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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!

Two Great, Healthy Father’s Day Gifts

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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!

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.

Tooth decay risk doubles in children exposed to secondhand smoke

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There is a high level of dental caries in deciduous (baby) teeth in developed countries, at a rate of 20.5% in children aged 2-5 in the US and 25% in children aged 3 in Japan.

While caries prevention in young children generally focuses on sugar restriction, oral fluoride supplementation and fluoride varnish, some studies have suggested that secondhand smoke plays a role.

Caries can result from various physical, biological, environmental and lifestyle factors.

Causes include cariogenic bacteria, inadequate salivary flow, insufficient exposure to fluoride and poor oral hygiene. A crucial event in oral health is the acquisition of Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans).

S. mutans, among other bacteria, produce acids from sugar that is consumed, and these dissolve the hard enamel coating on teeth.

The bacteria are usually transmitted from mothers, and the age of highest risk is at 19-31 months.

Fast facts about tooth decay

  • 42% of American children aged 2-11 have decay in their primary teeth
  • 23% of children aged 2-11 have untreated dental caries
  • The average child has 1.6 decayed primary teeth and 3.6 decayed surfaces.

Learn more about dental care

Children exposed to passive smoking also have lower salivary IgA levels and higher levels of sialic acid with higher activity. Sialic acid enhances the agglutination ofS. mutans, leading to the formation of dental plaque and caries.

This would suggest that reducing secondhand smoke among children could help prevent caries, although it has not been proven.

A team of researchers based in Japan set out to investigate smoking during pregnancy and exposure to household smoke in infants at 4 months of age as risk factors for caries in deciduous teeth.

They wanted to know whether maternal smoking during pregnancy and exposure of infants to tobacco smoke at the age of 4 months would increase the risk of caries in deciduous teeth.

The team analyzed data for 76,920 children born between 2004 and 2010, who attended routine health checkups at 0, 4, 9 and 18 months, and at 3 years of age at health care centers in Kobe City, Japan.

Mothers completed questionnaires to provide information about secondhand smoke exposure from pregnancy to 3 years of age and other lifestyle factors, such as dietary habits and oral care.

Incidence of caries in deciduous teeth was defined as at least one decayed, missing or filled tooth assessed by qualified dentists.

High risk of caries in children of parents who smoke

Prevalence of household smoking among children included in the study was 55.3%, and 6.8% showed evidence of tobacco exposure. A total of 12,729 cases of dental caries were identified, mostly decayed teeth.

Compared with having no smokers in the family, exposure to tobacco smoke at 4 months of age was associated with an approximately twofold increase in the risk of caries. The effect of maternal smoking during pregnancy was not statistically significant.

Limitations include the fact that this was an observational study, so conclusions about cause and effect cannot be drawn; results may also have been influenced by other unmeasured factors.

Despite the limitations, the researchers conclude:

“Exposure to secondhand smoke at 4 months of age, which is experienced by half of all children of that age in Kobe City, Japan, is associated with an increased risk of caries in deciduous teeth. Although these findings cannot establish causality, they support extending public health and clinical interventions to reduce secondhand smoke.”

Take care of your oral health and your child teeth. At Bright Smile Dental we care about you.