Dry Mouth: Causes and Treatment

dentist AnchorageDo you suffer from dry mouth? Did you know that persistent dry mouth could put you at risk for certain dental health conditions like tooth decay and gum disease? A number of factors such as diet, medications, and existing health conditions can cause dry mouth, also called xerostomia.

Causes of Dry Mouth

Dry mouth can be caused by a wide variety of lifestyle, dietary, and medical factors. Tobacco use, high sodium intake, and not drinking enough water contribute to symptoms of dry mouth. Another common cause behind dry mouth is medications such as anti-depressants and anti-histamines. Health conditions that impede saliva production are also contributors to xerostomia. Diabetes is one very common ailment that causes dry mouth.

How Dry Mouth Can Affect Dental Health

Saliva is nature’s way of rinsing your mouth and diluting acids that attack tooth enamel. When the mouth is dry, the gums can become inflamed and irritated and tooth enamel can soften when acid is present. With reduced saliva in the mouth, bacteria are more likely to colonize and thrive, and ultimately form plaque, a sticky substance that hardens into tartar. All of these issues associated with diminished saliva production contribute to dental caries and gum disease.

Tips for Combating Dry Mouth

To ease the harmful effects of dry mouth, our dentist recommends the following:

  • Drink water throughout the day. Patients should strive to drink a minimum of eight, eight-ounce glasses of water every day.
  • Practice meticulous oral hygiene. If you are prone to dry mouth, be sure to brush and floss your teeth thoroughly to reduce bacteria and plaque.
  • Discuss medical conditions and your current medications with our dentist at your appointments for checkups and cleanings.
  • Tell our team if dry mouth persists. Our dentist may prescribe a mouth rinse to increase saliva production.
  • Eat a balanced diet low in sugars and simple carbohydrates—especially if you have diabetes or a family history of diabetes.

For more information and to schedule your next checkup, call the office of Owen C. Mandanas at 907-276-5522.

Harmful Dental Habits to Avoid

dentist AnchorageThe simplest of bad dental habits can have a profound effect on teeth and overall jaw functioning. Some bad habits can easily be spotted at checkups and cleanings by a dentist. Patients can take steps to rid themselves of these harmful behaviors for better dental checkups and a better, healthier smile.

  • Oral hygiene habits: Insufficient or inefficient flossing, brushing teeth too hard, or simply not brushing correctly and at least twice a day can all contribute to increased bacteria in the mouth, more prominent staining of teeth, and inflammation or irritation of the gums, as well as risk of damage to enamel and increased risk of cavities. It is equally important to maintain regular dental checkups and cleanings.
  • Too much sugar and/or acidic foods and beverages: Soft drinks, sodas, sports drinks, juice, coffee, tea, and almost any beverage that isn’t pure water can be quite acidic and acid weakens tooth enamel leaving teeth more susceptible to bacteria and dental decay. Diet beverages are just as acidic, if not more depending on the type of sweetener used instead of sugar.
  • Chewing ice, popcorn kernels, and hard candy: Chewing on hard candy and popcorn kernels can put tremendous pressure on teeth, especially teeth with large fillings. Chewing on ice also puts pressure on teeth, but with the added factor of extreme cold that increases risk of damage.
  • Chewing on anything that isn’t food: Chewing on non-food items such as paper, pens, pencils, paperclips, toothpicks, and other items increases risk of damage to teeth as well as the added risk of transferring bacteria from the object. Nails are not food and underneath the nails live a variety of bacteria that should not enter the mouth.
  • Grinding or clenching teeth: As with chewing on non-food or hard items, grinding or clenching teeth puts undue pressure on the teeth. A lot of grinding and clenching behaviors occur subconsciously such as during sleep, and in such cases a night guard can be worn to reduce damage.
  • Improper use of teeth: Using teeth for anything but their natural intended use (i.e. chewing and speaking) should be considered bad. Teeth are not meant to be used as tools to open bottles, break plastic wrapping or tear open packages, and teeth are not meant to hold items such as flashlights, pens, or other items.

As with most habits, a minimum of 28 days is usually required to break the habitual behavior or to form a good, healthy habit. Contact the office of Dr. Owen C. Mandanas at 907-276-5522 today for more information about good and bad dental habits and making positive changes for a healthier smile.

Gingivitis and Your Overall Health

dentist AnchorageDid you know that the health of your mouth could affect your overall wellbeing? In the last decade, research has consistently shown that oral health is linked to a number of systemic conditions—especially in conjunction with periodontal disease. Gum disease, a common dental condition, has been linked to cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s. Our experienced dentist explains.

An Overview of Gum Disease

The onset of gum disease is difficult to detect; in fact, many patients do not experience noticeable symptoms at first. Gingivitis involves the beginning stages of periodontal disease, where the gums become irritated by plaque and tartar buildup. Plaque is a sticky and slightly translucent substance that coats teeth and gums. Filled with bacteria, when plaque is not removed by brushing and flossing, it will inflame the gums. As plaque builds up and hardens into calculus, the condition will worsen without professional treatment and prophylaxis. Advanced gum disease is a destructive condition that is capable of eroding bone and soft tissues. It is also the leading cause of tooth loss in adulthood.

The Connection between Gum Disease and Overall Health

Gum disease can increase a patient’s risks for heart disease and immune impairment. The link between oral health and overall health is two-fold. For example, diabetics are more susceptible to gum disease and those with gum disease hold a higher risk for developing diabetes. When gingivitis advances, the gums are systemically infected. This infection could potentially reach a patient’s blood stream and cause further health complications.

Preventing Gum Disease

The best ways to prevent gum disease are to commit to visiting your dentist regularly for dental checkups and cleanings and to adopt a thorough oral hygiene routine. Dental cleanings are important for removing tartar, which cannot be removed by brushing and flossing, while checkups can detect gum disease at its earliest stages. Patients should brush their teeth at least twice a day and floss once a day, preferably at night.

To learn more about protecting your health, feel free to bring up any questions you may have at your next visit to our office. To schedule an appointment, call our friendly team today.

What Is Considered a Dental Emergency?

dentist AnchorageSometimes, patients encounter dental problems that require urgent attention, such as facial trauma that damages or even knocks loose a tooth or a severe toothache that causes significant discomfort. A broken dental appliance may also warrant immediate assistance. An abscess, which is an infection around the tooth’s root or between the tooth and the gums, is another cause for concern, as the infection can easily spread throughout the body, threatening the patient’s overall health. Abscesses also tend to be quite painful.

Any such situation may be considered a dental emergency.

In cases of a dental emergency, it’s important to see your dentist as soon as possible. Most dentists have some flexibility in their schedules to accommodate same-day appointments for patients who are affected by a dental emergency. In some cases, the dentist may recommend that the patient go to the emergency room and then schedule a follow-up appointment with the dentist for any additional treatment that may be necessary. 

In cases of a dental emergency, it’s important to see your dentist as soon as possible.

Although dentists may accept brand new patients with dental emergencies, it is preferable to have an existing relationship with a dentist so that if you do find yourself in need of urgent dental care, the dentist will already be familiar with your case.

Your dentist will schedule an appointment with you as soon as possible, but there still may be a short period of time when you are waiting to be seen.

As such, patients should also be prepared to take necessary steps to address the situation while they are waiting for their appointment. For example, when a tooth has been knocked out, it can be stored in a container of milk or in a growth medium like Save-a-Tooth until the patient gets to the dentist. A lost filling can be replaced with dental cement or even sugar-free gum, in a pinch. Dental pain can often be managed for a short-time with over-the-counter painkillers.

It’s best to be prepared by both having your dentist’s phone number handy and compiling a dental emergency kit to keep at home. For additional tips, contact the office of Dr. Owen C. Mandanas at 907-276-5522 today.

What Willy Wonka Uses for Toothpaste

Crest has unveiled a new flavor of toothpaste – chocolate!  Chocolate Mint Trek flavor will be available the first week of February 2014.  While chocolate can be good for you (especially in it’s darkest form in moderation), we’re not entirely sold on chocolate toothpaste.  What do you think? Would you use this toothpaste?

dentist Anchorage

Negative Effects of Brushing Too Hard

Scrub those teeth! Get rid of those plaque germs and bad breath! Brush harder! Brush faster!

How many of us have given it our all, only to visit the dentist and find out that we still have plaque, cavities, or receding gums? It happens to millions of patients every day, and the problem may have more to do with your technique rather than your good intentions. 

Brushing too hard can be more harmful than beneficial, and the consequences can cause permanently irreversible damage.

Brushing too hard can be more harmful than beneficial, and the consequences can cause permanently irreversible damage. To understand the importance of brushing smarter not harder, consider these oral hygiene facts:

  • Only soft buildup like plaque and food debris can be removed with brushing and flossing. Hardened tarter cannot be brushed away, no matter how hard you may scrub.
  • Most toothpaste brands contain abrasive ingredients that are designed to make the enamel smoother and reduce stains. Many of the products that are marketed as ‘whitening’ are much more abrasive than regular the regular formulas.
  • A back-and-forth or “sawing” brushing pattern can tear away the delicate gum tissues and pull them away from the teeth. This results in receding gums that leave the tooth roots vulnerable and unprotected.
  • Years of brushing too hard with an abrasive toothpaste can actually scrub away the outer layer of enamel, leaving a deep groove in the side of the tooth. This thinning or removal of the outer layer of enamel increases the possibility of tooth decay and also general sensitivity.

A good, brisk scrubbing can make your mouth feel tingly and clean. Unfortunately, the heavy-handed approach does very little to prevent dental diseases. In fact, pressing down on your toothbrush can actually make the bristles less effective and you will notice that the bristles will wear out faster. Bristles that are flared or flattened are a sign that you’ve been brushing too hard.

Rather than brushing aggressively and damaging your smile, contact the dental office of Dr. Owen C. Mandanas and ask about the proper way to improve your oral health.