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Afraid of the Dentist? Read this

Thousands of Americans suffer with poor oral health because of a serious fear of the dentist. It is not uncommon to be afraid of the dentist and it can be a serious issue that keeps people out of the dentist’s chair for months and sometimes even years. While it may be common to be afraid, it is not okay to skip regular dental visits. Skipping dental visits can result in serious tooth decay, gum decay, and oral health issues that will get severely worse if undetected.

Many dentists strive to create a comfortable and calming environment for patients so that they don’t have to fear the dentist’s chair. Ask your dentist about the options that they have to make your experience fear-free.

Here are some things that you can ask your dentist about that may help with your anxiety and fear.

Setting the scene

Listening to soothing music, covering your eyes, and even lighting candles can help with your experience. Sometimes patients simply need a distraction from the sounds of the cleaning or procedure tools. Covering your ears and smelling something other than toothpaste can help relax you and make you forget that you are at the dentist.

Sedation dentistry

Ask your dentist about sedation dentistry. Sedation dentistry relaxes you by using sedatives either orally, intravenously, or in other forms that will make you sleepy and relaxed. Different offices offer different sedation options. Talk to your dentist about the right option for you.

Ask for an explanation

As a patient with dental anxiety, you realize that some of your fears are a bit unreasonable. Ask your dentist to thoroughly explain procedures and give details as to why you need them. Understanding what your dentist is doing can give you peace of mind and help relax you.

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5 Vitamin C Rich Foods to Improve Your Dental Health

We all know that vitamin C is useful for our overall health. From beating the common cold to promoting good eyesight, it’s known as something of a cure-all vitamin. So, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that increasing your vitamin C intake can be beneficial for your oral health as well. Vitamin C helps to strengthen blood vessels and reduce inflammation, both of which are key ingredients in the recipe for healthy gums. Furthermore, vitamin C increases collagen production, which keeps gums strong, elastic, and less susceptible to periodontal disease. So, which foods should you be eating more of to gain the full benefits? Here are 5 to get you started.

Bell peppers
Many people believe that when it comes to bell peppers, all colors are created equal. In terms of their flavor this might be true, but if you’re looking for the highest vitamin C content, pick red bell peppers over their green or yellow counterparts. Feel free to eat as many as you like, too. A full cup of bell peppers is only worth about 45 calories, so you can snack guilt-free!

Kiwi
Did you know that in addition to being significantly less acidic (and therefore better for your teeth) kiwi fruit has about twice the vitamin C content of lemons and oranges? Kiwi is also high in fiber and an enzyme called actinidain which helps to break down protein, easing digestion and overall intestinal function.

Strawberries
In addition to being a delicious summer treat, strawberries are loaded with vitamin C. But that’s not all! Strawberries are also rich in flavonoids, which can counteract bad (or LDL) cholesterol in the blood and help unclog plaque from the arteries. Sweet!

Broccoli
Turns out your mother was telling you to eat your broccoli for a reason! Besides their high concentration of vitamin C, they could also help you fend off cancer due to a high sulfur content found in most cruciferous vegetables.

Kale
Finally, this trendy superfood has received quite a bit of press in the last few years, and for good reason. It’s high in vitamins C, A, and K, as well as fiber and iron. Don’t like the taste? Stick it in a fruity smoothie and drink the benefits!

Filling your diet with these vitamin rich foods will not only help your teeth and gums, but your overall health. As with everything, however, practice moderation; there is too much of a good thing! Consult your dentist for advice on how much vitamin C you should be getting, or for more dietary tips for a healthy smile.

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The Jury is Still Out on E-Cigarettes

Some cigarette users switch to the electronic version in hopes of reducing their addiction and adverse health effects. However, recent research warns that e-Cigarettes may be even worse for you than traditional cigarettes, and they don’t help you quit smoking. Users may be deceived on multiple accounts, with no known benefit in return. If you are considering transitioning to e-Cigarettes to cut back on your smoking habit, consider gums, patches, and the old faithful cold turkey first.

First a quick health disclosure – it is unwise to put anything through your lungs other than air (and blood that will be oxygenated). Traditional cigarettes put ash and tar into your body; e-Cigarettes bring carcinogens such as formaldehyde and other chemicals into your system. As e-Cigarettes do not decrease nicotine addiction, the buffet of preservatives your body is exposed to will only increase.

Smoking greatly heightens your risk of mouth, throat, and lung cancers, as well as gum disease and aggressive tooth loss. Stained teeth and chronic bad breath are also common conditions among smokers. Do right by your oral and physical health and seriously consider the risks of smoking – all kinds – today.

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How a Virus Can Help Prevent Infections

Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Medicine have found a virus, of all things, that may help solve some problems of root canals.

Their research suggests that we can turn the tables on post-procedural bacterial infections by utilizing a type of virus called a bacteriophage. Bacteriophage viruses attack bacteria specifically, which offers the possibility that a small dose of virus injected post-treatment could stop bacteria from developing. Antibiotics are the go-to treatment method after oral surgery to keep infections from forming, but widespread use has allowed bacteria to become resistant, and the threat of a pandemic superbug that is resistant to all forms of antibiotics is a very real thing. This virus therapy could solve that problem.

In both tests the researchers have currently performed, the bacteriophage completely eradicated the bacteria. It has shown to work well in treating root canal infections both in vitro and ex vivo. In addition, this virus genome doesn’t contain potentially harmful genetics, so if testing continues to go well, this could really become a widespread manner of treating infection.

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Can Kissing Be Good for Oral Health

Kissing has its hazards and its helps, yet romantic implications aside, how is our oral health affected?

First, the bad news: Kissing, like any physical interaction, can spread viruses or germs if one party is infected. If you have blisters such as cold sores, open cuts, bleeding gums, or any other open wounds in or near your mouth, spare your partner and take a break from kissing. Any highly contagious virus or disease can be easily spread through contact with the mouth.

But the oh-so-good news: The production of saliva increases during kissing, which adds to the ranks of enzymes which protect our teeth from bacteria, viruses, and serve to strengthen our tooth enamel. The natural wash of water in our mouths also rinses our teeth from residues and helps break down plaque.

Your face is also working hard while kissing. As your facial muscles are exercised, any tightness in your jaw or other areas near your mouth can loosen up and lessen discomfort or lingering soreness. Increased blood circulation and levels of oxytocin help relieve stress, aches and pains. Those suffering from TMJ issues can particularly benefit from a healthy bout of kissing.

Although we do not recommend kissing as a replacement for any part of your oral health regimen, we advocate considering your oral health throughout your daily activities and interactions. Kiss responsibly.

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Different Types of Dental X-Rays

During a dental appointment, it’s not uncommon for your dentist to want to take a closer look at what’s going on inside your mouth using an X-ray. They’re useful tools for dental professionals, but for the rest of us, they can sometimes be a little intimidating. Here’s a quick guide on some of the most common types of dental X-rays, so you can be more relaxed in the chair and impress your dentist with your knowledge!

Bitewing X-rays
These are probably the most common type of X-rays you’ll receive in a dental office. They are so named for their shape, and are primarily used to determine whether there are cavities in the areas between the teeth. These can catch problems early that, left undetected, would need a root canal to fix.

Panoramic X-rays
If you’ve ever stood in the middle of an X-ray machine at a dentist’s appointment, it was one of these. This type of X-ray machine rotates around the head, giving your dentist a specific and detailed view of all the teeth and bones in your head, typically used to help your dentist map out extractions or braces.

Periapical X-rays
These are similar to bitewings, but they capture focused images of a couple teeth at a time rather than a specific side of your mouth. They are mainly used on patients starting in middle age and older, because these patients are more prone to infections and abscesses; exactly the types of problems that these X-rays are good at detecting!

Dental Cone-beam CT (CBCT) Scans
These are traditionally reserved only for cases in which more information about the teeth is needed than the other kinds of X-rays can deliver. They provide three-dimensional images of the teeth, roots, and jaw, but use a bit more radiation than the others, so dentists prefer to use them sparingly!

What is Enamel and How Does it Work?

If you’ve ever been to the dentist, you’ve heard them talk about enamel. But to really understand how to keep your teeth healthy, you have to know what enamel is and how best to take care of it. Here is your beginners guide to understanding enamel for a healthy smile!

What is enamel?
Enamel is a protective layer that covers each and every tooth. It is a hard substance on the outer part of your teeth and is the part you see every time you look into your mouth. Did you know that enamel is considered the hardest substance in the human body? It’s even harder than bones. However, just like our bones, it isn’t indestructible. It can decay when exposed to acid and a build-up of bacteria in the mouth.

What damages enamel?
There are many foods that can damage enamel, but sugary foods, or foods with a high citrus content are the worst offenders. Drinks high in both sugar and acid, like soda, are the number one culprits.
Particularly acidic fruits (think citrus) can also harm enamel, but fear not! These foods have health benefits. Don’t cut fruit from your diet just because you’re afraid to damage your enamel. Instead, try eating them in moderation and alongside foods that are neutral so that you are not giving your teeth a double dose of acidity.

How do I know if the enamel is damaged?
It may take some time for you to notice the loss of your enamel because the changes are subtle. First, you will feel pain or sensitivity when eating certain foods. As the erosion progresses, you will notice a yellow discoloration on your teeth. Your teeth may also appear more rounded, chipped, or rough.

If you have severe erosion your dentist may recommend that the tooth be removed. Taking good care of your teeth through brushing, flossing, and regular dental visits is the best way to protect your enamel and prevent decay, so that more serious measures won’t need to be taken in the future.

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Treating Broken or Knocked Out Teeth

A dental trauma can be painful and difficult to handle. If a tooth breaks or is knocked out, you should seek professional dental help immediately. 

Don’t Panic!
 Until you arrive at the dental office, you should follow the instructions below to protect the tooth and ensure it stays healthy so your dentist can save the tooth and fix the problem.

Keep It Clean
The key to saving the tooth is to find it and preserve it. If your tooth has been knocked out, pick it up by the crown, which is the chewing edge of the tooth. If you pick it up by the root, then the root will become compromised with bacteria and putting it back in will be difficult.

Preserve It
Most dentists recommend trying to place the tooth back into the mouth where it fell out so that it is level with other teeth. Bite down on a piece of gauze or a wet tea bag to keep it in place. If you cannot reinsert the tooth, then put it in a small container with enough whole milk to cover the tooth.

Next Steps
Apply a cold compress to the mouth and gums to ease the pain and apply direct pressure with a gauze pad to control bleeding. Once you arrive at your dental office, they can take it from there. It’s what we’re here for!

Redheads More Resistant to Novocaine

Although the connection seems unlikely, there is new evidence that suggests that if you have red hair, you are more resistant to local anesthetics like Novocaine. This fact leads to redheads being about 20% more likely to have anxiety about dental procedure, and that much more likely to skip a trip to their dentist! All these studies arose from an urban legend of sorts that circulated in the anesthesiologist community, claiming that people with red hair were more difficult to fully numb for procedures. Surprisingly enough, scientists found substantial evidence to support the claim.

This phenomenon occurs as a result of gene mutations. The gene in question is called MC1R gene, which produces melanin in dark haired and blonde people. When a specific mutation to this gene takes place, it produces a chemical called pheomelanin, which causes red hair and fair skin. In addition to producing these chemicals that determine hair/skin tone, MC1R also belongs to a family of receptors that receive pain signals in the brain. Research leads scientists to believe that this mutation causing the production of pheomelanin also creates a heightened sensitivity to pain. It’s also worth mentioning that this particular gene mutation does exist in non-redheads, but in much lower proportions (97% of tested redheads had the mutation, whereas it was only present in 26% of tested non-gingers).

What does all this mean for the one to two percent of humans with red hair? Well, it means that you’re more than twice as likely to avoid going to the dentist if you have the red hair gene. This obviously can lead to poor oral health, which can lead to poor overall health. So, if you or someone close to you has red, awareness is the key! Don’t be afraid to mention this to your healthcare professionals, and ask for a bit of extra Novocaine next time your getting dental work done!

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Calcium: The Secret to Strong Smiles

Researchers at Boston University Dental School and Tufts University Nutrition Research Center have found that calcium and vitamin D have an effect on tooth health. Lead researcher, Dr. Elizabeth Krall, says that while “studies have shown calcium and vitamin D decrease bone loss,” it’s only now that “we know that supplementation may also improve tooth retention, along with routine dental care.” Calcium is needed for proper bone health, but vitamin D is also essential in improving the body’s absorption of calcium.

In the study, participants were given 500mg of calcium with 700 units of vitamin D per day for three years. Teeth were examined many times during the three years and after the testing period ended. When compared to the group given just a placebo, the calcium vitamin D participants had 40% less tooth loss, even after two years post-study. They also found fewer cavities!

Calcium is especially important in older adults. According to Dr. Chris Rosenbloom, nutrition professor at Georgia State University, “it’s hard to get enough calcium through diet alone.” This is why supplements could be a game changer, and you should make sure you start taking them as soon as possible. The ADA notes that older adults get more cavities than even teenagers—most likely because age deteriorates our teeth surfaces, and some prescription drugs can also cause adverse effects. While it is clearly essential to get enough calcium and vitamin D every day, it’s also important to not overdose. The recommended values for adults are no more than 2,500 mg/day for calcium and 1,000 units of vitamin D/day. Make sure your supplements are USP (United States Pharmacopeia) verified! And of course, if you have any questions, ask your dentist.

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