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Can my child really avoid tooth decay?

October 12th, 2018

Great question! Yes, in fact, tooth decay is preventable! Decay, which is caused by sugars left in your child’s mouth, can turn into an acid, which in turn can break down his or her teeth. Children are at high risk for tooth decay for a simple reason: many children and adolescents tend to be lax in their oral hygiene habits.

So, how can your child prevent tooth decay?

  • Start early. After the age of two, brush your child’s teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day. And, if possible, clean between the teeth with dental floss at least once a day, preferably before they go to bed.
  • Don’t allow your little ones to eat after cleaning teeth at bedtime, as salivary flow decreases while they sleep and their teeth become vulnerable to cavities.
  • Do not allow your little ones to nibble food or sip drinks continuously, and keep in mind that a low-sugar diet also helps keep tooth decay at bay. Allow time between meals for saliva to neutralize acids and repair the teeth.
  • Drinking water frequently throughout the day can also reduce the possibility of new cavities forming.
  • Dental sealants can also protect your children’s teeth from cavities. Sealants, which are applied to the chewing surfaces of molars, act as a shield between the tooth and harmful bacteria.

Finally, make sure your child visits Branford Dental Care approximately every six months for a checkup and routine cleaning! Please give us a call at our Branford, CT office.

Five Things You Didn't Know About Cavities

October 5th, 2018

Most people know when they have a cavity—they can either see it on their tooth or... ouch! They can feel it! But there are certain things that many of our patients don't know about cavities that could save them a trip to our Branford, CT office!

1. Not all sugars are created equal

It's quite well known that eating dietary sugars in excess along with poor oral hygiene leads to dental decay such as cavities. This is due to the fact that the bacteria in your mouth feed on these sugars and excrete acids as a byproduct of that process, thus causing decay. But xylitol, a sugar alcohol derived from birch or corn, actually prevents the bacteria from converting sugars into acids.

Xylitol is available in the form of gum, mints, toothpaste, and even in a granulated form much like regular cane sugar. You might consider trying some xylitol products between meals to keep your mouth clean and fresh.

2. It's not always what you eat but HOW you eat

Are you a grazer, always snacking between meals and never satisfied? We now know that this kind of eating can contribute to cavities and other oral health problems.

Every time you eat anything with carbohydrates in it, you're feeding the bacteria in your mouth, which in turn produce acids. If you're constantly eating, it doesn't allow your saliva time to bring the pH of your mouth back into a more alkaline, neutral state. It takes your saliva about 20 minutes to neutralize the acids in your mouth after eating.

It's especially easy to harm your teeth in this way with soft drinks, sipping all day long. So, it's best to avoid sugary drinks and junk food, and if you need a snack opt for healthy vegetables or what are known as "detergent foods." If you do decide to drink a soft drink or eat something sugary, have it all at once and not over the course of the day.

3. Flossing is one of the most important oral hygiene techniques

Although most of our patients are aware that they need to brush, sometimes they can get lackadaisical when it comes to flossing. And that's a big mistake. Flossing is one of the most important (and we daresay, easiest) things someone can do to help prevent cavities and tooth decay.

You see, as we've already mentioned, the bacteria in your mouth that cause cavities feed on the food you eat. So if you've got pieces of that food stuck between your teeth all day and night, every day, that's asking for a problem.

Flossing clears that bacteria-feeding food out from between your teeth. Floss daily and whenever you decide to do it, morning or night, just do it!

4. A dry mouth can lead to cavities and tooth decay

Your teeth's best defense against cavities and tooth decay is actually your saliva! We've already talked about the pH neutralizing effect saliva has. So if you find you have a dry mouth often, make sure to have some water to sip on. Or why not try some xylitol mints or gum to get your saliva production kicked into action?

5. Over-brushing can damage your enamel

If you brush like a construction worker with a jackhammer, you should ease up! Brushing too hard can scrape away at your teeth's enamel, which leaves them more susceptible to cavities and decay. Brush lightly, with your brush angled at the gum line for two minutes, twice a day. That's all that is required!

I chipped a tooth. What can I do?

September 28th, 2018

You just crunched down on a piece of hard food when you suddenly realize there is something hard still in your mouth. Your nightmare is confirmed when you retrieve a piece of your tooth from your mouth. You chipped your tooth; now what?

Obviously, the first thing you need to do is call our Branford, CT office. While we make every effort to see emergent cases immediately, you may have to wait a day or so before you can see Drs. Hacker and Finnegan. Luckily, it’s easy to take care of your chipped tooth while you wait.

How to Take Care of a Chipped

The last thing you want is for the tooth to become infected or break even more. Let’s look at a few things you can do:

  • If the chipped tooth is causing you pain take an over-the-counter pain medication, like Tylenol. Always follow the directions on the label.
  • You should also rinse your mouth with lukewarm saltwater, as this will help prevent an infection from setting in.
  • If your chipped tooth has a sharp edge, cover it up with a piece of wax to prevent it from cutting you cheek, tongue, or lip.
  • If you have to eat, make sure you eat soft foods and don’t bite down on the chipped or broken tooth.

Treatment Options for a Chipped Tooth

  • Dental Filling and Bonding – If you only have a small chip in your tooth, Drs. Hacker and Finnegan will probably fix it with a filling. If it is a front tooth, we may bond the tooth using a tooth-colored compound.
  • Dental Crown or Cap – If you broke a large piece of your tooth, we may grind the remaining part of your tooth and put a crown or cap on it.
  • Dental Veneers – If you chipped or broke your front tooth then choosing a dental veneer may be your best choice. It will make your tooth look completely normal.
  • Root Canal – If you cracked your tooth and the center (pulp) of the tooth is exposed and infected, you will need a root canal. If the center of your tooth is exposed, it becomes vulnerable to bacteria that will cause your tooth to abscess.

Chipping or breaking your tooth is never a good thing, and you should always call our Branford, CT office right away. The sooner you get your tooth repaired the less likely you are to have any problems with it.

Three Signs You May Have Gingivitis

September 21st, 2018

Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, is an early stage of gum disease. If you have gingivitis, it’s important to visit Drs. Hacker and Finnegan to get proper treatment, since home care isn’t enough to get rid of the plaque that leads to tartar and eventually to gum disease. Monitor yourself to see if you have these signs of gingivitis, and get help as soon as you can to prevent the progression to periodontitis. Your vigilance could save your teeth.

1. You have one or more risk factors.

Having risk factors for gingivitis doesn’t mean that you have or will get the disease, but it does mean that you should be especially watchful. You’re more likely to get gum disease if you have the following risk factors:

  • You are a smoker.
  • You are a female going through puberty, pregnancy, or menopause.
  • You have diabetes.
  • You have a compromised immune system, as is the case if you have HIV/AIDS.
  • You have a family history of gum disease.

2. You have inflammation in your gums.

Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums, and that is a tell-tale sign of the condition. Gingivitis or periodontitis can involve a bacterial infection, and inflammation is your body’s response to an injury or infection. The four standard signs of inflammation are pain, redness, swelling, and a higher temperature than normal.

If you have inflammation around your teeth, your gum disease may have progressed to the more serious condition of periodontitis. Drs. Hacker and Finnegan can evaluate your case using a scope, or small ruler. The ruler is used to measure the pockets around your teeth, with a depth of one to three millimeters being normal.

3. Your teeth seem to be moving around.

Loose teeth are a classic sign of periodontitis. You may also have them if you have gingivitis. They can occur when your gum line recedes, or as the result of having soft bone in your jaw.

You might also notice other signs of your teeth moving around. For example, they may seem to be oddly spaced, or they could be separating from each other. You might also notice that your partial dentures don’t fit properly anymore, even if they’re not that old.

Gingivitis is a very treatable condition, but you need the help of Drs. Hacker and Finnegan to keep it in check. Contact our Branford, CT office to schedule an exam today!