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.

Children and Teeth: 5 Tips to Encourage Good Oral Health

Written by Valley Oak Dental on . Posted in Pediatric Dentistry

For you, brushing and flossing your teeth seems like an easy habit to maintain. After all, you’ve taken care of your teeth in this manner since you were a child. But you likely didn’t always adhere to these good oral habits when you were younger. If you have children of your own, they may not enjoy brushing or flossing their teeth either.

However, your children should develop good oral health habits as soon as they cut their first tooth-if not sooner. Even if one of your children doesn’t have a tooth, you should still teach him or her to care for his or her gums.

Sometimes children aren’t the most accommodating when it comes to caring for their teeth. But as their parent, you want your children to stay healthy-and you definitely want them to maintain good oral hygiene habits. Yet if your children put up a fight when they need to brush their teeth, you may find it difficult to meet this goal.

In the blog below, we provide a few tips that you can use to promote good oral health in your children-regardless of how much they like or dislike brushing and flossing. Read on to learn some additional steps you can take as a parent.

1. Choose the Right Toothpaste and Toothbrush

Even if your children don’t like to brush their teeth, you can still find ways to help them develop the habit. First, you should choose the right kind of toothbrush and toothpaste for your children to use. Make sure to purchase a kid-friendly, fluoridated toothpaste. Fluoride strengthens and supports teeth, so you’ll want your children to use this kind of toothpaste as they brush.

You’ll also want to buy child-sized, soft-bristle toothbrushes for your children. Baby teeth require more delicate care, and the smaller brush and softer bristles make this form of care easier to achieve.

To further excite your children about brushing their teeth, let them pick out their own toothbrushes. Look for toothbrushes with their favorite TV characters or colors on them.

You can even let them pick a different flavor of toothpaste. Though plain mint toothpastes may be your preference, children don’t always like the taste of mint. Consider different flavors like strawberry, bubblegum, or watermelon.

2. Lead by Example

The easiest way to promote good oral health in your children is to show them why oral hygiene habits are important. As your children prepare for bed, brush your teeth with them. Children tend to adopt the same habits and mannerisms their parents have. So, if they see you brush and floss regularly, they’re more likely to follow in your footsteps.

3. Limit Sugary Foods and Drinks

According to dental experts, cavities are five times more common in children than asthma. Additionally, cavities are considered the number one disease that affects young children.

To promote good oral health and reduce your children’s risk for developing dental caries, limit the amount of sugary foods and drinks they consume each day. Use the following tips as you set limits:

Don’t give your children soda. These drinks contain high levels of sugar and phosphoric acid that can seriously damage your children’s teeth.

Swap out most drinks for water or milk. If you do give your children juice to drink, water it down if possible.

Avoid giving your children sugary treats close to bedtime. The sugars in these foods can stay in your children’s mouths as they sleep, giving bacteria a chance to grow and affect their teeth.

During the holidays, limit the amount of candy your children consume. For example, during Halloween and Christmas, you can create a candy bank and let children have one or two pieces each day.

Setting limits may seem difficult, but these rules can protect your children’s teeth from damage. If your children don’t understand why they can’t eat too much sugar, explain to them that too many sweets can hurt their teeth. You can also talk to your dentist and have him or her explain this concept to your children.

4. Provide Well-Balanced Meals

Additionally, your children should eat well-balanced meals and snacks to ensure good oral health. Limit the amount of starchy foods they consume. Bacteria can turn these starches to sugars, and then the bacteria consume those sugars and produce an acid which can damage teeth.

Instead, provide meals that include a range of fruits and vegetables. Also include meats, dairy, and good fats (like avocados or nuts).

A well-balanced diet contains vitamins and minerals your children need to stay healthy overall. And those same vitamins and minerals are crucial for good oral health. The more balanced your children’s diet, the better their oral health will be.

5. Visit Your Dentist

Finally, remember to visit your children’s dentist at least twice a year. He or she can examine your children’s teeth and catch any dental issues before they develop too far. Your dentist can even teach your children good brushing and flossing techniques to make these routines more fun.

If your children don’t brush or floss as often or well as you’d like, try some of the tips listed above to encourage good oral health. You can also ask your children’s dentist for further tips and advice to keep their teeth healthy and strong.