Our Apex Dentist Explains why Xylitol is Good for Teeth, Bad for Dogs

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Now that Halloween’s in the rear-view mirror, you might be motivated to give your body a break from all that sugar by switching to low-calorie sweeteners. If so, xylitol is a great option, because it’s natural, tasty, and deadly to the bacteria on your teeth. In fact, xylitol is one of the few things that can truly kill cavity-causing bacteria, which is why dentists highly recommend it. However, it’s important to be aware that xylitol is also very dangerous to dogs, for reasons we will explain below.

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is found naturally in fruit, vegetable fibers, hardwood trees, corncobs, and certain other plant species. It was first used as a sweetener in Finland during World War II, when sucrose was unavailable. Xylitol has become very popular in the last few decades due to the fact that it’s just as sweet as sucrose, but has far fewer calories. Additionally, xylitol causes very little insulin release in humans, making it an excellent alternative for people with diabetes, prediabetes, obesity, or other metabolic problems. However, this is unfortunately not the case when it comes to dogs and other animals.

Why Does Xylitol Harm Dogs?

In people, rats, horses, and rhesus monkeys, xylitol causes little to no increase in insulin release or blood sugar levels. However, in species like dogs, cats, cows, goats, rabbits, and baboons, xylitol causes a large insulin release and drop in blood sugar. For dogs, the insulin release from is so massive that it causes the blood sugar to drop dangerously low, resulting in weakness, trembling, seizures, collapse, and even death. At very high dosages, xylitol can cause massive liver necrosis in dogs, in which large numbers of liver cells die abruptly, killing the animal.

Xylitol is just as harmful to cats, but there is less cause for concern when it comes to them. This is because cats typically ignore xylitol-heavy foods like gum, cookies, cake, and peanut butter.

Foods Which Contain Xylitol

While we highly encourage patients to chew sugar-free gum that contains xylitol, we also don’t want any harm to come to family pets. Make sure that you check the following products carefully for xylitol:

  • Toothpaste
  • Mouthwash
  • Chewing gum
  • Peanut butter
  • Sugar-free candy
  • Sugar free breath mints
  • Fruit drinks
  • Jellies and jams
  • Cereals
  • Baked goods
  • Sugar-free puddings and Jello
  • Over-the-counter vitamin supplements

Be aware, too, that not all product labels clearly state whether or not they contain xylitol. If a label states only, “artificially sweetened,” presume that it contains xylitol to err on the safe side. Always keep xylitol-containing products high out of reach, and try to induce vomiting immediately if you think your dog has ingested any.

Need a Dentist in Apex NC?

If you want to keep your teeth healthy and safe, head over to Hansen Dentistry. Our Apex dentists can’t wait to make your teeth strong and beautiful as possible! To request an appointment, click here.

Causes & Treatments for Bad Breath, From Our Apex Family Dentist

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Almost everyone experiences bad breath once in a while. But for some people, bad breath is a chronic problem. Known in the medical field as “halitosis,” bad breath can be exacerbated by numerous factors, like inadequate oral hygiene, lack of saliva, or smoking. If you’re desperate to get rid of your bad breath for good, here are some factors that might be causing it.

Bacteria & Periodontal Disease

All bad breath is caused by bacteria which live on the teeth and tongue. Therefore, your first step at controlling bad breath is practicing good oral hygiene: Brushing the teeth and tongue, using mouthwash, and flossing. Flossing is one key step that many people skip because it can be a bit tedious. However, flossing is crucial to having a clean mouth and fresh breath. Don’t believe us? The next time you floss, smell the string before you throw it away, and we’ll bet you see (or smell) what we mean.

Tobacco and Alcohol

“Smoker’s breath” is a well-known consequence of smoking. This is because the chemicals in tobacco, such as nicotine, remain in the mouth and lungs long after a cigarette has been extinguished. Tobacco smoke can also dry out the mouth, leading to a proliferation of bad-smelling bacteria. Alcohol, too, can dry out the mouth and allow bacteria to thrive.

Dry Mouth

If you brush and floss daily, and don’t smoke or drink, yet still suffer from halitosis, you may be suffering from dry mouth, a condition wherein the salivary glands cannot produce enough saliva to keep the mouth moist. Since human saliva is slightly acidic, it is able to control the bacteria that cause bad breath. A decrease in saliva, therefore, allows bacteria to thrive. To increase your salivary flow, try chewing sugar-free gum after eating, which encourages increased salivary flow, and drink plenty of water. You can also use over-the-counter moisturizing agents, such as a dry mouth spray, rinses, or dry mouth moisturizing gel.

Other Conditions

If all these other causes have been ruled out, another underlying condition is likely to blame. Tonsillitis, respiratory infections such as sinusitis or bronchitis, certain gastrointestinal diseases, and uncontrolled diabetes can all cause bad breath. If you suspect that something else is at play regarding your halitosis, visit a primary care physician just to be on the safe side. 

Step 1: See Your Apex NC Dentist

With all this said, the vast majority of bad breath cases are caused by poor oral health. If you haven’t been to a dentist for a while, your first step should be scheduling a professional cleaning. Once it has been confirmed that there is no plaque or tartar built up on your teeth, your dentist can help you identify other factors that may be causing your halitosis.

If you are suffering from dry mouth, and over-the-counter solutions aren’t yielding any improvement, you may want to schedule a visit with an oral medicine doctor specializing in mucosal diseases and salivary gland disorders.

Hansen Dentistry is an Apex family dentist office specializing in cosmetic dentistry, restorative dentistry, preventative dentistry, and more. We provide Apex NC residents with Invisalign, same-day crowns, professional tooth whitening, and a wide range of other services. To schedule an appointment, click here.

How Many Bacteria Are in My Mouth? Ask Our Apex NC Family Dentist

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Our teeth might sometimes seem like rocks or seashells; things which are dead and nonliving. However, our mouths are actually a vibrant ecosystem, populated with living things that play a vital role in our health. Here are some interesting facts about the microscopic creatures that live behind your lips from your local Apex family dentist.

The Oral Microbiome

Scientists have a fancy name for your mouth’s ecosystem – they call it the “human oral microbiome.” A big part of this microbiome is bacteria. A single mouth can be home to more than 6 billion bacteria, an impressive number when you consider that the total human population of the earth is 7.3 billion.

Those billions of oral bacteria live in diverse communities, where they go about the same business as most other living creatures: working, feeding, breeding, and dying.  Most of theme are harmless, or helpful, microbes, which can support your overall health as well as oral wellness. If you’ve ever seen the word “probiotics”on a label, these are the types of microbes it was referring to. Other members of the 700 different strains of bacteria that potentially live in your mouth are neither helpful nor harmful – at least as far as we know.

Harmful Mouth Bacteria

Like most urban areas, your mouth has safe neighborhoods and scary ones. Some of the microbiome communities are comprised of pathogenic bacteria that cause tooth decay, gum inflammation, and tooth loss. The main culprit of these oral diseases is Streptococcus mutans, which feeds on sugar and starchy carbs, and convert it into acids that erode your tooth enamel. Porphyromonas gingivalis isn’t a regular resident of your mouth, but shows up when gums are diseased (Periodontitis). Left to run amok, it will destroy gum tissue and the alveolar bone that supports your teeth.

Keeping your mouth bacteria-free

Unfortunately, it just isn’t possible to get rid of all your mouth’s bacteria—and you shouldn’t want to, anyway! However, you can help keep your tooth enamel strong by cutting down on sweets and carbohydrates. Both of these are Streptococcus mutans’ favorite food which, once ingested, are converted into acid that destroys teeth. And, of course, regular brushing and flossing will help keep your levels low.

Need a dentist office in Apex NC?

If you want to keep your teeth healthy and safe, head over to see Dr. Hansen and the rest of our team at Hansen Dentistry in Apex. Our Apex dentists and hygienists can’t wait to make your teeth strong and beautiful as possible! To schedule an appointment, click here.

What is Xylitol? Ask a General Dentist in Apex NC

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We all know about the negative health effects of sugar, especially when it comes to teeth. Fortunately, artificial sweeteners don’t have the same effect on teeth as sugar, and can help you have a much healthier smile. One artificial sweetener, xylitol, even has positive effects on teeth. Here’s everything you need to know about Xylitol from a dentist in Apex, NC.

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is categorized as a sugar alcohol. That means that it combines traits of sugar molecules and alcohol molecules to create a structure very similar to that of sugar. However, Xylitol has much fewer calories, doesn’t raise blood sugar levels, and actually kills the harms the bacteria that live on your teeth and cause tooth decay.

Is Xylitol Natural?

Despite the pharmaceutical-sounding name, Xylitol is found in many fruits and vegetables, and is even produced in small amounts by the human metabolism. It can also be processed from trees like birch, or from a plant fiber called xylan. For these reasons, most health professionals consider it to be a safe, natural substance.

How Xylitol Helps Your Teeth

Xylitol functions a lot like a “mousetrap” for the bacteria that live on your teeth. Normally, these bacteria ingest sugar and carbohydrates and convert them into acid, which destroys the tooth enamel. After the bacteria ingest xylitol, however, they are no longer able to absorb glucose. With their energy-producing pathway clogged up, they end up starving to death. That’s why many dentists recommend using xylitol-sweetened chewing gum: it’s one of very few things that can actually kill harmful tooth bacteria.

Why Xylitol is Toxic to Dogs

If you buy gum or candy that contains Xylitol, it is very important to keep it away from any dogs in your house. When a dog eats xylitol, its body mistakes it for glucose and starts producing large amounts of insulin. Then, the dog’s cells start absorbing glucose from the bloodstream, which can lead to hypoglycemia, low blood sugar, and even death. Xylitol may also have detrimental effects on liver function in dogs, with high doses causing liver failure.

It only takes 0.1 grams per kg of body weight for a dog to be affected. To put that in perspective, a 6 pound Chihuahua could get sick or die from eating a single piece of xylitol chewing gum.

Need a General Dentist in Apex NC? Call Hansen Dentistry

If you are in need of a dental cleaning, oral surgery or other dental service, be sure to contact our general dentist in Apex NC. At Hansen Dentistry, we will do our best to make you feel relaxed and at home while receiving expert dental care. To schedule an appointment, click here.

Unpacking Common Dental Myths and Misconceptions – Apex Dentist Office

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When it comes to oral hygiene, there are a lot of common myths and misconceptions that simply aren’t true. If you want to keep your teeth as healthy as possible, here are some of the most common dental myths to watch out for. If you need a teeth cleaning or other dental service, be sure to stop by our Apex dentist office today.

Myth 1: Diet sodas are better for my teeth than regular sodas.

Since diet sodas are low-calorie and low-sugar, many people assume they are better for your teeth than non-diet alternatives. However, this is based on the assumption that it’s sugar which harms your teeth. The element that actually harms your teeth is acid, which is produced by bacteria that feed on sugar and carbohydrates. Diet sodas are actually usually higher in phosphoric acid than regular sodas, and will wear down your tooth enamel more than the acid produced by the bacteria. To keep your teeth healthy, you’re better off skipping the carbonated drinks altogether.

Myth 2: I don’t feel any pain in my mouth, so there’s probably nothing wrong with my teeth.

Many patients come to us because they are experiencing dental pain, and assume that the problem can be easily fixed. However, when dentists hear that someone is in pain, we already begin wondering if it will require a root canal or extraction. By the time you start to feel pain from a cracked tooth or other issue, it has probably been worsening for a while. Furthermore, having pain go completely away can be a sign of the nerve dying, so it’s still important to go in for a dental check-up even if you don’t feel any discomfort.

Myth 3: Having bad teeth won’t affect the rest of my body.

Bad dental care can be a gateway to stomach diseases, heart diseases, and other serious complications throughout your body. Not only does bad dental hygiene threaten your overall health, it can become a problem if you ever need clearance for a surgery. We often see patients who need dental clearance before a surgery because their teeth are an infection hazard. If you take care of your teeth, your overall body will be in better health as you get older.

Myth 4: Fluoride is a chemical, and herbal or natural toothpaste is better for me.

Fluoride is a naturally occurring element which combines with the calcium and phosphates in your saliva to help remineralize your enamel. Fluoride is the most important component in toothpaste, and any brand labeled as “herbal” or “natural” toothpaste is not very beneficial to your dental health. Activated charcoal toothpaste is also very dangerous for your dental health.

Get a Professional Dental Cleaning with our Apex Dental Office

If you need a tooth cleaning, dental exam, or other dental service in Apex NC, contact Hansen Dentistry today. Our Apex dental office is passionate about what we do, and we want our patients to feel confident that they will receive the best dental care possible. To request an appointment, click here.

Signs You Are Brushing Your Teeth Too Hard – Ask a Dentist in Apex

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Many people believe that plaque is hard to remove, and brush their teeth as hard as they can. However, this can erode your enamel and damage your gum line over time. Here are some signs that you are being too rough on your teeth when you brush.

A Frayed Toothbrush

If your toothbrush looks flat and damaged, with bristles that are split or frayed out, you are probably brushing too vigorously. You can minimize the damage by purchasing an electric toothbrush with a pressure sensor that lights up or stops if you brush too hard. Some electric toothbrushes also come with a 2-minute timer so that you do not brush for too long.

Receding or Bleeding Gums

Bleeding gums are usually a sign of gingivitis, caused by a lack of brushing, but bleeding and receding gums can indicate you are damaging your gum tissue from over-brushing. Gum recession exposes your teeth to infection and decay, so it’s not just a cosmetic issue, but something that needs to be fixed to preserve your overall health. If you suspect your gums are receding, run a finger over your teeth. If you can feel notches or gaps where your gumline used to be, schedule an appointment with a dentist.

Sensitive Teeth

When you over-brush, you wear down the hard enamel protecting your teeth, exposing the sensitive dentin beneath. The more enamel you lose, the more sensitive your teeth will be to hot, cold, and carbonated items, as well as brushing. To preserve the health of your enamel, brush gently, remineralize with fluoride, and avoid toothpastes containing abrasive substances like activated charcoal.

Dull or Yellow Teeth

Yellow teeth can be a result of staining from coffee, wine, and other acidic beverages, but it can also be caused when the white enamel erodes, exposing the naturally yellow dentin beneath. If  your teeth are sensitive and seem to have a yellow sheen, you may be brushing too hard or too often.

Protect Your Teeth – Schedule an Appointment with a Dentist in Apex

If you think you are experiencing one or more of the symptoms listed above, make sure to schedule an appointment with a dentist in Apex. At Hansen Dentistry, we will do our best to make you feel relaxed and at home while receiving expert dental care. To schedule an appointment, click here.

Busting 4 of the Most Common Tooth Brushing Myths – Apex Dentist

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Most of us learned how to brush our teeth in Kindergarten—so it’s no wonder we tend to get some things wrong. After all, we haven’t had a proper tooth brushing lesson since we were little kids! Coupled with the fact that tooth brushing best practices have changed over the years, and popular myths that exist about dental hygiene, it’s not surprising that so many people visit our office with cavities and caries, even though they brush every day. Here are some ways you may be brushing your teeth wrong.

Myth 1: After brushing your teeth, you should rinse out your mouth with water.

This is by far the most common tooth brushing mistake most people make. When we were kids, an emphasis was placed on spitting out the toothpaste in order to keep us from swallowing it. However, as an adult, you should keep the toothpaste residue on your teeth as long as possible. Toothpaste works by applying fluoride to your tooth’s surface, in order to raise the Ph of your mouth and remineralize the enamel. Rinsing it off with water minimizes its benefits.

Myth 2: After brushing your teeth, you should rinse your mouth with mouthwash.

Mouthwash should be used before you brush, not after. Unless it’s a fluoride mouthwash, you’ll be negating all the hard work you did by brushing, just as with water. Secondly, you’re also creating a more acidic environment in your mouth that wears your enamel down more quickly.

Myth 3: You should brush your teeth soon after eating.

Brushing your teeth after a meal does a lot of damage to your teeth. All the acid in your food is stuck in-between your teeth, and brushing rubs it around like sandpaper. Instead of brushing directly after eating, wait a few hours after eating so that the saliva in your mouth lowers the Ph. If you’re worried about having bad breath, chew a minty gum containing xylitol. The best time to brush your teeth is first thing in the morning, before you’ve eaten.

Myth 4: Since plaque is tough to get off, I need to brush forcefully.  

Brushing too hard can actually cause your gums to recede, and erode your enamel as well. Instead, brush your gums with light, gentle motions. Plaque is not stuck on hard to your teeth, and brushing lightly will remove it. If your toothbrush bristles have a smashed-down appearance, that’s a sign that you are brushing too hard.

Get a Dental Cleaning from a Qualified Apex Dentist

If it’s been a while since your last dental cleaning, be sure to stop in to Hansen Dentistry. Our Apex dentist office is a welcoming, family-friendly, judgement-free zone where we only care about one thing: helping you have the healthiest smile possible. To schedule an appointment, fill out our appointment form here.

Prehistoric Humans Had Better Teeth Than We Do – Learn Why from Our Apex Dentistry

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Our teeth are whiter, shinier, and straighter—but in terms of cavities and tooth decay, they’re not as healthy as the teeth of our ancestors, according to research published in scientific journal Nature Genetics. Learn more about this surprising discovery below.

From Carnivores to Omnivores

In order to learn more about prehistoric humans’ health and diet, an international team of researchers, led by a group at the Australian Center for Ancient DNA, extracted dental plaque from 34 prehistoric European skeletons. (Dental plaque is unique in that it is the only easily accessible source of preserved human bacteria.)

The researchers were able to trace the changes in oral bacteria from the last hunter-gatherers, through the Neolithic, medieval, Industrial Revolution, and modern eras. They found that, as humans switched from an all-meat diet to a diet high in grains and wheat, they developed more and more tooth decay. Their conclusion? While the advent of agriculture might have revolutionized our quality of living, but it wreaked havoc on our teeth.

Researchers also found that early hunter-gatherer groups had greater diversity of disease-associated bacteria. More bacterial diversity means that our ancestors’ mouths were more resilient to stresses and less likely to develop disease.

Bacteria and Tooth Decay

These finding make sense when you think about what causes tooth decay. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not sugar directly that makes teeth rot. It’s actually the bacteria that live on the teeth, who love to eat sugar and carbohydrates. Once they’ve eaten, the bacteria process the gluten into acid which destroys the teeth enamel. The more sugar and grains, the more acid and the more tooth issues.

How to Take Care of Your Teeth, Here and Now

These results are no doubt good news for advocates of the paleo diet—but really, any diet that is high in protein and vegetables will be good for your teeth, as well as the rest of your body. You can also take care of your teeth by chewing gum that contains xylitol; brushing your teeth regularly and correctly; and having regular dentist check-ups.

Need a dentist office in Apex NC? Call Hansen Dentistry

If you have sensitive, chipped, or stained teeth, be sure to visit our dentist office in Apex NC for a consultation. Our experienced dental team will make sure you have the healthiest smile possible. To schedule an appointment with us, click here.

What’s the Difference Between Plaque and Tartar? Ask a Dentist in Apex

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WE OFTEN GET THIS QUESTION from our patients, “What’s the difference between plaque and tartar?” Many patients think they are the same thing. However, there is an important difference between the two.  Understanding how they are different can help explain why a daily oral hygiene routine is so crucial, as well as twice-yearly visits to your dentist.

plaque
What Is Plaque?

Dental plaque is the soft, sticky film that builds up on your teeth and under your gums. It starts forming soon after you finish brushing. In other words, plaque is constantly accumulating on your teeth. And guess what? It contains millions of bacteria! When you eat—especially carbohydrates or sugar—you’re not the only one getting a meal…so are the bacteria on your teeth. After these bacteria dine on sugar, they produce acids that erode your tooth enamel and cause cavities.

That’s why good daily oral hygiene is essential to preventing tooth decay and protecting your smile from the bacteria in plaque. To prevent plaque buildup, remember to brush at least twice a day and floss once a day. Drinking water and chewing sugar-free gum after meals and snacks can also help!

What Is Tartar?

So if that’s plaque, what’s tartar? Tartar is what accumulates on your teeth when plaque is not removed. If plaque is left on your teeth for too long, it will harden into tartar and is much more difficult to remove. In fact, tartar can only be removed by a dental professional–you can’t get rid of it with regular brushing and flossing. Tartar removal is one of the reasons that visiting your dentist every six months is so important!

Plaque buildup that hardens into tartar can cause more than just cavities. It can cause tooth discoloration and sensitivity as well as gum recession and periodontal disease. To reduce plaque buildup and tartar from forming, make sure you are brushing and flossing daily.

Come And See Us Every Six Months

No matter how great your oral hygiene is, plaque and tartar formation are inevitable. So come in to see us every six months! Our job is to help you maintain a beautiful, healthy smile that’s plaque- and tarter-free!