Author Archives: Dr. Greg LaVecchia

The Effects Of Pregnancy On Oral Health

YOU CAN ALWAYS expect your body to go through a lot of changes when you’re expecting, but did you know that some of those changes are to your oral health?

The changing hormone levels of pregnancy actually put expecting mothers at greater risk of developing a variety of oral health issues, including gum disease, enamel erosion, and unusual swellings in the gums.

Pregnancy Gingivitis

There’s so much to do in the months leading up to the arrival of a new baby, but that’s no reason to leave brushing and flossing on the back burner, because pregnancy hormones can lead to the tender, swollen gums of gingivitis.

Around 40 percent of pregnant woman have some form of gum disease, and studies have linked pregnancy gingivitis to premature delivery and lower birth weights. Make sure to brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush and floss daily to keep the plaque away from your vulnerable gums.

Morning Sickness And Enamel Erosion

While hormones cause problems for an expectant mom’s gums, morning sickness can cause problems for her teeth. Stomach acid from frequent vomiting, heartburn, or acid reflux eats away at the hard, protective enamel on each tooth. The best way to minimize this effect is to swish with baking soda and water after a bout of morning sickness. This will neutralize any acid left in your mouth before you brush.

Pyogenic Granuloma

Perhaps the weirdest oral health change a pregnant woman can experience is pyrogenic granuloma, or “pregnancy tumors.” The name might sound scary, but these swellings (which often resemble raspberries between the teeth) are not malignant. They most often appear in the second trimester. The dentist can remove them if they’re uncomfortable, but they usually vanish after the baby is born.

Protecting Your Teeth — And Your Baby’s!

In addition to your daily brushing and flossing, what you eat can play a big role in keeping your teeth healthy. Cut back on sugary treats and load up on essential nutrients. Your baby’s teeth start developing in the second trimester, and they need plenty of protein, calcium, phosphorous, and vitamins A, C, and D to grow strong.

Your Dentist Is Your Greatest Resource

One of the best things you can do to protect your oral health during your pregnancy is to visit the dentist. Routine cleanings and checkups are crucial for combating pregnancy gingivitis and making sure everything is staying healthy. If it’s been a while since your last appointment or you expect to be expecting soon, get proactive and schedule your next checkup today!

We have the world’s best patients!

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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.

Root Canal Myths: Busted

HAVE YOU EVER HEARD someone begin a sentence “I’d rather have a root canal than…”? The negative portrayal of root canal treatment in our culture isn’t just a cliché; it’s a myth! That’s why we’re using this post to knock down some of the most common root canal myths out there.

Myth 1: “Root Canal Treatment Is Painful”

Many adults struggle with dental anxiety. The prospect of going to the dentist may fill them with dread, even for a simple cleaning appointment, so we understand why a patient might expect something horrible and painful when they get the news that they need root canal treatment. However, thanks to modern technology and anesthetics, root canal treatment can be performed quickly and comfortably. The best part is that the pain of your infected tooth will be gone!

Myth 2: “If My Tooth Doesn’t Hurt, I Don’t Need Root Canal Treatment”

A common assumption people make is that if their teeth don’t hurt, they’re healthy. This isn’t always true. In some cases, the tooth may already have died, but it still needs root canal therapy to prevent a dangerous infection.

Myth 3: “Root Canal Treatment Is Only A Temporary Fix”

Some patients are skeptical of root canal treatment because they think the benefits won’t last very long. This is not true. A tooth does become brittle after root canal treatment, and the grinding forces from chewing and talking may cause the crown on the tooth to break, but this is only a problem with the restoration, not the root canal itself.

Myth 4: “It’s Better to Just Pull The Tooth”

It might technically be easier to yank a problem tooth than to carefully remove infected pulp, fill in the root, and place a new crown, but that doesn’t mean it’s better. Our natural teeth are nearly always preferable to any kind of false teeth. They look and work better, while an extracted tooth may result in future problems for the surrounding teeth, in addition to a lengthy replacement process.

To learn about the steps of root canal treatment, check out this video:

The Root Canal Reality

The truth is that root canal therapy is a great way to save a tooth, and modern dentistry has made the process comfortable and pain-free. If you’ve been avoiding root canal treatment because of one of these myths, do the best thing for your tooth and schedule a dental appointment today!

We love 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.

Kissing And Cavities

WE HOPE ALL OF our patients are excited for Valentine’s Day! We also hope the topic we’re about to discuss won’t spoil the romantic mood, but we need to talk about what kissing does to oral bacteria.

The Bacteria In Our Mouths

Our mouths are home to many species of microscopic organisms. Most of them are harmless, and some are even beneficial, but some cause tooth decay and gum disease. The worst offenders are streptococcus mutans and porphyromonas gingivalis.

Streptococcus mutans eats the leftover sugars and starches that stick to our teeth after we eat, and then it excretes enamel-eroding acid. Porphyromonas gingivalis is strongly linked to advanced gum disease, or periodontitis.

Managing Our Oral Bacteria

As bacteria reproduce very quickly, a good oral hygiene routine is essential for keeping the harmful bacteria populations under control. In a healthy, clean mouth, there might be anywhere from a thousand to a hundred thousand bacteria on each tooth surface, but a mouth that doesn’t get cleaned often can have as many as a hundred million to a billion bacteria per tooth. So don’t skip your twice-daily brushing and daily flossing!

So What Does This Have To Do With Kissing?

On average, an individual will have between 34 and 72 different types of oral bacteria. Once we get a strain of bacteria in our mouths, it probably isn’t going away. The trouble is that each person has different bacteria, so kissing or even sharing drinks with someone could introduce new strains of bacteria to our mouths.

This is more dangerous for children than adults. Young children don’t have as many types of oral bacteria as adults yet, and their immune systems aren’t used to dealing with them. Too many kisses from Mom and Dad can leave them more vulnerable to developing cavities.

The best way to avoid sharing your oral bacteria with your child is to keep those kisses to the cheek, don’t share your spoon or fork with them, and make sure they always have their own drink instead of giving them sips from yours.

Catch Feelings, Not Cavities

As long as you’re taking good care of your oral health and hygiene, you don’t need to worry as much about spreading dangerous, cavity-causing germs with your kisses, but even then, avoid doing things that could spread oral bacteria to small children. If you follow these tips and keep up with your regular dental appointments, you’ll be free to enjoy the feelings of Valentine’s Day!

We love all our patients!

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.

Relief For A Burned Mouth

HAVE YOU EVER SAT down to a plate of lasagna from your favorite Italian place and immediately taken a huge bite without waiting for it to cool down? Or taken a swig of hot chocolate too fast? Maybe it wasn’t lasagna or hot chocolate for you, but we’ve all burned our tongues on foods or drinks we love, and we’ll all probably do it again. We want to make sure you know what to do for your mouth when that happens.

Step 1: Sip Cold Water

What you do immediately after burning your tongue will determine how quickly you recover, so instead of persevering with your hot food or drink, drink a glass of cold water. Not only will it help the burn feel better, but it will keep you hydrated so that your mouth can produce enough saliva to protect the burned area from bacteria.

Step 2: Keep Things Cool

Soft, cold foods will help to numb the sting of the burn, so open up the fridge and grab a yogurt, fruit cup, or applesauce. It might even be a good reason to spring for a smoothie or some frozen yogurt, and make sure to keep drinking cool water as well.

Step 3: Salt Water Swish

You might have learned from your grandma to gargle salt water when you have a sore throat. Well, she was right! Swishing or gargling salt water is also a great remedy if you have sore gums, have recently had a dental procedure, or even if you burned your tongue.

When we swish salt water, it temporarily makes our mouths more alkaline, which makes life difficult for harmful oral bacteria. To make your salt water rinse, just add half a teaspoon of salt to a cup of warm water and stir. Swish it around your mouth for about thirty seconds, spit, and repeat!

Step 4: Tasty Relief

Another way to speed up the healing process for your burned tongue is to apply sugar or honey directly to the tender area. This is another remedy that predates modern medicine. Sugar is a quick source of energy for the cells that are trying to heal, and studies have shown that honey is even more effective at promoting healing than sugar. Just make sure to drink some water afterward to rinse away any sweet residue.

Step 5: Pain Medication

For particularly bad mouth burns, these measures might not be sufficient to relieve the pain. At that point, it becomes a job for over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Luckily, oral tissues heal more quickly than any other part of the body, so even a particularly painful burn to the tongue should be gone within a few days.

Burning Tongue Syndrome And Your Dentist

Some people feel like they have a burned tongue even when there is no actual burn, a chronic condition known as burning tongue syndrome. If you’re feeling the burn for no apparent reason, schedule a dental appointment. Otherwise, follow these steps to get your burned tongue feeling good as new as soon as possible!

We look forward to seeing you at your next appointment!

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.

Sleep Apnea And Dental Health

OVER 18 MILLION ADULTS in the US alone, as well as up to 20 percent of habitually snoring children, have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that results in brief but repeated interruptions to normal breathing during sleep. Not only is this a potentially life-threatening disorder, it also has a significant impact on oral health.

The Three Types Of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can occur in three different ways. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the result of a blockage in the airway, typically the tongue collapsing against the soft palate, which in turn collapses against the back of the throat, closing off the airway. This is the most common type of sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea happens when the brain fails to signal the muscles of the respiratory system to keep breathing. Complex sleep apnea is a combination of the first two types.

Each time breath is interrupted, the brain causes the person with sleep apnea to wake up. It happens so quickly that they usually don’t remember it, but the interruptions severely impact their overall quality of sleep, as they can happen as often as hundreds of times in a single night.

What Does Sleep Apnea Have To Do With Teeth?

In addition to leaving you with all the usual symptoms of sleep deprivation, such as exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, and morning headaches, sleep apnea has a number of effects on oral health. There is a significant association between OSA and moderate to severe periodontitis (gum disease), but the most common dental health complications are temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ or TMD).

Studies have shown that the jaw reflexively clenches to prevent the airway from becoming blocked when the throat relaxes during a sleep apnea episode. TMD leads to other problems like worn, cracked, or broken teeth, pain when chewing, chronic headaches, and neck and shoulder pain.

How The Dentist Can Help

The dental effects of sleep apnea are so common that your dentist might be the first one to spot the signs and diagnose the disorder. This is just one way your regular dental appointments will benefit your overall health. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, common treatment options include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines and nighttime dental devices that push the tongue or the lower jaw forward.

Healthier Sleep For Healthier Smiles

If you’ve been experiencing any of the symptoms described above, there’s no reason to continue living with interrupted sleep and the health problems that come with sleep apnea. Give us a call or drop by our practice today to schedule an appointment so that we can see if sleep apnea is the cause and get you on the path to more restful sleep and better oral health.

Wishing all our patients a good night’s sleep!

Top image by Flickr user Kevin Jaako 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.

Nitrous Oxide: Having A Gas At The Dentist

MOST OF US HAVE at least heard of laughing gas, the whimsically-nicknamed sedation method used by dentists, even if we haven’t had it ourselves. But what exactly is laughing gas, and why is it so closely associated with dentistry?

Nitrous Oxide From Discovery To Dentistry

Laughing gas is a colorless, odorless gas. It consists of two nitrogen atoms and one oxygen atom bonded together. The way it works is not entirely clear, but studies do indicate that it reduces a patient’s perception of pain and increases the release of dopamine.

In 1772, Joseph Priestly first isolated the compound nitrous oxide. It wasn’t until 1799 that Humphry Davy discovered the relaxing, euphoria-inducing effects that earned it the name laughing gas. Several decades later, in the 1860s in Germany, nitrous oxide found its place in dentistry, and we still use it today.

Is Laughing Gas Safe?

The nitrous oxide used in a medical setting is very safe, because exposure is carefully controlled. The masks dentists use to administer the gas first delivers pure oxygen, followed by a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide. The limited exposure produces temporary effects that reduce pain and help the patient relax during a procedure. In rare cases, it may cause side effects like headaches, shivering, sweating, nausea, or fatigue.

Recreational use of nitrous oxide, on the other hand, is no laughing matter because few to none of the factors that make it safe in a medical context are present. The gas is kept cold enough to cause frostbite to the mouth, nose, and throat if inhaled directly, and it is stored at such high pressure that it can damage the lungs. Outside of a medical professional’s hands, laughing gas can also cause asphyxiation because it isn’t properly mixed with oxygen.

Laughing Gas Versus Dental Anxiety

For patients who suffer from dental anxiety, laughing gas can be especially helpful. Foregoing dental treatment because of anxiety and fear will only give the problem time to become worse. Laughing gas is one option to help anxious patients relax and feel comfortable during a dental procedure, or even during a routine dental appointment.

Still Have Questions About Laughing Gas? Just Ask!

If you’d like to know more about the effects of laughing gas and its uses in dentistry, we are happy to answer your questions! Give us a call or schedule an appointment so that we can discuss this and any other dental health concerns you may have.

Our patients’ comfort is one of our highest priorities!

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 Top 3 Best Drinks For Your Teeth

MANY OF THE THINGS we drink are actually pretty bad for our teeth, especially soda, fruit juice, and coffee. What options does that leave for the dental health conscious to quench their thirst? Fortunately, there are a few drinks that are much less likely to cause stains or contribute to enamel erosion and decay, which makes them much better for our teeth!

3. Milk

Milk is an important source of calcium, which is essential for healthy teeth and bones. A certain amount of enamel remineralization is possible if your body has the right building blocks available, so getting plenty of calcium is a great way to stock up on those building blocks to keep your teeth strong. If you are lactose intolerant, you don’t have to miss out on this either, because calcium-fortified soy milk is another great option.

One thing to be aware of, however, is that milk does have natural sugars in it, which is why it’s a bad idea to leave a child with a bottle of milk over a long period of time. The longer the sugars in milk are left on the teeth, the more they feed oral bacteria, contributing to tooth decay. This is how a condition commonly known as “bottle rot” can happen for babies and toddlers.

2. Green And Herbal Tea

While black tea, much like coffee and red wine, is prone to leaving stains on teeth, green tea and herbal teas do not carry this drawback. In fact, like milk, they actually have dental health benefits. Tea contains compounds called polyphenols, which help fight bacteria. Just make sure not to load your tea with sugar or even honey, as that would cancel out the benefits of the polyphenols. If you can enjoy it plain, that’s great, but you can also use sugar-free sweeteners.

1. Water

It might seem boring to include water on a list of mouth-healthy drinks, but it is absolutely essential to our overall health that we stay well hydrated — and specifically to our oral health! If we aren’t drinking enough water, we may not have enough fluid to produce saliva, which is the mouth’s first line of defense against acids and bacteria. The act of drinking water itself will also flush out remnants of food and sugary or acidic drinks, helping to keep our teeth clean until the next time we can brush.

Watch this video for some tips on mouth-healthy foods:

What We Drink Is Only Part Of The Equation

Cutting back on some of the less healthy drinks in favor of drinking more water, milk, and green or herbal tea can make a big difference in our oral health, but it isn’t a substitute for other oral health habits. Make sure you’re also keeping up with your twice-daily brushing, daily flossing, and dental appointments every six months!

We’re here to help you keep those teeth happy and healthy!

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.

An Intro To Veneers

MANY OF US ARE unhappy with the way our smiles look. Maybe our teeth aren’t as white as we’d like, they have unusual shapes, or they’ve suffered some damage like chipping or fractures. Veneers are a great, long-lasting solution we can use to fix these problems and get the smiles of our dreams.

How Do Veneers Work?

Veneers are thin, tooth-colored porcelain or composite resin shells that cover the natural teeth. Because they are as resilient as tooth enamel, they protect the teeth from damage and can last many years. Veneers are custom-made to the contour of the patient’s teeth and bonded to the enamel over the course of one or two in-office procedures.

The Veneer Placement Process

Veneer placement follows these steps:

  1. If the patient’s teeth are particularly sensitive, local anesthetic may be used, but it usually isn’t necessary. The dentist cleans the tooth and determines the ideal shade, then removes a thin layer of enamel to make room for the veneer.
  2. The dentist takes an impression of the tooth and places a temporary veneer.
  3. Once the custom veneer has been delivered, the tooth is cleaned and the veneer is etched, rinsed, and dried, and finally cemented onto the tooth.
  4. A curing light helps harden the adhesive to attach the veneer to the tooth. The dentist polishes the veneer and removes any excess material.

Are Veneers Right For You?

Veneers are a fantastic option to address certain esthetic issues with one or more teeth, but they are not the best solution for every dental problem, as they can be pricey and some amount of natural enamel must be scraped away to make room for them. The best candidates for veneers are patients with chipped, broken, badly discolored, or worn teeth. For patients with alignment issues or less severe discoloration, orthodontic and whitening treatment will usually be preferable to veneers.

Taking Care Of Your Veneers

It’s important to take good care of your veneers once you have them so that they will last as long as they should before they need replacement. This mainly consists of the same good brushing and flossing habits you maintain for your natural teeth, and you can minimize the risk of the veneers becoming stained by avoiding foods and drinks that stain, such as coffee and red wine.

Bring Us Your Questions About Veneers!

If you’re considering veneers, we’re sure you have plenty of questions. Just give us a call or stop by to set up an appointment. We can tell you everything you need to know and make a plan to get you the smile you’ve always wanted!

We love when our patients love their 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.

Bad Oral Health Fads

FADS AREN’T ALWAYS ABOUT hairstyles and slang; they can also be about the way we take care of our bodies, including our teeth. It’s important to be able to tell the difference between something that is popular and something that has the support of the dental health community. That’s why we’re going to take a critical look at a few of the recent oral health fads.

Charcoal Toothpaste

You might’ve seen this seemingly paradoxical product in the store: activated charcoal toothpaste, which will turn your teeth black when you brush but supposedly whiten them in the long run. If you haven’t seen it in the store, you’ve probably seen people using and singing its praises on social media.

The problem with these products and home-made pastes is that there is no scientific support for the claims that they are safe to scrub against our teeth, let alone effective at whitening them. On the contrary, there is actually significant concern that they could do more harm than good. Charcoal is highly abrasive, so it could be eroding away tooth enamel. Loss of enamel exposes the more yellow dentin beneath and leaves the tooth much more vulnerable to decay.

Non-Fluoride Toothpastes

Fluoride is the active ingredient in ADA-approved toothpastes, but in recent years, we’ve seen a lot of claims and conspiracy theories about the evils of fluoride, which have given rise to an array of fluoride-free toothpastes. This mistrust of fluoride is not supported by science, and there is a wealth of scientific data on the oral health benefits of fluoride when used in small amounts.

When fluoride was first added to the public water supply in Grand Rapids, Michigan, it reduced childhood dental caries by a whopping 60 percent, with no adverse effects except for occasional cases of mild fluorosis (harmless white patches on the enamel). Avoiding fluoride won’t do anything except put your teeth at greater risk of cavities.

Bring Us Your Questions About Dental Fads

These are just two of the fads out there. If you encounter another one, make sure you let us know about it before you try it out. We’d love to hear about these trends so that we can offer patients our professional opinions and advice. In the meantime, stick to tried and true dental health practices like brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, and scheduling regular checkups!

When it comes to your dental health, always trust the science!

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 You Have A Toothache

A TOOTHACHE IS never fun to deal with, and they can happen for a variety of reasons. Do you know what to do when one strikes, especially if it happens over the holidays or at the beginning of the weekend and you can’t get quick access to professional dental care?

Toothache Causes

The most common reason a tooth might initially feel painful is tooth decay, but it isn’t the only reason. Tooth pain can also be the result of pulp inflammation, an dental abscess, a cracked tooth, or even gum disease. Impacted teeth (teeth that are blocked from coming in where they should by bone, gum tissue, or other teeth) can also be painful. Tooth sensitivity can lead to discomfort as well, and sometimes the cause is merely a sinus infection or congestion.

Reducing Dental Pain Before Your Appointment

The best thing to do when you have a toothache is to come see us right away. If for some reason that isn’t possible, there are a few things you can do to manage your dental pain in the meantime.

  • Rinse and spit with warm saltwater to reduce inflammation
  • Apply a cold compress to the cheek near the sore area
  • Take anti-inflammatory medication
  • Use an over-the-counter topical medication

Preventing Future Toothaches

If you’ve had or currently have a toothache, you probably want it to be your last. Obviously some of the causes can’t be prevented, such as sinus infections and a tooth being damaged in an accident, but there’s a lot you can do to protect your teeth from the aches and pains that come from poor dental health.

Brushing twice a day for two minutes with a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, and scheduling regular dental appointments will keep your teeth healthy. You can also help your teeth out by cutting down on sugary foods and drinks.

Bring That Tooth Pain To Us As Soon As You Can

Pain is the body’s alert system to let us know when there’s a problem, and it’s important not to ignore it. No matter what you think might be causing your toothache, schedule an appointment with us to get it taken care of before the underlying problem has a chance to get worse. We’ll be able to take a look and get your tooth the treatment it needs!

Let’s fight that toothache together!

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.