Is Chewing Gum Good for Teeth?

woman chewing gumGum may be your go-to fix to temporarily get rid of bad breath. Or maybe you just like to chew gum and there’s always a pack nearby. But is this sweet treat good for your teeth and overall oral health? Our dental office in Sacramento has the answer.

Gum Can Be Good, But Not All Gum is Good Gum

The truth is, chewing gum after a meal when you can’t brush or floss can help remove plaque or food particles that stick around after lunch. It can even help stimulate saliva to neutralize acids and wash away bacteria. But some gum may do more harm than good.

If your chewing gum of choice contains sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or saccharine, chances are that it’s contributing more to the problem of bacteria and acid than helping it. But gum containing Xylitol is a different story.

Why is Xylitol Beneficial?

Xylitol looks like sugar, tastes like sugar, but doesn’t act like sugar once it’s in the body. It doesn’t increase blood sugar levels and doesn’t affect oral health the same way traditional sugar does. Regular sugar and many of the sugar substitutes will feed bacteria in the mouth with a delicious meal, making these bacteria happy and more than willing to stick around. After bacteria feed on sugars they give off an acid byproduct. This acid puts tooth enamel at risk of erosion and increases the chance of decay. But Xylitol functions differently.

Even though bacteria will still feed on Xylitol in the mouth, they aren’t getting any nutrients from it. This starves bacteria and it can die off. This also means that bacteria aren’t excreting the damaging acids that contribute to decay. That’s not all.

Xylitol gum can:

  • Prevent tooth decay
  • Starve bacteria
  • Prevent oral inflammation
  • Reduce your risk for gum disease

Is Xylitol Safe?

Xylitol isn’t only found in gum but actually occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables. It is safe for humans but occasionally, some people have experienced negative, yet not serious, side effects when they ingest too much. Some of these common side effects include gas, bloating, diarrhea, or other discomfort.

The next time you’re looking for a piece of gum to cover up the lingering smells of lunch, choose a brand that includes Xylitol. It can not only freshen your breath, but protect your oral health in the process. However, nothing is as good for oral health as brushing and flossing regularly and maintaining biannual visits to your dentist in Sacramento.

Tooth Pain Tips

woman with toothacheTooth pain can be unbearable and effect more than just the tooth alone. The whole mouth may feel the discomfort caused by a toothache, and some people also experience severe headaches. While relief may seem to be nowhere in sight, the team at our dental office in Sacramento has a few tips that you can try to relieve tooth pain.

Top Toothache Tools

Toothaches are unpredictable, and there’s really no telling when one may hit. Be prepared by knowing a few tools and tricks you can use to ease the pain.

  • Floss. A piece of floss can work wonders in relieving pain if the toothache is caused by a piece of food lodged between teeth or under gums. Gently guide the floss between the affected tooth and up under the gum line to remove any debris. Do not floss too much or too hard as this can cause more pain.
  • Cold Compress. Use an ice pack, a bag of frozen veggies, or regular old bag of ice to help reduce swelling and ease pain. Wrap your cold pack of choice in a lightweight towel or shirt and apply it to the face near where the pain is coming from. Keep it there for about 15 minutes at a time, giving yourself breaks in between icings.
  • Anesthetic. Head over to your nearest pharmacy or grocery store and pick up an over-the-counter oral anesthetic product. These gels or liquids will numb the area of application for a short time allowing you a bit of a break from the pain.
  • Salt Water. Mix some salt into warm water and gently swish it around in your mouth a tiny sip at a time. The salt will help remove any fluid that may be putting pressure on the nerves. Don’t swallow the solution but rather spit it out after each rinse.
  • Anti-inflammatory Medicine. Many anti-inflammatories can also help reduce tooth pain by decreasing swelling and pressure on the nerves. Choose the best option for you and use as directed. Do not follow the old wives’ tale of placing a pill directly on the gums or tooth as this can be harmful.

It’s important to note that all of these tips are to be used for temporary relief. Don’t let a toothache fester for too long. Call your dentist in Sacramento for an appointment as soon as possible.

Protect Yourself from Toothaches

Now that you know what to do if you get a toothache, we want to tell you two easy things you can do to help prevent one in the first place.

  • Visit our Sacramento dental office at least twice a year so we can monitor your oral health and treat any problems before they lead to a surprise toothache.
  • Brush your teeth every morning and every night to wash away bacteria that can lead to decay, and floss once a day to remove anything that may be lurking under the gum line.

If you’re suffering from a toothache or it’s just time for you to visit a dentist, we welcome you to call us to schedule an appointment today.  

Gum Disease vs. Gingivitis

worrying womanWhen it comes to gum disease and gingivitis, there’s often a bit of confusion between the two. Are they the same thing or are they different? Can they be treated the same way or not? What does it mean if you’re told you have one or the other? Not to worry, our dental office in Sacramento is here to help answer your questions.

A Closer Look a Gum Disease

Gum disease is ultimately a term used to describe an infection in the gums caused by a buildup of plaque that wiggled its way under the gum line. But gum disease itself has three stages that are all still commonly referred to as gum disease — gingivitis, periodontitis, and advanced periodontitis.

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the earliest and most mild form of gum disease. When caught early gingivitis can be treated successfully and any damage that may have occurred can be reversed.

Periodontitis

The second stage of gum disease occurs if gingivitis is not caught and treated quickly. Known as periodontitis, this more severe stage of gum disease not only affects the gums but also the bones and tissues that hold teeth in place. Treatment may not reverse any damage already done but can help it from progressing any further.

Advanced Periodontitis

Advanced periodontitis is more severe yet and can’t be reversed. In this stage, the plaque buildup has caused substantial damage to the bone and tissues. Teeth may feel loose or appear to have shifted position and they may even fall out.

How to Know if You Have Gum Disease

In its early stages gum disease may not show any signs or symptoms, or at least not any that might raise concern. That’s one reason knowing all the symptoms of gum disease is important.

  • Bleeding while brushing or flossing
  • Bad breath
  • Loose teeth
  • Pain when chewing
  • Receding gums
  • Swollen, red gums

How Gum Disease Affects the Body

We already know that gum disease may lead to tooth loss if not caught and treated early, but gum disease has also been linked to several serious systemic concerns including:

  • Lung disease
  • Cancers
  • Osteoporosis
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes

There’s a lot you can do to help protect yourself against gum disease including avoiding some of the known factors that increase the risk of developing it, such as using tobacco. You should also brush and floss everyday and maintain appointments with your dentist in Sacramento every six months.

We’re always welcoming new patients at our Sacramento dental office and would love to see you! We welcome you to call us today to schedule an appointment.  

Watch Out for These Labor Day Treats

Labor Day picnicWith Labor Day right around the corner, we’re sure our patients and neighbors are gearing up for a celebration. Typical Labor Day picnics usually include tons of delicious foods and snacks ranging from hot dogs and barbeque chicken to dips and salads galore. But some of these yummy treats aren’t so great for smiles. At our dental office in Sacramento, we’re here to tell you about some of the most common Labor Day foods and drinks that could be bad for your teeth.

Be Aware of the Condiments

Even though condiments are used sparingly, they can still present dangers to oral health. Some of the most damaging condiments include:

  • BBQ Sauce
  • Ketchup
  • Salad Dressing

Common Labor Day picnic staples, BBQ sauce, ketchup, and salad dressings can put teeth at increased risk for decay and enamel erosion. Ingredients in these condiments pack a double whammy since they tend to be both acidic (vinegar) and sweet (sugar). The acid from the vinegar can wear away tooth enamel while the sugars lead to decay and cavities.  

Chips & Pretzels

Salty chips and crunchy pretzels go so well with other Labor Day treats, but they can get stuck in the crevices of teeth. If not removed, these leftover food particles will feed bacteria in the mouth. The bacteria will then release acid which can affect tooth enamel.

Soda

Soda can contain lots of sugar and acid, and as we all know, both are concerning for your dentist in Sacramento. If you must have a soda, try to drink only one and use a straw to minimize how much touches your teeth.

Alcohol

Alcohol is naturally drying and will cause your mouth to dry out too. This reduces saliva production which typically would wash away bacteria and plaque before it has a chance to cause damage.

We’re not saying you should avoid these treats altogether, but we do encourage you to mix in some fresh veggies, cheese, and in-season fruits. Also make sure to drink plenty of water and try to brush your teeth shortly after eating. If brushing isn’t an option, a quick rinse with some water can rinse away sugars and acids, helping to protect your teeth.

From all of us at our Sacramento dental office, we hope you have a happy and safe Labor Day.

How to Deal with Losing a Filling

woman embarrassedDental fillings are an incredibly common type of dental restoration used to treat cavities and decay. In fact, nearly 91% of Americans between 20 and 64 have at least one dental filling. While dental fillings are strong and can last for many, many years, there are still some things that can cause a dental filling to become loose or fall out. Here’s what to do if that happens.

Don’t Wait, Call

Before you do anything else you should call your dentist in Sacramento. Many times our dental office will be able to see you the same day or the next day. At the appointment, you can expect to have a thorough exam of the area so your dental team can assess the damage. This allows us the opportunity to determine the best way to fix it.

What to Expect

Sometimes your dentist may recommend replacing the filling with another one. This is typically what happens if the filling was small and the damage didn’t really affect the tooth. Other times a filling just won’t get the job done and a dental crown may be recommended. Dental crowns cap the entire tooth and provide greater protection.  

Do Your Part

If you lose a filling there are important steps you should take in order to protect your tooth and ease any discomfort.

  • Clean the area. When a filling falls out, your tooth is left with a small hole that food and bacteria can get wedged into. If left there, it could lead to more damage. Rinse with salt water or gently brush the area after eating.
  • Reduce the pain. Using pain reliever can help minimize any sensitivity and increase comfort. There are also temporary fillers available at many pharmacies. Look for one that contains zinc oxide and place it in the gap, but only temporarily.

Avoid the Problem in the First Place

While very common, there are ways you can avoid losing a filling… including choosing your snacks wisely. Many lost or loose fillings are the result of sticky foods or hidden popcorn kernels, so be sure to eat these in moderation and use caution. Tooth grinding or clenching is also a common cause of lost fillings. Make sure to use a nightguard if you grind your teeth in your sleep to protect both your dental restorations as well as your jaw health. Lastly, seeing your Sacramento dentist every six months can help catch any loose fillings before they have a chance to fall out when you least expect it.

We’re always welcoming new patients at our dental office in Sacramento and are here to help with any dental concern. If you’ve lost a filling or suspect you may need one, we welcome you to give us a call to schedule an appointment today.

“Why Does My Dentist Need to Know My Medical History?”

man filling out paperworkBefore your first visit with your dentist in Sacramento you’ll probably be asked to fill out a medical history form. But why does a doctor who’s looking at your oral health need to know all about your overall health? The truth is, there is a strong connection between the two and the more your dental team knows, the more customized your treatment can be.

Things You Should Share

When it comes to information about your health there’s no such thing as too much information. Knowing anything and everything we can about your overall health will only help our team help give you the best dental care possible. We encourage you to be honest about your health history even it you think it has absolutely nothing to do with your mouth because, in fact, many diseases can affect your oral health. Some things we should know about include:

  • Heart problems
  • Asthma
  • Pacemaker
  • Epilepsy
  • Smoking
  • Allergies
  • Joint replacements
  • Autoimmune conditions

Medications and Oral Health

Our dental office in Sacramento may also ask for a list of any prescriptions or over-the-counter medications you’re currently taking. Many medications can cause dry mouth, which puts you at greater risk for cavities. While cavities are easily treated when they’re caught early, if they’re left alone they can lead to bigger problems such as the need for a root canal or even so much as losing the tooth. It’s also important for us to know about any medications you take in case we need to prescribe you anything, that way we can be sure it’s not going to negatively affect or interact with your existing medicine.

Keep it Current

While it’s normal and necessary to collect health history at your first visit to any doctor, you may never touch those forms again. But you should. Any time something changes with your health — if you have surgery, get diagnosed with a disease, are pregnant, or start a new medication — you should ask to update your medical history on file.

Privacy Matters

As with any medical information, your health history is also kept private and can’t be shared with anyone without your permission. Rest assured that any information regarding your health is protected by HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).

At our Sacramento dental office, we believe that when it comes to your health, the more we know the better we can cater your care to your individual needs. If you have any questions about why we ask what we do or our privacy policy, we welcome you to ask us at any time.

Oral Health Risks for Seniors

handsome older gentlemanOur Sacramento dental office cares for patients throughout all stages of life and understands that patients of different ages have different needs. We also want our patients to know that oral health risks change with every birthday. Today, we focus on those risks that can affect the senior population.

  • Discolored TeethTeeth can begin to lose a bit of luster and take on a darkened appearance. This typically happens because the top protective layer of tooth enamel can become thinner as we age. With this layer gone, the insides of teeth become more visible. Since the color of the inner tooth is often dark and a bit yellow in color, teeth also look yellow or dark.
  • Dry MouthThere are numerous things that can cause dry mouth, but the most common culprit for seniors is medication. Many medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter, list dry mouth as a potential side effect. When the mouth becomes dry there isn’t enough saliva to wash away decay-causing bacteria leaving teeth at risk for cavities, the need for a root canal, or even tooth loss if left untreated.  
  • Tooth LossIt’s a common misconception that it’s inevitable that we’re all going to lose our teeth, or at least some of them, due to aging. But this doesn’t have to be the case. The best way to protect teeth and keep them strong and healthy is to brush and floss regularly and see the dentist in Sacramento twice a year.  
  • Gum DiseaseGum disease is basically an infection below the gum line that results in red, inflamed gums and can lead to tooth loss. However, gum disease can also increase the risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and as recent research suggests, Alzheimer’s disease. While there’s still more work to be done before scientists can truly say if gum disease is related to Alzheimer’s, one study published in Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy strongly correlates diseases with levels of inflammation, including gum disease, to Alzheimer’s.  

Protect Your Teeth, Lower the Risk

Even though you can’t fight the aging process, and there’s still nothing you can do to keep from getting older, there are ways you can protect your oral health and reduce the risk of developing some of the most common oral health problems that affect seniors.

  • Brush and floss every day
  • See your dentist bi-annually
  • Drink plenty of water, especially if you have dry mouth
  • Talk with your dental team about any changes in your mouth

If it’s time to make your oral health a priority so you can have a strong, healthy smile for a lifetime, we welcome you to call our dental office in Sacramento to schedule an appointment.

Does Asthma Affect Dental Health?

woman reaching for asthma inhalerIt’s well known that asthma causes a narrowing of the airways, reduces oxygen flow, and makes it difficult to breathe. It’s a chronic, scary disease that affects the lungs and entire respiratory system. But can it be true that asthma may also affect dental health? The team at our dental office in Sacramento has the surprising answer in this week’s blog.

Asthma By The Numbers

More than 20 million adults and over 6 million children in the United States alone suffer from asthma. There is no cure for this disease that takes the lives of an estimated 3,600 people every year. Even more suffer asthma attacks, become sick, or are even hospitalized. Asthma is not a disease to take lightly and patients should take their medication as prescribed. However, there are some lesser known side effects of asthma that should be talked about.

Asthma & Cavities

It’s incredibly common for asthma sufferers to breathe out of their mouths instead of their noses – simply because it’s easier and they can get more oxygen that way. But mouth breathing is a known contributor to dry mouth and cavities. Constantly exposing the inside of the mouth to air really reduces saliva production. Typically, saliva would rinse away damaging bacteria and acid, but without it, they’re left behind to do some serious damage. Both bacteria and acid will attack enamel, removing the teeth’s protective barrier and increasing the likelihood for cavities. What’s more is that common asthma treatments may also cause dry mouth, which doubles the risk of inadequate saliva production and decay.

Keep Your Mouth Healthy

Asthma patients are more likely to develop cavities, but following the steps below can help minimize the risk of dental problems.

  • Stay Hydrated. Water is a dry mouth sufferer’s best weapon of defense. Water can help pick up the slack of reduced saliva flow and rinse away bad bacteria and acid. Drinking water throughout the day may even help saliva production increase and further protect your teeth. Choose water as often as possible and keep yourself hydrated.
  • Rinse. Since we know that many asthma medications contain drying ingredients, it’s important to rinse your mouth out with water soon after taking them. The sooner you can rinse, the less time the drying ingredients are in your mouth.  
  • Tell Your Dentist. Your dentist in Sacramento will ask about your health history and any medications you’re taking. It’s important to tell them the truth. Many diseases and medicines can affect oral health, not just asthma, and the more your dentist knows the better care they’ll be able to give.

Besides following the tips above, you should always brush and floss your teeth regularly. Brushing twice a day and flossing once a day will help keep your mouth protected in between dental appointments. If it’s been longer than six months since you’ve been to the dentist, we welcome you to call our Sacramento dental office to schedule your appointment today.

What All Women Need to Know About Dental Health

group of women laughingWe all know that men and women are built differently, and that affects what health problems each gender is more susceptible to. At our dental office in Sacramento, we also know that even though women are more open to visiting us regularly, they’re actually at more risk for dental problems throughout their lives than men. This May, in celebration of Mother’s Day and also National Women’s Health Week, we’d like to share how different stages of women’s lives can affect their oral health.

Changes in Life Mean Changes in Health

Several times throughout a woman’s life, particularly during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, her hormone levels change and her body changes with it. But what many people may not know is that these hormonal fluctuations can affect oral health and, in turn, overall health.

Puberty

Puberty can begin as early as age 8 and typically occurs by age 14, although this can vary person to person. During this time, the body is going through many changes, including hormonal changes. These can certainly affect girls’ emotions and moods, but the changes in estrogen and progesterone can also cause an increased blood flow to the gums. Because of this boost of blood flow, girls going through puberty may experience red, swollen gums. They may even bleed when brushing their teeth. If this happens, it makes regular brushing and flossing even more important to keep bacteria from causing gum disease.

Menstruation

Throughout the next phase of a woman’s life, hormonal changes will continue to occur regularly and oral health will continue to be affected. During her menstrual cycle and a few days before her period, a woman may once again experience sore gums or even a canker sore. These should resolve themselves in a few days. The changes in hormones may also cause dry mouth, which increases the risk for cavities and bad breath.

Pregnancy

During pregnancy, regular dental care is particularly important since many studies have linked poor dental health to premature births, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia. About half of pregnant women will also get pregnancy gingivitis caused by, you guessed it, changes in hormones. Make sure to practice proper dental hygiene by brushing twice a day and flossing once a day, and to visit a dentist in Sacramento during the second trimester.  

Menopause

During menopause, once again a substantial fluctuation in hormones occurs and estrogen decreases. This can lead to bone loss, osteoporosis, and weakening of the jaw bone. The jaw bone is responsible for holding teeth in place and if it’s lost or the density decreases too much, teeth may fall out. It’s recommended that if this happens, the teeth are replaced by either dentures or dental implants.

Brushing and flossing regularly can help protect all of our patients from cavities, gum disease, and countless other dental problems. But it’s also important to see a dentist at least every six months. If you’re in need of dental team that’s caring and comfortable, give our Sacramento dental office a call to schedule an appointment. We’d be happy to care for you.

Why You Should Always Wear a Mouthguard When Playing Sports

girls playing field hockeyApril is recognized as National Facial Protection Month and serves to promote the importance of wearing proper mouth protection during sports. At our dental office in Sacramento, this is a topic we want to talk about in hopes that we can help guard our patients’ smiles from the dangers of contact sports. Join us as we cover some of the most important reasons you should always wear a mouthguard when hitting the court or field.

Sport Injuries by the Numbers

Participating in sports can benefit us in a lot of ways. Sports help keep us active and healthy, and they build strong team and communication skills. But there’s always the risk of injury. While injuries can affect even the best, most experienced athletes, an alarming amount of sports injuries happen to children. In fact, a study published by Johns Hopkins concluded that over 3.5 million kids under age 15 sustain an injury while playing a sport or participating in a similar activity. Of course a lot of sport injuries result in a sprain, strain, or even broken bones, but what’s most concerning to your dentist in Sacramento is that many of these injuries are to the face or head.

Who Has the Biggest Risk?

Even though any athlete can get hurt, there are some sports that put you at increased risk for a mouth injury. Any contact sport such as football, soccer, or basketball poses the biggest chance for a mouth injury, but which sport sees the most? The answer may surprise you. According to a study published by dentalcare.com and two research dentists, basketball has the highest mouth injury rate in both men and women. This could be in part to the fact that a mouthguard is not always required. However, the American Dental Association recommends wearing a mouthguard, even if it’s not in the rulebook. Besides protecting teeth against chips, breaks, or being totally knocked out, mouthguards can help reduce the risk of concussion, too.

Different Types of Mouthguards

There are typically two types of mouthguards — the boil-and-bite variety found in sporting goods stores and custom-made mouthguards created by a dentist. The stock mouthguards you can buy at stores are better than nothing, but they’re usually uncomfortable, don’t fit as snugly as they should, and oftentimes spend more time being chewed on than protecting teeth. The best way to protect teeth while playing sports is by getting a custom-made mouthguard. These professional-grade sports mouthguards are molded to fit around each and every tooth and are really comfortable. Speaking with them in is easier than a boil-and-bite guard, too.

Before you or your child gears up for a sporting event, make sure you have a well fitting mouthguard and be committed to wearing it every time for the whole game. If you want the ultimate in mouth protection, we welcome you to call our Sacramento dental office to discuss the best sports mouthguard for you.