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Tooth Worms? The History of Cavities and Tooth Fillings

February 22nd, 2024

Scientists have discovered tooth decay in specimens that are more than 15,000 years old. The ancients once thought that cavities were caused by something called “tooth worms” … Eew! They didn’t exist, of course, but how else could humans explain the holes that cavities make in teeth?

The appearance of cavities on a widespread basis is often traced to the rise of farming. The new diet filled with grains and carbs made our mouths a haven for cavity-causing bacteria. As we added more sugar to our diets, our teeth got worse.

The “tooth worm” idea didn’t completely disappear until the 1700s when scientists finally began to understand the process of dental caries. Once that part of the puzzle was solved, they began focusing on filling existing cavities and preventing new ones.

Dental Fillings Come of Age

Many different materials, including beeswax, cork, aluminum, tin, and even asbestos, have been used to fill the holes caused by dental decay. Sometime in the mid-1800s, however, dentists began to use metal fillings such as gold, platinum, silver and lead amalgams.

The amalgam we use today is mixed from liquid mercury, silver, tin, copper, zinc, and other metals, but some patients still like the look of a gold filling. Newer options include composite-resin fillings, which are made from a tooth-colored mixture of plastic resin and finely ground glass-like or quartz particles that form a durable and discreet filling. Porcelain or ceramic fillings are natural in color, but more resistant to staining.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can help decide which filling is best for you, based on cost as well as your dental and lifestyle needs. You may not have “tooth worms,” but if you have cavities, contact our Anchorage, AK office so we can take the proper action to protect the health of your mouth.

Are you a candidate for dental implants?

February 15th, 2024

When you are missing teeth, it is critical to replace them. Without all your teeth, chewing and eating can be challenging, as well as uncomfortable. Missing teeth can also destabilize your bite. Dental implants are a great option for replacing teeth that are missing or are badly diseased. A dental implant at Pediatric Dental Associates offers relief, support, and stability to your bite, and often, implants are the most natural and effective option available.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team have helped many patients using implant dentistry at our Anchorage, AK office restore their smiles to look more natural. Each implant is created to fit in perfectly with the look of the rest of your teeth.

Besides making your smile appear more natural, dental implants have other benefits. They include:

  • Restoring your ability to properly chew food
  • Preventing your teeth from shifting and moving
  • Stabilizing your bite, helping you avoid pain or discomfort

If you are missing a tooth or multiple teeth and feel like you are a candidate for dental implants, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates encourage you to give us a call to schedule an appointment. See you soon!

Symptoms That Could Mean You Need a Root Canal

February 8th, 2024

Every tooth packs a lot of layers in a very small area. The outer, visible part of our tooth, the crown, is covered in protective enamel, and the lower root area is protected by a similar substance called cementum. Inside these very hard layers is dentin, a hard but more porous tissue which surrounds the pulp. In this central pulp chamber, we have the blood vessels which nourish the tooth and the nerves which send our bodies signals from the tooth. And if one of those signals is persistent tooth pain, you may need a procedure called a root canal.

There are a number of reasons that a tooth may cause you pain, including:

  • Fracture—a cracked or broken tooth can allow bacteria to enter the pulp chamber and cause inflammation and infection
  • Cavity—an untreated cavity can leave an opening where bacteria can reach the pulp of the tooth, and again lead to infection
  • Gum Disease—bacteria can attack from the root area of the tooth if gum disease has become serious
  • Injury—an accident or injury to a tooth can damage the nerve or the blood supply which nourishes the pulp
  • Abscess—if infection is left untreated, an abscess may form under the root

While a damaged tooth may sometimes be symptom-free, usually there are signs that the pulp has been injured or infected. What symptoms should lead you to give Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous a call?

  • Persistent pain in the tooth
  • Long-lasting sensitivity to heat or cold
  • Gum tissue adjacent to the tooth that is sore, red or swollen
  • A cracked, broke, darkened or discolored tooth
  • A bump on your gums that persists or keeps recurring—this might indicate an abscess

A root canal is performed by a trained dentist or endodontist. After an anesthetic is used to numb the area, the damaged tissue, including pulp, blood vessels and nerves, is removed from the pulp chamber and each root. The inside of the tooth is then cleaned and shaped, and filled and sealed with a temporary filling. The tooth is filled again permanently, usually on a second visit, and might require a crown in order to protect it from further damage.

The most painful part of a root canal is far more often the time spent suffering before the procedure than the procedure itself. Delaying action when a root canal is necessary can lead to infection, abscess, and even tooth loss. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, please give our Anchorage, AK office a call!

 

Mouthguard Protection

February 1st, 2024

Let’s talk about mouthguards and night guards—two crucial appliances that protect your teeth and jaw.

We could talk about how important a mouthguard is when you lead an active life. Mouthguards protect teeth, delicate mouth tissue, and jaws from accidents and impacts.  

Or if you grind your teeth at night, waking up every morning with tooth or jaw pain, we can talk about how a night guard can be a quality-of-life-saver.

But we’re not going to talk about any of these important topics today. Instead of looking at how your mouthguard protects you, today we’re going to look at how you can protect your mouthguard.

If you want your guard to last longer, work better, and stay (and smell) cleaner, some basic tips make all the difference.

  • Keep your guard clean.

This can’t be stressed enough. Without a good cleaning routine, your guard can become discolored, develop an unpleasant odor, and even cause illness. Not very appealing, right? Happily, keeping mouthguards and night guards clean isn’t difficult.

When you wear your guard, whether during daytime activities or through the night, the same plaque that is present in your mouth makes itself at home in your appliance. And when your guard is in its case, that dark, moist environment makes it a perfect breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

As soon as you take your guard out, rinse it off. Brush with a soft toothbrush to remove all the plaque, saliva, or food debris that might be lingering in your appliance. (If you are on the playing field, in the park, or at some other inconvenient location, rinse it and brush as soon as you can.) Toothpaste can help get your guard its cleanest, but can be too abrasive for some appliances.

Once you’ve cleaned it, let your guard air dry in a clean spot for about 30 minutes. Air drying helps prevent bacterial growth. After your guard has dried, return it to its case.

Once a week, you might need to give your guard a good soak in a mouthwash or other dental cleaning solution.

Since cleaning instructions can be different depending on which type of guard you have, be sure to follow our instructions if you have a custom guard, or follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions if you have a store guard.

  • Keep it safe.

When your guard isn’t in your mouth, it should be in its case. Lying loose on the bathroom counter or tumbling around in your gym bag puts your guard at risk for breakage and bacteria.

And don’t forget to clean your case thoroughly every few days and air dry it as well. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, mold, and other unwelcome guests can collect in your case, too.

  • Keep it only as long as it’s in good condition.

You can purchase mouthguards from sporting or drug stores, or Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can make you a mouthguard or night guard designed to fit your teeth perfectly. These appliances are made to be strong and durable, but they’re not indestructible. Over time they can wear down or become damaged, especially if you treat them carelessly.

Bacteria can lurk in dents and cracks, and you can cut your mouth on rough, sharp, or broken edges. But if your guard isn’t fitting properly, don’t resort to self-help! Trying to repair, reshape, or trim your appliance yourself is not a good idea, because it might affect its fit and protective ability.

Any sign that your guard isn’t fitting properly or shows signs of wear and tear could mean it’s time for a replacement. You can replace a store model, or ask our Anchorage, AK team about repairing or replacing your custom guard. A mouthguard or night guard that doesn’t fit, doesn’t protect you.

Take care of your guard, and it will take care of you. The reward for the small amount of time and effort you put into caring for your mouthguard or night guard is a smile that will last you for a lifetime. That’s a benefit we can talk about all day!

Dental Emergencies in Children

January 25th, 2024

Dental emergencies are bound to come up when you have young children. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team want to you to be prepared in case you run into a difficult situation. Problems can vary, from minor gum irritation to knocked-out teeth. Take a look at the different possibilities and how you can handle them.

Teething

Depending on the age of your child, there are common things to watch for when it comes to his or her teeth. Starting from a young age, your son or daughter may experience teething pain. This starts at about four months and can last up to three years.

Teething may cause your little one to become irritable and more prone to drooling due to tender gums. This is very common in young children who are teething, and can be alleviated by giving them a cold teething ring or by rubbing their gums with your finger.

Teething pain is as normal as your child’s first set of teeth falling out. On the other hand, if a baby tooth is knocked out in a forceful accident, make sure you bring him or her into our Anchorage, AK office to check that other damage hasn’t occurred in the mouth. On occasion, permanent teeth may grow in before baby teeth have fallen out. This may not cause any discomfort, but Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous should make sure the teeth are growing in properly. Catching teeth that are coming in incorrectly can prevent issues from arising in adulthood.

Gum Issues

If you’ve noticed your child’s gums bleeding often, this could result from a number of things. Bleeding gums may be an early sign of periodontal disease, which is caused by poor oral hygiene when it appears in children. Excessive gum bleeding can also occur when children brush their teeth too hard, or suffer an injury to their gum tissue.

If bleeding is continuous, rinse your child’s mouth with warm salt water and apply light pressure to the area. If you become concerned about the amount of blood, contact our Anchorage, AK office and we will schedule an appointment for your youngster as soon as possible.

Depending on what type of dental issue your child is experiencing, you should make sure to treat it quickly and properly. If you have questions or concerns about what you can do to help your son or daughter develop better oral hygiene habits, ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous for tips during your next appointment.

Don’t forget: As a parent, you can provide the best education to your children on the importance of proper oral hygiene by setting a good example. 

Root Canal Procedure

January 18th, 2024

Five words no one welcomes: “You need a root canal.” But if you are delaying treatment because you are worried about pain and an uncomfortable day in the dentist’s chair, please think again! Modern root canal procedures are designed to repair your damaged tooth gently and efficiently, and leave you with a restored natural tooth that can last a lifetime.

  • Why might you need a root canal?

First, a little tooth biology. Each tooth has a crown (the part we see above the gums) and one or more roots (the part of our tooth below the gum line that is attached to bone in our jaw). The tooth has three basic layers: the hard enamel and cementum that cover the outer crown and root, the softer dentin beneath that layer, and, on the inside, the pulp. Pulp is made of living tissue, and contains the blood vessels and nerves that nourish the tooth and keep it vital.

Even with the protection the enamel and dentin provide, sometimes the pulp can be infected or damaged. If you have suffered an injury to your mouth or jaw, or an infection has developed from an opening in the tooth caused by a deep cavity or crack, you may need a root canal to prevent further infection, pain, and even tooth loss. Call our Anchorage, AK office immediately if you feel pain with chewing or pressure, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, swollen, and tender gums around a tooth, or tooth discoloration.

  • The Root Canal Procedure

If a root canal is necessary, the procedure is very straightforward. After the area around the tooth is numbed, we will make an opening in the crown to allow access to the pulp inside. Very small instruments will be used to clean the inner tooth and removed bacteria and dead or dying tissue. The area will be thoroughly disinfected, and the inside of the tooth shaped and then filled and sealed. A temporary filling or crown might be placed on the tooth to prevent bacteria and food from entering the site if a permanent crown needs to be created. The entire process usually takes from one to three visits.

If we suggest a root canal, it is because this is the best way to save your tooth. Please feel free to talk to us about your particular needs and concerns. Which tooth is affected, how many roots are involved, what type of filling or crown might be best—we will work with you to provide all the information you need and all the options you have available.

Common Concerns

  • Are you concerned about pain?

The most painful part of a root canal is often the severe discomfort your tooth causes before treatment. And infections and damaged nerves can affect not only the injured tooth, but the gums, tissue and even bone surrounding it. With our modern dental techniques, a root canal procedure is often no more uncomfortable than a regular filling. The local anesthetic we use will prevent you from feeling any pain during the procedure, and, while the area around your tooth might be a bit sensitive following treatment, the pain caused by the infection or injury should be gone.

  • Are you anxious about the procedure?

If dental treatment causes you anxiety, please let us know. There are several sedation options we can pursue to make this procedure less worrisome. Our goal is to make your treatment as gentle and comfortable as possible.

No one welcomes the news that a root canal is necessary, but with today’s procedures, this treatment can be just what you need to relieve your pain and keep your natural tooth where it belongs for many years to come. And that is welcome news, indeed!

Just What Is a Cavity, Anyway?

January 11th, 2024

So you might be wondering, just what are cavities? How do we get them? What do they do to our teeth? How can we prevent them? Let’s talk!

Our teeth need to be strong to bite and chew. That’s why they are protected by a coating called enamel, which is made up of very hard minerals. Enamel is the strongest part of our bodies—stronger even than our bones. But this doesn’t mean nothing can hurt it! And cavities, also called tooth decay, are one of the most common dangers facing our enamel.

So, what are cavities?

A cavity is a hole in your tooth enamel. If your tooth is not cleaned and repaired when a cavity is small, this hole can grow bigger until tooth decay reaches the inside of your tooth. Enamel doesn’t heal when it’s damaged, so you need to see a dentist to make your tooth healthy again.

How do we get cavities?

Bacteria are tiny little germs. Many kinds of bacteria live in our bodies, and some of them are quite helpful. The bacteria which cause cavities are not. These unhelpful bacteria join with our saliva and very small pieces of the food we’ve chewed to make a sticky film called plaque.

Like other living things, the bacteria in plaque need food. They get that food from the foods we eat, especially sugars and starches. As they eat, they change these sugars and starches into acids, and these acids attack the minerals which keep enamel hard and strong.

Because plaque sticks to our teeth, bacterial acids are able to make weak spots in enamel if the plaque isn’t brushed away. If you see a white spot on your tooth, that could mean that your enamel is losing minerals, and getting weaker.

What do cavities do to our teeth?

Over time, weak spots can grow bigger until there’s a hole in the enamel surface. If the cavity in your enamel is small, you might not notice it at first. But cavities can become wider and deeper, and even break through enamel to reach the inside of your tooth.

The inside of each tooth holds pulp, the part of your tooth which keeps it healthy. If tooth decay spreads to the pulp, it can cause more damage and infection, so it’s important to treat a cavity right away.

Dark spots on your enamel, a toothache, pain when you drink something hot or cold or when you bite down—these can be clues that you have a cavity, and you should visit us for an exam.

How can you prevent cavities?

Even better than treating a cavity is preventing one. Let’s make a list of some helpful do’s and don’ts for cavity prevention:

  • Do: Feed yourself foods which are good for you.

Foods like milk and cheese and many dark green vegetables have lots of calcium and vitamin D to help keep your enamel strong.

  • Don’t: Feed bacteria foods which are good for them.

Sugar and simple starches like potato chips are the kinds of foods bacteria like best, because they are easy to break down. This means more acids to attack your enamel.

This doesn’t mean you should never enjoy a treat! But eating lots of starchy snacks and drinking sugary sodas means more plaque, and more plaque can mean more cavities. If you’re eating something starchy or sweet, it’s a good idea to brush or rinse afterward.

  • Do: Brush at least twice a day, for at least two minutes, with fluoride toothpaste.

This is the best way to get rid of plaque, which builds up every day. And fluoride toothpaste even helps make your enamel stronger.

  • Don’t: Forget to floss.

Flossing takes a while to learn to do well, but it’s very important. Flossing helps prevent cavities between the teeth and near the gums.

  • Do: Visit our Anchorage, AK dental office for exams and cleanings.

Not only will we look for cavities, we’ll let you know the best way to brush and floss so you can get your teeth their cleanest.

  • Don’t: Feel bad if you get a cavity!

Some people are more likely to get cavities than others, even when they brush just right and eat healthy foods. If you have a cavity, we can remove decay and repair your tooth with a filling.

And one last thing to do: talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous if you have any questions about the best ways to protect your teeth from cavities. We have lots of suggestions to help you take care of your healthy, beautiful smile!

My mouth is dry. What can I do?

January 4th, 2024

Nobody likes a dry mouth. It is an uncomfortable and sometimes oddly unexplainable sensation that most people like to avoid. It is not a condition that automatically sends you into a panic about your health, however, a dry mouth can be a bother and something you certainly want to change if possible. So, if you find yourself in the unpleasant position of having a dry mouth, here is what you can do.

Chew Sugar-free Gum: Chewing sugar-free gum will stimulate saliva in your mouth. The chewing motion of your jaw and teeth should take care of at least some of your dry mouth problem.

Suck on Sugar-free Candy: Similarly to chewing sugar free gum, if you suck on sugar free candy it should create more saliva in your mouth and moisturize it in the process.

Cut out the Caffeine:Caffeine can contribute to a dry mouth so by limiting, or eliminating your intake all together, you may find that your dry mouth is no more.

Stop Using Tobacco Products: Tobacco is another cause of dry mouth. Whether it is smokeless tobacco products or cigarettes, if you stop using them your dry mouth will likely improve. And not to forget, these products are exceedingly bad for your oral health to begin with, so you will be doing your mouth a favor even more so.

Drink Lots of Water: It may seem obvious, but drinking lots of water will likely improve your dry mouth. This is because dry mouth is usually a sign of dehydration, so plenty of fluids will surely help.

Dry mouth can be unpleasant, but it is often easily solved by either drinking more water, or trying one of the previously mentioned techniques. If the problem still persists you can always visit our Anchorage, AK office to see Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous. More often than not, doing one of the above will leave your mouth more moisturized than it was previously, and hopefully it will be long-lasting as well.

Seal of Approval

December 28th, 2023

Outside activities? You slather your kids with sunscreen. Biking? You don’t let your child leave the house without a helmet. Youth sports? You provide mouthguards and padding and headgear and all the other tools designed to keep your child safe. Protecting your child is a fundamental part of parenthood, and you take your job seriously.

Protecting your child’s dental health is fundamental, too! Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children, and children’s premolars and molars are far more vulnerable to decay than any of their other teeth. You can help protect your child’s molars and premolars with a simple and effective treatment—dental sealants.

  • How Do Sealants Work?

The bacteria in plaque use food particles to create acids. These acids erode the minerals in tooth enamel, creating weak spots that become cavities over time. Molars and premolars are especially vulnerable to cavities because of their uneven chewing surfaces. The dips and grooves on top of the teeth—technically known as “pits and fissures”—collect food particles and bacteria, and can be difficult for children to clean completely when brushing. That’s why cavities are so common in newly erupted molars.

Dental sealants protect your child’s molars and premolars by creating a barrier that covers and smooths out the chewing surface of the tooth, preventing bacteria and food particles from getting stuck inside those uneven pits and fissures.

  • What Kind of Sealants Are Available?

The two most common dental sealants are composite resin coatings and glass ionomer sealants.

With resin sealants, after each tooth is cleaned and dried, an etching solution will be brushed onto the top surface of the molar. This etching slightly roughens the surface so that the sealant will stick to the tooth more effectively. A thin coat of the sealant is then painted on and hardened under a special curing light.

Glass ionomer sealants use a flexible paste that bonds to the tooth and hardens within minutes. While they generally don’t last as long as resin sealants, they are designed to absorb and release fluoride for extra cavity-fighting protection.

  • Do Sealants Work?

They certainly do! According to the Centers for Disease Control, sealants can prevent 80% of the cavities in molars and premolars, which is where 90% of children’s cavities appear. Dental sealants can last from three to five years, or even longer. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will check the condition of any sealants at each dental exam, and let you know if it’s time for a reapplication.

  • When’s the Best Time to Get Sealants?

Tooth enamel gets harder as we get older, so children’s newly erupted teeth are more at risk for cavities. First adult molars usually arrive when a child is six to seven years old, and second adult molars come in around the age of 12. The first and second premolars can erupt between the ages of ten to 12. As soon as the first permanent molars begin to erupt, it’s a good time to talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about the best time to apply sealants.

And what about baby teeth? Even though baby teeth are meant to be replaced, they shouldn’t be lost to tooth decay before they are ready to fall out. Primary teeth help young children learn to speak and eat properly and hold the place for adult teeth so these permanent teeth come in where they should. Baby teeth have thinner enamel, and so cavities can progress more quickly. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can let you know if sealant protection for your child’s baby molars is indicated.

Applying sealants at our Anchorage, AK office is a safe, simple, cost-effective, and painless process. Dental sealants are one more tool you can use to make protecting your child’s dental health a little easier and a lot more effective. That gets a well-deserved parents’ seal of approval!

Ouch! Are You Biting Your Cheeks More Often?

December 21st, 2023

You’re biting into something delicious, and, Ouch! You bite into something you didn’t mean to—the inside of your tender cheek.

Painful moments like this happen every now and again. But if you find that more frequent cheek biting means that you’re extra-cautious when eating or speaking, if you wake up with sore cheeks in the morning, or if you catch yourself habitually chewing on your cheeks during the day, it’s time to visit our Anchorage, AK office.

Causes of Cheek Biting

Many of us experience the occasional cheek chomp when we’re eating or talking. No fun! Besides the pain, a bite can cause broken skin, inflammation, a canker sore, or a mucous cyst. Luckily, the discomfort from these accidental bites generally resolves after a few days.

Sometimes, though, biting becomes a more frequent annoyance. Regular bites can be caused by several conditions, including:

  • Sleep Bruxism

Bruxism is the medical term for tooth grinding. When sleepers unconsciously clench or grind their teeth as they slumber, it’s known as sleep bruxism. Sleep bruxism not only causes tooth damage, jaw problems, and facial pain—that nightly gnashing can mean bites to delicate cheek tissue.

  • Problems with Dental Restorations

The placement of a crown, bridge, or implant can cause biting to occur more often if the alignment of your restoration with your other teeth isn’t ideal or has shifted, or if the restoration needs replacement.

  • Wisdom Teeth

Most of us don’t have the room to welcome four new—and large—teeth. When wisdom teeth come in, they can lead to cheek bites, especially if they erupt leaning outward toward your cheeks.

  • Orthodontic Misalignment

If you notice that you seem to be biting your cheek a lot when eating or speaking, it could be an orthodontic problem.  When your teeth or jaws don’t align properly, if your mouth is small, or if your teeth have shifted over time, your cheeks might feel the consequences.

Treatment Options

Why see Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous? A one-time bite can be extremely uncomfortable, and might lead to inflammation or even a sore spot inside your mouth. Usually, both pain and sore spot fade in a short while, and saltwater rinses or oral gels can soothe your injured cheek tissue. Your dentist’s office can give you advice on treating minor bites.

But what about continuous biting? Regular biting injuries can lead to bigger problems. Tissue in the cheeks can thicken or erode. Scar tissue can build up inside the mouth. Ulcers and other sores can become larger and more painful.

If you’ve been biting your cheeks more often, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can diagnose the cause and offer you treatment options depending on the reason for this frequent biting:

  • Sleep Bruxism?

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous might suggest a nightguard to provide protection from the damaging effects of bruxism. Nightguards not only prevent further biting, they give your cheeks the chance to heal. We can custom fabricate a guard for the most comfortable and effective fit.

  • Restoration Problems?

If regular cheek biting occurs after you’ve gotten a crown, a bridge, or an implant, visit our Anchorage, AK office. This might be a problem that can be resolved with a bit of reshaping, whether removing a bit of the restoration or building up a spot. If a crown or other restoration has shifted or is failing, replacement might be in order.

  • No Room for Wisdom Teeth?

Most of us don’t have room in our mouth to accommodate wisdom teeth, and extracting them is a common dental procedure. Wisdom teeth can be the source of many dental problems, including impaction, shifting teeth, and even damage to surrounding teeth. If you see signs that your wisdom teeth are starting to come in, talk to your dentist about your options.

  • Orthodontic Problems?

Orthodontic treatment can improve tooth and bite alignment—and can eliminate those painful cheek bites if misalignment is what’s causing them. Modern orthodontic treatment offers patients of all ages more options than ever before, including traditional and lingual braces, clear aligners, and functional appliances.

Whatever the reason for painful cheek biting, you deserve to eat and speak and enjoy your day without constant “Ouch!” moments affecting your comfort and health. If these moments are happening all too often, visit Pediatric Dental Associates for the answers to your biting problems.

Osteoporosis and Oral Health

December 14th, 2023

Today, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates thought we would examine the relationship between osteoporosis and oral health, since 40 million Americans have osteoporosis or are at high risk. Osteoporosis entails less density in bones, so they become easier to fracture. Research suggests a link between osteoporosis and bone loss in the jaw, which supports and anchors the teeth. Tooth loss affects one third of adults 65 and older.

Bone density and dental concerns

  • Women with osteoporosis are three times more likely to experience tooth loss than those without it.
  • Low bone density results in other dental issues.
  • Osteoporosis is linked to less positive outcomes from oral surgery.

Ill-fitting dentures in post-menopausal women

Studies indicate that women over 50 with osteoporosis need new dentures up to three times more often than women who don’t have the disease. It can be so severe that it becomes impossible to fit dentures correctly, leading to nutritive losses.

Role of dental X-rays in osteoporosis

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) released research that suggest dental X-rays may be used as a screening tool for osteoporosis. Researchers found that dental X-rays could separate people with osteoporosis from those with normal bone density. As dental professionals, our team at Pediatric Dental Associates are in a unique position to screen people and refer them to the appropriate doctor for specialized care.

Effects of osteoporosis medications on oral health

A recent study showed that a rare disease, osteonecrosis, is caused by biophosphenates, a drug taken by people for treatment of osteoporosis. In most cases, the cause was linked to those who take IV biophosphenates for treatment of cancer, but in six percent of cases, the cause was oral biophosphenates. If you are taking a biophosphenate drug, let Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous know.

Symptoms of osteonecrosis

Some symptoms you may see are pain, swelling, or infection of the gums or jaw. Additionally, injured or recently treated gums may not heal: teeth will be loose, jaws may feel heavy and numb, or there may be exposed bone. Some of the steps you can take for healthy bones are to eat a healthy diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, regular physical exercise with weight-bearing activities, no smoking and limited use of alcohol, and report problems with teeth to our office, such as teeth that are loose, receding gums or detached gums, and dentures that don’t fit properly.

For more information about the connection between osteoporosis and oral health, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous, please give us a call at our convenient Anchorage, AK office!

What are dental sealants, who should get them, and how long do they last?

December 7th, 2023

Dental sealants are an excellent way to protect children’s teeth from tooth decay by coating them with a thin plastic material. Their teeth look and feel like normal, but they are protected from plaque build-up and decay early on. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our staff recommend sealants as a preventive measure for children before any decay appears on their teeth.

Who should get dental sealants?

Dental sealants are intended for young children as soon as their first teeth come in. Decay is most common in the molars, so taking your child to Pediatric Dental Associates for sealants right when you see the molars grow in gives your child the best chance to fight tooth decay.

A child’s first set of permanent molars grow in between ages five and seven, while the second permanent molars come in between 11 and 14 years of age. Some teens and adults who don’t have tooth decay may get sealants as well, but it is less common.

How long do dental sealants last?

Once the sealant has been placed on the teeth, it lasts up to ten years. Expect to have Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous check the sealant at every visit to our Anchorage, AK office, which should be twice a year. We will look at the sealant and determine if it needs to be replaced.

What is the process of getting sealants?

Applying sealants is a simple, pain-free procedure that is done quickly at Pediatric Dental Associates. There is absolutely no effect on the tooth structure from sealants.

For starters, the teeth are cleaned carefully, then dried with an absorbent material. A mild acid solution is applied to them to roughen them slightly. This is done so the sealant can bond properly to the teeth. Then the teeth are rinsed and dried, and the sealant material is painted on and dried with a special light.

Molars are susceptible to decay early on, which is why sealants are an important treatment to get for your children’s first set of teeth.

How Sleep Apnea Can Affect Your Waking Life

November 30th, 2023

We all know that sleep apnea causes many a difficult night. Noisy snoring, gasping for breath, and waking up dozens of times a sleep cycle are the unhappy consequences of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). What you may not realize is that sleep apnea can make your days just as challenging.

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by an obstructed airway. The throat muscles may relax as you sleep and make it impossible to inhale fully with each breath. Or you may have a physical condition such as a deviated septum, enlarged tonsils or excess throat tissue that blocks the free passage of air into your lungs. As a result, you stop breathing for a short time and often choke or gasp for breath. Your body responds by waking every time you need to start breathing properly again, and this can happen dozens of times each hour you are asleep. The result is that, while you may think you have slept through the night, you have never gotten the deep sleep your body needs to restore itself.

How can sleep deprivation affect our daytime hours? You might find yourself suffering from any of these problems:

  • Constant drowsiness
  • Falling asleep at work or while driving
  • Headaches every morning
  • Sore throats
  • Dry mouth (which can lead to gum and dental problems)
  • Memory and attention problems
  • Moodiness or depression
  • Decreased libido

As if these reasons weren’t cause enough to find a solution to your sleeping disorder, the longer term results of sleep apnea can be devastating. High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, dangerous responses to medication or general anesthesia, a higher risk of accidents, and many other serious consequences have been linked to sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea doesn’t just ruin your night. If you suffer from any of the daytime problems listed above, please give our Anchorage, AK office and your doctor a call. If obstructive sleep apnea is the cause, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can work with you to find a solution that will improve your quality of life 24 hours a day.

What Your Dentist Checks During a Checkup

November 30th, 2023

You’ve been going to Pediatric Dental Associates for a while now, so you pretty much know what to expect when you get to our Anchorage, AK office.

You’ll see Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous, your hygienist, and all the other members of your friendly dental team again. You’ll sit in a comfortable chair just your size. And you’ll have a checkup to make sure your teeth are healthy.

But once you’re sitting back in that comfortable chair, you might be wondering just what exactly gets checked during your checkup. The answer is, a lot!

  • Checking Your Tooth and Gum Health

It’s important to have regular checkups because finding a small problem right away, like a weak spot in your tooth enamel, means your dentist can prevent it from becoming a bigger problem, like a cavity, later!

So your dentist will carefully examine each tooth for signs of tooth decay, using a little mirror to see behind your front teeth and around those hard-to-see teeth in the back of your mouth. The visible part of your smile doesn’t always tell everything about your dental health, though. At some checkups, you might need X-rays to make sure the insides of your teeth and their roots are healthy.

Oral health means more than just your teeth. That’s why your dentist will examine your gums and the inside of your mouth, too.

  • Checking Your Bite

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will check the way your teeth fit together when you bite, and can take X-ray images to show the size and shape of your jaw bones and the size and position of your permanent teeth before they even come in.

If your teeth and jaws fit don’t together just right, or if it looks like there might not be enough room for all your adult teeth to come in without crowding, your dentist might recommend pre-orthodontic or orthodontic treatment. 

  • Cleaning Your Teeth

Plaque can hide in hard-to-reach places between your teeth and around your gums. You might know that plaque can cause cavities if it’s not brushed away, but did you know that plaque can also hurt your gums? That’s why an expert cleaning is usually part of every checkup.

Your hygienist will use special dental tools and carefully remove any plaque you might have missed or any tartar (hardened plaque) that’s built up over time. Then after flossing and rinsing, you’ll have a clean, sparkling, plaque-free smile.

Bonus: Your dental hygienist can teach you how to brush and floss better if you’ve been missing a few spots!

  • Can Your Teeth Use Extra Protection?

Once your teeth are cleaned and examined, your dentist might use a fluoride treatment or sealants to give your teeth extra protection against cavities.

Fluoride treatments help make your tooth enamel stronger. If your dentist thinks you need this kind of fluoride protection, your teeth will be coated with a special fluoride gel or varnish or foam. This treatment doesn’t take long and will strengthen your enamel for months afterward.

People’s molars get the most cavities because their uneven surfaces make good places for plaque and bits of food to hide from brushes. A sealant is a thin coating which is brushed on the top of your molars to prevent plaque from hurting your enamel.

  • Checking In with You!

Part of your checkup is talking to your dentist about how you can protect and even improve your dental health.

  • Find out whether the foods you eat make your tooth enamel stronger—or weaker.
  • Discover how brushing and flossing help prevent tooth decay and gum disease, and see if your brushing and flossing skills need any work.
  • Learn how to protect your teeth during active sports (hint: wear a mouthguard).
  • If you have habits which can hurt your teeth, like nail biting, get advice on how to quit.
  • Don’t forget to ask any questions you might have!

Your checkup might be a little different, because your exam is designed just for you, but there’s one thing which all of us can expect. Visit our Anchorage, AK pediatric dental office for regular checkups, work together with your dental team, and you can expect a healthier, happier smile!

Satisfying a Sweet Tooth

November 23rd, 2023

Time for some sweet talk! Many studies have been done to figure out why we enjoy sugar so much. Is it brain chemistry? Is it blood sugar getting a bit low? Is it our bodies craving a quick burst of energy?

It’s probably all of the above and more besides. After all, our biochemistry makes use of sugars on a cellular level. The carbohydrates in our diet break down into sugars, and these sugars are the body’s preferred source of energy.

Problems arise when we get too much of a good thing. There’s a difference between the carbs we need to fuel our bodies and the sugars we add to foods for flavor. Too many added sugars in the diet are linked to a number of medical conditions, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, even prematurely aging skin.

And, of course, a sugar-heavy diet has a direct effect on your oral health.

There’s no way to sugar coat it. Plaque is mainly composed of bacteria, which feed on sugars. As they digest sugar, they produce acids. These acids attack our enamel, dissolving the calcium and phosphorus minerals which keep it strong. Weakened enamel leaves teeth vulnerable to decay, and decay creates cavities.

It’s natural to want a sweet treat every now and then, but without some attention, it’s easy to go overboard with added sugars and empty calories. If you’re searching for a middle way, balancing your love for sweet things with your love for cavity-free checkups, read on!

Be Choosy

  • Check and compare labels for added sugars. You’ll be surprised how many foods have a high sugar content, even such health-oriented foods as flavored yogurts, sports drinks, fruit drinks, and protein bars.
  • Consider the (sugar) source. White and brown table sugars and syrups break down easily as we’re eating them, adding empty calories which provide little nutrition, and increasing acidic conditions in the mouth.

Fruits, on the other hand, provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber along with their natural sugars. Switch out cookies, cakes, and pastries and their processed sugars for fruit when you crave something sweet.

  • Chocolate lovers, don’t despair! It’s true, unless you’re eating 100% cocoa, you are probably getting added sugar in your candy bar. But dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, iron, zinc, magnesium, and other essential minerals, too. When you indulge in chocolate, give dark chocolate a try.
  • Not all candies are created equal! Soft candy bars and candies are healthier for your teeth than sticky or chewy confections, which tend to remain on your enamel for quite some time. Choose a treat that won’t stick with you.

Watch Your Timing

  • If you must snack during the day, it’s better to choose foods without a high sugar content. Bacteria use sugars to produce acids right away. Saliva can neutralize acids in the mouth, but it takes at least 20 minutes for the process to start.

More meals mean more sugar, more acid production, and more time for these acids to cause their damage. That’s why we also suggest you . . .

  • Eat your favorite dessert with a meal instead of waiting until later. You’ll be able to enjoy it even more knowing you’re limiting your exposure to harmful acids.
  • Taking your time is not a good idea when it comes to sweets. We don’t mean you should gobble your food. We do mean that taking sips of sugary beverages throughout the day, or sucking on slowly dissolving candies, gives you a lot more exposure to sugar over a longer period of time.

Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference

  • Drink water after enjoying something sweet to help wash away and dilute sugar.
  • Straws protect your teeth from a sugar-bath if you are drinking sodas, sweetened energy drinks, or other sugary beverages.
  • Sugar-free gum provides a burst of sweet flavor without added sugar. And even better? Chewing gum increases saliva, washing away food particles and acids and bathing teeth in enamel-strengthening minerals.

It’s natural to appreciate a sweet treat every now and then. If you’re not ready for a completely treat-free life, talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at our Anchorage, AK office about the best ways to have your cake and eat it—or even better, to recommend healthy substitutes to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Four Oral Health Issues Seniors Face

November 23rd, 2023

Oral health is an important and often overlooked component of an older person’s general health and well-being. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team know that for many of our older patients, oral health can become an issue when arthritis or other neurological problems render them unable to brush or floss their teeth as effectively as they once did. Today, we thought we would discuss four common oral health issues our older patients face and how they can avoid them:

Cavities: It’s not just children who get tooth decay—oral decay is a common disease in people 65 and older. Ninety-two percent of seniors 65 and older have had dental caries in their permanent teeth, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The risk for tooth decay increases because many older adults don’t go to the dentist as often as they used to, thus cavities go undetected and untreated for longer than they should. Keeping regular appointments with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous is the key to getting cavities treated in a timely manner.

Difficulty eating: Oral health problems, whether from missing teeth, cavities, dentures that don’t fit, gum disease, or infection, can cause difficulty eating and can force people to adjust the quality, consistency, and balance of their diet.

Dry mouth: Also called xerostomia, dry mouth is a common issue for a lot of seniors. Our friends at the Oral Cancer Foundation estimate that 20 percent of elderly people suffer from dry mouth, which means the reduced flow of saliva (saliva plays a crucial role in preventing tooth decay). Many seniors are on multiple medications for a variety of chronic illnesses or conditions. Common medications taken that may cause dry mouth are decongestants, antihistamines, blood pressure medications, pain pills, incontinence medications, antidepressants, diuretics, muscle relaxers, and Parkinson’s disease medications. To help counter this, we suggest drinking lots of fluids and limiting your intake of caffeine and alcohol. We also encourage you to check with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous during your next visit if you think your medications are causing your mouth to feel dry.

Gum Disease: Gum (periodontal) disease is an infection of the gums and surrounding tissues that hold teeth in place. While gum disease affects people of all ages, it typically becomes worse as people age. In its early stages, gum disease is painless, and most people have no idea that they have it. In more advanced cases, however, gum disease can cause sore gums and pain when chewing.

Gum disease, which can range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease, is usually caused by poor brushing and flossing habits that allow dental plaque to build up on the teeth. Plaque that is not removed can harden and form tartar that brushing simply does not clean. Only a professional cleaning at our office can remove tartar. The two forms of gum disease are gingivitis and periodontitis. In gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen, and can bleed easily; in periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces that become infected.

Proper brushing, flossing, and visiting our office regularly can prevent gum disease. Seniors with limited dexterity who have trouble gripping a toothbrush should ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about modifying a handle for easier use or switching to a battery-powered toothbrush.

Does Your Filling Need Replacing?

November 16th, 2023

No matter how wonderfully something works for us, there comes a day when a replacement might be necessary. This holds true whether it’s the latest and greatest smart phone, or your perfectly prescribed eyeglasses, or your discreet and comfortable dental filling.

Wait, dental filling?

It’s true! While most dental fillings will last for many trouble-free years, there might come a time when a replacement is in order. Here are some signs to look for:

  • Obvious Damage

Your teeth are under a lot of stress. The forces of biting and chewing place hundreds of pounds of pressure on teeth and jaws. And if you grind your teeth, your teeth are really getting a workout. What’s true for your teeth is true for your fillings. Over time, fillings can break down after years of this constant pressure.

If you notice a filling has become loose, or is cracked, or is pulling way from the edges of the tooth, give your dentist a call! A timely replacement can prevent decay from forming under the filling. Which leads us to . . .

  • Pain in a Filled Tooth

When a filling is damaged, it no longer protects the dentin and pulp inside the tooth as effectively.

Why? Because your toothbrush can’t reach beneath your filling—but cavity-causing bacteria can. This means that cavities can develop underneath a filling that’s loose or damaged. Hidden decay will eventually progress into the pulp area of the tooth, which could lead to infection, root canal treatment, or even extraction.

If you’re suffering from pain or sensitivity in or around a tooth, it’s important to see your dentist right away to rule out hidden decay or other serious conditions.

  • Cosmetic Concerns

Composite resin fillings are often used on front teeth because they can be carefully color-matched to our enamel for an almost invisible restoration. Over time, though, you might discover your composite filling has become quite a bit more visible.

Just like our enamel, composite fillings can become stained over time from foods like coffee and red wine, and from smoking. Does a discolored filling need replacement? If the filling is damaged, or if decay is present, yes. If the problem is surface cosmetic staining, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous might be able to restore the original color of your filling with polishing. If you’re concerned about the color of your filling, talk to us about all of your options.

  • Your Dentist Recommends Replacement

Part of each dental examination includes checking the condition of your restorations. If we notice a loose or damaged filling, or find decay beneath a filling, it’s time for a replacement.

You have more options that ever before when it comes to dental fillings. Gold fillings and silver amalgam fillings last from ten to 15 years or even longer, and are capable of withstanding chewing pressure and filling larger cavities. Composite fillings, although they might not last quite as long, are almost unnoticeable and perfect for visible teeth. Your dentist will recommend the filling which is best suited for your needs.

If you wait to replace a cracked or compromised filling, you’re taking a chance with the health of your tooth. Dental fillings provide years of durable, comfortable wear—but if it’s time for a replacement, don’t hesitate to call our Anchorage, AK dental office for an appointment.

Dental Anxiety

November 16th, 2023

If you suffer from dental anxiety, a visit to Pediatric Dental Associates might seem like a daunting prospect. Perhaps you had a bad experience in the past, but whatever the reason, please know that at our Anchorage, AK office, there is nothing to be afraid of. We understand you may be anxious about receiving dental treatments, and we’re here to help you have a comfortable, pain-free experience that will put your fears to rest.

You’re not alone!

A 1984 study that appeared in the Journal of the American Dental Association reported that up to 75% of all adults in the United States have some degree of dental anxiety. This includes five to ten percent whose dental anxiety is so severe that they try to avoid a dentist’s office at all costs.

Treatment

If you experience dental anxiety, it is important to let our office know in advance, so we can provide you with the dental care you need with an added touch of TLC. We can assist by explaining behavioral techniques for relaxation, by administering nitrous oxide (laughing gas), or by prescribing a relaxing medication prior to your dental procedure.

How to Prevent Dry Socket

November 9th, 2023

When you have a tooth extracted, your body immediately sets to work to help protect the affected area. The blood that collects at the site of the extraction clots to cover and protect the wound. This is a normal response, and protects the nerves and bone that have been exposed with the removal of your tooth. Normally, the gum tissue will close over the area within a few weeks.

But sometimes the clot becomes dislodged or moved before you have a chance to heal. The result is that the nerves and bone in the extraction site are exposed to air and outside substances. Bacteria can contaminate the wound and lead to pain, infection, and further damage. This condition is known as dry socket.

There are certain activities that should definitely be avoided so you are not at risk for dry socket.

  • Straws and suction: The action of using a straw causes suction that can dislodge the clot. You can still enjoy the soothing coolness of a milkshake, but use a spoon.
  • Spitting: You might be tempted to rinse and spit immediately to clean your mouth, but spitting can also dislodge the clot. We will let you know how to clean your mouth and teeth for the next few days.
  • Smoking: Not only does smoking provide a suction effect that can remove the clot, but smoking and chewing tobacco can slow healing as well.

There are also steps you can take to aid the healing process.

  • Caring for your extraction site

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will give you instructions on caring for your mouth and teeth for the next few days. Gentle care for the extraction site is vital. And treat yourself gently as well. Rest if you need to, and avoid activities that might impact your wound.

  • Think about your diet

Stick to soft foods for the first day or so and chew on the side opposite your extraction site. Carbonated and caffeinated beverages should be avoided, as well as food like peanuts or popcorn that lodge in the teeth.

  • Watch for symptoms of dry socket

How do you know if you have a dry socket? Monitor your pain and the appearance of the site after the extraction. For the first few days, you might feel some pain in the immediate area. Pain that intensifies after three or four days is usually not a result of the extraction. An unpleasant odor or taste in your mouth could be a sign of dry socket. You might look in the mirror and notice that the clot is no longer there, or appears to have been dislodged. If any of these symptoms occur, call our Anchorage, AK office at once. If you are experiencing dry socket, the extraction site needs to be cleaned and protected from further injury, and we can prescribe antibiotics if needed.

Dry socket is a rare occurrence, but if you have any symptoms that concern you, we want to hear about them. We will work with you to make your extraction go as smoothly as possible. Talk to us about your concerns before any procedure, and we will provide detailed information for the healing process. Keep us in the loop as you recuperate, and we will work together to make your recovery a speedy one.

The Perks of Dairy

November 9th, 2023

We all remember hearing this: “Finish your milk, it’s good for your bones!” If you have kids of your own now, you may catch yourself repeating many of the things you were told growing up.

Though parents occasionally exaggerate to get their kids to do certain things (such as eat veggies or behave), they’re spot-on about milk. Consuming enough dairy every day is crucial for growing children, because this can set them up to have strong and healthy teeth for the rest of their lives.

To understand the effects of dairy on your child’s teeth, take a look at tooth structure. Think of it in terms of layers: the innermost layer is the living tissue, the second layer is dentine (a calcified tissue), and the final one is the enamel, aka the white part of the tooth. Keep in mind that 96 percent of your enamel is made up of minerals like calcium.

Now, milk and other dairy products are excellent sources of calcium, so when you consider the need to build strong enamel for the first line of defense, it’s easy to see the connection between dairy and good dental health. When your son or daughter consumes dairy products, the body sends the incoming calcium to growing bones, which includes teeth.

This makes children’s teeth and bones stronger all around. Growing youngsters who do not get enough dairy in their diet are at risk for improper tooth development, as well as other dental problems.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, children under the age of eight should be receiving at least two and a half cups of dairy per day. Children older than eight require three full cups, which is the same amount recommended for male and female adults.

If you’re looking for easy ways to incorporate dairy into your children’s diet, try snacks like cottage cheese, a milk-based smoothie, yogurt, cheese sticks, non-fat milk, and fruit parfaits, to name a few. Once you get a feel for what they like most, furnishing the ideal amount of dairy to their diet should be no problem!

If you’re concerned about your child’s teeth or have questions about a healthy diet, don’t hesitate to contact our Anchorage, AK office and ask a member of our team.

Balancing Act

November 2nd, 2023

We’re all trying to find a healthy balance in our lives. Balancing work and home life. Eating a well-balanced diet. Balancing our budgets. Maintaining the right pH balance in our mouths for better dental health. Wait, what was that last one?

You probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about your pH levels, but if your oral pH is out of balance it can affect the health of your teeth.

What do we mean by pH levels? In biology and chemistry, the pH scale is a tool used to measure the concentration of hydrogen (H⁺) ions and hydroxide (OH⁻) ions in a solution.  

The higher the concentration of hydrogen atoms, the more acidic a solution. The higher the concentration of hydroxide ions, the more alkaline. The pH scale goes from 0 to 14, with the most acidic reading possible rating a 0, and the most alkaline, a 14.

You don’t have to be a biochemist to use the information provided by pH samples. We use pH readings to discover the ideal acid/alkaline conditions in many everyday applications. Azaleas grow best in very acidic soil. Swimming pools should be just a bit alkaline. Brewers test pH throughout the beer-making process for optimal fermentation—and taste.

When it comes to saliva, a neutral pH range of around 6.2 to 7.6 is generally considered normal. High alkalinity in saliva is rare. High acidity levels? Unfortunately, much more common. And an acidic environment has real-world consequences for teeth.

Plaque contains bacteria, which produce acids. Calcium and phosphate, the minerals that help make enamel the strongest substance in the body, are leached out by these acids. The weak spots left behind make enamel vulnerable to further erosion and, eventually, decay. When saliva has a normal, neutral pH, it helps neutralize plaque acids to reduce the risk of cavities.

But it’s not just bacteria that expose our teeth to acidic conditions—we do it ourselves with our choice of food and drink.

Acidic foods can directly lower the pH level in saliva. Lemon juice, for example, has a pH between 2 and 3. Red wine has a pH between 3 and 4. Blueberries? Around a 3.2. When the pH level in saliva becomes 5.5 or lower, the minerals in our teeth start to “demineralize,” or lose the minerals which keep enamel strong and intact—just the way enamel is demineralized by acids from plaque. This process is known as acid erosion.

Many of our favorite foods are acidic to some degree. Citrus and other fruits, pickled foods, vinegar, wine, coffee, tea—all of them can lower the optimal pH level of saliva. And sports drinks, energy drinks, and sodas? Check the labels and you’ll often find citric acid, phosphoric acid, and/or carbonation, all of which combine to create extremely erosive conditions.

So, no more soda? Or fruit? No. You don’t have to give up acidic foods altogether for healthy teeth. True, you won’t give up much eliminating soda from your diet. But fruits, vegetables, dairy foods, and meats are the source of essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins, and many of these healthy food choices have an acidic pH. How to eat nutritiously while protecting your enamel? Again, it’s a balancing act.

  • Enjoy acidic foods sparingly, or as part of a meal. Saliva can neutralize acids more effectively when they aren’t washing over your teeth all through the day.
  • Use a straw when you drink something with a low pH to reduce your enamel’s exposure to acids.
  • Balance high-acid foods with low-acid choices to help neutralize the acids in your diet. Add a banana to your blueberry smoothie. Pair your wine with some cheese.
  • Rinse with water after eating or drinking. When it comes to balanced pH, pure water is a 7.0 on the scale, a perfect neutral.
  • Chew sugarless gum to increase saliva production.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste—it not only helps prevent cavities, it helps remineralize teeth.

Even with your best efforts, acid erosion can be a problem. You might be experiencing enamel damage if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • Tooth pain or sensitivity.
  • Teeth that appear discolored. This happens as the whiter enamel thins, revealing the yellowish dentin underneath.
  • Changes in the shape of your enamel—your teeth become rounded or have little dents or pits, known as cupping.
  • White spots on your teeth, which could be a sign of demineralization.

If you think you could be suffering from enamel erosion, it’s a good idea to talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous when you visit our Anchorage, AK office. We can diagnose conditions causing acid erosion, treat you if enamel damage has occurred, and offer suggestions for diet and eating habits to make sure your oral pH—and your dental health—is always in balance.

Pick the right electric toothbrush!

November 2nd, 2023

The electronic toothbrush has undergone several technological advances since the 1960s. Everything from design and bristle motions to rotation, oscillation, and sonic vibration has led to dramatic changes in this necessary tool over time.

Rotation oscillation happens when the head of the toothbrush rotates from one direction to the other. The benefit of powered toothbrushes is that they can produce 50,000 strokes per minute, compared to 300 strokes with a manual toothbrush.

When you’re thinking about brush head size, smaller brush heads are best for hard-to-reach areas and small mouths. Brush heads should be replaced every three to six months as needed. A good way to save money is to designate a brush head for each family member which can be taken on and off a shared base motor.

Having a base motor or rechargeable toothbrush can deliver enough power on a full charge for a week of brushing, which makes it convenient for travel or when life gets busy. Some toothbrushes include audible signals that let you know when to switch the area of your mouth you’re brushing or when a full two minutes has gone by.

Do you have sensitive teeth? Studies have indicated that people tend to apply more pressure on their teeth when they use a manual toothbrush. This makes an electric toothbrush a preferable option if you’re having issues with sensitive teeth or gums.

There are even electric models with pressure sensors that will stop the brush from spinning when you press too hard against your teeth!

Everyone can benefit from having an electric toothbrush. A large handle size can be taken into consideration if a member of the household is young, or has a physical disability or arthritis. They’re even recommended for children in order to maintain good oral hygiene from a young age.

Biofilm is a term used for plaque or debris that builds up in your mouth. If not properly addressed, this can cause serious bacterial infections to your gums and teeth. If you want to remove biofilm in the most efficient way, an automatic toothbrush is the way to go.

When you're ready to make your decision, make sure to consult with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at our Anchorage, AK office to decide which electric toothbrush is right for you!

Bright Ideas for Your Smile

October 26th, 2023

Keeping your smile its brightest can be a challenge! The foods you eat, healthy habits, unhealthy habits, and time itself can affect the color of your enamel. Luckily, there are some everyday actions you can take to minimize staining and discoloration.

  • Limit “Food Coloring”

Some of our favorite foods and beverages cause some of the most noticeable staining. Even though enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies, it’s still porous. This means that enamel can absorb elements from our foods, including tannins and natural food colors, which darken teeth over time.

That’s why a daily cup of coffee or tea, or a glass of red wine with dinner, or frequent helpings of dark berries, can lead to a less than brilliant smile in a matter of months. What’s more, acidic foods like citrus fruits, pickled foods, and sodas erode the enamel surface, which makes it easier for food stains to penetrate.

When you eat those smile-dimming foods, it’s a good idea to rinse with water right away. (When tasty treats are acidic, it’s best to wait to brush for about half an hour to avoid enamel damage.)  And here’s a simple work-around—use a straw when you enjoy discoloring drinks.

You can also reduce staining by adding food allies to your diet. Besides bringing you the nutritional benefits of a healthy, well-balanced diet, crunchy foods such as apples, carrots, and celery can have a mild scrubbing effect on the tooth surface, and dairy foods strengthen enamel and might help prevent staining when added to coffee or tea.

If you’re mindful of your eating habits, you’ll help your smile stay its brightest. And speaking of habits . . .

  • Keep Up with Healthy Habits

Plaque is a sticky biofilm which contains oral bacteria, food particles, saliva, and fluids. This film starts forming within hours after brushing, and a buildup of plaque leaves teeth looking yellowish. If plaque is left undisturbed, it hardens into tartar within days. And the yellow and brown colors of tartar aren’t a flattering look for any of us.

Regular brushing and flossing is the best way to keep your teeth plaque-free. For a brighter smile, a whitening toothpaste can help remove superficial surface stains. But what a whitening toothpaste can’t do is to remove deep staining or tartar.

A professional cleaning every time you have a checkup at our Anchorage, AK office is the best way to keep your teeth their cleanest, especially because tartar must be removed by a dental professional. And please feel free to ask for brushing and flossing tips to help maintain your sparkling smile.

  • Give Up Unhealthy Habits

Cigarettes, cigars, and other forms of tobacco are terrible for your health and terrible for your smile. While cosmetic concerns are the least of our worries when it comes to tobacco, it’s well known that smoking and chewing tobacco cause unattractive yellow and brown staining.

Quitting tobacco in any form benefits not just your appearance, but your oral health—and your overall health. When you’re ready, talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about some of the methods you can use to give up the habit permanently.

  • Beat the Clock

Over the years, erosion and wear cause the enamel layer on the outside of the tooth to thin or crack. This allows the dentin underneath to show through. Because dentin is darker than enamel to begin with, and gets darker over time, teeth can take on a yellow or grey hue as we age.

Keep your smile looking its best through the years with regular checkups and cleanings. Avoid excessive erosion and abrasion by being mindful of the acidic foods in your diet, using a soft-bristled brush for cleaning your teeth, and getting treatment for harmful conditions like bruxism (tooth grinding). If you notice any changes in your smile, it’s a good idea to talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous.

While preventing staining naturally with diet and healthy habits is great, sometimes nature needs a nudge. If you have an important event coming up, or if you would simply like to feel more confident about your smile, talk to us about professional whitening. A professional treatment uses a stronger whitening formula, and often works more quickly, is more effective at removing yellowing and stains, and lasts longer than home treatments.

Finally, while you can do a lot to keep your teeth their brightest by preventing and treating external staining, other types of discoloration can also affect your teeth. For staining caused by medication, root canal work, or trauma, ask us about all the options available to you.

Yes, keeping your teeth their brightest can be a challenge, but doing your part—and working with your dental team at Pediatric Dental Associates—will make sure you greet the world with a sparkling, confident smile.

Dental Emergencies in Children

October 26th, 2023

Unfortunately, dental emergencies can sometimes be unavoidable among young children. The good news is Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can help you prepare in case you and your child find yourselves in any of the following situations.

Teething

Starting at about four months and lasting up to three years, your son or daughter may experience teething pain. It’s common for teething children to grow irritable and become prone to drooling due to tender gums. Give your child a cold teething ring or rub his or her gums with your finger to help relieve the discomfort.

Loss of Teeth

If a baby tooth is knocked out in an accident, bring your child to our Anchorage, AK office to make sure damage hasn’t occurred in the mouth. Permanent teeth can sometimes grow in before baby teeth have fallen out. In this situation, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous should examine your child to make sure teeth are growing in properly. This can prevent serious issues from arising later in adulthood.

Gum Issues

Bleeding gums could mean several things. They may be an early sign of periodontal disease, which results from poor oral hygiene. Gums may also bleed if a youngster is brushing too hard or has suffered an injury to the gum tissue.

Rinse your child’s mouth with warm salt water and apply pressure to the area if bleeding continues. Don’t hesitate to contact our Anchorage, AK office if you are concerned so we can schedule an appointment.

As a parent, you can provide the best education for your children on proper oral hygiene habits. If you some coaching, ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous for tips during your next appointment.

Anemia and Your Oral Health

October 19th, 2023

One of the most common clues that you might have anemia is found in your smile. If you’ve noticed that your gums are suddenly paler than they used to be, it could be a sign that you’re anemic. What does this mean for your general health—and your oral health?

There are several types of anemia, which have can be caused by different medical conditions and which can cause different symptoms. The most common form of anemia, and one of the most easily treated, is iron-deficiency anemia.

Iron is essential to our health. Why? It’s all about the red blood cells. First, some biology.

Every cell in your body needs energy to live and to function. Cells get this energy from the foods we eat, which are broken down into a simple sugar called glucose. Glucose molecules are transported by our blood cells to reach all parts of the body. But that’s only the first step.

Energy is released into the cells when the chemical bonds holding glucose molecules together are broken. And this requires oxygen. Once inside our cells, glucose and oxygen react, breaking the chemical bonds of the glucose molecules, reconfiguring their atoms to create carbon dioxide and water byproducts—and releasing energy into a form your cells can use.

So, how do we move this oxygen from our lungs to our cells to start the process? That would be our red blood cells again. But this process can’t happen without adequate iron. More biology!

Red blood cells contain a protein called hemoglobin, and hemoglobin contains iron. In fact, well over half of the iron in our body is found in our red bloods cells. And here’s the key to iron’s importance: iron attracts oxygen molecules.

Hemoglobin picks up oxygen in our lungs and delivers it throughout the body, where it becomes glucose’s essential partner in fueling our cells. Without enough iron, your body won’t be able to create the red blood cells it needs so that all of your cells, tissues, and organs can get the oxygen they need to function efficiently.

When might you suspect that you’re anemic? Your gums, the lining of the mouth, the inside of your lower eyelids, and your skin can take on a paler hue—the classic sign of anemia. But other symptoms which you might not necessarily associate with anemia are also common, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Heart palpitations
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Pica (the desire to eat non-food items)

And because anemia affects the whole body, your oral health isn’t immune. It’s not just a matter of pale gums. Iron deficiencies can cause:

  • Sores and ulcers in the mouth
  • Cracks on the sides of the mouth
  • Pain, redness, and/or swelling of the tongue
  • Loss of papillae (those little bumps on your tongue which hold your taste buds)
  • Tooth damage caused by pica
  • Dry mouth, which increases your risk for cavities, gum disease, oral infections, and bad breath

Iron-deficiency anemia can have several causes, among them insufficient iron in the diet, medical conditions which cause bleeding (such as ulcers), heavy menstruation, pregnancy, or growth spurts in children and teenagers. Treatment will depend on the cause of your anemia. It might be as simple as a change in diet or an iron supplement, or it might require further treatment options. Do consult with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous before taking iron supplements, as too much iron causes iron toxicity, which can be very dangerous.

If Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team suggest that you might be anemic, or if you notice changes you think might be caused by anemia, see your physician for a simple blood test. Besides iron-deficiency anemia, there are other forms of anemia and other diseases which can mimic these symptoms, so it’s important to get a doctor’s diagnosis. If you have been diagnosed with anemia, let our Anchorage, AK dental team know.

One last “if”: If you do have iron-deficiency anemia, don’t delay treatment. The sooner your red bloods cells are back at their peak, the sooner you—and your gums—will be back in the pink!

How do I prevent oral cancer?

October 19th, 2023

The fact is, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation, close to 40,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year, resulting in more than 8,000 deaths. Men face twice the risk of developing oral cancer as women, and men who are over age 50 face the greatest risk. The American Cancer Society recommends an oral cancer screening exam every three years for people over the age of 20 and annually for those over age 40. The five-year survival rate is only 50 percent, and oral cancer, which is the sixth-most common diagnosed form of the disease, is one of the few cancers whose survival rate has not improved. Today, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team would like to take this opportunity to remind all of our patients about the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene to prevent the disease.

So, what can you do at home to take an active role in preventing oral cancer?

The American Cancer Society recommends an oral cancer screening exam every three years for people over the age of 20 and annually for those over age 40. In addition, we encourage you to:

  1. Conduct a self-exam regularly. Using a bright light and a mirror, look at and feel your lips and gums. Try tilting your head back to look at and feel the roof of your mouth, and pull your cheeks out to look inside of your mouth, the lining of your cheeks, and your back gums. Pull out your tongue and look at all surfaces. Feel for lumps or enlarged lymph nodes in both sides of your neck and under your lower jaw. Please give us a call immediately if you notice any changes in the appearance of your mouth or any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above.
  2. Don’t smoke or use any tobacco products and drink alcohol in moderation.
  3. Eat a well-balanced diet. This includes eating a wide variety of foods from the five primary food groups on a daily basis to meet the recommended amounts of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats you need in a given day.
  4. Limit your exposure to the sun. Repeated exposure increases the risk of cancer on the lips, especially the lower lip. When out in the sun, be sure to use UV-A/B-blocking sun protective lotions on your skin as well as your lips.

Please let us know if you have any questions about your oral health, either during your next scheduled visit, by giving us a call, or asking us on Facebook.

Healthy Gum, Healthy Mouth

October 12th, 2023

“Shouldn’t that be healthy gums,” you’re thinking? And, of course, you’re correct. Healthy gums are extremely important not only for our dental well-being, but for our overall physical health.

But that’s a subject for another blog! Today, we’re talking about healthy gum—chewing gum, that is. Because choosing the right chewing gum can actually improve your dental health.

Oral bacteria use the foods we eat, especially sugars and simple carbs, as fuel to produce acid. These acids attack our tooth enamel, gradually weakening the minerals in the tooth surface and allowing cavities to develop. Clearly, we want to reduce these acids to help prevent decay. Luckily, our bodies have a natural defense against acid attacks—saliva.

Saliva works to protect our enamel in three ways:

  • It helps neutralize and wash away acids in the mouth.
  • It rinses away the food particles which bacteria feed on.
  • It strengthens teeth by providing the necessary minerals our enamel needs to “remineralize” after acids have weakened the tooth surface.

Studies have concluded that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minute after a meal can help prevent cavities. Why? Because chewing gum increases saliva production. You are actually reducing the effects of harmful acids, washing food particles away from your teeth, and strengthening weakened enamel with every stick! Some artificial sweeteners are even thought to inhibit the growth of the bacteria that lead to decay.

With all that in mind, it’s also healthy to know when you shouldn’t chew gum:

  • When the gum contains sugar. Even with an increase in saliva production, bathing your teeth in sugar as you chew does your enamel no favors!
  • When you wear braces. Gum can stick to your brackets and between your brackets and your wires. And while trying to clean gum from your appliance is no one’s idea of fun, an even more unpleasant possibility is the chance that gum might bend your wires out of shape. Sugarless gum is not quite as sticky as regular gum, but before you open that first pack, check with your orthodontist to see if you might be putting your orthodontic work at risk.
  • When you have jaw problems such as TMD, TMJ or other temporomandibular concerns, or if you develop jaw pain while chewing gum.
  • You should never give gum to a child too young to understand that it should not be swallowed. Beyond acting as a choking hazard, continual gum swallowing can lead to diarrhea, blockages, abdominal pain and other serious problems. Talk to your Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about the right age for chewing gum.

While chewing sugarless gum has the potential to improve dental health, remember it should never take the place of regular brushing and flossing—still the best way to prevent cavities at home. Talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about the possible benefits of sugarless gum at your next visit to our Anchorage, AK office, and we can make recommendations based on your individual dental history. Because whether it’s healthy gums or healthy gum, we’re here to help.

The Truth about TMJ

October 12th, 2023

TMJ is the quick way of referring to your Temporomandibular Joint. Pardon the pun, but that’s quite a mouthful! What is this joint, what does it do, and, if your Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team have told you that you have a TMJ disorder, what can we do to help?

The Temporomandibular Joint

Your two temporomandibular joints are amazing works of anatomical design. These are the joints where the temporal bone in the skull meets the mandible bone of the jaw, and allow our mouths to open and close, move back and forth, and slide from side to side. Muscle, bone, and cartilage work together to provide easy movement and to cushion the joint. But sometimes, the joint doesn’t work as smoothly as it should, and this can lead to Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, or TMD.

When Should You Suspect You Have TMD?

You might have TMD if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Painful chewing
  • Pain around your TMJ, or in your face or neck
  • Earaches
  • Changes in your bite
  • Jaws that are limited in movement or lock open or shut
  • Clicking, popping or grating noises when you open and shut your jaw

There are many conditions linked to TMD. If you grind your teeth at night, have arthritis in the jaw, have suffered an injury or infection in the area, or have problems with your bite, for example, you might be more likely to have TMJ problems. If you suspect you have TMD, or suffer from any of the symptoms listed above for an extended period, give us a call.

Treating TMD

During your visit to our Anchorage, AK office, we will check your medical history, and examine your head and neck. We can take an X-ray or scan if needed for further examination of the joint. Because there is no real scientific agreement yet about the best way to treat TMJ disorders, a conservative treatment plan is often best. If you do show signs of TMD, we might first suggest relaxation techniques, over-the-counter pain relievers, or the use of ice packs or moist heat compresses. A change to a softer diet can help, and you should stop chewing gum and making any exaggerated jaw movements.

If these self-care practices aren’t effective, we might suggest a nightguard. This appliance is a comfortable and flexible mouthguard custom fitted for you, and will bring relief from teeth grinding when worn at night. If this treatment is not effective, talk to us about other options.

Luckily, most cases of TMD are temporary and don’t become worse over time. But any persistent discomfort is a good reason to visit us. Whether you have TMD, or any other problem causing you pain in the head or jaw, we want to help.

What's in toothpaste and how does it work?

October 5th, 2023

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team recommend that you brush your teeth two to three times a day, for at least two minutes each time. But have you ever wondered what’s in toothpaste and how it actually works? The mouth is home to more than 500 types of microorganisms that feed on leftover food that gets stuck on and around your teeth. Toothpaste is the best line of defense against all those pesky microorganisms (especially when you brush two to three times a day). Here’s how it works.

Abrasives

Toothpaste contains mild abrasive additives that combat microorganisms and fight plaque. When you brush, the abrasives in toothpaste dislodge food particles and microorganisms more effectively than if you simply brush your teeth with water. The abrasives also work to remove food stains and polish the surface of the tooth. Some toothpastes include ingredients like triclosan and Xylitol. These chemicals prevent the growth of bacteria that produce plaque. Plaque not only causes cavities, but it can also lead to more dangerous issues like periodontal disease.

Fluoride

Fluoride is key ingredient in toothpaste. As the microorganisms in your mouth feed off the leftover food particles, they leave behind acid and sulfur byproducts that wear away the enamel of the teeth. This is the fancy, technical way of saying that the acid on your teeth causes cavities. As for the sulfur byproduct –well, that’s just a fancy, scientific name for bad breath. Fluoride works to fight the acid and help protect the teeth. By brushing, the fluoride is incorporated into the tooth enamel, which in turn makes the tooth more resistant to acid and plaque.

Flavoring and Sweetening Agents

Not all toothpaste tastes the same, right? The type of flavoring or sweetening agents added to the toothpaste doesn't have anything to do with fighting microorganisms and plaque, but taste is one of the most important selling points in finding a toothpaste brand you like. Flavoring agents mask the taste of some of the other ingredients in toothpaste, and without those agents chances are nobody would be brushing their teeth two to three time a day.

The Link Between HPV and Oral Cancer

October 5th, 2023

Cancer has become a common word, and it seems like there is new research about it every day. We know antioxidants are important. We know some cancers are more treatable than others. We know some lifestyles and habits contribute to our cancer risk.

Smoking increases our risk of cancer, as does walking through a radioactive power plant. But there is a direct link to oral cancer that you many may not know about—the link between HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) and oral cancer.

This may come as a shock because it has been almost a taboo subject for some time. A person with HPV is at an extremely high risk of developing oral cancer. In fact, smoking is now second to HPV in causing oral cancer!

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, “The human papilloma virus, particularly version 16, has now been shown to be sexually transmitted between partners, and is conclusively implicated in the increasing incidence of young non-smoking oral cancer patients. This is the same virus that is the causative agent, along with other versions of the virus, in more than 90% of all cervical cancers. It is the foundation's belief, based on recent revelations in peer reviewed published data in the last few years, that in people under the age of 50, HPV16 may even be replacing tobacco as the primary causative agent in the initiation of the disease process.” [http://www.oralcancerfoundation.org/facts/]

There is a test and a vaccine for HPV; please discuss it with your physician.

There are some devices that help detect oral cancer in its earliest forms. We all know that the survival rate for someone with cancer depends greatly on what stage the cancer is diagnosed. Talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous if you have any concerns.

Please be aware and remember that when it comes to your own health, knowledge is power. When you have the knowledge to make an informed decision, you can make positive changes in your life. The mouth is an entry point for your body. Care for your mouth and it will care for you!

How to Subtract Those Added Sugars

September 28th, 2023

Sugars are the simplest carbohydrates, and are found naturally in fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products. Our bodies require these simple carbs for energy. (Even better, we don’t just get energy from fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy—we also get healthy amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and even some protein!)

Problems arise when we get too much of this good thing. Once our bodies have all the sugar they need for immediate energy, they store extra sugars in liver, muscle, and fat cells. Over time, excess dietary sugars can affect weight and blood sugar levels, with potentially damaging results.

And, of course, sugar has an immediate effect on our oral health. The oral bacteria in plaque also need sugars for energy, which they use to make acids. An acidic environment in the mouth dissolves the minerals, which keep our tooth enamel strong. And these weak spots are vulnerable to decay. A steady diet of sugar-filled foods means that your enamel is constantly under acid attack.

So it’s really no wonder we hear a lot about avoiding “added sugars” in our diets, for both our general health and for our dental health in particular. But the concept of “added sugar” can be a bit misleading. If you’re not putting five spoons of sugar on your breakfast cereal, or pouring half a jar of honey in your tea, or using a recipe that calls for a cup of corn syrup, you might think you’re avoiding added sugars altogether. And that’s just not the case.

When dieticians talk about added sugars in our foods, they mean additional refined sugars (like white and brown sugars and corn syrup) that are used in preparing or processing foods.

Unlike unprocessed foods, which have been minimally treated to keep them as natural as possible, processed foods have been baked, or frozen, or mixed with other foods, or somehow changed from their natural state. This is where “added sugars” come in. Both home cooks and commercial processors use sugar to improve flavor, provide sweetness, and extend shelf life when preparing food.

What are some of the worst offenders? Store bought or homemade desserts like cakes and ice cream are prime candidates. Sodas? Most definitely. But it’s not just the obvious culprits. Added sugars are found in many foods we usually think of as healthy, including:

  • Smoothies
  • Fruit Drinks
  • Energy Drinks
  • Granola Bar
  • Power Bars
  • Breakfast Cereal
  • Flavored Yogurt

While eating unprocessed foods is one way to make sure you get no added sugars, you can also eliminate many grams of sugar from your daily diet by trying out low-sugar recipes and choosing processed foods with little or no added sugar.

How to avoid unexpected added sugars? Fortunately, new labelling on food packages lets us know not only how much sugar is in any product, but how much added sugar has found its way into our grocery cart. Take a moment to check out labels, and avoid sugary surprises.

Your body can get all the natural sugar and carbs it needs for energy from a healthy, well-balanced diet. Lowering your added sugar intake won’t deprive your body of necessary nutrients, but it will deprive oral bacteria of their most convenient food source and reduce the amount of acids, which threaten your enamel. In fact, subtracting extra sugars is one of the easiest and most effective ways to add to your dental health!

If you have any questions about reducing your sugar intake, be sure to ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous the next time you visit our Anchorage, AK office.

Periodontal Health during Pregnancy

September 28th, 2023

Congratulations! Your pregnancy is a time of joy and excitement—and a time to take special care of yourself. You’ve discovered that pregnancy brings many physical changes, but it may still come as a surprise to learn that pregnancy hormones can affect your oral health as well. What should you look out for?

Gingivitis

Beginning in the second or third month of pregnancy, your gum tissue may show signs of gingivitis. Pregnancy hormones can cause an increase in the blood supply to your gums and affect the way your gums respond to plaque. These changes may lead to gums that are swollen, red and more likely to bleed upon brushing. This early form of gum disease should be treated as quickly as possible to avoid a more serious condition called periodontitis.

Periodontitis

Without treatment, the inflammation caused by gingivitis can increase. Periodontitis can lead to gums pulling away from the teeth, creating “pockets” that can be home to infection. These infections can lead to bone and tooth loss, so professional treatment is a must.

Pregnancy Granulomas

If you find a dark red swelling along the gumline or between two teeth, it might be a pregnancy granuloma. These granulomas are thought to be triggered by pregnancy hormones and may be a reaction to plaque or some other irritant. They often disappear once your baby is born and usually don’t cause any bother, but if you develop discomfort eating or speaking, your dentist might suggest removal.

You are looking for every way possible to provide your baby with the best start in life, so it is important to know that some studies have suggested a link between periodontal disease in pregnancy and complications such as pre-term delivery and low birth weight. Here are some important ways to maintain your oral health during pregnancy:

  • Call Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous when you find out you are pregnant. We have suggestions for your dental care that you can use immediately.
  • Keep to your regular schedule of dental examinations and cleanings at our Anchorage, AK office. If you find your gums beginning to show signs of gingivitis, call our office for an appointment. You might need to have your teeth cleaned more often during your pregnancy to avoid plaque buildup.
  • Maintain your daily dental hygiene. Be sure to carefully brush along the gumline to discourage plaque formation. If you have not switched to a soft bristle toothbrush, now is the time! Talk to us about possible rinses or other at-home treatments.
  • See a periodontist if needed for more serious gum problems.

Your pregnancy is a time to treat yourself and your baby with care. Talk to our office as soon as you find out you are pregnant. Making your dental health a priority can bring rewards both now and in the future, and we welcome the opportunity to suggest the best possible ways to care for yourself and your baby!

Nutrition Tips for Healthy Kids’ Smiles

September 21st, 2023

The grown-ups in your life want you to have a healthy, happy smile. That’s why they help you brush and floss, and make sure you come see Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous for checkups and cleanings. Did you ever wonder if there are other ways you can help build a beautiful smile? There are! And one of them is eating food that makes our teeth and gums strong and healthy.

Friendly Foods

  • Enamel and Bone Builders

Calcium is a very important element that helps us grow strong bones and enamel, the hard covering on the outside of our teeth. Bacteria in our mouths can create acids that weaken enamel and lead to cavities, so we want to keep our enamel as strong as possible. Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are great sources of calcium, but you might be surprised to know dark green vegetables like kale, spinach and broccoli help build strong teeth as well, and strong teeth are less likely to get cavities!

  • Good for Our Gums

Many foods have important vitamins that help keep our gums and mouths healthy. Vitamin C helps protect our gums and make them stronger. When we think of Vitamin C, we usually think of citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, but there are many other fruits and vegetables that give us this important vitamin, including mangos, potatoes, and strawberries. Vitamin A also helps keep our gums healthy. We can increase our Vitamin A by adding fish, leafy green vegetables, or orange colored foods to our diet.

  • Natural Toothbrushes

Crunchy foods like apples, carrots, and celery can help keep our teeth clean. They act like gentle brushes to remove food and bacteria left on our teeth after eating. Chewing also increases saliva, which helps wash away food particles and bacteria. And, of course, drinking or rinsing with water after a snack helps clean our teeth when we can’t brush.

What Foods Aren’t Good for Our Teeth?

  • Bacteria Builders

Plaque is a film of bacteria that sticks to our teeth. These bacteria make acids that soften our enamel and cause cavities. And what do these bacteria use for food? Sugar is one of their favorites! We can’t stop eating everything with sugar, of course, and we all deserve a treat every now and then. But to keep our teeth their healthiest, it really helps to cut down on sugary foods and drinks, and to brush or rinse with water when we do enjoy dessert.

  • Acid Attacks

Bacteria can make acids that weaken our enamel, but we can also eat foods that damage our enamel and might lead to cavities. Drinks like sodas, citrus juices and even some sports drinks are acidic enough to make our enamel softer. Drinking with a straw or rinsing your mouth with water helps, but it’s a good idea to limit foods and drinks that make our enamel weaker over time.

  • Sticky Stuff

Any food that stays on or between your teeth gives bacteria more time to grow and produce the acids that cause cavities. We can guess that hard candy and caramel would be a bad idea, but even healthy foods such as dried fruit and trail mix can be a problem when they stick to your teeth. If you eat something sticky, be sure to rinse with water or brush and floss as soon as you can.

You already know that brushing and flossing are the best way to keep your teeth clean, and that visiting us for checkups and office cleanings helps your teeth and gums stay strong and healthy. Eating well is just one more thing you can do to help. The next time you visit our Anchorage, AK office, talk to us about what you and your family can add to the menu for a lifetime of beautiful smiles!

Dental X-Ray Safety

September 21st, 2023

It's easy to be skeptical about X-rays whether we speak of a full-body X-ray or a dental X-ray. Radiation is radiation. It's vital to know all the facts before judging too harshly, though. Dental X-rays can be one of the best preventive tools for your dental health. We offer various treatments at Pediatric Dental Associates, but helping you become better informed is one of the best ways to decide what will be best for you.

According to the AmericanDental Association, healthy adults typically receive routine dental X-rays every two to three years. The timeline for children is every one or two years, and one and a half for teens. Children and teens require more X-rays than adults because their teeth are still developing, which makes them more susceptible to cavities.

In general, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will determine how often dental X-rays need to be taken for each individual patient, taking into consideration physical symptoms, clinical findings, and risk for infection. Most dental professionals use Caries Management by Risk Assessment (CAMBRA) to help them determine how often X-rays should be taken, so you can rest assured that we are making an informed decision.

In addition to that, it should be reassuring to know that these days, most dental X-rays are digital, which significantly reduces your exposure to radiation. In fact, you’re likely to pick up more radiation just from being in the sun! Lead aprons and thyroid collars are also tools that Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team use to keep X-ray exposure to a minimum.

At our office, we believe that diagnosing cavities and other potentially harmful conditions by dental X-ray does you more good than harm. If you have any questions about our X-rays, feel free to give our Anchorage, AK office a call or bring up the subject during your next appointment!

How do I handle my child’s dental emergency?

September 14th, 2023

Kids are active, and with lots of activity comes the potential for mishaps. Before an emergency occurs, you’d be smart to stay informed about the problems your child may encounter.

Here are a few things you should keep in mind about teething pain, loose baby teeth, and other common dental issues.

Teething Pain

Discomfort while teething is common for babies from the time they are four months until they are about two and a half. Teething can cause drooling, tender gums, and irritability. To help relieve your child’s discomfort, gently rub his or her gums with wet gauze or offer a cold teething ring.

Loose Baby Tooth

It is normal for a child’s first set of teeth to become loose and fall out. If a tooth is knocked out by a forceful blow, however, you should make an appointment with our office to determine whether any damage may have occurred. You should also book an appointment if the baby tooth that’s on its way out develops a crack but doesn’t fully fall out.

Issues with Permanent Teeth

Sometimes, permanent teeth can come in before the baby teeth have fallen out. In this event, schedule an appointment with us even if your child does not report discomfort or pain. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will need to determine if the permanent teeth are coming in correctly to avoid problems later on.

Bleeding Gums

Bleeding gums can have multiple causes: periodontal disease, rough brushing, or an injury to the gum tissue. If your child experiences heavy bleeding, it’s vital to call our office immediately. Wash the youngster’s mouth with warm salt water and put gentle pressure on the area to soothe it before your appointment.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team are always here to address any concerns you may have regarding your child’s dental health. Contact our Anchorage, AK office for emergency services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Purpose of a Dental Crown

September 14th, 2023

A dental crown, otherwise known as a cap, covers an infected tooth and can vary in function, depending on the position of the tooth. Crowns cover all the visible parts of a tooth and vary in size, appearance, and functionality.

A crown can be used to protect a weak tooth from breaking, hold together an already broken or worn tooth, cover the tooth with a large filling or dental implant, hold a dental bridge in place, or support a cosmetic modification.

Several types of crowns are available, depending on the tooth to be treated. Stainless-steel crowns are used on permanent teeth, usually as temporary measures in children because they’re more cost-effective for baby teeth that naturally come out over time.

Metal crowns are another option that includes gold alloys, or base-metal alloys. Metal crowns are notable for their ability to withstand biting forces, rarely break or chip, and therefore offer the best results in terms of normal wear and tear.

Porcelain fused to metal crowns most closely resemble a normal tooth and are a good choice for front or back teeth. Other, less common types include all-resin, all-ceramic, all-porcelain, and zirconia crowns.

If you’re getting a crown, you can expect a few things during your visit with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous. Crown placement usually requires two appointments. The first entails preparation to get an impression of the tooth, shape it, and place a temporary crown. The impression is sent to a lab where a technician makes the crown to be fitted.

During the second appointment, the high-quality porcelain crown is placed on the problematic tooth.  

If you notice any signs of discomfort in your mouth, always let Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous know by calling our Anchorage, AK office. We will determine which type of crown is best for your tooth to give it the added strength it needs. Crowns can be very helpful for your oral health if you have any teeth that need extra support.

Courting Disaster

September 7th, 2023

When we think of sports and dental damage, we naturally think of hockey and football. But when it comes to the actual number of dental injuries suffered each year, vying for top seed is the game of basketball.

How is this possible? After all, football and hockey are categorized as “collision sports”! But along with the helmets, shin guards, and padding, these teams often require mouthguards—and this makes all the difference. Studies have shown that an increase in the number of players wearing mouthguards means a decrease in the number of oral traumas.

And while basketball isn’t considered a collision sport, it is a contact sport. Basketball is a combination of running, jumping, hard surfaces, and solid bodies. And elbows. We can’t forget elbows. So a broken or even a knocked out tooth isn’t, unfortunately, all that unusual when bodies in motion meet hard surfaces—or other players. But there are other dental dangers as well. Besides tooth injuries, oral injuries can involve:

  • The ligaments and bone structures holding teeth in place
  • Bones in the upper and lower jaw
  • Delicate gum, tongue, and mouth tissue.

You need a solid defensive strategy to reduce the severity of oral injuries or to prevent them from happening altogether. The best play in your playbook? Wearing a mouthguard!

Choosing the right guard is key. There are three common options, and you can choose the model which works best for you:

  • Stock guards, which are ready-made guards in pre-formed shapes and sizes. You can buy them over the counter in drug stores and sporting goods stores. Because these guards aren’t shaped to fit your teeth and mouth specifically, they can be less protective (and harder to speak around).
  • “Boil-and-bite” guards can also be purchased, and can provide a closer fit. After warming the guard in hot water as directed, you place it in your mouth and bite down firmly to mold it to your teeth.
  • Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can make you a mouthguard which is designed and crafted specifically for your use. Because this guard is custom-fitted, it provides better protection for your teeth and mouth. Patients often find custom guards much more comfortable and more durable as well.

Mouthguards are most effective when you wear them on the court and care for them off the court. This means avoiding a few flagrant fouls.

  • Dirty play

All those moist nooks and crannies inside your mouthguard are a perfect environment for bacteria, mold, and plaque buildup. You should clean your mouthguard carefully every time you wear it, and let it air dry before popping it back in the case. Ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous for advice on getting your guard and its case their cleanest.

  • Failure to sub out in a timely fashion

Mouthguards don’t work if they’re damaged. If you notice any warping, breakage, or jagged or sharp edges, contact our Anchorage, AK office for a replacement. If a guard doesn’t fit you properly, it doesn’t protect you, and sharp edges can irritate or injure delicate mouth tissue.

  • Unnecessary roughness

Your mouthguard protects you, so don’t forget to protect it! Keep your guard in its case when you’re not wearing it to save it from dirt, damage, and disappearance.

If you know your basketball, you know your guard game can make all the difference. Even though a mouthguard might not be mandatory on your team, that doesn’t mean it’s not essential. Remember that basketball is a contact sport, and protect yourself with a mouthguard whenever you play.

Keeping Our Teeth Healthy as We Age

September 7th, 2023

Decades ago, it was just expected that getting older meant losing teeth. But today’s dental practices and treatments help us defy expectations. How can we keep our teeth healthy as we age? Here are some great habits to continue or begin at any time of life:

  • Brush and Floss Regularly

Brushing and flossing two minutes carefully twice a day is a habit we should never break. If using a manual toothbrush has become difficult, an electric model might be just what you need. We also have many suggestions if you have mobility or other issues, so please talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about making regular dental hygiene as comfortable and effective as possible.

  • Keep Up with Exams and Cleanings

As we age, gum recession is common. This recession leaves the root areas of our teeth more exposed, and more vulnerable to cavities. Also, old fillings can break or loosen, and cavities can develop around their edges. Keeping a regular schedule of exams and cleanings at our Anchorage, AK office helps us discover any problems before they become serious.

  • Let Us Know about Changes in Your Health and Medications

If you are taking certain medications, you are at risk for developing a condition called dry mouth, where saliva production greatly decreases. Since saliva washes away the food particles that fuel bacteria growth, reduces acidic elements in the mouth that weaken enamel, and helps fight diseases, dry mouth sets the stage for increased chances of cavities and gum disease. If you are experiencing this condition, we have suggestions for hydration, dental rinses, and sugarless gums that can help.

  • Prevent Gum Disease

Regular brushing, professional cleanings, and routine check-ups are the best way to keep your gums healthy. Since untreated gum disease is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in older adults, call us if you have any symptoms such as puffy, red, or swollen gums, bleeding, or persistent bad breath. We can treat periodontitis at any stage, but prevention is always best.

  • Don’t Smoke

Studies show a link between smoking and the health of our teeth and gums, as well as a much greater risk of oral cancer. It is never too late to stop smoking! We have suggestions on ways to quit—please let us provide them.

Feel free to talk to us about any concerns you might have. With proper dental care, your teeth can last a lifetime. And that’s a great expectation!

Why Is My Child Getting Cavities?

August 31st, 2023

We want our children to have every advantage, including oral health. That’s why you encourage your child to brush twice a day. You keep the sugary treats to a minimum. You schedule dental exams and cleanings at our Anchorage, AK office.

So, how did your child get a cavity? What to do to prevent more tooth decay?

First, don’t feel guilty. Some people are more prone to cavities, even with diligent brushing and flossing. But to make sure children have all the advantages when it comes to preventing cavities, we have some tips which might improve their dental habits.

  • Better Brushing

Even for adults, brushing technique can be haphazard! Brushing’s not as effective without covering all the tooth surfaces (inside, outside, and molar tops), holding the brush at a 45° angle, gently brushing the teeth with small strokes, brushing for at least two minutes, and flossing between the teeth at least once a day.

Until children develop the motor skills to brush by themselves (around age six or seven), you can help by monitoring their brushing and flossing. If you like, you can use these four minutes a day for fun as well as dental care by playing music, awarding stickers, using an app with entertaining timers, or having your child mirror your brushing habits as you brush together.

And do make your child’s life easier with the right tools. Brush heads should be small enough to fit in little mouths comfortably, and bristles should always be soft. Floss, too, should be soft and flexible. Don’t forget to retire your child’s brush after three or four months—bristles start to fray and won’t clean effectively.

  • Sealing the Deal

Ask about dental sealants. This treatment provides a protective coating for your child’s molars. Cavities are so common in molars because the tops of these teeth are quite uneven. Food particles and plaque are trapped in grooves where brushes have a hard time reaching.

The sealant process is a simple and safe one. Healthy teeth are cleaned and dried, an etching solution prepares the tooth surface, a thin coat of sealant is applied, and the coating is hardened under a curing light.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous might recommend sealants when your child’s first adult molars erupt. Enamel takes a while to develop its full strength, so new molars are especially vulnerable to cavities. Sealants typically last from three to five years, and studies have shown a dramatic reduction in cavities when teeth are treated with sealants.

  • Fluoride Helps Prevent Cavities—in Two Ways!

Fluoride helps strengthen enamel in developing teeth. Because many communities have fluoride available in their water systems, your child gets the benefit of this natural mineral.

If you’re providing your child with fluoride toothpaste, you’re helping prevent cavities in the teeth, which have already erupted. The acids from oral bacteria weaken the mineral structure of enamel, which is the first step in forming a cavity. Fluoride helps repair weakened enamel in a process known as “remineralization.”

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can let you know the amount of fluoride that is right for your child, including how much or how little fluoride toothpaste to use, a prescription supplement if your water doesn’t contain fluoride, or the application of a fluoride treatment directly to your child’s teeth.

  • Avoid Tricky Treats

Some treats are much better than others. We’re not talking taste, though. When it comes to dental health, texture and time are more important.

When your child enjoys a plain chocolate bar, saliva helps wash away sugary food particles. Sticky candies and starches, like caramels and potato chips, are a “stickier” problem. They cling to enamel, providing lots of sugar as fuel for cavity-creating bacteria. Similarly, drinking a soda with lunch (not every day, of course!) provides a short exposure to sugars. Sipping sodas throughout the day is like bathing teeth in sugar for hours at a time.

To eliminate some of the treats bacteria love, choose snacks with an eye to how they affect teeth throughout the day, and teach your child to brush or rinse with water after eating.

  • Schedule Regular Dental Exams and Cleanings

Most children should be visiting Pediatric Dental Associates twice a year, even during the baby teeth years. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will monitor your child’s primary teeth and developing teeth and bite. And a professional cleaning removes built up plaque that even the most dedicated brusher might miss.

If you have any concerns about cavities and their prevention, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will have suggestions tailored to your child’s individual needs. Us working together to make sure your child has a healthy, confident smile? That’s a partnership that will provide lifelong advantages!

A Spot of Trouble?

August 31st, 2023

Your smile is in the spotlight every day, helping you greet the world with confidence! But when you’re self-conscious about discolored spots on your teeth, it’s time to get some professional advice to deal with these troublesome tints.

Discolored patches, both dark and light, can develop for a number of different reasons. Some markings are cosmetic only, and some spots require treatment. Some can be removed with a professional cleaning, and some might require more serious restoration. Let’s have a look at some of the common causes of enamel discoloration.

  • Cavities

Decayed enamel can appear as a brown spot on the tooth. A dark edge around a filling might mean decay underneath.

Regular checkups at our Anchorage, AK office will help catch small cavities before they become big ones. If you need a filling, the filling color can be matched to your tooth color for an undetectable restoration.

  • Demineralization

Bacteria in plaque produce acids, which attack our teeth. These acids erode minerals such as calcium and phosphorus from enamel, leaving a weak spot that is vulnerable to decay. This process is called “demineralization,” and often leaves a whiter spot on a tooth where minerals have leached away. Common reasons for demineralization are neglecting dental hygiene, failure to clean around braces, and a diet filled with sugary and acidic foods.

Fluoride and enamel-strengthening toothpastes, a healthy saliva flow, and a balanced diet help our teeth “remineralize,” bathing teeth in minerals that can help replace those that have been lost. But if you have lingering white spots due to demineralization, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can provide some options, including whitening, microabrasion, and veneers.

  • Fluorosis

Fluorosis is a cosmetic condition caused by exposure to too much fluoride while the permanent teeth are still forming (generally, during the years before a child’s eighth birthday). Small white spots and patches are a common result of mild fluorosis. In more serious cases, teeth can be pitted and stained with brown, gray, or black spots.

Preventing fluorosis begins in early childhood. Talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about fluoride levels in local tap water if you have any concerns. Use only the recommended amount of toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice for children three and under; the size of a pea for children three to six), and show your child how to spit out toothpaste and rinse after brushing. Keep fluoride toothpastes and other fluoride products out of the reach of young children. Don’t give children fluoride supplements or fluoride rinses without discussing it with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous.

If your own teeth have been affected by fluorosis, talk to us. Again, this is a cosmetic condition affecting otherwise healthy teeth. Whitening treatments can be helpful in mild cases, microabrasion has been effective for mild to moderate cases, and, for severe cases, cosmetic restorations such as bonding and veneers are an option.

  • Tartar

Are you seeing an accumulation of dark brown spots and stains on your teeth, especially between the teeth and at the gum line? This might mean that you have tartar buildup. When you brush plaque away every day, your enamel stays smooth and clear. But when plaque builds up over time, it hardens and becomes tartar.

How hard is tartar? So hard that it can only be removed with a professional cleaning. Eliminate this source of spots and staining with twice daily brushing and daily flossing, and make sure regular professional cleanings are on your calendar.

  • Other Causes

Medications taken while teeth were developing (notably, antibiotics in the tetracycline family) can cause discoloration. Medical conditions such as celiac disease and enamel hypoplasia can affect both tooth color and enamel formation.

Cosmetic treatment and restorations can help with discoloration caused by medications, and restorations such as bonding, veneers, and crowns can restore tooth appearance and function when medical conditions cause imperfections in enamel color and structure.

If you’re unhappy with the overall whiteness of your smile, a professional whitening might be just what you’re looking for. If specific patches, streaks, and spots of a different color are dimming your bright smile, it’s time for an exam. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will be able to tell you the reason for any discolored enamel as well as present you with all your treatment options. Put the spotlight back where it belongs—on your healthy, confidant smile!

The Most Common Causes of Gum Disease

August 24th, 2023

Unless you're aware of the signs and symptoms of gum disease and how it's caused, it's possible that you may have unknowingly developed it. Often painless, gum disease -- or periodontal disease -- becomes progressively more serious when left untreated. As you learn more about the common causes of gum disease, you'll be better-equipped to maintain the best oral health possible.

Gingivitis & Periodontitis: Common Causes of Gum Disease

  • Bacteria & Plaque. Bacteria in the mouth creates a sticky film over the teeth. Good hygiene practices help remove the bacteria and the plaque they cause. When plaque is not removed, it develops into a rock-like substance called tartar. This can only be removed by a dental professional.
  • Smoking & Tobacco. If you're a smoker or use tobacco, you face a higher risk of developing gum disease. Additionally, tobacco use can lead to stained teeth, bad breath, and an increased risk of oral cancers.
  • Certain Medications. Some medications that are taken for other health conditions can increase a person's risk of developing gum disease. If you take steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, certain cancer therapy medications, or oral contraceptives, speak to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about how to maintain healthy gums.
  • Medical Conditions. Certain medical conditions can impact the health of your gums. For instance, diabetics face an increased risk of gum disease due to the inflammatory chemicals present in their bodies. Always talk to our team about other health conditions to ensure we take that into account when treating you.

Take a Proactive Stance

Good oral hygiene practices and regular visits to our Anchorage, AK office can help you eliminate or reduce the risks of developing gum disease. A thorough cleaning with your toothbrush and dental floss should take about three to five minutes. Brush your teeth a minimum of twice per day and floss at least once each day. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be ready to prevent gum disease.

Thirsty? We Have Some Ideas on Tap

August 17th, 2023

No, we don’t mean the latest foamy offering from your favorite microbrewery. When you’re thirsty, one of the best options available is literally at your fingertips—tap water, straight from your faucet. It might not be the most adventurous choice, but drinking a tall glass of fresh tap water is refreshing in so many healthy ways.

Physical Health

Water conveniently available at home is much more than a convenience. We need to keep hydrated, because our bodies are made to run on water. To name just a few of its benefits, water provides nutrients to organs and cells, eliminates waste, regulates our temperature, and protects our joints and delicate tissues. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our Anchorage, AK team will tell you all about the importance of proper hydration when it comes to your mouth, gums, and teeth, but here are a few highlights:

  • We need to be hydrated to produce enough saliva. Saliva, which is more than 90% water, helps prevent cavities and protect enamel by both washing away bacteria and balancing acids in the mouth which can cause decay.
  • Tooth enamel is so strong because it’s made of calcium and phosphate. These minerals are leached from our enamel by both bacteria-produced acids and dietary acids. Saliva also contains calcium and phosphate, and, with fluoride, restores these minerals in our enamel, leaving teeth stronger and less likely to develop cavities.
  • As a bonus, a quick rinse with water when you can’t brush after eating is a great way to remove food particles left behand—especially healthy when you’ve had sugary or acidic foods.

Ecological Health

If you want to reduce waste, one of the easiest ways to do so is to use tap water instead of bottled water.

  • Bottled water has a carbon footprint. It takes energy (and additional water) to create plastic and glass bottles, to label them, and to transport them. Water piped into your home from local sources? No bottles, labels, or long road trips necessary.
  • Water bottles should be recycled. Unfortunately, many cities don’t offer, or have stopped offering, recycling. Plastic and glass empties end up in landfills, littering our neighborhoods, or in our waters.

Budget Health

Getting your daily hydration from bottles can add up quickly.

  • Bottled water can cost hundreds of times as much as tap water. While local water prices vary, the average gallon of tap water costs less than a penny. No matter what kind of sale your local store is offering, bottled water will never be the bargain tap water is.
  • When you buy many small bottles instead of a few larger ones, or choose more expensive “designer” water, your costs can mount up even more.
  • When you need to bring water with you for work, sports, or other activities, consider filling a reusable bottle with water from home.

Dental Health

Getting the recommended amount of fluoride in your diet is one of the single best things you can do for your dental health. Fortunately, many communities make this easy for us by providing fluoridated drinking water.

  • Fluoride works with the calcium and phosphate in your saliva to create stronger enamel, so cavities can’t form as easily when your teeth are exposed to plaque and food particles.
  • Fluoride helps strengthen your child’s permanent teeth as they develop, and helps prevent cavities in both baby teeth and permanent teeth as children grow.
  • If your community doesn’t offer fluoridated water, ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous for the best way to get the fluoride you need to protect your teeth.

For the good of your body, your planet, your wallet, and last, but most certainly not least, the health of your teeth and gums, consider a glass of water. So many benefits—and you have them all on tap!

Is a Loose Tooth a Lost Tooth? Not Necessarily!

August 17th, 2023

When we were small, a loose tooth wasn’t a reason to be worried. On the contrary! It was a time to celebrate: A permanent tooth on the way. A sign that you were growing up. Perhaps even a lucrative visit from the Tooth Fairy. Losing a baby tooth had quite a few benefits.

Now that we’re grown, no such benefits are in store for us, because a lost adult tooth is gone for good. That’s why any time you notice a loose tooth you need to call Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous immediately. With prompt dental care, that tooth might be saved.

But first, a word about how our teeth stay firmly rooted in the jaw.

  • The visible part (crown) of a tooth is protected by a layer of enamel. The root below is covered with a protective layer called cementum.
  • There is a socket for each tooth in the alveolar bone of the jaw, where each root is firmly attached within the socket by the periodontal ligament which surrounds it.
  • This ligament is made up of connective tissue, which attaches both to the cementum covering the root and to the alveolar bone. It not only holds the tooth in place, it cushions the tooth from the daily pressure of biting and chewing.
  • The gums surround the teeth and bone, protecting them from bacteria.

If the tooth, bone, ligament, or gums suffer damage, the result can be a loose tooth.

Treating a Loose Tooth

The treatment you receive will depend on the reason your tooth is loose. There are many situations which can lead to a loose tooth or teeth, and many treatment options available to you. Some of the common causes and potential treatments include:

  • Accident or Trauma

If you have suffered a tooth or jaw injury as a result of an accident or trauma, it’s very important to see your dentist or doctor immediately. You should be carefully examined to determine whether there is damage to other teeth or the jaw. Serious tooth or jaw bone injury might require treatment by an oral surgeon.

In some cases of damage to the periodontal ligament or tooth, even if your tooth is loose or extruded (partially out of its socket), it can be stabilized in place so that the ligament and tissue around it has time to heal.

We’ll make sure the root, nerves, and blood vessels are still intact, position the tooth back in its socket, and then anchor it to the adjacent teeth with a flexible splint for several weeks. In the case of an alveolar or a root fracture, a rigid splint may be used.

Splinting gives the periodontal ligament and bone surrounding it time to heal while keeping your injured tooth from further displacement.

  • Bite problems & Bruxism

Your teeth are designed to withstand a lot of pressure—in fact, in some ways, pressure is essential for healthy teeth and bone. The normal pressure of chewing and biting stimulates bone tissue in the jaw. When a tooth is lost, that stimulation is gone and the result is gradual bone loss in the area underneath the lost tooth.

But sometimes, the pressure exerted by a malocclusion (bad bite) or bruxism (tooth grinding) is too forceful. The connective tissue which holds the teeth in place is damaged by these forces, and loose teeth can be the result.

If you have a serious malocclusion, an orthodontist can provide the relief you need with braces or aligners. If your bite problem is caused by a tooth or teeth which are a bit too high, the enamel can be carefully contoured and reshaped. In some cases, splints, either temporary or permanent, can also be used to stabilize several adjacent teeth so that any biting or chewing force is spread over the section as a whole.

If you grind your teeth, a night guard can be custom fitted to provide relief from the pressures and impact of tooth clenching and grinding. This special kind of mouth guard is known as an occlusal splint.

  • Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis causes a loss of bone density throughout the body. Studies suggest that this disease can affect bone in the jaw, leading to weaker bone and looser teeth. Your physician will provide your best medical alternatives, and be sure to let us now if you are taking medication for osteoporosis before we plan your dental treatment.

  • Periodontal Disease

Gum disease is one of the major causes of loose—and lost—teeth. Early gum disease, called gingivitis, should be treated promptly to avoid a more serious condition called periodontitis. Periodontitis can cause the gums to pull away from the teeth, creating pockets for bacterial growth and infection. Left untreated, this infection results in connective tissue and bone loss.

If you have serious gum disease, we might suggest a visit to a periodontist, a specialist trained in the treatment of the gums, periodontal ligaments, and bone surrounding the teeth. Deep cleaning procedures such as scaling and root planing, topical and oral antibiotics, and oral surgeries such as flap surgery or bone and tissue grafting can help reverse the effects of periodontitis. Bone loss cannot be reversed, but a graft can replace lost bone and allow healthy tissue to regenerate.

  • Pregnancy

Hormonal changes can cause the ligaments and bone around your teeth to loosen, which can lead to loose teeth. While this might be an alarming development, it’s generally a temporary condition. Talk to us about how to take care of your teeth and gums during your pregnancy.

Hormonal changes can also make your gums more vulnerable to irritation and infection. In fact, swollen and tender gums are often one of the first signs of pregnancy. That’s another reason it’s very important to keep up with dental hygiene during pregnancy. If your gums are red, swollen, bleeding, or tender, give us a call. A periodontist can be especially helpful if gum problems persist.

What to do if you have a loose tooth

  • Call us immediately. Timely professional care can mean the difference between saving your tooth and losing it.
  • Avoid wiggling the tooth. This could loosen it further.
  • Protect your loose tooth. Eat soft foods, and try not to chew near the affected area. And while a liquid diet might sound like a good idea, no straws, please. Straws require suction, which can further dislodge your tooth.
  • Keep the area clean, gently.

What to do if a tooth can’t be saved

Baby teeth become loose and fall out because the permanent teeth coming in erode the smaller roots holding them in place. That’s why it’s so easy for parents to help their child’s wiggly baby tooth find its way from mouth to Tooth Fairy.

Adult roots, however, involve alveolar bone, ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves, so an extraction really needs to be done by a professional. We will also examine you carefully to discover the reason for the tooth loss, and to prevent further damage with additional treatment as needed.

Finally, if you do lose a permanent tooth, there is still much that can be done to restore your smile. Modern implants are almost indistinguishable from natural teeth, and, what’s more, they function just like natural teeth to stimulate the bone beneath them.

If you have any worries about your teeth, contact our Anchorage, AK office. A loose tooth is never a cause for celebration, but, with proper dental care, a loose tooth doesn’t always lead to a lost tooth. Restoring a firm bite and a heathy, confident smile? That’s a reason to celebrate!

Do We Outgrow Tooth Decay?

August 10th, 2023

Short answer: No. But, since an answer that short is hardly worth the time it took you to click on the link, allow us to explain further!

We tend to think of tooth decay as something we leave behind with childhood. And, while it’s true that youthful cavities are unfortunately common, older adults face unique challenges of their own which put them at risk for cavities.

Root Cavities

Gum tissue often recedes with age. And our roots, which were once completely covered and protected by gum tissue, become partially exposed to plaque, acidic foods, and the abrasive effects of heavy-handed brushing.

This is a problem. Instead of enamel, a substance called cementum covers and protects our roots. But cementum isn’t as strong as enamel, and so our roots are much more vulnerable to the cavity-causing bacteria in plaque, erosion from dietary acids, and damage caused by abrasive brushing. Root cavities also progress faster than crown cavities, which can mean a root canal procedure in your future, or, even worse, an extraction if a cavity isn’t treated promptly.

What can you do to avoid root cavities?

  • Do what you do to avoid any cavity—brush at least twice a day for two minutes, use floss to clean between the teeth and along the gumline, and use a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Fluoride treatments can be applied to the exposed root area for added protection. Ask your dentist about this option.
  • Take care of your gum health. See Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous regularly, and, if you have serious gum disease, a visit to your periodontist might be in order.
  • Always use a soft toothbrush. Even a brush with medium bristles can be too firm for teeth and gums.

Failing Fillings

As we age, our dental restorations age as well. Over time, fillings can become loose, erode, or crack, which can lead to cavities under or around these damaged restorations. Bacteria can reach beneath a loose filling—your toothbrush can’t.

What can you do to prevent cavities in these hidden spots?

  • Keep up with your dental checkups. Part of each dental exam is checking the condition of your dental restorations.
  • Visit Pediatric Dental Associates if you notice any sign of tooth decay, including tooth pain, sensitivity, or discoloration.
  • If you discover a loose, cracked, or lost filling, even without any discomfort, call Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous right away. A timely replacement filling can prevent hidden decay from seriously damaging a tooth.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, occurs when our bodies don’t produce their normal amount of saliva. Saliva, of course, is vital for healthy and comfortable eating—it helps us swallow, digest, and taste our food. And it also has dental benefits! Saliva helps neutralize the acidic foods we eat, washes away food particles and bacteria, and contains minerals like calcium and phosphorus which remineralize tooth enamel.

Many medical conditions (including diabetes and high blood pressure), medical treatments (such as chemotherapy and radiation), and medications (both prescribed and over the counter) can reduce normal saliva production.

What can you do to restore saliva production?

  • Drink fluids as recommended, especially water.
  • Chew gum. Sugarless gum encourages saliva. Sucking on sugar-free candies works as well.
  • Brush regularly with fluoride toothpaste, and ask about fluoride rinses.
  • Talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous. There are medications available that can help.

Keeping up with our dental health is important at any age. Brushing and flossing, fluoride toothpaste, regular dental exams and cleanings at our Anchorage, AK dental office—the basics of dental health don’t change over time, even if our dental challenges are a bit different as we get older. After all, do you ever outgrow an attractive, healthy smile? This answer is short and sweet: never.

Common Wisdom Teeth Problems

August 10th, 2023

Have you ever wondered why people have wisdom teeth? These are a third set of molars that come in behind the rest of all your other teeth, usually during early adulthood. Scientists and anthropologists believe that wisdom teeth are a result of evolution, because our ancestors needed these extra teeth to handle their primitive diets. Nowadays, the average diet consists of fewer hard-to-chew foods, which renders wisdom teeth largely superfluous.

Most people begin to experience wisdom teeth pain between the ages of 17 and 25. Our ancestors nicknamed them wisdom teeth because they appeared at a time in life when we supposedly grew wiser.

If you’ve already had your wisdom teeth removed, you know how painful they can become if they aren’t taken care of promptly. If not, watch out for discomfort in the back of your mouth and let Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous know right away if you think your wisdom teeth are coming in.

In some cases, people do not experience any problems or discomfort with their wisdom teeth. These patients may keep their wisdom teeth intact if there’s enough room in their jaw to fit them properly. But this is generally not the case, so wisdom teeth can cause several concerns, depending on which direction they grow.

Common problems include:

  • Damage to surrounding teeth due to the pressure from the emerging teeth
  • Infection that causes the surrounding gums to swell and become painful
  • Tooth decay due to the lack of room to clean the teeth properly
  • Impaction (when the tooth is unable to break through the skin)
  • A cyst that may damage the jaw, the surrounding teeth, and nerves

If you haven’t had your wisdom teeth removed yet, there are many symptoms to watch out for when they begin to grow. Symptoms may include:

  • Pain or stiffness in the jaw
  • Tooth irritation
  • Swelling of gum tissue
  • Crowding of other teeth
  • Spread of tooth decay or gum disease on nearby teeth

If you’ve noticed these symptoms, schedule an appointment at our Anchorage, AK office. Don’t forget: This is a common procedure that will take some time to recover from. Allow your mouth to heal, and then you’ll be able to get back to a normal routine quickly and be free from pain!

Ancient Grains for Modern Diets

August 3rd, 2023

One of the latest foods in dietary news is also one of the oldest—ancient grains. What makes these old-timers so appealing to modern tastes? Let’s run down the menu!

Why Are Some Grains Called “Ancient”?

Unlike grains such as modern wheat, which have been crossbred for hundreds of years to bring out certain qualities, ancient grains are generally considered to be grains which have been cultivated in the same way and in the same form for centuries.

Not All Grains Are the Same

Grains are harvested from the seeds, or kernels, which grow on top of cereal grasses. But because they have many of the same uses, and many of the same nutrients, ancient grains also include pseudocereals, which are seeds and fruits from non-grasses. These seeds can be ground just like grains or used whole. This is an important distinction for many diet-mindful people because grains derived from pseudocereals are gluten-free.

The Health Benefits of Ancient Grains

Ancient grains are whole grains. This means that the seeds of ancient grains have their bran, germ, and endosperm intact—which means that all their nutrients, proteins, and fiber also remain intact. Refined grains like white flour and white rice have removed many of these good-for-your-body elements by removing the bran and germ, leaving only the endosperm behind.

The Dental Benefits of Ancient Grains

Of course, any food that offers better nutrition is better for your teeth and gums. But there’s an added bonus in the more complex structure of intact grains—they take more time to digest.

With foods made with refined grains, digestion starts taking place quickly—in fact, saliva starts the digestive process right in our mouths while we eat. And as these carbs break down into sugars, they provide a feast for the oral bacteria which convert that sugar into acids.

These acids, in turn, attack tooth enamel, leaving weaker spots which can grow into cavities, and irritate delicate gum tissue. What’s more, refined carbs tend to be extra sticky, lingering in the mouth, between the teeth, and on the enamel instead of being washed away by saliva.

So, Have Any Suggestions for My Shopping List?

We do! Because all ancient grains are loaded with protein and fiber, they are all going to be a rich source of these healthy essentials. And they can offer additional minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants to your diet. If you’re inspired to add a bit of history and geography to your plate, here are some ancient grains to consider:

  • Amaranth

Cultivated by the Aztecs, this gluten-free pseudocereal seed is high in manganese, magnesium, copper, phosphorus (which helps keep your enamel strong), and also provides vitamins B1 (thiamin), B6, and B9 (folic acid).

  • Barley

Grown for thousands of years in Asia and Europe, barley is one of the first cultivated grains. In its whole grain form, barley offers us selenium, manganese, copper, vitamins B1 and B3 (niacin), and antioxidants. Whole barley has a very tough outer shell and takes quite a bit of cooking, so lightly pearled barley can be substituted with only a small loss of bran.

  • Buckwheat

Originating in Asia, buckwheat quickly spread to Europe and eventually made its way to early American fields. Another pseudocereal, buckwheat seed is often ground for flour, and is a good source of copper, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamins B2 (riboflavin), and B3. Not to mention, gluten-free!

  • Bulgur

Often used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking, bulgur is a cracked wheat cereal grain. Bulgur adds, among other nutrients, manganese, magnesium, copper, iron, and vitamins B3 and B6 to your diet.

  • Farro

“Farro” comes from an Italian word which can refer to three different varieties of wheat, with different cooking times, textures, and flavors. These grains were first cultivated in the Middle East and the Mediterranean region thousands of years ago, and are still popular today thanks to their nutty flavor and chewy texture. Try farro for a tasty serving of magnesium, zinc, vitamin B3, and antioxidants.

  • Freekeh

Common in Middle Eastern, North African, and Mediterranean cuisine, freekeh is another form of cracked wheat. It’s harvested when the plants are young, so it has extra protein and fiber, as well as being a good source of iron.

  • Quinoa

Another pseudocereal, quinoa originated in South America. It’s gluten-free, and filled with minerals such as manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin B9. It’s also a complete protein, which means it contains all nine of the amino acids our bodies can’t produce on their own.

  • Spelt

One of the largest wheat crops in Europe, and grown around the world, spelt’s nutty taste is an added bonus to its stores of manganese, copper, phosphorus, and vitamin B3.

  • Teff

The smallest of the ancient grains, teff is an African variety of millet, a pseudocereal full of nutrients such as manganese, copper, iron, and calcium (another mineral which is vital to dental health), as well as vitamins B1 and B6. Try brown teff for its naturally sweet flavor.

This is just a taste of the ancient grains available to you, with many others from around the world waiting to be harvested for your table. But you needn’t choose ancient grains to receive all the nutritional benefits of whole grains.

Brown rice, whole wheat products, corn, oats—all these common ingredients are easily available forms of whole grains. Check the grain aisle in your local market for some new ways to brighten your recipes, to increase your dietary protein and fiber, to add minerals and vitamins, and to provide some healthy alternatives to refined grains. Your body—and your teeth—might thank you!

Just What Is Plaque?

August 3rd, 2023

From the time you were small, you’ve been warned about the dangers of plaque. Why? Because:

  • It’s an unappealing film that sticks to your teeth
  • It causes cavities
  • It causes gum disease

And really, do we need to know much more than this to motivate us to brush? But if you’re in a curious mood, you might be wondering just how this soft, fuzzy film accomplishes all that damage. Let’s take a closer look at the sticky problem of plaque.

How does plaque form?

We live with hundreds of species of oral bacteria, most of which are harmless, and some of which are actually beneficial. But when our oral ecosystem gets out of balance, problems can occur. For example, without regular and thorough brushing and flossing, we start to build up plaque.

Plaque starts forming within hours of your last brushing. And even though plaque fits the very definition of “seems to appear overnight,” this biofilm is actually a complex microbial community with several different stages of development.

  • It starts with saliva.

Saliva is vital to our oral health, because it keeps us hydrated, washes away food particles, neutralizes acids in the mouth, and provides minerals which keep our enamel strong. Saliva also contains proteins, which help form a healthy, protective film on the tooth surface. This film is called a pellicle.

  • Bacteria attach to the pellicle.

There are species of oral bacteria that are able to attach themselves to the pellicle film within hours of its formation. As they become more firmly attached, they begin to grow and divide to form colonies, and are known as the early colonizers of the plaque biofilm.

  • A complex biofilm forms.

If you’ve skipped brushing for a few days (please don’t!), you’ll notice a fuzzy, sometimes discolored film on your enamel—that’s a thriving plaque community, and it only takes a matter of days to go from invisible to unpleasant.

If you’re not removing plaque regularly, it can harden further and become tartar. And once you have tartar buildup, you’ll need the care of a dental professional to remove it.

  • What happens if we ignore plaque and tartar?

We get cavities and gum disease.

How does plaque cause cavities?

  • The bacteria in plaque, like all organisms, need nutrients.

Our normal oral environment and the food in our everyday diets provide the nutrients plaque needs. And, as we mentioned above, certain types of oral bacteria convert these nutrients into acids. Foods such as carbohydrates, starches, and sugars are most easily converted into acids, which is why we recommend that you enjoy them in moderation.

  • The biofilm promotes acid production.

Within the plaque film, anaerobic bacteria (bacteria which don’t use oxygen) convert sugars and starches into acids. As the plaque film becomes denser, it blocks acid-neutralizing saliva and oxygen from reaching these bacteria close to the tooth’s surface, creating an ideal environment for the bacteria to produce their acid waste products.

  • Acids attack enamel.

The sticky nature of plaque keeps these acids in contact with tooth enamel, where, over time, acids dissolve minerals in enamel, weakening the mineral structure of the tooth.

How does plaque cause gum disease?

  • Bacteria cause inflammation and gingivitis.

The bacteria in plaque irritate the delicate tissue of the gums, which causes an inflammation response which can leave your gums swollen, red, bleeding, or tender. This early form of gum disease is gingivitis. Fortunately, good dental care and careful brushing and flossing can usually prevent and even eliminate gingivitis.

  • Plaque and tartar can lead to periodontitis.

When plaque and tartar build up around and below the gumline, the gums pull away from the teeth, leaving pockets where bacteria collect, leading to infection as well as inflammation. Infections and constant inflammation not only harm gum tissue, they can destroy the bone supporting the teeth. This serious gum condition is periodontitis, and should be treated immediately to avoid further infection and even tooth loss.

How do we fight plaque?

From the time you were small, you’ve learned how to fight plaque:

  • Brush at least twice a day for two minutes, and be sure to brush all of your tooth surfaces and around the gumline.
  • Floss to remove plaque from between the teeth and near the gumline.
  • Visit our Anchorage, AK office for a thorough professional cleaning.

Be proactive. If you have any questions, talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about the best way to keep plaque at bay. We can show you the most effective ways to brush and floss, recommend anti-plaque toothpastes and rinses, even suggest plaque-revealing tablets if you’re missing some trouble spots.

We’ve only brushed up on some plaque basics, because there is a lot more to discover about this complex biofilm. Happily, even with all there is to learn about plaque’s growth and development, it’s reassuring to know that getting rid of it is quite simple—with just a soft-bristled brush, some dental floss, and a few minutes of your time each day, you’re on the way to a healthy, happy, plaque-free smile.

Three Must-Have Dental Treatments

July 27th, 2023

There are numerous options for dental treatments out there, so how do you choose which are right for you? Our experts at Pediatric Dental Associates have handpicked the three must-have procedures that we believe can benefit nearly every patient.

  1. Periodontal Exam: This should happen at least once a year and is quick and painless. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous or your hygienist will carefully probe around each tooth and take measurements that indicate the health of the bone and its supporting tissue. This appointment is worthwhile because of the known fact that gum disease can increase the risk of potentially fatal conditions such as heart disease and stroke. Silent killers like diabetes can show signs in the mouth before the person becomes aware of other symptoms. Did you know adults lose more teeth to periodontal disease than to cavities? A simple screening once a year could save your smile and boost your overall health!
  2. Dental Sealant: For both adults and children, sealants provide a protective barrier from bacteria deep in the pits and grooves of the teeth where cavities often start. Sealants placed in childhood will often wear away in adulthood, so replacing them is useful because it can help prevent tooth decay later on. Dental insurance will likely not cover sealants for adults, but the cost of a sealant for prevention versus the cost of a filling is much lower, and definitely worth it.
  3. In-office Whitening: Most people develop tooth stains. in-office whitening at our Anchorage, AK office is the perfect way to correct discoloration. It’s safe and produces dramatic results in a short amount of time. In two hours, you could take years off your age. Who wouldn’t want that?

 

Should Adults Continue Fluoride Treatments?

July 27th, 2023

Many adults wonder if they should continue to receive fluoride treatments. Our team at Pediatric Dental Associates wants to set the record straight about the usefulness of fluoride treatment for adults.

There are several reasons fluoride treatments could be beneficial to you as a grownup. If you have a high risk for cavities, topical fluoride applications can cut down on that risk.

If you’re experiencing gum recession that’s softening your enamel, fluoride treatments can slow down that process. Fluoride treatments may also protect expensive restorative work on crowns or bridges that may be adversely affected by plaque.

In addition, fluoride can also protect teeth in adults who have orthodontic braces or who sometimes neglect to keep up with daily oral hygiene regimens such as flossing and using mouthwash.

Do you have sensitive teeth? Consuming foods that are highly acidic or using teeth-whitening products can lead to irritated gums. Fluoride treatments remineralize your enamel and reduce sensitivity.

If you’ve undergone radiation treatment for cancer, fluoride can help restore any dry-mouth damage that may have developed during that time. Saliva acts as a buffer against the foods we eat, and without enough of it you may be more likely to get cavities.

In general, fluoride treatments are not always necessary for adults, but they can be beneficial to your overall oral hygiene depending on your situation. If you fall into one of the general areas listed above, ask about a fluoride treatment during your next visit at our Anchorage, AK office.

We can also go over your options to treat other issues you may experience in terms of your oral health. Until then, make sure to take care of your teeth properly and use toothpaste or mouthwash that contains fluoride on a regular basis.

Teeth Grinding Can Damage Your Teeth

July 20th, 2023

Grinding of the teeth, also known as bruxism, is a serious condition from which nearly ten percent of Americans suffer. It’s a mechanical reflex that often happens during slumber. Unfortunately, most people don’t recall grinding their teeth when they awaken.

This makes it difficult to catch the condition before serious damage occurs. Some people notice soreness in their jaw, shoulder and neck pain, or even headaches. Others aren’t so lucky and don’t feel any pain until a professional notices they have developed cracked teeth, receding gums, and jaw problems.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team hope to prevent teeth grinding before serious health concerns arise. Let’s go over the reasons for grinding as well as preventive tips to help you feel better fast.

Why do you grind your teeth?

The most common reasons for teeth grinding include:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Poor muscle control
  • Acid reflux
  • Sleep apnea
  • Complications from certain disorders

It’s worthwhile to understand the reason you’re grinding your teeth, but it’s even more vital to treat the issue quickly. You can take measures to alleviate the pain you may be experiencing, such as applying a warm wash cloth to your jaw, taking muscle relaxants, massaging the jaw muscles, visiting a chiropractor, or doing physical therapy.

Prevention

To protect your oral health and jaw bones, try these preventive measures:

  • Reduce the amount of stress in your life
  • Drink plenty of water every day
  • Avoid chewing gum or chewy foods
  • Get plenty of sleep each night
  • Reduce or stop alcohol and caffeine consumption
  • Get a custom mouthguard from Pediatric Dental Associates

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team want to make sure you’re properly treating your teeth grinding issues. Feel free to call our Anchorage, AK office if you think you may be suffering from this condition, or have questions regarding a treatment plan.

Teeth grinding can lead to far more serious health issues, and should be ended before it becomes a major concern.

What to do about Dry Mouth

July 20th, 2023

Xerostomia, commonly known as dry mouth, is a condition in which the salivary glands in the mouth don’t produce enough saliva. Saliva keeps the mouth moist and cleanses it of bacteria. A lack of it makes for an uncomfortably dry mouth that is also more susceptible to infection and disease.

Symptoms of dry mouth include:

  • Dryness or a sticky feeling
  • Frequent thirst
  • Burning sensations or redness in the throat or on the tongue
  • A sore throat or hoarseness
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, or tasting food

Dry mouth usually comes about as a side effect of certain medications or medical conditions, but can also be caused by damage to the salivary glands because of injury or surgery.

If you're experiencing any of the symptoms of dry mouth, here are a few tips for what to do:

Double-check medications: If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications, speak with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous to see if any of these could be causing the dry mouth as a side effect.

There may be ways to alleviate the symptoms.

  • Stay hydrated: Whether you have dry mouth or not, it’s essential to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fresh and pure water throughout the day. A good rule of thumb is to drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day.
  • Suck or chew on a natural, sugar-free candy or gum: Sucking on candy or chewing gum will keep your salivary glands producing saliva. Healthier versions of sugar-free candy and gum are available these days. Some are made with xylitol, a sugar alcohol that actually helps prevent tooth decay.
  • Add moisture to your living spaces: Try adding a vaporizer to your bedroom or the rooms where you spend the most time. It’s best for your home to have a humidity level of between 40 to 50%. Anything less than 30% is too low. You can measure humidity with a hygrometer, which is easy to find at your local department store or online.

These are just a few general tips, but if you’re experiencing the symptoms of dry mouth often and it’s interfering with your life, pay a visit to our Anchorage, AK office. That way you’re more likely to get to the root of the problem.

Weighing the Facts about DIY Scaling

July 13th, 2023

The dental section of your local drugstore or favorite online site offers more dental tools for home care than ever before. Little angled mirrors. Tongue scrapers. Gum stimulators. Interproximal brushes. Why, there are even curettes and scalers to help you remove tartar at home.

But should you try do-it-yourself scaling (the technical term for scraping tartar off enamel) at home? Let’s weigh the facts.

  • Tartar Buildup is Harmful

Plaque, a sticky biofilm composed of bacteria, food particles, saliva, and fluids, starts forming within hours after you brush. And within days, if it’s not brushed and flossed away, plaque starts to mineralize, becoming tartar, a hard, rough, yellow or brown deposit that you can’t simply brush away.

Tartar often develops in the places we where we don’t brush or floss effectively. If you run your tongue across the back of your front teeth and feel a rough surface, that might be tartar. If you check out the back of your mouth and discover yellow discoloration on your molars, that might be tartar. If you see brown staining between your teeth or at the gumline, that might be tartar.

Why worry about tartar, especially if it’s not visible? Several good reasons.

  • Tartar provides a rough surface which makes it easier for plaque to stick to teeth, and more plaque leads to more cavities.
  • Tartar irritates delicate gum tissue, which causes inflammation and gum disease. Not only can the gums themselves hurt, swell, or bleed, but they can begin to pull away from the teeth, creating pockets between tooth and gum. These deep pockets become home to harmful bacteria, making gums and the bone supporting your teeth more vulnerable to infection.
  • When gum tissue recedes, the parts of your roots normally protected by that gum tissue are now exposed to bacteria and plaque. Because roots are coated with cementum, which is weaker than enamel, they are more vulnerable to cavities.

For all these reasons, cleaning tartar from your teeth is an essential part of every professional dental cleaning at our Anchorage, AK office.

  • Your Dental Professional Is an Expert in Tartar Removal

Your dental team has extensive academic and clinical training which enable them to discover and remove any plaque or tartar thoroughly and effectively. They are also experts in using specialized tools to remove plaque and tartar gently and safely, including:

  • Ultrasonic scalers, which use ultrasonic sound waves to break up tartar deposits.
  • These metal hand tools have small, curved hooks on one or both ends, with sharp side edges and a pointed tip to fit between the teeth. They’re used to scrape away tartar above the gumline, and come in several angled shapes to accommodate the shape of different tooth surfaces.
  • These tools look a lot like scalers and also come in a variety of shapes. The curette, though, can remove plaque above and below the gumline because its rounded tip and back are gentler around delicate root surfaces and gum pockets.

The scalers available at your drugstore certainly look a lot like these professional tools. But,

  • Should You Try This at Home?

There are many DIY home projects which are satisfying and well worth your time—but DIY dental scaling isn’t one of them. Let’s take a look at some of the dangers of home scaling.

  • Ineffective cleaning. Without removing tartar completely from around and under the gums, you’re more likely to suffer gum disease and cavities below the gumline.
  • Your enamel is hard, but it’s not indestructible! A bit too much force, and you can scratch and damage tooth surfaces. And, if you’ve ever flossed a little too vigorously, you know how delicate your gum tissue is. The sharp ends of scaling tools can cause gum injuries, mouth injuries, and tongue injuries. Which brings us to . . .
  • There’s not only the danger of infection due to cuts and lacerations, but you can accidentally push plaque and tartar into and under gum tissue, leading to irritation and infection.
  • Finally, imagine using a sharp tool to scrape tartar from the back of your teeth, around your delicate gum area, and in pockets below the gum surface, using a tiny backwards mirror image to guide you in the dark interior of your mouth. There’s no way to make this sound like a good idea!

So, on balance, should you do your own scaling? We think the answer is clear. Keep your teeth healthy and plaque-free at home with regular brushing and flossing, and see Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous when it’s time for a cleaning. When you need tartar removal that’s safe, precise, and thorough, the experience and skill of your dental team outweigh any potential DIY satisfaction!

What do I do if I fall and loosen my teeth?

July 13th, 2023

Although teeth are strong enough to tear through food, they are also fragile. An accident such as a fall may loosen teeth or knock a tooth out entirely. When a child loses a baby tooth in this manner, no permanent damage is usually done. However, adults who loosen permanent teeth may need to visit our Anchorage, AK office.

The Anatomy of a Loose Tooth

The hard external layer of teeth covers a more vulnerable interior. The center of a tooth consists of the pulp, which contains blood vessels and nerves. The entire tooth extends below the surface of the gums into the jaw. Special tissue called cementum and the periodontal ligament hold teeth in place, preventing them from moving.

When a fall or blow to the face loosens a tooth, the tissues anchoring a tooth to the jaw may be damaged. This results in a loosened tooth that wiggles in place. There may be inflammation or bleeding of the gums, which signals dental damage.

Dental Treatments for a Loose Tooth

The range of dental treatments for loose teeth varies by the severity of the problem. If your teeth are just slightly loose following a fall, it may be fine to wait a few days. Teeth often retighten on their own. Simply avoid chewing with that tooth and enjoy softer foods for a few days.

If a tooth is very loose or nearly falling out, call Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous immediately. Immediate placement of the tooth back into the socket is needed to ensure its survival. In general, a tooth must return to its socket within two hours or it may be lost.

In some cases, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous may recommend splinting, in which teeth are joined together to strengthen them and reduce strain on an individual tooth. Tightening or straightening the tooth can restore your ability to chew regularly without stressing the loosened tooth.

Regardless of the extent of the problem, it is essential to keep the tooth clean to prevent decay. Brush carefully with a soft-bristled brush, and use mouthwash regularly to kill bacteria.

Foods can Wreak Havoc on Your Enamel

July 6th, 2023

It’s possible to develop tooth decay even when you take great care of your teeth. Brushing and flossing may not be enough to keep your teeth healthy, depending on your diet. Cavities, discoloration, and decay are still possible when certain foods feature in your daily intake. Keep an eye out for foods that will damage your enamel and cause the very issues you’ve been trying to avoid.

What causes enamel damage?

Tooth enamel is the hard outer layer of your teeth that is made of various minerals. Tooth decay results when the acids in your food react with the minerals in your enamel. Strongly pigmented foods may also cause unsightly discoloration on the surface of your teeth. Avoid wreaking havoc on your beautiful smile by identifying the foods that can harm your enamel.

Acid

Acidic food is your teeth’s worst nightmare! This is the greatest cause of enamel damage, even if you brush and floss regularly. To avoid damaging your teeth, make sure you can determine whether a food is acidic or not.

The pH levels are a way to determine acidity on a one-to-seven scale. This defines the relative acidity or alkalinity of a food or substance. Foods with high pH levels are not as likely to harm your enamel.

It’s wise to avoid or minimize foods that are high in acids. Highly acidic food can include fruits such as lemons, grapefruit, strawberries, grapes, and apples. Moderately acid foods may surprise you; they include tomatoes, maple syrup, pickles, and honey.

Not surprisingly, eggs and dairy products such as milk and cheese contain the least amount of acid. Red wine and coffee can also discolor your enamel if they’re drunk in excessive amounts.

What can I do to prevent enamel damage?

There are plenty of ways to avoid discoloration and decay of your enamel. The best thing to do is limit the amount of high-acid foods, including sugary juices and soda, in your diet.

Another way is to brush and floss regularly, an hour after each meal. If you can’t make time to brush, an easy solution is to swish your mouth with water or mouthwash to rinse away any leftover acidic particles.

Damaged tooth enamel may be common, but is avoidable when you know which foods to stay away from and the steps to take after you do eat highly acidic foods. Take our advice and you’ll be sure to slow down any future discoloration and decay that happens in your mouth.

For more advice on protecting your enamel, give our Anchorage, AK a call to learn more!

Don’t Let Craze Lines Faze You

July 6th, 2023

You’re getting ready for a night out, or you’re checking to make sure you removed every bit of spinach after eating, or you’re practicing your best selfie smile . . . and suddenly, you see something alarming in the mirror—tiny cracks in your tooth enamel! Is this a dental emergency?

Almost always, the answer will be no.  Cracks like this are most likely “craze lines,” and craze lines are not serious cracks in your teeth. These diminutive flaws are shallow vertical cracks in the enamel which don’t go all the way through the tooth and don’t affect the tooth’s structural integrity. Like the crazing on a piece of glazed pottery, these tiny cracks are superficial, and the only reason for concern is cosmetic.

  • Cause for Crazing?

Time and normal wear on our enamel are the most common culprits. Years of biting and chewing are stressful.

But you can help prevent additional craze lines by avoiding bad habits which can put external stress on your teeth: nail biting, knocking on teeth with oral jewelry, crunching down on ice cubes, using your teeth to open bottle caps—in fact, using teeth for anything other than chewing food.

Grinding your teeth is also hard on your enamel. If you suffer with bruxism (the medical term for tooth grinding), ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about a mouthguard or night guard. Eliminating the extra stress of unconscious grinding and clenching reduces the chances of craze lines. Even better, getting treated for bruxism can reduce the risk of serious pain and damage to your teeth and jaws.

  • Staining Can Make Craze Lines More Visible

Craze lines are often invisible unless the light is just right. However, you can make craze lines more noticeable if you drink coffee, tea, red wine, or dark sodas regularly. And if you need another reason to give up tobacco products, smoking, chewing, or any other use of tobacco can also darken craze lines.

Stains in craze lines don’t usually respond to brushing. You might be able to lighten stains with home or professional whitening. Ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous for the options which are best for your staining.

  • Repairing Craze Lines

Don’t let tiny flaws keep you from smiling! If you are unhappy with the appearance of your enamel, talk to us about possible treatments, including bonding and porcelain veneers.

  • When It’s More Than a Craze Line

While a craze line is generally nothing to be concerned about, a deep line, or a line which is getting bigger, might suggest a crack in the tooth. Cracks need to be assessed and treated to avoid damage not only to the exterior of the tooth, but to the pulp of the interior as well.

How can you tell the difference? Craze lines are not painful; a cracked tooth might be. Sensitivity to hot and cold foods, painful chewing, gums swollen around a tooth, pain when you bite down, a crack that is getting larger—any of these symptoms could be a sign that you have a cracked tooth. These are reasons to visit our Anchorage, AK dental office ASAP.

Craze lines might be medically harmless, but if they impact your confidence, that’s a problem. Our team can help you change habits that are causing craze lines, remove staining, or repair cosmetic damage. If you’re not crazy about those craze lines, ask us for solutions that will bring back your confidant smile.

Snack Attack

June 29th, 2023

Should a quick bite between meals make us feel guilty? Or worse, make our teeth suffer a greater risk of cavities? Let’s avoid both those possibilities! We have several tooth-healthy snacking strategies designed to help you keep your enamel cavity-free while preventing snacker’s remorse.

But first, a word or two about why we may find snacking unappetizing.

  • Please, Don’t Feed the Bacteria!

The bacteria in plaque feed on sugars and leave acidic waste products behind. These acids attack enamel, dissolving the calcium and phosphorus minerals that keep it strong. Weakened enamel leaves teeth vulnerable to decay. That’s why Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our Anchorage, AK team recommend avoiding a steady diet of sugary treats.

Even if you’re not reaching for a soda, or grabbing a candy bar, many snack foods are filled with added sugars. Check the nutritional labels before you indulge to avoid sugar surprises.

  • Off Balance?

Bacteria plus sugar equals more acidic conditions in the mouth. This change in the oral pH balance also reduces our natural defenses against cavity-causing acids.

A well-balanced oral environment depends on saliva to keep acids in check. Saliva washes away lingering food particles after meals, and it neutralizes acidic conditions in the mouth over the course of the day.

How does snacking interfere? Immediately after eating or drinking, acids in saliva increase. It takes about 20 minutes for saliva’s neutralizing process to begin. When we snack throughout the day, saliva doesn’t have a chance to reduce acids as long or as effectively.

  • Staying Power

Sticky and chewy snacks tend to stick to the tops of molars and between the teeth. This gives bacteria more fuel and more time to attack tooth enamel. It’s not just candies that are the culprits here. Chips, bread, pizza crusts, pastries—these simple carbs stick to teeth and break down easily into sugars.

But we promised some *positive* strategic snacking ideas. Here are some ways to make sure that snacking doesn’t put you at a much greater risk for cavities.

  • Be Choosy

Avoid processed treats that are high in added sugars. If you’re craving something sweet, fresh fruits provide sweetness with vitamins included.

Crispy fruits such as apples and Bosc pears, as well as vegetables like celery and carrots, provide gentle scrubbing action to help clean teeth between brushings.

Snacking on cheese helps neutralize acids, and other dairy products are high in calcium and phosphorus, helping rebuild the minerals that acids leach out of enamel.

Eat whole grain breads, pastas, and pastries. They offer more nutrients, and don’t break down into sugars as easily.

Finally, when it’s time to indulge in a sugar-rich treat, save it for a meal. There’s a better chance that other foods will balance the acids created by sugar, and you’ll be getting the most out of saliva’s neutralizing abilities. Speaking of which,

  • Stay Neutral

When you’re craving something flavorful without giving bacteria more fuel for acid production, consider sugar-free gum. Sugar-free gum saves you from adding sugar to your diet, and it increases saliva production as you chew. If we give you the all-clear, chewing a piece or two of gum during the day can help curb your sugar cravings and protect your enamel.

Thirsty? Drink water instead of sodas or energy drinks with your snacks. Water washes away food particles, cuts down on acidity, and provides fluoride to strengthen and protect teeth.

  • To Brush or Not to Brush?

It’s always a good idea to brush after eating. But since eating sugary or acidic foods can leave enamel vulnerable to toothbrush abrasion, many dentists recommend waiting 30 minutes after you snack before brushing. Ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous what’s best for your teeth.

If you can’t brush, rinse with water after eating or drinking.

If you wear braces or aligners, be sure to check with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about snacking, gum, best times to brush, and any other diet questions.

Talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about your snacking habits. Learning when and how to snack is as important as deciding what to snack on. Finding the perfect balance means you can enjoy a mid-day energy boost without guilt—and without risking tooth decay!

Wrong Time/Wrong Place?

June 29th, 2023

In a perfectly predictable world, your child’s teeth would come in—and fall out—right on schedule, right in place. But life isn’t perfectly predictable, and teeth can erupt—or fail to erupt—in their own time and in unexpected places. Let’s look at a few of the ways your child’s teething development can differ from “typical” schedules.

  • Leaving So Soon?

Sometimes a baby tooth is lost early because of injury or decay. And baby teeth are important for more than creating an adorable smile. These little teeth help your child with eating, speech, and jaw development. And they serve another purpose as well—they are essential place holders for your child’s adult teeth.

When a baby tooth is lost too early, the neighboring teeth can drift into the open space. Adult teeth waiting to arrive will tend to erupt in any space left available, whether it’s the right space or not. This can lead to bite problems and misaligned and/or crooked teeth. Depending on your child’s age, and which and how many teeth are affected, your dentist might recommend a space maintainer.

Fixed space maintainers are attached to the lost tooth’s neighboring teeth to keep them in place. Removeable space maintainers resemble retainers, and are usually recommended for older children. Both fixed and removable appliances serve to keep the baby teeth spaced apart just as they should be, preventing neighboring teeth from shifting to fill the empty spot, and making sure there’s enough room for the adult tooth to arrive right on schedule and right where it belongs.

  • Hangers-On

Losing baby teeth too early isn’t the only punctuality problem that can arise with little teeth—sometimes baby teeth don’t seem to realize when they’ve worn out their welcome.

The roots of baby teeth are much smaller than those of adult teeth. When a permanent tooth starts to erupt, it pushes against the root of the baby tooth above it. This pressure breaks down the root of the primary tooth, leaving the tooth loose and just waiting to fall out.

Sometimes primary roots don’t dissolve, though, which means the permanent teeth will erupt beside those lingering baby teeth. The result is a double row of teeth. Because all these teeth in one small jaw can cause crowding and misalignment, it’s a good idea to schedule a visit with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous when you see two sets of teeth where only one is welcome! This is especially true for older children, when the molars start erupting.

  • No-Shows

When a tooth fails to erupt at all, it’s called an embedded tooth. When a tooth is blocked from erupting, it’s called an impacted tooth. Factors like the jaw size, tooth size, genetics, trauma, and medical conditions can affect eruption.

There’s no perfect eruption schedule for every child. Even typical eruption charts provide a range of several months to several years during which baby teeth arrive, baby teeth are lost, and adult teeth appear.  But any time you have any concerns about your child’s tooth development, talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous to see whether the situation will correct itself in time or whether treatment is recommended.

If the unpredictable occurs in your child’s teething schedule, working proactively with our Anchorage, AK  dental team is the best way to create a lifetime of predictably happy, healthy smiles.

Adult Mouthguards

June 22nd, 2023

You make sure your daughter wears her mouthguard to every soccer practice. Your son doesn’t step on the basketball court without his. Why not protect your smile as well?

Athletes of all ages in team or recreational sports can help prevent dental injuries with a protective mouthguard. If you bike or ski, play racquetball or squash, skate, or sky dive, a mouthguard will help keep your teeth and gums healthy as you keep fit.

Mouthguard Options

Our office will be happy to talk to you about whether a mouthguard is a practical addition to your workout gear. There are many options available to you, including:

Stock: Preformed appliances available at sporting goods stores and drugstores. These are the most affordable, but are a one-size-fits-all option and may not be a comfortable fit for you.

Boil-and-Bite: Also available at sports shops and drugstores. This guard is formed by placing it in hot water and then biting down to allow it to conform to the shape of your mouth.

Custom: Our Anchorage, AK office can create a personalized mouthguard just for you. Individual mouthguards are the most durable and comfortable option, in general, and provide the best fit for ease of talking and breathing while exercising. You may also have special dental conditions, such as the placement of crowns or braces, which could be a factor in your decision.

Whichever option you choose, remember to wear your mouthguard regularly while exercising. A proper mouthguard cannot only help prevent injuries to your teeth, but to your face and jaw as well. A healthy smile and a healthy body are a winning combination. The next time you visit Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous, let’s talk sports!

How Do We Clean Your Child’s Teeth?

June 22nd, 2023

Baby teeth are very important to your child’s present and future dental health, so we want to help you keep your child free from cavities and gum disease even before those permanent teeth erupt. That’s why we recommend professional cleanings at our Anchorage, AK office—to keep plaque and tartar from damaging little teeth and gums.

But a dental cleaning might be a bit stressful for young children, especially when they’re not used to the steps, the sounds, and the sensations of the cleaning process.

So, just as we strive to make every examination and visit a positive experience for your child, we do our best to make their cleanings a happy, stress-free time. How do we do this? With your help!

  • Preparation

A happy experience begins even before your child arrives in the office. If you are relaxed and positive before an appointment, you’ll help your child feel relaxed and positive, too.

Explaining what goes on during a cleaning even before your visit will help your child feel more comfortable when unfamiliar tools like dental mirrors, scalers, and polishing brushes are used. You can talk about your own experience, read a book together, watch a video, or find online resources to help your child understand what will happen during your visit, and why cleanings are so important for happy, healthy teeth.

Sometimes children benefit from a form of mild, conscious sedation (such as nitrous oxide) when they have special health needs or dental anxiety. If you feel this is an option we should discuss, please talk to us in advance and we’ll answer any of your questions.

  • Pre-Cleaning Examination

After being made welcome in the office and settled comfortably in the dental chair, we’ll examine your child’s teeth and gums for any signs of plaque and tartar.  A small, handled mirror is used to check out hard-to-see places behind the teeth and in the back of the mouth. Gum health is also important, and your child’s gums will be examined for any signs of gingivitis, or mild gum disease.

Plaque and tartar cause cavities and gum disease, even for young children. Finding any trouble spots will let us know where to concentrate on cleaning, and where you can help your child to brush more effectively.

  • Removing Plaque and Tartar

No matter how well a child (or an adult!) brushes and flosses, plaque can build up in some hard-to-reach spots, especially between the teeth and along the gumline. And if plaque isn’t removed within a few days, it starts hardening into tartar—and tartar can’t be brushed away.

That’s why removing tartar is a job for a dental professional. Using a special tool called a scaler, we gently scrape built-up plaque and tartar off tooth enamel (especially where it tends to accumulate behind and between teeth) and near the gumline. Sometimes an ultrasonic scaler can be used to dislodge tartar with sound waves.

Scalers can make a scraping noise and cause some pressure, and ultrasonic scalers use a stream of water as they clean. We’re happy to explain, in an age-appropriate way, why tools make these noises and how they work to clean little teeth.

  • Polishing & Flossing

After the plaque and tartar are removed, your child’s teeth will be polished with a power brush and a special gritty toothpaste. This is usually a bit noisy as well. A careful flossing and a final rinse will wash away any leftover particles or paste.

Once the teeth are cleaned, you may choose to have a fluoride treatment or a dental sealant applied to your child’s teeth.

  • After a Cleaning

Your praise and encouragement are always welcome! Giving children praise for helping keep those little teeth clean, shiny, and healthy makes them partners in the process.

How do we clean your child’s teeth? Gently. Thoroughly. Expertly. We want to make sure each cleaning is just one of the many positive dental experiences your child will have in our office. Help us make your child’s cleaning appointment stress-free with positive preparation and reinforcement, and together we’ll start your child on the path to a lifetime of shining smiles and proactive dental care!

Protect Your Enamel from Dental Erosion

June 15th, 2023

We know that the foods we eat and drink can have a definite impact on our smiles. Staining is an unhappy side effect of many of our menu favorites. That’s why we sip red wine through a straw, rinse with water after a slice of blueberry pie, and cut back on the coffee and tea after a single cup (or two—we’re not perfect!). And sugar is the fuel for cavity-causing bacteria, so we try to substitute water for soda, or replace the hot fudge sundae with grilled fruit. And we always brush carefully after indulging.

So far, so good. But while we’re saving our brilliant smiles from stains and decay, let’s not forget one other source of diet-related damage—acids. Acidic foods and beverages can actually erode the surface of our enamel, leaving our teeth more vulnerable to sensitivity and discoloration.

What Is Dental Erosion?

Enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies—stronger than bone—but it is not indestructible. And acids are one of the major causes of enamel damage. (In fact, it’s the acids produced by bacteria that lead to cavities.) Luckily, our bodies are designed to protect our enamel. Saliva helps clean the teeth by washing away food particles and it neutralizes acidity as well. But a diet that’s too heavy in acidic foods can undo all this good work and upset the healthy pH balance in our mouths.

Why is this a problem? Because acidic environments actually cause the minerals in our enamel to break down, a process known as “demineralization.” This weakening of the enamel leaves teeth more sensitive to heat and cold. It can even lead to discolored teeth, as thinner enamel allows the brownish-yellow dentin underneath the enamel surface to become visible.

Are You Aware of Acids?

We can immediately guess at some of the most acidic foods. Citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes in their many culinary forms, anything pickled in vinegar, coffee, tea, wine—these foods are certainly acidic, but also a regular part of many a healthy diet. You don’t need to avoid these foods altogether, but it’s best to enjoy them as part of a meal or enjoy them sparingly. And balance out some of these high-acidity foods at mealtime with low-acidity choices like bananas, bread, and dairy products.

Other sources of damaging acids might surprise you. Studies have linked sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks to higher levels of tooth erosion. The combination of citric acid, phosphoric acid and/or carbonation raises acidity levels in the mouth. And because we tend to sip them all day long, it’s like a continuing acid bath for our enamel. Water is always a healthy alternative for hydration, but if you do indulge in a soda or sports drink, rinse with water after drinking. And don’t swish—just swallow.

Won’t Brushing Help?

Yes, but watch your timing. Because the acids in foods weaken enamel, brushing right after a big glass of orange juice or a soda can actually be even more abrasive for tooth surfaces. We recommend waiting anywhere from 20-60 minutes to brush. This gives your saliva the chance to not only wash away acids, but to “remineralize” your teeth, bathing them in the phosphate and calcium ions that strengthen enamel.

If you notice any of the symptoms of dental erosion, including pain, sensitivity when you eat or drink something hot, cold or sweet, or yellow discoloration, talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous during your visit to our Anchorage, AK office about what you can do to help protect and strengthen your teeth. Unfortunately, our bodies can’t produce new enamel. By avoiding foods that stain, by reducing sugars that lead to decay, and by limiting the acidic foods that erode our enamel, we give ourselves the best opportunity for a lifetime of beautiful, healthy smiles.

Celebrate Your Dad's Smile

June 15th, 2023

Father’s Day is coming up, and, just in case your dad has enough ties, we have some gifting suggestions for you. Here’s a selection of gifts large and small tailored to your dad’s interests and his dental health.

  • The Outdoor Dad

If your dad is happiest out camping, or his most relaxed at the lake fishing, or gets rid of stress with a 20-mile hike, help your dad stay happy, relaxed, and stress-free with an emergency dental kit for any unexpected problems which might crop up during his adventures.

You can find these lightweight kits in sporting stores and online. Supplies like cotton rolls, dental floss, oral pain relievers, a dental mirror, and even temporary fillings are included, because, as your dad no doubt told you, it’s always best to be prepared!

  • The High-Tech Dad

For the dad who’s first with the latest in smart phones and tablets, a new smart toothbrush might tick all the boxes.

Modern electric toothbrushes have plenty of options for the tech-savvy. They come with different settings for brushing and massaging. They can let your dad know if he’s brushed long enough (two minutes, please!), if he’s brushing too hard, or when the brush head needs to be retired. Smart models even link to apps, which can, among other things, map out any missed spots in his brushing coverage or suggest more effective brushing angles.

  • The Dad on the Go

With his active life, any gift which makes your dad’s busy schedule run more smoothly is a good thing—such as a portable kit filled with dental necessities.

A travel toothbrush, a small tube of his favorite toothpaste, a compact mirror, dental picks, dental floss, and a mini-bottle of mouthwash are great basics for a confident smile any time of day. Put everything in a sturdy lightweight travel bag. And don’t forget to include a pack of sugarless gum! Sugarless gum helps increase saliva flow (for better hydration) and decrease oral acidity (to help prevent enamel erosion).

  • The Dad with Gourmet Taste

If your dad has foodie tastes, a thoughtfully curated gift basket is a great idea for pleasing his palate and supporting his dental health.

Include items like cheeses, which are full of calcium and phosphorus for strong teeth. Fresh fruits provide vitamins for healthy teeth and gums. Nuts offer plenty of tooth-healthy minerals and vitamins, as well as packing a protein punch. For your dad’s sweet tooth, dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao) is a great source of antioxidants, iron, zinc, magnesium and other valuable minerals. It’s lower in sugar content, and some studies suggest that dark chocolate has cavity-fighting properties and supports gum health.

  • The Athletic Dad

He can deke the goalie, throw a perfect spiral, and hit those threes from downtown. Or, at the very least, he gives his favorite sport his best shot! If your dad has some of his happiest moments, win or lose, on the ice, the gridiron, the court, or any other sporty venue, consider a custom mouth guard to protect his winning smile.

Custom guards are more comfortable than store-bought options because they are molded to fit the user’s teeth and mouth precisely. This is especially helpful for those with dental work like braces or bridges. And, because the fit is custom, breathing and talking are easier.

  • The Picture-Perfect Dad

Your dad’s smiles light up family photos! And if he’s ever expressed an interest in lightening and brightening that beautiful smile, a professional whitening treatment might be a perfect gift.

Professional whitening at our Anchorage, AK office is the most effective way to brighten teeth, with results which are generally faster and more long lasting than over-the-counter treatments. And it’s done with your dad’s dental health in mind, with a checkup to make sure his teeth are in perfect shape before whitening, and with protective measures in place for sensitive mouth and gum tissue.

Of course your dad will appreciate another tie, or any other traditional gift, because you give it to him. But just in case you’re looking for something a little different to celebrate Father’s Day, choose a dental-healthy gift designed with your dad in mind—so you can celebrate his smile for years to come!

How Sedation Dentistry Can Help You Overcome Dental Anxiety

June 1st, 2023

Sometimes people feel a tiny bit nervous when they sit in the dental chair. And sometimes it’s more than a tiny bit. If your anxiety over visiting the office leads you to skip regular checkups and cleanings, or, worse, if you would rather suffer tooth or gum pain than give us a call—give our Anchorage, AK office a call! Sedation dentistry might be just the procedure you need to make dental anxiety a thing of the past.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team are trained to administer sedation and to monitor your responses throughout. And we want you to have all the information you need to decide on any dental treatment, including sedation. We will tell you of any risks, and describe the procedure in detail. If you have any health conditions or take any medications that might interfere with sedation, we can discuss your options with you and your doctor to make sure you are a good candidate. We will explain any preparations you should take, and let you know if there is a window of recovery time needed in our office while the sedation wears off.

Don’t let yourself suffer dental pain because you suffer from dental anxiety! Please call us to discuss sedation. We are trained to administer the treatment you choose gently and safely. Above all, we want to help you keep your smile the heathiest it can be, and that only happens when you have regular dental care. Let us work with you to make that care as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

Planning Your Vegetarian Diet with Your Oral Health in Mind

June 1st, 2023

If you’ve been following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you know that there’s much more to living a healthy life than simply avoiding meat products. Making sure your diet includes enough protein, as well as any nutrients that are primarily available in animal products, takes planning, and there’s no one-menu-fits-all solution.

Why? Because there’s no one menu that will suit all vegetarians. Specific vegetarian diets can allow for many different options:

  • Vegan—a plant-based diet which excludes meat, fish, dairy, and egg products
  • Ovo-vegetarian—includes eggs as a dietary option, but no dairy
  • Lacto-vegetarian— includes dairy as a dietary option, but no eggs
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian—a meat-free diet which allows both dairy products and eggs

If you are a pescatarian, who eats fish on occasion, or a flexitarian, who sometimes includes meat in a meal, your menu options are even broader.

So let’s look at the big picture—a healthy vegetarian diet is really more concerned with the foods you do eat for nutrition rather than the foods you don’t. You can create a meal plan rich in all your essential nutrients with a little research, no matter which type of vegetarian diet is your go-to choice.

And while you’re constructing your ideal menu guidelines, don’t forget about your dental nutrition!

In terms of keeping your teeth and gums their healthiest, what important vitamins and minerals are often missing from vegetarian and vegan diets? Let’s look at three of them.

  • Calcium

Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and tooth enamel. Without enough calcium, a weakened jawbone leads to loose, and even lost, teeth. The acids in our food and the acids created by oral bacteria also weaken the minerals in enamel, including calcium. These weak spots can eventually become cavities. A diet rich in calcium not only supports the bones holding our teeth, but can even help repair, or remineralize, enamel which has been weakened by acidic erosion.

For vegetarians who include dairy in their diets, dairy products are a great way to include calcium. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are traditional and rich sources of this mineral.

For vegans, it’s a bit more challenging, but still doable! Non-dairy foods providing calcium include dark green vegetables (kale, broccoli, spinach), certain types of tofu, and fortified cereals, juices, and non-dairy milks.

  • Vitamin D

Now you’re ready to put that calcium to work by making sure you have enough vitamin D in your diet. Vitamin D not only helps keep our bones healthy, it also enables our bodies to absorb calcium. Bonus—it’s been linked to better gum health in several studies.

So how to get more vitamin D? If you eat dairy, most dairy products have been fortified with vitamin D. If eggs are a part of your diet, egg yolks are a great source. Pescatarians can enjoy the benefits of vitamin D from fatty fish such as tuna and salmon.

Because we get most of our vitamin D from sun exposure or foods derived from animals, plant-based foods are not a practical way to obtain the vitamin D you need. But, just as non-vegetarians can get plentiful vitamin D from fortified dairy products, vegans also have options. Try adding cereals, juices, and non-dairy milks fortified with this essential nutrient to your diet, or take a vegan vitamin D supplement.

  • Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy red blood cells, nerve cell development, brain function, and DNA production. (This is why it’s especially important for pregnant and nursing women.) Vitamin B12 can also impact your oral health. A B12 deficiency can cause a swollen, sore, or inflamed tongue, loss of taste, and gum, tongue, and mouth ulcers.

Unfortunately, vitamin B12 is reliably found only in animal foods and nutritional yeasts. If you would prefer an egg-free and dairy-free diet, look to B12 supplements or B12-fortified cereals, plant-based milks, energy bars, and other vegan options. This is a good subject to discuss with your physician, because even supplements and fortified foods might not provide enough B12.

In fact, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can be vital resources when you’re planning your healthiest vegetarian diet. The next time you visit our Anchorage, AK office, ask for recommendations for supplements if you’re concerned that diet alone can’t provide for all of your nutrition essentials. Finally, care should be taken to ensure that, even with supplements, you get the proper amount of the vitamins and minerals you need.

As a vegetarian, you are used to the concept of care. Whether it was concern for nutrition, the planet, the animal world, or another reason that drew you to a vegetarian diet, be sure to care for your body as well as your dietary choices. Careful planning can ensure a diet which supports not only your general health, but your oral health, for a lifetime of nourishing—and well-nourished—smiles.

Dental X-rays: The Inside Story

May 25th, 2023

We’re all friends here, so if you sometimes feel a bit nervous before your dental appointment, no judging! Ask us about any worries you might have. We are happy to explain procedures, equipment, and sedation options so you know just how safe and comfortable your experience can be. And if X-rays are a concern, we can put your mind at ease here as well.

What Exactly Are X-rays?

Sometimes patients feel reluctant about the process of imaging because X-rays are a kind of radiation. But the fact is, radiation is all around us. We are exposed to radiation naturally from our soil and water, sun and air, as well as from modern inventions such as cell phones, Wi-Fi, and air travel.

Why is radiation so common? Because matter throughout the universe constantly gives off energy, and the energy that is emitted is termed radiation. This radiation takes two forms—as particles (which we don’t need to consider!) and as traveling rays. This second type is known as electromagnetic radiation, created by photons traveling in regular waves at the speed of light.

We are exposed to electromagnetic radiation every day, because, whether we can see them or not, these different wavelengths and frequencies create various forms of light. Radio waves, microwaves, infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light, X-rays, and gamma rays are all part of the electromagnetic light spectrum.

Different types of radiation on this spectrum have different wavelengths and different frequencies, and produce different amounts of energy. Longer wavelengths mean lower frequencies and less energy. Because X-rays have shorter wavelengths and higher frequencies than, for example, radio waves and visible light, they have more energy.

How Do Dental X-rays Work?

An X-ray machine produces a very narrow beam of X-ray photons. This beam passes through the body and captures images of our teeth and jaws on special film or digital sensors inside the mouth (intraoral X-rays), or on film or sensors located outside the mouth (extraoral X-rays). These X-ray images are also known as radiographs.

Why are X-rays able to take pictures inside our bodies? Remember that higher energy we talked about earlier? This energy enables X-rays to pass through the softer, less dense parts of our bodies, which are seen as gray background in a radiograph. But some substances in our bodies absorb X-rays, such as the calcium found in our bones and teeth. This is why they show up as sharp white images in radiographs.  

There are different types of common dental X-rays which are used for a number of reasons:

  • Bitewing X-rays, which are used to check on the health of the back teeth.
  • Periapical X-rays, which allow us to look at one or two specific teeth from crown to root.
  • Occlusal X-rays, which show the entire arch of teeth in the upper or lower jaw.
  • Panoramic X-rays, which use a special machine to rotate around the head to create a complete two-dimensional picture of teeth and jaws.
  • Cone Beam Computed Tomography, an external device which uses digital images to create a three-dimensional picture of the teeth and jaws.

Why Do We Need X-rays?

If all of our dental conditions were visible on the surface, there would be no need for X-rays. But there are many conditions that can only be discovered with the use of imaging—infection, decay, a decrease in bone density, or injuries, for example, can show up as darker areas in the teeth or jaws. Among their many diagnostic uses, X-rays can help us find:

  • Cavities between teeth or under old fillings
  • Damage to the tooth’s pulp which might require root canal treatment
  • Injuries to teeth or roots after trauma
  • Abscesses, tumors, or other conditions that might be causing swelling or pain
  • Position and development of wisdom teeth
  • Ideal placement for implants
  • Health and density of the jaw and alveolar bone

X-rays can also serve an important preventative role, by discovering small problems before they become major ones.

How Do Dentists Make Sure Your X-rays Are As Safe As They Can Be?

First of all, the amount of radiation you are exposed to with a dental X-ray is very small. In fact, a set of bitewing X-rays exposes us to slightly less than the amount of radiation we are exposed to through our natural surroundings in just one day. Even so, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team are committed to making sure patients are exposed to as little radiation as possible.

Radiologists, the physicians who specialize in imaging procedures and diagnoses, recommend that all dentists and doctors follow the safety principal known as ALARA: “As Low As Reasonably Achievable.” This means using the lowest X-ray exposure necessary to achieve precise diagnostic results for all dental and medical patients.

The guidelines recommended for X-rays and other imaging have been designed to make sure all patients have the safest experience possible whenever they visit the dentist or the doctor. We ensure that imaging is safe and effective in a number of ways:

  • We take X-rays only when they are necessary.
  • We provide protective gear, such as apron shields and thyroid collars, whenever needed.
  • We make use of modern X-ray equipment, for both traditional X-rays and digital X-rays, which exposes patients to a lower amount of radiation than ever before.
  • When treating children, we set exposure times based on each child’s size and age.

And now that we’ve talked about some things you might like to know,

Please Let Us Know If . . .

  • You’re a new patient, with previous X-rays taken during regular exams or for specific procedures. Ask to have your older X-rays sent to our office. With digital X-ray technology, this transfer can be accomplished with e-mail! Having your dental history available lets us notice any changes that have taken place.
  • You’re pregnant, or think you might be pregnant. Even though radiation exposure is very low with dental radiographs, unless there is a dental emergency, dentists and doctors recommend against X-rays for pregnant patients.

X-rays play an important part in helping us make sure your teeth stay their healthiest. If you have any concerns, contact our Anchorage, AK office. When it comes to making sure you’re comfortable with all of our procedures, including any X-rays that might be necessary, we’re happy to give you all the inside information!

Digital X-rays

May 18th, 2023

X-rays are a vital diagnostic tool for any dental professional. X-rays help your endodontist perform a root canal, your orthodontist check the position of a tooth’s root, your oral surgeon discover a fracture. X-rays reveal what we can’t see with the naked eye—and that’s why they are an especially important tool for Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous as well.

Why Are X-rays Necessary?

There’s a lot going on below the surface. An X-ray can reveal such conditions as cavities between teeth or underneath fillings, abscesses and other infections in the bone, impacted wisdom teeth, and cysts and tumors. They can also show the size, shape, and density of the bone beneath the teeth, which is essential information for dental implant procedures or dentures.

How Do X-rays Work?

Traditional X-rays, or radiographs, make use of film just like traditional cameras. When you have an intraoral X-ray, for example, the film is sealed in a moisture- and light-proof packet, and placed inside the mouth to capture images of specific teeth and the bone around them.

The X-ray machine is aligned precisely with the film and an exposure is taken. The image at this point is latent, and won’t show on the film, because, just like photo film, traditional radiographs need to be chemically processed before they produce a visible image.

Digital technology, on the other hand, uses an electronic sensor instead of film. For an intraoral digital X-ray, a small sensor is positioned in the mouth just like a film. When the X-ray is taken, a digital image capture device produces an image which is formed by a matrix of pixels instead of a photo-like film exposure. This format allows the image to be sent directly to a computer for immediate display without requiring processing.

Even though these methods seem very similar, digital X-rays offer some significant advantages over traditional films. Let’s look at how they compare, more or less.

  • More Diagnostic Advantages

A traditional X-ray is a fixed image. It cannot be modified or enhanced. Here the digital X-ray offers a clear advantage in diagnosis.

Just as you can enlarge certain types of images on your computer without blurring or losing detail, a digital X-ray uses computer software to magnify images while keeping their details sharp. They can also be enhanced through brightness and contrast applications to make details stand out even more. Both of these benefits are extremely helpful for diagnosis, especially when looking for small cavities, problems in the roots and surrounding bone, or developing wisdom teeth.

There is even digital subtraction radiography software available that can be used to compare recent images to older ones, removing (“subtracting”) all the similarities in the two images to display only the changes in the two—even small changes—that have taken place over time.

  • Less Exposure to Radiation

Dental X-rays expose patients to very low levels of radiation, and modern technology means traditional X-rays expose patients to less radiation than ever before. Even so, digital X-rays have significant advantages. Radiation exposure can be reduced by an additional 10%, 20%, or more with a digital radiograph.

  • More Convenient for Sharing and Transmitting

If you need to share your X-rays with another dental specialist or physician, digital technology allows you to simply have them e-mailed to another office or multiple offices. You no longer need to worry about preserving physical copies, either.

  • Less Waste

Unlike traditional X-rays, digital X-rays don’t need to be processed, so you save time in the office. And while the processing time is not significant (usually several minutes), if you need to repeat some X-rays for a clearer picture, or require different images for several teeth, this time can add up.

Digital X-rays are also more eco-friendly.  The fact that they don’t need to be developed means that the chemicals used to process traditional films are no longer necessary—which also means that there is no need to dispose of chemical waste products afterward.

Our goal is to provide you with the safest, most efficient, and most effective dental treatment possible, and digital X-rays help us do that. If you have any questions about digital X-ray technology, contact our Anchorage, AK office. We’re happy to explain the science—and the benefits—of high-tech radiography.

Does Your Child Need Endodontic Treatment?

May 18th, 2023

Baby teeth come with a built-in expiration date. That charming first smile is meant to make way for a healthy, beautiful adult smile. Unfortunately, before they are ready to make way for permanent teeth, primary teeth can be affected by decay, trauma, or infection—problems which can lead to damage to the pulp within the tooth. If your dentist tells you that your child’s tooth needs specialized endodontic treatment, is treatment really that much better for your child than losing a baby tooth prematurely?

Quite often, the answer is yes!

Baby teeth do much more than serve as temporary stand-ins for adult teeth. They are essential for:

  • Biting and chewing—a full set of baby teeth helps your child develop proper chewing, which leads to healthy digestion. And chewing also helps build face and jaw muscles.
  • Speech development—primary teeth help guide speech production and pronunciation.
  • Spacing—a baby tooth serves as a place holder for the adult tooth waiting to arrive. If a primary tooth is lost too early, the remaining baby teeth may drift from their proper location. This, in turn, can cause overcrowding or misalignment of the permanent teeth when they do erupt.

Baby teeth, like adult teeth, contain living pulp tissue. The pulp chamber inside the crown (the visible part of the tooth) and the root canals (inside each root) hold nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. When the pulp is damaged by trauma or infected, a baby tooth can still be saved with endodontic treatment. Endodontic treatment in baby teeth can take two forms.

  • “Vital” pulp is pulp that can be saved. Vital pulp therapy uses procedures to deal with damaged pulp inside the crown, or visible part, of the tooth. Pulp therapy can be used on teeth when only the top of the pulp has been affected by decay, limited exposure, infection, or trauma, but the root pulp remains healthy. Specific treatment will depend on the nature of the pulp injury, and a crown will usually be placed over the tooth after treatment to protect it.
  • With non-vital pulp, your dentist will probably recommend a traditional root canal procedure. All of the pulp tissue will be removed from inside the crown and the roots, and the pulp chamber and root canals will then be cleaned, disinfected, shaped, and filled. Finally, because the treated tooth will be more fragile, a crown will be used to protect the tooth from further damage.

There can be good reasons for extracting a seriously damaged baby tooth, and there are situations where preserving the tooth is the best and healthiest option for your child. Discuss your options with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous when you visit our Anchorage, AK office for the safest, most effective way to treat your child’s compromised tooth.

Can Your Dentist Tell If You’re Left-Handed?

May 11th, 2023

Sherlock Holmes, that most famous of fictional detectives, observed clues, analyzed them, and used his powers of deduction to arrive at the solution to his cases.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team are skilled in deduction as well! By examining your teeth and gums during your regular checkup, important clues can be discovered about your dental health—and perhaps your overall health as well. What might be deduced when you come in for an exam?

  • You Haven’t Been Flossing

Even with some last-minute catchup flossing, it’s not hard to tell if you’ve been regularly skipping the flossing portion of your daily dental care. Plaque that your toothbrush just can’t reach on its own will be noticeable between your teeth and around the gum line. Your gums might be inflamed, swollen or bleeding—early signs of the gum disease plaque causes when it’s not removed with careful flossing.

These symptoms could arise because you’re neglecting to floss at least once a day, or it could be that your flossing skills could simply use some fine-tuning. A refresher in flossing technique takes no time at all. Or, you might discuss whether a water flosser would be a good investment for healthier teeth and gums if, for any reason, you have difficulty flossing effectively.

  • You Haven’t Been Sleeping Well

Even if your roommate or partner hasn’t told you that your teeth and jaws have been grinding away while you were not-so-soundly asleep, your dentist might be able to. Shorter, flattened teeth are a common symptom of bruxism, or tooth grinding. Your exam might reveal cracked enamel or broken cusps caused by the force you’re placing on them at night. This condition can also lead to larger jaw muscles and jaw pain.

Since these symptoms are also caused by sleep apnea, it’s a very good idea to find out what’s causing this dental stress. Treatments are available to make your sleep safer for your teeth and jaws—and more restful and healthier for you!

  • You Should Talk to Your Doctor

Conditions that seem to have nothing to do with your oral health can cause dental symptoms, alerting your dentist to a medical condition which you might not be aware of. Pale gums or a swollen tongue could be symptoms of anemia. Erosion on the inside of the teeth can be caused by GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can lead to ulcers, loose teeth, and gum disease.

 If Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team suggest that you make an appointment with your doctor to find the medical cause of your dental symptoms, it’s essential to follow up.

  • Are You Left-Handed?

So, getting back to our original question, can your dentist deduce that you’re left-handed?

Probably not! It’s been suggested that left-handed people brush their teeth more firmly on the left side, and right-handed people brush harder on the right. And it’s also been suggested that left-handers don’t brush the left side of the mouth as thoroughly, while right-handers neglect their dominant side.

But Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can still tell you some important facts about your hand-brush coordination just by observing the state of your enamel. If you’re brushing too firmly, your tooth surfaces could show erosion and wear. A soft-bristled brush and a lighter hand will get your teeth just as clean without the abrasion.

If you’re having trouble reaching areas because of dexterity issues, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can point out the areas where plaque buildup reveals the spots you need to concentrate on. An electric toothbrush might be just the answer to making all the surfaces of your teeth equally accessible.

A dentist is an expert in observing, analyzing, and solving dental problems. When you keep to a regular schedule of exams and cleanings at our Anchorage, AK dental office, you’ll benefit from that expertise to discover oral health issues before they become more serious. That’s an easy and elegant solution to maintaining your dental health. In fact, it’s elementary!

Celebrate Your Mom’s Smile with These Mother’s Day Gifts

May 11th, 2023

Mother’s Day is around the corner, and if you’re looking for some different gifting ideas for one of the most important people in your life, we have some suggestions for you. Here are a variety of gifts large and small tailored to your mom’s interests and chosen to support her dental health. After all, that’s what we’re here for!

  • The Techie Mom

If your mother hasn’t tried the latest in brushing technology, a new electric toothbrush might be the gift to warm her techie heart.

Modern electric toothbrushes have plenty of options for the tech-savvy. They come with different settings for brushing and massaging. They can let your mom know if she’s brushing long enough, or if she’s brushing too hard, or when the brush head needs to be replaced. Some models link to apps which show a map of just where she’s brushed, in case some spots tend to get overlooked and underbrushed.

  • The Adventurous Mom

A week in the woods doesn’t faze her. Backpacking? Relaxing. Day hikes? No problem. So help your mom stay unfazed, unstressed, and problem-free with an emergency dental kit for peace of mind during those adventurous outings.

Lightweight kits are available in sporting stores and online. Supplies like cotton rolls, dental floss, oral pain relievers, a dental mirror, and even temporary fillings are included, because, as your mom no doubt told you, it’s always best to be prepared!

  • The Gourmet Mom

For the mom who appreciates foods which both taste good and do good, consider a gourmet gift which can satisfy her palate and contribute to her health. While normally we wouldn’t recommend sugary chocolates as having any kind of health benefit, dark chocolates are the delicious exception to the rule.

Dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao) is a great source of antioxidants, iron, zinc, magnesium and other important minerals. It’s lower in sugar content, and some studies suggest that dark chocolate has cavity-fighting properties and supports gum health. For a personal touch, deliver homemade treats like dark chocolate-covered frozen bananas (low in acidity and filled with nutrients) or dark chocolate-dipped strawberries (a good source of vitamin C, which is great for her gums).

  • The Athletic Mom

She can outski you, outrun you, and hit those threes with ease. If your mom finds her bliss on the slopes, the soccer pitch, the basketball court, or any other sporty venue, consider a custom mouthguard to protect that winning smile.

Custom guards are more comfortable than store-bought options because they are molded to fit the user’s teeth and mouth precisely. This is especially helpful for those with dental work like braces or bridges. And, because the fit is custom, your mom will enjoy easier breathing and talking while exercising.

  • The Mom on the Go

With her active life, any gift which makes your mom’s busy schedule run more smoothly is a good thing—such as a portable kit filled with dental necessities.

A travel toothbrush, a small tube of her favorite toothpaste, a compact mirror, dental picks, dental floss, and a mini-bottle of mouthwash are great basics for a confident smile any time of day. Put everything in a stylish lightweight travel bag. And don’t forget to include a pack of sugarless gum! Sugarless gum helps increase saliva flow (for better hydration) and decrease oral acidity (to help prevent enamel erosion).

  • The Media-Ready Mom

With those perfect selfie angles, your mom’s smiles light up social media! If she’s ever expressed an interest in lightening and brightening that beautiful smile, a professional whitening treatment might be the very gift for her.

Professional whitening at our Anchorage, AK office is the most effective way to brighten teeth, with results which are generally faster and more long lasting than over-the-counter treatments. And it’s done with your mom’s dental health in mind, with a checkup to make sure her teeth are in perfect shape before whitening, and with protective measures in place for sensitive mouth and gum tissue.

We hope this list is a helpful starting point for choosing a smile-healthy gift tailored to your mom’s interests. But we can’t close without adding one last gift perfect for every mother. Including a heartfelt letter or card telling her how much she means to you will put a smile on your mom’s face long after Mother’s Day has come and gone!

The Science of Sugar

May 4th, 2023

Some languages have many different words for love. Some have many different words for snow. One language even has different words for a tasty layered sandwich. Is that a hoagie or a hero you’re having? A sub? Grinder? Po’boy?

“Sugar,” though, is a single word which has taken on many meanings, from casual endearment to monosaccharide molecule. Today, we’re examining scientific definitions, with a short and sweet look at the science of sugar.

Chemistry

First, let’s get basic—all the way down to the molecular level.

Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are the three essential macronutrients which keep our bodies running. Sugars are molecules made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms, and all carbohydrates are made of these sugar molecules, from single unit structures to very complicated chains.

Sugars called monosaccharides are the most basic of the carbohydrates. “Monosaccharide” comes from the Greek words for “single” and “sugar,” and monosaccharides are the sugars we mean when we talk about “simple sugars.” Why are they simple? Because a monosaccharide is a single molecule which can’t be broken down into smaller carbohydrates.

While there are several types of monosaccharides, the three major simple sugars are:

  • Fructose—the sugar we get from fruit.
  • Galactose—the sugar found in milk.
  • Glucose—the sugar our bodies use the most. It’s found in plants, and also produced when our bodies break down other carbs. Fun fact—this is the only sugar essential for brain cell function.

When two monosaccharide molecules join together, they form a disaccharide (not surprisingly, from the Greek for “two sugars”). Again, there are quite a few disaccharides, but we tend to concentrate on three in our diets:

  • Lactose (glucose + galactose)—found only in milk and dairy products.
  • Maltose (glucose + glucose)—the sugar chiefly produced by grains.
  • Sucrose (glucose + fructose)—produced in plants. These plants include sugar cane and sugar beets, from which we get our refined table sugars.

The reason sugar molecules are so important is because of how our bodies use them.

Biology

Our bodies use the glucose in carbs for energy. As foods break down, first through digestion and then in the cells, the chemical bonds which hold glucose molecules together break as well. This action releases energy, and this energy fuels all our bodily functions.

But even though we need carbohydrates to keep our bodies going, and even though sugars are the easiest carbs to use for energy, there’s a reason no one recommends a diet filled with extra sugar.

Our bodies get all the sugar they need from the natural sugar in the foods we eat. Natural sugars are found in fruits, dairy products, even some vegetables and grains. Along with that sugar come vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and/or protein.

Extra sugars added during baking or mixing or processing for flavor and sweetness provide none of these nutrients. These sugars are known as “added sugars,” and have more serious consequences than just empty calories.

Once we have the sugars we require, there’s no need for more. Extra sugars are stored in liver, muscle, and fat cells for later use. When we eat too much sugar, this carefully balanced system is upset, with negative effects for, among other things, weight, blood sugar, insulin levels—and our dental health.

Nutrition and Dental Health

You know that a sugar-filled diet often means a cavity-filled checkup. Why? Because it’s not just our bodies that break down sugar for fuel.

The oral bacteria in plaque also need sugars for food, which they use to make acids. An acidic environment in the mouth weakens and dissolves the minerals which keep tooth enamel strong. And these weak spots are vulnerable to decay. A steady diet of sugar-filled foods means that your enamel is constantly under acid attack.

Cutting down on added sugars is one of the easiest and best ways to cut down on added cavities. Reading recipes, checking out labels, learning to recognize added sugars—this is nutritional research which has sweet results.

How to recognize added sugars? Here’s where language gives us plenty of words to fill our linguistic sugar bowl. Whether the ingredients are called agave nectar, honey, molasses, syrups, treacle, or table sugar, they’re really just sugar. More specifically, they’re all sugars made up of glucose and fructose, with at best a trace amount of vitamins and minerals—and usually not even a trace!

To make our lives easier, labels on food packaging now let us know exactly how much of the sugar in any product is “added sugar.” You expect to find a high percentage of sugar on dessert labels, but you might be surprised to read how much sugar is added to foods like energy drinks, sports drinks, flavored yogurts, cereals, spaghetti sauce, and many more of the items in your grocery cart. Spend an extra minute examining the label, and save yourself many empty calories.

Monosaccharides, disaccharides, glucose, fructose, maltose, agave syrup, treacle, and on and on—so many words for so many kinds of sugar. When it comes to dental health, let Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous have the last word on sugar science. During your next visit to our Anchorage, AK office, talk to us about reducing unnecessary sugars in your diet for a future filled with the sweetest of healthy smiles.

The Best DH in Baseball

May 4th, 2023

Oh, wait—did you think we meant Designated Hitter? Oh, no, we’re not getting into that debate! What we want to talk about is the best Dental Habits you can practice when you’re on and off the field.

  • When It Comes to Safety, Touch All the Bases

Basic baseball vocabulary lets you know it’s a tough sport. Brushback. High heat. Slide. Line drive. Hit-by-pitch. Not surprising, when it’s a game where weighty bats meet balls thrown at incredible speeds. Or where players slide into bases and stop line drives. So protect yourself. Wear a batting helmet. Use protective gear. And get yourself a mouthguard!

You can choose a one-size-fits-all stock guard, or a “boil-and-bite” model which fits a bit more closely to your teeth and mouth. But your best protection comes with a custom mouthguard. Custom guards are more comfortable, more durable, and make it easier to speak and breathe. If you or your young player wear braces, mouthguards are especially important to protect both teeth and orthodontics.

  • Ball Park Snack Power Hitters

Sure, you’re not trying to match Babe Ruth’s hot dog-eating habits (a dozen dogs between two games of a doubleheader!), but we can set the bar higher than that. While it’s easy to rely on energy drinks, soft drinks, power bars, and other sugary and acidic treats to get you through nine innings, those sugars and acids put you at risk for cavities and enamel erosion.

Fresh fruits with peanut butter, vegetable sticks with hummus, cheese and whole grain crackers, yogurt, or lean meat with whole grain wraps—these and many other snacks can provide you with protein, healthy carbs, and natural sugars for an energy boost during a long game or practice. If you choose an energy bar for refueling, look for one without all the added sugars.

Hydrating is always important whenever you’re working out. And, while you can look for power drinks and energy drinks which are low in sugars and acids, a refillable water bottle is an easy, inexpensive, and effective form of hydration. Bonus: water helps wash away food particles and bacteria and helps neutralize acids in the mouth by maintaining saliva production.

  • Biggest No-No?

A “no-no” is a no-hitter to baseball fans. But for your oral health, the most important no-no of all refers to tobacco.

Chewing tobacco is one of those old-time baseball cliches which we’re not nostalgic about. Chewing tobacco greatly increases the risk of neck, head, and mouth cancers, particularly oral squamous cell cancers. Don’t start the chewing tobacco habit—or any other tobacco habit, for that matter. If you do use tobacco, ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous for tips on quitting. Keep up with regular dental exams at our Anchorage, AK office for early detection of any potential warning signs of oral cancer.

When it comes to your dental safety, don’t get caught looking. For your best performance on and off field, avoid errors like playing without a mouthguard, exposing your teeth to acids and extra sugars, and using dangerous tobacco products of any kind. Play ball!

How do OTC whitening treatments compare to in-office whitening?

April 27th, 2023

If you are unhappy with the color of your teeth, teeth whitening may be an excellent choice for you. Many patients of Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous suffer from darkened teeth due to the natural aging process, regular consumption of coffee or tea, or nicotine staining from cigarettes.

Some people may have darkened teeth due to long-term use of medication. Certain medication-related stains on the teeth cannot be lightened, but virtually every other type of teeth stains can be effectively lightened using either professional dental whitening or at-home whitening.

While both types of whitening have benefits, at-home kits are less expensive and less effective overall. Professional teeth whitening is a highly effective option, but it requires a bit more of an investment. Here is the basic info on each type of whitening.

At-Home Whitening

At-home whitening is done in a number of different ways today. Some of the most popular options include:

  • Whitening strips that are applied to teeth and then removed after a specified period. These will typically be used once a day for at least a week.
  • Whitening gels or pastes that are placed in a one-size-fits-all plastic tray. These trays are worn, retainer style, for a set period of time once a day.
  • Whitening toothpaste, which is used daily, and whitening mouthwashes are also available today. These products require constant use to realize results.

In-Office Whitening

In-office whitening is the fastest way to achieve whiter teeth. If you want an almost immediate difference in the color of your teeth and their overall appearance, this is probably the option for you.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will typically apply the whitening formula directly to your teeth. Following the application, we will have you relax in our office between half an hour and an hour.

Some office-whitening formulas are strengthened with the use of heat, specialized lighting, or laser application. Patients will usually notice whitening results after only one application, but it usually takes at least a few appointments at Pediatric Dental Associates to notice a truly dramatic change in tooth color.

Things You Should Know Before Getting an Oral Piercing

April 27th, 2023

Have you been thinking about getting an oral piercing lately? It could seem enticing because they look trendy or cool, but it’s worth know the health risks associated with oral piercing. Even if you already have one, you may learn a few things you didn’t know.

The human mouth contains millions of bacteria. Even without piercings, it’s not uncommon for people to develop an infection every once in a while. By adding an oral piercing, you increase your likelihood of getting an infection.

Many people who have piercings tend to develop the habit of touching them regularly, which is the like opening a door and yelling, “Welcome home, infections!” And because these piercings are in your mouth, particles of all the food that comes through can accumulate and eventually cause a pretty serious health situation.

It’s hard to ignore the presence of an oral piercing, so biting or playing with the site is fairly common. Doing so can lead to teeth fractures, however. While a fracture might be on the enamel of a tooth and require a simple filling, it can also go deeper, which could entail a root canal or even tooth extraction.

Other risks include hindering your ability to talk and eat, nerve damage, gum damage, and even loss of taste.

If you’re still determined to get an oral piercing, at least be aware of the time it will take to heal. It can take anywhere from four to six weeks, and can cause great discomfort during that time. Be willing to give it that time in order to lower your chances of infection.

Make sure you understand that getting an oral piercing will involve adding further responsibility to your daily dental health duties. It’s essential that you commit to regular upkeep on your end, and not just while it’s healing.

What happens during my hygiene appointment?

April 26th, 2023

Regular visits to the dentist are important for people of all ages. Seeing Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous as recommended provides preventive care for oral diseases. If a disease is already present, early detection can prevent hefty dental bills and further damage to the teeth and gums. Once you have made the decision to visit Pediatric Dental Associates, you may ask yourself, “What happens during my hygiene appointment?”

Preparation

Arrive at your appointment a few minutes early and bring along any insurance cards or medical information. While it may seem irrelevant, a full medical history can be important, since certain conditions include symptoms that occur inside the mouth.

Initial appointment

In some offices, the first appointment is a screening appointment, during which a dental hygienist will go over your medical and dental history with you, assess the condition of your teeth and gums, then schedule a future appointment to complete the cleaning and any other treatments you may need. In other offices, the screening and cleaning will be done over the same appointment. The dental hygienist may:

  • Count your teeth
  • Clean your teeth by using a small tool to scrape them in order to remove plaque
  • Brush and floss your teeth
  • Apply a fluoride treatment using foam that sits on your teeth within a tooth mold, or a gel that can be “painted” on with a small brush
  • Inspect your teeth for cavities or signs of decay
  • Administer oral X-rays. You will be covered with a special blanket to protect your body and then given a small piece of plastic on which to bite.

Seeing the dentist

After the dental hygienist completes his or her portion of the appointment, the dentist will usually come in and inspect your teeth. After an initial inspection, the dentist may:

  • Perform a quick tooth count as well as a more thorough inspection, looking for signs of decay in and around the teeth
  • Use a small tool called a “probe” in order to check for signs of gum disease around the base of your teeth
  • Visually inspect the skin around your mouth, called the “mucosa”

If you need any further dental work completed, you will usually be required to make an additional appointment. To learn more about hygiene visits, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous, please give us a call at our convenient Anchorage, AK office!

Take Your Pick!

April 26th, 2023

Before electric toothbrushes, before dental floss, before fluoride rinses, in fact, before recorded history, people who cared about their dental health had one primary tool—the toothpick. Ancient bronze toothpicks, bejeweled Renaissance picks, and the more humble modern wooden picks have been instrumental in promoting dental hygiene for centuries.

And, while that clean, simple design is still a good one, modern technology has found a way to build an even better toothpick. Today’s interdental picks not only dislodge food particles effectively, but now gum stimulation, cleaner orthodontic appliances, and fresher breath are available literally at our fingertips. Most important, these picks are just as effective as floss for removing plaque.

  • Wood? Still Good!

Today’s softer wooden picks come in several shapes designed to fit comfortably and snugly between the teeth. Using a gentle in-and-out motion, you can clean between your teeth as you remove plaque from the tooth surface. But that’s not the only benefit! As you move the wide end of the pick up and down between teeth and gums, you are actually stimulating your gum tissue as well.  They even come with mint flavoring to refresh your mouth as you clean. And, of course, wood and bamboo picks are biodegradable.

  • Plastic? Fantastic!

If you’d like something a little more yielding than wooden dental picks, you have options. Soft dental picks are available that use rubber “bristles” on a plastic stem to gently ease their way between teeth. The heads are available in different diameters to accommodate tight or wide spacing between the teeth. Straight or curved stems provide the accessibility you need. If you have latex allergies, be sure to choose a rubber product that is latex-free.

  • Interproximal Brushes? Here’s What the Buzz Is

You might have missed these miniature brushes in the dental care aisle, but they are worth looking for. Interproximal brushes have small cone-shaped heads with nylon bristles for cleaning food particles and plaque from between the teeth. They are good for more than one use, and some are available with angled or bendable handles for hard-to-reach spots. They come in different diameters, from wide to extremely fine, to suit the spacing of your teeth. Interdental brushes are especially useful for braces wearers, who can use these clever tools to clean tight, tricky areas under wires and around brackets.

Even though bronze, bejeweled, or golden toothpicks aren’t available in the dental aisle of the local drugstore, increased efficiency and function are well worth the trade-off. If for any reason you have trouble flossing, or if you like the idea of massaging your gums as you clean your teeth, or if you wear braces, or if you want a burst of mint flavor—for any number of reasons today’s dental picks are worth a try. Talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at your next visit to our Anchorage, AK office, and we’ll be happy to give you some recommendations. 

What to do about Sensitive Teeth

April 25th, 2023

If you suffer from sensitive teeth, you already know the frustration of having a type of pain that is hard to deal with. Because tooth sensitivity is sometimes unpredictable, you can't necessarily take medication to ward off the pain like you could if you just felt a headache coming on.

However, there is still something you can do about sensitive teeth. Use the following tips to help put your sensitivity and pain problems with your teeth behind you!

Use the Right Toothbrush: Select a toothbrush made just for sensitive teeth, or the softest bristles possible. This helps you avoid putting any extra pressure on your teeth or gums.

Choose a Special Toothpaste: There are several good options for toothpastes made just for sensitive teeth today. Usually, toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth will be fluoridated and use a non-abrasive formula. The toothpaste will help with the pain usually associated with brushing and flossing if you use it regularly.

Avoid Trigger Foods: You may have noticed certain trigger foods that cause tooth sensitivity and pain for you. Avoid these foods whenever possible, and if you absolutely must eat them, try to consume them in very small quantities. Trigger foods may include:

  • Foods with high acid content for example citrus fruits
  • Very hot or very cold foods
  • Hard or crunchy foods

Visit Our Office

If your sensitive teeth problem is too serious to manage on your own, a visit to our Anchorage, AK office may be in order. There are a couple of ways Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can help:

  • Fluoride Treatments: We can put a special fluoride formula on the most sensitive areas to help make your enamel stronger and to help lower pain levels.
  • Sealing Exposed Roots:In some cases, your roots become exposed due to a receding gumline, which in turn causes teeth sensitivity and pain. We can apply a dental sealant that protects the exposed roots and reduces your pain dramatically.

Pregnancy: What should I know about my oral care?

April 25th, 2023

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates know this is an exciting time as you anticipate the arrival of your new little one. We want to take this opportunity to provide you with some important information pertaining to your oral health during pregnancy. Just as the rest of your body is changing, the amount of bacteria in your mouth also changes. Scientists don’t understand all the reasons why, but during pregnancy, your mouth is more susceptible to bacterial complications that could result in increased risk for gingivitis or periodontal disease. What researchers do know is the change in hormones creates a more favorable environment for gum infections and diseases when you are pregnant.

You may experience an increase in gingivitis, even while continuing with regular daily brushing and flossing, and routine semi-annual month cleanings. You will likely complain of increased bleeding of the gums with routine daily care and more tenderness in the mouth. This is due, in part, to the increased blood flow and volume that naturally occurs with pregnancy. There is a greater amount of blood flowing through your veins, which translates into slightly engorged gum tissues. If gingivitis prevails, you may also experience pain and tenderness. We can help you navigate through your specific needs.

Brushing your teeth two times a day may not be quite enough. Similarly, if you only floss on occasion, consider making this activity a daily habit. Mouthwash is also advised, or sometimes a mild saltwater rinse may feel better than a commercial brand. Consider other products with xylitol and a WaterPik for additional cleaning.

Finally, we now know that bacteria in the mouth circulate throughout the body. These harmful bacteria compromise your immune system and may increase your risk for respiratory illness and cause other strains on your immune system. Remember that nutrients as well as pathogens are shared with your baby. If you feel tired or tempted to slack on your home-care routine, remember the importance and implications of your daily decisions on how your care for your oral health.

Contact our convenient Anchorage, AK location if you have more specific questions. We’re here to help you!

Caring for Your Night Guard

April 6th, 2023

You might have experienced painful morning headaches. Or have a partner or housemate who begged you to please keep those grinding noises down at night. Or perhaps you were unhappily surprised to find that your teeth had mysteriously become worn, loose, or cracked.

So you made an appointment at our Anchorage, AK office. And you learned that you needed a night guard designed to protect your teeth from the damage done by night time bruxism—that grinding and clenching which is hard on enamel, bad for teeth, and painful for jaws. Good work!

Your night guard prevents your teeth from making contact, saving teeth and enamel from injury. It distributes the pressure placed on your teeth, muscles, and bones when your jaws clench through the night. Bonus: it can reduce nocturnal noises caused by grinding.

Guards are available over-the-counter in general sizes, or a custom night guard can be created for you by Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous. Custom guards are uniquely fitted to your teeth and jaw, and last longer than over-the-counter models. Whichever kind of appliance you choose, daily care is a must for a long and healthy partnership.

To make sure you get the best and longest use from your night guard, there are some easy steps to keep it in top shape when it’s off-duty.

  • Keep It Clean

Plaque and bacteria can build up on your night guard just as they can on your tooth enamel. Rinse your guard in the morning and brush it gently. Ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about using toothpaste, because toothpastes, especially abrasive toothpastes, can scratch your appliance. And don’t forget to clean your case!

Every week, or as directed, your night guard will benefit from a more serious cleaning. Follow the instructions for your appliance, whether it’s using cleaning tablets, a soaking solution, or another recommended cleanser. Your dentist can suggest how, how long, and how often to treat your night guard to a deep cleaning, because using the wrong products or cleaning methods can damage it.

  • Keep It Dry

Putting a damp night guard into a closed case, even a ventilated one, provides an ideal setting for bacteria growth. Before you put your guard away, give it time to air-dry on a clean surface.

  • Keep It Safe

Once your guard is clean and dry, make sure it keeps its shape and stays intact by keeping it in its clean, dry case when you’re not using it. Night guards and their cases are no fans of sun, extreme heat, very hot water, or (gulp!) dishwashers. A misshapen, melted, or broken night guard should not be used. If your night guard is damaged, it’s time to call us.

Spending just a moment or two each day caring for your night guard will result in a long-lasting appliance and many hours of healthy and comfortable sleep. Your night guard is protecting you. Be sure to return the favor for a long and healthy dental partnership.

Do Spring Allergies Mean (B)Looming Dental Problems?

April 6th, 2023

April showers bring May flowers, and May flowers bring . . . allergies. If you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from seasonal allergies, you might be suffering some dental side effects as well.

When you have pollen allergies, pollen triggers your body’s immune system to release histamines. Histamines are part of the body’s defense system. They cause the tissues in the nose and sinuses to become inflamed and swollen as they increase blood supply to these areas. They also cause your body to produce more mucus.

Normally, mucus from the sinus cavities drains into the nasal cavity and then down the back of the throat, where it mixes with saliva and is swallowed. We never even notice it. Until it’s allergy season. Unfortunately, our defense mechanisms can have some offensively unpleasant consequences.

  • Headache & Facial Pain

Our sinus cavities are small hollow spaces in the bones of the head which are filled with air and, like our nasal cavities, are lined with mucous membranes. It’s these membranes, not surprisingly, which produce mucus. And though we might turn up our noses at this slippery topic, mucus is actually quite helpful for trapping and filtering out unwanted hitchhikers like bacteria, viruses, dust, pollens, and other pollutants in the air we breathe before they reach our lungs.

When histamines are released, normal mucus production increases to filter out those tiny pollen invaders. At the same time, tissue around the nose and sinuses swells up, which can trap mucus inside the sinus cavities. This, in turn, causes increased pressure within the sinuses, and this pressure brings on allergy-related headaches and facial pain.  

  • Nasal Congestion & Postnasal Drip

With the occasional runny nose or sneeze, you can blow your nose once or twice and that’s that. During allergy season, greatly increased mucus production might see you spending all day within reaching distance of your box of tissues. But when the tissue in your nose is swollen as well, you now find yourself with nasal congestion.

A stuffy nose means excess mucus has to exit somewhere else, which means this extra, often thicker, mucus all drains into the back of your throat. This is postnasal drip, and it can make you miserable in several different ways. Hoarseness. Coughing during the day. Worse coughing at night. Sore throat. Nausea. Difficulty swallowing.

All these allergy symptoms are uncomfortable enough! But, to add to our discomfort, allergies can lead to uncomfortable oral symptoms as well.

  • Tooth Pain

A common result of allergies is tooth pain. How does this happen? It’s because of the way our bodies are designed. The maxillary sinus cavities are directly above the roots of our upper molars.

When sinus cavities are congested and sinus pressure builds up, it also puts pressure on these roots. The result is tooth pain, usually affecting several upper molars at once.

  • Dry Mouth

One of the natural responses to a stuffy nose is mouth-breathing—we can’t go without air, after all! But exposing the inside of the mouth to all that air dries out delicate gum and mouth tissues. It also reduces normal saliva flow. This can cause xerostomia, more commonly known as dry mouth.

Because saliva neutralizes acidity in the mouth and washes away bacteria and other germs, lower saliva production means greater risk of cavities, infections, and bad breath. Dry mouth can also cause gum irritation and gingivitis, because less saliva means more harmful bacteria build-up between the gums and the teeth.

  • Antihistamines & Your Oral Health

If histamines are the problem, are antihistamines the obvious solution? This is a good question for Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous or your physician. Antihistamines can be very drying—so you might find you’re experiencing dry mouth even when all those other pesky allergy symptoms have disappeared. And, if you already suffer from xerostomia, it’s especially important to get your doctor’s advice before buying over the counter antihistamines.

In allergy season, just like any other time of the year, be sure to hydrate and keep up with brushing and flossing for fresh breath and healthy teeth and gums. Talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous if you have persistent tooth pain, dry mouth, or irritated gums—it’s always best to rule out other causes like infection or decay.

But, if your problems are caused by allergies, you don’t have to wait until the next snowfall to get relief. Talk to your doctor or allergist for ways to reduce or eliminate your symptoms before allergy problems start blooming into dental problems. You’ll breathe easier!

What should I use to clean my baby’s teeth?

March 30th, 2023

You might think babies don’t need to brush their teeth, especially when they don’t have any. But by starting good habits like brushing when your child is young, you can lay the foundation for them to continue those good habits into adulthood.

When do I start?

The best time to start brushing your baby’s teeth is before he or she has any. Develop the habit of wiping your baby’s gums with a wet, soft washcloth or gauze every day. There is no need to use toothpaste, just wrap the gauze or cloth around your finger, moisten it with a little water, and gently rub it over the gums.

This helps your little one get used to brushing while it eliminates bacteria in the mouth that can harm emerging teeth. You don’t need to apply a lot of pressure or even take very long: just a quick, gentle rub over the gums will do it.

What do I use?

When your child’s teeth begin to come in, you will need to switch from a cloth to a baby toothbrush. Find one that has a grip big enough for your hand, but a head that is small enough to maneuver easily in your infant’s mouth.

You don’t need to use any toothpaste until your son or daughter is about a year old. Even then, though, you’ll want to use just a tiny amount: about the size of a grain of rice. When your toddler is about two years old, you can use a pea-sized amount.

By around six years of age, your child will probably rinse and spit without your help. At that point, you may want to introduce a child-friendly fluoride mouthwash.

How do I do it?

Your child probably won’t be able to brush his or her teeth alone until about the age of five or six. This means that you will need to do it. To brush your child’s teeth, gently use the brush over all the teeth and gums, even areas where the teeth have not come in yet.

As your child grows and becomes more independent, you can allow him or her to hold the toothbrush while you guide your child’s progress. Make sure you talk to your child while you are brushing, and explain why you brush: what you are doing and how you are doing it.

In addition to regular visits with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous, instilling good oral health habits in your child early on will ensure a lifetime of good dental health.

Is a Crown Necessary for My Child’s Baby Tooth?

March 30th, 2023

Part of the charm of your child’s smile is those delicate, diminutive baby teeth. We enjoy those smiles while we can, because soon enough, primary teeth make way for the adult teeth that will last your child a lifetime. So you might be surprised if Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team recommend a crown for your child’s baby tooth. Is this procedure necessary when the tooth is going to fall out eventually anyway?

Yes, it really is. If a primary tooth is lost before its normal lifespan, several problems can arise.

  • Biting and chewing—a full set of baby teeth is best for proper chewing and digestion. And chewing also helps develop face and jaw muscles.
  • Speech development—primary teeth help guide speech production and pronunciation.
  • Spacing—a baby tooth serves as a place holder for the adult tooth waiting to replace it. If a primary tooth is lost too early, teeth may drift from their correct location and cause overcrowding or misalignment.

When is a Crown Necessary?

The enamel in a baby tooth is thinner than the enamel found in adult teeth, and a cavity can spread quickly throughout a tooth. Within a short period, the tooth’s structure might be too weak for a regular filling. Sometimes the pulp inside the tooth becomes injured or infected and an endodontic treatment is necessary to remove pulp tissue from inside the tooth. The interior will be filled, but the delicate enamel surrounding it will be fragile. Or an accident can leave a tooth fractured or broken, but still vital.

In each of these cases, a crown will protect the tooth from further decay or damage, and will allow the tooth to function normally until an adult tooth is ready to replace it.

What Types of Crowns are Available?

By far the most common choice for a primary tooth is a stainless steel crown. These crowns are prefabricated and can be fitted snugly to your child’s individual tooth. They are easy to place, less expensive than other crown alternatives, and will last until the tooth is ready to fall out in its proper time. If your child suffers from a metal allergy, or a more natural looking crown is necessary, talk to us about other possible options during your appointment at our Anchorage, AK office.

Sure, preserving a baby tooth that was never designed to be permanent seems contradictory. But saving a tooth that helps your child develop proper eating habits, speech production, and correct adult tooth alignment? Those are benefits that will last a lifetime.

Can sealants benefit you?

March 23rd, 2023

Molars are difficult to reach when brushing your teeth because they’re full of crevices, caves, and pits that can provide the perfect environment for decay. Sealants are the perfect fix for this.

Sealants are a plastic-like protective solution that bond to the edge of the tooth. The treatment protects you against cavities and could save you from complicated dental issues in the future.

The process for placing sealants is painless and quick. First, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will clean the tooth with a baking soda spray. An acid etch is applied in order to “roughen up” the surface of the tooth and re-mineralize the area. The area is dried with an alcohol-based liquid and the sealant is placed on the grooves of the tooth. A special light then hardens the liquid into a plastic-like material.

Although sealants can last several years, they need to be examined semi-annually to check for breakage. Any cracks or breaks in your sealant can put your tooth at high risk for decay, and repair of sealants is a quick and painless task.

Children often receive sealants, but people of all ages can benefit from them. Adults who have especially deep canyons on their teeth are good candidates for sealants.

An investment in dental sealants can prevent tooth decay and complicated dental problems later on. It’s a no brainer! Call our Anchorage, AK office today to speak with us about getting sealants on your teeth.

The Root of the Matter

March 23rd, 2023

A strong, healthy smile is built on a strong, healthy foundation. Let’s take a moment to explore just what creates that foundation—your roots.

The Root of the Matter

The visible part of your tooth is called the crown. And while we spent the great majority of our time thinking about what goes on above the gum line—brushing, flossing, whitening, sealing, preventing cavities—the roots, the parts of the teeth below the surface, are also essential to our dental health.

  • What’s inside the root?

The inside of each tooth holds pulp, which is living tissue made of nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. The nerves in the pulp allow us to feel pain when a tooth is damaged, decayed, or infected. Tiny blood vessels provide oxygen and nutrients to the cells.

The inside of each root also contains pulp, located in one or more root canals. These canals are small tunnels that travel from the pulp chamber to the tip of each root. Nerves and blood vessels connect pulp tissue to the nervous and circulatory systems in the body, entering and exiting the tooth from very small openings in the root tip.

  • What’s outside the root?

On the outside, while roots look like crowns, they’re covered with a different protective surface. Roots are covered by cementum rather than enamel. This is a hard tissue, but not as hard as enamel. But cementum has another advantage—it not only helps protect our teeth, it helps them stay anchored in our jaws. (More on this below.)

  • How many roots are we talking about?

The number varies, not just depending on the tooth, but depending on the individual. Most adults have 32 adult teeth: eight incisors, four canines, eight premolars, eight molars, and four wisdom teeth, or third molars. Because the number of wisdom teeth can range from four to zero, though, that total can be smaller.

Rooted to the Spot

The reason that you can rely on your teeth for a lifetime of chewing, biting, and grinding food is the fact that they’re so securely anchored in the jaw.

  • Alveolar bone in the jaw contains a socket for each tooth.
  • A thin layer of connective tissue called the periodontal ligament lines the socket and surrounds each root. It’s filled with fibers that attach to the root’s cementum covering and to the alveolar bone, holding the tooth securely in place.
  • The periodontal ligament not only anchors the tooth, it cushions it from the daily pressure of biting and chewing.
  • Finally, the gums surround the teeth and bone, protecting them from bacteria and plaque.

Even though this design is very secure, there are situations where the root becomes vulnerable. In that case, you should see Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at our Anchorage, AK office right away. Our goal is for you to keep your teeth healthy and strong, and for a lifetime!

Protecting Your Smile with Mouthguards

March 16th, 2023

If you participate in sports or other physical activities, it’s wise to consider getting a mouthguard. Also known as mouth protectors, mouthguards are a device worn over the teeth to lessen the impact of a blow to the face.

This reduces the chance that you might lose teeth or sustain other serious oral injuries. We recommend that all patients involved in a contact sport such as wrestling, football, or hockey wear a mouthguard because of the high risk of such injuries.

However, anyone involved in a physically demanding sport or activity should wear a mouthguard as well.

Can you imagine what it would be like to lose a few of your front teeth? The way you talk, eat, and smile would all change. Potential injuries when you don’t wear a mouthguard include chipped and broken teeth, fractured jaws, root damage, damage to crowns and bridgework, concussions, and/or injury to the lips, cheeks, or gums.

Types of Mouthguards

There are three different types of mouthguards — typically made of a soft plastic material or laminate. You can decide which works best for you in terms of budget, fit, and comfort.

  • Stock mouthguards are prefabricated to a standard size. They offer adequate protection, but you need to make sure you find one that fits properly and comfortably. Stock mouthguards are readily available at department stores, sporting goods stores, and online.
  • Boil-and-bite mouthguards are placed in boiling water to soften them, then into the mouth so they can conform to the shape of the teeth. Boil-and-bite mouthguards are more expensive, but offer a more customized fit than stock ones. You can find these in department stores, pharmacies, sporting goods stores, and online.
  • Custom-made mouthguards are created just for you by Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous. These offer the best fit and comfort of all the options, but they are also the most expensive. Ask a member of our Anchorage, AK team for more information.

The American Dental Association says a good mouthguard should be easy to clean, fit properly, be comfortable, and resist tearing or damage. It shouldn’t restrict speech or breathing.

Still not sure if you need a mouthguard or which kind is right for you? Ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous or one of our staff members for more information.

Teeth Grinding

March 16th, 2023

If you are waking up with jaw pain, tension headaches, or facial pain, you may be suffering from a condition known as bruxism. This means you could be grinding or clenching your teeth while you sleep. Some people aren’t even aware they are grinding or clenching their teeth at night, until a visit to us reveals significant tooth enamel loss. Fortunately, there is a non-invasive and effective solution for teeth grinding, and the tooth enamel damage it can cause, in custom-fabricated nightguards.

Causes of teeth grinding

Tension, stress, and anxiety experienced during the daytime can carry over to an individual’s sleep, and lead the person to grind his or her teeth together or clench the teeth unknowingly. Sleep apnea is another condition that can result in bruxism. Regardless of the cause, however, frequent clenching and teeth grinding wears down the chewing surfaces of the teeth, reduces tooth enamel, and can result in a cracked or chipped tooth, crown, or filling.

Nightguards for teeth grinding

Custom nightguards are fabricated to fit like a glove and protect your teeth from the adverse effects of bruxism. Nightguards are created through a non-invasive process that simply takes an impression of the bottom and top rows of teeth. The result is a nightguard that is flexible, comfortable, and personalized to your mouth.

Benefits of nightguards

Nightguards are helpful to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of dental damage incurred as a result of teeth grinding. They can reduce the discomfort associated with a sore jaw, headaches, tooth sensitivity, ear pain, and facial pain that many patients experience as a result of clenching or grinding of their teeth. In severe cases of bruxism, patients can develop loss of hearing, jawbone misalignment, and TMJ. Therefore, customized nightguards can help prevent the progression of teeth grinding into these more serious conditions.

At-home tips to reduce or prevent teeth grinding

Although it’s important to wear your nightguard faithfully if you grind your teeth at night, you can follow a few self-care tips to help to prevent your teeth grinding from worsening.

  • Reduce tension and stress. Whether you take a warm bath before bed, listen to soothing music, or exercise, practice stress-relieving activities to wash away the tensions of the day.
  • Avoid alcohol. In some patients, alcohol increases teeth grinding tendencies.
  • Avoid caffeine. In some individuals, caffeine increases the likelihood of teeth grinding.
  • Focus on relaxing jaw muscles. Make a conscious effort to keep your jaw relaxed. A warm washcloth against your cheek, sticking your tongue between your teeth, and avoiding chewing pencils, pens, and gum are all ways to train the muscles of your jaw to stay relaxed.

If you suspect you may be grinding your teeth at night, visit Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates for an evaluation at our convenient Anchorage, AK office.

Be Good to Your Gums

March 9th, 2023

You brush and floss thoroughly twice a day. You have regular checkups. Everything seems fine on the periodontal radar. Sometimes, however, even healthy gums can become sensitive and irritated. Is it something you did? Maybe! Here are some common causes of gum irritation and sensitivity that you might not be aware of.

  • Brushing Bravado

One of the most important tools for gum health is one we use at least twice a day—the simple toothbrush. Two minutes at night and two in the morning reduce the bacteria and plaque that lead to serious gum disease, known as periodontitis. And while preventing tooth decay and gum disease are the primary goals of brushing, let’s also protect delicate gum tissue from injuries and irritation caused by too-forceful brushing.

Try using a brush with soft bristles and brushing with short strokes and gentle pressure, especially if you know you have a tendency to be a bit heavy-handed. Massaging rather than scrubbing will clean teeth and gums just fine.

  • Fierce Flossing

Just because we can use dental floss to slice cakes or cookie dough logs doesn’t mean we should apply the same pressure to our gums! While a firm sawing motion seems like the obvious way to clean between teeth and gums, you can actually cause irritation and bleeding that way.

Insert the floss between your teeth carefully, bring it to the gumline, and move the floss with gentle pressure up and down and around the tooth surface. This technique will make sure that you remove food particles and plaque from beneath the gumline without causing your gums any trauma. Ask us about the best flossing techniques—we know them all.

  • Appliance Aches

You know how helpful your braces/retainers/mouth guards/dentures are. You just wish that your helpful appliance was a little less irritating to sensitive gum tissue.

This is a problem that often disappears as you get used to your new appliance. But if pain or irritation persists or gets worse, give us a call. We want to make sure your appliance fits properly, and make any necessary adjustments to ensure your comfort.

  • Peroxide Problems

Most home whitening kits use peroxide-based gels or treated strips to remove surface stains from the teeth. Those same bleaching agents that make enamel whiter can also cause gum sensitivity and irritation. If you use whitening strips or gel trays, be careful to keep the peroxide solution away from gum tissue. But because these systems are one-size-fits-all, that is often easier said than done.

If you have sensitive gums, one solution is a professional office whitening. We’ll check on your gum (and tooth) health first, and monitor and protect your gums throughout the procedure. If you still want to whiten at home, we can create custom trays for you that will provide more complete exposure to the whitening solution for your teeth, and less exposure for your gums, than over-the-counter products.

  • Still Smoking?

Studies have shown a strong link between gum health and smoking and other forms of tobacco use. Smokers are much more likely to suffer from gum disease than non-smokers, and those who have smoked for a long time, or who smoke heavily, have an even higher risk of developing periodontal disease. Some studies suggest that smokers don’t respond as well to treatment as non-smokers.  Unfortunately, it appears that smoking and tobacco use help mask the obvious symptoms of gum disease (redness and bleeding), which could lead smokers to delay getting treatment. If you smoke, talk to us about ways to quit.

We talk a lot about periodontal health because it is so important. Periodontitis can lead to infection, loss of bone around the tooth, and even eventual tooth loss. If you are suffering from any of the signs of gum disease—swelling, redness, bleeding, pain—give our Anchorage, AK office a call. Whether it’s as simple as making a few lifestyle changes, or a problem requiring professional dental treatment, being proactive with your dental care is more than good for your gums—it’s good for your health!

Double Duty

March 9th, 2023

If you play a contact sport, you know about mouthguards. You know about the cushioning protection they provide for your teeth. And not just your teeth—mouthguards also help protect your lips, tongue, and jaw, helping you avoid or minimize many of the injuries caused by collisions.

But you don’t have to be part of the defensive line or face off on center ice to wear a mouthguard. It pays to be proactive with your oral health in any activity where impact is a possibility. Whether you play a team sport, practice gymnastics, ride a bike, ski, skateboard, or participate in other athletic pastimes, there’s almost always the risk of impact—with a ball, with the mat, with the sidewalk, with another person.

So, how do mouthguards protect your teeth and mouth? It’s a combination of materials and design. Mouthguards are made of a strong, cushioning material such as plastic or silicone, which helps absorb and distribute the force of impact, usually in the form of a horseshoe-shaped piece that fits over your upper teeth. The specific design can be tailored to the sport or activity you’ll be using it for.

And now that you’re wearing braces? Working toward an attractive, healthy smile doesn’t mean you can’t be active or find a mouthguard that will work for you. In fact, when you wear braces, mouthguards do double duty—they protect your mouth and teeth, and they protect your braces, too!

Even minor impacts can damage wires and brackets, and damaged braces means more time at the orthodontist and lost treatment time. More important, your guard not only helps protect your brackets and wires from impact injury, it protects your delicate mouth tissue from trauma caused by impact with your brackets and wires.

Because you probably have braces on both upper and lower teeth, the usual mouthguard design might not work for you. To make sure you’re completely protected, you may need a guard that covers both upper and lower arches.

There are over-the-counter mouth guards designed for braces, and even for covering both your upper and lower teeth. These might be one-size-fits-all or fit-it-yourself guards, or models which should be used only after a fitting at our Anchorage, AK dental. While some of these guards are better than others, the best option for your teeth—and your braces—might be a custom mouthguard.

What are the benefits of a custom guard for orthodontic patients? They:

  • Provide a perfect fit around teeth and braces
  • Protect better because they fit better
  • Are designed for easy breathing and speaking
  • Are less bulky
  • Are more durable
  • Fit more comfortably
  • Can accommodate orthodontic adjustments
  • Can be tailored to your specific sport or activity.

Custom mouthguards are more expensive, because they are individually crafted for your teeth and braces, but in terms of effectiveness, they are the best guards out there—because they are individually crafted for your teeth and braces. If cost is an issue, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can let you know whether an over-the-counter option might work for you.

An active life should mean proactive dental care. Wearing a mouthguard when you’re wearing braces protects both your body and your orthodontics. Whichever guard option you choose, it’s a good idea to check out the fit with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous to make sure you’re getting all the protection you need for both when your mouthguard is doing double duty.

Root Canal Recovery

March 2nd, 2023

Anyone who has had a compromised tooth knows that the amount of discomfort it causes can be extremely unpleasant. Although no one looks forward to a root canal, this procedure is actually the best way to both eliminate pain and save your tooth. If the pulp inside your tooth is infected or damaged, a root canal is probably necessary.  

The process is relatively straightforward and can take place over one or two visits to our Anchorage, AK office. The area around the tooth is numbed, the pulp is removed from the inside of the tooth, the area is thoroughly cleaned, and a temporary filling or crown is placed on the tooth to prevent bacteria and food from entering the site. A permanent crown will be fabricated and affixed to the tooth at a later visit.

Once your root canal is finished, recovery is usually only a matter of days. What can you to keep yourself as comfortable as possible during that time?

  • The area around the affected tooth might be somewhat sore or sensitive for a few days. Let us know, and we can talk about medication to reduce pain and inflammation. If you are prescribed antibiotics, be sure to take the entire course of medication as directed.
  • Taking an ibuprofen (if this is a pain reliever that is safe for you) before the anesthetic wears off will reduce the soreness in the hours immediately after the procedure.
  • Wait until the numbness is gone before eating to avoid biting down on a temporary filling (or your tongue). Hot drinks are also best avoided.
  • Avoid chewing on the side of the affected tooth until the restoration is complete. A soft diet is recommended for the first several days—chewy, sticky, and crunchy foods should wait.
  • Continue with regular brushing and flossing.
  • Call Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous immediately if you experience severe pain or visible swelling, if you have an allergic response to medication, if your bite feels uneven, or if you lose the temporary filling.

Follow the instructions we’ll give you carefully, and feel free to call us with any concerns. We want to ensure that your root canal is as pain-free and worry-free as possible.

Is There an Act Three for Our Teeth?

March 2nd, 2023

Act One: Those 20 adorable baby teeth which begin arriving when you’re about six months old and are probably gone by the time you’re twelve.

Act Two: The 32 (if you have all your wisdom teeth!) adult teeth which start showing up around the age of six, and need to last the rest of your lifetime. Unless there’s an . . .

Act Three: Where science has discovered a way to repair damaged teeth or create replacements for lost teeth that would look and function just like our original teeth.

Sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it?

In biological terms, of course, we’re not there yet. But teams of scientists around the world have been working toward just this goal—the ability to repair a tooth with its own biological material or even grow a new tooth when an adult tooth is seriously damaged or lost.

Because the pulp—the living tissue inside each tooth—contains dental stem cells, some researchers are studying whether these cells can be used to regenerate the living pulp inside a damaged tooth. Even more exciting, there’s research being done into the possibility of using these stem cells to rebuild an entire tooth—pulp, dentin, and hard enamel exterior. Because the supply of usable dental stem calls is quite small, and process of guiding these cells to create all the varied parts of the tooth is quite complex, this research is in its early stages.

In other studies, scientists have focused on tooth regeneration by studying the teeth of other species. Mice, for example, have front teeth with open roots. This allows these teeth to keep growing up as they wear down, because stem cells inside mouse gums are always working to create new tissue. Even though our teeth are not exactly comparable (no open roots in human teeth!), finding out just how this tissue regeneration works in mice and other animals might help find an answer for human tooth regeneration.

Right now, these scientific goals are just that—goals for a future day. But in the meantime, your quality of life doesn’t need to suffer when you lose an adult tooth. You can enjoy a third act right now with dental implants.

Cosmetic concerns aren’t the only reasons why you want your complete smile restored in the event of a lost tooth. A missing tooth can lead to many unpleasant consequences:

  • Speaking and eating can become more difficult.
  • Lack of stimulation from biting and chewing can cause the bone beneath the lost tooth to shrink.
  • Other teeth can shift to fill the gap left behind, which can affect tooth, bite, and jaw alignment.
  • Loss of teeth can lead to loss of confidence.

Unlike dentures or bridges, dental implants are designed to function just like your natural teeth.

The post, or base, of each implant fuses with the bone in your jaw, acting as a “root” for the implant. Once the post has fused with the bone around it, a crown designed to match your other teeth in shape and color is secured to the post. You can eat, speak, brush, floss, keep your bone healthy, and smile confidently just as you did before.

Will biological replacements be ready for your third act in the near future? Probably not. But that’s not to say this will never be possible! In the meantime, take care of your teeth with daily brushing and flossing, eat a dental-healthy diet, and visiting our Anchorage, AK office as recommended.

You do your best to keep your teeth intact and in place—but if you lose one through trauma or decay, talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about an implant. Because in any stage of life, the most important result is the happy ending a healthy and confident smile brings you!

Is Your Broken Tooth An Emergency?

February 23rd, 2023

When you chip a tooth badly, it can be a very nerve-wracking situation. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team want to provide you with some information that can help if you ever suffer a chipped or broken tooth. The most common ways people break their teeth are by biting down on something hard, getting hit in the mouth, falling down, or developing cavities that weaken the tooth and allow it to be broken easily. There are a few things you can do if you find yourself in this situation, however.

First, we recommend that you investigate whether the tooth is partially chipped or completely broken. Unless you are experiencing a lot of pain or bleeding, this should not be treated as an emergency. You may call our office and we will try to schedule an appointment with you as soon as possible. Once we have evaluated the tooth during your appointment, we can start to treat it. For minor chips or cracks, we may simply smooth out the area or fill in the space so the crack doesn’t spread.

If your teeth show severe damage such as a serious break, split tooth, split root, or a decay-induced break, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous may need to take more time to fix the problem. If you need emergency dental care because a tooth has fallen out, call our practice immediately to schedule an appointment for that day. If you’re waiting for an emergency appointment, you can rinse your mouth with warm salt water and apply slight pressure to the area to stop the bleeding. We recommend using an ice pack to reduce swelling, but do not take any aspirin because that may increase the bleeding.

If your tooth has completely fallen out of the socket, hold it by the crown and rinse it under running water. Do not let the tooth become dry; instead, place it in salt water or milk until you get to our office. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will determine whether the broken tooth can be salvaged or will need to be completely replaced.

We know how upsetting it can be to chip or break a tooth, which is why we want to guide you through this process. Most chipped teeth are usually just cosmetic problems, fortunately, but we know that dental emergencies can come up rather suddenly. Be sure to schedule an appointment at our Anchorage, AK office as soon as an emergency situation occurs.

A Prescription for Oral Health

February 23rd, 2023

You and your dentist are essential partners in making sure you have the best dental care. You do your part by eating a tooth-healthy diet, brushing and flossing as recommended, and seeing Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous regularly for checkups and cleanings.

And one more essential step you can take for your dental health? Let Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous know which prescriptions and over the counter medications you’re taking.

Medications Have Oral/Dental Side Effects

We’ve all grown used to hearing “Possible side effects include . . .” at the end of every pharmaceutical commercial. That’s because those unintended side effects can affect our health in any number of unexpected ways—and this includes oral health.

For example, a common side effect of many medications is xerostomia, or “dry mouth.” Because saliva helps keep our teeth and gums healthy by washing away food particles and oral bacteria and by reducing acidity in the mouth, a reduction in saliva production means a greater risk of cavities, gum disease, oral infections, denture discomfort, and bad breath.

Knowing a patient is taking one of the hundreds of medications which cause xerostomia allows Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous to both monitor the condition and suggest the most effective treatment options to control unpleasant symptoms.

Medications can cause not only dry mouth, but excessive gum tissue growth, oral sores, tooth discoloration, and changes in taste, among other side effects, so knowing which medications you’re taking can provide essential information for the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions.

Medications Interact

Medication might be needed for your dental treatment. Because certain drugs, supplements, and even some vitamins and foods can affect the way our bodies metabolize, absorb, and respond to other medications, we need to know which medicines you’re taking to arrive at your best treatment options.

  • There are different classes of antibiotics used to treat oral infections. Knowing your medical history enables Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous to choose an antibiotic option which won’t interact with your other medications.
  • Local anesthetics such as lidocaine, which numb the area to be treated, can also interact with certain medications. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can prescribe an alternative local anesthetic or adjust the dosage as needed.
  • If you will be using sedation during your procedure, you have several options, including nitrous oxide gas, oral sedation, or IV sedation. Be sure we know about all of your medications beforehand because of possible interactions. Changes can be made to the type of sedation and/or the dosage as needed.

Medications Impact Treatment

It’s important for Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous to know if any of your medications will affect standard treatments.

Anticoagulants, for example, are a necessary medication for preventing blood clots from forming, and are often prescribed for certain heart conditions, after joint replacement surgery, or for anyone at risk for developing blood clots. Because these medications prevent the blood from clotting, it’s important to let us know if you are taking such drugs before any kind of oral surgery.

If needed, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can work with you and your doctor to create a treatment plan which will be safe, effective, and designed to work with any of your medications. You should never discontinue taking your prescribed medications before dental work without medical approval, as this can be dangerous.

We need the most up to date information about your health to provide you with the best care possible. Knowing which medications you take and why you take them can help us:

  • Diagnose and treat any side effects from non-dental medications which have affected your oral health,
  • Prevent drug interactions from occurring, and
  • Tailor your treatment to your specific medical needs.

Your prescriptions, over the counter medications, and even herbal supplements and vitamins are essential information. It’s a good idea to make a list before your next appointment at our Anchorage, AK office so you have specific medications and their dosages at hand. It’s one small—but vital—step you can take to work with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous for your best dental health!

Gum Disease Prevention

February 16th, 2023

What to do to prevent gum disease? If left untreated, gum disease can lead to discomfort, infection, and even tooth loss. Bacteria in our mouths form a film called plaque. Plaque sticks to our teeth and can lead to gum inflammation. This inflammation can cause our gums to pull away from the teeth creating “pockets” which are home to infection and result in tooth and bone loss. Since the early stages of gum disease are often invisible, what is the secret to keeping our gums healthy?

Luckily, there is no secret to it at all! Preventing most gum disease is a simply a matter of following well-known guidelines, at home and in our Anchorage, AK office.

 Healthy Habits at Home

  • Regular brushing and flossing

At least two minutes of careful brushing twice a day will help reduce bacteria and plaque. Use floss, picks, and other interdental tools to remove plaque from tight areas between the teeth that your brush might miss.

  • If you smoke, now is the time to quit!

Smoking weakens your immune system, making it harder to fight infections and to heal. If you need another reason to quit, improving your oral health is a great one. Talk to us about ways to stop.

  • Eating well

We all know sugar is no friend to dental health, and encourages bacterial growth. But eating apples, carrots and other crunchy vegetables can help remove food particles and stimulate the production of saliva, which fights bacteria production. Vitamins and minerals help strengthen bones and build healthy gum tissue. And a balanced diet supports not just your oral health, but the health and well-being of your entire body. Ask us for suggestions for a dental-healthy diet.

Regular Checkups and Cleanings

  • We recommend a visit to our Anchorage, AK office every six months for a checkup. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can discover and treat gingivitis (early periodontal disease) and recommend a periodontal exam if there are signs of more severe gum disease. There are some individuals who develop gum disease even with great brushing and flossing habits, so it’s important to have a dentist’s evaluation.
  • Having your teeth cleaned every six months will remove plaque that brushing alone can’t handle. If there are signs of more serious gum disease, a periodontal cleaning will remove plaque and tartar from both above and below the gumline.

Brushing, flossing, avoiding smoking, eating well, seeing Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous regularly—there’s no secret here! Talk to us about what you can do and what we can do to keep your gums healthy for a lifetime of beautiful smiles.

What to Do If You Lose a Filling

February 16th, 2023

It really doesn’t happen very often. But sometimes you bite into something that is much harder than you anticipated. Sometimes you grind your teeth without realizing the pressure you’re putting on them. Sometimes you have a cavity that has stealthily developed beneath an earlier filling. And the result is—sometimes you lose a filling.

What to do when this happens? If you’re at a loss for ideas, we have some suggestions.

  • Don’t panic

Usually, a cracked, broken, or lost filling is not an emergency situation. That being said, it’s still important to . . .

  • Call us immediately

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will be able to give you the best advice as to how to take care of your tooth until you can make an appointment. And if your dental problem might be a dental emergency, we can make sure you are seen as soon as possible.

  • Take care of your tooth

Keep your tooth and the area around it clean. Brush gently to keep food particles away from the newly exposed tooth surface. You can (carefully) rinse around the area with a bit of water or salt water as recommended.

Your lost filling might not inconvenience you at all. But if you feel sensitivity when the tooth is exposed to air, or when you eat hot or cold foods, or if you feel pain when you bite down, let us know. We can recommend some over the counter medications and pain relievers that can help.

If you’re experiencing severe pain, call us at once.

  • Diet

This might not be the time for sticky caramels, frozen treats, or extra-hot beverages. Make yourself comfortable by avoiding chewing with your compromised tooth, and postponing foods that could trigger sensitivity.

  • Make a dental appointment as soon as you can

Don’t put off treatment, even if the filling was a small one, and even if the tooth is causing you no discomfort.

There might be further damage or decay that should be treated. A tooth that required a large filling is often more fragile than an intact tooth, and might need to be fitted with a crown in order to protect it. A missing filling might reveal deep decay which has exposed the pulp of the tooth to infection or damage, and a root canal might be necessary. A seriously damaged tooth might require extraction. Delaying treatment could result in a more complex restoration.

See us as soon as you discover a problem with your filling, and we will make sure not only that your tooth is treated appropriately, but that the reason for the lost filling is discovered. While no filling lasts forever, if the cause of your lost filling is tooth grinding or decay, it’s important to be proactive to prevent further problems.

Losing a filling? It really doesn’t happen very often. But that’s not a lot of comfort if you do happen to lose or break a filling. If you’re at a loss for what to do next, contact our Anchorage, AK office. You’ll find yourself smiling again in no time!

Is periodontal disease genetic?

February 9th, 2023

One of the most enjoyable parts of looking at family pictures is finding resemblances. You have your father’s brown eyes and your grandmother’s curly hair. You’ve got your aunt’s basketball height and your cousin’s freckles. But some similarities might not be so appealing—could one of those be a family tendency toward gum disease?

Studies have shown that periodontal disease appears to have some kind of genetic component, especially for serious diseases and those that appear early in the patient’s life. Aggressive periodontitis, for example, a relatively uncommon disease which causes rapid bone loss around certain teeth, is often more common among members of the same family. Other studies suggest there might be a genetic link between our immune response and the development of chronic periodontitis. So far, however, the link between genetics and gum disease is still under investigation.

We do know that environmental factors are an important trigger for gum disease. Failure to brush and floss, smoking, diet, stress, medical conditions such as diabetes—all can influence the health of our gums. The best way to overcome these factors is your own proactive approach! Thorough brushing and flossing, regular checkups and cleanings, proper nutrition, and avoiding smoking are all time-tested ways to keep your gums and teeth healthy. If you have a medical condition, proper treatment and medication will also help protect your oral health.

During your examination with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at our Anchorage, AK office, please tell us about any family history of periodontal disease, your own gum care routine, and any habits or conditions which might influence your health. We can tailor treatment and offer suggestions for prevention based on a thorough knowledge of your medical history. We have many options available today for preventing and treating gum disease. Let’s make sure all your family albums are filled with beaming smiles—that’s the most appealing resemblance of all!

How Often Should You Have Your Teeth Cleaned?

February 9th, 2023

That’s a good question! But first, we’re going to do that roundabout thing where we consider other questions before circling back to our original topic. Trust us, we’ll get there!

  • Why Get Your Teeth Cleaned Professionally?

Before you consider how often to have your teeth cleaned, you might be wondering why you need to have them cleaned professionally at all. After all, you’re doing all the right things. You brush twice a day for two minutes each time. You floss at least once a day. You even use a soft-bristled brush to protect your enamel. Shouldn’t this be good enough?

Conscientious dental hygiene at home is a very good thing, but, when it comes to plaque and tartar, it might not be good enough. Plaque, especially between the teeth and along the gum line, is easy to miss. In a matter of days, that overlooked plaque hardens and becomes tartar. While you can do a lot to remove food particles and plaque at home, once plaque hardens into tartar, a professional cleaning is necessary to remove it safely.

  • Why Worry About Plaque and Tartar You May Have Missed?

Because you want to avoid cavities and gum disease. You know that the bacteria in plaque cause tooth decay, but did you know that plaque and tartar can be a real problem for your gum health as well? Plaque and tartar irritate delicate gum tissue, causing inflammation and gingivitis (mild gum disease). If you have chronic bad breath, if your gums are swollen, red, or painful, if your gums bleed easily when you’re brushing and flossing, you might have gingivitis.

Left untreated, mild gum disease can become periodontitis, a more serious condition. Irritation and inflammation cause gum tissue to pull away from the teeth, forming deep periodontal pockets where bacteria and infection spread. Infection and inflammation response damage the bone and tissue supporting the teeth, and teeth become loose or lost altogether. In fact, periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.

A professional cleaning at our Anchorage, AK is one of the preventive steps you can take to reduce your risk of gum disease.

  • What Happens During a Cleaning?

First, your teeth and gums will be checked carefully to see if there are any problems that we need to address before the procedure begins.

The first step in cleaning usually involves removing plaque and tartar. This may be done with an ultrasonic scaler, a hand scaler, or a combination of both. Plaque and tartar need to be scraped from tooth enamel above and below the gum line to prevent cavities and gum disease, so this is definitely a job for a dental professional. Gum attachment around the teeth will be checked, and shallow pockets will be cleaned. Your dentist will have suggestions if you have deeper periodontal pockets caused by gum disease.

After all the plaque and tartar have been removed, your teeth will be polished with a gentle abrasive to remove surface stains. There are two common methods of polishing: applying a special gritty toothpaste with a small rotating cup, or air polishing, which uses a stream of fine abrasive powder, water, and pressurized air. (If you have your teeth cleaned more than twice a year, your dentist will let you know if polishing is advisable during every visit.)

Next, flossing. A professional flossing will remove any remaining plaque from between the teeth. This is a good time to double check your own flossing technique and ask for any tips which will make your personal flossing more effective.

Finally, after rinsing, a fluoride treatment might be applied to strengthen your enamel, and you’re good to go. The entire process usually takes between 30-60 minutes.

  • So, How Often Should You Have Your Teeth Cleaned?

That is a good question, and we did get there! But we don’t have just one answer for you. As with every aspect of your dental care, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will recommend cleaning treatments and procedures with your specific dental needs in mind.

  • If your teeth and gums are healthy, and you don’t have periodontal disease or risk factors for periodontal disease (such as smoking, a family history of gum disease, or medical conditions such as diabetes), you might be able to get by with two cleanings each year.
  • If you have a history of periodontal disease, or are at higher risk for periodontal disease because of one or more risk factors, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous might recommend more than two cleanings each year.

Professional cleanings play an important role in your preventive dental care. Whether it’s done once a year, twice annually, or more often as needed, a cleaning performed by a dental professional takes only a short amount of your time and provides you with long-term benefits—not only a brighter smile, but healthier teeth and gums!

What’s an intraoral camera?

February 2nd, 2023

One of the greatest features our team at Pediatric Dental Associates offers is the ability to see first-hand how we can help our patients. While X-rays help us detect any problems in your mouth and give us valuable information on what is bothering you, they often don’t give Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous a complete view of everything that is going on inside your mouth. With the use of an intraoral camera, we can see every aspect of your teeth and mouth with incredible detail, uncovering cracked or fractured teeth, excessive wear, carious lesions, cavities, or other issues that may be hidden. When we can discover oral problems early on, your treatment is much less invasive and often saves you money down the road.

An intraoral camera allows Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous to view clear, precise images of your mouth, teeth, and gums and allows us to make an accurate diagnosis.  With clear, defined, enlarged images, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team see details that standard mirror examinations may miss. It’s much easier to understand what is happening in your mouth if you can see the problem on a computer monitor, and it means faster diagnosis and less chair-time for our patients!

Intraoral cameras are small, about the size of a dental mirror, and emit a light onto the tooth. The tooth will emit a color that lets Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous determine if the tooth is healthy or diseased. Intraoral cameras also allow us to save your images on our office computer to provide a permanent record of treatments. These treatments can be printed for you, other specialists, and your lab or insurance companies.

For any questions about the intraoral camera, we encourage you to ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous or our team during your or your child’s next visit or by giving us a call at our convenient Anchorage, AK office.

Your Toddler’s First Dental Visit

January 26th, 2023

It’s common for toddlers to be wary of strangers, but their first experience at the dentist shouldn’t be a scary one. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team have five tips for you to make your child’s first visit to Pediatric Dental Associates easy as pie!

  1. Bringing your child to one of your own appointments before his or her first dental visit can calm your little one’s nerves. This gives your son or daughter the opportunity to get familiar with our office and see a cleaning isn’t very scary.
  2. Our big dental chair can be fun! Toddlers love games, and seeing the chair go up and down can make it seem like an amusement ride rather than sitting down for an exam.
  3. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team hand out cool toothbrushes and stickers to kids after their appointment. Your child will love the fun-colored toothbrush and can look forward to a post-appointment prize at the next visit.
  4. Schedule your appointment for a time that sets you up for success. Bringing your child to our Anchorage, AK office an hour before he or she is due for a nap may be a tantrum just waiting to happen.
  5. Kids love books! Try reading your toddler bedtime stories about what happens at the dentist before you come in for the appointment. We recommend Dora the Explorer’s Show Me Your Smile, written by Christine Ricci.

Fluoride Treatments—They’re Not Just for Kids!

January 26th, 2023

Fluoride has been one of the great game-changers in children’s dental health. Drinking fluoridated water. Using fluoride toothpaste. Scheduling fluoride treatments. All of these child-friendly dental habits help prevent cavities and strengthen tooth enamel.

And we adults enjoy the benefits of fluoride as well. Drinking fluoridated water. Using fluoride toothpaste. If only we hadn’t outgrown fluoride treatments… or have we? Time to have an adult conversation about fluoride treatments!

  • To Start, Some Dental Chemistry

The enamel in our teeth is largely made of calcium and phosphate ions. These elements combine to form hydroxyapatite, the mineral crystals that make teeth and bones so hard and strong. But enamel isn’t indestructible. The oral bacteria in plaque create acids that cause demineralization, stripping away calcium and phosphate ions. This leaves the tooth surface weakened and vulnerable to decay.

Our bodies have a way of compensating for demineralization. Saliva is filled with calcium and phosphate ions that restore lost minerals. This balancing act goes on every day. When conditions in the mouth are too acidic, however, remineralization can’t take place as effectively. Here’s where fluoride is so beneficial.

  • Why Fluoride?

First, because fluoride helps remineralize. Fluoride works on the surface of the tooth to attract the calcium and phosphate ions in our saliva, restoring them to our teeth. Even better, it joins with these ions to create fluorapatite. Fluorapatite crystals are larger, stronger, and more resistant to acids than hydroxyapatite. This means your teeth are not only remineralized, but stronger than they were originally!

  • Why Adult Fluoride Treatments?

While fluoridated water and fluoride toothpaste might be all you need for strong enamel, there are several conditions that make fluoride treatments a good addition to your preventive care at our Anchorage, AK office.

  • Problems with dental hygiene. Consider fluoride treatment if you have trouble brushing and flossing, if you wear braces, or if there’s any other reason that makes daily cleaning more difficult.
  • Exposed roots. Gums often recede as we age, and can pull away from the teeth even further with added factors like gum disease, harsh brushing habits, teeth grinding, or smoking. As gums recede, parts of the tooth roots are exposed. Because roots are covered with cementum instead of the much harder enamel, they are more vulnerable to decay.
  • Dry mouth. Medical conditions, medications, and aging can cause a decrease in saliva production. Because saliva helps wash away food particles and bacteria, bathes the teeth with minerals that strengthen enamel, and neutralizes acids, less saliva can equal more cavities.
  • Our individual biology. Some of us are born with weaker tooth enamel, and so are more at risk for cavities—even with great brushing and flossing habits.

In all of these cases, fluoride treatments can provide the extra protection you might need for stronger tooth enamel and improved dental health.

  • Treatments Are an Easy Addition to Your Dental Appointment

Regular fluoride treatments are neither complicated nor time-consuming. Fluoride can be administered as a varnish, a gel, a rinse, or a foam. It can be applied with a brush, a swab, as a mouthwash, or in a tray. After application, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will let you know if any follow up instructions, such as avoiding food and drink for 30 minutes after treatment, are necessary. That’s all there is to it. Protection lasts for months, and your dentist can let you know when a re-application is needed.

You’re doing the right thing by using a fluoride toothpaste and keeping up with your dental exams and cleanings. Ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous if a fluoride treatment is something that could strengthen your teeth and help prevent decay—it could be a game-changer for your dental health!

What to Expect if You Haven’t Been to the Dentist in Forever

January 19th, 2023

It’s easy to miss a dental appointment. Life and duties intervene, and suddenly you have to push your appointment back once, then again, or forget about it.

We get that. These days, we all have a lot going on. But what we don’t want is for a lengthy absence to make you anxious about returning. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been, we always love to see you! So let’s take a moment to explain what you can expect when you pay us a visit.

Your appointment will last roughly 60 to 90 minutes, so keep that in mind when you schedule it and plan accordingly. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team want you to feel comfortable.

One of the first things we will ask is the reason for your visit. You’ll have the opportunity to let us know about any concerns or questions you may have. No question is too small, so ask away!

Next, we will go over your medical and dental history to make updates to your file as necessary. This will usually be followed by X-rays to give us a better idea of what is currently happening with your teeth. We will finish with a screening for oral cancer and periodontal disease. If you haven’t visited us in a while, we want to make sure nothing serious is going on.

After that, you will undergo a cleaning with one of our hygienists. Your teeth will be cleaned and checked for such things as broken fillings, cracked teeth, or active decay. Finally, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will come by for a final look and a rundown of your dental needs.

Then you’re ready to go! On your way out, you’ll discuss options for scheduling your next appointment, insurance coverage, and payment plans if applicable. You will also receive a goodie bag with a new toothbrush, floss, and toothpaste to get you started (and motivated) on the path to great dental health!

We always want our patients’ experience to be as comfortable and as easy as possible. From the moment you pick up the phone to make your appointment, our team is here to make sure we always meet your needs.

No matter how long it’s been since your last visit, we hope you’ll give us a call to make your next appointment at our Anchorage, AK office.

How effective is whitening toothpaste?

January 19th, 2023

The American Dental Association encourages you to brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to prevent dental problems such as tooth decay, bad breath, sensitive teeth, and gingivitis.

Beyond these health effects, frequent brushing of your teeth with a high-quality toothpaste can keep your teeth white. If you desire a whiter smile without in-office bleaching at our Anchorage, AK office, use of a whitening toothpaste is a great option for you.

Why Consider Whitening Toothpaste

Whiter teeth are more attractive and can help you feel confident in your smile. Having a whiter smile and greater self-assurance can send the message that you take care of yourself and are confident in your abilities.

How Whitening Toothpaste Works

Although every toothpaste has whitening properties because they all help to remove food particles from your teeth, the American Dental Association says whitening toothpaste must contain certain chemicals that help remove stains.

Unlike bleaching products, which contain carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide, whitening toothpaste only cleans the enamel rather than changing the color of your teeth. To obtain the benefits of whitening toothpaste, you need to use it regularly.

The Effectiveness of Whitening Toothpaste Varies

Due to individual variations in the color of your teeth, certain people are more likely than others to achieve the desired results with whitening. Teeth that are tinted grayish are unlikely to respond well to bleaching, while brown teeth may sometimes respond, and yellowish teeth are most likely to become pearly white in response to bleaching.

If Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our staff believe that bleaching is not a viable option for you, proper oral hygiene and the use of a whitening toothpaste are your best bets for keeping your teeth as white as possible. In addition, avoid using tobacco products, and rinse your mouth after drinking coffee.

Socket Preservation

January 12th, 2023

Dental implants are a marvel! They look just like your natural teeth, and, even better, they function just like your natural teeth. So, when you’re planning on a dental implant after an extraction, you want to make sure that your implant has the best chance of success—and we do, too. That’s why we might recommend a socket preservation procedure, where socket grafting takes place immediately after your extraction.

What is a socket graft, and what does it “preserve”? Let’s take a closer look.

Socket Preservation—A Logical Choice After Extraction

You’ve decided on a dental implant for some excellent reasons.

  • A missing tooth can change the appearance of your smile.
  • Your remaining teeth might shift to fill the empty space, causing alignment and bite problems.
  • A lost tooth affects the amount, shape, and health of the bone surrounding your teeth.

No one wants to lose a tooth, but sometimes, due to injury or decay, an extraction is the only choice for your oral health. After your tooth is extracted, if the socket bone holding the tooth is perfectly healthy and the extraction is a simple one, we might be able to place an implant post in the socket right away.

But often, bone needs time to heal before placing an implant post, and you risk losing the bone size and density you need to make a future implant possible. How can you lose bone? That’s an unfortunate consequence of losing teeth. Teeth are important not just because they let us eat comfortably—they also help maintain bone health.

Without the stimulation of biting and chewing, the bone beneath the teeth begins a process called resorption. As older cells are absorbed back into the body, new bone cells aren’t produced as quickly to replace them. The alveolar bone, the thick ridge of the jaw which holds our sockets, shrinks in size. As the bone gets smaller, gum tissue shrinks around it, causing a sunken spot where your tooth used to be.

For a dental implant to anchor successfully in the jawbone, you need healthy bone that is high enough, wide enough, and dense enough to hold the implant post securely as it fuses with the bone.

A socket graft at the time of extraction provides two important benefits: grafting material fills the empty socket immediately, preserving the bone and gum area around it, and the graft material acts as scaffolding for new bone growth, creating a firm, dense foundation for your implant.

Grafting materials are gradually and safely absorbed as your new, healthy bone tissue replaces them. The result, after several months of healing, is an alveolar ridge with normal height and width and with the density needed to anchor an implant successfully.

The Grafting Procedure

Grafting material comes in different forms, including allografts (made from donor bone), synthetic grafts (made from synthetic materials which function like bone tissue), and autografts (bone taken from your own body). Growth factors may also be included in the grafting material to encourage new cell growth. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will recommend the type of graft which will work best for you.

A socket preservation procedure will frequently involve the following steps:

  • Local anesthesia to numb the area before your extraction. You might choose sedation options as well, which we’re happy to discuss with you in advance.
  • Careful cleaning of the site after the tooth is extracted.
  • Filling the empty socket with bone grafting material.
  • Placing a barrier or membrane over the graft to protect it as it heals.
  • Suturing the surrounding gum tissue.

Aftercare Treatment

Aftercare treatment for a socket graft is a lot like the treatment for a tooth extraction. You’ll need to be careful around the graft area for several days as it heals, and we’ll give you specific instructions for your recovery. Normally, these may include:

  • Don’t disturb or touch the area. Even pulling on lips or mouth to look at the site can put stress on your sutures.
  • Immediately after the procedure, we can give you suggestions for reducing swelling and managing any pain you might be feeling.
  • We’ll let you know when and how to rinse your mouth clean and when you can return to brushing. And no spitting!
  • Eat carefully. We might recommend a liquid diet for a few days before transitioning to bland and cool soft foods. We’ll let you know the best diet for the period after your surgery. Don’t use a straw for your liquid diet, because suction can interfere with the wound.
  • Treat yourself carefully for a few days by avoiding strenuous activities, including workouts.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking interferes with the healing process, and the suction involved does your graft no favors either.
  • Visit our Anchorage, AK office for follow up appointments as recommended. We’ll monitor your healing, and give you a timeline for your future implant.

Preserving your socket now instead of repairing it later has many advantages. Immediate placement of a graft protects bone size and density, eliminates the need for a potential bone grafting procedure in the future, and makes it possible for you to enjoy the natural look and feel of a dental implant as soon as possible. If you have an extraction scheduled, let’s discuss why socket preservation might be your best path to an efficient, timely, and successful dental implant.

Let's Talk About Your Roots!

January 5th, 2023

You’ve learned a lot from your dentist and your family about how to take care of your teeth. You brush and floss, you wear a mouthguard when you’re active, and you have regular checkups and cleanings at our Anchorage, AK office.

And everything you’re doing is wonderful! The smile you see each day in the mirror reflects your hard work.

But what about the part of your smile you can’t see? Let’s take a look beneath the surface, and talk about your roots.

While our teeth look solid from the outside, there’s really a lot going on inside each tooth.

  • The outside of every tooth is covered with a hard protective surface.

Enamel is the hardest material in our bodies, and covers the crown. This is the part of the tooth we can see above our gums.

Our roots are hidden below our gums, and are covered with cementum instead of enamel. Cementum is hard, but it’s not nearly as strong as enamel.

  • Just below a tooth’s enamel and cementum layers, we have dentin.

Dentin is a hard tissue, only a little softer than enamel. Most of our tooth is made of dentin. It surrounds and helps protect the center of the tooth and supports the enamel and cementum on the outside.

  • Inside the center of each tooth, there’s an area called the pulp chamber.

The pulp holds tiny blood vessels and nerves. The blood vessels give the pulp nutrients, and the nerves are the reason that our teeth can feel sensitivity or pain.

Inside the roots, we also find pulp in the root canals. These canals are very small tunnels that run from the pulp chamber down through the root, ending in a tiny hole in the tip of the root. Blood vessels and nerves running through the canals connect the pulp tissue to our bodies’ blood and nervous systems.

Around your roots, there’s a lot going on, too. Smaller teeth like the incisors, our front teeth, usually have only one root. Bigger teeth, like molars, usually have two or three roots. And while you’re busy biting and chewing, what’s holding these roots in place?

  • In your jaws, you have a spot where each tooth fits called a socket. But your tooth roots don’t just sit in the socket. That wouldn’t be very secure!
  • Instead, you have a periodontal ligament surrounding the roots of each tooth. Think of the ligament as groups of tissue fibers that can attach to both the cementum on your root and the bone in your jaw. This double attachment holds your teeth firmly in place. The ligament also helps cushion your teeth from the heavy pressures of chewing.
  • To make things even safer for your roots, your gums help cover them and protect them from bacteria and decay.

As you can see, your body is working hard to protect your roots. What’s the best thing you can do to keep your roots healthy? Do everything you’re already doing!

  • Keep up with your brushing and flossing, and your visits to our office. These good habits protect the teeth and gums you can see, and also the roots that you can’t see.
  • Avoid oral habits that put lots of pressure on your teeth and roots. Biting down on pencils, or ice, or nut shells, or anything not meant for regular eating means you’re risking a cracked tooth.
  • Be safe! Wear your mouthguard when you’re active.
  • Don’t wait to tell your adult if your tooth hurts. Remember, those nerves inside your teeth and roots are there to warn you if your tooth is damaged. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will be able to find out what’s wrong and have you feeling better in no time.

Even though you can’t see them, your roots are one important reason you have your beautiful smile. Taking good care of your teeth now is a way to make sure you have beautiful, healthy smiles for a lifetime!

Is Coffee Damaging Your Smile?

January 5th, 2023

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. Many people have a cup, or two, or even three a day. It’s common to drink it in the morning to wake up and get ready for the day, as an afternoon pick-me-up, or just to catch up with a coworker or friend.

These days there are many different kinds of coffee flavors to enjoy, so it’s almost impossible for a person not to like it. But as delicious as coffee is, it’s worthwhile to be aware of the effects it has on our dental health.

Coffee contains a lot of tannic acid, which is what causes its dark color. Tannic acid ingrains itself into the grooves of tooth enamel, and that leads to serious stains. In addition to containing tannic acid, the fact that coffee is generally served very hot makes your teeth expand and contract, which allows the stains to penetrate even farther into the enamel.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team know it’s not easy to kick the caffeine habit. If you find yourself needing a cup of joe every day, here are some helpful tips to consider:

  • Switch to decaf coffee.
  • Make it a habit to drink a glass of water with your coffee to rinse away the acid.
  • Try enjoying your coffee with a straw so the tannic acid makes less contact with your front and lower teeth.
  • Pop in a piece of gum after your coffee to help prevent a dry mouth.

If you’re feeling ambitious, you might find that setting a limit on the number of cups of coffee you have per week or even per day can be helpful. You are always welcome to contact our Anchorage, AK office to discuss potential whitening options as well. We’re here to help!

What is an Impacted Tooth?

December 29th, 2022

You may have heard this term the first time you or a friend got your wisdom teeth. That makes sense, as wisdom teeth are the teeth most often impacted in teenagers and young adults. But other permanent teeth can be impacted as well. What exactly do we mean by “impacted teeth,” and what can we do to treat them?

The term “impacted” means that somehow a tooth has been blocked from erupting properly. A tooth may be completely blocked by another tooth, erupt in the wrong space, or even come in from the wrong direction. Depending on the teeth involved, there are several different options for treatment.

From Baby Teeth to Permanent Teeth

Normally, when children lose a baby tooth, a permanent tooth is right there, ready to take its place. But teeth don’t always behave according to plan. Occasionally, that baby tooth just won’t budge, and the permanent tooth starts to erupt behind it. When this happens, a simple baby tooth extraction will often let the permanent tooth move into its proper position on schedule.

A more complicated situation develops when upper teeth are impacted because there isn’t enough space in the mouth for them. In this case, a device called a palatal expander might be used to gradually widen the upper jaw to allow the permanent teeth to erupt without crowding.

In other rare cases, a tooth (often the canine) fails to erupt and may require oral surgery to uncover it, followed by orthodontic treatment to guide it into position.

Impacted teeth can result from other causes as well, and every impacted tooth should be treated as quickly as possible. Left untreated, the teeth can fail to erupt at all or erupt in the wrong place, crowd other permanent teeth, damage the roots of the teeth near them, and lead to difficulties eating and dental pain.

Wisdom teeth

Wisdom teeth are often a problem because there is simply not enough room in the jaw for them.

Wisdom teeth that are completely impacted (still in the jawbone) can sometimes be left alone if they aren’t causing other problems. But if impacted wisdom teeth develop cysts, affect the teeth around them, or lead to other dental complications, they should be extracted.

Partially erupted teeth, those that have begun to emerge through the gums but don’t erupt fully, can be the source of different gum and tooth problems. Because the gum tissue overlaps the tooth, food particles and bacteria can become trapped, leading to rapid tooth decay and even infection. In this case, extraction is probably the best option.

Be Proactive

The term “impacted” actually comes from the Latin root meaning “pushed against.” But teeth that don’t erupt at the right time, in the right place, can have a different kind of impact on dental health and appearance. And the earlier we can catch these problems, the easier it is to treat them.

Regular exams and X-rays with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at our Anchorage, AK office will show the progress of the teeth even before they erupt, and if there will be the space for them to fit in the mouth properly. We may recommend a visit to the orthodontist by the age of seven to see if there are any signs of potential orthodontic problems.

Intervention at an early stage can prevent potential problems from becoming major ones. That is why it’s so important to be proactive when teeth are erupting in children and young adults. After all, a healthy, confident smile makes a real impact!

Fewer Adults are Visiting the Dentist

December 29th, 2022

Our team at Pediatric Dental Associates recently learned that in the decade between 2000 and 2010, the amount of adults who regularly visited their dentist declined, according to research released by the American Dental Association's Health Policy Resources Center (HPRC). In fact, the HPRC found that the percentage of adults who had regular checkups every six months declined from 41 percent in 2003 to 37 percent in 2010. The largest decline in dental care occurred in the 35- to 49-year-old age group. That’s down from 43 percent in 2003 to just 38 percent in 2010.

There is some good news, however. While adult visits may have decreased, children's visits were on the rise, particularly among low-income families. More low-income children are visiting the dentist now than they were ten years ago. And the HPRC notes that between 2000 and 2010, dental visits among low-income children increased in 47 states.

Have you ever wondered why the American Dental Association and Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous recommend that you come in for a dental checkup and cleaning every six months? While daily oral hygiene habits are essential to good oral health, professional dental cleanings at Pediatric Dental Associates ensure your and your child’s teeth are treated to a deeper level of cleaning. In addition to a thorough cleaning and teeth polishing, regular visits at our Anchorage, AK office help us detect and prevent the onset of tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. During your visit, we’ll check the health of your mouth, teeth, gums, cheeks, and tongue for symptoms of any oral disease. We will also check old fillings and restorations, as these can wear away over time from constant chewing, clenching, or grinding at night.

If you are predisposed to oral diseases due to age, pregnancy, tobacco use, or medical conditions such as diabetes or dry mouth, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous may recommend you visit our office more often than every six months.

If you are overdue for your next checkup and cleaning, please give us a call to schedule an appointment!

What’s in Your Backpack?

December 22nd, 2022

Hiking is a great way to appreciate the beauty of nature, to get away from the stresses of daily life, and, of course, to challenge yourself physically. While you’re packing away your sunscreen and your first aid kit, do your body another favor—take a minute to include some lightweight, dental-friendly items.

  • Snacks

When you’re exerting yourself, snacks that provide quick energy on the go are a must. Granola, trail mix, energy bars, candy, dried fruit—these are the foods we think of as trail food, and we generally get that quick energy boost from the sugars and starches they contain. As it happens, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team strongly recommend you pick snack options other than sugary and starchy foods. Why? Because many sugars and starches provide oral bacteria the food they need to produce acids. These acids weaken enamel and damage our teeth. And these common trail foods often have the added “bonus” of sticking to the teeth, leaving acids even more opportunity to attack. Don’t give up the energy boost you need for a safe hike, but do yourself and your teeth a favor and look for the healthiest granola, energy bars, and gorp out there.

Other suggestions for trail treats that are also a treat for teeth? If you need a chocolate pick-me-up, try dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has more caffeine that milk chocolate and less sugar. (It has other health benefits as well that you might want to look up after your hike.) If you like nuts and seeds, take softer nuts, or sliced nuts—a good source of energy and not likely to provide as much stress on your teeth when you’re in the field. (Shell them beforehand—don’t ever use your teeth as a nutcracker!) Similarly, if you take seeds, leave the shells at home. If you like crackers, try whole grains. Looking for protein? How about a tuna pouch instead of chewy beef jerky?

  • Hydrate

Water is always the go-to beverage. Pre-hydrate even before setting out, and have plenty on hand for your trek. Many hiking sources suggest two cups of fluids per hour of activity. (And in hot or humid weather or at high altitudes, you could need even more.) There are actually hiking water calculators online, which can give you a good estimate on how much you’ll need for your trip, taking into account your age, weight, level of activity, and other factors. Because water can get heavy, plan a lengthy hike around the availability of fountains or other clean water sources if necessary.

What if you feel the need for more than water? If you are getting a good workout, you’re probably losing electrolytes. Generally, sports drinks aren’t on the dental menu. They tend to be loaded with sugar and carbs—good for energy, bad for teeth. Sports drinks can be as acidic and hard on your enamel as sodas. But if you need those electrolytes on a long hike, don’t feel guilty. There are many options—choose the healthiest one for you and your workout level.

  • Be prepared!

While you are probably already packing a mini-first aid kit for long hikes, think about a lightweight dental emergency kit as well. These are readily available online and in outdoors stores, and usually contain supplies like cotton balls, dental floss, oral pain relievers, even temporary fillings, in a lightweight bag.

And once your hike is done? Rehydrate, and don’t forget to treat your teeth to a good brushing and flossing when you get home.

Got all that? Great! Now, go take a hike!

Improve your oral health with xylitol!

December 22nd, 2022

Xylitol tastes sweet, but unlike sugar, it is not converted to acid that can cause your teeth to decay. It’s a naturally occurring sweetener found in plants, fruits, and vegetables; even the human body produces it in small amounts. Xylitol is widely used in sugar-free chewing gum, mints, candies, and even certain forms of medicine.

The World Health Organization has approved xylitol because only a small amount is needed for its health benefits. It’s even safe for diabetics, with a glycemic index of only seven. Xylitol has 40% fewer calories than other types of carbs: less than three calories per gram.

So how can this natural sweetener benefit your oral health? Take a look at the facts. Tooth decay starts when bacteria consumes the sugars left in your mouth. When you eat sugary foods, the bacteria on your teeth will multiply and make acid that can destroy your enamel.

Xylitol is derived from fibrous parts of plants, so it does not break down like a regular sugar. It actually helps maintain a neutral pH level in the mouth, which in turn prevents bacteria from sticking to the teeth. The bacteria are then unable to digest xylitol, which means your teeth won’t develop enamel damage and cavities.

Studies have shown the consumption of xylitol as a sugar substitute or a dietary addition had a dramatic reduction in new cavities and even reversed existing cavities. These effects are long lasting: low cavity rates remained years after the trials were done.

When there’s less bacteria and acid in your mouth due to xylitol, your teeth stay healthier. The more frequently it’s ingested, the more you will prevent enamel damage.

Aim to consume around five grams a day, or one gram every three hours if possible. You can do this by consuming gum, tablets, candy, or mints that have xylitol as one of the first ingredients after your meals. You can find these products in health food stores and specialty grocery stores.

Since xylitol replaces sugar on a one-to-one ratio, it’s used in several common items:

  • Toothpaste
  • Mouth rinse
  • Baby oral wipes, gel, and pacifiers
  • Nasal wash
  • Dry mouth spray
  • Granulated forms for cooking
  • Granulated packets to add to drinks
  • Commercially prepared foods

Make sure to pick up items that contain xylitol the next time you’re at the store! This is an easy way to maintain great oral health. If you have specific questions about xylitol, ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous during your next appointment at our Anchorage, AK office.

Whitening Before Veneers—A Bright Idea?

December 15th, 2022

It’s time. You’ve decided. You’re going to get veneers. Whether it’s to repair a cracked or chipped tooth, to cover discoloration brought on by a root canal or medical condition, to fill in gaps between teeth, or for any other cosmetic reason, veneers can give you back your natural, confident smile.

And now you have just one more decision to make: should you whiten your teeth beforehand?

Many dental professionals find that, for most of us, the best results occur with professional whitening before veneer placement. Why?

  • Your veneers will be carefully matched to the teeth surrounding them.

You don’t want your veneers to look anything but natural, and so Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will make sure that their color is indistinguishable from your other teeth. But there is one important difference between tooth enamel and veneers:

  • Teeth are porous.

As hard as it is, enamel is still porous. And the fact that teeth are porous means that teeth can discolor over time. Coffee, tea, red wine, sodas, darkly hued fruits, and fruit juices—teeth readily absorb pigments from foods. And smoking?  Not only one of the worst habits for your health, it’s one of the major causes of tooth discoloration. This is the downside of having porous enamel.

The upside? The fact that enamel is porous also means that you can brighten your smile with a whitening procedure.

  • Veneers aren’t as porous.

Veneers are generally made of porcelain or a composite resin, with some key differences between them.

Porcelain has a translucent quality that looks like natural enamel, and it is very durable. Porcelain veneers are recommended when teeth have significant chips or gaps. They are also especially stain-resistant.

Composite veneers aren’t as expensive, and usually don’t need as much tooth structure removed to bond them to the tooth. They might not last as long as porcelain, and they aren’t quite as resistant to staining.

When you visit our Anchorage, AK office, we can discuss the pros and cons to find the perfect veneers for your needs. Just remember,

  • Once created, veneers can’t change color.

Veneer color should be considered permanent. If your porcelain veneers seem to have dimmed a bit, often a gentle professional polishing will bring them back to their original shine. Composite veneers, as well, can respond to polishing and cleaning. This is the upside of permanent veneer color.

The downside? Veneers can’t be whitened to match your newly whitened tooth enamel. If you decide to whiten your teeth at a later date, your veneers might appear darker than your surrounding teeth. If you want to change veneer color, you will need to replace your veneers. So . . .

Now that you’ve decided to transform your smile with veneers, take a little extra time to talk to your dentist. Find out if whitening makes sense for you for a perfect, uniform match between your other teeth and your veneers.  And then be ready to enjoy your matchless smile!

When Snoring Becomes More Than Just Annoying

December 15th, 2022

Snoring occurs when the tissues in the throat relax enough to block part of our airways, or physical conditions such as enlarged tonsils or a deviated septum prevent air from flowing freely. This obstruction causes the tissues around the airway to vibrate, producing that familiar, unpleasant sound. But sometimes, loud, constant snoring is a sign of a condition called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). With OSA, the sleeper actually stops breathing for a few seconds at a time, or, in some cases, even longer. The body wakes to breathe again properly, so we move from the deep sleep we need to keep ourselves healthy mentally and physically to a lighter state of sleep or wakefulness—and this disruption of the sleep cycle can happen dozens of times an hour.

The potential problems caused by sleep apnea are many. You could suffer from daily morning headaches, sore throats, and dry mouth (which can lead to tooth and gum problems). You might find yourself moody, depressed or forgetful. Irritability and loss of libido are common consequences of sleep apnea. Any or all of these problems can make getting through each day a struggle.

Even worse, sleep apnea can lead to very dangerous situations. You could fall asleep while working, watching your children, or even driving. Sleep apnea has been linked to very serious conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. And for those who suffer from this disorder, general anesthesia or pain medication can lead to severe or even fatal consequences.

You should be examined for sleep apnea if you or a loved one notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Snoring loudly enough to disturb your sleep or the sleep of others
  • Waking up gasping for air
  • Pauses between normal breathing during sleep
  • Continual drowsiness during the day
  • Waking up with headaches, sore throats or dry mouth regularly
  • Personality changes

If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at our Anchorage, AK office. We can point you in the right direction for treatment, including the possibility of crafting an orthodontic oral appliance to maintain open airways as you sleep. But whatever treatment you and your doctors decide on, the important part is following through. Don’t let an annoying situation become a dangerous, and even life-threatening, one.

Taking Charge of Your Dental Health

December 8th, 2022

Now that you’re a teenager, you have a lot more responsibility and independence. Choosing high school classes and electives. Getting a driver’s license. Landing your first job. And those new responsibilities extend to your dental health as well.

  • Mouthguards

If you have a mouthguard for sports or athletic activities, wear it! Whether you have an over-the-counter device or a custom fabricated guard, it won’t do you any good hiding in your locker. A mouthguard cuts down on tooth and facial injuries caused by falls, physical contact, or other accidents that might happen in your active life. And if you wear braces, ask about a mouthguard designed to fit around them. These custom devices protect your braces and your mouth.

  • Gum Health

Part of adolescence is adapting to all the changes your body is going through. But an increased chance of gingivitis, perhaps caused by hormonal changes, is not something you want to adapt to. You might suspect you have gingivitis, or early gum disease, if your gums are swollen, red, bleeding, or easily irritated. Let us know about your concerns. With proper dental care (brushing, flossing, cutting down on sugars and carbs), your gums will be healthy again in no time.

  • Wisdom Teeth

Your teen years might be the time that your wisdom teeth make their appearance. We could discover them at one of your visits, or you may suddenly notice new teeth emerging behind your molars. If there’s room for your wisdom teeth and they are erupting (coming in) without problems, you might be good to go. But if there’s no room, or if you have pain or infection, or if they are causing damage to the teeth next to them, extraction might be necessary. Talk to us about all your options.

  • Tobacco

You’re making decisions now that will affect the rest of your life. Don’t start using tobacco products, or if you’ve started, stop before it becomes even more addicting. Quitting tobacco is one of the best decisions you will make for your health—and this includes your dental health. Studies have shown that smokers and other tobacco users suffer much higher rates of oral cancer, serious gum disease, and early tooth loss. Set yourself up for decades of better health!

Finally, remember that sticking with your dental routine—two minutes of brushing morning and night and thorough flossing each day—will keep your gums and teeth healthy throughout your teen years. And, if you have any questions about your dental health in general, or a specific dental concern, give our Anchorage, AK office a call! We’re here to work with you for a lifetime of beautiful smiles.

Losing a Baby Tooth Prematurely

December 8th, 2022

Losing a baby tooth is often an exciting event in a child’s life. It’s a sign your child is growing up, and might even bring a surprise from the Tooth Fairy (or other generous party). But sometimes, a baby tooth is lost due to injury or accident. Don’t panic, but do call our Anchorage, AK office as soon as possible.

If Your Child Loses a Tooth

It is important to see your child quickly when a baby tooth is lost through injury. The underlying adult tooth might be affected as well, so it’s always best to come in for an examination of the injured area. The American Dental Association recommends that you find the lost tooth, keep it moist, and bring it with you to the office. Call Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous immediately, and we will let you know the best way to treat your child and deal with the lost tooth.

Baby Teeth Are Important

There are several important reasons to look after your child’s first teeth. Baby teeth not only help with speech and jaw development, but they serve as space holders for permanent teeth. If a primary tooth is lost too early, a permanent tooth might “drift” into the empty space and cause crowding or crookedness.

Space Maintainer

A space maintainer is an appliance that does exactly that—keeps the lost baby tooth’s space free so that the correct permanent tooth will erupt in the proper position. The need for a space maintainer depends on several factors, including your child’s age when the baby tooth is lost and which tooth or teeth are involved. We will be happy to address any concerns you might have about whether or not a space maintainer is needed.

It is important to remember that there are solutions if the Tooth Fairy arrives at your house unexpectedly. Keep calm, call our office, and reassure your child that his or her smile is still beautiful!

 

Antibiotic Prophylaxis or Premedication

December 1st, 2022

In years past, it was often recommended that dental patients who had a history of heart problems or other conditions, such as joint implants, be given antibiotics before any dental work. This pre-treatment is called prophylaxis, based on the Greek words for “protecting beforehand.” Why would Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous suggest this protection? It has to do with possible effects of oral bacteria on the rest of the body.

Our bodies are home to bacteria which are common in our mouths, but which can be dangerous elsewhere. If these oral bacteria get into the bloodstream, they can collect around the heart valve, the heart lining, or blood vessels. A rare, but often extremely serious, infection called infective endocarditis can result.

It is no longer recommended that every patient with a heart condition take antibiotics before dental procedures. Doctors worry about adverse effects from antibiotics or, more generally, that an overuse of antibiotics in the general population will lead to more strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

There are some patients, however, who are at a higher risk of developing infective endocarditis, and who should always use preventative antibiotics. Generally, premedication is advised if you have one of these risk factors:

  • A history of infective endocarditis
  • Certain congenital heart conditions (heart conditions present since birth)
  • An artificial heart valve
  • A heart transplant

Your cardiologist will know if prophylaxis is advisable, and if you are taking any drugs which could interact with antibiotics. Always talk to your doctor about any dental procedures you are planning, particularly if they are invasive procedures such as gum surgery or extractions.

If you believe you would benefit from antibiotics before dental treatment at our Anchorage, AK office, the most important first step is to talk with your doctors. We are trained to know which pre-existing health conditions call for prophylaxis, which dental procedures require them, which antibiotics to use, and when to take them. Tell us about any health conditions you have, especially cardiac or vascular issues, and any medication allergies. Working with you and your doctor to protect your health is our first priority, and having a complete picture of your medical health will let us know if antibiotic prophylaxis is right for you.

How do I clean my baby’s teeth?

December 1st, 2022

Creating good dental hygiene habits early in your child’s life is essential to the health of his or her teeth, even when your infant doesn’t have any. By starting now, you can set the foundation for your son or daughter’s oral health later on in life.

When do I start?

The best time to begin brushing your baby’s teeth is before that first tooth ever comes in. Wipe your little one’s gums gently with a soft washcloth soaked in warm water every day. Not only will this help to get rid of bacteria in the mouth, but it will also familiarize your child with a daily brushing routine.

What do I use?

When your child’s teeth begin to emerge, it’s time to switch to a baby toothbrush. Select one with a big grip for your hand and a small head that’s easy to maneuver in your baby’s mouth.

Your little one won’t need toothpaste until he or she is about a year old; and even then, only a small amount is necessary. Apply an amount the size of a grain of rice and move to a pea-sized amount when your infant is about two years old.

By around six years, your child will probably rinse and spit without your help. At this time, you may introduce a child-friendly fluoride mouthwash.

How do I do it?

Until about age five or six, it’s likely your child will still need your help with brushing teeth. Gently scrub over all the teeth and gums, even where teeth have yet to come in. It may be helpful to explain what you are doing and how you are doing it, so your toddler can learn to brush her or his teeth alone.

Paired with regular visits with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at our Anchorage, AK office, proper hygiene habits instilled in your child early on will set up a good foundation for a healthy mouth in the future.

Energy Drinks and Your Teeth

November 24th, 2022

When working out, studying late, or any time we feel like a bit of a boost would come in handy, energy drinks are a common go-to for many teens and adults. Energy drinks promise more focus and vitality, all wrapped up in clever names and eye-catching graphic designs. What they can’t promise, though, is a drink that’s good for your dental health.

Why? Because most energy drinks come with a high concentration of caffeine, acids, and/or sugar.

  • Caffeine Consequences

Before we talk about your dental health, a word about caffeine. Too much caffeine in a short period can leave us jittery, anxious, irritable, and sleepless. A cup of coffee has about 100 mg of caffeine, and some energy drinks have three to four times that much.

While the recommended daily limit for adults who aren’t pregnant is 400 mg of caffeine, doctors suggest a much lower limit for children and teenagers. Among other reasons, sleep is especially important for developing brains and bodies, and caffeine interferes with healthy sleep.

You might have to go online to find out how various energy drinks measure up and compare in terms of caffeine, but taking the time to check them out is well worth it. Now, back to your dental health!

  • Acid Attacks

Many energy drinks are very acidic. The tart flavors of energy drinks might please your palate, but they attack your enamel.

Our mouths are their healthiest when our saliva is neutral, balanced between acidic and basic on the pH scale. That’s somewhere around a 7 on a scale of 0-14, where lower numbers mean more acidic conditions. That burning feeling we get from acid reflux when stomach acids back up? That’s because stomach acid is a 1-2 on the pH scale.  Many energy drinks rate an eye-opening (and not in an energetic way!) 1.5-3.5 on the pH scale, which means your teeth are bathing in acids.

Even tooth enamel, the strongest substance in the body, can’t stand up to these acids, because acids break down the mineral structure of your enamel. If your teeth are more sensitive to heat and cold, if they appear darker as the white outer layer of enamel thins, if your dentist has discovered weak spots in your enamel—you might be experiencing demineralization. Once enamel is gone, it can’t be replaced.

  • Surplus Sugar

A well-known source of quick energy is sugar. A little more biology and chemistry here—sugar is a food which our bodies can break down quickly. And when sugar molecules break down, this breakdown releases energy—energy which we use to fuel essential bodily functions. This quick burst of sugar energy is why many energy drinks contain lots of added sugar. Some brands have more than 60 grams of sugar per serving—and 60 grams is almost 5 tablespoons!

We get all the sugar we require for our daily energy needs from the natural sugars found in fruits, dairy, even some vegetables and grains. With added sugars, we’re just adding empty calories, affecting the balance of our blood sugar and hormones, and increasing the risk of chronic health conditions—all while providing a convenient food source for the bacteria in plaque.

Because, just like our bodies find it easy to convert sugar to energy, the oral bacteria which cause cavities find it easy to convert sugar to acids. And just like the acids in foods, these acids attack the tooth’s mineral structure and break down its strength. Eventually, the weak spots in enamel grow larger and deeper and become cavities.

While most labels don’t let you know how much caffeine you’re getting, or the pH of the liquid inside, you can see how much sugar is being added to your diet with every can or bottle. Do look for added sugars before you choose your beverages.

If you have several energy drinks a day, a soft drink or two, plus the occasional sports drink—you’re bathing your teeth in acids and sugar all day long. With any beverage high in sugars and acids, limit your consumption. Rinse with water afterward, and don’t brush for about an hour to give your enamel time to remineralize after being exposed to the acids in your drink.

Better yet, choose healthier alternatives. Water is still the best way to hydrate. Try adding protein and carbs to your diet for more energy. Make sure you’re getting the vitamins you need with a balanced diet. If you see signs of enamel erosion, talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous. The temporary boost you get from a bottle of caffeine, acids, and sugar might seem tempting, but it can have long-lasting consequences for your dental health!

Fluoride Treatment: Do You Need One?

November 24th, 2022

Over the past decade, most people have been ingesting less and less fluoride. This is not such a great trend, since fluoride has a history of successfully reducing tooth decay and promoting good dental health. Most of us drink bottled water now, so many children and adults are not getting the optimum amount of fluoride they need. Of course, dental needs vary, depending on such factors as age, tooth sensitivity, medical conditions, and risk for cavities, but there are several ways to make sure you get the proper amount of fluoride.

Fluoride can be applied in the form of foam, varnish, or mouthwash. For children, topical fluoride can be useful in the early stages of development to ensure the future strength of enamel. For people who have a dry mouth as the result of medication to treat anxiety, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, or high cholesterol, a daily fluoride rinse is recommended, as well as a varnish treatment. 

If you’ve received or are receiving any form of cancer treatment, that could be affecting your dental health. If such is the case, fluoride varnish treatments are recommended prior to, during, and after chemotherapy. Getting an oral infection during cancer treatment can be especially harmful, so it’s worthwhile to do as much as you can to prevent that.

If you suspect you might be in need of a fluoride treatment or have any questions about the treatments Pediatric Dental Associates offers, please feel free to give our Anchorage, AK office a call!

Brushing Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making

November 17th, 2022

It’s great that you’re enthusiastic about your dental health! Here are some tips from Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team to make sure you are getting the most out of your brushing by avoiding common mistakes.

Choose the right brush

In almost every case, a soft brush provides the right amount of bristle-strength to clean your teeth and gums effectively. Hard bristles can damage sensitive enamel and gum tissue, so treat yourself kindly. Also, choose a brush head that’s the right size for your mouth, since a toothbrush that’s too large can be uncomfortable and unable to reach all the areas you need to brush.

Don’t keep your brush too long

Three months is about the average life of a toothbrush. Over time, bristles become frayed or worn and lose their effectiveness. It’s also a good idea to replace your brush after an illness.

Be gentle

Even with a soft brush, it’s possible to brush so hard that your enamel and gums are affected. Think of yourself as massaging your teeth and gums rather than scrubbing them.

Use proper technique

Using a “sawing” back-and-forth motion is hard on your enamel and misses plaque and debris between the teeth. Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle, especially at the gumline, to gently remove plaque. Use short strokes or a circular motion to clean as much of the surface and between the teeth as possible. Make sure you cover all the surfaces of your teeth: outside, inside, and chewing. And don’t forget your tongue!

Take your time

Brushing twice a day for two minutes each time is the standard. Most people brush much less; try using the stopwatch on your phone or a two-minute timer to make sure you are spending enough time brushing. On the other hand, if you brush too hard or too often, remember that over-brushing can lead to problems for your gums and enamel.

Your daily routine might be fast and furious, but your dental routine requires a gentle, methodical approach. Ask at your next visit to our Anchorage, AK office, and we will be happy to help you design the perfect brushing practices for your busy life.

Overall Health Can Be Influenced By Oral Hygiene

November 10th, 2022

Keeping on top of your oral health is key when it comes to making sure your whole body stays healthy. The bacteria that occur naturally in your mouth can produce harmful bacteria such as strep and staph, which can lead to serious infections and sickness.

When you follow good dental habits like daily brushing and flossing, and eat a healthy diet, you can discourage harmful bacteria from traveling from your mouth to other parts of your body. Protect yourself and learn more about the link between oral hygiene and a healthy body.

Until recently, tooth decay was more common because of the lack of regular dental care and research behind fluoride. Tooth decay is much less problematic today, due to fluoridated water and toothpastes that contain fluoride.

Nowadays, gum disease has replaced tooth decay as the most frequent dental problem. Periodontal disease is on the rise among adults because people don’t floss regularly and then ignore gum tenderness and bleeding. If left unchecked, periodontitis can cause inflammation that may cause harm to other parts of the body.

Oral Health and Chronic Disease

Many scientists believe inflammation-related infections can trigger systemic disease or intensify existing conditions. Remember, bacteria overgrowth in inflamed gum tissue is able to enter the bloodstream through your eating processes, which is why it’s so vital to visit our Anchorage, AK office if you notice sustained gum irritation and inflammation in your mouth.

Caring for your teeth and gums every day can prevent the onset of disease and save you trouble in the future with regard to your body’s health. If you think you may be showing signs of periodontal disease, or notice anything else out of the norm, please contact Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and schedule an appointment.

We want you to be proactive about your health!

Getting Ready for Winter

November 3rd, 2022

Winter Is Coming.

Okay, that sounded a lot more dramatic in a popular fantasy series. But here in the real world, winter is coming as well, so let’s look at some easy steps you can take to keep your teeth and gums healthy during this icy season.

Remember to Hydrate

Dehydration is dangerous for your health in general, and it’s also bad for your dental health. A dry mouth is more vulnerable to gum disease and tooth decay because there’s less saliva to help maintain a healthy oral environment. Saliva helps wash away food particles and bacteria, works to neutralize the cavity-causing acids they produce, and strengthens tooth enamel with its mineral content.

Summer means heat and perspiration—two obvious causes of dehydration. Winter, though, has its own more subtle ways to dry you out.

  • Just as you lose moisture through summer perspiration, you lose moisture with a winter workout as well. That foggy cloud you see when you exhale outdoors? That’s water vapor leaving your body.
  • Cold weather means it’s time to kick up the heating system a few degrees. But unlike heated summer outdoor air, heated winter indoor air is not as humid, so it’s more drying.
  • Some of us just aren’t as thirsty during winter months, and so we don’t hydrate as regularly as we do in the summer. And while summer menus tend to offer foods like salad, fruits, and iced drinks which automatically provide us with a lot of water content, winter menus? Not so much. Keep up with your daily recommended amount of water throughout the year for a healthier body and healthier teeth and gums.

Wear Your Mouthguard

Whether it’s skiing, hockey, snowboarding, or skating, those winter sports can be hard on your teeth. That’s why it’s important to wear your mouthguard when you’re getting the most out of the snow and ice. Mouthguards help prevent injuries to your teeth and provide protection for your jaw and mouth, too.

And a sport doesn’t have to involve snow and ice to be a winter hazard for your teeth. The combination of hard courts, flying elbows, and body contact make basketball a leader in the dental injuries competition. In fact, any sport which involves potential falls or personal contact is a good candidate for a mouthguard.

Mouthguards are available in several forms:

  • One-size-fits-all, pre-formed mouthguards can be found in drugstores and sporting goods stores.
  • “Boil-and-bite” models are warmed in hot water and then shaped when you bite down. The fit is somewhat more comfortable than a stock guard.
  • Custom-made guards from your dentist are precisely molded to your teeth and mouth, letting you speak and breathe more comfortably.

If you haven’t gotten a mouthguard yet, or your old high school guard was retired years ago, talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about a custom guard.  While the over-the-counter options are better than going unprotected, a custom mouthguard fits your teeth perfectly—and comfortably!

Get to the Bottom of Winter Sensitivity

That first breath of frosty air might be more alarming than invigorating when tooth pain and sensitivity makes being out in the cold an unpleasant experience. Sensitivity to cold air or warm winter drinks can be an important symptom, caused by a number of dental conditions such as:

  • Cracked teeth
  • Cavities
  • Exposed dentin (the layer of the tooth underneath your enamel)
  • Receding gums
  • Over-vigorous brushing

If the cold weather is keeping you indoors because of oral sensitivity, give us a call.

Even though this can be a very busy time of year, if you’re due for a checkup and cleaning at our Anchorage, AK office, or if you have any concerns about your teeth and gums, make time for your dental health. We want to make sure you’re ready to enjoy every frosty moment of the season!

Safety of Dental X-Ray Radiation

October 27th, 2022

We all want to live our healthiest lives. We know that part of keeping ourselves healthy is regular visits to our Anchorage, AK office for checkups and necessary dental work. And that dental work might require an X-ray. Should the amount of radiation in an X-ray concern us?

First, it is helpful to know that the radiation you are exposed to from a dental X-ray is very small. A set of most bitewing X-rays, for example, produces an amount of exposure about equal to the amount of background radiation we get from our normal surroundings in a typical day. We also take care to minimize your exposure even further by using specially designed equipment and protective shielding, and taking only necessary X-rays. If your child is very young, if you are pregnant, or if you have other health concerns, talk to us about the advisability of X-rays and whether they are essential to treatment.

Second, much of our careful general examination will be done visually. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can check for cavities and other problems and assess tooth and gum health. But sometimes, there are conditions which can’t be detected without an X-ray.

  • Decay that isn’t visible in an oral exam—if a small cavity develops between teeth, or is hidden underneath a filling, an X-ray will catch it before more damage can take place.
  • Infection—An X-ray will reveal infections such as abscesses that can damage both bone and tooth, and gum disease that has harmed bone and connective tissue.
  • Orthodontic and periodontal issues—We might need an X-ray to determine the spacing and development of your child’s incoming teeth and maturing jaw structure, to properly create braces for adults or children, or to place an implant within the jawbone.
  • If you are a new patient, it is helpful to have complete X-rays taken as a baseline of your current dental health and previous dental work. This baseline allows us to track tooth and jaw development, if necessary, and to evaluate any future changes that might be a concern. (If you have had X-rays taken in another office, we can help you have them transferred so we have a background of your dental history.)

Even though the radiation from a dental X-ray is minimal, be assured that we will never request any unnecessary procedure. When we recommend an X-ray, we do so to make sure there is no decay or infection threatening the health of your gums and teeth, and that we have the essential knowledge we need to treat any dental, periodontal, or orthodontic condition. Because we all want to live our healthiest lives—and part of that healthy life is both active and proactive dental care.

Tooth Sensitivity

October 20th, 2022

Most of us know that unpleasant feeling. You’re happily enjoying an icy milkshake with lunch or having a piping hot cappuccino break, and suddenly an innocent binge turns to cringe—your tooth sensitivity has crossed another item off the menu. If heat, cold, even the act of brushing cause you tooth discomfort, we have solutions for you. Let’s look at some of the common reasons for tooth sensitivity and how to prevent it.

  • Bad Brushing Habits

There can be too much of a good thing! Aggressive brushing, especially with firm toothbrushes, can damage enamel. When the dentin underneath is exposed, heat and cold can reach the sensitive inner tooth and trigger discomfort.

Go easy on yourself: Switch to a soft bristled or electric toothbrush and brush thoroughly but gently. It’s often suggested that we massage rather than scrub. We can also recommend toothpastes that can help reduce sensitivity.

  • Gum Disease

As gum disease progresses, the gums start to pull away from the teeth and expose their roots. Even though the roots are protected by cementum, a covering a lot like enamel, they are more sensitive to heat and cold. And if you are an aggressive brusher, the cementum is more easily damaged than enamel, leaving the sensitive roots even less protected.

Prevention is the answer: Brushing and flossing help prevent gum disease, as do your regular exams and cleanings. If you are suffering from more advanced gum disease (periodontitis), Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can suggest advanced treatment to protect your roots, such as deep cleanings and gum grafts. Don’t let periodontitis go untreated, as it can lead to infection and even tooth loss.

  • Your Diet

If your enamel is already compromised, sugary foods and acidic foods can cause tooth discomfort.

Be patient: Until your sensitivity problem is under control, avoiding these types of foods will help. On the other hand, sugary and acidic foods aren’t the ideal dental diet, so cutting back is not a bad idea.

  • Your Dental Products

Mouthwash, whitening toothpastes and home whitening products contain substances such as alcohol or bleaching agents that can cause sensitivity in some users.

Make some changes to your shopping list: Choose products without alcohol or whiteners. Talk to us about gentler alternatives for mouthwashes and whitening.

  • Tooth Injuries

If you have a cavity, a broken filling, a cracked tooth, or some other injury to the tooth, sensitivity can be a warning sign.

Take care of yourself: Call our Anchorage, AK office immediately if you have prolonged sensitivity or any other painful symptom. Repairing and restoring your damaged tooth should eliminate this discomfort. And, while it is often common to experience some degree of sensitivity after dental work, if this doesn’t clear up within a short time, let us know.

  • Teeth Grinding

Because grinding also wears away enamel, tooth grinders often suffer from sensitive teeth.

Protect yourself: We can fit you for a custom nightguard that will eliminate the nightly stress on your enamel. It can also help the tooth and jaw pain caused by grinding.

Talk to us about any sensitivity you have been experiencing, especially if it has been going on for a while or is causing you real discomfort. We will explore the possible reasons for your tooth sensitivity and help you find solutions. After all, you should feel free to enjoy any item on the menu, in the very best of dental health.

Start Your Day Off with a (Healthy) Smile!

October 13th, 2022

If there’s one meal that can claim the title of “Sweetest Meal of the Day,” it’s almost certainly breakfast. Sugary cereals, syrup-covered waffles, oatmeal with honey, cinnamon toast (which is literally sugar poured on toast)—it’s hard to imagine another menu even coming close. But you’re trying to keep your diet as healthy as possible. What to do?

First, no need to deprive yourself of the occasional pastry or stack of pancakes. The real problem with breakfast isn’t so much sugar as it is added sugar.

  • Just a Spoonful of Sugar? What’s So Bad About That?

Nothing! Many healthy foods have natural sugars. Milk contains lactose sugar, and it also contains calcium and is enriched with vitamin D—both of which are essential for strong bones and teeth. Fruits get their sweetness from a sugar called fructose, and deliciously provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber to our diets.

Even processed sugar is surprisingly low in calories. In fact, a teaspoon of white sugar has only about 15 calories. But this teaspoon is also rich in nutrients for cavity-causing bacteria. The oral bacteria in plaque use sugars and carbohydrates from food particles as a fuel source to produce acids. These acids erode enamel and lead to cavities.

Choosing breakfast foods without additional sugars, then, is an easy way to reduce the number of empty calories in your diet while safeguarding the health of your teeth. We have a few suggestions.

  • Be Selective with Cereals

If the word “sugar” or “honey” or appears on the box, that’s a hint that your favorite cereal is heavy on the sugar. But there’s a more scientific way to tell just how much sugar is in that spoonful.

While the colorful packaging and playful mascots are eye-catching, check the black-and-white panel with nutritional facts found on every box. If one serving equals 27 grams, and the sugar in that serving equals 15 grams, you know you have a problem. And cereals marketed to children are especially “rich” in added sugar.

But luckily, you don’t need to give up your morning bowl. Many cold cereals are available that offer whole grains, protein, and fiber without a lot of added sugar. Spend some time in the cereal aisle comparing, or, to make life easier, there are many online sites which recommend the best (and worst) cereals in terms of sugar content.

  • Use Your Judgment with Juices

Fruits are packed with important nutrients. Not only do they provide essential vitamins and minerals, they’re a great source of water and fiber. If you drink 100% fruit juice, you are getting the benefit of most of the vitamins and minerals found in fruit. (You’re also getting less of the fruit’s natural fiber, and more of the fruit’s natural sugar, so consider fresh fruit as an option occasionally.)

But when fruit juice comes with “cocktail,” or “punch,” or “ade” attached to the end of it, there’s often something else attached—added sugar. For natural fruit flavor and the least amount of sugar, stay with 100% unsweetened fruit juice.

  • Search Out “Surprise” Sugars

Remember the childhood excitement of searching through your cereal box for the prize inside? Fun! What’s not so much fun? The surprises you might find when you search through the labels on your favorite breakfast items—because added sugars make their stealthy way into many of our morning favorites.

When you compare plain, Greek, and low-fat yogurts, for example, the low-fat options are often higher in added sugar. A container of low-fat yogurt can provide 19 grams of sugar—that’s a tablespoon and a half!

And while you’re at it, be sure to compare the sugar content in granola bars. Some are full of nuts and grains, and some are full of added sugar.

Going out for a breakfast smoothie? Those can contain 70 grams of sugar and more. Making your own at home might be a little more time-consuming, but if you use fresh fruit as your sweetener, you can make sure that what you’re not consuming is added sugar. If you’re on the go, check out all-fruit options at your favorite smoothie shop.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team aren’t asking you to eliminate sugar from your breakfast diet altogether. (Everyone loves a doughnut now and again.) But substituting some alternatives for your regular menu choices can reduce the amount of added sugars by tablespoons every meal. That’s another great reason to greet the morning with a smile!

Most Valuable Dental Treatments

October 6th, 2022

At Pediatric Dental Associates, we work to find a dental plan that will work best and most effectively for you. But we’ve found that three treatments tend to be the most common and useful. If you ever find yourself in any of the following situations, we suggest you look at these options.

If you’ve lost teeth due to trauma, fracture, or decay, dental implants are a great choice. With all the technology available to us now, dental implants look and function exactly the way a natural tooth would. They blend in perfectly and are custom made to fit you. They’re a great investment that will restore the balance to your smile.

If you struggle with stress and catch yourself clenching or grinding your jaw, you may want to consider a bite guard. Constant grinding of teeth is dangerous for fillings and crowns, as well as natural teeth. It can cause serious joint inflammation as well as headaches. Luckily, bite guards can be worn night or day (depending on what you need), and are a great way to prevent further grinding.

Finally, there’s teeth whitening. It’s not uncommon for patients to want to brighten their smile, and the best way to do it by far is with in-office tooth whitening. There are many DIY options out there, of course, but in-office whitening has greater benefits.

When the whitening gel is applied to your teeth, we make sure your gums are protected. The results are generally faster and last longer with this approach, as well. Other methods may work, but they typically don’t last as long; sometimes they may not fully whiten all areas of your teeth.

No treatment is as easy and free of challenges as it seems. You still have to care for implants like regular teeth, which means no skimping on brushing and flossing just because they’re fake. Bite guards must be worn regularly to be effective. They also must be customized for your teeth; otherwise, they can be uncomfortable.

Whitening may cause temporary sensitivity in some mouths. For others, genetics may prevent you from achieving the precise shade you want.

If you have additional questions, feel free to call our Anchorage, AK office. Our team is here to help you achieve your best possible smile!

The Connection Between Your Mouth and Your Heart

September 29th, 2022

At Pediatric Dental Associates, we know your dental health is closely connected to your overall health. We also know that the mouth can oftentimes be the first place to show signs of other bodily health issues.

Studies have shown possible links between periodontal (gum) disease and heart disease, and researchers have found that people with gum disease have an elevated risk of suffering from a stroke or developing coronary artery disease. Believe it or not, an estimated 70 to 80 percent of North American adults currently have some form of gum disease.

Gum disease, which affects the tissues that surround and support the teeth, is an infection caused by a sticky film of bacteria called plaque that forms on the teeth, mainly along the gum line. In its early stages, called gingivitis, gum disease can be treated by Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and often reversed.

To help keep your mouth and heart healthy, we’ve provided following tips to help prevent problems before they arise:

  • Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day. Make sure you brush gently beneath the gum line around each tooth.
  • Floss at least once a day.
  • Have a dental checkup and cleaning twice a year, or as recommended.
  • Eat a healthy diet. This includes avoiding foods with a high concentration of sugars or starches and consuming more fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid tobacco and copious levels of alcohol. If you smoke, quit. And remember, heavy drinking dramatically increases the risk of developing mouth and throat cancer.

Don’t put off your next visit to Pediatric Dental Associates any longer! If it has been a while since your last visit to our Anchorage, AK office, please give us a call!

Best Tips to Make Your Teeth Look Whiter

September 22nd, 2022

Your teeth were once naturally white and bright. Wouldn't it be great to keep them that way all of your life? Unfortunately, everyday living can dim our smiles. Food, coffee, some juices, and soft drinks can stain your teeth. Poor brushing and flossing can also leave tooth stains. Injuries to teeth or gums can cause some yellowing as well, and in some cases, medicines can discolor teeth.

So, you may need some extra help to maintain or restore your teeth's natural beauty. Here are some of the best ways to whiten your teeth:

1. Reduce additional staining by drinking with a straw or cutting back on coffee and soft drinks.

2. Brush and floss every day.

3. Try a whitening toothpaste or mouthwash.

4. Visit our office for teeth cleaning and an exam every six months.

We can also help you whiten your teeth with in-office professional teeth whitening at our Anchorage, AK office. These whitening products are much more effective than whiteners you can buy at the store and are completely safe. Since they're stronger, application by a member of our team is essential to achieve the best results.

Some teeth can resist bleaching. If that's the case, we can try several techniques:

  • Deep bleaching that applies whitening agents over several visits.
  • Veneers and bonds that cover existing stains with a whiter, brighter surface.
  • Laser whitening that uses light to clean stubborn stains off teeth.

Take Care!

You may come across “bleaching stations” in shopping malls or at fairs. Avoid using these as the so-called whitening techniques can irritate your teeth and gums, leaving them highly sensitive to pain. Note too, that the operators of these whitening stands will make customers apply the bleach themselves, to avoid charges of practicing without a license. That should serve as a red flag and a caution to seek trained professionals, like Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous, instead.

Medication Can Lead To Xerostomia in Women

September 15th, 2022

Xerostomia, otherwise known as dry mouth, can be a side effect of many common medications. Drugs used for blood pressure, birth control, antidepressants, or cancer treatments may cause the dry mouth problems you’re experiencing. When you have dry mouth, you’re more likely to experience tooth decay and an increased risk of developing periodontal disease. Medication can sometimes be the cause of dry mouth in women, and lead to an increased amount of cavities.

You may not develop a cavity for years, but suddenly find more than one when you’re on medication for several months. This is due to there being less saliva in your mouth, which normally prevents bacteria from flourishing. When there is a lack of saliva flow, your mouth will be more likely to host tooth decay and be more prone to gum disease.

You may not notice it, but birth control can lead to inflammation of the gums and bleeding because of dry mouth. The condition can also emerge if you’ve undergone cancer treatments such as radiation, because your saliva glands may be damaged in the process.

Boosting saliva production is critical for treating xerostomia. Many over-the-counter saliva products are designed to help manage dry mouth. For women with severe cases of dry mouth and decay, we may recommend in-home fluoride treatments that offer extra enamel protection. This can come in the form of fluoride trays, prescription toothpaste, or a special fluoride rinse.

Other ways to relieve dry mouth include chewing sugar-free gum, limiting caffeine intake, avoiding mouthwashes that contain alcohol, sipping water regularly, using a humidifier at night, and stopping all tobacco use.

If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of dry mouth, contact our Anchorage, AK office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous. It’s wise to take medications that have been prescribed by your doctor, but it’s also smart to watch for any side effects. If you think a medication is causing you to have dry mouth, let’s figure out how to manage your symptoms as a team!

Back to School? Remember Your Dental Homework!

September 8th, 2022

It’s a busy time of year. Book lists! Supplies! New clothes! (How did they outgrow those shoes already?) And while you’re preparing your family’s list of back-to-school necessities, here are a few essential reminders to help your child begin the school year with a healthy smile.

  • Review

It never hurts to review the basics before the start of the school year, and that holds true for dental care as well! Make sure your child is brushing two minutes twice a day, and using floss or another interdental tool to clean between the teeth. If his toothbrush has been in use since the end of the last school year, it’s probably time to replace it. Bristles are at their best for about three months—after that, they become frayed and worn, and can’t remove plaque as effectively.

  • School Supplies for Braces Wearers

If your child is going to school with braces for the first time, send her off with the tools she needs. A travel-sized toothbrush and tube of toothpaste are perfect for a quick brushing after lunch, while dental floss and a threader or dental picks will take care of any after-lunch particles lurking in brackets and wires. Orthodontic wax is a great product to have on hand if a wire or bracket is causing irritation. If your child uses clear aligners or a retainer, make sure a protective case is always close by, ready to use every time the appliance is removed. And it’s a good idea to include the number of your dentist and orthodontist in her contacts in case of emergency.

  • Exams

If your school requires a dental exam before the start of classes, be sure to make your appointment at our Anchorage, AK office now! Regular checkups with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous are vital for preventing small problems from becoming bigger ones, and a professional cleaning will remove the plaque even careful brushing can miss.

A positive, confident start can set the tone for the academic year, so your homework might include monitoring summer reading, providing required supplies, and making sure your child is well-rested and ready to go. You can also help your child to a positive, confident start by monitoring brushing habits, providing the necessary tools for appliance-wearers, and making sure your child is up-to-date with dental exams and cleanings. Because entering the classroom with a beaming, healthy smile—that’s an A+ way to begin the school year!

Brushing Your Toddler’s Teeth

September 1st, 2022

At Pediatric Dental Associates, we know that brushing your toddler’s teeth can be an intimidating prospect. So we’re providing a few tips in the hope of making the process a lot more easy, effective, and all-around enjoyable for everyone!

Start by getting into a position that gives you control and enables you to see well into your child’s mouth. If you can see clearly, you will be able to maneuver the toothbrush better around your son or daughter’s mouth for a better quality of brushing.

It’s important to choose a time when your toddler is calm. Have your little one sit with his or her favorite stuffed animal, or play a fun movie in the background so your child can focus on something comforting while you’re brushing.

Using a circular motion, brush all sides of their teeth. Be sure to let your toddler have a turn after you’re done, to start getting used to it. This way, he or she is more likely to repeat the brushing and flossing exercise when your youngster is old enough.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team agree that brushing and flossing need to be performed with kindness and care. To ensure your child learns good dental hygiene habits early on, be gentle and make this time a happy, learning time.

Your child should also have regular appointments at our Anchorage, AK office for checkups and cleanings to keep on track!

Wiggle Room

August 25th, 2022

When you’re pregnant, you expect physical changes. That’s part of the excitement of the journey! What isn’t expected—and not nearly as exciting—is when your familiar smile seems to be changing as well.

If you’ve noticed that your teeth feel loose, or that your regular tooth alignment has shifted, you might be experiencing one of the unexpected, but quite common, side effects of pregnancy—tooth mobility.

How is this “wiggle room” possible? After all, you’re making sure that you’re eating a diet rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals, including calcium, vitamin D, and all the other nutrients which keep teeth and gums healthy. You’re brushing and flossing regularly to prevent cavities and gum disease. You haven’t changed your healthy dental habits, so why are you seeing different results?

The answer lies in the hormonal changes which occur with pregnancy. Your body has significantly increased production of hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and relaxin. One of the benefits of these higher hormonal levels is their relaxing effect on your ligaments and joints. Relaxed ligaments and joints help make pregnancy and childbirth easier.

But you can’t target hormones just where they’ll be most useful. An increase in hormones affects the ligaments and joints throughout your body. And while this explanation might seem unrelated to loose teeth, it is, in fact, the “root” of the matter.

A complex support system holds our teeth securely in their sockets. Instead of being rigidly fused to the jaw, each tooth root is surrounded by a periodontal ligament within the socket. This ligament is largely made of flexible connective tissue, and attaches to both the root of the tooth and the bone tissue of the jaw, holding the tooth in place. Its flexibility helps cushion your tooth from pressure and impact, and allows the tooth movement which makes orthodontic work possible.

The hormones which relax ligaments and joints throughout the body have that same relaxing effect on the flexible ligaments and joints in the mouth. So it’s not uncommon to find that your teeth feel a bit looser, or that your customary tooth alignment has shifted, or that you’re experiencing discomfort in your jaw joint, especially if you grind or clench your teeth.

Fortunately, while loose teeth are alarming, it’s most often only a temporary condition. Your teeth and ligaments should return to their normal, stable status after your baby is born. But because dental health can impact on your pregnancy, see us if you notice any changes in your smile. We want to rule out any other causes of tooth mobility, including gum disease, tooth abscesses, or other serious conditions.

Other proactive prenatal tips to keep your smile its healthiest?

  • Call us when you learn about your pregnancy. We can offer suggestions for caring for yourself and your dental health during this exciting time.
  • Keep up with your dental hygiene. Brushing and flossing are more important than ever to keep your gums healthy.
  • And, because your gums might be more prone to gingivitis now, extra cleanings as needed can keep plaque buildup from forming.
  • Don’t forget your regular appointments at our Anchorage, AK dental office for exams and cleanings. We want to help prevent any small problems from becoming larger ones.

Pregnancy is a time of many physical changes. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will work with you to ensure that one thing which remains constant is your beautiful, healthy smile!

Dental Insurance Benefits

August 18th, 2022

Dental insurance can be a great addition to your health care plan, but the way benefits are calculated can also make it a confusing one. If you have dental insurance, you might be wondering how you can make the most of your benefits. Let’s look at some of the important things to remember about taking advantage of your dental insurance.

  • Know Your Benefits

Figuring out what insurance will and won’t pay for, what percentage of a procedure is covered, what the insurance company considers an allowable fee, when you have covered your deductible for the year—these calculations are often bewildering. It’s helpful to call our office and check with your insurance provider to learn the final cost of any treatment, and how much, if any, will be covered by your insurance.

  • Use Your Benefits

Don’t lose benefits you have paid for! If you have not used your benefits, the time to do so is before the end of the insurance period (which may or may not be the end of the calendar year). When your dental plan re-starts, you will be paying for these unused benefits all over again. Similarly, if you have used your insurance and covered your deductible for the year, it makes sense to schedule your appointments before a new year brings a new deductible amount you will have to meet.

If you qualify for a certain number of preventive services such as check-ups and cleanings, you should always take advantage of this benefit—not only to find possible dental problems, but to prevent them.

And, if you have set up a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) to cover medical and dental expenses for the year, be sure to use the money in the account or you might lose it at the end of your year’s coverage. Many dental procedures are covered by an FSA—talk to our Anchorage, AK team and your provider for details.

  • Possible Tax Deductions

If you are paying for your own dental insurance, you might be able to take advantage of the deduction for medical and dental premiums and expenses on your taxes. If your employer pays for your insurance, if you take the standard deduction, or if you spend less than a certain proportion of your income on health costs, these expenses are most likely not deductible. Be sure to check with your tax preparer or with the IRS for latest information on dental and medical deductions.

Finally, you should never put off urgent dental work because of insurance considerations. At the same time, you should be able to take full advantage of any dental insurance plan you have purchased, because you deserve to get every benefit you have paid for. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team are here to help you work with your insurance company in any way we can. Our goal is the same as yours—insuring dental health for you and your family!

Why You Should Avoid Energy and Sports Drinks

August 11th, 2022

In a world where everything moves so quickly and teens and young adults find themselves pulling “all-nighters” or working long hours, energy drinks have grabbed the spotlight. You’ll have one (or three) and suddenly you have the drive you need to keep going.

The same can be said for sports drinks. It’s common for people to have one even when they’re not engaged in any strenuous physical activity, which is what they were designed for. People will drink them simply because they’ve grown to love the taste.

Although they might taste great and boost your energy, there’s a serious down side to consuming energy and sports drinks on a steady basis. Studies have shown that these drinks contain so much acid that they start to destroy your teeth after just five days of consistent use.

The acid in these drinks destroys your tooth enamel, which makes your teeth more vulnerable to bacteria. This can progress to staining, tooth decay, and hypersensitivity.

That’s why Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team want to encourage you to try to limit the amount of sports and energy drinks you consume. If you do enjoy either or both of these drinks, you should make it a habit to rinse your mouth with water immediately after consumption, and brush your teeth about an hour later, after the period when acid has a softening effect on your enamel has passed.

If you feel like you’re already experiencing the side effects of heavy energy and sports drink consumption, visit our Anchorage, AK office, and our team can provide solutions for how to prevent further damage from occurring. It’s never too late to change a bad habit!

Hot Day? Three Drinks to Leave Home When You’re Packing the Cooler

August 4th, 2022

Whew! It’s a hot one! And whenever the temperature soars, you need to stay hydrated, especially when you’re outside or exercising. But all cold drinks aren’t equal when it comes to healthy hydration. Which beverages shouldn’t have a prime spot in your cooler when you’re wearing braces or aligners?

  • Soft Drinks

You’re probably not surprised to find soft drinks at the top of the list. After all, sugar is a) a big part of what makes soda so popular, and b) not a healthy choice for your teeth.

Sugar is a favorite food source for the oral bacteria that make up plaque. These bacteria convert sugar into acids, and these acids attack the surface of your tooth enamel. Over time, the minerals which keep enamel strong begin to erode, and weakened, eroded enamel is a lot more susceptible to cavities.

So, what about sugar-free drinks? Does this make soft drinks a better choice? Unfortunately, you can take the sugar out of many sodas, but you can’t take the acids out. Most soft drinks are very acidic, even without sugar, and will cause enamel erosion just like the acids created by bacteria will.

  • Fruit Drinks

Fruit juice provides us with vitamins, which is great, but it’s also full of natural sugars and acids. And blended fruit drinks and fruit punches often contain added sugars and added citric acids. Best to choose 100% fruit content and check the labels before you buy. (And you can always get refreshing fruit flavor by adding a slice of fruit to a glass of water.)

  • Sports Drinks

You might be surprised to see these on the list—after all, they promise healthy hydration while you’re working out. And hydration is healthy—but sugars and acids aren’t. Even when the label tells you there’s no added sugar, that same label will often reveal high amounts of citric acid. In fact, some sports drinks are more acidic than sodas.

We’ll make an exception, though, for thirsty people who participate in sports or activities that require a lot of physical exercise and produce a lot of sweat. When we sweat, we lose electrolytes, those ionized minerals which help regulate many vital bodily functions. Talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about which sports drinks are best for you if you need to replenish your electrolytes when working out.

So, what’s your best hydration choice on a hot day? Water! It not only hydrates you, it cleans your teeth, it helps you produce saliva, and it often contains tooth-strengthening fluoride. But if you only have sports drinks in the cooler, or if you just want to enjoy a soft drink or a bottle of juice from time to time, no need to go thirsty. We have some ways to make sure your teeth are safer, even with this tricky trio:

  • Rinse with water after you drink a sugary or acidic drink. And remember to brush when you get home.
  • Be choosy. Check labels for added sugars and acids.
  • Don’t sip your drinks all day long. Saliva actually helps neutralize acids in the mouth, but sipping acidic beverages throughout the day doesn’t give saliva a chance to work.
  • Use a straw to avoid washing your enamel in sugars and acids.

You need to keep hydrated when it’s hot. When you’re packing your cooler, choose drinks that are healthy for your entire body, including your teeth and gums. Ask our Anchorage, AK team for the best choices in cold drinks to make sure you’re getting the hydration you need—without the sugar and acids you don’t!

Morning Sickness and Your Oral Health

July 28th, 2022

Whether it’s your first child or you’re an experienced mom, pregnancy is an exciting time—which you’ll be able to enjoy much more once the days of morning sickness are over.

Morning sickness affects most pregnant women, and can present in any number of ways. It might take the form of mild nausea, or cause frequent vomiting. It often occurs in the morning hours, but can take place at any time of day. It’s usually over with by the second trimester, or it can last weeks longer. Because of this wide variety of symptoms, morning sickness is more accurately referred to as NVP, the nausea and vomiting of pregnancy.

Your doctor can recommend safe and effective ways to deal with NVP, especially when symptoms are more severe. We have some recommendations to minimize the effect of morning sickness on your dental health.

Wait, dental health? That’s right. Besides its more obvious unpleasant consequences, NVP can cause problems for your teeth and gums. We have a few suggestions for getting you through the weeks of morning sickness with easy and effective strategies to protect your oral health.

Prevent Acid Damage

Vomiting and heartburn with reflux expose the teeth to stomach acids. Tooth enamel is the strongest substance in the body, but it’s not safe from acid attacks.

Normally, the pH balance in our mouths is neutral, around a 7 on a scale of 0 to 14. When acidic conditions lower the oral pH to 5.5 or below, the minerals in enamel begin to dissolve, leading to sensitivity and, eventually, cavities. The pH of our stomach acid ranges from 1.5 to 2.5. This is great for digesting food, but not great at all for enamel and sensitive gum tissue.

Whenever we vomit, the immediate (and understandable!) impulse is to reach for our toothbrushes. But this is an impulse we should resist. Because acids weaken tooth enamel, scouring the teeth with a toothbrush right away can cause more erosive damage. Instead,

  • Wait half an hour or more before brushing to give your enamel time to recover its strength.
  • In the meantime, rinse with water and perhaps a bit of toothpaste or diluted, doctor-approved mouthwash.

Keep Hydrated

Another consequence of frequent vomiting is dehydration. It’s always important to keep our bodies properly hydrated, and this is particularly true during pregnancy.

Hydration is also essential for oral health. Saliva helps wash away the bacteria and food particles which cause cavities and irritate the gums—especially important now, since pregnancy hormones can leave you more vulnerable to gingivitis and other forms of gum disease.

  • Drink water as recommended by your doctor. It’s healthy, it hydrates, and it helps prevent cavities and gum disease. Win/win/win.
  • Whichever fluids are your favorites, drinking them in measured amounts through the day will be more effective and more appetizing than drinking large amounts once or twice a day to catch up.
  • You have a busy life, so make things easy on yourself. If you need to hydrate more, keep track of your hydration goals with an app or a phone notification. There are even “smart bottles” to track your intake. Or go old school, and fill a bottle marked with timed measurements to remind you to hydrate through your day.

When The Very Idea of Brushing Is Nauseating . . .

When just the thought of brushing is unappetizing, we have suggestions which might help.

  • Postpone brushing until later in the day when you feel better. Rinse with water first thing in the morning instead.
  • Trade in your regular toothbrush for one with a smaller brush head. This can help prevent the gag reflex.
  • Brush slowly, using small strokes.
  • If brushing the back teeth is particularly triggering, try deep breathing or sitting down to brush.

We want to help you enjoy a healthy pregnancy. Let us know when you first learn you’re pregnant. We have some valuable tips for the coming months, including suggestions for reducing the dental effects of NVP. Fortunately, morning sickness is temporary, and we’re here with ideas to help your beautiful smile last a lifetime!

How Does Your Dentist Fill a Cavity?

July 21st, 2022

The grownups in your life want you to have healthy teeth. That’s why they remind you to brush and floss, make you tooth-friendly meals, and take you to see the dentist regularly, at an office designed just for you. You’ve been visiting Pediatric Dental Associates for a while now, so you know all about checkups and cleanings.

At every dental exam, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will look at your teeth very carefully, checking not just the outside of your teeth, but around and behind your teeth as well. (That’s what those little mirrors are for.) You might have X-ray pictures taken to show the inside of your teeth. In all these ways, we make sure your teeth are healthy, inside and out.

You expect all these things at a dental checkup because you’re used to them. When you hear that you have a cavity, you might be worried. After all, if you’ve never had a cavity before, you don’t know what to expect. And sometimes not knowing is a little scary. So let’s talk about what a cavity is, and how your dentist can help make your tooth healthy again if you need a filling.

  • What’s a Cavity?

Teeth are covered with a very hard white coating called enamel. Enamel is the strongest part of our bodies, even stronger than our bones. But when we eat too many sugary foods, or don’t brush the way we should or as much as we should, or even just because of the way some people’s bodies work, our enamel can be hurt by cavities.

A cavity is a hole in your tooth enamel. These holes are made by the bacteria in plaque, which turn sugars into acids. This is why it’s important to brush carefully to get rid of plaque, and to watch how much sugar we eat. It’s not just people who like sugar—bacteria do, too!

The acids bacteria create attack our enamel and make it weaker. If the enamel gets too weak, a hole will start to form. This is what we call a cavity.

  • How Do You Know You Have a Cavity?

Maybe you came to our Anchorage, AK office because you have a toothache, or it hurts when you eat something hot or cold. Those are often clues that you have a cavity.

But small, early cavities don’t always bother us. That’s why regular checkups are so important, and why Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will look carefully at each tooth to make sure that it’s healthy.

  • Getting Ready

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous might give you some medicine to make sure you don’t feel uncomfortable while your tooth is being repaired. The area around your tooth will get numb, which means you won’t feel anything while we work.

  • Removing Decay

There are different ways to remove decay from your tooth. Some can be noisy, and some are quiet.  If noise bothers you, let your dentist know—there are ways to cover up annoying sounds.

After the decay has been removed, it’s time to clean your tooth. This makes sure that no germs or bacteria are still around when your tooth is filled.

But after all the decay is gone, you’ll still have a little hole in your tooth. That’s why the next step is . . .

  • Filling Your Tooth

Since a hole in your tooth enamel makes it weaker, this hole needs to be filled up to make your tooth strong again—that’s why it’s called a “filling.”

There are different kinds of fillings, and your dentist will tell you which one is best for your tooth. A molar, one of the big teeth in the back of your mouth, needs a strong filling for all the work it does chewing food. Your dentist might use a metal filling to help your molar do its job. If you have a cavity in one of your front teeth, you might get a tooth-colored filling. This filling is made to match the color of your enamel, so no one can see the filling when you smile.

  • After Your Filling

All done! In just a little while, the area around your tooth won’t be numb anymore, and we will let you know when you can eat and drink regular foods again.

If you do your best to keep your teeth healthy, you can look forward to cavity-free checkups in the future. But when you need a filling, or if you have a tooth which needs another kind of treatment, we are here to help you make sure your happy smile is a healthy smile!

Clean Toothbrush/Healthy Toothbrush

July 14th, 2022

We’ve all learned a lot about staying healthy lately. As a parent, you give good advice about avoiding germs in public places, cleaning things that get touched a lot like phones and keyboards, and learning the best way to wash hands. These small daily habits can have a big effect on your child’s health.

And since you’re already taking care of your little one by making sure they brush at least twice a day, we have some good advice for small habits which can make their toothbrush even cleaner and brushing even healthier.

Brushing Habits

Don’t let germs hitch a ride on your child’s toothbrush before they even begin brushing! Make sure their hands are clean before they start, and rinse off the toothbrush before they put it in their mouth.

After brushing, be sure your child rinses their brush carefully to get rid of leftover toothpaste and bits of food. Also, clean the toothbrush holder regularly to get rid of germs and bacteria.

And while we’re talking about germs, how about . . .

  • Flushing Habits

Most toothbrushes live in the bathroom, where we also find—the toilet. Every time we flush, invisible bacteria and particles fly through the air. And while that might not make you sick, it’s still pretty gross. Closing the lid before you flush helps keep your family’s toothbrushes—and bathroom—cleaner.

  • Airing? Yes!

Keeping a toothbrush in a dark, wet environment is the perfect way to help bacteria grow. Instead of putting a wet toothbrush in a case, let it air dry standing heads up after use. Give it a shake first for a head start on drying out.

  • Sharing? No

We’re not talking about sharing a brush, which you would never do. We’re talking about sharing space. If your child’s brush touches other brushes in a toothbrush holder, it’s probably sharing germs. Toothbrushes shouldn’t be too close to other toothbrushes, no matter how close you are to the other brush’s owner!

Finally, no matter how well your child takes care of their toothbrush, there comes a time when you should let it go. After three or four months, bristles become frayed and worn out. This means the brush won’t remove plaque as well as it used to. And to be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to replace a brush if your child has been sick.

Keeping your child’s teeth and mouth healthy is one very important way to keep their whole body heathy and happy. Talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at our Anchorage, AK office to learn more about simple habits for healthy teeth!

Chewing Gum: Fact and Fiction

July 7th, 2022

Remember all the things your parents would tell you when you were growing up to scare you away from doing something? Like how lying might make your nose grow, misbehaving meant you wouldn’t get money from the tooth fairy, and swallowed chewing gum would build up in your stomach and stay there for years?

Maybe that last one stayed with you well beyond your teens, and occurred to you every time you accidentally (or purposely) swallowed a piece of gum. We don’t blame you. It’s a scary thought.

But is it true?

We hate to take the fun out of parental discipline, but swallowing a piece of chewing gum is pretty much like swallowing any other piece of food. It will move right through your digestive system with no danger of getting stuck for months, let alone seven years.

This doesn’t mean you should start swallowing all your gum from now on, but if it happens accidentally now and then, there’s no need to panic.

Another common gum myth is that sugar-free gum can help you lose weight. Although it is preferable to choose sugar-free gum over the extra-sweet variety, no studies have show that sugar-free gum will help you lose weight.

If you pop a piece of gum in your mouth after dinner to avoid dessert, it could help you avoid eating a few extra calories every day. But the consumption of sugar-free gum without any other effort will not help you shed pounds.

 If you really enjoy chewing gum, we strongly encourage you to select sugarless gum, because it lowers your risk for cavities. Many brands of sugarless gum contain xylitol, a natural sweetener that can, in fact, help fight bacteria that cause cavities and rinse away plaque.

So if you can’t kick the gum habit altogether, sugar-free is definitely the way to go!

If you have any questions about chewing gum, feel free to contact Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at our Anchorage, AK office.

Chewing Gum: Fact and Fiction

July 7th, 2022

Remember all the things your parents would tell you when you were growing up to scare you away from doing something? Like how lying might make your nose grow, misbehaving meant you wouldn’t get money from the tooth fairy, and swallowed chewing gum would build up in your stomach and stay there for years?

Maybe that last one stayed with you well beyond your teens, and occurred to you every time you accidentally (or purposely) swallowed a piece of gum. We don’t blame you. It’s a scary thought.

But is it true?

We hate to take the fun out of parental discipline, but swallowing a piece of chewing gum is pretty much like swallowing any other piece of food. It will move right through your digestive system with no danger of getting stuck for months, let alone seven years.

This doesn’t mean you should start swallowing all your gum from now on, but if it happens accidentally now and then, there’s no need to panic.

Another common gum myth is that sugar-free gum can help you lose weight. Although it is preferable to choose sugar-free gum over the extra-sweet variety, no studies have show that sugar-free gum will help you lose weight.

If you pop a piece of gum in your mouth after dinner to avoid dessert, it could help you avoid eating a few extra calories every day. But the consumption of sugar-free gum without any other effort will not help you shed pounds.

 If you really enjoy chewing gum, we strongly encourage you to select sugarless gum, because it lowers your risk for cavities. Many brands of sugarless gum contain xylitol, a natural sweetener that can, in fact, help fight bacteria that cause cavities and rinse away plaque.

So if you can’t kick the gum habit altogether, sugar-free is definitely the way to go!

If you have any questions about chewing gum, feel free to contact Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at our Anchorage, AK office.

Chewing Gum: Fact and Fiction

July 7th, 2022

Remember all the things your parents would tell you when you were growing up to scare you away from doing something? Like how lying might make your nose grow, misbehaving meant you wouldn’t get money from the tooth fairy, and swallowed chewing gum would build up in your stomach and stay there for years?

Maybe that last one stayed with you well beyond your teens, and occurred to you every time you accidentally (or purposely) swallowed a piece of gum. We don’t blame you. It’s a scary thought.

But is it true?

We hate to take the fun out of parental discipline, but swallowing a piece of chewing gum is pretty much like swallowing any other piece of food. It will move right through your digestive system with no danger of getting stuck for months, let alone seven years.

This doesn’t mean you should start swallowing all your gum from now on, but if it happens accidentally now and then, there’s no need to panic.

Another common gum myth is that sugar-free gum can help you lose weight. Although it is preferable to choose sugar-free gum over the extra-sweet variety, no studies have show that sugar-free gum will help you lose weight.

If you pop a piece of gum in your mouth after dinner to avoid dessert, it could help you avoid eating a few extra calories every day. But the consumption of sugar-free gum without any other effort will not help you shed pounds.

 If you really enjoy chewing gum, we strongly encourage you to select sugarless gum, because it lowers your risk for cavities. Many brands of sugarless gum contain xylitol, a natural sweetener that can, in fact, help fight bacteria that cause cavities and rinse away plaque.

So if you can’t kick the gum habit altogether, sugar-free is definitely the way to go!

If you have any questions about chewing gum, feel free to contact Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at our Anchorage, AK office.

Energy Drinks and Dental Health

June 30th, 2022

Are energy drinks bad for your teeth? Many of our patients at Pediatric Dental Associates ask us this question, so here’s the scoop.

Energy drinks have been on the rise, taking up more and more space on grocery store shelves. Drinks such as Red Bull, 5-Hour Energy, Monster Assault, Rockstar, and the like promise to jump-start your day, give you more energy, and help you feel more alert. But they also do a lot more than that. Turns out, they do a pretty good job of stripping your teeth of enamel, which is a very bad thing.

Many of these energy drinks are loaded with a lot of citric acid. In addition, they are laden with preservatives (not to mention sugar), not only to enhance flavor, but extend shelf life. While enamel loss, tooth decay, teeth sensitivity, and cavities cannot be blamed entirely on energy drinks (improper oral hygiene at home and lack of professional dental care also play a role), they can wreak havoc on the health of your teeth and gums, especially when consumed in more than moderation. Over time, energy drinks can strip enamel, which is the outer layer that protects your teeth.

What can you do?

Although Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team aren't recommending you drink energy drinks at all, if you must drink one occasionally, there are a few things you can do to minimize the damage to your teeth.

  • Drink through a straw.
  • Don’t hold the drink in your mouth before swallowing.
  • Rinse your mouth with water immediately after drinking this kind of beverage. Water helps both to neutralize the acid and to increase the production of saliva.
  • Chew sugar-free gum immediately after, to increase saliva production.
  • Don’t brush your teeth right after drinking an energy drink. Wait at least an hour instead, because the combination of the acid and brushing will further damage tooth enamel.

The best advice is to refrain from drinking energy drinks altogether. One of the best hydrators is water. Water is a natural energy-booster and hydrator, and it doesn’t contain calories.

Give us a call today at our Anchorage, AK  office if you have any questions or concerns about energy drinks and dental health. We can provide additional tips and a treatment plan to help reduce enamel loss, eliminate tooth sensitivity, and repair cavities and tooth decay as a result of drinking energy drinks.

The Effects of Sleep Apnea on Dental Health

June 23rd, 2022

Sleep apnea is an increasingly common medical condition, and one that can have a truly devastating effect on the waking life of the sufferer. Those who suffer from the disorder may find that they suffer any or all of the following side effects:

  • Saliva has several important jobs, and one of them is to protect and heal your tongue, your gums, and the inside of your mouth. Snoring and sleep apnea dry out your mouth, meaning there isn’t enough time for your saliva to do all this vital work.
  • Over an extended period of sleep apnea, it’s likely that the sockets of your teeth will begin to dry out overnight as a result of your gasping for air and snoring between breaths. If this happens too frequently over a long a period of time, it can start to loosen your teeth.
  • Those with sleep apnea often also practice bruxism, which is the habit of clenching and grinding your teeth together as you sleep. This can lead to all manner of problems, including TMJ disorder, damage to the enamel, headaches, and toothaches.
  • For obvious reasons, sleep apnea does not lead to a particularly good night’s sleep. This means that sufferers are often tired and irritable, and suffer from the many other ill effects of sleep deprivation.
  • While it is unclear whether the reasons behind this are correlative or causative, it has been suggested there are links between sleep apnea and cardiac arrests, depressive disorders, Type Two diabetes, cancerous tumors, “silent” strokes, and various complications of pregnancy.

While sleep apnea can be a troubling condition, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates will tell you it is eminently treatable. There are a number of ways to combat it, ranging from simple sleep hygiene to use of a CPAP machine. Of course, if it is possible for you to reduce your weight a little in a safe and healthy way, some have found that is also helpful in combating the problem. Sleep apnea is very easy to treat, once it has been correctly identified.

If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea, or if you would like to know more about the condition, please give us a call at our convenient Anchorage, AK office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous.

Water Features

June 2nd, 2022

Heading for the beach! Hiking to the lake! Keeping cool with a tall, frosty glass of ice water in a foreign bistro, or taking a refreshing gulp from the fountain in the park! Hot weather has arrived, and water is something we’re more conscious of now than most other times of the year. Even so, water as a dental feature? Glad you asked!

  • Recreation

Whether you want to bask in the heat or escape it, heading out for a day in or on the water works. And while you’re protecting your skin with sunscreen, think about protecting your teeth and mouth as well. With one small slip, any physical water sport—water skiing, water polo, surfing—can result in damage to your teeth or jaw. Bring—and use—the mouthguard you wear for sports like basketball or biking, and make sure you have a summer of smiles ahead of you.

  • Refreshment

Summer has a beverage menu all its own. Iced coffee and iced tea, a cooler full of sodas, fresh lemonade, fruity cocktails—so many refreshing ways to beat the heat! And we would never suggest that you turn down every frosty summer temptation. But do be mindful that dark beverages like tea, coffee, and sodas can stain teeth, sugary and acidic ones are damaging to your enamel, and alcoholic drinks can be dehydrating. Water, on the other hand, is always a healthy choice. It’s helpful for keeping your mouth and teeth clean, it often contains the fluoride that helps fight cavities, it’s hydrating—and, it has no calories! Be sure to make water a significant part of your summer beverage menu, and your body will thank you for it.

  • Rinse & Restore

Water’s importance to our bodies can’t be overstated! From major organs to individual cells, we need water. And one major benefit of proper hydration is healthy saliva production. Why is that important? Saliva plays a vital role in preventing cavities. It washes away the food particles that oral bacteria feed on, reducing their ability to produce the acids that lead to enamel erosion and cavities. Saliva even helps neutralize acids already in the mouth. Finally, saliva contains important calcium, phosphate and fluoride ions which actually help restore enamel strength after it has been exposed to oral acidity.

Summer goes by all too quickly. Protect your teeth during these warm, active months with a mouthguard. And whether you spend your free time outdoors, or visiting people and places, or keeping cool at home, be mindful of dental-friendly beverage options and always stay hydrated. You’ll be ready to greet fall with a beautiful smile and healthy teeth. “Water Features”? Perhaps a better title would be “Water Power”!

Pediatric Dental Emergency Know-How

May 26th, 2022

Parents are usually expert at taking care of their children’s injuries. You know how to disinfect a cut, soothe a bump on the head, and apply a bandage faster than you can blink.

But what happens if your child suffers a dental injury? Teeth can get broken, knocked out, or displaced from a forceful impact, and parents ought to know what to do in those situations, too. Luckily, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team are here to be a resource for such incidents!

Chipped front teeth are a common injury for young children. First, check to see if the teeth have been broken to the nerve. You can tell this is the case if you see layers and a pinkish center.

Then, wiggle each tooth to make sure it is not loose. If the teeth still feel firmly in place, that’s a good sign. Don’t worry if they are a little loose, because they will tighten again with time.

If your child develops a high temperature or bite sensitivity, treatment is necessary and could include a root canal.

A knocked-out tooth is an injury that requires more attention than just observation. Locate the tooth as soon as you can, and touch only the crown, not the root. Rinse any debris gently with milk or water and place the tooth back in its socket as soon as possible.

According to the American Association of Endodontists, a tooth has a high chance of survival and retention for life if it is returned to the socket within five minutes, and possibly up to 60 minutes, if soaked in milk or saline solution in the meantime.

Say your child is elbowed in the mouth and a tooth gets severely displaced but does not get knocked out. Attempt to shift it back into place by applying light pressure, but be careful not to use too much force. Give your child a cold pack for the swelling and contact our office as soon as possible.

Dental emergencies can be frightening for the child as well as the parent. The best advice we can offer is to stay calm and be assured that we are always here to help! Contact us at our Anchorage, AK office as soon as you can, if your child encounters a dental emergency.

Water: It’s Not Just for Brushing!

May 19th, 2022

We turn on the tap and it comes rushing out. We walk down the hall at work or school and stop at the fountain without even thinking about it. It’s the one item on the menu we most likely won’t have to pay for. Let’s face it—we’re probably taking water for granted. So let’s take a moment and look at the many wonderful things that drinking water does for our teeth and dental health!

  • Cleaning Our Mouths

We can’t always brush right after eating to get rid of food particles. Bacteria feed on the sugars and starches left behind, and produce acids that lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Drinking water with our meals washes away lots of this food residue and dilutes the amount of acid our teeth are exposed to. 

  • Protecting Our Teeth

Water helps with saliva production, and saliva distributes important minerals such as fluoride and calcium to our teeth. This process helps strengthen enamel that might have been eroded by acidic foods and bacteria and makes our enamel less vulnerable to cavities.

  • Preventing Cavities and Dry Mouth

Fluoride is a mineral that strengthens the structure of our teeth. Because so much of our water is fluoridated, you can get this essential mineral with every glass. If you don’t have access to fluoridated water, or if you tend to drink only bottled water (which may or may not have fluoride), please talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about the best way to strengthen and your teeth and help prevent cavities.

Drinking the recommended amount of water per day also helps prevent dry mouth, a condition caused by decreased saliva production. Saliva not only helps remineralize our teeth, as mentioned above, but also works to wash away bacteria and acids that lead to cavities, gum disease, and bad breath. Luckily, we can help ourselves stay hydrated with most liquids, as well as fruits and vegetables that are rich in water content. But the easiest, most effective and often least expensive way to hydrate is with water.

Water just can’t be taken for granted. It’s a marvel of cleaning, protection, and prevention—and it’s calorie-free!

Is a Lost Tooth a Lost Cause?

May 12th, 2022

We’re used to seeing athletes wearing mouthguards at practice or play, because dental trauma is one of the most common (and predictable) sports injuries. But it’s not just athletes who are at risk, and there are some events in our daily lives that we just can’t predict. Car accidents, falls, workplace injuries, even innocent playground structures can take their toll on our smiles.

A major chip or a crack in your tooth is upsetting enough, and should be seen by Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous as soon as possible. It’s even more unnerving when a tooth is knocked out completely. The technical term for a tooth which has been knocked out is an avulsed tooth, and it is a true dental emergency.

If you should suffer a partially or completely dislodged tooth, there is a possibility that your tooth can be reimplanted—if the damage isn’t too severe and if you get to our office immediately.

How can a lost tooth be saved? This is possible because of the complex biological engineering that anchors our teeth within the jaw. The root of a tooth is surrounded by the periodontal ligament. This connective tissue attaches the tooth to the alveolar bone of the jaw. When a tooth is knocked out, this ligament splits apart, leaving some tissue on the tooth root and some within the tooth’s socket.

To successfully reimplant a tooth, the connective tissue cells around the root of the tooth need to be vital, so that they can begin to reattach to the connective tissue left in the socket. Over time, this reattachment is complete, and the tooth becomes firmly anchored to the bone again.

It’s important to protect your tooth before you see Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous to make sure there will be enough healthy tissue for reattachment. First of all,

  • Don’t panic! If you or a friend or family member lose a tooth, call your dentist or your emergency health care provider as soon as possible. You will get specific instructions for your specific situation.

If you are unable to reach a healthcare provider immediately, there are some general rules for taking care of an avulsed tooth:

  • Find the lost tooth. Don’t touch the root—use the crown, or top part of the tooth, to pick it up. You are trying to preserve and protect the connective tissue on the root surface.

 

  • If the tooth is dirty, gently rinse it in milk, saliva, or water. Don’t wipe it off, though. You could damage those connective tissue cells mentioned above.

 

  • Place the tooth back in the socket, if possible. Gently hold it in place with your fingers or bite down (again, gently). You can also place the tooth in your mouth next to your cheek.

 

  • If returning the tooth to the socket is not an option, or if you are worried about a child possibly swallowing the tooth, keep the tooth moist. Whole milk or solutions sold just for the purpose of preserving an avulsed tooth are better choices than water, which damage the tissue cells on the root. And never wrap the tooth tightly—this can also damage the connective tissue.

Above all,

  • Don’t delay! The faster a tooth is reimplanted in its socket, the greater chance you have of keeping it. Really, every minute counts. Reimplantations are more successful if they take place within 30 minutes. After an hour out of the mouth, your tooth’s chances of successful reintegration are lower—but still worth pursuing!

What will Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous do?

  • Evaluate the avulsed tooth.

There are variables which can affect whether or not a lost tooth is a good candidate for reimplantation. Trying to replace a baby tooth, for example, could interfere with the formation of the adult tooth. An adult tooth that is broken will probably require a different type of treatment.

  • Prevent infection.

You might be given antibiotics and a referral to your medical doctor for a tetanus booster if needed.

  • Clean the site.

The socket will be gently irrigated to clean the area and to remove any clots that may have formed which can interfere with the tooth’s placement.

  • Recommend or perform a root canal.

Nerves and blood vessels within the tooth’s pulp generally don’t recover after a serious traumatic injury, so a root canal procedure could be necessary to preserve the health of your tooth. This procedure might be done immediately, or might be recommended for a later date.

  • Stabilize your tooth.

The tooth must be stabilized after being reimplanted, so Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will use a splint to anchor the tooth to the teeth next to it. The splint can be flexible or rigid, depending on the condition of the alveolar bone. Splinting generally takes from two to eight weeks, and you will be given detailed instructions for taking care of the area while you heal.

Losing a tooth is an alarming experience. But with prompt action, and a trip to our Anchorage, AK office, it might be possible to make that loss only a temporary one.

Healthy Diet, Healthier Gums?

May 5th, 2022

Since gum disease is one of the most common adult diseases, it’s no wonder Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team stress the importance of prevention. Effective brushing and flossing, regular dental appointments for exams and cleanings, and a prompt visit to our Anchorage, AK dental office if you notice symptoms of gingivitis (early gum disease) are all important steps to prevent more serious periodontal disease from developing.

One more step you can add to keep your gums their healthiest? Add some gum-healthy foods to your shopping cart! To see how your diet can help prevent gum disease, let’s look at what can cause gum disease.

When plaque builds up between teeth and gums, the bacteria found in plaque cause our gum tissue to become inflamed, swollen, and painful. Left untreated, the gums pull away from the teeth, leaving pockets where bacteria collect and can cause infection.

Prolonged inflammation can lead to the destruction of gum tissue and the connective tissues which anchor our teeth to the alveolar bone in the jaw. Bone loss and even tooth loss can result from untreated gum disease.

Fortunately for us, there are foods that fight inflammation, help with healing, and strengthen and support gum tissue before problems develop. Let’s take a look at some of the valuable gum-healthy nutrients you can add to your diet with some tasty additions to your shopping list:

  • Vitamin A

This vitamin is essential for the health and healing of mucous membranes, including both our gums and the soft membranes in our mouths. Vitamin A is found in animal products such as dairy foods, meat, and liver, or formed in the body from beta-carotenes, found in plant foods such as carrots, peppers, pumpkin, squash, and sweet potatoes.

  • Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the so-called “essential nutrients.” These are nutrients that are necessary for our bodies to function properly, and which can only be supplied in our diets. Vitamin C is needed to help our bodies produce collagen, the substance that provides support and structure to our tissues. It also helps us repair tissue, and is a powerful antioxidant. One of the obvious signs that your diet doesn’t contain enough vitamin C is inflamed and bleeding gums.

When we think vitamin C, we instantly picture citrus fruits. Oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and all their cousins are a wonderful source of vitamin C. Looking for a little more variety? You’re in luck! Fruit fans can load up on strawberries, kiwi fruit, mangos, and papayas. Love your veggies? Red peppers, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli contain more vitamin C per serving than a medium orange.

  • Vitamin D

Vitamin D, of course, is essential for dental health because it helps us absorb the calcium that keep teeth (and bones) strong. And there’s more! It helps the body fight infection and reduce inflammation, and studies have suggested a link between vitamin D and better gum health.

Sunlight exposure leads our bodies to produce vitamin D naturally, but it is available in foods as well. Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and herring, are a rich source of the vitamin, as are cod liver oil and egg yolks. It’s also available in foods fortified with vitamin D, such as cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, and even many cereals. And while you’re getting the benefit of vitamin D from dairy, you’re also enjoying the proteins they contain, one of which helps neutralize acids in the mouth that can irritate gums. Bonus!

  • Iron

Iron deficiency can lead to a common form of anemia, where your body isn’t creating enough red blood cells to deliver the oxygen your tissues need. (In fact, one of the most noticeable symptoms of anemia is pale gums.) This condition can cause a number of problems, including an immune system that doesn’t work as well as it should. A strong immune system helps us fight infection, including gum disease and other oral infections.

A diet rich in iron can help prevent anemia. We absorb the most iron from foods such as meat, eggs, and fish, but iron is also present in beans, lentils, leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, and prunes if you’re looking for flavorful vegetarian options.

  • Omega-3s

Research has shown a possible relationship between getting the recommended dietary amounts of omega-3s and a lower occurrence of periodontitis. In other studies, omega-3s have shown promise in reducing the periodontal inflammation that can lead to severe gum disease.

Our bodies can’t produce omega-3 fatty acids on their own, but fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, and sardines, a variety of high-fat seeds and nuts, and plant oils contain several different types of omega-3 fatty acids. Some foods are fortified with omega-3s, or your doctor might recommend fish oil (and algae oil for vegetarians) as a supplement.

Speaking of supplements, why not just add vitamin, mineral, and other nutritional supplements to our daily diet? Believe it or not, there can actually be too much of a good thing. Body chemistry requires balance, so talk to your doctor about whether or not supplements are necessary in your particular diet, and just what kinds and how much to take.

Whew! That’s a lot to think about for one shopping cart, but that’s just a small portion of the many foods—and the many vitamins and minerals—you can add to your menu to support oral health in a tasty, effective, and positive way.

After all, when we think about the “do’s and don’ts” of a dental-healthy diet, it’s all too often a collection of “don’ts.” Don’t eat a lot of sugar. Avoid acidic foods and beverages. Cut down on refined carbs. And all of those suggestions are important, because the early stages of gingivitis are often easy to miss.

But let’s not forget the things we can actually do to be proactive with our gum health. Besides good dental hygiene and regular checkups at our Anchorage, AK office, eating a well-balanced diet helps keep your gums their healthiest—and while we can do a lot to treat gum disease, the very best treatment of all is prevention!  

Should You Be Concerned about Your Child’s Bad Breath?

April 28th, 2022

The short answer to this question? Yes. Because your child’s breath is a reflection of his or her oral health, you should talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous if you notice any unpleasant changes. While better dental hygiene is usually the answer for young children, bad breath can also be a symptom of more serious problems.

Oral Hygiene

Most often, bad breath is simply a sign that your child needs a little help developing proper brushing and flossing habits.

  • Show your child how to use a soft-bristled brush that fits in the mouth comfortably, be sure to brush all the surfaces of each tooth, and don’t forget to angle toward the gum line. And brush long enough. Once all the baby teeth have arrived, two minutes of brushing is usually recommended for children.
  • It’s not too early to floss! Adults need to handle the flossing duties for children until they can manage on their own, so it’s a perfect time to teach technique. And, just like toothbrushes, floss should be flexible and soft.
  • Don’t forget the tongue. Our tongues harbor the bacteria that cause bad breath, so finish off your child’s routine with a gentle brush of the tongue.

Better oral habits mean not only fresh breath, but give those baby teeth the best chance of staying healthy until they are naturally replaced by adult teeth. After all, baby teeth not only help your child learn to eat and speak properly, but they act as necessary placeholders so the permanent teeth are able to erupt in exactly the right spot.

Talk to a member of our Anchorage, AK office team at your child’s next appointment if you are concerned about oral hygiene–they have many great suggestions for making brushing and flossing more efficient, comfortable, and even fun for your child.

Alleviate Tooth Sensitivity

April 21st, 2022

There’s nothing like the simple seasonal pleasures. What’s more enjoyable than a cup of hot apple cider on a blustery winter day, or a tall glass of ice water in the middle of a summer heatwave? Until, that is, tooth sensitivity makes that hot or cold treat no treat at all. If untimely tooth sensitivity is causing you problems, there are solutions we can offer!

Improving Brushing Technique

Careful brushing is a wonderful habit to get into, but sometimes there can be too much of a good thing. Over-energetic brushing can actually damage our enamel. And underneath that enamel is dentin, a more porous substance which allows heat and cold to reach the more sensitive inner tooth.

But, please, don’t give up on brushing! Switching to a soft-bristled or electric toothbrush and a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth can make a world of difference. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can recommend the most effective and safest way to brush, as well as suggest toothpastes designed to fight tooth sensitivity. Until you recover, now is the time to avoid acidic and sugary foods and drinks (which can also bother sensitive teeth) and home tooth-whitening products as well.

Preventing Gum Disease

When gum disease progresses, the gums can begin to pull away from the teeth. This recession exposes part of the root area, which is much more sensitive to heat and cold.  Regular checkups and cleanings can keep gum disease from developing. Gum disease that is already present can be treated, and we can discuss whether more intensive care, such as a gum graft, is advisable to protect the root area.

Treating Injuries to the Tooth

If you have a cavity, a fracture, or another injury to the tooth or nerve, sensitivity is a good sign that you should call us right away. And, sensitivity is a symptom that can disappear when we restore the compromised tooth, whether it requires a new or replacement filling, a crown, or a root canal. If your teeth are more sensitive as a result of tooth grinding or other orthodontic problems, we can identify those issues as well.

No matter the reason for your tooth sensitivity, we want to work with you to find out the cause of the problem and to find a solution for it. Call our Anchorage, AK office if you notice any unpleasant or painful reactions to temperature, foods or even wind and air. Whether it’s advice on correcting your brushing style or treating tooth and gum conditions, we are here to help you.

Do You Have an Ageless Smile? Let Us Help You Keep It!

April 14th, 2022

In your golden years, you’ve become a pioneer in tooth care. Yours is probably the first generation in history that can expect to keep most of their natural teeth for a lifetime. You can probably guess the reasons: better oral care, advances in dentistry, improved nutrition, and a lower risk for diseases that could weaken teeth and gums.

As a pioneer, you’re learning with your dentists, and one thing we’ve found is that teeth change with age, just like the rest of the body. Even if your teeth can remain strong and white, here are a few things you may have to cope with:

Cavities: Tooth decay is not just for kids anymore. Seniors often develop cavities on the lower part of the tooth near the root. Thorough flossing and brushing along the gum line is the best preventive measure.

Sensitivity: Gums recede over time, and good dental habits only slow the process. Receding gums leave more of each tooth exposed, and the newly uncovered areas have less enamel. As a result, these teeth may be much more sensitive to hot and cold. If you find your teeth become more sensitive, try a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth and be sure to tell Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about it at your next checkup.

Difficulty brushing: If you have arthritis or limited motion you may have a hard time brushing your teeth. Consider switching to an electric toothbrush. There are also assistive devices available that make it easier to grip a manual toothbrush.

Other health problems: Diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses can cause symptoms in your mouth. Be sure to let us know if you have any health conditions, or if your condition changes. We can help treat symptoms that affect your teeth and recommend ways to maintain good oral health habits as part of your overall health program.

Dry Mouth and How to Treat It

April 7th, 2022

In fancy medical terms, dry mouth is known as xerostomia. It’s really just what it sounds like: a condition in which you don’t have enough saliva to keep your mouth moist. Dry mouth can be the result of certain medications you’re taking, aging, tobacco use, nerve damage, or chemotherapy.

Depending on whether you’re aware of the cause of your dry mouth, here are some simple ways to keep it at bay:

  • Avoid drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine
  • Avoid tobacco use, or lower your consumption of tobacco
  • Floss after every meal
  • Brush your teeth after every meal using a fluoride toothpaste
  • Avoid foods that have a high level of salt
  • Stay hydrated and drink water frequently
  • Consider using a humidifier at night

If you have any questions about dry mouth and how it is affecting you, give our Anchorage, AK office a call or make sure to ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous during your next visit!

Whitening Teeth with Braces

March 31st, 2022

Now that you are working hard to improve your dental health and appearance with your braces, it might seem like a logical time to whiten your teeth as well. But should you go ahead with home kits or a professional whitening? The answer might be yes, but not quite yet!

Toothpaste

The easiest way to whiten teeth is regular use of a whitening toothpaste. But these do not make a major difference in tooth color and may also contain abrasives which can damage ceramic brackets and make them more likely to stain. And, whether you have metal or ceramic braces, the brackets used are bonded to your teeth. Any part of your tooth covered by a bracket will not be affected by the whitening paste. Ask our office if you are thinking of using one of these products. We will be happy to recommend the best toothpastes to use while your braces are in place.

Whitening Strips and Trays

Whiteners can be applied at home with strips or tray kits. Strips are coated with a whitening gel and then pressed around your teeth. Tray kits provide a mouthguard-like appliance, which is filled with whitening gel. But neither strips nor tray solutions will whiten any area covered by brackets. When your braces come off, there might be noticeable differences in color on each tooth. Strips are difficult to apply with braces, and trays need to be custom-designed to fit your braces and make sure they don’t disturb your orthodontic work. One size most definitely does not fit all! Finally, these whitening agents can cause tooth and gum sensitivity, especially around the time of adjustments. Many manufacturers do not recommend using their products while you have braces. Please talk to us if you are thinking of using them.

Professional Whitening

A dental professional can whiten your teeth in office for the best possible results. The most effective treatments for your unique teeth are combined with protective care of your gums and mouth. Whether this treatment is appropriate while you have braces is something we are happy to discuss.

The best way to keep your teeth bright is to keep up your regular dental routine! Brushing and flossing are more important than ever now, because plaque builds up around brackets. Avoid foods that stain teeth and rinse or brush after every meal and snack. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will show you the best way to take care of your teeth while your braces are on—and that includes the best way to keep them white and bright. Talk to us about the perfect time to whiten your beautiful smile during your next visit to our Anchorage, AK office. And if you have to wait a few extra days for the smile you’ve been working toward, truly, the wait will be worth it!

Dangers of Alcohol and Oral Health

March 24th, 2022

We often have patients who ask, “Can drinking alcohol affect my oral health?” There are, in fact, a few reasons why that martini may not be good for your pearly whites.

In addition to creating an overly acidic environment in your mouth, alcohol severely dehydrates oral tissues because of its desiccant and diuretic properties. Because alcohol saps oral tissues of their moisture so readily, saliva glands can't keep enough saliva in the mouth to prevent dry mouth. In addition, saliva contains antibacterial properties that inhibits growth of anaerobic bacteria, a destructive type of oral bacterial responsible for tooth decay, gingivitis, chronic bad breath, and periodontitis.

What are anaerobic bacteria?

When there is a lack of saliva flow in the mouth and the mouth cannot naturally cleanse itself of oral debris (food particles, dead skin cell, mucous), conditions develop that promote activity of anaerobic bacteria, or bacteria that thrive in dry, airless places. These anaerobes also flourish when an unending supply of proteins (food debris) are available to consume, creating rapidly multiplying layers of plaque that stick to teeth and demineralizes tooth enamel unless removed by brushing and professional dental cleanings.

Oral Cancer and Alcohol

Acetaldehyde is a chemical compound leftover after the liver has metabolized alcohol. Capable of causing genetic mutations, acetaldehyde is also a known carcinogen that contributes to the ill feelings of hangovers. Although most metabolism of alcohol is done in the liver, evidence shows that metabolism also occurs outside the liver and that enzymes in the mouth could encourage accumulation of acetaldehyde in oral tissues.

When combined with poor oral health, smoking, and other detrimental lifestyle factors, alcohol may be considered a primary contributory factor in the development of oral cancer.

Even if you don't drink or drink only occasionally, remaining aware of symptoms that may indicate oral cancer will improve your chances of recovering successfully when you start treatment in the early stages of oral cancer. Signs include red or while speckled patches in the mouth, unexplained bleeding, lumps/swellings, chronic ear or throat pain, and areas of numbness in the mouth or on the face.

If you have any questions about alcohol and its connection to oral health, don’t hesitate to ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at your next visit to our Anchorage, AK office.

Why should I have my child’s wisdom teeth removed?

March 17th, 2022

The wisdom teeth are the last of the permanent molars to emerge from the gums. This can occur as early as age 17 or as late as 21. Though some teens and young adults experience a completely normal tooth eruption with ideally aligned molars that pose no health threat, this is not the case for everyone.

According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), wisdom teeth must meet specific criteria to avoid a required extraction. These guidelines include:

  • Completely erupted and non-impacted
  • Completely functional
  • Painless
  • Free of decay
  • Disease-free
  • Capable of being properly cleaned

If one or more of your child’s wisdom teeth do not meet these conditions, we recommend scheduling an appointment with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous; an extraction may be necessary.

Impacted wisdom teeth

One of the most common reasons for extracting a wisdom tooth is due to impaction. An impacted wisdom tooth is one that has not erupted and will not fully erupt from the gums. Usually this occurs because there is not enough room for the tooth to emerge. Impaction can be painful and can also lead to infection if left untreated. According to the AAOMS, roughly 90 percent of the teen and adult population has at least one impacted tooth. Extracting an impacted wisdom tooth early can help prevent future complications, such as periodontal disease, infections, and damage to neighboring teeth.

Extracting fully erupted wisdom teeth

Even if your child’s wisdom teeth are fully erupted, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates may recommend removing them as a preventive measure. Fully-erupted third molars often interfere with a healthy bite. This can lead to problems with tooth and jaw alignment and may also contribute to the development of headaches. Your child’s wisdom teeth may also be more prone to tooth decay and gum disease, because their location in the back of the mouth makes them more difficult to reach for brushing and flossing.

To learn more about wisdom teeth, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous, please give us a call at our convenient Anchorage, AK office!

When should I floss during the day?

March 10th, 2022

A vital step in your oral health routine is flossing. We hope our patients at Pediatric Dental Associates maintain good oral hygiene, including daily flossing between each visit to our Anchorage, AK office. A toothbrush is not always enough to get to the hard-to-reach areas of your mouth. When food remains between your teeth, bacteria starts to grow and will break down your enamel. This is where flossing comes in!

Should you floss before or after brushing?

Whatever your personal preference, you may floss before or after you brush your teeth. When you floss first, you can brush away any leftover dislodged food debris from your teeth. On the other hand, when you brush first, you will loosen the plaque between your teeth, which makes flossing more effective.

The essential aspect is that you floss thoroughly by using a fresh strand of floss and make sure to get between every tooth. Even if your teeth look and feel clean, don’t skip flossing or plaque will begin to build up on your teeth.

When is the best time to floss?

Although you should brush your teeth at least twice a day, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team recommend flossing your teeth thoroughly once a day. Many people prefer to floss before bed, so that plaque doesn’t sit between their teeth all night.

What kind of floss should I use?

You may choose between interdental cleaning picks or flexible floss strands to perform your daily flossing routine. If you have permanent oral appliances or restorations, be sure to follow the flossing instructions provided to you.

Do you need help flossing?

If you’re having trouble flossing or have questions about which floss is best for your teeth, contact our Anchorage, AK office and we can provide you with support. Be sure to keep up with your daily flossing routine, and we will see you at your next appointment!

Choosing the Dental Filling Option that's Best for You

March 3rd, 2022

Did you know there are as many types of dental fillings as there are flavors of ice cream? Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. Still, when you visit the dentist with a cavity, there are many filling options. Most of us just sit in the chair, open our mouths, and let the dentist work his or her magic. But have you ever stopped to consider what the dentist is filling and restoring your decayed or broken tooth with?

Five types of dental fillings

There are five basic kinds of dental filing material. The dentist decides which type to use based on the degree of the decay, the cost of the material, and the type of dental insurance you have.

  1. Dental amalgam, or silver fillings, have been used to fill cavities for more than 150 years. Dental amalgam is the most common type of dental filling. It's strong, durable, and less expensive than other types.
  2. Composite fillings, or white fillings, are popular because the color matches the rest of your teeth. Composite fillings are a combination of resin and plastic. They are more aesthetically pleasing than silver fillings, but are also less durable.
  3. Ceramic fillings are durable and visually appealing (tooth-colored), but they are expensive. They are made of porcelain and have been shown to be resistant to staining.
  4. Glass ionomers are typically used on children whose teeth are still changing. Constructed from glass and acrylic, glass ionomers are designed to last fewer than five years. The benefit of these dental fillings is that they release fluoride, which protects the changing tooth from further decay.
  5. Unless you’re a rock or movie star, gold fillings aren’t common. While a gold filling is durable, non-corrosive, and can last more than 15 years, it not only takes more than one dental visit to place, but, as you can imagine, it is expensive.

For more information about fillings, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous, please give us a call at our convenient Anchorage, AK office!

Cleaning Your Teeth—Time for a Refresher Course!

February 24th, 2022

Let’s face it, by now, brushing our teeth is something we pretty much do on auto-pilot. A quick brush after breakfast, a minute or so at night, floss when we think of it. Done. But take a few minutes to review these cleaning tips, and see if a few small adjustments to your routine could make all the difference at your next checkup at our Anchorage, AK office.

  • Tools

Some of us prefer brushing with a manual brush. Some like the electric brush for ease and comfort. Whichever form of brush you choose, be sure that it fits comfortably in your mouth, reaches everywhere it needs to, and has a handle that is easy to grip. There are many bristle options available, so if you are an energetic brusher, or if you have sensitive gums, try a soft bristled brush for gentler brushing.

If you haven’t been exploring the floss aisle lately, there are now many varieties available to suit your particular needs. Besides the traditional floss, there are coated flosses for easy gliding between teeth that fit closely together, dental tape-style flosses to fit teeth with wider spacing, and even flosses designed just for braces that thread between the wires and brackets. Talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at your next cleaning for product suggestions if you think there’s an easier, more comfortable option out there for you.

  • Technique

With proper technique, any toothbrush and floss you choose will do a fine job of removing plaque.

Brushing? There’s a tried and true method for success. Place the toothbrush at a 45° angle at the gum line. Be sure to brush the outside, inside, and chewing surface of each tooth thoroughly. Remember the expression, “Massage, don’t scrub.” Over-vigorous brushing can actually irritate gum tissue and damage enamel. An electric toothbrush should provide a continuous brushing motion without needing any pressure from the brusher. This might be the model for you if you have a too-vigorous approach to brushing, or sensitive teeth and gums. If you like your manual brush, again, give a soft-bristled brush a try!

As for flossing? That harmless-looking little string can cause gum damage if used too forcefully. You can accomplish the placement and cleaning power you need by easing the floss down to the gumline and flossing with gentle pressure against the tooth surface. If you have any questions about technique, remember—we are always happy to let you know the best cleaning methods for your specific needs.

  • Timing

Of course, the best tools and the best technique in the world won’t be effective unless you put the right amount of time into brushing and flossing.

The standard rule is two minutes of brushing in the morning and two minutes at night. If you wear braces or have other special circumstances, we might recommend brushing after every meal. And if you brush after breakfast, give your teeth half an hour or so to remineralize. This natural process uses the calcium and phosphate ions in your saliva to strengthen tooth enamel after it’s been exposed to any acidic foods in your breakfast.

Thorough flossing can be accomplished in a few minutes, and might be needed only once a day. But again, depending on your individual needs, we might have other recommendations. Let’s review what works for you at your next visit—we can tailor suggestions for a brushing routine to your unique needs.

It’s a great idea to review your brushing habits periodically to make sure you are getting the most out of those minutes you spend cleaning your teeth. There won’t be a test at the end of this review, and you won’t get a gratifying grade or a gold star. What you will get is much more important—better checkups, fewer cavities, and healthy teeth and gums. Happy cleaning!

What is a crown?

February 17th, 2022

If you have never had a crown before, you might be wondering why crown treatment is best, what the procedure involves, and which type of crown to choose. Let’s get down to the basics of crowns!

A crown is the best way to treat many dental conditions, either to strengthen and save the tooth or to improve its appearance. We might suggest a crown if you have any of the following conditions:

  • A filling that needs to be replaced, without enough tooth structure left to fill properly
  • A tooth that is fractured or broken, or so weak that it might fracture
  • A recent root canal
  • An implant
  • A bridge which needs a crown to serve as the base for attachment
  • A tooth that is discolored or irregularly shaped

On your first visit to our Anchorage, AK office, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will prepare the tooth that will be receiving a crown. A tooth might have to be built up if there isn’t enough of the original tooth left, or the top and sides of the tooth will be shaped down so that the crown fits smoothly and evenly with your other teeth. An impression will be made and sent to a dental lab so that a crown with the perfect fit for your tooth and mouth can be created. A temporary crown will be put in place to protect your tooth while the final crown is fabricated.

 The permanent crown is a cap which covers your tooth. It can be made of various materials, which all offer different advantages:

  • Metal Crowns—made of gold, platinum or base metal alloys, these are the longest lasting. Because of their metallic color, they are often chosen for back molars where they are less visible.
  • Porcelain Over Metal—because the color of the porcelain is matched to your natural teeth, these crowns look very realistic. Porcelain is more fragile than metal, so there is the possibility that they won’t be as durable.
  • Resin—less expensive than other options, but these crowns are more fragile and do not wear as well.
  • All Porcelain/All Ceramic—the most realistic looking option, especially for front teeth, and also suitable for anyone with a metal allergy. They are, again, not as strong as metal crowns, and can be subject to damage.
  • Stainless Steel—often used for baby teeth or as a temporary crown for adult teeth.

We’ll discuss your options and help you decide on the best type of crown for you. When the crown is finished at the dental lab, you will have one more visit where the crown will be secured in place. We will make sure your bite is comfortable and the color and appearance of the crown are satisfactory. We will also give you instructions for the next few days following the procedure, and can make adjustments if needed.

A crown is a perfect example of form and function working together: a crown maintains the beauty of your smile and preserves the health of your tooth. If you need a crown, we will be happy to talk to you about your best options for a strong, long-lasting, and natural smile.

Why do wisdom teeth need to be removed?

February 10th, 2022

Sometime around the late teens or early twenties, people’s wisdom teeth start to erupt. These are the third and final set of molars. When wisdom teeth come in properly — meaning they are correctly aligned — they offer more chewing power. Unfortunately, more often than not, wisdom teeth are misaligned, crowd other teeth, and need to be removed.

Why do we have wisdom teeth?

It is thought that we have wisdom teeth because — back in the day — we ate a diet that consisted of more rough foods, like roots, leaves, and meat, all of which required more heavy-duty chewing power.

Reasons Wisdom Teeth Need to be Removed

While there is no clear-cut rule that says every single person needs to have their wisdom teeth removed, there are certain situations where one or more wisdom teeth are causing a problem or have a strong likelihood that problems will eventually arise in the future that warrant their removal.

1. Fully Impacted Wisdom Teeth

When a wisdom tooth is “impacted”, it means that the tooth is covered by gum tissue, thereby preventing it from erupting through the gum. This often occurs when the mouth is too small to allow enough room for the tooth to emerge. Because bacteria, food, or other mouth substances can be lodged under the gum that covers the wisdom tooth, it can lead to an acute abscess, known as pericoronitis.

2. Partially Impacted Wisdom Teeth

When a wisdom tooth is partially impacted, meaning the tooth is partially emerged from the gums, it almost always is advised to be removed. Because of its location in the very back of the mouth, a partially erupted wisdom tooth is more susceptible to not only decay and cavities, but also gum disease.

3. Other Reasons to Have Wisdom Teeth Removed

If you experience any of the below dental issues or changes in your dental health, removal of your wisdom tooth (teeth) may be necessary:

  • Pain at or surrounding the wisdom tooth site, including the jaw or cheek area
  • Repetitive infections
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth decay (extensive)
  • Tumors
  • Cysts
  • Damage to surrounding teeth

It is important to know that the decision to have a wisdom tooth removed isn’t always cut and dry. It is essential to talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about the alignment of your wisdom teeth if they have already erupted, health of your wisdom teeth if impacted or partially impacted, and your overall dental health to determine what is best for your situation. Contact our Anchorage, AK office to schedule an appointment today!

Non-Nutritive Sucking Behavior

February 3rd, 2022

“Non-nutritive sucking behavior”? That’s a mouthful—literally! This term describes behaviors such as thumb sucking and pacifier use, which are generally healthy, self-soothing activities for infants and toddlers. But, if followed too long, this comforting habit can have uncomfortable consequences for your child’s dental health.

When children are nursed or bottle-fed, placing a nipple in the mouth helps trigger the sucking reflex, enabling the flow of milk or formula. This is called nutritive sucking, because nourishment is the goal. The sucking reflex is so essential that it develops even before birth. And while the purpose of this reflex is nourishment, it provides other benefits as well.

For small children, sucking can be a comfort mechanism to help them cope with stressful situations and calm themselves. That’s why you often see your child sucking on a pacifier, toy, thumb, or fingers when feeling overwhelmed or tired. Non-nutritive sucking behavior, or NNSB, refers to these habits: sucking without nutritional benefit.

Such habits are extremely common in young children. Most children stop sucking their thumbs or pacifiers between the ages of two and four, and often even earlier. But if your child hasn’t, it’s a good idea to talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about easing your child away from this familiar habit before the permanent teeth start to arrive.

Why? Because when sucking behavior lasts too long, it can have orthodontic consequences. Just as the gentle pressure of braces or aligners can help shift teeth and jaws into the proper alignment, the pressure from sucking thumb and pacifier can push growing teeth and jaws out of alignment.

  • Studies have shown a clear link between NNSB and malocclusions, or bite problems. These include overjets (protruding upper teeth), open bites (where the upper and lower teeth don’t make contact when biting down), and crossbites (where one or more upper fit teeth inside lower teeth).
  • As young bones are still growing, prolonged, vigorous sucking can affect the shape and size of a child’s palate and jaw.
  • When the teeth are pushed out of alignment, difficulties with pronunciation, such as lisps, can develop.

Sucking habits can be difficult to give up. If your child is still self-comforting with the help of thumb or pacifier past age three, and certainly if you’ve noticed any changes in teeth or speech, there are several gentle, positive steps you can take to protect your child’s dental health.

  • Talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about strategies for weaning your child from pacifier and thumb, as well as possible comforting substitutes. Your healthcare team can offer suggestions for making this transition as easy as possible for your child—and for you!
  • Discuss recommendations you’ve found in books or online which might be a good match for your child’s personality. Whatever you decide on, whether it’s a gradual phasing out, small rewards, a goals chart, or any other method, use positive reinforcement and plenty of encouragement.
  • Set easy goals at the beginning, such as going thumb-free while playing a game, or enjoying a favorite video, or any stress-free activity, to give your child a feeling of accomplishment to build on.
  • Be proactive with orthodontic health. One good idea is to schedule an orthodontic visit when your child is around the age of seven—or earlier if you notice problems with tooth alignment, speech, or bite.

Thumb sucking and pacifier use can be important, instinctive sources of comfort for very young children. And, of course, NNSB is not the only cause of childhood malocclusions. Many bite problems are genetically based and/or affected by the size and shape of your child’s teeth and jaws.

But eliminating the preventable oral health problems caused by prolonged non-nutritive sucking behaviors—that’s an opportunity we can’t afford to pass up. After all, wanting to ensure healthy, confident smiles for our children is instinctive parental behavior!

Smoking and Dental Implants

January 20th, 2022

Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to replace a missing tooth with an implant. While an implant will restore the appearance of your smile, you also know that there are many reasons that an implant will improve your health, too.

A missing tooth causes structural problems as well as cosmetic ones. Remaining teeth can shift to fill the gap, leading to wear and bite problems. Without the stimulation of biting and chewing, bone tissue under the lost tooth gradually shrinks and is resorbed. The shapes of our jaws, cheeks and lips can be affected. Replacing a lost tooth with an implant can not only restore the appearance of your smile, but maintain it.

And implant procedures have a very high rate of success. Implants are made of materials compatible with the body, and surgically placed in the jaw to act as anchors for replacement teeth. The implant will actually integrate with the bone growing around it for strong, stable, and long-lasting support. After the time it takes for the implant to integrate and the area around it to heal, a crown, designed to match your own teeth perfectly, will be securely attached to the implant post.

What can you do to help the healing process? Follow our instructions carefully. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will give you suggestions for the time immediately following the procedure as well as instructions on the importance of keeping the area clean while healing takes place. And one very important favor you can do yourself? If you smoke, this is the time to stop.

Studies have shown that smokers have a significantly increased risk of dental problems and implant failures, and there are several theories as to why.

  • Smoking slows the healing process. Some studies indicate that smoking impairs blood flow in the gums, so that less oxygen and fewer nutrients are delivered to healing tissue.
  • Smokers tend to be more vulnerable to gum disease.
  • Smoking has been linked to a weaker immune system, so it’s harder to fight off an infection or to heal from one.
  • More marginal bone loss around implants is seen in smokers than in non-smokers.
  • Peri-implantitis, an inflammation of the gum tissue around the implant that can lead to bone loss and implant failure, is also more common in smokers.

Now that you have decided on a dental implant at our Anchorage, AK office, make one more decision to ensure the success of the procedure. Talk to us about ways to quit smoking before your implant, and how to reduce the chance of smoking-related complications. We know that quitting can be difficult, but your improved smile—and your improved health—are worth it!

Just What Is a Cavity, Anyway?

January 13th, 2022

The grownups in your life encourage you to brush and floss, eat healthy foods, and visit us in the dental office for exams and cleanings. Why? Because we all want to help you prevent cavities.

So you might be wondering, just what are cavities? How do we get them? What do they do to our teeth? How can we prevent them? Let’s talk!

Our teeth need to be strong to bite and chew. That’s why they are protected by a coating called enamel, which is made up of very hard minerals. Enamel is the strongest part of our bodies—stronger even than our bones. But this doesn’t mean nothing can hurt it! And cavities, also called tooth decay, are one of the most common dangers facing our enamel.

So, what are cavities?

A cavity is a hole in your tooth enamel. If your tooth is not cleaned and repaired when a cavity is small, this hole can grow bigger until tooth decay reaches the inside of your tooth. Enamel doesn’t heal when it’s damaged, so you need to see a dentist to make your tooth healthy again.

How do we get cavities?

Bacteria are tiny little germs. Many kinds of bacteria live in our bodies, and some of them are quite helpful. The bacteria that cause cavities are not. These unhelpful bacteria join with our saliva and very small pieces of the food we’ve chewed to make a sticky film called plaque.

Like other living things, the bacteria in plaque need food. They get that food from the foods we eat, especially sugars and starches. As they eat, they change these sugars and starches into acids, and these acids attack the minerals that keep enamel hard and strong.

Because plaque sticks to our teeth, bacterial acids are able to make weak spots in enamel if the plaque isn’t brushed away. If you see a white spot on your tooth, which could mean that your enamel is losing minerals, and getting weaker.

What do cavities do to our teeth?

Over time, weak spots can grow bigger until there’s a hole in the enamel surface. If the cavity in your enamel is small, you might not notice it at first. But cavities can become wider and deeper, and even break through enamel to reach the inside of your tooth.

The inside of each tooth holds pulp, the part of your tooth that keeps it healthy. If tooth decay spreads to the pulp, it can cause more damage and infection, so it’s important to treat a cavity right away.

Dark spots on your enamel, a toothache, pain when you drink something hot or cold or when you bite down—these can be clues that you have a cavity, and you should visit us for an exam.

How can you prevent cavities?

Even better than treating a cavity is preventing one. Let’s make a list of some helpful do’s and don’ts for cavity prevention:

  • Do: Feed yourself foods that are good for you.

Foods like milk and cheese and many dark green vegetables have lots of calcium and vitamin D to help keep your enamel strong.

  • Don’t: Feed bacteria foods that are good for them.

Sugar and simple starches like potato chips are the kinds of foods bacteria like best, because they are easy to break down. This means more acids to attack your enamel.

This doesn’t mean you should never enjoy a treat! But eating lots of starchy snacks and drinking sugary sodas means more plaque, and more plaque can mean more cavities. If you’re eating something starchy or sweet, it’s a good idea to brush or rinse afterward.

  • Do: Brush at least twice a day, for at least two minutes, with fluoride toothpaste.

This is the best way to get rid of plaque, which builds up every day. And fluoride toothpaste even helps make your enamel stronger.

  • Don’t: Forget to floss.

Flossing takes a while to learn to do well, but it’s very important. Flossing helps prevent cavities between the teeth and near the gums.

  • Do: Visit our Anchorage, AK office for exams and cleanings.

Not only will we look for cavities, we’ll let you know the best way to brush and floss so you can get your teeth their cleanest. We even have special coatings called sealants that can protect your teeth from plaque.

  • Don’t: Feel bad if you get a cavity!

Some people are more likely to get cavities than others, even when they brush just right and eat healthy foods. If you have a cavity, we can remove decay and repair your tooth with a filling.

And one last thing to do: talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous if you have any questions about the best ways to protect your teeth from cavities. We have lots of suggestions to help you take care of your healthy, beautiful smile!

Make this the Year You Stop Smoking

January 6th, 2022

It’s a new year, and it couldn’t come fast enough for many of us! Let’s do our part to make this a better year in every way—and you can start by making this the year you quit smoking once and for all.

You know that smoking is very damaging to your body. Smokers are more likely to suffer from lung disease, heart attacks, and strokes. You’re at greater risk for cancer, high blood pressure, blood clots, and blood vessel disorders. With far-reaching consequences like this, it’s no surprise that your oral health suffers when you smoke as well.

How does smoking affect your teeth and mouth?

  • Appearance

While this is possibly the least harmful side effect of smoking, it’s a very visible one. Tar and nicotine start staining teeth right away. After months and years of smoking, your teeth can take on an unappealing dark yellow, orange, or brown color. Tobacco staining might require professional whitening treatments because it penetrates the enamel over time.

  • Plaque and Tartar

Bacterial plaque and tartar cause cavities and gum disease, and smokers suffer from plaque and tartar buildup more than non-smokers do. Tartar, hardened plaque that can only be removed by a dental professional, is especially hard on delicate gum tissue.

  • Bad Breath

The chemicals in cigarettes linger on the surfaces of your mouth causing an unpleasant odor, but that’s not the only source of smoker’s breath. Smoking also dries out the mouth, and, without the normal flow of saliva to wash away food particles and bacteria, bad breath results. Another common cause of bad breath? Gum disease, which is also found more frequently among smokers.

  • Gum Disease

Smoking has been linked to greater numbers of harmful oral bacteria in the mouth and a greater risk of gingivitis (early gum disease). Periodontitis, or severe gum disease, is much more common among smokers, and can lead to bone and tooth loss. Unsurprisingly, tooth loss is also more common among smokers.  

  • Implant Failure

Tooth implants look and function like our original teeth, and are one of the best solutions for tooth loss. While implant failure isn’t common, it does occur significantly more often among smokers. Studies suggest that there are multiple factors at work, which may include a smoker’s bone quality and density, gum tissue affected by constricted blood vessels, and compromised healing.

  • Healing Ability

Smoking has been linked to weakened immune systems, so it’s harder to fight off an infection and to heal after an injury. Because smoking affects the immune system’s response to inflammation and infection, smokers suffering from gum disease don’t respond as well to treatment. Smokers experience a higher rate of root infections, and smoking also slows the healing process after oral surgeries or trauma.

  • Dry Socket

Smoking following a tooth extraction can cause a painful condition called “dry socket.” After extraction, a clot forms to protect the tooth socket. Just as this clot can be dislodged by sucking through a straw or spitting, it can also be dislodged by the force of inhaling and exhaling while smoking.

  • Oral Cancer

Research has shown again and again that smoking is the single most serious risk factor for oral cancer. Studies have also shown that you reduce your risk of oral cancer significantly when you quit smoking.

Quitting smoking is a major accomplishment that will improve your life on every level. It’s always a good idea to talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous for strategies to help you achieve your wellness goals for the new year. Make this the year you stop smoking, and the year your health improves in countless ways because you did.

Resolving to Eat Better in the New Year

December 30th, 2021

It’s a new year, and a resolution found on many lists is learning to be more mindful about healthy food choices. You might have set some of these goals yourself. Gaining, losing, or maintaining your current weight. More fruits and veggies. Better proteins. Less sugar. Fewer carbs. You want to make this new year your healthiest year yet.

And while you’re making your new and improved shopping list, don’t forget your oral health! Because while brushing and flossing are extremely important, your diet can also have very real benefits for your teeth and gums.

Stronger Teeth and Jaws

We often talk about teeth and bones together, and that’s natural. Calcium and phosphorus, as well as other minerals, make them the strongest parts of our bodies. When teeth lose mineral strength, they are more vulnerable to cavities, and bone loss in the jaw can cause loose or even lost teeth.

Making sure you get the recommended daily amount of the minerals and vitamins you need will help sustain and repair both teeth and bones. A diet rich in calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D helps build strong bones and promotes bone density. While your teeth can’t create new enamel, minerals that are eroded by acids from plaque and acidic foods can be restored, or remineralized, with the calcium and phosphates in saliva.

  • Calcium

Strong teeth and bones need calcium. More than 99% of the calcium in our bodies is located in our teeth and bones. How to make sure we get enough?

Dairy products are the traditional answer. Several servings of milk, cheese, or yogurt each day supply most of our needs. If you can’t eat dairy, though, calcium is also found in other foods, such as salmon, sardines, many dark leafy vegetables, and fortified juices, tofu, and cereals.

  • Phosphorus

Calcium gets most of the attention when it comes to creating strong teeth and bones, but it’s not a solo act. We need phosphorus to make full use of the calcium in our diets.

Proteins like meat, fish, and poultry are good sources of phosphorus, as are beans, nuts, whole grains and dairy.

  • Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a diet essential because it enables us to absorb the calcium and phosphorus that keep teeth and bones strong.

Most dairy and many other foods are fortified with vitamin D, such as cow’s milk, soymilk, orange juice, and cereals. Egg yolks and fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and herring, are also a rich natural source of the vitamin.

Healthy Gums

Gum disease is more than just a nuisance. Left untreated, gingivitis (early gum disease) can become periodontitis (serious gum disease). Periodontitis can cause infection, loose teeth, and tooth and bone loss.

Brushing and flossing promote gum health and help prevent gum disease, but your diet plays an important role, too.  

  • Vitamin A

Vitamin A is essential for the health and healing of mucous membranes, including gum tissue and the soft membranes in the mouth.

You can get this vitamin directly from animal products such as dairy foods and meats, or it can be formed in the body from beta-carotenes. Think orange when you hit the produce aisle, because foods such as carrots, peppers, pumpkin, squash, and sweet potatoes are a rich source of beta-carotenes.

  • Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the so-called “essential nutrients.” These are the nutrients that are necessary for our bodies to function properly, and which can only be supplied in our diets. Vitamin C is vital for healthy gums and soft tissue—in fact, one sign that your diet is deficient in vitamin C is inflamed and bleeding gums.

Citrus fruits, those oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and all their cousins, are a wonderful source of vitamin C, but you have many other flavorful options. Fruits such as kiwis, mangos, papayas, and strawberries are rich in vitamin C. Step over to the vegetable aisle to load up on red peppers, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli—all of which contain more vitamin C per serving than a medium orange!

Fewer Cavities

Plaque thrives on a diet of sugar. Oral bacteria in plaque use the sugars in our food to produce acids. These acids erode enamel and eventually lead to cavities. Limiting your sugar consumption and choosing complex carbohydrates over simple carbs are two ways to reduce your risk of cavities.

  • Sugars

The usual suspects—candies, desserts, pastries, sodas—are sugar-filled items you’re familiar with. What might surprise you is the amount of sugar in sports drinks, fruit juices, flavored yogurts, breakfast cereals, and other standard grocery purchases. Checking labels for sugar content is a great way to cut down on unexpected sweeteners.

  • Carbs

The refined starches in white bread, white rice, potato chips, and other simpler carbohydrates quickly break down into sugars. This is the kind of nutrition only plaque appreciates.

Instead, fill your cart with complex carbohydrates, which contain important vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Found in foods like whole-grain breads and cereals, legumes, and many vegetables, complex carbs break down slowly for longer-lasting energy.

Of course, these suggestions don’t cover everything on your healthy dental shopping list. We could add magnesium for bone density, vitamin B to prevent oral irritation and inflammation, vitamin K for bone strength, and more. To find out the best options for your healthiest smile, talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous or a member of our Anchorage, AK team about ideas for improving your daily diet.

Because besides leading to stronger teeth, healthier gums, and fewer cavities, a careful and conscious approach to your food choices has another wonderful benefit—a healthy dental diet is healthy for the rest of your body as well. Just something to be mindful of as we greet the new year!

The Importance of Baby Teeth

December 23rd, 2021

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team know it can be easy to underestimate the significance of baby teeth. At Pediatric Dental Associates, we sometimes meet parents who assume that since their child's baby teeth, also known as primary teeth, eventually fall out and are replaced, they are less important. But did you know baby teeth serve purposes other than biting, chewing, and digesting food properly?

Baby teeth are essential not only for your child’s language development, but they also serve other important functions, like contributing to the normal development of your child’s jaw bones and facial muscles. Baby teeth also reserve space for your child’s future permanent teeth.

So, when do baby teeth fall out?

A baby tooth is intended to remain in your child’s mouth until the permanent tooth underneath it is ready to take its place. Sometimes, either due to a tooth being knocked out accidentally or being removed because of tooth decay, kids lose baby teeth before the permanent teeth are ready to erupt. If a tooth is lost, the teeth on either side of the open space may possibly push into the open space. The result? There may not be enough room for the permanent tooth when it is finally ready to erupt.

If you have any questions about your toddler’s teeth, or if your child is experiencing issues that concern you, please give us a call to set up an appointment at our convenient Anchorage, AK office.

Flossing Fixes

December 16th, 2021

A length of floss plus your teeth is about as low-tech as it gets. But, as with so many other “simple” skills, it helps to learn just the right technique to avoid common mistakes and to make your flossing as effective as it can possibly be.

  • Choose the Right Floss for You

You’re getting ready to go out, and your floss keeps getting stuck, shredding, or snagging. You might try waxed flosses or flosses treated to glide easily through the teeth if this is a difficulty. (But do call us if it happens a lot—it could be a problem with a restoration, or a cavity, or some other condition we should address.) If you have the opposite problem, too wide a space between teeth for effective flossing, there are dental tape flosses that work with wider spacings. Braces? There are even specially designed dental flosses that thread between brackets and wires to access hard-to-reach plaque and food particles. If you’re unsure which product will work best for you, we have recommendations.

  • Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

Did you know dental floss is a handy kitchen tool? You can use (unflavored) floss to cut cakes into even layers, slice cheese, or divide a log of cookie dough into perfect rounds. Just pull the floss taut and saw away. But let’s not use this technique on delicate gum tissue! Gums can be injured by a vigorous, sawing motion. Instead, gently guide the floss between the teeth to the gums, and, when you reach the gum line, gently ease the floss up and down the tooth surface. But do remember, sometimes the gums are sore and sensitive because of too little flossing, not too much. Proper cleaning will help keep your gums both healthy and pain-free.

  • Technique Counts!

We often use floss to remove food particles from between the teeth, which provides instant dental gratification. But you are flossing for the long term as well. Proper flossing removes the plaque that leads to cavities from places your brush just can’t reach. Make sure you floss between each tooth, and don’t forget the back of those teeth on the end. The next time you visit our Anchorage, AK office for a cleaning, let us demonstrate the most effective techniques for gently removing plaque from beneath the gum area and on the tooth’s surface.

  • It’s All in the Timing

How much time should you spend flossing? That answer will depend on your individual needs. For some people, thorough and careful flossing once a day will be sufficient. For others, flossing more often might be advisable. We can help you decide how often and how long to floss.

It might take some time and practice to learn to floss effectively, but you will find your technique gets better and your flossing is accomplished more quickly once you have the basics down. If Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can offer any suggestions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Preventing Toddler Tooth Decay

December 9th, 2021

You do everything you can to protect your toddler with safeguards large and small. Installing that complicated car seat. Figuring out which sunscreen is best for delicate skin. Spending weeks childproofing your home. But all the work protecting your child is more than worth it because the rewards are so great. And one more everyday precaution that brings great rewards is protecting your toddler from tooth decay.

  • Start Early

The time to start your baby’s dental care is even before that first tooth arrives. Carefully wiping the gums with a clean, damp cloth after feeding gets your child used to the idea of brushing and removes bacteria that might irritate the gums as the teeth begin to erupt. As soon as those teeth arrive, gentle brushing with soft bristles will keep bacteria and plaque from causing tooth decay and gingivitis. We can recommend toothpastes formulated especially for toddlers and suggest the best ways to brush.

  • Mind The Menu

We know that sugary foods aren’t healthy for your toddler’s teeth. Bacteria in the mouth feeds on sugar, and a sugar-heavy diet results in more of the bacteria and plaque which cause cavities. But sugar is not the only food that is not tooth-friendly. For example, foods like citrus fruits and juices can also be a problem. Acidic foods can actually weaken enamel after eating and leave teeth more vulnerable to cavity-causing bacteria and plaque. We have suggestions for tooth-healthy snacks and the best times to brush after eating if you and your child indulge in a treat.

  • Don’t Misuse Bottles & Sippy Cups

Your toddler might still use a bottle at night or a sippy cup throughout the day. Juices and even milk contain sugar that increases the risk of cavities, and if your child goes to sleep with a bottle or cup, these liquids pool in the mouth overnight allowing bacteria to flourish.  If your toddler wants a drink at night or between meals, water is a much better option.

Those tiny teeth are important for so many reasons. They enable children to bite and chew efficiently, to pronounce sounds properly for speech development, and to save space for adult teeth so they erupt in the right place. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team recommend that your child visit our Anchorage, AK office after the first tooth comes in, and always by the first birthday. We will make sure your toddler’s teeth are developing as they should be and suggest ways to keep them cavity-free. Your toddler’s healthy, beautiful smile is a reward worth protecting!

Root Cavities

December 2nd, 2021

When we don’t keep up with our dental hygiene, plaque buildup can result in three kinds of cavities. Pit and fissure cavities are found on the tops of molars, where food particles get stuck in the irregular surfaces. Smooth surface cavities are located on the smooth sides of teeth.

Wait. Top, all around the sides—what’s left for plaque to attack?

Our roots. The roots of our teeth are generally protected by their concealed position in the jaw. Sitting securely in alveolar bone, held firmly in place by connective tissue, with gum tissue snugly surrounding them, roots are generally not cavity prone.

But these cozy conditions can change. Due to gum disease, abrasive habits, or simply the passage of time, gums can recede and expose root surfaces. And this exposure can lead to root cavities.

If you look at a complete tooth, it looks like enamel is covering the entire tooth surface. In fact, enamel, the strongest substance in the body, only covers the visible part of the tooth, called the crown. The roots are covered by a substance called cementum, which is softer than enamel. And if enamel can’t stop decay, cementum is even more vulnerable when it’s exposed to plaque, bacteria, and acidic foods.

How do we protect our roots from decay? Protecting our gums is the first line of defense.

  • Gum Disease

Receding gums caused by periodontitis can be treated by Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous. Deep cleaning procedures such as scaling and root planing can remove accumulated plaque and tartar, and help gum tissue reattach to teeth. For serious recession, gum grafts can replace lost tissue.

Early treatment can prevent recession. If you notice any signs of early gum disease, including bleeding, swelling, tenderness, or persistent bad breath, it’s time for a visit to our Anchorage, AK office.

  • Gum Abrasion

It’s not just gum disease that can lead to gum recession. Some personal habits are hard on gums and teeth, and can leave roots exposed. If you bite your nails, grind your teeth, irritate your gums with oral piercings, you are at risk for gum recession. Talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about preventing abrasive damage.

A surprising cause of receding gums? Over-vigorous brushing. Use a soft-bristled brush—and don’t use a heavy hand when brushing—to protect your delicate gum tissue.

  • Aging

As we age, our gums recede. So it’s no wonder that older adults are especially at risk for root cavities. That’s why it’s very important to keep up with brushing (at least two minutes twice a day) and flossing (once a day, or more often if needed) to prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar.

And it’s more important than ever to schedule regular dental exams and cleanings. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can help stop small problems from becoming major ones, and suggest brushing and flossing techniques, fluoride treatments, or other procedures to encourage gum and dental health.

If a cavity develops, no matter what kind, it should be treated as soon as possible. And time is especially important for a root cavity.

Because cementum is weaker than enamel, cavities can progress more quickly in roots. A cavity which has reached pulp tissue might require a root canal and a crown to restore tooth function. Serious decay could lead to extraction.

Don’t let root cavities undermine your dental health. If you notice any sign of gum disease or recession, it’s time for a visit to our Anchorage, AK office. After all, even though they go unnoticed, strong roots are the foundation of a healthy, attractive, life-long smile.

Electric Toothbrush Innovations

November 25th, 2021

If you’re happy with your manual toothbrush, read no further. But if you’re looking for more options than “firm,” “medium,” or “soft,” there’s a world of electric toothbrush innovations out there waiting to make your brushing routine not only more efficient, but interactive as well! What does innovative toothbrush technology offer?

A Menu of Brushing Options

Some brushes now offer several different modes to choose from, depending on how you want to use your electric toothbrush. There are options for sensitive teeth, polishing, deep cleaning, massage, or gum care along with the regular cleaning setting. Whether you want whitening action or a gentle massage for teeth and gums, there’s a brush out there for you.

Pressure Sensors

Electric toothbrushes are a great way to avoid brushing too vigorously. Even with soft bristles (which should be your go-to choice), a manual toothbrush can irritate sensitive gum tissue if it is applied with too much pressure. And over time, harsh brushing can lead to enamel damage. An electric toothbrush, on the other hand, provides consistent, gentle brushing with normal use. If you still have a tendency to be a bit heavy-handed, a helpful pressure sensor can provide a warning light or actually reduce the brush’s motor speed to get you back on track.

Smart Toothbrushes

There’s an app for it! Many electric models offer wireless connectivity to an app that monitors your brushing habits. You can track your brushing time, get a reminder when your brush head needs changing, even view a map of the areas you’re cleaning effectively—and the ones you’re missing. Check out individual models to see just what you can learn from your smart brush.

USB Charging

No need to search for outlet space or amass a collection of travel adapters any longer. USB charging cases makes your electric toothbrush convenient and portable.

And more innovations are in the works—fully biodegradable toothbrush heads, toothbrushes powered only by water or kinetic energy, and an app that offers games while you brush. For toothbrush traditionalists, a manual toothbrush will still do a great job. But if you are looking for the latest in toothbrush technology, explore what the newest electric brushes can do for you. Ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous during your next appointment to our Anchorage, AK office. The end goal of toothbrush innovation, after all, is healthy teeth and gums. Make your next selfie something to smile about!

 

What Are Chalky Teeth?

November 18th, 2021

You’ve always taken care of your child’s smile. You make sure thorough brushing and flossing take place twice a day. You serve foods high in vitamins and minerals and low in sugar. You make and keep regular dental appointments at our Anchorage, AK office. But even with the best dental routines, sometimes conditions can occur that will require additional professional care.

One of these conditions can affect your child’s enamel while the tooth is still forming. When baby teeth or adult teeth appear, you might notice white, creamy yellow, or brown spots in otherwise healthy-looking enamel. These spots are softer and rougher than normal hard, smooth enamel. Because of their texture and color, such teeth are often referred to as “chalky teeth,” but this condition is actually known as enamel hypomineralization.

What is hypomineralization?

Enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies—stronger even than bones. Enamel is largely composed of minerals. If something disrupts the process of enamel development in baby or adult teeth, the result can be abnormally low mineral content in the enamel. This leaves teeth weaker and more likely to suffer decay and damage.

Premature birth, low birth weight, and other pre-natal factors have been suggested as risk factors for hypomineralization in primary teeth enamel. Permanent teeth can be vulnerable to this condition as well. Adult teeth are forming in young children well before they make an appearance. It’s been suggested that certain early childhood factors, such as recurring high fevers, some diseases, even specific antibiotics, can interrupt the formation of the enamel and lead to hypomineralization of adult teeth.

What are the results of enamel hypomineralization?

Children with this condition are much more likely to experience rapid tooth decay because of their weaker, more porous enamel, especially in the molars. Further, they tend not to respond as well to the numbing effects of local dental anesthetics, while their teeth tend to be more sensitive to pain. Cases can be mild, moderate, or severe. In severe cases, teeth might require crowns or possibly extractions, but even mild discoloration and other cosmetic problems can lead to self-consciousness in your child.

How can we help?

Catching this condition early is very important. If your child has had any medical conditions that might affect tooth development, let Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous know even before that first tooth comes in. If you notice anything unusual about a new baby or adult tooth, give us a call. For primary or permanent teeth, the sooner we can begin treatment, the better the long-term outlook.

We might suggest fluoride applications or desensitizing treatments. We can apply sealants to reduce the risk of cavities, and use bonding to restore discolored or weak patches in the tooth. Both of these methods have greater success if the enamel near the affected area is in good condition, so early treatment is vital. If teeth require more protection, crowns are often the best choice. We will design a treatment program to suit your child’s individual needs now and for the future.

How can you help?

Dental hygiene is important for every child, but especially for a child with weak and porous enamel. Because children with hypomineralized enamel develop cavities more quickly that those with strong enamel, it is very important to watch your child’s diet and keep to a regular, careful, and thorough routine of brushing and flossing at home. Be attentive to any sensitivity problems, and be sure to follow any suggestions we might have for strengthening enamel.

Remember, early diagnosis and treatment is always best! If at any time you notice chalky patches, or have any other concerns about the appearance of your child’s teeth, if they seem to be causing your child pain or are unusually sensitive, call Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous immediately. We want to work with you to treat any current problems and to prevent new ones.

Why Are We Recommending a Periodontal Consultation?

November 11th, 2021

The best way to protect yourself from gum disease is to be proactive: practice good oral hygiene at home and schedule regular checkups and cleanings in our Anchorage, AK office.

How do you know if your dental routine is doing the job? There are specific symptoms you might notice when you brush and floss, and less obvious signs of gum disease we look for during your dental exams.

The early stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis. It’s generally caused by poor dental hygiene, although certain diseases, age, hormones, and a number of other factors can also put you at risk. It’s time to talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about your gum health if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • Bright red or purple gums
  • Swollen gums
  • Pain or tenderness
  • Bleeding when brushing or flossing
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Receding gums

And sometimes, there are no obvious symptoms at all. That’s why regular checkups are so important. If you have gingivitis, careful attention to your oral hygiene, professional cleaning, prescription mouthwash, or other treatments as needed can reverse the effects of gingivitis and restore your gums to their normal, healthy state.

Why be so proactive? Because, left untreated, gingivitis leads to more serious gum disease, called periodontitis. The bacteria in plaque and tartar cause inflammation, and inflammation leads the gum tissue to pull away from the teeth, forming pockets which become deeper over time. Here, where brushing can’t reach, bacteria continue to multiply, leading to further inflammation, infection, and the eventual breakdown of gum and bone tissues.

The results of untreated periodontitis can be very serious, including:

  • Significant gum recession, leaving roots more vulnerable to decay
  • Periodontal abscesses
  • Loose teeth, or teeth that shift from their proper positions
  • Bone loss in the area surrounding the teeth
  • Tooth loss

If we see signs of advanced periodontitis, we may refer you to a periodontist.

Periodontists specialize in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of gum disease. After dental school, a periodontal degree requires three years of additional advanced education. Periodontists have the training and skill to perform surgical and non-surgical procedures to treat gum disease, as well as to perform cosmetic procedures and place dental implants.

Periodontists are trained to diagnose and treat periodontitis with a number of procedures which they will recommend based on your specific needs. Among the treatments they provide to restore your gum health:

  • Topical, time-release, or oral medication
  • Scaling and root planing, non-surgical deep cleaning procedures which remove plaque and tartar above and below the gumline, and smooth tooth roots to remove bacteria and help the gum tissue reattach to the teeth
  • Flap surgery to treat persistent gum infection, reduce pocket depth, and re-secure the gums snugly around the teeth
  • Bone grafts, gum grafts, and other regenerative procedures which help restore and repair tissue damaged by gum disease

If we recommend a periodontal consultation, be proactive. The best way to protect yourself from the significant consequences of untreated gum disease is to see a specialist in this field. Your periodontist has the knowledge and experience to stop gum disease from progressing, treat damaged bone and gum tissue, and restore your healthy smile.

Can a Night Guard Mean Sweet Dreams for Your Child?

October 28th, 2021

Sometimes the reason for a poor night’s sleep is obvious. Maybe your child watched a scary movie. Or loaded up on sugar before bed. Or can’t get to sleep after a night of computer screens or video games. Not much we can do about these problems.

Sometimes, though, the cause of your child’s sleep difficulties is dental in origin, and that is something Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can help with.

Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is a very common childhood dental problem. While children with this condition sleep, their jaws clench and their teeth grind against each other throughout the night. When to suspect children might suffer from bruxism? When they experience:

  • Frequent headaches or facial pain
  • Waking with a sore jaw, or popping or clicking jaw sounds through the day
  • Teeth which are chipped, cracked, flattened, worn down, or sensitive
  • Waking up tired, because grinding affects the quality of sleep
  • Siblings who complain about nocturnal grinding noises, which affect the quality of their

Pain and fatigue are unpleasant enough, but there are additional serious consequences for those who suffer from bruxism. Our jaws are extremely powerful, and clenching and grinding can put hundreds of pounds on pressure on teeth and jaws over a few hours of sleep.

These forces can lead to damaged teeth and dental work, and problems with the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, the complex hinge that allows our jaws to move up and down, back and forth, and side to side.

Clearly, prevention is clearly a much better option for a healthy smile. And one of the simplest and most effective treatments for preventing the damage caused by bruxism is a night guard.

Night guards fit over the affected teeth to prevent them from touching directly, saving tooth and enamel from injury and wear. Not only do night guards prevent contact, they spread the biting forces of the jaw over the surface of the guard to greatly reduce their impact. And because they also stop the jaw muscles from clenching tightly, there’s no excess stress placed on the temporomandibular joint.

For all these reasons, a night guard is pretty much a slam dunk for adults who grind their teeth. But for children, it’s not necessarily an automatic decision. Why?

  • If tooth grinding is mild and appears to be limited to baby teeth, children often outgrow the condition. Your dentist can let you know if you need to do more than monitor the situation.
  • Sometimes it seems like your child’s smile changes from day to day. Between losing baby teeth and erupting adult teeth, this beautiful smile is a work in progress. A fitted night guard might not be a perfect fit while your child’s teeth are still coming in and shifting position.
  • Finally, jaw and facial pain can also be caused by problems with your child’s bite or misaligned teeth, and that might mean that an orthodontic consultation is in order.

But if you suspect your child is suffering the effects of night time grinding and clenching, give our Anchorage, AK office a call. A thorough examination will provide you with the best diagnosis and solutions for helping your child retain a healthy smile and regain a healthy night’s sleep.

And if a night guard is recommended, a dental professional is the best person to see for the most effective night guard.

While over-the-counter products are available, a custom night guard is designed to fit your child’s individual teeth and mouth perfectly. Impressions or 3D scans are taken in the office, and a guard is fabricated with the precise shape, strength, and thickness needed to protect young teeth. And, as a bonus, custom night guards offer the most comfortable fit for the most comfortable night’s sleep.

Scary movies, a late night sugar rush, mesmerizing video screens—not much we can do about those! But if your child is suffering lost sleep and painful mornings because of tooth grinding, give us a call. A night guard just might be the key to sweet dreams.

Should You Get Dental Veneers?

October 21st, 2021

Dental veneers are a popular treatment to improve the appearance of your smile. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team want to help you understand whether this dental option is right for you.

Veneers, also known as laminates, are custom-made shells that cover the front of your teeth. They can change the color, size, or length of each individual tooth. The process can require between one and three trips to our Anchorage, AK office to complete.

This treatment is usually done for people who want to change the appearance of their smile: they can get rid of stains, gaps, or chips. Here at Pediatric Dental Associates, we know how getting veneers can dramatically change your smile and help improve your confidence.

Your initial appointment entails preparing the teeth and creating an impression. The impression will help us design each veneer to the exact shape and color you desire. You’ll come back in a week or two to have the veneers placed. Your veneers should last about ten years, as long as you practice proper care and hygiene.

There are plenty of benefits to getting veneers, but you should be aware of the potential downsides of this procedure. This process is irreversible and the veneers cannot usually be fixed. If they chip or crack, they’ll need to be replaced.

It is also possible for veneers to fall off due to excessive pressure from nail biting or chewing on ice. If you grind your teeth a lot, you’re more likely to expose your veneers to damage, which can be costly to repair.

In order to know whether veneers are right for you, schedule an appointment at our Anchorage, AK office for a consultation. We can decide what you’re looking to do with your smile and if this is the best option for you.

What to Do When Your Child Has a Loose Tooth

October 14th, 2021

When your child loses a tooth for the first time, you both have a lot to look forward to. Sharing in the “I’m a big kid!” excitement. Tales of the Tooth Fairy or other traditions to mark the occasion. Seeing the start of a beautiful grown-up smile.

But before that baby tooth wiggles all the way out of your child’s mouth, let’s talk about how to handle a loose baby tooth.

  • Be mindful of your children’s feelings. Reassure them that this is a normal part of growing up. If they are anxious about losing a tooth, there are children’s books which can help ease their fears in a soothing and entertaining way.
  • Crunchy and healthy foods like carrot sticks and apple slices can help the tooth fall out naturally—and nutritiously!
  • Encourage careful wiggling. No need for children to yank or pull—time, and a child’s own gentle wiggling with tongue or clean hands, should do the trick. If wiggling the tooth is painful, it might not be ready to come out just yet.
  • If a tooth absolutely is ready, but just won’t come out, you can help your child without resorting to a string and a doorknob. Give our Anchorage, AK office a call for some suggestions for helping that baby tooth on its way to the Tooth Fairy in a timely—and gentle—fashion.

And if a tooth is clearly loose before its time? Should you encourage its exit?

Probably not. Baby teeth are temporary, but they’re important for your child’s development. They help with speech production, eating and chewing, and serve as placeholders so that permanent teeth can erupt in the right spot at the right time.

There are some situations when a loose baby tooth means a visit to the dentist is in order:

  • Baby teeth usually fall out over a period of years, generally from ages 6 through 12. Since children’s teeth tend to fall out in the same order they arrived, if a molar is loose before the front teeth start to wiggle, give your dentist a call.
  • If your child suffers a fall, or a sports injury, or any kind of accident that leaves a tooth or teeth loose, call your doctor or dentist right away to make sure there are no serious injuries or chance for infection.
  • Any time you feel a tooth is loose that shouldn’t be, make an appointment with your child’s dentist.

Finally, we’ve been talking about loose baby teeth, but loose permanent teeth are another matter entirely.

If you child has a loose permanent tooth due to an injury, or a bad bite, or night-time bruxism (tooth-grinding), or for any other reason, it’s important to call for an appointment immediately. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will be able to pinpoint the cause of the problem and can offer some solutions. In the meantime,

  • Make sure your child eats soft foods, and tries to eat on the opposite side of the loose tooth.
  • Keep the area clean with gentle rinsing instead of brushing and flossing.
  • Tell your child not to wiggle it! If the bone or ligaments holding the tooth in place have been damaged, playing with the tooth can make it looser.

A loose baby tooth is a step in your child’s journey to a beautiful, healthy adult smile. Reassure, encourage, and help your child through this rite of passage—and don’t hesitate to call on Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous for advice!

Fall’s in the Air? Think Fall Dental Care

October 7th, 2021

Whether you already miss the sun’s bright rays, or can’t wait for some cool, crisp weather and colorful leaves, summer is making way for fall. And the change of seasons might mean it’s time for some adjustments to your dental care routine.

Fall’s in the Air, and You Can Feel It

You might enjoy the brisk weather and the cool autumn breezes, but you’d enjoy fall much more without the tooth sensitivity that cold weather can bring. Sensitivity can be the sign of a cracked tooth, gum disease, or even something as simple as too-energetic brushing. If you’re experiencing sensitivity outdoors or with hot and cold foods, don’t give up your nature walks and hot cider! Give Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous a call, and we’ll get to the root of your problem.

Fall Sports

The baseball mitts, surfboards, and water skis have been retired for the year, but that won’t stop you from enjoying exercise and team sports. And while you’re keeping your body healthy, remember to keep your teeth and jaws healthy as well. A mouth guard is an essential piece of equipment for any autumn contact sport like football or soccer, and is also a good idea for biking, skateboarding, and other physical activities where a fall or a collision is a possibility.

Fall Feasts

‘Tis the season for sugary Halloween treats, bountiful Thanksgiving desserts, and those over-the-top holiday lattes. By all means, celebrate the season. And celebrate your dental health (and your overall health) as well by enjoying these treats in moderation.

Why not take this opportunity to explore some of autumn’s more nutritious seasonal offerings? Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, and apples are part of a fall harvest of fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and other nutrients that help keep our teeth and gums their healthiest. (And if the pumpkins and apples make their way into pies, no one will complain.)

Fall Semester

Many schools require a dental exam before the start of the academic year. If you haven’t made an appointment for your child, now’s the time to do it! And don’t forget a professional cleaning to remove plaque and tartar. Nothing starts a school year off better than entering the classroom with a bright, healthy smile.

And don’t forget to call our Anchorage, AK office for your own regular checkup if it’s that time of year. Spring, summer, winter, fall—it’s always the right season for taking care of your dental health!

Road Trip!

September 30th, 2021

The bags are packed, the trunk is loaded, the route is programmed into your GPS, the playlist is set, and your destination awaits! Sometimes there’s just nothing more appealing than a road trip. So, to make your trip even more enjoyable, here are some dental tips to help keep you feeling clean and fresh over the long haul.

  • Fuel Up

If you’re bringing some road snacks, be sure to include a few that will help clean teeth and freshen breath. Packing a supply of bottled water helps you stay hydrated, washes away food particles, and eliminates the bad breath caused by dehydration. Carrots and apples are not only nutritious and tasty, they apply a bit of gentle scrubbing action to your enamel as you chew. Traditional travel favorites like granola bars, beef jerky, and chips tend to stick to the teeth and provide cavity-causing bacteria a leisurely feast, so enjoy them in moderation. (If you’re driving, save the snacks for a rest stop—not only is eating while driving prohibited in some areas, it’s a distraction you don’t need on the highway.)

  • Roadside Diners

The occasional sticky, sweet, or chewy indulgence is fine at home, but when you have hours in the car ahead of you, you might want to turn down the pecan pie, the giant pretzels, and the roadside sea salt caramels. Again, cavity-causing bacteria love sugars and simple carbs, and food that finds its way into tooth crevices finds its way onto their menu. And, it goes without saying, passing up garlic, onions, and spicy foods will help your mouth feel fresher longer—and make your travel companions happier.

  • Car Wash

Bring a travel-sized toothbrush and tube of toothpaste with you for a quick cleaning when you stop for a break. A ventilated case will keep your brush dry (bacteria like damp conditions) and away from questionable surfaces. Disposable mini-travel brushes are available that come with a bead of cleaner pre-loaded and ready to use—you don’t even need water for a cleaner mouth and fresher breath. Food particles do not make good travel buddies so don’t forget dental picks or floss. And if you can’t brush right away, try a rinse with water or chew a piece of sugarless gum. Sugar free gum can help stimulate saliva production, which is a good way to wash away food particles and neutralize acids in the mouth.

  • Roadside Repair

Even with the best preparation, accidents can happen. That’s why you have a spare tire and a lug wrench in your trunk. It pays to be prepared for a dental emergency on the road as well. There are dental travel kits available in stores and online, or create one for yourself. Along with your first aid kit, pack dental picks, antimicrobial wipes, sterile gauze, a mirror, and any other supplies you think might come in handy. If you wear braces or a retainer, be sure to include dental wax in case of an uncooperative wire, and a case to protect and keep track of your retainer. And it’s a good idea to keep our Anchorage, AK office’s number on hand in case of emergency.

It’s a big country, and cruising the streets and highways is a wonderful way to explore it! But if you’re having any dental problems, be sure to see your dentist before taking off—after all your preparation, you don’t need a dental emergency to ruin your trip. Then, pack your bags, load your trunk, set your GPS, pick a playlist with something for everyone, and get ready to enjoy happy travels and healthy smiles!

When Is a “Cavity” Not a Cavity?

September 23rd, 2021

Is this a trick question? After all, you probably already know quite a lot about cavities:

  • It all begins when bacteria-filled plaque sticks to teeth and starts to attack enamel. How?
  • Because the bacteria in plaque use the sugars and other foods we eat to produce acids.
  • These acids gradually weaken teeth by dissolving minerals which help make up our enamel (a process called demineralization).
  • Over time, a hole, or cavity, develops in the tooth surface.
  • Left untreated, bacterial decay can spread to the inside of the tooth, creating a more serious cavity.

Some cavities aren’t discovered until you visit our Anchorage, AK office, but sometimes there are clear signs that there’s a problem.

  • You have tooth pain or sensitivity.
  • Your tooth changes color in spots where the enamel has decayed.
  • You might even notice enamel loss when a cavity is large enough.

So, if you have any of these symptoms, it’s a cavity, right? It might be—but it might not. Sometimes, because the symptoms are similar, what we suspect is a cavity is really enamel erosion.

The bacteria-created acids weaken enamel. But it’s not just bacteria that subject our teeth to acids—we do it ourselves with our choice of food and drink. Acidic foods are one of the leading causes of tooth erosion.

Our normal saliva pH level is around a 7, which is neutral. Any number lower is acidic; any number higher is alkaline. Acidic foods have a low pH (the pH of lemon juice, for example, measures between 2 and 3), and can reduce our normal, neutral pH level. When saliva pH levels drop to 5.5 or lower, tooth enamel starts to demineralize, just as it does when exposed to the acids from oral bacteria.

Regularly snacking on citrus and other acidic fruits, wine, fruit juices, flavored teas, sour candies, and other acidic foods can cause enamel erosion. Especially erosive are sports drinks, energy drinks, and colas, because they contain some combination of citric acid, phosphoric acid and/or carbonation.

The symptoms of tooth erosion and damaged enamel can be very similar to those caused by cavities:

  • You suffer tooth pain or sensitivity
  • Your teeth appear discolored, as the enamel thins to reveal the yellowish dentin underneath
  • You notice missing enamel—your teeth become rounded or have little pits known as cupping

You call Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous right away if you suspect a cavity. Be just as proactive if you suspect erosion. Even though your symptoms may not have been caused by plaque and bacteria, acidic erosion from your diet leaves weakened enamel just as vulnerable to cavities and decay.

How to avoid erosion?

  • Enjoy acidic foods sparingly, or as part of a meal. This helps your saliva pH stay in the neutral zone.
  • Balance acidic foods with low-acid choices to help neutralize acids and restore a normal pH balance. (A good reason to pair wine or fruits with cheese.)
  • Use a straw! This simple solution keeps erosive drinks from bathing your teeth in acids.
  • Drink water instead of an acidic beverage, or drink it afterward to rinse your mouth. The pH of pure water? A perfect, neutral 7.
  • And what about brushing right after eating or drinking something acidic? Ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous if you should rush for your brush. We may recommend waiting 30 minutes or so after an acidic treat to give teeth time to remineralize after acids weaken them. Otherwise, brushing might cause more wear and tear on your enamel.
  • Finally, while foods are often the source of acid erosion, medical conditions can cause erosion as well. Talk to us about ways to minimize erosion while addressing your medical needs.

There’s no trick to it—watching your diet, brushing and flossing as recommended, using a fluoride toothpaste, and visiting Pediatric Dental Associates for regular checkups will help prevent tooth erosion. We can restore eroded enamel with bonding, veneers, or crowns if the erosion is serious. Better still is to catch erosion before symptoms appear to keep your teeth their strongest for a lifetime of healthy, beautiful smiles.

Easing Your Allergies with Latex-Free Dentistry

September 16th, 2021

Imagine this scenario: you go to the dentist to have a cavity filled, and an hour after the procedure you have a runny nose, scratchy throat, and your arms are breaking out in blotchy, red hives. In other words, you’re in worse shape after the visit to the dentist than you were before you walked in to have the cavity fixed. If you experience any of these types of symptoms or side effects, chances are you have a latex allergy.

What is a latex allergy?

A latex allergy is a hypersensitivity to latex proteins. If you have this allergy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that you avoid direct contact with any materials that contain latex. While latex gloves are known to cause allergic reactions in people with a latex allergy, certain metals, plastics, and other materials used in dental care can also cause an adverse response.

A runny nose and itchy eyes are common allergic reactions to latex. However, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates want you to know it can also trigger more severe symptoms, including asthma, wheezing, and cardiovascular and gastrointestinal ailments.

A latex-safe dental environment

Many dental offices screen patients for a latex allergy. This is only beneficial, however, if you’re already aware you have a latex allergy. The best thing you can do to ease your allergies is to find a dentist who has a latex-safe environment. A latex-safe dental environment observes the following protocols:

  • All patients are screened for a latex allergy.
  • No personnel use latex gloves.
  • All latex products are removed from the patient’s vicinity, including rubber dams and elastics.
  • Work areas contaminated with latex powder are cleaned frequently.
  • Signs are posted to communicate all latex allergy procedures in case of an emergency.

If a latex allergy is part of your medical history, then it’s in your best interest to find a latex-free dental environment. To learn more about latex-free dentistry, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous, please give us a call at our convenient Anchorage, AK office!

Mamelons

September 9th, 2021

Quick trivia question: define “mamelon.” Some kind of warm blooded animal? No, not a member of the mammal clan, but good guess. A fruit of the gourd family? Nope! There are watermelons, and honeydew melons, and even canary melons, but no ma-melons. Those little rounded bumps you notice on the edge of your child’s permanent incisors when they first emerge? We have a winning answer!

  • Why Do We Have Mamelons?

We have eight incisors, or biting teeth, in the front of our mouths—four on top and four on bottom. Mamelons are actually a clue as to how these incisors were formed. Even before a baby is born, the permanent teeth begin to take shape. Three different groups of cells develop to form the incisal edge of these front teeth. As they fuse together, they create three lobes of enamel on the erupting edge of the tooth. It’s these lobes, or bumps, that give the teeth a serrated appearance.

Whether your child’s mamelons are quite prominent or barely noticeable, if you are worried about them, relax! They are almost always a temporary part of your child’s smile, and disappear over time with chewing and normal wear. But what if the mamelons overstay their welcome?

  • Cosmetic Concerns

Because mamelons are composed of enamel, without the underlying dentin layer found in the body of the tooth, they can appear translucent or a bit different in color. They might wear away unevenly, leaving the tooth edges looking misaligned. Or, they might not wear away at all if your child’s tooth eruption is delayed. Talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous if mamelons are a cosmetic concern for you or your child. You might discover that they are wearing away naturally, or we can discuss ways to polish or smooth them down if needed. This is a painless procedure that doesn’t require an anesthetic. Generally, however, this is a matter where time will resolve the issue for you.

  • Orthodontic Implications

Occasionally, mamelons might become a topic of discussion for orthodontic reasons. Sometimes, mamelons do not wear away over time because of a malocclusion (misaligned bite). Your orthodontist will let you know your child has a bite problem and can explain treatment options. Your orthodontist might also suggest smoothing away the mamelons to ensure that the edges of the incisors align correctly and symmetrically while the teeth are in the process of straightening. Again, this is not always considered a necessity, so weigh your options with your dental care provider.

So, if you notice that your child’s beautiful new teeth are bumpy or serrated as they erupt, don’t be concerned! If you have any questions about mamelons, talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at your next visit to our Anchorage, AK office. This is a natural occurrence and most likely just a temporary “bump” in the road. Soon enough, mamelons will be a memory—and the answer to a pretty difficult trivia question.

Football Season? Practice Dental Defense

September 2nd, 2021

It’s finally football season, and whether you’re on the field, at the game, or watching at home with friends, it’s time to work on some defensive dental strategies.

Taking the Field

If you’re playing team football, you already know just how important your mouthguard is. So important, it’s actually part of every uniform. But if your gridiron is the local park or your backyard, you need protection, too! Amateur sports cause a significant percentage of dental injuries every year, and that’s a statistic you don’t want any part of. A store-bought or custom-fitted mouthguard from our Anchorage, AK office will help protect your teeth and jaw in case of a fall or collision. If you have a player in braces, a mouthguard is especially important.

In the Stands

Cheering your team on with stadium food in hand is a time-honored game tradition. But some of those options are offensive players. How to hold the line? Cut back on foods that are loaded with sugars and simple carbs, as these are the preferred diet of cavity-causing bacteria. And if the food sticks to your teeth, that gives these bacteria extra time on the clock to produce enamel-damaging acids. Unfortunately, a lot of stadium food falls into these categories. Giant pretzels, soft drinks, chips, caramel corn—sticky, sugary, sticky, sugary, and sticky. But you don’t need to deprive yourself completely. Enjoy in moderation, and hydrate with water to increase saliva (which has many tooth-strengthening qualities) and to wash away food particles.

Home Field Advantage

For most of us, the best seats in the house are right in our living rooms—and our kitchens. Buffalo wings! Chips and salsa! Brats and sauerkraut! However tasty, these snack favorites have something else in common—acidity. Just as the acids produced by bacteria affect our enamel, so do the acids in our foods. Add sugars and simple carbs like sodas, chips, and fries to the party, and you have an enamel blitz attack. There are plenty of dental-healthy snack options available, such as vegetables with hummus dip, or cheese and whole wheat crackers, to add some variety to your menu. If you do eat acidic foods, don’t brush immediately after, since acids weaken tooth enamel, and brushing then can cause enamel erosion. Instead, rinse with water and brush after thirty minutes. You might miss part of the half-time show, but it will be well worth it.

Give some of these tips a try for a winning football season. On the field, at the snack counter, in your TV room, you can enjoy the game a little more by knowing that, when it comes to your dental health, you’re providing complete zone coverage.

Heart Disease and Oral Health

August 26th, 2021

Is there a link between oral health and heart health? This is a question that has been receiving a lot of attention in recent studies. While as yet there is no definitive study that proves oral health has an effect on overall heart health, there is also no definitive proof that oral health doesn’t affect heart health. So, what do we know, and, just as important, what should we do?

What do we know? One clear connection exists between gum disease and endocarditis, a rare, but potentially very serious, infection. When we neglect our gums, they bleed more easily. When gum disease advances, the gums pull away from the teeth. This creates pockets which can harbor more bacteria and plaque, leading to infection and even tooth and bone loss. And this bleeding and infection can be serious not only as a matter of dental health, but for your heart as well.

Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart and the heart valves. When bacteria from other parts of the body, including your mouth, make their way into the blood stream, they can attach themselves to damaged areas of the heart. The resulting infection can become very serious, very quickly. If you have damaged heart valves or artificial valves, have an artificial heart, or have any type of heart defect, it is especially important to prevent gum disease from developing. Regular dental care will help prevent bleeding gums and infections, and reduce the danger of oral bacteria entering the bloodstream. Always let us know if you have any issues with heart health, and we will tailor our treatment for all of your procedures accordingly.

What else might link oral health and heart disease? Because an increased risk of heart disease has been found in patients with moderate or severe gum disease, there has been much speculation as to a possible cause-and-effect connection. For example, the plaque inside arteries which leads to heart attacks has been found to contain certain strains of periodontal bacteria. Other studies have searched for a causal relationship between inflammation resulting from gum disease and inflammation leading to heart disease.  The body’s immune response to periodontitis and its potential consequences for heart health have also been examined. So far, there has been no clear evidence that treating gum disease prevents the occurrence or recurrence of heart disease.

So what should we do? This is the easy part. Keeping your gums and teeth healthy will increase your quality of life in immeasurable ways. And it’s not difficult! Regular brushing, flossing, and dental exams and cleanings at our Anchorage, AK office are the key to lasting oral health. If this also keeps your heart healthy, that’s the best possible side effect.

Heart Disease and Oral Health

August 26th, 2021

Is there a link between oral health and heart health? This is a question that has been receiving a lot of attention in recent studies. While as yet there is no definitive study that proves oral health has an effect on overall heart health, there is also no definitive proof that oral health doesn’t affect heart health. So, what do we know, and, just as important, what should we do?

What do we know? One clear connection exists between gum disease and endocarditis, a rare, but potentially very serious, infection. When we neglect our gums, they bleed more easily. When gum disease advances, the gums pull away from the teeth. This creates pockets which can harbor more bacteria and plaque, leading to infection and even tooth and bone loss. And this bleeding and infection can be serious not only as a matter of dental health, but for your heart as well.

Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart and the heart valves. When bacteria from other parts of the body, including your mouth, make their way into the blood stream, they can attach themselves to damaged areas of the heart. The resulting infection can become very serious, very quickly. If you have damaged heart valves or artificial valves, have an artificial heart, or have any type of heart defect, it is especially important to prevent gum disease from developing. Regular dental care will help prevent bleeding gums and infections, and reduce the danger of oral bacteria entering the bloodstream. Always let us know if you have any issues with heart health, and we will tailor our treatment for all of your procedures accordingly.

What else might link oral health and heart disease? Because an increased risk of heart disease has been found in patients with moderate or severe gum disease, there has been much speculation as to a possible cause-and-effect connection. For example, the plaque inside arteries which leads to heart attacks has been found to contain certain strains of periodontal bacteria. Other studies have searched for a causal relationship between inflammation resulting from gum disease and inflammation leading to heart disease.  The body’s immune response to periodontitis and its potential consequences for heart health have also been examined. So far, there has been no clear evidence that treating gum disease prevents the occurrence or recurrence of heart disease.

So what should we do? This is the easy part. Keeping your gums and teeth healthy will increase your quality of life in immeasurable ways. And it’s not difficult! Regular brushing, flossing, and dental exams and cleanings at our Anchorage, AK office are the key to lasting oral health. If this also keeps your heart healthy, that’s the best possible side effect.

Are My Child’s Baby Teeth on Schedule?

August 19th, 2021

Your darling three-month old is crying and fussy—can she be teething already? Or, your happy baby boy has just celebrated his first birthday—with only one tooth in that beautiful, gummy smile. Is this normal? Probably! While baby teeth do typically erupt (come in) in the same order for all babies, and around the same time, there is still a lot of flexibility in the time it takes for a full, healthy smile to develop.

Baby teeth actually form before your baby is born, and those 20 teeth are there under the gums waiting to come out and shine. And even though there are no firm and fast dates for each of these primary teeth to erupt, it’s helpful to have a general overview of typical teething patterns so you know what to look forward to.

Incisors

These little teeth create a charming baby smile, and, if your finger has been in the wrong place at the wrong time, a very sharp one as well! That is because these tiny incisors are made to bite into foods. You might notice this when you introduce solid foods, even if the majority of your child’s “chewing” is done with her back gums. These teeth are the earliest to arrive.

  • Six to ten months old: The lower central incisors (bottom front teeth) are often the first to come in.
  • Eight to 12 months old: The upper incisors (8-12 months) are the next to show.
  • Nine to 13 months old: The upper lateral incisors on each side of the front teeth arrive.
  • Ten to 16 months old: The lower lateral incisors appear.

First Molars

Because these are larger teeth, babies often experience another bout of teething pain at this time. The large flat surface of each molar helps your child to chew and grind food, so he can handle a wider variety of foods and develop his chewing skills.

  • 13 to 19 months old: You can generally expect to see the upper first molars arrive.
  • 14 to 18 months old: The lower first molars appear.

Canines (Cuspids)

Fitting between the first molars and the incisors, the strong, pointed shape of the canine teeth allows your child to grip food and break it apart more easily.

  • 16 to 22 months old: The upper two canines make their way into the space between the incisors and the first molars.
  • 17 to 23 months old: The two lower canines appear.

Second Molars

By the age of three, most children have a full set of baby teeth.

  • 23 to 31 months old: The second pair of bottom molars start erupting—you are in the home stretch!
  • 25 to 33 months old: The upper second molars come in—completing that beautiful set of 20 teeth!

Baby teeth are extremely important, as Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will tell you when you visit our Anchorage, AK office. They help your child eat and chew, develop face and jaw muscles, assist proper speech formation, and provide space for the adult teeth to come in properly. Now that your child’s smile is complete, keep providing him with the same care and attention you have been giving those little teeth since the arrival of the very first incisor.

It seems that so much of new parenthood is scheduling—when to feed her, when to put her to bed, how many hours between naps. But we soon find out that every baby is not on the same schedule, and the same is true for the arrival of their teeth. We should see your baby when that first tooth comes in, or by his or her first birthday. And if you ever have concerns at any time about your child’s teething schedule or teething delays, always feel free to give us a call.

Mouthguard Protection

August 12th, 2021

Let’s talk about mouthguards and night guards—two crucial appliances that protect your child’s teeth and jaw.

We could talk about how important a mouthguard is when your family leads an active life. Mouthguards protect teeth, delicate mouth tissue, and jaws from accidents and impacts. 

Or if someone in the house grinds his or her teeth at night, waking up every morning with tooth or jaw pain, we can talk about how a night guard can be a quality-of-life-saver.

But we’re not going to talk about any of these important topics today. Instead of looking at how a guard protects your child, today we’re going to look at how you can help children protect their mouthguards.

If you want their guards to last longer, work better, and stay (and smell!) cleaner, some basic tips make all the difference. Here are some important rules to share with your child.

  • Keep your guard clean.

This can’t be stressed enough. Without a good cleaning routine, your guard can become discolored, develop an unpleasant odor, and even cause illness. Not very appealing, right? Happily, keeping mouthguards and night guards clean isn’t difficult.

When you wear your guard, whether during daytime activities or through the night, the same plaque that is present in your mouth makes itself at home your guard. And when your night guard or mouthguard is in its case, that dark, moist environment makes it a perfect breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

As soon as you take your mouthguard out, rinse it off. Brush with a soft toothbrush to remove all the plaque, saliva, or food debris that might be lingering in your appliance. (If you are on the playing field, in the park, or at some other inconvenient location, rinse it and brush as soon as you can.) Toothpaste can help get your guard its cleanest, but can be too abrasive for some appliances.

Once you’ve cleaned it, let your guard air dry in a clean spot for about 30 minutes. Air drying helps prevent bacterial growth. After your guard has dried, return it to its case.

Once a week, you might need to give your guard a good soak in a mouthwash or other dental cleaning solution.

Since cleaning instructions can be different depending on which type of guard you have, be sure to follow our instructions if you have a custom guard, or follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions if you have a store guard.

  • Keep it safe.

When your guard isn’t in your mouth, it should be in its case. Floating loose on the bathroom counter or tumbling around in your gym bag puts your guard at risk for breakage and bacteria.

And don’t forget to clean your case thoroughly every few days and air dry it as well. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, mold, and other unwelcome guests can collect in your case, too.

  • Keep it only as long as it’s in good condition.

You can purchase mouthguards from sporting or drug stores, or Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can make a mouthguard or night guard designed to fit your teeth perfectly. These appliances are made to be strong and durable, but they’re not indestructible. Over time they can wear down or become damaged, especially if you treat them carelessly.

Bacteria can lurk in dents and cracks, and you can cut your mouth on rough, sharp, or broken edges. But if your guard isn’t fitting properly, don’t resort to self-help! Trying to repair, reshape, or trim your appliance yourself is not a good idea, because it might affect its fit and protective ability.

Any sign that your guard isn’t fitting properly or shows signs of wear and tear could mean it’s time for a replacement. You can replace a store model, or ask our Anchorage, AK team about repairing or replacing your custom guard. A mouthguard that doesn’t fit, doesn’t keep you safe.

Take care of your guard, and it will take care of you. The reward for the small amount of time and effort you put into caring for your mouthguard or night guard is a smile that will last you for a lifetime. That’s a benefit we can talk about all day!

Teeth Grinding

August 5th, 2021

It might seem like you’ve gotten a great night’s sleep—but why aren’t you well rested? Worse, why are you waking up with:

  • A headache
  • Ringing in your ears or an earache
  • Pain in your jaw
  • Worn or sensitive teeth
  • Dry mouth or mouth and cheek injuries
  • An unhappy partner who’s been kept awake all night?

If you suffer from any or all of these symptoms, you might be one of the millions of people who have a sleep-related disorder called bruxism, better known as teeth grinding.

There are any number of causes that have been linked to bruxism. Stress and other negative emotions seem to trigger episodes, as can lifestyle habits such as smoking and drinking alcohol or caffeine. Sleep apnea can lead to grinding your teeth, or you could have bite or tooth alignment problems. Certain medications might set off this disorder, and some studies have shown a hereditary tendency in families. Whatever the reason you grind your teeth, there are many important reasons to stop as soon as you can.

As bad as the nagging headaches and earaches that can accompany bruxism can be, long-term damage to your teeth can develop over time. With continuing grinding pressure on the teeth, enamel is worn away prematurely. Teeth can crack or chip. They may loosen or develop sensitivity to heat, cold, and pressure. Gum tissue can recede or become inflamed. Dental restorations can be cracked or broken.

If you—or someone in your house—suspects that you are grinding your teeth at night, give our Anchorage, AK office a call! We can recommend relaxation techniques, diet changes, or tips to help you relax your jaw. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous might suggest a nightguard, a custom-fitted appliance worn while you sleep, to reduce the impact of grinding. There are options available. Let’s work together to make every night’s sleep a restful, healthy one.

Intraoral Cameras

July 29th, 2021

It seems today’s technology has made every moment a camera-ready opportunity. (Just check your friends and their latest selfies.) What you may not expect is the opportunity to see a close-up of your teeth and gums in vivid detail the next time you’re in our office. But with intraoral cameras, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can use the most up-to-date tools to provide your most accurate diagnosis—and let you see for yourself exactly what we’re seeing.

Intraoral cameras were developed in the 1980s. This camera makes use of a sleek wand-style design to fit easily into your mouth. Using a camera lens and its own lighting, the camera is able to show hard-to-reach places in the mouth much more clearly and easily than can be seen using dental mirrors alone. Images are projected onto a monitor or screen, where both dentist and patient can get a detailed view, and images can be enlarged, if needed, to provide better definition.

What can an intraoral camera reveal? While X-rays are invaluable for discovering treatable conditions such as cavities, infections and bone diseases, there are some conditions that are not easily apparent using X-rays alone. Small cracks in a tooth, developing cavities near crowns or older fillings, fractures, early gum disease, even areas where plaque has been missed during brushing are visible in clear detail using the intraoral camera.

How does this improve your dental care?

  • We always want to use the least invasive procedure we can, and keep as much of your healthy tooth as possible. Finding small problems early prevents them from becoming large problems later.
  • If you are consistently failing to brush certain teeth, or if some areas of your gums show signs of neglect, we can show you directly what places you’ve been missing so you can adjust your brushing and flossing habits.
  • We can take photos if needed for your files so we have a detailed visual record of your dental status at any point in time.
  • Finally, you will be able to see for yourself the reasons we might suggest certain treatments, and be better informed about your own dental health.

We’re happy to offer the intraoral camera at our Anchorage, AK office as one of the tools we use to provide you with the most precise and thorough care possible. Ready for your close-up?

How long will a root canal last?

July 22nd, 2021

According to the American Association of Endodontists, root canals have a success rate of over 95% and in most cases they last a lifetime.

There are a few factors that ensure the root canal will last and should be followed.

  • You want to make sure you allow Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous to perform a permanent restoration of the tooth. That means getting the filling and the crown immediately after the canals have been cleaned of all bacteria and debris.
  • Practice good oral hygiene; that means brushing and flossing at least three times a day especially after meals and before bed.
  • Just because a tooth has had a root canal that does not mean the tooth is safe for as long as it remains in your mouth. That tooth can still get a cavity. Since the nerves are no longer present in that tooth you will not feel any pain or experience any other signs of a cavity. That’s why it is important to get regular cleanings and checkups.
  • If the tooth becomes fractured or you develop an abscess, you will feel pain and know there is a problem with the tooth.

Why do root canals fail?

As mentioned above, only about five percent of root canals fail, and sometimes it is not actually a “failure.” In cases, of teeth that have more than one root, it is possible that only one root was infected and filled. If the remaining root(s) become infected in the future, they will also need a root canal performed on them.

There are a few other reasons why your root canal may fail:

  • The first reason is you may not have taken good care of your tooth (teeth). This is commonly seen in children and teens who often have inconsistent oral hygiene habits.
  • If the tooth has more than one root, and one of the roots has a minute infection that is undetectable and goes unnoticed it can cause the root canal to fail. While this scenario is very unlikely, it does occasionally happen.
  • Over time, the seal can become weak and bacteria can enter the tooth. This is also very uncommon but it does happen.

No procedure dental or medical comes with a 100% guarantee to last a lifetime, but if you take care of your treated tooth, the chances of success are great.

If you have any additional questions about root canals and your oral health, be sure to ask a member of our team at our Anchorage, AK office.

Four Great Additions to Your Dental-Healthy Diet

July 15th, 2021

Calcium from dairy products for strong bones and teeth? Check. Vitamin C from fruits and vegetables for gum health? Check. Protein from lean meats, eggs, and fish to create, maintain, and repair tooth and gum tissue? Check, check, and check.

These nutrients are probably the most well-known players in the production of a dental healthy diet, but there are several other important minerals and vitamins we need to balance the cast. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team take a look at some of these lesser-known but equally vital actors.

  • Phosphorus

Calcium is the mineral we hear about most often for maintaining strong teeth and bones, but it doesn’t act alone. Phosphorus is necessary for our bodies to make full use of calcium. Phosphorus is absorbed best from animal foods like meat, fish, and poultry, but it can also be found in beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy products.

  • Magnesium

Magnesium also works with calcium, and promotes bone density and the strength of our hard enamel. If you are looking to add magnesium to your diet, you have a spectacular variety of options, including salmon, tuna, chickpeas, green leafy vegetables, nuts, avocados, seeds, brown rice—even dark chocolate!

  • Vitamin A

This vitamin is essential for the health and healing of our mucous membranes, which include our gums and the soft membranes in our mouths. Vitamin A is found in animal products such as dairy foods, meat, and liver, or formed from beta-carotenes, found in plant foods such as carrots, peppers, pumpkin, squash, and sweet potatoes.

  • Vitamin D

Even though we might make sure to get plenty of calcium to keep our teeth and bones healthy, we will never get the most out of a calcium-rich diet without vitamin D. Vitamin D not only helps with bone density, it actually helps our bodies absorb calcium so we can put it to work for us. It has also been shown to promote gum health by reducing the inflammation that can lead to gum disease. Sunlight exposure leads our bodies to produce vitamin D naturally, but it is available in foods as well. Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and herring, are a rich source of the vitamin, as are cod liver oil and egg yolks. The only plant that produces vitamin D is the mushroom, but it is also available in foods fortified with vitamin D, such as cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, and even many cereals.

You want your diet to be part of your healthy lifestyle, and more and more we are coming to discover just how important a balanced diet is to our dental health as well. The fascinating fact is that all of the nutrients which support our dental health work together and depend on each other to play their roles effectively. Talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at your next checkup at our Anchorage, AK office for some suggestions on finding the dietary balance that works best for you.

Summer Dental Health? Get into the Swim of It!

July 8th, 2021

On a sizzling hot day, there’s not much that makes us happier than heading to the water for a quick swim, some gentle laps, or even a rousing game of water polo. And this being a sizzling hot dental blog, we are happy to offer some tips on how to make your summer swim good for your dental health as well as your mental health!

  • Mouthguards

You might use your mouthguard all the time—for biking, or basketball, or skiing. But in the pool? Absolutely! Anyone who has played water polo knows what a physical workout it is. Elbows! Hard tosses! Collisions! And it’s not just pool sports. Water-skiing on the lake, surfing in the ocean—anywhere humans and solid objects are involved, tooth and jaw injuries are possible. Don’t spend valuable summer hours tending to a cracked or broken tooth as a result of sports accidents.

And, unlikely though it seems, even hanging by the pool can be hazardous to your smile. Hard concrete edges wait to greet surfacing divers. Slippery cement and tiles surrounding the pool are the downfall of many a swimmer running to jump back into the water. Be aware of possible dental dangers, and use a mouthguard as a great proactive way to avoid them.

  • Swimming Pools & Chlorine

Ah, the smell of chlorine! We all want to know that swimming pools are as clean as they can be, and one method of keeping them that way is with the addition of antimicrobials to the water. But too much exposure to chemicals can cause enamel erosion, or even a condition called “swimmer’s calculus.” Swimmer’s calculus is recognized by a hard, brownish, tartar deposit that appears on the front teeth of swimmers who spent a lot of hours in the pool. It’s a cosmetic problem, but one that’s difficult to get rid of without a professional cleaning. If you’re a competitive swimmer, or simply someone who spends many hours a week in treated water, give us a call if you notice hard-to-remove discoloration or tooth sensitivity.

  • Retainers

Different people have different opinions on whether or not your retainer should be exposed to the chlorine in pool water. (Or the salt in saltwater or the bacteria in lake water.) Ask us for ours! But you’re best off leaving it in your bag or locker, anyway, because retainers can be easily lost in the water. They might be able to survive a swimming pool, but a lake or ocean rescue is very unlikely. Just remember to put your retainer in a case, in a safe spot, and replace it when you’re out of the water for the day.

Enjoy your time on the water, and don’t forget to schedule an exam with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and a professional cleaning if you haven’t been in the office for a while. If you do have a dental problem or an accident, give our Anchorage, AK office a call immediately. We want to make sure you dive in to summer fun with a healthy, beautiful smile!

Teeth, Bones—What’s the Difference?

July 2nd, 2021

They’re often mentioned together, and that’s understandable. After all, they’re the strongest parts of the body, they’re made of many of the same elements, they both require a diet rich in vitamins and minerals to stay healthy, a pirate flag wouldn’t be the same without them–so, what makes teeth and bones different? Glad you asked!

It’s Elementary

Teeth and bones are so strong because of their mineral composition. They have the highest concentration of calcium and phosphorus in the body, and these minerals combine to create sturdy structures which support our bodies, protect our organs, and help break down and digest our food. And they work well together—healthy teeth maintain jawbone density, and healthy jaws hold our teeth firmly in place.

But there are important differences in the anatomy of teeth and bones as well. Bones contain living cells, blood vessels, and nerves. They grow larger as we grow. As we age, old bone tissue breaks down and is constantly replaced with new bone tissue. This process enables our bones to stay strong throughout our lives. And bones heal.

When you break a bone, your body begins working right away to protect and heal the damaged area. Blood cells help with clotting around the break. After a few days, collagen proteins work to replace the clotted cells and form a soft callus. Within weeks, calcium phosphate deposits strengthen the collagen framework. Over time, the bone hardens and reshapes.

And while tooth enamel is the hardest substance in our bodies—harder even than bone—it is not indestructible. Our enamel is basically composed of minerals rather than living tissue, so it can’t regenerate. The enamel covering our teeth doesn’t replace cells as they age, and it can’t create new tooth cells if a tooth is injured through damage or decay. This means that a cracked or broken tooth can’t knit itself together, and enamel lost to decay won’t grow back.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can restore your smile with fillings, or crowns, or even implants if necessary, but preventing injury to your teeth is always best.

Protecting Teeth and Bones

You can make sure your teeth and bones are their safest and strongest by being proactive.

External bone injuries can be avoided with the use of proper safety equipment. Helmets, padding, work boots—if your work or play recommends protective gear, use it! Fortunately, there’s also protective gear for teeth.

  • Helmets

Helmets not only protect against brain injury and concussion, they are often designed to protect the face, mouth, and jaw as well.

  • Mouthguards

Mouthguards protect the teeth, lips, tongue, and jaw from damages caused by physical contact and falls. They’re available over-the-counter, or ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous to fabricate a custom guard for the most comfortable and secure fit. A custom guard is an excellent option for people with braces, bridgework, or other dental appliances.

  • Night Guards

Grinding and clenching the teeth at night can lead to loose and cracked teeth, headaches, jaw pain, and other unhappy consequences. Protect your teeth from the damage caused by bruxism (tooth grinding) by wearing a night guard.

Finally, one big difference between tooth and bone design: bones are safely hidden away inside the body, while our teeth are exposed to harmful plaque, bacteria, sugars, and acidic foods every day. Give your teeth the preventive care they deserve with twice-daily brushing, flossing, and regular visits to our Anchorage, AK office. After all, your beautiful, healthy smile was never designed to be hidden!

Smile! It’s Time for Arts & Crafts!

June 24th, 2021

If you have a child who loves arts and crafts, try some of these creative projects with a dental twist. One of these activities is sure to give your child something to smile about!

Toothbrush Art

Why throw away that used toothbrush when you can help your young child make art with it? Give it one more cleaning and a second life. The easy-to-grip handle and the wide bristles make a toothbrush easy for young hands to hold and paint with. If you are in an adventurous mood, use the brush to make splatter art. Your child can splatter an entire sheet of paper for an abstract effect, make a sky full of stars with a flick of the brush, or add splatter leaves to a tree scene. Cut out a stencil with a favorite shape (an animal, a flower, a toy), place it on a sheet of paper, splatter around it, remove the cutout, and—instant silhouette!

Paper Crafts

If your child is an origami enthusiast, there are some challenging dental-themed examples available online. These might be too advanced for beginners, but more experienced origami fans can make molars with roots and even molars lined with pink paper to symbolize the interior pulp. Younger paper artists might enjoy making construction paper models of an actual tooth, with white enamel, yellow dentin, and pink pulp layered in their proper order.

Sculpting Fun

For the scientifically minded young artist, clay can be used to make a 3D model of a tooth, with different colored clays representing the different layers of the tooth. Younger children learning about their teeth might enjoy fitting little white clay teeth into a pink clay crescent to show how baby (or adult) teeth fit into the gums. And for non-dental inspiration, old, clean toothbrushes can once again help out if your child likes sculpting art work with modeling clay. Add interesting texture by using the brush bristles on damp clay to create grooves, lines, or indentations.

Welcome the Tooth Fairy

If the Tooth Fairy is a regular visitor, make her welcome with a box decorated with paint or fabric to hold that special baby tooth. Or craft a pouch or a bag with fabrics scraps, and add a fabric tooth so that the Tooth Fairy will know she has come to the right spot. If you use felt and fabric glue, no sewing necessary! If your Tooth Fairy is an under-the-pillow traditionalist, decorate an envelope with a letter to the Tooth Fairy inside.

If some of these projects sound just right for your child, check out online craft sites for even more ideas. And, please be sure to have your children show and tell the next time they visit our Anchorage, AK office. That will put a smile on our faces!

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!

Your Snoring Might Be More Serious Than You Think

May 20th, 2021

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which breathing stops and starts repeatedly throughout the night. It’s most common among middle-aged adults, and the most prevalent symptom is loud snoring.

Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax to the point where they inhibit your natural breathing. It can cause your breathing to stop for anywhere from ten to twenty seconds. In the worst cases, it can even stop your breathing for up to a few minutes.

In addition, people who suffer from sleep apnea wake up feeling tired and unrested. The condition may even lead to depression, high blood pressure, irritability, and memory loss. It puts you at a greater risk for heart attack and lowers oxygen levels in your brain.

All of this sounds scary, but the good news is that sleep apnea can be treated! One of the most common ways Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can treat sleep apnea is by creating an oral device for you to wear while you sleep.

The device brings your jaw forward, which keeps the airway open and lowers the incidence of snoring. Another method is to use a continuous positive airway mask, often referred to as a CPAP. The mask fits over the mouth and forces oxygen through the throat while you sleep.

If you’re unsure about whether you may suffer from sleep apnea, visit our Anchorage, AK office and let Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous know. We can determine the appropriate treatment if any is needed. Don’t risk losing another night’s sleep over something we can easily treat!

Building Blocks for a Healthy Grown-Up Smile

May 13th, 2021

Even before a baby is born, those tiny baby teeth are already forming. Expectant mothers can help ensure that their children’s baby teeth will be strong and healthy by getting the recommended amounts of proteins, vitamins, and minerals in their prenatal diets.

But a mother can’t “eat for two” to make sure her child’s adult teeth are healthy—children’s permanent teeth begin real growth and development only after birth. What can we do to encourage strong permanent teeth as our children grow and develop? Here are four important building blocks parents can use to lay a healthy foundation for their children’s grown-up smiles.

Serve a Tooth-Healthy Diet

The same vitamins and minerals that help create baby teeth are essential for creating healthy adult teeth. Tooth enamel, the hardest substance in the body, is almost completely made up of calcium phosphate minerals.  A diet which provides the recommended amounts of calcium and phosphorus helps your child’s body grow strong enamel. And don’t forget vitamin D, which our bodies need to absorb calcium and phosphorus.

A tooth-healthy diet should include several servings of foods which provide calcium, such as dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese), dark leafy vegetables, and fortified juices, cereals and tofu. Phosphorus can be found in proteins like meat, fish, and poultry, as well as beans, nuts, dairy, and whole grains. Egg yolks and fatty fish are natural sources of vitamin D, and it’s easily available in fortified foods such as cow’s milk, soy milk, cereals, and orange juice.

Use the Right Amount of Fluoride

Fluoride is called “Nature’s cavity fighter” for a reason. Fluoride reduces the risk of cavities and helps strengthen tooth enamel. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can offer invaluable advice on when to start and how to use fluoride toothpaste to protect your child’s baby teeth and developing adult teeth.

Can there be too much of this good thing? While fluoride is a safe and effective way to protect teeth in normal, recommended amounts, too much fluoride can lead to fluorosis. This condition can cause cosmetic changes in the enamel of permanent teeth, from almost invisible lighter spots to darker spots and streaking.

How to make sure your child gets the right amount of fluoride?

For children under the age of three, use a dab of toothpaste no larger than a grain of rice. Ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous if fluoride toothpaste is recommended.

Young children can’t always understand the idea of spitting and rinsing after brushing, so children between the ages of three and six should use only a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste, and need you there to make sure they spit and rinse afterward.

Ask us about local water fluoride levels if you have any concerns about using tap water for drinking or for mixing formula, keep fluoride toothpastes and other products out of the reach of children, monitor your children while they brush, and always check with us before giving your child a fluoride rinse or supplement.

Help Your Child Retire Harmful Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Habits

Your child might self-comfort with the help of a pacifier or thumb sucking, which can be a valuable soothing habit. But it’s important to talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous to see just how long this soothing habit should last. Around the age of four, aggressive thumb or pacifier sucking can lead to problems for permanent teeth.

Vigorous sucking can cause protruding upper front teeth. Aggressive sucking can lead to changes in the shape of your child’s palate and jaw. Open bite malocclusions, where the upper and lower teeth are unable to meet, and overbites, where the upper teeth overlap the lower teeth more than they should, can also be the result of lengthy and forceful thumb sucking.

Take Care of Baby Teeth

Baby teeth are important! They bite and chew food, and they work with the tongue to help your child learn to pronounce words properly. And there’s one more important reason to make sure primary teeth stay healthy: they serve as the place holders which guide permanent teeth into their proper spots.

When a baby tooth is lost too early, due to decay or injury, the teeth on either side can drift into the empty space, preventing a permanent tooth from erupting where it needs to. Any misalignment or crowding which results may require orthodontic treatment in the future.

Call our Anchorage, AK office if your child unexpectedly loses a baby tooth. There may be no cause for concern, or, if there’s a potential problem, an appliance called a “space maintainer,” which keeps the baby teeth from shifting out of place, can be fabricated especially for your child.

Your child’s adult teeth are being formed now. Work with us to make sure the building blocks of present and future dental health are in place. You’re giving your child the foundation for a lifetime of beautiful, grown-up smiles!

Infant Teething Remedies: What Might Help—And What to Avoid

May 6th, 2021

Some lucky babies wake one morning displaying a brand new tooth to the complete surprise of their unsuspecting parents! But your happy baby is irritable and drooling. Or your hearty eater doesn’t feel like finishing her food. Perhaps she finds it hard to go to sleep when she’s usually nodded off before you finish the first lullaby. A small number of children suffer little or no discomfort teething, but for the majority of babies who do, here are some helpful ways to ease their teething pain.

  • Massage--Rubbing your baby’s gums with a clean finger or piece of gauze—gentle pressure is all you need. And do be careful of your fingers once those teeth start coming in!
  • Chewing—there are many colorful and easy to grasp teething toys available, including BPA-free models.
  • Cool Relief—Cool a solid teether in the refrigerator to help ease discomfort. Placing a teething ring in the freezer is not recommended, as extreme cold can be damaging to little mouths and gums.
  • Comfort Food—If your baby is eating solid foods, try cold applesauce or other purees.
  • Skin Care—Drooling is often part of the teething process, but try to keep your child’s face free from rash and chaffing by wiping with a clean cloth when necessary.

And while you are trying to keep your baby comfortable, also be sure to keep her safe!

  • Know what your baby is putting into her mouth. All teething items should be non-toxic and free of harmful chemicals. Teethers filled with fluids may break or leak, so a solid toy is best.
  • Make teething items size-appropriate. Avoid anything small or breakable that might present a choking hazard.
  • Over-the-counter gels and liquids containing benzocaine, meant to reduce pain in the gums and mouth, may on rare occasion lead to serious health conditions in small children. Always check with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous or your pediatrician before buying an over-the-counter teething medication for your baby.

For many babies, teething can be a long and sometimes difficult process. If there is anything we can do to help you and your baby in this journey, please give our Anchorage, AK office a call.

Beneficial Beverage or Damaging Drink?

April 29th, 2021

Talking about a healthy diet usually means talking about food. After all, our teeth and gums need protein, vitamins, and minerals to stay strong and free from cavities and gum disease. But let’s not forget the part liquids play in our diets! What we drink can actually have a dramatic effect on our dental health.

Beneficial Beverages for Our Teeth and Gums

  • Water, water, water!

Water is always a healthy option. Besides being a nutrient in its own right, water washes away food particles as we eat, dilutes the acids in our mouth that can lead to cavities, and often provides the fluoride, which reduces our risk of tooth decay. Also, water helps with the production of saliva, which cleanses our mouth and helps neutralize the acids which cause cavities, gum disease, and bad breath.

  • Milk

Milk provides the calcium and vitamin D that are essential for bone and tooth health. If you are worried about the fat content in milk, low-fat options will still deliver the nutrients your body needs.

  • Vegetable juices

These juices provide important vitamins and minerals without the sugar levels of fruit juices. If that 100%-leafy-green smoothie is a bit bitter, add a small amount of fruit to the mix, but remember to avoid too many acidic, sugary additions.

Drinks that are Less than Ideal

  • Sugary beverages

Regular soft drinks, fruit juices, energy drinks, and sweetened tea and coffee provide bacteria with the sugar they use to produce acids. These acids, over time, weaken our enamel and lead to cavities.

  • Acidic drinks

Any acidic beverages, such as soft drinks, sports drinks, or citrus juices, provide their own acids that can erode tooth enamel.

  • Drinks that stain our teeth

Red wine, coffee, black tea, fruit juices, colas—even sports drinks!—can leave our enamel stained and discolored.

Should we give up all these problem drinks completely? Can’t we start our day with orange juice and a cup of coffee, or down an energy drink after a workout? The important takeaway here is to recognize which drinks can damage teeth and gums, and to minimize any harm they might cause. If you are going to drink something sugary or acidic, don’t sip it. Sipping lets the sugars and acids linger in the mouth. Drink with a meal. Chewing increases saliva production, which helps wash away harmful sugars and acids. Try using a straw for drinks that stain teeth. And it’s always best to rinse with water immediately after drinking anything sugary, acidic, or staining.

Best of all, try to include as many nourishing beverages as possible in your diet. Keep your mouth healthy with a steady routine of brushing and flossing for at least two minutes twice a day. Don’t forget to schedule regular checkups and cleanings at our Anchorage, AK office so Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can monitor your teeth and gums and remove plaque and stains if they develop. And if you have any questions about the healthiest beverages out there, let’s have a glass of water and discuss.

HPV and Oral Cancer

April 15th, 2021

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the country. There are over 100 strains of HPV, and, while most of these infections leave our systems on their own with no long-term ill effects, some cancers have been linked to certain “high risk” strains of the virus. One of these strains, HPV16, increases the risk of oral cancer.

HPV-related oral cancer most often appears in the oropharynx. This area of the mouth includes:

  • The base, or back, of the tongue
  • The soft palate
  • The tonsils
  • The back and sides of the throat

While HPV-related oral cancers can appear in other parts of the oral cavity, they most typically occur at the back of the throat and tongue and near the folds of the tonsils. Because of this location, oropharyngeal cancer can be difficult to detect. This is one more important reason to maintain a regular schedule of dental exams. Our examination doesn’t focus only on your teeth and gums. We are trained to look for cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions in the mouth, head, and neck to make sure you have the earliest treatment options should they be needed.

If you discover any potential symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer, call us for a check-up. These symptoms can include:

  • Trouble moving the tongue
  • Trouble swallowing, speaking, or chewing
  • Trouble opening the mouth completely
  • A red or white patch on the tongue or the lining of the mouth
  • A lump in the throat, neck, or tongue
  • A persistent sore throat
  • Ear pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Coughing up blood

Not every symptom is caused by cancer, but it is always best to be proactive. HPV-related oral cancer is rare, but it is on the increase. While HPV-positive oral cancers generally have a better prognosis than HPV-negative oral cancers, early diagnosis and treatment are still essential for the best possible outcome.

Finally, if you are a young adult or have an adolescent child, talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and to your doctor about the HPV vaccine, which is effective before exposure to the virus occurs. Most HPV vaccines, while not designed specifically to prevent oral cancer, prevent the HPV16 strain from infecting the body—the very same strain that causes the majority of HPV-related oral cancers.  Although no studies have shown definitive proof yet, there is strong feeling in the scientific community that these immunizations might protect against HPV-positive oral cancer as well as cervical, vaginal, and other cancers. It’s a discussion worth having at your next visit to our Anchorage, AK office.

This April, Let’s Celebrate National Facial Protection Month!

April 8th, 2021

Poor April. While other months celebrate romance, or giving thanks, or costumes and candy, April has—April Fool’s Day and a tax deadline. We might be forgiven for thinking these two dates seem more like warnings than celebrations.

So here’s a new topic for the April calendar: National Facial Protection Month! Take the opportunity this month to review your safety practices while you’re enjoying your favorite activities.

  • Mouthguards

If you have a mouthguard for sports or athletic activities, wear it! In any activity or sport where humans come into contact with solid objects (including other humans) tooth injury is possible. A mouthguard will help protect you from dental injuries caused by falls, physical contact, or other accidents that might happen in your active life. And it’s not just your teeth—mouthguards protect your lips, tongue, and jaw as well.

You can buy mouthguards in stock sizes or shape-to-fit options, or you can have a guard custom made especially for you at our Anchorage, AK office. Custom mouthguards fit perfectly and are designed to make breathing and speaking easy and comfortable. And if you wear braces or have fixed dental work such as a bridge, a custom mouthguard can protect your smile and your appliances. Talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about mouthguards for some great advice on how to protect your teeth and mouth.

As long as we’re discussing facial protection, let’s look at some other ways to keep safe as you keep active.

  • Helmets

If there’s a helmet available for your sport, use it! Helmets are especially important for protecting athletes from brain injury and concussion, and they help protect the face and jaw as well.

  • Face Guards

If you’ve experienced a puck speeding toward you, or a defensive tackle hurtling your way, or a fast ball coming in at 90 miles an hour, you know the importance of wearing a face guard. These guards can help protect your eyes, face, teeth, and jaws. Many sports now recommend using face guards—it’s worth checking to see if your sport is one of them.

  • Eye Protection

And let’s not forget eye protection. Whether it’s safety glasses or a visor, protecting your eyes and the bones around them is extremely important. You can even get sports goggles or protective sports glasses with prescription lenses to keep you safe and seeing clearly.

We have the training and experience to help treat and restore injured teeth. But we will be the first to tell you, the very best treatment is prevention!

So here are a few suggestions for your calendar this month:

  • If you haven’t gotten a mouthguard yet, now’s the time. Tooth and mouth injuries occur in sports beyond hockey and football. If you play basketball, ski, skateboard, ride a bike—in fact, almost any sport where you can fall or make contact with a person or object—a mouthguard is a must.
  • If you need to replace an ill-fitting or damaged helmet and face guard, do it before your next game. And do replace a bike helmet if you’ve been in a crash—most likely it won’t be as protective, even if damage isn’t visible.
  • Talk to your eye doctor about protective eyewear if off-the-rack products don’t work for you.
  • If you are a parent or caregiver, make sure your child athlete has the proper facial protection—and uses it.
  • If you are a coach, make sure your athletes have the right protective gear—and wear it.
  • It’s also a great time to commit to using your protective gear every single time you’re active.

But, wait—these reminders are helpful and important, but weren’t we promised something to celebrate this April? Good catch! The great news is, using facial protection for sports and athletic activities gives you rewards you can celebrate all year: fewer injuries, fewer visits to the emergency room, and a beautiful, healthy, intact smile. Suit up!

Recovering from Oral Surgery

April 1st, 2021

If you need oral surgery, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team will use our expertise and training to ensure that you have the best possible surgical outcome. And we want to make sure you have the best possible outcome for your recovery as well. Here are a few of the most common aftercare suggestions for making your healing as comfortable and rapid as possible.

  • Reduce Swelling

Ice packs or cold compresses can reduce swelling. We’ll instruct you how to use them if needed, and when to call our Anchorage, AK office if swelling persists.

  • Reduce Bleeding

Some amount of bleeding is normal after many types of oral surgery. We might give you gauze pads to apply to the area, with instructions on how much pressure to apply and how long to apply it. We will also let you know what to do if the bleeding continues longer than expected.

  • Reduce Pain or Discomfort

If you have some pain after surgery, over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen might be all that you need. We can recommend those which are best for you. If you need a prescription for pain medication, be sure to take it as directed and always let us know in advance if you have any allergies or other reactions to medications.

  • Recovery-friendly Diet

Take it easy for the first few days after oral surgery. Liquids and soft foods are best for several days following surgery. We will let you know what type of diet is indicated and how long you should follow it depending on your particular procedure. We might, for example, recommend that you avoid alcohol and tobacco, spicy, crunchy, and chewy foods, and hot foods or beverages for several days or several weeks.

  • Take Antibiotics If Needed

If you have been prescribed an antibiotic, be sure to take it as directed. If you have any allergies to antibiotics, let us know in advance.

  • Protect the Wound

Do NOT use straws, smoke, or suck on foods. Avoid spitting.  Part of the healing process can involve the formation of a clot over the surgical site which protects the wound. If the clot is dislodged by suction or spitting, it can prolong your recovery time, or even lead to a potentially serious condition called “dry socket.”

  • Maintain Oral Hygiene

Depending on your surgery, we might recommend that you avoid rinsing your mouth for 24 hours, use salt water rinses when appropriate, and keep away from the surgical site when brushing. It’s important to keep your mouth clean, carefully and gently.

  • Take it Easy!

Rest the day of your surgery and keep your activities light in the days following.

These are general guidelines for recovery. If you have oral surgery scheduled, we will supply you with instructions for your specific procedure, and can tailor your aftercare to fit any individual needs. Our goal is to make sure that both your surgery and your recovery are as comfortable as possible.

Avoid the Emergency Room for Dental Problems

March 25th, 2021

There are certainly situations when going to an emergency room is the best response for your problem. A severe injury to your mouth, jaw, or face would qualify.

However, when it comes to long-term solutions for other dental problems, an emergency room visit may fall short. If you suffer from a major toothache, cavity, a broken tooth, crown, or veneer, it’s better to go straight to the dentist for treatment.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can provide you with a treatment plan that will be long lasting. When you visit an ER for a common dental problem, more likely you’ll only be given temporary relief for a serious and ongoing problem.

In many cases, the emergency room will give you pain medication to mask the symptoms until you can schedule an appointment at our Anchorage, AK office. That results in a lot of wasted time, as well as two separate medical bills. The ER may give you a temporary crown or filling, but you will still need a follow-up appointment for a permanent restoration.

We recommend you find the nearest emergency dental clinic, or even try a home remedy to relieve the pain until you can schedule an emergency appointment at Pediatric Dental Associates. A warm salt-water rinse or cold compress can be used to sooth tooth and gum pain in the meantime.

If you experience a dental emergency and are unsure about what to do, feel free to contact our Anchorage, AK office at any time. We will fit you into our schedule right away and figure out the best course of treatment for your problem.

Going Green for St. Patrick’s Day?

March 18th, 2021

Happily for all of us who like to celebrate with friends and family, there’s no need to be Irish to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day. Every March 17th, many of us take the opportunity to display a bit of Gaelic spirit.

  • Green Clothing (it’s tradition!)
  • Green Hat (for a jaunty look)
  • Green Shamrock (always the perfect accessory)
  • Green Hair (for the adventurous among us)
  • Green Grins?

Here’s where we draw the line. Emerald Isle? Delightful! Emerald smile? Not so beguiling.

That traditional St. Patrick’s party fare—green-frosted sweet treats and green-colored pastries and green-foamed beers—is full of green-tinted food dyes, which can leave us with teeth in subtle shamrock shades. Luckily, most of us will have only a very temporary tinge to remind us of our dietary shenanigans, and there are simple ways to rid yourself of the green sheen:

  • Indulge sparingly in colorful cuisine, and drink water afterwards to rinse away green-dyed foods and beverages.
  • Use a straw for green drinks.
  • Brush your teeth. (Not only will you brush away the green, but you’ll brush away the sugars from sweet green desserts and the acids from sour green brews.)
  • Try a whitening toothpaste.

One special note: if you’ve just whitened your smile, best to eliminate strong food dyes from your diet for a few days. Teeth are more sensitive to staining after whitening, because the whitening process temporarily makes them more porous. Give yourself a few days, and your enamel will be back to (stain)fighting strength.

So, celebrate on the 17th and feel secure that on the 18th, your smile won’t be “wearing the green” any longer. But if you find that you’re not happy with the appearance of your smile anytime during the year, if you have more permanent staining caused by natural darkening over time, or workdays fueled by black coffee, or a diet filled with tomato sauce, dark berries, red wine, and other tasty (but discoloring) food, you’re still in luck.

Ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about professional whitening procedures at our Anchorage, AK office for a brighter, more confident smile. And with a bright, confident smile, every day’s a reason to celebrate!

Dental Veneers

March 11th, 2021

If you want to fix staining, large gaps, fillings, chipped teeth, or the overall shape of your teeth, this may be the perfect option for you. Many of our patients opted for veneers and have never been more confident in their smile!

Dental veneers are made from long-lasting porcelain materials which cover the front and biting ends of each tooth. At your appointment, you can choose the shade of veneers to brighten up your smile. They are usually placed on the anterior, or front teeth, where the chewing forces are not as hard as in the back. Placing the veneers is easy, and the best part is: It requires only two appointments!

During the first appointment, we’ll take an impressions of your teeth. Then we send them to the lab to make your veneers. Veneers are fairly conservative in preparation because they require a small amount of space to be created on the front, bottom, and sides of each tooth for a natural appearance. You will leave the office with temporary veneers in place for a week or two while the permanent veneers are being made.

Your veneers will be placed during the second appointment, and you won’t believe the difference in your smile! If you’re interested in learning more, give Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous a call at our Anchorage, AK office today!

Good Dental Hygiene Impacts Overall General Health

February 25th, 2021

There are many ways in which your oral health has an impact on your overall general health. There are naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth. Some of those bacteria, including strep and staph, are harmful, while other bacteria are essential for the balance of intestinal flora. The healthier your mouth is, the less likely it is the harmful bacteria will travel to other parts of your body to infect it and make you sick. There is much more to good dental hygiene than brushing and flossing.

Historical Methods of Maintaining Oral Health

Ancient civilizations relied on natural remedies for maintaining oral health. Around 250 AD, the Kemetic Egyptians used myrrh and other herbs as antiseptics for treating infected gums. Two centuries later, the Nubians, who lived in the Nile River valley, drank beer to ease the pain of infected teeth. That probably sounds crazy, but their beer was effective because they used grains that were contaminated with the same bacteria that produce the antibiotic tetracycline.

Today's Biggest Dental Hygiene Challenge

In the past, tooth decay was more of an issue because there was no routine dental care, and problems that are routinely treated today went untreated. Thanks to fluoridated water, and toothpastes containing fluoride, tooth decay is far less problematic than it was a century or more ago. Gum disease has replaced tooth decay as the most serious dental problem facing people today. According to the American Dental Association, a staggering 80 percent of Americans over age 65 suffer from some form of periodontal disease.

Ironically, if that infection attacked any other part of your body, especially in a place where it was clearly visible, you would head to your doctor for treatment immediately. People tend to ignore gum tenderness and bleeding. When the tenderness and bleeding aren't treated, the inflammation can turn into periodontitis. The longer you allow the inflammation to go untreated, the greater the likelihood that it will affect other body parts. Make sure to visit Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at Pediatric Dental Associates regularly to be proactive about dental health!

Researchers are now discovering that untreated inflammation in the mouth acts as a driving force for multiple chronic illnesses, including clogged arteries, heart attacks, arthritis, and even cancer. That inflammation is one of many hypotheses that may explain how chronic infections can trigger systemic diseases, and even intensify existing ones. Bacterial overgrowth in the inflamed gum tissue can enter the bloodstream through the food you eat, and from daily brushing.

Caring for your mouth at home is just as important as visiting our office for exams!

When Is a “Cavity” Not a Cavity?

February 18th, 2021

Is this a trick question? After all, you and your family probably already know quite a lot about cavities:

  • It all begins when bacteria-filled plaque sticks to teeth and starts to attack enamel. How?
  • Because the bacteria in plaque use the sugars and other foods we eat to produce acids.
  • These acids gradually weaken teeth by dissolving minerals that help make up our enamel (a process called demineralization).
  • Over time, a hole, or cavity, develops in the tooth surface.
  • Left untreated, bacterial decay can spread to the inside of the tooth, creating a more serious cavity.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous might discover an unexpected cavity at a regularly scheduled dental exam at our Anchorage, AK office, but there are also some symptoms that should have you calling for an appointment. A cavity can cause sensitivity when eating something hot or cold, or it can be painful, or you might even notice visible discoloration or damage to the tooth surface.

So, if your child has any of these symptoms, it’s a cavity, right? It might be—but it might not. Sometimes, because the symptoms are similar, what we suspect is a cavity is really enamel erosion.

The bacteria-created acids weaken enamel. But it’s not just bacteria that subject our teeth to acids. Acidic foods are one of the leading causes of tooth erosion.

And while we expect damage from a lifetime of acidic foods and beverages to catch up with us as we age, the fact is that erosion is becoming a problem even for young children. How is this possible? Let’s look at some food chemistry.

Our normal saliva pH level is around a 7, which is neutral. Any number lower is acidic; any number higher is alkaline. Acidic foods have a low pH (the pH of lemon juice, for example, measures between 2 and 3), and can reduce our normal, neutral pH level. When saliva pH levels drop to 5.5 or lower, tooth enamel starts to demineralize, just as it does when exposed to the acids from oral bacteria.

Regularly snacking on citrus and other acidic fruits, fruit juices, flavored drinks, sour candies, and other acidic foods can cause enamel erosion. Especially erosive are sports drinks, energy drinks, and colas, because they contain some combination of citric acid, phosphoric acid and/or carbonation.

So, when might you suspect enamel erosion? Your child might be sensitive to hot or cold foods, or feel pain, or even have noticeable enamel loss or pitting. Even though these symptoms may not have been caused by plaque and bacteria, acidic erosion from our diets leaves weakened enamel just as vulnerable to cavities and decay.

How to avoid erosion?

  • Serve acidic foods sparingly, or as part of a meal. This helps our saliva pH stay in the neutral zone.
  • Balance acidic foods with low-acid choices to neutralize acids and restore a normal pH balance. For example, mix those acidic berries with a banana.
  • Use a straw! These are not only fun, but this simple solution keeps erosive drinks from bathing young teeth in acids.
  • Encourage your child to drink water instead of an acidic beverage, or drink it afterward to rinse acids away. The pH of pure water? A perfect, neutral 7. And by using tap water instead of bottled water, you’ll be providing fluoride, which helps strengthen enamel.
  • What about brushing right after eating or drinking something acidic? Ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous if your child should rush for the brush. We may recommend waiting 30 minutes or so after an acidic treat to give the teeth time to remineralize. Otherwise, brushing might cause more wear and tear on enamel.
  • Finally, while foods are often the source of acid erosion, medical conditions can cause erosion as well. Talk to us about ways to minimize erosion while addressing these medical needs.

Be proactive. Ask your Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about healthy drinks and snacks for healthy teeth. Make sure to keep on top of brushing and flossing, and stick with fluoride toothpastes. And visit our Anchorage, AK office regularly for exams and cleanings.

There’s really no trick to it—preventing enamel erosion helps keep your child’s teeth structurally strong and cavity-free for a lifetime of beautiful and healthy adult smiles.

Easing the Teething Blues

February 11th, 2021

Every moment of your baby’s first year of life is precious, since every day your child grows a little, develops new skills, and discovers new things. Most of it is wonderful, but parents don’t like to see their babies in pain. That’s why teething can be such a hard experience. However, you can take steps to make it easier for you and your baby.

What to Expect

Most babies begin teething around the age of six months, when the lower central incisors start to appear. Shortly after this time, the upper central incisors poke through, followed by the lateral incisors, first molars, canines, and second molars. Unfortunately, you’ll probably know that your baby is teething not because you see these teeth come in, but because your baby will be in discomfort. These are some of the signs to watch for when you’re expecting your baby to begin teething.

  • Tender and sore gums
  • More drooling than before
  • Being crankier than usual
  • Chewing on hard objects

What You Can Do

As a parent, you want to do everything you can to make your child more comfortable. These are some approaches that Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team recommend:

  • Take a clean moistened wash cloth or use your own washed finger to rub your baby’s gums and provide relief due to the pressure.
  • Provide a firm rubber teething ring for your baby to use, but don't use the type that is filled with liquid.
  • Use a bottle. A bottle filled with cold water can be soothing. Don’t give your baby formula, milk, or juice constantly because the sugar can cause tooth decay.
  • Medications can help for extreme crankiness. Infant Tylenol is an example, but it’s best to check with your pediatrician before giving your baby medications.

You might also want to take special care to dry the drool. It’s not just to keep yourself and your baby dry. Keeping your baby’s skin dry can help prevent irritation.

When to Visit Us

Once your child’s first tooth comes in, it’s time to start thinking your baby’s first trip to our Anchorage, AK office. The American Dental Association suggests that you bring your child to the dentist within six months of the appearance of the first tooth, or at about one year of age. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can do a quick check for tooth decay, and we’ll make sure you know how to take care of your child’s new teeth.

Avoid Brushing After Every Single Meal!

February 4th, 2021

Here is some surprising yet worthwhile advice you might be hearing for the first time: Brushing after a meal can be incredibly bad for your teeth if you do it after eating certain foods.

Enamel is an extremely hard mineral on the exterior of each of your teeth. It’s actually the hardest substance in the human body: It’s even stronger than your bones! Its only weakness is that acids in the food we eat can easily destroy enamel.

Healthy teeth thrive in an environment that has the proper pH balance. That ensures your mouth doesn’t start the process of demineralization. That’s what happens when alkaline turns into acid, which attacks and softens the enamel on the surface of your teeth. Pores and fissures form, and that’s when the harmful bacteria go to work.

Our mouth’s pH level fluctuates depending on what we eat throughout the day. Examples of the most common highly acidic foods include citrus fruits, soda, and sugary foods. Highly acidic foods tip the balance of pH in your mouth from a healthy alkaline to a dangerous acid.

Can brushing your teeth immediately after a meal lead to even more damage? The answer is yes!

Eating highly acidic foods causes your teeth to be more susceptible. If you brush your teeth when they have been weakened by acids, even more destruction can happen to your enamel. Your toothbrush’s bristles will actually wear away some of your enamel. So it’s healthier to wait at least an hour after eating or snacking to brush.

Good preventive measures to take instead of brushing after you eat include:

  • Rinsing or drinking water
  • Chewing sugarless gum
  • Consuming dairy or non-acidic foods to conclude your meal

These practices help produce saliva, which in turn restores a healthy pH level in your mouth and coats the teeth with minerals they need.

Once you’ve allowed time for your mouth to be restored to a healthy pH level, you may brush your teeth as you normally would. Keep in mind that acidic foods can weaken the enamel on your teeth and take the right measures to prevent spiking pH levels.

Most important, don’t forget to wait to brush at least one hour after you eat!

Still have questions? Call our Anchorage, AK office and schedule an appointment with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous.

Oral Health Problems: An indicator of overall health problems?

January 28th, 2021

If you are like many people, you might think of your oral health as separate from your overall health. After all, most dental coverage plans are distinct from health care coverage. However, your oral health goes far beyond being able to chew nutritious and enjoyable foods. Oral health problems may be an indicator of a variety of other health problems.

Links between Oral Health and Overall Health

In the late 1980s, researchers noticed a trend among patients who had recently suffered from heart attacks. As the Journal of the American Dental Association reported, they observed that these patients were more likely to have dental caries or cavities, periodontitis or inflammation around the tooth, and other forms of gum disease. Later studies found similar results, and dentists and doctors now recognize poor oral health as a risk factor for a variety of heart conditions, such as heart attacks, atherosclerosis, and coronary heart disease.

There are even more links between oral health problems and overall health problems. Some individuals do not find out that they have Type 2 diabetes until a dentist sees that they have periodontitis. If you have diabetes, worsening periodontitis can indicate that your diabetes is not under control.

Poor oral health is also associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Furthermore, poor oral health puts you at higher risk for respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, because harmful pathogens can enter your body through your mouth.

Take Care of Your Teeth

Keeping your teeth healthy remains important, especially as you grow older. Older adults are more prone to dental caries and other oral health problems, as well as to chronic diseases. While taking care of your oral health might not prevent a specific disease, a healthy mouth is a significant factor in your overall health.

You can take care of your teeth by continuing to brush twice a day and floss every day. Avoid consuming too many sugary and starchy foods, and drink water after each meal or snack to rinse your teeth. See Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous for regular checkups, and contact Pediatric Dental Associates if you have any concerns about your teeth or gums.

What is Remineralization?

January 21st, 2021

“What is the strongest substance in the body?” If this question comes up on trivia night, be prepared to impress your team when you confidently answer, “Tooth enamel!”

Tooth enamel? The reason for this surprising answer lies in the biology of our teeth. Minerals make up well over 90% of our enamel, a much higher percentage than is found anywhere else in the body, including our bones. But unlike bone tissue, which can heal and regenerate, tooth enamel cannot. Even though it is extremely strong, enamel can be damaged by a process called demineralization.

Demineralization

Demineralization is a result of acids at work in our mouths. Acids actually break down the minerals in our enamel, making the enamel softer. Over time, bacteria attack deeper into the tooth, eventually leading to decay. Acidic foods like sodas, citrus, pickles, and coffee are obvious culprits in providing an acidic environment, but there are other problem foods as well. We all have bacteria in our mouths, which can be helpful or harmful. The bacteria in plaque use the sugars and starches we eat to produce even more acids.

This process is something that takes place very quickly. In fact, even brushing too soon after eating something acidic can damage the demineralized surface of a tooth. Waiting at least 20 to 30 minutes to brush gives our bodies a chance to restore the enamel surface in a process called remineralization.

Remineralization

Our bodies are actually designed to help protect our enamel, and the most important part of this process is saliva production. Saliva cleanses our teeth and reduces levels of acidity. And our saliva constantly washes important minerals over our teeth. Calcium and phosphate ions rebuild and strengthen molecules where demineralization has taken place. This process is called remineralization.

We have other ways to help the remineralization process along. Fluoride toothpastes and fluoridated water speed up the movement of mineral building blocks back to the surface of the tooth. Fluoride also strengthens our teeth so that they resist acids and demineralization better than teeth without fluoride, making them less vulnerable to cavities.

New products are available for home and professional use that are designed to increase remineralization—talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at our Anchorage, AK office if you would like the latest recommendations. In fact, talk to us about tooth-friendly menus, the best toothpastes, brushing techniques, and all the ways to keep your enamel its healthiest. You’ll be answering all those trivia questions with a strong, confident smile!

Should I fix my chipped tooth?

January 14th, 2021

It was a small fall! A miniscule piece of popcorn! A minor foul on the basketball court! But now there’s a chip in your otherwise perfect smile. Is a chipped tooth worth calling Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous?

Any time your tooth is injured is time to call our Anchorage, AK office. Even a small chip can affect your tooth structure and should be evaluated. We will also want to check your tooth and gums to make sure there is no underlying injury that could be more serious, and to treat your tooth as soon as possible so that no further damage occurs.

A very small chip might need nothing more than smoothing and polishing to remove sharp edges. A small chip in your enamel can be repaired with dental bonding, where a composite like those used to fill cavities will be shaped to cover and fill the chip. This composite will be matched to your tooth color for a seamless repair. A porcelain veneer is also an option for you. These procedures will restore the look of your tooth and protect it as well, because even a small chip can lead to tooth sensitivity or further damage in the future.

A larger chip, such as a fractured cusp, might require a crown. But a large chip might also mean that the inside of the tooth has been compromised. If the dentin or pulp are affected, pain, infection, and even tooth loss could result. A root canal might be necessary to preserve the tooth, so prompt treatment is necessary.

Regardless of the size of the chip, call our Anchorage, AK office as soon as possible. We can give you tips for pain management, if needed, until you see us. If you can save the chip, bring it with you when you visit in case there is the possibility of bonding it to the injured tooth.  But even without that missing piece, there are ways to restore the look of your original tooth. Remember, repairing a chipped tooth is not just cosmetic. We want to keep your smile healthy, as well as beautiful!

Going Green for the New Year

January 7th, 2021

Does your list of New Year’s resolutions for the coming months include reducing your ecological footprint? If so, let’s ring in the year with some basic—and some innovative—dental ideas to help you meet your goal.

  • Conserve Water

This is probably the easiest –and most cost effective!—item on our list. If you leave the water running while you brush, you are watching gallons of water go down the drain every day. Luckily, toothbrushes rely on wrist power rather than water power. Wet your brush before you begin, and use water only as needed to rinse. You’ll save hundreds of gallons of water every year.

And while we’re near your sink, if you like to rinse after brushing and flossing with disposable plastic cups, consider using compostable paper products or a regular drinking glass that you can clean after using.

  • Biodegradable/sustainable /recyclable toothbrushes

Some brushes promise to be completely compostable, with handles manufactured from sustainable woods or bamboo, and heads fitted with biodegradable boar bristles. Investigate before you buy, because boar bristles aren’t for everyone. Some users complain about the taste, and boar bristles are harsher than the soft bristles we recommend to protect your enamel and gums. Organic bristles are also more prone to bacteria growth.

If you prefer the consistency and texture of regular synthetic bristles, or wish to avid animal products, you can still opt for a brush with a handle of sustainable wood or bamboo. These brushes also offer PBA-free bristles, bristles made largely from castor oil, or bristles that use natural ingredients in combination with synthetics.

And don’t forget recycling as a possibility to cut down on your plastic use. Toothbrushes are available with handles made from recycled plastic. And once you’re finished with them, these brushes can be recycled again.

  • Biodegradable dental floss

This is another innovative take on dental supplies, and one that offers lots of new options. Regular dental floss is usually made from waxed nylon. Biodegradable floss, on the other hand, can be made of silk or plant materials, and coated with beeswax or plant-based wax. Some of these biodegradable flosses even come in refillable or compostable packaging.

  • Organic toothpaste

If you’re incorporating organic foods into your diet, you know that organic options are more easily available than ever before. And now there are more organic toothpastes available, as well. Natural toothpastes can be found which are vegan, fair-trade sourced, and preservative- and artificial ingredient-free.

Before you buy, though, do discuss your choices with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous. Why? Because many natural toothpastes are formulated without fluoride, a mineral shown to prevent cavities in study after study. Which leads us to . . .

  • See Your Dentist Regularly for Checkups and Cleanings

Along with your daily dental hygiene routine, don’t forget to make regular appointments for examinations and professional cleanings at our Anchorage, AK office. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can help you discover the best ideas for products and practices which are good for you and good for the planet, for a lifetime of natural, sustainable smiles.

A Brighter Smile for the New Year

December 31st, 2020

The beginning of a new year is the perfect opportunity for a fresh start for you and your smile. At Pediatric Dental Associates, a brighter smile is quick and easy!

Given the latest in whitening technology, whiter teeth are only an appointment away. Teeth whitening is a safe, quick, and inexpensive way to create the dream smile you’ve always desired. We can offer a safe method that corrects tooth discolorations that may have been caused by staining, aging, or chemical effects.

So, start the new year off right and get a whiter smile today! Give us a call at our convenient Anchorage, AK office to schedule an appointment!

Diastema, or, Mind the Gap!

December 24th, 2020

Diastema is a medical term meaning “space between”—or what Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team less formally call a gap between the teeth. Such gaps are common for children as they make the transition from baby teeth to adult teeth, and usually close when all the permanent teeth arrive. But not always!

Sometimes a gap, usually between the upper front teeth, stays with you into adulthood, but doesn’t affect your perfectly heathy teeth. Sometimes a diastema develops due to medical conditions or trauma. Whether you would like to close a gap for cosmetic reasons, or need to address gaps that have developed because of dental problems, your treatment will depend on the causes of the diastema.

  • The Relationship of Jaws and Teeth

Most of the time, we think of braces as straightening crooked teeth. For many braces wearers, the jaw can’t accommodate all of the adult teeth without crowding. But it’s also possible to have too much space for incoming teeth, and this can lead to a gap between two or more teeth. Orthodontic treatment is a common choice to close this kind of gap, using braces or clear aligners to move the teeth closer together.

  • Prominent Labial Frenulum

The labial frenulum is a band of muscular tissue that connects the upper lip and the top of the gums. If it is too large, tissue can extend beyond the top of the front teeth. A gap develops when the front teeth simply can’t meet because of the tissue between them.  Oral surgery can reduce the size of the frenulum, if necessary, and often orthodontic treatment is the go-to option to close the diastema.

  • Small Teeth or Small Gap

Occasionally, a few teeth are noticeably smaller than their neighbors. Bonding, veneers, and crowns can be used to enlarge these teeth, making them proportionate to the teeth around them. These treatments can also be successful in reducing a gap between the front teeth.

  • Missing Teeth

Sometimes people are born missing a tooth. Sometimes people lose a tooth to injury or decay. And while the space left by a missing or lost tooth is a noticeable gap in itself, the remaining teeth can shift to fill the void, causing other gaps to develop as well. A dental implant or bridge can both replace a missing tooth and maintain the normal spacing of the teeth that surround it.

  • Gum Disease

Left untreated, periodontitis (gum disease) can damage or even destroy the bone tissue which holds and supports the teeth. This, in turn, leads to “tooth mobility,” or loose teeth. Spaces between the teeth become more noticeable and larger over time. After the gum disease is treated, patient and dentist can explore options for reducing or eliminating spaces between the teeth.

  • Harmful Oral Habits

Tongue thrusting and thumb sucking are two habits that can affect the alignment of the front teeth. Both behaviors pressure the teeth to move forward, which can cause separations between them. Learning how to change these behaviors will help prevent or stop the expansion of a diastema and potentially serious malocclusions (bad bites).

If you would like to discuss your diastema for aesthetic reasons, talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous for ways to reduce or eliminate the gap. If your diastema is the result of a medical condition, we will be able to recommend treatment options available at our Anchorage, AK office. If you’re teeth and gums are healthy, and you enjoy the individuality of your diastema . . .

  • Embrace the Space!

A diastema can be a signature look for you and your smile. Normal brushing, flossing, and regular dental care will keep your smile bright, healthy, and uniquely you. And if you’re happy, healthy, and confidant, why, there’s no reason to mind the gap at all!

Creating a Dental Home

December 10th, 2020

As a parent, you know how important a happy, relaxed atmosphere is when it comes to making your child feel at home. We would like to make our Anchorage, AK practice your dental home, where you and your family enjoy the best of dental care in a warm and welcoming environment.

What makes a dental home?

  • It’s Welcoming

From your child’s first visit, we strive to make you both feel at ease. Our office is designed to be a happy, entertaining, and relaxing place, and our staff is trained in making little ones feel calm and secure. We want to have a lasting relationship, and we want you and your child to feel welcomed back whenever you return.

  • It’s Familiar

We recommend visiting our office for the first time by the time of your child’s first tooth or first birthday. Our early visits are designed to make your child familiar with what a dentist does and how a dentist helps keep children healthy. Regular preventative care will keep those little teeth in great shape, and, if your child has a cavity that needs filling or requires any other dental procedure, we will have a history together and a familiar place to experience an unfamiliar treatment.

  • It’s Comfortable

We use state-of-the-art dentistry to make sure your child has the best and most comfortable treatment as a patient, and we also consider the psychological aspect of each visit for your particular child. We are experienced in dealing with children who might feel anxious and working with them to overcome their worries. Part of our job is to make each visit a happy one, so your child is always comfortable visiting us.

  • It’s Ongoing

We want to establish a relationship that will last through the years. Continuity of care means that we are able to follow your child’s dental development during those active growing years and the transition from primary to permanent teeth. We provide not only dental health education, treatment, and preventive care, but can track any changes or potential problems before they become major issues. In case of a dental emergency, we will be familiar with your child personally, and with a dental history at hand.

Give Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous a call to talk about your child and how we can make the dental experience a positive one from the very beginning. When it comes to establishing a happy and healthy foundation for your child’s dental history, there’s no place like our dental home!

‘Tis the Season—for Healthy Dental Choices!

December 3rd, 2020

It might be the most wonderful time of the year, but if you’re dashing through the snow to an emergency dental appointment, you’re not feeling very jolly. And post-holiday, no one wants to start off their New Year’s Resolutions with “Get Cavities Filled.” How to survive the sweetest of seasons with enamel and fillings intact?

Candies and sweets would normally be on the naughty list, but we’re not Scrooges! Indulging in a treat or two is part of the holiday fun, and we have some advice for how to enjoy them guilt-free. But first, some treats are definitely more naughty than nice. Which are the ones that are better as decorations than desserts?

  • Candy Canes

If you’ve ever suffered a chipped or cracked tooth after an innocently biting down on a much-harder-than-expected piece of candy, you know that caution is in order. That’s why we tend to take our time with candy canes, letting them dissolve slowly in the mouth. Of course, the drawback to this strategy is that now we’re slowly bathing our teeth in sugar, encouraging the growth of plaque and cavity-causing bacteria.

Candy canes, peppermints, and other hard candies are potentially bad for your teeth when you crunch away, and definitely bad for your teeth if you let them dissolve slowly.

  • Gumdrops

Glistening, colorful gumdrops. Roofing your gingerbread house, trimming a gumdrop tree, or simply sitting in a bowl, they are one of the sweetest ways to decorate for the holidays. And when we say “sweet,” we mean that literally. Most gumdrops are basically made of corn syrup and sugar—and then rolled in more sugar.

But their sugar content isn’t the only problem. This is sugar in an extra-gummy form that sticks between our teeth and around our gums.

  • Toffees, Caramels, Taffy

They might come in lovely ribboned boxes, but these extremely sticky foods are not a gift to your teeth.

Not only do chewy candies stick to enamel, they stick to fillings, crowns (especially temporary crowns), and orthodontic wires and brackets. No one wants an unexpected trip to the dentist or orthodontist because dental work has been damaged or dislodged!

  • Gingerbread Houses

Nothing says the holidays like a gingerbread house—chewy, sticky gingerbread covered with hard sugar icing, gumdrops, and peppermints. Great for your décor; not so great for your dental health. Eat one gingerbread man if you’re in a spicy mood and leave your architectural masterpiece intact.

  • Fruitcake

If you need an excuse to turn down fruitcake, here’s a perfect one: most fruitcake is not great for your teeth. Candied fruit is, well, candied, and dried fruit is sugary, sticky, and chewy. There are delicious exceptions, of course, but even a delicious fruitcake is very high in sugar.

Well, this list wasn’t very jolly. So as a little holiday gift for you, here are some suggestions to help you enjoy your desserts in the healthiest way possible.

  • Be choosy.

Just like you search for the perfect presents for your family and friends, take the time to choose the perfect holiday treats for yourself. If you are worried about cavities, or have a temporary crown, or wear braces, or have cracked a tooth before, or are just generally concerned with your oral health, stay away from sticky, hard, and excessively sugary desserts.

What can you accept from your holiday hosts with a grateful (and relieved) smile? The occasional soft chocolate should be nothing to stress about—and if you make it dark chocolate, you’ll actually get nutritional bonuses like magnesium and antioxidants. Cakes, cupcakes, cookies, pies—yes, they are made with lots of sugar, but it is the holidays after all. Just be sure to follow our next suggestions to make that slice of cheesecake guilt-free.

  • Eat sweets with a meal.

Saliva does more than keep our mouths from getting dry. It also helps prevent cavities by washing away food particles and neutralizing the acids from food and bacteria, which damage enamel.

Eat dessert with a meal, and you benefit from increased mealtime saliva production. When you snack throughout the day, this acid-neutralizing ability is greatly reduced.

  • Rinse after eating.

Rinsing your mouth with water after a meal or a snack, especially a sugary one, also helps wash away the sticky sugars and carbs, which oral bacteria convert into acids.

  • Brush immediately. (Maybe.)

It’s always a good idea to brush right after eating—well, almost always. If you’ve been eating acidic foods like citrus or colas, the acids in the food can weaken your enamel just enough to cause some potential enamel damage if you scour your teeth immediately after eating. We often recommend waiting about 30 minutes to brush to give your enamel a chance to recover.

But every mouth is different. If you wear braces, or tend to get food stuck in your teeth or dental work, or have any other concerns, ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous for the best times and methods for holiday brushing.

You don’t want to ho-ho-hope that we can fit you in at our Anchorage, AK office to treat a cavity or a cracked tooth. Make your holiday dessert list and check it twice, and make sure you’re brushing and flossing more often if you’re indulging in seasonal treats—give yourself these two gifts, and you’ll be ringing in the New Year with a beautiful, healthy smile. Sweet!

When do children usually lose their baby teeth?

November 26th, 2020

Many parents have concerns about their children’s teeth not falling out on time. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team are here to answer any questions parents may have about when children lose their teeth.

Children have 20 primary teeth that come in around age three. By about age six, these teeth will loosen and begin to fall out on their own to make room for the permanent ones. It is common for girls to lose their baby teeth earlier than boys. Most children lose their final baby tooth by age 13.

Baby teeth normally fall out in the order in which they came in. The lower center incisors are usually the first to fall, around age six or seven, followed by the upper central incisors.

If a child loses a tooth to decay or an accident, the permanent tooth may come in too early and take a crooked position due to teeth crowding. If your child loses a tooth to decay or accident, call Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous to make an appointment.

Some kids can’t wait for their baby teeth to fall out, while others dread the thought of losing a tooth. When your child begins to lose teeth, you should emphasize the importance of proper dental care on a daily basis to promote a healthy mouth.

Remember to:

  • Remind your child to brush his or her teeth at least twice a day and offer assistance if needed
  • Help your child floss at bedtime
  • Limit eating and drinking between meals and at bedtime, especially sugary treats and drinks
  • Schedule regular dental visits for your child every six months.
  • Ask about the use of fluoride treatments and dental sealants to help prevent tooth decay.

Call Pediatric Dental Associates to learn more about caring for baby teeth or to schedule an appointment at our Anchorage, AK office!

Dental X-rays: The Inside Story

November 19th, 2020

Pediatric dentists strive to make your children’s visits welcoming and worry-free, and, we want the same for you! Ask us about any questions you might have. We are happy to explain procedures, equipment, and sedation options so you know just how safe and comfortable your child’s experience can be. And if X-rays are a concern, we can put your mind at ease here as well.

What Exactly Are X-rays?

Sometimes parents feel reluctant about the process of imaging because X-rays are a kind of radiation. But the fact is, radiation is all around us. We are exposed to radiation naturally from our soil and water, sun and air, as well as from modern inventions such as cell phones, Wi-Fi, and air travel.

Why is radiation so common? Because matter throughout the universe constantly gives off energy, and the energy that is emitted is termed radiation. This radiation takes two forms—as particles (which we don’t need to consider!) and as traveling rays. This second type is known as electromagnetic radiation, created by photons traveling in regular waves at the speed of light.

We are exposed to electromagnetic radiation every day, because, whether we can see them or not, these different wavelengths and frequencies create various forms of light. Radio waves, microwaves, infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light, X-rays, and gamma rays are all part of the electromagnetic light spectrum.

Different types of radiation on this spectrum have different wavelengths and different frequencies, and produce different amounts of energy. Longer wavelengths mean lower frequencies and less energy. Because X-rays have shorter wavelengths and higher frequencies than, for example, radio waves and visible light, they have more energy.

How Do Dental X-rays Work?

An X-ray machine produces a very narrow beam of X-ray photons. This beam passes through the body and captures images of our teeth and jaws on special film or digital sensors inside the mouth (intraoral X-rays), or on film or sensors located outside the mouth (extraoral X-rays). These X-ray images are also known as radiographs.

Why are X-rays able to take pictures inside our bodies? Remember that higher energy we talked about earlier? This energy enables X-rays to pass through the softer, less dense parts of our bodies, which are seen as gray background in a radiograph. But some substances in our bodies absorb X-rays, such as the calcium found in our bones and teeth. This is why they show up as sharp white images in radiographs. 

There are different types of common dental X-rays which are used for pediatric exams, including:

  • Bitewing X-rays, which are used to check on the health of the back teeth.
  • Periapical X-rays, which allow us to look at one or two specific teeth from crown to root.
  • Panoramic X-rays, which use a special machine to rotate around the head to create a complete two-dimensional picture of teeth and jaws.

Why Do We Need X-rays?

If all of our dental conditions were visible on the surface, there would be no need for X-rays. But there are many conditions that can only be discovered with the use of imaging—infection, decay, or injuries, for example, can show up as darker areas in the teeth or jaws. Among their many diagnostic uses, X-rays can help us find:

  • Cavities between teeth
  • Damage to the tooth’s pulp which might require root canal treatment
  • Injuries to teeth or roots after trauma
  • Abscesses, tumors, or other conditions that might be causing swelling or pain
  • Unusual position or development of the teeth before and as they erupt
  • Alignment and development of wisdom teeth

X-rays can also serve an important preventative role, by discovering small problems before they become major ones.

How Do Dentists Make Sure Your Child’s X-rays Are as Safe as They Can Be?

First of all, the amount of radiation patients are exposed to with a dental X-ray is very small. In fact, a set of bitewing X-rays exposes us to slightly less than the amount of radiation we are exposed to through our natural surroundings in just one day. Even so, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team are committed to making sure young patients are exposed to as little radiation as possible.

Radiologists, the physicians who specialize in imaging procedures and diagnoses, recommend that all dentists and doctors follow the safety principal known as ALARA: “As Low As Reasonably Achievable.” This means using the lowest X-ray exposure necessary to achieve precise diagnostic results for all dental and medical patients.

The guidelines recommended for X-rays and other imaging have been designed to make sure all patients have the safest experience possible whenever they visit the dentist or the doctor. We ensure that imaging is safe and effective in a number of ways:

  • We take X-rays only when they are necessary.
  • We provide protective gear, such as apron shields and thyroid collars, whenever needed.
  • We make use of modern X-ray equipment, for both traditional X-rays and digital X-rays, which exposes patients to a lower amount of radiation than ever before.
  • We set exposure times based on each child’s size and age.

X-rays play an important part in helping us make sure your child’s teeth stay their healthiest. If you have any concerns, contact our Anchorage, AK office. When it comes to making sure you’re comfortable with all of our procedures, including any X-rays that might be necessary, we’re happy to give you all the inside information!

Timing Matters!

November 12th, 2020

Many patients at Pediatric Dental Associates are under the impression that harder brushing leads to cleaner teeth, but that is not true. Gentle brushing is just as effective, and less likely to cause damage. Other good brushing habits include brushing your teeth at least twice a day, replacing your toothbrush after a few months, and brushing for at least two minutes each time. It can be tough to keep track of the time when you are aiming for two minutes, but these tips can help.

Set a Timer

Setting a timer is a sure-fire way to hit your two-minute goal on the dot. Leave a kitchen timer in your bathroom so that it is easy to set each time you start brushing your teeth. Hit each surface of all of your top and bottom teeth, and keep brushing until the timer rings. Many electric toothbrushes have a built-in timer that you can use instead of a kitchen timer.

Entertain Yourself for Two Minutes

Time flies when you are having fun, and you can stay entertained as you brush your teeth for two minutes. These are some ideas.

  • Time your favorite song and sing it in your head as you brush your teeth.
  • Find a two-minute video on the Internet that you want to watch, and start it when you begin to brush your teeth.
  • Do squats in the bathroom as you brush. Go down for three slow counts, and up for three slow counts. By the time you get to 20 squats, your two minutes will be over.

Let Your Children Use Technology

Toothsavers is an app designed to inspire children to brush. The app was developed and released by the Ad Council and the Partnership for Healthy Mouths, Healthy Lives. It includes:

  • A game to fight an evil sorceress who causes cavities
  • A two-player version that lets children interact with friends and parents
  • Real-life reminders to brush twice a day
  • A built-in timer that helps kids brush for two minutes

Let’s Talk About Fluoride

November 5th, 2020

So much of parenting is a balancing act. Making sure your child has enough play time and enough nap time. Crafting meals that are both healthy and appealing. Making sure every dental product you use is both effective and safe.

While Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team can’t recommend the perfect bedtime story, or tell you why your child just won’t go for that delicious steamed broccoli, we are more than happy to discuss the very best ways to promote healthy, strong teeth. Should fluoride toothpaste be part of your child’s dental routine? For many good reasons, the answer is yes.

Why Fluoride is Important

Our enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies, with the highest concentration of minerals, but it is not indestructible. The bacteria that live in our mouths create acids which attack our enamel. Weakened enamel leads to cavities. Fluoride is a mineral that makes the enamel surface more resistant to these acids, and can actually help our enamel repair itself in a process called “remineralization.” Fluoride helps prevent cavities and makes teeth stronger, and those are benefits that will last your child a lifetime.

Can There Be Too Much of a Good Thing?

Fluorosis is a condition that can sometimes develop when a child has been exposed to too much fluoride while the adult teeth are developing below the gum line. (Around the age of eight, children’s teeth have finished forming and are not at risk.) Fluorosis is not a disease, and doesn’t harm teeth, but can lead to faint streaks in the enamel. While this streaking is usually white and subtle, it can sometimes be darker and more noticeable. Teeth discolored by fluorosis can be treated cosmetically, but prevention is always the best option.

Finding the Perfect Balance

Talk to us about using fluoride toothpaste when your baby’s first teeth start arriving. If a very young child is at risk for tooth decay, we might recommend early use of fluoride toothpaste. And for these small children, younger than the age of three, a small smear of paste (about the size of a grain of rice) is sufficient if needed. Swallowing fluoride products increases the risk of fluorosis, so make sure to use a very small amount of paste.

Because young children can’t understand the concept of rinsing and spitting, you always want to make sure the amount of toothpaste you use is age-appropriate even as they get older.  From ages three to six, a pea-sized dab of toothpaste is enough. Children should not use fluoride rinses or supplements unless recommended, and should be monitored to make sure they spit out fluoride toothpaste or rinses after brushing.

Most drinking water already has natural levels of fluoride, which normally aren’t a problem. If you are concerned about high fluoride levels in your local water, talk to us. If your water has higher levels of fluoride than normal, you can minimize consumption when your baby is young by breastfeeding, using non-fluoridated water for mixing with formula powder or concentrate, or buying prepared formula. If your child is a toddler, don’t add fluoride rinses or supplements unless they are recommended by a dental or medical professional.

Talk to us during your visit to our Anchorage, AK office about protecting your child’s teeth. We are happy to help you find just the right amount of fluoride to keep young smiles stronger and more resistant to tooth decay. Healthy teeth in a beautiful smile—that’s a perfect balance!

Dental Emergency? Don’t Panic, We’re Here to Help

October 29th, 2020

Nobody can predict a dental emergency. That’s what makes them so terribly inconvenient. The good news is that our office is always available to assist you, so there’s no reason you should minimize an emergency.

Among the most common emergencies we see are lost fillings, lost crowns, and broken dentures. Lost fillings and lost crowns are very similar. A key difference, however, is that fillings are used to repair cavities but crowns are used to cover broken or damaged teeth.

Over time, it’s not uncommon for fillings and crowns to grow loose and fall out. If you lose a crown or a filling, hot or cold temperatures will likely begin to trigger pain because of the exposed tissue. The discomfort might seem manageable, but it’s better to get these situations fixed as soon as possible so you can avoid getting food stuck or developing an infection.

Unlike a busted filling or crown, a broken denture is more likely to make itself known constantly, every day. It can make chewing, swallowing, and eating properly difficult. Depending on the damage, you may require a new denture altogether.

If you’re experiencing any problems with your dentures, or suspect that they might be broken, it’s best to contact our Anchorage, AK office immediately to avoid further damage. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team are always here to help, especially when your dental health is at risk.

These things happen, so don’t feel embarrassed and please don’t hesitate to give us a call as soon as you notice or suspect something’s wrong! Get in touch with us … the sooner the better.

HPV and Oral Cancer

October 22nd, 2020

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is best known as a sexually transmitted infection. In the United States, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease, with 79 million Americans currently infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to increasing risk for cervical cancer, HPV is a contributing factor in some cases of oral cancer. Each year an estimated 1,700 women and 6,700 men develop oropharyngeal cancer, which affects the tongue and throat.

Connection between HPV and oral cancer

There are more than 40 strains of HPV that live in the skin and mucosal areas. Some of these affect the genitalia, while others are found in the mouth and throat. Of the strains of oral HPV, only one, called HPV16, increases the risk of oral cancer, the Oral Cancer Foundation reports. A retrospective study conducted found that oral cancer developed an average of 15 years after exposure to HPV, making it a relatively slow-growing form of cancer.

In general, 80% of Americans will have an HPV infection at some point in their lifetimes, while 99% develop no ill effects. Getting oral HPV is associated with multiple sexual partners and engaging in oral sex; however, even some individuals who have been with only one partner may contract the infection. Although overall risk of oral cancer from HPV infection is low, it is essential to be proactive about oral health.

How to prevent HPV-related oral cancer

Scientists continue to study how HPV infections lead to oral cancer, so little is known about the progression of the disease. However, one recent study found that poor oral health, including gum disease and poor oral hygiene, is associated with oral cancer risk. Thus, being vigilant about brushing and flossing your teeth regularly may reduce HPV-related oral cancer. Getting the HPV vaccine also protects against the oral form of the virus.

Another key way to reduce mortality from oral cancer is to have regularly scheduled appointments with at Pediatric Dental Associates. Having Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous examine your mouth at least two times a year increases the likelihood that a sign of oral cancer, such as a sore or patch, will be detected. If you’re concerned about HPV-related oral cancer, please give us a call at our Anchorage, AK office for advice about oral hygiene and disease prevention.

Ease up on your gums — don’t brush your teeth too hard!

October 15th, 2020

A lot of patients go at their teeth like they were sanding an old floor—that is to say, way too hard! Brushing too hard is probably the most common mistake patients make in their oral care routine, and it can be detrimental to the gums and teeth.

What can brushing too hard cause?

  • Receding gums
  • Bone loss around teeth
  • Loss of teeth
  • Tooth sensitivity, especially to hot and cold
  • Worn down enamel

Brushing too hard wears away at your gums, which can lead to the neck of the teeth being exposed. This part of the tooth isn't covered by hard enamel like the rest of the tooth and hence the soft inner layer, or dentin, is exposed. Dentin is very sensitive to hot and cold and much more susceptible to bacterial decay. Once the gums recede due to improper brushing, it’s usually irreversible.

How to brush your teeth properly

You know you're supposed to brush your teeth twice a day, so why not do it right? First and foremost, you should only ever brush with a soft bristled brush—not medium or hard—unless directed otherwise by Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous. Unless you have braces or specific oral health issues, brushing twice a day for two minutes is usually plenty.

The main purpose of brushing is to remove plaque from your teeth and gums. Plaque is actually soft and is a buildup of bacteria, saliva, and food debris. You really don't need to brush hard to remove it, just make sure you aim your toothbrush at the gum line (where plaque grows) and brush in small circular motions, never a back-and-forth motion.

It's also wise to hold your toothbrush gently. People tend to brush harder the tighter they hold their toothbrush.

Still have questions about proper tooth brushing technique or gum health? Ask any staff member or Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous during your next visit to our Anchorage, AK office; we'd be happy to help!

Are you at risk for oral cancer?

October 8th, 2020

Nearly 40,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer annually in the United States, with more than 8,000 dying every year from the disease. Oral cancer has a higher death rate than many other common cancers, including cervical cancer, testicular cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and thyroid or skin cancers. The high death rate results from the fact that most oral cancers go undiagnosed until the disease is well advanced and has spread to another part of the body, most often, the lymph nodes in the neck.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team want you to know that cancers of the mouth and throat, which account for about three percent of all cancers in the United States, are largely preventable. However, we want you to know about certain risk factors that affect the likelihood of developing the disease.

  • Use of tobacco products including smoking cigarettes, cigars or a pipe, or chewing tobacco all elevate risk for developing oral cancer. Tobacco use especially, is a serious risk factor because it contains substances called carcinogens, which harm cells in your mouth.
  • Consumption of alcohol in excess can also increase your risk. If you drink alcohol regularly, you have an elevated risk of getting oral cancer. Alcohol abuse (more than 21 drinks in one week) is the second largest risk factor for the development of oral cancer, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
  • Excessive sun exposure. People who spend lots of time outdoors and do not use proper amounts of sunscreen or lip balm have a greater risk for developing lip cancer. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight may also cause melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.

If you notice unusual lumps, bumps, or red or white patches in your mouth that don’t go away, sores that won’t seem to heal, persistent soreness, or pain or difficulty swallowing please consult Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team immediately.

Other factors that may influence your risk for developing oral cancer include:

  • Age: Oral cancer is typically a disease that affects older people, usually because of their longer exposure to other risk factors. Most patients diagnosed with oral cancer are over the age of 40.
  • Gender: Oral cancer strikes men twice as often as it does women.
  • A history with viral infections, such as human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • A diet low in fruits and vegetables

During your next visit, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will examine your mouth for signs of oral cancer. If you have been putting off a visit to our Anchorage, AK office for your regular checkup, now is an excellent time to schedule one. Regular visits can be the first line of defense against oral cancer because we can identify early warning signs of the disease. Give us a call today!

Keep It Cheesy for a Long-Lasting Smile

October 1st, 2020

You’ve heard people tell you to say “cheese” when you’re having your picture taken, probably more times than you can count. There is another reason you should be saying “cheese” … or “YES” to eating cheese.

Although Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our staff routinely encourage our patients to brush their teeth after eating, the one time you don’t want to do that, at least not immediately, is after eating cheese.

Study Finds Important Benefit From Eating Cheese

CBS News reported on the results of a study that was published in the May/June 2013 issue of General Dentistry, a publication of the Academy of General Dentistry. The study showed that cheese increases dental plaque pH, but in this case, the plaque increase isn’t a bad thing. When you eat cheese, you increase the pH of the plaque on your teeth, and create a protective coating that may lower your risk of getting dental caries -- more commonly known as cavities.

An analysis of the story from the General Dentistry journal, including the details of the study and its participants, was published in Science Daily. The study looked at 68 children between the ages of 12 and 15. A similar study was conducted by British researchers who reported their findings in the British Dental Journal in 1999.

How the Study Worked

For the 2013 study, researchers divided kids into three groups. Participants in group one ate cheddar cheese. Participants in group two drank milk, while participants in group three ate sugar-free yogurt. All participants were told to eat or drink their assigned foods for three minutes, after which they swished water in their mouths.

Researchers tested every participant’s mouth at ten, 20, and 30-minute intervals. They found no changes in the mouths of participants in the milk drinking and sugar-free yogurt eating groups, but every time they tested the pH levels in the mouths of the ones who had eaten cheese, researchers saw the levels quickly increased.

They concluded that cheese has anti-cavity properties. That isn’t the only benefit, however. Another study, in which related findings were reported, appeared in the Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice in the summer of 2000. In that study, researchers found that cheese may give teeth a protective coating that helps lessen enamel erosion caused by acidic foods, particularly from sugar-sweetened soft drinks.

So don’t just say cheese for pictures. If you want to have a happy, healthy and long-lasting smile, go for cheese. It’s good for your bones, too!

Five Easy Ways to Prevent Gum Disease

September 24th, 2020

Gum disease can be painful and lead to missing teeth if you don’t treat it properly. However, there are plenty of things you can do to lower your risk of getting gingivitis and periodontitis. Here are five easy ways to prevent gum disease.

1. Brush your teeth.

Basic oral hygiene is the first line of defense against gum disease. The reason is due to the way gum disease progresses. There are bacteria in your mouth that produce a sticky substance called plaque. Plaque can build up and form tartar. Together, plaque and tartar lead to the painful symptoms of gum disease. You can remove plaque from your teeth with regular careful brushing, but you can’t remove the tartar with your regular toothbrush. So, it’s best to brush at least twice a day, or after each meal, to continuously remove plaque from your teeth. Also floss your teeth and use mouthwash to prevent the bacteria in your mouth from having anything to eat.

2. Stop smoking.

Smoking is a major risk factor for gum disease. Your risk of getting gum disease if you’re not a smoker is one-seventh the risk of someone who does use tobacco. It’s also worth quitting smoking even once you do get gum disease, since treatment is less effective when you’re using tobacco.

3. Eat right.

Gingivitis is a bacterial infection, and a strong immune system helps fight it. Many nutrients are essential for a well-functioning immune system. For example, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, such as citrus fruits, broccoli, and strawberries, for their vitamin C, which is an antioxidant. Vitamin E, which is another antioxidant, is in nuts, plant-based oils, and wheat germ.

4. Visit our Anchorage, AK office regularly.

You might not be able to detect that you have gum disease, even if you watch for symptoms. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can detect signs of gum disease before you do.

5. Catch it early.

Since only we can remove tartar once it forms, keep watching for signs of gum disease. They include sensitivity while brushing your teeth or when eating hot, cold, or sugary foods, painful or bleeding gums, and loose teeth. You might also notice that you have bad breath for no reason. Make an appointment with at our Anchorage, AK office if you think you may have gum disease.

How does whitening toothpaste work and how effective it is at whitening teeth?

September 17th, 2020

Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste that has the American Dental Association seal of approval can help prevent tooth decay and relieve other conditions, such as bad breath, sensitive teeth, and gingivitis.

Beyond these health effects, another motivation for frequently brushing your teeth with high-quality toothpaste is to keep your teeth white. If you want whiter teeth but do not want to undergo in-office or at-home bleaching treatments, you might consider choosing whitening toothpaste for your daily brushing.

Why Consider Whitening Toothpaste

Whiter teeth are more attractive, which can help you feel more confident in your smile. Your smile is also one of the main components of the first impression you make on people in your professional and personal life. Having a whiter smile and greater self-assurance can send the message that you take care of yourself and are confident in your abilities.

How Whitening Toothpaste Works

The American Dental Association explains that all toothpaste has whitening properties because they help remove food particles from your teeth. To carry the American Dental Association seal for whitening, however, toothpaste must contain certain chemicals that help remove stains.

Unlike bleaching products, which contain carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide, whitening toothpaste only cleans the enamel rather than changing the color of your teeth. To obtain the benefits of whitening toothpaste, you need to use it regularly.

The Effectiveness of Whitening Toothpaste Varies

Due to individual variations in the color of your teeth, some people are more likely than others to achieve the desired results with whitening. Teeth that are tinted grayish are unlikely to respond well to bleaching, while brown teeth can sometimes respond, and yellowish teeth are most likely to become pearly white with bleaching.

If Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our staff believe that bleaching is not a viable option for you, proper oral hygiene and the use of a whitening toothpaste are your best bets for keeping your teeth as white as possible. In addition, avoid using tobacco products, and rinse your mouth after drinking coffee.

Make Brushing With Your Child Fun!

September 10th, 2020

It’s no secret that kids and adults have different priorities: your duty is to raise a happy, healthy child, but your little one’s only priority may be to have fun. When it comes to brushing teeth, it can be hard to combine a healthy habit with having fun. You might fear it can’t be done, but with a little creativity, brushing time can be a great experience for both of you!

Make It a Party

Brushing time doesn’t have to be a chore when you throw a little party! Get Mom and Dad together so the whole family can brush their teeth at the same time.

Let your child choose a song to dance to while you all brush for the required two minutes. Your son or daughter may grow to love this silly routine, especially when the parents are clearly dedicated to brushing their own teeth as well.

Big Kid Decisions

Kids love the responsibility of making “big kid” decisions. Keep a variety of toothbrushes, colors of floss, and toothpaste flavors on hand so they can choose something “new” each time they brush, just like when they visit our Anchorage, AK office.

Not only can this help them grow more comfortable with the idea of seeing the dentist, but they’ll love having the responsibility of picking what would be fun at brush time.

Practice Makes Perfect

It’s true that the only way to get better at something is to practice, practice, and practice. Have your child practice brushing on his or her favorite stuffed animal, and use that opportunity to teach your youngster how to hold the brush and use circular cleaning motions. Showing how you brush your own teeth can also be worthwhile.

There’s An App For That

Did you know there are lots of fun apps that encourage good brushing habits among children? Brands like Oral-B and Aquafresh have free apps you can download on your phone.

The child gets to select a character, scenery, and a song he or she would love to accompany the task of brushing. If you have a daughter, she might like to use the Tooth Fairy Timer, which allows her to pick her very own fairy as her brushing buddy.

The important things to remember when you seek to establish good brushing habits is to keep it fun and stay consistent with your routine. It may take some getting used to, but after a while your child will become familiar with brushing and might even look forward to the new dental routine.

Keep Those Teeth Shipshape, Matey!

September 3rd, 2020

September 19th is just around the corner, and you know what that means—Aye, matey, it’s “Talk Like a Pirate Day”! Why do we have a “Talk Like a Pirate Day” and not a “Take Care of Your Teeth Like a Pirate Day”? You don’t need a treasure map to find the answers!

  • High Seas Hygiene

The toothbrush as we know it, with easy to clean nylon bristles, was invented less than 100 years ago. Even toothbrushes with animal bristles weren’t easily available until a century after pirates sailed the seas. If pirates brushed at all, they probably used rags or twigs with frayed ends to clean their teeth. And rags and twigs just can’t take care of plaque the way careful brushing and flossing can.

Two minutes brushing in the morning and two minutes at night, with careful flossing each day, will help keep your teeth as white as a chest of pearls—and healthy to boot!

  • Dastardly Diet

Pirates were a scurvy lot—literally. Scurvy is a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C, a vitamin found in fresh fruits and vegetables. One of the many unpleasant symptoms of scurvy is bleeding, swollen gums. As you can imagine, months at sea on a pirate ship provided very few chances for fresh fruit and vegetables. As a result, sailors often had to live with gum pain and even tooth loss from serious gum disease.

We now know that eating a healthy diet is a key to oral health. In fact, it was a British naval doctor who discovered that bringing oranges, lemons, and limes aboard sailing vessels prevented scurvy—but sadly for our pirate crew, this discovery happened several decades after the Golden Age of Piracy. Fortunately, you have access to a bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Eat a diet rich in vitamins and minerals, and your teeth and gums will be all the better for it.

It’s not looking too good for our pirate crew, but let’s look on the bright side—even if a pirate did get a cavity or suffer gum disease, he could always see the ship’s dentist, couldn’t he?

  • Ship’s Dentist—Arrrr You Kidding?

If a pirate had a bad cavity, his best treatment option would probably be to ask a fellow pirate to pull the tooth. If a pirate needed a root canal, his best treatment option would probably be to ask a fellow pirate to pull the tooth. If a pirate had a cracked tooth, his best… well, you get the picture.

Luckily, it’s a different world today. Now we have dentists with years of education and training, modern tools and equipment, and the very best medical knowledge to treat all of our dental problems, big and small. See your dentist at least twice a year for exams and cleanings, and you will reap the bountiful rewards of regular, professional, proactive care.

Being a pirate for a day is fun. We all enjoy tales of a good treasure hunt. But you already have a treasure that most pirates could never hope to have—healthy teeth and healthy gums! And with proper care, this treasure can last a lifetime. Until next September 19th, fair winds and good checkups at our Anchorage, AK office be yours, matey!

Electric or Manual Toothbrush: Why It Does (and Doesn't) Matter

August 27th, 2020

You live in the golden age of toothbrushes. Until a few decades people used twigs or brushes made from animal hair to clean their teeth: not very soft and none too effective.

Now, you have a choice of manual brushes with soft, medium, or hard bristles. Or you might choose to go with an electric toothbrush instead.

Have you ever wondered whether manual or electric brushes provide better cleaning? Actually, they both do the job. The key is to brush and floss every day, regardless of the kind of brush you prefer.

At our Anchorage, AK office, we like to say the best brush is the one you'll use. So if you prefer manual, go for it. If you prefer electric, turn it on.

Both types have their advantages but both types will get the job done as far as removing plaque.

Electric Toothbrushes

  • Provide power rotation that helps loosen plaque
  • Are great for people with limited dexterity due to arthritis or other problems
  • Are popular with kids who think the electric brushes are more fun to use
  • Can come with variable speeds to help reduce pressure on sensitive teeth and gums

Manual Toothbrushes

  • Can help brushers feel they have more control over the brushing process
  • Allow brushers to respond to twinges and reduce the pressure applied to sensitive teeth and gums
  • Are more convenient for packing when traveling
  • Manual brushes are cheaper and easier to replace than the electric versions.

In many ways, the golden age is just beginning. There are already phone apps available to remind you to brush and floss. New apps can play two minutes worth of music while you brush, help you compare the brightness of your smile or help explain dental procedures. Maybe someday we’ll even have programs that examine your teeth after brushing and identify spots you might have missed.

TMD Problems and How You Can Prevent Them

August 13th, 2020

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) describe a set of conditions that involve trouble with your jaw and face muscles. They result from a problem in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which is a hinge that connects the temporal bones, in your skull in front of each ear, to your jaw. The joint enables you to talk, yawn, and chew by letting your mouth move.

TMD can be very painful and interfere with functions such as eating and speaking. This what to watch for and how to try to prevent TMD.

Risk Factors for TMD

You are at higher risk for TMD if you are a women than if you are male. The disorder is most common among adults between the ages of 20 and 40 years. Other risk factors for TMJ disorders include the following.

  • Arthritis in the area, making movement more difficult
  • Excessive tooth grinding, because it increases stress on the joint
  • General stress, which can lead you to clench your teeth and strain facial muscles

Symptoms of TMD

Symptoms of TMD can last for just a short while, or for several years. Seeing Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous is important if your symptoms make it impossible for you to eat regularly or if you have unbearable pain or discomfort. The following symptoms can occur on both or one side of your face.

  • Aching or very tired facial muscles
  • Jaws that are fixed open or shut without you being able to unlock them
  • Grating or popping sounds when you chew or close or open your mouth
  • Pain in the entire area, including the mouth, jaw, neck, or shoulders, that comes on when you chew or yawn

Preventing TMD

You can try to prevent TMD by focusing on reducing risk factors. If you grind your teeth at night, ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about wearing a mouthguard. If you are overly stressed, look into ways to better manage your stress and relax your muscles. Another strategy for trying to prevent the development of TMD is to avoid chewing gum, since that puts stress on your jaw.

If you have questions about TMD, don’t hesitate to contact our Anchorage, AK office.

Is it possible to over brush?

August 6th, 2020

Our team at Pediatric Dental Associates will tell you brushing on a regular basis is critical for a healthy mouth, but you can definitely overdo a good thing. Known as “toothbrush abrasion,” over brushing can lead to sensitive teeth and receding gums, not to mention the wearing down of the protective layers of your tooth enamel. Over brushing can also push back your gums, and in the process, expose the dentin layer under the enamel.

“So, how do I avoid over brushing?”

  • Use a soft or extra-soft bristled toothbrush to prevent gum damage and wear on the soft tooth dentin
  • Keep in mind which direction bristles face when you brush. They should be perpendicular, not parallel. Place the head of your toothbrush with the tips of the bristles at a 45-degree angle to the gum line and brush away!
  • Move the toothbrush with short strokes and a scrubbing motion, several times in each spot – don’t saw back and forth across the teeth with your toothbrush.
  • Apply just enough pressure to feel the bristles against the gums. If you are squashing the bristles, you're brushing too hard.
  • Replace your toothbrush when you notice frayed and bent bristles.
  • Brush for two minutes at a time

If you have any questions about proper brushing techniques, ask us about it at your next appointment or give us a call today!

Toothaches and Abscesses

July 30th, 2020

With Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous, emergency dental care is only a phone call away. Dental problems are uncomfortable and should always be treated as soon as possible to prevent them from getting worse.

Whether it’s an abscess or a toothache that you believe might be something more, it’s vital to pay attention to your body and give it the attention it needs. Below, you’ll find some more information about abscesses and toothaches that may clarify any doubts about the differences, whether you may be suffering from one of them … and what to do if you are.

Abscesses

What’s an abscess? It’s a bacterial infection: an accumulation of pus that can form inside a tooth or the gums and cause pain and swelling. It generally develops as a result of poor oral hygiene.

Bacteria lives in plaque so if plaque isn’t removed on a regular basis, it can build up and encourage bacteria to spread, which could ultimately result in an abscess. Antibiotics aren’t always needed for treatment, you should get this situation checked out as soon as possible. If left untreated, oral infections can lead to bigger complications.

Toothaches

Toothaches can happen for a number of reasons. The simplest, most common one is a piece of food that is stuck in your gum, which can cause a bit of swelling and discomfort.

To get rid of it, you can rinse your mouth with hot water and salt, every morning and evening. This helps kill bacteria and bring down the swelling. You can also gently floss the area to remove whatever is stuck there. If you experience bleeding while you’re flossing, and hot water with salt proves ineffective, it may be time to schedule an appointment.

If you’re especially sensitive to cold and heat, you may often experience toothaches. If this is the case, we can recommend a pain reliever to reduce the discomfort, but it’s worthwhile to come in for a check-up anyway to make sure the problem doesn’t get worse.

The last (and most obvious) reason for a toothache is a cavity. Depending on how bad it is, we might fill it or place a crown. The tricky thing with cavities is that sometimes you may not know you have one at all, especially when they’re just starting out. The best way to prevent them from getting worse and creating toothaches is by keeping up with your regular dental cleanings.

At Pediatric Dental Associates, we’re here to assist you through any and all your dental emergencies! We encourage you to make an appointment at our Anchorage, AK office if you notice any signs of discomfort, so we can provide the most efficient care for you.

Teeth Whitening and Your Smile

July 23rd, 2020

The best type of whitening for your smile depends on what you are hoping to accomplish.

Whitening Toothpastes

This is certainly the easiest method of whitening, but will brushing alone produce your whitest smile? Probably not. Whitening toothpastes use chemicals and abrasives to remove some surface stains caused by foods, beverages and smoking. They can also be used to maintain the appearance of your teeth after a professional whitening. However, toothpaste alone cannot change the natural color of your teeth or penetrate the surface of the tooth to remove deeper stains. A whitening toothpaste usually takes several weeks to produce results. Be sure to choose a product with a seal of approval from a reputable dental association and carefully follow the instructions for use.

Whitening Strips and Gel Trays

Whitening gels can be applied at home with strips or tray kits. These peroxide-based gels are stronger than the formulas used in toothpaste.

Strips come coated with the whitening gel and work when pressed to your teeth for a specified amount of time. One difficulty here is making sure each tooth is completely covered by the strip so that even whitening takes place. Tray and gel whitening systems provide a mouthguard-like appliance that is filled with whitening gel and applied to your teeth, again for a specific period of time. Because one size does not fit all, stock trays can be ill fitting and lead to problems with gums and soft tissue. You can talk to our team about a custom-fitted appliance and whether gel whitening is your best option.

Some users find gel products cause tooth and gum sensitivity and even enamel damage. These over-the-counter gel products will not work on caps, veneers, crowns, or bridges, and there might be underlying conditions in your natural teeth that will make the use of these products ineffective. Please talk to us at your next visit to our Anchorage, AK office if you are interested in whitening at home, so we can advise you on how to achieve the best and safest outcome.

Office Treatment

Professional whitening makes use of a gel with a higher concentration of peroxide and should only be provided by Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous or a member of our team at our Anchorage, AK office. This process is generally faster, more effective and longer lasting. We take care first to examine your teeth for pre-existing conditions such as cavities and gum disease that could cause problems. We protect your gums when the gel is applied in office and monitor the procedure. We can assess the progress of the whitening and suggest further treatment if needed. Custom mouthpieces can also be an option if you would like to use a whitening gel at home. A personally molded tray will fit your teeth perfectly and allow a more precise application of the peroxide gel.

Some teeth are not good candidates for normal whitening procedures at home or in office. If you have dark stains caused by trauma, drugs such as tetracycline, discoloration due to root canals, or darker dental bonding, crowns, or other prosthetics, please talk to us about other possible solutions. We want to help you achieve your brightest possible smile.

Treatment Options for TMD

July 16th, 2020

Temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD) refers to a diverse range of disorders that relate to muscular function in the jaw and face — the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). That could mean difficulty opening your mouth, pain in the jaw or face, or any sort of problem with the jaw joint.

TMD can be difficult to diagnose because of the varied causes. Whatever the case, an accurate diagnosis from Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous helps make treatment as successful as possible.

Most often, jaw problems will resolve themselves within several weeks or months. Surgeries like arthrocentesis, arthroscopy, and open-joint surgery should be a last resort. More conservative and reversible treatments should come first and are in fact the most critical step in the treatment of TMD.

Less invasive treatments like acupuncture and splints can be helpful, but that will depend on your particular case. It’s worth your while to speak with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at our Anchorage, AK office to learn about solutions that could work for you.

A combination of treatments will most often produce the greatest relief for TMJ patients. It’s a good idea to avoid activities that overuse the jaws, such as chewing gum or clenching your jaws.

You can be proactive in finding relief for TMD by trying the following remedies at home:

  • Eat soft food: When you eat soft and/or blended food, your jaw gets an opportunity to rest. Avoid chewy and crunchy food, and food that requires you to open your mouth wide, like apples or corn on the cob.
  • Apply moist heat: A hot water bottle wrapped in a moist towel can help reduce symptoms.
  • Apply ice: Applying an ice pack wrapped in a cloth or towel for no longer than 15 minutes may also reduce pain and promote healing.
  • Do jaw exercises: A physical therapist can help identify the exercises that will work for you. Jaw exercises have been shown to be an effective treatment method that can be performed at home.
  • Relaxation: Actively try to relax the muscles of the face and lips, and let your teeth come apart. Many find meditation, yoga, and slow, deep breathing to be helpful for reducing stress and tension.
  • Avoid wide yawns: Keep your fist under your jaw when you feel a yawn coming on, to keep your jaw from opening too widely.

Educational and Entertaining Enamel Experiments

July 9th, 2020

Let’s talk about the science of our teeth for a moment. Our enamel has a very high mineral content, making it extremely strong.  In fact, enamel just happens to be the hardest substance in our bodies.  But, unfortunately, it is not indestructible! Certain foods we eat can actually damage the surface of our teeth. Some simple and entertaining experiments can show children how our teeth can be affected by things we eat and drink, and how we can help protect them.

If you have a science-minded student at home, there are many activities you can do together, using educational websites, common household products and lots and lots of eggs. (Why eggs? Eggshells are a great substitute for teeth in these experiments. Not only are they various shades of white--like our own teeth, they are also calcium-rich—like our own teeth.) You can find any number of experiments using uncooked eggs, hardboiled eggs, whole shells with the contents blown out, or eggshells alone, so you can find just the right activity for whichever egg treatment works best for you.

Examine Enamel Erosion

One of the ways we protect our teeth is with healthy eating. The bacteria in plaque use the sugars and starches in our foods to produce acids. These acids are the substances that break down the minerals in our enamel and leave the enamel weaker. Weaker enamel is more easily attacked by bacteria and acids, which leads to cavities.

With eggs or eggshells and some carefully selected food products, you can see just how acidity affects teeth. Different websites suggest a variety of acidic liquids to dunk your eggs in, such as vinegar, soda, or citrus juices, so it’s easy to find an experiment that works with your pantry. Always use a plain water sample when you submerge eggs or shells to act as a control to measure differences against. How do the egg shells soaked in acidic liquids differ from those in plain water? It’s also fun to add simple sugar water as a test liquid to see what happens. Is it sugar or acid that causes more damage? And why might that be?

The Fluoride Fix

Fluoride is well known as a mineral that protects the structure of our teeth and helps prevent cavities. And there are actually experiments out there to test the protection fluoride provides using your egg stand-ins.

In some experiments, a hardboiled egg is coated with fluoride toothpaste or rinse for a specific amount of time and then dunked into vinegar. An untreated egg also gets a vinegar bath. You are asked to observe what is happening to each egg as it sits in its vinegar bath—are there bubbles on one egg and not the other? What do the bubbles mean? Other experiments require longer exposure to fluoride and then to vinegar—what happens to the shells of the treated and untreated eggs? What could this mean for our teeth?

Staining Studies

Our diet can do more than help create cavities. Enamel is very strong, but it is not stain-proof! Dark colored foods and drinks can make our teeth appear darker or more yellow. (And teeth that have suffered enamel erosion can pick up stains more easily.) How does food affect the brightness of our smiles?

If this question interests you, find experiments that use favorite beverages as a soak for your eggs. Choose liquids with a range of color, such as coffee, soda, and apple juice. Or choose an experiment that uses different varieties of soft drinks. Will foods the same color cause the same amount of discoloration in your egg volunteers? Do you want shorter or longer soaks in each liquid? Do you want to make use of a recycled toothbrush to see if brushing that discolored shell makes a difference? With toothpaste or without?

Even though these activities are designed for older children, they still require adult supervision. You can find detailed instructions for any of these experiments at many science and educational sites online. With some household supplies, plenty of extra cups, and a quantity of eggs, you and your child can demonstrate some of the basic effects our food choices have on the health and appearance of our teeth. It’s a wonderful way to promote healthy eating and brushing habits, scientific curiosity, and shared experiences!

Don’t forget to let Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous know how your experiments turned out the next time you visit our Anchorage, AK office!

Summer Sports and Mouthguards

July 2nd, 2020

School’s out and you’ve emptied your gym locker until next fall. But while you’re stowing away the football gear, the basketball warm-ups, the field hockey sticks, and all the other equipment you’ve collected over the school year (that’s where that other shoe went!), be sure to keep one item handy: your mouthguard.

Team and contact sports like football, basketball, and wrestling aren’t the only potential dental dangers. In fact, almost any sport or activity can be made safer when you use your mouthguard.  While you’re keeping active and fit in the summer months, remember to look out for your smile.

  • Sports on wheels

Biking, skate boarding, rollerblading—it only takes one fall to make you realize that roads, sidewalks, and concrete are not ideal landing pads. If you do take a spill, using a mouthguard, along with your helmet, will help protect your teeth and jaw.

  • Court sports

Handball and tennis are not what we consider contact sports, but an unexpected bounce from a ball, or a completely unexpected backhand from your partner, can lead to dental injuries. Ace your workout and wear a mouthguard.

  • Water sports

A fall in the water can lead to a collision with your surfboard or water skis, and water polo often seems to be a game of stamina, accuracy and elbows. Wear your mouthguard on land and sea, and help reduce your chance of dental injury.

  • Team sports

Anyone who has played summer league baseball, softball or soccer knows that occasional contact with other players is pretty much a given. Cushioning your head, mouth, and teeth with a mouthguard will not only protect you, but keep you in the game—and your teammates will appreciate that!

If you already use a mouthguard, keep up the good work! If you don’t, talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about the importance of protecting your smile with a mouthguard. There are ready-made options available at drug stores and sporting goods shops. These will provide protection to your mouth and teeth, but can sometimes be bulky and uncomfortable and should never be used with braces. If you would like a mouth protector that provides the best fit and comfort, or if you wear braces, we can customize a mouthguard in our Anchorage, AK office that will be a perfect fit for your teeth and bite.

Whatever activity you choose, play it smart! Don’t gear up without your mouthguard, and you’ll greet next year’s classes energized, fit, and sporting a beautiful smile!

Carbs and Cavities

June 25th, 2020

The Good News

Carbohydrates are one of the body’s essential macronutrients (along with protein and fat). We use carbs to convert the food we eat into energy. How does this work? It’s a sophisticated process:

  • Carbs break down into sugars as we digest them
  • Sugars are absorbed into our bloodstream
  • The pancreas releases insulin when blood sugar levels rise
  • Insulin enables sugars to move from our blood to our cells
  • Cells throughout the body use this sugar for energy.

Without the necessary amount of carbohydrates, our bodies lose a vital source of energy. So, why are carbs a dental concern?

The Bad News

Some foods immediately begin breaking down into sugars in the mouth. Sugars are a favorite food source for the oral bacteria that form plaque. They use this sugar to produce the acids that weaken our enamel and lead to cavities. And the more often we eat these foods, and the longer they remain in the mouth, the more damage our enamel suffers.

But there’s a silver lining! We can be healthier physically and get a jump on preventing damage from sugary treats by becoming more discriminating in our choice of carbs and timing our indulgences wisely.

Good Carb/Bad Carb

Unprocessed, complex carbohydrates are found in foods like whole-grain breads and cereals, legumes, and vegetables. They contain the vitamins, minerals, and fibers which are lost when foods are refined. They are composed of larger, more complex molecules, and so they break down gradually for sustained energy.

Some simple carbohydrates break down into sugars more quickly, but also offer important vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fruits and dairy products, for example, are an important part of a balanced diet.

But some carbs are not pulling their nutritional weight. Refined sugars (think candies, desserts, and sodas) and refined starches (white bread and rice, potato chips, pastries) break down quickly into sugar in the mouth. Worse, many of these foods tend to stick around. Sticky sugars and sticky starches cling to our enamel and hide between the teeth and in the crevices of our molars. Not only do these treats provide a sugary feast for acid-producing bacteria, they take their time doing it!

So, What to Do?

If you have a diet filled with healthy carbs (whole grains, fruit and vegetables, legumes, dairy products), you’re already on the right track. Kudos! But does this mean no desserts? Ever?

No! We all need a cookie sometimes. But you can decrease the chance of enamel damage by interrupting the carbs to cavities cycle.

First, if you are indulging in a rich dessert or some salty chips, better to do it as part of a meal. When you eat a full meal, your body produces more saliva. Saliva not only helps wash away food particles, it also helps neutralize the acids that damage enamel.

Secondly, if you eat simple carbs and sugars all day, your mouth and teeth are being treated to acids all day. If you are going for a snack, there are many great options that don’t use refined sugars and starches. Think fruit smoothies (with a big dollop of vegetables) or whole-grain crackers with hard cheese instead of a can of soda and a bag of pretzels.

Carbs aren’t really bad, they’re just misunderstood. Talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at your next checkup at our Anchorage, AK office for ideas for the best carbohydrate choices for healthy metabolisms and healthy smiles!

Adults Can Get Cavities, Too

June 18th, 2020

There are some things we just don’t miss about being a kid. Getting grounded? A thing of the past. Curfew? Not happening. Confiscating our cell phones? As if. Cavities? While we’d like to think those are also a part of childhood we can happily leave behind, unfortunately, the potential for cavities is one thing we never outgrow.

If you are keeping up a healthy dental routine, you know that two minutes careful brushing and flossing twice a day, a sensible diet, and regular checkups and cleanings are the best way to keep cavities from ever developing. But adults face other challenges that children might not. What else should we look out for?

  • Over-Enthusiastic Brushing

Brushing too vigorously, or using a brush with hard or even medium bristles, can actually damage our teeth over the years. Enamel, as hard as it is, can erode, leading to the potential for decay, and gums can be pushed away from the lower part of our teeth, which are not covered by enamel. Talk to us about the gentle way to clean bacteria and plaque from your teeth while protecting your enamel and gums.

  • Receding Gums

Whether due to gum disease, improper brushing, genetic factors, or other causes, we often see gum recession as we age. This is not just an aesthetic problem—gum recession leaves the root area of our tooth exposed to plaque and bacteria. Because this part of our tooth is not protected by enamel, there is a greater risk for decay in this newly exposed area. Also, pockets between the teeth and gums can be home to infections which lead to more serious problems. We will examine the condition of your gums at every checkup, and are happy to suggest the best solutions for keeping your gums their healthiest.

  • Our Fillings Age, Too

Over time, fillings can become loose or damaged, allowing the bacteria that cause cavities to enter spaces within the tooth you cannot brush or floss. This is a problem we can catch at a regular checkup, but if you notice a damaged filling, lose a filling, feel sensitivity around a filled tooth, or have any other concerns, call us. Prompt replacement will stop decay before it leads to a more serious problem.

  • Life Is Unpredictable

A busy schedule can lead to unhealthy diet choices. Not just sugars, but acidic foods (like sodas, coffee, and wine) and carbs (which break down into sugars) can leave teeth more vulnerable to decay. Physical changes (working out, new medications and medical conditions) can lead to dry mouth, which creates a bacteria-friendly environment that can lead to tooth decay. Stress can have consequences such as weakened immune systems, tooth grinding, and unhealthy eating habits, all of which can lead to a higher risk of cavities.

Call our Anchorage, AK office if you have any dental concerns. And talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about the changes in your life that might leave you more vulnerable to cavities or impact your overall dental health. We have suggestions and solutions for this phase of your life to protect and preserve that wonderful smile you had as a child. And that’s a great result at any age!

Losing a Baby Tooth

June 11th, 2020

It seems like yesterday. There you were, comforting your baby through sleepless nights, soothing her with a dentist-approved teether, celebrating as that first tiny tooth poked through her gums. And now here she is running to show you that same tooth, wiggly, loose, and almost ready for the Tooth Fairy. Now what?

Be Prepared

Children normally lose that first tooth somewhere around the age of six, but a year or two earlier or later is not uncommon. If you ever took a business class, you might have heard of the inventory method called “First In, First Out.” Baby teeth operate much the same way! The two bottom front teeth, followed by the two upper front teeth, will probably be the first teeth your child loses. Once you notice some wiggling, let your child know what is going on and reassure her that it is a normal part of growing up.

What to Expect with that First Loose Tooth

Normally, baby teeth become loose when the pressure from the permanent tooth below gradually breaks down the roots of the primary tooth. If your child has a loose tooth, encourage him to wiggle, not pull. Typically, gentle wiggling is all that is needed to free a tooth that has lost most of its root and is ready to be replaced. Avoid pulling or forcing the tooth, because that can cause injury to the root area if the baby tooth isn’t ready to come out. Call our Anchorage, AK office if you have any questions about loose teeth. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team also have suggestions if the baby teeth don’t become loose on schedule, or if they stubbornly remain in place even after the adult teeth have started to show up. One important note—if your child ever loses a tooth through accident or injury, call us at once. We might need to provide a spacer to give your child’s permanent teeth the proper time and space to come in.

Celebrate this Milestone with Your Child

The arrival of the Tooth Fairy is a familiar way to mark the occasion, and she can leave your child a note, a small gift, even a brand new toothbrush. Or explore other options!

If your child is fascinated by stories and traditions, learn about El Ratón Pérez (Perez the Mouse), a familiar tooth-collector in many Spanish speaking countries, or his French cousin, La Petite Souris (the Little Mouse). In other parts of Europe, Asia and Africa, children throw teeth on the roof, drop them in a glass of water, or hide them in a slipper. This is a great opportunity for you and your child to explore the world!

If your child likes science, look into books that explain the biology of baby and adult teeth in an age-appropriate way. You could print a chart of the primary teeth and take notes on each lost tooth as it makes way for the permanent tooth below. Or track her progress with photos showing the baby tooth, the gap left by the tooth, and the adult tooth as it comes in.

Losing that first tooth is an important moment for your child—and for you. Be prepared to celebrate another milestone together, and always feel free to talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous if you have any questions about this new stage in your child’s life.

Summer Treats for Healthy Teeth

June 4th, 2020

School’s out for the summer, and it’s great to have the kids home. After all, they deserve a break after all their hard work. And you want to keep their vacation happy, relaxing, and fun—without letting them spend those summer months cooling off with sugary treats. What are some of your options for healthy hot weather snacks?

  • Naturally Sweet Treats

Keep a supply of fresh fruit handy for summer snacking. Crispy fruits like apples and Bosc pears actually provide a little scrubbing action for the teeth with their vitamins, and softer fruits such as bananas, berries, and, of course, watermelon, provide natural sweetness along with vitamins and minerals. Yogurt has valuable calcium for strong teeth and the vitamin D our bodies need to use that calcium. Add some fresh fruit to Greek yogurt for added flavor and sweetness—and even more vitamins.

  • Savory Snacks

Cheese is a calcium-rich snack, and crunchy carrots and celery help scrub teeth while providing vitamins and minerals. Do a little mixing and matching by adding some cream cheese to that celery for extra flavor. Serve up hummus and pita chips or cheese with whole grain crackers. They’re great nutritious alternatives to chips and dip.

  • Blender Blast

Summer’s the perfect time to use your culinary creativity and expand your child’s palate with vitamin-rich smoothies. Toss your favorite fruits in the blender with a little juice, non-fat yogurt, milk, or honey, whirl away, and you have a delicious, healthy snack. You can add a few leafy greens for even more nutritional value. There are many easy recipes online for creating homemade smoothies that will please any picky palate.

  • Freezer Favorites

Ice cream is a favorite summer treat, but it can also provide quite a sugar punch. There are many homemade frozen yogurt recipes available online which combine frozen fruit, yogurt, and honey for your own summer celebration, without adding large amounts of sugar. Or choose to stock your freezer shelves with low-sugar fruit pops, store bought or homemade.

  • On Tap

A soda or a sports drink are often the go-to hydration choices in the summer. You might already be careful about handing these drinks out because they can have such a high sugar content. But they can also create a very acidic environment in the mouth, which is harmful to tooth enamel. Water is the safest, healthiest option for hydrating in hot weather, and can even provide some of the fluoride which helps keep enamel strong.

Whatever is on your child’s summer menu, keep up with all those great dental habits you’ve already established. A limited number of snacks—even healthy ones—is best, and be sure to brush after snacking, or rinse with water if brushing’s not an option. And don’t forget to maintain your child’s normal schedule of brushing and flossing, and regular visits with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at our Anchorage, AK office.

Have a great summer, and send your kids back to school rested, relaxed, and with a healthy, happy smile. Then take a moment, relax, and sip that smoothie—after all, you deserve a break after all your hard work!

How do I pick the right toothpaste for my needs?

May 21st, 2020

With so many toothpastes available in so many price ranges, it can be difficult to be sure you are selecting the right one for your needs. You need a product that not only protects against tooth decay, but also addresses any special concerns that Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team have raised. Look for the American Dental Association seal and do some research to find the toothpaste that best meets your needs.

Choose a Product Approved by the American Dental Association

The American Dental Association approves dental products such as toothbrushes, dentures, mouthwashes, dental floss, and toothpastes when they meet certain quality standards. Before products can display the seal, the American Dental Association must verify that the product does what it claims to do. Look for the American Dental Association seal on the toothpaste package before you buy it. Also, check to make sure that the toothpaste contains fluoride, which helps protect against decay.

Consider Special Needs

You may be depending on your toothpaste to perform extra tasks beyond cleaning your teeth. These are some common concerns that the right toothpaste can address.

  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Plaque or gingivitis
  • Tartar
  • Yellowing teeth

The American Dental Association’s website has a tool that lets users input their requirements and view a list of the toothpastes that carry the American Dental Association’s seal and address those particular oral health needs.

Make Your Children’s Tooth-Brushing Experience Fun

If you select toothpaste that contains fluoride and has the American Dental Association seal, most types of toothpaste will be fine for your children as long as they have no special needs. Allowing your kids to select fun toothpaste can encourage them to enjoy the brushing experience more, so that they brush more frequently and do a better job.

The following toothpaste characteristics can make brushing more fun for children.

  • Fun flavors, such as bubble gum, berry, and watermelon
  • Sparkles and swirls that make the toothpaste appear more attractive
  • Toothpaste that comes in a pump
  • Toothpaste with a container decorated with superheroes

Find Out how Your Diet can Cause Cavities

May 14th, 2020

Sometimes food that’s good for your body isn’t necessarily the best for your teeth. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team want you to know which healthy foods can harm your teeth and gums, and what steps you can take to continue enjoying these foods, even when you’re dieting.

When you begin to substitute empty calories with whole foods, make sure you also remember to focus on your dental health. The majority of people tend to switch out sugary foods in favor of fruits and vegetables when they diet.

It’s worth knowing that most fruits are highly acidic and composed of natural sugars. Some of the highly acidic fruits to watch out for include apples, grapes, strawberries, pineapples, blueberries, oranges, and grapefruit. Moderation is key here, as with all other things. Fruits can be a great source of energy to help you through your day, but try not to overdo them.

Often, people also incorporate more leafy greens into their diets, which mean plenty of salads. Salad dressing is another item you’ll want to watch out for. Many dressings are filled with vinegars and sweeteners that include harmful acids, which change the pH of your mouth. When your mouth shifts from alkaline to acidic, your smile also turns to a higher risk for erosion and decay.

Rather than get rid of these foods altogether, simply change what you do after you eat them. Rinse your mouth out with water, brush your teeth, or eat alkalizing foods after consuming these acidic foods. Healthy alkalizing foods include dairy products such as eggs and yogurt, or any type of vegetable.

If you have questions regarding your current diet and its effect on your oral health, please contact our Anchorage, AK office and speak with a member of our staff. If you’ve begun to make changes in your diet toward a healthier lifestyle, we hope these tips can help your make positive changes to your oral health. Our team at Pediatric Dental Associates wants a healthy lifestyle to be a top priority in your life.

What type of toothpaste is right for you?

May 7th, 2020

Toothpaste no longer comes in simple choices of fluoride and fresh breath. Paste is not even the only option! You can choose gel forms and even some with ribbons of color and flavor. With so many varieties available, it may be difficult to know which features or combinations of ingredients are best for your mouth. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team are here to help!

Fluoride

The majority of all dental patients should use toothpaste with fluoride. Fluoride helps to strengthen the enamel on your teeth; it makes them stronger and more resistant to cavities. Even if you live in an area that adds fluoride to your drinking water, the fluoride protection in toothpaste is necessary.

Some individuals can have an allergic reaction to fluoride. Fluorosis can occur in children or adults that swallow too much toothpaste while brushing. If swallowing cannot be prevented, fluoride use should be reduced. The American Dental Association has updated guidelines that recommend fluoride be used as soon as the first teeth erupt in children. However, the amount should be minimal and swallowing should be prevented.

Sensitivity Protection

If your teeth are sensitive to temperatures, toothpaste with sensitivity protection can work wonders for your discomfort. Ingredients in these pastes or gels work to block the pathways to the nerves that react to hot or cold. Do not give up on this type of toothpaste after a few days; the full results may take a few weeks.

Plaque, Tartar, and Gingivitis Protection

Everyone has bacteria in his or her mouth, and this bacteria is normal. Unfortunately, some bacteria also cause plaque. If the plaque remains on your teeth, it hardens into tartar or calculus. Tartar is an almost cement-like substance that cannot be removed by brushing alone. When bacteria and tartar are left behind, the deposits will form under the gum line. This leads to gingivitis and gum disease.

Since there is a wide variety of toothpastes and ingredients for preventing tartar and gingivitis, ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our staff what the best choice is for your teeth. We can help you select the right combination of ingredients.

Whitening

White teeth are desirable, and manufacturers are heavily marketing whitening toothpastes. Most brands do not contain bleaching ingredients; they use abrasives to polish stains away. Unfortunately, too much abrasive use can be damaging to your teeth. If you’re interested in teeth whitening, our Anchorage, AK team can recommend a number of safe and effective options.

Feel free to ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our staff at Pediatric Dental Associates about the best choice in toothpaste to meet your individual needs. Remember to look for the ADA approval seal on any toothpaste you are considering.

What kind of toothbrush and toothpaste should my child use?

April 30th, 2020

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team know that as a parent, you want your child to be as healthy as possible. By now, you probably know that your son or daughter’s oral health plays a huge role in overall health.

When there are so many toothpaste ads and different styles of brush to choose from, it can be difficult to know which will serve your child the best. We recommend you break down the decision process to make it simpler.

First, your child’s age and stage of development are vital to consider. Until about the age or 12, your youngster may not be prepared to brush or floss adequately alone, due to dexterity issues. If that’s the case, it can be easier to use a battery-powered toothbrush to improve the quality of brushing.

Next is to select the right size of toothbrush head to fit your child’s mouth. As a general rule, the head of the toothbrush should be a little larger than the upper portion of the child’s thumb.

Flossers are great for children and easy to use. They have handles and a horseshoe shape on one end with floss in between. Your child can choose a color he or she likes as well as the handle size, shape, etc.

Not only are there many brands of toothpaste to choose from, there are also many different ingredients that offer varying benefits. Kids are at high risk for developing cavities so you want to make sure the following ingredients are in your child’s toothpaste if you wish to avoid problems later on.

Sodium fluoride is the standard ingredient for cavity prevention, while stannous fluoride is anti-bacterial and anti-cavity. Anti-sensitivity toothpastes often contain potassium nitrate, and triclosan can be found in one particular brand for anti-bacterial action.

Fluoride should not be ingested, so if your child can’t spit yet, use a toothpaste that contains xylitol. This is a natural sweetener and should be the first ingredient listed on the tube.

Now comes the fun part: choosing a flavor! Your little one may sample different flavors and select the one he or she likes the best. A youngster is more likely to adopt good brushing habits if the flavor is appealing.

Don’t hesitate to speak with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous if you need to make an appointment at our Anchorage, AK office, or if you have any questions about toothpastes or toothbrushes.

Four Tips for Soothing a Toothache

April 23rd, 2020

Whether it’s a dull and throbbing ache or a sharp pain, toothaches can come in many different forms. Chances are you’ve had the discomforting experience once or twice in your life. It’s the type of experience that nobody wants to have, because a toothache can be as annoying as fingernails scratching a chalkboard.

What’s a good way to describe a toothache? Let’s see … your mouth feels as if it’s being besieged by one of those Loony Tunes-style jackhammers. As fate would have it, toothaches always seem to occur over the weekend or after-office hours, leaving you to suffer and forcing you to cancel your reservation at that high-end restaurant you’ve been anticipating all week.

Not so fast!

While you’re probably going to want to skip the rib-eye steak, there are numerous tried-and-true home remedies you can use to ease the pain until you can make an appointment with our office. Here’s a look at four ways to soothe a toothache.

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of salt water. Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water will both soothe your toothache and disinfect your mouth. However, make sure the water is warm; cold water can further exacerbate a sensitive tooth. Follow up the saltwater rinse by swishing your mouth with hydrogen peroxide.
  2. Clove oil, eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, and vanilla extract are proven to be comforting elixirs. Dip a cotton swab in one of these mixtures and apply it to your tooth and gums. These substances, which you may even have in your kitchen cupboards, are known to have pain-relieving qualities. For the best results, repeat the application throughout the day.
  3. Eating yogurt is good for toothaches and mouth pain. Yogurt is filled with healthy bacteria that combat pain. Afterward, place a cold compress on your jaw.
  4. Try flossing. Your toothache might be throbbing and severe, but there’s always a chance the pain is caused by a piece of food awkwardly lodged in your teeth.

We hope that helps! Give Pediatric Dental Associates a call to learn more!

Pros and Cons of Veneers

April 16th, 2020

You might have a small chip in a tooth from an unfortunate encounter with peanut brittle, or even several chips from a touch football game that got a little out of hand. Perhaps you have a gap in your teeth that you’ve always wanted to address. Or it could be that you are not happy with the shape or color of your teeth, and are looking for a straighter, brighter smile. In all these cases, veneers may the perfect solution for you.

Veneers are one of the most dramatic ways to improve your smile:

  • Realistic Appearance: A dental veneer is a thin shell of porcelain that is bonded to your tooth. Because they are semi-translucent, much like actual enamel, veneers look like natural teeth.
  • Rapid Transformation: Normally, the application of veneers requires only a few visits. Your tooth will be shaped to accommodate the veneer for a smooth, flat appearance. A mold will be made to ensure an exact fit. On a subsequent visit, the new veneer will be bonded to the tooth permanently.
  • Whiteness that Lasts: Veneers are stain-resistant, so if you are looking for a long-lasting bright smile, they are a good option. (If you are getting only a few veneers, it is a good idea to have your natural teeth whitened to the shade you desire before the veneer color is selected. Veneer color is permanent.)

There are also some aspects to consider before going ahead with the procedure:

  • Be Sure About Your Decision: Veneers are a permanent choice. Some enamel might need to be removed for the veneer to fit and the surface of your tooth will be treated to allow the veneer to bond to it properly.
  • Check Your Overall Dental Health: You should have a check-up before starting the process to make sure your teeth and gums are healthy enough for veneers. If you have severe orthodontic issues, grind your teeth, or have a habit of clenching your jaw, your veneers will be put under pressure they were not designed to take. We can let you know if you are a good candidate for this procedure.
  • Expense: Veneers are more expensive than some other options, such as whitening and bonding, but can offer more benefits. Veneers will cover staining that whitening cannot eliminate. Their translucent quality makes them look more realistic than bonding, and they are also far more stain resistant. The cost of a crown might be comparable, and a crown is recommended if there is significant damage to the underlying tooth. If you are looking for cosmetic improvement only, veneers leave more of the tooth intact.
  • Longevity: Veneers do not last forever, and will need to be replaced eventually. However, they can have a life expectancy of ten to 15 years, and we can give you tips to keep your veneers looking and lasting their best.

If you decide veneers are right for you, give our Anchorage, AK office a call. We will be happy to discuss the procedure with you and help you discover the best possible path to your best possible smile.

Post-Procedure Care

April 9th, 2020

As with any surgery, post-procedure care is of utmost importance after getting periodontal surgery. Bleeding, pain, swelling, and other sensations are common and should be expected to a degree. This can manifest as small amounts of blood in your saliva, pain after anesthesia wears off, and swelling around the lips and cheeks. However, these symptoms should start improving after a several days.

Below you'll find recommendations from Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous on what you should do to make your post-procedure experience as quick and painless as possible:

Don't smoke - After your surgery you should definitely not smoke. Smoking will inhibit your body's ability to heal the surgical site.

Don't drink alcohol - If you are taking prescription or over-the-counter pain relievers, don't drink alcohol. And it is a good idea in general to avoid alcohol after surgery, since excess alcohol consumption suppresses immune system function and slows the healing process.

Take pain medication as prescribed or an alternative - Pain is to be expected for at least the first week after your procedure. If you choose to take the prescription medication that is prescribed to you, do so as directed. However some patients have found over-the-counter pain medication works for them. You may also consider natural herbs instead of pharmacological solutions. Try turmeric, arnica, or white willow bark (which is what aspirin is derived from, so the same warnings for aspirin apply to white willow bark.)

Eating with your surgical site in mind - It is best to chew on the other side of your mouth for the first several days so as not to irritate the surgical site. Avoid overly cold or hot foods as well. Softer foods like mashed potatoes, oatmeal, and fruit will be more comfortable to chew.

Avoid brushing the surgical site - You can start brushing and flossing your teeth the day after the procedure but avoid the surgical site.

Don't rinse for the first 24 hours - After the first day has passed you can rinse with a mild mouthwash to keep your mouth, dressing, and surgical site clean.

We're here to answer any questions you have after your procedure and will help you as best we can. Pay special attention to any excessive bleeding or discomfort. Contact our Anchorage, AK office immediately if you have tried addressing the issue on your own but are still having trouble.

Oral Health Concerns for Teens

April 2nd, 2020

You have a lot more freedom as a teenager than you did as a young child. You also have a lot more responsibilities, and one of your jobs is to take care of your teeth. Develop and maintain good dental habits now so you can have great dental health for life!

Tooth Decay

As a teenager, you risk tooth decay, or dental cavities, if you are not careful. In fact, 59% of adolescents aged 12 to 19 have at least one cavity, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our staff recommend keeping your teeth strong and healthy by brushing at least twice a day and flossing every day.

If you suspect that you have tooth decay, do not be embarrassed. Instead, ask your parents to bring you to Pediatric Dental Associates to get it looked at. When you do not treat your dental cavities, they can turn into more serious problems. A severely damaged tooth may need to be treated with a root canal or even an extraction.

You can take easy steps to prevent tooth decay when you are at school or hanging out with your friends. Carry a bottle of water around with you so you can take a sip after you eat any kind of food. Choose water or milk instead of soda or sports drinks, and if you chew gum, select a sugar-free flavor.

Other Oral Health Concerns

You can probably think of many reasons why you should not smoke or use tobacco. Your oral health is another one. Tobacco gives you bad breath and stains your teeth yellow. It also increases your risk for gum disease and cancer of the mouth. Smoking even slows the speed of healing after you have dental procedures done.

Here are a few more tips that can keep your mouth attractive and healthy during your teen years.

  • Drink plenty of milk.
  • Limit candies and sugary snacks.
  • Wear a mouthguard if you play a contact sport.
  • Visit Pediatric Dental Associates twice a year.
  • Reduce infections and avoid piercing your tongue and lips.

You only get one set of permanent teeth in your life, so get in the habit of taking care of them now!

Dangers of Thumb Sucking

March 5th, 2020

It’s common for children to suck their thumb at a young age. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team want you to understand the potential issues that can surface down the road if the habit isn’t broken early on.

It’s normal for infants to explore the function of their mouths by putting objects like their thumbs inside it. You shouldn’t be concerned if your baby regularly sucks his or her thumb. For infants who are still growing their baby teeth, thumb sucking can help with stimulating growth and development of their baby teeth.

Thumb sucking is not a problem among infants because they generally do it to sooth and comfort themselves. Problems can occur of kids continue the habit when their baby teeth begin to fall out, around six years of age.

If you have a young child whose adult teeth are starting to come in, that’s when thumb sucking can start to be a problem. Most children stop thumb sucking between the ages of two and three years. According to the American Dental Association, if thumb sucking continues as adult teeth come in, this can lead to problems involving improper alignment of teeth and growth of the jaw, gums, and roof of the mouth.

It may also affect your child’s speech after that, by causing a lisp or other speech impediments. As a parent, you may need to begin to regulate and intervene if thumb sucking starts to become a bigger problem for your child.

How to Stop Thumb Sucking

  • Provide comfort to your child if thumb sucking happens when he or she is anxious.
  • Limit thumb sucking initially to bedtime or naptime.
  • Employ positive reinforcement for good behavior.
  • Talk with your child about the potential problems that come from this habit.
  • Distract your son or daughter with activities such as fun games any time you notice it starting.
  • Involve your little one in choosing methods for stopping, like positive rewards.
  • Have Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous talk to your child to reinforce concerns about thumb sucking.

Don’t forget that thumb sucking is a common habit that many children indulge in, and it should not be a concern right away. If you’re worried about your child’s thumb-sucking habit, start to address the issue as soon as possible.

The above techniques can help to reduce the amount of time your child sucks a thumb. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team are here to help you if you have any questions or concerns about this habit.

Feel free to call our Anchorage, AK office and we will be happy to help you and your child.

The Consequences of Sports and Energy Drinks

February 27th, 2020

They’re refreshing and tasty. They’re easy to find and pretty cheap. They help us get through a long day or a long workout. They’re everywhere.

We know it’s hard to say no to an energy or sports drink. That’s why Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team want to make sure you know the effects that energy and sports drinks can have on your smile and overall oral health. You might just think twice next time you crave one.

There’s a common misconception that sports and energy drinks are somehow healthier than soda beverages. None is particularly good for you, but because sports and energy drinks have higher acidity levels, they put you on a fast track to enamel erosion, which can lead to cavities over time. However, studies show that energy drinks may be the worst of the bunch.

In a study published in General Dentistry, the energy drinks that showed the highest acidity levels were 5-hour Energy, Monster, Rockstar, and Red Bull Sugar free. These drinks almost doubled in acidity when compared to sports drinks. The sports drinks that came in second as far as acidity levels go were Powerade, Gatorade, and Propel.

You may be thinking, “What's the big deal; lots of other drinks damage your teeth, too,” and you’re right. Even all-natural beverages like orange juice and other fruit juices, which are advertised as full of vitamins, contain acid that damages tooth enamel. The point here is that moderation is key.

We certainly encourage you to choose a glass of orange juice over an energy drink, but if you feel like you just can’t give up your sports and energy drink habit, then please consider the following tips:

  • Limit yourself to a certain number of said beverages a week and stick to it.
  • Rinse with water after consuming an energy or sports drink.
  • Brush your teeth after an hour of downing the drink, so your mouth has time to return to its normal pH level.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call at our Anchorage, AK office. Shoot us a message on Facebook, or let us know on your next visit!

Common Causes of Gum Disease

February 20th, 2020

Your gums are responsible for a large part of your overall oral health. So keeping them healthy and knowing how to detect gum disease is extremely important.

Since it’s often painless, gum disease may go unnoticed and can progress when left untreated. Understanding the causes of gum disease will give you the ability to keep your oral health in great shape:

  • Bacteria and Plaque. Good hygiene helps remove bacteria and plaque from teeth. When plaque is not removed, it turns into a rock-like substance called tartar, which can only be removed by a dentist.
  • Smoking and Tobacco. Smokers and tobacco users put themselves at a higher risk of developing gum disease. Tobacco use can also stain your teeth, give you bad breath, and increase the risk of oral cancer. It’s best to avoid using tobacco altogether.
  • Certain Medications. Ironically, certain medications for other health conditions can increase your risk of developing gum disease. Talk with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous if you have concerns about a medication you are taking. Steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, certain cancer therapy medications, and oral contraceptives can be among the culprits.
  • Medical Conditions. Certain medical conditions can also affect your gum health. Diabetics can have an increased risk of gum disease due to the inflammatory chemicals in their bodies. Talk to our team about your health condition so we can take that into account when treating you.

Luckily, there are actions you can take to prevent gum disease. You should make regular visits to our Anchorage, AK office for regular cleanings. It’s also worthwhile to maintain good hygiene habits at home, such as flossing and brushing at least two times every day.

Good oral hygiene practice and visits to our Anchorage, AK office can help you eliminate or reduce the risks of developing gum disease!

Team Dark Chocolate

February 13th, 2020

Valentine’s Day is the holiday to celebrate all the treasured relationships in your life. It’s a time to honor love in all shapes and forms with cards, social gatherings, and sometimes even binge eating of sweets.

It's hard to look the other way when grocery stores and pharmacies are invaded with goodies connected to the Valentine’s Day theme, and especially if you’re on the receiving end of some of these sweets. We get it. In fact, we’re all for it!

However, we also support a cavity-free smile. So in the interest of your dental and general health, and because we think it’s genuinely tasty, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous recommends an alternative to the Valentine treats you may be accustomed to: dark chocolate. 

Yes, Healthy Chocolate Exists

Studies have shown that dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, an ingredient found in the cocoa beans used to make chocolate. Flavonoids can help protect the body against toxins, reduce blood pressure, and improve blood flow to the heart and brain.

By opting for dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate, you get to reap these benefits! Pretty sweet, right? Just make sure to stick to high-quality dark chocolates that have undergone minimal processing.

Dark Chocolate, AKA Protector of Teeth

Not only does dark chocolate provide some nice benefits for your overall health, it also helps protect your teeth against cavities! According to the Texas A&M Health Science Center, dark chocolate contains high amounts of tannins, another ingredient present in cocoa beans.

Tannins can actually help prevent cavities by interfering with the bacteria that causes them. Think of them as scarecrows for bacteria. They don’t always prevail, but isn’t it nice to have them there?

Smooth Never Sticky

Unlike many popular candies, dark chocolate is less likely to stick in the crevices of your teeth. Chewy, gooey sweets are more likely to hang around in your mouth for longer periods of time, which means they raise the odds of your harboring cavity-creating bacteria.

While some dark chocolates have additives like caramel or marshmallow, it’s best to opt for the plain varieties, which are just as delicious. If you’re feeling festive, though, a dark chocolate with caramel is still better than a milk chocolate with caramel, so that’s the way to go!

While dark chocolate has some pretty sweet benefits, the most important thing to remember (whether you go the dark chocolate route or not), is that moderation is key. That being said, we hope you have fun satisfying your sweet tooth and shopping for treats for your friends and loved ones. Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at Pediatric Dental Associates!

Charcoal Toothpaste

February 6th, 2020

Despite the extraordinary claims made for charcoal toothpaste, most dentists think that the accuracy of these claims is a very gray area. So, what is the theory behind using activated charcoal in your toothpaste?

Charcoal is in its natural form is a very porous substance. When mixed with oxidizing gases or chemicals at very high heat, the inner structure of charcoal becomes even more porous. This enables the “activated” charcoal to absorb chemicals. And activated charcoal, in fact, IS used as a treatment for certain poisons. Fans of charcoal toothpaste maintain that this same porosity enables the toothpaste to collect toxins, bacteria, and debris from the surface of your teeth, leading to a healthier mouth, fresher breath, and a whiter smile.

Sounds great! Should I buy some?

Maybe not quite yet.

  • Claims that charcoal toothpastes whiten teeth more than other over the counter whiteners are difficult to prove. But even using the best charcoal product, you are getting a superficial cleaning. Because charcoal toothpaste removes stains only from the surface of the enamel, it is no match for a professional whitening.
  • It’s abrasive. Harsh pastes and brushing could potentially cause thinner enamel. Thinning enamel reveals more of the darker dentin underneath, which can actually make your smile appear yellow. Abrasive pastes can be irritating for those with sensitive or compromised gum tissue. Any toothpaste you choose should never be so abrasive as to cause damage to teeth or gums.
  • If you use only charcoal toothpaste, you might not get the amount of fluoride needed to protect your teeth. And no toothpaste can take the place of regular brushing, flossing, and checkups at our Anchorage, AK office.
  • If you’ve seen the photos posted of charcoal enthusiasts with sooty smiles and teeth, you know brushing with charcoal toothpaste can be a messy process. You might need to take extra care to clean your mouth, teeth, and tongue after using. And your sink.

If you are still intrigued by the idea of charcoal toothpaste, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team are happy to discuss it with you. And if teeth whitening is your concern, we have some proven methods to achieve your best results—even if they don’t provide an opportunity for dramatic charcoal selfies!

Oral Cancer

January 30th, 2020

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team want you to have the healthiest possible smile in the healthiest possible body. Oral cancer can affect the mouth, tongue, throat and jaw. Early detection is vital for the best possible outcome when treating this disease. That is why we check for symptoms of oral cancer at every dental examination.

What can you do to reduce the chance of oral cancer?  Reduce your risk factors. You can help prevent oral cancer by adopting these healthy habits:

  • Don’t smoke. Don’t chew tobacco. Don’t use a pipe. If you use any tobacco products, quit. Tobacco use is the single largest risk factor for head and neck cancers. Talk to us—we have suggestions for helping you break the habit.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. Heavy drinkers have a higher rate of oral cancer. More than one to two drinks per day can be considered heavy drinking, depending on factors such as weight, age, and even gender. Check with your doctor to find your personal definition of moderation.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables are a great addition to any menu.
  • Protect yourself from the sun. Help prevent sun-related lip cancers by always wearing a UVA/UVB blocking sun screen or lip balm whenever you are working or playing outside—and reapply frequently.
  • Some forms of the HPV virus have been linked to oral cancer, and those affected are generally younger and less likely to be smokers. Research indicates that the HPV vaccine, known for preventing several types of cancer, might also help prevent HPV-related oral cancers.
  • Schedule regular dental exams. We are trained to recognize oral cancer and precancerous conditions that you might miss.

Of course, cancer can occur even with the healthiest habits. Do come see us if you detect any of these symptoms:

  • A sore or ulcer that doesn’t heal, or persistent tenderness and pain in the mouth
  • Lingering sore throat, hoarseness, or vocal changes
  • Pain in the neck or ear that doesn’t go away
  • A lump, a rough or thickened area, or eroded tissue in the skin lining the mouth
  • Red or white patches in the lining of the mouth or on the tongue
  • Difficulties chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving the tongue or jaw
  • Numbness in the tongue or mouth
  • Changes in the way your natural teeth or your dentures fit together.

Not every symptom is caused by cancer, but it is important to rule out the possibility. We are trained to recognize early signs of oral cancer, and can recommend further tests if needed. Call our Anchorage, AK office immediately if you have any concerns. Early detection and treatment lead to the most successful outcomes.  

Scheduling Dental Procedures When You’re Pregnant

January 23rd, 2020

Pregnancy leads to so many changes in your body, so it’s no surprise that your teeth and gums are affected as well! Dental care is very important during these months, so let’s look at some of the concerns you might have about treatments and procedures.

  • Regular Exams and Cleaning

Yes and yes! Let us know you are pregnant when you make your appointment. Preventive care is especially important during pregnancy for keeping your gums healthy.

  • Periodontal Care

Swollen and tender gums are often one of the first signs of pregnancy. Hormonal changes can make your gums more vulnerable to irritation and infection. Early gum disease, called gingivitis, should be treated promptly to avoid a more serious condition called periodontitis. This form of gum disease can actually cause the gums to pull away from the teeth, leading to pockets where infection can develop. Talk to us about scheduling extra cleanings, if needed, to avoid the plaque build-up that leads to gum disease.

  • Regular Dental Work

If you need a cavity filled or a crown placed, talk to us about scheduling. It is important to keep your teeth healthy to avoid infection or more serious dental problems. If you do need restorative work, procedures are usually best treated during the second trimester, where morning sickness is less of a problem and reclining comfortably in the dental chair is easier than it would be in your third trimester.

  • Emergency Work

If there is a dental emergency, call us immediately. You shouldn’t put off emergency work, as the complications of pain and infection can be harmful to you and your baby.

  • Elective Treatments

If you are thinking about whitening your teeth or having other cosmetic dental work done, waiting until after your baby is born is usually recommended.

  • X-rays

Most studies suggest that dental X-rays, because they are so limited in focus, are probably safe during pregnancy. But since there is no definitive answer at this time, it’s recommended to wait until after your baby is born for elective X-rays. In case of a dental emergency, however, an X-ray might be a necessity. If you are worried, talk to us about the shielding we use during X-rays, as well as scientific agreement about the safety of dental X-rays.

Let Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous know about your pregnancy, and we will work with you to schedule exams or treatments at our Anchorage, AK office so that your dental experience is both comfortable and safe. If you have any concerns, call us immediately. We know your pregnancy brings many significant changes to your life, but our concern for your health and well-being—that’s unchanging!

Understanding Cavities

January 16th, 2020

Getting a cavity seems like delayed punishment for eating that special dessert every weekend or for the few days you forgot to floss. When you are doing everything right with minimal exception and a cavity is diagnosed, it is discouraging. Knowing how cavities form and what causes them is valuable in knowing how to prevent them. In this blog post, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will help you understand cavities!

A cavity is not a one-time event. It is actually a symptom of a disease called caries. Tooth decay is a result of an active infection and condition in the mouth. There are ingredients to this infection, which include bacteria, acid, your tooth, and a food source. The main bacterial culprit is S. Mutans. Bacteria live in a housing structure called biofilm. This offers them protection, food, and an ideal replicating environment.

Biofilm can be healthy if there is a balance of good bacteria. When you have caries, the numbers of “bad” bacteria increase and produce an environment where they thrive and therefore cause tooth decay. A main indicator of this is a pH measurement of your saliva.

Several factors can influence the biofilm pH. Foods and beverages all have different pH levels. The lower the number, the higher the acidity. Since acid promotes tooth decay, a beverage like soda will promote a cavity. Water, being neutral, is a good choice to promote healthy oral pH. Healthy eating can still cause cavities. Here is an example of a highly acidic, yet traditionally healthy meal:

Toast with store-bought strawberry jam, and a cup of cottage cheese topped with fresh cranberries.

Instead, here is a better choice, which involves mixing acidic healthy foods with alkaline (non-acidic) foods to reduce the overall pH:

Toast with almond butter, and Greek yogurt topped with fresh blueberries.

The first example will result in a very low pH in the mouth and even in the rest of the body. The second meal mixes highly acidic blueberries with an alkaline Greek yogurt. Dairy products from cows are highly acidic. Toast is acidic because of the yeast and almonds are alkaline.

A natural buffer is saliva. Whenever mouth breathing or medications compromise the saliva flow, the pH is going to drop and caries can go rampant. Getting a cavity is not just about the sweets or forgotten flossing sessions. It is about the pH levels and bacterial management.

For more helpful tips about how to avoid cavities, contact our Anchorage, AK office.

Dentin Tooth Sensitivity Treatments

January 9th, 2020

Dentine hypersensitivity can be described as a sharp and sudden pain caused by cold food and beverages. It’s present in more than half the population and result from receding gums that expose the root surfaces of your teeth.

That being said, hypersensitivity can be triggered by forceful tooth brushing, teeth whitening products, gum disease, and erosion from acid reflux, bulimia, or highly acidic foods. Symptoms can range from moderate to severe, depending on the cause and how quickly it’s treated.

Tooth sensitivity begins when the dentin develops some exposure. This layer that surrounds the nerve of the tooth is usually covered by gum tissue, but when recession takes place, the dentin can get exposed and the pain begins. The dentin contains numerous pores that run from the surface of the tooth inward. This direct connection to the nerve and blood supply of the tooth can be affected by external stimuli, such as the triggers cited above.

The good news is there are several different ways to treat dentinal hypersensitivity at Pediatric Dental Associates.

Treatment of dentin tooth sensitivity begins by making an appointment with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous. We encourage you to begin treatment sooner rather than later in order to figure out the cause and to reduce the pain you’re experiencing. In most cases, quick treatment options will solve the problem, including the use of desensitizing toothpaste, switching to a soft-bristled toothbrush, starting a daily fluoride rinse treatment, or minimizing teeth grinding with the help of a custom mouthguard.

For more serious cases, we may recommend you get crowns put on problematic teeth, start a gel or varnish fluoride treatment, or even schedule a surgical gum graft or root canal, depending on the cause and severity of your pain.

If you’re concerned about any tooth sensitivity you’re experiencing, please give our Anchorage, AK office a call and schedule an appointment. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team want to help you identify the cause of your pain, and give you the best possible treatment plan. We look forward to seeing you to help alleviate discomfort and solve your tooth sensitivity.

Healthy Resolutions for Healthy Teeth

January 2nd, 2020

Every January 1st, you have your resolutions ready. No more nail biting. Lose ten pounds. Stop smoking. None of us are happy about those annoying bad habits we’ve picked up over the years. But if nothing else has helped you keep your resolutions, maybe seeing how they can improve your oral health will give you some extra willpower.

  • No More Nail Biting

You can easily see how nail biting affects your fingernails, but its effects are more than cosmetic. The pressure this habit puts on tooth enamel can lead to cracks, chips, and enamel erosion. Nail biters have a greater risk of bruxism, or teeth grinding. (More on that below.) And the transfer of germs from fingers to mouth and mouth to fingers is a vicious circle that can lead to illnesses and infections in both fingers and mouth.

  • Cut Down on Junk Food

Sugars and carbs help pack on the pounds, no doubt. Did you know that they can also help create cavities? Sugar is a favorite food for oral bacteria, which allows them to produce acids which attack and weaken tooth enamel. And carbs? They convert easily to simple sugars. Choose nutritious snacks and beverages, and you will keep those teeth healthy. You might even lose a few pounds!

  • Lower the Volume

If your partner complains about sleepless nights thanks to your nocturnal teeth grinding, or your friends ask you to quit chewing on that cup of ice while they’re trying to watch a movie with you, listen to them! (If you can hear them over the grinding and chewing.) Bruxism can fracture teeth, cause headaches and jaw problems, and might even lead to loose teeth. Chewing hard foods can have the very same effects. Too much pressure from any source can damage your teeth. Grinding, chewing ice, crunching down on hard candies—any habit that’s loud enough to annoy others could be a warning to be more careful of your teeth.

  • Don’t Put That in Your Mouth!

Helping you eat and chew nutritious foods—of course. Smiling—absolutely. Ripping off a piece of duct tape, tearing open a potato chip bag, holding your dog’s leash while you look for your keys, opening a tight bottle cap—no, no, no, and really no. Fractures and chips are common injuries when you use your teeth as tools. Your teeth have a crucial job to do, but that job description never includes “scissors” or “nutcracker” or “bottle opener.” Take that extra minute and find the tool you need!

  • Drink in Moderation

Along with all the other consequences of over-indulging, too much alcohol in your diet can be bad for your oral health. Alcohol, especially paired with sugary drinks, helps create that acidic environment that leads to weakened enamel. More than that, it’s dehydrating. Without sufficient hydration, we don’t have the optimal saliva production we need to fight cavities. After all, saliva helps wash away food particles and bacteria, neutralizes acids, and strengthens enamel through remineralization. Ring in the New Year—moderately!

  • It’s Time to Quit

Cigarettes, pipes, cigars, chewing tobacco—there is no tobacco product that is healthy for your body or your teeth! We’re all familiar with the discoloration tobacco can cause, but it also has serious oral health consequences. Oral cancer, gum disease, early tooth loss—all these conditions have been linked to tobacco use. Today there are more methods than ever before to help you quit. Make this your year!

You don’t have to wait for the New Year to start working on healthier habits. If you’d like to tackle teeth grinding, banish nail biting, stop smoking, or work on any other habits that can damage your health and your teeth, talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at your next visit to our Anchorage, AK office. And, don’t forget—resolving to see us twice a year for a checkup and a cleaning is a resolution that’s extremely easy to keep!

Understanding Dental Insurance Terminology

December 26th, 2019

If you have a hard time understanding your dental insurance plan, particularly the treatments and services it covers, you’re not alone. That’s why Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team have put together a cheat sheet to help you through them.

It’s common for patients to get lost in the morass of the terms and phrases that surface when you’re dealing with a dental insurance plan. Knowing the commonly used terms can help speed up the process and enable you to get the most out of your coverage.

Common Terms

Annual Maximum: The most your policy will pay per year for care at Pediatric Dental Associates. It is often divided into cost per individual or per family.

Co-payment: Typically, a small amount the patient has to pay at the time of service before receiving care, and before the insurance pays for any portion of it.

Covered Services: A list of all the treatments, services, and procedures the insurance policy will cover fully under your contract.

Deductible: An amount you must pay out of pocket each year before the insurance company will contribute for any treatments or procedures. The amount can vary according to your plan.

Diagnostic Services: A category of treatments or procedures that most insurance plans will cover before the deductible, which may mean services that occur during preventive appointments with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous, including X-rays or general screenings.

Exclusions: Dental services not covered under a dental benefit program.

In-Network: An insurance company will usually cover a larger portion of the cost of the care if you see an in-network provider for treatment.

Out-of-Network: If you visit someone who is not a part of your provider’s network, the insurance company may pay for a portion of the care, but you will be responsible for a significantly larger share out of your pocket.

Lifetime Maximum: The most that an insurance plan will pay toward care for an individual or family over the entire life of the patient(s).

Limitations: A list of all the procedures the insurance policy does not cover. Coverage may limit the timing or frequency of a specific treatment or procedure, or exclude some treatments altogether.

Member/Insured/Covered Person/Beneficiary/Enrollee:  A person who is eligible to receive benefits under an insurance plan.

Premium: The regular fee charged by third-party insurers and used to fund the dental plan.

Provider: Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous or other oral-health specialist who provides treatment.

Waiting Period: A specified amount of time that the patient must be enrolled with an insurance plan before it will pay for certain treatments.

It’s essential to understand the various insurance options available to you. Knowing what your insurance covers can save you major costs in the future.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our dental staff hope this list of terms will help you understand your dental insurance plan better. Be sure to review your plan and ask any questions you may have about your policy the next time you visit our Anchorage, AK office.

How can veneers improve my smile?

December 12th, 2019

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates believe everyone’s smile should be a something they can be proud of. Most of us aren’t born with naturally perfect teeth, though, so it’s fortunate that cosmetic dentistry and veneers make it possible to achieve the smile of your dreams!

Dental veneers are a great option to improve your smile and are highly accessible to patients around the world. They’re made of porcelain and will be customized to fit the surface of your teeth perfectly. Our team will note your tooth size, color, and shape so your veneers will look completely natural.

Benefits of dental veneers

Appearance: Dental veneers can be undetectable to others because they look so natural. One of the best perks is that they are resistant to stains, so you don’t have to worry about discoloration over time.

Improvements: Not only will your smile look better, but many minor imperfections can be improved with dental veneers as well. Chipped teeth, discoloration, and gaps will be covered by your veneers.

Durability: Veneers are made from long-lasting porcelain materials, which means they are resistant to scratches and chipping. If you take care of them properly, they can look as good as new for years!

Flexibility: Patients have the option of choosing single veneers to repair chips or cracks in teeth or go for multiple teeth to create a completely new smile.

Considerations

Just because dental veneers can cover imperfections, that doesn’t mean your oral hygiene is any less vital. Your teeth and gums should be healthy and disease-free in order to be eligible for veneers.

Set up an initial consultation at our Anchorage, AK office today, and we can address any underlying issues you may have. Your perfect smile could be just a phone call away!

 

What Are Dental Sealants?

December 5th, 2019

You’re constantly playing defense. Your child spends two minutes in the morning and two minutes at night carefully brushing and flossing with a fluoride toothpaste. You make sure sugary and acidic foods are not a major part of your diets. Your child visits our Anchorage, AK office for regular exams and cleanings. Really, how can a cavity get past all that?

But even with the best defensive practices, you don’t have a level playing field—literally. The tops of our molars and premolars don’t have the smooth, easy-to-clean surfaces that our other teeth have. If you look at the chewing surfaces, you will notice deep grooves which toothbrush bristles have a much harder time reaching.  

Plaque and food particles can become trapped in these grooves (known as pits and fissures), providing perfect conditions for a cavity to develop. That is why cavities are so common in newly erupted molars. Dental sealants protect these teeth from cavities by providing a barrier which smooths out the surface of the tooth and prevents food and bacteria from reaching the molar’s crevices.

Most sealants are invisible plastic resin coatings which we apply in our Anchorage, AK office. Usually the procedure is so quick and easy that no dental anesthetic is required. Each tooth will be examined first. If we find any signs of early decay, we will gently treat that area before beginning.

When the tooth is ready, it will be cleaned and dried. An etching solution will be brushed on to the dry surface to roughen the area a bit so that the sealant will hold to the tooth more effectively. A thin coat of the sealant is then painted on and hardened under a curing light. And that’s it!

Once teeth are sealed, they should be cleaned and flossed just as carefully as before. Regular exams and cleanings are still very important, and we can monitor the condition of the sealant and the sealed teeth. Properly applied, sealants can last from three to five years, or even longer.

Who should consider sealants? Sealants are typically recommended when the permanent molars first erupt. Children’s enamel takes a while to become its strongest, and so these just-erupted teeth are more at risk for cavities. Sometimes Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will recommend sealants for primary (baby) teeth if needed. But even adults can benefit—talk to us if you are interested and we will let you know if sealants might be right for you.

Sealants are a simple, safe, and minimally invasive way to prevent cavities. Studies of sealed molars and premolars show a dramatic reduction in cavities compared to untreated teeth. Sealants are one of the most effective ways to defend your teeth or your children’s teeth from tooth decay. And as we’ve all heard—defense wins championships!

Post Oral Surgery: Signs of Infection

November 28th, 2019

Oral surgery can be intimidating, especially if you show any signs of an infection afterwards. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team want you to be informed about what to watch for after you’ve undergone surgery.

Oral surgery procedures are intended to reduce pain and prevent infection. Sometimes complications occur after your surgery, and if infection ensues, it will require swift medical attention.

People undergo oral surgery for many reasons, such as:

  • Impacted or infected teeth
  • Tooth loss, jaw problems
  • Facial injuries or infections
  • Birth defects
  • Sleep apnea

Symptoms of Infection

  • Pain that won’t go away with medication
  • Steadily swelling of gums, jaw, or face
  • Redness or oozing of pus from the area
  • Fever that doesn't subside
  • Difficulty opening the mouth or jaw
  • Excessive bleeding for 24 hours
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing (emergency situation)

After the initial surgery, don’t become worried right away if you notice any of these symptoms. It’s normal to show some blood and swelling after surgery, but that should stop fairly soon with the help of gauze and medication.

You will most likely be numb from the procedure and we will advise you to avoid hard foods for the first day. Pain medication will be administered, and you should take it before you begin to notice pain. A cold compress can also help with swelling and initial pain.

You will be advised not to brush your teeth in the region where the surgery occurred. You may use a prescription mouth rinse, or you can gargle with warm salt water to reduce the swelling. If you follow these directions, you can speed the healing process for a quick recovery.

Don’t fret: a post-surgery infection is not a common development. It happens most often to people who have a compromised immune system or diabetes. Let Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous know beforehand if you have either of these and we may prescribe an antibiotic to help prevent the spread of infection in the areas of your mouth that get worked on.

If you think you may be experiencing complications after a surgery, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our Anchorage, AK office for advice.  

Keeping Your Teeth Strong and Healthy

November 21st, 2019

What is the strongest part of our bodies? Do you think it might be our bones, which help us move and protect our brains, hearts and other organs? Or could it be those tough fingernails and toenails that guard our fingertips and toes? Nope! You might be surprised to learn that the hardest thing in our bodies is the enamel which covers our teeth!

Our bones grow with us and can even knit back together in case we have a broken arm or leg. Our toenails grow more slowly, and our fingernails grow more quickly, so regularly trimming is required for both. But our enamel doesn’t grow or repair itself when it is damaged, so it needs to last us a lifetime. How can such a strong part of our bodies be damaged? And can we do anything to protect our teeth? Luckily, we can!

Prevent Chips and Cracks

You might be the fastest on your bike, or the highest scorer on your basketball team, or able to do the most amazing tricks on your skateboard. But even the strongest teeth can’t win against a paved road, or an elbow under the basket, or a cement skate park. If you’re physically active, talk to us about a mouthguard. This removable appliance fits closely around the teeth and can protect your teeth and jaw in case of accident. And protect your enamel even when you’re not being adventurous! Don’t bite down on ice cubes or hard candy, and save your pens and pencils for writing, not chewing.

Guard Your Teeth from Tooth Grinding

If you grind your teeth, you’re not alone! Many other young people do, too—mostly in their sleep. In fact, it might be a parent or sibling who lets you know you are grinding at night. But constant pressure on your enamel can lead to cracked enamel, sensitivity, and even worn down teeth. How can you protect them? Once again, a mouth guard can be a great solution. We can custom fit one to allow you to sleep comfortably while protecting your teeth.

Eat Healthy Foods & Brush Regularly

We all have bacteria in our mouths. Some are helpful, and some are not. The bacteria in plaque can change food products like sugar and starches into acids. These acids actually break down our enamel, which can lead to tooth sensitivity and decay. Making sugars and carbs a small part of your regular diet, and eating meals rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals, will help stop acids from attacking your enamel. And careful brushing and flossing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste can help keep those minerals in enamel from breaking down and even help restore them.

Your enamel is the strongest part of your body, and you can help it stay that way. Protect your teeth from accidents, let our Anchorage, AK team know if you or a parent suspect you are grinding your teeth, eat healthy foods, and keep up your regular brushing. And remember, we are here to help keep your family’s teeth and mouth their healthiest for your strongest, most beautiful smile.

The Five Most Common Reasons for Emergency Visits

October 30th, 2019

An emergency usually evokes panic, and for good reason. Emergencies don’t discriminate when it comes to time or place. They’ll happen during your vacation, at home, while you’re shopping for groceries, at the movies … whenever they can.

We’ve identified the five most common reasons for emergency visits to our office, so if you ever find yourself in one of these situations, don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule an appointment with us!

  1. Getting a piece of food stuck where it doesn’t belong. This might sound trivial, and even comical, but a piece of food stuck and left unattended can cause inflammation, pain, and a serious infection.
  2. Losing a filling. If this happens to you, it’s crucial that you receive care immediately. The purpose of a filling is to shut off a space where bacteria can enter. If that barrier is breached, your tooth becomes more vulnerable to decay.
  3. A chipped tooth. Even if the chip is small, it’s essential to get it repaired before it grows bigger. Unless chips are affecting a nerve, they are usually easy to repair with a crown, bonding, or veneers.
  4. A broken tooth. This can result from a small, hidden chip in the tooth. It’s clearly something to address quickly, because the pain will be much more severe than what you’ll feel with just a chip.
  5. Losing the entire tooth. This is the worst of the list. When you lose a tooth, you should not delay in seeking emergency care. Usually, you have a window of one to two hours during which the original tooth can be salvaged and successfully reattached.

Though any of these scenarios can be nerve-wracking, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team are here to assist you with any and all dental emergencies. Don’t wait; give our Anchorage, AK office a call!

The Safety of Dental X-Rays

October 23rd, 2019

An article was released to the public stating that dental X-rays contribute to a type of brain cancer. After reading an article like this, your first thought may be to avoid dental X-rays, but you may want to hold off on that quick judgment. As with any treatment we offer at Pediatric Dental Associates, education is your most valuable tool in deciding what is best for you.

How often dental X-rays are taken is based on risk for infection, physical symptoms, and clinical findings. The American Dental Association (ADA) is a governing body over the dental profession. The ADA states, “ . . . healthy adults receive routine mouth X-rays every two to three years. Dental X-rays are recommended every one to two years for children and every 1.5 to three years for teens. Children often require more X-rays than adults because of their developing teeth and jaws and increased likelihood for cavities.”

A "caries risk category" often determines how often dental X-rays are taken. The most recent documented resource to determine a caries risk is Caries Management by Risk Assessment (CAMBRA). This was adopted by the ADA and is used by dental professionals giving interval recommendations for X-rays.

With knowledge of your risk for dental infection, you will be informed by Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous of the interval at which dental X-rays should be taken. You can rest assured that the standards published by the ADA have been researched extensively and are there to protect your personal health and safety.

Dental X-rays are most commonly digital, which significantly reduces exposure. There is more radiation exposure from the sun or in an airplane than in a dental X-ray. It is common practice to use a lead apron with a thyroid collar for protection during X-ray exposure.

Having a cavity means having an active, potentially harmful infection. Diagnosing such infection with minimal exposure through digital dental X-rays at our Anchorage, AK office does more good than harm.

Chipped Your Tooth? Now What?

October 16th, 2019

Accidents happen. Next time you’ll wear your mouthguard when you skateboard, never use your teeth to open anything, and carefully step away from your grandmother’s hard candy dish. But what to do now for your chipped tooth?

First of all, call Pediatric Dental Associates. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team can offer tips on dealing with any pain and how to avoid injuring your tooth further. Make an appointment to see us as soon as possible, where one of the following options might be the best treatment for you:

  • Bonding

If the chip is small, you might be a good candidate for bonding. A tooth-colored resin is applied to the damaged area with adhesive, molded to shape, and then hardened with a curing light. It is then polished and, if necessary, further shaped to match your surrounding teeth.

  • Porcelain Veneer

A veneer is a thin shell of porcelain individually molded for your tooth. If the chip is too large for bonding, or if you would like a more translucent finish, a veneer might be appropriate. During your first appointment, some of the tooth structure will be gently removed to accommodate the size of the veneer. A mold will be taken and sent to a lab for the creation of the veneer, which will be bonded to your tooth on a later visit. Whether a veneer will be successful depends on several variables, such as the condition of the tooth and enamel, your bite, and whether you grind your teeth. We will take all these factors into consideration in discussing possible treatments.

  • Crown

A large chip or pain when eating or drinking might mean that you need a crown. This “cap” will protect your tooth from the pressures of chewing as well as restoring its appearance. On your first visit, some of the tooth structure will probably be removed to make room for the crown, impressions will be taken for the dental lab to make a permanent crown, and a temporary model will be fitted to your tooth. In a following visit the permanent crown will be adhered to your tooth.

If the crack has extended to the pulp of the tooth, you might need a root canal. If this is necessary, we will discuss the procedure during our exam.

No matter the size of the chip, it is important to contact our Anchorage, AK office immediately to help avoid infection and prevent further damage. If your tooth is broken below the gumline or otherwise seriously compromised, more intensive care will be necessary. But when a minor accident happens, prompt treatment can quickly restore your smile to health.

Five Things You Didn't Know About Cavities

October 9th, 2019

Most people know when they have a cavity—they can either see it on their tooth or... ouch! They can feel it! But there are certain things that many of our patients don't know about cavities that could save them a trip to our Anchorage, AK office!

1. Not all sugars are created equal

It's quite well known that eating dietary sugars in excess along with poor oral hygiene leads to dental decay such as cavities. This is due to the fact that the bacteria in your mouth feed on these sugars and excrete acids as a byproduct of that process, thus causing decay. But xylitol, a sugar alcohol derived from birch or corn, actually prevents the bacteria from converting sugars into acids.

Xylitol is available in the form of gum, mints, toothpaste, and even in a granulated form much like regular cane sugar. You might consider trying some xylitol products between meals to keep your mouth clean and fresh.

2. It's not always what you eat but HOW you eat

Are you a grazer, always snacking between meals and never satisfied? We now know that this kind of eating can contribute to cavities and other oral health problems.

Every time you eat anything with carbohydrates in it, you're feeding the bacteria in your mouth, which in turn produce acids. If you're constantly eating, it doesn't allow your saliva time to bring the pH of your mouth back into a more alkaline, neutral state. It takes your saliva about 20 minutes to neutralize the acids in your mouth after eating.

It's especially easy to harm your teeth in this way with soft drinks, sipping all day long. So, it's best to avoid sugary drinks and junk food, and if you need a snack opt for healthy vegetables or what are known as "detergent foods." If you do decide to drink a soft drink or eat something sugary, have it all at once and not over the course of the day.

3. Flossing is one of the most important oral hygiene techniques

Although most of our patients are aware that they need to brush, sometimes they can get lackadaisical when it comes to flossing. And that's a big mistake. Flossing is one of the most important (and we daresay, easiest) things someone can do to help prevent cavities and tooth decay.

You see, as we've already mentioned, the bacteria in your mouth that cause cavities feed on the food you eat. So if you've got pieces of that food stuck between your teeth all day and night, every day, that's asking for a problem.

Flossing clears that bacteria-feeding food out from between your teeth. Floss daily and whenever you decide to do it, morning or night, just do it!

4. A dry mouth can lead to cavities and tooth decay

Your teeth's best defense against cavities and tooth decay is actually your saliva! We've already talked about the pH neutralizing effect saliva has. So if you find you have a dry mouth often, make sure to have some water to sip on. Or why not try some xylitol mints or gum to get your saliva production kicked into action?

5. Over-brushing can damage your enamel

If you brush like a construction worker with a jackhammer, you should ease up! Brushing too hard can scrape away at your teeth's enamel, which leaves them more susceptible to cavities and decay. Brush lightly, with your brush angled at the gum line for two minutes, twice a day. That's all that is required!

Oral-Systemic Health

October 2nd, 2019

Oral-systemic health is the idea that oral health is a critical and interconnected component to a patient’s overall health and well-being. Studies show that people who have poor oral health are more likely to have other health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or a high likelihood of stroke.

Some of the data suggests that oral pathogens may trigger up to 50% of heart attacks, and that the oral bacteria P. gingivalis may cause a 13.6-fold increase in patients’ risk of a heart attack.

Still, the exact relationship between oral and overall health isn't fully known — whether one causes the other or how treating one might affect the other. But it should serve as a warning call to anyone suffering with poor oral health, especially periodontal disease.

More studies need to be conducted to establish the precise link between the two, but whatever it is, one thing is certain: good oral hygiene makes for good oral health. Many dentists and doctors realize the need to work together as a cohesive healthcare team to improve and maintain the health of their communities.

The American Dental Association says oral health is essential to overall health, and not just a luxury. They are setting goals to reduce the amount of tooth decay in low-income communities for both children and adults.

So what is a patient about this information regarding oral-systemic health? Here are some tips to increase and maintain your overall well-being:

  • Have an effective oral hygiene routine. Brush twice a day for two minutes each time, floss daily, clean your tongue, and avoid sugary beverages.
  • Visit your dentist regularly. Regular cleanings and checkups at your dentist’s office will keep your mouth clean and ensure you’re taking good care of it.
  • Eat a healthful diet. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and natural, unprocessed foods contributes to the overall health of your body.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of pure, clean water throughout the day. A good rule of thumb is to drink eight eight-ounce glasses a day.
  • Relax, destress. Stress can play a big role in all forms of disease. Take time during your day to relax, meditate, stretch, and allow your body and mind to rest.

If you have questions about your oral health and how it may be affecting your general health, feel free to ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous during your next visit to our Anchorage, AK office.

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Diet Soda vs. Regular Soda: Which is better for teeth?

September 25th, 2019

When most patients ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous this question, they're thinking strictly about sugar content — cut out the bacteria-feeding sugar that's present in regular soda by opting for a diet soda and it will be better for your teeth. That seems logical, right? Well, there's a bit more to it than that. Let's take a closer look at how any kind of soda can affect your dental health.

Diet Soda – Why it can also lead to tooth decay

The main culprit in these drinks that leads to decay is the acid content. Diet sodas and other sugar-free drinks are usually highly acidic, which weakens the enamel on your teeth and makes them more susceptible to cavities and dental erosion. The level of phosphoric acid, citric acid, and/or tartaric acid is usually high in sugar-free drinks so it's best to avoid them.

Some patients also enjoy drinking orange juice or other citrus juices. These drinks are high in citric acid and have the same effect on the enamel of your teeth.

So what about regular soda?

We know the acidity of diet sodas and sugar-free drinks contributes to tooth decay, so what about regular soda? Like we alluded to earlier, regular soda is high in sugar — a 12 ounce can contains roughly ten teaspoons of sugar — and sugar feeds the decay-causing bacteria in the mouth. This also includes sports drinks and energy drinks, which are highly acidic and loaded with sugar too. So these drinks are a double-whammy of sugar and acidity your teeth and body simply don't need.

The problems caused by both diet and regular soda is exacerbated when you sip on them throughout the day. If you drink it all in one sitting, you won't be washing sugar and/or acids over your teeth all day long and your saliva will have a chance to neutralize the pH in your mouth.

The best beverages to drink and how to drink them

Drinking beverages that are lower in acid is a good step to take to keep your enamel strong. According to a study conducted by Matthew M. Rodgers and J. Anthony von Fraunhofer at the University of Michigan, your best bets are plain water, black tea or coffee, and if you opt for a soda, root beer. These drinks dissolved the least amount of enamel when measured 14 days after consumption of the beverage.

If you still choose to drink soda, diet soda, sugar-free drinks, or juices here are some other tips to lessen tooth decay:

  • Drink your soda or acidic beverages through a straw to minimize contact with teeth
  • Rinse with water immediately after consumption of the beverage
  • Avoid brushing your teeth between 30 minutes to an hour after drinking the beverage as this has been shown to spread the acids before your saliva can bring your mouth back to a neutral pH
  • Avoid drinks that have acids listed on the ingredients label

Still have questions about soda, sugar, and acid? Give our Anchorage, AK office a call and we’d be happy to help!

We are committed to your oral health!

September 18th, 2019

Dental visits are often negatively associated with discomfort in many people’s minds. But at Pediatric Dental Associates, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team have created an atmosphere focused on dispelling those myths. Our team is truly passionate about dentistry, and we are trained to gently accommodate each individual patient’s needs, with every procedure and visit performed with the utmost focus on your comfort.

If you are a patient of record at Pediatric Dental Associates, we are committed to your oral health and are available to you. If you would like to learn more about stress-free dentistry at our Anchorage, AK office, or to schedule an appointment, we encourage you to give us a call!

Quit Smoking to Save Your Smile

September 11th, 2019

You have probably counted a hundred reasons to stop smoking. It’s unhealthy. It’s expensive. It annoys the people around you. You have to schedule your day around the next cigarette. But here’s reason number 101: Did you know that one of the many side effects of smoking is the damage it does to your smile?

Your Appearance

One of the most obvious results of smoking is the constant yellowing and discoloration of your teeth. Tobacco stains can take longer to remove with home brushing and whitening. And, while a professional cleaning and whitening will make a world of difference, all that good work is undone once you start smoking again.

More important, no smile looks its best with periodontal disease and tooth loss. Smoking has been linked to the presence of more harmful oral bacteria and higher occurrences of cavities and gingivitis (early gum disease). Periodontitis, or severe gum disease, is much more common among smokers. Tooth loss is also much more likely.

Healing after Dental Surgery

Smoking slows the healing process. It has been linked to a weaker immune system, so it’s harder to fight off an infection or to heal from one.  And because of the harmful effect of smoking on bone tissue, there is a higher failure rate for dental implants among smokers. Bone density can be so compromised that an implant is not even an option.

Healing after Extractions

If you have a tooth extracted, the formation of a blood clot at the site of the removal is essential to avoid a condition called dry socket. Dry socket can lead to pain, serious infection, and other complications. Luckily, this clot is resilient and pretty hard to dislodge—unless you apply suction such as sipping through a straw or drawing smoke from a cigarette.

Oral Cancer

Research has shown that smoking is the single most serious risk factor for oral cancer. The good news is that this risk is cut dramatically if you quit!

Let Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous help you maintain your smile. We can offer many more reasons to give up the smoking habit, and we are happy to offer suggestions for quitting during your next visit to our Anchorage, AK office. We want to protect your smile and your health as well. It doesn’t really matter which number on the list finally leads you to quit—every number on that list is your lucky number!

Camping Oral Health Tips

September 4th, 2019

If your idea of camping is a quiet walk through the woods before returning to your rustic hotel, your regular brushing habits will be perfect for your trip. But if you are hiking into the mountains with your tent, backpack, and camp food, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team have some suggestions to adapt your dental routine to the great outdoors.

Water

If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t brush with it! Use bottled water if you have brought it, or make sure the local water is safe by using a testing kit. Boiling, filters and purification tablets are all ways to make sure the water tests clean and safe.

Toothpaste

You aren’t the only one in the woods who finds your toothpaste tasty. Bears, raccoons, and other animals are attracted to the scent of your toothpaste, so keep it safe with the same kind of tightly sealed, odor-proof container that you keep your food in. And if you want to discourage unwanted visitors, don’t spit your toothpaste out at your campground! It’s better to go some distance from your site and bury any paste, and best of all to spit used toothpaste into a container that can be tightly closed and removed from the campsite when you head for home. This practice protects you and the environment as well, since toothpaste can be harmful to small animals and plants.

Toothbrush

While there are disposable and camping toothbrushes available, a regular toothbrush will work as well. Normally, air-drying is the healthiest option for drying your toothbrush, but camping is an exception. Just as animals are attracted to toothpaste, they are also attracted to your toothpaste-scented toothbrush. Keep it in a sealed container that is odor-proof.

Floss

There are websites devoted to the many ingenious ways to use dental floss while camping, but we recommend the original use. Don’t forget to floss regularly, keep it in a sealed container, and do be sure to take used floss out of the area with you.

Even though you are roughing it, stick with your home routine as much as possible. If you are unable to brush as usual, rinse your mouth well with clean water and brush when you can. Have a great trip, and just one more thought—maybe go easy on the s’mores. Let us know all about your trip during your next visit to our Anchorage, AK office!

Tips for Lifelong Teeth Whitening

August 28th, 2019

Over time, everyone’s teeth can naturally become dull, due to aging and consumption of staining foods such as chocolate and coffee. The good news is that teeth-whitening treatments can help you maintain white teeth that last a lifetime.

Get Regular Treatments

Regular treatments at Pediatric Dental Associates are necessary to keep your teeth white for life, since whitening treatments are only temporary. Bleaching too frequently, however, can wear away your tooth enamel.

The effects of in-office bleaching are safe and can last for several months to a year. You may need to repeat your use of at-home bleaching kits every few months to maintain your white teeth. As far as day to day, whitening toothpastes are safe to use on a daily basis. The American Dental Association suggests you ask your dentist for advice on which treatment is best for you.

Have Realistic Expectations

Everyone’s teeth are different and, according to the American Dental Association, not all smiles can be turned bright white. Teeth can naturally be a light yellowish color that responds well to teeth-whitening procedures, but bleach is not likely to be effective for grayish teeth. Results for brownish teeth fall somewhere in between.

Practice Good Oral Hygiene

Good hygiene is imperative for teeth-whitening efforts. Visible fillings, implants, or bridges that are metallic can be visible against the white color you desire. These treatments can be prevented by maintaining a good oral hygiene routine.

In addition to brushing your teeth twice a day to remove dirt and potential staining agents, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Floss every day
  • Visit our Anchorage, AK office every six months
  • Rinse your mouth with water after each meal and snack
  • Limit sugary and starchy foods and beverages, especially between meals

 

Getting to the Bottom of Chewing Gum Myths

August 21st, 2019

It's a moment many of our patients have experienced. One second you're chewing on a piece of gum, then suddenly you forget to keep chewing and swallow the entire rubbery gob whole! It's at this point you remember your mother warning you as a child that if you swallow gum it will stake a claim and take up residency in your belly for seven years. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates hate to take all the fun out of the mystery, but the truth is that chewing gum, when swallowed, will enter your stomach and move through your digestive system just like any other piece of food. So, if you ever accidentally swallow a piece of gum, there is no need to worry!

That being said, it's important to know that gum does not have any dietary benefits, so while it’s not exactly harmful to swallow, you still want to avoid swallowing it. If you are an avid gum-chewer, we encourage you to chew sugarless gum, especially if you are wearing braces, because gum with sugar can lead to cavities. Sugarless gum still has the same amount of flavor, but has fewer cavity-causing ingredients. In fact, many brands contain an additive called xylitol, a natural sweetener known to fight cavity-causing bacteria. Xylitol is also known to increase salivary flow as it rinses away plaque and acid.

The fact is, when the bacterium in your mouth breaks down sugar, what’s left behind is acid. This acid eats away at the enamel coating of your teeth, causing holes that we call cavities. Cavities can lead to other long-term mouth problems if they are not treated in time, so it is best to try and avoid overexposing your teeth to too many harmful substances!

If you have any questions about chewing gum, please contact our office. Happy (sugar-free) gum chewing!

Dental Emergencies while Traveling

August 14th, 2019

You’ve planned your dream vacation. Your reservations are made. You’re packed and ready. You’ve even scheduled a dental checkup at our Anchorage, AK office to make sure you catch any potential problems, have finished any major work, and have an up-to-date chart.

But things don’t always go according to even the best of plans. So, what to do if you find you have a dental emergency while traveling? Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team have some recommendations for problems that might arise.

  • Toothache—Rinse your mouth with warm water and use dental floss to remove any food particles. Never put aspirin directly on a tooth or gum tissue. If the pain persists, call a dentist.
  • Cracked or broken tooth—Immediately rinse with warm water to clean the area and apply cold compresses to the face to minimize swelling. Get in touch with a dentist.
  • If you lose a tooth—Keep the tooth moist at all times. Put the tooth back in the socket without touching the root if possible. If that is not an option, place the tooth between the cheek and gums or in milk. See a dentist as soon as possible.

Know where to get help if you need it! If you are traveling in the United States, the American Dental Association offers Find-a-Dentist, a website that can locate a member dentist closest to you. If you are traveling to another country, there are steps you can take to prepare for an emergency.

  • If you are out of the country and need to locate a dentist, your local embassy or consulate, your hotel concierge, or friends abroad can be a useful resource.
  • Before you go, check your insurance to see if you are covered while traveling.
  • If you have travel insurance, find out if it covers dental treatment and can provide information on qualified local dentists and translation help, if necessary.
  • Good dental care is available in many areas internationally, but it is important to know what standards are present in the countries you plan to visit. The Organization for Safety and Asepsis Procedures offers a checklist for safe treatment in their “Traveler’s Guide to Safe Dental Care.”

If you have any questions, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team are happy to do all we can to answer them. While it’s unlikely that problems will arise, we are always available if you need to contact our Anchorage, AK office. Bon voyage, and we look forward to hearing about your trip!

Hypersensitive Teeth

August 7th, 2019