SmilesByGlerum News

Karen Glerum DDS

Smoking Increases the Need for Root Canals?

May 27th, 2014

If you’ve been looking at reasons to quit or trying to convince a loved one to stop smoking, you might want to read on.  Recent studies at Boston University’s Goldman School of Dental Medicine have uncovered that basic factors such as your gender, how much you smoke and how long you’ve been smoking can considerably multiply the need for root canal treatment. The biggest discovery in the findings was that men and women are noticeably different when it comes to dental health.

Men are at a disadvantage when it comes to cavities, gum disease and oral cancer. Smoking doubles the risk for developing these dental problems more than women. As a result, men who smoke also require more root canals on average.

“Our study has shown that men have almost twice the risk of having root canal treatments if they smoke cigarettes, compared to men who never smoke,” said Elizabeth Krall Kaye, author of the Boston University study and professor in the department of health policy and health services.

Does that mean women are in the clear?   Not really, says Kaye. Historically, women haven’t smoked as long or as much per day as men, but Kaye believes that the risk associated with smoking and root canals still applies regardless of gender.

The reasons that smoking makes men and women more susceptible to dental problems is still not obvious. Kaye and her associates think the connection is in how smoking affects your overall health: It decreases your ability to ward off infection, increases inflammation and damages your circulation system.

By quitting cigarette smoking and living smoke-free, both men and women can greatly reduce the need for root canals. It is a proven fact that if you can stay smoke-free for at least nine years, your need for a root canal treatment can drop as low as a non-smoker.

Lifelong Benefits of Maintaining Your Teeth

May 16th, 2014

If you ask most people they will tell you that maintaining good dental health into your elder years brings many benefits to living a quality life. The main reasons being avoiding pains in the teeth and gums, the ability to enjoy all types of food, and a healthy appearance.

Studies have repeatedly shown that people who don’t maintain good dental health have a higher mortality rate than those who were in better dental health. Add to this the impact of nutrition as the most likely contribution to health.

The elderly are no different than younger patients and should see their dentist at least twice a year for checkups and cleanings. Common problems such as cavities, gum disease, and other dental infections need to be treated early to avoid overall health issues. Patients who wear full or partial dentures should have them evaluated by their dentist for proper comfort and fit over time. Dentures may not fit well if they have been worn for many years. The jawbone under the denture can become worn away over the years causing dentures to fit differently and become uncomfortable.

Besides the discomfort, loose dentures make it difficult to chew your food properly, speak clearly, and not support the face muscles as well. One telltale sign of a loose denture is the need to continuously use more adhesive to stay in place. Sometimes your dentist can remedy the problem by relining the denture, but after 5 to 7 years a new denture should be made. And absolutely whenever the dentures cannot be used comfortably anymore. For some patients, implants may help secure the dentures for a better fit. Normally, this type of procedure is needed in the lower jaw and in some cases the only way to help the patient stabilize and use their denture comfortably.

Keep in mind with dentures or not, maintaining lifelong good dental health along with the right nutrition is the biggest factor in living a long healthy life.

Smiles by Glerum News – December 2013

December 1st, 2013

2013 Insurance Benefit

Dear Patients,

Time flies…we are almost through 2013. The end of the year will be upon us before we know it; and with the end of the year comes the end of your yearly dental insurance benefits.

Did you know that each year insurance companies make millions of dollars off patients who forgo necessary and preventive dental care? Many individuals who are paying for dental insurance do not realize that their plans provide coverage up to a certain dollar amount annually. Consequently, some patients are not scheduling the dental treatment they need, deserve, and have insurance to cover. Thus, the insurance revenues allocated to pay dental claims on many patients are never used, and, unfortunately, those dollars cannot be carried over year-to-year. The bottom line: What the patient does not use they lose. Clearly, it pays in many ways to schedule the preventive care or other dental treatment that you need.

We want to make sure that you take full advantage of any remaining benefits your family might have. Many times you may be able to save money by completing your treatment before year’s end and avoid having to pay a new deductible next year.

We are here to help you secure the insurance coverage available to you on every dental procedure you schedule. Give us a call today, and together let’s make sure you are in excellent dental health. We look forward to seeing you again and sharing some of the many innovative means we now have available to provide you with superior dental health care.

If you have any questions about how much actual coverage remains on your insurance benefits, please call our office so that we can check on that for you. At that time, we can schedule you at the earliest available appointment to ensure you take full advantage of all the insurance benefits you pay for.

Please call or email us to make an appointment before the end of the year. We are scheduling November and December appointments at this time.

Please don’t wait until the last minute! Our schedule usually fills very quickly in the last quarter of the year.

Xylitol: The Tooth Friendly Sweetener

Xylitol is a white crystalline substance that looks and taste like sugar. It is found naturally and can be extracted from birch, raspberries, plums, corn and mushrooms. Technically it is not a sugar but a sugar alcohol that is sometimes called wood sugar or birch sugar. Our bodies produce up to 15mg everyday as part of normal metabolism.

The great benefit of Xylitol in preventing tooth decay was “discovered” in Finland in the early 1970’s. Streptococcus Mutans, bacteria found in the mouth, produces toxins and acids that can dissolve teeth when foods with refined sugar [sucrose] are eaten.

Xylitol is not fermented by oral bacterial, so it cannot cause cavities [caries]. It works its magic on many levels.

  • It inhibits the growth of cavity-producing bacteria S. Mutans and lactobacilli. The number of these acid-producing bacteria may fall as much as 90%
  • It prevents the transmission of S. Mutans from mother to child
  • It reduces the adhesion of plaque to your teeth
  • It stimulates salivary flow creating a greater buffer capacity against acids and aiding remineralization of your teeth

Therapeutically, Xylitol is added to chewing gum or candy. The dosage is critical. To receive tooth decay prevention benefits, you must receive 6-10 grams of Xylitol per day. When reading the label of a Xylitol containing product, Xylitol should be the first sugar listed and, ideally, the only sugar component. To be effective, the Xylitol gum must be utilized several times a day over long periods – 6 months, 1 year and 2 years.

Xylitol is also to added to some oral hygiene products such as toothpastes, mouthwashes, floss, fluoride supplements.

Chewing Xylitol gum after meals is a great alternative when brushing or flossing is not an option. Anybody who is at high risk for dental decay such as people with dry mouths or those with exposed tooth root surfaces should consider this decay prevention therapy.

On a precautionary note – excessive chewing could lead to headaches and/or pain in the TMJ joint near your ear. Don’t over do it!

Call our office for product recommendations.

Does My Dental Insurance Pay?

If you have dental insurance coverage, like most people, you want to know how much of the treatment will be covered and how much out-of-pocket expense will I have?

Most dental benefit plans arise from an agreement between an insurance company and a plan sponsor [employer or union]. There are literally hundreds of plans with endless variables concerning limitations, exclusions, deductibles, annual of lifetime maximum benefits, co-payments and fee schedules. If you have changed jobs, your new plan may not have any resemblance to your old one.

If you are being offered a plan, ask if there are several plans from which to choose. Beside yourself, who in the family will be covered? See if the plan you choose covers pre-existing conditions. If the plan is provided by your union or employer, is there any direct cost to you? If so, how much? Compare this with what you understand the benefits of the program to be.

If you already have dental insurance, we need you to bring in specific information for us to give you the best advice as to your coverage. We must have your insurance policy and ID number. Most important, bring your benefits booklet. If you don’t have one, call your employer or insurance company and request it.

Once we read the benefits book, we can project a general idea for what services and treatment are covered and the percentage of reimbursement. Many third party payers request a “predetermination of benefits” on treatment plans. We can submit the proper form and appropriate records to the insurance company. They will return it with the accepted, allowable treatment and the exact amount of coverage.

Once we have reviewed your plan, we should be able to answer most of your questions. Some plans will only allow the least expensive way to treat a problem, regardless of your choice or our recommendation. We would hope that you don’t base your dental needs and oral health solely on what benefits your plan allows. Our office will be happy to discuss a variety of financial arrangements that will make it possible to receive the treatment you need, while maximizing your insurance benefits.


Smiles by Glerum News – November 2013

November 1st, 2013

Avoiding the Baby Bottle Blues

When it comes to thumb sucking, babies are naturals — maybe because they practice even before they are born. Children begin sucking on their thumb while in the womb to develop the skills necessary for breastfeeding. Not surprisingly swapping a thumb for a pacifier or baby bottle is an easy transition for many kids.

In a child’s first few years, pacifier use generally doesn’t cause problems. But constant, long-term pacifier use, especially once permanent teeth come in, can lead to dental complications. Constant sucking can cause top front teeth to slant out, and bottom front teeth to tilt in. It also can lead to jaw misalignment (such as an overbite) and a narrowing of the roof of the mouth.

It is generally advised that children stop or drastically reduce their pacifier use around age 3. If a child is dependent on the pacifier to be calmed and soothed, try giving it to him or her only when absolutely necessary and using positive reinforcement to wean them off the habit.

Many children also use a baby bottle longer than necessary. Apart from the risks associated with the sucking motion, bottles also carry a heavy risk of promoting tooth decay if they contain anything other than water.

Frequently sucking or sipping on milk or juice from a bottle over an extended period of time will increase your child’s risk of tooth decay. When sugars and carbohydrates come in consistent contact with teeth they create an environment for decay-causing bacteria to thrive. Tooth decay can lead to painful infection and in extreme cases children may need to have a tooth extraction or dental treatment to extensively repair damaged teeth.

Long-term use of pacifiers and bottles can lead to speech and dental problems as your child gets older. Since children develop at different ages, it is a good idea to speak with your dentist and pediatrician to make sure that your infant or toddler’s early oral habits don’t cause problems.

Tips for Breaking Bad Oral Habits

Did you know that a lot of little things you do (or don’t do) on a day-to-day basis affect your teeth’s well-being and may fall under a list of bad oral habits? These include not brushing or flossing enough, eating too many sweets too often, or even using your teeth to open a bag of chips.

Bad oral habits die hard, but they can be stopped in their tracks by the following tips:

Floss at least once a day. It helps remove bits of food and dental plaque in places your toothbrush can’t find, helping to keep your gums healthy.

Brush at least twice a day. If brushing is not an option, chew sugarless gum (make sure it’s sugarless!) for 20 minutes after a meal or snack. This helps prevent tooth decay.

Clean your tongue. Regularly cleaning your tongue with a toothbrush or a tongue scraper helps remove the bacteria that causes bad breath.

Replace your toothbrush regularly. Replacing your tooth brush ever 3-4 months is a good idea. Bristles in your toothbrush that are bent and broken don’t do a good job cleaning your teeth.

Eat a balanced diet. Snacking on sweets without brushing increases the acid in your mouth… and the likelihood of tooth decay. Munch on vegetables and fruit instead.

Regular Dental Visits. Your dentist is trained to do damage control in your mouth before it’s too late. You should visit the dentist regularly — every six months.

Adding these to your list one at a time is a good start to kick those bad oral habits. By doing a little self-check on your daily dental care habits, you can be on your way to making sure your teeth, your mouth’s health and your overall health are at their best.

What to Do During a Dental Emergency

A dental emergency is always a stressful situation, but it can become absolutely nerve-racking when your dentist is out of the office. Whether it’s late Saturday night and your dentist won’t be back in until Monday, or if your dentist is out of the country on 2-week vacation, a dental emergency can be difficult to manage on your own. There are some basic things that you can do to prevent or cope with dental emergencies when they occur.

The best way to handle a potential dental emergency is to avoid it in the first place. The most common dental emergency is pain or swelling from an infected tooth. In most cases, this does not happen suddenly, overnight. Typically, a person has some degree of pain or discomfort for several days or even longer before they are in severe pain and in need of emergency dental care. The best advice is to visit the dentist at the first sign of any discomfort in the teeth or gums.

If a dental emergency does occur when your dentist is unavailable, there are several things that you can do. Pain in the teeth or gums can often be effectively handled with over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil®), naproxen (Aleve®), or acetaminophen (Tylenol®), to be taken as directed. Rinsing with warm salt water (a teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of water) can help temporarily relieve puffy or swollen cheeks and gums. Some-store bought products like Orajel® can also be effective in relieving minor soreness of the gums. If you have a broken tooth, a piece of wax or even some soft chewing gum can cover a sharp edge until you can get to the dentist.

Your dentist should also be available for advice if a dental emergency occurs. Thanks to cell phones and answering services, patients can often reach their dentist after office hours. This gives the dentist the ability to contact the pharmacy for antibiotics and pain medication should they feel that patients need them. If your dentist is going to be out of the office for more than a few days, he or she should have another dentist available to treat any dental emergencies that may occur.


Smiles by Glerum News – October 2013

October 1st, 2013

Invisalign – Invisible Braces To Straighten Your Teeth

The Invisalign system is comprised of a series of clear, thin, customized aligners that fit over your teeth, progressively straightening them. This system is an effective alternative to metal braces when used in appropriate cases. The main benefits of the Invisalign system are greatly improved appearance and comfort. The Invisalign aligners are removed during eating, and when brushing and flossing. This may reduce the risk of both cavities and gum disease when compared to traditional braces.

The first step in the process is scheduling an appointment with us. The proper candidate for this system would be an adult who has slight to moderate spacing or crowding of his or her teeth or a teenager who has all their permanent teeth except for the third molars. After an initial evaluation, we will inform the patient whether he or she will benefit from the Invisalign system. Impressions (molds) of the teeth are taken and then we write up a detailed set of instructions that are sent to Invisalign.

In the process of planning, the lab will send us a preview or prototype via the Internet of how the appliances will straighten your teeth. This information is used to design a series of clear aligners. Depending on each individual, 12 to 48 aligners may be needed to achieve the required result. As part of treatment, we may need to reshape certain teeth and only one visit every six weeks is required.

In some cases some individuals are not initially good candidates for the Invisalign System. In this situation the patient may benefit from wearing metal or ceramic braces for several months, then switching over to the more comfortable and appealing Invisalign System.

Be Careful With Toothpicks

Most dentists agree that toothpicks should be used sparingly as a method of teeth cleaning and should never be considered a substitute for brushing teeth and flossing. Fact is they should be used only when a toothbrush or floss is not available, for example, when you are in a restaurant and have food trapped between teeth.

Toothpicks that are used overzealously can damage tooth enamel, lacerate gums, and even cause a broken tooth in severe cases. People who have bonding or veneers can chip or break them if they aren’t careful. Overly aggressive use of toothpicks can severely wear the roots of teeth, especially in cases where gums have pulled away from the teeth and leave teeth with root surfaces exposed, notably in the elderly.

Toothpicks date back to 3,500 BC when the earliest known oral hygiene kit featuring a toothbrush was found at the Ningal Temple in Ur. In China, a curved pendant, made of cast bronze was worn around the neck and used as a toothpick. In 536 BC, the Chinese mandated a law that required the use of the toothpick because their armies suffered from bad breath. In the Old Testament, it is written that “one may take a splinter from the wood lying near him to clean his teeth.”

Today, most toothpicks in the United States come from “toothpick trees” in Maine. The tree is a white birch which has its trunk cut into thin sheets that are cut again to the thickness and length of toothpicks.

Dentists can tell when they have a habitual toothpick user in their dental chair. There are the tell-tale signs of toothpick marks. So use them if you have too, but don’t make it a habit. Brush and floss instead.

Tough Brushing Tortures Teeth

Most dentists don’t go a day without seeing patients who are damaging their teeth and gums by brushing too hard. Some report that as many as two out of three patients brush their teeth too hard. This is a problem. A stiff-bristled toothbrush combined with overzealous brushing teeth can cause serious dental problems over time, including gum disease and tooth sensitivity.

People think that if they brush twice as hard, they will do twice as much good, In fact, overzealous brushing can cause significant damage to the periodontal tissues and bones that support the teeth. If you used the same amount of force and brush the side of your arm, you could take your skin off.

One way to avoid damaging your teeth and gums is to purchase a “soft” toothbrush featuring rounded bristles which are less abrasive to teeth. You should hold the brush between the thumb and forefinger, not with the fist. When brushing, do not `scrub’ the teeth with a horizontal, back-and-forth motion.

Instead, start at the gum line and angle the brush at a 45-degree angle. Brush both the teeth and the gums at the same time. Push hard enough to get the bristles under the gumline but not so hard that the bristles flare out. It’s also a wise move to limit the amount of toothpaste because it is abrasive.

The irony is that dentists want people to brush longer, not harder. Children and adults tend to spend less than one minute at a time brushing their teeth, even though removing plaque from the mouth requires at least two to five minutes of brushing at least twice a day. Remember: brush longer, not harder.


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