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1515 Wilson Blvd., Suite 103
Arlington, VA 22209

"I have high anxiety during dental visits. Not this time!" — Alexa H.

Monthly Archives: July 2015

The Delicate Balance of Oral Bacteria

THE BACTERIA IN OUR BODIES vastly outnumber our human cells! And no matter how much we brush, floss, or rinse, our mouths will always be home to billions of microbes. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing!

Different types of bacteria keep others in check, and most aren’t anything to worry about. But maintaining this balance requires some effort on your part—to support the good bacteria and limit the growth of the bad.

Our Oral Ecosystems

Recent studies estimate that there are about 1000 species of oral bacteria, with 100 to 200 in any given individual. Microbes live off nutrients found in saliva, and on our gums, teeth and tongues. In a healthy mouth, beneficial bacteria fight disease-causing germs and fungi. They’re actually our immune system’s first responders! The constant flow of saliva also helps keep acid-producing bacteria from getting established. But even with all these defenses, harmful microbes can still upset the balance.

Bad Bacteria Causes Bad Breath

Poor oral hygiene and other conditions like dry mouth create an environment in which harmful bacteria thrive. An excess of sugar residue from candy, soda and other foods speeds up the already explosive microbe growth. The bacterial imbalance can result in chronic bad breath, canker sores, higher risk of illness, tooth decay and other problems.

5 Steps For A Healthy Oral Environment

By following a good oral care routine, you can make sure the scale is always tipped in favor of the good bacteria! Create an oral environment that promotes beneficial microbes with these five steps:

  1. Brush your teeth twice a day
  2. Floss daily, and scrape your tongue daily
  3. Limit consumption of foods high in sugars, and rinse with water after eating
  4. Avoid dry mouth by chewing sugar-free gum
  5. Don’t share toothbrushes or other items that touch the mouth

Since every oral environment is different, there may be other factors that are influencing your personal flora and fauna. As you come in for regular dental checkups, we can keep tabs on your unique oral profile. Together, we’ll determine a personalized plan if anything needs to be changed to keep your mouth at its healthiest.

We’re honored to be your partner in the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. Thank you for being our valued patient!

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

A Toothpaste Timeline

OUR NIGHTLY BRUSHING ROUTINE wouldn’t be complete without that minty-fresh toothpaste tingle, right? But toothpaste hasn’t always been soft and minty. Years ago, it was less pleasant to use.

Toothpaste Existed As Early As 5000 B.C.

The oldest form of toothpaste known was created by the Egyptians. The powder formula included crushed rock salt, mint, pepper, and dried iris flowers. Sometimes, other abrasive materials like ox-hoof ashes, burnt eggshells, or oyster shells were added.

Would You Recognize Toothpastes From The Past?

Around 1780, burnt toast was made into powder and used as a tooth-cleaning agent. That probably wasn’t the best idea. Around 1800 soap was added to tooth powders for “cleanliness”. Not long after that, a smooth paste—the texture we’re used to today—was created for the first time.

In 1873 the first commercially produced toothpaste was sold in jars. It wasn’t until 20 years later that toothpaste was sold in a collapsible tube, similar to those we use today. After the discovery of fluoride’s decay prevention qualities, it was added to toothpaste in 1914.

Modern Toothpaste Has A Few Standard Elements

Each major ingredient in modern toothpaste makes brushing teeth easy, comfortable, effective and tasty. Here are the basic components you’ll find:

  • Fluoride fights off decay by strengthening tooth enamel.
  • Abrasives scrub the surface of the tooth without scratching or damaging enamel.
  • Flavors come from sweetening agents such as saccharin or sorbitol. (The ADA won’t give its seal of acceptance to toothpastes with decay-causing sugar.)
  • Humectants like sorbitol and glycerol trap water in the toothpaste so that when you squeeze the tube, you get a smooth substance.
  • Detergents give us the foaming effect we love in our toothpaste. Sodium lauryl sulfate is the one you’ll most often see.

Get The Most From Your At-Home Dental Care

The important thing to remember about toothpaste is that our toothbrushing habits and technique matter much more than the toothpaste brand we use. However, while shopping for toothpaste, look for the American Dental Association’s (ADA) seal of acceptance. This confirms that a product has met the criteria for effectiveness and safety.

If you have any other questions about your personal oral hygiene routine, talk with us about it! We love to hear from you.

Thanks for your trust in our practice!

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

4 Reminders For Improving Oral Health Through Diet

OUR DIETS AFFECT EVERY PART of our bodies. Oral health can improve or deteriorate drastically based on the things we eat!

First, Cut Down On Sugar

Sugar has become far too big a part of our modern diets. In addition to making us sick and fat, it erodes our teeth! Avoid frequent snacking on sugary foods, especially things that are sticky or slow dissolving (like most candies). The constant presence of sugar turbocharges acid-producing bacteria, eating away at our tooth enamel.

The biggest offenders are soda, sports drinks and energy drinks. What makes them especially dangerous is that we tend to sip them, coating teeth in sugar over and over again for long periods of time.

Second, A Nutrient-Rich Diet Supports Oral Health

Our mouths require many different nutrients. Here are some of the most important ones:

  • Calcium: remineralizes teeth – found in yogurt, fish and leafy greens
  • Iron: promotes tongue health and prevents sores – found in red meat, grains and nuts
  • Vitamin C: essential for gum health – found in citrus, sweet potatoes and peppers
  • Vitamin A: accelerates mouth healing – found in milk, leafy greens and orange and yellow fruits and vegetables
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin): promotes good breath and reduces swelling – found in poultry, peanuts and potatoes

Of course this isn’t a complete list, but it may give you an idea of the kind of balanced diet you need for good oral health. Be conscious of how you fuel your body and mouth!

Third, Drink More Water

Overhauling our entire diets can be a significant undertaking. But here’s one easy thing we can all start doing today: drink more water! Drinking water helps wash away plaque-forming films and keeps saliva flowing.

Fourth, Oral Health Is Closely Linked To Overall Health

You might expect us to just say “stay away from candy,” but we believe our mission extends beyond that. Oral care is an integral part of overall health, and we’re here to support you in your pursuit of total wellbeing.

Thank you for being our valued patient and friend!

Top image by Flickr user U.S. Department of Agriculture used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The Link Between Osteoporosis And Gum Disease

WHAT DO OSTEOPOROSIS and gum disease have in common? Bone loss! For anyone with gum disease, osteoporosis, or both… it’s important to know about the correlation between these two conditions.

How Does Gum Disease Cause Bone Loss?

Are you surprised to hear that gum disease can contribute to bone loss? The first stage of gum disease, gingivitis, rarely affects bone structure. But if it progresses to advanced periodontitis, then the infection spreads beneath the teeth to destroy connective gum tissue AND supportive structure in your jaw.

Those With Osteoporosis May Have 85% Greater Periodontitis Risk

A recent study showed an alarmingly high correlation between low bone density and gum disease risk. Bone density was measured using a FRAX score (fracture risk assessment tool). Even disregarding common risk factors like age, smoking, or diabetes, it was shown that patients with osteoporosis have an 85% greater likelihood of periodontal disease.

More research is needed to find the reason for this correlation. However, one factor is important to note: advanced gum disease degrades bone mass in the jaw. For those with already-low bone mass, thanks to osteoporosis, the risk is even greater. Gum disease can very quickly cause a lot of damage.

We’re Looking Out For Your Whole-Body Health

So, if you have gum disease, along with other possible risk factors for osteoporosis, don’t be surprised if we ask you the last time you had a checkup with your doctor. After looking at a dental x-ray, we may recommend that you have your bone health assessed.

In the meantime, take good care of your teeth. Gum disease can be worrying, but it’s preventable with good personal care habits and frequent visits with our team.

The relationship between osteoporosis and gum disease is just one example of the mouth-body health connection. The more we learn, the more we see that what happens in your mouth doesn’t just stay in your mouth. Dental health has an effect on your entire body.

Let us know if you have any questions about your dental health. We’re honored to be your partners in oral health care.

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

Crazy Things People Believe About Toothaches

HAVE A TOOTHACHE? Wear these fish bones around your neck, repeat a chant, and drop a few pears into the river!

Sounds ridiculous, right? But those are toothache remedies you’d hear during the Middle Ages! You can imagine how frustrating it must have been for our ancestors with tooth pain—they were willing to try anything for relief! Modern dentistry has swept away many bizarre superstitions—however, some people still believe dangerous myths about toothaches and how to cure them.

Different “Cures” From Different Cultures

There are a lot of unusual methods for relieving toothaches we’ve gathered from various cultures (both ancient and modern) around the world. One common belief was that dental pain was caused by a “tooth worm” that had burrowed its way inside a tooth. To coax the worm out, people would inhale smoke, smear their teeth with honey, and swish with all kinds of disgusting rinses. Others include:

  • Putting both stockings on one foot.
  • Driving a horseshoe nail into your house’s front door lintel.
  • Spitting out bread by an anthill, and as the ants carry it away the pain will leave.
  • Complaining to a pear tree about your toothache.
  • Vowing to never comb your hair on a Friday or shave on a Sunday.

Though these may seem absurd, let’s not be too quick to judge—there are still plenty of false beliefs about toothaches today!

Modern Toothache Myths

There are several causes of dental pain including cavities, gum disease, infection, and chipping. These three tips will help debunk some common myths that could stop you from getting the treatment you need:

  1. Do not put aspirin on your tooth. Aspirin does nothing to relieve pain when applied topically, and could result in a nasty acid burn on your cheek and gums.
  2. A toothache DOES NOT mean you will lose the tooth. There are treatments that can save even badly infected teeth.
  3. If pain is off-and-on, you still need a checkup. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. It shouldn’t be ignored.

Don’t Wait To Visit Us If You Have Pain

Trust Our Practice For Solutions

Nobody should have to live with dental pain. Our practice is focused on the latest treatments to not only relieve toothaches, but to create healthy and resilient smiles, so you can get back to living your life. Don’t let one more day of dental discomfort go by without contacting us.

We cherish our relationship with you as our valued patients and friends!

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