How long can I wait to get my cavity treated?

woman getting a dentist exam and teeth cleaningLife gets busy. And expensive. Which is why it can be tempting to let a cavity go without filling it. Or getting any treatment. But it’s a bad idea. Here’s why.

Cause of a cavity

A cavity is really the product of a perfect storm involving bacteria, food, saliva and the resulting acid. Bacteria in your mouth combine with food that sits on your teeth and creates plaque which includes acid. The acid in the plaque eats holes in your tooth (tooth decay) called cavities.  Patients can usually tell they have a cavity because of pain, sensitive teeth, or can feel a hole in their teeth.

How a cavity is treated

A cavity can be treated several different ways; the extent of the damage and location of the damage dictates what treatment is used. Two of the most common cavity treatments are:

  • Filling. For cavities that haven’t affected the tooth root or pulp, a filling is usually the best option. During a filling, the dentist clears out the damage and decay and fills in the area.
  • Root canal. Root canals, another common cavity treatment, are commonly needed when the decay has spread to the pulp or tooth root. When a root canal is done, the infected tissue is cleaned out, the area disinfected, and the void is filled in. A temporary filling is applied temporarily until the permanent crown is ready. The last phase is placing the permanent crown on the tooth (for this reason, schedule two appointments for a root canal).

Why you need to treat a cavity ASAP

You don’t always feel a cavity, and often that can make it very tempting to wait to take care of it. Unfortunately, putting off taking care of a cavity can cause more problems in the long run.

  • Your one-tooth cavity can turn into bigger (and more expensive) problem. A cavity is decay, and decay continues until it is removed. Delaying treatment can lead to more cavities and more decay. If the decay spreads to the pulp or tooth root, a more extensive treatment may be required (think root canal versus filling), costing you more time and money for the procedure.  
  • A painless cavity can turn into an inconvenient dental emergency. There’s another compelling reason for preventative care: a cavity that doesn’t hurt now can cause significant pain later—and possibly at the worse time. To keep the pain away and avoid the inevitable emergency holiday or after hours dental appointment, schedule regular dental cleanings and exams.

6 Summer Treats that Damage Your Teeth

Family having a picnic at the beach with summer treats that can damage teethSummer comes with a list of fun: swimming, yard games, hiking…and enjoying a host of summer treats. While those treats may make your (and our!) mouths water, they can damage your teeth if you’re not careful. That’s why we’ve given you a list of summer treats that you should enjoy (with caution!) and tips that keep your teeth healthy until fall.

Soda

Summer and soda go together like peanut butter and jelly. You can find soda at every grill out, company picnic, brat fry, and get together. Unfortunately, those delicious sodas (and sugary drinks) come with a cost: cavities. The sugar in the soda combines with the bacteria in your mouth to create the perfect storm that can wear down enamel and cause cavities.

Iced coffee

Iced coffee may be a great (and cool!) way to start a hot summer day, but it comes with a double dose of caution. Iced coffee can stain your teeth and the added flavors are loaded with sugar. Sipping at an iced coffee throughout the morning continuously stains and delivers sugar to your mouth, damaging your teeth and putting your hopes of no bad news at your next dentist appointment at risk.

Ice cream

Ice cream is delicious, wonderfully cold on a hot day, full of calcium, and damaging to your teeth. Many ice creams are produced with a lot of sugar, putting your teeth at risk for cavities and gum disease. Ice cream is also one of the chief offenders for people with sensitive teeth, which is caused by an erosion of tooth enamel.

Pickles

Pickles are a delicious burger topping and simple side dish at every grill out; however, the vinegary acid that makes pickles so mouth-watering can also erode your enamel and cause sensitive teeth.

Lemonade

This delicious drink may be a summer staple, but it’s also an acidic drink. The acid in lemonade can wear down enamel over time. Flavored lemonade can have a secondary hazard: sugar. When you do enjoy a delicious glass, drink it down—don’t sip!

Potato Chips

Salty potato chips are mouth-watering; unfortunately they are also a mouth hazard. Potato chips have a pesky way of breaking into little pieces that can hide in your mouth and get stuck in between teeth. With a high starch content, potato chips can put your mouth at risk for cavities and a host of other dental problems.

Tips for keeping your mouth healthy this summer

What should I do if I lose a permanent tooth?

man grimacing in pain from a broken toothIt doesn’t matter if you lose a tooth or your child gets a tooth knocked out. There’s always a moment of panic and a million questions. What should I do with the tooth? Is there going to be permanent damage? How much is it going to cost to repair the damage? How soon should I see the dentist? What do I do now?

That’s why we’ve put together a list of tips and steps to use when you’re faced with a knocked out or broken tooth.

The “don’ts” of a knocked out or broken tooth

  • Don’t touch the root of the tooth, where the tooth touches the gum.
  • Don’t put the lost tooth in anything except cow’s milk or saltwater.
  • Don’t try to scrub or scrape the tooth (especially the root).
  • Don’t forget to plug the sink before you rinse the tooth (you don’t want to lose it down the drain!).

What to do

11 Summer Safety Tips that’ll Keep your Summer Fun

healthy young family swimming in poolSummer should be synonymous with fun—not with emergency room visits or nights of pain and sickness. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of tips to use this summer to keep you and your family safe and out of the emergency room (hopefully!).

Be prepared.

To keep minor injuries from turning into larger problems, prepare before you head out for a summer of fun. Check your first aid kits to make sure they are fully stocked, and restock as needed. Put your stocked kits in your cars, camper, home, cabin, and any other area you frequent during the summer.

Make sure you and your family are also trained in basic first aid (don’t forget to educate yourself in how to handle dental emergencies too!) so you can provide care if, and when, needed.

Apply sunscreen.

Sun burns and sunstroke can put a real damper on your summer fun. Apply sunscreen before you head to the lake or pool, when hiking, or for any fun in the sun. Make sure you get those vulnerable (and often forgotten) areas, such as the tips of your ears and nose. Reapply sunscreen frequently, and make sure your lips are protected from the sun as well. For young children and infants, use swim shirts and big hats to protect them from the sun.

Avoid too many sweet indulgences.

Summer picnics and outings come with a lot of summer treats: s’mores, cotton candy, ice cream, soda…the list could go on and on. As tempting as they might be, indulge with caution: those sweet treats can lead to cavities and dental problems. Avoid those cavities by brushing afterwards, not sipping soda or sweet drinks, and swishing or drinking water when done (more information about soda and cavities here).

Be careful with fireworks.

Fireworks can be lots of fun, but are also the cause of many emergency room visits every year. Use extreme caution when setting off fireworks, and monitor children very closely with sparklers (or not let them hold them at all).

Don’t abandon your good hygiene habits and routines.

It’s normal to fall out of routine and forget to brush when you get home late, or for kids to forget to brush because they are not getting ready for school. Make sure everyone brushes and flosses during summer to prevent unpleasant cavities and dental emergencies that come when you miss brushing.

Keep the bugs away.

Ticks and mosquitoes can be a major pain during summer, and also the source of illnesses that could derail your summer plans. Use bug spray, oils, and other deterrents to keep those bugs away—and keep your family healthy through the summer.

Stay hydrated.

With all the fun of summer, dehydration can quickly become a problem when you’re so busy. Keep a water bottle close at hand, and take frequent water breaks to stay hydrated throughout the day. If you drink sports drinks for hydration, make sure you follow up with water and brush soon after to stay hydrated without cavities.

Keep your important appointments.

Let’s just state the obvious: summers get busy. When your calendar starts filling up with sports games, get togethers, and all the other fun of summer, it can be really tempting to cancel the important appointments (i.e. dentist, doctor, etc.) that keep you healthy. Book your summer appointments well in advance to find a convenient time, and make sure you keep them to stay healthy.

Take two wheel safety to heart.

Bikes and summer go together, so take full advantage of the warm temperatures and enjoy some two wheel fun. When you do head out on the road or trail, make sure everyone wears their helmet and obeys the rules of the road.

Avoid pesty plants.

Poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac are everywhere—along hiking trails, in our yards, along the roads. Know what each of these pesty plants look like, and avoid them as much as possible.

Be safe in the water.

During summer, our lakes and pools get very crowded with swimmers, boaters, and recreationists of all kinds. When you’re out on the water or in the water, be safe. Use life jackets when boating or tubing, and when swimming if you’re not the strongest swimmer. Don’t get into the water after a friend or relative if they are struggling; instead throw or extend a flotation device to them to assist them without getting in trouble.

Never let your kids go into a lake or pool without keeping a close eye on them. Close gates around pools to keep little kids safe. Have fun this summer, and be safe!

Unhealthy Habits to Avoid this Summer

Summer writing on sandSummer is a time for fun; it shouldn’t be a time for sickness or nights of pain. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens when we slip into unhealthy habits that tend to come with summer. Here’s what to avoid this summer so you don’t remember this summer for all the wrong reasons (like mouth pain and emergency doctor visits!).

Drinking a lot of soda

During summer, sodas seem to be everywhere you go—at every cookout, every company picnic, every concession stand. It’s really easy to grab a soda at every meal (and in between meals). It’s also really easy for the sugar from the soda to combine with bacteria in your mouth to form acid. The resulting acid can decay your tooth enamel, causing cavities.Scientific studies have shown a strong connection between soda consumption and tooth decay.

 What to do: Try to avoid drinking soda this summer, or limit the amount of sodas you drink. If you do drink a soda, use a straw and drink water after you are done with your soda. Brush and floss afterward (and regularly!). Try to avoid sodas right before you head to bed, and sipping the soda for a long time. Schedule a dentist appointment and cleaning to keep your teeth healthy and avoid a painful mouth.

Lack of sleep

All the late night grill outs, camping trips, and no school leads to an unhealthy side effect: not getting enough good quality sleep. The amount of sleep each person needs is different for everyone, and so are the side effects. Eventually, a lack of sleep can lead to illness, injuries, and decreased productivity.

What to do: If tracking your activities helps keep you accountable, use an app or tracking device to monitor the amount of sleep you’re getting. Some tracking devices can also tell you how much deep sleep you are getting each night to make sure your sleep time is quality. Try to maintain a schedule throughout summer with a regular bed time (for you and your kids).

Smoking

Smoking affects every part of your body, including your oral health. It’s also really easy to keep smoking—or smoke periodically—during social gatherings or while you are spending a lot of time outside in the beautiful weather. In addition to bad breath, smoking causes discoloration of your teeth, an increased chance of gum disease and oral cancers, longer healing times after dental procedures, bone loss in your jaw, and a host of other oral problems.

What to do: The best way to avoid the side effects of tobacco is to quit—which, as a lot of past smokers will tell you is easier said than done. Quitting smoking takes a commitment every day, and a lack of temptations. Throw out your cigarettes, and avoid routines where smoking was part of the activity. Focus on the positive effects of smoking: a healthier body, saving money, more time to hang out with your kids. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or research aids that can assist you during this difficult process.

No flossing

Summer is a busy time, and it’s easy to cut corners to try to keep up, especially when you’re in a rush in the morning or at bed time. It’s really easy to forget to floss in the morning or at night. Unfortunately, that can lead to negative consequences later: bad breath, cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease (plus a few other downfalls).

What to do: Use these tips to teach your kids to brush and floss, and use some of those tips for yourself. Establish a healthy routine and stick to it. Remember, it doesn’t matter if you floss before or after you brush, as long as you do it.

All Your Questions About Invisible Braces Answered

Close-up of man with big smile holding orthodontic braces tray in dental officeAfter the news that a patient needs braces wears off, the barrage of questions usually starts coming.  “How long do I have to wear braces?” “What are my options for braces?” (That answer is here.) If the patient chooses invisible braces, another list of questions usually follows.  We’ve done our best to answer some of the most common questions about invisible braces; our answers are specifically about Invisalign, which is the brand that we carry and recommend for anyone who wants to use invisible braces to correct their orthodontic issues.

How do invisible braces work?

Invisible braces are custom made for each user.  Invisible braces correct orthodontic problems with a series of removable clear trays that need to be worn for 20-22 hours a day.  Invisible braces can be removed for normal brushing and flossing, which helps keep teeth clean and your breath fresh.

How do I care for my invisible braces? 

There is a specific cleaning system that can be ordered for invisible braces or the user can brush and rinse the aligners in water.

Do I have to be careful about what I eat while I have invisible braces?

There are no food restrictions if you choose invisible braces. The aligners can be removed so you can eat and drink what you want.

Will it correct my alignment issue? Who can use invisible braces?

Invisible braces can correct a number of alignment issues; your dentist or orthodontist can tell you if invisible braces are the right option for you.  These braces are only available for teens and adults, and require less orthodontist visits than traditional braces.  To find out if invisible braces are right for you, schedule an appointment.

How much do invisible braces cost?

The cost for traditional braces and Invisalign are the same at Watertown Area Dental Clinic.  To find out the exact price of braces, schedule a free consultation.

Does insurance cover invisible braces?

It depends on the type of insurance you have.  Some dental plans completely cover the cost of invisible braces, while others only cover only partial or none at all.  The best way to find out is to contact your insurance provider to find out whether and, if so, how much of the cost is covered under your insurance plan.

Everything You Should Know About Your Sensitive Teeth

Close-up of a pretty girl enjoying an ice-cream cone even with sensitive teethSensitive teeth.  Just the mere mention can make you shudder, and anyone familiar with painful sensitive teeth can tell you how much it hurts.  If you’ve started turning down your favorite foods because of sensitive teeth, the first step to making the pain go away (or at least lessening it) is getting all your questions answered about sensitive teeth (if you have any more, just ask).

How do I know if I have sensitive teeth?

Before you assume you have sensitive teeth—and just have to put up with the pain—visit your dentist.  Sometimes what seems like pain from sensitive teeth can really be caused by another problem that needs attention.  Or the underlying reason that causes your sensitive teeth may need treatment to halt the progression, such as a damaged tooth, loss of tooth enamel, receding gums, or teeth grinding.  If teeth grinding is the source of your problem, it’s best to find out early because teeth grinding can cause a host of problems if not treated early.

Why do I have sensitive teeth?

Sensitive teeth are caused when the protective layer of enamel wears down.  The result is pain in your teeth, especially when you eat acidic, sweet, cold, or hot foods.

How can I make the pain go away?

Don’t brush too hard. Once your dentist has examined you and confirmed you have sensitive teeth, head to the store for a new soft-bristled toothbrush.  Use circular strokes when brushing, and don’t brush your teeth and gums to hard.

Consider using a toothpaste specially formulated for sensitive teeth. Ask your dentist for their recommendation for a sensitivity toothpaste which can help with the pain, but be patient.  It can sometimes take 2-4 weeks to feel the effects of sensitivity toothpaste.  You may also have to try several different kinds of sensitivity toothpastes to find the right toothpaste that works for you.  If you don’t want to keep heading back to the store for a new brand, ask your dentist for recommendations and samples of different brands he or she suggests.

Stay away from anything that makes you hurt. If you find something that makes your teeth hurt, avoid it as much as possible.  Common causes of sensitive teeth pain include acidic foods, sweet foods, hot or cold foods. Keep a food journal if needed, and mark down when your teeth hurt.  Look for patterns that may give you a clue of what foods to avoid.

Look for fluoridated products. Fluoride can be a powerful ally in your fight against painful sensitive teeth because fluoride strengthens the enamel of your teeth.  Ask your dentist for recommendations of fluoridated products that can help, such as mouth rinses. Once tooth enamel wears down, you can’t replace it but you can strengthen what enamel you do have.

8 FUN Non-Candy Easter Basket Stuffers that Everyone’ll Love

Happy child with Easter eggs and other non-candy easter giftsWe know everyone (well, almost everyone) loves a chocolate Easter bunny in their Easter basket, but the truth is that sweet hare is not the best for your teeth.  If you’re looking for Easter gift ideas that are fun and tooth-healthy, fill your baskets with these fun (and dentist-approved!) gifts:

Seeds

Give your Easter recipient a head start on their garden this year by giving them flower or vegetable seeds for their garden.  To give them a huge head start, add a small pot that they can use to start their plants in the house before they transplant the seedlings outside when the weather gets warmer.  Or give them an indoor garden that they can watch grow long after Easter is done.

Melted crayons

A melted crayon craft is sure to be a hit with your littlest Easter gift recipients.  If you have pieces of crayons around the house, remove the papers from your crayons and melt down your leftover crayons into one of the cutest—and coolest—Easter gifts.  (Here are the exact directions on this website with times and oven temps).

IOU

Think big with your IOU; not in dollars and cents, but in time.  Include an IOU (or the actual tickets) to the theater, a play date at your favorite little one’s museum or playground, or a ball game.  Take your IOU gift a step farther by making it a themed basket. For example, stock your basket full of sports-themed items for a big fan.  Give your little one a playdate delight with an IOU to a children’s museum, bubbles, water toys, and other toys your little recipient can’t wait to play with.

Piggy bank

A piggy bank is going to be appreciated by anyone: a small child just starting to save up their pennies; a wanna-be homeowner trying to save for a down payment; an experienced traveler who is scrimping so they can head out on their next trip.

Puzzles

Puzzles are great for gift recipients of all ages.  They are also easy-to-find in many designs so you’re sure to find the right one that your gift recipient’ll love. If you have a very experienced puzzle nut, look for a 3D puzzle challenge that’ll make them look forward to tackling their next puzzle.

Coloring books

Before you think this suggestion is just for little kids, you can find adult coloring books for anyone who needs quiet de-stressing or really enjoys art.  Either way, a coloring book is the perfect gift for any age gift recipient.

Craft supplies

Jewelry-making kits, sun catcher painting, scrapbooking supplies, fabric and sewing notions….your youngest or most experienced craft fanatic is going to be your biggest fan after you give them another project to tackle.  Have fun with your Easter basket stuffers because you know your craft lover will.

Silly straws (perfect for drinking sweetened drinks)

Everyone loves silly straws, and including silly straws in your Easter basket has an added bonus: it’s perfect for someone trying to keep a healthy smile.  Straws are helpful for anyone who wants to indulge in an occasional soda; using a straw, rinsing with water afterward, and these other tips for drinking soda and sweetened drinks can make Easter more fun—especially when you still have a healthy smile after it’s all done.

My child has a cavity! What do I do?

little kid at dentist getting cavity treatedEven though we like to believe that our kids can’t get cavities, the truth is that pediatric cavities are far more common than we think.  The CDC estimates that 42% of all children ages 2 to 11 have a cavity in their baby teeth—-making tooth decay in children five times as common as asthma, and seven times as common as hay fever.  So what do you when you think that your child may have a cavity?

When you suspect a cavity

  • Treat the pain the best you can. Remember you can’t always see the cavity in your child’s mouth.  Even if the cavity is in a baby tooth, make an appointment so the dentist can treat the cavity.  Untreated cavities can result in long-term damage, and can even affect their adult teeth.
  • Make an appointment with the dentist. Get your child into the dentist as soon as possible.  Make sure you choose a dentist that’s good with kids and talk to your child about the appointment so they are not afraid.  Let the dentist know if you have a high incidence of tooth decay that runs in your family.
  • Ask your dentist how future cavities can be prevented.  Your dentist may have suggestions that can help prevent future cavities or recommend more frequent appointments to monitor and prevent future tooth decay.

How to prevent a cavity

  • Get your kids to the dentist early. The American Dental Association recommends kids see the dentist by their first birthday. Don’t put off that first appointment.
  • Start teaching your kids good brushing habits and flossing early. Make brushing and flossing fun! Take your kids shopping and have them pick out toothbrushes, toothpastes, and flossers. Use a chart so your kids can track each time they brush and floss.  Stay with them in the bathroom to make sure they brush—and brush long enough.  Show kids these fun videos or download one of these cool apps to make brushing for two minutes fun.
  • Don’t stray from a regular hygiene routine. When life gets busy or you’re on vacation, it can be really easy to forget to brush and floss.  Once you have set a routine twice-a-day brushing schedule with your kids, do everything you can to stick to it.  Set alarms with cool ring tones to remind them to brush twice a day and make sure other caregivers (i.e. babysitters, nannies, grandparents, etc.) are helping your kids brush as well.
  • Choose a good dentist and make your kids look forward to the appointments. Make your kids look forward to seeing their dentist.  Be very selective and choose a dentist that’s good with kids.  That dentist doesn’t have to be a pediatric dentist; a “regular dentist” (for adults and kids) can be their friend and dentist for life.  Talk to your child about the dentist before you go (and what’s going to happen). Practice the dentist appointment with your child at home to make them more comfortable.  Read books about the dentist before you head in, and watch videos about healthy teeth to make them look forward to it.
  • Don’t skip a dentist appointment. We’re going to state the obvious: life can get really, really busy. Schedule a cleaning for you and your kids twice a year, and make sure you keep the appointments.
  • Minimize sodas and sweetened drinks. Sweetened drinks contain sugar which can mingle with bacteria in your child’s mouth to form acid. The acid from this reaction attacks teeth and can decay outer and interior tooth enamel.  Avoid soda and sweet drinks as much as possible; when your child does have a sugary drink, have them drink water after and make sure they brush and floss to keep cavities at bay.

Why do my teeth hurt?

young woman with pain in head and teeth“My teeth hurt.”  “It’s like a throb that won’t go away.” “The pain in my mouth just pounds and pounds.” There are a lot of ways to describe when your teeth hurt, and a lot of reasons why your teeth (or tooth) could be hurting. We listed some of the most common reasons your teeth can be hurting—and how you can find some relief.

Sinus Infection

What it is: A sinus infection is just what it says: an infection of your sinuses.  Because your sinuses are located so close to your teeth, one of the most common symptoms is painful teeth.  Other symptoms include sinus pressure, congestion, fever, tiredness, and coughing.

What to do:  Most people suffering from sinusitis (sinus infection) can find relief with over-the-counter medications to decrease the inflammation and decrease the pain.  If the sinus infection worsens, contact a doctor who can prescribe antibiotics to fight the infection.

Cavity

What it is: A cavity is really the product of a perfect storm involving bacteria, food, saliva and the resulting acid. Bacteria in your mouth combine with food that sits on your teeth and creates plaque which includes acid. The acid in the plaque eats holes in your tooth (tooth decay) called cavities.  You can usually tell if you have a cavity because of pain, sensitive teeth, or a hole in your teeth.

What to do: Schedule an appointment with the dentist.  A dentist can examine your teeth and tell you if you have a cavity.  Pain relievers can help with the pain, but make sure that not feeling the pain doesn’t delay your visit to the professionals and that you follow all label directions.

Toothache

What it is: A toothache is pain in the tooth that occurs because of several different reasons.  Toothaches can be very painful.

What to do: DO NOT apply heat to your mouth as treatment, even if it brings temporary relief, as heat can cause swelling and make your toothache worse. Instead, apply an ice pack on the side of the toothache. Avoid anything (i.e. food, vibration, pressure to that side of your mouth, etc.) that worsens the pain. Use over-the-counter medications to treat your toothache, but be careful to follow directions—and only use medications that won’t counteract anything you take on a regular basis.  Contact a dentist as soon as possible to get an appointment and treatment that can relieve the pain.

Gum disease

What it is:  Gum disease is an inflammation of the gums that hold your teeth in place.  Other symptoms of gum disease include red, swollen gums, bleeding while brushing or flossing, bad breath, sores in your mouth, and a receding gum line.

What to do:  Schedule an appointment with the dentist.  Your dentist can recommend treatments that can help keep your gum disease from progressing.

Sensitive teeth

What it is: Sensitive teeth are caused when dentin, the material that makes up the majority of the interior of your tooth, is exposed and becomes irritated or sensitive.  The result is a painful condition that tends to flare up when eating hot or cold foods.

What to do:  Visit your dentist to find out if your sensitive teeth could be caused by a number of other conditions, such as a damaged tooth, loss of tooth enamel, teeth grinding, or receding gums.  Use a soft-bristled toothbrush, which can help alleviate your pain.  Don’t brush too hard, and do circular strokes when brushing.  Ask your dentist at your next appointment for recommendations and samples of sensitivity toothpastes and fluoridated products that can help.  Avoid acidic foods, extremely sweet foods, very hot or cold foods—whatever foods and drinks causes the pain.

Injured tooth

What it is: A cracked or chipped tooth may not hurt at all.  However, whenever the nerves are damaged or exposed, an injured tooth can be a source of pain or discomfort.

What to do:  Rinse your mouth with warm water.  Hold a cold compress to your cheek to lessen the pain and swelling.  If you have any pain, you can take an over-the-counter pain medication if there is pain, but make sure to follow the label directions. Avoid biting down on the tooth until you can schedule an appointment with your dentist.