The Effects of Sugar On Your Teeth: Halloween Edition

As the ghosts and ghouls make their way through the Halloween festivities, there’s one thing to keep in mind: sugar can seriously damage those pearly fangs.

Your mouth is full of hundreds of bacteria. Most of them are necessary to your mouth’s health, but there are some that actually cause damage. This harmful bacteria is what causes cavities. It feeds on sugars you eat to create acids that destroy tooth enamel, that shiny outer layer of the tooth. This bacteria builds up in plaque and stays on your teeth until it’s removed by brushing, flossing, using mouthwash, or with the help of a dental hygienist.

Water Works

This is why it’s important to eat balanced meals, drink lots of water, and brush often. Did the water tip surprise you? Dehydration is detrimental to mouth health. Did you know that your saliva is a key player in repairing your teeth? It contains calcium and phosphates that strengthen and repair the acid damage. If you’re dehydrated, you can’t produce the saliva necessary to counter the acid. Here’s a great tip for you: swish with water first thing in the morning to get your saliva glands working so you can begin the day with a bad bacteria counterattack. Fluoride is also a vital mineral and is found in most toothpastes, mouthwashes, and some water. Keep in mind that your saliva and fluoride can only do so much. If you produce more acid than they can counter, your enamel will break down and allow cavities to form.

Sugar High

Too much sugar can also lead to gum disease, a condition that affects over 50% of the American population. It’s a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the gum tissues and the bones supporting the teeth. A recent study proved that advanced gum disease can also cause (and create complications for) heart disease and Type II Diabetes. It can also cause complications in respiratory diseases and increase the risk of stroke. You can have gum disease without having cavities and vice versa, but you should know that gum disease is harder to spot in the early stages.

Sans Sugar

Of course, if you’re the one handing out the Halloween treats, there are some great alternatives to sugar. You can offer up alternative treats like temporary tattoos, playful plastic jewelry, fun accessories like pirate patches, arts and crafts items, fun school supplies, games, and coloring kits. There are great food alternatives, as well. Sugarless gum is great since it has no sugar and also stimulates saliva. Mini boxes of raisins or bags of pretzels, string cheese, cereal bars, and more are great options.

If sugar must be consumed to keep the costumed kiddos happy, make sure they brush their teeth thoroughly with a fluoride toothpaste and floss daily. Sticky, hard, and chewy candies can keep causing damage long after they’ve been eaten, so try to stay away from those. Limit candy to the end of a meal or right before a tooth-brushing session.

Planning ahead: Tips for picking a dental insurance plan during open enrollment

Picking dental insurance during open enrollment may seem like a headache, but we’ve broken it down for you in a way that will help you make the right decision. Remember, dental health is a key factor in your overall body health, so make sure you’re getting the coverage you need.

First, let’s talk about the types of coverage and the two categories available.

You have dental coverage in two ways: Inclusive or Stand-alone

You can purchase health plans that include dental coverage or purchase separate, stand-alone dental plans. Make sure you compare the prices and coverages. A health plan with dental means you make one premium payment. A separate dental plan means you pay for both a health and a dental premium, so two payments.

You should know that you can cancel a stand-alone coverage at any time, but the inclusive packages will be more complicated. You can only change to another health plan without dental benefits during Open Enrollment unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. If you have a job-based plan, check with your employer to see if they have different open enrollment periods. Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is also open for application and enrollment at any time since they are government programs. For all others: Open enrollment for 2017 is from November 1st through December 15th.

There are two types of categories: High Coverage or Low Coverage

High coverage has a higher premium (your monthly payment) but you have lower deductibles (the payment you make before your insurance starts its coverage) and copayments (a fixed fee you pay for a covered service). This means you pay more up front, but less when you use dental services.

A low coverage level has lower premiums but higher deductibles and copayments (also known as copays). This means you pay less each month, but more when you visit the dentist in person.

When you compare plans, you should make note of the following:

  1. Plan cost per month
  2. Deductibles
  3. Copayments
  4. The services covered by the insurance plan

Here are our top tips to help you during your enrollment period.

  • Choose a plan that fits the needs of you and your family. If you have tough costs like braces or intense dental work ahead, it may save you money to go with a higher coverage. If your kids play sports, make sure you look into emergency dental work services.
  • Shop around for the best deal. If there are multiple policies available, look through the options. You won’t be able to get a dental plan through the Marketplace unless you’re buying a health plan at the same time, so keep that in mind, as well.
  • Read the fine print. You want to know how long it will take for the insurance plan to pay for serious or expensive procedures.
  • Take the time to do the research and your mouth will thank you for it.
  • Call us!  We’re happy to help you understand what you might be selecting so that you can get the best plan for you and your family!

Tooth Sensitivity: How to deal with it and understanding why your teeth are sensitive

If you’ve ever felt pain or aching sensitivity when you eating something cold, hot, or sweet, you aren’t alone. Tooth Sensitivity affects 57% of the population. At least 40 million adults in the United States have suffered with it, since it can come and go over time. So why does it happen and how can you deal with it?

Tooth sensitivity can be caused by so many different things!

  • Worn tooth enamel from using a hard toothbrush or aggressive tooth brushing
  • Gum recession which exposes the root to the elements
  • Hard enamel erosion due to highly acidic foods and beverages. It can also be eroded because of acid reflux or bulimia.
  • Use of abrasive toothpastes like some whitening formulas that also contain sodium pyrophosphate (the key ingredient in tartar-control toothpaste!)

Preventing tooth sensitivity is easier than you think! Twice a day, make sure you spend at least two minutes brushing your teeth with a non- or low-level abrasive toothpaste. Lay off the acidic foods and drinks as much as you can. Want to know if you’re brushing too hard? Look at your toothbrush. If your bristles point in multiple directions, you should ease up on the pressure. Also, buy a new toothbrush!

What if you already have sensitive teeth? You can use a toothpaste marketed for sensitive teeth. If you use tartar-control toothpaste, consider switching to a different one. That key ingredient of sodium pyrophosphate mentioned above may be the culprit, and you’ll be able to tell in just a few days! Fluoride treatments are also an option, though the most effective ones are the treatments prescribed by dentists.

If you have cold sensitivity, will warm compresses help? Likewise, if you have sensitivity to hot beverages, will ice or cool beverages help? Keep track of what you eat and the temperatures of those items (hot, cold, room temperature, etc.). Write down anything that helps ease your symptoms. You may find a pattern that helps you figure out the source.

When do you need to see a dentist? If a tooth is highly sensitive for more than four days and reacts to hot and cold temperatures, you need to see a dentist. It’s best to make sure the sensitivity is something you can treat at home, rather than ignore something like a cavity or abscess that’s in the beginning stages.

How do I describe my symptoms? Clarify exactly where the pain originates from and how long it lasts. List the trigger points: hot beverages, cold air, sweets, etc. You want to let him or her know if anything helps with the pain, as well. This is where tracking your progress really comes in handy.

Your dentist may prescribe several treatment options that can include a change in oral hygiene habits to special protective coatings (like in the cast of dentin hypersensitivity, or super sensitive teeth as a medical condition).

Tooth sensitivity can be caused by root exposure, hard enamel breakdown, or oral hygiene habits that caused problems you weren’t aware of. If you notice that your teeth are sensitive, take a step back and evaluate what may be triggering your problem, and you may just be able to stop it yourself!

Simple Ways to Prevent Periodontal Disease


Periodontal disease is when bacteria in plaque builds up between the gums and teeth. This causes major inflammation in your mouth  which can force the gums and supporting bone structure to deteriorate. To make matters worse, gum disease has been flagged as triggers for other health problems throughout the body such as heart disease and diabetes.

Symptoms include red, swollen, or tender gums, pain in your mouth, bleeding while brushing, flossing or eating food, sensitive or loose teeth, sores in your mouth, persistent bad breath, and more. Millions of people don’t know that have this serious infection, but there’s great news. This chronic inflammation can be prevented.

Here are some simple ways to prevent periodontal disease and maintain a healthy mouth:

Brush your teeth

Brush after meals to help remove food debris and plaque trapped between your teeth and gums. Make sure you brush your tongue, as well, since that’s a prime location for bacteria. Use a soft-bristled brush and be careful to keep the aggression down. Over-brushing can cause it’s own problems, too.

Floss

Floss once a day to help remove those stuck food particles and plaque buildup that brushing may have missed. If flossing is difficult for you, consider using a special wooden or plastic pick recommended by your dentist. There are special brushes available, as well.

Swish with mouthwash

As a final attack, use mouthwash to catch the food and plaque brushing and flossing may have missed. You’ll want to use one that has the ADA seal of approval as it has been certified as safe to use.

Know your risk

Age, smoking, diet, genetics, diet choice, and hormones can all affect your likelihood of getting periodontal disease. Smoking decreases circulation that keeps the gums healthy. It’s also one of the largest contributors to gum disease. Eating a well-balanced diet can work wonders on your teeth (and overall body) health. Did you know that highly acidic foods and drinks can cause further degeneration of the gums? Sugary foods create a feeding frenzy for bacteria growth, as well. If you indulge in a sweet snack, make sure you brush and swish with mouthwash to help flush the area immediately after.

See your dentist. 

Get an annual exam. Your dentist can measure any recession you may have and set up treatment before it becomes an issue. There are many things to consider such as the color and firmness of your gums as well as any pockets that may have formed because of recession.

Periodontal Disease affects more than just your breath, gums, and teeth. If left untreated, your chances of developing (or having complications from) heart disease and/or diabetes increases dramatically. Chronic inflammation is a dangerous thing for your body, and once you know you have it, don’t ignore it. It can lead to costly surgeries and implants. Your mouth is an essential part of your body and quality of life. Don’t let this preventable disease destroy your health.

Schedule an appointment with your dentist today!

What to do if you’ve broken a tooth?

You went out with some friends and decided to play a little mini golf. You’re laughing and having a great time. As your best friend draws back to hit the ball into the windmill lighthouse, the shot goes wild. Suddenly before you have a chance to duck out of the way, the ball comes flying and hits you square in the mouth. Ouch! After recovering from the initial shock of the blow you feel a sharp edge on one of your teeth. Your tooth is broken…. Now what do you do?

Well, unfortunately a broken tooth isn’t something that you can just “fix” with an at home remedy. A broken tooth requires the skilled work of a dentist to restore its integrity. However, there are some pretty critical things you will need to do immediately afterwards to help the situation before you pay your dentist an unplanned visit.

A Step by Step after you bust your tooth

  1. Rinse your mouth out with warm water. Be careful not to use water that is cold or hot. The break in your tooth may have exposed some nerve endings and will send a very unpleasant shock of pain through your mouth with extreme temperature changes.
  2. Apply pressure to any bleeding areas in your mouth. You can use a piece of gauze or even a tea bag. Do this for at least 10 minutes. If bleeding continues with the same intensity, consider a trip to the ER for possible stitches.
  3. Ice it. Apply to swollen areas on your lips or cheeks to help minimize swelling and some pain.
  4. Take some over the counter pain meds! A broken tooth is no joke and hurts like a son of a gun. No need to suffering any more than necessary.
  5. Temporary aid. If it’s going to be a little bit before you are able to see your dentist you’ll need to make a quick trip to your local drug store. Most stores carry temporary dental cement. Apply it to the broken area of the tooth until your dental appointment.

What does the dentist do?

  1. Bonding – For chipped or cracked teeth a dentist will often go with a composite bonding for repairs. They roughen up the surface of your tooth a bit more, apply a conditioning liquid, and then form the putty over top and sculpt it to restore the shape again.
  2. Crowns – If your tooth is badly chipped, you may need a crown. A crown is made of porcelain and placed over your damaged tooth. It will be created in a lab and attached with the aid of anesthesia. This will allow your tooth to be able to withstand bite pressure again without pain.
  3. Implants – Sometimes when you break a tooth, the entire tooth may be knocked out or the majority of it causing the tooth to die. In this case you might need a dental implant. You will need to undergo surgery to have titanium screws placed in your jaw to act as anchors for the new tooth to go over top and become a new permanent feature in your smile.

Ways to Deal with TMJ

If you have pain when you chew or yawn, you may already be familiar with TMJ. TMJ, also known as temporomandibular disorder, is usually caused by inflammation of the chewing muscles.

Here are some great ways to deal with TMJ! Please keep in mind that you shouldn’t push through your pain. If it hurts, stop! These should help, not hinder you.

Massage

There are two types of massage that are the most effective when dealing with this painful condition. A kneading massage is a powerful remedy. To do this yourself, feel for the muscles of your lower jaw, directly behind your molars and right below the cheekbone. Here’s a quick way to find it: touch the corner of your mouth and walk your fingers back toward your ear until you feel a flat piece of bone. Massage gently in firm circular motions to help ease the pain. Experiment with the areas surrounding this spot to see if you find some relief.

Friction massages are amazing on the lower part of your jaw at a place called the mandible muscle. Use firm, gentle, and constant pressure on this muscle for maximum effectiveness.

Stretching Exercises

Gentle stretching may help ease some of the pain. Start with your mouth closed and your jaw as relaxed as possible. With teeth slightly apart, slowly open the mouth as wide as you can while looking up with your eyes. Hold this position for a few seconds, and then slowly close it. Quick, snapping motions could make things worse, so go slow in this entire stretch. Once your mouth is closed again, move jaw to the left (while looking to the right with your eyes). Hold for a few seconds, and then move back to the center. Repeat this stretch in the opposite direction. It may look a little silly, but it really works!

Heat and Cold

Apply ice packs to the side of your face and temple area for around ten minutes. Do some simple jaw stretches. When the ten minutes are up, hold a warm towel or washcloth to the side of your face for five minutes. Do this a few times a day.

Over-the-counter Medications

NSAIDs (naproxen or ibuprofen, for instance) can relieve swelling and muscle pain. Follow the recommended dosages! With NSAIDs, as with most medicines, taking more than the recommended dose can harm your body. This is a short-term solution.

Here are some additional tips!

  1. When you brush and floss, be careful not to open your mouth too wide.
  2. If pain continues for longer than a week, or if stretching and opening your mouth causes pain, you should see a dentist or doctor.
  3. Keep your teeth slightly apart to relieve pressure on the jaw, especially if teeth grinding is the reason for your TMJ flare up.
  4. Don’t rest your chin on your hand or hold the phone between your shoulder and ear.
  5. If you wake with TMJ pain in the morning, consider a night guard to lessen grinding.

Your Oral Health Matters…And Not Just For Your Teeth!

In years past, medical professionals were not making connections between oral health and overall health and wellness. New research suggests that the two are very much connected. Called the oral-systemic connection, studies are beginning to make links between the health of an individual’s mouth and the rest of the body.

New connections and theories are being discovered all the time, not all of them completely proven. However, there are a few connections that are convincing enough to become widely accepted.

Respiratory Infections

Our mouths are breeding grounds for bacteria, which is what makes oral hygiene so important. This bacteria causes a variety of oral ailments from tooth decay to gum disease. New findings suggest that this same oral bacteria can travel from the mouth into the lungs and cause a variety of respiratory infections including pneumonia and emphysema. Those prone to these sorts of conditions need to make their oral health a priority!

Diabetes

Bacteria, like many people, love sugars – especially glucose. Oral bacteria will thrive on glucose, which is linked to diabetes. When blood sugar levels are poorly controlled it affects more than just diabetes. If there are high glucose levels in your mouth, it will dramatically increase the risk of periodontal disease and tooth decay. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) officially recognized this connection between oral health and diabetes in 2008.

Pregnancy

These studies haven’t been as conclusive as others, but there have been findings linking gum disease and preterm birth. While more research needs to be done in this area to be certain, any expecting mothers with periodontal concerns should have those treated as soon as possible, just in case.

Heart Disease

Bacteria can cause havoc anywhere, and that includes cardiovascular areas. There are studies that suggest that clogged arteries, stroke and heart disease could potentially be caused by infections initiated by oral bacteria. Also, a condition known as endocarditis (an infection of the inner heart lining) is caused from bacteria coming from other areas of the body, spread through the bloodstream, and attracted to damaged heart areas.

There are other health concerns that have been linked to the mouth including eating disorders, Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren’s syndrome. If any of these are a concern for you or your loved ones, we would encourage you to do a bit of digging to uncover how proper oral hygiene might benefit you.

There is still a lot of work to be done in creating conclusive findings. However, what we do know is that the overall condition of your mouth, teeth and gums plays a much larger role in your health that anyone ever considered.

A proper oral hygiene routine is the best prevention for a variety of health problems. What if an electric toothbrush and regular floss could be enough to save a life?

Be certain you are scheduling your six-month dental appointments so your dentist can evaluate any potential oral problems that are oblivious to the untrained eye. Staying on top of your dental health will, in the long run, save you money, frustration, and could improve your body’s ability to function optimally.

The Great Debate: The Fluoride in Our Water – Why Fluoride is in our water systems and why there’s a debate going on about it.

Water fluoridation is the addition of fluoride (derived from fluorine) to public water supplies for the purpose of reducing cavities.  Currently 74.6% or 190 million people in the United States have fluoridated water in their homes.

Why do communities add fluoride to drinking water?

In 1945, the city officials of Grand Rapids, MI decided to add small amounts of fluoride to their water supply.  Their intent was to test the theory that the fluoride would help against tooth decay, especially for children. Before the experiment had been studied for the recommended 15 years, the overall rate of tooth decay in the children observed dropped over 60 percent.

By 1960, over fifty million Americans had fluoride in their drinking water, and the Centers for Disease Control considers fluoridation one of the most important public health advances of the 20th century.

Is it safe?

  • For people of all ages, fluoride works topically on tooth surfaces. Fluoride mixes with saliva, and when the saliva neutralizes acids produced by bacteria on teeth, the fluoride joins the enamel crystals on the tooth surfaces, healing and protecting the teeth from further decay.
  • Fluoride combines with the calcium and phosphate of the developing teeth and makes them more resistant to decay, especially during the first few years after they come into the mouth.

Is it ethical?

  • Fluoride is not a medication – it is a type of nutrient.  The practice of adding nutrients to consumable products include Vitamin D being added to milk to prevent a disease called rickets and iodine is added to salt to prevent goiter, which affects the thyroid gland.
  • Chlorine is added to drinking water to prevent outbreaks of E. coli or other forms of bacteria. Having a community water system means a city or town cannot pick and choose which households receive chlorinated water and which ones do not. The same is true for fluoride.

Is it effective?

  • A 2010 study confirmed that the fluoridated water consumed as a young child makes the loss of teeth (due to decay) less likely 40 or 50 years later when that child is a middle-aged adult.
  • At a time when more than 100 million Americans lack dental insurance, fluoridation offers an easy, inexpensive preventive strategy that everyone benefits from simply by turning on their tap.
  • Fluoridated water is also the most inexpensive way to provide fluoride. The per-person annual cost of fluoride rinse programs is roughly double the cost of fluoridated water. The per-person annual cost of fluoride supplements is more than 70 times higher than fluoridated water. Fluoride varnishes or gels also cost more than providing fluoridated water.

Fluoridation does spark a heated debate between opponents and supporters.  A reverse-osmosis filter can be used to remove the fluoride in your tap water, but be aware of the benefits you are denying yourself and your family – especially your children who benefit the most from the addition.

Dental X-Rays: What Are They & Why Are They Helpful?

Get The Skinny On Dental X-Rays:

When you go to the dentist and they take pictures of your teeth, these include photos of the teeth, bones, and delicate tissues around them to help uncover potential issues with the teeth, mouth, and jaw. The purpose of the x-ray is to reveal any cavities, hidden dental structures or possible bone loss that can’t be seen during a visual examination. These dental photos are also used after any treatments or procedures to ensure things are going as planned.

Types of Dental X-Rays

Bitewing – These are used to snap a shot of the upper and lower back teeth in one image. Helpful when determining the shape of a person’s bite or to look for decay between the teeth in the back of the mouth.

Periapical – These shots are essentially close-ups of a single tooth from crown to tip of the root.

Occlusal – These focus on the roof or floor of the mouth and are commonly used to locate extra teeth, fractures, clefts, abscesses or other abnormalities in the mouth.

Panoramic – These extend past the teeth to include the jaw and joints, as well as the nasal and sinus areas.

Reasons to Take Dental X-Rays

Since x-rays do generate small amounts of radiation, a common question is why should anyone take the risk to have their teeth x-rays done? There are many benefits to doing this at least once a year (or as needed, per your dentist recommendation).

  • Not every problem can be seen simply by looking into the mouth. While a dentist is experienced is spotting potential problems that you won’t notice, they still can’t see what is going on beneath the surface.
  • Early detection could save you time, money, and your teeth. An x-ray will display decay, bone loss or damage, injury, disease, infection and other concerns that could quickly escalate to bigger problems.
  • Without an overall picture of how the teeth are lined up and the condition they are in, orthodontics would be stumbling in the dark when it came to developing a treatment plan.
  • Not every child’s teeth come in perfectly, or in the right timing, and an x-ray could identify what is keeping the tooth from coming in (or falling out).

While a few people stress over the radiation from X-rays, there truly is no need for concern. Present day innovation has decreased radiation levels to miniscule sums. The American Dental Association has distributed suggestions to reassure families that radiation is as low as possible. Furthermore, dental specialists play it safe using defensive garments and collars to shield patients from radiation. They also make the process brief by utilizing the latest tech.

The most value in dental x-rays come in finding a concern or issue before it becomes a challenge. Early detection, combined with the latest technological advances, are the best approach for keeping teeth healthy. Wouldn’t it be lovely to only go to the dentist when you needed a cleaning because your teeth are so strong and healthy? Dental x-rays help keep you out of the treatment chair and smiling big and proud for the world to see.

Your Dentist Needs To Know These Four Things

Things to Tell Your Dentist At Your Next Appointment

Six months is a long time to go without talking to someone, especially if that someone is your dentist. Recent studies prove that your dental health is connected to your overall health so your connection with your dentist is more important than you thought. This is why it’s so important to establish a trust with your dentist. A dental professional will be able to provide better care for their patients only if the channels of communication remain open and honest. This doesn’t mean you need to talk to them about your love life. But, it does mean you should clue them in on topics that have an effect on your oral health.

Want your pearly whites to stay healthy? Keep reading to see what you should be telling your dentist at your next appointment.

Status Update

Each time you visit your dentist office you should let them know how things are going. If you’ve had any health issues since you last saw them, you probably want to ask if it will affect your oral health in any way. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to tell them issues you are currently dealing with. Not only does you dentist care about your teeth, but they also care about your well-being. Items that should be included are sensitivity, pain, odor, build-up changes, color changes and bleeding. If you aren’t sure, ask about it anyway. The more information they have, the better they will be to uncover the root of the issue.

Diet

Clue your dentist in about your diet, as certain foods and drink can have a great effect on your teeth. You may be eating food that is healthy for you but is damaging to your teeth. While we all want to eat healthy, there are those times where an ice cream craving kicks in. Relax; your dentist will keep your sweet tooth a secret. What we consume, and the way it’s consumed, has an impact on our dental health.

Dental Tools

A common dental hygiene practice that you may sometimes forget is to floss. Your dentist is somewhat of a detective. They’ll be able to tell how much or how little you’re flossing. Be sure to talk to them about why you haven’t been flossing. Dentists are full of great advice and will be able to give you some tips on how to include flossing in your at-home dental routine. Also, ask their advice on the type of toothbrush and toothpaste they recommend.

Fears and anxieties

If you’ve ever had a terrible experience with a dentist, you may groan at the thought of your next appointment. Instead, tell your dentist about past experiences that make you anxious. Or, if you’re about to go under a more invasive procedure ask as many questions as possible. This will ease any anxieties you have and ensure you that your dentist knows what they’re doing.

Having open communication with your dentist establishes a trust making it easier to maintain oral health and decreasing the stress associated with these appointments.  If we know what is going on with you, we can help address your needs!

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