Good oral health plays a critical role

Dr. Scott LaClair, D.D.S.

Link to better overall health ‘well supported and undeniable’

How is good dental health and oral hygiene important for good general health?

Study after study has confirmed a link between dental infection and poor dental health with many problems outside the mouth to include but not limited to stroke, heart disease, life-threatening infections, malnourishment and depression. People with healthy teeth have been shown to live longer, happier, healthier lives than people with poor oral hygiene. The connection of a healthy mouth to systemic heath is both well supported and undeniable.

What can I do to treat gingivitis?

Poor dental health, not exclusive to gingivitis, is most often due to lack of understanding of what causes the problem. Gingivitis, periodontal disease and tooth decay are all caused by a spectrum of bacteria. Your own immune system launches a fight to kill these bacteria, however the bacteria are not fully exposed to the blood system as they are on your teeth and gums. Instead of giving up, your immune system’s response to the infection that it can’t cure intensifies, creating inflammation. This inflammation in its infancy is gingivitis or swollen gums. Removal of the bacteria with oral hygiene aids such as floss, water pik, antiseptic rinse and brushing a couple of times a day will minimize the bacteria in your mouth and the inflammatory response will diminish.

It seems that there is a much greater emphasis on cosmetics today than years ago. With all that’s on the market for whitening where to I start and how safe is it?

There is no doubt that cosmetics are a big part of many patients’ dental concerns. A nice straight, white smile helps a face light up and is a focus in treatment planning for full facial esthetics.

With regard to whiter teeth, all whitening should be overseen by a dental professional. Period. While there are over-the-counter solutions available, starting with the opinion of the dental professional is important. Whitening can make some dental work look worse and some conditions that cause teeth to be dark are not treatable with whitening products.

Whitening is safe and predictable. The cost associated with over-the-counter alternatives attracts many people to these products, but seldom do they achieve the results that they are looking for. This poor result is 100 percent related to dosage and delivery of dental-office-based whitening regimens. Most offices use a whitening product that is up to eight times as strong as over-the-counter products, and the delivery systems used by dental offices are tailored specifically to maximize results.

Does fluoride still play a role in good dental health?

Fluoride is misunderstood. Recent press and debate has brought fluoride to the forefront of concern in many households and its debate is often caustic. Fluoride plays an important role in guarding both children and adults from dental disease. However, the comfort that there are no recognized studies refuting its safety by the WHO, OSHA, FDA, ADA and AMA is not enough to confirm its safety to everyone.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognized fluoridation as one of the 20th century’s top 10 achievements in public health and its viability today in treating the No. 1 disease in children, tooth decay, remains undeniable.

I often get bits of food caught in my bridge work and it’s difficult to get them out. Can you suggest a remedy?

Our hygiene department is recommending that a “water pik” be used. We find that with all patients, including, but not exclusive to those with healthy teeth, complex dental disease, bone loss and/or complex restorative care like a bridge, that a water pik is the best available oral health implement. It has a “water bath” and it’s our recommendation that water, fluoride rinse and antiseptic mouth rinse be cycled through the water pik on a rotating basis day to day. We are finding amazing results with this regimen. A good “water pik” can be bought just about anywhere that tooth brushes are sold, they are about $50 to $60.

I’ve seen more adults well into their 30s and 40s getting their teeth straightened. When is it too late for orthodontia?

It is never too late to invest in something that bothers you. While there are many reasons why a person waits until their 30s or 40s to go ahead with straightening their teeth, there are only a couple of reasons why one must go ahead with treatment, for better function and better esthetics. A person is never younger than they are right now and it is never too late to consider all options to make every smile a prideful one.

What kind of diet should I maintain in order to promote dental health?

A diet that promotes a healthy lifestyle will promote excellent dental health. While foods high in sugar tend to feed the bacteria in our mouths, promoting dental issues, it is more that chronic exposure to sugar while in a mouth neglected with poor oral hygiene that is the issue. A mouth that is free of plaque bacteria is the goal; these bacteria unfortunately, love the same foods we do.

Dr. Scott LaClair D.D.S., is a north country native who practices dentistry at Clayton Dental Office. He founded the Thousand Island Center of Dental Technology at Clayton Dental Office and LaClair Family Dental in Carthage. Contact him at This column is provided for informational use only and not intended as medical care.