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3 Steps to Handling the Unhappy Denture Patient

 

Patient satisfaction is key to the success of any dental practice.

 

As a dental professional you will do whatever you can to ensure your dental patients are happy, comfortable and pain-free. You know that a dental patient who has a positive experience will keep returning and refer your services to their friends.

 

No matter how well you have prepared them, at one time or another you may have to deal with an unhappy denture patient. A denture patient will have a unique range of concerns over the procedure involved in getting dentures to replace their teeth. Educating your denture patient on what the procedure entails prior to treatment will help to alleviate their concerns. It’s essential to communicate effectively to your patients and manage their expectations.

 

Documentation is important and must be kept with the patient’s records. Dentists should follow the rule that if it’s not documented, it did not occur.

 

Follow these 3 steps to manage a patient that is having trouble adjusting to new dentures.

 

  1. Listen

    • The first and most important thing you can do is listen to your patient. Be sensitive and remain calm while you try to understand the cause of any discomfort or pain.

    • If dentures are new, there is a transition period in adjusting to them. It’s only natural that replacing teeth with false teeth, or dentures can take time to get used to.

    • If the patient is suggesting you did a bad job, and is questioning your professionalism, resist the urge to get angry, and keep your emotions in check.

  2. Assure

    • Assure your patient that new dentures need not be uncomfortable. Make sure they understand that you have their well-being at heart. Identify the problem and suggest possible solutions. Make sure your patient has been given all the necessary information on the proper care and handling of dentures.
  3. Advise

    • Discuss the possible actions that you could take to help your patient. Most unhappy denture patients just want you to solve their problem. Some may push you to waive all or part of your fee. Others may request procedure changes or other concessions. Remember your end goal of a happy patient!

Common complaints from new denture wearers are:

 

Sore Gums

Gum tissues are initially soft and need to time to heal. Gums will become smoother and firmer over time. Gums will continue to shrink and change, and they may need readjusting.

 
Gagging

Gagging can be caused by a few reasons. Dentures may be too loose and move around, or they may be too large, touching the back of the throat. In some cases, a denture adhesive may help. In others, dentures may need to be relined or even remade. A soft lining material can be added to fill up space. This might have to be repeated every three to six weeks until your patient has completely healed, after which final adjustments can be made.

 

Sore spots

Sore spots can be eliminated by grinding down pressure points inside the denture.

 

Dentures Don’t Fit

Over time bones and gums can change and dentures won’t fit as well. A replacement set or modifications can be made.

 

Mouth Infections

Some people who wear dentures get mouth infections such as cheilitis. Cheilitis is a painful infection caused by the overgrowth of yeast, that causes cracking at the corners of the mouth. Stomatitis is also caused by too much yeast and causes small red bumps on the roof of the mouth. Both can be treated with medicine and proper fitting dentures.

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Checklist: 6 Vital Questions to Ask on Your Next Dental Visit

Communication is the cornerstone of a successful practitioner-patient relationship. Dentists and registered dental hygienists hear this principle repeated throughout their education.

 

However, in most dental appointments, the practitioner does most of the talking.

 

Vital questions for your dentist

 

If you’re a patient, these are vital questions to ask on your next dental visit. If you’re a practitioner, this list should help open the door to more productive communication with people for whom you care.

 

1. How Does Dentistry Impact My Overall Health?

There is a strong connection between a person’s oral health and the state of their health overall. Not only does the mouth offer clues to what’s going on in the rest of the body, but it can affect the body in ways patients often find surprising.

 

By examining teeth and gums, dentists can see early evidence of nutritional deficiencies, general infections, and even systemic diseases like diabetes. Studies also suggest that oral bacteria and inflammation plays a role in certain diseases, including cardiovascular disease.

 

2. What is the Condition of my Gums, Teeth and Smile?

Given the connection between oral health and overall health, it is vital patients know where they stand. The appointment should not focus solely on the most pressing problems. Take time to discuss the state of the patient’s oral health as a whole.

 

3. How Does Your Oral Health Impact Your Everyday Life?

Patients in the dentist’s chair should never be shy about what’s bothering them. Even minor concerns can point to bigger oral health issues that should be addressed. Be sure to bring up everyday issues like swollen or bleeding gums, bad breath, loose teeth, and snoring.

 

This discussion should include cosmetic concerns. Studies recognize the link between how someone perceives their dental aesthetics and their social and psychological wellbeing. The appearance of teeth and gums certainly has an affect on a patient’s day-to-day life.

 

4. How Will a Proposed Treatment Solution Benefit Me?

Part of a dental practitioner’s job is to ensure patients have the facts they need to make well-informed decisions about their oral healthcare.

 

Some treatments are necessary, while others are beneficial but optional, or purely cosmetic. It’s important that patients understand the urgency of a procedure and the possible consequences (if any) of not moving forward.

 

5. Is This the Right Practice to do this Work?

Many dentists are generalists, but some specialize in a particular area of dentistry. For certain treatments, patients may benefit from a referral to a specialist in areas like endodontics, orthodontics, or periodontics.

 

A dental specialist in the United States is a member of a Dental Specialist Organization recognized by the American Dental Association; in Canada, a specialist has completed specific postgraduate training and passed a Royal College of Dentists exam.

 

6. Is This the Right Time to Proceed with Dental Treatment?

Assuming the problem is not an urgent one, it may be better to postpone treatment until a later date. Many people have a limit on the total cost of dental care their insurance covers each year; performing different steps of treatment over a longer period can help the patient maximize their dental benefits.

 

The Importance of Practitioner-Patient Communication

We write about communication between patients and dental practitioners on this blog often. In this post, we aimed to help facilitate the process with questions every patient should ask (and which dentists and hygienists should encourage).

 

Check out the Sable Industries blog for more information on dental equipment and resources for practitioners.

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Assissting Stroke Patients with Oral Hygiene Care

The occurrence of a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), commonly known as stroke, has a significant impact on a patient’s oral health. Dental hygienists can provide valuable support in the maintenance of oral hygiene as survivors recover and adjust to life after a stroke.

 

Oral Hygiene

 

This article provides an overview of the role of hygienists in assisting stroke patients with oral hygiene care.

 

Stroke and Oral Hygiene

Cerebrovascular accident (CVA), commonly known as stroke, affects millions of people each year. It is the fifth leading cause of death for Americans and the third for Canadians. In some cases (particularly in elderly patients) stroke causes severe and lasting disability.

 

Patients typically undergo extensive rehabilitation, including occupational therapy. Traditionally, it was physical therapists that helped patients regain oral hygiene skills following the incidence of a stroke.

 

However, cuts to healthcare benefits have resulted in many patients receiving less rehabilitation and little to no assistance in overcoming the challenges stroke can present in brushing, flossing and general oral self-care:

  • Loss of coordination (apraxia) can make brushing and flossing difficult or impossible;
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) can increase the time food spends in contact with the teeth;
  • Facial paralysis (hemiplegia) can cause food debris to accumulate in the affected cheek without the patient’s knowledge;
  • Difficulty articulating (dysarthria) hinders communication between the patient and dental professionals.

Additionally, many of the medications used to treat stroke survivors present side effects that further complicate their dental care:

Each cerebrovascular accident case is unique; not all patients who are recovering from stroke present the same conditions or follow the same path in recovery. However, dental hygienists who wish to support these patients must be knowledgeable of the many ways stroke can impact the state of a person’s dental health and the ongoing care they require.

 

Assisting Stroke Patients with Oral Hygiene Care

Oral hygiene is an important part of a stroke survivor’s care and recovery. Regaining the ability to care for one’s teeth and gums gives patients a sense independence and control over their health.

 

For patients with lasting disabilities, dental hygienists can help empower the patient’s caregivers to provide quality dental care.

 

In most cases, patients are advised to wait at least six months after a stroke to receive non-urgent dental care, and to receive a post-CVA consultation with the patient’s physician. These are some of ways that dental hygienists can assist stroke patients with oral hygiene care:

  1. If the patient uses oral hygiene aids at home, have the patient bring the products to the appointment and demonstrate their use. Hygienists can advise on the usage of these products to achieve the best possible results.
  2. Hygienists can suggest products and methods that can help patients compensate for the loss of dexterity or cognitive impairment, such as floss holders, floss piks, electric toothbrushes, and brushes with a two-minute timer.
  3. Patients who suffer from xerostomia as a side effect of medications can be given products and tips to help relieve dry mouth
  4. For patients with cognitive impairment or memory loss, hygienists can assist by providing all oral hygiene instruction in both oral and written form and including the patient’s caregiver in all appropriate discussions.

 

Celebrating Dental Hygienists

October is National Dental Hygiene Month: an initiative to celebrate the hardworking, compassionate dental hygienists who contribute to the cause of improving oral health care. Sable Industries is proud to support your work.

 

We look forward to assisting you.

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Treating the 4 Common Dental Problems During Pregnancy

If you asked the average parent to name the roster of a prenatal healthcare team, they are bound to mention a few key players: the family doctor, obstetrician/gynecologist, sonographer, and perhaps the midwife.

What about the dental hygienist?

 

commin dental problems during pregnancy

Parents and healthcare providers often overlook the importance of oral health during pregnancy. However, multiple studies have indicated a link between poor oral health and adverse outcomes in pregnancy.

A comprehensive overview of research on this subject demonstrated that associations exist between periodontitis during pregnancy and pre-term birth, low birth weight babies, and preeclampsia.

Common Dental Problems During Pregnancy

In particular, there are four oral health conditions that become more prevalent during pregnancy:

  1. Gingivitis
  2. Dental caries/cavities
  3. Pyogenic granuloma
  4. Dental erosion

We’ve provided an overview of these four common dental problems during pregnancy, along with how dentists and dental hygienists can play a greater role in providing care to pregnant patients.

1. Pregnancy Gingivitis

During pregnancy, the body’s response to gingivitis-causing bacteria in the periodontal tissue changes. Some studies speculate the change is triggered by hormonal fluctuations, such as increased salivary estrogen levels during the second and third trimesters.

As a result, patients who had periodontitis before pregnancy may find that inflammation increases throughout the pregnancy. Those with no prior history of gum disease may develop periodontitis or notice increased bleeding and gingival crevicular fluid flow.

2. Dental Caries in Pregnancy

The risk of developing dental caries or cavities often increases during pregnancy. Patients may be affected by one or more contributing factors:

  • Decrease in salivary pH due to changes in diet;
  • Increase in acidity in the mouth due to vomiting;
  • Dry mouth; or
  • Poor oral hygiene care due to nausea and vomiting.

3. Oral Pyogenic Granuloma

Pyogenic granuloma appears as a small tissue overgrowth on the gums that can be smooth or lobulated and red or pink. These lesions are sometimes called ‘pregnancy tumours’ because they are more common in pregnant patients; however, pyogenic granuloma is not cancerous and often disappears without treatment.

Though not harmful, a pyogenic granuloma can be painful and unsightly.

4. Dental Erosion During Pregnancy

Patients who experience morning sickness or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in pregnancy may develop greater erosion of dental enamel. Although there is no way to reverse dental erosion that has already occurred, dental professionals can assist in preventing and reducing its effects.

Assisting Patients with Common Dental Problems During Pregnancy

Pregnancy can be a critical time for a patient’s oral health. Not only does it increase the risk of these common dental problems, but poor oral health care is linked to outcomes like preterm birth, low birth weight, and preeclampsia.

There are many ways in which dental hygienists can help contribute to positive outcomes through good oral health care at all stages of pregnancy:

  1. Encourage patients to have regular dental checkups during pregnancy, even if they are accustomed to seeing the dentist only once or twice a year. Emphasize the added importance of oral health care during this time in their lives.
  2. Be non-judgemental about new concerns the patient may have about dental treatment during their pregnancy. Many people have heightened concerns about medications, fluoride treatment, and dental x-rays during this time; answer their questions with patience.
  3. Reinforce the benefits of good oral hygiene care: twice-daily brushing for two minutes at a time, once-daily flossing, and using toothpaste with fluoride.
  4. Ask about any new medications or supplements the patient may be taking during pregnancy.

Celebrating Hygiene Month

We all have dental hygienists to thank for being a part of our healthcare team throughout different stages of our lives, including the journey towards parenthood.  This is the second in a series of articles we’ve published on this important role during Hygiene Month: a month to recognize hygienists and emphasize the importance of good oral hygiene.

Sable Industries is proud to produce quality dental tools used by registered dental hygienists and dentists across North America. Contact us today to learn how we can assist your dental practice.

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Why Dental Hygienists Should Perform Extraoral Head and Neck Examinations

Caries. Gingivitis. Ulcerations. Bruxism. These are among the common ailments dental hygienists watch for in every routine dental examination. But there are some areas of inspection many hygienists overlook: namely, the oral structures of the head and neck.

 

Dental professionals, including hygienists, omit conducting an extraoral head and neck examination on patients on a routine basis. However, head and neck examinations can save lives, as they are key to identifying signs of oral cancer.

 

Importance of Extraoral Head and Neck Examinations

When oral cancer is detected and treated in its early stages, the 5-year survival rate is as high as 90%. However, because it often develops without pain or symptoms, patients rarely notice the disease until it has progressed into Stage 2 or beyond.

 

For this reason, dental hygienists and other professionals can greatly improve patient outcomes, or even save lives, by incorporating head and neck examinations as part of routine dental examinations.

 

Dental professionals conduct extraoral head and neck examinations by palpating important structures of the patient’s head and neck to assess and identify abnormal conditions. A thorough examination involves palpation of the jaw joints, parotid salivary glands, thyroid gland, masseter muscles, and various lymph nodes (submental, submandibular, cervical, supraclavicular, occipital, postauricular, and preauricular lymph nodes).

 

It is not necessary to perform these checks in any exact sequence, but the clinician should choose a sequence and apply it consistently to maintain awareness of abnormal versus normal conditions.

A well-practised clinician can complete this examination within four to five minutes.

 

How Dental Hygienists Can Perform Head and Neck Examinations to Improve Patient Outcomes

Unfortunately, many dental hygienists do not conduct thorough  head and neck examinations on patients.

 

The Canadian Dental Hygienists Association (CDHA) identifies various barriers that stand in the way: lack of time, insufficient training or knowledge, concern about client compliance, and lack of guidelines and tools.

 

But the capacity of these exams to improve outcomes for patients is too great to ignore. Dental professionals can potentially detect up to 84% of new oral cancer cases in the critical early stages. And, as demonstrated by an anecdote told by TGNA Clinical Coach and guest columnist Karina Bapoo-Mohamed, these 5-minute examinations can save lives.

 

Bapoo-Mohamed advised her patient to see a doctor ‘sooner than later’ after discovering an abnormality. Within days, the patient was referred for treatment for stage 1 oral cancer.

 

“Everyone that asks how/why I had it checked,” writes the patient, “and all I say is thanks to my Dental Hygienist.”

 

The CDHA sets out the following steps dental hygienists can take to improve their practice when it comes to extraoral head and neck examinations:

  1. Know the facts on oral cancer. Dental hygienists should be confident in their knowledge and ability to locate, review, and update baseline data.
  2. Know the early signs to look for. Perform extraoral head and neck examinations in addition to other routine dental exams. Use this fact sheet from Canadian Dental Association as a starting point for educating yourself on the signs of oral cancer.
  3. Effectively communicate findings to patients. Ensure that patients understand the urgency of identifying and treating a potential case of oral cancer in the early stages.
  4. Refer patients appropriately. Dentists and dental hygienists should establish a process for referring patients who could have oral cancer to a doctor who can conduct a biopsy.
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Airway Support in Dentistry

Medicine has long recognized the connection between a patient’s oral health and general health. While research on the precise mechanisms of this oral-system link is ongoing, we know that inflammation by oral bacterial contributes to inflammation in other parts of the body. In a recent piece for Hygienetown, RDH Shirley Gutkowski discusses an aspect of the oral-systemic link that is proving to be more significant than previously thought: airway disorders.

 

orofacial myology

 

Complications of the airway, particularly mouth breathing and sleep apnea, are growing concerns among dental professionals. Below, we’ll examine how dentists and dental hygienists can use airway support in dentistry to help patients improve their oral and overall health.

 

How Airway Disorders Affect the Oral-Systemic Link

In her article, Gutkowski contextualizes the issues through the work of pediatric dentist Dr. Kevin Boyd. Dr. Boyd is a leading scholar in Darwinian Dentistry, a medical theory exploring the link between modern systemic diseases and human evolutionary changes.

 

Darwinian Dentistry hypothesizes that the rapid industrialization of food has spurred evolutionary changes that leave us susceptible to airway disorders. Specifically, humans have smaller midfaces and smaller sinus cavities than our ancestors, contributing to mouth breathing while awake and apnea during sleep.

 

Mouth breathing causes numerous oral health issues: lower oral pH, dry gum tissue, malocclusion. But it has also been linked to systemic issues far beyond the oral cavity, including higher incidences of ADHD and learning disabilities in children.

 

The same is true about sleep apnea. Gutkowski points out the conditions associated with inflammation are nearly identical to those linked with sleep apnea, and many studies show an increase in inflammation in people who snore. In one study, seniors with abnormal pulmonary function had significantly higher incidences of gingivitis.

 

Airway Support in Dentistry

An increasing number of dental professionals are focusing on the airway, some even opening “sleep practices” that specialize in these disorders. Many of these dentists can provide patients with dental appliances designed to support the jaw during sleep, providing airway support to alleviate apnea symptoms.

 

The practice of Orofacial myofunctional therapy (OMT) is also gaining acceptance as an alternative method of treating airway disorders. OMT involves movements that strengthen the muscles involved in the airway complex. The results are impressive: OMT has been demonstrated to reduce apnea by 62% in children and 50% in adults.

 

There are several ways dental hygienists can play a role in airway support. It is likely that demand for these skills will increase as recognition of airway disorders in the oral-systemic link continues to grow among dental professionals.

  1. Become an expert. Registered dental hygienists can apply for certification as an Orofacial Myologist following completion of an IAOM-approved 28-hour course.
  2. Be breath-aware. Along with looking for signs of periodontal inflammation, hygienists can observe a patient’s breathing for potential issues. A patient who cannot breathe through the nose for 20 or more respiration cycles should receive a referral to an orofacial myology specialist.
  3. Practice preventative treatments. Since OMT takes time, hygienists can provide patients with fluoride varnishes in the meantime, which can help to prevent oral health issues associated with apnea and mouth breathing issues.
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Can Dental Problems Trigger Migraines?

Migraine symptoms have many potential triggers: bright light, changes in air pressure, allergies, high humidity, stress, and more. Can dental problems trigger migraines as well?

Dental problems can trigger migraine

 

According to the American Migraine Association, migraines affect over a billion people worldwide. Over 36 million people experience migraines in the United States alone.

 

What many people do not realize is that their migraine symptoms could be relieved by treating common dental problems.

 

An article in Dentistry Today explores the link between migraines and dental issues. Some of the dental problems that can trigger migraines include:

  • Loose teeth
  • Misalignment
  • Missing teeth
  • Bruxism (tooth grinding)
  • Clenching teeth
  • Caries (tooth decay)
  • Periodontitis (gum disease)

 

How Bad Bite Causes Migraines

Loose, missing, or misaligned teeth contribute to a bad bite. Bad bite strains the jaw muscles by forcing them to work harder to chew, swallow, and even keep the mouth shut. Over time, bad bite contributes to persistent muscle inflammation that can trigger painful migraines or headaches.

 

Pain that begins in the temporomandibular joints, which connect the sides of the jaw to the skull, can also lead to migraines and headaches.

 

Migraines often develop on one side of the head, beginning around the temple and spreading to the back of the head. Dentists observe that patients who complain of having frequent “one-sided” headaches are more likely to have dental problems relating to a bad bite.

 

Tooth Grinding and Migraines

Bruxism, or tooth grinding, is another common dental problem that can trigger migraines. Many people who experience tooth grinding do so at night, so they do not realize they have a dental problem, but do report persistent headaches or migraines.

Other signs of tooth grinding include:

  • Clicking sound when opening the mouth
  • Tender teeth
  • Difficulty opening and closing the mouth
  • Tongue indentations

Clenching or gnashing teeth causes inflammation in the gums and jaw muscles. As with bad bite, the inflammation caused by clenching or gnashing is a potential migraine trigger. These migraines often feel like a dull, constant headache originating around the temples behind the eyes.

 

Migraines, Tooth Decay and Gum Disease

Gum disease is linked to a number of health issues, including migraines. Periodontitis can “refer” pain to the head, which causes sufferers to feel they are suffering from headaches.

 

Throbbing toothaches caused by tooth decay can also trigger headaches or migraine episodes.

 

Are Dental Problems Causing My Migraines?

There is a strong connection between headaches, migraines and untreated dental problems. Fortunately, there are usually ways to treat the underlying issue and diminish the migraine symptoms.

 

Dentists can correct many of the dental problems that trigger migraines through simple dental procedures, orthodontic treatment, or a mouthguard. In addition to relief from migraine pain, patients will experience the benefits of better oral health.

 

While there is no guarantee that treating the problem will end the migraines, dentists can help determine whether the symptoms and dental problems are linked. It is always worth asking.

 

Patients who experience symptoms of bad bite, tooth grinding, tooth decay, or gum disease should see a dentist regularly and ask about headaches and migraines.

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Can Chewing Xylitol Gum be Good for Your Teeth?

 

Most of us chew gum, and we chew it for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s a piece before a first date, or after a particularly strong cup of coffee, many of us use the chewy stuff to keep our mouths smelling clean and fresh as we go about our day.

 

We see gum promoted in advertisements as something you can use not only to keep your breath smelling fresh; but to whiten and clean your teeth, improving your oral health.

 

Exaggerated marketing, or bona-fide fact? The answer lies in the ingredients of the gum you choose to chew.

 

The Potential Benefits

 

It comes as no surprise that if you’re chewing gum with a lot of sugar in it, it’s going to be bad for your teeth. Sugar promotes the growth of plaque bacteria, which in turn promotes the development of cavities, the decay of enamel, and other issues.

 

It’s because of this that many companies, such as Wrigley’s, have begun to use both aspartame and a substance known as Xylitol as a substitute for sugar in their products.

 

A naturally occurring compound that has been shown to prevent tooth decay, the National Centre for Biotechnology Information writes that Xylitol, “reduces the levels of mutans streptococci … in plaque and saliva by disrupting their energy production processes, leading to futile energy cycle and cell death … Consumption of xylitol chewing gum for >3 weeks leads to both long-term and short-term reduction in salivary and plaque S. mutans levels.

 

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Less bacteria on your teeth means less enamel-eating acid created, which means a healthier mouth. Brands like Confadent advertise and discuss their use of Xylitol as a safe alternative to aspartame, and a plaque reducer.

 

According to Delta Dental of California, “With xylitol use over a period of time, the types of bacteria in the mouth change and fewer decay-causing bacteria survive on tooth surfaces.

 

Potential Drawbacks

 

This sounds like a big-time benefit for your pearly whites, but how do the results compare to projection? Some research shows that the evidence regarding the long term benefits of Xylitol as a dental hygiene product is still unclear.

 

According to a review published by the American Dental Association in 2015, while there is some evidence that Xylitol may reduce tooth decay over a period of years, the evidence is low quality.

 

Research published by the Cochrane Library website suggests that there just isn’t enough high quality evidence to confirm that Xylitol prevents tooth decay.

 

Philip Riley, M.P.H., of the School of Dentistry at the University of Manchester in the UK, is quoted as writing, “More well-conducted, randomized placebo-controlled trials that are large enough (in terms of number of randomized participants) to show a difference, if one exists, are needed.

 

The Cochrane Library review stresses in its conclusions, “We found some low quality evidence to suggest that fluoride toothpaste containing xylitol may be more effective than fluoride-only toothpaste … The effect estimate should be interpreted with caution due to high risk of bias and the fact that it results from two studies that were carried out by the same authors in the same population.

 

So, What to Do?

 

In the end, the conclusions are yours to draw based on the evidence given, but it’s safe to say that chewing gum with Xylitol is better for your teeth than its sugary counterparts. While there needs to be some more research done to better reinforce this conclusion, Xylitol has indeed been shown to reduce cavity causing bacteria in the mouth.

 

Still, if you want to keep your teeth healthy, at the end of the day no gum is a substitute for regular brushing and flossing. For more information on Xylitol, its benefits and drawbacks, you can check out this article from Access Dental, or this one from Delta Dental.

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Fluoride – What You Should Know

 

Almost everyone concerned about the health of their teeth brushes regularly, but they may not know exactly why toothpaste performs the cleansing magic it does. They may not even know they also receive fluoride every day in their community’s drinking water.

 

There are various cleaning components in toothpaste and one of the primary ones is fluoride. The discovery of fluoride's cleaning abilities was a boon in preserving dental health. Toothpaste and tap water then became convenient fluoride delivery systems to aid in the fight against tooth decay.

 

A Natural Cavity Fighter

 

The discovery of fluoride’s ability to keep our teeth healthy dates back to the early 20th century. A pair of dentists in Colorado discovered that people in the area had teeth unusually resistant to decay. This was due to the high degree of natural fluoride deposits in the area, which had found their way into the local drinking water. Fluoride became a regular part of toothpaste beginning in 1914.

 

In the 1940s, a multi-year study began with the goal of determining whether adding fluoride to drinking water made a notable difference for dental health. The results showed a 60-65% decrease in tooth decay in children born after the experiment began. As a result, a number of states in America began water fluoridation programs to improve their citizens’ oral health.

 

How Flouride Works

 

The enamel of your teeth is the natural coating that helps to protect them. When children’s teeth are first forming, fluoride combines with the enamel to help stave off decay during a time of life when teeth are particularly vulnerable to cavities. Fluoride remains valuable throughout the life of your teeth by helping protect them against the ravages of sugar and plaque.

 

Rare Health Risks

 

As mentioned, almost everyone’s teeth come into regular contact with fluoride through exposure to drinking water and toothpaste. There are additional fluoride supplements in the form of drops or tablets, and it is also an ingredient in mouthwash. The degree of fluoride in the latter is quite high, so do not swallow it.

High doses of fluoride in water can be bad for you, but this would require ingesting a volume of water with fluoride going well beyond what the normal person drinks.

 

Excessive fluoride can cause conditions known as dental fluorosis and skeletal fluorosis. You can only come down with dental fluorosis as a child, as ingesting too much fluoride at a young age can lead to white spots appearing on your permanent teeth. Fortunately, degrees of this condition ranking above very mild are almost non-existent.

 

You can also acquire skeletal fluorosis by taking in too much fluoride. However, you would have to have a very high amount on a daily basis for a very long period. As with dental fluorosis, the odds of contracting this problem are extremely rare.

 

Government oversight helps to ensure the level of fluoride in drinking water does not exceed safe rates. In Ontario, municipalities follow the guidelines laid out in the Safe Drinking Water Act managed by the Ministry of the Environment.

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10 Tips for Oral Health Care

 

Tooth Care

 

You know the basics of oral health care: brush twice a day, floss your teeth, avoid sugary snacks, and visit your dentist at least twice a year. Here are 10 tips for oral health care you may not know (and a good refresher if you do!)

 

1) Brush Smarter

 

Which is better: a humble manual toothbrush or a fancy electric one? They can be equally effective, but what really matters is your brushing technique.

 

Don’t just brush up and down or back and forth. Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle and use a gentle, circular motion to clean each surface of the teeth, including the chewing side and the side facing your tongue, for at least two minutes. Brushing harder or faster doesn’t do you any good. In fact, it can actually lead to tooth and gum damage! 

 

2) Don't Forget to Floss

 

People often think flossing is secondary to brushing, but they are both essential to good oral health. If you aren’t flossing, you’re leaving a third of the surface of the teeth unclean.

 

The ideal flossing technique is a forward or backward motion, with the floss forming a curved ‘C’ shape around the tooth. Use a fresh part of the floss for each tooth so you aren’t re-inserting the bacteria you just removed.

 

3) Pay Attention to Sensitive Teeth

 

Sensitivity to heat and cold is a common dental complaint, and it’s often a sign of an underlying issue like tooth decay, gum disease, or tooth grinding. It’s important to find and treat the source of tooth sensitivity, even if the pain is mild. See your dentist at the first signs of sensitive teeth.

 

4) Eat Well and Brush Often

 

You’ve heard it since you were a kid: sugar causes cavities. True, a diet high in sugar can lead to cavities, but the real cause is plaque, produced by bacteria in your mouth that eats the carbohydrates left on teeth after a meal.

 

While sugar is the biggest cavity culprit, even healthy food leads to some plaque formation. This is why you should brush after every meal, not just after dessert, and avoid eating or drinking anything, aside from water, after you have brushed your teeth at night.

 

5) Watch Your Fillings

 

Do you have fillings? If so, you can usually expect them to last for eight to 10 years. However, some fillings break down earlier than that. When a filling starts to chip and break apart, food and bacteria can get caught underneath, causing decay deep in the tooth. Be sure to make a dental appointment if your tooth filling is not holding up.

 

6) Wear a Mouth Guard

 

Mouth guards are standard equipment for contact sports like hockey and football. However, less confrontational sports—such as baseball, skiing, and skateboarding—can also pose a risk of injury to your teeth. Even minor dental injuries can lead to long-term consequences, so a mouth guard is a good investment for anyone who participates in a sport on a regular basis.

 

7) Read the Ingredients on Toothpaste

 

What’s in your toothpaste? Different kinds of toothpaste—those for desensitizing, tartar control, whitening, et cetera—consist of different active ingredients. Understanding how these ingredients work will help you choose the right toothpaste for you. You should always choose a toothpaste containing fluoride, even if your tap water is already fluoridated. 

 

8) Beat Bad Breath

 

There are many possible causes of bad breath, but poor oral hygiene is a common source. When you don’t brush and floss regularly, odor-causing bacteria can accumulate between teeth and in the back of your throat. However, bad breath can also be a sign of a medical problem, so have a dentist rule out any oral hygiene issues first.

 

9) Use Mouthwash as Directed

 

Mouthwash cannot replace proper brushing and flossing, but it can help boost your oral hygiene and control issues like bad breath, plaque, and oral sores. Be sure to read the instructions on the bottle before using it. Depending on the ingredients, the manufacturer may recommend using it either before or after brushing or flossing for the best results.

 

10) Make Regular Dental Appointments

 

Do not wait until you have a problem to see your dentist! Even if your teeth and gums seem fine, the dentist might notice things you can’t feel or see. Scheduling regular dental exams will help you detect and treat cavities, tooth decay, gingivitis, and other oral health issues before they become painful and/or expensive to fix.

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