Teeth-Friendly Halloween Treats

October 15th, 2019

HALLOWEEN IS A TON OF fun every year, and it’s right around the corner! We love the costumes, the decorations, and the local events, but we’re a little wary of all that candy. Sugar isn’t just tasty to us; the harmful bacteria in our mouths love it. If you want to make Halloween a little healthier for your teeth, here’s a handy breakdown of how different types of treats and candies rank in terms of promoting good dental health.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

 

Types of Halloween Candy to Avoid

Anything hard, sticky, or sour is going to be bad for your teeth. Hard candy takes a while to dissolve, which means your teeth are exposed to sugar for a long time. Sticky candy is like breakfast in bed for bacteria, adhering to the teeth and pushing the sugar right up against the enamel and gum tissue. Sour candy contains acid as well as sugar, so it’s doubly bad for teeth.

Candy That’s Good for Teeth?

Not all candy is awful for oral health. Some is actually pretty healthy. If you’re a fan of candy bars, aim for the types with plenty of nuts (assuming you don’t have a nut allergy or an orthodontic appliance). The nuts break up the stickiness and sugar of all the caramel and nougat, and they contain important nutrients.

Chocolate is on the good end of the oral health spectrum, and the darker, the better. Chocolate contains flavanoids and polyphenols, compounds that limit oral bacteria, fight bad breath, and slow tooth decay. Dark chocolate has more of these compounds and their benefits are less offset by sugar than in sweeter milk chocolate.

The best candy option for your teeth, unsurprisingly, is sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol. Other types of candy that use xylitol aren’t very common (yet), so you might not find much of it, but xylitol gum is a great sweet treat to aim for when trick-or-treating. Xylitol not only doesn’t feed oral bacteria, it actually hurts it!

Watch here!

Fight Back Against the Effects of Sugar

Aside from avoiding the more harmful candies in favor of dark chocolate, candy bars, and xylitol gum, there are other ways we can combat the effects sugar has on our teeth:

  • Don’t give harmful oral bacteria an all-day buffet! If you’re planning on eating a lot of candy, it’s better to eat it all in one sitting than spreading it out across an entire day. This way, your saliva will have a chance to neutralize the acids and wash away leftover sugar.
  • Drink water after enjoying some candy. It will help rinse out the sugar sticking to your teeth.
  • Wait half an hour after eating candy, then brush your teeth! Good brushing and flossing habits are essential to protecting your teeth from the effects of sugary candy.

Another Great Resource Is the Dentist!

Being careful about which candy you eat and when, rinsing with water, and maintaining good daily brushing and flossing habits are all great, but don’t forget about the best resource you have: the dentist! Schedule a cleaning appointment in early November to make sure Halloween hasn’t had a lasting effect on your teeth, or schedule one in October to get ahead of the game!

Have a happy, healthy Halloween!

What Are Those White Spots On My Teeth?

September 10th, 2019

THERE ARE A LOT of things that can leave stains on our teeth, and stains can come in many different colors. You could see yellow stains, brown stains, or even the temporary stain from eating brightly colored candy, but what about when the stain is white? Where do those white spots come from, and is there anything we can do about it?

White Spots From Fluorosis

Surface stains that affect the tooth enamel sometimes appear on a tooth that is otherwise healthy. One cause of this kind of stain is fluorosis. Fluorosis occurs when developing adult teeth are exposed to too much fluoride. It doesn’t damage the teeth, but it does unevenly bleach them, leaving white spots on them before they even grow in.

To avoid white spots from fluorosis, make sure to limit the amount of fluoride toothpaste you use when brushing your child’s teeth. A tiny smear (no bigger than a grain of rice) is sufficient for babies and toddlers, and a pea-sized dab is the most you should use for a young child. When they begin brushing their own teeth, encourage them to continue going easy on the toothpaste.

The Effects Of Demineralization

A more harmful cause of white spots is demineralization. Demineralization is the gradual leaching of crucial minerals like calcium from the tooth enamel. Plaque buildup and acid exposure over time lead to demineralization, and people with braces are particularly susceptible to it.

Preventing demineralization is all about good brushing and flossing habits, as well as regular dental visits. We all should be brushing for two minutes twice a day and flossing daily, and orthodontic patients should take extra care to clean away all the food residue and plaque around the brackets to avoid white spots when the braces come off.

Enamel Hypoplasia

For an unlucky minority, white spots don’t come from demineralization or fluorosis, but from enamel hypoplasia, a condition that leaves the teeth with thinner enamel than usual and therefore more vulnerable to stains and decay. Causes of enamel hypoplasia in a child’s teeth include the mother smoking while pregnant, malnutrition, and premature birth.

Treating White Spots

It’s always better to prevent white spots from developing to begin with, but if they do appear, there are a few ways to treat them, such as microabrasion and bleaching. With microabrasion, a thin layer of enamel is scraped away to restore the tooth’s uniform appearance. Whitening treatments can improve the results of microabrasion even more, or it can be its own solution, as with bleaching. If you choose the bleaching route, we recommend professional whitening, whether in the dentist’s office or using a dentist-approved home whitening kit, for the best possible results.

Not all stains can be removed with these methods, and in these cases, veneers are an excellent option. The way these work is that the dentist attaches thin pieces of porcelain to the teeth, for a natural, uniform, white appearance.

Do You Have White Spots?

If white spots on your teeth have been bothering you and making you less confident in your smile, come see us so that we can determine the best solution. We want all our patients to be able to share their smiles freely!

Keep up that brushing and flossing, and we look forward to seeing you 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.

Repeat After Us: Teeth Are Not Tools!

June 18th, 2019

OUR TEETH ARE pretty amazing, and there’s a lot they can do. They chew our food, they provide structural support for the lower third of our faces, they help us speak clearly, and they give us our beautiful smiles. However, many people also find other uses for their teeth, which can be very dangerous. Teeth are not tools, and shouldn’t be used in place of them.

Teeth Are Not Bottle-Openers

Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, so it might seem like that makes teeth perfect to use when you don’t have a bottle opener handy, right? Wrong. Tooth enamel isn’t just hard, it’s brittle,and it is not designed to win a fight against materials like metal and glass.

Using your teeth as a bottle opener can easily chip, crack, or break them, as well as risking damage to the soft tissues of the lips and gums if you slip. Doing it over and over again can even cause your teeth to shift out of their proper alignment and wear down unevenly. It isn’t worth it.

Teeth Are Not Nutcrackers

Like with trying to open a bottle, trying to crack a hard walnut, pecan, or even pistachio shells and popcorn kernels between your teeth risks chipping or cracking the teeth instead. Teeth that are already weaker due to decay or a filling are at even greater risk of damage.

Teeth Are Not An Extra Hand

When your hands are busy, it can be very convenient to hold a pencil, sewing pins, or maybe a few nails between your teeth. However, making a habit out of doing this can have a number of consequences. If you trip, the items in your mouth could cause a serious injury. If a yawn or hiccup catches you by surprise, you might even end up swallowing or choking on the object. And over time, you can wear down your enamel. Pencils would be better off behind your ear, pins in a cushion, and nails in a utility belt until you’re ready to use them.

Teeth Are Not Scissors (Or Nailclippers)

A particularly common way people use their teeth as tools is to bite through packing tape instead of using scissors, and some people even try to use their teeth to cut through wire. It takes much greater biting pressure to cut through non-food items than it does to chew food,and cutting things requires grinding the teeth together. This wears down the chewing surfaces and risks chipping and fracturing.

A nail-biting habit is particularly bad, both for the teeth and for the nails. The germs from the nails increase the risk of tooth decay, teeth will become worn down more quickly and shift out of alignment, and pieces of fingernail can damage the gum tissue, all while the nails themselves are left ragged and misshapen.

Check out this video on how to stop biting your nails.

Protect Your Teeth By Using Them Right

Cracked and fractured teeth are the third highest cause of tooth loss. Don’t take risks with your teeth by using them as tools. Save yourself an expensive emergency dental visit; use your teeth only for what they are meant for and continue your daily brushing and flossing routine to keep them healthy.

We love to see our patients’ smiles!

Taking Care Of Your Pet’s Teeth

May 14th, 2019

IT’S EASY TO ASSUME that our pets don’t need dental care like we do. After all, wild animals can’t exactly brush their teeth, and that doesn’t seem to be a problem for them. However, it turns out that our pets’ teeth have a very different situation than the teeth of wild animals, and they do need our help to stay healthy.

Animal Teeth In The Wild

There are two main reasons wild animals don’t need dental care. The first is diet. Unlike us and our pets (particularly cats and dogs), wild animals don’t consume a lot of sugar or carbs, which is what feeds the bacteria that causes tooth decay. Wild animals are more likely to wear their teeth down than they are to get cavities.

The second reason wild animals don’t seem to get tooth decay as often is that their teeth essentially outlive them. Their lifespans aren’t long enough for their teeth to rot before they die. If an animal’s teeth do rot, it won’t survive much longer in the wild, because unlike domesticated animals, it doesn’t have a friendly human to feed it after it can no longer eat its usual food.

What Dental Problems Are Pets At Risk For?

Our puppies and kitties might have teeth that look a lot different from ours, but they can get cavities and gum disease just like we can. In fact, a whopping 85 percent of dogs and cats get gum disease by age three.Keep an eye out for symptoms like difficulty chewing, tooth loss, and bad breath, as well as loose teeth, swollen or bleeding gums, and loss of appetite.

In a way, dental problems are even more serious for our pets than they are for us. We can take care of our own teeth, and we can describe what our teeth and gums feel like to our dentists. Our pets can’t do any of that, so when a problem happens, it’s more likely to get worse.

Tips For Pet Dental Care

Don’t wait for your pet to start showing symptoms of dental problems to begin a dental hygiene routine for them. Whether you’re keeping their teeth healthy or helping fight back against existing problems, you’ll be making your furry friend’s life so much better. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Brush their teeth daily.
  • Only use veterinary toothpaste, if any. (Your toothpaste will make them sick.)
  • Give them vet-approved dental treats to help clean their teeth.
  • Get their teeth professionally cleaned! Some vets offer dental services, but if your vet doesn’t, they can probably recommend a veterinary dental specialist in the area.

Do It For Those Happy Doggy And Kitty Smiles!

As a pet owner, there’s nothing better than seeing them happy and full of life, and taking good care of their teeth is a great way to make that happen. If you have any questions about what to do for your pet’s teeth or if you’re having trouble getting them used to a dental hygiene routine, make use of resources like our practice and your veterinarian.

We look forward to seeing you at our practice!

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