5 Tips for Whitening Your Teeth in Time for the Holidays

‘Tis the season to be…whitening. The holidays are around the corner, meaning you’ll be attending more gatherings and reuniting with old family and friends. Transform your yellowing teeth into pearly whites in time for your next holiday party.

The best way to tackle discoloration of teeth is to determine which type of yellowing is affecting your smile. There are three types of teeth discoloration:

Extrinsic Discoloration: The outer-most layer of your tooth – the enamel – can be stained by various foods and drinks, such as fruits like blueberries and cherries and coffee, wine and soda. Smoking also causes the enamel to yellow.

Intrinsic Discoloration: The dentin, or inner structure of your tooth, gets darker or comes to have a yellow tint. Intrinsic discoloration can occur for a variety of reasons, such as excess exposure to fluoride in early childhood, use of tetracycline antibiotics at age 8 or younger, or trauma that affected a tooth when you were a child. This type of discoloration can also be apparent if a permanent tooth was discolored by internal bleeding or if you were born with a condition called dentinogenesis imperfecta, which causes gray, amber or purple discolorations.

Age-related discoloration: Over time, enamel gets thinner, allowing the naturally yellowing dentin to show through. With age, prolonged exposure to certain foods and smoking will inevitably stain teeth.

While both extrinsic and intrinsic stains are removable, intrinsic stains may be more difficult and take a longer period of time to remove. Here are five tips to help you maintain your pearly white smile.

1. Brush every day
As soon as you finish eating, dental plaque begins to release harmful acids that erode your enamel. Brushing after every meal will help prevent stains from setting in. You can even rinse your mouth with water after having drinks or food that can stain your teeth, such as wine or coffee.

2. Remember to floss
Extrinsic stains caused by drinks or food can be curbed with regular flossing. This helps manage tartar buildup. When you have tartar buildup, the various foods and drinks we consume can attach itself to the buildup, causing the stains more easily.

3. At-home whitening
Toothpastes with whitening agents can remove minor stains, but the overall color of your teeth will remain the same. You can also use a bleaching gel. Keep in mind that the ones provided over the counter are not as powerful as the ones used by the dentist.

4. Consider your food choices
Instead of having sugary snacks, opt for smarter snacks that won’t stain your teeth, including carrots, broccoli or nuts. Keep in mind that while coffee and wine stain teeth, there is no harder stain to remove than the ones from drinking tea.

5. Go for regular check-ups
Visit your dentist every six months for an exam and cleaning. If you’re unhappy with the way your smile looks, you may want to discuss power bleaching with your dentist. Power bleaching involves a light-activated bleaching gel that causes teeth to whiten in 30 to 45 minutes. If your tooth appears darker after a root canal, bleaching won’t help and your dentist may recommend getting a crown or veneer.

Use these five tips to help you increase your confidence with a whiter, brighter smile—and remember that taking good care of your oral health affects your overall health.

Bad Oral Health Habits Brought on By Holiday Stress

Whether you’re traveling or friends and family are visiting you for the holidays, this time of year brings on added stress to our daily lives. Don’t let being overextended affect your daily dental health habits by keeping these five tips in mind.

1. Be Mindful of Snacking
Nibbling on the dinner feast as it’s getting prepared, munching on holiday treats, or snacking on leftovers–we all do it. Instead of eating throughout the day, don’t let sugars linger in your mouth by eating the same amount of food in one sitting instead. When you are continually eating in multiple sittings, your mouth is constantly producing acid that attacks your teeth.

2. Consider Your Alcohol Intake
With so many reasons to celebrate during the holidays (you haven’t seen your best friend in a year, your cousin just got engaged or you’re just excited to be reunited with everyone), you may be toasting more frequently that normal. Just like candy and chocolate, alcoholic drinks contain as much sugar (or more), which means a party for bacteria in your mouth.

3. Don’t Put Yourself Last
Planning a gathering or shopping for hours to find the perfect gift can take a toll on your overall schedule, making you feel stressed out and overextended. When you put yourself before others, it’s easy to lose track of the last healthy meal you had or even the last time you flossed. Be sure to make time for yourself to maintain your overall health–oral health included–and stay healthy for all the fun holiday festivities ahead. Remember, your oral health has a huge impact on your overall health.

4. Always, Always Brush Before You Head to Bed
You’re exhausted and just want to plop into bed to sleep the night away. Sometimes slumber wins over brushing teeth and flossing, but don’t let this become a habit. When you miss brushing your teeth before you go to bed, the bacteria that have built up in the last few hours have another 8-10 hours to cause damage and ultimately cavities or gum disease. Not brushing your teeth regularly will cause tartar to build up, which will irritate your gums and can cause periodontal disease. Plus, you’ll have a much easier time cleaning your teeth without tartar buildup since the bacteria have less to cling to.

If you maintain your daily habits of brushing and flossing, you’re more likely to avoid getting a cold and will feel better overall.

Holiday snacks that are bad for your dental health

With the holiday season comes delicious treats and big feasts, and while indulging during the holidays is all-fine by us, we also want you to be careful when snacking on foods that can cause damage to your teeth and overall oral health.

Dried Fruit: Similar to gummy snacks, dried fruits contain a lot of sugars and their dry texture makes them stick to your teeth longer. When dried fruit sticks to your teeth, your mouth begins to produce acid, causing damage to your tooth’s enamel. To avoid this, remember to floss after you’ve finished snacking.

Candy Canes:  Biting down on a hard candy like a candy cane can cause fractures to your teeth. Though you can avoid this by sucking on the hard candy instead, keep in mind that sucking on hard candy means the sugar in your mouth will stick around for a longer period of time. To help rinse the sugars away, drink water after your finished.

Caramel-Coated Popcorn: These sweet treats can become pesky when kernels and popcorn husks get caught between teeth. When popcorn is covered in a coating of caramel, it’s hard to tell whether they’re fully popped. If bitten into, popcorn kernels can break teeth or fracture fillings, so be cautious when popping these sweet snacks into your mouth.

Peanut Brittle: A seasonal favorite, this sticky treat can actually pull out a crown or even break a tooth. Before munching down on this treat, soften the peanut brittle by sucking on it first.

Alcohol: Similar to hard candies, alcohol, especially mixed cocktails, is loaded with sugar, which means a party for your mouth. Increased consumption of alcohol also puts you at higher risk for oral cancer.

Crackers: Did you know that any kind of bleached white flour (found in crackers, white bread, etc.) transforms into sugar once you eat it? Sugar, we know, serves as food for the bacteria in your mouth.

It’s not necessary to completely avoid these foods this season, but it is necessary to take care of your pearly whites after every meal and snack–including the holiday treats we all enjoy.

5 Steps to Improve Your Overall Health Begins with Proper Dental Care

Each New Year brings with it a new beginning, when millions set New Year’s resolutions that guide them to better, healthier lives in the coming year. When reassessing your lifestyle to determine your New Year’s resolutions for 2014, having specific, realistic steps to reach your goal will keep you motivated to achieve them.

Here, five easy steps to help you maintain your New Year’s resolution of being healthy by focusing on your oral health, an important factor in your overall health.

1. Check your toothbrush. Your typical nylon bristle toothbrush has a maximum life of four months, so set a reminder for yourself to switch out your old brush for a new one. Another indicator that’ll help you determine whether it’s time for a new toothbrush is to look at the bristles. If the bristles are frayed, toothbrushes are not effective in removing plaque. When selecting a toothbrush, remember one of the main goals of brushing your teeth: removing plaque buildup.

“Toothbrushes must be gentle on enamel and gums,” says Jack Gruber, D.D.S., the founder of PeriClean, an alternative to the traditional toothbrush that has been shown to encourage gum re-growth on some of his patients. “Since plaque is soft, the bristles [on your toothbrush] should be soft and preferably short. Short bristles make it easier to keep germs from accumulating while long bristles tend to act as springs that want to straighten out, thereby putting more pressure than necessary to remove the soft plaque.”

Before buying your next toothbrush, review your options, from traditional toothbrushes or electric toothbrushes to PeriClean, a rubber toothbrush that lasts six months and encourages gum re-growth.

2. Reconsider your toothpaste. Though it may seem counterintuitive, extremely abrasive toothpaste is not necessarily the best at removing plaque. In fact, contrary to common knowledge, plaque is as soft as yogurt. Review this list of various toothpastes and their Relative Dentin Abrasivity: An RDA around 100 is best. An RDA lower than 100 may not clean teeth well enough while a higher RDA will be too harsh on thin tooth enamel and your gums—the skin of your teeth.

3. Time yourself. Rather than reciting the alphabet or singing “Happy Birthday” to time how long you brush your teeth, try this more accurate method: brush a section of three teeth while counting to 10. Then move onto the next group of three teeth. This will ensure each tooth gets the about same amount of attention and the session will last at least two minutes.

4. Floss, floss, floss. Did you know that 90 percent of dental problems stem from the accumulation of food and bacteria between teeth that can’t be reached through just brushing? Flossing regularly every day will ensure that bacteria will not build up between your teeth and will therefore not have the chance to attack the gums to cause periodontal disease.

5. Schedule two appointments now. Good dental habits will make visits to the dentist easier. Seeing the dentist every six months for a cleaning and check-up is necessary to remove any hard tartar buildup and to catch any dental issues early on. Only a dental professional should be removing hard tartar from your teeth. Trying to scrape off hard tartar at home can become costly as you may be scraping away irreplaceable enamel as well. As with any medical issue, detecting and treating a dental issue sooner than later will help result in a better outcome while also keeping the cost of treatment down.

Simply keeping these five steps in mind is an easy way to maintain part of your overall health. After all, your oral health is linked to heart disease, diabetes and other health concerns.

Cheers to staying happy and healthy in 2014!

Stop Over-Brushing: Dental Problems Caused by Brushing Too Hard

When it comes to brushing, there can be something as too much of a good thing. Over-brushing can cause damage to your oral health, including periodontal disease and sensitive teeth.

Are your teeth sensitive to extreme temperatures?

That piercing or sudden pain triggered by hot or cold drinks is more than unpleasant. Though the most common contributors to teeth sensitivity are acidic foods and beverages, your toothbrushing techniques can also be the cause behind your sensitive teeth. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, at least 40 million American adults have this condition.

Brushing vigorously with a medium- or hard-bristled toothbrush wears down the enamel of your teeth, putting you at a higher risk for sensitive teeth. Contrary to popular belief, applying pressure while brushing is not necessary to remove plaque, which is as soft as yogurt. Simply holding your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your teeth and gently moving it up and down or in a circular motion to the gum line should remove the soft plaque.

When using a PeriClean toothbrush, however, keep in mind these different technique. Instead of holding PeriClean at a 45-degree angle to your teeth, PeriClean needs to be placed flat on the teeth and moved back and forth with short strokes especially on the gum line — not round and round nor up and down.

Are your gums receding?

When you use a medium or hard-bristled toothbrush on top of aggressive brushing, you inadvertently push your gums down, exposing the inner nerve part of the tooth. As the skin of your teeth, gums need to remain intact to protect your teeth’s sensitive root surfaces and the bone that holds your teeth in place. Receding gums can even be caused by a soft-bristled brush if you are applying too much pressure.

Receding gums is only the first layer in damage to your oral health. When the gums weaken and erode, the bone disappears. Once gums begin to recede, it can lead to other health problems, including periodontal disease and cavities on exposed roots, which will need to be treated with fillings, root canals or tooth extraction.

While using nylon bristles may cause more harm than good, the nylon-free PeriClean, which features ultra-soft rubber bristles has been shown to reverse gum recession in certain patients. In one instance, a patient who suffered gum damage from over-brushing used PeriClean for two months and saw gum regrowth.

Other ways to combat gum recession and sensitive teeth is to lighten up on your brushing, use soft bristle, and to select a toothpaste designed specifically for sensitive teeth, which will not cause further sensitivity.

Gum Disease in Kids and Teens

Did you know the most common type of gum disease in children and adolescents is chronic gingivitis?

What is chronic gingivitis?

Chronic gingivitis is an inflammation or infection of the gums that can be recognized by swelling, bleeding while brushing, a change in gum color from pink to red and chronic bad breath. While this type of gingivitis is the most common type among children, it is, fortunately, the least severe. However, when left untreated, it can turn into more severe forms of gum disease, periodontitis.

When you have periodontitis, gums become weak and form pockets around the base of your teeth. These pockets attract bacteria, which only further damages the gums. Damage can spread as far as the jawbone, causing teeth to become loose or even fall out.

What causes gum disease?

Gum disease, usually caused by plaque buildup, also affects teens, not only older adults. In fact, gum disease is the biggest reason — not old age — people in the U.S. lose their teeth. Teens are put at a higher risk because hormonal changes make them more vulnerable to periodontal disease.

Since gum disease many times causes little to no pain or irritation, knowing the signs and symptoms of gum disease will help detect it sooner in order to treat it effectively.

How can I help my kids avoid gum disease?

It’s important to instill good brushing and flossing habits in children at a young age before they reach their teenage years. Additionally a healthy diet that limits the amount of candy and sugars children eat on a daily basis can help prevent the build-up of plaque. According to the American Dental Association, it only takes 24 hours for enough bacteria to form in the mouth to start causing gum disease. With regular brushing and flossing and visits to the dentist, chronic gingivitis can be banished for good.

5 Dental Health Tips for Seniors

A recent survey conducted by Procter & Gamble and AARP revealed dental health as one of the top three medical concerns among adults 50 and older, and though older adults are making visits to the dentists regularly, not many are maintaining a full oral care routine, including flossing daily, using mouthwash and brushing regularly.

“Plaque is an accumulation of bacteria that is normal in our mouths,” says Jack Gruber, D.D.S. “Daily flossing will prevent the accumulation of 90 percent if plaque is hiding between teeth. Brushing will help get rid of the other 10 percent.”

Dental Health Tip #1: It’s about when you brush as well as how you brush

The survey found that a third of adults only brushed once a day, even though the American Dental Association recommends brushing at least twice a day or after every meal to rid of any harmful bacteria that can cause tooth decay and cavities. Remember, your risk of cavities increase with age. When brushing, move the toothbrush back and forth in short strokes, attacking both outer and inside surfaces and reaching for the chewing surfaces of all teeth. If you have difficulty reaching certain places because of limited movement due to arthritis or another condition, try an electric toothbrush. Finally, brush your tongue to remove bacteria and keep your breath fresh.

Dental Health Tip #2: Brushing can’t get everything, so flossing is a must

Almost half of the adults surveyed said they did not floss daily. Flossing, according to the ADA, is an essential part of any oral health care routine and should be done at least once a day to remove plaque, which can turn into tartar, from between teeth where a toothbrush cannot reach. Flossing can also help prevent gum disease and cavities. To properly floss, gently slide floss into the space between the gum and tooth, moving the flow away from the gum in an up and down motion. If holding the floss is difficult, try using a wooden plaque remover or a dental pick. Whichever tool you end up using, just be sure to plan a few minutes out of the day to floss.

Dental Health Tip #3: Consider rinsing with mouthwash for an added boost of clean

Rinsing with mouthwash, most of which are available without a prescription, can be done before or after brushing to help freshen breath, remove debris, and can reduce gingivitis, plaque and tartar. Though rinsing with mouthwash is not a substitute for brushing or flossing, it can offer additional protection against cavities and gum disease. Consult with your dentist on whether mouthwash should be part of your oral health routine. Your dentist can also advise on whether you should use a mouthwash with fluoride or antimicrobial agents.

Dental Health Tip #4: Infuse your diet with fruits and vegetables

Sugary foods and drinks, including soda and juice, and hard candies can damage teeth. Avoid empty-calorie foods like candy, cookies and other snacks like chips as they have a high amount of sugar that can stick to your teeth and lead to tooth decay. Instead, consider fruits and vegetables to promote healthy oral hygiene since they help stimulate saliva production, washing away harmful acids and food particles away from your teeth.

Dental Health Tip #5: Keep up the good work at make visiting a dentist a habit

More than 70 percent of adults surveyed said they visited a dentist for treatment the same or more times than they did 10 years ago, showing concern for their overall oral health. Be sure to maintain regular dental checkups and avoid going to the dentist simply when you are in pain. This is because as we age, the nerves in our teeth become smaller and less sensitive, so by the time you feel pain, it may be too late to save the tooth. Diseases like oral cancer or gum disease are also conditions your dentist can detect in earlier stages.

The Right Way to Brush Your Teeth

Brushing your teeth is a task has been ingrained into your daily habits since a very young age, but did you know the way you’re brushing can make your teeth vulnerable to cavities, tooth decay and gum disease? It’s never too late to break bad habits, so make sure your dentist doesn’t catch you committing any of these teeth-brushing crimes.

1. Not choosing the right toothbrush

When selecting a toothbrush, consider the type of bristle and size of the toothbrush head . “Toothbrushes must be gentle on enamel and gums,” Jack Gruber, D.D.S. says. “Since plaque is soft, the bristles [on your toothbrush] should be soft and preferably short. Short bristles make it easier to keep germs from accumulating while long bristles tend to act as springs that want to straighten out, thereby putting more pressure than necessary to remove the soft plaque.”

Avoid toothbrushes with large heads as this prevents you from reaching between the tongue and your back teeth, Dr. Gruber adds.

2. Not brushing long enough

The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth at least twice a day, or after every meal, for at least two minutes. Timing yourself ensure you’re thoroughly brushing and taking the time to clean all of your teeth’s surfaces.

3. Applying too much pressure when brushing

If you’re applying too much pressure when brushing, you’re at risk of exposing the root of the tooth to irritation, which ultimately irritates the gums. Brushing vigorously can also erode tooth enamel.

4. Falling into too much of a routine

Dentists found, according to WebMD, that many people start brushing the same areas of their mouth over and over. To avoid missing essential parts of the mouth, try starting in a different “quadrant” of your mouth.

5. Forgetting about your inner tooth surfaces

Inner tooth surfaces are the areas that your tongue presses against. Be sure to brush these hard-to-see surfaces to ensure plaque does not build up.

6. Not rinsing after you’re done

When you’re finished brushing and loosening up bacteria from the surface of your teeth, rinsing with either water or mouthwash will ensure the bacteria will be gone from your mouth for good.

7. Not caring for your toothbrush

After brushing, rinse your toothbrush before putting it away as bacteria is more likely to grow on an un-rinsed toothbrush. For the same reason, let your toothbrush dry through before your next brushing session.

8. Not replacing your toothbrush frequently

It is recommended by the American Dental Association to replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles become frayed, which decreases their effectiveness. Replacing your toothbrush also ensures less exposure to bacteria that inevitably build up on the toothbrush.

Fact from Fiction: What You Need to Know About Gum Disease

Three out of 4 Americans suffer from some form of gum disease, according to the American Academy of Periodontology, yet only about 3 percent get treatment, which can be attributed to the general public’s misconceptions of gum disease. Here, we dispel seven common myths of gum disease and how its treated.

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is an infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth that is caused by plaque. It ranges from simple gum inflammation to serious symptoms that result in major damage to soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. Treatment of gum disease involves controlling the infection and in worst cases, may involve the removal of teeth.

Gum Disease Myth #1: I brush and floss my teeth regularly, so I can’t get gum disease.

Fact: Though good oral health care certainly helps remove tartar and plaque, which contributes to gum disease, other factors like stress, a poor diet and even genetics all influence the health of your gums.

Gum Disease Myth #2: I don’t have any cavities, so I can’t have gum disease.

Fact: Having no cavities is a great and means you probably have good oral hygiene. But, unfortunately, this is no indicator of healthy gums. Gum disease is painless, so many people do not realize they have it until its advanced stages, which is why it is recommended to visit the dentist regularly. When caught early, gingivitis can be typically eliminated by a professional cleaning at the dentist office.

Gum Disease Myth #3: Having gum disease means I will lose my teeth

Fact: Patients diagnosed with gum disease are given strict instructions by their dentist, including brushing teeth twice a day, eating a healthy diet, and scheduling regular visits to the dentist, to help keep gum disease under control, so no teeth will be lost.

Gum Disease Myth #4: Everyone has bad breath, but it doesn’t mean they have gum disease.

Fact: If you find yourself constantly using mouthwash to rid of bad breath or chewing gum to freshen your breath, it might be a good idea to schedule an appointment with your dentist to help you detect the root of the problem. Persistent bad breath, along with red or tender gums, can be a signs of gum disease.

Gum Disease Myth #5: Bleeding gums are not that big of a deal.

Fact: Your gums should not bleed brushing, flossing, or even eating certain foods. Red, swollen or bleeding gums is one of the major signs of periodontal disease, and early detection will allow your dentist to create an effective treatment plan. Studies have also shown that gum disease contributes to heart disease and diabetes, which is another reason to determine if you have gum disease sooner rather than later.

Gum Disease Myth #6: Gum disease is not that common, so it probably won’t affect me.

Fact: Half of adults ages 30 and older suffer from some form of gum disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Plaque buildup can happen to anyone. Daily brushing and flossing can prevent plaque from hardening into tartar and ultimately help prevent infections.

Can You “Go Green” When it Comes to Your Toothpaste?

From organic fruits and vegetables to all-natural shampoos and soaps, “going green” is becoming more of a lifestyle and less of just a trend. Consumers are becoming more conscious about the types of products they choose to use in their households. When it comes to oral health, what should you look for in a natural toothpaste?

Sodium lauryl sulfate is a chemical found in common personal care products, including toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, soap and facial cleansers, that has been linked to allergies and sensitivities. To avoid exposing your family to toxins and harsh chemicals, select an SLS-free toothpaste or one that has baking soda, which can help promote a neutral pH.

Keep in mind that all natural toothpastes are not the same. All types of toothpaste should help neutralize the overall pH of your mouth, which prevents acid from plaque buildup and enamel destruction.

“Natural toothpastes must have ingredients that are not synthetic,” Jack Gruber, D.D.S. says.

Should you buy fluoride or fluoride-free toothpaste?

Fluoride is one of the most common ingredients in toothpaste as it’s said to help prevent tooth decay. However, fluoride is highly toxic if swallowed in large amounts. As an alternative, it has been reported that xylitol is also effective in tooth decay prevention.

Choosing fluoride-free toothpaste means it contains safer and gentler ingredients overall.

Still, keep in mind that whichever toothpaste you select, it should be “slightly abrasive, taste good and do no harm,” Dr. Gruber says.