Dog Owners: Watch Out for These Household Items Containing Xylitol 

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We have written before about xylitol, a sugar alcohol that has excellent benefits for dental health. Although xylitol is highly recommended for fighting tooth decay in humans, however, it poses a significant risk to dogs. When a dog ingests xylitol, its body releases a massive surge of insulin, and this rabid influx can quickly become life-threatening. Therefore, it is important to look out for the following common household products which contain xylitol, and keep them out of your pup’s reach. 

Sugar-Free Gum

Dentists love when our patients chew sugar-free gum containing xylitol. Not only is the ingredient deadly to harmful tooth bacteria, the action of chewing stimulates also saliva production, which further helps cut down on bacteria. However, xylitol-containing gums can cause serious problems for your dog. In fact, the Pet Poison Helpline cites gum as the source of nearly 80% of xylitol poisoning cases. The solution? Keep all of your gum in a closed cabinet or high place. If your dog does get its teeth on some gum, be sure to note the brand and your best guess at the amount ingested. Since different gums contain different amounts of xylitol, this is crucial information for your vet. 

Food Items  

More and more consumers are checking the calories in food items before making their purchases, so in order to keep the calories low, many companies are forgoing natural sugar in favor of xylitol. These items, sometimes marked as “low-sugar” or “sugar-free,” are much more dangerous than other items on this list, because they contain a much higher amount of sweetener. Therefore, pay close attention to the ingredient list on all foodstuffs you buy, and never let a dog snack on human food, no matter how cute their begging face might be. Ketchup, peanut butter, protein bars, and pudding are all common culprits of doggy xylitol poisoning. 

Lotions, Gels, and Deodorants

While xylitol is used in food as an artificial sweetener, it also has great humectant properties, or the ability to help a product retain its moisture. For this reason, many lotions, gels, toothpastes, and liquid or “meltaway” medications contain it. Like everything on this list, your best course of action is to keep such products out of reach of your four-legged friends. Even if you think it’s unlikely your pooch will take a bite out of your deodorant, it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

Hansen Dentistry is a family dentist located in Apex, NC. We provide dental exams, dental cleanings, cavity fillings, oral surgery, same-day crowns, and more to our Apex and Cary patients. To schedule an appointment, please click here

5 Health Trends That Are Damaging Your Teeth

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Over the past few years, many members of the public have come to distrust commercial products—and are instead turning to homemade concoctions promoted by celebrities and trendy health blogs. In many cases, though, the advice of internet influencers and self-proclaimed health “gurus” may do much more harm than good. In today’s post, our Apex cosmetic dentist explains why, if you want better teeth, you’re better consulting a professional with a dental degree than a model with 1 million followers. 

Lemon “Detox” Recipes 

The concept of “detoxing”—or consuming various foods and drinks to remove “toxins” from the body–has become very popular in recent years. Instagram is chock-full of celebrities and influencers boosting various “detox” juices, water infusions and smoothies. But beware of any recipe that advises you to suck on a lime, or drink a glass of what is essentially mostly lemon juice: lemon is extremely acidic, and is one of many foods that can damage the enamel. As for the detoxification benefits, the only things that can remove ingested bi-products from drugs, medicines or alcohol are the kidneys and liver. Now, is a glass of lemon water as bad for your teeth as a glass of Coke? Of course not. Just be aware of the risks of prolonged contact, and be sure to brush when you’re done. 

Oil Pulling

Oil pulling is the practice of swishing oil, usually coconut oil, around the mouth for up to 20 minutes a day. Advocates believe that bad tooth bacteria, food, and plaque will “stick” to the oil and are eliminated when the oil is spat out. Some also believe that the oil pulls (hence the name) toxins out of the body. However, as we mentioned above, only the kidneys and livers can remove toxins. As to the other claims, plaque really needs pressure to be removed, from a toothbrush, floss, or dental tool. While oil pulling itself probably isn’t doing any harm, any benefits could be duplicated just as easily with regular mouthwash. 

Apple Cider Vinegar

Many celebrities like Miranda Kerr have advertised the supposed health benefits of drinking a glass of apple cider vinegar water each day. Some “influencers” even promote drinking a straight teaspoon of pure vinegar once a day. However, excessive consumption of vinegar over a prolonged period of time will likely cause the tooth’s enamel to erode. This isn’t just speculation: 2012 case study found that the erosive wear in a young woman’s teeth was a result of consuming a glass of apple cider vinegar water once a day. Your best bet for dental health and weight loss are tried-and-true methods: calorie counting, exercise, and toothpaste. 

Charcoal Toothpaste

Charcoal toothpaste is another trend that has emerged in recent years, this said to whiten the teeth better than whitening toothpastes and treatments. However, to date there have been no studies demonstrating that this is true. What is likely is that, like baking soda and other abrasive substances, charcoal toothpaste scours away the tooth’s enamel. While users will initially see results, eventually, the teeth will become more sensitive and cavity-prone. They may even begin to look yellow as the naturally yellowish dentin beneath the enamel starts to show through. 

Fluoride-Free Toothpastes 

As concerns about the safety and efficacy of vaccination have emerged, so too has suspicion about another common safety measure: fluoride. Though fluoride is a natural mineral, similar to calcium, which has been proven to strengthen tooth enamel, many consumers have begun to believe that it can cause cancer, dementia and diabetes. These claims have been disproven many times, however; American dental health has continued to improve, thanks to both it and other factors. countless studies have shown that patients who use fluoride toothpastes experience less cavities and better overall dental health than those who don’t. Since fluoride was added to our public drinking water over 75 years ago, American oral health has dramatically improved, thanks to it and other factors. 

Need a dentist in Apex, NC? Click here to schedule an appointment at Hansen Dentistry. 

Our Apex Cosmetic Dentist Explains the Top Benefits of Invisalign 

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You may have heard of Invisalign, a newer method of straightening the teeth that doesn’t involve the wires, brackets, or rubber bands used by traditional metal braces. If you are curious about this procedure, and are considering getting Invisalign aligners in Apex, here are some of the top advantages they can give our patients.    

Removable 

If you had braces as a child or teenager, you may remember how irritating—not to mention unsanitary—it was to get food particles stuck between your teeth. One of Invisalign’s main benefits is that the trays can be removed while you eat or drink, then placed back on when you’re finished. 

However, note that this same removability makes Invisalign a poor choice for some people, especially children and young teenagers. Teeth straightening, though not painful, will usually cause some discomfort, so you will need strength of will to keep yourself from removing the aligners if you choose this method. 

Discreet 

The main benefit of Invisalign (or other brands of clear tooth aligners) is that they are discreet. Unless someone sees you removing the aligners to eat, they will never know that you are straightening your teeth. Many adults often avoid straightening their teeth because they feel that metal braces will make them look juvenile, so Invisalign is a great option for anyone with that concern. 

Comfortable

While metal braces are tougher and more aggressive in straightening the teeth, they can rub against the lips, mouth, and gums, causing discomfort for the patient. Although the metal brackets can be covered with wax, this can be time-consuming and irritating. Invisalign aligners have no brackets, and are therefore much easier to wear. However, note that this same benefit also means they are less powerful and take longer to create optimal results. 

Easy to Clean

Cleaning in, around, and underneath metal braces is challenging, since they are firmly attached to the teeth. But since the Invisalign aligners can be totally removed, they can be simply soaked in lukewarm water and brushed with a special cleaning agent, or even regular toothpaste. This in turn decreases the chance of developing cavities and keeps your mouth smelling and feeling fresh. 

Want Invisalign in Apex NC? 

While Invisalign is not often the best option for correcting all misalignments, as long as the misalignment is mild, it is a gentle, discreet, clean option that will allow you to gain a beautiful smile with none the wiser. However, if you are experiencing a more complex, unique, or severe dental issue, tougher measures may be required, i.e. metal braces. The only way to know for sure is to head into our Apex NC dentist office for an exam and consultation! To request an appointment, click here

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.

Learn the Parts of the Teeth from Our Apex NC Family Dentist!

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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!

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.  

What is Bottle Rot? Apex 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!

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.

Our Apex Dentist Explains how to Help Your Child Enjoy Going to the 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.