A Caregiver’s Guide to Keeping Your Loved One’s Mouth Healthy

There comes a time when the tides change, and we become a caregiver to those that raised us, drove us to soccer practice, dance recitals, and music lessons. They helped us brush our hair and taught us to brush our teeth. Now we are the ones helping with shopping, shuttling loved ones to doctor’s appointments, assisting with errands, and balancing checkbooks. One often overlooked (but just as important) task is helping your loved one maintain their oral health.

As a caregiver, our job is to help our loved ones stay healthy and safe. A large piece of that puzzle is to make sure they brush their teeth and continue to have regular exams and cleanings. As we age, some of us develop arthritis and lose the dexterity needed to brush our teeth properly. Some of us develop age-related memory issues making it easy to forget to care for mouths.

A broken tooth or denture can be painful, and if your parent or family member can’t effectively express what they’re feeling, they may start trading healthy foods for soft, carbohydrate-laden bread and cakes that offer little nutritional value.

But raiding their cabinets and brushing their teeth for them can strip them of what little control they still have over their lives which can result in low self-esteem and depression. With a little investigative work and patience, you can help your loved one stay healthy while allowing them some freedom.

Here are some tips for caregivers helping an elderly family member:

  • Keep up with regular dental exams – Even if your family member doesn’t have any natural teeth, it’s important for them to see a dental professional every six months. Receding bone levels can alter the fit of a denture, and many oral cancers don’t hurt. A professional exam can make sure everything looks A-OK.
  • Make brushing easy – If standing is difficult, let them brush their teeth where they’re most comfortable. Maybe sitting at the kitchen table is easier. Have your family member brush their teeth and rinse out in a bowl of water.
  • Remember to floss – It might be easy to forget, but flossing is important regardless of age. If holding dental floss is difficult, try an interdental brush (proxabrush) or floss threader to make cleaning between the teeth a little easier. Just be sure not to force an interdental brush between the teeth, or you could do more damage than good.
  • Use special toothbrushes – A quick Google search brings up many large-handled toothbrushes that make holding a toothbrush easier for someone with arthritis. Electric toothbrushes are also an excellent choice since they require less dexterity and usually have larger bases too.
  • Don’t forget the dentures – If your loved one has dentures, don’t forget to brush them! Bacteria love to grow in dark, wet places and if dentures aren’t removed and cleaned often enough, an already compromised elderly immune system might not be able to fight off an infection. While they are being brushed, inspect them for cracks, chips, and other signs of damage that might rub or create a sore spot in your family members mouth.
  • Do a breath check – One of the many symptoms of gum disease or an infected tooth is bad breath. Regularly check your loved one’s breath discreetly. If their breath smells rancid, make an appointment for an exam.
  • Limit snacks and sugars – This might be tricky, but if you help with shopping, try to encourage fruits and vegetable over sweets and candy. An occasional treat is fine, but a heavy diet of sugary, starchy foods isn’t healthy for anyone.

Becoming a caregiver is both an honor and a significant life change. It can be overwhelming but knowing that you can keep your loved one at home a while longer is a great reward. Remember that change can be hard for the elderly, too, especially if they have a cognitive impairment like dementia or Alzheimer’s. With these tips, helping your aging parent or family member keep their mouth healthy is one less thing to worry about.

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Non-Candy Treats for a Healthier Halloween

Trick-or-treating is a much-loved tradition and one of the only “holidays” that registers on a child’s radar. Being out at night, dressing up, and the thought of pillowcases full of candy are all part of the allure of the spookiest night of the year. However, the awareness surrounding allergies and the shift toward healthier eating shows more households are choosing to offer non-candy treats.

Balancing a child’s diet is tricky enough without the added sugar from Halloween candy. Proper brushing and flossing even without the plastic pumpkin full of candy is difficult, and some families may choose to do away with all the sweets rather than raise their child’s risk of tooth decay. Candy treats may not only encourage cavities but can also exclude children with allergies. If you’re considering switching to non-candy treats or want to offer them in addition to candy, here are some ideas.

  1. Temporary Tattoos – Who doesn’t love a good temporary “I Heart Mom” tattoo? If that’s not your style, there are many choices available including many favorite cartoon characters and animals. Bonus: They last several days, so your kids can enjoy them longer than that pack of Skittles!
  2. Glow Sticks – Not only are they fun, but they’re also a great way to help your child stay visible while trick-or-treating. Nowadays there are also glow-in-the-dark necklaces, bracelets, fake eyeglasses and a bunch of other fun options.
  3. Bubbles – Halloween themed mini packs of bubbles come in fun character shaped bottles like vampires and witches.
  4. Cartoon-themed Band-Aids – It might sound strange to give out adhesive strips for Halloween, but anyone with a toddler can tell you stories about pretend boo-boos just so they can wear one!
  5. Small Bottles of Water – Some companies even put out Halloween themed bottles! A healthy choice and they help keep kids hydrated while they’re out trick-or-treating.
  6. Halloween Themed School Supplies – Pencils, pens, and erasers. Even adults love these!
  7. Crayons and Coloring Books – Many stores sell shrink-packs of crayons and mini coloring or activity books in the candy aisle and near the birthday party favors.
  8. Vampire Teeth and Spooky Jewelry – Spider rings, bat necklaces, and vampire teeth are fun for kids of all ages.
  9. Stickers – Choosing a variety of different stickers can accommodate a wide range of ages and interests.
  10. Cold, Hard Cash – If you live in an area where you don’t get many children, consider padding a child’s piggy bank and offer some change instead of a piece of candy.

If you opt to give out toys instead of candy this Halloween, consider placing a teal pumpkin on your doorstep to show you have non-candy treats available. The Teal Pumpkin Project raises awareness for children with allergies and has some excellent resources on going non-candy ideas for Halloween. If your decision to not offer candy is only based on health, a teal pumpkin will also show other like-minded families that you provide non-candy goodies, and that’s a treat in itself.

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Not Just Pulp Fiction: The Truth About Dental Abscesses

What is an Abscess?

An abscess is an infection. There are two types of dental abscesses. A periapical abscess, which happens at the root of a tooth and a periodontal abscess which happens in the gum. A periapical abscess can occur when decay gets into the nerve chamber, killing the nerve and pulp tissue. Sometimes a traumatic injury or crack in a tooth can damage the delicate nerve inside, resulting in the death of the nerve. Periodontal disease is a chronic gum infection that can weaken the bone and may result in bone and tooth loss if untreated. It can also trigger widespread infection throughout the mouth. Regardless of where in the mouth the infection occurs, if it goes untreated for too long, a pus-filled area forms and that is called the abscess.

What are the Symptoms?

Symptoms of an abscess include:

  • Severe pain and a throbbing toothache that can radiate to the jawbone, neck, or ear
  • Hot or cold tooth sensitivity that lingers
  • Pressure sensitivity
  • Fever
  • Facial swelling
  • Bad breath
  • Soreness in your neck and jaw from swollen lymph nodes
  • Rotten or sour taste in your mouth

It’s important to mention that sometimes an abscess causes no pain, or sometimes the pain goes away suddenly. The discomfort of a toothache is usually caused by the buildup of fluid or gases inside the tooth as the nerve dies. Sometimes the infection works its way into the gum, creating a bubble on the gum. Once this bubble pops, the infection begins to drain into the gum tissue and mouth, and the pain goes away. This doesn’t mean that the infection is getting better, it just means the pressure is relieved.

Treatment

Once an abscess has been diagnosed, there are a few methods of treatment. Antibiotics can be prescribed to destroy the bacteria, but the central issue of an infected tooth, dying nerve, or periodontal disease must still be dealt with.

If your abscess is due to a dying nerve, a root canal may be recommended to clean out the infected tissue, shape the canals and place a rubber-like material in the canals to seal them. A crown or cap might be put over the tooth to help preserve the remaining tooth and prevent further breakage.

If the infection has gone too far and affected the root of the tooth, an extraction might be suggested, and an implant with a crown on top may be put in its place.

If your abscess is due to periodontal disease, root planing and scaling may be done. This is a deep cleaning done with anesthetic and specialized instruments. Sometimes lasers are used to help sterilize the pocket to help prevent bacteria from reinfecting the area.

Preventing an Abcess

While you can’t always avoid a sudden traumatic impact causing a nerve to die, there are plenty of ways you can prevent decay-related infections and periodontal disease:

    • Visit your dentist for regular checkups and professional cleanings
    • Brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day
    • Replace your toothbrush every three or four months and never, ever share it with anyone
    • Drink tap water or fluoridated bottled water
    • Watch your sugar and carbohydrate intake because they are bacteria’s favorite food
    • Use a mouth rinse before bed so it can sit on your teeth overnight

With a little care, you can help prevent an abscess and periodontal disease before they develop, saving yourself the inconvenience and pain of a toothache and the expense of major treatment.

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The Unforgettable Journey

“Teddy

Parents don’t forget “first” moments in their children’s lives: A first word, the first day of school, that first drive alone. Someone once said, “Days go slow, years go fast.” A parent looking at life in the rearview mirror probably uttered those words.

Dental practices share many milestones with their patients. Whether introducing a child to their first visit or creating a brilliant new smile for mom, dental visits offer special moments for all ages. Family-friendly care sets a foundation for lifetime dental health free of anxiety and avoidance. Nothing delights a dental team like helping youngsters grow into adults that value their teeth!

As practices interact with young patients, they observe changes in growth and development that vary significantly from child to child. Recall intervals between 6-12 months allow a dental team to monitor jaw changes, keep an eye out for cavity problems, and guide good home care habits. Some kids develop cavities soon after the first teeth appear, but early preventive and educational strategies can stop this disease in its tracks. Other youngsters suck a finger a little too long and negatively influence the early growth of their upper jaw. Kids are unique in every way!

Bracing For A Perfect Smile

“Little

Most parents anticipate another first with their kids: Braces. Traditionally, brackets and wires form a rite of passage in the teen years. In many cases, the early to mid-teens often present an ideal window for teeth straightening. With the right timing, their senior yearbook photo sports an All-American smile that’s captured forever.

One size rarely fits all, and the same is true with orthodontics. It’s important to remember that orthodontics combines straight teeth with proportional upper and lower jaws. The two jawbones grow at different rates, and boys and girls may follow different timing patterns. As a result, orthodontic care may provide the most significant benefit at a younger age than parents anticipate. The opportunity to guide bone growth fades quickly, especially in early developers. In other cases, a child may just need a short course of straightening at an older age to enjoy an optimal smile.

Parents know how different their kids can be from one another. The variations make it difficult to generalize the course of dental development, too. Siblings sometimes surprise each other with their first loose tooth at different ages or with unique genetic characteristics. If you’ve ever noticed a trait, such as a space between the front teeth that a grandparent had, DNA is expressing itself. One child may show up with it, but their brothers and sisters may not.

Putting It Together

“Neon

Straight teeth look terrific and are easier to keep clean, but that doesn’t mean orthodontics is necessary for every child. It’s also not surprising to find there may be more than one way to reach the desired goal. In addition, parents mull over real concerns about time, cost, and the effect of braces on other activities. But if treatment appears likely, determining an age that’s unique to each child helps create a perfect smile, normal function, and a comfortable jaw. In some cases, coordinating care with trusted specialists forms another part of a good outcome.

Regular visits during childhood make it much easier to identify the best orthodontic steps at the right time. Whether it’s a short-term appliance, regular braces, or a clear aligner system, modern dentistry offers many ways to guide a growing smile to perfection!

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Whitening: 5 Things to Know Before Getting a Brighter Smile

Before and after whitening

One of the first things that people notice about you is your smile. In today’s youth-obsessed culture, a twenty-something with dingy teeth can appear older than a forty-something with a bright, white, sparkling smile. Here are five things to keep in mind as you embark on your tooth whitening journey to the gleaming smile you’ve always dreamed of:

1. Not all Whiteners are Created Equal. There are different strengths and even different whitening agents used depending on the way they are delivered. An at-home strip from the drugstore will have a lower concentration of active ingredients because it’s an over-the-counter product versus the dentist-made custom trays you use at home with their prescription-strength whitener. Even that whitener isn’t as concentrated as the chairside in-office treatments available on the market today.

Woman using whitening strips2. Those Strips Aren’t for Everyone. Speaking of at-home strips, they may not be the most effective choice to whiten your teeth. They work best for people with straight teeth because they are designed to lay flat across your tooth surface. If you have misaligned or crooked teeth, the strip sometimes can’t get to all the nooks and crannies of the tooth, leaving some areas lighter than others giving you an uneven look.

3. Sensitivity Issues. A common side effect of whitening is tooth sensitivity. This happens because the gel contains an agent that opens the tubules, or pores, of the teeth allowing the whitening agent to do its thing. It usually subsides after a few hours but can last longer or feel more severe if you’ve left the whitening gel on too long. Desensitizing toothpaste can help relieve the sensitivity and avoiding hot or ice-cold food and drinks until the sensitivity subsides can help.

4. It’s Not Permanent. Generally speaking, you’ll need the occasional touch-up to keep that dazzling smile bright. Some methods last longer than others, and there are ways to keep your smile whiter, longer. Limit or avoid staining food and drinks like wine, juices, coffee, tea, smoking and chewing tobacco, especially for several hours after whitening. This will help increase the time between touch-ups. Of course, if that latte is calling your name, why fight it?

Different shades of teeth5. Natural tooth shades vary. It’s important to remember that there are several contributing factors to a person’s tooth color including age, the thickness of the enamel and shade of the dentin which lies under the enamel. The dentin makes up the bulk of a tooth’s structure, and can range in shade from brown, tan, yellow, and gray, and may not lighten to that ultra-white Hollywood smile even with the most potent in-office treatments. Other factors that might prevent a tooth from lightning are fluorosis spots, the gray cast of a silver filling or a nerve that has died. These generally require a deep, internal bleaching on a tooth-by-tooth basis or a more general, permanent restoration like veneers or crowns.

Our team can answer any questions you may have, and together, armed with this knowledge, we can help you find the method of whitening that fits not only your lifestyle but also your budget. Give us a call today!

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Is A New Smile This Easy?

row of people with veneers smileing

Your smile sends messages to everyone you meet. Studies show that your teeth are the main physical characteristic that people notice first, and a friendly smile sets the tone for every relationship in your personal and business life. If you’re unhappy with the appearance of your teeth, dental veneers may offer a significant change you automatically share with everyone around you.

What are veneers?

Veneers provide the ultimate lift to a smile and offer a quick solution to many challenges that frustrate people of all ages. After we collaborate to plan your smile, ultra-thin pieces of porcelain are crafted by experienced technicians. Within a few days, your new smile is ready to share with the world… 24/7.

Today’s porcelain mimics a perfect layer of enamel, enhancing the color, shape, length, and texture of your teeth. Cracks and chips disappear, and years of wear and discoloration melt away. The ability to enjoy a stunning smile with durable, natural material has never been easier.

Dental Veneers are:

  • Ultra-thin: Blend into your smile
  • Strong: Replicate natural enamel
  • Beautiful: Ideal color and shape
  • Conservative: Preserve the healthy parts of your teeth
  • Life-changing: The smile you deserve brought to life

Are Veneers Right For Me?

different shapes and sizes of veneers

Everyone benefits from a healthy, radiant smile. Studies show that people who smile are considered more trustworthy, friendly, and kind. If you’re pleased with your smile, you feel more confident and content.

If you look in the mirror and see any of the following problems, dental veneers may be right for you:

  • Chipped, broken bite edges
  • Yellowing, staining, or discolored spots
  • Crooked, rotated, or overlapping teeth
  • Narrow or short teeth
  • A smile you just find embarrassing

Dental veneers offer one of the most effective ways to transform a list of problems into a brilliant asset you’ll enjoy every day for the rest of your life. Sometimes referred to as “instant orthodontics,” veneers leave our patients amazed at how quickly they’ve improved their lives.

If veneers aren’t the best way to create your new smile, we can explore other innovative solutions to deliver the result you want with cosmetic dentistry. Our patients have found ways to uncover the smile of their dreams they never knew were possible.

How Can Veneers Help Me?

Your smile matters. In fact, it’s one of the most significant characteristics you possess. Studies consistently show positive effects on the following:

Self-esteem: When you’re happy with the appearance of your teeth, you smile more. When you smile more, your brain produces serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine. These neurotransmitters are responsible for reduced stress and feelings of happiness.

woman holding a big picture of her smile in front of her mouth

Success: No matter how you measure it, many studies have connected a nice smile with richer rewards. Smiling salespeople produce more sales and enjoy more career success, and those who smile also appreciate better relationships and are considered more trustworthy.

Influence: Your smile directly influences the feelings of others, adding to their wellness. People shown pictures of smiles and told to frown while looking at them struggle to suppress their own smile! You can change the mood of a room with a grin.

Your Smile Solution

Dental veneers provide benefits far beyond your teeth. By transforming the appearance of your smile with today’s natural porcelains, we can help you elevate the quality of your life inside and out. Veneers have given many people an advantage in their careers and social lives while boosting their sense of wellbeing.

Don’t you deserve to explore what cosmetic dentistry can do for you? Feel free to come in, bring your questions, and we’ll help you find your smile solution!

Goodbye Cavities?

With winter upon us, the common cold shows us why it’s aptly named. Rhinoviruses, responsible for many episodes of congestion, coughs, and sore throats, transmit through the population during every season. But research suggests that this virus replicates better at a temperature a few degrees below the body’s core temperature. Plus, people tend to share closer spaces inside during colder weather. Cozy areas make virus transmission easier.

Many people are surprised to learn that tooth decay is the next most common disease afflicting the population. The bacteria that cause cavities thrive in the mouth, but babies aren’t born with them. They’re an infection that’s often passed from mothers or caregivers once teeth start to appear. Since 92% of adults report at least one cavity, dental fillings are familiar to just about everyone.

What If…

Exciting new research suggests that the way we repair teeth damaged from cavities could change in the years ahead. Consider this:

  • A British team discovered that aspirin enhances the function of stem cells found inside teeth. They found that low-dose aspirin significantly increased the expression of genes that help form dentin, the primary tooth structure usually damaged by decay. This influence helps the tooth create new structure to repair damaged portions.
  • Another research team found that a particular chemical could cause cells to heal small holes in mice teeth. Researchers placed a biodegradable sponge soaked in the drug inside the cavity. This step led to complete, natural repair of the damaged area!
  • Another study demonstrated that a small electrical current could be used to draw new minerals into teeth, producing a stronger outer layer that’s more resistant to bacterial acid.

A vaccine to prevent cavities has been explored for over 40 years. In 1972, a British team reported they were testing one on mice, but fundamental challenges remain today. In the meantime, a host of new materials that mimic natural tooth structure allow us to restore damaged teeth and create healthy smiles. Scientists continue to produce advanced porcelains and resins that can be securely bonded into place. Sometimes the most trained eye can’t discern where the tooth ends, and the filling begins!

Solutions For Every Scenario

When enough damage leads to tooth loss, dental implants offer the ultimate solution for optimal function and confident smiling. Precise 3D imaging and advanced implant components set the foundation for predictable results. Whether replacing single teeth or securing loose dentures, implants can be life-changing!

In our evolving world, dental research continues to enhance the lives of our patients. We follow and evaluate advancements in dentistry, then choose those that serve you best. We’re 

here to be a resource for you and your family, so feel free to contact your team at Kirkland Dentistry with any questions we can help you explore!.

Soda, Sports Drinks and Teeth

Every time you step into a mini-mart, you’re faced with a host of options to squelch your thirst. A rainbow of colors in plastic bottles compete for your attention, and creative marketing often transforms sugared water into a fountain of youth. When it comes to your teeth, does it matter what you choose? How does a bottle of cola or a sports drink affect your teeth and general health?

Everybody knows most of these drinks include a lot of sugar, but it’s easy to overlook how much they carry. A little quick math can help you visualize the carbohydrate burst that occurs with the first sip. The nutritional label reports the number of grams of sugar in a serving, and there are 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon. If a bottle shows 20 grams in a single serving, picture it as 5 teaspoons.

While a 12-ounce soda used to be the norm, 20-ounce bottles are now considered standard. But many of the labels show the grams of sugar for an 8-ounce serving, and they frequently report 2.5 servings in a bottle! Calculating the numbers on a typical label indicates you’ll consume over 19 teaspoons of sugar in this soft drink. Take a look at this one:

The bacteria that cause cavities use sugar for energy and produce acidic waste that erodes tooth enamel. Syrupy drinks provide an ideal power source to keep this population thriving while instigating an insulin spike in the bloodstream. The colossal sugar load also drives the liver to convert sugar into fat. Chronically elevated insulin creates insulin resistance, a condition that contributes to a range of diseases. From cavities to cancer, sugared drinks help fuel many of the health problems afflicting people today.

An Acid Problem

Sugar forms a vital part of the formula that produces tooth decay, but it’s the acid that ultimately causes enamel to dissolve. The normal pH of your mouth rests around 7, but tooth structure begins to erode when the acidity drops to 5.5. Soda can send the pH of the mouth into a nosedive, making the mouth 1000 times more acidic than needed to start damaging teeth. A review of many ingredient labels shows citric, phosphoric, and carbonic acids in the mix. It may take 15 minutes for the mouth’s pH to return to normal after the last sip, and that means a steady diet of sugary drinks can alter the mouth for hours each day.

Diet sodas often hover around a pH of 3.2, far into the range that damages teeth. It’s a good thing that sugar is missing, but a steady exposure to high acidity can still lead to a weakening of tooth enamel. Artificial sweeteners may have long-term general health effects that we’re yet to understand fully.

Limit The Damage

The best strategy for the sake of your teeth and overall health is to enjoy fresh water on a regular basis. If you’re going to drink soda, consider the following tips:

  • Drink soda or sports drinks through a straw to minimize your teeth’s exposure.
  • Rinse with water right after drinking one of these beverages.
  • Avoid brushing your teeth for 30 minutes after drinking the beverage. This practice allows your mouth to return to normal pH before the teeth undergo the light abrasion of brushing.
  • Avoid drinks that list acids on the ingredient label. 

If you consume a sports drink during strenuous exercise or enjoy an occasional soda with a meal, there’s not a lot of reason to worry. Commit to keep sugar exposure to a minimum and drink more fresh water: Your teeth and your body will thank you!.

7 Signs Your Smile Needs Help

In 1952, a university research project examined baseball cards of Major League players. The researchers found that a player’s smile suggested how long he’d live. Players who didn’t smile in their photos lived an average of nearly 73 years, while smiling players lived an average of almost 80 years!

A healthy mouth adds value to our years, enhances our relationships, and bolsters our confidence. Keep an eye out for anything that detracts from your smile and compromises optimal dental health. The following signs could suggest that something isn’t quite right: 

1. Short, thin front teeth. After age 30, teeth wear about 1 millimeter per decade. This change may progress at a slower rate and tends to go unnoticed. If your teeth seem thinner or shorter than they should be, it’s time to find out why. Night or day teeth-grinding abrades precious enamel, and some acidic foods and drinks can erode the mineralized surface. One thing’s certain: When enamel disappears, it doesn’t grow back. If the damage is already done, we can help you explore ways to restore your smile.

2. Dull, yellow teeth. Enamel soaks up dark pigments found in coffee, tea, wine, chocolate, and more. Professional whitening removes these embedded color compounds without damaging your teeth. Our quality gel lifts years from your smile’s appearance and provides a quick confidence boost. We only choose formulas designed for maximum effectiveness and safety.

3. Dark shadows between teeth. If you notice dark shadows between your front teeth, it’s time for a professional to take a look. Dark shadows often suggest a growing cavity, and they don’t usually hurt until they reach the deepest part of the tooth. Cavities develop as acid attacks enamel and break it down. Tooth-colored restorative products can repair your teeth, enhance their beauty, and preserve their function.

4. Red, swollen gums. Healthy gums look pink with a light orange-peel texture, and they don’t bleed. When harmful bacteria aren’t properly cleaned away, they provoke an inflammatory reaction from the immune system. The swelling and bleeding could indicate that you’re starting to lose the bone around your teeth. Our hygiene team has a personalized strategy to help you control gum disease.

5. Crooked or spaced teeth. Straight teeth look pleasant to the eye and help your bite function the way it’s supposed to. Even small gaps become food traps, and crowded teeth are difficult to keep clean. Fortunately, invisible or wireless straightening options make orthodontics easier than ever.

6. One gray tooth. If you look at your smile and see one dark tooth, it needs an exam. A tooth that experienced trauma years ago may feel fine. But if it’s darker than the surrounding neighbors, it usually means that the nerve is dead with a low-grade infection in your jaw. We can evaluate the tooth, eliminate the bacteria, and correct the color.

7. Bad breath. This problem isn’t a visual one, but it does reflect something about the health of your smile. Gases produced by oral bacteria are responsible for most cases of bad breath, although other possible causes should be explored with your dentist or physician. Sometimes the odor comes from a mouth infection, such as gum disease or an abscessed tooth. If everything checks out, our hygienist can help you eliminate the odor with a few simple modifications to your daily routine.

Dental health is all about feeling well and looking terrific. While most problems in our mouths develop slowly, they often reach a critical stage over time. If you see any of these clues or have other concerns, a visit with the team at Kirkland Dentistry can help you protect your smile!h

The Ice Chewing Dilemma

Enjoying a cold drink usually involves a little ice. Sometimes larger pieces are hard to resist as teeth crunch them into smaller fragments. The sound of ice crystals shattering reverberates across a room unlike any other chewing activity; up to 250 pounds of force may be needed to break ice cubes with your teeth! Some people who chew ice may suffer from an iron deficiency and inflammation of the tongue. But ice-chewing often becomes a habit that simply needs to be broken.

This unique chewing habit carries a higher risk of damage to your teeth than chewing many other types of hard foods. Your teeth are made of mineralized layers that protect the soft inner nerve and blood supply found at the center of each one. Enamel, the hardest substance in your body, provides a unique armor as the outer layer. Intricate crystal rods comprise this remarkable covering, although it’s relatively brittle without the support of the layer underneath it.  

If you compress firmly on an ice cube, an extreme temperature change occurs in the crystallized enamel. As the temperature suddenly drops, the crystal expands slightly. The temporary tension releases as the temperature rises again, a process amplified by the jaw force crushing the ice. Microfractures often form in teeth after thousands of normal chewing cycles. Ice accelerates the process.

Heed The Warning

Sometimes a cracked tooth gives you warning signs. But in other cases, the first clue is when a large chunk of tooth breaks off. Many of these teeth have large silver fillings in them and may appear dark from the amalgam staining that occurs over time. A broken tooth may be sensitive to cold and hot or have sharp edges that annoy the tongue, although they rarely ache. Don’t be fooled: a broken tooth needs attention to prevent further problems from developing down the road.

In other cases, a tooth sends you warning signals that it’s cracked and in danger of getting worse. If your tooth twinges with a cold drink but feels fine to chew on, it’s probably not damaged. If you’ve tried a sensitivity toothpaste for a couple of weeks without any change, you still might want to find out the cause. But if you bite down on certain foods and experience a sharp, sudden pain in the same area, you’d better schedule to see us. Usually, this means the crack is expanding slightly under pressure and will likely worsen over time.

What Do I Do?

A cracked tooth can usually be saved even when a piece breaks off. But if you’re experiencing bite pain and wait too long, the tooth may split and need to be removed. Teeth that ache for an extended period of time after chewing or hurt out-of-the-blue may have deeper cracks. Many of them can still be salvaged. 

Your teeth handle a lot of use and abuse. But chewing ice leads to extra stress and possible problems that you just don’t need. Crunching on ice or hard candies may also damage porcelain restorations or other types of fillings. Many of these materials mimic tooth structure and can break if they’re misused. 

If you’re experiencing any of the alarm bells mentioned above, we’ll help you sort out the reasons and the most conservative options for care. A couple of simple tests by Dr. Dave Richardson helps confirm a crack and the best ways to limit the damage. So next time you’re tempted to break an ice cube in half with your teeth, let it melt…your teeth will thank you for it!f