Acid Attack! Acid Erosion and Teeth

Acid Attack! Acid Erosion and Teeth

Could you be causing irreversible harm to your teeth every day?

Many of the foods and drinks we consume daily are acidic. In addition, health conditions such as GERD (acid reflux) and eating disorders subject one’s teeth to damaging acids.  Did you ever do that “science experiment” as a child when you put a dirty penny in Coca Cola and in a short time it was magically clean?  Now imagine a tooth dissolving instead of that penny.  Yeah, scary.

Signs and Symptoms of Acid Erosion:

  • Sensitivity.  The protection against insult provided by the outermost layer of your teeth (the enamel) has become compromised.
  • Discoloration.  When enamel is lost, the underlying dentin layer is more visible.  Dentin is darker in color (and more yellow!) than enamel.
  • “Rounded” teeth.  Caused by acid wear patterns.
  • Transparency.  This becomes apparent on the edges of front teeth.
  • Cracks and roughness. Your teeth are no longer as strong as they once were!
  • “Cupping out” of the chewing surfaces of back teeth.

Keep in mind…Anything with a pH below 5.0-5.7 triggers dental erosion, causing the hard outer enamel of your teeth to, basically, dissolve!!   While a lot of the foods and drinks that fall into this category are common knowledge, others may come as a surprise to most!

Acidic Foods and Drinks Include:

  • Drinks:  Fruit juices, Lemonade, Sports drinks, some brands of bottled water, Coffee, Carbonated beverages:, Alcohol
  • Most fruits & Some Veggies:  Including Rhubarb, Spinach, Mashed potatoes
  • Condiments: Jellies and Jams, Honey, Molasses, Maple Syrup, Soy Sauce, Worcestershire Sauce, Chili Sauce, Ketchup
  • American Cheese, Cottage Cheese, Yogurt
  • Jell-O, Pickles
  • Roasted Nuts:  Pecans, Walnuts, Cashews

Some Simple Steps You Can Take to Help Protect Your Teeth

1.  Don’t let acidic foods or drinks linger in your mouth

2.  Drink acidic drinks through a straw and NEVER swish your drink between your teeth!

3.  After consuming something acidic, rinse with water to help neutralize the pH of your mouth.

4.  After eating/drinking something acidic, wait at least an hour before brushing. Enamel remains soft for awhile after acid exposure, and brushing too soon can perpetuate the problem!

5.  The frequency of acid exposure is more significant than the amount of acidic foods/drinks consumed.  If you have to drink a soda, don’t sip it over a prolonged period of time.

6.  Ask your dentist or dental hygienist about various products and services that can be used to treat acid erosion.  To help with sensitivity, prescription strength toothpaste or Fluoride treatments can help.  If a significant amount of tooth structure has been lost due to acid erosion, your teeth may need definitive restorative treatment.

Tips for Parents: Brushing

Tips for Parents: Brushing

Let’s be real…  It is HARD to get kids to brush their teeth!  Children generally do not consider brushing enjoyable, or even a priority.  They would rather be watching cartoons, playing outside, playing with toys…  Below are tips that will help you to incorporate regular toothbrushing into your young child’s life.

1.  Have a proper introduction

Toothbrushing from a child’s perspective: Mom or dad forces a funny object in your mouth for 2 minutes and pretends it is fun.   Scary!  Let your child become comfortable with the toothbrush itself first.  Leave it somewhere visible and soon your child will be curious.  Put it in the bathtub and let your child “discover” it.   Soon, he or she will no longer dodge you when you are trying to help.

2.  1-2-3-4-5… Break!

For a child, brushing for a full 2 minutes without a break can seem suffocating.  Help your child brush for 5 seconds, take a break for a quick breath and a swallow, and then continue.  You can “sing” to 5, count in their favorite cartoon character’s voice… be creative!

3.  Let your child be a “copy cat”

Leave your child’s toothbrush on the counter while you brush, or while you help an older sibling brush.  Soon, your child will feel left out and want to do the same.

4.  Change locations!

Who says you have to brush in the bathroom?  Let your child brush in the kitchen after breakfast, or while watching TV.   Maybe your child just needs a location change!

5.  Have your child teach a “friend”

By “friend,” I mean a stuffed animal, a doll, etc.  You can even have your child pick out a toothbrush for his or her friend at the store.  If you’re daring, let your child “teach” YOU how to brush!  Half a tube of toothpaste smeared all over your face is a small price to pay for your child’s oral health, right?!

6.  Find the right toothbrush

…And let your child choose!  If they can’t pick one, buy two!  If that’s what it takes to get them to brush…

The bottom line is, make brushing your teeth fun and exciting for your child. It doesn’t have to be a chore, and surely shouldn’t feel like one.

Dental X-Rays and Radiation Exposure

Dental X-Rays and Radiation Exposure

Once a year, your friendly dental hygienist cheerfully exclaims that it is time to update your x-rays.  Yayyy, you think……Ok, probably not.  We know that these x-rays take extra time out of your appointment, they are generally uncomfortable, and yes, they expose you to a small dose of radiation.  However, they are of a great benefit to you as patients, and to us as providers.

Why Are Dental X-Rays so Important?
These images allow us to see cavities that cannot be seen clinically.  They also allow us to see the supporting structures of the teeth, making them a critical tool in the diagnosis of periodontal (gum) disease, oral infections, bone disease, and even some tumors.

Now, I can’t give any excuses for those films that seem so incredibly large inside your mouth, the seconds that seem like hours as you sit there, waiting for that “beep!…”  But I do want to give you some information about the #1 reason patients deny x-rays — RADIATION EXPOSURE.

How NFD Minimizes Your Risk:

  • First, we use digital x-rays — digital technology uses 80-90% less radiation than traditional methods.
  • Our equipment is very targeted and focused — with the help of the lead apron, a very small part of your body receives the dose of radiation.
  • We determine each patient’s need for x-rays, both quantity and frequency, based on his or her dental history, medical history, and clinical presentation.  If you’re 40 years old, have never had a cavity, and brush, floss, and rinse twice a day (that’s all of you, right?), we may lengthen your check-up x-ray interval.  Someone with a more complex dental history may need more x-rays more often.  If you are, or could be, pregnant, we will refrain from taking x-rays.

And to put it all into perspective…

Every year most patients get 4 bitewing x-rays.  The radiation dose received is less than half of what you receive in a day from nature alone.  It’s also about the same dose of radiation you will receive by eating 300 bananas!

There is a great website that calculates the background radiation you are exposed to annually… The American Nuclear Society Radiation Dose Chart.  My dose is shown below!  (BTW if you live in Columbus, you’re at approx. 1000 ft above sea level, and there are no nuclear or coal power plants within 50 miles of us… now you don’t have to google it!)

And if you’re a visual person, this chart provides a great illustration of relative radiation doses.  A portion of the image is shown on the right.

Hopefully this helped you to weigh the definitive benefits of dental x-rays with the relative risks. If you truly have any hesitations about receiving dental x-rays, we are happy to discuss the topic with you, taking your specific situation into account.

My Favorite Dental Products

My Favorite Dental Products

Here is your glimpse inside my medicine cabinet. I’ve compiled a list of my favorite at-home dental products for your enjoyment. I know it can be hard to choose the right products when the aisle at the store seems endless, but keep in mind that what works for me may not be right for you. If you’re confused about what to use, please ask any of the clinical staff members at Northstar. We will be happy to point you in the right direction!

1. Phillips Sonicare DiamondClean.  I LOVE my Sonicare.  I own an Oral-B also, but Sonicare is the right electric toothbrush for me, personally. Ask your hygienist which would be right for you. It’s definitely worth the investment. You’ll never go back to that manual toothbrush!!

2. Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief.  Great toothpaste, especially for those of us with sensitive teeth.  It prevents cavities due to its fluoride content and its unique combination of arginine and calcium carbonate reduce sensitivity instantly, unlike other sensitivity toothpastes that take about 2 weeks to work.

3. Listerine Total Care.  I’m a die-hard Listerine fan.  This specific one contains fluoride in addition to the 4 essential oils that have made Listerine a go-to for over 100 years.  And it doesn’t burn!  (BTW you don’t NEED the burn.  Alcohol free mouthwashes work just as well!)

4. GC MI Paste Plus.  MI Paste is a great treatment for many conditions – dry mouth, sensitivity, acid reflux, acid erosion, “white spot” lesions…. the list goes on.  It contains Recaldent (a milk protein) — calcium and phosphate ions that actually penetrate your teeth and strengthen them from the inside out.  For me, it’s great for the areas where I have some gum recession.  Just rub it on at night after brushing, wait a few minutes and spit out the excess.

5. MI Varnish.  I know it’s not a take home product, but once applied in our office, it continues to work for months! In that sense it’s a take-home product that you don’t even have to think about! Your body does all the work. Yay!

6. Tongue Sweeper.  I never thought I needed a tongue scraper, but boy was I wrong.  Brushing your tongue is great, but using this product is incredible.  Definitely a must.  Makes your breath so fresh, and really makes your mouth feel impeccably clean.

7. REACH cleanpaste.  Choosing the right floss is really a personal preference.  I like thick floss, and this floss cleans well and tastes great.

Let us help you create your own “favorite dental products” stash. Our goal is for you to obtain perfect oral health, but we need your help!

Laser Treatment: Cold Sores & Canker Sores

Laser Treatment: Cold Sores & Canker Sores

Chances are, you or someone you know suffers from oral cold sores or canker sores. An estimated 57% of the population suffers from “cold sores,” (AKA oral herpes simplex), while an estimated 10% of the population has “canker sores.”  Today I want to discuss how these painful and stubborn mouth sores can be treated by us with our new laser.  (That’s it on the right.  It’s so pretty!)

First off, a little info about cold sores and canker sores…

Cold sores (AKA oral herpes simplex) are viral in nature.  Therefore, the lesions are contageous.  Once a person contracts the virus, it can lay dormant between outbreaks, which may be triggered by trauma, stress, sunburn, illness, or cold weather.  They are found on the lips, gingiva (“gums”), and hard palate, and are traditionally treated by antivirals (e.g. Acyclovir).

Canker sores (AKA recurrent aphthous ulcers) are likely autoimmune mediated, and are NOT contageous.  Possible etiological factors include stress/lack of sleep, trauma, immune system reaction, citrus fruit, a deficiency of B12, Iron, or Folic acid, hormonal fluctuations, and allergies (e.g. SLS in most toothpastes!).  They are found on the inner lips, tongue, soft palate, floor of mouth, and buccal mucosa (inner cheek), and are traditionally treated by steroids (usually a mouthwash or gel).

So how can a laser help?  The laser’s energy destroys the virus particles (of cold sores), dries out the lesions, relieves pain by killing nerve endings, and promotes healing via biostimulation from the light.  The procedure is quick and painless

Pain relief is immediate.  Healing time of the cold/canker sore will be significantly decreased.  The best time to come in for laser treatment of your cold/canker sore is when it is still in the burning/tingling stage. Treatment will be more predictable and effective, and the lesion may never develop.  After treatment, both the frequency and intensity of sores will decrease.

Tooth Whitening FAQ

Tooth Whitening FAQ

Who doesn’t want a white, bright smile?  Since tooth whitening has become so popular, I wanted to share some important information on who should bleach, how and when to do it, what to expect, and different products that can be incorporated into your whitening protocol

Contraindications to Whitening

  • Being too young.  “Young” teeth have larger nerve canals and can become irritated from whitening.  Therefore, bleaching should be avoided for those under 16 years old.
  • Being pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Sensitive teeth.  However, I will discuss ways to decrease sensitivity during whitening below.
  • Having cavities or periodontal disease.  The whitening gel will irritate diseased teeth and gums, causing pain.
  • Having large dental restorations.  These materials will not whiten, so they may become pronounced after bleaching.

Northstar Family Dental’s Whitening Protocol:

  • Prior to treatment:  Brush and floss.  Make sure tray is clean and dry, as moisture will decrease the efficiency of the bleaching gel.
  • Apply gel to trays.  Place a SMALL drop of gel on the inner front surface of the tray.  This small amount is all you need!  Any more will be waste, and if it seeps out of the tray, it will cause sensitivity!
  • Insert trays.  Seat firmly and wipe excess gel with a q-tip or your finger.
  • Wearing time.  If you are bleaching for the first time, wear your tray for half the recommended time, increasing the time if little to no sensitivity is experienced.
  • After whitening.  Remove trays and rinse teeth.  Rinse trays and remove excess bleach  with a q-tip or toothbrush (not the one you brush with!)bleach trays2

It is very common for people to use too much bleach in their tray.  I used a blue marker for effect, but those small dots are exactly where the bleach should be placed, and how small those blobs of whitening gel should be!

Should I Avoid Certain Foods and Drinks While Bleaching?It is best to avoid eating or drinking anything that can stain your teeth during bleaching, and for about 3 days after your are done.  When you are actively whitening your teeth, they become dehydrated and more permeable to these staining substances.  Unfortunately, this list of things you should avoid happen to be some of the things we most enjoy!  But think of how white your teeth will be!!

  • Dark beverages.  Coffee, tea, soda, etc.
  • Red wine
  • Juice, smoothies, slushies, popsicles
  • Sauces or marinades that contain balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, beets
  • Dark chocolate
  • Dark soups, stews
  • Smoking, and tobacco of any kind!  (Always!)
  • Very hot or very cold foods and drinks.  They will cause sensitivity!

If you just HAVE to have that cup of coffee, use a straw, and make sure it is not hot!  Rinse your mouth out with water after drinking or eating anything that you think just might cause staining.  And if you slip up, do not worry… You just may have to buy some extra bleach!

What if I Have Sensitive Teeth?


Use a sensitivity toothpaste for 2 weeks prior to bleaching (Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief, Sensodoyne, or Prevident, which you can purchase in-office from us!) Use the toothpaste every time you brush! Purchase Topex White Care Post-Whitening Desensitizer from us, and use as directed. If you experience sensitivity when whitening, skip a day, and when you start again, leave your trays in for half the time. Ease back in to the directed time if you can… If not, you will just have more whitening sessions!

Color Stabilization and White Spots

Bleaching dehydrates your teeth. When you remove your trays, you may notice that some areas appear whiter, and some appear…well… more yellow. This color discrepancy will slowly stabilize. It may take hours to days. After your final bleaching session, your teeth will slightly rebound, then stabilize after 1-2 weeks. If you have white spots before bleaching that become more pronounced after, even, the rebound period, please let us know. There are other in-office treatments that we can use to correct this discrepancy. And always, feel free to call us or stop by if you have any questions!

What is a Root Canal?

It’s always difficult for me to tell a patient they need a root canal, because I always anticipate them to cringe.  For whatever reason, root canals have a bad reputation, but they are truly a comfortable procedure.  In addition, they  have little to no recovery time, and they save a tooth!!

Why may your tooth need a root canal?

Basically, “root canals” are performed to save a tooth that is badly decayed, broken, or a tooth whose nerve is “insulted” from a crack, or an existing filling that is large or deep.  These situations can cause damage to the nerve tissue or pulp, resulting in bacterial breakdown and multiplication within the pulp chamber, or central “core,” of the tooth.

Signs or symptoms that you may need a root canal can include:

  • A severe toothache when chewing
  • Prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold, especially if this sensitivity lingers
  • A darkening of the tooth
  • Swelling or tenderness
  • A “pimple” on the gums (this may be a sign of an abscess!)

Sometimes NO SYMPTOMS are present.  Radiographic examination may also determine a need for this procedure.

So, what IS a root canal?

First off, a “root canal” is an endodontic procedure.  The term “Endodontics” is derived from the Greek words endo, meaning “inside,” and odons, meaning “tooth.”

The structure of a tooth looks like this:

Root Canal

Inside the harder outer structures of your tooth  is the inner core of the tooth — the pulp.  Inside the pulp are blood vessels and connective tissue, which provide nourishment to the tooth, and also the nerve, which signals your tooth when it is insulted.

When that inner core of your tooth is insulted and/or infected, it must be removed.  And when it is removed, although your tooth is void of sensory feedback, it can still function as a viable part of your dentition.

First, we numb the tooth so that the procedure is painless.  Thea area is protected from contamination by use of a “rubber dam,”  which isolates the tooth and allows us to work in an aseptic field.  Here’s a picture so that you know what to expect.

rubber damIt looks strange, but it does make it comfortable for both the patient (who can swallow on his/her own and doesn’t have to worry about water spray, etc. from the procedure) and for us!

The next step is to remove the pulp of the tooth, and clean and flush the chamber.  The “root canal” is then filled.

After a tooth has had a root canal, it is more brittle, since it no longer is vital and the living tissue has been replaced with, basically, a type of filling material. Therefore, most teeth need a crown or “cap” after a root canal procedure has been performed to provide adequate protection and strength for function.

How long does it take, and what can I expect?

The procedure itself can take an hour or so, especially if the tooth is prepared for the crown at the same appointment.  After the numbness wears off, some soreness may be felt, which will gradually disappear over a couple days.

But smile, because your tooth has been saved!!

For more information, the ADA has provided the following video:  Mouth Healthy – Root Canals

Or check out our page on Root Canals:  Northstar Family Dental – Root Canals

tiger rct


And since I love animals… I have to share the fact that this tiger did, in fact, have a root canal!

(If you’re ever around Indy, please visit the Exotic Feline Rescue Center… it’s truly amazing.)


So, at the end of the day, do not despair if you need a root canal!  At Northstar, we will do everything we can to ensure that the procedure is comfortable and painless… We will even provide you with a neck pillow, a warm blanket, and your favorite TV channel!!  And, best of all, in a short time your tooth will be as good as new!

Zoo Trip & My (Failed) Photography Mission

Zoo Trip & My (Failed) Photography Mission

I spent yesterday at the zoo, and of course, one of my main objectives was to get an amazing picture of an animal’s teeth to share on my new Blog.

I spent 10 minutes with my camera up to a window, trying to get a pic of this beaver’s teeth.  In addition to about 10 pictures of brown blurs, what I got was this… Needless to say, he (or she?) would not cooperate. Also, I am definitely far from a master photographer! But I did learn some interesting facts about the teeth of these interesting animals…

Did You Know…

  • Beavers’ teeth never stop growing!
  • Their teeth are self-sharpening.  They have hard (and orange!) enamel on the front of their teeth, and softer dentin on the back… the back wears faster, creating a sharp (and strong) cutting surface.
  • Beavers’ lips are BEHIND their teeth.  This way, they can carry branches without drowning.
  • Beavers can chew through a six inch tree in 15 minutes!!
Fun Dental Facts

Fun Dental Facts

We are so excited to launch the Northstar Family Dental blog!

To start, I wanted to share some fun, interesting, and strange dental facts with you.  At Northstar, we are all self-proclaimed “dental nerds”… I hope to invoke a love of dentistry in all of you, at least for the next couple minutes!!

  • A lot of people would love to be at the dentist right now!  According to a recent Time Magazine survey, 59% of Americans would rather have a dental appointment than be sitting next to someone talking on a cell phone.
  • Over 5000 years ago, ancient Egyptians used a “toothpaste” made of salt, mint, and pepper.
  • Over a lifetime, ONE cavity will cost you over $2000!  We love to see you, but would rather you save your money…
  • A toothpick is the object most choked on by Americans.  Use floss instead!
  • Like fingerprints, each tongue print is different!  Wonder if that fact was ever used on CSI…
  • There is someone whose job includes squeezing Prince Charles’ toothpaste onto his toothbrush!  The job belongs to Michael Fawcett, his personal valet.
  • People who drink 3 or more sugary drinks daily have 62% more dental decay, fillings, and tooth loss!
  • A snail’s mouth is no longer than the head of a pin, but can contain over 25,000 teeth.
  • George Washington’s dentures were NOT made from wood.  They were actually crafted from gold, ivory, lead (eek!), and a mixture of human, donkey, and hippopotamus teeth!

Stay tuned for future blogs posts… I will cover issues such as the importance of sealants, the truth about fluoride and dental radiation, implants, bad habits, Invisalign, canker sores, implants, and tooth whitening.

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