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Blog Archives

New Year, New Mouth: 8 New Years Resolutions for a Healthy Smile

With the end of 2015 fast approaching, it’s time to think about some resolutions for the New Year. Whilst many people focus on losing weight or getting their finances under control as a priority, why not make some resolutions about your dental health too? Keep your mouth healthy in 2016 with these 8 easy resolutions:

  1. Quit smoking

Smokers are about twice as likely to lose their teeth as non-smokers because tobacco negatively affects your oral health in a number of ways.

  1. Brush at least twice per day

Brushing your teeth helps to remove plaque, the sticky build-up of harmful bacteria that can cause decay in your teeth.

  1. Floss daily

Just like brushing, flossing is vital in the prevention of tooth decay. Flossing is the only way you can keep the areas between your teeth and the area below the gum line free from plaque. These are the areas that are most at-risk of decay.

  1. Eat more fruit and vegetables

Not only do fruit and vegetables benefit your entire immune system to keep you healthy, but they are also great for your teeth. The crunchy texture acts to stimulate saliva, which assists in washing away food debris caught in teeth.

  1. See your dentist for regular check-ups

By booking an appointment with your dentist every six months for a routine check up and clean, you will ensure that any causes for concern will be picked up and treated early.

  1. Chew sugarless gum

In the New Year, make it a habit to begin chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after you eat. This stimulates the production of saliva, which helps to wash away food particles and assist in the prevention of bacteria and plaque forming.

  1. Drink fluoridated water

Water containing added fluoride is relatively standard in most developed countries and you should always ensure that you consume it this way. Fluoride helps to prevent cavities by making teeth more resistant to acid.

  1. Take it easy on the sweets

Limiting your sugar intake will not only help keep your mouth healthy, it will also help you to maintain a healthy body weight! When teeth come into contact with sugar, the tooth enamel comes under attack and it can wear down, resulting in decay of the tooth underneath. The less sugar you consumer, the better for your mouth!

25 Fun Facts About Your Mouth You Probably Didn’t Know

  1. Without saliva, we would not be able to taste anything.
  2. The inside of your mouth contains as many bacteria as there are people on Earth.
  3. Teeth start to form before you are even born but don’t come through until you are between 6 – 12 months old.
  4. Children have 20 teeth while adults have 32.
  5. Many diseases are linked to oral health including heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.
  6. Close your mouth while swimming because chlorine can wear down enamel.
  7. Plaque is a residue that is made up of excess bacteria in the mouth.
  8. The tongue is the only muscle in the human body that works without any support from the skeleton.
  9. One third of your tooth is hidden underneath your gums.
  10. Green tea contains antiseptic properties, which can help to keep your gums healthy.
  11. There are approximately 10,000 taste buds in our mouth, of which most are located on the tongue.
  12. No two people have the same set of teeth. A person’s teeth are as unique as their fingerprint.
  13. We produce about 37,854 litres of saliva during our lives – enough to fill two swimming pools.
  14. An average person spends 38.5 days brushing their teeth over the course of their lifetime
  15. Smiling helps you live longer. Every time you smile, your body produces greater amounts of antibodies, giving you an immunity boost.
  16. The enamel on the surfaces of your teeth is the hardest substance in your whole body.
  17. We have four different types of teeth in our mouth: incisors, canine, premolars and molars.
  18. Teeth, like your bones, are alive. They have their own blood supply and nerves. A tooth can die.
  19. Relative to its size, the tongue is the strongest muscle in the human body.
  20. If you’re right handed, you tend to chew your food on your right side. If you’re left handed, you favour chewing on your left side.
  21. If you don’t floss, you miss cleaning approximately 40% of the surfaces of your teeth.
  22. Surveys indicate that 50% of people say that someone’s smile is the first thing they notice.
  23. A tooth that gets knocked out will begin to die within 15 minutes.
  24. Humans have two sets of teeth in their lifetime, whereas sharks have 40.
  25. Modern toothpaste has only been available for the past 100 years.

What is the Difference Between a Dental Assistant and a Dental Hygienist?

Confused about who does what at the dentist? Dentistry is a field that encompasses a range of different positions and during an appointment, you won’t be seen by the dentist alone. The dentist will usually have a dental assistant as well as a dental hygienist to assist during consultations and procedures. During routine cleans, it is common for the dental hygienist to run the consultation, rather than the dentist. Here is a breakdown of the different roles in dentistry and what you can expect from whom:

Dental Assistant:

As the name suggests, the primary role of a dental assistant is to assist the dentist with many aspects of the dental practice. A range of duties and responsibilities encompass this position, which are mainly based around:

  • Patient interaction
  • Record-keeping
  • Small procedural tasks under the direction of the dentist
  • Assisting the dentist during procedures and examinations
  • Preparing patients for dental procedures
  • Preparing the dental consultation room with the appropriate tools and equipment
  • Administrative tasks such as billing and the scheduling of appointments

Dental Hygienist:

A dental hygienist is an oral healthcare professional who is trained specifically in preventative oral care. Whilst still working under the supervision of a dentist, it is common for dental hygienists to run routine examinations and cleans without the dentist present. The dental hygienist performs tasks that are more complex and independent and ones that were only performed by dentists in the past. The dental hygienist takes a much bigger hands-on role with patients than a dental assistant does and routinely performs the following duties:

  • Performing preliminary steps in identifying dental conditions
  • Providing dental care information and advice to patients on good oral hygiene practices
  • Cleaning and scaling
  • Polishing teeth
  • Applying dental sealants
  • Perform x-rays
  • Administer fluoride
  • Oral cancer screenings
  • Depending on the location, dental hygienists may also administer anaesthetic, apply fillings and remove sutures

There are varying qualification requirements between the two positions, with dental hygienists requiring a bachelor’s degree and dental assistants needing to complete a one to two year training program. There are also differences in the salary across the two positions, with dental hygienists earning a much higher income than dental assistants. This corresponds to the differing qualification requirements as well as the differencing levels of responsibility. Both positions fall under the overall authority of the dentist who oversees the entire practice.

Food and Drinks That Mask Bad Breath

We all know that embarrassing feeling: after enjoying a delicious lunch with lots of tasty garlic and onion, we then have to face returning to the office contending with bad breath all afternoon. Some foods, such as onion and garlic, linger in the system and cause bad breath, or halitosis. The good news is that you can still enjoy the foods you love that cause unpleasant breath. There are some foods and drinks that mask bad breath so simply consuming one of these after your meal will help your mouth stay fresh afterwards:

  • Parsley: Parsley is probably one of the best-known foods that can fight bad breath. It’s the oil the parsley leaves that helps to mask unpleasant odours. Other herbs such as rosemary, eucalyptus and cilantro or coriander also work in a similar way.
  • Crunchy fruits and vegetables: Eating crunchy fruits and vegetables such as apples, pears, celery and cucumbers stimulates the production of saliva, which assists in rinsing the mouth of odour-producing bacteria.
  • Yoghurt: Yoghurt is full of good bacteria, which helps to combat the bad bacteria that causes bad breath and re-balance the ratio of good and bad bacteria in the mouth.
  • Green tea: The active ingredient in green tea that helps to mask bad breath is catechin, a powerful antioxidant that helps to fend off bacteria.
  • Nuts: Nuts such as almonds work in much the same way as crunchy fruits and vegetables in that they help to stimulate the production of saliva. Their consistency also helps to remove bacteria on the teeth as well.
  • Water: Simply having a glass of water after eating helps to rinse out your mouth and wash away bacteria.
  • Chewing sugar-free gum: This not only serves to mask the odour of your breath with a pleasant, minty aroma, but it also stimulates the production of saliva.
  • Breath mints: Popping a breath mint after eating will help to mask bad breath, at least for a little while.

In the end, masking bad breath is only a short-term solution. Practising good oral hygiene is the most important way to minimise halitosis. Be sure to brush your teeth twice a day, including your tongue where odour-causing bacteria like to live, as well as remembering to floss daily. If bad breath continues to be problematic for you, discuss this with your dentist or dental hygienist during your next routine check-up.

The Perils of Piercing: How Oral Piercings Can Affect Your Dental Health

While the practice of piercing the lip, tongue or cheek can be attractive, particularly to young people, many don’t fully understand the risks associated with oral piercings. In fact, these piercings can be very detrimental to oral health and can cause a number of complications.

Dental Health Risks:

  • Infections: one of the most common complications associated with oral piercings are infections. Because of the large amount of bacteria in the mouth, infection can occur when the piercing creates a wound, which can also contain additional bacteria on its surface. Because the mouth is a moist place, it is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, meaning that infection can spread quickly. It’s important to treat any infection promptly as it can quickly become dangerous if left untreated.
  • Swelling: Given the trauma that occurs when your tongue, cheek or lip is pierced, significant swelling and bruising is expected. Usually this will begin to subside after three to five days. Depending on the level of trauma, in some rare cases, the tongue can become extremely swollen which can block the airway, although this is uncommon.
  • Difficulties in oral function: While the area around the piercing is swollen, oral function such as speaking clearly and swallowing may be more difficult until the area heals. In some cases, there can be a permanent loss of sensation if nerves are damaged during the piercing. The jewellery can also stimulate excessive saliva production, which can cause temporary or permanent drooling.
  • Damage to teeth: When teeth come into contact with the hard metal surface of jewellery, they can chip or crack. A high proportion of individuals with tongue rings damage their teeth.
  • Nerve damage: Sometimes a piercing can damage a nerve, which can, in turn, cause numbness or loss of sensation around the piercing.
  • Gum disease: Studies have found that those people with oral piercings, especially tongue piercings, have a much higher risk of gum disease than those who have no piercings. This is because the jewellery can cause a recession of gum tissue by frequently coming into contact with gums. In severe cases, this can lead to tooth loss.
  • Transmission of diseases: Piercings can potentially transmit diseases such as hepatitis B and C as well as the herpes simplex virus.
  • Allergic reaction: Some people discover that they are allergic to the metal in the piercing, which is known as hypersensitivity to metal.

Manual vs Electric Toothbrushes: Pros and Cons

Choosing an effective toothbrush is vital for maintaining good oral health. With so many toothbrushes on the market these days, it can be difficult to decide on what is the best option for you. The first decision you need to make, however, is whether to use a manual toothbrush or an electric toothbrush. To help make the decision easy, here are the pros and cons of each:

Manual Toothbrush:

Pros:

  • With correct brushing technique, a manual toothbrush effectively cleans the teeth
  • It is easy to travel with. There is no need to worry about packing batteries or charging outlets. All you need is a toothbrush case.
  • It is inexpensive and easy to replace. You should replace your manual toothbrush every three months and they are very affordable.

Cons:

  • Correct brushing technique is important for the effective removal of plaque.
  • You must estimate how long to brush your teeth for since manual toothbrushes have no timer.

Electric Toothbrush:

Pros:

  • Studies have shown that electric toothbrushes do a more effective job of cleaning your teeth than manual toothbrushes.
  • The built-in timer takes the guesswork out of the length of time you need to brush your teeth for. The timer stops the toothbrush after two minutes.
  • Electric toothbrushes are very easy to use. All you need to do is angle the head 45 degrees and the toothbrush will do all of the work for you.
  • Children find them fun to use. Brushing the teeth can be a chore for children, resulting in challenging behaviour or ineffective brushing. Using an electric toothbrush adds an extra element of fun to the routine, making children more likely to want to brush.

Cons:

  • Electric toothbrushes are considerably more expensive than manual toothbrushes. Although there are a number of different types on the market at varying prices, expect to pay a lot more money for an electric toothbrush.
  • You need to charge an electric toothbrush or have it plugged into a power socket.
  • Travelling with an electric toothbrush is more of a hassle than travelling with a manual toothbrush. They are bulkier and you need to think about power outlets and charging.
  • If you drop an electric toothbrush, it is quite easy to break, which can be a financial burden given the cost to replace.
  • You need to buy replaceable heads that fit onto the top of an electric toothbrush, which are also a lot more expensive than manual toothbrushes.

Keep Teeth Healthy This Halloween

Halloween is quickly creeping up on us, which for many people is a favourite holiday full of spooky fun. Unfortunately, for many children especially, Halloween also involves stockpiling bags and bags of sweets, accumulated on trick or treat missions around the neighbourhood. For many parents, it’s a tricky balance between allowing the kids to have fun in celebrating the traditions of the event, while trying to care for the kids’ teeth and keep those cavities away! These tips will help you keep a healthy mouth during this sugary time.

Choose soft, chewable sweets

When purchasing sweets for trick or treaters, choose soft and chewable rather than sweets that are hard. Sucking on hard sweets means that the sugars are coating the teeth for a longer period of time, playing a large role in tooth decay.

Eat sweets near mealtimes

If sweets are going to be consumed, it should ideally be around mealtimes, when saliva production increases. Saliva helps to wash away bacteria and neutralise acids that are left in the mouth after eating sugary treats.

Avoid sticky sweets

Refrain from purchasing sticky sweets like gummy bears and toffees, which stick in the grooves of the teeth. These sticky substances are difficult to wash away and put the teeth at higher risk of decay.

Drink water

Encourage your children to drink water regularly and particularly after they consume sugary treats. Like saliva, water helps to wash away bacteria and acids, but it also has the added benefit of containing fluoride, which helps to prevent tooth decay.

Maintain regular eating patterns

Children should be encouraged to eat normal meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner and avoid snacking on sweets throughout the day. You don’t want them filling up on sugar and not feeling hungry for their normal meals!

Brush at least twice per day

Brushing twice per day should be a normal routine anyway, but during times of high sugar consumption, brushing is especially important in order to remove plaque and bacteria. If you can, encourage your children to brush their teeth after they eat sweets.

Visit the dentist

Dental appointments should be made every six months for a routine check-up, but if you are concerned about the state of your child’s teeth after Halloween, it never hurts to check in early for an examination. Catching problems early always makes them easier to treat.

10 Common Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

Does eating an ice cream or drinking a glass of cold water make you wince? Tooth sensitivity is a common source of discomfort among adults. Thankfully, you don’t have to put up with the pain because there are things you can do to minimise this painful sensation at home. Here is a list of the most common causes of tooth sensitivity with tips on what you can do to minimise the pain.

  1. You brush with tooth-whitening toothpaste: some people experience greater sensitivity to the tooth-whitening chemicals found in this kind of toothpaste, which can cause discomfort. Switch to an ordinary fluoride toothpaste instead.
  1. You have a cracked tooth: a damaged tooth can cause sensitivity or pain. It is important to consult with your dentist to discuss treatment options.
  1. You brush too forcefully: brushing your teeth with too much pressure can wear away the enamel, exposing the soft dentin underneath. Try to brush more gently or with a toothbrush with softer bristles.
  1. Your mouthwash is to blame: some mouthwashes contain alcohol or other chemicals that can aggravate sensitive teeth. Opt for fluoride neutral mouthwashes instead.
  1. You grind your teeth at night: sufferers of Bruxism (the grinding, clenching or gnashing of the teeth most commonly during sleep) can experience a wearing down of the enamel on their teeth. This again exposes the dentin, which leads directly to the nerves, where tooth sensitivity originates. Your dentist will discuss the possibility of using a mouthguard in the night to protect your teeth.
  1. You suffer from gum disease: gum disease results in the recession of gums, which is a common cause of tooth sensitivity. There are dental procedures that can treat gum disease as well as changes in oral health habits such as careful brushing and flossing that can assist.
  1. You eat acidic foods: If the dentin of your tooth is already exposed, which leads directly to your nerves, acidic foods that come into contact with this part of your tooth can cause pain. Try to avoid foods such as citrus fruits, pickles and tomato sauce.
  1. You have a build up of plaque: excessive plaque can cause tooth enamel to wear away and once this occurs, your teeth become sensitive. Maintaining good oral hygiene habits as well as visiting your dentist for regular cleanings will assist in removing plaque.
  1. You have tooth decay: the bacteria that are present in tooth decay produce acid, which accelerates the breakdown of enamel. It is very important that you see your dentist if you suspect you have decay in your teeth.
  1. You have had a recent dental procedure: it is normal to experience increased tooth sensitivity after a dental procedure or visit to the dentist. This is nothing to be concerned about unless the sensitivity does not disappear on its own.

Tooth Brushing Tips

Brushing your teeth regularly is the key to maintaining good oral health. Even though we’ve been brushing our teeth multiple times per day ever since we were children and it seems easy enough, brushing with the correct technique and choosing the most appropriate toothbrush and toothpaste is essential. Here are some tips to help you brush your teeth most effectively:

Choosing a toothbrush

  1. Choose a toothbrush that sits comfortably in your hand, whether manual or electric.
  2. If you have a small mouth, select a toothbrush with a small head and if you have a larger mouth, select a toothbrush with a larger head.
  3. The toothbrush bristles should be softer rather than harder to protect your enamel.
  4. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months.

Choosing a toothpaste

  1. Adults should use toothpaste that contains at least 1,350ppm fluoride.
  2. Children over the ages of seven and young adults should use toothpaste that contains between 1,350 – 1,500ppm fluoride.
  3. Children between the ages of three and six should use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
  4. Children below the age of three should use a smear of toothpaste.

Brushing technique

  1. Brush your teeth at least twice per day: in the morning and in the evening.
  2. Spend approximately three minutes brushing your teeth to ensure that you remove plaque, food debris and bacteria effectively.
  3. Rinse your toothbrush before and after use.
  4. Ensure that you spend adequate and equal time cleaning all the surfaces of each tooth before moving on to the next.
  5. When you brush the upper part of your teeth close to the gumline, angle your toothbrush towards your gums.
  6. To clean the inside surfaces of the teeth, tilt the brush vertically and use up and down brushing motions.
  7. Use a gentle brushing motion using short strokes instead of a forceful, scrubbing one.
  8. Use just enough pressure to feel the bristles against your teeth and gums. The bristles should not be squashed.
  9. Pay extra attention to hard-to-reach places, the gumline and areas around fillings, crowns or other restoration work.
  10. Watch yourself brushing in the mirror to ensure that you don’t neglect any areas.
  11. Brush your tongue to remove bacteria that can cause bad breath.
  12. After brushing your teeth, use floss to clean in between the teeth and remove any food particles lodged there.

How to Manage Burning Mouth Syndrome

We’ve all experienced the painful sensation of burning our mouth after eating or drinking something that is too hot. Some people suffer from this same burning sensation recurrently, with no known cause. This is known as Burning Mouth Syndrome. This condition can appear suddenly and can be intense, as if you have scalded your mouth.

Symptoms

The main symptoms of Burning Mouth Syndrome include:

  • a recurring burning, scalding or tingling sensation that can affect the mouth, tongue, lips, inside of cheeks or roof of the mouth
  • a dry mouth and an associated increase in thirst
  • changes in taste; most commonly a metallic or bitter taste in the mouth
  • loss of taste

Some people notice a pattern where the level of discomfort changes over the course of the day. For example, the sensation might not be very strong in the morning, but becomes progressively more unpleasant as the day wears on. Conversely, other people may experience the discomfort at consistent levels all day.

Cause of Burning Mouth Syndrome

Unfortunately, the cause of Burning Mouth Syndrome is often not able to be determined exactly. If tests don’t indicate an underlying medical problem, the Burning Mouth Syndrome is considered Primary BMS which is linked to damaged nerves that control pain and taste. If there is an underlying medical issue, the syndrome is therefore considered Secondary BMS and is the result of another condition such as hormonal changes, reactions to medication, allergies, acid reflux or nutritional deficiencies among others.

Treatment

Burning Mouth Syndrome is a complex condition and treatment success varies considerably from one person to the next. There are medications that can be prescribed that can help to reduce discomfort as well as relieve dry mouth. If a patient is diagnosed with Secondary BMS, treating the primary medical condition will cure the syndrome.

Irritants

There are some types of food and drinks that can serve to irritate the mouth and amplify the symptoms of Burning Mouth Syndrome. These include spicy food, hot food, alcohol, mouthwashes containing alcohol, tobacco as well as food and drink with high acidity levels such as citrus fruits and pickles. It is helpful to keep a food diary where you can track what you eat and drink and how this corresponds to an increase or decrease in discomfort levels. Instead of consuming aggravating substances, it is recommended that patients instead suck on ice cubes, sip cold drinks and chew sugarless gum to stimulate the production of saliva.

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