Dr. Robert Gerlach, DDS, MPH
Dr. Gerlach is Research Fellow for Global Oral Care Clinical at The Procter & Gamble Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. He is responsible for studies evaluating the safety and efficacy of oral care products worldwide. His clinical trials research includes initiatives in the areas of caries prevention, periodontal therapy, and esthetic dentistry, especially tooth whitening. With over 100 studies, Dr. Gerlach is recognized as a leading clinical researcher in the area of whitening. His research has lead to novel delivery systems for vital bleaching, and new dentifrice formulations for stain control. A public health dentist, Dr. Gerlach’s work in dentistry spans government, academics, industry and clinical practice. Dr. Gerlach holds positions at prominent dental schools, he lectures worldwide on therapeutic and esthetic dentistry, and his research has been reported in over 200 manuscripts and published abstracts.
Improving Dental Health for Women
Maintaining proper oral hygiene is an important part of women’s wellness. Your aging smile brings about a new set of concerns you may not have known about in your earlier years. Periodontal (gum) disease, enamel loss and dental caries (cavities) are conditions that pose greater risks as we age and carry health, as well as cosmetic, repercussions. Here are a few guidelines that can help improve the health of your smile—at any age.
See A Dentist Twice Per Year—Really!
Having regular dental cleanings is a must. In addition to staying on top of your smile’s health, you may learn a thing or two about your overall health. Interestingly, dentists are often the first medical professionals to notice bone loss, as this can be revealed through routine dental x-rays. Reflect on any medical, lifestyle or diet changes you’ve experienced since your last appointment and be prepared to share this information, as well as ask questions, to make the most of your visit. Use these twice-yearly sessions to discuss new medications you’re taking as certain OTC and prescription drugs may come with side effects that may impact your dental health. Women may be at higher risk for certain oral diseases, so be sure to talk with your hygienist and dentist about any pain, swelling, sores or loose teeth, as well as other changes you notice to the mouth in general. Sometimes, seemingly small issues may be indicators of larger health conditions.
Flossing is one of the most commonly overlooked health habits even though it can have significant effects on your smile. When gums are neglected, they can become inflamed (swollen and/or red) or prone to gingivitis, a form of gum disease. Chronic inflammation may lead to the release of oral bacteria into the bloodstream, according to recent research. These and other connections may help explain possible relationships between gum disease and cardiovascular disease and other conditions. I recommend challenging yourself to floss everyday for two weeks because this time frame is usually enough time to both see and feel the oral benefits of regular flossing.
Brush Up Before Bed
Many women may not understand that in addition to sticking to a morning dental hygiene routine, nighttime habits are just as important. Bacteria grow constantly in the mouth during the day, and even at night. Night is especially important because saliva decreases at night, and saliva has an important protective role. At night, the closed mouth is a warm, dark, moist environment, similar to an incubator, and is a favorable environment for continual bacterial growth. This can lead to the undisturbed growth of plaque bacteria, which gives us the “morning mouth” feel that prompts us to quickly brush our teeth and/or use a mouthwash or rinse upon waking. Add oral care to your before-bed regimen so that your teeth, gums and breath don’t suffer while you sleep.
Why Wonder About Whitening?
While whitening is not a dental health necessity, I encourage patients to consider it for a few reasons. First, teeth whitening is an opportunity to spend a few extra minutes per day taking a good look at your mouth. You stand to benefit from taking time to consider your smile up close and any concerns you may have, which should be discussed with your dentist. Second, recent technical advancements have made teeth whitening easier than ever. A variety of affordable, safe and effective products are available today, including toothpaste and floss that help reduce surface stains that accumulate on or in-between teeth, while strips and other technologies can reach deeper stains below the tooth surface. Finally, a healthy, bright smile can increase overall confidence and may inspire other positive, healthful changes in your life.
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Created: 7/4/2009  - Dr. Robert Gerlach, DDS, MPH