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By West Shore Family Dentistry
January 16, 2022
Category: Dental Procedures
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During this year's baseball spring training, Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton got into a row with a steak dinner—and the beefsteak got the better of it. During his meal, the Gold Glove winner cracked a tooth.

Fortunately, he didn't lose it. Buxton's dentist rescued the tooth with a dental procedure that's been around for over a century—a root canal treatment. The dependable root canal is responsible for saving millions of teeth each year.

Dentists turn to root canal treatments for a number of reasons: a permanent tooth's roots are dissolving (a condition called resorption); chronic inflammation of the innermost tooth pulp due to repeated fillings; or a fractured or cracked tooth, like Buxton's, in which the pulp becomes exposed to bacteria.

One of the biggest reasons, though, is advanced tooth decay. Triggered by acid, a by-product of bacteria, a tooth's enamel softens and erodes, allowing decay into the underlying dentin. In its initial stages, we can often treat decay with a filling. But if the decay continues to advance, it can infect the pulp and root canals and eventually reach the bone.

Decay of this magnitude seriously jeopardizes a tooth's survival. But we can still stop it before that point with a root canal. The basic procedure is fairly straightforward. We begin first by drilling a small hole into the tooth to access the inner pulp and root canals. Using special instruments, we then remove all of the infected tissue within the tooth.

After disinfecting the now empty spaces and reshaping the root canals, we fill the tooth with a rubber-like substance called gutta percha. This, along with filling the access hole, seals the tooth's interior from future infection. In most cases, we'll return sometime later and bond a life-like crown to the tooth (as Buxton's dentist did for him) for added protection and support.

You would think such a procedure would get its own ticker tape parade. Unfortunately, there's a cultural apprehension that root canals are painful. But here's the truth—because your tooth and surrounding gums are numbed by local anesthesia, a root canal procedure doesn't hurt. Actually, if your tooth has been throbbing from tooth decay's attack on its nerves, a root canal treatment will alleviate that pain.

After some time on the disabled list, Buxton was back in the lineup in time to hit his longest homer to date at 456 feet on the Twins' Opening Day. You may not have that kind of moment after a root canal, but repairing a bothersome tooth with this important procedure will certainly get you back on your feet again.

If you would like more information about root canal therapy, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “A Step-By-Step Guide to Root Canal Treatment.”

By West Shore Family Dentistry
January 06, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition  
EnjoyThatNibbleofCheese-ItsAlsoBenefittingYourOralHealth

Mystery writer Avery Aames once said, "Life is great. Cheese makes it better." Billions of people around the world would tend to agree. Humanity has been having a collective love affair with curdled milk for around 8,000 years. And, why not: Cheese is not only exquisitely delicious, it's also good for you—especially for your teeth.

No wonder, then, that "turophiles" have a day of celebration all to themselves—National Cheese Lovers Day on January 20th. In honor of the day cheese aficionados would definitely make a national holiday, let's take a closer look at this delectable food, and why eating it could do a world of good for your dental health.

As a dairy food, cheese contains a plethora of vitamins and minerals, many of which specifically benefit dental health. Every bite of velvety Gouda or pungent Limburger contains minerals like calcium and phosphate, which—along with the compound casein phosphate—work together to strengthen teeth and bones.

Cheese also helps tooth enamel defend against its one true nemesis, oral acid. Prolonged contact with acid softens the mineral content in enamel and may eventually cause it to erode. Without an ample layer of enamel, teeth are sitting ducks for tooth decay. A nibble of cheese, on the other hand, can quickly raise your mouth's pH out of the acidic danger zone. Cheese also stimulates saliva, the mouth's natural acid neutralizer.

Because of these qualities, cheese is a good alternative to carbohydrate-based snacks and foods, at home or on the go. Carbs, particularly sugar, provide oral bacteria a ready food supply, which enables them to multiply rapidly. As a result, the opportunity for gum infection also increases.

Bacteria also generate a digestive by-product, which we've already highlighted—acid. So, when oral bacterial populations rise, so do acid levels, increasing the threat to tooth enamel. By substituting cheese for sweets, you'll help limit bacterial growth and these potential consequences.

You may get some of the same effect if you also add cheese to a carbohydrate-laden meal or, as is common with the French, eat it as dessert afterwards. Often a tasty complement to wine or fruit, cheese could help blunt the effect of these carbohydrates within your mouth.

In a world where much of what we like to eat doesn't promote our health, cheese is the notable exception. And our enjoyment of this perennial food is all the more delightful, knowing it's also strengthening and protecting our oral health.

If you would like more information about the role of nutrition in oral health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Nutrition & Oral Health.”

By West Shore Family Dentistry
December 27, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: gum disease   nutrition  
CurbYourCarbConsumptiontoBoostYourDefensesAgainstGumDisease

You're doing the right things to avoid the return of gum disease: brushing and flossing every day, dental visits on a regular basis and watching for symptoms of another infection. But while you're at it, don't forget this other important part of gum disease prevention—your diet.

In relation to oral health, not all foods are alike. Some can increase inflammation, a major factor with gum disease; others strengthen teeth and gums. Carbohydrates in particular are a key part of this dynamic.

The body transforms these biomolecules of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen into the sugar glucose as a ready source of energy. But glucose levels in the bloodstream must be strictly controlled to avoid a harmful imbalance.

When elevated the body injects the hormone insulin into the bloodstream to bring glucose levels into normal range. Eventually, though, regular injections of insulin in high amounts in response to eating carbs—known as "spikes"—can increase inflammation. And, inflammation in turn increases the risk and severity of gum infections.

So, why not cut out carbohydrates altogether? That might be akin to throwing out the proverbial baby with the bath water. A wide range of carbohydrates, particularly fruits and vegetables, are a rich source of health-enhancing nutrients.

It's better to manage your carbohydrate consumption by taking advantage of one particular characteristic: Not all carbohydrates affect the body in the same way. Some cause a higher insulin response than others according to a scale known as the glycemic index. It's better, then, to eat more of the lower glycemic carbohydrates than those at the higher end.

One of the latter you'll definitely want to restrict is refined sugar—which also happens to be a primary food source for bacteria. You'll also want to cut back on any refined or processed foods like chips, refined grains or pastries.

Conversely, you can eat more of a number of low glycemic foods, most characterized as "whole", or unprocessed, like fresh fruits and vegetables, or whole grains like oatmeal. You should still, however, eat these in moderation.

Better control over your carbohydrate consumption is good for your health overall. But it's especially helpful to your efforts to keep gum disease at bay.

If you would like more information on nutrition and your oral 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 “Carbohydrates Linked to Gum Disease.”

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Even with dedicated daily home care and regular dental cleanings, some children still have problems with cavities. And, that could morph into an even more serious problem in the future: Primary teeth lost prematurely to the disease could cause incoming permanent teeth to erupt out of position and form a poor bite.

To avoid this, parents often need a little extra help protecting their children's teeth from cavities. One way is with a dental sealant applied to larger teeth by their dentist.

A dental sealant is a protective coating of plastic or glass-like material that partially fills in the pits and crevices of the biting surfaces of larger teeth like molars. Even with diligent brushing it can be difficult to clean these surfaces of plaque, thus allowing bacteria to hide out in deep crevices. By "smoothing" out these areas with a sealant, they're easier to rid the teeth of decay-causing plaque.

Your child can undergo a quick and painless sealant application during a routine visit. After applying the liquid form of the sealant to the teeth with a brush, the dentist uses a curing light to harden the coating into a durable defense against decay.

Dentists have been applying sealants for several years now, which begs the question—do they work? At least two major studies say yes.

These independent studies both surveyed thousands of pediatric patients over several years. And, they both concluded that children with sealants experienced significantly fewer cavities than those without sealants. Furthermore, the protection appeared to last at least four years after the application.

A sealant application does involve a modest cost per tooth. But compared to what you'll spend to treat cavities, or even expensive orthodontic treatment later, sealants are well worth the cost.

If your child continues to develop cavities regardless of home and dental care, then talk with your dentist about sealants and other ways to minimize cavities. Taking these extra steps could help prevent a problem now, and a bigger problem in the future.

If you would like more information on dental care for children, 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 “Sealants for Children.”

By West Shore Family Dentistry
December 07, 2021
Category: Oral Health
PatriotsBelichicksUniqueBetween-TeethCleaningMethodCaughtOnFilm

Earlier this season, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick got together with his longtime QB, Tom Brady. This time, however, they were on opposite sides of the field. And although Brady and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the game, Belichick—or specifically his teeth and a pencil—may have garnered most of the media attention.

After noticing something between his teeth during the game, Belichick used the point of his pencil to work it out. Many of us are also guilty of such a dubious teeth-cleaning method, but we're not likely to be coaching a professional football team on national television while doing it. As you can imagine, hilarity ensued on social media concerning the video clip of Belichick's dental faux pas.

Lesson #1: Before you start digging between your teeth, be sure you're not on camera. More importantly, Lesson #2: Be choosy with what you use to clean between your teeth.

While we don't want to heap any more razz on the good coach any more than he's already received, a pencil should definitely be on the "Do Not Use" list for teeth cleaning. But, it's not the worst item people have confessed to employing: According to a recent survey, 80% of approximately a thousand adults admitted to working the edge of a business card, a strand of hair, a twig or even a screwdriver between their teeth.

Where to begin….

For one, using most of the aforementioned items is simply unsanitary. As your mother might say, "Do you know where that toenail clipping has been?" For another, many of these objects can be downright dangerous, causing potential injury to your teeth and gums (how could a screwdriver not?). And, if the injurious object is laden with bacteria, you're opening the door to infection.

There are better ways to rid your teeth of a pesky food ort. If nothing else, a plastic or wooden toothpick will work in a pinch—so long as it's clean, so says the American Dental Association.

Dental floss is even better since its actual reason for existence is to clean between teeth. You can always keep a small amount rolled up and stashed in your wallet or purse. Even better, keep a floss pick handy—this small piece of plastic with an attached bit of floss is ultra-convenient to use while away from home.

To summarize, be sure to use an appropriate and safe tool to remove that pesky food bit from between your teeth. And, be prepared ahead of time—that way, you won't be caught (by millions) doing something embarrassing.

If you would like more information about proper oral hygiene, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Daily Oral Hygiene.”





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