Tooth Anatomy 543

HOW MUCH DO you know about what’s on the inside of your teeth? Let’s take a quick look! We feel that the more our patients know about the structure and anatomy of teeth, the better they will understand how to take good care of them and how important that is. Let’s start at the roots and then move up to the crown.

The Roots of Our Teeth

Our teeth are connected to our jaws by the long roots beneath the gums. The roots are held in place and cushioned by the periodontal membrane between them and the surrounding bone. In addition to being shielded from harmful bacteria by the gum tissue, roots have built-in armor called cementum, a hard, calcified substance that coats their surfaces. The tip of each root ends in a tiny hole through which blood vessels and nerves can access the inside of the tooth.

The Layers of a Tooth’s Crown

The crown is the portion of the tooth that we can see above the gums, and it is made of three layers. At the core is the pulp chamber, which is where the blood vessels and nerves from the roots go. This is what makes a tooth alive and why we can feel the temperature of our food and drinks in our teeth, or pain when something is wrong. Keep in mind that tooth pain is a warning sign and a good cue to see the dentist!

Surrounding the pulp is the dentin, which is essentially bone. This layer is naturally somewhat yellowish in color and thicker in adult teeth than baby teeth, which is why there is often a contrast in color between a child’s new adult teeth and the surrounding baby teeth! Microscopic tubules run all throughout the dentin, which is how the nerves in the dental pulp can feel temperature changes.

The outermost layer of our teeth is the protective enamel layer. Enamel is mostly made of inorganic hydroxyapatite crystals, and it is the strongest substance in the body. We’d have a hard time using it to chew our food if it wasn’t! Because it is inorganic, though, enamel can’t repair or replace itself when it is eroded or damaged. That’s where good daily brushing and flossing habits, cutting down on acidic foods and drinks, and regular dental visits come in!

Here’s a quick review of the normal set of adult teeth:

Let’s Keep Teeth Healthy from Crown to Root!

From enamel to pulp, roots to supportive periodontal structures, every part of the tooth and surrounding tissue is important to good dental health. Keep up the good brushing and flossing, and make sure to keep scheduling regular appointments with the dentist!

We love seeing our patients’ smiles!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Bruxism 543

WHEN LIFE GETS stressful or frustrating, a pretty common physical response is teeth-grinding. Unfortunately, it can do a lot of damage if it becomes a habit, and it can even happen while we’re asleep. Chronic teeth grinding is called bruxism.

The Causes of Bruxism

Teeth grinding during the day is sometimes the result of stress, while nighttime bruxism can be associated with snoring or sleep apnea. However, not everyone dealing with stress or a sleep disorder has bruxism, and not everyone with bruxism will also have stress or a sleep disorder. Missing or poorly aligned teeth (including bad bites) can also make bruxism more likely.

Aside from these factors, age also plays a role. Children are actually more likely to grind their teeth than adults. Prescription drugs (particularly antidepressants) can increase the likelihood of grinding, as can tobacco or alcohol use. Bruxism can also run in families, and it can be associated with disorders like GERD, ADHD, and Parkinson’s disease.

Indicators of a Teeth Grinding Habit

In many cases, a person with bruxism might not even be aware of how often they grind their teeth. This is especially true of people with sleep bruxism. Catching the grinding in the act isn’t the only way to know it’s happening, though.

There are several clear indicators, including shortened, worn down teeth with flattened chewing surfaces, damage like chips and cracks in the teeth, exposed dentin (the yellow bony tissue layer beneath the enamel), tooth loss, jaw soreness (in sleep bruxism, the jaw is more sore in the morning, while daytime bruxism leaves the jaw sore by evening), frequent headaches, and even overdeveloped jaw muscles.

Can Bruxism Be Treated?

Treatment for bruxism can vary depending on whether the grinding happens during the waking or sleeping hours. Sometimes the focus is on minimizing damage to the teeth, and sometimes the focus is on discovering the cause of the bruxism and addressing it. If it has to do with a bad bite or alignment problems, orthodontic treatment may fix the problem. A custom mouthguard can protect teeth from further damage by providing a cushion to the chewing surfaces.

Behavioral therapy and relaxation can also help. Habit-reversal techniques can help make patients more aware of when they are grinding so that it is easier to stop. Obviously this strategy is more useful for daytime bruxism. For people who have bruxism as the result of stress or anxiety, relaxation techniques such as massages, calming music, warm baths, a full night’s sleep, deep breathing, and yoga can help manage the stress.

Here are a few quick exercises you can do to relax your jaw:

Let’s Grind Bruxism to a Halt!

If you’ve shown any of the signs of bruxism or are experiencing any of the symptoms, schedule a dental appointment so that it can be diagnosed and treatment can start. The longer bruxism goes untreated, the more damage it can do to the teeth, so the earlier it gets diagnosed, the better!

Let’s keep those teeth healthy together!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Hypoplasia 543

THE AMOUNT OF work it takes to keep a smile healthy and strong can vary from person to person. For some people, simply sticking to a good daily regimen of brushing and flossing and visiting the dentist a couple times a year is enough to keep the cavities away. For others, particularly those with a condition called enamel hypoplasia, it can be much more difficult.

Healthy Tooth Enamel

Tooth enamel forms the outer layer of our teeth. It protects the dentin and pulp from decay and infection. Composed of minerals such as hydroxyapatite, tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, but it is still highly vulnerable to acid erosion. Every day, it goes through cycles of demineralization and remineralization. One of the goals of dental care is to make sure the balance stays tipped in favor of remineralization so the enamel remains strong, but when too much of it wears away, it won’t be able to repair itself.

Enamel Hypoplasia

Enamel forms long before the teeth erupt through the gums. Enamel hypoplasia is a defect that causes enamel to develop poorly. Symptoms include:

  • White spots
  • Yellowish-brown stains
  • Pits, depressions, fissures, and grooves in the teeth
  • Irregular wear
  • Increased vulnerability to cavities and decay

A less severe condition of the tooth enamel is hypomineralization, which results in softer and more translucent enamel due to insufficient mineral content. It may only affect an individual tooth, in which case it is called Turner’s hypoplasia, often the result of an injury or infection while the tooth was still developing.

What Causes Enamel Hypoplasia?

Several hereditary conditions can cause enamel hypoplasia, but there are also environmental causes, like with Turner’s hypoplasia. Prenatal conditions, a lack of prenatal care, and low or premature birth weight can all be problems for healthy tooth formation, as can a deficiency in calcium or vitamins A, C, or D, certain diseases, trauma, or infection.

Maintaining Healthy Teeth with Hypoplasia

Prevention is always an important part of good dental care, and that is especially true for those with enamel hypoplasia. Early diagnosis and treatment of the condition are essential for keeping teeth with malformed enamel healthy. Treatment can mean fillings, crowns, resin-bonded sealant, and professional whitening. The main goals of the treatment are preventing tooth decay, helping to maintain a good bite, preserving the tooth structure, and keeping a good appearance.

The Dentist Can Help

The dentist is a wonderful resource for helping teeth stay healthy, which is why it’s so important to go regularly for cleanings and exams, not just once there’s a serious toothache or other problem. Whether your teeth have healthy enamel or you’re struggling with hypomineralization or hypoplasia, the dentist is your best ally!

We can keep those teeth healthy together!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Pet Dental Care 543

DO OUR PETS need dental care? The answer is yes. But wait, wild animals don’t get dental care and they seem to have good teeth, right? Actually, wild animal dental health isn’t quite what it seems. While their diets consist of less tooth decay-causing sugar and carbs, they also don’t usually survive serious dental problems. Pets, on the other hand, have humans to keep taking care of them, and we should take care of their teeth too.

Pet Dental Health Problems

Just like human mouths, animal mouths contain bacteria that produces plaque. If it’s allowed to build up, plaque becomes tartar and can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. The trouble with pets is that they can’t directly let us know something is wrong with their teeth, and they can’t take care of their own teeth or explain what they feel to a dentist, so it’s easy to miss the signs.

As many as 85% of cats and dogs develop periodontal disease by the time they’re three years old. Symptoms include trouble chewing, loose teeth, and bad breath, but it can also cause more serious symptoms like bleeding or swollen gums, tooth loss, and reduced appetite. Pet owners should be on the watch for these signs so that they can address any problems before they get worse.

Basic Pet Dental Care Tips

As important as it is to keep an eye out for symptoms, it’s better to simply maintain a good pet dental hygiene routine. Prevention is better than a cure, whether we’re talking about human dental health or pet dental health! Here are a few basic things you can do for your furry friend:

  • Brush their teeth daily.
  • Only use veterinary toothpaste (yours will make them sick).
  • Get the vet’s recommendations for dental treats.
  • Have their teeth professionally cleaned. This could be through the regular vet or through a veterinary dental specialist.

Establishing a Brushing Routine

Just as dogs and cats can’t tell us when there’s something wrong with their teeth, they also can’t understand the benefit of brushing them, so sometimes it can be tricky getting them to accept a daily brushing. We recommend brushing when they’re calm, getting down on their level so it’s less intimidating, testing their willingness for brushing by running a finger over their upper gums, and making sure they like the flavor of the veterinary toothpaste.

Healthy Teeth Mean Happier Pets!

There’s nothing better to a pet owner than seeing your pet happy and energetic. A great way we can help them stay that way is by taking care of their teeth. If you’d like to learn more about pet dental care or if you’re struggling to get your pet used to a dental hygiene routine, don’t hesitate to take advantage of resources like the veterinarian or our practice!

What Causes Enamel Hypoplasia?

Several hereditary conditions can cause enamel hypoplasia, but there are also environmental causes, like with Turner’s hypoplasia. Prenatal conditions, a lack of prenatal care, and low or premature birth weight can all be problems for healthy tooth formation, as can a deficiency in calcium or vitamins A, C, or D, certain diseases, trauma, or infection.

Maintaining Healthy Teeth with Hypoplasia

Prevention is always an important part of good dental care, and that is especially true for those with enamel hypoplasia. Early diagnosis and treatment of the condition are essential for keeping teeth with malformed enamel healthy. Treatment can mean fillings, crowns, resin-bonded sealant, and professional whitening. The main goals of the treatment are preventing tooth decay, helping to maintain a good bite, preserving the tooth structure, and keeping a good appearance.

We love our patients!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Ice Chewing 543

YOU’VE PROBABLY HEARD before that it’s bad to chew ice, but do you know why that is? Let’s take a closer look at the damage ice can do to teeth and why many people want to chew ice in the first place.

Pagophagia: Compulsive Ice Eating

Ice eating actually has a scientific name: pagophagia. It isn’t just a bad habit; it can actually indicate an eating disorder called pica, which involves the compulsion to eat things that aren’t food and have zero nutritional value, including hair, dirt, clay, and even ice. A nutritional deficiency can cause pica.

Ice Eating and Iron Deficiency Anemia

Studies in recent years suggest a connection between compulsively eating ice and iron deficiency anemia, a condition 20 percent of women (50 percent of pregnant women) and 3 percent of men experience.

Iron levels might seem like an odd thing to be linked to an ice eating habit, considering that there is no iron in ice, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Red blood cells need iron to carry oxygen throughout the body effectively. Someone who is iron deficient is therefore not getting as much oxygen to their brain. Eating ice stimulates blood flow to the head (and the brain), which gives a temporary boost to alertness and clarity of thought.

The Effects of Ice on Teeth and Gums

As strong as human teeth are and as hard as tooth enamel is, teeth are not meant to crunch and grind ice cubes (in any quantity or texture). The problem isn’t merely that ice is hard but that it’s so cold. When our teeth experience extreme temperature changes, the enamel expands and contracts, causing tiny cracks and weakening the overall structure — just like what happens to pavement in places where it snows.

Obviously weakened enamel can lead to other problems like tooth sensitivity and greater vulnerability to decay, and ice isn’t good for gum tissue either. It’s so cold that it can have a numbing effect while eating it, which might mean you don’t notice an injury to the gum tissue. Ice can even chip or break teeth as well.

Tips for Breaking an Ice Eating Habit

The most important step to take to break an ice eating habit is to discover the cause. For those who experience pagophagia as a symptom of iron deficiency, the ice cravings may go away after taking iron supplements, and the habit may stop on its own. For those who struggle with pica, there are a variety of interventions available, including medication and therapy.

If it’s not specifically the ice you crave but the crunch, try replacing ice with chunks of apple or baby carrots. Conversely, if it’s more about the ice than the crunch, try letting pieces of ice melt on your tongue like a piece of hard candy instead of chewing them.

Ask Dental Professionals for Help

Anyone who struggles with an ice chewing habit should feel free to discuss it with their dentist, as well as their general physician. It’s important to discover the cause, treat any existing damage to the teeth and gums, and prevent additional damage by working to kick the habit.

Maintaining Healthy Teeth with Hypoplasia

Prevention is always an important part of good dental care, and that is especially true for those with enamel hypoplasia. Early diagnosis and treatment of the condition are essential for keeping teeth with malformed enamel healthy. Treatment can mean fillings, crowns, resin-bonded sealant, and professional whitening. The main goals of the treatment are preventing tooth decay, helping to maintain a good bite, preserving the tooth structure, and keeping a good appearance.

Let’s leave those ice chewing days behind!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Fitness And Teeth 543

WE ALL KNOW how important regular dental visits and good daily brushing and flossing routines are to keeping our mouths healthy, but they aren’t the only factors. It might seem strange, but maintaining a healthy weight and staying active also have an effect on the health of our teeth and gums.

The Link Between Weight and Oral Health

A major factor that connects overall health and oral health is blood glucose. Sugar (which is made up of sucrose, a molecule that contains glucose) is the favorite food of oral bacteria. When we eat or drink anything sugary, it makes our blood glucose go up. We can keep our blood glucose at healthy levels by keeping our sugar intake to a minimum. Doing this also decreases our risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a disease that makes it much harder to regulate blood sugar and fight back against oral bacteria.

Staying active and maintaining a healthy weight also helps minimize inflammation in the body and keeps our bones strong and dense. That includes our teeth and jaws! Less inflammation and stronger bones means lower risk of gum disease and tooth decay.

The Oral Health Dangers of Crash Dieting

Eating healthy foods and getting regular exercise are things we highly recommend, but crash or fad diets may do more harm than good. We understand the desire for fast, noticeable results, and we know how tantalizing personal success stories from friends or people on the internet can sound. However, sometimes these can lead to trouble for teeth and gums, such as the grapefruit diet, which exposes the teeth to a lot of strong acid. Other “easy” weight loss solutions like weight loss pills can lead to destructive teeth grinding habits.

Eating Right for Your Health and Your Teeth

A good diet is one that’s good for the whole body, including teeth and gums. Unlike a diet based around grapefruit, one that encourages eating a range of whole foods and reducing the intake of added sugars will ensure that your body gets the nutrients it needs without coming at the expense of tooth enamel. Proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats are all important for good oral health with strong gums and healthy oral tissues. And, of course, make sure to include good calcium sources for strong teeth!

We’re Rooting for Our Patients’ Health!

We encourage all of our patients to stay active (whether that means a gym membership, calisthenics at home, or walking or biking around the neighborhood) and eat healthy, but make sure you don’t neglect the basic oral health habits like brushing, flossing, and making regular dental visits in the process!

Let’s all work towards some healthy goals!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Oral Ph 543

MOST OF US learn a little about the pH scale in our science classes as teenagers, but what does that have to do with oral health? A lot, actually, which is why we’re going to take this opportunity to give our patients a quick refresher on the basics of pH.

What Is pH and What Does It Mean?

The pH scale measures how acidic or basic something is, from 1 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral. Anything lower is increasingly acidic and anything higher is increasingly basic. For example, stomach acid has a pH of between 1.5 and 2.5, orange juice ranges from 3.3 to 4.2, plain water is neutral at 7, soap tends to be between 9 and 10, and bleach is strongly basic at 12.5. So what about the human mouth?

The pH of Our Mouths

Different parts of us have different ideal pH levels. Healthy skin should be mildly acidic (around 5.5) while blood should be slightly basic (7.4). For healthy teeth and gums, our mouths should be as close to neutral as possible. Unhealthy mouths tend to be more acidic, which is very harmful to tooth enamel. Even though enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, it’s very vulnerable to acid erosion. It will begin to erode at a pH of just 5.5!

How Mouths Become Acidic

Our teeth can be exposed to acid in many ways. When we eat or drink something sour or tart, that is actually the taste of the acid. Soda is also highly acidic (the bubbles come from carbonic acid). Acid exposure can also come indirectly when we consume sugars and starches. Harmful oral bacteria gobble up the leftovers stuck between our teeth after a meal, a snack, or a sip of soda, and they produce acid as waste. Vomiting or acid reflux are other ways acid can reach the teeth.

Saliva: Our Natural Defense Mechanism

So how do we fight back against all those acid attacks? First, we have the built-in defense of saliva. Saliva washes away food particles and neutralizes our oral pH. This essential job is why dry mouth can be so dangerous for oral health. Without saliva, our teeth are more vulnerable.

We should do as much as we can to help our saliva do its job. It’s a bad idea to sip on sugary/acidic drinks or eat a lot of snacks, because every time we eat, our saliva has to start neutralizing our oral pH all over again, and the acid has more time to erode our enamel. If you’re going to indulge in occasional treats, keep them to mealtimes.

Cut Down on Acidic Foods

Another way we can help our saliva protect our teeth is by cutting down on the acidic foods and drinks and trading them for more alkaline ones. That means eating more fruits and veggies and fewer breads, dairy products, and meats. We should especially minimize the amount of soda we drink and sugary treats we eat.

We’re All Part of the Fight Against Enamel Erosion!

Following all these tips doesn’t make it any less important to brush twice a day for two full minutes, floss daily, and keep up with your regular dental appointments! If you want to learn more about how to keep your tooth enamel strong, we’d love to answer your questions. We want all of our patients to have the tools to keep their teeth healthy for a lifetime!

We love those healthy smiles!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Diet And Teeth 543

WHAT WE EAT and drink obviously plays a big role in our overall health, but in a way, it affects our oral health twice. Food and drink affect teeth and gums directly while we’re consuming them, and then again indirectly after they’ve been digested.

Food and Drink’s Direct Effects on Teeth and Gums

A lot of the tastiest things we eat and drink can be pretty bad for our oral health. Harmful bacteria love to snack on any leftover traces of sugar when we eat empty-calorie foods like candy, cookies, cakes, or muffins. The more of these things we eat, the more the harmful bacteria are able to multiply and release acids onto our teeth, increasing the risk of decay.

Sugary drinks and sodas are especially harmful, especially when we sip them throughout the day, because that leaves our teeth constantly bathed in sugar and acid.

Better Foods to Choose for Our Mouths

On the other hand, some foods are actually good for our teeth, such as cheese, milk, plain yogurt, leafy greens, and almonds. These foods contain a lot of calcium and other important nutrients. Foods high in protein like milk, fish, poultry, and eggs are also great sources of phosphorous, which, alongside calcium, is crucial for rebuilding tooth enamel.

Even though whole fruits do contain sugar, they’re still a much healthier choice than fruit juice or dried fruits, because their high water and fiber content help to balance the sugar and clean the teeth. When we eat fruits and vegetables, they stimulate saliva production, which washes away food particles and neutralizes acids. We also get vitamins C and A from produce, and these are important for gum health and tooth enamel, respectively.

Snacks Versus Our Teeth

When we eat is almost as important as what we eat. This is because every time we eat, it resets the clock on our saliva neutralizing the acids in our mouths, increasing the amount of time our teeth are vulnerable. We recommend limiting eating and drinking (unless it’s water) to mealtimes. If you simply must snack, we encourage you to select something nutritious like cheese, yogurt, fruits, vegetables, or nuts.

4 Quick Tips for Lowering the Risk of Cavities

To summarize, here are four important takeaways for keeping your teeth strong and healthy:

  1. Brush twice a day for two minutes to remove sugars and food particles
  2. Keep the snacks to a minimum and choose mouth-healthy snacks
  3. Avoid foods and drinks that are high in added sugars.
  4. Include plenty of produce, dairy, and water in your diet.

Ask Us for More Nutrition-Related Dental Health Tips!

We’re always here to answer our patients’ questions about dental health, including its relationship with what we eat and drink. We want our patients to have all the information they need to make great, mouth-healthy choices!

Give your teeth and gums plenty of love from us!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Loose Tooth 543

MOST OF US PROBABLY remember what it was like to lose our first tooth as a kid. Wiggling it with your tongue, accidentally biting down on it the wrong way, getting all kinds of advice from friends, older siblings, and parents, and being a little worried about what it would actually feel like when it came out…

It’s something every child will go through, and just like any new experience, it can be scary. We recommend that parents have a plan ready for how to help their kids through this rite of passage.

Establish a Good Mindset

A great way to make the prospect of losing that first baby tooth less scary is to help your child see it as a rite of passage: losing baby teeth is a major part of being a big kid, just like learning to ride a bike and tie their own shoelaces. It’s a big, exciting step forward in growing up, and hopefully they’ll be able to see it that way with your help.

Find the Right Technique

Any loose tooth game plan should include the technique for how that tooth will actually come out. We would discourage you from chasing your child around with a pair of pliers, as that isn’t very conducive to a positive experience. Encourage your child to wiggle the tooth often with their tongue or a clean finger to help it along, and try not to force the issue if they’re still too nervous. It’s best to wait until the tooth is very loose in any case.

When it comes to pulling the tooth out, there’s the old standby of tying some dental floss around a doorknob, but you could also make it a little more unique by tying the floss to a Nerf dart, an arrow, or the dog’s collar. Make a few suggestions to your child and see which one they like best.

This family has simple methods, but they do a great job of keeping it fun and relaxed:

Don’t Forget to Reward Their Success!

Once the tooth is out, it’s time to celebrate! That could be as simple as waiting for the Tooth Fairy, but maybe your child would be more excited if they have a new toy or a trip to the ice cream shop to look forward to instead. Including some kind of reward, even a small one, will help them have something to focus on besides the scary parts.

Consult the Professionals if You Still Have Questions

If you’re still worried about how to make losing that first tooth a good experience for your child, we’re happy to answer any questions you have and give you more tips. If you’re worried because your child’s teeth aren’t becoming loose yet, just bring them in and we can discover the cause.

We’re excited to hear your loose tooth stories!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.