Cancer Mouth

How Cancer Can Affect Your Mouth

Cancer affects your life in a myriad of ways, but one aspect that often gets overlooked is how the condition can impact your oral healthy. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, one in three cancer patients will develop at least one complication that affects their mouth. These complications can be mild or severe, and we want to share some tips for preventing and caring for these side effects of cancer in today’s blog.

Cancer’s Effect On Your Mouth

Some problems that can develop in your mouth as a direct result of your cancer treatment include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Mouth sores
  • Infections
  • Gum sensitivity
  • Acute or chronic jaw pain

If you develop any of these mouth conditions, bring it up to your medical team and your dentist. Problems in your mouth need to be treated as soon as possible in order to prevent a delay in cancer treatment, so don’t ignore the problem.

Protecting Your Mouth If You Have Cancer

If you have been diagnosed with cancer and are going through treatment, here are some tips for caring for your mouth before, during and after your cancer treatment.

  • Before Treatment – The best thing you can do for your mouth prior to cancer treatment is to practice good oral hygiene. This includes brushing your teeth regularly, flossing and avoiding things like excessive sugar or tobacco products.
  • During Treatment – During treatment, be sure to continue the above tips, but also pay close attention to your mouth. If you begin to notice sores or bleeding gums, let your cancer team know. They may be able to prescribe medication to protect against infection or monitor problems to ensure they don’t get worse.
  • After Treatment – Finally, after treatment care is the exact same as before treatment care, but you’ll also want to make an appointment with your dentist sooner rather than later. They’ll be able to ensure everything looks as it should and give you more tips in the event you’re still dealing with some lingering symptoms.

Dr. Brooks has helped numerous patients care for their oral health while they fight a different battle against cancer, and he can be your resource if you need one. Reach out to his office today for more information.

Dental Health Fact or Fiction

Dental Health – Fact or Fiction?

When it comes to your dental health, it can sometimes be hard to separate myth from truth or fact from fiction. Today, we hope to clear up some of those misconceptions and test your knowledge of dental health with our fact or fiction quiz!

Dental Health Quiz

See how well you do on this dental health quiz. You can find the answers at the bottom of the page.

  1. True or False.  All senior citizens will need dentures at some point.
  2. True or False. Calcium supplements are just as effective as calcium obtained through our diet.
  3. When do permanent teeth begin to come in?
  4. In general, what’s worse for your oral health, too much saliva or not enough?
  5. True or False. An electric toothbrush cleans better than a manual.
  6. True or False. I should let my dentist know about previous surgeries I’ve had, even if they aren’t related to your mouth.
  7. About 2-5% of people suffer from what condition after having a tooth removed?
  8. True or False. There’s nothing you can do about bad breath.
  9. True or False. “Boil and bite” mouthguards are the best type of mouthguard if you have braces.
  10. Who is the best source for all your dental questions in the greater Twin Cities area?


  1. False. Advances in dental health mean that roughing 75 percent of people over the age of 65 still have some or all of their teeth!
  2. False. While calcium supplements are helpful at protecting your teeth, recent studies have found that they can slightly increase your heart attack risk compared to people who received their recommended daily amount through diet alone.
  3. According to this blog we wrote earlier, permanent teeth usually come in around the age of six or seven.
  4. Saliva has bacteria fighting properties, so in general it is better to have more saliva production than a dry mouth.
  5. False. It doesn’t matter whether you use an electric toothbrush or a manual, it’s all about how well you hit all the surfaces of your teeth. Electric toothbrushes are only as effective as the toothbrush holder!
  6. True. Some heart conditions or surgeries that require medications and antibiotics can increase your risk of infections if you’re having a dental procedure performed.
  7. This condition is called a dry socket.
  8. False. There’s plenty you can do about bad breath! Learn more here.
  9. Although boil and bite are better than preformed mouthguards, if your child has braces, a custom mouthguard if probably the best option.
  10. Dr. Tim Brooks and the team at Smiles for Life! Contact us here.
Types of Dentures

How to Care For Different Types Of Dentures

Dentures are removable sets of artificial teeth that can help replace missing teeth or help a person get their smile back. Dentures are more common as we get older after conditions like gum disease and tooth decay wear away our teeth. Aside from helping replace damaged teeth, dentures also benefit your oral health and can improve your speech. Below, we take a closer look at different types dentures, and how to care for your new teeth.

Types of Dentures

Here’s a little bit more about the different types of dentures available to you:

  • Conventional – As the name implies, this is the typical type of dentures that people have. It is a fully removable denture that is created and placed in your mouth after any remaining teeth are removed and your mouth has healed. This process can take a couple of months.
  • Immediate – An immediate denture is one that is installed on the same day that the remaining teeth have been removed. A preliminary appointment is required in order for your dentist to make a model of your teeth, and although you get your dentures the same day, you may have to have them adjusted after your jaw has healed.
  • Overdenture – An overdenture is a piece that is placed over any remaining teeth. The remaining teeth offer extra stability for the denture, but they have to be examined by a dentist to ensure they are healthy enough to remain in your mouth.

Caring For Your Dentures

Once your dentures have been fitted, it’s going to take a while to get used to them. Your mouth muscles will eventually get better at keeping them in place, and you may notice an increase in saliva flow for a little bit. To ensure everything is going as expected, you’ll have a couple follow up appointments with your dentist to check for proper fit and potential issues like pain and soreness.

If you have dentures, you have to practice good oral hygiene with your dentures but also with your gums. When your dentures are removed, make sure you brush your gums, tongue and roof of your mouth every morning before you insert your dentures, and again after you remove them for the night.

Once your set is removed, rinse them under water and brush them to remove any food or debris. Once they are clean, you’ll want to leave them submerged under water to prevent them from warping. If you use adhesives, follow the instructions on the package and look for products with the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance.

Mouthguards & Teeth

What to Know About Mouthguards & Teeth Safety

Mouthguards are becoming more common in organized sports, as research shows that they can not only protect your teeth, but they can also help prevent against certain head injuries like concussions. At what age should you consider having your child wear a mouthguard, and how do they help to protect your child’s teeth? We answer those questions and more in today’s blog.

Mouthguard Safety

Mouthguards or other mouth protections help to cushion a blow to the face and disperse the force of the blow over a larger area than directly on one or two teeth. Most mouthguards cover your upper teeth and protect your gums, teeth and other soft tissues in your mouth. More than 200,000 dental injuries are avoided each year because younger athletes wear mouthguards, so if your child is beginning contact sports, make sure you invest in a mouthguard.

One common misconception among parents is that their children don’t need mouthguards until their permanent teeth have come in. This is not true! The American Dental Association recommends that children over the age of six wear a mouthguard when participating in certain activities like soccer, football, basketball and gymnastics.

Choosing A Mouthguard

In general, there are three different types of mouthguards available:

  • Stock
  • Boil and Bite
  • Custom

Stock mouthguards are inexpensive because they come preformed. Most children complain that they don’t fit well, and they may even irritate gums, so these aren’t the ideal option. Boil and bite mouthguards are better, because, as the name implies, they can be fitted to your child’s teeth by boiling the mouthguard and having them bite onto it in order to create indentations. These mouthguards are approved by the American Dental Association, but make sure that you closely follow the instructions to ensure the mold is made safely and correctly. Finally, there are custom mouthguards that can be designed by your dentist. These options are a little more expensive, but they will be individually tailored to your child’s mouth to ensure the best fit possible.

Mouthguards are imperative for any child or teen who has braces. This custom dental work can easily be damaged by a blow to the face, so make sure your child wears a mouthguard during athletic activity or during certain athletic activities like rollerblading or skating. When picking out a mouthguard for children with braces, talk to your dentist or orthodontist about the best option for your child’s mouth. Depending on the braces, your dentist may recommend a different type of mouthguard or one that also protects their lower teeth, so don’t just pick up the cheapest option on the shelf.

Bloomington Dentist Office

Finally, you also want to care for your mouthguard when you’re not using it. Keep it clean and dry when it’s out of your mouth, and regularly clean and rinse your mouthguard with toothpaste or other approved cleaning options. It’s also a good idea to bring your mouthguard with you to your dentist appointments so your dentist can examine it for proper fit and give you advice if things need to be altered.

For more information about wearing a mouthguard or protecting your teeth during organized sports, reach out to Dr. Brooks’ office today.

Diet & Dental Health

How Your Diet Affects Your Dental Health

What you eat plays a huge role in your overall health, but your weight and cholesterol aren’t the only things affected by your dietary choices. Your teeth help to get the eating process started, but they can also be affected by the types of food you are eating. Here’s a closer look at why you should reconsider what types of food you are putting in your mouth.

Sugar and Your Teeth

Sugar makes its way into a lot of the foods we eat, which is why we need to pay close attention to how much sugar we consume on a daily basis. The FDA recommends that individuals over the age of three consume no more than 50 grams of sugar a day, but many teens and adults cruise past that threshold on a regular basis.

One reason why sugar is bad for your oral health is because it helps to spur bacteria production. Bacteria use carbohydrates and other simple sugars as a nutrition source, so when you have more in your diet, you are making it easier for bacteria to thrive and break down your teeth.

We get plenty of sugar in our diet from foods like donuts, cookies, ice cream and chocolate, but there’s one culprit that is especially damaging to our teeth – soda. Soda is packed with sugar or sugar substitutes that facilitate bacteria growth, and because it is in liquid form, these sugars can easily make their way between teeth or in hard to reach places. Individuals who drink soda on a regular basis are at a much higher risk for developing cavities or dental problems than those who stick to water or tea. This includes diet sodas that are sugar free, because they use sugar substitutes like aspartame that can also break down enamel and weaken teeth.

Diet Tips To Remember

When it comes to protecting your teeth by choosing a healthy diet, keep these tips in mind:

  • Avoid sugar-dense or carbohydrate-dense foods in large doses.
  • Swap out soda and juice for water or tea.
  • Avoid large meals before bedtime, as this can contribute to acid reflux.
  • Add plenty of vegetables and fruits to your diet, but avoid eating overly acidic options like tomatoes and oranges as a stand alone snack.
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day, and consider other oral health options like flossing and mouthwash.
  • Get plenty of calcium and protein-rich foods that help to strengthen tooth enamel.
  • Ask your dentist about any questions you have pertaining to your diet or your dental health.

At the end of the day, if you limit your sugar consumption, get a variety of options from the food pyramid on a daily basis and you regularly brush and floss, we’re confident that your diet will help to nurture your oral health. If you have any questions or want to set up an appointment, give Dr. Brooks’ clinic a call today.

Teething Child Health

Teething & Your Child’s Teeth

All 20 of your child’s primary teeth are present at birth below the gumline, and they start to make an appearance in their mouth around the age of six months. It can be an exciting time when your child’s teeth begin to come in, but it also presents parents with new challenges. Below, we explain what you can expect during the teething stage, and how to protect your child’s teeth as they grow.

Teething Basics

As we noted above, teething usually begins around six months of age, but other children may not get their first tooth until they are closer to the age of one. By three years of age, most children have their full set of baby teeth in place.

It’s not very difficult to notice when your child is teething, because it can cause them some general discomfort in their mouth. Infants make this discomfort known by crying, fussing, becoming more irritable and drooling more than usual. You may also notice that your child wants to put more objects in their mouth, like their hands or a teething ring. However, if you notice symptoms like a fever or diarrhea, bring your child into a medical facility.

Teething rings are perfectly safe for your child, so long as you keep some tips in mind. First, make sure they are made of safe materials or have a seal of approval from a licensed medical or safety commission. Stick to rings made of plastic or rubber, and avoid anything that has metal or liquid that could be punctured by a sharp tooth.

Medicated Gels or Tablets For Teething Pain

Some parents want to calm irritated babies and help them find some comfort by looking into medication options during the teething stages. However, the Food and Drug Administration recommends that parents do not use products containing benzocaine on children under the age of two, stating:

“We are also warning that benzocaine oral drug products should only be used in adults and children two years and older if they contain certain warnings on the label. These products carry serious risks and provide little to no benefits for treating oral pain, including sore gums in infants due to teething.”

Parents should also avoid homeopathic teething tablets, as an FDA report found they can oftentimes underreport the amount of toxic substances found on the tablet.

No parent wants to see their child in discomfort, but teething is a natural part of growing up, and it is more discomfort than true pain – your baby just has a difficult time deciphering between the two and expressing their feelings. Work to sooth your child in other ways than medication, and invest in FDA approved teething rings to help give them something to focus their attention on. Keep an eye on how their teeth are coming in, and remember that thumbsucking and pacifier use are still completely normal during this time. If you notice anything strange or just want answers to your questions about your child’s new teeth, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Dr. Brooks’ office today.

Thumbsucking Dental Health

Thumbsucking & Your Child’s Dental Health

Thumbsucking is a natural response for infants and children, but the longer they commit to the habit, the higher the likelihood that the comfort technique could affect their oral health. Now, this isn’t to say that you need to remove all the pacifiers and pull their thumbs out of their mouth as soon as they transition away from breastfeeding or a bottle, but you should stay educated about how thumbsucking can affect their teeth. That’s the focus of today’s blog.

How Does Thumbsucking Affect A Kid’s Teeth?

Thumbsucking creates suction and forces inside your child’s mouth that can be applied to their developing teeth. It can also cause changes to the roof of their mouth. It is not of grave concern when kids are sucking their thumbs before or while their primary (baby) teeth are coming in, but if you notice that any of their primary teeth are crooked or seem to be changing direction, talk to your dentist.

Another thing to keep an eye on is how intensely your child sucks their thumb. If they are gently or passively sucking on their thumb of mouthing on a finger, it’s not as much of an issue as children who suck hard. Hard thumbsuckers are more likely to have problems with their primary teeth, but as long as they regularly see a dentist and you work to break the habit, there’s a good chance that thumbsucking won’t affect your child’s permanent teeth.

When Do Children Stop Sucking Their Thumb?

Thumbsucking is a completely natural habit, and it helps to calm and soothe children. Many children suck on their thumbs to help them fall asleep. Most children stop sucking their thumbs between the ages of two and four, which is also well before permanent teeth begin to come in (around the age of 6-7). With that said, many children need a little push to get past the thumbsucking phase, so parents should be proactive in helping them break the habit when the time comes.

Some ways to work to break the habit of thumbsucking or pacifer use include:

  • Encourage your child not to suck their thumb, and praise them for not sucking their thumb.
  • Because it can help to form a sense of security, work to correct any causes of anxiety that may be contributing to the need to want to suck their thumb (overstimulation, fear, etc.)
  • Create an activity and involve your child in choosing a method for ending the habit (Reward for not sucking, have them donate pacifiers to other babies since they are a “big kid” now, find other comfort/coping accessories like a blanket or stuffed animal).
  • Ask your dentist for additional tips and tricks to end the habit.

If these techniques don’t work, you can try to put a bandage or glove on your child’s hands at night to break the habit. Some doctors and dentists can also recommend or prescribe topical agents that are applied to the thumb that taste bitter so the child does not want to put their thumb in their mouth.

Dental Health Clinic in Bloomington, MN

There are a number of different ways to break the habit of thumbsucking, and don’t be discougaged if you have some difficulty ending the habit. Breaking the habit at the appropriate age can help to ensure your child’s teeth have the best chance to come in straight and avoid problems. For more information, or to talk to a dentist about your child’s teeth, reach out to Dr. Brooks today.

Chronic Jaw Pain

Chronic Jaw Pain Treatment Options

Jaw pain is an issue that affects millions of Americans on a daily basis. Sometimes it is the result of a previous trauma to the gum, while other times it is brought on by the development of oral or other health conditions. Sometimes jaw pain can be treated by your dentist, while other causes are best handled by your family physician. Below, we take a closer look at why your jaw hurts and how to best treat jaw pain.

Causes and Symptoms of Jaw Pain

As we alluded to above, jaw pain can be the result of damage from acute trauma, but there are plenty of other not so obvious causes of jaw pain. Some conditions that can lead to jaw pain include:

  • Toothaches
  • Infections
  • Tooth Grinding
  • Periodontal Disease
  • Degeneration or Damage to the Temporomandibular Joint
  • Sinus Problems
  • Arthritis

Symptoms of the jaw pain vary slightly based on the underlying cause of the condition, but in addition to pain, many individuals complain of tenderness of the jaw, headaches, swelling, and pain in the ear or while biting and chewing food.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Jaw Pain

If you are dealing with chronic jaw pain, bring it up to your dentist or family physician at your next appointment. Most people just assume it’s an issue for your doctor, but as you can see by the above list, many jaw pain issues are housed in the mouth, and your dentist can be a great resource. Wherever you go, your specialist will likely begin by asking about your symptoms, taking a look at your jaw and mouth, and then confirming their suspicions with help of an imaging test like an X-ray.

Your dentist will then formulate a treatment plan based on what they saw on the X-ray. Treatment techniques are developed on an individual basis, so what works for one person may not work for someone else, but some common treatment options include muscle relaxants, physical therapy exercises, mouth protectors, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications, root canal, tooth extraction or periodontal treatment. Your dentist can go into greater detail on each treatment based on what is best suited to your situation.

Minnesota Dentist

As you can see, since many of the causes of jaw pain are caused by teeth or mouth issues, it is imperative to practice good oral health. The more proactive you are at caring for your teeth and gums, the more likely you are to avoid jaw problems. For more tips on how to best care for your oral health, or to talk to Dr. Brooks about your jaw pain, reach out to his clinic today.

Tongue Scrapers

Tongue Scrapers and Oral Health

Tongue scrapers are dental tools that you can buy that help to remove debris and bacteria from your mouth. You can either buy a specific tongue scraper tool, or most floss sticks double as a tongue scraping option. Unlike brushing your teeth, tongue scraping isn’t all that essential when it comes to having great oral hygiene, but some people regularly clean and scrape their tongue because they like the way it feels.

What Do Tongue Scrapers Do?

Tongue scrapers help to remove food particles or any other debris and bacteria that collect on its surface, which, while it may feel good, doesn’t have much of a useful purpose. That’s because bacteria on your tongue can grow back just as fast as you remove it. Others claim that tongue scrapers are beneficial because they help to keep your breath fresh, but there is no scientific evidence that suggests tongue scraping prevents bad breath or improves halitosis.

However, some people like the feel of a “clean tongue,” so they add tongue scraping to their daily oral health routine. If you’re going to use a tongue scraper, start at the back of your tongue and pull the scraper forward, washing off any particles the device collects. Make your way across the entire surface of your tongue, always pulling the device forward. Also, if you want to clean your tongue but don’t want to invest in a tongue scraper, you can clean it using your toothbrush after you’ve brushed your teeth.

Oral Health Routine

Tongue scraping can certainly be part of a good oral health routine, but you shouldn’t do it in place of other, more worthwhile cleaning techniques. If you want to use a tongue scraper, that’s a personal choice, but you’re going to have better oral hygiene if you focus on these four factors each and every day.

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day using fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss and clean between your teeth daily.
  • Eat a healthy diet that doesn’t involve overly sugary or acidic options.
  • See your dental health professional for regular checkups and cleanings.

If you do all of the above options and want to add tongue scraping to your dental health regimen, go for it. However, if you don’t always hit all four of those recommendations, focus on consistently hitting all those categories before trying to add tongue scraping to the routine. For more information on improving your oral health, or to set up an appointment, reach out to Dr. Brooks’ office today.

Dry Socket Tooth

What Is A Dry Socket And How Is It Treated?

Having a tooth pulled isn’t a very fun experience, but if it goes as planned, most people can grit their teeth and get on with life. However, for about 2-5 percent of the population, a complication known as a dry socket develops after having a tooth removed. This can cause more pain than the original issue that caused the tooth to be pulled in the first place. Below, we take a closer look at why dry sockets develop, and how to prevent and care for them.

Why Dry Sockets Develop

Dry sockets occur after a tooth has been removed. Once a tooth is removed, a blood clot forms underneath the tooth socket to act as a barrier between food particles and the bone and nerves underneath. Every so often, this blood clot dissolves or become dislodged, which then exposes the nerves to air, food and fluids in the mouth. This can lead to severe discomfort in the form of an infection, which typically last for 5-7 days.

Individuals who have a greater risk of developing a dry socket include those who:

  • Smoke
  • Have poor overall oral hygiene
  • Need to have their wisdom teeth removed
  • Have greater-than-expected trauma during tooth removal
  • Are using birth control
  • Regularly drink through a straw or those who spit a lot
  • Have a history of dry sockets

Preventing and Treating Dry Sockets

Preventing dry sockets is best performed by taking a look at the above list and avoiding some of the controllable behaviors. You can also ask your dentist for other prevention tips if you need to have a tooth removed.

Treating a dry socket requires even more care. For starters, your dentist will likely recommend over the counter NSAIDs or even a stronger option to control pain. In an attempt to prevent against an infection, your dentist will have you come in for another visit. During this visit, they will remove any debris and then fill the socket with a medicated dressing or special paste to promote healing in the area.

You may have to return to the dentist’s office in a couple of days to have the dressing changed, unless the first application has helped spur the healing process and decrease pain. Your dentist may also prescribe antibiotics or medicated mouthwash in order to help prevent against the onset of an infection.

Dentist in Bloomington, MN

As is the case with all health conditions, prevention is preferred to treatment, so avoid smoking, drinking out of a straw and improve your oral hygiene if you need to have a tooth removed. Some of the risk factors cannot be controlled for, but if you take charge of those aspects you can control, you’ll greatly reduce your risk of developing a dry socket. For more information, reach out to Dr. Brooks today.