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preventative dentistry

Dental Questions: Why do my teeth shred floss?

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Dental Questions: Why do my teeth shred floss?

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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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Fluoride for Kids

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Fluoride for Kids

Remember, kids only need a small portion of toothpaste. 

Remember, kids only need a small portion of toothpaste. 

February is the official National Children's Dental Health Month, as recognized by the ADA. Thousand Oaks Family Dentistry will be rolling out weekly topics relating to pediatric dentistry all month long. Make sure to check back regularly to catch all the great information. 

Historically, fluoride recommendations for children have gone through a few revisions. Every year, the public health experts at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and American Dental Association (ADA) evaluate the latest research and recalibrate their suggestions on fluoride use. Data on the number of children with cavities, the number of cavities per child and access to fluoridated drinking water all weigh in on the latest guidelines. 

Fortunately, if you live in Los Angeles or Ventura county and get your water from a major utilities provider, your tap water is properly fluoridated. The exact amount of fluoride varies by district, but generally hovers around 0.7 milligrams per liter. This number was recently lowered due to increased access and usage of fluoride toothpastes and varnishes by the general population. As long as you are drinking, cooking or rinsing with tap water, you and your family are getting a therapeutic dose of fluoride. 

Previously, the ADA recommended against using fluoride toothpaste for children under the age of one. This was to combat the risk of fluorosis (fluoride induced discoloration of teeth) of the adult teeth during critical developmental phases. However, modern research shows that using a rice grain sized smear of paste is safe for children of all ages. Once teeth are visible in the mouth, we recommend attempting to brush twice daily. At about three years of age, you can up the amount to a pea sized portion of toothpaste. As with any medication, make sure your child isn't consuming large portions of toothpaste during brushing or otherwise. 

What's off the recommendation list for fluoride? Supplements and vitamins. As it turns out, ingesting fluoride (like with a chewable vitamin) isn't nearly as effective as having the compound physically contact the tooth. In today's dental practice we will apply fluoride as a foam or varnish at periodic cleaning appointments. Allowing the fluoride to sit on the teeth undisturbed for 30 minutes is proven to limit the development of new cavities. Plus it comes in great flavors!

Due to diets and medical conditions, some children have an even higher risk of developing new tooth decay. Products like fluoride rinses, gels and even xylitol anticavity supplements are available to keep teeth healthy and decay free. If you would like to know more about fluoride, preventative dentistry and how to protect your kids' teeth, please give our office a call!

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Dental Questions: Can all teeth be saved with crowns?

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Dental Questions: Can all teeth be saved with crowns?

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Its easy to think of crowns as a save-all for cavities, cracked teeth and other dental disasters. Unfortunately, this is not the case. There are many situations where a crown will simply not improve the condition or longevity of a damaged tooth. The main benefit of crowns is that they restore strength to broken down teeth by creating a full coverage "cap" around the remaining structure. However, this means the tooth needs to have good gum and bone support along with some (minimal) amount of remaining tooth to hold on to. 

Firstly, a crown will do nothing to benefit a tooth with severe bone loss or gum disease. Splinting a tooth with periodontal disease to a healthy tooth may seem like a great way to stabilize roots and create a more sturdy anchor. However, research shows this is not the case and splinting teeth can actually create plaque traps that accelerate bone loss. In most instances, placing a crown on a tooth with poor bone support is ill advised and can further hinder its longevity in your mouth. 

In terms of restoring severe tooth decay or fractured teeth, crowns still have certain limitations. There needs to be a minimal amount of dental enamel and dentin above the gum line for the crown to be cemented upon. Procedures like root canals/posts, crown lengthening and orthodontics allow dentists to create more structure for the crown. However, there is a limit to how much can be done for a specific tooth. Generally speaking, teeth that are broken off at or below the gum line are usually impossible to save with a crown. If saving them is an option, it is almost always more economical and predictable to remove the tooth and replace it with an implant

Overall, crowns are an excellent way to recreate the bulk or body of a damaged tooth. Still, it is important to acknowledge their limitations. In some circumstances, removing the tooth in question and replacing it with a bridge or implant is the more favorable option. If you would like to know more about crowns, implants, bridges or other tooth replacement procedures, please give our office a call!

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Dental Questions: Is chewing gum good for your teeth?

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Dental Questions: Is chewing gum good for your teeth?

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Chewing gum is often touted as a great way to freshen your breath and remove strong tastes. You may have even heard that it can protect teeth or the dental enamel. While there is some truth to this statement, you have to be careful of what type of gum you use. Additionally, no matter what any advertising agency says, chewing gum is no replacement for daily brushing or flossing. However, it is an easy way to add a protective factor to your daily routine. Take a look!

First and foremost, for a gum to be "good" for your teeth, it absolutely has to be sugar free. Any products flavored with fructose, sucrose or HFCS are capable of fueling bacteria and starting the tooth decay process. Sugary gum is particularly harmful, since it is kept in the mouth and not swallowed. Gums flavored with sucralose, stevia, aspartame or xylitol are much safer options. Notably, xylitol provides the secondary benefits of stimulating salivation and inhibiting bacterial growth. You can find specific xylitol flavored gums at health food stores like Sprouts and Whole Foods. 

The physical act of chewing gum also has some benefits to the teeth. Chewing activates the salivary glands, keeping your teeth moist and mineralized. Additionally, gum can dislodge food stuck in the biting surfaces. However, gum overuse is a real problem that can lead to sore jaw muscles and headaches. Like anything, use gum with moderation and listen to your body. 

Chewing sugar free gum is an easy way to add extra protection against cavities and tooth decay. If you would like to know more about preventing cavities, brushing or flossing, please give our office a call!

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Organic Toothpaste

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Organic Toothpaste

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If you shop at a natural market like Whole Foods or Sprouts, you have probably seen the organic toothpastes available in the cosmetics aisle. Companies like Toms of Maine and Jason all sell numerous types and flavors of toothpaste with varying promises. No matter what the packaging claims about being anti-cavity or enamel strengthening, all toothpastes have to have fluoride to protect against oral disease.

The protective factor of brushing your teeth comes from the mechanical action of scrubbing the enamel and the remineralizing effect of fluoride. Fluoride works by increasing the rate of enamel mineralization and interfering with bacteria's ability to colonize your teeth. Years of research and clinical trials have shown that using fluoride is safe, effective and significantly lowers your risk of developing cavities.  If you aren't using fluoride toothpaste, you are missing out these great benefits. Other ingredients, such as baking soda or triclosan may add to the protective factors but are not effective enough on their own to fight cavities. 

If you are interested in switching to an organic or specialty toothpaste, simply check the packaging for added fluoride (all active ingredients have to be disclosed by law). Specifically, Toms of Maine sells a version of their organic toothpaste with fluoride. If you have any more questions about fluoride, toothpaste, or oral hygiene, please give our office a call! 

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Bacteria on your toothbrush?

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Bacteria on your toothbrush?

In a recent article, the American Dental Association recognized that where and how you store your toothbrush has a significant impact on the types of bacteria it harbors. Toothbrushes left sitting out on bathroom counters to dry harbor many types of bacteria, some associated with the "other" things we do in the bathroom. Fortunately, there is no scientific evidence that these bacteria can harm your mouth.

To keep the general level of bacteria on your toothbrush at its lowest, the ADA recommends rinsing with tap water after brushing and allowing the brush to air dry. Putting the brush in a case or cover can retain moisture and actually cause more bacterial growth between the bristles. The brush (or brush head in electric units) should be changed every three to four months to maximize their cleaning ability. 

Finally, it is important to remember to never share a toothbrush. We now understand that both gum disease and tooth decay are bacterial in nature, and that these bacteria can be transferred from person to person. This is particularly important for children under the age of three who are highly susceptible to cavity-causing bacteria. If you have any other questions on dental hygiene or oral health products, please give our office a call! 

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Dental Questions: Can eating fruit harm your teeth?

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Dental Questions: Can eating fruit harm your teeth?

Fruits and vegetables are often hailed as the healthiest parts of a balanced diet. They bring vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to almost every dish, while avoiding harmful fats and oils. However, since many fruits are acidic and high in sugars, they can be potentially harmful to your teeth.

As with all foods, the quantity and quality of the fruit you eat doesn't matter as much as the duration in which it is consumed. The bacteria in your mouth don't care if it's organic and natural or processed and preserved. To them, sugar is sugar. As such, the best way you can modify the bacteria's response is to limit the time that your teeth are exposed to carbohydrates.

Every time we eat or drink our mouths turn to an acidic state for 30 minutes. During this period, dental enamel becomes softened and prone to decay. In this sense, someone who eats every 30 minutes spends nearly the entire day damaging their teeth. This is why snacking on apple slices all day is more harmful than eating a single candy bar immediately after a meal (in a strictly dental sense).  

Another factor you can control is the consistency of the foods you eat. Sticky and dry fruits like raisins can be much more harmful than something crisp and moist like pear or apple. This is particularly true in children, who don't have a natural tendency to pick food out of their teeth. 

In total, fruit makes an excellent healthy snack, but must be enjoyed in moderation. Realize that it still contains acids and sugars that fuel the tooth decay process. As with any sweet food, we recommend keeping snacking on fruits to a minimum and sticking to eating only at mealtime. If you must snack, make sure that you are cleaning your teeth of any residual food and rinsing with water when you're finished. If you have any more questions on diets, tooth decay and cavity prevention, please give our office a call!

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Dental Sealants

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Dental Sealants

ThousandOaksFamilyDentistry.com

February is the official National Children's Dental Health Month, as recognized by the ADA. Thousand Oaks Family Dentistry will be rolling out weekly topics relating to pediatric dentistry all month long. Make sure to check back regularly to catch all the great information. 

While Dental Sealants are appropriate for patients of all ages, they are most commonly placed on kids and teens to maximize their preventative ability. The pit and groove patterns of the chewing teeth create near-perfect food traps. In fact, they are often so deep and narrow that toothbrush bristles cannot reach the furthest depths. Bacteria can then grow in these areas undisturbed and fueled by a constant food source. This is the general pattern behind cavities on the biting (occlusal) surfaces of teeth.  

Sealants interrupt this process by physically filling in the deepest parts of these pits and grooves. With the space gone, the risk of developing cavities in these areas is significantly decreased. The process of placing a sealant takes about 45 minutes (depending on the number of teeth) and does not require a shot. We start by cleaning the teeth with gentle air abrasion. Once the teeth are free of saliva, bacteria and food, we place the material into all deep grooves. The procedure is finished by checking the patient's bite and making sure the sealant is well bonded to the tooth. 

It is important to understand that sealants only protect against decay on the biting surfaces of the teeth. Cavities between the teeth (another common area) are only prevented by proper brushing and flossing. Additionally, it is worth noting that sealants can fall off over time and are much more likely to fail if the patient's home care is insufficient. As always, the key is brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily. If you have any more questions about sealants, what they do or why we place them, please give our office a call!

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Get your teeth back in shape!

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Get your teeth back in shape!

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New year new you, right? If you're hitting the gym and shaping up as part of your new year's resolution, why not include your teeth in that plan? Here's a list of some of our favorite products and techniques for getting your oral health in peak performance.

Cut out the "slow" sugar- Are you a frequent snacker? Are you always sipping on a mocha or soda? These habits that involve consuming sugars and carbs over long periods of time are detrimental to your dental enamel health. Try to cut down on duration of consumption or switch to low/no sugar options like carrots, water or cheese (no crackers). Remember to rinse with water after every meal!

Get a mouth rinse that fits your needs- Most patients gravitate towards alcohol based mouth rinses like Listerine for the satisfying burn and promises of a healthier mouth. These types of rinses are great for patients with periodontal problems. However, many are at higher risk of developing cavities than periodontal disease and would not see much benefit from these products. For them, we would recommend a fluoride rinse like Act Fluoride or Carifree Ctx3 (available at our office). 

Go Electric- If you haven't tried an electric toothbrush yet, now is the time! They make brushing easier, more convenient and generally more enjoyable. Make sure to look for a product with a built in timer and pressure sensor. 

Brighten your smile- Not satisfied with the shade of your teeth? There are a number of awesome tooth whitening services and products available today. At our office, Dr. Kari Ann Hong offers both take-home bleach trays and in-office single visit whitening. If you are interested in trying an over-the-counter method, we recommend Crest Whitestrips and the like. 

Stick to the basics- Beyond any viral videos and secret techniques, brushing for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste twice a day and flossing daily is the hands down best way to keep on top of your oral hygiene. No other product, service or trick can match the efficacy of this regimen. Don't overcomplicate it!

Check in for your check ups- Regular dental exams and cleanings are crucial to your oral health. There is simply no substitute for the expertise of a dental hygienist and dentist in keeping your teeth in tip top shape. You'll save money too- catching small problems early on avoids the need for large fillings, crowns, extractions and other invasive procedures. 

We hope you found our list informative! If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please feel free to contact our office.

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Using Dental Instruments at Home

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Using Dental Instruments at Home

With the rise of online marketplaces like Amazon and Ebay, many previously hard-to-find products are now readily available to purchase. Dentistry is no exception, with many options to buy professional cleaning instruments like scalers. Often listed as scrapers, tartar removers and hygiene tools, these items look identical to the ones used in the dental office. Are they safe to use at home? That's another story entirely. Read on for the complete answer!

In short, the only people that should be using hand scalers, polishing cups or other tooth cleaning instruments are licensed dental professionals. Many of these devices are technique sensitive and their misuse can lead to extensive damage to the gums and teeth. It is surprisingly easy to cut off gum tissue (that won't grow back), or chip away healthy enamel (leading to sensitivity). Furthermore, there is no way of knowing if the instruments you are using were made with quality materials. Porous metals can harbor bacteria or even break during use. Imagine the horror of having the tip of your scaler break off below your gumline!

Your best bet in keeping tartar off of your teeth is by brushing twice a day for two minutes and flossing daily. This regimen causes you to break up plaque deposits before they can harden into stubborn calculus. Regular dental cleanings will help ensure that you are keeping on top of your dental hygiene and allow us to clean your teeth in a hygenic and professional environment. Call us today to schedule your yearly exam and dental cleaning!

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