian diet, be sure to care for your body as well as your dietary choices. Careful planning can ensure a diet which supports not only your general health, but your oral health, for a lifetime of nourishing—and well-nourished—smiles.

Thirsty? We Have Some Ideas on Tap

July 22nd, 2020

No, we don’t mean the latest foamy offering from your favorite microbrewery. When you’re thirsty, one of the best options available is literally at your fingertips—tap water, straight from your faucet. It might not be the most adventurous choice, but drinking a tall glass of fresh tap water is refreshing in so many healthy ways.

Physical Health

Water conveniently available at home is much more than a convenience. We need to keep hydrated, because our bodies are made to run on water. To name just a few of its benefits, water provides nutrients to organs and cells, eliminates waste, regulates our temperature, and protects our joints and delicate tissues. Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis and our San Mateo, CA team will tell you all about the importance of proper hydration when it comes to your mouth, gums, and teeth, but here are a few highlights:

  • We need to be hydrated to produce enough saliva. Saliva, which is more than 90% water, helps prevent cavities and protect enamel by both washing away bacteria and balancing acids in the mouth which can cause decay.
  • Tooth enamel is so strong because it’s made of calcium and phosphate. These minerals are leached from our enamel by both bacteria-produced acids and dietary acids. Saliva also contains calcium and phosphate, and, with fluoride, restores these minerals in our enamel, leaving teeth stronger and less likely to develop cavities.
  • As a bonus, a quick rinse with water when you can’t brush after eating is a great way to remove food particles left behand—especially healthy when you’ve had sugary or acidic foods.

Ecological Health

If you want to reduce waste, one of the easiest ways to do so is to use tap water instead of bottled water.

  • Bottled water has a carbon footprint. It takes energy (and additional water) to create plastic and glass bottles, to label them, and to transport them. Water piped into your home from local sources? No bottles, labels, or long road trips necessary.
  • Water bottles should be recycled. Unfortunately, many cities don’t offer, or have stopped offering, recycling. Plastic and glass empties end up in landfills, littering our neighborhoods, or in our waters.

Budget Health

Getting your daily hydration from bottles can add up quickly.

  • Bottled water can cost hundreds of times as much as tap water. While local water prices vary, the average gallon of tap water costs less than a penny. No matter what kind of sale your local store is offering, bottled water will never be the bargain tap water is.
  • When you buy many small bottles instead of a few larger ones, or choose more expensive “designer” water, your costs can mount up even more.
  • When you need to bring water with you for work, sports, or other activities, consider filling a reusable bottle with water from home.

Dental Health

Getting the recommended amount of fluoride in your diet is one of the single best things you can do for your dental health. Fortunately, many communities make this easy for us by providing fluoridated drinking water.

  • Fluoride works with the calcium and phosphate in your saliva to create stronger enamel, so cavities can’t form as easily when your teeth are exposed to plaque and food particles.
  • Fluoride helps strengthen your child’s permanent teeth as they develop, and helps prevent cavities in both baby teeth and permanent teeth as children grow.
  • If your community doesn’t offer fluoridated water, ask Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis for the best way to get the fluoride you need to protect your teeth.

For the good of your body, your planet, your wallet, and last, but most certainly not least, the health of your teeth and gums, consider a glass of water. So many benefits—and you have them all on tap!

pushpin link

Find Us