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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

It is common to experience dentine hypersensitivity, with symptoms ranging from moderate to severe. Why does it happen and how do you know if this sensitivity is something to be concerned about? The first step is to determine the cause.

The most common cause of the sensitivity is exposure of the dentin. Dentin is the layer immediately surrounding the nerve of the tooth. It is alive and usually covered by the gum tissue. When gum recession is present hypersensitivity is common. Other contributors to temporary tooth hypersensitivity include teeth whitening and dental procedures such as fillings, periodontal treatment, and braces placement or adjustment. These are temporary and should be of no concern.

Permanent hypersensitivity, however, may require treatment. To understand the cause of sustained hypersensitivity, let us explain the structure of dentin and why it serves as a ‘hot spot’.

The dentin contains a large numbers of pores or tubes that run from the outside of the tooth to the nerve in the center. When dentin tubes are exposed, there is a direct connection between the mouth and dental pulp, which houses the nerve and blood supply of the tooth. External stimuli, such as mechanical pressure (tooth grinding or clenching - bruising the ligaments holding the teeth in place), temperature changes, as well as chemical stimuli (sweet–sour) are transmitted to the pain-sensitive dental pulp and activate nerve endings. A short and sharp pain is the result. These external stimuli cause fluid movement in the open tube that is transmitted as pain sensations. Something needs to be placed into the dentin tube to plug it and stop this fluid movement.

The first step in doing something about dental hypersensitivity is to determine the cause; our professional team at Pediatric Dental Associates can help you with this. Whether the sensitivity is due to exposed dentin or an underlying cause such as abscess or decay, corrective measures are needed. Contact us sooner rather than later so Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can reduce the sensitivity, and provide you with some relief!

What are dental sealants and how do they work?

July 17th, 2019

A dental sealant is a liquid that is applied to the teeth. The sealant hardens and provides a protective coating that is designed to reduce cavities and create a smoother tooth surface. Dental sealants are clear or white; they do not take away from the appearance of teeth. You can think about this treatment as being similar to varnish that protects a wood floor.

Sealants are not the same as fluoride treatments. The application is similar, but sealants are a semi-permanent protective coating. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our staff recommend that sealant applications for children begin soon after molars erupt, first molars around the age of six, and second molars around the age of 12.

Simple Application

Having sealants applied is not uncomfortable at all. First, your child's teeth will be cleaned and dried. A gel is applied, which helps the sealant adhere to the tooth, and then is rinsed away. Your child's teeth are dried again and the sealant is applied. A few seconds of exposure to a light source may be used to cure the sealant and make it semi-permanent. Sealants should last for a long time, normally between five and ten years.

Sealant Benefits

The coating on the surface of your child's teeth reduces the amount of acid contact. Normal acids in foods that are consumed can eat away at the surface of teeth. Bacteria also react to plaque formation and create more acid in the mouth. These small pits or weakened areas are prone to caries or cavity formation. Preventing cavities is a much better choice than drilling and filling damaged teeth.

A sealant also helps to smooth the chewing surfaces of your childn't teeth. The smoother surface is not as likely to retain small particles of food and bacteria. Your child's mouth stays cleaner and food is not left behind to form acids. The protective application can also be used on other teeth that have a rough surface, to protect the grooves or pits from decay.

After the sealant is applied, your child still needs to take proper care of his or her teeth. Regular brushing and flossing is required. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous may recommend fluoride treatments to strengthen and protect your child's teeth further.

If you have any concerns about sealants, please discuss them with during your child's next appointment at Pediatric Dental Associates. We want your little one's teeth to stay healthy for life.

Why are my gums shrinking?

July 10th, 2019

If you’ve noticed that your teeth have appeared to be longer, you may be suffering from gum recession. This is a common problem among adults, and can result from several factors. If gum recession seems to be happening in your mouth, schedule an appointment at our Anchorage, AK office. We will take a look and figure out the cause, and help you decide on the best treatment.

The first thing Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will do is take measurements of the recession to see if the cause could be periodontal disease. Based on how much attached gingiva is present on the gums, a varying amount of gum recession will be present.

The less bone support you have for your teeth, the higher the chance of tooth loss will be. If you have a high likelihood of tooth loss, it’s critical to address the problem right away.

Gum recession can also be caused by stress-related issues that lead to jaw clenching and teeth grinding in the night. This added, ongoing pressure puts extra stress on your teeth, which flexes them at the gum line.

If this happens over a long period, microscopic breaks in your enamel will cause your gum line to move away from your teeth. An occlusal guard may serve as a solution to gum recession caused by teeth grinding. Talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about this option if you consistently wake up with jaw pain, headaches, or uncomfortable pressure on the sides of your face.

The way you brush and floss your teeth may also cause gum recession. If you’re an aggressive brusher, make sure to purchase toothbrushes labeled “soft.” It’s best to brush your teeth in a circular motion in order to sweep over all your gum lines and remove the most plaque. Generally, brushing in a straight line can leave spots of plaque that lead to periodontal disease, which is a common cause of gum recession.

There are several options for treatment of gum recession. Depending on the cause, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will talk with you to decide the best treatment plan. Care may involve a deep cleaning or an antibiotic treatment. In serious cases, treatment might involve pocket-depth reduction, a soft tissue draft, or gum regeneration surgery.

These are just a few of the many potential causes of gum recession and how we can treat the problem. Unfortunately, gums do not grow back, and the consequences of ignoring this condition can be painful and time-consuming.

Please call our Anchorage, AK office to schedule an appointment if you’ve noticed any elongating of your teeth or recurring irritation of the gums. We will work as hard as possible to help rid you of your gum recession and prevent it from getting worse in the future.

Suffer from tooth discoloration? Don’t panic!

July 3rd, 2019

Like many other parts of the human body, teeth age. You may look at old photos and realize your smile was significantly brighter in the past than it is now. Many adults experience tooth discoloration and find it embarrassing.

The good news is there are treatment options! The first step to recovering your bright smile and finding appropriate treatment is to determine what’s causing the discoloration.

There are multiple reasons for tooth discoloration. Some are under your control, but unfortunately, others may not be. Glance at the list below and see if you can pinpoint the cause of your tooth discoloration.

  • Poor Dental Hygiene: This one is obvious. There’s a reason your parents (and dentist) always told you to brush and floss three times a day.
  • Genetics: A big part of your dental health is determined by genetics; in other words, what runs in your family. Sometimes people inherit naturally discolored teeth.
  • Diet: Do you eat sugary foods often? Drink lots of soda? Gulp more than two cups of coffee a day? Are you an energy drink fan? We’re not pointing any fingers ... but you should do the math.
  • Tobacco: Because cigarettes contain nicotine, they can readily stain your teeth. So hardcore smokers often develop prominent brown stains.
  • Medications: Medicines such as doxycycline, tetracycline, antihistamines, blood-pressure medications, and antipsychotic drugs can all create tooth discoloration as a side effect. (If you suspect this could be the case for you, don’t ever discontinue your medication without consulting your doctor first!)

Did you find the culprit? Perhaps the easiest way to avoid tooth discoloration in your case might be to make some simple adjustments to your diet and other habits.

Also, when you consume drinks or foods that are high in acid or sugar content, take a moment to rinse your mouth with water afterward. If you’re an avid tobacco user, you may want to reconsider that; especially because it can have deadly effects that go way beyond your smile.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can also suggest other treatment options. While over-the-counter agents do help, in-office whitening treatments tend to be more effective. If whitening agents don’t alleviate the problem, you may want to consider bondings or veneers.

If you’re worried about discoloration of your teeth, or have any questions about how to treat it, please feel free to reach out to our Anchorage, AK office! We can help you identify what may be causing the problem and work with you to give you a smile you’ll be proud of.

Good Dental Hygiene Gives You Better Overall Health

June 26th, 2019

What do you think of when you hear the term dental or oral hygiene? Brushing and flossing tend to come to mind, since that is what the terms imply.

What you might not know, however, is that good dental hygiene involves much more than just your mouth. That’s the tip of the iceberg … just a piece of the complex puzzle that is the human body.

Simply put, you cannot be fully healthy if you don’t have good oral health. Studies have shown that oral health and body health are closely linked and in fact almost impossible to define as separate phenomena.

Take gum disease, for example. It’s one of the most common dental infections, but it doesn’t just affect your gums. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, gum disease can be directly linked to more serious complications such as strokes and heart disease. Doesn’t that make you want to floss a little more often?

This goes the other way, too. Many oral events like sores, swollen gums, and dry mouth syndrome, which might seem fairly trivial and even harmless, may be signals of a much bigger problem: possibly leukemia, kidney disease, diabetes, or pancreatic cancer.

Now that you’ve been made aware of just how vital dental health is for your overall health (and vice versa), the best thing to do is what you’re probably already doing: making sure you brush and floss, as well as maintain a well-balanced diet. It’s also smart to keep away from cigarettes and tobacco, because both are known to contribute to periodontal disease.

In addition, be sure to keep getting your teeth cleaned every six months! If you’re due for a cleaning, give our Anchorage, AK office a call to schedule an appointment at Pediatric Dental Associates.

Which whitening is right for you?

June 19th, 2019

Many of our patients at Pediatric Dental Associates have been asking us about brightening their teeth lately, and today we thought we would discuss the options available to you to put the sparkle back in your smile!

Over-the-counter products – You’ve probably seen over-the-counter whiteners such as whitening strips on store shelves. While whitening strips may work for some, they do have certain restrictions. For example, they are not nearly as effective when crowns or fillings are involved. Teeth that are stained gray instead of brown or yellow typically don’t respond as well to these types of whiteners. Whitening strips typically save you money but take longer to work and also require discipline on your part to keep them in place for the right amount of time each day.

Whitening at our office – This type of whitening can be done right at Pediatric Dental Associates. A whitening agent is applied directly to teeth and a special light helps accelerate the whitening process. This may be accomplished in one session or take several appointments. You should expect to spend anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes at each session. If you have a mix of natural teeth and fillings or crowns, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous may recommend bonding or veneers on your natural teeth instead of regular bleaching. Teeth whitening at our office can be used to correct many tooth discolorations which may have been caused by staining, aging, or chemical damage to teeth. Using the latest in whitening technology, we can offer a safe method for creating the beautiful smile you've always wanted.

At-home whitening – If you choose this option, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will take a mold of your teeth and create a custom-fit whitening tray. Gel whitening solution is poured in the mouthguard-like tray, and the tray is worn for a pre-determined amount of time, generally from a couple of hours a day to every day during the night, until you’re back in our office for an evaluation.

Give us a call at our convenient Anchorage, AK office to schedule an appointment! Whiter teeth are one just one visit away at Pediatric Dental Associates!

Ways to Prevent Oral Cancer

June 12th, 2019

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, this form of cancer kills roughly one person an hour, every 24 hours. This means that nearly 10,000 people will die this year from this type of cancer.

Often, the cancer is discovered late, which is the main reason the death rate is unfortunately so high. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team want you to know the precautionary steps you can take to avoid oral cancer.

Here are some of the most effective methods:

  • Good oral hygiene is the first step in oral cancer prevention.
  • Visit our Anchorage, AK office every six months for a dental exam.
  • Quit smoking or using chewing tobacco, if you do.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet.
  • Consume cancer-fighting foods such as vegetables, berries, garlic, green tea, etc.
  • Change how you prepare foods; baked, boiled, or steamed foods are healthier than grilled or fried.
  • Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy immune system.
  • Limit the amount of time you spend in the sun, and be sure to use sunscreen.
  • Conduct an oral self-exam each week.

We know the thought of oral cancer can be frightening, so we hope the above advice can help patients catch it early or prevent it from ever happening. If you notice a negative change in your oral health, contact our Anchorage, AK location right away and schedule an appointment with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous.

If you’re ever concerned or have questions about this common form of cancer, don’t hesitate to ask a member of our team.  

 

The Hazards of Smokeless Tobacco

June 5th, 2019

Many smokers believe that chewing tobacco is a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes. This simply isn't the case! In fact, smokeless tobacco can cause serious health concerns.

Smokeless tobacco comes in many forms and goes by many names: dip, snuff, snus, or simply chewing tobacco. Use of these products usually involves sucking or chewing on shredded or loose tobacco leaves, sometimes flavored, for a prolonged period. There are even products that emulate a dissolvable candy-like consistency which are made of compressed tobacco powder.

What are risks and smokeless tobacco?

Whichever form a tobacco product takes, the dangers of using or consuming them is very real. According to a 2007 study by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer, there are upwards of 28 cancer-causing chemicals in smokeless tobacco that are known to cause cancer. And these products are habit-forming just like any other tobacco product that contains nicotine. Using them will increase your risk for many serious diseases including but not limited to: cancer (especially oral and esophageal), gum and heart disease, cavities, and pre-cancerous mouth lesions.

At the end of the day, long-term use of smokeless tobacco can cause serious health issues. These products really take a toll on both your oral and overall health. They put a strain on your immune system and make it less capable of warding off infection and disease.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team strongly advise you to stop using smokeless tobacco—or any kind of tobacco product—and not to pick up the habit if you aren't. There is no safe level of tobacco use, smokeless or otherwise.

Need to quit smoking or using smokeless tobacco products?

You can and should always talk to your doctor, healthcare practitioner, or Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous for help quitting. But there are many other resources available today for those who'd like to quit. The National Cancer Institute offers information, support (local and online), and tools to help smokers and smokeless tobacco users quit. They offer live online chat with cessation counselors Monday through Friday and even have a smartphone application available to help people who are serious about quitting.

You can take a look at their website at smokefree.gov or call them toll-free at 1–877–44U–QUIT (1-877-448-7848). There is also help available from your state's quit line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

Make the best choice for your health and well-being; avoid the bad habit of tobacco products. If you have any questions about how tobacco related products affect your oral health and hygiene, please don't hesitate to ask one of our Anchorage, AK staff members.

Sealants: What are they and how do they help?

May 29th, 2019

Molars are made up of canyons, caves, pits, and seemingly endless caverns that are a breeding ground for decay. The protective solution is a sealant. When done correctly, a sealant from Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous of Pediatric Dental Associates can be most effective in preventing cavities.

A sealant is made up of composite (a plastic-like) material that contains bonding agents to seal to the edge of the tooth. Sealants placed on the chewing surfaces of back teeth block food from being trapped. The process in which a sealant is placed is quite precise and painless.

First the tooth is cleaned with a sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) spray. Then an acid etch is applied to “roughen up” the surface. No saliva is to touch the tooth. This will re-mineralize the area, then a repeat etching is needed. An alcohol-based liquid then dries out the area and it must remain completely dry. The sealant is placed and guided through all the caverns, pits, fissures, and grooves. It is then cured with a special light, which makes it a hard, plastic-like material.

Sealants can last for several years. It is wise to have them examined on a semi-annual basis. If there is a break in the sealant, a high risk for decay is common. If a sealant is damaged, repair is simple, painless, and quick to complete.

Who can benefit from sealants? Anyone! Children often receive sealants as routine preventive care. Adults with deep canyons with stained grooves on their teeth can also benefit from a sealant. The process is quick, painless, and does not require any anesthesia. It is an effective way to lower dental restorative costs.

An investment in dental sealants can reap great benefits as properly cared for teeth will remain cavity free. Our Anchorage, AK location is available to answer your questions so give us a call today!

How to get Brighter Teeth for Life

May 22nd, 2019

Have you ever wondered why some people have dull and yellow teeth, while others have bright, white smiles? It’s not luck.

Everyone’s teeth naturally dull over time because of aging and the contact our teeth experience with staining foods, such as chocolate and coffee. However, teeth-whitening treatments can give you the whiter smile you’ve been after.

Get Regular Treatments

Unfortunately, the effects of teeth-whitening or bleaching treatments are only temporary, but regular treatments at Pediatric Dental Associates can help keep your teeth white for much longer.

The effects of in-office bleaching can last for several months to a year, so you may prefer to repeat your use of at-home bleaching kits every few months to maintain your white teeth. Whitening toothpastes do not contain bleach and are safe to use every day.

Have Realistic Expectations

Not everyone’s teeth can be turned bright white. Some just don’t respond to whitening treatments. If your teeth are a light yellowish color, they may readily respond to teeth-whitening procedures, but bleach will not likely work on grayish teeth. Brownish teeth tend to fall somewhere in between.

Practice Good Oral Hygiene

For the best whitening results, it’s necessary to keep your teeth in good health. Visible fillings, implants, or bridges that are metallic stand out against the white color you’ll want to achieve.

Maintaining good oral hygiene will help you avoid tooth decay and keep your smile bright. In addition to brushing your teeth twice a day, these actions can help promote a healthy mouth:

  • Floss every day
  • Visit our Anchorage, AK office every six months for professional cleanings
  • Rinse your mouth with water after each meal and snack
  • Limit sugary and starchy foods and beverages that can stain teeth, especially between meals

Common Emergency Care Visits: Toothaches and Abscesses

May 15th, 2019

You never know when a dental problem may arise. Unfortunately, they don’t necessarily occur during office hours. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can provide you with the proper information and treatment options to prevent the problem from becoming worse.

Abscess

An abscess is a bacterial infection, and will normally cause pain and swelling around the affected tooth and gum area. Though antibiotics are not always necessary, you should be seen by Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous as soon as possible. If left untreated, the infection may grow and cause more serious issues.

Toothache

Toothaches can have many causes. Sometimes it’s as simple as food lodged between your tooth and gums. Rinse your mouth with warm water and try flossing the area to dislodge the particle. If your gums begin to bleed, stop flossing.

Fractures or cavities can also cause toothaches as well as sensitivity to heat or cold. Please schedule an appointment to ensure a minor problem doesn’t develop into a serious one. You may require acetaminophen or another pain reliever before your visit.

If you can’t be treated right away, keep these tips in mind:

  • If you have fractured a tooth, rinse the area with warm water to keep the surfaces clean. Apply a cold compress to the outside of your facial area to reduce swelling.
  • A tooth that has been knocked out should be kept moist, in a clean container, until you can receive treatment.
  • Do not apply aspirin directly to a damaged tooth or gum area, because this can cause tissue irritation.
  • If you suspect your jaw has been broken, go to an emergency room immediately.
  • If you have bitten or damaged your lips or tongue, rinse your mouth well with warm water. If bleeding continues, seek other medical attention right away.

If you experience an emergency, please contact our Anchorage, AK office and provide us with as much information as possible. This way, we can offer recommendations that will assist you until you’re able to arrive for an appointment.

Remember: procrastinating about getting treatment can turn a minor problem into a major one!

Nitrous Oxide Sedation

May 8th, 2019

Some patients may require nitrous oxide to remove pain or anxiety during dental treatments. If you desire any form of dental treatment at our Anchorage, AK office, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous may administer nitrous oxide for its anesthetic/analgesic properties.

Commonly known as laughing gas, nitrous oxide is a gaseous sedative that’s inhaled through a mask over the nose. It was first used in the mid 1800s when practitioners didn’t know they should mix oxygen with the nitrous oxide, which wasn’t healthy alone.

These days, nitrous oxide is administered with at least a 30% oxygen mix, which makes it safe for any dental care.

Some of the effects you may experience while you’re sedated include:

  • Lightheadedness, and tingling in the arms and legs, followed by a warm or comforting sensation
  • A euphoric feeling or a sensation that you are floating
  • Inability to keep your eyes open, so it feels as if you’re asleep

The percentage of nitrous oxide can be easily adjusted if necessary. Let Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous know right away if you feel uncomfortable or sick. The effects wear off quickly after you begin to breathe regular air following your treatment.

If you still have concerns about nitrous oxide, feel free to call our office about it. Our staff can go over other options for sedation and select the best one for you.

How does a tooth decay?

May 1st, 2019

When acids are allowed to erode tooth enamel long enough to leach calcium and other minerals from your enamel and dentin, a process called demineralization occurs. This rapidly leads to tooth decay unless reversed by good oral hygiene and professional dental cleanings at our Anchorage, AK office. Acids responsible for tooth decay come from the wastes of mutans streptococci and lactobacilli bacteria that thrive in dental plaque, a substance that is the leading cause of periodontitis.

Where do demineralizing acids come from?

Dietary sugars comprise the bulk of tooth-decaying acids, including table sugar, cooked starches, fructose, glucose, and lactose. In fact, as soon as you bite down on a sugary cookie or into a French fry, bacteria start digesting sugars, breaking them down and eventually excreting them as demineralizing acids. As this bacteria colony grows and becomes organized, plaque develops and forms that tough, yellowish coating you often see on the tops of teeth at the gumline.

Plaque is the Problem

Dental plaque is a filmy type of nesting place for bacteria that also keeps acids pressed against tooth enamel. Since plaque cannot be removed by brushing, it is important that a person who suffers tooth decay visit Pediatric Dental Associates immediately so we can use special tools to scrape and thoroughly clean teeth.

Signs of Tooth Decay

Early tooth decay and cavities remain asymptomatic until demineralization creates a hole deep enough to reach the tooth’s inner tissues and nerve endings. Eventually, tooth decay will cause tooth sensitivity, toothache, vague pain when biting down on the affected tooth, and possibly pus seeping around a tooth’s gum line if the decay creates an infection. If treatment is delayed long enough, a decaying tooth may loosen, crumble, and ultimately fall out, which leaves an empty or partially empty socket.

Preventing Tooth Decay

Getting regular checkups with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous, brushing and flossing twice a day, and eating fruits or crunchy vegetables at snack time instead of a candy bar or doughnut are the three best ways to keep your teeth healthy, white, and where they should be: in your mouth.

Why Baby Teeth Matter

May 1st, 2019

Sleepless nights, crankiness, drooling—how can such tiny teeth cause such a big fuss? But all those uncomfortable days and nights are forgotten when your baby’s first teeth make their appearance. Why? Well, certainly because your child is happier, but also because you know baby teeth, or primary teeth, are important for your child’s growth in so many different ways.

  • Chewing and Eating

Your baby might enjoy solid foods at an early age, but real chewing doesn’t happen until all the baby molars appear between the ages of one to three years. This is the time to feed children size-appropriate and texture-appropriate foods so they acquire proper chewing and eating habits for healthy digestion. Chewing also helps develop your child’s jaw and facial muscles.

  • Developing Speech

Pronouncing many of the common sounds used in speech often requires tongue and teeth working together. If teeth are missing or there is a bite problem such as an open bite, it might be more difficult to pronounce words properly. This could be only a temporary delay, or it could require speech therapy when your child is older.

  • Setting the Stage for Permanent 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. The adult tooth will not have the room to fit where it should, and crowding or misalignment can occur. This might cause orthodontic problems in the future.

  • Learning Healthy Dental Habits

You are your baby’s first dental health care provider! Wiping the gums and erupting teeth with a soft damp cloth after meals, gently brushing baby teeth when your toddler is young, teaching how to brush as your child gets older, helping to establish daily routines for brushing—all these practices will prepare your child for lifelong healthy dental habits.

  • Making the Dentist a Regular Part of Your Child’s Life

Your child should visit our Anchorage, AK office soon after that first tooth comes in, and definitely by the age of 12 months. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can help with suggestions for your brushing and flossing routine, make sure your child’s teeth are healthy and clean, and ensure that teething progress is on track. In later visits, we will examine your child’s primary teeth and gums, and treat any problems, such as cavities, before they can become serious.

It turns out that baby teeth really are a big deal. Talk to us about suggestions for caring for your toddler’s teeth and about any questions you may have about teething progress, jaw and facial structure, speech development, or any other concerns at any time. We want to have a happy relationship with your child from the very start for a lifetime of healthy and confident smiles.

Your Child’s First Toothbrush

April 24th, 2019

First word, first step, first haircut, first… toothbrush? While it may not be considered a typical milestone, choosing the right first toothbrush is an important first step in your child’s future dental health.

The time to start brushing is when your baby’s first tooth appears. Until then, you have probably been using a clean, moist washcloth or gauze to carefully wipe your baby’s gums. Continue that gentle treatment with a toothbrush designed for infants. Look for a toothbrush designed especially for infants and toddlers, with extra-soft bristles and a small head for tiny mouths.

When your toddler is ready to try brushing for the first time, there are many options to make learning the proper technique enjoyable for both of you! Extra-soft bristles and small brush heads again are important for young children, and brushes are available with colorful patterns and designs to charm any child. There are brushes available with handles designed for easy gripping, right-handed and left-handed options, and even electric models.

No matter which brush you choose, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team recommend:

  • Use soft bristles and a brush head sized to fit your child
  • Use the proper amount of toothpaste (when your child is old enough to spit out toothpaste instead of swallowing)
  • Replace the toothbrush every three months, or earlier if it is frayed
  • Always supervise your young child while he or she learns to brush
  • Don’t forget to schedule checkups every six months at our Anchorage, AK office!

You probably won’t be preserving your baby’s first toothbrush in your baby book, but teaching your child the proper way to brush with the right toothbrush can lead to a lifetime of dental health. And that’s a milestone to celebrate!

Amalgam Fillings vs. White Fillings

April 17th, 2019

Many varieties of fillings are available at our Anchorage, AK office. Most people are familiar with traditional amalgam fillings: those big silver spots on top of teeth.

Made from a mixture of silver, tin, zinc, copper, and mercury, amalgam fillings have been used to fill cavities for more than 100 years. They offer several advantages, including:

  • High durability for large cavities or cavities on molars
  • Quick hardening time for areas that are difficult to keep dry during placement
  • Reduced placement time for children and special-needs patients who may have a difficult time keeping still during treatment

Although dental amalgam is a safe and commonly used dental material, you might wonder about its mercury content. You should know that when it’s combined with the other metals, mercury forms a safe, stable material.

The American Dental Association, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U. S. Food and Drug Administration, and World Health Organization all agree that based on extensive scientific evidence, dental amalgam is a safe and effective cavity-filling material.

White Fillings

Newer, mercury-free, resin-based composite fillings (white fillings) are also available at our Anchorage, AK office. Composite resin fillings are made from plastic mixed with powdered glass to make them stronger.

Resin-based fillings offer several benefits for patients, including:

  • They match the color of teeth
  • Less tooth structure needs to be removed than with amalgam fillings
  • BPA-free materials can be used

Resin-based composite fillings also have some disadvantages, including:

  • Higher cost than amalgam fillings
  • Inlays may take more than one visit
  • Requires more time to place than amalgam fillings

There’s a lot to think about when you have to get a cavity filled. We recommend you do your homework and speak with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous before deciding what’s best for you or your family.

Tips for a Whiter Smile

April 10th, 2019

Everyday life can take a toll on the whiteness of our teeth: Foods we love as well as soft drinks and coffee can stain them over time. Poor brushing and flossing can also leave behind tooth stains. Even injuries to teeth or gums can cause some yellowing, and in certain cases, medicines can contribute to discoloration.

So don’t get discouraged if you notice your smile has dimmed. You can definitely take action to restore the natural beauty of your teeth. Here are some of the best ways to whiten them:

  1. Drink through a straw or cut back on coffee and soft drinks to reduce risk of stains.
  2. Brush and floss every day.
  3. Try a whitening toothpaste or mouthwash.
  4. Visit our Anchorage, AK office every six months for regular cleanings.

We also offer in-office professional 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.

Still, some teeth can resist bleaching. If that’s the case, we can try several other techniques, such as deep bleaching that applies whitening agents over several visits, veneers and bonds that cover existing stains with a whiter, brighter surface, or laser whitening.

If a whitening session is something you’d like to pursue, be careful about whom you trust to perform the procedure. Avoid using “bleaching stations” in shopping malls or at fairs. These so-called whitening techniques can irritate your teeth and gums, and leave them highly sensitive to pain.

Also, 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.

When to Begin Dental Care for Your Baby

April 3rd, 2019

Children’s oral health differs from the needs of adults in many ways. It’s vital for you to understand what your child needs to keep his or her teeth healthy. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team are here to answer your questions to set you and your little one up for success.

In-home dental care should start as soon as your baby show signs of developing that first tooth. At around age one or two, bring your son or daughter to our Anchorage, AK office. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will examine your child’s tooth development and gum health.

The initial appointment will focus on getting your youngster familiar with our office and comfortable with our staff. We will go over several general matters during that first visit:

  • Inspect for signs of decay or other tooth or gum problems
  • Check for gum disease or cavities
  • Examine your child’s bite and possible misalignment
  • Clean the teeth, and apply fluoride if your child is old enough
  • Talk with parents about proper oral health
  • Give you tips for brushing and flossing your little one’s teeth
  • Answer any questions you may have about caring for your son or daughter’s teeth

Once your child is old enough for the first dental visit, you should schedule regular cleanings every six months. Call our Anchorage, AK location if you have any conflicts or questions.

How does a tooth decay?

March 27th, 2019

When acids are allowed to erode tooth enamel long enough to leach calcium and other minerals from your enamel and dentin, a process called demineralization occurs. This rapidly leads to tooth decay unless reversed by good oral hygiene and professional dental cleanings at our Anchorage, AK office. Acids responsible for tooth decay come from the wastes of mutans streptococci and lactobacilli bacteria that thrive in dental plaque, a substance that is the leading cause of periodontitis.

Where do demineralizing acids come from?

Dietary sugars comprise the bulk of tooth-decaying acids, including table sugar, cooked starches, fructose, glucose, and lactose. In fact, as soon as you bite down on a sugary cookie or into a French fry, bacteria start digesting sugars, breaking them down and eventually excreting them as demineralizing acids. As this bacteria colony grows and becomes organized, plaque develops and forms that tough, yellowish coating you often see on the tops of teeth at the gumline.

Plaque is the Problem

Dental plaque is a filmy type of nesting place for bacteria that also keeps acids pressed against tooth enamel. Since plaque cannot be removed by brushing, it is important that a person who suffers tooth decay visit Pediatric Dental Associates immediately so we can use special tools to scrape and thoroughly clean teeth.

Signs of Tooth Decay

Early tooth decay and cavities remain asymptomatic until demineralization creates a hole deep enough to reach the tooth’s inner tissues and nerve endings. Eventually, tooth decay will cause tooth sensitivity, toothache, vague pain when biting down on the affected tooth, and possibly pus seeping around a tooth’s gum line if the decay creates an infection. If treatment is delayed long enough, a decaying tooth may loosen, crumble, and ultimately fall out, which leaves an empty or partially empty socket.

Preventing Tooth Decay

Getting regular checkups with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous, brushing and flossing twice a day, and eating fruits or crunchy vegetables at snack time instead of a candy bar or doughnut are the three best ways to keep your teeth healthy, white, and where they should be: in your mouth.

What’s the Big Deal about Sleep Apnea?

March 20th, 2019

What’s the big deal about a little snoring during the night? Or feeling a bit drowsy during the day? Or an occasional bout of insomnia? If your sleep problems are few and far between, probably not a major worry. But if your sleep disruptions are frequent, getting worse, or more noticeable to those around you, your problem might be sleep apnea. And that can be a big deal.

Sleep apnea occurs in three forms:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea

This is the most common form of sleep apnea. It can be the result of the muscles in the back of the throat relaxing during sleep to obstruct the airway. Obstruction can also be caused by a physical condition such as a deviated septum, excess throat tissue or enlarged tonsils.  Loud snoring often results as the sleeper struggles to inhale through the obstructed passageway.

  • Central sleep apnea

Central sleep apnea is caused by the brain failing to transmit the proper signals to breathe during sleep. The sleeper either stops breathing, or takes such shallow breaths that he or she can’t get enough air into the lungs.

  • Complex sleep apnea

This condition is a mix of both obstructive and central sleep apnea.

Any of these forms of sleep apnea will cause a miserable night’s sleep. Sufferers actually stop breathing for a brief time. To start breathing properly again, our bodies move from the deep sleep we need to restore our physical and mental health to shallow sleep or even momentary wakefulness. And these disruptive episodes can happen dozens of times an hour, all night long. You might think you have gotten a full night’s sleep, while in reality you are suffering from sleep deprivation.

When you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, the immediate consequences are easy to see and hear. Loud snoring, choking, constant drowsiness—you (and your loved ones) suffer from these symptoms night and day. But the hidden consequences of this disorder are even more dangerous. Sleep apnea has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and strokes. It can cause memory problems, depression, and mood changes. Loss of focus and slow reflexes can lead to accidents. Complications from general anesthetics and medications can also become a serious risk.

Snoring is not the only symptom of sleep apnea. If you notice that you often wake up with a sore throat, a dry mouth, or a headache, have difficulty going to sleep at night or staying awake during the day, can’t concentrate,  or constantly feel irritable—you should consider the possibility that you suffer from sleep apnea. Talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at our Anchorage, AK office. We can recommend options that will have you once again sleeping soundly in your bed, waking up refreshed and healthy. And that is a big deal.

Warning Signs of Impacted Wisdom Teeth

March 13th, 2019

When your wisdom teeth start to emerge it can definitely be painful, but it can be even worse if your wisdom teeth become impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth are trying to erupt but are unable to do so because there is not sufficient room for them to emerge. This usually means that your wisdom teeth are painfully lodged in your jawbone.

While you may not see any real signs of the emerging wisdom teeth when they are impacted, what you can’t see can still definitely hurt you. Some of the indicators of impacted wisdom teeth are listed below.

  • Jaw Pain: Pain in the back of your jaw is a common indicator of impacted wisdom teeth. The pain often concentrates in the area around your gums.
  • Changes in the Mouth: You may notice some changes in your mouth when you have impacted wisdom teeth. Reddish gums, swelling in the jaw, bleeding gums, and bad breath can all be indicators that you are dealing with impacted wisdom teeth.
  • Headaches: If you suddenly start having headaches, especially at the same time as some of the other issues mentioned above, they may indicate impacted wisdom teeth.
  • Chewing Issues: Problems with chewing normally can indicate impacted wisdom teeth. If you are having trouble making the chewing motions because your mouth won’t quite open and close as easily as it used to, impacted wisdom teeth may be the culprit.

The Solution

If you are suffering from impacted wisdom teeth, the best solution is usually going to be removal. This is not a problem that will resolve naturally, and in fact, your pain and other symptoms may worsen as your wisdom teeth become increasingly impacted. At Pediatric Dental Associates, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can review the details of wisdom teeth removal surgery with you and help you determine if this is the best solution for your situation.

Is Charcoal Teeth Whitening Safe?

March 6th, 2019

Health and beauty trends surface on the web every day, and it can be difficult to tell which ones are worth your time, or even safe, for that matter. Perhaps one of the biggest dental trends recently on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram has been teeth whitening through brushing with activated charcoal.

Unfortunately, charcoal whitening isn’t everything the Internet makes it out to be. Activated charcoal isn’t what you use to grill at a summer barbecue; it’s an oxidized substance made from peat, coal, wood, coconut shell or petroleum heated with a gas.

Toxins and surface stains can cling to charcoal due to its adhesive qualities, which is why some people declare it’s perfect for removing discoloration on teeth. Although it may show quick results initially, charcoal is nothing more than a temporary solution.

The abrasive texture may roughen up enamel, which will make it easier for future stains to stick to the surface of your teeth. They may show stains shortly after you use charcoal on them, and may become even more discolored than before.

It’s crucial to emphasize the results of damaged tooth enamel because it cannot replenish itself, which means any damage is permanent. People with receding gums or sensitive teeth especially should steer clear of charcoal because it can make brushing too harsh and worsen sensitivity.

Long-time use can deplete enamel, which over time exposes dentin: the soft, yellowish layer in the tooth. This puts you at a higher risk for cavities, tooth discoloration, and complicated dental problems such as periodontal disease in the future.

The American Dental Association does not approve of charcoal as a safe means for whitening teeth. If you do choose to use it, do so with caution.

Charcoal should be used once every other week at the most, even if your teeth feel fine. The only proven ways to whiten teeth safely are with ADA-approved whitening products or in-office bleaching treatments overseen by a dental professional.

Before you begin any whitening treatment at home, consult with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous to make sure your teeth won’t be harmed in the process. If you are already experiencing sensitivity, stop charcoal use immediately and make an appointment with our office right away.

If you have questions about whitening or want to schedule an in-office whitening treatment, feel free to give our Anchorage, AK office a call today!

The Many Types of Sedation Dentistry

February 27th, 2019

There are many reasons to choose sedation dentistry. Perhaps anxiety is an issue, or your teeth are extremely sensitive. You may have a low pain threshold, an easily triggered gag reflex, or need a lot of work done in one visit. If you think sedation dentistry might be right for you, this procedure is something we are happy to discuss before your appointment at our Anchorage, AK office.

Because your concerns and condition are unique, we will tailor your sedation to fit your specific needs. We will take a careful health history to make sure whatever medication is used is safe for you, and will not interact with your other medications or affect any medical conditions. The three most common methods of sedation include:

Our experience and training allow us to recommend a method that is specifically designed for your needs. If you would like to remain completely aware, but feel less anxious, if you would like deep sedation through the entire procedure, or if you want something in between, talk to us about your options. Whatever the reason you choose sedation dentistry, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team are here to provide you with a skilled and safe sedation experience.

What is a cavity?

February 20th, 2019

Cavities are the reason why most people fear going to the dentist. But they’re also the reason you should be visiting Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous on a regular basis.

Specifically, cavities are the breakdown of teeth caused by acid from food, bacteria, and plaque that inhabit the inside of the mouth. While many people simply think that cavities only form on top of a tooth, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates want you to know they can actually form on the sides along the gum line and between the teeth, too. This acid will eat away at the tooth, forming a soft hole.

Anybody, either children and adults, can get cavities. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the U.S. alone about 16 percent of all children ages six to 19 have untreated cavities, and about 24 percent of adults 20 to 64 years old have them. This is detrimental to overall oral health, because cavities have a tendency to grow over time, potentially spreading to other teeth and causing increased oral pain, possibly even affecting the nerve.

That's why it's important to ensure that you're visiting Pediatric Dental Associates at least once every six months, so that cavities can be found and filled before they become too problematic and painful. Typically, they're found by doing a routine teeth cleaning, though X-rays or further examination may be necessary to determine the full extent of a cavity. Cavities are treated by removing the area of the tooth where decay has set in and rebuilding the tooth with a metal filling. If the cavity is too large, however, more extreme measures may be necessary, such as placing a crown or performing a root canal.

As we noted above, cavities are why people dread going to the dentist, but also the reason everyone should see the dentist every six months. Additionally, brushing twice daily, flossing, and cutting down on sugar-packed foods can reduce the risk of developing cavities.

For more information on how to best care for your teeth and why it's important to visit the dentist twice a year, please give us a call at our convenient Anchorage, AK office today!

The Start of Valentine’s Day

February 13th, 2019

Valentine’s Day, also known as Saint Valentine’s Day, has been said to originate with a Catholic priest named Valentine several thousand year ago. Valentine defied the emperor at the time by secretly marrying men and their brides after the emperor had made it illegal to marry. Emperor Claudius II did this because he wanted as many single young men to fight in his war as he could get.

Valentine disobeyed the emperor’s edict by continuing to marry couples until he was sentenced to death. Before his execution, he sent a letter to a secret love and signed it “From your Valentine.” Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team have come up with some suggestions on how you can celebrate this Valentine’s Day, whether you have a valentine of your own or not.

Valentine's Day Ideas

  • Enjoy a tasty treat. There are plenty of options when it comes to cooking and/or baking on Valentine’s Day. Make your significant other his or her favorite meal or sweet treat, or make your own favorite dish to enjoy on this day. Oh, and be sure to make enough for leftovers!
  • Make a personalized card. Instead of buying a card from the grocery store, take the time to make your own for a loved one. People love handwritten notes, especially when it’s from someone special. If you’re single this Valentine’s Day, make a card for fellow single friend to brighten the day and remind the person that he or she is also loved.
  • Watch a movie. We all know there are plenty of romance movies out there. Put on your favorite romantic comedy, or pick up your significant other’s favorite movie to watch together. Even better, if you’re single, pick up your own favorite movies to watch to pass the time this Valentine’s Day.
  • Do nothing! We all know Valentine’s Day can sometimes get a lot of hype. If you’re worried about not making a reservation in time, don’t feel like planning an extravagant night out, or simply not in the holiday mood this year, spend your day sitting back and relaxing.

Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate love and spend quality hours with the people you care about the most. Whether you’re in a relationship or single, take some time today to appreciate those you love in your life.

We wish you a happy Valentine’s Day celebration and look forward to seeing you at our Anchorage, AK office during your next appointment.

What is a water pick and do I need one?

February 6th, 2019

Water picks, sometimes called “oral irrigators,” make an excellent addition to your regular home care regimen of brushing and flossing. Especially helpful to those who suffer from periodontal disease and those patients of ours undergoing orthodontic treatment with full-bracketed braces, water picks use powerful tiny bursts of water to dislodge food scraps, bacteria, and other debris nestled in the crevices of your mouth. Children undergoing orthodontic treatment may find using a water pick is beneficial if their toothbrush bristles tend to get caught on their wires or brackets.

When you use a water pick, you’re not only dislodging any particles or debris and bacteria you might have missed when brushing, you are also gently massaging the gums, which helps promote blood flow in the gums and keeps them healthy. While water picks are an excellent addition to your daily fight against gingivitis and other periodontal diseases, they are incapable of fully removing plaque, which is why Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates want to remind you to keep brushing and flossing every day.

If you have sensitive teeth or gums and find it uncomfortable to floss daily, water picks are a good alternative to reduce discomfort while effectively cleaning between teeth. Diabetics sometimes prefer water picks to flossing because they don't cause bleeding of the gums, which can be a problem with floss. If you have a permanent bridge, crowns, or other dental restoration, you may find that a water pick helps you keep the area around the restorations clean.

So how do you choose the right water pick?

Water picks are available for home or portable use. The home versions tend to be larger and use standard electrical outlets, while portable models use batteries. Aside from the size difference, they work in the same manner, both using pulsating water streams. A more crucial difference between water picks is the ability to adjust the pressure. Most home models will let you choose from several pressure settings, depending on how sensitive your teeth and gums are. Most portable models have only one pressure setting. If you want to use mouthwash or a dental rinse in your water pick, check the label first; some models suggest using water only.

Please give us a call at our Anchorage, AK office if you have any questions about water picks, or ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous during your next visit!

Caring for Your Cat’s Dental Health

January 30th, 2019

While you make sure your family is getting the best care possible, with regular dental checkups and cleanings at our Anchorage, AK office, there is one family member that might be hiding under the bed when it’s time for tooth care. Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition affecting adult cats—and it is completely preventable!

Periodontal disease starts when the bacteria in your pet’s mouth form plaque. The plaque can harden into tartar, and, if plaque and tartar spread under the gum line, can be responsible for a number of serious problems. Tooth loss, tissue damage, bone loss, and infection can be the result of periodontal disease. Professional dental treatment is important if your cat is suffering from periodontal disease, and your vet can describe the options available to you.

But, like with humans, prevention is the best way to assure these problems never develop, and there are several methods for avoiding plaque and tartar build-up.

Brushing: Yes, there are toothbrushes and toothpastes specifically designed for your cat! If a toothbrush is not working for you or your pet, there are cat-sized finger brushes available as well. Daily brushing is most effective, but try for at least several times each week. The process of introducing brushing should be a slow and gentle one, and seafood and poultry flavored pastes make the process more palatable. (Human toothpaste is not good for your cat due to its abrasiveness, and swallowing the foam might pose a danger to your pet.)

Anti-plaque rinses and gels: If despite your gentle persistence your cat simply will not cooperate with brushing, there are other options! Rinses and gels containing Chlorhexidine are effective and do not usually pose a problem for pets—although they might not take to the flavor. Rinses can be squirted inside each cheek or gels can be applied to the teeth with a toothbrush or finger brush. Talk to your vet to find the safest and most effective products.

Diet: Whether they use a particular shape and texture to simulate brushing or an anti-tartar ingredient, several pet foods claim to reduce the accumulation of plaque and tartar. Your vet is the best resource for nutritional suggestions to make sure your cat’s dental and physical diet is as healthy as it can be.

Whether you try brushing, rinses, gels or a tooth-friendly diet, patience and a gentle touch are the best way to introduce dental hygiene. Talk to your vet at your cat’s next checkup, and find out what you can do to keep your feline friend healthy and happy. An ounce of prevention might be worth a pound of purr!

Eco-Friendly Toothbrushes

January 23rd, 2019

When it comes to dental hygiene, “going green” is not the first phrase that comes to mind. But if you are brushing properly, you are also replacing your toothbrush every three to four months as the bristles become frayed and wear down. Sure, that’s a tiny amount of plastic from each of us going to our landfills, yet it adds up to millions of brushes a year nationally. If you are concerned about reducing your carbon footprint while reducing your risk of cavities, there are several new toothbrushes designed to make brushing more eco-friendly.

Biodegradable Toothbrushes

Some brushes claim to be completely compostable. These models generally have heads fitted with boar bristles and handles manufactured from sustainable woods or bamboo. Boar bristles aren’t for everyone. Some users complain of the taste of the bristles, and boar bristles might be harsher than the soft bristles we recommend to protect both enamel and gums. There is also some concern about bacteria growth on organic bristles.

Earth-friendly Handles and Bristles

If you prefer the consistency and texture of regular synthetic bristles, you can still opt for a brush with a handle of sustainable wood or bamboo. You can also select PBA-free bristles, bristles made primarily of castor oil, or bristles that use natural ingredients in combination with synthetics.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

If these exotic brushes aren’t for you, there are more conventional choices that will save energy and cut down on waste.

  • Reduce the amount of electricity you use for your electric toothbrush with a model that requires less charging time.
  • Reuse your toothbrush by buying one with a handle made of metal, natural materials or plastic and replace the detachable head every three months.
  • Recycled plastics can be found in the handles of some toothbrushes, and many brushes come in recyclable packaging. Every bit helps!

If you decide to use one of these green products, remember that your dental health is still the primary goal. Be sure the bristles of your brush are soft enough to protect your gums and enamel and can reach all the places you need to brush. The handle should be easy to grip and the head should be a comfortable fit for your mouth. It’s always best to choose products with a seal of acceptance from your local dental association, or talk to us about greener alternatives during your next visit to our Anchorage, AK office. Luckily, there are several workable options to protect the health of your family's teeth while still being mindful of the health of our planet.

Electric Toothbrushes vs. Regular Toothbrushes

January 16th, 2019

Convertible or sedan? Downtown or suburbs? Electric or manual toothbrush? As life decisions go, it’s certainly not choosing your next car, or deciding where you want to live. But, even when you are selecting a toothbrush, it helps to make a list of the pros and cons of the contenders before you make that final selection.

  • Efficiency

The most important factor in choosing a toothbrush is finding out which model works best to eliminate bacteria and plaque. And studies have shown that, used properly, both electric and manual toothbrushes do a great job of removing plaque. Some electric models can reach the backs of teeth and the gumline more easily, some manual head designs work better for your individual mouth and teeth, so your particular needs should dictate which style of toothbrush you use. Talk to us about the best methods to brush with your preferred toothbrush, and we’ll let you know if one type of toothbrush or the other might work better for you.

  • Health Considerations

Brushing too energetically can actually harm teeth and gums, causing sensitivity and damage to the enamel and gum tissue. 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.

An electric toothbrush can also be more efficient for older and younger brushers, those with limited mobility, and those with health conditions or injuries that make brushing with a regular toothbrush more difficult.

  • Cost

An electric toothbrush is not a one-time investment. You should change the removable head as often as you change your manual toothbrush (every three to four months, please). But this cost is offset if an electric toothbrush is more efficient in removing your plaque, easier to use, or even if you just prefer it to manual brushing. If you find that you brush better and more often with an electric toothbrush, the added expense is well worth it.

Whichever brush you decide on, the most important part of the brush is the person holding it! A regular appointment with your toothbrush for two minutes of thorough brushing in the morning and two in the evening, daily flossing, and regular visits to our office for checkups and cleanings will keep your teeth healthy and strong no matter which toothbrush you choose.

Questions about your toothbrush choices? Don’t hesitate to ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at our Anchorage, AK office.

Been a While? Come See Us!

January 9th, 2019

Guilt is a powerful feeling. It can keep you from doing many things, including going to the dentist. The good news is that Pediatric Dental Associates is a judgement-free zone, and coming back (even after an extended period of being MIA) can be easier than you think. Our goal is to make you as comfortable as possible during your first appointment back with us — so here’s a little overview of what you can expect.

We’ll start with a series of dental X-rays, which are usually taken every three to five years. The set of X-rays will depend on your individual needs and it will help us get a more thorough look at what’s going on with your dental structure and keep an eye out for any prominent dental issues.

Next up will be your hygiene appointment. That appointment will consist of a review of your medical history and be followed by a thorough cleaning of your teeth. This is the perfect time to share concerns you may have about your oral health and ask us questions.

You’ll finish up with a comprehensive exam, which will review everything you covered with the hygienist. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will go over your medical history with you and address any dental concerns that might remain. If any special treatment is needed for such issues as cavities or broken fillings, we will discuss that with you as well.

Once all that is done, you’ll head over to the front desk to talk about payment and scheduling your next appointment. And that’s it! Your first visit back is an important step toward continuing to look out for your dental health.

Just because you slacked for a little while or life got in the way, this doesn’t mean things have to stay that way! We’re happy to help you get you back on track, so schedule an appointment at our Anchorage, AK office today!

Smile, the New Year is Almost Here!

January 2nd, 2019

We’ve been celebrating the new year for a really, really long time. It goes way back, but it started formally in 1582, when Pope George XIII made January 1st the official holiday for ushering in the new year. The idea was to yell, cheer, and blow horns to scare away all the evil spirits of the previous year with the hope that the new one would be filled with happiness and opportunity.

While scaring away evil spirits isn’t what’s on our mind these days, we still ring in the New Year by cheering and hollering with friends and family. It’s a time to set new goals, refocus on old ones, and look forward to all the surprises the coming year will bring.

Whether you’re saying hello to the New Year snuggled up at home on your couch in the Anchorage, AK area or by gathering your friends for a social celebration, here are some tips to help ensure you welcome this new chapter with a smile.

Tips for a great New Year’s Eve celebration from Pediatric Dental Associates

  • Stay safe. This one’s vital, because nothing puts a damper on your party like an emergency trip to the hospital. Stay responsible and try to plan ahead, whether that means taking a taxi, staying with a friend, or recruiting a designated driver. Do what you have to do to keep yourself and everyone around you safe.
  • Spend time with the people you love most. The way we see it, the whole point of the holiday season is to cherish your family and friends. Regardless of what you’re doing, make sure there’s something for everyone. It’s essential to do something the whole group will enjoy!
  • Smile! Whether you get all dressed to go out or have a quiet gathering with family and friends, make sure you accessorize with a smile. There’s always something to smile about!

We can all agree that change can be scary sometimes, but ringing in the New Year is an observance we all welcome with open arms. We hope you’ll enjoy this transitional holiday in a fun, healthy, and safe way. You have endless possibilities ahead of you!

From Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous, have a fantastic New Year!

Considerations When Picking the Right Mouthwash

December 26th, 2018

A solid oral health routine begins with daily brushing, flossing, and rinsing. Without a consistent oral health regimen, you may begin to experience tooth decay and bacterial infections. Few patients ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about different mouthwash options, so we’ve put together a list of the conditions that mouthwashes can treat. This should help you decide which oral rinse would be best for you.

Gum Health

Antiseptic mouthwashes reduce large amounts of bacteria on and near the gum line and generally help to decrease your chances of developing gingivitis. The key ingredients of antiseptic mouthwashes are antibacterial and antimicrobial items. Antiseptic mouthwash is a preferable option if you are concerned about the general gum health of your mouth.

Fluoride

Fluoride is a great tool for preventive tooth decay treatment. It prevents tooth decay and is great for oral health in general because it kills germs that can live in your mouth. Fluoride also builds stronger teeth. If you’re a bottled water drinker, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous may recommend that you purchase a simple fluoride rinse to use after brushing.

Bad Breath

Fluoride mouthwash can be used to fight any bad breath issues you may be facing. It’s designed to combat any bacteria that might be building up in your mouth. Most mouthwashes will help eliminate bad breath, but some are specifically designed to address this difficult problem. If you feel as though this might be turning into a chronic problem, please contact Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous to discuss other options that would be effective for treating your symptoms.

American Dental Association (ADA Approval)

The ADA reviews all mouth rinses for safety measures and to prove effectiveness. Any mouthwash approved by the ADA has met strict guidelines according to whether the manufacturer’s claims are supported with scientific evidence. If you’re looking for a quality mouthwash, look for one that has the ADA seal of approval to ensure you have a great rinse for your mouth.

Considerations

When you’re trying to decide which mouthwash to pick, contact our Anchorage, AK or ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous during your next appointment. If you experience a burning sensation in the soft tissues of your mouth, be sure to discontinue use immediately. Avoid letting children under age six use a mouth rinse, and be sure to keep all mouthwashes out of the reach of children, because they contain alcohol and other substances that could be harmful.

Airplane Oral Health Tips

December 19th, 2018

What’s in your carry-on bag? You’ve got your passport, ticket, and currency, but what about dental floss? Of course! You’re preparing for the trip of a lifetime, and we want to help make sure everything goes according to plan.

Part of your preparation before a long vacation should be a complete check-up at our Anchorage, AK office well in advance of your trip. If there is dental work to be done, now is the time to do it. No one wants to be stuck over the Atlantic with a toothache, and changes in atmospheric pressure can cause serious problems if you have a severely compromised tooth. Tell us when you are planning on traveling, and we can schedule any procedures that should be finished before you fly.

Now that you have the all clear to travel, what about maintenance once you’re on board for a long flight? Some airlines provide toothpaste and brushes for travelers. If you have questions about the quality of the water in the airplane restroom, use bottled water to brush. There are also single-use mini-brushes available for travelers that come loaded with paste and ready to use without any water at all. Crisp fruits and vegetables can help clean teeth on-flight if brushing isn’t an option, and drinking plenty of water will not only keep you hydrated, but help cleanse your mouth and teeth as well. Be sure to travel with floss, a travel-sized tube of toothpaste, and a brush in a well-ventilated container in case you face airport delays between flights.

Taking your electric toothbrush with you? Usually there is no problem bringing your electric toothbrush in your carry-on, but do check in advance to make sure this is allowed on your flight. Most electric toothbrushes have region-specific battery chargers, so find out in advance if you will need a voltage converter or plug adaptor if you are visiting another country. Check to make sure the head is in good condition before you go and replace it if necessary.

Once you’ve landed, try to keep your dental routine as close to normal as possible while you enjoy your visit. Regular brushing and flossing are still necessary, especially if you take the opportunity to explore the local desserts. We’ve given you some tips to make your flight more comfortable—now that you’ve reached your dream destination, the rest is up to you!

Make Brushing Teeth Fun!

December 12th, 2018

It’s understandable that kids would rather be playing outside or watching their favorite movie instead of doing a “boring” task like brushing their teeth. But there are ways to make brushing fun for your son or daughter, and encourage healthy oral hygiene habits early on! Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team have a few tricks that may help.

Game time

What child doesn’t love a good game? Try to turn brushing time into a game, whether by playing hide-and-seek or singing your child’s favorite song while he or she brushes for two minutes.

Kids also love rewards, so awarding them stickers after a good brushing can encourage them to do a good job every time. You might even tell your child that five stickers will earn a special treat or fun activity at the end of the week.

Fun accessories

Lots of toothbrush options can add something exciting to your child’s daily brushing routine. Toothbrushes that light up tend to be a popular choice with young kids. The same goes for toothbrushes shaped like your child’s favorite animal or cartoon character.

Teaching your kids about how long they should brush each time can also be fun. Let them have the special responsibility of setting a timer for two minutes before they start to brush.

The Great Toothpaste Experiment

Lots of kids can be picky eaters and that can the case with toothpaste flavors. Set aside a time to sample several different flavors, the way they’ve probably tried various flavors at the ice cream shop! Just make sure to be very clear that they shouldn’t swallow the toothpaste.

With your help, your child can easily develop healthy brushing habits over time. If you can find ways to make it fun, it can be an enjoyable experience for both of you!

Call Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at our Anchorage, AK office for more fun tips or to make an appointment today!

What are dental implants?

December 5th, 2018

Do you have a space where a tooth used to be? Were you born with a missing tooth? Are you getting ready for dentures? You may be a good candidate for a dental implant. Metal dental implants were invented in 1965. Technology continues to advance with millions of implants placed in the United States and Canada. Placing implants has become mainstream and a common practice for offices like ours.

A dental implant is a small titanium post, which resembles a screw with threads. The post also has holes for bone to integrate. A dental implant is placed into the jawbone during a short dental procedure. It is relatively painless with very little post-operative pain. The threads on the implant post allow for the bone to fill in and integrate. To facilitate this process the implant is re-covered with gum tissue and allowed to heal and integrate for nearly three months. The implant acts as the root for the tooth to provide solid and stable support for the crown that’s yet to be placed.

The next step in the dental procedure is to uncover the implant and place a healing cap to allow the gum tissue to heal. After a short period of healing, an impression is taken to fabricate a crown to fully restore the missing tooth. The crown is then cemented on top of the post, at which point you can resume normal eating activities.

Dental implants do require some special care, but that is easily managed when you follow the directions outlined by Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous. During your regularly scheduled cleaning, special instruments are used to clean implants. While a dental implant cannot get a cavity, a condition known as peri-implantitis can occur. This is very similar to periodontal disease as the end result is dental implant loss and loss of bone structure. Be sure to floss the dental implant daily and run the floss under the implant crown as far as it can go to remove food and plaque. If you use any picks or small brushes to go in between your teeth, make sure they are plastic. Metal will scratch the implant making it more susceptible to infection. Be sure to keep your regular dental visits and cleanings to monitor the implant and help preserve your investment.

Are you nervous about seeing the dentist? You’re not alone!

November 28th, 2018

With advances in modern dentistry, a trip to Pediatric Dental Associates these days is pretty routine. But visiting Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team still makes some patients anxious—so much so that they don’t go as often as they should and end up with costly complications down the road, such as tooth decay or gum disease.

When it comes to dental care, prevention is the best medicine. And that begins with regular checkups and dental cleanings at our convenient Anchorage, AK office. Today, we thought we would offer five tips for taking the pain out of a visit to see Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous:

1. Ask yourself: What are you most afraid of? Is it the sound of the drill? Do you have needle phobia? Have you been traumatized by previous dental visits? Write down your fears, one by one and talk about them during your visit.

2. Don’t wait. The more frequently your visit our office, the less work will need to be done at any given visit. Simply having your teeth cleaned professionally by Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous twice a year prevents many, if not most, problems down the road.

3. Bring a distraction such as music to your appointment. Just plug in those earphones, close your eyes, and get lost in the music. Listening to tunes can also be a pain killer.

4. Unwind. Inhaling slowly and counting to five helps. Try holding your breath for ten seconds, then exhale slowly to the count of eight, and repeat as needed.

5. Ask us. Before any given procedure, we encourage you to ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous or one of our assistants why we’re using the tools we’re using. Ask us what we’re doing, what the tool is used for, and how it benefits you. Also, please ask about anti-anxiety medications we may prescribe to help you relax during your appointment.

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.

Remember, you’re not alone. We understand that going to the dentist isn’t easy for everyone. In fact, the Journal of the American Dental Association estimates that as many as 12 percent of adults suffer from dental anxiety so bad that they avoid the dentist altogether. Many more suffer from varying degrees of dental anxiety, which often results in poor oral health.

If you suffer from dental anxiety, your fears don’t have to keep you from seeing Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous. Our patients at Pediatric Dental Associates are our most important asset, and we strive to create a comfortable experience, no matter how long it has been since your last visit at our Anchorage, AK office. We hope to see you soon!

Dental Filling Options

November 21st, 2018

You’ve made an appointment at our Anchorage, AK office to treat your cavity, the decayed area has been removed, and the site has been cleaned and prepared for a filling. Now it’s decision time. What kind of filling should you choose? Well, that depends. There are durability, aesthetic, and price considerations involved in any of your choices, so let’s look at some options before you decide.

Gold

This is a classic choice for a reason. Gold is very durable and can last longer than fillings made from other materials. Because they are crafted from precious metal, gold fillings are more expensive than other alternatives. They are also most often indirect fillings—that is, they are not immediately placed in a tooth, but are formed based on a mold of your tooth taken on your first visit and set in position on a second visit. A gold filling is also noticeable, which can be a matter of concern or a style statement!

Metal Amalgam

An amalgam is a mixture, and an amalgam filling is usually composed of several metallic elements, including silver, tin, copper, and mercury. This filling is also very durable and is one of the most cost-effective choices. Its silver color does not blend into the tooth, so visibility is a factor. Amalgam fillings are considered a safe option, but, if you wonder about potential metal allergies or the amount and kind of mercury involved, we will be happy to discuss your concerns. One possible drawback to amalgam fillings is that sometimes more tooth structure needs to be removed to accommodate them, so this is also a subject we can discuss.

Composite Resins

These fillings are often selected because they are both durable and almost invisible when the color is matched to your tooth. Made of acrylic resin and powdered glass, a composite filling is what is called a “direct filling”—one that can be completed and bonded to the tooth in one visit. These are often more expensive than amalgam fillings, but might be preferable for cosmetic reasons, especially when a front tooth is involved. They also need less tooth structure removed to accommodate them and can be better bonded to small excavations than some other options. They can be prone to staining over time.

Ceramic

Ceramic fillings have the virtue of being virtually undetectable. They can be color-matched to your teeth for a seamless look, and are more stain-resistant than composite fillings. They are also a more expensive option, and, like gold fillings, can involve a two-phase process with a filling molded to fit the excavation site placed in your tooth on a second visit.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team are happy to discuss all of your options before it is time to treat your cavity, since there are a number of factors which might impact your decision. A molar will require a more durable filling than a front tooth, while being less visible when you smile or speak. Insurance plans might pay for only a portion of a filling’s cost if it is more expensive than an amalgam, or will pay for a composite filling only if it is in a visible location. We can help you decide which filling best fits all your needs, providing you with the healthy and beautiful smile you deserve!

What exactly is periodontal disease?

November 14th, 2018

Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. Our team at Pediatric Dental Associates wants you to know that this common ailment can be fixed with little worry if treated properly.

Periodontal disease is usually identified through dental X-rays, probe depths, and visual exams. If left untreated, it can lead to tooth sensitivity, premature tooth loss, or discomfort and pain in your mouth. Some common symptoms to watch for include bleeding or swollen gums, bad breath, teeth movement, or jaw displacement.

Factors that may increase your risk of developing periodontal disease may include poor oral hygiene, smoking/chewing tobacco, genetics, stress, inadequate nutrition, pregnancy, diabetes, and some medications. Some of these causes are avoidable, but others are not.

If you have diabetes, you may be more prone to periodontal disease due to the greater difficulty in controlling blood glucose levels. Studies have shown that once periodontal disease is treated, glucose levels become more responsive to control as well. If your risk for periodontal disease is heightened by one of these factors, make sure to watch for the signs and keep up with your daily oral hygiene routine.

How can you treat this common disease that affects almost half of the population? Depending on the severity, treatment can include a medicated mouth rinse, antibiotic treatment, laser therapy, or scaling and root planing. It’s useful to recall that this condition can vary from mild to severe, which is why you should make an appointment at our Anchorage, AK office if you notice any of the above symptoms.

 

DIY Cures for Bad Breath

November 7th, 2018

Are you afraid to open your mouth because you have bad breath? You’re not alone bad breath or Halitosis happens to everyone, at one time or another. If you have chronic bad breath there could be a number of reasons, including:

  • Gum disease
  • Sinus problems
  • Bacterial infection in your mouth
  • Stress
  • Strong odor from something you ate
  • Dry mouth

The good news is, none of the causes of bad breath are serious, and they can all be treated. There is a long list of DIY home remedies that have proven effective. Before you try any of them you should be evaluated by Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous to make sure you do not have a serious oral infection. Of course, you should also always practice good oral hygiene. If you go a week without brushing your teeth, your bad breath is going to be horrible!

1. Cinnamon Mouthwash

Cinnamon is known to help prevent bacteria in your mouth, and lemon has strong citrus properties that will eliminate your bad breath problem.

Preparation

  • Put a half teaspoon of cinnamon in a jar or bottle that has tight fitting lid.
  • Next add the juice from two lemons freshly squeezed lemons.
  • Combine all of the ingredients in a cup of lukewarm water and pour into your jar.
  • Shake the jar well and set it aside for two to three hours.
  • Before using the mouthwash always shake it well.
  • Gargle and swish one to two tablespoons of the mouthwash for about a minute

2. Tea

Black and green tea are beneficial in prevent bad breath. Black tea aids in controlling plaque and bacteria that can cause bad breath. Green tea contains antibacterial properties that fight off the natural occurring germs in your mouth, keeping your breath fresh. Both black and green tea contains polyphenol, a property that can prevent the formation of the foul odor caused by bacterial growth.

Preparation

  • Steep a black of green tea bag in one cup of hot water and drink one to two cups a day to keep your bad breath away.

3. Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil contains natural antiseptic and anti-fungal properties that help kill bacteria and fungi in your mouth, caused by particles of food left behind.

Preparation

  • You will need one teaspoon of tea tree oil, peppermint oil, and lemon oil.
  • Combine all three in eight ounces of lukewarm water and stir well. Use daily as a mouthwash to get rid of your bad breath.

Nitrous Oxide

October 31st, 2018

Nitrous oxide is a gaseous sedative that’s inhaled through a small mask placed over the nose. Often referred to as laughing gas — because of the euphoric effects it produces — nitrous is used in our Anchorage, AK office for its anesthetic/analgesic properties.

It will make it so you don’t feel the pain of dental treatment or have an experience that some patients may find traumatic.

Nitrous oxide’s use in the dental field dates back to about the mid-1800s, but when it was introduced, practitioners didn't understand the need to add oxygen. These days all nitrous oxide is administered with at least 30% oxygen for safety (so it forms the compound N2O-O2).

If you need any form of dental treatment, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous may find it necessary to administer nitrous oxide. Some of the effects you may experience while you’re sedated include:

  • Lightheadedness, tingling in the arms and legs, followed by a warm or comforting sensation
  • A euphoric feeling or feeling like you are floating
  • Inability to keep your eyes open, so it seems as if you’re asleep

If at any time you feel uncomfortable, irritated, or sick, let Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous know, so the percentage of nitrous oxide being used can be adjusted. The effects dissipate quickly once you return to breathing regular air.

It’s best to be informed about all aspects of your dental treatment before you arrive. There are alternatives to nitrous oxide, so if you’re at all concerned, please don’t hesitate to ask questions about other options for sedation.

Analgesic (numbing) injections can often be used locally at the surgical site. We’ll find what works best for your particular case.

How many times a day should I floss?

October 24th, 2018

Flossing is one of the most important parts of your oral care routine. Many patients know they need to do it but find it difficult to fit into their busy lives. Well, here's the good news: flossing once a day is enough if you're doing a good job!

Some patients like to brush before they floss and others like to floss before they brush. Some like to floss in the morning when they have more energy, others like to floss at night so they can go to bed with a clean mouth. Don't get hung up on any of this, the important thing is that you floss and floss effectively no matter when you do it.

Effective flossing contributes to oral health in these ways:

  • It reduces the chance of cavities between teeth, since cavities can only form on teeth covered with dental plaque and you're scraping that plaque away when you floss.
  • Along with brushing, it reduces the amount of time the plaque is left on your teeth, allowing them to be in a state of healing and remineralization for longer.
  • It removes plaque that accumulates at or below the gum line, aiding in the prevention of gum disease.

As you can see, flossing offers many benefits for such a simple and inexpensive technique. So if you're still wondering how much to floss, don't worry about it. Don't mistake the frequency of your flossing with the effectiveness of it. Choose a dental floss that you like and one time during the day when you can floss thoroughly and just do it! If you need more tips on how to floss correctly, ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous or any member of our Anchorage, AK team—we'd be glad to help you pick up this healthy habit!

Questions on Dental Implants? We’ve Got You Covered.

October 17th, 2018

Whether you’ve lost a tooth from decay, are preparing for dentures, or were born with a gap where a tooth should have been, you could be a candidate for dental implants.

Dental implants have changed a lot since their debut in 1965, thanks to continuing advances in design and technology. Today, you no longer have to worry about whether dental implants might have a negative aesthetic impact on your smile.

So what are dental implants? Pretty much what they sound like: An implant is a replacement tooth that substitutes for a missing natural one. It gets placed through several steps; it’s a process that can take a few months.

The initial step involves the surgical implantation of the implant root, which resembles a small screw. After that’s placed, the top is covered with gum tissue to enable it to heal faster. This is an essential phase in the process, since this portion of the implant will serve as the base of support for everything else.

In the second step, the implant gets uncovered and an implant restoration (or crown) is created and affixed to it. After that, you’ve got yourself a new tooth!

While dental implants require a little special care, it’s all easily manageable. All you have to do at home is make sure you brush and floss your implant daily, the same as you would for any other tooth. Although an implant can’t develop a cavity, if something were to get stuck in it, that could lead to a gum infection.

If you have any other questions about dental implants, give our Anchorage, AK office a call!

Top Five Best Foods for Oral Health

October 10th, 2018

Some foods are just terrible for your teeth — think cookies and candy bars — but there are certain foods that are beneficial to your oral health. Below, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team have covered five of the top foods to keep your teeth and gums healthy!

1. Crispy, low-acid fruits and vegetables: Fruits like apples and vegetables such as carrots and celery act like “natural toothbrushes,” helping to clear plaque from your teeth and freshen your breath.

2. Kiwis: These little green superstars are packed with vitamin C which is essential for gum health. The collagen in your gums is strengthened when you consume foods that are high in vitamin C, like kiwis, thus helping to prevent periodontal problems.

3. Raw onions: Onions have long been studied for their antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties. Proliferation of bacteria is what leads to tooth decay and cavities. By including raw onions in your diet, you'll be doing your part to wipe out those little microbes before they can multiply!

4. Shiitake Mushrooms: A specific compound in shiitake mushrooms, lentinan, has been shown to have antibacterial properties that target the microbes that cause cavities while leaving other beneficial bacteria alone. It may also help prevent gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums.

5. Green Tea: Often lauded for its high antioxidant content and many health benefits, it turns out green tea also benefits your oral health! A Japanese study found men who drank green tea on a regular basis had a lower occurrence of periodontal disease compared to men who drank green tea infrequently. It's believed this is due to the catechins in green tea, a type of flavonoid that may help protect you from free radical damage, but more research needs to be done. Either way, drink up for your overall health, as well as your teeth!

If you have any questions about your oral health, or are looking for even more oral health tips, contact our Anchorage, AK office!

Ask Us about These Dental Treatments

October 3rd, 2018

There are a few dental treatments that Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team recommend for all patients to get if they wish to protect their oral health. Sometimes it’s hard for patients to decide which treatment plan would be best for their teeth. Learn about these three must-have treatments and how they can help protect your teeth in various ways.

Professional Cleanings

First, get a professional dental cleaning every six months. Regular cleanings can protect you from potential gum disease because they enable us to catch it early.

Cleanings also will get rid of plaque and tartar that have collected on your teeth over time. Oral health has been linked to your body’s overall health. We recommend scheduling your appointments in advance: Feel free to contact our practice’s Anchorage, AK location if you forget when you scheduled your next visit. Our staff will be happy to assist you.

Periodontal Exams

We also recommend that all our patients at Pediatric Dental Associates receive a complete periodontal exam each year. You can ask about this during your regular, scheduled cleanings.

It’s a quick and painless procedure in which our hygienist probes each tooth to make sure the bone and soft tissue are healthy. If there’s a sign of infection, we will be able to treat it effectively before painful symptoms kick in.

Many adult patients are unaware that they have periodontal disease, and they may suffer the loss of a tooth if it goes untreated. Make sure you schedule a periodontal exam each year and save yourself a lot of time and pain.

Sealants

We also recommend dental sealants, particularly to protect your molars. Many people assume this treatment is just for kids to prevent cavities, but it can be used for adults too!

Sealants provide a protective barrier on your teeth that can help block against the buildup of plaque in those hard-to-reach areas in the back of your mouth. If you received sealants as a child, chances are they’ve worn off over time.

So if you want to save dental costs over the long haul, we recommend getting sealants again for cavity protection.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team hope you take our advice when it comes to your oral hygiene and schedule regular appointments for your dental cleanings. We look forward to seeing you at your next appointment!

Xerostomia: Big Word, Common Problem

September 26th, 2018

Xerostomia might sound like a serious and rare condition, but it’s more common than you think. If you’ve been feeling like your mouth is constantly dry, you may already be having your first encounter with it.

Xerostomia refers to when you have a dry mouth due to absent or reduced saliva flow. Now you might assume this is not a big deal, but a lack of saliva can threaten your dental health or worse, because it can be a sign of a bigger overall problem.

Some of the more common symptoms to watch for are a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, a burning sensation on the tongue, and of course, a significant lack of saliva. Because xerostomia entails a reduction in saliva, you have less of a buffer between your teeth and the food you eat, which makes you more vulnerable to cavities and tooth decay. It also means that food is more likely to get stuck in your mouth.

So what causes xerostomia? There can be many different culprits. One of the most common causes involves medication. If you’re taking antidepressants, muscle relaxers, anti-diarrhea medicine, anti-anxiety medicine, or antihistamines, this could be the reason for your xerostomia.

Dry mouth may also be a warning sign for other health issues. These can include lupus, diabetes, thyroid disease, arthritis, or hypertension. Patients that receive any kind of chemotherapy might also experience xerostomia as a side effect of their treatment.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of dry mouth, there are several things you can do:

  • This may seem obvious, but you should drink generous amounts of water. If you’re taking any of the medications known to cause xerostomia, a glass of water before and after administering the medication could be helpful.
  • Avoid heavily caffeinated drinks, since they will dehydrate you further.
  • Opt for a mouthwash that contains little to no alcohol.
  • Consume excessively sugary or acidic foods in moderation, if at all.
  • Try adding a humidifier to your room while you sleep, to add moisture to the air you’ll be breathing.

As always, stay on top of your brushing and flossing routines, and if you feel you might be suffering from xerostomia, please let Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous know during your next visit to our Anchorage, AK office. We’re happy to recommend products we’ve found to be successful in treating xerostomia.

Tooth Discoloration: Common causes and what you can do to stop it

September 19th, 2018

Looking back at childhood photos, you may notice picture after picture of yourself with a mouthful of shiny white teeth. When you look in the mirror today, you wonder what happened to that beautiful smile. Many adults struggle with tooth discoloration and find it embarrassing to show off their teeth in a smile. Once you identify the cause of your tooth discoloration, there are treatment options at Pediatric Dental Associates that can restore your teeth and your confidence.

What Causes Tooth Discoloration?

There are a host of factors that may cause your teeth to discolor. Some are directly under your control, and others may not be preventable. Here is a list of common reasons that teeth become discolored.

  • Genetics: Much of your dental health is determined by genetic factors beyond your control. Some people naturally have thinner enamel or discolored teeth.
  • Medications: Several medications lead to tooth discoloration as a side effect. If you received the common antibiotics doxycycline or tetracycline as a child, your teeth may have discolored as a consequence. Antihistamines, high blood pressure medications, and antipsychotic drugs can also discolor teeth. If you think a medication may be leading to tooth discoloration, talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous. Never discontinue the use of a medication without consulting your doctor, however.
  • Medical Conditions: Genetic conditions such as amelogenesis or dentinogenesis cause improper development of the enamel, and can lead to yellowed, discolored teeth.
  • Poor Dental Hygiene: Failing to brush your teeth at least twice a day or regularly floss may lead to tooth decay and discoloration.
  • Foods and Tobacco: Consumption of certain foods, including coffee, tea, wine, soda, apples, or potatoes, can cause tooth discoloration. Tobacco use also causes teeth to turn yellow or brown.

Treatments for Tooth Discoloration

There are a variety of treatments available to individuals with discolored teeth. One of the easiest ways to reduce tooth discoloration is through prevention. Avoid drinking red wine, soda, or coffee and stop using tobacco products. If you drink beverages that tend to leave stains, brush your teeth immediately or swish with water to reduce staining.

After determining the cause of tooth discoloration, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can suggest other treatment options. Over-the-counter whitening agents might help, but in-office whitening treatments provided at our Anchorage, AK office would be more effective. When whitening agents do not help, bondings or veneers are among the alternative solutions for tooth discoloration.

If you are worried about your teeth becoming yellow or brown, think carefully about your diet and medication use. Talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous to identify substances that may be causing the problem. After treatment for tooth discoloration, you will have a beautiful white smile you can be proud to show off.

Dental Visits Are Not So Bad

September 12th, 2018

Many people dread going to the dentist. Dental visits have the reputation of being painful and uncomfortable, and it is common for people to compare unfortunate situations such as having a root canal or feeling the dentist’s drill. However, at Pediatric Dental Associates, dental visits are not that bad.

Your regular cleaning and checkup are noninvasive. They require no drilling, Novocain, or needles, and you go home with refreshingly clean teeth. When your hygienist cleans your teeth, you are literally receiving individualized care from a professional as you sit back and relax.

In the days before the use of Novocain or other anesthetics, dental work could be painful. Thankfully, those days are gone! Now you are unlikely to feel a thing, even during the most extensive procedures. In addition, most dental work such as fillings, root canals, and crowns can be performed in one to two visits, so you do not need to keep returning to Pediatric Dental Associates.

An incentive for getting over your fear and coming to the dentist is that getting your dental work done can dramatically improve your quality of life. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can address tooth problems that have caused toothaches or prevented you from eating the foods you like. As a bonus, regular visits with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our staff allow us to identify conditions such as periodontal disease, which can indicate risk for seemingly unrelated health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Good Teeth Lead to Sporting Success

September 7th, 2018

You already know that taking care of your teeth can help prevent tooth decay and the need for extensive work such as root canals or implants, which can be inconvenient and expensive. But the benefits of good teeth can go far beyond having an attractive smile and being able to crunch carrots and chew meat.

The American Dental Association explains that healthy teeth are linked to a lower risk for heart disease and diabetes. Furthermore, recent research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine states that good teeth can improve athletic performance among elite athletes.

Researchers examined the oral health of nearly 300 athletes in 25 sports at the 2012 Olympics in London. They looked for conditions such as dental caries, gingivitis, dental erosion, and periodontal disease, and asked about recent visits to a dentist.

Study investigators also asked athletes whether their oral health interfered with quality of life or athletic training and performance. The study concluded that poor oral health and fewer dental visits led to interference with preparation for competition.

This can happen for a few reasons. Tooth pain can disrupt sleep, which leads to slower reaction times. Oral health conditions can indicate chronic inflammation in the body, which means suboptimal performances on an elite level. Tooth pain can interfere with focus during training and competition.

Unfortunately, merely taking good care of your teeth won’t turn you into an Olympic gold medalist. However, the benefits can still be worthwhile. Even if healthy teeth provide little if any detectable gain in your athletic abilities, the potential benefits of maintaining a healthy mouth clearly go far beyond an attractive smile.

Practicing good oral hygiene and seeing Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous regularly can promote your physical health, and maybe – just maybe – you will start to achieve an advantage over your weekend athletic opponents.

Top Reasons People Choose Veneers

September 5th, 2018

Dental veneers are a way to correct and transform your smile by using “contact lens”-thin shells of porcelain or ceramic material and bonding them to the front of your teeth. They are strong and durable, look and feel like natural teeth, and improve your smile immediately. Here are some of the top reasons to consider getting dental veneers.

They Correct Multiple Cosmetic Issues

Dental veneers can help with cosmetic and dental health issues, and treat multiple problems at once. Some common reasons that individuals choose veneers is to close gaps and spaces between the teeth, fix alignment issues, change the overall shape and appearance of a tooth, whiten a smile by covering stained or discolored teeth, and cover chipped or cracked teeth.

If you have teeth that are already worn down and weakened, veneers help prevent further damage by covering them with a thin, tooth-colored shell.

Durability

Dental veneers are also extremely durable. They last several years longer than traditional composite fillings. You’ll have peace of mind when you choose veneers, knowing that you’ll have your new smile for many years. On average, dental veneers last about ten to 15 years. Just like your natural teeth, when you take good care of your veneers, they last longer.

Easy to Clean and Maintain

Keeping your veneers healthy and white is easy: You simply brush and floss them the way you do all of your teeth. Shortly after having your veneers installed, you’ll begin to think of them as your natural teeth because the thin shells lie right on top of your existing teeth. This makes it easy to floss and brush the way you normally would and keep them as clean as possible.

The Process is Simple

Getting dental veneers is a quick and easy process. You have a few short visits at Pediatric Dental Associates and see results. On average, it only takes about four weeks from your first appointment to your last to complete the veneer process.

If you are considering getting dental veneers, schedule a consultation appointment with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous to find out exactly how they can benefit you.

Is there a connection between oral health and school performance?

August 29th, 2018

As a parent, you want the best for your children, and that includes doing their best in school. You can support them by taking an interest in their activities, being enthusiastic about attendance, and helping them with homework. There may also be one more way you can help your children succeed at school. Surprisingly, research suggests that children with better oral health are likely to do better in school.

What the Research Says

One study in North Carolina looked at risk factors for poor school performance among school-aged children. As expected, the study found poor school performance linked to low socioeconomic status, low levels of parental education, and poor overall health. However, it also found a strong link between poor oral health and poor school performance, with children classified as having poor oral health 40 percent more likely struggle in school.

These findings are generalizable to the rest of the country. For example, attendance is an important factor in academic achievement, but dental conditions are responsible for a loss 51 million school hours among schoolchildren each year. Dental pain and infection are linked to poorer performance.

School-Based Programs to Promote Oral Health

In light of the apparent benefits of good oral health for school performance, some schools are taking steps to promote better oral care and health. In Maine, for instance, schools in need can apply for grants through School Oral Health Program (SOHP). The SOHP consists of four components:

  1. Oral health education for all children to support healthy behaviors
  2. A weekly fluoride mouth rinse to strengthen teeth
  3. Dental screenings to identify children who may need dental care
  4. Dental sealants, or plastic coatings, on back teeth to guard against decay

The State of Maine also supports an “Annual Sugar Out Day” to raise awareness of the effects of sugar on dental health and to help students choose low-sugar alternatives.

Oral Health Habits to Adopt

You can help your child improve oral health and do better in school by encouraging good oral hygiene. This includes brushing at least twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, and reminding your child to drink water after eating. Also, regular trips to our Anchorage, AK office can help prevent serious tooth problems.

What exactly is a cavity?

August 22nd, 2018

We all know how discouraging can be it to hear you have a dental cavity. Knowing how cavities form can help you prevent them from popping up in your mouth. If you want to avoid a trip to see Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous, pay attention to the measures you can take to prevent bothersome cavities.

Did you know that cavities are properly a symptom of a disease called caries? When you have caries, the number of bad bacteria in your mouth increases, which causes an acceleration in tooth decay. Caries are caused by a pH imbalance in your mouth that creates problems with the biofilm on the teeth.

When there are long periods of low pH balance in the mouth, this creates a breeding ground for bacteria. When you get caries, this type of bacteria thrives in an acidic environment.

Depending on which foods and beverages you consume, the biofilm pH in your mouth will vary. The lower the pH number, the higher the acidity. When your intake contains mostly acidic foods that sit on your teeth, cavities begin to form. Water has a neutral pH, which makes it a good tool to promote a healthy pH balance in your mouth.

A healthy pH balance in your mouth will prevent cavities from forming over time. Mouth breathing and specific medications may also be factors that contribute to the development of caries when saliva flow decreases. Without saliva flow to act as a buffer against acid, bacteria has a higher chance of growing.

Don’t forget: Getting cavities isn’t only about eating too many sweets. It’s also about managing the pH levels in your mouth and preventing bad bacteria from growing on your teeth.

If you think you might have a cavity forming in your mouth, schedule an appointment at our Anchorage, AK office. It’s worthwhile to treat cavities early and avoid extensive procedures such as root canals from becoming necessary.

Keep up with brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash so you can prevent cavities over time.

Protecting Your Child’s Smile with Mouthguards

August 15th, 2018

If your child participates 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 your child 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.

Injuries that can be sustained when not wearing a mouthguard include:

  • Chipped and broken teeth
  • Fractured jaws
  • Root damage
  • Concussions
  • 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 your child in terms of budget, fit, and comfort.

  • Stock mouthguards are prefabricated to a standard size. They offer adequate protection, but you need to find one that fits your child 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 your child 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 your child needs a mouthguard or which kind is right for his or her smile? Ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous or one of our staff members for more information.

Dental X-Rays: Are They Safe?

August 8th, 2018

X-rays have been a function of dental healthcare for a long time. That in and of itself should be good news, because it means we've had plenty of time to improve them. While there is always some risk in exposure to radiation, dental X-ray exposure has decreased significantly due to all the advances in technology. So there’s risk, but X-rays are quite safe.

Think of X-rays as you would about a car. Automobiles these days have all kinds of technology to make them as safe as possible. There's still a chance that you’ll suffer an accident. Would you stop using a car because of that risk? When it comes to dental X-rays, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team believe the positives clearly outweigh the negatives.

X-rays can be done digitally or with film. For film, X-rays require different exposures at different speeds to produce the image. Digital X-rays have software that automatically adjusts the exposure and produces the X-ray in a digital file. Since they substantially reduce your exposure to radiation, digital X-rays are the current standard in dental offices.

In addition to digital X-rays, lead aprons are an essential piece of X-ray safety. They help protect internal organs from X-rays by acting as a shield. They usually come with a thyroid collar as well, since that is one of the most vulnerable areas to X-rays in the body. Lead aprons can absorb up to 95% of any scatter rays that result from an X-ray. Not bad, right?

Although dental X-rays involve some radiation exposure (not all of it can be eliminated), so does everyday life. Getting too much sun, for example, can be dangerous. The truth is, we accumulate radiation in our bodies over a lifetime, so it’s worthwhile to be aware and avoid as much unnecessary exposure as possible. When it comes to your dental health, though, getting an X-ray — especially when your doctor says you need it — offers more benefits than risks.

Ask us about the type of dental X-rays we use during your next visit to our Anchorage, AK office!

How can veneers improve my smile?

August 1st, 2018

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates know your smile is an important part of your appearance; it can be a source of pride or embarrassment. Everyone deserves beautiful, straight teeth that complement their features, but few are born with natural dental perfection. Fortunately, cosmetic dentistry has come a long way in recent years, with veneers making it possible to make over your smile completely.

With dental veneers, the smile of your dreams can become a reality. These thin, wafer-like shells are crafted of porcelain and completely customized to fit your smile. Once your tooth size, shape, and color have been determined, veneers are adhered to the surface of your natural tooth, instantly transforming your appearance. What used to be a secret of the rich and famous is now highly accessible to dental patients around the world.

Benefits of dental veneers

Appearance

Dental veneers are very natural in appearance and virtually undetectable to other people. Their non-porous surfaces make them resistant to staining, which ensures they do not change color over time.

Improvements

Dental veneers can be used to improve the appearance of many kinds of imperfections. In fact, an entirely new smile can be crafted from veneers, to cover up chipped teeth, discoloration, and gaps between teeth.

Durability

Veneers are long-lasting cosmetic enhancements that can survive many years with appropriate care and maintenance. They are specially fabricated to be resistant to scratches and chipping, which makes them a practical solution for the average person.

Flexibility

Dental veneers are highly adaptable. You can opt for only a single veneer to repair a chipped or cracked tooth, or you can modify multiple teeth at once for a smile makeover.

Considerations

Keep in mind that cosmetic treatments like dental veneers are secondary to primary dental care. You must have healthy teeth and disease-free gums to be a candidate for cosmetic procedures. An initial consultation at our convenient Anchorage, AK office will reveal any underlying decay or other problems that must be addressed prior to getting veneers. Give us a call today!

Improve Your Overall Health with Regular Cleanings

July 25th, 2018

It’s common knowledge that you should get your teeth cleaned every six months. But do you know why that timing is crucial? Studies have shown that your oral health connects directly to the rest of your body. Over time, an unhealthy mouth can cause trouble in other parts of your general system.

Undergoing a regular cleaning every six months at our Anchorage, AK office is vital. During your dental checkups, we remove plaque that collects on your teeth and around your gums. If the plaque gets left in place for an extended period, inflammation can develop and may lead to painful gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontal disease.

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, periodontal disease has been linked to increased risk for health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, inflammation, and osteoporosis. Bacteria from your mouth can spread throughout the rest of your body. So a healthy mouth leads to a healthy body.

Regular checkups can prevent issues from arising in your mouth if problems are caught early by Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous. If you have been avoiding the dentist, you could be making issues worse for yourself in the long haul. Generally, a dentist will go over a few routine matters during your checkup. They might include taking X-rays, checking for gum disease and tooth decay, examining your bite, inspecting your head and neck for swelling, and of course performing a thorough cleaning of your teeth and gums to remove built-up plaque and tartar. All of these routine practices are worthwhile when it comes to keeping your oral health in top shape.

Now that you know the importance of getting your teeth checked every six months, you should be sure to schedule your next appointment with Pediatric Dental Associates at our Anchorage, AK location. Keeping your mouth healthy will prevent any form of bacteria from spreading to the rest of your body. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your oral health, don’t hesitate to call and our staff will be happy to assist you.

What is a root canal?

July 18th, 2018

A root canal entails the removal of the nerve supply from a tooth. If you know the purpose of a root canal, the process may seem a little less intimidating.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will explain the steps in person before your scheduled root canal. Here are some reasons why you may need one and how it will be done when you visit our Anchorage, AK office for your appointment.

Let’s look at the parts of a tooth. Teeth are made up of layers. The outside is the enamel you see, which is composed of minerals. The middle layer is called dentin. It is less dense and made of calcified tissues.

The center of the tooth, also known as the pulp, holds the nerves and blood vessels. When a tooth has decayed or been infected all the way down to the pulp, a root canal is used to remove and replace the root with a filling.

A cavity, sudden trauma, severe cracks, or other events that may cause nerve damage can start an infection of the root of your tooth. You may notice an infection if you experience abnormal pain, swelling, sensitivity, or change in tooth appearance.

Don’t hesitate to contact our Anchorage, AK office to schedule an examination if you notice these symptoms. We may need to take X-rays of the problem tooth to find out if a root canal is necessary.

Once an appointment is scheduled for a root canal and we’re ready to begin the procedure, you’ll be given anesthesia to keep you comfortable. The problem tooth will be isolated and sterilized. We work to remove all the infected area after that.

The treatment will include getting rid of nerve tissue and blood vessels, then filling in the spot where the nerve used to be. A crown is placed over the area to secure enamel from breaking down in the future and prevent the potential loss of the tooth. The root canal can block the possibility of having your tooth extracted due to decay or infection.

If you have further questions about root canals or notice any new issues in your mouth, please don’t hesitate to call our office and speak with a member of our staff. We’d be happy to answer your questions and schedule an appointment for you to come and get your problem tooth checked out.

Don’t forget: You can avoid having to undergo a root canal if we catch the problem early on!

Tooth-Colored Fillings

July 11th, 2018

Once upon a time, silver fillings ruled in dental offices everywhere. For a long time, they were the only option dentists used to close off the spaces on teeth where bacteria could easily enter.

Most patients did not regard a pearly white and silver smile as something to be super excited about. Luckily, we have a range of more aesthetically pleasing options today. The most common material used for fillings now is composite, also known as tooth-colored fillings.

Composite fillings are made to match the shade of your teeth, so they offer a seamless addition to your smile. They even let light travel through them the same way that natural enamel does. Composite fillings are great because they erase imperfections and can even reshape your teeth by minimizing excessive spacing. If you have a gap between your two front teeth, for example, a composite filling is an easy, non-invasive, and most important, cost-effective way to give you the instant fix you desire.

Overall, tooth-colored fillings make an easy choice all around. Easily placed, readily repaired, and well disguised. In a world where a perfect smile seems to have become standard for everybody, why not get composite fillings for yourself?

You can smile with the confidence of knowing that nobody will spot a shiny silver thing in your mouth. Visit our Anchorage, AK office to get a consult or give us a call! We’re always happy to answer your questions.

Oral Health Concerns Specific to Pregnant Women

July 4th, 2018

A lot of changes occur in a woman's body during pregnancy. Hormone fluctuations are responsible for many of those changes, including the need for additional attention to the teeth and gums. Women who are expecting are at an increased risk for oral health complications, including gingivitis and tooth decay, which can lead to irreversible damage. Fortunately, there are steps pregnant women can take to keep their teeth and gums in optimal health from the first trimester to delivery day. Today, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates thought we would share them.

At-home dental care

At-home dental care should not vary much from what you did prior to pregnancy. The American Dental Association recommends brushing at a minimum of twice per day using fluoridated toothpaste. Follow up with floss to keep bacteria from accumulating in hard-to-reach spaces.

Dental checkups

It is safe and recommended to continue visiting Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous for routine dental checkups and cleanings during pregnancy. However, it is very important to inform Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about an existing pregnancy. Special steps must be taken to protect pregnant women from certain medications or X-ray radiation that could be harmful to a growing baby. On the other hand, avoiding teeth cleanings during pregnancy can lead to serious consequences, including advanced tooth decay and infection.

Food and cravings

It is no secret that pregnancy can cause a woman to crave specific foods. Sugary treats like candy, cookies, or sodas may satisfy a sweet tooth, but they can also cause serious dental problems when consumed frequently or without brushing afterward. Trade out these treats for naturally sweet fruits when possible, and never forget to brush and floss thoroughly after eating sugar-filled foods.

Signs of complications

It is important to know and recognize the signs of oral health problems during pregnancy; an early diagnosis usually translates to an easier, less-invasive treatment. Symptoms of potential problems include gums that easily bleed or are swollen, reddened, or painful. These are symptoms of gingivitis, which can lead to a receding gum line and tooth loss if left untreated.

Call our Anchorage, AK office if you experience any of these symptoms or pain in a tooth, loss of a tooth, a broken tooth, or bad breath that does not go away with brushing.

Baby Teeth and Cavities

June 27th, 2018

We know how frustrating it can be to discover your child has one or more cavities when you come to visit Pediatric Dental Associates. There are several ways to prevent baby teeth from forming cavities due to decay. Not to worry: If your child does develop a cavity on a baby tooth, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can help take care of the problem.

Let’s look at how cavities on your little one’s teeth can be prevented from developing in the first place. Most often, children suffer decay from eating sugary foods. You may think, “My child doesn’t eat lots of candy!” In truth, fruits and juices have plenty of natural sugars that can break down teeth if they aren’t brushed thoroughly.

A well-balanced diet that includes calcium and phosphorous is necessary to keep your child’s oral health in a good state. If your son or daughter drinks juice, avoid giving it before bedtime and dilute the juice with water. Good options for snacks include vegetables, low-sugar yogurt or dairy products, and plenty of milk for healthy teeth.

Another excellent preventive strategy consists of scheduling regular appointments with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous for your child. Between your youngster’s annual cleanings, make sure he or she brushes and flosses every day. It’s worthwhile for your little one to brush thoroughly for at least two minutes to remove any decay or plaque that has accumulated in the mouth, especially before bedtime.

Brushing Techniques

  • Move the brush both back and forth, and in circular gentle strokes.
  • Brush the outer surfaces, inside surfaces, and chewing surfaces of all teeth.
  • Place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums.
  • Brush the tongue to remove excess bacteria and keep breath fresh.

It’s not always possible to prevent cavities from appearing in your son or daughter’s mouth. If your child does develop a cavity, our staff will notify you during the regular scheduled cleaning.

The cavity will need to be eliminated, even when it appears on a baby tooth. Our staff will remove the decayed part of the tooth and fill in the hole so your child doesn’t have to experience any pain.

You may wonder why a baby tooth has to be fixed if it is eventually going to fall out. Baby teeth hold spaces where your child’s permanent teeth have to grow in. If the former aren’t taken care of, multiple teeth may shift and the permanent ones won’t be able to grow in properly.

If you still have questions or concerns about your child’s baby teeth, or notice signs of a cavity, please don’t hesitate to contact our Anchorage, AK office and schedule an appointment. Remember, preventive steps can be taken to avoid bothersome cavities from forming in your child’s mouth.

Is periodontal disease contagious?

June 20th, 2018

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of adults age 30 and over suffer from some form of gum disease. Caused by plaque buildup, gum disease is an infection of the tissue that surrounds and supports the teeth. In its advanced stages, it is known as periodontal disease. If left untreated, it can result in the loss of tissue and bone that support the teeth, causing teeth loss. It’s a preventable condition seen far too often by Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous.

Research between periodontal disease and other diseases is ongoing. Some studies have indicated that gum disease is linked to other health conditions such as stroke or diabetes. Furthermore, while most factors that lead to periodontal disease are dependent on the individual (genetics, diet, poor oral hygiene) there is a possibility that periodontitis is capable of spreading from one person to another.

What the Research Says

Periodontitis is a gum infection, and the bacteria that cause the gums to become infected travels in saliva. Researches have used DNA coding techniques to track the path of infection from one person to another. In other words, kissing and close contact play a role in the transmission of the infection, so if you’re married to a spouse with periodontal disease, then your chances of having gum problems are slightly increased. Other studies have indicated that saliva contact is common in family settings through coughing, sneezing, and shared utensils and food. Children with parents who have periodontal disease are at a somewhat higher risk of developing it. At the same time, just because you exchange bacteria with your loved ones doesn’t mean you will get periodontal disease.

It is important to note that the scientific evidence supporting the spread of periodontal disease is limited and ongoing. The best way to prevent gum disease is through proper plaque control, which includes brushing, flossing, mouthwash, and twice a year trips for professional cleanings. Contact our Anchorage, AK office if you have any questions about periodontal disease.

Common Emergency Visits: From lost fillings to broken dentures

June 13th, 2018

You never know when you're going to experience a dental emergency, but if you do, it should give you peace of mind to know that emergency dental care is available at our office 24/7. Whether you chip your front tooth playing softball, or your child knocks out a couple of teeth in a playground fall, receiving the emergency dental treatment you need is accessible and convenient.

If you're experiencing a dental emergency, our team at Pediatric Dental Associates is here to help you any time of the day or night. Dental emergencies should not be taken lightly, so don't delay. Contact our office as soon as possible. Common dental emergencies include the following:

Lost Fillings and Crowns

Fillings are used to repair cavities. Crowns, on the other hand, are used to cover broken or damaged teeth. Over time, it’s possible for both of these items to loosen and fall out. A lost filling or crown can be painful, because the exposed tissue may be sensitive. Hot and cold temperatures will cause discomfort. While a lost filling or crown might not be as severe a dental emergency as a broken or chipped tooth (most people respond quicker to pain than self-consciousness about their looks), you need to get it fixed as soon as possible.

Broken Dentures

If your dentures are broken, everyday tasks may become trying and arduous. If you can’t chew, swallow, or eat properly, the situation calls for emergency care. Depending on how damaged your dentures are, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous may need to send out a mold of your mouth in order to have the manufacturer make a new pair. On the other hand, if the dentures are not damaged too badly, then we may be able to fix them in-house. If you're having problems with your dentures, you should give us a call as soon as possible.

From chipped and cracked teeth to lost fillings and broken dentures, dental emergencies come in all shapes and sizes. Emergencies are unexpected, but we want you to know that treatment is available, day or night. When your dental health is at risk, we are here to help. In the case of a dental emergency, don't wait; contact our Anchorage, AK office at your earliest convenience.

How HPV and Oral Cancer are Related

June 6th, 2018

Did you know that Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and oral cancer are linked? This information may prevent you or a loved one from suffering from oral cancer if a diagnosis is made early. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team want you to understand how you can prevent the spread of oral cancer and protect yourself if you have HPV.

People don’t often speak up about this common virus, but we believe it’s important to educate yourself to prevent the potential spread of oral cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 80% of Americans will have HPV infections in their lifetime without even knowing it. Symptoms usually go unnoticed, though it’s one of the most common viruses in the U.S. The body’s immune system is generally able to kill the HPV infection without causing any noticeable issues. If you think you might have HPV, talk with primary care physician about getting the preventive vaccine or taking an HPV test.

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, “HPV is the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancers (the very back of the mouth and throat), and a very small number of front of the mouth, oral cavity cancers. HPV16 is the version most responsible, and affects both males and females.”

Common signs of oral cancer may include:

  • Ulcers or sores that don’t heal within a couple of weeks
  • Swelling, lumps, and discoloration on the soft tissues in the mouth
  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Pain with chewing
  • Persistent sore throat
  • Numbness of the mouth or lips
  • Lumps felt on the outside of the neck
  • Constant coughing
  • Earaches on one side of your head

If you experience any of these side effects, please contact Pediatric Dental Associates as soon as possible.

We hope this information will help you understand the interactions between HPV and oral cancer. Please remember to take precautionary steps if you notice anything out of the ordinary with regard to your oral health. If you have any questions or concerns, contact our Anchorage, AK office.

Avoid Brushing After Every Single Meal!

May 30th, 2018

Here is some surprising yet worthwhile advice you might be hearing for the first time: Brushing can be incredibly bad for your child’s teeth if done right after eating certain foods.

Enamel is an extremely hard mineral on the exterior of each tooth. It’s actually the hardest substance in the human body: It’s even stronger than 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 the mouth doesn’t start the process of demineralization—the process when alkaline turns into acid, which attacks and softens the enamel on the surface of your child’s teeth. Pores and fissures form, and that’s when the harmful bacteria go to work.

A mouth’s pH level fluctuates depending on what is eaten 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 the mouth from a healthy alkaline to a dangerous acid.

Can brushing your child’s teeth immediately after a meal lead to even more damage? The answer is yes!

Eating highly acidic foods causes your child’s teeth to be more susceptible. If your child brushes when the teeth have been weakened by acids, even more destruction can happen to the enamel. Your child’s toothbrush bristles will actually wear away some of the enamel. So it’s healthier for your child to wait at least an hour after eating or snacking to brush.

Good preventive measures to take instead of brushing after your child eats include:

  • Rinsing or drinking water
  • Chewing sugarless gum
  • Consuming dairy or non-acidic foods to conclude a meal

These practices help produce saliva, which in turn restores a healthy pH level in your child’s mouth and coats the teeth with minerals they need.

Once your child’s mouth is restored to a healthy pH level, he or she may brush normally. Keep in mind that acidic foods can weaken the enamel on the teeth and take the right measures to prevent spiking pH levels.

Still have questions? Call our Anchorage, AK office and schedule an appointment for your child with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous.

The Evolution of the Toothbrush

May 23rd, 2018

Oral hygiene has always been an important part of maintaining overall health. For thousands of years, humans have found ways to keep their teeth and mouths clean. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), “early forms of the toothbrush have existed for nearly 5,000 years.” But what exactly did the first toothbrush look like?

Toothbrush Timeline

With help from The Library of Congress, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team have compiled a timeline with some interesting details about the evolution of the toothbrush:

  • 3000 BC – Perhaps the earliest form of the toothbrush, the “chew stick” was used by Ancient civilizations. People would rub this thin twig with a frayed end against their teeth to remove food and plaque.
  • 1498 – The bristle toothbrush was invented in China and had many similarities to the toothbrushes used today. These devices were made by attaching the stiff, coarse hairs from the back of a hog’s neck to handles that were typically made from bone or bamboo.
  • 1938 – Signaling the end of the boar bristle, Dupont de Nemours introduced nylon bristles, and Americans welcomed Doctor West’s Miracle Toothbrush, the first nylon toothbrush.
  • 1960 – The Squibb Company introduced Broxodent, one of the first electric toothbrushes, to the American market.

Toothbrushes Today

Today, there are many brands of toothbrushes that often advertise different benefits. The variety of options may seem overwhelming, but the most important thing is for you to find a toothbrush that you like and find easy to use.

The ADA recommends that you choose a toothbrush that fits comfortably and allows you to effectively reach all areas of your mouth. Whether you decide to use a manual or a powered toothbrush, make sure that you thoroughly clean all surfaces of your teeth twice a day.

Society has come a long way since the days of the chew stick, but one thing that remains the same is the importance of consistent and effective personal oral hygiene.

Canker sores, cold sores, and mouth sores: What's the difference?

May 16th, 2018

At Pediatric Dental Associates, we know many people have experienced some form of mouth sores or irritation. Some mouth sores are harmless and go away on their own after a few days, while others are more serious and should not be ignored. Mouth sores occur for many different reasons, but bacterial infections, viruses, or funguses often trigger them. The best way to tell the difference between a canker sore and a cold sore is that canker sores occur inside the mouth while cold sores occur on the outside the mouth.

The most common mouth sores are:

Canker sores: A non-contagious, small, grayish ulcer with a red border, canker sores appear inside the mouth. While outside factors such as stress, fatigue, or allergies may increase the chances of developing a canker sore, most health experts believe they stem from bacteria or a virus that attacks the immune system. Canker sores typically heal within a week or two.

Cold sores: Also called fever blisters, cold sores are contagious groups of fluid-filled blisters that often erupt around the lips and sometimes under the nose or around the chin. Cold sores are the result of the herpes simplex virus, and once infected, the virus remains in the person’s blood stream.

Leukoplakia: A potential warning sign of oral cancer, leukoplakia is a premalignant lesion that appears as a white patch on the inside of the mouth, tongue, or gums. The lesions, which are caused by excessive cell growth, usually afflict those who smoke tobacco. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous may choose to have the lesion biopsied if the outbreak appears severe.

Oral candidiasis: Also called oral thrush or moniliasis, this condition is caused by the overgrowth of a type of yeast called candida. Common symptoms of oral candidiasis include white spots inside the mouth and on the tongue, redness or discomfort in the mouth area, sore throat,difficulty swallowing, and cracking at the corners of the mouth. It is important to visit Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous if you have oral candidiasis. If left untreated, it may infect your bloodstream, which can be very dangerous. Healthy adults do not usually get thrush, and the condition is most often seen in infants, the elderly, patients undergoing chemotherapy, or people with AIDS or other diseases that are known to weaken the immune system.

Should you have a mouth sore that lasts a week or longer, we encourage you to give us a call and schedule an examination at our Anchorage, AK office.

Xerostomia: What does that mean anyway?

May 9th, 2018

Does your mouth always feel like it’s dry? If it does you may be suffering from xerostomia. Xerostomia is defined as dry mouth resulting from reduced or absent saliva flow. There are various medical conditions that can cause this type of dry mouth, which you can ask more questions next time you visit us at Pediatric Dental Associates.

Xerostomia can factor into both minor and more serious health problems. It can affect the ability to eat and enjoy food and it can jeopardize one’s dental health. Some of the more common symptoms can include sore throat, burning sensation in the oral cavity or tongue, and difficulty swallowing.

One of the more serious problems associated with dry mouth is an increased risk of tooth decay. Decrease in saliva causes more plaque to form and there is less saliva to act as a buffer to the things we eat and drink. Less saliva also means more food debris is retained in the mouth. These things can lead to an increase in tooth decay.

So, what causes xerostomia?

There are several things that may cause xerostomia. Among the biggest culprits are prescription medications. Some examples are antihistamines, antidepressants, anti-hypertensives, anti-anxiety agents, anti-diarrheals, bronchodilators, and muscle relaxers.

Certain diseases can also cause dry mouth. The more common ones include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, diabetes, hypertension, and thyroid disease. Xerostomia is also common in patients being treated for cancer. Head and neck radiation as well as certain chemotherapy drugs can cause severe dry mouth.

What should you do if you are experiencing dry mouth symptoms? First make sure to hydrate with plenty of water. If you are taking medications that cause xerostomia, make sure to drink water before taking the medication as well as a full glass of water with the medication. Be diligent with brushing and flossing and discuss your condition at your next appointment with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous. We can recommend specific products to help moisten the oral cavity and reduce your symptoms such as saliva substitutes, xylitol products, and certain toothpastes. Another option may be a prescription home fluoride treatment to help prevent new cavities. You may want to try gum or candies to stimulate saliva flow but make sure they are sugar free! Avoid food and beverages that dehydrate such as caffeine and alcohol.

Xerostomia is a common problem that is currently on the rise. Our team can help you to reduce any symptoms and improve your comfort while living with a dry mouth. Contact our Anchorage, AK office today!

Early Detection is Key to Treating Oral Cancer

May 2nd, 2018

Every hour of every day, someone in North America dies of oral cancer, the sixth most common diagnosed form of the disease. The five-year survival rate is only 50 percent, and oral cancer is one of the few cancers whose survival rate has not improved.

This grim statistic may make you think that oral cancer is a particularly deadly form, when in fact the high death rate has more to do with how late in its development oral cancer is detected. Routine screening is the key to early detection and survival, and in our continuing efforts to provide the most advanced technology and highest quality care available to our patients at Pediatric Dental Associates, we proudly screen our patients for oral cancer.

So, who’s at risk for oral cancer?

Anyone can develop oral cancer, but some people are at a higher risk. These high-risk groups include those over the age of 50 and men, who are twice as likely as women to develop the disease. Smoking or chewing smokeless tobacco products, consuming alcohol excessively, and constant exposure to the sun at a young age are also risk factors.

How is oral cancer detected?

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates suggest our patients perform a monthly self-examination to check for unusual red or white patches, sores, lumps, or thickenings anywhere inside the mouth, on the lips, or in the throat and neck area.

We encourage you to give us a call at our convenient Anchorage, AK office if you find any of these symptoms or if you have trouble swallowing or experience a chronic sore throat and hoarseness. During your visit, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will inspect the oral tissues and neck to determine if abnormalities are present.

What happens if oral cancer is detected?

If we discover abnormal tissues during your visit, a biopsy will be required. The results from the biopsy will be sent to a laboratory to determine if the cells are cancerous or precancerous. If a diagnosis of cancer is made, surgery, as well as treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation may be necessary. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team will work closely with your oncologist and other members of your medical team to ensure that you achieve the best possible oral health care both during and after treatment.

Finding out you have oral cancer can be devastating news. If you are concerned that you might be at risk for developing oral cancer, talk to us about screenings and other things you can do to reduce your risk. Through a routine visual inspection, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates can often detect premalignant abnormalities and cancer at an early stage when treatment is both less expensive and more successful, and can potentially save your life. Ask us about a screening during your next visit!

I can't stop grinding my teeth! How can a dentist help?

April 25th, 2018

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will tell you that while you are sleep, your mouth may be very active. If you find yourself waking up with headaches, facial pain, neck aches, or a sore jaw, you may have tooth grinding, a condition we also call bruxism.

We see many people who experience some extent of tooth grinding, but a very small percentage of the population actually experiences symptoms severe enough to warrant visiting a doctor. If you continually experience any of the symptoms listed above, we encourage you to give us a call at our Anchorage, AK office so that we may be able to diagnose and treat the problem.

The most common treatments include:

  • Reducing your stress level to help relax your jaw muscles and prevent grinding
  • A custom-made night guard to cushion your teeth and protect them from damage
  • Changing your eating habits. Coffee, tea, or alcohol before bed can increase your chance of nightly grinding
  • If your jaw or teeth are misaligned, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous may also recommend a brace to decrease grinding.

Grinding your teeth can have serious consequences that, if left untreated, can lead to tooth fractures and damage to the TMJ (temporomandibular joint).

If you think your teeth may not be getting the rest they need at night, we encourage you to give us a call and schedule an appointment with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous. Call us today!

How Sedation Dentistry Can Help You Overcome Dental Anxiety

April 18th, 2018

Putting off your dental visit to Pediatric Dental Associates because of fear or anxiety only increases the potential for tooth decay or gum problems. At our office, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team offer solutions that allow you to relax, without any pain, so you can keep your mouth healthy. Our solutions can help with many different anxiety issues for both adults and children.

Help with minor anxiety

Nitrous oxide is an excellent choice for most patients. Sometimes referred to as laughing gas, nitrous oxide can be regulated to provide you with the amount of sedation you need. When used before a local anesthetic, the injection will not be uncomfortable and you should not notice any pain during your procedure.

If you plan to use nitrous oxide, you can drive yourself to your appointment. In most cases, you will be fine to drive after your treatment: the sedation wears off quickly. Nitrous oxide can also be used along with other sedation techniques to produce a higher level of sedation.

Oral sedatives are available in a liquid or pill form. If you experience moderate anxiety levels, you can be given a tablet to take before your appointment. This type of sedation will be beneficial in relieving the anxiety that can build before your procedure. However, if you choose this method, you cannot drive yourself to your appointment.

Help with major dental anxiety

If you experience extreme levels of stress and anxiety about dental treatment, you may wish to discuss deep sedation or general anesthesia. With these techniques, you will be barely conscious or unconscious during your procedure. You will not feel discomfort or pain. Once you have experienced dentistry with a sedation technique, your anxiety level may decrease on its own.

People are not born with the fear of a dental exam. Unfortunately, most anxiety issues are due to a bad dental experience or childhood trauma. Sometimes anxiety comes from listening to the tales of others, who may have exaggerated their story. Talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team about your dental concerns or fears. Let us help you so you can get the dental care you need for a healthy mouth for life.

For more information about overcoming dental anxiety, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous, please give us a call at our convenient Anchorage, AK office!

Ten Fun Things to Do with Your Old Toothbrush

April 11th, 2018

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our staff recommend that you replace your worn-out, germy toothbrush with a new one every three months. But most people either forget or resist getting rid of something that is still “working.”

Maybe if they had a few ideas for putting that old toothbrush to good use, more people would take our advice? To encourage good oral practices, we offer these ten fun things you can do with your used toothbrush:

1. Let your five-year-old budding Da Vinci create a masterpiece with some paint and your old toothbrush.

2. Scrub oily areas on your face with your toothbrush. The bristles are perfect for removing embedded dirt and oil that clogs pores.

3. Pamper your hamster by brushing his fur with an old toothbrush.

4. Dab a bit of Vaseline on the bristles and comb your eyelashes: instant glamour! Got dry, flaky lips? Slough away by using a toothbrush on your lips.

5. Remove the bristles: instant small plant stakes!

6. Old toothbrushes are great for spot-cleaning just about anything.

7. When nobody is around to scratch an unreachable itch on your back, turn that old toothbrush into your personal backscratcher.

8. Is your dog’s breath so bad that all your houseplants have died? Try brushing his teeth with your old toothbrush so that his kisses (and breath) are more tolerable.

9. Give your fish the cleanest tank in the neighborhood by scrubbing it with your old toothbrush.

10. Did you notice a few gray hairs sprouting from your hairline this morning? Old toothbrushes were made for touch-up dye jobs; works for dyeing your eyebrows, too!

Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April 4th, 2018

Happy Oral Cancer Awareness Month! We know oral cancer can be kind of a scary topic, but it’s worth using this opportunity to learn about the disease and spread knowledge so everyone becomes more aware. The more we know, the better we can work to prevent it!

Oral cancer is exactly what it sounds like: cancer that occurs anywhere in the mouth. It could occur on the tongue, the lips, the gums, the tongue, inside the cheek, or in the roof or floor of the mouth. Every  year, more than 8,000 people die from oral cancer. It’s a truly deadly disease.

The reason oral cancer scores a higher death rate than other common cancers such as testicular cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, thyroid cancer, cervical cancer, or even skin cancer, is because it often goes undetected until it's become too advanced and has spread to another part of the body.

So what causes this devastating disease? There is no clear answer, but some potential causes have been identified. By being aware of these, we can be alert and promote prevention of this illness:

  • Age: Most patients who develop oral cancer are above the age of 40. If you’re over 40, make sure your doctor checks for signs of oral cancer and that you stay on your dental hygiene regimen.
  • Tobacco: Excessive tobacco use, whether in the form of cigarette smoking or tobacco chewing, can be a substantial contributor and cause of oral cancer. So that’s another reason, among many, you should avoid tobacco.
  • Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption can put you at risk because alcohol converts into a chemical called acetaldehyde, which damages the body’s DNA and blocks cells from repairing the damage. When paired with tobacco, the dehydrating effects of alcohol make it even easier for tobacco to infiltrate mouth tissue.
  • Sun exposure: Your lips need SPF, too! Repeated sun exposure increases your risk of contracting cancer on your lips, especially the lower lip.
  • Diet: Not getting all the nutrients you need, from vegetables and fruits for instance, can weaken your immune system and make you more vulnerable to the disease.

Obviously, many of these causes relate to lifestyle choices, which we have control over. It's all about balance, being aware, and making small tweaks to our habits if we need to.

If you’re concerned that you may be at risk for oral cancer, give us a call to talk about a screening. And if you’ve been putting off a visit to our Anchorage, AK office, now is an excellent time to schedule one. Regular visits to the dentist can be the first line of defense against oral cancer!

What is hand-foot-and-mouth disease?

March 28th, 2018

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease, or HFMD, is a type of contagious viral illness that causes a rash in the mouth and on the hands and feet of infants and young children, and, while rare, adults. Characterized by sores in the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet, hand-foot-and-mouth disease is most commonly caused by a coxsackievirus, a bacterium that lives in the human digestive tract. HFMD can spread from person to person, typically via unwashed hands.

What are the symptoms of HFMD?

Symptoms of HFMD usually begin with a fever, sore throat, poor appetite, or general malaise. A couple of days after the fever starts, kids may develop painful sores in the mouth. A skin rash characterized by red spots may also develop, usually on the palms of your child’s hands and soles of their feet. It’s important to note some children may only experience a rash while others may only have mouth sores.

Is HFMD serious? Should we be concerned?

Usually not. Nearly all children infected recover anywhere between seven to ten days without medical treatment. Rarely, however, a child can develop viral meningitis and may need to be hospitalized. Other rare complications of HFMD can include encephalitis (brain inflammation), which can be fatal.

How can my child prevent HFMD?

There is no known vaccine to defend your child against HFMD. However, the risk of your child contracting the disease can be reduced by:

  • Making sure your child washes his or her hands often
  • Thoroughly cleaning objects and surfaces (these include doorknobs and toys)
  • Making sure your child avoids close contact with those who are infected

To learn more about hand-foot-and-mouth disease or to schedule an appointment for your child, please give us a call at our Anchorage, AK office!

What is Nitrous Oxide?

March 21st, 2018

Many of our young patients experience anxiety during dental appointments. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team want to help your child overcome any fear he or she may feel when coming in for regular visits.

If you know your child suffers from anxiety during dental checkups, nitrous oxide sedation, popularly known as “laughing gas,” may be helpful. Nitrous oxide can be used during many types of dental procedures.

It has a sweet odor and taste, and gets mixed with oxygen when supplied through a mask. The effects typically kick in within a few minutes and leave your child feeling calm and relaxed.

Nitrous is helpful because your child will stay conscious and able to move and answer questions the doctor may ask. The drug is also convenient because the effects go away within a few minutes after the mask is removed.

Nitrous oxide is not dangerous when it’s combined with oxygen. It is non-addictive and non-allergenic. When used properly, nitrous oxide reduces anxiety, while allowing continued communication between the patient and dentist during a procedure. It can also help alleviate pain or discomfort during exams.

You should know that nitrous oxide may cause nausea in up to ten percent of patients. This drug is not recommended for people who suffer from certain medical conditions. We recommend discussing this method with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous if your child's dental anxiety begins to interfere with his or her appointments.

We want all our patients to feel comfortable during their care. Talk with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at your child's next appointment to find out if nitrous oxide is an option. If you have questions regarding nitrous oxide, call our Anchorage, AK location and we’ll be happy to answer them.

 

Headaches: The Dental Connection

March 14th, 2018

Many people suffer through headaches for years without getting to the root cause of their problem. If you find yourself constantly popping painkillers to get through the day, it might be worth a trip to see a medical professional – but it may not be the person you think.

Talking to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can be a great start when dealing with chronic headaches, because dental issues frequently contribute to head pain. In fact, the American Academy of Craniofacial Pain estimates that 80% of headaches are caused by muscle tension, which often originates in the jaws.

What Do Tension Headaches Feel Like?

A tension headache can originate on one side of your head or can pervade your entire skull. Typically, tension headaches feel like a dull, throbbing ache inside your head. Some patients at our Anchorage, AK office report that they feel as though a metal band has been wrapped around their head and is causing significant pressure. Several common symptoms suggest that tension headaches may be caused by dental issues:

  1. Feeling as though your head or scalp is painful to the merest touch
  2. Experiencing a dull or throbbing pain behind the eyes
  3. Clicking or popping sounds in your jaw joints
  4. Grinding teeth or clenching the jaws, particularly in times of anxiety or during the night
  5. Feeling as though your jaw muscles are sore when you wake up from sleep

Dental Origins of Headaches

Several dozen muscles control your facial expressions, jaw movements, and motions such as swallowing. When these muscles are contracted for long periods of time, tension builds up within the muscle and can lead to headaches. This may happen if you clench or grind your teeth at night, your bite is misaligned, or you have muscle imbalances in the jaw or neck.

Dental Treatments for Tension Headaches

Fortunately, a trip to Pediatric Dental Associates can be a fruitful way to alleviate your headaches, including the following treatments:

  1. Bite. In many cases, correcting your bite through orthodontics releases the stress on your jaw and muscles, and reduces the frequency of headaches.
  2. Nightguard. A nightguard, which resembles a sports mouthguard, may also be helpful if you frequently grind your teeth or clench your jaws during sleep. Nightguards distribute the tension from your clenched jaws and reduce the possibility of dental damage.
  3. Physical therapy and relaxation. Correcting the posture of your shoulders, neck, and head may alleviate muscle tension associated with headaches.

Preventing Periodontal Disease

March 7th, 2018

Periodontal disease is one of the most prevalent health issues in America, with the Centers for Disease Control reporting it affects approximately 65 million people, or roughly 47 percent of the population. People with periodontal disease have bacteria beneath the surface of the gums, which are responsible for tissue inflammation that can lead to pain, bleeding, gum recession, and even permanent tooth loss. Unfortunately, the chances of developing gingivitis and periodontitis only increase with age, with 70 percent of adults over age 65 having at least some degree of gum disease. However, a lot can be done to prevent periodontal disease and keep teeth and gums healthy.

Daily Hygiene

The process you take each day to clean your teeth and gums goes a long way towards preventing periodontal disease. Since gingivitis and periodontitis are caused by plaque build-up, the most important steps you can take to prevent them involve cleaning your teeth each morning, night, and after meals. Start by brushing your teeth and tongue, and follow up with mouthwash to kill any lingering bacteria. At least once per day, take time to floss thoroughly along the gum line to prevent gum infection from occurring in between teeth.

Periodontal Exams

In addition to caring for your teeth and gums at home, it is also important to see Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous for comprehensive exams. We can detect gingivitis in its earliest stages and treat it before it has a chance to progress. Everyone needs occasional periodontal exams, though people with certain risk factors may require them more often. Examples include individuals who smoke or have a personal or family history of gum disease.

Treating Periodontal Disease

See Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous right away if you suspect that you may be experiencing the warning signs of periodontal disease. Symptoms may include red, swollen, or bleeding gums, gum recession, pockets that have formed between the teeth and the gums, and even tooth loss. If you are diagnosed with periodontal disease, treatments are available to help restore your oral health depending on how advanced your gum disease has become. For example, gingivitis may require only a thorough cleaning and topical antibiotic. Periodontal disease that has been allowed to progress may require scaling and root planing, and in some cases, surgery to prevent tooth, bone, and gum loss.

Contact our Anchorage, AK office to schedule an appointment and learn about the ways we can help prevent and treat periodontal disease.

The Secret to Lifelong Teeth Whitening

February 28th, 2018

Have you ever noticed your attention being instantly drawn to peoples’ teeth when they smile at you? Some people have dull and yellowing teeth, while others have teeth that appear bright white. Everyone’s teeth naturally dull over time because of aging and the contact your teeth have with staining foods, such as chocolate and coffee. However, teeth-whitening treatments can help you keep your teeth white for life.

Get Regular Treatments

The effects of teeth whitening or bleaching treatments are only temporary, so regular treatments at Pediatric Dental Associates are necessary to keep your teeth white for life. Bleaching too frequently, though, can wear away your tooth enamel. The effects of in-office bleaching can last for several months to a year, while you may need to repeat your use of at-home bleaching kits every few months to maintain your white teeth. Whitening toothpastes do not contain bleach, so you can use them daily. The American Dental Association suggests asking your dentist for advice on which treatment is best for you.

Have Realistic Expectations

Not everyone’s teeth can be turned bright white, according to the American Dental Association. Your teeth may naturally be a light yellowish color that lends itself well to teeth-whitening procedures, but bleach is not likely to be effective for grayish teeth. Brownish teeth fall somewhere in between.

Practice Good Oral Hygiene

Your teeth whitening efforts will not be as effective if your teeth are in poor health. Visible fillings, implants, or bridges that are metallic stand out against the white color you want to achieve. You can help prevent tooth decay and reduce your risk of needing these unsightly treatments by maintaining a good oral hygiene routine. In addition to brushing your teeth twice a day to remove dirt and potential staining agents, the actions below can promote a healthy mouth.

  • Floss every day
  • Visit Pediatric Dental Associates regularly
  • Rinse your mouth with water after each meal and snack
  • Limit sugary and starchy foods and beverages, especially between meals

When to Replace Fillings

February 21st, 2018

A dental filling replaces and restores the health of a tooth that has been damaged. Often, the need for a filling results from a cavity due to a large amount of decay in a tooth.

Teeth may also require repairs after cracking from chewing on hard objects, trauma to the mouth, grinding or clenching of your teeth, uneven chewing pressure, or exposure to extreme hot and cold temperatures.

Over time, a filling may have to be replaced after normal wear and tear has occurred. There are signs and symptoms to watch out for if your tooth may need a replacement filling, or a new filling. Pediatric Dental Associates performs various types of filling treatments, depending on the damage to the tooth.

Common signs and symptoms to watch out for if you have a cracked tooth can include sharp pain when you bite down, pain that comes and goes, discomfort when eating or drinking, or a constant feeling that something is stuck in your teeth. The crack may not be visible to the eye, which makes it hard to tell whether a tooth is actually cracked.

Pain may come and go quickly when you bite down because you’re expanding the crack with the combined pressure of your teeth. If you notice this happening, contact Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous right away so we can get X-rays of your mouth and quickly fix the problem.

If you’ve had a filling in your mouth in the past, you could be due for a replacement. The seal between the tooth and the filling may break down over time, after which bacteria can build up underneath the filling and cause more decay.

It’s vital to catch this early so a filing can fix the problem. If you wait too long, a crown or a root canal may be the only option. You may not notice that a long-time filing is cracked or worn down, because it can take a long time to feel any discomfort. This is one of the reasons we recommend a dental checkup every six months.

If you need a tooth filling or a replacement filling, different filling choices vary in price. Gold fillings and porcelain fillings are more expensive options that last longer -- typically around 20 years. Porcelain fillings match the color of the rest of your teeth, however, which makes them less visible.

Another option is amalgam, or silver fillings, that less expensive but may be more noticeable in visible areas of your mouth. Composite, or plastic fillings, are another affordable option that can be matched to the color of your teeth. Composites are more likely to wear out over time and not last as long: usually around three to ten years.

If you think a past filling might be due for replacement, schedule an appointment at our Anchorage, AK office. Make sure to stay on top of your routine dental appointments in order to prevent decay from breaking down problem teeth.

If we catch the problem early, we can save you both money and time. Fillings can be a great way to resolve any existing teeth issues, and prevent extensive dental care practices from becoming necessary in the future.

 

The Origins of Valentine's Day

February 14th, 2018

When we think of Valentine’s Day, we think of cards, flowers, and chocolates. We think of girlfriends celebrating being single together and couples celebrating their relationship. We think of all things pink and red taking over every pharmacy and grocery store imaginable. But what Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team would like to think of is when and how this joyous, love-filled day began.

Several martyrs’ stories are associated with the origins of Valentine’s Day. One of the most widely known suggests that Valentine was a Roman priest who went against the law at a time when marriage had been banned for young men. He continued to perform marriage ceremonies for young lovers in secret and when he was discovered, he was sentenced to death.

Another tale claims that Valentine was killed for helping Christians escape from Roman prisons. Yet another says that Valentine himself sent the first valentine when he fell in love with a girl and sent her a letter and signed it, “From your Valentine.”

Other claims suggest that it all began when Geoffrey Chaucer, an Englishman often referred to as the father of English literature, wrote a poem that was the first to connect St. Valentine to romance. From there, it evolved into a day when lovers would express their feelings for each other. Cue the flowers, sweets, and cards!

Regardless of where the holiday came from, these stories all have one thing in common: They celebrate the love we are capable of as human beings. And though that’s largely in a romantic spirit these days, it doesn’t have to be. You could celebrate love for a sister, a friend, a parent, even a pet.

We hope all our patients know how much we love them! Wishing you all a very happy Valentine’s Day from the team at Pediatric Dental Associates!

Make Brushing Fun!

February 7th, 2018

It’s gratifying to know your child has good oral hygiene, especially starting from an early age. We know it can be difficult to get your son or daughter to brush those tiny teeth, let alone brush them well enough, every day. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team are here to give you some tips on how to help your youngster learn excellent oral health habits.

Your child should brush his or her teeth at least twice a day in order to prevent cavities and decay. An grownup may have to assist with flossing or using mouthwash. Always make sure your little one doesn’t swallow toothpaste or mouthwash in the process.

Only buy alcohol-free mouthwash, especially if you have young children in your household. Oral healthcare should be made fun from the start, to create good habits!

Helpful Tips

  • Set a good example. Brush your teeth with your children and make it fun! Pick a two-minute song to play while brushing and dance along to it.
  • Make it a race to the bathroom to see who can get the toothbrush and floss out first.
  • Use a sticker sheet. For every night your children brush well, give them a sticker. After they’ve earned certain number of stickers, they win a reward. Let them pick it!
  • Let your child check your brushwork, or try letting your youngster brush your teeth!
  • Allow children to play with a toothbrush if they want to. They can brush their favorite stuffed animal’s or doll’s teeth before bed as well.
  • Let your child pick his or her own toothbrush or toothpaste from a range of options you provide. Kids might pick one with their favorite cartoon character(s) on it, for example.
  • Get a two-minute brushing timer your child can flip over when he or she starts to brush. Your son or daughter can watch the sand fall until it’s empty, which notifies the kid it’s time to stop brushing.
  • Buy special children’s mouthwash that is colored to stain the areas of the child’s mouth where he or she needs to re-brush for effectiveness.
  • Be gentle when your little one makes a mistake like forgetting to brush, and remind your son or daughter about the importance of good oral health in a fun, loving way.

There are plenty of ways to make brushing your child’s teeth more fun and effective. When Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and the parents work together, we can help establish good oral health habits in children that will last a lifetime.

Take the trouble to set a great example for your children, and they will follow in your footsteps. If you’re concerned about your child’s oral health, contact our Anchorage, AK office and schedule an appointment with our team.

Suffer from Dental Anxiety? Not a Problem.

January 31st, 2018

If you suffer from dental anxiety, we understand that paying a visit to our office can seem like a nearly impossible mission. Regardless of what the root of that anxiety might be, we’re here to tell you that at Pediatric Dental Associates, you have no need to be nervous. Our office is dedicated to making your dental experience as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

One of the best things to do if you experience dental anxiety is call our office in advance to let us know. By notifying us in advance, you give us the opportunity to provide you with the dental care you need in the way you need it.

We can prescribe a relaxation medication for you. During your appointment, we can provide a little bit of laughing gas to put you more at ease, teach you some behavioral techniques for relaxation, and make sure you’re never in the dark about what’s happening.

If dental anxiety makes you feel embarrassed, please be assured that you’re not alone. Studies show that as much as 75% of adults suffer some degree of dental anxiety! It might be helpful to remember that your doctor’s goal is the same as yours: We are here to keep your oral health in check so you can be your healthiest self. We certainly don’t want to make you uncomfortable in the process.

If you have any questions about other ways in which we can accommodate you during your visits, please don’t hesitate to contact our Anchorage, AK office!

Do You Have A Cavity?

January 24th, 2018

Sometimes cavities are hard to avoid. Our team at Pediatric Dental Associates wants you to know you aren’t alone when it comes to getting cavities. They can appear in both children and adults, and in order to avoid the pain and hassle, you need to understand how they form and what to do to prevent them from developing in the first place.

Cavities form when bacteria, acids, or sugars build up and form plaque on your teeth, which can destroy your enamel. When you don’t brush and floss properly, the build-up can cause cavities to form. In essence, a cavity is a decayed part of your tooth that cannot be repaired by your body’s immune system. This is why a dentist will need to treat your cavity with a filling. If it grows for too long and manages to infect the root of your tooth, a root canal may be the only solution.

Cavities are often symptom-free; you might not experience any pain at first, other than the occasional irritation when you drink a hot or cold beverage. Other signs of possible cavities include persistent bad breath, pus or discharge around a tooth, black or brown discoloration, small pits or holes in a tooth, and perhaps a sticky feeling when you bite down. It’s crucial to treat cavities sooner rather than later if you wish to avoid excessive pain and the necessity of a root canal.

You can avoid cavities by keeping up with good oral hygiene, eating a well-balanced diet, and scheduling regular cleanings with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous. They can still occur at any time, no matter what age you are, so make sure to brush, floss, and rinse every day. If you notice any of the above symptoms, please contact our Anchorage, AK office and schedule an appointment.

Children and Halitosis

January 17th, 2018

Many parents are unaware that children can also suffer from symptoms of halitosis, better known as chronic bad breath. This common oral problem affects a majority of the population, including both adults and children. During treatment for this condition, it’s worthwhile to focus on the cause of the problem. Take a look at the most common reasons why your child might develop bad breath.

Having constant bad breath can be embarrassing and troublesome. Most often, boys and girls develop halitosis as a side effect of some sort of upper respiratory infection. It may be a common cold, allergies, or flu symptoms.

When the nasal passages are blocked, it’s more likely that your child will breathe through the mouth. Mouth breathing may also occur if your youngster is put on medication that decreases saliva flow. Mouth breathing can make bad breath much worse if there isn’t enough saliva to cleanse the area.

Another cause of halitosis in children can be tonsillitis. When your child’s airway is constricted, he or she is more likely to mouth-breath. When the tissues in your mouth dry out, bacteria will grow and increase in potency. If you notice symptoms of tonsillitis in your child such as a fever, swollen throat, trouble swallowing, chills, or congestion, get your little one to treatment right away.

Halitosis in children is can also be caused by an infection of the mouth. If your child’s teeth or gums are infected, odor will developed if untreated. Infection can occur due to inadequate brushing and flossing, which can lead to gum disease or cavities. If cavities are left untreated, they can develop a strong, noticeable odor. If you think your child has an infection or cavity, contact Pediatric Dental Associates and schedule an appointment.

Other causes of halitosis may be certain pungent foods your child eats, or bacteria built up on the tongue. Make sure your son or daughter brushes and flosses thoroughly every day. Some mouthwashes may be beneficial for your child to alleviate bad breath caused by leftover bacteria in the mouth. Other ways of treating of halitosis can vary, based on the cause of the problem.

If you’re unsure about why your child has halitosis, contact Pediatric Dental Associates and we can help you figure out where the issue originated. Remember, masking symptoms of bad breath with gum or mints will be only a temporary fix. Your child’s bad breath problems can be helped with a little investigation from Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous. Always feel free to call our Anchorage, AK office if you are concerned about your child’s oral health.

Five Common Reasons for Emergency Care Visits

January 10th, 2018

A dental emergency can strike anywhere, anytime, and without warning. Perhaps you’re playing a game of touch football on Thanksgiving and your brother-in-law decides to up the ante and tackles you, accidentally knocking out your two front teeth. Or maybe you’re on vacation somewhere in the tropics and decide to go deep-sea fishing, but when you’re climbing onto the boat you slip on the dock, fall, and chip three of your teeth. From misplaced fly balls to bagel seeds causing a painful bout of inflammation, there are all kinds of dental emergencies.

Here are the five most common reasons for emergency care visits.

  1. Somehow you've managed to knock out a tooth. Whether it's the result of a sports injury or because of decay, when you lose a tooth, you need emergency dental care. If the tooth is salvageable, then it can be reattached to the socket, but this needs to be done within a one- or two-hour window.
  2. A chipped tooth is the most common dental emergency. Small chips can be caused by food (chicken bones and nuts have sent many people to the dentist); however, it's usually some sort of accident or injury that more often causes a chip. While you might be embarrassed to walk around with a gaping chip in your front tooth, it is easily fixed with a bond, crown, or veneer.
  3. A broken tooth is more severe than a chipped tooth. When a tooth breaks, it might be due to a small or hidden chip. However, chances are the pain and discomfort will be more severe.
  4. It might seem comical, but getting a piece of food lodged in the wrong place can result in a dental emergency. If something gets stuck deep in a crevice, it can cause pain and inflammation.
  5. The loss of a filling happens more often than you think. When you lose a filling, you need to receive emergency care immediately. If you don’t, you risk further damage to your tooth.

When you injure your teeth or mouth, you need to seek emergency care as soon as possible. In the event of a suspected emergency, don't wait. Contact Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous immediately.

Do I lose my wisdom if I lose my wisdom teeth?

January 5th, 2018

The third molars have long been known as your “wisdom teeth,” because they are the last teeth to erupt from the gums – usually sometime during the late teens to early twenties. This is a time in life that many consider an “age of wisdom”; hence the term, “wisdom teeth.”

Extracting the third molars does not have any effect on your actual wisdom … and Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our staff are sorry to say that holding on to them can’t make you smarter, either. So if you somehow feel that you became wiser and smarter when your wisdom teeth appeared, chalk it up to age rather than teeth.

In fact, you may just be showing how smart you are by having your wisdom teeth removed. Mankind once relied on the wisdom teeth to replace teeth that were damaged or missing, thanks to a poor diet. But dietary changes and advances in modern dentistry make it possible for many people to hold on to their teeth for many decades, which eliminated the need for third molars.

For many people, wisdom teeth cause nothing but problems: becoming impacted, irritating surrounding gum tissue, or even causing other teeth to become crooked or overlap. By removing them, patients often enjoy a lower risk of decay, infection, and aesthetic complications.

So rest assured that extracting your wisdom teeth will have no effect on your immediate or long-term intelligence.

Things You Probably Didn’t Know About New Year's Eve

December 27th, 2017

It’s no secret that New Year’s Eve is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team love it too. It’s a fresh start, another year of surviving the crazy world we live in, a time to refocus on the things we want for ourselves, a celebration with those we love … the list goes on.

Dozens of countries welcome the New Year with over-the-top parties and celebrations. Because it’s a public holiday, many offices, businesses, and schools close for the day. As you think about your plans for this holiday, here are some fun facts about New Year’s that might surprise you!

Can you guess what the most common New Year’s resolutions are? You may already have one or two of these on your own personal list. The top five New Year’s resolutions are: to quit smoking, get a new job, lose weight, increase personal savings, and return to school. Just remember that coming up with a concrete plan to reach your goals is the surest way to achieve your resolutions!

About one million people brave the cold to watch the New Year’s Eve ball drop in New York City’s Times Square in person. Yes, that’s one million! This event is one of the most iconic celebrations in the world. People travel from all over just to experience it, but you can watch from the warmth and comfort of your living room.

If you’re not a fan of cabbage, collard greens, black-eyed peas, or ham hocks, you might want to revise your tastes. All these foods are all regarded as lucky fare on New Year’s Day. Unless you’re allergic, of course!

For many people in Mexico and Latin America, eating 12 grapes at midnight is a tradition that brings good luck in the 12 coming months. Most people even make a wish per grape!

Whether you’re celebrating in Anchorage, AK or traveling elsewhere to observe the holiday, New Year’s Eve is a time to enjoy the company of your friends and family. Don’t forget to send warm wishes to your loved ones, and snag a midnight kiss with that special someone if you can!

I have sensitive teeth. What are my options?

December 20th, 2017

At Pediatric Dental Associates, we have patients coming in asking us why a taste of ice cream or a sip of coffee becomes a painful experience, or why brushing or flossing makes them wince or cringe. The answer, usually, is sensitive teeth. Tooth sensitivity typically occurs when the underlying dentin layer of the tooth is exposed in the oral cavity, and most people experience tooth sensitivity at some point in their lives.

So, why do people experience sensitivity and how do you know if tooth sensitivity is something to be worried about? The most common cause of the sensitivity is exposure of the dentin, which is the layer surrounding the tooth’s nerve. Contributors to tooth sensitivity include teeth whitening and dental work such as fillings, periodontal treatment, and the placement or adjustment of braces. These are temporary and should be of no concern.

Permanent hypersensitivity, however, may require treatment at Pediatric Dental Associates. The first step is to determine the cause, and that begins with a visit to our Anchorage, AK office.

The reasons your teeth may become sensitive vary, but possible causes include:

  • Tooth decay (cavities) near the gum line
  • Cracked or fractured teeth
  • Fillings that are worn
  • Gum (periodontal) disease, or recession of the gums
  • Worn tooth enamel
  • Brushing too hard
  • Consuming acidic foods

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates want you to know that sensitive teeth can be treated, and the type of treatment will depend on what is causing the sensitivity. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous may suggest one the following treatments:

  • Desensitizing toothpaste, which contains ingredients that seal off the microtubules inside the exposed dentin to reduce tooth sensitivity
  • Fluoride gel, which strengthens compromised tooth enamel, helps prevent tooth decay, and decreases hypersensitivity of the teeth
  • A crown, inlay, or bonding, which is used to treat tooth decay and prevents sensitivity
  • A surgical gum graft. If gum tissue has been lost from the root, this procedure will protect the root and reduce sensitivity.
  • Root canal: If you are experiencing severe and persistent sensitivity which cannot be treated by other means, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous may recommend you undergo a root canal to eliminate the problem.

If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, give us a call today so that Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can provide you with some much-needed relief!

Root Canal FAQs

December 13th, 2017

Most people hear the word root canal and panic. With today’s state of the art equipment and improved local anesthetic devices, and some knowledge, a root canal does not have to cause panic. Root canals are a common dental procedure, done quite often at our Anchorage, AK office.

Why do I need a root canal?

There are several reasons why Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous may suggest a root canal including:

  • An infection in your tooth that has reached the nerves
  • A deep cavity that cannot be filled because the pulp and nerves are also effected
  • Injury to the tooth
  • A deep cracked tooth
  • Broken tooth
  • Repeated fillings of the effective tooth

What is a root canal?

A root canal is a dental procedure that is used to prevent the loss of a tooth and relieve pain. Inside your teeth is pulp which consists of soft tissue blood, connective tissue, blood vessels, and nerves. When the pulp becomes infected, swollen or diseased a root canal is necessary to save your tooth. During a root canal, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will remove the infected pulp. The tooth’s root canals and pulp chamber of your tooth will be cleaned, so all the diseased pulp is removed and then your tooth will be sealed.

What to Expect During a Root Canal

Your root canal will start out just like any other dental procedure. We will go over any questions you may have, and then numb the area surrounding the tooth. After the area is numb the root canal will begin.

The amount of time it takes to do your root canal varies depending on number of roots that need to be cleaned. Most teeth have one root canal, while others have between two and four. For a single canal, the procedure usually lasts less than an hour. The more canals your tooth has the longer amount of time it will take and in some cases, you will require more than one visit.

How much pain will I have after a root canal?

Once the local anesthesia wears off, your pain can be controlled by over the counter pain medications such as Ibuprofen, Naproxen, or Acetaminophen. In some cases, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous may prescribe a prescription dose of pain medication. Within two days you should be feeling much better and able to return to your regular lifestyle.

How do I know if I need a root canal?

December 6th, 2017

Tooth decay affects everyone, with studies reporting that 92% of adults have had a cavity at one point in their lifetime. In more serious instances of tooth decay, however, the nerve of the tooth may become infected. This type of infection requires a root canal, in which the affected nerve is removed, and the interior of the tooth is cleaned and filled.

Tooth Anatomy

Although each tooth is covered by a hard outer shell, the interior of a tooth consists of dental pulp. This pulp is soft, containing blood vessels that bring nutrients to the tooth. Each tooth also has an associated nerve, which resides within a root canal passing from the tooth’s root into the dental pulp. This nerve provides information about temperature, allowing teeth to sense heat or cold.

Symptoms of Nerve Infection

Damage to the dental pulp or nerve tissue leads to a rapid multiplication of bacteria within the interior of the tooth. The result may be an abscess, a small pocket near the root of the tooth that becomes full of pus. This infected area commonly causes the following symptoms:

  • Intense pain or sensitivity when pressure is applied to the tooth
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, even after the heat or cold has been removed
  • Darkening or discoloration of the affected tooth
  • A small, persistent pimple that forms on the gums
  • Swollen or tender gums
  • Swelling in other areas of the face, neck, or head

Nerve infection may occur due to deep decay, although repeated dental procedures, facial trauma, chipping or cracking of a tooth, or large fillings may also contribute to an abscessed tooth.

What to Do if You Think You Need a Root Canal

Only a visit to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can confirm whether a tooth’s nerve has become infected. We will perform an oral examination and X-rays to confirm whether the tooth is abscessed. If a root canal procedure is needed, a small hole will be placed in the tooth. The pulp and nerve tissue are removed from the tooth, which is thoroughly cleaned and filled. Then, the hole is sealed with a special compound to prevent bacteria from entering the tooth’s interior. The entire procedure is performed under local anesthesia to numb pain.

If you think you may have tooth or nerve decay, call our Anchorage, AK office today to schedule a diagnostic appointment.

I drink a lot of coffee. Could it be hurting my smile?

November 29th, 2017

At Pediatric Dental Associates, we know most of our patients enjoy a cup of coffee or two throughout the day. But what many of you don’t know is that coffee can be especially tough on your teeth because tannic acid (the substance that makes the dark color) etches into the pits and grooves of tooth enamel, staining your pearly whites and being generally detrimental to your smile.

Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world, with more than 50 percent of people drinking a cup daily. Other foods and drinks such as wine, chocolate-flavored beverages, and soft drinks can all cause tooth enamel discolorations. A hot cup of Joe, however, goes one step farther: extreme temperature changes in your mouth can cause teeth to expand and contract. This allows stains to penetrate deep into the micro-cracks of your tooth enamel.

Additionally, caffeine is considered a diuretic, which means it causes the body to lose fluids. So when you enjoy coffee or any kind of caffeinated beverage, it slows the production of saliva and causes dry mouth, which can potentially lead to bad breath and even tooth decay.

If you just can't make it through the day without a cup of java, we encourage you to consider these tips to help make sure your teeth stay in tip-top shape:

    • Drink a glass of water with your coffee or rinse with a glass of water after every cup. Not only does it help neutralize and rinse away the acid left behind from the coffee, but it also helps replenish fluids drawn out of your body by caffeine.
    • Chew gum after you drink coffee. Chewing gum will help keep your saliva production up and prevent dry mouth.
    • Enjoy your beverage with a straw so that tannins don’t make contact with your front upper and lower teeth.
    • Switch to decaf. Each cup of regular coffee you drink has an average of 110 milligrams of caffeine. Decaf has the same great taste with only two to 12 milligrams of caffeine.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team also invite you to visit our convenient Anchorage, AK office for whitening options. We can help bleach your teeth with proven and professional products. To learn more about whitening options available at Pediatric Dental Associates, please give us a call!

Crushing the Ice-Chewing Habit

November 22nd, 2017

It's a habit many people have and not only can it be annoying to the people around you, it can be detrimental to your dental health. Chewing ice is so common that it even has its own name, pagophagia. We're not talking about a slushy or shaved ice (although those artificially sugary treats should be avoided too!) but more like the hunks of ice rattling around in the bottom of your glass.

Ice chewing can be a sign of emotional problems like stress or obsessive-compulsive disorder, but it can also be a marker for iron deficiency anemia and other physical problems. Then again, some people just like to have something to chew on. For whatever reason you find yourself chewing on it, it's a habit you need to break.

Chewing on ice can cause:

  • Chipped and cracked teeth
  • Damaged enamel
  • Sore jaw muscles
  • Damage to dental work such as crowns, fillings, or other appliances

If chewing on ice is becoming a problem in your life, don’t hesitate to speak with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about it. But if you find yourself still wanting to chew on something, here are a few alternatives to ice:

  • Baby carrots
  • Celery sticks
  • Sugar-free (xylitol) gum

We know you need to chill sometimes, but chomping down your entire glass of ice is not the way to do it. If you have any other questions on the topic, feel free to talk with a member of our Anchorage, AK team. It may be beneficial in solving the issue and helping to remediate any damage to your teeth.

Dentistry around the World

November 15th, 2017

From the clinical perspective, dentistry is similar around the world. Dentists, like Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous, go to school, obtain a license, and work hard to prevent and treat tooth decay, gum disease, oral infections, throat or oral cancer, tooth loss, and other conditions that might limit a person’s ability to smile, bite, chew, or speak. The quality of dental care, however, and the payment method for dental services varies between nations.

Dentistry throughout the World

Developed countries have more dentists per capita than do developing nations, according to the World Health Organization. There is one dentist for every 150,000 people in Africa, for example, as compared to about one dentist for every 2,000 citizens of an industrialized nation. The lack of dentists in developing nations means that dental care is restricted to pain management and emergency care.

Dentistry often reflects the cultural views of a nation. Some cultures acknowledge only the functional aspect of teeth, so dentists focus on preventing tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss. Other cultures emphasize aesthetic appearances, so dentists there provide cosmetic procedures in addition to essential oral care.

Each nation imposes its own education and licensure requirements for dentists but most require some college before four years of dental school. The graduate must then pass local or national exams to practice in that region. European schools and standards are similar to the United States.

From the business perspective, dentistry varies between nations. In the United States, a dentist presents to the patient one bill that includes all of the treatment costs, such as the dentist, his assistant, tools, and labs. This allows the dentist to charge a single, easy-to-pay fee for individual procedures, and gives him an opportunity to mark up items and make a profit.

Across much of Europe, a dentist presents two bills to her patient – one for the dentist and another for the lab. This approach may stem from a cultural belief that profiting from healthcare is unethical and that healthcare should be available to consumers at actual cost; public dental clinics and subsidies ensures all citizens have access to dental care, regardless of ability to pay. In most cases, the government is both overseer and provider of dental care.

While the role of the dentist is nearly the same in every country – to ensure the oral health of the citizens – dental care is different in each nation. Regardless, you can rest assured that the care you receive at our Anchorage, AK office is held to the highest standard.

The Importance of Regular Dental Checkups

November 8th, 2017

When was the last time you paid Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous a visit? If you're like many people, chances are it was more than six months ago. We hear the reasons why people neglect regular dental visits all the time: lack of money or quality dental insurance, busy schedules, and fear. However, your twice-yearly checkups are so important for your dental health and for your overall health as well.

You may brush your teeth twice a day and even floss, and your teeth may feel fine, but regular dental checkups with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous aren’t about addressing problems and reacting — they are about cavity prevention. No matter how much you brush and floss, there is still a chance that food or other debris can get lodged between your teeth, and there is also a chance that food and beverages can wear down your tooth enamel in between visits, making your teeth vulnerable to decay.

In addition to a thorough teeth cleaning and polishing, these regular visits 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. We’ll also check old fillings and restorations, as these can wear away over time from constant chewing, grinding, or clenching.

It's important to know that the majority of dental problems do not become visible or painful until they are highly advanced. And, unfortunately, serious oral issues are painful and expensive to treat. A deep cleaning twice a year by our team at Pediatric Dental Associates is the best way to hit all the spots you may have missed with brushing and flossing and prevent any problems that may have gone unseen.

Make sure your teeth get the professional attention they deserve! If you’re overdue for your next cleaning, please give us a call to schedule an appointment at our convenient Anchorage, AK office!

What exactly is tinnitus?

November 1st, 2017

It’s estimated that about one in every five people is affected by tinnitus, which is a ringing or noise in the ears. But tinnitus isn’t a condition in itself; it’s actually the symptom of an underlying condition. Some of these underlying conditions could be hearing loss, injury to the ear, or some sort of circulatory disorder.

Another common cause if tinnitus is a dental injury or dental issue, whether it involves the jaw or the temporomandibular joint, better known as the TMJ. “Somatic tinnitus” is the term given to the version that is attributable to injuries to the head or neck area. Symptoms of somatic tinnitus may include noticeable fluctuations in sound volume, intermittency, headaches, memory loss or increased forgetfulness, and an increased likelihood of being depressed or sad.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will tell you tinnitus usually isn’t serious and is more common in older populations. For that reason, many people won’t even seek an answer to what’s causing it. But people can also experience more severe cases of tinnitus that can affect a person’s ability to complete everyday activities, which has a larger impact on their lives. For people facing these more severe cases of tinnitus, treatment may be necessary to increase their quality of life. It’s also worth noting that tinnitus seems to worsen with age, so while symptoms might not be a problem one year, they may be more significant and distracting the next.

If you have tinnitus that is caused by the misalignment of the TMJ or an injury to the mouth, that’s a condition that can be corrected by Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates. We will work to relieve your symptoms by realigning the jaw or adjusting your bite with routine dental care. Sometimes we won’t even have to go this far, because an oral infection or gum infection may be causing your problem. We might also recommend other life changes, such as dietary adjustments and medication.

If you're experiencing tinnitus-like symptoms and have ruled out various other reasons for it, contact our Anchorage, AK office today. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team will carefully analyze your situation and put you on a treatment course so that you can kick the symptoms for good.

Thumb Sucking, Pacifiers, and Your Baby's Teeth

October 25th, 2017

Sucking is a common instinct for babies and the use of a pacifier or their thumb offers a sense of safety and security, as well a way to relax.

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the majority of children will stop using a pacifier and stop sucking their thumb on their own between the ages of two and four years of age. Prolonged thumb sucking or use of a pacifier can have dental consequences and needs be taken care of sooner, rather than later.

Many dentists favor pacifier use over thumb sucking because it makes it easier for parents to control and even limit the use of a pacifier. If thumb sucking lingers, the same strategies used to break the baby from using the pacifier can be used for thumb sucking.

Precautions

  • Try to find "orthodontically correct" pacifiers, as they may reduce the risk of dental problems.
  • Never dip a pacifier in sugar or honey to calm the baby.
  • Give your baby a bottle of water at bedtime, never juice.

Dental Complications

Long term pacifier use can lead to an assortment of dental complications including:

  • The bottom teeth leaning inward
  • The top teeth slanting outward
  • Misalignment of the baby’s jaw

The risk of any or all of these things happening is greatly increased if thumb sucking and pacifier use is sustained after the baby’s teeth start to come in.

Breaking the Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Habit

Most toddlers and children will stop sucking their thumb or using a pacifier between the ages of two and four on their own. However, if intervention is necessary here are a few tips to help your child break the habit:

  • Slowly decreasing the use of a pacifier can be effective for many children. This method does not work very well with thumb sucking.
  • Thumb sucking can be more difficult to break. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous may recommend using an over the counter cream that you put on the child’s thumb; it doesn’t taste good and usually does the trick.
  • Rewards can also help with the process.
  • If these simple commonly used strategies do not work, there are oral devices that will prevent a child from sucking their thumb or a pacifier.

Talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team, as we have many tricks up our sleeves that will be effective in breaking your child’s thumb sucking or pacifier use.

What are the five things I should do in between visits?

October 18th, 2017

When it comes to keeping your smile looking its best, good oral hygiene is a must! Good oral health habits should start early and continue throughout your lifetime. Here, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates suggest five habits worth adopting that will help keep your teeth healthy:

  • Brush and floss regularly. Brush gently at least twice a day, paying special attention to the gum line to rid your mouth of food and bacteria that may lurk in between your teeth. Floss at least once a day. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if the bristles are frayed.
  • Make regular visits to see Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous. Regular checkups (twice yearly) will help diagnose any dental problems early on when they can be more easily treated.
  • Stop smoking. Did you know smokers are four times as likely as nonsmokers to develop periodontal (gum) disease? Tobacco, whether in the form of cigarettes, pipes, cigars, or chewable tobacco, increases oral and throat cancer risks, and raises the risk for candidiasis, an oral fungal infection. Smokeless tobacco contains sugar, which furthers your risk for cavities.
  • Limit your alcohol intake. Heavy drinking dramatically increases the risk of developing mouth and throat cancers.
  • Eat healthy. Avoid snacking on foods that contain high levels of sugar or starch. We encourage you to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are known to help stimulate the flow of saliva to re-mineralize tooth surfaces and neutralize cavity-causing bacteria.

To learn more about the habits you should practice in between your visits to Pediatric Dental Associates, or to schedule an appointment, please give us a call today!

What are the benefits of visiting a dentist regularly?

October 11th, 2017

Your regularly scheduled dental checkups with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous are not just meant to make your smile prettier and healthier. Your mouth’s health has an important impact on your overall physical health as well!

While you may brush your teeth twice a day and even floss, we would like to remind you that dental checkups with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous every six months aren’t just about addressing problems and reacting, they are about cavity and gum disease prevention.

In addition to a twice yearly thorough teeth cleaning and polishing at Pediatric Dental Associates, these regular visits help us detect and prevent the onset of tooth decay and gum disease. During your visit, we’ll check the health of your mouth, teeth, gums, cheeks, and tongue. We’ll also check old fillings and restorations, as these can wear away over time from constant chewing, grinding, or clenching.

It’s important to know that the majority of dental problems do not become visible or painful until they are highly advanced. And, unfortunately, serious oral issues are painful and expensive to treat.

While Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team always strive to provide unmatched dental care for you and your family, we are also committed to your overall wellness as well! A deep cleaning twice a year is the best way to prevent any problems that may have gone unseen. If you are overdue for your next cleaning, please give us a call to schedule an appointment at our Anchorage, AK office!

Is sleep apnea linked to cancer? Studies say, ‘Yes’.

October 4th, 2017

Recently, multiple studies have concluded that people with sleep apnea, a disorder that causes snoring, fatigue, and dangerous gaps in breathing at night due to throat muscles collapsing, are five times more likely to develop cancer. In fact, one of the studies found that people with the most severe forms of sleep apnea had a 65 percent greater risk of developing cancer of any kind.

Researchers believe this could be due to the body lacking enough oxygen, a condition known as hypoxemia. When people are deprived of oxygen, their bodies react by producing more blood vessels, which can feed cancer cells, and as a result cause tumors to grow and spread.

Approximately 28 million North Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with many cases going undiagnosed. This is due to most cancer patients not mentioning any sleep problems they experience unless their physician asks them.

Patients at Pediatric Dental Associates who suffer from sleep apnea can be treated using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which produces a stream of air to keep the upper airways open while you sleep. An oral appliance may be another option if CPAP therapy isn’t an option. If you have sleep apnea, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team will help you understand all of your treatment options, finding one that suits your needs.

If you think you may have sleep apnea, please give us a call at our Anchorage, AK office to schedule an appointment.

Relax with Sedation Dentistry

September 27th, 2017

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates understand that many of our patients have a fear of dentistry. You may be concerned about experiencing pain from sensitive teeth or routine procedures. General anxiety is also common. Do not put off visiting our Anchorage, AK office; we offer various types of sedation to take the pain and fear out of your dental procedure.

Nitrous Oxide Sedation

For many patients, nitrous oxide, combined with local anesthetics, will both provide pain relief and reduce anxiety. Nitrous oxide is beneficial because the dosage can be regulated during treatment and patients are normally capable of driving shortly after the procedure is completed.

Oral or Injected Sedation

With oral sedation, you may be given a pill or liquid to consume several hours before your procedure. You will not be able to drive yourself to the appointment. An oral liquid is often given to children before any shots or intravenous anesthesia. An intramuscular injection may be given at the office that provides relaxation benefits for 20 to 30 minutes.

Nitrous Oxide with an Oral Sedative

If you experience higher levels of anxiety, an oral or injected sedative can be offered before nitrous oxide is started. This is also effective for reducing anxiety regarding the injection of local anesthetics. A liquid medication followed by nitrous oxide is beneficial for children. This combination can produce a deep sedation level.

General Anesthesia

This type of anesthesia can be offered as an inhaled gas or intravenous liquid. If no oral sedative is given before the general anesthesia is administered, you should wake up quickly after your procedure is complete. An injection, pill, or liquid medication can be offered to reduce anxiety before intravenous sedation begins. Intravenous sedation can also be used at moderate-to-deep sedation levels without complete loss of consciousness.

Do not hesitate to ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about receiving sedation or pain prevention when you visit. We will be glad to explain the options we have available and answer all your questions to ensure that your exam is pleasant for you.

Don’t procrastinate about dental work!

September 20th, 2017

When you have dental issues or just need routine care, you may try to put off making an appointment at Pediatric Dental Associates. Common reasons for procrastination are not having the time or fear of pain. Avoiding Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous is not a good idea, though. Putting off dental care can turn small problems into large ones. Short appointments turn into long ones with significantly more work and expense.

What happens when you wait?

The small cavity that could have been filled easily has turned into a large cavity. The larger the cavity, the more work required to fill it. However, this is only a minor problem compared to more advanced issues. The minor toothache you are trying to ignore could be a small fracture or an abscess. Small fractures can sometimes be repaired, but if you wait and the fracture increases, you may need to get a crown.

An abscess can be treated in the early stages. Ignoring an abscessed tooth may lead to root damage and the need for a root canal. Infection can spread to other teeth, which multiplies the damage. These treatments will require more of your time than you would have spent taking care of the problem early.

Perhaps you are just putting off a routine cleaning. Even if you brush, rinse, and floss the way you are supposed to, you need a professional cleaning at Pediatric Dental Associates. Plaque that is left behind hardens into calculus or tartar that you cannot remove by yourself. A build-up of calculus can also lead to gum disease.

Unfortunately, avoiding appointments due to a lack of time may mean that you have to give up substantially more time later on. You also can experience needless pain from tooth problems. It’s always best to visit Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous for regularly scheduled cleanings and exams to ensure your smile stays healthy and beautiful.

Mouthguard Q&A

September 13th, 2017

Today, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates thought we would talk about mouthguards, what they are, where to get them, and when to use them.

Q: What is a mouthguard?

A: A mouthguard, which is made of soft plastic, is a flexible, removable device that fits in your mouth and is adapted to fit comfortably to the shape of your upper teeth. A mouthguard will protect not only the teeth, but also your jaws, lips, tongue, cheeks, and gums, and should be worn anytime you are participating in full-contact athletic or recreational activities that may result in injury.

Q: How do mouthguards work? Why are mouthguards important?

A: A mouthguard works as a shock absorber to cushion your mouth from the effects of a blow to the face, head, or neck. Mouthguards protect teeth from not only fractures, but also hold the tongue, lips, and cheeks away from the teeth to avoid lacerations. Using a mouthguard as instructed by Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can lessen the possibility of concussion and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dislocation while you are out on the court or field. Increasingly, organized sports are requiring mouthguards to prevent injury to athletes, and research shows most mouth injuries occur when athletes are not wearing mouth protection.

Q: When should I wear a mouthguard?

A: Whenever you are participating in an activity that involves a risk of falling or head contact with other players. This includes football, baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, and other competitive sports.

Q: How do I choose a mouthguard?

A: Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team encourage you to choose a mouthguard that you can wear comfortably. There are several options of mouthguards you may choose from. First, preformed or what we call “boil-to-fit” mouthguards are found in sports stores. But your best choice is asking us for one during your next visit as we can fabricate a custom mouthguard for you at our Anchorage, AK office. A custom mouthguard will be more comfortable to wear and more effective in preventing injuries.

If you have any additional questions about mouthguards, please give us a call or ask us during your next visit!

Sleep Apnea: How we can help

September 6th, 2017

At Pediatric Dental Associates, we understand that getting high-quality sleep is vital to maintaining your overall health. Insufficient sleep can lead to an inability to concentrate, motor vehicle accidents, and difficulty performing at work. Since approximately 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, this poses a significant public health problem. If you think you may have sleep apnea, talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team about devices that can help you get a good night’s rest.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a relatively common disorder in which breathing stops or becomes very shallow during the night. These bouts of paused breathing may last a few seconds or as long as several minutes. When 30 or more breathing interruptions occur per hour, sleep apnea leads to dramatic reductions in sleep quality. In many cases, this condition is caused by your airway becoming blocked or collapsed during sleep.

Anyone can get sleep apnea, but there are certain factors that increase your risk. Having small airways, being overweight, being male, or having a family history of sleep apnea increases the likelihood that you will develop the disorder. If you think you have sleep apnea, visit highly encourage you to visit our Anchorage, AK office for a thorough physical exam, comprehensive medical history, and a sleep study.

Treatment Options

Several treatment avenues are available for people with sleep apnea. One popular option is to wear an oral appliance. For example, a mandibular advancement device (MAD) looks like a sports mouthguard and slightly repositions your jaw, to keep your airway unobstructed. Another option is a tongue-retraining device (TRD), which holds your tongue in place to ensure that your airway stays open during the night.

For individuals with mild-to-moderate sleep apnea, dental devices are a smart option. Many patients enjoy improved sleep, reductions in snoring, and less fatigue during daytime hours. If you’re curious about getting an oral appliance to help with your sleep apnea, please consult our team at Pediatric Dental Associates. After a consultation and examination, we can fit the type of device that works best for your condition.

How do I know if my gums are receding?

August 30th, 2017

Gum recession, a common result of gum disease, occurs when the gum tissue that surrounds the teeth wears away or pulls back, forming pockets between the gumline and exposing more of the tooth. Gum recession occurs gradually, so you might not know that you have it. Left untreated, gum recession can result in tooth loss. In addition, there are several studies that suggest that gum disease is associated with modest increases in coronary heart disease. Here are five ways to know if your gums are receding.

1. Healthy gums are firm, light pink, and very elastic. If your gums don’t fit that description, then it’s time to visit our Anchorage, AK office. Red, swollen gums are a common symptom of gum disease, and may lead to gum recession.

2. Do your gums bleed easily when you brush or floss? If you have gum recession, even if you brush gently and with toothpaste specifically designed for sensitivity, it may still result in bleeding.

3. When you look in the mirror, do you see more of a tooth than you used to? This is one of the easiest ways to tell if you have gum recession. When gums recede, more of the tooth is visibly exposed. Look for lines or notches along the bottom of the teeth, as this typically indicates areas where the gums have receded.

4. One of the first signs of gum recession is tooth sensitivity. Does it hurt when you bite down or chew? The more gums recede, the more painful it is going to be. However, before you experience tooth sensitivity or pain, you may notice awkwardness when you bit down. When gum recession occurs, teeth can shift slightly, making it feel as if they are not properly aligned.

5. Loose teeth are a symptom of advanced gum recession and periodontal disease. In other words, the supporting bone structure of the teeth has already begun to deteriorate. If left untreated, it will result in tooth loss.

From deep cleaning (scaling) to gingival tissue grafting surgery, there are several ways to combat gum recession and periodontal disease. How gum recession is treated depends on how far advanced it is. Talk to Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about what options are best for you.

Why Visiting the Emergency Room for Your Dental Problem isn’t a Good Idea

August 23rd, 2017

Emergency rooms are for emergencies, so before you head to the hospital because of a dental problem, you need to ask yourself this question: Is what you're experiencing really a medical emergency? While emergency room visits for dental related issues are on the rise across the United States , they’re not necessarily the best solution for every problem. Many people don't know about emergency dental care services, many of which are available 24/7, and so they go to the ER.

These types of statistics are common across the country. However, despite the numbers, not all dental problems are created equal. If you've experienced some type of injury to your mouth, jaw, or face, then an ER visit is a good idea, but if you're suffering from a toothache, cavity, or broken crown or veneer, then the ER is not the best place to handle the situation. If you're having a dental emergency, then seeking emergency dental care should be your course of action.

Seeking Long-Term Solutions

The ER doesn't provide a long-term solution to your dental issue; it only gives you temporary relief. There’s a chance they will simply hand you a prescription for pain medication and tell you to call your dentist in the morning. In the end, you’re going to be saddled with two medical bills, and nobody wants that. Even if the ER outfits you with a temporary crown or filling, you're still going to have to make a follow-up appointment our office.

There are numerous homemade remedies that can sooth tooth and gum pain. However, if you're experiencing a dental emergency, the ER is not the place to go. The specialized emergency team at Pediatric Dental Associates is available to take care of every dental problem you may have. In the case of a dental emergency, don't wait any longer than necessary. Feel free to contact our Anchorage, AK office at any time, day or night.

Periodontics and Pregnancy

August 16th, 2017

Periodontal health — which refers to the condition of the structures that support your teeth — is an important part of your oral and overall health. However, periodontal health becomes even more important when you're pregnant. Bad oral health can have detrimental effects on the health of your unborn child and can lead to low-birth weight babies and giving birth to a pre-term baby, according to reports by the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), the European Federation of Periodontology (EFP), and several research studies.

Periodontal disease (gum disease) is a set of chronic, bacteria-induced, inflammatory diseases that attack the gum tissue and in more severe cases, the bones supporting the teeth. Early signs of periodontal disease usually include tenderness, swelling, and redness. Symptoms can also include bleeding gums when flossing or brushing, receding gums, loose teeth, and bad breath. These signs shouldn't be ignored, especially if you're pregnant.

Prevention is the best tool you have to fight periodontal disease. Here are some steps you can take to keep your gums in tiptop shape:

  • Brush your teeth properly twice a day – angle your toothbrush at the gum line to help disrupt the bacterial growth that eventually leads to periodontal disease, and make sure you don't brush too hard.
  • Floss daily and clean behind the back molars on the top and bottom of your mouth.
  • Use antiseptic mouthwash to rid your mouth of the bacteria that can cause gum disease.
  • Get regular checkups at our Anchorage, AK office to ensure you have no signs of periodontal disease and that your oral hygiene habits are effective.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team urge women to care for their periodontal health during pregnancy to avoid complications. If you have any questions regarding periodontal health and how it affects you and your baby's overall health, please contact our Anchorage, AK office for more information.

Three Must-Have Dental Treatments

August 9th, 2017

In dentistry, there are a wide variety of treatments, everything from elective procedures to those that are necessary and potentially lifesaving. So given the slew of treatment options, how do you choose what’s right for you? Our experts at Pediatric Dental Associates have handpicked the three must-have procedures that we believe can benefit nearly every patient.

The first: A complete periodontal exam. If you are going to the dentist for scheduled cleanings, this exam should happen at least once a year. A periodontal exam is quick and relatively painless. The dentist or hygienist will carefully probe around each tooth to take measurements that show the health of the bone and its supporting tissue, all while looking for signs of any active infection. It has been suggested that there is a link between periodontal (gum) disease and the increased risk of some potentially fatal diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Signs of some diseases show up in the mouth sometimes before the patient is aware of changes in the body. Diabetes is one of these silent diseases. Many Americans are unaware that they have the disease until sudden and severe changes in the periodontal health of the teeth lead to a trip to the patient’s physician. And did you know that more adults lose teeth to periodontal disease than to cavities? A simple screening once a year can lead to saving your teeth.

The second treatment our team at Pediatric Dental Associates recommends is a dental sealant; it’s not just for kids! Dental 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. Replacing a sealant as an adult can also help prevent decay in adulthood. This is a great cost-effective procedure for adults. Dental insurance will likely not cover sealants as an adult, but the cost of a sealant for prevention versus the cost of a filling is much less.

Our third must-have dental treatment is often the most fun: in-office whitening. Who doesn’t want an instantly dazzling smile? In-office whitening is one of the most dramatic and quick ways to brighten a smile. It will take a few years off your age in a two-hour period of time. Whitening is very safe and can give a patient newfound confidence to smile.

Is soda really bad for your teeth?

August 2nd, 2017

You take a sip of soda – and someone remarks, “That’s going to ruin your teeth!”

Is that true? Is sweet soda the enemy of a healthy smile? The answer, unfortunately, is that one glass might not hurt your teeth, but drinking soda regularly can do some real damage.

Sodas are one of America’s favorite drinks. The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry says about half of us drink soda regularly, averaging 2.6 glasses each day.

That’s a lot of soda considering the drinks are acidic, full of sugar, and have little or no nutritional value. It may surprise you to learn that it’s actually the acidity of cola, not the sugar, which poses the biggest threat to teeth. Over time, repeated exposure to soda wears down tooth enamel, leaving teeth stained and less able to prevent cavities.

As enamel wears away, teeth can become discolored, take on a rough texture, and become highly sensitive to hot or cold. Your teeth may start to tingle, and brushing or flossing can cause pain. If not checked by dental care, teeth may start to erode, becoming thinner and more likely to crack. It’s a pretty high price to pay for a glass of soda.

Of course, sodas are not the only culprits in tooth erosion. Coffee, wine, and some fruit juices are also acidic, though these drinks tend to have less acidity that a typical soda.

So what can you do to protect your teeth?

1. Cut back – way back – on acidic drinks.

2. Add more water to your daily diet in place of sodas.

3. Use a straw when you drink.

4. Don’t confuse diet soda with a healthy alternative. Diet drinks are just as acidic as regular sodas.

5. Rinse your mouth with water after drinking soda. The rinse may remove some acid from your teeth, although abstaining from the soda would do more good.

6. Hold off on brushing your teeth after drinking soda. Brushing too hard can weaken enamel that is already covered in acid.

7. Pay attention to your teeth, both how they look and how they feel. Let Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous know if you see signs of discoloration or erosion, or feel tingling. Make an appointment at our Anchorage, AK office if you feel tooth or gum pain when eating or drinking.

My gums are shrinking!

July 26th, 2017

Have you ever looked in the mirror and noticed that your teeth looked longer? Does it seem like your gums are shrinking? This condition is called recession—many adults have it. Let’s look at some of the causes and what you can do about it.

During your exam at Pediatric Dental Associates, we will take measurements to check for periodontal disease. Dental professionals take recession measurements to see how much attached gingiva is present. This is the kind of tissue that is most resilient to infection.

The more recession, the less attached gingiva. The less attached gingiva, the less bone support. The less bone support, the higher your chances of tooth loss. It is quite a domino effect.

Don’t lose hope. The effect can be halted once you know the cause of your recession.

Do you ever wake up with your jaw clenched, and/or a headache that originates just above your ears? Clenching or grinding your teeth can cause recession. When there is added stress on a tooth, it flexes at the gum line.

Over time this causes microscopic breaks in the enamel and then a notch appears. The gum line is forced to move away from its original position. If this is something you see in your mouth, we can discuss the possibility of an occlusal guard at your next visit.

How do you brush your teeth? Do you brush in a straight line or circles? What kind of bristles do you use? Are the bristles on your toothbrush frayed?

When you brush in a circle, you are sweeping all along the gum line, removing the plaque from most angles. When you brush in a straight line, you may often miss the concave portion of the gums. This leaves plaque behind and leads to gingivitis. Whenever gingivitis occurs, the body attacks supporting structures like bone while trying to get rid of the infection. This is periodontal disease, which can cause recession.

Recession may also result from an irritant on the gums, such as a bar from a partial denture or orthodontic appliance (braces).

Gums do not “grow back.” The most common treatment for advanced recession is a tissue graft. There are many different kinds of tissue grafts.

Other factors can cause recession. If you think recession is happening in your mouth, schedule an appointment with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous to discuss your options, so you can make the appropriate treatment choice.

Are you a tooth grinder?

July 19th, 2017

Perhaps you had a particularly irritating commute home from work, and you realize at the end that your jaw was clenched tight the entire time. Or maybe you grind your teeth when you are nervous or anxious about an upcoming business meeting. Most people grind their teeth from time to time, but it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of chronic tooth grinding. Known as bruxism, this condition can lead to oral health problems and dental issues later.

Signs and symptoms of bruxism

  • Your partner might complain about the fact that you grind your teeth while you sleep. People who grind their teeth on a regular basis often do so during the night, and aren’t necessarily aware it is happening. However, your partner will more than likely notice if you develop this condition. If he or she mentions that it happens often, you might want to contact our team at Pediatric Dental Associates.
  • You may experience a persistent and unexplained headache if you grind your teeth too often. You may not realize why you have this headache, because you are not aware of the fact that you have been grinding your teeth. Take note of any headaches you have, and if you cannot attribute them to another source, please give us a call to set up an appointment with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous.
  • Your jaw will more than likely become sore if you suffer from bruxism. If you wake up in the morning and have any discomfort in your jaw, you might have spent the night grinding your teeth. Our team can give you tips and advice for managing bruxism.

While many people associate their teeth grinding with stress, it actually is caused more often by crooked teeth, an overbite, or an under bite. If left untreated, bruxism can lead to a variety of complications, including dental injuries, hearing loss, and the onset of TMD. If you think that you might be a chronic tooth grinder, it might be time to set up an appointment at our Anchorage, AK office in order to find out which treatment options are available to you.

Drill-Free Dentistry with Air Abrasion

July 12th, 2017

Do you dread the dentist? Do you hate the sound of the drill, fear anesthesia or needles, and put off your regular checkups because you dread being told you will have to undergo dental procedures? Then drill-free air abrasion dentistry is for you. Air abrasion is a drill-free technique used by Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous to remove tooth decay, prepare teeth for bonding, and remove old fillings and stains. It is particularly appropriate for young children or people with dental anxiety, because it is sound- and vibration-free. It allows the creation of a relaxing atmosphere, requires less anesthesia in many cases, and involves much less noise.

How does drill-free dentistry work?

Air abrasion is like a mini sandblaster; it sprays away decay-causing tartar and plaque. Tartar and plaque is removed by a fine stream of particles, comprised of silica, aluminum oxide, or a baking soda mixture, which is sprayed toward the tooth by compressed air or a gas in a dental hand-piece. The debris is then suctioned away.

Advantages of air abrasion dentistry

  • Leaves more of the healthy tooth matter
  • Reduces the risk of chipping or fracturing the tooth
  • Generates no heat, sound, vibration, or pressure
  • Reduces the need for anesthesia
  • Is a relatively simple, quick procedure
  • Allows treatment of multiple teeth in one visit
  • Is a relatively dry procedure, which allows for easy placement of composite fillings

Drill-free dentistry can go a long way to easing your dental anxiety. To enter Pediatric Dental Associates and not hear the high-pitched squealing of the drill is, in itself, a big plus. Then to know you will have to receive little or no anesthesia to have a cavity filled with air abrasion, and that this method will be a quiet, relatively pain-free procedure … can you imagine it?

Contact Pediatric Dental Associates at our convenient Anchorage, AK office to see if air abrasion dentistry is right for you!

Teeth Whitening For a Bright Summer

July 5th, 2017

Summer brings sunshine and warm weather, and many of our patients begin thinking about brightening their smiles this time of year. A whiter smile is one just one visit away at Pediatric Dental Associates!

Teeth whitening is safe, quick, and inexpensive. It can be used to correct many tooth discolorations which may have been caused by staining, aging, or chemical damage to teeth. Using the latest in whitening technology, we can offer a safe method for creating the beautiful smile you've always wanted. Just let us know at any appointment if you would like a brighter smile.

Get your beautiful smile today! Give us a call at our convenient Anchorage, AK office to schedule an appointment!

Is there really a link between my mouth and heart?

June 28th, 2017

Yes, indeed! While brushing, flossing, and regular visits to Pediatric Dental Associates are all key to maintaining a healthy smile and mouth, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team want you to know the state of your oral health has a significant effect on your overall health.

Our mouths are full of bacteria—some good, and some harmful. Some types of bad bacteria can cause cavities, gingivitis and even periodontal (gum) disease. Without proper oral care and hygiene, these harmful types of bacteria are capable of entering your blood stream through inflamed gums, when inhaled through the mouth or through saliva.

Gum disease, in turn, has been linked to a number of health problems, researchers have found. These include:

  • Heart disease: Gum disease may increase the risk of heart disease. Gum disease also is believed to worsen existing heart disease.
  • Stroke: Gum disease may increase the risk of the type of stroke caused by blocked arteries.
  • Diabetes: People with diabetes and periodontal disease may be more likely to have trouble controlling their blood sugar than diabetics with healthy gums.
  • Premature birth: Women who suffer from gum disease during pregnancy may be more likely deliver their baby early, and it is likely her infant may be of low birth weight.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates are experts in identifying and treating periodontal disease. Give us a call today at our convenient Anchorage, AK office to schedule an appointment to improve your oral health and your overall health, too!

The Effects of Biting Your Nails

June 21st, 2017

Also known as onchophagia, the habit of nail biting is one of the so-called “nervous habits” that can be triggered by stress, excitement, or boredom. Approximately half of all kids between the ages of ten and 18 have been nail biters at one time or another. Experts say that about 30 percent of children and 15 percent of adults are nail biters, however most people stop chewing their nails by the time they turn 30.

Here are four dental and general reasons to stop biting your nails:

1. It’s unsanitary: Your nails harbor bacteria and germs, and are almost twice as dirty as fingers. What’s more, swallowing dirty nails can lead to stomach problems.

2. It wears down your teeth: Gnawing your nails can put added stress on your pearly whites, which can lead to crooked teeth.

3. It can delay your orthodontic treatment: For those of our patients wearing braces, nail biting puts additional pressure on teeth and weakens roots.

4. It can cost you, literally: It has been estimated that up to $4,000 in extra dental bills can build up over a lifetime.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team recommend the following to kick your nail biting habit:

  • Keep your nails trimmed short; you’ll have less of a nail to bite.
  • Coat your nails with a bitter-tasting nail polish.
  • Ask us about obtaining a mouthguard, which can help prevent nail biting.
  • Put a rubber band around your wrist and snap it whenever you get the urge to gnaw on your nails.
  • Think about when and why you chew your nails. Whether you are nervous or just bored, understanding the triggers can help you find a solution and stop the habit.
  • If you can’t stop, behavioral therapy may be an effective option to stop nail biting. Ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team for a recommendation.

When do children usually lose their baby teeth?

June 14th, 2017

Many parents worry that their children’s teeth are not falling out on time. A lot of concerned parents want to know: When will my child lose his or her first baby tooth? At what age should the last tooth fall out? Is there a specific order in which the teeth are lost?

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team explain that a child's 20 baby teeth (primary teeth) typically come in by age three and begin to loosen and fall out on their own to make room for permanent teeth, which usually appear by the time your child is six. It is important to know that timing may vary, and girls typically lose their baby teeth earlier than boys. The last baby teeth will likely fall out by the time your child is 13.

So, which teeth do children lose first? Baby teeth tend to fall out in the order in which they came, which means the lower center incisors are usually the first to go when your child is between six and seven years old. The next teeth your child will lose are his or her top center pair, also called the upper central incisors.

It’s important to note that if a child loses a baby tooth early as a result of decay or an unforeseen accident, his or her permanent tooth may erupt early and potentially come in crooked due to limited space. If your child suffers an injury or has tooth decay, we encourage you to give us a call to set up an appointment with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous.

While we know some children couldn’t be more excited to lose their baby teeth, we know others are anxious about this childhood milestone. When your child starts to lose teeth, our team at Pediatric Dental Associates encourages you to stress the importance of proper dental care on a daily basis.

Remember to:

  • Remind your child to brush his or her teeth at least twice a day. Supervise and offer assistance as needed.
  • Help your child floss his or her teeth at bedtime.
  • Limit eating and drinking between meals and at bedtime, especially sugary treats and drinks, such as candy and soda.
  • 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.

To learn more about baby teeth, or to schedule your child's next visit with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at our Anchorage, AK office, please give us a call today!

Top Five Things to Keep Your Dentist Smiling

June 7th, 2017

Come say hello twice a year. The American Dental Association says two times is the charm. Multiple visits a year lets us keep an eye out for any developing issues. It’s important to remember that this goes for the whole family. Children over one year old should be seeing Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous!

Stay fresh. At Pediatric Dental Associates, we have a virtually unlimited stock of toothbrushes and floss, which means you have no excuse to be using a sad, ineffective toothbrush. As soon as bristles begin to fray, pick up a new one or stop by our Anchorage, AK office and we’ll replace yours. On average, you should be opening a new one every two to three months.

For goodness sake, floss! Flossing is an efficient way to keep your whole mouth healthy. It not only protects your teeth by removing aggregated plaque, it keeps your gums happy, too.

And brush. Practicing regular healthy habits is essential to keeping your mouth—and us—happy! When it comes to brushing that means two minutes, two times a day. If your kids need some encouragement, try making a calendar or playing a song like this.

Tell a friend. One way you can help us is by spreading the love. Tell your friends about what a good thing we’ve got going here. The more the merrier. And the healthier.

Proper Brushing Techniques

May 31st, 2017

Brushing your teeth properly removes the food particles and bacteria that can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. However, you do not want to scrub your teeth or gums heavily. A heavy hand can lead to tooth and gum erosion, as Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our staff see all too often.

You should also use a soft bristle toothbrush to avoid damaging the surface of your teeth. Make sure the head of the brush fits in your mouth, because if it is too large you will not be able to reach all tooth surfaces. Follow these steps to ensure you are brushing properly.

  1. Use a small amount of toothpaste on your brush. The recommendation is a pea-sized amount or thin strip on the bristles.
  2. Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the surface of your teeth, angling towards your gums. Use a circular motion on all exterior tooth surfaces, and avoid back-and-forth “scrub” brushing.
  3. Once you have cleaned the outer surfaces, hold the brush vertically and clean the inner teeth surfaces — the side of your teeth that face your tongue. Do not forget the inner surfaces of your front teeth.
  4. Finally, finish by cleaning all the chewing surfaces of your teeth. You need to maintain a gentle touch, but make sure you get into the full depth of your molars. The entire process should take about two minutes.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our staff recommend changing your toothbrush every three to four months for best results. Do not forget to clean your tongue, which helps remove excess bacteria from your mouth. Special brushes are available just for cleaning your tongue, and they are easy to use.

Proper care of your teeth also requires flossing on a regular basis. Flossing can be performed before or after you brush. Following up with a quality mouthwash will provide you with even more protection. Do not be afraid to ask the Pediatric Dental Associates team for tips on proper brushing and flossing.

Happy Gums, Happy Heart!

May 24th, 2017

Medical doctors and dental health professionals, like Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous, have debated over the connection (or lack thereof) between gum disease and heart disease. While there still is no unanimous consensus on whether there is a link – or the extent to any link there may be – several studies offer some interesting insight into possible correlations that may prove that there are some common factors that point to a likely correlation between the two.

Could there be a link between gum disease and heart disease?

Dr. Simone Ricketts reported on the findings of an Australian study of 80 patients in Profile Magazine. That study showed that 70% of the patients who participated in the study and needed heart transplants also had gum disease. She noted that other studies show a similar pattern, indicating that patients who needed heart transplants or other cardiac surgery procedures, were more likely to have dental problems.

Not Just Heart Disease Linked to Gum Disease

It isn’t just heart disease that experts are linking to periodontal disease, however. More and more evidence is showing that many chronic inflammatory diseases such as diabetes can be linked to periodontal disease. Poor oral hygiene resulting in gum disease was evident in blood tests that showed positive markers for inflammation.

Experts looked at a combination of over 120 medical studies focusing on a link between dental health and heart health. The findings of that research were published in the Journal of Periodontology and the American Journal of Cardiology. While there was no agreement on a definitive link, the research showed some promising results, and offer information that may be helpful to both dental health professionals and their patients.

On its own, gum disease increases the risk of developing coronary artery disease. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) showed that gum disease increases the risk factor for blood vessel and artery diseases when those arteries supply blood to the brain.

This is especially important for strokes because they are a common cause of inadequate blood flow to the brain. Data from another study of 50,000+ people found a higher risk of stroke among people with gum disease and tooth loss.

The study did, however, show two very important connections between gum and heart disease:

  • Both the gums of people with gum disease and the blood vessels of people who had atherosclerosis tested positive for similar types of bacteria.
  • Both patients with atherosclerosis and those with gum disease showed the presence of inflammation in their bodies.

Patients need to understand the importance of taking care of their mouths and doing whatever is necessary to ensure or support heart health – even if there is no guarantee that doing so will prevent either disease.

Oral Cancer Facts and Figures

May 17th, 2017

Oral cancer is largely viewed as a disease that affects those over the age of 40, but it can affect all ages, even non-tobacco and alcohol users. Oral cancer can occur on the lips, gums, tongue, inside lining of the cheeks, roof of the mouth, and the floor of the mouth. Our team at Pediatric Dental Associates recently put together some facts and figures to illustrate the importance of visiting our Anchorage, AK office.

Our friends at the American Cancer Society recommend an oral cancer screening exam every three years for people over the age of 20 and annually for those over age 40. Because early detection can improve the chance of successful treatment, be sure to ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team to conduct an oral exam during your next visit to our Anchorage, AK office.

  • Symptoms of oral cancer may include a sore in the throat or mouth that bleeds easily and does not heal, a red or white patch that persists, a lump or thickening, ear pain, a neck mass, or coughing up blood. Difficulties in chewing, swallowing, or moving the tongue or jaws are often late symptoms.
  • The primary risk factors for oral cancer in American men and women are tobacco (including smokeless tobacco) and alcohol use. Risk rises dramatically (30%) for people who both smoke and consume alcohol regularly.
  • Oral cancers are part of a group of cancers commonly referred to as head and neck cancers, and of all head and neck cancers they comprise about 85% of that category.
  • Oral cancer is the sixth most common cancer among men.
  • Oral cancer is more likely to affect people over 40 years of age, though an increasing number of young people are developing the condition.
  • Death rates have been decreasing over the past three decades; from 2004 to 2008, rates decreased by 1.2% per year in men and by 2.2% per year in women, according to the American Cancer Society.
  • About 75% to 80% of people with oral cavity and pharynx cancer consume alcohol.
  • The risk of developing oral cavity and pharynx cancers increases both with the amount as well as the length of time tobacco and alcohol products are used.
  • For all stages combined, about 84% of people with oral cancer survive one year after diagnosis. The five- and ten-year relative survival rates are 61% and 50%, respectively.
  • It is estimated that approximately $3.2 billion is spent in the United States annually on treatment of head and neck cancers.

Cancer can affect any part of the oral cavity, including the lip, tongue, mouth, and throat. Through visual inspection, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates can often detect premalignant abnormalities and cancer at an early stage, when treatment is both less extensive and more successful.

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

Diabetes and Dental Care

May 10th, 2017

When most people think of complications of diabetes, they think of an increased risk of blindness, limb amputation, heart disease, and neuropathy. However, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team want you to know that emerging research is revealing a possible connection between uncontrolled diabetes and dental problems. Whether you have type 2 diabetes or type 1, uncontrolled high blood glucose level increases the risk of certain oral health conditions, including:

  • Cavities
  • Tooth decay
  • Gingivitis (early gum disease)
  • Periodontal disease (advanced gum disease)

Diabetes and proper dental care

If you have diabetes, it is more important than ever to take your dental care seriously and practice excellent oral hygiene. These recommendations will help:

  1. Manage your diabetes. First and foremost, it is vital to control your high blood sugar in accordance with your physician’s instructions — not only for the sake of your oral health, but your overall health. With properly controlled blood sugar, you reduce your risk of developing gingivitis and other oral health issues.
  2. Practice good at-home oral hygiene. This means brushing at least twice a day AND flossing. At a minimum, brush your teeth in the morning and at night, but after meals and snacks if you can. Use a soft toothbrush to avoid injuring your gums. Don’t neglect flossing, because it helps to remove plaque below the gumline and between teeth.
  3. Visit the dentist regularly. While it is important to see the dentist every six months even if you don’t have diabetes, it is even more crucial to have a professional teeth cleaning and dental exam if you have the disease. As dental professionals, our team at Pediatric Dental Associates is able to detect early dental conditions before they develop into something more serious and costly.
  4. Tell your dentist that you have diabetes. If you were recently diagnosed with diabetes, be sure to let us know as soon as possible, and remind us at every appointment.
  5. Be conscientious about examining your own gums and teeth. By looking for early signs of gum disease, which can include bleeding gums, irritated gums, gums that are red (versus a healthy pink), or swelling, we can get started on treatment right away.

Managing diabetes takes effort, not only in watching your diet, exercising, monitoring your blood sugar levels, and taking your medication, but obtaining proper dental care.

To learn more about the link between diabetes 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!

Are thumb sucking and pacifier habits harmful for a child’s teeth?

May 3rd, 2017

Depending on how long the thumb sucking or constant pacifier use continues, and how aggressively the child sucks a thumb or the pacifier, it can indeed be an oral health issue. Generally speaking, most children outgrow these behaviors or are able to be weaned off them successfully sometime between ages two and four. When children wean off the behaviors in this age range, long-term damage is unlikely.

Why Kids Suck Their Thumb or Pacifier

Both of these habits are actually a form of self soothing that your child likely uses when he or she is very upset, or feeling stressed, confused, frustrated, or unable to properly express the emotions. If your son or daughters is a regular thumb sucker, or the child wants to use the pacifier almost constantly, it is best to try to taper off these habits at a young age.

If your child continues to suck a thumb or request a pacifier consistently after leaving toddler-hood, this could be a source of concern, and it should be addressed with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our staff. We will be able to evaluate your child's mouth to look for any signs of damage such as palate changes or teeth shifting.

Say Goodbye to Old Habits

In the event that your child is quite reluctant to give up a pacifier or thumb-sucking habit, there are a few things you can do to discourage these behaviors.

  • When you notice that your child is not using a pacifier or sucking a thumb, offer effusive praise. This type of positive reinforcement can be much more effective than scolding the child.
  • Consider instituting a reward system for giving up the habit. If the child goes a certain amount of time without this behavior, award him or her for being such a “big kid.”
  • Employ the help of older siblings or relatives that your child admires. When a child’s role model says that he or she stopped sucking thumbs at a certain age, your child is likely to try to emulate that.

What is hyperdontia?

April 26th, 2017

When a child is born, he or she will have 20 primary teeth and 32 permanent teeth. But sometimes kids are born with additional teeth, and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates calls this oral condition "hyperdontia." Primary teeth are the first set of teeth that erupt in your child's mouth, typically by the time they are 36 months old, and are shed by the time your child reaches the age of 12. Permanent teeth then take the place of the primary teeth and are usually fully-erupted by the time your son or daughter reaches 21 years of age. Anyone who develops more than 20 primary teeth or more than 32 permanent teeth has hyperdontia, and the additional teeth are referred to as supernumerary teeth.

While the cause of hyperdontia is not entirely clear, it is believed that there may be a genetic factor. Oral professionals have found that patients with extra teeth often have syndromes like cleidocranial dysplasia, Ehler-Danlos syndrome, Gardner syndrome, or cleft lip and palate. The prevalence of hyperdontia affects between one and four percent of the population in the United States, and the majority of cases are limited to a single tooth.

So, what is the best way to deal with hyperdontia? It really depends on the case. The treatment plan your doctor suggests varies according to the potential problem posed by the supernumerary teeth, as well as their type. Orthodontic treatment may certainly may help, but extraction can also be a good option. We recommend that children receive an oral evaluation or checkup no later than the age of seven. In addition to hygiene evaluation, this helps ensure your child does not experience hyperdontia problems.

If you suspect you or your child may be suffering from hyperdontia, please give us a call to schedule an appointment at our convenient Anchorage, AK office to be evaluated.

Can my child really avoid tooth decay?

April 19th, 2017

Great question! Yes, in fact, tooth decay is preventable! Decay, which is caused by sugars left in your child’s mouth, can turn into an acid, which in turn can break down his or her teeth. Children are at high risk for tooth decay for a simple reason: many children and adolescents tend to be lax in their oral hygiene habits.

So, how can your child prevent tooth decay?

  • Start early. After the age of two, brush your child’s teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day. And, if possible, clean between the teeth with dental floss at least once a day, preferably before they go to bed.
  • Don’t allow your little ones to eat after cleaning teeth at bedtime, as salivary flow decreases while they sleep and their teeth become vulnerable to cavities.
  • Do not allow your little ones to nibble food or sip drinks continuously, and keep in mind that a low-sugar diet also helps keep tooth decay at bay. Allow time between meals for saliva to neutralize acids and repair the teeth.
  • Drinking water frequently throughout the day can also reduce the possibility of new cavities forming.
  • Dental sealants can also protect your children’s teeth from cavities. Sealants, which are applied to the chewing surfaces of molars, act as a shield between the tooth and harmful bacteria.

Finally, make sure your child visits Pediatric Dental Associates approximately every six months for a checkup and routine cleaning! Please give us a call at our Anchorage, AK office.

Famous Dentists in History

April 12th, 2017

Every six months or so you head down to your local dentist for a teeth cleaning, but have you ever thought that your dentist could one day be famous? Well, the chances are unlikely, however, there have been a number of dentists throughout history that have achieved acclaim and celebrity coming from a profession that is not typically associated with such regard. Here are a few examples:

Doc Holliday

Perhaps most famous for his gun fight at the O.K Corral alongside his buddy, Wyatt Earp, but "Doc" also had a day job as a dentist. He was trained in Pennsylvania and later opened a thriving practice near Atlanta. Sadly, Holliday came down with a case of tuberculosis and had to close his practice. He then packed his stuff and moved west, and we all know how the rest of the story goes.

Mark Spitz

Known around the world as a champion swimmer, Spitz was actually accepted into dentistry school before he became an Olympic gold medalist. While he ultimately decided not to attend school, it's safe to say he made the right choice considering he now has seven gold medals.

Paul Revere

The most famous dentist to come out of the American Revolution, Paul Revere was a man of many hats. He, of course, is known throughout history books for warning the colonies of the impending British troops on the attack, but when he wasn't involved in the fight he had a few different jobs. He was a silversmith, but also advertised his services as a dentist. More specifically, he specialized in making false teeth for people in need.

Miles Davis' Father

Miles Davis Jr. was one of the most acclaimed and influential jazz musicians of all time and his dad was a dentist. Miles Davis Sr. had a thriving dental practice and was a member of the NAACP. Dentistry was how he paid the bills and provided for Miles Jr., so in some ways it seems we all have the dental profession to thank for allowing Miles Jr. to become such a fantastic musician, and treating us to his jazz stylings.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous may not be famous, but you’ll still receive excellent care each and every time you visit our Anchorage, AK office.

Curing the Nail-Biting Habit

April 5th, 2017

Do you ever find yourself gnawing at your nails? Nail-biting is a very common and difficult to break habit which usually has its beginnings in childhood. It can leave your fingers and nail beds red and swollen. But if you think that your nails are the only ones getting roughed up by nail-biting you'd be mistaken—so are your teeth!

According to a study by the Academy of General Dentistry, those who bite their nails, clench their teeth, or chew on pencils are at much higher risk to develop bruxism (unintentional grinding of the teeth). Bruxism can lead to tooth sensitivity, tooth loss, receding gums, headaches, and general facial pain.

Those are some nasty sounding side effects from chewing on your nails. Most nail-biting is a sign of stress or anxiety and its something you should deal with. So what steps can you take if you have a nail-biting habit?

There are several things you can do to ease up on nail-biting:

  • Trim your nails shorter and/or get regular manicures – Trimming your nails shorter is an effective remedy. In so doing, they'll be less tempting and more difficult to bite on. If you also get regular manicures, you’ll be less likely to ruin the investment you’ve made in your hands and fingernails!
  • Find a different kind of stress reduction – Try meditation, deep breathing, practicing qigong or yoga, or doing something that will keep your hands occupied like squeezing a stress ball or playing with a yo-yo.
  • Wear a bitter-tasting nail polish – When your nails taste awful, you won't bite them! Clear or colored, it doesn't matter. This is also a helpful technique for helping children get over the habit.
  • Figure out what triggers your nail-biting – Sometimes it's triggered by stress or anxiety and other times it can be a physical stressor, like having hang nails. Knowing what situations cause you to bite your nails will help you to avoid them and break the habit.
  • Wear gloves or bandages on your fingers – If you've tried the steps above and they aren't working, this technique can prove effective since your fingernails won't be accessible to bite.

If you're still having trouble with nail-biting after trying these self-help steps, it's best to consult your doctor, dermatologist, or Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous. For some, it may also be the sign of a deeper psychological or emotional problem.

Whatever the cause, nail-biting is a habit you need to break for your physical and emotional well-being. If you have any questions about the effects it can have on your oral health, please don't hesitate to ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous during your next visit to our Anchorage, AK office.

Best Ways to Prevent Bad Breath

March 29th, 2017

Nobody likes bad breath, and although it can sometimes be difficult to tell if you have it, it is always better to practice good oral health than risk having a smelly mouth. There are many ways to reduce or eliminate bad breath, some are definitely more effective and longer lasting than others. Check out ways to do so below.

Floss Regularly

As difficult as it can be to remember to floss regularly, when it comes to bad breath, flossing is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to freshen your mouth. See, flossing reduces the plaque and bacteria found in areas of your mouth that a toothbrush simply can't reach, and in turn, it rids your mouth of the smell associated with that bacteria. While flossing may not eliminate bad breath on its own, if you do it along with other health oral hygiene habits like brushing, then you may just develop a fresher smelling mouth.

Use Mouthwash

Using some sort of mouthwash can really freshen up your breath, especially if you find it still smells after brushing and flossing. There is a wide variety of mouthwash products on the market, however, you can also create your own by simply using baking soda mixed with water.

Always Brush after You Sleep

Whether after taking a nap, or having a full night of sleep, you will want to brush your teeth in order to reduce bad breath. The truth is, bacteria accumulates in your mouth while you are sleeping (even during a short nap) and that is ultimately the source of bad breath. So next time you wake from a good slumber, give your mouth some brushing and you will find it makes a big difference in the freshness of your breath.

There are many ways to freshen your breath beyond just using gum or mints, the above mentioned are just a few for you to try. Test them out and you will likely find your bad breath problem is solved, or at least considerably reduced. Of course, you can always ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at your next visit to our Anchorage, AK office.

The History and Mythology of the Tooth Fairy

March 22nd, 2017

While the last baby teeth generally aren’t lost until age ten or 11, most children stop believing in the tooth fairy by the time they're seven or eight. Of course, children are more than happy to play along with the game when there’s money at stake! While it is impossible to know what the tooth fairy does with all those teeth (are they labeled and stored like museum pieces in a giant fairytale castle?), it is possible to trace the history and myth of the tooth fairy to several cultures and traditions. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team learned about some interesting myths about the tooth fairy!

The Middle Ages

Legend has it that Europeans in the Middle Ages believed a witch could curse someone by using their teeth, so it was important to dispose of baby teeth correctly. Teeth were swallowed, buried, or burned. Sometimes baby teeth were even left for rodents to eat. Despite being pests, rodents were valued for their strong teeth; it was generally believed a tooth fed to a rodent would lead to the development of a healthy and strong adult tooth.

Eighteenth Century France

The tooth fairy myth began to show more characteristics of a conventional fairytale in 18th century France. La Bonne Petite Souris, a bedtime story, tells the strange tale of a fairy that changes into a mouse to help a good queen defeat an evil king. The mouse secretly hides under the evil king’s pillow and defeats him by knocking out his teeth.

Scandinavian Lore

So, why does the tooth fairy leave money under the pillow? The idea of exchanging a tooth for coins originated in Scandinavia. Vikings paid children for a lost tooth. Teeth were worn on necklaces as good luck charms in battle. While the idea of exchanging a tooth for coins quickly spread throughout the rest of Europe, a fierce, horn-helmeted Viking is far cry from the image of a fairy collecting teeth.

While the tooth fairy as children know her today didn’t make an appearance until the 1900s, tooth myths and rites of passage have existed in numerous cultures since the dawn of time.

Oh no, not the dentist!

March 15th, 2017

If you or your children suffer from dental anxiety, you aren’t alone. According to the Cleveland Clinic, between nine and 15 percent of Americans admit to feeling sufficiently afraid of going to the dentist to avoid making an appointment. The potential consequences of dental anxiety extend beyond poor oral health. Lack of dental care can cause serious but easily preventable medical conditions.

Dental Anxiety versus Dental Phobia

Dental anxiety provokes a sense of fear in people, typically before they arrive at Pediatric Dental Associates. Those fears or worries are often exaggerated. Dental phobia shares many of the symptoms that characterize dental anxiety. It is a much more serious manifestation of that anxiety, and may provoke a sense of panic or terror in people. While people who suffer from dental phobias know that their feelings are irrational, they are unable to control, stop, or change those thoughts.

People who have dental phobias often avoid going to the dentist, and they come up with every possible excuse to justify not going. The only time a person who suffers from a dental phobia will go to the dentist is when he or she is forced to do so, or because of intense tooth pain. People who have dental anxiety don’t go to such extremes to avoid going to the dentist; anxiety usually begins in anticipation of the appointment.

What We Do to Ease Patient Anxiety

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our staff have many techniques we can use to help patients feel more comfortable at their appointments. Dental Fear Central gives some simple suggestions to help children and adults who are apprehensive about going to the dentist, even if they suffer from the more severe form of anxiety: full-blown dental phobia.

  • The Tell-Show-Do Approach: We help our patients relax by making sure they understand what is involved in the exam and any procedure they may undergo. We tell patients about the procedure, show them the tools and equipment we intend to use, and answer questions before actually performing the procedure. This is helpful for patients who don’t know what to expect.
  • Distraction: We offer personal music players and a collection of CDs that patients can listen to. The relaxing qualities of music may help distract a patient enough to make the process less stressful. In-office televisions allow you to watch TV while waiting for your appointment.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our staff know that some patients are anxious about dental treatment, and we go to great lengths to make you feel more comfortable. Good oral health is very important, and when your mouth isn’t healthy, you can suffer from many other easily preventable medical problems.

Common Emergency Care Visits: Toothaches or abscesses

March 8th, 2017

Dental problems do not always wait for normal office hours. Broken fillings or damaged teeth are common reasons for emergency treatment. Toothaches and abscesses can also require prompt attention. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can provide you with the information and treatment you need to prevent the problem from becoming worse. Emergency dental care is only a phone call away, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Abscess

An abscess is a bacterial infection, and will normally cause pain and swelling around the affected tooth and gum area. Antibiotics are not always necessary, but you should seek treatment quickly. Left untreated, an infection can spread and cause serious complications.

Toothache

There are many reasons that you may develop a sudden toothache. The cause of the pain may be a particle of food lodged between your tooth and gum line. One of the first steps you can take is to rinse your mouth with warm water. You may also try gently flossing the area to dislodge the particle. Do not continue flossing if bleeding occurs.

Toothaches can occur from a carie — a cavity in the tooth — or from a fracture. Sensitivity to heat or cold may also cause tooth pain. You should make an appointment to ensure that a minor problem does not become serious. We may recommend acetaminophen or another pain reliever to reduce the pain before your visit.

Additional tips and treatments:

  • If you have fractured a tooth, rinse the area with warm water to keep the surfaces clean. Apply a cold compress to the outside of your facial area to reduce swelling.
  • A tooth that has been knocked out should be kept moist, in a clean container, until you can receive treatment.
  • Do not apply aspirin directly on a damaged tooth or gum area as it can cause tissue irritation.
  • If you suspect that your jaw has been broken, go to an emergency room immediately.
  • If you have bitten or damaged your lips or tongue, rinse your mouth well with warm water. If bleeding continues, call us or seek other medical attention immediately.

Our team at Pediatric Dental Associates is ready to assist you when you have an emergency dental need. When you call, please provide us with as much information as possible so we can offer recommendations that will assist you until your appointment. Do not delay; emergency treatment is available and immediate treatment is the best course of action.

Anatomy of a Smile Makeover

March 1st, 2017

A smile makeover is usually a combination of one or more cosmetic dental procedures. To achieve your desired result, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous may perform or suggest a variety of options. The entire process is designed specifically for your unique cosmetic needs, and Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will make sure all your concerns regarding your smile are addressed.

Here are some of the most common procedures in cosmetic dentistry and how they work:

  • Tooth whitening – Whiter teeth are achieved through a bleaching process typically using hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. Yellower teeth usually respond well to this procedure, while brown-colored teeth stained by fluorosis or taking tetracycline do not respond as well to whitening. Tooth whitening is not for everyone; if you have sensitive teeth, gum disease, or poor enamel, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous may recommend against tooth-whitening services.
  • Orthodontics – Braces are one of the tried-and-true ways of achieving a healthier smile. Braces are typically worn between 12 and 24 months to reposition the teeth in a straighter and safer alignment. Since your bite is also corrected during this process, it helps ensure you won't have any trouble down the line. There are several different types of braces available these days including: traditional metal braces, clear ceramic braces, lingual braces, and clear aligners.
  • Veneers – Veneers are thin, tooth-colored material (porcelain or resin) designed to be placed on the front surface of teeth to improve their overall appearance. They can be used in cases where the color, shape, size, or length is not as desired. Veneers are usually used in cases where teeth are discolored, chipped, worn down, misaligned, irregular, or have gaps.
  • Implants/bridges – Dental implants and bridges are used to replace missing or broken teeth. Nowadays, both implants and bridges are commonly performed procedures. Implants integrate directly with the jawbone, while bridges are placed over the adjacent teeth to the missing tooth. Implant technology has advanced a great deal in recent years and highly biocompatible ceramic materials are becoming more commonplace.

Getting your perfect smile will take time and patience, but the end result will be well worth it! Please schedule an appointment at our Anchorage, AK office about the cosmetic dental services we offer, and achieve the smile you've always wanted!

Can I use mouthwash instead of flossing?

February 22nd, 2017

While mouthwash goes a long way in improving your oral care, it is not a substitute for flossing. Mouthwashes and flossing provide different benefits that you should understand.

Mouthwash Benefits

Mouthwash comes in two categories. Some are considered cosmetic. This type of rinse provides temporary relief from bad breath and has a pleasant taste. These do not actually kill any bacteria.

Therapeutic mouthwashes provide the healthier benefits. These may contain different ingredients including fluoride or antimicrobial agents. This type is used to remove plaque buildup and reduce the potential for calculus formation. Therapeutic rinses can also help prevent cavities, bad breath, and gingivitis. In addition, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can prescribe special rinses to assist patients after periodontal surgery or other procedures.

Flossing Benefits

Flossing is what removes the plaque formation before it can harden and become calculus. While a rinse reduces buildup, only flossing will fully remove plaque, especially between teeth. The bristles on a toothbrush do not get between teeth completely. If plaque is not removed, it hardens into tartar or calculus. When this builds below the gum line, gum disease can start.

Types of Floss

Floss is available in a thin string form or a tape. It can be waxed or unwaxed. If you find flossing difficult, you might want to try a different type of floss. You can buy bulk floss in containers or purchase the disposable type with a plastic handle attached. This style can be easier for many individuals to use. Interdental picks are available for bridgework or other situations where regular floss cannot be used.

If you have questions regarding the best mouthwash or floss, or need tips for easier flossing, please ask our Anchorage, AK team for advice. We will be glad to give you solutions to help keep your mouth clean and healthy.

How a High-Tech Office Helps Your Dental Treatment

February 15th, 2017

A dental office on the cutting edge of technology offers numerous benefits to its patients. Whether you are in need of a simple cleaning or extensive restorative work, these technologies will help you stay more comfortable and give you better results than the outdated tools used in many offices. Here are some of the technologies that you can expect to see in our modern dental office:

  • Digital radiography – Digital X-rays and imaging expose patients to far less radiation than traditional X-rays. Not only that, but these digital images provide a more detailed and easier-to-view snapshot of what is going on in and around your teeth. They make it easier for patients to see what's going on since we can show them right on the computer monitor. It's also better for the environment because there’s no need for the toxic chemicals used to develop traditional X-ray films.
  • Panoramic X-rays – This digital X-ray gives Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous a more in-depth understanding of the entire structure of your mouth and head than a regular X-ray. The panoramic X-ray machine rotates around your head and takes a 3D image of it, giving us a very complete picture that allows for more effective and timely treatment planning.
  • Bioceramic implants, prosthetic devices, and sealants – Advances in implants and prosthetic devices over the past several decades has led to the creation of bioceramic (nontoxic) materials ideal for crowns, veneers, and implants. These materials allow for more visually appealing dental work since there are no metals used with these high-tech ceramics.
  • Paperless bills and records – We all know the inconvenience of paper bills and receipts; they can create clutter and get lost. Our office has done away with this trouble by going paperless. This means you'll receive all your pertinent paperwork in your email inbox and records will be kept digitally at the office. No more wall full of patient records!

This is just an overview of the many advances that we’ve made to our Anchorage, AK office to make it cleaner, quieter, more comfortable, and more efficient, helping you spend less time in the chair and more time smiling!

What to Look for when Choosing a Mouthwash

February 8th, 2017

Mouthwash is important for more than just keeping your breath fresh and smelling great. Combined with other forms of dental hygiene, it can help prevent plaque, cavities, gingivitis, and other gum diseases. But it may be difficult for you to choose the right mouthwash off the shelf. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates wanted to share a few things to look for when choosing a mouthwash.

Fluoride mouthwashes

Fluoride has been the subject of many debates in the oral health community. If you live in the United States, the tap water already contains small amounts of fluoride to promote dental health. You may not need to use a fluoride mouthwash if this is the case. However, if you are cavity-prone, fluoride creates a protective film over the teeth that protects against these buildups. It also helps strengthen the enamel over the teeth, maintain good dental hygiene, and keep your teeth strong for the rest of your life.

Alcohol mouthwashes

Alcohol in mouthwash works as an antiseptic: it clears the mouth of germs and some viral infections. However, if you have issues relating to dry mouth, alcohol can exacerbate the problem. If this is the case, consider using an alcohol-free mouthwash. This will free your mouth from the drying effects of the alcohol base. Also, if you have children, you will want to get an alcohol-free children’s mouthwash, because kids are prone to swallowing the substance, and this can lead to toxic side effects. Even if you are an adult using the mouthwash, if it contains alcohol, you should avoid swallowing it.

Antibacterial mouthwashes

Antibacterial mouthwashes have chemicals to help fight gum disease and other infections. Most mouthwash products contain at least trace amounts of these antibacterials; however, some mouthwashes are made specifically to fight bacterial infections. Remember that mouthwash is prevention, not a cure, so if you are presently suffering from a bacterial infection, you should visit our Anchorage, AK office right away. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous may be able to recommend a more powerful antibacterial mouthwash that can help you reduce your pain and other symptoms.

How can parents help prevent tooth decay?

January 25th, 2017

Children are born with a set of primary teeth – 20 to be exact – that help them learn to chew and speak, and develop enough space in the jaw for the permanent teeth that will appear several years later. Kids are especially susceptible to decay, which can cause pain and tooth loss – a problem that could interfere with oral development. As a parent, it is important that you take proactive steps to keep your child’s teeth as healthy as possible.

Bottles and “Sippie Cups”

One of the biggest culprits of childhood tooth decay is poor diet. This begins as early as a few months old, when children are often allowed to go to bed with bottles and “sippie cups” of milk or juice. The sugars in these beverages – even natural sugars – can steadily decay the teeth.

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our staff suggest serving children milk and juice only at meal times, and limiting juice intake to just a few ounces per day. If your child becomes thirsty between meals or likes to go to bed with a bottle, serve water during these times.

Hygiene

As a parent, you can establish healthy dental habits long before your child’s first tooth erupts. Start by gently wiping your baby’s gums with a clean wash cloth during the first months of life. By age one, graduate to an appropriately sized toothbrush with fluoridated toothpaste, and brush at least twice a day.

Dental Visits

Dental visits should start young and continue on a regular basis throughout your child's life. Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our staff recommend parents bring their children to Pediatric Dental Associates for the first time no later than the child’s first birthday. Initial visits concentrate on parental education, while later visits may include thorough cleanings and fluoride treatments as your child grows.

For more information about keeping your child’s teeth cavity-free, contact our Anchorage, AK office to schedule a dental consultation and checkup.

What's the best dental floss?

January 18th, 2017

Dental floss is similar to a lot of products that depend mainly on the consumer’s preference. Fact is, floss comes in a wide variety of flavors, coatings, and other variations, but all types of floss essentially do the same thing. After all, that is what is most important: that the dental floss you buy is functional—cleaning the areas in between your teeth. If you want to know what the best dental floss is, the answer is the kind that enables you to successfully and regularly clean those areas. So to help you find the right type of floss for you, here are some options.

Flavored Dental Floss

Many people that floss prefer a flavored dental floss because it freshens their breath even more than unscented floss. The latter can also take on the smells associated with bacteria in your mouth. And we all know how bad that can be. So, if flavored dental floss is what you prefer, and it allows you to floss your teeth regularly, then it is automatically best for your mouth.

Flossers

There are also products on the market called flossers, which usually consist of a plastic instrument with strung floss and a pick on the opposite end. This option can be both effective at cleaning the areas in between your teeth and scraping off plaque. These flossers also come flavored in mint and various other varieties.

Gentle Dental Floss

Some people find that typical dental floss is too harsh on their gums. For that reason some companies make floss with soft coatings that are less abrasive on the gums. For the most part these types of floss are just as effective as regular floss, and for those people that require a more sensitive approach to flossing, especially when just starting out, this is the best option.

Of the aforementioned options, it is difficult to name an absolute best type of floss. However, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team say that the type of floss that works best for you, giving you the greatest chance of succeeding at regular flossing, is the best. For more information on floss, contact our Anchorage, AK office.

My gums are inflamed. What can I do?

January 11th, 2017

Inflamed gums are a fairly common dental issue, but unfortunately, many people don't take the problem seriously enough. If you ignore inflamed gums and continue your usual routine, you could be encouraging a much more severe inflammation problem, and the pain that goes along with that. Fortunately, it is quite easy to relieve inflamed gums if you use the tips below.

Use Soft Bristles

A soft-bristle toothbrush - the softest you can buy - is a must for anyone with inflamed gums. Anything that makes contact with your gums can cause you pain, so fine and soft bristles are always the best choice.

Use Sensitive Formula Toothpaste

The toothpaste marketed as “Sensitive Teeth Formula” contain special ingredients to help relieve sensitivity. When your gums are inflamed, even light brushing can cause some pain. Using a special toothpaste will help reduce that pain and make it easier to brush your teeth effectively. The effect becomes stronger as you use the toothpaste more, so use it for each brushing.

Visit Our Office

If your gums remain swollen for more than a few days or a week, set up an appointment with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous. There is a long list of conditions that could be causing your swollen gums, everything from gum disease to pregnancy, so you need to find out where your issue is coming from. Most of the time, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous can easily treat the swollen gum issue at our Anchorage, AK office, or can give you an effective treatment to take home.

What did the first dentures look like?

January 4th, 2017

Remember hearing about George Washington and his wooden choppers? Not his tools for cutting down cherry trees, but his false teeth.

Actually, George’s teeth were made of ivory but were so stained that they appeared to be made out of wood. You might think those were the earliest dentures. In fact, the history of false teeth goes back centuries before President Washington.

Ancient Times

The earliest known dentures consisted of human or animal teeth tied together with wires. Examples of such dentures have been found in Egyptian and Mexican archeological sites. Other ancient peoples use carved stones and shells to replace lost teeth. These early dentures were probably made for cosmetic purposes. The materials they used were not likely to stand up to the pressure placed on teeth during eating.

The earliest surviving set of complete dentures were actually made out of wood (sorry, George). They were found in Japan and date back to the 16th century.

Human and animal teeth continued to be popular materials for dentures until the 20th century in some parts of the world. But the difficulty obtaining healthy teeth (and the risk of disease from unhealthy teeth) led dentists to search for other substances.

Modern Era

In the 18th century, dentists began using porcelain, ivory, gold, silver and even rubber as tooth substitutes. Dentures made with these substances could be used in eating. They were often ill-fitting, however, which may explain why George Washington looks puffy and glum in many portraits.

Porcelain and metals were the most popular denture materials until about 1950, when plastics and resins were developed. Tough and durable, these materials make up most of the dentures Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team use today.

Still, what goes around comes around. Researchers at the University of Texas are looking at using human teeth for dentures once again. Only in this case, the researchers hope to use biotechnology to spur the growth of new sets of teeth to replace those lost over a lifetime.

Top Five Ways to Improve Heart Health

December 28th, 2016

While there is no definite evidence that if your prevent gum diseases, like periodontitis, that you may be able to prevent a heart condition or heart disease. The only thing experts, like Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous, know for sure is that if you take care of your gums it can lessen atherosclerosis, (build-up of artery clogging plaque) that may result in a heart attack or stroke.

Could periodontal disease cause heart attacks?

Regardless of your oral health, if you're at a high risk for heart disease, you need to take action.

  • Maintain a healthy weight or lose weight.
  • Consume healthy foods and beverages.
  • Exercise several days the week. Walking is a powerful and lightweight exercise and will clear your head while helping your body get or stay healthy.
  • Control any medical conditions you may have such as high cholesterol, diabetes, or high blood pressure.
  • Reduce your stress. Have lunch with a friend, go for a walk in the park, take a bubble bath, mediate, or do whatever you find relaxing.
  • Get a social life. Laughing reduces stress and “feel good” hormones. Everyone needs to feel like they are a part of something: join a book club or any activity where you can interact with other people at least once or twice a week
  • Be sure to get enough sleep. The recommended amount is eight to nine hours a night. It has been proven that a lack of sleep increases your risk for angina, strokes, and heart attacks.
  • Practice good oral hygiene to keep bacteria in check and your mouth healthy.

Contact our Anchorage, AK office if you have questions about your heart and oral health. If you take practice good oral hygiene, both your mouth and your heart will thank you.

Top Five Dental Myths

December 21st, 2016

Sometimes the line between fact and fiction is easily blurred. This is certainly the case when it comes to dentistry, where myths and misconceptions abound. In a bid to put an end to health hoaxes, here are five dental myths to chew over.

Sugar Is the Number One Culprit of Tooth Decay

Sugar will rot your teeth. If you’re a parent, chances are you tell your children this every time they ask for something sweet. And chances are your parents told you the same thing. There’s no denying that sugar leads to cavity formation, but it's not the number one culprit of tooth decay. Sugar adds fuel to the fire, but it doesn’t light the match.

Going to the Dentist Is a Painful Experience

There are people who don’t go to the dentist because they think it’s going to be a painful experience. It’s time to put this myth to rest. New dental technology, developments in anesthetics and analgesics, and more conservative dental procedures have made visits to our Anchorage, AK office a more comfortable experience.

Bad Breath Means You’re Not Brushing

Poor dental hygiene can cause bad breath, but it’s not the only thing that will leave you looking for a breath mint. There are many factors that can cause bad breath, including illness, acid reflux, medication, and dehydration. In addition, sometimes what you eat or drink can give you bad breath no matter how many times you brush and floss. Next time you order a sub for lunch, skip the onions and garlic.

Bleaching Products Weaken Teeth

Gels, pastes, strips — there are all sorts of products available to make our pearly whites even whiter. If used according to the directions, bleaching products are harmless. They do not affect the health or strength of the teeth, only the color. At the same time, too much bleaching can cause temporary tooth sensitivity or irritated gums; the enamel, however, is not weakened.

You Will Know When You Have Tooth Decay

This is the type of false information that can lead to serious dental problems. There are no early symptoms of tooth decay. By the time you experience pain, your tooth decay has led to nerve damage, which means your decay is advanced and extensive. The only way to know if you have tooth decay —and to prevent it — is to visit Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous twice a year for a checkup and cleaning.

Warning Signs of Impacted Wisdom Teeth

December 14th, 2016

You might suspect that your wisdom teeth are starting to emerge, but knowing the signs of impacted wisdom teeth can help you be more proactive about your dental care. Impacted wisdom teeth can be extremely painful and can make your life truly miserable until they are removed. Therefore, looking for the early warning signs listed below, and seeing Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous if you experience them, can help you conquer the problem before it conquers you.

There are three primary signs of impacted wisdom teeth. While every person may not have all three of these signs, you can usually expect to experience at least one of these if your wisdom teeth are impacted.

Unusual Pain

If you are feeling a type of teeth pain you've never felt before, especially when it is focused in the back area of your jaw, this may be a sign that you have a tooth impaction. You may be fortunate enough to catch it early, before all of your wisdom teeth become impacted, if you see Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous as soon as you feel the pain.

Swollen Jaw

If your jaw is suddenly swollen and the area feels tender to the touch, you have a high chance of having an impacted tooth. Since the wisdom teeth are set so far back in your jaw, the swelling tends to show itself low in the jaw, towards the ears, when they are impacted.

Bleeding Gums

If your gums are bleeding, something you may notice when you see a pink or red tinged toothbrush, you may be dealing with a wisdom tooth issue. When the wisdom teeth are impacted, they put a lot of pressure on your back teeth and gums, which often leads to bleeding.

Visit our Anchorage, AK office as soon as possible if you have any of the above signs of impacted wisdom teeth. The sooner you get treatment, the sooner the pain will be behind you for good!

Should I use mouthwash?

December 7th, 2016

Mouthwashes are commonly used as a part of a daily oral care regimen. Not only do they freshen breath, but some are capable of improving dental health too. Using a mouthwash daily can rinse fine debris away and out of reach while brushing. It can also make the teeth and gums more resilient to decay and disease.

Types of Mouthwashes

There are several types of mouthwashes available today that Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates want you to be aware of. Some do little more than freshen breath and are known as cosmetic mouthwashes. These are ideal for quickly eliminating odors that linger after eating, drinking, or taking medication. Using a cosmetic mouthwash does not offer any health benefits.

Other mouthwashes offer more comprehensive benefits; they can potentially prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Mouthwashes that contain antimicrobial agents work by preventing the buildup of plaque that can lead to gingivitis and decay of the tooth enamel. However, it should be noted that the use of a mouthwash is never a substitute for regular brushing and flossing.

In some cases, prescription mouthwashes are necessary to treat patients with gum disease or who have undergone periodontal surgery. These specialty mouthwashes are designed specifically for the treatment of gum disease and should not be used outside of their intended use. The majority of mouthwashes require no prescription.

Tips for Choosing a Mouthwash

The choice to use a mouthwash and which one to use is between you and your dentist, depending on your individual oral health needs. If you determine that a mouthwash is right for you, look for one that contains fluoride, if possible. Fluoride provides an added layer of protection for your teeth, and helps them become more resistant to decay. As always, if you have any questions or concerns when choosing a mouthwash, please give our team at Pediatric Dental Associates a call for assistance in selecting the rinse that is best for you. Or, we invite to ask us during your next visit to our Anchorage, AK office!

How do I know if I need dentures?

November 30th, 2016

The choice to get dentures is a permanent decision so there are several important factors you should take into consideration. Many people have teeth that are not able to be repaired due to a variety of reasons, but for those who have the option and the money to repair their natural teeth they need to consider every choice they may have.

You have a choice!

Yes, it’s true! We do have a choice about whether we will have to have dentures in the future. Many people don’t realize that just by taking certain precautions they can actually prevent any serious issues from arising. For example, it’s very easy to reschedule that dental cleaning. However, it’s very important that you keep every appointment because Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will be able to catch small problems before you even realize you have them. Also, if there are any signs of gum disease you will know early enough to stop any further damage. One of the main reasons that many people end up needing dentures is because of either gum disease or because severe cavities have cause too many teeth to be extracted.

If you notice any of the following you should make an appointment at our Anchorage, AK office right away:

  • Teeth are moving further apart
  • Soreness or tenderness of the gums
  • Trouble eating hard food
  • Sensitivity
  • You have already lost several teeth
  • Toothaches

The key to avoiding dentures is prevention. Avoiding dentures is not impossible and can be as simple as staying on top of your oral hygiene. However, if you are currently experiencing any dental issues you should see Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous now, because a small problem can quickly escalate into a very large and expensive dental procedure.

Germs living on my toothbrush? Say it ain’t so!

November 23rd, 2016

You may have heard talk about the germs that can reside on your toothbrush and thought, “really?”

It’s true—there are several kinds of bacteria that can lurk on the bristles of your toothbrush, including streptococci, staphylococci, Herpes Simplex I, and the Influenza virus. To protect your toothbrush from bacteria, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team want you to consider the following three tips:

  • Wash your hands before and after brushing.
  • Allow the brush to air dry after each use, as harmful bacteria dies after being exposed to oxygen. It is best to disinfect your toothbrush weekly and allow it to dry in between use. Store the toothbrush in an upright position to allow water to drain and dry faster
  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or after being ill. Worn bristles are less effective in properly cleaning your teeth, and can actually be damaging to teeth if used too long!

We hope these tips help! Feel free to give us a call at our Anchorage, AK office or ask us on Facebook if you have any questions!

Breaking Bad Oral Habits

November 16th, 2016

The effects of bad oral habits are something our team sees all too often. You might have bad oral habits that stem from childhood, possibly because your parents did not know about proper oral care or force you to follow it. Or, your bad habits could develop gradually, like slacking on your frequency of brushing.

Bad oral habits can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and consequences such as losing teeth and experiencing bad pain. They may be deeply ingrained and easy to continue, but you can break them with a little effort. Focus on developing good habits to replace your current ones, and eating a diet that is healthy for your teeth.

Replace Bad Habits with Good

Breaking your bad oral habits may not be as difficult as you expect when you focus instead on developing good habits. These new good habits can naturally replace your bad habits.

  • Brush your teeth after each meal or at least twice a day.
  • Visit a dentist every six months for an exam and a professional cleaning.
  • Floss your teeth every day.

These good habits may not seem natural, so you can take steps to make sure you follow these behaviors. For example, make a daily checklist with your scheduled sessions of brushing and flossing your teeth and using mouthwash. You can also set a timer to be sure you brush your teeth for the full recommended two minutes.

Eat Properly

Poor eating habits can be detrimental to your teeth. A common mistake is to let food, especially carbohydrates such as starch and sugar, stay on your teeth for a long time. You can stop doing this by rinsing your mouth with water after each meal or snack. Also, avoid candy and soft drinks between meals, since the sugar sits on your teeth.

A healthy diet provides the nutrients you need to maintain strong teeth. The mineral calcium is key for healthy teeth, so try to get your three daily servings of high-calcium foods, such as low-fat milk or yogurt, canned fish, or fortified soy or almond milk. Also include vegetables and fruits, which have a high water content.

If you need more tips about breaking your bad oral health habits, contact our Anchorage, AK office and speak with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous or a member of our team.

Antibiotic Prophylaxis or Pre-Medication

November 9th, 2016

At Pediatric Dental Associates, we know the human mouth contains a lot of bacteria. A bacterium can travel through your body with routine activities that are a normal part of daily living. You spread bacteria when you brush or floss your teeth, when you chew, and when you swallow.

For most people, bacteria don’t cause any problem. For some people, however, especially those who have chronic medical conditions, specific cardiac conditions, or whose immune systems are compromised, bacteria that spreads throughout the bloodstream can lead to much more serious bacterial infections.

The goal of pre-medication or antibiotic prophylaxis, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous will tell you, is to prevent bacterial endocarditis, a serious infection of the endothelial heart surfaces or the heart valves. The condition is also called infective endocarditis. A small population of people with certain health problems has a high risk for contracting this potentially deadly bacterium.

The American Heart Association states that people at greatest risk for contracting bacterial or infective endocarditis are:

  • Patients who underwent cardiac valve surgery in the past
  • Those who have suffered past incidents of infective endocarditis
  • Patients who have mitral valve prolapse, resulting in or causing valve leakage
  • People who have had rheumatic fever or any degenerative cardiac condition that produces abnormalities in cardiac valves
  • Patients who suffer from certain congenital heart diseases

For these patients, any dental procedure may cause bleeding, and prophylactic antibiotic administration is recommended as a preventive measure.

Other patients who require prophylactic antibiotics

The American Association of Endodontists extends recommendations to patients who have undergone joint replacement surgery within the past two years, suffer from type 1 diabetes, or have immune deficiencies from diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or HIV; cancer patients whose immune systems are suppressed because of radiation or chemotherapy; people who have had organ transplants; and hemophiliacs.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry also includes people who suffer from sickle cell anemia, as well as patients who suffer from conditions that require chronic steroid therapy.

Typical endodontic procedures for which antibiotic prophylaxis is recommended include root canal therapy (when it involves going deeper than the root apex), surgical tooth extractions, and any other dental, endodontic, or periodontal procedure during which the doctor anticipates bleeding.

Although different medical societies and organizations offer these guidelines as a way of identifying patients for whom prophylactic pre-medication is essential prior to dental procedures, dentists will take each patient's medical history and personal risk factors into consideration. Some doctors may choose to administer antibiotics following a procedure, especially for patients who have previously suffered from oral infections either as a result of dental procedures or that necessitated oral surgery.

For more information about antibiotic prophylaxis, 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 snoring becomes more than just annoying: The dangers of sleep apnea

November 2nd, 2016

Sawing wood. That’s what your wife calls it when you wake her up with your snoring. This type of scenario plays out in homes around the world, and couples have to find a way to make light of the nocturnal annoyance. Snoring can become more than just an irritating nighttime disturbance, however. It can be the first sign of a potentially serious sleep disorder.

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which breathing repeatedly pauses throughout the night. Possible symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring loudly and feeling tired after a full night’s sleep.

Three health problems linked to sleep apnea

Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed and untreated, which puts you at a greater risk of developing health problems. While being robbed of quality sleep can take its toll on you, sleep apnea can also result in the following.

  1. High blood pressure. When you wake frequently throughout the night, it causes your body's hormonal systems to become unbalanced and go into overdrive. This results in high blood pressure.
  2. Heart disease. The disrupted oxygen flow caused by sleep apnea increases your chances of having a heart attack or stroke. The cutoff of oxygen makes it difficult for the brain to regulate the flow of blood in the arteries.
  3. Excessive daytime sleepiness. Daytime fatigue often results in impaired judgment and slow reaction times, and this may increase your risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident.

Lifestyle changes like losing weight, avoiding alcohol, and quitting smoking are often enough to cure sleep apnea. Medical treatment is also a potential solution. Surgery, oral appliances, and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which is a treatment involving a specialized breathing mask, are all possible ways to resolve the problem of sleep apnea.

If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea, or to schedule a visit with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous at our convenient Anchorage, AK office, please give us a call! Our entire team at Pediatric Dental Associates look forward to giving you back a full night’s rest!

Oral Health for the Young Adult

October 26th, 2016

Young adults often have the reputation of not taking good care of themselves. You may feel invincible, and not realize how much your behaviors now can affect your health later in life. Oral health is one area that is easy to neglect now, but that can lead to serious financial and quality of life consequences later.

Follow a Good Oral Care Regimen

If you don’t already do so, it’s time to brush, floss, and rinse as Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous taught you. Brush at least twice a day or after meals, and floss your teeth every day. If recommended, use mouthwash to kill germs in your mouth. If you are not able to brush your teeth after eating, swish water around in your mouth to remove the food from your teeth. Leaving carbohydrates in your mouth allows bacteria to ferment it and produce acid, which can destroy your tooth enamel and put you at risk for decay.

Visit Our Office Regularly

Young adulthood can be a challenging time when it comes to medical care. Your parents are no longer paying for your health insurance or taking you to your appointments. You may not worry much about getting regular cleanings and exams, especially if you’re paying for them yourself.

However, young adults have a lot to gain from visiting our Anchorage, AK office regularly. We can check for signs of problems and fix them early, which can save thousands of dollars and, ultimately, your teeth. These are some examples of what Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our hygiene team can do for you.

  • Get rid of plaque so it does not develop into tartar and cause periodontitis.
  • Identify and fill small areas of tooth decay to prevent it from progressing.
  • Examine your gums for signs of gingivitis, or early gum disease.

Consume a Tooth-Healthy Diet

A nutritious diet is not just for preventing heart disease and diabetes later in life. It also supports your teeth. Make sure to get plenty of calcium, such as from dairy products, canned fish, and leafy green vegetables to allow for strong teeth. Also, limit sticky foods and sugary sweets.

Dental Infections

October 19th, 2016

Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates will tell you that dental infections can be very serious; sometimes, they develop into a life-threatening situation. Cavities are caused by acid-generating microorganisms that deposit themselves on teeth surfaces. Over time, acid erodes tooth enamel, compromising tooth strength. The major culprit or cause of cavities is sweets, but even diet soda plays a substantial role in tooth erosion, largely because the phosphoric acid it contains alters the oral pH. Cavities can pave the way for other, more serious infections to develop.

Types of infections

Pulpitis

Pulpitis is an inflammation of the tooth pulp. It typically occurs when cavities get deep enough to allow infection to reach the pulp. When this happens, bacteria travel through the pit or fissure that the cavity created. It can also develop from a fractured tooth. The symptoms may include moderate pain that comes and goes. Pain may intensify when cold liquids touch the pulp.

Periodontitis

Periodontitis is a consequence of chronic gingivitis, which occurs when the supportive bone structure of the tooth erodes, causing the periodontal tooth ligament to detach from the tooth. Kids between the ages of 12 and 17 and adults over age 30 are most likely to develop this disease. In severe cases of periodontitis, a periodontal abscess may form. Symptoms of the infection typically include redness, sensitivity to touch, and swelling.

Pericoronitis

Pericoronitis is an infection that occurs when food particles and other microorganisms get trapped under gum flaps. It typically happens when impacted wisdom teeth erupt. Pain at the site of the infection is a common symptom. You should try to prevent food particles from lodging in the gingivitis flaps.

Dental abscesses

A dental abscess is one of the most serious dental infections anyone can get. It begins at the base of the tooth, but without treatment can spread rapidly. When the abscess is more severe, the bacteria spread, often very rapidly, and cause severe facial swelling, pain, and discomfort.

The best way to minimize the risk of developing a dental infection is by practicing good oral hygiene, making sure that food or other particles aren’t trapped between the teeth for too long, flossing, using oral rinses that bear the ADA seal of approval, and seeing the dentist regularly. If or when there are any symptoms of infection, even if the only symptom is pain, be sure to visit the dentist. Early intervention may prevent the infection from escalating into something far more severe, painful, and costly to treat.

To learn more about dental infections, 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's the connection between gum disease and diabetes?

October 12th, 2016

People who have diabetes are usually familiar with many of the other health risks they face, including damage to the nerves, eyes, heart, and kidneys. But did you know that if you have diabetes you also have a much greater chance of developing gum disease? It's true, and like other diseases related to diabetes, the risk potential severity of gum disease is directly related to how well blood sugar is controlled.

The Causes

In diabetics, there are two primary mechanisms that increase the risk of developing gum disease, also called periodontal disease:

  • Bacterial growth: Bacteria love sugar including the glucose found in blood and bodily fluids. Elevated levels of sugar in saliva can provide a very hospitable environment for bacterial growth. The risk may be elevated if your gums bleed.
  • Circulatory changes: In diabetes, the blood vessels become thick, making it more difficult for blood to carry oxygen to the gums and to carry away harmful waste products. This decrease in circulation can weaken the mouth's natural resistance to decay. If you smoke, circulation can become even more compromised, significantly increasing your risk of periodontal disease.

Preventing Gum Disease

If you're diabetic, the number-one key to preventing gum disease is to make sure you do all you can to keep your blood sugar under control. In fact, studies show diabetics who have excellent control of their blood sugar levels have no more risk for gum disease than those who don't have diabetes. Here are some other tips to keep your gums healthy:

  • Floss your teeth gently, curving the floss so it can gently reach just below your gum line to remove plaque and food particles. Rinse your mouth when you're done flossing.
  • Use a soft-bristle brush to brush teeth twice daily, using small circular motions. Avoid pressing too hard on tooth surfaces.
  • Brush your tongue gently to remove germs that can hide there.
  • Use an anti-bacterial mouthwash to kill germs that are hard to reach.
  • Keep track of how well your blood sugar is controlled and let Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous know at each visit.
  • Be aware that having diabetes may mean it takes you longer to heal after undergoing oral surgery.

Most importantly, be sure to visit our Anchorage, AK office for regular checkups and tell Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous about your diabetes so you can be sure to get the care you need. Follow these steps, and you can enjoy healthy teeth and gums for years to come.

Minimally Invasive Dentistry

October 5th, 2016

As the field of dentistry advances and the use of technology in the field increases, the concept of minimally invasive dentistry has emerged. Preservation of a healthy set of natural teeth for each patient should be the objective of every dentist. Minimally invasive dentistry is characterized by the following core beliefs:

  • Regard original tissue as more valuable than its artificial counterpart.
  • Preserve, rather than replace, original tissue.
  • Focus on the prevention of disease above its treatment.
  • When treatment is necessary, use invasive means as little as possible.

Prevention

  • Prevention begins with good oral hygiene.
  • Dental caries are considered an infectious disease.
  • Early detection of caries and other diseases can prevent the spread of infection and, consequently, further damage to healthy tissue.
  • Infection control can reduce the incidence of restoration practices by as much as 50 percent.
  • Focus on remineralization of enamel and dentin as a preventive effort in treating caries.

Preservation

Our team at Pediatric Dental Associates will tell you the goal of minimally invasive dentistry is to preserve as much original tissue as possible. The preservation of original tissue leaves a tooth stronger in structure than one which has been modified through invasive measures.

When a restoration, such as a filling, must be made to a tooth, a greater amount of healthy tooth tissue than actual decayed tissue is often removed. An estimated 50 to 71 percent of the work a dentist completes involves repair or replacement of previous restorations. The use of durable restoration materials decreases the need for later repair or restoration work.

Treatments

Tooth tissue can be preserved at a greater percentage through the use of innovative adhesive materials. Glass ionomer cements release minerals into the surrounding tooth tissue and help prevent future cavities. Resin-based composite and dentin bonding agents are designed to bond to the enamel and preserve it.

New technology and the invention of small, hand-held tools allow for a less-invasive form of restoration. One such form is air abrasion, a technique that involves using powerful air pressure to direct aluminum oxide particles toward the tooth, which results in a gentler, less-damaging cut to the tooth.

For more information about minimally-invasive surgeries, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous, please give us a call at our convenient Anchorage, AK office!