What Causes Bad Breath And How To Avoid It

Nobody wants to have bad breath, but oftentimes it’s tough to know if you have bad breath at the time. You might have an inkling if you just finished munching on some garlic breadsticks, but what else contributes to bad breath, and how can we treat and prevent the condition? We answer those questions in today’s blog.

Common Causes of Bad Breath

Before we explain how to prevent bad breath from occurring, we have to understand what factors can contribute to the condition. In many instances, being aware of these factors and making better lifestyle choices can help to prevent bad breath. Some common causes include:

  • Foods – As we noted in the intro, some foods can give us temporary bad breath, like garlic, onions, coffee or other pungent options.
  • Tobacco Products – Smoking and other tobacco products can also contribute to foul breath. Aside from leaving your breath smelling bad, tobacco can also leave you at an increased risk for cancer and gum disease, so consider cutting back or quitting the habit altogether.
  • Bacteria Buildup – If you’re not following good dental hygiene practices like brushing and flossing regularly, bacteria can grow and thrive in your mouth, and this can lead to bad breath. Maintain good oral hygiene habits to reduce this cause of bad breath.
  • Dental Problems – Gum disease or unaddressed cavities can be a cause of bad breath, so go to the dentist on a semi-annual basis and make sure your teeth are properly cared for.
  • Dry Mouth – If your mouth isn’t producing enough saliva, which sometimes happens on its own or as a side effect of taking some medications, it can lead to dry mouth, which plays a role in the onset of bad breath.
  • Diseases – Finally, certain health conditions can also lead to bad breath. Sinus infections, tonsillitis and diabetes can all lead to changes that contribute to bad breath. Talk to your doctor or dentist if you have these conditions or believe a medical issue may be behind your bad breath.

Preventing and Treating Bad Breath

As we mentioned above, you can work to prevent bad breath by being cognizant of the factors that contribute to bad breath and making some daily lifestyle changes. For example, limit pungent foods in your diet, practice good daily brushing tips, give up tobacco products and regularly visit your dentist, and you’ll reduce your risk of having bad breath.

Other ways to help prevent bad breath include:

  • Chewing sugar-free gum
  • Visiting a dentist if something doesn’t feel right in your mouth
  • Drinking plenty of water throughout the day
  • Use mouthwash
  • Change medications to prevent dry mouth

If you’re concerned about your bad breath, or if you just want to have a dentist take a closer look at your mouth, reach out to Dr. Brooks’ office today.

Metal Braces

The Difference Between Metal Braces, Invisible Aligners & DIY Aligners

Braces are still a common alignment option for teens and adults who want to have a straighter smile, but advancements in technology mean that you have more options at your fingertips when choosing an alignment product. There are standard metal braces, clear aligners called Invisalign and even DIY aligners that can help give you the perfect smile you’ve always dreamed of. But how do these products compare to one another, and which one is right for you? We take a closer look at the three options below.

Different Types of Braces

Here’s a look at the three types of aligners we mentioned above, why they may be preferred, and what drawbacks they might have.

Metal Braces

Traditional metal braces used to be the standard, and they involve cementing brackets to your teeth. Wire is then connected to the brackets to encourage tooth movement in certain directions. Ceramic brackets can also be used to make the aligner a little less noticeable. Both ceramic and metal bracket bracing are durable, strong and effective at guiding teeth to a desired location. They are the most visually noticeable of the three options, but they can be used on more mouths than invisalign options.

Invisible Aligners

Invisalign involves the use of clear, removable aligners to help straighten teeth. They are much less noticeable than metal braces, but oftentimes they are a little more expensive, but that depends on some different factors. You can also continue to enjoy some foods that you may not be able to if you had traditional braces, since you can remove them while eating.

Before we dive into DIY options, we want to compare these two options a little more. Since metal braces are worn 24/7, they often need to be worn for less time than invisible aligners in order to achieve the desired result, which is about two years on average. That said, since invisible aligners can’t effectively fix some more larger alignment issues, they are usually only needed for 18-36 months in order to be effective since they are usually correcting more minor or mild alignment issues.

Since metal braces can help to correct larger issues, they may be your only option. Your dentist will take a look at a number of factors, including your jaw formation, if teeth are missing or need to be removed, bite misalignment, tooth crowding and a number of other issues to determine whether invisible aligners would be an option or if traditional metal braces are best for your mouth.

DIY Aligners

Finally, let’s take a look at Do It Yourself aligners. These are similar in some ways to invisible aligners in that you submit a mold of your mouth to the company and they send you back custom fit aligners to reshape your teeth. These are often marketed as a cheaper option to both traditional braces and invisalign. The problem with these DIY products is that the mouth evaluation that is performed by a dentist to determine if metal braces are your best option or if custom clear aligners would even work for you does not take place. This means you may be purchasing an ineffective option, because the company cannot possibly get a good understanding of your mouth by just looking at imprints on a mouthguard. In fact, without dental supervision, these products can actually make your misalignment worse. We don’t recommend the cheaper DIY options for correcting alignment issues.

If you’re concerned about alignment issues, reach out to the experienced dental team at Smiles For Life Dental. We can take a look and provide you with a set of options that’s individualized to your mouth. For more information, or to set up a visit, reach out to Dr. Brooks’ office today.

Young boy showing his first missing tooth

3 Fun Twists On The Tooth Fairy Tradition

Losing your baby teeth is one step on the path to adulthood, and many children enjoy the process because it means a visit from the tooth fairy. The tooth fairy can be fun for both parents and children, but there are some new ways to approach the tradition that will make the process more memorable and easier for the parents. Check out three fun twists on the basic tooth fairy tradition below!

Introducing The Tooth Fairy

If you want to change up the regular traditional or make the process simpler for mom and dad, consider these tips.

  1. Tooth Receipt – You can leave a little message for your child if you leave a tooth receipt for them to find in the morning. You can download a template right here, but these little notes can help to document which teeth your child lost and when they lost them. You can even leave a positive message from the tooth fairy, like “I see you’re taking good care of your teeth, keep on brushing!” Kids will enjoy these messages, and you’ll have fun creating them and leaving them to be found.
  2. Tooth Bowl – Another idea that is becoming more popular is the tooth jar, tooth bowl or tooth dish. Any parent whose had to sneak into a room and look underneath a pillow for a lost tooth can tell you how hard the process can be. But if you have your child pick out or create a little dish that can be left on their bedside table or dresser, then you won’t have to dig under their pillow in the middle of the night. Make the process of finding or creating a tooth fairy dish fun, then leave it out when the big night arrives!
  3. Brushing Calendar – Finally, another fun addition to the tooth fairy tradition is having your child create and use a brushing calendar. Have them track how often they brush their teeth, and have them mark down when they lose their teeth. You can laminate the calendar and make it reusable each month, or you can buy a year-long calendar to track when they lose their teeth. You can even write in the calendar as the tooth fairy once a tooth falls out. This is a great way to help them get in the habit of brushing regularly, because they can see their progress and what days they missed brushing or when the tooth fairy visited.

If you want more tips for making the tooth fairy work for your family, or if you want Dr. Brooks to take a look at your child’s mouth development if they’ve lost some teeth, reach out to his office today!

Family In Bathroom Brushing Teeth

5 Tips For Getting Your Family To Brush

Even as a dentist, it can be hard to get your family to buy into the brushing process. That said, there are some tips and tricks you can use to help make the brushing routine more fun and less of a chore. Here are five ways to get your family to buy into brushing, and how to ensure they are brushing when they say they are.

Getting Your Family To Have Good Oral Health

Here are some tips for getting your family to engage in proper dental hygiene practices. Some of these tips will be more applicable to family members of different ages:

  1. Make It A Family Process – Even if you stay up later than your kids, go ahead and brush your teeth with them while they’re getting ready for bed. Make the process fun, so do it with them and sing or dance for two minutes while you’re brushing with them. Not only will you know they are brushing their teeth, but this helps to make the brushing process a little more enjoyable for your child.
  2. Help Them Get Started – When your child is just starting to brush their teeth on their own, take some time to show them the proper way to clean. Make sure you are hitting all surfaces of your teeth and that you’re brushing for at least two minutes. Some kids are content just to brush their two front teeth or the teeth visible when they smile but make sure they are brushing correctly by showing them how to do it when they are starting to clean by themselves.
  3. Stock Healthy Foods and Beverages – We understand the cupboard isn’t filled with only water and granola, but try to find a balance where you’re giving your kids plenty of healthy snacking options. Try to make water available in place of sugary juices or sodas, and encourage fruits and vegetables over sugar or carbohydrate-dense foods. People don’t realize how big of a role dietary choices play in the health of their teeth, even if they brush regularly — stock up on healthy food options for your family to choose from.
  4. Become a Detective – If you’re past the stage where you’re dancing and brushing your teeth with your children, make sure you are asking them about their brushing habits. Kids like to test the boundaries, so don’t just take their word for it when they say they’ve brushed. Check their toothbrush to see if it’s damp, or ask to smell their breath. Don’t let them get away with bad habits.
  5. The Floss Smell – One final way to help family members get on board with good dental hygiene is to remind them to floss daily and to encourage them to smell the floss after they finish. Yes, it sounds a little weird, but if you get them to do it once, odds are they’ll be more likely to floss on their own. When they smell the floss, it probably won’t smell the greatest. Remind them if that’s what the floss string smells like, then that’s what their mouth smells like. Nobody wants to have bad breath, so a lot of times this little trick helps encourage people to floss on their own and take more pride in dental hygiene.

For more tips and tricks, or to set your family members up with a dental visit, contact Dr. Brooks’ office today.

Lifetime Tooth Health

A Lifetime Guide To Tooth Health

Caring for your teeth is something you’ll do over the course of your entire life, and although you kind of get a practice round with your primary teeth, it’s good to understand how you should be caring for your teeth from birth to dentures. Below, we take a closer look at the many ways in which you can help to protect your teeth throughout different stages of your life.

  • Infants and Toddlers – Kids begin to sprout their first teeth around the age of six months, and their full set of primary teeth will take a few years. Kids should have their first dental visit around the age of one, and parents can help to keep their teeth protected by using a tiny amount of toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice, to brush their teeth. Kids over the age of three should be brushing using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste, twice a day.
  • Kids – Kids can expect to begin losing their primary teeth between the ages of 4-7, until they are about 12. During this time, they should still be brushing twice a day and seeing the dentist twice a year for regular checkups and cleanings. Parents should strive to instill good brushing habits during this key period in a child’s life. Make the process fun by incorporating music, dancing or by brushing your own teeth while your child brushes their teeth. Mouthguards should be worn during youth sports to protect teeth.
  • Teens – Adult teeth are usually in by the age of 13, and then wisdom teeth follow a few years later. Continue getting regular dental checkups to see how the wisdom teeth should be handled, as removal is common during this time period. Teens will be making some more diet choices on their own during this period, so try to offer tooth-friendly options and encourage water over sugary beverages when possible.
  • Adults Under 40 – Gum disease is common among adults under 40, affecting about half of the population. To prevent against this, continue good brushing habits of brushing twice a day, flossing and making smart dietary choices. Visit the dentist on a semi-annual basis, and avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits like heavy alcohol consumption or tobacco use.
  • Expecting Mothers – Hormones associated with pregnancy can put you at an increased risk for gingivitis, so good dental hygiene is very important. Continue to visit the dentist on a biannual basis, even when pregnant. Poor oral habits during pregnancy have been linked to premature birth and gestational diabetes, so do right by yourself and your baby during this time in your life.
  • Adults Over 40 – Follow a similar plan as the previous category, but make sure you are also seeing your dentist at the first sign of problems. Cavities, gum disease and cracked or chipped teeth can be more common during this period after your teeth have been used for decades, and it’s easier to stop a small problem than to treat a big one. If you’re taking medications, talk to your dentist about how these medications could affect your oral health.
  • Seniors – Dry mouth becomes more common as we get older, so consider chewing sugarless gum and drinking more water to help avoid problems associated with dry mouth. Keep getting semi-annual checkups, and reach out to your dentist if you notice changes with your teeth, sores develop, or you have sensitivity when chewing or swallowing.

For more tips, or if you have questions or concerns, reach out to Dr. Brooks’ office today.

Cold Weather Tooth Pain

Why Cold Weather Can Cause Tooth Pain

Winters in Minnesota can be very cold, so cold in fact, we can feel it in our teeth! Similar to when you bite into a popsicle or take a sip of some hot chili, our teeth can be sensitive to temperature extremes. Some people have more sensitive teeth than others and are more affected by these temperature extremes, but why is this the case, and what can you do to protect your teeth from becoming overly sensitive?

Weather and Tooth Sensitivity

Similar to how water expands and contracts when exposed to heat or cold temperatures, so do your teeth. Over time, this expansion and contraction can lead to microcracks in the surface of your teeth, which expose a more sensitive layer of your teeth to the elements. This layer below your enamel is called the dentin, and it’s considered the “core” of your teeth. Dentin is covered in nerve fibers, which relay pain sensations when you get a cavity or are exposed to hot or cold temperatures.

Teeth sensitivity to weather can occur to anyone no matter how you care for your teeth, but you’ll reduce your risk if you practice good oral hygiene, and you live in an area with modest temperatures throughout the year. So while Minnesota may not have modest temps year-round, there are other things you can do to help prevent against dentin exposure and tooth sensitivity. Here’s what you should do:

  • Brush Regularly – One of the leading causes of dentin exposure is due to gum diseases like periodontal disease, which can wear down tooth enamel. To prevent these issues, brush your teeth at least twice a day, make a regular habit of flossing, and consider using mouthwashes or other dental rinses to keep your teeth protected night and day.
  • Brush Gently – Many patients don’t realize the harm they can bring upon their teeth by brushing too vigorously. When you brush too hard, you can wear down your tooth enamel. You want to be firm enough to remove food particles and acids that can stick to your teeth, but soft enough that you aren’t harming your teeth when you brush. Remember to also brush at a 45° angle, so the bristles slip gently under the gum line instead of straight at the teeth.
  • Avoid Bruxism – Bruxism is the dental term for teeth grinding, and this can be a conscious or unconscious habit, typically triggered by stress lack of sleep or too much caffeine. If you notice signs of grinding your teeth, or you’ve been told you grind your teeth in your sleep, go to a dentist for treatment, as chronic tooth grinding can lead to cracks in the teeth and worn tooth enamel.
  • Only ADA Approved Whiteners – Some cheaper whitening products may strip past surface teeth stains and start to wear down your tooth enamel. It is important to be very careful when it comes to products that contain lemon juice or charcoal and to only use whitening products approved by the American Dental Association. If your whitening product begins to hurt your teeth, stop using it and talk to your dentist.
  • Avoid Acids and Tobacco – Finally, particular food and lifestyle choices can wear down our enamel or leave us at an increased risk for gum disease. Highly acidic beverages like coffee, sodas, and tea should be consumed in moderation, and avoid smoking if possible.

The good news is, there are treatments available if your teeth have become overly sensitive to weather or temperature changes, so don’t just deal with the discomfort. From fluoride treatments to dental sealants, Dr. Brooks can find a solution for your tooth sensitivity.

For more information, or to talk to our team about an issue you’re having, give us a call today.

Missing Tooth

The Problems Associated With Missing Teeth

According to the American Dental Association, the average adult has three or more missing teeth or teeth that have decayed to the point that they should be removed from the mouth. Missing or pulled teeth are more common than you might think, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy issue to live with. There are a number of inconveniences and issues that are caused by missing teeth, which we’ll explore in greater detail in today’s blog.

The Issue With Missing Teeth

Here are some of the issues associated with teeth that are lost due to trauma, tooth decay or poor dental hygiene:

  • Inhibited Chewing – Your teeth make chewing possible, so when you’re missing teeth, it’s not as easy to grind up your favorite foods. This can limit your dietary options, and missing tooth locations that are not properly cared for by a dentist can lead to the onset of pain, which can make eating problematic.
  • Teeth Shifting – Your teeth help to keep neighboring teeth in the right location, so when you’re missing teeth, the teeth nearest the open space can shift over time. This can eventually lead to painful bite misalignment and an increased risk of tooth decay if shifting teeth makes it harder to hit all surfaces of your pearly whites.
  • Speech Problems – Missing teeth can impact the way you speak, which can make you harder to understand and affect your confidence.
  • Bone Loss in the Jaw – Believe it or not, missing teeth have been associated with bone loss in the jaw due to joint and muscle atrophy. This can lead to a change in your facial structure, oftentimes making you appear older than you really are.
  • Mental Health Suffers – A 2014 study revealed a link between missing teeth and depression and anxiety.
  • Loss of Confidence – A study by the American Dental Association found that roughly 1 in 4 people with a missing tooth said they avoided smiling due in part to their missing tooth.

Preventing These Issues

Luckily, even if you lose a tooth due to trauma or tooth decay, there are plenty of options available to you to both restore your confidence and protect against other issues. Common solutions to missing teeth include dental implants, bridges or even dentures.

Your dentist can talk to you about all of the hardware options available to you, but as we always say, prevention is preferred to treatment, so be proactive about protecting your teeth against tooth decay. Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes at a time, floss regularly, and be sure you’re getting semi-annual checkups and cleanings with your dentist. If it’s been a while since you’ve been to the dentist, or you want to talk to Dr. Brooks about a tooth issue you’re experiencing, reach out to our clinic today!

Deep Teeth Cleaning

Should I Get A Deep Teeth Cleaning?

You go to the dentist for regular cleanings, but what if they recommend that you get a deep teeth cleaning at your next visit? What exactly is a deep teeth cleaning, and why is it helpful for your teeth? Here’s a closer look at the dental deep cleaning process.

Deep Teeth Cleanings

A dental deep cleaning, sometimes known as gum therapy, is a dental technique that cleans between the gums and teeth all the way down to the roots. It is very similar to a standard cleaning you receive at the dentist’s office, but the hygienist takes it a step further. They’ll continue to clean below the gumline, removing tartar buildup all the way to the root of the tooth. It is an intricate process and may take more than one visit to fully complete, but it can go a long way in helping to prevent against gum disease. So if you have gum disease or are at risk for the condition, a deep teeth cleaning may be just what the dentist ordered.

Routine cleanings and daily brushing really helps to remove plaque and tartar, but when it gets under our gum line, it can harden and become difficult to remove. If this tartar remains in place, it can lead to gum disease, a condition categorized by red, swollen gums that can bleed when irritated. Untreated gum disease can lead to an infection, which will then require a deep teeth cleaning to treat.

Although a standard teeth cleaning and a deep teeth cleaning are pretty similar in nature, they have different goals. A traditional teeth cleaning is performed as a preventative measure to help protect your teeth against the onset of conditions that could harm them. A Deep teeth cleaning is required when an infection has already set in, and cleaning out tartar, bacteria and the disease is necessary.

Do I Need A Deep Teeth Cleaning?

There are a couple of clues that suggest that you could benefit from a dental deep cleaning. If you have signs of gingivitis or gum disease, or you can kind of feel a larger pocket developing under a tooth (sometimes noticeable when flossing), you could be an ideal candidate for a dental deep cleaning. However, the only way to know for sure is to visit a dentist’s office on a regular basis. Aside from providing those preventative cleanings that we mentioned, they can also conduct tests to look for the formation of pockets underneath your teeth that suggest tartar is causing problems.

Many dentists recommend that you undergo a deep cleaning if tests reveal that you’re dealing with a pocket that’s 4mm or greater, Without treatment, the bacteria that thrives in this pocket will continue to contribute to tartar formation and tooth bone loss. So if you believe you’d be a good candidate for a dental deep cleaning, or you’re just interested in scheduling your preventative cleaning, do yourself a favor and reach out to Dr. Brooks’ office today. We can provide you with all your teeth cleaning needs!

Beard Oral Health

How Your Beard Affects Your Oral Health

Have you heard the rumor that beards are full of germs and bacteria? Since the beard is in close proximity to your mouth, could these germs make their way to your mouth and cause problems for your teeth and gums? While the germy beard rumor may just be a myth, there are a couple things bearded men should know about caring for their dental health.

For starters, even if your beard isn’t exactly the cleanest, the best way to care for your mouth is with the same methods your clean-shaven brethren use, which involves brushing your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes each session, flossing daily, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol intake and getting regular cleanings from your dentist. Washing your beard frequently or using certain antibacterial creams aren’t going to do anything for protecting your teeth.

Dental Problems Caused By Beards

Your beard isn’t going to directly cause any problems for your teeth, but you need to be aware of how your beard can impact your ability to keep your mouth protected. Beards often help to hide our jawline, and that can be an issue. Changes in your jawline, numbness or discoloration are all signals that you may be dealing with a jaw or mouth problem, but these differences can be harder to spot if you have a beard.

So if you have a beard, especially if you aren’t planning on shaving anytime soon, be sure to perform regular health checks of your jawline. Look for the presence of lumps, bruises or changes to your jaw structure. If you notice anything, bring it to the attention of your doctor or dentist.

Another thing you should check for is how far you can open your mouth. Again, this can sometimes be obstructed if you’ve got a bigger beard, but decreases in your ability to open your mouth could signal some serious mouth problems, like mouth cancer. So if you’re having difficulty opening your mouth or the action is accompanied by pain, you’re going to want to talk to a specialist.

So at the end of the day, if you have a beard, take some time throughout the week to look for changes in your jaw structure, but other than that, protecting your mouth comes down to performing basic dental hygiene. Make sure you’re brushing your teeth every day, and don’t skip any upcoming appointments with your dentist! For more information, or to talk to a dentist about a tooth or jaw issue you’ve been having, contact Dr. Brooks’ office today.