Common Dental Problems for People Over 50

over 50There’s a common misconception that as we age, it’s inevitable that we’ll also lose our teeth. At our Fairfax dental office, we’d like to squash that belief and give our older patients some good news. Research from the American Dental Association (ADA) concludes that Americans are keeping their teeth longer than ever before. While that’s great news, it’s important to know that the longer we keep our teeth, the more aware we need to become of some issues that are more prominent in those over 50.

Oral Cancer

Affecting nearly 45,000 Americans each and every year, oral cancer is a very serious concern that, if not treated proactively, could lead to death. While anyone can be affected by oral cancer, some risk factors that increase its likelihood include smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and yes, age. Oral cancer rates have shown to increase in those over 50, and is most common in those between 60 and 70.

Gum Disease

Another serious problem, gum disease has been shown to not only affect the mouth, but the rest of the body as well. Research has demonstrated a positive connection between gum disease and heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer. This is concerning for the older population because 30% of those over the age of 50 have advanced gum disease.

Dry Mouth

A dry mouth is an unhappy mouth and usually means there’s not enough saliva production. Saliva is important to a healthy mouth since it helps wash away bacteria and keep teeth strong. Without it, teeth are at increased risk for attack. This is a concern for everyone, but more so for people 50+. Many times dry mouth can be a result of medication, and as we age, the use of medicine is more prevalent. Make sure to talk with your dentist about all the medications you take.

These common problems can all cause tooth loss if not caught and treated early. The best way to do your part to help keep your teeth healthy for as long as possible is to make sure to visit your dentist in Fairfax twice a year and maintain proper oral hygiene at home.  

If you’re worried that you may have any of the issues discussed, even if you’re not 50, we recommended scheduling an appointment with our Fairfax dental office as soon as possible. We’ll discuss your concerns and determine the best treatments to help you keep your teeth healthy for as many years as possible.

Accepting patients from Fairfax, Oakton, Herndon and beyond.

Gluten Sensitivity & Oral Health

glutenMany people choose to eat a gluten-free diet, but there are some individuals who don’t have a choice. Those with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity become seriously ill when gluten is consumed, so they avoid it as much as possible. Predominantly, celiac disease affects the gastrointestinal tract, but at our Fairfax dental office, we know it can also be dangerous to oral health.

What is Gluten?

In short, gluten is a mixture of proteins that are found in rye, wheat, and barley. It helps food stay together and keep their shape. Many foods, drinks, and even condiments contain gluten, although gluten-free alternatives are on the rise.

The Effects of Gluten on Oral Health

When someone with a gluten intolerance eats something containing gluten, their immune system reacts abnormally and doesn’t allow the absorption of certain vitamins, including vitamin D. This is concerning for teeth because vitamin D helps build strong enamel. Without vitamin D and without the protection of enamel, teeth are left exposed to decay and other oral health problems. According to a study by the European Journal of Internal Medicine, 85% of those with celiac disease have enamel damage. What’s even more concerning is that once enamel is gone, it doesn’t come back.

Other Oral Health Concerns

Enamel loss due to a lack of vitamin absorption is only one concern for gluten-sensitive people, although a pretty big one. Additional oral health concerns due to gluten ingestion include:

  • Chronic canker sores
  • Swollen, red gums
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Teeth that are thin or look transparent
  • Pitting in the teeth
  • Misshapen teeth

What Can You Do?

If your teeth have lost the protection of their enamel, they’re discolored or misshapen, or are at risk for falling out, whether due to celiac disease or not, there are ways to help. Dental implants can restore missing teeth permanently, cosmetic dentistry can transform tooth shape or color, and restorative treatments can bring teeth back to health and strength. Contact your dentist in Fairfax  to discuss which options may be best for you.

Accepting patients from Fairfax, Oakton, Herndon and beyond. 

What to do About a Toothache

toothacheThere’s nothing quite like the discomfort of a toothache. While the pain could be because of something small like a cavity, it could also be something serious like gum disease or infection. Whatever the reason may be, it’s important to call our Fairfax dental office as soon as possible so we can determine what’s happening and the best way to fix it. But what do you do if you get a toothache and can’t get to your dentist immediately?

At-Home Relief

If your toothache happens when you’re nowhere near your dentist, or on a weekend when they aren’t open, don’t panic. There are some ways you can ease toothache pain until you can schedule an appointment.

  • Cold Compress. Take a gel ice pack or a frozen pack of peas, wrap it in a shirt or towel, and gently hold it to the outside of the mouth near where it hurts. The cold helps reduce swelling and less swelling means less pain.
  • Salt Water. Rinse your mouth with warm salt water, focusing on the painful area. Don’t swallow it! Salt water naturally pulls any liquid in the area away, relieving pressure on the nerves and easing pain.
  • Floss. Gently wiggle floss in between your tooth and up into the gum line. This can help dislodge any pieces of food that may be wedged tightly in the crevices, which may be causing the toothache.
  • Antiseptic. Buy an over-the-counter antiseptic with benzocaine and apply it directly on the tooth and gum. The benzocaine numbs the area, giving you temporary relief.

Never Get a Toothache Again!

Well, we may have exaggerated a bit. While there’s no way to completely guarantee you won’t ever get another toothache, there are things you can do to greatly reduce your chance of one. First, make sure you’re brushing twice a day and flossing everyday. Good oral hygiene at home is half the battle in keeping your mouth healthy and free of toothaches. Next, see your dentist in Fairfax twice a year. Dental cleanings and exams every six months help catch any decay or other toothache-causing culprits before they have a chance to become painful.

Our Fairfax dental office is here to help you in case you do get a toothache. But we’re also here to help you avoid it in the first place with preventive dentistry and gentle treatments for any problem we may find. Whether you’re struggling with toothache pain now, or it’s been awhile since you’ve seen a dentist, call us to schedule an appointment today.

Accepting patients from Fairfax, Oakton, Herndon and beyond. 

The Effect of E-Cigarettes on Oral Health

E-cigThere’s a fairly new alternative to traditional smoking without the side effects of stinky clothes and bad breath. E-cigarettes, also known as vaping, has gained in popularity since first appearing the U.S. in 2007. Some use e-cigarettes as a method to help quit smoking. Others just pick up the habit having never been a smoker before. But at our Fairfax dental office, we wanted to know if these electronic cigarettes are safe, or if they pose similar, or worse, threats to oral and overall health. So we researched it, and here’s what you need to know.  

What We Know

Unfortunately, we don’t know much about the potentially harmful side effects of smoking e-cigarettes. Even though they’ve been selling like crazy and are becoming so widely used that some places of business had to put up signs stating they’re prohibited, research regarding their safety is limited.

Some of the research that has been done on the effects of e-cigs and oral health found both some positives and some negatives. The positives of using e-cigarettes as opposed to regular cigarettes include no bad breath, no plaque calcification, and no yellowing of teeth. However, the risk for periodontal disease is still there. Nicotine has a tendency to reduce blood flow to the gums, and without proper blood flow, the mouth’s ability to fight off bacteria diminishes and the likelihood of gum disease increases. There’s also been reports of pneumonia, rapid heart rate, congestive heart failure, and airway resistance.

E-cigarettes have claimed to be a successful way to quit smoking, and we can understand why they’re an attractive alternative to tobacco-filled cigarettes. They have the nicotine craved by smokers, yet fewer byproducts. However, studies contradict the effectiveness of e-cigs as a smoking cessation method. For example, one study concluded that e-cigarettes helped current smokers reduce the amount of cigarettes they smoked by about half, while another suggested that smokers who use e-cigs are 59% less likely to quit. Before you decide to use e-cigarettes as an aid to quit smoking, consider trying another option such as:

  • Limiting yourself to a certain number of cigarettes a day, then continue to decrease over time.
  • Try using a nicotine replacement that’d been approved by the FDA.
  • Research different ways other people have quit. You can start by visiting the American Lung Association.

If you’re a smoker, we encourage you to try quitting for both your oral health and your overall health. We also recommend seeing your dentist in Fairfax every six months so that if a problem like oral cancer or gum disease does arise, it will be caught and treated early.

Accepting patients from Fairfax, Oakton, Herndon and beyond.

How Can You Tell if You Need a Root Canal?

root canalYour tooth hurts. A lot. But what does it mean? Whenever there is tooth pain, it’s your body’s way of telling you something isn’t right. Tooth pain could be a sign of any number of things including decay or a chip or break. But sometimes, tooth pain could be a sign that you may need a root canal. Our Fairfax dental office can help you determine if that’s the case.

Signs You May Need a Root Canal

We’ve already established that there’s pain involved. Oftentimes a lot of it. But just because there’s pain doesn’t automatically mean you need a root canal. The pain is usually different than other types of tooth pain and it’s likely accompanied by other symptoms including:

  • Gum pain and swelling
  • A pimple-like bump on the gums by the painful tooth
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Worse pain when chewing or applying pressure
  • Hot/cold sensitivity that doesn’t go away once the food or drink is removed

What’s Done During a Root Canal?

If you are experiencing the symptoms above, you will probably need to get a root canal. Don’t worry. Even though the root canal process has a bad reputation of being extremely painful it actually helps relieve the pain caused by deep infection or decay. But what does that even mean? Let’s walk through the process.

  • Your dentist in Fairfax will first numb the area to limit any possible discomfort
  • Once the numbing agent takes effect, a tiny hole will be made in the tooth.
  • The dental team will then access the pulp chamber located inside the tooth. The pulp chamber is where the actual canals are. Nerves, pulp, and blood vessels are found inside those canals.
  • All of the canal contents are thoroughly cleaned out then the pulp chamber and canals are sealed.
  • Finally, the tooth is capped with a restoration which is usually a dental crown.

Reduce Your Risk

There are two things you can do to minimize your risk for needing a root canal. First, make sure you brush and floss every single day. This helps remove bacteria that can lead to decay. Second, always get a dental cleaning every six months. This cleaning is more thorough and removes more stuck on plaque than what you can do at home.

If you do think you need a root canal, don’t wait around for the pain to go away on its own, because chances are, it won’t. Instead, call our Fairfax dental office to schedule an appointment as soon as you can. We’ll check out what’s going on and determine if in fact a root canal is the most appropriate treatment for you.

Accepting patients from Fairfax, Oakton, Herndon and beyond.

So Many Toothpaste Options! Find Out Which is Right for You

toothpastesYou go to the supermarket in search of a toothpaste that not only freshens your breath, but also protects your teeth. In the healthcare aisle, you’re assaulted by boxes and boxes of multicolored toothpastes in a variety of flavors. How do you know which one to choose? Our dental office in Fairfax can help you find which is right for you.

For a Whiter Smile…

Foods, drinks, age, and some habits can all contribute to a dull, dingy, or even yellowish smile. Sometimes, a whitening toothpaste can take the edge off of discoloration. The most effective whitening toothpastes contain mild abrasives that contain magnesium carbonate or calcium carbonate. If your whitening toothpaste isn’t quite giving you the boost you’re looking for, veneers or a professional whitening treatment can help.

For Extra Cavity Protection…

Some people tend to get more cavities than others. If this is the case for you, make sure your toothpaste has fluoride (tip: most do). Fluoride is a natural occurring mineral that coats teeth and helps keep damaging bacteria off.

For Those Who Are Sensitive…

When we say sensitive, we aren’t talking about emotions. We’re talking about those who have sensitive teeth and experience pain when heat or cold are introduced into the mouth. As long as cavities or a root infection is ruled out, chances are those who suffer from sensitivity are brushing too hard or with a toothpaste that’s too abrasive. If you fall into the sensitive category, look for a toothpaste with ingredients like strontium chloride or potassium nitrate, both of which can help desensitize your teeth or gums.

Look for the ADA Seal of Approval

Toothpastes that earn the ADA (American Dental Association) seal of approval have been tested and the ingredients were shown to do what the box says they’ll do. So no matter if you’re looking for a sensitivity blocker, cavity fighter, or tooth whitener, make sure to scope out that seal before making a purchase.

Although that toothpaste aisle can seem intimidating with its rainbow boxes of possibilities, there is a toothpaste for everyone. Your dentist in Fairfax can help determine your specific needs and recommend a toothpaste that fits your oral health goals. Just make sure that you use it each and every time you brush — which should be twice a day.

If you’re not sure you’re using the right toothpaste for you, or you’re looking to schedule your next dental cleaning and exam, call our Fairfax dental office. We’ll be happy to help.

Accepting patients from Fairfax, Oakton, Herndon and beyond.

Attention Men: Why Are You Avoiding Your Dentist in Fairfax?

menThe benefits of regular dental exams and cleanings are applicable to everyone from women and men to children. Yet, according to research, American women are ⅓ more likely to get preventive dental care than men. At our Fairfax dental office, we wanted to know more about our male patients, and even those who we may not yet have the pleasure of knowing, so we explored a few reasons why men seem to avoid going to the dentist.

The Academy of General Dentistry surveyed several dentists and asked them why men tend to forego regular dental visits. The results include:

  • 18% blamed busy schedules
  • 30% said men are more embarrassed or afraid to go to the dentist
  • 45% believed men don’t see a need to visit the dentist

We found a few other reasons, too. Men tend to avoid preventive dental care and rather just go to the dentist when there is a problem, even though the problem itself may have been avoidable through regular dental cleanings and exams. Additionally, societal norms insinuate that men should “tough it out,” and visiting a doctor may be perceived as a sign of weakness (which, for the record, isn’t a weakness, it’s smart).

Why Are Regular Dental Appointments Important?

Visiting the dentist at least twice a year is crucial to maintaining a healthy mouth and a healthy body. Many oral health problems affect overall health, and if not caught and treated early, some of these issues can be severe. Scheduling and keeping appointments with your dentist in Fairfax can help keep these serious, scary problems away or at least catch them before they have a chance to affect the rest of the body. Some of these concerns include:

  • Oral cancer that can affect the lips, tongue, throat, and cheeks
  • Gum disease which can increase the risk for heart disease
  • Sleep apnea which commonly leads to high blood pressure

Besides keeping your mouth and body healthy, dental appointments can also be used to discuss anything about your smile that you may not like. If you’re embarrassed to smile or are missing teeth, there are plenty of options available to get you a smile you’re confident of including whitening, veneers, dental implants, bridges, and so much more.

If you know a man in your life who has been avoiding dental care for whatever reason, we encourage you to to have him call our Fairfax dental office to schedule an appointment. Even if he hasn’t seen a dentist in years, we don’t guilt trip our patients. In fact, we celebrate the important things — the fact he made an appointment and is taking the right steps towards better health.

Accepting patients from Fairfax, Oakton, Herndon.

Other Uses for Toothpaste

toothpasteWhen we think of toothpaste, we obviously think of the main purpose… to clean the teeth. That is what it’s designed for, after all. But at our Fairfax dental office, we always hear of other uses for toothpaste, and while we haven’t tried them all, we still thought it’d be fun to share them with our patients.

  • De-Fog a Mirror. After a relaxing, hot shower, the bathroom tends to resemble a steam room with fog everywhere. And the mirror is no different. This can be a pain if you need to get ready fast and nothing you do seems to make it clear enough to see as well as you’d like to. We may have a solution. People have credited the use of toothpaste for a clear, fog-free mirror. True? Maybe. Worth a shot? Absolutely. Just apply some toothpaste to the mirror and wipe it down prior to turning on the shower water. Legend has it when you step out of the shower, the mirror will be clear.  
  • De-Stink Hands. Cutting garlic, onions, or other exceptionally potent food can leave your hands pretty stinky, sometimes for what seems like days. No matter how often you wash them, no matter what fantastically fragrant soap you use, the stench lingers. Some foodies insist that toothpaste can rid your fingers of smells from last night’s dinner preparations. Slather some toothpaste on your hands, scrub together, rinse off. Then let us know if this worked for you.
  • De-Spot Your Faucet. Gunk from spit, residue from soap, and who knows what else may be lurking on your sink faucets, giving them that spotted appearance. Sometimes people can’t seem to remove the spots completely for a sleek, shiny clean. However, the word on the street is that if you wash the faucet with toothpaste, you just may be able to get that pristine clean finish. Apply it with a clean cloth, gently scrub, and thoroughly wipe away.

If you’re up to trying any of the above, let us know if you have success, but make sure to always leave enough toothpaste in the house to use for its intended purpose — brushing your teeth. We recommend brushing at least twice a day to keep your mouth free of cavities. That, paired with regular dental cleanings and exams with your Fairfax dentist, is the best recipe to avoid the need for dental treatments like crowns, fillings, root canals, or onlays.

If it’s been awhile since you’ve been in to visit, or if you’re in need of a new dentist, call our Fairfax dental office to schedule an appointment today.

Welcoming patients from Fairfax, Oakton, and Herndon .

Can The Way You Stand Affect Your Oral Health?

postureHave you ever had your grandmother tell you to “put your shoulders back, stand up straight, don’t slouch?” Well, at our Fairfax dental office, we think you should listen grandma’s advice not only for your posture’s sake, but also for your oral and overall health.

Posture & Overall Health

Every part of the body is linked to another. So when one gets thrown out of its ideal position, the rest follow. For example, many of us sit or stand with our heads too far forward, throwing off the symmetry of the rest of the body, including the jaw, neck, and shoulders. This causes strain on muscles and forces the shoulders forward and the jaw backward. When this happens, the bite falls out of its ideal, comfortable positioning and result in several issues like TMJ disorder, broken or worn down teeth, and even migraines.

How to Know if Your Posture is Affecting Your Oral Health

Listen to your body. If you’re in pain, something isn’t right. If you start to have changes in muscle fatigue or soreness, there may be a problem. If you notice any of the signs below, it’s time to call your Fairfax dentist.

  • Jaw or neck pain
  • Headaches
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Unexplained worn teeth

Take the Test

If you aren’t sure how your posture is, take one of these easy tests to find out.

The Mirror Test – Use a full-length mirror to check out your own posture. Start facing the mirror and look for the following:

  • Level shoulder height
  • Even hips
  • Front-facing kneecaps
  • Parallel ankles

If you’re seeing all of those qualities, your posture is spot on.

The Wall Test – Stand with your back towards a wall and place your head against it. Move your heels about six inches apart and place your buttocks on the wall. Use your hand to check the distance between the wall and your neck, and the wall and your lower back. If the gap is about an inch or two, you’ve been listening to grandma and standing up straight.

If you think you may be suffering from a bad bite, whether caused by your posture or not, schedule an appointment at our Fairfax dental office. We’ll check it out and find the best solution to get you comfortable again.

Welcoming patients from Fairfax, Oakton, Herndon.

“There’s What On My Toothbrush?!”

on my toothbrushWhen we brush our teeth, we’re doing it to remove germs, food particles, and bacteria. It’s one of the most important steps towards a healthy smile. But what would you say if we told you that you may be cleaning your mouth with a not-so-clean device? At our Fairfax dental office, we know some scary stuff can live on toothbrushes. And although they’re incredibly gross, we want to make sure you’re aware of what can be lurking on your bristles, and how to reduce your risk of them.

E. Coli (Warning, this is really disturbing, but also really important)

Most of us keep our toothbrushes in the bathroom, because, well that’s where we brush our teeth. But we also do other things in the bathroom that can influence the cleanliness of your toothbrush. For example, if you store your toothbrush in an open area within five or six feet of your toilet, there’s a chance there may be some fecal matter particles on your toothbrush (we told you it was gross). Fecal matter can contain dangerous bacteria like E. Coli, and if ingested it could make you really sick.

Streptococcus Mutans

What in the world is that, you ask? Well, it’s super-technical name for the bacteria that causes tooth decay, so it’s not really a surprise that it’d be on your toothbrush. However, it’s still pretty disgusting to think about, not to mention potentially counterproductive. If we brush our teeth to remove bacteria like Streptococcus Mutans, yet allow it to stay on our toothbrushes post-brushing, the next time we try to clean our mouths, we’re technically putting the bacteria right back in.

Toothbrush Care Tips

Help keep your toothbrush clean by following these tips.

  • Rinse, Replace, Repeat. Thoroughly rinsing your brush every time you’re done brushing helps rinse away harmful germs and bacteria, keeping your brush clean and ready to do its job. Replacing your toothbrush every three to four months also helps decrease the risk of gross stuff piling on.
  • Don’t Share. Sharing toothbrushes with another person or even allowing them to touch during storage can allow germs to be transferred from one person to another. This can lead to infection or make someone get sick.
  • Store it Safely. Keeping your brush upright in a clean, dry location is ideal for reducing the chance of bacteria living on your bristles. It’s not recommended to keep a toothbrush in a sealed container or cover the bristles with a cap. Enclosing your toothbrush while it’s still damp creates a moist environment, and bacteria thrive in moisture.

At our Fairfax dental office, we’re here to keep our patients healthy — not just their mouths, but their whole bodies. Following the tips above can help reduce your risk of some serious whole-body disease, and give you a healthy smile.

Welcoming patients from Fairfax, Oakton, Herndon