For thousands of years, humans did not brush their teeth. Why do we brush them now?

Dentist State College PA

It’s true that the first thing most people do when they wake up in the morning is brush their teeth. For most of us, brushing our teeth is a mere habit which we simply take for granted, but have you ever wondered how man toothbrushing became a natural habit?
The development of the first toothbrush probably dates back to around 3000BC, when the first toothbrush was fabricated by the Babylonians and Egyptians by using frayed twigs. According to another source, around 1600 BC, the Chinese prepared “chew sticks” that were made from the twigs of aromatic trees for freshening their breaths.


What was done when there wasn’t toothbrushes and toothpaste?

History tells us that most ancient people did not have any cavities or dental problems, even though they never brushed their teeth! What was so special about them that they didn’t need to brush their teeth? There are several explanations for their immunity against oral health problems:

Diet
Back in the day, there were no processed food items, fast-food or take-out. The diet in those times consisted of all natural and unprocessed foods, such as wheat, rice, vegetables and fruits. These natural and pure foods were quite safe since they did not contain any preservatives or chemicals, and they contained nutrients and vitamins that made the teeth stronger and more resistant against cavities and other dental infections.  Ancient people were overall very healthy.
Fibrous Food
The ancient peoples’ diet consisted a large part of fibrous foods.  Fibrous foods are great for digestion, but also help to keep our teeth healthy and clean.  They do this by aiding in flushing away food debris from the surface of the teeth.  If food debris is quickly removed from the tooth’s surface, dental plaque is less likely to accumulate.  Essentially, these foods acted as a toothbrush to keep their teeth clean.
Nutrient Rich Diet
These days the majority of American’s diets are deficient in many vitamins and minerals, which could be a reason for the occurrence of dental infections. This results in weak teeth that are ill-equipped when it comes to resisting tooth decay. This was not a problem in the previous days, as the diet used to be pure, wholesome and balanced.


What Changed Today?

If we forget to brush our teeth just for a single day, a thick layer of dental plaque is visible on our teeth and if we do not floss, a significant amount of food and dental plaque remain in between our teeth. This is because our eating habits have changed drastically. These days, many people tend to eat processed foods that are not only harmful to our health but are also quite detrimental to our teeth.

Some examples:

Sweets & Baked Goods
Refined and simple sugars that can cause cavities very quickly are in most of the sweets and baked good that we consume. Unless you brush your teeth after every time you satisfy your craving for sweets, you are at a risk of developing dental decay. We have so many delicious baked items available these days, that they’re nearly impossible to avoid. Cookies, Muffins, Donuts, Bagels, Cupcakes — who can resist? But now more than ever we are exposed to sugary foods that can cause harm to our teeth.
Exercise
We love our sweets, fast-food, pizza, etc., but at the same time, we don’t exercise as much as our ancestors did by hunting and gathering food. Unless we stick to a vigorous exercise routine, we don’t tend to burn the calories we consume. Over time, by not getting enough exercise, it may lead to indigestion and potential gastric disease, which if left untreated, can cause acid from the gut to rise up to the oral cavity, and cause tooth demineralization, and ultimately cavities.
Smoking
Smoking is so common these days, but most people tend to neglect the facts about the harmful effects of cigarette fumes on the teeth and overall health. Not only does smoking stain our teeth, but it has been linked to oral cancer.
Soda
Carbonated drinks, whether regular or diet, are harmful to your teeth.  Regular sodas contain and enormous amount of sugar. Despite the fact that diet sodas are calorie-free, they are just as bad for our teeth as regular soda because they are very acidic.  Both regular and diet sodas will cause demineralization (or softening) of the teeth, which eventually leads to tooth decay.

 


How You Can Protect Your Teeth From Infections and Cavities?

Brushing and Flossing — Brushing your teeth removes the layer of dental plaque that adheres to your teeth and accumulates from eating all day. Brushing away the plaque at least twice a day protects your teeth from harmful bacteria inside the plaque. Similarly, flossing between your teeth will ensure that each and every corner is stripped of harmful plaque. By not flossing, you are missing 35% of your tooth surface.
Eat a Balanced Diet — A diet that is rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals will make your teeth stronger and protect them from cavities. It’s also a good idea to lessen the intake of sugary foods and sodas. Remember to rinse your mouth after eating or drinking anything sweet or acidic. You shouldn’t brush for at least 30 minutes to an hour after consuming surgery or acidic foods.
Visit Your Dentist Regularly — By visiting the dentist regularly you will ensure that any developing problems are diagnosed and treated at their earliest. This will lessen the likelihood of a small problem causing permanent damage to the teeth or the oral cavity.
Remember, your dental health has a direct influence on your physical wellbeing. If you want to remain healthy, look after your teeth!

How to Care for a Baby’s Teeth

Dentist State College PA

Those Brand-New Teeth!

As a mother of two girls, I know first-hand how delicate baby’s teeth and gums are, and that very sensitive and extra special care is needed for them when it comes to daily tooth care. Everyone wants to give their child a head start on a healthy smile, and that requires some attention and a little bit of patience. Here are some pointers to get you started on how to care for a baby’s teeth. These steps can help you better care for your baby’s teeth so they start to learn from the very beginning what proper home care entails.

When you see your baby’s first tooth emerging, you can start cleaning the baby’s teeth up to twice a day. Brushing at least once a day at bedtime will help remove harmful bacteria and plaque that can cause tooth decay. Typically, a baby’s first tooth will appear around 6-7 months of age.  This isn’t definite though.  Your baby’s first tooth may appear much earlier or later- don’t worry if by 7 months your babe doesn’t have a tooth yet!  You can start to wipe the tooth with a wet wash cloth if the toothbrush is too big or uncomfortable to your baby. Starting early is good as it will help the baby get used to having her teeth cleaned. The two lower teeth will often be the first to emerge (lower incisors), followed by the two upper (central incisors).

 

Infant toothbrush

Dentist State College PA

Circleville Park, State College in the fall

Your child will likely need your assistance in her tooth care routine until they are about seven. Most dentists (of which I am one) recommend you brush and floss a child’s teeth until they are about 6 years old, as their dexterity isn’t quite there to properly brush. By that time, your child should be able to brush her teeth on her own with some supervision. Continue to monitor your child’s tooth care routine until you’ve established they’ve got it down. You should use an infant brush in the very early stages.  An infant brush has soft bristles and a small head, designed specifically to be gentle on a baby. If the toothbrush isn’t tolerable at first, use a clean, damp wash cloth to clear away harmful bacteria on the gums.

Look for toothpastes that are made especially for babies. These toothpastes are called training toothpaste and contain no fluoride.  Infants and small children cannot spit, and instead will swallow the toothpaste.  It is not recommended to swallow toothpaste with fluoride, so until they can appropriately spit, training toothpaste should be used.

It is best that you try to get the hang of brushing your baby’s teeth at least twice a day, once in the morning and the second one before bed after the baby had her last drink. Getting the proper position to brush your baby’s teeth can be challenging.  Try lying her on your lap, face up with her head by your knees.  This position should be the easiest.


Technique

When brushing, do it in small, gentle circular motions concentrating on the areas where the gums and teeth meet. When teething, the baby’s gums are very tender so make sure that you are gentle when you brush your baby’s teeth. Once you are done, be sure that they spit the excess toothpaste (if they can).
Of course, aside from daily care, it is important that you have your baby’s teeth checked by a dentist regularly. Regular check ups, in addition to daily brushing and flossing can effectively help maintain the health of our child’s teeth and gums.


What can I do before my baby’s teeth come in?

Clean your baby’s gums with a soft wash cloth before the teeth come in. Although bacteria probably won’t form on the gums, it’s difficult to tell when teeth start coming in, so you’ll want to get an early start on care and allow them to start getting used to the feeling!

Tips for Preventing Everyday Tooth Erosion

Dentist State College PA

Shiny white and beautiful teeth not only improve our smile but also allow us to eat and digest our food efficiently. Have you ever wondered what would happen if you did not take care of your mouth and stopped brushing and flossing your teeth? If you ignore your oral health for a long time, the harmful bacteria inside your mouth attack your teeth and cause erosion and decay, as well as dental infections. The loss of tooth structure due to exposure to acidic substances is called erosion, and it is the single most causitive factor behind cavities and dental infections.


Below are common culprits in tooth erosion, and tips on how to combat them:

Acidic Drinks

As soon as you consume any acidic drink such as carbonated beverages or alcohol, the pH inside the oral cavity immediately drops (becomes acidic). This results in an increase in the removal of minerals from the enamel. The loss of minerals from enamel is called decalcification and results in the weakening of the tooth structure.  Once the enamel is weakened, it is much more likely to decay.

Since it’s nearly impossible to avoid acidic drinks, we need to take steps to minimize their effects on our teeth. After you consume an acidic beverage, you should wait about an hour before brushing your teeth.  If you aren’t in a place where you can brush your teeth, the next best thing to do is rinsing your mouth with water directly after consuming acidic foods and drinks. If you brush your teeth right away, you actually would be brushing away the already weakened tooth enamel layer by brushing the acid into your teeth. Brushing your teeth about an hour after having a drink helps ensure that the acidity of the oral cavity has normalized, and the enamel has restored it’s hardness. Additionally, you want to brush after such beverages as soda to help prevent the sugars from adhering to teeth and further lowering the intra-oral pH.

Wine

Drinking alcoholic drinks can damage your teeth in several ways. First, the sugars and acids present in the wine can cause tooth demineralization, just as it can in soda. Secondly, alcohol causes dehydration of the oral cavity, resulting in the development of cavities. Dehydration (or a dry mouth) can also cause bad breath. Finally, alcoholic drinks can stain your teeth and any fillings. The best way to prevent any damage to your teeth after drinking wine is to rinse with water immediately and after an hour, brush.

Lemon

Lemon juice is very acidic, and can strip the minerals from the enamel of the teeth. There are many health benefits to lemons, including its Vitamin C content and antibacterial properties,  and we want to make sure we can enjoy the benefits of lemons while minimizing any potential damage to our oral health. The best way to prevent tooth erosion is to clean your teeth whenever you have lemon water or a lemonade — rinse your mouth with water immediately after drinking  beverages the are citrusy. Drinking lots of fresh water will also help ensure that the acid which adheres to the teeth is flushed away. Follow the same routine as you would for any acidic drink — Rinse your mouth, wait an hour, then brush.

Tea/Coffee

These days, drinking coffee seems to be a required morning ritual.  It’s difficult to avoid coffee is our culture anymore.  While tea is a good alternative to coffee, it tends to have similar effects on the oral cavity as does coffee. While having a cup of tea or coffee first thing in the morning helps to wake you up with a wonderful energy boost, they can stain your teeth. However, if you simply remember to clean your teeth after drinking tea or coffee, you can greatly reduce the prevalence of coffee/tea related stains the teeth. Coffees and teas are also acidic, so remember — Rinse your mouth, wait an hour, then brush.

Diet

Many of our patients have very good oral hygiene but because of acid in their diet or medical problems such as acid reflux disease, they have severe erosion to the dental enamel. If you feel that you are consuming a lot of acidic food and drinks, we recommend you reevaluate your diet.


Optimize Your Daily Routine

What to do at Bedtime:
Brush — If you’re too lazy to brush your teeth at night, a layer of plaque will develop on your teeth overnight which can lead not only to demineralization of the teeth, but had breath! If you’ve consumed coffee, tea or wine, or ate dinner right before you go to bed, then at the very least take the time to floss, making sure to remove plaque from the gum line and in between the teeth. Additionally, you want to rinse your mouth very well with water or mouthwash while swishing vigorously.
Floss — You should floss your teeth at least once a day. I recommend flossing in the evening. However, you can also choose another additional time in the day to floss, should you feel the need. As long as it’s done once a day.

Brushing your teeth before going to bed and immediately after waking up must be a part of your regular oral hygiene routine.

What to Do in the Morning:
Brush- Be sure to brush your teeth first thing….before doing anything else! If you love your teeth and want them to remain sparkling white for life, then you should take your oral hygiene routine very seriously. The first thing that you should do after getting up brush your teeth. DO NOT eat anything in the morning without first brushing your teeth because you would essentially be ingesting all the harmful bacteria that matured in your mouth overnight along with your food if you eat without brushing.
Enjoy a Wholesome Breakfast — Sticking to a healthy and balanced meal for your breakfast will not only allow you to have energy throughout the day, but the essential vitamins and minerals will make your teeth stronger and more resistant against dental infections.
Remember, your teeth will erode if you are not careful about your oral hygiene and diet. Therefore, if you look after your teeth, and ensure you’re eating a healthy and balanced diet, you can keep dental problems at bay.

What to do for a broken or knocked out tooth?

Dentist State College PA

You’ve broken or fractured your tooth?

Once a tooth is broken or fractured  through all three layers (Enamel, Dentin and Pulp) this is a Dental Emergency – seek professional care immediately!

If not, how serious is the injury?

Trauma to the mouth may result in an injury as slight as a small chipping of tooth enamel (the outermost layer of a tooth) to one as severe as completely knocking a tooth out of it’s socket and/or fracturing the jawbone(s).

If your broken tooth is the result of trauma to your head or face, go to a hospital emergency room for evaluation immediately.  Most hospitals have an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon available to diagnose and treat your injuries in addition to emergency room physicians.

Fortunately, most injuries are much less severe. Broken (chipped, fractured or cracked) teeth and loosened or knocked out teeth are classified into the following basic types;

Crown Fractures (The part of the tooth above the gumline):

Enamel craze line(s) – Cracked enamel without loss of tooth structure

Enamel chip/fracture – Cracked and fractured enamel involving loss of this outermost layer of tooth structure

Enamel and Dentin fracture – Fracture and exposure of the outer and middle layers

Enamel, Dentin and Pulp fracture – Fracture and exposure of the outer, middle and inner layers

Root Fractures (The part of the tooth below the gumline):

Horizontal – A horizontal crack in the tooth root

Vertical – A vertical crack in the tooth root

Displaced or loosened teeth within the tooth socket (Where the tooth sits inside your jaw):

Concussion – The tooth has absorbed the force of the injury

Displacement – The tooth has become dislocated in it’s socket

Avulsion – The tooth has been released from it’s socket


Can your tooth be saved?

Possibly, however it depends if the injury to your broken tooth is serious. I will examine your tooth to see if it can be saved before considering dental surgery to remove your tooth.

Why should you save a broken tooth?

Physically, our teeth are held in their position largely by the teeth around it. When a tooth is removed, the tooth or teeth above or below it and those in front or back of it, move toward the vacant space. This shifting may change your bite and the way force is applied to your remaining teeth while chewing. You may chip, fracture or break more teeth because of the new stresses applied to those remaining. When teeth significantly lean toward vacant spaces, it may result in gaps that can trap food particles. These areas are at a higher risk for developing periodontal disease. Bone loss and tooth loss may follow. Multiple missing teeth can significantly affect your ability to chew food properly, which facilitates poor nutrition and digestive problems.

Socially and psychologically, multiple missing teeth typically cause people to look and feel older and less confident. When front teeth are missing, people tend to smile less and find ways to hide their missing teeth. Even when the mouth is closed, the face may appear more sunken in. The lower third of the face becomes shorter when back teeth are no longer present and there may be a noticeable change in appearance. If the aesthetic impression you make upon others is important, professionally and personally, replacing your missing teeth and considering incorporating cosmetic dentistry into the replacement can have amazing results.

What to do if you cannot save your broken tooth and it must be extracted?

Single tooth replacement options include dental implants and dental bridges. If more that one tooth is missing, a partial denture may provide a viable option for tooth replacement. Additional tooth replacement options may exist in certain situations. I will be able to discuss your treatment options after examining you.


What causes broken, fractured or cracked teeth and other dental injuries?
The most common causes of broken or fractured teeth and dental injuries (in no particular order) are:

  • Untreated dental decay
  • Teeth that have undergone root canal therapy and have not received a crown
  • Teeth with temporary fillings for extended periods of time (generally over a month)
  • Accidents
  • Biting or chewing unusually hard substances
  • Extremely forceful clenching or grinding of teeth
  • Crooked teeth

How can these injuries be prevented?

  • Have dental checkups every 6 months to discover problems early and receive treatment before decay undermines tooth structure or fillings, predisposing them to fracture.
  • Once you’ve had a root canal, have a crown placed on the tooth to prevent breakage.  During root canal therapy, the blood supply to the tooth is removed, making the tooth brittle and prone to fracture.
  • Have temporary fillings replaced with permanent dental fillings as soon as recommended. Temporary fillings wear away over time, leaving tooth structure unsupported and also prone to fracture.
  • Use appropriate protective equipment. In automobiles use seat belts. While bicycling and engaging in sporting activities wear protective mouthguards. We can help you with that.
  • If you clench or grind your teeth, especially at night, we can fabricate a nightguard for you. Normal pressure during chewing is approximately 175 p.s.i. (pounds per square inch.) During sleep you may generate 300 p.s.i. or more as there is no food to absorb the impact and your protective reflexes are not at work.
  • Properly aligned teeth are much less likely to fracture or absorb a great amount of individual force. Teeth that are positioned in a more forward position than the rest of the teeth are at risk of fracture because they are the first objects to contact during impact. I may even find it necessary that you to see an orthodontist or other specialist.

 

 

 

How to avoid Periodontal Disease – Gingivitis, Periodontitis

Dentist State College PA

Dentist State College PA

Periodontal disease, or periodontitis, is an infection of the supporting tissues of your teeth.  This includes both the hard and soft tissue, or the bone and the gums.  Because periodontal disease is painless, you may not know you have it.  Periodontitis is caused by plaque, which is the sticky film of bacteria that forms on your teeth.  There are different types of periodontal disease, but the two most common are gum disease (gingivitis) and periodontal disease (periodontitis).


Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the earliest stage of periodontitis and only involves the gums.  It is curable with proper home care (brushing and flossing).  Typically teenagers and young adults are the most commonly affected.  The symptoms of gum disease are red, swollen and bleeding gums.  If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis.

Periodontitis

Periodontal disease is a chronic condition that can lead to loss of the tissue and bone that support the teeth.  Without proper support, the teeth will become loose and potentially have to be removed. The precursor to periodontal disease is always gingivitis. The symptoms of perio disease are loose teeth, bad breath and loss of gum tissue around the teeth.  Periodontitis is the leading cause of adult tooth loss.


Periodontal Disease Causes
Many factors increase the risk of developing Periodontal Disease some of which are:

  • Poor overall oral hygiene
  • Tobacco use
  • Diabetes and other systemic diseases
  • Medications, such as: steroids, some antipsychotic drugs, cancer therapy drugs, oral contraceptive
  • Genetics
  • Pregnancy

Periodontal Disease Treatment

Treatment for periodontal disease is determined by the type.  In order to keep the disease from progressing, daily brushing and flossing and professional cleanings are necessary.  When the sticky plaque is not continually removed, bacteria will form and it will turn in to a hard deposit called tartar, or calculus.  Tartar can only be removed by a professional.  Treatment for periodontal disease varies.  A regular professional cleaning may be all you need to treat your periodontal disease (if it falls in the gingivitis category).  If your disease is more serious, you may need a deep cleaning (scaling and root planing) or even surgery.

 

Good oral hygiene – Flossing, Brushing and regular professional cleanings are the best agents to prevent periodontal disease.

Bruxism: Teeth Grinding and Jaw Clenching

Dentist State College PA

What is Bruxism?

Bruxism, the medical term for the grinding of your teeth, is the forced movement of the chewing surfaces of the lower teeth over the chewing surfaces of the upper teeth, typically in a sideways, back-and-forth movement. Clenching is a habit that may also present with bruxism.  Clenching is when the teeth are strictly clamped together, without any movement- a constant force.  Bruxers are people who either grind or clench their teeth.  These habits may occur during waking hours, but most ofter occur at night.

Why is Bruxism a Problem?

Over time the complications of teeth grinding may cause permanent damage to the teeth and uncomfortable oral and facial pain. During sleep the force of bruxing is much greater than normal waking biting pressure. Nighttime bruxing can yield approximately 250 pounds of force per square inch of pressure, and last for up to 40 minutes per hour of sleep.

The complications include:

  • Damage to the teeth
  • Broken fillings and other dental work
  • Worsening of jaw joint problems
  • Limitation or difficulty in jaw opening and closing
  • Headaches
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Tooth mobility

What Causes Bruxism?

It is unknown what the cause or causes of grinding and clenching may be.  Most often it is directly related to periods of stress in our lives.  One of the ways our bodies cope with stress can be to clench or grind our teeth.  This often occurs at night.  Another cause may be consuming stimulants (caffeine and alcohol) prior to bed and some patients may also find grinding or clenching an unwelcome side effect to some psychiatric medications.  Some patients with poor alignment of their teeth may also find themselves bruxing.

Who is Affected by Bruxism?

Anyone can be affected by bruxism, but during the day, more women find that they clench their teeth than men do.  The results are that an equal number or men and women brux at night.  Up to 20% of adults will grind or clench while awake. Bruxism in children is extremely common, with no gender difference.

What are the Symptoms of Bruxism?
Symptoms of bruxism include:

  • Pain or discomfort around the ears when yawning or chewing
  • Jaw muscles that are tight or painful, especially in the morning.
  • Dull morning headaches
  • Rhythmic contractions of the jaw muscles.
  • Teeth grinding, which may be loud enough to annoy a sleeping partner.

How Long Does Bruxism Last?

As mentioned earlier, bruxism in children is quite common between the ages of 3 and 10.  By the early teenage years (13-14), more than half will stop bruxing.  For teens and adults, it is unknown how long it will last.  Usually it depends on the cause, such as school, stresses at work or medications.  If grinding or clenching is dental related, visiting an orthodontist to change the alignment of the teeth will often help.  If it is related to stress or illness, it may be harder to overcome, as these problems are harder to treat.

How is Bruxism Treated?

There is no cure for bruxism, instead the condition is managed. By making an appointment to discuss the problem, we can often come to a conclusion as to why you are bruxing.  We will talk about any tenderness you are having in your jaw, along with any specific teeth or gum problems. A custom fitted nightguard most often helps with the pain and discomfort generated from bruxing.

Stress Related Bruxism – Professional counseling, psychotherapy, biofeedback exercises or other strategies provided by a psychologist or psychotherapist to help you relax may provide more long-lasting relief. Muscle relaxants or botulism toxin may temporarily ease spasm in clenched and overworked jaw muscles when more conservative treatments fail.
Dental Related Bruxism – Occlusal therapy or orthodontics may provide relief related to bruxism due to poorly aligned teeth.
Brain Injury or Neuromuscular Illness – Cooperation between our office and your family physician may result in combined therapy for these more complicated causes.
Medication Related Bruxism – Your physician may be able to switch you to another medication to counteract your bruxism.