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Why Dental Hygiene Visits are About More Than Clean Teeth

man gets dental cleaningThere’s no surprise that your bi-annual dental hygiene visit is about getting your teeth a deeper clean than you can get alone at home. The hygienists at our dental office in Mill Creek are dedicated to removing plaque, flossing in between each and every tooth, and polishing your pearly whites for the ultimate clean. But your visits are about more than just getting your teeth clean. In fact, they’re about much more…

Checking Out Those X-Rays

Sometimes at your cleaning appointment, you’ll receive digital, low-radiation dental x-rays that are used to see what the human eye cannot. Both your hygienist and dentist in Mill Creek will review these x-rays and check for cavities that are just forming and are still too tiny to see without the help of digital images. X-rays can also help your dental team see problems below the gum line like an abscess or bone loss in the jaw that holds your teeth in place.

Taking a Peek at Your Gums

We already know that your hygienist is taking a good, long look at your teeth during your visits, but she’s also paying quite a bit of attention to your gums. Gum health is critical to keeping mouths and bodies in their best shape. If your gums bleed when you brush or floss, you may be in the beginning stages of gum disease, which, if left untreated, can lead to other whole-body health issues including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Keeping an Eye on More Than Teeth

While your hygienist is working on cleaning your teeth, she’s not only looking for decay, cavities, or gum disease, she’s also searching for any signs of a larger concern. Since there is a correlation between oral health and several serious systemic diseases, some early warning signs of these health issues often first appear in the mouth. Your hygienist is trained to look for any areas of concern in order to catch any problems early when treatment tends to be more successful.

At-Home Care is Important, Too

One of the best ways you can keep your smile healthy in between appointments is to maintain a proper oral hygiene routine at home by brushing and flossing every day. Brushing should be done twice a day with a soft bristled toothbrush and flossing should be done once a day to remove food particles and plaque buildup from between teeth.

The team at our Mill Creek dental office wants to encourage our patients and neighbors to visit their dentist at least twice a year. And if you’re family is looking for a dentist, we always welcome you to give us a call.

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How Your Exercise Routine is Affecting Your Smile

woman exercisingLike any other member of your medical team, the team at our dental office in Mill Creek are all for exercising. There are plenty of benefits behind regularly hitting the pavement for a run, grabbing the free weights for a strength training program, or joining a gym for group classes. Whichever exercise is your go-to workout, it will increase heart rate, get the blood flowing, and will help keep your whole body healthy… including your mouth. However, when it comes to oral health and exercise, there are a few potential problems.

The Good

Before we launch into talking about a few ways exercise can damage your smile, let’s talk about all the good exercising can do. First and foremost, exercise is essential for maintaining a healthy weight, keeping your lungs and heart in tip-top shape, and is overall really great for you. When it comes to how exercise can benefit your oral health, we look to the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) which is a long-term national health study.

Researchers found that those who exercised at a moderate intensity five days a week, or at a high intensity three days a week, were at lower risk for gum disease. This is good news for both your teeth and your whole body. Gum disease usually leads to other oral health problems such as bad breath, swollen & painful gums, and even tooth loss, and has also been linked to whole-body issues including certain cancers, heart disease, and stroke. So avoiding it is best for your overall health as well as the health of your mouth.

So obviously, exercising is good for everyone for plenty of reasons. But just like how working out too much can lead to injuries, it can also contribute to decay and an increase in cavities.

The Bad

We aren’t trying to keep anyone from exercising as we believe the benefits outweigh the risks. But we do feel it’s necessary to talk about how exercising may have a negative effect on oral health so you can know what to try to avoid during your workouts.

There are two main contributors to oral health issues associated with working out. Let’s look at each one in more detail.

Sports Drinks

Sports drinks are great at helping your body recover after intense exercise. But they’re not so great for your teeth. A lot of the ingredients in sports drinks are known to cause decay and cavities. When you can, choose water during workouts or alternate sports drinks and water to limit your exposure to sugars and acidity found in most sports beverages.

Mouth Breathing

When you’re doing any sort of physical activity that causes you to breathe a bit heavier, it’s common to start breathing with an open mouth. Open mouth breathing decreases saliva production, which not only makes your mouth feel uncomfortably dry, it also makes it the ideal environment for bacteria that damage teeth to thrive.

Still have questions about how exercise can affect your smile? We welcome you to call our dental office in Mill Creek. We’ll be happy to help.

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What Exactly is Occlusion?

woman and dentist examine x-rayAt our dental office in Mill Creek, we’re often asked what certain technical dental terms mean, and we’re always happy to explain them. Which brings us to the topic of the day: Occlusion. What is occlusion? What are we looking at when we talk about it? Why does it matter? We’re glad you asked!

Occlusion Explained

Occlusion is a simply a fancy name to describe the relationship between the way your upper teeth connect with your lower teeth when you chew, bite, or clench down. More commonly, occlusion is explained as your bite.

What Are We Looking At?

When your dentist in Mill Creek is evaluating your bite, he or she is looking for any areas where the two sets of teeth don’t line up well. A healthy bite is important for proper chewing, and if a bite is “bad,” the force placed on teeth isn’t distributed evenly. This can lead to several problems and the need for restorations or long-term treatment.

How Does a Bite Become “Bad?”

There are times when people develop a bad bite as they lose their baby teeth and their permanent ones erupt. Most commonly, these are classified as overbites, underbites, or crossbites (more on these in a minute). Other individuals see a shift in their once good bite as they get older thanks to accidents, clenching or grinding, or as a result of teeth shifting when a permanent tooth is lost and not replaced.

Signs of a Bad Bite

There aren’t one or two concrete signs of malocclusion (another fancy dental term used to say bad bite). In fact, there are several symptoms that may indicate an issue including:

  • Excessive wear on tooth enamel
  • Broken or chipped teeth
  • Tooth loss
  • Head or neck pain
  • Pain in the jaw joint
  • Upper teeth that fall behind the lower teeth when the mouth is closed (underbite)
  • Top teeth that cover most or all of the bottom front teeth while biting (overbite)

If you’re experiencing any of these signs, we encourage you to call our dental office in Mill Creek. Treatment to correct a bite varies from person to person, so it’s best to evaluate your individual situation and recommend a personalized plan.

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What Your Tongue Says About Your Health

woman sticking out tongueAt my dental office in Mill Creek, we spend a lot of time getting people to open up and say, “Ah!” It’s because your oral health can tell us a lot about what is going on in the rest of your body. Did you know that your tongue can also provide some pretty interesting clues about you too?

What Are You Looking At?

Your tongue is really quite marvelous and it says a mouthful about oral and overall health. It consists of eight muscles and never ever gets tired. The tongue is constantly at work. At any given moment this super strong muscle could be doing one (or more) of the following with or without you even being aware of it:

  • Helping break down food
  • Helping you speak clearly
  • Filtering out bad germs
  • Pushing saliva down the throat (even during sleep)

What Are You Looking For?

The next time you’re in front of a mirror, go ahead and stick out your tongue. Take a long look and note what you’re seeing. Are there red or white spots? Is it dark and almost hairy in appearance? Is there any redness? What you see could say a lot about what’s going on inside your mouth and inside your whole body. It’s important to keep a keen eye on anything that’s abnormal or feels suspicious so you can let your Mill Creek dentist do a thorough examination. Here are some examples of what you might find and what it means:

  • White Patches – This could signify an overgrowth of candida (yeast) fungus. It’s common in babies and young children and is easily treated with a prescription anti-fungal rinse or pill.
  • Black/Hairy Appearance – Diabetes, a yeast infection, poor oral hygiene, or cancer therapies could be to blame.
  • White/Red Spots – These obvious spots are actually quite common. They are usually the result of worn down taste buds.
  • Redness – Illnesses like strep throat or deficiencies in B-12, folic acid, and iron can also cause this kind of irritation.
  • Bumps – Large bumps or sores on the tongue are often a sign of canker and cold sores.
  • Webbing or Stripes – This can signal a chronic oral lichen planus which is a chronic condition that occurs when your immune system is attacking cells.

Be on the lookout for anything suspicious or anything your tongue might be trying to tell you. Please call my Mill Creek dental office and let us take a look. Together we can get to the bottom of the problem and decide what treatment (if any) will get you and your tongue healthy again.

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What’s Good and What’s Bad About Bottled Water?

rows of bottled waterThese days you can’t go very far without seeing bottled water, whether you’re scanning the aisles at your favorite supermarket, cheering on your kids at their latest sporting event, or perhaps packing for a trip to your favorite vacation destination. Our dental office in Mill Creek wants you and your family to stay healthy and hydrated, which may mean drinking more bottled water. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the getting water from the bottle vs. the tap.

The Pros: Why is Bottled Water So Popular?

  1. It’s Readily Available

Bottled water is an excellent solution for having delicious drinking water anytime, anywhere. It’s portable and travels easily in briefcases, purses, gym bags, backpacks, and more. Sometimes, given your surroundings (i.e. camping or in a foreign country) it’s easier to have a bottle of water with you. It’s also able to be purchased conveniently.

  1. Easy to Store and Delicious to Drink

In the event of a disaster or other emergency, your dentist in Mill Creek knows that having bottled water on hand is definitely helpful and it can be a lifesaver depending on the circumstances. Because bottled water does not expire, it’s always a good idea to keep some stored away, just in case. Depending on the condition of your tap water, bottled H20 also tends to taste better too. This usually due, in part, to the purification process certain types of bottle water must undergo during the preparation process.

The Cons: What’s So Bad About Bottled Water?

  1. It Could Cost You More Money

Because there are so many additional necessary steps to ensure bottled water is safe to drink (purification, packaging, transporting, marketing, etc.), it can tend to be a bit more pricey than the water flowing from your tap.

  1. There Could Be Some Health Risks

Our Mill Creek dental office wants you to know about the possible health risks associated with bottled water. Did you know commercially produced bottled water does not contain fluoride, while tap water does? Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that helps keep teeth strong and healthy. It’s especially important that kids get enough fluoride for their growing teeth. Some plastic bottles also contain the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) which can seep into the water before you drink it. This risk increases significantly if your water is stored somewhere hot in direct sunlight.

We hope you learned a little bit about some of the benefits and some of the potential downfalls to drinking bottled H20! No matter what kind of water you choose either for yourself or your family, it’s always very important to stay hydrated each and every day. This helps your body function a peak performance, you feel good, and look great on the outside too! Do you have any questions about what we talked about in our blog? Give us a call or ask us your questions at your next visit!

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The Oral Health Hazards of Nail Biting

young woman biting nails studyingNail biting is a habit that can affect not only the appearance of your nails, it can also cause damage to your oral health. As with any habit, nail biting can be difficult to break, but at our dental office in Mill Creek, we’re hoping that by providing our patients some information about the dangers of nail biting, both in regards to oral health as well as overall health, we’ll be able to help encourage nail biters to quit.

Oral Health Concerns

Nail biters have a higher incidence of chipped or broken teeth, gum damage, and worn down teeth. What’s more is according to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), people who bite their nails are at increased risk for bruxism, or tooth grinding. Bruxism brings on its own host of problems like headaches, recessed gums and sensitivity, and even tooth loss. If someone is a nail biter and also wears braces, root absorption can be a real problem. Root absorption is when the tooth roots shorten, making the teeth weaker and more prone to premature tooth loss.

Whole-Body Issues

You don’t need your dentist in Mill Creek to tell you that you shouldn’t put your hands in your mouth because they’re usually loaded with germs and bacteria. Your nails are no different. Common bacteria found under nails includes both Salmonella and E. coli which can be very easily transferred into the body through nail biting. Both of these bacteria can lead to serious infectious disease and would require immediate medical attention.

Top 4 Tricks To Quit Biting Your Nails

As we’ve discussed, nail biting is a habit, and habits are hard to break. Whether you bite your nails when you’re bored, or subconsciously when you’re nervous, identifying the triggers that cause you to put your fingers to your mouth is the first step. Once you know, try the following tips to help you quit.

  • Use a nail polish (don’t worry, it’s clear) that’s designed specifically to help nail biters quit. It has a bitter flavor and can help you associate nail biting with an unpleasant taste.
  • When people bite because of stress, it’s helpful to find an alternative stress reliever. Try taking up yoga, exercise, or deep breathing to help you relax without nibbling on your nails.
  • If the kind of bacteria that tend to live in nail beds grosses you out, look at close-up images of these germs. Just prepare yourself in advance as they can be pretty nasty.
  • The longer the nails, the easier it is to bite them. Keep nails trimmed short to give you less to bite.

While you’re working on quitting, stay persistent as it may take a few tries to totally stop. If you happen to have a setback and experience any oral health damage such as a chipped tooth or gum damage, give our Mill Creek dental office a call to schedule an appointment with us. We’ll be happy to help.  

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“What’s it Mean When My Dentist Pokes My Gums and Says Numbers?”

young woman in dental chair looking upIf you’ve ever been to your dentist in Mill Creek and experienced several gentle pokes to your gums followed by hearing some numbers, you’ve had what’s called a periodontal charting. This charting is helpful when evaluating overall oral health and can give your dental team some insight to a proper treatment plan.

What’s Periodontal Charting Do?

What we do at our dental office in Mill Creek during periodontal charting is measure gum tissue around each tooth. There are six sides per tooth to measure, that’s why you’ll hear so many numbers being called out.

What Do The Numbers Mean?

During the measuring process, you’ll hear us say numbers ranging from 1 to 7, and sometimes more. These numbers reflect how deep your gum pockets are in millimeters. Anything between 1 and 3 is a good indicator that your gums are healthy. However, if you bleed during the process, your gums may be in beginning stages of a more severe problem, even if your measurements are between the target of 1 and 3. Higher measurements than 3 could be a sign of a serious concern. Explore the guidelines below to see what’s commonly interpreted from each depth.

  • 3 mm – 5mm with no bleeding: Gum pockets of this depth could indicate a likelihood of gum disease.  
  • 3 mm – 5 mm with bleeding: It’s very likely that gums with these measurements have early gum disease.
  • 5 mm – 7 mm with bleeding: Besides almost certain gum disease, bone loss and tissue damage are also possible.  
  • 7 mm+ with bleeding: Pockets deeper than 7 mm means advanced gum disease is certain. Surgical intervention may be appropriate to resolve the disease.

If your measurement are any of the above, it may be recommended that you have professional cleanings at least every 3-4 months in order to improve both your gum health and overall oral health. If they’re deeper than 7 mm, surgery may be required.

Other Signs of Gum Disease

Gum disease is a serious problem that can lead to tooth loss and has been linked to several whole-body concerns including heart disease and stroke. Besides having periodontal charting complete, you should look for other signs of gum disease like bleeding gums, chronic bad breath, or receding or tender gums.
If you notice any signs of gum disease, call our Mill Creek dental office to schedule an appointment. We’ll evaluate your overall oral health and determine the most appropriate treatment plan to get your smile in its best shape ever.

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The Oral Health Dangers of Smokeless Tobacco

oral cancer awarenessApril is recognized as Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and while many people know the risks associated with smoking tobacco, the team at our dental office in Mill Creek want to make sure our patients and neighbors know that just because smokeless tobacco is, well, smokeless, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its own fair share of risks.

Oral Cancer

The most serious concern associated with smokeless tobacco use is oral cancer. Oral cancer is a serious disease that affects the lives of nearly 50,000 newly diagnosed people every year. If not caught early, oral cancer can lead to death. While anyone can get oral cancer, tobacco use (of any kind) is the top risk factor for developing the disease.

Know the Signs

  • Pain while swallowing, chewing, or speaking
  • Changes in voice
  • A white, scaly patch on the inside of the cheek or lip
  • A lump inside the mouth or neck

If you notice any of the signs above, contact your dentist in Mill Creek to schedule an appointment as soon as you can.

Gum Recession

Chewing tobacco can also cause gums to recede, mostly because the tobacco (and everything else found in it) is left on the gums for prolonged periods of time which irritates the tissues. Once gums have receded, the tooth roots become exposed, and that’s when the problems start. Without the protection of the gums, the roots are at increased risk for sustaining damage from foods, drinks, and more tobacco. Not only does this make cavities more likely, it also tends to lead to tooth sensitivity, which can be pretty painful.

Tooth Discoloration

Thanks to the ingredients found in all forms of tobacco, specifically tar and nicotine, tobacco users tend to suffer from a yellow smile. The good news is this discoloration can be reversed through a professional smile whitening or cosmetic dentistry treatment like veneers. But if a patient continues to use tobacco after treatment, the teeth can be easily stained again.  

Regular visits to the dentist are important for everyone, but especially for tobacco users, smokeless or not. If you’re looking for a dentist, we welcome you to call our Mill Creek dental office to schedule an appointment. We’re here to help keep our patients healthy and we’re always happy to see new patients. Give us a call today.

Welcoming new patients from Mill Creek, Bothell, Everett and beyond. 

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All About Frenectomies

frenectomyFrenectomies aren’t all that common in adults, but there are specific instances when the team at our Mill Creek dental office may recommend one to an adult patient. But why exactly would a frenectomy be needed, and what is it? We’re here to talk all about frenectomies and the benefits behind getting one.

Anatomy 101

Let’s have a quick lesson on the mouth’s anatomy, specifically the thin, taut pieces of muscle called frena (frenum when referring to one). There are two of these little muscles that are the common culprits behind needing a frenectomy: the lingual frenum and the maxillary labial frenum. First, the lingual frenum is the tight piece of tissue that connects the underside of your tongue to the floor of your mouth. The maxillary labial frenum can be felt if you run your tongue under your top lip in front of your teeth. When either one of these muscular attachments affect proper function, a frenectomy may be recommended.

What is a Frenectomy?

A frenectomy is a fairly simple dental procedure that removes or shortens the frenum that’s causing trouble. First, the area is numbed for comfort. Then, your Mill Creek dentist will cut the frenum away from either the upper gum line or the base of the mouth. After sealing the cut with stitches, you should be all set. Some dentists can even perform a frenectomy with a laser, eliminating the need for stitches.

How Can a Frenectomy be Beneficial?

Benefits of a frenectomy can vary depending on which frenum is causing the trouble. A lingual frenum frenectomy is recommended if the frenum is too long and extends out too close to the tip of the tongue. When this happens, speaking, swallowing, and eating can be difficult. A frenectomy can help with all of those. This type of frenectomy is usually caught early and is typically performed on young children.

A frenectomy on the maxillary labial frenum is the procedure that’s usually reserved for those with permanent adult teeth. The most common complaint from individuals where this type of treatment is appropriate is a gap between the front two teeth. Usually, patients who are unhappy with a gap in their smile undergo orthodontic treatment, and that can help squeeze the teeth tightly together. However, once orthodontic treatment is complete, there’s a chance those two front teeth can separate once again. If this happens, it could mean the maxillary labial frenum is too long and is actually pulling those two teeth apart. A frenectomy can resolve that issue once and for all.

If you think a frenectomy may be appropriate for you, we welcome you to call our dental office in Mill Creek. We’ll be happy to help.

Welcoming new patients from Mill Creek, Bothell, Everett and beyond. 

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Words of Wisdom on Wisdom Teeth

wisdom teethGetting your wisdom teeth taken out is such a common procedure that over 90% of Americans undergo the surgery. But why is it important that these late-blooming teeth come out? Can’t they just stay in there? Well, sometimes they can, but if it’s recommended that they be removed, it’s to keep you from additional problems. At our dental office in Mill Creek, we want to make sure all of our patients understand that there are important reasons we often recommend wisdom teeth extraction.

There’s No Space!

The top reason most wisdom teeth need to be removed is the lack of room remaining in the mouth. If there isn’t enough space for the teeth to fully erupt, other teeth may shift and your bite may suffer. When problems with the bite occur, a whole host of other issues can follow including TMJ pain, headaches, neck and shoulder pain, and loose teeth.

Proper Care is Difficult

Another reason wisdom teeth need to be removed is that these teeth are waaay back there, making them difficult to care for properly. This means that your wisdom teeth are at increased risk for things like gum disease and cavities. If your wisdom teeth have already erupted, it’s important that you see a dentist so they can check for any decay or disease. If anything troublesome is found, the most logical solution may be to remove them and avoid continued issues.

Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Another problem with not having enough space for the teeth to erupt properly is that they can get stuck in the bone. This is referred to as having impacted wisdom teeth. Once the teeth are impacted, treatment tends to become more complicated, so it’s best to catch any potential problems with wisdom teeth and remove them early. If your wisdom teeth do become impacted, your Mill Creek dentist will talk to you about the most appropriate treatment to help.

The only way you should keep your wisdom teeth is if you have plenty of room, they’re healthy, and you’re able to care for them properly. If checkups at our dental office in Mill Creek show that your fully erupted wisdom teeth are becoming unhealthy, or that your yet-to-erupt teeth will not have enough room, we will probably recommend getting them removed to keep your mouth in its best, healthiest shape.  

Serving patients in Mill Creek, Bothell, Everett and beyond. 

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