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How does a tooth decay?

August 10th, 2022

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 Naugatuck 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 Dawn M. Mikaitis DMD, LLC 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. Dawn Mikaitis, 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.

Hot Day? Three Drinks to Leave Home When You’re Packing the Cooler

August 3rd, 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. Dawn Mikaitis 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 Naugatuck 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!

Can Superfoods Create a Super Smile?

July 27th, 2022

It’s a rare week that we don’t hear something about superfoods—those foods which will transform our diets and radically improve our health. Remember kale? All the kale? (But, more on kale later!)

So, what exactly are “superfoods”? Unfortunately, we don’t have an exact answer for you, because, while the term “superfood” sounds impressive, it really doesn’t have an exact scientific meaning. Any food which is nutritionally dense with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and/or other nutrients is often called a superfood.

Can these so-called “superfoods” help improve our dental health? The short answer: Yes! Let’s look at the benefits of some current popular superfoods, and just why they’re so good for our teeth and gums.

  • Berries

Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and cranberries are not only delicious, but a rich source of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins, including vitamin C. What does this mean for your dental health? Vitamin C is essential for healthy gums. In fact, one of the symptoms of vitamin C deficiency is swollen and bleeding gums.

  • Salmon

“Good fat” seems like a dietary contradiction, but salmon is here to prove it’s possible. Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to numerous health benefits, including fighting inflammation. Research has shown a possible relationship between getting the recommended amounts of omega-3s and a reduced risk of gum disease.

  • Ancient Grains

Ancient grains are grains (and certain grasses and seeds) which have been cultivated the same way over the centuries. And even though these grains have been around for hundreds of years, many cooks are just starting to incorporate foods like quinoa, millet, farro, and freekeh into their recipes. Ancient grains are considered especially healthy because they are whole grains, with their nutrients, bran, and fiber intact. Processing grains removes many of these good-for-your-body elements.

And how does this processing affect our teeth? Whole grain carbs take time to break down and convert into the sugars which fuel our bodies. Processed grains used in foods like soft white breads and white rice start to break down quickly right in the mouth. They also tend to stick to the teeth, providing a rich supply of sugar to feed the oral bacteria which cause cavities. But you don’t need ancient grains to reap the benefits of whole grains—consider substituting whole wheat, brown rice, or whole grain corn for some of the processed grains in your diet.

  • Yogurt

Most yogurt, unlike other dairy products, contains probiotics, which help supply our bodies with healthy bacteria. Most yogurt, like other fortified dairy products, is also rich in vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for tooth health because it allows our bodies to absorb the calcium which keeps bones and teeth strong.

  • Kale

We couldn’t leave without a word about kale! Kale is everywhere on the menu, from salads to pasta to soups, added to the blender for fruit smoothies, or salted and roasted for a potato chip substitute. And kale deserves its good reputation. Kale is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, such as the beta-carotene which our bodies convert into vitamin A. Among its other benefits, vitamin A is crucial for the health and healing of mucous membranes, which include our gums and the soft membranes of the mouth.

And if you just can’t warm up to kale? More good news: dark green vegetables such as leafy greens and spinach also provide many of the same beta-carotenes. And so do colorful orange options like sweet potatoes, carrots, peppers, pumpkins, and squash.

Can these so-called “superfoods” help improve and maintain our dental health? The short answer: Yes! The longer answer: Yes—and so will any foods which are rich in the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fatty acids which support and protect our teeth and gums. Just remember, a nutritious, balanced diet is more important than any one ingredient. Want more information? Ask Dr. Dawn Mikaitis when you visit our Naugatuck office for dietary tips to help you maintain a heathy body—and a super smile!

Smile! It’s Time for Arts & Crafts!

July 20th, 2022

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 Naugatuck office. That will put a smile on our faces!

velscopeOpalescenceAmerican Dental Association