Getting into the Cracks: Waterpik vs. Flossing

It’s written in the history books at this point: the best way to maintain your dental health is by brushing and flossing your teeth regularly. But in recent years, and with technology playing an increased part in our lives, the lines begin to blur as we continue to define best practices and medicine and treatment options continue to evolve.

The Waterpik and string floss are a timely example of how best practice lines blur in the dental field. Both have good and bad points, but at the end of the day, which best protects your dental health? We’ll run through a quick summary of the good and the bad of both to help you decide what method of flossing works best for you.

Flossing

Pros

  • Efficient method of removing excess food/plaque from between teeth and below gum line
  • Quick and easy
  • Can be done anywhere
  • Affordable
  • Easily accessible at any pharmacy/grocery

Cons

  • Difficult to reach some areas of the mouth
  • Can cause bleeding if not done routinely
  • Can potentially worsen or cause gum sensitivity
  • Can be difficult to use or handle

All things considered, however, many dentists consider flossing to be a key part of the oral care regimen. If you find flossing painful or difficult, you should talk to us to explore alternatives and make sure there isn’t a more serious problem.

Water Flossing (aka Waterpikking)

Water flossing requires a device with a tool at the end of a hose connected to a docking station full of water – much like you may have seen before at our office. How does it work? The tool delivers a pressurized fine stream of water into the crevices between teeth and toward gums as guided by the user.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Can reach areas of the mouth that are difficult to reach with traditional floss
  • Keeps your hands comparably clean throughout the process
  • Certain devices also feature a massage function that can help improve gum health

Cons

  • More costly than floss
  • Requires countertop or storage space
  • Requires electricity and water sources for operation
  • Difficult to transport if you’re on-the-go

Some patients who might find the Waterpik to be a great alternative to traditional floss are those with braces or permanent and/or temporary bridges. Patients who damage their gums as a result of using traditional floss should also consider water flossing.

So which flossing method is better?

For now, the question of whether one method is better than the other remains unanswered. Both methods of flossing can lead to better oral health, but the results just have not been researched thoroughly enough compared to each other to make a generalization.

A good thing to keep in mind is that every person’s oral health situation is different, so what works for one person may not work for another. Whichever method you choose, make sure to clean between teeth and along the gum line as thoroughly as possible every day.

Are you curious about water flossing? Want to brush up on how to floss properly? Schedule your next appointment or call us today to stay on top of your dental A-game!

Celebrating Dr. Knock: Congratulations on your retirement!

As we announced in March of this year, Dr. Glen Knock will be retiring at the close of this month after years of providing dedicated, professional care to patients throughout his impressive dental career. His work has impacted many, and we know a lot of people will miss Dr. Knock, so we asked patients to submit words and phrases that capture Dr. Knock’s numerous great qualities to share with everyone. Please enjoy the visual result below!

Though he will be missed, we wish Dr. Knock the very best and want him to enjoy a happy and well-deserved retirement!

A special thank you to all of our patients who submitted words to help us create this graphic! Please remember to come out to Falmouth Dental Arts on Thursday, June 29th from 2-4 PM to celebrate Dr. Knock’s retirement. As always, we look forward to seeing you!

The Lowdown on Teeth Grinding

Have you ever wondered if you grind your teeth at night? If you did, how would you know? Has one of your loved ones told you that they’ve heard you grinding your teeth?

If so, you’re not alone: teeth grinding, aka bruxism, is a fairly common phenomenon across the US. Depending on the individual, it can be related to more or less serious health concerns, but no matter which category you fall into it’s disconcerting to realize that this is all happening to you while you’re at rest and without your knowledge. Don’t worry though, there are things you can do! We want to go over the causes behind bruxism with you today, as well as ways you can help prevent it in your life.

What’s behind bruxism?

Up to now, the theory has been that tooth grinding is closely associated with stress or anxiety. This may be the case for some, but what about others? For example, babies have been observed grinding their teeth –or gums– in utero, which raised questions in the scientific community. Since this discovery, another possible cause behind bruxism emerged: is it possible that grinding is a survival response?

Recent research suggests that it is. The grinding that researchers observed during their experiments appeared to be the body’s natural survival response to bypass symptoms of sleep apnea.

Though many may not know it, our bodies require all of our muscles to be relaxed for the brain to achieve deep sleep. When relaxed, the tongue takes up almost double the amount of space, which can obstruct the airway and respiration. This results in more trouble for some people than others.

Researchers observed sleeping individuals with blocked airways suddenly start grinding their teeth, which – interestingly enough – reopened their airways and allowed them to breathe normally again. Among other potential tested solutions was a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, which served to restore full airway functionality and allowed sleeping participants to stop grinding their teeth and breathe properly.

So is grinding good or bad?

In the sense that bruxism is a response that saves your life if you stop breathing, bruxism is good. But in the sense of dental longevity, it’s bad. Bruxism can lead to damage of your teeth and jaw, and can bring about tooth sensitivity and chronic jaw pain. Headaches and periodontal tissue damage can also be related to bruxism.

Aside from oral health, tooth grinding disrupts normal sleep patterns. Did you know that all the great benefits of a full night’s rest only exist for you if you’ve made it to the deep sleep stage? So if you’re grinding your teeth regularly at night, you may not receive sleep-related benefits like improved memory, fat burn, muscle build, and tighter skin.

Teeth grinding can also serve as a red flag for sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. Untreated sleep apnea can increase your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, diabetes, depression, and obesity.

What can I do if I grind my teeth while sleeping?

Talk to us if you suspect you’re grinding your teeth at night. Some of the symptoms to look for include: wear on your teeth, flattened tooth surfaces, abfraction (which is a loss of tooth structure along the gum line that is not related to tooth decay), sore jaw muscles or TMJ pain, or a jaw that clicks.

While we don’t make a diagnosis about your quality of sleep, we can help you figure out if you are grinding your teeth by examining your mouth for these signs. Your medical doctor might then encourage you to get a sleep study to figure out whether your bruxism is related to sleep apnea or not.

If you suspect your grinding is stress-related, there are a number of things you can do to decrease your chances of tooth grinding at night. Starting an exercise regimen or attending stress counseling might help, but here are a few easily implemented tips to help you reduce your chance of bruxism:

  • Limit caffeine and alcohol before bed.
  • Try not to chew on objects that aren’t food – chewing gum included. Chewing on items like pens, pencils, and chewing gum stimulates tension in your jaw.
  • Try to recognize when you are tensing or clenching your jaw throughout the day. When you notice, place the tip of your tongue between your teeth; this encourages your jaw muscles to relax.
  • Grab a warm washcloth and hold it to your cheek (in front of your earlobe) as you fall asleep. The warmth helps relax your jaw muscles.

Think you’re grinding at night? Need more tips? Ask us your questions about bruxism at your next appointment!

The Evolution of Human Teeth

human-teeth-illustration

Did you know that throughout the course of human evolution, our mouths and dental structures have changed a great deal?

Understanding our teeth means we have to consider the specific function(s) of each type of tooth in its current state, as each plays a vital role in the digestion process. Let’s explore how some of our teeth currently function and examine how they have changed over time. Who knows – it might lead to some insight into your own dental situation! 🙂

Incisors

Your incisors are the central four teeth that are positioned at the front of your upper and lower jaws. Maybe you’ve noticed on your own time in front of the mirror that these teeth in particular are thin and flat, but you may not know that they are also sharper and stronger than most of the other teeth in your mouth!

Incisors have not always been present in the human evolutionary chain. In fact, they developed in a way that can be correlated with when humans began to consume the meat of other animals. The main purpose of these teeth is to tear away the meat or flesh from other animals and bring it into the mouth to initialize the digestive process.

Canines

Canines flank the incisors – one each on the left and right sides, in both the top and bottom rows of your teeth. While the incisors tear into meat, the canines clamp down on it – keeping the meat locked into the oral cavity. Feel yours now – pretty sharp right?

Over the course of time, the exact size & shape of canines have varied depending on the source of food humans and their predecessors consumed, mostly either plants, meat from other animals, or both.

Bicuspids

Sometimes also referred to as pre-molars, our bicuspids are the next teeth in the lineup, and they are short and flat with a bit of sharpness to them for one of two purposes: the actual processing and breaking down of foods, or to move food along to the back of the mouth.

It’s hypothesized that bicuspids might have been the select few teeth for some of our ancestors who were already eating meat. For these ancestors, a good amount of chewing would occur here as the food is passed on for further processing.

Molars

In the very back of your mouth are your molars, appearing on both left and right sides in the upper and lower jaw. Your molars are flat and wide, which makes them a prime location to grind up and further process your food. This is where most modern humans end up chewing their food and it’s the last step before food moves to the next stage of digestion.

The molars are permanent teeth from the moment they emerge in one’s mouth – they do not emerge as baby teeth – and they’re held in very tightly by the roots of their teeth. Molars are stronger teeth that served the purpose of breaking down food thoroughly. This was especially the case for plant life, as their cellular composition is stronger and harder to break down.

As most have found out, our third molars – aka wisdom teeth – no longer can fit in our mouths properly. Why? Modern humans chew less than our ancestors because our diet is much softer now than it was then. The more one chews, the more the growth of the jaw is stimulated. (Our predecessors must have been eating a lot of interesting stuff!) So though all three molars fit well in our jaws before, they no longer do. Isn’t that interesting?

 

When considering the historical functions of our teeth compared to how they function now, it’s clear that our diets have heavily influenced the development of our pearly whites. Modern human diets have changed dramatically when compared to our ancestors. It will be interesting to see how our teeth develop into the future.

What do you think will happen as our teeth continue to evolve? Tell us at your next appointment – schedule one today!

Oral Bacteria & Your Overall Health

As dentists, we spend lots of time educating our patients about the importance of taking care of their mouth, teeth, and gums. On the surface, we want to help you prevent bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease—all with the goal of helping you protect your teeth as you grow older. In addition to our work, researchers are discovering new reasons to brush, floss, and visit your dentist regularly. They are learning that having a healthy mouth can ward off more serious medical conditions at any stage in your life. An unhealthy mouth may increase your risk of health problems such as preterm labor, poorly controlled diabetes, and even heart attack and stroke.

Take it from Ashley, RDH, one of FDA’s own dental hygienists: “The mouth is a window to the rest of the body,” Ashley explains. “Oftentimes we see changes arise in the mouth before they are evident elsewhere in the body. Maintaining optimal oral health is crucial to overall health. Since the mouth is connected to the body we recognize that chronic inflammation or presence of disease isn’t just localized to the oral cavity, but has the potential to be linked to underlying conditions.”

Just as Ashley explains, your mouth can play a crucial role in learning more about your overall health. In fact, saliva is a great tool that can help detect a variety of substances such as certain cancer markers, cortisol levels, and can even be used to monitor bone loss in those prone to osteoporosis. Saliva is also a main defense against disease-causing organisms as it contains antibodies that can attack both viral pathogens and bacteria. However, saliva can’t always get the job done completely. Over 500 different species of bacteria thrive in your mouth at any given time and constantly form dental plaque. If you don’t brush and floss regularly, this plaque builds up along your gum line, opening the door for additional bacteria to accumulate in the space between your gums and teeth. This build-up leads to gingivitis, and can potentially lead to periodontitis.

Our gums are vascular and full of blood, so infections such as gingivitis and periodontitis can happen quickly. Once that gum layer is disrupted due to brushing, flossing, or an invasive dental treatment, bacteria can enter in the bloodstream, travel to any area of the body and potentially cause inflammation. Inflammation in the heart causes hardened arteries, or atherosclerosis, making it harder for blood to flow to the heart, increasing one’s chance of heart attack and stroke. Oral bacteria can also enter your bloodstream and stick to the lining of diseased heart valves, causing infective endocarditis.

Another important connection between oral health and overall health is that the bacteria connected to periodontal disease, streptococcus sanguis, plays a role in strokes. This bacteria can quickly spread to the heart through the gums, potentially causing a stroke. There is research to suggest that people with gum infections are at an increased risk of stroke and researchers mention that the more severe the infection, the greater the risk of stroke appears to be.

While the American Heart Association says there is no definitive, direct evidence that heart disease can be prevented by working to prevent gum disease, that doesn’t mean that it can’t help. That’s one reason why regular dental check-ups are important at any age.When was the last time you visited us? Schedule an appointment to get your gums checked out today!