• Pregnancy and Teeth

    In a dental office, it is not uncommon for a pregnant woman to have more problems with their oral health during or after pregnancy. There is a fairly well known myth that for every child a woman has, she loses one tooth. The reasoning behind this myth is that the baby takes calcium from the mother’s teeth. The real reason a pregnant woman may be more likely to lose a tooth than before she was pregnant is poor oral care combined with being more susceptible to gum disease due to hormones.

    Gum disease can potentially cause problems with the birth of your baby. Inflammatory bacteria get into bloodstream through gums and travel to the uterine wall causing contractions and possible premature birth.

    One thing potentially contributing to worse teeth during pregnancy is the daily vomiting commonly known as morning sickness. The acidity can erode your enamel away taking some of your teeth strength with it. You can help this by avoiding to brush immediately after vomiting, but instead wait at least an hour. While the acid can weaken your teeth, your toothbrush can add extra damage to enamel with the bristles and motion.

    If you have those cravings pregnancy is known for, rinse your mouth or brush your teeth after eating the sweet stuff. Not leaving the sugar to sit on your teeth for several hours before you brush your teeth again will help with decay.

    The surge in estrogen and progesterone can exaggerate the effects of plaque on your gums. For these reasons, it’s important to keep your dental appointments! The optimal time frame for your check up is in your second trimester.

    If you have any other questions or concerns about how to prevent decay or gum disease during or after pregnancy, please consult your dentist.

  • Knowing your Benefits

    A lot of people who have dental insurance don’t know much about their coverage. They just go to their dental appointments expecting their office to know what is covered and just tell them their portion. Most offices are happy to offer this service to their patients for convenience. There may be some situations where you might want to know a few dental terms. Perhaps you’re shopping around for insurance, this list will help you with what you need to look for to best suit your needs.

    Yearly maximum: This is pretty self explanatory. This is the maximum amount your insurance will pay toward your dental work for your dental year.

    Most insurance companies run off a calendar year January-December but some will run on a contracted year. If it’s a contracted year they will specify which month it starts and ends in. ie: July-June or April-March.

    Deductible : There will usually be an individual deductible of $25-75 and a family deductible of $75-225. Your insurance will start paying for dental work after you’ve covered the deductible amount after the first part of your insurance year.

    Family deductible: Typically, the deductible applies to up to 3 people in the family. Once it’s been met for the year for those 3, you do not have a deductible for any remaining members on the plan. Verify this with your insurance carrier.

    Waiting period: If you are getting insurance because you were just seen at the dentist and have a major treatment plan and you want a little help with paying, you’ll want to ask about a waiting period. Some insurance will have a 6 month waiting period on basic procedures and/or a 12 month waiting period for major procedures. This means they will not pay anything on that treatment for 6-12 months from your effective date, and until then, you are only covered for preventative treatment.

    Missing tooth clause: A few insurance companies have a missing tooth clause in place. This typically means if you have a tooth that was missing before you accrued the insurance plan, they will not pay for any treatment to replace it. This will generally include partials, bridges, or implants.

    Coinsurance: Coinsurance is when you have an insurance plan that will pay a percentage of a procedure, leaving you with the remaining percentage and a portion. A common rate is 80% coverage on fillings, which leaves you, the patient, with a 20% portion.

    If something comes up that you have questions or concerns about, your dental office or insurance customer service line should be able and willing to assist in answering them for you.

  • Abscessed Teeth

    An abscess is an area of pus caused by infection. There are quite a few signs and symptoms that could possibly mean you have an abscessed tooth. These symptoms include persistent throbbing, sensitivity to hot and cold, pain when chewing or biting, facial swelling, drainage of pus, bad breath, funny taste in your mouth, or a red bump on your gums near the painful area

    You can develop an abscess for several different reasons. If you have decay in a tooth that is not treated quickly enough, the bacteria will grow an infection. If you have any kind of trauma to the mouth, cracked or broken teeth that are either too severe or not treated, and even gum disease.

    The pain from an abscessed tooth will not permanently go away without treatment. Dentists will often put you on antibiotics to help with the infection before treatment of the cause of infection. Once you’re put on antibiotics the pain may go away temporarily but the infection will then come back, often times even worse. Treatment of an abscess in the mouth usually consists of a root canal treatment, draining the pus, rinsing with salt water, and sometimes even an extraction of the infected tooth.

    Leaving an abscess can lead to serious and possibly life threatening complications. If you suspect you may have an abscess, please call your dentist as soon as possible to prevent any unnecessary damage.

  • Dental Xrays. Dangerous?

    This can be a very controversial topic. There are some people and doctors who would say that dental xrays are not necessary as often as they’re being taken. On the other hand, there are people and doctors who say they’re not as harmful as people are led to believe and it’s better to be proactive with your dental health instead of waiting until you have a problem to address it.

    The obvious issue is radiation. While the amount of radiation used for dental xrays is small, some doctors will say that radiation is still radiation and it should be used only as needed. A few decades ago the radiation level used for dentistry was significantly higher. This was partially due to the size of the cone in the xray head. Back then, the cone would cover most of the head and neck. New advances in dentistry have gotten the size of the cone down to less than 3 inches. This is giving a more concentrated doses, protecting your body from unnecessary radiation scatter. Several studies have shown that the amount of radiation from dental xrays is equal to or very close to the amount of radiation you get from the sun naturally in one day. Even with this miniscule amount used, most dental offices still use a lead vest or apron as an extra precaution to protect vital organs.

    Currently there are no studies that prove any effects of low-dose radiation. This is what is used in dentistry. This is mostly because radiation exposure problems are usually cumulative. Meaning the more you’re exposed, the more likely you are to end up with concerning medical symptoms and side effects. At this point in time, there are very strict rules and regulations set in place to help keep the population as safe as possible.

    The frequency that doctors prescribe xrays will vary between each patient. Ultimately, the decision is yours. If you’re seeing a doctor you trust and are receiving all the necessary information, you should be able to make an educated decision on whether or not you should get the xrays, or skip them at your next 6 month check up. With all the evidence and studies on this topic at this time, it seems to appear that the pros significantly outweigh the cons.

  • Extrinsic Staining and Whitening

    Chromogens are the highly pigmented compound found in darker foods and beverages that stain teeth. Tannins are also found in foods and drinks that are staining and they make it easier for the chromogens to get in and do their worst on your enamel. If a drink is high in chromogens but low tannins(ie; coffee), it’s less likely to stain than a drink that’s high in both (ie; black tea).

    To help minimize staining you can try to drink dark or acidic beverages through a straw,

    swallow food and drinks fast instead of allowing it to sit in your mouth, and rinse with water after you’re through with your meals. You will also want to keep up on your flossing and see your dentist regularly for your cleaning and checkups. Smoking and tobacco can cause staining along with berries and juices, dark condiments, sweets, and dark beverages. A good rule to go by is if it will stain your carpet, or change your tongue colors, it will stain your teeth.

    There are quite a few options to whiten the surface stains away.

    1. In office whitening is where you go into the dental office and they whiten your teeth often using some kind of LED light while you’re sitting in the chair. This procedure usually takes an hour and it’s the fastest and most dramatic results for most people.

    2. Then you can get take home strips or trays from your dentist. You will generally get molds made of your teeth and then some gel to take home with you to use. These give most people good results but it’s over a gradual amount of time based on the amount of staining, and how sensitive your teeth are.

    3. You can also buy whitening strips from the drugstore. These aren’t as strong as the kind you can get from your dentist so they don’t work for everyone, but they’re a very convenient and affordable option.

    4. The least effective way is to just rely on whitening toothpastes and mouthwashes. These are only in contact with your teeth for a few minutes maximum as opposed to strips or trays which stay on your teeth for 30 minutes to a couple hours.

    Keeping your teeth white is a lifelong battle without getting crowns or veneers. Even after you get your natural teeth to your brightest satisfaction, you will still have to do maintenance whitening to keep them that way.

  • Dental Specialists

    There are 9 ADA recognized types of specialists in the dental field. Your regular dentist that you see for 6 month checkups, fillings, and crowns is usually a general dentist. If you have certain dental needs or conditions, you may find yourself at another office. These are the 6 most commonly seen specialists.

    Pediatric Dentists are just like general dentists as far as what they can do goes. They attend 2-3 years more of school and specialize in the treatment of children only.

    Endodontist specialize in procedures like root canal treatments. According to the American Association of Endodontists, the average endodontist completes about 25 root canals per week, while the average general dentist completes closer to 2.

    Orthodontist is there to treat misalignments of the teeth and jaw. It is important to have a good bite or straighter teeth to avoid speech problems, help with oral hygiene, and possible issues chewing.

    Periodontist is a type of dentist who specializes in all things related to periodontal disease and bone loss. They will usually see more severe cases of periodontal disease. They are also trained in placing dental implants.

    Prosthodontist specialize in replacing missing teeth, whether it be by bridge, implant, or denture. They are also trained in other cosmetic and functional procedures such as treatment of cleft palate in children and TMJ.

    Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon attends the most school of all the specialties. The list of their abilities is quite impressive. They can administer anesthesia, complete extractions, implant surgery, sleep apnea, treat facial injuries, corrective jaw surgery, TMJ surgery, and that’s just to name a few.

    The 3 not talked about are Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, and Dental Public Health.

  • Flossing Options

    Compare flossing to cleaning your car; you don’t just wash the sides, you wash the whole car. If you are only brushing, you are only getting two sides of the tooth, leaving a lot of the tooth untouched and dirty. Hygienists know you don’t like to floss and for a while there wasn’t much else for them to recommend besides the conventional flossing technique. Now, there are a variety of options available that might fit into your routine better. When done correctly, some studies have shown a few of the newer methods to be more effective than flossing.


    Waterpiks are designed to spray water in between your teeth to remove plaque and bacteria. These work great for people with braces, implants, crowns, bridges, veneers or permanent retainers. A few downsides some people and dental providers have with the Waterpik is they are more expensive upfront but after a year or so, by not having to buy floss, the Waterpik pays for itself. Another concern is that the water spray can get a little messy. If the water power setting is lowered and the user leans far enough over the sink, this mess can usually be avoided. Waterpik does have an option for connecting one into your shower, which reduces the mess on the counters in the bathroom.

    Gum Chucks

    These are great for kids and adults! They are like nun chucks but the string connecting the two handles is floss. The handles allow your fingers to remain outside of your mouth while flossing, even when accessing those hard to reach areas in the back. There is an easy button to push to release the floss so you can replace it as needed. They recently came out with gum chucks for braces that allow the tip to go under the bracket easier than regular floss. Again, these cost a little more upfront but just like the Waterpik it will pay for itself.

    Interproximal Brushes (commonly called Proxy brushes)

    These are designed for people who might have bigger spaces in between their teeth or have orthodontics. It has a wire center with flexible bristles coming out the sides, looking very much like a Christmas tree. These can be found with short or long handles, easily customized to your preference. These are not meant for people who have really tight areas between their teeth because trying to force the brush through could hurt and potentially damage your gums.

    These are just a handful of the newer options out there. Make sure to talk with your hygienist about the concerns you have with flossing and you can work together to find a flossing aid that will work for you.

  • Oil Pulling and Oral Health

    Oil pulling seems to be the new detoxing trend lately. While it’s made it’s existence well known in the last year or so, the concept is actually over 3, 000 years old. It’s from Ayurveda, which is an ancient Indian practice of natural healing. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, oil pulling is when you put about a tablespoon of oil into your mouth and swish it around, pushing, pulling, and sucking it through your teeth for about 20 minutes. The most common used is coconut oil. This is because of the presence of Lauric Acid which is an antimicrobial and will help kill the bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Another reason coconut oil is preferred by many over sunflower or sesame is for the milder taste. The idea is that while you’re swishing the oil around your mouth, the bacteria (a common one is Streptococcus Mutans) is being picked up and pulled out of every crevice in your mouth.

    Some of the benefits people claim to experience after oil pulling for a period of time is whiter teeth, less sensitivity, and reduction of bad breath. When professionals of Ayurveda are asked about the whitening effect of oil pulling, many will tell you it’s not being researched.

    Presently there aren’t any complete scientific studies that prove any benefits of oil pulling. Majority of the studies conducted lacked information, controls, and other necessities to prove constant results. At this point, most of the information we go off of for what it does is just hearing from someone who got results directly or indirectly through social media. Oil pulling is not something intended to replace brushing and flossing your teeth twice daily. If you choose to try out oil pulling for yourself, you should think of it as an added step in your oral healthcare routine. It doesn’t appear to have any negative effects as long as you’re not swallowing the oil, but you should still do your research and tread cautiously if you decide to give it a try.