Is Flossing Really Necessary?

An October article in Time magazine titled “You Asked: Do I Really Need to Floss” discussed how some experts and research say that flossing is a waste of time. The article alluded to research that doesn’t support the assertion that flossing prevents cavities and gum disease, as well as research that found flossing does not prevent plaque, the stuff that causes cavities. One study also found that some people damaged their gums by yanking down too hard while flossing.

Oh yay, you’re probably thinking … flossing is a waste of time. NOT.

At Enlighten Dental Care, we disagree with the premise of the article and point out the importance of flossing to ALL of our patients. It is apparent to dental professionals which patients do floss and which ones do not. Science is still trying to figure out all of the links between oral health and overall health and has not established a link between flossing and prevention of some of the more morbid conditions such as heart disease and kidney disease. But just because it has yet to be proven doesn’t mean there isn’t a link.

Here are some reasons why we know flossing is important…

  • The modern diet is filled with carbohydrates and sugar, which cause plaque between the teeth. This plaque has to be removed somehow. That’s where flossing comes in.
  • While flossing “may” have some of the hazards alluded to in the article, such as damaging gums, it is very unlikely. Overzealous brushing is much worse for your gums.
  • Flossing does make a difference in overall gum tone — compare it to soft, flabby muscles in sedentary individuals vs. firm muscle tone in active individuals.

Unfortunately, many people do not floss correctly. Don’t snap the floss straight down into your gums. Instead, ease the floss between your teeth and form a C-shape around the tooth to gently slide the floss up and down and scrape away the stuff that builds up between your teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach.

The ideal approach to good dental hygiene is to thoroughly brush — but not scrub — teeth twice a day, combined with a gentle form of plaque removal, either by flossing or using a hygiene aid such as interproximal brushes. Also, it’s advisable to introduce a rinse such as Listerine and brush your tongue in order to keep your mouth meticulously clean.

Our recommendation at Enlighten Dental Care is “everything in moderation.” Eat healthy, brush twice a day and floss once a day. Simple.

Could Tonsil Stones Be Causing Your Bad Breath?

Bad breath can be caused by numerous things — bacteria that breed inside your mouth, pungent foods such as garlic, smoking, medical problems and poor oral hygiene are all common causes. Enlighten picture

But there is another common cause of chronic halitosis: tonsil stones, also known as tonsilloliths. Tonsil stones are clusters of calcified material that may inhabit deep holes in your tonsils called “crypts.” The substance has a cheese-like consistency and tends to smell … well, horrible.

Why Do Tonsil Stones Form?

The role of the tonsils is believed to be functioning to trap incoming viruses and bacteria particles that are passing through your throat. Within their nooks and crannies, bacteria, dead cells and mucous can become trapped and harden or calcify, resulting in small tonsil stones.

Symptoms of Tonsil Stones

One of the primary symptoms of tonsil stones is really bad breath. Patients may also have a sore throat, and lumps of solid white material may be seen in the back of the throat. Tonsil stones may also become dislodged during coughing or eating.

Large tonsil stones are fairly rare, but if they do develop they can cause problems swallowing, ear pain and tonsil swelling.

Preventing and Treating Tonsil Stones

The best way to prevent tonsil stones is to practice good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth and tongue properly twice a day, floss and use mouthwash. If you detect tonsil stones, you may want to gargle with salt water (dissolve ¼ to ½ teaspoon of salt into 8 ounces of warm water) and then attempt to dislodge them gently with a cotton swab, toothbrush or water pick.

If you have tonsil stones that you cannot remove yourself, talk to your Enlighten Dental Care dentist or doctor about removal. Tonsil stones are generally not a serious condition, but a tonsillectomy (surgical removal of tonsils) may be warranted in severe, chronic cases.

Don’t Delay Dental Treatment! (Why These Excuses Don’t Fly)

schedulingMy teeth are fine; I’ll go if there’s a problem. Going to the dentist is expensive. It’s uncomfortable and/or I’m scared when they clean and work on my teeth.

Do you use one of these excuses? All of these are reasons people avoid going to the dentist every six months for a check-up. And none of these are good enough reasons.

My teeth are fine; I’ll go if there’s a problem …

If nothing is hurting and you think your teeth are fine, that is not a reason to avoid a regular check-up and cleaning. Gum disease and cavities don’t just pop up suddenly — they take a while to develop.

A simple, small cavity that isn’t causing pain can be treated with a quick, less expensive filling. Once the decay has reached the nerve of your tooth and is causing pain, the likelihood of a filling fixing the problem is slim, and you are looking at much more extensive, expensive dental work.

Going to the dentist is expensive …

It is true that dental care is not cheap. In fact, more than one in three Americans delays dental care because of their financial situation, according to a 2013 survey by ORC International and Aspen Dental.

Still, it is much better to spend the money on maintenance than to let a problem fester and wind up in the emergency room with a severe toothache and have to have teeth removed. Gum disease and tooth decay are preventable and controllable diseases, and if left unchecked, they can lead to additional health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke, as well as premature births or low-birth weight babies.

Extensive dental work and other health problems are much more expensive than regular check-ups/cleanings and doing your own regular flossing and brushing with a fluoride toothpaste.

It’s uncomfortable and/or I’m scared when they clean and work on my teeth …

Dental anxiety and dental phobia are real; it is estimated that 9 percent to 15 percent of Americans avoid the dental treatment they need because of this kind of apprehension.

Help is available with conscious sedation, a safe and effective modality available through dentists with training in this area. Enlighten Dental Care offers three different types of conscious sedation: oral sedation, nitrous oxide sedation and IV sedation. For more information, click here.

In addition, it’s important to remember that dentistry has changed a lot over the decades, and if you are basing your fears off of what you remember as a child, don’t. Today, the sound of the drill can be drowned out with a simple iPod, and there are needle-free alternatives for anesthetics!

Don’t delay your dental maintenance … schedule your Enlighten Dental Care appointment today.

To Chew or Not to Chew?

Is chewing gum bad for your teeth, good for your teeth or what?

You may have heard mixed messages in the news about chewing gum, so here is the latest advice about chewing gum and your teeth.

  • 42702614_sAvoid chewing gum with sugar in it. While sugar-containing gum does increase saliva flow, which is good, the sugar is used by plaque bacteria to produce decay-causing acids. Chewing gum with sugar is essentially “bathing” the teeth in sugar.
  • Generally, it has been thought that sugar-free gum chewed after meals and snacks can help rinse off and neutralize the acids released by the bacteria in plaque. Non cavity-causing sweeteners include aspartame, xylitol, sorbitol or mannitol.
  • However, artificial sweeteners are NOT the perfect answer. For example, aspartame has been linked to birth defects, cancers, brain tumors and weight gain.
  • The artificial sweetener xylitol is thought to be the best choice for sugar-free gum because the xylitol has an added benefit of inhibiting the growth of a certain kind of oral bacteria.
  • Unfortunately, however, the most recent Cochrane review study did not find any “robust” evidence to support the claim that xylitol in candies and gums boosted oral health.
  • Avoid chewing gum if you have tempomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). Chewing gum can cause jaw muscle imbalance.
  • Chewing gum may cause gastrointestinal problems, either from swallowing excess air or from the artificial sweeteners.

Bottom line? If you must chew (because you need to relieve stress or stop smoking, etc.), then please choose a sugar-free gum with xylitol. But as with anything, the key is moderation, so don’t overdo (chew) it!

Treat Your Toothbrush Properly!

Some really icky news came out recently from a study presented at the American Society for Microbiology Meeting. Researchers tested toothbrushes from students’ communal bathrooms at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut and found that more than 60 percent of toothbrushes in shared bathrooms tested positive for fecal matter.   old toothbrushes


And even worse: there was an 80 percent chance that the fecal matter was from someone else who shared the bathroom.

There were two species of bacteria that were likely to contaminate toothbrushes: Enterobacteriaceae and Pseudomonadaceae. While these are normal bacteria that are found in the gut, you do not really want other people’s gut bacteria on your toothbrush, and some forms of this bacteria can cause illnesses such as food poisoning.

According to the American Dental Association, here is how to properly care for and store your toothbrush:

  • Do not cover your toothbrush or store in a closed container (even though this may be counterintuitive to protecting it from things floating in the air and settling on your toothbrush). Why? A moist environment actually encourages the growth of microorganisms.
  • After you brush, thoroughly rinse your toothbrush with tap water to remove any toothpaste or other debris. Interestingly, the study found that there was no difference between rinsing the toothbrush in cold or hot water or with an antibacterial mouthwash.
  • Store your toothbrush in an upright position and allow it to air dry before using it again.
  • If another toothbrush is stored in the same area, do not allow them to touch in order to prevent cross contamination.
  • Never share a toothbrush with another person. This places you at risk for more infections.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months.
  • There is no clinical evidence that using a commercially available toothbrush sanitizer will clean a toothbrush any better than rinsing with tap water. Also, if you are considering using a dishwasher or a microwave oven, know that this may damage the toothbrush.

Use the commonsense approach and treat your toothbrush properly! Questions? Contact Enlighten Dental Care at (336) 765-0904.


Federal Officials Reduce Amount of Fluoride in Public Water

The addition of fluoride to the public water supply during the 1940s has been heralded as one of the 10Water_Drop_clip_art_hight greatest public health achievements of the 20th century, helping to prevent cavities in both children and adults. However, the amount of fluoride that is necessary in drinking water has come under debate, and for the first time since 1962, federal health officials have changed the recommended amount of fluoride that is optimal for preventing tooth decay.

The new recommendations by the Department of Health and Human Services lower the levels of fluoride from a range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water to 0.7 milligrams per liter. The change was recommended because Americans now have access to more sources of fluoride (such as toothpastes and mouthwash) than they did when fluoridation was first introduced. (According to an article in the Winston-Salem Journal, officials in Forsyth County try to keep the fluoride level at about 0.9 milligrams per liter in drinking water.)

When a person is exposed to too much fluoride during the first eight years of life, it can actually cause a condition called “fluorosis.” The condition is a cosmetic one that usually causes white marks on a person’s teeth, but can also cause stains ranging from yellow to dark brown, as well as surface irregularities and pits in the most severe cases. Some cases look like roasted marshmallows (bright white teeth underneath showing through, but some tan and brown stains mottling the white color).

Thus, the new guidelines are good and show that science is keeping up with what dentists are seeing in their practices. If a patient has fluorosis, there are some therapies that can work to restore the color of the teeth:

  • A re-mineralization therapy that works to “lift out” or buff out some of the discolorations
  • Teeth whitening
  • Bonding to coat the tooth with a hard resin that bonds to the enamel
  • Crowns or veneers

If you have problems with fluorosis or other stains on your teeth, you do not have to live with it. Your dentist can help. For more information, contact Enlighten Dental Care at (336) 765-0904.

April Is National Facial Protection Month

Many patients ask: When does my child need a mouth guard?

The answer? Any time he or she is playing sports!

It doesn’t matter whether the sport is field hockey or football, baseball or biking, a properly fitted mouth guard is the best way to protect your mouth and teeth from injury. Basically, any time your mouth can come in contact with something hard — another player, a ball, the pavement, a stick — you should be wearing a mouth guard. mouth_guard_medium

According to the National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety, dental injuries are the most common type of orofacial injury during sports participation, and an athlete is 60 times more likely to have damage to the teeth if they are not wearing a mouth guard. This damage can be much more than a chipped tooth, sometimes resulting in damage to permanent structures and requiring medical intervention.

April’s National Facial Protection Month is sponsored by the American Dental Association, the American Association of Orthodontists, the American Association of Maxillofacial Surgeons, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the Academy for Sports Dentistry. All of these organizations recommend that all children and adults engaging in organized sports or recreational activities should wear comfortable, well-fitted mouth guards that do not restrict breathing, resist tearing and are easy to clean. There are three types of mouth guards:

  • A “stock” or “ready-made” mouth guard that is made of rubber or poly-vinyl and comes in several sizes.
  • A mouth-formed or “boil-and-bite” mouth guard, which is boiled in water and then formed to the teeth by applying pressure.
  • A custom-made mouth guard, which is made from a full-mouth impression taken in the dentist’s office. This type provides the most protection and comfort.

Regardless of the type of mouth guard you choose, it is important to take care of it properly. After each use, wash it in cool, soapy water and rinse it off well. You can also brush it with a toothbrush and toothpaste before and after every use. Don’t chew on the mouth guard, and replace it when it shows signs of wear and tear. Also, do not wear removable retainers with mouth guards.

Contact your Enlighten Dental Care dentist today at (336) 765-0904 to select a mouth guard that meets the needs of your child’s specific activity.


Tooth Sensitivity Causes and Treatments

It’s no fun to be take a sip of a cold drink and OUCH! You feel pain in your teeth. This happens when you experience tooth sensitivity, which can be caused by many things. The good news is, there are ways you and your dentist can treat it. toothsensitivity

What Is Tooth Sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity is a common name for hypersensitivity in the layer of the tooth that protects the nerve (called the dentin) or sensitivity of the part of the tooth that is embedded in the bone (the root). It occurs when these dentin or root areas become exposed because of receding gums or gum disease. Tooth sensitivity is very common, and it can come and go over time.

When you experience tooth sensitivity, you may experience pain with hot, cold, sweet or very acidic foods and drinks.

Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

The crowns of your teeth are covered with a hard layer of enamel, the hardest and most mineralized substance in the body, which covers the layer of dentin underneath. However, a special, softer substance called cementum covers the root of a tooth. If that area is exposed and the cementum is worn away, it leaves the dentin of the root exposed, which can be painful because of the thousands of tiny channels that run from the surface and through the dentin to the nerve center of the tooth.

There are many things that can cause the enamel or cementum to wear away and the dentin to become exposed, including:

  • Brushing teeth too vigorously
  • Using a very abrasive toothpaste, typically those that are considered tooth-whitening
  • A highly acidic diet (soda, citrus fruit, pickles)
  • Eating disorders such as bulimia and digestive diseases such as GERD
  • Bruxism (tooth grinding)
  • Receding gums due to age or poor oral hygiene
  • An excessive build-up of plaque that causes enamel to wear away
  • Chipped or cracked teeth
  • Decay around fillings

Treating Tooth Sensitivity

The most important thing is alert your Enlighten Dental Care dentist or hygienist about tooth sensitivity, so that the cause of your pain can be determined. Based on that assessment, you may receive the following recommendations for treatment.

  • Use a desensitizing toothpaste.
  • Decrease your intake of acidic foods and drinks
  • Improve dental hygiene with better brushing and daily flossing, while avoiding brushing too vigorously.
  • A dental mouth guard for teeth grinding.
  • Have fluoride applied to the sensitive areas to strengthen tooth enamel and reduce pain.
  • Treatment of exposed root surfaces by applying a bonding resin.
  • A surgical gum graft if the tooth root has lost gum tissue.

If other treatment has not worked and you are in severe pain, a root canal may be the best, most effective option for treating the sensitivity. For more information and to set up an appointment, contact Enlighten Dental Care at (336) 765-0904.

Message for Teens during National Children’s Dental Health Month

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and it’s quite likely you have heard stories and read articles about such things as “baby bottle decay,” teaching your toddler how to brush properly, and when to set up your child’s first dental appointment (by age 1 or within six months of when the first tooth comes in).

But what about helping teens take care of their dental health? Many parents assume that by the time their children become teenagers, worrying about tooth decay is the least of their problems. However, it is during this time of a child’s life that some of the worst atrocities are committed toward their teeth! 2015_Teen_English_Poster_8.5x11.ashx

  • Poor diet. Adolescence is the time when kids’ meals are not heavily monitored by parents, thus the consumption of soft drinks, candy and high-carbohydrate foods tends to increase. This combination is bad for teens’ teeth and for their bones. Phosphoric acid and citric acid erode tooth enamel, which is the main barrier that our teeth have against decay. Too much sugar — combined with a susceptible tooth, bacteria growth and poor saliva output  — creates an environment that is ripe for a cavity to develop.
  • Smoking and smokeless tobacco. Teens and adolescents are likely to explore some of these behaviors and possibly get addicted to them. Make sure you are explaining to them all of the dangers, including those to a teen’s teeth. Smoking can contribute to bad breath, stained teeth, loss of teeth and jawbone, loss of taste, gum recession, oral cancer and mouth sores. Chewing tobacco and other smokeless tobaccos such as snus, snuff and dip can cause oral cancer, make individuals more susceptible to tooth decay due to the high sugar content, and irritate the gums, leading to gum disease.
  • Vaping and electronic cigarettes. The use of e-cigarettes is growing among teens, and as of now, there are very few studies on the use of e-cigarettes and oral health. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the National Institutes for Health, has proposed more research in order to fill the gap and better inform consumers, professionals and regulators about the effects of e-cigarette aerosol mixtures on the mouth, gums and the rest of the oral cavity.
  • Oral piercing. Like tattooing, piercing is one of today’s forms of body-art and self-expression among teens. Piercing the tongue, lips, cheeks or uvula (the tiny tissue that hangs at the back of the throat) is not as safe as some believe. The mouth’s moist environment is home to huge amounts of breeding bacteria and is an ideal place for infection. An oral piercing can interfere with speech, chewing or swallowing, and it may also cause: excessive drooling; infection, pain and swelling; chipped or cracked teeth; injuries to the gums; damage to fillings; increased saliva flow; hypersensitivity to metals; scar tissue; and nerve damage.
  • Eating Disorders. Anorexia and bulimia can be devastating to oral health and overall health. If a teen is not getting proper nutrition, gums and other soft tissue inside the mouth may bleed easily, and the teen may experience chronic dry mouth. If a teen is throwing up often, strong stomach acid repeatedly flows over teeth and can cause a loss of enamel that makes teeth change in color, shape and length, and they can break off easily.

Talk to your teen about these issues and, if needed, seek counseling. Oral health is often a window to an individual’s overall health, so if you notice changes in oral health, make sure you talk to your dentist and other health care practitioners.

Easing Your Dentist Fears in Winston-Salem, N.C.

At Enlighten Dental Care, we certainly don’t think of ourselves as scary, but we know that between 5-8 percent of Americans do avoid the dentist because of true dental anxiety, while others just simply don’t like to go.

The fear of going to the dentist often stems from patients feeling as if they have a lack of control. However, regular dental check-ups are essential, just like regular health check-ups. Lost teeth and pain are just some of the consequences of going without regular check-ups; gum disease that can lead to other even more serious health issues is another.

To help put dental fear in perspective and highlight our gentle, patient approach to treating each patient as an individual, we enlisted the help of a videographer Patterson Tompkins at ScreenSpyn, as well as a few actors and Enlighten Dental Care staff members to join in the fun. Our cast list included:

  • “JJ” Johnson as Jordan Moore
  • Dr. Dan Driscoll as himself
  • Victoria Blevins as the nice assistant
  • Mita Lambe and Allison Lambe as waiting room guests
  • Mary Jane Miller as the scary receptionist

We had so much fun shooting and editing the video to get the essential message across that Enlighten Dental Care is not here to add more anxiety to your life. We view our patients as our friends, and we don’t dictate treatment — you are in control. There are multiple treatment options available, and our team is here to find the right one for you!

Stay tuned for more videos from Enlighten Dental Care!