dental care

Toothpicks

Why Toothpicks Shouldn’t Be Your Pick for a Dental Tool

Toothpicks. You see them everywhere: minty-fresh and plastic wrapped next to the cash register at your neighborhood diner, spearing a bite-size cheese cube and sporting colorful plastic frills at a cocktail party, swimming in a martini and wearing nothing but an olive at the bar, or simply resting in a box of 100 at your local grocery store. In fact, toothpicks are so readily available, it may seem hard to believe that they could be bad for you in any way. The truth is, however, frequently using toothpicks can damage your teeth and gums, and lead to swallowing splinters and worse.

Toothpicks are old news
Toothpicks are primitive devices that are the oldest dental cleaning tool around. Fossils of 7,500-year-old teeth suggest that humans were using wooden sticks to clean their teeth a long time before toothbrushes were even thought about. But again, this is because these ancient people didn’t have any alternative. Here are a few reasons why jabbing a stick around in your mouth in hopes of dislodging food, today, may not be such a great idea:

  • Lacerating gums. If you use toothpicks frequently and roughly, you could risk damaging your gums, causing bleeding and tearing.
  • Damaging tooth enamel. Tooth enamel is the covering that makes up the outer layer of each tooth. Although it’s pretty tough stuff, it’s still vulnerable to the type of damage chewing on a toothpick can easily cause.
  • Damaging tooth roots. If your gums have pulled away from your tooth roots, they could be especially prone to damage by a toothpick. Not to mention the fact that touching exposed tooth roots with anything at all can also be very painful.
  • Chipping veneers or crowns. Vigorous toothpick use can cause both to become damaged or even fall out altogether.
  • Splinters. Toothpicks can fall apart and leave splinters in your gums, tongue and throat, which are not only painful and hard to remove, but could also result in a dangerous infection.
  • Swallowing. Toothpicks could kill you. In fact, on average, there are about 9000 choking incidents reported each year from someone either swallowing or inhaling a toothpick.

So what should I use?
Sure, toothpicks can remove food debris from between teeth, but dentists recommend other cleaning alternatives that are much less damaging to your teeth and gums, including:

  • Dental floss. Dental floss or tape can quickly and effectively remove food particles without damaging teeth or gums. Flossing also removes plaque, which can lead to cavities, and promotes healthy gums, protecting you from gingivitis and periodontitis.
  • Interdental brush. Interdental brushes have small bristled heads that are designed specifically to fit between your teeth. Like floss, they can dislodge bits of food and clean plaque from surfaces that can’t be reached just by brushing.

So should I ever use a toothpick?
The best answer to this question is simple: only when you’ve got no other choice. As discussed above, there are many things that make toothpicks bad for teeth. And perhaps the only thing they have going for them is that they are portable and convenient to carry. If you have a bit of food stuck in your teeth that is painful or irritating and a toothpick is your only option, then it’s better to remove it for your own comfort.

But even then, it’s important to ask yourself just how frequently you are having to use that toothpick. We’ve all experienced a niggling bit of food getting stuck between your teeth every now and then. No big deal, right? Well, if it happens on a regular basis and (most importantly) in the same place each time, then that is reason enough to visit the dentist. That’s because food can become stuck due to fillings that haven’t been properly finished, teeth that have shifted or teeth that have developed a hole due to decay. And if you’re just relying on toothpicks to try to remedy these problems, you’re probably going to be seeing much bigger problems down the line.

So, are toothpicks bad? No, toothpicks are great … glued together to create memorable fourth-grade art projects, stuck in a birthday cake to see if it is ready to take out of the oven, and for hundreds of other uses. But are toothpicks bad for you? Yes, especially if they’re used frequently or without sufficient care for your teeth and gums. And because there are other ways that are so much better at getting bits of food free from your teeth, there is really no reason to resort to some crude tool that was invented by primitive man.

Teeth Whitening Home or Dentist

The Best Place for Teeth Whitening — at Home or at the Dentist?

Who doesn’t want a more beautiful smile? The key to achieving this goal is sometimes as simple as whitening your teeth.

Whitening at home
Choosing to use an over-the-counter product (usually whitening strips) with the ADA seal of approval is certainly a viable option. However, it’s important to understand that while they are the most inexpensive method available, they may take longer to achieve maximum whitening. That’s because the at-home kits sold at your dentist’s office contain a much higher percentage of the active whitening ingredient than the over-the-counter solutions do. Of course, your actual results depend on your beginning shade: the darker it is, the longer it may take (in time and materials) to get to your optimum shade.

It’s a good idea to first take a closeup photo of your teeth to compare with an end-result photo. Otherwise, it’s hard to remember where you started and whether you had any change in color after the whitening procedure.

It’s also important to check the expiration date on the box. Make sure you use the product before that date, for maximum effectiveness in whitening.

Be aware that some of the treatments could cause some discomfort. If you find that these at-home whitening methods cause you sensitivity, you might want to consider whitening only every other day, rather than every day. And those who experience more than just a little discomfort, sometimes turn to over-the-counter ibuprofen to alleviate the pain.
It’s also important to keep in mind, that no whitening method will change the color of dentures, crowns, white fillings, bonding, or veneers. If you have any of these visible artificial teeth or components in your smile, it may be best to consult with your dentist to see what treatment they would advise.

Whitening at the dentist’s office
Do you have a special occasion coming up, such as a wedding or a reunion? This would be the perfect time to do an in-office whitening procedure, which can show a dramatic improvement in the brightness of your smile in as little as one-and-a-half hours.
There are a few advantages of the in-office whitening procedures:

  • The work is done for you, all in one sitting, instead of multiple applications over a few weeks at home.
  • The material is professional strength, which has a higher percentage of the active ingredient, so it whitens in less time than over-the-counter materials would.
  • Your teeth may be less sensitive to the formula than they would to other DIY whitening procedures
  • Although it may be a bit more expensive than a do-it-yourself procedures, it is still affordable, and the quality of the results makes it worthwhile.

If you have tried whitening in the past with marginal success, know that the materials and methods have improved over time, allowing your dentist to now successfully whiten even the most difficult cases.

So, while over-the-counter whitening products can make a difference, they are not without their limitations. That’s why for a truly lasting and noticeably whiter smile, the best plan is for you to consult with your dentist to see which whitening procedures can give you the smile you have always wanted!

Adult Braces

Brace Yourself. You’re Not Too Old to Straighten Your Teeth.
Think braces are just for angsty teens and awkward pre-pubescents? Think again.The number of adults undergoing treatment for crooked teeth using braces or other teeth straightening treatment has been rising steadily.
Sure, crooked teeth can be a cosmetic embarrassment, but more importantly, correcting them can benefit you more than just making you look better. For example, fixing a less-than-perfect bite will ensure that you chew your food properly.  And overlapping teeth can cause bacteria to get trapped, leading to difficulty with cleaning and, ultimately, tooth decay. Fortunately there are a number of ways to get teeth (of any age) on the straight and narrow.
Am I Doomed to Be a “Brace Face”?
The upside to waiting until adulthood to correct your teeth is you can avoid all those playground bullies and their hurtful name-calling. The other benefit is that trends are changing. After assessing your particular issues, your orthodontist can tell you more about all the options that are available to you today, including:
Visible braces. This type of brace is perhaps the closest to what you may envision when you think “braces.” But it’s pretty safe to say that even visible braces have improved over the years. Usually suggested to fix severe alignment problems, the brace is fixed directly onto the front of the tooth using either traditional stainless-steel brackets with metal wires, clear plastic brackets with metal wires, or ceramic brackets with metal wires. Braces must be kept clean, since food that gathers around the brackets or wires can lead to staining or decay.
Invisible braces. Invisible braces are called lingual braces and are placed on the back of the teeth. If you’re concerned about the aesthetics of having braces, these can be a great option. However, adjusting to this method can be a little tough. Often times lingual braces can cause you to speak with a lisp, and having the brackets sit between your teeth and the tongue can cause irritation.
Nearly invisible braces. This is actually a clear plastic tray that’s worn over the teeth. Every two weeks the trays are exchanged for new ones that are become closer and closer to the teeth’s ideal alignment. This method is popular because they are almost invisible to the naked eye, and can be easily removed for cleaning and eating. However, you have to be strict about wearing the trays, as anything less than 22 hours a day will result in a longer treatment time.
Retainers. Removable retainers are made from metal wires and acrylic formed to the shape of your mouth. They can be made for both the upper and lower arches of the mouth to brace and align teeth. Retainers like this are popular because they can be easily removed for special events or occasional relief, but they are prone to getting lost, so you have to make sure to keep track of them.
Porcelain veneers. Veneers are a cheaper and less time-consuming way to change the look of your teeth by simply covering up minor imperfections. As well as covering crooked teeth, they can mask chips, gaps and stains and — once they are applied —  don’t need to be replaced for five to ten years.
So, instead of just hoping that your teeth decide to straighten on their own (which they won’t), put on your grown-up pants, and talk to your dentist. Because today, there are more options than ever for giving you the healthy, attractive smile you’ve always wanted.

Deciduous Teeth

Deciduous teeth are baby teeth. We’re born with two full sets of teeth and this first set is also called primary, milk or lacteal dentition. These teeth begin to erupt anytime after 6 months of age, which is commonly referred to as “teething.” Teeth normally erupt in pairs and the first that normally come in are the lower central incisors. By the time your child is 2, he or she should have a full set of deciduous teeth.

Why Two Sets?

As an infant, our mouths are too small for a full set of permanent teeth, so we require deciduous teeth until our jaw is able to sustain the permanent set. Baby teeth are essential in the alignment, spacing and occlusion of primary teeth. They prepare the adult jaw for their permanent fellows.

As the adult teeth (seccedaneous teeth) form, special cells called odontoclasts absorb the roots of the baby teeth, so that when your adult teeth start to emerge from your gums the deciduous teeth have no roots, making them loose and able to easily fall out.

Caring for Deciduous Teeth

A gross misconception about baby teeth is that since they will eventually be replaced by primary teeth, there’s no reason to take care of them. But cavities are a very real cause for concern — even for deciduous teeth. Children who suffer from dental cavities in their baby teeth are more prone to cavities in their permanent teeth. And every dentist will agree that oral hygiene habits begin in childhood. So it is essential that you take excellent dental care of your little ones’ baby teeth, as they won’t be able to do so themselves for the first handful of years.

Good oral hygiene begins at teething. Simply rubbing your infant’s gums with a wet washcloth will begin to develop habits that he or she will require for life. Once the first teeth erupt, begin brushing them twice a day. Once more teeth fill in, you can begin flossing, too. And be sure to set up your child’s first dental visit when the first tooth appears or by age 1.

Deciduous Tooth Dental Cavities

Sometimes your toddler will get a dental cavity in one of the baby teeth. In that case, your regular pediatric dentist will take X-rays and fill any dental cavity so that tooth decay does not go unchecked and the primary tooth can emerge in the best condition possible.

Like all teeth, deciduous teeth must be cared for properly so that you have a healthy mouth and healthy body. It’s up to parents to ensure that their child develops healthy deciduous teeth and good oral hygiene. If you need help maintaining your child’s oral health, give us a call; we’re glad to help.

Them Bones, Them Bones…

Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth! You’ve heard it before, but how much calcium are you actually getting?
An extremely important mineral for dental and overall health, calcium aids in preventing dental problems and osteoporosis. Actually, 99 percent of the calcium found in our bodies is located in our bones and teeth! But calcium does so much more — it also helps with blood clotting, sending nerve signals, releasing hormones and enzymes, as well as muscle and blood vessel contraction and relaxation.

Much like we change our hairstyles or clothes to resemble the latest fashions, our bones are constantly reinventing themselves. Our bones are continuously undergoing a process called resorption, which is the breakdown of bone tissue. When bone is lost, calcium is deposited to help new bone form. In order to best utilize new bone formation, calcium needs to be taken continuously, and over a long period of time.

As we age, we tend to lose more bone, and it becomes harder for calcium to keep up with our changing bodies. If there’s not a significant amount of calcium, our bones can become brittle and porous in old age. The weaker our skeletal systems, the greater our chances of ending up with bone fractures or jaw deterioration, which leads to tooth loss. And the more the jaw deteriorates, the harder it is for your mouth to support dental restorations, such as dental implants and dentures.

Calcium is equally important to your periodontal health! According to the American Academy of Periodontology, a diet low in calcium can increase your chances of getting gum disease. An infection caused by bacteria that attack your gums, periodontal disease will eventually break down your gum tissue and destroy the surrounding bone. As calcium supports your jawbone, it strengthens it against the bacteria that lead to gum disease and eventual tooth loss. Combined with gum disease treatment, a significant calcium intake can prevent gum disease from progressing. Consuming at least three servings of calcium-laden foods will help you meet your daily requirements.

Can Teenagers Get Gum Disease?

 

Gum disease might seem like something only adults get, but the truth is it affects people of all ages. In fact, TeenHealth.com reports that 60 percent of 15-year-olds have gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease. Other studies show that teenage girls may be even more vulnerable to gum disease because of hormonal changes.
This is bad news for teenagers, who may have bad breath or sore gums as the result of gingivitis. But there’s also good news: Gum disease can easily be treated and prevented.
Treatment of gingivitis usually involves a scaling and root planing treatment (SRP) to remove plaque and tartar buildup below the gum line. Just one SRP treatment can reverse the signs of gingivitis and prevent gum disease from progressing.
But how do you keep gum disease from coming back? Pretty much the same way you can prevent it from developing in the first place: brush, floss, get dental cleanings AND eat healthy foods. Healthy eating is where teens often get tripped up – sweets, sodas, energy drinks and sports drinks are heavily marked to and consumed by teenagers.
You can make it easy for your teen to choose healthier options for their teeth and body by making sure the fridge is always stocked with things like fresh fruit, vegetables, cheese and water.

Prevention: Let It Shine

While lasers were at one time just material for science fiction writers, they’ve become a common part of our everyday life. They zap through your groceries, they open garage doors … and now they can detect wear and tear on your tooth’s surface before it becomes a cavity.

Is it caries [cavity]? Or is it a healthy tooth? Dentists often experience anxiety when attempting to diagnose the phenomenon known as hidden caries. A suspicious-looking tooth presents a treatment dilemma for dentists. Should the tooth be opened up? What if no cavity is found? Should the tooth just be watched? Or does that give caries more time to destroy the tooth’s structure? In the case of hidden caries, traditional diagnostic methods all too frequently yield indeterminate results. If you can’t detect a sub-surface lesion, how can you treat it?

Diagnodent is a revolutionary new dental laser tool that safely and effectively detects changes on your tooth’s surface that might not be visible on a traditional x-ray. When this light source is directed at your tooth, anything unusual about the tooth’s surface, such as the beginnings of a surface breakdown, or the start of a cavity, causes a different type of light to be bounced back to the instrument. This light is transferred into an acoustic signal and the wavelength is then evaluated by the control unit. This lets us know what type of preventive treatment you might need. Diagnodent can even detect decay occurring under a crown, allowing us to quickly catch what could later become a problem.

Treatment decisions require a higher degree of certainty. The Diagnodent laser caries detection aid removes the doubt from treatment decisions regarding hidden caries or questionable stained grooves. The device’s ability to see into a tooth’s biting surface pits and fissures enables dentists to treat sub-surface caries lesions with confidence.

We want to ensure that every tooth remains yours for life, and that your visit to our office is comfortable and pleasant. Diagnodent is a unique development that will not only reduce your need for x-rays, it will catch problems before they even get started.

Regular Checkups Can Save You Thousands

If you have dental problems like tooth decay, gum disease or even oral cancer, regular dental visits give your dentist a chance to catch it early on. That’s key. Because the earlier your dentist diagnoses a problem the easier it is to treat. For example, if you have gum disease and let it go unchecked (and untreated) for too long, you may need extensive — and expensive — gum disease treatment.
Regular dental checkups allow you and your dentist to stay ahead of problems, which can translate into thousands saved.
A professional dental cleaning is also a must because it’s the only way to effectively remove tartar (hardened plaque). Even if you brush and floss regularly, that’s not enough. Besides looking unsightly (tartar is a “stain magnet” and often has a brown or yellowish tint), tartar also contains cavity-causing bacteria. Preventing the need for a mouthful of fillings every year easily adds up to thousands saved in the long run.
Perhaps one of the most important reasons to invest in regular dental exams and cleanings is that it has a positive impact on your overall health. Recent studies have shown that there’s a link between periodontal disease and heart disease; when the former is present, the latter is twice as likely.
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, gum disease can have a domino effect on your health. The bacteria caused by periodontal disease can enter your bloodstream and attach to your heart’s blood vessels, causing dangerous blood clots. Another scenario is that the plaque buildup caused by periodontal disease can cause the heart’s blood vessels to swell.
In this way, regular checkups and cleanings are not only money-saving but life-saving. And that’s priceless.

5 Clues Your Child Is not Brushing

 

1. The toothbrush is dry.
It’s tough to keep the toothbrush dry if you’re actually brushing! Make sure to check your child’s toothbrush every day (and night ) – before it has time to dry.
2. You can still see food particles.
After your child has brushed, ask for a smile. If you can still see bits of food on or in between your child’s teeth, send your child back to the bathroom for a do-over.
3. Teeth don’t pass the “squeak test.”
Have your child wet his or her finger and rub it quickly across the outside and inside of his or her teeth. If the teeth are clean, you will hear a squeaking sound.
4. Breath is everything but fresh.
If your child is brushing and flossing regularly, his or her breath should be fresh. The foul odor associated with bad breath is most often caused by food particles — either food left in between teeth or food trapped in the grooves on the tongue.
5. Your child has a toothache.
Even if you can’t tell if your child is brushing well, a toothache is a red flag. Make sure your child sees the dentist right away – a filling or other treatment may be in order.
Remember, brushing is just one part of your child’s total oral health regimen. In order to remove stubborn plaque and tartar buildup and prevent other dental problems, regular exams and cleanings are a must. Plus, your dentist can help reinforce the importance of good oral hygiene with your child.

Pacifiers and Bottles: Can Comfort Cause Complications?

When it comes to sucking, babies are naturals — maybe because they practice even before they are born! Children begin sucking on their thumb while in the womb to develop the skills necessary for breastfeeding. And for many kids, this skill has an added bonus: Thumb-sucking can be very soothing. Many infants and toddlers will continue to suck their thumb or use a pacifier after they start eating solid foods or stop taking a bottle.

Unfortunately, the use of pacifiers, bottles and sippy cups can lead to speech and dental problems as your child gets older. Since children develop at different ages, it is a good idea to speak with your dentist and pediatrician to make sure that your infant or toddler’s early oral habits don’t cause problems.

Pacifier Blues

In a child’s first few years, pacifier use generally doesn’t cause problems. But constant, long-term pacifier use, especially once permanent teeth come in, can lead to dental complications. Constant sucking can cause top front teeth to slant out, and bottom front teeth to tilt in. It also can lead to jaw misalignment (such as an overbite) and a narrowing of the roof of the mouth.

It is generally advised that children stop or drastically reduce their pacifier use around age 3. If a child is dependent on the pacifier to be calmed and soothed, try giving it to him or her only when absolutely necessary and using positive reinforcement to wean them off the habit.

If possible, buy pacifiers labeled “orthodontically friendly” because they may limit the risk of dental complications. It is also a good idea to buy pacifiers constructed as one piece. And never attach a pacifier to a string around your child’s neck, this can cause them to choke.

The Big Bad Bottle

Many children use a bottle longer than necessary. Apart from the risks associated with the sucking motion, bottles also carry a heavy risk of promoting tooth decay if they contain anything other than water.

Frequently sucking or sipping on milk or juice from a bottle over an extended period of time will increase your child’s risk of tooth decay. When sugars and carbohydrates come in consistent contact with teeth they create an environment for decay-causing bacteria to thrive. Tooth decay can lead to painful infection and in extreme cases children may need to have a tooth extraction or dental treatment to extensively repair damaged teeth.

If you notice small white spots or lines on your child’s teeth, particularly near the gum line, it is a good idea to consult your dentist immediately as this may be an early sign of decay. As a way to cut back on children’s bottle use, your pediatrician or pediatric dentist may recommend using sippy cups. While these are very useful for transitioning your child from bottle to regular cups, they also pose their own threat to teeth and speech development.

For more help breaking baby away from the bottle or pacifier, talk to your dentist