Different Types of Teeth

There are 4 different kinds of permanent teeth.  Why are some teeth thin, while others are thick with a biting surface that has peaks and grooves?  The answer is the teeth look different from one another because they are designed to do different things!

incichiThe Incisors are the teeth in the very front. They’re the sharpest teeth. Incisors are shaped like tiny chisels with flat ends that are sharp.  They are built to cut food (like sharp scissors), and they are also shaped to shovel the food inward.

cus tooThe Cuspid or Canine teeth are the pointed teeth located beside the incisors.  People have a total of four canine teeth, two on top and two on the bottom. They are also called the “eye” teeth.  Unless they have been worn down by chewing and grinding, they are quite pointed.  They have only one root, but it is the longest root of any of your teeth – which gives them added stability because they are meant for grasping and tearing food.

crunchPremolar or bicuspid teeth are located just behind your canine teeth. There are 8 bicuspid teeth in total – 4 on the top, 4 on the bottom. They have a completely different shape than both the incisors and canines. Bicuspid teeth have a flatter chewing surface with ridges, – all of which makes them perfect for crushing and grinding food.

mill mill 2The Molars are the last teeth towards the back of your mouth. You have eight of these (not including your wisdom teeth which are also molars).  There are normally four molars on the top arch and four on the bottom arch.  The word molar means “millstone,” which makes sense as these teeth work similar to a millstone, grinding food. go tooThey are wider and stronger than premolars, and they have more ridges. Molars work closely with your tongue to help you swallow food. The tongue sweeps chewed food to the back of your mouth, where the molars grind it until it is mashed up and ready to be swallowed.

Eating fruitThe next time you eat, pay attention to which teeth do which jobs. Having an apple? Incisors do a good job of biting into it. What about a carrot? Most people use their canines or premolars to bite a piece off, then use their molars to get the job done.  Think about how hard it would be to completely chew a carrot with your front teeth!  How about a slice of pizza or a piece of toast? Your canines will help you tear at the food, and then your premolars and molars will help you grind up and swallow the pizza or toast.

If you are missing some teeth, it will often “over stress” other teeth as they end up doing jobs they weren’t meant to do, and chewing is not evenly distributed.  Join us for our next blog “Missing Teeth – Not Just a Cosmetic Issue!”

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Managing all those Sweet Halloween Treats

halloween trick or treat 2Halloween is an exciting time for children. They get to dress up in their favorite costume and trick or treat for lots of loot.  However, it is not such an exciting time for parents! Now that Halloween has come and gone, parents may be left wondering how to manage all the sugary treats that were collected….

If you are worried that the treats your kids will be eating will damage their teeth, here is a list of Halloween candy tips to help minimize the effects of all that candy on teeth.If you are worried that the treats your kids will be eating will damage their teeth, here is a list of Halloween candy tips to help minimize the effects of all that candy on teeth.

Sort and Eliminate: After trick-or-treating, sit down with your kids and sort through the candy together. Most parents know that they should check for any candy that may have been tampered with, but they should also look at the type of candy their child received.  Sort the candy into piles – hard candy, soft sticky candy, and less harmful candy.

  • Hard Candy — there are 2 ways to eat hard candy – both are a danger to teeth.  Sucking on hard candies provides a long exposure to the sugars that nourish cavity-causing bacteria.  Crunching on hard candy can break a tooth, damage orthodontic brackets and wires, and damage sealants.Stock Photo
  • Soft and Sticky Candy – such as gummy bears, taffy, sticky caramels, fruit snacks etc., stick between teeth, in the grooves of the biting surfaces of teeth and around orthodontic brackets and wires, and provide bacteria with a nice long-term meal.
  • Safer Candies – candies that are soft and non-sticky – things like chocolates, M&M’s, and peanut butter treats are the least harmful to teeth.

Consider a “Buy Back” for offending candy.  If the candy your child received sets off an alarm in your mind, consider offering a trade for such candy. Set a limit of 1 to 5 cents per piece of candy, and “buy back” the offending candy.

Halloween-CandySet Limits:  Once you have sorted their candy, and narrowed it down, set rules for when and how much candy can be consumed. Schedule “candy time” once a day, preferably with snacks or meals, not in between. It is always best to eat sweets with other foods. The presence of the additional food increases the saliva production in the mouth. This increase in saliva helps to break down the sugar quickly, which in turn decreases the amount of acid produced in the mouth.  Do not allow them to “snack” on the candy throughout the whole day because it provides a constant sugar  attack on the teeth.

brushing teethBrush and floss:  After consuming Halloween candy – have your child brush and floss their teeth.  You can also have them rinse with a mouthwash designed for kids that contains fluoride, which will help to prevent cavities.

Chew Sugar-Free Gum: Sugar-free gum works just like food to increase the saliva production in the mouth. Offer your child a piece of sugar free gum if tooth brushing is not an option after eating the candy. When selecting a sugar-free gum, look for one that contains xylitol, for the added benefit it brings for post-candy consumption.  There are also xylitol mints available if your child does not like gum.

Store Candy Out of Sight:  If children don’t see it, they will be less likely to ask for it.

Set an expiration date:  Impose a reasonable time limit to keep the Halloween candy in the house, then get rid of it!

apple 1Set an example:  Make sure you set an example for your kids with how you consume sweets during the day.  If they see you practicing healthy snacking – they are more likely to get on board with it!

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Nail Biting and Your Health

Nail Biting

Woman biting nailsYou may have been advised to avoid chewing on hard nuts, and ice cubes as it may chip your teeth.  The same warning applies to nail biting.  Dental enamel is the strongest tissue in the body.  But habitually biting on fingernails may eventually wear the enamel away, and cause other dental problems.

You may bite your nails without realizing you are doing it.  Many people bite their nails while involved in another activity, such as reading, watching television, or talking on the phone, or they bite their nails out of habit, boredom or stress. Nail biting affects people of all ages, and it can not only damage your teeth, but may affect your overall health.

Nail biting (technically called Onychophagia) is fairly common:

  • About 30 percent of children aged 7-10 bite their nails
  • About 45 percent of teenagers bite their nails
  • About 25 percent of young adults bite their nails
  • Only about five percent of older adults bite their nails

Problems with Nail Biting:

  • nail biting 8 borderFront teeth damage – Most nail biters use their front upper and lower teeth. Nails are fairly hard, and the constant pressure applied to those teeth when biting on the nails can result in worn enamel, chipped or broken teeth.  It can also contribute to the teeth becoming crooked/misaligned etc.
  • Nail biting is not good for teeth with braces either: braces already put pressure on teeth, the additional pressure from nail biting can lead to the weakening of the roots.
  • Gum tissue damage – jagged fingernails can cut gum tissue.
  • nailing biting germsIt is unsanitary.  If you have broken skin around your nails, it is basically an “open wound”.  The two “germiest” places on your body are generally your hands/fingernails and your mouth.  Even with frequent hand washing, your fingers are still dirty.  Your fingernails are almost twice as dirty as your fingers.  A study done by renowned microbiologist Dr. Anthony C Hilton concluded that 25% of men, and 15% of women have a harmful bacteria called enterobacteriaceae living under their nails.  Another expert — Dr. David Katz of Yale University — conducted an experiment with his students to test bacteria grow under the fingernails. He concluded that short painted nails have least amount of bacteria growth. Conversely, long unpainted nails had the most growth.  Due to the bacteria, not only is there concern for germs being passed from the hands to the mouth, but imagine all the germs from the mouth that can be passed along to broken skin around fingernails. Either way it can provide access for these undesirable germs to your bloodstream.
  • Gingivitis – Also known as the first stage of gum disease, gingivitis is a bacterial based condition that often gets its start from plaque build-up. But injury to gum tissue and the introduction of bacteria can also result in gum disease.
  • It can be costly: According to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), nail biting can result in up to $4,000 in additional dental bills over one lifetime.

What treatments are available for nail-biting?

Several treatment measures may help you stop biting your nails. Some focus on behavioral changes and some focus on physical barriers to nail-biting.

  • First – be more conscious of your nail biting – try not to bite your nails.  Ask others to tell you when you are biting your nails.
  • nail biting 9b borderKeep your nails trimmed and filed. Taking care of your nails can help reduce your nail-biting habit.
  • Have a manicure regularly or use nail polish. Men can use a clear polish. Wearing artificial nails may help you to stop biting your nails as well.
  • Paint a bitter-tasting polish or cream for around your fingernails, such as CONTROL-IT or Thum on your nails. The awful taste will remind you to stop every time you start to bite your nails.
  • Try keeping a record of nail-biting.  You will become more aware of the times when you bite your nails which may help you to stop biting your nails.
  • nail biting silly putty borderbSubstitute another activity, such as squeezing a stress ball or Silly Putty, or drawing/doodling, when you find yourself biting your nails.
  • Wear gloves, or put adhesive bandages around your nails, whenever possible to remind you not to bite your nails.
  • Snap a rubber band on the inside of your wrist when you start to bite your nails so you have a negative physical response to nail-biting.

If you do have tooth damage from nail biting, give our office a call.  We can discuss the options for repairing the damage.

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Breast Feeding and Early Childhood Caries

Is Your Breast Fed Baby at Risk for Early Childhood Caries?

Our recent post discussed Baby Bottle Tooth Decay (Early Childhood Caries) and how and why it occurs.  It is important for Moms who breast feed their baby to know that just because a baby is breast fed, does not mean they are immune to early childhood caries.

Mother Breastfeeding Baby In NurseryTooth decay can arise when a young child nurses from the breast, because breast milk also has sugar in it.  However, breastfeeding is associated with a low risk of developing tooth decay, compared with bottle feeding. Nevertheless, breast milk does contain sugars and some infants who breast feed for long periods throughout the day or night may develop tooth decay.

For Breast-fed Babies

  • Avoid :  feedings that last more than 30 minutes.
  • Avoid :  prolonged and unrestricted night time feeding.
  • Avoid :  frequent, on-demand (“at-will”) feedings once the first teeth erupt.
  • Avoid:   nursing your child to sleep.  If your baby is breastfed, and won’t fall asleep without being nursed, try to avoid letting him/her sleep with the nipple in his/her mouth. After he/she falls asleep, remove the nipple to prevent pooling of liquid.
  • After each feed, wipe your child’s gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth.    You should start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as the first teeth come in.  Gently brush with a child-sized toothbrush and water.

Lift the Lip” to check for signs of Early Childhood Caries  Once the primary teeth have erupted, parents can lift the baby’s upper lip and visually check both front and back of the four upper front teeth at least once a month.

baby-teething1[1]Checking a child’s teeth takes only a minute. It is helpful to have one adult hold the baby while a second adult looks at the teeth. A small dental mirror can help in viewing the back surfaces of the teeth. White spots on the surface of the upper front teeth or whitish lines at the base of the teeth along the gum line are indicators of Early Childhood Caries. If a parent notices any white spots on the teeth, a dentist visit is warranted. At this stage, Early Childhood Caries may still be reversible with prompt treatment. If left unchecked, the “white spot” lesions can rapidly develop to brown spots and general decay of the teeth.

For more information about how to prevent early childhood caries see our blog “How to Prevent Early Childhood Caries”

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How to Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay


  • If you must give the baby a bottle as a comfort at bedtime, it should contain only water.
  • If your child won’t fall asleep without the bottle and its usual beverage, gradually dilute the bottle’s contents with water over a period of two to three weeks, progressing to strictly water in the bottle.
  • Baby-Care-and-Cleaning-TipsAfter each feed, wipe your child’s gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth.    You should start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as the first teeth come in.  Gently brush with a child-sized toothbrush and water.  Rinsing the mouth is an option you can try with older children.
  • Fluoridated toothpaste can be used safely when you are sure that your child spits out all of the toothpaste after brushing. Older children can use a toothbrush with soft, nylon bristles. Use a very small amount of toothpaste (no more than the size of a pea). (You should consult the child’s dentist before considering using fluoride toothpaste).
  • Baby drinking from bottle. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.Avoid letting your infant walk around using a bottle of milk or juice as a pacifier or security object.  Do not allow your child to sip on a bottle filled with juice, milk, or formula for long periods of time as a pacifier
  • Start to teach your child to drink from a cup at about six months of age. Plan to stop using a bottle by 12 to 14 months at the latest.
  • pacifierAlways be sure your baby’s pacifier is clean. Don’t ever dip it in anything (such as sugar or honey). Don’t clean your baby’s pacifier by sucking on it yourself, a common but unhealthy practice, since you are passing bacteria from your mouth over to your baby!
  • Since some medications are more than 50% sugar, they can also cause cavities to form. Be sure to have your child rinse or brush after taking medications.
  • baby-teeth-6485868Inspect your baby’s teeth frequently and have them checked by your child’s doctor or a dentist.
  • Start dental visits by your child’s first birthday.

Join our next blog to learn if breast fed babies are at risk for early childhood decay!

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Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Baby  Bottle Tooth Decay

babys-teethYou may think that because baby teeth are replaced by permanent teeth, it is not important if they decay or are lost early.  It is however, very important to keep baby teeth healthy because:

  • Primary (baby) teeth last for one-sixth of a person’s life
  • Chewing on well-formed teeth helps the jaw bones to grow and develop properly
  • Baby teeth provide and maintain proper space for the eruption of permanent teeth
  • Baby teeth are necessary for proper chewing of food, and normal digestive processes
  • Baby teeth are also necessary for the development of sounds and proper speech development
  • Healthy baby teeth are also important for a child’s self esteem and well being
  • Children do not lose all of their baby teeth at once. Certain baby  molars are expected to be in the child’s mouth until 12-13 years of age.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay – How does it happen?

Almost all liquids except water contain either naturally occurring sugars or manufactured sugars.  How often your child drinks liquids containing sugar, and how long the sugar stays in the mouth are important.

baby drinking bottleWhen an infant sucks on a bottle, the milk, juice, formula and even breast milk pools around their  teeth.  The sugars in these drinks combine with bacteria and create acids that attack the teeth.  The acids dissolve the tooth structure and cause decay.  The condition is also known as early childhood caries, baby bottle mouth syndrome or nursing caries syndrome.

Saliva not only helps to dilute acids and wash away food and liquid in the mouth, it helps to neutralize acids due to its alkalinity. This neutralization of the acid helps to minimize the harmful effect of acid on the teeth.

baby sleeping bottleDuring sleep, the flow of saliva decreases, which means the liquid pools around the teeth more and is not washed away by the saliva, or neutralized.   (See our blog about the functions of saliva).  So when an infant is put to bed with a bottle of anything but water, it can result in baby bottle tooth decay.

Baby bottle tooth decay usually starts in the back of the front teeth, and often goes unnoticed by parents because it can’t be seen. New teeth are more vulnerable to decay.

Baby bottle tooth decay affects the upper front teeth of infants and toddlers more often.  Lower front teeth are in general less affected since they are covered by the tongue.


  • bbtd 4The first sign of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay or Early Childhood Caries (ECC) appears as white chalky spots on the surface of the upper front teeth or whitish lines at the base of the teeth along the gum line. This is from the decalcification of the enamel by the acids   (If a parent notices any white spots on the teeth, a dentist visit is warranted. At this stage, Early Childhood Caries may still be reversible with prompt treatment).
  • bbtd 2The process then begins to accelerate. If left unchecked, the “white spot” lesions can rapidly develop to brown spots and general decay of the teeth. Cavities may look like dark pits or holes and teeth will appear eaten away or broken
  • In advanced cases, the crowns of the bbtd sevteeth are completely destroyed, leaving decayed brownish-black stumps. By this time, baby teeth may either require crowns, root canal therapy, or even extraction.
  • The child may complain of toothache and difficulty in eating food

If baby bottle tooth decay is left untreated, pain and infection can result. Severely decayed teeth may need to be removed, and the infections could affect the child’s total health.

silver capsChildren may smile less often and their self-esteem may be affected by others’ reactions to their browned, decayed, or missing teeth, or a mouthful of silver caps. Dental repair of baby bottle caries is an involved and expensive prospect for young children, often requiring hospitalization, general anesthesia, and intravenous antibiotics to treat, repair, or extract the affected teeth.

Join our next blog for information on how to prevent baby bottle tooth decay!

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Treatment for Sensitive Teeth


In our last blog we discussed some of the causes of sensitive teeth.  In this post, we will discuss some suggestions to treat sensitivity.

sensitive tooth rfThe treatment for sensitive teeth will depend on what the cause is.  There may be specific dental treatment needed to treat the problem, or there may be treatment you can begin at home.  To begin with, some advice on what you can do at home to try to help.


1)  Keep your teeth clean.  A proper oral hygiene routine is key to preventing sensitive teeth.  Follow proper brushing and flossing techniques to thoroughly clean all parts of teeth and mouth, so you remove all the plaque and deposits without causing damage to the teeth or gums.

soft brush rf2)  Use a soft bristled toothbrush, and change your brush every 3 months.  If you are unsure how to brush without causing damage, ask us!

3) Use desensitizing toothpaste. There are several brands available.  Avoid whitening or abrasive toothpastes.  Keep in mind that these desensitizing toothpastes must be used on an ongoing basis.  If you stop using them, the sensitivity is likely to return.

tomat rf4) Watch your food consumption. A regular diet of highly acidic food can gradually dissolve tooth enamel and lead to dentin exposure.  Do not brush after consuming acidic food and beverages, wait to brush for 60 minutes to give your saliva time to neutralize the acids.   Keep sugary and acidic foods to a minimum, and avoid snacking between meals.

5)  Do not brush your teeth after vomiting. Because acid softens the tooth’s surface, brushing will cause more enamel loss.  Wait 60 minutes until the natural flow of saliva washes away the acids.  You can rinse with water after vomiting.

6)  Use fluoridated dental products. Daily use of a fluoridated mouth rinse can decrease sensitivity. Fluoride varnish treatments at the dental office can also help.

gelb 27)  Protect your teeth from grinding and clenching. You cannot sub-consciously stop grinding your teeth at night, but you can protect them with the use of a custom-made night guard.

8)  If you have broken, decayed, or cracked teeth, get them treated as soon as possible.

art bite9)   If your bite does not feel even, consult your dentist to have it checked.

10)   If you experience sensitive teeth when whitening, you may need to slow down the whitening process, brush with a desensitizing toothpaste for 2 weeks or so before you begin whitening, treat you teeth with special desensitizing solutions while whitening, or use a different whitening solution.

Treatment at the dentist may include:

  • Fluoride varnishFluoride varnish and gels can be  applied to the teeth. If applied regularly these treatments will not only help to strengthen the teeth, but will make them less sensitive.
  • Special desensitizing coatings (like ‘Gluma‘) can be bonded to the teeth on the sensitive areas. These can help reduce  symptoms  by sealing over the dentin.
  • Keep in mind that both the fluoride or desensitizing coating treatments may need to be repeated every few weeks as symptoms can take time to settle.
  • If symptoms persist, a filling may need to be done to cover over the sensitive areas.
  • In rare, extreme cases a root canal may be required if the tooth remains very sensitive.

remember rfRemember, we are here to help.  If you are having sensitivity issues, call us to book an appointment.  We will do our best to discover the cause and work with you to relieve the symptoms.

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Tooth Sensitivity


sens teeth fotol

It is estimated that approximately half the population experiences tooth sensitivity.  Tooth sensitivity can range from very mild to extreme and can come and go over time.

There are many things that can cause sensitive teeth, and treatment can vary depending on the cause.  You may experience sensitivity when you drink something cold, when you bite down on something, when you eat something sweet or even when you drink something hot.  The sensitivity you experience may be mild and momentary, or extreme and last for hours.   So what’s going on? Why do your teeth react to hot, cold, sweet, or sour, and sometimes even to pressure?

Having sensitive teeth may be an indication of a dental problem that needs treatment. It should therefore be used as a big hint to visit the dentist!

sensitive tooth rfThe first step in treating sensitive teeth is to determine the cause.  Teeth can become sensitive for many different reasons ranging from trauma to dental disease.  A dentist will examine the teeth and try to determine the cause.

Common Causes
cracked tooth foli31)       Dental trauma – a tooth can be sensitive to even slight pressure if it has been traumatized in any way, “bruised” or even cracked (by biting down on something).  Sometimes even having your teeth cleaned or a filling done can cause sensitivity.   Sensitivity to trauma can takes weeks or even months to go away.   If a tooth is cracked, the sensitivity will likely not resolve and further treatment is required.  If you have recently had a filling done and your tooth is sensitive ask yourself – does it feel like you are hitting on that tooth first when you close.  If the answer is yes, you will need to return to the dentist to have the filling adjusted.  When you are “frozen” it is hard for you to bite down as you normally would.  This can result in the filling be a little “high”.  Once the freezing comes out, and you begin to bite normally, you may be hitting on that tooth before contact is made with your other teeth.  This can traumatize the tooth and the sensitivity can be quite noticeable.  A bite adjustment will correct the problem.  If the tooth had a large or deep filling done – the nerve of the tooth may be irritated and just take time to settle down.  (That is why it is always preferable to detect cavities when they are small!)  If a tooth has just been bruised by biting on something hard like a popcorn kernel – it may just take time to settle down, or the tooth may be cracked.  If after a few weeks you are still experiencing sensitivity, call us.

2)     Uneven bite – If a tooth or teeth are hitting too soon or too hard because the teeth have shifted, and your bite has changed, it can cause sensitivity.  These shifts can be due to things such as thumb sucking, or loss of bone structure, a tooth being extracted and the other teeth shifting into the empty space etc.  Again a bite adjustment usually corrects the problem.

3)      Dental Decay – if a tooth is decayed, bacteria have access to the nerve of the tooth and the tooth often becomes sensitive to hot or cold, sweets, or acidic food.  Removal of the decay and a filling is required to solve this issue.

4)      Dental infection –  If there is infection in the tooth, the sensitivity can be extreme.  Treatment is needed to clear up the infection or it can not only lead to extreme pain, but serious health issues.

dentinal tubes ty5)      Dentinal Sensitivity – by far the most common cause of tooth sensitivity is exposed dentin.  Dentinal sensitivity occurs when the dentin (the inner layer of a tooth) is exposed. People with a healthy, thick layer of enamel on their teeth don’t usually suffer with tooth sensitivity. However, the thickness of enamel varies from person to person, and enamel can be eroded by various things.  Dentin is a sponge-like material containing small tubes that connect the root canal space (pulp) to the outside of the dentin. If the enamel on the tooth is compromised the dentin can be exposed, resulting in sensitivity.   

Dentinal Sensitivity can be caused by many factors.  They include but are not limited to:

A)     Poor oral hygiene.  This can lead to cavities, and/or plaque and tartar build-up, resulting in gum recession.

B)      Gum recession/gum disease.  This can occur naturally over time, whereby the gums shrink back exposing root dentin which is not protected by enamel.

man brush teeth fotoC)      Over-brushing or aggressive brushing.  If you brush too forcefully, with a side-to side technique or with too hard a brush, the enamel may be thinned.  The area around the gum-line is most often affected.

citrus rfD)     Acidic food.  Regular consumption of food with high acid content, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, pickles and tea, can cause enamel erosion.

E)      Grinding.  Similar to erosion, regular teeth grinding (also called bruxism) can wear away the enamel by physically grinding it away.  This may also cause ‘aching’ teeth, due to constant pressure on them.

whiten up close rfF)      Teeth whitening.  Sensitivity is one of the common side effects of whitening. This usually clears up soon after the whitening has ended.  Sometimes it means slowing down the whitening process or being proactive with other preventive steps before you whiten.
H)     Medical conditions.  For example, bulimia and acid reflux (GERD) can cause acid to collect in the mouth and erode enamel, resulting in sensitive teeth.

chew pencil up close rf
G)     Bad habits.  Using teeth as tools or chewing on objects (e.g., pens) can wear away tooth enamel as well.

Join our next blog for treatment options for sensitive teeth!

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Receding Gums

Receding Gums

The gingiva (gum) is the protective gum tissue borderskin that is located around the necks of each tooth, and covers the underlying bone that holds the roots of the teeth.

The gums are the so-called first line of defense against bacteria that try to attack the underlying bone structure of the teeth.  The gums are structured to resist the forces of mastication (chewing).  Normal gum shape permits the flow of food away from in between the teeth and along the gum line, so that food is forced away from the gingiva to the tongue and is, in turn forced between the teeth to be chewed.   The gingiva has a sensory function as well.  It is innervated with pain, touch and temperature receptors, which offer protection.

gum recession  border 2Receding gums can be a result of several factors.  Typically the main causes of receding gums are 1) gum disease or gingivitis (The bacteria in plaque causes gum inflammation which results in the erosion of the gum tissue.  2)  The other main cause is over-aggressive brushing techniques.  This “wears away” the gum tissue.

Gum recession is very easy to diagnose.  If you notice a receding of the gum line, you should make an appointment with us to confirm the diagnosis and start proper treatment.  Although gum recession can be a slow progression, the end result can be quite serious and drastic.  Gum recession can lead to tooth sensitivity, exposed root surfaces and eventually as the bacteria have greater access to the underlying structures of the teeth, bone loss and tooth loss.

Your teeth are covered with enamel – the hardest substance in your body. This helps to protect the tooth from damage by bacteria, acids and erosion.  Root surfaces are not protected with hard enamel.  The cementum that covers the root surfaces of a tooth is much softer than enamel.  It is therefore more susceptible to the bacteria that cause tooth decay, and more prone to be worn away by aggressive brushing.

senstivie toothSensitivity can be quite an issue for some people if the root surfaces are exposed.   There are dentinal tubules that run from the outside of the tooth to the inner nerve.   If due to gum recession, the tubules are exposed, sensitivity can be quite extreme.


The best treatment for receding gums is to prevent and curb gum recession.  Thorough yet gentle brushing will remove plaque along the gum line without mechanically wearing away the gum tissue.  Once lost, gum tissue will not grow back!  Advanced cases of gum recession can sometimes be treated with tissue grafts, gingival flap surgery and possibly bone grafts.  If there is too much recession, grafts and other surgeries will not help and eventually the tooth may be lost.  Meticulous care of these areas will prolong the life of the tooth.  The sooner receding gums are addressed the less invasive the treatment and the better the outcome.

Join us for our next blog for more information about the causes of sensitive teeth.

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17 Ways You May Be Inadvertently Damaging Your Teeth




Do you brush your teeth right after eating or drinking something acidic?  Brushing your teeth immediately after eating or drinking something acidic can cause tooth wear.  If you eat or drink anything acidic, brushing at the ‘wrong’ time – particularly within 20 minutes after consuming acidic foods and drinks – can wear your teeth faster than normal. Give your teeth some time. Wait a ½ hour or so, then brush.  This will allow the enamel on your teeth to re-mineralize, returning to a more wear resistant form.

iStock_000002480184XSmall[1]Do you brush your teeth too vigorously?  Often people think that brushing harder is better because it helps to remove all the plaque and debris.  Brushing too vigorously will not only damage the gum tissue over time but it can actually wear away tooth enamel.  Especially exposed root surfaces.  It is far more effective to brush gently with a soft bristle toothbrush as the bristles are more flexible and will conform to the tooth surface better to help remove plaque and debris.  Tooth brush abrasion (wearing away of tooth surface) is common problem, and can increase tooth sensitivity.

Do you grind your teeth? It is estimated that 90% of people grind their teeth.  Many are not aware that they grind.  They may not do it every night, but over time, the damage becomes evident.  Think of taking the oil out of your car and driving around the block once a night.  For years the damage will not be obvious, but eventually problems will arise.  Grinding or clenching your teeth can have similar results.  Clenching and grinding will eventually wear down teeth, destroy the supporting bone and can cause TMJ problems.  A dentist can usually identify a clenching or grinding habit by looking at your teeth.  If wear or damage is evident, you can protect your teeth from further damage by wearing a simple appliance called a night guard.

Do you take any type of medication regularly? There are many types of medicationsdrugs[1] that can cause dry mouth. Saliva is important because it not only helps to dilute acids in the mouth (due to it’s alkalinity), but it helps to wash away food and debris providing a cleansing effect.   When your mouth lacks moisture, your teeth quickly become more vulnerable to enamel erosion, cavities and gum problems.   Ask your doctor or pharmacist if any of the medications you take can dry up your protective saliva.  See our posts regarding the benefits of saliva: https://sunningdaledentalblog.com/2012/07/17/6-ways-saliva-protects-your-teeth/  and the effects of dry mouth: https://sunningdaledentalblog.com/2011/06/06/dry-mouth/

Do you experience frequent bouts of heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), or vomit frequently? Your digestive system churns with acids. When the acids find their way back up into your mouth via burping, reflux or vomiting, your tooth enamel may be damaged. People with heartburn, GERD, and eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia should take steps to protect their teeth.  Ask us how.

Do you swim in chlorinated pools often?  The pH balance of chlorinated waterswimming can sometimes be too low (acidic), putting swimmers at risk for rapidly deteriorating enamel. The lower the pH level of a liquid, the more acidic and harmful it is to your teeth.  According to  an article by The Academy of General Dentistry, swimmers who are in the water for six hours or more per week run the risk of yellow or brown stains forming on their teeth.  If you are at risk please ask us how to protect your teeth.  For more information click on the link:  http://www.speareducation.com/spear-review/2012/08/chlorine-why-teeth-are-shaking-in-their-boots/

Sipping on beverages throughout the day.   The sugar from a single sip can sit on your teeth for 20 minutes, and the accumulation of sugar can lead to rampant decay.  Acidic drinks will also make teeth more vulnerable to decay.  Sipping on any beverages (anything other than water) throughout the day maintains a constant attack on your teeth. https://sunningdaledentalblog.com/2012/02/01/what-are-the-worst-drinks-for-your-teeth/https://sunningdaledentalblog.com/2011/06/01/the-7-worst-food-and-drinks-for-your-teeth/

Candy in pink wrapper isolated on white.Sucking often on cough drops or other candies.  Just because cough drops are sold in the medicine aisle doesn’t mean they’re healthy. Most are loaded with sugar. So after soothing your throat with a lozenge, be sure to rinse with water. Whether the sugar comes from a cough drop or a hard candy, it reacts with the sticky plaque that coats your teeth. Then bacteria in the plaque convert the sugar into an acid that eats away at tooth enamel.  Gummy candy and fruit roll ups, etc also stick to the teeth keeping the sugar in contact with the teeth for hours.  Parents often think they are giving their children healthy snacks when in reality, they are not. 

Chewing ice and crunching on hard candyYou would think that because ice is just frozen water, it is good for your teeth.  However chewing on ice, and crunching ice (and hard candy), can fracture your teeth and irritate the soft tissue in your mouth.

Using your teeth to open anything! Don’t use your teeth to open a bottle, a package, a barrett, a bobby pin, or anything else. It can lead to chipped or fractured teeth. 

Smoking as well as chewing tobacco. You knew this one had to be on the list! Smoking as well as popping a wad of tobacco into your mouth can not only yellow your teeth, but more importantly lead to oral cancer. Why would you even want to risk it? 

Piercing your tongue.  Studs or rings in the mouth can chip teeth tongue pierced]and damage the gums. More importantly, the piercing creates a wound in the mouth, which is a highly-bacterial environment and could increase the risk of infection.

Nervous Habits.  Anytime you bite down on a hard, non-food object, you risk damaging your teeth. Individuals that have such nervous habits as chewing on pencils, biting their nails, or tapping a pen against their teeth, risk inadvertently cracking or chipping a tooth. Just like with ice cubes, you’re better off chewing on a piece of sugar free gum instead.

Playing sports without a sports guard.   Whether you play football, hockey, or any other contact sport, don’t get in the game without a mouth guard. Without it, your teeth could get chipped or even knocked out.  It is just not worth the risk!

iStock_000010743287XSmall[1]Skipping Dental Checkups.  Dentists often recommend dental check ups and cleanings every six months, but most patients fail to comply. This allows plaque to form tartar (calculus), which attracts more plaque on its surface, carrying the plaque deeper within the gums.  This can destroy the tooth’s supporting structures (the bone).  Cavities if caught early are much easier to fix, and less tooth structure is lost.  “The sooner you find issues, the easier and less expensive they will be to address,”

10. Drink Bottled Water.  Most bottled water has little or no fluoride and most home filtration systems filter much of it out. Stick with fluoridated tap water since it’s “the most cost-effective way to prevent cavities and fight tooth decay,”  If your water isn’t fluoridated, you may require some type of fluoride supplement.

Posted in Cavity Fighting Strategies, Dry Mouth, It's Your Health, Oral Health and Overall Health, Oral Hygiene, Other Tips, Prevention | Leave a comment