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Brushing: Before or after breakfast?

April 25th, 2018

In a perfect world, we would all jump out of bed ready to greet the day with a big smile and a toothbrush close at hand to clean our teeth immediately. But if you can’t even find your toothbrush before you’ve had your first cup of coffee, does it really make a difference if you brush and floss after breakfast? Perhaps! Let’s talk biology.

Normal saliva production during the day benefits our teeth and mouths in surprising ways. Saliva washes away food particles to keep our teeth cleaner. It contains cells which combat bacteria and infection. It even provides proteins and minerals to help protect our teeth from decay. But saliva production slows dramatically as we sleep, and the amount of bacteria in our mouths increases. While one of the nasty—and obvious—side effects of bacterial growth is morning breath, there is an invisible effect, which is more harmful. Bacteria in plaque convert sugar and carbohydrates into acids which attack our gums and enamel and can lead to both gingivitis and cavities.

  • If You Brush Before Breakfast

Brushing and flossing first thing in the morning removes the plaque that has built up during the night and takes care of many of the bacteria who are ready to enjoy the sugar and carbs in that breakfast with you. If you brush before eating breakfast, rinse your mouth with water after your meal, floss if needed, and you are good to go.

  • If You Choose to Brush After Breakfast

But if you decide that doughnut simply can’t wait, you should ideally postpone brushing for 20-30 minutes after your meal. Of course, these are minutes in which bacteria can make use of those new sugars and carbohydrates. So why shouldn’t you brush immediately after eating? Many foods and beverages, especially acidic ones such as grapefruit and orange juice, can weaken the surface of your teeth. If you rinse with water after eating and wait at least 20-30 minutes before brushing, your enamel will be “remineralized” (another benefit of saliva) and ready for cleaning.

No matter if you take a “seize the day” approach and brush first thing in the morning, or a “seize the doughnut” approach and brush soon after eating, the important word here is “brushing.” Dr. Bentz and our East Norriton, PA team are happy to make suggestions as to the best morning routine for you. One thing is certain: if you give your teeth and gums two minutes of careful brushing and flossing in the morning, you can’t help but start your day off right!

How to Prevent Dry Socket

April 18th, 2018

When you have a tooth extracted, your body immediately sets to work to help protect the affected area. The blood that collects at the site of the extraction clots to cover and protect the wound. This is a normal response, and protects the nerves and bone that have been exposed with the removal of your tooth. Normally, the gum tissue will close over the area within a few weeks.

But sometimes the clot becomes dislodged or moved before you have a chance to heal. The result is that the nerves and bone in the extraction site are exposed to air and outside substances. Bacteria can contaminate the wound and lead to pain, infection, and further damage. This condition is known as dry socket.

There are certain activities that should definitely be avoided so you are not at risk for dry socket.

  • Straws and suction: The action of using a straw causes suction that can dislodge the clot. You can still enjoy the soothing coolness of a milkshake, but use a spoon.
  • Spitting: You might be tempted to rinse and spit immediately to clean your mouth, but spitting can also dislodge the clot. We will let you know how to clean your mouth and teeth for the next few days.
  • Smoking: Not only does smoking provide a suction effect that can remove the clot, but smoking and chewing tobacco can slow healing as well.

There are also steps you can take to aid the healing process.

  • Caring for your extraction site

Dr. Bentz will give you instructions on caring for your mouth and teeth for the next few days. Gentle care for the extraction site is vital. And treat yourself gently as well. Rest if you need to, and avoid activities that might impact your wound.

  • Think about your diet

Stick to soft foods for the first day or so and chew on the side opposite your extraction site. Carbonated and caffeinated beverages should be avoided, as well as food like peanuts or popcorn that lodge in the teeth.

  • Watch for symptoms of dry socket

How do you know if you have a dry socket? Monitor your pain and the appearance of the site after the extraction. For the first few days, you might feel some pain in the immediate area. Pain that intensifies after three or four days is usually not a result of the extraction. An unpleasant odor or taste in your mouth could be a sign of dry socket. You might look in the mirror and notice that the clot is no longer there, or appears to have been dislodged. If any of these symptoms occur, call our East Norriton, PA office at once. If you are experiencing dry socket, the extraction site needs to be cleaned and protected from further injury, and we can prescribe antibiotics if needed.

Dry socket is a rare occurrence, but if you have any symptoms that concern you, we want to hear about them. We will work with you to make your extraction go as smoothly as possible. Talk to us about your concerns before any procedure, and we will provide detailed information for the healing process. Keep us in the loop as you recuperate, and we will work together to make your recovery a speedy one.

Pros and Cons of Veneers

April 11th, 2018

You might have a small chip in a tooth from an unfortunate encounter with peanut brittle, or even several chips from a touch football game that got a little out of hand. Perhaps you have a gap in your teeth that you’ve always wanted to address. Or it could be that you are not happy with the shape or color of your teeth, and are looking for a straighter, brighter smile. In all these cases, veneers may the perfect solution for you.

Veneers are one of the most dramatic ways to improve your smile:

  • Realistic Appearance: A dental veneer is a thin shell of porcelain that is bonded to your tooth. Because they are semi-translucent, much like actual enamel, veneers look like natural teeth.
  • Rapid Transformation: Normally, the application of veneers requires only a few visits. Your tooth will be shaped to accommodate the veneer for a smooth, flat appearance. A mold will be made to ensure an exact fit. On a subsequent visit, the new veneer will be bonded to the tooth permanently.
  • Whiteness that Lasts: Veneers are stain-resistant, so if you are looking for a long-lasting bright smile, they are a good option. (If you are getting only a few veneers, it is a good idea to have your natural teeth whitened to the shade you desire before the veneer color is selected. Veneer color is permanent.)

There are also some aspects to consider before going ahead with the procedure:

  • Be Sure About Your Decision: Veneers are a permanent choice. Some enamel might need to be removed for the veneer to fit and the surface of your tooth will be treated to allow the veneer to bond to it properly.
  • Check Your Overall Dental Health: You should have a check-up before starting the process to make sure your teeth and gums are healthy enough for veneers. If you have severe orthodontic issues, grind your teeth, or have a habit of clenching your jaw, your veneers will be put under pressure they were not designed to take. We can let you know if you are a good candidate for this procedure.
  • Expense: Veneers are more expensive than some other options, such as whitening and bonding, but can offer more benefits. Veneers will cover staining that whitening cannot eliminate. Their translucent quality makes them look more realistic than bonding, and they are also far more stain resistant. The cost of a crown might be comparable, and a crown is recommended if there is significant damage to the underlying tooth. If you are looking for cosmetic improvement only, veneers leave more of the tooth intact.
  • Longevity: Veneers do not last forever, and will need to be replaced eventually. However, they can have a life expectancy of ten to 15 years, and we can give you tips to keep your veneers looking and lasting their best.

If you decide veneers are right for you, give our East Norriton, PA office a call. We will be happy to discuss the procedure with you and help you discover the best possible path to your best possible smile.

Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April 4th, 2018

Happy Oral Cancer Awareness Month! We know oral cancer can be kind of a scary topic, but it’s worth using this opportunity to learn about the disease and spread knowledge so everyone becomes more aware. The more we know, the better we can work to prevent it!

Oral cancer is exactly what it sounds like: cancer that occurs anywhere in the mouth. It could occur on the tongue, the lips, the gums, the tongue, inside the cheek, or in the roof or floor of the mouth. Every  year, more than 8,000 people die from oral cancer. It’s a truly deadly disease.

The reason oral cancer scores a higher death rate than other common cancers such as testicular cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, thyroid cancer, cervical cancer, or even skin cancer, is because it often goes undetected until it's become too advanced and has spread to another part of the body.

So what causes this devastating disease? There is no clear answer, but some potential causes have been identified. By being aware of these, we can be alert and promote prevention of this illness:

  • Age: Most patients who develop oral cancer are above the age of 40. If you’re over 40, make sure your doctor checks for signs of oral cancer and that you stay on your dental hygiene regimen.
  • Tobacco: Excessive tobacco use, whether in the form of cigarette smoking or tobacco chewing, can be a substantial contributor and cause of oral cancer. So that’s another reason, among many, you should avoid tobacco.
  • Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption can put you at risk because alcohol converts into a chemical called acetaldehyde, which damages the body’s DNA and blocks cells from repairing the damage. When paired with tobacco, the dehydrating effects of alcohol make it even easier for tobacco to infiltrate mouth tissue.
  • Sun exposure: Your lips need SPF, too! Repeated sun exposure increases your risk of contracting cancer on your lips, especially the lower lip.
  • Diet: Not getting all the nutrients you need, from vegetables and fruits for instance, can weaken your immune system and make you more vulnerable to the disease.

Obviously, many of these causes relate to lifestyle choices, which we have control over. It's all about balance, being aware, and making small tweaks to our habits if we need to.

If you’re concerned that you may be at risk for oral cancer, give us a call to talk about a screening. And if you’ve been putting off a visit to our East Norriton, PA office, now is an excellent time to schedule one. Regular visits to the dentist can be the first line of defense against oral cancer!