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Healthy Gums and Older Adults

March 10th, 2021

One of the most important parts of staying healthy as we grow older is being open to learning new ways of staying healthy! While worrying about braces or wisdom teeth might be a thing of the past, there are new dental concerns that come with mature years. Taking care of our gums is one way to maintain not only our dental health, but to look out for our overall health as well.

  • Periodontal disease is preventable for older adults

While gum disease is all-too-common among older adults, it isn’t really a result of the aging process itself. If you have been keeping a regular schedule of brushing and flossing (two minutes twice a day), and have been making routine visits to our office for exams and cleaning, you probably have avoided gum disease. But if you have been neglecting your dental care, gingivitis and periodontitis are conditions that only become more serious over time.

The first symptoms of gingivitis include puffy, swollen gums that may bleed easily. Persistent bad breath and changes in the bite or the fit of dentures are also indications of gum disease. As gum disease progresses it leads to periodontitis. The gum tissue pulls away from the teeth, leaving deep pockets of tissue where plaque can collect and infections can develop. Infection, left untreated, can lead to loose teeth and even bone and tooth loss.

The good news? It is never too late to treat gum disease. Most gingivitis is reversible, and modern periodontal treatment makes use of deep cleaning, antibiotics, and even gum surgery to restore gum health. Don’t let past neglect lead to future tooth loss. We are happy to see you any time to treat your gums and teeth and to let you know ways to protect them for a happy, healthy future.

What new concerns do we face as we age?

  • Our gums recede.

This natural recession can lead to the exposure of the root areas of the teeth, which are more vulnerable to cavities. It’s very important to keep up with brushing, flossing, and regular check-ups to catch potential small problems before they become big ones.

  • Old fillings and dental work can break down.

Call our Washougal, WA office any time you notice a problem with a filling, and keep up with exams, where we can pinpoint fillings that need replacement and detect cavities that can develop near the edges of old work.

  • Medications can cause side effects that affect our gums.

Some medications cause the growth of puffy gum tissue. Some can cause dry mouth, which can lead to gum disease. Always let us know about any health conditions you have or medications you may be taking. We can suggest a number of options to reduce or eliminate effects on your mouth and gums.

  • Gum health and our overall health—what’s the connection?

While no one has discovered an absolute relationship between gum disease and other health problems, there is growing evidence that higher rates of diabetes complications, heart disease, and stroke are linked to higher levels of gum disease. Make your medical and dental health a priority.

  • Smoking risks increase with age.

Studies have shown smokers have not only a greater risk of gum disease, but more severe gum disease as well. Your risk of developing oral cancer also increases with every year you smoke. It is never too late to quit! Talk to us about suggestions for breaking the habit once and for all, and be sure to keep up with regular checkups for early detection and treatment of any oral diseases caused by smoking.

Please let us know any changes that have taken place in your dental habits, medical condition, or medications. Talk to us about any periodontal concerns you may have, or the latest dental procedures we offer for gum care and treatment. We can let you know about products that can make brushing and flossing easier as you age.

It’s never too late or too early to think about taking care of yourself. We are happy to offer suggestions for maintaining or restoring your dental health that will serve you well in any chapter of your life.

Road Trip!

March 3rd, 2021

The bags are packed, the trunk is loaded, the route is programmed into your GPS, the playlist is set, and your destination awaits! Sometimes there’s just nothing more appealing than a road trip. So, to make your trip even more enjoyable, here are some dental tips to help keep you feeling clean and fresh over the long haul.

  • Fuel Up

If you’re bringing some road snacks, be sure to include a few that will help clean teeth and freshen breath. Packing a supply of bottled water helps you stay hydrated, washes away food particles, and eliminates the bad breath caused by dehydration. Carrots and apples are not only nutritious and tasty, they apply a bit of gentle scrubbing action to your enamel as you chew. Traditional travel favorites like granola bars, beef jerky, and chips tend to stick to the teeth and provide cavity-causing bacteria a leisurely feast, so enjoy them in moderation. (If you’re driving, save the snacks for a rest stop—not only is eating while driving prohibited in some areas, it’s a distraction you don’t need on the highway.)

  • Roadside Diners

The occasional sticky, sweet, or chewy indulgence is fine at home, but when you have hours in the car ahead of you, you might want to turn down the pecan pie, the giant pretzels, and the roadside sea salt caramels. Again, cavity-causing bacteria love sugars and simple carbs, and food that finds its way into tooth crevices finds its way onto their menu. And, it goes without saying, passing up garlic, onions, and spicy foods will help your mouth feel fresher longer—and make your travel companions happier.

  • Car Wash

Bring a travel-sized toothbrush and tube of toothpaste with you for a quick cleaning when you stop for a break. A ventilated case will keep your brush dry (bacteria like damp conditions) and away from questionable surfaces. Disposable mini-travel brushes are available that come with a bead of cleaner pre-loaded and ready to use—you don’t even need water for a cleaner mouth and fresher breath. Food particles do not make good travel buddies so don’t forget dental picks or floss. And if you can’t brush right away, try a rinse with water or chew a piece of sugarless gum. Sugar free gum can help stimulate saliva production, which is a good way to wash away food particles and neutralize acids in the mouth.

  • Roadside Repair

Even with the best preparation, accidents can happen. That’s why you have a spare tire and a lug wrench in your trunk. It pays to be prepared for a dental emergency on the road as well. There are dental travel kits available in stores and online, or create one for yourself. Along with your first aid kit, pack dental picks, antimicrobial wipes, sterile gauze, a mirror, and any other supplies you think might come in handy. If you wear braces or a retainer, be sure to include dental wax in case of an uncooperative wire, and a case to protect and keep track of your retainer. And it’s a good idea to keep our Washougal, WA office’s number on hand in case of emergency.

It’s a big country, and cruising the streets and highways is a wonderful way to explore it! But if you’re having any dental problems, be sure to see your dentist before taking off—after all your preparation, you don’t need a dental emergency to ruin your trip. Then, pack your bags, load your trunk, set your GPS, pick a playlist with something for everyone, and get ready to enjoy happy travels and healthy smiles!

Should Children Use Whitening Products?

February 24th, 2021

As adults, we often wish our teeth could be as white as they were when we were small children. Baby teeth have thinner and whiter enamel than adult teeth, and those brilliant smiles are a result! But occasionally, you may be surprised to discover some staining or discoloration on those lovely first teeth. You might be tempted to apply a whitening product to your child’s teeth, but, please—read on!

Causes of Staining

  • Improper Brushing—Often, a loss of tooth whiteness means that plaque has built up on the tooth surface. Careful brushing is needed to remove bacteria and plaque, and if your child isn’t brushing at least twice a day for two minutes, discoloration can be the result.
  • Medications—When given in liquid form, or when added to formula or food, iron supplements can cause dark grey staining on the teeth. Medications taken by a mother while pregnant or breast feeding, such as tetracycline, can also lead to discoloration.
  • Injury—If a tooth suffers a serious injury, the tooth can darken because of changes inside the enamel.
  • Health conditions—Certain health problems can cause tooth discoloration, or sometimes children are born with weaker enamel that is more likely to stain.

If you have noticed any staining on your child’s primary teeth, call our Washougal, WA office. Simple stains can often be removed with better brushing techniques, and we can clean other surface stains in the office. Staining caused by an injury or a health condition is something we can discuss in detail with you. We can even use some professional whitening methods if those are indicated.

Why not just buy a home whitening kit for your child? There are several important reasons to leave these products on the shelf while your child is young.

  • Whitening kits are designed for adults. They have been tested for adult teeth in adult trials. Check the box for age appropriate use. Most products are not recommended for pre-teen children.
  • Remember that thinner enamel we mentioned earlier? Add to that the delicate skin of young children, and it’s sensible to be cautious about using a bleaching agent that can cause mouth and tooth sensitivity even in adults.
  • There is no body of evidence available as to the short and long term effects of using these products on children.

If you are concerned about the brightness of your child’s smile, please talk to Dr. Dave Stinchfield and Dr. Tom Stinchfield. We can recommend better ways to brush at home, clean your child’s teeth in the office, or suggest professional methods of whitening if there are physical or psychological reasons that it would be valuable. But while your child is young, those off-the-shelf whitening products can wait a few more years.

Dental X-rays and Your Child

February 17th, 2021

We’re parents, so we worry. It comes with the job description! That’s why we make sure our children use toothbrushes with soft bristles and apply just the right amount of fluoride toothpaste. That’s why we make regular appointments with their dentists for preventive care and examinations. And that’s why we want to know all about the X-rays that are used in our children’s dental exams.

First of all, it’s reassuring to know that the amount of radiation we are exposed to from a single dental X-ray is very small. A set of bitewing X-rays, for example, exposes us to an amount of radiation that is approximately the same as the amount of radiation we receive from our natural surroundings in a single day.

Even so, dentists are especially careful when children need X-rays, because their bodies are still growing and their cells are developing more rapidly than adults. And children often have different dental needs than adults, which can require different types of imaging.

In addition to the usual X-rays that are taken to discover cavities, fractures, or other problems, young patients might need X-rays:

  • To confirm that their teeth and jaws are developing properly
  • To make sure, as permanent teeth come in, that baby teeth aren’t interfering with the arrival and position of adult teeth, and that there’s enough space in the jaw to accommodate them
  • To plan orthodontic treatment
  • To check the progress and placement of wisdom teeth

So, how do dentists make sure your child’s radiation exposure during X-ray procedures is as minimal as possible?

Radiologists, the physicians who specialize in imaging procedures and diagnoses, recommend that all dentists and doctors follow the safety principal known as ALARA: “As Low As Reasonably Achievable.” This means using the lowest X-ray exposure necessary to achieve precise diagnostic results for all dental and medical patients.

Moreover, radiologists are devoted to raising awareness about the latest advances in imaging safety not only for dental and medical practitioners, but for the public, as well. With children in mind, pediatric radiologists from a number of professional associations have joined together to create the Image Gently Alliance, offering specific guidelines for the specific needs of young patients.

And because we are always concerned about the safety of our patients, dental associations around the world, including the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Dental Association, the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, the Canadian Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association, are Image Gently Alliance members.

The guidelines recommended for X-rays and other imaging for young people have been designed to make sure all children have the safest experience possible whenever they visit the dentist or the doctor. As dental professionals, Dr. Dave Stinchfield and Dr. Tom Stinchfield and our team ensure that imaging is safe and effective in a number of ways:

  • We take X-rays only when they are necessary.
  • We provide protective gear, such as apron shields and thyroid collars, whenever needed.
  • We make use of modern X-ray equipment, for both traditional X-rays and digital X-rays, which exposes patients to a lower amount of radiation than ever before.
  • We set exposure times based on each child’s size and age, using the fastest film or digital image receptors.

We know your child’s health and safety are always on your mind, so you’re proactive about dental care. And your child’s health and safety are always on our minds, too, so we’re proactive when it comes to all of our dental procedures available at our Washougal, WA office.

Please free to talk with Dr. Dave Stinchfield and Dr. Tom Stinchfield about X-rays and any other imaging we recommend for your child. We want to put your mind at ease, knowing that X-rays will be taken only when necessary, will be geared to your child’s age and weight, and will be used with protective equipment in place. Because ensuring your child’s dental health and safety? That comes with our job description!