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The Best Brush of the Day

June 17th, 2021

Imagine that you’re only going to brush your teeth once tomorrow. Don’t worry, we know you would never skimp on your dental hygiene like that, but let’s just pretend for a moment. When would be the best time to brush? When you wake up? During the day? Or perhaps before you go to bed?

Actually, whenever you choose to brush, you’ll receive important overall dental benefits as well as specific benefits tied to the time of day. Let’s explore your daily schedule to see why.

Brushing in the Morning

Brushing when you first jump out of bed produces several positive results.

  • Cleaning plaque from your teeth

Plaque is a sticky film made up of oral bacteria, food particles, and saliva. As you sleep, these oral bacteria multiply and produce acids which attack the minerals in your enamel, leaving weak spots which, over time, can become cavities. Brushing removes these bacteria and acids from your enamel before they cause serious harm.

Moreover, plaque hardens if it’s left undisturbed, turning into tartar in a relatively short time. And once plaque becomes tartar, it must be removed by a dental professional. Brushing first thing in the morning removes this plaque buildup and helps prevent tartar from forming.

  • Fresh breath

That bacterial growth we mentioned? It’s also responsible for morning breath. If nothing else, brushing when you wake up means greeting a fresh day with fresh breath, and that’s reason enough to pick up your brush in the morning.

Brushing During the Day

Brushing after meals and snacks also has a lot to recommend it.

  • “Leftovers” lead to cavities

Foods, especially foods rich in sugar and carbohydrates, are converted by oral bacteria into acids which weaken enamel and lead to cavities. When food particles remain in the mouth after a meal, bacteria have more time and more fuel to manufacture these acids.

  • Acidic foods also affect your teeth

If you have eaten something acidic, such as citrus fruits, sodas, or pickled anything, the acids from these foods can temporarily weaken the mineral strength of your enamel. But brushing immediately after eating or drinking acidic foods can damage weakened enamel. Better to rinse well with water and brush after half an hour or so.

Brushing at Night

Growing up, you probably received regular reminders to brush before bedtime—for several really good reasons:

  • Saliva production slows while you sleep

During the day, saliva helps to wash away food particles and neutralize acidity in our mouths. It also contains proteins and minerals which help keep tooth enamel strong. But as we sleep, saliva production slows dramatically, and our bodies can’t remove bacteria and acids as effectively.

  • Food particles fuel bacterial growth

If you haven’t brushed since morning, you’ve accumulated a whole day’s worth of food particles from meals and snacks. Remember, oral bacteria use the sugars and carbs we eat as fuel to produce the acids which attack our tooth enamel throughout the night.

  • Brushing helps prevent both of these problems

Brushing your teeth before bed not only cleans away the accumulated food particles of the day, but also eliminates the plaque and bacteria which would have a much easier time sticking to your teeth without that daytime saliva flow to wash them away.

So, When’s the Best Time to Brush?

In the morning, during the day, at night —there are solid advantages to brushing any time of day. The question isn’t so much when to brush as how often you should brush.

While many dental professionals consider brushing before bedtime as the most important brush of the day, brushing at least two full minutes, at least twice during a 24 hour period, is a necessity for basic dental hygiene. (And don’t forget to floss at least once each day.)

If you wear orthodontic appliances, if you’ve been eating sugary snacks, if you’re showing signs of gingivitis or getting more than your share of cavities, if you want to reduce the chance of plaque and tartar buildup, or if you simply want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to maintain your overall dental health, brushing after meals is also highly recommended.

Talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about your brushing habits the next time you visit our Anchorage, AK office. No need to use your imagination to plan your best brushing schedule. We have all the answers you need to help you brush your way to your best—and healthiest—smile!

Just What Is Plaque?

June 10th, 2021

When you were younger, and you brushed your teeth without any help for the first time, it was a big step. It meant you’d learned the right way to brush to keep your teeth and gums healthy. But why does brushing help keep you healthy? Let’s talk about plaque!

  • What Is Plaque?

Plaque rhymes with “attack,” and that’s just what it does to your teeth. If you don’t brush for a few days (which is a bad idea!), plaque is the reason for that fuzziness you feel when you run your tongue over your teeth.

If your teeth feel fuzzy, that means that plaque has been building up for a while. But how does it begin?

Plaque is made up of saliva, bits of food, other liquids, and tiny little organisms called bacteria. While most of the bacteria in our bodies don’t bother us—and some even help us—the bacteria in plaque are not so helpful.

Plaque starts with a type of bacteria that stick to the teeth, loosely at first, and then more strongly. Within hours, they join with saliva, bits of food, and other bacteria and bacterial products to make a very sticky film. This film is plaque.

Why is it so important to brush plaque away every day? As Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will tell you, plaque can cause cavities and hurt your gums.

  • How Does Plaque Cause Cavities?

Bacteria are like us—they need food. The bacteria in plaque especially like the sugars we eat. (That’s why you shouldn’t have too much junk food or candy in your diet.) Bacteria change these sugary building blocks into a kind of acid, and because plaque is sticky, the acids stay on your teeth.

These acids breaks down the enamel, that hard coating which covers teeth. Tiny weak spots can grow and become holes in the enamel. We call these holes cavities, and your dentist can repair them by cleaning away the decay and putting a filling in your tooth to protect it.

But it’s best to prevent cavities from ever starting by brushing and flossing. Even though plaque is sticky, it is easy to brush away when you do it every day.

  • How Does Plaque Hurt Your Gums?

The gums surround our teeth and help protect them, but they are also delicate. When plaque builds up, it can irritate your gums.

You might notice that your gums get red, feel sore when you brush, or look puffy. You might have bad breath that doesn’t go away. All these are signs that your gums are reacting to the plaque around them.

The good news is that careful brushing and flossing can usually fix these problems. Talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about taking good care of your gums.

  • Can We Fight Plaque?

Yes! From the time you were small and learned how to brush, you’ve been learning how to fight plaque.

  • Brush at least twice a day for two minutes, and be sure to brush all around each tooth and the gums.
  • Floss to remove plaque from where it hides between the teeth and near the gums.
  • Visit our Anchorage, AK office for a cleaning, to remove plaque from hard-to-reach places and to learn the best ways to brush and floss.

As soon as you finish brushing, plaque starts to build up again. But no need to worry! Keep brushing, flossing, and visiting us for regular cleanings, and all your careful work will be rewarded will a beautiful, healthy smile.

Dental Tips for Your Summer Vacation

June 3rd, 2021

Summer’s here, and it’s time to enjoy a well-deserved break! But even though school’s out, please take a few minutes to learn some tips from Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous to keep your teeth and mouth healthy for a summer of great smiles.

Hydration

When you are active in warm weather, you need to keep hydrated. So choose your drinks wisely. Sodas and sports drinks can contain a lot of sugar, which encourages cavity-causing bacteria to grow. Water is always a healthy, sugar-free choice. If your tap water contains fluoride, you can even fight cavities while staying hydrated. One other benefit of hydration? It helps with saliva production, and saliva is a natural way to wash away food particles and bacteria while providing substances that help keep teeth strong.

Mouthguards

Biking, skateboarding, baseball, soccer—all great outdoor sports, but one fall or accidental contact can cause serious damage to teeth. If you have a mouthguard for school sports, don’t forget to wear it for summer activities as well. And, if you don’t have a mouthguard, now is a good time to think about getting one. You can use a ready-made guard, or we can custom-fit one especially for you. Talk to us about your favorite sports, and we’ll suggest ways to protect your teeth while you enjoy all the physical activities warm weather brings.

Vacation Plans

If you and your family are going to be traveling this summer, let us know! If you need any procedures at our Anchorage, AK office, we can plan them around your time away. It’s best to get any necessary work done before you travel, and we will be happy to work with your family’s schedule. When you are away, be sure to carry our number with you in case a dental problem comes up, and it’s always a good idea to travel with a dental emergency kit.

Sticking To Your Dental Routine

Unfortunately, the bacteria that lead to increased plaque and cavities never take a vacation. Keep up with your regular schedule of two minutes of careful brushing at least twice a day, and make sure to floss. Come see us if it’s time for an exam or a cleaning, or if you have any dental problems or concerns.

However you spend your summer, we hope it is filled with happy—and healthy—smiles!

Why Do Molars Seem to Get More Cavities?

May 27th, 2021

Probably because, for many kids, molars do get more cavities. So let’s answer two better questions: Why do molars get more cavities? And, how can we help prevent them?

It’s the Pits. (And Fissures.)

The reason molars are so useful—and more likely to develop cavities—is because of their shape. Unlike our front teeth, which are used to bite through foods, molars are used to grind and chew. That’s why they are so much larger, with a flat surface on top. Well, not exactly flat.

When you look at a molar, you’ll notice that the top isn’t really smooth at all. It’s covered with little indentations known as pits and longer grooves called fissures. These irregular features both trap food particles and make it more difficult for bristles to clean them away. Cavities in molar surfaces are so common that they even have a specific name: “pit and fissure cavities.”

But molar biology does not mean tooth decay is inevitable! There are steps you can take to protect your children’s molars as they grow, while you’re providing them with dental strategies that will keep their adult molars healthy and cavity-free.

Preventing Pit and Fissure Cavities

  • Don’t Just Brush—Brush Effectively

The first step in preventing any kind of cavity is brushing properly. Your child should be brushing at least two minutes, at least twice each day. And while the time we spend brushing is important, technique is also key.

When you’re showing your child how to brush, be sure that the tops of molars, upper and lower, get brushed thoroughly, with special emphasis on cleaning pits and fissures. Make sure the toothbrush is small enough to fit your child’s mouth comfortably and reach all the tooth surfaces. Replace worn-down brushes or electric toothbrush heads after three to four months when they no longer clean as effectively.

Your child will probably need adult supervision from toddler years through the early years of grade school to learn how to brush properly. This is time well spent, as your child learns cavity-preventing brushing techniques which will last a lifetime.

  • Eat a Tooth-Healthy Diet

Plaque bacteria use the sugars in our food to make acids. These acids break down the mineral strength of tooth enamel and eventually lead to cavities. And because pits and fissures are great hiding places for bacteria and food particles (especially sticky ones), molars are even more at risk for cavities. Limiting sugary, sticky foods like sweet treats and simple carbs helps reduce that risk.

Acidic foods like flavored juices, sour candies, sodas, and power drinks also weaken enamel and can leave teeth more vulnerable to decay. Help your child avoid cavities by limiting acidic foods and drinks, making them part of a balanced meal, and/or rinsing with water after eating.

  • Use Fluoride Toothpaste

Fluoride toothpaste not only reduces the risk of cavities, it also helps strengthen enamel that has been weakened by bacterial and dietary acids. Win-win!

  • Ask About Sealants

Sealants are invisible, safe coatings which protect molars by preventing food and bacteria from getting trapped in their uneven surfaces. The top of the molar is first treated with an etching solution to allow the sealant to bond tightly to the tooth, a thin coat of sealant is painted on, and then it’s hardened under a curing light. That’s all there is to it.

Sealants are often recommended when children’s permanent molars first erupt, when they are especially at risk for cavities. Sealants can last from three to five years (or even longer), and studies have shown a dramatic reduction in cavities for patients who use sealants compared to patients with untreated teeth. Depending on your child’s individual needs, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous might recommend a sealant for baby molars as well.

  • Regular Exams and Cleanings

It might be hard for you to tell if your child’s molars have been affected by sticky plaque, or sugary foods, or acidic drinks, or inadequate brushing, or any other potential cavity-causers. It’s not a difficult job for Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous, though! Through regular checkups and cleanings at our Anchorage, AK office, we will discover any conditions that might lead to cavities, and, if necessary, treat small cavities before they lead to more serious decay.

Statistically, childhood molars have a greater chance of developing cavities than incisors and canines. Help your child beat the odds by understanding why these teeth are at risk and by working with your dental team to give your child years of healthy teeth now and a future filled with beautiful smiles!