7 Resolutions to Help You Improve Your Smile in 2017

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Happy New Year! The holidays have come-to-a-close, yet winter remains for another 2-3 months. It’s the perfect time for reflection at another year gone by and making resolutions for the one to come. Self-improvement is a great way to make these cold winter nights a little bit brighter after all. Maybe you’re finally ready to quit that bad habit or you’re planning that trip you’ve always wanted to take. There are a ton of ways you can improve your smile if you stop to think about it.

The trick to making your teeth healthy is not necessarily expensive dental work, unless of course you already have a dental problem that needs addressing. The very first step is a consultation with your dentist. A hygiene appointment and x-rays are affordable and serve as an excellent starting point. You can talk to your hygienist about a customized treatment plan at home to make 2017 the year of improving your dental health.

1.      Brush More Often

Brushing your teeth is crucial to good dental care. Professionals recommend that you brush your teeth . at least twice a day. When making your resolution, brushing more might seem daunting, but there are a couple things you can do to keep your schedule. And don’t forget to keep your family brushing regularly too, especially from an early age.

You may also consider a travel toothbrush for your office or work to keep your brushing routine regular. The trick to making a regular brushing schedule stick is set reminders for yourself the first few weeks on your phone or watch. Hopefully after a few weeks of practice, brushing two to three times a day will feel like second nature.

2.      Floss Every Day

No matter your age, flossing once each-and-every day is the BEST way to insure a healthy smile. Dental floss is stronger and easier to use than ever, and there are flossing aides like flossing picks and Waterpik available as alternatives if you find it difficult to start. If you haven’t flossed in a while, you might find it cumbersome or even painful to the point of it causing your gums to bleed. This is normal, for a time, however if bleeding continues more than a week or two you probably have gingivitis and should consult with your dentist.

3.      Eat (& Drink) Better

The most popular resolution each year is diet. We all want to look better, improve our physical appearance and become healthier. Your oral health effects the rest of your body and your appearance, and yet it is often forgotten when it comes to eating habits. Sure, we know sugar is bad and vegetables are good, but are you making sure you brush every time you drink a sugary drink or stain your teeth with coffee or red wine?

Avoiding certain food and drink in your diet isn’t the only thing you can do. Eating those vegetables, nuts, fruits and other foods with antioxidants helps to reduce inflammation and fight bacteria that can lead to gum disease. They also help with nutrition in most diets, as to not get in the way of shedding those extra pounds. Think of it as one more reason to get healthy this year!

4.      Curb Bad Habits

Nervous habits and addictions are bad for your teeth. Smoking for instance will stain your teeth, damage your gums and can cause oral cancer, and that’s just for starters. Coffee addicts will notice considerable staining to their teeth over time and if you chew your nails or lips you might find yourself with sores, increased risk of infection and damage to enamel.

Breaking a habit is always an uphill battle, but there’s no better time than the start of the new year. If you needed one more reason to drop the cigarettes, cut back on caffeine or find other ways to keep your hands busy and out of your mouth, your dental health is it. Cigarettes in particular, will be the biggest challenge and you can speak to your dentist for suggestions on breaking the chemical dependency over time. Dental friendly chewing gum is a great place to start in most cases.

5.      Get Your Oral Cancer Screening

Our dentists recommend an annual check-up for oral cancer. Every year thousands of people die from oral cancer and most of those cases are treatable if found early. When you visit, our dental care team will check for bumps and inflammation that may be an early sign of cancer. Oral cancer is on the rise due to HPV or the human papillomavirus. Screening only needs to be conducted annually but at the very least be sure to ask for a screening every few visits to the dentist.

6.      Set a Schedule

What is the single most important step in making dental health as a resolution stick? Sticking to the schedule of course. Not only do you need to set a personal, daily schedule for yourself and your family, but you’ll also need to set a schedule with your dentist. Every patient has different dental needs, but the average, healthy person should see the dentist for cleaning and an exam every six months, regardless of age.

Seeing a dentist regularly for smaller, routine care has proven to be more cost effective than waiting for restorative care. It’s especially worth considering a set schedule with your dentist if you have insurance benefits of some kind or if you are nervous about fillings or root canals. With a regular cleaning schedule at home that involves flossing, brushing and a healthy diet, visiting your dentist AT LEAST twice a year is the final and crucial piece to a perfect smile.

7.      Smile More

It might seem simple, but we don’t smile enough. Maybe you don’t smile because you’re shy or because you are self-conscious about your teeth. Maybe, like most of us, you don’t really remember to do it until it’s too late. Studies have shown how positive a smile can be on you and those around you. Smiling can improve productivity, energy and atmosphere at work. It can make shopping easier, and it can lead to social interaction you had closed yourself off to. If everyone made it their resolution to smile more, we could change that together.

 

Source: 123Dentist.com, Colgate.com

 

Vitamin Supplements – Can They Help or Hurt Your Teeth?

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Some Forms of Supplements Can Actually Harm Your Oral Health

Nutrition experts encourage daily supplementation of vitamin C for everyone. It protects against everything from sudden infant death syndrome (S.I.D.S) to scurvy, heart disease, and in some cases, cancer. Two-time Nobel Prize winner, Linus Pauling, recommended a whopping 3 grams of vitamin C every day for the average healthy male, and 6 grams for those at risk of heart disease. There are many methods of vitamin C supplementation, in the form of capsules, powders and syrups. For decades, parents have been providing their children with chewable vitamin C pills.

Chewable Pills and Citrus Toothpaste

Vitamin C is destructive to tooth enamel, so chewable pills may lead to increased cavities, particularly in those who are lacking minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin C should never be taken in a manner which leaves residues of it on the teeth for an extended time. Some well-intentioned toothpaste manufacturers have misguidedly added vitamin C or "citrus" to their formulas, without realizing the dental problems that this presents. Similarly, some alternative medicine sites on the Internet recommend cleaning the teeth with lemon-based solutions. Citrus acids have the tendency to make the teeth feel clean. This occurs partly because the acid strips the teeth of everything, including the minerals bonding with them. It can cause long-term enamel damage; especially when it is combined with abrasives or stiff bristle brushes.

Vitamin C when taken internally actually strengthens teeth, and the rest of the body. However, it should never be kept in direct contact with the teeth. It is strongly recommended for those who are brushing their teeth with citrus formulas to discontinue immediately. Toothpastes which contain calcium carbonate are ideal for long-term dental health and for tooth whiteness. Toothpastes containing phosphorus (phosphates) are even better.

Fizzy Vitamin Supplements

We know that sugar-filled juices and canned drinks such as cola and lemonade can cause tooth decay - yet few of us would think fizzy vitamin preparations can have similar effects. However, a study at the University of Helsinki on eight types of effervescent vitamins found they could all have corrosive effects on teeth. 

Leaching out the minerals contained in teeth, they left them weaker, more porous and prone to decay.

In the research, teeth were soaked in the vitamin drinks for 100 hours. All of them - including those drinks that contained calcium - caused demineralization. The effects were worst in the Vitamin C products, where teeth were corroded so severely that dentine, the sensitive layer beneath the enamel was exposed.

“When you drink fizzy vitamins, you wouldn't expose your teeth for anything near this length of time,” says Dr. Mervyn Druian, spokesperson for the British Dental Association. “However, if you drink one of these dissolved tablets each day, it is likely that they would weaken your teeth.”

Citric acid, the primary ingredient of many fizzy vitamin drinks, has been found by researchers at the University of Baltimore Dental School to cause dental erosion. While this erosion is less than in drinks that also contain sugar, it is still significant.

“Dental erosion is caused by acidic solutions which come into contact with the teeth,” says Dr. Adam Thorne, dental surgeon at the Harley Street Dental Studio. “Because the critical pH of dental enamel is 5.5, any solution with a lower pH value may cause erosion, particularly over a long period or if it is taken regularly.”

The danger of these soluble vitamins is that they are marketed for daily use and consumers tend to take them with breakfast and brush their teeth shortly after. “For an hour after you have an acidic drink such as a fizzy vitamin, cola or apple juice, your tooth enamel will remain softened,” says Dr. Thorne. “During this period, teeth become more vulnerable to corrosion, sensitivity and decay. Vitally, if you brush your teeth during this time, you are likely to brush away a layer of tooth enamel.”

How Can You Protect Your Teeth from the Effect of Chewable or Fizzy Supplements?

The strength of teeth changes continually over the course of a day, with minerals being taken out and replaced according to the foods you eat and drink. “Whenever we have an acidic drink, minerals are leached out of the teeth to help neutralize the acid. Saliva is slightly alkaline, so it also has a neutralizing effect,” says Dr. Druian.

“After a few hours, the neutralizing action of saliva takes over, and calcium and other minerals are gradually put back in the teeth.”

Dairy products such as cheese and milk have an alkaline pH that help neutralize acids. They also contain minerals. Eating these after an acid drink will help reduce acid levels and re-mineralize teeth at a faster rate. 

“Don't brush your teeth for at least an hour and don't swish the fizzy vitamin drink around your mouth,” states Dr. Durian. “You can also chew some sugar-free gum to increase the flow of saliva. Ultimately, if you are worried about the effects of these vitamins on your mouth, drink them through a straw or switch to a vitamin pill.”

Sources: KnowYourTeeth.com, HealthWyze.org, DailyMail.co.uk

 

 

 

Overcoming Dental Fear and Anxiety

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Tips for Taking Control of your Dental Anxiety

Fear and severe anxiety are the reactions of as many as a third of all Americans when they think about going to the dentist. Many will never go at all, and a lot of others will go to the dentist only when absolutely necessary.

However, good oral health is important to your overall health and quality of life. So if you suffer from dental anxiety of fear, here are some tips and ideas that may help you overcome those obstacles and see one of our dentists at Lehigh Valley Smile Designs.

 

How to Overcome Common Reasons for Dental Anxiety

1. Fear of the Unknown

Schedule a meeting time with your dentist to just talk over the procedures and help you better understand what is going to be done and how long it should take. Having knowledge of the process and what to expect can help calm anxiety.

2. Fear of Dental Equipment

Sometimes, the scariest part of the dental visit is having those strange, sharp, metal tools stuck into your mouth. What can help ease this fear is to ask to hold the tools first, just so they don't seem so foreign.

3. Sensitive Gag Reflex

People with a sensitive gag reflex may loathe the part of the dentist's visit where those tabs are put in the mouth for the dental X-ray. These days, newer dentist offices offer digital X-rays.

4. Fear of Loud Noises

Those dental tools can be really loud, and the noise can stir up fear in some people. So, consider wearing earplugs or noise-canceling headphones to block out the sound.

5. Feeling Uncomfortable Lying Back In a Dentist's Chair

Some people may be uncomfortable with something as simple as lying back in the dentist's chair, due to a bad back or some control issues. A simple remedy may be for the dentist to only put the patient half-back so that it's more comfortable. Or, a dentist could provide positioning pillows for people who feel aches and pains for being in a laid-back position.

6. Unable To Breathe Through the Nose

Are you a mouth-breather, who feels like you're being stifled if you can only breathe through your nose? That could be an issue at a dentist visit, where the dentist must work in the mouth, which can make mouth-breathing hard. 

Nasal strips can help patients to help them breathe through their nose. Or, nitrous oxide can help you relax and breathe better - all depending on the situation.

 

Taking Charge

Tell your dentist you are afraid, even when setting up an appointment and make sure the dentist is prepared to listen. If you can't talk about it you can't get over it.

Chances are, visiting a dentist won't be nearly as painful as you expect. Surveys of patients before and after the most dreaded procedures - such as a root canal or wisdom tooth extraction - have found that they anticipated much more discomfort than they actually experienced.

Here are a few tips that may help you overcome your fear of the dentist:

Go to that first visit with someone you trust, such as a close relative or friend who has no fear of dentists.

Seek distraction while in the dentist's chair. Listen to your own music on headphones.

Try relaxation techniques like controlled breathing -- taking a big breath, holding it, and letting it out very slowly, like you are a leaky tire. This will slow your heartbeat and relax your muscles. Another technique is progressive muscle relaxation, which involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in turn.

Review with your dentist which sedatives are available or appropriate. Options can include local anesthetic, nitrous oxide ("laughing gas"), oral sedatives, and intravenous sedation.

The best dentists use simple methods to enhance that feeling of control:

They gently explain what the patient will soon feel, and for about how long.

They frequently ask the patient for permission to continue.

They give the patient the opportunity to stop the procedure at any time the patient feels uncomfortable.

They make time for breaks as requested.

Give us a call at Lehigh Valley Smile Designs and make an appointment to meet with one of our dentists to discuss your dental fear and anxiety and how our practice can help you reduce or overcome your fear and get your oral health issues effectively resolved.

 

Sources: WebMD, Huffington Post

 

 

 

Is Sugar the Only Food That Causes Cavities?

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No, All Carbohydrates Can Impact Oral Health

Many people assume that only sugar causes cavities. Reduce or eliminate sugar from your diet, and you are safe from cavities. That’s actually not correct. You see, cavities occur as a result of tooth decay, and tooth decay occurs when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) such as breads, cereals, milk, soda, fruits, cakes, or candy are left on the teeth. So exactly how does that deliciously wonderful slice of bread that you had this morning turn into a tooth-killer cavity? It’s really a quite simple (and deadly) process that involves five steps:

  1. You eat something containing carbohydrates (remember, both sugar and starches fall into this category).

  2. Bacteria that live in the mouth digest these foods, turning them into acids.

  3. The bacteria, acid, food debris, and saliva combine to form plaque, which clings to the teeth.

  4. The acids in plaque dissolve the enamel surface of the teeth.

  5. Once the enamel is dissolved, holes form in the teeth and are called cavities, or caries.

However, the real issue is not the amount of sugar or starch in a particular food, but how long it tends to remain on your teeth. For example, some of the most damaging foods are those that mash into the tops of the molars at the back of the mouth and don't dissolve quickly -- like gummy candy or starchy chips and crackers. Lollipops, juice, and soda are also major offenders since they douse teeth in sugar for minutes at a time.

To reduce the impact of carbohydrates on your teeth and to head off the five-step process that leads to cavities, try these simple approaches:

  • Water, water and more water. Drink water with every meal and be sure to actively swish it around your mouth at the end of the meal. This will wash away the acids that formed and help remove debris.
  • Chew a piece of sugar-free gum at the end of your meal – it helps produce saliva, which aids in naturally cleaning your teeth, and it also will often remove food debris from the meal.
  • Avoid really sticky foods that stay on your teeth for hours.
  • Brush twice a day and floss daily.
  • Make sure to drink water with fluoride to strengthen your teeth – this is especially important for kids.
  • Give your kids calcium-rich cheese. It is a great cavity-fighting snack, since it can actually stimulate the flow of saliva (a natural tooth cleaner) and neutralize the mouth acids that wear away enamel.