“What are Those Things?”: Common Dental Tools Used by Our Apex Dentists

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“What is that?” That’s a question we hear at our Apex dentist office quite often. And it’s understandable—having a dangerous-looking implement inserted into your mouth can be pretty scary, especially for people who have a dental phobia. If you are nervous about going to the dentist, knowing beforehand what the tools are and what they do can help calm your anxiety. Keep reading to learn about some of the most common tools our Apex dentist uses. 

Mouth Mirror

Probably the most recognizable dental instrument, the mouth mirror isn’t just used to look at your teeth; it’s also often used to retract the patient’s cheeks to the dentist a better look.

Dental Explorer

Many patients fear the dental explorer, which resembles a hook with a pointy end. Although this device may look like has an evil purpose, it’s only used to tap around suspect areas of enamel. If the explorer “sticks” in a certain spot, your dentist or hygienist can tell that tooth decay is present. If it doesn’t, your enamel is strong and healthy.

Periodontal Probe

This instrument is a tiny rod with small markings on it, spaced one millimeter apart. Some patients have remarked that it looks a little bit like a mosquito leg. The periodontal probe is used to measure bone loss around the tooth (periodontitis). The dentist or hygienist carefully slides the probe down into the space between the tooth and the gum, and the deeper the instrument goes, the more bone loss is present. Generally, healthy teeth will measure around one to three millimeters. If a four-millimeter pocket is noted, it could be an indication of gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Anything higher than that suggests periodontitis.

Cotton Pliers

Cotton pliers are another rather wicked-looking implement whose purpose is quite benign. The cotton pliers are essentially just long-handled tweezers, bent at a small angle for greater accuracy and precision when placing, you guessed it, rolls of cotton. 

Spoon Excavator

A spoon excavator has a long handle and a flat, rounded end, shaped somewhat like a spoon. It is most commonly used to remove decay or debris, although it can also be used for many other tasks, such as shaping composite resin.

Saliva Ejector

You probably know the saliva ejector as the “spit sucker.” This little disposable tube uses suction to keep water, saliva, and other debris out of the back of the throat during a procedure.

Contact Our Apex Dentist Office Today! 

Whether you need a simple tooth cleaning or an important restorative procedure, Hansen Dentistry is here to help you every step of the way. Our Apex dentist, Dr. Hansen, and his amazing staff go above and beyond to help our patients feel relaxed and comfortable in the dentist’s chair. If you have any questions about a certain procedure or the tools we use, we will be more than happy to answer. To request an appointment with our office, click here to fill out our easy contact form

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.

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.

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.  

Am I a Candidate for Invisalign? Ask Our Apex NC Cosmetic Dentist

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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.

Our Apex Dentist Explains Why Overbites are 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? Preventing Infant Tooth Decay With Our Apex Family Dentist

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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!

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!

Should I Get an Electric Toothbrush? Ask an Apex Cosmetic Dentistry

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In a word—yes! An electric toothbrush does the hard work for you, removing much more plaque than a traditional, manual toothbrush. And with so many different types and features available, it’s easy to find an electric toothbrush that suits your specific oral health needs. In today’s blog, our Apex dentist explains some reasons why you should consider buying an electric toothbrush.

Easier to Use

To use an electric toothbrush, you only need only guide it along the surfaces of your teeth. This is much easier than scrubbing back and forth, and many people with arthritis or similar conditions find using a power toothbrush less painful to use. Electric toothbrushes may also help children brush their teeth more effectively.

Better Plaque Removal

Multiple independent studies have shown that electric toothbrushes remove more plaque and reduce gingivitis more effectively than manual brushes, in both the short and long term. Results are especially positive with brushes that have a rotating, oscillating action.

Superior Technology and Features

Some electric toothbrushes are even able to help you improve your brushing habits. Hi-tech toothbrush features may include:

  • Various brushing modes designed for sensitive teeth, whitening, or gum-massaging
  • Pressure sensors which gently signal when you’re brushing too hard
  • Timers which help you keep track of how long you’re brushing each quadrant of your mouth
  • Digital reminders that it’s time to replace your brush head
  • Multiple brush head compatibility, so you can choose which kind of bristle design you prefer

We encourage all our clients to consider switching to an electric toothbrush, because we almost always see a remarkable improvement in the oral hygiene of patients who do. If you would like a recommendation for a particular style or brand, just ask us during your next dental cleaning, and we will be happy to help!

Get the Best Dental Care in Apex at Hansen Dentistry

Hansen Dentistry 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.