5 Helpful Tips for Preventing Tooth Enamel Erosion

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Tooth enamel plays a critical role in overall dental wellness. Its hard, translucent coating protects the crown of the tooth from bacteria that could compromise its integrity and lead to plaque buildup and tooth decay. 

Fortunately, most enamel erosion can be prevented. In this post, we’re going to share five main ways you can preserve your enamel so it can help keep your smile healthy and strong for life.

Causes of enamel erosion and preventative measures

In order to know how to prevent enamel erosion, it’s important to understand what causes it.

enamel erosionCause: One of the biggest enamel-eaters starts because of sugar. When we consume sugary foods, the bacteria in our mouths break it down by producing acid. Not only does this acid break down the sugar but it also breaks down our enamel. The more frequently sugar is consumed, the more the enamel breaks down and the less protected your teeth are. Sugary foods can be anything from candy and energy drinks to even options considered healthy like sweetened yogurt and granola.

Tip #1: Prevent enamel erosion by limiting the consumption of sugary foods and beverages. If you do consume them, be sure to brush and floss an hour afterward to rinse your mouth and get any residual sugar out from inside, on or in between your teeth.

Cause: In our American diet, sugar or some form of sugar, is in nearly every mass-produced food. You can work to limit sugar by consuming more whole foods and choosing pure water to drink.

Also, keep in mind, soft drinks are a double whammy because they contain both sugar and acid.

Tip #2: Prevent enamel erosion by limiting the consumption of acidic foods. When you indulge in acidic foods or beverages, brush and floss an hour afterward to clean out your mouth so acid doesn’t linger and cause enamel damage. You don’t want to brush and floss right after consumption of food and drink with acid because the acidic pH environment will allow your toothbrush to abrade the enamel away quickly. If you wait at least an hour, your saliva has a chance to neutralize your mouth.

Cause: Some foods and beverages are highly acidic. When consumed, the acids in foods such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, chocolate or your morning coffee, eat away at your enamel. In addition to acidic food, gastric acid reflux or upper airway based laryngeal/pharyngeal acid reflux will increase acid in the mouth.

enamel erosionTip #3: Prevent enamel erosion by making sure you’re using fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that, when added to toothpaste, mouthwash or your municipal water supply, helps remineralize lost calcium and phosphate ions and reinforce your teeth’s first line of defense, reducing chances of damage and decay.

Cause: Saliva helps neutralize acids in your mouth as well as rinse your mouth when you eat and drink. In some cases, medications can lead to a condition known as xerostomia or dry mouth. It can also be a naturally occurring phenomenon where a person’s salivary glands don’t produce enough saliva to rinse their mouth frequently. In these cases, bacteria feed off food particles and sugars hanging around in their mouth, causing a rise in acidity and leading to more enamel erosion.

Tip #4: Prevent enamel erosion by keeping your mouth from becoming dry.

There are some easy ways to protect enamel and increase saliva production.

  • Sip water throughout the day. Bring a water bottle along to work or school to make hydrating easy.
  • Suck on sugar-free candy. This increases your mouth’s saliva production and helps rinse bacteria.
  • Chew sugar-free gum. This increases saliva production while at the same time helping to dislodge food particles and clean the surface of your teeth. All of these factors work towards preserving enamel and keeping your teeth strong.

Cause: Oftentimes, people ignore preventative care and consume large quantities of sugary and acidic foods and use chewing tobacco. Others binge drink which can lead to vomiting and ensuing enamel erosion. Then, when they start noticing tooth sensitivity or tooth decay, they finally make a dental appointment.

It’s important to remember that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”

Tip #5: Prevent tooth erosion by visiting Eggert Family Dentistry for regular cleanings! At your recare visits, we will polish your teeth to clean up your enamel, often lifting minor surface stains. We can also treat your teeth with fluoride to strengthen your enamel. We will assess the condition of your enamel and if it’s starting to wear away, Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff will recommend the best course of treatment: bonding, crowns or veneers.

If you’re noticing tooth sensitivity, tooth discoloration, cracks, chips or indentions in your enamel or if it’s time to get in for your next recare visit, give our office a call at 651.482.8412.

 

Do You Think Your Wisdom Teeth Should Be Removed? Watch for These Common Signs

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Which dental procedure comes up most in conversation? You guessed it—wisdom teeth extraction. Upwards of 90% of U.S. adults have had their wisdom teeth removed at some point in their teen or early adult years. If you happen to be in the minority and still have your wisdom teeth, you’re surrounded by friends and family who live without that notorious third set of molars. Indeed, wisdom teeth removal is one of the two most common oral surgical procedures.

If you need your wisdom teeth removed, it’s critical to do so promptly so they don’t cause major damage to your bite…or your overall health. Here are five common signs that it’s time to make an appointment with an oral surgeon:

Sign #1: Pain and sensitivity in the back of your mouth

As wisdom teeth develop and move up towards and through the gum line, they can put a tremendous amount of pressure on existing teeth. If you or your child begin to experience pain, throbbing or sensitivity behind your 12-year molars, your wisdom teeth probably require attention.

Sign #2: Irritated gums in the back of your mouth

As wisdom teeth begin to emerge, they cause a flap of gum tissue to form behind the last molars. This tissue easily becomes irritated and inflamed. Gums may also bleed easily.

Sign #3: Tooth infections in the back of your mouth

Brushing your gums where your wisdom teeth are erupting can be challenging for several reasons:

  • This area is way in the back of the mouth and can be hard to reach with a toothbrush
  • The gum tissue is particularly sensitive as wisdom teeth erupt
  • The flap of gum tissue that forms at the site makes it hard to clean gums thoroughly

Consequently, bacteria often become trapped in the gum tissue and cause infections in the teeth and gums. This bacteria can also lead to halitosis, or chronic bad breath.

Sign #4: Jaw stiffness

As teeth emerge, especially if they’re coming in crooked or sideways, they will put pressure on the rest of your teeth. This pressure can make your jaw stiff and cause undue discomfort when talking, chewing or yawning. Also, swelling around the jaw can accompany jaw stiffness. Left untreated, a misaligned bite can lead to TMD.

Sign #5: A change in teeth positioning and bite

If you start to notice that your teeth are moving out of alignment, particularly if this is in combination with any of the signs above, you’ll want to consult with an oral surgeon right away. Unaddressed for too long, your once beautifully-straight teeth can become permanently misaligned and require dental or orthodontic intervention to remedy.

At Eggert Family Dentistry, we advocate for your oral health. One way we monitor your wisdom teeth is through routine x-rays of the area. If we foresee an issue with wisdom teeth eruption or we see evidence that they’re causing problems in one of many ways, we will refer you to our most trusted oral surgery colleagues for a consultation.

As always, we’re here to serve your dental needs and the needs of your loved ones! We can be reached at 651.482.8412.

Crossbites: Everything You Need to Know to Regain a Healthy Smile

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

You’ve heard of an overbite and an underbite but have you ever heard of a crossbite? Perhaps not. However, crossbites are fairly common, affecting upwards of 16% of the population. In this post, we want to take a little time to explore this form of malocclusion so you know how to identify it, how to treat it and why treatment is important.

What is a crossbite?

A crossbite occurs when teeth are misaligned in such a way that the upper teeth fit behind the lower teeth when your mouth is at rest. If the crossbite affects the front teeth it’s referred to as an “anterior crossbite.” If the crossbite affects teeth in the back of the mouth it’s called a “posterior crossbite.”

What causes a crossbite?

There are several reasons why a crossbite can develop:

  • Genetics
  • Thumb sucking or tongue thrusting
  • Mouth breathing
  • Delayed loss of baby teeth and growth of adult teeth

What are symptoms that can result from a crossbite?

You may experience jaw pain or TMD, headaches, neck and shoulder pain or cranial tension stemming from any form of malocclusion, including a crossbite. Also, because teeth don’t line up properly, they can wear unevenly. They can also be difficult to brush well, resulting in tooth decay and gum disease. In severe cases, a crossbite may affect facial structure and cause issues with sleep apnea.

How are crossbites treated in children and adults?

A crossbite can be treated at any stage of life. However, because a child’s jaw is still developing, in many cases a palatal expander accomplishes the task. These expanders widen the upper palate so the upper teeth can sit properly against the lower teeth. Braces and orthodontic headgear are also common solutions for children with crossbites.

For adults, braces can also be effective, however, for adults with severe crossbites, surgery is often the best path forward.

In some cases, Dr. Elizabeth and Dr. Jeff can treat your mild crossbite with Invisalign orthodontic treatment or they can restoratively mask a crossbite by bonding, crowning or reshaping your teeth for a more even bite. However, in the case of a severe crossbite, Dr. Elizabeth and Dr. Jeff will likely refer you to an orthodontist and perhaps an oral surgeon for a consultation.

If your bite is misaligned, we recommend you come into our office for a consultation. The benefits of correcting an underbite, overbite or crossbite go far beyond aesthetics.

We would love to share our knowledge and experience with you so you can achieve a healthy smile with lifelong benefits! Give us a call at 651.482.8412.

HPV and Oral Cancer

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

HPV, or Human Papilloma Virus, is the most common sexually transmitted disease in our country. There are more than 100 strains of HPV in existence and approximately 14 million new cases of HPV each year. While a person’s immune system can potentially fight it off, in many cases the symptoms persist. Most people have at least a basic knowledge of HPV but few people are aware that there’s a connection between HPV and oral cancer.

How does HPV cause oral cancer?

HPV is spread through various sexual practices including oral sex, but because HPV can be transmitted in saliva, even kissing can spread the virus. It can take many years for symptoms to show up, but HPV often leads to oral or oropharyngeal cancer. Oropharyngeal cancer is cancer that affects the mouth and throat. While there can be other causes of oropharyngeal cancer, HPV is thought to cause 70% of all cases in the U.S. Oropharyngeal cancer typically develops in the back of the throat and in the folds of the tonsils.

Signs and symptoms of oral cancer

There are a variety of things to watch for when it comes to detecting oral cancer. Some common signs and symptoms include:

  • Persistent sore throat
  • Persistent earache
  • Hoarseness
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Lumps or thickening tissues
  • Difficulty or discomfort moving the tongue, chewing and swallowing

Prevention

The best way to prevent oral cancer is by reducing your likelihood of contracting HPV strains that can lead to oral cancer. Preventative measures include abstinence, limiting your number of sexual partners, instituting the use of condoms during sexual intercourse and getting the HPV vaccine. It is recommended that children, both boys and girls, get the HPV vaccine (commonly known as Gardasil 9) around the age of 11 or 12, but anyone not previously vaccinated should consider the vaccine even up until age 26. It is also recognized that smoking can increase the chances of developing HPV because it reduces your immune system’s ability to fight infection and it damages cells in the mouth.

Early detection

Regular dental exams are crucial. If you have HPV, it’s important that you share this information with Dr. Elizabeth and Dr. Jeff so they can keep a close watch for early-stage evidence of oral cancer.

Colds, The Flu and Oral Health: Is There a Connection?

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Did you know that when you practice good oral health habits you’re investing in your overall health? While researchers are only beginning to uncover these connections, the findings are significant. Let’s take a closer look.

It all begins with bacteria

When teeth and gums are not properly cared for, bacteria builds up, causing plaque to form and inflaming the gums. When gums become inflamed, bacteria can easily sneak under the gums and enter the bloodstream. Bacteria in the bloodstream can infect tissues throughout the body and make you sick.

An increased risk of developing pneumonia and chronic disease

This ripple effect of poor oral health can be a major risk factor in developing serious diseases, like pneumonia. In fact, a lot of bacteria in the mouth will increase the likelihood of developing pneumonia after a cold or the flu, sometimes by 100%.

And it’s not just pneumonia. Oral disease shares common risk factors with other chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. These risk factors include diet, tobacco, alcohol, hygiene, injuries, stress and socioeconomic status.

While it’s difficult to say at this point whether the relationships between poor oral health and chronic disease is due to association or causation, it reinforces the importance of taking good care of your teeth and gums. To learn more about the connection between oral health and other diseases, check out one of our recent posts here.

Toothbrush care tips

During cold and flu season, vigilance is your best defense. In addition to healthy eating, routine handwashing and getting enough sleep, it’s important to practice good toothbrush care. At Eggert Family Dentistry, we recommend tossing your toothbrush after any cold or flu to avoid the likelihood of reinfection. We also recommend washing your hands before you brush and floss, rinsing your toothbrush well and allowing it to air dry after each use and keeping family members’ toothbrushes separate from each other in order to avoid cross-contamination. And regardless of the season, don’t ever share a toothbrush!

Are you experiencing any tooth pain or discomfort? Have dental health questions? Need to schedule a recare visit? Give Eggert Family Dentistry a call at 651.482.8412!

 

Ways Oral Health Can Affect Your Overall Health and Wellness

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Cavities aren’t the only thing that flossing, brushing, and regular visits to Eggert Family Dentistry can protect you from. In fact, the mouth can be considered a window into your body, giving you information about potential medical disorders and problems your body may be battling.

How could your oral health be affecting your overall health? Here are some physical ways that the two are connected.

Health Conditions Related to your Oral Health

Your mouth can reveal a lot about your overall health. In fact, some systemic diseases like HIV or diabetes are found by oral signs and symptoms, such as lesions.

Although not conclusive, studies have found connections between oral conditions like Gum Disease and the following physical conditions:

  • Heart Disease: Gingivitis, or oral inflammation due to bacteria, can potentially cause inflammation throughout the body which can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Poorly Controlled Diabetes: When you have diabetes, your risk of gum disease increases. In turn, chronic gum disease can make diabetes more difficult to control by causing insulin resistance.
  • Pre-term Birth: Gum disease can potentially increase the risk of pre-term delivery. The theory behind this is that the toxins released by oral bacteria get to the placenta and cause problems between the growth and development of the fetus.

Saliva as a Diagnostic Tool and a First Line of Defense

Your saliva can actually be a tell-tale sign to a doctor that something may be wrong with your body. In fact, for newborn babies, saliva is one of the most pivotal diagnostic tools in determining stress levels because cortisol levels can be found in saliva. And for those prone to diseases like osteoporosis, bone-related proteins in saliva can indicate bone loss.

Did you know that saliva is also one of your bodies’ main defenses against bacteria and viruses? Because of the antibodies and proteins (histatins) that saliva carries, it can fight off diseases and harmful invaders.

How can I protect my oral health?

If you didn’t already have a case for taking good care of your mouth, hopefully understanding the connection your oral and physical health have with one another may help you. Here are some ways to maintain a healthy smile!

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled brush (Contact Eggert Family Dentistry for recommendations on brushes!)
  • Floss every day
  • Get a new toothbrush every couple of months and pay attention to bristles
    Regularly go to the dentist (we recommend coming to see us at least two times a year!)
  • Stay away from smoking or using tobacco products

Taking Charge of your Health & Wellness Journey

As we approach a new year, now is a great time to start making resolutions to take control of your health and wellness journey! Journey is a key word here, as each small step in the right direction will make a big difference.

At Eggert Family Dentistry, we believe that your oral, mental health, and physical health are related and important components of your wellness journey. If you’re ready to begin the first step toward a healthier you, we recommend making an appointment with your primary physician as well as with Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff at 651.482.8412 or by contacting us here.

The Records Process

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

The Records Process at Eggert Family Dentistry is a comprehensive approach to dental health. It’s a thorough evaluation of the entire mouth for the purpose of achieving optimal dental and physical wellness.

Why is it so important?

Dental issues can wreak havoc. They can cause oral discomfort and pain and left untreated, one problem can lead to another. What many people don’t realize, however, is that oftentimes dental problems can also cause health issues throughout your entire body. Some physical symptoms that may be alleviated with proper dental treatment include:

  • Headaches
  • Unexplained shoulder, neck or back pain
  • Insomnia or other difficulty sleeping
  • Snoring or sleep apnea
  • Stiff, sore jaw
  • Frequent fracturing of teeth

The Records Process is also necessary for patients looking to improve their smile and undergo any dental cosmetic treatments like veneers or esthetic crowns and implants.

During the process

During the Records Process we evaluate your muscles, jaw, teeth and gums and their relationship with one another. We take a series of images to help us spot any potential problems and we take impressions of your teeth in order to see how everything is working and moving together.

The Records Process allows Dr. Elizabeth and Dr. Jeff to carefully evaluate and analyze each patient’s mouth and detect and consequently treat any problems they discover. The process also helps us enact proper preventative measures for a healthy mouth and body. For some patients, there can be so many treatment options that the Records Process really helps them define and visualize all the possibilities!

Are you experiencing symptoms that you think may be mouth-related? Are you experiencing any of the above-listed symptoms that you didn’t realize could be mouth-related? Give us a call to schedule an evaluation at 651.482.8412!

8 Bad Brushing Habits

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Maybe you’ve heard this clever little saying: You don’t have to brush all of your teeth. Only the ones you want to keep. While that is true in a great sense – the powerful effects of brushing cannot be underestimated – it doesn’t address the heart of the matter: There is a difference between proper and improper brushing. At Eggert Family Dentistry, we educate our patients on this difference and encourage good brushing habits while helping you break the bad ones! Here are some bad habits to break when brushing your teeth that can ultimately cause more harm than good.

Using a brush with hard bristles

Hard bristle brushes can irritate gums and cause them to recede, exposing roots and inducing sensitivity. They can also wear away enamel. When you buy your next brush, opt for a “soft” brush as opposed to a “medium” or “hard” one.

Using the wrong size brush

Brush heads come in a variety of sizes. If you have a smaller mouth and are brushing with a larger brush, you may not be able to brush the plaque out of the recesses of your mouth. When plaque builds up, cavities form and gum disease can set in. Make sure your toothbrush is proportional to your mouth. Sometimes a smaller brush head can help you get into the “nooks and crannies” a little better.

Brushing right after eating

Brushing after eating is a good thing, right? Keep in mind that acidic foods and beverages can soften enamel. If you brush softened enamel it can cause accelerated wear and tear on your teeth. It is best to wait until your saliva has had a chance to neutralize the pH in your mouth before you bust out the toothbrush. Usually an hour or so will do it. Then brush away!

Storing your toothbrush in a closed container

When you’re done brushing, where do you store your toothbrush? If you put it in a travel toothbrush case or other enclosed container, you might think you’re protecting it from germs. In reality however, when your toothbrush doesn’t get a chance to dry out, bacteria and mildew can form on the bristles. Store your toothbrush in a way that’s open to the air so it can dry out between uses.

Brushing too hard

Hard brushing, like brushing with a stiff-bristled toothbrush, can cause gums to prematurely recede, exposing roots and causing tooth sensitivity. Soft but thorough brushing is the secret to clean and healthy teeth and gums. “Small circular motions at the gumline…” these should be familiar instructions from your recare visits with us.

Using an old toothbrush

Worn bristles don’t clean as thoroughly. Are your bristles frayed or splayed? Swapping out your toothbrush every 3-4 months will help you get the best cleaning each time you brush.

Not brushing long enough

Many of us rush brushing so we can get out the door for work or get to bed. The ADA, however, recommends brushing for two minutes every time you brush. An easy way to keep track is to keep a timer on the bathroom counter and set it each time. Or you can play a song while you brush. Most songs last between two and three minutes and listening to one can definitely help time pass more quickly.

Not brushing the gum line

When brushing your teeth, don’t neglect your gum line. This is a place where food settles and bacteria can easily form. Ward off gum disease by placing your toothbrush at a 45° angle against your gums and brushing each tooth 15 to 20 times in that circular pattern we talked about earlier.

Eggert Family Dentistry wants you to get the most out of your daily brushing. Have you ever considered switching to an electric toothbrush? Check out our video here to learn more! If you have additional brushing questions, don’t hesitate to ask one of our fabulous hygienists at your next recare visit. Joanna, Lea, Shelly, and Cassie are here to help you! Read more about our hygienists here!

Fillings: Why Replace Them?

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Just like other dental work, fillings can age over time. With age, uncomfortable or unsightly problems can present themselves. Old fillings can also become chipped or fall out which leave vulnerable teeth exposed and prone to decay and cavities. At Eggert Family Dentistry, we frequently replace old fillings. Here’s an up-close look at a couple recent scenarios where we did just that:

Oftentimes, fillings start to leak and decay underneath. The best way to see this is by looking at x-rays of teeth. However, decay can occasionally be spotted from the oral exam. Here is an example of an older amalgam filling that looks okay to the naked eye but x-rays reveal otherwise.

After removing the amalgam, the darkened, decayed areas are visible.

Here’s a photo of the tooth after the decay is removed.

After the new composite tooth-colored filling is complete, this is the result.

Staining on anterior composites can happen on account of the age of the fillings, diet or decay on the teeth. Before replacing anterior fillings, make an appointment with Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff to be sure the teeth are healthy. Make sure your teeth are your preferred shade/color before your new fillings are placed.

If you’re concerned that you have old fillings in need of replacement, contact Eggert Family Dentistry at 651.482.8412. We would be happy to set up an appointment with you to determine the condition of your fillings.

Oral Cancer Screening For Early Detection

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Oral cancer screenings are an important and valuable component of a visit to Eggert Family Dentistry. Identifying this disease in its early stages is crucial for successful treatment, and medical advances are increasing our ability to detect it early.

While certain lifestyle choices can significantly reduce the risk of oral cancer, over 25% of victims do not smoke and have no other risk factors.

Oral Cancer Is a Serious Issue

Oral cancer takes more lives than melanoma (skin cancer) or cervical cancer. One person dies every hour from oral cancer in the United States. In the United States we see about 49,700 new cases each year. Oral cancer represents approximately three percent of all cancers diagnosed in the nation. Globally, oral cancer is the 11th most common.

Oral cancer manifests in many ways, affecting any area of the oral cavity including the tongue, gum tissue, lips, cheek lining, and the hard or soft palate. Professional screening is essential because there are often no symptoms in the early stages, or symptoms may be subtle. Some symptoms may replicate that of toothaches, ear pain or minor sores.

Good Dental Hygiene and Regular Exams Help Early Detection

An excellent reason to prioritize dental hygiene is that having a healthy mouth free of sores or discomfort, makes it much easier to notice a red flag like a persistent sore which resists healing, or a change in surface texture. People with chronically inflamed and painful mouths will not be able to notice such a symptom.

Early detection is key to increasing survival rates. Finding tumors when they are small and haven’t spread enables more treatment options which may also be less invasive.

Having an experienced dentist, like Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff, screen your mouth for precancerous and cancerous conditions is a useful precaution, especially for patients with risk factors including tobacco use, heavy alcohol use, or exposure to HPV (human papilloma virus), the most common sexually transmitted infection which may be associated with genital warts.

Like with any cancer, early detection can greatly increase survival rates. Treatment is less invasive early on, and the likelihood of the cancer spreading or metastasizing is diminished.

Don’t Ignore Oral Symptoms

Patients should pay attention to any change of conditions in their oral cavity. Note any sores, lumps, changes in surface texture or painful areas. If they don’t resolve themselves within two to three weeks, book an appointment for an exam. Early detection can save lives. Call Eggert Family Dentistry at 651.482.8412.