dental cleaning

Bad Habits Your Oral Health Would Like You to Break

Did you know that a lot of little things you do (or don’t do) could be bad habits that are affecting your oral health? These include everything from not brushing or flossing enough, to eating too many sweets, to even using your teeth to open a bag of chips.

The Snowball Effect

Unfortunately, these bad oral habits (even the ones that seem harmless) can lead to bad oral hygiene over time — causing bad breath, tooth discoloration, red, swollen gums, cavities, gum disease and ultimately, tooth loss. It can affect not just your oral health, but also the following:

Chewing and speech. We need our teeth, all of our teeth. Not just for chewing food properly, but also for speaking properly. Just think how hard it would be to make a “TH” without your front teeth to use in the process.

Self-esteem. Swollen gums, bad breath and stained teeth – not to mention no teeth – can indeed put a damper on anyone’s confidence.

Finances. Delaying needed dental treatment by not visiting the dentist regularly can only cause more harm than good, even to your wallet. When treatment is necessary to save the teeth and bring the mouth back to optimum condition, a lot of dental procedures may have to be done and it can get costly.

Overall Health. Research has shown that gum disease is linked with health problems including heart disease, stroke, pneumonia and other systemic diseases. Bad oral health is also shown to increase the risk of pre-term delivery and low-birth-weight infants. Gum disease treatment not only improves your dental health, but can help improve your overall health as well.

Turn Your Bad Habits to Good Ones

Bad oral habits die hard, but they can be killed with better practices. Experts suggest the following tips:

*Floss at least once a day. It helps remove bits of food and dental plaque in places your toothbrush can’t find, helping to keep your gums healthy.

*Brush after every meal, or at least twice a day. If brushing is not an option, chew sugarless gum (make sure it’s sugarless!) for 20 minutes after a meal or snack to help wash away food and acid by increasing saliva production. This helps prevent tooth decay.

*Clean your tongue with every brushing, either with a toothbrush or a tongue scraper. Bacteria that settle on your tongue can cause bad breath, also known as halitosis.

*Replace your toothbrush regularly. Bristles in your toothbrush that are bent and broken don’t do a good job cleaning your teeth anymore and are clear signs to let your old toothbrush go.

*Eat a balanced diet. Snacking on sweets too often without brushing increases the acid in your mouth, giving you a higher risk of developing tooth decay. Munch on vegetables and fruit instead.

Regular Dental Visits. Your dentist is trained to do damage control in your mouth before it’s too late. You should visit the dentist regularly — every six months.

*Avoid using your teeth as tools. It has the same effect as chewing on hard objects like pencils and ice cubes – it can cause chipped or cracked teeth. You don’t live in the Stone Age, so there’s really no excuse to use your teeth to open a bottle of beer – the bottle opener was made for that. Tools are easier to replace than your teeth, which were really meant to last you a lifetime.

Adding these to your list one at a time is a good start to kick those bad oral habits. By doing a little self-check on your daily dental care habits, you can be on your way to making sure your teeth, your mouth’s health, and your overall health are at their best.

Mouthguards: Built to Protect and Preserve

An active lifestyle calls for active safety. And while helmets, goggles and knee pads have become standard equipment to protect our bodies, it’s important to remember to protect your teeth as well. Mouthguards offer an easy, reliable method to cushion your teeth during athletic and recreational activity.

Participating in any physical activity involves a risk of contact with the face and mouth. Although many sports teams require some protective gear, the delicate teeth are often overlooked. Considering that even minor direct force can cause teeth to chip, break or come loose, a mouthguard is a crucial piece of equipment for all active or athletic activities.

Mouthguards are especially crucial during contact sports such as football, hockey or boxing, where blows to the body and face are regular occurrences. But even non-contact sports such as gymnastics, and recreational pastimes (such as skating or mountain biking), still pose a risk to the teeth.

When participating in any activity that may result in injury to the mouth, dentists recommend that the teeth be properly shielded with some form of dental mouthguard.

Your Guide to Guards

There are three basic categories of mouthguards. Your dentist can suggest which type is right for you:

1. Stock Mouthguards — These pre-made protectors can usually be bought wherever sporting equipment is sold. Most dentists do not recommend their use because they cannot be adjusted to your mouth and provide only limited protection.

2. Boil-and-Bite Mouthguards — Boil-and-Bite guards are softened with hot water and then molded over your teeth. A somewhat customized fit leads to better protection and greater ease in talking and breathing. These are also available at most sporting goods vendors.

3. Custom Mouthguards — Your dentist can create a custom mouthguard designed specially for your teeth. These offer the best fit, comfort and protection, but may be more costly than store-bought varieties.

Guard Your Whole Mouth

In addition to cushioning your teeth from unnecessary force, using a mouthguard can prevent injury to the tongue, lips, face and jaw. It can also prevent or lessen the effects of headaches and concussions. Patients who wear dental braces should be especially careful to protect their mouths during physical activity. Make sure to discuss your level of activity with your dentist and find out which type of dental mouthguard best fits your needs.

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.

The Aging Mouth: What is Normal, What is Not

 

The natural process of aging takes its toll on your teeth and mouth just as it does your body. Here are some common oral health changes you can anticipate as you age:
Enamel Wear — Chewing, cleaning and the normal aging process means your teeth will eventually wear down over time.
Darker Tooth Color — Aging dentin (the tooth’s middle layer) holds stains easier than younger dentin, making your teeth appear slightly darker.
Gum Changes — Aging gums naturally recede over time.
Cavities — Cavities around the root of the tooth are more common as you age. Any fillings you have are also aging and can weaken or crack.
Other changes to your teeth and gums aren’t normal and shouldn’t be overlooked. These symptoms could signal something more serious and are reason to see your dentist right away:
Tooth Loss — Dental cavities and gum disease are the leading culprits of tooth loss in seniors, but neither is a normal part of aging. If your teeth and gums are healthy, there’s no reason why your teeth should fall out.
Dry Mouth – As you age, you may notice a reduced flow of saliva, sometimes as a side effect of medical conditions, medications or medical treatment. Saliva is important because it lubricates the mouth and neutralizes the acids produced by plaque.
Bleeding Gums — Bleeding gums are a sign of periodontal (gum) disease, a leading cause of tooth loss in seniors. But gum disease is not an inevitable result of aging; it’s caused by the build up of plaque. Left untreated, gum disease is linked to other health concerns like arthritis and heart disease.

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.

Don’t Let Sores Make You Cantankerous

Canker sores (aphthous ulcers) are often confused with fever blisters (cold sores). However, they are quite different.

Canker Sores

Canker sores only form inside the mouth on the gums, cheeks, tongue or floor of the mouth and cannot be transmitted from one individual to another. They begin as small red circular swellings that usually ulcerate [rupture] within a day, after which they become white, surrounded by reddish inflammation and last for 8-10 days.

As open sores, they can be very painful to the touch. Canker sores afflict about 20% of the population. Their cause has yet to be discovered, although they appear to breakout more in stressful situations, from getting a small “nick” in the skin [mucous membrane] or from foods such as citrus fruits and tomatoes.

While they can occur in very young children, canker sores usually manifest themselves in people between the ages of 10-20. It’s not uncommon for them to erupt three to four times a year, but they occur less frequently, or stop all together, in adulthood.

If you have canker sores, avoid rough textured or spicy foods, which irritate them. Try not to touch them with eating utensils or your toothbrush. Apply ointment that contains a topical anesthetic or some other active ingredient that will relieve the irritation.

Cold Sores

Cold sores form outside the mouth, usually on the lips, but they may appear on the chin, outside of the cheek or the nostrils. They begin as a red blister, burst and crust over and last for 7-14 days.

Cold sores – caused by the herpes simplex virus (type 1) – are contagious; they transmit by skin-to-skin contact. The virus, carried by almost everyone, is dormant most of the time. Fever blisters occur most often in young adults and adolescents and decline in people over 35 years of age. Certain factors activate its outbreak, particularly stress, colds, fevers and/or sunburn.

To reduce occurrences, avoid kissing when the blisters are visible. Also, don’t squeeze or scrape the blister. Wash your hands thoroughly before touching someone else and use UV sunscreen on your lips before spending time in the sun.

Treatment of cold sores includes avoiding spicy and hot foods that will irritate them, application of phenol-containing over-the-counter ointments and administration of some anti-viral antibiotics that will shorten their duration (but not prevent their outbreak).

If you’re worried about canker or cold sores, call our office. We’re here to help you deal with these common afflictions and will offer additional treatment recommendations, as necessary.

Tips for Breaking Bad Oral Habits

Did you know that a lot of little things you do (or don’t do) on a day-to-day basis affect your teeth’s well-being and may fall under a list of bad oral habits? These include not brushing or flossing enough, eating too many sweets too often, or even using your teeth to open a bag of chips.
Bad oral habits die hard, but they can be stopped in their tracks by the following tips:
Floss at least once a day. It helps remove bits of food and dental plaque in places your toothbrush can’t find, helping to keep your gums healthy.
Brush at least twice a day. If brushing is not an option, chew sugarless gum (make sure it’s sugarless!) for 20 minutes after a meal or snack. This helps prevent tooth decay.
Clean your tongue. Regularly cleaning your tongue with a toothbrush or a tongue scraper helps remove the bacteria that causes bad breath.
Replace your toothbrush regularly. Replacing your tooth brush ever 3-4 months is a good idea. Bristles in your toothbrush that are bent and broken don’t do a good job cleaning your teeth.
Eat a balanced diet. Snacking on sweets without brushing increases the acid in your mouth… and the likelihood of tooth decay. Munch on vegetables and fruit instead.
Regular Dental Visits. Your dentist is trained to do damage control in your mouth before it’s too late. You should visit the dentist regularly — every six months.
Adding these to your list one at a time is a good start to kick those bad oral habits. By doing a little self-check on your daily dental care habits, you can be on your way to making sure your teeth, your mouth’s health and your overall health are at their best.

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