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Planning Your Vegetarian Diet with Your Oral Health in Mind

May 18th, 2022

If you’ve been following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you know that there’s much more to living a healthy life than simply avoiding meat products. Making sure your diet includes enough protein, as well as any nutrients that are primarily available in animal products, takes planning, and there’s no one-menu-fits-all solution.

Why? Because there’s no one menu that will suit all vegetarians. Specific vegetarian diets can allow for many different options:

  • Vegan—a plant-based diet which excludes meat, fish, dairy, and egg products
  • Ovo-vegetarian—includes eggs as a dietary option, but no dairy
  • Lacto-vegetarian— includes dairy as a dietary option, but no eggs
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian—a meat-free diet which allows both dairy products and eggs

If you are a pescatarian, who eats fish on occasion, or a flexitarian, who sometimes includes meat in a meal, your menu options are even broader.

So let’s look at the big picture—a healthy vegetarian diet is really more concerned with the foods you do eat for nutrition rather than the foods you don’t. You can create a meal plan rich in all your essential nutrients with a little research, no matter which type of vegetarian diet is your go-to choice.

And while you’re constructing your ideal menu guidelines, don’t forget about your dental nutrition!

In terms of keeping your teeth and gums their healthiest, what important vitamins and minerals are often missing from vegetarian and vegan diets? Let’s look at three of them.

  • Calcium

Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and tooth enamel. Without enough calcium, a weakened jawbone leads to loose, and even lost, teeth. The acids in our food and the acids created by oral bacteria also weaken the minerals in enamel, including calcium. These weak spots can eventually become cavities. A diet rich in calcium not only supports the bones holding our teeth, but can even help repair, or remineralize, enamel which has been weakened by acidic erosion.

For vegetarians who include dairy in their diets, dairy products are a great way to include calcium. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are traditional and rich sources of this mineral.

For vegans, it’s a bit more challenging, but still doable! Non-dairy foods providing calcium include dark green vegetables (kale, broccoli, spinach), certain types of tofu, and fortified cereals, juices, and non-dairy milks.

  • Vitamin D

Now you’re ready to put that calcium to work by making sure you have enough vitamin D in your diet. Vitamin D not only helps keep our bones healthy, it also enables our bodies to absorb calcium. Bonus—it’s been linked to better gum health in several studies.

So how to get more vitamin D? If you eat dairy, most dairy products have been fortified with vitamin D. If eggs are a part of your diet, egg yolks are a great source. Pescatarians can enjoy the benefits of vitamin D from fatty fish such as tuna and salmon.

Because we get most of our vitamin D from sun exposure or foods derived from animals, plant-based foods are not a practical way to obtain the vitamin D you need. But, just as non-vegetarians can get plentiful vitamin D from fortified dairy products, vegans also have options. Try adding cereals, juices, and non-dairy milks fortified with this essential nutrient to your diet, or take a vegan vitamin D supplement.

  • Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy red blood cells, nerve cell development, brain function, and DNA production. (This is why it’s especially important for pregnant and nursing women.) Vitamin B12 can also impact your oral health. A B12 deficiency can cause a swollen, sore, or inflamed tongue, loss of taste, and gum, tongue, and mouth ulcers.

Unfortunately, vitamin B12 is reliably found only in animal foods and nutritional yeasts. If you would prefer an egg-free and dairy-free diet, look to B12 supplements or B12-fortified cereals, plant-based milks, energy bars, and other vegan options. This is a good subject to discuss with your physician, because even supplements and fortified foods might not provide enough B12.

In fact, Dr. Holtzen can be vital resources when you’re planning your healthiest vegetarian diet. The next time you visit our Missoula or Hamilton office, ask for recommendations for supplements if you’re concerned that diet alone can’t provide for all of your nutrition essentials. Finally, care should be taken to ensure that, even with supplements, you get the proper amount of the vitamins and minerals you need.

As a vegetarian, you are used to the concept of care. Whether it was concern for nutrition, the planet, the animal world, or another reason that drew you to a vegetarian diet, be sure to care for your body as well as your dietary choices. Careful planning can ensure a diet which supports not only your general health, but your oral health, for a lifetime of nourishing—and well-nourished—smiles.

What is TMJ Disorder?

May 11th, 2022

TMJ is the quick way of referring to your Temporomandibular Joint. Pardon the pun, but that’s quite a mouthful! What is this joint, what does it do, and, if your doctor or dentist has told you that you have a TMJ disorder, what can Dr. Holtzen do to help?

The Temporomandibular Joint

Your two temporomandibular joints are amazing works of anatomical design. These are the joints where the temporal bone in the skull meets the mandible bone of the jaw, and allow our mouths to open and close, move back and forth, and slide from side to side. Muscle, bone and cartilage work together to provide easy movement and to cushion the joint. But sometimes, the joint doesn’t work as smoothly as it should, and this can lead to Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, or TMD.

When Should You Suspect You Have TMD?

You might have TMD if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Painful chewing
  • Pain around your TMJ, or in your face or neck
  • Earaches
  • Changes in your bite
  • Jaws that are limited in movement or lock open or shut
  • Clicking, popping or grating noises when you open and shut your jaw

There are many conditions linked to TMD. If you grind your teeth at night, have arthritis in the jaw, have suffered an injury or infection in the area, or have problems with your bite, for example, you might be more likely to experience TMJ problems. If you suspect you have TMD, or suffer from any of the symptoms listed above for an extended period, an oral surgeon like Dr. Holtzen can provide the answers you’re looking for.

Why Choose an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon?

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons have a minimum of four years of advanced studies in a hospital-based residency program, where they train with medical residents in the fields of general surgery, anesthesiology, internal medicine, and other specialties with a specific focus on the bones, muscles, and skin of the face, mouth, and jaw. They are uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat a complex disorder such as TMD.

How Do We Treat TMD?

First, we will check your medical history, and begin with a careful examination of the joint, its movement, and the structures of the head and neck surrounding it. When necessary, we will use imaging studies for further examination of the joint. If indicated, a conservative treatment plan might be recommended:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs and/or over-the-counter pain relievers, ice packs, moist heat compresses
  • A custom-fitted mouthguard, bite plate, or bite splint to reduce the effects of bruxism, or teeth grinding
  • Orthodontic treatment for a malocclusion (bad bite)
  • Physical therapy, which might include exercises for the jaw muscles
  • Behavior modification, with techniques to avoid jaw pain (giving up gum chewing, jaw clenching, nail biting), and techniques for relaxation and stress relief.

If these treatments aren’t successful, or if there is damage to the joint, we might suggest surgical options.

  • Arthroscopy, a minimally invasive surgical procedure performed under anesthesia, in which a thin tube with a video lens and light is inserted through a small incision in front of the ear. This technology allows us to get a good look at the joint and the area surrounding it. Depending on the results of our examination, arthroscopic surgery might be used to repair joint damage.
  • Arthroplasty, surgery performed under anesthesia, can repair, replace, or reposition damaged parts of the joint. For example, surgery can remove bony growths, repair damage to the articular disc (which cushions your joint) or replace it, and access areas which an arthroscopy can’t.

Luckily, most cases of TMD are temporary and don’t become worse over time. But any persistent discomfort is a good reason to visit our Missoula or Hamilton office. Whether you have TMD, or any other problem causing you pain in the head or jaw, the causes for your temporomandibular joint discomfort can be complicated. We have the unique surgical training and experience to diagnose and treat these remarkable joints.

Why Choose a Dental Implant for a Beautiful and Healthy Smile? Your Oral Surgeon Has the Answers!

April 27th, 2022

Sometimes, despite our best care, we lose a tooth. If it is a front tooth, it will probably be a high priority for replacement. But if a missing tooth doesn’t show when we smile, what’s the hurry? Let’s look at the reasons why prompt replacement with an implant is always a good idea, no matter which tooth is involved.

  1. Appearance

Implants look like natural, individual teeth, but that is not the only aesthetic reason to replace a lost tooth. Without some type of tooth replacement, missing teeth can eventually affect the structure of our jawbones and change our facial appearance. Cheeks, lips, profiles—all are impacted by the changes in our bones resulting from tooth loss.

  1. Better Bite

Nature abhors a vacuum, and so do our teeth. When a space is left by a missing tooth, the teeth around the area can shift position, affecting the even pattern of our bite. And without a tooth to keep it in place, a tooth above or below the missing one might begin to grow longer to fill the void in your bite. This lengthening, in turn, can cause even more bite problems.

  1. Chewing

With the loss of only a single tooth, there is a negative impact on the remaining teeth. More pressure is placed on the other teeth in order to chew properly, front teeth not meant for chewing might be used for that purpose, or food is not chewed as thoroughly as it should be. The first two problems are not healthy for our teeth, and the last one is not healthy for digestion!

  1. Don’t Delay

Changes in bite and chewing problems probably won’t happen overnight, so is putting off the process really a big deal? It can be! Time is not on our side when a tooth is lost. The bone tissue which supports our teeth needs the stimulation of biting and chewing to stay healthy. Without that stimulation, the bone area under the missing tooth gradually shrinks. If there is not enough bone area left, you might need surgical bone grafting to achieve the right bone height to hold an implant, or it could lead to the impossibility of placing an implant at all.

  1. Expense

Replacing a lost tooth quickly requires less restoration of the gums and bone in the future and prevents other serious problems from developing.

We could continue through the alphabet, but instead, come talk to Dr. Holtzen about all the reasons a tooth implant might be your best option. Oral surgeons have years of advanced surgical training, and specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions in the face, mouth, and jaw. Whether you have already lost a tooth, or if you have an extraction scheduled at our Missoula or Hamilton office, we are uniquely qualified to recommend the best treatment plan to ensure your smile is beautiful, healthy, and complete!

Make Every Day Earth Day

April 20th, 2022

Earth Day began in 1970 as an event to raise awareness of our environment. What began as a single day in April is now recognized around the world to bring attention and education to global environmental issues. Conserving our natural resources, reducing water and air pollution, and developing green technologies are all ways in which we can improve the environment around us.

Reduce, Recycle, and Reuse

One of the easiest ways to participate in Earth Day is by simply reducing the amount of refuse that ends up in landfills. Many communities have recycling programs for paper, plastic, and metal refuse. By keeping recyclable items out of landfills, we reduce the need for new disposal space and the amount of energy needed for burning refuse. Recycling products also helps conserve the resources that are used in making new products.

You can save money by reducing your consumption of many everyday products. Single disposable water bottles can be recycled but they are costly. By using filtered faucet water, you can conserve your financial resources. Disposable paper towels can also be wasteful. Consider reusable cleaning rags for the majority of your chores.

Reusing items saves both the environment and your finances. A large number of products can be re-purposed to create a new item. Old furniture can be remade into a new piece. Old clothing can be used for craft items. If you are not able to find ways to reuse your old items, donate them to a charity. Remember to continue your positive environmental steps on a daily basis.

Other things you can do to improve the environment

Everyone, young or old, can find ways to participate in improving the environment. Some ideas include:

  • Planting trees
  • Picking up litter
  • Reducing energy consumption
  • Walking, bicycling, or carpooling to work or school
  • Disposing of hazardous waste properly
  • Using rain barrels to conserve water for plants

Earth Day is designed to appreciate and celebrate the health of the earth. Keeping the earth healthy is important, but keeping your mouth healthy is important, too. Healthy teeth and gums contribute to your overall health and well-being, so remember to call our team at Alpine Oral and Facial Surgery to schedule an appointment. Have a happy and healthy Earth Day, from Dr. Holtzen!