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A Family’s Guide for Keeping Your Teeth Healthy This Summer

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

When the warmth and freedom of summer finally hit, the health of your teeth might be the last thing on your mind. However, some common summer activities and diets can actually make the warm months one of the most dangerous times of the year for your dental health.

This guide can help you understand common summer dangers so you don’t inadvertently harm your teeth. This guide is especially important to consider if you have children, because kids are less likely to remember or place a priority on dental hygiene, especially with the excitement of summer activities. 

Wisdom Teeth: Do Yours Need to be Pulled?

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

Many have told frightening tales about wisdom tooth removal and the painful recovery, so you may naturally feel apprehensive about getting yours removed. Extracting wisdom teeth is a very common dental procedure; about 85 percent of the general population get their wisdom teeth removed because this third set of adult molars can cause painful dental problems. 

How do you know if your wisdom teeth should be removed? This guide can help you learn about wisdom teeth and the symptoms that indicate your wisdom teeth will only cause pain and damage.

Dental Crowns: How to Know Which Material Is Right for You

Written by Valley Oak Dental on . Posted in Dental Tips


Dental crowns are one of the most common types of cosmetic and restorative dentistry. They provide support for cracked, broken, decayed, or misshapen teeth. There are many reasons for getting dental crowns, but many patients are surprised to learn that crowns vary widely in cost and even appearance.

Here’s what you need to know about different materials used to make permanent dental crowns, so you can choose which material is right for your smile. 

Your Guide to Adjusting to New Dentures

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

When people find out they need dentures, they often feel apprehensive. They worry that their new teeth will slip and slide and feel uncomfortable. They also worry that people will notice their new pearly whites.

Modern dentures can relieve many of these worries. Modern dentures are custom-made to fit snugly in your mouth. Your dentist makes an impression of your mouth before giving you your new dentures. The impression ensures that your dentures will fit the shape of your mouth and gums.

But even custom-made dentures take some getting used to. Follow these steps to make the adjustment easier.

Oil Pulling and Your Teeth: 3 Things You Should Know

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

In recent years, oil pulling has peaked in popularity. Red-carpet celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Shailene Woodley swear by the technique, asserting that oil pulling naturally whitens teeth and freshens breath. And naturally, thousands upon thousands of fans have followed suit, claiming to have almost miraculous results.

But is oil pulling as beneficial to your teeth as it seems?

Here are a few of the most important things you should know about oil pulling and its effects.

1. It’s in a Scientific Gray Area

Oil pulling isn’t a newly discovered trend in pseudo-science. In fact, the technique has long been a traditional Ayurveda treatment for reducing dry mouth and inflammation.

Researchers have had plenty of time to conduct a few studies on oil pulling’s effectiveness. In one study, experts found that oil pulling reduced S. Mutans (bacteria known to cause cavities and tooth decay) levels in two weeks. Researchers concluded that oil pulling could maintain and even improve oral health.

But the American Dental Association isn’t too impressed with the research just yet. The conducted studies often had a cultural bias, a small sample size, and a lack of negative controls. Additional clinical evidence is needed to fully determine the oral effects oil pulling has and whether it compares to other oral hygiene practices.

While anecdotal evidence shows promise, you might want to keep your toothbrush and floss handy until more information becomes available.

2. It Can’t Treat Gum Disease

According to a study published in the Nigeria Medical Journal, oil pulling with coconut oil reduced plaque formation and plaque-induced gingivitis. Adolescents who practiced oil pulling for 30 days exhibited a statistically significant decrease in gingival indices.

However, researchers have not proven whether oil pulling removes enough bacteria to decrease the risk of cavities, nor have they compared the effectiveness to the brushing and flossing. While oil pulling could work well for those with relatively healthy teeth and gums, the technique doesn’t present a reliable cure for gingivitis and gum disease.

In severe infections, the gums inflame, swell, and pull away from the teeth, creating pockets that even more bacteria can hide. As gingivitis progresses, these pockets increase from a healthy two or three millimeter depth to a four or five millimeter depth (or more).

As the oils slide along the gum’s surface, they likely won’t fight or remove plaque lodged deep within the gums. Only a professional scaling (scraping) and root planning can clean tartar from below the gum line, so don’t skip out on your dentist appointment just yet.

3. It May Lead to Side Effects

Many people assert that oil pulling causes no side effects and that the technique is completely safe for anyone to try. But as with many other aspects of oil pulling, the side effects need additional study and analyzation.

Some practitioners warn against using improper oil pulling techniques. If performed incorrectly, oil pulling could result in muscular stiffness and exhaustion, excessive thirst, and dry mouth. Others have noted diarrhea, upset stomach, nausea, and flu-like symptoms.

In a few rare cases, individuals who inhaled the oils while oil pulling developed lipoid pneumonia. Symptoms of the condition varied from asymptomatic to life-threatening, but lipoid pneumonia often results in a chronic cough, chest pain, and intermittent fever.

Talk to Your Dentist Before You Try Oil Pulling

Oil pulling has the potential to improve oral health when combined with other solid habits. Rinsing your mouth regularly could stimulate saliva production, which in turn fights bacteria and lifts stains.

But oil pulling isn’t for everyone, even if it does seem to give your favorite celebrities a winning smile or your best friend fresh breath. If you try to use the technique as a cure-all or a substitute for scientifically proven practices, you may find yourself with more cavities than you anticipated.

If you are curious about trying oil pulling, talk to your dentist about the risks and whether it would benefit your teeth and gums.

The Tooth Hurts: 8 Causes of Dental Pain

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

It’s been a long day, and you’re just sitting down with a bowl of your favorite ice cream. As you put on your current television obsession, you scoop a bit of ice cream into your mouth.

And then it hits: an overwhelming, stinging pain in several of your teeth.

Tooth pain isn’t fun for anyone. It can be distracting and frustrating, and it can quickly turn a great day into a sour one. But what causes tooth pain? There are actually a lot of dental conditions that can cause tooth pain, and each seems to have its own brand of intense and biting pain. Below, we’ll discuss eight causes of tooth pain and what type of pain you might experience with each condition.

1. Thinning Enamel or Receding Gums

If you’re experiencing some sharp sensitivity to cold and hot foods and beverages, you may have an issue with your enamel or gums. Avoid the hot coffee for a while and schedule an appointment with your dentist. He or she can help you find the right solutions to strengthen your enamel and restore your gums.

Until you make it to your appointment, stick to a toothpaste for sensitive teeth and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Also, try not to brush too hard, as doing so can have a negative impact on your gums.

2. Decay

Decay is the top cause of tooth pain, and it can lead to other painful dental issues. If one of your teeth is a bit sensitive to hot and cold foods, a small portion of your tooth is starting to decay. But if you’re experiencing a severe, sudden pain when you bite down, the decay may have overtaken your tooth.

Go see your dentist if you suspect decay is the problem. They can evaluate your tooth and determine the best course of action.

3. Cavities

Sometimes, decay can result in a cavity. Most cavities may go unnoticed until you see the dentist, but if the cavity grows enough, you may be left in a painful situation. Cold and hot foods will bring out that sharp sensitivity in the affected tooth, or biting and chewing will result in a bolt of intense pain.

Luckily, most cavities are quick fixes. Visit your dentist to get a filling and return to your pain-free life.

4. A Loose or Damaged Filling

While fillings are handy and wonderful appliances, they can sometimes turn against you. A damaged or loose filling can provoke a sharp pain whenever you bite down. Chewing gum will be painful, and enjoying a steak will be impossible. Take a trip to your dentist and have him or her take a look at your fillings. If your fillings look a little worse for wear, your dentist can replace or repair them.

5. Damaged Pulp in the Tooth

When a mouthful of cold lemonade turns into an extended bout of pain, you may have damaged pulp in one of your teeth. Pulp can be damaged by extensive decay or some kind of trauma to the tooth, and inflamed or dying pulp can cause lingering, painful sensitivity to hot and cold foods.

Schedule an appointment with your dentist before the problem gets worse. You may need a root canal to prevent worse issues, but you can enjoy that cold lemonade again.

6. Temporary Pulp Inflammation

After certain dental treatments, you may experience temporary sensitivity to cold and hot foods. But don’t fret; the sensitivity should go away after a few days or so. However, if the temperature sensitivity persists after a couple weeks, check in with your dentist to ensure nothing’s wrong.

7. Abscessed Tooth or Infection

If you let tooth decay sit too long or your tooth took a beating in the annual family football game, an infection or a tooth abscess can develop. With an abscessed tooth or an infection, you may experience a constant, throbbing pain in your tooth. If you suspect this is the problem, see your dentist immediately before the situation gets out of hand.

8. A Cracked Tooth or Other Trauma

Teeth are fairly resilient most of the time, but breaking a tooth isn’t as difficult as you think. A tooth may unexpectedly crack while chewing on a handful of nuts, or you may break a tooth during a rousing game of street hockey.

When you have a crack in your tooth, it can lead to quite a bit of pain. Chewing can be extremely uncomfortable. Sharp, shooting pain can surge through your broken tooth, and your damaged tooth may also have severe sensitivity to that hot soup or chilled soda. Be sure to visit your dentist right away to repair your tooth.

No matter what kind of dental pain you’re experiencing, call a qualified, reliable dentist, such as Valley Oak Dental Group. We can take a look at your teeth and determine what’s causing your pain before offering the best solution for the situation. Don’t let tooth pain take over your life; schedule an appointment and get back to pain-free living.

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.