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Morning Sickness and Your Oral Health

October 5th, 2022

Whether it’s your first child or you’re an experienced mom, pregnancy is an exciting time—which you’ll be able to enjoy much more once the days of morning sickness are over.

Morning sickness affects most pregnant women, and can present in any number of ways. It might take the form of mild nausea, or cause frequent vomiting. It often occurs in the morning hours, but can take place at any time of day. It’s usually over with by the second trimester, or it can last weeks longer. Because of this wide variety of symptoms, morning sickness is more accurately referred to as NVP, the nausea and vomiting of pregnancy.

Your doctor can recommend safe and effective ways to deal with NVP, especially when symptoms are more severe. We have some recommendations to minimize the effect of morning sickness on your dental health.

Wait, dental health? That’s right. Besides its more obvious unpleasant consequences, NVP can cause problems for your teeth and gums. We have a few suggestions for getting you through the weeks of morning sickness with easy and effective strategies to protect your oral health.

Prevent Acid Damage

Vomiting and heartburn with reflux expose the teeth to stomach acids. Tooth enamel is the strongest substance in the body, but it’s not safe from acid attacks.

Normally, the pH balance in our mouths is neutral, around a 7 on a scale of 0 to 14. When acidic conditions lower the oral pH to 5.5 or below, the minerals in enamel begin to dissolve, leading to sensitivity and, eventually, cavities. The pH of our stomach acid ranges from 1.5 to 2.5. This is great for digesting food, but not great at all for enamel and sensitive gum tissue.

Whenever we vomit, the immediate (and understandable!) impulse is to reach for our toothbrushes. But this is an impulse we should resist. Because acids weaken tooth enamel, scouring the teeth with a toothbrush right away can cause more erosive damage. Instead,

  • Wait half an hour or more before brushing to give your enamel time to recover its strength.
  • In the meantime, rinse with water and perhaps a bit of toothpaste or diluted, doctor-approved mouthwash.

Keep Hydrated

Another consequence of frequent vomiting is dehydration. It’s always important to keep our bodies properly hydrated, and this is particularly true during pregnancy.

Hydration is also essential for oral health. Saliva helps wash away the bacteria and food particles which cause cavities and irritate the gums—especially important now, since pregnancy hormones can leave you more vulnerable to gingivitis and other forms of gum disease.

  • Drink water as recommended by your doctor. It’s healthy, it hydrates, and it helps prevent cavities and gum disease. Win/win/win.
  • Whichever fluids are your favorites, drinking them in measured amounts through the day will be more effective and more appetizing than drinking large amounts once or twice a day to catch up.
  • You have a busy life, so make things easy on yourself. If you need to hydrate more, keep track of your hydration goals with an app or a phone notification. There are even “smart bottles” to track your intake. Or go old school, and fill a bottle marked with timed measurements to remind you to hydrate through your day.

When The Very Idea of Brushing Is Nauseating . . .

When just the thought of brushing is unappetizing, we have suggestions which might help.

  • Postpone brushing until later in the day when you feel better. Rinse with water first thing in the morning instead.
  • Trade in your regular toothbrush for one with a smaller brush head. This can help prevent the gag reflex.
  • Brush slowly, using small strokes.
  • If brushing the back teeth is particularly triggering, try deep breathing or sitting down to brush.

We want to help you enjoy a healthy pregnancy. Let us know when you first learn you’re pregnant. We have some valuable tips for the coming months, including suggestions for reducing the dental effects of NVP. Fortunately, morning sickness is temporary, and we’re here with ideas to help your beautiful smile last a lifetime!

Forget Something? It’s on the Tip of Your Tongue!

September 28th, 2022

Let’s see…

Toothbrush? Check.

Fluoride toothpaste? Check.

Floss? Check.

Two minutes of thorough brushing? Check.

Careful cleaning around your brackets and wires? Check.

Wait… there’s something else… it’s right on the tip of your…

Ah! Your tongue! Whenever you brush, morning, evening, or any time in between, if you want the freshest breath and cleanest teeth, don’t forget your tongue.

Why your tongue? Because the tongue is one of the most common sources of bad breath. Let’s examine just why this occurs.

The tongue is made up of a group of muscles that help us speak and chew and swallow. But there’s more to this remarkable organ than mere muscle. The surface of the tongue is covered with mucous membrane, like the smooth tissue which lines our mouths. But the tongue isn’t completely smooth—it’s textured with thousands of tiny bumps called papillae.

These little elevated surfaces have several shapes and functions. Some make the tongue’s surface a bit rough, which helps move food through your mouth. Some are temperature sensitive, letting you know that your slice of pizza is much too hot. And some are covered with thousands of the taste buds, which make eating that pizza so enjoyable.

All of these papillae with their various functions combine to create a textured surface, filled with miniscule nooks and crannies. And if there’s a nook or a cranny where bacteria can collect, no matter how miniscule, it’s a good bet that they will, and the surface of the tongue is no exception. But bacteria aren’t alone—the tongue’s surface can also hide food particles and dead cells.

How does this unappealing accumulation affect you? These elements work together to cause bad breath, especially the bacteria that break down food particles and cell debris to produce volatile sulfur compounds—compounds which create a particularly unpleasant odor. Including your tongue in your brushing routine helps remove one of the main causes of bad breath.

And that’s not the only benefit! Cleaning the tongue helps eliminate the white coating caused by bacterial film, and might even improve the sense of taste. Most important, studies show that regular cleaning noticeably lowers the levels of decay-causing plaque throughout the mouth.

So, how to get rid of that unwanted, unpleasant, and unhealthy debris?

  • When you’re done brushing your teeth, use your toothbrush to brush your tongue.

Clean your tongue by brushing gently front to back and then side to side. Rinse your mouth when you’re through. Simple as that! And just like a soft-bristled toothbrush helps protect tooth enamel and gum tissue, we also recommend soft bristles when you brush your tongue. Firm bristles can be too hard on tongue tissue.

  • Use a tongue scraper.

Some people find tongue scrapers more effective than brushing. Available in different shapes and materials, these tools are used to gently scrape the surface of the tongue clean of bacteria and debris. Always apply this tool from back to front, and rinse the scraper clean after every stroke. Wash and dry it when you’re through.

  • Add a mouthwash or rinse.

As part of your oral hygiene routine, antibacterial mouthwashes and rinses can assist in preventing bad breath. Ask Dr. Hawkins for a recommendation.

  • Don’t brush or scrape too vigorously.

Your tongue is a sturdy, hard-working organ, but tongue tissue is still delicate enough to be injured with over-vigorous cleaning.

Taking a few extra seconds to clean your tongue helps eliminate the bacteria and food particles which contribute to bad breath and plaque formation. Make this practice part of your daily brushing routine—it’s a healthy habit well worth remembering!

When should I floss during the day?

September 21st, 2022

A vital step in your oral health routine is flossing. We hope our patients at Springs Family Dentistry maintain good oral hygiene, including daily flossing between each visit to our Longwood, FL office. A toothbrush is not always enough to get to the hard-to-reach areas of your mouth. When food remains between your teeth, bacteria starts to grow and will break down your enamel. This is where flossing comes in!

Should you floss before or after brushing?

Whatever your personal preference, you may floss before or after you brush your teeth. When you floss first, you can brush away any leftover dislodged food debris from your teeth. On the other hand, when you brush first, you will loosen the plaque between your teeth, which makes flossing more effective.

The essential aspect is that you floss thoroughly by using a fresh strand of floss and make sure to get between every tooth. Even if your teeth look and feel clean, don’t skip flossing or plaque will begin to build up on your teeth.

When is the best time to floss?

Although you should brush your teeth at least twice a day, Dr. Hawkins and our team recommend flossing your teeth thoroughly once a day. Many people prefer to floss before bed, so that plaque doesn’t sit between their teeth all night.

What kind of floss should I use?

You may choose between interdental cleaning picks or flexible floss strands to perform your daily flossing routine. If you have permanent oral appliances or restorations, be sure to follow the flossing instructions provided to you.

Do you need help flossing?

If you’re having trouble flossing or have questions about which floss is best for your teeth, contact our Longwood, FL office and we can provide you with support. Be sure to keep up with your daily flossing routine, and we will see you at your next appointment!

Why Do Molars Seem to Get More Cavities?

September 14th, 2022

Probably because, for many kids, molars do get more cavities. So let’s answer two better questions: Why do molars get more cavities? And, how can we help prevent them?

It’s the Pits. (And Fissures.)

The reason molars are so useful—and more likely to develop cavities—is because of their shape. Unlike our front teeth, which are used to bite through foods, molars are used to grind and chew. That’s why they are so much larger, with a flat surface on top. Well, not exactly flat.

When you look at a molar, you’ll notice that the top isn’t really smooth at all. It’s covered with little indentations known as pits and longer grooves called fissures. These irregular features both trap food particles and make it more difficult for bristles to clean them away. Cavities in molar surfaces are so common that they even have a specific name: “pit and fissure cavities.”

But molar biology does not mean tooth decay is inevitable! There are steps you can take to protect your children’s molars as they grow, while you’re providing them with dental strategies that will keep their adult molars healthy and cavity-free.

Preventing Pit and Fissure Cavities

  • Don’t Just Brush—Brush Effectively

The first step in preventing any kind of cavity is brushing properly. Your child should be brushing at least two minutes, at least twice each day. And while the time we spend brushing is important, technique is also key.

When you’re showing your child how to brush, be sure that the tops of molars, upper and lower, get brushed thoroughly, with special emphasis on cleaning pits and fissures. Make sure the toothbrush is small enough to fit your child’s mouth comfortably and reach all the tooth surfaces. Replace worn-down brushes or electric toothbrush heads after three to four months when they no longer clean as effectively.

Your child will probably need adult supervision from toddler years through the early years of grade school to learn how to brush properly. This is time well spent, as your child learns cavity-preventing brushing techniques which will last a lifetime.

  • Eat a Tooth-Healthy Diet

Plaque bacteria use the sugars in our food to make acids. These acids break down the mineral strength of tooth enamel and eventually lead to cavities. And because pits and fissures are great hiding places for bacteria and food particles (especially sticky ones), molars are even more at risk for cavities. Limiting sugary, sticky foods like sweet treats and simple carbs helps reduce that risk.

Acidic foods like flavored juices, sour candies, sodas, and power drinks also weaken enamel and can leave teeth more vulnerable to decay. Help your child avoid cavities by limiting acidic foods and drinks, making them part of a balanced meal, and/or rinsing with water after eating.

  • Use Fluoride Toothpaste

Fluoride toothpaste not only reduces the risk of cavities, it also helps strengthen enamel that has been weakened by bacterial and dietary acids. Win-win!

  • Ask About Sealants

Sealants are invisible, safe coatings which protect molars by preventing food and bacteria from getting trapped in their uneven surfaces. The top of the molar is first treated with an etching solution to allow the sealant to bond tightly to the tooth, a thin coat of sealant is painted on, and then it’s hardened under a curing light. That’s all there is to it.

Sealants are often recommended when children’s permanent molars first erupt, when they are especially at risk for cavities. Sealants can last from three to five years (or even longer), and studies have shown a dramatic reduction in cavities for patients who use sealants compared to patients with untreated teeth. Depending on your child’s individual needs, Dr. Hawkins might recommend a sealant for baby molars as well.

  • Regular Exams and Cleanings

It might be hard for you to tell if your child’s molars have been affected by sticky plaque, or sugary foods, or acidic drinks, or inadequate brushing, or any other potential cavity-causers. It’s not a difficult job for Dr. Hawkins, though! Through regular checkups and cleanings at our Longwood, FL office, we will discover any conditions that might lead to cavities, and, if necessary, treat small cavities before they lead to more serious decay.

Statistically, childhood molars have a greater chance of developing cavities than incisors and canines. Help your child beat the odds by understanding why these teeth are at risk and by working with your dental team to give your child years of healthy teeth now and a future filled with beautiful smiles!

Dental Society of Greater Orlando Florida Dental Association American Dental Association
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