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Dr. Karen Lawitts

100 Intrepid Lane
Syracuse, NY 13205

(315) 492-8138
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Posts for category: Oral Health

HowtoEnsureYourChildsTeethandGumsStayHealthyNowandLater

Being a parent can be a rewarding role. But it's also hard work, especially the effort required in keeping children healthy. In that respect, there's one area you don't want to overlook—their dental health.

Taking care of their teeth and gums has two aspects: their current state of dental health and their ongoing development that impacts future health. Fortunately, you can address both the present and the future by focusing on the following areas.

Prioritizing oral hygiene. From the moment your child is born, you'll want to practice daily oral hygiene to keep their teeth and gums clean of disease-causing bacterial plaque. This starts even before teeth erupt—simply wipe their gums with a clean wet cloth after feeding. As teeth emerge, begin brushing each one with a small amount of toothpaste. Around your child's second birthday, start training them to brush and floss on their own.

Limit their sugar intake. The biggest threat to your child's teeth is tooth decay, which is caused by bacteria. These bacteria multiply when they have plenty of sugar available in the mouth, one of their primary food sources. It's important then to reduce the sugar they eat and limit it to mealtimes if possible. Also avoid sending them to bed with a bottle filled with sweetened liquids, including juices and even formula.

Visit the dentist. You're not in this alone—your dentist is your partner for keeping your child's teeth healthy and developing properly. So, begin regular visits when your child's first teeth appear (no later than their first birthday). You should also consider having your child undergo an orthodontic evaluation around age 6 to make sure their bite is developing properly.

Practice oral safety. Over half the dental injuries in children under 7 occur in home settings around furniture. As your child is learning to walk, be aware of things in your home environment like tables and chairs, or hard objects they can place in their mouths. Take action then to move these items or restrict your child's access to them.

Good habits in each of these areas can make it easier to keep your child's teeth and gums healthy and on the right developmental track. That means good dental health today that could carry on into adulthood.

If you would like more information on children's dental care, 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 “Top 10 Oral Health Tips For Children.”

By Dr Lawitts
October 14, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
4WaysSalivaProtectsYourMouthAgainstDisease

Brushing and flossing daily, and dental visits at least twice a year: These are the essential things you should be doing to protect your teeth and gums against dental disease. But you're also getting an automatic assist from your body through saliva, that humble fluid swishing around in your mouth, to protect your oral health.

It's more than simply “mouth water”: Without saliva and its various components, your risk for tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease would be much higher. Here are 4 ways saliva helps you keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Cleansing. Chewing prepares your food for digestion, but in the process produces tiny particles of food debris. Settling on tooth surfaces, these bits become part of the dental plaque that forms on your teeth and develops the ideal breeding ground for disease-causing bacteria. Saliva helps rinse away much of this debris—particularly sugar, the primary food source for bacteria.

Protection. Saliva is the first line defense against disease-causing microorganisms entering the mouth. The primary source of this protection is a protein-based antibody called Immunoglobulin A (IgA), which directly fights infection-causing organisms. Another protein in saliva, lactoferrin (also found in tears), interferes with bacterial growth.

Buffering. The main enemy of tooth enamel is mouth acid, produced by oral bacteria and the foods that we eat. Saliva neutralizes acid to help the mouth maintain its normally neutral pH range. And it works fast: Saliva can buffer acid and restore balance within thirty minutes to an hour after eating.

Re-mineralization. It's normal for acid to build up after eating, and for it to quickly remove minerals from surface enamel, a process called de-mineralization that can soften and weaken the enamel. But saliva helps restore some of these lost minerals as it's neutralizing acid. This re-mineralization re-strengthens enamel against tooth decay.

Saliva is so important for maintaining a healthy mouth, it's worth your efforts to protect it. Diminished saliva production not only produces an unpleasant dry mouth, it may increase your risk for disease. If this is a constant problem, speak to your dentist about causes and remedies. You'll be doing your teeth and gums a favor.

If you would like more information on the role of saliva in maintaining 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 “Saliva: How it is Used to Diagnose Disease.”

FarFromaSaferAlternativetoSmokingVapingCouldRuinYourOralHealth

E-cigarettes have taken the world by storm, especially among younger adults. The reason: the widespread perception that “vaping” is healthier than smoking tobacco.

But a deeper look at this wildly popular habit reveals a product that doesn't live up to its reputation as smoking's “safer alternative.” One aspect of health that's especially in harm's way is the mouth: Teeth and gums could in fact be just as prone to disease with an e-cigarette as the tobacco variety.

E-cigarettes are handheld devices that hold a cartridge of liquid vaping product, which is then heated to produce an inhalable vapor. Technically, it's an aerosol in which solid chemical compounds within the vaping liquid are suspended in the vapor. The aerosolized vapor thus serves as a transporting medium for these chemicals to enter the user's body.

It's these various chemicals inhaled during vaping that most concern dentists. Top on the list: nicotine, the addictive chemical also found in regular tobacco. Among its other effects, nicotine constricts blood vessels in the mouth, causing less blood flow of nutrients and infection-fighting cells to the gums and teeth. This not only heightens the risk for gum disease, but may also mask initial infection symptoms like swelling or redness.

Flavorings, a popular feature of vaping solutions, may also contribute to oral problems. These substances can form new chemical compounds during the vaping process that can irritate the mouth's inner membranes and trigger inflammation. There's also evidence that e-cigarette flavorings, particularly menthol, might soften enamel and increase the risk of tooth decay.

Other chemicals commonly found in vaping solutions are thought to increase plaque formation, the sticky film on teeth that is a major cause for dental disease. And known carcinogens like formaldehyde, also included in many formulations, raise the specter of oral cancer.

These are just a few of the possible ways vaping may damage oral health. Far from a safe tobacco alternative, there's reason to believe it could be just as harmful. The wise choice for your body and your mouth is not to smoke—or vape.

If you would like more information on the oral hazards of e-cigarettes, 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 “Vaping and Oral Health.”

YourTeethDontGrowLikeaSquirrelsSoProtectThemFromExcessiveWear

The humble squirrel—darlings to some, bird feeder-robbing nuisances to others—has its own month. Since 1995, the Squirrel Lovers Club of Chicago has celebrated October as Squirrel Awareness Month to pay tribute to this diverse family of rodents with over 270 species. It's also an opportunity to indulge in our favorite “squirrelly” fact: Squirrels' teeth don't stop growing.

And we do mean grow. A squirrel's four front incisors increase about 6 inches a year—a good thing since squirrels put those teeth through their paces gnawing through hard-shelled nuts and seeds. If they didn't keep growing, you'd see plenty of squirrels with worn-to-nothing front teeth.

We humans have some cause to be envious because, unlike squirrels, our permanent teeth stop growing by the time we reach adulthood. That could be a problem since nearly all of us encounter tooth wear as we age.

And it could be even worse. Bad habits like crunching ice, biting into hard foods or using our teeth as tools can contribute to accelerated wear. Some people also involuntarily clench or grind their teeth, creating higher than normal pressure that can wear down teeth.

Suffice it to say, it's worth the effort to quit conscious bad dental practices to prevent your teeth from wearing faster than normal. A teeth-grinding habit, though, may require more than willpower: We'll need to look at other ways to reduce its effect on your teeth.

First, you may want to try to reduce chronic stress, the top contributor to adult teeth grinding. Better stress management with the help of counseling, relaxation techniques, biofeedback or group therapy can all help reduce the occurrence of this destructive habit.

Such efforts, though, can take time. In the meantime, we may be able to help you reduce the effect of a grinding habit with a custom-made mouth guard. This plastic guard worn in the mouth prevents teeth from making hard contact with each other during grinding, and so it reduces the damaging forces that can wear down teeth.

By the way, if you've already experienced excessive tooth wear, not all hope is lost. We may be able to restore your teeth to normal length with the help of bonded porcelain veneers or crowns. After a thorough evaluation, we can give you options for turning back the “age clock” on your smile.

Our teeth may not continuously grow like squirrels', but we can still protect them from the effects of excessive wear. Good dental practices and habits—and restorative measures when necessary—can keep your smile looking as young as ever.

If you would like more information about tooth wear, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “How and Why Teeth Wear.”

WanttoImproveYourAthleticPerformanceTryTuningUpYourDentalCare

After a long hiatus, school athletes are gearing up for another sports year. Given the pandemic, they may be modifying some of their usual habits and practices. But one thing probably won't change: These young athletes will be looking for every way possible to improve their sports performance. And a new research study offers one possible, and surprising, avenue—beefing up their oral hygiene practice.

That's the conclusion of the study published in BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, a sister publication of the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Working with a group of about 60 elite athletes, a research group in the U.K. found that improving oral health through better hygiene practices might also boost overall sports performance.

Because there's some evidence that over 50% of athletes have some form of tooth decay or gum disease, the study's researchers wanted to know if there was a link between athletes' sports performance and their dental problems caused by neglected oral hygiene. And if so, they wanted to see if better hygiene might improve sports performance as well as oral health.

Their first step was to establish an initial baseline for the participants with an oral health screening, finding that only around 1 in 10 of the study's participants regularly brushed with fluoride toothpaste or flossed. They then administered a detailed questionnaire developed by the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center (OSTRC) to gauge the athletes' perception of how their current oral health affected their sports performance.

After some basic hygiene training, the athletes were given kits containing a toothbrush, prescription fluoride toothpaste and floss picks. They were then instructed to clean their teeth twice a day. Four months later, researchers found the number of participants who regularly brushed increased to 80%, and flossing more than doubled. What's more, a second OSTRC questionnaire found significant improvement overall in the athletes' perception of their sports performance.

As scientific research, these findings still need further testing and validation. But the study does raise the possibility that proper dental care could benefit other areas of your life, including sports participation.

Athlete or not, instituting some basic dental care can make a big difference in maintaining a healthy mouth:

  • Brush twice and floss once every day to remove accumulated dental plaque, the main source of dental disease;
  • Get a professional dental cleaning at least twice a year to remove stubborn plaque and tartar;
  • See us if you notice tooth pain or swollen or bleeding gums to stay ahead of developing dental disease.

Improving your dental care just might benefit other areas of your life, perhaps even athletic pursuits. We guarantee it will make a healthy difference for your teeth and gums.

If you would like more information on how you can improve your dental health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Daily Oral Hygiene.”



Dr. Karen Lawitts

Dr. Karen Lawitts

 

 

Dr. Lawitts was born and raised in Syracuse, NY. She received her Bachelor of Science and D.D.S degree from Northwestern University in Chicago.  
       
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