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Protect Your Enamel from Dental Erosion

October 21st, 2020

We know that the foods we eat and drink can have a definite impact on our smiles. Staining is an unhappy side effect of many of our menu favorites. That’s why we sip red wine through a straw, rinse with water after a slice of blueberry pie, and cut back on the coffee and tea after a single cup (or two—we’re not perfect!). And sugar is the fuel for cavity-causing bacteria, so we try to substitute water for soda, or replace the hot fudge sundae with grilled fruit. And we always brush carefully after indulging.

So far, so good. But while we’re saving our brilliant smiles from stains and decay, let’s not forget one other source of diet-related damage—acids. Acidic foods and beverages can actually erode the surface of our enamel, leaving our teeth more vulnerable to sensitivity and discoloration.

What Is Dental Erosion?

Enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies—stronger than bone—but it is not indestructible. And acids are one of the major causes of enamel damage. (In fact, it’s the acids produced by bacteria that lead to cavities.) Luckily, our bodies are designed to protect our enamel. Saliva helps clean the teeth by washing away food particles and it neutralizes acidity as well. But a diet that’s too heavy in acidic foods can undo all this good work and upset the healthy pH balance in our mouths.

Why is this a problem? Because acidic environments actually cause the minerals in our enamel to break down, a process known as “demineralization.” This weakening of the enamel leaves teeth more sensitive to heat and cold. It can even lead to discolored teeth, as thinner enamel allows the brownish-yellow dentin underneath the enamel surface to become visible.

Are You Aware of Acids?

We can immediately guess at some of the most acidic foods. Citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes in their many culinary forms, anything pickled in vinegar, coffee, tea, wine—these foods are certainly acidic, but also a regular part of many a healthy diet. You don’t need to avoid these foods altogether, but it’s best to enjoy them as part of a meal or enjoy them sparingly. And balance out some of these high-acidity foods at mealtime with low-acidity choices like bananas, bread, and dairy products.

Other sources of damaging acids might surprise you. Studies have linked sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks to higher levels of tooth erosion. The combination of citric acid, phosphoric acid and/or carbonation raises acidity levels in the mouth. And because we tend to sip them all day long, it’s like a continuing acid bath for our enamel. Water is always a healthy alternative for hydration, but if you do indulge in a soda or sports drink, rinse with water after drinking. And don’t swish—just swallow.

Won’t Brushing Help?

Yes, but watch your timing. Because the acids in foods weaken enamel, brushing right after a big glass of orange juice or a soda can actually be even more abrasive for tooth surfaces. We recommend waiting anywhere from 20-60 minutes to brush. This gives your saliva the chance to not only wash away acids, but to “remineralize” your teeth, bathing them in the phosphate and calcium ions that strengthen enamel.

If you notice any of the symptoms of dental erosion, including pain, sensitivity when you eat or drink something hot, cold or sweet, or yellow discoloration, talk to Dr. Gregory Geldart and Dr. Martha Sharp during your visit to our Purcellville, VA office about what you can do to help protect and strengthen your teeth. Unfortunately, our bodies can’t produce new enamel. By avoiding foods that stain, by reducing sugars that lead to decay, and by limiting the acidic foods that erode our enamel, we give ourselves the best opportunity for a lifetime of beautiful, healthy smiles.

Improve your oral health with xylitol!

October 14th, 2020

Xylitol tastes sweet, but unlike sugar, it is not converted to acid that can cause your teeth to decay. It’s a naturally occurring sweetener found in plants, fruits, and vegetables; even the human body produces it in small amounts. Xylitol is widely used in sugar-free chewing gum, mints, candies, and even certain forms of medicine.

The World Health Organization has approved xylitol because only a small amount is needed for its health benefits. It’s even safe for diabetics, with a glycemic index of only seven. Xylitol has 40% fewer calories than other types of carbs: less than three calories per gram.

So how can this natural sweetener benefit your oral health? Take a look at the facts. Tooth decay starts when bacteria consumes the sugars left in your mouth. When you eat sugary foods, the bacteria on your teeth will multiply and make acid that can destroy your enamel.

Xylitol is derived from fibrous parts of plants, so it does not break down like a regular sugar. It actually helps maintain a neutral pH level in the mouth, which in turn prevents bacteria from sticking to the teeth. The bacteria are then unable to digest xylitol, which means your teeth won’t develop enamel damage and cavities.

Studies have shown the consumption of xylitol as a sugar substitute or a dietary addition had a dramatic reduction in new cavities and even reversed existing cavities. These effects are long lasting: low cavity rates remained years after the trials were done.

When there’s less bacteria and acid in your mouth due to xylitol, your teeth stay healthier. The more frequently it’s ingested, the more you will prevent enamel damage.

Aim to consume around five grams a day, or one gram every three hours if possible. You can do this by consuming gum, tablets, candy, or mints that have xylitol as one of the first ingredients after your meals. You can find these products in health food stores and specialty grocery stores.

Since xylitol replaces sugar on a one-to-one ratio, it’s used in several common items:

  • Toothpaste
  • Mouth rinse
  • Baby oral wipes, gel, and pacifiers
  • Nasal wash
  • Dry mouth spray
  • Granulated forms for cooking
  • Granulated packets to add to drinks
  • Commercially prepared foods

Make sure to pick up items that contain xylitol the next time you’re at the store! This is an easy way to maintain great oral health. If you have specific questions about xylitol, ask Dr. Gregory Geldart and Dr. Martha Sharp during your next appointment at our Purcellville, VA office.

Intraoral Cameras

September 23rd, 2020

It seems today’s technology has made every moment a camera-ready opportunity. (Just check your friends and their latest selfies.) What you may not expect is the opportunity to see a close-up of your teeth and gums in vivid detail the next time you’re in our office. But with intraoral cameras, Dr. Gregory Geldart and Dr. Martha Sharp can use the most up-to-date tools to provide your most accurate diagnosis—and let you see for yourself exactly what we’re seeing.

Intraoral cameras were developed in the 1980s. This camera makes use of a sleek wand-style design to fit easily into your mouth. Using a camera lens and its own lighting, the camera is able to show hard-to-reach places in the mouth much more clearly and easily than can be seen using dental mirrors alone. Images are projected onto a monitor or screen, where both dentist and patient can get a detailed view, and images can be enlarged, if needed, to provide better definition.

What can an intraoral camera reveal? While X-rays are invaluable for discovering treatable conditions such as cavities, infections and bone diseases, there are some conditions that are not easily apparent using X-rays alone. Small cracks in a tooth, developing cavities near crowns or older fillings, fractures, early gum disease, even areas where plaque has been missed during brushing are visible in clear detail using the intraoral camera.

How does this improve your dental care?

  • We always want to use the least invasive procedure we can, and keep as much of your healthy tooth as possible. Finding small problems early prevents them from becoming large problems later.
  • If you are consistently failing to brush certain teeth, or if some areas of your gums show signs of neglect, we can show you directly what places you’ve been missing so you can adjust your brushing and flossing habits.
  • We can take photos if needed for your files so we have a detailed visual record of your dental status at any point in time.
  • Finally, you will be able to see for yourself the reasons we might suggest certain treatments, and be better informed about your own dental health.

We’re happy to offer the intraoral camera at our Purcellville, VA office as one of the tools we use to provide you with the most precise and thorough care possible. Ready for your close-up?

Three Must-Have Dental Treatments

September 16th, 2020

There are numerous options for dental treatments out there, so how do you choose which are right for you? Our experts at Loudoun Valley Dental have handpicked the three must-have procedures that we believe can benefit nearly every patient.

  1. Periodontal Exam: This should happen at least once a year and is quick and painless. Dr. Gregory Geldart and Dr. Martha Sharp or your hygienist will carefully probe around each tooth and take measurements that indicate the health of the bone and its supporting tissue. This appointment is worthwhile because of the known fact that gum disease can increase the risk of potentially fatal conditions such as heart disease and stroke. Silent killers like diabetes can show signs in the mouth before the person becomes aware of other symptoms. Did you know adults lose more teeth to periodontal disease than to cavities? A simple screening once a year could save your smile and boost your overall health!
  2. Dental Sealant: For both adults and children, sealants provide a protective barrier from bacteria deep in the pits and grooves of the teeth where cavities often start. Sealants placed in childhood will often wear away in adulthood, so replacing them is useful because it can help prevent tooth decay later on. Dental insurance will likely not cover sealants for adults, but the cost of a sealant for prevention versus the cost of a filling is much lower, and definitely worth it.
  3. In-office Whitening: Most people develop tooth stains. in-office whitening at our Purcellville, VA office is the perfect way to correct discoloration. It’s safe and produces dramatic results in a short amount of time. In two hours, you could take years off your age. Who wouldn’t want that?

 

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