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1515 Wilson Blvd., Suite 103
Arlington, VA 22209

"As always, a pleasure to have my teeth cleaned by Leni! :)" — Jamie R.

Monthly Archives: July 2018

Smile For Your Health!

THERE ARE SO MANY things that can make us smile, from seeing an old friend to watching a good movie to randomly remembering a great joke we heard years ago. Well, we’re about to give you another reason to smile: it’s good for your health! That’s right, smiling has actual health benefits, so prepare to flash those pearly whites as you read all about them!

Smiling And The Feel-Good Hormone

When we smile, it triggers a chemical reaction in our bodies: the release of endorphins. Endorphins are natural hormones that inhibit pain and produce feelings of euphoria. We get them after a good workout, and we also get them when we’re happy. What’s really cool is that our brains associate smiling with happiness so strongly that even a fake smile will trigger that endorphin release. So if you get injured, take advantage of this trick to reduce your pain levels!

Smile To Reduce Your Stress

Another benefit of endorphins released by smiling is that they help relieve stress. When we become stressed, our heart rate increases. Smiling (fake or real) has been proven to bring heart rates back down more quickly and lower blood pressure.

A study from 2012 involved giving subjects a stressful task to complete. One group had to complete the task while clamping a pencil between their teeth, forcing them to smile the whole time. The other group had to grip the pencil between their lips, forcing them to maintain a more neutral face. Those with the larges smiles returned to their resting heart rates the fastest!

Strengthen Your Immune System With Smiles

The more endorphins we get from smiling and the more we reduce our stress, the easier it is for our immune systems to keep us healthy. Our cells become less rigid when we are less stressed, and this makes quicker paths for our immune response cells to react to pathogens and other threats to our health. It can even lower our chances of getting cancer by reducing the number of stress-induced mutations in our cells!

The cumulative effect of all of this is that we can even add years to our lives by smiling! So get started earning those laughter lines!

Bonus Benefit Of Smiling: Productivity Boost!

When we are in a good mood, we tend to get more done. And because we can actually make ourselves feel better just by the physical act of smiling, we can improve our productivity at work by smiling more! Your coworkers could even catch the smiling bug, because we all know how contagious smiles are!

Let Us Give You Reasons To Smile

Even with all these benefits, it can be difficult to smile with confidence without healthy teeth and gums. Make sure to maintain those good brushing and flossing habits to keep your smile in good shape, and visit your dentist twice a year for a deep-clean and to stop any dental problems in their tracks!

We love seeing our patients’ 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.

Thumb-Sucking, Pacifiers, And Oral Health

THE WORLD IS A big, new, confusing place for a young child, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that they like having something familiar to help them cope. Sometimes this means a stuffed animal or favorite blanket they carry everywhere, but for many children, it’s a pacifier or a thumb.

As parents, it’s important to be able to strike the right balance for our children when it comes to thumb-sucking or pacifier habits. Forcing them to stop too early can bring them unnecessary stress, but allowing them to continue sucking that thumb too long can cause significant problems for their oral health.

When Thumb-Sucking And Pacifiers Are Beneficial

Sucking on things is a reflex babies develop before birth, and it can be very comforting for them. Sucking their thumb or a pacifier will help them feel safe and happy in their earliest years of life. Benefits to thumb-sucking or pacifier use at this stage include helping them sleep (which also helps you sleep), keeping them calm when separated from you, and reducing the risk of SIDS.

When Is It Time To Stop?

Many parents worry that their toddler’s thumb-sucking or pacifier use will cause their adult teeth to grow in crooked, but there’s no need to worry at this age. Most children stop sucking their thumbs on their own by age four, and when they begin school, the desire to appear as grown-up as their peers will encourage them to stop.

If they don’t stop on their own around kindergarten age, this is when it’s important to intervene. Once the permanent teeth start coming in, vigorous thumb-sucking can lead to changes in the shape of the palate and an open bite between the upper and lower teeth, which will mean expensive orthodontic treatment down the line.

Tips For Discouraging Thumb-Sucking

Bite and dental alignment problems are less common with pacifiers because parents can simply take the pacifier away if the child doesn’t stop using it on their own by age three, but if your child is getting close to age six and still sucking their thumb, here are a few safe strategies you could use:

  • Praise their successes rather than scolding them for continuing to suck their thumb.
  • Create a rewards chart so they can see the progress they’re making and what they’re working for.
  • Keep their hands and minds occupied with activities like arts and crafts. Sometimes they thumb-suck because they’re bored!
  • Cover their hands with socks at night to keep them from thumb-sucking in their sleep. (You may need to tape these in place so they can’t remove them.)

Don’t forget that these strategies are for kindergarten-age and older children, not toddlers! Toddlers are too young to understand why you want them to stop sucking their thumb, so attempts at discouragement will only upset them.

Come To Us With Your Concerns

If you’re worried about your child’s pacifier use or thumb-sucking habit, don’t hesitate to talk to us! We can answer your questions and help you develop an effective strategy to ensure your child’s healthy dental development.

We love having you and your child as 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.

Swimming And Oral Health

THERE’S NOTHING BETTER than a swim in the pool to cool down during the hot summer months. Before we dive in, we should be aware of how our time in the pool can impact our oral health. That’s right: the chlorine in swimming pools doesn’t just cause dry skin and eye irritation, it can also have an effect on our teeth.

Chlorine Versus Our Teeth

The reason swimming pools contain chlorine is that it helps to decontaminate the water from microbes and other unpleasant things that could pose health and sanitation risks to swimmers. However, when chlorine is added to water, it forms a weak acid, and unless the pool’s pH isn’t carefully regulated, that acid can lead to a condition called swimmer’s calculus.

Swimmer’s calculus is yellow and brown stains that can develop on teeth enamel after too much exposure to chlorine. It’s also what can make our teeth feel more sensitive after swimming, because enamel erosion leaves the dentin underneath more vulnerable. When we have good oral health, our saliva works to keep our mouths as close to a neutral pH as possible, thus protecting our enamel from erosion, but acid exposure can harm enamel before the saliva can do its job.

This isn’t usually a problem for casual swimmers, but anyone who is a serious swimmer or participates in water sports should be aware of the possibility of developing swimmer’s calculus. The best ways to prevent chlorine damage to your teeth are to maintain a good oral health routine with daily brushing and flossing, drink plenty of fresh water to flush out the chlorine residue, and keep your mouth closed while swimming!

Check out this video to learn about other ways our teeth are exposed to acids:

Dental Concerns Of Scuba Diving

If swimming pools aren’t your thing but you love snorkeling and diving, your teeth will be safe from the effects of chlorine, but they may still face other problems. Barodontalgia, commonly called tooth squeeze, is when tiny air bubbles trapped in cracks, crevices, and holes in our teeth change size due to pressure. This pressure change can result in significant tooth pain and can even fracture teeth, and a good preventative measure is a dental appointment before diving season begins!

Most divers are familiar with how uncomfortable those “one size fits none” mouthpieces can be, but do you know they can be bad for your teeth? Divers with poorly-fitting mouthpieces have to clench to keep them in place, and this can lead to Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ), which causes jaw pain and headaches and makes it uncomfortable to chew. If you’re a frequent diver, you might want to invest in a custom-fitted mouthpiece.

Let’s Get Those Teeth Ready For The Water!

We want all of our patients to have a wonderful summer enjoying their favorite water sports and activities without fear for the effects on their teeth. Schedule a dental appointment so that we can make sure your teeth are healthy and answer any of your questions about underwater tooth problems and how to avoid them!

Take time to cool off this summer! You deserve it!

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.

What To Do About White Spots

HAVE YOU EVER NOTICED white spots on your own or someone else’s teeth? When we think of stains, we usually think of dark colors, but stains on teeth can just as easily be whiter than the surrounding area. These white spots can happen for a few different reasons, and there are a few different ways to remove them.

Causes Of White Spots

Stains can affect the outside of the tooth and the inside. White spots are surface stains affecting the enamel, and they can occur on an otherwise healthy tooth. These spots are most commonly caused by fluorosis and demineralization.

Fluorosis occurs when the adult teeth are exposed to too much fluoride while still developing beneath the gums. This doesn’t damage the teeth, it just unevenly bleaches them. The best way to avoid fluorosis is to make sure your child doesn’t use too much toothpaste before their adult teeth start coming in. Just a pea-sized dab is enough for a young child, and no more than a smear the size of a grain of rice should be used for babies and toddlers.

Demineralization is far more harmful than fluorosis, as it involves the leaching of minerals out of the enamel through exposure to acids. This happens when plaque isn’t cleaned away effectively. Good brushing habits and regular dental cleanings are crucial for preventing this problem. Demineralization is a particular risk for people with braces, so make extra sure to clean around those brackets!

Another cause of white spots is enamel hypoplasia, meaning enamel is thinner than usual, leaving the teeth more vulnerable to stains and decay. This condition can be caused in a child’s teeth when the mother smokes while pregnant, and it can also be caused by malnutrition and premature birth.

Treatment Options For White Spots

The best thing to do is always to prevent the white spots from developing in the first place, but when they do form, there are a few different ways they can be treated. With the microabrasion route, a thin layer of enamel is carefully removed to give the teeth a more uniform appearance. This can be paired with whitening treatments.

Another way of giving your teeth more balanced color is bleaching. Over-the-counter bleaching kits do help, but we recommend professional whitening in the dentist’s office or dentist-approved take-home kits for best results.
In cases of particularly severe staining that can’t be corrected with bleaching, veneers are an excellent option. The dentist attaches thin porcelain to the teeth, which gives them a natural, white appearance.

If you’re more worried about yellowing teeth than white spots, check out this video:

Let’s See Those Pearly Whites!

If you have white spots on your teeth, come see us so that we can figure out the best way to get you the bright, beautiful smile you deserve. We’re committed to our patients’ dental health and happiness!

Keep taking care of your beautiful smile between visits!

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.
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