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!

E-Cigarettes and Oral Health — What Do We Know?

The effects of smoking tobacco and smokeless tobacco on oral health are well known and include bad breath, tooth discoloration, increased risk of oral cancer, and increased risk of gum disease and bone loss within the jaw.

But we don’t know much about a new, growing trend in smoking — e-cigarettes. And it’s worrisome, particularly because their use is increasing among teenagers. In fact, a new federal study found that e-cigarette use among teens has surpassed the use of traditional cigarettes. A survey found that 17 percent of 12th graders reported using an e-cigarette during the last month, compared with 13.6 percent who reported having a traditional cigarette.advanced vaping device, e-cigarette on table

What are e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are basically electronic nicotine delivery systems. The cartridge contains nicotine, propylene glycol and a battery. When you inhale, the atomizer is heated and vaporizes the liquid as it is brought through the mouthpiece. The nicotine cartridges come in a variety of flavors — cherry, vanilla, etc. — which, of course, makes this more appealing to young people.

Are e-cigarettes safer than smoking conventional cigarettes?

Evidence suggests that the levels of dangerous chemicals e-cigarettes give off are less than with conventional cigarettes. However, the Food and Drug Administration has questioned their safety. Essentially, they have not been in existence long enough for long-term effects to be well known.

What are the effects of e-cigarettes on oral health?

There have been very few studies on the effects of e-cigarettes on oral health; however, one study in 2011 did find some adverse oral effects on subjects who had smoked e-cigarettes for four weeks:

  • Six percent of patients reported mouth irritation
  • Eight percent noted sore throat and dry mouth
  • Nine percent reported mouth ulcers.

After 8 weeks of use, 8 percent reported a dry cough, and after 24 weeks, 8 percent complained of throat irritation and 7 percent had dry mouth.

Overall, the incidence of adverse oral effects was small, but it appears that ENDS use does exert negative effects on the oral cavity. The effect of ENDS on periodontal diseases and healing has not been researched. More study is needed in order to identify the long-term effects of ENDS on the environment, the body, and the oral cavity.

Essentially, not a lot is known about e-cigarettes, and there is more research to be done. 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.

If you smoke e-cigarettes or conventional cigarettes, or use smokeless tobacco regularly, please inform your dental health professional at Enlighten Dental Care and let us know of any side effects you may be experiencing.




Giving Back and Being Thankful — N.C. Missions of Mercy (NC MOM)

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping
a present and not giving it. “ William Ward

 Posted By Dr. Dan DriscollNC MOM

On November 14 Dawn Grider, RDH; Mary Jane Miller, patient care coordinator; and I volunteered at the free dental clinic sponsored by the North Carolina Missions of Mercy (NC MOM), an outreach program of the N.C. Dental Society.

The dental clinic is a grassroots effort to serve people who can’t afford dental care with volunteer dentists and dental hygienists from across the state. This was the first year the program served people in Winston-Salem, and approximately 1,000 people came out for dental cleanings, extractions, fillings and more.

There are millions of Americans with no access or limited access to dental care. According to the 2012 report “Dental Crisis in America — The Need to Expand Access,” more than 47 million people live in places where it is difficult to access dental care, and about 17 million low income children received no dental care in 2009. Cavities are the most common chronic disease of childhood, affecting almost 60 percent of children ages 5 to 17. And in 2009, there were more than 830,000 visits to emergency rooms across the country for preventable dental conditions in 2009.

Volunteering at the NCMOM free dental clinic is just one small way in which to give back to our local community and help those in need of dental care to obtain it. It is a way for us to express gratitude for all that we have been given by providing services to those who cannot afford them. One of the coolest aspects of volunteering with this organization was the camaraderie we felt with 80 other providers working equally as hard. Many hands truly does make light work — even when the work is not light at all! Because of the acute nature of many patients’ pain, as well as the dental neglect over time, the dentistry is much more difficult in this situation compared to a day in private practice. Thus, it was truly invigorating and inspiring to be doing volunteering with so many other people who were there to give back to our community, and it made the task much more manageable.

The NC MOM program is dependent on funding from charitable organizations, civic organizations, private corporations, personal donations and grants given to the NC Dental Health Fund, a 501 (c)(3) tax exempt organization. For information on how to make a tax deductible gift, click here.



Five Facts You Need to Know about Sugar and Your Teeth

Just in time for Halloween and the holidays, here are five important things you need to know about sugar and your teeth.CandyMedium

  1. Sugar is in a lot of things. When thinking about sugar, we most commonly think of “sucrose,” the white table sugar that comes from sugar beets and sugar cane. But basically, anything with “ose” on the end is sugar: fructose (found in fruit and honey), galactose (milk and dairy products), glucose (honey, fruits and vegetables), lactose (milk), maltose (barley), etc. Look for these on product labels.
  2. Sugar is a carbohydrate. Foods that contain carbohydrates (starches and sugars) are the troublemakers that can cause cavities. When the natural bacteria in your mouth is exposed to carbohydrates, it produces acids, which can erode the enamel on the teeth.
  3. There are degrees of good and bad with fruit. You need to eat fruit as part of a balanced diet, but it does contain sugar that can damage your teeth. Fresh fruit is absolutely the best; it is filled with fiber, which can stimulate saliva production to wash away bacteria. Fresh is followed by frozen and canned if they don’t have any added sugars. Fruit juice is one of the things that often causes cavities in young children, and intake of this should be limited. Cooking fruit (as you do for pies, jellies and jams) releases the intrinsic sugars in the fruit, and there is often added sugar in these treats. Dried fruit may be the worst for your teeth because it is sticky, and it often has added sugar and the sugar, which is very concentrated because the water is removed.
  4. Go ahead and gorge on the sugar rather than doling it out over time.  Eating a bunch of chocolate bars Halloween night is not so bad because the chocolate is pretty easy to wash away with saliva, water and brushing. Other candies, such as taffy, caramel, gummies, hard candies that take a long time to dissolve and, of course, the pure sugar candies such as Fun Dip, can be more problematic because they tend to hang around the teeth longer. But even more importantly, it’s better to indulge in one sitting than bathe your teeth in enamel-corroding acid every single day until the candy runs out.  Want to know which candies are the worst for your teeth? Click here!
  5. What’s even worse than candy? Chips! Science has found that cooked carbohydrates such as chips and pretzels are even worse for your teeth than candy. These starchy foods have high sugar content and cling to your teeth longer, giving those bacteria even more reason to party and cause problems.

Questions about what you can do to make Halloween and other holidays healthier for you and your family. Set up an appointment at Enlighten Dental Care by calling (336) 765-0904.