My Blog

Posts for category: Oral Health

UseThisProductToRevealthePlaqueYouMissedAfterBrushingandFlossing

One of the toughest enemies your teeth face is dental plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles. Accumulated dental plaque can trigger both tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease, which is why removing it is the true raison d'etre for daily brushing and flossing.

But if you do indeed brush and floss every day, how well are you fulfilling this prime objective? The fact is, even if your teeth feel smooth and clean, there could still be missed plaque lurking around, ultimately hardening into tartar—and just as triggering for disease.

The best evaluation of your brushing and flossing efforts may come at your semi-annual dental cleanings. After thoroughly removing any residual plaque and tartar, your dentist or hygienist can give you a fairly accurate assessment of how effective you've been doing in the plaque removal business.

There's also another way you can evaluate your plaque removal ability between dental visits. By using a plaque disclosing agent, you can actually see the plaque you're missing—otherwise camouflaged against your natural tooth color.

These products, usually tablets, swabs or liquid solutions available over-the-counter, contain a dye that reacts to bacterial plaque. After brushing and flossing as usual, you apply the agent to your teeth and gums per the product's instructions. After spitting out any remaining solution, you examine your teeth in the mirror.

The dye will react to any residual plaque or tartar, coloring it a bright hue like pink or orange in contrast to your normal tooth color. You can see the plaque, and perhaps even patterns that can show how you've missed it. For example, if you see brightly colored scallop shapes around the gum line, that's telling you you're not adequately working your toothbrush into those areas.

The dye eventually fades from the teeth in a few hours, or you can brush it away (and fully remove the plaque it disclosed). Although it's safe, you should avoid ingesting it or getting it on your clothes.

Regularly using a disclosing agent can give you excellent feedback for improving your hygiene techniques. Getting better at brushing and flossing will further reduce your risk for dental disease.

If you would like more information on daily plaque removal, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Plaque Disclosing Agents.”

By Natural Smiles Dentistry
April 27, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay   nutrition  
EnergyDrinksCouldPoseaThreattoYourTeeth

In the last few years, energy drinks have begun to offer strong competition to traditional "pick-me-up" drinks like tea or coffee. But while the proponents of energy drinks say they're not harmful, the jury's still out on their long-term health effects.

With that said, however, we may be closer to a definitive answer regarding oral health—and it's not good. The evidence from some recent studies doesn't favor a good relationship between energy drinks and your teeth.

For one, many energy drinks contain added sugar, which is a primary food source for the bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease. Increased bacteria also increase your chances of dental disease.

Most energy drinks also contain high levels of acid, which can damage the enamel and open the door to advanced tooth decay. The danger is especially high when the mouth's overall pH falls below 5.5. Energy drinks and their close cousins, sports drinks, typically have a pH of 3.05 and 2.91, respectively, which is well within the danger zone for enamel.

A research group recently put the acidity of both types of beverages to the test. The researchers submerged samples of enamel into different brands of beverages four times a day for five days, to simulate a person consuming four drinks a day. Afterward, they examined the samples and found that those subjected to energy drinks lost an average 3.1 % of their volume, with sports drinks faring only a little better at 1.5%.

Although more research needs to be done, these preliminary results support a more restrained use of energy drinks. If you do consume these beverages, observing the following guidelines could help limit any damage to your teeth.

  • Limit drinking to mealtimes—eating food stimulates saliva production, which helps neutralize acid;
  • After drinking, rinse out your mouth with water—because of its neutral pH, water can help dilute concentrated acid in the mouth;
  • Wait an hour to brush to give saliva a chance to remineralize enamel—brushing before then could cause microscopic bits of softened enamel to slough off.

There's one other alternative—abstain from energy drinks altogether. In the long run, that may turn out to be the best choice for protecting your oral health.

If you would like more information on the effects of sports or energy drinks on teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Think Before You Drink.”

By Natural Smiles Dentistry
April 17, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tmj disorders  
AlthoughItsOftenaLongRoadYouCanFindLastingReliefFromTMD

If you've been diagnosed with a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), you're likely no stranger to pain and dysfunction. And not just with your jaw joints: In a survey of approximately 1,500 patients, nearly two-thirds of them also reported at least three or more painful conditions like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome or rheumatoid arthritis.

Researchers continue to gather evidence of possible connections between TMD and other physical conditions. Hopefully, this research will lead to better treatments for all of them, including TMD. But until then, patients must continue to rely on established methods for reducing TMD's severity.

Although new treatments like Botox injections have been proposed and tried in recent years, the most effective still seem to be long-standing techniques that are conservative and non-invasive in nature. On the other hand, TMD surgical procedures developed in recent years have yet to deliver on their promise: In one survey, only 6% of surgery patients gained significant relief from TMD symptoms, while nearly half reported feeling worse.

It seems the best advice, should you receive a definitive diagnosis of TMD, is to start with the more conservative measures. These treatments tend to be orthopedic in nature, generally treating TMD as a joint problem. Of these, the ones most people have found effective involve thermal therapies like hot or cold compresses against the jaw, or hot baths.

Medications like muscle relaxers or pain relievers can also play a role in reducing TMD discomfort and dysfunction. And, many patients gain benefit from physical therapy massage and exercises that target the jaw muscles. Switching to softer foods with smaller bites can help patients avoid over-stressing the jaw joints while chewing.

It's also important to understand that there is no "one-size-fits-all" treatment protocol: Individual patients and their doctors may need to experiment with different therapies to find the right combination that offers the most relief. Although this can take time, it can be well worth it if the eventual combination brings long-term relief.

From this standpoint, patients should avoid surgical options unless all other methods have been tried and still have not yielded significant relief. For most patients, however, conservative TMD treatment and lifestyle or diet changes will work—with enough time and patience.

If you would like more information on TMD, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Chronic Jaw Pain and Associated Conditions.”

IfYouPlayHoopsHereare3TipstoGettheMostOutofYourAthleticMouthguard

Fun fact about the NCAA basketball championship tournament, affectionately known as March Madness: financial website WalletHub says your chances of filling out a perfect bracket are 1 in 9.2 quintillion (a scratch-off from your corner bodega looks like a sound investment in comparison!). Now, here's a not-so-fun fact about basketball in general: Nearly half of all sports-related mouth injuries occur while playing hoops.

Yikes! Not to put a damper on all the revelry, but facts being facts, it's better to face them head-on. Fortunately, there's a proven way to drastically reduce the odds your star basketball player suffers an oral injury—have them wear an athletic mouthguard.

Mouthguards have been essential gear in sports like football, hockey, or wrestling for some time. Made of soft, pliable plastic, mouthguards cushion the impact of a hard blow to the face or mouth. Wearing a mouthguard often means the difference between a sore jaw and a broken one—or even losing teeth.

Mouthguards are now growing in prominence in a wider array of sports, including basketball and baseball (which makes up a substantial part of the other half of annual mouth injuries). Many youth basketball leagues now require them, and although they're not mandated in the NBA, most pro players wear them.

Simply put, wearing a mouthguard for basketball is a smart play. Here, then, are 3 tips for getting the most out of this important safety appliance.

Get a custom-made mouthguard. You can buy a retail mouthguard called a "boil and bite" that can be somewhat customized to fit the wearer's bite, but you should consider a custom appliance created by your dentist based on the wearer's mouth dimensions. Although more expensive, they don't require as much material as the retail version. This makes them more comfortable to wear (and easier to communicate with others), while still providing maximum protection.

Get it updated every few seasons. Young players' jaws change rapidly during their childhood and teenage years. The measurements used to create a mouthguard may be obsolete after a couple of seasons—meaning the mouthguard may lose its proper fit. That's why it's a good idea to have your dentist check the fit each year and, if need be, create a new one based on your player's current mouth.

Wear it for all basketball activities. Formal contests only make up a small part of basketball activities—an organized team often practices five hours or more for every hour of game play. A player is just as likely to be injured practicing (or during pick-up games) as they are during real-time games. As a rule of thumb, then, any time your player goes on the court, they should wear their mouthguard.

If you would like more information about athletic mouthguards, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Athletic Mouthguards.”

By Natural Smiles Dentistry
March 08, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
SmokingPutsYourOralHealthatRiskNowandintheFuture

When you smoke, you're setting yourself up for problems with your health. That includes your teeth and gums—tobacco has been linked to greater susceptibility to both tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease.

Smoking in particular can have a number of adverse effects on your mouth. Smoke can burn and form a thickened layer of the mouth's inner membranes called a keratosis. This in turn can damage the salivary glands enough to decrease saliva production, making for a drier mouth more hospitable to harmful bacteria.

Nicotine, the active chemical ingredient in tobacco, can cause the mouth's blood vessels to constrict. This causes less blood flow, thus a slower flow of nutrients and antigens to teeth and gums to ward off infection. Taken together, smokers are more likely than non-smokers to suffer from dental disease.

The impact doesn't end there. The conditions in the mouth created by smoking make it more difficult for the person to successfully obtain dental implants, one of the more popular tooth replacement methods.

Implants generally enjoy a high success rate due to their most unique feature, a titanium metal post that's imbedded into the jawbone. During the weeks after surgery, bone cells grow and accumulate on the implant's titanium surface to create a lasting hold.

But the previously mentioned effects of smoking can interfere with the integration between implant and bone. Because of restricted blood flow, the tissues around the implant are slower to heal. And the greater risk for dental disease, particularly gum infections, could cause an implant to eventually fail.

Of the rare number of implants that fail, twice as many occur in smokers. By removing smoking as a factor, you stand a much better chance for implant success. If you're considering implants and you smoke, you'll fare much better if you quit smoking altogether.

If you can't, at least stop smoking a week before implant surgery and for a couple of weeks after to increase your mouth's healing factor. Be sure you also keep up daily brushing and flossing and regular dental visits.

Smoking can increase the disease factor for your teeth and gums. Quitting the habit can make it easier to restore your oral health.

If you would like more information on the impact of smoking to oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implants & Smoking.”