timberlake dental

Five Trendy Things that are Really Bad for your Teeth

With the wealth of information available to anyone with internet access comes the risk of incomplete information or misinformation.  Health and beauty blogs tout countless trendy ways to lose weight, clear your skin, and whiten your teeth.

There are a few popular trends that can have a detrimental effect on your teeth, and we want you to learn about these dangers before you find out the hard way (i.e. multiple new cavities or broken down dental work).

Apple Cider Vinegar

Fans of apple cider vinegar claim a wide range of health benefits from drinking it straight, diluting it with water or gargling it.  These claims include calming an upset stomach, curing hiccups, soothing a sore throat, lowering cholesterol, losing weight, and boosting energy.

The benefits are pretty tempting.  Here are the risks: increased chance of cavities and greater likelihood of acid erosion/damage to teeth and dental work.

The pH of apple cider vinegar is 3.3 to 3.5.  This is far below the threshold at which enamel, the hardest substance in the body, begins to dissolve.  Any prolonged contact of a strong acid with your teeth begins to weaken the enamel, making it easier for bacteria to penetrate, causing a cavity.

Strong acids also cause deterioration and breakdown of existing dental work.

A thorough rinsing with water should follow any use of apple cider vinegar in your mouth in order to bring the pH inside the mouth back to neutral.  Do not brush immediately.  Wait until your mouth returns to neutral.

Lemon Juice Detox

The most popular lemon juice detox is called the Master Cleanse, and it claims to cleanse the body of toxins and help you lose 20 pounds in 10 days.  The recipe for the recommended “lemonade” includes fresh lemon or lime juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water.

There are two huge problems in this recipe: lemon juice and maple syrup.  One is an extremely strong acid, and the other is loaded with sugar.

There is another problem with the Master Cleanse, as far as teeth are concerned.  The detox calls for avoiding all solid food for 10 days, which means liquids only.

When we chew, we stimulate the production of saliva, which is our body’s natural defense against acid and bacteria.  Saliva fights cavities, gum disease, and acid erosion.  If chewing stops, and only drinking ensues, the production of saliva decreases.  This puts someone at a higher risk for the things saliva fights: cavities, gum disease, and acid erosion.

Sparkling Water

Many people drink sparkling water simply because they like it.  Others drink it in an attempt to stop drinking sodas.  Other people enjoy it as an alternative to plain water every once in a while.

Is sparkling water better for your teeth than soda?  Of course.

Is it completely risk-free?  No.

Sparkling water is acidic.  The flavored types of sparkling water typically add citric acid to create lemon, lime or orange flavors.  This makes it even more acidic; some fall into the same pH range as sodas and sports drinks.

Sipping on a sparkling water drink throughout the day creates a low pH environment in your mouth, weakening enamel and making it easier for bacteria to cause cavities.

Enjoy sparkling water during a meal so that your saliva can counteract the acid it contains.

Kombucha

Kombucha is trendy, but it is not new.  Records of “fermented tea” show that people have been drinking kombucha for over 2000 years.  Health benefits attributed to kombucha include detoxification, improved digestion, immune system stimulation, arthritis and cancer prevention, and weight loss among others.

Some people make their own kombucha, and others prefer store-bought brands.  There are two concerns with kombucha: acidity and sugar content.  One of the most important steps in making your own kombucha is monitoring the pH level.  When the pH level reaches about 3, the brewing cycle is complete, and it is ready to drink.  This pH is low enough to damage enamel, weakening it and making it vulnerable to cavity-causing bacteria.

Some store-bought brands of kombucha contain as much as 10 grams of sugar per serving, and most bottles contain more than 2 servings.  As with candy and sodas, high sugar content feeds those same cavity-causing bacteria, increasing your risk for cavities.

Activated Charcoal

There are countless new oral hygiene products containing activated charcoal.  They claim to absorb both toxins and stains, leading to healthy gums and white teeth.

In 2017, the American Dental Association published a literature review of all the current scientific studies regarding activated charcoal.  Their findings state that there is not enough evidence to deem activated charcoal products effective at removing bacterial toxins or whitening teeth.  There is also not enough evidence to confirm that activated charcoal is safe to use on your teeth.

The risk is damage to the enamel caused by abrasion.  Abrasion is the gradual wearing away of enamel by an abrasive or gritty substance.  This is like using sandpaper on your teeth.  Because many beauty blogs recommend DIY toothpastes using activated charcoal and coconut oil, the level of abrasiveness could be different for each homemade recipe.  Being unable to measure its safety means we cannot recommend it.

Are You Curious about Another Trend and Its Effects on Teeth?

Ask Dr. Chowning at your next checkup about any trends you are considering.  He will make sure you will not damage your teeth by trying a new diet or trend.  Call our office at 940-382-1750 today to schedule a consultation.

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Why Do Some Teeth Have to be Pulled?

Having tooth pulled is a relatively common experience.  Children lose twenty baby teeth, perhaps having them pulled by their parents.  Many people have their wisdom teeth extracted in their late teens or early twenties.

Aside from baby teeth and wisdom teeth, why do other teeth have to be pulled?

It’s all about prognosis.

What is Prognosis?

Prognosis is a forecast of the most likely outcome of a situation.  It is like a prediction.  When Dr. Chowning evaluates a tooth with a problem, he must consider the severity of the problem,  available treatment options,  and the likely outcome of those treatment options.

Dentists typically give a tooth a prognosis that is one of the following: good, fair, poor, or hopeless.  Good prognosis means that there is little risk for any complications, and you will keep  tooth for a very long time.  Fair prognosis includes the risk of some complications and a chance that the tooth will need more treatment in the future.  Poor prognosis means the tooth is not likely to successfully function in your mouth for any extended period of time.  Hopeless prognosis means no treatment will enable you to keep the tooth in your mouth.

What Gives a Tooth a Poor Prognosis?

The more severe a dental problem is, the lower the prognosis.  Teeth with very large cavities, deep fractures, and/or severe gum disease often carry a poor long-term prognosis.  Treatment performed on these teeth does not guarantee that they will last forever.

The reason we are cautious about giving a prognosis for teeth and their corresponding dental treatment is that we want your dental work to last.  At Timberlake Dental, we are committed to performing excellent dentistry.  We stand behind the work that we do, and with the proper care, it should last many years.

We also talk about prognosis because we want our patients to have clear expectations about their dental work.  When we do not believe that dental treatment will give a tooth many more years, that tooth has a poor long-term prognosis.

When a tooth has a poor long-term prognosis, we will always discuss the option of extracting the tooth.  We want every investment in your mouth to be a good one.

What Gives a Tooth a Hopeless Prognosis?

A hopeless prognosis means that no treatment will save the tooth in order to keep it in your mouth.  For teeth with a hopeless prognosis, extraction is the only treatment option to remove the dental disease.   The tooth must be pulled in order to ensure your overall health and safety.

How Do I Replace a Tooth That Has Been Pulled?

In most cases, you will be able to replace  pulled tooth with a dental implant.  Dental implants are the best way to restore a missing tooth because they are the only treatment option that recreates every part of a tooth.  By replacing the tooth’s root, a dental implant functions like a natural tooth.

There are other ways to replace missing teeth, including removable partials and cemented bridges.  These options require support from other teeth and, over time, weaken and damage those supporting teeth.  Dental implants stand alone.  They do not need any other teeth in order to function.

Because an implant is as close as we can get to a natural tooth, you will not miss the pulled tooth.  An implant looks and functions the same way a natural tooth does.

What if I Don’t Replace a Tooth That Has Been Pulled?

Several problems can occur when you do not replace missing tooth.

  • Reduced chewing force – When you lose a tooth, there is less surface area available for chewing. Chewing works best when you have a full complement teeth.  Chewing function diminishes when even one tooth is missing.
  • Shifting, crowding or spacing teeth – The teeth hold each or in place. When you lose a tooth, the adjacent teeth drift into that space, causing changes in the alignment of the teeth.
  • Bite changes – The pressure between upper lower teeth during biting also holds the teeth in their vertical position. When you lose tooth, the opposing tooth can move into that space.  This is particularly common when a lower tooth is missing, the upper tooth drifts downward into the gap.
  • Increased risk for damage to neighboring teeth – Teeth are designed to withstand a certain amount of force from chewing. When you lose one tooth, the teeth on both sides have to bear more of the burden of chewing than they are designed to withstand.  This leads to an increased risk for gum recession and cracked teeth.

Replacing a missing tooth is always the best long-term treatment for your mouth.

Do You Have a Tooth with a Questionable Prognosis?

Call us today at 940-382-1750 to schedule consultation with Dr. Chowning.  He will discuss the prognosis of your tooth and detail all of your treatment options.

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What are These Gum Measurements?  What is a Pocket?

The people who come to Timberlake Dental regularly for professional teeth cleanings know that, they will periodically have gum measurements taken by the dental hygienist.  We use terms like “FMP”, “pockets”, and “probing depth”, as well as a long list of numbers.

What are Gum Measurements?

Gum measurements are a way to evaluate the state of the gums and jawbone around each tooth.  These measurements tell your dental hygienist and dentist whether your gums are healthy or unhealthy.

You cannot have a healthy mouth without healthy bone and gums!  Even people with no cavities can lose their teeth due to gum disease.

To best understand gum measurements, you must first understand gum disease.

What is Gum Disease?

The jawbone and gums form the foundation of your teeth.  They stabilize the teeth, allowing them to function properly in chewing.  The bone and gums should completely cover every tooth root to adequately hold the tooth in place.

Gum disease destroys that foundation.  The primary cause of gum disease is always buildup of plaque and tartar on the teeth.  This acts as an irritant to the bone and gums, causing them to pull away from the tooth.  This pulling away creates a “pocket”, or a gap between the gums and the tooth.  This gap is what we are measuring when we call out all of those numbers.

The irritants in gum disease also cause inflammation, which makes your gums bleed easily and look red and puffy.

Back to Those Measurements

Healthy gums attach to the bone over the tooth.  There is a slight overlap of gums on the tooth that is healthy.  This is why your hygienist may tell you that any number under 3 is okay.  A measurement of three millimeters is a normal amount of overlap.

Once the number gets higher than three, we have a problem.  You see, if the gums are not attached to the tooth once you pass three millimeters, it also means the bone is not attached to the tooth there. The higher the gum measurement number, the lower the amount of bone attached to the tooth.  As the bone level shrinks, the tooth loses support.

What is a Pocket?

Any place around a tooth where the number measures higher than 3 millimeters is a pocket.  These pockets present a two-fold challenge.  1) Your toothbrush bristles and floss cannot reach deeper than 3 millimeters under the gums to clean this area.  2) Pockets create a perfect hiding spot for plaque and bacterial buildup.  The plaque builds up more, irritating the tissue more, causing more pulling away, leading to a deeper pocket . . . it’s a vicious cycle!

Help!  I Have Pockets!  Now What?

Basically, just follow the instructions your dentist and dental hygienist give you.

Not every pocket is alike, and therefore, they are not all treated the same way.  Some patients have early pocketing and can turn things around with simple changes to their oral hygiene routine.  Other patients need gum treatments to clean long-standing bacterial buildup in those deep hiding spots.

One thing is certain: if you have gum measurements over three millimeters, it is a red flag for gum disease.  Anyone who is high risk for gum disease should take the following steps:

  • Never miss a professional teeth cleaning! Staying on schedule with teeth cleanings prevents an overgrowth of bacteria, which leads to gum disease.
  • Be a good brusher! It is not enough to simply brush once or twice a day.  You must brush with the right technique.  The soft bristles of your toothbrush must touch the gums in a gentle, rotating motion at 45 degrees.  If you need tips on brushing, ask our dental hygienists at your next cleaning.  They are the pros!
  • Floss! We know everyone hates flossing.  It is essential to keeping the bacterial buildup cleaned away from the areas between the teeth.  There is no substitute for good old flossing.
  • Use an antiseptic mouthrinse! A mouthrinse helps flush away soft buildup and food debris, as well as kill bacteria.  Regular use can help you prevent more bacterial buildup on the teeth.

More Questions about Gum Disease?

Call 940-382-1750 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning.  He can answer all of your questions, assess your risk for gum disease, and get you back on track to a completely healthy mouth.

Are Electric Toothbrushes Really Better than Regular Toothbrushes?

The short answer is yes.

This blog is the long answer.  Many people are hesitant to invest in an electric toothbrush.  For some, it seems too expensive.  For others, it is simply difficult to change a lifelong habit.  Almost every electric toothbrush user will tell you that once you switch, you will never want to go back to using a regular toothbrush!

What is an Electric Toothbrush?

  An electric toothbrush is a toothbrush with electrically powered movement of the bristles.  Some move in a circular motion, and others use a back-and-forth or up-and-down motion.  They typically consist of three different parts: a replaceable brush head (available in different shapes for your preference), a base containing the battery and power control, and a charging station.  Most electric toothbrushes run on a rechargeable battery, and there are a few models containing AA or AAA batteries that you can replace.

How is an Electric Toothbrush Better than a Regular Toothbrush?

The purpose of a toothbrush is to remove plaque and food debris from the surfaces of teeth.  In theory, a manual toothbrush can remove plaque as well as an electric toothbrush when used perfectly.  The problem is that very few people brush perfectly.

Electric toothbrushes make up for the imperfect way people brush their teeth by doing the majority of the hard work.  The motion of the bristles created by an electric toothbrush will effectively remove plaque and food debris as soon as it makes contact.  With an electric toothbrush, all you have to do is touch it to the tooth, and it does all the work for you.

Research studies have proven over and over again that an electric toothbrush shows greater cleaning effectiveness than a manual toothbrush.  This means it is better at removing plaque.

Better plaque removal = cleaner teeth.

Cleaner teeth = healthier teeth.

Who Should Use an Electric Toothbrush?

An electric toothbrush is beneficial to everyone!  We all need clean teeth.  However, there are certain groups of people who are in greater need for help in removing plaque, and they will find even more benefits in using electric toothbrushes.  All of the categories shown below include people who struggle with the manual dexterity required for effective brushing.  When maneuvering a toothbrush is difficult, an electric toothbrush makes a significant difference in someone’s ability to clean his teeth.

  • Children
  • Elderly
  • Special needs
  • Arthritis in the hands or other physical disabilities

How to Use an Electric Toothbrush

When used properly, an electric toothbrush will effectively remove plaque and food debris from the teeth.  There are a few guidelines to using an electric toothbrush in the correct way.

  1. Wet the toothbrush bristles, and apply a small amount of toothpaste.
  2. Insert the toothbrush into your mouth and lightly close your lips before turning the toothbrush on. Otherwise, you’ll make a big mess.
  3. Slowly move the toothbrush over the surface of each tooth in your mouth, ensuring that the bristles lightly touch the gums and that you reach all three accessible surfaces of each tooth (cheek-side, tongue-side, and biting surface). Your hands only need a gentle guiding motion on the toothbrush.  No scrubbing or rotating motions are necessary.
  4. Turn the electric toothbrush off before removing it from your mouth to avoid a messy spray of saliva, toothpaste and water.

As with a manual toothbrush, the electric toothbrush only cleans the surfaces that it touches.

How to Care For an Electric Toothbrush

The bristles on an electric toothbrush will wear out in the same way they do on a manual toothbrush.  Replace your electric toothbrush heads every 3 months.

As with anything exposed to moisture, the base and charging station can become moldy or mildew over time.  It is important to regularly clean the base and the charging station.  Use a cleaning solution that contains vinegar or bleach to clean them and dry completely before reassembling.

Which Electric Toothbrush is Best?

Some brands are better than others are.  It is important to remember that any electric toothbrush is better than all manual toothbrushes.  Each dental professional will have her own unique opinion on which brand is the best.  Ask Dr. Chowning or your dental hygienist about which brand they think would be best for you when you see them at your next professional cleaning.

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Teeth Whitening FAQs

We are constantly asked about teeth whitening.  It’s hard to find someone who does not want to whiten his or her teeth.  This blog will cover the questions most commonly googled about teeth whitening.

Is teeth whitening safe?

Yes.  Teeth whitening is safe and causes no permanent damage to the teeth.

In fact, there are scientific studies showing that teeth whitening can actually provide some benefits to your oral health.  The chemical used to whiten teeth can also kill bad bacteria in your mouth.  This reduces your risk for gum disease.

Another study shows that teeth whitening increases the microhardness of enamel.

While it is difficult to argue that teeth whitening is good for you, we can definitively state that it is perfectly safe.

The changes wrought by teeth whitening are also temporary.  The negative side effects of gum tenderness and tooth sensitivity completely subside when you stop whitening.

Is teeth whitening worth it?

You might have to answer this question for yourself.  Teeth whitening involves an investment of both time and money.  The payoff of those investments is a brighter smile using the quickest, most conservative form of cosmetic dentistry.

Is teeth whitening covered by insurance?

No.

Teeth whitening falls under the category of cosmetic dentistry and usually does not have any insurance coverage.

Is teeth whitening painful?

Sometimes.

Teeth whitening can cause temporary side effects.  These side effects include tooth sensitivity, tenderness or burning of the gums, and zingers.

Sensitivity to temperatures occurs when whitening gel touches the tooth root, the gel concentration is too high, or the gel is worn for too long.  If your teeth become very sensitive when whitening, talk to Dr. Chowning.  He will make adjustments to your whitening protocol to make it more comfortable for you.

Gum tenderness or burning occurs when the higher concentrations of whitening gel extrude from your whitening tray onto the gums.  The chemicals in teeth whitening gel are irritating to gum tissue and should not contact the gums at all.  One of the benefits of professional custom whitening trays is that they are trimmed away from your gums to prevent this side effect.

Zingers are sharp, shooting pains in one or more teeth during teeth whitening that last for 3-5 seconds.  The cause of zingers is unknown, but we have found that they are more likely to happen on teeth with dental work, small enamel fractures, or nerve damage.  They can be avoided by using a lower concentration of whitening gel.  If you experience zingers frequently, talk to Dr. Chowning about what changes you should make to your whitening regimen.

Is teeth whitening permanent?

No.

The results of teeth whitening fade over time.  Staining of the teeth will reoccur when someone drinks coffee, tea or red wine frequently and/or smokes or uses smokeless tobacco.

Most people require maintenance whitening to keep the teeth at the desired shade.  The interval of maintenance whitening varies per person.  On average, most people whiten every six months.

Are teeth whitening strips safe?

Yes.

Over-the-counter whitening strips, like Crest WhiteStrips, are safe to use.  They contain the same chemical ingredient as professional teeth whitening gel.  They typically have a lower strength, so it may take longer to notice a difference in the color of your teeth.

The strips must be properly placed on the teeth in order to work correctly without causing side effects.  They can cause the same teeth sensitivity and gum tenderness as professional whitening gels.  These are temporary side effects.

Is teeth whitening at dentist (in-office whitening) safe?

Yes.

In-office whitening is very safe.  It uses a very high strength professional whitening gel with a barrier for the gums and oversight by a dental professional.  Because it is customized for each patient, exposed tooth roots are covered, the gum tissue is protected, and the best results are achieved.

Is teeth whitening at the dentist worth it?

In-office teeth whitening is the most expensive type of teeth whitening available today.  The reason for the greater expense is due to the cost of the ingredients and the time you spend in the dental chair.  We do all the work for you!

The benefit of in-office whitening is an instant result with a lower risk for side effects.  Many of our patients choose this option because they have a special event in less than a week.  Others choose in-office whitening because they know they are unlikely to be compliant with the at-home teeth whitening.  With in-office whitening, you will get whitening results without all the effort.

Are teeth whitening and bleaching the same thing?

Yes.

Many people use the term bleaching because of the active ingredient in whitening products: hydrogen peroxide.

Do You Have Other Questions about Teeth Whitening?

Call 940-382-1750 today to schedule a whitening consultation with Dr. Chowning.  He can answer any other questions you have about teeth whitening and help you choose the option that is best for you.

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What is Xylitol, and How Can it Make My Mouth Healthier?

Xylitol is slowly making its way to the top of the list of sugar alternatives and sweeteners for people trying to cut back on sugar intake.  Lowering sugar consumption is good for your entire body, not just your teeth.  Of course, dentists have always urged people to limit the amount of sugar they eat or drink on a daily basis.  Now we have a great alternative to recommend!

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol, derived from plants.  The most commonly used source of xylitol today is corncobs.  Xylitol contains one-third the calories of sugar, so while it is a better choice, it is not calorie free.  It is similar in sweetness to sugar.

Researchers have studied xylitol for over 40 years to determine its usefulness as a sweetener, its safety, and its effect on the body.  Our blog will focus on its effect on your oral health.

What is the Effect of Xylitol on My Risk for Cavities?

Research studies show that xylitol has an anticavity effect.  It stops harmful acid-producing bacteria in its tracks.  Bacteria cause cavities on teeth by producing a strong acid that can dissolve hard tooth enamel.  Xylitol slows down or completely stops the process of acid formation in these bacteria, thereby protecting your enamel.

The flavor of xylitol also stimulates saliva production.  Saliva is the body’s natural defense against cavities.  Without it, teeth are at risk for cavities and gum disease because bacteria can proliferate at a faster rate.

Not only does xylitol stop the bad guys (the bacteria causing cavities); it also strengthens the good guy (saliva).

What is the Effect of Xylitol on the Whole Mouth?

Xylitol helps maintain a healthy mouth by promoting all of the benefits provided by saliva.  Saliva lubricates the mouth, protecting against sores and ulcers as well as lip, cheek and tongue biting.  Saliva raises the pH in the mouth, protecting against harmful acid attacks from both bacteria and the food and drinks we consume.  Saliva contains enzymes that start the digestion process, so our chewing is more effective.  Saliva washes away food debris and plaque buildup, lowering the risk for cavities and gum disease.

Xylitol adds all of these benefits to the mouth by promoting saliva!

Are There any Side Effects of Xylitol?

Yes.

Some people experience GI upset after consuming large amounts of xylitol.  These side effects include diarrhea, abdominal cramping and gas.  They do subside as soon as you stop consuming xylitol.

Also, xylitol does contain a small amount of carbohydrates, so diabetics should continue to monitor their blood sugar levels closely.

How Should I Use Xylitol?

Xylitol is available over-the-counter in many forms:

  • Chewing gum
  • Mints or hard candy
  • Granulated, like sugar
  • Mouthwash
  • Toothpastes
  • Discs that adhere to the inside of your mouth

Chewing Gum

The simplest way to add xylitol to your daily routine is by purchasing Ice Cubes chewing gum and chewing several pieces every day.  This gum is the easiest source of xylitol to add to your routine because it is available at every major grocery store or drugstore in many flavors.  It is a wonderful way to get your kids to fight cavities.  By chewing a piece of xylitol-containing gum after a meal, you help return your mouth to a neutral pH as quickly as possible.

You should NOT chew xylitol gum if you have problems with your jaw joints (TMJs).  If you start to have any pain or clicking sounds in your joints, stop chewing gum and call us immediately.

Mints or Candies

Xylitol mints or candies are a great option for patients with TMJ problems who cannot chew gum.  They are a little more difficult to find as they are usually only sold in health food stores.  You can always order them on amazon.  A few brands are Epic, Spry, and Zellie’s.

Xylitol mints are also a great option for just after meals or acidic drinks to help neutralize your mouth.

Granulated Xylitol

You can find granulated xylitol in most health food stores, and you use it just like sugar.  You can add it to your coffee or use it in baking at approximately the same amount as sugar.  You may need to experiment with it a little to get your recipes to taste just right.

Oral Hygiene Products

Oral care products like mouthwash and toothpastes also contain xylitol.  The xylitol sweetener helps improve the flavor and provides the anticavity benefits described above.  Some brands of oral care products containing xylitol include CariFree, Spry, OxyFresh, and NOW.

Intraoral Adhering Discs

Probably the newest option in xylitol delivery, intraoral discs like XyliMelts provide the best overnight dry mouth protection there is.  These lubricating “stickers” adhere to the inside of your mouth and release a xylitol-containing gel throughout the night.  The xylitol stimulates saliva, and the gel itself creates a lubricating effect.

These discs are a wonderful tool for fighting cavities in people who suffer from dry mouth.  If your mouth is consistently dry, and you have a high cavity risk, add XyliMelts to your bedtime routine.

WARNING!  Xylitol is toxic to dogs!

Make sure to keep any xylitol, even chewing gum containers, out of the reach of any dog.  You could be in for a very expensive vet bill, or even worse, the death of your pet.

Do You Have More Questions about Xylitol?

Call 940-382-1750 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning.  He can answer any question you may have about cavity risk and how xylitol can help you.

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Is Dental Care Dangerous When I am Pregnant?

Great question!  The short answer is no.  The long answer is that pregnancy actually makes dental care more important.  Read on.

During pregnancy, your body goes through so many changes.  Some of these changes affect your mouth.  There are also things in your mouth that can affect your growing baby.

Here are the things you need to know about pregnancy and your mouth!

  1. Pregnancy hormones make your gums go crazy!

Many of our pregnant patients suffer from a condition called pregnancy-induced gingivitis.  We also call it hormone-induced gingivitis, because it can affect kids during puberty and women during menopause.

The surges in hormone levels wreak havoc on your gums, causing severe inflammation.  Gums look bright red and puffy.  They also bleed at the slightest irritation.

It is important to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible because even minor plaque buildup will set off the gingivitis that is so aggravated by your hormones.

  1. Morning sickness can make oral hygiene difficult.

Many of our pregnant patients tell us that taking care of their teeth is so much harder due to an extremely sensitive gag reflex.  Brushing the molars can make some people throw up.  Reaching the fingers toward the back of the mouth for flossing may give a choking sensation.

One tip that can help with this is to use flossers with a long handle.  This keeps your fingers out of your mouth and reduces your risk of gagging.

  1. Severe morning sickness can cause acid erosion on your teeth.

The constant vomiting and acid reflux of morning sickness brings up powerful stomach acid into the mouth.  This extremely low pH is very dangerous to tooth enamel.

If you suffer from this problem, it’s important to rinse your mouth with neutral pH water after any vomiting.  Bringing the pH back to normal is essential in protecting your enamel.

Consistent vomiting can lead to dehydration, which also poses a threat to your teeth.  You may need to speak to your Ob/Gyn about anti-nausea medication.

  1. Dental care is absolutely essential during pregnancy!

Because of numbers 1-3 above, dental care is essential during a pregnancy.  Your gums are at risk for severe inflammation, and your teeth are at risk for cavities and erosion.  It is more important than ever to be preventive!

Fight pregnancy-induced gingivitis by staying on a frequent schedule with professional teeth cleanings.  Many of our patients need cleanings every 3 months during pregnancy to help maintain healthy gums.

More frequent dental cleanings also helps reduce your risk for cavities because we are helping you remove the dangerous bacteria that plaque contains.  This is particularly important if you are having difficulty brushing and flossing your teeth.

  1. We modify dental care during pregnancy.

There are some conditions, like severe gum disease, large cavities, or dental infections, that require urgent treatment.  The risk of the dental work causing a problem is much lower than the risk of the infection harming your baby.

At Timberlake Dental, our dentist works with your other healthcare professionals to make sure you are receiving the safest and best care possible.  We follow this protocol for health concerns of all types, like high blood pressure, diabetes, or autoimmune conditions.

We take pregnancy and your safety very seriously.  Research has shown that the safest time to have dental work is during your second trimester.  Dr. Chowning will obtain clearance from your Ob/Gyn to perform any necessary dental work.  He will get specific permission for dental x-rays and local anesthetic.

Are You Pregnant or Have a Loved One Who Is?

Call 972-347-1145 today to schedule an evaluation with Dr. Chowning.  He will discuss your specific risk areas with you and help you develop a plan to keep your mouth healthy throughout your pregnancy! 

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What Does Sleep Apnea Have to Do with My Teeth?

Many of our newer patients are surprised to hear us asking about their quality of sleep.  To some, it may seem like sleep problems and dentistry are completely unrelated.

There is a two-way link between dentistry and sleep-disordered breathing issues like sleep apnea.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition when a person stops breathing for any amount of time while he is sleeping.  The word “apnea” simply means not breathing.  The diagnosis of mild, moderate or severe sleep apnea depends on the number of times a person stops breathing per hour.

When sleep apnea results from a faulty signal in the brain, it is a central sleep apnea.  When a physical closure of the airway causes a person to stop breathing, it is an obstructive sleep apnea.

This blog deals primarily with obstructive sleep apnea.

The Effects of Sleep Apnea on the Teeth

Increased Risk for Nighttime Grinding and/or Clenching

When a person stops breathing, the brain perceives a lack of oxygen very rapidly.  The brain then sends signals to various parts of the body to open the airway and breathe.

One of the ways your body subconsciously opens the airway is by closing the jaws and either tightly clenching the upper and lower teeth together or pressing the lower jaw forward.  This is how sleep apnea causes people to clench or grind their teeth.

The heavy forces placed on teeth by clenching and grinding are higher than normal chewing forces, and they damage the teeth, dental work, gums and jawbone.

All of the following are signs that you may be clenching or grinding your teeth.

  • Cracked teeth
  • Broken dental work, like fillings, crowns and bridges
  • Receding gums
  • Notches in the tooth by the gums
  • Flattening or shortening of the teeth
  • Loss of enamel on the biting surfaces

Many dentists are aware that the cause of these dental problems is teeth clenching and/or grinding.  At Timberlake Dental, Dr. Chowning looks deeper to find the cause of the grinding!

Increased Risk for Acid Erosion

Sleep apnea causes many people to suffer from acid reflux or GERD.  When an obstruction blocks the airway, the lungs create a suction effect when attempting to breathe.  This suction pulls acid up out of the stomach into the esophagus and mouth.

Stomach acid is extremely acidic and corrosive to teeth.  Just as acid can etch and soften glass, it can soften and weaken tooth enamel.  Patients with sleep apnea often show tell-tale signs of acid erosion on their enamel.  This acid does not effect dental work, so fillings appear to be protruding out of a tooth.  They are not actually protruding; they just appear so because the surrounding enamel has eroded away.

The Effects of the Jaws on Sleep Apnea

Many people know that obesity is a risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea.  The extra weight in the face, neck and tongue press on the airway causing a physical obstruction when laying down to sleep.

A lesser-known risk factor is the growth and development of the lower jaw.  Patients with a small lower jaw or severe overbite are at a high risk of sleep apnea because they are very likely to have a small airway.

Dr. Chowning has extensive training in evaluation of the growth and development of the jaws.  They can spot this risk factor very early in life.  When caught early, problems in jaw growth and development can be intercepted and corrected as your child grows.

Do You or a Loved One Have Sleep Apnea?

If you or a loved one have sleep apnea and are concerned about its effect on your teeth, please call today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning. He will explain your specific risk factors for dental problems related to sleep-disordered breathing.

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I Just Ate a Candy Cane.  Now What?!?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  It could also be the sweetest.  Are you like Buddy the Elf?  “We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup.”  While we love Buddy and that beloved Christmas movie, we’re not so sure about his nutritional advice.

While you and your family are enjoying the sweet treats of the season, keep these tips in mind to ward off “sugar bugs” (the cutesy name we use for the bacteria that cause cavities).

Helpful Tips for Fighting Cavities

When it comes to fighting cavities during the holiday season, you either have to say NO to the sweets or up your oral hygiene game.  Despite our reputation (as dentists) of wanting to take all the fun out of candy, we really do want you to enjoy the Christmas season!  Here are our tips for enjoying your holiday goodies and fighting cavities at the same time.

  1. Rinse with water!

Immediately after having candy or sweets, gently swish some plain old water around in your mouth.  This helps to dislodge small sugar-packed food or candy particles out of the nooks and crannies in your teeth.  It also brings the pH in your mouth back to neutral more quickly than it would return on its own.  The bacteria in our mouths produce acid when they eat sugar.  That acid is what does all the damage of cavities.  Keeping a neutral pH in your mouth is vital to fighting cavities.

  1. Chew sugar-free gum, preferably with xylitol.

Did you know your saliva is better than water?  It has a higher pH, and it contains enzymes that fight bacteria in your mouth.  By chewing sugar-free gum, you are stimulating the natural production of saliva.  Both the flavor of the gum and the chewing motion cause more saliva to flow.

Xylitol is a bonus!  Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol found in plants that actually kills the bad bacteria in your mouth.  The bacteria eat xylitol, thinking it is sugar, but then they cannot digest it and die.  Our favorite xylitol-containing gum is Ice Cubes.  It comes in a wide variety of flavors and is available at most grocery stores and convenience stores.  Grab a few packs today and start chewing!

  1. Add a fluoride mouthrinse to your oral hygiene routine.

If you are not already using a mouthrinse, this is the time to start!  If you are using a mouthrinse, but it does not contain fluoride, it is time to make a switch.  Fluoride is the best ingredient in oral care products for fighting cavities.

Fluoride strengthens enamel, making it more resistant to acid attacks from bacteria.  By adding a fluoride rinse to your oral hygiene routine, you are making your teeth stronger and less likely to get cavities.

Because fluoride should stay on the teeth as long as possible, we recommend rinsing with a fluoride-containing mouthrinse AFTER brushing and flossing your teeth.  Do not rinse your mouth with water after rinsing with fluoride.  Let it be the last thing on your teeth before your head hits the pillow.

  1. Commit to great oral hygiene practices.

This is not the time of year to slack off with brushing and flossing your teeth!  People eat more sugar, drink more alcohol, and snack more frequently during the day in the holiday season.  All of these things increase the risk for cavities.

Make sure to stick to a consistent oral hygiene routine that includes:

  • Twice daily brushing, after breakfast and before bedtime
  • Once nightly flossing before bedtime
  • Rinsing with a fluoride mouthrinse after brushing and flossing
  • Use any additional teeth cleaning tools your dentist or dental hygienist have recommended, like a water flosser, interdental brushes, etc . . .
  1. Know your cavity risk.

Unfortunately, some people just have a higher risk for cavities than others do.  No, it’s not fair, but it is just the way things are.  If you have a high risk for cavities, these tips are even more important for you.

Do you know what your cavity risk level is?  If not, schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning today.  He will assess your teeth and gums, telling you specifics about your risk areas.  Remember that old G.I. Joe saying: “Knowing is half the battle!”  That is certainly true for your cavity risk.  Once you know it, you can take the appropriate measures to fight it!

More Questions about Sweet Christmas Treats?

Call 940-382-1750 today to schedule a visit with Dr. Chowning or our dental hygienists.  We can answer any candy question you have!

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Healthy Holidays

The holidays are filled with fun gatherings of friends and family.  This time of year, more than any other, those gatherings seem to be overflowing with SUGAR.  Your office lounge is full of sweet treats from vendors and customers.  Your neighbors bring over tins of cookies and candy.  Maybe your stocking is stuffed with Hershey’s Miniatures.

The holidays are sweet, but don’t let the sugar overload give you a bad report at your next dental visit!

How to Keep Your Teeth Healthy During the Holidays

People often joke about their scales telling tales of Christmas indulgences.  In the same way, your teeth could be tattling on you for some bad habits throughout the holiday season.  No one wants to gain weight, and no one wants cavities.  These tips may not keep you from adding on a few pounds, but they will keep you from adding some extra dental visits.

Keep Good Habits, Cut Out the Bad Ones

Late night holiday parties may lead you to develop some bad habits, like midnight snacking, drinking late into the night, or going to bed without brushing and flossing.  Perhaps your family time is a little stressful and has you drinking more wine or indulging in some emotional eating.

Whatever the situation, if it causes you to consume a larger quantity of sweets and acidic drinks, or to consume them more frequently between meals, it could be damaging your teeth.

Try to stick to good habits of oral hygiene.  Make sure to brush your teeth in the morning after breakfast as you start your day, and at night before bed as you end your day.  Nightly flossing is a must for fighting cavities.  If you have a high cavity risk, add a mouthwash containing fluoride after you brush and floss.  This will strengthen your enamel and help you resist new cavities.

Limit Your Intake of Sweets and Acidic Drinks

Almost everyone knows that sugar causes cavities.  Many people do not know that acidic drinks can cause them, too.  What is an acidic drink?  The most common ones are listed here, but a general rule is this:  If it is not plain water, it is probably acidic.

  • Soft drinks like Coke and Dr. Pepper
  • Diet soft drinks
  • Sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade
  • Sugar free sports drinks
  • Sparkling water like La Croix and Topo Chico
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Wine

Many of these are a double whammy because they are acidic, and they contain a very large amount of sugar.  As the acid in the drink lowers the pH of your mouth, the bad cavity-causing bacteria thrive and create cavities faster.

Choose Chocolate over Sticky Sweets

Chocolate is by far the best candy for your teeth.  The fat content helps to balance the high sugar level.  The darker the chocolate, the healthier it is for your teeth.

Sticky candies, like gumdrops, caramels, or any soft gummy treats, are the worst for your teeth.  Their sticky nature allows them to adhere to your tooth’s enamel for an extended period of time, giving the bacteria a longer feast.  The longer sugar sticks to the teeth, the more likely it is to cause a cavity.

Follow Up Sweets or Acidic Drinks with Water

After you enjoy a holiday treat, whether that is a candy cane or a glass of wine, follow it up with plain water.  Swish the water around to dislodge any sugary or acidic debris.  This helps bring your mouth back to a neutral pH until you can get to the bathroom to brush and floss.

If water is always the last thing you consume, you will lower your risk for getting cavities!

Don’t Let a Toothache Disrupt Your Christmas

If you have a tooth that is bothering you, do not put it off.  Trying to find emergency dental care over the holidays can be more painful than the toothache is!

Do not let an annoyance grow into an emergency.  If a tooth does not feel quite right, let us take a look at it before it gets any worse.  Call us ASAP to schedule an appointment before Christmas!

Merry Christmas from Timberlake Dental!

We wish our patients, friends and blog readers a lovely, joy-filled Christmas.  It is our privilege to care for you.

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