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Floss: Flat or Fuzzy?

Dental floss is big business now. Just trying to choose from among all the different varieties can be daunting. For the folks who just want to keep their teeth clean without undertaking an enormous research project, here are a couple tricks of the trade: 

  • If your teeth are tight together, pick a waxed floss.
  • If your teeth are SUPER tight together, pick a Gore-Tex floss like Glide.
  • If your teeth have large spaces between them, pick a woven ("fuzzy") floss.
  • If you want extra breath freshening, pick a flavored floss.
  • If you want extra protection, pick a fluoride floss.
  • If you have braces or bridges, add a threader, or ask Dr. Hill or Dr. S for more gadgets to help.

But overall, just use something every day to remove the bacteria that create dental decay and gum disease between your teeth! When you find what works best for you, stick with it and your mouth will thank you for it.

Retainers are Keepers!

So the ordeal of orthodontic braces is over...now begins the Age of the Retainer. And how long does this last? Well, since the mouth is a part of a living and breathing organism (that is, YOU!), the changes that occur with each birthday will affect the alignment of your teeth.

Of course, things happen over time (lost my retainers while moving/ forgot my retainers on vacation and now they don't fit/my dog ate my retainers, etc.) and they may need to be replaced. Fortunately, this is pretty simple – two quick appointments. And it's worth it since your retainers are your best friends as long as you plan to have birthdays with a beautifully crafted smile.

Dry Mouth

Do you wake up with your lips stuck together? This is one indication of dry mouth, a condition that seems only annoying, but can actually lead to bad breath, cavities and even mouth infections.

Your mouth needs its usual flow of saliva to keep itself moist and clean, especially during the night, but certain medical conditions or the medications that treat them can contribute to a reduced or thicker flow allowing bacteria to stick. Antihistamines, asthma inhalers, diuretics, high blood pressure pills and anti-depressants are only a few medications that can cause dry mouth. 

Frequent sips of water help combat this condition during the day, but obviously won't help much during the night. Using an over-the-counter rinse that stimulates your own salivary glands (like Biotene) or a rinse that inhibits the stickiness of the bacteria (like a fluoride rinse, such as ACT) before bedtime can keep your mouth happier and healthier.

Soda Safety

It's a no-brainer fact that the sugar in regular sodas (you know, Coke, Pepsi, 7 Up, etc.) causes tooth decay, just like sugar in any other form can cause tooth decay.

What about diet sodas? There's no actual sugar, only artificial sweeteners, so no danger of tooth decay, right? Actually, the reason that real sugar causes decay is that the natural bacteria in our mouths feed on the sugar and deposit acid on our enamel surfaces. The acid itself eats through our teeth, making cavities. So, yes, eliminating the bacterial food source (sugar) definitely decreases the acid level in the oral cavity.

Unfortunately, the thing that makes most sodas bubbly is phosphoric acid, which is added specifically to carbonate the liquid. When drinking any soda containing this ingredient, the teeth are bathed in acid...bummer. The only drink that is non-cariogenic is plain water.

It is unrealistic to believe that people can be satisfied with drinking only plain water for the balance of their lives, so when you do reach for a soda of some sort, try using a straw to reduce the flow onto the teeth and chase it with a swig of water if you don't have a brush and floss handy. Then enjoy what you'll be missing---no extra cavities and trips to the dental office!

Cold Sore Cooties

Cold sores or fever blisters not only are ugly and painful, they are contagious! It starts out as a tingle somewhere on or near the lips and grows into an unpleasant bunch of little virus-filled ulcers.

They can be passed along to others by kissing contact, sharing lipstick or ChapStick or even using the same straw or fork. 

There are medications to treat the outbreaks, but the best way to prevent them is to avoid excess sun exposure, used SPF/personal ChapStick, and do your best to stay happy and healthy (as stress and poor nutrition can cause outbreaks). 

Frequent hand washing is a great way to prevent the spread of cold sores, not to mention a lot of other cooties!

BRUSHA, BRUSHA, BRUSHA

Your mission: Clean your teeth using a bristled device made of plastic.

Special skills needed: Ability to lift and hold a bristled device made of plastic.

Technique preferred: Circular stroke over tooth and gum.

Amount of force necessary: Herein lies the rub (no pun intended). Since the whole point of brushing the teeth is to remove plaque (which has the consistency of pudding during the first 24 hours of contact), a minimal amount of force is needed to do the job. Holding the brush with only three fingers (yes, pinkie in the air) delivers enough force for a focused, soft bristled brush to remove plaque. When the brusher recognizes this minimal pressure, they may return to the normal grip on the handle. There is damage to tooth structure when too much force is used. Even if the brush itself is soft and the movement is circular. The damage manifests as "dished out" surfaces, usually at the gumline which eventually become sensitive, then outright painful...so don't do that!

Your goal:  Clean (intact) teeth!!!

P.S. You can put your pinkie down now.