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Health Talk 

Kandace Power Graves discusses oral health with Dr. Deborah Lesem (234 W. Harrison Ave., 488-4577).

Q: What is the biggest deterrent to dental health today?

A: Lack of proper home care. It's probably that they're just lazy about flossing and gum care. A lot of people know flossing is good for them, but they just don't take the time. Even people who are concerned about their breath, the flossing is good for that, too. And it only takes once a day.

Q: Aside from cavities, what are the main maladies of the mouth?

A: Definitely gum disease is probably the most prevalent problem. Most people have gum disease to some degree. It can be front inflammation to tooth loss to tooth mobility. The inflammation, though, is the beginning of gum disease.

Q: Do they cause problems in other parts of the body?

A: It can. Recent studies say the bacteria in the mouth can lead to heart problems. That's relatively new research. If your mouth is healthy and bacteria-free, you're going to be healthier (overall).

Q: How does one prevent these conditions?

A: Definitely the home care is going to be a big part of it. If you have the hard buildup -- the tartar -- you can't get that off by yourself at home. If it's below the gum line, you need to get that off. Then they need to maintain that cleaning. One thing that patients say is that the gums bleed so much when they floss, but if they floss every day religiously for 10 to 14 days, they should stop bleeding. It's like working out. The first two days you're sore, but after you get used to it, you aren't sore any more.

Q: Does smoking cigarettes and cigars cause or exacerbate oral disease?

Yes. It can definitely accelerate periodontal or gum disease. It causes staining and makes it much harder to clean ... not to speak of the breath. Another health risk is mouth cancer. Depending on where on the mouth (the cancer) lands, you can lose teeth and other structures of the mouth.

Q: Are there certain foods that strengthen or weaken the teeth and gums?

A: Definitely, the sticky, chewy, sugary foods are bad. The longer sugar stays on the teeth, the worse it is. We see a lot of people with cavities who drink sugared sodas all day long. Mountain Dew is killer; it's really sugary. Anything that's crunchy, like popcorn, carrots, apples, are good. If they're going to have anything (in the mouth) all the time, water would be best.

Q: Are the popular cosmetic procedures also prophylactic?

A: Actually, they are finding that using the bleaching agents, the gums look nicer and seem to be in better condition. The agent that bleaches is detrimental to the bacteria in the mouth. But then, the people who are bleaching their teeth are also good about keeping them clean.

Q: How does good oral health, or bad oral health for that matter, affect a person?

A: When people come in and are ashamed or embarrassed about how their teeth look or about their breath, they smile less. It affects their whole attitude. People train themselves not to smile, or learn to smile with their lips closed ... it can be a big turn-off to people.

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