Halloween and dental health

Halloween has a bad reputation when it comes to dental health and it’s for good reason. Eating large amount of refined sugar is just bad for your teeth. However, by following these tips from the American Dental Association, you should be able to protect your teeth.

Halloween is around the corner, which for most children means bags of free candy and a chance to build up the stockpile of sweets for the winter. Being one of the most fun times of the year for families, Halloween can also present parents with a variety of health and safety challenges.

  1. Consume Halloween candy and other sugary foods with meals.
    Saliva production increases during meals and helps neutralize acids produced by bacteria in your mouth and helps rinse away food particles.
  2. Avoid hard candy and other sweets that stay in your mouth for a long time.
    Besides how often you snack, the length of time food is in your mouth plays a role in tooth decay. Unless it is a sugar-free product, candies that stay in the mouth for a long period of time subject teeth to prolonged acid attack, increasing the risk for tooth decay.
  3. Avoid sticky candies that cling to your teeth.
    The stickier candies, like taffy and gummy bears, take longer to get washed away by saliva, increasing the risk for tooth decay.
  4. Drink more water.
    Consuming optimally fluoridated water can help prevent tooth decay. If you choose bottled water, check the label for the fluoride content.
  5. Maintain a healthy diet and make sure the meals you eat are nutritious.
    Your body is like a complex machine. The foods you choose as fuel and how often you “fill up” affect your general health and that of your teeth and gums.
  6. Avoid beverages with added sugar such as soda, sports drinks or flavored waters.
    When teeth come in frequent contact with beverages that contain sugar, the risk of tooth decay is increased.
  7. Chew gum that has the ADA Seal.
    Chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after meals has been shown to reduce tooth decay, because increased saliva flow helps wash out food and neutralize the acid produced by dental plaque bacteria.
  8. Brush your teeth twice a day with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste.
    Replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn toothbrush won’t do a good job of cleaning your teeth.
  9. Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner.
    Decay-causing bacteria still linger between teeth where toothbrush bristles can’t reach. Flossing helps remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line.
  10. Visit an ADA-member dentist for more information on maintaining your oral health.
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Trying out Invisalign for myself

As a dentist, one of my duties is to keep up on the latest technology and techniques. I have been using Invisalign on patients for several years now, as it’s a great alternative to traditional braces, and I have recently finished using Invisalign on myself. Whenever practical and applicable, I think dentists should use the same products on themselves as their patients.

When I was a teenager, I wore braces for a couple of years.  When I finished I didn’t understand the importance of wearing a retainer and I honestly hardly used it at all until it was too late. I had my wisdom teeth extracted soon after braces and I had all of my permanent teeth, so I thought my bite would then be permanent. I was wrong. Teeth continue to shift and move throughout life with most people and I was no exception.

In my twenties, I started to work as a dental assistant and as I helped with teeth cleanings I noticed a common occurrence. Lower crowded teeth usually had more build up and were harder to maintain both with home care and in routine dental hygiene visits. I wanted to keep and maintain my teeth for life, so I thought I’d better address my then re-crowded crooked teeth. I went to an orthodontist that was the son of the orthodontist I had as a teen and asked what he could do.  We decided to correct the crowding with ceramic brackets and a traditional braces system. It worked effectively but it was even less comfortable than I remembered as a teen.  Food always got stuck in the brackets and flossing was a real pain, but my teeth straightened out and that made it worth it to me. I then went to dental school for 4 years and wore my retainer faithfully.

In dental school I learned about invisalign and received the necessary training to become a provider of the product and system. I started my first case out of school on our receptionist here in Boise. It was a huge success and she loves her new straight smile.  I then continued to treat crooked teeth and malocclusion on many many patients.

However, I noticed my own teeth continued to shift a bit, especially as I clenched my teeth at night. To correct this movement of my teeth, I decided to use Invisalign on myself. Because I had relatively little movement, my treatment was brief, about three months, while the average is about a year.

The results have been as good for me as they have been for all my other patients. I can honestly say I like Invisalign much more than traditional braces. At night, I continue to wear the Invisalign trays to keep my teeth straight and to prevent clenching and wear.

As someone who has gone through Invisalign himself, I can honestly say I like them much more than braces. Traditional braces are difficult to keep clean and flossing is particularly challenging.  Braces are a lot more noticeable and I remember how they really bothered my cheeks and lips. Invisalign is has its limits of course and while braces are still necessary in many cases, I think anyone is going to be better served whenever Invisalign is appropriate.

Lake Harbor dental and charity care

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Like many people, I was attracted to the dental profession to help people. In addition to general and advanced dental services at Lake Harbor Dental, I also devote several hours a week to working at the Milan Institute, a trade school in Boise that trains dental assistants, medical assistants, massage therapists and estheticians. While the work isn’t financially profitable, it’s a great way to train new dental professionals and use my skills to help people who can’t afford most dentists. My colleague at Lake Harbor, Dr. Peterson, also does a fair amount of charity care by assisting people who cannot afford it. Helping people like is part of the values of caring and compassion that guide all our work at Lake Harbor Dental.

At Lake Harbor, we do a lot of technical dentistry – computer-assisted imagery, same-day crowns, advanced implants, Invisalign and the cutting-edge of modern dental care. At the Milan Institute, I go back to the basics, with necessary and urgent care. Some people are simply out of work and don’t have the means to visit their regular dentist. Many of the other patients at Milan are refugees and don’t have anywhere else to go; many came from Third-World nations where dental care is primitive or difficult to find. Some have had urgent problems in their lives, such as war and dislocation, which has caused them to neglect their teeth. So, I tend to do a lot of extractions, fillings, root canals, crowns and bridges. I have helped people from Afghanistan, Burma, Iran, Serbia, Russia, Africa and Mexico. I speak fluent Spanish so this helps out quite a bit.

The work is challenging and keeps me rooted in foundations of dentistry. In the morning at Lake Harbor, I may find myself performing a CEREC 3-D digitally-guided implant, while at Milan I might do several basic fillings and a standard root canal.

Milan is a great school and students there regularly intern with Lake Harbor. We have hired two Milan students over the years. It has been a unique opportunity to help the disadvantaged and train new generations of practitioners at Milan and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so.