Dental Plaque

What Is Dental Plaque?

You may have heard it’s important to have good oral health and to keep plaque off your teeth, but what exactly is plaque? Plaque is a soft and sticky substance that builds up on your teeth containing countless bacteria. The bacteria in plaque serves to break down your tooth’s enamel and contributes to the onset of tooth decay. Today, we take a closer look at how plaque forms and how you can prevent it from building up.

How Does Plaque Form?

Plaque is a result of the bacteria that live in our mouth. These bacteria use ingredients in our saliva and the foods we eat to grow, and the result it the formation of plaque. When we eat, the bacteria in plaque uses the sugars in the food to grow, and this process produces acids that can eat away at your tooth’s enamel. Repeated acid attacks can cause the enamel to break down to the point where a cavity forms.

Plaque that is not regularly removed can eventually harden and turn into what’s known as tartar. Brushing, flossing and removing tartar becomes harder as tartar collects in the gum line, so try to remove plaque before it hardens. Left untreated, tartar can irritate your gums and cause them to become red, swollen or bleed when brushing. When this happens, you’re suffering from gingivitis, the first stage of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease involves a bacterial infection in your mouth that can lead to receding gumlines and tooth loss, so stop this problem at the first stage by helping remove plaque from your teeth.

Getting Rid of Plaque

So if you want to prevent plaque buildup or the problems it can cause down the road, you have to take some proactive steps. Here are some ways you can work to prevent plaque buildup:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Since plaque is always forming, regularly brushing in the morning and evening can help stop it from developing throughout the day.
  • Floss between your teeth. Your toothbrush bristles can’t always reach between your teeth, so be sure to floss to remove plaque from hard to reach places.
  • Be smart about mouthwashes. Mouthwashes are great in addition to a comprehensive oral health plan, but because plaque is a sticky substance, mouthwash alone isn’t going to be able to remove it. Don’t use mouthwash in place of brushing or flossing, use it in addition for best results.
  • Eat a healthy diet and limit snacking between meals. Food is obviously essential, but it can also provide more bacteria for plaque to turn into acids.
  • Get regular dental cleanings. A professional dental cleaning can remove plaque and any built-up tartar to help prevent the onset of gingivitis.

Do your part to help keep potentially damaging plaque off your teeth’s surfaces by following the above tips, and if you need to make an appointment for your next dental cleaning, click here or call Dr. Brooks’ office today at (952) 888-3200.

Can Chewing Gum Help To Prevent Cavities?

When it comes to cavity prevention and caring for your teeth, we all know some of the most common techniques – brush your teeth, floss, and visit the dentist on a regular basis. However, there are some lesser known things you can do to help protect your teeth against decay. One such activity is chewing gum after a meal. In today’s blog, we explain why chewing sugar-free gum following a meal can help protect your teeth and prevent cavities.

Benefits of Gum After A Meal

A lot of people reach for gum or a mint following a meal, but this is often done in order to help freshen your breath after some pungent foods. Gum has added benefits though, as clinical studies have shown that it can help prevent tooth decay and cavity formation. But why is sugarless gum so helpful for your teeth? It comes down to saliva production.

Saliva helps make it easier to swallow foods, but it does so much more than that. For starters, saliva is comprised of substances that serves to break down food particles, which helps remove food that is stuck between teeth. Food particles and plaque that remain on a tooth’s surface can turn into tartar and break down your tooth’s enamel, the outer layer of the tooth’s surface. Saliva helps to prevent tartar formation.

Saliva also helps to neutralize acids in the mouth that can wear down your teeth. Foods like oranges or coffee that have higher than average acid content can slowly erode your teeth, but saliva helps to protect your teeth from this breakdown. Finally, saliva also contains calcium and phosphate, which helps to strengthen your tooth’s enamel. In all, saliva both helps to protect and strengthen your teeth.

So consider adding sugarless gum to your after meal routine. When you’re at the grocery store or pharmacy, look for gum that has been marked with the American Dental Association’s Seal of Approval. This way you’ll know that the gum is sugar-free and that it is trusted by dental professionals to protect their teeth. Gums with sugar in them will also help to spur saliva production, but the sugar is used by plaque to produce some decay-causing acids, so reach for a sugar-free pack.

Smiles for Life Dental in Bloomington, MN

Chewing on gum after a meal can be a great addition to a comprehensive oral hygiene plan, but it’s important to note that chewing gum is not a safe alternative to brushing and flossing. Make sure you are still practicing good oral health habits even if you begin chewing gum after a meal, and continue getting regular dental checkups. If it’s been a while since you got your last cleaning, reach out to Dr. Brooks’ office today to set up your next appointment.

Birth Control Oral Health

How Does Birth Control Affect Your Oral Health?

The decision on when to have kids looms large in our society, and birth control is one option that allows the user to have a little more control over when their family grows larger. There are a number of birth control options on the market for both males and females, and while these options may affect your hormone levels throughout the month, it can also have consequences for your oral health. In today’s blog, we explain how certain birth control options can affect your teeth, and how to have great oral health no matter what family planning choice you make.

Birth Control and Your Teeth

Birth control can have an impact on your oral health due to the changing hormones in your body. Many forms of birth control include hormones, and when there is an uptick or sizeable fluctuation in the number or hormones in your body, it can have an impact on your health. In your mouth, these hormone changes can bring about an inflammatory response in your gums. The most common oral symptoms associated with taking birth control are sore, swollen or bleeding gums. This can happen when you take birth control, or during other life stages when hormone levels fluctuate, like during puberty or menopause.

The good news is that medical science is making it so that certain forms of birth control have lower levels of estrogen and progesterone than previous versions, so the effects of hormone fluctuations aren’t typically as severe. However, if you already have gum disease or gingivitis, even these smaller hormone changes can continue disease progression.

There are also some other lifestyle factors that can affect your oral health while on birth control. For example, women who smoke and take birth control are more likely to have blood clotting issues, which can be a problem if you need to have a tooth pulled. Also, the longer you’re on birth control, the greater the risk that gum disease becomes an issue down the road. And finally, you’ll want to talk to your dentist about what type of birth control you are taking if they want to prescribe you with medication for a dental problem. Mixing medications can decrease the effectiveness of one or both medications, so to ensure everything remains effective, have a simple conversation with your dentist.

Dental Clinic in Bloomington, MN

If you are concerned about what a certain type of birth control might do to your oral health, ask your doctor about lower hormone options. Also, to reduce your risk of gum disease no matter what form of birth control you choose, make sure you are brushing your teeth at least two times a day, regularly flossing and getting semi-annual cleanings and checkups. If you need to schedule your next dental visit, or you simply want to learn about other ways in which you can prevent gum disease, reach out to Dr. Brooks and his dental team at Smile For Life Dental in Bloomington.

Healthy Snacks

5 Healthy Summer Snacks For Your Teeth

If you’re asked to bring a dish to the family reunion or the backyard barbeque, you might think that chips and dip or a dessert are the safest option. While they may be a popular option at the picnic, they certainly aren’t the safest option for your teeth. In today’s blog, we share five summer snacks you can bring to the next outing that are healthier on your teeth and will still have people coming back for second helpings.

Teeth-Friendly Summer Snacks

Here’s a look at five snack substitutes to keep in mind this summer:

  1. Crunchy Fruits and Veggies – People like to have a little crunch on their plate, and oftentimes that comes in the form of chips. Chewed up chips often settle between our teeth and can provide a perfect breeding ground for cavity causing bacteria. Instead of bringing potato chips, bring some crunchy fruits and veggies like apples, peppers, celery sticks or carrots. These can provide the crunch without increasing your cavity risk (and without some extra calories!)
  2. Cheese Platter – Maybe this is more popular in the midwest, but a cheese platter is also a good option for your teeth. This dairy product is low in sugar and rich in calcium and phosphorous, both of which can help to strengthen your enamel. Dairy products have also been linked to a reduced likelihood of gum disease, so bring a cheese platter to your next outing.
  3. Seedless Fruits – Fruits can be a healthier option than chips and dip, but the seeds can get stuck between our teeth and irritate our gums. When putting together a fruit tray, consider going with fruits whose seeds won’t get stuck in your mouth. Apples, oranges, bananas and pineapple are great options, but you’ll want to wash them down with water because the acids in these fruits shouldn’t linger on your teeth’s surfaces if possible.
  4. Infused Waters – Instead of bringing a case of juice pouches or stocking up on sugary lemonade concentrate, make some infused water. Load up a pitcher with water and some refreshing fruits or vegetables, like watermelon, lemons and strawberries, or even cucumber. These options are not only refreshing, but they will keep excess sugars out of your mouth.
  5. Sugar-Free Gum – Finally, when the meal is over, people are going to be looking for a palette cleanser. Putting out a pack of sugar-free gum will help to protect your guest’s teeth because gum helps to increase saliva production. Saliva helps to break down food particles that could serve to act as a breeding ground for bacteria. Have some gum handy for guests, and their mouths will thank you for it.

For more tips on what healthy summer snacks you can bring to the barbeque this year, or to talk to a dentist about a tooth issue you’re having, reach out to Dr. Brooks and his team at Smiles For Life Dental.

Pregnancy and Oral Health

Pregnancy and Oral Health – 5 Things You Should Know

A number of expecting mothers are very cognizant about their diet and exercise habits in the months leading up to their due date, but many of them of them don’t pay as close attention to their dental health. It’s always important to care for your oral health, but it’s especially important during pregnancy because failing to do so can cause issues for your unborn child. Below, we take a closer look at why pregnancy can be hard on your teeth, and how to protect your teeth and your child as you navigate your pregnancy.

Caring For Your Teeth During Pregnancy

Here are five things you should know about how pregnancy can affect your oral health, and how to care for your teeth during pregnancy.

  1. Pregnancy-Induced Gingivitis – Up to half of women will experience what’s known as pregnancy-induced gingivitis. This develops as a result of hormonal changes throughout your body brought on by pregnancy. These hormones make it so that your gums are more sensitive, so they are more easily irritated by plaque. This can lead to red, swollen or even bleeding gums. The good news is that the condition usually resolves on its own after childbirth, but to reduce your risk of symptoms during pregnancy, you’ll want to brush and floss regularly to help prevent the buildup of potentially-irritating plaque.
  2. Managing Morning Sickness – If you are dealing with morning sickness, make sure you are caring for your mouth after an episode. Don’t let stomach acid linger on your teeth’s surfaces after morning sickness. Be sure you are rinsing your mouth and brushing your teeth after a bout of morning sickness to help protect your tooth enamel from erosion.
  3. Keep Going To The Dentist – You should still be going to the dentist for your semi-annual cleanings, even during pregnancy. It’s perfectly safe to get your normal cleaning while pregnant, and it’s even safe to get x-rays. Let your dentist know if you think you may or know that you are pregnant, but we always take precautions to minimize radiation exposure so you and your unborn child stay safe.
  4. Getting Through Brushing Nausea – If you’ve ever been pregnant, you’ve probably had cravings for specific foods or been nauseated by the smell of others. The same nauseating feeling can occur for some women when they brushing. If brushing is making you nauseous, try switching to a smaller brush head or changing toothpastes to one with a less distinct flavor. Others find relief by brushing at different times throughout the day.
  5. What You Eat Helps Your Baby – Did you know that your child’s teeth begin to develop between the third and sixth month of pregnancy? Making sure you get plenty of nutrients like Vitamin A, C, and D as well as calcium and protein will help ensure they are getting what they need for healthy development. Foods high in folate and folic acid supplements can help to reduce the risk of neural tube defects.

Pregnancy and hormones can cause problems for your teeth, but if you practice good oral hygiene and are cognizant about what you put in your body, you and your baby will have a great chance of having wonderful health throughout the length of your pregnancy. For more information or to set up your next appointment, contact Dr. Brooks’ office today.

Dental Health 60

Dental Health After 60

Caring for your dental health is a lifelong process, but it can get a little harder to manage once you get up there in age. Cavities and crowns aren’t just for the young at heart, and because some dental conditions are harder to treat when you’re older, it’s important that you are vigilant about caring for your tooth health as you age. Below, we share some tips for protecting your teeth and gums after the age of 60.

Caring For Your Aging Teeth

A lot of the following tips are great advice at any age, but they are even more important now that your teeth have been put to the test for decades. Here are some smart tips for protecting your teeth after the age of 60.

  • Daily Dental Routine – Twice a day, you should be in the habit of brushing, flossing and using mouthwash to clean and protect your teeth.
  • Regular Cleanings – Be sure to continue to get semi-annual dental cleanings and checkups.
  • Medication Management – Talk to your dentist and doctor about any oral side effects from medications, including dry mouth, jaw pain or bleeding gums.
  • Water is Your Friend – Make sure water is your most consumed drink each day, and try to always have some nearby.
  • Sugar-Free Gum and Lozenges – Sugar-free gum and lozenges can help to stimulate saliva production, which is important for helping maintain appropriate levels of bacteria in your mouth and preventing plaque buildup.
  • Avoid Acids – Avoid overconsumption of highly acidic foods and beverages. When eating or drinking these items, do so with water to help remove acids from teeth surfaces.
  • Regular Mouth Checks – Conduct daily or weekly checks of your mouth to look for redness, sores or anything out of the ordinary. The earlier cancer is caught, the better the treatment success rates.
  • Denture CareIf you have partial or full dentures, be sure to read up on this post we put together on how to best care for your dentures and gums.
  • Calcium and Vitamins – Strive to get your daily dose of vitamins and minerals from your diet, as calcium and other nutrients play a key role in the health of your teeth and gums.
  • Proactively Treat Pain – Finally, if you notice pain in your tooth or jaw, don’t just ignore the pain and hope it goes away on its own. Proactively treat the issue by visiting a dentist. You don’t need to live with oral pain, and a fix may be easier than you imagine. Contact Dr. Brooks to schedule your appointment today!

For more information or for answers to your dental questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Dr. Brooks’ office today.

Morning lesson of brushing teeth with mommy

5 Things Families Should Know About Dental Health

As we’ve discussed on the blog in the past, dental hygiene should be a whole family goal. As a parent or head of the household, you’re in charge of your teeth and the teeth of everyone living under your roof, so you need to be aware of the best ways to help everyone care for their teeth. In today’s blog, we share five things parents and providers should know about caring for the health of their child’s teeth as they grow.

Caring For Your Child’s Teeth

Here are five things all parents should keep in mind when caring for their children and their developing teeth.

  1. Start Them Young – It’s a good habit to start helping brush your child’s teeth once they turn one. Begin with a small amount of toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice, and help your child get used to the brushing sensation on their teeth and gums. Even at this age, toothpaste containing fluoride is recommended. For kids 3-6 years old, use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste when brushing.
  2. First Visit Tips – We usually recommend the first visit at two years of age or unless you see something suspicious before that. When you’re bringing your child to the dentist while they are still young, plan ahead to try and make the visit run smoothly. Avoid setting up appointments during nap time or when they are hungry, and talk with the dentist about how you can help keep your child calm. Once they get the hang of it, there’s nothing to worry about.
  3. Consider Sealants – Once your child’s adult teeth start to come in, ask your dentist about sealant options. Sealants act as protective outer covering that works to prevent decay and enamel loss. They are very common in today’s society and can save you a lot of money in the long run by helping prevent cavities and tooth decay.
  4. Make Sure They Are Brushing – Make sure your kids are taking two minutes twice a day to protect their teeth. Ask them if they’ve brushed their teeth, and check their brushes if you aren’t positive they are telling the truth. Talk to them about the importance of oral hygiene and how taking care of their teeth can help with their confidence. As the head of the household, be proactive in ensuring your children are taking the time each day to brush their teeth.
  5. Develop a Routine – Finally, help your child develop a bathroom routine so caring for their teeth becomes a daily habit. Whether that involves brushing right before you leave the house in the morning or the last thing you do before you head to bed at night, try to help establish a routine so caring for their teeth becomes just another part of the day instead of something they dread doing. For more tips on how to create a dental routine, check out this blog we wrote on the subject.

For more tips on helping your children care for their teeth, or to schedule their next dental appointment, reach out to our team today.

Brushing Teeth

Should I Brush My Teeth Before Going To The Dentist?

If you have a dentist appointment coming up, you’re probably a little more cognizant about caring for your teeth. After all, if the dentist is going to be looking in your mouth and cleaning your teeth, you want to give them the impression that you practice good oral hygiene. However, is it worth it to brush your teeth right before you leave for the appointment, or is it pointless because your dentist is going to give you a thorough cleaning anyways? Below, we share what we tell our patients who ask us this question.

Brushing Before The Dentist

So is it worthwhile to brush your teeth prior to the dentist appointment, or are you just making things easier for the dentist who is giving you the cleaning? When people ask us this question, we always respond that yes, we recommend that you brush, floss and use mouthwash before you leave to come to your dental appointment. You are making our job a little easier, but it also benefits you for a couple of reasons.

  1. Removes Surface Plaque – Brushing and flossing will help to remove any food particles and plaque from your teeth’s surfaces. This isn’t going to get all the tartar that has hardened and formed in hard to reach places, but it will help to remove bacteria and plaque. Aside from helping get rid of plaque that can serve to break down your teeth, this process is more helpful than spraying your car with a hose before heading to the car wash. By doing this, less plaque removal will need to be done by the dental tech, which in turn will reduce the amount of irritation and inflammation in the gums. You’ll likely find that your mouth is less sore or irritated if you give your mouth a nice clean prior to visiting the dentist.
  2. Reduced Time In The Chair – Although it won’t greatly reduce the time you spend in the dentist’s chair, if you help to remove plaque and food particles prior to the operation, it will take less time for the dentist to deep clean your teeth. If you don’t like visiting the dentist, you can try to reduce the time you spend there by giving your mouth a brush, floss and rinse before you head off to your appointment.
  3. Confidence – Finally, brushing, flossing and using mouthwash can give you a little bit of confidence heading into your appointment. Again, you’re not really going to be able to fool your dentist into thinking you always take such good care of your teeth by doing this, but it will show that you do at least somewhat prioritize your teeth health, which can help if you’re nervous about what the dentist might say (We know not everyone brushes and flosses like the American Dental Association recommends, it’s okay!). Also, caring for your teeth before the appointment can help to freshen your breath so that you’re not self-conscious that someone will be up close and personal for the next 20-30 minutes. If anything, brushing and rinsing will give you a clean feeling heading into your appointment.

So as you can see, brushing your teeth before you leave the house for your appointment has more benefits than meets the eye. We’re not going to shame you if you choose not to brush before visiting, but if you want to help reduce irritation and maybe spend less time in the chair, choose to brush, floss and rinse before you head off to your appointment! To schedule your next appointment, reach out to Dr. Brooks’ office today.

teeth with braces

Braces & Their Medical Benefits

Braces help to give teens and adults a smile that they can be proud of, but there’s a lot more to braces than a confidence boost. Braces also have a number of medical and health benefits. Below, we explore some of the medical benefits of braces to help shine a light on everything they can do for your health.

Little Known Benefits of Braces

Here’s a look at some of the lesser known benefits of braces, and why they are important for your health:

  • Bite Improvement – Braces help to shift our teeth into their proper location, but this process also helps to improve our bite. If you have gaps in your teeth, it can inhibit your ability to properly break down food. More importantly, a misaligned bite pattern can actually become painful because your jaw has to work harder to chew, and this can lead to lockjaw, TMJ disorder or other stress-related jaw pain. Improving your bite is just one medical benefit associated with braces.
  • Tooth Spacing – Tooth spacing has a cosmetic benefit, but it also has dental benefits. If your teeth are crowding in some spots, it can be difficult to get tooth bristles or floss between your teeth to remove plaque and tartar. When braces help to correct your tooth spacing, dental hygiene becomes easier, which reduces your risk of cavities and gum disease.
  • Jaw Alignment – Braces can also help to adjust your jaw and palate alignment. This can help with issues like speech impediments and jaw pain.
  • Sleep Quality – By shifting your teeth and realigning your jaw, braces can actually improve your sleep quality.  They can help to improve your breathing and in turn reduce your snoring habits, helping you get more uninterrupted sleep. This realignment can also improve our sinuses, which can help prevent both sinus and ear infections.

So while braces can help to give you a confident and beautiful smile, they bring a number of other health benefits to the table. If you still have concerns or have questions about which type of braces may be best for your situation, reach out to Dr. Brooks’ clinic today. We can help design and insert your braces to give you the smile you deserve. To learn more about our techniques and your options, give us a call today.


Kombucha – Healthy or Harmful For Your Teeth?

It seems like everyone is trying to get an edge when it comes to improving their health, and often the first step for individuals seeking to be healthier is to reevaluate their beverage consumption. Instead of sodas and coffee, people are turning to organic and probiotic drinks to boost their immune system and aid in digestion. One such drink that has grown in popularity recently is kombucha.

Kombucha, for those of you not familiar with the drink, is a fermented drink made from bacteria and yeast mixed with black or green tea and sugar. The sugary mix transforms into kombucha due to the symbiotic relationship between the bacteria and yeast. And, many people swear by the health benefits. Some supposed benefits of the drink, including improve digestion and immune function, as well as a healthy dose of vitamin B and certain acids. We’re not going to debate these health claims, but we are going to dive into the topic of whether the drink is healthy or harmful for your teeth.

Kombucha and Your Teeth

As you might have guessed, when you read the word “sugar” in the above paragraph, dentists aren’t huge fans of kombucha. Nothing it provides in the way of vitamins or nutrients for your teeth outweigh the dangers you’re exposing your mouth too if you routinely consume kombucha. There are plenty of drinks out there that are worse for you than kombucha, so we’re not going tell you never to drink it, but like most things in life, consume it in moderation and be smart about how and when you drink kombucha.

Before we share some tips on how to best drink it, let’s take a closer look at why it can be problematic for your teeth. Interestingly, it’s not the sugar content that is of most concern, because sodas and coffee creamers are packed with more tooth-rotting sugar than kombucha. Instead, it’s the acidity. Due to its contents, kombucha needs to have a pH level of below 3.5 on the pH scale in order to prevent harmful bacteria growth. The lower the number on the scale, the higher the acidity. For example, water has a pH level of 7, tea is about a 6, and vinegar, a highly acidic liquid, comes in at a 2. So when you consider properly made kombucha comes in with at highest a 3.5 pH level, you can see it’s very acidic.

This acid can cause several problems for your teeth. The higher the acid content, the more damage it does to our teeth’s enamel, the outer layer of the tooth. Once you lose this enamel, it’s gone forever, and losing it can increase tooth sensitivity and contribute to cavities. The drink may have other health benefits, but it will take a toll on your tooth enamel if you’re not careful.

Tips to Protect Your Teeth

How can you drink kombucha and still protect your teeth? There are several suggestions for limiting the damage the drink’s acid content can have on your mouth. When drinking kombucha, do so:

  • In moderation, not as your primary daily beverage.
  • Alongside a glass of water, to help wash acid off your teeth’s surfaces.
  • With a meal, as food can help to remove acid from your teeth’s surfaces.

So at the end of the day, as long as you drink kombucha in moderation and practice good dental habits, we’re confident you can enjoy the drink and help to protect your teeth. For more information or to set up an appointment with Dr. Brooks, contact our team today.