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Great Gifts for Grandparents

June 10th, 2020

Our grandmothers and grandfathers, our moms and dads—we’ve known them our whole lives. So, why are they so hard to shop for?

If your older family members have all the sweaters, socks, and scents they need, consider a gift that can make life a bit easier and perhaps a lot healthier—an electric toothbrush!

  • Easy Efficiency

The most important reason to choose an electric toothbrush is its effectiveness. Several studies have shown that regular use of an electric toothbrush leads to a marked reduction in plaque, that bacteria-filled film which sticks to the teeth and leads to cavities and gingivitis. And it’s really no surprise that an electric brush can out-perform a manual brush.

Using a manual brush is not just a matter of applying toothpaste and scrubbing. Proper technique means short brush strokes at a 45-degree angle for the outer and inner surfaces of the tooth, thoroughly cleaning the uneven chewing surfaces of the molars, and brushing the inside of the front teeth with gentle vertical strokes. Meticulous cleaning of all these surfaces can be difficult, especially for people with dexterity issues.

Electric toothbrushes offer several options, from oscillating/rotating brushes to oscillating/rotating/pulsating models to brushes using sonic vibration technology. What they all have in common is the ability to remove plaque far more effectively than we can on our own, because they provide the equivalent of thousands and even tens of thousands of brushstrokes per minute, as opposed to the hundreds we can achieve by hand.

  • Comfortable Control

An electric toothbrush can be not only more efficient, but also more comfortable for older brushers. For those with arthritis, limited mobility, injuries, or other health conditions, the larger handles can be easier to control and much more grip-friendly. And, with the work being done by the brush head, users avoid repetitive hand and wrist motion.

Also, the pressure applied to teeth and gums with an electric brush is designed to clean thoroughly while protecting the mouth. Heavy-handed manual brushing can irritate delicate gum tissue and even damage enamel over time. With an electric brush, users only need to guide it along teeth and gums as it supplies all the power needed. There are even pressure sensors available to warn users that their brushing is too vigorous.

  • Apps, Anyone?

If your grandfather likes to keep things old school, a basic model with a convenient two-minute timer and several cleaning modes will offer all the bells and whistles he needs. But if your nana has more Instagram followers than you do, consider a more tech-savvy option.

Several of today’s electric brushes come with features designed to make brushing even more effective. They can let her know if she’s brushing long enough, alert her if she’s brushing too hard, and remind her that it’s time to replace the brush head. Some models link to handy apps that will map out just where she’s brushed, in case there are a few spots that get overlooked. Or choose a model which comes with a travel case that can recharge while she’s busy seeing the world.

Okay, all that being said, we’ll admit it—a toothbrush might not be the most glamorous gift your grandparent unwraps on that special day. But helping a favorite family member brush more effectively and comfortably while improving dental health? That’s a gift that keeps on giving!

Could a Night Guard Be the Answer to Your Dreams?

June 3rd, 2020

Have you been having trouble getting a good night’s rest?

Sometimes the reason for a poor night’s sleep is obvious. A midnight horror movie. A bedtime espresso. That anchovy and pineapple pizza you had for dinner. Not much we can do about these problems.

Sometimes, though, the cause of your sleep difficulties is dental in origin, and that is something Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis can help with.

Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is a very common dental problem. When people with this condition sleep, their jaws clench and their teeth grind against each other throughout the night. When to suspect you might suffer from bruxism?

  • You wake with a sore jaw, or you hear pops or clicks when you move your jaw
  • You suffer from frequent headaches or facial pain
  • Your teeth are chipped, cracked, flattened, worn down, or sensitive
  • You wake up tired, because grinding affects the quality of your sleep
  • Partners, siblings, or roommates complain about nocturnal grinding noises affecting the quality of their

Pain and fatigue are unpleasant enough, but there are additional serious consequences for those who suffer from bruxism. Our jaws are extremely powerful, and clenching and grinding can put hundreds of pounds on pressure on teeth and jaws over hours of sleep. These forces can lead to:

  • Damaged teeth. Cracked, chipped, and worn down teeth can mean veneers, crowns, and root canals. Seriously compromised or broken teeth might need to be extracted.
  • Damaged dental work. Bruxism can lead to fractured veneers and damaged fillings and crowns. If the damage is too serious for repair, replacement might be necessary.
  • Damaged jaw joints. Severe cases of bruxism can lead to injury to the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, the complex hinge that allows our jaws to move up and down, back and forth, and side to side.

Why are periodontists concerned about bruxism? Because tooth grinding, over time, can also cause problems for your gums. Grinding your teeth doesn’t cause periodontitis, or advanced gum disease, but it can make the effects of the disease worse.

Periodontitis, left untreated, breaks down the bones and ligaments which support our teeth and hold them firmly in place. The extreme forces generated by tooth grinding put even greater pressure on these already compromised support structures, which can accelerate their breakdown.

While tooth, jaw and periodontal damage can be treated with restorations, or root canals, or implants, or surgical procedures, prevention is clearly a much better option for a healthy smile. And one of the simplest and most effective treatments for preventing the damage caused by bruxism is a night guard.

Night guards fit over the affected teeth to prevent them from touching directly, saving tooth and enamel from injury and wear. Not only do night guards prevent contact, they spread the biting forces of the jaw over the surface of the guard to greatly reduce their impact. And because they also stop the jaw muscles from clenching tightly, there’s no excess stress placed on the temporomandibular joint.

While over-the-counter products are available, a dental professional is the best person to see for the most effective night guard. A custom night guard is designed to fit your individual teeth and mouth perfectly. Impressions or 3D scans are taken in our San Mateo, CA office, and a guard is fabricated with the precise shape, strength, and thickness you need to protect your teeth. And, as a bonus, custom night guards offer the most comfortable fit for the most comfortable night’s sleep.

Scary movies, late night caffeinating, creative food combinations—not much we can do about those! But if you’re suffering lost sleep and painful mornings because of tooth grinding, give your dentist a call. In many cases, a night guard just might be the key to sweet dreams.

Is a Loose Tooth a Lost Tooth? Not Necessarily!

May 27th, 2020

When we were small, a loose tooth wasn’t a reason to be worried. On the contrary! It was a time to celebrate: A permanent tooth on the way. A sign that you were growing up. Perhaps even a lucrative visit from the Tooth Fairy. Losing a baby tooth had quite a few benefits.

Now that we’re grown, no such benefits are in store for us, because a lost adult tooth is gone for good. That’s why any time you notice a loose tooth you need to call your dentist immediately. With prompt dental care, that tooth might be saved.

But first, a word about how our teeth stay firmly rooted in the jaw.

  • The visible part (crown) of a tooth is protected by a layer of enamel. The root below is covered with a protective layer called cementum.
  • There is a socket for each tooth in the alveolar bone of the jaw, where each root is firmly attached within the socket by the periodontal ligament which surrounds it.
  • This ligament is made up of connective tissue, which attaches both to the cementum covering the root and to the alveolar bone. It not only holds the tooth in place, it cushions the tooth from the daily pressure of biting and chewing.
  • The gums surround the teeth and bone, protecting them from bacteria.

If the tooth, bone, ligament, or gums suffer damage, the result can be a loose tooth.

Treating a loose tooth

The treatment you receive will depend on the reason your tooth is loose. There are many situations which can lead to a loose tooth or teeth, and many treatment options available to you. Some of the common causes and potential treatments include:

  • Accident or Trauma

If you have suffered a tooth or jaw injury as a result of an accident or trauma, it’s very important to see Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis immediately. You should be carefully examined to determine whether there is damage to other teeth or the jaw.

In some cases of damage to the periodontal ligament or tooth, even if your tooth is loose or extruded (partially out of its socket), it can be stabilized in place so that the ligament and tissue around it has time to heal.

We’ll make sure the root, nerves, and blood vessels are still intact, position the tooth back in its socket, and then anchor it to the adjacent teeth with a flexible splint for several weeks. In the case of an alveolar or a root fracture, a rigid splint may be used.

Splinting gives the periodontal ligament and bone surrounding it time to heal while keeping your injured tooth from further displacement.

  • Bite problems & Bruxism

Your teeth are designed to withstand a lot of pressure—in fact, in some ways, pressure is essential for healthy teeth and bone. The normal pressure of chewing and biting stimulates bone tissue in the jaw. When a tooth is lost, that stimulation is gone and the result is gradual bone loss in the area underneath the lost tooth.

But sometimes, the pressure exerted by a malocclusion (bad bite) or bruxism (tooth grinding) is too forceful. The connective tissue which holds the teeth in place is damaged by these forces, and loose teeth can be the result.

If your bite problem is caused by a tooth or teeth which are a bit too high, the enamel can be carefully contoured and reshaped. In some cases, splints, either temporary or permanent, can also be used to stabilize several adjacent teeth so that any biting or chewing force is spread over the section as a whole.

If you grind your teeth, a night guard can be custom fitted to provide relief from the pressures and impact of tooth clenching and grinding. This special kind of mouth guard is known as an occlusal splint.

  • Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis causes a loss of bone density throughout the body. Studies suggest that this disease can affect bone in the jaw, leading to weaker bone and looser teeth. Your physician will provide your best medical alternatives, and be sure to let us now if you are taking medication for osteoporosis before we plan your dental treatment.

  • Periodontal Disease

Gum disease is one of the major causes of loose—and lost—teeth. Early gum disease, called gingivitis, should be treated promptly to avoid a more serious condition called periodontitis. Periodontitis can cause the gums to pull away from the teeth, creating pockets for bacterial growth and infection. Left untreated, this infection results in connective tissue and bone loss.

If you have serious gum disease, it’s always best to call a periodontist, a specialist trained in the treatment of the gums, periodontal ligaments, and bone surrounding the teeth.

Deep cleaning procedures such as scaling and root planing, topical and oral antibiotics, and oral surgeries such as flap surgery or bone and tissue grafting can help reverse the effects of periodontitis. Bone loss cannot be reversed, but a graft can replace lost bone and allow healthy tissue to regenerate.

  • Pregnancy

Hormonal changes can cause the ligaments and bone around your teeth to loosen, which can lead to loose teeth. While this might be an alarming development, it’s generally a temporary condition. Talk to your dentist about how to take care of your teeth and gums during your pregnancy.

Hormonal changes can also make your gums more vulnerable to irritation and infection. In fact, swollen and tender gums are often one of the first signs of pregnancy. That’s another reason it’s very important to keep up with dental hygiene during pregnancy. If your gums are red, swollen, bleeding, or tender, give our San Mateo, CA office a call. Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis can be especially helpful if gum problems persist.

What to do if you have a loose tooth?

  • Call your dentist immediately. Timely professional care can mean the difference between saving your tooth and losing it.
  • Avoid wiggling the tooth. This could loosen it further.
  • Protect your loose tooth. Eat soft foods, and try not to chew near the affected area. And while a liquid diet might sound like a good idea, no straws, please. Straws require suction, which can further dislodge your tooth.
  • Keep the area clean, gently.

What to do if a tooth can’t be saved

Baby teeth become loose and fall out because the permanent teeth coming in erode the smaller roots holding them in place. That’s why it’s so easy for parents to help their child’s wiggly baby tooth find its way from mouth to Tooth Fairy.

Adult roots, however, involve alveolar bone, ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves, so an extraction really needs to be done by a professional. You should also be examined to discover the reason for the tooth loss, and to prevent further damage with additional treatment as needed.

If you do lose a permanent tooth, there is still much that can be done to restore your smile. Modern implants are almost indistinguishable from natural teeth, and, what’s more, they function just like natural teeth to stimulate the bone beneath them. Periodontists are specialists in tooth implant procedures, so give us a call to discuss your options.

Finally, a loose tooth is never a cause for celebration, but, with proper dental care, a loose tooth doesn’t always lead to a lost tooth. Restoring a firm bite and a heathy, confident smile? That’s a reason to celebrate!

Start Your Day Off with a (Healthy) Smile!

May 20th, 2020

If there’s one meal that can claim the title of “Sweetest Meal of the Day,” it’s almost certainly breakfast. Sugary cereals, syrup-covered waffles, oatmeal with honey, cinnamon toast (which is literally sugar poured on toast)—it’s hard to imagine another menu even coming close. But you’re trying to keep your diet as healthy as possible. What to do?

First, no need to deprive yourself of the occasional pastry or stack of pancakes. The real problem with breakfast isn’t so much sugar as it is added sugar.

  • Just a Spoonful of Sugar? What’s So Bad About That?

Nothing! Many healthy foods have natural sugars. Milk contains lactose sugar, and it also contains calcium and is enriched with vitamin D—both of which are essential for strong bones and teeth. Fruits get their sweetness from a sugar called fructose, and deliciously provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber to our diets.

Even processed sugar is surprisingly low in calories. In fact, a teaspoon of white sugar has only about 15 calories. But this teaspoon is also rich in nutrients for cavity-causing bacteria. The oral bacteria in plaque use sugars and carbohydrates from food particles as a fuel source to produce acids. These acids erode enamel and lead to cavities.

Choosing breakfast foods without additional sugars, then, is an easy way to reduce the number of empty calories in your diet while safeguarding the health of your teeth. We have a few suggestions.

  • Be Selective with Cereals

If the word “sugar” or “honey” or appears on the box, that’s a hint that your favorite cereal is heavy on the sugar. But there’s a more scientific way to tell just how much sugar is in that spoonful.

While the colorful packaging and playful mascots are eye-catching, check the black-and-white panel with nutritional facts found on every box. If one serving equals 27 grams, and the sugar in that serving equals 15 grams, you know you have a problem. And cereals marketed to children are especially “rich” in added sugar.

But luckily, you don’t need to give up your morning bowl. Many cold cereals are available that offer whole grains, protein, and fiber without a lot of added sugar. Spend some time in the cereal aisle comparing, or, to make life easier, there are many online sites which recommend the best (and worst) cereals in terms of sugar content.

  • Use Your Judgment with Juices

Fruits are packed with important nutrients. Not only do they provide essential vitamins and minerals, they’re a great source of water and fiber. If you drink 100% fruit juice, you are getting the benefit of most of the vitamins and minerals found in fruit. (You’re also getting less of the fruit’s natural fiber, and more of the fruit’s natural sugar, so consider fresh fruit as an option occasionally.)

But when fruit juice comes with “cocktail,” or “punch,” or “ade” attached to the end of it, there’s often something else attached—added sugar. For natural fruit flavor and the least amount of sugar, stay with 100% unsweetened fruit juice.

  • Search Out “Surprise” Sugars

Remember the childhood excitement of searching through your cereal box for the prize inside? Fun! What’s not so much fun? The surprises you might find when you search through the labels on your favorite breakfast items—because added sugars make their stealthy way into many of our morning favorites.

When you compare plain, Greek, and low-fat yogurts, for example, the low-fat options are often higher in added sugar. A container of low-fat yogurt can provide 19 grams of sugar—that’s a tablespoon and a half!

And while you’re at it, be sure to compare the sugar content in granola bars. Some are full of nuts and grains, and some are full of added sugar.

Going out for a breakfast smoothie? Those can contain 70 grams of sugar and more. Making your own at home might be a little more time-consuming, but if you use fresh fruit as your sweetener, you can make sure that what you’re not consuming is added sugar. If you’re on the go, check out all-fruit options at your favorite smoothie shop.

Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis and our team aren’t asking you to eliminate sugar from your breakfast diet altogether. (Everyone loves a doughnut now and again.) But substituting some alternatives for your regular menu choices can reduce the amount of added sugars by tablespoons every meal. That’s another great reason to greet the morning with a smile!

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