Plaque, Tartar, And Your Teeth

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PLAQUE AND TARTAR are two words that you probably hear a lot when you come in for a dental cleaning. You might already know that they cause tooth decay and gum disease, but do you know what they are? Let’s take a closer look at these two substances that are a constant threat to our oral health.

Stage 1: Plaque

Dental plaque is a soft, sticky, colorless biofilm composed of bacteria, food particles, and saliva. It builds up on and between our teeth and beneath our gums every day. If you’ve ever forgotten to brush in the morning or at night, you’ve probably felt that unpleasant texture with your tongue.

Plaque contains millions of bacteria, and this bacteria digests leftover sugars and starches from the food we eat, then excretes acid onto our teeth. Because plaque is soft, it can be removed with simple brushing and flossing, but we have to be thorough and diligent to get as much of it as possible.

Stage 2: Tartar

The reason it’s so important to scrub away the plaque is that when plaque is allowed to sit on the teeth too long, it becomes tartar. Tartar is a hard, yellow or brown substance that bonds to tooth enamel and can only be removed at a professional cleaning appointment.

How does this transformation happen? When the acid excreted by oral bacteria comes into contact with minerals in our saliva, it causes a chemical reaction that hardens the plaque into tartar. The risk of tartar buildup is higher for people with braces, dry mouth, crowded teeth, or a smoking habit, and it also increases with age.

Keeping Plaque And Tartar Under Control

A rigorous oral hygiene routine, paired with regular professional cleanings, is the best way to control the plaque in your mouth and prevent it from hardening into tartar. Here are some of the things a good routine should include:

  • Brush twice a day for two minutes, making sure to brush all surfaces of the teeth and paying special attention to the gum line.

  • Floss or use a water flosser daily to clean the plaque and food debris left in those hard-to-reach spots between the teeth.

  • Choose an anti-plaque toothpaste.

  • Consider getting an electric toothbrush for more effective plaque removal, and replace your toothbrush (or the head of your electric toothbrush) regularly.

  • Give oral bacteria less fuel by cutting down on sugary foods and drinks.

  • Avoid smoking, which increases plaque and tartar.

  • Schedule dental cleanings once every six months.

Win The Battle For Your Dental Health

It might seem discouraging to think that plaque will creep back up throughout the day even after you brush and floss thoroughly. A better perspective is that it only takes a few minutes each morning and night to win the daily battle against plaque and tartar, and you can improve the odds for your teeth even more with regular dental visits!

Together, we can keep those teeth plaque and tartar free!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image by Flickr user sittered used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

It’s Time To Kick That Ice-Chewing Habit

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CHEWING ICE MIGHT SEEM refreshing in the moment, but it’s not doing any favors for your teeth in the long run. Today we’re going to take a look at why ice chewing is such a common habit despite the dangers it poses, as well as what someone with this habit can do to stop.

Compulsive Ice Eating

The scientific name for compulsive ice eating is pagophagia. This goes beyond a simple habit and enters the territory of a mental disorder. Getting cravings for ice can be a sign of an eating disorder called pica, which involves a compulsion to eat things with no nutritional value, such as ice, clay, hair, and dirt. Pica is often the result of a nutritional deficiency.

Iron Deficiency Anemia

Studies have shown a correlation between compulsive ice eating and iron deficiency anemia, which is pretty common, with 20 percent of women, 50 percent of pregnant women, and 3 percent of men being iron deficient. Without enough iron in the blood, the red blood cells can’t effectively do their job of carrying oxygen throughout the body.

What does iron have to do with ice? Well, researchers theorize that chewing ice sends more blood to the brain, temporarily improving alertness and clarity of thought. This feels good, and so they keep doing it even when it causes dental problems.

Ice Versus Your Teeth

Our teeth are not designed to crunch against solid ice, and they are particularly not designed to chew through several trays of ice cubes a day. Doing this can destroy tooth enamel over time, not just because ice is hard but because it’s cold. The enamel expands and contracts due to these extreme temperature changes, creating tiny cracks in it and making it much weaker, just like pavement in snowy climates. All of this leaves the teeth painfully sensitive to hot and cold and far more vulnerable to cavities.

The texture of the ice can also cause injuries to gum tissue, which you may not even notice because of the numbing effect of the cold, and sometimes the ice can actually chip or break a tooth!

Breaking The Ice Eating Habit

The first step to kicking the ice eating habit is to find out what’s causing it. If the ice chewing is a symptom of anemia, getting iron supplements may eliminate the cravings, so it will be much easier to stop. If it’s pica, there are interventions to explore such as therapy and medication.

There’s also plenty you can do on your own. You can replace the crunchy texture of ice with baby carrots or apple chunks. If you struggle to give up the ice altogether, try letting slivers of ice melt on your tongue like candy rather than crunching on them. This will spare your teeth and gums from the damage of chewing the ice.

Your Dental And Health Care Professionals Can Help

If ice chewing is something you struggle with, make sure to schedule appointments with your doctor and dentist. Iron deficiency can cause a number of other problems besides triggering ice cravings, and it’s important to get diagnosed and treated before it gets worse, particularly for pregnant women.

Now go put that ice-chewing habit on ice!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Tooth Impaction: Teeth Trapped In The Gums

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EVERYONE’S TEETH ARE DIFFERENT. Some people’s adult teeth come in early, some come in late. In rare cases, not all of the adult teeth will come in on their own, which could be because they’re trapped beneath the gums.

Impacted Teeth

Overcrowding is a fairly common issue for adult teeth, but sometimes when there isn’t room for a new tooth to come in, it stays partially or fully under the gums instead. This happens most often with wisdom teeth, which can actually endanger the roots of neighboring molars when they are crooked or sideways in the jaw.

After wisdom teeth, the most likely teeth to be impacted are the upper canines. Research has shown that these tend to pop up more frequently in families. Usually only one of the canines is impacted, but sometimes they both are. The reason this happens to the upper canines is that they come in after the incisors and premolars next to them, which don’t always leave them enough room.

The Problems When Teeth Can’t Come In

Typical complications of impacted teeth include cavities, infections, gum disease, and nerve damage, with symptoms like bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth, pain and tenderness around the jaw, headaches and jaw aches, swollen gums or lymph nodes, and visible gaps between teeth.

Not everyone with an impacted tooth will experience these symptoms, however. With an impacted canine, the baby tooth might not even loosen because nothing’s pushing at it. This can have a significant impact on a person’s face and smile, because canine teeth have the longest roots and form the “corners” of the smile, as well as providing protection and support for the teeth around them.

Putting An Impacted Tooth In Its Place

There isn’t usually a way to prevent a tooth from becoming impacted, but an impacted wisdom tooth can be removed, and an impacted canine can be moved into its proper place with the assistance of oral surgery and orthodontic treatment. After the impacted tooth is discovered in dental X-rays, the orthodontist can decide how best to proceed.

Think You Might Have An Impacted Tooth?

Do you or someone you know have an impacted canine tooth? Schedule a consultation with us so that we can take a look and come up with a plan to move that tooth out of the gums where it’s hiding and into the place it belongs!

We’re here to help you get the smile of your dreams!

Top image by Flickr user ilaria used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Enamel Hypoplasia

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WE ALL WANT a perfect, pearly-white smile. Sometimes all it takes is a good brushing and flossing habit and regular dental visits, but not everyone is lucky enough to have naturally strong teeth that are easy to take care of. For some people, a healthy smile is much harder to achieve because of a condition called enamel hypoplasia.
 

The Importance Of Tooth Enamel

Tooth enamel makes up the outermost layer of our teeth. It’s the hardest substance in the human body, and it’s composed of minerals like hydroxyapatite. It forms a barrier to protect the more vulnerable inner layers of the teeth. Even though it is a very hard substance, it’s vulnerable to erosion from acid, and because it isn’t made up of living cells, when it wears away, it doesn’t come back.

Hereditary enamel hypoplasia is a genetic defect that impacts odontogenesis (tooth formation). There are several different hereditary conditions that can cause it, but environmental factors are also a culprit.Prenatal conditions, lack of prenatal care, and premature birth or low birth weight can hinder the formation of healthy teeth, as can direct trauma, infection, deficiency in calcium or vitamins A, C, or D, and certain diseases.

Keeping Your Teeth Strong

Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for keeping teeth with enamel hypoplasia healthy. Treatment may come in the form of resin-bonded sealant, fillings, crowns, and professional whitening. The goals are to prevent tooth decay, help the patient maintain a good bite, preserve the structure of the teeth, and keep the teeth looking their best.

Fight For Your Teeth, With The Help Of Your Dentist

There is a lot your dentist can do to help your teeth stay healthy, and there’s a lot you can do too! Your daily oral hygiene routine is crucial, so always remember to brush twice a day with a soft-bristled brush, and use lukewarm water if your teeth are sensitive. Avoid sugary and acidic foods and drinks when possible, and keep up with your regular dental check-ups!

We’re rooting for our patients’ healthy smiles!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under 
CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Defeating Bad Breath

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WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE BEFORE — sitting in the middle of a job interview or a first date and realizing that our breath is far from minty fresh. Even when everything else is going perfectly, bad breath can be enough to ruin your confidence and turn a good experience sour. Why do we get bad breath, and what can we do to stop it?

Oral Bacteria And The Food We Eat

In order to effectively fight bad breath, it’s important to figure out what’s causing it. The simplest and most common cause is leftover food particles stuck between our teeth after a meal. The bacteria in our mouths break down these particles, and the end result doesn’t smell good. We can combat this with a good daily hygiene routine, including daily flossing, twice-daily brushing, scraping our tongues clean, and chewing sugar-free gum.

Causes Of Chronic Bad Breath

Chronic cases of bad breath (also called halitosis) might not be solved by good oral hygiene practices alone. Halitosis may be caused by:

  • Chronic conditions. Sometimes, bad breath is linked to conditions that you wouldn’t think are connected to oral hygiene, such as diabetes, liver or kidney disease, and acid reflux.

  • Medications. A common side-effect of medications is dry mouth. Without saliva to wash away food particles and neutralize acid, the mouth is vulnerable to problems like bad breath.

  • Mouth-breathing. Whether it happens by habit or because breathing through the nose is difficult, mouth-breathing tends to dry out the mouth, leading to the same problems as described above.

  • Mouth, nose, and throat infections. Bad breath can be the result of increased mucous when we have a cold or a sinus infection.

  • Pregnancy. Symptoms such as morning sickness and nausea can cause bad breath, because of the extra acid in the mouth. This is also a problem for people struggling with bulimia.

  • Tobacco products. Tobacco in any form leaves smelly chemicals in the mouth and can also dry it out. In addition, it increases the risk of oral cancer and gum disease, which negatively impact breath as well.

  • Tooth decay and gum disease. Poor dental health often goes hand-in-hand with chronic bad breath because cavities and periodontitis are caused by the same bacteria that produces those nasty-smelling chemicals.

Keeping Your Breath Fresh

Even if strict oral hygiene isn’t enough to keep the bad breath completely at bay, it will help to manage it, and treating the underlying cause may be able to eliminate it. If you are a habitual mouth-breather, try breathing through your nose more. Quitting smoking will eliminate a major cause of bad breath. If dry mouth is the problem, chew sugar-free gum and mints to stimulate saliva production, sip water, and use a humidifier to help keep up the moisture.

Your Dentist Can Help

Discovering the underlying cause of bad breath is a crucial step in fighting back, and the dentist is your best ally here. Schedule an appointment so that you can get the answers you need to fight bad breath the best way.

We want all our patients to feel confident about their breath!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Why Are My Teeth So Sensitive?

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IS A SIMPLE SPOONFUL of ice cream enough to make you cringe because of the pain in your teeth? Do you have to be careful when you drink hot coffee that none of it touches your chompers? If you know the feeling, then you’re one of millions who experience tooth sensitivity. Let’s take a closer look at what causes tooth sensitivity and what can we do about it.

How We Feel Sensation In Our Teeth

Each of our teeth is covered in a layer of protective enamel. Underneath this is dentin, which is a lot like bone. Dentin contains thousands of microscopic tubules that run through it from the inside of the tooth out to the enamel. At the core of each tooth is the pulp chamber, which contains nerves and blood vessels. Because of those tubules, the nerves inside the tooth can detect what’s happening on the tooth’s surface.

Common Causes Of Tooth Sensitivity

If the enamel wears away, the tubules become exposed and the nerves in the dental pulp suddenly get much more stimulation than they like. This is what makes enamel erosion one of the main causes of tooth sensitivity. Without enamel, the nerves get a nasty shock whenever anything too hot or cold, or even too sweet or sour, touches the outside of the tooth.

Root exposure from gum recession also leads to sensitivity. The enamel only covers the crown of the tooth, not the roots. Those are protected by the gums. If the gums recede (sometimes as the result of teeth grinding or improper brushing over time), it exposes the roots.

Cavities and tooth injuries can cause sensitivity as well, even if you’ve been taking great care of your gums and enamel.

Use The Right Tools To Protect Your Teeth

Fortunately for all of us, there are ways to fight back, even if our teeth are already sensitive. Using a soft-bristled brush will help prevent further enamel erosion or gum recession. There is also special toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth. Avoiding sugary and acidic foods and drinks (particularly soda) is another way to help your teeth.

We Can Help You Fight Tooth Sensitivity

Your best ally in the fight against tooth sensitivity is the dentist! Schedule a dental appointment as soon as you notice a change in your sensitivity level, or if you’ve been struggling with it for a while. The dentist can help protect your teeth with a fluoride varnish, perform restoration work to combat enamel erosion, and may recommend a gum graft for receding gums or prescribe a toothpaste to help with sensitivity.

Together, we’ll keep your smile happy and healthy!

Temporomandibular Disorders

OUR JAWS DO A LOT of work throughout the day, opening and closing over and over so that we can do ordinary things like talk, eat, and yawn. Ideally, all of the anatomy involved functions as it should and we can perform these tasks without trouble, but many people struggle with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders because something has gone wrong.
 

The Anatomy Of The Temporomandibular Joints

The joints on both sides of our jaw, located between the ear and the cheekbone, consists of three parts: the socket (part of the temporal bone), the ball (the top part of the jawbone), and a small, fibrous disk that acts as a cushion between the two. The ball and socket are covered in cartilage to help keep movement smooth and comfortable.

If the disk erodes or moves out of its proper alignment, if the cartilage on the bone is worn away by arthritis, or if there is a traumatic injury to the joint, a TMJ disorder may be the result.

Symptoms Of TMJ Disorders

Common symptoms of a TMJ disorder include:

  • Clicking or popping sounds in the joint when chewing, or a grating sensation

  • Pain or tenderness of the jaw

  • Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints

  • Difficult or painful chewing

  • Aching pain around the face

  • Aching pain in and around the ear

  • Difficulty opening or closing the jaw due to locking of the joint

Tips For Relieving TMJ Pain

If you’re dealing with TMJ pain, there are a few things you can do to reduce it on your own:

  • Keep yawning and chewing to a minimum.

  • When possible, avoid extreme jaw movements like from singing or yelling.

  • If you have to yawn, control it by pressing a fist beneath your chin.

  • When resting, hold your teeth slightly apart rather than fully closed. This is the natural resting position for the jaw, even when the lips are closed.

  • Eat soft foods that require little to no chewing.

Treatment For TMJ Disorders

In most cases, TMJ pain is temporary and goes away on its own after a week or two, but not always. If it doesn’t, and especially if it gets worse, then it likely needs treatment, which varies depending on the cause.

These treatments include ice packs, exercise, and moist heat, medication, and splints, but if none of them are enough, then measures like transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), ultrasound treatment, or trigger-point injections may be necessary. If all else fails, jaw surgery may be recommended.

Talk To Us About Your Jaw Pain

If you’ve been experiencing persistent pain or tenderness in your jaw or difficulty opening and closing it completely, give us a call or stop by so that we can look for the cause and get you on the path to being pain-free.

Together, we can defeat TMJ pain!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

A Closer Look At Our Teeth

WE USE OUR TEETH all day, every day, for chewing, talking, and flashing big smiles at friends and family, but what are the structures that allow our teeth to do so much? Let’s take a look at what our teeth are made of.
 

Layer 1: Tooth Enamel

The portion of each tooth that we can see above our gum tissue is the crown, and it has three different layers. On the outside is a protective layer of enamel, the hardest substance in our entire bodies. It has to be so that we can chew our food effectively. Unlike bone, enamel isn’t made of living cells, so it can’t repair itself as easily. It’s also vulnerable to acid erosion. We can protect it with regular brushing and flossing, dental visits, and by cutting down on acidic and sugary foods and drinks.

Layer 2: Dentin

Underneath that hard layer of enamel is dentin, which is softer and more yellowish. Like bone, dentin is calcified living tissue. Microscopic tubules run through it from the pulp to the enamel, which is how we are able to feel temperature in our teeth. If you’re experiencing tooth sensitivity, your enamel might have worn down enough to expose these tubules.

Layer 3: Dental Pulp

At the very core of each tooth is a chamber containing dental pulp, tissue consisting of nerves and blood vessels that keep the tooth alive and give sensation. This includes pain receptors that warn us when something is wrong with the tooth, such as tooth decay reaching the pulp.

Getting Down To The Roots

Like with icebergs, there’s more to teeth than we can see on the surface. The root extends deep into the jawbone, held in place by tiny periodontal ligaments and supported by gum tissue. The roots themselves are hollow. Nerves and blood vessels run through canals in the roots up to the pulp chamber in the crown.

Unlike the crown, the root of the tooth isn’t protected by enamel. Instead, it’s covered in a slightly softer substance called cementum. Cementum and healthy gum tissue work together to protect the root,but gum recession can leave it vulnerable.

Taking Care Of The Whole Tooth

We need all of these components for our teeth to stay strong and healthy, which is why we should keep oral health and hygiene as a high priority. Regular dental appointments and good brushing and flossing habits are essential for taking care of the outside of our teeth, and good nutrition helps keep them strong from the inside out!

Thank you for being part of our practice family!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Debunking 8 Braces Myths

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EVEN IF YOU’VE NEVER had braces before, you’ve probably still heard a lot of things about what they’re like. Well, don’t believe everything you hear, because there is some bad information out there. That’s why today we’re going to bust eight of the most common braces myths.
 

1. Braces Rust

While braces are often made of metal, they do not rust. The metals in braces are stainless steel and titanium, so you don’t have to worry about them rusting in your mouth.

2. You Can’t Play An Instrument With Braces

It certainly takes some adjusting to play brass or woodwind instruments with braces, but it’s still entirely doable! Don’t feel like you have to choose between proper dental alignment and the instrument you love, because you can have both!

3. You Can’t Play Sports With Braces

If you play a sport, particularly a contact sport, you may have heard that you won’t be able to keep playing while you have braces, but this isn’t the case! As long as you wear a properly fitted mouthguard, your mouth will be protected while you play.

4. Braces Are Only For Teens

It is true that it is easier to get the best possible result with orthodontic treatment as a teenager, but there isn’t a time limit for getting braces. Adults of any age can get them too.

5. My General Dentist Can Give Me Braces

To become an orthodontist, a dentist must gain years of additional training after completing dental school. Your general dentist has not completed this training to understand the best ways to safely and effectively correct dental alignment problems.

6. Rubber Bands Aren’t Important

Failing to wear rubber bands as instructed by the orthodontist is one of the biggest causes for prolonged orthodontic treatment. Wear your rubber bands!

7. Double Rubber Bands Equal Double The Movement

While some patients forget their rubber bands or don’t want to bother with them because they are uncomfortable, other patients think they can reduce their treatment time by wearing even more rubber bands than recommended. Do not do this! Too many rubber bands will cause unnecessary discomfort and they won’t move your teeth the way they are meant to move. You will probably end up needing to wear your braces longer than planned as a result. Stick to the instructions.

8. Your Teeth Will Be Straight Forever After Braces

The periodontal ligaments that hold our teeth in place within our jaws tend to be stubborn. They remember where the teeth used to be before braces, and they want to go back. To keep your teeth in their aligned, post-braces condition, make sure you wear your retainers as recommended.

Trust The Experts, Not The Myths!

Whatever you’ve heard about orthodontic treatment, make sure you bring all your questions to us. We can tell you what braces are really like at your initial consultation, as well as what you can expect from your treatment, how long it will likely take, and what you will experience.

We can’t wait to help you get the smile of your dreams!

Top image by Flickr user Gordon used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Oral pH: A Delicate Balance

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YOU MIGHT REMEMBER a little bit about pH from a science class you took years ago in middle school or high school. Even if you don’t, that’s okay; it’s time for a refresher course because pH plays a major role in our oral health.
 

The Basics (And Acidics) Of pH

We could go into some really complicated things about hydrogen ions, but the important thing to know is that a pH of 7 is neutral — neither acidic nor basic. For example, water has a pH of 7. As the numbers get smaller than 7, the substance becomes more acidic, and as they get larger than 7 (up to 14), it becomes more alkaline or basic. Make sense? Good. Now let’s look at what this has to do with our mouths.

Acid Versus Tooth Enamel

Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, so it’s pretty tough. It is, however, highly susceptible to acid erosion. All it takes is an environment of pH 5.5 or lower for the enamel to begin dissolving.

There are many ways our teeth can be exposed to acid. The most obvious is when we eat or drink something sour or tart because we can actually taste the acid. When we consume something sugary or starchy, oral bacteria eats the leftovers stuck between our teeth and produces acid as a waste product. Acid reflux and vomiting also expose our teeth to stomach acid, which is very strong.

Saliva: The First Line Of Defense

The best natural defense our teeth have against acids is saliva, which has a pH slightly above 7. Saliva washes food particles away and helps keep oral bacteria populations in check. This is why dry mouth is such a dangerous problem for oral health. The less saliva we have, the more vulnerable our teeth are.

Sipping soda or snacking throughout the day is also a problem for our teeth, because saliva needs time to neutralize our mouths afterward, and constantly introducing more acid makes that much harder.

A More Alkaline Diet Will Help Your Teeth

A great way we can help out our saliva in the fight to protect our teeth, aside from the usual methods of daily brushing and flossing and regular dental appointments, is to eat fewer acidic foods and trade them for alkaline ones. That means adding in more fruits and veggies and leaving off some of the breads, dairy, and meats — and we should definitely cut back on soda and other sugary treats.

We Can Fight Enamel Erosion Together!

If you’d like more tips for how to protect your tooth enamel, just ask us! We want you to have all the tools you need to keep your teeth healthy and strong so that they will last a lifetime.

Our top priority is our patients’ healthy smiles!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Adult Braces: Not A Myth

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IF YOU’RE OUT OF your teens, you might think you missed your chance for straight teeth, but that’s not true! Modern orthodontic treatment is for adults as well as teens. And even if you had braces before, your teeth might still shift over time, which is another reason to consider treatment as an adult.
 

How Teeth Shift As We Age

Our teeth naturally move and shift throughout our lives — including in ways we’d prefer they didn’t. In a process called mesial drift, our teeth slowly move towards the front of our mouths as we age. Other factors, including enamel loss, teeth grinding, and tooth loss, can move our teeth out of alignment too. The result is an increasingly crooked, overcrowded smile that is harder to keep healthy.

Daily Habits And Shifting Teeth

Some of the things we do every day without even thinking about it can contribute to our teeth shifting over time. Sleeping on your stomach and resting your head on your hands when sitting can both be culprits of dental shifting, but good posture and side or back sleeping will minimize this effect.

Good oral hygiene is also important for keeping your teeth where they should be, because it helps reduce enamel loss over time. So keep up with that daily flossing and twice daily brushing, and don’t forget about your regular dental appointments!

It’s Never Too Late For Orthodontic Treatment

Stopping bad habits and maintaining good ones is important, but it won’t reverse dental shifting that has already taken place, and that’s where adult orthodontic treatment comes in. While it’s true that our teeth can be guided into place more easily when we are younger, they will still respond to orthodontic appliances.

One advantage adult orthodontic patients have over teenagers is that they have the self-discipline to carefully follow the orthodontist’s instruction, which ensures better, timelier results!

Go Low-Profile With Modern Orthodontics

Maybe you already knew that adults could get braces, and what’s really stopping you is the idea of spending a year or so as a “brace-face.” Don’t be discouraged! There are several ways to get orthodontic treatment without everyone noticing your appliance, such as invisible aligners and clear ceramic braces. No one needs to know that you’re on your way to a straighter smile if you don’t want them to!

Schedule Your Consultation Today!

Everyone’s teeth are different, and so is their orthodontic treatment. We’re sure you still have many questions about what your treatment would involve, how long it would take, and, of course, the cost. We’d be happy to answer any questions you have about adult braces, so just give us a call or stop by!

Everyone deserves to have the smile of their dreams!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Canker Sores: Causes And Treatment

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HAVE YOU EVER TRIED to enjoy one of your favorite foods, but that angry, swollen lump on your gums or the inside of your cheek kept stinging and hurting? Then you know what it’s like to have a canker sore.

These sores are round ulcers that can develop on the inside of the lips and cheeks, on the gumline, or even on the tongue, and spicy, hot, or acidic foods can painfully agitate them. Let’s take a look at what causes these sores, how we can avoid them, and how we can help them heal faster.

What Causes A Canker Sore

Canker sores can develop for a variety of reasons. They can be the result of a viral infection, a food allergy, or a mouth injury, but other factors like stress, hormonal fluctuations, and vitamin or mineral deficiencies can also make them more likely. Another factor that can contribute to the frequency of canker sores is braces. Dental wax can help shield sensitive oral tissues from the protruding pieces of an orthodontic appliance.

Treating A Canker Sore

If you have a canker sore, you want it to go away as quickly as possible. One way you can do that is by brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush, because it is gentle on the gums. If your current toothpaste is painful, try swapping it out for a toothpaste without the ingredient sodium lauryl sulfate.

To relieve the irritation, you can use a topical medication, a special mouthwash, or oral pain relievers. Rinsing daily with salt water is also a great way to reduce inflammation and encourage faster healing (just make sure you don’t swallow it).

Preventing Future Sores

A few foods, such as salmon, kale, carrots, parsley, spinach, and yogurt, can help reduce future ulcer breakouts because of their high vitamin B12, iron, and folate content. Flossing daily and brushing your teeth twice a day also help reduce ulcer breakouts, because a clean mouth is healthier.

The Dentist Can Help Too!

If you’ve been struggling with canker sores, schedule a dental appointment! There may be an underlying cause that needs diagnosis and treatment with prescribed medications.

We love to see those healthy smiles!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image by Flickr user Matt Biddulph used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Orthodontic Treatment: One Phase Or Two?

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AS A CULTURE, we tend to think of braces as a teenage experience, so it can be surprising to learn that the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO) recommends that children have an initial orthodontic consultation by age seven. If a child is starting to develop complicated orthodontic problems, this early checkup allows the orthodontist to head them off with Phase 1 treatment.
 

What Is Two-Phase Orthodontics?

In traditional orthodontic treatment, the patient (who is in their mid-teens or older) is fitted for their appliance, which they wear until their teeth are properly aligned. In some cases, extractions or surgery may be necessary. This treatment all happens in a single phase, followed by wearing retainers to keep the teeth from shifting back.

Two-phase orthodontic treatment means that part of the orthodontic work is done when the patient still has most of their baby teeth, with the goal of minimizing developing problems so that treatment in their teens will be faster and simpler.

Who Benefits From Two Phases?

Certain types of orthodontic problems respond well to two-phase orthodontic treatment.

  • Early correction for a cross-bite can be easier and help stop lower jaw problems from getting worse.

  • In cases of extreme crowding, phase 1 treatment can create more room, reducing the need for future tooth extraction.

  • Protrusive front teeth (teeth that stick out) are at higher risk of being damaged, particularly for very active children, and moving them back could prevent an injury.

When One Phase Is Best

The idea of two-phase treatment may appeal to some parents who prefer to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to their children’s oral health, but two-phase orthodontic treatment is not for every patient.

For many patients, the final results after a single treatment period will be the same as at the end of two-phase treatment. Even in some cases where it would make sense, the child may not be able to follow the orthodontist’s instructions very effectively because they are so young.

Watch those teeth move!

Trust Your Orthodontist

Whether your child will benefit most from one phase of treatment or two, you can trust the orthodontist to find the best treatment plan for them so that they will be able to have the straight, healthy smile they deserve. If your child is old enough for that initial consultation, give us a call to schedule one!

We love to see our patients smile!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image by Flickr user Roberto Ferrari used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Straight Teeth: Not Just About Looks

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THE MOST OBVIOUS impact of orthodontic treatment is a straighter, more attractive smile. While it is true that we tend to perceive people with properly aligned teeth as happier and more successful, the benefits aren’t just superficial.
 

Clearer Speech

Do you remember the lisp you had between losing your two front teeth and the adult ones growing in? Based on that, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that our teeth are a crucial component to our ability to speak and enunciate clearly.

In order to make the right sounds, our lips and tongues have to maneuver around our teeth. When teeth are properly aligned, this is simple, but crooked teeth can result in a lisp, slurring, or difficulty making certain sounds that require tongue-to-tooth contact, such as the “t,” “s,” and “ch” sounds. Orthodontic treatment can solve these problems by moving the teeth into their proper positions.

Healthier Digestion

We don’t give our teeth enough credit for the role they play in good digestion. Chewing is a very important part of the process. It doesn’t just chop the food into small enough pieces to fit down the esophagus, it mixes the food with saliva, which begins the chemical digestion process.

When we wolf down our food without much chewing — or when we chew with misaligned teeth that don’t do the job effectively — it forces our stomachs to work harder than they should. If you already have straight teeth, put them to good use by chewing each mouthful for longer. If you don’t, your digestive system will thank you for getting orthodontic treatment.

Better Breathing

Having poorly aligned teeth can make it difficult or even impossible to comfortably close your jaws when you aren’t moving them, which can lead to habitual mouth breathing. Mouth breathing has a number of negative effects, including dry mouth, bad breath, snoring, chronic fatigue, and brain fog. The effects are an even bigger problem for kids, sometimes going as far as changing the development of their facial bone structure.

Straight Teeth For A Better Life

Not only do straight teeth make it easier to speak, eat, and breathe properly, they’re also easier to clean! Maybe you’ve been avoiding orthodontic treatment because you’re happy with the way your smile looks, but the many benefits of straight teeth are worth considering.

Straight teeth lead to better oral health and better overall health!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Relief For A Burned Mouth

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HAVE YOU EVER SAT down to a plate of lasagna from your favorite Italian place and immediately taken a huge bite without waiting for it to cool down? Or taken a swig of hot chocolate too fast? Maybe it wasn’t lasagna or hot chocolate for you, but we’ve all burned our tongues on foods or drinks we love, and we’ll all probably do it again. We want to make sure you know what to do for your mouth when that happens.
 

Step 1: Sip Cold Water

What you do immediately after burning your tongue will determine how quickly you recover, so instead of persevering with your hot food or drink, drink a glass of cold water. Not only will it help the burn feel better, but it will keep you hydrated so that your mouth can produce enough saliva to protect the burned area from bacteria.

Step 2: Keep Things Cool

Soft, cold foods will help to numb the sting of the burn, so open up the fridge and grab a yogurt, fruit cup, or applesauce. It might even be a good reason to spring for a smoothie or some frozen yogurt, and make sure to keep drinking cool water as well.

Step 3: Salt Water Swish

You might have learned from your grandma to gargle salt water when you have a sore throat. Well, she was right! Swishing or gargling salt water is also a great remedy if you have sore gums, have recently had a dental procedure, or even if you burned your tongue.

When we swish salt water, it temporarily makes our mouths more alkaline, which makes life difficult for harmful oral bacteria. To make your salt water rinse, just add half a teaspoon of salt to a cup of warm water and stir. Swish it around your mouth for about thirty seconds, spit, and repeat!

Step 4: Tasty Relief

Another way to speed up the healing process for your burned tongue is to apply sugar or honey directly to the tender area. This is another remedy that predates modern medicine. Sugar is a quick source of energy for the cells that are trying to heal, and studies have shown that honey is even more effective at promoting healing than sugar. Just make sure to drink some water afterward to rinse away any sweet residue.

Step 5: Pain Medication

For particularly bad mouth burns, these measures might not be sufficient to relieve the pain. At that point, it becomes a job for over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Luckily, oral tissues heal more quickly than any other part of the body, so even a particularly painful burn to the tongue should be gone within a few days.

Burning Tongue Syndrome And Your Dentist

Some people feel like they have a burned tongue even when there is no actual burn, a chronic condition known as burning tongue syndrome. If you’re feeling the burn for no apparent reason, schedule a dental appointment. Otherwise, follow these steps to get your burned tongue feeling good as new as soon as possible!

We look forward to seeing you at your next appointment!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Sleep Apnea And Dental Health

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OVER 18 MILLION ADULTS in the US alone, as well as up to 20 percent of habitually snoring children, have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that results in brief but repeated interruptions to normal breathing during sleep. Not only is this a potentially life-threatening disorder, it also has a significant impact on oral health.

The Three Types Of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can occur in three different ways. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the result of a blockage in the airway, typically the tongue collapsing against the soft palate, which in turn collapses against the back of the throat, closing off the airway. This is the most common type of sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea happens when the brain fails to signal the muscles of the respiratory system to keep breathing. Complex sleep apnea is a combination of the first two types.

Each time breath is interrupted, the brain causes the person with sleep apnea to wake up. It happens so quickly that they usually don’t remember it, but the interruptions severely impact their overall quality of sleep, as they can happen as often as hundreds of times in a single night.

What Does Sleep Apnea Have To Do With Teeth?

In addition to leaving you with all the usual symptoms of sleep deprivation, such as exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, and morning headaches, sleep apnea has a number of effects on oral health. There is a significant association between OSA and moderate to severe periodontitis (gum disease), but the most common dental health complications are temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ or TMD).

Studies have shown that the jaw reflexively clenches to prevent the airway from becoming blocked when the throat relaxes during a sleep apnea episode. TMD leads to other problems like worn, cracked, or broken teeth, pain when chewing, chronic headaches, and neck and shoulder pain.

How The Dentist Can Help

The dental effects of sleep apnea are so common that your dentist might be the first one to spot the signs and diagnose the disorder.This is just one way your regular dental appointments will benefit your overall health. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, common treatment options include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines and nighttime dental devices that push the tongue or the lower jaw forward.

Healthier Sleep For Healthier Smiles

If you’ve been experiencing any of the symptoms described above, there’s no reason to continue living with interrupted sleep and the health problems that come with sleep apnea. Give us a call or drop by our practice today to schedule an appointment so that we can see if sleep apnea is the cause and get you on the path to more restful sleep and better oral health.

Wishing all our patients a good night’s sleep!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image by Flickr user Kevin Jaako used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The Top 3 Best Drinks For Your Teeth

MANY OF THE THINGS we drink are actually pretty bad for our teeth, especially soda, fruit juice, and coffee. What options does that leave for the dental health conscious to quench their thirst? Fortunately, there are a few drinks that are much less likely to cause stains or contribute to enamel erosion and decay, which makes them much better for our teeth!
 

3. Milk

Milk is an important source of calcium, which is essential for healthy teeth and bones. A certain amount of enamel remineralization is possible if your body has the right building blocks available, so getting plenty of calcium is a great way to stock up on those building blocks to keep your teeth strong. If you are lactose intolerant, you don’t have to miss out on this either, because calcium-fortified soy milk is another great option.

One thing to be aware of, however, is that milk does have natural sugars in it, which is why it’s a bad idea to leave a child with a bottle of milk over a long period of time. The longer the sugars in milk are left on the teeth, the more they feed oral bacteria, contributing to tooth decay. This is how a condition commonly known as “bottle rot” can happen for babies and toddlers.

2. Green And Herbal Tea

While black tea, much like coffee and red wine, is prone to leaving stains on teeth, green tea and herbal teas do not carry this drawback. In fact, like milk, they actually have dental health benefits. Tea contains compounds called polyphenols, which help fight bacteria. Just make sure not to load your tea with sugar or even honey, as that would cancel out the benefits of the polyphenols. If you can enjoy it plain, that’s great, but you can also use sugar-free sweeteners.

1. Water

It might seem boring to include water on a list of mouth-healthy drinks, but it is absolutely essential to our overall health that we stay well hydrated — and specifically to our oral health! If we aren’t drinking enough water, we may not have enough fluid to produce saliva, which is the mouth’s first line of defense against acids and bacteria. The act of drinking water itself will also flush out remnants of food and sugary or acidic drinks, helping to keep our teeth clean until the next time we can brush.

Watch this video for some tips on mouth-healthy foods:

What We Drink Is Only Part Of The Equation

Cutting back on some of the less healthy drinks in favor of drinking more water, milk, and green or herbal tea can make a big difference in our oral health, but it isn’t a substitute for other oral health habits. Make sure you’re also keeping up with your twice-daily brushing, daily flossing, and dental appointments every six months!

We’re here to help you keep those teeth happy and healthy!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

What To Ask At An Orthodontic Consultation

THE INITIAL ORTHODONTIC consultation is a critical step in your orthodontic treatment process. One of the best things you can do to prepare is to think about the kinds of questions you want to ask the orthodontist. Here are just a few to get you started.
 

How Long Will My Treatment Take?

Every patient has their own specific orthodontic needs, which means their treatment will be unique. Make sure to ask the orthodontist for an estimate on long your own treatment will take and what factors influence that timeline. The length and complexity of your treatment will also determine how much it costs.

How Do I Brush And Floss Around My Braces?

We sometimes take brushing and flossing our teeth for granted when we don’t have braces. It’s a fairly simple process to clean all of our teeth’s surfaces and get in between with a string of floss. With braces, it can be trickier, because there are many more places for pieces of food to get stuck, which also happen to be harder to reach with braces in the way. That’s why it’s important to ask the orthodontist for advice on how to keep your teeth clean with the braces on!

What Foods Should I Avoid?

You may have heard of the banned foods list orthodontic patients have to follow, and there’s a good reason for that. Having braces can make it difficult or impossible to eat certain types of food comfortably, and some foods can actually put the appliance in danger of breaking. Make sure you leave your consultation knowing which foods you should leave off your grocery list during your orthodontic treatment.

What Do I Do If Something Breaks?

Accidents happen to everyone, including orthodontic patients. A bracket may come loose or break, an archwire may snap, or any number of other complications could come up. It’s a good idea to get some early advice from the ortho on what to do in those kinds of situations so that you’ll be ready for them.

What Options Do I Have For My Treatment?

Because everyone’s teeth and situations are different, there is no one-size-fits-all solution in orthodontic treatment. Ask the orthodontist if traditional braces are the most effective option for you, or if you might do better with a different approach, such as invisible aligners.

How Can I Help My Teeth Move Into Place On Schedule?

Many factors besides the starting position of the teeth can impact the speed of orthodontic treatment, including the actions of the patient! Depending on what you do, your treatment can either finish on time or become delayed, so make sure you have a clear idea of what you need to do to stay on track!

Having questions is no reason to postpone your orthodontic treatment!

Come See Us With These And All Your Other Questions!

Here at our practice, we can’t wait to start working with you on helping you reach your healthy, straight smile goals, and the first step is making sure all your questions are answered. If you haven’t already scheduled your initial consultation, give us a call today!

We love giving our patients more reasons to smile!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

What’s Stopping You From Getting Braces?

MANY ADULTS MISTAKENLY believe that they missed their chance to get braces because they didn’t have them as teenagers. However, the number of adult orthodontic patients has risen dramatically over the last few decades, and today we’re going to debunk all of your excuses for not getting braces and show you why orthodontic treatment is still a wonderful option for adults with dental alignment issues.
 

“It’s Too Late; My Teeth Won’t Move”

It may be preferable to start young for orthodontic treatment, but there is no age limit to getting a straighter smile. We can help determine the best treatment for your circumstances. One advantage adult orthodontic patients have over teens is the self-discipline that comes with maturity; adults will often be better at following instructions for their treatment, which means it will go much smoother.

Check out how much this woman’s teeth moved in one year with adult braces!

“I’ll Be Fine If I Keep My Crooked Teeth”

If you’ve been living with crooked teeth your whole life, you might think there’s no point in getting orthodontic treatment. But having straight teeth isn’t just about appearances — it’s also about improved oral and overall health. Straight teeth are easier to clean and make it easier to speak, chew, and even breathe effectively, whereas crooked teeth cause difficulties in all of these areas and can grow more crooked over time.

“Having Braces Will Make Me Look Unprofessional”

Some adults who would like straighter teeth may still hesitate to seek orthodontic treatment because they worry that spending a year or longer in braces could impact their personal lives or careers by making them look immature or unprofessional. Luckily, there are several low-profile orthodontic treatment options for patients who don’t want to broadcast their treatment to the world, such as invisible aligners, clear ceramic braces, and lingual (tongue-side) braces. With these, you can straighten your teeth without anyone noticing your hardware!

“Orthodontic Treatment Is Expensive”

Orthodontic treatment can certainly cost more than a regular dental appointment, but it’s also an investment in your future, saving you from the expenses of problems that come with crooked teeth or a bad bite. If you aren’t sure you can fit braces into your budget, schedule a consultation with us. Together, we can find the best and most affordable option for you.

Leave Your Braces Excuses In 2018

This year is nearly over, and what better way to welcome the next one than by leaving your braces excuses behind and getting on the path to a healthier, straighter smile? We can’t wait to help you get the smile you deserve!

Don’t let excuses keep you from your dream smile!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Bad Oral Health Fads

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FADS AREN’T ALWAYS ABOUT hairstyles and slang; they can also be about the way we take care of our bodies, including our teeth. It’s important to be able to tell the difference between something that is popular and something that has the support of the dental health community. That’s why we’re going to take a critical look at a few of the recent oral health fads.
 

Charcoal Toothpaste

You might’ve seen this seemingly paradoxical product in the store: activated charcoal toothpaste, which will turn your teeth black when you brush but supposedly whiten them in the long run. If you haven’t seen it in the store, you’ve probably seen people using and singing its praises on social media.

The problem with these products and home-made pastes is that there is no scientific support for the claims that they are safe to scrub against our teeth, let alone effective at whitening them. On the contrary, there is actually significant concern that they could do more harm than good. Charcoal is highly abrasive, so it could be eroding away tooth enamel. Loss of enamel exposes the more yellow dentin beneath and leaves the tooth much more vulnerable to decay.

Non-Fluoride Toothpastes

Fluoride is the active ingredient in ADA-approved toothpastes, but in recent years, we’ve seen a lot of claims and conspiracy theories about the evils of fluoride, which have given rise to an array of fluoride-free toothpastes. This mistrust of fluoride is not supported by science, and there is a wealth of scientific data on the oral health benefits of fluoride when used in small amounts.

When fluoride was first added to the public water supply in Grand Rapids, Michigan, it reduced childhood dental caries by a whopping 60 percent, with no adverse effects except for occasional cases of mild fluorosis (harmless white patches on the enamel). Avoiding fluoride won’t do anything except put your teeth at greater risk of cavities.

Bring Us Your Questions About Dental Fads

These are just two of the fads out there. If you encounter another one, make sure you let us know about it before you try it out. We’d love to hear about these trends so that we can offer patients our professional opinions and advice. In the meantime, stick to tried and true dental health practices like brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, and scheduling regular checkups!

When it comes to your dental health, always trust the science!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.