My Blog

Posts for category: Oral Health

By Metcalf Family Dentistry
February 04, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene  
AnOralIrrigatorCouldMakeFlossingEasierforYou

If we were playing word association with the term “oral hygiene,” you'd probably answer “brushing.” And you would be right—brushing cleans tooth surfaces of accumulated bacterial plaque, a thin biofilm most responsible for dental disease.

But brushing is only half of the oral hygiene equation: You also need to remove dental plaque between teeth where brushing can't reach. And, that requires that other practice—flossing.

Unfortunately, brushing is more popular than its hygienic sibling because many people find traditional thread flossing more difficult and messier than brushing. That can make it tempting to skip flossing—but then you're only getting half the benefit of oral hygiene for reducing the risk of tooth decay or gum disease.

There is, however, a way to floss that doesn't involve a roll of thread: oral irrigation. This form of flossing uses a countertop device that directs a pressurized spray of water between teeth through a handheld wand. The directed spray loosens and then flushes away accumulated plaque.

Oral irrigators (also known as water flossers) have been an important tool for decades in dental offices, and have been available for home use since the 1960s. In the last few years, though, the devices have become more compact and easier to use. More importantly, studies have shown they're as effective in removing between-teeth plaque as regular flossing.

These irrigation devices are especially useful for people wearing braces. The attached brackets and wires make it extremely difficult to maneuver flossing thread between teeth. Because of this (as well as similar difficulties in brushing), patients are more susceptible to dental disease while undergoing orthodontic treatment.

But a 2008 study showed that oral irrigators are quite effective for braces wearers in removing between-teeth plaque. It found those who used an irrigator after brushing removed five times the amount of plaque than those that only brushed.

Even if you're not wearing braces, you may still find an oral irrigator to be a useful flossing alternative. Speak with your dentist for recommendations on what to look for in an oral irrigator and tips on how to use it. It could make a positive difference in your dental health.

If you would like more information on how best to keep your teeth and gums clean, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cleaning Between Your Teeth.”

By Metcalf Family Dentistry
January 15, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition  
ThatEnergyDrinkYouTakeforaBoostMightBeHurtingYourDentalHealth

Although energy drinks are but a blip on the historical timeline compared to coffee or tea, they've displaced these traditional stimulants among nearly half of today's adolescents and young adults. But these sweetened “processed” drinks are also controversial among healthcare experts—particularly the effect they may have on dental health.

Besides the added sugar found in many energy drinks—a prime food source for harmful bacteria—many energy drinks and their cousins sports drinks contain significant amounts of acid. High levels of acid soften and erode tooth enamel, which can lead to tooth decay.

During one experimental study, portions of tooth enamel were subjected to a number of name-brand energy and sports beverages. Over the course of a few days, researchers recorded significant enamel loss, especially involving the energy drink samples.

Abstaining from both energy and sports drinks is a sound way to avoid enamel erosion (the best hydrator, it turns out, is simply water). But if you do wish to continue consuming these beverages, here are a few common sense precautions for reduce the risk of harm to your teeth.

Partake only at mealtimes. Among its many abilities, saliva is able to neutralize oral acid and bring the mouth to a neutral pH level within 30 minutes to an hour. But if you're sipping on high-acid beverages throughout the day, your saliva may not be able to compensate effectively. Drinking energy drinks only during a meal helps saliva do its acid-buffering job better.

Rinse with water afterwards. Rinsing with a little water after eating or drinking something acidic can help reduce the pH levels in the mouth. That's because water is by and large neutral on the acidic/alkaline scale. Because it's not adding more, rinsing with water dilutes any concentrations of acid that may still be lingering in your mouth.

Don't brush immediately. Brushing is essential to overall hygiene, but if you do it right after you eat or drink, you could be doing more harm than good. That's because elevated acid levels that naturally occur after consuming foods and beverages can temporarily soften and demineralize the surface enamel. Brushing could remove microscopic bits of softened enamel. If you wait an hour to brush, you'll be giving saliva time to “re-mineralize” your enamel.

If you would like more information on the role of beverage acid in dental disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Think Before Your Drink.”

By Metcalf Family Dentistry
December 26, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
4ThingsYouCanDoToProtectOralHealthDuringCancerTreatment

Despite momentous strides in recent years in the fight against cancer, treatments can still disrupt normal life. Both radiation and chemotherapy have side effects that can cause problems in other areas of health—particularly the teeth and gums.

If you or a loved one are undergoing cancer treatment, it's important to get ahead of any potential side effects it may have on dental health. Here are 4 things that can help protect teeth and gums while undergoing cancer treatment.

Get a preliminary dental exam. Before beginning treatment, patients should have their dentist examine their teeth and gums to establish a baseline for current dental health and to treat any problems that may already exist. However, patients should only undergo dental procedures in which the recovery time can be completed before starting radiation or chemotherapy.

Be meticulous about oral hygiene. Undergoing cancer treatment can increase the risks for developing tooth decay or gum disease. That's why it's important that patients thoroughly brush and floss everyday to reduce bacterial plaque buildup that causes disease. Patients should also reduce sugar in their diets, a prime food source for bacteria, and eat “teeth-friendly” foods filled with minerals like calcium and phosphorous to keep teeth strong.

Keep up regular dental visits. The physical toll that results from cancer treatment often makes it difficult to carry on routine activities. Even so, patients should try to keep up regular dental visits during their treatment. Besides the extra disease prevention offered by dental cleanings, the dentist can also monitor for any changes in oral health and provide treatment if appropriate.

Minimize dry mouth. Undergoing cancer treatment can interfere with saliva production and flow. This can lead to chronic dry mouth and, without the full protection of saliva against dental disease, could increase the risk of tooth decay or gum disease. Patients can minimize dry mouth by drinking more water, using saliva boosters and discussing medication alternatives with their doctor.

It may not be possible to fully avoid harm to your oral health during cancer treatment, and some form of dental restoration may be necessary later. But following these guidelines could minimize the damage and make it easier to regain your dental health afterward.

If you would like more information on dental care during cancer treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Health During Cancer Treatment.”

By Metcalf Family Dentistry
December 15, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
InfectionControlattheDentalOfficeIsntSomethingNew

In the midst of the current global pandemic, we're all focused on staying healthy and avoiding infection. For many, their first thought before resuming any regular activity is, “Will I or my family be safe?”

If you've asked that about visiting the dentist, rest assured, it is. In fact, dentists have been at the forefront in protecting patients from viral and bacterial infections for decades. Here's why you're in safe hands at the dentist's office.

Barrier control. Although we're focused at the moment on Covid-19, there are other pathogens (microorganism that cause disease) for which there has been an ongoing concern among healthcare providers. Many of these like the viruses that cause hepatitis or HIV/AIDS spread through blood-to-blood contact. That's why we routinely use gloves, face shields and other barrier devices, even during routine visits, to prevent bloodborne transmission between patients and staff, or other patients.

Disinfection. Viruses and other pathogens may continue to live on surfaces in treatment areas for various durations. To prevent their transmission to humans, we follow strict procedures for disinfecting all treatment-related surfaces after each patient visit. One-use treatment items are disposed separately from regular waste. Permanent instruments and equipment are cleaned and thoroughly sanitized to the highest standard.

Protocols. There are approximately 170,000 dentists across the U.S., yet each generally follows the same high standards for infection control. Regulating bodies at state levels have made infection control a crucial part of licensing requirements and continuing education, and every dental practice must have an infection control plan they meticulously follow. Because of these strict standards, an infection occurring in a dental office setting is extremely rare.

In addition to these regular procedures, dentists have also added extra safety measures to better address the current crisis, and will continue these until the crisis has abated. Staying knowledgeable and flexible to new challenges is also a feature of dental providers' infection control mission.

If you do have concerns, please feel free to contact us to learn more about the specific measures we have in place to keep patients safe. Protecting you and your family during dental care will always be our top priority.

If you would like more information on patient safety at the dentist's office, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Infection Control in the Dental Office.”

By Metcalf Family Dentistry
December 05, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: fluoride  
NewRecommendationsMakeWaterFluoridationSaferThanEver

For over half a century now, community water systems have been adding fluoride to drinking water to help reduce the risk of tooth decay. Numerous long-term studies have demonstrated the soundness of this practice, prompting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to call water fluoridation one of the ten most effective public health measures of the 20th Century.

In the 1960s, after years of study into the teeth-strengthening effects of fluoride, the U.S. Public Health Service recommended that drinking water utilities add fluoride at a rate of between 0.7 and 1.20 milligrams per liter (mg/L) or parts per million (ppm) of water. This recommendation held fast until 2015 when the service changed the recommendation to no more than 0.7 mg/L.

Why the change to guidelines that had been in place for over fifty years? The revision was in response to an increasing occurrence of dental fluorosis. This condition happens when the teeth absorb more fluoride than necessary, leading to discoloration of the surface enamel, creating effects like small white spots or brownish “mottling.”

Dental fluorosis is the only known health condition caused by fluoride. As such, it doesn't damage the tooth itself, and is mainly a cosmetic problem. But it can still be avoided if fluoride intake is kept at moderate levels.

The original recommendation was sound science when first introduced. Since then, though, the prevalence of fluoride in everyday life has grown, with the chemical commonly found in dental care products like toothpastes or mouthrinses, as well as many processed foods and beverages and even infant formula. Our society's overall intake of fluoride has been growing as a result.

The new recommendation came after several years of research to verify water fluoridation levels of 0.7 mg/L would still be effective in the fight against tooth decay while lowering the risk of dental fluorosis. With this adjustment, this important and safe measure for keeping your family's teeth protected against disease is safer than ever.

If you would like more information on how fluoride can help your family fight tooth decay, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.