Click any of the questions to reveal the answer.
Q: Is sugar that bad?
Dental cavities are caused by bacteria together with a fermentable carbohydrate. It makes no difference whether it is refined sugar, unrefined sugar or honey. They are all the same when it comes to causing tooth decay. Because of their stickiness, “natural” foods sweetened with honey are often more dangerous than other sugar-containing foods. Get in the habit of reading labels when you shop for groceries: honey, molasses, glucose, fructose, maple syrup, corn syrup, dextrose are all types of sugar.
When you eat or drink sugary foods, the bacteria in your mouth combines with the sugar to create an acidic environment. Over time, this acid attacks the tooth enamel and leads to decay. When eating or drinking, keep two things in mind:
- How OFTEN you eat sugar (frequency).
- How LONG it stays in your mouth (duration).
The danger of sweetened or sports drinks is often underestimated. Soft drinks often contain as much as 11 teaspoons of sugar per serving. In addition, soft drinks are also acidic. Switching to a “diet” version may contain less sugar but they still have phosphoric and citric acid, which can erode teeth over time. Baby bottle caries are a classic example of the damage caused by milk or juice in direct contact with primary teeth, during the day or overnight.
If you or your child drink fruit juices or soft drinks, do so in limited amounts, rinse your mouth with water, brush your teeth or chew a piece of sugarless gum to minimize the frequency and duration that sugar remains in contact with your teeth.
- Avoid sticky sweets — they cling to teeth and are hard to brush away.
- Eat sweets with a meal, not as a snack. The increased flow of saliva during a meal helps to wash away and dilute sugar.
- Brush after eating sweets. If you can’t brush, rinse your mouth with water, eat an apple or raw vegetables or chew a piece of sugarless gum.
- Water is the best drink between meals and a healthy part of daily nutrition. Water is the only liquid that should be kept bedside for those who get thirsty at night
- With good dental hygiene and attention to diet, we can keep our teeth for life.
Q: What should I do if I have bad breath?
Bad breath (halitosis) can be an unpleasant and embarrassing condition. Many of us may not realize that we have bad breath, but everyone has it from time to time, especially in the morning.
There are various reasons one may have bad breath, but in healthy people, the major reason is due to microbial deposits on the tongue, especially the back of the tongue. Some studies have shown that simply brushing the tongue reduced bad breath by as much as 70 percent.
What may cause bad breath?
- Morning time – Saliva flow almost stops during sleep and its reduced cleansing action allows bacteria to grow, causing bad breath.
- Certain foods – Garlic, onions, etc. Foods containing odor-causing compounds enter the blood stream; they are transferred to the lungs, where they are exhaled.
- Poor oral hygiene habits – Food particles remaining in the mouth promote bacterial growth.
- Periodontal (gum) disease – Colonies of bacteria and food debris residing under inflamed gums.
- Dental cavities and improperly fitted dental appliances – May also contribute to bad breath.
- Dry mouth (Xerostomia) – May be caused by certain medications, salivary gland problems, or continuous mouth breathing.
- Tobacco products – Dry the mouth, causing bad breath.
- Dieting – Certain chemicals called ketones are released in the breath as the body burns fat.
- Dehydration, hunger, and missed meals – Drinking water and chewing food increases saliva flow and washes bacteria away.
- Certain medical conditions and illnesses – Diabetes, liver and kidney problems, chronic sinus infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia are several conditions that may contribute to bad breath.
Keeping a record of what you eat may help identify the cause of bad breath. Also, review your current medications, recent surgeries, or illnesses with you dentist.
What can I do to prevent bad breath?
Practice good oral hygiene – Brush at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and toothbrush. Floss daily to remove food debris and plaque from in between the teeth and under the gumline. Brush or use a tongue scraper to clean the tongue and reach the back areas. Replace your toothbrush every 2 to 3 months. If you wear dentures or removable bridges, clean them thoroughly and place them back in your mouth in the morning.
- See your dentist regularly – Get a check-up and cleaning at least once a year. If you have or have had periodontal disease, your dentist will recommend more frequent visits.
- Stop smoking.
- Drink water frequently – Water will help keep your mouth moist and wash away bacteria.
- Use mouthwash/rinses – Some over-the-counter products only provide a temporary solution to mask unpleasant mouth odor. Ask your dentist about antiseptic rinses that not only alleviate bad breath, but also kill the germs that cause the problem.
- In most cases, your dentist can treat the cause of bad breath. If it is determined that your mouth is healthy, but bad breath is persistent, your dentist may refer you to your physician to determine the cause of the odor and an appropriate treatment plan.
- Blis K12 treatment is available.
Q: How often should I brush and floss?
Brushing and flossing help control the plaque and bacteria that cause dental disease.
Plaque is a sticky film formed largely by colonies of bacteria that attach to the teeth and gums. The bacteria in plaque convert sugars into acids that cause tooth decay. Also, if plaque is not removed, it can develop into calculus (tartar).
Plaque formation and growth is continuous and can only be controlled by regular brushing, flossing, and the use of other dental aids.
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day (especially before going to bed at night) with a soft bristle brush and toothpaste.
- Brush at a 45 degree angle to the gums, gently using a small, circular motion, ensuring that you always feel the bristles on the gums.
- Brush the outer, inner, and biting surfaces of each tooth.
- Use the tip of the brush head to clean the inside front teeth.
- Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.
- Electric toothbrushes are also recommended. They are easy to use and can remove plaque efficiently. Simply place the bristles of the electric brush on your gums and teeth and allow the brush to do its job, several teeth at a time.Do not push on the brush – let the machine do the work.
- Daily flossing is the best way to clean between the teeth and under the gumline. Flossing not only helps clean these spaces, it disrupts plaque colonies from building up, preventing damage to the gums, teeth, and bone.
- Take 30-40cm of dental floss and wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about 5cm of floss between the hands.
- Using your thumbs and forefingers to guide the floss, gently insert the floss between teeth using a sawing motion.
- Curve the floss into a “C” shape around each tooth and under the gumline. Gently move the floss up and down, cleaning the side of each tooth.
- Floss holders are recommended if you have difficulty using conventional floss.
- Rinsing – It is important to rinse your mouth with water after brushing, and also after meals if you are unable to brush. If you are using an over-the-counter product for rinsing, it’s a good idea to consult with your dentist or dental hygienist on its appropriateness for you.
Q: Are amalgam (silver) fillings safe?
Over the years there has been some concern as to the safety of amalgam (silver) fillings. An amalgam is a blend of copper, silver, tin and zinc, bound by elemental mercury. Dentists have used this blended metal to fill teeth for more than 100 years. The controversy is due to claims that the exposure to the vapor and minute particles of mercury can cause a variety of health problems.
The NZDA states that silver fillings are safe and that studies have failed to find any link between silver and mercury and any medical disorder.
The general consensus is that amalgam (silver/mercury) fillings are safe. Along with the NZDA’s position, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization, the FDA, and others support the use of silver fillings as safe, durable, and cost effective. The only reason not to use silver fillings is when a patient has an allergy to any component of this type of filling.
Although studies indicate that there are no measurable health risks to patients who have silver fillings, we do know that mercury is a toxic material when we are exposed at high, unsafe levels. For instance, we have been warned to limit the consumption of certain types of fish that carry high levels of mercury in them. However, with respect to amalgam fillings, the ADA maintains that when the mercury combines with the other components of the filling, it becomes an inactive substance that is safe.
There are numerous options to silver fillings, including composite (tooth-colored), porcelain, and gold fillings. We encourage you to discuss these options with us so you can determine which is the best option for you.
Q: How often should I have a dental exam and cleaning?
You should have your teeth checked and cleaned at least once a year, though your dentist or dental hygienist may recommend more frequent visits.
Regular dental exams and cleaning visits are essential in preventing dental problems and maintaining the health of your teeth and gums. At these visits, your teeth are cleaned and checked for cavities. Additionally, there are many other things that are checked and monitored to help detect, prevent, and maintain your dental health.
- Medical history review: Knowing the status of any current medical conditions, new medications, and illnesses, gives us insight to your overall health and also your dental health.
- Examination of diagnostic x-rays (radiographs): Essential for detection of decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss. X-rays also help determine tooth and root positions.
- Oral cancer screening: Check the face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums for any signs of oral cancer.
- Gum disease evaluation: Check the gums and bone around the teeth for any signs of periodontal disease.
- Examination of tooth decay: All tooth surfaces will be checked for decay with special dental instruments.
- Examination of existing restorations: Check current fillings, crowns, etc.
- Removal of calculus (tartar): Calculus is hardened plaque that is firmly attached to the tooth surface. Calculus forms above and below the gum line, and can only be removed with special dental instruments.
- Removal of plaque: Plaque is a sticky, tooth coloured film that forms on the teeth. It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva. The bacteria produce toxins (poisons) that inflame the gums. This inflammation is the start of periodontal disease!
- Teeth polishing: Removes stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during tooth brushing and scaling.
- Oral hygiene recommendations: Review and recommend oral hygiene aids as needed (electric dental toothbrushes, special cleaning aids, fluorides, rinses, etc.).
- Review dietary habits: Your eating habits play a very important role in your dental health.
As you can see, a good dental exam and cleaning involves quite a lot more than just checking for cavities and polishing your teeth. We are committed to providing you with the best possible care, and to do so will require regular check-ups and cleanings.
Q: How can I tell if I have gingivitis or periodontitis (gum disease)?
Four out of five people have some periodontal disease and don’t know it! Most people are not aware of it because the disease is usually painless in the early stages. It is possible to have periodontal disease without noticeable symptoms. Having regular dental check-ups and periodontal examinations are very important and will help detect if periodontal problems exist.
Periodontal disease begins when plaque is left on the teeth and gums. The bacteria produce toxins (acids) that inflame the gums and slowly breaks down the periodontal ligament and then the bone. Brushing and flossing regularly and properly will ensure that plaque is not left behind to do its damage.
Other than poor oral hygiene, there are several other factors that may increase the risk of developing periodontal disease:
- Smoking – Tobacco users are more likely than non-smokers to form plaque and tartar on their teeth.
- Certain tooth or appliance conditions – Bridges that no longer fit properly, crowded teeth, or defective fillings that may trap plaque and bacteria.
- Many medications – Steroids, cancer therapy drugs, blood pressure meds, oral contraceptives. Some medications have side affects that reduce saliva, making the mouth dry and plaque easier to adhere to the teeth and gums.
- Pregnancy, oral contraceptives, and puberty – Can cause changes in hormone levels, causing gum tissue to become more sensitive to bacteria toxins.
- Systemic diseases – Diabetes, blood cell disorders, HIV / AIDS, etc.
- Genetics may play role – Some patients may be predisposed to a more aggressive type of periodontitis. Patients with a family history of tooth loss should pay particular attention to their gums.
Signs and Symptoms of Periodontal Disease
- Red and puffy gums – Gums should never be red or swollen.
- Bleeding gums – Gums should never bleed, even when you brush vigorously or use dental floss.
- Persistent bad breath – Caused by bacteria in the mouth.
- New spacing between teeth – Caused by bone loss.
- Loose teeth – Also caused by bone loss or weakened periodontal fibers (fibers that support the tooth to the bone).
- Pus around the teeth and gums – Sign that there is an infection present.
- Receding gums – Loss of gum around a tooth.
- Tenderness or Discomfort – Plaque, calculus, and bacteria irritate the gums and teeth.
Good oral hygiene, a balanced diet, and regular dental visits can help reduce your risk of developing periodontal disease.
Q: Why is it important to use dental floss?
Brushing our teeth removes food particles, plaque, and bacteria from all tooth surfaces, except in between the teeth. Unfortunately, our toothbrush can’t reach these areas that are highly susceptible to decay and periodontal (gum) disease.
Daily flossing is the best way to clean between the teeth and under the gum line. Flossing not only helps clean these spaces, it disrupts plaque colonies from building up, preventing damage to the gums, teeth, and bone.
Floss holders or interproximal brushes are recommended if you have difficulty using conventional floss.
Daily flossing will help you keep a healthy, beautiful smile for life!
Q: How can cosmetic dentistry help improve the appearance of my smile?
If you’re feeling somewhat self-conscious about your teeth, or just want to improve your smile, cosmetic dental treatments may be the answer to a more beautiful, confident smile.
Cosmetic dentistry has become very popular in the last several years, not only due to the many advances in cosmetic dental procedures and materials available today, but also because patients are becoming more and more focused on improving their overall health. This includes dental prevention and having a healthier, whiter, more radiant smile.
There are many cosmetic dental procedures available to improve your teeth and enhance your smile. Depending on your particular needs, cosmetic dental treatments can change your smile dramatically, from restoring a single tooth to having a full mouth makeover. Ask your dentist how you can improve the health and beauty of your smile with cosmetic dentistry.
- Teeth Whitening: Bleaching lightens teeth that have been stained or discolored by age, food, drink, and smoking. Teeth darkened as a result of injury or taking certain medications can also be bleached, but the effectiveness depends on the degree of staining present.
- Composite (tooth-colored) Fillings: Also known as “bonding”, composite fillings are now widely used instead of amalgam (silver) fillings to repair teeth with cavities, and also to replace old defective fillings. Tooth-colored fillings are also used to repair chipped, broken, or discolored teeth. This type of filling is also very useful to fill in gaps and to protect sensitive, exposed root surfaces caused by gum recession.
- Porcelain Veneers: Veneers are thin custom-made, tooth-colored shells that are bonded onto the fronts of teeth to create a beautiful individual smile. They can help restore or camouflage damaged, discolored, poorly shaped, or misaligned teeth. Unlike crowns, veneers require minimal tooth structure to be removed from the surface of the tooth.
- Porcelain Crowns (caps): A crown is a tooth-colored, custom-made covering that encases the entire tooth surface restoring it to its original shape and size. Crowns protect and strengthen teeth that cannot be restored with fillings or other types of restorations. They are ideal for teeth that have large, fractured or broken fillings and also for those that are badly decayed.
- Dental Implants: Dental implants are artificial roots that are surgically placed into the jaw to replace one or more missing teeth. Porcelain crowns, bridges, and dentures can be made specifically to fit and attach to implants, giving a patient a strong, stable, and durable solution to removable dental appliances.
- Orthodontics: Less visible and more effective brackets and wires are making straightening teeth with orthodontics much more appealing to adult patients. Also, in some cases, teeth may be straightened with custom-made, clear, removable aligners that require no braces.
Thanks to the advances in modern dentistry, cosmetic treatments can make a difference in making your smile shine!
Q: What are porcelain veneers and how can they improve my smile?
Porcelain veneers are very thin shells of tooth-shaped porcelain that are individually crafted to cover the fronts of teeth. They are very durable and will not stain, making them a very popular solution for those seeking to restore or enhance the beauty of their smile.
Veneers may be used to restore or correct the following dental conditions:
- Severely discoloured or stained teeth
- Unwanted or uneven spaces
- Worn or chipped teeth
- Slight tooth crowding
- Misshapen teeth
- Teeth that are too small or large
Getting veneers usually requires two visits. Veneers are created from an impression (mold) of your teeth that is then sent to a professional dental laboratory where each veneer is custom-made (for shape and color) for your individual smile.
With little or no anesthesia, teeth are prepared by lightly buffing and shaping the front surface of the teeth to allow for the small thickness of veneers. The veneers are carefully fitted and bonded onto the tooth surface with special bonding cements and occasionally a specialized light may be used to harden and set the bond.
Veneers are an excellent dental treatment that can dramatically improve your teeth and give you a natural, beautiful smile.
Q: What can I do about stained or discoloured teeth?
Since teeth whitening has now become the number one aesthetic concern of many patients, there are many products and methods available to achieve a brighter smile.
Professional teeth whitening (or bleaching) is a simple, non-invasive dental treatment used to change the colour of natural tooth enamel, and is an ideal way to enhance the beauty of your smile. Over-the-counter products are also available, but they are much less effective than professional treatments and may not be approved by the New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA).
As we age, the outer layer of tooth enamel wears away, eventually revealing a darker or yellow shade. The colour of our teeth also comes from the inside of the tooth, which may become darker over time. Smoking, drinking coffee, tea, and wine may also contribute to tooth discoloration, making our teeth yellow and dull. Sometimes, teeth can become discoloured from taking certain medications as a child, such as tetracycline. Excessive fluoridation (fluorosis) during tooth development can also cause teeth to become discoloured.
It’s important to have your teeth evaluated by your dentist to determine if you’re a good candidate for bleaching. Occasionally, tetracycline and fluorosis stains are difficult to bleach and your dentist may offer other options, such as veneers or crowns to cover up such stains. Since teeth whitening only works on natural tooth enamel, it is also important to evaluate replacement of any old fillings, crowns, etc. before bleaching begins. Once the bleaching is done, your dentist can match the new restorations to the shade of the newly whitened teeth.
Since teeth whitening is not permanent, a touch-up may be needed every several years to keep your smile looking bright.
At-home products usually come in a gel form that is placed in a custom-fitted mouthguard (tray), created from a mold of your teeth. The trays are worn either twice a day for approximately 30 minutes, or overnight while you sleep. It usually takes several weeks to achieve the desired results depending on the degree of staining and the desired level of whitening.
Some patients may experience tooth sensitivity after having their teeth whitened. This sensation is temporary and subsides shortly after you complete the bleaching process, usually within a few days to one weak.
Teeth whitening can be very effective and can give you a brighter, whiter, more confident smile!
Q: What about mouthguards?
The development of mouthguards and their use in contact sports has significantly decreased the number of oral injuries dentists see.
Mouthguards are not limited to tooth protection. In addition to protecting against cuts to the inside of the cheek or lips, mouthguards are very effective in preventing trauma to the head. When an athlete is hit in the head, the jaw often takes the major impact of the blow. A mouthguard helps absorb this impact and therefore cushions the mouth and the head.
There are three types of mouthguards. The simplest, least expensive one is known as a stock mouthguard. It generally can be found at any pharmacy or sports store. It requires no preparation. You simply take it out of it’s package and place it in your mouth. This type of mouthguard offers very little protection as it does not conform to your mouth. If a mouthguard does not fit correctly it will not protect you.
The second and most commonly used type of protector is known as the ‘boil and bite’. It is called this because the athlete first immerses this in hot water, then dips it in cold water to cool it enough to bite down on and create a dental impression. This too can be found in just about any pharmacy or sports store.
The third type of mouthguard is the custom-made mouthpiece. It is considered the best and is the most expensive. This type of mouthguard requires a trip to the dentist as it is constructed from a cast model of the athlete's mouth.
Overwhelming evidence shows that custom mouthguards are more comfortable, permit easier speech and interfere less with breathing.
Parents need to be aware that their children’s mouths are especially vulnerable. The cost of a mouthguard is nothing compared to the cost of treating your child after an injury.
Dentistry not only strives to treat disease, but more importantly to prevent it. It is easier and cheaper to prevent tooth and oral injuries than it is to repair the damage. If your child plays a contact sport and is not already wearing a mouthguard, please purchase one. At TBK Dental we are able to design and make a mouth guard appropriate to your sport and level of participation.
You can even have your name and/or team colours embedded in the mouth guard!
Q: How else can I care for my teeth?
The following are some unhealthy oral habits that you would be wise to drop as soon as possible.
- Toothpicks – While these little marvels may be effective for removing food particles, they often cause food to be wedged deeper between the teeth. In addition a slip or sudden movement can lead to damaged gums and/or lips.
- Chewing ice – Ice is hard and brittle.This in itself is enough to chip or crack teeth. Fillings and teeth are further adversely affected by the expansion and contraction that occurs with the sudden temperature change. The extremes in temperature may affect nerve endings in already sensitive teeth and lead to extreme discomfort.
- Nail biting – Persistent nail biting causes excessive wear on teeth,lacerated gums, micro-fractures in teeth, spread of skin infections from the hand to the mouth and in severe cases misalignment of teeth.
- Sucking lemons – Although that little piece of fruit at the bottom of the glass looks inviting-resist the temptation. The citric acid can remove important minerals from the teeth and lead to the erosion of the enamel. Over time teeth may develop tiny grooves or they may soften making them prone to chipping.
- Using your teeth as tools – We’ve all run into the problem of packages wrapped in plastic with the seeming intent that they never be opened. Unfortunately, teeth are just too convenient. Instead of reaching for a scissors or a knife we trust our teeth which can lead to damaged tissues and/or teeth. The same thing happens when we use our teeth in lieu of a bottle opener. In a word…DON’T.
Eliminating these unhealthy oral habits may save you unnecessary pain and an unscheduled visit to the dental office.
Q: What does grinding my teeth do?
Some people do it to relieve stress. Others do it because of the way their teeth fit together. Some do it when they’re awake. Others do it while they are asleep. For whatever reason, and no matter when you do it, “bruxing” or habitual clenching or grinding your upper and lower teeth together can lead to serious complications.
With no food to absorb the impact, and no conscience to exert control, nocturnal teeth-grinding is powerful enough to crack a walnut – the pressure can be ten times the force registered during normal chewing. It also impacts the teeth at odd angles, making it especially destructive: and it can last all night. The results can be horrifying. Some front teeth can be worn down nearly to the gum line.Teeth can fracture or develop hairline cracks that will cause toothache but can be difficult to locate and treat. All the grinding and clenching can cause migraine like headaches and nagging muscle soreness as well, and it is a major contributor to more severe temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.
TMJ disorders involve complications with the way the jaw muscles, bones and ligaments work together.
There are several treatments available for bruxism. These include special splints or bite plates. Depending on what time you generally do the majority of your bruxing, your dentist will design the appliance to be worn during sleep or at various times during the day.
Malocclusion, a problem with the way your teeth fit together when the mouth is closed, can trigger persistent tooth clenching. If bruxing is aggravated by a malocclusion, the problem can often be successfully treated with braces or other dental procedures such as adjusting the teeth causing the problem.
If you habitually clench or grind your teeth you should consult your dentist.