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Category Archives: Blog

Why Are My Teeth So Sensitive?

IS A SIMPLE SPOONFUL of ice cream enough to make you cringe because of the pain in your teeth? Do you have to be careful when you drink hot coffee that none of it touches your chompers? If you know the feeling, then you’re one of millions who experience tooth sensitivity. Let’s take a closer look at what causes tooth sensitivity and what can we do about it.

How We Feel Sensation In Our Teeth

Each of our teeth is covered in a layer of protective enamel. Underneath this is dentin, which is a lot like bone. Dentin contains thousands of microscopic tubules that run through it from the inside of the tooth out to the enamel. At the core of each tooth is the pulp chamber, which contains nerves and blood vessels. Because of those tubules, the nerves inside the tooth can detect what’s happening on the tooth’s surface.

Common Causes Of Tooth Sensitivity

If the enamel wears away, the tubules become exposed and the nerves in the dental pulp suddenly get much more stimulation than they like. This is what makes enamel erosion one of the main causes of tooth sensitivity. Without enamel, the nerves get a nasty shock whenever anything too hot or cold, or even too sweet or sour, touches the outside of the tooth.

Root exposure from gum recession also leads to sensitivity. The enamel only covers the crown of the tooth, not the roots. Those are protected by the gums. If the gums recede (sometimes as the result of teeth grinding or improper brushing over time), it exposes the roots.

Cavities and tooth injuries can cause sensitivity as well, even if you’ve been taking great care of your gums and enamel.

Use The Right Tools To Protect Your Teeth

Fortunately for all of us, there are ways to fight back, even if our teeth are already sensitive. Using a soft-bristled brush will help prevent further enamel erosion or gum recession. There is also special toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth. Avoiding sugary and acidic foods and drinks (particularly soda) is another way to help your teeth.

We Can Help You Fight Tooth Sensitivity

Your best ally in the fight against tooth sensitivity is the dentist! Schedule a dental appointment as soon as you notice a change in your sensitivity level, or if you’ve been struggling with it for a while. The dentist can help protect your teeth with a fluoride varnish, perform restoration work to combat enamel erosion, and may recommend a gum graft for receding gums or prescribe a toothpaste to help with sensitivity.

Together, we’ll keep your smile 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.

Dental X-Rays: It’s Time For Your Close-Up

IF WE ASKED you to list three things that happen in a typical dental exam, dental X-rays would probably be one of them. But do you know what they’re used for? It depends on the type of X-ray, so let’s look at what these are.

Getting The Wide Shot With Panoramic X-Rays

If you’ve ever stood on a circular thing with your chin on a little platform and been told to stand still for a few seconds while a machine spun around your head, you’ve had a panoramic X-ray. This is the most common type of extraoral (outside the mouth) X-ray.

Panoramic X-rays show the entire mouth in one image. In them, we can see incoming adult teeth and wisdom teeth, including impacted ones, which is how we can determine whether there is enough room for them and if they’ll come in without any extra help. This type of X-ray also makes it easier to detect abscesses, tumors, and cysts.

Enhance: Periapical X-Rays And Bitewing X-Rays

In photography, wide shots show a lot, but they aren’t as useful for details as a closeup. The same is true in X-rays, which is why we don’t rely only on the panoramic image. The next level of dental X-rays are the bitewing X-rays. These intraoral (inside the mouth) X-rays focus on a specific area inside the mouth at a time, and we usually take one for each of the four quadrants of your mouth.

Bitewing X-rays give us a better view of the gaps between teeth, which are hard to see with the naked eye. These images make it easy to check for tooth decay and cavities in those areas. When we need to get even more detailed, we take periapical X-rays, which hone in on an individual problem tooth. These can be taken alongside bitewing X-rays.

Are Dental X-Rays Safe?

Dental X-rays involve brief exposure to low levels of radiation, but they are considered extremely safe. The short exposure time and protective coverings like the lead apron ensure that radiation exposure is as low as possible. We also only take X-rays as often as we absolutely need to, which further reduces exposure.

Factors that determine whether or not X-rays are necessary include the patient’s age, stage of dental development, oral health history, risk factors for various conditions, and whether or not they are presenting symptoms of oral health problems.

Still Have X-Ray Questions?

If you would like to know more about how we use dental X-rays in our practice or have any concerns about safety, just ask us! We want our patients to have all the information they need to feel comfortable when they come to see us.

Your dental health is in good hands!

Top image by Flickr user Cory Doctorow 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 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!

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.

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.

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.

The Top 3 Worst Drinks For Your Teeth

ONE OF LIFE’S CRUELEST ironies is that so many of the foods and drinks we enjoy the most aren’t good for us at all. Naturally, as dental professionals, we’re particularly concerned about the ones that are bad for our teeth. That’s why we’re giving our patients a heads up about the three drinks that have the worst impact on oral health.

1. Soda

Two of the most harmful things for our teeth are sugar and acid, and carbonated beverages are full of both. Sugar is harmful because the bad bacteria in our mouths eat it and excrete acid on our teeth, and when we drink something acidic, we’re essentially cutting out the middle man and applying the acid to our teeth ourselves. Tooth enamel begins to dissolve at a pH of 5.5, and soft drinks range in acidity from RC Cola at a pH of 2.32 to Canada Dry Club Soda at 5.24. Even diet soda isn’t much less acidic than its sugar-loaded counterpart.

2. Sports Drinks

We all enjoy a refreshing drink to go along with a hard workout, but those sports drinks we use to replenish our electrolytes have a down side. Like soda, they are often full of sugar and highly acidic. One study showed that lemon-lime Gatorade dissolved the most tooth enamel compared to any other drink, including Coke.

3. Fruit Juice

By this point, you probably already know what we’re going to say. Fruit is a very healthy snack and can even be good for your teeth, but when we drink the juice on its own, we’re bathing our teeth in the sugar and acid content of many servings of fruit, without the filter of whole fruit’s healthy fiber. In the end, it’s not much better for our teeth than soda.

Honorable Mentions: Coffee, Black Tea, And Alcohol

Soda, sports drinks, and fruit juice aren’t the only drinks that are bad for our teeth. Coffee, black tea, and alcohol are too, particularly the dark ones, which can leave stains. We also tend to add sugar to our coffee and tea, and alcohol can dry out the mouth, leaving it vulnerable to bacteria.

Keeping Our Teeth Healthy

While we aren’t going to insist that our patients give up these drinks forever, we definitely recommend cutting back and counteracting the negative effects by drinking more water, maintaining good oral hygiene habits, and scheduling regular dental appointments.

We love 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.
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