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How do I know if I have dry mouth?

May 25th, 2017

Dry mouth, also medically known as xerostomia, is the condition of not having enough saliva, or spit, to keep your mouth wet. There are many ways to keep dry mouth at bay, including:

  • Brushing your teeth after every meal with a fluoride toothpaste
  • Flossing every day after a meal
  • Avoiding tobacco, as well as drinks containing alcohol or caffeine
  • Avoiding dry foods, as well as foods containing high salt, acid, spice, or sugar levels
  • Drinking water frequently or sucking on ice chips
  • Using a humidifier at night

Please call our convenient San Diego, CA dental office to learn more about dry mouth, or ask us during your next visit!

Oral Piercing: What you should know

May 18th, 2017

If you have been thinking about getting a piercing, or if you already have one or more, there are some health risks our team at Melanie Parker Orthodontics wants you to know about. It's important to know the risks involved with oral piercing, including infection, chipped teeth, gum damage, nerve damage, loss of taste, or tooth loss that could occur as a result.

Your mouth contains millions of bacteria, and infection is a common complication of oral piercing. Many people who have piercings tend to regularly touch them, paving the way for bacteria to enter piercing sites. Also, food particles that collect around piercing sites can lead to infection.

Besides hindering your ability to talk and eat, oral piercing also leads people to develop a habit of biting or playing with their piercings, which can lead to cracked or fractured teeth. While the fracture can be confined to the enamel of the tooth and require a simple filling, you also run the risk of the fracture going deep into the tooth, which may require a root canal, tooth extraction, and additional dental treatment.

If you still decide to get an oral piercing, you should realize that it will take some time to heal (anywhere between four to six weeks) and it may be very uncomfortable. Also please keep in mind that it will be an added responsibility to your life, as it will require regular upkeep. We want you to make sure that you’re committed to the task of taking care of it for the full healing period and beyond.

We encourage you to clean the piercing with antiseptic mouthwash after eating, and brush the jewelry each time you brush your teeth. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to give us a call!

Toothpaste Guide

May 11th, 2017

Between the huge number of toothpaste brands on the market today, the different flavors, and claims from most to do different things, it isn’t surprising that people feel so confused when it comes to something that should be as simple as buying a tube of toothpaste. This guide will help you identify the common ingredients in toothpaste, and help you understand the important factors to consider before buying toothpaste again.

Toothpaste comes in gel, paste, and powdered forms. When it comes to the type of toothpaste, the choice is more a matter of preference.

Basic Ingredients

  • Abrasive Agents – Abrasive agents are the scratchy substances added to toothpastes to help in the removal of food particles, bacteria, and minor stains. Calcium carbonate is one of many abrasive materials, and arguably the most common.
  • Flavor – When toothpastes are flavored, they almost always have artificial sweeteners to enhance the flavor of the toothpaste and increase the likelihood that you’ll use it. Flavors run the gamut from traditional mint to cinnamon that may appeal to adults, and bubble gum or lemon lime – flavors to target children.
  • Humectants – Humectants are moisturizing agents that keep paste and gel toothpastes from drying out. Glycerol is commonly used as a humectant.
  • Thickeners – Thickeners are used to give toothpaste its distinctive consistency, and to make it maintain a uniform consistency and come out of the tube easily.
  • Detergents – Sodium lauryl sulfate is the most common detergent used in products that foam up, like toothpaste does in your mouth.

What to Look For in Toothpaste

Fluoride is naturally occurring mineral. It is the most important ingredient to look for in a toothpaste. Although there are people who argue against using fluoride toothpaste, dental professionals like Dr. Melanie Parker emphasize that the fact that the incidence of tooth decay has decreased so significantly in the past 50 years is because of fluoridated toothpaste.

The suggestion that fluoridated water gives you enough fluoride to protect your teeth is wrong. Fluoride toothpaste is the best cavity protection there is. In addition to strengthening tooth enamel and protecting teeth from acid erosion (from acidic foods and drinks,) it remineralizes the surfaces of teeth that are suffering from early acid damage and may prevent developing tooth decay from worsening.

Tartar Control

Tartar is the result of hardened plaque buildup on the teeth. Good oral hygiene and in between twice yearly cleanings from a dental hygienist are the best defense against plaque buildup. Plaque turns to tartar when people neglect their oral hygiene. Over time, tartar can build up on teeth and under the gums, increasing the risk of gum disease.

Your best bet is to use a toothpaste that has a combination of anti-plaque agents. Products containing more than one plaque reducer may be more effective than products that only one. Common ingredients to look for are zinc citrate or pyrophosphates. Triclosan is an antibiotic that is believed to kill bacteria in the mouth, and it can be found in some anti-plaque toothpaste.

Look for toothpaste that bears the seal of the American Dental Association. That seal is an endorsement of the ADA – and it means that many dentists agree that that particular toothpaste does what toothpaste is designed to do. We can also recommend toothpaste to meet your specific oral health concerns at your next visit to our San Diego, CA office.

Getting to the Bottom of Chewing Gum Myths

May 4th, 2017

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. Melanie Parker and our team at Melanie Parker Orthodontics 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!