Stress and Our Smiles

Stress Could Be Behind a Teeth-Grinding Habit

MENTAL HEALTH AND physical health are tied together in ways we don’t always expect. That even extends to the relationship between oral health and stress. Fortunately, there are a lot of tools we can use to protect our smiles from the effects of stress.

Habitual teeth-grinding and jaw-clenching are called bruxism. Clenching and grinding are natural responses to frustration and stress for many people. The typical signs of bruxism include a sore jaw and, eventually, flattened chewing surfaces of the teeth. Bruxism brings with it significant oral health risks, and the people with this habit might not even notice they’re doing it — particularly for those who grind their teeth in their sleep.

Stress Can Compound the Symptoms of TMD

Another oral health condition stress can contribute to is temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), a disorder of the muscles, joint, and nerves in the jaw that is associated with chronic facial pain. Stress is believed to be one of the factors leading to TMD, which has symptoms like frequent headaches, pain in the jaw joint, and popping and clicking of the jaw.

Stress Weakens the Immune System

A brief period of stress is something the body can deal with pretty well, but chronic stress puts a major strain on the immune system, making it harder to fight off oral health issues like infections, canker sores, dry mouth, gum disease, and cavities.

Make Oral Health and Hygiene a Priority

Considering all the negative effects stress can have, good oral hygiene habits become particularly important. That includes brushing for two minutes twice a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, flossing once a day, and cutting back on sugar intake. Giving your teeth and gums better tools to fight off oral health problems might not be a solution to the stress in your life, but it can help you feel a little better and more in control.

The Dentist Is Your Best Ally

Dental health experts such as our team want to help our patients stress less when it comes to their oral health. We know that just the idea of going to the dentist can be stressful for a lot of people, but we’re here to help. We encourage you to keep up with your regular dental checkups and keep a prevention mindset when it comes to oral health issues rather than waiting until an issue gets much worse to finally get treatment.

We want to help our patients smile easier AND healthier!

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 First Black Woman Dentist in the US

IDA GRAY WAS BORN in Clarksville, Tennessee in 1867. She became an orphan when her mother died in her early teens, after which she went to live with her aunt in Cincinnati. While Gray attended segregated public schools alongside her aunt’s three children and worked as a seamstress, she found time to work in the dental offices of Jonathan Taft, an early advocate of training women as dentists.

Ida Gray’s Education and Practice

After three years working in Taft’s office, Gray had learned enough to pass the entrance examinations into the University of Michigan’s School of Dentistry, where Jonathan Taft had previously served as the dean, and begin her studies in 1887. She graduated three years later, making her the first Black woman to become a dentist in the United States. She opened her own office in Cincinnati, where she serviced patients of all races and was celebrated as a role model for women.

Continuing Career and Retirement

After marrying James Sanford Nelson, Gray moved her practice to Chicago, where she earned a reputation for her gentleness with pediatric patients and inspired another patient, Olive M. Henderson, to become the second Black woman dentist in Chicago. She was heavily involved in her community and continued practicing until her retirement in 1928. After the death of her first husband, she remarried William A. Rollins. She died in 1953 at 86 years old.

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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.

Tooth Sensitivity: Causes and Treatments

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NOTHING RUINS A COZY mug of hot cocoa faster than the jolt of pain from sensitive teeth. As many as one in eight people in the U.S. deal with tooth sensitivity, including kids! What causes it and what can we do to protect our teeth?

Understanding Dental Anatomy

In a healthy tooth, there is the protective outer layer of enamel, then the porous, bony middle layer of dentin, and finally the pulp chamber at the center, which contains nerves and blood vessels. The way the nerves in the pulp chamber get sensory input (for things like pressure and temperature) is through the thousands of microscopic tubules that run through the dentin.

Too Much Sensory Input

When the protective enamel layer wears away, the tubules in the dentin become exposed, and the nerves 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.

What Else Causes Sensitivity?

Root exposure from gum recession also leads to sensitivity. The enamel only covers the crown of the tooth, not the roots, which are protected by the gums. If the gums recede due to teeth grinding, overbrushing, or gum disease, it leaves the roots exposed. Cavities and tooth injuries can cause sensitivity as well.

Are You Protecting 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. We don’t actually need stiff bristles to clean our teeth effectively. There is also special toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth. Avoiding sugary and acidic foods and drinks (particularly soda) is also a good idea.

The Dentist Can Help!

Don’t suffer tooth sensitivity in silence; let the dentist know! In addition to being able to determine the cause of the problem, the dentist can do things to help protect your teeth, such as applying a fluoride varnish to make your enamel stronger, prescribe a desensitizing toothpaste, or in a severe case, perform a dental restoration or recommend a gum graft to cover exposed roots.

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.

Preparing for Orthodontic Emergencies

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DO YOU HAVE an orthodontic emergency plan? It’s a good idea for anyone who has braces or whose child has braces to be prepared in case something goes wrong with their orthodontic appliance between adjustments. Not addressing a problem quickly could lead to delaying Braces Off Day, and nobody wants that!

Tips for Minor Orthodontic Problems

The most common orthodontic problems for braces-wearers are a bracket breaking or coming loose, wires poking in the back, brackets poking the lips or cheeks, and toothaches, and there are a number of things you can do for these issues at home.

For a poking wire: it may be possible to use a pencil eraser to gently push the part sticking out so that it’s out of the way. Orthodontic wax can also cover the ends of the wire so they aren’t as irritating to the gums or cheeks. In some cases, we may just need to clip the ends for you.

For toothaches and soreness: these symptoms are usually temporary, particularly right after an adjustment, and eating soft foods and swishing warm salt water will help. Taking over-the-counter painkillers is another good way to manage the discomfort. If it doesn’t improve on its own in a couple of days, contact us.

For a broken bracket: this one can’t be fixed at home. Contact us and schedule a repair appointment, because leaving it loose until the next regular appointment is a great way to delay your treatment!

For general preparedness, a braces kit like this is a great idea:

The Rare Major Orthodontic Emergency

Much less often, a patient may have to deal with a more serious emergency in the course of their orthodontic treatment. Having a plan in place is a good idea in case this happens. Examples of a major orthodontic emergency include:

  • Severe oral/facial pain
  • Swollen/infected gums or major swelling around the face
  • A traumatic injury to the mouth, teeth, or face

In the unlikely event that you experience any of these, call our office immediately to schedule an emergency appointment, but if the problem affects more than just your orthodontic appliance, prioritize your health by going to the emergency room first. Once you’ve been treated for injuries, call us so that we can address the problems with your braces.

Let Us in on Your Orthodontic Emergency Plan

If you have questions about other things you can do to protect your braces, both to prevent accidents and to prepare for them, we’re happy to give you answers. We’re also ready to supply you with extra orthodontic wax and rubber bands to add to your orthodontic emergency kit!

We’re looking forward to seeing you at your next adjustment appointment!

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

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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.(INSERT VIDEO HERE)

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!

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.

Cold and Flu Season and Oral Health

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COMING DOWN WITH the flu is never any fun, but it’s still no time to let up on your oral hygiene routine. The same applies if you get a cold. With flu and cold season starting up, we thought this was a good time to share some tips for maintaining good oral health through one of these common illnesses.

Brushing and Flossing Can Help You Feel Better

As well as you can while sick, try to remember to brush and floss as usual. It’s not just about the comfort of maintaining some part of your normal routine, or about getting some small sense of accomplishment out of it — no, brushing and flossing can actually make you feel better!

Keeping your mouth as clean as possible is a real boost to your overall sense of well-being. A clean mouth helps you feel rejuvenated and refreshed, so don’t let the simple habits of brushing and flossing fall by the wayside while you’re sick. Getting rid of oral bacteria can only help while you’re fighting a cold or the flu!

A Stuffy Nose Leads to Dry Mouth

If you can’t breathe out of your nose because of congestion, then obviously your only option is to breathe through your mouth. That’s never great for oral health, because it tends to dry things out. We need our saliva to fend off bacteria and wash away food debris, and dry mouth significantly increases the risk of tooth decay.

Sometimes the medicine we take to help with a cold or the flu (such as antihistamines, pain relievers, and decongestants) can actually make the dry mouth situation worse. Keep this in mind and make sure to drink plenty of water and, when possible, breathe through your nose.

Congestion and Bad Breath

Have you ever noticed a snotty taste when you have a cold? Well, it can also be a smell, in the form of bad breath. This happens because of post nasal drip, or excess mucus leaking down the back of the throat. It’s easy for bacteria to multiply in this situation, which leads to unpleasant smells — yet another reason why brushing and flossing are just as important when we’re sick!

Cut Down on Sugar

The bad bacteria in our mouths love when we eat sugar, even when it comes in the form of a cough drop. Sucking on a sugary cough drop is just as bad for our teeth as sucking on a hard candy, which is why it’s a good idea to choose a sugar free cough drop for your throat-soothing needs.

Rehydrate with Water

We tend to reach for beverages like orange juice, sports drinks, or sweetened tea when we’re sick. If we do, we should remember to rinse with water afterward to wash away any leftover sugar, but we should really be drinking water more than anything else. It will make up for the fluids lost due to flu or cold symptoms, and particularly if it’s the stomach flu, it helps to protect the teeth from the damaging effects of stomach acid from frequent vomiting.

Have Questions About Oral Health?

If there’s anything else you’d like to know about the relationship between oral health and common illnesses like colds or the flu, just give us a call! We want all of our patients to have the tools they need to stay as healthy as possible in addition to specifically having good oral health.

Feel better soon!

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.

 Sugar Versus Our Teeth

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SUGAR IS THE GREATEST nemesis of the dental profession and anyone who wants to maintain a healthy smile. Why? Because the harmful bacteria in our mouths love to eat it, then excrete acid onto our teeth as a waste product. That leads to enamel erosion, tooth decay, and gum disease. This is why we encourage our patients to cut back on sugar intake…but it’s not always as simple as it sounds.

Sugar Goes by Many Names

When you think of sugar, you probably picture candy, soda, and desserts above all, but are you also picturing fruit juice, flavored yogurt, granola bars, and barbecue sauce? So many of the foods we eat contain significant amounts of added sugar, and it isn’t always called sugar in the list of ingredients. It’s always a good idea to check the “added sugars” line in the nutritional facts, but we recommend learning to recognize the different names for sugar as well.

How to Find Sugar on Food Labels

Obviously, anything that includes the word “sugar” is something to watch for, whether that sugar is powdered or coarse, brown or coconut, but another giveaway is the word “syrup.” Every syrup, from high-fructose corn syrup to rice syrup, is a type of sugar-based sweetener. That’s not all; evaporated cane juice, agave nectar, honey, fruit juice concentrate, and even 100% fruit juice are also sugar.

Then there are the more scientific names. Don’t be fooled by the long, difficult-to-pronounce chemistry words. An easy way to identify these sugar aliases is to look for the suffix “-ose” at the end of the words, such as in fructose, dextrose, glucose, sucrose, lactose, and maltose. These are all names for types of sugar molecules.

Is There a Healthy Amount of Sugar?

Ideally, we’d all be able to avoid sugar entirely, but with it hiding in so many of the foods we buy, that can be a very difficult goal to achieve. If it isn’t possible to cut sugar out altogether, then we recommend following the American Heart Association’s guidelines. Women should try to consume no more than 25 grams (or six teaspoons) of sugar per day, and men should try to keep it under 36 grams (nine teaspoons).

It’s also important to control when and how we consume our sugar. Whole fruit is a healthier option than fruit juice because the sugar in the fruit is trapped with water and fiber, making it harder for our bodies to absorb it. Whole fruit is also more filling than juice, so we’re less likely to overdo it. (If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between natural and processed sugars, that’s it.) Finally, it’s better for our teeth to consume our sugar only during meals.

Sweeteners for a Healthier Mouth and Body

If you simply can’t go without some delicious sweet treats, there are plenty of sugar-free sweeteners to try, such as monk fruit sweetener, stevia, xylitol, and erythritol. Working with these substitutes can be tricky when baking, but many recipes work well with applesauce, mashed bananas, dates, or figs in place of sugar.

The Dentist Is Your Teeth’s Best Ally Against Sugar

Limiting sugar intake and finding healthier substitutes are great ways to promote oral health, in addition to a good daily brushing and flossing routine, but the dentist can help too! If it’s been longer than six months since your last dental appointment, make sure to schedule one!

We have the sweetest patients!

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 Typical Timeline for Baby Teeth

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TWO OF THE BIGGEST milestones of child development are when their baby teeth start coming in and when they start being replaced by adult teeth. First-time parents probably have a lot of questions about what’s normal and whether it’s time to worry, so we want to give you a quick guide to when you can start looking for the signs of incoming teeth and when they might start to get loose.

Our Teeth Start Growing Before We’re Born

By week six of pregnancy, tooth buds begin forming. They grow through the rest of the pregnancy and after birth in a process called odontogenesis. Even after the teeth begin to push through the gums, the roots still have some growing left to do.

Baby Teeth Tend to Erupt in Pairs

We don’t get full sets of teeth all at once; instead, we tend to get them two by two, alternating between top and bottom. The lower central incisors are the first to appear, which usually happens between month six and month ten. Next up are the upper central incisors (the two front teeth) between months eight and twelve. The lateral incisors appear next: first bottom, then top.

You might think the canines would come next because they’re the next teeth in the arch, but instead, it’s the first pair of lower molars, then the upper molars. Only then do the canine teeth catch up, and the second set of molars are the last to appear. By age three, most toddlers will have the full set of twenty baby teeth.

When to Bring Concerns to the Dentist

If you’re worried that your toddler’s teeth might not be arriving on schedule, feel free to get in touch with us. In most cases, there’s no cause for concern until month eighteen comes and goes and no teeth have appeared. But whether those teeth come in early or late, as soon as you see the first one, it’s a great time for baby’s first dental appointment!

Alert the Tooth Fairy!

On average, kids start losing baby teeth around age five or six. If it’s taking a little longer, they might start to feel left behind by their peers. Losing a tooth is a big rite of passage for kids. It’s a tangible symbol of maturity.

If no teeth are becoming loose by their seventh birthday, it could be time for the dentist to take a look to find out why. Most of the time, there’s nothing to worry about, and late-blooming teeth actually tend to be stronger and more cavity-resistant than the early ones!

What Are Natal Teeth?

In rare cases, a baby might be born already having one or two teeth. This doesn’t mean they’re way ahead of their developmental schedule, though; these teeth are natal teeth, and they aren’t part of the normal set of baby teeth. Most of the time, when they appear, they’re shaped oddly and have weak roots, making them very loose. Doctors might even remove them before the parents bring the baby home from the hospital.

Over the centuries, different cultures have had a wide range of reactions to these weird (but harmless) extra teeth, both positive and negative. They were considered bad luck in China but a sign of a wonderful future ahead in Europe. Some Ural-Altaic tribes considered natal teeth a sign that the child was a sorcerer.

Keep Brushing Teeth of All Ages!

Whether a child is six months old and just cut their very first tooth or they’re a teenager with nearly a full set of adult teeth, every tooth needs to be cleaned daily. Establishing healthy brushing habits in childhood while kids still have their baby teeth makes it much easier for them to continue those habits into adulthood.

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.

Improving Our Mood and Health With Smiles

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THE OLD LINE “it takes fewer muscles to smile than frown” isn’t actually true. It takes at least ten muscles to smile but as few as six to frown, so maybe the saying should be something like “you burn more calories when you smile than when you frown!” instead. However, getting a better workout isn’t the only benefit we get from smiling!

The Feedback Loop Between Smiling and Happiness

Obviously, we smile when we’re happy, but evidence shows that the very act of smiling might make us feel happier. Smiling is so closely linked to the feeling of happiness in our brains that even a fake smile can release endorphins — the feel-good hormone — and make us feel better. The next time you’re having a rough day, try flashing a smile and see if that helps a little!

We Reduce Pain and Stress by Smiling

Those endorphins we get from smiling can do a lot of helpful things besides just contributing to a better mood. Short-term, endorphins help to reduce pain and relieve stress because they function in a similar way to painkillers (except without the side effects).

A 2012 experiment tested how long it took subjects’ heart rates to return to normal after completing a stressful task, and the smiling subjects recovered faster. The way the experiment worked was that the non-smiling group had to hold a pencil between their lips while they did the task (forcing a more pout-like expression), while the smiling group had to hold the pencil between their teeth (forcing more of a smile).

The Long-Term Benefits of Smiling: A Better Immune System!

Those short-term endorphin effects are great, but it doesn’t even stop there! Over time, when we make a habit of smiling more, the effects compound into long-term health benefits like making us more resilient against illnesses and reducing our risk of getting cancer. The reason for this is that the better we manage our stress, the fewer stress-induced mutations our cells go through over the years.

Smile More, Live Longer

People typically perceive a smiling face as being more attractive and younger than a non-smiling face, and that’s not just about appearances. Over the course of a lifetime of smiling, we might accrue enough health benefits to actually live longer. One way to make it easier to smile more is to be proud of the way our smiles look because we have healthy teeth and gums. For that, we need great dental health habits and regular professional dental care.

Bring Your Beautiful Smile to the Dentist!

Don’t fight the battle for your smile’s health on your own; the dentist can help. Schedule regular cleaning appointments to get that professional deep clean and catch any problems while they are still small, and bring any questions you have about dental health with you!

Nothing makes us smile quite like our patients!

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.