Do you suffer with red gums, or is the roof of your mouth swollen? Without fail, you follow your dentist’s orders to keep your teeth and gums healthy — but did you know that the condition of your mouth can also shine light on other health problems? Some dental conditions, such as bad breath, pale gums and red gums, can be signs of gum disease. But other oral symptoms may point to seemingly unrelated health problems. (Hint: Eroded teeth could be a sign of an eating disorder or chronic heartburn.)
If you have gum disease, you’re not alone. More than 1 out of 2, or 64.7 million Americans, have mild, moderate, or severe gum disease, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Gum disease ranges from unhealthy gum swelling, called gingivitis, to serious tissue and bone destruction. In the worst cases of gum disease, you will lose teeth.
Healthy mouths are full of bacteria, mucus, and other food particles that form a sticky, colorless “plaque” on the teeth. Normally, you get rid of plaque by brushing and flossing regularly. But when plaque builds up because of poor oral hygiene, it causes inflamed, bleeding gums or gingivitis.
Gingivitis is the mild form of gum disease. Good oral health habits — brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily, getting regular dental checkups, and not smoking — can help prevent and reverse gingivitis.
Plaque that is not removed hardens into tartar. This will lead to increased bleeding and a more serious form of gum disease, called periodontitis. With this advanced gum disease, the unhealthy gums pull away from the teeth and form small pockets that can become infected. If periodontal disease goes untreated, the bones, gums and connective tissue that support the teeth are destroyed.
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, certain people have a higher risk of gum disease than others. Risk factors for gum disease include:
- Genetic predisposition
- Hormonal changes in girls and women
- Other illnesses, such as AIDS and cancer treatments
Taking care of unhealthy gums or gum disease can save your teeth. Here are some lifestyle and home remedies to consider:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day
- Use a soft toothbrush
- Replace your toothbrush every three months
- Floss daily
- Use an over-the-counter mouth rinse after brushing to reduce plaque
- See your dentist regularly for professional dental cleanings and mouth checks
- Don’t smoke
Take a look at these oral symptoms to find out what they could be telling you about your health.
We’ve all heard the old cliché that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile, so you should smile to conserve energy! That’s actually false.
It takes a minimum of ten muscles to smile but only a minimum of six to frown, so the expression should really be “smile to burn calories!” But smiling will do much more for your health than just giving your face a workout.
Here’s four ways smiling benefits our health.
#1: Reduces Pain
Smiling releases endorphins, which are our bodies’ feel-good hormones. They serve as natural painkillers with no side-effects. What’s particularly interesting about this is that it’s the smile itself that releases the endorphins, not the attitude behind it.
Our brains are so hard-wired to associate smiling with joy that even a fake smile will get you the chemical benefits. So whenever you get injured, it really is a good idea to grin and bear it!
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#2: Relieves Stress
Another thing the endorphins released by smiling do for you is help relieve stress. A study in 2012 tested how quickly subjects’ heart rates could go back to normal after performing a stressful task. One group was instructed to hold a pencil between their teeth (which forces a smile) and the other was instructed to hold the pencil between their lips (which forces a neutral expression). The subjects with the biggest smiles recovered the fastest.
This goes back to the way our brains react to smiles. We don’t just smile when we’re happy; smiling can actually make us happy, which means you really can “fake it till you make it” when it comes to smiling!
#3: Boosts Our Immune System
Relieving tension and stress by smiling can have a profound cumulative impact on your health. It can make you more resilient against illness and it can even reduce your chances of getting cancer by lowering the number of stress-induced mutations your cells go through.
#4: Increases Longevity
Smiling doesn’t just make you look younger and more attractive; it can also add years to your lifespan. Taking advantage of every opportunity to smile (and then some) could make you live up to seven years longer!
Let Those Smiles Shine!
As adults, we average a paltry 20 smiles per day, while children will light up with a smile 400 times in that same day! Imagine the health benefits we could rack up if we could start smiling like we did when we were kids? Some people keep their smiles to themselves because they aren’t happy with the way their teeth look, but we can help you get and keep a smile you’ll be proud to show off.
Have you ever woken up with your mouth feeling like a barren desert?
Then you’ve probably experienced dry mouth, although it can be even more severe, making it difficult to speak or even eat. Dry mouth affects a tenth of the population, but why is it such a problem, why does it happen, and what can we do about it?
In The Absence Of Saliva…
Saliva is the mouth’s first line of defense against bacteria, bad breath, and tooth decay. It washes away leftover food particles and neutralizes acids, protecting our teeth and gums. Consequently, when there isn’t enough saliva to perform all of these important tasks, the result is much more serious than just an unpleasant sandpaper feeling.
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What Causes Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth has numerous causes, including smoking, drinking, dehydration, and even aging. Sometimes the salivary glands can be damaged by chemotherapy or radiation treatment. But the most common cause is ordinary medication. Over 400 medications include dry mouth on their lists of side effects. If you’ve been suffering medication-related dry mouth, come talk to us about options like switching to different medication or changing the dosage.
Good Habits To Prevent Or Reduce Dry Mouth
For particularly severe dry mouth, artificial saliva could provide relief and protect your teeth from decay, but there are also a few good habits that can minimize the problem.
Avoid breathing through your mouth—whether you’re awake or asleep. Even for people with fully functioning salivary glands, mouth breathing is going to result in a much drier mouth than nose breathing. For that—and many other health reasons—it’s important to breathe through your nose whenever possible, including during sleep.
Stay hydrated. Your salivary glands can’t produce saliva if you’re not drinking enough water, and even if saliva production is impeded for other reasons, regularly sipping water can help eliminate the dry mouth feeling.
Stimulate Saliva Production
Sugar-free gum and candy encourage your salivary glands to up their production, particularly if the flavor is citrus, mint, or cinnamon. (Bonus points: sugar-free gum is also good for your teeth, because it starves the bacteria that feed on sugar!)
Choose Your Mouthwash Carefully
Mouthwash containing alcohol may undo its own positive germ-killing effects by drying out your mouth! Just like drinking alcoholic beverages has a dehydrating effect on the body, swishing alcoholic liquid around will specifically dehydrate the mouth! Make sure you choose a non-alcoholic mouthwash.
As smoking is one of the common causes of dry mouth, not smoking is an obvious solution. The same goes for dry mouth caused by alcohol intake.
We Can Beat Dry Mouth Together!
Dry mouth can pose a serious threat to your oral health, so aside from following these good habits, one of the best things you can do if you experience it is to schedule an appointment with us. We’ll be able to identify the cause and make a plan to put an end to that sandpaper feeling!
Most of us find ourselves craving something sweet every once in a while—or perhaps more often than that!
Unfortunately, as good as sweet treats taste, they can have a big impact on our dental health.
Sugar And Your Teeth
There are many ways that sugar is bad for our overall health, but it’s also specifically bad for our teeth. Our mouths are diverse microbiomes containing dozens of species of bacteria, both harmful and beneficial, that can reproduce multiple times per day. Sugar may taste good to us, but harmful bacteria love it. They eat the sugar that sticks to our teeth and excrete acid that dissolves tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay.
Brushing twice a day and flossing once a day is usually enough to keep the bacteria populations under control, but your teeth will thank your for avoiding excess sugar. So how can we satisfy a sweet tooth craving without also satisfying the cravings of millions of harmful bacteria? By cooking sugar-free desserts, of course!
Healthier Sweet Options
There are a few ways you can cut down on sugar without cutting down on sweets when you’re cooking. Some of them can be pricey, so your budget might play a role in determining which one you use.
Rebaudioside A is a polyol or sugar alcohol produced by Stevia, a leafy South American plant. The FDA has approved rebaudioside A as a safe food additive, which means we can cook with it. But what makes it better for our teeth than sugar? Well, all those hungry bacteria in our mouths can’t digest sugar alcohols. We get to enjoy the sweet taste, but they don’t! The only downside is that it can leave a bitter aftertaste if you use too much. Since you only need one teaspoon to match the sweetness of a whole cup of sugar, it’s easy to overdo it.
Xylitol and Erythritol
Xylitol and erythritol are two more sugar alcohols that serve as excellent sweeteners. You may be familiar with xylitol, because that’s what sweetens sugar-free gum. While it’s even better for your teeth than other sugar alcohols–which is why dentists recommend it–it might not be the best to cook with, as it can cause digestive discomfort if you eat too much of it. Erythritol doesn’t have that drawback, but it can be pretty expensive.
Fruit is another great sugar substitute. If you’d rather work with ingredients you already know, unsweetened applesauce, bananas, dates, and figs are four great replacements for table sugar that you can use in many recipes. You’ll end up with desserts that are still sweet and moist, but which contain far less sugar, which your teeth will appreciate. Fruits are sweet because they contain fructose, a type of sugar, but you’ll use less sugar overall by using pureed fruit instead of table sugar.
Need some extra inspiration for a sugar-free treat? Check out this sugar-free cheesecake recipe below!
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Keep Up With Your Oral Health Basics
Even if you completely cut out all foods that are bad for your teeth out of your diet, it’s still crucial to maintain good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth twice a day, floss once a day, and come see us for a cleaning appointment every six months! Be sure to bring your favorite sugar-free dessert recipes the next time you come!
We’ve all heard that if we want healthy teeth, we should brush twice a day, floss once a day, and schedule regular dental cleaning appointments twice a year.
Definitely keep doing those things, but if you want to step up your oral health game, here are a few easy ways to do that.
Replace Your Toothbrush Regularly
One of the simplest ways you can improve your dental health and hygiene is to replace your toothbrush on a regular basis. Vigorous brushing will make the bristles fray and reduce the brush’s cleaning ability, but that’s not the only reason toothbrushes should be replaced often.
A lot of the bacteria we brush off our teeth stays on the bristles of our toothbrushes. Proper storage–meaning storing the toothbrush upright and letting it dry out between uses–can keep a toothbrush from getting smelly and nasty too fast, but it’s still important to replace your toothbrush at least every 3-4 months.
Use A Tongue-Scraper
Brushing your teeth twice daily is a no-brainer, but don’t forget your tongue! The same bacteria and gunk that flourishes on teeth can hide on your tongue too. Using a tongue scraper or just running your toothbrush over your tongue will leave your mouth feeling much fresher than if you only focus on your teeth and gums.
Don’t Brush Too Hard
Sometimes it seems like we need to really work at those teeth when we brush, to get absolutely all of the food particles and plaque out. However, if we brush too hard, we risk scraping away at the tooth enamel, which is your teeth’s first line of defense against decay. Brush gently or use a toothbrush with soft bristles to avoid damaging your teeth.
Eat Teeth-Friendly Foods
Many foods are bad for your teeth. Sugar and carbs feed the harmful bacteria living in your mouth and acidic drinks erode tooth enamel. Avoiding some of these foods will help, but there are also plenty of foods you can eat that are actually good for your teeth.
Adding more cheese, yogurt, leafy greens, apples, carrots, celery, and almonds to your diet will make your teeth happy, whether by scrubbing them as you eat, fighting bad bacteria, treating gum disease, neutralizing your mouth’s pH, or remineralizing your enamel.
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We’d Love To See How Your Teeth Are Doing!
If it’s been a while since your last dental exam, we’d love to see how your teeth are doing, and we’ll be excited to see how adopting these simple habits will affect your oral health by the time we see you again!
We Love Our Patients!
Back in the good old days before the 1930s, toothbrush bristles were made of animal hair.
We’re pretty happy to live in the era of nylon bristles, but how can we tell which toothbrush will be best for our teeth and gums? How hard should the bristles be? Are electric toothbrushes better than manual ones?
Soft Versus Hard Bristles
It’s true that hard bristles make it a little bit easier to scrub away the plaque from your teeth than soft bristles. It isn’t worth it in the end, though, because those hard bristles can also scrape away enamel and even agitate your gums to the point of putting you at greater risk for gum recession, which could be permanent.
In the case of hard bristles versus soft, the costs of hard bristles clearly outweigh the benefits, which is why dentists always give out and recommend soft-bristle brushes.
Powered Versus Manual Brushes
In the past, there wasn’t a significant difference between the effectiveness of electric toothbrushes and manual ones. However, the technology has come a long way, and modern electric toothbrushes are better at getting plaque out of hard-to-reach spots.
Electric toothbrushes reduce plaque by up to 21 percent more than manual toothbrushes and reduce the risk of gingivitis by 11 percent more. Using an electric toothbrush also makes it easier to brush for the full two minutes and less likely that you will apply too much pressure.
That still leaves a lot of different electric toothbrushes to choose from. Luckily, whether you choose an oscillating brush (spinning tops) or a sonic brush (bristles vibrate from side to side), you’ll still see better results than with a manual brush. If you aren’t sure which brush would be best for you, feel free to ask us about it at your next appointment!
Taking Care Of Your Toothbrush
Once you’ve found the ideal toothbrush, it’s important to store it properly so that it doesn’t become a breeding ground for bacteria. Store it upright somewhere it can dry out, preferably as far from a toilet as possible. Finally, don’t forget to replace your toothbrush (or the head of your electric toothbrush) regularly because even the best bristles fray and lose their effectiveness over time.
Watch the video below for a few more tips about brushing your teeth!
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We Look Forward To Seeing You!
Having the right toothbrush and taking proper care of it are essential to good dental health, but there’s no replacement for regular professional dental cleanings. Make sure you’re scheduling appointments twice a year! We look forward to seeing you soon.
Good habits and the right tools make all the difference for your teeth!
Trends impact just about every aspect of life, from slang and fashion to which toys are collectibles this year and which fad diet everyone’s aunt is doing.
Most trends are harmless symptoms of an ever-evolving society and culture, but when they affect the ways we take care of ourselves, they can become serious. In recent years, do-it-yourself teeth whitening has been a “trendy” topic, so let’s take a look at a few of the more popular methods.
Charcoal Versus Tooth Enamel
As counterintuitive as it seems to rub black powder on your teeth and expect them to become whiter, the rationale behind the idea makes sense. Charcoal is extremely porous and absorbent, and has been used even in hospitals to safely neutralize toxins. In theory, it could do the same for your teeth.
However, charcoal isn’t just porous, it’s also abrasive. Even as it absorbs harmful compounds from your mouth and disrupts bacterial populations, it could also be scraping away your enamel, doing more harm than good. Until we know more about the effects of charcoal on teeth, it’s safer to give that home remedy a pass.
Lemon Juice: Dissolving Stains Or Dissolving Teeth?
The enamel on your teeth is the hardest substance in your body, but it is extremely susceptible to erosion by acid. Your saliva keeps the pH in your mouth balanced to protect your enamel, but any time you eat or drink something acidic, that pH is disrupted and your teeth are vulnerable. Using lemon juice on your teeth in hopes of whitening them is, therefore, likely to cause a lot of enamel erosion, and once that enamel is gone, it’s gone for good.
Oil Pulling: An Ancient Folk Remedy
Oil pulling involves swishing oil (typically coconut, sunflower, sesame, or olive oil) around in one’s mouth for up to twenty minutes. Proponents of oil pulling claim it has numerous health benefits, including teeth whitening, but the American Dental association doesn’t recommend it because there is no scientific evidence to back up these claims.
Strawberries And Bananas
Strawberries do contain some citric acid, but they also contain malic acid (particularly when ripe), which actually can give your teeth a whiter appearance. Bananas contain potassium, magnesium, and manganese, all of which promote healthier teeth and can help remove surface stains. So these two do-it-yourself teeth whiteners may actually provide some benefit! Both fruits still contain sugar, however, so you should still brush your teeth with dentist approved toothpaste after eating them.
Curious about those whitening mouthpieces that emit blue light you see all over social media? Watch the video below to learn whether or not they’re really effective:
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Stick To The Science
Trends like charcoal toothpaste and lemon juice mouthwash will come and (hopefully) go, and occasionally we’ll discover remedies that do have benefits, like strawberries and bananas, but the best benefits to our teeth will always come from dentist-approved methods. Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes and floss once a day, avoid sugary drinks and snacks, and schedule regular dental appointments.
If all of these good habits aren’t keeping your teeth white enough, talk to us about safe, professional whitening options.
Healthy smiles are beautiful smiles!
You might be tempted to think that because wild animals can’t do much for their dental hygiene, pets like dogs and cats don’t need dental care either.
In reality, keeping your pet’s teeth healthy will help them have a longer, healthier, and happier life!
Why Do Pets Need Dental Care?
Our pets need dental care for the same reasons we do. Their mouths contain bacteria that coat their teeth in plaque, which, if not removed, calcifies into tartar and can easily lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
Your dog or cat can’t tell you if something is wrong with their teeth, so these conditions are often easy to miss, but they are alarmingly common. By age three, 85 percent of dogs and cats get periodontal disease. Common symptoms of periodontal disease in a pet are difficulty chewing, tooth loss, and even bad breath. You can also check for loose teeth, bleeding or swollen gums, and reduced appetite.
Taking Care Of Their Teeth
Even if your pet is showing none of the above symptoms, the best time to begin a dental hygiene regimen for them is now. If they are already suffering from poor oral health, your efforts will dramatically improve their quality of life. If they aren’t, then you’ll be able to keep them healthy!
Here are a few things you can do to keep your pet’s pearly whites in good shape:
- Brush their teeth once a day. You only need to brush the outsides of their teeth, and it should take less than a minute, but doing it on a daily basis is crucial!
- Regular fluoride toothpaste will make your pet sick, so make sure to only use veterinary toothpaste, if any. It might work better as a treat after brushing to encourage them to cooperate.
- Give them veterinarian-approved dental treats to chew on. The right chew toys won’t just help with stress and boredom — they’ll also help with oral health!
- Take them in for professional teeth cleanings! Your veterinarian might offer this service, and if not, they can recommend a good veterinary dental specialist.
For more tips on pet dental care, listen to the Dog Whisperer himself:
Your Pets Are Worth It!
We know that training your pet to get used to a toothbrush isn’t always easy, but there are plenty of resources available to help you, including your veterinarian and our practice. Keep persevering until it becomes a habit for both you and your pet.
Don’t forget to take care of your own teeth too!
Are you noticing tooth pain, mobile teeth, tenderness/popping/clicking/limited movement in the jaw joint, earaches, headaches when you wake, flattened or fractured teeth? You may be one of the many people suffering from bruxism. Prevalent during sleep, you may not even know you are clenching and grinding your teeth. There are many possible contributors, including stress, dehydration, medications, and tooth eruption in children.
Your temporomandibular, or jaw, joint (TMJ) is evaluated at each dental checkup. During this exam, please share any symptoms you have noticed or concerns you have about the health of your TMJ. If a temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is detected, you may be seen at a specialist’s office for evaluation and treatment.
There are many treatments possible. Teeth damaged by bruxism can be repaired with fillings, crowns and onlays. Medications, physical therapy and stress reduction techniques may be used to help muscles relax. Finally, we may recommend a flexible or hard acrylic mouthguard to protect the teeth from damage, and train the jaw muscles to relax over time.
With all the recent news coverage on the benefits of flossing, we want to encourage our patients to be critical consumers when it comes to what they hear! Please check out the article put forth by the American Dental Association in response to this recent “string theory”!
Correct flossing technique is an important part of any good dental homecare regimen. Schedule your dental cleaning and exam today!