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Your body works hard to convert the foods you eat into energy. You may not think twice about what you are eating – especially when it comes to grabbing an afternoon snack or sipping on a vanilla latte on your commute. But the food you put in your mouth affects more than just your waistline. The truth is, your diet has a direct effect on your overall dental health. Developing good eating habits can lead to excellent oral health free of decay and gum disease. The American Dental Association recommends avoiding certain foods that can expedite decay, such as foods high in sugar.

Did you know…

that eating a slice of pie in the afternoon could be more dangerous to your oral health than eating the same piece of pie as a dessert after dinner? According to the ADA, snacking between meals – especially on sugar-filled foods – can more rapidly lead to decay than eating the same foods with meals. If you must eat the mid-afternoon pie, reach for the toothbrush afterward. Better yet, swap the pie for a nutritious, sugar-free snack like string cheese or some baby carrots.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I change my eating habits to better my oral health?

Probably. But never start a new diet without first consulting with your physician. If you are on a special diet, be sure to speak with your dentist about the types of foods you should be eating that comply with your diet and can also optimize your oral health.

What types of changes will my dentist recommend?

In addition to avoiding sugary foods, the ADA recommends drinking plenty of water each day and avoiding snacks between meals whenever possible. It is also important to consume nutritious foods from each of the major food groups, including whole grains, vegetables, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, and fruits. Not only will you improve the health of your teeth and gums, but you may drop a pant size too!

Are there any other habits I should be adopting to improve my oral health?

Yes. You should be flossing daily and brushing twice daily using a soft-bristled toothbrush. You should also be visiting your dentist at least twice per year for oral exams and professional dental cleanings.

Brushing your teeth is probably a standard part of your daily routine, but chances are you aren’t following the American Dental Association’s guidelines for cleaning your teeth properly. The ADA currently recommends that you brush your teeth at minimum of two times each day – preferably morning and night or anytime you eat foods that contain sugar. When you brush, your toothbrush should be tilted at a 45 degree angle to your gum line. As you brush, be sure to remove debris from every surface of the teeth – including the backs of the teeth, near the gum line, and on chewing surfaces. It is also important to brush your tongue, as bacteria can accumulate there and cause malodorous breath.

Did you know…

that the type of toothbrush you use makes a difference in your oral health? The ADA recommends using a soft-bristled toothbrush with a head that is ergonomically proportioned to the inside of your mouth. Many patients erroneously believe that medium or hard-bristle toothbrushes are more efficient; but these brushes can actually cause abrasions to the teeth and gums, making them more vulnerable to decay. The ADA also recommends replacing your toothbrush about four times yearly or whenever the bristles become frayed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I change my brushing habits?

You may need to change your brushing habits if you are experiencing signs of poor oral hygiene. Examples of common symptoms include bleeding or reddened gums, excessive plaque build-up, decaying teeth and receding gum lines. To find out if you are brushing correctly or if you need to change your brushing habits, make an appointment with your  dentist for a full consultation.

What should I expect if I begin brushing my teeth correct?

The benefits of proper tooth brushing techniques may not be experienced immediately, but they are noticeable long-term. Over time, brushing too hard or not brushing enough can produce oral health complications that cannot be reversed and require special treatment. By adopting proper brushing habits, you could avoid expensive dental bills in the future.

Is there anything else I need to do in addition to brushing properly?

Yes. It is important that you also floss daily and use toothpaste that contains fluoride each day. You should also schedule dental exams and professional cleanings in at least twice per year.

Preventative dentistry is about more than just visiting your dentist twice yearly for an exam and thorough cleaning. In fact, the majority of your preventative care is done at-home as a part of your normal hygienic routine. Many residents use manual toothbrushes to remove debris and plaque from their teeth. However, electric brushes have become widely popular in recent years, leaving some to wonder whether one type is better than the other.

Did you know…

the American Dental Association does not lean toward one type of brush over the other? It does, however, acknowledge that people with upper body mobility restrictions may better benefit from an electric toothbrush instead of a manual brush. Regardless of which type you decide is right for you, the ADA recommends that all brushes be soft-bristled so as to avoid abrasions that can lead to decay and receding gum lines.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which toothbrush should I be using?

You can effectively brush your teeth with either a manual toothbrush or an electric one. However, the rapid movements of motorized versions may be more effective at removing plaque from the teeth and gum line. If you have questions about which toothbrush is best for you, speak with your dentist about it at your next visit. He or she may recommend an electric brush with an oscillating head or a brush that includes a timer to let you know how long to brush.

What types of results should I be getting from by toothbrush?

Regardless of whether you choose an electric brush or a manual brush, it should be easy for you to maneuver in your mouth and behind your back teeth. If the head is too big, it may not be effectively removing plaque from your teeth.

My electric toothbrush was expensive. Do I need to change it as often as a manual brush?

Yes. Your toothbrush should be replaced at least once every three to four months or whenever you notice fraying. However, most electric toothbrushes come with interchangeable heads. In other words, you won’t need to replace the entire device – only the brush itself.

Fluoride is a naturally occurring element that has been shown to help strengthen teeth in children and also prevent decay in people of all ages. Topical fluoride, in particular is helpful for promoting oral health. The American Dental Association has publicly endorsed the use of fluoride for the prevention of dental caries, as has the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association.

Did you know…

that you might be drinking fluoride every day without knowing it? Many communities add fluoride to the public water supply in an effort to promote better dental health. You can find out if there is fluoride in your tap water by contacting your local water utility. Keep in mind that if your primary source of drinking water is bottled, you may not be getting fluoride. You can contact your bottle water company or manufacturer to find out if fluoride is in your water. If not, speak with your dentist about getting professional fluoride treatments.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need fluoride treatments?

You may need fluoride treatments if your drinking water is not fluoridated or if you are experiencing certain symptoms, such as receding gums. Fluoride treatments can also provide oral support and prevent decay if you wear orthodontic braces or are taking medications that cause dry mouth.

What should I expect during fluoride treatments?

Fluoride treatments are painless and can be administered in your dentist’s office at your twice-yearly check-ups and cleanings. Your dentist will distribute fluoridated gel, foam or varnish into a tray and place it over your teeth. The treatment takes only a few minutes and is only required between one and four times per year.

Is there anything I can do to supplement my fluoride treatments?

Yes. The ADA recommends supplementing your fluoridated drinking water or fluoride treatments with a fluoridated toothpaste.

Preventative care is a foundation of dentistry. The American Dental Association recommends visiting your dentist regularly – usually about twice yearly – for full cleanings, examinations, and consultations for potential treatment. Professional dental cleanings help remove built-up plaque that is not removable using conventional brushing and flossing. Often, dentists are also capable of identifying potential problems that patients are not yet able to see or feel. When you maintain regular preventative dental appointments, you can stave off decay and gum disease, as well as identify the beginnings of oral health problems before they become severe.

Did you know…

that Americans are less and less likely to visit the dentist as they age? Data from the Centers for Disease Control reports that only 57 percent of Americans over age 65 visited the dentist in 2010. That compares to about 61 percent adults under age 65 and about 79 percent of children ages 2 to 17. Nonetheless, it is important to visit the dentist for cleanings and exams regardless of how long has passed since your most recent dental appointment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I really need to have my teeth professionally cleaned?

Yes. Even if you brush and floss after every meal and before bed, bacteria-harboring plaque can accumulate in the tiniest crevices, grooves and pits. Overtime, the teeth will begin to decay in those areas, which may result in pain and partial or total tooth loss.

What should I expect at my cleaning and exam consultation?

Your cleaning and consultation will consist of a visible examination of the teeth and gums. If you haven’t been to the dentist in a while, you may also require x-rays for a more comprehensive view of your teeth. You’ll also consult with your dentist about any oral health problems you may have been having or questions that you may have. The cleaning will follow, during which a dental hygienist will use special instruments to remove hardened plaque from your teeth. Finally, your teeth will be polished before your dentist discusses any treatment recommendations he or she may have for you.

What types of guidelines should I follow after my visit?

In between dental cleanings and consultations, be sure to maintain good oral habits at home. This includes daily flossing and brushing after meals. It’s also important to drink fluoridated water and use a fluoridated toothpaste.

For years, dental x-rays have been used to diagnose oral health complications and detect decaying or damaged teeth. X-rays provide a unique view of the mouth that isn’t possible with a visual exam alone. When x-rays are taken, the teeth and bones absorb the majority of the ray, making them highly visible on film or on a screen. Nearly all new dental patients are x-rayed, although you may instead request that previous x-rays be transferred from another dental provider to your new dentist. By comparing your x-rays with your full mouth examination and dental history, your dentist can prescribe effective treatment and recommend a plan for preventative care.

Did you know…

that dental x-rays deliver very low levels of radiation and are considered completely safe? In fact, x-rays are even considered safe during pregnancy and while breastfeeding so long as a leaded apron and collar are used to protect your body from exposure. If you are pregnant or think you may be, tell your dentist so proper precautions can be taken.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I get dental x-rays?

Yes. Dental x-rays are capable of identifying tooth decay and damage beneath the surface of the teeth where caries are less visible during an examination. Furthermore, x-rays provide a reference point for the progression of decay in your mouth over time. You should have x-rays taken on a regular basis, but especially if you are experiencing oral health complications or are planning to undergo a dental procedure, such as a root canal.

What should I expect when I get dental x-rays?

Getting traditional dental x-rays can take several minutes. A thick paper tab is placed into the mouth, which you will be asked to bite down on. Most patients find that dental x-rays are completely painless and do not inflict any level of discomfort. In some cases, dentists intraoral x-rays, as well as extra-oral x-rays that snap images of the face, jaw and skull. Extra-oral x-rays are typically used to identify impacted teeth, such as wisdom teeth.

What happens after my dentist has taken x-rays?

Your x-rays will be saved either on film or digitally. In the future, your dentist may request additional dental x-rays every few years to monitor the health of your teeth, gums and jaw over time. If you are considered to be high risk for oral disease or are exhibiting symptoms of complications, your dentist may prefer to take x-rays more frequently.

A bite guard is a dental appliance custom-fit to a patient’s teeth. Bite guards serve varying purposes and are often recommended for use in patients of all ages. It is important that bite guards be professionally fit, rather than purchased over the counter, as this ensures maximum comfort and protection during wear. Professional dental guards are usually prepared in a dental lab using an oral impression taken in a dentist’s office. These guards are created uniquely to each patient to prevent discomfort, slippage or inadequate protection. There are many reasons why a dentist would prescribe a mouth guard to a patient. They include:

Did you know?

Caring for a dental bite guard is simple. You’ll need to rinse it before and after every usage using a soft-bristled toothbrush, toothpaste and cold water. From time to time, cleanse it with cold water and a mild soap. When not in use, store your mouth guard in a hard, ventilated container and keep it away from hot temperatures that could cause your guard to warp.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a bite guard?

You absolutely need to be fit for a custom bite guard if you participate in sports or activities that put your oral health at risk. These guidelines also apply to children, who often play sports like football or participate in activities like martial arts, which can cause tooth-related injuries. You may also need a bite guard if your dentist diagnosis you with bruxism, or tooth-grinding. Over time, grinding or clenching the teeth can lead to wear and irreversible damage. Sleeping with a bite guard can protect the teeth from these unwanted side effects.

What should I expect when being fit for a dental bite guard?

Being fit for a bite guard is simple. You’ll visit your dentist, who will take an impression of your teeth and send it off to a dental laboratory. The lab will carefully construct a durable and comfortable new bite guard that you can pick up at your dentist’s office in just days.

Will I need to return to my dentist after getting my new bite guard?

Yes. Although custom bite guards are made of durable materials and designed to last through many uses, they do need to be replaced from time to time. Keep an eye on your bite guard, checking it frequently for wear. Also, bring it with you to your normal dental cleanings and check-ups for a professional inspection. Be sure to tell your dentist if your bite guard no longer offers an optimal fit or if it has become uncomfortable to wear.

Dental sealants are clear coatings applied to the surfaces of a child’s molars to prevent the development of tooth decay. They work by preventing food and plaque from resting in the grooves and crevices of molars – an area especially susceptible to cavities. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, nearly 1 in 3 U.S. children ages 6 to 12 currently have sealants on their teeth.

Did you know…

that sealants can last as long as 5 to 10 years pediatric dental patients? Depending on a child’s oral development and risk factors for tooth decay, sealants may be applied to the teeth as young as age 6. It is at this time that the first molars typically appear. Additional molars erupt at approximately age 12. If possible, sealants should be applied to a child’s teeth immediately after any molar has appeared to reduce the risk of early decay.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will dental sealants affect the feel or appearance of my child’s teeth?

Sealants bond directly to the teeth, where they harden to a clear or tooth-colored coat. This makes them virtually undetectable to others. Though it is normal to feel new sealants with the tongue, most children quickly adapt to their presence.

What will my child experience when getting sealants?

The process of getting sealants is fast and painless. The tooth is cleaned before the dentist paints the sealant onto the enamel. The sealant will immediately harden, acting as a barrier between bacteria and the chewing surface of the teeth. In most cases, sealants will last several years before needing to be reapplied. However, regular visits to the dentist will be necessary to monitor the condition of the sealants and examine their effectiveness.

Will sealants prevent all cavities?

While sealants are extremely effective for preventing tooth decay in children, they do not replace other forms of preventative oral health care. Children should still brush and floss each day using a fluoridated toothpaste. Regular dental exams and a balanced diet low in sugar are also essential for good long-term oral health.

Digital x-rays are a more streamlined way of taking dental radiographs. Like traditional x-rays, digital versions provide an in-depth view of the structures of the mouth, helping dentists detect complications and develop effective modes of treatment. Digital x-rays are capable of revealing hidden caries, bone erosion, and even tooth decay hiding beneath restorations.

Requiring less radiation and no film to process, digital x-rays have become the standard for oral imaging. These systems produce instant digital images that can easily be enhanced and enlarged for a more accurate diagnosis. The images are captured, stored, and even transmitted via in-office computers. In fact, dentists can easily print or email copies of x-rays in just seconds.

Dental x-rays make for a better and more efficient patient experience. Office visits are faster, patients are exposed to less radiation, and radiographs can be sent to a specialist for review in a fraction of the time necessary for traditional film x-rays.

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