Oral Health Stroke

Is There A Link Between Oral Health and Stroke Risk?

Strokes are one of the leading causes of death in the United States, as one person dies every four minutes on average due to a stroke or complications from the condition. Preventing strokes comes down to getting regular exercise and eating a healthy diet, but your oral health also can help reduce your stroke risk. Below, we take a closer look at the link between your oral health and your stroke risk.

Strokes and Your Teeth

To better understand the relationship between stroke risk and your oral health, we first must learn a little bit more about stroke onset. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures, or when a blood clot prevents oxygen from getting to the brain. This can cause a variety of physical symptoms, including the inability to speak, a drooping face, limb weakness and impaired vision. Due to their onset, individuals who are at the highest risk for strokes are older individuals, African Americans, people who live a sedentary lifestyle, obese individuals and smokers.

So how does mouth health affect your risk of stroke? According to medical data, you may be more likely to suffer a stroke if you have poor gum health. Poor oral health can lead to the onset of gum disease, which is an inflammatory condition that leads to swollen, red and bleeding gums. The condition also involves the overgrowth of mouth bacteria, and this abundance of oral bacteria can lead to an infection. This bacterial infection can get into your bloodstream, which can make your blood clot more easily. If your blood clots and it prevents air from getting to your brain, you can suffer a stroke.

It’s very important to prevent inflammatory gum disease. Not only can it reduce your risk of a stroke, but gum disease has also been medically linked to an increased risk of diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and certain cancers. The best way to prevent gum disease is to brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes each time, floss daily to remove plaque and tartar from between your teeth that contributes to gum disease, and to get regular dental cleanings to stay on top of your gum health. Gum disease affects more than 64 million Americans, but we can help decrease those numbers and our stroke risk by being cognizant of what contributes to gum disease and how to best prevent it.

So if you are considered at a higher risk for stroke because of your age or other health factors, or if you’ve suffered a stroke in the past, make sure you are working to reduce your risk in every controllable way. Eat a healthy diet, give up smoking, lead an active lifestyle and take care of your oral health! If you want more information about the association between your mouth health and stroke risk, or if you are interested in setting up your next appointment with Dr. Brooks, reach out to his clinic today.

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.

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.

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.


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.

Dentist with medical history asking to a patient

The Many Ways Your Dentist Works To Prevent Infections

Caring for your dental health is extremely important, and while dentists primarily work to clean and protect your teeth, there’s also the possibility that they can make a situation worse if they don’t have adequate infection prevention strategies. At Smiles For Life Dental in Bloomington, we have strict infection prevention guidelines for all hygienists and dentists so we can ensure your teeth stay healthy. Below, we talk a little bit about the many ways in which we work to help prevent the spread of infections through hygenic dental practices.

Protecting Our Patients

The mouth is full of bacteria, which is why it is so important that dental professionals work hard to prevent the spread of germs. Some of the ways we work hard to do that include:

  • Regular Hand Washing – Dental professionals are trained to wash their hands with warm soapy water between each patient. You can ask us to wash our hands again, but know that we wash them between each and every patient.
  • Protective Gear – Our dental staff is also equipped with the protective gear to keep both patient and provider safe from infection. You’ll see us wearing gloves, masks, gowns and sometimes eyewear to help prevent the spread of germs. New gloves and masks are put on between each and every patient.
  • Instrument Disinfection – Instrumentation disinfection is crucial for every dental practice. Either we use tools that are one-and-done, meaning that they are thrown away after they are used on a patient, or they are sterilized between patients. We can show you the sterilization process next time you’re in the clinic if you’re interested, but you can also trust that every reusable item goes through a rigorous sterilization process between each patient.
  • Surface Cleaning – Between each patient, we also work to make sure each exam room is cleaned. The dental chair, the dental light, drawers and surfaces are wiped down with disinfectants between patients to ensure each patient has access to clean rooms. We take pride in ensuring every exam room is clean for each and every patient.

As you can see, we’re very thorough when it comes to making sure that we cut down on the spread of germs and infections. Our job is to provide you with the best possible service, and that’s only possible if we treat infection control as a high priority item. To see our team in action, or to set up your next appointment, reach out to Dr. Brooks and the team at Smiles For Life Dental in Bloomington today.

Morning hygiene

5 Signs Your Teeth Aren’t As Healthy As You Think

If your teeth aren’t hurting, you probably think they are pretty healthy. Hopefully, that is the case, but often there are some subtle signs your teeth aren’t as healthy as you think they are. Below, we share five signs and symptoms that suggest you should head to a dentist for your semi-annual checkup.

You Have Bad Breath

Bad breath isn’t all that uncommon once in a while, especially after eating certain foods, but if you have chronic bad breath, there may be an underlying mouth issue. Bad breath can be a symptom of gum disease or even sinus issues, so have a dentist take a closer look if you’re experiencing regular bouts of bad breath.

Food Is Always Getting Stuck

If food is always getting stuck in between the same teeth, it could just be the result of the way your teeth formed, but it could also be a tooth issue. Sometimes cavities can form between teeth, and these holes can catch food and cause it to get stuck. If food keeps getting stuck in the same spot after every meal, bring it up to your dentist on your next visit.

One Tooth Is Darker

Sometimes it’s easier to see dental problems rather than feel them. When a tooth starts to look darker than the surrounding teeth, you may be dealing with an underlying nerve problem. This often occurs to your front teeth as the result of trauma. If you fell and hit your mouth or took a rogue elbow during sports and have noticed one tooth appears darker than its neighbor, head to the dentist.

Overly Sensitive Teeth

Healthy teeth usually aren’t too sensitive to hot or cold foods, so if they hurt or ache when sipping coffee or indulging with a bowl of ice cream, you may have an undiagnosed issue. Sensitivity issues can be a sign of a cavity brewing beneath the surface. Head to the dentist instead of just trying to avoid hot or cold foods.

Sore Jaw In The Morning

Finally, if you wake up with a sore or tense jaw, it’s a sign you may be having teeth problems in your sleep. A sore jaw can be an indication you grind your teeth at night, which can put abnormal wear and tear on your teeth and even lead to cracked or broken teeth. Regular morning jaw soreness should be discussed with your dentist at your next dental visit.

To schedule your next visit, reach out to the team at Smiles For Life Dental in Bloomington.

Diet Dental Health

How Your Diet Affects Your Teeth

When we think of dental hygiene, a lot of people just think about how they protect their teeth with things like brushing, flossing and going to the dentist. However, a total dental hygiene plan is much more than that. There are a number of other ways to protect your teeth other than with dental products, and watching what you eat is a good start. Your diet has an enormous role in how healthy your teeth are, so you need to be cognizant of what you’re eating and drinking.

To give you a better idea of how your diet impacts your oral health, we decided to take a closer look at the ways in which your diet affects the health of your teeth.Y

Food Choices

Food choices are the main way in which you can help or hurt your teeth. Our teeth and jaw bones draw a lot of essential vitamins and minerals from our diet, so if we’re lacking in important nutrients, our teeth may not be as strong as they could be. On the flip side, if you eat too many sugars or carbohydrates, you’ll be creating a great environment in your mouth for cavity causing bacteria to thrive. It’s fine to indulge here or there, but don’t make sugar and carbs your primary food group.

Drink Choices

Along a similar vein, drink choices also can severely impact our oral health. Let’s start with the good. Tap water has been treated with flouride, which is a compound that actively helps to strengthen tooth enamel, which can help prevent against cavities. Aside from flouride, water also helps to remove acids, sugars and other substances off of a tooth’s surface, which helps limit bacteria growth and tooth decay.

If you’re not careful about what you’re drinking, your mouth can be much worse off. Sodas and juices are often packed with sugars that can lead to tooth decay, coffee is a very acidic option that can stain teeth and wear down tooth enamel, and excessive alcohol intake can damage your gums and put you at an elevated risk for some oral cancers. Again, indulging here or there should be fine, but make sure that water is your primary drink of choice each and every day.


The final way in which your diet can impact your oral health is when you eat and when you snack. Snacking throughout the day can provide more sources for bacteria to build on and contribute to tooth decay, so try to limit sweet snacking options throughout the day. Another good idea is to keep a bottle of water handy, because aside from helping limit your cravings, it can help to wash sugars off the surface of your teeth, which is helpful for your oral health. Finally, try to avoid late night snacking, especially after you’ve brushed your teeth. If these substances stay on your teeth through the night, they are going to have hours to break down tooth surfaces and other oral tissues. Snack smart, and your teeth will thank you for it.

So at the end of the day, be cognizant of the foods and liquids you are putting in your system, because they can have a profound effect on your health, and brushing and flossing won’t be able to cancel out bad dietary choices. Eating right and making other smart choices are all part of a total dental hygiene plan. For more tips, or to talk to Dr. Brooks about a tooth issue you’re having, reach out to his clinic today.

Energy Drinks Teeth

Are Energy Drinks Bad For Your Teeth?

You’re probably aware that sodas and juices aren’t the best choice for your teeth, but you may be surprised at the number of people who think that subbing in energy drinks or sports drinks are a much better option. The truth is that energy drinks and sports drinks can also do plenty of damage to your teeth if you consume them regularly. Today, we take a closer look at why these drinks can lead to tooth decay, and how to protect your teeth through your drink choices.

Energy Drinks and Your Teeth

It should come as no surprise that both energy drinks and sports drinks are loaded with sugar or sugar substitutes, but that’s not the only reason why you want to limit your intake of these drinks. Sugar provides a perfect breeding ground for bacteria that contributes to tooth decay, so you want to limit your intake of sugar, but the other problem is the acidity.

A recent study out of Southern Illinois University found that when comparing 22 different energy and sports drinks, the energy drinks were often much more acidic.

“We found the acidity was two times higher in energy drinks than it was for sports drinks,” said Poonam Jain, BDS, MS, MPH, vice dean for clinical education, operation, and community partnerships at the A.T. Still University Missouri School of Dentistry and Oral Health and lead researcher on the study. “The lower the pH, the greater potential for losing enamel from your teeth.”

Enamel is the hard outer coating of your teeth, and it’s even harder than bone. However, even the hardest substance in your body can wear down if repeatedly exposed to highly acidic drinks, like energy drinks.

Preventing Enamel Loss

The American Beverage Association, which certainly would like to quiet the message that some of their products can contribute to tooth decay, released a statement saying that “No single food or beverage is a factor for enamel loss and tooth decay,” and that “individual susceptibility to dental cavities and tooth erosion varies depending on a person’s dental hygiene, lifestyle and total diet and genetic makeup.”

They are somewhat correct, but it’s also misleading. One energy drink isn’t going to erode your teeth like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, but if a person regularly makes energy drinks a part of their diet, they are certainly going to be at risk for tooth problems. Problems with energy drinks can also be exacerbated if we don’t have good dental hygiene or we make other poor dietary decisions, so we need to be cognizant of how we’re caring for our mouths.

At the end of the day, one energy drink won’t ruin your teeth, but energy drinks, sodas, coffee or sports drinks should not be your primary daily drink. Instead, you should be reaching for water, as the added fluoride actually works to strengthen enamel and protect your teeth. If you’re going to indulge in a sugary or acidic drink, try to do so alongside water or food, as this can help keep these sugars and acids from sticking to your teeth. And finally, be sure that you are practicing good dental hygiene, regardless of your beverage choices. Everybody should be brushing and flossing daily and being cognizant of their dietary choices if they want to keep their keep protected throughout their life.

For more beverage information, or to schedule your semi-annual checkup, reach out to Dr. Brooks’ office today.