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‘Tis the Season—for Healthy Dental Choices!

December 2nd, 2020

It might be the most wonderful time of the year, but if you’re dashing through the snow to an emergency dental appointment, you’re not feeling very jolly. And post-holiday, no one wants to start off their New Year’s Resolutions with “Get Cavities Filled.” How to survive the sweetest of seasons with enamel and fillings intact?

Candies and sweets would normally be on the naughty list, but we’re not Scrooges! Indulging in a treat or two is part of the holiday fun, and we have some advice for how to enjoy them guilt-free. But first, some treats are definitely more naughty than nice. Which are the ones that are better as decorations than desserts?

  • Candy Canes

If you’ve ever suffered a chipped or cracked tooth after an innocently biting down on a much-harder-than-expected piece of candy, you know that caution is in order. That’s why we tend to take our time with candy canes, letting them dissolve slowly in the mouth. Of course, the drawback to this strategy is that now we’re slowly bathing our teeth in sugar, encouraging the growth of plaque and cavity-causing bacteria.

Candy canes, peppermints, and other hard candies are potentially bad for your teeth when you crunch away, and definitely bad for your teeth if you let them dissolve slowly.

  • Gumdrops

Glistening, colorful gumdrops. Roofing your gingerbread house, trimming a gumdrop tree, or simply sitting in a bowl, they are one of the sweetest ways to decorate for the holidays. And when we say “sweet,” we mean that literally. Most gumdrops are basically made of corn syrup and sugar—and then rolled in more sugar.

But their sugar content isn’t the only problem. This is sugar in an extra-gummy form that sticks between our teeth and around our gums.

  • Toffees, Caramels, Taffy

They might come in lovely ribboned boxes, but these extremely sticky foods are not a gift to your teeth.

Not only do chewy candies stick to enamel, they stick to fillings, crowns (especially temporary crowns), and orthodontic wires and brackets. No one wants an unexpected trip to the dentist or orthodontist because dental work has been damaged or dislodged!

  • Gingerbread Houses

Nothing says the holidays like a gingerbread house—chewy, sticky gingerbread covered with hard sugar icing, gumdrops, and peppermints. Great for your décor; not so great for your dental health. Eat one gingerbread man if you’re in a spicy mood and leave your architectural masterpiece intact.

  • Fruitcake

If you need an excuse to turn down fruitcake, here’s a perfect one: most fruitcake is not great for your teeth. Candied fruit is, well, candied, and dried fruit is sugary, sticky, and chewy. There are delicious exceptions, of course, but even a delicious fruitcake is very high in sugar.

Well, this list wasn’t very jolly. So as a little holiday gift for you, here are some suggestions to help you enjoy your desserts in the healthiest way possible.

  • Be choosy.

Just like you search for the perfect presents for your family and friends, take the time to choose the perfect holiday treats for yourself. If you are worried about cavities, or have a temporary crown, or wear braces, or have cracked a tooth before, or are just generally concerned with your oral health, stay away from sticky, hard, and excessively sugary desserts.

What can you accept from your holiday hosts with a grateful (and relieved) smile? The occasional soft chocolate should be nothing to stress about—and if you make it dark chocolate, you’ll actually get nutritional bonuses like magnesium and antioxidants. Cakes, cupcakes, cookies, pies—yes, they are made with lots of sugar, but it is the holidays after all. Just be sure to follow our next suggestions to make that slice of cheesecake guilt-free.

  • Eat sweets with a meal.

Saliva does more than keep our mouths from getting dry. It also helps prevent cavities by washing away food particles and neutralizing the acids from food and bacteria, which damage enamel.

Eat dessert with a meal, and you benefit from increased mealtime saliva production. When you snack throughout the day, this acid-neutralizing ability is greatly reduced.

  • Rinse after eating.

Rinsing your mouth with water after a meal or a snack, especially a sugary one, also helps wash away the sticky sugars and carbs, which oral bacteria convert into acids.

  • Brush immediately. (Maybe.)

It’s always a good idea to brush right after eating—well, almost always. If you’ve been eating acidic foods like citrus or colas, the acids in the food can weaken your enamel just enough to cause some potential enamel damage if you scour your teeth immediately after eating. We often recommend waiting about 30 minutes to brush to give your enamel a chance to recover.

But every mouth is different. If you wear braces, or tend to get food stuck in your teeth or dental work, or have any other concerns, ask Dr. Dave Stinchfield and Dr. Tom Stinchfield for the best times and methods for holiday brushing.

You don’t want to ho-ho-hope that we can fit you in at our Washougal, WA office to treat a cavity or a cracked tooth. Make your holiday dessert list and check it twice, and make sure you’re brushing and flossing more often if you’re indulging in seasonal treats—give yourself these two gifts, and you’ll be ringing in the New Year with a beautiful, healthy smile. Sweet!

The Many Types of Sedation Dentistry

November 25th, 2020

There are many reasons to choose sedation dentistry. Perhaps anxiety is an issue, or your teeth are extremely sensitive. You may have a low pain threshold, an easily triggered gag reflex, or need a lot of work done in one visit. If you think sedation dentistry might be right for you, this procedure is something we are happy to discuss before your appointment at our Washougal, WA office.

Because your concerns and condition are unique, we will tailor your sedation to fit your specific needs. We will take a careful health history to make sure whatever medication is used is safe for you, and will not interact with your other medications or affect any medical conditions. The three most common methods of sedation include:

Our experience and training allow us to recommend a method that is specifically designed for your needs. If you would like to remain completely aware, but feel less anxious, if you would like deep sedation through the entire procedure, or if you want something in between, talk to us about your options. Whatever the reason you choose sedation dentistry, Dr. Dave Stinchfield and Dr. Tom Stinchfield and our team are here to provide you with a skilled and safe sedation experience.

Root Canal Procedure

November 18th, 2020

Five words no one welcomes: “You need a root canal.” But if you are delaying treatment because you are worried about pain and an uncomfortable day in the dentist’s chair, please think again! Modern root canal procedures are designed to repair your damaged tooth gently and efficiently, and leave you with a restored natural tooth that can last a lifetime.

  • Why might you need a root canal?

First, a little tooth biology. Each tooth has a crown (the part we see above the gums) and one or more roots (the part of our tooth below the gum line that is attached to bone in our jaw). The tooth has three basic layers: the hard enamel and cementum that cover the outer crown and root, the softer dentin beneath that layer, and, on the inside, the pulp. Pulp is made of living tissue, and contains the blood vessels and nerves that nourish the tooth and keep it vital.

Even with the protection the enamel and dentin provide, sometimes the pulp can be infected or damaged. If you have suffered an injury to your mouth or jaw, or an infection has developed from an opening in the tooth caused by a deep cavity or crack, you may need a root canal to prevent further infection, pain, and even tooth loss. Call our Washougal, WA office immediately if you feel pain with chewing or pressure, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, swollen, and tender gums around a tooth, or tooth discoloration.

  • The Root Canal Procedure

If a root canal is necessary, the procedure is very straightforward. After the area around the tooth is numbed, we will make an opening in the crown to allow access to the pulp inside. Very small instruments will be used to clean the inner tooth and removed bacteria and dead or dying tissue. The area will be thoroughly disinfected, and the inside of the tooth shaped and then filled and sealed. A temporary filling or crown might be placed on the tooth to prevent bacteria and food from entering the site if a permanent crown needs to be created. The entire process usually takes from one to three visits.

If we suggest a root canal, it is because this is the best way to save your tooth. Please feel free to talk to us about your particular needs and concerns. Which tooth is affected, how many roots are involved, what type of filling or crown might be best—we will work with you to provide all the information you need and all the options you have available.

Common Concerns

  • Are you concerned about pain?

The most painful part of a root canal is often the severe discomfort your tooth causes before treatment. And infections and damaged nerves can affect not only the injured tooth, but the gums, tissue and even bone surrounding it. With our modern dental techniques, a root canal procedure is often no more uncomfortable than a regular filling. The local anesthetic we use will prevent you from feeling any pain during the procedure, and, while the area around your tooth might be a bit sensitive following treatment, the pain caused by the infection or injury should be gone.

  • Are you anxious about the procedure?

If dental treatment causes you anxiety, please let us know. There are several sedation options we can pursue to make this procedure less worrisome. Our goal is to make your treatment as gentle and comfortable as possible.

No one welcomes the news that a root canal is necessary, but with today’s procedures, this treatment can be just what you need to relieve your pain and keep your natural tooth where it belongs for many years to come. And that is welcome news, indeed!

Protecting Your Smile with Mouthguards

November 11th, 2020

If you participate in sports or other physical activities, it’s wise to consider getting a mouthguard. Also known as mouth protectors, mouthguards are a device worn over the teeth to lessen the impact of a blow to the face.

This reduces the chance that you might lose teeth or sustain other serious oral injuries. We recommend that all patients involved in a contact sport such as wrestling, football, or hockey wear a mouthguard because of the high risk of such injuries.

However, anyone involved in a physically demanding sport or activity should wear a mouthguard as well.

Can you imagine what it would be like to lose a few of your front teeth? The way you talk, eat, and smile would all change. Potential injuries when you don’t wear a mouthguard include chipped and broken teeth, fractured jaws, root damage, damage to crowns and bridgework, concussions, and/or injury to the lips, cheeks, or gums.

Types of Mouthguards

There are three different types of mouthguards — typically made of a soft plastic material or laminate. You can decide which works best for you in terms of budget, fit, and comfort.

  • Stock mouthguards are prefabricated to a standard size. They offer adequate protection, but you need to make sure you find one that fits properly and comfortably. Stock mouthguards are readily available at department stores, sporting goods stores, and online.
  • Boil-and-bite mouthguards are placed in boiling water to soften them, then into the mouth so they can conform to the shape of the teeth. Boil-and-bite mouthguards are more expensive, but offer a more customized fit than stock ones. You can find these in department stores, pharmacies, sporting goods stores, and online.
  • Custom-made mouthguards are created just for you by Dr. Dave Stinchfield and Dr. Tom Stinchfield. These offer the best fit and comfort of all the options, but they are also the most expensive. Ask a member of our Washougal, WA team for more information.

The American Dental Association says a good mouthguard should be easy to clean, fit properly, be comfortable, and resist tearing or damage. It shouldn’t restrict speech or breathing.

Still not sure if you need a mouthguard or which kind is right for you? Ask Dr. Dave Stinchfield and Dr. Tom Stinchfield or one of our staff members for more information.