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Monthly Archives: December 2019

Cold and Flu Season and Oral Health

COMING DOWN WITH the flu is never any fun, but it’s still no time to let up on your oral hygiene routine. The same applies if you get a cold. With flu and cold season starting up, we thought this was a good time to share some tips for maintaining good oral health through one of these common illnesses.

Brushing and Flossing Can Help You Feel Better

As well as you can while sick, try to remember to brush and floss as usual. It’s not just about the comfort of maintaining some part of your normal routine, or about getting some small sense of accomplishment out of it — no, brushing and flossing can actually make you feel better!

Keeping your mouth as clean as possible is a real boost to your overall sense of well-being. A clean mouth helps you feel rejuvenated and refreshed, so don’t let the simple habits of brushing and flossing fall by the wayside while you’re sick. Getting rid of oral bacteria can only help while you’re fighting a cold or the flu!

A Stuffy Nose Leads to Dry Mouth

If you can’t breathe out of your nose because of congestion, then obviously your only option is to breathe through your mouth. That’s never great for oral health, because it tends to dry things out. We need our saliva to fend off bacteria and wash away food debris, and dry mouth significantly increases the risk of tooth decay.

Sometimes the medicine we take to help with a cold or the flu (such as antihistamines, pain relievers, and decongestants) can actually make the dry mouth situation worse. Keep this in mind and make sure to drink plenty of water and, when possible, breathe through your nose.

Congestion and Bad Breath

Have you ever noticed a snotty taste when you have a cold? Well, it can also be a smell, in the form of bad breath. This happens because of post nasal drip, or excess mucus leaking down the back of the throat. It’s easy for bacteria to multiply in this situation, which leads to unpleasant smells — yet another reason why brushing and flossing are just as important when we’re sick!

Cut Down on Sugar

The bad bacteria in our mouths love when we eat sugar, even when it comes in the form of a cough drop. Sucking on a sugary cough drop is just as bad for our teeth as sucking on a hard candy, which is why it’s a good idea to choose a sugar free cough drop for your throat-soothing needs.

Rehydrate with Water

We tend to reach for beverages like orange juice, sports drinks, or sweetened tea when we’re sick. If we do, we should remember to rinse with water afterward to wash away any leftover sugar, but we should really be drinking water more than anything else. It will make up for the fluids lost due to flu or cold symptoms, and particularly if it’s the stomach flu, it helps to protect the teeth from the damaging effects of stomach acid from frequent vomiting.

Have Questions About Oral Health?

If there’s anything else you’d like to know about the relationship between oral health and common illnesses like colds or the flu, just give us a call! We want all of our patients to have the tools they need to stay as healthy as possible in addition to specifically having good oral health.

Feel better soon!

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 When a Toothache Strikes

TOOTHACHES CAN HAPPEN for a number of reasons. It’s important to know what to do about them, because they don’t always happen when the dentist’s office is open. Do you have a plan for how to deal with an after-hours toothache?

Major Causes of Toothaches

Tooth decay is the main culprit behind a painful tooth, but there are others too, from gum disease to pulp inflammation to dental abscess to an actual injury to the tooth. Teeth that are impacted in the jaw can also be painful. In addition to all these, tooth sensitivity can be uncomfortable, and sometimes the problem traces back to simple congestion or a sinus infection.

Managing Dental Pain Until the Appointment

If at all possible, come to us right away with your dental pain, but as we mentioned before, toothaches don’t always respect office hours. Here are a few things you can do to keep the pain level manageable until you can see us:

  • Apply a cold compress near the sore area
  • Use over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pills or topical medication
  • Reduce inflammation by rinsing and spitting with warm saltwater (do not swallow)

Ways to Prevent Future Toothaches

No one who has already had a toothache wants to have another one. They can’t always be prevented, as in cases where sinus infections or an injury were the cause, but aches and pains that result from poor dental health are ones patients can often prevent with the right habits.

The most important of those habits are brushing and flossing. Brush for twice a day for two full minutes using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste and floss daily. Also cut down on sugary foods and drinks that feed harmful oral bacteria, and make sure to schedule a professional dental cleaning and dental exam twice a year.

Why are these regular appointments so important? It’s very difficult to completely avoid tartar buildup without professional cleanings, and tooth decay doesn’t always have symptoms at first. If a dentist doesn’t catch it early on, it is unlikely to go away on its own and much more likely to get worse and become a painful (and expensive) problem.

We’re Here for You and Your Teeth!

As much as we don’t enjoy feeling pain, it’s the body’s natural alarm system to signal when something is wrong, and we need to pay attention. If you have a toothache, no matter what you think the cause is, schedule an appointment so that we can get to the bottom of it and recommend next steps.

It’s never too soon to see us about a dental problem!

Top image by Flickr user Edward Webb 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.

Fluoride and Cavity Prevention

IF YOU LOOK AT ANY tube of toothpaste with the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance, you’ll see fluoride listed as the active ingredient. Trace amounts of fluoride are also added to the drinking water in many communities to further promote strong and healthy teeth. But what is fluoride and how does it work?

A Brief History of Fluoride in Drinking Water

First, let’s take a look back at the fascinating history of this mineral. It all starts in Colorado Springs at the turn of the 20th century. Dentists in the town encountered numerous cases of “Colorado brown stain” — tooth discoloration that, bizarrely, was connected to a lower rate of cavities. Today, we call that fluorosis. Eventually, they traced it back to the water supply and discovered naturally occurring fluoride to be the cause.

Dentists were curious to see whether it was possible to keep the cavity prevention without any of the staining by lowering the level of fluoride, and they were right! When fluoride was first added to the public water supply in Grand Rapids, Michigan, it reduced the rate of childhood dental caries by a whopping 60 percent, with no adverse effects except for occasional cases of mild fluorosis.

Today, more than half of the U.S. population lives in communities with fluoridated water, and the CDC considers community water fluoridation “1 of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century,” benefiting young and old, rich and poor alike. It’s similar to drinking milk with vitamin D, baking with enriched flour, or even using iodized salt.

Fluoride and Teeth

So how does fluoride actually protect teeth? It does it by helping to remineralize weakened tooth enamel and reverse the early signs of tooth decay. Brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste gives a topical benefit, while fluoride from foods and drinks serves as an ongoing benefit by becoming part of your saliva, where it can provide continual remineralization.

For more details about how this works, check out this short video:

The Right Level of Fluoride: A Delicate Balance

As was the case in Colorado Springs a hundred years ago, it’s definitely possible to have too much fluoride. This is why it’s important to spit after brushing with a fluoride toothpaste instead of swallowing and only use tiny amounts of toothpaste when brushing the teeth of babies and small children, if any. It’s also why fluoridated water supplies maintain the level at a very low 0.7-1.2 parts per million. Using more fluoride than the recommended amounts won’t increase the positive effects, but avoiding it entirely will make it harder to prevent cavities.

Ask Us About Fluoride

There’s a lot of information out there about fluoride, and not all of it is from credible sources like the ADA and CDC. If you have any questions, feel free to ask! We want to make sure our patients are confident and informed about the tools they have to keep their teeth healthy and strong!

Our favorite sight is a patient’s healthy smile!

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.

The Hazards of Oral Piercings

FROM CLOTHING TO HAIRSTYLE to cosmetics to accessories, our personal style is how we portray who we are, and this can include piercings. However, where clothing and hairstyles are very rarely health risks (we hope), the same isn’t true of piercings. Oral piercings, specifically, pose several risks to healthy teeth and gums.

Risks of Tongue and Lip Rings

No piercing is entirely safe. Even basic earlobe piercings aren’t entirely risk-free, as they can become infected or there may be an allergic reaction to the metal. The same risks apply to oral piercings, but there are also additional ones with those.

  • Damage from fidgeting: it’s difficult to resist fidgeting with any foreign object in the mouth, but doing that with a tongue or lip piercing can result in chipped or cracked teeth, damage to fillings, and injuries to the soft tissues of the gums, lips, or tongue.
  • Nerve damage: tongue piercings can cause temporary or even permanent numbness in the tongue because of nerve damage, which can affect speech, chewing, and even sense of taste.
  • Gum recession: a piercing can wear gum tissue away by friction, exposing the roots of the teeth and leaving them much more vulnerable to decay.
  • Infection: many species of bacteria live in our mouths. We can control them with good oral hygiene, but piercings bring that bacteria much closer to the bloodstream, which can result in pain, swelling, and infection.
  • X-ray trouble: piercings show up very brightly on X-rays, and they can obscure important areas, making it easier for cavities to go undetected.
  • Drooling: foreign objects in the mouth stimulate the salivary glands. Piercings can trick them into working overtime, producing a lot of drool.

Oral Piercings and Braces Do Not Mix

The risks are even greater for orthodontic patients, because it doesn’t take much for a piercing to get tangled up in the orthodontic hardware. If this happens, it can damage the braces and cause injuries around the piercing site. We strongly urge orthodontic patients to wait until their treatment is over before getting an oral piercing.

How to Properly Care for a Piercing

We’re not here to forbid our patients from ever getting these types of piercings, we just want to be sure they are fully informed of the risks involved. If it still seems like a good idea, it’s also important to know the ways to manage those risks. Being diligent with oral hygiene is the most obvious one, but there are others too. None are as effective as removing or never getting the piercings, but they do make a difference:

  • Clean the piercing site after every meal or snack to prevent bacteria and food debris from building up.
  • Remove all piercings during physical activity like sports to minimize the risk of injury.
  • Check that the piercing is secure so that it can’t come loose and become a choking hazard.
  • Go to the dentist at the first sign of infection, including symptoms like swelling, pain, or unusual redness, as well as chills, fever, or shaking.
  • Don’t click the piercing against your teeth. Be very gentle with how you move it so that it doesn’t cause chips and cracks.

Your Oral Health Is Our Top Priority

We’re always here to help our patients maintain healthy teeth and gums, which is why we’re not the biggest fans of oral piercings. To learn more about how a piercing can impact your oral health or how you can minimize these risks, just give us a call or drop by our practice!

We look forward to seeing you and your 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.
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