Nitrous Oxide: Having A Gas At The Dentist

MOST OF US HAVE at least heard of laughing gas, the whimsically-nicknamed sedation method used by dentists, even if we haven’t had it ourselves. But what exactly is laughing gas, and why is it so closely associated with dentistry?

Nitrous Oxide From Discovery To Dentistry

Laughing gas is a colorless, odorless gas. It consists of two nitrogen atoms and one oxygen atom bonded together. The way it works is not entirely clear, but studies do indicate that it reduces a patient’s perception of pain and increases the release of dopamine.

In 1772, Joseph Priestly first isolated the compound nitrous oxide. It wasn’t until 1799 that Humphry Davy discovered the relaxing, euphoria-inducing effects that earned it the name laughing gas. Several decades later, in the 1860s in Germany, nitrous oxide found its place in dentistry, and we still use it today.

Is Laughing Gas Safe?

The nitrous oxide used in a medical setting is very safe because exposure is carefully controlled. The masks dentists use to administer the gas first delivers pure oxygen, followed by a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide. The limited exposure produces temporary effects that reduce pain and help the patient relax during a procedure. In rare cases, it may cause side effects like headaches, shivering, sweating, nausea, or fatigue.

Recreational use of nitrous oxide, on the other hand, is no laughing matter because few to none of the factors that make it safe in a medical context are present. The gas is kept cold enough to cause frostbite to the mouth, nose, and throat if inhaled directly, and it is stored at such high pressure that it can damage the lungs. Outside of a medical professional’s hands, laughing gas can also cause asphyxiation because it isn’t properly mixed with oxygen.

Laughing Gas Versus Dental Anxiety

For patients who suffer from dental anxiety, laughing gas can be especially helpful. Foregoing dental treatment because of anxiety and fear will only give the problem time to become worse. Laughing gas is one option to help anxious patients relax and feel comfortable during a dental procedure, or even during a routine dental appointment.

Still Have Questions About Laughing Gas? Just Ask!

If you’d like to know more about the effects of laughing gas and its uses in dentistry, we are happy to answer your questions! Give us a call or schedule an appointment so that we can discuss this and any other dental health concerns you may have.

Our patients’ comfort is one of our highest priorities!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

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Relief For A Burned Mouth

HAVE YOU EVER SAT down to a plate of lasagna from your favorite Italian place and immediately taken a huge bite without waiting for it to cool down? Or taken a swig of hot chocolate too fast? Maybe it wasn’t lasagna or hot chocolate for you, but we’ve all burned our tongues on foods or drinks we love, and we’ll all probably do it again. We want to make sure you know what to do for your mouth when that happens.

Step 1: Sip Cold Water

What you do immediately after burning your tongue will determine how quickly you recover, so instead of persevering with your hot food or drink, drink a glass of cold water. Not only will it help the burn feel better, but it will keep you hydrated so that your mouth can produce enough saliva to protect the burned area from bacteria.

Step 2: Keep Things Cool

Soft, cold foods will help to numb the sting of the burn, so open up the fridge and grab a yogurt, fruit cup, or applesauce. It might even be a good reason to spring for a smoothie or some frozen yogurt and make sure to keep drinking cool water as well.

Step 3: Salt Water Swish

You might have learned from your grandma to gargle salt water when you have a sore throat. Well, she was right! Swishing or gargling salt water is also a great remedy if you have sore gums, have recently had a dental procedure, or even if you burned your tongue.

When we swish salt water, it temporarily makes our mouths more alkaline, which makes life difficult for harmful oral bacteria. To make your salt water rinse, just add half a teaspoon of salt to a cup of warm water and stir. Swish it around your mouth for about thirty seconds, spit, and repeat!

Step 4: Tasty Relief

Another way to speed up the healing process for your burned tongue is to apply sugar or honey directly to the tender area. This is another remedy that predates modern medicine. Sugar is a quick source of energy for the cells that are trying to heal, and studies have shown that honey is even more effective at promoting healing than sugar. Just make sure to drink some water afterward to rinse away any sweet residue.

Step 5: Pain Medication

For particularly bad mouth burns, these measures might not be sufficient to relieve the pain. At that point, it becomes a job for over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Luckily, oral tissues heal more quickly than any other part of the body, so even a particularly painful burn to the tongue should be gone within a few days.

Burning Tongue Syndrome And Your Dentist

Some people feel like they have a burned tongue even when there is no actual burn, a chronic condition known as burning tongue syndrome. If you’re feeling the burn for no apparent reason, schedule a dental appointment. Otherwise, follow these steps to get your burned tongue feeling good as new as soon as possible!

We look forward to seeing you at your next appointment!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

The Effects Of Pregnancy On Oral Health

YOU CAN ALWAYS expect your body to go through a lot of changes when you’re expecting, but did you know that some of those changes are to your oral health? The changing hormone levels of pregnancy actually put expecting mothers at greater risk of developing a variety of oral health issues, including gum disease, enamel erosion, and unusual swellings in the gums.

Pregnancy Gingivitis

There’s so much to do in the months leading up to the arrival of a new baby, but that’s no reason to leave brushing and flossing on the back burner, because pregnancy hormones can lead to the tender, swollen gums of gingivitis.

Around 40 percent of pregnant woman have some form of gum disease, and studies have linked pregnancy gingivitis to premature delivery and lower birth weights. Make sure to brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush and floss daily to keep the plaque away from your vulnerable gums.

Morning Sickness And Enamel Erosion

While hormones cause problems for an expectant mom’s gums, morning sickness can cause problems for her teeth. Stomach acid from frequent vomiting, heartburn, or acid reflux eats away at the hard, protective enamel on each tooth. The best way to minimize this effect is to swish with baking soda and water after a bout of morning sickness. This will neutralize any acid left in your mouth before you brush.

Pyogenic Granuloma

Perhaps the weirdest oral health change a pregnant woman can experience is a pyogenic granuloma, or “pregnancy tumors.” The name might sound scary, but these swellings (which often resemble raspberries between the teeth) are not malignant. They most often appear in the second trimester. The dentist can remove them if they’re uncomfortable, but they usually vanish after the baby is born.

Protecting Your Teeth — And Your Baby’s!

In addition to your daily brushing and flossing, what you eat can play a big role in keeping your teeth healthy. Cut back on sugary treats and load up on essential nutrients. Your baby’s teeth start developing in the second trimester, and they need plenty of protein, calcium, phosphorous, and vitamins A, C, and D to grow strong.

Your Dentist Is Your Greatest Resource

One of the best things you can do to protect your oral health during your pregnancy is to visit the dentist. Routine cleanings and checkups are crucial for combating pregnancy gingivitis and making sure everything is staying healthy. If it’s been a while since your last appointment or you expect to be expecting soon, get proactive and schedule your next checkup today!

We have the world’s best patients!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Straight Teeth: Not Just About Looks

THE MOST OBVIOUS impact of orthodontic treatment is a straighter, more attractive smile. While it is true that we tend to perceive people with properly aligned teeth as happier and more successful, the benefits aren’t just superficial.

Clearer Speech

Do you remember the lisp you had between losing your two front teeth and the adult ones growing in? Based on that, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that our teeth are a crucial component to our ability to speak and enunciate clearly.

In order to make the right sounds, our lips and tongues have to maneuver around our teeth. When teeth are properly aligned, this is simple, but crooked teeth can result in a lisp, slurring, or difficulty making certain sounds that require tongue-to-tooth contact, such as the “t,” “s,” and “ch” sounds. Orthodontic treatment can solve these problems by moving the teeth into their proper positions.

Healthier Digestion

We don’t give our teeth enough credit for the role they play in good digestion. Chewing is a very important part of the process. It doesn’t just chop the food into small enough pieces to fit down the esophagus, it mixes the food with saliva, which begins the chemical digestion process.

When we wolf down our food without much chewing — or when we chew with misaligned teeth that don’t do the job effectively — it forces our stomachs to work harder than they should. If you already have straight teeth, put them to good use by chewing each mouthful for longer. If you don’t, your digestive system will thank you for getting orthodontic treatment.

Better Breathing

Having poorly aligned teeth can make it difficult or even impossible to comfortably close your jaws when you aren’t moving them, which can lead to habitual mouth breathing. Mouth breathing has a number of negative effects, including dry mouth, bad breath, snoring, chronic fatigue, and brain fog. The effects are an even bigger problem for kids, sometimes going as far as changing the development of their facial bone structure.

Straight Teeth For A Better Life

Not only do straight teeth make it easier to speak, eat, and breathe properly, they’re also easier to clean! Maybe you’ve been avoiding orthodontic treatment because you’re happy with the way your smile looks, but the many benefits of straight teeth are worth considering.

Straight teeth lead to better oral health and better overall health!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Canker Sores: Causes And Treatment

HAVE YOU EVER TRIED to enjoy one of your favorite foods, but that angry, swollen lump on your gums or the inside of your cheek kept stinging and hurting? Then you know what it’s like to have a canker sore.

These sores are round ulcers that can develop on the inside of the lips and cheeks, on the gumline, or even on the tongue, and spicy, hot, or acidic foods can painfully agitate them. Let’s take a look at what causes these sores, how we can avoid them, and how we can help them heal faster.

What Causes A Canker Sore

Canker sores can develop for a variety of reasons. They can be the result of a viral infection, a food allergy, or a mouth injury, but other factors like stress, hormonal fluctuations, and vitamin or mineral deficiencies can also make them more likely. Another factor that can contribute to the frequency of canker sores is braces. Dental wax can help shield sensitive oral tissues from the protruding pieces of an orthodontic appliance.

Treating A Canker Sore

If you have a canker sore, you want it to go away as quickly as possible. One way you can do that is by brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush because it is gentle on the gums. If your current toothpaste is painful, try swapping it out for a toothpaste without the ingredient sodium lauryl sulfate.

To relieve the irritation, you can use a topical medication, a special mouthwash, or oral pain relievers. Rinsing daily with salt water is also a great way to reduce inflammation and encourage faster healing (just make sure you don’t swallow it).

Preventing Future Sores

A few foods, such as salmon, kale, carrots, parsley, spinach, and yogurt, can help reduce future ulcer breakouts because of their high vitamin B12, iron, and folate content. Flossing daily and brushing your teeth twice a day also helps reduce ulcer breakouts, because a clean mouth is healthier.

The Dentist Can Help Too!

If you’ve been struggling with canker sores, schedule a dental appointment! There may be an underlying cause that needs diagnosis and treatment with prescribed medications.

We love to see those healthy smiles!

Top image by Flickr user Matt Biddulph used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

 

Protecting Your Child’s Teeth From Injury

WE ALL REMEMBER WHAT it was like to be a kid. Running around, playing outside, discovering the world around us, and making great friends. We also remember the scraped knees and bumps and bruises that came along with all of that. As parents, we want our kids to have all the same great experiences we did, but hopefully without some of the injuries — particularly tooth injuries.

Tips For Tooth Safety

There are a few simple things we can do to keep our kids’ teeth safe, whether they’re at home or playing with friends.

  • The most common cause of tooth injuries in babies and toddlers is the bathtub. All that slippery porcelain makes it easy for them to fall and hurt their teeth. To minimize this risk, never leave a baby or toddler unattended in the bathtub.
  • Frisbees, balls, and other things meant for throwing can easily cause tooth injuries. Before your child goes out to play, talk to them about safety and stress the importance of not aiming for each other’s heads.
  • Playground equipment such as swings, a jungle gym, or monkey bars is not kind to teeth if a child falls on them face-first. Make sure your child knows to be careful before going on the playground.

Plan Ahead

Sometimes accidents happen even under careful adult supervision and when the children understand potential hazards and use caution. Don’t panic if your child loses or injures a tooth. If it’s an adult tooth or if it’s a baby tooth that wasn’t already loose, try to put it back in place, then come straight to the dentist. Reattachment isn’t always possible, but this will give it the best chance.

If you can’t easily put the tooth back in place, store it in a glass of milk to keep the root alive while you’re on your way to the dentist. The faster you get to us, the better chances the tooth will have of being saved. Make sure you don’t try to clean the tooth or put it in water, though, because this will kill the root!

Keep Those Teeth Healthy

Another important way to protect your child’s teeth from injury is to keep them healthy with twice-daily brushing and daily flossing, as well as regular dental appointments. Healthy teeth are stronger and more resistant to injury!

We love to see those healthy smiles!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

 

Dental X-Rays: It’s Time For Your Close-Up

IF WE ASKED you to list three things that happen in a typical dental exam, dental X-rays would probably be one of them. But do you know what they’re used for? It depends on the type of X-ray, so let’s look at what these are.

Getting The Wide Shot With Panoramic X-Rays

If you’ve ever stood on a circular thing with your chin on a little platform and been told to stand still for a few seconds while a machine spun around your head, you’ve had a panoramic X-ray. This is the most common type of extraoral (outside the mouth) X-ray.

Panoramic X-rays show the entire mouth in one image. In them, we can see incoming adult teeth and wisdom teeth, including impacted ones, which is how we can determine whether there is enough room for them and if they’ll come in without any extra help. This type of X-ray also makes it easier to detect abscesses, tumors, and cysts.

Enhance: Periapical X-Rays And Bitewing X-Rays

In photography, wide shots show a lot, but they aren’t as useful for details as a closeup. The same is true in X-rays, which is why we don’t rely only on the panoramic image. The next level of dental X-rays are the bitewing X-rays. These intraoral (inside the mouth) X-rays focus on a specific area inside the mouth at a time, and we usually take one for each of the four quadrants of your mouth.

Bitewing X-rays give us a better view of the gaps between teeth, which are hard to see with the naked eye. These images make it easy to check for tooth decay and cavities in those areas. When we need to get even more detailed, we take periapical X-rays, which hone in on an individual problem tooth. These can be taken alongside bitewing X-rays.

Are Dental X-Rays Safe?

Dental X-rays involve brief exposure to low levels of radiation, but they are considered extremely safe. The short exposure time and protective coverings like the lead apron ensure that radiation exposure is as low as possible. We also only take X-rays as often as we absolutely need to, which further reduces exposure.

Factors that determine whether or not X-rays are necessary include the patient’s age, stage of dental development, oral health history, risk factors for various conditions, and whether or not they are presenting symptoms of oral health problems.

Still Have X-Ray Questions?

If you would like to know more about how we use dental X-rays in our practice or have any concerns about safety, just ask us! We want our patients to have all the information they need to feel comfortable when they come to see us.

Your dental health is in good hands!

Top image by Flickr user Cory Doctorow used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

 

Oral pH: A Delicate Balance

YOU MIGHT REMEMBER a little bit about pH from a science class you took years ago in middle school or high school. Even if you don’t, that’s okay; it’s time for a refresher course because pH plays a major role in our oral health.

The Basics (And Acidics) Of pH

We could go into some really complicated things about hydrogen ions, but the important thing to know is that a pH of 7 is neutral — neither acidic nor basic. For example, water has a pH of 7. As the numbers get smaller than 7, the substance becomes more acidic, and as they get larger than 7 (up to 14), it becomes more alkaline or basic. Make sense? Good. Now let’s look at what this has to do with our mouths.

Acid Versus Tooth Enamel

Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, so it’s pretty tough. It is, however, highly susceptible to acid erosion. All it takes is an environment of pH 5.5 or lower for the enamel to begin dissolving.

There are many ways our teeth can be exposed to acid. The most obvious is when we eat or drink something sour or tart because we can actually taste the acid. When we consume something sugary or starchy, oral bacteria eats the leftovers stuck between our teeth and produces acid as a waste product. Acid reflux and vomiting also expose our teeth to stomach acid, which is very strong.

Saliva: The First Line Of Defense

The best natural defense our teeth have against acids is saliva, which has a pH slightly above 7. Saliva washes food particles away and helps keep oral bacteria populations in check. This is why dry mouth is such a dangerous problem for oral health. The less saliva we have, the more vulnerable our teeth are.

Sipping soda or snacking throughout the day is also a problem for our teeth, because saliva needs time to neutralize our mouths afterward, and constantly introducing more acid makes that much harder.

A More Alkaline Diet Will Help Your Teeth

A great way we can help out our saliva in the fight to protect our teeth, aside from the usual methods of daily brushing and flossing and regular dental appointments, is to eat fewer acidic foods and trade them for alkaline ones. That means adding in more fruits and veggies and leaving off some of the bread, dairy, and meats — and we should definitely cut back on soda and other sugary treats.

We Can Fight Enamel Erosion Together!

If you’d like more tips for how to protect your tooth enamel, just ask us! We want you to have all the tools you need to keep your teeth healthy and strong so that they will last a lifetime.

Our top priority is our patients’ healthy smiles!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Root Canal Myths: Busted

HAVE YOU EVER HEARD someone begin a sentence “I’d rather have a root canal than…”? The negative portrayal of root canal treatment in our culture isn’t just a cliché; it’s a myth! That’s why we’re using this post to knock down some of the most common root canal myths out there.

Myth 1: “Root Canal Treatment Is Painful”

Many adults struggle with dental anxiety. The prospect of going to the dentist may fill them with dread, even for a simple cleaning appointment, so we understand why a patient might expect something horrible and painful when they get the news that they need root canal treatment. However, thanks to modern technology and anesthetics, root canal treatment can be performed quickly and comfortably. The best part is that the pain of your infected tooth will be gone!

Myth 2: “If My Tooth Doesn’t Hurt, I Don’t Need Root Canal Treatment”

A common assumption people make is that if their teeth don’t hurt, they’re healthy. This isn’t always true. In some cases, the tooth may already have died, but it still needs root canal therapy to prevent a dangerous infection.

Myth 3: “Root Canal Treatment Is Only A Temporary Fix”

Some patients are skeptical of root canal treatment because they think the benefits won’t last very long. This is not true. A tooth does become brittle after root canal treatment, and the grinding forces from chewing and talking may cause the crown on the tooth to break, but this is only a problem with the restoration, not the root canal itself.

Myth 4: “It’s Better to Just Pull The Tooth”

It might technically be easier to yank a problem tooth than to carefully remove infected pulp, fill in the root, and place a new crown, but that doesn’t mean it’s betterOur natural teeth are nearly always preferable to any kind of false teeth. They look and work better, while an extracted tooth may result in future problems for the surrounding teeth, in addition to a lengthy replacement process.

To learn about the steps of root canal treatment, check out this video:

The Root Canal Reality

The truth is that root canal therapy is a great way to save a tooth, and modern dentistry has made the process comfortable and pain-free. If you’ve been avoiding root canal treatment because of one of these myths, do the best thing for your tooth and schedule a dental appointment today!

We love our patients’ healthy smiles!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Is Your Child Teething?

 

EVERY CHILD GOES through periods of teething, which can be particularly difficult because they are too young to understand it. It can also be hard for parents, but teething is completely normal and we’re here to set our patients at ease about what to expect and how to deal with it.

The Stages Of Teething

The first thing to know about teething is that there are different stages. The first stage is erupting, which is the period when the teeth grow up from the jaw bones towards the surface of the gums. The second stage is cutting, which is when the teeth actually break through the gum line. It’s very common for babies and toddlers to experience pain during these stages, but they can’t communicate this to their parents, so it often manifests as picky eating, tiredness, or even hunger.

Signs And Symptoms Of Teething

A baby’s first teeth usually appear at between 4-6 months, but it isn’t uncommon to see them anywhere between 3-14 months. If your baby’s teeth are taking a little longer to show up, don’t be alarmed. While no two children will go through the exact same thing, here are a few of the most common symptoms:

  • Drooling
  • Irritability
  • Biting, chewing, sucking on everything
  • Refusing to bite, chew, or suck
  • Rejecting foods
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Avoiding breastfeeding

Diarrhea, a fever, and a runny nose are not typically associated with teething. These are more likely symptoms of another problem like a virus. If they persist or worsen, it could be time to visit the pediatrician.

Soothing Your Teething Child

There are few things that can be done to help ease the teething process. First, don’t stop breastfeeding! Breast milk has been known to be one of the best pain remedies for teething. Next, let them chew on things! They need to chew to help the teeth cut through the gums, so chewing, sucking, and biting everything is actually necessary. This is where teething toys can come in.

Good Toys To Consider

Although most teething toys are safe to use, there are a few to steer clear of. Before you buy a teething toy, make sure it doesn’t contain BPA, PVC, or phthalates — chemicals that are used in everyday items such as women’s perfume and lotion to make them last longer, all of which can be harmful if consumed.

It’s also important to keep in mind a few key points when picking toys. Consider what the toy is made out of. Is it solid or does it have a gel filling of some kind (and if so, does it seem sturdy enough not to leak)? Can it be cooled in the fridge? Can it clip onto your child’s clothing? Is it easy for them to hold?

Check out this video for a few more teething tips:

Come To Us With Your Teething Concerns

If you feel you’ve done all you can to help your child along during their teething process but things still seem to be going awry, you can always bring them to see us! We can check to make sure their teeth are coming in well and that they’re right on track. Just make the call and we’ll be here!

It’s no contest; our patients are the best!

Top image by Flickr user mylissa used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.