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Franklyn Alexander, DDS
General & Cosmetic Dentistry

Patients Choice Winner 2016

Archive for the ‘Dental Tips’ Category

Do You Need Dental X-Rays?

Are x-rays harmful? Do you really need dental x-rays? If so, are there limits on how often you should receive dental x-rays? Read on to discover the answers to frequently asked questions about dental x-rays.

What are the Risks Involved with X-Rays?

X-rays expose your body to radiation in order to form an image. The amount of radiation required to form a dental x-ray is normally very small. The various systems and processes at work on Earth result in what is known as “background radiation,” and the amount a person absorbs daily is about the same amount as an x-ray produces. The effects of radiation; however, ARE cumulative. The dangers and possibilities of harmful effects from radiation increase each time a person is exposed to x-rays or other forms of radiation. Children are particularly susceptible to long-term effects of radiation since they have so much time ahead of them, and also because their cells are growing and dividing very quickly. Radiation has been known to cause cancer as well as genetic mutation. The thyroid gland is particularly susceptible to radiation, and research has shown that some cases of thyroid cancer can be linked to repeated x-rays.

How Often Should My Family and I Need X-Rays?

According to guidelines set out by the American Dental Association and the Food and Drug Administration, children who are not at high risk for decay or other oral problems should receive dental x-rays every year or two. Teens with healthy teeth and gums can receive x-rays every 16 months to three years, and adults with no dental issues can receive them every two to three years.

X-rays should only be used after a thorough exam by your dentist in order to discover any problems that may be lurking out of sight. People who have tooth decay, gum disease, or other condition affecting the health of teeth and gums may need x-rays more often.

Dental X-Rays are Your Choice

When taking your children to dental appointments inform the dental staff that you would like to be notified before any x-rays are taken. It is okay to ask why your child needs a particular procedure and turn it down if you feel it is unnecessary. It is important to remember; however, that x-rays are an extremely useful diagnostic tool with huge advantages when it comes to identifying and treating oral health problems.

How to Eat for Healthier Teeth

What you eat is only part of the equation for healthy teeth. How you eat also plays a significant role. By making simple tweaks to your eating and drinking behavior, you can improve the health of your teeth and fend off harmful bacteria.

Smarter Drinking Habits

Do you have a tendency to leave a soft drink or sugary coffee beverage on your desk throughout the day, sipping as you go about your work? The next time you’re tempted to do this, remember that you are continuously bathing your teeth in sugar. This constant sugary environment provides a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, which feed on the sugar to create acids that cause damage to teeth and gums. Even juices contain sugar that can have the same impact.

If you feel like sipping on something throughout the day, opt for water. If you need a little kick of flavor, add some fruit to your water to infuse it.

If you do decide to drink something which contains a little sugar, try to finish the beverage quickly. You can also grab a straw and drink from that. Liquids drawn into the mouth through straws bypass much of your teeth.

Don’t Let Those Sugars Stick Around!

We all like to indulge now and then, whether it is dessert or a few pieces of candy. The problem with sweets is that sugars have a tendency to stick to the surface of teeth. This is especially true when eating candy with a sticky texture. To wash away sugar, drink a glass of water after snacks.

Brush your teeth when you have the chance, but be sure you wait at least 30 minutes. Brushing too soon can rub sugar and acids against teeth enamel and cause scratches and damage. If a toothbrush is not available, some foods such as carrots, celery, and apples are dense enough to actually scrub teeth naturally as you eat them. Sugarless gum is another excellent option because it stimulates saliva to rinse your teeth similar to the effect of rinsing with water.

Timing Really is Everything

Another good tip is to eat sugary foods with a meal. When are eating a meal, the mouth produces higher levels of saliva as part of the digestive process. Sugar is less likely to remain in the mouth if it is combined with other food or washed away by saliva.

Try to make brushing your teeth one of the last things you do before going to bed. Also try to avoid eating before going to sleep so bacteria will not have plenty of time during the night to break down sugars and form plaque.

Cheese protects teeth from cavities

Milk gets all the credit for building strong teeth, but cheese is actually more effective when it comes to preventing cavities. It is rich in calcium just like milk, but it also contains other components that work to keep teeth strong and healthy.

Increasing pH levels

The pH level of the mouth is indicative of the risk for erosion. Low pH signifies an increase in acidity, which contributes to damage to the enamel and the formation of cavities. A higher pH means a less acidic environment and a lower chance of harm.

Participants in one study who consumed cheese showed a rise in oral pH levels. Those who consumed milk or yogurt showed no change in pH. Researchers in the study suggest that cheese stimulates saliva production, which washes away acids to produce a higher pH.

Providing strength and protection

Cheese also contains plenty of calcium, which adheres to the surface of teeth to fend off acids. Hard cheeses like cheddar contain more than soft varieties like feta. In addition to keeping acids from sticking to teeth, the compounds in cheese keep stains away. That means if you’re going to have a glass of red wine, it really is appropriate to pair it with some cheese. Not only will it make your teeth slightly more stain resistant, it will also neutralize the acids in the wine.

Casein phosphate is another powerful component of cheese. On top of keeping teeth strong, this compound protects enamel to keep it from eroding- a first step in the formation of cavities.

Put it into practice

The best part about these findings is the amount of cheese necessary to reap the benefits. Scientists say you only need about one-third of a slice of cheese. If you’re trying to cut down on the amount of dairy or fat you consume, rest assured that such a small serving of cheese can easily fit into your dietary plans. Try to take a few bites of the cheese while you’re eating and then finish the meal with it for maximum benefits. Add it to sandwiches and salads and pair it with your snacks to cut back on your risk of experiencing tooth decay.

Learn How Dental Hygienists Keep Your Teeth Healthy

Many people only think about visiting a dentist’s office when there’s a problem, but this approach can mean more expenses, more trouble and possibly more uncomfortable treatments in the long run. While the idea of seeing the dentist is unpleasant for lots of people, it’s a good idea to get used to the thought of seeing your dental hygienist twice a year to help you avoid more complicated (and more expensive) dental problems.

What does a dental hygienist do?

A dental hygienist works under the supervision of a dentist to assess a patient’s oral health and performs routine maintenance and preventative care, as well as educating and working with the patient in order to make sure they’re doing everything right in their at-home hygiene routine. He or she will do a thorough check of your teeth and gums, including visual screening for oral cancer, followed by a routine cleaning to remove tartar and plaque buildup. They will also perform any x-rays you may need and make note of potential problems for your dentist to examine. Dental hygienists have an associate’s degree and are licensed in their state after passing medical exams.

Why is it important to see a hygienist regularly?

A dental hygienist will generally be the person doing your regular cleaning during your bi-annual dental visit- this makes them a VIP when it comes to keeping your teeth and gums healthy! He or she is responsible for looking at the overall health of your mouth during each visit and making you and your dentist aware of any potential problems, developing conditions or risk factors they may find.

Since a hygienist’s main role is preventative care, they are critical to helping keep your mouth disease- and decay-free. They will be able to tell how effectively you’re brushing and flossing, and will be prepared to give you tips or a refresher course on the best way to practice preventative care at home. A dental hygienist is also well-versed in the effects of diet on the teeth and gums, so feel free to bring up any dietary concerns and ask for advice about what foods are good and bad for your individual needs.

Seeing a hygienist on a regular basis can help keep you from the more extensive dental procedures not performed by hygienists, such as surgeries or conditions requiring medication.

What should you look for in a dental hygienist?

Chances are you chose your dental office based on the reputation of your dentist, not the surrounding staff. However, your hygienist will typically spend more time than your dentist looking at your teeth and assessing your oral health, so it’s important to feel comfortable with them. Since they will most likely be performing your cleaning, you need to feel confident in their abilities – don’t hesitate to ask to see accreditation. You should also feel comfortable asking questions and requesting explanations of anything you don’t understand.

Helping Children Avoid Cavities

You make every effort to take the best care of your kids – you watch their diet, make sure they get exercise, and take them to the doctor for checkups – but what about their teeth? Many parents are under the impression that dental care isn’t as important for children as it is for adults, since the first set of teeth isn’t permanent. In fact, “baby” teeth have the essential job of maintaining the spaces where the adult teeth will eventually grow.

When baby teeth become damaged or decayed, it can greatly affect the way that a child’s adult teeth grow later. On the same note, healthy gums are every bit as important for children as they are for adults; gum disease that begins in childhood can continue to plague us as adults if not treated promptly. Below is a list of several ways to make sure your child is in the best dental health possible.

Supervise Teeth Brushing

Dentists recommend that parents brush their children’s teeth until the child reaches about six years old. After your child begins brushing on their own, it’s a good idea to keep supervising them for a while in order to make sure they’re brushing correctly and for the right amount of time (about two minutes). The same goes for flossing- generally kids develop the dexterity to floss on their between the ages of eight to ten, but flossing for them until then reinforces a good hygiene routine so they’re more inclined to continue it as adults.

Replace Toothbrushes Every Six to Twelve Weeks

Kids don’t know or care when it’s time to replace a toothbrush, so make sure you’re paying attention to the state of your child’s brush- when the bristles begin to look frayed or worn, it’s time for a new one. Since children’s toothbrushes are often softer and more easily worn down, your child will likely need a new brush before you do. You’ll also want to replace their brushes after an illness, and store your children’s toothbrushes separately when one is ill so as not to infect the other.

Pay Attention to Diet

Cavities are on the rise in preschool age children even though many parents are under the impression they’re feeding a healthy diet. One culprit is bottled water- adults often think it must be cleaner than tap water, and give it to their kids daily. While it’s a good idea to filter tap water, most cities in the US include fluoride in the water supply. This fluoride plays a big part in keeping your kids’ teeth and gums healthy; with every sip, they’re fighting cavities and decay. Another way to cut down on the likelihood of cavities is to limit the amount of sweet food and drinks your child gets. Many children have a cup or bottle of juice on hand nearly all the time, when in fact sugary fruit juices aren’t doing teeth any favors. The combination of sugar and acidity in these juices makes them a favorite food for cavity-causing bacteria.

Visit the Dentist Regularly

Your child should have their first dental visit when the first tooth comes in. After this, making regular visits to a dental office is an important step in keeping your children’s mouths healthy. Since many children are uncomfortable at the dentist, it may be worth your time to seek out a pediatric dentist’s office- these offices are generally geared towards making kids comfortable, and the staff are well-versed in dealing with children.