Posts for: March, 2014
Did you know that you probably do at least one thing during the course of an average day that puts your healthy smile at risk? These are some of the more common offenders:
Coffee, Soda, and Sports Drink Consumption
If you really can’t give them up, try to consume these beverages with restraint. Their high acidity and/or sugar content can erode protective tooth enamel, making your pearly whites more prone to staining and decay. Even natural fruit juices should be consumed in moderation as they tend to be high in sugar and sometimes acidity (e.g. orange juice). Your best bet? Water, of course. It won’t damage your teeth and thanks to fluoridation may even help remineralize and fortify your enamel.
Brushing Immediately After Eating
If you were told to brush after every meal, forget it. Acids in foods and beverages can soften your enamel, and brushing may actually accelerate erosion. Wait at least an hour to brush, which is the time it generally takes for your oral pH to normalize and your tooth enamel to reharden. However, it is advisable after eating to floss and rinse out your mouth with plain water or a mineralized dental wash to help wash away food particles.
Jaw Clenching, Tooth Grinding, Pencil Chewing
These and similar “parafunctional” behaviors — outside the uses for which teeth are designed — can cause undue tooth wear and exert stresses that can cause chips and fractures. They can affect other parts of the oral system, too, potentially resulting in jaw joint pain and muscle spasms, headaches and other head and neck ailments.
It’s hard to cut out all high-sugar/high-acid foods and beverages, so where complete elimination isn’t possible, focus on moderation and try to consume them only during mealtime. Jaw clenching and other parafunctional behaviors are often subconscious and may be harder to control; in such cases an unobtrusive device like a clear occlusal (bite) guard can alleviate the problem.
If you would like more information about tooth damage and prevention please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Decay” and “Stress & Tooth Habits.”
It’s a recognized goal of modern dentistry to help you keep your natural teeth clean and disease-free, so you’ll be able to enjoy them for your whole life. But dentists can’t accomplish that goal by ourselves — we need your help! Maintaining good oral hygiene is the best way to ensure that your smile stays as healthy as it should be. Here are a few simple tips that can make a big difference in your dental health.
- Use the right brush, and change it as needed. What’s the right brush? Generally speaking, it’s one with soft bristles that’s small enough to fit your mouth comfortably. However, if you have trouble using a manual brush effectively (because of arthritis, for example), consider getting a good-quality electric brush. Change your brush when its bristles begin to stiffen or wear out. Ask us about proper brushing technique if you have any questions — and, of course, make sure to use a toothpaste with fluoride.
- Floss — every day. Because no matter how hard you try, you simply can’t reach all the areas in between your teeth with a brush alone — and that’s where many cavities get started. Plus, when it comes to preventing periodontal (gum) disease, flossing may be even more important than brushing, since it can actually remove plaque (a bacterial film) from under the gums. So no more excuses — OK?
- Stay away from sugary drinks and between-meal snacks. That includes sodas, cookies, and so-called “energy” drinks, which often pack a damaging one-two punch of sugar and caffeine. If you eat sugary treats at all, do so only after a meal. This will give your mouth plenty of “free time” to neutralize the acids that result when sugar is processed by oral bacteria. It’s these acids that are the primary cause of tooth decay.
- Avoid bad oral-health habits. Some you already know: smoking (or using tobacco products of any kind); excessive consumption of alcohol; chewing on pencils, fingernails, or anything else that doesn’t belong in your mouth. But some you may not know: A clenching or grinding habit at night can cause serious tooth damage without you even realizing it. Getting an oral piercing increases your chance of chipping a tooth, and can lead to other problems. And playing sports without a mouthguard is risky business.
- See your dentist regularly. You can do plenty on your own to keep up your oral health — but it’s also important to see us regularly. When you come in for an office visit, we will check you for early signs of problems, and take care of any that we find… before they get bigger and harder to treat. We’ll also make sure you leave with a sparkling smile that has been thoroughly and professionally cleaned.
If you would like to learn more about maintaining good oral hygiene, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. For more information, see the Dear Doctor magazine articles on “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health” and “Oral Hygiene Behavior.”
When most people think of orthodontic treatment, they may think of braces worn during the teenage years. But there are some types of malocclusions (bad bites) that may benefit from intervention much earlier than adolescence. A cross-bite is one example.
A cross-bite occurs when the front teeth of the lower arch bite in front of the upper teeth rather than behind them. The condition can have an adverse effect on any of the six front teeth of either arch. This type of malocclusion can develop quite early in childhood.
Orthodontists have developed a two-phase treatment for a cross-bite, with the possibility that the first phase may be all that’s needed. If your child has a cross-bite, your orthodontist may first recommend he or she wear a specially-designed retainer for a few months. The retainer could stop and correct an existing problem before it becomes worse, or it could prevent a deeper problem from developing in the first place. The retainer could also help guide jawbone development during these formative years, even as early as age 7, for children at risk.
Even if this first phase doesn’t fully correct the cross-bite and the second phase (most likely braces or a similar orthodontic device) becomes necessary, it could still help to make the second phase easier and less costly. On the other hand, if orthodontic treatment is postponed until adolescence when the mouth structures are more fully formed it may become quite difficult or even impossible to correct the problems that have developed.
As a result, early intervention for this or similar orthodontic conditions is the most efficient strategy, even when later treatment is necessary. As part of your child’s regular dental care (which should begin ideally around their first birthday), we can advise you on any need for an orthodontic evaluation based on our observations. An orthodontist can then best advise whether waiting until later for treatment is best, or whether intervention now could lessen problems later.
If you would like more information on preventative orthodontics, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Preventative & Cost Saving Orthodontics.”
Do you have gum disease? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, about half of the adults in America have a mild, moderate or severe form of this disease. But if you’re 65 or older, your chance of having it goes up to 70 percent! Periodontal (gum) disease is sometimes called a “silent malady” because major symptoms may not appear until it has reached an advanced stage. How can you recognize the early warning signs? Here are some clues to look for:
- Redness and irritation of gums. Having red, swollen or sore gums can be a sign of gum disease; however, it could also result from brushing your teeth too vigorously, or using a brush with hard bristles. That’s why we recommend using a soft-bristled brush and a gentle cleaning stroke. If you’re doing this but you still have irritated gums, it could be an early signal of gum disease.
- Bleeding when you brush. Despite what you may think, this is never a normal occurrence. If your gums regularly bleed after brushing, it’s usually an indication that gum disease is present. You should come in for an examination as soon as possible.
- Bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth. Bad breath or unpleasant tastes could be caused by what you ate last night — or they could result from gum disease. If the odor or taste is persistent — that is, if it doesn’t seem to go away over time — it could indicate a problem with your gums.
- Gum recession. When you have gum recession, the healthy, pink tissue surrounding the teeth begins to pull back, or recede. This exposes more of the tooth’s structure — even its roots — and makes teeth look longer. While gum recession is a common condition that is primarily caused by periodontal disease, many people don’t realize they have it because it occurs so gradually. They also may not realize that by the time it is noticed, some underlying bone tissue has already been lost. Gum recession is a condition you shouldn’t ignore: If left untreated, it can result in the destruction of more gum and bone tissue, and even tooth loss.
- Tooth Sensitivity or pain when chewing. Many things can cause tooth pain or sensitivity: an old filling, tooth decay, even a cracked tooth or a root canal problem. Gum disease can also cause this unpleasant sensation. Receding gums may expose the tooth’s roots, which aren’t as well protected from the mouth’s harsh environment as the chewing surfaces; this may cause a sensation of pain when chewing or brushing. If this sensation persists, it’s time for an examination to find out what’s causing it.
Gum disease is a widespread problem — but it’s also very treatable. If you would like more information, call our office to arrange a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease” and “Understanding Gum (Periodontal) Disease.”