Category Archives for Questions & Answers

Why Floss

A Daily Question: Why Floss?

Not many people enjoy the idea of flossing every day, and they wonder why they really need to floss. For some, it just comes across as too much work. Every three months when you visit your dentist, you’ll get a few minutes of advice on the importance of flossing your teeth. But nevertheless, it might float by with a yawn. If the traditional way of flossing your teeth comes across as too much of a task for you, opt for interdental brushes, dental flosses, and even electrical flossing devices.

Flossing plays a vital role in contributing to that bright, healthy smile of yours. The question is, “Why floss?

 

waterpik water flosser

 

The Importance of Regular Flossing

According to research published by the Journal of Dental Hygiene, flossing and brushing your teeth regularly can help significantly reduce plaque and gingivitis. The prolonged buildup of plaque leads to the formation of tartar on your teeth. Moreover, there are regions of the mouth where your toothbrush might not reach. Flossing lets you remove the stuck food particles from these areas.

Deteriorating oral health might not seem like a very visible factor. Thus, people often tend to ignore it for a long period until symptoms develop and they experience discomfort.

Here are a few common reasons why flossing is vital for your oral health:

It Protects the Gums

Unhealthy gums can highly increase the chances of you needing extensive treatment and even losing your teeth. You might think brushing your teeth twice daily can prevent all kinds of problems, but it’s not always enough. Flossing forms a part of your regime for good oral hygiene. People suffering from bleeding or sensitive gums often fear flossing and tend to avoid it. But flossing can strengthen your gums and prevent bone loss, the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.

Flossing Stops Tartar Buildup

The most uncomfortable part of a dental visit is when your dentist scrapes the tartar off your teeth. Tartar is a stubborn buildup of plaque along the gumline that once formed, cannot be removed without professional dental help. Flossing removes plaque from your teeth in its initial stage of formation. You can prevent the accumulation of tartar in your mouth by tending to plaque at its preliminary stage before it hardens up.

Prevents the Development of Other Diseases

The effect of dental diseases can go beyond mild discoloration of your teeth, bad breath, and a feeling of discomfort. Medical researches show that the presence of bacteria in the mouth can adversely harm the rest of your body as well. Respiratory illness, diabetes, and heart disease are a few common problems that might arise due to unhealthy oral hygiene. As long ago as 2003, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encouraged public health initiatives to begin addressing oral health as a way to control major health issues and life-threatening diseases. These diseases tend to effect multiple organs of the human body.

Saves the Pinch in your Pocket

Still wondering, Why Floss? In an age where health costs are sky-high, and the benefits of health insurance are diminishing, taking appropriate steps to bring down your medical expenses pays. A report published by Children’s Dental Health Project (CDHP) suggested that children who had their first dental checkup before the age of one year had incurred 40% lower dental costs as compared to the ones who visited the dentist after that age.

 

Electric Water Flosser

 

Challenges Associated with Flossing

One of the most common challenges associated people face while flossing is gum pain. Improper flossing technique often causes minor damages to the gums and results in soreness. The same is applicable in case of people with tooth sensitivity as well. Gum diseases are one of the most significant causes of tooth sensitivity. It is best to avoid using traditional house floss in such cases and look for versions designed to cater to specific needs of your oral health.

People often tend to use a floss incorrectly. Wrap the floss around the neck of each tooth. Pass the floss up and down between the spaces of your teeth, instead of operating it in a saw-like motion.

Choosing the Right Dental Floss

Flossing begins with choosing the right kind of floss that is best for you and your dental condition.
Here are a few categorizations of flosses according to a few different dental conditions:

  • Large gaps between the teeth – Super Floss; Dental Tapes
  • Less space between your teeth – Waxed flosses that are easier to slide between tight spaces
  • Wearing bridges or braces – Flosses with threaders; Sponge Floss

Standard floss might be the best option while traveling while using a quality water flosser at home. Water flossers are a recent favorite among people extremely aware of their oral hygiene. The oral irrigator makes use of pulsating high-pressure water to remove debris and plaque below the gumline.

If you are seriously considering investing in oral care, Waterpik Aquarius Water Flosser provides a great pick from the category. The device comes with a Seal of Acceptance from the American Dental Association (ADA) that adds on to its authenticity. The flosser also offers 10 distinct pressure settings with a pressure range from 10 – 100 PSI, with 90 seconds of water capacity. It efficiently penetrates the gaps and cleanses between the teeth. A perfect device with individuals with braces, periodontal pockets, and crowns.

Irrespective of the method of flossing used, cleaning the areas between your teeth should be part of your daily routine. The use of a water flosser is the secret of many patients with impeccable dental health. How ever you do it, the effort pays!

Why Does My Jaw Hurt?

Do you ever have a nagging ache in your jaw up by your ear?  Or does pain radiate into your temples?  Maybe you just deal with general headaches and you’ve never really been able to figure out why.  Everyone deals with headaches at times.  Labeled as “brain pain of the highest magnitude,” 90% of people will experience a headache this year.  Nearly 50 million people will struggle through their weeks dealing with regular head pain. Physicians report this ailment as the top patient complaint, conducting millions of dollars of tests searching for answers.

The good news is that headaches rarely suggest a severe disease.  But if you’re dealing with frequent or severe headaches, you should discuss the situation with your medical doctor.  Sometimes there’s an apparent cause, but not always. And treatment should always target more than just uncomfortable symptoms.  Pain medications used long-term can result in side effects that may include kidney damage or stomach ulcers.  Minimizing their use is vital to your long-term wellness.

Headaches stem from numerous causes, although most of them fall into a few basic categories:

  1.  Tension Headaches:  Approximately 90% of headaches find their source in the muscles supporting the head and neck.
  2. Migraine Headaches:  These intense headaches generally occur on one side and can include nausea and sensitivity to light and noise.
  3.  Sinus Headaches: Sinus spaces in the head can become inflamed, irritated, and congested.  A head cold or severe allergies might be to blame.
  4.  Cluster Headaches:  These intense headaches are vascular and may arrive in short, intense episodes. Cluster headaches affect about 1% of the population and usually occur on just one side of the head or face.
  5. TMJ Headaches:  Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) headaches often act like the other four types and are the most misunderstood of all.   Twenty classifications of Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD) are recognized, yet the medical community frequently overlooks them.  If you’re suffering from acute and chronic head or jaw pain, a thorough consideration of these conditions needs to be explored.

So That Could Be Why My Jaw Hurts?

The jaw is one of many complex systems in your body.  Jaw muscles generate a tremendous force that crush, grind, and tear food during the first step of digestion.  Some of these muscles are considered the most powerful ounce for ounce in the body.  You can probably bite down and force over 150 pounds per square inch on your teeth!

By each ear, the jaw joint (TMJ) joins the lower jaw to your skull with a cartilage pad and small ligaments. When you open, close, and chew, these joints move in multiple directions.  When everything functions as it should, pain isn’t part of the equation.

Sometimes the jaw joint experiences unusual stress, and that’s where problems begin to develop. If you ever wake up in the morning with a sore jaw or headache, odds are you’re jaw hasn’t been “sleeping.”  Over 30 million people in the U.S. suffer from bruxism, or night-time teeth grinding.   During the night, your brain can override normal bite force and generate 500% more force than possible during the day!  This abnormal activity strains muscles from the neck to the top of the temples. It also compresses the jaw joints and can cause inflammation in the joints.

To understand the strain on these muscles, clench your muscles. Put your fingers on the muscle in front of the jaw and run them down to the lower jaw?  Feel that bulge?  Now clench and unclench as you rub the temples. These long, thin muscle fibers reach near the top of your head.  When these major muscles, along with a bunch of small ones, undergo strain, pain begins.  This discomfort radiates into many areas of the head, and there’s a big difference between the source of pain and the site of pain.

To top it off, the jaw joints can become pain centers of their own.  A delicate cartilage disk cushions the lower jaw bone against the skull.  Unusual forces, arthritic changes, trauma, or an uneven bite can cause the joints to become imbalanced and irritated.   Maybe you’ve had a bad knee, sore hip, or tender knuckles.  The same problem can develop in the TMJ on the left, right, or both sides.

Research even suggests that migraine sufferers can experience more severe TMD problems, and TMD may even intensify migraines.  This double curse makes life especially miserable for chronic migraine patients.

So How Do I Stop Jaw Pain?

If you’re suffering from headaches or jaw pain, make sure you’ve had an evaluation with your dentist. A few quick tests and clinical clues often provide a clear diagnosis or suggest a path forward.  While it’s a subject for another day, the possibility of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) shouldn’t be overlooked.

The American College of Chest Physicians published a study in 2009 that showed 1 in 4 OSA patients also grind their teeth.  OSA is a serious sleep disorder that’s responsible for a long list of health problems.  In fact, 90% of people who die in their sleep suffer from OSA!  Bruxism could be the first clue that you’re stressing your body and a sleep study is in order.

Sometimes it takes time to see your dentist or arrange a sleep study.  A simple, inexpensive nightguard appliance can serve as a temporary measure to protect your jaw, teeth, and relieve some of the jaw pain or headaches.  You may decide to ultimately invest in a custom nightguard, made just for you.  There’s also a chance that treating a sleep disorder may take care of your pain while protecting your general health.

Bottom Line

Jaw pain or headaches seriously affect the quality of your life. In some cases, they may indicate a serious health disorder like sleep apnea.  A game plan could include:

  1.  Make an appointment with your dentist to discuss your concerns, and consider a sleep study with a certified sleep center.
  2. Order a temporary nightguard immediately to generate short-term relief. Here’s a simple one that will work for most people.
  3. If you’re having pain, try applying ice to the joint and muscles on the side of your face in front of the ears.  Move the ice to your temples.  If you experience 50% or more relief, odds are you’re dealing with TMD pain.  But if you still have pain, there are many other types of TMD that could be causing discomfort and you should follow-up with your dentist.

How Do I Stop Bad Breath?

A lot of patients ask me this question in one form or another: “How do I stop bad breath?”  Many times they’ve been admonished by a loved one or kids, and it’s frequently a source of embarrassment or shame.  Fortunately, getting a handle on the problem isn’t rocket science, but it does involve a little science.  There may be more than one reason behind the odiferous breeze.

What Makes Breath Smell Bad?

When wind moves across the land around us, it picks us the scent of whatever it touches.  It could be sweet lilac or a pile of cow manure, but odor particles bind to receptors in our noses and send a message to our brain.  

As our warm air rushes out of our lungs and across the linings of the throat and mouth, it has a similar effect.  Any odors incorporated into the tissue or teeth are picked up and carried out to waiting noses. Garlic carries a special reputation due to powerful compounds with a distinctive smell profile. “Coffee breath” also leaves a clear trail in the air.

Sometimes, bad breath arises from medical conditions. Diabetes, chronic bronchitis, liver disease, or respiratory tract infections can create distinctive odors.  Common prescription drugs often reduce saliva production and result in a dry mouth problem.  If you haven’t had a physical in a year or two with blood tests, it’s always a good idea to check these possibilities.  If you’re taking an anti-depressant or high blood pressure medication and your mouth is dry, that could be contributing to the problem. But don’t stop taking your medication, just remember to let us know.

The Real Culprit

While bad breath can come from systemic or medication sources, odds are it’s all about good ol’ bacteria. Our mouths thrive with bacteria and their by-products, including gases.  Certain bacteria produce a sulfur gas that notoriously smells bad and easily mixes with passing air.  But just because so many bacteria make the mouth their home, it doesn’t mean bad breath has to be a constant problem.

When you wake up in the in the morning, you’re announcing yourself with morning breath. During your sleep, saliva production reduces by 90%. This arid, still environment encourages bacterial overgrowth and sends a tough odor out to the world.

Cavities, unhealthy gums, excessive tartar, or unclean dentures are all bacteria-related problems as well. There’s a difference though.  These problems need to be checked and treated by your dentist. So if you’re dealing with bad breath, you need to make sure you’re current on your dental check-ups.  Gum disease often bears a distinctive aroma that can’t be brushed away.  These problems are don’t always lead with pain or discomfort, and odor can be your only obvious warning sign.

Got it. But How Do I Stop Bad Breath?

Maybe you’re a dental warrior.  You practice excellent brushing and flossing. You’ve spent an hour with your favorite hygienist in the recent past.  But you feel frustrated because bad breath continues to be a curse.

Sometimes we overlook one of the most obvious landscapes in the mouth: The tongue. If you could look at the top of the tongue under a microscope, you’d find highly textured surface projections that support taste and tactile sensation. Think of a carpet.  But consider what comes out of a carpet after shampooing, even when it looks fairly clean on top. 

The shag carpet of the tongue traps a slurry of food compounds, bacteria, and dead cells. A lot of junk ends up trapped, and that’s usually a big contributor to bad breath in conscientious patients.  So if we turn our attention to properly cleaning the tongue like we clean our teeth and gums, things are bound to improve.

Use your regular toothbrush as far back on the tongue as you can tolerate.  Work the sides and the top vigorously.  Make sure you add your favorite toothpaste to add a fresh slurry to the job.

Going To The Next Level of Freshness

The best way to really trim clean the tongue is to get a tool that’s made for the job. Tongue cleaners are a pretty simple design, but they work really well.  It’s a little bit like using a thatching rake across your lawn and pulling up the dead stuff.  A tongue cleaner might be your long awaited secret, and starting your day with this little device is certainly worth a try.

You may naturally reach for a mouthwash if you’re trying to eliminate bad breath. In the end, you may end up making matters worse. Most rinses are alcohol-based, which causes the mouth to dry out a little and reduces the natural cleansing of saliva.  Rinses also work a bit like perfume.  If you have body odor, perfume will cover it up but the problem is still underlying.  You might mask bad breath for a short time with a rinse, but you’ll soon be disappointed.

One exception to the rule includes alcohol-free rinses that are designed to work in a different way. They contain a comp0und that neutralizes sulfur gas, establish a neutral pH, and eliminate 99% of the odor-causing bacteria within seconds. Closys products are approved by the American Dental Association, and I have a long track record of using these unique formulas with patients struggling with bad breath.

Be extra cautious using other masking techniques like mints or other candies and methol lozenges. Most of these contain sugar and make the mouth more acidic. If you didn’t have cavity problems before, you soon could.  Xylitol sweetened candies are a good alternative if you choose to use a product like this, and a few good options can be found online or in your local pharmacy.  Xylitol has a host of benefits we’ll discuss another time, but it’s a safe choice for most people.

The Bottom Line

At this point, you should have a few simple ideas to help with the head-scratching question, “How do I stop bad breath?”  To sum it up, just think through the following:

  1.  Make sure you’re general health is sound, your physical exam is up-to-date, and you’ve discussed medication side-effects with your doctor.
  2. Stay current on your regular dental visits and follow-through with treatment recommendations.
  3. Practice meticulous homecare habits including brushing and flossing.  Consider adding an electric toothbrush to your routine.
  4. Use a tongue-scraper in the morning as part of your routine.
  5. Try an alcohol-free rinse like those from Closys.

Why Are My Gums Bleeding When I Floss?

Maybe you’ve heard the old saying, “Healthy gums don’t bleed.” Sometimes people get used to bleeding gums, and it might seem like they’re normal. But you may be wondering, “Why are my gums bleeding when I floss or brush?”  It’s a vital question and not one to sweep aside.  You don’t want to ignore this signal that something’s not quite right in your mouth.  

Think about it this way: If you took the surface area of your bleeding gums and laid them into one big patch, it would cover an area of about two by two inches.  Let’s take it a step further: If you had a four square inch section of skin on your stomach that was raw, red, and bleeding every day, would you be worried?

What about the risk of infection?  Would you be concerned that bacteria would contaminate this open wound and cause a serious problem?  Probably so. At a minimum, you’d do everything you could to get it healed up as soon as possible. If the wound continued to ooze for more than a few days, you’d be headed in to see your physician.

Have You Ever Said This?

For some reason, we tend to ignore raw tissue in the mouth, and  often say, “My gums always bleed!” But bleeding gums present far more risk to our overall health than we realize.  In most cases, gum disease doesn’t hurt until it advances and does irreversible damage to the supporting bone and gum around the teeth.  

The warning signs are trying to talk to us:  A little bit of gum disease leads to a little bit more.  This process often ends with dentures but not before a long history of pain, abscess, and tooth extractions.

This Gets Serious

Bleeding gums tell you that there’s inflammation in your mouth, and that there’s an open doorway to your bloodstream.  The mouth houses billions of bacteria, over 700 strains of them: Some good, some bad. But when the wrong types settle in around your gums, they produce a toxic waste that’s acidic and destructive. This doesn’t make your immune system very happy, and it responds defensively to stop the invaders.

Before long, an army of inflammatory cells rush into the gums to counter the bacteria.  The combination of these immune system helpers, organisms, and toxins combine to break open the microvessels of the gums.  Not only does blood leak out, but bacteria leak into the body. Within a few seconds, the bloodstream is full of bacteria. The complexity of this reaction is a topic for another day, but it’s not as benign as it seems on the surface.

Once It’s Gone, It’s Gone

Ongoing inflammation in your gums may lead to the destruction of the bone around the teeth. The mix of organisms, their waste products, and immune system components dissolve bone. Think of what acid poured on concrete does, eating away and pitting the surface.  That’s kind of what happens to the bone when it’s under the influence of this toxic soup.

Sadly, once bone disappears, it never grows back.  At least 30% of the U.S. population deals with this problem.  In fact, it’s the leading cause of tooth loss in the world. It’s also the source of many frustrating abscesses as it advances and creates more bone defects for bacteria to migration into.

The area between your teeth is especially prone to gum disease since it’s a difficult area to clean.  Brushing with a manual brush takes excellent dexterity and skill, and it doesn’t even come close to removing plaque in these difficult recesses.  Floss presents the same challenge for many patients. But if cleaning between the teeth gets neglected, 30% of the tooth surface area accumulates plaque. These untouched regions feed the inflammation of the gums.  As a result, we often see bone loss between the teeth before it shows up in other areas.

So What’s A  Person To Do?

Although gum disease can’t be cured, it can be controlled with the right approach.  Millions of people walk around with many uncontrolled conditions that end up dramatically affecting the quality and quantity of their lives.  For example, high blood pressure can’t really be cured, but it can be controlled.

Stopping bleeding gums might help save your teeth, and it could help save your life.  This might sound extreme, but in the last decade, we’ve discovered eye-opening evidence of the link between oral and general health.  Take time to learn more about how gum disease increases the risk of many serious general health conditions, like heart disease and stroke.  The evidence is alarming and may just provide the extra motivation you need to control this problem.

Some patients deal with extra challenges to gum health. If you’re pregnant, taking aspirin or blood thinners, or have a bleeding disorder, you may find it more difficult to control bleeding in the gums. Women sometimes notice they’re more prone to this problem during menses, too. Regardless of the external factors at play, excellent home care habits can minimize the effects in every case.

 

Bottom Line 

You now have a basic answer to the question, “Why are my gums bleeding why I floss?” Healthy gums don’t bleed. If you’re seeing red when you brush or floss, plan a visit to your dentist or hygienist for a complete evaluation. They’ll measure the levels of your bone around each tooth and carefully evaluate the color, thickness, height, and texture of your gums.  Diagnosing gum disease and establishing a classification is an objective process and the evidence speaks for itself.

Once you know what’s causing the symptoms, you can develop a personalized strategy together to stop the damage.  Your dental team deals with this problem every day, and a plan made just for you is vital to long-term success.  Your recall schedule and treatment may be very different than other family members depending on their condition.

In addition, be sure you practice meticulous home oral care habits, and consider tools that help enhance your efforts. We routinely recommend that our patients choose a good electric toothbrush and add an oral irrigator from a reputable brand like Waterpik.  Regardless of what you find works best in your hands, consistent use makes all the difference.