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Surprisingly Simple Way to Lengthen Your Life

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A new study suggests that happiness in older people may lead to a longer life.

 

 

We all know that eating our fruits and veggies, keeping fit, getting enough sleep and not smoking will help us live longer – upwards of over 10 years longer. But there are some other simple ways you can add years to your life. Among them:

 Smile big and wide.

Smiling big and wide is related to living longer, according to research published in the journal Psychological Science. These researchers looked at professional baseball players’ photos and compared the lifespan of players with big smiles, no smiles and partial smiles.

Even after controlling for factors that are related to longevity such as education level and marital status, bigger smiles were still related to a longer life. The researchers found that the biggest smilers lived to an average of almost 80 years, while their straight-faced teammates reached only an average of 73 years. Why? In part because smiling builds your immune system and improves your mood and stress levels. And as an added bonus, smiling makes you more attractive.

How to Care for Your Child’s Teeth

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It’s important to care for your baby’s teeth from the start. Here’s what to do:

  • Begin cleaning your baby’s mouth during the first few days after birth by wiping the gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth. As soon as teeth appear, decay can occur. A baby’s front four teeth usually push through the gums at about 6 months of age, although some children don’t have their first tooth until 12 or 14 months.
  • For children younger than 3 years, start brushing their teeth as soon as they begin to come into the mouth by using fluoride toothpaste in an amount no more than a smear or the size of a grain of rice. Brush teeth thoroughly twice per day (morning and night) or as directed by a dentist or physician. Supervise children’s brushing to ensure that they use of the appropriate amount of toothpaste.
  • For children 3 to 6 years of age, use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Brush teeth thoroughly twice per day (morning and night) or as directed by a dentist or physician. Supervise children’s brushing and remind them not to swallow the toothpaste.
  • Until you’re comfortable that your child can brush on his or her own, continue to brush your child’s teeth twice a day with a child-size toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. When your child has two teeth that touch, you should begin cleaning between their teeth daily.

Stressed Out about a Gummy Smile? Did You Know it Can Be Corrected?

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Stressed Out About a Gummy Smile? Did You Know it Can Be Corrected?

The amount of gum tissue we possess, just like how much hair we have on our heads, is merely a matter of personal anatomy – some of us just have more of it than others. If you are unhappy with your smile though, and consider yourself to have “too much” gum tissue, there are a few ways to relieve you of a gummy smile. Let’s take a look at the three most common options:

Gingivectomy (Gum Lift, Gum Contouring)

The most common and speediest solution for revitalizing a gummy smile is a gingivectomy. A gingivectomy is the medical term for the surgical removal of gum tissue from the crown of the tooth. It can be done with a scalpel, an electrosurgery unit, lasers or diamond dental burs. There’s some art to this procedure, since your dentist effectively “carves” away the excessive tissue, reshaping the landscape of your smile so it conforms to your desired result. The procedure is done under local anesthetic and takes only a few minutes to an hour to complete depending on the number of teeth to be done.

Lip Repositioning

This one might sound a bit scary, but other than post surgical swelling and some initial tightness, it can be a good solution if your gumminess comes from how high your lip raises when smiling, instead of excessive gingiva.

In this procedure, a small horizontal section of tissue inside your upper lip is removed, then stitched back together in what is effectively a “lower” position. If you can imagine having a cut in your skin where some of the skin tissue in the middle of the cut is lost, and the remaining “ends” of the skin are stitched back together, that is essentially what happens in a lip positioning. Your lip isn’t actually lowered, it’s just that some of the movement of your top lip is restricted so it doesn’t raise too high and show too much gum. Surgery only lasts about 45 minutes, and the results are immediate.

Crown Lengthening

With the word “lengthening” in the name of this procedure, you may think it requires some sort of painful stretching of the tooth’s crown to make it longer. Thankfully, that’s not what happens. Instead, in this surgery a dentist would make an incision in the gum tissue, creating a “flap” that can be folded downward, exposing the bone that encases your teeth. A portion of that bone would then be shaved down few millimeters and the gum flap sutured back into place. At this point, however, because the bone height is lower than it was previously, the gum tissue would rest at a lower height, leaving more of the crown visible when smiling. This would make it appear as though the crown were “longer” and thus the name – “crown lengthening” is given to this procedure. While crown lengthening is a means to correct a gummy smile, many dentists recommend orthodontic treatment, instead (which, over time actually does pull the crown down a few millimeters), because it doesn’t require surgery, or the permanent removal of bone tissue.

Modern dental surgery can really do wonders for our smiles in a multitude of ways. If you’re concerned about how much gum you are flashing each time you smile, or have stopped smiling all together, have a chat with your dentist. You might be surprised at just how quickly we can get you back to smiling widely again!

Is Pool Water Harming Your Child’s Teeth?

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Is Pool Water Harming Your Child’s Teeth?

Now here’s a question you’ve perhaps never asked yourself before. Can swimming regularly in a chlorinated pool damage your teeth? Surprisingly, it can. The trick is understanding how and why it can happen, and what you can do to minimize or eliminate the damage. And, that’s where we come in! Let’s learn how this healthy form of exercise can contribute to staining, and even eroding, your tooth enamel – yikes!

What’s in the water that’s bad for teeth?

Well, there are two concerns, actually. No one wants to be swimming in algae and bacteria, so chlorine is added to the pool to manage that situation. This is a good thing. But in order to keep things in check pH has to be monitored.

We’ve written about pH before, and it can be a confusing subject, but if you’re familiar with the concept of how acidic beverages can erode tooth enamel, the same principal applies to pool water – a pool with too low a pH means the water is technically acidic, which can erode tooth enamel. And, if you have kids on the swim team putting in more than six hours a week in a pool with a pH that isn’t being monitored properly, that sort of damage can happen fast. This is of particular concern in pools that are “gas chlorinated.” One study showed severe sensitivity and enamel loss in a man swimming in a high pH pool in just 27 days!

Aside from enamel loss, which is only a concern in improperly monitored pools (like the one in your backyard, perhaps?), tooth discoloration is a much more common ailment. Here, the offender is how chlorine interacts with proteins in our saliva. It’s pretty fascinating reading, if you’d like to learn more, but in a nutshell this chemical reaction results in what’s known as “swimmers calculus.”

Should I pull my kids from swim team?

No. If you’re kids are swimming in a properly monitored public pool, the risk of an imbalance in pH causing severe enamel erosion is low. However, since you’re not testing the pool yourself, it might not be a bad idea to ask the pool’s management team how often it is tested. In fact, some pools post readings publicly so residents can see they’re handling the pool professionally. You may even suggest this if your pool isn’t already doing so.

And with regard to staining, the solution there may be as simple as visiting the dentist prior to swim season and having a fluoride treatment applied to your child’s teeth.

What to do if you OWN a pool?

So far we’ve talked mostly about kids who might be on the swim team. But what if your kids are logging hours in their own backyard pool for more than six hours a week? The only way to keep these threats at bay is to keep a backyard pool as maintained as a professional pool. Test kits are available in a range of styles and costs, and with their own recommendations as to how often pool water needs to be tested. The key is to follow those instructions and do the test. Or better yet, hire a professional to maintain your pool. Again, staining is a preventative pursuit you can plan out with your dentist.

Swimming should always be a fun and engaging activity, good for body and soul. So, do it right, and have fun!

Frequent Headaches? The Cause May Be in Your Mouth

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Frequent Headaches? The Cause May Be in Your Mouth

Did you know that in many cases, frequent, or even constant headache pain can be treated more effectively by your dentist, instead of by your GP? Headaches are strange beasts. Their cause is often elusive, and they can range from mildly irritating to unrelentingly painful. Since frequent headaches can interfere with your quality of life, if you experience pain that remains after treatment from a physician, you might wish to see your dentist. After all, you may be suffering from what is called a “dental headache.”

What Can Trigger a Dental Headache?

Most dental headaches are classified as “tension” headaches, and are the result of muscular tension that builds up in the region of the face and jaw. Frequently, this tension is a symptom of malocclusion, or – to put it simply – a “bad bite.” All sorts of things can cause a bad bite, including previous dentistry, orthodontics or incoming wisdom teeth. Having a bad bite essentially means the chewing surfaces of the teeth do not meet along a smooth curve when the jaw is shut. This causes the muscles in the jaw to continually overcompensate for the imbalance, resulting in pain and soreness that radiates throughout the head.

Understanding “Referred” Pain

This radiating of headache pain is part of why a headache can be difficult to diagnose.  Because of the complex nerve structure in this region of the body, where pain is often “referred” from its place of origin to other locations throughout the skull, patients experiencing such pain can unwittingly steer a doctor away from a proper diagnosis by merely focusing on the localization of the pain. So, in instances of referred pain, even though we may be experiencing discomfort in the temple region of our head, for example, the true origin of the pain may be in the musculature surrounding the jaw and the result of an improper bite. The good news is, malocclusion can be fixed rather easily by reshaping teeth that might be too high, or by wearing an orthotic that corrects your bite over time.

TMJ and Bruxism

Two other issues we see in the dental world that can result in frequent and/or constant headaches are Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD) and teeth grinding (Bruxism).  TMJD occurs as a result of problems with the mechanism of the jaw and its surrounding muscles, and 99% of the time is the result of an injury to the joint. Anything from whiplash to sports trauma, or even something as simple as having your mouth extended too wide for too long in your dentist’s office can trigger TMJ.  If you experience frequent “popping” or “clicking” of your jaw, particularly if you’ve ever experienced trauma in this area of your head, you’ll want to visit your dentist for a checkup.

Lastly, Bruxism, a habit even babies can develop, can be another cause of frequent headaches.  After all, grinding your teeth for hours upon hours as if you were consuming a Thanksgiving feast all night long, puts the muscles of your face through a tremendous workout without rest. If you find that you often wake with a headache that goes away shortly after rising, you may be, in fact, grinding your teeth.

So there you have it, the story of the headache your dentist is best primed to correct. It’s also worth mentioning that, aside from headache causes described above, headache pain can also be caused by more familiar dentistry issues like cavities, a tooth infection or an abscess.  All the more reason to visit your dentist to see if that headache you’re always suffering from is actually coming from your mouth.

Two Great, Healthy Father’s Day Gifts

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Image result for fathers day 2017

 

Father’s Day is one of those holidays that children really seem to relish … probably because aside from Mother’s Day, it’s the only day when *they* get a chance to pick out a gift and give it to someone – especially someone as special as their Father. All the Dads in our life enjoy the attention (even if they’re actually Grandfathers!) – it’s their day to finally shine. So why not mix it up a bit this Father’s Day? After all, Dad probably has a pretty fine collection of ties and after-shave from years gone by … so, here are two unique gifts Dad might really enjoy this Father’s Day.
First on deck, we’d like to suggest what’s known as a water flosser or oral irrigator. This product is a great gift for those of us who don’t possess an affinity for flossing (which is pretty much everyone, right?), because it really simplifies the process, and even makes it a bit fun. A flosser/irrigator works by using water pressure to dislodge food debris and bacteria between teeth and helps to keep your gums clean and healthy. It also works exceedingly well if regularly used after a cleaning from a hygienist, and they’re the perfect gift for any dad.
And for the dad who plays sports? How about a custom mouthguard? You can find out more about these in our sports dentistry article, and your dad will love it if he plays in any summer leagues, or if he skis and snowboards in the wintertime. As a matter of fact, a dad who’s really active in just about anything sports-related might benefit from a custom guard. Regardless of the season, this is one of the most affordable gifts you can give to an active dad so he can keep that smile of his in great shape for years to come.
Happy Father’s Day, and happy June to everyone!

Yes, Coffee Might Actually Be Good for Your Teeth

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If you have a desire to stain your teeth, consuming multiple cups of coffee a day is a sure way to get you there. That much you likely already know. What you may not know, though, is that drinking coffee in moderation can actually help you protect your teeth,  because of coffee’s unique anti-bacterial properties. And, coffee isn’t alone in this regard. Tea, too, has some pretty marvelous properties, despite its propensity to stain teeth as well! So, if you’re a fan of a cuppa’ warm joe or tea in the morning, read on … you’ve got one more reason not to give it up!

The main reason coffee and tea are good for you? Antioxidants.

Scientists believe antioxidants (polyphenols and catechins, specifically) help reduce inflammation in the body, aid in reducing cholesterol and high blood pressure, and protect against heart attack and stroke. They also help reduce inflammation in your mouth. Find ‘em in fruit, vegetables, red wine, coffee, and chocolate to name a few.

If you do want a good reason to keep drinking coffee and tea, though, the trick is to consume each without cream and sugar (sugar and cream feed bad bacteria). You may also want to enjoy them “warm” as opposed to excessively hot. There is some speculation about how the temperature of your beverage can affect the lining of your esophagus. Visit this article for more on that concern.
 Fluoride, trigonelline and caffeine

  • Tea: The benefit? Fluoride!
    We all know that at prescribed and monitored levels, fluoride is good for our teeth. But did you know black tea contains fluoride because of how its leaves absorb fluoride from the soil? More, it seems, than the plain glass of water coming out of your faucet, even! This, of course, can have good and bad complications for your teeth. If you drink from a non-fluoridated water source, ask your dentist or physician if they think it may be beneficial to drink a bit of tea from time to time. Over-consuming black tea, though, has been shown to affect rates of skeletal fluorosis.

    So, as with anything in life, moderation is key. And any time you want to start doing more of something you’re not doing already, from ingesting new foods to ramping up the exercise, always consult with your family physician first.

  • Coffee: The benefit? Trigonelline!
    Trigonelline is what’s known as an alkaloid. And this alkaloid appears to be of specific benefit to our teeth. It’s found in its highest levels in Arabica coffee beans, and research suggests it interferes with cavity-causing bacteria’s ability to adhere itself to tooth enamel. Research is ongoing, but it does seem to be another feather-in-the-cap of your morning “joe.”
  • Tea and Coffee: The benefit? Caffeine!
    Ah, caffeine – beloved and vilified. Yes, we know. And, we know that caffeine can cause some people to experience anxiety and increased stress, which could lead to teeth grinding and clenching. And that is most certainly NOT good for your teeth. Or, jaw. Or, bone structure, in general.

    Where caffeine is a benefit, though, is in its apparent ability to impact longevity in patients with oral cancer. And, that’s something to think about. Read up on the study yourself and make a decision that’s best for you. Recent research also suggests caffeine in coffee may help protect individuals from liver cancer as well.

SO! Everything in moderation, right? If you like a morning beverage, we hope this little primer gives you a bit more to think about!

What’s in your toothpaste? An ingredient checkup.

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What's in your toothpaste? An ingredient checkup.

When was the last time you read the ingredient list of your favorite toothpaste brand? Actually, have you ever read the ingredient list? If you’re like most Americans, you’ve become an ingredient-list-reading crazy person these last few years, and it would be wise to add that toothpaste label to your list of reading materials. So, let’s explore the most common ingredients, learn a bit about how they function, and help you make the personal choice whether to avoid any or not.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

Of all the ingredients that make their way into toothpaste, if there’s one you may be familiar with, it’s likely Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. It’s used in toothpaste mainly as a foaming agent, to give you the sense that your brushing is having the effect it should. Some argue it’s an unnecessary ingredient given that it’s prone to irritate the oral tissues of some, and can contribute to the formation of canker sores. More dubious, however, is the claim that SLS is a carcinogen. And, while The American Cancer Society and the federal government do not consider SLS to be a carcinogen, there are some scientists who believe more testing is necessary, and that consumers should avoid the ingredient if possible. If you’re at all concerned, the decision to avoid SLS is yours – not all toothpastes contain the ingredient.

Flavorings

Making toothpaste taste good isn’t a simple task. And trust us, you want that stuff to be palatable! Flavor additives are often oils/extracts/flavorings such as cinnamon, anise and mint, but can be synthetic (aspartame, for example.) Most would prefer a natural flavoring, but recognize that in some people these additives can cause irritation to oral tissues, and mint for some is a heartburn trigger. If you suspect your toothpaste is the cause of any mouth irritation you may be experiencing, play around with different flavored toothpastes till you find what works best for you.
Dyes and Colorings

It’s not really that necessary to have colored toothpaste. So, if you’d like to avoid things like colors followed by numbers like Blue #2, just say no to additional colors. These too can be irritants to some individuals.
Fluoride

Fluoride! You need it, you want it. Make sure your toothpaste has it. Fluoride works by strengthening tooth enamel and making teeth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque, bacteria and sugars in the mouth. Some of us may even require fluoride supplementation.

Alcohol

Alcohol dries out your mouth, and your mouth doesn’t enjoy that feeling very much. It can contribute to gingivitis, and generally doesn’t leave you feeling as fresh as you’d like. So, why use toothpaste with alcohol?
Triclosan

The jury is still out on Triclosan.  Only Colgate Total contains it – and it’s used (very effectively) as an antibacterial agent to fight gingivitis. Some researchers, however, contend it needs more recent and continued study given its questionable relationship with cancer. Measuring risk vs. benefit is always yours to consider. Here is what some in the scientific community are saying about Triclosan.
Abrasives

Silica, along with Baking soda, calcium carbonate, calcium phosphates and alumina, are abrasive agents used to remove stains from teeth. If you’re a frequent coffee, tea, red wine, or soda drinker, you might feel the need to brush with a toothpaste containing these ingredients. Recognize, however, that they are abrasive to your teeth. Go with toothpaste with a low rating for abrasiveness. Or, reduce the quantity of your stain-inducing foods and beverages. Also, we’re going to assume that you’re not a smoker – which really stains teeth!
Humectants

Keeping toothpaste moist and in good form requires a humectant. Otherwise, you’d end up with a hard block of toothpaste or a chalky mess. Glycerin, sorbitol and water are the most common additives to your toothpaste to get this job done, and wonder-ingredient Xylitol has also been making an appearance as of late because it not only provides moisture but helps fight cavities.
Thickeners

Carrageenan, cellulose gum, guar gum, xanthan gum, and even gluten help thicken your toothpaste. They’re generally benign ingredients, though if you have celiac disease or if gluten is a concern for you, you’ll want to check out this list of gluten-free toothpastes.
Preservatives

The last thing you want to be spreading all over your teeth is moldy toothpaste. Sodium benzoate, methyl paraben, and ethyl paraben are the three most common preservative ingredients used to keep your toothpaste from become home to all sorts of nasty bacteria. They’re a bit of a necessary evil. Of the three, sodium benzoate may be your best choice as parabens have come under intense scrutiny – particularly because they mimic estrogen in the body, according to the Breast Cancer Fund.

So, as you can see, there’s a lot that goes into your toothpaste! Do your own homework, so you can make the decisions that are right for you and your family. And, brush those teeth!

Different Techniques for Flossing

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When it comes to dental floss, what’s the best kind? Well, if you ask a dentist, they’ll tell you the best dental floss is the floss you’ll actually use. That could be Teflon floss, dental tape, nylon floss, waxed floss, and flosses with or without flavors – there are a lot of choices! There are also a number of ways to get your flossing done that don’t have you wrapping a long string of floss across your fingers and deftly maneuvering your hands in such an enclosed space. Enter the oral irrigator, the vibrating flosser, and the dental pick! Which might be best for your kids?

  • Dental Pick: If you’re prone to ignore flossing, you may want to consider a good ol’ fashioned dental pick. You’ve no doubt seen these before (sometimes cast aside on the sidewalk!) … they look kinda’ like a plastic toothpick with a strand of dental floss strapped across a wide u-shaped tip. The simplicity and compact nature of these little portable floss “picks” seem to add to their convenience, and kids seem to love them when they’re first learning to floss. We’ll bet you can find at least one colleague in your office who has a few in their purse or desk for those moments when lunch lingers on the teeth a bit longer than appreciated!
  • Electric Flossers: Depending on the brand, electric flossers are known by a variety of names, and searching for these handy little devices can be somewhat maddening online (trust us!). You may be best just wandering into the drug store or supermarket to explore in person! There arevibrating flosserspower flossers, and air flossers. Picking the one that’s right for you depends on the task at hand. Power flossers and air flossers seem best if you’re dealing with space concerns near the gumline, and may be a good substitute for an interproximal toothbrush. A vibrating flosser, on the other hand, looks much like a dental pick and because of its design, can cover the entire length of the tooth. Ask your dentist which is best for you.
  • Oral Irrigator: An oral irrigator is a device that uses a pulsating stream of water to remove plaque and food debris from between your teeth. There are a variety of instruments on the market, and your dentist can recommend one based on the health of your gum tissue and budget. Oral irrigators are remarkably effective at keeping gum tissue healthy, and have been shown to reduce pocket depth due to periodontitis. “Pocket depth,” refers to the depth of the gum tissue that immediately surrounds your teeth. You may not know it, but that’s what your dentist or hygienist is testing for when they’re poking that instrument in your mouth during an exam and calling out numbers!

It’s worth noting that each of these devices, while recommended, should be considered as supplements to normal flossing – still your best choice. But, if you have dexterity concerns, are purchasing something for a youngster, or just want to ensure your teeth are the cleanest they can be, these tool are great options!

Five Reasons Why You May Have a Dry Mouth

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We all know drinking copious amounts of water is good for one’s health. And, boy howdy, when you’re feeling parched, there’s nothing better than a tall drink of ice-cold water to dampen that dry mouth of yours. But what do you do when you find yourself drinking far more than the recommended amount, and are still feeling as though your mouth is as dry as a desert? There are numerous reasons you could be suffering from dry mouth, ranging from the benign to the serious – let’s take a look at the top five.

  1. Physiologic: Sometimes having a dry mouth is just a normal part of life. Temporary anxiety, open-mouthed breathing, mild dehydration, menopause, pregnancy, and decreases in salivary production due to sleep are all considered physiologic (or, “normal”) causes of dry mouth.
  2. Prescription medication: Sixty-three percent of the top 200 most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S. are known to cause dry mouth. That’s a lot of interference. What’s worse, the higher the number of medications a person takes, the higher the chance of dry mouth. That’s why as we age, we tend to experience more instances of dry mouth. It’s not necessarily age-related, but our consumption of medication may cause this side effect.
  3. Habitual use of alcohol, cigarettes, and/or drugs: Use of any of these products will dry out the oral cavity. No real surprise here.
  4. Chronic Disease: Sjögren’s disease, a chronic autoimmune disease in which white blood cells attack their moisture-producing glands; along with the inflammatory disease, Sarcoidosis; Hepatitis C; and Diabetes, can all cause dry mouth.
  5. Psychogenic or Idiopathic: When symptoms are present without an identifiable cause (idiopathic), or because of psychological causes (psychogenic), they can be difficult to diagnose. If you find yourself with a persistent case of dry mouth that you’re unable attribute a cause to, see your doctor for further diagnosis.

Dry mouth can be uncomfortable to live with on a daily basis, and is an indication there is something causing the symptom that requires further examination. As always, with any persistent medical condition, it’s important to never rely on self-diagnosis, and to see your doctor for proper evaluation.