The Big Scoop On Tooth Sensitivity

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DO YOU GET a painful jolt through your teeth every time you try to enjoy a bite of ice cream or a sip of fresh coffee? If you do, then you’re familiar with the woes of tooth sensitivity, and you’re not alone. More than half of adults between the ages of 20 and 50 experience some degree of sensitivity in their teeth, and children can have sensitive teeth too.

So why does this happen? Well, to understand tooth sensitivity, it helps to know about the structure of a tooth and how the different layers function.

The Anatomy Of A Tooth

The crown of each tooth is covered in a thin layer of hard enamel. Beneath the enamel is dentin, a bony substance with thousands of microscopic tubules running through it. These tubules are how the nerves in the pulp at the core of each tooth can detect what’s going on at the surface.

Causes Of Sensitivity

Most often, tooth sensitivity occurs when the enamel wears away, which could be the result of teeth grinding, erosion from acid, or even improper brushing. Without enamel, the tubules in the dentin become exposed. Once that happens, eating or drinking anything hot or cold — sometimes even sweet or sour — will give the tooth a nasty shock.

Another major cause of sensitivity is root exposure. Teeth roots don’t have that layer of enamel; their main defense is the gums. Gum recession, which can also be caused by teeth grinding or improper brushing, leaves the roots vulnerable. Other causes of sensitivity include cavities and having a chipped or fractured tooth.

When you have braces, your teeth are at a higher risk of enamel erosion because of how difficult it can be to keep them clean with the brackets in the way. Make sure to maintain the crucial dental hygiene habits of twice-daily brushing and daily flossing so that your braces won’t leave you with sensitive teeth.

How You Can Protect Your Teeth

If you do have sensitive teeth, there are several ways to fight back. First, start using a soft-bristled brush if you aren’t already, because hard bristles may further damage the enamel and gum tissue. You can also switch to a toothpaste specifically formulated for sensitive teeth. Finally, avoid sugary or acidic foods and drinks, particularly soft drinks.

Let Your Dentist Know

Make sure to go to your dentist if you begin experiencing tooth sensitivity, even if your next regular appointment is months away. They can strengthen your teeth with a fluoride varnish, perform dental restoration work on areas with enamel loss, recommend a gum graft to cover exposed roots, or prescribe a desensitizing toothpaste. They’ll also make sure there aren’t any other problems with your teeth!

Let’s make sure that smile stays healthy and strong!

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.
 

A Brief History Of Braces

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CAN YOU IMAGINE an Ancient Egyptian in braces? Are you picturing an appliance made out of metal bands and catgut? That’s right; the practice of straightening misaligned teeth has been around since ancient times! So how did we get from there to the braces of today?
 

Ancient Orthodontics

Evidence suggests that those braces made of catgut and metal bands were likely only used as part of a burial ritual, to make sure the dead person’s teeth looked nice for the afterlife. Similar burial rituals were performed in Ancient Greece and by the Etruscans.

The first time braces were used to straighten the teeth of the living was in Ancient Rome, around 400 BC. 400 years later, Aulus Cornelius Celcus theorized that teeth could be guided into place by applying hand pressure in the right direction as they grow in, but modern orthodontic research doesn’t support this.

Braces And The Industrial Revolution

Not much changed in orthodontics until the 18th century, when Pierre Fauchard created the first known modern braces. His invention, the bandeau, was a horseshoe-shaped piece of metal with holes throughout it, held in place by silk threads. He also tried tying teeth together in an effort to get them to stay put while they healed. Christophe-François Delabarre tried separating crowded teeth by putting wooden wedges between each tooth. Yikes!

The Emergence Of Modern Day Braces

In 1822, J.S. Gunnell invented occipital anchorage (the first form of headgear), but the man considered to be the father of modern orthodontics was Edward Hartley Angle. Angle formally identified different types of malocclusions (bad bites) and developed appliances to correct them beginning in 1880.

Through all these developments, early orthodontists were still limited by technology. They didn’t have bonding agents that could allow front-mounted brackets like in today’s braces, so moving teeth required wrapping metal completely around each tooth. That all changed when dental adhesive hit the scene, and the development of stainless steel in the ’70s also made braces more affordable because they no longer had to be made out of silver or gold.

Finally, invisible aligners hit the scene in the late ’90s.

A Variety Of Options

There’s no better time in history to get orthodontic treatment than now, thanks to all the incredible advancements over the centuries and particularly the last few decades. And while today’s orthodontic treatment is always tailored to individual patients’ needs and everything is far more streamlined and low-profile than it was in the past, there are a few basic options most people can choose from.

  • You can stick with traditional braces, which are far more comfortable and efficient than they used to be.
  • A more discreet option (if you’re okay with it taking a little longer) is invisible aligners.
  • You might be interested in lingual braces, which are like traditional braces but on the tongue side of the teeth instead of the outside, so nobody will know you have them!

What We Have To Offer

If you’re in need of orthodontic treatment, you can be sure you’ll only receive the most efficient, comfortable, and up-to-date appliance at our practice. So don’t be shy; come see us today for a consultation!

Thank you for choosing us as your preferred practice!

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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.

Is Your Frenulum Holding You Back?

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YOU’VE HEARD OF being tongue-tied, but what about lip-tied? Both are actually legitimate medical conditions, and the culprits are pieces of tissue in our mouths called frenula.
 

Tongue Ties And Lip Ties

We all have a frenulum (or frenum) that connects our upper lips to our upper gums, one that connects our lower lips to our lower gums, and one that connects our tongues to the floors of our mouths. Normally, they are all thin and highly elastic, allowing free movement of our lips and tongues. If someone is literally tongue-tied, it means the lingual frenulum (the one under the tongue) is large enough to restrict the movement of their tongue, causing difficulties with speech, chewing, and swallowing.

Having a “lip tie,” on the other hand, means one of the labial frenula is so thick and/or tight that it restricts movement of the lip it’s attached to. Being lip-tied can lead to problems such as a large gap between the teeth, gum recession, and, in infants, not being able to latch while breastfeeding.

What Can We Do About It?

Luckily, a simple surgery called a frenectomy can reduce or remove an abnormal frenulum. Now, don’t let the word “surgery” scare you off. A frenectomy is definitely worth considering for anyone with these frenulum-related problems, particularly if they’re experiencing pain or discomfort.

Frenectomies are relatively quick procedures with short healing times. Periodontists (dentists who specialize in working with the gums) and oral surgeons are normally the ones who perform them. The way it works is that the doctor will numb the area  and make a small incision in the frenulum to make it smaller or remove it. Alternatively, the procedure could involve laser surgery, where the doctor removes the frenulum with a laser. Either way, that pesky lip tie or tongue tie will be gone!

Let’s Take Care Of That Frenulum

For the majority of people, frenulums will never be a problem. If you think any of yours might be thick or tight enough to cause the above problems, schedule an appointment with us, and the same goes for your children if they seem to have these problems. We can take a look and see if a frenectomy would be a good option. If it is, then we can recommend a periodontist or oral surgeon to take care of it.

Thank you for choosing us to take care of that smile!

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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 Straight Teeth?

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TO SOME, IT MIGHT seem like the benefits of having straight teeth are purely cosmetic. And those benefits certainly do exist. Studies have shown that people tend to perceive someone with straight teeth as wealthier, happier, and more dateable than someone with crooked teeth. But there are plenty of other important benefits as well.
 

Consequences Of Crooked Teeth

There are many different ways crooked, crowded, or misaligned teeth can negatively impact a person’s health and quality of life. Let’s take a look at a few of the big ones.

Difficult To Clean

When teeth overlap each other in ways they aren’t meant to, they can be much harder to clean with brushing and flossing than straight teeth. If teeth aren’t getting cleaned as effectively, then they become more vulnerable to tooth decay.

Impede Clear Speech

Underbites, severe overbites, and other teeth alignment problems can interfere with a person’s ability to speak clearly, leading to lisps and other distortions in articulation.

Interfere With Healthy Digestion

Chewing is a critical part of the digestion process. Our saliva begins to break food down on a chemical level while our teeth break it apart into more manageable pieces. Crooked teeth can make it difficult or even impossible to chew food enough, which forces the rest of the digestive system to pick up the slack. This can lead to a number of unpleasant GI consequences, and it can even make it harder to lose weight!

Can Interfere With Healthy Breathing

If your teeth don’t fit comfortably together, you might keep them apart instead of closing your jaws when resting. This can lead to mouth breathing, which has many negative health effects. The two most connected to oral health concerns are chronic bad breath and dry mouth.

Can Cause Jaw Problems

If there’s something wrong with your bite, that can result in temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndromeSymptoms include a clicking jaw joint, jaw pain, and frequent headaches.

Do Your Teeth Need Straightening?

Having straight teeth eliminates or greatly reduces all of these problems. This, paired with the cosmetic advantages and the boost in confidence, makes orthodontic treatment a very worthwhile investment. If you think you could benefit from orthodontic treatment, schedule an initial consultation with us so that we can find out what will be best for your smile. In the meantime, keep brushing, flossing, and scheduling your regular dental appointments!

You deserve the best for your teeth!

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.
 

Making Malocclusions Bite The Dust

A MALOCCLUSION OCCURS when the upper and lower teeth don’t fit together properly, which can lead to a variety of problems. These bad bites can impact our speech, our digestion (by making it difficult to chew our food), contribute to TMJ syndrome, and even put our teeth in danger of breaking.
 

Causes Of Malocclusions

Malocclusions are often genetic. You might inherit different sized jaws that don’t fit together easily, or you might inherit teeth that are the wrong size for your jaws. Malocclusions can also be caused by injuries or bad oral habits during developmental years. These include thumb-sucking, tongue-thrusting, lip-sucking, mouth-breathing, nail-biting, and teeth-clenching.

Parents can help their children have healthier bites as they grow up by discouraging these habits. If the malocclusion is the result of one of the above mentioned bad habits, breaking that habit will be a crucial part of ensuring the malocclusion doesn’t return (but don’t worry; we can help with that). 

Common Malocclusion Types

In a correct bite, the upper front teeth come slightly over the lower front teeth, and the points of each molar fit in the grooves of their counterparts in the upper or lower jaw. There are quite a few ways a person’s teeth can veer away from this healthy ideal, but we’ll just cover five of them here.

  • Excessive overbite: the upper teeth overlap or overjet the lower teeth far more than in a healthy bite
  • Underbite: the lower teeth overlap or partially cover the upper teeth
  • Crossbite: some of the upper teeth bite down on the inside of the lower teeth
  • Deep bite: an overbite so severe that the upper front teeth completely overlap the lower front teeth, sometimes driving the lower teeth into the gums behind the upper teeth when biting down
  • Open bite: the front upper and lower teeth do not make any contact with each other when biting down

Orthodontics And Bite Correction

These and other types of malocclusions can be corrected with orthodontics. That sentence might conjure up mental images of bulky headgear or extensive oral surgery, but don’t worry. While surgery and headgear may still be necessary in severe cases, bite correction is typically much more low profile and hassle-free today than it was in decades past. And, of course, the result of orthodontic treatment is a healthy and beautiful aligned smile!

Let’s Take A Look At Those Teeth!

Schedule a consultation with us today so that we can make sure everything looks good with your bite and make a plan to correct any alignment problems. We look forward to giving you the healthy bite you deserve!

Thank you for being part of our practice family!

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.

Women’s Oral Health Concerns

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ALTHOUGH MEN AND WOMEN have a lot in common, there are quite a few differences when it comes to oral health. Women have some advantages men lack, but also some disadvantages men don’t have to worry about. Let’s take a look at the main ones.
 

TMJ And Sjögren’s Syndrome

Women account for 90 percent of people suffering from TMJ (temporomandibular joint) syndrome, or chronic pain or soreness in the joint that connects the jaw to the skull. The most obvious cause is bruxism (teeth grinding), but it can also be the result of stress, joint structure, vitamin deficiency, medical conditions like arthritis, and even hormones.

Another condition women are far more prone to than men is Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks salivary glands and tear ducts (resulting in dry mouth and dry eye) before moving on to other tissues and organs. Dry mouth, aside from making chewing and swallowing difficult, is very dangerous to oral health, because saliva washes away food particles, fights bacteria, and neutralizes the mouth’s pH.

With both syndromes, regular dental visits are crucial so that you can get a proper diagnosis and develop a treatment plan that will keep your mouth healthy.

Puberty, Pregnancy, And Menopause

Hormones play a large role in women’s dental health, particularly when they are going through significant changes, such as during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Gingivitis and inflamed gums are common during puberty and pregnancy, which is why it’s especially important to maintain good oral hygiene with daily brushing and flossing under these conditions.

Dry mouth is a common problem for women going through menopause, and bone loss is another. When bone loss occurs in the jaw, it can compromise the gums and the roots of the teeth. It’s very important for menopausal women to discuss these potential effects with their dentists, ideally before any negative symptoms appear!

Eating Disorders And Teeth

More than twice as many teenage girls suffer from eating disorders than teenage boys, and that ratio persists in different age groups. Eating disorders are life-threatening. They have negative effects on every system in the body, and the mouth is no exception.

Malnutrition, particularly a deficiency in vitamins and minerals essential to keeping teeth and gums healthy, can lead to a variety of oral health problems, but eating disorders can do more direct harm as well. Bulimia in particular can lead to tooth erosion from frequent exposure to stomach acid during purges.

Anyone suffering from an eating disorder should seek psychiatric help to recover mentally, but it will take rigorous dental hygiene and help from dental professionals to maintain or restore good oral health.

You And Your Dentist Make A Great Team!

By this point, you might think women got the short end of the stick all around when it comes to oral health, but one major advantage women have is their tendency to take better care of their teeth. Women are more likely to brush twice a day, floss daily, and keep up with their regular dental appointments than men. They’re also much less likely to try toughing it out whenever they experience tooth pain or other symptoms. These healthy habits combine to greatly reduce the impact of all the above conditions, so keep up the good work!

Let’s keep those mouths healthy, ladies!

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 Timothy Krause used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Saliva: Oral Health’s MVP

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SALIVA IS SUCH an ordinary thing that you probably haven’t given it much thought, but it’s actually as important to the healthy function of our mouths as oil is to a working car engine. Saliva is an essential component of our ability to eat, taste our favorite foods, and speak, it’s crucial to a healthy immune system, and it’s our first line of defense against many oral health problems.
 

Saliva Production And Stages

In a healthy mouth, saliva is produced continuously by the salivary glands, which are located under our tongues and in our cheeks. These glands produce between two and six cups of saliva every day! Saliva is 98-99 percent water, and the rest consists of proteins, digestive enzymes, antimicrobial factors, and electrolytes.

Depending on where food is in the digestive process, saliva goes through a few different stages: cephalic, buccal, oesophageal, gastric, and intestinal. When you smell something delicious and your mouth waters, that’s the cephalic stage! Actually eating moves it to the buccal stage, which helps us swallow food. The oesophageal stage helps move swallowed food down the esophagus.

The last two stages are less pleasant, but still important. If you’re about to throw up, your salivary glands work overtime in the gastric stage so that the stomach acid won’t do as much damage when it comes up and out with the partially digested food. The intestinal stage is similar, activating when the body doesn’t agree with food that reaches the upper intestine.

Saliva And Oral Health

There are many reasons we have saliva, but the most important role it plays for your teeth is keeping your mouth’s pH balancedand flushing away remnants of food to keep everything clean. Eating food tends to make our mouths more acidic, and even though the enamel on our teeth is the hardest substance in our bodies, it only takes a pH of 5.5 to start dissolving it. Many of the foods we eat are far more acidic than that, which makes saliva critical in protecting our teeth.

The antimicrobial factors in saliva also fight bacteria, protecting us against gum disease and bad breath. Growth factors in saliva are why injuries in your mouth (like a burned tongue or a bitten cheek) heal faster than injuries elsewhere on the body. And those are just the benefits to oral health, but saliva does much more.

When The Spit Runs Dry…

All of these benefits are why dry mouth is such a serious problem. It can happen for a number of reasons. Our mouths tend to go dry in stressful situations. We also tend to produce less saliva in old age. Drug use, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all cause dry mouth as well. Unfortunately, many prescription medications cause dry mouth as a side effect.

Let’s Get That Mouth Watering!

If you’ve been experiencing dry mouth for any reason, schedule an appointment with us. We can discover the cause and get that saliva flowing again so that you won’t miss out on any of its great health benefits!

Thank you for trusting in our practice!

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.

Soda Versus Our Teeth

HAVE YOU EVER HEARD of “Mountain Dew Mouth”? It’s what happens to our teeth when we drink too much soda. The term comes from rural Appalachia, where that particular drink has long been the carbonated beverage of choice and tooth decay is alarmingly common. But this doesn’t just happen in Appalachia, and Mountain Dew isn’t the only drink that contributes to tooth decay.


The Dangers Of Sugary Drinks

When we eat or drink something with sugar in it, the sugar sticks to our teeth afterward. Sugar itself doesn’t do any damage to our oral health, but it is unfortunately the favorite food of the bacteria that lives in our mouths. These bacteria eat the sugar and then excrete acids that erode our tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay. They also cause inflammation that increase the risk of gum disease.

Any source of sugar can negatively impact oral health. Sugary drinks (including fruit juice, but especially soda) are particularly dangerous because they aren’t filling like solid food and are therefore easy to keep drinking.

Effects Of Carbonation

So if sugar is the problem, then can’t we keep our teeth healthy by switching to diet soda instead of giving up carbonated beverages altogether? Diet soda is certainly an improvement, but sugar isn’t soda’s only threat to dental health. The other is acid. Sugar leads to tooth decay because oral bacteria eat sugar and excrete acid that erode tooth enamel. Soda cuts out the middle man and applies acid directly to the teeth.

Even diet sodas and carbonated water contain acid. The three types of acid commonly found in soda are citric, phosphoric, and carbonic. Any drink with citrus flavoring will have citric acid, many colas get their flavor from phosphoric acid, and carbonic acid is what makes these drinks fizzy in the first place.

Protecting Your Smile

It would be best for your teeth to avoid soda and other sugary drinks entirely. If you can’t bring yourself to give up your favorite drink completely though, there are a few ways to enjoy it while protecting your teeth. A big one would be to only drink soda with a meal instead of sipping from a can or bottle throughout the day so that the sugar and acid aren’t sitting in your mouth for long periods.

You can also help balance your mouth’s pH and rinse away remaining sugar by drinking water after the soda. Finally, you can clean away the last traces of sugar and acid by brushing your teeth, but it’s a good idea to wait until the pH balance is back to normal before brushing, which takes about thirty minutes.

It is particularly important for children and people with braces to avoid overindulging in sugary drinks. Children have the highest risk of enamel erosion because their enamel isn’t yet fully developed, and braces plus a soda habit is a great way to end up with stained teeth when the braces come off.

Don’t Forget That We Can Help Too!

Following these good habits will go a long way towards protecting your teeth against decay and erosion from the sugar and acid in soda. Still, don’t forget that your dentist is also an important part of the equation. Keep scheduling those visits every six months!

Thank you for always being our valued patients!

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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 Do We Get Crooked Teeth?

IF BABY TEETH almost always grow in straight, then why are adult teeth so often crooked? What is it, if not just bad luck? There are competing theories, but adult teeth can come in crooked for a variety of reasons, from genetics to diet to daily habits.
 

Shifts In Society’s Diet…And Its Teeth?

One popular theory that comes from archeological studies is the Soft Foods Theory. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate much tougher foods than we do now, and this promoted more bone growth in the jaws and better-aligned teeth as a result. The theory suggests two possible reasons why modern people more often have crooked teeth:

  1. Modern food is processed and soft, so it doesn’t stimulate as much jaw bone growth.
  2. Modern food lacks many of the vitamins and minerals a hunter/gatherer diet would have been rich in, so the teeth and jaws can’t develop as much.

For more details on the Soft Foods Theory, check out this short video:

Braces Run In The Family

Even if you managed to eat tough foods for long enough to grow the jaw bones of a hunter/gatherer, you still wouldn’t be able to control what genes you inherited from your parents. If your parents didn’t need braces but you got Mom’s small jaw and Dad’s large teeth, you’ll end up with a crowding problem. Many children whose parents needed braces will also need braces.

Daily Habits Can Shift Your Teeth

While we have no say in our genes and would probably have a difficult time successfully sticking to a hunter/gatherer diet, the one cause of crooked teeth we might be able to control is our everyday habits. Something as simple as resting your chin on your hands can cause your teeth to shift over time, but these are the main offenders:

Thumb-sucking, when it continues past toddlerhood, can cause the upper teeth to flare out and shift the lower teeth inward, creating a badly misaligned bite, changing the shape of the jaw, and even affecting speech. If you’re looking for ways to discourage your child’s thumb-sucking habit, check out this resource.

Mouth-breathing, particularly during developmental years, can lead to dental crowding over time. Normally, when the mouth is closed, the tongue exerts pressure against the sides of the jaw, helping it develop in a healthy, wide shape. If the mouth is always open for breathing, this pressure isn’t there, and the jaw narrows, crowding the teeth.

Tongue-thrusting is the name of an incorrect or immature way of swallowing in which the tongue presses against the front teeth instead of the roof of the mouth. Babies naturally start out with this reflex, but it doesn’t always go away when it should, leading to dental alignment problems. This can be a difficult reflex to unlearn as a teen or adult, but there are special orthodontic appliances designed to encourage better swallowing habits.

Whatever The Cause, We’re The Solution!

Whether teeth teeth are crooked due to genetics, a modern diet, or these kinds of unhealthy habits during childhood, the solution is the same: orthodontic treatment. If you haven’t already, schedule a consultation with us so that we can make a plan for getting you the perfectly aligned smile you deserve!

Thank you for trusting us with your teeth! We love helping you look your best!

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.

Alternative Ways To Get Calcium In Your Diet

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CALCIUM AND MILK go together like fluoride and toothpaste. Without the former, it can be hard to find the latter. And, like fluoride, calcium is essential to our oral health.
 

How Calcium Benefits Your Oral Health

We all know that calcium is the main component of our teeth and jaw bones, but our mouths are also made up of gum tissue, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels. Calcium is important for these things as well because it helps them function as they should.

How Much Calcium Do We Need?

The range of calcium intake recommended for the average person on a daily basis is between 1000-1300mg from ages four to 70+ yrs. Children younger than four need about 700mg or less. The numbers vary based on gender and age.

Getting less than 500mg of calcium a day puts you at greater risk of developing gum disease, and the scary thing is that most people don’t meet their daily recommendation. Take a look at the foods you’re eating and make sure you’re including at least 800mg of daily calcium to keep your teeth and oral health in great shape!

 Non-dairy Calcium Sources

Most people can get their daily calcium from milk and other dairy products, but some don’t have that option. Luckily, there are many alternative sources of this crucial mineral, and we’ve made a list of them to help out our dairy-averse patients.

  • Canned fish with the bones in. The bones of small, canned fish are an excellent source of calcium, and they’re soft enough to eat! It’s up to you whether you eat them straight from the can or mix them into a larger meal.
  • Dark leafy greens. Starting at 180mg and reaching about 350mg, kale, spinach and collard greens are the three leafy greens with the highest calcium content.
  • Beans and black-eyed peas. Legumes such as beans and black-eyed peas contain an impressive amount of calcium, with 350mg to 515mg in just one cup!
  • Fortified drinks. Fortified orange juice contains around 1500mg and soy milk has 340mg per cup.
  • Tofu. Most tofu has added calcium, giving it about 860mg per half cup, but you’ll still get between 100-200mg per serving with no calcium added!
  • Broccoli and broccoli rabe. Broccoli rabe (rob) has about 80mg of calcium per 2/3-cup serving and broccoli has about 100mg per 2cup serving.
  • Edamame. With 98mg in just one cup of cooked edamame, it’s a good source of calcium as well as protein!
  • Almonds. Out of all the nuts, almonds contain the highest level of calcium, with 8% of the recommended daily intake in a single ounce.
  • Dried Figs. Figs have a sweet, dessert-like flavor, so eating the half cup it takes to get the calcium from them will feel like indulging in a treat!

We Can Help

If you think you may be prone to gum disease or have further questions about how you can improve your daily calcium intake, we’d love to talk to you about it, so schedule a visit with us today!

We love helping our patients keep their teeth healthy and strong!

Smoking And Oral Health

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THE DISEASE WE USUALLY think of when we hear “health risks of smoking” is lung cancer, but the damage smoking can cause isn’t limited to the lungs. A smoking habit can do a lot of harm to oral health as well, far beyond merely staining the teeth and causing bad breath. Let’s take a look at some of the more common ways this can happen.
 

Smoking Harms The Gums

Periodontal disease, commonly known as gum disease, begins with inflammation of the gums. If untreated, it can lead to extensive damage to gum and supporting bone tissue, and it enables bacteria to spread from the mouth all through the bloodstream. Smoking introduces hundreds of toxins into the mouth, which not only doubles the risk of developing gum disease, it makes it harder to treat.

Whitening Of The Oral Mucosa

Stomatitis Nicotina, or smoker’s keratosis, is the inflammatory swelling of mucous glands in the mouth. This shows up as thick, whitish patches on the roof of the mouth. While it is usually not painful, smoker’s keratosis can be pre-cancerous.

Increased Risk Of Oral Cancer

A staggering 80 percent of people diagnosed with oral cancer are smokers. Oral cancer affects the lips, tongue, cheeks, and throat. Early symptoms include persistent mouth sores or pain, unusual white patches in the mouth, difficulty chewing or swallowing, numbness, swelling, and a sensation of something caught in the throat that won’t go away. Because many of these symptoms can be caught early at a regular dental exam, the dentist is your first line of defense against oral cancer.

How Smoking Impacts Orthodontic Treatment

Not only does smoking affect overall health, it can also hinder orthodontic treatments. When the tissues of the mouth are unhealthy, teeth don’t move into their proper positions as easily. Because of that, smoking can make your orthodontic treatment take longer than it would otherwise! On top of that, smoking stains invisible aligners.

Breaking The Habit

The good news is that smoking is the most preventable cause of all of these dental health problems, because we can either quit smoking or never start. Even someone with a long history of smoking can significantly reduce their risk of health complications by quitting, so don’t assume there’s nothing to be gained by kicking the habit.

Make The Right Choice For Your Oral Health

If you want help to quit smoking, there are resources all around you. Support from friends, family, and even counselors can be the best help in quitting. You can also check out the CDC’s website for tips and information. As your orthodontic practice, we care deeply about your health. We encourage you to quit smoking and schedule a dental exam so that we can make sure your mouth is staying healthy!

We care about the overall health of all our patients!

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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.

Five Quick Braces-Friendly Breakfast Ideas

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WHEN YOU HAVE BRACES, it can sometimes be tricky to find good food to eat that won’t put all those crucial brackets and wires at risk. Finding the right food is even trickier if you’ve just had your braces tightened and things are still a little tender. That’s why we’re dedicating an entire blog post to giving you great braces-friendly breakfast ideas to satisfy your stomach while soothing your sore teeth!
 

1. Puréed Fruit

One of the biggest items on the banned foods list for braces is apples, because biting into such a hard fruit can easily pop brackets off. When your teeth are sore after an adjustment, you probably wouldn’t want to eat apples or other hard fruits even if you could, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy your daily servings of fruit—in purée form! Whether it’s a fruit smoothie with no sugar added or homemade applesauce, you can’t go wrong with fruit purée.

2. Greek Yogurt

Another great option when you don’t want to do much chewing is yogurt, whether it be Greek or regular, cool or frozen, plain or flavored. You can add some fruit, cinnamon, honey—whatever you love. The creamy smoothness isn’t the only thing that makes Greek yogurt perfect for your sore mouth; it also has a ton of health benefits such as protein to build strong muscles, probiotics to improve digestion and strengthen your immune system, and calcium for healthy teeth and bones!

3. Scrambled Or Soft-Boiled Eggs

If fruit and yogurt don’t sound very filling to you, then how about eggs? Cooked right, scrambled eggs are wonderfully soft and fluffy, so you can go easy on your teeth and braces while still eating a hearty meal. The same goes for soft-boiled, hard-boiled, and poached eggs. They’re quite soft to bite into and are delicious, healthy ways to start your day!

For another great egg breakfast idea, check out this video:

4. Oatmeal Or Overnight Oats

If you’re looking for other hearty breakfast options, oatmeal and overnight oats are perfect, and they’re so soft and creamy! Oatmeal itself is already such a creamy meal in instant form, but when you make it into overnight oats, you’re in a whole new ballpark. You can add whatever toppings you’d like, such as fruit, honey, cinnamon, or vanilla. You’ll get a meal full of flavor with no pressure on your teeth!

5. Milk Toast

If you’ve never heard of this one before, it might be time to try something new! Normally, toast is too crunchy to eat with sore teeth, but toast soaked in milk and flavored with cinnamon and sugar won’t give you any trouble. It’s easy, it’s fast, it’s delicious, and your teeth will love it.

Enjoy Your Breakfast!

We know braces can be tough to get used to and that’s why we’re always here to help! If you need more ideas for braces-friendly foods, just let us know, and call us or come in if you have any other questions about your braces!

We’re here to make sure you have a great braces experience!

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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.

How Diabetes Affects Oral Health

THE AMERICAN DIABETES ASSOCIATION estimates that 23.1 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes (whether it be type 1, type 2, or gestational). At least another 7 million remain undiagnosed, and that doesn’t include the additional millions who are considered pre-diabetic. But what does diabetes have to do with oral health? Unfortunately, quite a lot.
 

Diabetes And Gum Disease

Diabetes is a chronic disease that either means the pancreas doesn’t produce insulin (type 1) or that the body doesn’t use it effectively (type 2 and gestational), both of which cause elevated blood glucose. The most serious impact elevated blood glucose has on oral health is that it simultaneously weakens the immune system and provides more food for the bacteria that attack teeth and gums.

This two-pronged attack is why 22% of diabetics also have gum disease, whether in the early stages of inflammation (gingivitis) or in the advanced stages (periodontitis) that threaten the teeth, gums, and supporting bone. The bacteria that causes gum disease can also travel through the bloodstream and make it even harder to regulate blood sugar.

In addition to increasing the risk of gingivitis and periodontitis, uncontrolled diabetes can also lead to a variety of other oral health problems, such as:

  • Dry mouth
  • Burning mouth syndrome
  • Impaired or slower healing
  • Increased severity and frequency of infections
  • Fungal infections
  • Salivary gland enlargement

What You Can Do

Now for the good news: even with diabetes, good oral health is within reach. Even better: keeping your teeth and gums healthy will also make the diabetes easier to manage! Make sure to brush twice a day for two minutes with a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste, floss daily or use a water flosser or interdental brush, use a non-alcoholic mouthwash, and don’t smoke. Carefully regulating your sugar intake is a major factor as well.

The Dentist’s Role

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, the standard two dental exams per year may not be enough. To stay on the safe side, we recommend that you increase the number of yearly visits to three or four. It is also crucial for us to know how you and your doctor are working together to get it under control. Likewise, your doctor needs to know how we are working with you to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

We can help you win the fight for your dental 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 by Flickr user Kolin Toney used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Managing That Halloween Sweet Tooth

HALLOWEEN IS OUR favorite spooky time of year, but when it comes to sugar’s effects on teeth, all that candy can be downright scary. The reason sugar is bad for our teeth is that it feeds harmful oral bacteria that excrete acid, and the acid erodes enamel and leads to tooth decay. So how can we keep our costumed Halloween adventures clear of tooth decay?
 

Ranking Candy On Dental Health

Very few houses give away treats like sugar-free xylitol gum to trick-or-treaters, so the chances are slim that the candy will actually be healthy. However, some types of sugary candy are worse than others, or present different kinds of problems.

  • Hard candy is a problem because there’s a risk of breaking our teeth if we chew it, but sucking on it isn’t safe either because that means holding a source of sugar in our mouths for an extended period.
  • Sour candies are like a double attack against dental health, because not only do they contain a lot of sugar to feed the bacteria, but they are also highly acidic, so they can harm our enamel directly!
  • Sticky or gummy candy is especially bad for teeth because it remains stuck there, feeding the bacteria for a long time and giving them a larger opportunity to attack the enamel.
  • The good news is that the least harmful sugary candy is chocolate! It doesn’t stick to teeth like most other candies, and the cocoa in it has many beneficial properties. The darker the chocolate, the less sugar will be in it, so aim for dark chocolate.

Reducing The Candy Quantity

Being picky about which types of candy we eat is one way to reduce the risk of tooth decay, but an even better way to do that is by simply eating less candy. As parents, we can help our children out with this by coming up with a plan before trick-or-treating time. We could let them trade the bulk of their candy haul for some kind of non-candy prize or limit the number of houses they visit. We just have to make sure to discuss the plan with them in advance.

More Tooth-Healthy Strategies

There are a few other simple things you can do to reduce the dental effects of all that Halloween candy. You can drink more waterto rinse out the sugar, limit the frequency of candy consumption more than the quantity, and wait thirty minutes after eating candy to brush your teeth. The reason for that last one is that it takes your saliva about half an hour to stabilize the pH of your mouth after eating sugar.

Keeping Teeth Healthy Year-Round

The Halloween season will come to an end, but the job of keeping our teeth healthy is never done! Make sure you’re always brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing, keeping those sugary treats to a minimum, and scheduling regular dental visits!

Have a spooky Halloween!

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.

Know Your Orthodontic Hardware

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SOMETIMES, HAVING BRACES can make things feel a bit crowded in your mouth, but every piece of orthodontic hardware serves an important purpose in getting you the straight, healthy smile you deserve! Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones.


The Main Attraction: Braces

Before adding any additional appliances, braces themselves have a few different components. There are the brackets cemented to your teeth, the archwire that goes across all the brackets to move your teeth into alignment, and the ligatures or elastics that hold the wires in place (those are the ones you get to color-customize). Some brackets will have hooks that rubber bands can attach to. Metal bands around the molars and bucchal tubes attached to the molar brackets act as anchors for the archwires.

After braces come retainers, which can be either metal or plastic, and may even be permanently attached to the teeth. Retainers keep your teeth in place so that your periodontal ligaments don’t pull them back to their original positions.

To learn a bit more about retainers, watch the video below: 

Common Accessories Customize Your Treatment

Sometimes, we need one or two other appliances in addition to the braces themselves in order to have the correct bite and palate shape as well as straight teeth, and sometimes we need these appliances to get our teeth ready for braces in the first place.

In order to put braces on, you might need spacers between your back teeth for a while. Spacers are small elastic rings that move your molars apart just enough to fit bands onto them to anchor your braces. This process can take from 3-10 days.

Palatal Expanders correct narrow palates by bracing against the teeth and the roof of the mouth and exerting gradual pressure outwards to encourage the palate to widen to the proper shape. These are important appliances for correcting crossbites and crowding. Palatal expanders often go in before braces to make room for the teeth to go where they’re supposed to go.

A holding arch may be used when a child loses baby teeth too early. It holds the permanent front teeth and molars in place so they don’t shift and crowd the teeth that haven’t had a chance to grow in yet. A holding arch for the upper jaw is sometimes called the “Nance button,” and lower jaw holding arches are called “lower lingual holding arches.”

Let’s Get Those Teeth Moving!

Knowing the function of each part of your orthodontic appliance is an important component of effective treatment. The more you understand how everything works, the smoother things will go and the better your final result will be. So if you have any questions about how your braces work and what the different parts are for, don’t hesitate to ask!

You’re on your way to 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.

The Bare Bones Of Gum Recession

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NO ONE LOOKS FORWARD to getting “long in the tooth” because of gum recession.

However, while tooth length might be an accurate yardstick for judging the age of a horse, age is not the culprit behind receding gums in humans. Gum recession is simply such a gradual process that it can take decades before the effects are noticeable.

Not All Gum Recession Is Avoidable

There are many contributing factors to gum recession, and some unfortunately include genetics. Some people simply have fragile gums or don’t have enough jaw bone covering the front of the roots of their teeth to support gums up to the crowns. The good news is that many of the other contributing factors can be controlled, and even if you’re predisposed to gum recession, there are ways to minimize it.

Bruxism Versus Your Gums

Chronic teeth-grinding, or bruxism, causes a whole host of problems for your oral health, and one of them is increasing your risk for gum recession. All that grinding puts too much pressure on the gums, so they begin to retreat. Bruxism can be a difficult habit to break, especially if you’re doing it in your sleep, but you can minimize the damage to the jaw bones, gums, and teeth by using a mouth guard.

Overbrushing Damages Gum Tissue

It might sound counterintuitive, but you can actually brush your teeth too much. Or, at least, too hard. Brushing teeth isn’t like scrubbing the grime out of tile grout; gums are not built to withstand the abrasive assault of hard-bristled brushes (and neither is the enamel on our teeth). Soft bristles are actually ideal for scrubbing away plaque and massaging the gums without damaging them. The same principle applies to flossing; you should definitely floss once a day, but go easy on those gums.

Tartar Buildup And Gum Disease

When plaque isn’t removed by brushing and flossing, it will eventually harden into tartar, which can only be removed by dental professionals. This means that the longer you go without a routine dental cleaning, the more tartar builds up along your gum lines, which puts you at risk for gum disease. Speaking of which…

In the early stages of gum disease, also called gingivitis, the health of your jaw bones is not yet at risk, which is good for avoiding gum recession. If your gums are tender, swollen, and bleed easily, it’s likely gingivitis. You can combat it with healthy brushing and flossing habits, but it’s also wise to bring the problem to us.

If untreated, gingivitis advances to become periodontitis. This is when gums start pulling away from the teeth and the integrity of the jaw bones is compromised. There are many risk factors for gum disease, including smoking, hormonal changes (like during pregnancy), diabetes, and dry mouth as a side effect of medications. At this point, better oral hygiene habits aren’t enough and professional treatment is absolutely necessary.

Help Us Help You Keep Those Gums Healthy!

If you’re worried about the structure and health of your gums, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with us! We can help you get your gum health back on track and discuss treatment options.

We’re rooting for you!

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 Lachlan Hardy used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

DIY Teeth Whitening Trends: Fact Or Fiction?

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:

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!

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.

Maintaining Your Post-Invisible Aligner Smile

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WHILE TRADITIONAL WIRE braces are still the most efficient at straightening teeth, fixing crowding, and correcting an underbite or overbite, invisible aligners have become an attractive alternative in recent years. Being able to get all the benefits of braces with such a low-profile appliance that can be removed for brushing, flossing, and eating can make the orthodontic process far more palatable.

But what’s next after you’ve progressed through every aligner tray and your teeth are perfectly aligned? What will it take to maintain the smile you’ve always wanted?

Wear Retainers As Recommended

In some cases, the final invisible aligner tray can be used initially as a full-time retainer and eventually as a nighttime one after the patient’s teeth are correctly aligned. In others, a separate retainer will be recommended, and those tend to be sturdier. No matter what type of retainer you end up with, be sure to follow the care instructions in order to keep it clean and effective as long as possible.

The reason it’s important to use retainers after the teeth are straight is that it can take around a year for the periodontal ligaments–the tiny connective tissue fibers that hold our teeth in place in our jaws–to get used to the new position. Without retainers, your teeth will be in danger of shifting back to the position those ligaments were used to.

Stay On Top Of Your Oral Hygiene

The most important component of post-aligner dental health is how well you take care of your teeth. That means maintaining good habits, such as:

  • brushing for two minutes twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush
  • flossing daily with traditional floss, interdental brushes, or a water flosser
  • avoiding sugary snacks and sodas that supercharge bad oral bacteria

Schedule Regular Dental Visits

No matter how straight your teeth are and how diligently you’re keeping them clean, they still need professional dental care twice a year. Dentists have the equipment and skill needed to clean your teeth thoroughly, take care of anything more extensive when needed, and help you make sure you’re on track with your own oral hygiene habits.

We Can Answer Your Questions!

If you have any questions about how to take care of your teeth post-invisible aligners, we’re happy to answer them. Any questions that pertain to the alignment of your teeth you should definitely bring to us. However, if your questions are more about keeping those teeth clean, your regular dentist can certainly answer them too.

Congratulations on all your hard work to get straight teeth!

Top image by Flickr user Carrie A. 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.

Helpful Tips For Flossing Around Braces

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FLOSSING IS CRUCIAL for dental health even when we don’t have braces, but it’s especially important when we do.

Not flossing can prolong orthodontic treatment by leading to unhealthy gums, which can actually grow over the brackets if they get bad enough. You could also end up with permanent white spots caused by enamel decalcification around your brackets, which will make getting your braces off far less exciting than it should have been.

Reaching Those Hard-To-Reach Spaces

As important as it is to floss around your braces, we know it’s tricky. Luckily for you, there are many braces-friendly options for interdental hygiene. Let’s take a closer look at a few of them.

Interdental Brushes

Interdental brushes–also called proxy brushes–are an excellent option if you have a hard time getting the floss around your braces, but it’s still a good idea to give your teeth some good traditional flossing. These little gadgets look like pipe cleaners for your teeth. They fit between and around brackets, scraping away any remnants of food and plaque as they go, and they can even fit between teeth!

Threaders

Flossing when you have braces can be time consuming and difficult, especially if you haven’t had much practice. Threaders will save you a lot of trouble. Just loop the floss through the threader and poke the end of the threader up between two brackets. From there, flossing is easy! Just keep moving around to the rest of your teeth.

Platypus Flosser

Floss picks (those little fork-like sticks with floss strung across the end) have made flossing quick and easy for many people, but they don’t help if you have braces, because the ends are too broad to fit between brackets. Luckily, you can just use platypus flossers instead! These flossers are specifically tailored to braces. One of the plastic ends is very flat, and the handle also works as a proxy brush, so you get two braces-friendly floss tools in one!

Water Flossers

A water flosser may be the most attractive interdental cleaning option for anyone with braces, because all you have to do is point the spout between your teeth and let it blast the plaque away with massaging pulses of water.

A Good Orthodontic Outcome Is A Team Effort!

Our job is to move your teeth into place so that you can have a straight smile and a healthy bite, but it’s your job to keep your teeth clean during that process, which is just as important. Good oral hygiene will help you get your braces off on schedule and ensure that your teeth look great when the braces are gone!

Thank you for being a 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.

Nail Biting And Oral Health

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WE CALL SUSPENSEFUL BOOKS “nail-biters,” but the habit of nail biting itself has less exciting connotations.

The most obvious consequence is torn, uneven nails, and in particularly severe cases, nails that become dramatically shortened and deformed over time. This alone would be enough of a reason to discourage the habit, but far more insidious are the effects of nail biting on teeth and oral health.

Consequences For Teeth And Gums

Teeth should never be used as tools, and that includes using them as nail clippers. Over time, nail biting, or oncyophagia, can lead to a variety of complications.

Malocclusion and gaps

Grinding the front teeth together in order to bite through nails can gradually cause them to shift, creating a bad bite—malocclusion—or a gap between the top teeth.

Wearing, chipping, and cracking

At the same time that teeth are shifting into less than ideal positions, they could also be getting chipped or cracked, and they are certainly being worn down.

Root resorption

The pressure chewing nails places on the teeth can actually cause the jaw bone to begin re-absorbing the roots of those teeth, weakening them and increasing the risk of tooth loss. Having braces makes the risk of root resorption even greater.

Gingivitis

Fingernails trap a lot of dirt and microorganisms under them, and chewing on them introduces all of that bacteria to the mouth, which can lead to gum disease.

Increased risk of developing bruxism

People who chew their nails are more likely to develop a chronic teeth-grinding habit, which causes even more problems for the teeth, as well as frequent headaches and facial pain.

Why Does It Happen?

Compulsive nail biting has traditionally been thought of as a nervous habit, but recent studies indicate it may have to do with boredom and perfectionism as well as anxiety. It’s one of several body-focused repetitive disorders, such as picking scabs and pulling hair. Biting nails can be comforting or it can simply provide something to do. Many people who bite their nails don’t even notice they’re doing it. That, of course, makes stopping much harder.

Breaking The Habit

There are many different strategies nail-biters can use to help overcome the urge to keep chewing those nails.

  • Keep nails trimmed short so there isn’t much to bite.
  • Use bitter-tasting nail polish to make nail biting unpleasant.
  • Get manicures so that you’re more motivated to keep your nails looking nice.
  • Replace nail-biting with a different habit, such as squeezing a stress ball or playing with silly putty.
  • Identify your triggers. If you know the circumstances that cause you to bite your nails, you can make plans for dealing with them.
  • Stop gradually. Pick one or two fingernails at a time to stop biting (you might need to cover them to physically prevent yourself from biting them), then gradually add more fingernails until there are none left to bite!

We’re With You All The Way!

Our patients’ oral health is our top concern, which makes us your biggest ally against bad habits that put your oral health in jeopardy. If you have any questions or concerns about nail biting or would like more advice on putting the habit behind you, don’t hesitate to call us!

Our practice is rooting for you!

Top image by Flickr user Maxwell GS 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.