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Posts for category: Oral Health

By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
October 26, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
4WaysSalivaProtectsYourMouthAgainstDisease

Brushing and flossing daily, and dental visits at least twice a year: These are the essential things you should be doing to protect your teeth and gums against dental disease. But you're also getting an automatic assist from your body through saliva, that humble fluid swishing around in your mouth, to protect your oral health.

It's more than simply “mouth water”: Without saliva and its various components, your risk for tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease would be much higher. Here are 4 ways saliva helps you keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Cleansing. Chewing prepares your food for digestion, but in the process produces tiny particles of food debris. Settling on tooth surfaces, these bits become part of the dental plaque that forms on your teeth and develops the ideal breeding ground for disease-causing bacteria. Saliva helps rinse away much of this debris—particularly sugar, the primary food source for bacteria.

Protection. Saliva is the first line defense against disease-causing microorganisms entering the mouth. The primary source of this protection is a protein-based antibody called Immunoglobulin A (IgA), which directly fights infection-causing organisms. Another protein in saliva, lactoferrin (also found in tears), interferes with bacterial growth.

Buffering. The main enemy of tooth enamel is mouth acid, produced by oral bacteria and the foods that we eat. Saliva neutralizes acid to help the mouth maintain its normally neutral pH range. And it works fast: Saliva can buffer acid and restore balance within thirty minutes to an hour after eating.

Re-mineralization. It's normal for acid to build up after eating, and for it to quickly remove minerals from surface enamel, a process called de-mineralization that can soften and weaken the enamel. But saliva helps restore some of these lost minerals as it's neutralizing acid. This re-mineralization re-strengthens enamel against tooth decay.

Saliva is so important for maintaining a healthy mouth, it's worth your efforts to protect it. Diminished saliva production not only produces an unpleasant dry mouth, it may increase your risk for disease. If this is a constant problem, speak to your dentist about causes and remedies. You'll be doing your teeth and gums a favor.

If you would like more information on the role of saliva in maintaining oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Saliva: How it is Used to Diagnose Disease.”

By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
September 16, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: mouthguards  
ItsTimeforFootballIsYourFavoritePlayersMouthFullyProtected

It's September—and that means football season is underway. Whether you're playing, spectating or managing a fantasy team, the action is about to ramp up. Unfortunately, increased “action” also includes injury risk, especially for a player's teeth, mouth and jaws.

Injury prevention is a top priority for all players, whether the pros or the little guys in Pee Wee league. For oral injuries, the single best way to avoid them is by wearing an athletic mouthguard. This soft but durable plastic appliance helps cushion the force of a direct blow to the face or mouth. Wearing one can help prevent tooth and gum damage, as well as lessen the risk for jaw or facial bone fractures.

Mouthguard use is fairly straightforward—a player should wear one anytime there's player-to-player contact. That's not only during game time, but also during practice and informal play. But what's not always straightforward is which type of mouthguard to purchase. That's right: You'll have to decide from among a variety of mouthguards on the market.

Actually, though, most fall into one of two categories: the “Boil and Bite” found in most retail stores with a sports gear department; or the custom mouthguard fashioned by a dentist.

The first are called Boil and Bite because the mouthguard must first be softened with hot water and then placed in the intended wearer's mouth to bite down on in its softened state. When the mouthguard cools and re-hardens, it will retain the bite impression to give it somewhat of an individual fit. These retail guards are relatively inexpensive and reasonably effective in cushioning hard contact, but they can also be on the bulky side and uncomfortable to wear.

In contrast, custom mouthguards are formed from an accurate impression of the wearer's bite taken in the dental office. Because of the individualized fit, we can create a guard with less bulk, greater comfort and, due to their precision, better effectiveness in preventing injury.

A custom guard is more expensive than a retail mouthguard, and younger players may need a new upgrade after a few seasons to accommodate fit changes due to jaw development. But even so, with its higher level of protection and comfort (making it more likely to be worn during play), a custom mouthguard is a worthwhile investment that costs far less than a devastating dental injury.

So, if you or a family member will be hitting the gridiron this fall (or, for that matter, the basketball court or baseball diamond later in the year), be sure you invest in a mouthguard. It's a wise way to ensure this football season will be a happy one.

If you would like more information about dental safety and sports, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Athletic Mouthguards.”

By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
August 27, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: dry mouth  
TakeTheseStepstoAlleviateChronicDryMouth

You might be noticing some changes as you get older: You're getting winded easier and you're wondering why book or magazine print has suddenly shrunk (it didn't). Perhaps you've also noticed your mouth seems drier more often.

It could be a condition called xerostomia, in which your body isn't producing enough saliva. Older people are more prone to it because it's often a side effect of prescription drugs that can inhibit saliva production. Because seniors tend to take more medications than other age groups, xerostomia is a more common problem for them.

Xerostomia isn't a pleasant experience. More importantly, it's hazardous to your oral health. Saliva contains antibodies that fight bacterial infection, and it also neutralizes mouth acid that causes tooth decay. A lack of saliva puts you at greater risk for both tooth decay and gum disease.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to alleviate or ease the effects of xerostomia.

Cut back on spicy foods and caffeinated beverages. Spicy or salty foods can irritate your gum tissues and worsen dry mouth symptoms. Because it's a diuretic, caffeine causes you to lose more fluid, something you can't afford with xerostomia. Cutting back on both will improve your symptoms.

Drink more water. Increasing your daily water intake can help you produce more saliva. It also washes away food particles bacteria feed on and dilutes acid buildup, which can reduce your risk for dental disease.

Talk to your doctor and dentist. If you're taking medications with dry mouth side effects, ask your doctor about other alternatives. You can also ask your dentist about products you can use to boost saliva production.

Practice daily hygiene. Daily hygiene is important for everyone, but especially for those whose saliva flow is sub-par. Brushing and flossing clear away dental plaque, the top cause for dental disease. Along with regular dental visits, this practice can significantly reduce your risk for tooth decay and gum disease.

Taking these steps can help you avoid the discomfort that often accompanies xerostomia. It could also help you prevent diseases that could rob you of your dental health.

If you would like more information on dealing with dry mouth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “10 Tips for Dealing With Dry Mouth.”

By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
August 07, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene  
AWordtoYoungAdultsBrushingandFlossingareKeytoaHealthyMouth

Keeping your teeth and gums healthy doesn't require an elaborate plan. It's simple: Besides twice-a-year dental visits, the most important thing you can do is brush and floss every day to remove accumulated dental plaque.

The bacteria that live and breed in this thin biofilm is the main catalyst for both tooth decay and gum disease, the top two diseases that endanger teeth. Brushing and flossing removes this buildup and thus reduces the long-term risk for either disease.

Unfortunately, the message on these important hygiene tasks hasn't resonated with “Millennials,” the first generation to reach adulthood in the 21st Century and new millennium. One recent survey of 2,000 members of this age group found only about 30% brushed their teeth at least once a day, with many skipping the task for two days at a time.

If brushing has taken a beating among millennials, you can well imagine the state of flossing. Unfortunately, the news media has helped this along: Just a few years ago, the Associated Press reported a study that concluded flossing's role as a dental disease deterrent hadn't been proven. A follow-up study a year or two later by the University of North Carolina pushed back on the original AP story with findings of lower risk of tooth loss among flossers than non-flossers.

This decline in oral hygiene practices among millennials has had an unsurprisingly negative effect. Recent statistics indicate that one in three people between the ages of 18 and 34 have some form of untreated tooth decay. As this generation ages this may inevitably result in more extensive dental treatment and higher rates of tooth loss unless the trend toward hit and miss dental care makes a complete U-turn.

The good news is that it may not be too late for many of those slacking on daily care. All that's needed is to heed the same dental advice their grandparents and parents were given: Brush twice and floss once every day.

No matter what your age, consistent daily brushing and flossing still remains essential to keeping potential dental disease at bay. These twin hygiene tasks remain the solution to good dental health throughout your life.

If you would like more information on best oral hygiene practices, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
July 28, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene  
FlossFirstorBrushFirstYouBetheJudge

Brushing and flossing are two of the best things you can do to fight dental disease and maintain healthy teeth and gums.

Or is it flossing and brushing? What we mean is, should you floss first or brush first?

There's virtually no debate among dental professionals about whether or not to perform both hygiene tasks. While brushing removes disease-causing plaque from the broad surfaces of teeth, flossing gets to deposits of this disease-causing, bacterial film lodged between the teeth that brushing can't reach. You don't want to neglect one task over the other if you want to fully minimize your risk of tooth decay or gum disease (and don't forget semi-annual dental cleanings too).

But where there is some debate—good-natured, of course—among dentists is over whether it's better hygiene-wise to brush before flossing or vice-versa. For those on Team Brush, you should pick up your toothbrush first for the best results.

By brushing before you floss, you'll remove most of the plaque that has accumulated since your last cleaning session. If you floss first, the flossing thread has to plow through a lot of the plaque that otherwise might be removed by brushing. For many, this can lead to an unpleasant sticky mess. By removing most of the plaque first via brushing, you can focus your flossing on the small amount left between teeth.

Team Floss, on the other hand, believes giving flossing first crack at loosening the plaque between teeth will make it easier for the detergent in the toothpaste to remove it out of the way during brushing. It may also better expose these in-between areas of teeth to the fluoride in your toothpaste while brushing. And because flossing is generally considered a bit more toilsome to do than brushing, tackling it first could increase the likelihood you'll actually floss and not neglect it after brushing.

So, which task should you perform first? Actually, it's up to you: Weighing both sides, it usually comes down to which way is the most comfortable for you and will give you the greatest impetus for flossing. Because no matter which “team” you're on, the important thing is this: Don't forget to floss.

If you would like more information on personal dental care, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Daily Oral Hygiene.”



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