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What is Remineralization?

May 25th, 2022

“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. Dawn Mikaitis at our Naugatuck 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!

Let’s Talk About Fluoride

May 18th, 2022

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. Dawn Mikaitis 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 Naugatuck 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!

Does Your Filling Need Replacing?

May 11th, 2022

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

Wait, dental filling?

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

  • Obvious Damage

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

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

  • Pain in a Filled Tooth

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

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

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

  • Cosmetic Concerns

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

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

  • Your Dentist Recommends Replacement

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

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

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

The Secret to Keeping Your Teeth for Life

May 4th, 2022

The secret to keeping your teeth for life involves more than one secret. The first is that there is no secret; and in fact, there really is no difficulty involved. Follow this simple four-step process – brush, floss, rinse, and visit our Naugatuck office regularly – and you will have healthy teeth for life!

Brush

You should brush your teeth twice a day, preferably once in the morning and once at night. Three times a day will not hurt. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and light pressure; you do not want to scrub away your gums or tooth enamel.

Brush for a minimum of two minutes, and carefully clean all tooth surfaces. Three minutes is better. Use quality toothpaste; Dr. Dawn Mikaitis and our staff can recommend the best type for your needs. Keep your toothbrush clean and replace it about every three months.

Floss

Make flossing part of your daily routine, at least once a day. Flossing is important for more than just removing food particles between your teeth. The process also helps to remove bacteria that you cannot see. Bacterial build-up turns into plaque, or calculus: a cement-like substance that cannot be removed by brushing alone.

Use floss gently; you do not want to cut your gums. There are many different types of flosses and flossing tools. Dr. Dawn Mikaitis and our staff will be happy to help you find the style that works best for you.

Rinse

Mouthwash does more than freshen your breath. Rinses help kill the bacteria that lead to plaque formation and gum disease. This extra step can go a long way toward having healthy teeth for life.

Keep your appointments

You should have a professional cleaning at Dawn M. Mikaitis DMD, LLC twice a year. Some patients benefit from more frequent cleanings. Your hygienist will remove any plaque build-up to prevent gingivitis, which left untreated becomes full-blown gum disease. Periodontitis leads to tooth loss.

You also need to see Dr. Dawn Mikaitis twice a year for a teeth and mouth exam. We can find problems such as cavities, and treat them before the situation becomes critical. Ask our Naugatuck team any questions you have; together we can make your teeth last for life.

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