OST Blog

Dangers of Alcohol and Oral Health

January 27th, 2020

We often have patients who ask, “Can drinking alcohol affect my oral health?” There are, in fact, a few reasons why that martini may not be good for your pearly whites.

In addition to creating an overly acidic environment in your mouth, alcohol severely dehydrates oral tissues because of its desiccant and diuretic properties. Because alcohol saps oral tissues of their moisture so readily, saliva glands can't keep enough saliva in the mouth to prevent dry mouth. In addition, saliva contains antibacterial properties that inhibits growth of anaerobic bacteria, a destructive type of oral bacterial responsible for tooth decay, gingivitis, chronic bad breath, and periodontitis.

What are anaerobic bacteria?

When there is a lack of saliva flow in the mouth and the mouth cannot naturally cleanse itself of oral debris (food particles, dead skin cell, mucous), conditions develop that promote activity of anaerobic bacteria, or bacteria that thrive in dry, airless places. These anaerobes also flourish when an unending supply of proteins (food debris) are available to consume, creating rapidly multiplying layers of plaque that stick to teeth and demineralizes tooth enamel unless removed by brushing and professional dental cleanings.

Oral Cancer and Alcohol

Acetaldehyde is a chemical compound leftover after the liver has metabolized alcohol. Capable of causing genetic mutations, acetaldehyde is also a known carcinogen that contributes to the ill feelings of hangovers. Although most metabolism of alcohol is done in the liver, evidence shows that metabolism also occurs outside the liver and that enzymes in the mouth could encourage accumulation of acetaldehyde in oral tissues.

When combined with poor oral health, smoking, and other detrimental lifestyle factors, alcohol may be considered a primary contributory factor in the development of oral cancer.

Even if you don't drink or drink only occasionally, remaining aware of symptoms that may indicate oral cancer will improve your chances of recovering successfully when you start treatment in the early stages of oral cancer. Signs include red or while speckled patches in the mouth, unexplained bleeding, lumps/swellings, chronic ear or throat pain, and areas of numbness in the mouth or on the face.

If you have any questions about alcohol and its connection to oral health, don’t hesitate to ask Dr. Ford and Dr. Guter at your next visit to our Virginia Beach, VA office.

A Different Meaning to “Older and Wiser”

January 20th, 2020

The Fun Facts about Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars that come in behind the rest of your teeth. Why humans even have them is a common question. It could be that they do not fit in the average mouth because fewer people lose teeth nowadays due to improving dental hygiene. Some have suggested that human ancestors needed these teeth to maintain a diet that was rough and difficult to chew, whereas today’s diet fails to meet the same requirements and renders these molars relatively useless.

For many individuals in their late teens and early twenties, pain in the mouth can arrive suddenly and with a vengeance. The discomfort in their jaw turns out to be their wisdom teeth joining the party. If you happen to be dealing with these newcomers, you’ve probably got a few questions, the least of which might be: “Why does wisdom hurt so much?!”

Why do wisdom teeth cause so many problems?

Not all people experience problems with their wisdom teeth. Some are actually able to keep them because their teeth came in straight, and there’s enough room in their jaw to care for them properly.

For the vast majority of individuals, however, the teeth fail to find enough space and come in at odd angles or are unable to surface at all and create a number of problems as a result.

Common problems include:

  • Damage to surrounding teeth due to the pressure from the surfacing teeth
  • Infection that causes the surrounding gums to swell and become painful
  • Tooth decay due to the lack of room to properly clean the teeth
  • Impaction (when the tooth is unable to break through the skin)
  • A cyst that may damage the jaw, surrounding teeth, and nerves

Undergoing a common oral surgery fairly early in life is believed to make recovery easier, but you should allow yourself and your mouth time to heal.

Many people disagree about the purpose of these seemingly vestigial tools, but the fact remains that whatever their original purpose may have been, wisdom teeth have the potential to cause problems for people today. If and when you encounter these teeth, or the problems they can raise, contact Dr. Ford and Dr. Guter or our team at Oral Surgery of Tidewater.

Women’s Medications and Dry Mouth

January 13th, 2020

Women using medication to treat a variety of medical conditions are often unaware of the potential side effects. One common side effect of medications such as blood pressure medication, birth control pills, antidepressants, and cancer treatments is dry mouth. The technical term for dry mouth is xerostomia.

Xerostomia can lead to undesirable effects in the oral cavity including periodontal disease and a high rate of decay. Many women who have not had a cavity in years will return for their routine exam and suddenly be plagued with a multitude of cavities around crowns and at the gum line, or have active periodontal disease. The only thing that the patient may have changed in the past six months is starting a new medication.

Saliva washes away bacteria and cleans the oral cavity, and when saliva flow is diminished harmful bacteria can flourish in the mouth leading to decay and gum disease. Many medications can reduce the flow of saliva without the patient realizing the side effect. Birth control pills can also lead to a higher risk of inflammation and bleeding gums. Patients undergoing cancer treatments, especially radiation to the head and neck region, are at a greatly heightened risk of oral complications due to the possibility of damage to the saliva glands.

There are many over the counter saliva substitutes and products to temporarily increase saliva production and help manage xerostomia. One great option for a woman with severe dry mouth or high decay rate is home fluoride treatments. These work in a number of ways, including custom fluoride trays that are worn for a short period of time daily at home, a prescription strength fluoride toothpaste, or an over the counter fluoride rinse. If you have more questions on fluoride treatments, make sure to ask Dr. Ford and Dr. Guter at your next visit to our office.

The benefits of many of the medications on the market outweigh the risks associated with xerostomia, however, with regular exams you can manage the risk and prevent many oral consequences of medications.

Five Common Reasons for Emergency Care Visits

January 6th, 2020

A dental emergency can strike anywhere, anytime, and without warning. Perhaps you’re playing a game of touch football on Thanksgiving and your brother-in-law decides to up the ante and tackles you, accidentally knocking out your two front teeth. Or maybe you’re on vacation somewhere in the tropics and decide to go deep-sea fishing, but when you’re climbing onto the boat you slip on the dock, fall, and chip three of your teeth. From misplaced fly balls to bagel seeds causing a painful bout of inflammation, there are all kinds of dental emergencies.

Here are the five most common reasons for emergency care visits.

  1. Somehow you've managed to knock out a tooth. Whether it's the result of a sports injury or because of decay, when you lose a tooth, you need emergency dental care. If the tooth is salvageable, then it can be reattached to the socket, but this needs to be done within a one- or two-hour window.
  2. A chipped tooth is the most common dental emergency. Small chips can be caused by food (chicken bones and nuts have sent many people to the dentist); however, it's usually some sort of accident or injury that more often causes a chip. While you might be embarrassed to walk around with a gaping chip in your front tooth, it is easily fixed with a bond, crown, or veneer.
  3. A broken tooth is more severe than a chipped tooth. When a tooth breaks, it might be due to a small or hidden chip. However, chances are the pain and discomfort will be more severe.
  4. It might seem comical, but getting a piece of food lodged in the wrong place can result in a dental emergency. If something gets stuck deep in a crevice, it can cause pain and inflammation.
  5. The loss of a filling happens more often than you think. When you lose a filling, you need to receive emergency care immediately. If you don’t, you risk further damage to your tooth.

When you injure your teeth or mouth, you need to seek emergency care as soon as possible. In the event of a suspected emergency, don't wait. Contact Dr. Ford and Dr. Guter immediately.

2875 Sabre St #260
Virginia Beach, VA 23452
(757) 499-6886

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