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What We’re Thankful for This Month: No Wooden Teeth!

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What We’re Thankful for This Month: No Wooden Teeth!

There are so many reasons to give thanks this season: Friends, family and health, for example. As dentists in Ballantyne, we can’t help but to also give thanks for the many advancements that have made our industry safer and better.

Not too long ago, a cavity would mean missing a tooth or having a wooden one in its place! Fortunately, we have evolved past that. Take, for example, these advancements for which we give thanks:

The Tools

When you walk into a dentist office today, you see familiar sights: an automated chair and electric toothbrush, for example. In the 1700s, patients may have seen something called a “dental foot engine.” This is pretty much as frightening as it sounds. The dentist or the dentist’s assistant would use a foot pedal to turn a drill that would clean out a patient’s cavity. The downside, of course, is that the process then took much longer than it does now. On a positive note, the dentist sure got a workout!

The Research

Now, more than ever, we know so much about the mouth. We can detect cavities, gum disease and cancer at the earliest stages to reduce the chances of major issues down the road. When those problems do pop up, we have cutting-edge treatment methods that increase the likelihood of a healthier future.

X-Rays

It could take 30 minutes for a dentist to get a picture of your teeth 100 years ago. And just think: you would have to stand still the entire time! Now, it only takes a few seconds for us to grab a picture that shows us all the inner workings of your mouth.

Fillings and Veneers That Match Your Teeth

Thanks to all the advancements in cosmetic dentistry, we can now give you the smile you want! No longer do you need to have dark-colored fillings peeking out from the inside of your mouth. We can use realistic implants and veneers and fillings that match the color of your natural teeth.

A Comfortable Process

Back in the day, an anesthetic was little more than gripping someone’s arm or taking a swig of whiskey before undergoing a dental procedure. Today we can administer local anesthetics and use nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) to help keep our patients comfortable. In fact, now many procedures are virtually pain-free!

We hope you are as thankful for these developments as we are!

Aten & Garofalo Dentistry Named in Charlotte Magazine's Top Dentists

We are so thrilled to have been named in Charlotte Magazine’s Top Dentists list this year!

Thousands of dentists were asked the question, “If you had a patient in need of a dentist, which dentist would you refer him or her to?” Our peers could then cast a ballot for the dentists they knew and trusted, taking into consideration experience, specialties, results and the use of technology. Once the scores were entered, the doctors in our practice rose the to top, earning Aten & Garofalo Dentistry, Ballantyne’s Premier Family Practice, a coveted spot on the list!

You can view our listing in Charlotte Magazine here.

Deborah J. Aten and Anthony M. Garofalo waering black formal attire

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Patient Q&A: When Should I Use "Sensitive" Toothpaste?

We get questions all the time about sensitive teeth and what to do about them. If you are experiencing sensitivity, you may want to consider using a special toothpaste that can help to alleviate your symptoms. Here, we’ll dive into why your teeth might be sensitive and what your options may be for treatment.

Teeth sensitivity

According to the American Dental Association, about 12 percent of people will experience tooth sensitivity at some point. By definition, teeth become sensitive when one of the following occurs:

  • The enamel that covers teeth gets thinner, due to aggressive brushing or acidic foods/drinks.
  • There is gum recession.
  • There is decay or a break that exposes the dentin of the tooth.
  • A patient has recently had a dental treatment, such as a filling or teeth whitening.

You will definitely know when your teeth have gotten sensitive. You will feel it when you have food or drinks that are hot or cold, or when you eat very sweet or very acidic items. Some people even experienced the feeling when breathing in cold air. It is also possible for the sensitivity to come and go.

Treating the issue

It’s always a good idea to discuss any oral issue you are having with your dentist in Ballantyne. We can help determine what the cause may be. For example, a cavity may be at the heart of what is going on. In that case, we can treat the problem to help eliminate your symptoms.

In other cases, we may recommend that you use a desensitizing toothpaste. These products work because they contain elements that will actually block the feelings that travel from the surface of your tooth down to the nerve. Be aware that it may take a few brushings in order for the toothpaste to work.

When the toothpaste is not enough, you should come to our office, where we have other options available. For example, we can apply a topical agent that is stronger than the toothpaste to do the job.

Have a question or concern? Please call us and let us know! (704) 540-4252.

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Eat Candy AND Keep a Healthy Mouth! Here's How

Trick or treat! It’s that time of year when you can send your kids out with a costume and a bag and they will magically return with all sorts of delicious snacks: chewy candy, hard candy, small candy, big candy and – one of our personal favorites – peanut butter cups. Adults and kids alike can enjoy these treats without having to worry too much about their health – including how that candy can have an effect on your teeth.

Ready for a guilt-free Halloween? Here’s how to do it:

1. Choose Wisely

Let’s get the bad new out of the way first: There are some candies you should probably avoid if you are concerned about your teeth. For example, when you chew hard or sticky candy, it can get stuck in your teeth. At our dentist office in Charlotte, we have seen how over time, food stuck in your teeth breaks down and can lead to tooth decay. The exception to this is a sugar-free candy.

2. Pair It!

You know what goes really well with candy? Water! Make sure you are drinking fluoridated water, especially after eating candy. Water rinses the mouth of leftover pieces of food, and that fluoride will help prevent tooth decay.

3. Take With Food

When you eat a meal, your saliva production increases. This is because your body knows it needs saliva to break down foods. As a bonus, saliva also rinses out food particles from your mouth. Therefore, if you are going to eat candy, make sure to do it with your meal or shortly afterward, when saliva production is high.

4. Chew Gum

If that bag of treats has sugarless gum in it, chew it! When you chew gum (has to be sugarless) for 20 minutes after eating a meal, it can help to reduce tooth decay. This is again because of our old friend, saliva. Chewing gum increases the flow of saliva.

5. Brush and Floss

Halloween can be tiring. There’s a lot of walking, chasing the kids and staying up late while the sugar high subsides. No matter how tired you are, though, please remember to floss and brush those teeth before going to bed! Treats like popcorn and certain types of candy can get stuck between your teeth, and flossing can dislodge those pieces before they become a problem.

Lastly, everything in moderation. If you binge-eat candy, odds are it won’t be good for your health. So pick a small piece and treat yourself!

We hope you have a safe, healthy and very happy Halloween!

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The Link Between Your Oral Health and Sleeping Habits

Do you ever have trouble sleeping? Believe it or not, it can take a toll on your mouth. Poor oral hygiene has been linked to sleeping problems and vice versa. While it may not explain every situation, it’s good to know when brushing and flossing can help and when to get in touch with a professional.

Obstructive Sleep Disorders

You may be familiar with the term sleep apnea, which is a type of obstructive sleep disorder. It creates disturbances while you are snoozing, interrupting your body’s natural processes. In obstructive sleep apnea, your airflow is blocked because the soft tissue that is along the back of your throat collapses. In central sleep apnea, your brain does not signal your breathing muscles correctly.

Obstructive sleep apnea is more common and, fortunately, treatable. If you are diagnosed with this condition, you may need to wear a dental device. A professional can help determine what your sleeping issues are and the best plan for treatment. Without taking action, sleep apnea can result in far more than just exhaustion. It can lead to high blood pressure, obesity, gum disease and diabetes.

Other Sleeping Issues

There are other reasons that you may not be getting enough sleep at night, such as stress. Someone under pressure or feeling anxious could easily lose valuable shuteye. And, of course, getting less sleep at night can only add to stress. According to the American Psychological Association, even getting just 60 to 90 minutes more of sleep every night would make most Americans happier – and healthier.

Stress can have an effect on oral health as well. People who are especially anxious may be more prone to grinding their teeth at night. Jaw clenching is another side effect of stress, as are canker sores. Lastly, it has been shown that people under stress are more susceptible to infection – like gum disease – because the body is not equipped as well to ward it off.

Tips for Sleeping Better

The National Sleep Foundation offers several tips for people wanting to get more rest at night. For starters, having a relaxing routine at bedtime can help. Brush your teeth and then engage in a quiet activity, such as reading a book. The NSF also suggests the following:

  • Exercising frequently
  • Eating a well-balanced diet
  • Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
  • Keep your room cool – it is recommended that your room be between 60 and 67 degrees

If you suspect that you may have a sleeping disorder, get in touch with a medical professional as soon as possible.

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Alzheimer’s and Oral Health: What You Should Know

June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, a time when it is important for us to talk about this difficult disease and what we can do to help those affected by it. In addition to learning about the effects of Alzheimer’s and donating to groups that research it, we can also directly help the people we love who have it in a number of ways. For example, the Alzheimer’s Association suggests doing the following:

  • Encouraging the person to keep his or her normal routine
  • Helping the person to remember appointments and activities
  • Asking how you can be supportive
  • Finding a support group for your loved one

Part of keeping your loved one healthy will be to understand how oral health plays a role. Below is some information regarding what you should know about Alzheimer’s, dementia and dental care.

Why It Matters

Oral health and overall health are linked together, as poor dental hygiene can result in illness. Therefore, helping your loved one keep his or her dental appointments and cleanings is essential to his or her wellbeing. Additionally, having a bright smile and clean mouth can boost someone’s self-esteem, which is especially helpful for someone struggling with memory issues.

Daily Care

Someone with dementia in the early stages will likely be able to keep up with flossing and brushing alone. However, it is possible that he or she will need to be reminded and possibly supervised. In the later stages, the Alzheimer’s Society states that it is possible that your loved one will no longer be able to clean his or her teeth alone. Caretakers may have to complete the task, and a dentist or hygienist can provide tips for doing so.

Medications

The Alzheimer’s Society points out that people who suffer from dementia-related illnesses are often prescribed medications. For example, antidepressants or, to a lesser degree, sedatives or antipsychotics may be prescribed. Unfortunately, one side effect to these drugs is dry mouth.

When someone experiences dry mouth, it means that there is a lack of saliva. This can result in increased plaque and put the person at risk of decay, infection and gum disease. It can also take a toll on someone with dentures.

A dentist should be made aware of any medications your loved one is taking so an effective treatment plan can be made. Additionally, at the first sign of dry mouth – such as frequent thirst, mouth sores or a dry, raw tongue – a dentist should be alerted.

To learn more about what you can do to help someone suffering from Alzheimer’s, please visit the Alzheimer’s Association.

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6 Amazing Things You Didn’t Know About Your Saliva

You may not realize just how powerful your saliva is. In fact, you might think it’s a little gross, right? Most people don’t talk about it, and we cringe if we see someone drool or spit.

Saliva, however, is really cool and an essential part of not just your oral health, but also your overall health. Here are six awesome facts about that stuff in your mouth:

1. It’s not just water

Saliva doesn’t really have a taste, and it is actually almost 99 percent water. However, it also has minerals, vitamins, hormones, proteins and other substances. It will also contain traces of anything you put in your mouth, like toothpaste and food.

2. It starts the digestion process

Your body may do the brunt of the work further down, but the saliva in your mouth actually starts digestion. The enzymes in your saliva help to break down fats and starches in your food. It also provides lubrication necessary to swallow food. Imagine eating saltines without saliva! Impossible.

3. Enough to fill a 2-liter

Your saliva glands will produce as much as 2 liters of saliva a day. They have to! Saliva plays a vital role in keeping harmful bacteria away from your teeth and gums. Bet you won’t look at that bottle of soda the same ever again.

4. A telltale sign of your age

Over time, the DNA that is in your saliva can actually change. DNA undergoes methylation as we age, which means that certain genes are activated and others are turned off. Diet and other environmental factors can contribute to this process. Researchers from the University of California Los Angeles found that by focusing on just two genes in saliva that tend to be affected by this change, they could guess the age of the person to within five years.

5. A natural painkiller

There is a substance known as opiorphin in your saliva. This is a painkiller that harnesses six times the power of morphine. How? It protects chemicals that are responsible for preventing your brain from receiving signals of pain. If those chemicals start to break down, those signals reach the brain and alert you that you are in pain.

6. The pros and cons of parent saliva

A baby loses her pacifier on the ground. A mother picks it up and, instead of rinsing it in the sink, puts in her mouth to clean it and then hands it back to baby. There are two sides to this story: the first comes from the dental community, which warns that this paper writers can transfer harmful bacteria to the child’s mouth and lead to tooth decay in baby teeth. The other side is comes from several studies that suggest that doing this could almost inoculate the child against allergies. The safest bet? Rinse the paci under water or sanitize it according to directions.

There is no doubt about it – saliva is pretty cool!

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Baby Bottle Tooth Decay: When Should I Worry?

Many children use a bottle well after their first teeth have emerged. Though most children will start solid food around 6 months of age, they are still dependent on formula or breast milk to get all their nutrients for quite a while longer.

There is no denying that getting vitamins from the bottle is an essential part of many children’s development. However, parents should be aware of a phenomenon commonly referred to as baby bottle tooth decay, or early childhood caries. Taking the proper precautions can ensure your child’s teeth will be safe.

What Is Bottle Tooth Decay?

If a child’s teeth are exposed to sugary drinks for an extended period of time, there is a concern that the teeth will be damaged. Formula and breast milk are generally considered to be safe; the main concern is if there is a fruit juice or soft drink in the bottle. The sugars in these drinks can sit on the teeth, enabling cavities to start to form. Our Charlotte dentists often see this issue when children are put to bed with a bottle that contains juice.

Another way that infant’s and toddler’s teeth could suffer damage is if saliva is passed from the parent to the child through the bottle or a pacifier. A parent may lick a pacifier or a feeding spoon in an effort to clean it. However, this can introduce cavity-causing bacteria into the child’s mouth.

Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Based on the above causes of baby bottle tooth decay, some of the best ways to prevent the issue are to avoid sharing saliva and to keep juice and sugary drinks out of infants’ bottles. The American Dental Association also offers the following tips:

  • Be sure to brush a child’s teeth as soon as they emerge.
  • Do not put infants to sleep with a bottle.
  • Try to encourage a child to drink from a cup starting around age 1.
  • Emphasize healthy eating habits at home.

The ADA recommends using a toothpaste with fluoride even with infants. Only a small smear the size of a grain of rice should be used until the child is 3 years old. If you have questions regarding the type of toothpaste or how to properly care for your child’s teeth, please do not hesitate to ask us.

Children can begin seeing a dentist as soon as their first tooth emerges. This enables us to share with parents the best ways to care for baby teeth and prevent issues from developing. Call us today at (704) 540-4252 to schedule an appointment today.

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What You Should Know About Dry Mouth

Waking up in the middle of the night thirsty is one thing, but dry mouth – also known as xerostomia – is quite another. This condition can occur for a variety of reasons. Nailing down the cause is an essential part of finding the right treatment. If you think you may suffer from dry mouth, read on to learn more.

Symptoms

If you have been experiencing frequent thirst accompanied by a dry, even sticky feeling in your mouth, you may have xerostomia. Other common symptoms include the following:

  • A tongue that is red, raw or dry
  • Dryness in the throat
  • Sores in the mouth or at the corners of the mouth
  • Dry and cracked lips
  • Tingling or burning on the tongue or in the mouth

Someone with xerostomia may also have difficulty speaking, chewing, swallowing or even tasting food. Bad breath is another symptom of the condition.

Causes

Ordinarily, you produce a certain amount of saliva to keep your mouth moisturized. If you have dry mouth, you are not producing enough saliva. This is a major issue because saliva is one of the best defenses you have when it comes to tooth decay. It also fights off disease in your mouth.

If you approach our Charlotte dentist with symptoms related to dry mouth, we will try to determine why your saliva flow is subpar. One of the most common reasons is that you are taking a medication that has a side effect of dry mouth. Both prescription and nonprescription drugs can have this effect. Medications used for pain, allergies, depression, acne, epilepsy, hypertension and even asthma could trigger dry mouth.

Another cause is that there is an underlying medical condition, such as diabetes, anemia, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis or mumps. Or, if you have recently had some type of medical treatment, like chemotherapy or radiation, you may develop dry mouth.

This is why it is so important to discuss your medical history with your dentist. If we can determine that a medication or medical condition is causing the dry mouth, we can better develop a comprehensive solution.

Lastly, your lifestyle choices could lead to dry mouth. People who smoke or use chewing tobacco may be at an increased risk of developing the issue. These behaviors can affect how much saliva you make or enhance a condition that is causing dry mouth.

Treatment

The treatment for your dry mouth will largely depend on the cause. For example, if it is a medication, your doctor could end up switching prescriptions or placing you on a lower dose. There are also at-home remedies, such as drinking plenty of water, breathing through your nose instead of your mouth and using a vaporizer in your bedroom to increase the moisture in the air.

If you suspect you have dry mouth, please contact us so we can help you find some comfort.

Should My Child Wear a Mouth Guard

Now that warm weather is here, many people will be heading outside to enjoy the sunshine. For many, that means watching children’s sporting events or simply taking the kids to the park. No matter what the activity may be, there could be a threat to your child’s mouth – especially when the child is playing a contact sport.

No matter if the child has permanent or baby teeth, it is important to protect his or her mouth. Using a mouth guard may be the right option.

What Is a Mouth Guard?

True to its name, a mouth guard is a device that protects the mouth – the teeth, tongue, lips and gums. It looks similar to the mouth itself, as it is worn inside. Most guards will cover the upper teeth. If someone suffers a hit to the face, the guard will cushion that blow, minimizing the risk of the following:

  • Broken teeth
  • Jaw injuries
  • Lacerations

The reason these devices often cover the top teeth is because they are more exposed. Through protecting those, you can prevent an incident like teeth going through lips or biting the tongue.

Who Should Wear One?

The American Dental Association states that a mouth guard should be considered an essential piece of equipment for anyone who plays a contact sport. Just as you would put your kid in pads for football or shin guards for soccer, he or she should also have a mouth guard in.

Children who play non-contact sports can also benefit. For example, a gymnast could slip and hit his or her mouth on the beam. Therefore, you may want to consider a guard no matter what type of activity your child enjoys.

Types of Guards

Once you decide that your child should have a mouth guard in place, there are several different models you could choose. The first is a stock device that could be found at a sporting goods store. These are the most affordable option, though it may be difficult to find one that fits your child’s mouth.

There are also guards that can be molded to fit your child’s mouth. Many sports stores sell these “boil and bite” options that are softened in water and then placed in the mouth to adapt to the shape.

Lastly, there are custom-made options that your Charlotte dentist could make for your child. These will be the best fit and it gives you the opportunity to ask a professional questions about when and how these guards should be worn.

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