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oral health

Dental Questions: Is coffee bad for your teeth?

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Dental Questions: Is coffee bad for your teeth?

thousandoaksfamilydentistry.com

Coffee: possibly the most widely consumed non-alcoholic beverage other than water. With about 400 million cups drank EACH DAY, it is difficult to deny it's importance in our daily routines. As you probably know (or experienced), the dark pigments in this drink can cause discoloration or yellowing of the dental enamel. Beyond the cosmetic concerns, can coffee consumption harm your teeth? While it is difficult to give a definitive yes or no, there are some considerations you should take when going back for your next cup of joe. 

As a reminder, anything you eat or drink other than water has the potential to demineralize enamel and start the tooth decay process. Black coffee has a pH of about 5, meaning it is acidic enough to weaken enamel and cause initial decalcification. However, coffee has no carbs or sugars and thus cannot fuel the cavity-causing bacteria. The problem arises when sugar, cream, milk or other products are added to your beverage. Even something non-sweet like skim milk has the carbs necessary to feed bacterial growth and cause new decay.

Are we suggesting you quit drinking coffee cold turkey? Of course not! Still, there are ways you can adjust your consumption to better protect your teeth. Keep in mind that its not the amount, but the duration of carbohydrate consumption that determines tooth decay. Try to limit your coffee drinking sessions to set time frames, rather than sipping on one or two cups all morning. Swishing with water after drinking can help too, and protects against further staining!

At Thousand Oaks Family Dentistry, we know that creating good dietary habits is a moving target. We are always here to help you make great choices in protecting and improving the health of your teeth. If you would like to know more about tooth decay, how to protect your teeth or any other dental topics, please give our office a call!

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Dental Questions: Why do my teeth shred floss?

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Dental Questions: Why do my teeth shred floss?

thousandoaksfamilydentistry.com

Shredding or tearing floss is a common (and annoying) obstacle to keeping your teeth clean. Having to constantly switch to a new piece or use a frayed length of floss gets old fast. What could be causing your flossing woes? Take a look!

Between every two adjacent teeth exists a contact where they touch each other at their widest points. This space should be smooth and flowing, without any ridges or sharp corners. If you are shredding floss, there must be some sort of edge in this area that is disrupting the floss fibers. Many times, this is the result of a filling placed between two teeth that needs to be smoothed out. Small pieces of excess filling material, called flash can become dislodged and create an edge that tears at the floss fibers. The solution to this problem is to have a dentist smooth out or (in more drastic situations) replace the filling, creating a more anatomically correct shape. 

Floss can also shred due to food, tartar, or other debris lodged in between teeth. Tartar, in particular, is rough and irregular, creating a surface that easily tears at floss fibers. The solution to this problem is to have a dentist clean the affected teeth, and return for normal dental hygiene appointments. When combined with regular cleanings, good flossing technique will remove stuck food and prevent the formation of harmful tartar in the future. 

Flossing every day is one of the easiest and most beneficial additions to your home hygiene routine. Even if your teeth shred floss, we urge you to continue to use it daily to help maintain the health of your gums and bones. If you would like to know more about flossing, brushing, oral health or any other dental topics, please give our office a call!

 

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Smoking, E-Cigarettes and Oral Health

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Smoking, E-Cigarettes and Oral Health

thousandoaksfamilydentistry.com

You've heard it a thousand times before- smoking tobacco products is detrimental to your overall health. Between increased cancer risk and diminished lung capacity, using cigarettes, cigars and other products stands as one of the most preventable causes of death nation wide. We would like to take a moment to inform you on the ways that smoking can harm your teeth and the oral cavity. We present this information not to scare or shame our patients who smoke, but rather as a means of informing and starting a conversation on quitting. 

In any smoked tobacco product, there are hundreds of different chemicals that pass through your mouth and into your lungs. Almost all of these compounds are damaging to the human body in some capacity. The two most notable are nicotine and tar. Nicotine is the chemical that causes addiction in smoking. It triggers the dopamine pathways in your brain to program you to enjoy the sensation of tobacco use. This is what experts refer to as the "physical addiction" of smoking. Nicotine alone does not cause cancer, but it can cause deadly poisonings in high doses.

Tar is the collection of burned compounds that comes out of smoked tobacco. It is very volatile, with the power to create the genetic changes that lead to cancer. In the mouth, smoking is a leading risk factor for oral cancers. Think about it- all that tar has to travel past the lips, teeth cheeks and gums before it even hits the lungs. Furthermore, smoking is shown to increase the risk of periodontal disease, tooth loss and soft tissue irritation. In general, bathing the oral tissues in smoke inhibits their ability to heal properly. Thus, small problems like gingivitis and ulcers tend to become more destructive and take longer to resolve. 

What about e-cigarettes? Also known as "vaping" or "vaporizers," e-cigarettes are marketed as a healthier alternative to cigarettes. Unfortunately, recent research shows that e-cigarettes create more smokers than they eliminate. Furthermore, it is important to understand that the world of e-cigarettes is largely unregulated. Vaporizers, vape pens and so called "e-juice" (the liquid you put inside vaporizer) are not well monitored for quality and safety. Caustic chemicals in juice, nicotine overdoses and too-hot heating elements are all reported problems with e-cigarettes. 

In short, putting anything other than fresh air in your mouth and lungs is a bad idea. This includes cigarettes, e-cigarettes, marijuana, hookah, smog and anything else packed with volatile chemicals. If you are a current smoker and are thinking about quitting, a good starting point is calling 1-800-NO-BUTTS or visiting tobaccofreeca.gov. At Thousand Oaks Family Dentistry, our sole focus is improving and maintaining your oral health. If you would like help quitting smoking or simply need a list of reasons and resources, please let us know at your next appointment. 

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Nail biting and teeth

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Nail biting and teeth

thousandoaksfamilydentistry.com

You've probably heard you mom say it a hundred (or more) times: biting you nails is bad for your teeth! Still, slightly less than half of all adults report some regular nail biting. Beyond the disease potential from putting your hands in your mouth, nail biting poses specific risks to the teeth. Read on to learn why this common habit is detrimental to your oral health and how to prevent it!

Nail biting requires you to use your teeth in ways that they were never designed. Using the front teeth to mash through the thick keratin on the nails wears away at the thin enamel on the ends of the incisors. These teeth were designed for tearing and cutting, not puncturing hard objects. Chipped enamel, irregular wear patterns and even tooth movement can all occur with prolonged nail biting. Some studies also report an increased frequency of TMJ pain in nail biters. The constant pressure on the jaw joints and muscles can be enough to cause soreness or even trigger headaches. 

At the core, nail biting is usually tied to stress or emotional strain. Mindfulness, stress reduction techniques and meditation can help cut out nail biting at the source. Keeping nails short and trimmed can also limit access for the teeth and thus prevent chewing as well. Some patients also use nail polish as a bad taste-deterrent, with certain brands of polish containing flavor additives specifically to stop nail biting. Finally, strong tasting/smelling ointments such as tea tree oil have been used for years to remind us to keep our fingers out of our mouths. 

All in all, you should never use your teeth for anything other than eating and chewing. Nail biting, opening packages or holding objects with your teeth can all result in cosmetic or structural damage. If you would like to know more about how to manage nail biting, repairing chipped enamel or educating children on protecting their teeth, please give our office a call!

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What causes tooth decay? - A Halloween refresher

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What causes tooth decay? - A Halloween refresher

thousandoaksfamilydentistry.com

With Halloween around the corner, we would like to take a moment to remind kids of all ages about the tooth decay process. While those sugary treats might make you happy now, they can cause a lot of problems if you aren't careful. Like many things in life, moderation is key to keeping your teeth protected from bacteria and cavities. 

The biggest point in understanding cavities is that duration, not amount, of sugar consumed is the main factor in the tooth decay process. Every time we eat or drink anything other than water, our mouth drops into an acidic state for the next hour. With this in mind, someone who snacks on candy all day will spend 24 hours bathing their teeth in acid and fueling bacteria with carbohydrates. If that same person ate the same amount of candy after a single meal, there would be a much less drastic effect on the teeth. 

Furthermore, it is important to remember that all carbohydrates can contribute to enamel demineralization and decay. Even foods that aren't necessarily sweet like goldfish crackers and pretzels are harmful to the teeth. Additionally, naturally sweetened or organic foods like fruits cause decay all the same as processed sugars. In fact, raisins are one of the most tooth-harmful snacks, due to their high sugar content, dryness and ability to stick to dental enamel. 

What can you do to prevent tooth decay? For starters, limit snacking and candy consumption to set times or pair them with scheduled meals. Do not let yourself graze on sweet food all day or take multiple hours to finish food. Additionally, rinsing your mouth out with water after eating sweets is an easy way to clear the carbohydrates from your teeth and limit their contact. Finally, brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily is the gold standard in preventing dental diseases. If you have other questions about tooth decay, candy or tooth healthy snacks, please give our office a call!

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Dental Questions: What Should I Use to Floss my teeth?

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Dental Questions: What Should I Use to Floss my teeth?

thousandoaksfamilydentistry.com

From wax floss to water flossers and dental picks, there are a number of products on the market that you can use to clean between your teeth. If you have struggled with using traditional floss in the past, you've probably considered switching to another method. Generally speaking, all types of accepted dental flossers do a satisfactory job of cleaning between the teeth. Take a look to find out what type of product is best for your specific needs!

The most common method of cleaning between the teeth is via dental floss. Countless research papers show that using floss once a day between the teeth helps prevents cavities, gum disease and the growth of bacteria in these areas. If you have had issues with using floss in the past, you may have more success with handle flossers like the Reach Access Flosser. These products are easier to manipulate in the mouth and provide the same cleaning motion as traditional string floss. If you still want to use regular floss but find it shreds between your teeth or hurts your gums, consider switching to a waxed floss like Oral B Glide. No matter what type or brand, always floss in an up and down motion, bringing the floss against one tooth, down to the gum level and back up, then repeating this motion on its neighbor. 

Some patients will prefer pick or brush type flossers over traditional string floss. In fact, research shows that individuals with severe recession or large spaces between their teeth will benefit more from products like the GUM Proxabrush than traditional floss. The key is that it still needs to be used once a day on every tooth. With these products, it is important to make sure that you are not traumatizing your gums or causing prolonged bleeding. This can be a sing of erosive wear that can lead to more recession. 

Water flossers like Waterpik can also be used to clean out plaque, bacteria and food from in between the teeth. A side benefit is their ability to clear out packed-in food from the pits and grooves of the tooth biting surfaces. The biggest concern with these products is that they can be quite abrasive to the gums and dental enamel. Be aware of the water stream strength and tip you use, particularly if you are using a water flosser every day. Also, never add anything other than water to the flosser's tank without consulting a dentist first. 

The type of flossing method you use is largely a matter of personal preference. The most important part is that you are cleaning between your teeth once a day, every day. Flossing daily takes about a minute of your time but can save thousands of dollars long term. For more information on oral hygiene, flossing or toothbrushes, please give our office a call!

 

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Dental Questions: Does Charcoal Toothpaste Work?

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Dental Questions: Does Charcoal Toothpaste Work?

ThousandOaksFamilyDentistry.com

Within the past year, ads for charcoal toothpastes and powders have taken over the internet. They promise everything from whiter teeth to stronger enamel and healthier gums. You may be curious if this paste can add extra power to your home dental care. Read on to see our professional evaluation of this new dental craze!

The most common versions of charcoal dental products are "tooth powders" sold for whitening purposes. According to the manufacturer, brushing your teeth with these powders daily for two weeks can produce a significantly white smile. Unfortunately, the best these products can probably achieve is removal of surface staining through their abrasive properties. Activated charcoal is great at filtering organic compounds out of fluids. However, intrinsic dental staining (the deep stains that are unsightly and hard to remove) reside mostly in the dentin layer beneath the tooth's enamel shell. As you may imagine, it would be impossible for charcoal to have any benefit in this area. 

Charcoal dental products also advertise their ability to heal gums and strengthen dental enamel. Currently, there is no scientific evidence to back these claims. Most studies show no significant reduction in tooth decay or improved gum health between charcoal paste users and the general population. On the contrary, patients who opt for charcoal products will likely see a decline in their oral health versus someone who exclusively uses fluoride toothpaste twice a day. Fluoride toothpaste is internationally recognized as the gold standard for remineralizing dental enamel and preventing tooth decay. Why try to improve on what we know works?

In short, charcoal dental products should be used at a patient's own risk. They are (generally) sold as supplements and do not disclose active ingredients in the same way a fluoride toothpaste would. If you notice any changes or deterioration in your oral health, discontinue their use immediately. Additionally, keep using your fluoride toothpaste, floss and any rinses on a daily basis along side the charcoal products. As with any dental health topic, give us a call if you have any questions or concerns. 

 

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Dieting and Oral Health

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Dieting and Oral Health

With the new year around the corner, losing weight is at the top of many resolution lists. If you've done your research, you are probably aware of the general benefits and drawbacks of all diet types. However, have you considered their effects on the teeth? In this article, we will cover the risks and benefits of a few popular strategies. We are not endorsing or promoting a single diet, but rather giving you a clue on how they might affect your overall oral health!

One of the fundamental strategies of losing weight is simply eating less. Portion size is a huge component to a successful diet and one of the most difficult aspects to master. However, eating too little can have various negative effects. On top of slowing down your metabolism (and making weight loss more difficult), eating too little can lead to dry mouth conditions. Saliva is a hugely protective factor agains tooth decay, and hyposalivation is clearly linked to an increased risk of developing cavities. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, diets that rely on frequent, small meals can cause a similar increase in decay risk. Constantly having food in your mouth keeps the decay-causing bacteria working all day, creating more acid and softer enamel. Similarly, juice cleanses or all liquid diets can create the same problems. While your drink might be low calorie, it probably contains ingredients that keep the bacteria in your mouth working overtime!

Patients who are starting the "caveman" or "paleo" diets will be happy to hear that these regimens are anecdotally linked to improved dental health. It makes sense- the paleo diet relies on cutting out carbohydrates, the fuel behind tooth decay. While nearly all food causes the mouth to shift to an acidic state, carbohydrates are some of the worst offenders. 

Naturally, any modification to the amount or types of things we eat will have some effect on the teeth. The oral health implications should be considered as a part of the whole-body effects of your diet. We recommend talking with your physician prior to drastically changing the meals you eat. If you have any further questions, feel free to call our office!

 

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Dental Questions: Should I be using mouthwash?

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Dental Questions: Should I be using mouthwash?

thousandoaksfamilydentistry.com

With the wide variety of mouthwashes and rinses available today, choosing a product for yourself can be quite the challenge. Between Listerine, Biotene, ACT rinse and others, there is certainly a multitude of options. However, which product should you be using? Should you be using any mouth rinses? Read on to find out how to choose the best product for your oral health. 

Many patients will start using a mouthwash as a response to bad breath. In reality, the best a mouthwash can do is mask bad breath with its flavoring. Even the strongest tasting and most astringent rinses can only help as a temporary measure. Your best bet in preventing bad breath is upping your home hygiene. Specifically, flossing and tongue brushing can have a noticeable and lasting impact on the way your breath smells.

Listerine is the most widely recognized and used mouth rinse on the market. Many patients seek the burning sensation under the idea that "if it hurts- it's working." In reality, Listerine and other alcohol based mouthwashes are designed to target periodontal disease. These rinses rely on alcohol to eliminate bacteria in the gums and pockets around the teeth. Patients with healthy gum tissue will likely not see any marked benefit from using these products. On the contrary, alcohol rinses tend to be slightly acidic which can contribute to enamel demineralization and the tooth decay process. 

For those that are interested in using a mouthwash, almost everyone can benefit from ACT Fluoride Rinse. While it lacks the burn of alcohol based mouthwashes, ACT rinse contains a therapeutic concentration of fluoride. Since Fluoride works by being in contact with dental enamel, using it in a rinse to bathe your teeth is an excellent application. For the best use, rinse with ACT after brushing, spit, and do not rinse with water. Allowing the product to have maximum contact with the teeth is key to its cavity fighting powers!

For patients with chronically dry mouths (a condition called xerostomia), products such as Biotene are an excellent choice. One of the main ingredients in Biotene is xylitol, a natural sugar substitute. In this application, xylitol helps stimulate salivation and protects against cavity causing bacteria. Because our natural saliva is protective against tooth decay, patients with dry mouths are at an extremely high risk for developing new cavities. Overall, Biotene can have a significant impact on the comfort and dental health of those patients with xerostomia. 

It is important to remember that patients with excellent oral health may not need to use a mouthwash. For many, brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing is sufficient to maintain tooth and gum health. If you would like more advice on rinses or any other part of oral hygiene, feel free to give our office a call!

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Case Presentation: Calculus Removal

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Case Presentation: Calculus Removal

thousandoaksfamilydentistry.com

Today's patient is a great example of why you get regular dental cleanings. These teeth looked completely healthy and normal when viewed from straight on. However, a through exam revealed that the lower teeth were in definite need of dental care. 

Dental plaque tends to build up in hard-to-see areas; behind the lower teeth, around the molars, etc. Over time, this plaque hardens to form calculus (also called "tartar") and becomes impossible to remove with brushing and flossing alone (as seen here). Calculus harbors bacteria that cause periodontal disease, decay and bone loss. At a regular dental cleaning, we use instruments and techniques that rid the teeth of calculus.

This patient received a special type of cleaning called a debridement, where large collections of calculus are removed prior to a normal dental cleaning. They are well on their way to complete oral health! If you would like to know more about cleanings, gum disease or any other health topics, please give our office a call. 

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