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Five Clues That It’s Time to Replace Your Toothbrush

November 30th, 2022

Your dashboard lights up when your car needs an oil change. Your family smoke detector beeps when you need to switch out the batteries. But when it’s time to replace your toothbrush, you’re on your own. Luckily, there are several not-too-subtle clues that you should be shopping for a new model.

  • Fraying

Is your toothbrush looking a bit scruffy? Do those once orderly bristles look like they have the toothbrush equivalent of bed head? Have some bristles vanished altogether? Time to retire that toothbrush. Once the bristles are frayed, you just can’t reach plaque as effectively, especially where it likes to hide between the teeth.

Are you prematurely fraying? You could be brushing too hard. Overbrushing can injure delicate gum tissue, cause wear and tear to tooth enamel, and even damage your braces. If you find your brush fraying after only a few weeks of use, you might be using too much force. Remember, plaque is a sticky film, but it’s a soft sticky film. Ask us for advice on just how hard you need—or don’t need—to brush.

  • Odor

This one really goes without saying—no one wants an aromatic toothbrush! How to make sure your toothbrush is fresh and clean?

Always rinse carefully after you brush. This will get rid of any toothpaste, bits of food, or other particles left on your brush.

Let your toothbrush air dry. It might seem more hygienic to keep your brush covered in a bathroom setting, but a closed, moist container is a perfect breeding ground for germs. Don’t let them make a home in your bristles!

  • Illness

A cold or a bacterial infection (like strep throat) is no fun. But now that you’re feeling better, it might be time to throw out your toothbrush. The chances of re-infection are very low, unless your immune system is compromised, but this is a perfect opportunity to replace your brush with a fresh, germ-free model.

And if you share your toothbrush, or if you store it right next to a family member’s (which you really shouldn’t do, for this very reason), germs get shared, too. Quarantine your brush while you’re ill, and replace it once you’re out and about.

  • Discomfort

Bigger isn’t necessarily better. A brush with a head that’s too big won’t allow you to get into those small spaces in your mouth where plaque likes to collect. And when you are trying to clean around brackets and wires, a regular brush might be a problem. Ask Dr. Andrew Nalin for suggestions for the best tools for clean and comfortable brushing.

Also, harder doesn’t mean more effective. A brush with hard bristles can cause damage to your gums and enamel. We almost always recommend soft-bristled brushes for this every reason.

There are so many styles of brush out there, you’re bound to find the perfect fit with a little trial and error. Or ask us for suggestions the next time you’re at our Mount Vernon, WA office for an adjustment!

  • You’ve Passed the “Best By” Date

Because of its durable construction, your toothbrush can last a long, long time. But no matter how comfortable and effective your toothbrush is right now, it was never meant to go through life with you. Bristles break down over a period of a few months, and just don’t clean as effectively. Your brush should be changed every three months, and this includes changing the head on your electric toothbrush. And because you wear braces, you’re brushing more often, so that three month lifespan might be stretching it.

Unfortunately, you don’t have a flashing light or annoying beep to remind you when it’s time to change brushes, so you’ll have to devise your own reminders. Reminder apps, calendar notes, the first day of a new season—use whatever works best for you. 

Don’t ignore the clues your toothbrush is leaving you. Replacing your brush whenever it’s necessary helps guarantee that the time you spend cleaning your teeth and gums will lead to confident, healthy smiles. Case closed!

Are you too sensitive?

November 23rd, 2022

We’re not talking about tearing up at the end of a sad movie, or that uncomfortable scratchy feeling you get from a coarse wool sweater—no shame in that kind of sensitivity! But it is a shame if you’re feeling unpleasant tooth sensitivity, especially while you’re wearing braces. No fear—we have some helpful ideas to make you more comfortable as you create your healthy, confident smile.

What do we mean by tooth sensitivity? You know it if you’ve felt it. Pain when you have a cold drink. Or a hot one. Or a sweet treat. Wincing when a light breeze hits your smile. Discomfort after an adjustment.

Fortunately, these annoying twinges can be avoided or eased with some proactive practices.

Keep Up with Your Brushing and Flossing

The oral bacteria in plaque break down enamel when they’re left on the teeth for too long. The result is a cavity, which leaves your sensitive dentin, the layer of the tooth between the enamel and the inner pulp chamber, exposed to elements which can trigger pain. These all-too-common elements include heat, cold, air, or sweet foods. If you suspect you have a cavity, a visit to the dentist will make sure your tooth is cleaned and filled to prevent further damage.

Better yet, prevent cavities before they cause tooth sensitivity. It can be harder to keep your teeth their cleanest while you’re in braces, but it’s more important than ever. You don’t want to have brackets and wires removed, even temporarily, to treat a cavity! You can keep decay at bay by:

  • Brushing after every meal and snack.
  • Flossing whenever necessary, making sure to clean around your brackets and wires.
  • Using cleaning tools made for braces for the easiest and most effective dental hygiene.

Avoid Aggressive Brushing

If you’re using anything other than a soft toothbrush, time for a shopping trip! Using a stiff bristled brush is almost always too abrasive for even the strongest enamel. And vigorous brushing is more harmful than helpful. Poor tools and poor technique can wear away enamel, and, when enamel is worn away, the more sensitive dentin is exposed. Your gums can also be injured, exposing the tops of your roots—which are more sensitive than the enameled crowns.

If your teeth are sensitive because of abrasive brushing, talk to Dr. Andrew Nalin about possible solutions for keeping your teeth both clean and strong.

  • Use a softer-bristled brush.
  • Try toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth.
  • Practice proper brushing technique. Gently rub, don’t scrub!

Care for Yourself after Adjustments

Your teeth might be sensitive after an adjustment. This discomfort is normal, and should pass in a few days. In the meantime, treat yourself kindly.

  • Brush as usual, taking special care to brush gently.
  • Fill your menu with soft and soothing foods. Cool treats like classic ice cream and pudding, or healthier choices like frozen yogurt and fruit smoothies. Comfort foods like cream soups and mashed potatoes. Or all-day breakfasts of oatmeal, pillowy pancakes, or scrambled eggs.
  • Take over the counter medication as recommended and as necessary.

Be sensitive to your needs while you’re in braces. If you’re feeling any kind of tooth sensitivity, talk to Dr. Andrew Nalin at our Mount Vernon, WA office. We have solutions which will make sure you’re both comfortable and twinge-free on your journey to a healthy, attractive smile!

Just What Is Plaque?

November 16th, 2022

From the time you were small, you’ve been warned about the dangers of plaque. Why? Because:

  • It’s an unpleasant film that sticks to your teeth
  • It causes cavities
  • It causes gum disease
  • It can cause extra problems when you wear braces

And really, do we need to know much more than this to motivate us to brush? But if you’re in a curious mood, you might be wondering just how this soft, fuzzy film accomplishes all that damage. Let’s take a closer look at the sticky problem of plaque.

How does plaque form?

We live with hundreds of species of oral bacteria, most of which are harmless, and some of which are actually beneficial. But when our oral ecosystem gets out of balance, problems can occur. For example, without regular and thorough brushing and flossing, we start to build up plaque.

Plaque starts forming within hours of your last brushing. And even though plaque fits the very definition of “seems to appear overnight,” this biofilm is actually a complex microbial community with several different stages of development.

  • It starts with saliva.

Saliva is vital to our oral health, because it keeps us hydrated, washes away food particles, neutralizes acids in the mouth, and provides minerals which keep our enamel strong. Saliva also contains proteins, which help form a healthy, protective film on the tooth surface. This film is called a pellicle.

  • Bacteria attach to the pellicle.

There are species of oral bacteria that are able to attach themselves to the pellicle film within hours of its formation. As they become more firmly attached, they begin to grow and divide to form colonies, and are known as the early colonizers of the plaque biofilm.

  • A complex biofilm forms.

If you’ve skipped brushing for a few days (please don’t!), you’ll notice a fuzzy, sometimes discolored film on your enamel—that’s a thriving plaque community, and it only takes a matter of days to go from invisible to unpleasant.

If you’re not removing plaque regularly, it can harden further and become tartar. And once you have tartar buildup, you’ll need the care of a dental professional to remove it.

  • What happens if we ignore plaque and tartar?

We get cavities and gum disease.

How does plaque cause cavities?

  • The bacteria in plaque, like all organisms, need nutrients.

Our normal oral environment and the food in our everyday diets provide the nutrients plaque needs. And, as we mentioned above, certain types of oral bacteria convert these nutrients into acids. Foods such as carbohydrates, starches, and sugars are most easily converted into acids, which is why we recommend that you enjoy them in moderation.

  • The biofilm promotes acid production.

Within the plaque film, anaerobic bacteria (bacteria which don’t use oxygen) convert sugars and starches into acids. As the plaque film becomes denser, it blocks acid-neutralizing saliva and oxygen from reaching these bacteria close to the tooth’s surface, creating an ideal environment for the bacteria to produce their acid waste products.

  • Acids attack enamel.

The sticky nature of plaque keeps these acids in contact with tooth enamel, where, over time, acids dissolve minerals in enamel, weakening the mineral structure of the tooth.

How does plaque cause gum disease?

  • Bacteria cause inflammation and gingivitis.

The bacteria in plaque irritate the delicate tissue of the gums, which causes an inflammation response which can leave your gums swollen, red, bleeding, or tender. This early form of gum disease is gingivitis. Fortunately, good dental care and careful brushing and flossing can usually prevent and even eliminate gingivitis.

  • Plaque and tartar can lead to periodontitis.

When plaque and tartar build up around and below the gumline, the gums pull away from the teeth, leaving pockets where bacteria collect, leading to infection as well as inflammation. Infections and constant inflammation not only harm gum tissue, they can destroy the bone supporting the teeth. This serious gum condition is periodontitis, and should be treated immediately to avoid further infection and even tooth loss.

How does plaque affect orthodontic patients?

  • Plaque collects around your braces.

Braces provide plenty of spots for plaque to hide from your brush. If you aren’t extremely diligent with your brushing and flossing, plaque collects near brackets, wires, and bands—all those spots that a brush and floss find difficult to reach.

  • Plaque promotes demineralization

The demineralization process we mentioned above can cause white spots on teeth (decalcification), where minerals have dissolved. Sometimes these spots can be treated, and sometimes they are permanent. They can become quite sensitive, and may lead to cavities.

Careful brushing and flossing around your braces will help eliminate the plaque that can cause demineralization near brackets. Ask Dr. Andrew Nalin about the tools and the brushing and flossing techniques which will give you the best results.

How do we fight plaque?

From the time you were small, you’ve learned how to fight plaque:

  • Brush at least twice a day for two minutes, and be sure to brush all of your tooth surfaces and around the gumline.
  • Floss to remove plaque from between the teeth and near the gumline.
  • See your dentist as recommended for a thorough professional cleaning.

Be proactive. If you have any questions, talk to us at our Mount Vernon, WA office about the best way to keep plaque at bay. We can show you the most effective ways to brush and floss, recommend anti-plaque toothpastes and rinses, even suggest plaque-revealing tablets if you’re missing some trouble spots.

We’ve only brushed up on some plaque basics, because there is a lot more to discover about this complex biofilm. Happily, even with all there is to learn about plaque’s growth and development, it’s reassuring to know that getting rid of it is quite simple—with just a soft-bristled brush, some dental floss, and a few minutes of your time each day, you’re on the way to a healthy, happy, plaque-free smile.

Wearing Braces? Make Cavities a Remote Possibility

November 9th, 2022

Press Pause

If you are getting braces in the near future, it’s very important to see your regular dentist first. That way, any cavities or other dental problems can be treated before your first orthodontic appointment at our Mount Vernon, WA office.

Play it Safe

Once you have your braces, you’ll hearing a lot about how you need to be especially careful with your dental hygiene. Why? Because wires and brackets are obstacles to getting your teeth and gum area their cleanest. Plaque and food particles tend to stick to braces, and all too often can be missed while brushing. Plaque builds up around your gum line and brackets, and, in a very short time, can lead to sensitivity, demineralization, and cavities.

What can you do to prevent tooth decay?

  • Increase Your Brushing Time

Instead of brushing twice a day, start brushing for two minutes after every meal. Put together a travel bag with a small toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and interproximal brushes to clean your teeth when you’re on the go. If you absolutely can’t brush, rinse carefully with water, and then brush as soon as you can.

  • Flossing—More Important than Ever

Use the flossing tools designed just for braces to make sure you’ve removed food particles and plaque from around your braces and gums. A water flosser can be helpful if manual flossing isn’t effective.

  • Keep Up with Your Regular Dental Care

Schedule regular checkups and professional cleanings at your dentist’s office. They will be able to remove plaque you might miss at home.  

  • Follow Our Advice

We’ll give you instructions on how to brush and floss, what products to use, and diet suggestions (such as keeping sugary and sticky foods off the menu and away from your braces). If we notice plaque building up around your gums and brackets, we’ll let you know that you need to step up your hygiene habits. We can also suggest rinses and toothpastes that help fight plaque.

But if, despite all your efforts, you do get a cavity? There are options!

  • Ignoring Your Cavity?

Not an option. You shouldn’t wait until you are out of braces to get a cavity treated. This just gives decay a chance to spread further.

  • Working With Your Braces

Repairing a cavity means removing the decay in the tooth, cleaning the area, and then filling the tooth. If your cavity isn’t located near your bands, brackets, or wires, your dentist might be able to work around your braces, and you can get your cavity treated during a regular dental appointment.

  • Removing Parts of Your Braces for Treatment

Sometimes a cavity is located in a spot that your dentist can’t reach because of your braces. In that case, we’re able to coordinate with your dentist and remove a wire or bracket temporarily so you can have your tooth filled. Make an appointment to replace your bracket and re-attach your wire, and you’ll be back on schedule as soon as possible.

Fast Forward

Keep your eyes on your goal--you’re in braces because you want a beautiful smile. Keeping on top of your dental health is an essential part of creating that smile. Talk to Dr. Andrew Nalin about tips for getting your teeth their cleanest. If you do develop a cavity, we’ll help you figure out the best way to treat it without causing too much delay in your orthodontic treatment. Taking care of your teeth now is the best way to create a future of beautiful smiles!