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Posts for category: Oral Health

By Eugene B. Nichols, DMD
January 10, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene  
ImproveYourBrushingandFlossingTechniquesforaHealthierMouth

Five minutes a day: That’s all it takes to do something that could change your life. It may not seem like a lot of time, but it’s one of the most profound things you can do for your well-being.

So, what is this life-changing activity? Daily oral hygiene—good, old-fashioned brushing and flossing, just like your mom made you do. Along with regular dental visits, daily hygiene is crucial to keeping your teeth healthy. And healthy teeth are key to a healthy life.

Part of the magic is “showing up every day.” The main driver for tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease is dental plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles that accumulates on teeth. Clearing away this daily buildup with brushing and flossing drastically reduces the likelihood of disease.

The real advantage, though, is in brushing and flossing effectively. Plaque can cling stubbornly to teeth, especially around the gum line and other hard to reach surfaces. What’s left behind interacts with saliva to form a hardened, calcified form called calculus (also known as tartar) that could increase your risk for disease. And it can’t be removed by brushing and flossing.

You can minimize calculus formation with proper brushing and flossing techniques. When brushing, for instance, use a circular motion and make sure you brush all tooth surfaces, including around the gum line (a thorough job takes about two minutes). And avoid aggressive brushing—you could damage your gums. Be gentle while you brush and let the toothpaste and brush bristles do the heavy lifting.

Don’t forget to floss to remove plaque from between teeth your brush can’t access. Wrap the ends of about 18 inches of floss thread around the middle finger of each hand. Using a combination of your index fingers and thumbs to maneuver it, work the floss between the teeth and then snug it to the tooth surface. Go up and down the sides of each tooth a few times until you hear a squeak (this only happens with unwaxed floss). Move then to the remaining teeth until you’re finished.

Focusing on these techniques will improve your ability to keep daily plaque accumulation low. And that means your teeth and gums have a better chance of staying disease-free and healthy.

If you would like more information on proper oral hygiene, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Daily Oral Hygiene.”

By Eugene B. Nichols, DMD
December 21, 2019
Category: Oral Health
Tags: dental injuries  
FollowTheseHolidayToyTipsforYourKidstoAvoidDentalInjuries

The holidays draw families together like no other season as loved ones gather from near and far to eat, drink and be merry—and exchange gifts. For the little kids that means toys (and sometimes for the big “kids” too!). Unfortunately, a toy meant to delight children could instead cause them harm, including injuries to their teeth and gums.

Be selective, then, when giving toys to the special children in your life this holiday season. Here are a few tips to remember to help protect their teeth and gums from injury.

Avoid toys with small parts. Given infants’ and toddlers’ propensity to put objects in their mouth, try to avoid choosing toys with small parts. While the main concern with smaller toys is the risk for choking, small, hard objects in the mouth could also cause dental damage. The danger is especially acute if a child falls while a toy or similar object is in their mouth.

Watch out for hard, sharp-edged toys. Younger children especially like to bite and gnaw on things. It’s prudent, then, to stay away from hard plastic toys or those with sharp points or edges—these could chip teeth or cut into the gums. Instead, look for toys made of more pliable plastic or fabric, and with rounder surfaces. When in doubt, look for labeling on packaging that indicates the appropriate ages for a particular toy.

Discard damaged toys. With your kids’ toy boxes brimming over with new holiday treasures, it’s a good time to do a safety inventory of their older toys. Besides those they’ve outgrown, look for toys that may have been damaged or broken. Although initially they may have been safe, toys in poor condition might pose many of the dangers to teeth and gums we’ve previously mentioned. Damaged toys should be either repaired or discarded.

Supervise their playtime. You might also want to keep a watchful eye out as your kids play with their new toys. While they do need their own time to be imaginative during play, children could put their toys to uses not intended for them, increasing the risk of injury. A bit of gentle supervision is a good idea to prevent unintended—and unwelcome—consequences.

The holidays are a magical time for all of us, but especially for children. Follow these holiday toy tips to prevent dental injuries that could ruin your family fun.

If you would like more information about protecting your child’s dental health, please contact us or schedule a consultation.

By Eugene B. Nichols, DMD
December 01, 2019
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   gum disease  
GumDiseaseCouldbeAffectingMoreThanJustYourMouth

Periodontal (gum) disease can weaken gum attachment and cause bone deterioration that eventually leads to tooth loss. But its detrimental effects can also extend beyond the mouth and worsen other health problems like heart disease or diabetes.

While the relationship between gum disease and other health conditions isn't fully understood, there does seem to be a common denominator: chronic inflammation. Inflammation is a natural defense mechanism the body uses to isolate damaged or diseased tissues from healthier ones. But if the infection and inflammation become locked in constant battle, often the case with gum disease, then the now chronic inflammation can actually damage tissue.

Inflammation is also a key factor in conditions like heart disease and diabetes, as well as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoporosis. Inflammation contributes to plaque buildup in blood vessels that impedes circulation and endangers the heart. Diabetes-related inflammation can contribute to slower wound healing and blindness.

Advanced gum disease can stimulate the body's overall inflammatory response. Furthermore, the breakdown of gum tissues makes it easier for bacteria and other toxins from the mouth to enter the bloodstream and spread throughout the body to trigger further inflammation. These reactions could make it more difficult to control any inflammatory condition like diabetes or heart disease, or increase your risk for developing one.

To minimize this outcome, you should see a dentist as soon as possible if you notice reddened, swollen or bleeding gums. The sooner you begin treatment, the less impact it may have on your overall health. And because gum disease can be hard to notice in its early stages, be sure you visit the dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups.

The most important thing you can do, though, is to try to prevent gum disease from occurring in the first place. You can do this by brushing twice and flossing once every day to keep dental plaque, the main trigger for gum disease, from accumulating on tooth surfaces.

Guarding against gum disease will certainly help you maintain healthy teeth and gums. But it could also help protect you from—or lessen the severity of—other serious health conditions.

If you would like more information on preventing and treating gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Good Oral Health Leads to Better Health Overall.”

By Eugene B. Nichols, DMD
October 22, 2019
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay   nutrition  
ThesePopularDrinksCouldPutYourEnamelinDangerofErosion

Tooth enamel, to play on a phrase from Shakespeare, is made of “sterner stuff.” The strongest substance in the body, enamel can take years of biting and chewing and keep on going.

It does have one nemesis, though—mouth acid, which can soften and erode enamel’s mineral content. This is less of a concern if you have healthy saliva flow, because saliva neutralizes acid in thirty minutes to an hour after an acid attack and can also help re-mineralize the enamel. Daily brushing and flossing also help curb mouth acid by reducing the bacteria that produces it.

But as effective as saliva is at neutralizing mouth acidity, it can be overwhelmed by outside acid derived through certain foods and beverages. In the past couple of decades, at least two of these acid sources have grown in prominence: energy drinks and, believe it or not, sports drinks.

Just how acidic are they? The pH scale runs from 1 to 14, with acidity on the low end and alkalinity on the higher (7 is neutral). Tooth enamel begins dissolving below 5.5. Laboratory tests have pegged the average pH of energy drinks at 3.05 and sports drinks, 2.91.

Because of their acidity, frequent energy or sports drink consumption will bring mouth pH into the danger zone for tooth enamel. It’s even more likely if these beverages are sipped over an extended period, which can prevent saliva from getting ahead of any newly introduced acid.

Keeping your distance from these beverages is probably the safest bet. But if you do imbibe occasionally, follow these common sense tips:

  • Avoid sipping the beverage over long periods—and try to limit drinking them to meal times;
  • After drinking a beverage, wash your mouth out with water and wait an hour to brush to give your saliva time to neutralize any acid.
  • Practice consistent, daily brushing and flossing.

Above all, keep a healthy respect for acidic foods and beverages like energy and sports drinks and don’t overuse them. Your tooth enamel will appreciate it.

If you would like more information on the effect of sports and energy drinks on dental health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Think Before You Drink Sports and Energy Beverages.”

By Eugene B. Nichols, DMD
October 12, 2019
Category: Oral Health
MakeYourBabyasComfortableasPossibleDuringTeething

Your sweet, good-natured baby has seemingly gone from zero to grumpy overnight. The reason is simple: They’re teething.

Teething is a natural process in which a baby’s first teeth (primary teeth) begin to break through the gums, usually between six and nine months of age. This process continues intermittently until all twenty of the primary teeth erupt, sometime around age 3.

This uncomfortable and sometimes painful experience can cause gum swelling, biting and gnawing, chin rash and drooling. Your child may become irritable not only from this physical discomfort but also from disrupted sleep patterns and decreased appetite that often accompanies teething.

While you may have an unhappy baby while they’re teething, there’s usually no cause for concern. This is a natural process all children encounter, and the best thing you can do is make them as comfortable as possible. An exception would be accompanying diarrhea, fever or lingering crankiness—these could be symptoms of a more serious condition. If you begin to notice these, consult your doctor as soon as possible.

During teething there are a number of things you can do to reduce irritation. For one, allow your child to chew on clean, chilled (not frozen) teething rings, or a cold wet washcloth. The cold will help numb their irritated gum tissues. Massaging their gums with a clean finger can also help counteract the pressure caused by the incoming tooth.

If your doctor advises, you can also give your child over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen in an age-appropriate dosage. But be sure you give these medications orally and not rub them on the gums—some ingredients in them could burn the tissues. You should also not apply rubbing alcohol to the gums for the same reason. And avoid products with the numbing agent Benzocaine┬« in children less than two years of age unless your doctor advises otherwise.

Teething isn’t always a pleasant time for your baby or you, but it’s necessary—and temporary. In no time at all this discomfort will pass, and in its place will be their first set of teeth.

If you would like more information on teething, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Teething Troubles: How to Help Keep Your Baby Comfortable.”