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Alleviating Anxiety before Your Implant Procedure

June 9th, 2021

Does the thought of getting a dental implant put knots in your stomach? There are many people who don't enjoy getting dental work done and there is a myriad of reasons why. For whatever reason you aren't at your best when you arrive at our Longwood, FL office, we'd like to offer some tips that can help put you at ease for your implant procedure.

Sedation

For lengthy visits like an implant procedure, sedation dentistry may be an option for you. With sedation dentistry you are given sedation medication, usually orally with a pill or intravenously, which allows you to drift through the entire procedure without any memory of it afterward. If you decide on oral sedation, typically you take the medication about an hour before your procedure starts.

To avoid any complications, a complete medical background check is made along with a record of any allergies before any sedation is administered. Your vital signs are also monitored throughout the entire procedure.

If you decide sedation is not the right option for you, there are other techniques that you can benefit from. Some of these include:

  • Communication: This may seem obvious, but communicating any fears or anxiety you may have about your procedure with us is extremely helpful. Not only does this build a relationship of trust but it allows us to try and alleviate your anxiety as much as we can.
  • Herbal teas: Drink some herbal tea (like chamomile or lemon balm) before you visit the office. Many patients find this is a great help in relieving anxiety and putting them sufficiently at ease.
  • Relaxing music: Bring a pair of headphones along and listen to your favorite music during treatment (preferably something low-key). Or why not catch up on your reading when you visit us — some patients like to listen to audiobooks too!
  • Meditate or practice deep breathing: Meditation and deep breathing are good to practice in general, since they relax both the body and mind. They can be effective in the case of anxiety, too!

Water Features

June 2nd, 2021

Heading for the beach! Hiking to the lake! Keeping cool with a tall, frosty glass of ice water in a foreign bistro, or taking a refreshing gulp from the fountain in the park! Hot weather has arrived, and water is something we’re more conscious of now than most other times of the year. Even so, water as a dental feature? Glad you asked!

  • Recreation

Whether you want to bask in the heat or escape it, heading out for a day in or on the water works. And while you’re protecting your skin with sunscreen, think about protecting your teeth and mouth as well. With one small slip, any physical water sport—water skiing, water polo, surfing—can result in damage to your teeth or jaw. Bring—and use—the mouthguard you wear for sports like basketball or biking, and make sure you have a summer of smiles ahead of you.

  • Refreshment

Summer has a beverage menu all its own. Iced coffee and iced tea, a cooler full of sodas, fresh lemonade, fruity cocktails—so many refreshing ways to beat the heat! And we would never suggest that you turn down every frosty summer temptation. But do be mindful that dark beverages like tea, coffee, and sodas can stain teeth, sugary and acidic ones are damaging to your enamel, and alcoholic drinks can be dehydrating. Water, on the other hand, is always a healthy choice. It’s helpful for keeping your mouth and teeth clean, it often contains the fluoride that helps fight cavities, it’s hydrating—and, it has no calories! Be sure to make water a significant part of your summer beverage menu, and your body will thank you for it.

  • Rinse & Restore

Water’s importance to our bodies can’t be overstated! From major organs to individual cells, we need water. And one major benefit of proper hydration is healthy saliva production. Why is that important? Saliva plays a vital role in preventing cavities. It washes away the food particles that oral bacteria feed on, reducing their ability to produce the acids that lead to enamel erosion and cavities. Saliva even helps neutralize acids already in the mouth. Finally, saliva contains important calcium, phosphate and fluoride ions which actually help restore enamel strength after it has been exposed to oral acidity.

Summer goes by all too quickly. Protect your teeth during these warm, active months with a mouthguard. And whether you spend your free time outdoors, or visiting people and places, or keeping cool at home, be mindful of dental-friendly beverage options and always stay hydrated. You’ll be ready to greet fall with a beautiful smile and healthy teeth. “Water Features”? Perhaps a better title would be “Water Power”!

Lip Service

May 26th, 2021

When you think of Dr. Hawkins, you naturally think of your teeth. But your dental professional is concerned with more than the teeth, as important as they are. All aspects of your oral health—gums, bite, tongue, mouth—contribute to your well-being. So many elements go into creating your beautiful smile, and your lips? They’re front and center.

  • SPF—BFF

You already know that sunscreen is your best friend when it comes to protecting your skin. But don’t forget your lips when you’re slathering on the sunscreen! Delicate lip tissue is also susceptible to the sun’s damaging UV rays. Use a lip balm or lipstick with an appropriate SPF (Sun Protection Factor) for your skin type, and apply it liberally. Don’t forget to reapply every hour or two, after eating and drinking, and after going in the water. And if you’re protecting your children from the sun’s rays, check with your doctor about using sunscreen on young lips.

  • Healthy Hydrating

Dry, chapped lips are no one’s go-to look. And while moisturizers and balms can help dry lips recover, there’s a simple preventative measure you can take to avoid or reduce dryness.  You know how important water is for our bodies, and it’s essential for hydrating our lips as well. Make sure you drink the recommended amount of water each day for lips (and skin!) that are healthy and hydrated.

Not so healthy liquids? Alcohol. Alcohol is dehydrating, which undoes the benefits of that water you’ve been drinking. More than that, excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to oral cancer, especially when coupled with tobacco use.

  • Toss the Tobacco

All tobacco users have an increased risk for oral cancer. Pipe and cigar smokers are particularly at risk for lip cancers, and smokeless tobacco users have a greater risk of cancers on the inner lip surface. Need another reason to quit? Smoking leads to an increase in lip lines (wrinkles) and a decrease in lip volume.

  • Oral Exams

When you come to our Longwood, FL office for regular checkups, you can also get regular screenings for oral cancer and other oral conditions. While irregularities are often benign, lip cancer is one of the most common forms of oral cancer, and detecting cancerous or precancerous lesions as early as possible is important for treatment. If you have a sore or lump that doesn’t go away, a red or white patch of skin, bleeding or pain, or any other symptom that concerns you, talk to Dr. Hawkins.

Protect yourself from the sun, hydrate, use alcohol in moderation, give up tobacco if you are using it, and see your dentist regularly for examinations. These simple practices are beneficial not only for your expressive lips, but for your overall health and well-being. And feel free to spread the word—healthy habits and preventative care should be on everyone’s lips!

What is a root canal?

May 19th, 2021

A root canal entails the removal of the nerve supply from a tooth. If you know the purpose of a root canal, the process may seem a little less intimidating.

Dr. Hawkins will explain the steps in person before your scheduled root canal. Here are some reasons why you may need one and how it will be done when you visit our Longwood, FL office for your appointment.

Let’s look at the parts of a tooth. Teeth are made up of layers. The outside is the enamel you see, which is composed of minerals. The middle layer is called dentin. It is less dense and made of calcified tissues.

The center of the tooth, also known as the pulp, holds the nerves and blood vessels. When a tooth has decayed or been infected all the way down to the pulp, a root canal is used to remove and replace the root with a filling.

A cavity, sudden trauma, severe cracks, or other events that may cause nerve damage can start an infection of the root of your tooth. You may notice an infection if you experience abnormal pain, swelling, sensitivity, or change in tooth appearance.

Don’t hesitate to contact our Longwood, FL office to schedule an examination if you notice these symptoms. We may need to take X-rays of the problem tooth to find out if a root canal is necessary.

Once an appointment is scheduled for a root canal and we’re ready to begin the procedure, you’ll be given anesthesia to keep you comfortable. The problem tooth will be isolated and sterilized. We work to remove all the infected area after that.

The treatment will include getting rid of nerve tissue and blood vessels, then filling in the spot where the nerve used to be. A crown is placed over the area to secure enamel from breaking down in the future and prevent the potential loss of the tooth. The root canal can block the possibility of having your tooth extracted due to decay or infection.

If you have further questions about root canals or notice any new issues in your mouth, please don’t hesitate to call our office and speak with a member of our staff. We’d be happy to answer your questions and schedule an appointment for you to come and get your problem tooth checked out.

Don’t forget: You can avoid having to undergo a root canal if we catch the problem early on!

Keeping Our Teeth Healthy as We Age

May 12th, 2021

Decades ago, it was just expected that getting older meant losing teeth. But today’s dental practices and treatments help us defy expectations. How can we keep our teeth healthy as we age? Here are some great habits to continue or begin at any time of life:

  • Brush and Floss Regularly

Brushing and flossing two minutes carefully twice a day is a habit we should never break. If using a manual toothbrush has become difficult, an electric model might be just what you need. We also have many suggestions if you have mobility or other issues, so please talk to Dr. Hawkins about making regular dental hygiene as comfortable and effective as possible.

  • Keep Up with Exams and Cleanings

As we age, gum recession is common. This recession leaves the root areas of our teeth more exposed, and more vulnerable to cavities. Also, old fillings can break or loosen, and cavities can develop around their edges. Keeping a regular schedule of exams and cleanings at our Longwood, FL office helps us discover any problems before they become serious.

  • Let Us Know about Changes in Your Health and Medications

If you are taking certain medications, you are at risk for developing a condition called dry mouth, where saliva production greatly decreases. Since saliva washes away the food particles that fuel bacteria growth, reduces acidic elements in the mouth that weaken enamel, and helps fight diseases, dry mouth sets the stage for increased chances of cavities and gum disease. If you are experiencing this condition, we have suggestions for hydration, dental rinses, and sugarless gums that can help.

  • Prevent Gum Disease

Regular brushing, professional cleanings, and routine check-ups are the best way to keep your gums healthy. Since untreated gum disease is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in older adults, call us if you have any symptoms such as puffy, red, or swollen gums, bleeding, or persistent bad breath. We can treat periodontitis at any stage, but prevention is always best.

  • Don’t Smoke

Studies show a link between smoking and the health of our teeth and gums, as well as a much greater risk of oral cancer. It is never too late to stop smoking! We have suggestions on ways to quit—please let us provide them.

Feel free to talk to us about any concerns you might have. With proper dental care, your teeth can last a lifetime. And that’s a great expectation!

Healthy Diet, Healthier Gums?

May 5th, 2021

Since gum disease is one of the most common adult diseases, it’s no wonder Dr. Hawkins and our team stress the importance of prevention. Effective brushing and flossing, regular dental appointments for exams and cleanings, and a prompt visit to our Longwood, FL dental office if you notice symptoms of gingivitis (early gum disease) are all important steps to prevent more serious periodontal disease from developing.

One more step you can add to keep your gums their healthiest? Add some gum-healthy foods to your shopping cart! To see how your diet can help prevent gum disease, let’s look at what can cause gum disease.

When plaque builds up between teeth and gums, the bacteria found in plaque cause our gum tissue to become inflamed, swollen, and painful. Left untreated, the gums pull away from the teeth, leaving pockets where bacteria collect and can cause infection.

Prolonged inflammation can lead to the destruction of gum tissue and the connective tissues which anchor our teeth to the alveolar bone in the jaw. Bone loss and even tooth loss can result from untreated gum disease.

Fortunately for us, there are foods that fight inflammation, help with healing, and strengthen and support gum tissue before problems develop. Let’s take a look at some of the valuable gum-healthy nutrients you can add to your diet with some tasty additions to your shopping list:

  • Vitamin A

This vitamin is essential for the health and healing of mucous membranes, including both our gums and the soft membranes in our mouths. Vitamin A is found in animal products such as dairy foods, meat, and liver, or formed in the body from beta-carotenes, found in plant foods such as carrots, peppers, pumpkin, squash, and sweet potatoes.

  • Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the so-called “essential nutrients.” These are nutrients that are necessary for our bodies to function properly, and which can only be supplied in our diets. Vitamin C is needed to help our bodies produce collagen, the substance that provides support and structure to our tissues. It also helps us repair tissue, and is a powerful antioxidant. One of the obvious signs that your diet doesn’t contain enough vitamin C is inflamed and bleeding gums.

When we think vitamin C, we instantly picture citrus fruits. Oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and all their cousins are a wonderful source of vitamin C. Looking for a little more variety? You’re in luck! Fruit fans can load up on strawberries, kiwi fruit, mangos, and papayas. Love your veggies? Red peppers, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli contain more vitamin C per serving than a medium orange.

  • Vitamin D

Vitamin D, of course, is essential for dental health because it helps us absorb the calcium that keep teeth (and bones) strong. And there’s more! It helps the body fight infection and reduce inflammation, and studies have suggested a link between vitamin D and better gum health.

Sunlight exposure leads our bodies to produce vitamin D naturally, but it is available in foods as well. Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and herring, are a rich source of the vitamin, as are cod liver oil and egg yolks. It’s also available in foods fortified with vitamin D, such as cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, and even many cereals. And while you’re getting the benefit of vitamin D from dairy, you’re also enjoying the proteins they contain, one of which helps neutralize acids in the mouth that can irritate gums. Bonus!

  • Iron

Iron deficiency can lead to a common form of anemia, where your body isn’t creating enough red blood cells to deliver the oxygen your tissues need. (In fact, one of the most noticeable symptoms of anemia is pale gums.) This condition can cause a number of problems, including an immune system that doesn’t work as well as it should. A strong immune system helps us fight infection, including gum disease and other oral infections.

A diet rich in iron can help prevent anemia. We absorb the most iron from foods such as meat, eggs, and fish, but iron is also present in beans, lentils, leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, and prunes if you’re looking for flavorful vegetarian options.

  • Omega-3s

Research has shown a possible relationship between getting the recommended dietary amounts of omega-3s and a lower occurrence of periodontitis. In other studies, omega-3s have shown promise in reducing the periodontal inflammation that can lead to severe gum disease.

Our bodies can’t produce omega-3 fatty acids on their own, but fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, and sardines, a variety of high-fat seeds and nuts, and plant oils contain several different types of omega-3 fatty acids. Some foods are fortified with omega-3s, or your doctor might recommend fish oil (and algae oil for vegetarians) as a supplement.

Speaking of supplements, why not just add vitamin, mineral, and other nutritional supplements to our daily diet? Believe it or not, there can actually be too much of a good thing. Body chemistry requires balance, so talk to your doctor about whether or not supplements are necessary in your particular diet, and just what kinds and how much to take.

Whew! That’s a lot to think about for one shopping cart, but that’s just a small portion of the many foods—and the many vitamins and minerals—you can add to your menu to support oral health in a tasty, effective, and positive way.

After all, when we think about the “do’s and don’ts” of a dental-healthy diet, it’s all too often a collection of “don’ts.” Don’t eat a lot of sugar. Avoid acidic foods and beverages. Cut down on refined carbs. And all of those suggestions are important, because the early stages of gingivitis are often easy to miss.

But let’s not forget the things we can actually do to be proactive with our gum health. Besides good dental hygiene and regular checkups at our Longwood, FL office, eating a well-balanced diet helps keep your gums their healthiest—and while we can do a lot to treat gum disease, the very best treatment of all is prevention!  

Chipped Your Tooth? Now What?

April 28th, 2021

Accidents happen. Next time you’ll wear your mouthguard when you skateboard, never use your teeth to open anything, and carefully step away from your grandmother’s hard candy dish. But what to do now for your chipped tooth?

First of all, call Springs Family Dentistry. Dr. Hawkins and our team can offer tips on dealing with any pain and how to avoid injuring your tooth further. Make an appointment to see us as soon as possible, where one of the following options might be the best treatment for you:

  • Bonding

If the chip is small, you might be a good candidate for bonding. A tooth-colored resin is applied to the damaged area with adhesive, molded to shape, and then hardened with a curing light. It is then polished and, if necessary, further shaped to match your surrounding teeth.

  • Porcelain Veneer

A veneer is a thin shell of porcelain individually molded for your tooth. If the chip is too large for bonding, or if you would like a more translucent finish, a veneer might be appropriate. During your first appointment, some of the tooth structure will be gently removed to accommodate the size of the veneer. A mold will be taken and sent to a lab for the creation of the veneer, which will be bonded to your tooth on a later visit. Whether a veneer will be successful depends on several variables, such as the condition of the tooth and enamel, your bite, and whether you grind your teeth. We will take all these factors into consideration in discussing possible treatments.

  • Crown

A large chip or pain when eating or drinking might mean that you need a crown. This “cap” will protect your tooth from the pressures of chewing as well as restoring its appearance. On your first visit, some of the tooth structure will probably be removed to make room for the crown, impressions will be taken for the dental lab to make a permanent crown, and a temporary model will be fitted to your tooth. In a following visit the permanent crown will be adhered to your tooth.

If the crack has extended to the pulp of the tooth, you might need a root canal. If this is necessary, we will discuss the procedure during our exam.

No matter the size of the chip, it is important to contact our Longwood, FL office immediately to help avoid infection and prevent further damage. If your tooth is broken below the gumline or otherwise seriously compromised, more intensive care will be necessary. But when a minor accident happens, prompt treatment can quickly restore your smile to health.

Be Good to Your Gums

April 21st, 2021

You brush and floss thoroughly twice a day. You have regular checkups. Everything seems fine on the periodontal radar. Sometimes, however, even healthy gums can become sensitive and irritated. Is it something you did? Maybe! Here are some common causes of gum irritation and sensitivity that you might not be aware of.

  • Brushing Bravado

One of the most important tools for gum health is one we use at least twice a day—the simple toothbrush. Two minutes at night and two in the morning reduce the bacteria and plaque that lead to serious gum disease, known as periodontitis. And while preventing tooth decay and gum disease are the primary goals of brushing, let’s also protect delicate gum tissue from injuries and irritation caused by too-forceful brushing.

Try using a brush with soft bristles and brushing with short strokes and gentle pressure, especially if you know you have a tendency to be a bit heavy-handed. Massaging rather than scrubbing will clean teeth and gums just fine.

  • Fierce Flossing

Just because we can use dental floss to slice cakes or cookie dough logs doesn’t mean we should apply the same pressure to our gums! While a firm sawing motion seems like the obvious way to clean between teeth and gums, you can actually cause irritation and bleeding that way.

Insert the floss between your teeth carefully, bring it to the gumline, and move the floss with gentle pressure up and down and around the tooth surface. This technique will make sure that you remove food particles and plaque from beneath the gumline without causing your gums any trauma. Ask us about the best flossing techniques—we know them all.

  • Appliance Aches

You know how helpful your braces/retainers/mouth guards/dentures are. You just wish that your helpful appliance was a little less irritating to sensitive gum tissue.

This is a problem that often disappears as you get used to your new appliance. But if pain or irritation persists or gets worse, give us a call. We want to make sure your appliance fits properly, and make any necessary adjustments to ensure your comfort.

  • Peroxide Problems

Most home whitening kits use peroxide-based gels or treated strips to remove surface stains from the teeth. Those same bleaching agents that make enamel whiter can also cause gum sensitivity and irritation. If you use whitening strips or gel trays, be careful to keep the peroxide solution away from gum tissue. But because these systems are one-size-fits-all, that is often easier said than done.

If you have sensitive gums, one solution is a professional office whitening. We’ll check on your gum (and tooth) health first, and monitor and protect your gums throughout the procedure. If you still want to whiten at home, we can create custom trays for you that will provide more complete exposure to the whitening solution for your teeth, and less exposure for your gums, than over-the-counter products.

  • Still Smoking?

Studies have shown a strong link between gum health and smoking and other forms of tobacco use. Smokers are much more likely to suffer from gum disease than non-smokers, and those who have smoked for a long time, or who smoke heavily, have an even higher risk of developing periodontal disease. Some studies suggest that smokers don’t respond as well to treatment as non-smokers.  Unfortunately, it appears that smoking and tobacco use help mask the obvious symptoms of gum disease (redness and bleeding), which could lead smokers to delay getting treatment. If you smoke, talk to us about ways to quit.

We talk a lot about periodontal health because it is so important. Periodontitis can lead to infection, loss of bone around the tooth, and even eventual tooth loss. If you are suffering from any of the signs of gum disease—swelling, redness, bleeding, pain—give our Longwood, FL office a call. Whether it’s as simple as making a few lifestyle changes, or a problem requiring professional dental treatment, being proactive with your dental care is more than good for your gums—it’s good for your health!

Could a Night Guard Be the Answer to Your Dreams?

April 14th, 2021

Have you been having trouble getting a good night’s rest?

Sometimes the reason for a poor night’s sleep is obvious. A midnight horror movie. A bedtime espresso. That anchovy and pineapple pizza you had for dinner. Not much we can do about these problems.

Sometimes, though, the cause of your sleep difficulties is dental in origin, and that is something Dr. Hawkins can help with.

Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is a very common dental problem. When people with this condition sleep, their jaws clench and their teeth grind against each other throughout the night. When to suspect you might suffer from bruxism?

  • You wake with a sore jaw, or you hear pops or clicks when you move your jaw
  • You suffer from frequent headaches or facial pain
  • Your teeth are chipped, cracked, flattened, worn down, or sensitive
  • You wake up tired, because grinding affects the quality of your sleep
  • Partners, siblings, or roommates complain about nocturnal grinding noises affecting the quality of their

Pain and fatigue are unpleasant enough, but there are additional serious consequences for those who suffer from bruxism. Our jaws are extremely powerful, and clenching and grinding can put hundreds of pounds on pressure on teeth and jaws over hours of sleep. These forces can lead to:

  • Damaged teeth. Cracked, chipped, and worn down teeth can mean veneers, crowns, and root canals. Seriously compromised or broken teeth might need to be extracted.
  • Damaged dental work. Bruxism can lead to fractured veneers and damaged fillings and crowns. If the damage is too serious for repair, replacement might be necessary.
  • Damaged jaw joints. Severe cases of bruxism can lead to injury to the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, the complex hinge that allows our jaws to move up and down, back and forth, and side to side.

While these problems can be treated with restorations, or root canals, or implants, or surgical procedures, prevention is clearly a much better option for a healthy smile. And one of the simplest and most effective treatments for preventing the damage caused by bruxism is a night guard.

Night guards fit over the affected teeth to prevent them from touching directly, saving tooth and enamel from injury and wear. Not only do night guards prevent contact, they spread the biting forces of the jaw over the surface of the guard to greatly reduce their impact. And because they also stop the jaw muscles from clenching tightly, there’s no excess stress placed on the temporomandibular joint.

While over-the-counter products are available, it’s best to see Dr. Hawkins for the most effective night guard. A custom night guard is designed to fit your individual teeth and mouth perfectly. Impressions or 3D scans are taken in our Longwood, FL office, and a guard is fabricated with the precise shape, strength, and thickness you need to protect your teeth. And, as a bonus, custom night guards offer the most comfortable fit for the most comfortable night’s sleep.

Scary movies, late night caffeinating, creative food combinations—not much we can do about those! But if you’re suffering lost sleep and painful mornings because of tooth grinding, give us a call. A night guard just might be the key to sweet dreams.

This April, Let’s Celebrate National Facial Protection Month!

April 7th, 2021

Poor April. While other months celebrate romance, or giving thanks, or costumes and candy, April has—April Fool’s Day and a tax deadline. We might be forgiven for thinking these two dates seem more like warnings than celebrations.

So here’s a new topic for the April calendar: National Facial Protection Month! Take the opportunity this month to review your safety practices while you’re enjoying your favorite activities.

  • Mouthguards

If you have a mouthguard for sports or athletic activities, wear it! In any activity or sport where humans come into contact with solid objects (including other humans) tooth injury is possible. A mouthguard will help protect you from dental injuries caused by falls, physical contact, or other accidents that might happen in your active life. And it’s not just your teeth—mouthguards protect your lips, tongue, and jaw as well.

You can buy mouthguards in stock sizes or shape-to-fit options, or you can have a guard custom made especially for you at our Longwood, FL office. Custom mouthguards fit perfectly and are designed to make breathing and speaking easy and comfortable. And if you wear braces or have fixed dental work such as a bridge, a custom mouthguard can protect your smile and your appliances. Talk to Dr. Hawkins about mouthguards for some great advice on how to protect your teeth and mouth.

As long as we’re discussing facial protection, let’s look at some other ways to keep safe as you keep active.

  • Helmets

If there’s a helmet available for your sport, use it! Helmets are especially important for protecting athletes from brain injury and concussion, and they help protect the face and jaw as well.

  • Face Guards

If you’ve experienced a puck speeding toward you, or a defensive tackle hurtling your way, or a fast ball coming in at 90 miles an hour, you know the importance of wearing a face guard. These guards can help protect your eyes, face, teeth, and jaws. Many sports now recommend using face guards—it’s worth checking to see if your sport is one of them.

  • Eye Protection

And let’s not forget eye protection. Whether it’s safety glasses or a visor, protecting your eyes and the bones around them is extremely important. You can even get sports goggles or protective sports glasses with prescription lenses to keep you safe and seeing clearly.

We have the training and experience to help treat and restore injured teeth. But we will be the first to tell you, the very best treatment is prevention!

So here are a few suggestions for your calendar this month:

  • If you haven’t gotten a mouthguard yet, now’s the time. Tooth and mouth injuries occur in sports beyond hockey and football. If you play basketball, ski, skateboard, ride a bike—in fact, almost any sport where you can fall or make contact with a person or object—a mouthguard is a must.
  • If you need to replace an ill-fitting or damaged helmet and face guard, do it before your next game. And do replace a bike helmet if you’ve been in a crash—most likely it won’t be as protective, even if damage isn’t visible.
  • Talk to your eye doctor about protective eyewear if off-the-rack products don’t work for you.
  • If you are a parent or caregiver, make sure your child athlete has the proper facial protection—and uses it.
  • If you are a coach, make sure your athletes have the right protective gear—and wear it.
  • It’s also a great time to commit to using your protective gear every single time you’re active.

But, wait—these reminders are helpful and important, but weren’t we promised something to celebrate this April? Good catch! The great news is, using facial protection for sports and athletic activities gives you rewards you can celebrate all year: fewer injuries, fewer visits to the emergency room, and a beautiful, healthy, intact smile. Suit up!

Root Canal Recovery

March 31st, 2021

Anyone who has had a compromised tooth knows that the amount of discomfort it causes can be extremely unpleasant. Although no one looks forward to a root canal, this procedure is actually the best way to both eliminate pain and save your tooth. If the pulp inside your tooth is infected or damaged, a root canal is probably necessary.  

The process is relatively straightforward and can take place over one or two visits to our Longwood, FL office. The area around the tooth is numbed, the pulp is removed from the inside of the tooth, the area is thoroughly cleaned, and a temporary filling or crown is placed on the tooth to prevent bacteria and food from entering the site. A permanent crown will be fabricated and affixed to the tooth at a later visit.

Once your root canal is finished, recovery is usually only a matter of days. What can you to keep yourself as comfortable as possible during that time?

  • The area around the affected tooth might be somewhat sore or sensitive for a few days. Let us know, and we can talk about medication to reduce pain and inflammation. If you are prescribed antibiotics, be sure to take the entire course of medication as directed.
  • Taking an ibuprofen (if this is a pain reliever that is safe for you) before the anesthetic wears off will reduce the soreness in the hours immediately after the procedure.
  • Wait until the numbness is gone before eating to avoid biting down on a temporary filling (or your tongue). Hot drinks are also best avoided.
  • Avoid chewing on the side of the affected tooth until the restoration is complete. A soft diet is recommended for the first several days—chewy, sticky, and crunchy foods should wait.
  • Continue with regular brushing and flossing.
  • Call Dr. Hawkins immediately if you experience severe pain or visible swelling, if you have an allergic response to medication, if your bite feels uneven, or if you lose the temporary filling.

Follow the instructions we’ll give you carefully, and feel free to call us with any concerns. We want to ensure that your root canal is as pain-free and worry-free as possible.

Is periodontal disease genetic?

March 24th, 2021

One of the most enjoyable parts of looking at family pictures is finding resemblances. You have your father’s brown eyes and your grandmother’s curly hair. You’ve got your aunt’s basketball height and your cousin’s freckles. But some similarities might not be so appealing—could one of those be a family tendency toward gum disease?

Studies have shown that periodontal disease appears to have some kind of genetic component, especially for serious diseases and those that appear early in the patient’s life. Aggressive periodontitis, for example, a relatively uncommon disease which causes rapid bone loss around certain teeth, is often more common among members of the same family. Other studies suggest there might be a genetic link between our immune response and the development of chronic periodontitis. So far, however, the link between genetics and gum disease is still under investigation.

We do know that environmental factors are an important trigger for gum disease. Failure to brush and floss, smoking, diet, stress, medical conditions such as diabetes—all can influence the health of our gums. The best way to overcome these factors is your own proactive approach! Thorough brushing and flossing, regular checkups and cleanings, proper nutrition, and avoiding smoking are all time-tested ways to keep your gums and teeth healthy. If you have a medical condition, proper treatment and medication will also help protect your oral health.

During your examination with Dr. Hawkins at our Longwood, FL office, please tell us about any family history of periodontal disease, your own gum care routine, and any habits or conditions which might influence your health. We can tailor treatment and offer suggestions for prevention based on a thorough knowledge of your medical history. We have many options available today for preventing and treating gum disease. Let’s make sure all your family albums are filled with beaming smiles—that’s the most appealing resemblance of all!

Going Green for St. Patrick’s Day?

March 17th, 2021

Happily for all of us who like to celebrate with friends and family, there’s no need to be Irish to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day. Every March 17th, many of us take the opportunity to display a bit of Gaelic spirit.

  • Green Clothing (it’s tradition!)
  • Green Hat (for a jaunty look)
  • Green Shamrock (always the perfect accessory)
  • Green Hair (for the adventurous among us)
  • Green Grins?

Here’s where we draw the line. Emerald Isle? Delightful! Emerald smile? Not so beguiling.

That traditional St. Patrick’s party fare—green-frosted sweet treats and green-colored pastries and green-foamed beers—is full of green-tinted food dyes, which can leave us with teeth in subtle shamrock shades. Luckily, most of us will have only a very temporary tinge to remind us of our dietary shenanigans, and there are simple ways to rid yourself of the green sheen:

  • Indulge sparingly in colorful cuisine, and drink water afterwards to rinse away green-dyed foods and beverages.
  • Use a straw for green drinks.
  • Brush your teeth. (Not only will you brush away the green, but you’ll brush away the sugars from sweet green desserts and the acids from sour green brews.)
  • Try a whitening toothpaste.

One special note: if you’ve just whitened your smile, best to eliminate strong food dyes from your diet for a few days. Teeth are more sensitive to staining after whitening, because the whitening process temporarily makes them more porous. Give yourself a few days, and your enamel will be back to (stain)fighting strength.

So, celebrate on the 17th and feel secure that on the 18th, your smile won’t be “wearing the green” any longer. But if you find that you’re not happy with the appearance of your smile anytime during the year, if you have more permanent staining caused by natural darkening over time, or workdays fueled by black coffee, or a diet filled with tomato sauce, dark berries, red wine, and other tasty (but discoloring) food, you’re still in luck.

Ask Dr. Hawkins about professional whitening procedures at our Longwood, FL office for a brighter, more confident smile. And with a bright, confident smile, every day’s a reason to celebrate!

Can I use mouthwash instead of flossing?

March 10th, 2021

While mouthwash goes a long way in improving your oral care, it is not a substitute for flossing. Mouthwashes and flossing provide different benefits that you should understand.

Mouthwash Benefits

Mouthwash comes in two categories. Some are considered cosmetic. This type of rinse provides temporary relief from bad breath and has a pleasant taste. These do not actually kill any bacteria.

Therapeutic mouthwashes provide the healthier benefits. These may contain different ingredients including fluoride or antimicrobial agents. This type is used to remove plaque buildup and reduce the potential for calculus formation. Therapeutic rinses can also help prevent cavities, bad breath, and gingivitis. In addition, Dr. Hawkins can prescribe special rinses to assist patients after periodontal surgery or other procedures.

Flossing Benefits

Flossing is what removes the plaque formation before it can harden and become calculus. While a rinse reduces buildup, only flossing will fully remove plaque, especially between teeth. The bristles on a toothbrush do not get between teeth completely. If plaque is not removed, it hardens into tartar or calculus. When this builds below the gum line, gum disease can start.

Types of Floss

Floss is available in a thin string form or a tape. It can be waxed or unwaxed. If you find flossing difficult, you might want to try a different type of floss. You can buy bulk floss in containers or purchase the disposable type with a plastic handle attached. This style can be easier for many individuals to use. Interdental picks are available for bridgework or other situations where regular floss cannot be used.

If you have questions regarding the best mouthwash or floss, or need tips for easier flossing, please ask our Longwood, FL team for advice. We will be glad to give you solutions to help keep your mouth clean and healthy.

A Word to the Wise about Wisdom Teeth

March 3rd, 2021

There are some pretty exciting rewards to look forward to as you transition from your mid-teens to your 20s. Driving! Voting! Graduation! But there is one rite of passage that you might not be looking forward to quite so much: getting your wisdom teeth. What are wisdom teeth? When are they a problem? And, most important, how can Dr. Hawkins help?

Children have 20 baby teeth that are replaced as they grow up with 32 adult teeth. The last to arrive are the four third molars more commonly known as wisdom teeth. But that “32” number is a little flexible. Some people never develop wisdom teeth at all. You can stop reading here if you are one of this carefree group. The rest of us have from one to four wisdom teeth. Some people have enough room in their mouths to accommodate wisdom teeth without affecting the alignment of their other teeth or their bite. But for many of us, wisdom teeth extraction is often the best and healthiest option.

When do wisdom teeth become a problem? Most generally, when there is simply no room for them to erupt properly. As a result, the wisdom teeth become “impacted.” An impacted tooth can cause you trouble in a number of different ways.

  • Completely Impacted Tooth

Some wisdom teeth never erupt at all, staying within the jawbone. If there are no problems with these teeth, your dentist might recommend leaving them in place. If your other teeth become crowded or otherwise affected, if cysts develop, or if other complications arise, these teeth should be extracted. Even if you are symptom free, regular exams and X-rays at our Longwood, FL office are important for monitoring the condition of impacted wisdom teeth to make sure they remain problem-free.

  • Partially Erupted Tooth

A wisdom tooth can also begin to erupt, but never break completely through the gum tissue. The tooth and gum area can’t be cleaned properly, trapping food particles and bacteria. The gums can become easily irritated and even infected, and these teeth are much more prone to decay. When infection and rapid decay are present, extraction is often considered the best treatment option.

Dr. Hawkins might be the first to mention your wisdom teeth at your regular checkup, or you might be surprised to see a new tooth appearing while you are doing your nightly brushing and flossing. Impacted wisdom teeth can be symptom-free, or may present with pain, redness, swelling, or bad breath. Whenever the first signs of wisdom teeth appear, it’s time to discuss your options.

Your dentist or oral surgeon is your best resource for helping you decide on the wisest course of action for your wisdom teeth, whether it’s extraction or regular monitoring. After all, transitioning to adulthood is even more rewarding with a beautiful healthy smile.

Your Toddler’s First Dental Visit

February 24th, 2021

It’s common for toddlers to be wary of strangers, but their first experience at the dentist shouldn’t be a scary one. Dr. Hawkins and our team have five tips for you to make your child’s first visit to Springs Family Dentistry easy as pie!

  1. Bringing your child to one of your own appointments before his or her first dental visit can calm your little one’s nerves. This gives your son or daughter the opportunity to get familiar with our office and see a cleaning isn’t very scary.
  2. Our big dental chair can be fun! Toddlers love games, and seeing the chair go up and down can make it seem like an amusement ride rather than sitting down for an exam.
  3. Dr. Hawkins and our team hand out cool toothbrushes and stickers to kids after their appointment. Your child will love the fun-colored toothbrush and can look forward to a post-appointment prize at the next visit.
  4. Schedule your appointment for a time that sets you up for success. Bringing your child to our Longwood, FL office an hour before he or she is due for a nap may be a tantrum just waiting to happen.
  5. Kids love books! Try reading your toddler bedtime stories about what happens at the dentist before you come in for the appointment. We recommend Dora the Explorer’s Show Me Your Smile, written by Christine Ricci.

Brushing Tips for Kids

February 17th, 2021

You’re all set for your happy morning and nighttime ritual. You’ve provided your son with his favorite action hero toothbrush and your daughter with her favorite flavored toothpaste. You’ve gotten them into the healthy habit of two minutes of brushing twice each day. You’ve introduced them to flossing. You have favorite brushing songs! Stickers! Gold stars! And, best of all, you’re teaching great brushing techniques.

Kids need the same basic brushing tools and skills as adults. What makes for the best cleaning?

Find the right brush

No matter how cute—or heroic—the brush, it needs to have soft bristles to protect enamel and delicate gum tissue. The head should be a perfect fit for your child’s mouth. And if the handle is easy to grip and hold, you have a winner.

Find the right toothpaste

The bubblegum flavor might appeal to your child, but it’s the fluoride that helps to prevent cavities. Talk to us about the right time to start using fluoride toothpaste and the right amount for your child’s brush.

Teach your child the angles

If your child is too young to brush alone, start geometry lessons early. Holding the brush at a 45-degree angle toward the gums will clean bacteria and plaque from the tooth surface and the gum line. And don’t forget the chewing surfaces and the insides of the teeth. When your child begins brushing on her own, coach her as she learns the best way to clean all the surfaces of her teeth.

Easy does it

Teeth and gums should be massaged, not scrubbed. Brushing too hard can damage not only tender gum tissue, but even your child’s enamel.

Learn to let go

No matter how comfortable and appealing the brush, after three or four months, it’s time for a change. Frayed bristles don’t clean as effectively, and making up for it by brushing harder isn’t the answer (see above). Also, toothbrushes can build up quite a collection of bacteria over time (see below), so a fresh brush is a must!

Everything in its place

A toothbrush should dry thoroughly between uses without touching other brushes. Placing a brush in a plastic container doesn’t let it dry and encourages bacterial growth. And a toothbrush needs its own space—touching toothbrush heads means sharing toothbrush bacteria. The best way to keep toothbrushes as dry and as germ-free as possible is to store them upright, without touching other brushes, in a clean, well-ventilated area.

Rinse and repeat

Your child should rinse his toothbrush before and after using it, and be sure to rinse his mouth as well. That should get rid of any leftover food particles brushing has removed.

Finally, keep up the good work! As you teach your child proper brushing techniques, and make sure she uses them as she grows, you are preparing her for a lifetime of great checkups with Dr. Hawkins at our Longwood, FL office. Give yourself a gold star—you’ve earned it!

Tips for Lifelong Teeth Whitening

February 10th, 2021

Over time, everyone’s teeth can naturally become dull, due to aging and consumption of staining foods such as chocolate and coffee. The good news is that teeth-whitening treatments can help you maintain white teeth that last a lifetime.

Get Regular Treatments

Regular treatments at Springs Family Dentistry are necessary to keep your teeth white for life, since whitening treatments are only temporary. Bleaching too frequently, however, can wear away your tooth enamel.

The effects of in-office bleaching are safe and can last for several months to a year. You may need to repeat your use of at-home bleaching kits every few months to maintain your white teeth. As far as day to day, whitening toothpastes are safe to use on a daily basis. The American Dental Association suggests you ask your dentist for advice on which treatment is best for you.

Have Realistic Expectations

Everyone’s teeth are different and, according to the American Dental Association, not all smiles can be turned bright white. Teeth can naturally be a light yellowish color that responds well to teeth-whitening procedures, but bleach is not likely to be effective for grayish teeth. Results for brownish teeth fall somewhere in between.

Practice Good Oral Hygiene

Good hygiene is imperative for teeth-whitening efforts. Visible fillings, implants, or bridges that are metallic can be visible against the white color you desire. These treatments can be prevented by maintaining a good oral hygiene routine.

In addition to brushing your teeth twice a day to remove dirt and potential staining agents, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Floss every day
  • Visit our Longwood, FL office every six months
  • Rinse your mouth with water after each meal and snack
  • Limit sugary and starchy foods and beverages, especially between meals

 

Smoking and Dental Implants

February 3rd, 2021

Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to replace a missing tooth with an implant. While an implant will restore the appearance of your smile, you also know that there are many reasons that an implant will improve your health, too.

A missing tooth causes structural problems as well as cosmetic ones. Remaining teeth can shift to fill the gap, leading to wear and bite problems. Without the stimulation of biting and chewing, bone tissue under the lost tooth gradually shrinks and is resorbed. The shapes of our jaws, cheeks and lips can be affected. Replacing a lost tooth with an implant can not only restore the appearance of your smile, but maintain it.

And implant procedures have a very high rate of success. Implants are made of materials compatible with the body, and surgically placed in the jaw to act as anchors for replacement teeth. The implant will actually integrate with the bone growing around it for strong, stable, and long-lasting support. After the time it takes for the implant to integrate and the area around it to heal, a crown, designed to match your own teeth perfectly, will be securely attached to the implant post.

What can you do to help the healing process? Follow our instructions carefully. Dr. Hawkins will give you suggestions for the time immediately following the procedure as well as instructions on the importance of keeping the area clean while healing takes place. And one very important favor you can do yourself? If you smoke, this is the time to stop.

Studies have shown that smokers have a significantly increased risk of dental problems and implant failures, and there are several theories as to why.

  • Smoking slows the healing process. Some studies indicate that smoking impairs blood flow in the gums, so that less oxygen and fewer nutrients are delivered to healing tissue.
  • Smokers tend to be more vulnerable to gum disease.
  • Smoking has been linked to a weaker immune system, so it’s harder to fight off an infection or to heal from one.
  • More marginal bone loss around implants is seen in smokers than in non-smokers.
  • Peri-implantitis, an inflammation of the gum tissue around the implant that can lead to bone loss and implant failure, is also more common in smokers.

Now that you have decided on a dental implant at our Longwood, FL office, make one more decision to ensure the success of the procedure. Talk to us about ways to quit smoking before your implant, and how to reduce the chance of smoking-related complications. We know that quitting can be difficult, but your improved smile—and your improved health—are worth it!

Are you a candidate for dental implants?

January 27th, 2021

When you are missing teeth, it is critical to replace them. Without all your teeth, chewing and eating can be challenging, as well as uncomfortable. Missing teeth can also destabilize your bite. Dental implants are a great option for replacing teeth that are missing or are badly diseased. A dental implant at Springs Family Dentistry offers relief, support, and stability to your bite, and often, implants are the most natural and effective option available.

Dr. Hawkins and our team have helped many patients using implant dentistry at our Longwood, FL office restore their smiles to look more natural. Each implant is created to fit in perfectly with the look of the rest of your teeth.

Besides making your smile appear more natural, dental implants have other benefits. They include:

  • Restoring your ability to properly chew food
  • Preventing your teeth from shifting and moving
  • Stabilizing your bite, helping you avoid pain or discomfort

If you are missing a tooth or multiple teeth and feel like you are a candidate for dental implants, Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry encourage you to give us a call to schedule an appointment. See you soon!

Toothaches and Abscesses

January 20th, 2021

With Dr. Hawkins, emergency dental care is only a phone call away. Dental problems are uncomfortable and should always be treated as soon as possible to prevent them from getting worse.

Whether it’s an abscess or a toothache that you believe might be something more, it’s vital to pay attention to your body and give it the attention it needs. Below, you’ll find some more information about abscesses and toothaches that may clarify any doubts about the differences, whether you may be suffering from one of them … and what to do if you are.

Abscesses

What’s an abscess? It’s a bacterial infection: an accumulation of pus that can form inside a tooth or the gums and cause pain and swelling. It generally develops as a result of poor oral hygiene.

Bacteria lives in plaque so if plaque isn’t removed on a regular basis, it can build up and encourage bacteria to spread, which could ultimately result in an abscess. Antibiotics aren’t always needed for treatment, you should get this situation checked out as soon as possible. If left untreated, oral infections can lead to bigger complications.

Toothaches

Toothaches can happen for a number of reasons. The simplest, most common one is a piece of food that is stuck in your gum, which can cause a bit of swelling and discomfort.

To get rid of it, you can rinse your mouth with hot water and salt, every morning and evening. This helps kill bacteria and bring down the swelling. You can also gently floss the area to remove whatever is stuck there. If you experience bleeding while you’re flossing, and hot water with salt proves ineffective, it may be time to schedule an appointment.

If you’re especially sensitive to cold and heat, you may often experience toothaches. If this is the case, we can recommend a pain reliever to reduce the discomfort, but it’s worthwhile to come in for a check-up anyway to make sure the problem doesn’t get worse.

The last (and most obvious) reason for a toothache is a cavity. Depending on how bad it is, we might fill it or place a crown. The tricky thing with cavities is that sometimes you may not know you have one at all, especially when they’re just starting out. The best way to prevent them from getting worse and creating toothaches is by keeping up with your regular dental cleanings.

At Springs Family Dentistry, we’re here to assist you through any and all your dental emergencies! We encourage you to make an appointment at our Longwood, FL office if you notice any signs of discomfort, so we can provide the most efficient care for you.

Don’t Let Craze Lines Faze You

January 13th, 2021

You’re getting ready for a night out, or you’re checking to make sure you removed every bit of spinach after eating, or you’re practicing your best selfie smile . . . and suddenly, you see something alarming in the mirror—tiny cracks in your tooth enamel! Is this a dental emergency?

Almost always, the answer will be no.  Cracks like this are most likely “craze lines,” and craze lines are not serious cracks in your teeth. These diminutive flaws are shallow vertical cracks in the enamel which don’t go all the way through the tooth and don’t affect the tooth’s structural integrity. Like the crazing on a piece of glazed pottery, these tiny cracks are superficial, and the only reason for concern is cosmetic.

  • Cause for Crazing?

Time and normal wear on our enamel are the most common culprits. Years of biting and chewing are stressful.

But you can help prevent additional craze lines by avoiding bad habits which can put external stress on your teeth: nail biting, knocking on teeth with oral jewelry, crunching down on ice cubes, using your teeth to open bottle caps—in fact, using teeth for anything other than chewing food.

Grinding your teeth is also hard on your enamel. If you suffer with bruxism (the medical term for tooth grinding), ask Dr. Hawkins about a mouthguard or night guard. Eliminating the extra stress of unconscious grinding and clenching reduces the chances of craze lines. Even better, getting treated for bruxism can reduce the risk of serious pain and damage to your teeth and jaws.

  • Staining Can Make Craze Lines More Visible

Craze lines are often invisible unless the light is just right. However, you can make craze lines more noticeable if you drink coffee, tea, red wine, or dark sodas regularly. And if you need another reason to give up tobacco products, smoking, chewing, or any other use of tobacco can also darken craze lines.

Stains in craze lines don’t usually respond to brushing. You might be able to lighten stains with home or professional whitening. Ask Dr. Hawkins for the options which are best for your staining.

  • Repairing Craze Lines

Don’t let tiny flaws keep you from smiling! If you are unhappy with the appearance of your enamel, talk to us about possible treatments, including bonding and porcelain veneers.

  • When It’s More Than a Craze Line

While a craze line is generally nothing to be concerned about, a deep line, or a line which is getting bigger, might suggest a crack in the tooth. Cracks need to be assessed and treated to avoid damage not only to the exterior of the tooth, but to the pulp of the interior as well.

How can you tell the difference? Craze lines are not painful; a cracked tooth might be. Sensitivity to hot and cold foods, painful chewing, gums swollen around a tooth, pain when you bite down, a crack that is getting larger—any of these symptoms could be a sign that you have a cracked tooth. These are reasons to visit our Longwood, FL dental office ASAP.

Craze lines might be medically harmless, but if they impact your confidence, that’s a problem. Our team can help you change habits that are causing craze lines, remove staining, or repair cosmetic damage. If you’re not crazy about those craze lines, ask us for solutions that will bring back your confidant smile.

Going Green for the New Year

January 6th, 2021

Does your list of New Year’s resolutions for the coming months include reducing your ecological footprint? If so, let’s ring in the year with some basic—and some innovative—dental ideas to help you meet your goal.

  • Conserve Water

This is probably the easiest –and most cost effective!—item on our list. If you leave the water running while you brush, you are watching gallons of water go down the drain every day. Luckily, toothbrushes rely on wrist power rather than water power. Wet your brush before you begin, and use water only as needed to rinse. You’ll save hundreds of gallons of water every year.

And while we’re near your sink, if you like to rinse after brushing and flossing with disposable plastic cups, consider using compostable paper products or a regular drinking glass that you can clean after using.

  • Biodegradable/sustainable /recyclable toothbrushes

Some brushes promise to be completely compostable, with handles manufactured from sustainable woods or bamboo, and heads fitted with biodegradable boar bristles. Investigate before you buy, because boar bristles aren’t for everyone. Some users complain about the taste, and boar bristles are harsher than the soft bristles we recommend to protect your enamel and gums. Organic bristles are also more prone to bacteria growth.

If you prefer the consistency and texture of regular synthetic bristles, or wish to avid animal products, you can still opt for a brush with a handle of sustainable wood or bamboo. These brushes also offer PBA-free bristles, bristles made largely from castor oil, or bristles that use natural ingredients in combination with synthetics.

And don’t forget recycling as a possibility to cut down on your plastic use. Toothbrushes are available with handles made from recycled plastic. And once you’re finished with them, these brushes can be recycled again.

  • Biodegradable dental floss

This is another innovative take on dental supplies, and one that offers lots of new options. Regular dental floss is usually made from waxed nylon. Biodegradable floss, on the other hand, can be made of silk or plant materials, and coated with beeswax or plant-based wax. Some of these biodegradable flosses even come in refillable or compostable packaging.

  • Organic toothpaste

If you’re incorporating organic foods into your diet, you know that organic options are more easily available than ever before. And now there are more organic toothpastes available, as well. Natural toothpastes can be found which are vegan, fair-trade sourced, and preservative- and artificial ingredient-free.

Before you buy, though, do discuss your choices with Dr. Hawkins. Why? Because many natural toothpastes are formulated without fluoride, a mineral shown to prevent cavities in study after study. Which leads us to . . .

  • See Your Dentist Regularly for Checkups and Cleanings

Along with your daily dental hygiene routine, don’t forget to make regular appointments for examinations and professional cleanings at our Longwood, FL office. Dr. Hawkins can help you discover the best ideas for products and practices which are good for you and good for the planet, for a lifetime of natural, sustainable smiles.

A Brighter Smile for the New Year

December 30th, 2020

The beginning of a new year is the perfect opportunity for a fresh start for you and your smile. At Springs Family Dentistry, a brighter smile is quick and easy!

Given the latest in whitening technology, whiter teeth are only an appointment away. Teeth whitening is a safe, quick, and inexpensive way to create the dream smile you’ve always desired. We can offer a safe method that corrects tooth discolorations that may have been caused by staining, aging, or chemical effects.

So, start the new year off right and get a whiter smile today! Give us a call at our convenient Longwood, FL office to schedule an appointment!

Does Your Child Need Endodontic Treatment?

December 23rd, 2020

Baby teeth come with a built-in expiration date. That charming first smile is meant to make way for a healthy, beautiful adult smile. Unfortunately, before they are ready to make way for permanent teeth, primary teeth can be affected by decay, trauma, or infection—problems which can lead to damage to the pulp within the tooth. If your dentist tells you that your child’s tooth needs specialized endodontic treatment, is treatment really that much better for your child than losing a baby tooth prematurely?

Quite often, the answer is yes!

Baby teeth do much more than serve as temporary stand-ins for adult teeth. They are essential for:

  • Biting and chewing—a full set of baby teeth helps your child develop proper chewing, which leads to healthy digestion. And chewing also helps build face and jaw muscles.
  • Speech development—primary teeth help guide speech production and pronunciation.
  • Spacing—a baby tooth serves as a place holder for the adult tooth waiting to arrive. If a primary tooth is lost too early, the remaining baby teeth may drift from their proper location. This, in turn, can cause overcrowding or misalignment of the permanent teeth when they do erupt.

Baby teeth, like adult teeth, contain living pulp tissue. The pulp chamber inside the crown (the visible part of the tooth) and the root canals (inside each root) hold nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. When the pulp is damaged by trauma or infected, a baby tooth can still be saved with endodontic treatment. Endodontic treatment in baby teeth can take two forms.

  • “Vital” pulp is pulp that can be saved. Vital pulp therapy uses procedures to deal with damaged pulp inside the crown, or visible part, of the tooth. Pulp therapy can be used on teeth when only the top of the pulp has been affected by decay, limited exposure, infection, or trauma, but the root pulp remains healthy. Specific treatment will depend on the nature of the pulp injury, and a crown will usually be placed over the tooth after treatment to protect it.
  • With non-vital pulp, your dentist will probably recommend a traditional root canal procedure. All of the pulp tissue will be removed from inside the crown and the roots, and the pulp chamber and root canals will then be cleaned, disinfected, shaped, and filled. Finally, because the treated tooth will be more fragile, a crown will be used to protect the tooth from further damage.

There can be good reasons for extracting a seriously damaged baby tooth, and there are situations where preserving the tooth is the best and healthiest option for your child. Discuss your options with Dr. Hawkins when you visit our Longwood, FL office for the safest, most effective way to treat your child’s compromised tooth.

‘Tis the Season—for Healthy Dental Choices!

December 2nd, 2020

It might be the most wonderful time of the year, but if you’re dashing through the snow to an emergency dental appointment, you’re not feeling very jolly. And post-holiday, no one wants to start off their New Year’s Resolutions with “Get Cavities Filled.” How to survive the sweetest of seasons with enamel and fillings intact?

Candies and sweets would normally be on the naughty list, but we’re not Scrooges! Indulging in a treat or two is part of the holiday fun, and we have some advice for how to enjoy them guilt-free. But first, some treats are definitely more naughty than nice. Which are the ones that are better as decorations than desserts?

  • Candy Canes

If you’ve ever suffered a chipped or cracked tooth after an innocently biting down on a much-harder-than-expected piece of candy, you know that caution is in order. That’s why we tend to take our time with candy canes, letting them dissolve slowly in the mouth. Of course, the drawback to this strategy is that now we’re slowly bathing our teeth in sugar, encouraging the growth of plaque and cavity-causing bacteria.

Candy canes, peppermints, and other hard candies are potentially bad for your teeth when you crunch away, and definitely bad for your teeth if you let them dissolve slowly.

  • Gumdrops

Glistening, colorful gumdrops. Roofing your gingerbread house, trimming a gumdrop tree, or simply sitting in a bowl, they are one of the sweetest ways to decorate for the holidays. And when we say “sweet,” we mean that literally. Most gumdrops are basically made of corn syrup and sugar—and then rolled in more sugar.

But their sugar content isn’t the only problem. This is sugar in an extra-gummy form that sticks between our teeth and around our gums.

  • Toffees, Caramels, Taffy

They might come in lovely ribboned boxes, but these extremely sticky foods are not a gift to your teeth.

Not only do chewy candies stick to enamel, they stick to fillings, crowns (especially temporary crowns), and orthodontic wires and brackets. No one wants an unexpected trip to the dentist or orthodontist because dental work has been damaged or dislodged!

  • Gingerbread Houses

Nothing says the holidays like a gingerbread house—chewy, sticky gingerbread covered with hard sugar icing, gumdrops, and peppermints. Great for your décor; not so great for your dental health. Eat one gingerbread man if you’re in a spicy mood and leave your architectural masterpiece intact.

  • Fruitcake

If you need an excuse to turn down fruitcake, here’s a perfect one: most fruitcake is not great for your teeth. Candied fruit is, well, candied, and dried fruit is sugary, sticky, and chewy. There are delicious exceptions, of course, but even a delicious fruitcake is very high in sugar.

Well, this list wasn’t very jolly. So as a little holiday gift for you, here are some suggestions to help you enjoy your desserts in the healthiest way possible.

  • Be choosy.

Just like you search for the perfect presents for your family and friends, take the time to choose the perfect holiday treats for yourself. If you are worried about cavities, or have a temporary crown, or wear braces, or have cracked a tooth before, or are just generally concerned with your oral health, stay away from sticky, hard, and excessively sugary desserts.

What can you accept from your holiday hosts with a grateful (and relieved) smile? The occasional soft chocolate should be nothing to stress about—and if you make it dark chocolate, you’ll actually get nutritional bonuses like magnesium and antioxidants. Cakes, cupcakes, cookies, pies—yes, they are made with lots of sugar, but it is the holidays after all. Just be sure to follow our next suggestions to make that slice of cheesecake guilt-free.

  • Eat sweets with a meal.

Saliva does more than keep our mouths from getting dry. It also helps prevent cavities by washing away food particles and neutralizing the acids from food and bacteria, which damage enamel.

Eat dessert with a meal, and you benefit from increased mealtime saliva production. When you snack throughout the day, this acid-neutralizing ability is greatly reduced.

  • Rinse after eating.

Rinsing your mouth with water after a meal or a snack, especially a sugary one, also helps wash away the sticky sugars and carbs, which oral bacteria convert into acids.

  • Brush immediately. (Maybe.)

It’s always a good idea to brush right after eating—well, almost always. If you’ve been eating acidic foods like citrus or colas, the acids in the food can weaken your enamel just enough to cause some potential enamel damage if you scour your teeth immediately after eating. We often recommend waiting about 30 minutes to brush to give your enamel a chance to recover.

But every mouth is different. If you wear braces, or tend to get food stuck in your teeth or dental work, or have any other concerns, ask Dr. Hawkins for the best times and methods for holiday brushing.

You don’t want to ho-ho-hope that we can fit you in at our Longwood, FL office to treat a cavity or a cracked tooth. Make your holiday dessert list and check it twice, and make sure you’re brushing and flossing more often if you’re indulging in seasonal treats—give yourself these two gifts, and you’ll be ringing in the New Year with a beautiful, healthy smile. Sweet!

Three Surprising Causes of Bad Breath

November 25th, 2020

Rumor has it that the Queen of England doesn’t allow garlic in the palace. And, even if you have no royal duties in the near future, it might be a good idea to avoid foods like garlic and onion before a big presentation or a first date. But if your diet is filled with mint, fresh apples, and parsley and you still worry about your breath, here are some common causes for bad breath that you might not have considered.

  • A Slip of the Tongue

We brush and floss to remove food particles and bacteria. After all, bacteria that linger in the mouth produce acids that damage tooth enamel and cause bad breath. But there is one important brushing target you might be overlooking—your tongue.

Remove food particles and bacteria on the surface of the tongue with a gentle brushing after you have finished cleaning your teeth. With a dab of toothpaste, brush the top of your tongue gently from back to front. There are also tools called tongue scrapers available that are specifically designed to remove food particles and bacteria from the tongue’s surface. However you choose to clean your tongue, remember to move from the back to the front, and always clean gently.

  • A Dry Spell

We spend the vast majority of our day not brushing our teeth. What helps keep breath fresh even during the hours between brushings? Saliva! As saliva bathes the teeth throughout the day, it not only washes away food particles and bacteria, but also neutralizes the enamel-damaging acids that are produced by bacteria. Yet another benefit? Saliva is not a friendly environment for the oral bacteria that produce volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs). It is these compounds that cause most of the unpleasant odors we know as bad breath.

If you are drinking the recommended amount of water each day, you are helping your body produce saliva and fight bad breath. Sometimes, a medical condition called dry mouth, or xerostomia, interferes with saliva production. Talk to Dr. Hawkins about ways to deal with dry mouth. Solutions as simple as drinking more fluids or chewing sugarless gum can help, or we can suggest over-the-counter products or prescription medications if needed.

  • A Bad Night’s Sleep

We’re all familiar with the concept of morning breath. As we sleep, our saliva production naturally decreases. It’s like a nightly version of dry mouth. Without normal levels of saliva, bacterial growth takes off, VSC’s are produced in greater quantities, and we wake up wondering what on earth happened to that fresh feeling we had after brushing the night before.

Unfortunately for snorers, nighttime brings more problems. Snoring leads to mouth breathing, and mouth breathing creates an even drier environment where oral bacteria increase more quickly. If you find you are consistently waking up with an especially unpleasant case of morning breath, you could be a chronic snorer without even realizing it. If you discover or suspect you have a snoring problem, talk to Dr. Hawkins or your GP. Snoring can have serious health consequences, so let’s discuss possible solutions.

One important note to end on: if you have eliminated all the obvious causes of halitosis but still have persistent bad breath, give our Longwood, FL office a call. Chronic bad breath can be a symptom of serious gum disease, oral infections, illnesses such as diabetes or kidney disease, and other medical conditions that should be treated as soon as possible. If the topic is bad breath, let’s make sure garlic is the only thing you have to worry about.

What to Do for Your Loose Tooth

November 18th, 2020

One of the first exciting childhood experiences we outgrow is the excitement of discovering a loose tooth. Sadly, there’s no adult Tooth Fairy waiting to exchange a gift for a lost tooth, and, even worse, there’s no backup tooth all set to replace it.

If one of your permanent teeth is feeling a little less than permanent, don’t ignore the problem! Here are four things to do right away when you discover a loose tooth:

Eat Soft Foods

While you’ll probably automatically take caramels off the menu and ditch your chewing gum, crunchy foods such as nuts, chips, even apples can be a problem for a compromised tooth. Stick with soft foods and try to eat on the opposite side of your loose tooth.

Keep the Area Clean

The typical bacteria and food particles in your mouth won’t thoughtfully leave the area around your wiggly tooth untouched. But your normal brushing and flossing might be a little too much for a loose tooth. Gently rinsing with warm water should do the trick until you can see us.

Leave It Alone

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to do nothing. But when it comes to a loose tooth, please choose this course of (in)action. You might recall having a loose tooth as a child, and how you’d automatically wiggle it with your tongue or your fingers. But you’ll also remember what happened at the end of all that wiggling—your baby tooth fell out.

Teeth are held in place by ligaments attached to the alveolar bone in the jaw. When those ligaments or bone are damaged because of injury or infection, your tooth feels loose. Wiggling your tooth back and forth can cause further detachment and expose you to more bacteria. So even though it might be tempting, leave your tooth alone until you can see us.

Call Your Dentist Immediately

The most important tip of all! Call Dr. Hawkins at once if you notice a loose tooth. It’s important to discover not only the best treatment, but the reason for your loose tooth as well. A loose tooth can be caused by several different conditions, and none of them should be ignored.

  • A blow to your mouth

If your tooth, ligaments, or bone have suffered trauma, your dentist might be able to stabilize your loose tooth with a splint so that ligament and tissue can heal.

  • Gum disease

Periodontitis (severe gum disease) is a chronic condition. Pockets form between your gums and teeth that become home to bacteria and infection. Over time, periodontitis can destroy gum, ligament, and bone tissue. Left untreated, it leads to loose teeth and even tooth loss. Gum disease is reversable when caught early enough, and even in later stages can respond well to a variety of treatments.

  • Pregnancy

Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause the ligaments and bones around your teeth to loosen, and loose teeth are the result. While this situation is usually temporary, taking care of your teeth and gums is essential during pregnancy, and Dr. Hawkins will have many important recommendations for your dental health.

  • Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

Your jaw and teeth can exert hundreds of pounds of pressure. When you spend your sleep hours grinding them, that force is applied to your teeth and the ligaments holding them. Small wonder that bruxism can lead to loose teeth. Your dentist will have ideas to help you stop teeth grinding, from behavioral changes to custom night guards.

Osteoporosis, bite problems, oral cancer, and other conditions can also cause loose teeth. Any condition that causes loose teeth should always be evaluated immediately to prevent more serious medical or dental problems.

Sometimes a loose tooth can’t be saved, and a professional extraction is the best solution. But if there’s a chance to save your tooth, treating the tooth carefully and visiting our Longwood, FL office at once improve your odds considerably. Because there’s no adult Tooth Fairy, and really, no coins under a pillow will ever be as valuable as a beautiful, healthy smile.

Ease up on your gums — don’t brush your teeth too hard!

November 4th, 2020

A lot of patients go at their teeth like they were sanding an old floor—that is to say, way too hard! Brushing too hard is probably the most common mistake patients make in their oral care routine, and it can be detrimental to the gums and teeth.

What can brushing too hard cause?

  • Receding gums
  • Bone loss around teeth
  • Loss of teeth
  • Tooth sensitivity, especially to hot and cold
  • Worn down enamel

Brushing too hard wears away at your gums, which can lead to the neck of the teeth being exposed. This part of the tooth isn't covered by hard enamel like the rest of the tooth and hence the soft inner layer, or dentin, is exposed. Dentin is very sensitive to hot and cold and much more susceptible to bacterial decay. Once the gums recede due to improper brushing, it’s usually irreversible.

How to brush your teeth properly

You know you're supposed to brush your teeth twice a day, so why not do it right? First and foremost, you should only ever brush with a soft bristled brush—not medium or hard—unless directed otherwise by Dr. Hawkins. Unless you have braces or specific oral health issues, brushing twice a day for two minutes is usually plenty.

The main purpose of brushing is to remove plaque from your teeth and gums. Plaque is actually soft and is a buildup of bacteria, saliva, and food debris. You really don't need to brush hard to remove it, just make sure you aim your toothbrush at the gum line (where plaque grows) and brush in small circular motions, never a back-and-forth motion.

It's also wise to hold your toothbrush gently. People tend to brush harder the tighter they hold their toothbrush.

Still have questions about proper tooth brushing technique or gum health? Ask any staff member or Dr. Hawkins during your next visit to our Longwood, FL office; we'd be happy to help!

Is sleep apnea linked to cancer? Studies say, ‘Yes’.

October 21st, 2020

Recently, multiple studies have concluded that people with sleep apnea, a disorder that causes snoring, fatigue, and dangerous gaps in breathing at night due to throat muscles collapsing, are five times more likely to develop cancer. In fact, one of the studies found that people with the most severe forms of sleep apnea had a 65 percent greater risk of developing cancer of any kind.

Researchers believe this could be due to the body lacking enough oxygen, a condition known as hypoxemia. When people are deprived of oxygen, their bodies react by producing more blood vessels, which can feed cancer cells, and as a result cause tumors to grow and spread.

Approximately 28 million North Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with many cases going undiagnosed. This is due to most cancer patients not mentioning any sleep problems they experience unless their physician asks them.

Patients at Springs Family Dentistry who suffer from sleep apnea can be treated using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which produces a stream of air to keep the upper airways open while you sleep. An oral appliance may be another option if CPAP therapy isn’t an option. If you have sleep apnea, Dr. Hawkins and our team will help you understand all of your treatment options, finding one that suits your needs.

If you think you may have sleep apnea, please give us a call at our Longwood, FL office to schedule an appointment.

Dental Anxiety: Nitrous Oxide

October 14th, 2020

Dental anxiety is a very common experience: people postpone checkups, live with tooth pain, or suffer anxiety all through each appointment. Knowing that you share this problem with many others might be comforting, but it isn’t very helpful. If you suffer from mild to moderate anxiety, talk to Dr. Hawkins! Nitrous oxide sedation might be the answer.

  • What is nitrous oxide?

Often referred to as “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide has been used since the 1800’s in dental procedures. Today, it is a safe and common form of inhalation sedation, and we are trained in its uses and administration. Our equipment is designed to provide a precise mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen gases inhaled through a face mask that you will wear throughout the procedure. Just breathe normally, and you will feel calmer within minutes.

  • Relaxed and Aware

Nitrous oxide provides the lightest form of dental sedation. This type of anesthesia is called “conscious sedation” because you will remain awake, relaxed, and able to respond to instructions. We can control the timing of the sedation easily, as it takes effect right away and leaves your system quickly when you stop inhaling the gas. We can also control the level of sedation as needed, so it will not wear off during longer procedures.

  • Convenient Recovery Time

One of the biggest advantages of choosing nitrous oxide sedation is its remarkably quick recovery time. With pills or IV sedation, you might need several hours before and after the procedure both to allow these sedatives to take effect and for recovery time when you’re done. You should also have someone available to drive you to and from the appointment. Nitrous oxide, on the other hand, is used only at the time of the procedure and begins leaving your system as soon as you finish inhaling it. You will be able to resume your normal activities almost immediately.

We believe your dental experience should be as relaxing and stress-free as possible. Talk to us about the types of dental sedation available at our Longwood, FL office, and we will work with you to decide on the best possible option. If you have mild to moderate levels of anxiety, wish to remain awake and relaxed throughout your visit, and want a brief recovery time from sedation, nitrous oxide could be the ideal sedation choice for you.

Are dental implants painful? What You Need to Know

September 30th, 2020

Whether it is the result of tooth decay, gum disease, or injury, millions of people suffer tooth loss. Dental implants provide a strong replacement tooth root for fixed replacement teeth that are designed to match your natural teeth. Of course, there is one question all patients have about dental implants: are they painful?

Dental implant placement is performed under local or general anesthesia and is not considered a painful procedure. However, if the surgery is more complicated and involves bone or tissue grafts, there may be slightly more discomfort and swelling. At the same time, every patient has a different threshold for pain, so what may bother one person may not bother another. If you experience any pain from dental implants, there are several things can do to relive it.

Relieving Pain from Dental Implants

1. The initial healing phase can last up to seven to ten days. Over-the-counter painkillers such as Tylenol, Ibuprofen, and Motrin work well to alleviate any pain or discomfort you may experience. However, only take these if instructed to by Dr. Hawkins.

2. Once you leave our Longwood, FL office, you can reduce inflammation and any swelling to your cheek or lip by holding an ice-pack on your face over the implant area.

3. Your gum will be tender for the first few days. We often recommended that you bathe your gums with warm salt water.

4. Steer clear of crusty or hard foods for the first day or two. Ice cream, yogurt, and other soft foods are ideal as your gums will be tender.

5. Dental implants are a relatively straightforward oral procedure. Many people take time off from work to have dental implant surgery, and then return to regular activities. However, if you are feeling any pain or discomfort, there is nothing wrong with taking the day off, relaxing, and putting your feet up.

There is typically no severe post-operative pain with dental implants. When most people return for a follow-up appointment about two weeks later, they often say that getting a dental implant was one of the least painful procedures they’ve experienced.

Whitening an Artificial Tooth

September 23rd, 2020

It’s a bit of a contradiction: you are justifiably proud of your beautiful dental work, but you don’t want it to be obvious when you smile. Dental prosthetics such as veneers and crowns should blend perfectly with your natural teeth. If you have noticed your veneers are a different shade than your other teeth, or have a crown that is visibly darker than the teeth surrounding it, you are probably wondering if there is any way to lighten and whiten an artificial tooth surface. There is no one right answer, but let’s examine a few common scenarios to find the best solution for you.

If You Haven’t Started Your Dental Work and Want a Whiter Smile

If you are planning on getting a veneer or a crown, it’s best to take advantage of teeth whitening before you have the work done. Choosing a shade of bright white for your veneers and then trying to whiten your natural teeth to match it afterward is almost impossible. It’s a good idea to talk to us about whitening beforehand, and, if this is the best way to achieve the look you want, Dr. Hawkins can match the color of your new prosthetic to your newly whitened smile. The goal is to make your new veneer or crown a perfect match to your natural teeth.

If You Have Existing Veneers, Crowns, or Other Artificial Surfaces

Porcelain veneers cannot be whitened, but the good news here is that they don’t stain the way natural teeth do. Unlike our teeth, porcelain is non-porous, so it is very difficult for typical culprits such as coffee, tea, or red wine to have as much effect. Any surface stains that appear can usually be gently removed with a professional cleaning and polishing, where we will take care not to scratch the delicate surface of the veneer. Porcelain crowns and implants, like veneers, can be brightened with a professional surface cleaning, but their original color cannot be changed.

Composite veneers and composites used in dental bonding are more porous and therefore more likely to stain. They are also immune to whitening, but might respond somewhat to a careful professional polishing at our Longwood, FL office.

Finally, if the color of your existing dental prosthetics is a concern, replacement is an option we can consider together.

Whether you have existing veneers and crowns or are planning future dental work, please talk with us about achieving a seamless blend of old and new for a beautiful, natural smile. It’s a bit of a contradiction: the best work is the work no one notices!

What are the advantages of dental implants?

September 16th, 2020

Losing a tooth can affect a lot more than just the look of your smile. Missing teeth affect your ability to chew and can also cause problems for your other teeth. It is essential to replace missing teeth in order to maintain oral health as well as your overall well-being. Dental implants are an excellent option to replace your natural tooth and its root without affecting your neighboring teeth, and are available from Dr. Hawkins.

Why choose dental implants?

There are many reasons to choose dental implants to replace your lost or damaged teeth. According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, dental implants are often considered more predictable than other treatment options and are known to provide long-term successful outcomes.

Dental implants provide many benefits over other treatments such as bridgework and dentures:

  • Unlike other treatment options for missing teeth, dental implants allow Dr. Hawkins to replace your tooth without impacting the healthy teeth surrounding the space.
  • Dental implants also protect healthy bone by preventing potential bone loss and deterioration in the jaw.
  • This treatment option allows you to speak and eat normally without worrying about slippery or uncomfortable removable dentures.
  • The closest thing to natural teeth, dental implants allow you to maintain your smile and natural face shape.
  • These implants are built to last, providing you with a long-term solution to missing teeth.

Overall, dental implants are the next best thing to natural, healthy teeth. Choosing to undergo surgery to replace your lost or damaged teeth is an important decision. To avoid the issues caused by lost teeth, consult Dr. Hawkins or visit our Longwood, FL office to see if you are a candidate for dental implants.

Does the placement of implants hurt?

September 9th, 2020

If you're scheduled to get a dental implant, it's only natural to have questions about it. The pain involved is usually on the mind of most patients. Of course, some discomfort is possible, as with any major dental procedure. Having a well-defined plan ahead of time, which is carried out by Dr. Hawkins, reduces the risk of complications or side effects post-surgery.

During the procedure you won't feel a thing, since it is performed under general or local anesthesia that totally numbs your mouth. It's more likely that you will feel some pain or discomfort after the anesthesia has worn off.

There are usually three things that will affect the length and intensity of any discomfort:

  • The complexity of your surgery (for example if you need a bone graft or sinus lift beforehand)
  • How well-trained the dental team which works on your case is (it may be multiple people, including a periodontist, oral surgeon, and/or general dentist)
  • How quickly your body is able to heal itself post-surgery

The pain experienced from an untreated case will usually far outweigh that experienced from a dental implant. Good oral hygiene after your surgery is important to avoid infection. Salt water rinses are generally recommended 24 hours after your surgery. Brush your teeth gently around the implant.

It's also a good idea not to eat any food that is too hot, cold, or hard. Soft or pureed foods will help you to avoid chewing for the first few days after surgery and will help your mouth to heal faster. You'll typically be prescribed pain medication, but some patients find that ibuprofen or acetaminophen work well enough. Just remember, the most severe discomfort is usually experienced within the six hours after your anesthesia wears off.

Getting a dental implant is a big decision, and we want to make sure you get through it easily. Our Longwood, FL team is here to help if you have any questions about the procedure or post-surgery care.

Keep Those Teeth Shipshape, Matey!

September 2nd, 2020

September 19th is just around the corner, and you know what that means—Aye, matey, it’s “Talk Like a Pirate Day”! Why do we have a “Talk Like a Pirate Day” and not a “Take Care of Your Teeth Like a Pirate Day”? You don’t need a treasure map to find the answers!

  • High Seas Hygiene

The toothbrush as we know it, with easy to clean nylon bristles, was invented less than 100 years ago. Even toothbrushes with animal bristles weren’t easily available until a century after pirates sailed the seas. If pirates brushed at all, they probably used rags or twigs with frayed ends to clean their teeth. And rags and twigs just can’t take care of plaque the way careful brushing and flossing can.

Two minutes brushing in the morning and two minutes at night, with careful flossing each day, will help keep your teeth as white as a chest of pearls—and healthy to boot!

  • Dastardly Diet

Pirates were a scurvy lot—literally. Scurvy is a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C, a vitamin found in fresh fruits and vegetables. One of the many unpleasant symptoms of scurvy is bleeding, swollen gums. As you can imagine, months at sea on a pirate ship provided very few chances for fresh fruit and vegetables. As a result, sailors often had to live with gum pain and even tooth loss from serious gum disease.

We now know that eating a healthy diet is a key to oral health. In fact, it was a British naval doctor who discovered that bringing oranges, lemons, and limes aboard sailing vessels prevented scurvy—but sadly for our pirate crew, this discovery happened several decades after the Golden Age of Piracy. Fortunately, you have access to a bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Eat a diet rich in vitamins and minerals, and your teeth and gums will be all the better for it.

It’s not looking too good for our pirate crew, but let’s look on the bright side—even if a pirate did get a cavity or suffer gum disease, he could always see the ship’s dentist, couldn’t he?

  • Ship’s Dentist—Arrrr You Kidding?

If a pirate had a bad cavity, his best treatment option would probably be to ask a fellow pirate to pull the tooth. If a pirate needed a root canal, his best treatment option would probably be to ask a fellow pirate to pull the tooth. If a pirate had a cracked tooth, his best… well, you get the picture.

Luckily, it’s a different world today. Now we have dentists with years of education and training, modern tools and equipment, and the very best medical knowledge to treat all of our dental problems, big and small. See your dentist at least twice a year for exams and cleanings, and you will reap the bountiful rewards of regular, professional, proactive care.

Being a pirate for a day is fun. We all enjoy tales of a good treasure hunt. But you already have a treasure that most pirates could never hope to have—healthy teeth and healthy gums! And with proper care, this treasure can last a lifetime. Until next September 19th, fair winds and good checkups at our Longwood, FL office be yours, matey!

Periodontics and Braces Treatment

August 26th, 2020

Most people think braces are all about their teeth. While it is true orthodontics is meant to move your teeth into proper position, there's more to it than that. To safely move your teeth with braces, you're going to need healthy and stable gums (or periodontium—the tissues that support your teeth).

For this reason it's critical to have your periodontal health evaluated prior to getting braces. This applies particularly to adults, since a 2013 study by the Center For Disease Control found that an estimated 47.2% of adults 30 years of age and older had periodontitis (gum disease). If you do have periodontitis, moving your teeth with braces will only make things worse.

Conversely, there is also risk for periodontal disease if you don't get orthodontic treatment. Malocclusion, as well as crooked and spaced teeth, can all contribute to periodontal disease. In these situations your teeth and gums are more difficult to clean and become breeding grounds for disease causing bacteria. Bad oral hygiene combined with these traits can greatly contribute to the development of periodontitis.

So, periodontics and braces have a tricky relationship. On one hand, you shouldn't get braces if you show signs of developing or have periodontitis, while on the other hand, braces can help prevent the possibility of developing periodontitis by correcting the bite and straightening the teeth.

If you are 30 years of age or older and are considering getting braces, it would be wise to first:

  • Let Dr. Hawkins know about your desire to get braces
  • Get an exam to make sure you're in good periodontal health and a good candidate for braces
  • If you are a good candidate, keep an eye on your teeth and gums and get regular dental checkups throughout your entire course of treatment.

If you are in any doubt about the status of your teeth and gums, it's always best to get them checked before embarking with braces treatment. For more information or to have your periodontal health assessed for braces treatment, please contact our Longwood, FL office.

Implants: Why It’s Important to Replace Missing Teeth

August 19th, 2020

Sometimes, despite our best care, we lose a tooth. If it is a front tooth, it will probably be a high priority to replace. But if a missing tooth doesn’t show when we smile, what’s the hurry? Let’s look at the reasons why prompt replacement with an implant is always a good idea, no matter which tooth is involved.

Appearance

Implants look like natural, individual teeth, but that is not the only aesthetic reason to replace a lost tooth. Without some type of tooth replacement, missing teeth can eventually affect the structure of our jawbones and change our facial appearance. Cheeks, lips, profiles—all are impacted by the changes in our bones resulting from tooth loss.

Better Bite

Nature abhors a vacuum, and so do our teeth. When a space is left by a missing tooth, the teeth around it might shift positions, affecting the even pattern of our bite. And without a tooth to keep it in place, a tooth above or below the missing one might begin to grow longer to fill the void in your bite. This lengthening, in turn, can cause even more bite problems.

Chewing

With the loss of only a single tooth, there is a negative impact on the remaining teeth. More pressure is placed on the other teeth in order to chew properly, front teeth not meant for chewing might need to be used for that purpose, or food is not chewed as thoroughly as it should be. The first two problems are not healthy for our teeth, and the last one is not healthy for digestion!

Don’t Delay

Changes in bite and chewing problems probably won’t happen overnight, so is putting off the process really a big deal? It can be! Time is not on our side when a tooth is lost. The bone tissue which supports our teeth needs the stimulation of biting and chewing to stay healthy. Without that stimulation, the bone area under the missing tooth gradually shrinks. If there is not enough bone area left, you might need surgical bone grafting to achieve the right bone height to hold an implant, or it could lead to the impossibility of placing an implant at all.

Expense

Replacing a lost tooth quickly requires less restoration of the gums and bone in the future and prevents other serious problems from developing.

We could continue through the alphabet, but instead, come talk to Dr. Hawkins about all the reasons a tooth implant might be your best option. Whether you have already lost a tooth, or if you have an extraction scheduled at our Longwood, FL office, we are happy to recommend the best procedure at just the right time to make your smile beautiful, healthy, and complete!

Root Canal Procedure

August 12th, 2020

Five words no one welcomes: “You need a root canal.” But if you are delaying treatment because you are worried about pain and an uncomfortable day in the dentist’s chair, please think again! Modern root canal procedures are designed to repair your damaged tooth gently and efficiently, and leave you with a restored natural tooth that can last a lifetime.

  • Why might you need a root canal?

First, a little tooth biology. Each tooth has a crown (the part we see above the gums) and one or more roots (the part of our tooth below the gum line that is attached to bone in our jaw). The tooth has three basic layers: the hard enamel and cementum that cover the outer crown and root, the softer dentin beneath that layer, and, on the inside, the pulp. Pulp is made of living tissue, and contains the blood vessels and nerves that nourish the tooth and keep it vital.

Even with the protection the enamel and dentin provide, sometimes the pulp can be infected or damaged. If you have suffered an injury to your mouth or jaw, or an infection has developed from an opening in the tooth caused by a deep cavity or crack, you may need a root canal to prevent further infection, pain, and even tooth loss. Call our Longwood, FL office immediately if you feel pain with chewing or pressure, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, swollen, and tender gums around a tooth, or tooth discoloration.

  • The Root Canal Procedure

If a root canal is necessary, the procedure is very straightforward. After the area around the tooth is numbed, we will make an opening in the crown to allow access to the pulp inside. Very small instruments will be used to clean the inner tooth and removed bacteria and dead or dying tissue. The area will be thoroughly disinfected, and the inside of the tooth shaped and then filled and sealed. A temporary filling or crown might be placed on the tooth to prevent bacteria and food from entering the site if a permanent crown needs to be created. The entire process usually takes from one to three visits.

If we suggest a root canal, it is because this is the best way to save your tooth. Please feel free to talk to us about your particular needs and concerns. Which tooth is affected, how many roots are involved, what type of filling or crown might be best—we will work with you to provide all the information you need and all the options you have available.

Common Concerns

  • Are you concerned about pain?

The most painful part of a root canal is often the severe discomfort your tooth causes before treatment. And infections and damaged nerves can affect not only the injured tooth, but the gums, tissue and even bone surrounding it. With our modern dental techniques, a root canal procedure is often no more uncomfortable than a regular filling. The local anesthetic we use will prevent you from feeling any pain during the procedure, and, while the area around your tooth might be a bit sensitive following treatment, the pain caused by the infection or injury should be gone.

  • Are you anxious about the procedure?

If dental treatment causes you anxiety, please let us know. There are several sedation options we can pursue to make this procedure less worrisome. Our goal is to make your treatment as gentle and comfortable as possible.

No one welcomes the news that a root canal is necessary, but with today’s procedures, this treatment can be just what you need to relieve your pain and keep your natural tooth where it belongs for many years to come. And that is welcome news, indeed!

Most Valuable Dental Treatments

August 5th, 2020

At Springs Family Dentistry, we work to find a dental plan that will work best and most effectively for you. But we’ve found that three treatments tend to be the most common and useful. If you ever find yourself in any of the following situations, we suggest you look at these options.

If you’ve lost teeth due to trauma, fracture, or decay, dental implants are a great choice. With all the technology available to us now, dental implants look and function exactly the way a natural tooth would. They blend in perfectly and are custom made to fit you. They’re a great investment that will restore the balance to your smile.

If you struggle with stress and catch yourself clenching or grinding your jaw, you may want to consider a bite guard. Constant grinding of teeth is dangerous for fillings and crowns, as well as natural teeth. It can cause serious joint inflammation as well as headaches. Luckily, bite guards can be worn night or day (depending on what you need), and are a great way to prevent further grinding.

Finally, there’s teeth whitening. It’s not uncommon for patients to want to brighten their smile, and the best way to do it by far is with in-office tooth whitening. There are many DIY options out there, of course, but in-office whitening has greater benefits.

When the whitening gel is applied to your teeth, we make sure your gums are protected. The results are generally faster and last longer with this approach, as well. Other methods may work, but they typically don’t last as long; sometimes they may not fully whiten all areas of your teeth.

No treatment is as easy and free of challenges as it seems. You still have to care for implants like regular teeth, which means no skimping on brushing and flossing just because they’re fake. Bite guards must be worn regularly to be effective. They also must be customized for your teeth; otherwise, they can be uncomfortable.

Whitening may cause temporary sensitivity in some mouths. For others, genetics may prevent you from achieving the precise shade you want.

If you have additional questions, feel free to call our Longwood, FL office. Our team is here to help you achieve your best possible smile!

Why Baby Teeth Matter

July 29th, 2020

Sleepless nights, crankiness, drooling—how can such tiny teeth cause such a big fuss? But all those uncomfortable days and nights are forgotten when your baby’s first teeth make their appearance. Why? Well, certainly because your child is happier, but also because you know baby teeth, or primary teeth, are important for your child’s growth in so many different ways.

  • Chewing and Eating

Your baby might enjoy solid foods at an early age, but real chewing doesn’t happen until all the baby molars appear between the ages of one to three years. This is the time to feed children size-appropriate and texture-appropriate foods so they acquire proper chewing and eating habits for healthy digestion. Chewing also helps develop your child’s jaw and facial muscles.

  • Developing Speech

Pronouncing many of the common sounds used in speech often requires tongue and teeth working together. If teeth are missing or there is a bite problem such as an open bite, it might be more difficult to pronounce words properly. This could be only a temporary delay, or it could require speech therapy when your child is older.

  • Setting the Stage for Permanent Teeth

Baby teeth not only help with speech and jaw development, but they serve as space holders for permanent teeth. If a primary tooth is lost too early, a permanent tooth might “drift” into the empty space. The adult tooth will not have the room to fit where it should, and crowding or misalignment can occur. This might cause orthodontic problems in the future.

  • Learning Healthy Dental Habits

You are your baby’s first dental health care provider! Wiping the gums and erupting teeth with a soft damp cloth after meals, gently brushing baby teeth when your toddler is young, teaching how to brush as your child gets older, helping to establish daily routines for brushing—all these practices will prepare your child for lifelong healthy dental habits.

  • Making the Dentist a Regular Part of Your Child’s Life

Your child should visit our Longwood, FL office soon after that first tooth comes in, and definitely by the age of 12 months. Dr. Hawkins can help with suggestions for your brushing and flossing routine, make sure your child’s teeth are healthy and clean, and ensure that teething progress is on track. In later visits, we will examine your child’s primary teeth and gums, and treat any problems, such as cavities, before they can become serious.

It turns out that baby teeth really are a big deal. Talk to us about suggestions for caring for your toddler’s teeth and about any questions you may have about teething progress, jaw and facial structure, speech development, or any other concerns at any time. We want to have a happy relationship with your child from the very start for a lifetime of healthy and confident smiles.

Can my body reject my dental implant?

July 15th, 2020

According to the International Congress of Oral Implantologists it is rare that your body will reject your dental implants. However, this does not mean that your dental implant will not fail. A successful dental implant is one that is placed in healthy bone and is properly cared for after the surgery takes place.

There is only one major reason why a dental implant would be rejected: a titanium allergy. The majority of dental implants are made with titanium because it has proven to be the most biologically compatible of all metals. On average, less than one percent of potential dental implant recipients reported an allergy to titanium.

Dental Implant Failure

The most common cause of dental implant failure in the upper and lower jaw is bacteria. Everyone has bacteria in their mouth. If you have bacteria in your jawbone at the time of your dental implant, it can spread from implant to implant, causing dental implant failure.

If you do not take proper care of your dental implants, that could also cause them to fail. You also have to take proper care of the implant and keep your mouth clean. The development of excessive bacteria around the implant and in surrounding tissues can lead to implant failure.

Teeth grinding is another reason dental implants fail. When you grind your teeth, it can move the implants out of position. Therefore, you should wear a mouthpiece when you go to sleep if you know you grind or clench.

If you take care of your implants by practicing good oral hygiene and visit our Longwood, FL office, you should not have any problems with your new dental implants. As always, ask Dr. Hawkins about any questions or concerns you have about you dental implants.

Zirconia Dental Implants

July 8th, 2020

Since dental implants first started being implemented in the 1980s, they have been primarily made of titanium. Recent advances in implant technology have allowed dental implant manufacturers to shift from all-metal implants, to part-metal and part-ceramic implants, to the newer all-ceramic or zirconia implants.

Zirconia implants are made of high-impact resistant ceramic called tetragonal zirconia polycrystal (ZrO2+Y2O3). They remedy many of the issues and complaints doctors and patients have with traditional metal implants and have several advantages—let’s take a look at some of them.

Advantages of Zirconia Implants

  • Do not cause allergic reactions – Although titanium is considered non-toxic, some people still have allergic reactions to titanium. Zirconia implants are inert, non-corrosive, and hypoallergenic.
  • Have been used for decades in medical applications – Millions of patients have had zirconia used safely and effectively as the base material for their hip replacements. The zirconia used for medical applications also undergoes strict radiation monitoring to ensure its safety for use within the body.
  • They are incredibly strong – Unlike titanium implants, zirconia offers a much higher degree of resistance to scratching, corrosion, and fracture. The aerospace industry even uses zirconia (ZrO2) due to its high resistance to heat and fracture. This all means a safer and more aesthetically pleasing result for the patient.
  • One-piece design is more hygienic – Zirconia implants are a one-piece design, meaning there is nowhere for bacteria to build up or liquids to penetrate like with titanium implants. They are highly biocompatible (how a material reacts with the human body) which leads to healthier gums and no risk of corrosion.
  • Implant margin is at gum not bone level – With titanium implants the margin (or gap between the implant and the tooth) is at bone level, which can lead to bacterial buildup since you can’t brush there. The zirconia implant margin, which is at gum level, allows you to brush and clean your implant and restoration regularly.

If you are in need of a restorative dental implant, it would be wise to consider zirconia due to its many advantages. It might not work in every situation, but feel free to discuss your options with Dr. Hawkins or one of our Longwood, FL staff members.

Summer Sports and Mouthguards

July 1st, 2020

School’s out and you’ve emptied your gym locker until next fall. But while you’re stowing away the football gear, the basketball warm-ups, the field hockey sticks, and all the other equipment you’ve collected over the school year (that’s where that other shoe went!), be sure to keep one item handy: your mouthguard.

Team and contact sports like football, basketball, and wrestling aren’t the only potential dental dangers. In fact, almost any sport or activity can be made safer when you use your mouthguard.  While you’re keeping active and fit in the summer months, remember to look out for your smile.

  • Sports on wheels

Biking, skate boarding, rollerblading—it only takes one fall to make you realize that roads, sidewalks, and concrete are not ideal landing pads. If you do take a spill, using a mouthguard, along with your helmet, will help protect your teeth and jaw.

  • Court sports

Handball and tennis are not what we consider contact sports, but an unexpected bounce from a ball, or a completely unexpected backhand from your partner, can lead to dental injuries. Ace your workout and wear a mouthguard.

  • Water sports

A fall in the water can lead to a collision with your surfboard or water skis, and water polo often seems to be a game of stamina, accuracy and elbows. Wear your mouthguard on land and sea, and help reduce your chance of dental injury.

  • Team sports

Anyone who has played summer league baseball, softball or soccer knows that occasional contact with other players is pretty much a given. Cushioning your head, mouth, and teeth with a mouthguard will not only protect you, but keep you in the game—and your teammates will appreciate that!

If you already use a mouthguard, keep up the good work! If you don’t, talk to Dr. Hawkins about the importance of protecting your smile with a mouthguard. There are ready-made options available at drug stores and sporting goods shops. These will provide protection to your mouth and teeth, but can sometimes be bulky and uncomfortable and should never be used with braces. If you would like a mouth protector that provides the best fit and comfort, or if you wear braces, we can customize a mouthguard in our Longwood, FL office that will be a perfect fit for your teeth and bite.

Whatever activity you choose, play it smart! Don’t gear up without your mouthguard, and you’ll greet next year’s classes energized, fit, and sporting a beautiful smile!

What NOT to Eat after Wisdom Teeth Extraction

June 24th, 2020

Now that you’re having your wisdom teeth removed at our Longwood, FL office, you’re probably looking forward to spending a few days on the couch with a cool dish of ice cream in hand. Good! Give yourself time to heal, and choose foods that will be soothing and safe for your mouth as you recover. We’ll provide you with detailed instructions on how to take care of yourself immediately after your surgery, and that includes suggesting the best menu options.

But while you’re making your post-wisdom teeth shopping list, there are several kinds of foods and beverages that should be crossed right off. If it’s small, spicy, sticky, or steamy, put it back on the shelf. Spirits? Not this round. Drinks with straws? Absolutely not. Items like these can undermine your healing and recovery.

  • Small and Crunchy

Any small particles, such as seeds or grains, or items like cookies, crackers, nuts, and popcorn which turn into small particles, can wind up lodged in the surgical site where your tooth was removed. These particles can also interfere with the blood clot that forms to protect the socket as it heals. If the clot is dislodged, there is a chance that a painful condition called “dry socket” can develop.

  • Spicy

Spicy and acidic foods can irritate delicate gum tissue. It’s best to wait until your gums are back to normal before uncapping the hot sauce.

  • Sticky

Sticky, crunchy, and chewy foods can be hard on the extraction site, so stick to a soft diet until you have healed. Now is the time to try all the pudding flavors!

  • Steamy

Piping hot foods and drinks can interfere with the protective clot—ask us about the best time to resume your morning coffee.

  • Spirits

Mixing pain medication and alcohol can be dangerous. Talk to Dr. Hawkins about possible interactions. And some studies have suggested that alcohol use slows healing, so even without pain medication, it could be a good idea to wait until you are healed to toast your beautiful smile.

  • Straws

And last, but by no means least, leave the straws in their little paper wrappers! Any kind of suction brings a real risk of dislodging the protective blood clot that has formed at the surgical site. Milkshakes are delicious, but eat them with a spoon. (And please, no cigarettes!)

Follow our suggestions for a soothing, safe diet, and you will be enjoying your regular menu favorites in no time. So rest, relax, eat sensibly, and enjoy that second bowl of ice cream. Doctor’s orders!

Baby Teeth and Cavities

June 17th, 2020

We know how frustrating it can be to discover your child has one or more cavities when you come to visit Springs Family Dentistry. There are several ways to prevent baby teeth from forming cavities due to decay. Not to worry: If your child does develop a cavity on a baby tooth, Dr. Hawkins can help take care of the problem.

Let’s look at how cavities on your little one’s teeth can be prevented from developing in the first place. Most often, children suffer decay from eating sugary foods. You may think, “My child doesn’t eat lots of candy!” In truth, fruits and juices have plenty of natural sugars that can break down teeth if they aren’t brushed thoroughly.

A well-balanced diet that includes calcium and phosphorous is necessary to keep your child’s oral health in a good state. If your son or daughter drinks juice, avoid giving it before bedtime and dilute the juice with water. Good options for snacks include vegetables, low-sugar yogurt or dairy products, and plenty of milk for healthy teeth.

Another excellent preventive strategy consists of scheduling regular appointments with Dr. Hawkins for your child. Between your youngster’s annual cleanings, make sure he or she brushes and flosses every day. It’s worthwhile for your little one to brush thoroughly for at least two minutes to remove any decay or plaque that has accumulated in the mouth, especially before bedtime.

Brushing Techniques

  • Move the brush both back and forth, and in circular gentle strokes.
  • Brush the outer surfaces, inside surfaces, and chewing surfaces of all teeth.
  • Place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums.
  • Brush the tongue to remove excess bacteria and keep breath fresh.

It’s not always possible to prevent cavities from appearing in your son or daughter’s mouth. If your child does develop a cavity, our staff will notify you during the regular scheduled cleaning.

The cavity will need to be eliminated, even when it appears on a baby tooth. Our staff will remove the decayed part of the tooth and fill in the hole so your child doesn’t have to experience any pain.

You may wonder why a baby tooth has to be fixed if it is eventually going to fall out. Baby teeth hold spaces where your child’s permanent teeth have to grow in. If the former aren’t taken care of, multiple teeth may shift and the permanent ones won’t be able to grow in properly.

If you still have questions or concerns about your child’s baby teeth, or notice signs of a cavity, please don’t hesitate to contact our Longwood, FL office and schedule an appointment. Remember, preventive steps can be taken to avoid bothersome cavities from forming in your child’s mouth.

Does getting a dental implant hurt?

June 10th, 2020

Getting a dental implant is a surgical procedure and everyone’s pain tolerance level is different. Therefore, what one person may perceive as pain is only a slight discomfort for another person. The general consensus about pain and dental implants is that the majority of people feel discomfort, not pain.

A dental implant is a complex procedure. Let’s take a look at what may cause discomfort:

  • Some people may find that having the IV put in is uncomfortable, especially if the healthcare worker has to try more than once. If you have a fear of needles or if you have anxiety about the procedure, we can prescribe a sedative, which you take before you arrive.
  • Of course, during the dental implant surgery, you will be asleep. Therefore, you will not feel any pain or discomfort at all.
  • When you awake from the surgery, your mouth should still be numb. In many cases, we can give you a “block” – it is basically a 24-hour pain medication, so you will not feel any pain or discomfort at all.
  • We will also provide you with a prescription for a strong pain killer, and you will most likely sleep while you are taking them. If you are still in pain, do not take more than is prescribed without calling us first. You will need someone to stay with you for 24 hours after the surgery, and they will be instructed on how to give you any prescription medication. The anesthesia tends to make people a bit loopy and forgetful the first 24 hours.
  • After the first 24 hours you may feel some discomfort. The most important thing you can do is take your pain medication regularly, whether you are taking the prescription medication or an over-the-counter pain reliever such as Tylenol or Advil.
  • You should not need pain medication for more than the first few days.

Most people do say there mouth is sore and they have to be careful what they eat, so it’s best to stick to soft foods. If you have any additional questions, please contact our Longwood, FL office and speak with Dr. Hawkins.

Summer Treats for Healthy Teeth

June 3rd, 2020

School’s out for the summer, and it’s great to have the kids home. After all, they deserve a break after all their hard work. And you want to keep their vacation happy, relaxing, and fun—without letting them spend those summer months cooling off with sugary treats. What are some of your options for healthy hot weather snacks?

  • Naturally Sweet Treats

Keep a supply of fresh fruit handy for summer snacking. Crispy fruits like apples and Bosc pears actually provide a little scrubbing action for the teeth with their vitamins, and softer fruits such as bananas, berries, and, of course, watermelon, provide natural sweetness along with vitamins and minerals. Yogurt has valuable calcium for strong teeth and the vitamin D our bodies need to use that calcium. Add some fresh fruit to Greek yogurt for added flavor and sweetness—and even more vitamins.

  • Savory Snacks

Cheese is a calcium-rich snack, and crunchy carrots and celery help scrub teeth while providing vitamins and minerals. Do a little mixing and matching by adding some cream cheese to that celery for extra flavor. Serve up hummus and pita chips or cheese with whole grain crackers. They’re great nutritious alternatives to chips and dip.

  • Blender Blast

Summer’s the perfect time to use your culinary creativity and expand your child’s palate with vitamin-rich smoothies. Toss your favorite fruits in the blender with a little juice, non-fat yogurt, milk, or honey, whirl away, and you have a delicious, healthy snack. You can add a few leafy greens for even more nutritional value. There are many easy recipes online for creating homemade smoothies that will please any picky palate.

  • Freezer Favorites

Ice cream is a favorite summer treat, but it can also provide quite a sugar punch. There are many homemade frozen yogurt recipes available online which combine frozen fruit, yogurt, and honey for your own summer celebration, without adding large amounts of sugar. Or choose to stock your freezer shelves with low-sugar fruit pops, store bought or homemade.

  • On Tap

A soda or a sports drink are often the go-to hydration choices in the summer. You might already be careful about handing these drinks out because they can have such a high sugar content. But they can also create a very acidic environment in the mouth, which is harmful to tooth enamel. Water is the safest, healthiest option for hydrating in hot weather, and can even provide some of the fluoride which helps keep enamel strong.

Whatever is on your child’s summer menu, keep up with all those great dental habits you’ve already established. A limited number of snacks—even healthy ones—is best, and be sure to brush after snacking, or rinse with water if brushing’s not an option. And don’t forget to maintain your child’s normal schedule of brushing and flossing, and regular visits with Dr. Hawkins at our Longwood, FL office.

Have a great summer, and send your kids back to school rested, relaxed, and with a healthy, happy smile. Then take a moment, relax, and sip that smoothie—after all, you deserve a break after all your hard work!

How to Prevent Dry Socket

May 27th, 2020

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. Hawkins 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 Longwood, FL 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.

Recovering from Oral Surgery

May 20th, 2020

If you need oral surgery, Dr. Hawkins and our team will use our expertise and training to ensure that you have the best possible surgical outcome. And we want to make sure you have the best possible outcome for your recovery as well. Here are a few of the most common aftercare suggestions for making your healing as comfortable and rapid as possible.

  • Reduce Swelling

Ice packs or cold compresses can reduce swelling. We’ll instruct you how to use them if needed, and when to call our Longwood, FL office if swelling persists.

  • Reduce Bleeding

Some amount of bleeding is normal after many types of oral surgery. We might give you gauze pads to apply to the area, with instructions on how much pressure to apply and how long to apply it. We will also let you know what to do if the bleeding continues longer than expected.

  • Reduce Pain or Discomfort

If you have some pain after surgery, over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen might be all that you need. We can recommend those which are best for you. If you need a prescription for pain medication, be sure to take it as directed and always let us know in advance if you have any allergies or other reactions to medications.

  • Recovery-friendly Diet

Take it easy for the first few days after oral surgery. Liquids and soft foods are best for several days following surgery. We will let you know what type of diet is indicated and how long you should follow it depending on your particular procedure. We might, for example, recommend that you avoid alcohol and tobacco, spicy, crunchy, and chewy foods, and hot foods or beverages for several days or several weeks.

  • Take Antibiotics If Needed

If you have been prescribed an antibiotic, be sure to take it as directed. If you have any allergies to antibiotics, let us know in advance.

  • Protect the Wound

Do NOT use straws, smoke, or suck on foods. Avoid spitting.  Part of the healing process can involve the formation of a clot over the surgical site which protects the wound. If the clot is dislodged by suction or spitting, it can prolong your recovery time, or even lead to a potentially serious condition called “dry socket.”

  • Maintain Oral Hygiene

Depending on your surgery, we might recommend that you avoid rinsing your mouth for 24 hours, use salt water rinses when appropriate, and keep away from the surgical site when brushing. It’s important to keep your mouth clean, carefully and gently.

  • Take it Easy!

Rest the day of your surgery and keep your activities light in the days following.

These are general guidelines for recovery. If you have oral surgery scheduled, we will supply you with instructions for your specific procedure, and can tailor your aftercare to fit any individual needs. Our goal is to make sure that both your surgery and your recovery are as comfortable as possible.

Teeth Grinding

May 13th, 2020

It might seem like you’ve gotten a great night’s sleep—but why aren’t you well rested? Worse, why are you waking up with:

  • A headache
  • Ringing in your ears or an earache
  • Pain in your jaw
  • Worn or sensitive teeth
  • Dry mouth or mouth and cheek injuries
  • An unhappy partner who’s been kept awake all night?

If you suffer from any or all of these symptoms, you might be one of the millions of people who have a sleep-related disorder called bruxism, better known as teeth grinding.

There are any number of causes that have been linked to bruxism. Stress and other negative emotions seem to trigger episodes, as can lifestyle habits such as smoking and drinking alcohol or caffeine. Sleep apnea can lead to grinding your teeth, or you could have bite or tooth alignment problems. Certain medications might set off this disorder, and some studies have shown a hereditary tendency in families. Whatever the reason you grind your teeth, there are many important reasons to stop as soon as you can.

As bad as the nagging headaches and earaches that can accompany bruxism can be, long-term damage to your teeth can develop over time. With continuing grinding pressure on the teeth, enamel is worn away prematurely. Teeth can crack or chip. They may loosen or develop sensitivity to heat, cold, and pressure. Gum tissue can recede or become inflamed. Dental restorations can be cracked or broken.

If you—or someone in your house—suspects that you are grinding your teeth at night, give our Longwood, FL office a call! We can recommend relaxation techniques, diet changes, or tips to help you relax your jaw. Dr. Hawkins might suggest a nightguard, a custom-fitted appliance worn while you sleep, to reduce the impact of grinding. There are options available. Let’s work together to make every night’s sleep a restful, healthy one.

Should You Get Dental Veneers?

May 6th, 2020

Dental veneers are a popular treatment to improve the appearance of your smile. Dr. Hawkins and our team want to help you understand whether this dental option is right for you.

Veneers, also known as laminates, are custom-made shells that cover the front of your teeth. They can change the color, size, or length of each individual tooth. The process can require between one and three trips to our Longwood, FL office to complete.

This treatment is usually done for people who want to change the appearance of their smile: they can get rid of stains, gaps, or chips. Here at Springs Family Dentistry, we know how getting veneers can dramatically change your smile and help improve your confidence.

Your initial appointment entails preparing the teeth and creating an impression. The impression will help us design each veneer to the exact shape and color you desire. You’ll come back in a week or two to have the veneers placed. Your veneers should last about ten years, as long as you practice proper care and hygiene.

There are plenty of benefits to getting veneers, but you should be aware of the potential downsides of this procedure. This process is irreversible and the veneers cannot usually be fixed. If they chip or crack, they’ll need to be replaced.

It is also possible for veneers to fall off due to excessive pressure from nail biting or chewing on ice. If you grind your teeth a lot, you’re more likely to expose your veneers to damage, which can be costly to repair.

In order to know whether veneers are right for you, schedule an appointment at our Longwood, FL office for a consultation. We can decide what you’re looking to do with your smile and if this is the best option for you.

Camping Oral Health Tips

April 29th, 2020

If your idea of camping is a quiet walk through the woods before returning to your rustic hotel, your regular brushing habits will be perfect for your trip. But if you are hiking into the mountains with your tent, backpack, and camp food, Dr. Hawkins and our team have some suggestions to adapt your dental routine to the great outdoors.

Water

If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t brush with it! Use bottled water if you have brought it, or make sure the local water is safe by using a testing kit. Boiling, filters and purification tablets are all ways to make sure the water tests clean and safe.

Toothpaste

You aren’t the only one in the woods who finds your toothpaste tasty. Bears, raccoons, and other animals are attracted to the scent of your toothpaste, so keep it safe with the same kind of tightly sealed, odor-proof container that you keep your food in. And if you want to discourage unwanted visitors, don’t spit your toothpaste out at your campground! It’s better to go some distance from your site and bury any paste, and best of all to spit used toothpaste into a container that can be tightly closed and removed from the campsite when you head for home. This practice protects you and the environment as well, since toothpaste can be harmful to small animals and plants.

Toothbrush

While there are disposable and camping toothbrushes available, a regular toothbrush will work as well. Normally, air-drying is the healthiest option for drying your toothbrush, but camping is an exception. Just as animals are attracted to toothpaste, they are also attracted to your toothpaste-scented toothbrush. Keep it in a sealed container that is odor-proof.

Floss

There are websites devoted to the many ingenious ways to use dental floss while camping, but we recommend the original use. Don’t forget to floss regularly, keep it in a sealed container, and do be sure to take used floss out of the area with you.

Even though you are roughing it, stick with your home routine as much as possible. If you are unable to brush as usual, rinse your mouth well with clean water and brush when you can. Have a great trip, and just one more thought—maybe go easy on the s’mores. Let us know all about your trip during your next visit to our Longwood, FL office!

Curing the Nail-Biting Habit

April 22nd, 2020

Do you ever find yourself gnawing at your nails? Nail-biting is a very common and difficult to break habit which usually has its beginnings in childhood. It can leave your fingers and nail beds red and swollen. But if you think that your nails are the only ones getting roughed up by nail-biting you'd be mistaken—so are your teeth!

According to a study by the Academy of General Dentistry, those who bite their nails, clench their teeth, or chew on pencils are at much higher risk to develop bruxism (unintentional grinding of the teeth). Bruxism can lead to tooth sensitivity, tooth loss, receding gums, headaches, and general facial pain.

Those are some nasty sounding side effects from chewing on your nails. Most nail-biting is a sign of stress or anxiety and its something you should deal with. So what steps can you take if you have a nail-biting habit?

There are several things you can do to ease up on nail-biting:

  • Trim your nails shorter and/or get regular manicures – Trimming your nails shorter is an effective remedy. In so doing, they'll be less tempting and more difficult to bite on. If you also get regular manicures, you’ll be less likely to ruin the investment you’ve made in your hands and fingernails!
  • Find a different kind of stress reduction – Try meditation, deep breathing, practicing qigong or yoga, or doing something that will keep your hands occupied like squeezing a stress ball or playing with a yo-yo.
  • Wear a bitter-tasting nail polish – When your nails taste awful, you won't bite them! Clear or colored, it doesn't matter. This is also a helpful technique for helping children get over the habit.
  • Figure out what triggers your nail-biting – Sometimes it's triggered by stress or anxiety and other times it can be a physical stressor, like having hang nails. Knowing what situations cause you to bite your nails will help you to avoid them and break the habit.
  • Wear gloves or bandages on your fingers – If you've tried the steps above and they aren't working, this technique can prove effective since your fingernails won't be accessible to bite.

If you're still having trouble with nail-biting after trying these self-help steps, it's best to consult your doctor, dermatologist, or Dr. Hawkins. For some, it may also be the sign of a deeper psychological or emotional problem.

Whatever the cause, nail-biting is a habit you need to break for your physical and emotional well-being. If you have any questions about the effects it can have on your oral health, please don't hesitate to ask Dr. Hawkins during your next visit to our Longwood, FL office.

Is Coffee Damaging Your Smile?

April 15th, 2020

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. Many people have a cup, or two, or even three a day. It’s common to drink it in the morning to wake up and get ready for the day, as an afternoon pick-me-up, or just to catch up with a coworker or friend.

These days there are many different kinds of coffee flavors to enjoy, so it’s almost impossible for a person not to like it. But as delicious as coffee is, it’s worthwhile to be aware of the effects it has on our dental health.

Coffee contains a lot of tannic acid, which is what causes its dark color. Tannic acid ingrains itself into the grooves of tooth enamel, and that leads to serious stains. In addition to containing tannic acid, the fact that coffee is generally served very hot makes your teeth expand and contract, which allows the stains to penetrate even farther into the enamel.

Dr. Hawkins and our team know it’s not easy to kick the caffeine habit. If you find yourself needing a cup of joe every day, here are some helpful tips to consider:

  • Switch to decaf coffee.
  • Make it a habit to drink a glass of water with your coffee to rinse away the acid.
  • Try enjoying your coffee with a straw so the tannic acid makes less contact with your front and lower teeth.
  • Pop in a piece of gum after your coffee to help prevent a dry mouth.

If you’re feeling ambitious, you might find that setting a limit on the number of cups of coffee you have per week or even per day can be helpful. You are always welcome to contact our Longwood, FL office to discuss potential whitening options as well. We’re here to help!

How do I care for my dental implant?

April 8th, 2020

Dental implants are designed to be strong and durable, able to withstand the everyday rigors of chewing and biting, but to keep them functioning the way they should and looking their best, you need to care for them properly. Luckily, dental implant care is fairly straightforward; in fact, your implants can be cared for the same way you care for your natural teeth, with regular brushing and flossing performed correctly, as well as regular visits with Dr. Hawkins to ensure your implants, the neighboring teeth, and your gums are as healthy as possible.

Before the actual replacement tooth is attached to the implant post, you may want to avoid harshly abrasive toothpastes, such as those with baking soda or those designed to get rid of significant staining. These abrasives may damage the threads of the posts or irritate the gum and soft tissue surrounding the posts, causing inflammation or bleeding.

As the implant heals and “settles in,” a special kind of protective tissue called “keratinized” tissue will form where the implant meet the gum. This natural development in healing helps ensure the implant post and the soft tissue beneath the gum line are protected from bacteria.

As you care for your implants, always look for signs of infection, like swollen, tender, or bleeding gums – just as you would with your normal teeth. If you're nervous about caring for your implants or you feel you may be reluctant to floss around them, ask our team to provide you with care tips and walk you through the process of flossing.

Your implants represent a considerable investment both in time and money, so it's only natural you'd want to be sure you're doing all you can to keep them in top shape. Remember: dental implants are designed to replace your natural teeth, and they're also designed to be cared for in much the same way as you care for your natural teeth. Although you may be a little nervous at first, you'll soon become as used to your new implants as you are to your natural teeth, and caring for them will become second nature.

More questions? Simply as at your next visit to our Longwood, FL office!

Teeth Grinding Can Damage Your Teeth

April 1st, 2020

Grinding of the teeth, also known as bruxism, is a serious condition from which nearly ten percent of Americans suffer. It’s a mechanical reflex that often happens during slumber. Unfortunately, most people don’t recall grinding their teeth when they awaken.

This makes it difficult to catch the condition before serious damage occurs. Some people notice soreness in their jaw, shoulder and neck pain, or even headaches. Others aren’t so lucky and don’t feel any pain until a professional notices they have developed cracked teeth, receding gums, and jaw problems.

Dr. Hawkins and our team hope to prevent teeth grinding before serious health concerns arise. Let’s go over the reasons for grinding as well as preventive tips to help you feel better fast.

Why do you grind your teeth?

The most common reasons for teeth grinding include:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Poor muscle control
  • Acid reflux
  • Sleep apnea
  • Complications from certain disorders

It’s worthwhile to understand the reason you’re grinding your teeth, but it’s even more vital to treat the issue quickly. You can take measures to alleviate the pain you may be experiencing, such as applying a warm wash cloth to your jaw, taking muscle relaxants, massaging the jaw muscles, visiting a chiropractor, or doing physical therapy.

Prevention

To protect your oral health and jaw bones, try these preventive measures:

  • Reduce the amount of stress in your life
  • Drink plenty of water every day
  • Avoid chewing gum or chewy foods
  • Get plenty of sleep each night
  • Reduce or stop alcohol and caffeine consumption
  • Get a custom mouthguard from Springs Family Dentistry

Dr. Hawkins and our team want to make sure you’re properly treating your teeth grinding issues. Feel free to call our Longwood, FL office if you think you may be suffering from this condition, or have questions regarding a treatment plan.

Teeth grinding can lead to far more serious health issues, and should be ended before it becomes a major concern.

HPV and Oral Cancer

March 4th, 2020

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the country. There are over 100 strains of HPV, and, while most of these infections leave our systems on their own with no long-term ill effects, some cancers have been linked to certain “high risk” strains of the virus. One of these strains, HPV16, increases the risk of oral cancer.

HPV-related oral cancer most often appears in the oropharynx. This area of the mouth includes:

  • The base, or back, of the tongue
  • The soft palate
  • The tonsils
  • The back and sides of the throat

While HPV-related oral cancers can appear in other parts of the oral cavity, they most typically occur at the back of the throat and tongue and near the folds of the tonsils. Because of this location, oropharyngeal cancer can be difficult to detect. This is one more important reason to maintain a regular schedule of dental exams. Our examination doesn’t focus only on your teeth and gums. We are trained to look for cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions in the mouth, head, and neck to make sure you have the earliest treatment options should they be needed.

If you discover any potential symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer, call us for a check-up. These symptoms can include:

  • Trouble moving the tongue
  • Trouble swallowing, speaking, or chewing
  • Trouble opening the mouth completely
  • A red or white patch on the tongue or the lining of the mouth
  • A lump in the throat, neck, or tongue
  • A persistent sore throat
  • Ear pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Coughing up blood

Not every symptom is caused by cancer, but it is always best to be proactive. HPV-related oral cancer is rare, but it is on the increase. While HPV-positive oral cancers generally have a better prognosis than HPV-negative oral cancers, early diagnosis and treatment are still essential for the best possible outcome.

Finally, if you are a young adult or have an adolescent child, talk to Dr. Hawkins and to your doctor about the HPV vaccine, which is effective before exposure to the virus occurs. Most HPV vaccines, while not designed specifically to prevent oral cancer, prevent the HPV16 strain from infecting the body—the very same strain that causes the majority of HPV-related oral cancers.  Although no studies have shown definitive proof yet, there is strong feeling in the scientific community that these immunizations might protect against HPV-positive oral cancer as well as cervical, vaginal, and other cancers. It’s a discussion worth having at your next visit to our Longwood, FL office.

Why is replacing missing teeth important?

February 26th, 2020

When we talk about teeth, every single one of yours counts. Whether you’ve lost a tooth due to injury or poor oral hygiene, it’s worth seeing Dr. Hawkins to evaluate all your replacement options. If you don’t, you could suffer negative effects to your teeth, gums, jawbones, appearance, and self-esteem.

Depending on how many teeth are missing and where they are located, Dr. Hawkins may suggest an implant, fixed bridge, or a removable bridge.

Addressing missing teeth as soon as possible is in your best interests. If you don't, the consequences might include:

  • Shifting teeth: When you lose a tooth, the space it creates allows the neighboring teeth to drift and move out of alignment. A once-straight smile and correct bite can quickly turn into crooked teeth and a misaligned bite.
  • Tooth decay and/or gum disease: After teeth have shifted, it can be harder to reach all areas around them to brush and floss properly. The buildup of bacteria and plaque can result in periodontal disease and the loss of your remaining teeth due to decay.
  • Effect on jaws: Missing teeth alter your bite and how your teeth and jaws contact one another. This puts added strain on your jaw joint (TMJ) and can contribute to the development of TMJ disorder.
  • Change in face and appearance: When you lose a tooth, your gums and your jawbone are no longer stimulated in that area. A dental implant replaces the root of a tooth or several teeth, and provides stimulation to prevent bone loss. If the root isn’t replaced, this can lead to deterioration of the jawbone and alteration of the shape and appearance of your face. Your face, especially the cheeks, can look older and more sunken.

Replacing missing teeth is an essential step for your physical and emotional health. If they are replaced in a timely manner at our Longwood, FL office, you’ll continue to have the same wonderful smile you’ve always had.

Dental Implants vs. Natural Teeth

February 19th, 2020

If you're considering getting an implant, you'll most certainly have questions for Dr. Hawkins. You might be wondering how a dental implant compares to a real tooth. Let's look at some of the differences between implants and natural teeth.

It should be noted that one of the primary goals of implant dentistry is to try to provide the same form and function as your natural teeth. However, with that in mind, know that an implant is not a tooth. An implant does not decay and does not have dental pulp or periodontal membrane like teeth.

An implant won't always work in every case, but they do have some great advantages when they are called for. Some advantages of an implant:

  • Often last for decades without needing to be replaced
  • Create a functional and aesthetically pleasing replacement for your missing tooth
  • Don't require surrounding teeth for support
  • Do not decay like natural teeth
  • Can be fixed or removable
  • Are able to replace single tooth or multiple teeth

There are downsides to implants where natural teeth win out. The disadvantages of implants include:

  • Higher cost compared to traditional dentistry
  • It's a surgical procedure which requires a period of healing afterward
  • Fracturing of fixtures and loosening of screws can occur (only in about 5% of patients)
  • Since there is no cushion between the implant and the bone, fracturing of crowns and bridges is more common with implants than with natural teeth, though this is rare.

It's best to speak with Dr. Hawkins about your options regarding implants. Let us know what you want to achieve and we'll work with you as best we can to accomplish that. And don't hesitate to contact our Longwood, FL office for further questions about the procedure.

The Origins of Valentine's Day

February 12th, 2020

When we think of Valentine’s Day, we think of cards, flowers, and chocolates. We think of girlfriends celebrating being single together and couples celebrating their relationship. We think of all things pink and red taking over every pharmacy and grocery store imaginable. But what Dr. Hawkins and our team would like to think of is when and how this joyous, love-filled day began.

Several martyrs’ stories are associated with the origins of Valentine’s Day. One of the most widely known suggests that Valentine was a Roman priest who went against the law at a time when marriage had been banned for young men. He continued to perform marriage ceremonies for young lovers in secret and when he was discovered, he was sentenced to death.

Another tale claims that Valentine was killed for helping Christians escape from Roman prisons. Yet another says that Valentine himself sent the first valentine when he fell in love with a girl and sent her a letter and signed it, “From your Valentine.”

Other claims suggest that it all began when Geoffrey Chaucer, an Englishman often referred to as the father of English literature, wrote a poem that was the first to connect St. Valentine to romance. From there, it evolved into a day when lovers would express their feelings for each other. Cue the flowers, sweets, and cards!

Regardless of where the holiday came from, these stories all have one thing in common: They celebrate the love we are capable of as human beings. And though that’s largely in a romantic spirit these days, it doesn’t have to be. You could celebrate love for a sister, a friend, a parent, even a pet.

We hope all our patients know how much we love them! Wishing you all a very happy Valentine’s Day from the team at Springs Family Dentistry!

Caring for Your Cat’s Dental Health

February 5th, 2020

While you make sure your family is getting the best care possible, with regular dental checkups and cleanings at our Longwood, FL office, there is one family member that might be hiding under the bed when it’s time for tooth care. Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition affecting adult cats—and it is completely preventable!

Periodontal disease starts when the bacteria in your pet’s mouth form plaque. The plaque can harden into tartar, and, if plaque and tartar spread under the gum line, can be responsible for a number of serious problems. Tooth loss, tissue damage, bone loss, and infection can be the result of periodontal disease. Professional dental treatment is important if your cat is suffering from periodontal disease, and your vet can describe the options available to you.

But, like with humans, prevention is the best way to assure these problems never develop, and there are several methods for avoiding plaque and tartar build-up.

Brushing: Yes, there are toothbrushes and toothpastes specifically designed for your cat! If a toothbrush is not working for you or your pet, there are cat-sized finger brushes available as well. Daily brushing is most effective, but try for at least several times each week. The process of introducing brushing should be a slow and gentle one, and seafood and poultry flavored pastes make the process more palatable. (Human toothpaste is not good for your cat due to its abrasiveness, and swallowing the foam might pose a danger to your pet.)

Anti-plaque rinses and gels: If despite your gentle persistence your cat simply will not cooperate with brushing, there are other options! Rinses and gels containing Chlorhexidine are effective and do not usually pose a problem for pets—although they might not take to the flavor. Rinses can be squirted inside each cheek or gels can be applied to the teeth with a toothbrush or finger brush. Talk to your vet to find the safest and most effective products.

Diet: Whether they use a particular shape and texture to simulate brushing or an anti-tartar ingredient, several pet foods claim to reduce the accumulation of plaque and tartar. Your vet is the best resource for nutritional suggestions to make sure your cat’s dental and physical diet is as healthy as it can be.

Whether you try brushing, rinses, gels or a tooth-friendly diet, patience and a gentle touch are the best way to introduce dental hygiene. Talk to your vet at your cat’s next checkup, and find out what you can do to keep your feline friend healthy and happy. An ounce of prevention might be worth a pound of purr!

What to Know if You Think You Have a Cracked Tooth

January 29th, 2020

You use your mouthguard for sports, wear a nightguard if you grind your teeth, and never bite down on solid objects. But even with all the care in the world, accidents happen. If we break a leg, our bones can regenerate tissue and knit together over time. A cracked tooth, on the other hand, can only be repaired, but will not heal. The right treatment is essential to protect your injured tooth. If you suspect you have a fractured tooth, what should you do?

Sometimes you know right away when you’ve cracked a tooth. A fall off a bike, a blow to the face on the basketball court, a bite of something that turned out to be much harder than it should have been—the results can be instantly apparent. If you have a broken or chipped tooth, call our Longwood, FL office immediately. If you have lost a piece of your tooth, bring it in with you. Early treatment can not only restore the appearance of your tooth, but might prevent the possibility of infection or damage to the root and pulp.

Sometimes, a fractured tooth is an unwelcome surprise. It doesn’t take one specific incident to cause damage to a tooth. A crack or break can develop over time if you grind your teeth, have a large filling that has compromised a tooth, or have undergone a root canal procedure that has left the tooth brittle.  You might notice a crack or a missing piece of tooth, or experience pain while chewing or sensitivity to heat and cold. If you have any of these symptoms, call us. Once again, the earlier a tooth is treated, the better the outcome.

No matter how you discover an injury, immediate treatment by Dr. Hawkins is the best way to safeguard your healthy smile. Prompt treatment and restoration repair your smile cosmetically, and, in the case of more serious fractures, extend your tooth’s life, prevent further damage, and ward off potential infections of the gum and bone.

We have many options for restoring your damaged tooth, and our recommendations will depend on the type of injury your tooth has suffered.

  • Chips

It is important to bring any broken piece of your tooth with you because sometimes the piece can be reattached. If that is not possible, a small chip might only require bonding with a tooth-colored resin. A veneer is an option for a larger chip, or where a translucent, natural appearance is important. If the chip is deep enough, and there is pulp damage, we might suggest a root canal and a crown.

  • Broken Cusps

A lost cusp is a common result of injury, especially near a filling. If the pulp is unaffected, which is generally the case, a filling or crown can restore the appearance and function of the tooth.

  • Cracks through the Tooth

A tooth cracked from the chewing surface to the root presents a more serious problem. If the crack has extended to the pulp, but remains above the gum line, a root canal and crown can preserve the tooth. If the crack extends below the gum line, however, extraction might be necessary. Early cracks will eventually extend below the gum line, so early treatment is essential.

A tooth can also fracture from the root up. Any crack in the root is a serious matter, and often is not discovered until infection has set in. Extraction is a common recommendation, although some specific cracks near the tip of the root might be treated with endodontic surgery.

  • Split Tooth

Sometimes an untreated vertical crack can lead to a tooth split into two pieces. An endodontist can determine whether any portion of the tooth can be saved, although extraction is more likely.

If you injure your tooth, or have any symptoms of a tooth fracture, call us immediately. Whether you have suffered a chipped tooth, a broken cusp, crown or root fractures, or even a split tooth, prompt treatment is the best way to restore and protect your attractive and healthy smile.

Can Your Child Benefit from Nitrous Oxide Sedation?

January 22nd, 2020

Is every trip to the dentist a difficult one because your child suffers from dental anxiety? Or has difficulty sitting still in our chair? Or needs a first filling, or another unfamiliar procedure that you are concerned might be upsetting? If so, consider dental sedation for your child’s next visit.

Nitrous oxide, often called laughing gas, has been used for more than a hundred years in dentistry. A very safe process, inhalation sedation leaves your child happy and relaxed. He or she will remain awake and responsive, and able to follow our instructions.

The mixture of nitrous oxide gas and oxygen is administered through a child-sized mask. When your child breathes in through the nose, the gas begins to work at once. As soon as the mask is removed, the effects begin to disappear immediately. Because nitrous oxide is non-irritating, starts and ends working quickly, and allows your child to remain conscious and breathe easily, it is the most common form of pediatric sedation.

Dr. Hawkins and our team are concerned with your child’s safety above all, and we are carefully trained in any of the sedation procedures we offer. We always take into account your child’s age and weight, health history, medications, and any conditions that could have an impact on the sedation experience. We will talk to you and your child about what to do to prepare before the visit, and what will take place during and after treatment.

An important part of our work as children’s dental caregivers is setting them up for success in future visits. If you feel nitrous oxide sedation can help your child overcome anxiety, sit calmly to help make procedures go smoothly, or prevent unpleasant reactions to new or longer procedures, please talk to us about inhalation sedation during your next visit to our Longwood, FL office. Our goal is to make each visit positive and worry-free for both child and parent!

Eco-Friendly Toothbrushes

January 15th, 2020

When it comes to dental hygiene, “going green” is not the first phrase that comes to mind. But if you are brushing properly, you are also replacing your toothbrush every three to four months as the bristles become frayed and wear down. Sure, that’s a tiny amount of plastic from each of us going to our landfills, yet it adds up to millions of brushes a year nationally. If you are concerned about reducing your carbon footprint while reducing your risk of cavities, there are several new toothbrushes designed to make brushing more eco-friendly.

Biodegradable Toothbrushes

Some brushes claim to be completely compostable. These models generally have heads fitted with boar bristles and handles manufactured from sustainable woods or bamboo. Boar bristles aren’t for everyone. Some users complain of the taste of the bristles, and boar bristles might be harsher than the soft bristles we recommend to protect both enamel and gums. There is also some concern about bacteria growth on organic bristles.

Earth-friendly Handles and Bristles

If you prefer the consistency and texture of regular synthetic bristles, you can still opt for a brush with a handle of sustainable wood or bamboo. You can also select PBA-free bristles, bristles made primarily of castor oil, or bristles that use natural ingredients in combination with synthetics.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

If these exotic brushes aren’t for you, there are more conventional choices that will save energy and cut down on waste.

  • Reduce the amount of electricity you use for your electric toothbrush with a model that requires less charging time.
  • Reuse your toothbrush by buying one with a handle made of metal, natural materials or plastic and replace the detachable head every three months.
  • Recycled plastics can be found in the handles of some toothbrushes, and many brushes come in recyclable packaging. Every bit helps!

If you decide to use one of these green products, remember that your dental health is still the primary goal. Be sure the bristles of your brush are soft enough to protect your gums and enamel and can reach all the places you need to brush. The handle should be easy to grip and the head should be a comfortable fit for your mouth. It’s always best to choose products with a seal of acceptance from your local dental association, or talk to us about greener alternatives during your next visit to our Longwood, FL office. Luckily, there are several workable options to protect the health of your family's teeth while still being mindful of the health of our planet.

Tooth Worms? The History of Cavities and Tooth Fillings

January 8th, 2020

Scientists have discovered tooth decay in specimens that are more than 15,000 years old. The ancients once thought that cavities were caused by something called “tooth worms” … Eew! They didn’t exist, of course, but how else could humans explain the holes that cavities make in teeth?

The appearance of cavities on a widespread basis is often traced to the rise of farming. The new diet filled with grains and carbs made our mouths a haven for cavity-causing bacteria. As we added more sugar to our diets, our teeth got worse.

The “tooth worm” idea didn’t completely disappear until the 1700s when scientists finally began to understand the process of dental caries. Once that part of the puzzle was solved, they began focusing on filling existing cavities and preventing new ones.

Dental Fillings Come of Age

Many different materials, including beeswax, cork, aluminum, tin, and even asbestos, have been used to fill the holes caused by dental decay. Sometime in the mid-1800s, however, dentists began to use metal fillings such as gold, platinum, silver and lead amalgams.

The amalgam we use today is mixed from liquid mercury, silver, tin, copper, zinc, and other metals, but some patients still like the look of a gold filling. Newer options include composite-resin fillings, which are made from a tooth-colored mixture of plastic resin and finely ground glass-like or quartz particles that form a durable and discreet filling. Porcelain or ceramic fillings are natural in color, but more resistant to staining.

Dr. Hawkins can help decide which filling is best for you, based on cost as well as your dental and lifestyle needs. You may not have “tooth worms,” but if you have cavities, contact our Longwood, FL office so we can take the proper action to protect the health of your mouth.

Healthy Resolutions for Healthy Teeth

January 1st, 2020

Every January 1st, you have your resolutions ready. No more nail biting. Lose ten pounds. Stop smoking. None of us are happy about those annoying bad habits we’ve picked up over the years. But if nothing else has helped you keep your resolutions, maybe seeing how they can improve your oral health will give you some extra willpower.

  • No More Nail Biting

You can easily see how nail biting affects your fingernails, but its effects are more than cosmetic. The pressure this habit puts on tooth enamel can lead to cracks, chips, and enamel erosion. Nail biters have a greater risk of bruxism, or teeth grinding. (More on that below.) And the transfer of germs from fingers to mouth and mouth to fingers is a vicious circle that can lead to illnesses and infections in both fingers and mouth.

  • Cut Down on Junk Food

Sugars and carbs help pack on the pounds, no doubt. Did you know that they can also help create cavities? Sugar is a favorite food for oral bacteria, which allows them to produce acids which attack and weaken tooth enamel. And carbs? They convert easily to simple sugars. Choose nutritious snacks and beverages, and you will keep those teeth healthy. You might even lose a few pounds!

  • Lower the Volume

If your partner complains about sleepless nights thanks to your nocturnal teeth grinding, or your friends ask you to quit chewing on that cup of ice while they’re trying to watch a movie with you, listen to them! (If you can hear them over the grinding and chewing.) Bruxism can fracture teeth, cause headaches and jaw problems, and might even lead to loose teeth. Chewing hard foods can have the very same effects. Too much pressure from any source can damage your teeth. Grinding, chewing ice, crunching down on hard candies—any habit that’s loud enough to annoy others could be a warning to be more careful of your teeth.

  • Don’t Put That in Your Mouth!

Helping you eat and chew nutritious foods—of course. Smiling—absolutely. Ripping off a piece of duct tape, tearing open a potato chip bag, holding your dog’s leash while you look for your keys, opening a tight bottle cap—no, no, no, and really no. Fractures and chips are common injuries when you use your teeth as tools. Your teeth have a crucial job to do, but that job description never includes “scissors” or “nutcracker” or “bottle opener.” Take that extra minute and find the tool you need!

  • Drink in Moderation

Along with all the other consequences of over-indulging, too much alcohol in your diet can be bad for your oral health. Alcohol, especially paired with sugary drinks, helps create that acidic environment that leads to weakened enamel. More than that, it’s dehydrating. Without sufficient hydration, we don’t have the optimal saliva production we need to fight cavities. After all, saliva helps wash away food particles and bacteria, neutralizes acids, and strengthens enamel through remineralization. Ring in the New Year—moderately!

  • It’s Time to Quit

Cigarettes, pipes, cigars, chewing tobacco—there is no tobacco product that is healthy for your body or your teeth! We’re all familiar with the discoloration tobacco can cause, but it also has serious oral health consequences. Oral cancer, gum disease, early tooth loss—all these conditions have been linked to tobacco use. Today there are more methods than ever before to help you quit. Make this your year!

You don’t have to wait for the New Year to start working on healthier habits. If you’d like to tackle teeth grinding, banish nail biting, stop smoking, or work on any other habits that can damage your health and your teeth, talk to Dr. Hawkins at your next visit to our Longwood, FL office. And, don’t forget—resolving to see us twice a year for a checkup and a cleaning is a resolution that’s extremely easy to keep!

Are there foods that whiten teeth?

December 25th, 2019

Coffee. Blueberries. Red wine. Tomato sauce. They might please our palate, but they are notorious for staining our teeth. Luckily, nature has balanced the scales for us! Here are just some of the foods that could actually help whiten your smile.

Apples

The crunchy texture of an apple makes it perfect for scrubbing your teeth as you chew. The more you chew, the more saliva you produce. And saliva helps lower the amount of the bacteria in our mouths that cause decay, while washing away food particles that can stain our teeth.

Broccoli

Raw broccoli florets look—and act—like tiny toothbrushes. Broccoli also contains high levels of iron which help protect our enamel from stains and erosion.

Carrots and Celery

More crunchy vegetables that scrub teeth. These are high in fiber, which acts as a gentle abrasive, and water, which stimulates healthy saliva production.

Nuts and Seeds

These are nutritious snacks that both act as abrasives and increase saliva production.

Pineapple

Pineapple is that rare fruit that produces bromelain, enzymes that help in digestion. These enzymes are also believed to help remove staining.

Strawberries

Malic acid considered by many to be a natural whitener which helps break down stains, and strawberries are a great source for this organic compound. But don’t overdo, because too much acid is hard on your enamel.

Of course, the real benefit of eating a balanced diet containing fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds is nutritional, and any whitening that takes place is an added bonus. And eating healthy foods won’t take the place of brushing to keep your teeth clean and bright, especially if you are relying on sugary fruits for their whitening effect. If you want help whitening your smile, and diet and brushing alone aren’t the answer, give our Longwood, FL office a call and we’ll be happy to suggest other options. Until then, bon appétit!

How long do dental implants last?

December 18th, 2019

The average dental implant can last a lifetime if taken care of properly. In fact, studies have shown that the success rate of implants after ten years is about 90%! Of course, Dr. Hawkins and our team know that the better you care for your implant, the longer it will last.

There are a few factors that must be taken into consideration, when you are considering dental implants. These factors all play a role in how long your dental implants will last.

  • Bone Structure – You must have enough bone in your mouth for the implants to be inserted. Over time, the bone can wear down and become too thin or to short. In cases, where you may have just enough bone for the implants, over the years, the bone will continue to become smaller and thinner and the implants will not last nearly as long as the suggested minimum of ten years.
  • Healthy Gums – Diseased gums will not support dental implants for very long. It is important to maintain regular dental visits to maintain your healthy gums.
  • Good Oral Hygiene – Just because your implants are not your “real” teeth, doesn’t mean you have to take care of them. That means brushing, flossing, and regular professional cleanings.

Bone structure, healthy gums, and good oral hygiene all play a crucial role in the length of time your dental implants will last. Whether you have full dental implants, partial implants, or a single tooth implant. The bottom line is you have to take care of them if you want them to last as long as possible.

For more tips on how to maintain the health of your dental implant, visit our Longwood, FL office!

What are mini implants used for?

December 4th, 2019

The use of mini dental implants (MDIs) is on the rise. MDIs are about the diameter of a toothpick (1.8 to 2.9 millimeters with lengths between ten to 18 millimeters) and are primarily used to secure loose upper or lower dentures or partial dentures.

MDIs are particularly useful for patients who suffer from osteoporosis or otherwise aren't well enough to get the bone grafts sometimes required by traditional dental implants. Their diminutive size also allows them to replace smaller teeth where the placement of a dental implant isn't feasible or called for.

Some of the benefits of MDIs include:

  • The procedure is quicker and less invasive – Since MDIs don’t require the cutting of gum tissue or sutures, Dr. Hawkins can place the implant quickly, resulting in a shorter healing process. MDIs go directly through the gum tissue and into the jawbone.
  • Lower cost – MDIs run in the range of $500 to $1500, whereas traditional dental implants can cost around $4,000.
  • Less risk of surgical error – Since MDIs don't go as deep into the tissue or jawbone, there is less risk of surgical error, like hitting a nerve or sinus cavity.
  • Can be used in thinner areas of the jawbone – Since MDIs don't require as much gum tissue or jawbone, they can be used in thinner areas of the jawbone, where a traditional dental implant would require a bone graft.

Although there are many advantages to MDIs, they aren't for everyone or every situation. There are some drawbacks, especially when it comes to their durability and stability. MDIs also haven't been studied nearly as much as dental implants.

Whatever your situation, it's best to speak with Dr. Hawkins about your options, and whether an MDI or a dental implant would work best for your specific case. Schedule an appointment at our Longwood, FL office to learn more.

Is there a connection between oral health and school performance?

November 27th, 2019

As a parent, you want the best for your children, and that includes doing their best in school. You can support them by taking an interest in their activities, being enthusiastic about attendance, and helping them with homework. There may also be one more way you can help your children succeed at school. Surprisingly, research suggests that children with better oral health are likely to do better in school.

What the Research Says

One study in North Carolina looked at risk factors for poor school performance among school-aged children. As expected, the study found poor school performance linked to low socioeconomic status, low levels of parental education, and poor overall health. However, it also found a strong link between poor oral health and poor school performance, with children classified as having poor oral health 40 percent more likely struggle in school.

These findings are generalizable to the rest of the country. For example, attendance is an important factor in academic achievement, but dental conditions are responsible for a loss 51 million school hours among schoolchildren each year. Dental pain and infection are linked to poorer performance.

School-Based Programs to Promote Oral Health

In light of the apparent benefits of good oral health for school performance, some schools are taking steps to promote better oral care and health. In Maine, for instance, schools in need can apply for grants through School Oral Health Program (SOHP). The SOHP consists of four components:

  1. Oral health education for all children to support healthy behaviors
  2. A weekly fluoride mouth rinse to strengthen teeth
  3. Dental screenings to identify children who may need dental care
  4. Dental sealants, or plastic coatings, on back teeth to guard against decay

The State of Maine also supports an “Annual Sugar Out Day” to raise awareness of the effects of sugar on dental health and to help students choose low-sugar alternatives.

Oral Health Habits to Adopt

You can help your child improve oral health and do better in school by encouraging good oral hygiene. This includes brushing at least twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, and reminding your child to drink water after eating. Also, regular trips to our Longwood, FL office can help prevent serious tooth problems.

Why do wisdom teeth need to be removed?

November 20th, 2019

Sometime around the late teens or early twenties, people’s wisdom teeth start to erupt. These are the third and final set of molars. When wisdom teeth come in properly — meaning they are correctly aligned — they offer more chewing power. Unfortunately, more often than not, wisdom teeth are misaligned, crowd other teeth, and need to be removed.

Why do we have wisdom teeth?

It is thought that we have wisdom teeth because — back in the day — we ate a diet that consisted of more rough foods, like roots, leaves, and meat, all of which required more heavy-duty chewing power.

Reasons Wisdom Teeth Need to be Removed

While there is no clear-cut rule that says every single person needs to have their wisdom teeth removed, there are certain situations where one or more wisdom teeth are causing a problem or have a strong likelihood that problems will eventually arise in the future that warrant their removal.

1. Fully Impacted Wisdom Teeth

When a wisdom tooth is “impacted”, it means that the tooth is covered by gum tissue, thereby preventing it from erupting through the gum. This often occurs when the mouth is too small to allow enough room for the tooth to emerge. Because bacteria, food, or other mouth substances can be lodged under the gum that covers the wisdom tooth, it can lead to an acute abscess, known as pericoronitis.

2. Partially Impacted Wisdom Teeth

When a wisdom tooth is partially impacted, meaning the tooth is partially emerged from the gums, it almost always is advised to be removed. Because of its location in the very back of the mouth, a partially erupted wisdom tooth is more susceptible to not only decay and cavities, but also gum disease.

3. Other Reasons to Have Wisdom Teeth Removed

If you experience any of the below dental issues or changes in your dental health, removal of your wisdom tooth (teeth) may be necessary:

  • Pain at or surrounding the wisdom tooth site, including the jaw or cheek area
  • Repetitive infections
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth decay (extensive)
  • Tumors
  • Cysts
  • Damage to surrounding teeth

It is important to know that the decision to have a wisdom tooth removed isn’t always cut and dry. It is essential to talk to Dr. Hawkins about the alignment of your wisdom teeth if they have already erupted, health of your wisdom teeth if impacted or partially impacted, and your overall dental health to determine what is best for your situation. Contact our Longwood, FL office to schedule an appointment today!

The Purpose of a Dental Crown

October 30th, 2019

A dental crown, otherwise known as a cap, covers an infected tooth and can vary in function, depending on the position of the tooth. Crowns cover all the visible parts of a tooth and vary in size, appearance, and functionality.

A crown can be used to protect a weak tooth from breaking, hold together an already broken or worn tooth, cover the tooth with a large filling or dental implant, hold a dental bridge in place, or support a cosmetic modification.

Several types of crowns are available, depending on the tooth to be treated. Stainless-steel crowns are used on permanent teeth, usually as temporary measures in children because they’re more cost-effective for baby teeth that naturally come out over time.

Metal crowns are another option that includes gold alloys, or base-metal alloys. Metal crowns are notable for their ability to withstand biting forces, rarely break or chip, and therefore offer the best results in terms of normal wear and tear.

Porcelain fused to metal crowns most closely resemble a normal tooth and are a good choice for front or back teeth. Other, less common types include all-resin, all-ceramic, all-porcelain, and zirconia crowns.

If you’re getting a crown, you can expect a few things during your visit with Dr. Hawkins. Crown placement usually requires two appointments. The first entails preparation to get an impression of the tooth, shape it, and place a temporary crown. The impression is sent to a lab where a technician makes the crown to be fitted.

During the second appointment, the high-quality porcelain crown is placed on the problematic tooth.  

If you notice any signs of discomfort in your mouth, always let Dr. Hawkins know by calling our Longwood, FL office. We will determine which type of crown is best for your tooth to give it the added strength it needs. Crowns can be very helpful for your oral health if you have any teeth that need extra support.

Oral Health Concerns for Teens

October 23rd, 2019

You have a lot more freedom as a teenager than you did as a young child. You also have a lot more responsibilities, and one of your jobs is to take care of your teeth. Develop and maintain good dental habits now so you can have great dental health for life!

Tooth Decay

As a teenager, you risk tooth decay, or dental cavities, if you are not careful. In fact, 59% of adolescents aged 12 to 19 have at least one cavity, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Dr. Hawkins and our staff recommend keeping your teeth strong and healthy by brushing at least twice a day and flossing every day.

If you suspect that you have tooth decay, do not be embarrassed. Instead, ask your parents to bring you to Springs Family Dentistry to get it looked at. When you do not treat your dental cavities, they can turn into more serious problems. A severely damaged tooth may need to be treated with a root canal or even an extraction.

You can take easy steps to prevent tooth decay when you are at school or hanging out with your friends. Carry a bottle of water around with you so you can take a sip after you eat any kind of food. Choose water or milk instead of soda or sports drinks, and if you chew gum, select a sugar-free flavor.

Other Oral Health Concerns

You can probably think of many reasons why you should not smoke or use tobacco. Your oral health is another one. Tobacco gives you bad breath and stains your teeth yellow. It also increases your risk for gum disease and cancer of the mouth. Smoking even slows the speed of healing after you have dental procedures done.

Here are a few more tips that can keep your mouth attractive and healthy during your teen years.

  • Drink plenty of milk.
  • Limit candies and sugary snacks.
  • Wear a mouthguard if you play a contact sport.
  • Visit Springs Family Dentistry twice a year.
  • Reduce infections and avoid piercing your tongue and lips.

You only get one set of permanent teeth in your life, so get in the habit of taking care of them now!

Do I lose my wisdom if I lose my wisdom teeth?

October 16th, 2019

The third molars have long been known as your “wisdom teeth,” because they are the last teeth to erupt from the gums – usually sometime during the late teens to early twenties. This is a time in life that many consider an “age of wisdom”; hence the term, “wisdom teeth.”

Extracting the third molars does not have any effect on your actual wisdom … and Dr. Hawkins and our staff are sorry to say that holding on to them can’t make you smarter, either. So if you somehow feel that you became wiser and smarter when your wisdom teeth appeared, chalk it up to age rather than teeth.

In fact, you may just be showing how smart you are by having your wisdom teeth removed. Mankind once relied on the wisdom teeth to replace teeth that were damaged or missing, thanks to a poor diet. But dietary changes and advances in modern dentistry make it possible for many people to hold on to their teeth for many decades, which eliminated the need for third molars.

For many people, wisdom teeth cause nothing but problems: becoming impacted, irritating surrounding gum tissue, or even causing other teeth to become crooked or overlap. By removing them, patients often enjoy a lower risk of decay, infection, and aesthetic complications.

So rest assured that extracting your wisdom teeth will have no effect on your immediate or long-term intelligence.

How Smoking Increases the Risk of Oral Cancer

October 9th, 2019

Cigarette smoke contains more than 6,000 chemicals, and at least 200 of those chemicals are known to be harmful to your health. When smoke is inhaled, moist oral tissues are saturated with excessive amounts of carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, and a host of other known carcinogens. Most oral cancers originate in abnormal squamous cell activity, which are cells found on the lips, inside the mouth, and in the throat.

How Oral Cancer Begins

Cells exposed to consistently high levels of cigarette smoke may eventually suffer abnormal mutations within their DNA. Since deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is responsible for providing cells with instructions about growth, reproduction, and death, these instructions become distorted, which causes the cells to reproduce uncontrollably.

Essentially, that is what cancer is: rapid, unchecked growth of genetically mutated cells that encourages the development of malignant tumors. Unfortunately, the chemicals in cigarette smoke are strongly associated with oral cancer.

Signs of Oral Cancer

Early-stage oral cancer is often asymptomatic, which means symptoms appear only after the cancer intensifies and spreads. Possible signs of oral cancer include:

  • Ulcers inside the mouth or on the lips that do not heal
  • White or dark red patches inside the mouth
  • Lumps inside or around the mouth (a lump could appear on your neck)
  • Bleeding, numbness, and soreness in the mouth
  • Chronic halitosis
  • Loose teeth in the absence of tooth decay

Diagnosis and Treatment of Oral Cancer

Squamous cell oral cancer is the most common type diagnosed in smokers. Dr. Hawkins and our staff often discover squamous cell carcinoma lesions during dental examinations or cancer screenings. Depending on the stage of the oral cancer, treatment may begin with a biopsy or an exfoliative cytology procedure that involves collecting cells from the oral cavity using a scraper.

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, oral cancer patients may need surgery, radiation therapy, a combination of surgery and radiation therapy, or chemotherapy to eradicate oral cancer.

Smoking, Cancer, and Tooth Decay

Not only is smoking the number-one cause of cancer but it is also detrimental to the overall health of your teeth and gums. Yellow teeth, bad breath, dry mouth, and expedited tooth decay are all caused by smoking, not to mention the damage smoke does to the heart, lungs, and kidneys.

In other words, don’t smoke!

Radiation and the Safety of Dental X-Rays

October 2nd, 2019

It is not uncommon to be concerned about your safety when you have dental X-rays performed. Putting on a heavy lead vest may make you apprehensive. The benefits of dental X-rays far outweigh the risks when safety procedures are followed and the number of X-rays is limited to the required number.

About Dental X-rays

Intraoral X-rays are the most common, and include bitewing X-rays. These allow Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry to detect caries (cavities) and check the health of your bone and root structure. Extraoral X-rays provide the information we need to monitor your jaw and temporomandibular joint (TMJ), as well as look for impacted teeth and tooth development.

X-ray Safety

A set of four bitewing X-rays exposes you to about 0.005 mSv (millisievert) of radiation, which is equal to the amount of radiation you receive in an average day from natural sources. A panoramic X-ray exposes you to about twice the amount of a bitewing. In both cases the risk is negligible and worth the diagnostic benefits.

Guidelines from the American Dental Association are offered for individuals who are not at high risk for cavities. Children in this group should have X-rays every one or two years. Teenagers should have X-rays every one-and-a-half to three years. Adults can go two to three years between X-rays. If you are at higher risk, yearly X-rays are not harmful and can save your teeth.

No matter what type of X-ray you are having, it is extremely important to tell Dr. Hawkins or one of our technicians if you are pregnant or may be pregnant. If you are concerned about the number of X-rays you are having done, or about any radiation you are exposed to, please give us a call at our convenient Longwood, FL office and talk to us about your concerns.

What exactly is biofilm?

September 25th, 2019

Biofilm is a protective home for bacteria that’s composed of microorganisms. Biofilm can be found in wet places such as ponds, sewers, and bathroom drains, and it also grows on metals and minerals.

But biofilm can also be found in your mouth, in either healthy or diseased form. Both are composed of the same compounds, but when they combine with certain amino acids or chemicals, diseased biofilm will begin to destroy your enamel. You might notice this as a slimy yellow buildup of dental plaque on the surface of your teeth.

Biofilm takes form when free-swimming bacterial cells land on a surface and attach in a cluster. The cells begin to multiply and form a micro-colony that promotes diverse bacterial species to grow. To prevent biofilm from settling in your mouth to begin with, make sure to keep up your daily oral routine.

Any mouth appliances you use should also be scrubbed or soaked in cleaner as often as possible. You should pick a toothpaste that has antibacterial ingredients, rinse with mouthwash, and floss daily.

There are many ways to treat diseased biofilm. One is to kill the microorganisms through the use of chlorhexidine, triclosan, and mineral agents that reduce the degree of plaque formed in your mouth.

Another way is to make sure to go to your regular cleanings every six months with Dr. Hawkins. During your cleaning, we remove excess biofilm that’s accumulated on your teeth over the past six months.

Don’t forget that it’s also essential to keep a healthy amount of biofilm in your mouth, though. This type of biofilm protects your body from disease and is replicated every twenty minutes. If you have a healthy amount of good biofilm, the chances of your mouth producing harmful bacteria decreases.

Ask about biofilm during your next appointment at our Longwood, FL office if you’ve noticed any irregular yellow-colored buildup on your teeth. Dr. Hawkins will make sure your mouth has a healthy balance of biofilm.

The best way to create a healthy environment in your mouth is to stay on track with your oral health regimen. Prevention is the best method when it comes to your dental hygiene and fighting diseased biofilm.

 

Dental Veneers

September 18th, 2019

If you want to fix staining, large gaps, fillings, chipped teeth, or the overall shape of your teeth, this may be the perfect option for you. Many of our patients opted for veneers and have never been more confident in their smile!

Dental veneers are made from long-lasting porcelain materials which cover the front and biting ends of each tooth. At your appointment, you can choose the shade of veneers to brighten up your smile. They are usually placed on the anterior, or front teeth, where the chewing forces are not as hard as in the back. Placing the veneers is easy, and the best part is: It requires only two appointments!

During the first appointment, we’ll take an impressions of your teeth. Then we send them to the lab to make your veneers. Veneers are fairly conservative in preparation because they require a small amount of space to be created on the front, bottom, and sides of each tooth for a natural appearance. You will leave the office with temporary veneers in place for a week or two while the permanent veneers are being made.

Your veneers will be placed during the second appointment, and you won’t believe the difference in your smile! If you’re interested in learning more, give Dr. Hawkins a call at our Longwood, FL office today!

Electric Toothbrushes vs. Regular Toothbrushes

September 11th, 2019

Convertible or sedan? Downtown or suburbs? Electric or manual toothbrush? As life decisions go, it’s certainly not choosing your next car, or deciding where you want to live. But, even when you are selecting a toothbrush, it helps to make a list of the pros and cons of the contenders before you make that final selection.

  • Efficiency

The most important factor in choosing a toothbrush is finding out which model works best to eliminate bacteria and plaque. And studies have shown that, used properly, both electric and manual toothbrushes do a great job of removing plaque. Some electric models can reach the backs of teeth and the gumline more easily, some manual head designs work better for your individual mouth and teeth, so your particular needs should dictate which style of toothbrush you use. Talk to us about the best methods to brush with your preferred toothbrush, and we’ll let you know if one type of toothbrush or the other might work better for you.

  • Health Considerations

Brushing too energetically can actually harm teeth and gums, causing sensitivity and damage to the enamel and gum tissue. An electric toothbrush should provide a continuous brushing motion without needing any pressure from the brusher. This might be the model for you if you have a too-vigorous approach to brushing, or sensitive teeth and gums.

An electric toothbrush can also be more efficient for older and younger brushers, those with limited mobility, and those with health conditions or injuries that make brushing with a regular toothbrush more difficult.

  • Cost

An electric toothbrush is not a one-time investment. You should change the removable head as often as you change your manual toothbrush (every three to four months, please). But this cost is offset if an electric toothbrush is more efficient in removing your plaque, easier to use, or even if you just prefer it to manual brushing. If you find that you brush better and more often with an electric toothbrush, the added expense is well worth it.

Whichever brush you decide on, the most important part of the brush is the person holding it! A regular appointment with your toothbrush for two minutes of thorough brushing in the morning and two in the evening, daily flossing, and regular visits to our office for checkups and cleanings will keep your teeth healthy and strong no matter which toothbrush you choose.

Questions about your toothbrush choices? Don’t hesitate to ask Dr. Hawkins at our Longwood, FL office.

Make Brushing With Your Child Fun!

September 4th, 2019

It’s no secret that kids and adults have different priorities: your duty is to raise a happy, healthy child, but your little one’s only priority may be to have fun. When it comes to brushing teeth, it can be hard to combine a healthy habit with having fun. You might fear it can’t be done, but with a little creativity, brushing time can be a great experience for both of you!

Make It a Party

Brushing time doesn’t have to be a chore when you throw a little party! Get Mom and Dad together so the whole family can brush their teeth at the same time.

Let your child choose a song to dance to while you all brush for the required two minutes. Your son or daughter may grow to love this silly routine, especially when the parents are clearly dedicated to brushing their own teeth as well.

Big Kid Decisions

Kids love the responsibility of making “big kid” decisions. Keep a variety of toothbrushes, colors of floss, and toothpaste flavors on hand so they can choose something “new” each time they brush, just like when they visit our Longwood, FL office.

Not only can this help them grow more comfortable with the idea of seeing the dentist, but they’ll love having the responsibility of picking what would be fun at brush time.

Practice Makes Perfect

It’s true that the only way to get better at something is to practice, practice, and practice. Have your child practice brushing on his or her favorite stuffed animal, and use that opportunity to teach your youngster how to hold the brush and use circular cleaning motions. Showing how you brush your own teeth can also be worthwhile.

There’s An App For That

Did you know there are lots of fun apps that encourage good brushing habits among children? Brands like Oral-B and Aquafresh have free apps you can download on your phone.

The child gets to select a character, scenery, and a song he or she would love to accompany the task of brushing. If you have a daughter, she might like to use the Tooth Fairy Timer, which allows her to pick her very own fairy as her brushing buddy.

The important things to remember when you seek to establish good brushing habits is to keep it fun and stay consistent with your routine. It may take some getting used to, but after a while your child will become familiar with brushing and might even look forward to the new dental routine.

What are dental sealants and how do they work?

August 28th, 2019

A dental sealant is a liquid that is applied to the teeth. The sealant hardens and provides a protective coating that is designed to reduce cavities and create a smoother tooth surface. Dental sealants are clear or white; they do not take away from the appearance of teeth. You can think about this treatment as being similar to varnish that protects a wood floor.

Sealants are not the same as fluoride treatments. The application is similar, but sealants are a semi-permanent protective coating. Dr. Hawkins and our staff recommend that sealant applications for children begin soon after molars erupt, first molars around the age of six, and second molars around the age of 12.

Simple Application

Having sealants applied is not uncomfortable at all. First, your child's teeth will be cleaned and dried. A gel is applied, which helps the sealant adhere to the tooth, and then is rinsed away. Your child's teeth are dried again and the sealant is applied. A few seconds of exposure to a light source may be used to cure the sealant and make it semi-permanent. Sealants should last for a long time, normally between five and ten years.

Sealant Benefits

The coating on the surface of your child's teeth reduces the amount of acid contact. Normal acids in foods that are consumed can eat away at the surface of teeth. Bacteria also react to plaque formation and create more acid in the mouth. These small pits or weakened areas are prone to caries or cavity formation. Preventing cavities is a much better choice than drilling and filling damaged teeth.

A sealant also helps to smooth the chewing surfaces of your childn't teeth. The smoother surface is not as likely to retain small particles of food and bacteria. Your child's mouth stays cleaner and food is not left behind to form acids. The protective application can also be used on other teeth that have a rough surface, to protect the grooves or pits from decay.

After the sealant is applied, your child still needs to take proper care of his or her teeth. Regular brushing and flossing is required. Dr. Hawkins may recommend fluoride treatments to strengthen and protect your child's teeth further.

If you have any concerns about sealants, please discuss them with during your child's next appointment at Springs Family Dentistry. We want your little one's teeth to stay healthy for life.

The Many Types of Sedation Dentistry

August 21st, 2019

There are many reasons to choose sedation dentistry. Perhaps anxiety is an issue, or your teeth are extremely sensitive. You may have a low pain threshold, an easily triggered gag reflex, or need a lot of work done in one visit. If you think sedation dentistry might be right for you, this procedure is something we are happy to discuss before your appointment at our Longwood, FL office.

Because your concerns and condition are unique, we will tailor your sedation to fit your specific needs. We will take a careful health history to make sure whatever medication is used is safe for you, and will not interact with your other medications or affect any medical conditions. The three most common methods of sedation include:

Our experience and training allow us to recommend a method that is specifically designed for your needs. If you would like to remain completely aware, but feel less anxious, if you would like deep sedation through the entire procedure, or if you want something in between, talk to us about your options. Whatever the reason you choose sedation dentistry, Dr. Hawkins and our team are here to provide you with a skilled and safe sedation experience.

What to do about Dry Mouth

August 14th, 2019

Xerostomia, commonly known as dry mouth, is a condition in which the salivary glands in the mouth don’t produce enough saliva. Saliva keeps the mouth moist and cleanses it of bacteria. A lack of it makes for an uncomfortably dry mouth that is also more susceptible to infection and disease.

Symptoms of dry mouth include:

  • Dryness or a sticky feeling
  • Frequent thirst
  • Burning sensations or redness in the throat or on the tongue
  • A sore throat or hoarseness
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, or tasting food

Dry mouth usually comes about as a side effect of certain medications or medical conditions, but can also be caused by damage to the salivary glands because of injury or surgery.

If you're experiencing any of the symptoms of dry mouth, here are a few tips for what to do:

Double-check medications: If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications, speak with Dr. Hawkins to see if any of these could be causing the dry mouth as a side effect.

There may be ways to alleviate the symptoms.

  • Stay hydrated: Whether you have dry mouth or not, it’s essential to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fresh and pure water throughout the day. A good rule of thumb is to drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day.
  • Suck or chew on a natural, sugar-free candy or gum: Sucking on candy or chewing gum will keep your salivary glands producing saliva. Healthier versions of sugar-free candy and gum are available these days. Some are made with xylitol, a sugar alcohol that actually helps prevent tooth decay.
  • Add moisture to your living spaces: Try adding a vaporizer to your bedroom or the rooms where you spend the most time. It’s best for your home to have a humidity level of between 40 to 50%. Anything less than 30% is too low. You can measure humidity with a hygrometer, which is easy to find at your local department store or online.

These are just a few general tips, but if you’re experiencing the symptoms of dry mouth often and it’s interfering with your life, pay a visit to our Longwood, FL office. That way you’re more likely to get to the root of the problem.

Airplane Oral Health Tips

August 7th, 2019

What’s in your carry-on bag? You’ve got your passport, ticket, and currency, but what about dental floss? Of course! You’re preparing for the trip of a lifetime, and we want to help make sure everything goes according to plan.

Part of your preparation before a long vacation should be a complete check-up at our Longwood, FL office well in advance of your trip. If there is dental work to be done, now is the time to do it. No one wants to be stuck over the Atlantic with a toothache, and changes in atmospheric pressure can cause serious problems if you have a severely compromised tooth. Tell us when you are planning on traveling, and we can schedule any procedures that should be finished before you fly.

Now that you have the all clear to travel, what about maintenance once you’re on board for a long flight? Some airlines provide toothpaste and brushes for travelers. If you have questions about the quality of the water in the airplane restroom, use bottled water to brush. There are also single-use mini-brushes available for travelers that come loaded with paste and ready to use without any water at all. Crisp fruits and vegetables can help clean teeth on-flight if brushing isn’t an option, and drinking plenty of water will not only keep you hydrated, but help cleanse your mouth and teeth as well. Be sure to travel with floss, a travel-sized tube of toothpaste, and a brush in a well-ventilated container in case you face airport delays between flights.

Taking your electric toothbrush with you? Usually there is no problem bringing your electric toothbrush in your carry-on, but do check in advance to make sure this is allowed on your flight. Most electric toothbrushes have region-specific battery chargers, so find out in advance if you will need a voltage converter or plug adaptor if you are visiting another country. Check to make sure the head is in good condition before you go and replace it if necessary.

Once you’ve landed, try to keep your dental routine as close to normal as possible while you enjoy your visit. Regular brushing and flossing are still necessary, especially if you take the opportunity to explore the local desserts. We’ve given you some tips to make your flight more comfortable—now that you’ve reached your dream destination, the rest is up to you!

How Sleep Apnea Can Affect Your Waking Life

July 17th, 2019

We all know that sleep apnea causes many a difficult night. Noisy snoring, gasping for breath, and waking up dozens of times a sleep cycle are the unhappy consequences of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). What you may not realize is that sleep apnea can make your days just as challenging.

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by an obstructed airway. The throat muscles may relax as you sleep and make it impossible to inhale fully with each breath. Or you may have a physical condition such as a deviated septum, enlarged tonsils or excess throat tissue that blocks the free passage of air into your lungs. As a result, you stop breathing for a short time and often choke or gasp for breath. Your body responds by waking every time you need to start breathing properly again, and this can happen dozens of times each hour you are asleep. The result is that, while you may think you have slept through the night, you have never gotten the deep sleep your body needs to restore itself.

How can sleep deprivation affect our daytime hours? You might find yourself suffering from any of these problems:

  • Constant drowsiness
  • Falling asleep at work or while driving
  • Headaches every morning
  • Sore throats
  • Dry mouth (which can lead to gum and dental problems)
  • Memory and attention problems
  • Moodiness or depression
  • Decreased libido

As if these reasons weren’t cause enough to find a solution to your sleeping disorder, the longer term results of sleep apnea can be devastating. High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, dangerous responses to medication or general anesthesia, a higher risk of accidents, and many other serious consequences have been linked to sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea doesn’t just ruin your night. If you suffer from any of the daytime problems listed above, please give our Longwood, FL office and your doctor a call. If obstructive sleep apnea is the cause, Dr. Hawkins can work with you to find a solution that will improve your quality of life 24 hours a day.

Charcoal Toothpaste

July 10th, 2019

Despite the extraordinary claims made for charcoal toothpaste, most dentists think that the accuracy of these claims is a very gray area. So, what is the theory behind using activated charcoal in your toothpaste?

Charcoal is in its natural form is a very porous substance. When mixed with oxidizing gases or chemicals at very high heat, the inner structure of charcoal becomes even more porous. This enables the “activated” charcoal to absorb chemicals. And activated charcoal, in fact, IS used as a treatment for certain poisons. Fans of charcoal toothpaste maintain that this same porosity enables the toothpaste to collect toxins, bacteria, and debris from the surface of your teeth, leading to a healthier mouth, fresher breath, and a whiter smile.

Sounds great! Should I buy some?

Maybe not quite yet.

  • Claims that charcoal toothpastes whiten teeth more than other over the counter whiteners are difficult to prove. But even using the best charcoal product, you are getting a superficial cleaning. Because charcoal toothpaste removes stains only from the surface of the enamel, it is no match for a professional whitening.
  • It’s abrasive. Harsh pastes and brushing could potentially cause thinner enamel. Thinning enamel reveals more of the darker dentin underneath, which can actually make your smile appear yellow. Abrasive pastes can be irritating for those with sensitive or compromised gum tissue. Any toothpaste you choose should never be so abrasive as to cause damage to teeth or gums.
  • If you use only charcoal toothpaste, you might not get the amount of fluoride needed to protect your teeth. And no toothpaste can take the place of regular brushing, flossing, and checkups at our Longwood, FL office.
  • If you’ve seen the photos posted of charcoal enthusiasts with sooty smiles and teeth, you know brushing with charcoal toothpaste can be a messy process. You might need to take extra care to clean your mouth, teeth, and tongue after using. And your sink.

If you are still intrigued by the idea of charcoal toothpaste, Dr. Hawkins and our team are happy to discuss it with you. And if teeth whitening is your concern, we have some proven methods to achieve your best results—even if they don’t provide an opportunity for dramatic charcoal selfies!

The Perks of Dairy

July 3rd, 2019

We all remember hearing this: “Finish your milk, it’s good for your bones!” If you have kids of your own now, you may catch yourself repeating many of the things you were told growing up.

Though parents occasionally exaggerate to get their kids to do certain things (such as eat veggies or behave), they’re spot-on about milk. Consuming enough dairy every day is crucial for growing children, because this can set them up to have strong and healthy teeth for the rest of their lives.

To understand the effects of dairy on your child’s teeth, take a look at tooth structure. Think of it in terms of layers: the innermost layer is the living tissue, the second layer is dentine (a calcified tissue), and the final one is the enamel, aka the white part of the tooth. Keep in mind that 96 percent of your enamel is made up of minerals like calcium.

Now, milk and other dairy products are excellent sources of calcium, so when you consider the need to build strong enamel for the first line of defense, it’s easy to see the connection between dairy and good dental health. When your son or daughter consumes dairy products, the body sends the incoming calcium to growing bones, which includes teeth.

This makes children’s teeth and bones stronger all around. Growing youngsters who do not get enough dairy in their diet are at risk for improper tooth development, as well as other dental problems.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, children under the age of eight should be receiving at least two and a half cups of dairy per day. Children older than eight require three full cups, which is the same amount recommended for male and female adults.

If you’re looking for easy ways to incorporate dairy into your children’s diet, try snacks like cottage cheese, a milk-based smoothie, yogurt, cheese sticks, non-fat milk, and fruit parfaits, to name a few. Once you get a feel for what they like most, furnishing the ideal amount of dairy to their diet should be no problem!

If you’re concerned about your child’s teeth or have questions about a healthy diet, don’t hesitate to contact our Longwood, FL office and ask a member of our team.

How do I know if my gums are receding?

June 26th, 2019

Gum recession, a common result of gum disease, occurs when the gum tissue that surrounds the teeth wears away or pulls back, forming pockets between the gumline and exposing more of the tooth. Gum recession occurs gradually, so you might not know that you have it. Left untreated, gum recession can result in tooth loss. In addition, there are several studies that suggest that gum disease is associated with modest increases in coronary heart disease. Here are five ways to know if your gums are receding.

1. Healthy gums are firm, light pink, and very elastic. If your gums don’t fit that description, then it’s time to visit our Longwood, FL office. Red, swollen gums are a common symptom of gum disease, and may lead to gum recession.

2. Do your gums bleed easily when you brush or floss? If you have gum recession, even if you brush gently and with toothpaste specifically designed for sensitivity, it may still result in bleeding.

3. When you look in the mirror, do you see more of a tooth than you used to? This is one of the easiest ways to tell if you have gum recession. When gums recede, more of the tooth is visibly exposed. Look for lines or notches along the bottom of the teeth, as this typically indicates areas where the gums have receded.

4. One of the first signs of gum recession is tooth sensitivity. Does it hurt when you bite down or chew? The more gums recede, the more painful it is going to be. However, before you experience tooth sensitivity or pain, you may notice awkwardness when you bit down. When gum recession occurs, teeth can shift slightly, making it feel as if they are not properly aligned.

5. Loose teeth are a symptom of advanced gum recession and periodontal disease. In other words, the supporting bone structure of the teeth has already begun to deteriorate. If left untreated, it will result in tooth loss.

From deep cleaning (scaling) to gingival tissue grafting surgery, there are several ways to combat gum recession and periodontal disease. How gum recession is treated depends on how far advanced it is. Talk to Dr. Hawkins about what options are best for you.

Aging and Dental Health

June 19th, 2019

What’s life like for the average 60-year-old today? It’s complicated! We travel. Or we work out. Or we relax with friends. We pursue favorite hobbies or we develop new ones. We work, or start businesses, or volunteer for schools, museums, and charities. We practice the art of writing letters or we text our grandchildren. Whatever else we do, we do our best to stay healthy so we can live our lives to the fullest.

Part of living our lives to the fullest means caring for ourselves. And caring for ourselves means learning how to look out for the potential dental problems that might come with age, and how to keep ourselves in the best of dental health.

  • Gum Disease

Gum disease, or periodontitis, is not uncommon in older patients. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, can leave you more vulnerable to gum disease. Because gum disease is often symptom free, it can remain unnoticed until the disease has progressed. Good oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist are the best means of prevention—we are trained to discover gum disease in its earliest stages, and can treat it before the disease causes serious damage to gums, teeth and bone. But if you have delayed seeing a dentist, the good news is that there are many methods of treating gum disease available, including antibiotics, professional plaque removal, and periodontal surgery.

  • Tooth Decay

As we age, our gums can recede from the teeth. The new root area that is exposed is more vulnerable to decay because it is not shielded by the hard enamel which protects the upper part, or crown, of the tooth. Maintaining your brushing and flossing routine is the best way to keep cavities from developing. If gum recession is severe, there are surgical methods we can discuss to restore gum health.

  • Time

Cosmetically, teeth can yellow with age as the dentin beneath the enamel darkens and the enamel covering it thins. Years of coffee, wine, smoking and other stain-makers take their toll. If you are self-conscious about the appearance of your smile, talk to us about suggestions for whitening and brightening.

Medically, over time our teeth are subject to damage. Enamel and tooth surfaces can wear away, leaving our teeth more at risk for breaks or fractures that can lead to infection, which can result in the need for root canal work. Simple chewing puts an amazing amount of pressure on the teeth—and if you grind your teeth, there is even more stress placed on them. See us regularly for ways to maintain strong teeth, to repair damage if necessary, and to keep your gums and bones healthy if you are a denture wearer.

  • Dry Mouth

Dry mouth can be a problem for older patients, often caused by medical conditions or medications. When we produce saliva, it helps remove sugar and the acids sugars produce which attack our enamel. Without normal saliva production, we are more vulnerable to cavities. Dry mouth can also lead to mouth ulcers, oral thrush, sores and infections. If you have been suffering from this condition, talk to us. Dr. Hawkins and our team have suggestions that will help.

  • Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is something we look for during every check-up. And, if you ever notice any change that causes you concern, call us immediately. Early treatment of oral cancer and other oral diseases leads to the best possible outcome.

  • Keep Up With Your Dental Care

The best way to keep our teeth and mouths healthy as we age is with prevention. Regular daily brushing and flossing and office visits twice a year for an examination and a professional cleaning are habits that should last a lifetime. Make sure to tell us about any medical conditions you may have and any medications you are taking, to avoid interactions and relieve unpleasant side effects.

What’s life like for the average older person today? There is no average older person! As we age, we are free to explore our interests in any number of creative and individual ways. But there is one goal we have in common: we all want to keep our smiles healthy and attractive. Call our Longwood, FL office for preventative and restorative care. We want to help you work toward an ageless smile!

Infant Teething Remedies: What Might Help—And What to Avoid

June 12th, 2019

Some lucky babies wake one morning displaying a brand new tooth to the complete surprise of their unsuspecting parents! But your happy baby is irritable and drooling. Or your hearty eater doesn’t feel like finishing her food. Perhaps she finds it hard to go to sleep when she’s usually nodded off before you finish the first lullaby. A small number of children suffer little or no discomfort teething, but for the majority of babies who do, here are some helpful ways to ease their teething pain.

  • Massage--Rubbing your baby’s gums with a clean finger or piece of gauze—gentle pressure is all you need. And do be careful of your fingers once those teeth start coming in!
  • Chewing—there are many colorful and easy to grasp teething toys available, including BPA-free models.
  • Cool Relief—Cool a solid teether in the refrigerator to help ease discomfort. Placing a teething ring in the freezer is not recommended, as extreme cold can be damaging to little mouths and gums.
  • Comfort Food—If your baby is eating solid foods, try cold applesauce or other purees.
  • Skin Care—Drooling is often part of the teething process, but try to keep your child’s face free from rash and chaffing by wiping with a clean cloth when necessary.

And while you are trying to keep your baby comfortable, also be sure to keep her safe!

  • Know what your baby is putting into her mouth. All teething items should be non-toxic and free of harmful chemicals. Teethers filled with fluids may break or leak, so a solid toy is best.
  • Make teething items size-appropriate. Avoid anything small or breakable that might present a choking hazard.
  • Over-the-counter gels and liquids containing benzocaine, meant to reduce pain in the gums and mouth, may on rare occasion lead to serious health conditions in small children. Always check with Dr. Hawkins or your pediatrician before buying an over-the-counter teething medication for your baby.

For many babies, teething can be a long and sometimes difficult process. If there is anything we can do to help you and your baby in this journey, please give our Longwood, FL office a call.

What’s the Big Deal about Sleep Apnea?

June 5th, 2019

What’s the big deal about a little snoring during the night? Or feeling a bit drowsy during the day? Or an occasional bout of insomnia? If your sleep problems are few and far between, probably not a major worry. But if your sleep disruptions are frequent, getting worse, or more noticeable to those around you, your problem might be sleep apnea. And that can be a big deal.

Sleep apnea occurs in three forms:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea

This is the most common form of sleep apnea. It can be the result of the muscles in the back of the throat relaxing during sleep to obstruct the airway. Obstruction can also be caused by a physical condition such as a deviated septum, excess throat tissue or enlarged tonsils.  Loud snoring often results as the sleeper struggles to inhale through the obstructed passageway.

  • Central sleep apnea

Central sleep apnea is caused by the brain failing to transmit the proper signals to breathe during sleep. The sleeper either stops breathing, or takes such shallow breaths that he or she can’t get enough air into the lungs.

  • Complex sleep apnea

This condition is a mix of both obstructive and central sleep apnea.

Any of these forms of sleep apnea will cause a miserable night’s sleep. Sufferers actually stop breathing for a brief time. To start breathing properly again, our bodies move from the deep sleep we need to restore our physical and mental health to shallow sleep or even momentary wakefulness. And these disruptive episodes can happen dozens of times an hour, all night long. You might think you have gotten a full night’s sleep, while in reality you are suffering from sleep deprivation.

When you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, the immediate consequences are easy to see and hear. Loud snoring, choking, constant drowsiness—you (and your loved ones) suffer from these symptoms night and day. But the hidden consequences of this disorder are even more dangerous. Sleep apnea has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and strokes. It can cause memory problems, depression, and mood changes. Loss of focus and slow reflexes can lead to accidents. Complications from general anesthetics and medications can also become a serious risk.

Snoring is not the only symptom of sleep apnea. If you notice that you often wake up with a sore throat, a dry mouth, or a headache, have difficulty going to sleep at night or staying awake during the day, can’t concentrate,  or constantly feel irritable—you should consider the possibility that you suffer from sleep apnea. Talk to Dr. Hawkins at our Longwood, FL office. We can recommend options that will have you once again sleeping soundly in your bed, waking up refreshed and healthy. And that is a big deal.

Should Children Use Whitening Products?

May 29th, 2019

As adults, we often wish our teeth could be as white as they were when we were small children. Baby teeth have thinner and whiter enamel than adult teeth, and those brilliant smiles are a result! But occasionally, you may be surprised to discover some staining or discoloration on those lovely first teeth. You might be tempted to apply a whitening product to your child’s teeth, but, please—read on!

Causes of Staining

  • Improper Brushing—Often, a loss of tooth whiteness means that plaque has built up on the tooth surface. Careful brushing is needed to remove bacteria and plaque, and if your child isn’t brushing at least twice a day for two minutes, discoloration can be the result.
  • Medications—When given in liquid form, or when added to formula or food, iron supplements can cause dark grey staining on the teeth. Medications taken by a mother while pregnant or breast feeding, such as tetracycline, can also lead to discoloration.
  • Injury—If a tooth suffers a serious injury, the tooth can darken because of changes inside the enamel.
  • Health conditions—Certain health problems can cause tooth discoloration, or sometimes children are born with weaker enamel that is more likely to stain.

If you have noticed any staining on your child’s primary teeth, call our Longwood, FL office. Simple stains can often be removed with better brushing techniques, and we can clean other surface stains in the office. Staining caused by an injury or a health condition is something we can discuss in detail with you. We can even use some professional whitening methods if those are indicated.

Why not just buy a home whitening kit for your child? There are several important reasons to leave these products on the shelf while your child is young.

  • Whitening kits are designed for adults. They have been tested for adult teeth in adult trials. Check the box for age appropriate use. Most products are not recommended for pre-teen children.
  • Remember that thinner enamel we mentioned earlier? Add to that the delicate skin of young children, and it’s sensible to be cautious about using a bleaching agent that can cause mouth and tooth sensitivity even in adults.
  • There is no body of evidence available as to the short and long term effects of using these products on children.

If you are concerned about the brightness of your child’s smile, please talk to Dr. Hawkins. We can recommend better ways to brush at home, clean your child’s teeth in the office, or suggest professional methods of whitening if there are physical or psychological reasons that it would be valuable. But while your child is young, those off-the-shelf whitening products can wait a few more years.

Which toothpaste should I use?

May 22nd, 2019

Toothpastes come in many forms and boast different flavors, benefits, and endorsements. All are designed to remove surface bacteria and prevent the buildup of plaque that can cause tooth decay. With so many choices, Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry know that selecting the right toothpaste can be intimidating. After all, some benefits are welcome bonuses, while others are absolutely essential. So how can you know which toothpaste is best for you?

ADA Seal of Approval

While all toothpastes must first be approved by the Food and Drug Administration for sale to consumers, the American Dental Association puts these products through further rigorous tests for safety and effectiveness. Toothpaste that boasts the ADA Seal of Approval can be trusted to do exactly what it claims.

Fluoridated

Fluoride is an essential ingredient in a daily toothpaste. It helps to protect the tooth from decay by removing plaque and strengthening the enamel. Although fluoride is found in many public water supplies, many people are deficient in it due to the consumption of bottled water instead of tap water. All toothpastes with the ADA Seal of Approval contain fluoride.

Other benefits

If a toothpaste meets the ADA’s standards and contains fluoride, the next step is to clear it with your dentist. This is especially true if you decide to use a whitening toothpaste, which often contains abrasives to remove surface stains. Though abrasives are an effective aid in tooth whitening, they may not be recommended if you have weak tooth enamel.

Specialty toothpastes

In certain situations, Dr. Hawkins may suggest or prescribe specialty toothpaste, depending on your oral health needs. For example, patients who are prone to tooth decay and cavities despite frequent brushing and flossing may benefit from prescription-strength fluoridated toothpaste to help prevent the weakening of tooth enamel. Others who suffer from tooth sensitivity may benefit from the use of desensitizing toothpaste. Talk with Dr. Hawkins if you think a specialty toothpaste could be right for you by scheduling an appointment at our Longwood, FL office.

Avoid Brushing After Every Single Meal!

May 15th, 2019

Here is some surprising yet worthwhile advice you might be hearing for the first time: Brushing after a meal can be incredibly bad for your teeth if you do it after eating certain foods.

Enamel is an extremely hard mineral on the exterior of each of your teeth. It’s actually the hardest substance in the human body: It’s even stronger than your bones! Its only weakness is that acids in the food we eat can easily destroy enamel.

Healthy teeth thrive in an environment that has the proper pH balance. That ensures your mouth doesn’t start the process of demineralization. That’s what happens when alkaline turns into acid, which attacks and softens the enamel on the surface of your teeth. Pores and fissures form, and that’s when the harmful bacteria go to work.

Our mouth’s pH level fluctuates depending on what we eat throughout the day. Examples of the most common highly acidic foods include citrus fruits, soda, and sugary foods. Highly acidic foods tip the balance of pH in your mouth from a healthy alkaline to a dangerous acid.

Can brushing your teeth immediately after a meal lead to even more damage? The answer is yes!

Eating highly acidic foods causes your teeth to be more susceptible. If you brush your teeth when they have been weakened by acids, even more destruction can happen to your enamel. Your toothbrush’s bristles will actually wear away some of your enamel. So it’s healthier to wait at least an hour after eating or snacking to brush.

Good preventive measures to take instead of brushing after you eat include:

  • Rinsing or drinking water
  • Chewing sugarless gum
  • Consuming dairy or non-acidic foods to conclude your meal

These practices help produce saliva, which in turn restores a healthy pH level in your mouth and coats the teeth with minerals they need.

Once you’ve allowed time for your mouth to be restored to a healthy pH level, you may brush your teeth as you normally would. Keep in mind that acidic foods can weaken the enamel on your teeth and take the right measures to prevent spiking pH levels.

Most important, don’t forget to wait to brush at least one hour after you eat!

Still have questions? Call our Longwood, FL office and schedule an appointment with Dr. Hawkins.

Anatomy of a Smile Makeover

May 8th, 2019

A smile makeover is usually a combination of one or more cosmetic dental procedures. To achieve your desired result, Dr. Hawkins may perform or suggest a variety of options. The entire process is designed specifically for your unique cosmetic needs, and Dr. Hawkins will make sure all your concerns regarding your smile are addressed.

Here are some of the most common procedures in cosmetic dentistry and how they work:

  • Tooth whitening – Whiter teeth are achieved through a bleaching process typically using hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. Yellower teeth usually respond well to this procedure, while brown-colored teeth stained by fluorosis or taking tetracycline do not respond as well to whitening. Tooth whitening is not for everyone; if you have sensitive teeth, gum disease, or poor enamel, Dr. Hawkins may recommend against tooth-whitening services.
  • Orthodontics – Braces are one of the tried-and-true ways of achieving a healthier smile. Braces are typically worn between 12 and 24 months to reposition the teeth in a straighter and safer alignment. Since your bite is also corrected during this process, it helps ensure you won't have any trouble down the line. There are several different types of braces available these days including: traditional metal braces, clear ceramic braces, lingual braces, and clear aligners.
  • Veneers – Veneers are thin, tooth-colored material (porcelain or resin) designed to be placed on the front surface of teeth to improve their overall appearance. They can be used in cases where the color, shape, size, or length is not as desired. Veneers are usually used in cases where teeth are discolored, chipped, worn down, misaligned, irregular, or have gaps.
  • Implants/bridges – Dental implants and bridges are used to replace missing or broken teeth. Nowadays, both implants and bridges are commonly performed procedures. Implants integrate directly with the jawbone, while bridges are placed over the adjacent teeth to the missing tooth. Implant technology has advanced a great deal in recent years and highly biocompatible ceramic materials are becoming more commonplace.

Getting your perfect smile will take time and patience, but the end result will be well worth it! Please schedule an appointment at our Longwood, FL office about the cosmetic dental services we offer, and achieve the smile you've always wanted!

Electric or Manual Toothbrush: Why It Does (and Doesn't) Matter

May 1st, 2019

You live in the golden age of toothbrushes. Until a few decades people used twigs or brushes made from animal hair to clean their teeth: not very soft and none too effective.

Now, you have a choice of manual brushes with soft, medium, or hard bristles. Or you might choose to go with an electric toothbrush instead.

Have you ever wondered whether manual or electric brushes provide better cleaning? Actually, they both do the job. The key is to brush and floss every day, regardless of the kind of brush you prefer.

At our Longwood, FL office, we like to say the best brush is the one you'll use. So if you prefer manual, go for it. If you prefer electric, turn it on.

Both types have their advantages but both types will get the job done as far as removing plaque.

Electric Toothbrushes

  • Provide power rotation that helps loosen plaque
  • Are great for people with limited dexterity due to arthritis or other problems
  • Are popular with kids who think the electric brushes are more fun to use
  • Can come with variable speeds to help reduce pressure on sensitive teeth and gums

Manual Toothbrushes

  • Can help brushers feel they have more control over the brushing process
  • Allow brushers to respond to twinges and reduce the pressure applied to sensitive teeth and gums
  • Are more convenient for packing when traveling
  • Manual brushes are cheaper and easier to replace than the electric versions.

In many ways, the golden age is just beginning. There are already phone apps available to remind you to brush and floss. New apps can play two minutes worth of music while you brush, help you compare the brightness of your smile or help explain dental procedures. Maybe someday we’ll even have programs that examine your teeth after brushing and identify spots you might have missed.

Dental Filling Options

April 24th, 2019

You’ve made an appointment at our Longwood, FL office to treat your cavity, the decayed area has been removed, and the site has been cleaned and prepared for a filling. Now it’s decision time. What kind of filling should you choose? Well, that depends. There are durability, aesthetic, and price considerations involved in any of your choices, so let’s look at some options before you decide.

Gold

This is a classic choice for a reason. Gold is very durable and can last longer than fillings made from other materials. Because they are crafted from precious metal, gold fillings are more expensive than other alternatives. They are also most often indirect fillings—that is, they are not immediately placed in a tooth, but are formed based on a mold of your tooth taken on your first visit and set in position on a second visit. A gold filling is also noticeable, which can be a matter of concern or a style statement!

Metal Amalgam

An amalgam is a mixture, and an amalgam filling is usually composed of several metallic elements, including silver, tin, copper, and mercury. This filling is also very durable and is one of the most cost-effective choices. Its silver color does not blend into the tooth, so visibility is a factor. Amalgam fillings are considered a safe option, but, if you wonder about potential metal allergies or the amount and kind of mercury involved, we will be happy to discuss your concerns. One possible drawback to amalgam fillings is that sometimes more tooth structure needs to be removed to accommodate them, so this is also a subject we can discuss.

Composite Resins

These fillings are often selected because they are both durable and almost invisible when the color is matched to your tooth. Made of acrylic resin and powdered glass, a composite filling is what is called a “direct filling”—one that can be completed and bonded to the tooth in one visit. These are often more expensive than amalgam fillings, but might be preferable for cosmetic reasons, especially when a front tooth is involved. They also need less tooth structure removed to accommodate them and can be better bonded to small excavations than some other options. They can be prone to staining over time.

Ceramic

Ceramic fillings have the virtue of being virtually undetectable. They can be color-matched to your teeth for a seamless look, and are more stain-resistant than composite fillings. They are also a more expensive option, and, like gold fillings, can involve a two-phase process with a filling molded to fit the excavation site placed in your tooth on a second visit.

Dr. Hawkins and our team are happy to discuss all of your options before it is time to treat your cavity, since there are a number of factors which might impact your decision. A molar will require a more durable filling than a front tooth, while being less visible when you smile or speak. Insurance plans might pay for only a portion of a filling’s cost if it is more expensive than an amalgam, or will pay for a composite filling only if it is in a visible location. We can help you decide which filling best fits all your needs, providing you with the healthy and beautiful smile you deserve!

Dental Emergencies in Children

April 17th, 2019

Unfortunately, dental emergencies can sometimes be unavoidable among young children. The good news is Dr. Hawkins can help you prepare in case you and your child find yourselves in any of the following situations.

Teething

Starting at about four months and lasting up to three years, your son or daughter may experience teething pain. It’s common for teething children to grow irritable and become prone to drooling due to tender gums. Give your child a cold teething ring or rub his or her gums with your finger to help relieve the discomfort.

Loss of Teeth

If a baby tooth is knocked out in an accident, bring your child to our Longwood, FL office to make sure damage hasn’t occurred in the mouth. Permanent teeth can sometimes grow in before baby teeth have fallen out. In this situation, Dr. Hawkins should examine your child to make sure teeth are growing in properly. This can prevent serious issues from arising later in adulthood.

Gum Issues

Bleeding gums could mean several things. They may be an early sign of periodontal disease, which results from poor oral hygiene. Gums may also bleed if a youngster is brushing too hard or has suffered an injury to the gum tissue.

Rinse your child’s mouth with warm salt water and apply pressure to the area if bleeding continues. Don’t hesitate to contact our Longwood, FL office if you are concerned so we can schedule an appointment.

As a parent, you can provide the best education for your children on proper oral hygiene habits. If you some coaching, ask Dr. Hawkins for tips during your next appointment.

What kind of toothbrush and toothpaste should my child use?

April 10th, 2019

Dr. Hawkins and our team know that as a parent, you want your child to be as healthy as possible. By now, you probably know that your son or daughter’s oral health plays a huge role in overall health.

When there are so many toothpaste ads and different styles of brush to choose from, it can be difficult to know which will serve your child the best. We recommend you break down the decision process to make it simpler.

First, your child’s age and stage of development are vital to consider. Until about the age or 12, your youngster may not be prepared to brush or floss adequately alone, due to dexterity issues. If that’s the case, it can be easier to use a battery-powered toothbrush to improve the quality of brushing.

Next is to select the right size of toothbrush head to fit your child’s mouth. As a general rule, the head of the toothbrush should be a little larger than the upper portion of the child’s thumb.

Flossers are great for children and easy to use. They have handles and a horseshoe shape on one end with floss in between. Your child can choose a color he or she likes as well as the handle size, shape, etc.

Not only are there many brands of toothpaste to choose from, there are also many different ingredients that offer varying benefits. Kids are at high risk for developing cavities so you want to make sure the following ingredients are in your child’s toothpaste if you wish to avoid problems later on.

Sodium fluoride is the standard ingredient for cavity prevention, while stannous fluoride is anti-bacterial and anti-cavity. Anti-sensitivity toothpastes often contain potassium nitrate, and triclosan can be found in one particular brand for anti-bacterial action.

Fluoride should not be ingested, so if your child can’t spit yet, use a toothpaste that contains xylitol. This is a natural sweetener and should be the first ingredient listed on the tube.

Now comes the fun part: choosing a flavor! Your little one may sample different flavors and select the one he or she likes the best. A youngster is more likely to adopt good brushing habits if the flavor is appealing.

Don’t hesitate to speak with Dr. Hawkins if you need to make an appointment at our Longwood, FL office, or if you have any questions about toothpastes or toothbrushes.

My gums are inflamed. What can I do?

April 3rd, 2019

Inflamed gums are a fairly common dental issue, but unfortunately, many people don't take the problem seriously enough. If you ignore inflamed gums and continue your usual routine, you could be encouraging a much more severe inflammation problem, and the pain that goes along with that. Fortunately, it is quite easy to relieve inflamed gums if you use the tips below.

Use Soft Bristles

A soft-bristle toothbrush - the softest you can buy - is a must for anyone with inflamed gums. Anything that makes contact with your gums can cause you pain, so fine and soft bristles are always the best choice.

Use Sensitive Formula Toothpaste

The toothpaste marketed as “Sensitive Teeth Formula” contain special ingredients to help relieve sensitivity. When your gums are inflamed, even light brushing can cause some pain. Using a special toothpaste will help reduce that pain and make it easier to brush your teeth effectively. The effect becomes stronger as you use the toothpaste more, so use it for each brushing.

Visit Our Office

If your gums remain swollen for more than a few days or a week, set up an appointment with Dr. Hawkins. There is a long list of conditions that could be causing your swollen gums, everything from gum disease to pregnancy, so you need to find out where your issue is coming from. Most of the time, Dr. Hawkins can easily treat the swollen gum issue at our Longwood, FL office, or can give you an effective treatment to take home.

Pregnancy: What should I know about my oral care?

March 27th, 2019

Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry know this is an exciting time as you anticipate the arrival of your new little one. We want to take this opportunity to provide you with some important information pertaining to your oral health during pregnancy. Just as the rest of your body is changing, the amount of bacteria in your mouth also changes. Scientists don’t understand all the reasons why, but during pregnancy, your mouth is more susceptible to bacterial complications that could result in increased risk for gingivitis or periodontal disease. What researchers do know is the change in hormones creates a more favorable environment for gum infections and diseases when you are pregnant.

You may experience an increase in gingivitis, even while continuing with regular daily brushing and flossing, and routine semi-annual month cleanings. You will likely complain of increased bleeding of the gums with routine daily care and more tenderness in the mouth. This is due, in part, to the increased blood flow and volume that naturally occurs with pregnancy. There is a greater amount of blood flowing through your veins, which translates into slightly engorged gum tissues. If gingivitis prevails, you may also experience pain and tenderness. We can help you navigate through your specific needs.

Brushing your teeth two times a day may not be quite enough. Similarly, if you only floss on occasion, consider making this activity a daily habit. Mouthwash is also advised, or sometimes a mild saltwater rinse may feel better than a commercial brand. Consider other products with xylitol and a WaterPik for additional cleaning.

Finally, we now know that bacteria in the mouth circulate throughout the body. These harmful bacteria compromise your immune system and may increase your risk for respiratory illness and cause other strains on your immune system. Remember that nutrients as well as pathogens are shared with your baby. If you feel tired or tempted to slack on your home-care routine, remember the importance and implications of your daily decisions on how your care for your oral health.

Contact our convenient Longwood, FL location if you have more specific questions. We’re here to help you!

The Consequences of Sports and Energy Drinks

March 20th, 2019

They’re refreshing and tasty. They’re easy to find and pretty cheap. They help us get through a long day or a long workout. They’re everywhere.

We know it’s hard to say no to an energy or sports drink. That’s why Dr. Hawkins and our team want to make sure you know the effects that energy and sports drinks can have on your smile and overall oral health. You might just think twice next time you crave one.

There’s a common misconception that sports and energy drinks are somehow healthier than soda beverages. None is particularly good for you, but because sports and energy drinks have higher acidity levels, they put you on a fast track to enamel erosion, which can lead to cavities over time. However, studies show that energy drinks may be the worst of the bunch.

In a study published in General Dentistry, the energy drinks that showed the highest acidity levels were 5-hour Energy, Monster, Rockstar, and Red Bull Sugar free. These drinks almost doubled in acidity when compared to sports drinks. The sports drinks that came in second as far as acidity levels go were Powerade, Gatorade, and Propel.

You may be thinking, “What's the big deal; lots of other drinks damage your teeth, too,” and you’re right. Even all-natural beverages like orange juice and other fruit juices, which are advertised as full of vitamins, contain acid that damages tooth enamel. The point here is that moderation is key.

We certainly encourage you to choose a glass of orange juice over an energy drink, but if you feel like you just can’t give up your sports and energy drink habit, then please consider the following tips:

  • Limit yourself to a certain number of said beverages a week and stick to it.
  • Rinse with water after consuming an energy or sports drink.
  • Brush your teeth after an hour of downing the drink, so your mouth has time to return to its normal pH level.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call at our Longwood, FL office. Shoot us a message on Facebook, or let us know on your next visit!

Improve your oral health with xylitol!

March 13th, 2019

Xylitol tastes sweet, but unlike sugar, it is not converted to acid that can cause your teeth to decay. It’s a naturally occurring sweetener found in plants, fruits, and vegetables; even the human body produces it in small amounts. Xylitol is widely used in sugar-free chewing gum, mints, candies, and even certain forms of medicine.

The World Health Organization has approved xylitol because only a small amount is needed for its health benefits. It’s even safe for diabetics, with a glycemic index of only seven. Xylitol has 40% fewer calories than other types of carbs: less than three calories per gram.

So how can this natural sweetener benefit your oral health? Take a look at the facts. Tooth decay starts when bacteria consumes the sugars left in your mouth. When you eat sugary foods, the bacteria on your teeth will multiply and make acid that can destroy your enamel.

Xylitol is derived from fibrous parts of plants, so it does not break down like a regular sugar. It actually helps maintain a neutral pH level in the mouth, which in turn prevents bacteria from sticking to the teeth. The bacteria are then unable to digest xylitol, which means your teeth won’t develop enamel damage and cavities.

Studies have shown the consumption of xylitol as a sugar substitute or a dietary addition had a dramatic reduction in new cavities and even reversed existing cavities. These effects are long lasting: low cavity rates remained years after the trials were done.

When there’s less bacteria and acid in your mouth due to xylitol, your teeth stay healthier. The more frequently it’s ingested, the more you will prevent enamel damage.

Aim to consume around five grams a day, or one gram every three hours if possible. You can do this by consuming gum, tablets, candy, or mints that have xylitol as one of the first ingredients after your meals. You can find these products in health food stores and specialty grocery stores.

Since xylitol replaces sugar on a one-to-one ratio, it’s used in several common items:

  • Toothpaste
  • Mouth rinse
  • Baby oral wipes, gel, and pacifiers
  • Nasal wash
  • Dry mouth spray
  • Granulated forms for cooking
  • Granulated packets to add to drinks
  • Commercially prepared foods

Make sure to pick up items that contain xylitol the next time you’re at the store! This is an easy way to maintain great oral health. If you have specific questions about xylitol, ask Dr. Hawkins during your next appointment at our Longwood, FL office.

When to Begin Dental Care for Your Child

March 6th, 2019

Children’s oral health differs from that of adults in a variety of ways. Dr. Hawkins and our team want you to understand how you can provide the best care for your son or daughter’s teeth. It’s essential to understand what your child will need from you when it comes to his or her oral health in those first few years.

In-home dental care begins when your baby starts to show signs of developing the first tooth. We recommend that you bring your child to our Longwood, FL office between the ages of one and two. Dr. Hawkins will take a look at your child’s tooth development and gums during this first scheduled appointment.

The initial appointment with your little one is designed to get him or her accustomed to our office. We recommend allowing your child to be in the exam room alone with us during the first visit in order to become comfortable with our staff at an early age.

We will go over several general matters during your child’s first visit:

  • Look for signs of decay or other tooth or gum problems
  • Make sure your youngster doesn’t have gum disease or cavities
  • Examine your child’s bite, and check for misalignment that could lead to problems in the future
  • Clean the teeth, and apply fluoride if your son or daughter is old enough
  • Talk to you about proper oral health care for your
  • Give you some tips for brushing and flossing your child’s teeth
  • Answer any questions you may have about caring for your little one’s teeth

Once your child is old enough for his or her first visit to the dentist, you should begin to schedule regular cleanings every six months. If any problems arise before a scheduled appointment, call our Longwood, FL location and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Remember, creating healthy oral health habits with your child early on is crucial. We’re here to guide you through this process and make sure your child is healthy and happy.  

Your Options for Sedation Dentistry

February 27th, 2019

Fear of going to the dentist is more common than you may think. That’s why Dr. Hawkins and our team want to make your visit as relaxing as possible.

Your anxiety about pain or routine procedures doesn’t have to stop you from visiting our Longwood, FL office; we offer various types of sedation to remove the pain and stress from your dental procedure.

Nitrous Oxide Sedation

Nitrous oxide combined with local anesthetics ensures both pain relief and reduced anxiety for many patients. It’s useful because the dosage can be regulated during treatment, and patients are usually able to drive shortly after the procedure is completed.

Oral or Injected Sedation

With oral sedation, you may be given a pill or liquid to consume several hours before your treatment. Make sure someone will be available to drive you to your appointment, because you will not be able to drive yourself.

An oral liquid is often given to children before any shots or intravenous anesthesia. An intramuscular injection may be given at the office to provide relaxation benefits for 20 to 30 minutes.

Nitrous Oxide with an Oral Sedative

For patients with higher levels of anxiety, an oral or injected sedative can be offered before nitrous oxide begins. This can also be effective for reducing anxiety about the injection of local anesthetics itself. A liquid medication followed by nitrous oxide is beneficial for children to produce a deep sedation level.

General Anesthesia

This type of anesthesia can be offered as an inhaled gas or intravenous liquid. If no oral sedative is given before the general anesthesia is administered, you should wake up quickly after your procedure.

To reduce your anxiety, we can offer a pill or liquid medication before intravenous sedation starts. Intravenous sedation can also be used at moderate-to-deep sedation levels without complete loss of consciousness.

Dr. Hawkins and our team are happy to go over your sedation or pain prevention options when you visit. We’re here to ensure all your questions are answered and your procedure is a relaxing one.

Natural Ways to Soothe a Toothache

February 20th, 2019

Toothaches can come in many different forms, but no matter which, they’re always uncomfortable. Dr. Hawkins and our team want you to know there are simple ways to cure this common problem.

Toothaches can be caused by infections, gum diseases, teeth grinding, trauma, or having an abnormal bite. Several symptoms may become noticeable when you start to experience a toothache. You might develop a fever, have trouble swallowing, notice an unpleasant discharge, and most often feel lasting pain when you bite down.

If you begin to notice any of these symptoms, try to manage the pain with the simple remedies below. If the pain continues, contact our Longwood, FL office and schedule an appointment, because a bigger issue might be involved.

  1. First, try rinsing your mouth out with warm salt water. This helps to disinfect your mouth and may soothe the region where the toothache is occurring. Hydrogen peroxide can also help if you swish it around in your mouth.
  2. Applying a cold compress or ice pack to your jaw in area that hurts can help with swelling.
  3. Make sure to floss your entire mouth thoroughly. The problem could be caused by food debris stuck between your teeth.
  4. Certain essential oils possess pain-relieving qualities, including clove, nutmeg, eucalyptus, or peppermint oil. Use a cotton swab and dilute one of these oils, then apply it to the problem tooth and/or gum area. Repeat the process as needed. This can also be done with apple cider vinegar.
  5. Similar to essential oils, peppermint tea can soothe and slightly numb the area. Swish it around in your mouth once it has cooled off for temporary relief.
  6. You may also soothe a toothache by eating Greek yogurt. You might be surprised to know that yogurt contains healthy bacteria that can help fight against pain.
  7. Crushed garlic can be rubbed on the aching area to help relieve pain. Garlic contains allicin, which slows bacterial activity. The application may burn at first but it has been known to help treat inflammation.

When it comes to preventing toothaches, you can take various measures. Always make sure you brush and floss every day, though. If you schedule regular oral examinations by Dr. Hawkins, you will decrease infections that may cause toothache from spreading.

If you’ve tried the methods listed above and your toothache hasn’t gone away, call our Longwood, FL office and we can schedule an appointment to figure out the cause of the problem and provide a solution.

Team Dark Chocolate

February 13th, 2019

Valentine’s Day is the holiday to celebrate all the treasured relationships in your life. It’s a time to honor love in all shapes and forms with cards, social gatherings, and sometimes even binge eating of sweets.

It's hard to look the other way when grocery stores and pharmacies are invaded with goodies connected to the Valentine’s Day theme, and especially if you’re on the receiving end of some of these sweets. We get it. In fact, we’re all for it!

However, we also support a cavity-free smile. So in the interest of your dental and general health, and because we think it’s genuinely tasty, Dr. Hawkins recommends an alternative to the Valentine treats you may be accustomed to: dark chocolate. 

Yes, Healthy Chocolate Exists

Studies have shown that dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, an ingredient found in the cocoa beans used to make chocolate. Flavonoids can help protect the body against toxins, reduce blood pressure, and improve blood flow to the heart and brain.

By opting for dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate, you get to reap these benefits! Pretty sweet, right? Just make sure to stick to high-quality dark chocolates that have undergone minimal processing.

Dark Chocolate, AKA Protector of Teeth

Not only does dark chocolate provide some nice benefits for your overall health, it also helps protect your teeth against cavities! According to the Texas A&M Health Science Center, dark chocolate contains high amounts of tannins, another ingredient present in cocoa beans.

Tannins can actually help prevent cavities by interfering with the bacteria that causes them. Think of them as scarecrows for bacteria. They don’t always prevail, but isn’t it nice to have them there?

Smooth Never Sticky

Unlike many popular candies, dark chocolate is less likely to stick in the crevices of your teeth. Chewy, gooey sweets are more likely to hang around in your mouth for longer periods of time, which means they raise the odds of your harboring cavity-creating bacteria.

While some dark chocolates have additives like caramel or marshmallow, it’s best to opt for the plain varieties, which are just as delicious. If you’re feeling festive, though, a dark chocolate with caramel is still better than a milk chocolate with caramel, so that’s the way to go!

While dark chocolate has some pretty sweet benefits, the most important thing to remember (whether you go the dark chocolate route or not), is that moderation is key. That being said, we hope you have fun satisfying your sweet tooth and shopping for treats for your friends and loved ones. Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at Springs Family Dentistry!

Why You Should Avoid Energy and Sports Drinks

February 6th, 2019

In a world where everything moves so quickly and teens and young adults find themselves pulling “all-nighters” or working long hours, energy drinks have grabbed the spotlight. You’ll have one (or three) and suddenly you have the drive you need to keep going.

The same can be said for sports drinks. It’s common for people to have one even when they’re not engaged in any strenuous physical activity, which is what they were designed for. People will drink them simply because they’ve grown to love the taste.

Although they might taste great and boost your energy, there’s a serious down side to consuming energy and sports drinks on a steady basis. Studies have shown that these drinks contain so much acid that they start to destroy your teeth after just five days of consistent use.

The acid in these drinks destroys your tooth enamel, which makes your teeth more vulnerable to bacteria. This can progress to staining, tooth decay, and hypersensitivity.

That’s why Dr. Hawkins and our team want to encourage you to try to limit the amount of sports and energy drinks you consume. If you do enjoy either or both of these drinks, you should make it a habit to rinse your mouth with water immediately after consumption, and brush your teeth about an hour later, after the period when acid has a softening effect on your enamel has passed.

If you feel like you’re already experiencing the side effects of heavy energy and sports drink consumption, visit our Longwood, FL office, and our team can provide solutions for how to prevent further damage from occurring. It’s never too late to change a bad habit!

I have halitosis. What can I do?

January 30th, 2019

Halitosis is the fancy, scientific word for “bad breath.” Dr. Hawkins and our team know there are several reasons why you may have halitosis; let’s look at a few:

  • Gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) – There are five main types of gum disease, and each one can range from mild to severe. For example the most common one is gingivitis; it is caused by bacteria in the plaque that has been allowed to build up, usually as a result of poor oral hygiene. A more serious and uncommon type of gum disease is called necrotizing periodontal disease. It is most common in people who have a suppressed immune system.
  • Smoking
  • Dry Mouth – This can be caused by something as simple as a medication you take.
  • Food – Of course, if you eat something that is potent like garlic, it is going to give you bad breath.
  • Diseases of the Body – Some diseases such as sinus infections and diabetes, among a few other types of infections, can also cause you to have halitosis.

How to Get Rid of Halitosis

The most obvious answer to how to get rid of halitosis is to practice good oral hygiene, although, depending on the cause of halitosis it may not be that simple. If you have an infection that is causing the halitosis then you may need an antibiotic to clear up the infection and then the bad breath will go away. Here are more tips:

  • Brush your teeth after every meal and before bed.
  • Floss your teeth. The more plaque you get out of your teeth, the better chance you have of not getting cavities or bad breath.
  • Address any medical conditions that are not related to your teeth that can be causing the halitosis.
  • Ask Dr. Hawkins for a prescription mouthwash that kills bacteria.

Halitosis (bad breath) can be an embarrassing condition to live with, but there are plenty of ways to get rid of it permanently. Start by talking to a member of our team at our Longwood, FL office.

Adult Mouthguards

January 23rd, 2019

You make sure your daughter wears her mouthguard to every soccer practice. Your son doesn’t step on the basketball court without his. Why not protect your smile as well?

Athletes of all ages in team or recreational sports can help prevent dental injuries with a protective mouthguard. If you bike or ski, play racquetball or squash, skate, or sky dive, a mouthguard will help keep your teeth and gums healthy as you keep fit.

Mouthguard Options

Our office will be happy to talk to you about whether a mouthguard is a practical addition to your workout gear. There are many options available to you, including:

Stock: Preformed appliances available at sporting goods stores and drugstores. These are the most affordable, but are a one-size-fits-all option and may not be a comfortable fit for you.

Boil-and-Bite: Also available at sports shops and drugstores. This guard is formed by placing it in hot water and then biting down to allow it to conform to the shape of your mouth.

Custom: Our Longwood, FL office can create a personalized mouthguard just for you. Individual mouthguards are the most durable and comfortable option, in general, and provide the best fit for ease of talking and breathing while exercising. You may also have special dental conditions, such as the placement of crowns or braces, which could be a factor in your decision.

Whichever option you choose, remember to wear your mouthguard regularly while exercising. A proper mouthguard cannot only help prevent injuries to your teeth, but to your face and jaw as well. A healthy smile and a healthy body are a winning combination. The next time you visit Dr. Hawkins, let’s talk sports!

The History and Mythology of the Tooth Fairy

January 16th, 2019

While the last baby teeth generally aren’t lost until age ten or 11, most children stop believing in the tooth fairy by the time they're seven or eight. Of course, children are more than happy to play along with the game when there’s money at stake! While it is impossible to know what the tooth fairy does with all those teeth (are they labeled and stored like museum pieces in a giant fairytale castle?), it is possible to trace the history and myth of the tooth fairy to several cultures and traditions. Dr. Hawkins and our team learned about some interesting myths about the tooth fairy!

The Middle Ages

Legend has it that Europeans in the Middle Ages believed a witch could curse someone by using their teeth, so it was important to dispose of baby teeth correctly. Teeth were swallowed, buried, or burned. Sometimes baby teeth were even left for rodents to eat. Despite being pests, rodents were valued for their strong teeth; it was generally believed a tooth fed to a rodent would lead to the development of a healthy and strong adult tooth.

Eighteenth Century France

The tooth fairy myth began to show more characteristics of a conventional fairytale in 18th century France. La Bonne Petite Souris, a bedtime story, tells the strange tale of a fairy that changes into a mouse to help a good queen defeat an evil king. The mouse secretly hides under the evil king’s pillow and defeats him by knocking out his teeth.

Scandinavian Lore

So, why does the tooth fairy leave money under the pillow? The idea of exchanging a tooth for coins originated in Scandinavia. Vikings paid children for a lost tooth. Teeth were worn on necklaces as good luck charms in battle. While the idea of exchanging a tooth for coins quickly spread throughout the rest of Europe, a fierce, horn-helmeted Viking is far cry from the image of a fairy collecting teeth.

While the tooth fairy as children know her today didn’t make an appearance until the 1900s, tooth myths and rites of passage have existed in numerous cultures since the dawn of time.

What exactly is periodontal disease?

January 9th, 2019

Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. Our team at Springs Family Dentistry wants you to know that this common ailment can be fixed with little worry if treated properly.

Periodontal disease is usually identified through dental X-rays, probe depths, and visual exams. If left untreated, it can lead to tooth sensitivity, premature tooth loss, or discomfort and pain in your mouth. Some common symptoms to watch for include bleeding or swollen gums, bad breath, teeth movement, or jaw displacement.

Factors that may increase your risk of developing periodontal disease may include poor oral hygiene, smoking/chewing tobacco, genetics, stress, inadequate nutrition, pregnancy, diabetes, and some medications. Some of these causes are avoidable, but others are not.

If you have diabetes, you may be more prone to periodontal disease due to the greater difficulty in controlling blood glucose levels. Studies have shown that once periodontal disease is treated, glucose levels become more responsive to control as well. If your risk for periodontal disease is heightened by one of these factors, make sure to watch for the signs and keep up with your daily oral hygiene routine.

How can you treat this common disease that affects almost half of the population? Depending on the severity, treatment can include a medicated mouth rinse, antibiotic treatment, laser therapy, or scaling and root planing. It’s useful to recall that this condition can vary from mild to severe, which is why you should make an appointment at our Longwood, FL office if you notice any of the above symptoms.

 

Tooth Protection and Winter Sports

January 2nd, 2019

Just because it’s cold out there doesn’t mean you’ll give up keeping fit and active! Winter is the season for some of our favorite team sporting activities, and when you’re donning your protective gear, don’t forget to protect your teeth as well.

  • Basketball

This sport actually tallies one of the highest counts of dental injuries. Running, jumping, and diving for the ball on an unforgiving court can lead to tooth and jaw injuries.  And for every ten men on the floor, it seems like there at least 50 flailing elbows in the paint.

  • Hockey

Notorious for the toll it takes on teeth, hockey is a game of sticks, ice, and whizzing pucks. And when your sport’s penalties include the terms hooking, slashing, and tripping, the more protection, the better.

  • Skiing

When you are flying down the slopes, combining powdery snow and speed, mouth protection is a good idea. This also applies to snowboarding and other snow sports.

  • Wrestling

Grappling and pinning in close quarters can lead to unintended injuries after accidental contact with the mat or your opponent.

Different uniforms, different equipment, and different playing fields, but all these sports have one thing in common—the easiest way to protect your teeth while playing them is with a mouth guard.

Mouthguards generally come in three forms:

  • Over the counter, ready-made appliances. These are available in drugstores and sporting goods stores, but might not be a comfortable fit as they are pre-formed sizes.
  • The “boil-and-bite” option is a mouthguard form placed in hot water. You then bite down to shape it to your mouth and teeth.
  • Custom mouthguards can be fabricated just for you through our Longwood, FL office. These appliances are designed to fit your individual mouth and teeth, so provide a better fit and better protection. They are also usually more durable and more comfortable. If you wear braces, you definitely need a custom mouthguard to prevent an injury to your mouth or braces caused by an ill-fitting appliance.

Whether you play on a team or pursue individual athletic activities, keeping safe as you keep fit is your first priority. We would be happy to discuss your mouthguard options for any sport, any time of year.

Smile, the New Year is Almost Here!

December 26th, 2018

We’ve been celebrating the new year for a really, really long time. It goes way back, but it started formally in 1582, when Pope George XIII made January 1st the official holiday for ushering in the new year. The idea was to yell, cheer, and blow horns to scare away all the evil spirits of the previous year with the hope that the new one would be filled with happiness and opportunity.

While scaring away evil spirits isn’t what’s on our mind these days, we still ring in the New Year by cheering and hollering with friends and family. It’s a time to set new goals, refocus on old ones, and look forward to all the surprises the coming year will bring.

Whether you’re saying hello to the New Year snuggled up at home on your couch in the Longwood, FL area or by gathering your friends for a social celebration, here are some tips to help ensure you welcome this new chapter with a smile.

Tips for a great New Year’s Eve celebration from Springs Family Dentistry

  • Stay safe. This one’s vital, because nothing puts a damper on your party like an emergency trip to the hospital. Stay responsible and try to plan ahead, whether that means taking a taxi, staying with a friend, or recruiting a designated driver. Do what you have to do to keep yourself and everyone around you safe.
  • Spend time with the people you love most. The way we see it, the whole point of the holiday season is to cherish your family and friends. Regardless of what you’re doing, make sure there’s something for everyone. It’s essential to do something the whole group will enjoy!
  • Smile! Whether you get all dressed to go out or have a quiet gathering with family and friends, make sure you accessorize with a smile. There’s always something to smile about!

We can all agree that change can be scary sometimes, but ringing in the New Year is an observance we all welcome with open arms. We hope you’ll enjoy this transitional holiday in a fun, healthy, and safe way. You have endless possibilities ahead of you!

From Dr. Hawkins, have a fantastic New Year!

Treatment Options for TMD

December 19th, 2018

Temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD) refers to a diverse range of disorders that relate to muscular function in the jaw and face — the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). That could mean difficulty opening your mouth, pain in the jaw or face, or any sort of problem with the jaw joint.

TMD can be difficult to diagnose because of the varied causes. Whatever the case, an accurate diagnosis from Dr. Hawkins helps make treatment as successful as possible.

Most often, jaw problems will resolve themselves within several weeks or months. Surgeries like arthrocentesis, arthroscopy, and open-joint surgery should be a last resort. More conservative and reversible treatments should come first and are in fact the most critical step in the treatment of TMD.

Less invasive treatments like acupuncture and splints can be helpful, but that will depend on your particular case. It’s worth your while to speak with Dr. Hawkins at our Longwood, FL office to learn about solutions that could work for you.

A combination of treatments will most often produce the greatest relief for TMJ patients. It’s a good idea to avoid activities that overuse the jaws, such as chewing gum or clenching your jaws.

You can be proactive in finding relief for TMD by trying the following remedies at home:

  • Eat soft food: When you eat soft and/or blended food, your jaw gets an opportunity to rest. Avoid chewy and crunchy food, and food that requires you to open your mouth wide, like apples or corn on the cob.
  • Apply moist heat: A hot water bottle wrapped in a moist towel can help reduce symptoms.
  • Apply ice: Applying an ice pack wrapped in a cloth or towel for no longer than 15 minutes may also reduce pain and promote healing.
  • Do jaw exercises: A physical therapist can help identify the exercises that will work for you. Jaw exercises have been shown to be an effective treatment method that can be performed at home.
  • Relaxation: Actively try to relax the muscles of the face and lips, and let your teeth come apart. Many find meditation, yoga, and slow, deep breathing to be helpful for reducing stress and tension.
  • Avoid wide yawns: Keep your fist under your jaw when you feel a yawn coming on, to keep your jaw from opening too widely.

Oral Health for the Young Adult

December 12th, 2018

Young adults often have the reputation of not taking good care of themselves. You may feel invincible, and not realize how much your behaviors now can affect your health later in life. Oral health is one area that is easy to neglect now, but that can lead to serious financial and quality of life consequences later.

Follow a Good Oral Care Regimen

If you don’t already do so, it’s time to brush, floss, and rinse as Dr. Hawkins taught you. Brush at least twice a day or after meals, and floss your teeth every day. If recommended, use mouthwash to kill germs in your mouth. If you are not able to brush your teeth after eating, swish water around in your mouth to remove the food from your teeth. Leaving carbohydrates in your mouth allows bacteria to ferment it and produce acid, which can destroy your tooth enamel and put you at risk for decay.

Visit Our Office Regularly

Young adulthood can be a challenging time when it comes to medical care. Your parents are no longer paying for your health insurance or taking you to your appointments. You may not worry much about getting regular cleanings and exams, especially if you’re paying for them yourself.

However, young adults have a lot to gain from visiting our Longwood, FL office regularly. We can check for signs of problems and fix them early, which can save thousands of dollars and, ultimately, your teeth. These are some examples of what Dr. Hawkins and our hygiene team can do for you.

  • Get rid of plaque so it does not develop into tartar and cause periodontitis.
  • Identify and fill small areas of tooth decay to prevent it from progressing.
  • Examine your gums for signs of gingivitis, or early gum disease.

Consume a Tooth-Healthy Diet

A nutritious diet is not just for preventing heart disease and diabetes later in life. It also supports your teeth. Make sure to get plenty of calcium, such as from dairy products, canned fish, and leafy green vegetables to allow for strong teeth. Also, limit sticky foods and sugary sweets.

Three Signs You May Have Gingivitis

December 5th, 2018

Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, is an early stage of gum disease. If you have gingivitis, it’s important to visit Dr. Hawkins to get proper treatment, since home care isn’t enough to get rid of the plaque that leads to tartar and eventually to gum disease. Monitor yourself to see if you have these signs of gingivitis, and get help as soon as you can to prevent the progression to periodontitis. Your vigilance could save your teeth.

1. You have one or more risk factors.

Having risk factors for gingivitis doesn’t mean that you have or will get the disease, but it does mean that you should be especially watchful. You’re more likely to get gum disease if you have the following risk factors:

  • You are a smoker.
  • You are a female going through puberty, pregnancy, or menopause.
  • You have diabetes.
  • You have a compromised immune system, as is the case if you have HIV/AIDS.
  • You have a family history of gum disease.

2. You have inflammation in your gums.

Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums, and that is a tell-tale sign of the condition. Gingivitis or periodontitis can involve a bacterial infection, and inflammation is your body’s response to an injury or infection. The four standard signs of inflammation are pain, redness, swelling, and a higher temperature than normal.

If you have inflammation around your teeth, your gum disease may have progressed to the more serious condition of periodontitis. Dr. Hawkins can evaluate your case using a scope, or small ruler. The ruler is used to measure the pockets around your teeth, with a depth of one to three millimeters being normal.

3. Your teeth seem to be moving around.

Loose teeth are a classic sign of periodontitis. You may also have them if you have gingivitis. They can occur when your gum line recedes, or as the result of having soft bone in your jaw.

You might also notice other signs of your teeth moving around. For example, they may seem to be oddly spaced, or they could be separating from each other. You might also notice that your partial dentures don’t fit properly anymore, even if they’re not that old.

Gingivitis is a very treatable condition, but you need the help of Dr. Hawkins to keep it in check. Contact our Longwood, FL office to schedule an exam today!

Tooth-Colored Fillings

November 28th, 2018

Once upon a time, silver fillings ruled in dental offices everywhere. For a long time, they were the only option dentists used to close off the spaces on teeth where bacteria could easily enter.

Most patients did not regard a pearly white and silver smile as something to be super excited about. Luckily, we have a range of more aesthetically pleasing options today. The most common material used for fillings now is composite, also known as tooth-colored fillings.

Composite fillings are made to match the shade of your teeth, so they offer a seamless addition to your smile. They even let light travel through them the same way that natural enamel does. Composite fillings are great because they erase imperfections and can even reshape your teeth by minimizing excessive spacing. If you have a gap between your two front teeth, for example, a composite filling is an easy, non-invasive, and most important, cost-effective way to give you the instant fix you desire.

Overall, tooth-colored fillings make an easy choice all around. Easily placed, readily repaired, and well disguised. In a world where a perfect smile seems to have become standard for everybody, why not get composite fillings for yourself?

You can smile with the confidence of knowing that nobody will spot a shiny silver thing in your mouth. Visit our Longwood, FL office to get a consult or give us a call! We’re always happy to answer your questions.

Should I fix my chipped tooth?

November 21st, 2018

It was a small fall! A miniscule piece of popcorn! A minor foul on the basketball court! But now there’s a chip in your otherwise perfect smile. Is a chipped tooth worth calling Dr. Hawkins?

Any time your tooth is injured is time to call our Longwood, FL office. Even a small chip can affect your tooth structure and should be evaluated. We will also want to check your tooth and gums to make sure there is no underlying injury that could be more serious, and to treat your tooth as soon as possible so that no further damage occurs.

A very small chip might need nothing more than smoothing and polishing to remove sharp edges. A small chip in your enamel can be repaired with dental bonding, where a composite like those used to fill cavities will be shaped to cover and fill the chip. This composite will be matched to your tooth color for a seamless repair. A porcelain veneer is also an option for you. These procedures will restore the look of your tooth and protect it as well, because even a small chip can lead to tooth sensitivity or further damage in the future.

A larger chip, such as a fractured cusp, might require a crown. But a large chip might also mean that the inside of the tooth has been compromised. If the dentin or pulp are affected, pain, infection, and even tooth loss could result. A root canal might be necessary to preserve the tooth, so prompt treatment is necessary.

Regardless of the size of the chip, call our Longwood, FL office as soon as possible. We can give you tips for pain management, if needed, until you see us. If you can save the chip, bring it with you when you visit in case there is the possibility of bonding it to the injured tooth.  But even without that missing piece, there are ways to restore the look of your original tooth. Remember, repairing a chipped tooth is not just cosmetic. We want to keep your smile healthy, as well as beautiful!

My child has canker sores! How can I help?

November 14th, 2018

According to the American Association of Pediatric Density, roughly one in five children suffers from canker sores. Canker sores are small sores that appear inside the cheeks, on the lips, on the surface of the gums, and under the tongue.

Even though, canker sores are not contagious, they do tend to run in families. There are several reasons your child may be suffering from canker sores including:

  • Children who have Vitamin B12, iron, and folic acid deficiencies tend to get canker sores more often than children who have normal levels of these vitamins and minerals.
  • Children who suffer from food allergies are also at a higher risk for developing canker sores. It’s difficult to determine what your child may be allergic to. If you feel strongly that the canker sores are related to an allergy, then a visit to an allergist is highly recommended.
  • Biting their lip or cheek can also result in a canker sore.
  • Any injury to mouth, where the skin breaks can cause a canker sore.
  • Brushing their teeth too hard can also be a problem.
  • Your child may be sensitive to an ingredient in their toothpaste. Try switching toothpastes and see if it makes a difference.
  • Emotional disturbances and stress are also factors to consider.

If your child has frequent canker sores a visit to our Longwood, FL office will be beneficial. Canker sores are painful and usually last about 14 days. Dr. Hawkins may recommend one or a few of the following treatment options:

  • Avoid food that is acidic, salty, and spicy.
  • A toothbrush with soft bristles may be helpful.
  • Avoid mouthwash and toothpaste that contain SLS.
  • Do not feed your child foods that they may be allergic to.

Canker Sore Remedies

  • Eating yogurt that contains Acidophilus will relieve the pain and help the canker sore heal faster.
  • Put one teaspoon of baking soda in an eight-ounce glass of lukewarm water. Have your child gargle and swish it around his or her mouth several times a day. Not only does this remedy relieve the pain, the canker sore could be gone in as little as 24 hours.
  • Place a wet tea bag on the sore and hold it there for a few minutes several times a day. This remedy will help with the pain and quickly heal the sore.
  • Camphor, Benzocaine, Lidocaine, and Orajel are over-the-counter medications that can help.

If you have questions about your child’s canker sore, contact Dr. Hawkins to schedule an appointment.

How can veneers improve my smile?

November 7th, 2018

Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry believe everyone’s smile should be a something they can be proud of. Most of us aren’t born with naturally perfect teeth, though, so it’s fortunate that cosmetic dentistry and veneers make it possible to achieve the smile of your dreams!

Dental veneers are a great option to improve your smile and are highly accessible to patients around the world. They’re made of porcelain and will be customized to fit the surface of your teeth perfectly. Our team will note your tooth size, color, and shape so your veneers will look completely natural.

Benefits of dental veneers

Appearance: Dental veneers can be undetectable to others because they look so natural. One of the best perks is that they are resistant to stains, so you don’t have to worry about discoloration over time.

Improvements: Not only will your smile look better, but many minor imperfections can be improved with dental veneers as well. Chipped teeth, discoloration, and gaps will be covered by your veneers.

Durability: Veneers are made from long-lasting porcelain materials, which means they are resistant to scratches and chipping. If you take care of them properly, they can look as good as new for years!

Flexibility: Patients have the option of choosing single veneers to repair chips or cracks in teeth or go for multiple teeth to create a completely new smile.

Considerations

Just because dental veneers can cover imperfections, that doesn’t mean your oral hygiene is any less vital. Your teeth and gums should be healthy and disease-free in order to be eligible for veneers.

Set up an initial consultation at our Longwood, FL office today, and we can address any underlying issues you may have. Your perfect smile could be just a phone call away!

 

What exactly is a cavity?

October 31st, 2018

We all know how discouraging can be it to hear you have a dental cavity. Knowing how cavities form can help you prevent them from popping up in your mouth. If you want to avoid a trip to see Dr. Hawkins, pay attention to the measures you can take to prevent bothersome cavities.

Did you know that cavities are properly a symptom of a disease called caries? When you have caries, the number of bad bacteria in your mouth increases, which causes an acceleration in tooth decay. Caries are caused by a pH imbalance in your mouth that creates problems with the biofilm on the teeth.

When there are long periods of low pH balance in the mouth, this creates a breeding ground for bacteria. When you get caries, this type of bacteria thrives in an acidic environment.

Depending on which foods and beverages you consume, the biofilm pH in your mouth will vary. The lower the pH number, the higher the acidity. When your intake contains mostly acidic foods that sit on your teeth, cavities begin to form. Water has a neutral pH, which makes it a good tool to promote a healthy pH balance in your mouth.

A healthy pH balance in your mouth will prevent cavities from forming over time. Mouth breathing and specific medications may also be factors that contribute to the development of caries when saliva flow decreases. Without saliva flow to act as a buffer against acid, bacteria has a higher chance of growing.

Don’t forget: Getting cavities isn’t only about eating too many sweets. It’s also about managing the pH levels in your mouth and preventing bad bacteria from growing on your teeth.

If you think you might have a cavity forming in your mouth, schedule an appointment at our Longwood, FL office. It’s worthwhile to treat cavities early and avoid extensive procedures such as root canals from becoming necessary.

Keep up with brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash so you can prevent cavities over time.

Xerostomia: Big Word, Common Problem

October 24th, 2018

Xerostomia might sound like a serious and rare condition, but it’s more common than you think. If you’ve been feeling like your mouth is constantly dry, you may already be having your first encounter with it.

Xerostomia refers to when you have a dry mouth due to absent or reduced saliva flow. Now you might assume this is not a big deal, but a lack of saliva can threaten your dental health or worse, because it can be a sign of a bigger overall problem.

Some of the more common symptoms to watch for are a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, a burning sensation on the tongue, and of course, a significant lack of saliva. Because xerostomia entails a reduction in saliva, you have less of a buffer between your teeth and the food you eat, which makes you more vulnerable to cavities and tooth decay. It also means that food is more likely to get stuck in your mouth.

So what causes xerostomia? There can be many different culprits. One of the most common causes involves medication. If you’re taking antidepressants, muscle relaxers, anti-diarrhea medicine, anti-anxiety medicine, or antihistamines, this could be the reason for your xerostomia.

Dry mouth may also be a warning sign for other health issues. These can include lupus, diabetes, thyroid disease, arthritis, or hypertension. Patients that receive any kind of chemotherapy might also experience xerostomia as a side effect of their treatment.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of dry mouth, there are several things you can do:

  • This may seem obvious, but you should drink generous amounts of water. If you’re taking any of the medications known to cause xerostomia, a glass of water before and after administering the medication could be helpful.
  • Avoid heavily caffeinated drinks, since they will dehydrate you further.
  • Opt for a mouthwash that contains little to no alcohol.
  • Consume excessively sugary or acidic foods in moderation, if at all.
  • Try adding a humidifier to your room while you sleep, to add moisture to the air you’ll be breathing.

As always, stay on top of your brushing and flossing routines, and if you feel you might be suffering from xerostomia, please let Dr. Hawkins know during your next visit to our Longwood, FL office. We’re happy to recommend products we’ve found to be successful in treating xerostomia.

Suffer from Dental Anxiety? Not a Problem.

October 17th, 2018

If you suffer from dental anxiety, we understand that paying a visit to our office can seem like a nearly impossible mission. Regardless of what the root of that anxiety might be, we’re here to tell you that at Springs Family Dentistry, you have no need to be nervous. Our office is dedicated to making your dental experience as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

One of the best things to do if you experience dental anxiety is call our office in advance to let us know. By notifying us in advance, you give us the opportunity to provide you with the dental care you need in the way you need it.

We can prescribe a relaxation medication for you. During your appointment, we can provide a little bit of laughing gas to put you more at ease, teach you some behavioral techniques for relaxation, and make sure you’re never in the dark about what’s happening.

If dental anxiety makes you feel embarrassed, please be assured that you’re not alone. Studies show that as much as 75% of adults suffer some degree of dental anxiety! It might be helpful to remember that your doctor’s goal is the same as yours: We are here to keep your oral health in check so you can be your healthiest self. We certainly don’t want to make you uncomfortable in the process.

If you have any questions about other ways in which we can accommodate you during your visits, please don’t hesitate to contact our Longwood, FL office!

Medication Can Lead To Xerostomia in Women

October 10th, 2018

Xerostomia, otherwise known as dry mouth, can be a side effect of many common medications. Drugs used for blood pressure, birth control, antidepressants, or cancer treatments may cause the dry mouth problems you’re experiencing. When you have dry mouth, you’re more likely to experience tooth decay and an increased risk of developing periodontal disease. Medication can sometimes be the cause of dry mouth in women, and lead to an increased amount of cavities.

You may not develop a cavity for years, but suddenly find more than one when you’re on medication for several months. This is due to there being less saliva in your mouth, which normally prevents bacteria from flourishing. When there is a lack of saliva flow, your mouth will be more likely to host tooth decay and be more prone to gum disease.

You may not notice it, but birth control can lead to inflammation of the gums and bleeding because of dry mouth. The condition can also emerge if you’ve undergone cancer treatments such as radiation, because your saliva glands may be damaged in the process.

Boosting saliva production is critical for treating xerostomia. Many over-the-counter saliva products are designed to help manage dry mouth. For women with severe cases of dry mouth and decay, we may recommend in-home fluoride treatments that offer extra enamel protection. This can come in the form of fluoride trays, prescription toothpaste, or a special fluoride rinse.

Other ways to relieve dry mouth include chewing sugar-free gum, limiting caffeine intake, avoiding mouthwashes that contain alcohol, sipping water regularly, using a humidifier at night, and stopping all tobacco use.

If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of dry mouth, contact our Longwood, FL office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Hawkins. It’s wise to take medications that have been prescribed by your doctor, but it’s also smart to watch for any side effects. If you think a medication is causing you to have dry mouth, let’s figure out how to manage your symptoms as a team!

Famous Dentists in History

October 3rd, 2018

Every six months or so you head down to your local dentist for a teeth cleaning, but have you ever thought that your dentist could one day be famous? Well, the chances are unlikely, however, there have been a number of dentists throughout history that have achieved acclaim and celebrity coming from a profession that is not typically associated with such regard. Here are a few examples:

Doc Holliday

Perhaps most famous for his gun fight at the O.K Corral alongside his buddy, Wyatt Earp, but "Doc" also had a day job as a dentist. He was trained in Pennsylvania and later opened a thriving practice near Atlanta. Sadly, Holliday came down with a case of tuberculosis and had to close his practice. He then packed his stuff and moved west, and we all know how the rest of the story goes.

Mark Spitz

Known around the world as a champion swimmer, Spitz was actually accepted into dentistry school before he became an Olympic gold medalist. While he ultimately decided not to attend school, it's safe to say he made the right choice considering he now has seven gold medals.

Paul Revere

The most famous dentist to come out of the American Revolution, Paul Revere was a man of many hats. He, of course, is known throughout history books for warning the colonies of the impending British troops on the attack, but when he wasn't involved in the fight he had a few different jobs. He was a silversmith, but also advertised his services as a dentist. More specifically, he specialized in making false teeth for people in need.

Miles Davis' Father

Miles Davis Jr. was one of the most acclaimed and influential jazz musicians of all time and his dad was a dentist. Miles Davis Sr. had a thriving dental practice and was a member of the NAACP. Dentistry was how he paid the bills and provided for Miles Jr., so in some ways it seems we all have the dental profession to thank for allowing Miles Jr. to become such a fantastic musician, and treating us to his jazz stylings.

Dr. Hawkins may not be famous, but you’ll still receive excellent care each and every time you visit our Longwood, FL office.

Dental Visits Are Not So Bad

September 26th, 2018

Many people dread going to the dentist. Dental visits have the reputation of being painful and uncomfortable, and it is common for people to compare unfortunate situations such as having a root canal or feeling the dentist’s drill. However, at Springs Family Dentistry, dental visits are not that bad.

Your regular cleaning and checkup are noninvasive. They require no drilling, Novocain, or needles, and you go home with refreshingly clean teeth. When your hygienist cleans your teeth, you are literally receiving individualized care from a professional as you sit back and relax.

In the days before the use of Novocain or other anesthetics, dental work could be painful. Thankfully, those days are gone! Now you are unlikely to feel a thing, even during the most extensive procedures. In addition, most dental work such as fillings, root canals, and crowns can be performed in one to two visits, so you do not need to keep returning to Springs Family Dentistry.

An incentive for getting over your fear and coming to the dentist is that getting your dental work done can dramatically improve your quality of life. Dr. Hawkins can address tooth problems that have caused toothaches or prevented you from eating the foods you like. As a bonus, regular visits with Dr. Hawkins and our staff allow us to identify conditions such as periodontal disease, which can indicate risk for seemingly unrelated health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Stress and Your Oral Health

September 19th, 2018

Stress symptoms—which include high blood pressure, severe aches, and insomnia—may be affecting your health, even though you might not realize it. You may think illness is the culprit when in fact stress may actually be the reason. While stress can be good for us sometimes, Dr. Hawkins and our team know stress can be physically harmful. But what is often overlooked is that stress can also take a toll on your mouth. Here’s how:

Teeth Grinding

It’s not uncommon for people dealing with stress to develop teeth grinding, also known as bruxism. People who grind their teeth at night may do so unconsciously, but the condition requires treatment to prevent the development of headaches, TMJ, and tooth damage. If you’re a night-grinder, talk to Dr. Hawkins. We may recommend a night guard.

Mouth Sores

Research suggests stress and depression harm your immune system, making it easier for infections to develop and stick around. That can mean canker sores or a cold sore outbreak. If mouth sores are a recurring problem for you, give us a call to schedule an appointment with Dr. Hawkins.

Bad Habits

Stress can lead to bad oral health habits such as smoking, drinking, and neglecting your daily brushing and flossing routine. If you’ve been feeling under pressure lately, try to keep up with your oral health routine—it will serve you well when your stress levels return to normal.

Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry know there’s not always an easy way to reduce your stress levels, but eating healthy, exercising regularly, and spending time with friends and family are all good places to start.

Why are my gums shrinking?

September 12th, 2018

If you’ve noticed that your teeth have appeared to be longer, you may be suffering from gum recession. This is a common problem among adults, and can result from several factors. If gum recession seems to be happening in your mouth, schedule an appointment at our Longwood, FL office. We will take a look and figure out the cause, and help you decide on the best treatment.

The first thing Dr. Hawkins will do is take measurements of the recession to see if the cause could be periodontal disease. Based on how much attached gingiva is present on the gums, a varying amount of gum recession will be present.

The less bone support you have for your teeth, the higher the chance of tooth loss will be. If you have a high likelihood of tooth loss, it’s critical to address the problem right away.

Gum recession can also be caused by stress-related issues that lead to jaw clenching and teeth grinding in the night. This added, ongoing pressure puts extra stress on your teeth, which flexes them at the gum line.

If this happens over a long period, microscopic breaks in your enamel will cause your gum line to move away from your teeth. An occlusal guard may serve as a solution to gum recession caused by teeth grinding. Talk to Dr. Hawkins about this option if you consistently wake up with jaw pain, headaches, or uncomfortable pressure on the sides of your face.

The way you brush and floss your teeth may also cause gum recession. If you’re an aggressive brusher, make sure to purchase toothbrushes labeled “soft.” It’s best to brush your teeth in a circular motion in order to sweep over all your gum lines and remove the most plaque. Generally, brushing in a straight line can leave spots of plaque that lead to periodontal disease, which is a common cause of gum recession.

There are several options for treatment of gum recession. Depending on the cause, Dr. Hawkins will talk with you to decide the best treatment plan. Care may involve a deep cleaning or an antibiotic treatment. In serious cases, treatment might involve pocket-depth reduction, a soft tissue draft, or gum regeneration surgery.

These are just a few of the many potential causes of gum recession and how we can treat the problem. Unfortunately, gums do not grow back, and the consequences of ignoring this condition can be painful and time-consuming.

Please call our Longwood, FL office to schedule an appointment if you’ve noticed any elongating of your teeth or recurring irritation of the gums. We will work as hard as possible to help rid you of your gum recession and prevent it from getting worse in the future.

Amalgam Fillings vs. White Fillings

September 5th, 2018

Many varieties of fillings are available at our Longwood, FL office. Most people are familiar with traditional amalgam fillings: those big silver spots on top of teeth.

Made from a mixture of silver, tin, zinc, copper, and mercury, amalgam fillings have been used to fill cavities for more than 100 years. They offer several advantages, including:

  • High durability for large cavities or cavities on molars
  • Quick hardening time for areas that are difficult to keep dry during placement
  • Reduced placement time for children and special-needs patients who may have a difficult time keeping still during treatment

Although dental amalgam is a safe and commonly used dental material, you might wonder about its mercury content. You should know that when it’s combined with the other metals, mercury forms a safe, stable material.

The American Dental Association, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U. S. Food and Drug Administration, and World Health Organization all agree that based on extensive scientific evidence, dental amalgam is a safe and effective cavity-filling material.

White Fillings

Newer, mercury-free, resin-based composite fillings (white fillings) are also available at our Longwood, FL office. Composite resin fillings are made from plastic mixed with powdered glass to make them stronger.

Resin-based fillings offer several benefits for patients, including:

  • They match the color of teeth
  • Less tooth structure needs to be removed than with amalgam fillings
  • BPA-free materials can be used

Resin-based composite fillings also have some disadvantages, including:

  • Higher cost than amalgam fillings
  • Inlays may take more than one visit
  • Requires more time to place than amalgam fillings

There’s a lot to think about when you have to get a cavity filled. We recommend you do your homework and speak with Dr. Hawkins before deciding what’s best for you or your family.

IV Sedation Dentistry: What is it, and how can it help?

August 29th, 2018

While Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry strive to offer a comfortable and unmatched experience for all our patients, we realize that fear or anxiety while visiting the dentist still affects some of our patients. For those of our patients who need extra comfort and relaxation during their visits, we are more than happy to offer IV sedation, a safe and effective option that provides a deeper and more complete relaxing state than most common oral medications.

Sedation dentistry at our Longwood, FL office can turn a nerve-wracking and sweaty-palmed visit into a comfortable and pleasant one, and allows our patients to drift through their appointments, including complex dental work, feeling completely relaxed and without any discomfort or pain.

During sedation, Dr. Hawkins and our team will monitor your comfort, providing as much medication as necessary to keep you relaxed. We will also use the best tools we have at our disposal to monitor your vital signs so that you can have peace of mind before your procedure.

Dr. Hawkins and our team will be able to tell you if you are a candidate for sedation dentistry and will be more than happy to discuss any concerns, issues, or fears you may have before or during your visit. By talking with us about sedation dentistry, you can feel more comfortable and relaxed during your next visit to Springs Family Dentistry. Give us a call today!

Protecting Your Smile with Mouthguards

August 22nd, 2018

If you participate in sports or other physical activities, it’s wise to consider getting a mouthguard. Also known as mouth protectors, mouthguards are a device worn over the teeth to lessen the impact of a blow to the face.

This reduces the chance that you might lose teeth or sustain other serious oral injuries. We recommend that all patients involved in a contact sport such as wrestling, football, or hockey wear a mouthguard because of the high risk of such injuries.

However, anyone involved in a physically demanding sport or activity should wear a mouthguard as well.

Can you imagine what it would be like to lose a few of your front teeth? The way you talk, eat, and smile would all change. Potential injuries when you don’t wear a mouthguard include chipped and broken teeth, fractured jaws, root damage, damage to crowns and bridgework, concussions, and/or injury to the lips, cheeks, or gums.

Types of Mouthguards

There are three different types of mouthguards — typically made of a soft plastic material or laminate. You can decide which works best for you in terms of budget, fit, and comfort.

  • Stock mouthguards are prefabricated to a standard size. They offer adequate protection, but you need to make sure you find one that fits properly and comfortably. Stock mouthguards are readily available at department stores, sporting goods stores, and online.
  • Boil-and-bite mouthguards are placed in boiling water to soften them, then into the mouth so they can conform to the shape of the teeth. Boil-and-bite mouthguards are more expensive, but offer a more customized fit than stock ones. You can find these in department stores, pharmacies, sporting goods stores, and online.
  • Custom-made mouthguards are created just for you by Dr. Hawkins. These offer the best fit and comfort of all the options, but they are also the most expensive. Ask a member of our Longwood, FL team for more information.

The American Dental Association says a good mouthguard should be easy to clean, fit properly, be comfortable, and resist tearing or damage. It shouldn’t restrict speech or breathing.

Still not sure if you need a mouthguard or which kind is right for you? Ask Dr. Hawkins or one of our staff members for more information.

Top Five Best Foods for Oral Health

August 15th, 2018

Some foods are just terrible for your teeth — think cookies and candy bars — but there are certain foods that are beneficial to your oral health. Below, Dr. Hawkins and our team have covered five of the top foods to keep your teeth and gums healthy!

1. Crispy, low-acid fruits and vegetables: Fruits like apples and vegetables such as carrots and celery act like “natural toothbrushes,” helping to clear plaque from your teeth and freshen your breath.

2. Kiwis: These little green superstars are packed with vitamin C which is essential for gum health. The collagen in your gums is strengthened when you consume foods that are high in vitamin C, like kiwis, thus helping to prevent periodontal problems.

3. Raw onions: Onions have long been studied for their antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties. Proliferation of bacteria is what leads to tooth decay and cavities. By including raw onions in your diet, you'll be doing your part to wipe out those little microbes before they can multiply!

4. Shiitake Mushrooms: A specific compound in shiitake mushrooms, lentinan, has been shown to have antibacterial properties that target the microbes that cause cavities while leaving other beneficial bacteria alone. It may also help prevent gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums.

5. Green Tea: Often lauded for its high antioxidant content and many health benefits, it turns out green tea also benefits your oral health! A Japanese study found men who drank green tea on a regular basis had a lower occurrence of periodontal disease compared to men who drank green tea infrequently. It's believed this is due to the catechins in green tea, a type of flavonoid that may help protect you from free radical damage, but more research needs to be done. Either way, drink up for your overall health, as well as your teeth!

If you have any questions about your oral health, or are looking for even more oral health tips, contact our Longwood, FL office!

Four Tips for Soothing a Toothache

August 8th, 2018

Whether it’s a dull and throbbing ache or a sharp pain, toothaches can come in many different forms. Chances are you’ve had the discomforting experience once or twice in your life. It’s the type of experience that nobody wants to have, because a toothache can be as annoying as fingernails scratching a chalkboard.

What’s a good way to describe a toothache? Let’s see … your mouth feels as if it’s being besieged by one of those Loony Tunes-style jackhammers. As fate would have it, toothaches always seem to occur over the weekend or after-office hours, leaving you to suffer and forcing you to cancel your reservation at that high-end restaurant you’ve been anticipating all week.

Not so fast!

While you’re probably going to want to skip the rib-eye steak, there are numerous tried-and-true home remedies you can use to ease the pain until you can make an appointment with our office. Here’s a look at four ways to soothe a toothache.

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of salt water. Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water will both soothe your toothache and disinfect your mouth. However, make sure the water is warm; cold water can further exacerbate a sensitive tooth. Follow up the saltwater rinse by swishing your mouth with hydrogen peroxide.
  2. Clove oil, eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, and vanilla extract are proven to be comforting elixirs. Dip a cotton swab in one of these mixtures and apply it to your tooth and gums. These substances, which you may even have in your kitchen cupboards, are known to have pain-relieving qualities. For the best results, repeat the application throughout the day.
  3. Eating yogurt is good for toothaches and mouth pain. Yogurt is filled with healthy bacteria that combat pain. Afterward, place a cold compress on your jaw.
  4. Try flossing. Your toothache might be throbbing and severe, but there’s always a chance the pain is caused by a piece of food awkwardly lodged in your teeth.

We hope that helps! Give Springs Family Dentistry a call to learn more!

Foods can Wreak Havoc on Your Enamel

August 1st, 2018

It’s possible to develop tooth decay even when you take great care of your teeth. Brushing and flossing may not be enough to keep your teeth healthy, depending on your diet. Cavities, discoloration, and decay are still possible when certain foods feature in your daily intake. Keep an eye out for foods that will damage your enamel and cause the very issues you’ve been trying to avoid.

What causes enamel damage?

Tooth enamel is the hard outer layer of your teeth that is made of various minerals. Tooth decay results when the acids in your food react with the minerals in your enamel. Strongly pigmented foods may also cause unsightly discoloration on the surface of your teeth. Avoid wreaking havoc on your beautiful smile by identifying the foods that can harm your enamel.

Acid

Acidic food is your teeth’s worst nightmare! This is the greatest cause of enamel damage, even if you brush and floss regularly. To avoid damaging your teeth, make sure you can determine whether a food is acidic or not.

The pH levels are a way to determine acidity on a one-to-seven scale. This defines the relative acidity or alkalinity of a food or substance. Foods with high pH levels are not as likely to harm your enamel.

It’s wise to avoid or minimize foods that are high in acids. Highly acidic food can include fruits such as lemons, grapefruit, strawberries, grapes, and apples. Moderately acid foods may surprise you; they include tomatoes, maple syrup, pickles, and honey.

Not surprisingly, eggs and dairy products such as milk and cheese contain the least amount of acid. Red wine and coffee can also discolor your enamel if they’re drunk in excessive amounts.

What can I do to prevent enamel damage?

There are plenty of ways to avoid discoloration and decay of your enamel. The best thing to do is limit the amount of high-acid foods, including sugary juices and soda, in your diet.

Another way is to brush and floss regularly, an hour after each meal. If you can’t make time to brush, an easy solution is to swish your mouth with water or mouthwash to rinse away any leftover acidic particles.

Damaged tooth enamel may be common, but is avoidable when you know which foods to stay away from and the steps to take after you do eat highly acidic foods. Take our advice and you’ll be sure to slow down any future discoloration and decay that happens in your mouth.

For more advice on protecting your enamel, give our Longwood, FL a call to learn more!

Post-Procedure Care

July 25th, 2018

As with any surgery, post-procedure care is of utmost importance after getting periodontal surgery. Bleeding, pain, swelling, and other sensations are common and should be expected to a degree. This can manifest as small amounts of blood in your saliva, pain after anesthesia wears off, and swelling around the lips and cheeks. However, these symptoms should start improving after a several days.

Below you'll find recommendations from Dr. Hawkins on what you should do to make your post-procedure experience as quick and painless as possible:

Don't smoke - After your surgery you should definitely not smoke. Smoking will inhibit your body's ability to heal the surgical site.

Don't drink alcohol - If you are taking prescription or over-the-counter pain relievers, don't drink alcohol. And it is a good idea in general to avoid alcohol after surgery, since excess alcohol consumption suppresses immune system function and slows the healing process.

Take pain medication as prescribed or an alternative - Pain is to be expected for at least the first week after your procedure. If you choose to take the prescription medication that is prescribed to you, do so as directed. However some patients have found over-the-counter pain medication works for them. You may also consider natural herbs instead of pharmacological solutions. Try turmeric, arnica, or white willow bark (which is what aspirin is derived from, so the same warnings for aspirin apply to white willow bark.)

Eating with your surgical site in mind - It is best to chew on the other side of your mouth for the first several days so as not to irritate the surgical site. Avoid overly cold or hot foods as well. Softer foods like mashed potatoes, oatmeal, and fruit will be more comfortable to chew.

Avoid brushing the surgical site - You can start brushing and flossing your teeth the day after the procedure but avoid the surgical site.

Don't rinse for the first 24 hours - After the first day has passed you can rinse with a mild mouthwash to keep your mouth, dressing, and surgical site clean.

We're here to answer any questions you have after your procedure and will help you as best we can. Pay special attention to any excessive bleeding or discomfort. Contact our Longwood, FL office immediately if you have tried addressing the issue on your own but are still having trouble.

Oral-Systemic Health

July 18th, 2018

Oral-systemic health is the idea that oral health is a critical and interconnected component to a patient’s overall health and well-being. Studies show that people who have poor oral health are more likely to have other health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or a high likelihood of stroke.

Some of the data suggests that oral pathogens may trigger up to 50% of heart attacks, and that the oral bacteria P. gingivalis may cause a 13.6-fold increase in patients’ risk of a heart attack.

Still, the exact relationship between oral and overall health isn't fully known — whether one causes the other or how treating one might affect the other. But it should serve as a warning call to anyone suffering with poor oral health, especially periodontal disease.

More studies need to be conducted to establish the precise link between the two, but whatever it is, one thing is certain: good oral hygiene makes for good oral health. Many dentists and doctors realize the need to work together as a cohesive healthcare team to improve and maintain the health of their communities.

The American Dental Association says oral health is essential to overall health, and not just a luxury. They are setting goals to reduce the amount of tooth decay in low-income communities for both children and adults.

So what is a patient about this information regarding oral-systemic health? Here are some tips to increase and maintain your overall well-being:

  • Have an effective oral hygiene routine. Brush twice a day for two minutes each time, floss daily, clean your tongue, and avoid sugary beverages.
  • Visit your dentist regularly. Regular cleanings and checkups at your dentist’s office will keep your mouth clean and ensure you’re taking good care of it.
  • Eat a healthful diet. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and natural, unprocessed foods contributes to the overall health of your body.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of pure, clean water throughout the day. A good rule of thumb is to drink eight eight-ounce glasses a day.
  • Relax, destress. Stress can play a big role in all forms of disease. Take time during your day to relax, meditate, stretch, and allow your body and mind to rest.

If you have questions about your oral health and how it may be affecting your general health, feel free to ask Dr. Hawkins during your next visit to our Longwood, FL office.

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What are Sealants?

July 11th, 2018

Sealants offer many benefits, but the best is their ability to protect your molars. Molars are full of small caverns that can be the perfect breeding ground for tooth decay and plaque buildup.

Use of protective sealants prevents this buildup from happening. Although children often receive sealants for routine preventive care, they aren’t the only ones who can benefit from this treatment. Sealants can also help adults who have deep canyons or grooves in their teeth.

They are commonly placed on the rear molars that tend to suffer the most decay. Because your molars are used substantially as grinding surfaces, food is more likely to be trapped among them.

Sealant solution consists a composite material that contains bonding agents that seal the top of your teeth. The process is quick and painless, which makes it a great solution for both children and adults who have had trouble with cavities and tooth decay. Sealants also last for several years, and repair is a simple process that can be completed by Dr. Hawkins.

The process of putting sealants on teeth starts with the tooth getting cleaned. We clean it with a type of baking soda spray called sodium bicarbonate. Then acid is etched onto the teeth to rough up the surface.

We apply an alcohol-based liquid to dry the area where the sealant is supposed to go. After it completely covers the surface of the treated teeth, the sealant is cured with a light that makes it hard and long-lasting.

Getting sealants can prevent the possible restorative costs that come from cavities. Sealants help to protect your tooth’s enamel from harmful acids and prevent decay, which can be an investment in itself. The whole process is quick, so it should be easy to schedule an appointment at Springs Family Dentistry.

Feel free to call our Longwood, FL location and we can answer any questions you have about this service.

Tell us about your summer!

July 4th, 2018

The dog days of summer are upon us, and what better time for Dr. Hawkins and our team to ask our patients about their summer!

Whether you visited our nation’s capital, went on a camping trip, or just stayed in Longwood, FL and relaxed, we want to know how you’re all spending your summer! Please feel free to share your summer plans and experiences with us below or on our Facebook page as summer rolls on!

Ways to Prevent Oral Cancer

June 27th, 2018

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, this form of cancer kills roughly one person an hour, every 24 hours. This means that nearly 10,000 people will die this year from this type of cancer.

Often, the cancer is discovered late, which is the main reason the death rate is unfortunately so high. Dr. Hawkins and our team want you to know the precautionary steps you can take to avoid oral cancer.

Here are some of the most effective methods:

  • Good oral hygiene is the first step in oral cancer prevention.
  • Visit our Longwood, FL office every six months for a dental exam.
  • Quit smoking or using chewing tobacco, if you do.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet.
  • Consume cancer-fighting foods such as vegetables, berries, garlic, green tea, etc.
  • Change how you prepare foods; baked, boiled, or steamed foods are healthier than grilled or fried.
  • Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy immune system.
  • Limit the amount of time you spend in the sun, and be sure to use sunscreen.
  • Conduct an oral self-exam each week.

We know the thought of oral cancer can be frightening, so we hope the above advice can help patients catch it early or prevent it from ever happening. If you notice a negative change in your oral health, contact our Longwood, FL location right away and schedule an appointment with Dr. Hawkins.

If you’re ever concerned or have questions about this common form of cancer, don’t hesitate to ask a member of our team.  

 

Dental X-Ray Safety

June 20th, 2018

It's easy to be skeptical about X-rays whether we speak of a full-body X-ray or a dental X-ray. Radiation is radiation. It's vital to know all the facts before judging too harshly, though. Dental X-rays can be one of the best preventive tools for your dental health. We offer various treatments at Springs Family Dentistry, but helping you become better informed is one of the best ways to decide what will be best for you.

According to the AmericanDental Association, healthy adults typically receive routine dental X-rays every two to three years. The timeline for children is every one or two years, and one and a half for teens. Children and teens require more X-rays than adults because their teeth are still developing, which makes them more susceptible to cavities.

In general, Dr. Hawkins will determine how often dental X-rays need to be taken for each individual patient, taking into consideration physical symptoms, clinical findings, and risk for infection. Most dental professionals use Caries Management by Risk Assessment (CAMBRA) to help them determine how often X-rays should be taken, so you can rest assured that we are making an informed decision.

In addition to that, it should be reassuring to know that these days, most dental X-rays are digital, which significantly reduces your exposure to radiation. In fact, you’re likely to pick up more radiation just from being in the sun! Lead aprons and thyroid collars are also tools that Dr. Hawkins and our team use to keep X-ray exposure to a minimum.

At our office, we believe that diagnosing cavities and other potentially harmful conditions by dental X-ray does you more good than harm. If you have any questions about our X-rays, feel free to give our Longwood, FL office a call or bring up the subject during your next appointment!

How a High-Tech Office Helps Your Dental Treatment

June 13th, 2018

A dental office on the cutting edge of technology offers numerous benefits to its patients. Whether you are in need of a simple cleaning or extensive restorative work, these technologies will help you stay more comfortable and give you better results than the outdated tools used in many offices. Here are some of the technologies that you can expect to see in our modern dental office:

  • Digital radiography – Digital X-rays and imaging expose patients to far less radiation than traditional X-rays. Not only that, but these digital images provide a more detailed and easier-to-view snapshot of what is going on in and around your teeth. They make it easier for patients to see what's going on since we can show them right on the computer monitor. It's also better for the environment because there’s no need for the toxic chemicals used to develop traditional X-ray films.
  • Panoramic X-rays – This digital X-ray gives Dr. Hawkins a more in-depth understanding of the entire structure of your mouth and head than a regular X-ray. The panoramic X-ray machine rotates around your head and takes a 3D image of it, giving us a very complete picture that allows for more effective and timely treatment planning.
  • Bioceramic implants, prosthetic devices, and sealants – Advances in implants and prosthetic devices over the past several decades has led to the creation of bioceramic (nontoxic) materials ideal for crowns, veneers, and implants. These materials allow for more visually appealing dental work since there are no metals used with these high-tech ceramics.
  • Paperless bills and records – We all know the inconvenience of paper bills and receipts; they can create clutter and get lost. Our office has done away with this trouble by going paperless. This means you'll receive all your pertinent paperwork in your email inbox and records will be kept digitally at the office. No more wall full of patient records!

This is just an overview of the many advances that we’ve made to our Longwood, FL office to make it cleaner, quieter, more comfortable, and more efficient, helping you spend less time in the chair and more time smiling!

I chipped a tooth. What can I do?

June 6th, 2018

You just crunched down on a piece of hard food when you suddenly realize there is something hard still in your mouth. Your nightmare is confirmed when you retrieve a piece of your tooth from your mouth. You chipped your tooth; now what?

Obviously, the first thing you need to do is call our Longwood, FL office. While we make every effort to see emergent cases immediately, you may have to wait a day or so before you can see Dr. Hawkins. Luckily, it’s easy to take care of your chipped tooth while you wait.

How to Take Care of a Chipped

The last thing you want is for the tooth to become infected or break even more. Let’s look at a few things you can do:

  • If the chipped tooth is causing you pain take an over-the-counter pain medication, like Tylenol. Always follow the directions on the label.
  • You should also rinse your mouth with lukewarm saltwater, as this will help prevent an infection from setting in.
  • If your chipped tooth has a sharp edge, cover it up with a piece of wax to prevent it from cutting you cheek, tongue, or lip.
  • If you have to eat, make sure you eat soft foods and don’t bite down on the chipped or broken tooth.

Treatment Options for a Chipped Tooth

  • Dental Filling and Bonding – If you only have a small chip in your tooth, Dr. Hawkins will probably fix it with a filling. If it is a front tooth, we may bond the tooth using a tooth-colored compound.
  • Dental Crown or Cap – If you broke a large piece of your tooth, we may grind the remaining part of your tooth and put a crown or cap on it.
  • Dental Veneers – If you chipped or broke your front tooth then choosing a dental veneer may be your best choice. It will make your tooth look completely normal.
  • Root Canal – If you cracked your tooth and the center (pulp) of the tooth is exposed and infected, you will need a root canal. If the center of your tooth is exposed, it becomes vulnerable to bacteria that will cause your tooth to abscess.

Chipping or breaking your tooth is never a good thing, and you should always call our Longwood, FL office right away. The sooner you get your tooth repaired the less likely you are to have any problems with it.

Keep It Cheesy for a Long-Lasting Smile

May 30th, 2018

You’ve heard people tell you to say “cheese” when you’re having your picture taken, probably more times than you can count. There is another reason you should be saying “cheese” … or “YES” to eating cheese.

Although Dr. Hawkins and our staff routinely encourage our patients to brush their teeth after eating, the one time you don’t want to do that, at least not immediately, is after eating cheese.

Study Finds Important Benefit From Eating Cheese

CBS News reported on the results of a study that was published in the May/June 2013 issue of General Dentistry, a publication of the Academy of General Dentistry. The study showed that cheese increases dental plaque pH, but in this case, the plaque increase isn’t a bad thing. When you eat cheese, you increase the pH of the plaque on your teeth, and create a protective coating that may lower your risk of getting dental caries -- more commonly known as cavities.

An analysis of the story from the General Dentistry journal, including the details of the study and its participants, was published in Science Daily. The study looked at 68 children between the ages of 12 and 15. A similar study was conducted by British researchers who reported their findings in the British Dental Journal in 1999.

How the Study Worked

For the 2013 study, researchers divided kids into three groups. Participants in group one ate cheddar cheese. Participants in group two drank milk, while participants in group three ate sugar-free yogurt. All participants were told to eat or drink their assigned foods for three minutes, after which they swished water in their mouths.

Researchers tested every participant’s mouth at ten, 20, and 30-minute intervals. They found no changes in the mouths of participants in the milk drinking and sugar-free yogurt eating groups, but every time they tested the pH levels in the mouths of the ones who had eaten cheese, researchers saw the levels quickly increased.

They concluded that cheese has anti-cavity properties. That isn’t the only benefit, however. Another study, in which related findings were reported, appeared in the Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice in the summer of 2000. In that study, researchers found that cheese may give teeth a protective coating that helps lessen enamel erosion caused by acidic foods, particularly from sugar-sweetened soft drinks.

So don’t just say cheese for pictures. If you want to have a happy, healthy and long-lasting smile, go for cheese. It’s good for your bones, too!

How do I know if I’m at risk for oral cancer?

May 23rd, 2018

Every year, over 50,000 North Americans are diagnosed with oral or throat cancer, which has a higher death rate than many other common cancers, including cervical cancer, testicular cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and thyroid or skin cancers. The high death rate results from the fact that most oral cancers go undiagnosed until the disease is well advanced and has spread to another part of the body, most often, the lymph nodes in the neck.

Because oral cancer is typically painless in its early stages and often goes undetected until it spreads, many patients aren’t diagnosed until they are already suffering from chronic pain or loss of function. However, if detected early, Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry want you to know that early detection of oral cancer improves the survival rate to 80 percent or more.

If you visit our Longwood, FL office regularly, you have probably received an oral cancer screening and didn’t even realize it. That’s because the exam is quick and painless; Dr. Hawkins and our team check your neck and mouth for signs of oral cancer such as discolorations, lumps, or any changes to your tissue. Oral cancer is typically found on the tongue, lips, gums, the floor of the mouth, or tissues in back of the tongue.

Factors that may influence your risk for developing oral cancer include:

  • Use of tobacco products. Smoking cigarettes, cigars, a pipe, or chewing tobacco all elevate risk for developing oral cancer. Tobacco use especially is a serious risk factor because it contains substances called carcinogens, which are harmful to cells in your mouth.
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol. Those who drink alcohol regularly have an elevated risk of getting oral cancer. Alcohol abuse (more than 21 drinks in one week) is the second largest risk factor for the development of oral cancer, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
  • Excessive sun exposure. Those who spend lots of time outdoors and do not use proper amounts of sunscreen or lip balm have a greater risk for developing lip cancer. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight may also cause melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.
  • Your age. Oral cancer is typically a disease that affects older people, usually because of their longer exposure to other risk factors. Most patients diagnosed with oral cancer are over the age of 40.
  • Your gender. Oral cancer strikes men twice as often as it does women.
  • A history with viral infections, such as human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • A diet low in fruits and vegetables.

In between your visits to our office, it is critical for you to be aware of the following signs and symptoms, and give us a call if these symptoms don’t go away after two weeks.

  • A sore or irritation that doesn’t disappear
  • Red or white patches
  • Pain, tenderness, or numbness in mouth or lips
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving your jaw or tongue
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth

During your next visit, Dr. Hawkins will examine your mouth for signs of oral cancer. If you have been putting off a visit to our Longwood, FL office for your regular checkup, now is an excellent time to schedule one. Regular visits can be the first line of defense against oral cancer because we can identify early warning signs of the disease. Give us a call today!

Detergent Foods: Clean your teeth while you eat!

May 16th, 2018

Did you know that there are certain foods you can eat which help to clean your teeth? We call them "detergent foods." In dentistry we look at the impact of food in three ways: the kind of food, how often it is eaten, and when it is eaten. Detergent foods should be the last piece of food you consume during a meal for best results. Think of them as the closest you can get to brushing your teeth.

A healthy diet is important for oral health as well as overall health, but here are some particular foods that can help clean your teeth and mouth:

  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Celery sticks
  • Popcorn
  • Cucumbers
  • Pears
  • Lettuce
  • Cheese

As you can see, detergent foods are usually foods that are firm and crisp. They act like scrubbers on and around your teeth and gums and bring your mouth's pH back to 7.0, which is optimal.

Which foods are the worst for your teeth?

Cookies, cakes, breads, chips, crackers, soft drinks, dried fruit, and candies (what many people’s diets are full of) provide carbohydrates (sugar) to the bacteria in your mouth causing an acidic environment and increasing the chance of cavities and decay. These foods are sticky and don't rinse easily from your mouth. Avoid letting these foods sit on your teeth after eating them.

It also depends on how often you consume these foods throughout the day. For example, if you drink soft drinks, it's best to have it all in one sitting instead of sipping it all throughout the day. Doing so causes the perfect environment in your mouth for bacteria to flourish and your saliva never gets the chance to neutralize its pH.

This is where detergent foods can come into play. When you're about to finish your meal, have an apple, celery stick, or carrot. It will act like a "natural toothbrush." Also, try to make these detergent foods the basis for snacks you have throughout the day.

Always remember, these foods are not a replacement for brushing and flossing. You still need good dental hygiene regardless of what you're eating! For more tips and tricks for ideal oral health, ask Dr. Hawkins the next time you visit our Longwood, FL office!

Chewing Gum: Fact and Fiction

May 9th, 2018

Remember all the things your parents would tell you when you were growing up to scare you away from doing something? Like how lying might make your nose grow, misbehaving meant you wouldn’t get money from the tooth fairy, and swallowed chewing gum would build up in your stomach and stay there for years?

Maybe that last one stayed with you well beyond your teens, and occurred to you every time you accidentally (or purposely) swallowed a piece of gum. We don’t blame you. It’s a scary thought.

But is it true?

We hate to take the fun out of parental discipline, but swallowing a piece of chewing gum is pretty much like swallowing any other piece of food. It will move right through your digestive system with no danger of getting stuck for months, let alone seven years.

This doesn’t mean you should start swallowing all your gum from now on, but if it happens accidentally now and then, there’s no need to panic.

Another common gum myth is that sugar-free gum can help you lose weight. Although it is preferable to choose sugar-free gum over the extra-sweet variety, no studies have show that sugar-free gum will help you lose weight.

If you pop a piece of gum in your mouth after dinner to avoid dessert, it could help you avoid eating a few extra calories every day. But the consumption of sugar-free gum without any other effort will not help you shed pounds.

 If you really enjoy chewing gum, we strongly encourage you to select sugarless gum, because it lowers your risk for cavities. Many brands of sugarless gum contain xylitol, a natural sweetener that can, in fact, help fight bacteria that cause cavities and rinse away plaque.

So if you can’t kick the gum habit altogether, sugar-free is definitely the way to go!

If you have any questions about chewing gum, feel free to contact Dr. Hawkins at our Longwood, FL office.

Navigating the World of Dental Insurance Terminology

May 2nd, 2018

Unless you work for an insurance company, you probably do not spend a lot of your time studying all the terminology that dental insurance companies use to describe the treatments and services they cover. If it seems pretty confusing, here are some of the most commonly used dental insurance terms and what they mean.

A Basic Glossary

Annual Maximum–The maximum amount your policy will pay per year for care at Springs Family Dentistry. It is often divided into costs per individual, and (if you are on a family plan) per family

Co-payment– An amount the patient pays at the time of service before receiving care, and before the insurance pays for any portion of the care

Covered Services– A list of all the treatments, services, and procedures the insurance policy will cover under your contract

Deductible– A dollar amount that you must pay out of pocket each year before the insurance company will pay for any treatments or procedures

Diagnostic/Preventive Services– A category of treatments or procedures that most insurance will cover before the deductible which may include services like preventive appointments with Dr. Hawkins, X-rays, and evaluations

In-Network and Out-of-Network– A list of providers that are part of an insurance company’s “network”

  • If you visit in-network providers, the insurance company will typically cover a larger portion of the cost of the care you receive. If you visit someone who is not part of the network, known as an out-of-network provider, the insurance company may pay for a portion of the care, but you will pay a significantly larger share from your own pocket.

Lifetime Maximum– The maximum amount that an insurance plan will pay toward care for an individual or family (if you have an applicable family plan)

  • This is not a per-year maximum, but rather a maximum that can be paid over the entire life of the patient.

Limitations/Exclusions– A list of all the procedures an insurance policy does not cover

  • Coverage may limit the timing or frequency of a specific treatment or procedure (only covering a certain number within a calendar year), or may exclude some treatments entirely. Knowing the limitations and exclusions of a policy is very important.

Member/Insured/Covered Person/Beneficiary/Enrollee– Someone who is eligible to receive benefits under an insurance plan

Provider– Dr. Hawkins or other oral health specialist who provides treatment

Waiting Period– A specified amount of time that the patient must be enrolled with an insurance plan before it will pay for certain treatments; waiting periods may be waived if you were previously enrolled in another dental insurance plan with a different carrier

There are many different insurance options available, so you need to find out exactly what your insurance covers. It’s important to review your plan with a qualified insurance specialist. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the policy so you can understand it fully and be confident that you know everything your policy covers the next time you come in for treatment at our Longwood, FL office.

Three Must-Have Dental Treatments

April 25th, 2018

In dentistry, there are a wide variety of treatments, everything from elective procedures to those that are necessary and potentially lifesaving. So given the slew of treatment options, how do you choose what’s right for you? Our experts at Springs Family Dentistry have handpicked the three must-have procedures that we believe can benefit nearly every patient.

The first: A complete periodontal exam. If you are going to the dentist for scheduled cleanings, this exam should happen at least once a year. A periodontal exam is quick and relatively painless. The dentist or hygienist will carefully probe around each tooth to take measurements that show the health of the bone and its supporting tissue, all while looking for signs of any active infection. It has been suggested that there is a link between periodontal (gum) disease and the increased risk of some potentially fatal diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Signs of some diseases show up in the mouth sometimes before the patient is aware of changes in the body. Diabetes is one of these silent diseases. Many Americans are unaware that they have the disease until sudden and severe changes in the periodontal health of the teeth lead to a trip to the patient’s physician. And did you know that more adults lose teeth to periodontal disease than to cavities? A simple screening once a year can lead to saving your teeth.

The second treatment our team at Springs Family Dentistry recommends is a dental sealant; it’s not just for kids! Dental sealants provide a protective barrier from bacteria deep in the pits and grooves of the teeth where cavities often start. Sealants placed in childhood will often wear away in adulthood. Replacing a sealant as an adult can also help prevent decay in adulthood. This is a great cost-effective procedure for adults. Dental insurance will likely not cover sealants as an adult, but the cost of a sealant for prevention versus the cost of a filling is much less.

Our third must-have dental treatment is often the most fun: in-office whitening. Who doesn’t want an instantly dazzling smile? In-office whitening is one of the most dramatic and quick ways to brighten a smile. It will take a few years off your age in a two-hour period of time. Whitening is very safe and can give a patient newfound confidence to smile.

Top Reasons People Choose Veneers

April 18th, 2018

Dental veneers are a way to correct and transform your smile by using “contact lens”-thin shells of porcelain or ceramic material and bonding them to the front of your teeth. They are strong and durable, look and feel like natural teeth, and improve your smile immediately. Here are some of the top reasons to consider getting dental veneers.

They Correct Multiple Cosmetic Issues

Dental veneers can help with cosmetic and dental health issues, and treat multiple problems at once. Some common reasons that individuals choose veneers is to close gaps and spaces between the teeth, fix alignment issues, change the overall shape and appearance of a tooth, whiten a smile by covering stained or discolored teeth, and cover chipped or cracked teeth.

If you have teeth that are already worn down and weakened, veneers help prevent further damage by covering them with a thin, tooth-colored shell.

Durability

Dental veneers are also extremely durable. They last several years longer than traditional composite fillings. You’ll have peace of mind when you choose veneers, knowing that you’ll have your new smile for many years. On average, dental veneers last about ten to 15 years. Just like your natural teeth, when you take good care of your veneers, they last longer.

Easy to Clean and Maintain

Keeping your veneers healthy and white is easy: You simply brush and floss them the way you do all of your teeth. Shortly after having your veneers installed, you’ll begin to think of them as your natural teeth because the thin shells lie right on top of your existing teeth. This makes it easy to floss and brush the way you normally would and keep them as clean as possible.

The Process is Simple

Getting dental veneers is a quick and easy process. You have a few short visits at Springs Family Dentistry and see results. On average, it only takes about four weeks from your first appointment to your last to complete the veneer process.

If you are considering getting dental veneers, schedule a consultation appointment with Dr. Hawkins to find out exactly how they can benefit you.

Find Out how Your Diet can Cause Cavities

April 11th, 2018

Sometimes food that’s good for your body isn’t necessarily the best for your teeth. Dr. Hawkins and our team want you to know which healthy foods can harm your teeth and gums, and what steps you can take to continue enjoying these foods, even when you’re dieting.

When you begin to substitute empty calories with whole foods, make sure you also remember to focus on your dental health. The majority of people tend to switch out sugary foods in favor of fruits and vegetables when they diet.

It’s worth knowing that most fruits are highly acidic and composed of natural sugars. Some of the highly acidic fruits to watch out for include apples, grapes, strawberries, pineapples, blueberries, oranges, and grapefruit. Moderation is key here, as with all other things. Fruits can be a great source of energy to help you through your day, but try not to overdo them.

Often, people also incorporate more leafy greens into their diets, which mean plenty of salads. Salad dressing is another item you’ll want to watch out for. Many dressings are filled with vinegars and sweeteners that include harmful acids, which change the pH of your mouth. When your mouth shifts from alkaline to acidic, your smile also turns to a higher risk for erosion and decay.

Rather than get rid of these foods altogether, simply change what you do after you eat them. Rinse your mouth out with water, brush your teeth, or eat alkalizing foods after consuming these acidic foods. Healthy alkalizing foods include dairy products such as eggs and yogurt, or any type of vegetable.

If you have questions regarding your current diet and its effect on your oral health, please contact our Longwood, FL office and speak with a member of our staff. If you’ve begun to make changes in your diet toward a healthier lifestyle, we hope these tips can help your make positive changes to your oral health. Our team at Springs Family Dentistry wants a healthy lifestyle to be a top priority in your life.

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 Longwood, FL office, now is an excellent time to schedule one. Regular visits to the dentist can be the first line of defense against oral cancer!

Suffer from tooth discoloration? Don’t panic!

March 28th, 2018

Like many other parts of the human body, teeth age. You may look at old photos and realize your smile was significantly brighter in the past than it is now. Many adults experience tooth discoloration and find it embarrassing.

The good news is there are treatment options! The first step to recovering your bright smile and finding appropriate treatment is to determine what’s causing the discoloration.

There are multiple reasons for tooth discoloration. Some are under your control, but unfortunately, others may not be. Glance at the list below and see if you can pinpoint the cause of your tooth discoloration.

  • Poor Dental Hygiene: This one is obvious. There’s a reason your parents (and dentist) always told you to brush and floss three times a day.
  • Genetics: A big part of your dental health is determined by genetics; in other words, what runs in your family. Sometimes people inherit naturally discolored teeth.
  • Diet: Do you eat sugary foods often? Drink lots of soda? Gulp more than two cups of coffee a day? Are you an energy drink fan? We’re not pointing any fingers ... but you should do the math.
  • Tobacco: Because cigarettes contain nicotine, they can readily stain your teeth. So hardcore smokers often develop prominent brown stains.
  • Medications: Medicines such as doxycycline, tetracycline, antihistamines, blood-pressure medications, and antipsychotic drugs can all create tooth discoloration as a side effect. (If you suspect this could be the case for you, don’t ever discontinue your medication without consulting your doctor first!)

Did you find the culprit? Perhaps the easiest way to avoid tooth discoloration in your case might be to make some simple adjustments to your diet and other habits.

Also, when you consume drinks or foods that are high in acid or sugar content, take a moment to rinse your mouth with water afterward. If you’re an avid tobacco user, you may want to reconsider that; especially because it can have deadly effects that go way beyond your smile.

Dr. Hawkins can also suggest other treatment options. While over-the-counter agents do help, in-office whitening treatments tend to be more effective. If whitening agents don’t alleviate the problem, you may want to consider bondings or veneers.

If you’re worried about discoloration of your teeth, or have any questions about how to treat it, please feel free to reach out to our Longwood, FL office! We can help you identify what may be causing the problem and work with you to give you a smile you’ll be proud of.

Oral Health Concerns for Infants

March 21st, 2018

Because babies’ teeth don’t appear until around six to eight months of age, it’s a natural misconception that they don’t need dental care. But the steps you take as the parent of an infant can help your baby maintain good oral health and develop healthy dental habits in the future.

It’s easy to take care of a baby’s teeth and gums, especially when oral hygiene for your infant becomes part of the normal daily routine. Learn more about how you can promote good dental health for your baby with these tips and considerations.

Taking Care of Baby’s Oral Hygiene

  • Dental Hygiene for Birth to Six Months. Cleaning your infant’s gums is as important as cleaning teeth will be later. Hold your baby in your arms, and with a clean, moistened washcloth wrapped around your index finger, gently massage his or her gums.
  • Dental Hygiene for Six to 12 Months. After teeth begin to appear, it’s time to switch to a soft, children’s toothbrush for teeth cleaning. New research has shown that fluoride toothpaste is safe and recommended for use once your baby’s first tooth arrives. Gently brush your baby’s teeth after each feeding, in the morning, and before bedtime, just as you did before teeth appeared.
  • Good Bedtime Habits. One of the most important things you can do to protect your infant from tooth decay is to avoid the habit of putting baby to bed with a bottle. Use other soothing bedtime activities, such as rocking and lullabies, to help your baby drift off to sleep.
  • A Note about Dental Decay. Many people are unaware that dental decay is transmissible. Avoid placing your baby’s bottle, sippy cup, or pacifier in your own mouth to test the temperature. Likewise, don’t share utensils with your baby.

Partner With Your Dentist

Your baby should receive his or her first dental health checkup by the age of six months. Even though your infant may not have teeth yet, Dr. Hawkins can assess the risk your baby might face for oral diseases that affect hard or soft tissues. Dr. Hawkins can also provide you with instructions for infant oral hygiene, and explain what steps to add as your baby grows and develops.

Springs Family Dentistry is your partner for good oral health, and we’re here to make caring for your baby’s dental hygiene and health easier and more enjoyable for you.

Is it possible to over brush?

March 14th, 2018

Our team at Springs Family Dentistry will tell you brushing on a regular basis is critical for a healthy mouth, but you can definitely overdo a good thing. Known as “toothbrush abrasion,” over brushing can lead to sensitive teeth and receding gums, not to mention the wearing down of the protective layers of your tooth enamel. Over brushing can also push back your gums, and in the process, expose the dentin layer under the enamel.

“So, how do I avoid over brushing?”

  • Use a soft or extra-soft bristled toothbrush to prevent gum damage and wear on the soft tooth dentin
  • Keep in mind which direction bristles face when you brush. They should be perpendicular, not parallel. Place the head of your toothbrush with the tips of the bristles at a 45-degree angle to the gum line and brush away!
  • Move the toothbrush with short strokes and a scrubbing motion, several times in each spot – don’t saw back and forth across the teeth with your toothbrush.
  • Apply just enough pressure to feel the bristles against the gums. If you are squashing the bristles, you're brushing too hard.
  • Replace your toothbrush when you notice frayed and bent bristles.
  • Brush for two minutes at a time

If you have any questions about proper brushing techniques, ask us about it at your next appointment or give us a call today!

My teeth feel great. Do I still need to see the dentist?

March 7th, 2018

Absolutely. Checking in with Dr. Hawkins on a regular basis—usually every six months—is essential to keeping your smile looking its best. At Springs Family Dentistry, we are proud to offer a number of preventive procedures to ensure the health of your mouth and the beauty of your smile. Your smile is just as important to us as it is to you!

Another good reason to visit our Longwood, FL office is to check for hidden issues in your mouth you may not even realize you had. Bacteria, tartar, and cavities are known to form in the hard-to-reach crevices of your mouth and may only be detected through a professional exam. If left untreated, these cavities and decay can get worse, requiring more extensive treatment, and costing you even more time and money down the road. During your routine exam, Dr. Hawkins and our team will also check to make sure your fillings or other dental restorations you may have had are in good shape.

Preventing problems before they start is the key to optimal oral health. If it has been more than six months since your last visit, please contact our Longwood, FL dental office to schedule your routine checkup! See you soon!

What to Expect if You Haven’t Been to the Dentist in Forever

February 28th, 2018

It’s easy to miss a dental appointment. Life and duties intervene, and suddenly you have to push your appointment back once, then again, or forget about it.

We get that. These days, we all have a lot going on. But what we don’t want is for a lengthy absence to make you anxious about returning. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been, we always love to see you! So let’s take a moment to explain what you can expect when you pay us a visit.

Your appointment will last roughly 60 to 90 minutes, so keep that in mind when you schedule it and plan accordingly. Dr. Hawkins and our team want you to feel comfortable.

One of the first things we will ask is the reason for your visit. You’ll have the opportunity to let us know about any concerns or questions you may have. No question is too small, so ask away!

Next, we will go over your medical and dental history to make updates to your file as necessary. This will usually be followed by X-rays to give us a better idea of what is currently happening with your teeth. We will finish with a screening for oral cancer and periodontal disease. If you haven’t visited us in a while, we want to make sure nothing serious is going on.

After that, you will undergo a cleaning with one of our hygienists. Your teeth will be cleaned and checked for such things as broken fillings, cracked teeth, or active decay. Finally, Dr. Hawkins will come by for a final look and a rundown of your dental needs.

Then you’re ready to go! On your way out, you’ll discuss options for scheduling your next appointment, insurance coverage, and payment plans if applicable. You will also receive a goodie bag with a new toothbrush, floss, and toothpaste to get you started (and motivated) on the path to great dental health!

We always want our patients’ experience to be as comfortable and as easy as possible. From the moment you pick up the phone to make your appointment, our team is here to make sure we always meet your needs.

No matter how long it’s been since your last visit, we hope you’ll give us a call to make your next appointment at our Longwood, FL office.

Proper Brushing Techniques

February 21st, 2018

Brushing your teeth properly removes the food particles and bacteria that can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. However, you do not want to scrub your teeth or gums heavily. A heavy hand can lead to tooth and gum erosion, as Dr. Hawkins and our staff see all too often.

You should also use a soft bristle toothbrush to avoid damaging the surface of your teeth. Make sure the head of the brush fits in your mouth, because if it is too large you will not be able to reach all tooth surfaces. Follow these steps to ensure you are brushing properly.

  1. Use a small amount of toothpaste on your brush. The recommendation is a pea-sized amount or thin strip on the bristles.
  2. Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the surface of your teeth, angling towards your gums. Use a circular motion on all exterior tooth surfaces, and avoid back-and-forth “scrub” brushing.
  3. Once you have cleaned the outer surfaces, hold the brush vertically and clean the inner teeth surfaces — the side of your teeth that face your tongue. Do not forget the inner surfaces of your front teeth.
  4. Finally, finish by cleaning all the chewing surfaces of your teeth. You need to maintain a gentle touch, but make sure you get into the full depth of your molars. The entire process should take about two minutes.

Dr. Hawkins and our staff recommend changing your toothbrush every three to four months for best results. Do not forget to clean your tongue, which helps remove excess bacteria from your mouth. Special brushes are available just for cleaning your tongue, and they are easy to use.

Proper care of your teeth also requires flossing on a regular basis. Flossing can be performed before or after you brush. Following up with a quality mouthwash will provide you with even more protection. Do not be afraid to ask the Springs Family Dentistry team for tips on proper brushing and flossing.

The Start of Valentine’s Day

February 14th, 2018

Valentine’s Day, also known as Saint Valentine’s Day, has been said to originate with a Catholic priest named Valentine several thousand year ago. Valentine defied the emperor at the time by secretly marrying men and their brides after the emperor had made it illegal to marry. Emperor Claudius II did this because he wanted as many single young men to fight in his war as he could get.

Valentine disobeyed the emperor’s edict by continuing to marry couples until he was sentenced to death. Before his execution, he sent a letter to a secret love and signed it “From your Valentine.” Dr. Hawkins and our team have come up with some suggestions on how you can celebrate this Valentine’s Day, whether you have a valentine of your own or not.

Valentine's Day Ideas

  • Enjoy a tasty treat. There are plenty of options when it comes to cooking and/or baking on Valentine’s Day. Make your significant other his or her favorite meal or sweet treat, or make your own favorite dish to enjoy on this day. Oh, and be sure to make enough for leftovers!
  • Make a personalized card. Instead of buying a card from the grocery store, take the time to make your own for a loved one. People love handwritten notes, especially when it’s from someone special. If you’re single this Valentine’s Day, make a card for fellow single friend to brighten the day and remind the person that he or she is also loved.
  • Watch a movie. We all know there are plenty of romance movies out there. Put on your favorite romantic comedy, or pick up your significant other’s favorite movie to watch together. Even better, if you’re single, pick up your own favorite movies to watch to pass the time this Valentine’s Day.
  • Do nothing! We all know Valentine’s Day can sometimes get a lot of hype. If you’re worried about not making a reservation in time, don’t feel like planning an extravagant night out, or simply not in the holiday mood this year, spend your day sitting back and relaxing.

Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate love and spend quality hours with the people you care about the most. Whether you’re in a relationship or single, take some time today to appreciate those you love in your life.

We wish you a happy Valentine’s Day celebration and look forward to seeing you at our Longwood, FL office during your next appointment.

Headaches, TMJ, and Dentistry

February 7th, 2018

That ache in your head may stem from your jaw. If your jaw falls out of alignment, you could have temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD.

It's not clear what causes TMD. Obesity may factor in. Stress and pressure on the jaw may also contribute. A misaligned bite (that is, where your upper and lower teeth don't fit together when you close your mouth) may cause TMD symptoms, too.

TMD can affect your life and your health by making it painful to eat and hard to sleep. Some people find the nagging pain difficult to bear.

Symptoms of TMD include:

  • Recurring headaches with no other cause
  • Pain along and behind your ears
  • Pain in your cheeks or lower face
  • Clicking noises when you talk or chew
  • Tired or sore jaw muscles after eating
  • Limited jaw movement

If you experience the symptoms listed here, make an appointment with our office. We’ll take an X-ray to look at your bite, and determine if TMD could be the culprit. If you have TMD we can offer a number of treatments, including:

  • Relaxation and stress reduction techniques
  • Pain reduction recommendations, which might involve visualization or medication
  • Jaw joint exercises that can help reduce stress and improve your alignment

Left untreated, TMD headaches and other symptoms can become quite severe. If you suffer the symptoms of TMD, you do not have to live in pain. Make an appointment at our Longwood, FL office to learn how we can reduce your pain and restore comfort to your life.

What is hand-foot-and-mouth disease?

January 31st, 2018

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease, or HFMD, is a type of contagious viral illness that causes a rash in the mouth and on the hands and feet of infants and young children, and, while rare, adults. Characterized by sores in the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet, hand-foot-and-mouth disease is most commonly caused by a coxsackievirus, a bacterium that lives in the human digestive tract. HFMD can spread from person to person, typically via unwashed hands.

What are the symptoms of HFMD?

Symptoms of HFMD usually begin with a fever, sore throat, poor appetite, or general malaise. A couple of days after the fever starts, kids may develop painful sores in the mouth. A skin rash characterized by red spots may also develop, usually on the palms of your child’s hands and soles of their feet. It’s important to note some children may only experience a rash while others may only have mouth sores.

Is HFMD serious? Should we be concerned?

Usually not. Nearly all children infected recover anywhere between seven to ten days without medical treatment. Rarely, however, a child can develop viral meningitis and may need to be hospitalized. Other rare complications of HFMD can include encephalitis (brain inflammation), which can be fatal.

How can my child prevent HFMD?

There is no known vaccine to defend your child against HFMD. However, the risk of your child contracting the disease can be reduced by:

  • Making sure your child washes his or her hands often
  • Thoroughly cleaning objects and surfaces (these include doorknobs and toys)
  • Making sure your child avoids close contact with those who are infected

To learn more about hand-foot-and-mouth disease or to schedule an appointment for your child, please give us a call at our Longwood, FL office!

The Five Most Common Reasons for Emergency Visits

January 24th, 2018

An emergency usually evokes panic, and for good reason. Emergencies don’t discriminate when it comes to time or place. They’ll happen during your vacation, at home, while you’re shopping for groceries, at the movies … whenever they can.

We’ve identified the five most common reasons for emergency visits to our office, so if you ever find yourself in one of these situations, don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule an appointment with us!

  1. Getting a piece of food stuck where it doesn’t belong. This might sound trivial, and even comical, but a piece of food stuck and left unattended can cause inflammation, pain, and a serious infection.
  2. Losing a filling. If this happens to you, it’s crucial that you receive care immediately. The purpose of a filling is to shut off a space where bacteria can enter. If that barrier is breached, your tooth becomes more vulnerable to decay.
  3. A chipped tooth. Even if the chip is small, it’s essential to get it repaired before it grows bigger. Unless chips are affecting a nerve, they are usually easy to repair with a crown, bonding, or veneers.
  4. A broken tooth. This can result from a small, hidden chip in the tooth. It’s clearly something to address quickly, because the pain will be much more severe than what you’ll feel with just a chip.
  5. Losing the entire tooth. This is the worst of the list. When you lose a tooth, you should not delay in seeking emergency care. Usually, you have a window of one to two hours during which the original tooth can be salvaged and successfully reattached.

Though any of these scenarios can be nerve-wracking, Dr. Hawkins and our team are here to assist you with any and all dental emergencies. Don’t wait; give our Longwood, FL office a call!

Pick the right electric toothbrush!

January 17th, 2018

The electronic toothbrush has undergone several technological advances since the 1960s. Everything from design and bristle motions to rotation, oscillation, and sonic vibration has led to dramatic changes in this necessary tool over time.

Rotation oscillation happens when the head of the toothbrush rotates from one direction to the other. The benefit of powered toothbrushes is that they can produce 50,000 strokes per minute, compared to 300 strokes with a manual toothbrush.

When you’re thinking about brush head size, smaller brush heads are best for hard-to-reach areas and small mouths. Brush heads should be replaced every three to six months as needed. A good way to save money is to designate a brush head for each family member which can be taken on and off a shared base motor.

Having a base motor or rechargeable toothbrush can deliver enough power on a full charge for a week of brushing, which makes it convenient for travel or when life gets busy. Some toothbrushes include audible signals that let you know when to switch the area of your mouth you’re brushing or when a full two minutes has gone by.

Do you have sensitive teeth? Studies have indicated that people tend to apply more pressure on their teeth when they use a manual toothbrush. This makes an electric toothbrush a preferable option if you’re having issues with sensitive teeth or gums.

There are even electric models with pressure sensors that will stop the brush from spinning when you press too hard against your teeth!

Everyone can benefit from having an electric toothbrush. A large handle size can be taken into consideration if a member of the household is young, or has a physical disability or arthritis. They’re even recommended for children in order to maintain good oral hygiene from a young age.

Biofilm is a term used for plaque or debris that builds up in your mouth. If not properly addressed, this can cause serious bacterial infections to your gums and teeth. If you want to remove biofilm in the most efficient way, an automatic toothbrush is the way to go.

When you're ready to make your decision, make sure to consult with Dr. Hawkins at our Longwood, FL office to decide which electric toothbrush is right for you!

Dental Emergency? Don’t Panic, We’re Here to Help

January 10th, 2018

Nobody can predict a dental emergency. That’s what makes them so terribly inconvenient. The good news is that our office is always available to assist you, so there’s no reason you should minimize an emergency.

Among the most common emergencies we see are lost fillings, lost crowns, and broken dentures. Lost fillings and lost crowns are very similar. A key difference, however, is that fillings are used to repair cavities but crowns are used to cover broken or damaged teeth.

Over time, it’s not uncommon for fillings and crowns to grow loose and fall out. If you lose a crown or a filling, hot or cold temperatures will likely begin to trigger pain because of the exposed tissue. The discomfort might seem manageable, but it’s better to get these situations fixed as soon as possible so you can avoid getting food stuck or developing an infection.

Unlike a busted filling or crown, a broken denture is more likely to make itself known constantly, every day. It can make chewing, swallowing, and eating properly difficult. Depending on the damage, you may require a new denture altogether.

If you’re experiencing any problems with your dentures, or suspect that they might be broken, it’s best to contact our Longwood, FL office immediately to avoid further damage. Dr. Hawkins and our team are always here to help, especially when your dental health is at risk.

These things happen, so don’t feel embarrassed and please don’t hesitate to give us a call as soon as you notice or suspect something’s wrong! Get in touch with us … the sooner the better.

Dentin Tooth Sensitivity Treatments

January 4th, 2018

Dentine hypersensitivity can be described as a sharp and sudden pain caused by cold food and beverages. It’s present in more than half the population and result from receding gums that expose the root surfaces of your teeth.

That being said, hypersensitivity can be triggered by forceful tooth brushing, teeth whitening products, gum disease, and erosion from acid reflux, bulimia, or highly acidic foods. Symptoms can range from moderate to severe, depending on the cause and how quickly it’s treated.

Tooth sensitivity begins when the dentin develops some exposure. This layer that surrounds the nerve of the tooth is usually covered by gum tissue, but when recession takes place, the dentin can get exposed and the pain begins. The dentin contains numerous pores that run from the surface of the tooth inward. This direct connection to the nerve and blood supply of the tooth can be affected by external stimuli, such as the triggers cited above.

The good news is there are several different ways to treat dentinal hypersensitivity at Springs Family Dentistry.

Treatment of dentin tooth sensitivity begins by making an appointment with Dr. Hawkins. We encourage you to begin treatment sooner rather than later in order to figure out the cause and to reduce the pain you’re experiencing. In most cases, quick treatment options will solve the problem, including the use of desensitizing toothpaste, switching to a soft-bristled toothbrush, starting a daily fluoride rinse treatment, or minimizing teeth grinding with the help of a custom mouthguard.

For more serious cases, we may recommend you get crowns put on problematic teeth, start a gel or varnish fluoride treatment, or even schedule a surgical gum graft or root canal, depending on the cause and severity of your pain.

If you’re concerned about any tooth sensitivity you’re experiencing, please give our Longwood, FL office a call and schedule an appointment. Dr. Hawkins and our team want to help you identify the cause of your pain, and give you the best possible treatment plan. We look forward to seeing you to help alleviate discomfort and solve your tooth sensitivity.

Your Snoring Might Be More Serious Than You Think

December 20th, 2017

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which breathing stops and starts repeatedly throughout the night. It’s most common among middle-aged adults, and the most prevalent symptom is loud snoring.

Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax to the point where they inhibit your natural breathing. It can cause your breathing to stop for anywhere from ten to twenty seconds. In the worst cases, it can even stop your breathing for up to a few minutes.

In addition, people who suffer from sleep apnea wake up feeling tired and unrested. The condition may even lead to depression, high blood pressure, irritability, and memory loss. It puts you at a greater risk for heart attack and lowers oxygen levels in your brain.

All of this sounds scary, but the good news is that sleep apnea can be treated! One of the most common ways Dr. Hawkins can treat sleep apnea is by creating an oral device for you to wear while you sleep.

The device brings your jaw forward, which keeps the airway open and lowers the incidence of snoring. Another method is to use a continuous positive airway mask, often referred to as a CPAP. The mask fits over the mouth and forces oxygen through the throat while you sleep.

If you’re unsure about whether you may suffer from sleep apnea, visit our Longwood, FL office and let Dr. Hawkins know. We can determine the appropriate treatment if any is needed. Don’t risk losing another night’s sleep over something we can easily treat!

Post Oral Surgery: Signs of Infection

December 13th, 2017

Oral surgery can be intimidating, especially if you show any signs of an infection afterwards. Dr. Hawkins and our team want you to be informed about what to watch for after you’ve undergone surgery.

Oral surgery procedures are intended to reduce pain and prevent infection. Sometimes complications occur after your surgery, and if infection ensues, it will require swift medical attention.

People undergo oral surgery for many reasons, such as:

  • Impacted or infected teeth
  • Tooth loss, jaw problems
  • Facial injuries or infections
  • Birth defects
  • Sleep apnea

Symptoms of Infection

  • Pain that won’t go away with medication
  • Steadily swelling of gums, jaw, or face
  • Redness or oozing of pus from the area
  • Fever that doesn't subside
  • Difficulty opening the mouth or jaw
  • Excessive bleeding for 24 hours
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing (emergency situation)

After the initial surgery, don’t become worried right away if you notice any of these symptoms. It’s normal to show some blood and swelling after surgery, but that should stop fairly soon with the help of gauze and medication.

You will most likely be numb from the procedure and we will advise you to avoid hard foods for the first day. Pain medication will be administered, and you should take it before you begin to notice pain. A cold compress can also help with swelling and initial pain.

You will be advised not to brush your teeth in the region where the surgery occurred. You may use a prescription mouth rinse, or you can gargle with warm salt water to reduce the swelling. If you follow these directions, you can speed the healing process for a quick recovery.

Don’t fret: a post-surgery infection is not a common development. It happens most often to people who have a compromised immune system or diabetes. Let Dr. Hawkins know beforehand if you have either of these and we may prescribe an antibiotic to help prevent the spread of infection in the areas of your mouth that get worked on.

If you think you may be experiencing complications after a surgery, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our Longwood, FL office for advice.  

How many times a day should I floss?

December 8th, 2017

Flossing is one of the most important parts of your oral care routine. Many patients know they need to do it but find it difficult to fit into their busy lives. Well, here's the good news: flossing once a day is enough if you're doing a good job!

Some patients like to brush before they floss and others like to floss before they brush. Some like to floss in the morning when they have more energy, others like to floss at night so they can go to bed with a clean mouth. Don't get hung up on any of this, the important thing is that you floss and floss effectively no matter when you do it.

Effective flossing contributes to oral health in these ways:

  • It reduces the chance of cavities between teeth, since cavities can only form on teeth covered with dental plaque and you're scraping that plaque away when you floss.
  • Along with brushing, it reduces the amount of time the plaque is left on your teeth, allowing them to be in a state of healing and remineralization for longer.
  • It removes plaque that accumulates at or below the gum line, aiding in the prevention of gum disease.

As you can see, flossing offers many benefits for such a simple and inexpensive technique. So if you're still wondering how much to floss, don't worry about it. Don't mistake the frequency of your flossing with the effectiveness of it. Choose a dental floss that you like and one time during the day when you can floss thoroughly and just do it! If you need more tips on how to floss correctly, ask Dr. Hawkins or any member of our Longwood, FL team—we'd be glad to help you pick up this healthy habit!

Best Ways to Prevent Bad Breath

November 29th, 2017

Nobody likes bad breath, and although it can sometimes be difficult to tell if you have it, it is always better to practice good oral health than risk having a smelly mouth. There are many ways to reduce or eliminate bad breath, some are definitely more effective and longer lasting than others. Check out ways to do so below.

Floss Regularly

As difficult as it can be to remember to floss regularly, when it comes to bad breath, flossing is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to freshen your mouth. See, flossing reduces the plaque and bacteria found in areas of your mouth that a toothbrush simply can't reach, and in turn, it rids your mouth of the smell associated with that bacteria. While flossing may not eliminate bad breath on its own, if you do it along with other health oral hygiene habits like brushing, then you may just develop a fresher smelling mouth.

Use Mouthwash

Using some sort of mouthwash can really freshen up your breath, especially if you find it still smells after brushing and flossing. There is a wide variety of mouthwash products on the market, however, you can also create your own by simply using baking soda mixed with water.

Always Brush after You Sleep

Whether after taking a nap, or having a full night of sleep, you will want to brush your teeth in order to reduce bad breath. The truth is, bacteria accumulates in your mouth while you are sleeping (even during a short nap) and that is ultimately the source of bad breath. So next time you wake from a good slumber, give your mouth some brushing and you will find it makes a big difference in the freshness of your breath.

There are many ways to freshen your breath beyond just using gum or mints, the above mentioned are just a few for you to try. Test them out and you will likely find your bad breath problem is solved, or at least considerably reduced. Of course, you can always ask Dr. Hawkins at your next visit to our Longwood, FL office.

Pregnancy and Oral Care

November 22nd, 2017

Pregnancy involves a lot of alterations in your health. Springs Family Dentistry is here to help you understand the oral health aspects of your pregnancy.

As you may already know, your body becomes more susceptible to bacterial complications. In terms of oral health, you may be at a higher risk for gingivitis and periodontal disease during the course of your pregnancy.

The hormonal changes in your body can create a more welcoming environment for gum infections, including gingivitis. Although you may continue to brush and floss on a regular basis, and maintain your schedule of cleaning appointments, you are still prone to an increased risk of gingivitis. Your gums may feel more sensitive and become more prone to bleeding because of the increased amount of blood flowing through your body. This can also be a side effect of periodontal disease, which nearly 40% of pregnant women have.

In order to avoid painful dental visits, you should attempt to brush more than twice a day and always floss regularly. We recommend investing in a good mouthwash for extra protection against plaque buildup. Other oral conditions to watch out for during pregnancy include oral gingival lesions, tooth mobility, tooth erosion, and dental caries.

Keeping your oral health in top shape will prevent bacteria from circulating to other places in your body during pregnancy. Your immune system is more likely to be compromised, which means you generally face an increased risk for illnesses.

Don’t forget that you share nutrients and pathogens with your baby, so it’s crucial to reduce your risks in every possible way. If you think you may be experiencing an oral health issue during your pregnancy, please call our Longwood, FL office to schedule an appointment, and we will be happy to help you.

Good Dental Hygiene Impacts Overall General Health

November 15th, 2017

There are many ways in which your oral health has an impact on your overall general health. There are naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth. Some of those bacteria, including strep and staph, are harmful, while other bacteria are essential for the balance of intestinal flora. The healthier your mouth is, the less likely it is the harmful bacteria will travel to other parts of your body to infect it and make you sick. There is much more to good dental hygiene than brushing and flossing.

Historical Methods of Maintaining Oral Health

Ancient civilizations relied on natural remedies for maintaining oral health. Around 250 AD, the Kemetic Egyptians used myrrh and other herbs as antiseptics for treating infected gums. Two centuries later, the Nubians, who lived in the Nile River valley, drank beer to ease the pain of infected teeth. That probably sounds crazy, but their beer was effective because they used grains that were contaminated with the same bacteria that produce the antibiotic tetracycline.

Today's Biggest Dental Hygiene Challenge

In the past, tooth decay was more of an issue because there was no routine dental care, and problems that are routinely treated today went untreated. Thanks to fluoridated water, and toothpastes containing fluoride, tooth decay is far less problematic than it was a century or more ago. Gum disease has replaced tooth decay as the most serious dental problem facing people today. According to the American Dental Association, a staggering 80 percent of Americans over age 65 suffer from some form of periodontal disease.

Ironically, if that infection attacked any other part of your body, especially in a place where it was clearly visible, you would head to your doctor for treatment immediately. People tend to ignore gum tenderness and bleeding. When the tenderness and bleeding aren't treated, the inflammation can turn into periodontitis. The longer you allow the inflammation to go untreated, the greater the likelihood that it will affect other body parts. Make sure to visit Dr. Hawkins at Springs Family Dentistry regularly to be proactive about dental health!

Researchers are now discovering that untreated inflammation in the mouth acts as a driving force for multiple chronic illnesses, including clogged arteries, heart attacks, arthritis, and even cancer. That inflammation is one of many hypotheses that may explain how chronic infections can trigger systemic diseases, and even intensify existing ones. Bacterial overgrowth in the inflamed gum tissue can enter the bloodstream through the food you eat, and from daily brushing.

Caring for your mouth at home is just as important as visiting our office for exams!

Improve Your Overall Health with Regular Cleanings

November 8th, 2017

It’s common knowledge that you should get your teeth cleaned every six months. But do you know why that timing is crucial? Studies have shown that your oral health connects directly to the rest of your body. Over time, an unhealthy mouth can cause trouble in other parts of your general system.

Undergoing a regular cleaning every six months at our Longwood, FL office is vital. During your dental checkups, we remove plaque that collects on your teeth and around your gums. If the plaque gets left in place for an extended period, inflammation can develop and may lead to painful gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontal disease.

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, periodontal disease has been linked to increased risk for health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, inflammation, and osteoporosis. Bacteria from your mouth can spread throughout the rest of your body. So a healthy mouth leads to a healthy body.

Regular checkups can prevent issues from arising in your mouth if problems are caught early by Dr. Hawkins. If you have been avoiding the dentist, you could be making issues worse for yourself in the long haul. Generally, a dentist will go over a few routine matters during your checkup. They might include taking X-rays, checking for gum disease and tooth decay, examining your bite, inspecting your head and neck for swelling, and of course performing a thorough cleaning of your teeth and gums to remove built-up plaque and tartar. All of these routine practices are worthwhile when it comes to keeping your oral health in top shape.

Now that you know the importance of getting your teeth checked every six months, you should be sure to schedule your next appointment with Springs Family Dentistry at our Longwood, FL location. Keeping your mouth healthy will prevent any form of bacteria from spreading to the rest of your body. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your oral health, don’t hesitate to call and our staff will be happy to assist you.

Dentistry around the World

November 1st, 2017

From the clinical perspective, dentistry is similar around the world. Dentists, like Dr. Hawkins, go to school, obtain a license, and work hard to prevent and treat tooth decay, gum disease, oral infections, throat or oral cancer, tooth loss, and other conditions that might limit a person’s ability to smile, bite, chew, or speak. The quality of dental care, however, and the payment method for dental services varies between nations.

Dentistry throughout the World

Developed countries have more dentists per capita than do developing nations, according to the World Health Organization. There is one dentist for every 150,000 people in Africa, for example, as compared to about one dentist for every 2,000 citizens of an industrialized nation. The lack of dentists in developing nations means that dental care is restricted to pain management and emergency care.

Dentistry often reflects the cultural views of a nation. Some cultures acknowledge only the functional aspect of teeth, so dentists focus on preventing tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss. Other cultures emphasize aesthetic appearances, so dentists there provide cosmetic procedures in addition to essential oral care.

Each nation imposes its own education and licensure requirements for dentists but most require some college before four years of dental school. The graduate must then pass local or national exams to practice in that region. European schools and standards are similar to the United States.

From the business perspective, dentistry varies between nations. In the United States, a dentist presents to the patient one bill that includes all of the treatment costs, such as the dentist, his assistant, tools, and labs. This allows the dentist to charge a single, easy-to-pay fee for individual procedures, and gives him an opportunity to mark up items and make a profit.

Across much of Europe, a dentist presents two bills to her patient – one for the dentist and another for the lab. This approach may stem from a cultural belief that profiting from healthcare is unethical and that healthcare should be available to consumers at actual cost; public dental clinics and subsidies ensures all citizens have access to dental care, regardless of ability to pay. In most cases, the government is both overseer and provider of dental care.

While the role of the dentist is nearly the same in every country – to ensure the oral health of the citizens – dental care is different in each nation. Regardless, you can rest assured that the care you receive at our Longwood, FL office is held to the highest standard.

How Missing Teeth Can Affect Your Health

October 25th, 2017

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, an estimated three out of four Americans suffer from gum disease. In milder cases, the disease is called gingivitis. More severe cases are called periodontitis. Despite the prevalence of periodontal disease (and it is very common), only three percent of people who suffer from periodontal disease get treatment for it. Gum disease has been linked to other serious diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

Periodontal Disease Is Common Among Americans

The Journal of Dental Research published the findings of a joint study from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). The study compared the full periodontal exam that participants received for this study against partial periodontal exams participants received for an older study.

The results show the rate of periodontal disease today could be as much as 50 percent higher than earlier estimated. Shockingly, this means that about twice as many Americans as previously believed suffer from gum disease – either moderate or severe.

The Link between Chronic Illness and Periodontal Disease

Many people who have chronic medical problems don’t have dental insurance, or the money to spend on dental care. Not surprisingly, this and a lack of understanding about proper oral hygiene leads to situations in which an initially minor problem turns into something far more severe, and probably preventable.

Gum diseases and cavities are caused by infections. When you get a cavity, the infection develops in the tooth itself. You may never feel anything, so unless you get regular, twice-a-year dental exams, you might not know there is a problem.

With gum disease, the infection occurs in the bones and tissues that form the gums and support the teeth. The tissues that surround teeth, and the bones that lie below the gums, are necessary to hold your teeth in. When those aren’t strong enough to support your teeth, you lose them.

Tooth loss has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and an increased risk for kidney disease. Gum disease and severe infections in the mouth can spread to other parts of the body faster than people realize. A healthy mouth is alkaline. It’s vital for you to maintain an alkaline pH to keep harmful bacteria away.

When people eat, their pH changes, and the environment inside the mouth becomes more acidic. Since the typical American diet is very acidic, harmful bacteria thrive in the mouth. Typical foods include breads, grains, starches, and sweets – the foods people love the most. Since it isn’t always possible for people to brush after every meal, the mouth pH remains acidic, and the acid contributes to faster tooth erosion.

What does all this mean for you? The health of your mouth is more important than you realize. Get those regular dental exams, and make sure that you and your family keep to a regular routine of brushing and flossing. Good oral hygiene can help prevent periodontal disease, and that will lower your risk of tooth loss.

Oh no, not the dentist!

October 18th, 2017

If you or your children suffer from dental anxiety, you aren’t alone. According to the Cleveland Clinic, between nine and 15 percent of Americans admit to feeling sufficiently afraid of going to the dentist to avoid making an appointment. The potential consequences of dental anxiety extend beyond poor oral health. Lack of dental care can cause serious but easily preventable medical conditions.

Dental Anxiety versus Dental Phobia

Dental anxiety provokes a sense of fear in people, typically before they arrive at Springs Family Dentistry. Those fears or worries are often exaggerated. Dental phobia shares many of the symptoms that characterize dental anxiety. It is a much more serious manifestation of that anxiety, and may provoke a sense of panic or terror in people. While people who suffer from dental phobias know that their feelings are irrational, they are unable to control, stop, or change those thoughts.

People who have dental phobias often avoid going to the dentist, and they come up with every possible excuse to justify not going. The only time a person who suffers from a dental phobia will go to the dentist is when he or she is forced to do so, or because of intense tooth pain. People who have dental anxiety don’t go to such extremes to avoid going to the dentist; anxiety usually begins in anticipation of the appointment.

What We Do to Ease Patient Anxiety

Dr. Hawkins and our staff have many techniques we can use to help patients feel more comfortable at their appointments. Dental Fear Central gives some simple suggestions to help children and adults who are apprehensive about going to the dentist, even if they suffer from the more severe form of anxiety: full-blown dental phobia.

  • The Tell-Show-Do Approach: We help our patients relax by making sure they understand what is involved in the exam and any procedure they may undergo. We tell patients about the procedure, show them the tools and equipment we intend to use, and answer questions before actually performing the procedure. This is helpful for patients who don’t know what to expect.
  • Distraction: We offer personal music players and a collection of CDs that patients can listen to. The relaxing qualities of music may help distract a patient enough to make the process less stressful. In-office televisions allow you to watch TV while waiting for your appointment.

Dr. Hawkins and our staff know that some patients are anxious about dental treatment, and we go to great lengths to make you feel more comfortable. Good oral health is very important, and when your mouth isn’t healthy, you can suffer from many other easily preventable medical problems.

Quit Smoking to Save Your Smile

October 11th, 2017

You’ve likely heard that smoking increases risk of lung cancer and emphysema. But did you realize that your cigarette habit also has an impact on your smile? Chronic smokers suffer from increased dental problems that make their smiles unsightly. Understanding how smoking affects your oral health may provide the momentum you need to kick the habit for good.

Cosmetic Changes Associated with Smoking

Cigarettes contain more than 600 ingredients that, when lit, create in excess of 4,000 chemicals. Of these chemicals, many are known carcinogens while others have been shown to have serious negative effects on health. The nicotine and tar in tobacco products are absorbed by the enamel of your teeth. The result is yellowed teeth that look unsightly; with heavy smoking, your teeth may eventually turn nearly brown in color.

The chemicals in cigarettes and cigars also cause your teeth to become less clean. Smoking is associated with a build-up of tartar and plaque on the surface of your teeth. Over time, this increases your risk of developing cavities and other oral health problems. Furthermore, pursing your lips while smoking leads to wrinkles around your mouth, which detracts from your smile.

More Serious Dental Conditions

In addition to having unsightly teeth, smoking can cause serious health conditions. Because of the carcinogens in cigarettes, smoking is associated with an increased risk of oral cancer, which can be deadly. Smokers are also more likely to develop gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss. You may experience an increased loss of bone within your jaw, which will cause significant problems later in life.

Treatment for Smoking-Related Oral Health Problems

Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry will tell you that the best defense against smoking-related oral health problems is to ditch your nicotine habit. By decreasing the amount of nicotine and other chemicals you consume, you can decrease your risk of oral cancer and gum disease. Remember to mention your smoking habit when you’re at our Longwood, FL office. We frequently treat smokers and can recommend smoking cessation programs to help you quit. Dr. Hawkins can also advise you about whitening treatments and gum disease prevention activities that ensure you’ll have a beautiful smile for years to come.

Headaches: The Dental Connection

October 4th, 2017

Many people suffer through headaches for years without getting to the root cause of their problem. If you find yourself constantly popping painkillers to get through the day, it might be worth a trip to see a medical professional – but it may not be the person you think.

Talking to Dr. Hawkins can be a great start when dealing with chronic headaches, because dental issues frequently contribute to head pain. In fact, the American Academy of Craniofacial Pain estimates that 80% of headaches are caused by muscle tension, which often originates in the jaws.

What Do Tension Headaches Feel Like?

A tension headache can originate on one side of your head or can pervade your entire skull. Typically, tension headaches feel like a dull, throbbing ache inside your head. Some patients at our Longwood, FL office report that they feel as though a metal band has been wrapped around their head and is causing significant pressure. Several common symptoms suggest that tension headaches may be caused by dental issues:

  1. Feeling as though your head or scalp is painful to the merest touch
  2. Experiencing a dull or throbbing pain behind the eyes
  3. Clicking or popping sounds in your jaw joints
  4. Grinding teeth or clenching the jaws, particularly in times of anxiety or during the night
  5. Feeling as though your jaw muscles are sore when you wake up from sleep

Dental Origins of Headaches

Several dozen muscles control your facial expressions, jaw movements, and motions such as swallowing. When these muscles are contracted for long periods of time, tension builds up within the muscle and can lead to headaches. This may happen if you clench or grind your teeth at night, your bite is misaligned, or you have muscle imbalances in the jaw or neck.

Dental Treatments for Tension Headaches

Fortunately, a trip to Springs Family Dentistry can be a fruitful way to alleviate your headaches, including the following treatments:

  1. Bite. In many cases, correcting your bite through orthodontics releases the stress on your jaw and muscles, and reduces the frequency of headaches.
  2. Nightguard. A nightguard, which resembles a sports mouthguard, may also be helpful if you frequently grind your teeth or clench your jaws during sleep. Nightguards distribute the tension from your clenched jaws and reduce the possibility of dental damage.
  3. Physical therapy and relaxation. Correcting the posture of your shoulders, neck, and head may alleviate muscle tension associated with headaches.

What's the best dental floss?

September 27th, 2017

Dental floss is similar to a lot of products that depend mainly on the consumer’s preference. Fact is, floss comes in a wide variety of flavors, coatings, and other variations, but all types of floss essentially do the same thing. After all, that is what is most important: that the dental floss you buy is functional—cleaning the areas in between your teeth. If you want to know what the best dental floss is, the answer is the kind that enables you to successfully and regularly clean those areas. So to help you find the right type of floss for you, here are some options.

Flavored Dental Floss

Many people that floss prefer a flavored dental floss because it freshens their breath even more than unscented floss. The latter can also take on the smells associated with bacteria in your mouth. And we all know how bad that can be. So, if flavored dental floss is what you prefer, and it allows you to floss your teeth regularly, then it is automatically best for your mouth.

Flossers

There are also products on the market called flossers, which usually consist of a plastic instrument with strung floss and a pick on the opposite end. This option can be both effective at cleaning the areas in between your teeth and scraping off plaque. These flossers also come flavored in mint and various other varieties.

Gentle Dental Floss

Some people find that typical dental floss is too harsh on their gums. For that reason some companies make floss with soft coatings that are less abrasive on the gums. For the most part these types of floss are just as effective as regular floss, and for those people that require a more sensitive approach to flossing, especially when just starting out, this is the best option.

Of the aforementioned options, it is difficult to name an absolute best type of floss. However, Dr. Hawkins and our team say that the type of floss that works best for you, giving you the greatest chance of succeeding at regular flossing, is the best. For more information on floss, contact our Longwood, FL office.

Oral Health Concerns Specific to Pregnant Women

September 20th, 2017

A lot of changes occur in a woman's body during pregnancy. Hormone fluctuations are responsible for many of those changes, including the need for additional attention to the teeth and gums. Women who are expecting are at an increased risk for oral health complications, including gingivitis and tooth decay, which can lead to irreversible damage. Fortunately, there are steps pregnant women can take to keep their teeth and gums in optimal health from the first trimester to delivery day. Today, Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry thought we would share them.

At-home dental care

At-home dental care should not vary much from what you did prior to pregnancy. The American Dental Association recommends brushing at a minimum of twice per day using fluoridated toothpaste. Follow up with floss to keep bacteria from accumulating in hard-to-reach spaces.

Dental checkups

It is safe and recommended to continue visiting Dr. Hawkins for routine dental checkups and cleanings during pregnancy. However, it is very important to inform Dr. Hawkins about an existing pregnancy. Special steps must be taken to protect pregnant women from certain medications or X-ray radiation that could be harmful to a growing baby. On the other hand, avoiding teeth cleanings during pregnancy can lead to serious consequences, including advanced tooth decay and infection.

Food and cravings

It is no secret that pregnancy can cause a woman to crave specific foods. Sugary treats like candy, cookies, or sodas may satisfy a sweet tooth, but they can also cause serious dental problems when consumed frequently or without brushing afterward. Trade out these treats for naturally sweet fruits when possible, and never forget to brush and floss thoroughly after eating sugar-filled foods.

Signs of complications

It is important to know and recognize the signs of oral health problems during pregnancy; an early diagnosis usually translates to an easier, less-invasive treatment. Symptoms of potential problems include gums that easily bleed or are swollen, reddened, or painful. These are symptoms of gingivitis, which can lead to a receding gum line and tooth loss if left untreated.

Call our Longwood, FL office if you experience any of these symptoms or pain in a tooth, loss of a tooth, a broken tooth, or bad breath that does not go away with brushing.

Crushing the Ice-Chewing Habit

September 13th, 2017

It's a habit many people have and not only can it be annoying to the people around you, it can be detrimental to your dental health. Chewing ice is so common that it even has its own name, pagophagia. We're not talking about a slushy or shaved ice (although those artificially sugary treats should be avoided too!) but more like the hunks of ice rattling around in the bottom of your glass.

Ice chewing can be a sign of emotional problems like stress or obsessive-compulsive disorder, but it can also be a marker for iron deficiency anemia and other physical problems. Then again, some people just like to have something to chew on. For whatever reason you find yourself chewing on it, it's a habit you need to break.

Chewing on ice can cause:

  • Chipped and cracked teeth
  • Damaged enamel
  • Sore jaw muscles
  • Damage to dental work such as crowns, fillings, or other appliances

If chewing on ice is becoming a problem in your life, don’t hesitate to speak with Dr. Hawkins about it. But if you find yourself still wanting to chew on something, here are a few alternatives to ice:

  • Baby carrots
  • Celery sticks
  • Sugar-free (xylitol) gum

We know you need to chill sometimes, but chomping down your entire glass of ice is not the way to do it. If you have any other questions on the topic, feel free to talk with a member of our Longwood, FL team. It may be beneficial in solving the issue and helping to remediate any damage to your teeth.

Drink to good health!

September 7th, 2017

Recognized as one of the 10 Greatest Public Health Achievements of the 20th Century.

WATER FLUORIDATION:

  • Provides $43 in savings for every $1 invested
  • Helps adults fight tooth decay that occurs as gums recede with age
  • Helps prevent tooth decay the most common chronic childhood disease
  • Reduces dental decay by 20-40 percent
  • Helps prevent the loss of approximately 51 million school hours due to dental disease

Dental Care Parent Guide

September 7th, 2017

Dental care is critical for children. Cavities are the most common chronic disease found in school age children. In fact, dental disease causes children to miss more than 51 million school hours each year.

  • The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that a child go to the dentist by age 1 or within six months after the first tooth comes in.
  • But even before your infant's teeth come through, dental care is important.
  • After feeding, thoroughly clean your infant's gums with an infant washcloth or gauze pad to remove any food and stimulate the gums.
  • When your baby's first teeth begin to grow in (typically around six months). brush them gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Avoid fluoride toothpaste until the child can learn to spit into the sink.

Tips For A Successful Trip to the Dentist

  • For younger children, try NOT to schedule an appointment during naptime (or after naptime if your child is typically cranky after waking up.)
  • For older children, try to avoid cramming in a dentist appointment right after a full day of school or camp, as they may be too exhausted.
  • Make sure your child isn't hungry by planning to eat before the appointment (while avoiding anything heavy and being sure to brush after)
  • Consider taking your child to your dental cleaning or an older sibling’s to show them good patient behavior.
  • Keep calm if your child gets upset or won’t cooperate. Assess why your child is acting out, then work as a team with Dr. Hawkins to keep the visit going. Allow Dr. Hawkins, his team and your child to build a good relationship

How to Manage Canker Sores and Ulcers

September 7th, 2017

Canker sores (Aphthous) are considered to be an autoimmune disease with poorly understood triggering causes.  These lesions occur exclusively on unattached or movable mucosa like the lip, cheek, floor of the mouth, tongue, etc.

Preventing these sores are often easy – consider these steps:

  1. Avoid triggering foods: nuts, chocolate, acidic fruits or foods that you can identify that tripper them
  2. Avoid trauma: toothbrush trauma, cheek, lip and tongue biting, etc.
  3. Avoid stress: now that is useless advice….who has the time to avoid stress?
  4. Avoid sodium lauryl sulfate: this is the foaming ingredient found in most toothpastes and mouthwashes.  Consider using Biotene Dry Mouth toothpaste.
  5. Consider an antimicrobial mouth rinse: For prevention only – it does not work to treat the lesion and the alcohol stings!
  6. Change your toothbrush every month

For pain relief use one of these Over-the-Counter (OTC) products which coat the lesion or numb the ulcers or do both:

Coat and numb the lesion:

  1. Orabase with benzocaine
  2. Zilactin-B
  3. Kank-A

Coat lesion only:

  1. Liquid Carafate
  2. Benadryl/ Kaopectate (by Rx only)
  3. Canker Cover

The Most Common Causes of Gum Disease

September 6th, 2017

Unless you're aware of the signs and symptoms of gum disease and how it's caused, it's possible that you may have unknowingly developed it. Often painless, gum disease -- or periodontal disease -- becomes progressively more serious when left untreated. As you learn more about the common causes of gum disease, you'll be better-equipped to maintain the best oral health possible.

Gingivitis & Periodontitis: Common Causes of Gum Disease

  • Bacteria & Plaque. Bacteria in the mouth creates a sticky film over the teeth. Good hygiene practices help remove the bacteria and the plaque they cause. When plaque is not removed, it develops into a rock-like substance called tartar. This can only be removed by a dental professional.
  • Smoking & Tobacco. If you're a smoker or use tobacco, you face a higher risk of developing gum disease. Additionally, tobacco use can lead to stained teeth, bad breath, and an increased risk of oral cancers.
  • Certain Medications. Some medications that are taken for other health conditions can increase a person's risk of developing gum disease. If you take steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, certain cancer therapy medications, or oral contraceptives, speak to Dr. Hawkins about how to maintain healthy gums.
  • Medical Conditions. Certain medical conditions can impact the health of your gums. For instance, diabetics face an increased risk of gum disease due to the inflammatory chemicals present in their bodies. Always talk to our team about other health conditions to ensure we take that into account when treating you.

Take a Proactive Stance

Good oral hygiene practices and regular visits to our Longwood, FL office can help you eliminate or reduce the risks of developing gum disease. A thorough cleaning with your toothbrush and dental floss should take about three to five minutes. Brush your teeth a minimum of twice per day and floss at least once each day. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be ready to prevent gum disease.

Understanding Cavities

August 30th, 2017

Getting a cavity seems like delayed punishment for eating that special dessert every weekend or for the few days you forgot to floss. When you are doing everything right with minimal exception and a cavity is diagnosed, it is discouraging. Knowing how cavities form and what causes them is valuable in knowing how to prevent them. In this blog post, Dr. Hawkins will help you understand cavities!

A cavity is not a one-time event. It is actually a symptom of a disease called caries. Tooth decay is a result of an active infection and condition in the mouth. There are ingredients to this infection, which include bacteria, acid, your tooth, and a food source. The main bacterial culprit is S. Mutans. Bacteria live in a housing structure called biofilm. This offers them protection, food, and an ideal replicating environment.

Biofilm can be healthy if there is a balance of good bacteria. When you have caries, the numbers of “bad” bacteria increase and produce an environment where they thrive and therefore cause tooth decay. A main indicator of this is a pH measurement of your saliva.

Several factors can influence the biofilm pH. Foods and beverages all have different pH levels. The lower the number, the higher the acidity. Since acid promotes tooth decay, a beverage like soda will promote a cavity. Water, being neutral, is a good choice to promote healthy oral pH. Healthy eating can still cause cavities. Here is an example of a highly acidic, yet traditionally healthy meal:

Toast with store-bought strawberry jam, and a cup of cottage cheese topped with fresh cranberries.

Instead, here is a better choice, which involves mixing acidic healthy foods with alkaline (non-acidic) foods to reduce the overall pH:

Toast with almond butter, and Greek yogurt topped with fresh blueberries.

The first example will result in a very low pH in the mouth and even in the rest of the body. The second meal mixes highly acidic blueberries with an alkaline Greek yogurt. Dairy products from cows are highly acidic. Toast is acidic because of the yeast and almonds are alkaline.

A natural buffer is saliva. Whenever mouth breathing or medications compromise the saliva flow, the pH is going to drop and caries can go rampant. Getting a cavity is not just about the sweets or forgotten flossing sessions. It is about the pH levels and bacterial management.

For more helpful tips about how to avoid cavities, contact our Longwood, FL office.

Five Easy Ways to Prevent Gum Disease

August 23rd, 2017

Gum disease can be painful and lead to missing teeth if you don’t treat it properly. However, there are plenty of things you can do to lower your risk of getting gingivitis and periodontitis. Here are five easy ways to prevent gum disease.

1. Brush your teeth.

Basic oral hygiene is the first line of defense against gum disease. The reason is due to the way gum disease progresses. There are bacteria in your mouth that produce a sticky substance called plaque. Plaque can build up and form tartar. Together, plaque and tartar lead to the painful symptoms of gum disease. You can remove plaque from your teeth with regular careful brushing, but you can’t remove the tartar with your regular toothbrush. So, it’s best to brush at least twice a day, or after each meal, to continuously remove plaque from your teeth. Also floss your teeth and use mouthwash to prevent the bacteria in your mouth from having anything to eat.

2. Stop smoking.

Smoking is a major risk factor for gum disease. Your risk of getting gum disease if you’re not a smoker is one-seventh the risk of someone who does use tobacco. It’s also worth quitting smoking even once you do get gum disease, since treatment is less effective when you’re using tobacco.

3. Eat right.

Gingivitis is a bacterial infection, and a strong immune system helps fight it. Many nutrients are essential for a well-functioning immune system. For example, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, such as citrus fruits, broccoli, and strawberries, for their vitamin C, which is an antioxidant. Vitamin E, which is another antioxidant, is in nuts, plant-based oils, and wheat germ.

4. Visit our Longwood, FL office regularly.

You might not be able to detect that you have gum disease, even if you watch for symptoms. Dr. Hawkins can detect signs of gum disease before you do.

5. Catch it early.

Since only we can remove tartar once it forms, keep watching for signs of gum disease. They include sensitivity while brushing your teeth or when eating hot, cold, or sugary foods, painful or bleeding gums, and loose teeth. You might also notice that you have bad breath for no reason. Make an appointment with at our Longwood, FL office if you think you may have gum disease.

Does Vitamin C Affect Gum Health?

August 17th, 2017

It’s certainly true that adequate vitamin C is good for your gums. In fact, vitamin C influences gums in a couple of different ways.

VITAMIN C IS NECESSARY FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF HEALTHY GUM TISSUE. Collagen is an important substance in cell development, and vitamin C is essential to collagen production. Gum tissue is fragile and becomes inflamed easily, so collagen is necessary to help keep the gums healthy.

VITAMIN C MAY BOOSTTHE IMMUNE SYSTEM. Our mouths are one of the main areas where we are exposed to bacteria. Adequate vitamin C can help keep the immune system in condition to fight infection.

STUDIES HAVE SHOWN THAT LACK OF VITAMIN C CAN HAVE AN ADVERSE EFFECT ON GUM HEALTH. Researchers have found an increase in gingivitis in those who have a low intake of vitamin C.  In fact, bleeding gums are a symptom of scurvy, which is directly linked to vitamin C deficiency

Got Floss?

August 17th, 2017

By now, we’re sure you’ve heard that you should be flossing once a day.  What you may not have heard is that not all floss created equal.  When you’re purchasing floss, you want to buy the type that will work best for you so that you’re more likely to use it and use it effectively.

WAXED OR UNWAXED? Generally, waxed floss works well for most people because it slides easily between teeth.  Some people, however, prefer the thinner, unwaxed version.

AVOID SHREDDING If your teeth are very close together, you may have problems with floss getting stuck between the teeth. “Shred-resistant” or ‘shred-proof” floss is often a good choice in this situation.  Look for floss that bears this labeling on the package.

ADDED PROTECTION? Some flosses contain fluoride or advertise themselves as "tartar control." That's fine as long as you floss after brushing and rinsing. If you floss with these products and then follow up with brushing and rinsing, you're just removing all the protection they've given you.

WHAT WORKS FOR YOU? There are many types of floss and even special implements available to help those who have trouble manipulating regular floss. Feel free to experiment to find the floss that works best for you. Talk to us if you want suggestions or need any help in this area.

SPECIALTY FLOSSES Dental floss comes in a variety of colors, materials and even flavors - popular flavors of floss include wintergreen and cinnamon. Some flosses are even impregnated with fluoride!

  • A type of material called dental tape can be effective for people with large spaces between their teeth, or for people with bridge work.
  • Floss can be purchased in small self-dispensing boxes. Floss can also be purchased in special, single-use holders, which are useful for people who have a hard time wrapping floss around their fingers, including those with dexterity problems or arthritis.
  • For those with braces, bridges, implants or large interdental spaces, one product features a unique sponge-like floss with built-in threader to eliminate the need for two separate flossing devices. The threader easily allows you to access hard to reach areas while the thick sponge-like floss follows through to deeply clean between large interdental spaces, under bridgework, and around braces and implants.
  • Lots of people like the little floss picks that consist of a small handle with a short piece of floss attached. Keep a back of these in the car and you can floss when stuck in traffic!

Chunk O’ Cheese

August 17th, 2017

Cheese is good for your teeth. Research has shown that including a piece of cheese with a meal or snack is one way to encourage good dental health.  You are probably saying, “Huh? Please explain this one.”

No Problem. Cheese contains a protein called casein, which actually helps protect teeth from bacteria that cause decay.  The fat in cheese tends to coat your teeth and may further help to keep bacteria away from enamel.  The calcium and phosphorus contained in cheese help strengthen tooth enamel even as you chew.  And finally, cheese is one of those foods that encourages saliva production.  Excess saliva washes away food debris and bacteria, and neutralizes the acids those bacteria produce.

It doesn’t matter what type of cheese you eat, although some researchers believe that cheddar offers the most protection.  Choose from Brie, Gouda, mozzarella, Swiss, blue, or Monterrey Jack, and eat them in chunks, grated, or melted.  It isn’t it wonderful to be able to enjoy something so yummy and know you’re helping your teeth at the same time?

Make Dental Care a Part of Your Prenatal Care

August 17th, 2017

Mothers-to-be often have questions about dental care during their pregnancies. They have concerns about x-rays or anesthetics that may be used  during dental treatment, and many experience changes in their dental health while they are pregnant.

GOOD ORAL HYGIENE Pregnant women have good reason to pay special attention to their dental hygiene.  During pregnancy, many women experience increased sensitivity and bleeding from their gums due to hormonal changes.  Plaque buildup may increase as well due to dietary changes and increased food intake.  For all these reasons, pregnant women should continue with good home-care practices and examinations in our office.

SAFETY FOR MOTHER AND BABY During pregnancy, many women abstain from using any medications.  When it comes to dental treatment, women are discouraged from undergoing any elective procedures during the first trimester.  Routine x-rays should not be taken either.  For necessary dental work and emergencies x-rays can be taken with the protection of a lead apron.  The need for local anesthetic should be discussed with regard to the procedure being performed and at what stage the woman is during her pregnancy.

NO TIME TO SKIMP Pregnancy is no time to skimp on necessary dental care. Although pregnant women should give their oral health extra attention, some studies have found that fewer than 40 percent of pregnant women see a dentist between conception and delivery. If you're pregnant, don't neglect your teeth. Call us to find out what you can do to help keep your mouth healthy throughout your pregnancy.

A Sour Taste In Your Mouth

August 17th, 2017

The popularity of sour candies has become phenomenal.  These pucker-up treats are everywhere in a variety of form and flavors.  Children and many adults are absolutely hooked, but the dental community isn’t enamored.  Let’s look at the facts:

  • Melt in your mouth – part of the problem is that these candies are made to stay in the mouth until they dissolve.  That means that the teeth are continually exposed to the sugars they contain, and the bacteria that thrive on these sugars will be active for longer periods of time.
  • That acid bite – Another major problem with these candies is that they are full of acids. The phosphoric acid in a soft drink can begin to corrode the enamel of a tooth is less than half an hour.  These candies contain up to four different acids that, together, can be highly corrosive.  It is acids excreted by bacteria in the mouth that cause cavities to occur, so eating these acid-containing confections will only increase the rate of decay.
  • Moderation is key – All this doesn’t mean you should never allow your child to have sour candy.  What it does mean is that candy should be an occasional treat rather than a staple of your child’s diet.  It also means that good oral hygiene habits (brushing and flossing) should be practiced immediately after ingesting sour or any other sweet in order to cleanse the mouth and avoid dental decay.

When You’re A Teen...

August 17th, 2017

Feeling comfortable among your peers is sometimes difficult. Having a healthy smile and fresh breath is one way to help boost your self-confidence. The good news is that by simply following some good oral hygiene tips, it's often easy to do.

BRUSH TWICE A DAY. Studies have shown that a large percentage of teens brush only in the morning. Brushing sufficiently at night can remove the food debris that leads to bad breath.

FLOSS EVERY DAY. Again, studies show that most teens do not floss regularly. Those who do floss, only do so about once a week. Bacteria that cause bad breath tend to live between teeth, where only floss can reach.

BRUSH YOUR TONGUE, TOO.  Not all children have been taught to brush their tongue along with their teeth, but bacteria love to gather in areas near the back of the tongue as well.

Ina addition to good home care, visiting our office according to the schedule we recommend for cleanings and examinations can help keep your mouth clean and breath sweet.

DRAGON BREATH BLOWOUT. Although most bad breath is caused by bacteria in the mouth, there are foods, habits, and illnesses that can also affect breath. These include:

  • postnasal drip
  • garlic
  • onions
  • tobacco products
  • alcohol
  • dieting or hunger
  • digestive problems
  • respiratory problems, such as asthma

Some things on the list can simply be avoided. Others may require professional help.

The Effects of Sleep Apnea on Dental Health

August 16th, 2017

Sleep apnea is an increasingly common medical condition, and one that can have a truly devastating effect on the waking life of the sufferer. Those who suffer from the disorder may find that they suffer any or all of the following side effects:

  • Saliva has several important jobs, and one of them is to protect and heal your tongue, your gums, and the inside of your mouth. Snoring and sleep apnea dry out your mouth, meaning there isn’t enough time for your saliva to do all this vital work.
  • Over an extended period of sleep apnea, it’s likely that the sockets of your teeth will begin to dry out overnight as a result of your gasping for air and snoring between breaths. If this happens too frequently over a long a period of time, it can start to loosen your teeth.
  • Those with sleep apnea often also practice bruxism, which is the habit of clenching and grinding your teeth together as you sleep. This can lead to all manner of problems, including TMJ disorder, damage to the enamel, headaches, and toothaches.
  • For obvious reasons, sleep apnea does not lead to a particularly good night’s sleep. This means that sufferers are often tired and irritable, and suffer from the many other ill effects of sleep deprivation.
  • While it is unclear whether the reasons behind this are correlative or causative, it has been suggested there are links between sleep apnea and cardiac arrests, depressive disorders, Type Two diabetes, cancerous tumors, “silent” strokes, and various complications of pregnancy.

While sleep apnea can be a troubling condition, Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry will tell you it is eminently treatable. There are a number of ways to combat it, ranging from simple sleep hygiene to use of a CPAP machine. Of course, if it is possible for you to reduce your weight a little in a safe and healthy way, some have found that is also helpful in combating the problem. Sleep apnea is very easy to treat, once it has been correctly identified.

If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea, or if you would like to know more about the condition, please give us a call at our convenient Longwood, FL office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Hawkins.

Do Whitening Toothpastes Actually Work?

August 16th, 2017

Whitening toothpastes can slightly whiten teeth by removing surface stains. They do this by using special abrasives that gently polish teeth and chemicals that break down and eliminate stains from the outer layer of the tooth.

The pros? Using a whitening toothpaste doesn't change your normal brushing routine and is very affordable. While you won't get "immediate" results, the long-term effects of brushing with an ADA approved whitening toothpaste can whiten your teeth 1-2 shades.

The cons? A whitening toothpaste cannot change the natural color of your tooth or tackle stains that go deeper than the surface level. It is a long-term process to see results and your whitening potential is very limited with this approach.

So, what are the alternatives? There are many options to achieve a brighter, whiter smile. We at Springs Family Dentistry probably have a solution to fit your budget and lifestyle.  Here is a quick list of some choices we can discuss as well as the time and effort usually required to see effects and shade changing potential:

  • Teeth Whitening Strips:  Can see effects in as little as three days, but plan on thirty to get the full effect. Press strips on your teeth and leave them there for 30 minutes, once per day, can whiten 3-4 shades.
  • Over-the-Counter Home Teeth Whitening: Three days to two weeks to see whitening effects. Wear one-size-fits-all-mouth trays anywhere from one hour to overnight or brush on twice daily (depending on kit type), up to 6 shades whiter.
  • Professional Grade Home Teeth Whitening: Available only through a dentist, noticeable results in one day to impressive results in one week.  Can tackle deeper, more stubborn stains than over the counter remedies, whitens up to six shades.  *Also available for people with sensitive teeth.
  • In-Office Teeth Whitening: Get full results in 45-75 minutes, only done in a dental office using a professional whitening system.  Can whiten up to 8 shades.
  • Power Teeth Whitening: Up to several weeks, in office professional whitening system and at home rou­tine has the ability to remove stub­born stains, such as those from tetracycline, that were once thought  to be permanent, can whiten 5 + shades.

Call us at 407-862-2299 to see what tooth whitening is best for you!

What are dental sealants, who should get them, and how long do they last?

August 9th, 2017

Dental sealants are an excellent way to protect children’s teeth from tooth decay by coating them with a thin plastic material. Their teeth look and feel like normal, but they are protected from plaque build-up and decay early on. Dr. Hawkins and our staff recommend sealants as a preventive measure for children before any decay appears on their teeth.

Who should get dental sealants?

Dental sealants are intended for young children as soon as their first teeth come in. Decay is most common in the molars, so taking your child to Springs Family Dentistry for sealants right when you see the molars grow in gives your child the best chance to fight tooth decay.

A child’s first set of permanent molars grow in between ages five and seven, while the second permanent molars come in between 11 and 14 years of age. Some teens and adults who don’t have tooth decay may get sealants as well, but it is less common.

How long do dental sealants last?

Once the sealant has been placed on the teeth, it lasts up to ten years. Expect to have Dr. Hawkins check the sealant at every visit to our Longwood, FL office, which should be twice a year. We will look at the sealant and determine if it needs to be replaced.

What is the process of getting sealants?

Applying sealants is a simple, pain-free procedure that is done quickly at Springs Family Dentistry. There is absolutely no effect on the tooth structure from sealants.

For starters, the teeth are cleaned carefully, then dried with an absorbent material. A mild acid solution is applied to them to roughen them slightly. This is done so the sealant can bond properly to the teeth. Then the teeth are rinsed and dried, and the sealant material is painted on and dried with a special light.

Molars are susceptible to decay early on, which is why sealants are an important treatment to get for your children’s first set of teeth.

My gums are shrinking!

August 2nd, 2017

Have you ever looked in the mirror and noticed that your teeth looked longer? Does it seem like your gums are shrinking? This condition is called recession—many adults have it. Let’s look at some of the causes and what you can do about it.

During your exam at Springs Family Dentistry, we will take measurements to check for periodontal disease. Dental professionals take recession measurements to see how much attached gingiva is present. This is the kind of tissue that is most resilient to infection.

The more recession, the less attached gingiva. The less attached gingiva, the less bone support. The less bone support, the higher your chances of tooth loss. It is quite a domino effect.

Don’t lose hope. The effect can be halted once you know the cause of your recession.

Do you ever wake up with your jaw clenched, and/or a headache that originates just above your ears? Clenching or grinding your teeth can cause recession. When there is added stress on a tooth, it flexes at the gum line.

Over time this causes microscopic breaks in the enamel and then a notch appears. The gum line is forced to move away from its original position. If this is something you see in your mouth, we can discuss the possibility of an occlusal guard at your next visit.

How do you brush your teeth? Do you brush in a straight line or circles? What kind of bristles do you use? Are the bristles on your toothbrush frayed?

When you brush in a circle, you are sweeping all along the gum line, removing the plaque from most angles. When you brush in a straight line, you may often miss the concave portion of the gums. This leaves plaque behind and leads to gingivitis. Whenever gingivitis occurs, the body attacks supporting structures like bone while trying to get rid of the infection. This is periodontal disease, which can cause recession.

Recession may also result from an irritant on the gums, such as a bar from a partial denture or orthodontic appliance (braces).

Gums do not “grow back.” The most common treatment for advanced recession is a tissue graft. There are many different kinds of tissue grafts.

Other factors can cause recession. If you think recession is happening in your mouth, schedule an appointment with Dr. Hawkins to discuss your options, so you can make the appropriate treatment choice.

How do I pick the right toothpaste for my needs?

July 26th, 2017

With so many toothpastes available in so many price ranges, it can be difficult to be sure you are selecting the right one for your needs. You need a product that not only protects against tooth decay, but also addresses any special concerns that Dr. Hawkins and our team have raised. Look for the American Dental Association seal and do some research to find the toothpaste that best meets your needs.

Choose a Product Approved by the American Dental Association

The American Dental Association approves dental products such as toothbrushes, dentures, mouthwashes, dental floss, and toothpastes when they meet certain quality standards. Before products can display the seal, the American Dental Association must verify that the product does what it claims to do. Look for the American Dental Association seal on the toothpaste package before you buy it. Also, check to make sure that the toothpaste contains fluoride, which helps protect against decay.

Consider Special Needs

You may be depending on your toothpaste to perform extra tasks beyond cleaning your teeth. These are some common concerns that the right toothpaste can address.

  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Plaque or gingivitis
  • Tartar
  • Yellowing teeth

The American Dental Association’s website has a tool that lets users input their requirements and view a list of the toothpastes that carry the American Dental Association’s seal and address those particular oral health needs.

Make Your Children’s Tooth-Brushing Experience Fun

If you select toothpaste that contains fluoride and has the American Dental Association seal, most types of toothpaste will be fine for your children as long as they have no special needs. Allowing your kids to select fun toothpaste can encourage them to enjoy the brushing experience more, so that they brush more frequently and do a better job.

The following toothpaste characteristics can make brushing more fun for children.

  • Fun flavors, such as bubble gum, berry, and watermelon
  • Sparkles and swirls that make the toothpaste appear more attractive
  • Toothpaste that comes in a pump
  • Toothpaste with a container decorated with superheroes

Five Things You Didn't Know About Cavities

July 19th, 2017

Most people know when they have a cavity—they can either see it on their tooth or... ouch! They can feel it! But there are certain things that many of our patients don't know about cavities that could save them a trip to our Longwood, FL office!

1. Not all sugars are created equal

It's quite well known that eating dietary sugars in excess along with poor oral hygiene leads to dental decay such as cavities. This is due to the fact that the bacteria in your mouth feed on these sugars and excrete acids as a byproduct of that process, thus causing decay. But xylitol, a sugar alcohol derived from birch or corn, actually prevents the bacteria from converting sugars into acids.

Xylitol is available in the form of gum, mints, toothpaste, and even in a granulated form much like regular cane sugar. You might consider trying some xylitol products between meals to keep your mouth clean and fresh.

2. It's not always what you eat but HOW you eat

Are you a grazer, always snacking between meals and never satisfied? We now know that this kind of eating can contribute to cavities and other oral health problems.

Every time you eat anything with carbohydrates in it, you're feeding the bacteria in your mouth, which in turn produce acids. If you're constantly eating, it doesn't allow your saliva time to bring the pH of your mouth back into a more alkaline, neutral state. It takes your saliva about 20 minutes to neutralize the acids in your mouth after eating.

It's especially easy to harm your teeth in this way with soft drinks, sipping all day long. So, it's best to avoid sugary drinks and junk food, and if you need a snack opt for healthy vegetables or what are known as "detergent foods." If you do decide to drink a soft drink or eat something sugary, have it all at once and not over the course of the day.

3. Flossing is one of the most important oral hygiene techniques

Although most of our patients are aware that they need to brush, sometimes they can get lackadaisical when it comes to flossing. And that's a big mistake. Flossing is one of the most important (and we daresay, easiest) things someone can do to help prevent cavities and tooth decay.

You see, as we've already mentioned, the bacteria in your mouth that cause cavities feed on the food you eat. So if you've got pieces of that food stuck between your teeth all day and night, every day, that's asking for a problem.

Flossing clears that bacteria-feeding food out from between your teeth. Floss daily and whenever you decide to do it, morning or night, just do it!

4. A dry mouth can lead to cavities and tooth decay

Your teeth's best defense against cavities and tooth decay is actually your saliva! We've already talked about the pH neutralizing effect saliva has. So if you find you have a dry mouth often, make sure to have some water to sip on. Or why not try some xylitol mints or gum to get your saliva production kicked into action?

5. Over-brushing can damage your enamel

If you brush like a construction worker with a jackhammer, you should ease up! Brushing too hard can scrape away at your teeth's enamel, which leaves them more susceptible to cavities and decay. Brush lightly, with your brush angled at the gum line for two minutes, twice a day. That's all that is required!

Oral Health Problems: An indicator of overall health problems?

July 12th, 2017

If you are like many people, you might think of your oral health as separate from your overall health. After all, most dental coverage plans are distinct from health care coverage. However, your oral health goes far beyond being able to chew nutritious and enjoyable foods. Oral health problems may be an indicator of a variety of other health problems.

Links between Oral Health and Overall Health

In the late 1980s, researchers noticed a trend among patients who had recently suffered from heart attacks. As the Journal of the American Dental Association reported, they observed that these patients were more likely to have dental caries or cavities, periodontitis or inflammation around the tooth, and other forms of gum disease. Later studies found similar results, and dentists and doctors now recognize poor oral health as a risk factor for a variety of heart conditions, such as heart attacks, atherosclerosis, and coronary heart disease.

There are even more links between oral health problems and overall health problems. Some individuals do not find out that they have Type 2 diabetes until a dentist sees that they have periodontitis. If you have diabetes, worsening periodontitis can indicate that your diabetes is not under control.

Poor oral health is also associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Furthermore, poor oral health puts you at higher risk for respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, because harmful pathogens can enter your body through your mouth.

Take Care of Your Teeth

Keeping your teeth healthy remains important, especially as you grow older. Older adults are more prone to dental caries and other oral health problems, as well as to chronic diseases. While taking care of your oral health might not prevent a specific disease, a healthy mouth is a significant factor in your overall health.

You can take care of your teeth by continuing to brush twice a day and floss every day. Avoid consuming too many sugary and starchy foods, and drink water after each meal or snack to rinse your teeth. See Dr. Hawkins for regular checkups, and contact Springs Family Dentistry if you have any concerns about your teeth or gums.

Don’t let a dental emergency ruin your summer vacation!

July 5th, 2017

For many of our patients at Springs Family Dentistry, summer means a season of relaxation, vacation, and outdoor fun and activities. While you can’t take a vacation from dental emergencies, you can always be prepared for anything that can happen. Today, Dr. Hawkins and our team thought we would give our patients a few tips on handling a dental emergency when you’re far from home (and our office).

Throbbing Toothache – Try brushing and flossing to ease the pain; the issue could be simply that a piece of food is nestled in an uncomfortable spot between your teeth. If that is the case, try to gently remove the object with dental floss. If it still hurts, stick to soft foods, try an over-the-counter pain reliever, or dip a cotton ball in clove oil and insert it on the affected area until you can get to a local dentist.

Bitten Lip or Tongue – Clean the area gently with a cloth and apply cold compresses to reduce swelling. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, go to a hospital emergency room immediately.

Lost Filling or Crown – Dental wax will work to keep the sharp edges of your tooth from bothering you. If you can, save the crown or filling, and if you happen to have denture adhesive handy, you can use it to temporarily reattach the crown until you can get to a local dentist.

Broken Tooth – Hold the tooth by the crown and rinse off the root of the tooth in water if it’s dirty. If possible, gently insert and hold the tooth in its socket. If that isn’t possible, put the tooth in a cup of milk and get to a local dentist as quickly as possible.

Broken Jaw – Apply cold compresses to control swelling. Visit a hospital emergency room as soon as possible.

If you have a dental emergency after regular office hours and you happen to be in town, please give us a call. If you are calling us after hours, please follow the emergency prompts to contact Dr. Hawkins.

Top Ten Ways to Improve Heart Health

June 28th, 2017

The human heart truly appreciates it when we eat healthy foods, don’t smoke, and exercise regularly. But there’s something else that can improve your heart’s longevity and you may not know about: keeping your teeth and gums in tip-top shape.

Bacteria responsible for periodontal disease have been found in the heart area of subjects who suffer from artery inflammation, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Physicians and dentists, like Dr. Hawkins, think that it is not difficult for oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream through diseased, bleeding gums, and abscesses that reach from the gums into veins and capillaries that carry blood to and from the heart.

In addition to practicing good oral hygiene and visiting Springs Family Dentistry every six months, here are ten other ways you can make your heart love you for the rest of your life:

  1. Avoid eating foods that contain saturated fat (fatty meats, processed meats, pastries, butter).
  2. Craving a crunchy snack? Grab a handful of tree nuts: pecans, almonds, walnuts. They’re rich in monounsaturated fats (the “good” kind of fat) as well as vitamin E, magnesium, and potassium.
  3. Eating a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast nourishes your heart with a soluble fiber called beta-glucan that can reduce cholesterol and help prevent atherosclerosis.
  4. Think “fish” the next time you shop for groceries, especially sardines, salmon, fresh tuna, and mackerel. These fish provide omega-3 fatty acids that lower triglycerides and blood pressure, and may help prevent blood clots from forming.
  5. Opt for whole grains over processed white breads and cereals.
  6. Put that remote control (or computer mouse) down right now and get moving! Walk, swim, ride a bike, plant flowers; your heart likes to pump, so make it pump.
  7. Refresh your brain and improve your heart health with at least eight hours of sleep every night.
  8. De-stress your life as much as possible: relax, stay optimistic, and don’t sweat the petty stuff!
  9. Watch your weight and get regular health examinations, especially if you have a family history of heart disease.
  10. And don’t forget to brush, floss, and rinse twice a day!

Energy Drinks and Dental Health

June 21st, 2017

Are energy drinks bad for your teeth? Many of our patients at Springs Family Dentistry ask us this question, so here’s the scoop.

Energy drinks have been on the rise, taking up more and more space on grocery store shelves. Drinks such as Red Bull, 5-Hour Energy, Monster Assault, Rockstar, and the like promise to jump-start your day, give you more energy, and help you feel more alert. But they also do a lot more than that. Turns out, they do a pretty good job of stripping your teeth of enamel, which is a very bad thing.

Many of these energy drinks are loaded with a lot of citric acid. In addition, they are laden with preservatives (not to mention sugar), not only to enhance flavor, but extend shelf life. While enamel loss, tooth decay, teeth sensitivity, and cavities cannot be blamed entirely on energy drinks (improper oral hygiene at home and lack of professional dental care also play a role), they can wreak havoc on the health of your teeth and gums, especially when consumed in more than moderation. Over time, energy drinks can strip enamel, which is the outer layer that protects your teeth.

What can you do?

Although Dr. Hawkins and our team aren't recommending you drink energy drinks at all, if you must drink one occasionally, there are a few things you can do to minimize the damage to your teeth.

  • Drink through a straw.
  • Don’t hold the drink in your mouth before swallowing.
  • Rinse your mouth with water immediately after drinking this kind of beverage. Water helps both to neutralize the acid and to increase the production of saliva.
  • Chew sugar-free gum immediately after, to increase saliva production.
  • Don’t brush your teeth right after drinking an energy drink. Wait at least an hour instead, because the combination of the acid and brushing will further damage tooth enamel.

The best advice is to refrain from drinking energy drinks altogether. One of the best hydrators is water. Water is a natural energy-booster and hydrator, and it doesn’t contain calories.

Give us a call today at our Longwood, FL  office if you have any questions or concerns about energy drinks and dental health. We can provide additional tips and a treatment plan to help reduce enamel loss, eliminate tooth sensitivity, and repair cavities and tooth decay as a result of drinking energy drinks.

Is periodontal disease contagious?

June 14th, 2017

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of adults age 30 and over suffer from some form of gum disease. Caused by plaque buildup, gum disease is an infection of the tissue that surrounds and supports the teeth. In its advanced stages, it is known as periodontal disease. If left untreated, it can result in the loss of tissue and bone that support the teeth, causing teeth loss. It’s a preventable condition seen far too often by Dr. Hawkins.

Research between periodontal disease and other diseases is ongoing. Some studies have indicated that gum disease is linked to other health conditions such as stroke or diabetes. Furthermore, while most factors that lead to periodontal disease are dependent on the individual (genetics, diet, poor oral hygiene) there is a possibility that periodontitis is capable of spreading from one person to another.

What the Research Says

Periodontitis is a gum infection, and the bacteria that cause the gums to become infected travels in saliva. Researches have used DNA coding techniques to track the path of infection from one person to another. In other words, kissing and close contact play a role in the transmission of the infection, so if you’re married to a spouse with periodontal disease, then your chances of having gum problems are slightly increased. Other studies have indicated that saliva contact is common in family settings through coughing, sneezing, and shared utensils and food. Children with parents who have periodontal disease are at a somewhat higher risk of developing it. At the same time, just because you exchange bacteria with your loved ones doesn’t mean you will get periodontal disease.

It is important to note that the scientific evidence supporting the spread of periodontal disease is limited and ongoing. The best way to prevent gum disease is through proper plaque control, which includes brushing, flossing, mouthwash, and twice a year trips for professional cleanings. Contact our Longwood, FL office if you have any questions about periodontal disease.

Summer Break: An ideal time for wisdom teeth removal

June 7th, 2017

After your son or daughter departs for college, the last thing you want to get is a call or text to learn he or she is in pain. Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry will tell you there aren’t many emergency situations that can be avoided when it comes to dental health, but one crisis that can easily be prevented before your teen heads hundreds of miles away for college is wisdom tooth extraction.

What are wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars that erupt in the late teen years to early 20s. Spacing and crowding problems often cause impaction and infections, which is why many people elect to have their wisdom teeth removed. Wisdom teeth can go from barely noticeable to extremely painful in a very short period of time.

When your teen’s wisdom teeth erupt, they may cause overcrowding of his or her teeth, which can have a negative effect on their alignment. Most people’s mouths do not have enough room for wisdom teeth to erupt fully and remain perfectly aligned. Thus, pain, swelling, infection, damage to adjacent teeth, and decay are often the most common problems associated with wisdom teeth. These problems can brew beneath the surface for weeks or months, offering no warning before painful symptoms hit.

If your child does elect to go through wisdom tooth extraction, we want to inform you that the first few days of recovery consist of careful measures to control bleeding and swelling, an adherence to a special soft diet, as well as a medication routine that must be followed as recommended by Dr. Hawkins after surgery.

Dr. Hawkins and our team are dedicated to providing exceptional service before, during, and after your wisdom tooth procedure, so you can have peace of mind knowing that your child’s oral health is in good hands. We will do everything we can to minimize discomfort and help your child heal safely and quickly.

Summer break is the perfect time to remove wisdom teeth so that your child can avoid the stressful scenario of experiencing this medical emergency far away from home. If you have any questions on wisdom teeth removal or to schedule an initial consultation with Dr. Hawkins, give us a call today!

How can parents help prevent tooth decay?

May 31st, 2017

Children are born with a set of primary teeth – 20 to be exact – that help them learn to chew and speak, and develop enough space in the jaw for the permanent teeth that will appear several years later. Kids are especially susceptible to decay, which can cause pain and tooth loss – a problem that could interfere with oral development. As a parent, it is important that you take proactive steps to keep your child’s teeth as healthy as possible.

Bottles and “Sippie Cups”

One of the biggest culprits of childhood tooth decay is poor diet. This begins as early as a few months old, when children are often allowed to go to bed with bottles and “sippie cups” of milk or juice. The sugars in these beverages – even natural sugars – can steadily decay the teeth.

Dr. Hawkins and our staff suggest serving children milk and juice only at meal times, and limiting juice intake to just a few ounces per day. If your child becomes thirsty between meals or likes to go to bed with a bottle, serve water during these times.

Hygiene

As a parent, you can establish healthy dental habits long before your child’s first tooth erupts. Start by gently wiping your baby’s gums with a clean wash cloth during the first months of life. By age one, graduate to an appropriately sized toothbrush with fluoridated toothpaste, and brush at least twice a day.

Dental Visits

Dental visits should start young and continue on a regular basis throughout your child's life. Dr. Hawkins and our staff recommend parents bring their children to Springs Family Dentistry for the first time no later than the child’s first birthday. Initial visits concentrate on parental education, while later visits may include thorough cleanings and fluoride treatments as your child grows.

For more information about keeping your child’s teeth cavity-free, contact our Longwood, FL office to schedule a dental consultation and checkup.

Aging and Dental Health

May 24th, 2017

As you grow older, your mind may be preoccupied with the health of your bones, heart, or brain. However, our team at Springs Family Dentistry will tell you that keeping your teeth healthy is an equally important part of the aging process. Older adults are at increased risk for a variety of oral health conditions, which makes it essential for you to speak with your dentist to create a prevention plan that’s best for you.

Oral health conditions associated with aging

Just as the rest of your body continues to change as you age, your mouth changes, too. Certain conditions become more likely to develop as you reach older adulthood, including:

  • Dry mouth. Although your salivary glands continue to produce saliva as you get older, medications and chronic health problems often cause dry mouth.
  • Root decay. Your teeth have lasted you a lifetime, but improper nutrition or cleaning may lead to decay at the roots of your teeth.
  • Diminished sense of taste. Your eyesight and hearing aren’t the only senses affected by aging. The ability to taste naturally diminishes over the course of older adulthood.
  • Tissue inflammation. Are your gums tender, bleeding, or inflamed? Tissue inflammation may indicate gum disease or may be a consequence of wearing dentures that don’t fit well.
  • Oral cancer. Risk for most cancers increases with age, and oral cancer is no exception. Older adults are at increased risk for oral cancer compared to younger individuals.

Ways you can prevent dental problems

Fortunately, many age-related oral health problems are preventable. Begin by improving your diet to include plenty of fruits and vegetables. Choosing water over coffee or soda will keep your teeth whiter and cavity-free. Also remember to practice good brushing habits to prevent cavities and gum disease.

Visiting the dentist at least twice a year is vitally important when you reach older adulthood. Your dentist is familiar with your oral health and may be the first person to notice a sore, discolored patch, inflammation, or other abnormality that indicates oral cancer or gum disease.

If you’re experiencing any problems with dental health, let your dentist know immediately. Together, you can troubleshoot solutions and create a plan that keeps your mouth and gums healthy.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Hawkins, please give us a call at our convenient Longwood, FL office!

Periodontics and Pregnancy

May 24th, 2017

Periodontal health — which refers to the condition of the structures that support your teeth — is an important part of your oral and overall health. However, periodontal health becomes even more important when you're pregnant. Bad oral health can have detrimental effects on the health of your unborn child and can lead to low-birth weight babies and giving birth to a pre-term baby, according to reports by the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), the European Federation of Periodontology (EFP), and several research studies.

Periodontal disease (gum disease) is a set of chronic, bacteria-induced, inflammatory diseases that attack the gum tissue and in more severe cases, the bones supporting the teeth. Early signs of periodontal disease usually include tenderness, swelling, and redness. Symptoms can also include bleeding gums when flossing or brushing, receding gums, loose teeth, and bad breath. These signs shouldn't be ignored, especially if you're pregnant.

Prevention is the best tool you have to fight periodontal disease. Here are some steps you can take to keep your gums in tiptop shape:

  • Brush your teeth properly twice a day – angle your toothbrush at the gum line to help disrupt the bacterial growth that eventually leads to periodontal disease, and make sure you don't brush too hard.
  • Floss daily and clean behind the back molars on the top and bottom of your mouth.
  • Use antiseptic mouthwash to rid your mouth of the bacteria that can cause gum disease.
  • Get regular checkups at our Longwood, FL office to ensure you have no signs of periodontal disease and that your oral hygiene habits are effective.

Dr. Hawkins and our team urge women to care for their periodontal health during pregnancy to avoid complications. If you have any questions regarding periodontal health and how it affects you and your baby's overall health, please contact our Longwood, FL office for more information.

How can I protect my child's teeth during sports?

May 17th, 2017

Sports are great for children for a variety of reasons. Children can develop their motor skills, learn how to solve conflicts and work together, and develop their work ethics. As a parent, you may recognize the benefits of sports, but also naturally worry about your child’s health and safety. Your job goes beyond providing a water bottle and making sure your child follows the rules of the game.

Although you may not think of your child’s teeth first when you think about sports, accidents can happen that affect your children’s teeth. A stray hockey stick, an errant basketball, or a misguided dive after a volleyball are examples of ways a child could lose a tooth. In fact, studies show that young athletes lose more than three million teeth each year.

Becoming a Better Athlete to Protect Teeth

Becoming a better athlete involves refining skills, learning the rules of the game, and being a good sport. These components are not just about winning. They are also about safety. Young athletes who are better ball-handlers and who are careful to avoid fouls and penalties are less likely to have harmful contact with the ball, teammates, or opponents. Children who are better roller-bladers are less likely to take a face plant into the blacktop, and more likely to save their teeth. Being a good sport and avoiding unnecessary contact is one way to protect teeth.

Proper Protective Equipment for Teeth

If your child is in a sport that poses a high threat to teeth, it is essential for your child to wear a mouthguard. Mouthguards fit your child’s mouth and consist of soft plastic. Dr. Hawkins can custom fit a mouthguard if generic ones are uncomfortable. While children may resist wearing a mouthguard initially, your persistence in insisting that they wear it should be enough to convince them. A helmet or face mask provides additional protection.

While prevention is best, rapid treatment can improve the situation if your child does happen to lose a tooth during sports. Rapid implantation can work in about ten percent of cases. To learn about ways to save a lost tooth, contact our Longwood, FL office.

Easing the Teething Blues

May 10th, 2017

Every moment of your baby’s first year of life is precious, since every day your child grows a little, develops new skills, and discovers new things. Most of it is wonderful, but parents don’t like to see their babies in pain. That’s why teething can be such a hard experience. However, you can take steps to make it easier for you and your baby.

What to Expect

Most babies begin teething around the age of six months, when the lower central incisors start to appear. Shortly after this time, the upper central incisors poke through, followed by the lateral incisors, first molars, canines, and second molars. Unfortunately, you’ll probably know that your baby is teething not because you see these teeth come in, but because your baby will be in discomfort. These are some of the signs to watch for when you’re expecting your baby to begin teething.

  • Tender and sore gums
  • More drooling than before
  • Being crankier than usual
  • Chewing on hard objects

What You Can Do

As a parent, you want to do everything you can to make your child more comfortable. These are some approaches that Dr. Hawkins and our team recommend:

  • Take a clean moistened wash cloth or use your own washed finger to rub your baby’s gums and provide relief due to the pressure.
  • Provide a firm rubber teething ring for your baby to use, but don't use the type that is filled with liquid.
  • Use a bottle. A bottle filled with cold water can be soothing. Don’t give your baby formula, milk, or juice constantly because the sugar can cause tooth decay.
  • Medications can help for extreme crankiness. Infant Tylenol is an example, but it’s best to check with your pediatrician before giving your baby medications.

You might also want to take special care to dry the drool. It’s not just to keep yourself and your baby dry. Keeping your baby’s skin dry can help prevent irritation.

When to Visit Us

Once your child’s first tooth comes in, it’s time to start thinking your baby’s first trip to our Longwood, FL office. The American Dental Association suggests that you bring your child to the dentist within six months of the appearance of the first tooth, or at about one year of age. Dr. Hawkins can do a quick check for tooth decay, and we’ll make sure you know how to take care of your child’s new teeth.

Adults Can Get Cavities Too

April 26th, 2017

Sure, you brush your teeth and floss regularly, so you might think you’re off the hook when it comes to the dental chair. However, it’s just as important for adults to get regular dental exams as it is for kids. Cavities are common among adults, with 92% of people aged 18 to 64 having had cavities in their permanent teeth, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

How cavities form

Our mouths are teeming with hundreds of types of bacteria. Some are helpful and maintain good health, while others are harmful. Certain types of bacteria process the sugars in food and release acid in return. Although minor decay can be naturally reversed by your body, Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry will tell you that eventually the acid wears away the enamel and creates small holes in the surface of teeth.

Cavity prevention for adults

Some people are naturally more prone to cavities than others. However, making a few lifestyle changes can dramatically reduce your likelihood of developing cavities.

  • Food choices. Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables increases saliva production, and reduces cavity risk. It is also important to avoid foods that get stuck in the ridges of your teeth. Candy, cookies, and chips should be eaten sparingly.
  • Beverages. Most people know that drinking soda contributes to tooth decay. However, fruit juices and energy drinks also contain large amounts of sugar. Whenever possible, replace these sugary beverages with tea or water, which rinses your mouth and prevents decay.
  • Fluoridated water. Fluoride is a naturally-occurring chemical that facilitates enamel growth. Most municipal water supplies are fortified with fluoride, so drinking tap water is a great way to keep teeth healthy. People with well water may use fluoridated toothpaste or other supplemental forms of fluoride to decrease cavity risk.
  • Brush teeth and floss frequently. Gently brushing teeth several times a day removes the harmful bacteria that cause cavities to develop. If possible, brush your teeth after each meal or when drinking sugary beverages. Flossing regularly removes small particles that get trapped between teeth, which further decreases tooth decay.

One of the most important steps in cavity prevention is visiting your dentist at least twice a year. Consistent dental exams ensure that cavities are caught early, before they cause major damage to your teeth.

For more information about avoiding cavities, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Hawkins, please give us a call at our convenient Longwood, FL office!

What type of toothpaste is right for you?

April 19th, 2017

Sure, you brush your teeth and floss regularly, so you might think you’re off the hook when it comes to the dental chair. However, it’s just as important for adults to get regular dental exams as it is for kids. Cavities are common among adults, with 92% of people aged 18 to 64 having had cavities in their permanent teeth, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

How cavities form

Our mouths are teeming with hundreds of types of bacteria. Some are helpful and maintain good health, while others are harmful. Certain types of bacteria process the sugars in food and release acid in return. Although minor decay can be naturally reversed by your body, Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry will tell you that eventually the acid wears away the enamel and creates small holes in the surface of teeth.

Cavity prevention for adults

Some people are naturally more prone to cavities than others. However, making a few lifestyle changes can dramatically reduce your likelihood of developing cavities.

  • Food choices. Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables increases saliva production, and reduces cavity risk. It is also important to avoid foods that get stuck in the ridges of your teeth. Candy, cookies, and chips should be eaten sparingly.
  • Beverages. Most people know that drinking soda contributes to tooth decay. However, fruit juices and energy drinks also contain large amounts of sugar. Whenever possible, replace these sugary beverages with tea or water, which rinses your mouth and prevents decay.
  • Fluoridated water. Fluoride is a naturally-occurring chemical that facilitates enamel growth. Most municipal water supplies are fortified with fluoride, so drinking tap water is a great way to keep teeth healthy. People with well water may use fluoridated toothpaste or other supplemental forms of fluoride to decrease cavity risk.
  • Brush teeth and floss frequently. Gently brushing teeth several times a day removes the harmful bacteria that cause cavities to develop. If possible, brush your teeth after each meal or when drinking sugary beverages. Flossing regularly removes small particles that get trapped between teeth, which further decreases tooth decay.

One of the most important steps in cavity prevention is visiting your dentist at least twice a year. Consistent dental exams ensure that cavities are caught early, before they cause major damage to your teeth.

For more information about avoiding cavities, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Hawkins, please give us a call at our convenient Longwood, FL office!

What is biofilm?

April 12th, 2017

Biofilm, the protective housing for bacteria, is a hot topic in the medical and dental fields. Routinely taking an antibiotic for a bacterial infection has become more complicated because of biofilm. Bacterial infections may become resistant to antibiotics in part because the biofilm allows for communication among the bacteria, allowing the infection to be sustained.

You’re probably wondering, Dr. Hawkins , what does this have to do with teeth? Since we’re dental professionals, we can tell you why it’s important and what you should know! There is biofilm in your mouth; healthy biofilm and diseased biofilm. Both are made of the same general compounds, but when combined with certain amino acids and cellular chemicals, the diseased biofilm conquers and destroys.

Periodontal disease, otherwise known as gum disease or pyorrhea, is a biofilm disease. If you are undergoing treatment for gum disease and you do not continue with the treatment plan the disease will progress and/or spread due to the biofilm.

There are several ways to treat diseased biofilm. But remember, antibiotics cannot touch the bacterial infection if the biofilm is established.

When your exam is complete, the Ultrasonic or Piezo Scaler should be used. This method of spraying water disturbs the biofilm and provides an opportunity to treat the infection causing bacteria.

Remember, we all need healthy biofilm. Just as your skin protects your body, biofilm housing good bacteria protects your body. The bacteria in the biofilm replicate every twenty minutes. If your body has healthy bacteria, low levels of hydrogen peroxide are produced by the biofilm, preventing harmful bacteria from residing. Harmful bacteria do not like oxygen.

At your exam, we will take measurements around your teeth checking for “pockets”. The higher the number, the deeper the pocket giving more room for harmful bacteria where there is no oxygen. Ask what your numbers are and be involved in restoring your healthy biofilm.

TMD Problems and How You Can Prevent Them

April 5th, 2017

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) describe a set of conditions that involve trouble with your jaw and face muscles. They result from a problem in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which is a hinge that connects the temporal bones, in your skull in front of each ear, to your jaw. The joint enables you to talk, yawn, and chew by letting your mouth move.

TMD can be very painful and interfere with functions such as eating and speaking. This what to watch for and how to try to prevent TMD.

Risk Factors for TMD

You are at higher risk for TMD if you are a women than if you are male. The disorder is most common among adults between the ages of 20 and 40 years. Other risk factors for TMJ disorders include the following.

  • Arthritis in the area, making movement more difficult
  • Excessive tooth grinding, because it increases stress on the joint
  • General stress, which can lead you to clench your teeth and strain facial muscles

Symptoms of TMD

Symptoms of TMD can last for just a short while, or for several years. Seeing Dr. Hawkins is important if your symptoms make it impossible for you to eat regularly or if you have unbearable pain or discomfort. The following symptoms can occur on both or one side of your face.

  • Aching or very tired facial muscles
  • Jaws that are fixed open or shut without you being able to unlock them
  • Grating or popping sounds when you chew or close or open your mouth
  • Pain in the entire area, including the mouth, jaw, neck, or shoulders, that comes on when you chew or yawn

Preventing TMD

You can try to prevent TMD by focusing on reducing risk factors. If you grind your teeth at night, ask Dr. Hawkins about wearing a mouthguard. If you are overly stressed, look into ways to better manage your stress and relax your muscles. Another strategy for trying to prevent the development of TMD is to avoid chewing gum, since that puts stress on your jaw.

If you have questions about TMD, don’t hesitate to contact our Longwood, FL office.

What exactly is tinnitus?

March 29th, 2017

It’s estimated that about one in every five people is affected by tinnitus, which is a ringing or noise in the ears. But tinnitus isn’t a condition in itself; it’s actually the symptom of an underlying condition. Some of these underlying conditions could be hearing loss, injury to the ear, or some sort of circulatory disorder.

Another common cause if tinnitus is a dental injury or dental issue, whether it involves the jaw or the temporomandibular joint, better known as the TMJ. “Somatic tinnitus” is the term given to the version that is attributable to injuries to the head or neck area. Symptoms of somatic tinnitus may include noticeable fluctuations in sound volume, intermittency, headaches, memory loss or increased forgetfulness, and an increased likelihood of being depressed or sad.

Dr. Hawkins will tell you tinnitus usually isn’t serious and is more common in older populations. For that reason, many people won’t even seek an answer to what’s causing it. But people can also experience more severe cases of tinnitus that can affect a person’s ability to complete everyday activities, which has a larger impact on their lives. For people facing these more severe cases of tinnitus, treatment may be necessary to increase their quality of life. It’s also worth noting that tinnitus seems to worsen with age, so while symptoms might not be a problem one year, they may be more significant and distracting the next.

If you have tinnitus that is caused by the misalignment of the TMJ or an injury to the mouth, that’s a condition that can be corrected by Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry. We will work to relieve your symptoms by realigning the jaw or adjusting your bite with routine dental care. Sometimes we won’t even have to go this far, because an oral infection or gum infection may be causing your problem. We might also recommend other life changes, such as dietary adjustments and medication.

If you're experiencing tinnitus-like symptoms and have ruled out various other reasons for it, contact our Longwood, FL office today. Dr. Hawkins and our team will carefully analyze your situation and put you on a treatment course so that you can kick the symptoms for good.

Proper Flossing Techniques

March 22nd, 2017

Of all the dental hygiene techniques you can use at home to promote clean teeth and good oral health, flossing is likely to be the one that troubles most people. It can be viewed as confusing and time-consuming, but when you learn how to floss your teeth correctly, you’ll find it’s easy to do on a daily basis.

Proper flossing techniques are vital to the health of your teeth and gums. These tips will help you with the correct flossing procedures. Likewise, Dr. Hawkins and our team can also help you learn how to floss effectively and efficiently.

Steps to Flossing Your Teeth Properly

  1. Choosing Dental Floss. You can find dental floss in various flavors, as well as waxed or unwaxed. If the floss you use seems to get stuck between your teeth, switch to waxed to make it easier.
  2. Flossing “Helpers.” Beginner flossers who have trouble coordinating the floss and the movements of their hands can use a floss holder to help them get in and around teeth.
  3. Preparing the Floss. Cut an 18-inch piece of floss to use for flossing a few teeth. This allows you to make progress before you must stop and cut another piece of floss.
  4. How to Hold It. Wind the ends around your middle fingers. Hold the floss taut, pinching each side with your thumbs and index fingers. Leave a couple inches free in the middle.
  5. The Process of Flossing. Use your index fingers to guide the floss toward your gum line. Bring it down between the teeth with a zigzag motion. Hold the floss in a C-shape around the tooth, and move it up and down along the side.
  6. Where to Floss. Use a clean portion of the floss to clean around and in between each tooth. Don’t forget about the molars in the back of your mouth, too!

Flossing: A Vital Part of Oral Care

Periodontal disease begins at the gum line; this is where flossing comes in. Regular flossing helps you remove plaque from the gum line and between your teeth to avoid gum disease. In conjunction with daily brushing and twice-a-year visits to Springs Family Dentistry, floss each day to maintain good oral hygiene and overall health. Gum disease can have an impact on your general health, but it doesn't have to. This easy-to-prevent condition can be avoided with regular visits to our Longwood, FL office and daily flossing. Allow our team to partner with you in maintaining a bright, shiny smile and good oral health.

Germs living on my toothbrush? Say it ain’t so!

March 15th, 2017

You may have heard talk about the germs that can reside on your toothbrush and thought, “really?”

It’s true—there are several kinds of bacteria that can lurk on the bristles of your toothbrush, including streptococci, staphylococci, Herpes Simplex I, and the Influenza virus. To protect your toothbrush from bacteria, Dr. Hawkins and our team want you to consider the following three tips:

  • Wash your hands before and after brushing.
  • Allow the brush to air dry after each use, as harmful bacteria dies after being exposed to oxygen. It is best to disinfect your toothbrush weekly and allow it to dry in between use. Store the toothbrush in an upright position to allow water to drain and dry faster
  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or after being ill. Worn bristles are less effective in properly cleaning your teeth, and can actually be damaging to teeth if used too long!

We hope these tips help! Feel free to give us a call at our Longwood, FL office or ask us on Facebook if you have any questions!

What to do about Sensitive Teeth

March 8th, 2017

If you suffer from sensitive teeth, you already know the frustration of having a type of pain that is hard to deal with. Because tooth sensitivity is sometimes unpredictable, you can't necessarily take medication to ward off the pain like you could if you just felt a headache coming on.

However, there is still something you can do about sensitive teeth. Use the following tips to help put your sensitivity and pain problems with your teeth behind you!

Use the Right Toothbrush: Select a toothbrush made just for sensitive teeth, or the softest bristles possible. This helps you avoid putting any extra pressure on your teeth or gums.

Choose a Special Toothpaste: There are several good options for toothpastes made just for sensitive teeth today. Usually, toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth will be fluoridated and use a non-abrasive formula. The toothpaste will help with the pain usually associated with brushing and flossing if you use it regularly.

Avoid Trigger Foods: You may have noticed certain trigger foods that cause tooth sensitivity and pain for you. Avoid these foods whenever possible, and if you absolutely must eat them, try to consume them in very small quantities. Trigger foods may include:

  • Foods with high acid content for example citrus fruits
  • Very hot or very cold foods
  • Hard or crunchy foods

Visit Our Office

If your sensitive teeth problem is too serious to manage on your own, a visit to our Longwood, FL office may be in order. There are a couple of ways Dr. Hawkins can help:

  • Fluoride Treatments: We can put a special fluoride formula on the most sensitive areas to help make your enamel stronger and to help lower pain levels.
  • Sealing Exposed Roots:In some cases, your roots become exposed due to a receding gumline, which in turn causes teeth sensitivity and pain. We can apply a dental sealant that protects the exposed roots and reduces your pain dramatically.

I’ve lost a filling; now what?

March 1st, 2017

Dental fillings usually protect our teeth, but sometimes they need to be protected, too. If you lose a filling, contact our Longwood, FL office immediately and let us advise you on the next steps to take.

Fillings serve an important function in oral health by preserving the structural integrity of your tooth. With the materials we use today, dental fillings usually last for many years, but they are subjected to the same stresses as your natural teeth are.

You can wear down, chip, crack, or break your fillings by eating, clenching, and grinding, and sometimes they can fall out completely. While you may not notice normal wear and tear, you should not ignore any fillings that loosen or fall out. Contact us as soon as possible so we can advise you about whether you need to be seen immediately.

If your fillings get damaged or fall out, a timely response can be important. There may be gaps or holes in your tooth which provide an easy access point for bacteria. Once bacteria begin working into your tooth structure, your tooth could become damaged even worse. Since cavities usually form in hard-to-reach places, it will be difficult for you to remove these bacteria through brushing alone.

When is a lost filling an emergency?

A lost or cracked filling is usually not an emergency unless you are in great pain or are bleeding excessively. In that case, contact our office immediately so we can schedule an emergency appointment. Otherwise we will schedule a regular appointment to evaluate and repair your filling. Before coming in for your appointment, try to avoid chewing on that side of your mouth, rinse with warm salt water, and be sure to brush and floss thoroughly after every meal.

Once you come to our office, Dr. Hawkins will examine your tooth, assess the situation, and advise you of your options. We may be able to replace the filling and can discuss whether an amalgam or composite material would be the best for your teeth. If the filling was large, a root canal or a dental implant and crown may be necessary.

A lost or cracked filling may not always pose a dental emergency, but it’s always important to contact us so our team can help you take the proper action to preserve your oral health.

Top Five Dental Myths

February 22nd, 2017

Sometimes the line between fact and fiction is easily blurred. This is certainly the case when it comes to dentistry, where myths and misconceptions abound. In a bid to put an end to health hoaxes, here are five dental myths to chew over.

Sugar Is the Number One Culprit of Tooth Decay

Sugar will rot your teeth. If you’re a parent, chances are you tell your children this every time they ask for something sweet. And chances are your parents told you the same thing. There’s no denying that sugar leads to cavity formation, but it's not the number one culprit of tooth decay. Sugar adds fuel to the fire, but it doesn’t light the match.

Going to the Dentist Is a Painful Experience

There are people who don’t go to the dentist because they think it’s going to be a painful experience. It’s time to put this myth to rest. New dental technology, developments in anesthetics and analgesics, and more conservative dental procedures have made visits to our Longwood, FL office a more comfortable experience.

Bad Breath Means You’re Not Brushing

Poor dental hygiene can cause bad breath, but it’s not the only thing that will leave you looking for a breath mint. There are many factors that can cause bad breath, including illness, acid reflux, medication, and dehydration. In addition, sometimes what you eat or drink can give you bad breath no matter how many times you brush and floss. Next time you order a sub for lunch, skip the onions and garlic.

Bleaching Products Weaken Teeth

Gels, pastes, strips — there are all sorts of products available to make our pearly whites even whiter. If used according to the directions, bleaching products are harmless. They do not affect the health or strength of the teeth, only the color. At the same time, too much bleaching can cause temporary tooth sensitivity or irritated gums; the enamel, however, is not weakened.

You Will Know When You Have Tooth Decay

This is the type of false information that can lead to serious dental problems. There are no early symptoms of tooth decay. By the time you experience pain, your tooth decay has led to nerve damage, which means your decay is advanced and extensive. The only way to know if you have tooth decay —and to prevent it — is to visit Dr. Hawkins twice a year for a checkup and cleaning.

A Variety of Dentures to Meet Your Needs

February 15th, 2017

With advancements in prosthetic dentistry, patients are now able to wear dentures that are comfortable, natural looking, and long lasting. There are different options to choose from that will meet your individual needs, whether you have a few teeth missing or have lost all of your teeth. Dr. Hawkins will be able to help you decide which denture option is best for you.

Partial Dentures

Patients who receive partial dentures have some of their original teeth still in place and therefore only need a partial to replace the missing teeth and keep their existing teeth from moving. It also makes sense that patients need them to be able to eat comfortably. All dentures are made from porcelain or plastic and are made with comfort in mind.

Complete Dentures

If you have suffered from complete tooth loss, you would typically receive complete dentures. Immediately after you have your teeth extracted you will leave the dentist office with a set of temporary dentures. These will be worn for a few months while your mouth heals. After this initial wait time, your conventional or permanent dentures will be ready to be fitted.

Implant-Supported Dentures

Implant-supported dentures involve a more invasive procedure, but are also permanent. A select number of implants are placed into the jaw. The denture is then attached to the implant posts. You will be able to chew normally and maintain normal dental hygiene, like brushing and flossing.

Dr. Hawkins will be able to advise on which kind of denture would be the best based on your individual needs. Contact our Longwood, FL office to schedule an appointment!

Are you at risk for sleep apnea?

February 8th, 2017

If you are one of the more than 12 million North Americans who suffers from sleep apnea, Dr. Hawkins and our team want you to know we can help. Sleep apnea, a disorder that causes frequent disruption to your body’s sleep patterns, is also potentially dangerous, as it causes abnormal pauses in breathing or very shallow breathing during the night.

For those who suffer from sleep apnea, it may seem impossible to wake up feeling rested and energized. You may, for example, sleep for eight hours, but your body might have only received three or four hours of quality sleep.

Besides losing a good night’s sleep, the risk of heart attack and stroke have been linked to sleep apnea. Other conditions associated with sleep apnea include depression, irritability, high blood pressure, memory loss, and sexual dysfunction.

Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax to the point of inhibiting natural breathing. The muscles used to support the soft palate relax and the airway closes, causing breathing to stop for anywhere from ten to 20 seconds, which is dangerous because it lowers the oxygen level in the brain.

Sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age, and CPAP devices (continuous positive airway pressure), among other treatments, are often prescribed for sleep apnea treatment. Another treatment option is an oral sleep apnea appliance, which positions your mouth in a way that brings your lower jaw forward and opens up your airway for unobstructed breathing.

At Springs Family Dentistry, we truly care about the health and well-being of our patients. In fact, we regularly screen our patients for sleep disorders during their regular checkups, and we will refer you to a sleep apnea specialist if an issue is detected. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call at our Longwood, FL office if you think you have sleep apnea or if you have any questions or concerns!

Oral Health during Pregnancy

February 1st, 2017

Pregnancy can be one of the most exciting times in a woman’s life, as you eagerly wait for the birth of the new addition. Needless to say, pregnancy comes with a lot of responsibilities. Everything you do to your own body can affect your baby’s health, so you eat right and try to avoid anything that could harm your baby.

You may not realize it, but even your oral health affects your baby. You have a lot to worry about during this time in your life, but it’s important not to let your oral health slide. Maintaining good routines before and during pregnancy can improve the health of your baby.

Gum Disease and Pregnancy

Gum disease includes gingivitis and the more severe condition called periodontitis. Pregnancy gingivitis is a condition that results from bacteria in your teeth. Symptoms include gum inflammation and bad breath. If it progresses to periodontitis, your baby is at higher risk for preterm delivery and low-birth weight. You can also develop pregnancy tumors, or pyogenic granulomas, which can interfere with speaking and eating. Throughout pregnancy, continue to visit Dr. Hawkins at your regularly scheduled appointments to look for signs of gum disease.

Pregnancy and the Role of Our Office

Make an appointment with Dr. Hawkins at our Longwood, FL office when you first learn that you’re pregnant, especially if you have unresolved oral health issues. If possible, try not to schedule necessary treatment during the first trimester or second half of the third trimester.

Oral Health Care Habits to Follow

Maintain a normal good oral health care regimen, which includes brushing your teeth at least twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste and soft toothbrush, and flossing daily. If your regular regimen is not up to par, now is a good time to develop good habits. You can use an unflavored toothpaste if you have morning sickness and regular toothpaste makes you feel nauseous. Also, rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash if you experience morning sickness to prevent acid damage to your teeth.

The Secret to Keeping Your Teeth for Life

January 25th, 2017

The secret to keeping your teeth for life involves more than one secret. The first is that there is no secret; and in fact, there really is no difficulty involved. Follow this simple four-step process – brush, floss, rinse, and visit our Longwood, FL office regularly – and you will have healthy teeth for life!

Brush

You should brush your teeth twice a day, preferably once in the morning and once at night. Three times a day will not hurt. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and light pressure; you do not want to scrub away your gums or tooth enamel.

Brush for a minimum of two minutes, and carefully clean all tooth surfaces. Three minutes is better. Use quality toothpaste; Dr. Hawkins and our staff can recommend the best type for your needs. Keep your toothbrush clean and replace it about every three months.

Floss

Make flossing part of your daily routine, at least once a day. Flossing is important for more than just removing food particles between your teeth. The process also helps to remove bacteria that you cannot see. Bacterial build-up turns into plaque, or calculus: a cement-like substance that cannot be removed by brushing alone.

Use floss gently; you do not want to cut your gums. There are many different types of flosses and flossing tools. Dr. Hawkins and our staff will be happy to help you find the style that works best for you.

Rinse

Mouthwash does more than freshen your breath. Rinses help kill the bacteria that lead to plaque formation and gum disease. This extra step can go a long way toward having healthy teeth for life.

Keep your appointments

You should have a professional cleaning at Springs Family Dentistry twice a year. Some patients benefit from more frequent cleanings. Your hygienist will remove any plaque build-up to prevent gingivitis, which left untreated becomes full-blown gum disease. Periodontitis leads to tooth loss.

You also need to see Dr. Hawkins twice a year for a teeth and mouth exam. We can find problems such as cavities, and treat them before the situation becomes critical. Ask our Longwood, FL team any questions you have; together we can make your teeth last for life.

What are the five things I should do in between visits?

January 18th, 2017

When it comes to keeping your smile looking its best, good oral hygiene is a must! Good oral health habits should start early and continue throughout your lifetime. Here, Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry suggest five habits worth adopting that will help keep your teeth healthy:

  • Brush and floss regularly. Brush gently at least twice a day, paying special attention to the gum line to rid your mouth of food and bacteria that may lurk in between your teeth. Floss at least once a day. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if the bristles are frayed.
  • Make regular visits to see Dr. Hawkins. Regular checkups (twice yearly) will help diagnose any dental problems early on when they can be more easily treated.
  • Stop smoking. Did you know smokers are four times as likely as nonsmokers to develop periodontal (gum) disease? Tobacco, whether in the form of cigarettes, pipes, cigars, or chewable tobacco, increases oral and throat cancer risks, and raises the risk for candidiasis, an oral fungal infection. Smokeless tobacco contains sugar, which furthers your risk for cavities.
  • Limit your alcohol intake. Heavy drinking dramatically increases the risk of developing mouth and throat cancers.
  • Eat healthy. Avoid snacking on foods that contain high levels of sugar or starch. We encourage you to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are known to help stimulate the flow of saliva to re-mineralize tooth surfaces and neutralize cavity-causing bacteria.

To learn more about the habits you should practice in between your visits to Springs Family Dentistry, or to schedule an appointment, please give us a call today!

Is gingivitis preventable?

January 11th, 2017

The earliest sign of gum disease is called gingivitis (sometimes called periodontal disease), and is an inflammation of the gums. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to gum tissue loss, loss of bone that supports the teeth, and eventually tooth loss. The good news is that gingivitis is easily treatable at Springs Family Dentistry. Better yet, gingivitis is nearly 100 percent preventable.

Gingivitis is usually caused when plaque and bacteria accumulate on the gums, generally due to poor oral hygiene. A patient with gingivitis will have red and puffy gums that will likely bleed when he or she brushes or flosses.

It is almost entirely within our patients’ power to prevent gingivitis by brushing and flossing on a daily basis. In addition to good oral health habits, regular visits to see Dr. Hawkins will also help with early detection. We can often detect minor inflammation and other signs of gingivitis before it causes any discomfort or issues.

If left untreated, gingivitis will eventually progress to periodontitis, a breakdown of the tissue and bone that support the teeth. Smokers, women who are pregnant or menopausal, people with heart disease, diabetes, epilepsy or HIV infection, and people who suffer from poor nutrition are more likely to have gum disease.

To learn more about gingivitis, or if you suspect you have gingivitis, we encourage you to give us a call at our Longwood, FL office today!

What is nitrous oxide and is it safe?

January 4th, 2017

Our team at Springs Family Dentistry understands that the sights, sounds and sensations at a dental office can be unsettling for some patients. One effective technique that we use to comfort you is to offer the gas nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is a common anesthetic used during many dental procedures.

What is nitrous oxide?

Nitrous oxide is an oxide of nitrogen which has a slight sweet odor and taste. During medical or dental procedures, the gas is mixed with oxygen then inhaled through a mask that covers your nose. Within minutes, you should feel calm and experience an overall sense relaxation. You will be able to breathe on your own, move your limbs, and be conscious enough to hear and respond to our dentist's questions. The effects of nitrous oxide disappear shortly after the mask is removed and the drug is quickly eliminated from your body.

Is nitrous oxide safe?

Recreational use of nitrous oxide for its euphoric effects can be dangerous, however, the drug is combined with oxygen at dental offices. This ensures oxygen reaches the brain and prevents dangerous side effects or hypoxia. Nitrous oxide inhalation is a safe and effective technique to reduce anxiety, produce analgesia, and enhance effective communication.

Nitrous oxide is non-addictive and non-allergic, however, it may cause nausea in up to ten percent of patients. The drug is not recommended for people with some medical conditions such as chronic pulmonary disease. We recognize that all patients are different and encourage you to talk with Dr. Hawkins about whether nitrous oxide would be a good option for you.

Our team wants to help all patients in Longwood, FL to overcome dental anxiety, so please, give us a call at Springs Family Dentistry.

Do adults need fluoride treatments?

December 28th, 2016

Many dentists and hygienists recommend fluoride treatments for their adult patients. You might ask yourself, “Do I really need a fluoride treatment? I thought those were just for my kids.” After all, most insurance plans cover fluoride treatments only up to the age of 18.

What you need to know as a dental consumer is that studies have shown topical fluoride applications performed by a dental professional create a significant benefit for adults who have moderate to high risk for cavities.

There are several circumstances that warrant extra fluoride protection among adults. Many prescription medications reduce saliva flow or otherwise create dry mouth. A reduction in saliva increases cavity risk.

Adults often experience gum recession, which exposes part of the root surface of teeth. These areas are softer than the hard enamel at the top of the tooth, which makes them more susceptible to decay.

In addition, adults often get restorative work such as crowns or bridges. Fluoride can help protect the margins of these restorations, ultimately protecting your investment.

Today many people opt for orthodontic treatment (braces) as adults. Braces make it more challenging for patients to maintain good oral hygiene. Just ask your kids! Fluoride can keep the teeth strong and cavity-free even with the obstacle of orthodontic appliances.

Have you had a restoration done within the last year due to new decay? If you have, that puts you at a higher risk for cavities. Fluoride treatments are a great way to prevent more cavities in patients who are already prone to them.

How is that flossing coming along? You know you should floss daily, but do you? If your oral hygiene is not ideal, fluoride could be just the thing to keep your neglect from leading to cavities between your teeth.

Fluoride can also help with the growing problem of sensitive teeth. Diets high in acidic foods and beverages, general gum recession, and increased use of whitening products all tend to produce sensitive teeth. Fluoride treatments re-mineralize tooth enamel and reduce that sensitivity.

Patients who undergo radiation treatment for cancer also benefit from topical fluoride applications. Radiation damages saliva glands, thus greatly reducing the flow of saliva. Saliva acts as a buffer against the foods we eat and beverages we drink. Once again, less saliva greatly increases the risk of cavities.

If one or more of these conditions applies to you, consider requesting a topical fluoride treatment. Be sure to ask Dr. Hawkins at your next appointment whether you might benefit from a topical fluoride application.

Diet Soda vs. Regular Soda: Which is better for teeth?

December 21st, 2016

When most patients ask Dr. Hawkins this question, they're thinking strictly about sugar content — cut out the bacteria-feeding sugar that's present in regular soda by opting for a diet soda and it will be better for your teeth. That seems logical, right? Well, there's a bit more to it than that. Let's take a closer look at how any kind of soda can affect your dental health.

Diet Soda – Why it can also lead to tooth decay

The main culprit in these drinks that leads to decay is the acid content. Diet sodas and other sugar-free drinks are usually highly acidic, which weakens the enamel on your teeth and makes them more susceptible to cavities and dental erosion. The level of phosphoric acid, citric acid, and/or tartaric acid is usually high in sugar-free drinks so it's best to avoid them.

Some patients also enjoy drinking orange juice or other citrus juices. These drinks are high in citric acid and have the same effect on the enamel of your teeth.

So what about regular soda?

We know the acidity of diet sodas and sugar-free drinks contributes to tooth decay, so what about regular soda? Like we alluded to earlier, regular soda is high in sugar — a 12 ounce can contains roughly ten teaspoons of sugar — and sugar feeds the decay-causing bacteria in the mouth. This also includes sports drinks and energy drinks, which are highly acidic and loaded with sugar too. So these drinks are a double-whammy of sugar and acidity your teeth and body simply don't need.

The problems caused by both diet and regular soda is exacerbated when you sip on them throughout the day. If you drink it all in one sitting, you won't be washing sugar and/or acids over your teeth all day long and your saliva will have a chance to neutralize the pH in your mouth.

The best beverages to drink and how to drink them

Drinking beverages that are lower in acid is a good step to take to keep your enamel strong. According to a study conducted by Matthew M. Rodgers and J. Anthony von Fraunhofer at the University of Michigan, your best bets are plain water, black tea or coffee, and if you opt for a soda, root beer. These drinks dissolved the least amount of enamel when measured 14 days after consumption of the beverage.

If you still choose to drink soda, diet soda, sugar-free drinks, or juices here are some other tips to lessen tooth decay:

  • Drink your soda or acidic beverages through a straw to minimize contact with teeth
  • Rinse with water immediately after consumption of the beverage
  • Avoid brushing your teeth between 30 minutes to an hour after drinking the beverage as this has been shown to spread the acids before your saliva can bring your mouth back to a neutral pH
  • Avoid drinks that have acids listed on the ingredients label

Still have questions about soda, sugar, and acid? Give our Longwood, FL office a call and we’d be happy to help!

Wisdom Teeth Emergencies: Causes and treatment

December 14th, 2016

When you think of a dental emergency, you may picture teeth that have fallen out or severe tooth pain. But it is not uncommon for wisdom teeth to develop conditions or problems that require urgent care from Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry. Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars that erupt in the late teen years to early 20s. Spacing and crowding problems often cause impaction and infections, which is why many people elect to have their wisdom teeth removed. If you are experiencing discomfort or pain related to your wisdom teeth, call our office to schedule a wisdom teeth consultation.

Perisoronitis and Infections

You may develop perisoronitis if you have a partially-erupted wisdom tooth that has become inflamed. Often, inflammation is caused by food lodged beneath the gum. Here at Springs Family Dentistry, we can gently search for and remove food debris, as well as clean the affected area and treat it with antibiotics. Do not avoid treatment, however, as untreated perisoronitis can lead to infection, which ultimately places your health at risk.

Crowding and Impaction

When your wisdom teeth erupt, they may cause overcrowding of your teeth, which can have a negative effect on their alignment. This can make it harder for you to clean your teeth properly, and it also increases the chances for developing tooth decay and other oral health problems in the future. For some people, the wisdom teeth never erupt, becoming impacted beneath the gum and causing problems with the neighboring teeth.

If you have an impaction or wisdom tooth crowding, make an appointment with our office soon. We will be happy to evaluate the progress of your wisdom teeth, as well as their effect on the rest of your jaw. Depending on our analysis, we will then discuss your options for treatment and whether extraction might be right for you.

Complications from Wisdom Tooth Extraction

If you have recently had your wisdom teeth extracted, blood clots will have formed in the open sockets the teeth previously occupied. In most cases, the gums heal normally, assuming you follow post-surgical care instructions. However, a small percentage of wisdom tooth extractions do not heal according to plan. If you continue to experience pain or other unusual symptoms following a wisdom tooth extraction, please give us a call. We’ll do everything we can to minimize discomfort and help you heal safely and quickly.

Remember, our team is here to support your dental health in every capacity. We are dedicated to providing excellent service before, during, and after all wisdom tooth procedures, so you can rest assured that your oral health is in good hands.

What are the benefits of visiting a dentist regularly?

December 7th, 2016

Your regularly scheduled dental checkups with Dr. Hawkins are not just meant to make your smile prettier and healthier. Your mouth’s health has an important impact on your overall physical health as well!

While you may brush your teeth twice a day and even floss, we would like to remind you that dental checkups with Dr. Hawkins every six months aren’t just about addressing problems and reacting, they are about cavity and gum disease prevention.

In addition to a twice yearly thorough teeth cleaning and polishing at Springs Family Dentistry, these regular visits help us detect and prevent the onset of tooth decay and gum disease. During your visit, we’ll check the health of your mouth, teeth, gums, cheeks, and tongue. We’ll also check old fillings and restorations, as these can wear away over time from constant chewing, grinding, or clenching.

It’s important to know that the majority of dental problems do not become visible or painful until they are highly advanced. And, unfortunately, serious oral issues are painful and expensive to treat.

While Dr. Hawkins and our team always strive to provide unmatched dental care for you and your family, we are also committed to your overall wellness as well! A deep cleaning twice a year is the best way to prevent any problems that may have gone unseen. If you are overdue for your next cleaning, please give us a call to schedule an appointment at our Longwood, FL office!

My mouth is dry. What can I do?

November 30th, 2016

Nobody likes a dry mouth. It is an uncomfortable and sometimes oddly unexplainable sensation that most people like to avoid. It is not a condition that automatically sends you into a panic about your health, however, a dry mouth can be a bother and something you certainly want to change if possible. So, if you find yourself in the unpleasant position of having a dry mouth, here is what you can do.

Chew Sugar-free Gum: Chewing sugar-free gum will stimulate saliva in your mouth. The chewing motion of your jaw and teeth should take care of at least some of your dry mouth problem.

Suck on Sugar-free Candy: Similarly to chewing sugar free gum, if you suck on sugar free candy it should create more saliva in your mouth and moisturize it in the process.

Cut out the Caffeine:Caffeine can contribute to a dry mouth so by limiting, or eliminating your intake all together, you may find that your dry mouth is no more.

Stop Using Tobacco Products: Tobacco is another cause of dry mouth. Whether it is smokeless tobacco products or cigarettes, if you stop using them your dry mouth will likely improve. And not to forget, these products are exceedingly bad for your oral health to begin with, so you will be doing your mouth a favor even more so.

Drink Lots of Water: It may seem obvious, but drinking lots of water will likely improve your dry mouth. This is because dry mouth is usually a sign of dehydration, so plenty of fluids will surely help.

Dry mouth can be unpleasant, but it is often easily solved by either drinking more water, or trying one of the previously mentioned techniques. If the problem still persists you can always visit our Longwood, FL office to see Dr. Hawkins. More often than not, doing one of the above will leave your mouth more moisturized than it was previously, and hopefully it will be long-lasting as well.

Women's Hormones and Oral Health

November 23rd, 2016

At Springs Family Dentistry, we know that hormones affect a woman's mood, but did you know they can also impact the health of a woman’s mouth? Women are susceptible to gum disease at different times in their lives, and research shows that hormonal highs and lows are part of the problem. According to studies, there are five situations in women’s lives during which hormone fluctuations make them more susceptible to oral health problems: puberty, their menstrual cycles, pregnancy, menopause, and birth control pill usage. So just what happens and how can you help protect your oral health? Dr. Hawkins and our team have outlined the five hormonal situations and provided a few tips and tricks to fending off potential issues.

Puberty - The surge of hormone production that occurs during puberty can increase the blood flow to the gums and change the way gum tissue reacts to irritants in plaque. As a result, a woman's gums may bleed during the act of brushing and flossing.

Monthly menstruation cycle - Hormonal changes (especially the increase in progesterone) occur during a woman’s menstrual cycle. These changes can lead to red swollen gums, swollen salivary glands, canker sores, or bleeding gums.

Pregnancy - Hormone levels tend to fluctuate during pregnancy. As a result, women are at greater risk to develop a condition called gingivitis, the early form of gum disease. Dr. Hawkins may recommend more frequent professional cleanings during your second or early third trimester to help reduce the chance of developing gingivitis. Please let us know if you are pregnant during your visit.

Menopause - Women are known to experience numerous oral changes as they age. These oral changes can include greater sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages, a burning sensation in your mouth, or dry mouth. Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, can result in the development of tooth decay and gum disease because saliva is not available to moisten and cleanse the mouth. It is important to know that dry mouth can also result from many prescription and over-the-counter medications. The gradual loss in estrogen that occurs with menopause also puts older women at risk for loss of bone density, which can lead to tooth loss. Receding gums, which expose more of the tooth surface to potential tooth decay, can be a sign of bone loss in the jawbone.

Birth control pills - Some birth control pills contain progesterone, which increases the level of that hormone in the body. Women who take pills with progesterone may develop inflamed gum tissue due to the toxins produced from plaque. Be sure to tell us if you are taking an oral contraceptive during your visit.

To prevent gum disease, we recommend:

  • Brushing your teeth at least twice a day with a toothpaste containing fluoride
  • Flossing at least once a day
  • Eating a well-balanced diet
  • Avoiding sugary or starchy snacks

Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry encourage you to visit our Longwood, FL office and practice good oral health habits at home.

Four Oral Health Issues Seniors Face

November 16th, 2016

Oral health is an important and often overlooked component of an older person’s general health and well-being. Dr. Hawkins and our team know that for many of our older patients, oral health can become an issue when arthritis or other neurological problems render them unable to brush or floss their teeth as effectively as they once did. Today, we thought we would discuss four common oral health issues our older patients face and how they can avoid them:

Cavities: It’s not just children who get tooth decay—oral decay is a common disease in people 65 and older. Ninety-two percent of seniors 65 and older have had dental caries in their permanent teeth, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The risk for tooth decay increases because many older adults don’t go to the dentist as often as they used to, thus cavities go undetected and untreated for longer than they should. Keeping regular appointments with Dr. Hawkins is the key to getting cavities treated in a timely manner.

Difficulty eating: Oral health problems, whether from missing teeth, cavities, dentures that don’t fit, gum disease, or infection, can cause difficulty eating and can force people to adjust the quality, consistency, and balance of their diet.

Dry mouth: Also called xerostomia, dry mouth is a common issue for a lot of seniors. Our friends at the Oral Cancer Foundation estimate that 20 percent of elderly people suffer from dry mouth, which means the reduced flow of saliva (saliva plays a crucial role in preventing tooth decay). Many seniors are on multiple medications for a variety of chronic illnesses or conditions. Common medications taken that may cause dry mouth are decongestants, antihistamines, blood pressure medications, pain pills, incontinence medications, antidepressants, diuretics, muscle relaxers, and Parkinson’s disease medications. To help counter this, we suggest drinking lots of fluids and limiting your intake of caffeine and alcohol. We also encourage you to check with Dr. Hawkins during your next visit if you think your medications are causing your mouth to feel dry.

Gum Disease: Gum (periodontal) disease is an infection of the gums and surrounding tissues that hold teeth in place. While gum disease affects people of all ages, it typically becomes worse as people age. In its early stages, gum disease is painless, and most people have no idea that they have it. In more advanced cases, however, gum disease can cause sore gums and pain when chewing.

Gum disease, which can range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease, is usually caused by poor brushing and flossing habits that allow dental plaque to build up on the teeth. Plaque that is not removed can harden and form tartar that brushing simply does not clean. Only a professional cleaning at our office can remove tartar. The two forms of gum disease are gingivitis and periodontitis. In gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen, and can bleed easily; in periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces that become infected.

Proper brushing, flossing, and visiting our office regularly can prevent gum disease. Seniors with limited dexterity who have trouble gripping a toothbrush should ask Dr. Hawkins about modifying a handle for easier use or switching to a battery-powered toothbrush.

Is soda really bad for your teeth?

November 9th, 2016

You take a sip of soda – and someone remarks, “That’s going to ruin your teeth!”

Is that true? Is sweet soda the enemy of a healthy smile? The answer, unfortunately, is that one glass might not hurt your teeth, but drinking soda regularly can do some real damage.

Sodas are one of America’s favorite drinks. The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry says about half of us drink soda regularly, averaging 2.6 glasses each day.

That’s a lot of soda considering the drinks are acidic, full of sugar, and have little or no nutritional value. It may surprise you to learn that it’s actually the acidity of cola, not the sugar, which poses the biggest threat to teeth. Over time, repeated exposure to soda wears down tooth enamel, leaving teeth stained and less able to prevent cavities.

As enamel wears away, teeth can become discolored, take on a rough texture, and become highly sensitive to hot or cold. Your teeth may start to tingle, and brushing or flossing can cause pain. If not checked by dental care, teeth may start to erode, becoming thinner and more likely to crack. It’s a pretty high price to pay for a glass of soda.

Of course, sodas are not the only culprits in tooth erosion. Coffee, wine, and some fruit juices are also acidic, though these drinks tend to have less acidity that a typical soda.

So what can you do to protect your teeth?

1. Cut back – way back – on acidic drinks.

2. Add more water to your daily diet in place of sodas.

3. Use a straw when you drink.

4. Don’t confuse diet soda with a healthy alternative. Diet drinks are just as acidic as regular sodas.

5. Rinse your mouth with water after drinking soda. The rinse may remove some acid from your teeth, although abstaining from the soda would do more good.

6. Hold off on brushing your teeth after drinking soda. Brushing too hard can weaken enamel that is already covered in acid.

7. Pay attention to your teeth, both how they look and how they feel. Let Dr. Hawkins know if you see signs of discoloration or erosion, or feel tingling. Make an appointment at our Longwood, FL office if you feel tooth or gum pain when eating or drinking.

Are you at risk for tooth erosion?

November 2nd, 2016

Many people consume carbonated or sugary drinks and acidic foods every day but have no idea those beverages may be harming their teeth, making them vulnerable to tooth erosion. The acid in the foods we eat and drink can cause tooth enamel to wear away, making your teeth sensitive and discolored. Dr. Hawkins will tell you that in many cases, what’s important is not what you eat and drink, but rather how you consume it.

What is tooth erosion?

Tooth erosion is the loss of tooth structure caused by the weakening of dental enamel, which is the strongest substance in the human body. Enamel is the thin, outer layer of hard tissue that helps maintain the tooth’s structure and shape. When the enamel is weakened, it exposes the underlying dentin, causing your teeth to appear yellow.

What causes tooth erosion?

Tooth erosion may occur when the acids in the foods and beverages you eat and drink, as well as other factors we will discuss later, weaken the enamel on your teeth. Typically the calcium contained in saliva will help remineralize (strengthen) your teeth after you consume foods or drinks that contain some acid. However, the presence of a lot of acid in your mouth does not allow for remineralization to happen.

Acid can come from many sources, including the following:

  • Drinking carbonated or fruit drinks. All soft drinks (even diet varieties) contain a lot of acid and are capable of dissolving enamel on your teeth. Bacteria thrive on sugar and produce high acid levels that can eat away at enamel.
  • Eating sour foods or candies. All those sour candies may taste great, but these treats can be acidic to your teeth. Sour and fruity candy, such as Starburst and Skittles, are the worst for your teeth since these candies have a low pH value, which is known to ruin enamel.
  • Low saliva volume. Saliva helps prevent decay by neutralizing acids and washing away leftover food in your mouth.
  • Acid reflux disease. Acid reflux, or GERD, brings stomach acids up to the mouth, where the acids can erode enamel.
  • Bulimia or binge drinking. These conditions can cause tooth damage because they frequently expose teeth to stomach acids.
  • Wear and tear. Brushing your teeth too vigorously or grinding your teeth at night can erode enamel.

What are the symptoms of tooth erosion?

Acid wear may lead to serious dental problems. When your tooth enamel erodes, your teeth become more vulnerable to cavities and decay, and you may begin noticing the following symptoms:

  • Severe sensitivity or tooth pain when consuming hot, cold, or sugary foods or drinks
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Rounded teeth
  • Transparent teeth
  • Visible cracks in teeth
  • Cupping, or dents, that show up on the biting or chewing surfaces of the teeth

What you can do to prevent tooth erosion

  • Reduce or eliminate altogether your consumption of carbonated drinks. Instead, sip water, milk, or tea.
  • If you must consume acidic drinks, drink them quickly and be sure to use a straw so that the liquid is pushed to the back of the mouth. Don’t swish them around or hold them in your mouth for a long period of time.
  • Instead of snacking on acidic foods throughout the day, we suggest eating these foods just during meal times in order to minimize the amount of time the acid makes contact with your teeth.
  • After consuming highly acidic food or drinks, rinse with water to neutralize the acids.
  • Chew sugar-free gum to produce more saliva, as this helps your teeth remineralize.
  • Brush with a soft toothbrush and be sure your toothpaste contains fluoride.
  • Dr. Hawkins may also recommend daily use of a toothpaste to reduce sensitivity (over-the-counter or prescription strength) or other products to counter the effects of erosion.

It’s important to know that the majority of dental problems, such as tooth erosion, do not become visible or painful until they are advanced. And, unfortunately, serious oral issues are painful and expensive to treat. A deep cleaning twice a year by our team at Springs Family Dentistry is the best way to hit all the spots you may have missed with brushing and flossing and prevent any issues that may have gone unseen.

Make sure your teeth get the professional attention they deserve! If you are overdue for your next checkup or cleaning, please give us a call to schedule an appointment at our conv

What’s an intraoral camera?

October 26th, 2016

One of the greatest features our team at Springs Family Dentistry offers is the ability to see first-hand how we can help our patients. While X-rays help us detect any problems in your mouth and give us valuable information on what is bothering you, they often don’t give Dr. Hawkins a complete view of everything that is going on inside your mouth. With the use of an intraoral camera, we can see every aspect of your teeth and mouth with incredible detail, uncovering cracked or fractured teeth, excessive wear, carious lesions, cavities, or other issues that may be hidden. When we can discover oral problems early on, your treatment is much less invasive and often saves you money down the road.

An intraoral camera allows Dr. Hawkins to view clear, precise images of your mouth, teeth, and gums and allows us to make an accurate diagnosis.  With clear, defined, enlarged images, Dr. Hawkins and our team see details that standard mirror examinations may miss. It’s much easier to understand what is happening in your mouth if you can see the problem on a computer monitor, and it means faster diagnosis and less chair-time for our patients!

Intraoral cameras are small, about the size of a dental mirror, and emit a light onto the tooth. The tooth will emit a color that lets Dr. Hawkins determine if the tooth is healthy or diseased. Intraoral cameras also allow us to save your images on our office computer to provide a permanent record of treatments. These treatments can be printed for you, other specialists, and your lab or insurance companies.

For any questions about the intraoral camera, we encourage you to ask Dr. Hawkins or our team during your or your child’s next visit or by giving us a call at our convenient Longwood, FL office.

Help! – I have a Dry Mouth

October 26th, 2016

People with dry mouth have problems with gum tissues that are irritated and sensitive, dental decay activity is rampant, dentures won't stay in place, and bad breath is present. People complain of their dry mouth, which is uncomfortable and can limit speech. This blog article can provide help for this oral dilemma.

Dry mouth is a symptom of an underlying problem and not a disease in itself. Most dentists consider dry mouth an annoyance, although it can lead to more severe problems and reduce the quality of life for those affected. Diagnosis is not difficult as most people seek help.

First, you have to understand the Protective Role of Saliva:

Components in saliva are antibacterial (help prevent decay), antiviral,
antifungal

  • Saliva neutralizes acids produced by plaque
  • It contains phosphorus and calcium to aid in natural remineralization
  • It moistens food to enable comfortable swallowing
  • Saliva boosts sensations in mouth to aid in detecting food texture and taste

Second, see if you have any of the Symptoms of Dry Mouth:

  • Saliva feels thick and sticky
  • High rate of tooth decay, especially gum-line lesions
  • Rough, dry tongue; feels like it "sticks to the palate"
  • Problem chewing and swallowing, particularly dry foods
  • Reduced ability to taste foods
  • Bad breath
  • Mouth ulcers; soft tissue more likely to abrade
  • Dry lips
  • More susceptible to infections, especially thrush
  • Excessive buildup of food and plaque on teeth
  • Burning sensations in mouth
  • Inability to obtain suction for retention of dentures
  • Gum tissue is more susceptible to irritation by dentures

It is estimated that 10% of genera! population and 25% of those over 65 years old have dry mouth symptoms which include:

  • Surfaces of oral mucosa(lining of lips, cheeks, tongue and palate appear dry and rough
  • Increased rate of gum-line decay

Try the Saliva Test: Roll out your lower lip and dry it with towel or tissue. In normal individuals, lip will re-moisten in less than 30 seconds

Third, here are the numerous causes of Dry Mouth:

1. Medications (main cause for Dry Mouth Syndrome (DMS) in older population). Medications that are most likely to cause DMS are those for:

  • Depression and anxiety disorders
  • Bronchodilators
  • Antihistamines and decongestants
  • Parkinson's Disease

2. Diseases:

  • Sjogren's syndrome
  • HIV/Aids
  • Alzheimer's
  • Diabetes
  • Anemia
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Mumps

3. Chemotherapy

4. Radiation to head and neck Dehydration

5. Life Style:

  • Smoking
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Mouth breathing
  • Excessive alcohol use

The treatments for Dry Mouth Syndrome are varied and numerous. Below is a list of things that can help understand and alleviate DMS symptoms and causes:

Behavioral and Other Therapies

  • Suck on ice during the day (do not chew).
  • Drink copious water during the day.
  • Discontinue use of alcohol (including mouthwashes), caffeine, and soda.
  • Humidify sleeping area with cool mist vaporizer.
  • Lubricate lips (lanolin products).
  • Consult with your physician to see if some medications can be altered.
  • If due to salivary gland duct blockage, surgery to remove blockage.
  • Carefully check for underlying diseases, e.g., Sjogren's syndrome, diabetes, lupus.

Over-the-Counter Therapies are as well numerous and varied. Not all will work for each individual – you may have to try several.

Examples dry mouth products that contain lubricating agents:

  • Biotene Products
  • MouthKote by Parnell
  • OraCoat XyliMelts
  • ACT Dry Mouth Lozenges
  • Oasis Mouthwash
  • GC Dry Mouth Gel
  • Spry Mints by Xlear
  • Fluoride Supplements
  • Non-alcohol mouthwash (Biotene, Oasis, Crest Pro-Health, etc.)

Prescription Medications
For severe xerostomia(dry mouth) caused by radiation treatments or Sjogren's syndrome. NOTE: you have to beware of side effects, precautions, and contra-indications (diarrhea, incontinence, cardiac sensitivity, etc.; do not take with uncontrolled asthma, acute iritis, or narrow angle glaucoma, etc.).

• Pilocarpine (Salogen) 5mg tablets:
1 tablet taken 5-6 times per day
• Cevimeline HCl (Euoxac) 30mg capsules:
1 capsule taken 3 times per day

Fluoride Therapy will help prevent dental decay, especially those at the gum-line. The two below are prescription fluorides:

  • PreviDent 5000 fluoride toothpaste
  • 5000 ppm fluoride gel/foam in tray

Conclusions:
Xerostomia can be a minor nuisance or can deteriorate the quality of life by making tasting, eating, and swallowing food difficult. It can also lead to rampant decay, periodontal disease, and abrasions of the oral mucosa. While not always possible, it is the dentist’s responsibility to attempt to find the causes of xerostomia and alleviate the problem. This often requires consulting the patient's physician to see if certain medications can be altered or eliminated. Some simple therapies {such as sucking on ice chips or spraying water with an atomizer} and some over-the-counter items (such as the Biotene products) can help alleviate dry mouth. Prescription medications to treat dry mouth should be reserved for only the most difficult and damaging cases.

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It's been years since my last appointment; what should I expect?

October 19th, 2016

Feeling apprehensive or guilty for not visiting a dentist in over a year is common, but coming back to receive dental care is easier than you may think. Our dental team at Springs Family Dentistry provides caring, non-judgmental, personalized service, and knowing this you can truly feel at ease making your first appointment back.

During your first appointment back, we will focus on three prominent dental issues including gum disease, cavities, and wear and tear by utilizing a full mouth series of X-rays, a hygiene appointment, and a comprehensive exam.

The full mouth series of X-rays are taken every three to five years, or as needed. A full mouth series may be a panoramic X-ray and bitewings (a set of four that checks for cavities) or a set of X-rays that views the entire anatomy of every tooth. The set of X-rays will depend on your individual needs.

Your hygiene appointment will begin with a review of your medical history, personal concerns and questions, and an evaluation checking for any infection. After any necessary diagnoses are made, the appropriate level of cleaning is proposed and completed if time allows.

A comprehensive exam serves as a review of what the hygienist has already covered. Dr. Hawkins will again review your medical history and dental concerns, and confirm any periodontal diagnosis. An evaluation of any decay, breakdown or broken fillings, or areas that are at risk for future problems will also be reviewed.

After the appointment, a team member at Springs Family Dentistry will review any recommended treatments, payment options, insurance coverage, and scheduling. The time spent at your first visit back is an important step in the right direction, and we are committed to making this visit as comfortable and easy as possible! Come see us in Longwood, FL.

Happy Gums, Happy Heart!

October 12th, 2016

Medical doctors and dental health professionals, like Dr. Hawkins, have debated over the connection (or lack thereof) between gum disease and heart disease. While there still is no unanimous consensus on whether there is a link – or the extent to any link there may be – several studies offer some interesting insight into possible correlations that may prove that there are some common factors that point to a likely correlation between the two.

Could there be a link between gum disease and heart disease?

Dr. Simone Ricketts reported on the findings of an Australian study of 80 patients in Profile Magazine. That study showed that 70% of the patients who participated in the study and needed heart transplants also had gum disease. She noted that other studies show a similar pattern, indicating that patients who needed heart transplants or other cardiac surgery procedures, were more likely to have dental problems.

Not Just Heart Disease Linked to Gum Disease

It isn’t just heart disease that experts are linking to periodontal disease, however. More and more evidence is showing that many chronic inflammatory diseases such as diabetes can be linked to periodontal disease. Poor oral hygiene resulting in gum disease was evident in blood tests that showed positive markers for inflammation.

Experts looked at a combination of over 120 medical studies focusing on a link between dental health and heart health. The findings of that research were published in the Journal of Periodontology and the American Journal of Cardiology. While there was no agreement on a definitive link, the research showed some promising results, and offer information that may be helpful to both dental health professionals and their patients.

On its own, gum disease increases the risk of developing coronary artery disease. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) showed that gum disease increases the risk factor for blood vessel and artery diseases when those arteries supply blood to the brain.

This is especially important for strokes because they are a common cause of inadequate blood flow to the brain. Data from another study of 50,000+ people found a higher risk of stroke among people with gum disease and tooth loss.

The study did, however, show two very important connections between gum and heart disease:

  • Both the gums of people with gum disease and the blood vessels of people who had atherosclerosis tested positive for similar types of bacteria.
  • Both patients with atherosclerosis and those with gum disease showed the presence of inflammation in their bodies.

Patients need to understand the importance of taking care of their mouths and doing whatever is necessary to ensure or support heart health – even if there is no guarantee that doing so will prevent either disease.

October is National Dental Hygiene Month: A simple oral health routine for your busy lifestyle

October 5th, 2016

Adults are no strangers to feeling like there is never enough time in the day to get everything done. Your alarm clock rings and within minutes you ping pong around trying to spread peanut butter on sandwiches, answer your cell phone, remove the dog hair from your clothes, and make sure your child has completed his or her science fair project. Brushing your teeth can easily fall to the wayside. That is why our office promotes a simple, daily oral health regimen that you can easily incorporate into your busy lifestyle.

The American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA), in partnership with the Wrigley Jr. Company, is celebrating National Dental Hygiene Month (NDHM) during October. The ADHA encourages people to "Brush. Floss. Rinse. Chew...Keep it Clean, Keep it Healthy!" and offers some great tips for a quick and effective home oral health routine, below:

Oral Health Routine at Home

  • Brushing your teeth twice daily is the most important thing you can do to diminish the accumulation of plaque and the potential for other oral problems such as cavities and gingivitis.
  • Flossing once daily removes plaque and food from beneath the gums and between teeth that brushing alone cannot remove. Tooth decay and gum disease often begin in these areas.
  • Rinsing your mouth with an antibacterial, non-alcohol based mouthwash kills plaque and gingivitis germs that brushing and flossing do not catch. We recommend using a mouthwash with the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
  • Chewing sugar-free gum helps produce saliva, which battles cavities. The gum also neutralizes plaque, strengthens enamel, and removes remaining food. It is especially important to chew gum after eating or drinking.

It's easy to put the toothbrush down in order to take care of matters you feel are more urgent, but remember, a good oral health routine at home is the best way to prevent periodontal disease. "Periodontal disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults. An estimated 75 percent of Americans reportedly have some form of periodontal disease," said the ADHA. Periodontal disease also is linked to more serious illnesses such as diabetes and stroke.

Also, remember to keep regular visits with our office. Dr. Hawkins can help you learn more about proper care for your teeth and gums.

How Sedation Dentistry Can Help You Overcome Dental Anxiety

September 28th, 2016

Putting off your dental visit to Springs Family Dentistry because of fear or anxiety only increases the potential for tooth decay or gum problems. At our office, Dr. Hawkins and our team offer solutions that allow you to relax, without any pain, so you can keep your mouth healthy. Our solutions can help with many different anxiety issues for both adults and children.

Help with minor anxiety

Nitrous oxide is an excellent choice for most patients. Sometimes referred to as laughing gas, nitrous oxide can be regulated to provide you with the amount of sedation you need. When used before a local anesthetic, the injection will not be uncomfortable and you should not notice any pain during your procedure.

If you plan to use nitrous oxide, you can drive yourself to your appointment. In most cases, you will be fine to drive after your treatment: the sedation wears off quickly. Nitrous oxide can also be used along with other sedation techniques to produce a higher level of sedation.

Oral sedatives are available in a liquid or pill form. If you experience moderate anxiety levels, you can be given a tablet to take before your appointment. This type of sedation will be beneficial in relieving the anxiety that can build before your procedure. However, if you choose this method, you cannot drive yourself to your appointment.

Help with major dental anxiety

If you experience extreme levels of stress and anxiety about dental treatment, you may wish to discuss deep sedation or general anesthesia. With these techniques, you will be barely conscious or unconscious during your procedure. You will not feel discomfort or pain. Once you have experienced dentistry with a sedation technique, your anxiety level may decrease on its own.

People are not born with the fear of a dental exam. Unfortunately, most anxiety issues are due to a bad dental experience or childhood trauma. Sometimes anxiety comes from listening to the tales of others, who may have exaggerated their story. Talk to Dr. Hawkins and our team about your dental concerns or fears. Let us help you so you can get the dental care you need for a healthy mouth for life.

For more information about overcoming dental anxiety, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Hawkins, please give us a call at our convenient Longwood, FL office!

Getting to the Bottom of Chewing Gum Myths

September 21st, 2016

It's a moment many of our patients have experienced. One second you're chewing on a piece of gum, then suddenly you forget to keep chewing and swallow the entire rubbery gob whole! It's at this point you remember your mother warning you as a child that if you swallow gum it will stake a claim and take up residency in your belly for seven years. Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry hate to take all the fun out of the mystery, but the truth is that chewing gum, when swallowed, will enter your stomach and move through your digestive system just like any other piece of food. So, if you ever accidentally swallow a piece of gum, there is no need to worry!

That being said, it's important to know that gum does not have any dietary benefits, so while it’s not exactly harmful to swallow, you still want to avoid swallowing it. If you are an avid gum-chewer, we encourage you to chew sugarless gum, especially if you are wearing braces, because gum with sugar can lead to cavities. Sugarless gum still has the same amount of flavor, but has fewer cavity-causing ingredients. In fact, many brands contain an additive called xylitol, a natural sweetener known to fight cavity-causing bacteria. Xylitol is also known to increase salivary flow as it rinses away plaque and acid.

The fact is, when the bacterium in your mouth breaks down sugar, what’s left behind is acid. This acid eats away at the enamel coating of your teeth, causing holes that we call cavities. Cavities can lead to other long-term mouth problems if they are not treated in time, so it is best to try and avoid overexposing your teeth to too many harmful substances!

If you have any questions about chewing gum, please contact our office. Happy (sugar-free) gum chewing!

Dental Veneers

September 14th, 2016

Are you looking to improve the appearance of your front teeth? Dental veneers are widely used to improve the appearance of front teeth and are a much more conservative option than a full dental crown. Veneers can be used to improve the appearance of staining, large gaps, large fillings, chipped teeth, or overall shape. Veneers are a thin covering over the front and biting end of the tooth used to restore the beauty of a smile. Over the years we have helped many patients who opted for veneers and now have the confidence to smile again.

Dental veneers are made in a lab from long-lasting porcelain materials. The shade can be chosen to a desirable color to whiten the appearance of your smile. Dental veneers are usually placed on the anterior, or front teeth, where the chewing forces are not as hard as the back teeth. The process of placing veneers is relatively easy requiring only two dental appointments. In some cases, only one appointment is needed. It depends on the fabrication process.

The first appointment is to “prep” the teeth and take an impression to be sent to a lab to fabricate the veneers. Veneers are fairly conservative in the preparation as it requires a small amount of space to be created on the face (front), bottom, and sides of each tooth to allow space for the veneer to be placed and look natural. You will leave the office with temporary veneers for the next week or two while the permanent veneers are being made.

The second appointment is to place the veneers and make minor adjustments if needed. What a difference it makes in the appearance of the teeth! If you’re interested in learning more, give Dr. Hawkins a call today!

Some Benefits to Giving Your Smile an Extra Boost

September 7th, 2016

For many individuals, autumn brings with it a number of new beginnings. Fall is the time that many people return to school, get back to the daily grind after an enjoyable summer, and even get married. As the weather cools down, it’s easier to enjoy the outdoors. And regardless of what fall-related events are on your calendar, Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry know you’ll want to look your best.

One of the very first things that people will notice about you is your smile. And if yours has become less dazzling over the years — as teeth tend to do — you know how disappointing it is not to have the beautiful, pearly white look you’re used to.

Benefits to Teeth Whitening

For school-bound students and autumn brides, fall calendars are certainly filled. School and weddings call for large financial investments, loads of social interaction, and a large amount of personal dedication. So the last thing any bride or student wants to think about is a less-than radiant smile.

For many, there is a lack of confidence associated with their smile and investing in teeth-whitening techniques can be an effective solution. Studies suggest that not only can you experience a boost in your level of confidence, but also you may find that other advantages quickly fall into place.

A confident smile can affect:

  • Personal and work-related relationships
  • Job interviews and meetings
  • Success when dealing with customers and potential clients
  • Your personality and general happiness with your age
  • Overall outlook on daily interactions

A Real Effect on Daily Living

All of these benefits can relate directly to how you see yourself. When you are insecure with something as prominent as your smile, it can affect the way that you handle your life, everything from social gatherings to professional situations.

Now is the perfect opportunity to rejuvenate your smile. With the right teeth-whitening product and regular hygienic practices, walking down the aisle or starting the new semester with the utmost confidence has never been easier.

What to Look for when Choosing a Mouthwash

August 31st, 2016

Mouthwash is important for more than just keeping your breath fresh and smelling great. Combined with other forms of dental hygiene, it can help prevent plaque, cavities, gingivitis, and other gum diseases. But it may be difficult for you to choose the right mouthwash off the shelf. Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry wanted to share a few things to look for when choosing a mouthwash.

Fluoride mouthwashes

Fluoride has been the subject of many debates in the oral health community. If you live in the United States, the tap water already contains small amounts of fluoride to promote dental health. You may not need to use a fluoride mouthwash if this is the case. However, if you are cavity-prone, fluoride creates a protective film over the teeth that protects against these buildups. It also helps strengthen the enamel over the teeth, maintain good dental hygiene, and keep your teeth strong for the rest of your life.

Alcohol mouthwashes

Alcohol in mouthwash works as an antiseptic: it clears the mouth of germs and some viral infections. However, if you have issues relating to dry mouth, alcohol can exacerbate the problem. If this is the case, consider using an alcohol-free mouthwash. This will free your mouth from the drying effects of the alcohol base. Also, if you have children, you will want to get an alcohol-free children’s mouthwash, because kids are prone to swallowing the substance, and this can lead to toxic side effects. Even if you are an adult using the mouthwash, if it contains alcohol, you should avoid swallowing it.

Antibacterial mouthwashes

Antibacterial mouthwashes have chemicals to help fight gum disease and other infections. Most mouthwash products contain at least trace amounts of these antibacterials; however, some mouthwashes are made specifically to fight bacterial infections. Remember that mouthwash is prevention, not a cure, so if you are presently suffering from a bacterial infection, you should visit our Longwood, FL office right away. Dr. Hawkins may be able to recommend a more powerful antibacterial mouthwash that can help you reduce your pain and other symptoms.

Periodontal Disease Associated with Cardiovascular Risk

August 24th, 2016

We all know that brushing your teeth and flossing regularly keeps your smile sparkly and bright, but did you realize that cleaning your teeth can actually help your heart? Recent research suggests that people with periodontal disease also have a higher cardiovascular risk, which means they are more vulnerable to heart attacks or stroke. It’s probably not time to throw away those running shoes in favor of a new toothbrush, but this is an added incentive to maintain good oral hygiene.

Relationship between Periodontal Disease and Cardiovascular Health

In 2003, researchers from the University of Buffalo conducted analyses which suggested that patients with gum disease were also at elevated risk of cardiovascular problems. Furthermore, people with more severe cases of gum disease have even poorer heart health. Although the exact causes of this relationship remain unknown, scientists continue to explore the impact of oral hygiene on broader health.

One hypothesis is that poor oral hygiene leads to inflammation, which negatively affects the heart. Gum disease occurs when bacteria build up in the mouth, and feed off sugars found in food. These bacteria release compounds that contribute to inflammation and red, swollen gums. The same inflammatory compounds may affect the heart, increasing overall cardiovascular risk.

Protect Your Teeth, Protect Your Heart

Taking a few commonsense measures can go a long way to improving your oral health and your cardiovascular risk. Consider the following:

  • Brush twice daily, and floss at least once per day. Brushing your teeth at least twice a day cleans away the harmful bacteria that contribute to gum disease. Similarly, flossing your teeth ensures that dangerous bacteria that build up between each tooth get swept away. These simple steps are the easiest ways to reduce your risk of periodontal disease.
  • Eat healthy foods. Those sugary snacks that you love so much don’t help your teeth. Whenever possible, stick to a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods. For example, grab an apple or a few celery sticks for a mid-afternoon snack, rather than indulging in that candy bar.
  • Drink water. Staying hydrated doesn’t just help your body – it also swishes bad bacteria away from your tooth and gum surface. Drinking plenty of water improves your overall oral health. It’s particularly helpful after eating a sugary or sticky snack, because water can reduce plaque buildup.
  • Visit Springs Family Dentistry. Dr. Hawkins and our staff will monitor your mouth for signs of periodontal disease and can make specific recommendations to keep your mouth – and your heart – safer.

Dangers of Alcohol and Oral Health

August 17th, 2016

We often have patients who ask, “Can drinking alcohol affect my oral health?” There are, in fact, a few reasons why that martini may not be good for your pearly whites.

In addition to creating an overly acidic environment in your mouth, alcohol severely dehydrates oral tissues because of its desiccant and diuretic properties. Because alcohol saps oral tissues of their moisture so readily, saliva glands can't keep enough saliva in the mouth to prevent dry mouth. In addition, saliva contains antibacterial properties that inhibits growth of anaerobic bacteria, a destructive type of oral bacterial responsible for tooth decay, gingivitis, chronic bad breath, and periodontitis.

What are anaerobic bacteria?

When there is a lack of saliva flow in the mouth and the mouth cannot naturally cleanse itself of oral debris (food particles, dead skin cell, mucous), conditions develop that promote activity of anaerobic bacteria, or bacteria that thrive in dry, airless places. These anaerobes also flourish when an unending supply of proteins (food debris) are available to consume, creating rapidly multiplying layers of plaque that stick to teeth and demineralizes tooth enamel unless removed by brushing and professional dental cleanings.

Oral Cancer and Alcohol

Acetaldehyde is a chemical compound leftover after the liver has metabolized alcohol. Capable of causing genetic mutations, acetaldehyde is also a known carcinogen that contributes to the ill feelings of hangovers. Although most metabolism of alcohol is done in the liver, evidence shows that metabolism also occurs outside the liver and that enzymes in the mouth could encourage accumulation of acetaldehyde in oral tissues.

When combined with poor oral health, smoking, and other detrimental lifestyle factors, alcohol may be considered a primary contributory factor in the development of oral cancer.

Even if you don't drink or drink only occasionally, remaining aware of symptoms that may indicate oral cancer will improve your chances of recovering successfully when you start treatment in the early stages of oral cancer. Signs include red or while speckled patches in the mouth, unexplained bleeding, lumps/swellings, chronic ear or throat pain, and areas of numbness in the mouth or on the face.

If you have any questions about alcohol and its connection to oral health, don’t hesitate to ask Dr. Hawkins at your next visit to our Longwood, FL office.

Oral Cancer Facts and Figures

August 10th, 2016

Oral cancer is largely viewed as a disease that affects those over the age of 40, but it can affect all ages, even non-tobacco and alcohol users. Oral cancer can occur on the lips, gums, tongue, inside lining of the cheeks, roof of the mouth, and the floor of the mouth. Our team at Springs Family Dentistry recently put together some facts and figures to illustrate the importance of visiting our Longwood, FL office.

Our friends at the American Cancer Society recommend an oral cancer screening exam every three years for people over the age of 20 and annually for those over age 40. Because early detection can improve the chance of successful treatment, be sure to ask Dr. Hawkins and our team to conduct an oral exam during your next visit to our Longwood, FL office.

  • Symptoms of oral cancer may include a sore in the throat or mouth that bleeds easily and does not heal, a red or white patch that persists, a lump or thickening, ear pain, a neck mass, or coughing up blood. Difficulties in chewing, swallowing, or moving the tongue or jaws are often late symptoms.
  • The primary risk factors for oral cancer in American men and women are tobacco (including smokeless tobacco) and alcohol use. Risk rises dramatically (30%) for people who both smoke and consume alcohol regularly.
  • Oral cancers are part of a group of cancers commonly referred to as head and neck cancers, and of all head and neck cancers they comprise about 85% of that category.
  • Oral cancer is the sixth most common cancer among men.
  • Oral cancer is more likely to affect people over 40 years of age, though an increasing number of young people are developing the condition.
  • Death rates have been decreasing over the past three decades; from 2004 to 2008, rates decreased by 1.2% per year in men and by 2.2% per year in women, according to the American Cancer Society.
  • About 75% to 80% of people with oral cavity and pharynx cancer consume alcohol.
  • The risk of developing oral cavity and pharynx cancers increases both with the amount as well as the length of time tobacco and alcohol products are used.
  • For all stages combined, about 84% of people with oral cancer survive one year after diagnosis. The five- and ten-year relative survival rates are 61% and 50%, respectively.
  • It is estimated that approximately $3.2 billion is spent in the United States annually on treatment of head and neck cancers.

Cancer can affect any part of the oral cavity, including the lip, tongue, mouth, and throat. Through visual inspection, Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry can often detect premalignant abnormalities and cancer at an early stage, when treatment is both less extensive and more successful.

Please let us now if you have any questions about your oral health either during your next scheduled appointment, by giving us a call or asking us on Facebook.

Thumb Sucking, Pacifiers, and Your Baby's Teeth

August 3rd, 2016

Sucking is a common instinct for babies and the use of a pacifier or their thumb offers a sense of safety and security, as well a way to relax.

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the majority of children will stop using a pacifier and stop sucking their thumb on their own between the ages of two and four years of age. Prolonged thumb sucking or use of a pacifier can have dental consequences and needs be taken care of sooner, rather than later.

Many dentists favor pacifier use over thumb sucking because it makes it easier for parents to control and even limit the use of a pacifier. If thumb sucking lingers, the same strategies used to break the baby from using the pacifier can be used for thumb sucking.

Precautions

  • Try to find "orthodontically correct" pacifiers, as they may reduce the risk of dental problems.
  • Never dip a pacifier in sugar or honey to calm the baby.
  • Give your baby a bottle of water at bedtime, never juice.

Dental Complications

Long term pacifier use can lead to an assortment of dental complications including:

  • The bottom teeth leaning inward
  • The top teeth slanting outward
  • Misalignment of the baby’s jaw

The risk of any or all of these things happening is greatly increased if thumb sucking and pacifier use is sustained after the baby’s teeth start to come in.

Breaking the Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Habit

Most toddlers and children will stop sucking their thumb or using a pacifier between the ages of two and four on their own. However, if intervention is necessary here are a few tips to help your child break the habit:

  • Slowly decreasing the use of a pacifier can be effective for many children. This method does not work very well with thumb sucking.
  • Thumb sucking can be more difficult to break. Dr. Hawkins may recommend using an over the counter cream that you put on the child’s thumb; it doesn’t taste good and usually does the trick.
  • Rewards can also help with the process.
  • If these simple commonly used strategies do not work, there are oral devices that will prevent a child from sucking their thumb or a pacifier.

Talk to Dr. Hawkins and our team, as we have many tricks up our sleeves that will be effective in breaking your child’s thumb sucking or pacifier use.

Surprising Ways to Prevent Cavities

July 27th, 2016

There are numerous ways to prevent cavities. Some, like brushing your teeth regularly and visiting our Longwood, FL office, are more obvious than others. Beyond the standard methods of preventing cavities there are a number of different ways to keep your mouth healthy that you might also find surprising.

1. Reduce your consumption of carbs and sugar.

The consumption of sugar is ultimately the biggest catalyst for cavities. By limiting the sugar you consume both at meals and while snacking you will in turn be preventing cavities. But this goes for all carbs, not just sugar. See, even more complex, lower glycemic, carbs can lead to cavities in your mouth, so the best way to prevent them is to limit your carbohydrate intake. This is not to say that you have to cut out carbs all together, but by reducing your intake, you will prevent cavities and it can also lead to a healthier body overall.

2. Rinse your mouth with food-grade hydrogen peroxide.

For some people this may seem a little odd, but washing your mouth out with a food-grade hydrogen peroxide is an excellent way to prevent cavities. Doing so will kill harmful bacteria that accumulates in your mouth much in the same way applying the anti-septic to a cut does. That said, when you rinse your mouth out similar to how you would use a mouth wash, you want to make sure you don't swallow the hydrogen peroxide, spit it out instead.

3. Use a straw.

If you are someone that drinks a lot of sugary beverages a great way to prevent cavities is to use a straw. This way the sugar in the beverage does not come into contact with your teeth as much as it would if you were to drink straight from a glass, can, cup, or bottle.

4. Chew gum.

Chewing gum is another viable way of preventing cavities. You, of course, will need to chew a sugarless gum flavored with a substitute like Xylitol, and preferably with a cavity fighting ingredient in it.

5. Eat cheese.

Plain and simple cheese has a protein called casein which helps build calcium in your teeth which is vital to the integrity of your mouth and preventing cavities.

Warning Signs of Impacted Wisdom Teeth

July 20th, 2016

When your wisdom teeth start to emerge it can definitely be painful, but it can be even worse if your wisdom teeth become impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth are trying to erupt but are unable to do so because there is not sufficient room for them to emerge. This usually means that your wisdom teeth are painfully lodged in your jawbone.

While you may not see any real signs of the emerging wisdom teeth when they are impacted, what you can’t see can still definitely hurt you. Some of the indicators of impacted wisdom teeth are listed below.

  • Jaw Pain: Pain in the back of your jaw is a common indicator of impacted wisdom teeth. The pain often concentrates in the area around your gums.
  • Changes in the Mouth: You may notice some changes in your mouth when you have impacted wisdom teeth. Reddish gums, swelling in the jaw, bleeding gums, and bad breath can all be indicators that you are dealing with impacted wisdom teeth.
  • Headaches: If you suddenly start having headaches, especially at the same time as some of the other issues mentioned above, they may indicate impacted wisdom teeth.
  • Chewing Issues: Problems with chewing normally can indicate impacted wisdom teeth. If you are having trouble making the chewing motions because your mouth won’t quite open and close as easily as it used to, impacted wisdom teeth may be the culprit.

The Solution

If you are suffering from impacted wisdom teeth, the best solution is usually going to be removal. This is not a problem that will resolve naturally, and in fact, your pain and other symptoms may worsen as your wisdom teeth become increasingly impacted. At Springs Family Dentistry, Dr. Hawkins can review the details of wisdom teeth removal surgery with you and help you determine if this is the best solution for your situation.

I don't brush while I'm at work. Should I?

July 13th, 2016

Yes, absolutely. A recent survey by Oral-B® reveals that despite knowing that a healthy, good-looking smile affects not only their personal wellness but their professional image as well, very few people (only 14 percent) brush and floss at the office regularly. What’s more, three quarters of people who responded to the survey said they ate twice or more a day at work.

Today, Dr. Hawkins and our team thought we would provide some tips for brushing at work.

  • Leave a toothbrush at work to increase your likelihood of brushing
  • Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn toothbrush won’t do a good job of cleaning your teeth.
  • Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner; this helps remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line. Tooth decay-causing bacteria still linger between teeth where your toothbrush bristles can’t reach.

And remember to brush for 30 to 45 seconds across visible parts of the teeth. Brushing after breakfast or lunch will eliminate any remaining food particles and odors. We recommend people brush their teeth twice and floss once a day to remove plaque and other harmful bacteria.

To schedule your next appointment with Dr. Hawkins at our Longwood, FL office, please give us a call!

Teeth Whitening For a Bright Summer

July 6th, 2016

Summer brings sunshine and warm weather, and many of our patients begin thinking about brightening their smiles this time of year. A whiter smile is one just one visit away at Springs Family Dentistry!

Teeth whitening is safe, quick, and inexpensive. It can be used to correct many tooth discolorations which may have been caused by staining, aging, or chemical damage to teeth. Using the latest in whitening technology, we can offer a safe method for creating the beautiful smile you've always wanted. Just let us know at any appointment if you would like a brighter smile.

Get your beautiful smile today! Give us a call at our convenient Longwood, FL office to schedule an appointment!

How does a tooth decay?

June 29th, 2016

When acids are allowed to erode tooth enamel long enough to leach calcium and other minerals from your enamel and dentin, a process called demineralization occurs. This rapidly leads to tooth decay unless reversed by good oral hygiene and professional dental cleanings at our Longwood, FL office. Acids responsible for tooth decay come from the wastes of mutans streptococci and lactobacilli bacteria that thrive in dental plaque, a substance that is the leading cause of periodontitis.

Where do demineralizing acids come from?

Dietary sugars comprise the bulk of tooth-decaying acids, including table sugar, cooked starches, fructose, glucose, and lactose. In fact, as soon as you bite down on a sugary cookie or into a French fry, bacteria start digesting sugars, breaking them down and eventually excreting them as demineralizing acids. As this bacteria colony grows and becomes organized, plaque develops and forms that tough, yellowish coating you often see on the tops of teeth at the gumline.

Plaque is the Problem

Dental plaque is a filmy type of nesting place for bacteria that also keeps acids pressed against tooth enamel. Since plaque cannot be removed by brushing, it is important that a person who suffers tooth decay visit Springs Family Dentistry immediately so we can use special tools to scrape and thoroughly clean teeth.

Signs of Tooth Decay

Early tooth decay and cavities remain asymptomatic until demineralization creates a hole deep enough to reach the tooth’s inner tissues and nerve endings. Eventually, tooth decay will cause tooth sensitivity, toothache, vague pain when biting down on the affected tooth, and possibly pus seeping around a tooth’s gum line if the decay creates an infection. If treatment is delayed long enough, a decaying tooth may loosen, crumble, and ultimately fall out, which leaves an empty or partially empty socket.

Preventing Tooth Decay

Getting regular checkups with Dr. Hawkins, brushing and flossing twice a day, and eating fruits or crunchy vegetables at snack time instead of a candy bar or doughnut are the three best ways to keep your teeth healthy, white, and where they should be: in your mouth.

Do you suffer from sleep apnea?

June 22nd, 2016

At Springs Family Dentistry, we know our patients love a good amount of rest each night in order to be energized for the day and week ahead. After all, without enough sleep, exhaustion during the day is the most immediate consequence.

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that could be an indicator of serious health problems. The most common symptom is loud snoring, but the condition is characterized by breathing that repeatedly starts and stops throughout the night, leaving you feeling tired in the morning. Other serious effects from sleep apnea could be potentially dangerous to your health if left unaddressed, a great reason to visit Dr. Hawkins.

Besides losing precious hours of sleep, sleep apnea also elevates the risk of heart attack and stroke, and may cause other conditions such as depression, irritability, high blood pressure, memory loss, and sexual dysfunction.

Anyone can develop sleep apnea, but it is more common among middle aged adults who are overweight. Dr. Hawkins can help you determine the cause and suggest possible treatment.

A common treatment for sleep apnea is an oral device that is designed to help keep the airway open. By bringing the jaw forward, the device opens the airway and discourages snoring. Dr. Hawkins and our team are experienced in sleep apnea appliances, and can prescribe a fitted device, as well as monitor its success each time you visit.

A continuous positive airway pressure mask, also known as a CPAP, is among the other treatment options you may opt for. A mask is fitted over the mouth and forces oxygen through the throat while you sleep, and the pressure holds the soft tissue and throat muscles open.

If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea, visit our Longwood, FL office. Our team at Springs Family Dentistry can help you return to getting a better night’s sleep.

What is a crown?

June 15th, 2016

Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry hear this question all the time. Millions of people have dental crowns that artificially restore the chewing surface of a tooth. Also known as caps, these restorations surround the entire portion of the tooth that is above the gum line. Crowns are custom fabricated to match the color, shape, and size of other teeth and are visually undetectable to others. Several types of materials can be used to create crowns, including stainless steel, resin, metal alloys, porcelain fused to metal, or ceramic. When properly cared for and accurately fit, crowns can stay in place for a decade or more.

There are many reasons to get a dental crown, including:

  • To restore a broken or cracked tooth
  • To protect a tooth after a root canal
  • To restore a severely decayed tooth
  • To help anchor a dental bridge
  • To complete a dental implant
  • To protect a tooth that is at high risk for developing decay
  • For cosmetic purposes

Getting a dental crown

The process of getting a dental crown begins at our Longwood, FL office. X-rays are used to ensure the teeth are healthy enough to receive a crown. If the roots and surrounding bone are in satisfactory condition, the tooth will be numbed, filed, and reshaped in preparation for the crown. If the tooth root is not healthy, a root canal may be necessary first.

After the tooth is prepared, a special paste is placed over the upper and lower teeth to make impressions. These impressions serve as blueprints for the dental laboratory responsible for making the crown. They also help ensure the position of the new crown will not negatively affect a patient’s bite. The prepared tooth is protected by a temporary crown while the permanent one is made. When ready, the permanent crown replaces the temporary crown and is cemented in place.

To learn more about crowns, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Hawkins, please give us a call at our convenient Longwood, FL office!

What do I do if I fall and loosen my teeth?

June 8th, 2016

Although teeth are strong enough to tear through food, they are also fragile. An accident such as a fall may loosen teeth or knock a tooth out entirely. When a child loses a baby tooth in this manner, no permanent damage is usually done. However, adults who loosen permanent teeth may need to visit our Longwood, FL office.

The Anatomy of a Loose Tooth

The hard external layer of teeth covers a more vulnerable interior. The center of a tooth consists of the pulp, which contains blood vessels and nerves. The entire tooth extends below the surface of the gums into the jaw. Special tissue called cementum and the periodontal ligament hold teeth in place, preventing them from moving.

When a fall or blow to the face loosens a tooth, the tissues anchoring a tooth to the jaw may be damaged. This results in a loosened tooth that wiggles in place. There may be inflammation or bleeding of the gums, which signals dental damage.

Dental Treatments for a Loose Tooth

The range of dental treatments for loose teeth varies by the severity of the problem. If your teeth are just slightly loose following a fall, it may be fine to wait a few days. Teeth often retighten on their own. Simply avoid chewing with that tooth and enjoy softer foods for a few days.

If a tooth is very loose or nearly falling out, call Dr. Hawkins immediately. Immediate placement of the tooth back into the socket is needed to ensure its survival. In general, a tooth must return to its socket within two hours or it may be lost.

In some cases, Dr. Hawkins may recommend splinting, in which teeth are joined together to strengthen them and reduce strain on an individual tooth. Tightening or straightening the tooth can restore your ability to chew regularly without stressing the loosened tooth.

Regardless of the extent of the problem, it is essential to keep the tooth clean to prevent decay. Brush carefully with a soft-bristled brush, and use mouthwash regularly to kill bacteria.

Getting Ready for Summer Sports

June 1st, 2016

With the warmer and longer days here, we know many of our patients at Springs Family Dentistry will be much more active in the summer. Though most of our patients are probably already ready to hit the field for some summer fun, we thought we would discuss a few precautions to take when it comes to keeping your teeth safe as you enjoy playing your favorite sports.

Use a Mouthguard

Are your kids participating in contact sports this summer? If the answer is yes, we strongly encourage you to have them fitted for a mouthguard at Springs Family Dentistry before the season starts. Athletes can avoid serious mouth and jaw injuries by using a mouthguard.

Be Mindful of Sports Drinks

While sports drinks can be refreshing after a game, they unfortunately contain high levels of sugar and citric acid, which are known to erode the teeth and reduce the minerals in the outer tooth enamel. The simplest way to prevent sports drinks from damaging your teeth? Avoid them completely and drink water instead. Water is a great option to keep you hydrated before, during, or after a game.

Floss, Floss, Floss

While we always tell our patients about the importance of flossing, it is especially important on the day of the game. Athletes are likely to consume more sugar; from energy bars and chews to gum, you are not doing your teeth any favors. All that sugar may give you that extra bounce in your step when out on the field, but we want you to remember to floss when you get home, or else contend with an increased risk of cavities down the road.

If you have any questions about keeping your teeth and mouth healthy while participating in summer sports, please give us a call at our Longwood, FL office! Have fun!

Dental Infections

May 25th, 2016

Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry will tell you that dental infections can be very serious; sometimes, they develop into a life-threatening situation. Cavities are caused by acid-generating microorganisms that deposit themselves on teeth surfaces. Over time, acid erodes tooth enamel, compromising tooth strength. The major culprit or cause of cavities is sweets, but even diet soda plays a substantial role in tooth erosion, largely because the phosphoric acid it contains alters the oral pH. Cavities can pave the way for other, more serious infections to develop.

Types of infections

Pulpitis

Pulpitis is an inflammation of the tooth pulp. It typically occurs when cavities get deep enough to allow infection to reach the pulp. When this happens, bacteria travel through the pit or fissure that the cavity created. It can also develop from a fractured tooth. The symptoms may include moderate pain that comes and goes. Pain may intensify when cold liquids touch the pulp.

Periodontitis

Periodontitis is a consequence of chronic gingivitis, which occurs when the supportive bone structure of the tooth erodes, causing the periodontal tooth ligament to detach from the tooth. Kids between the ages of 12 and 17 and adults over age 30 are most likely to develop this disease. In severe cases of periodontitis, a periodontal abscess may form. Symptoms of the infection typically include redness, sensitivity to touch, and swelling.

Pericoronitis

Pericoronitis is an infection that occurs when food particles and other microorganisms get trapped under gum flaps. It typically happens when impacted wisdom teeth erupt. Pain at the site of the infection is a common symptom. You should try to prevent food particles from lodging in the gingivitis flaps.

Dental abscesses

A dental abscess is one of the most serious dental infections anyone can get. It begins at the base of the tooth, but without treatment can spread rapidly. When the abscess is more severe, the bacteria spread, often very rapidly, and cause severe facial swelling, pain, and discomfort.

The best way to minimize the risk of developing a dental infection is by practicing good oral hygiene, making sure that food or other particles aren’t trapped between the teeth for too long, flossing, using oral rinses that bear the ADA seal of approval, and seeing the dentist regularly. If or when there are any symptoms of infection, even if the only symptom is pain, be sure to visit the dentist. Early intervention may prevent the infection from escalating into something far more severe, painful, and costly to treat.

To learn more about dental infections, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Hawkins, please give us a call at our convenient Longwood, FL office!

My teeth don't line up any more. Why?

May 18th, 2016

If your teeth don't line up like they used to any more, you may be suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder, often called TMD. This is a term that can actually be applied to any condition that occurs because the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is inflamed.

The temporomandibular joint is essentially the hinge that holds your lower jaw to your skull, and when it is inflamed or damaged in any way, it can be extremely painful. You have two temporomandibular joint, one on each side of your jaw, and it is typical to experience TMD in both sides at the same time.

Shifting of the Teeth

The reason that your teeth may not line up as they once did is that the ball and socket joints are often out of alignment and, as mentioned above, often very inflamed as a result. In order to correct the problem, Dr. Hawkins may prescribe dental orthotics such as a lower jaw splint.

Sometimes, the wisdom teeth can play a role in the shifting of the teeth as well. If shifting wisdom teeth is combined with TMD, it may be necessary to have your wisdom teeth removed. Dental splints may follow if your teeth don't shift back to their proper positions on their own.

TMD is certainly a difficult thing to deal with, so if you experience your teeth shifting, scheduling an appointment at our Longwood, FL office is the smartest course. We want to help you get your smile back, so give us a call anytime.

Are you at risk for oral cancer?

May 11th, 2016

Nearly 40,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer annually in the United States, with more than 8,000 dying every year from the disease. Oral cancer has a higher death rate than many other common cancers, including cervical cancer, testicular cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and thyroid or skin cancers. The high death rate results from the fact that most oral cancers go undiagnosed until the disease is well advanced and has spread to another part of the body, most often, the lymph nodes in the neck.

Dr. Hawkins and our team want you to know that cancers of the mouth and throat, which account for about three percent of all cancers in the United States, are largely preventable. However, we want you to know about certain risk factors that affect the likelihood of developing the disease.

  • Use of tobacco products including smoking cigarettes, cigars or a pipe, or chewing tobacco all elevate risk for developing oral cancer. Tobacco use especially, is a serious risk factor because it contains substances called carcinogens, which harm cells in your mouth.
  • Consumption of alcohol in excess can also increase your risk. If you drink alcohol regularly, you have an elevated risk of getting oral cancer. Alcohol abuse (more than 21 drinks in one week) is the second largest risk factor for the development of oral cancer, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
  • Excessive sun exposure. People who spend lots of time outdoors and do not use proper amounts of sunscreen or lip balm have a greater risk for developing lip cancer. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight may also cause melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.

If you notice unusual lumps, bumps, or red or white patches in your mouth that don’t go away, sores that won’t seem to heal, persistent soreness, or pain or difficulty swallowing please consult Dr. Hawkins and our team immediately.

Other factors that may influence your risk for developing oral cancer include:

  • Age: Oral cancer is typically a disease that affects older people, usually because of their longer exposure to other risk factors. Most patients diagnosed with oral cancer are over the age of 40.
  • Gender: Oral cancer strikes men twice as often as it does women.
  • A history with viral infections, such as human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • A diet low in fruits and vegetables

During your next visit, Dr. Hawkins will examine your mouth for signs of oral cancer. If you have been putting off a visit to our Longwood, FL office for your regular checkup, now is an excellent time to schedule one. Regular visits can be the first line of defense against oral cancer because we can identify early warning signs of the disease. Give us a call today!

Summer is Almost Here: Tips for a bright, white smile!

May 4th, 2016

Summer is almost here, which means a season full of vacations, adventures and great memories is just around the corner for our patients at Springs Family Dentistry.

Everyone wants a glowing and radiant white smile when the sun comes around and we have a few reminders to keep your pearly whites healthy and beautiful over the summer! Try to stay away from drinks that will stain your teeth like coffee, soft drinks, or dark colored juices. Not only will drinks like this weaken your enamel but they will also darken that fabulous smile you're working on! Another tip is to try and focus on brushing your teeth; everyone knows that when busy schedules start picking up, getting a good brushing session in tends to take the backseat! A good tip for keeping your mouth safe from staining and other possible pitfalls is to rinse your mouth with water after any meal you can’t fully brush your teeth after. Your teeth, inside and out, will benefit!

And remember, whether you are headed to a barbecue, a camping trip, or just having fun in the backyard this summer, we want to hear all about it! Make sure to let us know what you’re up to below or on our Facebook page! We also encourage you to post any photos from your adventures!

The Importance of Regular Dental Checkups

April 27th, 2016

When was the last time you paid Dr. Hawkins a visit? If you're like many people, chances are it was more than six months ago. We hear the reasons why people neglect regular dental visits all the time: lack of money or quality dental insurance, busy schedules, and fear. However, your twice-yearly checkups are so important for your dental health and for your overall health as well.

You may brush your teeth twice a day and even floss, and your teeth may feel fine, but regular dental checkups with Dr. Hawkins aren’t about addressing problems and reacting — they are about cavity prevention. No matter how much you brush and floss, there is still a chance that food or other debris can get lodged between your teeth, and there is also a chance that food and beverages can wear down your tooth enamel in between visits, making your teeth vulnerable to decay.

In addition to a thorough teeth cleaning and polishing, these regular visits help us detect and prevent the onset of tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. During your visit, we’ll check the health of your mouth, teeth, gums, cheeks, and tongue. We’ll also check old fillings and restorations, as these can wear away over time from constant chewing, grinding, or clenching.

It's important to know that the majority of dental problems do not become visible or painful until they are highly advanced. And, unfortunately, serious oral issues are painful and expensive to treat. A deep cleaning twice a year by our team at Springs Family Dentistry is the best way to hit all the spots you may have missed with brushing and flossing and prevent any problems that may have gone unseen.

Make sure your teeth get the professional attention they deserve! If you’re overdue for your next cleaning, please give us a call to schedule an appointment at our convenient Longwood, FL office!

Does smoking affect oral health?

April 20th, 2016

By now, everyone knows that smoking is bad for you. But the truth is its broad-reaching health effects are not all known by everyone. This is especially true of oral health. Smoking can have serious repercussions in this regard. To give you a better idea of how smoking can affect your oral health, Dr. Hawkins and our team have listed some issues that can arise.

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer can have steep ramifications for anyone that gets it. Surgery can be required to eliminate the cancer before it spreads to more vital parts of your body. Any type of cancer is about the worst health effect you can get, and this especially holds true to the affects that smoking has on your mouth. The type of mouth surgery required with oral cancer can leave your face deconstructed in certain areas, and it is all due to smoking or use of other tobacco products.

Tooth Discoloration and Bad Breath

At the very least, it is fair to say that as a smoker you will often have bad breath, and while you may try to cover it up with gum or mints, tooth discoloration is a whole other story. The chemicals and substances in cigarettes stick to your teeth staining them brown and yellow colors that are increasingly difficult to disguise.

Gum Disease and Loss of Bone

Another effect of smoking is the increased risk of gum disease. Your gums may start to recede, which can eventually lead to the loss of teeth. Smoking can also increase bone loss and density in your jaw which is vital to the health of your mouth. Gum disease and bone loss are two signs that smoking is definitely bad for your mouth.

When it comes to the health of your mouth, the question is not whether smoking affects your health, it's how does it affect your health and to what degree. If for no other reason than because smoking involves your mouth as its entry point, it is safe to say that it can have long-lasting and detrimental consequences on your oral health.

To learn more about smoking and your oral health, contact our Longwood, FL office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Hawkins.

Osteoporosis and Oral Health

April 13th, 2016

Today, Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry thought we would examine the relationship between osteoporosis and oral health, since 40 million Americans have osteoporosis or are at high risk. Osteoporosis entails less density in bones, so they become easier to fracture. Research suggests a link between osteoporosis and bone loss in the jaw, which supports and anchors the teeth. Tooth loss affects one third of adults 65 and older.

Bone density and dental concerns

  • Women with osteoporosis are three times more likely to experience tooth loss than those without it.
  • Low bone density results in other dental issues.
  • Osteoporosis is linked to less positive outcomes from oral surgery.

Ill-fitting dentures in post-menopausal women

Studies indicate that women over 50 with osteoporosis need new dentures up to three times more often than women who don’t have the disease. It can be so severe that it becomes impossible to fit dentures correctly, leading to nutritive losses.

Role of dental X-rays in osteoporosis

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) released research that suggest dental X-rays may be used as a screening tool for osteoporosis. Researchers found that dental X-rays could separate people with osteoporosis from those with normal bone density. As dental professionals, our team at Springs Family Dentistry are in a unique position to screen people and refer them to the appropriate doctor for specialized care.

Effects of osteoporosis medications on oral health

A recent study showed that a rare disease, osteonecrosis, is caused by biophosphenates, a drug taken by people for treatment of osteoporosis. In most cases, the cause was linked to those who take IV biophosphenates for treatment of cancer, but in six percent of cases, the cause was oral biophosphenates. If you are taking a biophosphenate drug, let Dr. Hawkins know.

Symptoms of osteonecrosis

Some symptoms you may see are pain, swelling, or infection of the gums or jaw. Additionally, injured or recently treated gums may not heal: teeth will be loose, jaws may feel heavy and numb, or there may be exposed bone. Some of the steps you can take for healthy bones are to eat a healthy diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, regular physical exercise with weight-bearing activities, no smoking and limited use of alcohol, and report problems with teeth to our office, such as teeth that are loose, receding gums or detached gums, and dentures that don’t fit properly.

For more information about the connection between osteoporosis and oral health, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Hawkins, please give us a call at our convenient Longwood, FL office!

What exactly is a root canal?

April 6th, 2016

Hearing that you need a root canal can be highly intimidating. What is a root canal? It is the removal of the nerve supply from the tooth. Here, Dr. Hawkins will describe the parts of a tooth and explain the reasons for a root canal and how it is done when you visit us in our Longwood, FL office.

Your tooth is made up of many layers. The outside layer is called enamel and is made of minerals. The middle layer is dentin, which is also a calcified tissue, but less dense. The center of the tooth is called the pulp, and that hosts the nerves and blood vessels. A root canal is the removal and replacement of this center with a sterile filling.

A root canal is needed when an infection spreads to the center of the tooth. This can be from trauma (recent or previous), a cavity, a severe crack, or other compromise that causes nerve damage. An X-ray and examination are required to see if a root canal is needed. Symptoms may include but are not limited to pain, swelling, change in tooth color, and over-reaction to temperature change or pressure.

When it is time to begin, you’ll receive local anesthesia (via injection) to make you most comfortable. A rubber dam is used to isolate the tooth, while other equipment determines the nerve location and maintains a sterile working environment. All of the infected area is removed including the nerve tissue and blood vessels. Then, medicines are used to sterilize and alleviate any pain. Next is the placement of a filling material in the spot where the nerve used to be.

When your nerve and blood supply are taken away, the tooth is non-vital, or dead, and can become weak and fragile. If your tooth is badly decayed, a large portion of it will have to be removed. It is recommended to place a crown on the tooth to keep the enamel from breaking or falling apart. If you do not get a crown, you could eventually lose the tooth to more decay or infection. The tooth could also break off completely and you would have to have an extraction. The crown fits over the top of the tooth and secures it from breaking down.

A root canal saves the life of a tooth that would otherwise succumb to further infection and eventually extraction. Infection is the cause of most-needed root canals. If you are ever unsure what is happening at your appointment, don’t be afraid to ask questions so you understand the procedure completely.

What did the first dentures look like?

March 30th, 2016

Remember hearing about George Washington and his wooden choppers? Not his tools for cutting down cherry trees, but his false teeth.

Actually, George’s teeth were made of ivory but were so stained that they appeared to be made out of wood. You might think those were the earliest dentures. In fact, the history of false teeth goes back centuries before President Washington.

Ancient Times

The earliest known dentures consisted of human or animal teeth tied together with wires. Examples of such dentures have been found in Egyptian and Mexican archeological sites. Other ancient peoples use carved stones and shells to replace lost teeth. These early dentures were probably made for cosmetic purposes. The materials they used were not likely to stand up to the pressure placed on teeth during eating.

The earliest surviving set of complete dentures were actually made out of wood (sorry, George). They were found in Japan and date back to the 16th century.

Human and animal teeth continued to be popular materials for dentures until the 20th century in some parts of the world. But the difficulty obtaining healthy teeth (and the risk of disease from unhealthy teeth) led dentists to search for other substances.

Modern Era

In the 18th century, dentists began using porcelain, ivory, gold, silver and even rubber as tooth substitutes. Dentures made with these substances could be used in eating. They were often ill-fitting, however, which may explain why George Washington looks puffy and glum in many portraits.

Porcelain and metals were the most popular denture materials until about 1950, when plastics and resins were developed. Tough and durable, these materials make up most of the dentures Dr. Hawkins and our team use today.

Still, what goes around comes around. Researchers at the University of Texas are looking at using human teeth for dentures once again. Only in this case, the researchers hope to use biotechnology to spur the growth of new sets of teeth to replace those lost over a lifetime.

Is there a correlation between my dental and cardiovascular health?

March 23rd, 2016

YES!  Studies have shown a correlation between gum disease and heart disease, underscoring the importance of good oral health care. Cardiovascular disease remains American’s leading killer, claiming more lives than the rest of major causes of death, according to our friends at the American Heart Association. In fact, an estimated 80 percent of American adults currently have some form of gum disease, also known as periodontal disease.

Studies suggest that people with gum disease are believed to have an elevated risk of heart attack and stroke. Since most patients are not regularly visiting a heart specialist, their regular visits to our Longwood, FL office can help detect early warning signs of heart issues, prevent gum disease, or at the very least catch it at its early stage. We’d also like you to know your numbers: blood pressure (less than 120/80), cholesterol (less than 200) and BMI (less than 25).

There are many benefits to visiting Springs Family Dentistry in addition to maintaining your dental health. If it has been a while since your last visit, please give us a call!

St. Patrick's Day

March 16th, 2016

On March 17, everyone has a little Irish in them. St. Patrick’s Day is a joyous celebration of Irish heritage. The holiday originated as a commemoration of Saint Patrick, who brought Christianity to Ireland. The saint arrived in Ireland in 432 and earned the reputation of a champion of Irish Christianity. March 17th, the day of St. Patrick’s death, has been commemorated by the Irish for over 1,000 years. St. Patrick’s Day is still observed as a religious feast day by several Christian denominations, but it is better known in the public imagination as a rich celebration of Irish culture.

St. Patrick’s Day has been an official public holiday in Ireland since 1903. Each year, the Irish celebrate with a several-day festival that includes theater performances, music, fireworks, and festive parades. The celebration is also a public holiday in Northern Ireland, Montserrat, and Newfoundland and Labrador. In other parts of the world with heavy Irish populations, it is an unofficial celebration of Irish heritage. Parts of Great Britain, Canada, Argentina, South Korea, Switzerland, New Zealand, the United States, and Australia commemorate the holiday each year. Typical celebrations in these countries include drinking green beer, wearing green, eating traditional Irish foods, parades, and shamrock decorations.

Many people, Irish and non-Irish alike, take part in the “wearing of the green” on St. Patrick’s Day. In fact, the color originally associated with Saint Patrick was blue. His use of shamrocks to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish made the green clover emblematic of the holiday, leading to the traditional green attire worn by thousands on St. Patrick’s Day. Other little-known facts about St. Patrick’s Day include the following:

  • Each year, the United States and Ireland face off in a rugby competition called the “St. Patrick’s Day Test.”
  • Montreal celebrates the holiday with an annual parade, which has been held each year since 1824. The Montreal city flag even features a shamrock in its corner, as a nod to its Irish heritage.
  • The Guinness World Records named St. Patrick’s Day the “Friendliest Day of the Year.”
  • Along with Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day is one of the most widely celebrated saint’s day in the world.

No matter your cultural heritage, St. Patrick’s Day is a great time to let loose and celebrate your inner Irish-ness! Don your greenest attire and exclaim “Erin go Bragh!” (Ireland forever!) to everyone you meet. From Dr. Hawkins - have a great St. Paddy’s day!

I have fluoride toothpaste and fluoridated water; do I need a fluoride treatment?

March 9th, 2016

Fluoride is a naturally found ion with a history of greatly reducing the incidence of tooth decay in children. However, over the past decade, people have increasingly consumed bottled water, most of which does not contain fluoride, and children are no longer getting the recommended dosage of fluoride. In addition, many areas do not add the optimum amount of fluoride to the town drinking water.

Everyone’s dental needs are different. The amount of fluoride a person needs is determined by age (children), tooth sensitivity, risk for cavities, and medical conditions. When a patient needs additional fluoride it can be applied in a foam or varnish.

Children receive additional topical fluoride because teeth in the early development stages have a higher mineral uptake. The future strength of the enamel depends on this. When a tooth absorbs the fluoride ion, it creates hydroxyapatite, a harder mineral compound than enamel alone.

Those who have a dry mouth from medication also need extra fluoride. A daily fluoride rinse and a semi-annual fluoride varnish treatment are standard. If you are on medicine for high blood pressure, anxiety, diabetes, depression, or cholesterol, you may fit in this category.

Cancer treatments can also greatly impact your oral health. Fluoride varnish treatments prior to, during, and after radiation and chemotherapy can be beneficial. There are other mouth conditions which coincide with cancer treatments which make it difficult to brush and floss daily, and can contribute to an increased risk for decay. An infection during cancer treatment can be especially harmful, which is why preventive measures are important.

Fluoride treatments, administered topically, are highly beneficial in preventing decay. Feel free to call Springs Family Dentistry to schedule an appointment or if you have any questions.

Are your teeth ready for the big day?

March 8th, 2016

Capturing the Moment

At Springs Family Dentistry we know that just about anyone who has taken on the challenge of planning her own wedding could tell you how important the little details can be. Things like having complementary colors, the right location, show-stopping flowers, and delicious food are all a big part of planning your spring wedding. Another little detail that has a big "I do" related role? Your smile.

Whether you’re the bride, or an attendant, looking your best when you tie the knot (or help someone tie the knot) is essential. If your teeth aren’t ready to make an entrance, turning to one of the many available teeth whitening solutions is a great option.

Reliable Solutions

Before the wedding day arrives, you should take your smile into consideration. If diet and daily wear-and-tear have caused your teeth to lose their original luster, our team can help! In-office procedures do cost more than kits you use at home, but with an in-office treatment, you benefit from a professional taking proper care of your teeth.

In addition, relying on our office to handle teeth whitening before the wedding can give you access to trustworthy advice on how to keep your teeth looking their best for a longer period of time. It’s common for someone experienced in assisting people with their oral health to suggest investing in an in-office whitening technique and then following up with a teeth-whitening kit at home.

This is a season of new beginnings and beauty. Take the time to bring out your most beautiful smile before the big day. Don’t let your smile hold you back on your wedding. With our in-office teeth whitening, you can be sure that you’ll be more confident and comfortable interacting with friends and family. So remember, when in need of some quality oral care in Longwood, FL to think of Dr. Hawkins!

Ten Fun Things to Do with Your Old Toothbrush

March 8th, 2016

Dr. Hawkins and our staff recommend that you replace your worn-out, germy toothbrush with a new one every three months. But most people either forget or resist getting rid of something that is still “working.”

Maybe if they had a few ideas for putting that old toothbrush to good use, more people would take our advice? To encourage good oral practices, we offer these ten fun things you can do with your used toothbrush:

1. Let your five-year-old budding Da Vinci create a masterpiece with some paint and your old toothbrush.

2. Scrub oily areas on your face with your toothbrush. The bristles are perfect for removing embedded dirt and oil that clogs pores.

3. Pamper your hamster by brushing his fur with an old toothbrush.

4. Dab a bit of Vaseline on the bristles and comb your eyelashes: instant glamour! Got dry, flaky lips? Slough away by using a toothbrush on your lips.

5. Remove the bristles: instant small plant stakes!

6. Old toothbrushes are great for spot-cleaning just about anything.

7. When nobody is around to scratch an unreachable itch on your back, turn that old toothbrush into your personal backscratcher.

8. Is your dog’s breath so bad that all your houseplants have died? Try brushing his teeth with your old toothbrush so that his kisses (and breath) are more tolerable.

9. Give your fish the cleanest tank in the neighborhood by scrubbing it with your old toothbrush.

10. Did you notice a few gray hairs sprouting from your hairline this morning? Old toothbrushes were made for touch-up dye jobs; works for dyeing your eyebrows, too!

Top Five Reasons to Choose Veneers

February 17th, 2016

If you notice every imperfection in your smile and you are aiming for a more ideal-looking smile, veneers might be for you. Veneers are common tools in cosmetic dentistry for improving the look of your teeth. They are thin layers, either made of resin composite or dental porcelain, that go over your teeth. If you are considering dental veneers, these five reasons to choose them may help persuade you.

1. They hide imperfections.

The basis of cosmetic dentistry is providing an attractive smile, and veneers are designed to hide imperfections such as chipped, uneven, or badly aligned teeth. With veneers, teeth are even and uniformly colored.

2. They are durable.

Dental veneers can last for a decade to up to 30 years, so you do not need to continually go back to our Longwood, FL office to replace them. On average, veneers last longer than standard fillings.

3. You can get the process done quickly.

Often, you can get a full set of dental veneers in a three visits and within a few weeks. The first appointment is a consultation to evaluate your teeth and plan your treatment. At the next visit, Dr. Hawkins and our team prepare your teeth for veneers and take an impression of your teeth so the laboratory can custom-make your veneers. During the final visit, we bond the new veneers to the surfaces of your teeth.

4. They can whiten the appearance of your teeth.

Coffee, smoking, excessive fluoride, and certain drugs can yellow your teeth over time. Dental veneers can be colored to have a bright white appearance so your teeth appear noticeably whiter. This can be especially beneficial for individuals whose teeth are naturally off-white and do not respond well to bleach-based whitening treatments.

5. They can fix minor dental problems.

Dental veneers are not solely cosmetic. They can improve a variety of dental concerns, such as teeth with uneven spaces. They can hide the appearance of chipped and broken teeth, and make more even teeth that are worn down, spaced unevenly, or shaped irregularly. Since Dr. Hawkins can manufacture the veneers to match your natural tooth color, these thin layers are more attractive than unsightly fixes such as metal fillings.

Valentine's Day History

February 10th, 2016

Valentine’s Day is best known as a celebration of love in all its forms. Pink hearts, red roses, and cute greeting cards adorn every surface you see. What many people don’t realize is that the modern Valentine’s Day celebration arose from a religious holiday.

St. Valentine’s Day was originally celebrated as a religious feast day in honor of early Christian martyrs. Three martyrs named Valentine were honored: a priest in Rome, the persecuted bishop of Interamna (a town in central Italy), and a saint martyred in Africa. This saint’s day was celebrated throughout Christendom, although it was removed from the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints in 1969.

The origin of Valentine’s Day as a holiday for lovers began with Geoffrey Chaucer in his 1382 poem “Parlement of Foules.” Chaucer wrote, “For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate,” and the modern romantic holiday was born. William Shakespeare and other writers mentioned Valentine’s Day as a day of love.

Valentine’s Day as we know it came about in the early 19th century. In Victorian England, printers began manufacturing small numbers of cards with romantic verses, lace, ribbons, and other frills. Anonymous Valentine’s Day card were a popular way for young lovers to exchange romantic sentiments in an otherwise prudish time. As the 19th century progressed, printers began mass manufacturing Valentine’s Day cards. People in the United States give an estimated 190 million valentines every year, and up to one billion if you count children exchanging cards at school! With the rise of the Internet, Valentine’s Day e-cards have become a popular mode of communication, with millions of e-cards sent each year.

The other items associated with Valentine’s Day include chocolate and flowers. The tradition of giving chocolates has been around for decades, and Richard Cadbury created the first box of Valentine’s Day chocolates nearly 150 years ago. Today, purchases of chocolate total over $1 billion in the United States alone, with 35 million heart-shaped boxes sold each year. Loved ones also exchange flowers, with red roses being associated with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. On Valentine’s Day itself, florists sell nearly 200 million stems of roses.

Although many people dismiss Valentine’s Day as a commercialized “Hallmark holiday,” it is beloved to couples and romantics across the United States and other countries. The team at Springs Family Dentistry wants to remind all patients that no matter what your celebratory plans, February 14th can be a wonderful day to celebrate the loved ones in your life. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Top Five Things to Keep Your Dentist Smiling

February 3rd, 2016

Come say hello twice a year. The American Dental Association says two times is the charm. Multiple visits a year lets us keep an eye out for any developing issues. It’s important to remember that this goes for the whole family. Children over one year old should be seeing Dr. Hawkins!

Stay fresh. At Springs Family Dentistry, we have a virtually unlimited stock of toothbrushes and floss, which means you have no excuse to be using a sad, ineffective toothbrush. As soon as bristles begin to fray, pick up a new one or stop by our Longwood, FL office and we’ll replace yours. On average, you should be opening a new one every two to three months.

For goodness sake, floss! Flossing is an efficient way to keep your whole mouth healthy. It not only protects your teeth by removing aggregated plaque, it keeps your gums happy, too.

And brush. Practicing regular healthy habits is essential to keeping your mouth—and us—happy! When it comes to brushing that means two minutes, two times a day. If your kids need some encouragement, try making a calendar or playing a song like this.

Tell a friend. One way you can help us is by spreading the love. Tell your friends about what a good thing we’ve got going here. The more the merrier. And the healthier.

Aging and Oral Health

January 27th, 2016

As you age, it becomes even more important to take good care of your teeth and dental health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one-fourth of adults age 65 and older have no remaining teeth. What's more, nearly one-third of older adults have untreated tooth decay.

Oral health, regardless of age, is crucial to overall good health. Ideally, we all want to keep your natural teeth, but whether you're caring for natural teeth or dentures, advancing age may put older adults at risk for a number of oral health problems, including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Diminished sense of taste
  • Root decay
  • Gum disease
  • Uneven jawbone caused by tooth loss
  • Denture-induced tissue inflammation
  • Overgrowth of fungus in the mouth
  • Attrition (loss of teeth structure by mechanical forces)
  • Oral cancer

These conditions may not be diagnosed until it is too late. If you want to feel good, stay healthy, and look great throughout life, you might be surprised what a difference a healthy mouth makes.

Here are some tips for maintaining and improving your oral health as you become older:

  • Brush twice a day with a toothbrush with soft bristles. You may also benefit from using an electric toothbrush.
  • Clean between your teeth once a day with floss or another interdental cleaner.
  • If you wear full or partial dentures, remember to clean them on a daily basis. Take your dentures out of your mouth for at least four hours every day. It’s best to remove them at night.
  • Drink tap water. Since most contains fluoride, it helps prevent tooth decay no matter how old you are.
  • Quit smoking. Besides putting you at greater risk for lung and other cancers, smoking increases problems with gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss.
  • Visit Springs Family Dentistry regularly for a complete dental checkup.

If you have any questions about keeping up with your oral hygiene at home, please give us a call!

What are dental crowns?

January 20th, 2016

A dental crown is often called a “cap.” A dental crown covers all of the visible parts of the tooth and has many functions and reasons for placement.

There are several different types of crowns available at Springs Family Dentistry. They vary in their material, appearance, and functionality. A PFM, or porcelain fused to high-noble metal, is the most common. A full cast, high noble metal crown is a gold crown, and a stainless-steel crown is meant to be temporary. The most natural-looking crown is one that is all porcelain. These are often used for front teeth.

Getting a crown typically requires two appointments. The first is a preparation with impressions, shaping, and placing a temporary. The impressions are either sent to a dental lab, where the process generally takes two weeks, or done in-office with a machine that can make a crown without needing a second appointment. These crowns are made from a high-quality solid block of porcelain. The shape of the tooth is constructed from a digital 3D image of your tooth.

To accurately determine which type of crown is best, you must first know why you need the crown and in what area of your mouth is it needed, which can be answered when you visit us at Springs Family Dentistry. For instance, if you have a gold crown on the lower right and need a new crown directly above on the upper right, the best durability and long-lasting relationship is another gold crown.

If you need a crown on a front tooth, a gold crown may not be the best choice. A PFM has strength but is not ideal, as a dark line will appear at the gum line. A full porcelain crown is going to look as close to a natural tooth as possible, but will have less strength than a gold crown.

There are two types of porcelain crowns, depending on how they are made. A dental lab makes a full porcelain crown by baking layer upon layer to make the porcelain look like natural enamel. A full porcelain crown made in-office out of a solid piece of porcelain will have increased strength. However, the natural layered appearance is extremely difficult to achieve.

A crown is placed on a tooth when added strength is needed. Cracks, large broken-down fillings, or previous root canal treatment are all conditions where a crown is the standard care. The type of crown that is most appropriate depends greatly on location.

Five Things You Should Never Do With Your Toothbrush

January 13th, 2016

When’s the last time you gave your toothbrush any serious thought? Sure, you use it every day (and ideally twice), and you know that with a dollop of toothpaste it waxes up your pearly whites nicely, not to mention preventing bacteria, plaque, and inflammation.

But what are the things you should never do with your toothbrush? Here’s a brush-up on five toothbrush no-nos, from Springs Family Dentistry.

1. If you have your toothbrush too close to the toilet, you’re brushing your teeth with what’s in your toilet. In other words, keep your toothbrush stored as far from the toilet as possible.

2. The average toothbrush harbors ten million microbes. Many families keep their toothbrushes jammed together in a cup holder on the bathroom sink, but this can lead to cross-contamination. Family members’ toothbrushes should be kept an inch apart. Don’t worry; they won’t take it personally.

3. Don’t delay replacing your toothbrush. It’s best to purchase a new one every three to four months, but by all means get one sooner if the bristles are broken down because of your frequent and vigorous brushing. If you have a cold or the flu, replace your toothbrush after you recover.

4. Store your toothbrush out of the reach of toddlers. The last thing you want is for your toothbrush to be chewed like a pacifier, dipped in toilet water, or used to probe the dusty heating ducts.

5. Sharing is caring, right? Your parents probably taught you the importance of sharing back when you were, well, dipping their improperly stored toothbrushes in toilet water. But here’s the thing: As important as sharing is, there are some things you just don’t share, and your toothbrush is one of them.

What's the connection between gum disease and diabetes?

January 6th, 2016

People who have diabetes are usually familiar with many of the other health risks they face, including damage to the nerves, eyes, heart, and kidneys. But did you know that if you have diabetes you also have a much greater chance of developing gum disease? It's true, and like other diseases related to diabetes, the risk potential severity of gum disease is directly related to how well blood sugar is controlled.

The Causes

In diabetics, there are two primary mechanisms that increase the risk of developing gum disease, also called periodontal disease:

  • Bacterial growth: Bacteria love sugar including the glucose found in blood and bodily fluids. Elevated levels of sugar in saliva can provide a very hospitable environment for bacterial growth. The risk may be elevated if your gums bleed.
  • Circulatory changes: In diabetes, the blood vessels become thick, making it more difficult for blood to carry oxygen to the gums and to carry away harmful waste products. This decrease in circulation can weaken the mouth's natural resistance to decay. If you smoke, circulation can become even more compromised, significantly increasing your risk of periodontal disease.

Preventing Gum Disease

If you're diabetic, the number-one key to preventing gum disease is to make sure you do all you can to keep your blood sugar under control. In fact, studies show diabetics who have excellent control of their blood sugar levels have no more risk for gum disease than those who don't have diabetes. Here are some other tips to keep your gums healthy:

  • Floss your teeth gently, curving the floss so it can gently reach just below your gum line to remove plaque and food particles. Rinse your mouth when you're done flossing.
  • Use a soft-bristle brush to brush teeth twice daily, using small circular motions. Avoid pressing too hard on tooth surfaces.
  • Brush your tongue gently to remove germs that can hide there.
  • Use an anti-bacterial mouthwash to kill germs that are hard to reach.
  • Keep track of how well your blood sugar is controlled and let Dr. Hawkins know at each visit.
  • Be aware that having diabetes may mean it takes you longer to heal after undergoing oral surgery.

Most importantly, be sure to visit our Longwood, FL office for regular checkups and tell Dr. Hawkins about your diabetes so you can be sure to get the care you need. Follow these steps, and you can enjoy healthy teeth and gums for years to come.

New Year's Day Around the World

December 30th, 2015

New Year’s Day marks the beginning of the calendar year in most parts of the world. The holiday is celebrated on January 1st of each year. Customs and celebrations vary by country, religion, and even individual desires. Whether celebrated quietly or with gusto, the day brings the start of new opportunities for those that observe it.

United States and Canada

In both the US and Canada, celebrations begin on New Year’s Eve. At midnight on January 1st the New Year is welcomed with bells, horns, whistles, and other noisemakers. Fireworks are often part of the celebrations. In New York City, Times Square comes alive with revelers. In Toronto, there are large celebrations which may feature concerts, late-night partying, sporting events, and fireworks, with free public transit service during peak party times. Many individuals in North America greet the year by making resolutions for improvements in their lives.

China

In China, many people celebrate two forms of a new year. They may observe January 1st, but the traditional Chinese New Year is based on a lunar calendar. Parades with paper lanterns and dragons made from silk are a significant part of the festivities. Legends say that the dragon spends most of its time in hibernation so fireworks are used to keep the dragon awake.

Jewish Celebration

Jewish New Year’s observances begin with Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the New Year, and end with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This ten-day celebration is held in September or October, based on the Hebrew calendar. The New Year is not marked as much with loud celebrations as with personal insight to mend wrongs and resolve to better oneself.

Other countries and cultures also have different dates for New Year’s Day observances:

  • Vietnam observes the New Year in February
  • In Iran, the day is celebrated on March 21st
  • Islamic cultures often observe the tenth day of the month of Muharram
  • Russian Orthodox observers use the Julian calendar and celebrate on January 14th
  • Buddhist celebrations are held from April 13th through 15th

If you observe New Year’s Day by making healthy resolutions, include dental care in your plans with Dr. Hawkins. The health of your teeth and gums contributes to your overall health. Caring for your mouth now can prevent many dental problems later in life. Springs Family Dentistry wishes you a healthy, prosperous, and happy New Year!

How does whitening toothpaste work and how effective it is at whitening teeth?

December 23rd, 2015

Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste that has the American Dental Association seal of approval can help prevent tooth decay and relieve other conditions, such as bad breath, sensitive teeth, and gingivitis.

Beyond these health effects, another motivation for frequently brushing your teeth with high-quality toothpaste is to keep your teeth white. If you want whiter teeth but do not want to undergo in-office or at-home bleaching treatments, you might consider choosing whitening toothpaste for your daily brushing.

Why Consider Whitening Toothpaste

Whiter teeth are more attractive, which can help you feel more confident in your smile. Your smile is also one of the main components of the first impression you make on people in your professional and personal life. Having a whiter smile and greater self-assurance can send the message that you take care of yourself and are confident in your abilities.

How Whitening Toothpaste Works

The American Dental Association explains that all toothpaste has whitening properties because they help remove food particles from your teeth. To carry the American Dental Association seal for whitening, however, toothpaste must contain certain chemicals that help remove stains.

Unlike bleaching products, which contain carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide, whitening toothpaste only cleans the enamel rather than changing the color of your teeth. To obtain the benefits of whitening toothpaste, you need to use it regularly.

The Effectiveness of Whitening Toothpaste Varies

Due to individual variations in the color of your teeth, some people are more likely than others to achieve the desired results with whitening. Teeth that are tinted grayish are unlikely to respond well to bleaching, while brown teeth can sometimes respond, and yellowish teeth are most likely to become pearly white with bleaching.

If Dr. Hawkins and our staff believe that bleaching is not a viable option for you, proper oral hygiene and the use of a whitening toothpaste are your best bets for keeping your teeth as white as possible. In addition, avoid using tobacco products, and rinse your mouth after drinking coffee.

Five Tips for Taking Tots to the Dentist

December 16th, 2015

Toddlers are notoriously balky about strangers. But their first dental visit should not be cause for fear and tears. Nor should you assume that getting your toddler to Springs Family Dentistry is going to involve a full-blown tantrum or Mafia-style bribery. “Honey, don’t worry. We’ll go get ice cream after…” sort of defeats the purpose of making that first dental appointment.

These five tips will make your toddler’s trip to see Dr. Hawkins as fun as a stop at an amusement park.

1. Before you make a dental appointment for your child, take him or her on a ride-along to one of your dental appointments. Let your son or daughter experience the office and get the lay of the land. Toddlers don’t like surprises. But if your little one is already familiar with the big chair that goes up and down, the next time he or she will have no problem taking a seat.

2. About the big dental chair … well, it’s really an amusement park ride. See how it goes up and down? Toddlers love games, and turning the trip to the dentist into a game is among the oldest (and most successful) tricks in the parent playbook.

3. Positive reinforcement is a good thing. That's why Dr. Hawkins and our staff hand out cool toothbrushes or stickers to children after their appointment. A fun-colored toothbrush with a suction bottom is a good incentive to come back for another cleaning.

4. Timing is everything. Don’t take your child to the dentist an hour before the daily nap. Make the appointment with your child’s schedule in mind. This increases the chances of success.

5. A few days before the scheduled appointment, start reading your toddler bedtimes stories about what happens at the dentist. Dora the Explorer’s Show Me Your Smile, written by Christine Ricci, is a popular dental story that your child might relate to.

Broken Tooth: Is It an emergency or not?

December 9th, 2015

Have you ever had that sinking feeling after biting into something soft and chewy and feeling something hard and crunchy instead? You’ve chipped or broken a tooth, but what should you do next? First try to assess the damage by determining whether it’s a chip or a whole tooth.

As Dr. Hawkins will tell you, a broken or chipped tooth is usually not a dental emergency unless you are experiencing a great deal of pain or bleeding, but you should contact us for an appointment shortly afterward. Be sure to mention that you have a broken tooth so we can fit you into our schedule quickly. After a thorough evaluation, we’ll recommend a course of action. If it is a small chip, we may simply smooth it out. For a larger break, the dentist may fill in the space with a composite material that matches your other teeth.

Emergency Dental Care

If you are in severe pain, are bleeding excessively, have a major break, or have lost a tooth, that is a dental emergency and you should contact us. As emergency dental specialists, we’ll be able to schedule an appointment immediately and advise you on the next steps to take.

You can rinse your mouth with warm water and apply pressure to stop the bleeding. An ice pack will help reduce any swelling. Do not take any aspirin as that could increase the amount of bleeding. Should your tooth be knocked out completely, rinse it under running water but do not scrub it. Hold the tooth only by the crown, or the part you normally see above the gum line, not by the root. If you can, put the tooth back into the socket while you travel to our office, or put it in a mild salt solution or milk. Don’t let the tooth become dry, because this can lead to damage. Once you get to our office, our dentist will determine whether the tooth can be saved or if it will need to be replaced.

A broken tooth may not always be an emergency, but it’s best to have it treated with us at Springs Family Dentistry. While it may only be a cosmetic problem at first, if left too long without treatment, you may experience further damage to your tooth and mouth.

Antibiotic Prophylaxis or Pre-Medication

December 2nd, 2015

At Springs Family Dentistry, we know the human mouth contains a lot of bacteria. A bacterium can travel through your body with routine activities that are a normal part of daily living. You spread bacteria when you brush or floss your teeth, when you chew, and when you swallow.

For most people, bacteria don’t cause any problem. For some people, however, especially those who have chronic medical conditions, specific cardiac conditions, or whose immune systems are compromised, bacteria that spreads throughout the bloodstream can lead to much more serious bacterial infections.

The goal of pre-medication or antibiotic prophylaxis, Dr. Hawkins will tell you, is to prevent bacterial endocarditis, a serious infection of the endothelial heart surfaces or the heart valves. The condition is also called infective endocarditis. A small population of people with certain health problems has a high risk for contracting this potentially deadly bacterium.

The American Heart Association states that people at greatest risk for contracting bacterial or infective endocarditis are:

  • Patients who underwent cardiac valve surgery in the past
  • Those who have suffered past incidents of infective endocarditis
  • Patients who have mitral valve prolapse, resulting in or causing valve leakage
  • People who have had rheumatic fever or any degenerative cardiac condition that produces abnormalities in cardiac valves
  • Patients who suffer from certain congenital heart diseases

For these patients, any dental procedure may cause bleeding, and prophylactic antibiotic administration is recommended as a preventive measure.

Other patients who require prophylactic antibiotics

The American Association of Endodontists extends recommendations to patients who have undergone joint replacement surgery within the past two years, suffer from type 1 diabetes, or have immune deficiencies from diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or HIV; cancer patients whose immune systems are suppressed because of radiation or chemotherapy; people who have had organ transplants; and hemophiliacs.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry also includes people who suffer from sickle cell anemia, as well as patients who suffer from conditions that require chronic steroid therapy.

Typical endodontic procedures for which antibiotic prophylaxis is recommended include root canal therapy (when it involves going deeper than the root apex), surgical tooth extractions, and any other dental, endodontic, or periodontal procedure during which the doctor anticipates bleeding.

Although different medical societies and organizations offer these guidelines as a way of identifying patients for whom prophylactic pre-medication is essential prior to dental procedures, dentists will take each patient's medical history and personal risk factors into consideration. Some doctors may choose to administer antibiotics following a procedure, especially for patients who have previously suffered from oral infections either as a result of dental procedures or that necessitated oral surgery.

For more information about antibiotic prophylaxis, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Hawkins, please give us a call at our convenient Longwood, FL office!

Thanksgiving

November 25th, 2015

At Springs Family Dentistry, we love to celebrate the holidays with vigor! Dr. Hawkins would love to share some unique ways of celebrating Thanksgiving from beyond the Longwood, FL area to the national level!

When Americans sit down to dinner on the last Thursday of November, the day that Abraham Lincoln designated as the day on which Thanksgiving would be celebrated, they do so thinking that the first Thanksgiving feast was held at Plymouth in 1621. According to National Geographic, the Spanish explorer Francisco Vásquez Coronado and his men celebrated a feast of Thanksgiving in Texas in 1541, giving Texas the distinction of being the first place where Thanksgiving was celebrated.

Different Types of Celebrations

Native Americans had rituals around which they celebrated in hopes of ensuring a bountiful harvest. The Cherokees had a Green Corn Dance that they did for this very purpose. The Pilgrims (not to be confused with the Puritans,) rejected any type of public religious display. They held a three-day long non-religious Thanksgiving feast. Although they said grace, the focus of their celebration was on feasting, drinking alcohol (they did have beer,) and playing games.

The Pilgrims at the Plymouth Plantation celebrated a different day of Thanksgiving in 1623. Plagued by a crop-destroying drought, the settlers prayed for relief. They even fasted. A few days later, they got the rain they so desperately needed. Soon thereafter, they received another blessing when Captain Miles Standish came with staples they couldn't otherwise get. He also told them that a Dutch supply ship was en route. In gratitude for the abundance of good fortune, the Plymouth settlers celebrated a day of prayer and Thanksgiving on June 30, 1623.

The Story of Squanto

No discussion of Thanksgiving is complete without a discussion of Squanto, or Tisquantum, as he was known among his people, the Patuxet Indians. It is believed that he was born sometime around 1580. As he returned to his village after a long journey, he and several other Native Americans were kidnapped by Jamestown colonist, Thomas Hunt. Hunt put them on a ship heading to Spain where they were to be sold into slavery.

As fate would have it, some local friars rescued him and many of the other kidnapped natives. Squanto was educated by the friars. Eventually, after asking for freedom so he could return to North America, he ended up in London where he spent time working as a ship builder. By 1619, he was finally able to get passage on a ship headed to New England with other Pilgrims.

Upon arriving at Plymouth Rock, he learned that his entire tribe was wiped out by diseases that accompanied earlier settlers from Europe. In gratitude for passage on their ship, he helped them set up a settlement on the very land where his people once lived. They called the settlement Plymouth. Since they knew nothing about how to survive, let alone how to find food, Squanto taught them everything, from how to plant corn and other crops, how to fertilize them, how and where to get fish and eels and much more.

After a devastating winter during which many settlers died, thanks to Squanto's teaching, they had an abundant harvest. After that harvest, they honored him with a feast. It is this feast of 1621 which was celebrated between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians that is widely considered the first Thanksgiving celebration.

About the Meal of the Plymouth Settlers

Surviving journals of Edward Winslow that are housed at Plymouth Plantation indicate that the first Thanksgiving feast was nothing like what Americans eat today. The meal consisted of venison, various types of wild fowl (including wild turkey,) and Indian corn. There were no cranberries, stuffing, pumpkin pie, potatoes, or any of the other “traditional” foods that appear on modern menus.

Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, the day that Abraham Lincoln designated as the holiday. It is still a day of feasting, and for some, a day of prayer and thanksgiving. For others, it is a celebration of gathering, especially for families. Still others may celebrate in entirely different ways, including watching college football bowl games, or by playing family games.

If you ever wonder why you're so tired after the Thanksgiving meal, it's because turkey contains an amino acid, tryptophan, and it sets off chemicals whose chain reaction combine to make people sleepy.

Warning Signs of Impacted Wisdom Teeth

November 18th, 2015

You might suspect that your wisdom teeth are starting to emerge, but knowing the signs of impacted wisdom teeth can help you be more proactive about your dental care. Impacted wisdom teeth can be extremely painful and can make your life truly miserable until they are removed. Therefore, looking for the early warning signs listed below, and seeing Dr. Hawkins if you experience them, can help you conquer the problem before it conquers you.

There are three primary signs of impacted wisdom teeth. While every person may not have all three of these signs, you can usually expect to experience at least one of these if your wisdom teeth are impacted.

Unusual Pain

If you are feeling a type of teeth pain you've never felt before, especially when it is focused in the back area of your jaw, this may be a sign that you have a tooth impaction. You may be fortunate enough to catch it early, before all of your wisdom teeth become impacted, if you see Dr. Hawkins as soon as you feel the pain.

Swollen Jaw

If your jaw is suddenly swollen and the area feels tender to the touch, you have a high chance of having an impacted tooth. Since the wisdom teeth are set so far back in your jaw, the swelling tends to show itself low in the jaw, towards the ears, when they are impacted.

Bleeding Gums

If your gums are bleeding, something you may notice when you see a pink or red tinged toothbrush, you may be dealing with a wisdom tooth issue. When the wisdom teeth are impacted, they put a lot of pressure on your back teeth and gums, which often leads to bleeding.

Visit our Longwood, FL office as soon as possible if you have any of the above signs of impacted wisdom teeth. The sooner you get treatment, the sooner the pain will be behind you for good!

HPV and Oral Cancer

November 11th, 2015

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is best known as a sexually transmitted infection. In the United States, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease, with 79 million Americans currently infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to increasing risk for cervical cancer, HPV is a contributing factor in some cases of oral cancer. Each year an estimated 1,700 women and 6,700 men develop oropharyngeal cancer, which affects the tongue and throat.

Connection between HPV and oral cancer

There are more than 40 strains of HPV that live in the skin and mucosal areas. Some of these affect the genitalia, while others are found in the mouth and throat. Of the strains of oral HPV, only one, called HPV16, increases the risk of oral cancer, the Oral Cancer Foundation reports. A retrospective study conducted found that oral cancer developed an average of 15 years after exposure to HPV, making it a relatively slow-growing form of cancer.

In general, 80% of Americans will have an HPV infection at some point in their lifetimes, while 99% develop no ill effects. Getting oral HPV is associated with multiple sexual partners and engaging in oral sex; however, even some individuals who have been with only one partner may contract the infection. Although overall risk of oral cancer from HPV infection is low, it is essential to be proactive about oral health.

How to prevent HPV-related oral cancer

Scientists continue to study how HPV infections lead to oral cancer, so little is known about the progression of the disease. However, one recent study found that poor oral health, including gum disease and poor oral hygiene, is associated with oral cancer risk. Thus, being vigilant about brushing and flossing your teeth regularly may reduce HPV-related oral cancer. Getting the HPV vaccine also protects against the oral form of the virus.

Another key way to reduce mortality from oral cancer is to have regularly scheduled appointments with at Springs Family Dentistry. Having Dr. Hawkins examine your mouth at least two times a year increases the likelihood that a sign of oral cancer, such as a sore or patch, will be detected. If you’re concerned about HPV-related oral cancer, please give us a call at our Longwood, FL office for advice about oral hygiene and disease prevention.

You broke your tooth; now what?

November 4th, 2015

You may have bitten down on a hard food or object, or perhaps you had a cavity that weakened your tooth. Either way, your tooth is now broken, and the steps you take to care for it will determine whether you get to keep your natural tooth or not. Millions of people suffer from broken teeth every year, so you are not alone. However, that does not mean your newly cracked tooth does not need immediate attention.

What is a broken tooth?

A broken tooth is one that has been fractured, chipped, cracked, broken apart, or completely knocked out of the mouth. You may or may not feel your tooth break, depending on the extent of the break and whether your tooth was decaying prior to the break. It is usually very easy to diagnose a broken tooth, because the evidence will be visible. In the case of hairline cracks in the teeth, you may start to note a sensitivity to hot or cold in the neighborhood of the fracture.

The Right Way to Handle a Broken Tooth

As soon as you know your tooth is broken, chipped, or fractured, make an appointment to visit our emergency dental office. Even the tiniest fractures require attention: bacteria can infect the fractured area, which could cause you to lose the tooth altogether.

Until you are in our office, you can manage your pain using over-the-counter pain medication, such as Tylenol, or you can apply a cold compress to prevent swelling and inflammation. Be sure to rinse your mouth with warm salt water after every meal until you are able to visit us.

Keep in mind that while pain medication is an effective way to manage a broken tooth at home, it is only a temporary fix. Broken teeth should not be treated solely at home, and over-the-counter solutions are not substitutions for professional dental care. Failing to make an appointment with Dr. Hawkins after breaking or chipping a tooth can place your health at risk.

Treatment

Treating your broken tooth will depend on the type of break you have and how much of the tooth is affected. A minor chip or tiny fracture line may easily be repaired with bonding. On the other hand, a more serious break that exposes the tooth's pulp may require a root canal or extraction to prevent infection. Ultimately, our team here at Springs Family Dentistry will explain to you the best treatment plan based upon our evaluation of the condition and extent of your break.

If you have broken, cracked, chipped, or fractured one or more of your teeth, don’t hesitate to contact our office immediately. We specialize in emergency dental care and are available to serve you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Halloween: Candy, costumes, and more!

October 28th, 2015

All Hallows' Eve, more commonly known as Halloween, is a yearly event celebrated on October 31, and one that is anticipated by the young and young at heart all over the world. Some scholars claim that Halloween originated from Celtic festivals that honored the dead or that celebrated the harvest, while others doubt that there's any connection at all to Samhain (a Gaelic harvest festival.) Regardless of its origin, our team at the dental office of Dr. Hawkins hopes that Halloween is fun and enjoyed by all of our awesome patients!

Trick or treat?

In North America, Halloween is predominantly celebrated by children who dress up in costumes, which range from scary to cute, who then go around the neighborhood knocking on doors asking "trick or treat", and they are given candy in return. Trick-or-treating is a time honored tradition, and though many parents groan at the pounds and pounds of candy collected by youngsters and fear for the health of their teeth, there are a few things you can do to help their teeth stay in great shape until the candy is gone:

  • Limit the amount of candy they can consume each day
  • Have them brush their teeth after eating candy
  • Avoid hard, chewy candies as they can stick in hard to brush places
  • Keep candy out of sight to reduce temptation
  • Don't buy candy too far in advance to limit pre-Halloween consumption
  • Help or encourage your children to floss

Halloween Fun

Halloween isn't just about gorging on candy; there are other events associated with this festive day including carving jack-o'-lanterns, painting pumpkins, decorating sugar cookies, bobbing for apples, going to haunted houses, or just curling up on the couch with a bowl full of popcorn and watching some classic, scary movies.

Halloween Around the World

Some countries, like Australia, frown upon Halloween, claiming it is an American event and not based in Australian culture, while others like Italy have embraced the fun and celebrate much as Canadians and Americans do. Mexicans have been celebrating this fun day since around 1960, and it marks the beginning of the Day of the Dead festival. Some countries in Europe have come late to the party, but since the 1990s, countries like Sweden, Norway, and Germany have started celebrating Halloween as well, and finding children in costumes or having ghosts hanging in windows has become commonplace.

Halloween is about fun; stepping outside our normal lives and donning a costume or gathering with friends to knock on doors and ask for candy is as much a part of our culture as hot dogs and barbecue on Labor Day. Have a safe and happy Halloween from the team at Springs Family Dentistry!

How long will a root canal last?

October 21st, 2015

According to the American Association of Endodontists, root canals have a success rate of over 95% and in most cases they last a lifetime.

There are a few factors that ensure the root canal will last and should be followed.

  • You want to make sure you allow Dr. Hawkins to perform a permanent restoration of the tooth. That means getting the filling and the crown immediately after the canals have been cleaned of all bacteria and debris.
  • Practice good oral hygiene; that means brushing and flossing at least three times a day especially after meals and before bed.
  • Just because a tooth has had a root canal that does not mean the tooth is safe for as long as it remains in your mouth. That tooth can still get a cavity. Since the nerves are no longer present in that tooth you will not feel any pain or experience any other signs of a cavity. That’s why it is important to get regular cleanings and checkups.
  • If the tooth becomes fractured or you develop an abscess, you will feel pain and know there is a problem with the tooth.

Why do root canals fail?

As mentioned above, only about five percent of root canals fail, and sometimes it is not actually a “failure.” In cases, of teeth that have more than one root, it is possible that only one root was infected and filled. If the remaining root(s) become infected in the future, they will also need a root canal performed on them.

There are a few other reasons why your root canal may fail:

  • The first reason is you may not have taken good care of your tooth (teeth). This is commonly seen in children and teens who often have inconsistent oral hygiene habits.
  • If the tooth has more than one root, and one of the roots has a minute infection that is undetectable and goes unnoticed it can cause the root canal to fail. While this scenario is very unlikely, it does occasionally happen.
  • Over time, the seal can become weak and bacteria can enter the tooth. This is also very uncommon but it does happen.

No procedure dental or medical comes with a 100% guarantee to last a lifetime, but if you take care of your treated tooth, the chances of success are great.

If you have any additional questions about root canals and your oral health, be sure to ask a member of our team at our Longwood, FL office.

Women’s Medications and Dry Mouth

October 14th, 2015

Women using medication to treat a variety of medical conditions are often unaware of the potential side effects. One common side effect of medications such as blood pressure medication, birth control pills, antidepressants, and cancer treatments is dry mouth. The technical term for dry mouth is xerostomia.

Xerostomia can lead to undesirable effects in the oral cavity including periodontal disease and a high rate of decay. Many women who have not had a cavity in years will return for their routine exam and suddenly be plagued with a multitude of cavities around crowns and at the gum line, or have active periodontal disease. The only thing that the patient may have changed in the past six months is starting a new medication.

Saliva washes away bacteria and cleans the oral cavity, and when saliva flow is diminished harmful bacteria can flourish in the mouth leading to decay and gum disease. Many medications can reduce the flow of saliva without the patient realizing the side effect. Birth control pills can also lead to a higher risk of inflammation and bleeding gums. Patients undergoing cancer treatments, especially radiation to the head and neck region, are at a greatly heightened risk of oral complications due to the possibility of damage to the saliva glands.

There are many over the counter saliva substitutes and products to temporarily increase saliva production and help manage xerostomia. One great option for a woman with severe dry mouth or high decay rate is home fluoride treatments. These work in a number of ways, including custom fluoride trays that are worn for a short period of time daily at home, a prescription strength fluoride toothpaste, or an over the counter fluoride rinse. If you have more questions on fluoride treatments, make sure to ask Dr. Hawkins at your next visit to our office.

The benefits of many of the medications on the market outweigh the risks associated with xerostomia, however, with regular exams you can manage the risk and prevent many oral consequences of medications.

What should I do if my child has a toothache?

October 7th, 2015

Toothaches in children can be tricky ordeals that cause distress for both the child and the parent. You may feel helpless and frustrated because you cannot pinpoint the location of the pain. It is so hard to see your little one experience discomfort and feel like there is nothing you can do about it. But there are ways you can help. Try these tips the next time your child has a toothache.

Zero in on the Painful Area

The first thing you need to do is find out where the pain is coming from. If your child is old enough, ask him or her to point to the painful area. In younger children, look for swelling and redness on the gums and cheek, dental caries (discolorations on the tooth), or broken teeth. Try to get as close to the location of the pain as possible so you can determine an effective course of action to relieve it.

Try to Find the Cause

Not all toothaches are actually toothaches. A child can bite his or her tongue or cheek, have sore gums, or develop ulcers in the mouth. Teeth that are coming in can also be quite painful. If a tooth is discolored, broken, loose, or has spots that are either darker or lighter than the rest of the tooth, those could be causes of pain.

Five-Step Approach to Dental Pain Relief

  1. Floss. Help your child floss to remove any food particles that may be wedged between the teeth and could be causing pain.
  2. Rinse with warm salt water. Use a warm salt-water solution and have your child rinse well by swishing or holding the salt water over the painful area.
  3. Use a cold compress. This can relieve pain and swelling. If there is no swelling, you can try it anyway to subdue the pain. Try it on for about 15 minutes, then off for 20.
  4. Give the child ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Use the appropriate dosage for your child’s age and administer it regularly as directed.
  5. See Dr. Hawkins. If you determine that the tooth or gum is damaged, or if the pain simply cannot be relieved, call our Longwood, FL office.

If your child is experiencing throbbing pain, fatigue, or fever, you should call your pediatrician as soon as possible. If your child is experiencing mouth pain accompanied by trouble breathing or swallowing, it can indicate a more serious situation and you should take your son or daughter to the emergency room.

Most mouth pain in children can be remedied with the simple steps here. The important thing is that you remain calm, no matter what. You child is taking cues from you and if you panic, he or she will panic.

How do I prevent oral cancer?

September 30th, 2015

The fact is, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation, close to 40,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year, resulting in more than 8,000 deaths. Men face twice the risk of developing oral cancer as women, and men who are over age 50 face the greatest risk. The American Cancer Society recommends an oral cancer screening exam every three years for people over the age of 20 and annually for those over age 40. The five-year survival rate is only 50 percent, and oral cancer, which is the sixth-most common diagnosed form of the disease, is one of the few cancers whose survival rate has not improved. Today, Dr. Hawkins and our team would like to take this opportunity to remind all of our patients about the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene to prevent the disease.

So, what can you do at home to take an active role in preventing oral cancer?

The American Cancer Society recommends an oral cancer screening exam every three years for people over the age of 20 and annually for those over age 40. In addition, we encourage you to:

  1. Conduct a self-exam regularly. Using a bright light and a mirror, look at and feel your lips and gums. Try tilting your head back to look at and feel the roof of your mouth, and pull your cheeks out to look inside of your mouth, the lining of your cheeks, and your back gums. Pull out your tongue and look at all surfaces. Feel for lumps or enlarged lymph nodes in both sides of your neck and under your lower jaw. Please give us a call immediately if you notice any changes in the appearance of your mouth or any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above.
  2. Don’t smoke or use any tobacco products and drink alcohol in moderation.
  3. Eat a well-balanced diet. This includes eating a wide variety of foods from the five primary food groups on a daily basis to meet the recommended amounts of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats you need in a given day.
  4. Limit your exposure to the sun. Repeated exposure increases the risk of cancer on the lips, especially the lower lip. When out in the sun, be sure to use UV-A/B-blocking sun protective lotions on your skin as well as your lips.

Please let us know if you have any questions about your oral health, either during your next scheduled visit, by giving us a call, or asking us on Facebook.

Good Idea: Use an Electric Toothbrush to Sand the Small Stuff

September 23rd, 2015

electric toothbrush into a $5 mini power sander
We heard of patient recently who turned an electric toothbrush into a $5 mini power sander. This patient got the idea from YouTube. First you cut the bristles off an Oral-B electric toothbrush. Then you hot-glue a small plastic circle to the head and attached self-adhesive sandpaper. The sander can make small cuts or grind fine details on plastic models or miniatures. This fits the bill for a hobbyist ….and it’s a great deal!

How do I know if I need a root canal?

September 23rd, 2015

Tooth decay affects everyone, with studies reporting that 92% of adults have had a cavity at one point in their lifetime. In more serious instances of tooth decay, however, the nerve of the tooth may become infected. This type of infection requires a root canal, in which the affected nerve is removed, and the interior of the tooth is cleaned and filled.

Tooth Anatomy

Although each tooth is covered by a hard outer shell, the interior of a tooth consists of dental pulp. This pulp is soft, containing blood vessels that bring nutrients to the tooth. Each tooth also has an associated nerve, which resides within a root canal passing from the tooth’s root into the dental pulp. This nerve provides information about temperature, allowing teeth to sense heat or cold.

Symptoms of Nerve Infection

Damage to the dental pulp or nerve tissue leads to a rapid multiplication of bacteria within the interior of the tooth. The result may be an abscess, a small pocket near the root of the tooth that becomes full of pus. This infected area commonly causes the following symptoms:

  • Intense pain or sensitivity when pressure is applied to the tooth
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, even after the heat or cold has been removed
  • Darkening or discoloration of the affected tooth
  • A small, persistent pimple that forms on the gums
  • Swollen or tender gums
  • Swelling in other areas of the face, neck, or head

Nerve infection may occur due to deep decay, although repeated dental procedures, facial trauma, chipping or cracking of a tooth, or large fillings may also contribute to an abscessed tooth.

What to Do if You Think You Need a Root Canal

Only a visit to Dr. Hawkins can confirm whether a tooth’s nerve has become infected. We will perform an oral examination and X-rays to confirm whether the tooth is abscessed. If a root canal procedure is needed, a small hole will be placed in the tooth. The pulp and nerve tissue are removed from the tooth, which is thoroughly cleaned and filled. Then, the hole is sealed with a special compound to prevent bacteria from entering the tooth’s interior. The entire procedure is performed under local anesthesia to numb pain.

If you think you may have tooth or nerve decay, call our Longwood, FL office today to schedule a diagnostic appointment.

Good Teeth Lead to Sporting Success

September 16th, 2015

You already know that taking care of your teeth can help prevent tooth decay and the need for extensive work such as root canals or implants, which can be inconvenient and expensive. But the benefits of good teeth can go far beyond having an attractive smile and being able to crunch carrots and chew meat.

The American Dental Association explains that healthy teeth are linked to a lower risk for heart disease and diabetes. Furthermore, recent research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine states that good teeth can improve athletic performance among elite athletes.

Researchers examined the oral health of nearly 300 athletes in 25 sports at the 2012 Olympics in London. They looked for conditions such as dental caries, gingivitis, dental erosion, and periodontal disease, and asked about recent visits to a dentist.

Study investigators also asked athletes whether their oral health interfered with quality of life or athletic training and performance. The study concluded that poor oral health and fewer dental visits led to interference with preparation for competition.

This can happen for a few reasons. Tooth pain can disrupt sleep, which leads to slower reaction times. Oral health conditions can indicate chronic inflammation in the body, which means suboptimal performances on an elite level. Tooth pain can interfere with focus during training and competition.

Unfortunately, merely taking good care of your teeth won’t turn you into an Olympic gold medalist. However, the benefits can still be worthwhile. Even if healthy teeth provide little if any detectable gain in your athletic abilities, the potential benefits of maintaining a healthy mouth clearly go far beyond an attractive smile.

Practicing good oral hygiene and seeing Dr. Hawkins regularly can promote your physical health, and maybe – just maybe – you will start to achieve an advantage over your weekend athletic opponents.

The Importance of Oral Cancer Screenings

September 9th, 2015

In our continuing efforts to provide the most advanced technology and highest quality care available to our patients at Springs Family Dentistry, we proudly screen our patients for oral cancer. The fact is, every hour of every day in North America, someone dies of oral cancer, which is the sixth most common diagnosed form of the disease. The five-year survival rate is only 50 percent, and oral cancer is one of the few cancers whose survival rate has not improved.

Oral cancer can occur on the lips, gums, tongue, inside lining of the cheeks, roof of the mouth, and the floor of the mouth. Symptoms of oral cancer may include a sore in the throat or mouth that bleeds easily and does not heal, a red or white patch that persists, a lump or thickening, ear pain, a neck mass, or coughing up blood. Difficulties in chewing, swallowing, or moving the tongue or jaws are often late symptoms. While there is no way to predict exactly which individuals will get oral cancer, there are some potential causes we want you to know about. In some cases, it is possible to minimize these risk factors.

  • Age (most patients diagnosed with oral cancer are over the age of 40)
  • Tobacco use, either from cigarettes or smokeless chewing tobacco
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Persistent viral infections, such as HPV16
  • A diet lacking or low in fruits and vegetables

Finding out you have oral cancer can be devastating news. If you are concerned that you might be at risk for developing oral cancer, talk to us about screenings and other things you can do to reduce your risk. Through a routine visual inspection, Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry can often detect premalignant abnormalities and cancer at an early stage, when treatment is both less expensive and more successful, and can potentially save your life. Ask Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry about a screening at your next appointment!

Celebrate Labor Day by Getting Away

September 2nd, 2015

Labor Day honors the contributions that workers have made to this country, and for many Americans, the holiday is a great time to relax at home with family and friends. But there are quite a few people who celebrate the holiday by getting out of town, with an estimated 33 million people traveling more than 50 miles over Labor Day weekend each year. If you’re dreaming of a great Labor Day escape but you’re not quite sure where to go, here are a few ideas from our team at Springs Family Dentistry to give you some travel inspiration.

Explore a National Park

On a national holiday like Labor Day, it’s only fitting to experience the beauty of America’s landscapes by heading to the nearest national park. If you’re confined to an office most days of the year, national parks can provide a relaxing and scenic escape, whether you’re by yourself, traveling with a group of friends, or bringing the whole family along. Depending on how close you live to the nearest park, you can stay for an afternoon or for longer than a week. With 58 parks located in 27 states, there are plenty of beautiful areas to choose from.

Chow Down in a BBQ Haven

Barbecuing is a popular Labor Day activity, but instead of sweating over your own grill or oven, try visiting one of the country’s BBQ capitals. U.S. News and World Report names Memphis as the top BBQ destination, with more than 80 BBQ restaurants in the city, most notably Corky’s BBQ and Central BBQ. Kansas City is also known for the sweet taste of its sauces, while central Texas is said to have perfected the technique of smoking tender and flavorful brisket.

Relax on the Beach

Many people think of Labor Day as the unofficial start of fall, which brings cooler temperatures, more rain, and for many people, an end to lazy days at the beach. End your beach days with a bang by taking a trip to one of the coasts or to a lakeside beach. For an added dose of festivity, find a city or town that celebrates the occasion with a fireworks display over the water.

Whether you’re looking to turn your getaway into a full week affair or you simply want to experience a quick escape, make the most of your holiday by changing your surrounding scenery. Happy Labor Day from the dental practice of Dr. Hawkins!

The Evolution of the Toothbrush

August 26th, 2015

Oral hygiene has always been an important part of maintaining overall health. For thousands of years, humans have found ways to keep their teeth and mouths clean. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), “early forms of the toothbrush have existed for nearly 5,000 years.” But what exactly did the first toothbrush look like?

Toothbrush Timeline

With help from The Library of Congress, Dr. Hawkins and our team have compiled a timeline with some interesting details about the evolution of the toothbrush:

  • 3000 BC – Perhaps the earliest form of the toothbrush, the “chew stick” was used by Ancient civilizations. People would rub this thin twig with a frayed end against their teeth to remove food and plaque.
  • 1498 – The bristle toothbrush was invented in China and had many similarities to the toothbrushes used today. These devices were made by attaching the stiff, coarse hairs from the back of a hog’s neck to handles that were typically made from bone or bamboo.
  • 1938 – Signaling the end of the boar bristle, Dupont de Nemours introduced nylon bristles, and Americans welcomed Doctor West’s Miracle Toothbrush, the first nylon toothbrush.
  • 1960 – The Squibb Company introduced Broxodent, one of the first electric toothbrushes, to the American market.

Toothbrushes Today

Today, there are many brands of toothbrushes that often advertise different benefits. The variety of options may seem overwhelming, but the most important thing is for you to find a toothbrush that you like and find easy to use.

The ADA recommends that you choose a toothbrush that fits comfortably and allows you to effectively reach all areas of your mouth. Whether you decide to use a manual or a powered toothbrush, make sure that you thoroughly clean all surfaces of your teeth twice a day.

Society has come a long way since the days of the chew stick, but one thing that remains the same is the importance of consistent and effective personal oral hygiene.

Don’t procrastinate about dental work!

August 21st, 2015

When you have dental issues or just need routine care, you may try to put off making an appointment at Springs Family Dentistry. Common reasons for procrastination are not having the time or fear of pain. Avoiding Dr. Hawkins is not a good idea, though. Putting off dental care can turn small problems into large ones. Short appointments turn into long ones with significantly more work and expense.

What happens when you wait?

The small cavity that could have been filled easily has turned into a large cavity. The larger the cavity, the more work required to fill it. However, this is only a minor problem compared to more advanced issues. The minor toothache you are trying to ignore could be a small fracture or an abscess. Small fractures can sometimes be repaired, but if you wait and the fracture increases, you may need to get a crown.

An abscess can be treated in the early stages. Ignoring an abscessed tooth may lead to root damage and the need for a root canal. Infection can spread to other teeth, which multiplies the damage. These treatments will require more of your time than you would have spent taking care of the problem early.

Perhaps you are just putting off a routine cleaning. Even if you brush, rinse, and floss the way you are supposed to, you need a professional cleaning at Springs Family Dentistry. Plaque that is left behind hardens into calculus or tartar that you cannot remove by yourself. A build-up of calculus can also lead to gum disease.

Unfortunately, avoiding appointments due to a lack of time may mean that you have to give up substantially more time later on. You also can experience needless pain from tooth problems. It’s always best to visit Dr. Hawkins for regularly scheduled cleanings and exams to ensure your smile stays healthy and beautiful.

What's in toothpaste and how does it work?

August 19th, 2015

Dr. Hawkins and our team recommend that you brush your teeth two to three times a day, for at least two minutes each time. But have you ever wondered what’s in toothpaste and how it actually works? The mouth is home to more than 500 types of microorganisms that feed on leftover food that gets stuck on and around your teeth. Toothpaste is the best line of defense against all those pesky microorganisms (especially when you brush two to three times a day). Here’s how it works.

Abrasives

Toothpaste contains mild abrasive additives that combat microorganisms and fight plaque. When you brush, the abrasives in toothpaste dislodge food particles and microorganisms more effectively than if you simply brush your teeth with water. The abrasives also work to remove food stains and polish the surface of the tooth. Some toothpastes include ingredients like triclosan and Xylitol. These chemicals prevent the growth of bacteria that produce plaque. Plaque not only causes cavities, but it can also lead to more dangerous issues like periodontal disease.

Fluoride

Fluoride is key ingredient in toothpaste. As the microorganisms in your mouth feed off the leftover food particles, they leave behind acid and sulfur byproducts that wear away the enamel of the teeth. This is the fancy, technical way of saying that the acid on your teeth causes cavities. As for the sulfur byproduct –well, that’s just a fancy, scientific name for bad breath. Fluoride works to fight the acid and help protect the teeth. By brushing, the fluoride is incorporated into the tooth enamel, which in turn makes the tooth more resistant to acid and plaque.

Flavoring and Sweetening Agents

Not all toothpaste tastes the same, right? The type of flavoring or sweetening agents added to the toothpaste doesn't have anything to do with fighting microorganisms and plaque, but taste is one of the most important selling points in finding a toothpaste brand you like. Flavoring agents mask the taste of some of the other ingredients in toothpaste, and without those agents chances are nobody would be brushing their teeth two to three time a day.

Little-known Dangers To Teeth

August 11th, 2015

pool

Chlorine from swimming pool water can cause dental abrasion – so swim in saltwater when possible. Acidic beverages such as lemonade and sports drinks can weaken tooth enamel, so drink water instead – or have at least a glass of water after consuming one of these acidic drinks. White wine is more acidic than red wine and can erode tooth enamel, so drink water or eat bread between sips of wine. Berry juice and smoothies can discolor teeth – drink them with a straw to help the liquid pass to the back of your mouth, avoiding the teeth.

What stinks?

August 5th, 2015

Spilling soda on someone’s white shirt, telling an off-color joke at an inappropriate time, or sneezing chewed food all over the dinner table all pale in comparison to the socially unacceptable, embarrassing blunder of having ... bad breath!

Five Possible Causes of Halitosis

  • Poor oral hygiene practices. Failing to brush your teeth encourages anaerobic bacteria growth, which involves a type of bacteria that emits volatile sulfur compounds (gases) responsible for smelly breath.
  • If you have tonsils, you may have tonsil stones embedded in the fissures of your tonsils. Tonsil stones are hard, tiny pieces of bacteria, dead oral tissue, and mucus that form inside tonsil crevices. When accidentally chewed, they release extremely foul odors that others can smell and you can actually taste.
  • You have a chronically dry mouth due to medications, allergies, or persistent sinus conditions that force you to breathe through your mouth. Anaerobic bacteria thrive in dry, stagnant environments where oxygen content is minimal. Consequently, a dry mouth tends to lead to smelly breath.
  • You have acid indigestion or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). If you constantly belch stomach gases, this not only causes your breath to smell fetid but it can lead to enamel erosion and tooth decay.
  • You have one or more oral diseases: gingivitis, periodontitis, or infections in the gums known as abscesses.

Improving oral hygiene practices may eliminate bad breath, but if brushing, flossing, and rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash twice a day doesn’t stop people from backing away from you when you open your mouth, it’s time to visit Springs Family Dentistry.

What is gum disease?

July 22nd, 2015

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is an infection of the gum tissues, and is something seen all too often by Dr. Hawkins. Extending from inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) to more serious infections and complications (periodontitis), there is a wide range of gum disease severity.

Not only does gum disease affect the health of your mouth and teeth, but according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, it can affect your general health as well. This is because an infection in the mouth as a result of gum disease can travel to other parts of your body through the bloodstream. Gum disease is also a risk factor for heart disease, and can play a role in blood sugar levels.

Causes and Risk Factors

Gum disease is essentially caused by the build-up of bacteria in your mouth. If you brush and floss every day, this bacteria is washed away, but if not, it turns into plaque. If left unchecked, this plaque buildup can lead to gum disease.

Some of the common risk factors for gum disease include not taking good care of your teeth, failing to have one’s teeth cleaned every six months, experiencing hormonal changes, smoking cigarettes, developing diabetes, being genetically exposed to gum disease, or taking certain types of medications.

Gingivitis versus Periodontitis

There are two main types of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis. Both are bad for you, but gingivitis is less severe. It is typically the first stage, and involves inflammation of the gums from plaque and tartar on the teeth. If your gums are swollen and bleed, this is a sign of gingivitis.

Periodontitis, a more severe case of gum disease, occurs when your gums pull away from the teeth and pockets form. These pockets are a concern because they can harbor infection.

Treatments for Gum Disease

Treatments for gum disease depend on the cause and severity. Deep cleaning to remove the plaque underneath the gum line – called root scaling and planing – is one of the most common treatments for gum disease. Antibiotics placed under the gums to rid you of an infection or reduce the inflammation may also be advised. In some cases, surgical procedures, including flap surgery and bone and tissue grafts, are needed.

If you have bleeding or swollen gums, pockets between your gums and teeth, pain, or other issues, you might have gum disease. Visit Springs Family Dentistry for an exam and learn the best course of action.

The Secret to Lifelong Teeth Whitening

July 8th, 2015

Have you ever noticed your attention being instantly drawn to peoples’ teeth when they smile at you? Some people have dull and yellowing teeth, while others have teeth that appear bright white. Everyone’s teeth naturally dull over time because of aging and the contact your teeth have with staining foods, such as chocolate and coffee. However, teeth-whitening treatments can help you keep your teeth white for life.

Get Regular Treatments

The effects of teeth whitening or bleaching treatments are only temporary, so regular treatments at Springs Family Dentistry are necessary to keep your teeth white for life. Bleaching too frequently, though, can wear away your tooth enamel. The effects of in-office bleaching can last for several months to a year, while you may need to repeat your use of at-home bleaching kits every few months to maintain your white teeth. Whitening toothpastes do not contain bleach, so you can use them daily. The American Dental Association suggests asking your dentist for advice on which treatment is best for you.

Have Realistic Expectations

Not everyone’s teeth can be turned bright white, according to the American Dental Association. Your teeth may naturally be a light yellowish color that lends itself well to teeth-whitening procedures, but bleach is not likely to be effective for grayish teeth. Brownish teeth fall somewhere in between.

Practice Good Oral Hygiene

Your teeth whitening efforts will not be as effective if your teeth are in poor health. Visible fillings, implants, or bridges that are metallic stand out against the white color you want to achieve. You can help prevent tooth decay and reduce your risk of needing these unsightly treatments by maintaining a good oral hygiene routine. In addition to brushing your teeth twice a day to remove dirt and potential staining agents, the actions below can promote a healthy mouth.

  • Floss every day
  • Visit Springs Family Dentistry regularly
  • Rinse your mouth with water after each meal and snack
  • Limit sugary and starchy foods and beverages, especially between meals

Happy Fourth of July

July 1st, 2015

Every year, Americans all over the world celebrate the birth of the country and its independence on the Fourth of July. There are countless ways that people celebrate and they range from community parades and large scale gatherings to concerts, fireworks displays, and smaller scale celebrations among family and friends. For some people, July 4th is synonymous with baseball, while for others it is all about the beach of barbecues. However you celebrate, you can be sure that red, white, and blue is visible everywhere throughout the area.

The Beginnings of Fourth of July Celebrations

Although it wasn't officially designated as a federal holiday until 1941, the actual tradition of celebrating Independence Day goes back to the time of the American Revolution (1775 – 1783). At the time of the American Revolution, representatives from the 13 colonies penned the resolution that ultimately declared their independence from Great Britain. The continental congress voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence on July 2nd of 1776. Two days later, Thomas Jefferson's famous document that is now known as the Declaration of Independence, was adopted by delegates representing the 13 colonies.

First States to Recognize the Fourth of July

In 1781, Massachusetts became the first state (or commonwealth) whose legislature resolved to designate July 4th as the date on which to celebrate the country's independence. Two years later, Boston became the first city to make an official designation to honor the country's birth with a holiday on July 4th. In that same year, North Carolina's governor, Alexander Martin, became the first governor to issue an official state order stipulating that July 4th was the day on which North Carolinians would celebrate the country's independence.

Fun Facts About the Fourth of July

  • The reason the stars on the original flag were arranged in a circle is because it was believed that would indicate that all of the colonies were equal.
  • Americans eat over 150 million hot dogs on July 4th.
  • Imports of fireworks each year totals over $211 million.
  • The first “official” Fourth of July party took place at the White House in 1801.
  • Benjamin Franklin didn't want the national bird to be the bald eagle. He believed that the turkey was better suited to the coveted distinction. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson disagreed with him, and he was outvoted, so the bald eagle became the official bird of the United States.

For many, the tradition is something entirely different. Along the coastal areas of the United States, people may haul out huge pots to have lobster or other types of seafood boils. Others may spend the day in the bleachers at a baseball game, or at a park, cooking a great traditional meal over an open fire. No matter how or where you celebrate, one thing is certain: all Americans celebrate July 4th as the birth and independence of our country.

Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry wish you a safe and happy Fourth of July!

Steer clear of that candy!

June 24th, 2015

At Springs Family Dentistry, we know how tempting candy can sometimes be on our sweet tooth, but it’s important to remember that every candy and sugary treat you consume elevates your risk of developing tooth decay, which can break down your teeth.

While not all bad in moderation, when eaten in excess, candy can lead to big problems, especially if good oral hygiene habits are not followed. We have a few helpful tips if you just can’t stay away from all those treats:

1. Consume candy and other sweets during meals when your saliva can help neutralize the acids that are found in some candies, especially the sour variety.

2. Avoid sticky or hard candies, which can stay in your mouth longer than you think, resulting in acids being constantly exposed to your teeth. That leads to cavities and tooth decay.

3. Make sure the water you drink is fluoridated. Water that is fluoridated has been shown to help prevent cavities.

4. Make sure to maintain your daily oral hygiene habits. This includes brushing twice a day, and flossing at least once.

5. Visit our office twice a year for regular dental checkups and cleanings with Dr. Hawkins. During your visit, we can help catch problems such as cavities early to reduce the effects they have on your teeth, as well as give you tips for improving your oral health.

We hope these tips have helped! To learn more about cavity prevention, or to schedule your next visit at our convenient Longwood, FL office, please give us a call!

Mouthguard Q&A

June 17th, 2015

Today, Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry thought we would talk about mouthguards, what they are, where to get them, and when to use them.

Q: What is a mouthguard?

A: A mouthguard, which is made of soft plastic, is a flexible, removable device that fits in your mouth and is adapted to fit comfortably to the shape of your upper teeth. A mouthguard will protect not only the teeth, but also your jaws, lips, tongue, cheeks, and gums, and should be worn anytime you are participating in full-contact athletic or recreational activities that may result in injury.

Q: How do mouthguards work? Why are mouthguards important?

A: A mouthguard works as a shock absorber to cushion your mouth from the effects of a blow to the face, head, or neck. Mouthguards protect teeth from not only fractures, but also hold the tongue, lips, and cheeks away from the teeth to avoid lacerations. Using a mouthguard as instructed by Dr. Hawkins can lessen the possibility of concussion and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dislocation while you are out on the court or field. Increasingly, organized sports are requiring mouthguards to prevent injury to athletes, and research shows most mouth injuries occur when athletes are not wearing mouth protection.

Q: When should I wear a mouthguard?

A: Whenever you are participating in an activity that involves a risk of falling or head contact with other players. This includes football, baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, and other competitive sports.

Q: How do I choose a mouthguard?

A: Dr. Hawkins and our team encourage you to choose a mouthguard that you can wear comfortably. There are several options of mouthguards you may choose from. First, preformed or what we call “boil-to-fit” mouthguards are found in sports stores. But your best choice is asking us for one during your next visit as we can fabricate a custom mouthguard for you at our Longwood, FL office. A custom mouthguard will be more comfortable to wear and more effective in preventing injuries.

If you have any additional questions about mouthguards, please give us a call or ask us during your next visit!

Early Detection is Key to Treating Oral Cancer

June 10th, 2015

Every hour of every day, someone in North America dies of oral cancer, the sixth most common diagnosed form of the disease. The five-year survival rate is only 50 percent, and oral cancer is one of the few cancers whose survival rate has not improved.

This grim statistic may make you think that oral cancer is a particularly deadly form, when in fact the high death rate has more to do with how late in its development oral cancer is detected. Routine screening is the key to early detection and survival, and in our continuing efforts to provide the most advanced technology and highest quality care available to our patients at Springs Family Dentistry, we proudly screen our patients for oral cancer.

So, who’s at risk for oral cancer?

Anyone can develop oral cancer, but some people are at a higher risk. These high-risk groups include those over the age of 50 and men, who are twice as likely as women to develop the disease. Smoking or chewing smokeless tobacco products, consuming alcohol excessively, and constant exposure to the sun at a young age are also risk factors.

How is oral cancer detected?

Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry suggest our patients perform a monthly self-examination to check for unusual red or white patches, sores, lumps, or thickenings anywhere inside the mouth, on the lips, or in the throat and neck area.

We encourage you to give us a call at our convenient Longwood, FL office if you find any of these symptoms or if you have trouble swallowing or experience a chronic sore throat and hoarseness. During your visit, Dr. Hawkins will inspect the oral tissues and neck to determine if abnormalities are present.

What happens if oral cancer is detected?

If we discover abnormal tissues during your visit, a biopsy will be required. The results from the biopsy will be sent to a laboratory to determine if the cells are cancerous or precancerous. If a diagnosis of cancer is made, surgery, as well as treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation may be necessary. Dr. Hawkins and our team will work closely with your oncologist and other members of your medical team to ensure that you achieve the best possible oral health care both during and after treatment.

Finding out you have oral cancer can be devastating news. If you are concerned that you might be at risk for developing oral cancer, talk to us about screenings and other things you can do to reduce your risk. Through a routine visual inspection, Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry can often detect premalignant abnormalities and cancer at an early stage when treatment is both less expensive and more successful, and can potentially save your life. Ask us about a screening during your next visit!

Healthy Summer Foods

June 3rd, 2015

It’s summer—that wonderful time of year when fresh and delicious produce abounds. Dr. Hawkins will tell you that your teeth, gums, and tissues all rely on an appropriate mix of vitamins and minerals to maintain good oral health no matter what time of year. In previous studies, nutrients in fruits and vegetables such as dietary fiber, potassium, and antioxidants have all been associated with a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease and cancers, including oral cancer.

Here are four foods we want you to enjoy this summer to ensure a healthy mouth:

Watermelons and Strawberries

Watermelons have high water content, which dilutes the affects of the sugars they contain and stimulates the flow of saliva. In addition, research shows that eating foods full of water (watermelon is 92 percent water) helps keep you satiated on fewer calories. Finally, in addition to containing skin-protecting lycopene, eating watermelon can help you stay hydrated during the summer months, which not only keeps your memory sharp and your mood stable, but also helps keep your body cool.

Strawberries are juicy and delicious, and they’re also considered a superfood. Nutrient-rich and packed with antioxidants (such as vitamin C, which can help with cancer prevention), strawberries also promote eye health, help fight bad cholesterol, and regulate blood pressure.

Apples

Did you know consuming apples can help you attain whiter, healthier teeth? It’s true. Biting and chewing an apple stimulates the production of saliva in your mouth, and in the process, lowers the levels of bacteria and other harmful acids, leading to a lower likelihood of tooth decay. Apple consumption can also boost your immune system, reducing cholesterol and helping you avoid Alzheimer’s and Parkinson's diseases. Finally, eating an apple a day has been linked to heart health, including a lower risk of death from both coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a delicious and healthy snack and can help you ward off cancer. The yummy red fruit contains lycopene, which helps protect your skin from sunburn. Tomatoes can also help you fight heart disease due to the niacin, folate, and vitamin B6 nutrients they contain. They’re high in crucial antioxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin A, which work to prevent DNA damage.

The Secret to Fresh Breath

May 27th, 2015

Bad breath: We’ve all dealt with it. You’ve been around people who have it and, like it or not, you have had it yourself. It can be embarrassing and uncomfortable, but how do you know if you have it? There is actually a simple test you can do to see if you have bad breath.

Wash your hands well, then put your finger in your mouth, way in the back. Scrape a little saliva from the back of your tongue, and then dab it on the back of your hand. Wait for one minute, then hold your hand to your nose and sniff. Is it fresh as a daisy? Or do you need to keep reading and learn how to freshen your breath?

How Bad Breath Starts

There are several ways that bad breath starts. Knowing the causes of bad breath is a solid start toward the cure.

  • The bacteria in your mouth: Bacteria is always in your mouth. It covers your gums, hides between your teeth, and hangs out on your tongue. As it multiplies, it produces toxins that cause the foul odor in your mouth.
  • Your bad habits: If you smoke cigarettes, a pipe, or cigars, or chew tobacco, you are not only harming your mouth and body, you are creating some really smelly breath.
  • Your tonsils: If you still have your tonsils, they can be the cause of bad breath. They are pitted, so smelly substances can collect in the pits and lead to bad breath.
  • Stomach issues: A stomach virus, ulcer, GERD, and other stomach issues could be the cause of your bad breath. A low-carb diet can put your body into a state of ketosis, which causes very bad breath.
  • The foods you eat: Garlic, onion, and other pungent foods will linger with you … on your breath.

Tips for Busting Bad Breath

Achieving fresh breath isn’t difficult, but it does require a little work. Try these tips for fresher breath and a healthier mouth.

  • Brush your teeth after every meal. You can also pick up a tongue scraper to use a couple of times a day to remove any lingering bacteria on your tongue.
  • Floss once a day to remove food particles between your teeth as well as plaque. Your mouth will thank you.
  • Gargle with special mouthwash to banish bad breath. The oxygen in it will kill the bacteria in your mouth that is causing your bad breath, and leave you fresh as a daisy!
  • Drink water to avoid dry mouth, which is a common cause of bad breath.
  • Ease your tummy troubles with antacids and other remedies. Ginger tea is a great tummy tamer.
  • Chew gum that contains xylitol. Saliva keeps your mouth moist, and chewing gum makes you salivate. Bye bye, bad breath!
  • Eat yogurt. It contains “good” bacteria that helps balance your gut and gives you a healthier mouth.
  • Soothe your sinuses. Sinus infections can cause you to have bad breath. Actually, it is the post-nasal drip that causes the foul odor. Cure the infection and your breath will improve.
  • Avoid all tobacco products (cigarettes, pipes, cigars, chewing tobacco, and snuff).
  • Eat a healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains.

And don't forget! Get regular dental checkups at Springs Family Dentistry.

Memorial Day and Getting Ready for Summer

May 21st, 2015

Memorial Day didn't become an official holiday until 1971, but Americans started gathering annually in the spring to remember those who lost their lives in war during the 1860s, right after the Civil War. Celebrated on the last Monday in May, people still decorate the grave sites of war veterans and hold memorial services, but Memorial Day has also evolved into a day that signifies the beginning of summer.

During the summer months, many people take road trips to visit family members. Some head off to the airport to enjoy a long-awaited vacation far away, while others look forward to spending time with friends and family at home. However you spend Memorial Day and the subsequent summer months, there are a few things you can take care of to ensure your summertime is enjoyable.

Checklist for an Enjoyable Summer

  • Have the AC Checked. During the hottest days of summer, many families find themselves sweating it out due to a broken air conditioning system. Be proactive so you can avoid waiting for hours or days because the HVAC repair person is booked solid. Have your air conditioning system checked before or around Memorial Day each year.
  • Ensure Security While You're Away. When you leave for vacation, the last thing you should have to worry about is the security of your home. Install a home security system, if possible, and put a timer on your lights so they go on and off at normal hours. You can also alert your local police department that you'll be gone, and ask them to drive by your house once in a while to make sure everything is okay.
  • Visit Dr. Hawkins Before Vacation. Many people put off exams until after summer vacation. Avoid the crowds and make sure your physical and oral health are in top shape prior to vacation time so there are no unpleasant surprises.

Our team at Springs Family Dentistry wants you to look forward to Memorial Day and the days of summer by preparing to spend the time safely and comfortably. As you plan ahead, take care of your health and secure your home, you can place your focus on creating memories with family members and friends while enjoying your favorite Memorial Day traditions.

Tips for Managing Oral Pain

May 13th, 2015

Experiencing tooth or oral pain is not fun. If you cannot get to Springs Family Dentistry right away, the pain may even seem to increase. The old saying that a tooth will stop hurting once you get to a dentist is not that far from true. However, there are many tips you can try to relieve your oral pain until you can see Dr. Hawkins.

Common Pain Relief Options

First, try to determine the source of the pain. This is sometimes not possible, but it may help. If you are experiencing pain between your teeth or along the gum line, try swishing some warm salt water in your mouth. One teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of warm (not hot) water is all you need.

The pain you are experiencing could be a particle of food stuck under your gum. You can also try flossing as long as bleeding is not present. Salt water soothes other mouth irritations to reduce pain.

You can try over-the-counter pain relievers, including oral medications or topical gels. Avoid taking aspirin; it thins your blood, which could end up being a problem for dental work. Wash your hands before applying any topical pain treatments to avoid spreading germs.

Clove Oil

Clove oil works quickly to relieve most oral pain. Place a few drops of clove oil on a damp cotton ball and place the cotton in your mouth near the painful area. Do not use this method overnight, because you don’t want to swallow the cotton.

Whole cloves can also be used, but try to remove any sharp edges first. Place a few pieces in your mouth and allow your saliva to soften the clove. Some sources say that chewing the clove helps, but you shouldn’t do this if you have a fractured tooth.

Other Household Remedies

If you have cough drops that include benzocaine or menthol, you can try sucking on a cough drop for relief. Placing a warm, wet tea bag against a painful oral area can sometimes reduce the pain as well.

Toothpastes designed to relieve pain from sensitive teeth may work. While these pastes do take time to reach full effectiveness, they can be helpful if you have to wait several days.

Remember that these tips are only designed to provide temporary pain relief. You need to schedule an appointment at Springs Family Dentistry quickly. Call and schedule an emergency appointment with Dr. Hawkins as soon as possible.

Wishing all our moms a happy Mother’s Day!

May 6th, 2015

"Motherhood: All love begins and ends there." - Robert Browning

We would like to take this moment to thank all the great moms out there for being so great during their child’s visits to Springs Family Dentistry. Whether it’s driving their kids to regularly scheduled appointments or for “being there” while their child is treatment, the moms who come to our office are all stellar individuals, so Dr. Hawkins and our entire staff would like you to know that we appreciate you all!

Happy Mother’s Day and enjoy your special day!

Tips for Keeping Mouths Healthy While Eating Sweets

May 1st, 2015

1. Avoid snacking on candy, as well as drinking sugary beverages, throughout the day. Instead enjoy these treats after mealtimes, as increased saliva production from a meal will help prevent tooth decay.
2. Be wary of chewy candies like taffy, which stick to your teeth longer than chocolate, and hard candies that take longer to consume. The longer a sugary food is in your mouth, the higher the risk for tooth decay.
3. Choose sugarless gum as a candy alternative, as chewing sugarless gum after meals helps reduce tooth decay by increasing saliva flow that helps to wash out food and dental plaque bacteria.
4. Balance out the increase of sugary candies by avoiding sugary beverages such as sodas and sports drinks. Instead drink fluoridated water which can help reduce cavities by 20 to 40 percent.
5. Eating foods that are calcium-rich (such as leafy greens, cheese and almonds) and protein-rich (such as meat, eggs, fish and beans) can help rebuild tooth enamel and bone.

How do OTC whitening treatments compare to in-office whitening?

April 29th, 2015

If you are unhappy with the color of your teeth, teeth whitening may be an excellent choice for you. Many patients of Dr. Hawkins suffer from darkened teeth due to the natural aging process, regular consumption of coffee or tea, or nicotine staining from cigarettes.

Some people may have darkened teeth due to long-term use of medication. Certain medication-related stains on the teeth cannot be lightened, but virtually every other type of teeth stains can be effectively lightened using either professional dental whitening or at-home whitening.

While both types of whitening have benefits, at-home kits are less expensive and less effective overall. Professional teeth whitening is a highly effective option, but it requires a bit more of an investment. Here is the basic info on each type of whitening.

At-Home Whitening

At-home whitening is done in a number of different ways today. Some of the most popular options include:

  • Whitening strips that are applied to teeth and then removed after a specified period. These will typically be used once a day for at least a week.
  • Whitening gels or pastes that are placed in a one-size-fits-all plastic tray. These trays are worn, retainer style, for a set period of time once a day.
  • Whitening toothpaste, which is used daily, and whitening mouthwashes are also available today. These products require constant use to realize results.

In-Office Whitening

In-office whitening is the fastest way to achieve whiter teeth. If you want an almost immediate difference in the color of your teeth and their overall appearance, this is probably the option for you.

Dr. Hawkins will typically apply the whitening formula directly to your teeth. Following the application, we will have you relax in our office between half an hour and an hour.

Some office-whitening formulas are strengthened with the use of heat, specialized lighting, or laser application. Patients will usually notice whitening results after only one application, but it usually takes at least a few appointments at Springs Family Dentistry to notice a truly dramatic change in tooth color.

How do you get little ones to brush their teeth? Part III

April 24th, 2015

Ok, so you’ve caught your slippery, slimy jumping frog, otherwise known as your two year old and it’s time to brush his or her teeth. In the past two segments we’ve tried eliminating the fear, using peer pressure, counting to five, naming your child’s teeth and even getting them a Brushing Buddy, in order to complete the toothbrushing ritual. Here’s the last of my tips – good luck, you’re gonna need it!

FIND THE RIGHT TOOTHBRUSH
Parents always ask me which toothbrush is the best. The best toothbrush is the one your child will allow you to use; the one that helps them want to brush their teeth. Some kids are excited by Barney, some by Cinderella and others by Spiderman. Get the toothbrush that your child accepts and excites them about toothbrushing. Please note that this may mean having multiple tooth brushes for different days or different moods!

REWARD SUCCESS
Keeping track of successful toothbrushing sessions is helpful. A calendar stuck to the mirror is fun or a sticker on a chart can be a reward for a job well done. After your child earns a set number of stickers, or at the end of each month, offer your child a prize like a new toothbrush or new toothpaste flavor.

WATCH TV
Who was it that said brushing had to be in the bathroom? Maybe a change of scenery is in order. How about the living room while the TV is on? I'm not advocating television as a substitute to personal interaction but let's be truthful - for some people, TV is a visual narcotic with sedative effects and, depending on the challenges facing each family, this may be a viable option. You also can experiment with iPad/iPhone apps for brushing, too. We've tried "Teeth Timer;' "Monster Mouth;' "Ali's Teeth Out" and "ibrush," to name a few.

TRY A TAG TEAM
Of course, there will always be children out there who are destined for the World Wrestling Federation. No amount of coaxing, singing, counting, pleading, begging or stickers is going to convince this little athlete that clean teeth are better than dirty ones. In this situation, I might suggest a two-person brushing technique I call the "Tag Team:'
This brushing technique can be rough, but consistency and routine will make things better over time. Here's how it works:
• Find an adult partner and sit knee to knee.
• Lay your child's head in your lap while the other adult supports your child's body in his/her lap.
• Have your partner lean forward and hold your child's arms and legs while you brush the teeth from above. This position will allow for better access and visibility to the operator/brusher. (Note:
I feel that using toothpaste in this position can be particularly unpleasant for children because it can run down the back of their throat. Please remember to take breaks and allow your child to swallow or clear his mouth. Better yet, use a dry toothbrush while lying down and toothpaste when in the upright position.)

I hope these ideas can help you or someone you know. To keep my grandsons interested in toothbrushing, I need to come up with something new every sleepover night. It's not always successful and it can be frustrating. However, most of our successes are a variation on the ideas I’ve presented in these three segments.

For many children, routine and familiarity rule the roost, so changing the order in which teeth are brushed or even the song you sing while brushing can cause stress. There is nothing wrong with that. Find what works and sail with it.

Make Every Day Earth Day

April 22nd, 2015

Earth Day began in 1970 as an event to raise awareness of our environment. What began as a single day in April is now recognized around the world to bring attention and education to global environmental issues. Conserving our natural resources, reducing water and air pollution, and developing green technologies are all ways in which we can improve the environment around us.

Reduce, Recycle, and Reuse

One of the easiest ways to participate in Earth Day is by simply reducing the amount of refuse that ends up in landfills. Many communities have recycling programs for paper, plastic, and metal refuse. By keeping recyclable items out of landfills, we reduce the need for new disposal space and the amount of energy needed for burning refuse. Recycling products also helps conserve the resources that are used in making new products.

You can save money by reducing your consumption of many everyday products. Single disposable water bottles can be recycled but they are costly. By using filtered faucet water, you can conserve your financial resources. Disposable paper towels can also be wasteful. Consider reusable cleaning rags for the majority of your chores.

Reusing items saves both the environment and your finances. A large number of products can be re-purposed to create a new item. Old furniture can be remade into a new piece. Old clothing can be used for craft items. If you are not able to find ways to reuse your old items, donate them to a charity. Remember to continue your positive environmental steps on a daily basis.

Other things you can do to improve the environment

Everyone, young or old, can find ways to participate in improving the environment. Some ideas include:

  • Planting trees
  • Picking up litter
  • Reducing energy consumption
  • Walking, bicycling, or carpooling to work or school
  • Disposing of hazardous waste properly
  • Using rain barrels to conserve water for plants

Earth Day is designed to appreciate and celebrate the health of the earth. Keeping the earth healthy is important, but keeping your mouth healthy is important, too. Healthy teeth and gums contribute to your overall health and well-being, so remember to call our team at Springs Family Dentistry to schedule an appointment. Have a happy and healthy Earth Day, from Dr. Hawkins!

How do you get little ones to brush their teeth? Part II

April 17th, 2015

Last time we discussed how to tackle a slippery octopus, otherwise know a 2 year old, in order to brush their teeth. My 2 year old grandson can be like a jellyfish – one minute you have a hold of him the next he’s hiding behind the couch – squishing right through your hands! Here’s a few more things you can try at toothbrushing time with your small children, Tips 3-6:

COUNT TO FIVE
Try having your own teeth brushed vigorously by a laughing 4-year-old and a 2-year-old with poor hand-eye coordination - that taught me another important lesson: When brushing, it's important to take breaks. Brushing all four fourths of your mouth without a break can feel claustrophobic and suffocating to a child. So, every sleep-over night I brush to five. At five, we stop, close our mouths, swallow, take a breath, open our mouths and brush to five again. To make it fun, sometimes I sing to five, sometimes I count like Arnold Schwarzenegger and sometimes I count in Spanish. But I always stop at five. I don't want to ruin his trust; it's fragile. This means I may count to five an average of 10 times a night if that's how many times it takes to get clean.

NAME YOUR CHILD’S TEETH
I've found that giving each tooth a name is fun. This works at home or in the dental office. For new patient exams, I'll give each tooth I see a name. "I see Abby and Betsy and Candice and Dorothy. Hello Everett, Freddy and Grayson.” Children find it amazing that so many names could fit in their mouth.

ADOPT A BRUSING BUDDY
Some kids are teachers - they like to lead the group and tell everyone else what to do. For these young scholars, I might suggest a Brushing Buddy. A Brushing Buddy can be a teddy bear, a doll or any similar inanimate object. It should not be your cat, dog or similar living creature! Have your young educator demonstrate good toothbrushing habits to his Brushing Buddy. Maybe even buy your child's Brushing Buddy its own toothbrush.

How do I make my child’s diet safe for his or her teeth?

April 15th, 2015

The food you feed your child can have a lasting effect on his or her oral health. In fact, diet plays a major role in whether a child develops cavities and decay, which can lead to many dental visits and potential tooth loss. So what should you feed your child to ensure he or she has a healthy smile for life?

Foods to Avoid

It is normal for your child to take interest in many foods -- especially those filled with sugar and carbohydrates. But as tasty as these foods are, they can cause rapid decay when eaten in excess. That’s not to say your child can never have sugar again. Dr. Hawkins and our staff suggest limiting starchy and sugary foods such as candy and potato chips as much as possible.

Remember that some seemingly healthy foods can present the threat of decay too. Some of the most common culprits are sticky foods like peanut butter, raisins, and granola bars, which can stick to the teeth after eating. If you serve these foods to your child, be sure to have him or her brush immediately after eating to remove any lingering sugary residue.

Beverages

Many beverages marketed toward children contain sugar servings that far exceed the daily recommendations from national health organizations. They suggest no more than three to four teaspoons of added sugar per day for young children.

Make an effort to serve only water to your child any time other than meal times. During meals, allow your child to have milk or juice, but in limited serving sizes. Most importantly, never allow your young child to sleep with a bottle or “sippie cup” full of juice or milk. Doing so can cause rapid tooth decay: a condition known as “baby bottle caries.”

A Healthy and Balance Diet

So long as your child is brushing regularly and eating a healthy, balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains, you should have little or no problem with tooth decay. For more questions about how your child’s diet affects his or her oral health, contact our Longwood, FL office to schedule a consultation.

How do you get little ones to brush their teeth? Part I

April 10th, 2015

How do you get little ones to brush their teeth? First you have to catch them! This is a problem, especially for 2 year olds. They can be like a slippery octopus! Even after you catch your child, how do you clean his or her teeth? How do you convince this young child to participate in toothbrush time? You do not want to put your fingers near his or her teeth – yes, you should be very scared. You see, little ones do not care about cavities, girls or boys, inflation or clean rooms. They care about Thomas the Tank Engine, red rocket ships and dinosaurs or My First Purse Kidoozie, Princess Bowtique Minnie Mouse and Pinky Cosmetic Set. Two year olds are turned on by fun and off by necessity, you’ll have to relearn and invent new ways to keep toothbrushing exciting for them. Over the next two weeks I’ll share 10 tips based on my experience.
Here’s # 1 and 2

BANISH THE FEAR
If someone sticks a foreign object in your face, you will pull away. The same is true for kids. That's why it's important to let your child hold and play with the toothbrush before you begin brushing. I gave the brush
to my 2 year old grandson while he was in the tub and an amazing thing happened. My grandson dunked it in the water and sucked on it. He thought it was a marvelous invention for drinking and didn't understand why he couldn't use it at the dinner table. The toothbrush ceased to be scary and now is a fun object.

USE PEER PRESSURE
Kids love to copy. They have a natural desire to mimic fun activities. This is how our brains learn about society and the world around us. I must not be fun - my grandson will not copy me. He only wants to copy his big brother. He looks up to him figuratively and literally. I knew this. One particularly stubborn sleep-over night as the family was brushing their teeth, I left my grandson's toothbrush on the counter where he could reach it. I didn't tell him to pick it up. Instead I got down to his older brother’s level and we began taking turns brushing each other's teeth. He was having great fun and it showed. Not wanting to be left out, my 2 year old went to the counter, grabbed his brush and budged in front of his 4 year old brother shouting, "Me too! Me too!"

Sleep Apnea: How we can help

April 8th, 2015

At Springs Family Dentistry, we understand that getting high-quality sleep is vital to maintaining your overall health. Insufficient sleep can lead to an inability to concentrate, motor vehicle accidents, and difficulty performing at work. Since approximately 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, this poses a significant public health problem. If you think you may have sleep apnea, talk to Dr. Hawkins and our team about devices that can help you get a good night’s rest.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a relatively common disorder in which breathing stops or becomes very shallow during the night. These bouts of paused breathing may last a few seconds or as long as several minutes. When 30 or more breathing interruptions occur per hour, sleep apnea leads to dramatic reductions in sleep quality. In many cases, this condition is caused by your airway becoming blocked or collapsed during sleep.

Anyone can get sleep apnea, but there are certain factors that increase your risk. Having small airways, being overweight, being male, or having a family history of sleep apnea increases the likelihood that you will develop the disorder. If you think you have sleep apnea, visit highly encourage you to visit our Longwood, FL office for a thorough physical exam, comprehensive medical history, and a sleep study.

Treatment Options

Several treatment avenues are available for people with sleep apnea. One popular option is to wear an oral appliance. For example, a mandibular advancement device (MAD) looks like a sports mouthguard and slightly repositions your jaw, to keep your airway unobstructed. Another option is a tongue-retraining device (TRD), which holds your tongue in place to ensure that your airway stays open during the night.

For individuals with mild-to-moderate sleep apnea, dental devices are a smart option. Many patients enjoy improved sleep, reductions in snoring, and less fatigue during daytime hours. If you’re curious about getting an oral appliance to help with your sleep apnea, please consult our team at Springs Family Dentistry. After a consultation and examination, we can fit the type of device that works best for your condition.

What is gingivitis, and how can I treat it?

April 1st, 2015

Gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease that results when bacteria in your mouth cause inflammation in your gums. This is a common condition, and you can treat it effectively if you are aggressive. Otherwise, it could develop into more advanced gum disease, or periodontitis, and you could lose one or more teeth.

Watch for symptoms of gingivitis so you can ask Dr. Hawkins for help as soon as you need it. Strategies for treating gingivitis include thoroughly cleaning your teeth and assessing the scope of your gingivitis and how serious the problem is.

Gingivitis: Early Gum Disease

Your mouth contains many bacteria that form plaque, which is a sticky substance. You can get rid of plaque by brushing well, but if you don’t, it can build up on your teeth and form tartar. Bacteria can make your gums inflamed and cause pain and bleeding, or gingivitis. Other symptoms include loose teeth, bad breath, receding gums, and sensitive teeth. You’re at higher risk for gingivitis if you’re a smoker, if you have a weakened immune system, or if you have diabetes.

Assessment and Diagnosis

If you think you recognize the symptoms of gingivitis, contact our Longwood, FL office to make an appointment. We will ask you about your risk factors for gingivitis and examine your teeth and mouth for signs of red and swollen gums. We may also measure the pockets around your teeth. If they are larger than usual, your gingivitis may be more advanced. Finally, will take some X-rays to get a picture of the bone structure of your jaw.

Deep Cleaning

You can’t get rid of the tartar on your teeth just by brushing at home. Instead, you need a deep cleaning consisting of scaling and root planing. Scaling involves scraping the plaque off of your teeth, both below and above the line of your gum. In root planing, the rough surfaces of your teeth where tartar is more likely to build up are smoothed. A laser may be used to make the procedure more effective, more accurate, and more comfortable.

Do You Have an Ageless Smile? Let Us Help You Keep It!

March 25th, 2015

In your golden years, you’ve become a pioneer in tooth care. Yours is probably the first generation in history that can expect to keep most of their natural teeth for a lifetime. You can probably guess the reasons: better oral care, advances in dentistry, improved nutrition, and a lower risk for diseases that could weaken teeth and gums.

As a pioneer, you’re learning with your dentists, and one thing we’ve found is that teeth change with age, just like the rest of the body. Even if your teeth can remain strong and white, here are a few things you may have to cope with:

Cavities: Tooth decay is not just for kids anymore. Seniors often develop cavities on the lower part of the tooth near the root. Thorough flossing and brushing along the gum line is the best preventive measure.

Sensitivity: Gums recede over time, and good dental habits only slow the process. Receding gums leave more of each tooth exposed, and the newly uncovered areas have less enamel. As a result, these teeth may be much more sensitive to hot and cold. If you find your teeth become more sensitive, try a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth and be sure to tell Dr. Hawkins about it at your next checkup.

Difficulty brushing: If you have arthritis or limited motion you may have a hard time brushing your teeth. Consider switching to an electric toothbrush. There are also assistive devices available that make it easier to grip a manual toothbrush.

Other health problems: Diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses can cause symptoms in your mouth. Be sure to let us know if you have any health conditions, or if your condition changes. We can help treat symptoms that affect your teeth and recommend ways to maintain good oral health habits as part of your overall health program.

Teeth Grinding: Not just a bad habit, but a dental concern

March 18th, 2015

Perhaps you don't even know you grind your teeth. Maybe a spouse or loved one woke you up in the middle of the night and made you aware of what was happening.

For many people, teeth grinding is a habit and a mechanical reflex; when they’re awakened and informed they were grinding their teeth, they have no recollection of it at all. According to the American Dental Association, this is the nightly situation for roughly ten percent of Americans. From young children to the elderly, teeth grinding, known in the dental community as bruxism, is a serious concern.

Many people who grind their teeth in their sleep have no idea they're doing it. In fact, when they wake up in the morning they feel no jaw pain and their teeth are fine: if it hadn’t been for someone telling them about it, the teeth grinding would have gone unnoticed.

There are other people, however, who wake up with jaw pain, shoulder and neck pain, and headaches. Teeth grinding can cause a host of dental complications. From cracked teeth and receding gums to a misaligned jaw, teeth grinding is not something to take lightly.

Preventive measures are the key to combating bruxism, and a visit to Springs Family Dentistry can set you on the path to a healthy and safe night sleep.

The Reasons for Teeth Grinding

There are many reasons for teeth grinding. For some people, it’s a habit they acquired when they were a child and never grew out of. On the other hand, some research claims that the condition is related to stress, anxiety, or some other type of psychiatric issue.

Still other studies point to everything from poor muscle control or over-eating before bed to gastro-esophageal issues. However, the root cause of the teeth grinding is less important than identifying preventive measures against it.

Common solutions to teeth grinding include:

  • Wearing a protective nightguard
  • Stress management techniques
  • Medications and muscle relaxers

When you make an appointment with Dr. Hawkins at our Longwood, FL office, we will assess your situation and determine what the best course of action is. Teeth grinding is a dental concern that can cause serious health issues down the road, so be sure to take preventive measures today.

Tooth Killers

March 13th, 2015

Smokers are far more likely to develop periodontal disease than nonsmokers. Usually the number of cigarettes smoked per day has a correlation to the seventy of the gum disease.

Smokers who suffer from gum disease will not exhibit the initial signs of gingivitis because nicotine constricts blood vessels and interferes with the body's response to the bacteria that cause periodontal problems.

Considering the increased plaque and gum problems caused by smoking, it’s a no-brainer that you’re also at higher risk for tooth decay. If you smoke, you're putting your mouth at risk for three times as many cavities as those who don't.

The fact that smokers have a compromised healing response complicates treatment for these cases. Giving up tobacco - cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco is the smartest move for the health of your teeth and your whole body.

Both smokers and longtime smokers who have quit will benefit from
scrupulous flossing. Many find that using special flossing implements or purchasing a water flosser or other electronic device designed to clean between the teeth and along the gum line can help fight periodontal disease on the home front.

Smoking and chewing tobacco risk factors:
• Mouth and throat cancer
• Gum disease
• Delayed tooth adjustment with orthodontic work
• Poor healing after oral surgery
• Receding gums
• Tooth decay
• Failed dental implants

St. Patrick's Day: Celtic pride, green shamrocks, and lucky charms!

March 11th, 2015

“St. Patrick's Day is an enchanted time -- a day to begin transforming winter's dreams into summer's magic.” Adrienne Cook

Lucky green shamrocks, leprechauns, and pots of gold – it must be St. Patrick’s Day! If you’re not Irish, how do you go about celebrating St. Patrick’s Day? It’s easy: You just put on one of those tall leprechauns hats, dress in green from head to toe, and wear one of those carefree pins that say “Kiss Me, I’m Irish”. On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish, and that is the universal beauty of the holiday. Celtic pride does not discriminate.

Wondering what our team at Springs Family Dentistry is doing to celebrate March 17th? Well, we’ve thought about doing everything from handing out lucky gold coins (you know, the fake ones that are made of chocolate) to shamrock stickers. Maybe we’ll even give away green toothbrushes and floss! You’ll never know unless you come in to see Dr. Hawkins !

All kidding aside, St. Patrick’s Day is an important cultural and religious holiday. There are lavish parades and church services across Ireland on March 17th. Over time, however, the holiday has developed into a day to observe Irish culture in general. In places like England and the United States, where there is a large Irish Diaspora, the holiday has greater significance than other countries. From the streets of Boston to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, it is a day of celebration, and many Americans of Irish descent will cook up a traditional meal of corned beef and cabbage.

So, to all of you with Irish ancestry, and to all of you who have decided to be Irish for the day, our office wishes you a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Good luck looking for a pot of leprechaun gold, which is said to exist at the end of the rainbow. However, keep away from those sugary Lucky Charms; sweet cereals might taste good, but your kids’ teeth might not be feeling too lucky if they eat it for breakfast every day. Have a great St. Paddy’s Day!

In the hospital? Don't ignore your oral health!

March 6th, 2015

Recent research strongly suggests that hospitalized patients run the risk of jeopardizing their oral health. The result can be a higher risk of acquiring an infection that could have serious consequences. At the very least neglecting oral health care in the hospital can affect quality of life.

Researchers studied patients in hospitals in four countries over a 10 year period. Although the study found increased plaque accumulation and inflammation of oral tissues in most parents, those patients who suffered from respiratory illness or otherwise required help breathing had the highest incidence of oral-health decline.

When pathogens lurk in your mouth, you inhale them right into your lungs, where they can wreak all kinds of havoc. One major review pointed to this process as the reason for an association between poor oral hygiene and hospital-acquired pneumonia. Improving oral hygiene — through some methods beyond brushing and flossing in this case — reduced the incidence of such pneumonia by 40%. Another study of 315 patients in a Brazilian hospital found that those with periodontitis were almost three times as likely to have pneumonia.

It’s easy to see how oral care might not receive top priority when a patient is undergoing treatment for a serious illness; however, ignoring oral hygiene is not a good idea. Patients and their friends and family should remember to consider oral health and remind medical staff of its importance in overall outcomes.

March is National Nutrition Month!

March 4th, 2015

While you don’t have to wait to start eating right, March is the month the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics asks everyone to pay special attention to what goes into our bodies. The Academy has designated the month of March for focusing the public’s awareness on what they eat.

What Not to Eat

The academy points out that the foods you eat have a direct effect on the health of your teeth and specifically on tooth decay. Bacteria rely on carbohydrates to thrive. That is why Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry tell our patients to cut back on both candy and sweets. They consist of simple sugars that feed the bacteria in your mouth and enhance tooth decay.

It’s the hidden sugars that will cost you, though. Get in the habit of reading labels on food and looking for products with added sugar. This includes ingredients that end with the suffix “ose.” When it comes to nutrition, these foods offer little value beyond satisfying that sweet tooth.

What You Should Eat

Turn to foods that not only taste good but are good for your teeth too. Dairy products, for example, provide the body with nutritional items that support tooth enamel. Foods high in protein feature phosphorus, a nutrient critical to oral health.

You can’t really go wrong by adding color to your diet, either. Fruits and vegetables make for a colorful plate and a healthy meal. Use some caution with acidic fruits like oranges or even tomatoes, because the acid can erode tooth enamel. It is better to include these foods in a meal instead of eating them by themselves.

Remember, good nutrition is something you should worry about all year long, not just when celebrating National Nutrition Month. March just serves as a fun reminder that eating right is a proactive step in managing your dental health.

We encourage you to give us a call at our Longwood, FL office to learn more!

Mouth Moisture

February 27th, 2015

Saliva plays an important role in the mouth. One of its important jobs is to wash away debris left after eating. Unfortunately, when xerostomia, or dry mouth, is present many patients don't have the saliva they need to keep their mouth moist. Dry mouth causes the gums, tongue, and other tissues in the mouth to become swollen and uncomfortable. Germs thrive in this type of setting. A germy, dry mouth leads to bad breath and most definitely increases your risk for all types of cavities!

The second most important role saliva plays is that it contains two major antibody classes which operate in saliva to fight bacteria in dental plaque and other possible mouth-borne diseases. When you have less saliva , you have less bacterial fighting antibody immunity!

If your mouth feels dry as a desert, here are a few tips to help wet your whistle:
• Drink plenty of water.
• Use sugar-free gum or sugar-free candy to stimulate saliva production.
• Use a room humidifier at night.
• Use a fluoride rinse and paste at bedtime.
• Use an over-the-counter saliva substitute. NOTE: Artificial saliva helps keep your mouth moist and comfortable. But it doesn't contain the proteins, minerals, and other substances found in real saliva that help with digestion.

Patients who suffer from dry mouth should avoid caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, mouth breathing, and foods that are high in sugar and acids. Additionally some of the following medications can dry your mouth out:
• Antihistamines and decongestants
• Anxiety medicines
• Appetite suppressants
• Certain types of blood pressure drugs
• Diuretics (water pills)
• Most antidepressants
• Certain pain medicines (analgesics)

How much calcium does my child need?

February 25th, 2015

When you were a kid, your parents may have told you to drink milk to build strong bones and grow tall and strong. Now that you have children of your own, you may hear yourself parroting those instructions you received years ago. Getting enough dairy is essential for young children whose teeth are growing. A child who consumes the recommended daily serving of dairy will develop healthy, strong teeth for the rest of his or her life.

So, which foods are the best in terms of acquiring the right amount of calcium? Milk and other dairy products are excellent sources of calcium. Milk also contains vitamin D, phosphorus, magnesium, and proteins. Magnesium promotes calcium deposits in your enamel, while phosphorus forms a small but important barrier against acidic foods that cause cavities. Vitamin D and protein are used by a child’s body to build bone tissue and maintain dental health.

According to a recent study, the majority of Americans, including children, do not receive enough calcium. In fact, according to the Academy of General Dentistry, only one in five children meets even the minimum standards for calcium consumption. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that children under the age of eight should receive two and a half cups of dairy per day. Children older than eight need three full cups, the same as adult men and women. In addition to milk, eating yogurt is a great way your child can increase his or her dairy consumption. Drinking sugary beverages in place of milk causes cavities and tooth decay.

If your child does not get enough dairy consumption, they run the risk of improper tooth development and other dental health problems. Dr. Hawkins and our team at Springs Family Dentistry encourage you to monitor your child’s dairy consumption to ensure he or she grows healthy teeth to last a lifetime.

Questions? Give us a call at our Longwood, FL office!

Raising the Percentage

February 20th, 2015

Less than 60% of seniors have all their own teeth. Although sometimes these teeth were lost due to cavities or accident, it’s likely that many of today’s seniors lost their teeth due to periodontal disease.

Periodontal, or gum, disease is a silent destroyer of ligaments and bone that anchor teeth to the jaw. Periodontal disease always begins with inflammation of the gums, known as gingivitis.

Gingivitis is easy to recognize because it manifests itself in bleeding gums. Removal of food debris and plaque from teeth and the spaces between them is the best way to fight gum disease. This needs to be done daily, but it’s important to clean the teeth thoroughly at bedtime.

Good home care is a beginning to fighting gum disease, but regular dental checkups are essential as well. The steps you take to clean your mouth at home are the first line of defense, and regular visits to our office remove any residual plaque and tartar.

Fortunately, gum disease move slowly as it destroys gum tissue, so by working together, we can help avoid tooth loss. Dentures are never quite as effective for talking or eating as your natural teeth. Let’s join forces to raise the percentage of seniors who can smile with their own teeth for as long as the live.

Canker Sores and Stress

February 18th, 2015

Canker sores are painful lesions that form in the soft tissues of the mouth, usually along the inner lips, under the tongue, and along the cheek walls. They are usually small and round, and take on a white or yellow hue. Though most are generally harmless and tend to heal on their own within a week or two of appearing, canker sores can be very irritating.

Only about one in five people develop canker sores. Of those who do, many develop them recurrently as a result of external factors. Though canker sores have been connected to allergies and hormonal changes, many people who are prone to developing canker sores find that their outbreaks are stress-related.

A combination of emotional stress and fatigue can be a perfect storm for the development of mouth sores. Some people say they are not under stress when canker sores form, but the sores appear several days after a stressful event or situation instead. Managing stress, reducing anxiety, and getting plenty of sleep may help prevent canker sores from forming and ensure that existing ones heal more quickly.

What to do if you develop canker sores

Do not be alarmed if you develop a canker sore. They are not contagious and are not harmful to your health. Over-the-counter oral numbing products can be used to manage pain, as can ice chips. Canker sores may heal faster if you apply milk of magnesia to them daily and avoid spicy foods that could irritate them.

You should contact your doctor if you find that your canker sores are unusually large or persist without healing for several weeks. Our team at Springs Family Dentistry also recommends seeking out professional treatment if you experience extreme pain or a fever develops in association with a canker sore outbreak.

For more information about canker sores, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Hawkins, please give us a call at our convenient Longwood, FL office!

Dental precautions tor everyday food and drink

February 13th, 2015

As we all know, some foods are healthy for you and some are unhealthy. But a few dental precautions are good to keep in mind for both categories.
Here's a bit of advice on a few of the common foods and drinks that may be residing in your cupboard or refrigerator.

Milk - Milk is generally excellent for teeth – especially for a child's growing teeth. Keep in mind, however, that milk does contain sugar, and it should not be allowed to pool in the mouth for long periods. Young children should not be put down for naps or bed with anything but a bottle of plain water.

Soda – Carbonated beverages are not tooth friendly. Whether you
call it pop or soda or something else, the fact is these popular beverages are bad for two reasons. First, soda contains large amounts of sugar, one of oral bacteria's favorite foods. Second, both diet and regular sodas contain acids that break down enamel, making it easier for cavities to start.

Fresh Fruits - fresh fruits are good choices tor teeth. Some fruits, oranges for instance, though great for overall health, are a little more acidic than others. It might be prudent to rinse your teeth with water after eating an orange and then floss to remove any pieces left in the teeth.

It's a smart idea to read labels to look for sugar content. Try to stick to fresh foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Avoid processed and prepared foods, such as those high in carbohydrates, which are not good choices for teeth.

The Transformation of Valentine's Day

February 11th, 2015

Did you know the actions leading to the beginnings of Valentine's Day were actually centered on the avoidance of war? A Catholic priest named Valentine defied the orders of the Emperor Claudius II and secretly married young men and their brides after the emperor had declared it illegal because only single, young men could be sent to war. Rather than lose potential soldiers to fight his war, Claudius attempted to hoard them by proclaiming marriage illegal.

Valentine continued to marry young couples anyway and, eventually, was put to death for it in 270 AD. Before his death, he sent a letter to a secret love and signed it “From your Valentine”. Nearly 1,800 years later, people are still signing letters and cards in this manner. This year, carry on the tradition started long ago, while adding your own twist. Here are a few suggestions.

Simple and Creative Valentine's Day Ideas

  • Memorialize it with a Photo. Couples often have photos taken around Christmas, but Valentine's Day photos allow you to capitalize on romance. Famous couple Julia Child and her husband, Paul, had their picture taken together every Valentine's Day and included their sense of humor with silly props.
  • Return to Your First Date Location. Even if your first date together was at a local hotdog stand, its sentimental value can make it a fun part of your Valentine's Day agenda. Be creative and make a treasure hunt with clues that lead your partner to the original date location, where you can express your love with flowers or a gift.
  • “From Your Valentine” Messages. Deliver your message in a creative way to make this Valentine's Day stand out from the others. Bake your partner's favorite treat and write a message on it with a tube of icing, or draw a note on the steamed up mirror so it shows up when your partner takes a shower.

Although Valentine's Day is a day to celebrate love, it doesn't have to be a special day only for couples. If you're single, use this special day to shower yourself with love, because you're worth it! After all, the priest Valentine believed so strongly in the sanctity of love that he was willing to risk his life for it. Whether you're in a relationship or single, young or old, romantic or not, Valentine's Day is for you. Happy Valentine’s Day from the dental office of Dr. Hawkins.

What can a whitening paste do for you?

February 6th, 2015

Whitening toothpastes can be helpful for those who have surface stains on their teeth, but it's good to have an idea what these products can and can't do.

Whitening toothpastes can help lighten staining that has resulted from drinking certain liquids, such as coffee and tea, and stains caused by tobacco. These pastes cannot change the look of stains that are below the surface of the teeth, such as those caused by excessive fluoride.

Whitening pastes may be used twice a day during regular brushing, but overusing them can cause problems, since the stronger whitening toothpastes use abrasion to remove the outer layer of teeth and reveal a newer, whiter layer. However, the stronger whitening toothpastes may cause sensitivity and, over time, may cause your teeth to lose luster and shine. Whitening toothpastes, in general, usually make your teeth brighter but not whiter. In addition, using abrasive whitening toothpastes can dull the porcelain on veneers and crowns.

In addition to abrasives, which actually polish the teeth, whitening pastes also contain agents that break down stains. Some pastes contain a chemical called blue covarine that attaches itself the tooth's surface to create a whiter appearance. Toothpastes with hydrogen peroxide for whitening don't really help much. Because the toothpaste gets all over your mouth, including your gums, and because you might swallow some, the amount of hydrogen peroxide is small. In addition, you probably won't brush long enough for the hydrogen peroxide to have much of an effect.

Many patients choose to use a whitening paste after having a professional whitening treatment . Be sure to choose a paste that exhibits the ADA Seal of Acceptance for effectiveness and safety.

February is Heart Month

February 4th, 2015

The American Academy of Periodontology stresses the importance of good oral health since gum disease may be linked to heart disease and stroke. Thus far, no cause-and-effect relationship has been established, but there are multiple theories to explain the link between heart disease and periodontal disease. One theory suggests that oral bacteria may affect heart health when it enters the blood and attaches to the fatty plaque in the heart's blood vessels. This can cause the formation of blood clots. Another theory suggests the possibility that inflammation could be a contributing link between periodontal disease and heart disease. Gum disease increases plaque buildup, and inflamed gums may also contribute to the development of swollen or inflamed coronary arteries.

What is coronary artery disease?

Coronary artery disease is caused in part by the buildup of fatty proteins on the walls of the coronary arteries. Blood clots cut off blood flow, preventing oxygen and nutrients from getting to the heart. Both blood clots and the buildup of fatty proteins (also called plaque) on the walls of the coronary arteries may lead to a heart attack. Moreover, periodontal disease nearly doubles the likelihood that someone will suffer from coronary artery disease. Periodontal disease can also worsen existing heart conditions, so many patients who suffer from heart disease need to take antibiotics before any dental procedures. This is especially true of patients who are at greatest risk for contracting infective endocarditis (inflammation of the inner layer of the heart). The fact that more than 2,400 people die from heart disease each day makes it a major public health issue. It is also the leading killer of both men and women in the United States today.

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that destroys the bone and gum tissues around the teeth, reducing or potentially eradicating the system that supports your teeth. It affects roughly 75 percent of Americans, and is the leading cause of adult tooth loss. People who suffer from periodontal disease may notice that their gums swell and/or bleed when they brush their teeth.

Although there is no definitive proof to support the theory that oral bacteria affects the heart, it is widely acknowledged better oral health contributes to overall better health. When people take good care of their teeth, get thorough exams, and a professional cleaning twice a year, the buildup of plaque on the teeth is lessened. A healthy, well-balanced diet will also contribute to better oral and heart health. There is a lot of truth to the saying "you are what you eat." If you have any questions about you periodontal disease and your overall health, give our Longwood, FL office a call!

Are you nervous about seeing the dentist? You’re not alone!

January 28th, 2015

With advances in modern dentistry, a trip to Springs Family Dentistry these days is pretty routine. But visiting Dr. Hawkins and our team still makes some patients anxious—so much so that they don’t go as often as they should and end up with costly complications down the road, such as tooth decay or gum disease.

When it comes to dental care, prevention is the best medicine. And that begins with regular checkups and dental cleanings at our convenient Longwood, FL office. Today, we thought we would offer five tips for taking the pain out of a visit to see Dr. Hawkins:

1. Ask yourself: What are you most afraid of? Is it the sound of the drill? Do you have needle phobia? Have you been traumatized by previous dental visits? Write down your fears, one by one and talk about them during your visit.

2. Don’t wait. The more frequently your visit our office, the less work will need to be done at any given visit. Simply having your teeth cleaned professionally by Dr. Hawkins twice a year prevents many, if not most, problems down the road.

3. Bring a distraction such as music to your appointment. Just plug in those earphones, close your eyes, and get lost in the music. Listening to tunes can also be a pain killer.

4. Unwind. Inhaling slowly and counting to five helps. Try holding your breath for ten seconds, then exhale slowly to the count of eight, and repeat as needed.

5. Ask us. Before any given procedure, we encourage you to ask Dr. Hawkins or one of our assistants why we’re using the tools we’re using. Ask us what we’re doing, what the tool is used for, and how it benefits you. Also, please ask about anti-anxiety medications we may prescribe to help you relax during your appointment.

If you suffer from dental anxiety, a visit to Springs Family Dentistry might seem like a daunting prospect. Perhaps you had a bad experience in the past, but whatever the reason, please know that at our Longwood, FL office, there is nothing to be afraid of.

Remember, you’re not alone. We understand that going to the dentist isn’t easy for everyone. In fact, the Journal of the American Dental Association estimates that as many as 12 percent of adults suffer from dental anxiety so bad that they avoid the dentist altogether. Many more suffer from varying degrees of dental anxiety, which often results in poor oral health.

If you suffer from dental anxiety, your fears don’t have to keep you from seeing Dr. Hawkins. Our patients at Springs Family Dentistry are our most important asset, and we strive to create a comfortable experience, no matter how long it has been since your last visit at our Longwood, FL office. We hope to see you soon!

What’s In Your Mouth?

January 23rd, 2015

Do you know the names of the different parts of your mouth? Sure, you say. There’s the teeth, the tongue…….Yes, those are the parts of your mouth, but we’re thinking of some parts you may never heard of. We check the health of these different mouth parts and surfaces each time you have a dental exam and cleaning. We hope you find learning about these areas of your mouth as interesting as we do. Check out the terms below and listen for them the next time we’re checking out your mouth.

LINGUAL This area is comprised of the inside surfaces of your teeth – the parts that are easiest to touch with your tongue. The lingual surfaces are on the lower teeth.
PALATAL This is the same inside surfaces as the lingual, but the palatal surfaces are on the upper teeth rather than the lower.
DISTAL This may sound like part of a flower, but it’s actually the side of your tooth that is located towards the back of the mouth.
MESIAL The mesial surface is the opposite of the distal in that it is the surface of the tooth toward the front of th