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Franklyn Alexander, DDS
General & Cosmetic Dentistry

Patients Choice Winner 2016

Archive for the ‘Dental Tips’ Category

Take Charge of Your Dental Care

Taking care of your mouth can be a challenge, especially when it comes to figuring out what’s best for you- everyone’s different, and the approach that works for one person might not be ideal for the next. However, there are a few key things that people with healthy teeth almost always have in common. Ask yourself the following questions to arm yourself with the best tools available when it comes to dental care.

Could you benefit from an electric toothbrush?

When used properly, manual brushes work just as well as electric types. However, an astonishing number of adults don’t brush correctly, or in a way that helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease. An electric brush can help solve some of these issues- many types are available with a timer, eliminating the guesswork as to how long is long enough (about two minutes is ideal.) An electric brush can also be extremely helpful as you grow older and begin to lose some of the strength and dexterity in your hands, performing the back-and-forth scrubbing motion that can be difficult for stiff or painful fingers.

How long has it been since you had your crowns or other dental repairs examined?

The length of life for a crown or other restoration largely depends on how well you take care of them, but you can usually expect to need some maintenance or replacement at some point- it’s a good idea to have crowns and fillings checked every 5-8 years to make sure they’re holding up. A big issue facing those with crowns is the development of decay under the crown- since it’s hidden, many people don’t notice it until the situation has progressed severely. A dental professional can catch problems like these before they become a major issue.

Do you know what dental problems you’re most prone to?

This is another area where your dentist can give you a lot of help. The biggest problem for some people is sensitive teeth; others are susceptible to cavities and decay. Your lifestyle and diet has a lot to do with the dental issues you may face, but genetics play a part as well- some people just have more problems with their teeth than others despite excellent hygiene and preventative care. Making regular visits to the dentist’s office can give you an idea of what areas you need to focus on to support the best oral health possible. He or she can also recommend products tailored for your specific needs- some toothpastes are great for whitening, while others are more effective at preventing and controlling gum disease. A personalized care plan is ideal for helping you keep healthy teeth.

Do you grind or clench your teeth?

Grinding and clenching can do some serious damage to the overall structure of your teeth and jaw. Tooth grinding, or bruxism, often occurs at night while you’re sleeping, so it can be difficult to catch. If you often wake up with a headache or a sore/tired feeling jaw, you may be grinding your teeth. Your dentist can also see signs of grinding and clenching in your mouth- abnormal wear and tear or flattened tops on your teeth are a dead giveaway. Talk to your dentist about wearing a nighttime mouth guard that will keep you from grinding your teeth together.

Energy and Sports Drinks May Do More Harm Than Good

Many people assume that sports and energy drinks are a healthier alternative to soda, and these drinks are especially popular among teens and young adults. However, sports drinks are often unnecessary and can be downright harmful to your dental health; energy drinks have even more potential for negative effects throughout the body. Learn why water is usually a better choice, and when it might be appropriate to have a sports drink on hand.

Sports and Energy Drinks Tend to be Highly Acidic

Sports and energy drinks claim to enhance energy levels and/or performance by delivering electrolytes and nutrients to the body during a workout, or providing caffeine and vitamins throughout the day, so many people think they’re a better choice than soda or juice. In fact, when it comes to your teeth, the high acid levels in sports drinks are no better than sodas. Citric acid, which helps give many sports drinks their flavor, weakens enamel over time. There’s also usually a hefty dose of sugar in popular sports drinks, which in turn helps bacteria in your mouth produce even more acid. Energy drinks tend to have even higher levels of sugar and acid than sports drinks, making them extra dangerous to your dental health.

Just How Harmful are Sports and Energy Drinks?

One study found that teeth exposed to sports and energy drinks on a regular basis showed signs of damage after just five days; while sugar and acidity levels vary among brands, in general, energy drinks are twice as harmful to enamel as sports drinks. Damaged enamel is a big problem when it comes to oral health; teeth with weakened enamel are more prone to cracks, chips, and decay. Once enamel is eroded or damaged, it can’t be replaced, so the importance of treating your teeth well can’t be overstated.

Sports and Energy Drinks are Unnecessary for Most People

Many people who drink energy drinks on a daily basis could get more energy in their daily lives by simply getting more sleep and eating a healthier diet. While an energy drink may provide a short burst of productivity, the lack of nutritional value and potential for heart arrhythmia and blood pressure problems make them a less-than-ideal choice for everyday consumption.

On the same note, sports drinks aren’t necessarily beneficial to athletes who maintain a mild to moderate activity level, so if you plan on exercising for 60 minutes or less, there’s no reason to pick up a sports drink on the way to your workout; water is all you’ll need before, during and after. However, if you’re participating in intense workouts- like marathons, all-day bicycle rides, or training for Olympic events- the potassium and sodium content in sports drinks can be helpful in replenishing your body’s natural nutrient levels. Don’t rely on sports drinks alone to hydrate during extreme exercise; you need water as well. Have a bottle of each close by, or dilute your sports drink of choice with a good amount of water.

Halloween Treats That Won’t Scare Your Teeth

Halloween is supposed to be scary, but that doesn’t mean it should be for your teeth. Before you buy a few bags of candy for the neighborhood monsters, take a minute to consider what’s best for the health of their teeth. The info will help with your own dental care, too- a survey reveals that 80 percent of parents partake in the candy consumption too.

Regulate Treat Time

It’s tempting for kids (and adults) to go on a candy-eating craze after collecting as much as they can from neighborhood houses. It’s best to limit the amount of candy eaten in one sitting. Have you child pick out a few treats and tuck the rest away so you can dole it out in a more controlled manner. Try to pass it out with a meal and have your kid drink a glass of water afterwards to rinse away any remaining sugar.

Some Candies are Better Than Others

When you’re stocking up on candy to pass out to trick-or-treaters, keep in mind that some choices are better than others. It all comes down to how long the candy spends in the mouth and how hard it is.

Jawbreakers and hard gumballs can damage teeth by causing chips or breaks. Plus, any type of hard candy spends more time in the mouth, meaning your teeth are exposed to harmful sugars longer. Sticky candies, like Tootsie Rolls, Candy Corn, Skittles, caramels, or gummies have a tendency to get stuck in the grooves of teeth and are more likely to dodge toothbrushes. You can also look for sugar-free options of these classic favorites.

Chocolate is a better candy choice because it quickly dissolves and disappears from the mouth. However, candy bars that contain caramel or another sticky filling aren’t any better than sticky or hard candy.

Consider Alternative Treats

Halloween treats aren’t limited to candy. After all, kids are going to get that from most of the other houses. Why not be the creative one?

Here are a few alternative ideas:

  • Temporary tattoos
  • Small toys like bubbles, yo-yos, or finger puppets
  • Spooky rings or wristbands
  • Fruit
  • Snack-size bags of crackers or pretzels
  • Stickers
  • Pencil toppers or erasers

Get creative and protect children’s teeth this Halloween!

How Stress Can Affect Oral Health

These days, it seems like everyone’s stressed out about one thing or another. You probably know that chronic stress has some serious negative health effects. You may not realize, however, how much your anxiety affects your oral health. It’s connected to your full body health in many ways, so let’s look at ways that stress and dental health intersect.

Canker Sores

Canker sores, or mouth ulcers, are small sores that appear in the mouth. They can be due to injury or irritation, like a rogue toothpick or sharp potato chip, but they can also show up seemingly unprovoked during times of- you guessed it- stress and anxiety. Canker sores may be slightly painful and irritating, but they usually go away on their own within 10 to 14 days. However, if you’re getting them often it’s a good idea to examine what’s going on in your life at the time and try to find ways to lower your stress levels. In the meantime, you can usually find some relief with over-the-counter topical medications while the sore is healing.


Grinding teeth is known as bruxism, and it’s very common among adults- many people do it in their sleep or during the day without realizing it. Although it can be caused by problems such as misaligned teeth or sleep disorders, stress is a common factor in people who grind or clench their teeth. Bruxism can result in cracked or broken teeth and exacerbation of jaw disorders or TMD. If you notice a reoccurring pain or tense feeling in your jaw and neck, flatness to the tips of your teeth, or if a loved one hears you grinding your teeth in your sleep, see your dentist to make sure you haven’t already damaged the structure of your teeth or jaw. A dentist will also be able to give you tips on how to relax your teeth and jaw during the day, and may suggest a mouth guard for sleeping if you seem to be grinding your teeth during sleep.

TMD or Temporomandibular Disorder

Bruxism and constant clenching of the jaw can contribute to TMD, a condition characterized by a malfunction of one or more parts of the jaw. Symptoms of TMD include facial or jaw pain, especially when eating or chewing, clicking or popping in the jaw when opening or closing your mouth, jaws temporarily locking open or shut, or just a general feeling that your top and bottom jaws aren’t quite fitting together correctly. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, your dentist will be able to tell you if it’s TMD related and provide care or advice to help resolve your symptoms.

Dry Mouth

It can be caused by certain medications or dehydration, but if you know these aren’t a problem for you and you feel like your mouth is always dry, stress may be the answer. Severe anxiety or chronic panic attacks divert blood sugar, oxygen and energy to the heart, lungs, and large muscles in the ‘fight or flight’ response- this process results in dry mouth, and is also why many people report a tingly feeling in the hands and/or feet during extreme stress. Saliva is your body’s natural defense against bacteria in the mouth; it washes away food particles and debris, and keeps bacteria from settling in to any nooks and crannies in your mouth. When saliva flow is lessened, harmful bacteria get a chance to hang around and start producing cavity-causing acid. While working on getting your stress levels under control, sip on water throughout the day to help keep your mouth clean and avoid sugary drinks like juice or soda.

One Last Word

During times of stress, we tend to overlook seemingly small parts of our daily routine- like brushing or flossing- and concentrate on the bigger picture. It’s important not to let up on your everyday oral care habits, especially during times of anxiety as you’re more susceptible to health problems when your stress levels are at their highest.

Keep Your Teeth In Tip-Top Condition

The “apple a day” adage isn’t enough to protect your teeth from all that your diet can throw at them. There’s also more to oral care than avoiding sugar and candy. Keeping your teeth healthy comes from an entire diet that focuses on not only avoiding harmful foods, but also eating enough of the right ones.

To Avoid: Sugars and Starches

Some foods to avoid are a little more obvious than others. Sticky and chewy candies, for example, can get wedged in the crevices of teeth, meaning they hang around longer and cause more damage. But what about foods like pasta or bread? When starches like these are broken down by acids in the mouth, they are reduced to sugar.

“But I don’t want to give up all of my snacks!” you say. That’s understandable. If you’re going to indulge, try to do it with a meal. Snacking between meals allows the sugars to remain on your teeth. Having a snack with a meal allows the extra saliva and the other food to rinse away the sugars better. Drink a glass of water with your meal as well, opting to skip the sugary drinks that only make the erosive environment in the mouth worse.

To Eat: Fruit, Vegetables, Dairy

The vitamins and minerals in fruits and veggies aren’t just beneficial for your body. They are also necessary for strong teeth and gums. Choices that are crunchy or have a high water content are helpful because they rinse and scrub away plaque and sugars. Stock your fridge with watermelon, fresh green beans, apples, carrots, and celery to naturally clean your mouth.

Minerals can either leave your teeth, or enter them through the process of remineralization. In order to remineralize your teeth, you need to provide your body with the necessary minerals, such as calcium and phosphorous. Dairy products are rich in both, making yogurt, milk, cheese, and cottage cheese excellent choices for oral health. Cheese has the added bonus of stimulating saliva production to wash away sugars and acids.