Westminster, MD Dentist
Gallagher & Eden Family Dentistry
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Westminster, MD 21157
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Posts for category: Oral Health

By Dr. Patrick Gallagher, D.D.S.
May 12, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: herbal remedy  
HerbalRemedyHelpsAlleviatePainandSwellingAfterDentalProcedures

Alternative medicines — also known as herbal or homeopathic remedies — have grown in popularity in recent decades. Because they don’t think of these remedies as “medicines,” many people will try them based on their friends’ advice or an internet search — with or without a doctor’s advice. Any herbal remedy, though, should be viewed as a real drug with real, and often significant, side-effects.

With that said, many of these alternative treatments are safe and effective if taken in an appropriate manner. Arnica Montana, a member of the daisy family, is a good example: various preparations of this herb have been found to reduce pain and inflammation caused by sprains or bruising, as well as control infection by killing bacteria. It’s also one herbal application that’s finding a home in the field of dentistry.

You can find many products containing Arnica, particularly topical applications made from the herb’s roots and dried flowers. It’s common to find Arnica in tinctures (the herb mixed in with a gel), tea infusions and a variety of ointments; the best-selling topical product is a gel containing 8% of the Arnica herb.

Many dentists are now prescribing Arnica to patients following invasive procedures like gum surgery, root canal treatment, implant surgery or wisdom teeth extraction to help reduce swelling and bruising. In this case, topical applications won’t work: directly applying a topical treatment to open mouth wounds can cause mucositis (an irritation of the lining of the mouth) and reactions in people with allergies to plants related to daisies. Dentists prescribe a programmed capsule regimen taken orally for four days after the procedure. This has been shown to lessen the length and degree of recovery time.

Any medicine, whether traditional or non-traditional, can have unintended consequences. Know the facts about what you’re taking, and be sure you consult with your doctor or dentist before trying any herbal remedy.

If you would like more information on Arnica Montana and similar remedies, 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 “Herbal and Homeopathic Remedies.”

By Dr. Patrick Gallagher, D.D.S.
February 21, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   saliva  
SalivaisaKeyIngredientinOralHealth

When you think of saliva, the word “amazing” probably doesn’t come to mind. But your life and health would be vastly different without this “wonder” fluid at work in your mouth.

Saliva originates from a number of glands located throughout the mouth. The largest are a pair known as the parotids, located just under the ears on either side of the lower jaw, which produce a thin and watery liquid. The sublingual glands under the tongue produce thicker saliva with a mucous secretion; the saliva from the submandibular glands located under the lower jaw has a consistency somewhere between that of the parotids and the sublingual glands. All these different consistencies of saliva combine to produce a fluid rich in proteins, enzymes, minerals and antibodies.

Saliva performs at least five basic functions in the mouth. First, it washes away food particles after eating and reduces the amount of sugar available for decay-causing bacteria to consume. It protects and disinfects the mouth with antibodies, proteins and enzymes that fight against and help prevent the growth of bacteria. Saliva neutralizes high acidity levels in the mouth, necessary to prevent enamel erosion from acid; and when enamel has softened due to acidity (de-mineralization), the calcium and other minerals in saliva help restore some of the enamel’s lost minerals (re-mineralization). Saliva also aids in digestion by lubricating the mouth and helping the body break down starches in food with its enzymes.

In recent years, scientists have also gained insight into another property of saliva that promises better disease diagnosis in the future. Like blood and urine, saliva contains biological markers for disease. As more diagnostic machines calibrated to these specific markers are developed and used, it could signal a more effective way to identify conditions from saliva samples that are easier to collect than other bodily fluids.

Its less than glamorous image aside, your mouth would be quite a different (and unhealthy) place without saliva. And, developments in diagnostics could make this unsung fluid even more valuable in maintaining your health.

If you would like more information on the importance of saliva to 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 “Secrets of Saliva.”

By Dr. Patrick Gallagher, D.D.S.
January 08, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: gum disease  
PreventionistheKeyintheFightAgainstPeriodontalDisease

Billions of bacteria live in each of our mouths, sharing a common environment with teeth and soft tissues. Most of the time, they coexist in symbiotic balance. But sometimes that balance becomes disrupted, leading to a destructive condition known as periodontal disease.

From the Latin peri (“around”) and the Greek odont (“tooth”), periodontal refers to the tissues that are around the teeth. When they become diseased, it's a serious matter; and not just because of potential tooth loss — there is evidence that periodontal disease has links to cardiovascular disease and, for pregnant women, low birth weights in pre-term babies.

There are a number of factors that can increase your risk of developing periodontal disease, like smoking, poor nutrition, and your systemic health. The biggest factor, however, is increased bacterial plaque due to poor oral hygiene practices.

Periodontal disease is progressive. As unhealthy bacteria levels increase, the bacteria eventually cause bone loss, the gums separate from the teeth and create what is referred to as periodontal pockets. As the pockets deepen around the teeth, plaque and tartar become extremely difficult to remove, even if you resume a proper hygiene routine. At this stage, treating the disease will require a different approach. And if left untreated, the teeth will most likely continue to lose bone and eventually be lost.

Through a dental exam, we can determine the presence and extent of the disease and recommend a treatment strategy. Besides lifestyle changes and better hygiene habits, this strategy might also include treatment with antibiotics, a thorough mechanical cleaning to remove tartar and plaque, surgical techniques to remove infected tissue, or occlusal bite therapy.

Above all, prevention is the key. Through proper dental hygiene and regular dental exams and cleanings, stopping periodontal disease from beginning in the first place is your best defense.

If you would like more information on the treatment of periodontal disease, 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 “Understanding Gum Disease.”

By Dr. Patrick Gallagher, D.D.S.
December 24, 2013
Category: Oral Health
GrandpaKnowsBestHowKristiYamaguchiManagesHerKidsOralHealth

When Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi wanted to help her kids develop good oral health habits, the gold-medal-winner made good use of a family connection: Her father Jim Yamaguchi is a practicing dentist in the San Francisco Bay area who treats her entire brood. As she said in a recent interview, when she suspects the kids may be spending a little less effort on oral hygiene than they should, she playfully admonishes them: “You've got to brush your teeth better than that. Papa-san is going to know!”

Not all kids are lucky enough to have a grandpa who's a dentist — but every child can learn how to help take care of his or her oral health with age-appropriate techniques, plus plenty of parental guidance and encouragement. What's the best way to help your kids develop good oral hygiene routines? We're glad you asked!

Through babyhood and the toddler years, parents have the main responsibility for keeping kids' teeth clean. But as they begin to put away pacifiers and cease sucking thumbs — around ages 2 to 4 — children can also begin to help with their own oral hygiene routine. By then, kids will probably be used to the feel of gentle brushing, and may be eager to try it themselves.

A soft-bristled brush with a pea-sized dab of toothpaste is all they need to get started… along with a good dose of parental patience. Show them how to wiggle the brush back and forth from the gum line, and all around the upper and lower teeth, both in front and in back. At first, they will probably need plenty of help. But after the age of 6 or so, as their manual dexterity increases, so will their ability to get the job done.

You'll still have to check their work periodically — but you can also teach them how to do it on their own: Have your child run his or her tongue over the tooth surfaces. If they feel smooth and silky, they're probably clean too. If not… try, try again. This test is a good guideline to brushing effectiveness — but if you want to know for sure, use a temporary dye called a disclosing tablet (available at many drugstores) to reveal unseen buildups of plaque bacteria.

What else can you do to give your children the best chance at keeping a healthy mouth and sparkly teeth? Set a positive example! Make sure you (and your kids) eat a healthy diet, get moderate exercise, limit between-meal treats — and visit the dentist regularly. The encouragement you'll get after having a good dental checkup will make you feel like a gold medalist — even if the praise isn't coming from grandpa.

If you would like more information on how to help your child develop good oral health habits, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Dentistry & Oral Health For Children” and “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”

By Dr. Patrick Gallagher, D.D.S.
December 10, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: loose dentures  
LooseDenturesCouldLeadtoFurtherBoneLoss

There’s no dispute in most cases that dental implants are superior to removable dentures as a restoration for missing teeth. One area in particular is the effect a removable denture can have on remaining bone and other structures of the mouth, especially if their fit becomes loose.

If you’re a denture wearer, you probably know that loose dentures are a major problem, one that can worsen the longer you wear them. The denture compresses the gum tissue it rests upon to produce forces that are more detrimental than what the jaw normally receives from natural teeth. The underlying bone will begin to dissolve (resorb) under these compressive forces. This in turn changes the dynamic of the denture’s fit in the mouth, and you’ll begin to notice the fit becoming looser over time.

The loose fit can be remedied with either the production of a new denture that updates the fit to the current structure of your jawbone or by relining the existing denture with new material. Relining can be done as a temporary measure with material added to the denture during your visit to the office, or as a more permanent solution in which the material is added at a dental laboratory. With the latter option, you would be without your dentures for at least a day or more.

Even if dental implants for multiple teeth aren’t feasible for you financially, you do have other options. With one particular option, the removable lower denture can be held in place and supported by two strategically placed implants. Not only can this lessen the risk of developing a loose fitting denture, it may also alleviate most of the compression on the gum tissue and reduce the rate of bone resorption. The result is better function for eating and speaking and often a boost in self-confidence, as well as many more years of effective wear from your dentures by limiting bone loss.

If you would like more information on the effects and treatment of loose dentures, 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 “Loose Dentures.”