Robert E. Jepko, DDS, PA

How Everyday Habits Affect Your Teeth

TOOTH ENAMEL HAS the pretty cool reputation of being the hardest substance in the human body. So it may come as a surprise to know that while enamel is super tough, it can also break quite easily! The truth is that our teeth are not invincible, and a lot of everyday habits can put our oral health at risk.

Watch Out For These Tooth-Damaging Habits

Many of these habits seem harmless, but over time they can do a lot of damage to that beautiful smile of yours!

Nail Biting

We may refer to closely-matched sports games as “nail-biters,” but that doesn’t mean we should actually be biting our nails! Nail biting can cause teeth to chip or break as well as lead to enamel damage. The front teeth are often the first to suffer wear and tear from nail biting.

Due to the increased pressure on teeth during orthodontic treatment, biting your nails with braces can put you at greater risk for root resorption (a shortening of the tooth roots) or tooth loss. For the sake of teeth everywhere, let’s keep the term “nail-biter” as a manner of expression rather than a label for ourselves!

Using Your Teeth As A Tool

That darn packet of ketchup just won’t open! While your teeth may seem to be the perfect solution, using them as a tool will cause more harm than good. As strong as your teeth may be, they are not meant to be used as pliers or any other sort of tool. Doing so can lead to fractured or broken teeth and even tooth loss. As a side note, tooth damage puts you at greater risk of decay and cavities!

Gnawing On Pens And Pencils

You may be solving a difficult problem or simply thinking. Before you know it, the end of your pen or pencil is in your mouth. This oftentimes unconscious habit is an important one to be aware of. We don’t realize how much pressure we’re placing on our teeth when we bite down on something that isn’t food.

Chewing on your pen or pencil puts you at risk for broken teeth and even damage to existing dental work. Constant chewing on hard objects can compromise dental restorations such as fillings or crowns. When it comes to this bad habit, we say stay away!

Chewing Ice

Are you an ice chewer? Chewing on ice is another huge culprit behind chipped, cracked and fractured teeth. The cold can weaken teeth even further, leaving them more susceptible to breakage.Chewing ice cubes doesn’t just chip teeth, it chips away tooth enamel as well, causing serious damage over time. Even your blender needs special blades to crush ice! So next time you’re tempted, just remember your teeth aren’t equipped to crush ice cubes.

Do Your Chompers A Favor

Your teeth are made to chew food and nothing more. If you’ve got one of these bad habits, do your chompers a favor and work on quitting. If you have successfully broken one of these habits, tell us how in the comments below! 🙂 

 

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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Good Tooth Brushing Technique

BRUSHING OUR TEETH is something we can get so used to doing that we don’t really think about it– but are we doing it the right way? It can be easy to get into some bad tooth-brushing habits, and the result can be that your teeth aren’t getting cleaned properly and you could be doing damage to your gums. So let’s take a moment to go over good brushing technique.
 

What To Avoid When Brushing Your Teeth

A few of the things we should avoid when we brush our teeth are brushing too hard, only brushing up and down or side-to-side, and always starting in the same place. Brushing too hard can damage our enamel and our gum tissue, which is why we should also avoid hard-bristled brushes.

When we only brush up and down or side-to-side, we tend to miss the spaces between teeth, which allows plaque to build up and leads to tooth decay. Because brushing our teeth is such a routine thing to do, it can be very easy to do it the same way every time, but when we always start brushing in the same place, we tend to pay unequal attention to the first teeth we brush compared to the last. Try mixing things up so that your whole mouth can get the same level of attention!

Brushing Your Teeth The Right Way

The first rule of good brushing is one you’ve likely heard all your life: brush twice a day every day for at least two minutes. Do whatever you need to do to make brushing your teeth an unskippable part of your morning and evening routines. You could even play music so you know how long to keep brushing!

However, brushing isn’t just about quantity; it’s also about quality. For the best cleaning action, hold your toothbrush at a 45 degree angle and focus on the gum line. Use gentle circular motions to brush the outsides, insides, and chewing surfaces of every tooth. And don’t forget to brush or scrape your tongue before you’re done! Like daily flossing, tongue-scraping is another crucial step for getting rid of harmful bacteria (and it will help keep your breath fresh!).

Timing is also important. Our teeth often feel unpleasant after a meal, but as much as you want to clean them, make sure you wait at least half an hour after eating before you brush. The acids in our food and produced by oral bacteria soften our enamel right after we eat, and it takes about half an hour for our saliva to restore a neutral pH. If we brush too soon, we can actually brush away some of our enamel!

Here’s a great 4.5 minute video on the top 10 healthy hygiene habits! 

Your Dentist Is Your Greatest Resource

If you’d like more tips on tooth brushing techniques, just ask your dentist! They can make sure your oral health routine is on track for keeping your teeth healthy for life. And don’t forget that an essential component of having healthy teeth is scheduling regular dental appointments!

Now set that timer and get brushing! 😉

 

Top image by Flickr user Gloria 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.

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Fighting Back Against Oral Bacteria

A BATTLE IS CONSTANTLY raging inside your mouth for the fate of your teeth. The only one who can turn the tide and make sure your teeth win this battle is you.
 

The Defenders And The Attackers

Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body. It’s like the castle walls, protecting the softer dentin and pulp inside each tooth. Unfortunately, it is porous and vulnerable to erosion by acids.

When the enamel loses minerals to acid exposure (a process called demineralization), it weakens the teeth and leaves them more susceptible to decay. However, we can fortify that enamel by getting enough minerals and nutrients, remineralizing our teeth. This is the battle our mouths are fighting every day: demineralization versus remineralization.

The invaders in this battle are bacteria. They feed on sugar and carbs left in our mouths after a meal, and they excrete enamel-eroding acid onto our teeth. Luckily, we have a natural defense against the bacteria, and that’s our saliva. If enamel is like castle walls, then saliva is like the moat. A lot of harmful bacteria falls into this moat and gets washed away instead of being able to attack the castle walls.

To learn more about what harmful bacteria can do, check out this 3 minute video! (Maybe even share it with your kids?!?!)

Which Side Will You Fight On?

While our enamel and saliva are built-in defenses, there is a lot we can actively do to make sure the good guys are winning the battle in our mouths. When we practice mouth-healthy habits, we’re fighting on the right side, but when we neglect them, we’re fighting on the side of the bacteria.

One thing you can do to fight back against harmful bacteria is cut back on junk food. Sugar-filled treats and drinks and other processed foods supercharge the bacteria that lead to tooth decay, but foods like apples, cheese, eggs, carrots, celery, fish, and dark leafy greens promote remineralization of your enamel. Choose your snacks with your teeth in mind!

You can also prevent demineralization by brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride remineralizes your enamel too, and it also reduces bacteria’s ability to produce acid.

Never Give Up! Never Surrender!

You are the most important part of the battle for your teeth, so make sure to do everything you can so that your teeth can win the fight. Your reward will be a healthy smile for life. Keep up the good work brushing, flossing, and eating a mouth-healthy diet, and don’t forget that you can always schedule a dental appointment with your general dentist to give your teeth’s defenses a boost!

 

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.

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

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The Big Scoop On Tooth Sensitivity

DO YOU GET a painful jolt through your teeth every time you try to enjoy a bite of ice cream or a sip of fresh coffee? If you do, then you’re familiar with the woes of tooth sensitivity, and you’re not alone. More than half of adults between the ages of 20 and 50 experience some degree of sensitivity in their teeth, and children can have sensitive teeth too.

So why does this happen? Well, to understand tooth sensitivity, it helps to know about the structure of a tooth and how the different layers function.

The Anatomy Of A Tooth

The crown of each tooth is covered in a thin layer of hard enamel. Beneath the enamel is dentin, a bony substance with thousands of microscopic tubules running through it. These tubules are how the nerves in the pulp at the core of each tooth can detect what’s going on at the surface.

Causes Of Sensitivity

Most often, tooth sensitivity occurs when the enamel wears away, which could be the result of teeth grinding, erosion from acid, or even improper brushing. Without enamel, the tubules in the dentin become exposed. Once that happens, eating or drinking anything hot or cold — sometimes even sweet or sour — will give the tooth a nasty shock.

Another major cause of sensitivity is root exposure. Teeth roots don’t have that layer of enamel; their main defense is the gums. Gum recession, which can also be caused by teeth grinding or improper brushing, leaves the roots vulnerable. Other causes of sensitivity include cavities and having a chipped or fractured tooth.

Check out this 1.5 minute video for more!

How You Can Protect Your Teeth

If you do have sensitive teeth, there are several ways to fight back. First, start using a soft-bristled brush if you aren’t already, because hard bristles may further damage the enamel and gum tissue. You can also switch to a toothpaste specifically formulated for sensitive teeth. Finally, avoid sugary or acidic foods and drinks, particularly soft drinks.

What Our Practice Can Do

Make sure to come to us OR your general dentist office if you begin experiencing tooth sensitivity, even if your next regular appointment is months away. Your general dentist can possibly strengthen your teeth with a fluoride varnish, perform dental restoration work on areas with enamel loss, recommend a gum graft to cover exposed roots, or prescribe a desensitizing toothpaste. They/we will make sure there aren’t any other problems with your teeth- sometimes a root canal is needed if the sensitivity is too painful and/or won’t stop!

We and your general dentist office are here to make sure your smile stays healthy and strong!

 

 

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.

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

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Oral Health Habits To Teach Your Children

RAISING A CHILD IS TOUGH work. There are so many things parents have to teach them so that they can succeed as they grow older. Included on that list are good oral health habits that will enable them to keep their teeth healthy and strong for life!

 

 

Build Good Habits Early

For permanent teeth to be healthy and strong it’s crucial to start building good oral health habits at a very young age. These habits include brushing their teeth twice a day for two full minutes, scraping their tongues, and flossing daily. Being consistent with a daily routine will help establish these habits quickly. Besides, you want to keep their baby teeth healthy so that their adult teeth will come in where they should and have a healthy start!

Tactics For Teaching Oral Hygiene

Children love to imitate what their parents do, and they love proving that they are big boys and girls. Aside from letting them watch someone brush their teeth, here are a few other ways to help them form good habits!

  • Get them excited! Talking up good oral health will help them to get excited about starting to brush their own teeth as well as flossing and eating the right foods.
  • Let them choose their own “equipment.” When they choose their own toothbrush, it will them take ownership of their oral health, so encourage them to pick out their favorite one!
  • Use examples! Youtube videos, apps, children’s books, etc. are great examples, other than brushing yourself, to show your child that having good oral health is fun to do!
  • Praise their successes. If they know you’re proud of them for brushing their teeth, they’ll be proud of themselves and be happier to do it. You might even use a reward system until they get in the habit, like a sticker chart to build up to a prize.

Share this video with your children to show them why they should take care of their teeth:

Check out this 1.5 minute video for more!

Our Extra Expertise

If your child is still refusing to brush their teeth, or is having a hard time grasping the concept of maintaining good oral health, that’s okay! Every child learns at their own pace. Just be patient and keep trying. You can also come to us for help. We can show them examples, talk to them, try to find out why they’re not so interested in brushing, and set up a routine with them! They’ll be tooth-brushing pros before you know it.

 

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.

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

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Weight Management And Oral Health

 

MAINTAINING GOOD ORAL HEALTH is a goal we should all be striving to achieve each and every day. Not only does this help us to feel like our best selves; having good oral health is reduces our risk of developing a variety of conditions and diseases! Brushing, flossing, tongue-cleaning, and regular dental visits are all crucial ways to keep your mouth healthy, but did you know that a healthy diet and weight management can also have a positive impact on oral health?
 

How Weight Loss And Oral Health Correlate

One way our oral health correlates to what we eat and our weight has to do with our blood glucose levels. Sugar (glucose) is the favorite food of the bacteria in our mouths, and when we eat, our blood glucose goes up, particularly when we aren’t eating healthy foods. Maintaining a healthy weight also reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which makes blood sugar even more difficult to regulate and puts oral health at risk.

Inflammation in the body due to being overweight can also be harmful. It can make people’s bones lose density and they can even lose teeth because of gum disease! Maintaining a healthy diet and weight is important because our teeth and gums need the proper nutrients and vitamins from the foods we eat to be strong and work properly!

Crash Dieting Versus Oral Health

While we recommend healthy diets and lifestyles for oral health, crash dieting can do more harm than good. People want to see results fast and don’t always know the best ways to do it, so they turn to things like the internet or friends’ experiences to learn of the latest diets they can try. One example of a harmful crash diet is the grapefruit diet, which is bad for oral health because it can erode the enamel on our teeth due to high acid levels. Another “easy” solution that causes problems is weight loss pills, which can lead to teeth grinding.

Check out this 4.5 minute video on how to identify a fad diet!  

The Right Diets For Your Teeth And Your Health

When dieting is done right, it isn’t a problem for the teeth. Diets that encourage eating more whole foods and reducing added sugars will properly nourish your body and help oral health rather than hinder it. Vegetables, fruits, proteins, and healthy fats are all crucial to having good oral health! Eating a large amount of vegetables can help aid in healthy gums and oral tissues. Drinking whole milk will also help to provide our teeth with the calcium they need!

Continue Building Healthy Habits!

Eating and providing our bodies with the proper nutrients improves our lives in many ways, not just by improving our oral health. Conversely, maintaining a healthy weight through a nutritious diet isn’t the only way to keep your mouth healthy, so don’t forget about those other oral health habits!

Keep up the good work in living your healthiest lives!

 

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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Seasonal Allergies And Your Oral Health

 

SPRING IS IN THE AIR…and that means so are allergies. Seasonal allergies affect millions of people every year, but did you know that they can also affect oral health?
 

Why Do We Get Seasonal Allergies?

While there are plenty of allergens that can make us sneeze year round, such as dust and pet dander, seasonal allergies typically flare up twice a year: in the spring and the fall. This can mean long months of congestion, an itchy nose, mouth, eyes, or throat, puffy eyes, sneezing, and coughing for people with allergies.

The reason our allergies act up the most during spring and fall is that trees and grass pollinate throughout the spring, while ragweed pollinates in the fall. Mold will also send out spores around the same time. Allergic reactions, including seasonal allergies, are the result of our immune systems going into overdrive in response to these allergens.

Click here for a 2.5 minute video that explains more!

Allergies Versus Oral Health

While allergies can result in tingly or swollen lips, mouth, or tongue and irritated gums, the most common way seasonal allergies can become a problem for oral health is dry mouth. Whenever we have congestion, we end up breathing through our mouths instead of our noses, which dries up our saliva. Having dry mouth presents a serious threat to oral health, because saliva is the mouth’s first line of defense against gum disease and tooth decay.

Prevention And Treatment

Because many allergens are airborne, avoiding allergic reactions can be difficult, but there are a few things you can do. It’s best to stay indoors on extra windy days when the most allergens are in the air. You should also wear a pollen mask while doing yard work, and avoid using window fans that could blow pollen and spores into your house.

If you do end up having an allergy attack, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and chew sugar-free gum to stimulate your salivary glands, and keep up your daily brushing and flossing routine. Make sure you also take the anti-allergy medications your doctor or allergist recommends to minimize your congestion.

Fighting Back Against Allergies Together!

If you’re experiencing dry mouth, whether as a side-effect of seasonal allergies or for any other reason, don’t hesitate to check with your general dentist! Your oral health is our top priority, and you can come up with a plan to keep your mouth healthy until the allergies end and beyond!

 

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

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Blow A Bubble For Oral Cancer!

April is National Oral Cancer Awareness month, and with your help and that of Oral Cancer Cause (OCC), our practice is raising funds to help oral cancer patients through the difficult period of their treatment and beyond.


 

Making Treatment And Recovery Easier

Over 450,000 people around the world will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year, and treatment often involves extensive oral reconstruction. Many oral cancer patients will have reduced mouth functionality afterward, including not being able to chew gum ever again.

Hope Through Medical Advancements

While the diagnosis and death statistics for oral cancer are still unacceptably high, thanks to advancements in early detection, improvements in treatment, and increased awareness, survival rates are improving. Every little bit helps!

Blow A Bubble And We’ll Donate!

When our patients show support for oral cancer patients, so can we! You can help us donate to this great cause in three simple steps:

Step 1: Grab some gum and blow the biggest bubble you can.

Step 2: Take a photo or video of your bubble.

Step 3: Post it to social media and tag (aka, check in to)  our practice!

For every tagged photo of one of our patients blowing a bubble, we will make a $5 contribution to Oral Cancer Awareness!

NOTE:
$250 minimum donation,
$500 maximum donation
The Blow a Bubble campaign runs through April 30th. 🙂

Together, We Can Make A Difference!

We’re looking forward to this opportunity to work with you, our wonderful patients and friends, to help raise awareness during Oral Cancer Awareness Month.

Blow a bubble to show your support!

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The Different Types Of Teeth

YOU’VE PROBABLY NOTICED that your teeth aren’t all the same shape, but do you know the reason? Humans have four different types of teeth, and they each serve specific purposes, both in helping us chew and in giving us our beautiful smiles!
 

Types Of Teeth And What They Do

The reason we need so many different types of teeth is that we are omnivores, which means we eat both plants and meat. We need teeth that can handle all of our favorite foods!

Incisors

At the very front of the mouth, the top four and bottom four teeth are the incisors. The middle ones are central incisors, while the ones on the sides are lateral incisors. Incisors are built for slicing. When we take a bite out of an apple, for instance, our incisors shear off a tasty chunk of fruit, but they aren’t the teeth we actually chew with.

Canines

Next to the lateral incisors are our canines, which are the sharpest and longest teeth in our mouths. This enables them to grip and tear food, particularly meat. Unlike incisors, we only have four canines. Their long roots and their position at the “corners” of our dental arches also make them some of the most important teeth in our smiles, because they provide much of the shape. Another name for canine teeth is eyeteeth. That might seem weird, but it’s because these teeth are directly beneath our eyes!

Premolars

After the canines, we have our premolars. You can think of premolars as hybrids between canines and molars. They have sharp outer edges, but they also have flat chewing surfaces, which means they can help the canines with tearing food and the molars with grinding it up. We don’t have any premolars as children; our eight adult premolars are actually the teeth that replace our baby molars!

Molars

Finally, we have the molars. Molars are our biggest teeth, with multiple roots and large, flat chewing surfaces. We have eight baby molars and up to twelve adult molars, depending on whether or not we have and keep our wisdom teeth. Molars are the teeth that do most of the chewing, because those flat surfaces are perfect for grinding and crushing food until it’s ready to be swallowed.

Want to show your kids about their teeth in a fun way? Try this 4 minute video

What About Herbivores And Carnivores?

Our teeth are the way they are because we’re omnivores. Herbivores (plant-eaters) and carnivores (meat-eaters) have very different teeth. Herbivores typically have chisel-like incisors and large, flat premolars and molars for chewing plants, while their canines are small, if they have them at all. Carnivores tend to have much bigger canine teeth than we do, but their incisors are much smaller, and while they still have premolars and molars, they are often serrated like knives, built for shredding rather than grinding.

Biannual Visits

What do all four types of your teeth have in common? They need regular attention from a dentist! Keep taking those incisors, canines, premolars, and molars to your general dentist every six months so that we can make sure they’re all staying healthy. In the meantime, you can do your part by remembering to brush twice a day, floss daily, and cut back on sugary treats!

Top image by Flickr user _zhang 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.

The Anatomy Of A Tooth

TEETH ARE A LOT more complicated than they might seem from the outside, which is why we’re using this post to provide a brief dental anatomy lesson. Now let’s dive right into the structure of a tooth! The easiest way to do this will be to divide that anatomy into two main categories: the crown and the root.
 

 

Something To Chew On: The Crown

The crown of a tooth is the part that is above the gumline. It consists of three layers. The outermost layer is the enamel, which is the hardest substance in the human body. It needs to be so that we can chew our food! However, enamel isn’t made of actual cells, which means it can’t repair itself if it wears down. Good brushing and flossing habits, regular dental visits, and avoiding sugary or acidic food and drink will help preserve that enamel for life.

Beneath the enamel is dentin, which is a lot like bone, consisting of living tissue that is calcified. It contains microscopic tubules that run from the pulp at the core of the tooth to the outer enamel. That’s why we can feel temperature in our teeth! If the enamel has worn down, that normal sensation turns into painful tooth sensitivity.

At the very core of each tooth is the dental pulp chamber. The pulp includes the blood vessels that keep the tooth alive and nerves that provide sensation — including pain receptors that let us know when something is wrong. If tooth decay becomes severe enough to reach the dental pulp, you will definitely feel it, and that’s a great time to schedule a dental appointment, if not sooner!

Beneath The Surface: The Root

The root is the long part of the tooth that connects to the jaw bone. Tiny periodontal ligaments hold each tooth in place, and gum tissue provides extra support. The roots are hollow, with canals that link the nerves and blood vessels in the dental pulp to the nervous and cardiovascular systems.

The main difference in the structure of the root compared to the crown is that the root lacks enamel. Instead, it is protected by a thin, hard layer of cementum. As long as the gum tissue is healthy and properly covers the root, the lack of enamel there isn’t a problem, but this is why exposed roots from gum recession are more susceptible to decay.

Here’s a great one minute video that puts it all together!

Protect Those Teeth!

Every part of a tooth’s anatomy is important to it staying strong and healthy so that you can use it to chew your food and dazzle everyone around you with your smile, and that’s why it’s so important to keep up a strong dental hygiene regimen. Keep on brushing for two minutes twice a day and flossing daily, and make sure to keep scheduling those dental appointments every six months!

 

Top image from aae.org (“Root Canal Explained”).

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.