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‘Tis the Season—for Healthy Dental Choices!

December 2nd, 2020

It might be the most wonderful time of the year, but if you’re dashing through the snow to an emergency dental appointment, you’re not feeling very jolly. And post-holiday, no one wants to start off their New Year’s Resolutions with “Get Cavities Filled.” How to survive the sweetest of seasons with enamel and fillings intact?

Candies and sweets would normally be on the naughty list, but we’re not Scrooges! Indulging in a treat or two is part of the holiday fun, and we have some advice for how to enjoy them guilt-free. But first, some treats are definitely more naughty than nice. Which are the ones that are better as decorations than desserts?

  • Candy Canes

If you’ve ever suffered a chipped or cracked tooth after an innocently biting down on a much-harder-than-expected piece of candy, you know that caution is in order. That’s why we tend to take our time with candy canes, letting them dissolve slowly in the mouth. Of course, the drawback to this strategy is that now we’re slowly bathing our teeth in sugar, encouraging the growth of plaque and cavity-causing bacteria.

Candy canes, peppermints, and other hard candies are potentially bad for your teeth when you crunch away, and definitely bad for your teeth if you let them dissolve slowly.

  • Gumdrops

Glistening, colorful gumdrops. Roofing your gingerbread house, trimming a gumdrop tree, or simply sitting in a bowl, they are one of the sweetest ways to decorate for the holidays. And when we say “sweet,” we mean that literally. Most gumdrops are basically made of corn syrup and sugar—and then rolled in more sugar.

But their sugar content isn’t the only problem. This is sugar in an extra-gummy form that sticks between our teeth and around our gums.

  • Toffees, Caramels, Taffy

They might come in lovely ribboned boxes, but these extremely sticky foods are not a gift to your teeth.

Not only do chewy candies stick to enamel, they stick to fillings, crowns (especially temporary crowns), and orthodontic wires and brackets. No one wants an unexpected trip to the dentist or orthodontist because dental work has been damaged or dislodged!

  • Gingerbread Houses

Nothing says the holidays like a gingerbread house—chewy, sticky gingerbread covered with hard sugar icing, gumdrops, and peppermints. Great for your décor; not so great for your dental health. Eat one gingerbread man if you’re in a spicy mood and leave your architectural masterpiece intact.

  • Fruitcake

If you need an excuse to turn down fruitcake, here’s a perfect one: most fruitcake is not great for your teeth. Candied fruit is, well, candied, and dried fruit is sugary, sticky, and chewy. There are delicious exceptions, of course, but even a delicious fruitcake is very high in sugar.

Well, this list wasn’t very jolly. So as a little holiday gift for you, here are some suggestions to help you enjoy your desserts in the healthiest way possible.

  • Be choosy.

Just like you search for the perfect presents for your family and friends, take the time to choose the perfect holiday treats for yourself. If you are worried about cavities, or have a temporary crown, or wear braces, or have cracked a tooth before, or are just generally concerned with your oral health, stay away from sticky, hard, and excessively sugary desserts.

What can you accept from your holiday hosts with a grateful (and relieved) smile? The occasional soft chocolate should be nothing to stress about—and if you make it dark chocolate, you’ll actually get nutritional bonuses like magnesium and antioxidants. Cakes, cupcakes, cookies, pies—yes, they are made with lots of sugar, but it is the holidays after all. Just be sure to follow our next suggestions to make that slice of cheesecake guilt-free.

  • Eat sweets with a meal.

Saliva does more than keep our mouths from getting dry. It also helps prevent cavities by washing away food particles and neutralizing the acids from food and bacteria, which damage enamel.

Eat dessert with a meal, and you benefit from increased mealtime saliva production. When you snack throughout the day, this acid-neutralizing ability is greatly reduced.

  • Rinse after eating.

Rinsing your mouth with water after a meal or a snack, especially a sugary one, also helps wash away the sticky sugars and carbs, which oral bacteria convert into acids.

  • Brush immediately. (Maybe.)

It’s always a good idea to brush right after eating—well, almost always. If you’ve been eating acidic foods like citrus or colas, the acids in the food can weaken your enamel just enough to cause some potential enamel damage if you scour your teeth immediately after eating. We often recommend waiting about 30 minutes to brush to give your enamel a chance to recover.

But every mouth is different. If you wear braces, or tend to get food stuck in your teeth or dental work, or have any other concerns, ask Drs. Bonni Boone, Susan Cocquyt, and Lori Risser for the best times and methods for holiday brushing.

You don’t want to ho-ho-hope that we can fit you in at our South Bend, IN office to treat a cavity or a cracked tooth. Make your holiday dessert list and check it twice, and make sure you’re brushing and flossing more often if you’re indulging in seasonal treats—give yourself these two gifts, and you’ll be ringing in the New Year with a beautiful, healthy smile. Sweet!

Make Brushing With Your Child Fun!

November 25th, 2020

It’s no secret that kids and adults have different priorities: your duty is to raise a happy, healthy child, but your little one’s only priority may be to have fun. When it comes to brushing teeth, it can be hard to combine a healthy habit with having fun. You might fear it can’t be done, but with a little creativity, brushing time can be a great experience for both of you!

Make It a Party

Brushing time doesn’t have to be a chore when you throw a little party! Get Mom and Dad together so the whole family can brush their teeth at the same time.

Let your child choose a song to dance to while you all brush for the required two minutes. Your son or daughter may grow to love this silly routine, especially when the parents are clearly dedicated to brushing their own teeth as well.

Big Kid Decisions

Kids love the responsibility of making “big kid” decisions. Keep a variety of toothbrushes, colors of floss, and toothpaste flavors on hand so they can choose something “new” each time they brush, just like when they visit our South Bend, IN office.

Not only can this help them grow more comfortable with the idea of seeing the dentist, but they’ll love having the responsibility of picking what would be fun at brush time.

Practice Makes Perfect

It’s true that the only way to get better at something is to practice, practice, and practice. Have your child practice brushing on his or her favorite stuffed animal, and use that opportunity to teach your youngster how to hold the brush and use circular cleaning motions. Showing how you brush your own teeth can also be worthwhile.

There’s An App For That

Did you know there are lots of fun apps that encourage good brushing habits among children? Brands like Oral-B and Aquafresh have free apps you can download on your phone.

The child gets to select a character, scenery, and a song he or she would love to accompany the task of brushing. If you have a daughter, she might like to use the Tooth Fairy Timer, which allows her to pick her very own fairy as her brushing buddy.

The important things to remember when you seek to establish good brushing habits is to keep it fun and stay consistent with your routine. It may take some getting used to, but after a while your child will become familiar with brushing and might even look forward to the new dental routine.

Is Your Broken Tooth An Emergency?

November 18th, 2020

When you chip a tooth badly, it can be a very nerve-wracking situation. Drs. Bonni Boone, Susan Cocquyt, and Lori Risser and our team want to provide you with some information that can help if you ever suffer a chipped or broken tooth. The most common ways people break their teeth are by biting down on something hard, getting hit in the mouth, falling down, or developing cavities that weaken the tooth and allow it to be broken easily. There are a few things you can do if you find yourself in this situation, however.

First, we recommend that you investigate whether the tooth is partially chipped or completely broken. Unless you are experiencing a lot of pain or bleeding, this should not be treated as an emergency. You may call our office and we will try to schedule an appointment with you as soon as possible. Once we have evaluated the tooth during your appointment, we can start to treat it. For minor chips or cracks, we may simply smooth out the area or fill in the space so the crack doesn’t spread.

If your teeth show severe damage such as a serious break, split tooth, split root, or a decay-induced break, Drs. Bonni Boone, Susan Cocquyt, and Lori Risser may need to take more time to fix the problem. If you need emergency dental care because a tooth has fallen out, call our practice immediately to schedule an appointment for that day. If you’re waiting for an emergency appointment, you can rinse your mouth with warm salt water and apply slight pressure to the area to stop the bleeding. We recommend using an ice pack to reduce swelling, but do not take any aspirin because that may increase the bleeding.

If your tooth has completely fallen out of the socket, hold it by the crown and rinse it under running water. Do not let the tooth become dry; instead, place it in salt water or milk until you get to our office. Drs. Bonni Boone, Susan Cocquyt, and Lori Risser will determine whether the broken tooth can be salvaged or will need to be completely replaced.

We know how upsetting it can be to chip or break a tooth, which is why we want to guide you through this process. Most chipped teeth are usually just cosmetic problems, fortunately, but we know that dental emergencies can come up rather suddenly. Be sure to schedule an appointment at our South Bend, IN office as soon as an emergency situation occurs.

Be Good to Your Gums

November 11th, 2020

You brush and floss thoroughly twice a day. You have regular checkups. Everything seems fine on the periodontal radar. Sometimes, however, even healthy gums can become sensitive and irritated. Is it something you did? Maybe! Here are some common causes of gum irritation and sensitivity that you might not be aware of.

  • Brushing Bravado

One of the most important tools for gum health is one we use at least twice a day—the simple toothbrush. Two minutes at night and two in the morning reduce the bacteria and plaque that lead to serious gum disease, known as periodontitis. And while preventing tooth decay and gum disease are the primary goals of brushing, let’s also protect delicate gum tissue from injuries and irritation caused by too-forceful brushing.

Try using a brush with soft bristles and brushing with short strokes and gentle pressure, especially if you know you have a tendency to be a bit heavy-handed. Massaging rather than scrubbing will clean teeth and gums just fine.

  • Fierce Flossing

Just because we can use dental floss to slice cakes or cookie dough logs doesn’t mean we should apply the same pressure to our gums! While a firm sawing motion seems like the obvious way to clean between teeth and gums, you can actually cause irritation and bleeding that way.

Insert the floss between your teeth carefully, bring it to the gumline, and move the floss with gentle pressure up and down and around the tooth surface. This technique will make sure that you remove food particles and plaque from beneath the gumline without causing your gums any trauma. Ask us about the best flossing techniques—we know them all.

  • Appliance Aches

You know how helpful your braces/retainers/mouth guards/dentures are. You just wish that your helpful appliance was a little less irritating to sensitive gum tissue.

This is a problem that often disappears as you get used to your new appliance. But if pain or irritation persists or gets worse, give us a call. We want to make sure your appliance fits properly, and make any necessary adjustments to ensure your comfort.

  • Peroxide Problems

Most home whitening kits use peroxide-based gels or treated strips to remove surface stains from the teeth. Those same bleaching agents that make enamel whiter can also cause gum sensitivity and irritation. If you use whitening strips or gel trays, be careful to keep the peroxide solution away from gum tissue. But because these systems are one-size-fits-all, that is often easier said than done.

If you have sensitive gums, one solution is a professional office whitening. We’ll check on your gum (and tooth) health first, and monitor and protect your gums throughout the procedure. If you still want to whiten at home, we can create custom trays for you that will provide more complete exposure to the whitening solution for your teeth, and less exposure for your gums, than over-the-counter products.

  • Still Smoking?

Studies have shown a strong link between gum health and smoking and other forms of tobacco use. Smokers are much more likely to suffer from gum disease than non-smokers, and those who have smoked for a long time, or who smoke heavily, have an even higher risk of developing periodontal disease. Some studies suggest that smokers don’t respond as well to treatment as non-smokers.  Unfortunately, it appears that smoking and tobacco use help mask the obvious symptoms of gum disease (redness and bleeding), which could lead smokers to delay getting treatment. If you smoke, talk to us about ways to quit.

We talk a lot about periodontal health because it is so important. Periodontitis can lead to infection, loss of bone around the tooth, and even eventual tooth loss. If you are suffering from any of the signs of gum disease—swelling, redness, bleeding, pain—give our South Bend, IN office a call. Whether it’s as simple as making a few lifestyle changes, or a problem requiring professional dental treatment, being proactive with your dental care is more than good for your gums—it’s good for your health!

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