The Worst Holiday Sweets For Your Teeth, According to Our Apex Dentist

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While most people are anticipating Santa’s midnight visit, we at Hansen Dentistry have our eye out for another silent visitor that comes this time of year: cavities. The influx in candy, cookies, chocolate, cake, and other holiday treats around this time boils down to one thing: more sugar, sugar, sugar! The bacteria in your mouth love sugar, and once they eat it, they turn it into acid. That acid then destroys your enamel, causing cavities and tooth decay. If you aren’t careful, you might have to start the new year with a trip to our Apex dentist office! In order to help you avoid that fate (as much as we love seeing you), we’ve put together a few treats to cut back on this holiday.  

Candy Canes

It’s the one candy that is immediately associated with Christmas, so much so that it’s even used as a symbol for it. You will likely see plenty of candy canes in Christmas trees, stockings, and cups of hot chocolate this season. However, candy canes are 100% sugar, and as a hard candy, they even have the ability to crack or damage your teeth. That’s why, if you need that extra kick of peppermint, we urge you to stick to soft options, like Peppermint Patties or peppermint syrup in your coffee. If you just have to have a candy cane, suck it—don’t bite it!

Caramel & Gummy Candy

Caramel is famous for sticking to your teeth. Not only is this irritating, caramel’s staying power gives bacteria ample time to consume it and convert it into acid. (That’s why dentists recommend you consume sweets all in one sitting, rather than at multiple points throughout the day. For example, if you have a soda, drink it all at lunch, instead of sipping it all day long.) Caramel and sticky candies also run the risk of pulling out fillings our crowns—so if you can, stick to chewable sweets like cake, chocolate, and cookies.  

Sweet Popcorn 

Popcorn: the dentist’s most dreaded enemy. Well, maybe we’re being a bit dramatic—but it is true that a large percentage of cracked tooth incidents we see are caused by unpopped popcorn kernels. Then there’s the risk of those thin, sharp husks getting wedged in-between the teeth, which can cause an infection or even an abscess. Then when you combine popcorn with sugar (or worse, caramel—see above) we get the worst of both worlds: something sweet that can get lodged behind your teeth for days or weeks undetected! If you happen to eat sweet popcorn this holiday, be sure to check each handful carefully for unpopped kernels, and resist chewing them. 

Need a Dental Exam in Apex? Stop by Hansen Dentistry! 

Are you happy that this article wasn’t a petition to get rid of holiday candy altogether? Don’t worry. Our dentists, hygienists, and front desk staff are real people, with kids—we know that getting rid of candy on Christmas just reasonable! However, you can choose candy that has less risk, and enjoy it safely. And if you need a dental service in Apex, be sure to request an appointment with us today

Learn About the Most Popular Filling Materials from our Apex Restorative Dentist

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When a tooth is damaged by decay and acid, your dentist will use a filling to restore it to its normal shape and function. If you are going to get a filling in an upcoming dental appointment, or have already had one and are just curious about the procedure, here is everything you need to know about dental fillings from our Apex dentist office.

Popular Dental Filling Materials 

Fillings help close off spaces where bacteria can enter, and prevent further decay. Materials used for fillings include:

  • Gold
  • Porcelain
  • Composite resin (for tooth-colored fillings)
  • Amalgam fillings (an alloy of mercury, silver, copper, tin and sometimes zinc).

No one type of filling is “best” for everyone. What’s best for you will depend on the extent of the decay; whether or not you are allergic to certain materials; where the cavity is located; and cost. Below is more information about each cavity filling material.

Gold Fillings

Historically the only filling material that was used, gold fillings are now made to order in dental labs. Gold inlays are well-tolerated by gum tissue, and may last for more than 20 years. For these reasons, many dentists consider gold to be the best filling material. However, it is often the most expensive choice, and is not the most resilient.

Porcelain Fillings

Porcelain fillings usually have a similar cost to gold. If you have ever heard the dental term “inlay” or “onlay”, it was referring to a porcelain filling. Porcelain restorations are a popular choice because they can be matched to the color of the tooth, resist staining, and are very durable. A porcelain restoration generally covers most of the tooth.

Composite Resin Fillings

Composite fillings are essentially a type of plastic. These can also be matched to the same color of your teeth, and are therefore another popular choice when the cavity is in a visible area. The ingredients are mixed and placed directly into the cavity, where they harden. Composites may not be the ideal material for large fillings, as they may chip or wear over time. They can also become stained from coffee, tea, or tobacco, and do not last as long as other types of fillings (generally from three to 10 years).

Amalgam Fillings

Amalgam fillings are often known as “silver fillings”, but a dental amalgam is actually a mixture of mercury, silver, tin, copper, and zinc. Mercury, which makes up about 50% of the compound, is used to bind the metals together. Generally, the amount of mercury in a filling is considered too small to be harmful, as studies have shown that the amount of mercury in a filling is less than the amount most people consume in the food they eat.

Amalgam fillings are resistant to wear and relatively inexpensive. However, due to their dark color, they are more noticeable than porcelain or composite restorations, and are not usually used in very visible areas, such as the front teeth.

What Happens When You get a Dental Filling?

During a checkup, your dentist will use a small mirror to examine the surfaces of each tooth. If your dentist detects a cavity that needs to be filled, he or she will first remove the decay and clean the affected area. The cleaned-out cavity will then be filled with one of the materials described above.

Schedule an Appointment with Hansen Dentistry

If you would like to have your teeth cleaned and inspected for cavities, stop on by Hansen Dentistry! Our friendly Apex dentist, Dr. Hansen, will help you achieve your perfect smile. To schedule an appointment, click here.

Teeth and Sugar: Dispelling the Top 5 Dental Myths with our Dentist in Apex NC

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Teeth and Sugar: Dispelling the Top 5 Dental Myths

You’ve heard it since you were a small child: the #1 greatest threat to your teeth is sugar. Turns out, though, there are other things that damage our teeth just as much, and cutting out sugar isn’t always enough to guarantee total tooth health. Here are some of the most common misconceptions people have when it comes to sugar, teeth, and cavities.

Misconception 1: Sipping on one soda throughout the morning isn’t as dangerous as, say, eating 4 frosted donuts in one sitting.  

The truth: It’s actually much worse to expose your teeth to small amounts of sugar throughout the day, than to eat a high-sugar item in one go. It’s the frequency of sugar consumption that damages your teeth, not the amount. If you ate an entire tub of icing in a minute, we’re not saying it would do your body any favors; but your teeth would likely be fine, as the icing would only touch them for 60 seconds or so. Spending four hours working your way through a coke, however, exposes your teeth to an almost constant wash of acid.

Misconception 2: Sugar is bad for my teeth, but carbs aren’t. If I switch to unfrosted mini-wheats for breakfast, my teeth will be fine.

The truth: Simple carbohydrates are actually just as bad for teeth as sugar. That’s because it isn’t really sugar or carbs which are the culprits for cavities; those just happen to be the favorite foods of the bacteria that live in your mouth. Bacteria just love carbs and sugar, and once they’re done chowing down, they convert it into lactic acid, the stuff that erodes your teeth and creates cavities. Therefore, eating a bowl of crackers at your desk hurts your teeth as much as eating a bowl of candy.

Misconception 3: Drinking my coffee black might stain my teeth, but it won’t hurt the enamel.  

The truth: Drinking your coffee black will still damage your teeth, because it is extremely high in acid. Remember that the bacteria in your mouth eat the sugar and then convert it into acid. Black coffee by itself already is an acid, so nixing the sugar isn’t making things much better. (If you can’t kick your coffee habit, drinking it through a straw can help save your teeth from damage and staining.)

Misconception 4: Drinking sugar-free soda, or soda alternatives like LaCroix, will not hurt my teeth.

The truth: Carbonation can badly damage your enamel. Soda water’s pH is around 3 or 4, depending on the brand, making it around 100 to 1000 times more acidic than water. With that said, drinking soda water is better than drinking straight soda, and is often a good middle step to eventually going totally soda-free.

Take care of your teeth with Hansen Dentistry, your local Apex dentist office.

Whether you need preventative dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, oral surgery, or something else, Hansen Dentistry is here to help. 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.

Tooth-Colored Fillings vs. Silver Fillings: Which Should I Choose? Ask an Apex Dentist

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So you have a tooth that has a cavity and needs a filling. Now what?

Most people know that the two most common options are tooth colored fillings (called composite fillings) and silver fillings (called amalgam fillings).  And most people would agree that the composite fillings are much more aesthetically pleasing than the amalgam fillings.  Some patients prefer not to have amalgam fillings because they contain mercery.  However, it is important to note that ongoing scientific studies conducted over the past 100 years continue to show that amalgam fillings are not harmful.  Sometimes the aesthetic outcome is reason enough to choose a tooth colored filling, especially when the tooth is one that is visible when the patient smiles.

But there are other important reasons that most Apex Dentists these days are choosing to use tooth colored composite fillings rather than amalgam.  And these reasons have to do with the major difference in the way they are placed in the mouth.

Composite fillings are resin-based and are chemically bonded to the tooth.  Amalgams are not.  They are held in place due to a physical retention.  This means that after the dentist removes the decay, he also has to remove additional healthy tooth structure in order to create the proper undercuts and retention grooves to hold the amalgam in place.  This process leaves less remaining tooth structure.

The good thing is that amalgams usually lasts for a really long time.  The bad news is that when they do wear out, they tend to cause larger problems because there is less tooth structure remaining to work with. That is why it is common for a very large amalgam to be replaced with a crown.

If a tooth has a composite filling, the dentist is able to be very conservative in how much tooth structure

he/she removes other than the decay.  This could mean that years later when the composite filling eventually wears out, hopefully another larger composite filling can be placed, rather than a crown.

Another common issue is that teeth with old amalgams tend to develop more cracks.  Because the amalgam filling is not bonded to the tooth, the enamel surrounding the filling is unsupported.  Over time, that unsupported tooth structure microscopically flexes when stress is placed on the tooth.  Years of this flexing can cause cracks to form. These cracks can lead to more extensive (and expensive) treatment, such as a crown,  a root canal, or even loss of the tooth depending on the severity of the fracture.

Whether you have composite or amalgam fillings it is important to maintain your regular cleaning and check-up appointments with your Apex dentist. He/she can keep you informed about the condition of your fillings. That way when one does wear out (and they will, because unfortunately no dental work lasts forever), you can be pro-active, which typically leads to a less expensive and more conservative outcome.

Everything You Need to Know About Dental Sealants from a Family Dentist in Apex

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What is a sealant?  

A sealant is a tooth-colored resin material that is placed on chewing surfaces of teeth to help them stay cavity-free.

crack

Why do teeth need sealants?

Molar and premolar teeth often have very deep pits and fissures.  While bacteria can easily enters these groves, toothbrush bristles are often too large and therefore ineffective.  As a result, these areas become the perfect breeding ground for bacteria to multiply which can lead to dental decay. A sealant does just what its name suggests…it seals off the grooves so that bacteria can’t enter.  After a sealant is placed these areas can no longer harbor bacteria and your tooth brushing once again becomes effective.

tooth-groove

What teeth need sealants? 

Any teeth that have deep groves or pits can benefit from sealants.  These are most often found on molar and premolar (teeth right in front of the molars) permanent teeth, but varies from one individual to another.  One person might benefit from sealants on all molars and premolars (16 teeth), while another may only need their molars (8 teeth) sealed.

Once a tooth has a dental filling in it, it no longer benefits from a sealant.

People often think that only children benefit from sealants.  That is because sealants are typically placed on a child’s molars when they first erupt.  The reality is that any teeth with deep pits and fissures (that do not already have fillings) can benefit from sealants because they  will help prevent future cavities.

How is a sealant applied?

No tooth structure is removed in order to place a sealant.  Instead it is kind of like painting your fingernails: resin material is only added, nothing is taken away.  The tooth is thoroughly cleaned with a pumice and etch.  The tooth is then washed thoroughly. Finally, the sealant material is applied and then cured with a light in order to harden it.

before-after-sealantHow long do sealants lasts?

Sealants typically last two to five years.  Although, it is not uncommon to see sealants in adults that were placed in childhood and are still intact.

Avoiding sticky, chewy, and hard foods can potentially prolong the life of a sealant.

If a sealant is no longer fully intact then it is no longer effective and should be replaced by your dentist.  If it has been less than two years since the sealant was placed, ask if your Apex family dentist offers a warranty for sealants.

Is Sparkling Water Bad for Your Teeth? Ask an Apex Dentist

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We have been asked this question a lot lately, maybe because it is summer and people are looking for a cold refreshing alternative to water that is not soda or juice.  I mean, who doesn’t love a Coconut La Croix every now and then!?!

 Unfortunately the answer is: True.

The problem is that the CO2 that gives sparking water its fizziness is converted to carbonic acid in your mouth.  This acid lowers the pH level and while buffers in our saliva work to neutralize pH levels, the process is slow.

What happens in a mouth with a reduced pH level?  Teeth are demineralized.  In other words, the hard enamel that protects the soft inner part of your teeth (dentin) literally looses some of the minerals that make it hard.  When the enamel is soft, dental erosion occurs…even in the absence of sugar. Adding sugar to the equation creates even more of a problem.  This is because your teeth are not only at risk for erosion, but decay also.  So while sparkling water is worse for your teeth than regular water, it is not as bad as non-diet soda.

One important factor to consider is the length of exposure.  If you pop open a can of

La Croix and drink it with a meal over a 15 minute time period, that is not so bad. Swishing with a mouthful of regular water when you are done makes it even better. However, if you sip on that same size can, without food, for over an hour, the exposure time is much higher.  Your saliva just can’t keep up and so more erosion will occur.

deer-parkBottomline:  The best thing you can drink is water.

When you drink other beverages, try to consume over a shorter duration of time, rather than sipping throughout the day.  If you drink something acidic, don’t brush right away, as the enamel is soft and you will be literally brushing away your teeth!  Instead, rinse with water and brush with fluoride toothpaste an hour later.

The goal of this post is not to say that sparkling water is horrible and you should never drink it.  After all it is a more “natural” alternative to soda and does not have any sugar. However, when a bottle of sparkling water looks almost identical to a regular bottle of water it can be hard to tell if there is any difference.  And it is important to understand the difference so that we can enjoy these beverages and then take the necessary steps to keep our teeth healthy and strong!

Cheers!