703-528-3336
1-855-VA-SMILE
1515 Wilson Blvd., Suite 103
Arlington, VA 22209

"Excellent, as always. Thank you." — Elizabeth L.

Monthly Archives: May 2019

Plaque, Tartar, And Your Teeth

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!

Top image by Flickr user sittered 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.

It’s Time To Kick That Ice-Chewing Habit

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!

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.

Taking Care Of Your Pet’s Teeth

IT’S EASY TO ASSUME that our pets don’t need dental care like we do. After all, wild animals can’t exactly brush their teeth, and that doesn’t seem to be a problem for them. However, it turns out that our pets’ teeth have a very different situation than the teeth of wild animals, and they do need our help to stay healthy.

Animal Teeth In The Wild

There are two main reasons wild animals don’t need dental care. The first is diet. Unlike us and our pets (particularly cats and dogs), wild animals don’t consume a lot of sugar or carbs, which is what feeds the bacteria that causes tooth decay. Wild animals are more likely to wear their teeth down than they are to get cavities.

The second reason wild animals don’t seem to get tooth decay as often is that their teeth essentially outlive them. Their lifespans aren’t long enough for their teeth to rot before they die. If an animal’s teeth do rot, it won’t survive much longer in the wild, because unlike domesticated animals, it doesn’t have a friendly human to feed it after it can no longer eat its usual food.

What Dental Problems Are Pets At Risk For?

Our puppies and kitties might have teeth that look a lot different from ours, but they can get cavities and gum disease just like we can. In fact, a whopping 85 percent of dogs and cats get gum disease by age three. Keep an eye out for symptoms like difficulty chewing, tooth loss, and bad breath, as well as loose teeth, swollen or bleeding gums, and loss of appetite.

In a way, dental problems are even more serious for our pets than they are for us. We can take care of our own teeth, and we can describe what our teeth and gums feel like to our dentists. Our pets can’t do any of that, so when a problem happens, it’s more likely to get worse.

Tips For Pet Dental Care

Don’t wait for your pet to start showing symptoms of dental problems to begin a dental hygiene routine for them. Whether you’re keeping their teeth healthy or helping fight back against existing problems, you’ll be making your furry friend’s life so much better. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Brush their teeth daily.
  • Only use veterinary toothpaste, if any. (Your toothpaste will make them sick.)
  • Give them vet-approved dental treats to help clean their teeth.
  • Get their teeth professionally cleaned! Some vets offer dental services, but if your vet doesn’t, they can probably recommend a veterinary dental specialist in the area.

Do It For Those Happy Doggy And Kitty Smiles!

As a pet owner, there’s nothing better than seeing them happy and full of life, and taking good care of their teeth is a great way to make that happen. If you have any questions about what to do for your pet’s teeth or if you’re having trouble getting them used to a dental hygiene routine, make use of resources like our practice and your veterinarian.

We look forward to seeing you at our practice!

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.

Enamel Hypoplasia

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.

What Is Enamel Hypoplasia?

Enamel hypoplasia is a defect that affects the way the teeth develop, causing them to have poor enamel matrix formation. Symptoms of enamel hypoplasia include:

  • Pits, grooves, depressions, and fissures in the teeth
  • White spots
  • Yellowish-brown stains
  • Temperature and acid sensitivity
  • Irregular wearing of teeth
  • Increased vulnerability to tooth decay and cavities

A similar (but less severe) condition is hypomineralization, in which the enamel has insufficient mineral content and is softer and more translucent. If the hypoplasia only affects a single tooth, it is called Turner’s hypoplasia, which often the result of trauma or infection while the tooth was developing.

Causes Of Enamel Hypoplasia

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!

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.

Defeating Bad Breath

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.
Amenitites

Convenient Appointments

Our early morning and evening appointments let you fit dental visits around work and school.

Scheduling

Insurance & Financing

Our flexible payment options help all of our patients afford the quality dental care they deserve.

Facebook Like

We Like You!

Please “like” us back to follow us on Facebook for special offers, news, and events.

New Patient Forms

New Patient Forms

We invite you to download our forms. Adobe Acrobat Reader is needed to open them.

Load