The common knowledge used to be that brushing too hard with your toothbrush can cause gum recession. However, recent evidence indicates that clenching and grinding your teeth may contribute more to gum recession than aggressive brushing. Gum recession is when your gums pull away from your teeth, giving your teeth a longer appearance and exposing more of your tooth structure to the risk of tooth decay.
Some dental hygienists will say that certain types of floss are better than others. Ultra-smooth, ultra-thin flosses may be easier to get between your teeth and glide easily once there, however, the lack of friction created by this type of floss may not be as good at removing plaque. Thicker, wax-coated flosses may be a little harder to ease into tight spaces but they are also better at removing debris from between your teeth efficiently. That being said, any dental hygienist will tell you that thin and smooth floss is better than no floss at all!
You may not know it, but that white film you see on your tongue sometimes is actually plaque! The same sticky bacteria-filled buildup that accumulates on your teeth can also accumulate on your tongue. The rough surface created by your taste buds is great for hiding bacteria and debris. Brushing or scraping your tongue when you brush your teeth can get rid of this buildup. If you want recommendations for tools or techniques for cleaning your tongue, just ask your hygienist at your next cleaning.
Even though it looks more watery and tastes less bold than coffee, tea actually causes worse teeth staining and yellowing. This may come as a surprise to tea drinkers who think they’ve opted for the milder of the two beverages, and there is a catch. Black coffee on its own stains worse than tea, but coffee with milk is not as bad on its own. In summary, the order of your morning drink choices from most staining to less staining is: black coffee, tea, and coffee with milk or cream. If you’re a tea drinker and want whiter teeth, consider switching to a white tea instead of black or green.
Bruxism is the medical term for clenching and grinding your teeth, and it can leave visible signs on your teeth. The repetitive stress of the grinding motion can cause teeth to get worn down, starting with the hard outer enamel layer and getting down to the softer dentin layer as the damage progresses. People who have been grinding for a long time usually have teeth that are shorter with a flattened appearance along the edges, as if the teeth have all been trimmed to be the same length. Severe cases of bruxism can even lead to cracked or broken teeth, especially in people who have already had teeth repaired with a crown.
Tension headaches can be caused by bruxism. All the pressure from the constantly tight jaw can build up and cause pain. Patients who report waking up with headaches on a regular basis may clench and grind in their sleep. Using a nightguard each night might reduce or eliminate these headaches completely.
Recent studies have shown a correlation between bruxism and TMD, which is a disorder of the jaw that causes pain and other problems. The temporomandibular joint is your main jaw joint, and there is some evidence that the strain caused by clenching and grinding can contribute to joint problems. Those with bruxism can cause enlargement of the masseter muscle, which helps operate the movement of the lower jaw. Constant clenching and grinding “works out” this muscle, causing it to bulk up, contributing to a square-jawed appearance.
Believe it or not, clenching and grinding can actually change the shape of your bone. Though not particularly common, some people with bruxism develop bony growths on the inside of their lower jaw, under the tongue. These growths are called mandibular tori, and they are harmless and benign. However, their presence can indicate to the dentist that you clench and grind, even if you don’t have any of the other signs and symptoms mentioned above.
Saliva does more than keep your mouth moist and lubricate your food for easy swallowing, it actually starts the digestion process. Saliva contains a type of enzyme called amylase that breaks down the starch in foods into sugars so they can be more easily digested. This is why foods that contain a lot of starch, such as potatoes, may get a slightly sweet flavor as they’re chewed.
Saliva holds on to minerals that you get from what you eat and drink and helps distribute these minerals to your teeth. In particular, saliva can hold on the fluoride from your diet and from your toothpaste or mouthwash. This is one reason you shouldn’t rinse with water for at least 30 minutes after brushing! You would be washing away or diluting that fluoride-filled saliva. The minerals in your saliva can help rebuild damage to your teeth, such as the very earliest stages of a cavity.
We produce saliva continuously when we’re awake and swallow it regularly. This may seem like just a gross unnecessary quirk of being human, but it actually does serve a purpose. Your saliva constantly washes your mouth, helping to remove food debris that may be stuck to your teeth and gums. Chewing gum after eating is beneficial to your teeth not because of any particular quality of the gum, but because the chewing action and the flavors stimulate your salivary glands, helping to cleanse your mouth.
Saliva is an essential part of the mechanism by which you taste the flavors in your food. Your taste buds need a liquid between them and your food in order for the flavor molecules to bind to the taste buds’ chemical receptors. Without this liquid medium between them, the flavor “message” can’t get through. For a great demonstration of this process, try this experiment. Pat your tongue dry with a towel then try eat a dry food such as crackers or cookies. Then, take another taste after re-moistening your mouth with water. Big difference, right?
When you think of tooth decay, you probably think of sugar as the culprit, but it’s actually acid that does the damage. In fact, sugar is only the fuel for the decay process. Bacteria in your mouth feed on the sugar and convert it into a waste product in the form of acid. This acid sits on the surface of your teeth and can eat through your enamel, causing cavities and exposing the softer inside of your teeth (dentin) to potential damage.
With sparkling water you’re still exposing your teeth to acid, you’ve just eliminated the “middle men” of sugar and bacteria. Carbonated water contains carbonic acid, which like any acid is a threat to your teeth. Unflavored sparkling water has a pH of about 5, compared to regular tap water which has a pH of about 7. The “flavor essences” that give some waters their tasty appeal can lower the pH even more, to as low as 3 or 2.5, which is not that much higher than vinegar.
Still, if the choice is between guzzling soda and sipping sparkling water, we’re likely to recommend the sparkling water, in particular because it’s a better choice for your overall health. You can reduce the contact that sparkling water has with your teeth by using a straw or rinsing with regular water afterward. Try to drink it only at mealtimes and not constantly throughout the day. However, if you already know you have weak enamel, existing tooth decay, or other oral health problems, you should probably just stick to plain water. Every person has a different oral health situation so we encourage you to talk to the dentist or hygienist about your nutrition habits when you visit.
If we used a local anesthetic (i.e. lidocaine) during your crown procedure, it may take a few hours for the numbness to wear off completely. During this time, we recommend avoiding eating or chewing. Believe it or not, people have a hard time knowing where their cheeks are when they can’t feel them. We don’t want you to bite yourself by mistake!
You can brush and floss your teeth as you normally would right away. You might notice sensitivity to hot, cold, or touch. If this happens, use a desensitizing toothpaste. As the dentist or hygienist to recommend a good brand for you. If the sensitivity lasts more that a few days, please call us so we can make sure nothing else is going on.
Gum soreness that lasts for several days after your crown treatment is normal. If soreness persists, try rinsing your mouth three times a day with warm salt water. This helps reduce swelling and discomfort. Our recommended salt water mixture is one teaspoon of salt per glass of warm water.
If sensitivity, discomfort, or soreness increases after three or four days, please call us as it might be a sign of a complication or final adjustments that need to be made to the new crown. The same is true if your bite feels uneven. While we pride ourselves on getting it right the first time, dental restoration is a blend of science and artistry and it doesn’t always work out that way. Following a dental crown procedure or any other treatment at our office, please feel free to call us if you have any questions or concerns.
First, the basics. A nightguard is a mouthguard that is worn at night while sleeping by patients who clench and grind their teeth, a condition called bruxism. Repeated stresses of bruxism can eventually cause cracked and damaged teeth. Wearing a nightguard prevents this damage. A sportsguard is a mouthguard that is worn during sports to protect the mouth and face from injuries from impacts or accidents. By the way, mouthguards aren’t just for contact sports. We recommend them to athletes of all ages, from gymnasts to mountain bikers.
Store-bought, over-the-counter mouthguards are attractive because they are more affordable and quick to get. However, this convenience and affordability does come with some downsides. Stock mouthguards that are pre-formed into an arch shape come in limited sizes, so it can be tricky to get a good fit. Boil-and-bite mouthguards that can be heat-molded to your teeth are more comfortable, but they are also thinner and less durable. They wear down faster and will need to be replaced fairly soon.
By contrast, custom mouthguards from the dentist are more precise and therefore more comfortable. To create a mouthguard, we’ll first take an impression of your mouth and make a mold of it. From the mold we make a ceramic model of your teeth that a mouthguard is formed over, using high-tech durable plastic. The exact material depends on whether it is a sportsguard or a mouthguard. Sportsguards can usually be made in custom colors so you can pick your favorite or show your team spirit.
Because they are so precisely fitted, custom mouthguards from the dentist are much more comfortable. We find that patients who have a comfortable mouthguard are much more likely to wear it! And wearing a mouthguard is key to avoiding an emergency dentist visit!
There are two types of professional whitening offered by mosts dentists: in-office and at-home. While the in-office treatment can be done quickly, usually in a single visit that lasts about an hour, it is the more costly choice. The at-home variety tends to be more popular with those who are on a budget and don’t mind a little delayed gratification.
Two things make a custom at-home teeth whitening from the dentist kit custom. First is the trays. Whitening trays are clear rubber or plastic trays that are molded to fit your teeth perfectly. They look a lot light clear orthodontic aligners or retainers, but are made from most softer material.
Next is the whitening gel. All teeth bleaching products (with the exception of toothpastes) work using a form of peroxide that penetrates the surface layers of teeth and breaks up stains. The difference between whitening treatments is how highly concentrated the peroxide in the whitening gel is. In-office whitening gels have the highest percentage of peroxide (40%), followed by at-home gels (10%-35%), and over-the-counter drugstore whitening strips (10-14%).
Tooth whitening peroxide is a powerful chemical, which is why the stronger varieties should only be used by a dental professional or with their specific instructions. The strength of gel we recom$mend for your at-home kit depends on your oral health condition and how you answer questions about sensitivity, diet, and your whitening goals. We use this information to determine whether you’re more suited for a gentler or a more powerful whitening gel.
Once your trays are ready, we’ll give you several tubes of whitening gel and go over instructions. Here are the basics: push down on the tube’s plunger to gently apply a small bead of gel into each tooth’s space in the tray. Place the trays on your teeth. If any of the gel gets on your gums, remove the trays and wipe away the excess from both your gums and the tray. A cottons swab is a useful tool for wiping away extra gel.
How long you wear your trays will depend on the strength of your gel and the desired results. We will give you these instructions when you receive your trays and gel. You should brush your teeth both before and after whitening. For maximum results eating and drinking foods than can contribute to staining, such as red wine, coffee, tea, and blueberries. In a few days or weeks, you’ll have a brighter, healthier-looking smile!
While your at home dental hygiene routine may change a little while you have braces (we’ll do a separate post with tips about that), your in-office dental routine should not. What we mean is, just because you have braces doesn’t mean you don’t have to come in for your cleaning.
This is a surprisingly common misconception. Many patients (or their parents) think that because they are going in for orthodontic checkups on a regular basis that they don’t have to see the dentist or hygienist for a cleaning. If anything goes wrong, the orthodontist will take care of it, right?
Well, certainly the orthodontist will tell you if they see something that isn’t right, but rather than take this reactive approach, it’s much better to be proactive about your oral hygiene when you have braces.
During orthodontic treatment there is a lot of hardware in your mouth, and all those brackets and wires create new nooks and crannies and corners for plaque and tartar to build up. Certain kinds of dental gunk are too stubborn for your toothbrush and floos to handle: you’ll need a professional cleaning at the dentist to get rid of these deposits. If they are not cleaned off properly, you could end up with staining and discoloration, not to mention cavities, that will ruin the perfect smile you’ve waited so long for.
So while you may be getting a lot of attention from the dentist during your orthodontic appointments, you still need regular checkups in order to keep your teeth clean and healthy. You should maintain your usual interval of teeth cleaning visits. The dentist may ask that you come in more often that usual while you have braces. In the end, a few extra visits to the dentist will be well worth it when you see your new smile!
Body tension is one of the most common symptoms of stress and poses a threat to your pearly whites. You may find yourself grinding or clenching your teeth during stressful moments. Teeth grinding puts you at risk of cracking, breaking or even losing your teeth. If it is consistent and severe, you may notice that the tips of your teeth are flattened and that your tooth enamel has worn away in some areas, leaving your teeth sensitive and vulnerable to damage.
There’s also a chance you grind your teeth and don’t even know it! Many patients wake up with headaches and sore jaws—two telltale signs of sleep-time teeth grinding. Your dentist may need to prescribe an oral appliance called a night guard to wear while you sleep. Like other kinds of mouthguards, a night guard acts as a barrier between your teeth. It is an effective way to prevent damage from grinding, but it won’t stop the grinding or its root cause.
Stress can also cause trouble for your jaw. High body tension and teeth grinding/clenching can strain the joints that connect your jaw to your skull. This can lead to temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD). Signs of TMD include difficulty opening your mouth, clicking or popping noises when moving your jaw, pain while chewing and headaches. In most cases, TMD is a short-term problem that goes away with time, but it is important to see your dentist for the right solution. If the cause is stress, you can deal with your TMD symptoms at home.
Relaxation techniques are the key to giving your teeth a break. Two simple (and free!) activities to ease body tension are breathing exercises and meditation. Daily exercise will also help regulate anxiety. You should avoid caffeine because it can cause teeth grinding/clenching and can also raise your stress levels. Counseling can also help you find new stress management strategies.
If stress is affecting your teeth, you should make de-stressing part of your daily dental hygiene. Take some you-time! We can help you maintain the best possible level of dental care, but it is up to you to take care of your oral and emotional health needs between visits to the dentist. Don’t worry—we’re always rooting for you!
Both your health and your comfort are important to us as caregivers, and we know they often affect each other. That is why we do everything we can to provide personalized care in a relaxing environment. We encourage you to treat yourself and your dental health with the same level of respect that we do.
When you go get a massage, you can expect a lot of benefits other than just feeling pampered. Getting a massage increases blood flow to your tissues, which means more nutrients coming in and more waste being taken away. How about adding a massage session for your gums to your routine? In additional to physically removing debris and plaque, flossing can increase circulation in your gums, much like a massage. If you have trouble motivating yourself to floss, try thinking of it as a massage session for your gums. We bet you’ll have a new appreciate for that tingly just-flossed feeling in your gums afterward.
If you’ve ever used scented candles, essential oils, or herbal tea to stimulate your senses, you should consider applying the same sensory experience to your oral hygiene routine. There is no rule that says that your toothpaste has to be mint-flavored, it just happens to be a flavor that most people associate with freshness, which makes it popular. You can make brushing your teeth more of an adventure for your senses by using an alternative toothpaste flavor, such as citrus, cinnamon, or fennel. There are even novelty flavors out there like bacon and cupcake. Whatever sensory experience you choose, just be sure the toothpaste contains fluoride.
We know this one may sound like a bit of a stretch at first, but going to your regular dental checkup and teeth cleaning and going to the spa really aren’t that different. Instead of a cushioned massage table you get a comfy recliner chair. You have a team of specialists giving you one-on-one attention and looking after your wellbeing. You can even think of your teeth cleaning and polishing as a facial for your smile. After all, both involve cleansing to remove potentially harmful debris and improved aesthetics. Feel free to bring along your favorite soothing music (and a set of headphones) to enjoy during your appointment. Or, if you can manage it, imagine the sound of the tooth polisher is the rush of a mountain waterfall or the crashing surf at the coast.
While you go to a physician to look after your body and a dentist to look after your mouth, the truth is that these two elements of your health are inextricably linked. Your mouth is the gateway to your body and what happens there affects your overall health. Paying proper attention to your oral health can mean improvements in other aspects of your health. A little attention and prevention go a long way!