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Caring for Your Night Guard

July 28th, 2021

You might have experienced painful morning headaches. Or have a partner or housemate who begged you to please keep those grinding noises down at night. Or perhaps you were unhappily surprised to find that your teeth had mysteriously become worn, loose, or cracked.

So you made an appointment at our Washougal, WA office. And you learned that you needed a night guard designed to protect your teeth from the damage done by night time bruxism—that grinding and clenching which is hard on enamel, bad for teeth, and painful for jaws. Good work!

Your night guard prevents your teeth from making contact, saving teeth and enamel from injury. It distributes the pressure placed on your teeth, muscles, and bones when your jaws clench through the night. Bonus: it can reduce nocturnal noises caused by grinding.

Guards are available over-the-counter in general sizes, or a custom night guard can be created for you by Dr. Dave Stinchfield and Dr. Tom Stinchfield. Custom guards are uniquely fitted to your teeth and jaw, and last longer than over-the-counter models. Whichever kind of appliance you choose, daily care is a must for a long and healthy partnership.

To make sure you get the best and longest use from your night guard, there are some easy steps to keep it in top shape when it’s off-duty.

  • Keep It Clean

Plaque and bacteria can build up on your night guard just as they can on your tooth enamel. Rinse your guard in the morning and brush it gently. Ask Dr. Dave Stinchfield and Dr. Tom Stinchfield about using toothpaste, because toothpastes, especially abrasive toothpastes, can scratch your appliance. And don’t forget to clean your case!

Every week, or as directed, your night guard will benefit from a more serious cleaning. Follow the instructions for your appliance, whether it’s using cleaning tablets, a soaking solution, or another recommended cleanser. Your dentist can suggest how, how long, and how often to treat your night guard to a deep cleaning, because using the wrong products or cleaning methods can damage it.

  • Keep It Dry

Putting a damp night guard into a closed case, even a ventilated one, provides an ideal setting for bacteria growth. Before you put your guard away, give it time to air-dry on a clean surface.

  • Keep It Safe

Once your guard is clean and dry, make sure it keeps its shape and stays intact by keeping it in its clean, dry case when you’re not using it. Night guards and their cases are no fans of sun, extreme heat, very hot water, or (gulp!) dishwashers. A misshapen, melted, or broken night guard should not be used. If your night guard is damaged, it’s time to call us.

Spending just a moment or two each day caring for your night guard will result in a long-lasting appliance and many hours of healthy and comfortable sleep. Your night guard is protecting you. Be sure to return the favor for a long and healthy dental partnership.

Teeth, Bones—What’s the Difference?

July 21st, 2021

They’re often mentioned together, and that’s understandable. After all, they’re the strongest parts of the body, they’re made of many of the same elements, they both require a diet rich in vitamins and minerals to stay healthy, a pirate flag wouldn’t be the same without them–so, what makes teeth and bones different? Glad you asked!

It’s Elementary

Teeth and bones are so strong because of their mineral composition. They have the highest concentration of calcium and phosphorus in the body, and these minerals combine to create sturdy structures which support our bodies, protect our organs, and help break down and digest our food. And they work well together—healthy teeth maintain jawbone density, and healthy jaws hold our teeth firmly in place.

But there are important differences in the anatomy of teeth and bones as well. Bones contain living cells, blood vessels, and nerves. They grow larger as we grow. As we age, old bone tissue breaks down and is constantly replaced with new bone tissue. This process enables our bones to stay strong throughout our lives. And bones heal.

When you break a bone, your body begins working right away to protect and heal the damaged area. Blood cells help with clotting around the break. After a few days, collagen proteins work to replace the clotted cells and form a soft callus. Within weeks, calcium phosphate deposits strengthen the collagen framework. Over time, the bone hardens and reshapes.

And while tooth enamel is the hardest substance in our bodies—harder even than bone—it is not indestructible. Our enamel is basically composed of minerals rather than living tissue, so it can’t regenerate. The enamel covering our teeth doesn’t replace cells as they age, and it can’t create new tooth cells if a tooth is injured through damage or decay. This means that a cracked or broken tooth can’t knit itself together, and enamel lost to decay won’t grow back.

Dr. Dave Stinchfield and Dr. Tom Stinchfield can restore your smile with fillings, or crowns, or even implants if necessary, but preventing injury to your teeth is always best.

Protecting Teeth and Bones

You can make sure your teeth and bones are their safest and strongest by being proactive.

External bone injuries can be avoided with the use of proper safety equipment. Helmets, padding, work boots—if your work or play recommends protective gear, use it! Fortunately, there’s also protective gear for teeth.

  • Helmets

Helmets not only protect against brain injury and concussion, they are often designed to protect the face, mouth, and jaw as well.

  • Mouthguards

Mouthguards protect the teeth, lips, tongue, and jaw from damages caused by physical contact and falls. They’re available over-the-counter, or ask Dr. Dave Stinchfield and Dr. Tom Stinchfield to fabricate a custom guard for the most comfortable and secure fit. A custom guard is an excellent option for people with braces, bridgework, or other dental appliances.

  • Night Guards

Grinding and clenching the teeth at night can lead to loose and cracked teeth, headaches, jaw pain, and other unhappy consequences. Protect your teeth from the damage caused by bruxism (tooth grinding) by wearing a night guard.

Finally, one big difference between tooth and bone design: bones are safely hidden away inside the body, while our teeth are exposed to harmful plaque, bacteria, sugars, and acidic foods every day. Give your teeth the preventive care they deserve with twice-daily brushing, flossing, and regular visits to our Washougal, WA office. After all, your beautiful, healthy smile was never designed to be hidden!

Why Professional Cleanings are Important

July 14th, 2021

Regular dental cleanings and checkups at our Washougal, WA office are an excellent way to ensure everything is A-OK in your mouth. There’s a reason the American Dental Association recommends a professional cleaning every six months!

Here’s what you can usually expect during your visit with Dr. Dave Stinchfield and Dr. Tom Stinchfield:

  • Head and neck examination: The dentist or dental hygienist will look for anything out of the ordinary. He or she will check your lymph nodes and lower jaw joints (also known as TMJs).
  • Dental examination: The dentist or hygienist will check for any signs of gum disease, tooth decay, loose or broken teeth, or damaged fillings. We’ll also check your bite, the contact between your upper and lower teeth, and the condition of any dental appliances you’re wearing. Sometimes we’ll also take a set of X-rays.
  • Dental cleaning: Plaque and tartar will be removed and the dentist or hygienist will polish your teeth. Your teeth and gums will be flossed, and we’ll also make recommendations about proper brushing and flossing technique if we think you need them.

When you visit our Washougal, WA office regularly, we’ll be able to compare the status of your teeth and gums from one appointment to another. That ensures we will be able to tell where you’re doing great in taking care of your teeth, and if needed, where you’re doing not so well.

If you’re in need of serious help, we might recommend more frequent visits. But remember, the most important factor in your oral health is how you take care of your teeth and gums at home between appointments.

We strive to help our patients achieve and maintain radiant, healthy smiles! If you'd like to know more about exams and cleanings at our Washougal, WA office, or what you need to do at home to maintain an effective oral health routine, please let us know.

Summer Dental Health? Get into the Swim of It!

July 7th, 2021

On a sizzling hot day, there’s not much that makes us happier than heading to the water for a quick swim, some gentle laps, or even a rousing game of water polo. And this being a sizzling hot dental blog, we are happy to offer some tips on how to make your summer swim good for your dental health as well as your mental health!

  • Mouthguards

You might use your mouthguard all the time—for biking, or basketball, or skiing. But in the pool? Absolutely! Anyone who has played water polo knows what a physical workout it is. Elbows! Hard tosses! Collisions! And it’s not just pool sports. Water-skiing on the lake, surfing in the ocean—anywhere humans and solid objects are involved, tooth and jaw injuries are possible. Don’t spend valuable summer hours tending to a cracked or broken tooth as a result of sports accidents.

And, unlikely though it seems, even hanging by the pool can be hazardous to your smile. Hard concrete edges wait to greet surfacing divers. Slippery cement and tiles surrounding the pool are the downfall of many a swimmer running to jump back into the water. Be aware of possible dental dangers, and use a mouthguard as a great proactive way to avoid them.

  • Swimming Pools & Chlorine

Ah, the smell of chlorine! We all want to know that swimming pools are as clean as they can be, and one method of keeping them that way is with the addition of antimicrobials to the water. But too much exposure to chemicals can cause enamel erosion, or even a condition called “swimmer’s calculus.” Swimmer’s calculus is recognized by a hard, brownish, tartar deposit that appears on the front teeth of swimmers who spent a lot of hours in the pool. It’s a cosmetic problem, but one that’s difficult to get rid of without a professional cleaning. If you’re a competitive swimmer, or simply someone who spends many hours a week in treated water, give us a call if you notice hard-to-remove discoloration or tooth sensitivity.

  • Retainers

Different people have different opinions on whether or not your retainer should be exposed to the chlorine in pool water. (Or the salt in saltwater or the bacteria in lake water.) Ask us for ours! But you’re best off leaving it in your bag or locker, anyway, because retainers can be easily lost in the water. They might be able to survive a swimming pool, but a lake or ocean rescue is very unlikely. Just remember to put your retainer in a case, in a safe spot, and replace it when you’re out of the water for the day.

Enjoy your time on the water, and don’t forget to schedule an exam with Dr. Dave Stinchfield and Dr. Tom Stinchfield and a professional cleaning if you haven’t been in the office for a while. If you do have a dental problem or an accident, give our Washougal, WA office a call immediately. We want to make sure you dive in to summer fun with a healthy, beautiful smile!