703-528-3336
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1515 Wilson Blvd., Suite 103
Arlington, VA 22209

"The Dentist is very friendly!" — Emma W.

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.

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.

Oral Piercings: Self-Expression With Risks

WE ALL LIKE to show off our personality and sense of style in the way we present ourselves, from clothing to hairstyle to cosmetics. Piercings are often an important component of personal image, but unlike clothing and hairstyles, piercings come with health risks — particularly oral piercings.

Common Oral Piercing Risks

There will always be risks associated with piercings, even the most basic earlobe piercings, such as infection or an allergic reaction to the metal. Oral piercings share those risks, and they also have a few unique ones.

  • Infection. The human mouth is home to numerous species of bacteria. Good oral hygiene is crucial to keep it in check, but a piercing can put that bacteria in closer contact with the bloodstream, leading to infection, pain, and swelling.
  • Damage and injury. It’s easy to develop a habit of fidgeting with a tongue or lip piercing, but this can lead to chipped or cracked teeth, damaged fillings, and injury to the gum tissue, lips, or tongue.
  • Gum recession. When the gum tissue is constantly in contact with a piercing, it can wear it away, exposing the roots of the teeth and leaving them vulnerable to decay.
  • Numbness. Tongue piercings can leave the tongue temporarily or permanently numb due to nerve damage. This can affect taste and mouth movements.
  • Drooling. Our salivary glands are activated by the presence of foreign objects in the mouth. Usually this means food, but a piercing can trick your salivary glands into working overtime.
  • X-ray interference. A piercing can obscure important areas in a dental X-ray, making it easier for cavities to slip under the dentist’s radar.

Oral Piercings And Orthodontics

For orthodontic patients, oral piercings are even riskier. It’s very easy for a piercing to become tangled up in braces, and this can damage the appliance and cause injuries if the piercing tears free. Even if you’re willing to accept the dangers of an oral piercing, we strongly urge you to wait until your orthodontic treatment is over.

Taking Care Of Piercings

Whether you already have an oral piercing or you’re willing to accept the risks of getting one in the future, there are ways you can minimize those risks, aside from being diligent with your oral hygiene habits. These aren’t as effective as not getting piercings or removing them, but they do help.

  • Keep the piercing site clean. Don’t let bacteria and food particles build up around the piercing site; make sure to rinse after every meal or snack.
  • Avoid clicking it against your teeth. Try to be gentle in how you move the piercing around your teeth so they don’t chip.
  • Make sure the piercing is secure. This will prevent it from coming loose and becoming a choking hazard.
  • Remove all piercings while playing sports. Any piercing becomes a hazard during intense physical activity, so make sure to take it out before workouts, practices, and games!
  • Signs of infection? Go to the dentist. Any symptoms like swelling, pain, or unusual redness around the piercing, as well as fever, chills, or shaking could mean infection, so go to the dentist or the doctor right away!

Let’s Keep That Mouth Healthy!

As dental professionals, our top priority will always be helping our patients maintain healthy teeth and gums for life, and oral piercings introduce a lot of unnecessary risks. If you’d like to know more about how a piercing can impact your oral health, drop by or give us a call!

We encourage you to make good oral health a lifelong goal!

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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