Ditch Discolored Fillings for Natural Looking Options

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New Fillings From Lehigh Valley Smile Designs Can Benefit More Than Your Looks

The cosmetic reasons for replacing amalgam (often referred to as "silver") fillings may be obvious — your smile looks better without the telltale dark spots and any associated feeling of self-consciousness goes away.

People don’t realize is that if your metal dental fillings are defective or show decay, it's important to replace them. While it can be easy to forget about cavities once they're filled, the truth is that oral health threats can re-emerge as fillings weaken over time. Constant grinding and chewing will wear down any filling, and it often only takes one particularly hard or sticky food to dislodge or crack it.

Why Replace Silver Fillings?

Untreated decay may eventually lead to an infection (abscess). In some cases, replacing a metal dental filling may benefit the long-term health of your tooth.

Once the protective barrier to a cavity has been lost or broken, harmful bacteria can easily seep in and continue to eat away at the tooth. In many cases — especially those where the seal has been damaged but has not completely fallen out — tooth decay under or around the filling may easily escape notice until it reaches the point where a root canal or an extraction is necessary. Being diligent about dental visits and proactive about replacing fillings can help you avoid the unnecessary pain and expense of a tooth infection.

Silver Fillings Hide Decay

Because silver fillings are opaque to X-Rays, it’s difficult to see a cavity under the filling until they are quite extensive. Research has shown that when you’re examining a patient with silver fillings, if you don’t use any X-Rays you can see 50% of what is going on and with a full set of X-Rays you will still only see about 80 – 85% of what’s going on. So there is 15% – 20% of cavities that we won’t be able to see because the metal blocks out this damage. In some cases, this can mean the difference between getting another filling or having to have a root canal treatment.

Colored Fillings Prevent Cracked Teeth

We know from the research that silver fillings do not strengthen teeth at all. So a silver filling in a tooth, essentially acts like a wedge, and when you bite down on the filling the forces are transmitted to the remaining tooth structure.

Because the silver filling material was usually just packed in, there is no adhesion of the silver filling to the tooth, which we get with the tooth-colored materials. This adhesion means that the chewing forces are distributed over a greater amount of tooth, making the tooth about 15 – 20% stronger with the tooth colored compared to silver filling

The force of biting down with the chewing is also distributed across the whole tooth structure more evenly than it is with silver filling, meaning less likelihood of tooth cracking.

Replacement Options

The good news about getting rid of old fillings is that amalgam is no longer your only choice. As hardy and durable as this traditional mixture of silver, mercury and other metal alloys is, it has become virtually obsolete due to more discrete options such as:

·        Composite Fillings: tooth-colored bondings primarily used for the front teeth

·        Veneers: thin, porcelain, non-staining shells affixed to the front surface of teeth

·        Crowns: complete covering for damaged teeth that a filling alone cannot repair

·        Inlays or Onlays: custom composite used to replace larger fillings in molars

Strategies for Replacing Fillings

Some people will want to do everything at once and then sleep tight knowing that it’s all sorted out. Others will pick the part of their mouth that is worst and together with their dentist to break it up into sections: do the top right this year, the bottom left next year, and so on.

Your dentist at Lehigh Valley Smile Designs may recommend one particular treatment or a varied approach, depending on the number and type of fillings needed. Rest assured, however, that the choices at your disposal lend themselves to a more natural look than that of an amalgam filling.

Caring for Teeth with Fillings

Regardless of which replacement option you choose, a little extra care and attention can go a long way in protecting your investment. To extend the life of a newly restored tooth, consider making these changes to your everyday routine:

·        Brush and floss regularly to keep the tooth's surface clear of tough buildup

·        Use a mouth guard at night to avoid unnecessary pressure if tooth grinding is a habit

·        Steer clear of overly hard or sticky foods that can damage the restored tooth

·        See a dentist if you notice a bad taste or dull pain that can indicate a defect or decay

Regular dentist visits to Lehigh Valley Smile Designs can further minimize the risk of damaged filings — and help prevent the need for new ones. For questions about replacing and/or maintaining fillings, schedule an appointment with your dentist.

 

Sources: Mayo Clinic, TodaysDentistry.com

 

Homemade Mouthwash Alternatives

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9 Natural Mouthwashes You’ll Feel Good About Using While Saving Some Bucks

Believe it or not, mouthwashes have been around for a long, long time. In fact, the very first references that we have are from books in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine that list ingredients for a mouth rinse for the treatment of gingivitis from about 2700 B.C.!

There are other examples as well. Hippocrates recommended making a combination of vinegar, alum, and salt to stop bad breath. Native Americans often used plants, such as three leaf golden thread, soaked in water as a mouth rinse to stop infections. The Romans, and Greek upper class people, typically used a mouth rinse after “brushing” their teeth with sticks or reeds.

In 1970, there were only about 15 brands and types of mouthwash in the United States. Today, there are more than 112! Rinsing out the mouth with a mouthwash is considered to be important for good oral hygiene, but store-bought chemical mouthwash is filled with potentially harmful ingredients like thymol, which is known to be dangerous to the environment as well as to aquatic organisms, and hexetidine, considered to be carcinogenic.

In addition to avoiding possible toxins, you might also save some of your hard-earned cash and even see better results by making your own mouthwash. Here are some great home recipes for mouthwash.

 

1. Super Citrus Oil Mouthwash

Ingredients:

·       2 cups of filtered water

·       2 teaspoons of calcium carbonate powder

·       1 teaspoon of xylitol crystals

·       10 drops of trace mineral liquid

·       10 drops of peppermint essential oil

·       5 drops of lemon essential oil

·       3 drops of wild orange essential oil

Instructions:

In a mason jar, or other similar container with a lid, stir together the xylitol crystals and the calcium powder. Add the essential oils and liquid minerals. Stir again to be sure everything is well combined. Add your water and stir. Close the lid and shake for 1 minute. That’s it! How easy was that?! You can find all these ingredients in your local natural or health food store or online. Store this in the refrigerator (it keeps for 2 to 3 weeks) and shake well before each use.

Xylitol is a natural sweetener proven to have a positive effect on tooth and gum health.  It is recommended by many dentists and is now a popular ingredient in natural toothpaste, gum and mouthwash.  It will also improve the taste and even the effectiveness of your mouthwash.

 


2. Super Simple Mouthwash

Ingredients:

·       1 cup of filtered water

·       4 teaspoons of baking soda

·       4 drops of tea tree essential oil

·       4 drops of peppermint essential oil

Instructions:

Add all ingredients to a mason jar or similar container with a lid. Shake very well. Use about 2 tablespoons of this mixture each day, the same way you would use mouthwash for super white teeth and fresh breath. The baking soda will usually settle to the bottom of the container after a few hours, but don’t worry, this is normal. Simply shake well before each use.

 

3. Cinnamon and Honey Mouthwash

Ingredients:

·       2 organic lemons, juiced

·       ½ tablespoon of cinnamon powder

·       1 teaspoon of baking soda (not baking powder!)

·       1.5 teaspoons of raw, organic honey

·       1 cup of warm water

Instructions:

Using a mason jar or similar type of container with a tight fitting lid, add all ingredients in the order given. Be sure the water is very warm as it needs to melt the honey. Close the lid and shake for one minute. Store in the fridge and use two tablespoons as a mouth rinse.

 


4. Three-Ingredient Mouthwash

Ingredients:

·       1 cup of filtered water

·       1 teaspoon of baking soda

·       3 drops of peppermint essential oil

Instructions:

Add all ingredients in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake very well. This can be kept in the bathroom and does not require refrigeration. Shake well before each use.

 

5. Grandma’s Disinfecting Mouthwash

Ingredients:

·       1 cup of filtered water

·       2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

Instructions:

Mix the ingredients together in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well before each use. This will keep forever right on your bathroom countertop.

 


6. Herb-Infused Mouthwash

Ingredients:

·       2 cups of filtered water

·       ½ ounce of whole cloves

·       1 ounce of Oregon grape root

·       1 ounce of rosemary sprigs

Instructions:

Boil the water and then add all remaining ingredients to the water. Boil for one minute, then turn off the fire and cover the pot. Allow herbs to steep in the water overnight. Strain out the herbs with a piece of cheesecloth in the morning and store in a glass container with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well before each use and store in the refrigerator. This will keep 7 to 14 days in the fridge.

 

7. Simple Hydrogen Peroxide Whitening Mouthwash

Ingredients:

·       1-part hydrogen peroxide

·       1-part filtered water

Instructions:

Don’t make a large batch of this solution. Try one tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide and one tablespoon of water, for example. Mix in a ceramic or glass container (such as a glass or coffee cup) and use immediately. Swish in the mouth for 30 seconds and then spit it out. Do not swallow, and do not save any extra solution.

 

8. Sweet-Smelling Essential Oil Mouthwash

Ingredients:

·       1 cup of filtered water

·       20 drops of the essential oil of your choice. Best choices are cinnamon, clove, wintergreen, peppermint, or tea tree oil

Instructions:

In a glass container with a tight fitting lid, combine all ingredients and shake well. Always shake well before each use. This mixture will keep on the kitchen counter or bathroom counter forever.

 

9. Oral Cancer Fighting Turmeric Solution

Ingredients:

·       10 mg of turmeric extract

·       ½ cup of water

Instructions:

Use 10 mg of turmeric extract dissolved in a little less than a ½ cup of water. A drop or two of peppermint oil can be added for flavoring; alternatively, you can just stir a little turmeric powder into warm water. Either will result in an outstanding mouthwash for treating inflamed gums and even relieving a toothache.

Since ancient times, turmeric has been used for remedying oral ailments, among other therapeutic applications too numerous to count. Studies have shown that using turmeric as part of a mouth cleansing solution can be more effective than a chemical mouthwash. The curcumin in turmeric acts to disrupt the cycle of dental plaque formation. Research has found that turmeric extract and turmeric oil may reverse precancerous changes in oral submucous fibrosis in humans and even kill oral cancer cells.

As with any mouthwash, be sure not to swallow during use. Happy gargling! 

 

Sources: TheAlternativeDaily.com, DIYnatural.com, GreenMedInfo.com

 

 

11 Tips to Help Protect Your Tooth Enamel

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Tooth Enamel Erosion: Causes and How to Prevent It

Tooth enamel is a semi-clear, hard, outer layer that protects your teeth from daily wear and tear. It also keeps you from feeling temperature extremes from the hot and cold things you eat and drink. Acids and chemicals that can damage your teeth are also fended off by it.

Every time you eat or drink anything acidic, the enamel on your teeth becomes softer for a short while, and loses some of its mineral content. Your saliva will slowly cancel out this acidity in your mouth and get it back to its natural balance. However, if this acid attack happens too often, your mouth does not have a chance to repair itself and tiny bits of enamel can be brushed away. Over time, you start to lose the surface of your teeth.

When this shell erodes, your teeth are more likely to get cavities and decay. You may notice you react more to hot or cold foods, drinks, and sweets, since they can get through holes in your enamel to the nerves inside.

A few easy habits can help you protect your pearly whites. But first you need to know what to watch out for.

 

What Causes Enamel Erosion?

Damage to your teeth’s outer layer can come from:

·        Too many sweets. Bacteria in your mouth thrive on sugar, and they make acids that can eat away at enamel. It gets worse if you don’t clean your teeth regularly.

·        Sour foods or candies. They have a lot of acid.

·        Dry mouth. Saliva helps prevent tooth decay by washing away bacteria acids and leftover food in your mouth. It also brings acids to an acceptable level.

·        Acid reflux disease, GERD, or heartburn. These bring stomach acids up to the mouth, where they can damage enamel.

·        Bulimia, alcoholism, or binge drinking. People with these conditions vomit often, which is hard on teeth.

·        Drugs or supplements that have a lot of acid. Think aspirin or vitamin C.

·        Brushing too hard. A soft brush and a gentle touch are best.

·        Grinding your teeth. Your dentist may call this bruxism. Too much of it can do damage.

 

What Are the Symptoms?

Erosion usually shows up as hollows in the teeth and a general wearing away of the tooth surface and biting edges. This can expose the dentine underneath, which is a darker, yellower color than the enamel. If your teeth start losing their outer shell, you might notice:

·        Pain when eating hot, cold, or sweet foods or drinks

·        Rough or uneven edges on the teeth, which can crack or chip when they lose their enamel

·        Smooth, shiny surfaces on the teeth, a sign of mineral loss

·        Yellow teeth

·        Cupping, or dents, that show up where you bite and chew

 

How Can I Protect My Enamel?

Because it can't be replaced, your best option is to do what you can to prevent tooth enamel loss.

·        Good dental care is the best way to keep your mouth healthy.

·        Cut down on acidic drinks and foods, like sodas, citrus fruits, and juices. When you do have something with acid, have it at meal times to make it easier on your enamel. You can also switch to things like low-acid orange juice.

·        Rinse your mouth with water right after you eat or drink something acidic.

·        Use a straw for sodas and fruit juices so they bypass the teeth. Don’t swish them around in your mouth.

·        Finish a meal with a glass of milk or a piece of cheese. This will cancel out acids.

·        Chew sugar-free gum. This lowers the amount of acid in your mouth. Gum also helps you make more saliva, which strengthens your teeth with key minerals.

·        Drink more water during the day if you have dry mouth.

·        Use a soft toothbrush. And try not to brush too hard.

·        Wait at least an hour to brush after you've had acidic foods or drinks. They soften the enamel and make it more prone to damage from your toothbrush.

·        Use fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash. Your dentist can tell you which products can protect your teeth and make them less sensitive.

·        Get treatment for conditions like bulimia, alcoholism, or GERD.

 

Work with Your Dentist

Ultimately, one of the best ways to protect your teeth's enamel is to work with your dentist. He or she can detect any erosion and offer tips on ways to reduce it. As well as using a fluoride toothpaste, your dental team may suggest you use a fluoride-containing mouthwash and have a fluoride varnish applied at least every six months. They may also prescribe a toothpaste with more fluoride in it.

If a tooth does need treatment, it is important to protect the enamel and the dentine underneath to prevent sensitivity. Usually, simply bonding a filling onto the tooth will be enough to repair it. However, in more severe cases the dentist may need to fit a veneer. If it's been a while since you've been in a dentist's chair, book an appointment today.

Sources: WebMD, DentalHealth.org

 

 

 

9 Ways Medicine Can Affect Your Smile

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Many Medications Have Side Effects on Your Oral Health

Generally speaking, medicines are designed to make you feel better. But all drugs, whether taken by mouth or injected, come with a risk of side effects, and hundreds of drugs are known to cause oral issues. Medicines used to treat cancer, high blood pressure, severe pain, depression, allergies and even the common cold can have a negative impact on your dental health.

Some of the most common mouth-related (oral) side effects of medications are listed below.

 

Dry Mouth

Some drugs can reduce the amount of saliva in your mouth, causing an uncomfortably dry mouth. Without enough saliva, the tissues in the mouth can become irritated and inflamed. This increases your risk for infection and gum disease. Antihistamines and other drugs can cause a decrease in saliva, leaving your mouth prone to soft tissue inflammation, pain and infection.

Dry mouth can be a bothersome problem. However, many times, the benefits of using a medicine outweigh the risks and discomfort of dry mouth.Alleviate dry mouth by drinking more water or using sugarless lozenges or gum to stimulate the flow of saliva. Artificial saliva or, in some cases, medication may be recommended by your dentist or physician.

More than 400 medications are known to cause dry mouth. Dry mouth is also a side effect of certain chemotherapy medicines.

 

Gum Swelling

Some medications can cause a buildup of gum tissue, a condition called "gingival overgrowth." Gum tissue becomes so swollen that it begins to grow over the teeth. Gingival overgrowth increases your risk of periodontal disease. Swollen gum tissue creates a favorable environment for bacteria, which can damage surrounding tooth structures.

Gum tissue overgrowth is associated with anti-seizure medications, immunosupressant drugs such as those taken by organ transplant patients, and calcium channel blockers taken by heart patients. Studies suggest that gum tissue overgrowth can be controlled if meticulous oral hygiene is started at the same time or before medication is taken. Tissue overgrowth can complicate oral hygiene. Sometimes, a gingivectomy (a procedure used to remove excess tissue) may be necessary.

 

Fungal Infection

Certain inhaler medications used for asthma may lead to a yeast infection in the mouth called oral candidiasis. Rinsing your mouth out with water after using an inhaler can help prevent this side effect.

 

 

Inflammation of the Lining Inside of the Mouth

Mucositis is inflammation of the moist tissue lining the mouth and digestive tract. This tissue is called the mucous membrane. Mucositis is a common side effect of chemotherapy treatment. Doctors think that certain chemotherapy drugs, including methotrexate and 5-fluorouracil, trigger a complex pattern of biological changes that damage the cells that make up the mucous membranes. Mucositis causes painful swelling of the mouth and tongue and can lead to bleeding, pain, and mouth ulcers. The condition can make it difficult to eat.

 

Mouth Sores

A mouth ulcer refers to an open (ulcerated) sore that occurs inside the mouth or on the tongue. Mouth ulcers are often compared to "craters" because they have a hole in the middle. This hole is actually a break in the moist tissue (mucous membrane) that lines the mouth. Mouth sores may also be called canker sores.

 

Taste Changes, Including Metallic Taste

Sometimes, a medication can alter your sense of taste. A change in the body's ability to sense tastes is called dysgeusia. Some drugs can make food taste different, or they can cause a metallic, salty, or bitter taste in your mouth. Taste changes are especially common among elderly patients who take multiple medications.

Usually the taste changes are temporary and go away when you stop taking the medicine.

Chemotherapy drugs, including methotrexate and doxorubicin, are a common cause of taste changes.

 

Abnormal Bleeding

Reduced blood clotting is a result of aspirin and prescribed anticoagulants, like heparin or warfarin. These medications are prescribed to treat strokes or heart disease, but can cause bleeding problems during oral surgery or periodontal treatment. If you're having dental treatment, talk to your dentist about these medications, especially if the dental procedure involves bleeding.

 

Tooth Decay

Long-term use of sweetened medications can lead to tooth decay. Sugar is an added ingredient in many types of drug products, from vitamins and cough drops to antacids and syrup-based medications. Rinse your mouth out after using such products, or ask your doctor or pharmacist if there is a sugar-free alternative.

 

Tooth Discoloration

In the 1950s, doctors discovered that the use of tetracycline antibiotics during pregnancy led to brownish-colored teeth in children. When a person takes tetracycline, some of the medicine settles into the calcium that the body uses to build teeth. When the teeth grow in, they are a yellowish-color, and they gradually turn brown when exposed to sunlight.

Tetracycline, however, does not cause tooth discoloration if taken after all teeth are formed. It only causes a change in tooth color if you take the medicine before the primary or secondary teeth come in.

Today, tetracycline and related antibiotics are not recommended during pregnancy or in young children (under age 8) whose teeth are still forming.

Cosmetic dentistry techniques like veneers, crowns, bonding procedures, or, in some cases, bleaching may be used to lighten teeth with tetracycline stains.

 

Talk Medications with Your Dentist

Your dentist, not just your doctor, should always know about all the medications you are taking, including over-the-counter products, vitamins and supplements.

 

Sources: American Dental Association, WebMD

 

 

Breaking Down Burning Mouth Syndrome

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What You Need to Know About This Painful Problem

Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) is a painful and often frustrating condition. Some patients compare it to having burned their mouth with hot coffee. The burning sensation may affect the tongue, the roof of the mouth, the gums, the inside of the cheeks and the back of the mouth or throat or widespread areas of your whole mouth. The burning sensation can be severe, as if you scalded your mouth. Other symptoms include dry mouth or a bitter or metallic taste also may be present. This condition can afflict men or women and affects up to 7 percent of the general population, but it is especially common in women during or after menopause.

The pain can last for months or years. Some people feel constant pain every day. For others, pain increases throughout the day. They may have difficulty falling asleep. The discomfort and restlessness may cause mood changes, irritability, anxiety and depression. For many people, the pain is reduced when eating or drinking.

Causes

The exact cause of burning mouth syndrome often is difficult to pinpoint. The disorder has long been linked to a variety of other conditions: menopause, diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, tongue thrusting, disorders of the mouth (oral thrush and dry mouth), acid reflux, cancer therapy (irradiation and chemotherapy) and psychological problems.

BMS can appear suddenly or develop gradually over time. Unfortunately, the cause often can't be determined. Although that makes treatment more challenging, you can often get burning mouth syndrome under better control by working closely with your health care team.

Side Effects of Medicine

Look up the side effects of any medications you are taking (such as those used to treat high blood pressure). You can ask a pharmacist, check a Physicians’ Desk Reference at the library or go to the Internet for this information. If any of your medications are reported to cause a burning sensation in the mouth, ask your physician to consider prescribing a substitute medication. Also, some medications can cause dry mouth, which might aggravate the condition.

Diagnosis

Doctors and dentists do not have a specific test for BMS, which makes it hard to diagnose.

The dentist or doctor will review your medical history and examine your mouth. A lot of tests may be needed. Tests may include:

·        Blood tests to check for certain medical problems

·        Oral swab tests

·        Allergy tests

·        Salivary flow test

·        Biopsy of tissue

·        Imaging tests

Primary and Secondary BMS

Primary BMS: If tests do not reveal an underlying medical problem, the diagnosis is primary BMS. Experts believe that primary BMS is caused by damage to the nerves that control pain and taste.

Secondary BMS: Certain medical conditions can cause BMS. Treating the medical problem will cure the secondary BMS. Common causes of secondary BMS include:

·        Hormonal changes (such as from diabetes or thyroid problem)

·        Allergies to dental products, dental materials (usually metals), or foods

·        Dry mouth, which can be caused by certain disorders (such as Sjögren’s syndrome) and treatments (such as certain drugs and radiation therapy)

·        Certain medicines, such as those that reduce blood pressure

·        Nutritional deficiencies (such as a low level of vitamin B or iron)

·        Infection in the mouth, such as a yeast infection

·        Acid reflux

Treatment

Your dentist can confirm the diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan. The dentist will review your medical history and ask you to describe your symptoms. First, any oral conditions causing the burning sensations should be investigated. For example, if you have dry mouth, your dentist may advise that you drink more fluids or may suggest saliva replacement products that can be purchased at a pharmacy. An oral swab or biopsy may be used to check for thrush, which is a fungal infection; thrush can be treated with oral antifungal medications. Any irritations caused by sharp or broken teeth or by a removable partial or full denture should be eliminated.

If your dentist determines that no oral conditions are causing the burning sensation and the steps listed above do not resolve the problem, disorders such as diabetes, abnormal thyroid conditions, Sjögren’s syndrome (a rheumatological disorder), mineral deficiencies or food allergies should be investigated. This usually involves referral to your family physician and the use of blood tests.

Helpful Tips

To help ease the pain of BMS, sip a cold beverage, suck on ice chips, or chew sugarless gum.

Avoid irritating substances, such as…

·        Tobacco

·        Hot, spicy foods

·        Alcoholic beverages

·        Mouthwashes that contain alcohol

·        Products high in acid, such as citrus fruits and juices

Summary

Because BMS is a complex pain disorder, the treatment that works for one person may not work for another. Start with the simple and eliminate various possibilities. Even if a cause cannot be found, your dentist working with your physician may recommend medications to provide relief of symptoms.

 

Sources: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, Mayo Clinic, American Dental Association

 

 

7 Surprising Foods That Are Staining Your Teeth

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And How to Keep Eating Them While Reducing Their Impact on Your Pearly Whites

Wine, coffee and tea – it's the trifecta of tooth-staining foods that almost everyone knows to avoid in order to protect their pearly whites. These beverages, however, are just the beginning of a long list of foods that can sabotage your smile, and chances are that many are flying undetected right under your very nose! From condiments to candy, put these sneaky offenders on your radar to keep tooth discoloration at bay.

Common Tooth-Staining Foods

1. Tomato-Based Meals
The high acidity level of tomatoes coupled with their bright red color can pack quite the punch on the enamel of your teeth. From your mom's homemade spaghetti sauce or soup, or your favorite brand of ketchup, constant exposure to even the smallest of doses can be damaging.

2. Curries
As rich in color as they are in flavor, many spice blends rank high in staining power, due to brightly colored ingredients such as turmeric and saffron. Over time, their pigments can leave a yellowish tint on your teeth.

3. Dark Sauces
Whether it's food infused with soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, or other dark liquid, you can bet that eating enough of it will also dim your smile. If it's the base of your meal, there's a definite risk to the enamel of your teeth, but even side dips can be just as harmful because they are often more concentrated.

4. Clear Soda
Dark sodas already get a lot of notoriety for discoloring teeth, but don't switch to clear soda just yet! While its lighter color can make it seem like the better choice for those who love soda, it's still high in sugars that can eat away at tooth enamel and leave them prone to staining.

5. Fruit Juices and Berries
Fruit is undeniably nutritious, and many juices now come with no sugar added, but fructose is still a form of sugar, and it is bad news for tooth enamel. In fact, the darker color of certain fruits and juices – such as blueberry or grape – can have a staining effect similar to wine.

6. Sports Drinks
Because their makers often do a masterful job of promoting rehydration and electrolyte replacement, it's easy to overlook the sugar content and bright, fluorescent colors. Similar to soda and fruit juice, however, both the pigment and sugary nature of these drinks can leave your teeth less than white in no time.

7. Hard Candies and Popsicles
If they can turn your tongue into a rainbow of colors in a matter of seconds, just think of what they can do to your teeth! Even if consumed occasionally, prolonged sucking puts the surface of your teeth in direct contact with sugar, acid and dye – resulting in tooth decay as well as discoloration.

Tips To Prevent Tooth Staining

Cutting out many of these problem foods can go a long way in keeping your smile sparkling, but it may be unrealistic to avoid certain foods completely. Here's how you can help protect your teeth from sugary, acidic and/or colorful food:

Eat thoroughly, but quickly to minimize any contact with the tooth's surface

Use a straw to help bypass most of your teeth when drinking beverages

Drink plenty of water during and after meals to wash away food particles

Brush and floss your teeth after meals to help prevent stains from setting in

Use whitening toothpaste to help remove stains and keep teeth sparkling

Professional Treatment Options

In addition to practicing good hygiene and being more mindful about your diet choices, professional dental care can do wonders in keeping your smile bright. Seeing your dentist regularly for a cleaning and checkup can help prevent and detect tooth staining, and there are many cosmetic whitening procedures that can remedy existing discoloration, whether mild or severe. Schedule a visit with your dentist for the optimal treatment plan for you.

 

Sources: Women’s Health Magazine, WebMD

 

 

Demystifying Mouthwash: Good for Oral Health or Harmful?

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Four Proven Benefits and Five Myths of Oral Rinse

Who doesn’t love that minty kick that comes from a swig of mouthwash? Your oral rinse could be doing more than just giving your breath a makeover, according to many mouthwash makers — it could be chockfull of health benefits, too. Just check out the label on your mouthwash container, and you may find that it’s a plaque zapper, a teeth whitener, perhaps even a gum-disease fighter.

But are the claims true? Is mouthwash really good for your mouth? Turns out, the answer is yes and no.

Four True Mouthwash Benefits

Mouthwash may:

Cut Down On Cavities. Rinsing with a fluoride rinse can help reduce cavities and studies have shown the benefits of fluoride in reducing demineralization of the teeth.

Fight Gum Disease. With periodontal disease (such as gingivitis), gums and tooth sockets can get inflamed or infected because of plaque from bacteria and food that lingers on teeth. An antibacterial mouthwash, like one with alcohol or chlorhexidine, may help prevent periodontal disease.

Soothe Canker Sores. Mouthwash can ease a canker sore by detoxing the area and reducing the amount of bacteria that can irritate the site.

Safeguard Your Pregnancy. Periodontal disease is actually a risk factor for giving birth to preterm, low-weight babies. The bacteria from a gum infection can get into a pregnant woman’s bloodstream and increase inflammatory markers, which in turn can stimulate contractions. And a recent study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that moms-to-be who used mouthwash throughout their pregnancy were less likely to go into early labor.

 

Five Mouthwash Myths

Mouthwash can help keep your gums and teeth healthy—but only if you use them properly. We’ve got expert tips on boosting the benefits of mouth rinses.

All Mouthwashes Are Made Equal

Rinsing with a cosmetic mouthwash will loosen bits of food from your teeth, lessen bacteria in your mouth, temporarily reduce bad breath and leave a refreshing taste in your mouth. But these products can’t make any greater claim than that. 

Therapeutic rinses contain additional active ingredients such as essential oils, chlorhexidine, cetylpyridinium chloride and fluoride, which have been proven to reduce plaque or fight cavities.


Mouthwash is Harmless

Many mouthwashes contain a high amount of alcohol. This can cause a dry mouth, which ironically is a cause of bad breath, and irritate oral tissues. In some people, the alcohol can cause sensitivity to the root surfaces of the teeth. There have also been studies suggesting a link between alcohol-containing mouthwash and oral cancer, but the research is limited and many experts says there’s not enough evidence to draw this conclusion. It’s an issue that has been discussed since the 1970s with no definitive answers. One stumbling block has been the way the studies have been designed, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). As of now, the ADA has put its Seal of Acceptance on some mouth rinses containing alcohol after it extensively reviewed their effectiveness and safety.

Alcohol-free mouthwashes are available. But other ingredients can cause side effects, too. Many can stain your teeth or cause a burning sensation. Essential oils may have an uncomfortably sharp taste. Chlorhexidine can temporarily alter your sense of taste, and isn’t recommended for long-term use. Mouthwash is not meant to be ingested, so it may cause problems if accidentally swallowed. It’s not usually recommended for young children.


Mouthwash Cures Bad Breath

Mouthwash may temporarily curtail bad breath, but it’s not a permanent fix. Some people may be masking the symptoms of an oral health disease or condition. With some conditions such as periodontal (gum) disease, bad breath, and an unpleasant taste in your mouth are indicators that something is wrong. There is no amount of mouthwash that can mask the effects of poor health.

Also, smelly compounds from your garlicky lunch, for example, are actually coming from your lungs as you exhale, so freshening your mouth won’t help for long. Your saliva can work against you too. Saliva dilutes mouthwash. In some cases, the proteins in saliva can reduce the effectiveness of mouthwash ingredients.


Mouthwash Can Replace Brushing

Mouthwash can cut back the level of bacteria in your mouth. Regular brushing and flossing will do a much more effective job of removing plaque and debris than mouthwash alone. Research shows that adding a rinse with mouthwash to your oral care routine can in fact improve the overall cleanliness of your mouth and help keep gum inflammation at bay. But mouthwash is usually considered an add-on, not a replacement for brushing and flossing. In special situations, like after oral surgery, your healthcare provider might direct you to use a mouth rinse instead of brushing. This will be temporary, and soon you’ll be back to your usual mouth care.

 

A little Swish Is All You Need

Do you gargle or rinse for a few quick seconds, then spit? Most mouthwashes are at their most effective when in contact with your mouth tissues for 30 seconds per use. But despite best intentions, some people say mouthwash is so strong or stings so much that it’s difficult to use for that long. Still, it’s worth sticking it out if you want the best results. Mouthwash should be used as directed by the manufacturer.

 

The Bottom Line On Your Oral Rinse

Ultimately, what is right for your best friend may not be the best choice for you, so consider your personal situation. Talk to your dentist on the effects of mouthwash and which one may be best for your mouth.

 

Sources: EverydayHealth.com, KnowYourTeeth.com, Best Health Magazine

 

 

Dentists are Disease Detectives

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Your Oral Health Speaks Volumes about Your Body

Your mouth performs a range of important daily activities including eating, drinking, talking and smiling. But did you know that your mouth can also provide clues to other diseases? Dentists can act as disease detectives by simply examining your mouth, head, and neck for signs and symptoms that may point to more serious health issues. Dentists are at the forefront of saving lives, as more than 90 percent of common diseases have oral symptoms and can be detected in the dental chair.

The Presence of Disease

Many connections between your mouth and larger health issues have to do with bacteria. Studies have shown that heart disease and endocarditis (an inflammation of the lining of your heart), in particular, are linked to gum disease – a bacterial infection of the mouth. Inflamed gums can also signal a vulnerable immune system, which can be due to diabetes or disorders such as Sjogren's syndrome.

In addition to gum problems, other oral matters are also telling. Tooth loss, for instance, has commonly been linked with both osteoporosis and Alzheimer's. And lesions of the throat occur often in individuals suffering from HIV or AIDS. Last but not least, a dental exam can detect both oral and throat cancer, which typically present themselves via sores or patches that don't go away. Suffice it to say, dental checkups can prove themselves invaluable when it comes to early detection of life-threatening health conditions.

What Conditions May Be Linked to Oral Health?

Your oral health might affect, be affected by, or contribute to various diseases and conditions, including:

Endocarditis. Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of your heart (endocardium). Endocarditis typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart.
Cardiovascular disease. Some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
Pregnancy and birth. Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
Diabetes. Diabetes reduces the body's resistance to infection — putting the gums at risk. Gum disease appears to be more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes.
HIV/AIDS. Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.
Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis — which causes bones to become weak and brittle — might be linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss.
Alzheimer's disease. Tooth loss before age 35 might be a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease.
Stress. Your teeth may be worn down or chipped if you've been unconsciously grinding or clenching them. This grinding - also known as bruxism - can eventually cause bone loss that your dentist may detect on your X-rays. Bruxism is usually caused by stress but can also occur because the top and bottom teeth aren't aligned properly. You may or may not be aware that you've been grinding your teeth, but your dentist can spot the signs.
Other conditions. Other conditions that might be linked to oral health include Sjogren's syndrome — an immune system disorder that causes dry mouth — and eating disorders.

Harmful Habits That Impact Your Oral Health and Overall Health

It may not necessarily mean life or death, but some habits can cause a world of trouble – and costly mouth problems are proof of that. 

Tobacco Use. Smoking, chewing and other forms of tobacco use pose serious threats, not just to your lungs, but also to the look and health of your teeth and gums. Red flags that alert your dentist that smoking is starting to do dental damage (and possibly much worse) are the telltale yellowing of teeth, white patches along the inside lining of the mouth, persistent bad breath, and lumps that can signal oral cancer.

Dietary Health. Finally, your mouth can offer clues about the safety and healthfulness of your diet. Severe tooth erosion and swelling of the throat and salivary glands are typical problems seen in patients with eating disorders, due to constant vomiting. Tooth decay and sensitivity can also come with excessive acid in your diet, and many times, signs and symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease ("GERD" or simply, "acid reflux") become apparent to your dentist even before your doctor. Even your breath can be telling of certain food choices, such as garlic or onions, which have long been known to cause halitosis.

 Get Peace of Mind

Given everything a brief dental exam can uncover, there's no denying the benefits of a routine checkup. More often than not, tooth, gum and other oral problems may simply be due to poor hygiene, but it's better to be safe than sorry. Remain diligent about seeing your dentist regularly, and don't hesitate to schedule a checkup in between your typical visits if you notice anything amiss.

 Sources: WebMD, Mayo Clinic

 

Holiday Oral Health Tips for Kids

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Child-Friendly Pointers On Opening Presents, Eating Sweets and Holiday Travel

It’s not easy keeping kid’s mouth healthy during the holidays. Chances are good that visions of cookies, desserts and candy canes may be dancing in your children's heads this holiday season. There are ways to keep your kids' teeth and gums in shape and to minimize damage to their dental health.

 

Teeth Are Not For Tots

Don’t let your kids crack nuts with their teeth: Although protein found in nuts helps keep muscles and bones strong, they shouldn’t test the strength of their teeth by shelling nuts. The hard surface of most nutshells can cause serious tooth and gum damage, and may even crack teeth. Your safest bet? Get a cool holiday nutcracker (they’re everywhere) and make shelling nuts fun for kids.

Use proper tools to open your child’s packages and bottles: We know kids get excited to rip into that gift from great-aunt Martha, but their teeth are not the right tools for the task. Gripping a package or stubborn bottle cap with teeth can crack them, possibly requiring a root canal and a crown. Help children by getting the wrapping off stubborn packages started for them and then let them tear away. Make sure you’re the one reaching for a scissors or bottle opener and not the kids.

 

Five Unhealthy Holiday Treats Kids Eat

Cookies, candy and sweet holiday beverages all have at least one main ingredient in common: sugar. You don’t need to cut your kids off from holiday goodies completely, but take a conservative approach to these sweets in particular.

1)      Candy Canes: The problem with eating candy canes is the prolonged period of time that they linger in your mouth. Not to mention, the temptation to chomp on them, which can lead to cracks or chips in your teeth.

2)      Christmas Cookies: It’s tempting to overindulge when there’s an abundance of baked goods. Cookies are laden with sugar and can do significant damage to your pearly whites. We know that skipping cookies entirely may be impossible. Just enjoy them in moderation.

3)      Holiday Drinks: Eggnog, hot apple cider and hot chocolate are festive beverages that offer more than warm, holiday cheer. Eggnog boasts over 20 grams of sugar per cup, while hot cider can pack over 65 grams of sugar when dressed up with caramel sauce and whip cream. Stick to one small serving of your kid’s favorite drink.

4)      Caramels: Chewy, sticky treats, such as grandma’s famous homemade caramels are particularly damaging, because they are high in sugar and spend a prolonged amount of time stuck to teeth. The same attributes apply to all of those sparkly gumdrops on your gingerbread house.

5)      Fruitcake: Even though it’s the butt of many holiday jokes, some people actually eat the fruitcake that gets passed around at holiday parties. Oral health reasons to avoid it include the sugary cake base and the chewy, candied fruit throughout.

 

Counter Sugary Effects

Sugarless gum: Sugarless gum (especially with xylitol) is great way to keep your kids' mouths busy while boosting saliva production, which will help wash away sugar. After treat time give your kids a stick for a healthy tooth wash.

Limit sugar time: Have special treat times during the day to limit the intake of sweets and so the holidays don’t become a sugar fest. You may also want to do as the French do and make cheese a part of dessert. Cheeses, such as mozzarella sticks, are not only kid friendly, they are also known to neutralize acid in the mouth, according to the American Dental Association.

Drink water and rinse to refresh: When you can't brush, rinse your mouth with tap water to wash away food particles and bacteria.

 

Holiday Travel

Make a kid-friendly dental travel kit: Nearly everything comes in a travel size and we’ve found that the activity of putting together a dental travel kit will encourage great habits while you are away from home.  Don’t forget to pack travel-sized mouthwash, floss and a toothbrush for everyone in the family. Your kids will love their own dental kit.  Help them to pick out a special brush and mini-toothpaste just for their time away.

Schedule a visit to the dentist before you leave: Last but not least, your child probably has time off from school around the holidays. This is a great time to schedule a cleaning and checkup with your children's dentist. As always, you can ask your dentist for additional tips on how to keep your kids' teeth healthy during the holidays.

 

Keep Your Routine

 Wherever you travel and whatever you decide to let your kids eat, don’t forget their regular dental habits.  It may be tempting to just go to bed after a long day of family fun, but forgetting their routine could mean no-so-fun dental problems later on. The holidays present a special opportunity to make dental health fun. Perhaps you can buy your children a toothbrush in holiday colors or a toothbrush that is decorated with their favorite cartoon character just for the season to make it special. Colored floss is also fun!

 

Sources: KidsHealthyTeeth.com, Delta Dental, DentalPatientNews.com

 

 

Eight Smile-Friendly Stocking Stuffers

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‘Tis the Season for Mouth Healthy Gifts!

Stockings are the perfect opportunity to sneak in that practical gift for a child or teenager and even impress your partner or friend with something thoughtful that lasts long after the Christmas tree comes down.

Include some of these items to see their faces – and smiles! – light up on Christmas morning (we have the first two available for purchase at Lehigh Valley Smile Designs):

Zoom Whitening Pen: Two applications a day will keep your smile looking great! Easy to use and can be taken anywhere.It requires no waiting after application.

UV Toothbrush Sanitizer: Zapi Luxe wobbles but the germs fall down.  This cute item kills 99.9% of germs and bacteria and sanitizes in just seven minutes.It has an automatic shut-off.

Xylitol-infused Chewing Gum: Gum containing the natural sweetener, Xylitol, is a particularly good option since studies have shown that consistent exposure to Xylitol can help prevent tooth decay.

Flavored Toothpaste: Uniquely-flavored toothpaste can provide a change of pace and get kids excited again about the prospect of brushing their teeth. Always make sure the toothpaste contains fluoride to fight tooth decay.

Flavored Floss and Mouthwash: Floss is normally pretty plain, but it doesn't have to be. Like toothpaste, there are many flavors to choose from like banana and cinnamon-flavored options for kids to enjoy.

Unique Toothbrush: Focus on getting the right toothbrush for the right family member for the best results - soft bristles for your toddler, favorite characters for school-aged kids and fun designs for picky teens should do the trick. There are even "smart" toothbrushes that light up or play tunes to let kids know how long they need to brush.

Fun Toothbrush Holder: Another way to get children brushing is by stuffing the stocking with fun oral health gifts like robot, tree or animal-shaped toothbrush holders that stick to walls. Kids like the characters and the holder provides a valuable and sanitary storage spot for their toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Sports Mouthguard: The quality of the mouthguard should be the primary concern, but there are plenty of fun colors and designs available to coordinate with a favorite team or uniform of any color.

By gifting them with dental-conscious stocking stuffers, you can ensure a new year of healthy smiles to come.

 

Sources: Delta Dental, Colgate