February is National Children's Dental Health Month

Did you know that childhood cavities can affect your child's permanent teeth?

Do you know when you should take your child to their first dental appointment?

What is the best way to prevent cavities in children?

Check out the infographic below for some great tips, as well as our previous blog post for more info on children's oral care. Schedule your child's appointment online here:

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3 Things Baby Boomers Need to Know About Oral Health

Aging and Oral Health

One inescapable fact of getting older is that you end up having to deal with health problems that you never had to deal with before. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re in poor health, just that your health needs have changed as a result of aging. Your nutritional needs are different, your sleep needs are different, and your activity & exercise needs are different. It should come as no surprise that your dental health needs are different as well. 

Dry Mouth Is More Than Just a Minor Problem

Oral health problems in baby boomers

Dry mouth is not an uncommon experience for baby boomers.

You may experience dry mouth more frequently than you did in your younger years. You may be tempted to brush this off as an annoying, but minor, irritation. However, dry mouth can be a big problem for your dental health. Your mouth uses saliva to wash bacteria away from your teeth – if you don’t have enough of it, decay-causing bacteria has more of a chance to cause cavities in your teeth. Increased bacteria in your mouth can also lead to more painful tooth infections.

Dry mouth isn’t just a normal aspect of aging. If you’re experiencing dry mouth, it has a cause. It could be caused by a medication, for example, or by hormone fluctuations. Getting to the root cause of your dry mouth can not only make you more comfortable, it can prevent major dental problems in the future. 

Age Is A Risk Factor For Oral Cancer

When most people think of oral cancer, they think of smoking, and it’s true that smoking is a significant risk factor. But there are other risk factors, and age itself is one of them – one that you have no control over.

Oral cancer is very survivable if it’s caught early enough. It has an 83% survival rate if caught before it begins to spread. Once it spreads past the closest lymph nodes to faraway parts of the body, that rate drops to just 38%. Regular oral cancer screenings can help ensure that if you do develop oral cancer, it’s caught during the oral stages when it can be more easily and successfully treated. 

Gum Disease Can Lead to Other Serious Health Conditions

Oral health problems don’t just stay in your mouth – they affect the rest of your body as well. Gum disease is a prime example. If you suffer from gingivitis, your risk of serious conditions like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes all increase significantly. It’s more important now than ever to work with your dentist to keep your gums healthy, and to address early signs of gum disease right away. 

What is dental plaque?

You know that good dental hygiene, including regular brushing and flossing, is an important part of preventing cavities, decay, and other tooth problems. You probably have even heard about the importance of removing plaque from your teeth. But what is plaque? Where does it come from? What does it do? 

It’s Alive!

What is plaque?

Flossing doesn’t just remove crumbs caught between your teeth. It also removes tiny bacteria living there.

If there’s anything that should inspire you to brush your teeth more consistently, it’s the idea of tiny living things growing on your teeth. And guess what? That’s just what plaque is.

Dental plaque is what’s known as a biofilm. Biofilms are sticky coatings made of microorganisms that adhere to each other and to a surface. In the case of dental plaque, the microorganisms are bacteria that inhabit your mouth. 

How Plaque Grows

Plaque is always forming on your teeth. The process works like this:

  • First, a layer of saliva, called the dental pellicle, forms on the surface of the teeth.
  • Soon, bacteria begin to bind themselves to the pellicle. 
  • Once attached, the bacteria begin to multiply, spreading to other parts of the mouth.
  • The bacteria begin to form microcolonies, and they secrete a protective coating known as the slime layer.
  • The microcolonies grow larger and more complex.
  • The film develops its own rudimentary circulatory system. 

The only way to interrupt the cycle is by brushing the plaque off of your teeth. And don’t underestimate the importance of flossing as well. Even if your teeth are perfectly straight, the surfaces on the sides of your teeth are covered by other teeth, and your toothbrush’s bristles can’t reach in-between them. Flossing is the only way to remove plaque from these areas. If your teeth are crooked, you may have even more overlapping tooth surfaces that require plaque removal.

What Happens When Plaque is Not Removed?

Tools for removing plaque and tartar.

If you don’t remove plaque with your toothbrush, your dentist may need stronger tools to get the job done.

 If you don’t remove the dental plaque from your teeth, the bacteria have free reign to continue to grow. They feed on the same food particles and beverages that you put in your mouth and convert sugars and starches into enamel-eroding acids. 

Over time, the plaque that’s not removed can harden. This happens when the plaque absorbs minerals that are in your saliva. This harder, more difficult to remove plaque has a different name: tartar. While brushing and flossing can clean the plaque off of your teeth, tartar is a more intractable problem. Plaque is sticky, but soft enough to come off on your toothbrush or floss. Tartar usually needs to be removed with special tools at your dentist’s office. 

Plaque and tartar not only form on the visible surfaces of the teeth, they also form just below the gumline. If you don’t regularly brush and floss, the plaque and tartar that build up under your gums can eventually cause gum disease. This is a serious problem, as gum disease is linked to several dangerous health problems, like heart disease and strokes. 

You can fight plaque by brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing at least once daily, as well as with regular visits to your dentist. 

Why Are Regular Dental Cleanings so Important?

It’s easy to perceive going to the dentist for a routine cleaning as just another chore in your already busy schedule. It can be frustrating to take time off work, get a babysitter, or rearrange your schedule so that you can spend an hour in the dentist’s chair. But if you’re tempted to skip your next routine cleaning, think again.

A Dental Cleaning Can Give You Fresher Breath

A Dental Cleaning Can Freshen Your Breath

 A routine check-up can give you confidence in your smile and your breath.

Sure, you brush your teeth and floss several times a day. Maybe you even use a breath freshening mouthwash. But if plaque is building up on your teeth, perhaps in places that you can’t easily reach with your toothbrush, the result can be persistent bad breath. A thorough cleaning will get rid of the plaque and bad breath-causing bacteria that it attracts.

A Dental Cleaning Will Whiten Your Smile

Certain foods and drinks can leave unwelcome stains on your teeth that are hard to scrub off with your toothbrush alone. Coffee, red wine, and blueberries are just a few examples. With regular cleanings, you may not need need extensive whitening treatments to restore your teeth to their former brightness. Getting a good professional cleaning on a regular basis can give you the bright, white smile you want. However, if you haven't heard the news, we are now offering Free Whitening for Life to eligible patients who complete their recommended dental care. Ask us about this offer at your next appointment.

A Dental Cleaning is Important Preventative Dentistry

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A check-up allows your dentist to identify potential dental problems early. 

A dental cleaning prevents cavities by getting rid of plaque that can damage your tooth enamel. Your dentist may also notice weak spots on your tooth enamel that could become cavities. Spotting issues like these can prevent small symptoms from becoming big problems

While your hygienist is cleaning your teeth, she will look for other signs of trouble, like chips, fractures, or signs of infection that you may not have noticed otherwise. These problems could lead to tooth loss if left untreated. Regularly scheduled cleanings help to ensure that they’ll be spotted and treated as soon as possible. Your dentist and hygienist are trained to notice signs of various serious conditions and illnesses, like oral cancer. Preventative dentistry is important because the earlier any of these conditions are noticed, the easier it is to treat them. 

A Dental Cleaning Could Save Your Life

You may have heard that oral hygiene is linked to certain serious health conditions such as heart disease. But how far can a dental cleaning really go to prevent a serious health condition? Further than you might think. Without regular check-ups, plaque buildup can cause inflammation -which affects blood flow. Professional dental cleanings, including tooth scaling, reduce the inflammation and help keep the blood flowing properly, thus reducing the risk of heart attacks or strokes. And as you may know,  "...some diseases or medical conditions have symptoms that can appear in the mouth," and your dentist may be the one to spot an irregularity or warning sign before things have progressed too far (MouthHealthy.org).

Dental cleanings are much more than just a routine chore. The benefits of having your teeth professionally cleaned can’t be understated. If it's been over 6 months since your last visit, or if you have any questions about your oral health, please contact us today.

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Are E-Cigarettes Bad for Your Oral Health?

If you're a smoker looking for a way to kick the habit, you've probably at least considered using an e-cigarette. But are e-cigarettes bad for your oral health?

E-cigarettes are electronic devices that heat up flavored liquid that contains nicotine and allow you to release clouds of vapor - while the vapor looks like smoke, it generally has a mild smell or no smell at all. This is often called "vaping". While it can seem like the perfect alternative to smoking -- you get the feel of hitting a cigarette without the tar or chemicals that are normally found in cigarettes -- questions remain about whether vaping is really better for your health, or whether it comes with its own risks.

What is in E-Juice?

Are e-cigs harmful?
Do you know what's in that vapor?

The truth is that it can be hard to tell exactly what is in the flavored liquid -- called e-juice -- that is found in an e-cigarette. Different manufacturers may put different chemicals in the e-liquid, and because e-cigarettes are still fairly new on the scene, there haven't been all that many in-depth studies about the effects of e-cigarette ingredients on health.

What definitely is found in most types of e-juice is nicotine. And with or without the other chemicals found in either e-cigarettes or tobacco cigarettes, nicotine has a harmful effect on your oral health. No matter how the nicotine is delivered, it can cause gum disease because it's a vasoconstrictor. That means that it reduces blood flow. Blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to your gums that they need to stay healthy. Without enough blood, gum disease begins to spread. Even more insidious, though, is that nicotine also masks some of the symptoms of gum disease, like bleeding from the gums when brushing. Without those symptoms, neither you nor your dentist may recognize your gum disease in time to catch it early.

Some Flavors May Cause More Damage Than Others

Are E-Cigarettes Bad for Your Oral Health?
Damage to your oral tissues may depend partly on the e-juice flavor that you pick.

Although not enough studies have been done yet to understand exactly what effect e-cigarettes have on health, the studies that have been done do show that e-cigarette vapors release inflammatory proteins that cause cell damage in the mouth, which can lead to oral diseases.

The same studies show that some flavorings cause more damage than others. Unlike tobacco cigarettes, which basically come only in plain or menthol flavorings, e-juice comes in all kinds of flavors -- it can taste like fruit, chocolate, coffee, your favorite alcoholic cocktail, or almost anything else. It takes different chemicals to make each different flavor, and some of those chemicals are more harmful to the mouth than others.

Quitting is Best for Your Oral Health

Is vaping is less harmful to your oral health than smoking? The jury is still out on that question. It's possible that vaping could be a form of harm reduction. But more studies need to be done to verify whether or not vaping is truly a less harmful option.

Either way, your best bet is to kick the nicotine habit entirely. Giving up nicotine, whether it comes in a cigarette, vapor, chewing tobacco, or even gum, is the only sure way to protect your oral health from its negative effects. Talk to your dentist about smoking cessation strategies and assistance. They may be able to help you find a healthier way to quit.

If you're a smoker or vaper that's worried about your dental health, regular checkups and cleanings are important. Make an appointment today to check on the state of your oral health and learn strategies for preventing health problems. 

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What is Dry Mouth, and How Can It Be Prevented?

Everyone has experienced the feeling that their mouth is too dry. It happens when you're outside too long without a drink on a hot day, or when you have a cold that leaves you breathing out of your mouth instead of your nose. Usually, the sensation is temporary, easily alleviated when you get a drink or when the cold goes away. But for some people, the problem is longer-lasting and more difficult to resolve. The following is some information about dry mouth causes, complications, and how you can prevent this condition.

What Causes Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth can be a bigger problem than you think.
Feeling parched? Dry mouth can be a bigger problem than you think.

Dry mouth can be caused by any number of things, including certain medications. This is especially true of inhaled medications, such as asthma inhalers However, painkillers, decongestants, and depression medications can also cause dry mouth.

Dry mouth can also be a sign of a medical condition. Diabetes, depression, Parkinson's disease, and certain autoimmune disorders are often accompanied by dry mouth. If you're a smoker, you may also experience dry mouth frequently. Simple dehydration can also be a common cause for dry mouth.

What Problems Can Dry Mouth Cause?

No matter what is causing your dry mouth, it's important to find a way to address the issue. Occasional dry mouth may be just an aggravation, but if it's become a common occurrence for you, it can be a lot more than a simple annoyance.

Frequent dry mouth puts you at risk of tooth decay and gum disease. The saliva in your mouth serves a purpose -- it's constantly washing away bacteria and food particles that can lead to disease and decay. If you don't have enough saliva in your mouth, then you're more likely to develop cavities or infections. If you suffer from dry mouth, you're also more likely to experience sore throats and a hoarse voice, difficulty swallowing or chewing, and even fungal mouth infections, like thrush.

How to Prevent Dry Mouth

Staying hydrated is an important part of preventing dry mouth.
Staying hydrated is an important part of preventing dry mouth.

Dry mouth may be more serious than you first thought, but it's also often preventable. One of the most important things that you can do is increase your water intake. Dehydration can cause or exacerbate all kinds of medical conditions, so swapping your soda or coffee for water can improve your health in all kinds of ways, while ensuring that you have the necessary hydration to create enough saliva.

You can also try chewing sugarless gum or mints that are sweetened with xylitol. Xylitol stimulates saliva production and won't increase your risk of cavities. It's also a good idea to talk to your doctor if you're experiencing frequent dry mouth. Your doctor may be able to change your medications, if one of them is causing your dry mouth. They may also recommend a product that will help increase saliva production in your mouth.

Your dentist is a great source of information about preventing and alleviating dry mouth. To make an appointment, contact us today.

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Tips for Preventing Yellow Teeth

Our last blog post discussed how teeth can turn  yellow naturally over time, due to the thinning of enamel, which allows the natural color of dentin to show through. However, there are precautions you can take to lessen your chances of having yellow teeth. 

  • Use a soft-bristle toothbrush (brushing too hard, and/or using hard bristles can wreck havoc on your enamel)
  • Drink lots of water after consuming exceptionally sugary or acidic foods or beverages (such as, oranges, candy or wine)
  • Don't brush your teeth immediately after consuming sugary or acidic foods/beverages (brushing right away basically makes your toothbrush an aid to scrubbing away your enamel)
  • Stop smoking/chewing tobacco (or if you already don't consume tobacco, then don't start)
  • Brush your teeth twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste

Got Cavities? Here's 3 Factors Besides Diet That May be the Cause

You know what causes cavities: eating too many sugary foods, not paying enough attention to your dental hygiene, failing to see your dentist on a regular basis. However, you go out of your way to make sure that you eat right and take good care of your teeth, so you may be surprised when you suddenly start getting cavities. Here's something you may not know -- it's not always your meals and snacks that cause you to develop cavities.

Bad Timing

Be sure to stick to water after you brush your teeth at night.
Once your brushing routine is done, give your teeth a break from sugars for the night.

It's not just brushing your teeth that matters -- when you brush your teeth also matters. For example, when you brush your teeth at night, it should be the last thing that you do before you go to bed. You're going to be sleeping for around 8 hours, which is a long time to leave your enamel exposed to any sugars or acids. Your mouth also tends to be drier at night (especially if you sleep with your mouth open), which makes you even more vulnerable to cavities. So it's best if your teeth are as clean as they're going to be before you fall asleep.

Sometimes people make changes to their after-brushing and before bed routine without realizing how it could impact their teeth. Have you started taking a vitamin or supplement at night before you go to sleep, especially one of the gummy or chewable varieties? Have you been sick and taking a liquid antibiotic or cold medicine before bed? Have you gotten into a habit of keeping a glass of juice on your nightstand at night, in case you wake up with a dry throat? All of those things -- chewable vitamins, liquid medicines and antibiotics, and juice -- contain sugars, and if you've begun taking them or drinking them after you brush your teeth, you're allowing those sugars to have free reign on your tooth enamel all night long. Luckily, this is an easy fix. Take vitamins or medicine before you brush your teeth, and if you need a drink in the night, choose water.

Brushing Too Hard

Your teeth are hard and you have a powerful bite, so it can be difficult to imagine that the soft bristles on your toothbrush could be damaging your teeth. However, you actually can over-brush and end up cutting into and scraping your enamel. The weaker and more damaged your enamel is, the more vulnerable you are to cavities.

If you can't pinpoint a more likely cause for your cavities, it's entirely possible that your brushing technique is to blame. Don't be afraid to ask your dentist to help you show you the best brushing techniques. Everyone can use a refresher now and then.

You're Getting Older

You may need to take extra precautions to protect your smile as you age\
You may need to take extra precautions to protect your smile as you age.

On the one hand, thanks to advances in dental technology, you're more likely than ever before to keep all or most of your own teeth for the rest of your life, instead of needing dentures in your golden years. On the other hand, as you age, your teeth do become more vulnerable to cavities.

Partly, this is because of gum disease, which is more common as you get older. Your gums can begin to recede and expose more of the tooth enamel. As the amount of tooth surface increases, so does the incidence of cavities. Another common problem as you age is decreased saliva, especially if you're taking medicine for high blood pressure or heart disease. You may need to increase your fluid intake to stay better hydrated and brush, floss, and visit your dentist more often.

If you seem to be prone to cavities, you can always ask your dentist to help you understand why you're seeing cavities now and what you can do to stop them.

Don't Toss the Floss! 3 Reasons to Continue Flossing

Chances are, you've seen the Associated Press report on the efficacy of flossing making the rounds on Facebook. After years of being told by dentists that flossing is one of the cornerstones of good oral hygiene, you may be wondering if it was ever worth the bother. But don't toss the floss just yet -- it's a pretty good bet that your dentist will recommend that you continue flossing anyway, despite the AP report. Take a look at the reasons why.

What the AP Report Doesn't Say

At first glance, it may seem that the recent reports mean that flossing is pointless, and the headlines certainly make it sound that way. But if you dig a little deeper, you'll see that what the Associated Press report really says is that the studies showing the benefits of flossing are flawed. They used outdated methodologies, tested too small a sample size of patients, showed evidence of bias, or drew conclusions from relatively weak data.

However, this does not mean that flossing has no benefits, just that the studies showing benefits from flossing cannot be accepted as conclusive proof that flossing has benefits. The case for floss may not yet have been proven, but nothing in the AP report disproves the theory that flossing is good for your oral health either.

Cleaning Between Your Teeth

Toothpicks are not as useful as floss.
Not a good replacement for dental floss.

Getting a bit of food caught between your teeth is a nearly universal experience. It's usually pretty uncomfortable to have food stuck between your teeth, and it's a relief to get it out. Of course, sometimes, you don't feel the particle of food, which can be pretty embarrassing if it's spinach caught between your front teeth.

What you may not realize is that you can also have bits of food that are too small to see caught between your teeth. While you may not notice them, they definitely have an impact -- that food can rot if it's not cleaned out, inviting decay-causing bacteria and giving you horrible breath.

What's the safest and most effective way to remove food particles, large and small, that get stuck between your teeth? Not your toothbrush -- it's too hard to get the bristles in the tight space between your teeth, especially the back teeth. Don't count on toothpicks, either -- they can break off and splinter between your teeth, irritating your gums and leading to infections. The safest way to clear out the bits and pieces caught between your teeth is dental floss. It's a tried and true method.

It Can't Hurt

Don't toss the floss!
It's been working for you for this long, so why give it up now?

The truth is that it's pretty difficult to gather good evidence on the benefits of flossing for a variety of reasons. There are logistical and ethical barriers to setting up the kind of long-term intensive study that would be needed to more conclusively prove the benefits of dental floss, and even then, you'd have to wait years to learn the results of the studies.

So, while dental health experts will no doubt continue to research the effects of using dental floss as best they can, you shouldn't hold your breath waiting for any earth-shattering conclusions. In the meantime, flossing is easy and inexpensive, and while the jury is still out on how much it helps, it certainly can't hurt. So why not keep doing it?

Your dentist knows what's best for your teeth better than anyone, so if you're looking to make any changes in your oral care regimen, it's worth making an appointment to discuss your individual dental needs. 

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#TBT Your Dentist Knows

Your dentist can tell a lot about youOn this very day last year, we shared an interesting article. It's quite amazing what your dentist can tell about you, just from taking a look in your mouth.

Did you know that your dentist can tell if you bite your nails? How about this, did you know a dentist can tell that a woman is pregnant just by looking in her mouth? If you missed the article last year, check it out now! 12 Things Your Dentist Knows About You Just By Looking In Your Mouth