Gum Recession: Minimizing Your Risks

THE EXPRESSION “getting long in the tooth” refers to gum recession, but this oral health problem isn’t necessarily connected to age. Gum recession is when the edge of the gingival tissue moves away from the crown of the tooth, exposing the root. The reason we tend to think of it as an age-related problem is that it tends to be so gradual that it takes many years to become noticeable, but it can begin at any age — even in childhood! — for a variety of reasons.

Gum Recession Caused by Genetics

Unfortunately, gum recession isn’t always avoidable, because it can be caused by genetics. Some people simply have more fragile gum tissue or they don’t have enough jaw bone surrounding the roots of their teeth to support the gums all the way up to the crowns. However, other contributing factors are easier to control, so even people who are predisposed to gum recession can still minimize it.

Bruxism: Bad for Teeth, Bad for Gums

Bruxism (chronic teeth-grinding) can cause all kinds of problems for oral health, and one of them is an increased risk of gum recession. Grinding puts a lot of pressure on the gums, and they can’t always hold up under it and begin to recede. The habit of grinding is often difficult to break, particularly for those who grind in their sleep. If you struggle with bruxism, come talk to us. You don’t have to fight this alone.

Overbrushing: Too Much of a Good Thing

Dentists spend so much time encouraging patients to brush their teeth more that you might be surprised to learn that it’s possible to brush your teeth too much. It’s certainly possible to brush them too hard. We call this overbrushing, and it can lead to enamel erosion and gum recession.

This problem is an easy one to avoid. Always keep in mind that brushing teeth is not the same as cleaning tile grout. Soft bristles are better for our gums and tooth enamel than hard bristles, and two minutes twice a day is usually enough. If you’re brushing so hard that your toothbrush bristles rapidly bend and fray within a couple months, it’s time to ease up. The same applies to flossing. Daily flossing is essential, but be gentle on your gums.

Gum Disease Leaves Gum Tissue Vulnerable

Gum disease, particularly in the advanced stages, destroys the supporting gum tissue and bone around teeth. It’s the main cause of gum recession. The best way to fight it is with good oral hygiene habits and regular dental appointments. Professional cleanings are absolutely crucial for maintaining good gum health, because once plaque hardens into tartar, it can only be removed by the dentist. The longer it remains, the more irritation it can cause the gums.

 

 

Kids Can Have Gum Recession?

It’s true; even kids aren’t completely safe from gum recession. The causes are the same for adults: improper brushing and flossing (specifically, overbrushing), bad oral hygiene, and teeth grinding. It can also come on as the result of an injury to the mouth. As with gum recession in adults, the best treatment is prevention through good oral health habits.

Let’s Keep Those Gums Healthy!

If you’re worried that your gums may be beginning to recede or you want to learn more about how you can prevent gum recession, schedule an appointment with us! We can help you take care of your gum health and discuss treatment options if needed.

We’re always rooting for 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.

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Charcoal Toothpaste: Science Versus Fads

IF GIVEN THE CHANCE to change something about their smiles, most people would choose to have whiter teeth, and quite a few are willing to try just about anything for it, including something as counterintuitive as scrubbing them with toothpaste made of charcoal.

The History of Charcoal as a Remedy

The activated charcoal-based dental and skin care products that have been popping up everywhere over the last couple of years aren’t entirely a new idea. Hippocrates of ancient Greece (originator of the Hippocratic Oath and often described as the Father of Medicine) recommended using charcoal to treat black gums and bad breath, and ancient Romans made mouthwashes and tooth powders out of burnt goat hooves.

Charcoal and teeth didn’t mix much from then until charcoal products began popping back up in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the 1930s, charcoal dental cream and gum were advertised as a way to get fresher breath and remove tobacco stains. However, the American Dental Association raised safety concerns that led to the discontinuation of such products.

The Incomplete Logic of Charcoal in Toothpaste

Activated charcoal is actually extremely good at absorbing toxins, so the logic is to put that property to work cleaning teeth. It’s a nice theory, but it misses an important part of the picture. Charcoal is a highly abrasive substance, so even while it absorbs harmful compounds and maybe even helps break up surface stains on teeth, it’s also scraping up the enamel and eroding it away.

Furthermore, it doesn’t only absorb bad stuff:

The Lack of Data to Support Charcoal

Many charcoal-based products boast of the amazing effects they can have on tooth whiteness and breath freshness, but no studies have substantiated any of these claims. On the contrary, one study has shown that tooth surfaces became significantly rougher after just a month of using charcoal toothpaste compared to regular toothpaste. Yikes!

That roughened texture is enamel loss. Once enamel is gone, it’s gone for good, exposing the softer, more yellow dentin underneath and leaving the teeth much more vulnerable to decay. A temporarily whiter smile isn’t worth the long-term effects.

“Natural” Isn’t Always Better…or Safer

Charcoal toothpaste is one of many dubious products riding the tide of today’s “natural” remedies craze. Even though dozens — perhaps hundreds — of charcoal-based dental products now exist, not a single one of them has the backing of the ADA or the FDA. We encourage our patients to wait for the ADA’s approval on any dental health product, charcoal-based or otherwise.

Trust Whitening to the Experts

If you are one of the countless people who would love a whiter smile, there are safe, controlled ways to get it, from in-office whitening to take-home trays to over-the-counter strips. Instead of looking to trendy YouTubers for ideas, talk to real dental professionals who have years of training and experience working with teeth.

Your dental health is our number one priority!

 

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 Kind of Toothbrush Is Right for You?

THE TOOTHBRUSH HAS CHANGED a lot over the last century, and we consider ourselves very lucky that we don’t have to use animal hair as bristles. However, there are now so many different toothbrush options to choose from that it can be a little intimidating trying to find the perfect one.

Bristle Firmness

Conventional wisdom would suggest that the harder you scrub, the cleaner you get. That might be true with household chores, but we need to be a little more gentle on our teeth and gums. Brushing too hard can actually scrape away enamel and damage gum tissue — increasing your risk of gum recession, which can be permanent. This is why it’s typically better to use a toothbrush with soft bristles.

Electric or Manual Toothbrush?

When electric toothbrushes first hit the scene, there wasn’t much difference in their effectiveness compared to that of manual toothbrushes. The technology has come a long way since then. Modern electric toothbrushes actually can do a better job of cleaning the plaque out of hard-to-reach spots.

A good electric toothbrush will reduce plaque levels by up to 21 percent more than a manual toothbrush, as well as reducing the risk of gingivitis by 11 percent. With an electric toothbrush, you’ll also have an easier time brushing for the full two minutes and you’ll be less likely to brush too hard.

Sonic or Oscillating?

Even if you decide you want an electric toothbrush, there are still a lot of options to choose from, but don’t worry too much. Oscillating brushes (the ones with spinning tops) and sonic brushes (the ones that vibrate side to side) are both great ways to get a cleaner smile. And you can always ask us for a recommendation at your next appointment!

Toothbrush Storage

Having the world’s best toothbrush won’t do you much good if you don’t store it the right way, because an improperly stored toothbrush is a breeding ground for all the bacteria you just scrubbed off your teeth. Make sure to store your toothbrush upright somewhere with enough air flow that it can fully dry between uses — preferably far away from the toilet.

In addition to proper storage, it’s important to replace your toothbrush (or toothbrush head, if you have an electric one) every few months. A dirty, frayed toothbrush is nowhere near as effective as a fresh, new one.

Here’s a nifty way to store your toothbrush if you’re looking for ideas:

 

Bring Us Your Toothbrush Questions

We want all of our patients to have the best tools for the job of keeping their teeth healthy and clean, but don’t forget that your best resource for good dental health is your dentist! We look forward to seeing you twice a year!

Dental health is all about having good habits, the right tools, and a great dentist!

 

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.

A Quick Guide To Retainer Maintenance

THE DAY YOUR BRACES come off will arrive sooner than you think, but your orthodontic treatment won’t quite be over yet. In order to keep the straight smile you and our practice are working so hard for, you’ll need to wear your retainers. Retainers are different from braces in many ways, including how to take care of them.

Why Does A Retainer Need Cleaning?

As you wear your retainer, it accumulates bacteria, plaque, and tartar. We brush and floss to prevent this buildup on our teeth and gums, and we have to clean our retainers for the same reason. Without sufficient cleaning, a retainer can become smelly, foul-tasting, filmy, cloudy, and covered in small white spots.

Removable retainers should be rinsed with cool water and brushed at least once a day. It can be tricky to floss around a permanent retainer, but doing so is crucial to prevent tartar from building up in the crevices around it. You can use threaders to make flossing easier or invest in a water flosser if you don’t have one already.

Deep-Cleaning Your Retainer

Like with teeth, daily cleanings can only do so much, which is why retainers need the occasional deep clean to remain good as new. For a permanent retainer, the hygienist will be able to take care of this at your regular cleaning appointments, but you can clean a removable retainer yourself.

Deep-cleaning a retainer is easy and can be done very cheaply. You can use special retainer cleaning tablets if you prefer, but a simple mixture of baking soda and water will do the trick. Water and vinegar would also work, or you could use hydrogen peroxide, but never use harsh chemicals like bleach. Soak the retainer for a few minutes, then rinse it and let it dry.

Proper Retainer Storage

If you only have to wear your retainer part time, then it’s crucial to know how to store it when it’s out of your mouth. Harmful bacteria love warm, damp, enclosed environments, so make sure you keep your retainer somewhere safe and cool that it can fully dry when you aren’t wearing it. (The same goes for how you should store your toothbrush!) For some types of retainers, it’s better to soak them in water to store them, so be sure to check with us about what your type of retainer needs.

Are Retainers Really So Important?

Yes! Our teeth are held in place by the jaw bone and the periodontal ligament. These supporting structures need time to get used to the new, straight position of your teeth. Wearing a retainer for the amount of time specified by the orthodontist ensures that your jaws will get used to the new arrangement. Without the retainer, your teeth can slide back towards their original position until you need another round of braces to fix it! Nobody wants that.

Come To Us With Any Retainer Questions

Whether your retainers are clear plastic or wire and acrylic, bonded or removable, we’re here to answer any questions you have about how to take care of them. This is a crucial part of your orthodontic treatment and we want you to have the best experience and result possible!

Congratulations on graduating from braces to retainers!

 

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 Ways Medicine Affects Oral Health

medications_700EVERY MEDICATION COMES with a list of potential side effects. Sometimes those side effects include a negative impact on oral health.

The Chemistry Of Medicine And The Mouth

Certain medications and vitamins can be pretty hard on our teeth, even for the short time they’re in our mouths. As adults, we swallow most of our medicines in pill form, so we don’t have to worry about these problems, but it can be an issue for children. Medicine for kids often comes in the form of sweet syrup and multivitamins, and the sugars in them feeds oral bacteria and leads to tooth decay.

Another culprit is asthma inhalers, which can lead to oral thrush — white patches of fungus on the tongue, inside the cheeks, and other oral tissues. These can be irritating or painful. The best way to prevent this complication from inhaler use is for the patient to rinse with water after every use. Rinsing is a good idea for those sugary cough syrups and multivitamins too.

Oral Side Effects

Just because a pill can’t hurt your mouth directly while you’re swallowing it doesn’t mean it won’t have side effects that impact your mouth later on.

  • Medications containing blood thinning components can lead to bleeding gums after brushing.
  • Several medications have a side effect of causing inflammation in the gum tissue, which increases the risk of gum disease.
  • Heart medications, nervous system stimulants, and anti-inflammatory drugs can affect our sense of taste, leaving a bitter or metallic taste in the mouth or causing changes in general. As unpleasant as it can be, this isn’t usually a serious side effect.
  • In rare cases, osteoporosis treatment drugs can compromise the bone tissue in the jaw, increasing the risk of gum recession and tooth loss.

The most common oral side effect of both over-the-counter and prescribed medications is dry mouth. This is a dangerous one because we need saliva to protect our teeth and oral tissues from bacteria. Without saliva, we are much more vulnerable to tooth decay and gum disease.

Make Sure We Know About Your Medications

It’s important to be aware of these side effects and to keep your doctor and your dentist in the loop if any of them occur. Prescriptions can sometimes be adjusted to minimize negative effects, but only if your health care professionals know what’s going on!

The dentist is your best resource for any oral health concerns you have!

 

 

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.

Dentures Through History

dentures_700

TOOTH LOSS HAS BEEN a problem people have had to deal with all throughout history, and false teeth have been a solution since at least 2500 B.C.

Dentures Through The Ages

The oldest known false teeth were discovered in Mexico, made of wolf teeth. Millennia later, around 700 B.C., the ancient Etruscans would use gold bands or wire to attach human or animal teeth, and two false teeth made of bone and wrapped in gold wire were found in the tomb of El Gigel in Egypt.

In 16th century Japan, they began to use wood as a material for false teeth. By the 1700s, carved ivory had become a popular denture material, and dentures would be crafted by ivory turners, goldsmiths, and barber-surgeons out of ivory, human teeth, and animal teeth.

The Myth Of George Washington’s Wooden Teeth

The first president of the United States struggled with dental health problems from his twenties on, including toothaches, decay, and tooth loss. In fact, by the time he was inaugurated president, Washington only had one tooth left! The causes of his dental troubles were likely a combination of genetics and the poorly balanced diet of the era.

Washington did indeed wear dentures, but they were never made of wood. First, he had partial dentures made of ivory and wired to his remaining teeth. In 1789, Dr. John Greenwood, a pioneer of American dentistry, fashioned Washington an advanced set of dentures using hippo ivory, gold springs, and brass screws attached to human teeth. He had other sets after this one, and as good as Washington’s dentures were for the time, they still caused him pain and noticeably changed the shape of his face.

One interesting detail about Washington’s dentures is that Dr. Greenwood designed them to make room for that last remaining natural tooth. He is reported to have told Washington that a dentist should “never extract a tooth…[when] there is a possibility of saving it.” 

Look How Far Dentures Have Come!

These days, patients in need of false teeth have much better options than George Washington did. Modern dentures are typically made of plastic or acrylic resin, sometimes porcelain. They can be partial or full, removable or fixed by implants. Missing teeth can also be replaced by individual implants, though this is a more expensive option. As dentistry continues to advance, more and more teeth can be saved through root canal therapy and other efforts. Dr. Greenwood would be so proud!

Modern Dentistry Helps Us Keep Our Teeth

Over 36 million Americans have none of their natural teeth left, but modern dentistry and good oral health habits help us keep our teeth longer. Brushing twice a day with a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste is essential, as are twice-yearly dental appointments.

Help us help you keep your teeth healthy for life!

 

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.

How Does Swimming Affect Teeth?

swimming and teeth_700HAVE YOU EVER NOTICED any extra sensitivity in your teeth after a fun afternoon swimming? You aren’t imagining things, though it usually takes more than just one trip to the local pool before there are any effects. But what does swimming have to do with tooth sensitivity?

The Effects Of Chlorine On Tooth Enamel

When you hear the phrase “swimmer’s calculus,” you might think it’s advanced math for mermaids, but it’s actually the name of what gradually happens to tooth enamel with enough exposure to acidic chlorine ions in pool water. Chlorine in pools is great for keeping them sanitary for the public to swim in, but it also changes the acidity of the water.

Prolonged exposure to the diluted hydrochloric acid in pool water can wear away the tooth enamel of avid swimmers, leading to yellow and brown stains on the teeth and increasing tooth sensitivity. A few visits to the pool over the summer wouldn’t be enough to produce this result, but members of swimming or diving teams, water polo players, and anyone who swims laps multiple times a week to work out, could be susceptible.

A Deeper Dive: Scuba Diving And Teeth

Natural bodies of water won’t give you swimmer’s calculus, but they come with their own dental concerns. If you’ve ever dived into the deep end of a pool, you’ve probably felt the pressure building up in your ears on the way down. The deeper you go, the stronger the pressure becomes, and it can even happen in your teeth.

Tooth squeeze (barodontalgia) is when tiny air bubbles that get trapped in crevices, cracks, and holes in our teeth change size due to pressure, which can be painful and may even cause a tooth to fracture! This is why it’s a good idea to visit the dentist before you begin diving, especially if you’ve had dental work done in the past.

Diving Mouthpieces And TMJ

A lot of divers agree that the “one size fits all” design of the mouthpieces is more like “one size fits none,” but if you want to breathe underwater, you have to grip it between your teeth for the entire dive anyway. This can be pretty hard on your jaws.

Clenching your jaws for extended periods can lead to temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ), with symptoms like jaw pain, headaches, and difficulty chewing. If you dive more than once or twice a year, a good solution might be to get your own custom-fitted mouthpiece.

Let’s Get Those Teeth Ready For The Water!

In addition to these issues, simple tooth injuries are more common around pools than other places. To avoid these kinds of accidents, be careful around those slippery surfaces, don’t come up out of the water too fast at the edge of the pool, and don’t dive in shallow water. If you have any questions about what you can do to protect your teeth at the pool, just give us a call!

We hope that all of our patients are having a wonderful summer!

 

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.