Prevent the “Dangerous Duo” From Impacting Your Oral Health

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There are two words related to oral health that you should think of as the “dangerous duo” – plaque and tarter. Together, they work to wreak havoc in your mouth, causing gum disease, tooth decay, and teeth stains. They can be defeated by the “superheroes” of oral health – your toothbrush and floss - but if you skip using them, you’ll more than likely get to know personally the “dangerous duo”.

An Inside Look at the “Dangerous Duo”

The more you know about plaque and tartar, the better your odds of winning the oral health war. So what is plaque? It’s a colorless, sticky layer of bacteria and sugars that constantly forms on your teeth. It’s the leading cause of gum disease and cavities, and if you don’t remove it daily, its buddy tartar will arrive. You can’t avoid plaque since bacteria are constantly forming in our mouths. These bacteria feed on ingredients in your diet and saliva to grow. Plaque creates acids, which attack your teeth after you eat and eventually cause cavities. That happens because the repeated acid attacks break down your tooth enamel and a cavity may form. Also, if you don’t get rid of the plaque, it can irritate the gums around your teeth, leading to gingivitis (red, swollen, bleeding gums), periodontal disease and tooth loss.

And what is tartar? Again, it is plaque that had hardened onto your teeth and become a mineral. It is also called calculus. It is fairly easy to spot when it’s above your gumline because it will create a yellow or brown color on your teeth or gums. Tartar can also form at and underneath the gumline and can irritate gum tissues. It provides a fertile breeding ground for additional plaque to adhere and eventually turn to tartar. Plus, your teeth will get stained more easily because tartar is porous and absorbs stains from beverages like coffee or tea.

Stopping the “Dangerous Duo” From Gaining Traction

If you’ve let plaque turn into tartar in your mouth, there isn’t much you can do except visit your dentist at Lehigh Valley Smile Designs. But you can prevent plaque by using the “superheroes” of oral health on a daily basis. That means brushing twice a day and flossing daily. In addition, you can have an even better chance to win the battle against plaque by watching what you eat.

Lehigh Valley Smile Designs suggests this game plan for taking on plaque and tartar:

Be sure to brush at least twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste to get rid of plaque from all of your teeth’s surfaces. Don’t scrub hard back and forth when you brush. Instead, use small circular motions combined with short back and forth motions.

Use your floss each day to remove plaque from between your teeth and under your gumline, (where your toothbrush may not reach). Remember to ease the floss between your teeth. Snapping it into place may damage your gums. The best time to floss is before you go to bed.

Another way of removing plaque between teeth is to use a dental pick — a thin plastic or wooden stick. These sticks can be purchased at drug stores and grocery stores.

Limit sugary or starchy foods, especially sticky snacks. Food residues, especially sweets, provide nutrients for the germs that cause tooth decay, as well as those that cause gum disease. So less is better when it comes to sweets.

How Do I Know If I Have Plaque?

Dental plaque is difficult to see unless it's stained. You can stain plaque by chewing red "disclosing tablets," found at grocery stores and drug stores, or by using a cotton swab to smear green food coloring on your teeth. The red or green color left on the teeth will show you where there is still plaque—and where you have to brush again to remove it. Stain and examine your teeth regularly to make sure you are removing all plaque.

How Is Tartar Removed by a Dentist?

Once tartar has formed, only your dentist or hygienist can remove it. The process for removing tartar is called scaling. During a scaling, the hygienists at Lehigh Valley Smile Designs use special instruments to remove tartar from your teeth above and below the gumline.

Sources: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research; American Dental Association; Colgate-Palmolive, Inc.

 

 

Protect Your Smile with These 11 Tips

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Making the right decisions can have a huge impact on your teeth and your overall oral health. Remember, once your adult teeth have grown in, you’re stuck with them for the rest of your life. Lose one and you can’t regrow it. So follow our advice with these 11 tips on how to protect your smile in 2018.

Cough Drops

Most cough drops are full of sugar. And sugar is loved by bacteria, which convert the sugar into an acid that damages your teeth. Be sure to rinse your mouth after you take a cough drop, or even better, brush quickly to get rid of the sugar sticking to your teeth.

Grinding Your Teeth

Teeth grinding – also called bruxism – wears your teeth down over time. Causes are generally stress and your sleeping habits, which means it can be difficult to control. Your dentist can fit you for a night mouth guard to prevent the damage that comes from grinding your teeth while sleeping.

Gummy Bears and Their Friends

You may love gummy bears – or gummy worms – but those sugary treats are tough on your teeth. Because they stick to your teeth, the sugar and resulting acids produced by bacteria in your mouth stay in contact with your enamel for hours. That is trouble for your teeth and can lead to cavities. Eat those gummy bears and worms with a meal instead of as a stand-alone snack. The added food from your meal increases saliva production, which washes away bits of candy and the acids they produce.

Not Wearing a Mouth Guard While Playing Sports

If you or your children play a contact sport, wear a mouth guard. There’s no “maybe” on this topic. The mouth guard’s molded plastic will protect your teeth from getting chipped or knocked out while playing sports like football or hockey. You can purchase decent mouth guards at sporting goods stores or your dentist can fit you for a custom-made one.

Drinking Soda and Pop

If you want to consume 11 teaspoons of sugar at one sitting, drink a soda. And remember what sugar does in your mouth – bacteria will feel like they hit the sugar jackpot when you drink a soda. Also, all the phosphoric and citric acids in soda eat away at tooth enamel. If you think diet soft drinks are the answer, consider that you may be avoiding the sugar intake, but those artificial sweeteners may be full of even more acids that a regular soda.

Munching on Ice

If you’re an ice muncher, beware – those little frozen cubes of ice can chip or crack your pearly whites. Plus continual ice chomping irritates the soft tissue inside your tooth, which may lead to regular toothaches and sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages. Instead of ice, reach for a piece of sugarless gum the next time you feel an urge to munch.

Beware of Sports Drinks

Like soda, sports drinks are often high in sugar and create an acid attack on your teeth. Use them regularly and you may be opening your mouth to tooth decay. Chug water in the gym or after a workout to rehydrate your body - and skip the sugar and the calories.

Chomping on Potato Chips

Sugar isn’t the only thing that the bacteria in plaque love – they also adore starchy foods. They break them down into acid and attach your teeth for the next 20-30 minutes. Drink lots of water to wash away the acids and floss to get rid of any stray chips stuck in your teeth.

Fruit Juices

Sugar is not your mouth’s best friend, remember? Most people know that fruit juices are full of  vitamins and antioxidants. What most people don’t know is that they are also full of sugar. In some cases, they have as much sugar as a soda. So check the fruit juice label to see how much sugar it contains, and look for brands that don’t add sugar but use the natural sweetness of the fruit.

Drinking Coffee

If you are a fan of coffee, be aware that you could be yellowing your teeth over time because of coffee’s acidity and dark color. But coffee is also one of the easiest stains to treat with whitening solutions. For the best results, see your dentist for a professional whitening solution.

Consuming Wine – Both Red and White

Red wines can be double-trouble for your teeth. But even white wines can impact your teeth. Wines contain acids that are corrosive to your tooth enamel. They create rough spots that make teeth more vulnerable to staining. Red wine also contains a deep pigment called chromogen and tannins, which help the color stick to the teeth. This combination makes it easy for the wine's red color to stay with you long after your glass is empty. Swishing with water after drinking or using toothpaste with a mild whitening agent can fight the staining effects of red and white wines.

SOURCE: WebMD

7 Ideas to Enhance Your Family’s Oral Health

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If tooth decay and gum disease are two oral health problems you want your family to avoid this year, then we have 7 great tips to help your family have a healthy year for their teeth and gums. Remember, most gum disease and tooth decay is preventable if you practice good oral hygiene habits. Make sure you and each member of your family spend a couple of minutes a day flossing and brushing and that you make good choices to enhance your oral health. For a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums, that’s not a lot to ask, is it?

Begin at six months. Start your child’s dental care around six months, which is when their first tooth generally appears. Initially, use a damp cloth or soft brush to wipe your baby’s teeth. Once a child turns two, they can brush for themselves with adult supervision.

Consider sealants. Just 33% of kids in the United States receive dental sealants, but it is a great way to protect your child’s permanent molars when they come in at age 6. The sealant is applied by your dentist to the chewing surfaces on the molars and provides protection against decay.

The daily duo. Be sure to brush twice a day and floss once a day to avoid gum disease and tooth decay. Gum disease has been linked to heart disease, so it’s not something you want in your mouth.

Finish your meals the right way. Rinse your mouth right after a meal with water and/or an antibacterial rinse. Another tip is to chew a piece of sugar-free gum right after you eat to enhance the flow of saliva, which washes away bacteria and reduces acid.

Practice smart eating. Be sure to include whole foods in your diet because they will provide your teeth and gums the nutrients they need to stay healthy. That means to be sure to eat nuts, grains, dairy products, vegetables and fruits on a daily basis.

Say no to soda. Sugary sodas are “double trouble” because of their high sugar content and because people tend to sip them over extended periods of time. Bacteria in your mouth love sugar, because they produce acid when they break down the sugar. Acid erodes the enamel on your teeth, which can then lead to decay.

See your dentist regularly. Make an appointment for a dental check-up and cleaning every six months if you want to stay on top of your oral health. Your dental hygienist will get rid of built-up plaque on your teeth and check for tooth decay. Your dentist will also check for signs of oral cancer or gum disease.

 

SOURCE: WebMD

 

11 Tips to a Happy and Healthy Mouth in 2018

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If you’re a fan of making New Year’s resolutions – and sticking to them – then we have 11 helpful tips for keeping your smile bright and your mouth happy in 2018. Even if you aren’t a fan of New Year’s resolutions, our list is still a great place to start on the road to good oral health this year.

Modifying your diet can whiten your teeth

If you’re a fan of black tea or red wine - or a smoker - your teeth are going to suffer. Dark foods and beverages stain your teeth which equals a dingy smile. Gravies, dark juice and colas are also hard on your smile. To counter these dark foods, brush right after you eat or drink them. Eating an apple is also a great on-the-go solution to clean your teeth.

Toss your toothbrush regularly

Get yourself in the habit of getting rid of your toothbrush every three months. That includes the head of your electric toothbrush. Bacteria settle into the bristles of your brush over time, and after a couple of months, you are just transferring a bunch of bacteria to your mouth every time you brush. Plus, worn bristles don’t clean your teeth as well. In fact, plan for the year by getting out your 2018 calendar now and note every 90 days to change your toothbrush.

Eat foods that “scrub”

Raw carrots, celery and popcorn – along with apples – are great foods that naturally scrub your teeth. Eat them at the end of a meal if you know you won't be able to brush your teeth right after eating. They are great for when you can’t get to your toothbrush and they have the added value of being high in vitamins and fiber.

Use a natural mouthwash like apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a great natural multi-purpose mouthwash. Gargle with it in the morning before your brush. It will help remove stains on your teeth, whiten them, and zap bacteria in your mouth.

Brush your teeth with baking soda once a week

Baking soda will naturally remove stains and make your teeth whiter. Use it the same way you would your toothpaste.

Be a boss of your floss

Less than half of Americans say they floss daily – which is a definite oral health mistake for those who don’t floss regularly. It just takes two minutes once a day. To make it easier to get in a daily floss, stash packages in your purse or backpack, in your desk, and next to your bed. That will make it much more difficult to find excuses not to floss.

Switch your gum

If you like gum, then be sure to use sugar-free gum. For an even better result, purchase gum with xylitol, a non-sugar sweetener that has been proven to reduce plaque. Plus, gum produces saliva, which washes away food particles in your mouth and acid from your teeth.

Brush at optimal times to enhance the results

Brush when you first get up in the morning and just before you go to bed at night. Why? Because saliva – which is a natural plaque fighter – dries up when you sleep, so you should be sure to avoid getting into bed with a mouth full of plaque. When you get up in the morning and brush, your toothbrush will remove any plaque that built up during the night. Plus it will get rid of bacteria, which causes bad breath!

Twice a day keeps the dentist away

Spend two minutes twice a day brushing your teeth and you are almost guaranteed to reduce the bad news (cavities) when you visit your dentist the next time.

Moderate your sugar intake

Bacteria in your mouth love sugar. When sugars aren't cleaned off your teeth, bacteria feed on them and produce acids. The acids then combine with bacteria, food particles and saliva to form plaque, a sticky film that covers the teeth. Once plaque forms, the acids wear away the enamel, which is the tooth's hard outer surface. These tiny openings in the enamel represent the first stage of cavities. So cut down on your sugar intake. Swap water for soda, or sugar-free gum for your regular gum.

See your dentist regularly

Twice a year is how often you should be seeing your dentist. Book a dental hygiene appointment every six months for a professional cleaning of your teeth and gums. Plus, your dentist will take a thorough look in your mouth and spot any potential issues before they become full-blown emergencies.

Sources: Delta Dental, Colgate, WebMD, Stealth Health/Reader’s Digest

 

 

Top Tips to Choosing the Best Toothbrush for Your Smile

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How do you decide what is the best toothbrush for your oral health needs? Do you go with a favorite color? Maybe the type of bristles – soft or hard? How the toothbrush feels in your hand when you are brushing?  Or the cost? All of those are important (even the color of your toothbrush) because you want to be sure that you are doing everything possible to encourage you to brush twice a day. Remember, if you are brushing twice a day for two minutes each time, you will end up spending about 1,000 hours during your lifetime brushing your teeth. You definitely want to give yourself every opportunity to make those hours as enjoyable as possible. 

Here are some simple tips to give you the best “toothbrush experience” possible:

When Should You Buy a New Toothbrush?

As soon as the bristles on your toothbrush begin to look worn or frayed, buy a new one. That usually happens every three months if you are brushing regularly. Remember, a worn-out toothbrush isn’t helping to keep your teeth clean. After an illness replace your toothbrush because germs can linger and make you sick again. Also, if you can’t remember the last time you changed your toothbrush, it’s probably time for a new one.

The Parts of a Toothbrush – Bristles, Head Shape and Handle

Bristles: Soft is Safe

Most dentists agree on using a toothbrush with soft bristles and to brush gently. You may think that scrubbing your teeth with a stiff-bristle toothbrush will improve your oral health, but you’re probably wrong. Instead, you’ll end up damaging your teeth and gums. How? The hard bristles will cause gum tissue to pull back from teeth, which can expose the tooth root and lead to increased sensitivity to heat, cold or certain foods and drinks. Plus the hard bristles will create damage to enamel on teeth, which can leave them exposed to cavity-causing plaque.

Head: Size Matters

Consider the toothbrush’s head shape when selecting your tool of choice. Some toothbrush shapes will suit some mouths better than others. Make sure the head allows your toothbrush bristles to comfortably reach your back molars, as some brush heads may be too large or wide. Brush in front of the mirror to make sure you cover every tooth. If it doesn’t, swap your toothbrush for one that does.

Handle: Get a Grip

The handle of the brush should be long enough to hold comfortably. It should neither be too thick nor too thin to hold. Some toothbrushes today have wide handles. This helps you control the toothbrush better. So, choose a toothbrush with a handle that is long enough and wide enough for you to use. 

Do You Go Cheap on What You Pay for Your Toothbrush?

Five no-name toothbrushes in a package may seem like a steal at a handful of pennies each, but consider the risks. Seeing as you put a toothbrush in your mouth two or more times per day, it’s worth going with a reputable manufacturer. If you buy a cheap toothbrush, you may be getting a product could be from a manufacturer who doesn't care about safety or efficacy. Plus, the toothbrushes could be made of inferior or unsafe materials. Bottom line, cheap toothbrushes are better suited for cleaning grout than oral hygiene. 

Why Is the ADA Way Important?

Buy toothbrushes that have the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Seal of Acceptance. A company earns the ADA Seal for its product by producing scientific evidence that the product is safe and effective. The ADA Council on Scientific Affairs carefully evaluates the evidence according to objective guidelines for toothbrushes.

Does Color Matter?

Sure it does if color is important to you. Using an icky-colored toothbrush won’t motivate you to brush twice a day. Buy one that has a color attractive to you!

The Bottom Line on Selecting Your Toothbrush

At the end of the day, the best toothbrush is the one you’ll actually use. That means the toothbrush handle should fit comfortably in your hand and the toothbrush head should feel comfortable in your mouth and be able to reach every tooth surface. Look for the ADA Seal, your assurance that the product has been objectively evaluated for safety and effectiveness. 

Sources: The American Dental Association (ADA)

 

 

Bad Breath Remedy Plan for Holiday Parties

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Bad Breath Can Be Uncomfortable for You and Those Around You

There's so much to worry about at Christmas, from the presents to what you should wear to event - but we often forget about our breath.

Bad breath can not only be embarrassing but it can also be a sign of something more serious like gum disease.

Whether it’s rich food, office drinks or pre-party exercise, you'll be shocked to learn how lifestyle changes during the festive season can impact bad breath.

Horrified at mouth odor, many people immediately reach for the mints. But this can create a vicious cycle in which they eat more sugar, which creates more bacteria and more bad breath. And then they eat even more mints, exacerbating the problem. Here’s some tips to keep your breath smelling great for the festivities.

Eat Smart

We’re all tempted to eat more of the things that we shouldn’t over Christmas and often don’t realize the effect that constant grazing can have on our breath.

·        Beat the buffet: Be aware that Christmas party favorites like walnuts, brazil nuts, smoked salmon and cream cheese canapés can contribute to bad breath, as they provide a source of sulphur-producing bacteria which can cause oral odor. Other foods with sulphur-producing bacteria include dairy, meat, fish, egg, nuts and beans, so mix it up when you’re piling up your plate.

·        Pass the parsley: Christmas platters are filled with parsley and mint, so don’t leave them on the buffet table! Chew on a fresh sprig of parsley, as the chlorophyll in these green plants are a known breath deodorizer and neutralize odors.

·        Munch on Veggies: Vegetables can also help to keep your breath fresh. Carrots and celery are full of water and vitamin C that flush out your mouth and kill odor-causing bacteria. Head to the crudité table at the party to snack on the veggies between each breath-spoiling course.

·        Bite on a Lemon: Citrus fruit causes your mouth to produce more saliva, which acts as a cleaning agent to rinse away plaque and bacteria. If you find yourself in a smelly situation, ask for a lemon with your water. Bite into the lemon, and swish the juice around your mouth for a few seconds.

Brush Your Teeth

Before you head out to the party, make sure to brush your teeth to get rid of all the bacteria that you have accumulated throughout the day. Pay special attention to your tongue; a lot of foul-smelling bacteria like to hang out there. For office parties, keep a toothbrush and toothpaste in your desk at work so you can slip off to the bathroom before your office turns into a party zone.

Drink Water

When you have a dry mouth, it can make bad breath worse. Since alcoholic drinks are drying agents, they can exacerbate a bad breath problem. Sip on a glass of water in between each drink to stay hydrated. Bonus: This can also help to prevent hangovers caused by dehydration.

Chew Sugarless Gum

If you still can't shake that feeling that your breath smells terrible, or if you simply overdid it on the garlic, chew on a stick of sugarless gum. Chewing sugarless gum will not replace brushing your teeth, but it can cover up odors and increase saliva production to rinse away foul-smelling bacteria.

Source: Colgate.com, Express.CO.UK

 

 

 

Are You and Your Toothpaste Compatible?

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“Which One is Right for Me?” So Many Options Make Choosing a Brand Tricky

Visit any drug store today, and you will discover an overwhelmingly wide range of toothpastes available. It is no surprise that you find yourself asking, “Which one do I choose?”

Perhaps you could decide based on the brand or price, or even on the specific problem the toothpaste aims to correct. Is this the right way to decide or are there other criteria to consider as well?

The first thing you should know is that there are 7 basic types of toothpaste available. In this blog, we take a look at each type and help you figure out which one might be the best choice for your oral health.

Whitening Toothpastes

Whitening toothpastes often promise you drastic results, which in reality may be minimal. They can also be abrasive to your teeth or cause allergic reactions in certain instances. It is also important to note that abrasives do not change the underlying (core) color of your teeth - they simply remove deposits on the outside surfaces.

The ingredient concentrations and techniques necessary to safely and effectively whiten teeth are only available from your dentist. Store-bought brands aren't strong enough to be effective and may carry increased side effects. For more predictable whitening results ask your dentist about other forms of treatment.

Sensitive-Teeth Toothpaste

These products can be very effective for treating tooth sensitivity to hot or cold drinks and food. For those patients who have experienced gum recession, these products work by providing extra protection on the sensitive, exposed root surfaces of your teeth.  The active ingredient in desensitizing toothpastes (most often 5% potassium nitrate) helps reduce temperature sensitivity in these areas. It will take about four to six weeks of twice daily use before you notice any sensitivity improvement.  They are not effective when used only periodically.

However, toothpastes like Sensodyne and Crest Sensitivity only mask the symptoms. They don’t actually treat the underlying problem. You should have your sensitivity checked by your dentist first, to be sure it is not the result of a more serious problem.

Tartar Control Toothpaste

If your toothpaste has a particular biting flavor, it might contain tetrasodium pyrophosphate, an ingredient that is supposed to keep calcium phosphate salts (tartar, or calculus) from fossilizing on the back of your lower front teeth. A little tartar on your teeth doesn’t harm you unless it gets really thick and you can no longer keep it clean. The most common ingredient used in tartar control products (pyrophosphate) can also cause side effects such as:

·        Increased tooth sensitivity - especially in patients with gum recession

·        Sores on gums and inner borders of lips

It is also important to note that these toothpastes only remove tartar above the gum-line and only a professional dental cleaning can remove the most harmful tartar - the tartar that builds up below the gum-line.

Antibacterial/Anti-Plaque - Gingivitis Control Toothpaste

Some brands claim to help control mild superficial inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) by reducing levels of bacterial plaque.  Some are marginally effective, while others are not at all.  If you suffer from chronic gingivitis, please ask your dentist which toothpaste product is best suited for you. 

It is important to note that these products will not reverse/treat more severe gum disease (periodontal disease).  This must be managed by your dentist.

Cavity Fighting (Fluoride) Toothpaste

Fluoride has been proven effective at reducing caries(cavities) for patients of all ages.  Twice daily brushing with fluoridated toothpaste is recommended by the Canadian and American Dental Associations.  Fluoride has also been shown to help re-calcify early caries - in essence "heal" superficial enamel weaknesses.

Different manufacturers use different formulations of fluoride in their toothpastes.  Studies show that Sodium Fluoride(NaF) is the most effective of the available products.  Fortunately, it is also the most commonly used.

For adults with high caries rates or reduced salivary flow, products with increased fluoride concentrations are available. Your dentist can help recommend an appropriate product.

Baking Soda Toothpaste

With its mild abrasiveness, baking soda was thought to remove stains from teeth.  Recently, however, studies are showing that once mixed with the saliva in your mouth, the abrasive action for baking soda is lost. While not being harmful, baking soda toothpastes appear to not provide any additional benefit to your overall oral health.

Prescription Toothpastes

Prescription toothpastes come with higher fluoride content and some also have tricalcium phosphate formulas, which contain phosphate and calcium. These ingredients are great at actually getting to the root of the problem in people with high cavity rates and sensitivity by repairing damaged teeth. They contain minerals found in your saliva naturally, and they incorporate into your teeth and repair damage caused by acid and bacteria.

The ADA Seal of Approval: If your toothpaste comes with the American Dental Association (ADA) stamp of approval, you’re safe. It means that your toothpaste has been checked for the highest level of safety and performance by an independent board comprised of scientific experts. It goes without saying that all toothpastes that earn the ADA safety seal also contain fluoride, the basic ingredient of all good toothpastes.

While toothpaste is important, it’s not so much what you use but rather how you use it. Proper brushing technique and habits are every bit as important as the kind of toothpaste you use.

 

Sources: American Dental Association (ADA), Worldental.org, Prevention.com