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Arlington, VA 22209

"Outstanding dental cleaning" — Ron A.

Monthly Archives: June 2019

Don’t Take A Vacation From Oral Hygiene!

WITH THE ARRIVAL OF SUMMER comes the season of family vacations and exciting trips to new places. We’re as excited for it as our patients, but before everyone leaves to explore parts unknown, we want to give you a few tips and reminders about taking care of your teeth while you’re away from home.

Before You Go, See The Dentist

The last thing anyone wants while relaxing on a beach or enjoying the rides at a theme park is for their fun to be interrupted by a toothache or dental emergency. Depending where you go on your vacation, it might be hard to get proper dental treatment. You’ll save yourself a major potential hassle by simply scheduling a dental appointment before you leave!

A simple dental checkup will ensure that your teeth are clean and cavity-free when you start your trip. It’s especially important to get any restorations (e.g. crowns and fillings) checked in case they’re becoming loose, and untreated cavities and weakened dental work can become painful due to the pressure changes on flights.

Don’t Get Too Carried Away With Vacation Food

We can probably all agree that the food is often one of the best parts of any vacation, but that can make it easy to overdo it. Try to avoid eating too many sweet treats and snacks, and maybe keep a pack of sugar free gum handy to help prevent cavities.

Don’t Slack On Brushing And Flossing

When we’re at home, it’s easy to go through daily routines like brushing in the morning and brushing and flossing in the evening. Make sure to pack your toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss when you go, and quickly establish these routines in your new location.

One important thing to remember is that bacteria grows fast on a toothbrush that is damp and in an enclosed space, such as in luggage. Give your brush time to dry before you pack it, and store it somewhere it can get plenty of ventilation between uses.

Instead of leaving your toothbrush out on a hotel counter, try a simple solution like this:

Have A Great Vacation!

Following these tips will help you keep your teeth strong and healthy while you’re away from home. That should make it easier to flash a big, bright smile for the camera during your adventures! Have a wonderful time, and we look forward to seeing you again soon!

Thank you for trusting us with your dental health!

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.

Repeat After Us: Teeth Are Not Tools

OUR TEETH ARE pretty amazing, and there’s a lot they can do. They chew our food, they provide structural support for the lower third of our faces, they help us speak clearly, and they give us our beautiful smiles. However, many people also find other uses for their teeth, which can be very dangerous. Teeth are not tools, and shouldn’t be used in place of them.

Teeth Are Not Bottle-Openers

Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, so it might seem like that makes teeth perfect to use when you don’t have a bottle opener handy, right? Wrong. Tooth enamel isn’t just hard, it’s brittle, and it is not designed to win a fight against materials like metal and glass.

Using your teeth as a bottle opener can easily chip, crack, or break them, as well as risking damage to the soft tissues of the lips and gums if you slip. Doing it over and over again can even cause your teeth to shift out of their proper alignment and wear down unevenly. It isn’t worth it.

Teeth Are Not Nutcrackers

Like with trying to open a bottle, trying to crack a hard walnut, pecan, or even pistachio shells and popcorn kernels between your teeth risks chipping or cracking the teeth instead. Teeth that are already weaker due to decay or a filling are at even greater risk of damage.

Teeth Are Not An Extra Hand

When your hands are busy, it can be very convenient to hold a pencil, sewing pins, or maybe a few nails between your teeth. However, making a habit out of doing this can have a number of consequences. If you trip, the items in your mouth could cause a serious injury. If a yawn or hiccup catches you by surprise, you might even end up swallowing or choking on the object. And over time, you can wear down your enamel. Pencils would be better off behind your ear, pins in a cushion, and nails in a utility belt until you’re ready to use them.

Teeth Are Not Scissors (Or Nailclippers)

A particularly common way people use their teeth as tools is to bite through packing tape instead of using scissors, and some people even try to use their teeth to cut through wire. It takes much greater biting pressure to cut through non-food items than it does to chew food, and cutting things requires grinding the teeth together. This wears down the chewing surfaces and risks chipping and fracturing.

A nail-biting habit is particularly bad, both for the teeth and for the nails. The germs from the nails increase the risk of tooth decay, teeth will become worn down more quickly and shift out of alignment, and pieces of fingernail can damage the gum tissue, all while the nails themselves are left ragged and misshapen.

Protect Your Teeth By Using Them Right

Cracked and fractured teeth are the third highest cause of tooth loss. Don’t take risks with your teeth by using them as tools. Save yourself an expensive emergency dental visit; use your teeth only for what they are meant for and continue your daily brushing and flossing routine to keep them healthy.

We love to see 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.

Too Few Or Too Many Adult Teeth?

DEPENDING ON HOW MANY wisdom teeth come in and whether or not they have to be removed, most adults have 28-32 adult teeth. There are a few outliers in either direction, however. Some people have fewer teeth than they should (called hypodontia or congenitally missing teeth), while others have one or more extra (called hyperdontia or supernumerary teeth). How does this happen and what do we do about it?

Congenitally Missing Teeth

Between 2-4 percent of the population has at least one tooth missing from the adult set. The most common teeth affected by this condition are wisdom teeth, lower second premolars, and upper lateral incisors. It’s not really an issue to be missing wisdom teeth, but missing incisors and premolars can cause difficulties with chewing, the surrounding teeth may shift, and the decreased jaw support can lead to additional tooth loss.

The reason for congenitally missing teeth is nearly always genetics, which is why you tend to see it run in families. Sometimes it happens in conjunction with a larger genetic disorder like Down syndrome or ectodermal dysplasia.

Supernumerary Teeth

At the other end of the dental spectrum is hyperdontia, where extra teeth develop in the jaw. It happens more often with adult teeth than baby teeth. We don’t fully understand what causes this condition, but one leading theory is that it could be the result of a tooth bud dividing abnormally, producing two teeth instead of one.

Supernumerary teeth aren’t always shaped like normal teeth. They can also be peg-shaped, have multiple cusps, or simply be a mass of dental tissue. However they develop, they often don’t have room to erupt, so they remain impacted in the gums, causing crowding and alignment problems for the normal teeth.

Treatment For Hypodontia And Hyperdontia

The typical treatment for extra teeth is to extract them if there isn’t room for them, but dealing with a congenitally missing tooth can be more complicated. Depending on the age of the patient and how long the tooth has been missing, different options may be better. The first step is usually orthodontic treatment so that the gap will be wide enough to fit a replacement tooth. These come in a few forms:

  • Removable partial dentures are a simple solution. They can be attached to a retainer or anchored in place by the surrounding teeth.
  • Dental bridges “bridge” the gaps by anchoring to the neighboring teeth, but unlike dentures, they’re cemented in place.
  • The most permanent solution is a dental implant, which functions like a normal tooth. An implant consists of a post fixed in the jaw bone with a crown on top that matches the natural teeth. Implants can also provide support for bridges when multiple teeth are missing.

Let’s Take A Look At Those Teeth

With regular dental appointments, we can catch cases of hypodontia and hyperdontia early on and make a plan for how to address it. Keep up with your daily dental hygiene routine, keep scheduling those regular appointments, and give us a call if you have any questions about these rare conditions!

Keep on smiling!

Top image by Flickr user Héctor Arango 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 Dangers Of Chronic Teeth Grinding

GRINDING OUR TEETH briefly when we’re nervous or frustrated is pretty normal. When the grinding doesn’t stop, however, it can do a lot of damage, whether it happens during the day or while we’re asleep. This kind of chronic grinding is called bruxism.

What Causes Teeth Grinding?

While daytime bruxism can be the result of stress and sleep bruxism is often associated with sleep apnea or snoring, you don’t need stress or a sleep disorder to have a teeth-grinding habit (and vice versa). It could be because of missing or improperly aligned teeth, or a bad bite.

Certain factors can predispose someone to bruxism. These include anxiety and stress, age (children are more prone to grinding than adults), antidepressants (including prescription drugs, tobacco, and alcohol), a family history of bruxism, and other disorders like Parkinson’s disease, ADHD, and GERD.

Common Signs Of A Grinding Habit

Many people who grind their teeth don’t notice when they do it (especially if they’re mainly doing it in their sleep) but you don’t have to catch a teeth-grinder in the act, because there are plenty of other indicators:

  • Shortened, worn down teeth with flat chewing surfaces
  • Chips, cracks, and splits in the teeth
  • Exposed dentin (the more yellow layer beneath the white enamel)
  • Tooth loss
  • Soreness in the jaw (for nighttime teeth-grinders, the jaw will be most sore in the morning; for daytime grinders, the jaw will be most sore in the evening)
  • Frequent headaches
  • Overdeveloped jaw muscles

Treatment Options For Bruxism

The best treatment for bruxism will depend on which type it is, and some treatments focus more on minimizing damage while others focus on finding the cause of the grinding and addressing it.

Orthodontic Treatment

For bruxism that is caused by a bad bite or poorly aligned teeth, straightening those teeth out and correcting the bite may fix the problem.

Custom Mouthguards

While a mouthguard can’t do anything about the grinding itself or what’s causing it, it can protect the teeth from further damage by providing a cushion between the upper and lower teeth.

Behavioral Therapy

Habit-reversal techniques and behavioral therapy can help patients with teeth grinding become more aware of the habit and make a more conscious effort to stop. This is more effective for awake bruxism than sleep bruxism, as the latter is much more difficult to control.

Relaxation

In cases where bruxism is caused by stress or anxiety, relaxation techniques can help. These include activities like massages, warm baths, listening to calming music, getting a full night’s sleep, yoga, and deep breathing exercises.

It’s Time To Stop The Grind!

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms that indicate bruxism, schedule an appointment with us so we can make a plan for how to address it and stop the damage. It’s crucial not to leave a habit like this untreated, because that will only give it more time to hurt your teeth.

We’re here to help you keep your teeth healthy!

Top image by Flickr user Joseph Lindley 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.
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