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Oral Care Goes Beyond Brushing and Flossing

by Gisele Rinaldi Siebold

Area practitioners Dr. Owen Allison, DMD, Dr. Tammy del Sol, DMD, Dr. Carol Layton, DMD, and Dr. David Schwartz, DDS, described some dental, mouth, jaw and sleep care indications to consider beyond regular brushing and flossing, as well as actions that can be taken to enhance the mouth and body connection for overall good health.

“Tooth decay and gum disease are chronic infections and can be controlled or prevented with adequate oral hygiene and a good diet,” says Layton. “An adequate compliment of healthy teeth or tooth replacement for mature adults and healthy oral tissues is priority.”

Allison agrees. “Talk to your dentist about your options to replace any teeth that are missing. Each single adult molar that is missing represents a 15 percent loss of chewing power because the tooth which is above or below the missing tooth has nothing to bite against,” he says. “Often, this opposing tooth will begin erupting into the space, which can mess up your bite. The teeth in front and back of a missing tooth will start tipping into the space, also changing the bite. The problems are compounded the more adult teeth you are missing.”

Allison notes, “Another serious problem with missing teeth is the inability to chew food properly. Chewing food begins the digestion process and prepares it to enter the stomach. Good nutrition depends on a functional digestion system, starting with your teeth.”

“Since digestion and the breakdown of carbohydrates begins in the mouth, lack of adequate saliva can be a real problem for many adults,” explains Layton. “Causes of dry mouth can consist of medications, cancer therapies, dehydration and diseases, including diabetes and autoimmune diseases such as Sjogren’s syndrome or Crohn’s.”

These experts agree that poor nasal breathing causes mouth breathing, the number one risk factor for teeth grinding and non-physiological clenching, which causes cracks, broken teeth and notches along the gumline. “Airway is king,” explains Schwartz. “It also causes poor neck posture and shoulder pain, and is a risk factor for high blood pressure, adding to sleep apnea risks.”

“Stress and/or use of pharmaceuticals may cause tooth clenching, which can lead to tooth grinding and cause loss of tooth structure, jaw joint problems and often pain, and may require the use of oral appliances to protect teeth and jaw joints,” says Layton. “Those experiencing a compromised airway due to sleep apnea are at even greater risk. Talk to your dentist if you experience any of these conditions.”

“Stay ahead of nasal allergies,” recommends Schwartz. “In the case of a crooked nose which could hinder proper breathing, consider working with a physician to determine the possible cause for the crooked shape, as well as treatment options.”

“When we think of good oral health, we think of clean teeth, good brushing techniques, flossing, rinsing and good diet,” says del Sol. “My associate, Dr. Anjali Shah, and I are bringing focus to a topic that is not very popular, but is slowly gaining traction in the medical and dental communities: breathing, swallowing and tongue positioning. This topic is not only relevant for adults, but also for parents of young children who snore, wet the bed or are even developing sleep apnea patterns. Seek out a provider who is trained to recognize the behaviors and symptoms of someone who primarily only breathes though their mouth.”

Owen Allison, DMD, Susquehanna Dental Arts, 100 S. 18th St., Columbia. For more information, call 717-684-3943 or visit

Tammy del Sol, DMD, Colonial Dental Group, 4940 Lingelstown Rd., Harrisburg. For more information, call 717-901-7045 or visit

Carol Layton, DMD, Hershey Dental Associates LLC, 273 Hershey Rd., Hummelstown. For more information, call 717-220-1792 or visit

David Schwartz, DDS, Schwartz Family Dental, 9 Bristol Ct., Wyomissing. For more information, call 610-670-6910 or visit

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