Tips on Creating a Plastic-Free Oral Care Routine, from Our Apex NC Dentist

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Plastic. It’s everywhere, in almost everything. It’s certainly in your bathroom, used to make oral care items like toothbrushes, dental floss, and toothpaste tubes. All of these items are essential for having a clean, healthy smile, and yet all of them, unfortunately, are non-recyclable. 

The good news is that you don’t have to be part of the problem. More and more people are joining the zero-waste moving, striving to only use items that are biodegradable, compostable, and plastic-free. Below are some simple swaps you can make to ensure you have healthy teeth and a healthy planet. 

Bamboo Toothbrushes 

Each year, over one billion toothbrushes are thrown away in the US alone. That’s 50 million pounds of non-recyclable plastic waste, or enough toothbrushes to wrap around the world four times. 

Luckily, many companies make bamboo toothbrushes, which can be tossed in a compost bin to decompose naturally. Since bamboo is a material which grows very quickly (many people consider it to be a weed), bamboo products are usually very inexpensive. The only drawback is the bristles: most bamboo toothbrushes use plastic bristles, which must be pulled out before you can compost the handle. If you want a fully-organic toothbrush, your best option is one that uses boar’s hair bristles. 

Silk Dental Floss

Most commercial dental floss is made of nylon, Teflon, or some other synthetic petroleum compound. One great, organic material that can take the place of dental floss is silk, which is spun from silkworms. You might rummage through your local secondhand store to find a 100% silk clothing article, and repurpose the threads for floss. You can also purchase silk thread from art supply stores, but these will usually arrive in plastic packaging. The most convenient, waste-free method is to purchase thread from a brand like Dental Lace. This company packages its floss in recyclable glass vials with metal lids. When you’ve used up your floss, you can send the vial back to the company, and they’ll fill it with new product. 

DIY Toothpaste

There are countless recipes for toothpaste on the internet, the vast majority of them involving baking soda and/or bentonite clay. As an abrasive substance that scrubs away plaque, baking soda is an acceptable material. But if you decide to go this route, make sure to include xylitol in your mix. Despite the pharmaceutical-sounding name, xylitol is a natural sweetener extracted from birch wood and certain fruits and vegetables. Xylitol is unique among sweeteners because it acts as a sort of “mousetrap” for the bacteria that live on your teeth, effectively killing them. 

In addition, you can also purchase fluoride powder, which strengthens your tooth enamel. Both of these products will likely arrive in plastic packaging that may or may not be recyclable. However, just one bag of each is enough for a lifetime’s supply of homemade toothpaste—versus countless non-recyclable toothpaste tubes. 

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

We hope this blog post has helped you learn ways to live a greener, low-waste lifestyle while still taking care of your oral health. Doing so will help keep the actual teeth in your mouth free of artificial substances like composite resin, which, while a good replacement for your natural enamel, isn’t as great as the real thing! Having regular dental cleanings every 6 months is the best way to ensure long-term dental health, which means less waste and less expense on your part! To schedule a dental cleaning with our Apex dentist, click here.

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

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

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

What is Xylitol?

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

Why Does Xylitol Harm Dogs?

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

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

Foods Which Contain Xylitol

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

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

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

Need a Dentist in Apex NC?

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

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

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

Bacteria & Periodontal Disease

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

Tobacco and Alcohol

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

Dry Mouth

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

Other Conditions

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

Step 1: See Your Apex NC Dentist

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

Apex Dentist Recommends NOT Using Activated Charcoal Toothpaste

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The last time you were browsing Pinterest or Instagram, you might have seen an ad for one of the hippest new health trends: Activated charcoal toothpaste. Made from coal, wood, and other substances, activated charcoal has started popping up as a miracle cure in everything from soap to lotion. But this stuff should never come into contact with your teeth—and here’s why from Dr. Hansen, our Apex NC dentist.

What is activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal is made primarily from coal and wood, but can also contain other burned things, like coconut shells and bones. It becomes “activated” when high temperatures combine with a gas or activating agent to expand its surface area. Traditionally, charcoal has been used to treat poisoning and drug overdoses, as far back as ancient times. When a person ingests activated charcoal, drugs and toxins bind to it, keeping them from being absorbed into the bloodstream. Many people believe that it absorbs other “toxins”, too. 

Why shouldn’t charcoal be used on teeth?

There has been very little evidence of charcoal toothpaste’s safety and effectiveness. In September 2017, the American Dental Association (ADA) published a peer-reviewed scientific literature review stating that researchers found little evidence that charcoal reduces bacteria, prevents cavities, or even reduces tooth stains. Researchers even pointed out some possible carcinogenic ingredients in charcoal and in clay that are found in some of these toothpastes that could be damaging to human health.

What we do know about charcoal toothpaste

While more research might contradict previous studies’ findings, there is something we do know about activated charcoal: it’s extremely abrasive on teeth. That means it can easily damage your enamel, exposing the sensitive dentin beneath. Since dentin is naturally yellow, this means that charcoal toothpaste won’t make your teeth appear white; on the contrary, it will make them look more stained. And once your enamel isn’t protecting your teeth anymore, your cosmetic appearance will be the least of your problems—anything hot, cold, hard, or acidic will be extremely painful! 

Get the best solution for teeth whitening with our Apex cosmetic dentist

If you want to have whiter teeth, the most effective, safe and long-lasting whitening method is using custom whitening trays made by a dentist, or some other professional whitening method. If you use charcoal toothpaste, you might as well brush your teeth with sand—so be sure to book an appointment with our Apex dentist today.

Signs You Are Brushing Your Teeth Too Hard from Our Dentist in Apex

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

A Frayed Toothbrush

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

Receding or Bleeding Gums

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

Sensitive Teeth

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

Dull or Yellow Teeth

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

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

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