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What is Fluoride, and Why Does It Matter?

Written by Valley Oak Dental Group on . Posted in Dental Tips

You’ve likely heard about fluoride your whole life, especially in a dental context. You’ve heard about fluoride treatments, fluoride toothpaste, and fluoridated water. Dentists seem to recommend it. However, you may not know what exactly fluoride is or why it’s so important to your teeth.

On the other hand, you may have heard that fluoride is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. Many people are opposed to water fluoridation and deny that fluoride has any benefits. While it is true that fluoride can have adverse health effects, when used at recommended levels, it can protect your teeth and strengthen your bones.

What is Fluoride?

Fluoride is an ion of the chemical fluorine and most often occurs as a salt. Many people are exposed to it naturally through the water they drink and the food they eat, but natural fluoride levels aren’t consistent around the world.

Fluoride matters to humans because it strengthens teeth and bones and prevents tooth decay. Because fluoride is a mineral, it bonds with your tooth enamel, hardening it and repairing damage.

No matter how well you brush and floss, your enamel will weaken or wear away over time and as a natural part of aging. Fluoride can reverse some of your enamel loss, which makes it harder for cavities to form.

A lack of fluoride leads to weak bones and increased cavities, so doctors recommend that adults get between three and four milligrams of fluoride a day. This small amount can easily be achieved by following your daily oral care routine.

Where Can I Find Fluoride?

Some foods and drinks, such as tea, contain fluoride. Tea leaves absorb excess fluoride in their environment, transferring the mineral to you when you enjoy a cup of your favorite hot beverage. A cup of black tea will give you about 10 percent of your fluoride requirement for the day.

Another great source of fluoride is seafood since ocean water contains high fluoride deposits. Other foods like fruits and vegetables that grew with fluoridated water also contain trace amounts of the mineral. However, most people get their daily recommended dose from drinking water and using fluoridated toothpaste.

Although fluoride is naturally present in water, the amount varies, which means that some areas receive more than the recommended dose, while others don’t receive enough fluoride. To counteract these variable levels, 25 countries, including the United States, recommend supplementing the national water supply with fluoride. Other countries provide fluoride to citizens by adding it to table salt.

You can also apply fluoride topically through toothpaste and dentist-administered fluoride treatments. These options have the most immediate effect on your teeth. Most commercial toothpaste contains trace amounts of fluoride, just enough to give your enamel a boost. But, you can get prescription toothpaste that contains more fluoride if you need to take in extra fluoride.

When you receive fluoride treatments, your dentist might use a gel or foam tray or a varnish. In each case, the treatments contain a much higher fluoride concentration than toothpaste or enhanced water, so you’ll only need one or two treatments a year.

Will Fluoride Harm Me?

Many people worry that consuming fluoride or using fluoridated toothpaste will lead to fluoride poisoning and permanent damage. It’s true that fluoride is toxic in high doses and can lead to bone deformities. However, according to the World Health Organization, fluoride only becomes dangerous when ingested at levels of 1.5 milligrams per liter.

In other words, fluoride can hurt your health if you ingest around 100 mg a day. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends community drinking water in the United States contain 0.7 milligrams per liter. These numbers are far below harmful levels and in line with the amount found to benefit teeth.

However, fluoride does pose more of a risk to children. Since the toxicity of fluoride depends on the weight of the individual, the smaller you are, the easier it is to ingest harmful levels. If you want your children to avoid ingesting too much fluoride, use only tiny amounts of fluoridated toothpaste to clean your child’s teeth until they turn three. Otherwise, drinking fluoridated water is fine, and even necessary, for developing strong teeth.

If you live in a neighborhood with fluoridated water and you regularly brush your teeth, you don’t need to worry about getting any additional supplementation (beyond annual dental treatments.) Contact your local water provider to see if your water contains fluoride. If it doesn’t, talk to your dentist about what your other options are.

Fluoride sometimes has a bad reputation, and you may be hesitant to expose yourself to this mineral. However, the WHO and the CDC both recognize the importance of fluoride to human health, particularly for those prone to tooth decay or brittle bones.

Talk to a dentist at Valley Oak Dental Group for more information about fluoride and whether you might be at risk for tooth decay.

Want to Improve Your Teeth? Break These 6 Bad Habits

Written by Valley Oak Dental Group on . Posted in Dental Tips

There always seems to be room for improvement when it comes to your dental and oral health. Many people want to improve how their smiles look, and those who have good oral and dental health want to maintain their pearly, straight smiles.

If you’ve tried cosmetic dentistry, orthodontic care, or other dental services to improve your smile but still suffer from crooked, chipped or otherwise damaged teeth, your bad habits may be the culprit.

Below, we list six bad habits that negatively impact your dental and oral health. Read on to learn which common habits damage teeth and what you can do to break your habits and better your smile.

1. Brushing Your Teeth Too Hard

You know that you need to brush your teeth twice daily to maintain good oral health. But did you ever think that brushing could actually damage your teeth? If you brush your teeth too hard, you can cause the enamel to wear down, increase your teeth’s sensitivity to the cold, and irritate your gums.

Use gentle strokes and repetition to thoroughly clean your teeth when you brush them. Additionally, you should always use a soft-bristled toothbrush. The bristles on this kind of toothbrush are strong enough to remove plaque from your teeth, but are still soft enough that they won’t cause damage.

2. Clenching Your Teeth

Do you ever wake up in the mornings with a stiff, sore jaw or headaches? Chances are you have a condition called bruxism, or teeth grinding. Most people grind their teeth as a result of stress, anxiety, sleep apnea, or another condition.

Occasional teeth grinding or clenching won’t cause too much harm to your teeth. However, consistent grinding or clenching can wear down your teeth abnormally fast. To avoid damaging your teeth from teeth clenching or grinding, reduce your stress and anxiety levels. If another condition causes bruxism, treat that issue as soon as possible.

Sometimes, however, you may need to sleep with a night guard to protect your teeth from the effects of nighttime grinding and clenching.

3. Consuming Harmful Foods and Drinks

You don’t often think of all foods and drinks being harmful to your body. However, many foods can severely damage your teeth if you consume enough of them over a period of time. The following foods and drinks can cause damage to your smile:

  • Soda
  • Coffee
  • Cough drops
  • Gummy bears
  • Lemons and other acidic fruits
  • Sports drinks
  • Starch foods, like potato chips
  • Wine

Though consuming these foods in moderation is alright, eating and drinking them in large quantities can cause a lot of damage to your teeth. If you do eat or drink these items on a regular basis, cut back.

When you drink that glass of wine with dinner or snack on potato chips, simply rinse your mouth out with water after you’ve finished. The water will wash away remaining food particles and sugars that will harm your teeth if they stay in your mouth for too long.

4. Playing Sports Without Protective Gear

If you enjoy playing contact sports, you know you must wear protective gear to keep your body safe during each game. You should also wear protective gear over your head or in your mouth (depending on the sport) to protect your mouth and teeth from harm.

Wear mouthguards while you play to protect your teeth, tongue, gums, and mouth from damage. You should also wear headgear in sports like football and hockey to prevent serious damage. If you get hit in the face or mouth by another player or by a piece of sporting equipment, your mouthguard and other protective gear will reduce your chances for losing a tooth or severely biting your tongue.

5. Sucking on Fingers

This bad habit applies specifically to children, but if left unaddressed, sucking on fingers can cause damage that affects a child into their teens and adulthood. Once a child’s permanent teeth emerge, he or she should not suck on his or her fingers-especially the thumb.

Sucking on a thumb or on fingers can cause the teeth to misalign. When a child’s teeth become misaligned, he or she could have develop other serious issues such as breathing and chewing problems. Talk to your child’s pediatrician for tips on breaking this bad habit.

6. Using Your Teeth as a Tool

At some point or another, everyone has used their teeth as a tool. You may have used your teeth to hold a writing instrument if your hands were occupied. Maybe you used your teeth to cut tape or open up a package.

This use of your teeth can cause you to accidentally chip, crack, or otherwise damage a tooth. Though it may seem easy to use your teeth for different tasks, don’t use them improperly. Don’t use your teeth as a tool.

How to Get Started

Use the tips in this blog to break any habits that could be harming your smile. Visit your dentist regularly as well to receive biannual checkups and exams. If you want additional tips on how to break these habits or how to further improve your smile, consult with your dental expert.

Halitosis and You: Overcoming Bad Breath

Written by Valley Oak Dental Group on . Posted in Uncategorized

You’ve got an important interview coming up-one that you hope will lead to fantastic new opportunities. You carefully prepare, arrive a few minutes early, and anxiously wait for the door to open. Eventually, you find yourself across a desk from the interviewer. You shake hands, open your mouth to say hello, and immediately feel ashamed. The smell of your bad breath has just filled the room.

Bad breath, or halitosis, happens to most people, and it strikes at the most inconvenient times. You don’t want your stale breath to ruin that important interview, date, or special moment with friends or a loved one. But how do you keep your breath fresh, even if it’s been a few hours since you last brushed and flossed?

Understanding Halitosis

Bad breath is usually caused by bacteria in your mouth. Your saliva is filled with bacteria at all times, but if that bacteria builds up, it can give off a foul odor that hurts your reputation and your relationships.

It’s difficult to know if you have bad breath because your nose adjusts to your body’s odors extremely quickly. And to be frank, everyone has bad breath from time to time, like just after waking up or eating something garlicky. But you may have been told by a trusted love one that you have bad breath frequently, and if so, it’s time to take action.

If you’re concerned that you have frequent halitosis and that those in your life are too embarrassed to tell you, try this little test: smell your floss after you use it this evening. If your floss smells badly (or has blood on it), your breath almost certainly smells stale and sour.

Frequent Causes

So you have bad breath-now what? Understanding the causes of that smelly bacteria buildup can sometimes help you to freshen your breath. Here are some main causes of halitosis:

A dry mouth. Your saliva serves an important purpose: it rinses your mouth and washes away bacteria and food particles that cling to your teeth and gums. But if you have a dry mouth, your mouth doesn’t produce the saliva it needs to keep breath fresh. Breathing through your mouth, taking certain medications, or suffering from a salivary gland problem could be the cause.

Gum disease. Some bacteria in your mouth can build up to form a sticky yellow substance called plaque. This bacteria is a hotbed for disease, and it can damage your gums and decay your teeth. Many people can dislodge the plaque by brushing and flossing, but some people have an overabundance of plaque or already have advanced gum disease.

Smoking. Tobacco is filled with chemicals that cause severe health problems and a long list of unfortunate symptoms, one of which is bad breath. Smoking also causes loss of taste and smell, lung and throat cancer, and faster tooth decay. If you smoke frequently and have bad breath, you don’t have to look much further for a cause.

Food. Some foods are smellier than others, especially when mixed with the natural chemistry that occurs in your mouth, throat, and stomach. Foods with garlic or onion often cause bad breath, as does coffee. Additionally, all kinds of foods leave debris in your mouth, even after you’ve swallowed. These remnants often cause that stale breath smell.

Eliminating Bad Breath

There is an additional cause of halitosis that you should be aware of. In some cases, halitosis is a warning sign of a more severe medical condition; everything from acid reflux to diabetes, kidney disease, or a serious sinus condition. That’s why it’s so important that you see your dentist frequently.

If you suffer from the effects of bad breath, your dentist can identify the cause of halitosis and ensure that it isn’t the result of a more serious medical condition. If he or she suspects that something is wrong, you may need to speak with your physician to learn more.

In most cases, however, halitosis is simply the cause of smelly bacteria in your mouth, and it can almost always be treated through your own efforts. Your dentist will help you learn about how you can personally eliminate bad breath, but here are some ideas that often do the trick:

  • Brush and floss. You should be cleaning your teeth thoroughly at least twice a day. If you still suffer from bad breath, you may want to brush and floss after eating as well.
  • Scrape your tongue. Your tongue collects all kinds of bacteria-in fact, if you stick your tongue out, you’ll probably see a coating on the back of your tongue that looks a bit white or brownish. Scrape away that coating with a tongue scraper or toothbrush, and your breath will immediately improve.
  • Clean your dentures or retainer each day.
  • Use a mouthwash to kill bacteria or dislodge food debris. (Remember, don’t ever replace brushing and flossing with a mouthwash rinse.) Drink lots of water, chew a sugar-free gum, or eat healthy snacks. Doing so stimulates your saliva flow and helps keep your breath fresh. Stop smoking and avoid smelly foods.

Your dentist will help you overcome bad breath. Don’t live with the embarrassment of stale, stinky breath-get help today!

Acid Reflux and Dental Health: What You Need to Know

Written by Valley Oak Dental Group on . Posted in Dental Procedures & Services

Your teeth feel more sensitive than usual lately, especially when you eat or drink something cold. You suspect that you might have another cavity, but can’t understand how-after all, you brush and floss twice a day, and you even use mouthwash faithfully. Why are you getting so many cavities when you take such good care of your teeth?

What many people don’t realize is that tooth decay is caused by more than just built-up plaque or food-borne bacteria. One major culprit of severe tooth decay and other oral health issues is acid reflux disease.

If you never experience heartburn, you might assume you don’t have acid reflux disease. But even if you don’t experience chest pain after eating, you may have other acid reflux symptoms. Read more below to find out if you may need to speak with a doctor and dentist about acid reflux disease.

What Is Acid Reflux Disease?

Acid reflux disease is relatively common among Americans-in fact, the US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that at least 7 million Americans suffer from this disease. But what is acid reflux?

A little anatomy lesson is needed to understand acid reflux disease. When you swallow food, your stomach produces hydrochloric acid, which helps break down the food so that it can be absorbed into your body and give you the energy and nutrition you need.

Acid is hard on the stomach, of course, so the lining of your stomach simultaneously creates mucus, which protects your stomach. Your throat does not create this protective mucus, but it has another defense: a ring of tissue in your lower esophagus. This ring opens to let food into the stomach and closes before stomach acid can splash up into your soft throat.

When you have acid reflux, however, your esophagus doesn’t close quickly enough, and stomach acid damages your throat every time you eat.

What Are the Symptoms of Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux disease is no laughing matter, especially when you consider the symptoms. Acid on flesh doesn’t feel very good, and your throat may be experiencing that kind of pain every time you eat a meal.

Sometimes, that pain is revealed in the form of heartburn: that burning discomfort you feel in your chest after eating. Other symptoms may include:

  • Bloating
  • Sour burping and regurgitation
  • Constant hiccups
  • Dysphagia, a reaction that feels like there is food stuck in your throat
  • A chronic sore throat or constant cough Bloody stools or vomiting

No one wants to live with symptoms like that, and you don’t have to. A gastroenterologist can treat your acid reflux disease.

But if you’re not experiencing any of these symptoms, why should you worry about acid reflux? Your dentist might have an opinion about that, and for good reason. Acid reflux doesn’t just damage your throat and your stomach-it also eats away at your smile.

What Are the Dental Implications?

The stomach acid that rushes back into your throat has a pH level of 2.0, which is extremely acidic and chemically corrosive. The enamel on your teeth-that extra layer that protects the sensitive nerves in your teeth-has a pH level of 5.5. In other words, when stacked against stomach acid, dental enamel doesn’t stand a chance.

Once the enamel on your teeth has eroded away, you can’t get it back. And because enamel is the only thing protecting your teeth from bacteria, tooth decay and painful oral issues are often the result of acid reflux. In fact, aside from heartburn, rapid tooth decay is usually how dentists and doctors figure out that a patient has acid reflux.

Symptoms like tooth decay and heartburn don’t have to occur simultaneously for you to be certain that you have acid reflux. You may only experience heartburn, but don’t be fooled. Your teeth are also taking a lot of abuse from that splashing stomach acid as well.

What Can You Do About Acid Reflux?

If you suspect that you may suffer from acid reflux disease but don’t have any symptoms beyond tooth pain, the very first thing to do is contact your dentist or doctor with your suspicions. You dentist can inspect your teeth and throat, refer you to a gastroenterologist, and help you develop a dental plan that protects your teeth from further decay.

In this case, brushing your teeth frequently more may be a detriment, rather than a benefit, to your dental health. This is because tooth-brushing can work acid deeper into your teeth and destroy your enamel faster. If you have acid reflux disease, your dentist might advise you to take the following steps:

  • Stop smoking immediately.
  • Avoid acidic, spicy, and fried foods and eliminate dairy from your diet.
  • Do not brush your teeth until about an hour after you’ve eaten. After you eat, rinse your mouth with water.

Your dentist will know how best to protect your teeth and repair any damage that your acid reflux may have caused. Don’t wait to seek treatment, and consult with your dentist and doctor as soon as possible if you think you may have this disease.