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Five Books to Get Kids Brushing!

If you’re wondering how to introduce the concept of the dentist and oral hygiene to your kids, a smile-centric storytime may be the perfect answer! The staff at Falmouth Dental Arts has you covered with this list of their five favorite books to help inspire children to healthy dental habits. 

1.  The Tooth Book by Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss is a storytime standby and with good reason! His jaunty rhymes and imaginative illustrations make every book an engaging adventure for audiences. The Tooth Book is no exception, as we tour the world, searching high and low, observing that EVERYONE has teeth! Readers learn how fun, different, and useful everyone’s teeth are–from walruses to acrobats. We also see different dental issues that we may encounter when we neglect our teeth. Dr. Seuss encourages his readers to take special care of their smile!

 

 

 

2. Sesame Street: Ready, Set, Brush! 

Pull tabs and pop ups make this cardboard classic an extra-interactive read for kiddos. Simple rhymes and colorful illustrations of the familiar cast of Sesame Street characters will keep young audiences engaged as Elmo, Cookie Monster, and the Count show just how much fun brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist can be. 

 

 

 

3. Clarabella’s Teeth by An Vrombaut

Beautiful, bold pastel illustrations introduce readers to Clarabella the Crocodile and her cast of alliterative animal friends. While the other animals race through their morning routine, Clarabella’s unique smile keeps her brushing her teeth forever! Although she misses out on the day’s activities, her friends surprise her with a custom toothbrush so that she can join in tomorrow’s fun.

 

 

 

4. ABC Dentist by Harriet Ziefert

The informative alphabet theme and fun, detailed pictures take readers through the ins and outs of the dental cleaning experience. Dental terms, techniques, and the anatomic structure of the mouth are explained from A-Z and parents may very well find themselves learning right alongside their kids! 

 

 

 

 

5. Brush Your Teeth Please by Leslie McGuire

The well-mannered title isn’t the only thing to like about this straightforward story, perfect for very young children. Pop ups and pull tabs provide interactive instruction on different brushing techniques and the importance of flossing. Friendly animal smiles greet the reader on every page, while free-moving toothbrushes encourage kids to engage with the characters.

 

 

 

Your friends at Falmouth Dental Arts invite you to take one of these books for a spin, and add some extra smiles to storytime. You can post pictures of your kids reading these or their own favorite tooth-themed books by tagging our Facebook page @FalmouthDentalArts. 

If you have any questions, or need to schedule your next appointment, please call our office 207.781.5900

Chewing Gum: Yes or No for Healthy Teeth?

Can we really clean a dirty mouth with chewing gum?

In between your regularly-scheduled cleanings and check-ups with Dr. Brunacini and Dr. Karagiorgos, what are some steps you can take to maintain and improve your oral health? We all know that brushing and flossing twice daily are essential. But even if you have a fun toothbrush and fancy-flavored toothpaste and floss, the old brush-and-floss routine can sometimes feel more like a chore than a treat. 

Chewing gum—with its kaleidoscope of colors, yummy flavors, fun wrappers, and snappy names (and snappier bubbles), always feels like a treat. But does chewing gum help support other dental hygiene…or hurt it? 

What does it mean to chew?

Let’s look at what happens when you pop a piece of gum into your mouth. What is the physiological response to the act of continual chewing? First and foremost, chewing stimulates salivary flow. In fact, chewing increases the average flow of saliva in your mouth by 10 times that of your non-chewing rate. All of this extra saliva needs to be swallowed, which means that as average saliva production increases, the average rate of swallowing increases as well.  

Saliva acts as a natural barrier between different kinds of acid and your tooth enamel. Saliva that is stimulated by chewing contains higher concentrations of protein, calcium, and bicarbonate, which makes it a better barrier than unstimulated saliva. This “Super Saliva” is super helpful when you’re eating, because food and beverage all contain acids that start to break down our enamel over time. However, chewing gum stimulates the same saliva type and flow as chewing your favorite meal—meaning that you can activate the power of “Super Saliva” any time of day! 

Repeated swallowing clears acid deposits from the esophagus, which some studies have shown to help reduce different kinds of acid reflux. This means that chewing clears acid from the top (getting it out of your mouth) and bottom (keeping it in your stomach)! Who knew?

Sugar vs. Sugar-free

Since our very first Halloween adventure, we’ve all memorized the scary equation that “SUGAR + TEETH = CAVITIES”. Sweet teeth need brushing, flossing…and sugar free gum! Here’s why. 

Sugar, or sucrose, is food for the oral bacteria naturally residing in our mouths (for more information, read our August blog post!). When the bacteria metabolize the sucrose, they produce dental biofilms and acids which erode enamel and cause cavities. Even though chewing gum with sugar still increases Super Saliva flow, that benefit is undone by the production of biofilms and acids. 

Sugarless gum is still sweetened, but by artificial sweeteners such as xylitol. These types of sweeteners are either metabolized very slowly, or not at all, by our oral bacteria, meaning no biofilms or additional acids. In fact, xylitol is a common ingredient in mouthwashes, toothpastes, and popular mints such as LifeSavers. 

 To Chew or Not to Chew?

Chomp away on your sugar-free gum! It is beneficial to your oral health to chew sugar-free gum after and in-between meals. Chewing gum significantly increases the flow of powerful, acid-clearing saliva. Additionally, artificial sweeteners cannot be metabolized by oral bacteria. This means that enamel-eroding and cavity-causing acids are minimized, and your beautiful smile is maximized! 

If you’re still unsure of which chewing gum is best, just look for the American Dental Association seal of approval. Only dentist-approved sugar-free gums are eligible for the ADA’s seal, so you can choose them with confidence. Just remember that although chewing sugar-free gum is a great way to improve your daily dental hygiene routine, it’s never a substitute for twice-daily brushing and flossing.

Bring a pack of sugar-free, ADA gum to share with Dr. Brunacini and Dr. Karagiorgos at your next dental exam and cleaning! If you have any questions, or need to schedule your next appointment, please call our office at 207.781.5900.

(Post your best and biggest sugar-free chewing gum bubble pictures on our Facebook page!)

*images courtesy of confectionarynews.com

 

Porcelain Restoration–Is it Right For Me? An Interview with Dr. Brunacini

We love helping our patients achieve the smile of their dreams!  Many dental issues can be corrected through cosmetic dentistry and the first step for any cosmetic procedure is a simple consultation with Dr. Brunacini or Dr. Karagiorgos.  They are here to discuss your dental health goals and help you find the right fit for your needs. A question we often get from patients is if they should replace old metal crowns and bridges with porcelain.  There are many advantages to replacing your old crowns, but the reason to replace them isn’t one-size-fits-all. To learn more about porcelain restoration and who could benefit from this procedure, we spoke with Dr. Brunacini.

1. What is porcelain restoration? 

Dr. Brunacini:  Porcelain is the material that is used to give crowns and veneers the esthetic properties–color, luster, and a tactile sense.  Porcelain restoration provides you with the translucency and shine of your natural teeth—you’d never be able to tell there was a need for a crown—and the texture of the polished porcelain is very similar to that of enamel.  It is a restoration that needs to be fabricated in a lab, and requires taking an impression to send to the lab. We are now doing crowns that are metal-free. By doing so, we can create highly esthetic AND very strong restorations with minimal risk of chipping or breaking. It is a great option for patients!

2. Why would I need to replace a metal crown or bridge?

Dr. Brunacini:  There can be numerous reasons for patients to need to replace their metal crowns.  The most obvious one is when a new area of decay develops under an existing crown or bridge.  This is one reason we do regular x-rays; they are very important to discover any changes underneath crowns before they become loose or problematic.  

Also, for some patients, they find it unsightly to have metal show, so replacing a metal crown with a porcelain crown is a good solution for their needs.  For many years, dentists placed crowns with a metal substructure and porcelain overlayed on top of the porcelain. Over time, the porcelain can chip, which may lead to poor esthetics or difficulty cleaning the crown.  The only way to fix this situation is to replace it with a new crown.  

If you have questions or concerns about your metal crowns, schedule a consultation with me or Dr. Karagiorgos.  We are here to help you achieve your dental goals!

3. I’ve heard porcelain crowns can cause more wear and tear on my other teeth.  Is this true?

Dr. Brunacini:  With newer types of porcelain, there is less concern with wearing down opposing teeth.  Of course, it is very important to finely adjust the bite on crowns to be sure they function well with the other teeth. This is why when we fit a porcelain crown, we sculpt and shape the porcelain to fit perfectly with your existing bite.

4. Are there any special care instructions for porcelain crowns and bridges?

Dr. Brunacini:  There really isn’t much “special” care needed. For patients who grind their teeth, a night-guard may be indicated to protect the porcelain from chipping.  However, most patients can simply stay on top of their regular home care, such as brushing twice daily and flossing daily. This should be sufficient enough to maintain porcelain crowns for many years! 

 

Thank you, Dr. Brunacini!

Whether your reason is cosmetic, physical, or a bit of both, our team of caring dental professionals is here to help you find the right path toward a better smile.  If you have more questions about porcelain restoration or would like to schedule a consultation with Dr. Brunacini or Dr. Karagiorgos, call our office at 207.781.5900 today.

I Have a Microbiome…in My Mouth?

Not all bacteria are bad!  Our bodies also host a range of good bacteria that help keep us healthy.  They are part of your body’s microbiome, which is defined as a community of micro-organisms (such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses) living on or in the human body.  There is an emerging field of medical research on our microbiomes and how the bacteria that live on and in our bodies affect our health. Perhaps you’ve heard of the microbiome in your gut and how it can impact your health ranging from mental well-being to digestion, but did you know there is also a microbiome in your mouth?  Fascinating, right!? We’ve discussed how our oral health impacts our overall health before, now let’s zoom in to the microscopic level and learn about the microbiome in our mouths.

Your Oral Microbiome

You swallow about 1 trillion bacteria each day (!!!) and have a unique community of bacteria that live in your mouth known as your oral microbiome.  Your oral cavity has different habitats, from your tongue to your teeth to your tonsils where some 700 different bacteria exist and help perform vital functions such as transporting ionic minerals and carrying molecular oxygen.  There is a symbiotic relationship between us and the microbes that live within us…they help us stay healthy and thrive! You’re probably familiar with one of the most famous symbiotic relationships: E.T. (everyone’s favorite cinematic extra-terrestrial) and the little boy Elliot.  In the movie when E.T. was healthy, so was Elliot. When E.T. got sick, so did Elliot. Don’t be afraid to make friends with your microbiome!   

As we’ve noted before, the mouth is a great window into the body, often reflecting systemic disease before it can be determined by other means.  This is why we do a thorough examination of your whole mouth when you come in for a routine cleaning. When your oral microbiome is healthy and balanced we see that reflected in your mouth.  For example, when the plaque (or oral biofilm) in your mouth is healthy, it forms a clear, odorless, protective film. Your teeth feel clean and your gums look healthy and pink. When imbalanced, the plaque becomes sticky, white, has an odor, and over time contributes to tooth decay and gum disease.  You may notice symptoms such as bad breath and bleeding gums with an imbalanced microbiome. What’s interesting to note is that a number of bacteria associated with tooth decay and gum disease still exist in mouths with a healthy microbiome, but do not have the same adverse effects. Keeping the environment in your mouth healthy through routine oral health care is what’s important for maintaining a healthy oral microbiome.  So keep on brushing and flossing!

The Mouth-Body Connection

Your oral microbiome’s impact extends beyond your teeth and gums.  Research has shown that oral microbiomes have a link with gastrointestinal diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, nervous system diseases such as Alzheimer’s, and endocrine system diseases such as diabetes.  We’ve discussed some of these correlations, such as your oral health and diabetes, on the blog before, and cannot stress enough how important dental care is to your overall health.  Here are some examples of the link between these health conditions and your oral microbiome:

  • Gastrointestinal Diseases:  People with gastrointestinal diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), often have correlating oral symptoms like dry mouth and mouth ulcers.  People with IBD routinely have an imbalance of oral bacteria in the gut. It has also been found that people with advanced gum disease and tooth loss have an increased risk for gastrointestinal, pancreatic, and liver cancer.   
  • Nervous System Diseases:  Researchers have been studying the gut-brain axis and its connection to disease and have found that a healthy gut biome is integral to decreasing the development of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, depression, and anxiety.   Given the close connection between the oral microbiome and the gut, oral health plays a role here as well. In fact there was a ground-breaking study from 2019 that showed bacteria responsible for gum disease also appeared in Alzheimer’s patients’ brains.
  • Endocrine System Diseases:  We know that diabetes increases your risk of dental diseases and oral symptoms such as dry mouth and gum disease.  However, it has also been found that  people with periodontitis, or gum disease, have an increased risk of developing diabetes. It’s unclear which exactly happens first, the development of the disease or an imbalanced oral microbiome, but researchers continue to study the correlation and relationship between the two areas. 

We find it compelling to learn more and more about how our oral health is linked with our overall health.  We always like to say that we are part of your healthcare team: our goal is to keep you informed and to help you make the best choices for your health.  If you ever have any questions about how we can help you, please don’t hesitate to ask any of our team members!

Oral Care with Your Oral Microbiome in Mind

So, what can you do to keep your oral microbiome and your whole body healthy?  We can never say it too much: maintain your oral health care routine of twice daily brushing, daily flossing, and regular visits to our office for check-ups.  As part of this, we also recommend avoiding oral-care products that have harsh detergents or mouthwash with alcohol as part of their ingredients. These products may destroy the microbiome–the good bacteria along with the bad.  Look for alcohol-free mouthwash and toothpaste without sodium laurel sulfate (SLS) or triclosan.

Diet is also a big part of maintaining a healthy oral microbiome.  We often talk about the importance of a healthy diet for the health of your mouth, and this is just another reason to stress the importance of approaching your oral health holistically.  Keep your diet rich in vegetables, high-calcium dairy products, protein, and omega-3s, and avoid excess sugar and complex carbohydrates. There are lots of ways to do this…loading up on dark leafy greens, yogurt, strawberries, eggs, and sardines, for example. Your mouth and your whole body will thank you! 

Your mouth is an extraordinary place and we love helping you take care of it!  We are here to provide you with the best care possible…from the tiny micro-organisms in your mouth to your whole body.  Please let us know if you have any questions about your oral health care or if you need to schedule your next appointment by calling our office at 207.781.5900.

 

 

*Image courtesy of www.askthedentist.com

An Interview with Dr. Karagiorgos on Antibiotic Prophylaxis

Antibiotic prophy….say what?! For most of our patients, antibiotic prophylaxis is something they’ve never heard of and don’t need to worry about.  However, for some of our patients, particularly with heart conditions, it can be an important part of their oral health care. In short, antibiotic prophylaxis is the use of antibiotics before a dental procedure to prevent a bacterial infection elsewhere in the body.  It is a treatment that may be recommended for you after talking with your physician and Dr. Brunacini or Dr. Karagiorgos. There are side-effects and risks to taking antibiotics, so antibiotic prophylaxis is only used when the benefit outweighs the risk for you. To learn more, we talked with Dr. Karagiorgos.

1. What is Antibiotic Prophylaxis?

Dr. Karagiorgos:  Antibiotics usually treat bacterial infections, but sometimes physicians or dentists recommend antibiotics prior to a treatment, such as a teeth cleaning or root canal, to reduce the risk of infection.  This is because during some dental treatments, bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and cause infection elsewhere in the body. We only recommend this for certain patients, which is why it’s important to have a conversation with us and your physician.

2. Who Could Benefit from Antibiotic Prophylaxis?

Dr. Karagiorgos: With a few exceptions, most patients who require antibiotic prophylaxis before a dental visit will need it for one of two major reasons:

  • Risk of infection to replacement (artificial) joints–commonly the hip, knee, or shoulder.
  • Risk of infection in the heart.

The American Heart Association recommends antibiotics before dental procedures only for individuals with the highest risk of infection. This includes patients who have:

  • A prosthetic heart valve or who have had a heart valve repaired with prosthetic material.
  • A history of endocarditis (heart infection).
  • A heart transplant with abnormal heart valve function.
  • Certain congenital heart defects, including:
  • Cyanotic congenital heart disease (birth defects with oxygen levels lower than normal), which has not been fully repaired, including in children who have had surgical shunts and conduits.
  • A congenital heart defect that has been completely repaired with prosthetic material or a device (for the first six months after the repair procedures).
  • Repaired congenital heart disease with residual defects, such as persisting leaks or abnormal flow at, or adjacent to, a prosthetic patch or prosthetic device.

If you’re not sure what these guidelines mean for you and your particular heart condition, make sure to ask your cardiologist; “Do I need to take antibiotics for dental work?”

3. What if I’ve had Hip Surgery or a Joint Replacement?

Dr. Karagiorgos:  For many years, people that had undergone surgery for replacement of a joint (most commonly hip or knee joints) had to take antibiotics before any dental procedures. While this is generally still required for patients with two or more replacement joints, the American Dental Association no longer recommends routine antibiotics prior to dental procedures to prevent prosthetic joint infection.

Many orthopedic surgeons have their own criteria for deciding which of their patients might be at risk of joint infection with dental procedures (even cleanings). That is why in most cases I defer to a patient’s orthopedic surgeon to decide and prescribe prophylactic antibiotics for dental visits. 

If you have any questions about your particular situation, make sure to discuss them with me or Dr. Brunacini, as well as your orthopedic surgeon or physician.  This is especially important if you have a significant immunodeficiency or previously suffered an infected prosthetic joint. We are part of your health care team and will work together to determine if you have a need for antibiotic prophylaxis. 

4. What Else Should I Know?

Dr. Karagiorgos:  Good oral health and good general health go hand in hand.  So, keep up with your regular oral care routine of brushing twice a day, flossing at least once a day, and seeing your dental team with us for regular cleanings.  

At Falmouth Dental Arts you will notice that we ask you about any changes to your health history at every visit.  This includes medications that you are taking and any allergies you may have. It is important for us to know what medications that you take, and in what dosages and frequency. If you take many medications and it becomes difficult for you to remember them, then you can ask your physician to give you a current list that you can carry with you.  This information is important for us to know when determining the best course of treatment and care for you.

Also, I find it fascinating that the turnover of new tissue in the oral cavity is one of the fastest in the body!  Ever notice how a pizza burn in your mouth heals in a matter of days? The mouth is a great window into the body, often reflecting systemic disease before it can be determined by other means.  This is why we thoroughly examine all of the mouth, not just the teeth. We want to help you be healthy in your mouth and your whole body!

 

Thank you, Dr. Karagiorgos!

If you have questions about antibiotic prophylaxis or about how your health issues may impact your dental care, please give us a call today at 207.781.5900.  We are here to be your healthcare partner and provide you with the best oral care possible!

 

*Image courtesy of www.medlineplus.gov