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In to Out Series: Dental Care

August 21, 2011

How many of us as children follow through on our hopes and dreams? Or shall I say how many of us did not? My guess is that a lot of us didn’t.  But I had the opportunity to sit with a woman who purposed in her heart and stay focused on her dream of becoming a dentist.

Dr. Celina Brown Balcos

Dr. Celina Brown Balcos of Signature Dental in Conyers, GA shares with us some value tips on taking care of our pearly whites and also gives some key areas to look out for in our quest to maintain good overall health.

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What inspired you to become a dentist? Honestly, high school, 10th grade year, Career Day. A dentist and orthodontist was there, and I had really crooked teeth. I never really smiled when I took pictures, and I wanted to see and hear what they were talking about. Then I just stayed focused and geared towards becoming a dentist. My parents always wanted me to go into the medical field, but I didn’t want to be a nurse or medical doctor. Dentistry fascinated me. It seems like I stayed in the dentist’s office, I ate a lot of candy and there was no fluorinated water. We had well water. Also, I was never afraid to go to the dentist, I had been going since I was 3 years old. I had fillings and the little silver crowns. With the crooked teeth, being a teenager and not really smiling on pictures, these things sealed it for me…

Click for the entire interview with Dr. Celina Brown Balcos.

Did you wear braces? Not until my freshman year of college. My cap and gown pictures were just a smile with no teeth showing 🙂

How long have you been a dentist? Please give us a brief background of your career. I’ve been a practicing dentist for 12 years. I graduated dental school in 1999 from Georgia College and State U niversity, Millegeville, GA and Medical College of Georgia-School of Dentistry in Augusta, GA.

                                                                                               It must be really nice to know what you want to do before you actually do it. Most people struggle with that until they get to be my age, and then they have an a-ha moment.  It just kind of fell in place for me, I’m blessed. I just said that’s what I wanted to do, I could be self-employed and have my own business. When I told my dentist that I wanted to be a dentist, he was very nice and told me I could come in and shadow him. I had a lot of  support. As a matter of fact, my brother’s dentist helped me as well; she collected teeth for me.

What??? Well, we needed teeth for dental school.

And you had to get them yourself? Yes, that first week we needed 100 teeth to practice procedures like root canals.

Interesting. How does oral care effect  the rest of the body? Well I am a general dentist so I can do a little bit of everything. I always tell people we are what we eat. Everything we put in our mouths effects our bodies. So if you have other diseases or health issues, you have to eat a certain way according to your issues, such as diabetes.

Plaque, which we get in our mouths everyday – the sticky film on our teeth, the reason why we brush 3 times a day, floss once a day, see the dentist twice a year, that actually turns into build up and people who have blood clots and are on blood thinners have special concerns.

I have to speak with their primary health care provider because if I perform an extraction on that person, they could bleed to death. So they have to come off of the blood thinner. Or someone on an aspirin a day has to have clearance before work is performed. Diabetes and gum disease run together, so the mouth has to be in the best condition.

Diabetes and gum disease run together, can you explain why that is?  Because when you have diabetes you take longer to heal. So if you have plaque build up and it’s not removed properly, the plaque turns into tartar and at that point the gum is pushed away from the tooth and you can have a recession. That’s a gateway for a cavity to get on the root surface, then it that case it’s hard to feel that particular tooth and then you have a lot of bleeding. The medicines that diabetics take causes dry mouth, this causes mouth burning, tongue burning, and cavities. People that have asthma and use the inhalers  have issues with dry mouth. Chewing sugarless gum or crushed ice allowing it to melt (not chew) helps, and there are the Biotene® products.

People go to the doctor once a year, but they don’t go to the dentist because they feel if their tooth is not hurting then everything is ok.

Many people think that brushing is fine, but some are brushing improperly-too hard or in a back and forth motion, OR they are using a hard toothbrush. Hard toothbrushes recede the gums and damage the enamel. Good oral health is key. We need strong teeth to eat. People who have lost their teeth at a young age have issues down the line as older adults because if you have acid reflux, complete chewing of the food is extremely important – more so than normal. But if you’ve lost your back teeth, you can’t chew properly.  This could also cause constipation since your food is not ground into small pieces. Teeth are very important.

Wow. I knew they were important but not to that degree. Actually, up until now I’ve pretty much taken my teeth for granted. Yes and it doesn’t stop here, there is also the concern of acid erosion from conditions such as bulimia.

Are there any symptoms in the mouth that could point to ailments in other parts of the body? I would say the main two are lesions on the tongue that never heal could be oral cancer, cancer of the throat or a lymph node; and diabetes, there is an acetone or sweet smell in the mouth of those with diabetes.

When should oral care begin? One should see a general dentist at the age of 3. As soon as the first tooth comes in, you may take your baby to a pediatric dentist. But ideally at the age of 3, because that’s the point at which all 20 teeth are in.

What does a pediatric dentist do for the young child that’s just beginning to grow teeth? Basically a visual exam. However, most people will wait until the age of 3 unless there has been some kind of trauma.

Are there particular diets that we should stay away from that could compromise our teeth? Of course the sugary, tacky foods. And those foods that are hard to bite and chew-these can wear away the enamel and smooth the back teeth. Then you could develop sensitivity issues from this.

While doing some research on different types of diets and nutrition plans, I came across fruitarianism. Basically this is diet consists of fruits, nuts and grains. Do you see a potential issue with this? Well there is a lot of sugar and acid in a diet such as that. And many nuts are hard and chewy. Eating only these things could potentially cause issues with the teeth, you must make sure you brush regularly and take good care of your teeth.

What is the most common periodontal disease? The most common is gingivitis. Just a little lack of dental care can bring on gingivitis; any one can develop gingivitis. Evidence of gingivitis is the bleeding of the gums and only affects the gums. And although gingivitis is common and the first stage of gum disease, it is also reversible. Full blown gum disease affects the bone and the gum tissue.
Gum disease is harder to treat because once the bone is lost you can’t get it back unless you have a bone graft or artificial placed into the affected area.

Download this brochure for information on diabetes-and-gum-health.

The best way to treat gingivitis is to brush 3 times away, floss once a day, and see your dentist once every 6 months.

So gingivitis is preventable and reversible. Yes, but full blown gum disease is not reversible, however it is treatable. And that is periodontitis.

What is the long term effect of teeth whitening? I am not against it – I think when done well it adds a nice brightness to a person’s face.  Teeth become sensitive to temperature; temperature of the food we eat and the weather. Then there is burning of the gum tissue. When the gum tissue burns, it sloths away, then there is recession that could expose the roots.

How often is too often for teeth whitening? There are 2 types of teeth whitening: chair-side where there is an immediate white smile, which I would only do once every 2 years, then there are the trays. Touching up the smile may be done with the trays. Touch ups may be done once every 6 months. Now some people will get the teeth whitening along with sensitivity treatments as insurance for the possibility of teeth becoming sensitive.

What’s a good natural way to brighten your smile? Or something that’s not so harsh on the gums. The over the counter whitening toothpastes are good or the whitening strips. You could also just brush right after having your coffee, tea or red wine. I know, you don’t get to savor the taste 🙂

I do not recommend using baking soda, it’s an abrasive.  Some people use it and swear by it AND they use peroxide. This is also not good as peroxide and baking soda cause erosion of the enamel and sensitivity.

I am so disappointed by this Dr. Balcos (mock horror). Baking soda and peroxide are my teeth whitening system. Sorry – then there is the issue of chemical burns caused by the peroxide.

Do you see any big difference between the regular commercial toothpastes and the natural ones such as Tom’s (my personal favorite).  I have used both and there is not big difference in their effect on the teeth. But my favorite is Colgate Total®; my mouth feels cleaner longer with that product. But one is not more effective than the other. As long as you’re using a flourinated toothpaste and brushing 3 times a day you’re good.

I’m glad you mentioned that. Some people are completely against using flouride toothpaste. If you use the toothpaste as directed (a small amount) and spitting it out you’re ok. And besides, we drink flourinated water. The bottom line though is to brush, brush, brush – 3 times a day.

And floss once a day; people don’t realize how important flossing is. I challenge people regularly. If you floss once a day for a month, I guarantee you will not bleed easily.Proper flossing toughens the gums and removes the stuff the brushing misses.

That’s all I have Dr. Balcos, thank you for your time. Any closing thoughts?
Yes, dental care is critical and fortunately more people are taking advantage of their dental benefits. However, there are still a significant amount of people who don’t come in until they are hurting. Don’t do this – see your dentist once every 6 months for good preventive care.

Dr. Balcos’ office, Signature Dental, is located at
2750 Owens Rd SW # B
Conyers, GA 30094-3991
(770) 483-7774

Please visit the Colgate site for more information on Dental Care and Diabetes. There is a great video series there.


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