Bath Family Dental, LLC
Bath Family Dental, LLC
Bath Family Dental, LLC
Bath Family Dental, LLC

The Why, When, How and Where of Tongue Scraping

October 25, 2017

Imagine it’s still winter … you’re standing at the door, ready to brave the cold. You’re layered-up
with three shirts and a sweatshirt, your heavy winter coat, and two layers of socks underneath
your waterproof winter boots. Then you’ve got those awesome jeans with the flannel on the
inside, your comfy hat, scarf, and gloves. You’re set! But wait. As you step toward the door, you
suddenly realize you have an itch … and it’s deep down … buried beneath all those layers. And,
try as you may, every attempt to reach that bugger-of-an-itch fails. Defeated, you realize the
only relief you’re ever gonna’ get is to remove each one of those layers. Where are we going
with this?!

The Tongue
We’re going inside your mouth, of course, to your tongue – this is a dental article, after all!
Because whether you know it or not, like you in the wintertime, your tongue is also “all covered
up” – buried beneath layers of bacteria, fungi, and food residue that can inhibit your ability to
taste, let alone cause your tongue to appear various shades of yellow, white, or green! Remove
the bacteria, though, and your food will once again directly interact with those taste buds, and
return to its natural hue. So how does one do that? With a tongue scraper, of course!

WHAT is a tongue scraper?
A tongue scraper is a U-shaped device designed to “scrape” the top layer of scum from your
tongue. They have been in use since ancient times, and have been made of everything from
wood to whalebone. Nowadays, they are made of more hygienic material, and come in a
variety of shapes, sizes, designs and colors.

WHY use a tongue scraper?
The residue on your tongue includes things like the cavity-inducing Streptococcus mutans
bacterium, fungi, rotting food (that’s not good), and what’s referred to as “volatile sulfur
compounds.” In other words, sulfur – that “rotting egg smell.” Talk about ew! So, as you can see,
there are several reasons why you’d want to get rid of this gunk in your mouth. Let’s tackle
them one by one:

  • Reduce bad breath: ‘nuff said!
  • Reduce your risk of periodontal disease and cavities: Bad bacteria contribute to plaque
    and tartar on teeth, making them more susceptible to cavities. Bacteria build-up can also lead
    to inflammation of gum tissue (gingivitis). If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontal
    disease, which means a more expensive dental visit (plus other unwanted consequences!).
    Speaking of avoiding an expensive dental visit, when was the last time you came in to see us?
    Come see us now if it’s been awhile, by calling in at 207-442-7581.
  • Make room for good bacteria: see our article here on probiotics for your mouth.
  • Prevent heart disease? While the debate is still up in the air, some studies suggest there
    could be a correlation between gum disease and heart disease.

HOW does one use a tongue scraper?
In general, make sure to rinse your tongue scraper before and after use. Apply the tongue
scraper to the back of your tongue and drag it forward. Then, rinse and repeat. Make sure to
get the sides of your tongue as well, not just the center!
Make sure not to press too hard or you can cause yourself to bleed. And, if you’re wondering if
you should scrape your tongue while recovering from a dental procedure, that’s a good
question … ask your dentist for the best advice particular to your situation. Still not sure how
this thing really works? The next time you’re in ask your hygienist for a
quick tutorial!

WHERE do I buy one?
Your first choice is, believe it or not, us! Tongue scrapers are relatively inexpensive, and can also be found at
any local drugstore. It doesn’t matter the material, color, or brand – just find the one you like
and get scraping!


What Smiling Says About You and Why You Should Do More of It

September 3, 2017

You might’ve guessed that smiling can make you happier … but did you know it also helps you live longer?

It’s true!

Smiling also helps with attraction and happiness in more ways than you may have imagined. Looking for a romantic partner, or a new job this year? Then, get ready to flash those pearly whites!
More than a century ago, philosopher Charles Darwin and scientist William James suggested we might be able to adjust our mood simply by assuming the facial expressions representative of our goal. The first step to happiness is to start smiling!

Ever since Darwin and James proposed their theories, scientists have researched and discovered some interesting side effects to smiling along the way.

  • Smiling makes you more attractive: Research suggests we’re more attracted to people who smile than those who do not. While scientists aren’t exactly in agreement as to why this may be, there’s a perception that a smiling person makes others around them relaxed and happy. Basically, your smile is contagious … and therefore welcoming.
  • Smiles boost the immune system: It’s all about the neuropeptides, they say. Smiling (and also laughing) release these neuropeptides which help reduce stress. The result is less taxation on your immune system so you can remain healthy to combat any illness or stress that may come your way.
  • Smiling enhances your mood: Smile-science has a bit of a “chicken or the egg dilemma.” Does a smile make you happy, or do you smile because you’re happy? We can assume the latter is true, but what about the former? Recall those neuropeptides we mentioned earlier? Well, according to Psychology Today, when we smile, “feel good neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins and serotonin are all released.” Your body relaxes, while your heart rate and blood pressure lower. This flood of feeling then places us in a better mood. Not bad for just crinkling up the corners of the mouth!

And, what about helping you live longer? Well, if the above three reasons aren’t enough for you, it seems, that, yes … smiling more can help you live a longer life. And the proof appears to be in the research. In 2010, a team of researchers aimed with an odd source material (The Sporting News Baseball Register), examined historical photographs of baseball players – tracking smile and life statistics throughout their lifetimes. From 1952 onward, these intrepid scientists crunched the numbers (and smiles), and discovered that, yes indeed, smiling did help these chaps live longer, healthier lives. They also remained married longer. Pretty neat, huh? You can check out a bit of the story on this fascinating study at Pacific Standard Magazine.

So, to wrap things up … we’ll leave you with this nugget of wisdom from cinema’s happiest of happy characters, Buddy, played by Will Ferrell in the feel-good Christmas film, Elf.
“I just like to smile! Smiling’s my favorite. Go forth and smile!”


Kicking the Tobacco Habit is Good for your Mouth

August 14, 2017

While the current percentage of Americans who smoke cigarettes is the lowest it’s been in decades, those who continue the habit remain at risk for heart and lung disease. Additionally, while we know smoking is also bad for our oral health, most don’t understand just how bad it is…

 More Than Just Stained Teeth

From its seemingly mild side effects (bad breath, tooth discoloration, buildup of plaque and tartar), to the more sinister (increased risk of oral cancer, loss of bone within the jaw, gum disease and any number of resulting complications) – tobacco is indeed an oral health risk.

Tobacco can cause serious health issues by breaking down the attachment of bone and soft tissue to your teeth. Because of this breakdown, the use of tobacco makes smokers much more susceptible to infection and diseases. In fact, 90% of people who have cancer of the mouth, throat, or gums admit to using tobacco in some form.

Cigarettes, cigars and pipes aren’t the only culprits; smokeless tobacco can be just as detrimental to oral health, if not worse. In fact, there are twenty-eight chemicals found in chewing tobacco alone that are proven to increase the risk of cancer in the mouth, throat, and esophagus. Chewing tobacco and snuff contain higher levels of nicotine than those found in cigarettes and other tobacco products, making it exposes the roots, and ultimately makes teeth more susceptible to decay. There have been instances where the hygienist can tell a patient uses chewing tobacco just by looking in their mouth. Our hygienists conduct an oral cancer screen at every hygiene check up appointment. Have you had an oral cancer screen?

 Help is Just Next Door

The only way to help eliminate these risks is to never start using tobacco products, or to quit if you do. In fact, simply reducing tobacco use is proven to help lower your risks. If you feel that it is time to reduce your risk of cancer, gum disease, infection and other oral complications, your dentist or doctor can help you create a plan to help you quit using tobacco, along with prescribing certain medicines or programs to help you kick the habit. Here at Bath Family Dental, programs we’ve shared with patients have helped make a difference in their lives, while helping protect their health at the same time.

Remember, it is never too late to quit. If you’re interested in getting help to quit, let us know the next time you’re in for an appointment.


5 Stages of Tooth Decay

July 6, 2017

Did you know there are five distinct stages of tooth decay? And that in the first stage of decay, you can actually take steps to reverse the progression of the disease? Indeed, it’s true. In the first stage of decay, whether you’re a child or an adult, the application of fluoride via fluoride treatments, your toothpaste and your local water supply can stop a cavity from penetrating through the enamel and reaching its second stage. Even the saliva in your mouth and the foods you eat help to re-mineralize a tooth in jeopardy. But that’s just the first stage! What about the rest? Understanding how a cavity progresses can assist you in preventing each successive stage from occurring in your children. There’s always a lot going on in that little mouth!

Stage One: White Spots

In stage one, the tooth begins to show signs of strain from the attack of sugars and acids, and white spots will begin to materialize just below the surface of the enamel. These white spots are representative of the demineralization of the tooth and can be easy to miss because they’re likely to occur on your child’s molars. A dental exam, of course, is designed to catch such cavities! Can you see why regular visits to the dentist are recommended? As mentioned previously, at this stage, the cavity can be repaired without the need to excavate the tooth.

Stage Two: Enamel Decay

Stage two marks the beginning of the end for the surface enamel that is being attacked. Initially, the tooth erodes from the underside outward, so the outer enamel will still be intact for the first half of this second stage. Once the cavity breaks through the surface of the enamel, there is no turning back, and your child will need to have the cavity corrected with a filling. This is one reason why it is important that you and your children have regular hygiene appointments.

Stage Three: Dentin Decay

If a cavity in your child’s mouth were to progress beyond stage two without you knowing, you’d tend become aware of it because it would probably start to cause some pain. At this level, the cavity begins to eat away at the second level of tooth material that lies beneath the enamel: the dentin. A filling can still be used to stop the onslaught of bacteria assaulting the tooth in order to prevent the cavity from reaching the tooth’s most critical component: the pulp.

Stage Four: Involvement of The Pulp

Once the cavity reaches the pulp, it’s going to hurt. A lot. So if you’ve unfortunately missed all the signs to this point, a screaming child or moaning teenager will certainly let you know there is a big problem. Stage four is serious, and a root canal is the only option of treatment at this stage, save for a complete extraction. Should you have a tooth that has reached this stage, Dr. Cook might do the root canal or we would work with our endodontist partner, Endodontic Associates in Brunswick, to help treat your tooth and bring you back to good health.

Stage Five: Abscess Formation

In the fifth and final stage of a cavity, the infection has reached the tip of the root and exited the tip of the tooth’s structure. This in turn infects the surrounding tissues and possibly the bone structure. Swelling would be commonplace and pain severe. In children (as well as adults) an abscess can be fatal if not dealt with immediately. Root canal or extraction would be the order of the day should decay reach this stage.  Need to see us? Give a call at 207-442-7581!

As you can see, cavities don’t happen overnight. In the early stages, regular visits can stall and reverse the progression of these dastardly little devils, so it really does pay to visit the dentist at pre-selected intervals. You can keep your kids far from stage five their whole lives, and if a little bit of prodding to get them to the dentist accomplishes that, you can rest easy despite the griping.


What You Need To Know About Crossbites

June 26, 2017

Typically, when a parent brings a young child to the dentist, the last discussion they’re expecting to have is one centered on braces and orthodontic appliances. Yet, even at ages three and four, a talk about braces, sagittal expanders, and retainers can indeed be front and center when a child is diagnosed with a crossbite. The question then is what to do about it, how soon should intervention take place, and what the complications are that can arise if nothing is done at all. Let’s get some answers.

What Exactly Is a Crossbite?

Imagine for a moment you’re sitting in front of a nice soup bowl with a wide flat brim, and inside that bowl is hearty chowder you’d like to keep warm until you’re ready to devour it. So, you grab another bowl designed exactly like the first, and hover it upside-down over the bowl containing the soup. As you slowly lower it, you try to line up the brims so when they rest together they form a nice even seal. Unfortunately, given the soup is hot, you don’t quite get the brims to line up perfectly, and the edge of the top bowl ends up resting just slightly to the left of the lip on the bottom bowl. The way these two bowls now rest unevenly atop one another is exactly what you would see in a person with a crossbite. A crossbite can affect several teeth, or a single tooth, and can occur on either one side of the mouth or both. Simply put, if any one tooth (or several teeth) lies nearer the tongue or cheek instead of coming together evenly, you’re likely dealing with a crossbite.

So, What To Do About It And When?

The dental community is split on when to initiate treatment for a crossbite, with some suggesting treatment should begin as soon as it is noticed (sometimes as early as age three), while others suggest parents should wait until a child’s sixth year molars have arrived. Despite the difference of opinion as to when treatment should begin, dentists and orthodontist are in agreement that the condition cannot be left untreated. Doing so presents a host of complications for the child later in life including gum and tooth wear, uneven jaw development that can lead to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), and facial asymmetry – something no parent or child wants.

What Does Crossbite Treatment Look Like?

Crossbite treatment generally involves adjusting the spread of a child’s teeth with dental appliances so the bite pattern matches evenly on all sides. Depending on the type of crossbite a child has, this can be done with dental expanders that resemble orthodontic retainers, and include a screw that is tightened nightly to “spread” a child’s bite to the prescribed width. Additionally, dental facemasks, braces and clear aligners may be used – particularly when a single tooth is out of alignment.

Crossbites are generally regarded as genetic in nature, and they’re not overly common. It is, however, a condition that needs to be treated before permanent damage to a child’s facial and oral development occurs. So, if you find yourself at the other end of a discussion about having your little one wear a dental expander, be sure you listen and get however many opinions regarding that advice as you require. Your child, and your wallet, will thank you long into the future.


Getting Your Mouth Ready for a Summer Vacation

June 1, 2017

Summer is about to burst onto the scene. And with it, your “free time” will turn to “busy time” as you plan, plan, plan for your relaxing summer vacation. So while you’re thinking about where you’ll go, where you’ll eat, and what you’ll see along the way, don’t forget to plan a visit to your dentist as well. Doing so can save you from the misery of a dental emergency that will surely spoil even the best planned getaway.

 The Best Plan of Action

Now, we’re sure visiting the dentist is the last thing you want to do before a relaxing vacation. Yet we’re also certain discovering a painful cavity mid-trip isn’t on the agenda either – especially if you’re going overseas. Can you imagine having to look for emergency dental care in some remote part of the world? Ouch. Truth is, a quick checkup can catch a future crisis before it ever materializes, and this is one of the beautiful things about dentistry. Imagine, for example, if you had a bone in your leg that was weak for one reason or another, and a strong impact upon that leg could cause it to break. Nine times out of ten, you would never even know you had this issue until your leg broke and you were lying in the emergency room. With dentistry, however, oral exams, x-rays and other tools allow your dentist to ferret out problems before they present themselves, and that’s why visiting prior to vacation can help.

 So, about a month prior to departure – or at least two weeks before you go – schedule a visit. Your dentist will explore your mouth for any loose crowns or teeth that could cause a problem, and identify any cavities that are close enough to the nerve to cause an abscess or pain. If you’re traveling by plane, air pressure in the cabin can cause a recently drilled tooth to be overly sensitive, so you’ll want to be certain to plan your visit at least a month ahead of time if you’re flying.
Of course, any surgery such as the removal of wisdom teeth, or a root canal should be scheduled in significant advance, and if you wear braces, you’ll want to visit your orthodontist as well.
Visiting your dentist prior to vacation might be one of the easiest things to plan this summer. You’ll depart with a fresh clean mouth, and the confidence that a sneaking dental emergency won’t be appearing in your vacation scrapbook this year. So, give us a call at 207-442-7581, we’ll be happy to send you off on the right foot!

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