CHEWING ICE MIGHT SEEM refreshing in the moment, but it’s not doing any favors for your teeth in the long run. Today we’re going to take a look at why ice chewing is such a common habit despite the dangers it poses, as well as what someone with this habit can do to stop.
Compulsive Ice Eating
The scientific name for compulsive ice eating is pagophagia. This goes beyond a simple habit and enters the territory of a mental disorder. Getting cravings for ice can be a sign of an eating disorder called pica, which involves a compulsion to eat things with no nutritional value, such as ice, clay, hair, and dirt. Pica is often the result of a nutritional deficiency.
Iron Deficiency Anemia
Studies have shown a correlation between compulsive ice eating and iron deficiency anemia, which is pretty common, with 20 percent of women, 50 percent of pregnant women, and 3 percent of men being iron deficient. Without enough iron in the blood, the red blood cells can’t effectively do their job of carrying oxygen throughout the body.
What does iron have to do with ice? Well, researchers theorize that chewing ice sends more blood to the brain, temporarily improving alertness and clarity of thought. This feels good, and so they keep doing it even when it causes dental problems.
Ice Versus Your Teeth
Our teeth are not designed to crunch against solid ice, and they are particularly not designed to chew through several trays of ice cubes a day. Doing this can destroy tooth enamel over time, not just because ice is hard but because it’s cold. The enamel expands and contracts due to these extreme temperature changes, creating tiny cracks in it and making it much weaker, just like pavement in snowy climates. All of this leaves the teeth painfully sensitive to hot and cold and far more vulnerable to cavities.
The texture of the ice can also cause injuries to gum tissue, which you may not even notice because of the numbing effect of the cold, and sometimes the ice can actually chip or break a tooth!
Breaking The Ice Eating Habit
The first step to kicking the ice eating habit is to find out what’s causing it. If the ice chewing is a symptom of anemia, getting iron supplements may eliminate the cravings, so it will be much easier to stop. If it’s pica, there are interventions to explore such as therapy and medication.
There’s also plenty you can do on your own. You can replace the crunchy texture of ice with baby carrots or apple chunks. If you struggle to give up the ice altogether, try letting slivers of ice melt on your tongue like candy rather than crunching on them. This will spare your teeth and gums from the damage of chewing the ice.
Your Dental And Health Care Professionals Can Help
If ice chewing is something you struggle with, make sure to schedule appointments with your doctor and dentist. Iron deficiency can cause a number of other problems besides triggering ice cravings, and it’s important to get diagnosed and treated before it gets worse, particularly for pregnant women.
IS A SIMPLE SPOONFUL of ice cream enough to make you cringe because of the pain in your teeth? Do you have to be careful when you drink hot coffee that none of it touches your chompers? If you know the feeling, then you’re one of millions who experience tooth sensitivity. Let’s take a closer look at what causes tooth sensitivity and what can we do about it.
How We Feel Sensation In Our Teeth
Each of our teeth is covered in a layer of protective enamel. Underneath this is dentin, which is a lot like bone. Dentin contains thousands of microscopic tubules that run through it from the inside of the tooth out to the enamel. At the core of each tooth is the pulp chamber, which contains nerves and blood vessels. Because of those tubules, the nerves inside the tooth can detect what’s happening on the tooth’s surface.
Common Causes Of Tooth Sensitivity
If the enamel wears away, the tubules become exposed and the nerves in the dental pulp suddenly get much more stimulation than they like. This is what makes enamel erosion one of the main causes of tooth sensitivity. Without enamel, the nerves get a nasty shock whenever anything too hot or cold, or even too sweet or sour, touches the outside of the tooth.
Root exposure from gum recession also leads to sensitivity. The enamel only covers the crown of the tooth, not the roots. Those are protected by the gums. If the gums recede (sometimes as the result of teeth grinding or improper brushing over time), it exposes the roots.
Cavities and tooth injuries can cause sensitivity as well, even if you’ve been taking great care of your gums and enamel.
Use The Right Tools To Protect Your Teeth
Fortunately for all of us, there are ways to fight back, even if our teeth are already sensitive. Using a soft-bristled brush will help prevent further enamel erosion or gum recession. There is also special toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth. Avoiding sugary and acidic foods and drinks (particularly soda) is another way to help your teeth.
We Can Help You Fight Tooth Sensitivity
Your best ally in the fight against tooth sensitivity is the dentist! Schedule a dental appointment as soon as you notice a change in your sensitivity level, or if you’ve been struggling with it for a while. The dentist can help protect your teeth with a fluoride varnish, perform restoration work to combat enamel erosion, and may recommend a gum graft for receding gums or prescribe a toothpaste to help with sensitivity.
PLAQUE AND TARTAR are two words that you probably hear a lot when you come in for a dental cleaning. You might already know that they cause tooth decay and gum disease, but do you know what they are? Let’s take a closer look at these two substances that are a constant threat to our oral health.
Stage 1: Plaque
Dental plaque is a soft, sticky, colorless biofilm composed of bacteria, food particles, and saliva. It builds up on and between our teeth and beneath our gums every day. If you’ve ever forgotten to brush in the morning or at night, you’ve probably felt that unpleasant texture with your tongue.
Plaque contains millions of bacteria, and this bacteria digests leftover sugars and starches from the food we eat, then excretes acid onto our teeth. Because plaque is soft, it can be removed with simple brushing and flossing, but we have to be thorough and diligent to get as much of it as possible.
Stage 2: Tartar
The reason it’s so important to scrub away the plaque is that when plaque is allowed to sit on the teeth too long, it becomes tartar. Tartar is a hard, yellow or brown substance that bonds to tooth enamel and can only be removed at a professional cleaning appointment.
How does this transformation happen? When the acid excreted by oral bacteria comes into contact with minerals in our saliva, it causes a chemical reaction that hardens the plaque into tartar. The risk of tartar buildup is higher for people with braces, dry mouth, crowded teeth, or a smoking habit, and it also increases with age.
Keeping Plaque And Tartar Under Control
A rigorous oral hygiene routine, paired with regular professional cleanings, is the best way to control the plaque in your mouth and prevent it from hardening into tartar. Here are some of the things a good routine should include:
Brush twice a day for two minutes, making sure to brush all surfaces of the teeth and paying special attention to the gum line.
Floss or use a water flosser daily to clean the plaque and food debris left in those hard-to-reach spots between the teeth.
Choose an anti-plaque toothpaste.
Consider getting an electric toothbrush for more effective plaque removal, and replace your toothbrush (or the head of your electric toothbrush) regularly.
Give oral bacteria less fuel by cutting down on sugary foods and drinks.
Avoid smoking, which increases plaque and tartar.
Schedule dental cleanings once every six months.
Win The Battle For Your Dental Health
It might seem discouraging to think that plaque will creep back up throughout the day even after you brush and floss thoroughly. A better perspective is that it only takes a few minutes each morning and night to win the daily battle against plaque and tartar, and you can improve the odds for your teeth even more with regular dental visits!
Together, we can keep those teeth plaque and tartar free!
WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE BEFORE — sitting in the middle of a job interview or a first date and realizing that our breath is far from minty fresh. Even when everything else is going perfectly, bad breath can be enough to ruin your confidence and turn a good experience sour. Why do we get bad breath, and what can we do to stop it?
Oral Bacteria And The Food We Eat
In order to effectively fight bad breath, it’s important to figure out what’s causing it. The simplest and most common cause is leftover food particles stuck between our teeth after a meal. The bacteria in our mouths break down these particles, and the end result doesn’t smell good. We can combat this with a good daily hygiene routine,including daily flossing, twice-daily brushing, scraping our tongues clean, and chewing sugar-free gum.
Causes Of Chronic Bad Breath
Chronic cases of bad breath (also called halitosis) might not be solved by good oral hygiene practices alone. Halitosis may be caused by:
Chronic conditions. Sometimes, bad breath is linked to conditions that you wouldn’t think are connected to oral hygiene, such as diabetes, liver or kidney disease, and acid reflux.
Medications. A common side-effect of medications is dry mouth. Without saliva to wash away food particles and neutralize acid, the mouth is vulnerable to problems like bad breath.
Mouth-breathing. Whether it happens by habit or because breathing through the nose is difficult, mouth-breathing tends to dry out the mouth, leading to the same problems as described above.
Mouth, nose, and throat infections. Bad breath can be the result of increased mucous when we have a cold or a sinus infection.
Pregnancy. Symptoms such as morning sickness and nausea can cause bad breath, because of the extra acid in the mouth. This is also a problem for people struggling with bulimia.
Tobacco products. Tobacco in any form leaves smelly chemicals in the mouth and can also dry it out. In addition, it increases the risk of oral cancer and gum disease, which negatively impact breath as well.
Tooth decay and gum disease. Poor dental health often goes hand-in-hand with chronic bad breath because cavities and periodontitis are caused by the same bacteria that produces those nasty-smelling chemicals.
Keeping Your Breath Fresh
Even if strict oral hygiene isn’t enough to keep the bad breath completely at bay, it will help to manage it, and treating the underlying cause may be able to eliminate it. If you are a habitual mouth-breather, try breathing through your nose more. Quitting smoking will eliminate a major cause of bad breath. If dry mouth is the problem, chew sugar-free gum and mints to stimulate saliva production, sip water, and use a humidifier to help keep up the moisture.
Your Dentist Can Help
Discovering the underlying cause of bad breath is a crucial step in fighting back, and the dentist is your best ally here. Schedule an appointment so that you can get the answers you need to fight bad breath the best way.
WE ALL REMEMBER WHAT it was like to be a kid. Running around, playing outside, discovering the world around us, and making great friends. We also remember the scraped knees and bumps and bruises that came along with all of that. As parents, we want our kids to have all the same great experiences we did, but hopefully without some of the injuries — particularly tooth injuries.
Tips For Tooth Safety
There are a few simple things we can do to keep our kids’ teeth safe, whether they’re at home or playing with friends.
The most common cause of tooth injuries in babies and toddlers is the bathtub. All that slippery porcelain makes it easy for them to fall and hurt their teeth. To minimize this risk, never leave a baby or toddler unattended in the bathtub.
Frisbees, balls, and other things meant for throwing can easily cause tooth injuries. Before your child goes out to play, talk to them about safety and stress the importance of not aiming for each other’s heads.
Playground equipment such as swings, a jungle gym, or monkey bars are not kind to teeth if a child falls on them face-first. Make sure your child knows to be careful before going on the playground.
Sometimes accidents happen even under careful adult supervision and when the children understand potential hazards and use caution. Don’t panic if your child loses or injures a tooth. If it’s an adult tooth or if it’s a baby tooth that wasn’t already loose, try to put it back in place, then come straight to the dentist. Reattachment isn’t always possible, but this will give it the best chance.
If you can’t easily put the tooth back in place, store it in a glass of milk to keep the root alive while you’re on your way to the dentist. The faster you get to us, the better chances the tooth will have of being saved. Make sure you don’t try to clean the tooth or put it in water, though, because this will kill the root!
Keep Those Teeth Healthy
Another important way to protect your child’s teeth from injury is to keep them healthy with twice-daily brushing and daily flossing, as well as regular dental appointments. Healthy teeth are stronger and more resistant to injury!
IF WE ASKED you to list three things that happen in a typical dental exam, dental X-rays would probably be one of them. But do you know what they’re used for? It depends on the type of X-ray, so let’s look at what these are.
Getting The Wide Shot With Panoramic X-Rays
If you’ve ever stood on a circular thing with your chin on a little platform and been told to stand still for a few seconds while a machine spun around your head, you’ve had a panoramic X-ray. This is the most common type of extraoral (outside the mouth) X-ray.
Panoramic X-rays show the entire mouth in one image. In them, we can see incoming adult teeth and wisdom teeth, including impacted ones, which is how we can determine whether there is enough room for them and if they’ll come in without any extra help. This type of X-ray also makes it easier to detect abscesses, tumors, and cysts.
Enhance: Periapical X-Rays And Bitewing X-Rays
In photography, wide shots show a lot, but they aren’t as useful for details as a closeup. The same is true in X-rays, which is why we don’t rely only on the panoramic image. The next level of dental X-rays are the bitewing X-rays. These intraoral (inside the mouth) X-rays focus on a specific area inside the mouth at a time, and we usually take one for each of the four quadrants of your mouth.
Bitewing X-rays give us a better view of the gaps between teeth, which are hard to see with the naked eye. These images make it easy to check for tooth decay and cavities in those areas. When we need to get even more detailed, we take periapical X-rays, which hone in on an individual problem tooth . These can be taken alongside bitewing X-rays.
Are Dental X-Rays Safe?
Dental X-rays involve brief exposure to low levels of radiation, but they are considered extremely safe. The short exposure time and protective coverings like the lead apron ensure that radiation exposure is as low as possible. We also only take X-rays as often as we absolutely need to, which further reduces exposure.
Factors that determine whether or not X-rays are necessary include the patient’s age, stage of dental development, oral health history, risk factors for various conditions, and whether or not they are presenting symptoms of oral health problems.
Still Have X-Ray Questions?
If you would like to know more about how we use dental X-rays in our practice or have any concerns about safety, just ask us! We want our patients to have all the information they need to feel comfortable when they come to see us.
THE SMILE OF a happy child is one of the best things in the world. Unfortunately, dental caries (tooth decay) is the most commonchronic disease of childhood. We want those smiles to stay as healthy as possible, which is why we’re dedicating a blog post to baby teeth dental care.
Baby Teeth Matter
Because baby teeth are temporary, you might be tempted to think they’re not very important, but don’t fall into that trap. Healthy baby teeth are essential for speech development, building self esteem, promoting good nutrition through proper chewing, and saving space in the jaw for the development and positioning of adult teeth.
Avoid Sipping On Juice Or Milk
The harmful oral bacteria in our mouths that cause tooth decay love sugar. Every time we eat or drink something sugary, they have a party, and it takes about half an hour for our saliva to wash away the leftover sugars. However, when we give our kids sippy cups or bottles of milk or juice to drink over a long period of time, their saliva doesn’t have time to wash away the residue and their oral bacteria gets to party nonstop.
This is such a common problem that it has a name: bottle rot. You can protect your child’s teeth from bottle rot by only giving them milk or juice at mealtimes and only giving them bottles or sippy cups of water to sip on while they play or when you put them to bed.
Thumbsucking And Pacifiers
It is perfectly natural and healthy for babies and toddlers to suck on their thumbs or fingers or use a pacifier. Doing so helps them feel safe and happy, and most children will stop on their own around age four. However, if they keep going after that, it can begin to impact their dental alignment, creating problems like an open bite. Come see us if you’re concerned about your child’s thumbsucking or pacifier habit.
One great way to give your child’s teeth extra protection from cavities is sealants. These are typically applied to the chewing surfaces of molars. They cover deep pits and grooves that are so difficult to keep clean. The sealing process is quick and easy, with no discomfort, and the teeth will be protected for years.
Good Oral Health Habits
No matter what your child eats or drinks, if they have sealants, and if they grow out of using a pacifier or sucking their thumb on their own, nothing can replace good oral health habits like daily brushing and flossing. While your child is too young to do it themselves, you can do it for them and with them and explain why it’s so important for keeping their teeth healthy and happy.
Don’t forget that one of your best resources for keeping your child’s teeth healthy is the dentist! With regular checkups, we can make sure that everything is going well and answer any questions you or your child have about good dental care.
OUR JAWS DO A LOT of work throughout the day, opening and closing over and over so that we can do ordinary things like talk, eat, and yawn. Ideally, all of the anatomy involved functions as it should and we can perform these tasks without trouble, but many people struggle with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders because something has gone wrong.
The Anatomy Of The Temporomandibular Joints
The joints on both sides of our jaw, located between the ear and the cheekbone, consists of three parts: the socket (part of the temporal bone), the ball (the top part of the jawbone), and a small, fibrous disk that acts as a cushion between the two. The ball and socket are covered in cartilage to help keep movement smooth and comfortable.
If the disk erodes or moves out of its proper alignment, if the cartilage on the bone is worn away by arthritis, or if there is a traumatic injury to the joint, a TMJ disorder may be the result.
Clicking or popping sounds in the joint when chewing, or a grating sensation
Pain or tenderness of the jaw
Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints
Difficult or painful chewing
Aching pain around the face
Aching pain in and around the ear
Difficulty opening or closing the jaw due to locking of the joint
Tips For Relieving TMJ Pain
If you’re dealing with TMJ pain, there are a few things you can do to reduce it on your own:
Keep yawning and chewing to a minimum.
When possible, avoid extreme jaw movements like from singing or yelling.
If you have to yawn, control it by pressing a fist beneath your chin.
When resting, hold your teeth slightly apart rather than fully closed. This is the natural resting position for the jaw, even when the lips are closed.
Eat soft foods that require little to no chewing.
Treatment For TMJ Disorders
In most cases, TMJ pain is temporary and goes away on its own after a week or two, but not always. If it doesn’t, and especially if it gets worse, then it likely needs treatment, which varies depending on the cause.
These treatments include ice packs, exercise, and moist heat, medication, and splints, but if none of them are enough, then measures like transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), ultrasound treatment, or trigger-point injections may be necessary. If all else fails, jaw surgery may be recommended.
Talk To Us About Your Jaw Pain
If you’ve been experiencing persistent pain or tenderness in your jaw or difficulty opening and closing it completely, give us a call or stop by so that we can look for the cause and get you on the path to being pain-free.
YOU MIGHT REMEMBER a little bit about pH from a science class you took years ago in middle school or high school. Even if you don’t, that’s okay; it’s time for a refresher course because pH plays a major role in our oral health.
The Basics (And Acidics) Of pH
We could go into some really complicated things about hydrogen ions, but the important thing to know is that a pH of 7 is neutral — neither acidic nor basic. For example, water has a pH of 7. As the numbers get smaller than 7, the substance becomes more acidic,and as they get larger than 7 (up to 14), it becomes more alkaline or basic. Make sense? Good. Now let’s look at what this has to do with our mouths.
Acid Versus Tooth Enamel
Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, so it’s pretty tough. It is, however, highly susceptible to acid erosion. All it takes is an environment of pH 5.5 or lower for the enamel to begin dissolving.
There are many ways our teeth can be exposed to acid. The most obvious is when we eat or drink something sour or tart because we can actually taste the acid. When we consume something sugary or starchy, oral bacteria eats the leftovers stuck between our teeth and produces acid as a waste product. Acid reflux and vomiting also expose our teeth to stomach acid, which is very strong.
Saliva: The First Line Of Defense
The best natural defense our teeth have against acids is saliva, which has a pH slightly above 7. Saliva washes food particles away and helps keep oral bacteria populations in check. This is why dry mouth is such a dangerous problem for oral health. The less saliva we have, the more vulnerable our teeth are.
Sipping soda or snacking throughout the day is also a problem for our teeth, because saliva needs time to neutralize our mouths afterward, and constantly introducing more acid makes that much harder.
A More Alkaline Diet Will Help Your Teeth
A great way we can help out our saliva in the fight to protect our teeth, aside from the usual methods of daily brushing and flossing and regular dental appointments, is to eat fewer acidic foods and trade them for alkaline ones. That means adding in more fruits and veggies and leaving off some of the breads, dairy, and meats — and we should definitely cut back on soda and other sugary treats.
We Can Fight Enamel Erosion Together!
If you’d like more tips for how to protect your tooth enamel, just ask us! We want you to have all the tools you need to keep your teeth healthy and strong so that they will last a lifetime.