Graef Dental

February Focuses on Children’s Dental Health

child smiling.The month of February gets its name from the ancient spring cleansing ritual called “Februa.” So perhaps it’s appropriate that February is now celebrated as National Children’s Dental Health Month. Having a healthy mouth starts with good oral hygiene—a practice that’s important for everyone, but especially for kids, because the healthy habits they develop in childhood can keep their teeth and gums in good condition for life. How can you help your kids achieve the best oral health? We’re glad you asked. Here are five tips:

Brush and floss daily
Sure, you knew that already. But did you know that for effective cleaning, your kids should brush for two full minutes, twice a day? And despite reports you may have heard, the American Dental Association maintains that using an interdental cleaner (like floss) is essential part of good oral hygiene: It’s the best way to clean decay-causing bacteria from tooth surfaces that your brush just can’t reach.

Limit snacking to around mealtimes
If you allow kids to have sugary snacks, limit them to around mealtimes. That way, the teeth aren’t constantly bathed in substances that can feed harmful bacteria. It also gives the healthful saliva a chance to neutralize acids that can attack the tooth’s protective enamel coating.

Avoid soda and other sugary, acidic drinks
That includes so-called “sports” and “energy” drinks, which often contain extremely high levels of sugar. These beverages, along with diet sodas and some fruit juices, may also be highly acidic, and can damage teeth. What’s the best drink for your kids’ health? Plain old refreshing water!

Pay attention to baby teeth
Sure, in a few years, those teeth will be gone. But in the mean time, they have an important job to do: They not only contribute to proper speech, eating and appearance, but also hold a space for the permanent teeth that will follow them. If they are lost too early, problems with permanent teeth may follow.

Get regular checkups
Routine office visits are the best way to monitor your child’s dental health and development, prevent disease, and solve minor problems before they get bigger.  Plus, we can address any questions you may have about oral hygiene and a range of other topics. So if we haven’t seen your child lately, maybe February is a good time for a visit.

If you have questions about your child’s oral health, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health” and “Importance of Baby Teeth.”

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Get A Better Smile for Valentine’s Day

teeth whitening.The most romantic holiday of the year, Valentine’s Day is celebrated each February 14th. It’s a time when many look forward to giving (and receiving) cards, flowers, and other tokens of love. On special days like this, it’s natural to want to look your best—and many surveys rank a person’s smile as his or her most noticeable (and appealing) physical feature. But what if you are unsatisfied with your smile?

Don’t worry! Today, cosmetic dentistry can resolve smile problems as never before. Here are some popular and effective dental treatments that can quickly brighten up your smile.

Tooth Whitening
In just one visit, dull or stained teeth can often be lightened by up to 10 shades! How? We use special bleaching solutions that are applied safely, under our careful supervision, in the dental office. You can’t use these concentrated solutions at home. But if you‘re not in a rush, we can prepare custom-made take-home bleaching trays and whiteners that are safe for home use. The same results can be achieved, but the process may take weeks instead of hours. After months or years, depending on lifestyle factors (like whether you smoke or drink coffee, red wine, etc.) your teeth can have whitening treatment again.

Cosmetic Bonding
Small chips, cracks, or other minor irregularities can be quite noticeable in an otherwise flawless smile. Fortunately, these problems can often be resolved with a treatment called cosmetic bonding. In a relatively simple in-office procedure, we can apply tooth-colored bonding material to restore teeth to better appearance. Layers of high-tech bonding material are built up and cured with a special light to form a tough, natural-looking tooth surface. Bonding isn’t as long-lasting as some other types of restoration, like veneers or crowns, but it’s an easy and inexpensive way to resolve some smile problems.

Professional In-Office Cleaning
Remember that feeling you get after your regular checkup? Your mouth feels squeaky-clean, your breath is fresh and you’re ready to show that sparkly smile. So why wait until your next routine appointment? You can schedule a hygiene visit any time. We will remove plaque from your teeth, check your gums for signs of periodontal (gum) disease, and make sure you’re on track for good oral health. If any problems are found, we’ll take care of them right away. And if you have questions about cosmetic procedures, it’s the perfect time to ask. A professional cleaning can help your smile look (and feel) great.

If you have questions about brightening up your smile, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Artistic Repair of Front Teeth with Composite Resin” and “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered.”

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Dentures Require Planning and Attention to Detail to Look Natural

dentures.Twenty-six percent of American adults between 65 and 74 have lost all their teeth to dental disease. This isn’t an appearance problem only—lack of teeth can also harm nutrition and physical well-being.

Fortunately, we have advanced restorative options that can effectively replace missing teeth. Of these, there’s a tried and true one that’s both affordable and effective: removable dentures.

Dentures are simple in design: a plastic or resin base, colored with a pinkish-red hue to resemble gums to which we attach prosthetic (false) teeth. But while the design concept isn’t complicated, the process for creating and fitting them can be quite involved: they must conform to an individual patient’s jaws and facial structure if they’re going to appear natural.

If you’re considering dentures, here’s some of what it will take to achieve a successful outcome.

Positioning the teeth. The position of the prosthetic teeth on the base greatly determines how natural they’ll appear and how well they’ll function. So, we’ll need to plan tooth placement beforehand based on your facial and jaw structures, as well as photos taken of you before tooth loss. We’ll also consider how large the teeth should be, how far to place them forward or back from the lips, and whether to include “imperfections” from your old look that you see as part of your appearance.

Simulating the gums. While the teeth are your smile’s stars, the gums are the supporting cast. It’s important that we create a denture base that attractively frames the teeth by determining how much of the gums show when you smile, or adding color and even textures to better resemble gum tissue. We can also add ridges behind the upper teeth to support speech.

Balancing the bite. Upper and lower dentures don’t operate in and of themselves—they must work cooperatively and efficiently with each other during eating or speaking. So while appearance matters, the bite’s bite adjustment or balance might matter more. That’s why we place a lot of attention into balancing and adjusting the bite after you receive your dentures to make sure you’re comfortable.

This is a detailed process that we may need to revisit from time to time to make sure your dentures’ fit remains tight and comfortable. Even so, modern advances in this traditional restoration continue to make them a solid choice for total tooth loss.

If you would like more information on denture restorations, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor article “Removable Dentures.”

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New Year’s Resolutions for Better Oral Health

colbert.Laying out goals for the New Year is a great way to inspire yourself to make positive changes that can improve your health. For example, many habits—both good and bad—affect the health of your teeth and gums. Here’s a list of risky habits to kick, and mouth-healthy habits to adopt:

Habits That Risk Oral Health

Smoking. As if oral cancer weren’t enough to worry about, smoking also promotes gum disease and tooth loss. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, smokers have double the risk of gum disease compared to nonsmokers. And according to the Academy of General Dentistry, Smokers are about twice as likely to lose their teeth as nonsmokers. For help quitting, visit smokefree.gov.

Snacking. Nibbling all day can create the perfect conditions for tooth decay—especially if your snacks contain sugar and other carbohydrates. Sticky snacks like cookies, crackers, chips and candy bars that cling to teeth tend to remain in the mouth and attract decay-causing oral bacteria. The acid these bacteria produce can penetrate the enamel of your teeth, causing cavities.

Soft Drinks. Speaking of tooth-eroding acid, soft drinks have plenty of it. And this includes both regular and diet varieties of soda, sweetened iced tea, sports drinks and so-called energy drinks. The healthiest drink for your teeth is water!

Mouth-Healthy Habits

Brushing. You probably brush your teeth every day already, but are you doing it correctly? To get the most benefit from this healthy habit, brush twice each day for a full two minutes each time. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush with toothpaste that contains fluoride, and don’t scrub too harshly!

Flossing. Yes, it’s worth the effort! If you don’t floss, you’ll miss cleaning about 40% of your tooth surfaces. A toothbrush just can’t reach in between teeth, where decay-causing dental plaque can hide. If you find dental floss difficult to work with, try using disposable floss holders.

Regular Dental Checkups. Keep up a regular schedule of professional teeth cleanings and exams! This allows us to remove any hardened dental plaque (tartar) that has built up on your teeth, screen you for oral cancer, and treat minor dental problems before they become major ones. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to review your at-home oral hygiene.

If you have any questions about how to improve your oral health, please contact our office or schedule a consultation.

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Give Yourself the Gift of a New Smile

smile.The holidays are a season for giving. At this time of year, lots of us spend hours rushing around, looking for the perfect gifts for people we care about. But sometimes, amidst all the hustle and bustle, it doesn’t hurt to step back and think about yourself a little. If a better-looking smile has been on your list but you haven’t taken the first steps, the holiday season might be the right time to give yourself a gift.

Many smile problems, like discolored, chipped or uneven teeth, can be resolved with veneers—wafer-thin porcelain shells that cover the front surfaces of teeth. Veneers are custom-made just for you: They can have a pearly luster to match your existing teeth, or be Hollywood-white for a dazzling red-carpet smile. In just a few visits to the dental office, you can have the smile you’ve always wanted—and a whole new look for the New Year.

If damaged or missing teeth are what’s bothering you, you’ll be happy to know that there are lots of good options for replacing them. If the tooth’s roots are still in good shape, a crown or cap could be the answer. This is a sturdy replacement for the entire visible part of the tooth that not only looks great, but also functions well in your bite—and can last for years to come.

If teeth are missing or can’t be saved, we offer several options for replacement, including fixed (non-removable) bridgework and dental implants. A tried-and-true method for replacing one or more missing teeth, bridges are firmly supported by healthy teeth next to the gap in your smile. These teeth must be prepared to receive the bridge by having some of the tooth’s surface removed.

Dental implants are today’s premier option for tooth replacement. In this high-tech system, a root-like titanium insert, placed directly into the bone beneath the gum, forms a solid anchorage for the visible part of the replacement tooth. Implants look and feel completely natural, and can last for many years. Plus, they don’t require any work to be done on nearby teeth.

What kind of smile makeover is right for you? Just ask us! We will be happy to take a look at your smile and recommend a treatment plan. And in this season of generosity, there’s no better gift you can give yourself than a bright new smile.

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Stephen Colbert Shares Throwback Braces Photo for a Good Cause

colbert.When we look at those glamorous faces on TV, it’s easy to forget that celebrities—like the rest of us—often went through an awkward stage in adolescence.  But once in a while, something comes along to remind us that flawless Hollywood smiles didn’t always start out that way. Right now, that something is the hashtag #PuberMe: an invitation from late-night TV host Stephen Colbert for fellow celebs to post awkward photos from their youth.

In exchange for posting the embarrassing images, Colbert’s charity is donating to the hurricane relief effort for Puerto Rico; so far about $1 million has been raised. Also raised: many eyebrows, by the adorably dorky pictures—such as the one of Colbert himself, with a smile full of metal braces!

Like many kids, Colbert had teeth that didn’t align properly in his bite. The picture shows that several of his top teeth are in less-than-perfect positions, with noticeable gaps in between. Yet to look at that same smile today, you’d never suspect there had been a problem. That’s the magic of orthodontics.

Time-tested and effective, metal braces like the ones in Colbert’s picture remain among the most widely used appliances today. But orthodontics has come a long way since the late 1970’s, and now there are several other methods for correcting misaligned teeth, including ceramic braces, clear plastic aligners, and invisible lingual braces. The main advantage of the newer methods is that are they are harder to notice (and maybe a bit less awkward).

Ceramic braces, for example, have brackets that match the color of the teeth; with only the thin archwire visible, they’re much more unobtrusive. Clear aligners are transparent plastic trays that completely cover the teeth. Almost impossible to spot, they are worn 22 hours per day, but may be removed for eating or important events. Lingual braces are literally invisible, since they are placed on the tongue side of teeth rather than the lip side. In many situations, they are at least as effective as traditional braces.

Which appliance is best for you? It depends on each person’s individual situation—but many orthodontic patients now have choices that weren’t available in the past. And that goes for both kids and adults, who often appreciate a more “grown-up” image while improving their smiles with orthodontic treatment.

If you have questions about orthodontic treatment, please contact our office or schedule a consultation.

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Boost Your Overall Health by Reducing Gum Inflammation

gum health.The human body’s immune system has amazing defensive capabilities. Without it a common cold or small wound could turn deadly.

One of the more important processes of the immune system is inflammation, the body’s ability to isolate diseased or injured tissue from unaffected tissue. Ironically, though, this vital component of the healing process could actually cause harm if it becomes chronic.

This often happens with periodontal (gum) disease, an infection of the gums caused by bacterial plaque built up on teeth due to inadequate hygiene, which in turn triggers inflammation. The infection is often fueled by plaque, however, and can become difficult for the body to overcome on its own. A kind of trench warfare sets in between the body and the infection, resulting in continuing inflammation that can damage gum tissues. Untreated, the damage may eventually lead to tooth and bone loss.

In treating gum disease, our main goal is to stop the infection (and hence the inflammation) by aggressively removing plaque and calculus (tartar). Without plaque the infection diminishes, the inflammation subsides and the gums can begin to heal. This reduces the danger to teeth and bone and hopefully averts their loss.

But there’s another benefit of this treatment that could impact other inflammatory conditions in the body. Because all the body’s organic systems are interrelated, what occurs in one part affects another especially if it involves inflammation.

It’s now theorized that reducing gum inflammation could lessen inflammation in other parts of the body. Likewise, treating other conditions like high blood pressure and other risk factors for inflammatory diseases could lower your risk of gum disease and boost the effectiveness of treatment.

The real key is to improve and maintain your overall health, including your teeth and gums. Practice daily brushing and flossing to remove plaque, and visit your dentist regularly for more thorough cleanings. And see your dentist at the first sign of possible gum problems like bleeding, redness or swelling. You’ll not only be helping your mouth you could also be helping the rest of your body enjoy better health.

If you would like more information on the relationship between gum disease and other systemic conditions, please contact our office or schedule a consultation.

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Help Your Kids Have a Healthier Halloween

halloween.

Halloween means loads of fun for kids everywhere: a chance to put on fanciful costumes and have some safe, spooky enjoyment. But the reward for all that trick-or-treating — bags full of sugary candy — can create monstrous problems for young smiles, in the form of tooth decay. Short of taking all those treats away, are there any ways to lessen the impact on your children’s teeth?

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the answer is: Yes!

As long as kids are brushing twice and flossing once a day, it’s okay for them to enjoy a few sweet treats on Halloween. But starting that same night, or the next day, you can help protect them from cavities. Here’s how:

Sort It Out:
Some treats are potentially more damaging to teeth than others. For example, candy that’s sticky and clings to teeth — like gummy bears and taffy — takes longer to get cleared away by saliva. Lengthier contact with the teeth increases the risk of tooth decay. The same is true for sweets that stay in the mouth for a long time, like hard candy. Sour candy is often acidic, and that acid can weaken the hard enamel coating of teeth, making them more prone to decay. But there’s some good news: Chocolate, a favorite treat, washes off the teeth relatively quickly — and dark chocolate has less sugar than milk chocolate.

Give It Away:
You can always give away some or all of your candy stash to people who will appreciate it: first responders or troops serving overseas, for example. Some organizations sponsor donation (or even buyback) programs. Try searching the web for programs like “Operation Gratitude,” among others.

Timing Is Everything:
If you do allow candy, limit it to mealtimes. That’s when saliva production is at its peak — and saliva helps neutralize acids and wash away food residue that can cause cavities. Whatever you do, don’t let kids snack on sweet treats from the candy dish throughout the day: This never gives your mouth a chance to bounce back from the sugary saturation.

Get Healthy Hydration:
For quenching thirst, water is the best choice. It helps your body stay properly hydrated and is needed for healthful saliva production. Sugary or acidic beverages like sodas (regular or diet), so-called “sports” or “energy” drinks, and even fruit juices can harm teeth. Fluoridated water (like most municipal tap water) has been shown to help prevent tooth decay. If you drink bottled water, look for a fluoridated variety.

Following these tips — and making sure your kids maintain good oral health with brushing, flossing, and routine dental office visits — will help keep them safe from cavities, not only at Halloween but all year long. If you have questions about cavity prevention or oral hygiene, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Decay — How to Assess Your Risk” and “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”

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New Season, New Toothbrush

toothbrush.October brings fall leaves, pumpkins — and National Dental Hygiene Month. As you change your summer clothes for a fall wardrobe, it may also be time to change your toothbrush for a new one. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends replacing your toothbrush every three to four months. If that sounds like a lot, just think: This small but very important tool gets a lot of use!

If you brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time as recommended by the ADA, that’s two hours of brushing action in one month. Three to four months of twice-daily brushing makes for six to eight hours of brushing time, or a couple hundred uses. This is all an average toothbrush can take before it stops doing its job effectively.

Toothbrush bristles are manufactured to have the right amount of give, tapering, and end-rounding for optimal cleaning. When new, a toothbrush can work its way around corners and between teeth to remove dental plaque. Old bristles, however, lose the flexibility needed to reach into nooks and crannies for a thorough cleaning. Worn bristles may curl, fray or break — and can scratch your gums or tooth enamel. A toothbrush with stiff, curled bristles does not leave your mouth feeling as clean. This may lead to brushing too often or too hard, which is bad for your gums.

A good rule of thumb is to replace your toothbrush every season — unless you see signs that you need a new one sooner. For example, if you wear braces, you may have to replace your toothbrush more frequently since brushing around braces puts more wear and tear on the brush.

For healthy teeth and gums, make sure your primary oral hygiene tool is in tip-top shape. Taking care of the little things now can avoid inconvenient and expensive dental problems later. Don’t forget to schedule regular professional dental cleanings, and be sure to ask if you have any questions about your dental hygiene routine at home. To learn more about the importance of good oral hygiene, read “Daily Oral Hygiene: Easy Habits for Maintaining Oral Health” and “Dental Hygiene Visit: A True Value in Dental Healthcare” in Dear Doctor magazine.

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Risk Factors for Gum Disease

gum disease.September is National Gum Care Month. Did you know that advanced periodontal disease is the number one cause of tooth loss among adults? Periodontal disease refers to any disease that affects the structures that hold the teeth in place, including gums, ligaments and bone. In its earliest stage, called gingivitis, the gums become inflamed. When it progresses to periodontitis, both soft and hard tissues that hold the teeth in place are affected, threatening the integrity of the teeth. Some people are more susceptible to periodontal disease than others. Here are some common risk factors:

Poor oral hygiene. Plaque buildup is the primary cause of gum disease. When life gets busy, we may be less diligent about our oral care. This allows bacteria in the mouth to form a biofilm (plaque), which causes inflammation of the gums.

Heredity: Some people are genetically more predisposed to gum disease. Look at your family history. Have any of your relatives had gum disease or lost their teeth?

Pregnancy. Gums are sensitive to hormone fluctuations, and it is not uncommon for pregnant women to experience an inflammation of the gums known as “pregnancy gingivitis.” Gingivitis — characterized by red, swollen gums that bleed easily — is the beginning stage of gum disease.

Age: The chance of developing gum disease increases with age. Over 70% of Americans 65 and older have periodontitis, an advanced form of gum disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This may be influenced by other diseases, medications that cause dry mouth, or other causes of plaque buildup.

Diet: Eating too many simple carbohydrates (those found in sugar, white bread, white rice and mashed potatoes, for example) is linked to chronic inflammation in the body, which increases the risk of gum disease.

Smoking: Smoking is a significant risk factor for the development and progression of gum disease. Since nicotine constricts blood vessels, smokers may not see the typical symptoms such as red, puffy, bleeding gums, so the disease may cause damage before smokers realize there is a problem with their gums.

Diabetes: Uncontrolled diabetes puts you at higher risk of periodontal disease. Not only can diabetes make gum disease worse, gum disease can make diabetes symptoms worse.

Our aim is not to scare you but to help you become aware of factors that can increase your risk of gum disease. Many of these factors are not under your control. However, you can do your part to prevent gum disease by staying on top of the things you can control. Let us know about any new medications you are taking, eat a balanced diet rich in complex carbohydrates and other nutrients and, if relevant, manage your diabetes and explore programs that will help you quit smoking.

Fortunately, good oral hygiene and regular professional cleanings can turn early gum disease around, so if you have any of the risk factors that contribute to periodontal disease, be extra diligent about your oral hygiene routine. And make sure you come in for regular dental checkups and cleanings. If you show signs of gum disease, we may recommend that you come in for more frequent cleanings.

To learn more about risk factors for gum disease, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Assessing Risk for Gum Disease” and “Pregnancy and Oral Health.”

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