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Choosing the Right Toothpaste

You’ve brushed your teeth your whole life and might still have a difficult time trying to decide the right kind of toothpaste to buy. With so many different varieties, flavors, and formulas, it’s not an easy choice.

Generally speaking, toothpaste is nothing to get too stressed about. As long as you like your toothpaste because of the taste, the foaminess, the packaging or whatever other reason and you feel encouraged to brush, that can be a good enough reason to buy it.

Good dental hygiene depends only a little on the right toothpaste. Things that are typically more important are the frequency and thoroughness of brushing, how often you floss, and regular dental visits. The particular toothpaste you choose is a relatively minor component in the grand scheme of oral health. Still, there is a dizzying array of choices in any toothpaste aisle, and this general overview should help guide you:

Cavity-Fighting Formulas
Some packages make prominent claims about fighting cavities, but brushing your teeth regularly with any toothpaste (or even none at all) will help fight cavities. It’s ultimately the act of brushing that removes plaque from your teeth. But fluoride, an active ingredient in toothpastes with cavity-fighting claims, does help fight tooth decay while strengthening teeth and protecting enamel.

If you have young children, however, you may not want them to use fluoride toothpastes. Fluoride can be harmful if swallowed, causing a cosmetic condition called fluorosis. Encourage your children to rinse and spit after brushing, and you can also find fluoride-free formulas for children. These products are often called “toddler” or “training” toothpastes.
Teeth-Whitening Toothpaste
If you’re looking for help to whiten your teeth, you may turn to toothpaste with whitening claims. Using a whitening toothpaste, though, doesn’t work nearly as well as purchasing a whitening kit or receiving treatments from your dentist. At most, they will help you fight off any new staining from occurring and some discoloration.
Antibacterial Toothpaste
If you have had issues with gingivitis, then you may want to consider an antibacterial toothpaste. They include an ingredient called triclosan that helps fight off bacterial infections. Though triclosan is generally considered effective, some professionals aren’t entirely convinced that it works all that well. Try it if you like, but ongoing problems with gingivitis should be treated under the guidance of a dental professional.

Natural ToothpastesFor those who gravitate to products with natural ingredients, you probably already know you can find natural toothpastes in most stores. These formulas favor ingredients such as aloe or peppermint oil and often leave out the fluoride…but not always. Check the label if that’s important to you. Natural toothpaste flavors also tend to be less sweet than mainstream brands.

Sensitive Teeth
Many people have teeth that are overly sensitive to hot and cold food. This condition can make consuming anything from ice cream cones to hot tea uncomfortable or even painful. Toothpastes for sensitive teeth help block the nerves that cause this discomfort.

Toothpaste is a major consumer category, and dozens of companies offer dozens of varieties. Often there is not much of a difference between all of the options, so the best toothpaste in the end is the one you just happen to like.



8 Common Misconceptions About Orthodontics

The field of orthodontics is no exception to common misconceptions. Below are some of the common misconceptions we often hear at our practice:

Misconception 1 – Orthodontists and dentists are the same

Truth – Both dentists and orthodontists go to dental school, but orthodontics is a specialty within the field of dentistry. Orthodontists spend an additional two to three years after dental school studying the complexities of moving teeth and correcting malocclusions (misaligned bites), and once they begin practicing, that’s all they do. Meanwhile, dentists are often called “general dentists” because they handle the non-specialized tasks for maintaining oral health such as doing check-ups, filling cavities, and cleaning teeth.

Misconception 2 – Only kids get braces

Truth – This misconception is going away, because according to the American Association of Orthodontists, around 20% of people with braces are over age 18, and some statistics put that figure much higher. Meanwhile, the number of adult orthodontic patients keeps going up every year.

Misconception 3 – Only kids with all their adult teeth should see an orthodontist

Truth – The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that visits to an orthodontist begin at age 7. For patients at that age, the orthodontist can foresee problems in the future. Also, young children have more malleable facial bones. The orthodontist may want to use devices to reshape the dental arch to avoid the need to pull teeth later on.

Misconception 4 – Braces will make you have a “metal mouth”

Truth – Braces used to involve a lot more metal than they do today. Now, the brackets are much smaller, lightweight, and discreet than ever before. Patients can also choose lingual, or behind-the-teeth braces. Treatments like Invisalign involve no metal at all.

Misconception 5 – Braces are out of reach financially

Truth – Orthodontic treatment can be expensive, it’s true, but our practice offers various payment plans and work with patients to find ways to make braces affordable. We feel it is important to make orthodontic care accessible to all.

Misconception 6 – Braces are only for cosmetic purposes

Truth – People with straight teeth and aligned bites have decreased risk of plaque build-up, tartar, cavities and gum disease. Teeth also wear more evenly which helps them remain strong and resistant against infection. The cosmetic aspect shouldn’t be discounted either, as an attractive smile correlates to higher self-esteem and psychological health.

Misconception 7 – Braces are painful

Truth – When patients periodically have their braces tightened, their teeth may feel sore for a day or two, but medical advances have made braces so comfortable that patients typically forget they have them on.

Misconception 8 – Treatment takes a long time

Truth – Depending on a patient’s medical situation, treatment in braces can take as little as one year and rarely longer than three. “Long” is a relative term, but treatment times are demonstrably short when measured against a lifetime of benefits. Patients who keep their orthodontic appointments and follow their orthodontist’s instructions will see results the most quickly.

Dental Implants

Tired of Your Toothbrush? Try a Twig.

These days, you have multiple products to choose from to clean your teeth and maintain good oral health. Do you want the bristles of your toothbrush soft, medium, or hard? And is your toothbrush electric or manual? What types of toothpaste, mouthwash, and dental floss do you prefer?

Having all of these options may seem unnecessary or even a bit silly, but it’s something to be thankful for. Our ancestors, who were without these modern-day conveniences, did their best to keep their mouths healthy using items that would be considered quite strange today.

Take toothbrushes, for instance. Throughout history, many cultures—including ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, and Chinese—used twigs or sticks to clean their teeth. Often, one end of the twig would be frayed into loose strands similar to the bristles on a toothbrush. The other end might be sharpened into a point at the end, not unlike a toothpick. Such “chewing sticks” are still used in many places around the world and are often taken from trees whose material is known (or believed) to have tooth-protecting properties. In some predominately Muslim parts of the world, this stick is known as a miswak and is taken from an arak tree. In Africa, this species of tree (salvador persica) is known as a “toothbrush tree.”

Dental floss also looks a lot different than it once did. There’s speculation among some historians that prehistoric man may have used a type of floss (possibly made from horse hair) for between-teeth cleaning, but nothing conclusive about that has been found. The invention and popularization of modern dental floss is credited to an early 19th century dentist, Dr. Levi Spear Parmly. Dr. Parmly, who lived and practiced in New Orleans, advocated for the use of waxed silk for flossing teeth in his book, A Practical Guide to the Management of Teeth. Though this idea took a while to catch on, by the end of the 19th century many prominent companies of the time—Johnson & Johnson among them—were marketing, packaging, and selling their own varieties of dental floss. The silk used during that time was later replaced by the nylon floss we see today.

Contemporary forms of toothpaste and mouthwash are especially different from what they once were. The ancient Egyptians mixed up their own versions of toothpaste using items as varied as rock salt, spices, honey, herbs, dried flowers, and even goose fat! Toothpastes made just a few hundred years ago utilized burnt bread and soap as key ingredients. A version of mouthwash popular in ancient Greece included olive juice, milk, and vinegar. Elsewhere, rinsing with tortoise blood was done as a way to counteract toothaches.

Many of these methods for maintaining dental health seem laughable to us now, but for many cultures it was all they knew. Modern dentistry has come a long way since then, with technologies and products based on science rather than lore. Maintaining a proper teeth-cleaning routine is certainly a lot more convenient, effective, and tastier than it used to be.

National Stress Awareness Month

Less Stress, Better Teeth

Let’s not forget teeth during National Stress Awareness Month, which comes around every April. Stress is most often associated with conditions like heart attacks, insomnia, and ulcers, but stress can also cause damage to your oral health.

Several oral conditions are often closely linked to stress. Outbreaks of common mouth sores, such as canker sores and fever blisters (cold sores), are thought to be the result of stress, at least in part. Stress may also lead to behaviors that can in turn cause dental problems such as eating sugary foods, failing to brush or floss properly, or chewing on pens, fingernails or other items that will damage your teeth.

Stress can also cause people to grind their teeth, either during the day or while they are asleep. This condition, which is known as bruxism, is one of the most significant dental conditions that stress can bring on. If left untreated, bruxism can lead to a range of problems, including damage to your teeth and dental work, as well as pain throughout your head, neck, jaws, and ears.

If you believe that your oral health is being adversely affected by stress, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist or orthodontist. They might suggest mouth guards, recommend over-the-counter remedies, or prescribe more targeted forms of treatment.

And if you think that stress might be having a negative effect on your overall health and well- being, you don’t have to live life all tense and wound up. There are lots of ways to alleviate stress in your daily life:

Go for a walk

  • Meditate or do yoga
  • Do any form of regular exercise
  • Take a few deep breaths whenever you feel tense
  • Slow down your life and figure out what you can cut out of your schedule
  • Structure your cell phone usage so you’re not always connected
  • Hang out with friends and family

There are countless other suggestions too. Just find ways to relax that work for you!

Famous Dentists, from Outlaws to Politicians

In the history of dentistry, there have been dentists who invented new tools or methods, started dental schools, made discoveries, or advanced the profession in other significant ways. Many of these dentists remain well known in their field and are still recognized and honored, but some dentists have gone on to become famous, or even infamous, for reasons that have nothing to do with oral health.

One dentist in particular became notorious during the days of the Wild West. Ever heard of “Doc” Holliday? John Henry Holliday was a “doc” because he had worked as a dentist. He is best known for his partnership with Wyatt Earp and their infamous battle at the OK Corral. Holliday became a gunslinger after leaving an active dental practice in Atlanta. He contracted tuberculosis and abandoned his practice for the West’s drier air and gambling dens.

A decade after Holliday passed, Harry J. “Doc” Sagansky was born in Boston in 1898. After graduating in dentistry at Tufts University, he opened his practice at a pharmacy, which was also a secret liquor store during Prohibition. Sagansky eventually became involved in illegal gambling, nightclubs, and loan sharking. He served jail time for attempting to bribe a city official and was hauled into court during organized-crimed hearings in the 1950s for being a major figure in “the largest racket kingdom” in Boston. He has the dubious distinction of being the oldest organized crime figure to be sentenced to Federal prison at the age of 91.

Another dentist, Thomas Welch, started his career as a Methodist minister but decided to attend New York Medical College in 1856. While building a successful dental practice in New Jersey, he invented a non-alcoholic grape juice to be used instead of wine in religious services. Welch’s grape juice became popular in the 1890s (and remains popular to this day), while Welch continued to practice dentistry.

Some other dentists that became well known include:

  • Zane Grey – He chose New York City to begin his dental practice because he wanted to be near publishers. He eventually became famous for writing over 80 western novels.
  • Annie Elizabeth Delaney – A 1923 graduate of Columbia University, she was the second African American woman to be a dentist in New York, but she is better known for her best-seller, Having Our Sky, which also became a Broadway play.
  • Paul Revere – He is famous for alerting Boston citizens that “The British are coming…,” but he was a dentist who also made dentures for his patients.
  • Charles Murray Turpin – Turpin, a Pennsylvania dentist, served 15 years in Congress in the 1930s. Three dentists are currently Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives: Brian Babin (Texas), Paul Gosar (Arizona) and Mike Simpson (Idaho).
  • Steve Arline – Arline, a pitcher in the National League in the 1970s, was known for his baseball career of 463 strikeouts. Arline practiced dentistry after retiring from baseball. Another successful pitcher, James Reynold Lonborg (better known as “Gentleman Jim”), also became a dentist later in life.
  • Alfred P. Southwick – This Buffalo, New York dentist is credited with creating the first electric chair.

Most dentists seem mild-mannered and friendly, but as you can see, they sometimes hide hidden talents and notorious secrets.

Mom and Dad (and Grandma and Grandpa) Are Getting Braces Too

Although orthodontists will say that no one is ever too old to wear braces, for most of us, it is surprising to learn that actor Danny Glover started wearing braces at age 59. Actress Faye Dunaway was age 61 when she began 18 months of treatment. Dunaway said that she was inspired by Tom Cruise, who at age 40 showed off his ceramic braces in 2002.

Today, more than one million adults in America wear braces. Statistics from the American Association of Orthodontists show this reflects a 58 percent increase in the number of adults (defined here as people over the age of 18) in orthodontic treatment, while the number of children and teenagers increased only 15 percent during that same period (1994-2010).

Advances in orthodontics are one of the primary reasons that so many adult patients seek treatment. Options today include clear removable aligners (Invisalign), tooth-colored ceramic braces, lingual braces that fit on the tongue side of the teeth, and veneers, which are wafer-thin shells of porcelain bonded to the front side of teeth. Even when metal braces are recommended, they are much smaller than those used 15 years ago.

Some adults choose to get braces at the same time their children do to correct similar problems: crowded or crooked teeth, overbites and underbites, and misaligned jaws. Such problems can create oral health issues, and it’s not only movie stars who want to have pretty smiles. One lawyer who chose to get his teeth straightened said he wanted juries to pay attention to the words coming out of this mouth and not to his crooked teeth.

Why didn’t these adults address these problems before they were 18? Maybe their families couldn’t afford the cost at the time, or perhaps these adults did have braces as children, but they didn’t follow up or wear their retainers properly. In addition, teeth can shift as you age, and an accident may cause dental issues.  Regardless of the reason, it is never too late to start orthodontic treatment.

National Children’s Dental Health Month

The Plaqster has the dreaded monster mouth, but Flossy, Buck McGrinn, Den and General Smiley know what to do to solve Plaqster’s problem. The American Dental Association (ADA) has created these characters to celebrate National Children’s Dental Health Month, which occurs every February to promote good oral health.

It takes work to defeat monster mouth, but McGrinn and Smiley, who like to display their smiles, always remember the code “2min2X” when they brush their teeth for two minutes in the morning and evening, and, like Flossy, floss them once a day. Den wears braces so he is especially careful to take care of his teeth. They are often hungry during the day and need their snacks, but they choose food with little or no sugar, so they won’t get cavities. Instead of lemonade, Coke, or fruit juice, they drink water, milk or sugar-free drinks. Instead of sticky foods (like potato chips and chewy candy) or hard candies and breath mints, they eat cheese, yogurt or fresh fruit.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that the number one chronic disease in early childhood is cavities. Cavities are five times more common in early childhood than hay fever. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that more than 40 percent of children have tooth decay by the time they reach kindergarten. The road to oral health therefore begins in infancy when parents should follow these guidelines to prevent tooth decay:

Wipe the baby’s gums with a soft washcloth after feeding.

  • Fill baby bottles with water for naptime or bedtime. Avoid giving your baby juice and other sugary liquids.
  • Do not dip a pacifier in anything sweet. Also, break the pacifier habit by age 4 to avoid problems with tooth spacing.
  • Encourage your child to drink from a sippy cup by age one.
  • Parents should use a soft-bristle toothbrush twice a day on their infant’s baby teeth and should schedule their child’s first dental appointment around the time of his or her first birthday.

Concerns about teeth decay continue, of course, into the school years. The National Education Association (NEA) says that reports show that students miss 51 million hours of school every year because of oral health problems. And children who have experienced recent oral pain are four times more likely than their peers who have had no mouth pain to have lower grade point averages.

In addition to maintaining healthy diets, children need to learn how to take care of their teeth. Parents should follow these recommended steps:

When you know your children understand not to swallow toothpaste, brush their teeth with a kid’s fluoride toothpaste twice daily.

  • Take your children to the drugstore to choose their own toothbrushes.
  • Brush your teeth when they are brushing theirs to encourage their efforts.
  • Begin flossing their teeth when two teeth touch. Feel free to use floss holders and teach them how to use them.

National Children’s Dental Health Month offers a great opportunity for parents to augment their children’s understanding of the importance of oral health with stories and games. Word games, activity sheets, and other goodies (in English and Spanish) can be downloaded from this link on the American Dental Association’s website. You’ll find more good stuff on this page of the National Education Association web site.