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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!

Dental Society of Greater Orlando Florida Dental Association American Dental Association
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