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What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?

IT CAN BE DIFFICULT to get any enjoyment out of a cozy mug of hot cocoa if every sip comes with a jolt of pain from sensitive teeth. An eighth of the U.S. population (including kids!) deals with some level of tooth sensitivity, so what causes it and how can we protect our teeth?

The Nerves Inside Our Teeth

A healthy tooth consists of a protective outer layer of enamel over a more porous layer of dentin, with a pulp chamber at the center. Dental pulp is made up of nerves and blood vessels, and those nerves receive sensory input for things like pressure and temperature changes through the thousands of microscopic tubules running through the dentin.

When Sensory Input Works Against Us

Enamel erosion is one of the main causes of tooth sensitivity. If the protective enamel layer wears down, then it exposes the tubules in the dentin, which leads to the nerves suddenly getting a lot more stimulation than they like. They get a nasty shock when the tooth comes in contact with anything too hot or cold, or sometimes even anything too sweet or sour.

Other Causes of Sensitivity

Gum recession can expose the root of a tooth, which doesn’t have enamel protecting it the way the crown does. If overbrushing, teeth grinding, or gum disease leaves the root exposed, it can become very sensitive. Tooth injuries and cavities can also cause sensitivity because they weaken the structure of the tooth and compromise the enamel in other ways.

Sometimes teeth are temporarily sensitive after dental treatment!

Ways of Protecting Your Teeth

Fortunately, there are a few ways to fight back against tooth sensitivity and also ways to prevent it. Make sure to brush with a soft-bristled brush to prevent further enamel erosion or gum recession. It doesn’t actually take stiff bristles to effectively clean our teeth. Another way to combat the effects of sensitivity is to use special toothpaste formulated for special teeth, and it will also help to avoid sugary and acidic foods and drinks — especially soda.

Get Help from the Dentist

There’s no need to suffer tooth sensitivity in silence; make sure the dentist knows! They can determine what’s causing the problem and provide solutions, including a fluoride varnish to strengthen tooth enamel, a prescription for a desensitizing toothpaste, or even a dental restoration or gum graft to cover exposed roots in more severe cases.

Thank you for being part of our practice family!

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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 Health: Men Vs. Women

MEN AND WOMEN have a lot in common, but they face significantly different challenges when it comes to keeping their teeth and gums healthy.

Men’s Dental Health Issues

Here are some of the major dental health problems that affect men more than women:

  1. Being less likely to brush and floss regularly. Men are 20% less likely than women to brush twice a day, floss daily, and even replace old toothbrushes! They’re also less likely to go to the dentist for a regular preventative checkup. This is one reason it’s so important to cement good oral health habits at an early age, so parents of young boys take note!
  2. Because men are more likely to drink, smoke, and chew tobacco than women, they are at greater risk of advanced gum disease, tooth loss, and oral cancer.
  3. Dry mouth can affect men more because it’s a common side-effect of high blood pressure and heart disease medications.

Women’s Dental Health Issues

Meanwhile, women have their own set of dental health challenges to face:

  1. TMD and Sjörgen’s syndrome both affect women more than men.
  2. Puberty, pregnancy, and menopause all involve hormonal changes that can make gingivitis and gum inflammation more likely.
  3. Eating disorders disproportionately affect women, and the resulting malnutrition damages every system in the body. Bulimia also directly damages the teeth through frequent exposure to stomach acid.
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.
Wait, Radioactive Toothpaste Was a Thing?

RADIATION AND THE harm it can do to humans wasn’t well understood in the early years after it was discovered. There were all kinds of exciting radioactive products for the public to buy, from radioactive water jugs to children’s toys to butter to…toothpaste.

Thorium Toothpaste in 1920s Germany

A hundred years ago, the German company Auergesellschaft produced Doramad, a toothpaste with thorium as the (radio)active ingredient. Doramad was advertised as being great for fighting gum disease and polishing enamel. Meanwhile, in Paris, a radioactive cosmetics line called Tho-Radia included toothpaste.

Tubes of Doramad had some bold (and false) claims on their labels: “Its radioactive radiation increases the defenses of teeth and gums. The cells are loaded with new life energy, the bacteria are hindered in their destroying effect.” This was flagrant false advertising, and thankfully the radioactive toothpaste craze didn’t last long.

The Saga Continued With a WWII Caper

These kinds of fraudulent health and cosmetics companies were probably the reason behind an odd series of events that happened in WWII. While the Manhattan Project was underway in the US, a team of spies was tasked to discover how far the Nazis were getting with developing nuclear technology. What they found instead was a radioactive scam.

The Alsos Mission was an international operation of scientific, intelligence, and military officials established in 1943. Colonel Boris Pash and his men seized scientists, scientific data, and atomic materials as they followed on the heels of the advancing Allied forces, and they discovered someone was collecting radioactive materials like uranium and a stockpile of thorium smuggled from Paris to Germany by the Auer company.

The Alsos team was obsessed with solving the mystery of that thorium stockpile. In what first seemed like a huge success for the mission, they eventually tracked it down — only to discover that it was being kept in preparation for the end of the war, after which the Auer company planned to get rich making toothpaste out of it. That’s how the mission got its sarcastic nickname “Operation Toothpaste.”

Dentists Discovered the Dangers of Radiation First!

Two decades earlier in the United States, a dentist, Joseph Knef, traced the pattern of severe tooth and jaw problems in local young women back to their place of employment: the US Radium plant, where they all used radioactive paint. The reason it was causing such awful dental problems is that the women would lick their brushes to keep the bristles straight, putting the paint in direct contact with their teeth and gums.

Follow the Dentist’s Advice and Steer Clear of Fads

Thankfully nothing so dangerous as radioactive materials has become a popular dental fad in modern times, but it’s still a good idea to avoid getting dental health advice from unofficial sources. If you’re looking for a good toothpaste for you, just ask the dentist!

Do you know of any wild old-fashioned dental health products?

Top image by Wikimedia user Suit 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.
The Fascinating History of Fluoride

THE ONE INGREDIENT a tube of toothpaste must contain to earn the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance is fluoride. (And, conversely, it must NOT contain sugar.) Fluoride is also added in trace amounts to drinking water to help keep our teeth healthy and strong. We’ve been relying on fluoride like this for decades, and the history of it is fascinating.

The Naturally Fluoridated Water of Colorado Springs

In the early 1900s in Colorado Springs, local dentists noticed a strange pattern. They were seeing many cases of brown — but not decayed — teeth. There were so many cases that the phenomenon was nicknamed “Colorado brown stain.” We now know that the condition they observed was fluorosis, and so many locals were getting it because of the abundance of naturally occurring fluoride in the town’s water.

Residents of early-20th century Colorado Springs were obviously getting too much fluoride in their water, but those dentists wanted to find out if there was a level of fluoride that would still protect against cavities without leaving teeth stained, and they turned out to be right. The first town to add fluoride to its drinking water was Grand Rapids, Michigan, and it brought the rate of childhood caries down by a whopping 60%. Aside from a few cases of mild fluorosis, there were no adverse effects.

Modern Fluoridated Water

Today, more than half of Americans enjoy the dental health benefits of fluoridated drinking water, something the CDC counts as one of the top ten greatest public health achievements of the 20th century. Everyone benefits from fluoridated water, whether male or female, young or old, rich or poor.

The idea of adding fluoride to water might seem odd, but it’s about the same as how we use iodized salt (which prevents goiters), bake with enriched flour (which helps digestion), and drink milk with vitamin D added (which prevents rickets in children).

Fluoride and Our Teeth

Why is fluoride so good at preventing cavities? It’s because it’s a key ingredient in the remineralization process constantly happening in our tooth enamel. If we’re eating and drinking a lot of sugary or acidic things, minerals get pulled out of our enamel and it wears away through demineralization. If we’re limiting those foods and drinks while using fluoridated toothpaste and drinking fluoridated water, then we keep our teeth well stocked with the raw materials they need to stay strong.

The Goldilocks Zone of Fluoride

“Colorado brown stain” proved that fluoride can do more harm than good to teeth when the exposure level is too high, but avoiding fluoride entirely leaves the teeth vulnerable to decay. Fluoridated drinking water protects our teeth with only 1.2 parts per million of fluoride, particularly when paired with fluoride toothpaste. To prevent fluorosis, parents should be careful to use only small amounts of fluoride toothpaste with children, and everyone should be spitting it out rather than swallowing it.

Bring Us Your Fluoride Questions!

If you want to learn more about fluoride in toothpaste or in drinking water, you can ask us or check sources like the CDC or the ADA. We want our patients to have all the information they need to be confident about their dental care and why the daily dental hygiene habits we encourage are so important.

It’s wonderful to see our patients’ healthy smiles!

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.
Let’s Answer Some Dental FAQs!

A LOT OF PATIENTS and parents of patients come to us with the same dental health questions, so let’s have a quick FAQ session!

1. How often do I need to visit the dentist?

Twice a year is a good general rule, though it may vary depending on individual circumstances. Regular dental visits are critical for combating tartar buildup and catching problems early.

2. Why do I need a filling if my tooth doesn’t hurt?

A cavity typically doesn’t start to hurt when it’s still in the outer layer of the tooth, but that makes it the best time to get to it with a filling, to keep it from getting deeper!

3. Why are my teeth turning more yellow?

Over time, our teeth naturally get darker or more yellow, but tooth discoloration can also be the result of trauma or consuming a lot of substances that leave stains.

4. When should my child start having dental exams?

A good time to start coming to the dentist is when the first tooth appears!

5. Is it really that important to keep baby teeth healthy?

Yes! Baby teeth might be temporary, but they’re still serving a lot of important roles. Kids need them for chewing food, learning to speak clearly, and mastering the dental health habits they’ll need to keep their adult teeth healthy for life. They also help guide those adult teeth into their proper positions.

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.
6 Best Oral Hygiene Tips from your Children’s Dentist
children's dentist Midlothian Virginia

At Virginia Center for Advanced Dentistry, children of all ages are welcome to our practice. Dr. Simon, your children’s dentist in Midlothian, loves teaching kids about good oral health. The earlier they learn good oral hygiene habits, the better their health for the future. 

Oral hygiene is critical to your child’s overall health. All children need healthy teeth to speak, eat, and smile comfortably. A children’s dentist recommends starting good oral hygiene habits as early as possible in childhood. 

But how do you teach children the importance of caring for their teeth? Below are six tips we’ve compiled to get you off to a good start.

1. Supervise Them

The younger the child is, the more supervision they will need. As a parent, you need to ensure they’re not only brushing their teeth twice a day, but doing so correctly. Watch them, give them pointers along the way, and step in when needed to clean up spots they may have missed.

2. Morning and Bedtime Routines

Making good oral hygiene part of a morning or bedtime routine will feel very natural. Have your children brush their teeth at the same time in their routine. For example, it can be the last thing they do before jumping into bed and before heading out the door in the morning. Regardless of how busy you are, your children should never skip this part of the routine!

3. Help Your Child Floss

Flossing is equally as important as brushing. Unfortunately, it is a more challenging routine to establish due to the difficulty of maneuvering. Start by demonstrating on your own teeth. Then, help them guide the floss into position in their mouths. 

Consider using flossing picks, as they may be easier for little hands. Help your children floss the back, hard-to-reach teeth for them until they grow more comfortable doing so on their own.

4. Encourage Healthy Food Choices

Your child’s diet is one of the essential elements to their oral health. Allowing kids unlimited amounts of sweets, juices, or other junk food won’t result in healthy pearly whites. Children who eat unhealthy, high-sugar diets when they are young tend to crave these foods in adulthood. 

Instead, opt for healthy snacks, like fruit, string cheese, nuts, hard-boiled eggs, and yogurt are all tooth-friendly snacks. Sweets are great for special occasions and holidays, but always in moderation. 

5. Lead by Example

All children universally copy their parents to a fault. Your child watches you and looks to you as a role model. So, what better way to show them the importance of oral health than to look out for your own, too.  Make a point to let them observe you brush, floss, and make healthy dietary choices, and they will follow suit.

6. Six Month Dental Appointments

Everyone, regardless of age, should be visiting their dentist’s office at least once every six months. This checkup is vital to maintaining oral health and catching problems before they start. Children often are calmer and have more fun when they visit a children’s dentist

Dr. Simon understands that many young patients are nervous about visiting a children’s dentist. Everyone at Virginia Center for Advanced Dentistry takes extra time to ensure that our youngest patients feel comfortable and at ease. We can offer you and your child additional tooth care tips to help with at-home dental care along with many other dental services.   

Gum Disease in Children

SOME HEALTH ISSUES only impact adults, but gum disease is not one of them. Oral bacteria doesn’t wait for us to get older, so kids and teenagers are also at risk of developing gingivitis and more severe forms of periodontal disease.

What Causes Gum Disease?

The main cause of gum disease in young children is poor oral hygiene. If plaque is left to build up on the teeth until it hardens into tartar, the gums become more vulnerable to irritation and inflammation.

It’s a slightly different story for teenagers because the flood of hormones that comes with puberty can increase blood flow to the gums and make them more sensitive. Girls are more susceptible to this problem than boys, but more than half of teenagers have some form of gum disease.

Parents Can Watch for These Signs

Children lack the life experience to easily recognize when something is wrong, even if they’re experiencing discomfort, so they might not think to give you a detailed description of their symptoms of gum disease. This can be a real problem because gum disease can worsen over time and it could be more advanced by the time they’ve noticed. Fortunately, there are signs parents can keep an eye out for:

  • Bleeding gums during brushing or flossing
  • Swollen and reddened gums
  • Gum recession
  • Constant bad breath regardless of brushing and flossing

Preventing and Treating Gum Disease

It’s wonderful if your child doesn’t have gum disease, but the fight to maintain healthy gums is continuous. Good dental hygiene habits are essential, so be sure to set an example by brushing twice a day and flossing daily and helping them follow that example. Schedule regular dental checkups for your kids and teens, because the dentist can catch problems early when they’re easier to reverse and professional cleanings are the only way to remove built-up tartar.

Preventing a dental problem is always preferable to treating it once it appears, but it is very possible to fight back against existing gum disease with these same methods: good dental hygiene habits and regular dental appointments.

Let’s Work Together for Healthy Gums!

Childhood is an important time for a person’s oral health, because it’s the time to learn and build the habits that will keep our teeth and gums healthy for the rest of our lives. Parents and dentists can work together to give kids a great headstart on good oral health. They’ll be able to defeat gum disease and build all the tools they need for a lifetime of healthy smiles!

We can’t wait to see you and your child!

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.
What to Do With a Knocked-Out Tooth?

LOSING BABY TEETH is a totally normal part of a child’s development, but what happens if an adult tooth gets knocked out? This counts as a serious dental emergency.

If a whole tooth gets knocked out in one piece, there is a limited window (not much longer than an hour) in which the tooth has a chance to be successfully replanted, so the sooner the dentist sees it, the better. To give the tooth its best shot, put it back in the socket on the way there and hold it in place with a washcloth or gauze. If that isn’t possible, store it in cold milk.

What NOT to Do With a Knocked-Out Tooth

Here are a few important don’ts for knocked-out teeth:

  • DON’T touch the root.
  • DON’T let it dry out.
  • DON’T scrub or clean it with soap, alcohol, or peroxide.
  • DON’T put it on ice.

Any of these could kill the root, making the tooth impossible to replant!

What About KNocked-Out Baby Teeth?

Most of the time, when a baby tooth gets knocked out, it isn’t an emergency. Typically a dentist wouldn’t replant a baby tooth because that might create problems for the permanent tooth underneath. However, if it wasn’t loose beforehand, we recommend at least giving the dentist a call for some advice. There might be less obvious damage than what happened to the tooth.

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.
Smoking and Vaping Versus Dental Health

A SMOKING HABIT damages every organ and system in the body, including teeth and gums. We usually think of lung cancer first when it comes to the harm smoking can do, but it can cause a wide variety of problems for oral health.

Tobacco and Oral Cancer

Four out of every five people diagnosed with oral cancer either smoke or chew tobacco. The early symptoms of oral cancer include unusual white patches in the mouth, persistent mouth sores or pain, numbness, swelling, difficulty chewing and swallowing, and the sensation of having something stuck in the throat. The dentist is a key figure in early detection of oral cancer.

A Strange Effect of Smoking: Smoker’s Keratosis

In some cases, a smoking habit can cause white patches to develop on the roof of the mouth. They typically aren’t painful, but they can be pre-cancerous. These patches are smoker’s keratosis (or stomatitis nicotina), and the condition is still a mysterious one. The prevailing theory is that the white patches are the result of inflamed mucous glands.

The Risk of Gum Disease Goes Up for Smokers

Up to half of all adults over 30 have some level of gum disease, but a smoking habit both doubles the risk of developing it and makes it harder to treat. Untreated gum disease can lead to serious damage to the gum tissue, bone loss in the jaw, and loss of teeth. Particularly severe cases can even be life-threatening if the oral bacteria reach the bloodstream through the inflamed gums.

Vaping: Not Really Safer

Vaping and e-cigarettes tend to be portrayed as a healthier alternative to smoking, but the vapor still contains ultra-fine toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and nicotine.

Nicotine, no matter how it is packaged, reduces blood flow, which can affect the teeth and gums by making the gum tissue less healthy. Gum recession and tissue death can result. It also reduces saliva production, leading to dry mouth (which comes with a wide array of problems from bad breath to tooth decay), and it can trigger teeth grinding, which damages teeth.

Secondhand Smoke Is Also Harmful

Smokers sometimes claim that the only person they’re hurting with their habit is themselves, and they’re willing to accept the health risks. This, unfortunately, is not accurate. Studies suggest a link between cavities (in both baby teeth and adult teeth) and regular exposure to secondhand smoke, and broader secondhand smoke health risks are particularly serious for infants and small children, ranging from asthma attacks to infections to SIDS.

The Benefits of Quitting Smoking

A longtime heavy smoker might believe that they’ve already damaged their health beyond the point of return with their habit, so what’s the point of quitting? No matter how long and heavily someone has smoked, quitting can still improve their health outlook. It’s better to not start smoking in the first place, but quitting is worth it, and it’s never too late to start.

There Are Many Resources to Help Quit Smoking

No addictive habit is easy to quit, but having help and resources makes it easier. Having the support of family, friends, and counselors can go a long way, and there’s also great information available online. Another good resource is the dentist! If you’re a smoker, schedule regular dental exams (potentially more than two each year) to keep a close eye on your oral health, and make sure to keep up with daily brushing and flossing!

We love seeing 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.
What’s in Toothpaste?

MOST OF THE TIME, the only toothpaste ingredient that really gets talked about is fluoride, the active ingredient that helps remineralize tooth enamel and protects teeth from decay. The American Dental Association calls fluoride “nature’s cavity fighter,” and toothpaste must contain it in order to receive the ADA’s Seal of Acceptance.

Fluoride

Toothpaste containing fluoride is safe for young children if used in the correct amounts (a smear the size of a grain of rice up to age 3, the size of a pea from ages 3-6) and with parental supervision to make sure they spit it out. Let’s take a look at the other toothpaste ingredients.

Abrasives

Abrasives, such as calcium carbonate, dehydrated silica gels, and hydrated aluminum oxides, are toothpaste ingredients that help remove food debris and surface stains. They are there to scrub and polish the surface of our teeth, but be careful not to scrub too hard, because we can cause a lot of damage to our teeth and gums by overbrushing.

Flavors

Flavors, including sugar-free sweetening agents like saccharin or sorbitol, make our toothpaste taste good (because fluoride and abrasives on their own do not). The ADA will not give its Seal of Acceptance to any toothpaste that contains sugar.

Humectants

Humectants like sorbitol, glycol, or glycerol keep our toothpaste from becoming dry and crumbly. They trap water in it and give it a nice, smooth texture that can squeeze out of a tube.

Detergents

Finally, detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate make toothpaste foamy, ensuring that the other ingredients effectively coat our 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.
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