Lansing's Dental Discussion

Posts for category: Oral Health

HowCheeseandOtherDairyContributetoHealthierTeethandaMorePhotogenicSmile

Here's a bit of magic: Hold your smart phone camera in front of someone and say, "Cheese!" More times than not, they'll break into a smile. No one knows for sure the origin of this grin-inducing phrase, but it works like a charm. And it's quite appropriate too! That tasty aging of proteins and fat also helps to keep the stars of our smile—our teeth—in good health.

In the fight against tooth decay and gum disease, daily oral hygiene—brushing and flossing—and regular dental visits get top billing. But nutrition is also a critical factor for great dental health.  A diet low in sugar and processed foods and rich in whole foods can also lower your dental disease risk.

Dairy is an important part of this "tooth-friendly" eating. In recognition of National Dairy Month this June, here's how products like milk and cheese can help you maintain a healthy—and photogenic—smile.

Nutrients. Dairy products like milk and cheese are chock full of vitamins and minerals. Two of the most important are calcium and phosphorous, both of which the body uses to build strong bones and teeth. The micronutrient Vitamin D found heavily in dairy helps regulate these important minerals so that they're available for teeth.

Reduced decay risk. Cheese and other dairy products do contain a form of sugar called lactose. But it has a milder effect within the mouth than other sugars, particularly sucrose (refined sugar): While bacteria readily feed on sucrose and release enamel-eroding acid as a by-product, they're less likely with lactose. Even so, there's still a risk, albeit lower, of lactose leading to tooth decay, so go easy on consumption.

Acid buffering. Speaking of acid, cheese in particular seems to contribute to neutralizing this bacterial byproduct. It's believed it does this by stimulating saliva production, which is the body's primary means for restoring proper pH balance in the mouth after eating. So, eating a little cheese during or after consuming a food with sugar may help offset any acid resulting from the sweet snack.

Cheese and other dairy products are a good source of protein, but also fat, so they should be consumed in moderation for overall health. But nibbling on a bit of Gouda, Havarti or Mozzarella can be a good thing for your teeth—and make it more likely you'll smile wide for the camera.

If you would like more information about the role of nutrition in better dental health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Nutrition & Oral Health.”

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
June 05, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
FocusonThese4OralHealthAreasWhileCaringforanOlderFamilyMember

Millions of people are currently caring for an elderly family member. If that describes your family, then you know how overwhelming that responsibility can be at times.

A part of that responsibility is making sure they have healthy teeth and gums, a critical part of their overall well-being. But as with the rest of the body, teeth and gums can wear and become disease-prone as a person gets older. To further complicate things, an older adult may not be able to take care of their own oral health due to physical and cognitive decline.

Maintaining an older loved one's oral health is difficult, but not impossible. Here are 4 areas on which you should focus to ensure they have the healthiest teeth and gums possible.

Oral hygiene. It's important for all of us to avoid tooth decay and gum disease by brushing and flossing daily to remove bacterial plaque, the prime cause for dental disease. You can switch an older adult who is having trouble performing these tasks because of physical impairment to large handled toothbrushes or a water flosser to make things easier. In some cases, you may have to perform these tasks for them.

Dental visits. Dental cleanings at least twice a year further lower the risk of disease, especially in older adults. Regular dental visits are also important to monitor an older person's oral health, and to initiate treatment when the need arises. Catching dental disease early at any age improves outcomes.

Dental work. An older person may have various forms of dental work like fillings, crowns, bridges or dentures. Keeping them in top shape helps them maintain their oral health and protect any of their remaining teeth. Have their dental work checked regularly by a dentist, especially dentures that can lose their fit over time.

Oral cancer. Although not as prevalent as other forms, this deadly cancer does occur in higher rates among people over 65. Be sure, then, that an oral cancer screening is a component of your older family member's regular dental evaluations. And any time you notice a sore or other abnormality in their mouth, have it evaluated by their dentist as soon as possible.

If you would like more information on dental care for older adults, 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 “Aging & Dental Health.”

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
May 26, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags:   
YourGumsNeedExtraCareAfterPeriodontalDisease

We all benefit from regular dental care, regardless of our state of oral health. But if you've experienced periodontal (gum) disease, those regular dental visits are even more important in making sure your healed gums stay that way.

Gum disease is a bacterial infection caused by dental plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles accumulating on tooth surfaces. The infection triggers inflammation in the gums that quickly becomes chronic. That's why people with gum disease have reddened and swollen gums that bleed easily.

The infection can aggressively spread deeper below the gum line, eventually affecting the bone. The combination of weakened gum detachment from the teeth and bone loss may ultimately cause tooth loss. But we can stop the infection by thoroughly removing all plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) from the teeth and gums. As the plaque is removed, the gums respond and begin to heal.

It's possible then even with advanced gum disease to restore health to your teeth and gums. But although the infection has been arrested, it can occur again. In fact, once you've had gum disease, your susceptibility for another infection is much greater. To stay on top of this, you may need to visit the dentist more frequently.

These upgraded visits known as periodontal maintenance (PM) are actually a continuation of your treatment. Depending on the extensiveness of your gum disease, we may need to see you more than the standard twice-a-year visits: Some periodontal patients, for example, may need a visit every two to three months. Again, the state of your gum health will determine how often.

In addition to standard dental cleanings and checkups, PM visits will also include more thorough examination of the teeth and gums, particularly the health of the tooth roots. We'll also check how well you're doing with daily plaque removal and if there are any signs of gum infection. We may also prescribe medication, rinses or topical antibiotics to help control your mouth's levels of bacteria.

A patient's periodontal “maintenance schedule” will depend on their individual condition and needs. The key, though, is to closely monitor gum health for any indications that another infection has set in. By staying alert through dedicated PM, we can stop a new infection before it harms your dental health.

If you would like more information on gum disease, 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 “Periodontal Cleanings.”

WhatsThatonYourTeethNickJonasHowtoAvoidaSimilarSmileOops

Think no one is looking at your smile when you’re out in public? Nick Jonas’ recent experience might convince you otherwise. While the Jonas Brothers were performing during the 2020 Grammys, fans watching on television picked up on some dark matter between his teeth.

To say Twitter lit up is an understatement. For many, it was that thing you couldn’t unsee: Forget the performance, what was that between his teeth? Jonas later fessed up by tweeting, “…At least you all know I eat my greens.”

We’re sure Nick and his brothers take care of their teeth, as most any high-profile entertainer would. You can probably attribute his dental faux pas to trying to squeeze in some nourishment during a rushed performance schedule.

Still, the Grammy incident (Spinachgate?) shows that people do notice when your teeth aren’t as clean as they should be. To avoid that embarrassment, here are some handy tips for keeping your teeth looking their best while you’re on the go.

Start with a clean mouth. You’re more apt to collect food debris during the day if you have built-up plaque on your teeth. This sticky bacterial biofilm attracts new food particles like a magnet. Remove plaque by thoroughly brushing and flossing before you head out the door.

Rinse after eating. Although your saliva helps clear leftover food from your mouth, it may not adequately flush away all the debris. You can assist this process by swishing and rinsing with clean water after a meal.

Keep a little floss handy. Even after rinsing, stubborn bits of food can remain lodged between teeth. So just in case, keep a small bit of emergency floss (or a floss pick) in your purse or wallet to remove any debris you see or feel between your teeth.

Watch what you eat. Some foods—like popcorn, sticky snacks or fibrous vegetables—are notorious for sticking in teeth. Try to avoid eating these foods right before a public appearance where your smile may be critical.

And here’s an added bonus: Not only will these tips help keep your smile attractive on the go, they’ll also help keep it healthy. Rinsing with water, for example, helps lower your mouth’s acid level after eating, a prime factor in tooth decay. And flossing, both as a regular practice and for occasional stuck food, decreases plaque and subsequently your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

Remember, a healthy mouth is the starting place for a beautiful smile. Keep it that way with dedicated hygiene habits at home or on the go.

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

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
April 26, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene  
4TipsforImprovingDailyBrushingandFlossing

Two important practices boost your protection from dental disease: twice-a-year dental visits; and daily brushing and flossing. Of the two, that second one could be the most important.

Personal oral hygiene cleans the teeth of dental plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles that accumulates on them each day. This plaque buildup is the number one cause for both tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease, so removing it reduces your risk of an infection.

But it's not just a matter of doing these tasks—it's also doing them well. A quick once-over isn't going to have the same preventive power as a more thorough job.

Here then are 4 tips for improving your daily oral hygiene efforts.

Time yourself brushing. It usually takes about two minutes to thoroughly brush all tooth surfaces. So, set a timer for two minutes, focusing on methodically brushing the front, back and biting surfaces of each tooth.

Easy does it. Brushing teeth requires only a gentle bit of manual force as the mild abrasives and detergents in your toothpaste provide most of the action of loosening plaque. In fact, aggressive brushing can lead to enamel and gum damage. Practice gentle scrubbing action when you brush.

Don't neglect flossing. While brushing gets most of the hygienic attention, it can't effectively get to areas between teeth where over half of built-up plaque can accumulate. Be sure then to floss at least once a day to remove plaque between teeth that brushing can miss.

Test yourself. Your dentist may be the ultimate judge for the quality of your hygiene, but you can check your effectiveness between visits. For instance, run your tongue across your teeth—it should feel smooth, not rough or gritty. Using a plaque disclosing agent periodically can also reveal missed plaque.

And don't forget to keep up your regular dental visits, which are necessary for removing plaque you might have missed or tartar that may have formed. They're also a great time to get advice from your dentist or dental hygienist on how you can further improve your own efforts in daily dental care.

If you would like more information on best oral hygiene practices, 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: Easy Habits for Maintaining Oral Health.”

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
April 16, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay  
AreYouatRiskforToothDecayAnswerTheseQuestionsToFindOut

Tooth decay is a destructive disease that could rob you of your teeth. But it doesn't appear out of nowhere—a number of factors can make it more likely you'll get cavities.

But the good news is you can be proactive about many of these factors and greatly reduce your risk of tooth decay. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to point you in the right direction for preventing this destructive disease.

Do you brush and floss every day? A daily habit of brushing and flossing removes buildup of dental plaque, a bacterial film on teeth that's the top cause for tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. Hit or miss hygiene, though, can greatly increase your risk for developing a cavity.

Do you use fluoride? This naturally occurring chemical has been proven to strengthen tooth enamel against decay. Many locations add fluoride to drinking water—if your area doesn't or you want to boost your fluoride intake, use toothpastes, mouthrinses or other hygiene products containing fluoride.

Do you smoke? The nicotine in tobacco constricts blood vessels in the mouth so that they provide less nutrients and antibodies to the teeth and gums. Your mouth can't fight off infection as well as it could, increasing your risk of dental diseases like tooth decay.

Do you have dry mouth? This isn't the occasional bout of “cotton mouth,” but a chronic condition in which the mouth doesn't produce enough saliva. Saliva neutralizes mouth acid, so less of it increases your risk for decay. Chronic dry mouth can be caused by medications or other underlying conditions.

Do you snack a lot between meals? Sugary snacks, sodas or energy drinks can increase oral bacteria and acidity that foster tooth decay. If you're snacking frequently between meals, your saliva's acid neutralizing efforts may be overwhelmed. Coordinate snacking with mealtimes to boost acid buffering.

You can address many of these questions simply by adopting a daily habit of brushing and flossing, regular dental cleanings and checkups, and eating a healthy, “tooth-friendly” diet. By reducing the risk factors for decay, you can avoid cavities and preserve your teeth.

If you would like more information on preventing tooth decay, 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 “Tooth Decay: How to Assess Your Risk.”

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
March 27, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: dry mouth  
4ThingsYouCanDoToReduceChronicDryMouth

Have you ever woken up in the morning and felt like your mouth was filled with cotton? We've all had bouts of occasional dry mouth, but the unpleasantness usually goes away after we eat or drink something.

But what if you have dry mouth all the time? In that case, it's more than unpleasant—it could be increasing your risk of dental disease. That's because your dry mouth symptoms are being caused by a lack of adequate saliva. Besides providing antibodies to fight harmful bacteria, saliva also neutralizes mouth acid that can cause tooth decay.

Your decrease in saliva could be caused by smoking or moderate to heavy alcohol consumption. It could also be a side effect of medications you're taking, one reason why older people, who on average take more prescription drugs than other age groups, have a high incidence of dry mouth.

So, what can you do to alleviate chronic dry mouth?

Watch what you eat and drink. Certain foods and beverages can worsen chronic dry mouth. Try to avoid or limit alcohol and caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea or soft drinks, as well as salty or spicy foods.

If you use tobacco, quit. Tobacco, especially smoking, can dry out your mouth, as well as damage your salivary glands. Abstaining from tobacco can alleviate dry mouth and help prevent dental disease.

Drink more water. Simply drinking water ensures your body has an ample supply for producing saliva. It's also beneficial for your dental health in general, as it can help buffer your mouth's acid levels and rinse away food remnants that could become food for bacteria.

Speak to your doctor. If you suspect a drug that you're taking may be causing dry mouth, discuss with your doctor alternative medications that may minimize this side effect. Simply changing prescriptions could alleviate your dry mouth symptoms.

You can also try saliva stimulants, both over-the-counter and prescription, to help your mouth produce more saliva. And be sure you also keep up daily habit of brushing and flossing to clear away bacterial plaque and lower your risk of dental disease.

If you would like more information on protecting your mouth from dental disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
March 17, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
AcidRefluxCouldBeDamagingYourTeeth

Your tooth enamel is often under assault from oral acid produced by bacteria and certain foods. Unless neutralized, acid can erode your enamel, and lead to destructive tooth decay.

But there's another type of acid that may be even more destructive—the acid produced in your stomach. Although important for food digestion, stomach acid outside of its normal environment can be destructive. That includes your teeth, if stomach acid finds its way into your mouth. And that can happen if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

GERD, a chronic condition affecting 1 in 5 adults, is caused by the weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter, a ring of muscle at the intersection of the esophagus and the stomach that prevents stomach acid from traveling back into the digestive tract and damaging the esophageal liner.

It's also possible for stomach acid to travel as far up as the mouth. With a pH of 2.0 or less, stomach acid can lower the mouth's normal pH level of 7.0 well below the 5.5 pH threshold for enamel softening and erosion. This can cause your teeth, primarily the inside surfaces of the upper teeth, to become thin, pitted or yellowed. Your teeth's sensitivity may also increase.

If you have GERD, you can take precautions to avoid tooth damage and the extensive dental work that may follow.

  • Boost acid buffering by rinsing with water (or a cup of water mixed with a ½ teaspoon of baking soda) or chewing on an antacid tablet.
  • Wait about an hour to brush your teeth following a reflux episode so that your saliva has time to neutralize acid and re-mineralize enamel.
  • If you have chronic dry mouth, stimulate saliva production by drinking more water, chewing xylitol gum or using a saliva supplement.

You can also seek to minimize GERD by avoiding tobacco and limiting your consumption of alcohol, caffeine or spicy and acidic foods. Your doctor may also prescribe medication to control your GERD symptoms.

Preventing tooth decay or gum disease from the normal occurrences of oral acid is a daily hygiene battle. Don't let GERD-related acid add to the burden.

If you would like more information on protecting your teeth from acid reflux, 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 “GERD and Oral Health.”

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
February 05, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   toothache  
WhatToDoandNotDoforThese3CommonChildhoodDentalProblems

Knowing what to do—and what not to do—when your child is sick can greatly affect their health and well-being. That's especially true with dental problems.

Here then are some Dos and Don'ts for 3 common problems children experience with their teeth and gums.

Teething. An infant's first teeth breaking through the gums is a normal but often unpleasant experience. Fortunately, teething episodes only last a few days. And, there's usually no need to see the dentist unless they have a fever or diarrhea while teething. In the meantime:

  • Do: provide them chilled (not frozen) cloth or plastic items to bite and gnaw, and massage their gums to relieve painful pressure. You can also give them an age-appropriate dose of a mild pain reliever.
  • Don't: rub any medication on their gums, which can irritate them and other soft tissues. Never use alcohol or aspirin to alleviate teething discomfort. And avoid using anything with benzocaine, a numbing agent which can be hazardous to young children.

Toothache. Whether a momentary sensitivity to hot or cold or a sharp, throbbing pain, a child's toothache often signals tooth decay, a bacterial disease which could eventually lead to tooth loss.

  • Do: make a dental appointment at your child's first complaint of a toothache. Ease the pain with a warm-water rinse, a cold compress to the outside of the jaw, or a mild pain reliever.
  • Don't: rub medication on the teeth or gums (for similar reasons as with teething). Don't apply ice or heat directly to the affected tooth or gums, which can burn them.

Bleeding gums. Gum bleeding from normal brushing or flossing, along with red or swollen gums, may indicate periodontal (gum) disease. Although rare in children, it can still happen—and it can put an affected tooth in danger.

  • Do: see your dentist if bleeding continues for a few days. Continue to brush gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush around the gums to remove plaque, a thin-biofilm most responsible for gum infection.
  • Don't: brush aggressively or more than twice a day, which could unnecessarily irritate and damage the gums. And don't stop brushing—it's important to remove plaque buildup daily to lessen the gum infection.

If you would like more information on dental care for children, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.



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