How Many Bacteria Are in My Mouth? Ask an 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.

Our Apex NC Family Dentist Explains the Parts of the Teeth!

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While the mouth is just a small part of our overall anatomy, it’s responsible for some of the most important things we do—eating, drinking, speaking, and making facial expressions! In today’s blog, our family dentist in Apex explains the different parts of the teeth, including the enamel, dentin, pulp, and miscellaneous tissues.

Enamel

The outer covering of the tooth, enamel is the strongest, hardest, and most highly-mineralized substance in your body. Enamel is also the most visible part of teeth, a semi-translucent material that ranges in color from light yellow to grayish-white. Enamel does not contain any living cells, and cannot regenerate itself, so it’s critical to preserve it. Proper oral hygiene – brushing, flossing, regular professional checkups and cleanings – help to keep your enamel from eroding away.

Dentin

Dentin is a layer of living cells that lies underneath the tooth enamel. Dentin is also what primarily gives your teeth their color. This is why people who scour their teeth with harsh, abrasive substances like charcoal or baking soda often wind up with yellower teeth than they started out with. Since the white enamel has been worn away, the yellow dentin shows through. That’s why it’s best to stick to safe, professional whitening treatments!

Dental Pulp

Pulp is the living center of your teeth, filled with blood vessels, connective tissue, and nerves. Pulp’s role is to keeps your teeth nourished and moist. Without pulp, our teeth would resemble dried, bleached bones, just like the turkey wishbone that you leave out for a few days after Thanksgiving.

Other Parts of the Tooth and Jaw

Teeth are held in place by the cementum, a layer of connective tissue that grips teeth to the gums and jawbone, and the Periodontal ligament, which helps hold the teeth to the jaw. You also (hopefully!) have gums, upper and lower jaws, a tongue, salivary glands, a uvula (the dangly ball bit at the back of your mouth), and a frenulum linguae (the tissue under your tongue). All of these structures, except your teeth, are covered by a protective lining called the oral mucosa, similar to the mucous membranes inside your nose and inner ears.

The health of all these structures are directly related to the health of your teeth. Your mouth is a holistic system, and if one part of it is not well, other parts will also suffer.

Take Care of Your Mouth with our Apex NC Dentists!

Thankfully, teeth can typically be kept healthy and happy with basic oral hygiene and twice-yearly dentist appointments. Regular exams and professional teeth cleanings help your dentist screen you for oral cancer, tooth decay, and gum disease. If you’re searching for dentists in Apex or Cary, contact Hansen Dentistry today!

What are Veneers? Ask an Apex General Dentist

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If your teeth are cracked, gapped, chipped, or stained, veneers are an excellent non-invasive dental procedure to consider. Veneers are simply a thin shield of synthetic material, either composite resin or porcelain, that are bonded to the front of the teeth, recreate the natural look of enamel. Below is some more information about veneers from our Apex general dentist office!

What Can Veneers Correct?

Veneers are able to correct discoloration, fractures, gaps, chips, and stains in teeth. They are also able to close small gaps and correct small misalignments. Veneers can accurately change the color, size, and strength of a tooth without requiring dental surgery.

Who Does Not Qualify for Veneers?

Unfortunately, dental veneers are not appropriate for all candidates. Situations which may exclude the possibility of veneers include:

  • Unhealthy teeth which have been eroded by gum disease and decay
  • Weakened teeth which lack the necessary amount of base enamel
  • Teeth that are severely misaligned

Only a qualified dentist can determine if veneers are an appropriate choice for your teeth, so be sure to consult a professional before purchasing cheap online alternatives!  

How are Veneers Made? 

If your veneers will be made of composite resin, your dentist will usually be able to sculpt and bond them on-site during your second appointment. However, the majority of veneers are made of porcelain, because it is more durable, long-lasting, and impervious to stains. For porcelain veneers, your dentist will take a mold of your teeth and send it to a laboratory for fabrication. If your teeth are extremely stained or damaged, your dentist will be able to place a temporary veneer for you to wear during the waiting period.

How are Veneers Applied?

Once your veneers are ready for application, your dentist will lightly buff your teeth so that they can adhere to them more easily. Usually, about one millimeter of the tooth surface will be removed. Then, your dentist will carefully place each veneer over your teeth to verify that the fit and color match those of the original teeth. When your dentist is satisfied with the veneer’s fit and appearance, he or she will apply a cement bond beneath them, and cure the cement with a light beam for about 60 seconds.

Schedule an Appointment with Hansen Dentistry in Apex NC

Veneers are one the most effective, least invasive ways to correct dental blemishes and enhance your smile. If you’re ready to begin the process of applying your veneers, contact Hansen Dentistry in Apex today!

Advice on How to Soothe a Teething Baby from Hansen Dentistry in Apex

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Although some babies may experience very little or even no discomfort while teething, many do, resulting in excessive drooling, inconsolable crying, and a decreased appetite. If your child seems irritable or in pain, here are some parent-tested tips that will help him or her feel better.

Give Your Baby Chilled Fruit

Once you’ve introduced your baby to solid foods, you can help soothe those sore gums with a tasty snack of chilled mashed bananas. To help prevent choking, place the fruit in a mesh feeder, and give that to your baby to lick or suck on. You can also experiment with other types of cooked, cooled fruit in the mesh feeder, such as apples, strawberries, mangoes, or ripe pears.

Give Them a Cold Washcloth

Take a clean washcloth and submerge it in water, wring it out until it’s just damp, and then place it in the fridge. Once it’s cool, fold it and give to your baby to chew on to help relieve those teething baby gums. However, don’t leave your child unattended while she’s sucking or chewing on the washcloth, as this can be a choking hazard.

Cool a Metal Spoon

Cool metal can be soothing, so grab a regular teaspoon from your kitchen drawer and put it in the fridge. When the spoon is cool, gently rub the back of the spoon against your baby’s gums. A clean, chilled, non-gel-filled teething toy can also provide some relief.

Massage Your Baby’s Gums

You can help provide some baby teething relief by carefully massaging those sore little gums in gentle, circular motions. Remember to wash your hands first.

Wipe Away Drool

One of the main signs of teething is drooling, which, aside from being a little yucky, can irritate the skin. Keep your baby’s face clean and dry by wiping it periodically, and protect their clothing with soft cloth bibs.

Ask Your Child’s Dentist About Medication

If you’re concerned that your baby’s teething discomfort cannot be soothed by any of the above methods, consult your doctor and/or dentist for advice on using medication to help with baby teething symptoms. Make an appointment with a pediatric dentist after the first tooth erupts or by your infant’s first birthday, whichever comes first.

Hansen Dentistry is a general dentist serving children and grown-ups in Apex NC. To schedule an appointment with us, contact us here.  

Am I a Candidate for Invisalign? Ask an Apex Dentist Office

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You may have already heard of Invisalign, a modern alternative to traditional orthodontic braces which uses a series of clear plastic aligners to move the teeth. Since Invisalign has many significant benefits over traditional braces, many of our patients are interested in the treatment. However, not every smile is a good fit for Invisalign, and certain circumstances might require the traditional method.

Only your dentist can determine whether Invisalign is right for you, but here are some signs we look for when assessing whether a patient is a good candidate.

Dental Issues Helped by Invisalign

Generally, Invisalign is best-suited for patients with mind dental and orthodontic issues, such as:

  • Mildly crooked teeth
  • Protruding teeth
  • Mild overbites
  • Mild underbites
  • Wide gaps in the teeth
  • Overcrowding of teeth
  • Mild open bites (teeth that do not touch when the mouth is closed)
  • Mild crossbites (when the upper and lower teeth are misaligned)

When Invisalign May Not the Best Choice

Invisalign is usually not recommended for harsher dental issues, especially issues that require the jaw alignment to be corrected, such as extreme overbites and underbites. .  Invisalign aligners can move crooked teeth, but they do not have the ability to actually shift a person’s jaw into a different position.

Invisalign is also generally not recommended for children. This is because juvenile teeth are still growing and have not reached their final stage of development. Children also generally do not have the dedication or self-control to successfully finish the Invisalign treatment. Since the Invisalign trays can be easily removed at any time, and since all tooth realignment will cause some soreness, it is usually very difficult for children to keep the trays in for the recommended 22 hours per day they should be worn.

Get Invisalign and More at our Apex NC Dentist Office

If you live in the Raleigh, Cary, or Apex NC area, and are interested in correcting your smile with Invisalign, stop by Hansen Dentistry for a consultation. Dr. Hansen will examine your teeth and determine whether Invisalign is a good treatment option for you. Remember that only an experienced dentist should make this decision—if you have already decided that you don’t qualify for Invisalign, you might be wrong!

To schedule a dentist appointment with us, click here.

Overbites/Underbites: Apex Dentist Explains How It’s More Than a Cosmetic Issue

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More than a cosmetic issue: How malocclusions harm your teeth

If you have been to the dentist lately, you may have learned that you have a malocclusion—in layman’s terms, an overbite, underbite, crossbite, or other type of situation that prevents the upper and lower teeth from aligning correctly. While many people believe that their underbite or overbite is simply a cosmetic issue, malocclusions affect far more than your appearance. Below are some ways dental malocclusions harm your teeth.

Tooth decay

There are three categories of malocclusion. In Class I, the teeth may be rotated, crowded, or too spaced-out for the upper and lower jaw to meet properly. It’s that second issue, overcrowding, that can lead to tooth decay. Because crowded teeth are much more difficult to clean properly, patients may struggle with oral hygiene despite their best efforts. Flossing can be challenging if teeth are grouped too tightly, and brushing might not reach all the hiding places where bacteria live. Therefore, fixing crowded teeth isn’t just a matter of having a pretty smile; it’s actually a matter of preserving your long-term oral health.

Worn tooth enamel 

If your teeth are not properly aligned, or if some teeth jut out higher than the others, they will get worn down over time from normal talking and chewing. This is problematic because your enamel protects the sensitive dentin beneath it, and once it’s gone, your teeth will be more susceptible to cavities and bacteria (not to mention, a lot of pain and discomfort.) Re-aligning your teeth into their correct positions helps ensure long-term protection (and no painful, expensive procedures in the future!)

Jaw pain (TMJ)

The human jaw has evolved to operate based on one type of tooth arrangement. Uneven teeth can impact the muscles of the jaw, causing long-term problems usually referred to as TMJ, or Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome. This condition is characterized a pain in the jaw joint; head and neck pain; facial pain; ear pain; frequent headaches; a jaw that is locked in position or difficult to open; problems with biting; and jaw clicking or popping sounds when the patient bites. While you might not develop severe TMJ from a misaligned jaw, you are certainly at risk for it, and it is probable you will develop at least one of the symptoms, such as jaw clicking or headaches.

Speech impediments 

The shape of our mouths is critical when it comes to forming words and communicating. Malocclusion can lead to speech problems, especially for young children just getting a grasp on language. Speech problems can have a significant impact on an individuals self-esteem, social interactions, and job or school performance—so it’s not a minor thing! If your teeth are interfering with the way you communicate, it’s important to have them corrected.

Avoid these issues with our Apex Dentist today! 

As much as Dr. Hansen and the rest of the team at Hansen Dentistry want you to have a beautiful smile that looks great in pictures, we are much more concerned about preserving your long-term oral health! Correcting crooked, misaligned, or gapping teeth is primarily about keeping your teeth strong and cavity-free over the course of your lifetime. One of the easiest ways to do this is by using Invisalign trays to move the teeth into alignment. To learn more about how Invisalign can help you, call us now for a consultation!

What is Bottle Rot? Our Apex NC Dentist Explains How to Prevent Infant Tooth Decay

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Also known as baby bottle tooth decay, bottle rot occurs when a baby’s teeth are exposed to sugar for so long that they begin to develop cavities. Below is more information about bottle rot, and what you can do to prevent it.

Consequences of Cavities in Baby Teeth

Some people believe that it doesn’t matter if a baby or small child has cavities, because the baby teeth will eventually fall out, to be replaced by permanent adult teeth. However, cavities cause harm to children for several reasons. Firstly, the bacteria in the teeth can spread to the rest of the body, causing other health problems. And secondly, healthy baby teeth are necessary to ensure that the permanent teeth grow in correctly. That is why it’s important to keep up with your infant’s oral care.

How to Prevent Bottle Rot

Bottle rot mainly occurs when parents fill a baby bottle with a sweet beverage to keep their child calm and happy. Another mistake is putting the baby to bed with a bottle, which exposes the child’s delicate teeth to sugar for an extended period of time. When teeth are exposed to sugar for too long, bacteria that live in the mouth consume it and convert it into acid, which destroys the enamel. Therefore, it’s important to limit your child’s exposure to sugary drinks as much as possible.

Should I Brush My Baby’s Teeth?

Yes! You can “brush” a baby’s teeth by simply wiping the gums with a washcloth after each meal and before bed. Once the baby has grown teeth, you can use a baby toothbrush and a rice-sized amount of toothpaste to keep them clean. This not only removes bacteria and debris, but establishes a healthy habit early! You can also limit oral bacteria by regularly sterilizing your baby’s bottle with soap and hot water.

Limiting Sugar Intake

As we said above, you should never put your child to bed with a bottle of juice. It’s also a good idea to limit the juice during the day, as most juice brands tend to be high-sugar. Formula, breast milk, and water should be fine. If your toddler really likes juice and is old enough to be vocal about it, try diluting it with water. Most kids won’t be able to tell the difference. Finally, avoid dipping a pacifier into honey or sugar.

Yes, Your Baby Can See the Dentist!

Generally, you can start taking your baby to the dentist as soon as you notice the first tooth erupting. Dental checkups for infants are mainly a time to talk about the health of your baby’s teeth, as well as steps that you can take to avoid problems like bottle rot. Plus, you can discuss options like sealant coatings that are used as a preventative measure against tooth decay.

Take Care of Your Child’s Teeth at our Apex Dentist Office

Bottle rot doesn’t have to be a problem that you encounter while raising your baby. With some simple strategies, your child’s teeth will grow in perfectly and remain clean and strong. If you would like to bring your child in for a dental checkup, contact Hansen Dentistry today to schedule an appointment!

How to Help Your Child Enjoy Going to Your Apex Family Dentist

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Going to the dentist can be a scary prospect—for parents! Fortunately, there are many ways you can teach toddlers and small children that the dentist’s office is nothing to be afraid of. Here’s how to help your child enjoy getting a dental check-up so they can maintain good oral health for years to come.

Build Excitement

Before your dentist appointment, talk to your child about the upcoming event and try to build excitement and understanding. Picture books about teeth and dentists can help prepare children in an atmosphere they are already familiar with. You could also share some interesting facts with them about animal teeth or dinosaur teeth, two topics children love.

Keep Your Cool

Remember that most children do not have much experience at the dentist’s office, and any nervousness or anxiety they feel towards the visit will likely be learned from observing you. So, if you’re worried about tantrums, don’t let that worry show. Similarly, never let a child overhear you expressing fear about your own dentist appointment, or worrying about an upcoming procedure. Your best bet is to stay positive, calm, and optimistic whenever the dentist is mentioned.

Have a Game Plan

If possible, schedule your appointment in the morning, when young children are alert and fresh. Be aware that if your small child becomes fearful or upset while in the dentist’s office, the best course of action might be to reschedule. Forcing the appointment to continue will establish that the dentist office is a place where upsetting things happen, and start a cycle wherein the next appointment provokes anxiety, too.

Know How to Take Care of a Child’s Teeth

The best way to make your child’s dentist appointment go smoothly is to take care of his or her teeth year-round. As your child’s teeth emerge, continue to teach him or her the importance of brushing and flossing, and supervise brushing to make sure that no toothpaste is swallowed. Try to limit sticky, sugary foods, such as candy and gummies, and follow our toothbrushing tips for kids.

Schedule an Appointment at Our Dentist Office in Apex

With proper supervision and frequent dental visits, your child will develop good dental habits that will serve them well for a lifetime. If you’re ready to schedule a dentist appointment for your child, contact Hansen Dentistry here. We can’t wait to take care of your family!

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.

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.