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By William G. Bender, DDS
January 14, 2022
Category: Oral Health
3ReasonstoScheduleRegularDentalHygieneVisits

It's a common fantasy to imagine you're the main squeeze of one of the world's most desirable humans, but it was real life for Priscilla Wagner Beaulieu. In the late 1960s she was married briefly to heartthrob Elvis Presley. Unfortunately, sex symbols often remain so even after they put a ring on it. In a recent People interview, Priscilla revealed how she always felt uneasy leaving Elvis alone with anyone—even going so far as to accompany him while he was having his teeth cleaned.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), most of us don't need a chaperone during our six-month dental hygiene visit. We might, however, encounter a different problem: finding time for a cleaning amidst a hectic work and family schedule. And because nothing looks or feels wrong inside the mouth, many justify putting it off to a more convenient time.

But semi-annual dental cleanings are an important part of dental disease prevention and as important as your daily hygiene practice. Here, then, are 3 reasons to keep your twice-a-year dental cleanings right on schedule.

Removing pesky plaque. Just like daily oral hygiene, the main purpose of dental cleanings is to remove disease-causing plaque and its calcified form, tartar. They're necessary because even if you're a brush-and-floss "ninja," you can still leave some plaque behind. These deposits can then harden into tartar, which usually can only be removed with a hygienist's specialized tools and techniques. A professional cleaning ensures your teeth and gums are as free of plaque and tartar as possible.

Identifying "silent" disease. Just because you haven't felt or noticed anything lately doesn't mean your teeth and gums are disease-free. In fact, both tooth decay and gum disease can run "silent" with no noticeable signs on display. But a routine visit often involves x-ray imaging or other diagnostics—not to mention the astute eye of an experienced dental professional—that can identify disease you might not otherwise notice.

Getting a little extra smile pizzazz. Besides causing disease, plaque and tartar can do something else: dull your smile. A thorough dental cleaning not only removes the plaque, but also helps uncover a more attractive smile hiding below the gunk. Hygienists often follow a cleaning with a polishing paste that further boosts your smile's brilliance and beauty.

If it's been a while since your last dental visit, there's no time like the present to get back on track—so make your appointment today. Whether you come alone or have your watchful honey with you, regular dental cleanings will keep your teeth and gums healthy—and your smile bright.

If you would like more information about dental hygiene visits, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Hygiene Visit.”

3ThingsYouCanDotoKeepHolidaySweetsFromInterferingWithYourDentalHealth

In his iconic poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," Clement Moore wrote of children sleeping "while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads." Indeed, sweet treats are still interwoven into the holidays—and a prime reason why we tend to put on pounds during the season. It may also be why your next dental visit might come with some unpleasant news.

The starring actors in much of traditional holiday snacking and feasting are naturally-occurring or added sugars. Carbohydrates like refined sugar in particular can dramatically affect your dental health if you over-consume them, because they can feed the bacteria that causes both tooth decay and gum disease.

There are ways, though, to reduce their impact on your teeth and gums. You can, of course, go "cold turkey" and cut refined sugar out completely, as well as curtail other carbohydrates like refined flours and fruit. It's effective, but not much fun—and what are the holidays without fun?

More in line with "moderation in all things," there are other ways to minimize the impact of carbohydrates on your teeth and gums during the holiday season. Here are a few of them.

Limit refined sugar. While you and your family may not be up for banning sugar during the holidays, you can reduce it significantly. For instance, prepare more savory items rather than the sweeter kinds. If you must go for sweet, opt for naturally occurring sugars in fruit or dairy rather than refined table sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

Eat sweet treats with meals. Constant snacking often comes with the holiday season. And, why not—all those abundant goodies are just begging to be eaten. But noshing all the time never allows your mouth's saliva, which neutralizes the enamel-eroding acid produced by the bacteria fueled by sugar, a chance to finish its buffering. Instead, try as much as possible to limit treats to mealtimes.

Use different sweeteners. There are a number of alternative sweeteners to regular sugar, both natural and artificial. Some work better in baked goods, while others are more suitable for candies or beverages. Xylitol in particular, a sugar alcohol, actually discourages oral bacterial growth. You can also use natural sweetening agents like stevia or erythritol to help reduce refined sugar in your treats.

Even if you normally limit carbohydrates, it's understandable if their consumption rises during the holidays. That's why it's important you don't neglect daily brushing and flossing to help control bacterial plaque, the main driver for dental disease. Both effective oral hygiene and reining in the sweets will help your teeth and gums sail through the holidays into the new year.

If you would like more information about protecting your oral health during the holidays, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Bitter Truth About Sugar.”

By William G. Bender, DDS
December 15, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene  
4TipsForImprovingYourOralHygieneTechnique

Although we've advanced leaps and bounds over the years treating dental disease, our strategy for preventing them hasn't changed much. That's because these prevention basics are quite effective—and as the old saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

The core of an effective dental disease prevention strategy is mind-numbingly simple—brush and floss every day. These twin cleaning tasks remove accumulated dental plaque, a thin, bacterial film on tooth surfaces that's the primary oral disease driver.

True, there have been innovations concerning the "tools of the trade," i.e., toothbrushes, toothpastes and flossing devices. But what really makes this prevention strategy work is a consistent daily habit of oral hygiene.

In a way, simply "showing up" for daily oral hygiene goes a long way. But you can go even farther if you perform these tasks with greater proficiency—becoming a hygiene "ninja," of sorts.

Here, then, are 4 tips to improve your brushing and flossing prowess.

Be thorough when you brush. Try to cover all of your tooth surfaces when you brush, being sure to work the bristles into all the nooks and crannies and around the gum lines. A thorough brushing should take about 2 minutes.

Easy does it. Hard scrubbing may work on floors, but not your teeth—aggressive brushing can damage your enamel and gums. Brush gently and let the mild abrasives in your toothpaste do the heavy work of plaque removal.

Don't forget to floss. Although you may not like this "other hygiene task," flossing is necessary to remove plaque between teeth that your brush can't reach. Be sure, then, that you floss at least once a day.

Take the "tongue test." Wondering how well you're doing with your oral hygiene? A quick way to find out is by swiping your tongue across your teeth: If they feel gritty rather than smooth, you may have left some plaque behind.

Be sure to also ask your dentist for additional tips on better brushing and flossing. Improving your technique can help you put even more distance between you and dental disease.

If you would like more information on daily care for teeth and gums, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Daily Oral Hygiene.”

PatriotsBelichicksUniqueBetween-TeethCleaningMethodCaughtOnFilm

Earlier this season, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick got together with his longtime QB, Tom Brady. This time, however, they were on opposite sides of the field. And although Brady and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the game, Belichick—or specifically his teeth and a pencil—may have garnered most of the media attention.

After noticing something between his teeth during the game, Belichick used the point of his pencil to work it out. Many of us are also guilty of such a dubious teeth-cleaning method, but we're not likely to be coaching a professional football team on national television while doing it. As you can imagine, hilarity ensued on social media concerning the video clip of Belichick's dental faux pas.

Lesson #1: Before you start digging between your teeth, be sure you're not on camera. More importantly, Lesson #2: Be choosy with what you use to clean between your teeth.

While we don't want to heap any more razz on the good coach any more than he's already received, a pencil should definitely be on the "Do Not Use" list for teeth cleaning. But, it's not the worst item people have confessed to employing: According to a recent survey, 80% of approximately a thousand adults admitted to working the edge of a business card, a strand of hair, a twig or even a screwdriver between their teeth.

Where to begin….

For one, using most of the aforementioned items is simply unsanitary. As your mother might say, "Do you know where that toenail clipping has been?" For another, many of these objects can be downright dangerous, causing potential injury to your teeth and gums (how could a screwdriver not?). And, if the injurious object is laden with bacteria, you're opening the door to infection.

There are better ways to rid your teeth of a pesky food ort. If nothing else, a plastic or wooden toothpick will work in a pinch—so long as it's clean, so says the American Dental Association.

Dental floss is even better since its actual reason for existence is to clean between teeth. You can always keep a small amount rolled up and stashed in your wallet or purse. Even better, keep a floss pick handy—this small piece of plastic with an attached bit of floss is ultra-convenient to use while away from home.

To summarize, be sure to use an appropriate and safe tool to remove that pesky food bit from between your teeth. And, be prepared ahead of time—that way, you won't be caught (by millions) doing something embarrassing.

If you would like more information about proper oral hygiene, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Daily Oral Hygiene.”

By William G. Bender, DDS
November 25, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: sleep apnea  
YourDentistMayBeAbleToProvideYouWithaSleepApneaSolution

Morning tiredness, brain fog and snoring are just some of the indicators of a medical condition known as sleep apnea. And, it's worse than waking up on the wrong side of the bed—over time, sleep apnea could increase your risk for heart disease or other life-threatening conditions.

Sleep apnea occurs when air flow becomes restricted during sleep, usually by the tongue blocking the airway. As oxygen levels begin to fall, the brain signals the body to wake up to "fix" the air flow problem.

As this arousal may only last a second or two, you may not remember it when you awaken in the morning. But it can happen numerous times a night, depriving you of the deep sleep your body needs for rest and repair.

Fortunately, there are ways to treat sleep apnea. In extreme instances, you may need surgery to correct anatomical defects causing the condition. For most cases, though, the most common treatment is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which consists of a portable pump delivering pressurized air through a face mask that keeps the throat open while you sleep.

Used by millions of patients, CPAP can be quite effective. Some patients, though, feel uncomfortable using a CPAP machine for various reasons. If you're one of those unhappy CPAP campers or you would like to consider a possible alternative, your dentist might have the answer: oral appliance therapy (OAT).

An OAT device is worn in the mouth during sleep to prevent the tongue from falling back against the back of the throat and blocking the airway. There are various forms of OAT appliances, but they're all custom-made by a dentist to fit an individual patient's mouth. They work best for mild to moderate sleep apnea in which the tongue is the primary culprit in airway blockage.

If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, you should undergo a complete examination by a doctor or dentist to confirm it. If you've been diagnosed with mild to moderate sleep apnea, talk to your dentist about an OAT device. You may find OAT can provide you the relief you need for a better night's sleep.

If you would like more information on oral treatments for sleep apnea, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “If You Snore, You Must Read More!