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Arlington, VA 22209

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Category Archives: Blog

Before Your Child’s First Dental Appointment

THERE AREN’T MANY things we love more than the smile of a child. It’s important to keep that smile healthy, and regular visits to the dentist are a crucial part of that. If your child hasn’t been to the dentist before, we want to give you and them a good idea of what their first checkup will be like. First impressions are important, and a good first experience with the dentist is the beginning of a lifetime of good dental health decisions and habits!

Dental Anxiety: Not Just For Adults

One in three American adults struggles with dental anxiety severe enough that they avoid going to the dentist, but it doesn’t only affect adults. New things can be scary for young children, and an older family member might have already poisoned the well for them by describing their own unpleasant dentist experiences. They could even pick up on negative feelings Mom or Dad has about the dentist without being told explicitly.

Helping Your Child Have a Positive Perspective on Dentists

There’s a lot a parent can do to help their child meet the dentist feeling positive and relaxed, and we can take things from there!

  • Get started early. A child can benefit from a dental visit as soon as their first tooth appears. The early start also helps build a trusting relationship with the dentist.
  • For very young children, play pretend to explain what will happen. You can play the part of the dentist and show them that it can be fun and interesting, not scary.
  • If the children are old enough, you can simply explain. Don’t make the dentist a mystery; children are happier when they understand what’s going on. A quick explanation of dental visits and why they matter will go a long way.
  • Teach the importance of dental hygiene. Kids who know how important brushing and flossing are to the health of their smiles are better able to appreciate the dentist.
  • Meet the dentist beforehand! A great way to make the first appointment less stressful is for the dentist not to be a stranger during that appointment. We’re happy to schedule an advance meet-and-greet.
  • Be there to reassure your child. Information is no substitute for the presence of a loved and trusted adult. Stay close by to offer plenty of support and encouragement in early visits.

We Look Forward to Meeting Your Child!

It’s so important for a child’s first experience with a dentist to be a good one. If you’d like more ideas for how to help your child avoid dental anxiety and the problems that come with it, or if you simply have questions about their dental care, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Together, we can make the first checkup wonderful!

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 Breath: A Big Deal in Medieval England

IN THE MIDDLE AGES, the English didn’t understand much about cavities or gum disease, but they did put a huge emphasis on having fresh breath. Why? Because, not knowing how germs work, they believed it was the actual bad smell that carried disease.

The Fresh Breath of Middle English Literary Characters

Almost all dental care in Medieval England was about smells. This practice even made it into the Canterbury Tales, where Chaucer’s characters chew cardamom and licorice to keep their breath smelling clean. A mixture of aniseed, cumin, and fennel was sometimes recommended to women.

Dental Woes of Medieval England

What dental problems were they living with while focusing mainly on breath? Fortunately, there wasn’t much sugar to cause cavities in the diet of Medieval England. Unfortunately, small particles of stone would get into their bread from the millstones they used to grind flour, and that caused severe erosion. Most adults would lose four to six teeth in their lifetimes.

Treatment for Alleged “Tooth Worms”

Things got really weird if you ever had a toothache. Physicians believed they were caused by tiny worms, and remedies included myrrh and opium. Those were expensive, though, so a cheaper option was to burn a candle very close to the tooth so the alleged worms would fall out into a basin of water.

For the sake of our teeth, we’re glad we don’t live back then!

Top image is in the public domain, accessed via Wikimedia commons.
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 Anatomy of Human Teeth

DO YOU KNOW what the parts of the human tooth are? We’d like to give you a quick tooth anatomy lesson, because the more patients know about their teeth, the better they will understand the importance of good dental health habits like brushing, flossing, and avoiding sugary treats. We’ll start in the crown and work our way down to the roots.

The Three Layers of the Dental Crown

Everything visible of a tooth above the gums is the crown, and it consists of three layers. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Enamel

The outermost layer of the tooth is the enamel layer. Tooth enamel is mostly composed of inorganic hydroxyapatite crystals, which make it the hardest substance in the entire body. We need it to be that way so that we can chew a lifetime’s worth of food!

However, because it’s inorganic, enamel can’t repair or replace itself if it is eroded or damaged too much. It’s also extremely vulnerable to acid. That’s why brushing, flossing, cutting back on acidic and sugary foods and drinks, and regular professional cleanings are so important!

Dentin

The next layer of the crown is the dentin, which is very similar to bone. It’s more yellowish than enamel and there’s more of it in adult teeth than baby teeth (if you’ve noticed that brand new adult teeth seem more yellow than baby teeth, that’s why). Microscopic tubules run through the dentin so that the nerves in the center of the tooth can detect temperature changes. When the enamel erodes, these become exposed and cause tooth sensitivity.

The Pulp Chamber

The core of the tooth is the pulp chamber, where the blood vessels and nerves are. The pulp is what makes a tooth alive and how we feel the temperature of our food. It’s also how we feel pain when something’s wrong with the tooth. Don’t ignore tooth pain; it’s the body’s natural warning sign that it’s time to see the dentist!

The Roots of the Teeth

Underneath the gumline are the roots of our teeth, which are longer than the crowns and anchored in the jawbone. They are cushioned and held in place by the periodontal membrane between them and the bone. Roots don’t have enamel to protect them; the gum tissue does that (as long as it’s healthy) and they are coated in a calcified layer called cementum. At the tip of each root is a tiny hole through which blood vessels and nerves can reach the pulp chamber.

Keep Those Teeth Healthy From the Roots to the Crowns!

Every part of the tooth, from the enamel to the pulp, from the crown to the supporting periodontal structures, needs to stay healthy. Keep brushing and flossing to protect the enamel and gums, and don’t forget your regular dental appointments!

Our patients’ smiles are the best!

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.

A Snoring Habit Could Mean Sleep Apnea

AROUND 1 IN 5 children with a snoring habit get it from sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that causes repeated brief interruptions to breathing during sleep. This disorder, as well as being potentially life-threatening, can have serious consequences for oral health.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA for short) happens when the airway is blocked, usually by the tongue and soft palate collapsing against the back of the throat, closing it off. At this point, the brain forces the person to wake up and take a breath, which can happen hundreds of times in a single night. Sleep apnea makes it very hard to get a restful night of sleep.

Sleep Apnea’s Impacts on Oral Health

How is oral health connected? Beyond the effects of sleep deprivation (irritability, hyperactivity, exhaustion, and difficulty concentrating at school), a child with sleep apnea will also be more vulnerable to oral health problems like gum disease and temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ or TMD).

Studies have shown that when the throat relaxes in a sleep apnea episode, the jaw reflexively clenches to prevent the airway from closing off. Problems associated with TMD include pain when chewing, soreness in the jaw, chronic headaches, neck and shoulder pain, and even worn, cracked, or broken teeth.

The dentist often spots the sign of sleep apnea first!

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.

Tips for Parents With Teething Toddlers

DO YOU REMEMBER what it felt like when your adult molars were coming in? Sore, puffy gums and a lot of tenderness when chewing? Well that’s what teething is like for toddlers too, except it’s the first time in their lives anything like this has happened, and it can be very upsetting for them — and their parents. Here are a few tips to follow to help a teething child.

#1: Learn to Recognize the Signs of Teething

Be on the lookout for incoming teeth starting around the six month mark. The lower front teeth usually appear anywhere between then and the first birthday. During this time, you might notice some changes in your child’s behavior that are actually symptoms of teething.

They might be less willing to breastfeed, drool excessively, reject foods they used to enjoy, have difficulty sleeping, or become generally irritable. They might also avoid biting, chewing, or sucking on things — or start biting, chewing, and sucking on everything they can reach!

#2: Also Recognize what ISN’T a Sign of Teething

Not everything is a teething symptom, and it’s important to be aware of the difference because it could mean something else is wrong. A runny nose, fever, or diarrhea aren’t connected with teething, but they may be symptoms of a virus. If they continue or get worse, take your child to see the pediatrician.

#3: Be Familiar With the Stages of Teething

Teething happens in stages, not just all at once or all in the same way. The eruption stage is when the baby teeth travel up through the gum tissue from the jaw bones. After eruption comes cutting, when the teeth finally break through the gum tissue to become visible. These stages are both painful, but babies and toddlers don’t have the words to explain that. Instead, they will probably act cranky and tired, and they might get picky about their food and eating times.

#4: How to Soothe a Teething Baby

There are a few ways we can help teething babies and toddlers through this uncomfortable stage of development. If possible, continue breastfeeding, which can reduce the pain of teething. Make sure to give them something to chew on, like a teething toy. It can help the teeth cut through the gums faster while soothing the discomfort.

#5: Choosing the Right Teething Toys

Be careful to avoid teething toys that contain PVC, BPA, or phthalates. These chemicals are meant to make toys last longer, but recent studies have shown that they can be harmful if a child consumes them.

Is the toy solid or gel-filled? If the latter, is it sturdy enough to stop your child from getting to the gooey center not meant to be consumed by humans? It might be good to look for a toy that can be chilled in the fridge and has a clip to fasten it to your child’s clothing.

Bring Us Your Teething Concerns

We’re here to answer any questions parents have about teething and the troubles that come with it. And don’t forget that as soon as the first tooth appears, it’s time for baby’s first dental checkup!

Let’s make sure your child’s oral health journey gets off to a good start!

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.

3 of History’s Strangest Teeth Traditions

THROUGHOUT HISTORY, different cultures have come up with some pretty unusual solutions for dental health problems. Let’s take a look at a few of the weirdest ones.

1. Mice for Pain Management?

These days, when we hear the word “painkiller,” we generally think of little pills. Ancient Egyptians were more likely to think of mice. They made a pain-relieving paste, and mice were on the list of ingredients. If someone got a toothache, they would rub this paste over the tender area.

2. Stopping Bruxism With Skulls

What did ancient cultures do about bruxism, or chronic teeth-grinding? The ancient Babylonians believed that demons were to blame for a grinding habit. Their solution was to place a human skull right next to their head while they slept. The skull could supposedly scare away the demon and, by extension, the bruxism.

3. Pitch-Black Smiles

These days, having sparkling white teeth is the beauty standard many of us strive for, but it was the opposite in a lot of Asian cultures in the past. Until the end of the Meiji period, many Japanese women and samurai blackened their teeth in a process called Ohaguro. Black teeth were considered more attractive, and they even believed that the process made teeth more resistant to decay.

(Do not try any of these at home.)

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.

Quit That Ice-Chewing Habit!

WHAT’S SO BAD about chewing ice? It can actually do a lot of permanent damage to teeth, and yet many people have a habit of chewing ice that can be difficult to quit. Let’s look closer at ice chewing and its effects on dental health.

Compulsive Ice Eating, or Pagophagia

The scientific name for compulsive ice eating is pagophagia. For some people, it goes beyond the level of a bad habit and actually indicates a psychological disorder called pica. Pica is the compulsion to eat non-food items such as dirt, clay, hair, or ice, and it is sometimes caused by a nutritional deficiency.

How Iron Deficiency Anemia Leads to Eating Ice

Recent studies have found a connection between the compulsive eating of ice and iron deficiency anemia, a condition that affects 3% of men and 20% of women (a number that goes up to 50% for pregnant women).

What do iron levels have to do with eating ice? Ice doesn’t contain iron, so how would eating it help with an iron deficiency? It’s actually pretty fascinating. Our red blood cells require iron to be able to effectively carry oxygen throughout our bodies. A person who is iron deficient doesn’t get as much oxygen to their brain. By eating ice, they stimulate the blood flow to the head (and consequently the brain), giving them a temporary boost in alertness and mental clarity.

How Ice Affects Our Teeth and Gums

All of that might seem like a clever workaround for iron deficiency, but it comes with serious drawbacks. Tooth enamel is the strongest substance in the body, but it’s very brittle. Ice isn’t dangerous to chew merely because it is hard, but specifically because it is cold.

Crunching and grinding ice cubes (no matter how much or what their texture is) makes the enamel expand and contract like pavement in places that get a lot of snow. Just like that pavement, the enamel will develop cracks over time.

The weaker the enamel is, the more vulnerable the rest of the tooth is to painful sensitivity and decay. Chewing ice isn’t good for gum tissue either. Because of its temperature, it creates a numbing effect while chewing, which makes it harder to notice an injury if it slips and slices the gums. Ice can even chip or break teeth.

How Can I Break My Ice-Chewing Habit?

Before fighting the symptoms, it’s important to learn the cause. If the pagophagia is due to iron deficiency, iron supplements may remove the cravings to chew ice and the habit will go away on its own. If the problem is pica, a variety of interventions, from therapy to medication, are available.

If the craving is less about the ice than the crunch, we recommend replacing ice with baby carrots or apple slices. If it really is about the ice but not connected to pica or iron deficiency, try letting the ice melt on your tongue instead of crunching down on it.

Dental Professionals Can Help!

The dentist is a great person to go to if you struggle with an ice chewing habit. Another is your general physician. We can figure out what’s causing it and treat existing damage to the gum tissue and teeth, as well as preventing additional damage by helping you kick the habit.

It’s time to put your ice-chewing days behind you!

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 Builds a Healthy Smile?

WE ALL KNOW how important daily brushing and flossing are to a growing child’s smile. We know about scheduling regular dental appointments, and hopefully we know that cutting back on sugar and keeping it to mealtimes instead of snacks throughout the day is also important. But what about the vitamins and minerals that help build those healthy smiles in the first place?

Vitamins for Oral Health

What keeps saliva flowing so it can protect our teeth and gums? Vitamin A! Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps our bodies heal and fight inflammation. When kids don’t get enough, their gums could become more prone to bleeding and their teeth can become looser.

Vitamin D signals our intestines to absorb vitamins into the bloodstream and helps our bones stay dense and strong. Vitamins B2, 3, and 12 are important for reducing the risk of developing canker sores in the mouth, and B3 also helps us convert food into energy.

How About Those Minerals?

Calcium is great for building strong teeth and bones, and magnesium helps the body absorb it. We need iron to maintain good oxygen levels in our cells. Finally, zinc helps us fight oral bacteria and plaque by making it harder for it to build up along the gumline.

We’re here to help you build a 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.

Protecting Kids from Dental Injuries

BEING A KID involves lots of scraped knees and bumps and bruises from running around and discovering the world. Parents want their kids to enjoy everything childhood has to offer, but preferably while avoiding some of its downsides, such as preventable tooth injuries. What can we do to keep our kids’ teeth safe? Here are a few tips to follow.

Common Causes of Childhood Tooth Injuries

Whether our kids are playing in the backyard or at a playground with friends, there are a few simple ways we can keep their teeth safe. First, it’s important to know the common causes of tooth injuries.

Babies and toddlers receive the most tooth injuries in the bathtub, because it’s very easy for them to fall in a wet, slippery porcelain environment. We can minimize the risk by keeping a close eye on them when they’re in the tub.

Anything meant to be thrown, like a ball or frisbee, is a likely culprit of tooth injuries. Make sure to talk to your kids about safety, particularly how important it is not to aim for each other’s heads.

Another common cause of tooth injuries is playground equipment like monkey bars, jungle gyms, and even swings. Talk to your children about being careful around this equipment. Falling on their faces could be enough to knock out a tooth.

Make a Plan in Advance

Accidents sometimes happen no matter how careful we are, and that’s why making a plan for what to do in the event of a sudden tooth injury is so important. The first step to any emergency plan is not to panic. Assess the situation. If the injured tooth is an adult tooth or a baby tooth that wasn’t loose, try to put it back in place (or store it in cold milk if you can’t) and get to the dentist right away. Make sure you know the location of the dentist’s office!

It isn’t always possible to reattach a tooth, but fast action like this will give it its best chance. The goal with a knocked out tooth is to keep the root alive until you reach the dentist. Make sure you don’t touch the root or attempt to clean it, and don’t store it in water or on ice, because any of those things will kill it, and it will be impossible to replant.

If the injury doesn’t only involve teeth, the child may need to go to the emergency room before the dentist. Many hospitals have dentists on staff who can help with dental injuries in a larger medical emergency.

Another Way to Protect Teeth: Keep Them Healthy

A great way to help protect our kids’ teeth from injury is to keep them healthy and strong by teaching great oral hygiene habits. Kids should learn to brush for two minutes twice a day and floss once a day, and we should make sure they have regular dental appointments. When teeth are healthy, they’re better at resisting injuries!

We love those healthy little 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.

Types of Dental Careers

WHAT DOES A CAREER in dentistry look like? Being a dentist is an incredibly rewarding career, and beyond helping our patients maintain lifelong healthy smiles, we hope our team inspires at least a few budding dentists out there!

Private Practice Dentists Aren’t the Whole Story

The dental career everyone is most familiar with is the private practice dentist, meaning an individual dentist or a partnership working with local patients in their own practice. Not everyone who graduates from a four-year dental program goes in this direction.

Other Types of Dentists

Academic dentists add a teaching role and help usher in the next generation of dentists. Research dentists get to be on the cutting edge of new advancements in treatments and technology. Some dentists go international and work with organizations like the WHO, UNESCO, and FAO. Finally, there are dentists who work alongside physicians in hospitals.

Dental Specialties

About 20% of dentists undergo additional years of training in one of the nine dental specialties: Dental Public Health, Endodontics, Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, Pediatric Dentistry, Periodontics, and Prosthodontics.

The Team Is More Than the Dentist

Aside from the dentists themselves, other essential roles in the field of dentistry are dental hygienists, dental assistants, and dental lab technicians. Hygienists and assistants interact closely with patients to ensure a high level of care, while dental lab technicians work behind the scenes designing the dentures, crowns, and braces used by dentists.

And of course we wouldn’t get far without our office staff!

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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