Does Alcohol Damage Your Teeth?

As we are heading into the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, we thought it was an opportune time to talk about alcohol and your teeth. We discussed the damage soda can do to teeth in an earlier blog, but what about alcohol?

The fact is, alcohol is acidic, too, which means it can damage teeth. Here’s a few noteworthy facts:

  • Alcohol dries your mouth. This reduces saliva, which creates a more acidic environment in your mouth. And that can lead to a softening of your tooth enamel.
  • Alcohol in general, and wine in particular, can soften tooth enamel. Wine’s  malic, tartaric, lactic, succinic and citric acids lower the pH in your mouth to below a critical point. In addition, wine’s mineral content and its calcium binding properties may contribute to its erosive potential.
  • Sugary alcoholic drinks can be the worst, as the sugar also causes tooth decay. The sugar content in beer, sweet wines and, of course, such drinks as rum and coke can wreak havoc.
  • Alcohol can stain your teeth. “Red wine teeth” are caused by a mix of the acids, natural dyes and tannins in the wine. And here’s a fun fact: If you haven’t been to the dentist for a professional dental cleaning, avoid the green beer —  the dyes used in the beer stain the bacterial cell walls in plaque and can show the world that you need a check-up!
  • Excessive alcohol consumption can cause cavities, gum deterioration and tooth loss.

So, how do you best protect your teeth from alcohol?

  • Mix drinks with soda water instead of soft drinks or other sweet mixers in order to help reduce the acidity.
  • After each alcoholic beverage, drink a glass of water in order to dilute the acid.
  • Chewing sugar-free gum can help increase saliva production so your mouth does not dry out as much.
  • Wait at least 20 minutes or up to an hour after drinking alcohol to brush your teeth. It takes the saliva that long to remineralize the tooth enamel that was softened  by acid. Brushing too soon can damage the enamel further. Just don’t go to sleep before you brush.

You don’t have to go alcohol-free to protect your teeth. Moderation is key. And don’t forget to brush!

Dental Implants in Winston-Salem, NC

Do you have missing teeth? Are you wondering whether a dental implant would be right for you?

If you lose one or more teeth, the bone that surrounds the root does not receive any more stimulation from chewing, and it begins to wear away. This can cause your teeth to shift and drift into the open space, and opposing teeth on the top can actually drop down. Traditional methods of replacing teeth, such as bridges without dental implants, partials and dentures do not address the bone deterioration because they only replace the visible portion of the tooth — they do not replace the root. In addition, before the science of dental implants, the only way to replace a missing tooth was with a tooth-supported bridge, which meant healthy teeth had to be ground down to support the bridge.

Whether you are replacing a single tooth or many teeth, dental implants can be used with crowns, bridges and dentures to help prevent bone deterioration. Why? The implant is an artificial tooth root that the dentists at Enlighten Dental Care can place into your jaw in order to hold a replacement tooth (crown),  bridge or dentures.

There are two types of dental implants:

  • Endosteal implants are screws, cylinders or blades surgically placed into the jawbone. This is the most common type of implant.
  • Subperiosteal implants are placed on top of the jaw. The metal framework posts protrude through the gum to hold the prosthesis.

The benefits of implant-supported crowns, bridges or dentures include the following.

  • They help to minimize bone deterioration.
  • They look, feel and function like normal teeth
  • They do not compromise adjacent teeth by grinding them down for a bridge or securing a partial denture to them.
  • They increase stability, making chewing more natural.
  • They eliminate the pain of dentures and partials that fit poorly.
  • They improve appearance.
  • They are easier to clean than traditional tooth replacements.

Getting implants is a common, relatively pain-free procedure at Enlighten Dental Care. You will work with your dentist to create a plan that will ensure the best possible outcome. Your dentist will place the implant and form the gum tissue around the exposed collar of the implant. During the next few weeks, the bone will grow solidly onto the implant, and if the implant is in the aesthetic zone, a temporary tooth restoration will be placed while the site heals. Once healing is complete, your Enlighten Dental Care dentist will remove the cover screw and place the abutment, and take an impression in order to order the final crown, bridge or denture from the lab. When the final crown, bridge or denture is returned from the lab, your temporary will be removed and replaced , so your final beautiful smile will be put into place!

If you have questions about dental implants, please contact us at (336) 765-0904.

Don’t Lose Your Teeth! Treating Periodontal (Gum) Disease

Periodontal disease — also known as gum disease — is an inflammatory condition that affects both the soft and hard structures that support the teeth. The disease is caused by the plaque on your teeth, which contains bacteria that product harmful toxins that can irritate and inflame the gums.

Inflamed gum tissue can pull away from the teeth and form spaces called pockets, which collect more bacteria. Infected pockets that are not treated can damage the bone and other tissue that supports the teeth, and eventually the teeth may fall out or need to be removed. A periodontal infection can also spread throughout the entire body, creating disease in another organ or body part, and it has been shown to have an impact on systemic inflammation. Research indicates that gum disease may contribute to diabetes, respiratory disease, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and it may be associated with premature child birth.

Symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Gums that bleed when you brush or floss
  • Red, swollen or tender gums
  • Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
  • Bad breath that doesn’t go away
  • Pus between your teeth and gums
  • Loose or separating teeth
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bit
  • A change in the fit of partial dentures

There are two types of periodontal disease: gingivitis, which is the milder form, and periodontitis, the more advanced form.

  • Gingivitis makes the gums red and swollen, and they may bleed easily when you brush. Gingivitis can be reversed with better dental care at home (brushing and flossing) and more frequent professional cleanings.
  • Periodontitis is the more advanced form of gum disease. It results in more swelling and redness in the tissues around the teeth, and it causes the tissue and bone to break down.

To determine the extent of gum disease, the dentists at Enlighten Dental Care will evaluate the depth of space between the teeth and gums. In addition, we will take X-rays are taken to see whether the bone has been damaged. Depending on how much damage and disease progression there is, treatment may include:

  • more frequent visits to a dental hygienist
  • a procedure called scaling and root planing in which the plaque and tarter is carefully removed down to the bottom of each periodontal pocket the tooth’s root surfaces are smoothed to allow the gum tissue to heal and reattach to the tooth
  • gum surgery

We may also prescribe antibiotics to control infection.

If you are experiencing any symptoms of gum disease, please make an appointment with the dentists at Enlighten Dental Care by calling (336) 765-0904, or click here to get in touch.

Hope Your Season Is Merry and Bright!

Five Smart Holiday Foods for Healthy Teeth

The holidays can be bad for your waist and bad for your teeth. All of those sticky sweets and carbs can wreak havoc in your mouth, particularly  if you’re not properly brushing and flossing.

Healthy foods for your teethBut that doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun. Here’s five foods you can wholeheartedly enjoy over the next few weeks!

  • Cheese. Go ahead and enjoy the cheese platter (without the crackers). Cheese is low in the bad things for your teeth (sugar and acid) and high in calcium. In addition, cheese contains casein, a protein found in milk that helps fortify the tooth’s surface
  • Raw Veggies. The veggie tray is always a good choice. The fibrous nature of raw, fresh veggies such as celery and carrots promotes chewing and saliva production. Saliva contains proteins and minerals that protect tooth enamel and prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Celery also breaks down into fibrous strands, which naturally clean the teeth.
  • Fruits. Fruits such as apples and pears are also good choices. They have high water content, which dilutes the effects of the sugars they contain and stimulates the flow of saliva.
  • Unsweetened Tea. Green and black teas contain polyphenols, which help to kill or suppress bacteria, preventing it from growing or producing tooth-attacking acid.
  • Nuts. The nut bowl is another good choice for teeth. Many nuts — peanuts, almonds, cashews and walnuts — provide vitamins and minerals that help your teeth. Just make sure you’re not biting down really hard on a difficult nut, and stay away from those covered in sugar.

See, there’s plenty to enjoy to during the holiday season. Chicken, beef, eggs, fish, potatoes, spinach, fortified cereals, tofu, leafy green vegetables, beans and whole grains are also part of a healthy diet for your body and your teeth. And if you do indulge in those sugary carbs, don’t forget to not only walk it off, but brush it off, too!

Worried About Holiday Weight Gain? How About Holiday Tooth Decay?

It’s that time of year  to feast on holiday meals, snacks, desserts and candies.  Holiday weight gain has always been a concern for many, but maintaining good oral health is just as important.

Many holiday foods and beverages contain carbohydrates, which are sugars and starches.  You may be consuming more carbohydrates during the holiday season, so be aware that carbohydrates are responsible for acids that cause tooth decay.  Some of the carbohydrates that you may find at your holiday festivities and on your holiday dinner table include breads such as dinner rolls,  cakes, pies and candy. In particular, atch out for those sugary holiday favorites like candy canes and eggnog, which stick to the teeth.

Why do carbohydrates lead to tooth decay? It is because there are acid-producing bacteria in the mouth that feed on the carbohydrates.  When the acid is not neutralized with an adequate amount of saliva, demineralization of the teeth can occur;  causing them to rot.  It is important to remember that the faster that the food is removed from the mouth, the better. The risk of cavities is decreased because the amount of time that the teeth are exposed to sugars and carbohydrates is decreased.

During the holiday season avoid foods that remain on the surface of the tooth such as pretzels, chips and raisins. Cooked carbohydrates actually stay on the teeth longer than most foods containing sugars.  Some foods to enjoy that don’t cause decay of the teeth are beans, cheese, chicken or other meat, nuts, fish, milk, apples, pears and vegetables.  Foods to avoid are candy, cakes, cookies, breads, muffins, french fries, and bananas.   Brushing helps to remove food residue and starve the plaque-forming bacteria that eats away at the tooth’s enamel.

When you’re at a holiday party where you will be snacking on sweet and delicious treats, carry a travel sized toothbrush and floss to remove excess food particles that cause tooth decay.  In an effort to prevent erosion of the teeth, rinse the mouth with water after consuming wine.

We’re not trying to take away all of your holiday fun! You can still enjoy your favorite holiday meals such as stuffing, rolls, pies, cakes, etc., Just balance them with proteins to counteract some of the acids produced by the carbohydrates.  And, of course, don’t forget to brush and floss!

National Brush Day Is November 1 — Are You Brushing Correctly?

Right after Halloween, one of the most candy-filled days of the year, we will celebrate National Brush Day on November 1. National Brush Day highlights the importance in making sure kids brush for two minutes, twice a day, every day of the year. 

Tooth decay is a common disease — affecting 16.5 million children in the United States. Are you and your children brushing your teeth the correct way? It’s important to use the proper brushing techniques. Here are some tips.

  • Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes. This is one of the best preventative measures that you can take in an effort to avoid plaque build-up and
  • Brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride helps prevent cavities by maintaining your saliva to prevent the buildup up the tooth plaque that
    leads to cavities. It also helps to prevent the loss of minerals useful to tooth enamel.
  • Using short, back and forth strokes is the best technique to brush your teeth. Pay special attention to the gumline.
  • Clean in this order: 1) outer surface of upper teeth, the lower teeth; 2) inner surface of upper teeth, then lower teeth; 3) chewing surfaces; 4)
  • Don’t forget to brush your tongue. Not only does brushing the tongue help to freshen the breath, but it also removes the germs.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or when it begins to show wear — whichever comes first.
  • It’s not brushing, but flossing daily will remove food from the teeth that the toothbrush just couldn’t quite get.
  • The last step is rinsing the mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash.

Get excited about National Brush Day! Take this time to go over the proper tooth brushing techniques with your whole family. Also, to make the day a success, the Ad Council and the Partnership for Healthy Mouths, Healthy Lives want as many supporters as possible to make a pledge on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. The pledge?

“It’s National Brush Day! I pledged to help keep kids’ mouth healthy by brushing #2min2x a day! #NatlBrushDay”


Winston-Salem Dentist Talks about the Importance of Maintaining Oral Health as You Age

Oral health plays an integral role in the overall health of everyone, but especially in older adults.  Older adults are more at risk for developing health problems or complicating existing health problems due to poor oral care or the lack of getting the dental care they need.  Early warning signs of health issues can be detected and screened during a routine dental exam.

Older adults are more likely to suffer from dry mouth as a side effect from a variety of medications, including those used to treat high blood pressure.  With dry mouth there is a decrease in saliva.  Why is that a problem? It is because saliva’s function is to help chew, swallow and digest food; protect teeth from decay; and prevent infection by controlling bacteria, viruses, and fungi in the mouth. Dry mouth can lead to cavities and increased plaque, which is a film of bacteria that is the main cause of gum disease (periodontal disease).

Periodontal disease is a disease of the gums that causes an excessive build up of bacterial plaque on the teeth, along with inflamed and bleeding gums.  Complications of periodontal disease extend far beyond the mouth.  Periodontal disease serves as a precursor to heart disease, stroke, and has even been linked by scientists to diabetes, dementia and rheumatoid arthritis.  Inflammation associated with periodontal disease can also cause inflammation in the body, which is an underlying problem in many diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.  Experts believe the bacteria from the plaque escapes into the bloodstream which ultimately causes damage to major organs of the body. Plaque can build up in arteries and cause them to harden, resulting in a blockage of blood flow.  The blockage of blood flow can cause a stroke or heart attack.

By visiting your dentist twice a year, and properly brushing and flossing, you can significantly decrease your chances of developing preventable, life threatening illnesses. Take control of your oral health and your overall health by scheduling an appointment with Enlighten Dental Care today.

Winston-Salem Dentist Advises Soda (Even Diet) Is Bad for Your Teeth!

You’ve heard time and again about how bad sugary soft drinks are for your teeth. Too much sugar, combined with a susceptible tooth, bacteria growth and a poor saliva output creates an environment that is ripe for a cavity to develop.

There is an extraordinary amount of sugar in non-diet soda:

  • A 12-oz can has 10 teaspoons of sugar
  • A 20-oz can has 17 teaspoons of sugar
  • A 64-oz “Big Gulp” has a whopping 52 teaspoons! No wonder New York tried to ban them!

(Just FYI, the American Heart Association recommends limiting your daily sugar intake to 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men.)

OK, so you may be thinking that’s all fine and dandy, because you don’t drink regular soda any way. You drink diet soda all the time, so your teeth are safe, right?


See, the sugar in soda is not the only ingredient that’s hard on tooth enamel — the acid is, too. And while diet soda eliminates the sugar, it does NOT eliminate the acid.

Phosphoric acid and citric acid, which are found in many diet sodas, promote carbonation (the fizz), but it also erodes the tooth enamel. And tooth enamel is the main barrier that our teeth have against decay.

And here’s the really scary thing. A report recently published in the journal General Dentistry found that a woman in her 30s who drank two liters of diet soda every day for three to five years had teeth erosion similar to that found in a 29-year-old addicted to methamphetamines and a 51-year-old who was a long-time crack cocaine user. (Meth and crack are also highly acidic.)

The woman in the study did admit that she had not been to the dentist in years.

It’s probably not necessary to avoid all soda all the time, but be aware that regular soda is highly sugary and acidic, and diet soda is highly acidic. To help protect your teeth:

  • Limit soda consumption to one 8-oz or 12-oz can per day.
  • Select cans over resealable bottles.
  • Try drinking through a straw positioned toward the back of the mouth.
  • Rinse with water after drinking soda.
  • Brush teeth after drinking soda, and brush teeth at least twice a day.
  • Chew gum with xylitol to increase saliva production.

Crown or Veneer? Which One Is Right for You?

Often when you go to the dentist, he or she will recommend a crown for a tooth or teeth. Or perhaps you admire someone’s teeth that have had a veneer. These terms can be confusing, so make sure you understand what you are getting when your dentist recommends it.

A crown is a cap that is placed on the entire tooth by the dentist to restore the shape and size, strength, and appearance of the tooth.

As a preventive measure, a crown may be used to protect a tooth from breaking, and it can even be used to hold together the parts of a cracked tooth.  In severe cavity cases, a crown is used to prevent further damage to the tooth. Crowns may also be used for cosmetic purposes in order to cover teeth that are severely discolored, but we typically don’t recommend this.

There are various materials that can be used to make a crown.

  • Metal crowns may be made of gold or another type of alloy. They rarely chip or break, but are most often used for out-of-sight teeth, such as molars.
  • Porcelain that is fused to metal (PFM) crowns are commonly used due to the strength of the metal, and the porcelain can be colored to match the adjacent teeth. This has been the “workhorse” of tooth-colored crowns for many years.
  • Another option is either porcelain- or ceramic-only crowns.  While they have the most natural look, they are not as strong as metal crowns.
  • The least expensive type of crown is a resin crown; however, they may wear down over time.

Your Enlighten Dental Care dentist can help in choosing the type of crown that is best suited for you.

Veneers are a simple, noninvasive solution to solving dental flaws and may also be used to protect the surface of the tooth from damage.  A veneer is a custom-made thin-layer shell of either composite resin or dental prcelain. The veneer is placed over the tooth or several teeth.

Cosmetically, veneers enhance the look of teeth while maintaining a natural appearance.  Veneers also feel and function as the natural teeth.

Your dentist will prepare your teeth for veneers by removing a small amount of enamel prior to bonding the veneers that are a perfect shape, fit, and color designed specifically for you.

Questions about crowns vs. veneers and which one is right for you? Contact the Winston-Salem dentists at Enlighten Dental Care!