The Perfect Road Map To Oral Health
July 3rd, 1806 – Two years into their journey to chart the unchartered West of America, pioneer explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark reached a challenge of epic proportion – the Rocky Mountains. What next, they wondered? Without a map, they were forced to do what explorers do – explore, and hope for the best. So, that got us thinking. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a handy map you could use to chart your own dental health? With that in mind, and in honor of our “Dog Days of Summer” explorers, here are a few mile markers you can use to stay on top of your health today, next year, and for years to come!
18-25 years old
This is a time where work, college, and sometimes marriage start to get in the way of our parental-guided dental care regimens. It’s also a time when even as college students, we tend to find money for the things we “want” instead of the things we “need.” Given that we’re generally healthy at this time in our lives, there isn’t too much we have to worry about when we visit the dentist. Yet here are a few conversations you might want to have with the doctor when you come in for your periodic cleaning:
- Preventative dentistry: Are your wisdom teeth fully grown or are they just starting to make their way out? Have your dentist provide a prognosis on how they will affect things. Depending on your individual situation, you may benefit from getting them removed to avoid future orthodontic problems.
- Cosmetic dentistry: Are there imperfections in your smile that you always wanted to correct as a teen? Now that your permanent are fully grown and stable, you may want to talk to your dentist about cosmetic options like veneers, bonding and whitening procedures.
- Injury Prevention: The ADA estimates 200,000 oral injuries a year can be prevented with mouthguards alone. If you’re active in any sort of sport (even the weekend variety), you owe it to yourself to consider a mouthguard.
26-39 years old
These are the years where decades of wear-and-tear start to catch up with you. They’re also bridge years for having kids, and you’ll feel as though life is pulling you in a million directions. Ignoring the dentist during this timeframe is risky. Here’s how you can stay ahead of the game:
- Cosmetic dentistry: Consult with your dentist about cosmetic services like teeth whitening, veneers, etc. And, don’t let the “costmetic” banner scare you off. Something as simple as bonding can help seal-in worn away enamel and spaces between teeth – both which can lead to erosion and cavities. Best of all, these procedures can be done in a snap with the technology available in your dentist’s office.
- Restorative dentistry: If you have an old crown, root canal or filling, you might need to have it tuned-up or replaced. Many dental practices offer same day restorations that will have you off and running in no time.
- Start thinking about maintenance: Sonic toothbrushes, oral irrigators, disclosing tablets, Xylitol gum are all items that can keep your teeth healthy year after year. Consider investing in a few of them and use them regularly as you move into your forties.
40-65 years old
With maintenance and repair top of mind, you’ll want to start to educate yourself on the sort of procedures that will help you keep your healthy teeth, and strengthen or replace those that are weak. Consider:
- A wider array of restorative dentistry subjects: implants, crowns, bridges, dental implants, mini-implants and even dentures. Ask your dentist for advice as to what’s best for you. Maybe you have perfect teeth and need none of these! Hooray!
- Preventative Dentistry: Consider an oral cancer screening with one of the advanced technologies on the market. These two-minute exams just might literally save your life. Here are some things to know about protecting yourself from this form of cancer that’s on the rise.
65+ years old
At this age, you’ll need to consider a multi-disciplined approach to your dental care. Aside from aging teeth, you may also have other health concerns that disrupt your typically healthy mouth. Some things to consider are:
- More vigilant in-office routines: You may need to increase the frequency of your cleaning visits – ask your doctor for their best advice.
- Systemic Health Education: There is a link between oral health and other health factors, so be sure to keep your dentist in the loop with regard to all medications you’re taking, and particularly keep them informed as to any heart disease, diabetes, or other conditions you may have. Most importantly, because your mouth is the “window” to the rest of your body, your dentist can sometimes discover these conditions in their early stages because of the effects they have on the mouth. So, please don’t neglect your visits at this age!
Staying on top of your oral health isn’t as hard as you think, and if you keep this schedule of events to watch out for handy, you’ll be ahead of most of your neighbors when it comes to a healthy mouth and body. Come to think of it … why not share it with them as well? They’ll thank you for the help!
Getting Your Mouth Ready for a Summer Vacation
Summer is about to burst onto the scene. And with it, your “free time” will turn to “busy time” as you plan, plan, plan for your relaxing summer vacation. So while you’re thinking about where you’ll go, where you’ll eat, and what you’ll see along the way, don’t forget to plan a visit to your dentist as well. Doing so can save you from the misery of a dental emergency that will surely spoil even the best planned getaway.
The Best Plan of Action
Now, we’re sure visiting the dentist is the last thing you want to do before a relaxing vacation. Yet we’re also certain discovering a painful cavity mid-trip isn’t on the agenda either – especially if you’re going overseas. Can you imagine having to look for emergency dental care in some remote part of the world? Ouch. Truth is, a quick checkup can catch a future crisis before it ever materializes, and this is one of the beautiful things about dentistry. Imagine, for example, if you had a bone in your leg that was weak for one reason or another, and a strong impact upon that leg could cause it to break. Nine times out of ten, you would never even know you had this issue until your leg broke and you were lying in the emergency room. With dentistry, however, oral exams, x-rays and other tools allow your dentist to ferret out problems before they present themselves, and that’s why visiting prior to vacation can help.
So, about a month prior to departure – or at least two weeks before you go – schedule a visit. Your dentist will explore your mouth for any loose crowns or teeth that could cause a problem, and identify any cavities that are close enough to the nerve to cause an abscess or pain. If you’re traveling by plane, air pressure in the cabin can cause a recently drilled tooth to be overly sensitive, so you’ll want to be certain to plan your visit at least a month ahead of time if you’re flying.
Of course, any surgery such as the removal of wisdom teeth, or a root canal should be scheduled in significant advance, and if you wear braces, you’ll want to visit your orthodontist as well. Many patients have left for trips with dental discomfort only to have it get worse when they’ve reached their destination. Everyone wants to travel in comfort, so don’t travel with pain if it can be avoided.
Visiting your dentist prior to vacation might be one of the easiest things to plan this summer. You’ll depart with a fresh clean mouth, and the confidence that a sneaking dental emergency won’t be appearing in your vacation scrapbook this year. So give us a call at (414) 228-9680 to schedule an appointment. We’ll help send you off with a sparkling smile.
Dentist (And Kid!) Approved Brownies!
We’ve been there. You’re going through your day, business as usual, when it strikes: a chocolate fix. And we all know, gooey (or cakey – whatever your preference) brownies are the perfect treat for that chocolate craving. But one thing that stops you from whipping up a batch: that nagging feeling that your dentist would disapprove. Or … is that just us? Well, we did the research for you and found some brownie recipes that are dentist-approved and won’t make your kids say “blegh what IS this?” Ready to try them?!
We wouldn’t be dental experts if we said “go eat lots of sugar and white flour and ooey gooey caramel!” So we won’t do that. Instead, we’ll point you in the direction of recipes with less cavity-inducing potential. They’re still sweet of course, but won’t wreck those pearly whites.
Almond Flour Brownies
If you’ve baked with almond flour before, you know that it has the potential to be a bit, well, gritty. These brownies are anything but, thanks to Humorous Homemaking. You’ll find some ingredients you might have to dig around for, but trust us, this recipe is worth it. And if you need a lesson in all things almond flour, click here.
“37 Calorie Brownies”
Our girl at Broma Bakery has formulated a brownie recipe using greek yogurt, oats, and stevia (read: sans white flour and white sugar). They’re pretty darn good! And the added boost of calcium from the yogurt helps to strengthen teeth (if you needed an excuse to eat brownies, here ya go). Not to mention – they’re only 37 calories … if you eat just one.
Low Carb Brownies
Alright so they may not be the prettiest, but they’re made with a little something that your dentist wishes more people would make use of: xylitol. While the research is still unclear as to xylitol’s exact role in dental health, the use of this sugar alcohol means that you need less, or no, actual sugar. So you can have your brownies and eat them too! Here’s the recipe link!
There you have it! Have fun with them! And if you end up making Grandma Jenny’s famous gooey-licious caramel brownies instead, we won’t tell Dr. Quinn. 😉 Just make sure to swish with water and brush your teeth after for good measure!
The “Harmless” Habit That Could Make Your Teeth Fall Out. Literally.
Do you wake up some mornings with a headache of origins you can’t define? Do you experience vague muscle pain in your face? If so, you may be experiencing symptoms of bruxism. What’s bruxism? You likely know it by its more informal name – two names, actually: “clenching” and “grinding.” It’s also not something you’ll want to ignore, because bruxism wears down the surface of your teeth and sets you up for cavities and tooth fractures. Severe cases can even contribute to tooth loss. Let’s find out how to stop this menace in its tracks.
What Causes Bruxism?
Many factors can combine to create a bruxism habit. Stress and anxiety are believed to be leading causes, as are a misaligned bite, missing teeth, and sleep abnormalities. Some medications can also trigger episodes, as can neurological or musculature illnesses.
Why Should I Be Concerned About Teeth Grinding? Isn’t It Normal?
Teeth grinding may be common, but it’s not “normal,” per se. Because the stresses of bruxism affect the entire jaw, this pressure can create cracks and chips in teeth, and over time can contribute to a shortening of lower face height due to bone loss. If that sounds scary, it should. It’s also a change you’ve seen before – in individuals who have lost all their teeth and do not wear dentures. We’re pretty sure that’s not a look you’re aiming to achieve.
How Do I Know I Have a Problem, and What Treatments Are Available?
In many cases, your dentist will see evidence of bruxism in your X-rays, and on the surface of your teeth, and will alert you to the problem long before you exhibit a single symptom – particularly if you sleep alone. Occasionally however, you may start to clench and grind in between visits and begin to notice symptoms on your own. If that’s more like your situation, and you find that you often wake with a sore jaw, a headache that goes away shortly after rising, or if a loved one tells you your teeth are making clickity-clankity noises all night, mention it the next time you’re in the office.
As far as treatment goes, because the causes of bruxism are varied, the treatments vary as well. If your doctor determines stress is the primary cause, they may recommend you abstain from excessive caffeine and alcohol, and attempt some form of daily relaxation. Even something as simple as a warm bath before sleeping can work wonders. If your bite is a concern, they may suggest you visit an orthodontist for an evaluation, and if prescription medicine or neuromuscular illnesses are believed to be the cause, referral to the appropriate specialist would be part of your plan to break the habit.
In each of these cases, though, your dentist and/or physician will likely recommend a splint, or occlusal mouth guard to protect your teeth and bone from further damage. These protective devices are easy to wear, and contrary to what you may believe, will not impede your ability to get a good night’s sleep. In fact, they tend to enhance the quality of your sleep so you’ll wake up more refreshed.
So, check with your dentist! Many people go years without being aware they’re clenching and grinding since it takes time for symptoms to show in your mouth. Getting a mouthguard or splint once you know you have this habit, though, will help you with headaches and muscle pain now – and tooth trouble down the road.
The Whys of Mouth Weirdness
You may not realize it, but if you take a peek inside your mouth, there are a number of pretty cool pieces of anatomy taking up space in there! There’s that funky thing that hangs down near the rear of your mouth and dangles over your tongue called the uvula, then you’ve got your tonsils and adenoids which serve as your body’s first line of defense against infection. And, of course, your tongue, which is so unique it’s as individual as a person’s fingerprint. Oh, and let’s not forget your salivary glands, which fire up your body’s digestive system when food is near! Wanna’ learn more?
- Uvula: To some, a uvula is one of those serves little, if any, true purpose. But, it is there for a reason – mainly to work in conjunction with the soft palate (the soft tissue that constitutes the back of the roof of the mouth) to keep food and beverages out of our nasal passage. It also helps protect against accidental chocking by stimulating our gag reflex, and aids (in some parts of the world) in the formation of certain tones for speech. They also come in all shapes and sizes (round, elongated, pointy, and even bifurcated). That’s a lot of neat stuff for such an inconsequential piece of flesh!While rare, some individuals choose to have their uvula pierced (ouch!), and some choose to have it removed or shortened, because an excessively long uvula can contribute to sleep apnea and/or snoring issues.
- Tonsils and Adenoids: These two groupings of lymphatic tissue help protect your body from infection. They’re literally your body’s first line of defense against illness brought in by the air you breathe or the food you eat. Their physical design, however, can make them prone to contribute to illness because of all their crypts and pits. These crevices are designed to catch and kill off infection, but sometimes they get clogged – and, that can lead to recurrent tonsillitis. Either way, doctors these days tend to want to keep them in place instead of have them removed, unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- Tongue: Ah, your tongue! It’s the strongest muscle in your body, and the only muscle attached at a single end. It comes in all shapes and sizes, and is generally a nice pink hue. It helps us taste, speak and eat. Take care of your tongue and it will take care of you. Your tongue can experience all sorts of weirdness as well. It can go through color fluctuations due to illness, and it can get super-bumpy, super-smooth, or patchy (as with geographic tongue). It can even get furry! Your tongue can also be the source of good (and bad) breath, and is susceptible to cancer like many other tissues in the body.
- Salivary Glands: Have you ever had a tingly, slightly painful sensation in your mouth and cheeks at the very moment you begin to consume food? Well, oftentimes, that feeling is your salivary glands literally “firing up” after sitting dormant for awhile between meals. It’s a funky feeling, right? Like your tongue, the three major pairs of salivary glands you have are pretty darn important. There are also hundreds of secondary salivary glands that populate your mouth, making your oral cavity a bit of a party-place for saliva. And, that’s a good thing, because saliva helps protect our teeth, aids in the consumption and breakdown of food, and generally lubricates your mouth. Salivary glands can also experience problems – they can be clogged by calcium deposits, can experience a weakness of function and can develop tumors (both benign and cancerous). Like most of the anatomy of your mouth, however, salivary glands go on doing their work without a single moment of interruption.
So, that’s it! Pretty neat, huh? Your mouth is a beautiful thing, and truly a window to the rest of your body. And, as always, take care of it, and it will take care of you!
Why a Root Canal Isn’t as Terrifying as You Think
You know the stories … full of verve and hyperbole … they’re the stories of adversity and challenge our relatives just love to tell. There’s Grandpa Joe, who walked two miles to school each day … barefoot, and in the snow. There’s Uncle Sal, who brought in that fish so big they even needed the captain and his mates to help reel it in. And then there’s Aunt Vera’s root canal. Ouch. That one doesn’t even have a story, really … it’s just an expression. One of pain that comes across so vividly, it’s expressed only with a big wince and the sound we make when we pretend we’re sucking soup through closed teeth. Aunt Vera has Uncle Sal and Grandpa Joe beat hands down. That’s some real adversity. But that was then.
In just the last ten years alone, root canal therapy has advanced so far that some practitioners can actually perform the procedure without anesthesia. It’s remarkable. So why all the fear-mongering? There are two big reasons.
Why People Say a Root Canal Hurts
When you actually get past the story-telling, the main reason people talk about the pain of a root canal isn’t because of the procedure itself, but rather, the infection that necessitates the procedure. When a tooth’s nerve tissue or pulp becomes infected or inflamed due to decay or injury, to put it simply, it really hurts. Often a secondary infection in the form of an abscess can form at the base of the tooth as well, and when it fills with pus, it places a lot of pressure on the nerves in the area. Again, uncomfortable.
The other reason this procedure has acquired a bad rap over the years is because of old technology. In the past, rotary drills required a lot of pressure to clean out the tooth, that pressure created heat, which in turn heated the nerve, causing pain. Also, just the sound of the drill itself created a certain sense of mental anguish among patients that furthered the concept of pain even in its absence.
Why Your Root Canal Worrying Days Are Over
In just the last ten years, advances in dental technology, not to mention an increased attention to chairside manner, has resulted in root canal therapy that is of no more discomfort than having a tooth filled. Here are some of the reasons:
- Electric drill that spin faster and vibrate less: In the big fight against the whirring, heat-miser drills of the past, today’s drills are winning the appreciation of dental patients everywhere.
- A more comprehensive array of anesthesia: New medicines allow for greater control over numbing localization as well as the length of time needed for anesthetic.
- Digital X-rays and 3-D imaging: The newest dental imaging solutions allow your doctor to diagnose root canal cases more accurately and reduce the potential of mistakes retreatment.
- Microscopic cameras: Used in some offices, such cameras allow for greater examination of the inside of the tooth, and can allow surgeons to give patients a play-by-play of the procedure if they wish as well.
- Laser technology: Your doctor may even use a dental laser instead of a traditional drill, reducing treatment time and ensuring a faster recovery.
- Less time in the chair: Perhaps the best part? In some cases, the time for this procedure has come down to only an hour or two. All of this technology adds up to less time spent at the office, and less angst for the patient.
In a few decades as technology continues to advance, and many more people experience today’s modern root canal therapy, stories like those told by the legendary Aunt Vera will get harder and harder to believe.
Cracked Teeth: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
With people living longer and more stressful lives, cracked teeth are seen more and more often at the dentist’s office. Yet cracked teeth can be difficult to detect for a number of reasons, most notably that the pain often comes and goes. Because of the short periods of erratic pain, it can be difficult to discern which tooth is the culprit.
Is a Cracked Tooth Literally “Cracked?”
How Does It Happen?
Why It Needs To Be Fixed
Sports Drinks Helpful or Harmful?
The hard clack of cleats echo about as your “little” sports hero rushes to get out of the house … soon to be late for practice. Armed with all they’ll need for a day in the sun, their equipment bag is packed and slung awkwardly over one shoulder, bursting at the seams with untold numbers of pads and dirty gear. And after making a final beeline through the kitchen to raid your refrigerator of a 64oz bottle or two of rainbow-colored sustenance, they’re off for what will no doubt be another grueling practice session. You’re proud of your kids – they’re growing up. And yet you wonder as you stare at the door that just shut behind them. Are those techni-colored drinks they’re drinking every day hurting them?
The truth, unfortunately, is yes. While they may keep your children energized and awake for the next few hours, the bad news is, they’re secretly eating away at their teeth – and fast.
Why Are Energy Drinks Such a Threat to Teeth?
The crux of the problem is the double-whammy that comes from an exceedingly high sugar content and citric acid pH that can be as low as 2.9. Now, we understand pH can be a tricky thing to understand, so to help put that number in perspective, a bit, consider this: battery acid has a pH of 0.0 (so, a lower number means a higher acid content). Stomach acid (which we can imagine as being quite acidic, at least!) has a pH that fluctuates between 1.0 and 3.0. A lemon, in contrast, comes in at around 2.0, a grapefruit at 3.0, and tomato juice at 4.0.
The real distinction though is in knowing that with each increase in numerical value, the acid intensity increases 10-fold. So, in the example above, a lemon ends up being 10 times more acidic than a grapefruit, and 100 times more acidic than tomato juice – a sensation you can certainly taste if you bite into one! In contrast, milk and water have a pH of 7.0, so, it’s easy to see the difference in the numbers – they’re huge.
What all this means to your child’s teeth is the real question, though, and precisely what researchers at Southern Illinois University set out to discover in 2012. The results, which surprised even the research team, showed considerable damage to tooth enamel after only five days of steady consumption. Five days.
To determine the effect of these drinks on our teeth, the research team looked at 22 popular sports and energy drinks, and exposed artificial tooth enamel to the beverages for 15 minutes at a time, four times daily. This schedule was chosen because it mirrors the consumption habits of many users who drink these beverages every few hours – a particularly common habit among those who consume sports drinks, particularly when your kids are involved in sports. After each 15-minute exposure, the enamel was then placed into an artificial saliva solution for two hours to mimic what would happen once consumption stopped. After only five days on this schedule, the enamel showed a 1.5% loss with sports drinks, and a shocking 3% loss with energy drinks.
While critics in the beverage industry suggest the time used to expose the enamel to the drinks may have been excessive, it’s widely known that snacking, as well as regular sipping of any beverage other than water, creates acidic activity in the mouth that promotes tooth decay. Of course, adults also need to be careful, and if you’re the weekend warrior type, or are pulling shifts and consuming these beverages throughout the day, the time of exposure might actually not be long enough. The sweet spot is in the middle-ground, and that’s basically the advice we’re going to offer today.
There is no doubt that these beverages are not good for our teeth. They’re also not good for our stomach, and esophagus if one is prone to acid reflux.
The Middle Ground — It’s about being Informed
We’re not asking you to force your kids to give up their sports beverages and energy drinks. However, it is wise to know the risks, and to understand how you can help your kids combat some of their side-effects. Here are two quick tips that will help if they can’t shake the habit:
Have them keep water nearby so they sip on it to dilute the acid covering their teeth. This also increases saliva production to help protect tooth enamel.
Suggest that they don’t brush immediately after consuming such beverages. Why? Because in the thirty minutes to an hour after consumption, tooth enamel will be slightly softer, and brushing in this window of time literally ends up spreading the acid around to other parts of the teeth. Not good. If brushing is desired, save it for an hour or so after.
Lastly, here is the breakdown of most caustic to least caustic drinks as found by the researchers.
Filtered Ionozed Alkaline H2O – pH: 10.0
Water – pH: 7.o
Odwalla Carrot juice – pH: 6.2
Odwalla Vanilla Monster – pH: 5.8
Unflavored Pedialyte – pH: 5.4
Vita coco – pH: 5.2
Aquafina,Dasani, Smart water – pH: 4.0
GU2O – pH: 4.29
Powerade – pH: 3.89
Accelerade – pH: 3.86
Gatorade Endurance – pH: 3.22
Monster – pH: 2.7
Red Bull – pH: 3.3
AMP Energy – pH: 2.7
Monster Energy – pH: 2.7
Full Throttle – pH: 1.45
Rock Star – pH: 1.5
P.S. Don’t forget the mouthguard!
What’s Up with All that Poking at My Gums During Cleaning?
Have you ever wondered why your dentist starts rattling off a series of numbers to the hygienist in the middle of your cleaning? 2, 2, 3, 2, 4, 5! What’s going on there? What your dentist is doing is checking the depth of gum tissue pockets that surround your tooth. It’s a proactive way to identify your risk for gum disease, and when done regularly, can help catch it early. Dental probing is a pretty interesting exercise in dentistry, can save you from surgery and extractions, and here’s why.
Dental Probing Catches Problems Early
One reason to visit the dentist regularly is to identify problems in our mouth that you are completely oblivious to. Subtle changes in the health of our gum tissue can be missed by the naked eye, and some people – even those who visit a dentist regularly – can be prone to an excess buildup of plaque and tartar that can result in gingivitis and periodontal disease. Thankfully, your dental team can catch these changes early through the use of X-rays and the practice of dental probing.
The reason for probing is straightforward. As periodontal disease progresses, the visible markers of the disease (plaque and tartar) migrate down along the side of the tooth into the natural “pocket” between the ridge of the gumline and the tooth’s enamel. This inflames the gum tissue and widens this naturally slim gap between the tooth and gum. As this gap becomes wider, even more bacteria are allowed access to the sensitive tissue fibers along the root’s outer surface, causing more damage. This process may result in bone loss, and the need to extract a tooth. This is why probing is so important.
How Does Dental Probing Work?
“Probing” is quite simple and is accomplished by using a dental “probe” to measure the depth of a tooth’s pocket. The probe acts like a ruler, and has markings along its side measured out in millimeters. To measure the depth of your tooth’s pocket, your dentist gently places the probe into this pocket and makes note of the depth. Those numbers you hear are the millimeter depths of your pocket. Six measurements are taken per tooth, three along the outside, and three along the inside of each tooth. A depth of three millimeters or under without any bleeding is generally accepted as healthy. Above that number, your dentist may suggest more thorough cleanings, including scaling and root planing, or something even more comprehensive if the number is above a five and nearing ten.
So, as you can see, maintaining pocket health is critical, and proper brushing and flossing can help clear away plaque and prevent the tartar buildup that expands a pocket. Your dentist also plays a critical role in ensuring you’re staying ahead of gum disease, so be sure to keep your regular appointments – particularly if you have been identified as having periodontitis and recommended for more frequent, thorough cleanings. With a good routine and frequent visits to the dentist the only numbers you’ll be hearing moving forward should be 1, 2 and 3! Keep up the good work!