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Have a Dentist-Approved Halloween!

SPOOKY SEASON HAS been lots of fun this year, and Halloween is just around the corner. As much as we love indulging in the fall activities, the spooky decorations, the fun costumes, and the scary movies, we’re not as excited about the sugary-loaded treats. That’s why we’re here with tips on how to fully enjoy Halloween while keeping it much healthier for your teeth!

What Are the Worst Halloween Candies for Our Teeth?

The reason sugar is bad for our teeth is that harmful oral bacteria love to eat it. They then excrete acid as a waste product, and even though tooth enamel is a very hard substance, it is highly vulnerable to acid erosion.

This is why sour, sticky, and hard candies are so bad for our teeth. Hard candy takes time to dissolve, bathing our teeth in sugar. Sticky candy brings all that sugar directly to the bacteria on the surface of our teeth and gums. Sour candy cuts out the middleman because it’s already acidic!

The Good News: Chocolate and Xylitol

If you’re worried that we just eliminated most of the contents of your Halloween bag, you’ll be happy to know that certain types of chocolate can be pretty good for our teeth. Chocolate contains compounds like flavonoids and polyphenols, which slow tooth decay, limit oral bacteria, and fight bad breath.

The catch is that the more sugar chocolate contains, the less those healthy compounds matter, which is why dentists prefer dark chocolate. It’s even better if it contains nuts (unless you have an orthodontic appliance or a nut allergy). Anything sweetened with xylitol instead of sugar is also much better for your teeth.

Not only is this sugar-free sweetener inedible to harmful bacteria, it actually hurts them! The trouble is that there aren’t many xylitol options for the candy bowls besides sugar-free gum, but hopefully that will change before too many more Halloweens.

Protecting Your Teeth From the Effects of Sugar

We aren’t here to tell our patients to quit all sugar immediately, but there are still ways those of us with a strong sweet tooth can fight back against what sugar can do to our teeth:

  • Restrict candy consumption to mealtimes instead of snacking on it between meals. This will give your saliva a chance to neutralize your oral pH and wash away traces of sugar.
  • Drink water after eating candy to rinse off some of the sugar.
  • Keep up with your daily brushing and flossing! These are essential habits for protecting your tooth enamel from lasting harm.

The Dentist Is a Fantastic Resource

You aren’t alone in the fight to keep your teeth healthy; the dentist is on your side! That’s why it’s so important to schedule regular dental exams. If you haven’t already, right after Halloween is a great time to start!

We wish all our patients a spooky, healthy Halloween!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
Beware of TikTok Dental Fads!

UNLESS THE DENTIST is on TikTok, it’s not a great platform to get dental health advice from. This year we’ve seen a number of alarming do-it-yourself dental procedures trending, and we want to nip those in the bud for our patients.

Filing Teeth

A number of TikTok videos have shown teens and young adults trying to even out their smiles by using nail files to wear down the chewing surfaces. This is a very bad idea. Once tooth enamel is gone, it’s gone forever, and amateur tooth filing can lead to fractures, tooth sensitivity, and infection. Dental health professionals will sometimes file teeth, but we are able to do it safely because we have training and use the proper tools.

“Veneers Check”

A similar (but worse) trend involves TikTokers filing their teeth down to pegs prior to getting crown restorations. This is horrifying and can easily result in complications like nerve damage and the need for root canal therapy. Anyone unhappy with the appearance of their smile (especially when their teeth are healthy) should speak to a dentist about professional cosmetic treatment instead of irreversibly damaging their own teeth.

DIY Hydrogen Peroxide Whitening

Some TikTokers are using 3% hydrogen peroxide to whiten their teeth, which can cause gum irritation and long-term sensitivity. This is not a safe way to achieve professional whitening results cheaply. It’s much better to ask the dentist for recommendations on whitening toothpaste, whitening strips, or professional in-office and take-home treatments.

Homemade Braces

Another dangerous trend we’ve seen on TikTok is teens trying to correct their own orthodontic problems using everyday items like rubber bands. DO NOT DO THIS. At best, it won’t work and will need to be corrected by a professional. At worst, it could turn out the way it did for David Campbell. The rubber bands he used seemed to be disappearing at night, but really they were slipping under his gums, where they strangled the roots of his teeth. The teeth could not be saved.

Leave your dental treatment to the pros!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
Protecting Your Gums From Recession

YOU’VE PROBABLY HEARD the expression “long in the tooth.” It conjures up the image of gum recession as a synonym for growing old, and yet gum recession isn’t always connected to age. This oral health problem is when the gingival tissue shrinks away from the crown of the tooth, slowly exposing more of the root. The extremely gradual nature of gum recession is why we tend to associate it with age, but it can start as early as childhood for a number of reasons.

Genetics and the Risk of Gum Recession

One risk factor for gum recession that we can’t do anything about is genetics. Some people are unlucky enough to have more fragile gum tissue or less jaw bone to support the gums all the way up to the crowns of their teeth. The good news is that other factors that contribute to gum disease are easier to control, so even those with a genetic predisposition can still minimize it.

Bruxism Is Bad for the Gums Too!

A chronic teeth-grinding habit, or bruxism, leads to a wide variety of oral health problems, including an increased risk of gum recession. The constant harsh friction of the teeth puts a lot of pressure on the gums and can damage them over time. Bruxism can be a very difficult habit to break, especially sleep bruxism. If grinding is something you struggle with, talk to the dentist! You have great allies in this fight.

The Damage of Overbrushing

A major contributor to gum recession can actually be brushing too much or too hard, leading to enamel erosion and wearing away of the gum tissue. This is why it’s so important to use a soft-bristled toothbrush. Another important thing to remember is that cleaning your teeth doesn’t require the same elbow grease that goes into scrubbing tile grout. If you’re brushing hard enough to make your toothbrush bristles bend outward in a matter of months, you should definitely ease up. The same goes for flossing: daily flossing is essential, but be gentle. Use a C-shape and work your way down instead of snapping the floss directly onto your gums.

Gum Disease Makes the Gum Tissue Vulnerable

The more advanced gum disease becomes, the more it destroys the supporting gum tissue and bone around teeth, which is why it’s ultimately the main cause of gum recession. The best way to maintain good gum health is by being diligent in keeping up with dental hygiene habits. Brush (gently) twice a day, floss daily, and make regular dental appointments a priority. The professional cleaning you get from the hygienist is essential because brushing and flossing alone can’t remove plaque that has hardened into tartar. Plaque and tartar both cause irritation to the gums the longer they remain.

Gum Recession Can Happen to Kids?

The causes of gum recession in adults also apply to kids, which is why it’s important to help them with proper brushing and flossing (especially avoiding overbrushing) and pay attention to whether they have a grinding habit. Childhood gum recession could also happen as the result of an injury to the mouth. The best treatment is prevention through building and maintaining good oral health habits.

Take Care of Your Gums!

If you want to learn more about how to prevent gum recession or you’re worried that your gums may beginning to recede (remember that the process can be extremely slow, so it can creep up on you), schedule a dental appointment! The dentist can help you look after your gum health and discuss treatment options if they’re necessary.

We’re rooting for our patients’ healthy gums!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
Finding Your Perfect Toothpaste

HOW DO YOU choose the right toothpaste out of the wall of colorful boxes on the store shelf? Is it better to get the one that claims cavity prevention, breath-freshening, whitening, sensitivity, or tartar-fighting? Let’s see if we can help our patients narrow things down and find the best toothpaste for their individual dental health needs.

Whitening Toothpaste: Does It Work?

Whitening toothpaste can help remove surface stains from drinking coffee or smoking, but it doesn’t change the natural color of teeth or fight stains that go deeper than the tooth’s surface. They contain ingredients like abrasives that polish the teeth and peroxide to break down surface stains, and using them twice a day can produce results after several weeks.

If you’re looking for a whitening toothpaste, make sure to get one that has the ADA Seal of Acceptance. However, orthodontic patients with braces should wait on any whitening products, including toothpaste, until after the braces or off, or they might end up with different-colored patches where the brackets were!

Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth

For patients with sensitive teeth, there are over-the-counter toothpastes that can be very helpful. They contain ingredients that help rebuild enamel and minimize discomfort. If your teeth are especially sensitive and the over-the-counter options aren’t enough, there are also stronger toothpastes the dentist can prescribe.

Can Toothpaste Actually Restore Enamel?

Dentists often say that when enamel is gone, it’s gone forever. There is a little bit of wiggle room in there as long as enamel loss hasn’t reached the point of tooth decay, because enamel is constantly being demineralized and remineralized on the molecular level. Our dental health habits determine whether the remineralization side is winning against the demineralization side, and fluoridated toothpaste gives a major boost to remineralization.

Rinsing After Brushing?

Many of us have been rinsing and spitting after brushing our teeth for as long as we can remember, but this actually stops toothpaste from doing its job, including when it’s helping with sensitivity or whitening! It’s a good idea to avoid rinsing, eating, or drinking for 30 minutes after brushing to get the maximum impact of your toothpaste.

What About Ingredients Like Aloe Vera or Charcoal?

Various brands advertise that their toothpaste contains aloe vera or activated charcoal. There is little evidence that these ingredients make toothpaste any more effective, and toothpaste that includes them often lacks fluoride. Charcoal toothpaste has been a popular trend in recent years, but charcoal is abrasive, so it may actually be damaging your teeth and making them more sensitive.

Toothpaste Is an Essential Part of Daily Dental Hygiene

Hopefully we’ve helped you narrow down your toothpaste selection to a category. Once you know whether you want whitening toothpaste, something for sensitive teeth, pediatric toothpaste, or none of the above, decide which flavor you like best and go from there! Next time we see you, you can ask for a specific recommendation.

Thank you for being part of our practice family!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
Dental Sealants for Cavity Prevention

THERE ARE MANY pits and grooves in the chewing surface of a molar where bacteria can grow and lead to cavities. That’s where sealants come in. Since the ‘60s, sealants have been a simple but effective way to keep bacteria out of those vulnerable areas in molars, and they reduce the risk of tooth decay by up to 80%!

How Much Do Sealants Help?

Kids who don’t get sealants are about three times as likely to get cavities. No matter how good they are about brushing twice a day, they might not have enough dexterity to do an effective job on those tricky molars. Sealants make effective brushing much easier for them.

An Overview of the Sealant Process

How do we add sealants? Easy! It takes just a few minutes during a regular visit. We first prepare their molars by cleaning away any food debris, plaque, or tartar and give them a nice polish. Then we isolate and dry each tooth. Next comes the bonding agent, which will hold the sealant in place. Once we rinse and dry the tooth again, all that’s left is to paint on the sealant material. Using a special curing light, we help the sealant dry quickly, we give it one final check, and then the tooth is safe to be used for chewing!

Sealants are like armor for teeth!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
Dental Care Tips for Parents of Young Kids

THE LIFE OF A PARENT is a hectic one. Keeping track of everything your growing child needs can be a real juggling act, so maybe we can take one of the balls out of the air by offering a few easy tips for how to stay on top of your kids’ dental health (without neglecting your own)!

1. Choosing the Right Toothbrush

Brushing (whether with a manual or electric toothbrush) is the easiest and most important method of cavity prevention, but it can be tricky to find the right toothbrush for your child with so many different options available.

A good place to start is by looking for a toothbrush with soft, polished (round-ended) bristles. These brushes clean effectively but are still gentle to the gums. Make sure the brush is designed for small hands and mouths, and try to replace it every few months or so. A brush with frayed, smashed bristles won’t be as effective!

Your child probably won’t be able to brush their teeth effectively without help until they’re 7 or 8, so make sure to work with them and supervise their technique. Then they’ll know how to do it properly when they’ve developed enough hand-eye coordination for it!

2. Sealants Are Excellent for Cavity-Prevention

Dental sealants are a layer of clear plastic material that can be painted over the deep grooves and pits in the chewing surfaces of teeth to prevent decay and block out bacteria. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends sealants, especially for children who already have a history of tooth decay. Sealants significantly reduce the risk of childhood caries.

3. Cheese and Fruit: Great Teeth-Friendly Snacks

Research shows that some of the healthiest snacks for a growing child’s teeth are cheese and fruit. Cheese is a great source of calcium (which will help remineralize their tooth enamel) and helps to stimulate the salivary glands. Saliva is important for clearing food remnants away and neutralizing harmful acids. Fruit is also a great mouth-healthy snack, because the fibers of the fruit help scrub teeth clean. We recommend whole or sliced fruit over fruit juice every time!

4. Pediatric Dentists and Teen Patients

The term “pediatric dentistry” might sound like it’s only for small children, but pediatric dentists have specialized expertise in treating growing teenagers’ oral health too. The teenage years are a period of tremendous growth and change for a child’s face and jaws, which certainly merits the attention of a specialist.

5. Parents, Know What to Expect from Whitening Toothpaste

Parents and teens alike love having pearly white teeth, but make sure you understand how whitening toothpaste works so you can manage your expectations. These types of toothpaste contain mild abrasives and polishing agents to remove surface stains, but they can’t do anything about deeper stains, which require more thorough whitening treatments like microabrasion or bleaching.

Extra Tip: The Dentist Is Your Best Dental Health Resource

Whatever questions you have about your child’s dental health or your own are questions we’d love to answer! We look forward to seeing you for your regular cleaning appointments or if you have cause for concern between your regular visits.

No one has better smiles than our patients!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
The Advanced Dental Care of Ancient China

 

RUDIMENTARY DENTAL EXTRACTIONS were performed in China as early as 6,000 BC, and there is also evidence that they used wires to stabilize teeth. They didn’t seem to be very interested in straightening teeth, but they were quite advanced when it came to treating endodontic problems.

Treating Toothaches in the Tang Dynasty

In 618 AD, Emperor Gaozu of the Tang Dynasty fell victim to a toothache. He consulted with his tooth doctor for relief, and his recommendation was a dental filling made of melted silver and tin. European dentists wouldn’t catch up until over a thousand years later!

Daily Dental Hygiene in Ancient China

The typical oral hygiene routine for a person in ancient China was to gargle salt water or tea. It became common in the Tang dynasty to soak a willow twig in water before bed and chew on it in the morning. The willow fibers would protrude like a comb and scrub the teeth clean. That’s where the Chinese idiom “chew wood at dawn” comes from.

Wait…They Had Toothbrushes Too?

Some people from that period had access to toothbrushes made of animal bone and hair. They also had an early form of toothpaste made from boiling honey locust fruit, ginger, foxglove, lotus leaves, and other herbs to reduce gum inflammation, ease toothaches, and whiten the teeth.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
Medicine’s Relationship With Oral Health

POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECTS are a concern with pretty much every medication that exists. We can all hear the drug commercial voice rattling off a list of them in our heads. Unfortunately, side effects from medications often overlap with oral health concerns, even when the medications aren’t treating conditions related to teeth and gums.

How Medicine Interacts With Oral Chemistry

In some cases, medications (or even vitamins) can be directly harmful to our teeth. This is a problem particularly with children’s medication, which tend to come in the form of sugary syrups and candy-like multivitamins.

Adult medicine is usually in pill form so it doesn’t have a chance to directly interact with teeth or gums, but not always. Inhalers may lead to oral side effects like oral thrush (painful or irritating patches of white fungus that grow on the tongue, the roof of the mouth, and the inside of the cheeks). A good preventative measure adults and children alike can take to avoid these direct oral side effects is to rinse with water after taking any of these kinds of medications or vitamins.

The More Indirect Effects of Medicine on Oral Health

Medications that make it past the mouth without causing direct harm can still have mouth-related side effects. One example is blood thinners, which can make the gums more vulnerable to bleeding while brushing and flossing. Gum tissue inflammation is a common side effect that can increase the risk of gum disease.

The most common oral side effect of medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter, is dry mouth. Not only can dry mouth make chewing and swallowing more difficult and uncomfortable, it can also leave the teeth and gums vulnerable to harmful oral bacteria. Saliva is the first line of defense we have against that bacteria. Without it, it’s much harder to protect against tooth decay and gum disease.

Other Weird Oral Effects Medicine Can Cause

In rare cases, osteoporosis drugs have been associated with compromised bone tissue in the jaw, which increases the risk of gum recession and tooth loss. Some medications can do strange things to our sense of taste, even if they don’t cause any real harm to our oral health. There might be a weird bitter or metallic aftertaste that lingers.

Discuss Your Side Effects With the Dentist and Your Doctor

It’s important to keep your health care professionals in the loop where side effects are concerned. If those side effects are happening inside your mouth, then make sure to tell the dentist as well as your doctor! It may be possible to change your prescription or dosage to minimize or completely eliminate the negative effects while maintaining the benefits of the medication, but only if the doctor knows what’s going on!

Always remember that the dentist is a great resource!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
How We Breathe Impacts our Teeth for Life

MOUTH-BREATHING CAN cause all kinds of short-term issues, many of which are connected to poor sleep quality from getting insufficient oxygen by breathing through the mouth.

Short-Term Consequences of a Mouth-Breathing Habit

If a child exhibits the following symptoms, it could be due to mouth-breathing:

  1. Impaired speech. When a child’s mouth is always open, certain sounds become more difficult to say.
  2. Halitosis (chronic bad breath). An open mouth tends to be a dry mouth, which means there isn’t enough saliva to clean out the germs.
  3. Tooth decay. Other serious byproducts of dry mouth are tooth decay and cavities.
  4. Irritability, lethargy, and inattention. Less oxygen means worse sleep, which makes it much harder for kids to pay attention in school and to be their bright, happy selves.

How Mouth-Breathing Impacts Health Long-Term

While the above issues are bad enough, the problems that come from mouth-breathing don’t stop there. If left unchecked throughout childhood, mouth-breathing can cause the following:

  1. Extended orthodontic treatment. Braces will take longer and there will be a higher chance of the teeth shifting back to their pre-braces position.
  2. Altered facial structure. The bones in the face can actually develop differently because of mouth-breathing, resulting in flatter features, droopy eyes, a narrow jaw, and a smaller chin.
  3. Sleep apnea. Mouth-breathing can increase a person’s risk for sleep apnea, a dangerous sleep disorder that makes it difficult to get a restful night’s sleep.
Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
When to Start Discouraging Thumbsucking

IT MIGHT BE CLICHÉD to say it, but it’s true that kids grow up fast. They’re constantly outgrowing their clothes, outsmarting your most ingenious baby-proofing techniques, and learning new things. We can’t help you with all of that, but we’re here with all the information you need about your child’s dental development, which is why it’s time to talk about how pacifier use or thumb/finger-sucking beyond the toddler years can negatively impact their teeth and jaws.

Thumbsucking and Pacifiers Are Good (to a Point)!

These habits don’t have a great reputation, but they’re perfectly healthy self-soothing habits for babies and toddlers. It helps them feel safe and happy when they encounter something new or stressful — which is often, considering that everything is new for babies and toddlers. There are a number of benefits, including:

  • Making it easier for Baby to fall asleep and stay asleep (which also means fewer sleep interruptions for the parents)
  • Keeping Baby from getting upset when separated from parents
  • Reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

When Do They Stop Being Good?

Past a certain age, as adult teeth are developing in your child’s jaw, frequent and vigorous thumbsucking or pacifier use begin to have harmful effects on how those adult teeth will grow in, and they can even change the shape of the dental arch. There’s no need to preemptively worry about this, however; most children grow out of these self-soothing habits on their own before they turn four. If they’re showing no sign of stopping by then, it might be a good time to intervene.

Tips for Breaking a Thumbsucking Habit

Stopping your child from using their pacifier can be as simple as taking the pacifier away or trimming it down until they lose interest, but obviously that’s not possible for thumbsuckers. We wouldn’t recommend trying to stop them as toddlers because they aren’t mature enough to understand and will likely only be upset. Nasty-tasting topical aids also aren’t perfect, and sometimes they can be harmful.

Here are a few strategies we can get behind:

  • Focus more on praising successes than scolding failures.
  • Keep their hands too busy with engaging activities (like arts and crafts) for them to have a free thumb for sucking.
  • Put socks over their hands while they sleep to prevent nighttime thumbsucking (you might have to tape the socks in place).

Ask Us for Advice!

If your child is getting closer to preschool age with no signs of stopping their pacifier or thumbsucking habit, feel free to bring us your concerns! We can work together to come up with a great strategy for helping your child outgrow this tendency to keep their healthy dental development on track!

Your child’s oral health is our top priority!

Top image by Flickr user Byron and Tamara used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
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