My Blog

By Mildred Arucan-Masunaga, DDS
May 18, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene  
BrushingFirstorFlossingTheProsandConsforBothWays

It's time for your daily oral hygiene session, so you reach for your toothbrush. Or…do you pick up your floss dispenser instead?

Or, maybe you're just paralyzed with indecision?

No need for that! Although there are pros and cons for performing either task first, choosing one or the other to open up your oral hygiene session won't interfere with your primary goal: removing harmful dental plaque. In the end, it will likely come down to personal preference.

You might, for instance, prefer brushing first, especially if you seem to generate a lot of gunky plaque. Brushing first may help remove a lot of this built-up plaque, leaving only what's between your teeth. Flossing away this remaining plaque may be easier than having to plow through it first, and creating a sticky mess on your floss thread in the process. In the end, you might simply be moving all that plaque around rather than removing it.

So why, then, would you want to floss first? Flossing initially could loosen the plaque between teeth, thus making it easier for your toothbrush to remove it. Flossing first could also serve as your reconnaissance "scout," helping you to identify areas of heavy plaque that may need more of your attention during brushing. And, you might find your mouth feels cleaner if you finish off your session with brushing rather than flossing.

There's one more good reason to floss first: You might not do it otherwise. It's not a secret that flossing is many people's least favorite of the two hygiene tasks. Once you finish brushing, it's tempting to simply shrug off flossing. Doing it first gets what may be for you an unpleasant task out of the way.

So, which approach is best for you? It may help to simply experiment. Try one way for a while and then try the other way to see which one feels best to you. What's most important is that you don't neglect either task—brushing and flossing together is your "secret sauce" for maintaining a healthy mouth.

If you would like more information on effective oral hygiene practices, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Brushing and Flossing: Which Should Be Done First?

VictoriaBeckhamsToothsomeCollection-AllofHerChildrensBabyTeeth

In one respect, celebrities are no different from the rest of us—quite a few famous people love to collect things. Marie Osmond collects dolls (as well as Johnny Depp, reportedly); Leonardo DiCaprio, vintage toys. And, of course, Jay Leno has his famous fleet of cars. But Victoria Beckham's collection is unusually "familial"—she's kept all of her four children's "baby" teeth after they've fallen out.

Best known as Posh Spice of the 1990s group Spice Girls and now a fashion designer and TV personality, Beckham told People Magazine that she has an "entire bucket" of her kids' primary teeth. And, she recently added to it when her nine-year old daughter lost another tooth earlier this year.

You may or may not want to keep your child's baby teeth, but you'll certainly have the opportunity. Children start losing their first set of teeth around age 6 or 7 through early puberty. During the process, each tooth's roots and gum attachment weakens to the point that the tooth becomes noticeably loose. Not long after, it gives way and falls out.

Although a baby tooth doesn't normally need any help with this, children (and sometimes parents) are often eager to accelerate the process. A loose tooth can be annoying—plus there's often a financial incentive via the "Tooth Fairy!"

First off, there's not much harm in a child wiggling a loose tooth—it may even help it come out. It's also possible to help the tooth safely detach sooner by taking a small piece of tissue, folding it over the tooth and giving it a gentle downward squeeze. If it's loose enough, it should pop out.

If it doesn't, don't resort to more forcible measures like the proverbial string and a door—just wait a day or two before trying the gentle squeeze method again. Once the tooth comes out, the empty socket may bleed a bit or not at all. If heavy bleeding does occur, have the child bite down on a piece of clean gauze or a wet tea bag until it stops. You may also have them eat softer foods for a few days to avoid a resumption of bleeding.

Beyond that, there's little else to do but place it under your child's pillow for the Tooth Fairy. And if after their "exchange" with that famous member of the Fae Folk you find yourself in possession of the erstwhile tooth, consider taking a cue from Victoria Beckham and add it to your own collection of family memories.

If you would like more information about losing baby teeth, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Importance of Baby Teeth.”

By Mildred Arucan-Masunaga, DDS
April 28, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
HeresHowDrinkingAlcoholCouldImpactYourDentalHealth

Alcoholic beverages are interwoven within many cultures across the globe, but this "social lubricant" also has a dark side. Alcohol can become an overwhelming, addictive substance that wrecks relationships and careers, not to mention physical health. In regard to the latter, the teeth, mouth and gums aren't immune.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Throughout the month, healthcare providers, including dentists, highlight the damage heavy alcohol consumption can wrought on physical, emotional and social health. Abstaining or bringing alcohol consumption within recommended limits can improve your life—and your oral health.

While the effects of too much alcohol on general health are well known, it's easy to overlook its connection with dental disease, but it does exist for a number of reasons.

First, many alcoholic beverages and mixers contain high amounts of sugar. Harmful bacteria living in dental plaque, a thin film on tooth surfaces, feed on sugar. The bacteria are then able to multiply, which, increases your chances for gum disease, one of the leading causes of tooth loss.

Many alcoholic drinks also contain high amounts of acid. That, coupled with the acid produced by bacteria, can soften and erode tooth enamel, leading to unpleasant outcomes like increased tooth sensitivity or tooth decay. Like gum disease, advanced tooth decay can also cause tooth loss.

Alcohol consumption also causes dehydration, which in turn can have an effect on the mouth: With less water available, the salivary glands produce less saliva. Because saliva helps neutralize oral acid and fights pathogens leading to dental disease, having less of it available can make your mouth more susceptible to disease and infection.

To avoid these unfortunate consequences, it's important to either forgo drinking alcohol or keep your consumption within moderate limits. Those limits for you individually may depend on things like your age, weight, genetic background and overall health. Generally, though, U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than 1 serving of alcohol (akin to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits) per day for women and two for men.

If you're a drinker, you should also look out for your oral health in other ways. Brush and floss your teeth daily to remove harmful dental plaque, and eat a balanced and nutritious diet, rich in vitamins and minerals. You should visit your dentist at least twice a year for cleanings and checkups.

Regardless of your relationship to alcohol, it's a part of life you should take seriously. Drinking responsibly not only protects you and others around you, but it can also protect your dental health.

If you would like more information about alcohol and dental health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Nutrition: Its Role in General and Oral Health.”

By Mildred Arucan-Masunaga, DDS
April 18, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tmj disorders  
AlthoughItsOftenaLongRoadYouCanFindLastingReliefFromTMD

If you've been diagnosed with a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), you're likely no stranger to pain and dysfunction. And not just with your jaw joints: In a survey of approximately 1,500 patients, nearly two-thirds of them also reported at least three or more painful conditions like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome or rheumatoid arthritis.

Researchers continue to gather evidence of possible connections between TMD and other physical conditions. Hopefully, this research will lead to better treatments for all of them, including TMD. But until then, patients must continue to rely on established methods for reducing TMD's severity.

Although new treatments like Botox injections have been proposed and tried in recent years, the most effective still seem to be long-standing techniques that are conservative and non-invasive in nature. On the other hand, TMD surgical procedures developed in recent years have yet to deliver on their promise: In one survey, only 6% of surgery patients gained significant relief from TMD symptoms, while nearly half reported feeling worse.

It seems the best advice, should you receive a definitive diagnosis of TMD, is to start with the more conservative measures. These treatments tend to be orthopedic in nature, generally treating TMD as a joint problem. Of these, the ones most people have found effective involve thermal therapies like hot or cold compresses against the jaw, or hot baths.

Medications like muscle relaxers or pain relievers can also play a role in reducing TMD discomfort and dysfunction. And, many patients gain benefit from physical therapy massage and exercises that target the jaw muscles. Switching to softer foods with smaller bites can help patients avoid over-stressing the jaw joints while chewing.

It's also important to understand that there is no "one-size-fits-all" treatment protocol: Individual patients and their doctors may need to experiment with different therapies to find the right combination that offers the most relief. Although this can take time, it can be well worth it if the eventual combination brings long-term relief.

From this standpoint, patients should avoid surgical options unless all other methods have been tried and still have not yielded significant relief. For most patients, however, conservative TMD treatment and lifestyle or diet changes will work—with enough time and patience.

If you would like more information on TMD, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Chronic Jaw Pain and Associated Conditions.”

By Mildred Arucan-Masunaga, DDS
April 08, 2022
Category: Oral Health
YourGumsCouldBeatPrimeRiskforDiseaseWhileWearingBraces

Braces are well worth the time and effort to gain a more attractive and healthier smile. Ironically, though, the risk for disease increases while wearing braces because they obstruct a wearer's ability to clear away dental plaque, a thin bacterial film most responsible for dental disease.

Because of these difficulties, braces wearers are highly susceptible to gum disease. When the gums become infected, the body triggers an inflammatory response to fight the infection. This results in gums that are red or swollen, or that bleed easily.

The braces themselves can also cause gum problems. The gums may react to the presence of the brackets and wires by overproducing tissue. This overgrowth in turn can interfere with oral hygiene, thus further increasing the risk for infection.

As with gum disease generally, consistent oral hygiene is the best way to prevent an infection while wearing braces. It's difficult, but not impossible! With the help of a few specialized tools like interproximal toothbrushes with narrower heads to get in and around the braces, or water flossers spraying pressurized water between teeth, even braces wearers can do an effective job.

And don't forget about your family dentist. You can still benefit from regular teeth cleanings while wearing braces, even increasing your visit frequency if your dentist recommends it. Your dentist can also prescribe antimicrobial rinses and other products to help reduce bacterial plaque.

Keeping your teeth and gums clean may help with tissue overgrowth, but you may still have issues with the condition for the duration of your orthodontic treatment. As long as the gum tissues remain firmly attached to the teeth, there's little need for concern. But if the condition begins to affect periodontal attachment, you may need the braces removed to allow the gums a chance to heal.

Keeping up daily oral hygiene and regular dental visits are good ideas for everyone, but especially if you're an orthodontic patient. Neither should you hesitate in calling your dentist at the first signs of gum trouble—the sooner you have any issues examined, the less chance you'll experience major gum problems while wearing braces.

If you would like more information on dental care during orthodontics, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Gum Swelling During Orthodontics.”





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