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Improve your oral health with xylitol!

December 7th, 2018

Xylitol tastes sweet, but unlike sugar, it is not converted to acid that can cause your teeth to decay. It’s a naturally occurring sweetener found in plants, fruits, and vegetables; even the human body produces it in small amounts. Xylitol is widely used in sugar-free chewing gum, mints, candies, and even certain forms of medicine.

The World Health Organization has approved xylitol because only a small amount is needed for its health benefits. It’s even safe for diabetics, with a glycemic index of only seven. Xylitol has 40% fewer calories than other types of carbs: less than three calories per gram.

So how can this natural sweetener benefit your oral health? Take a look at the facts. Tooth decay starts when bacteria consumes the sugars left in your mouth. When you eat sugary foods, the bacteria on your teeth will multiply and make acid that can destroy your enamel.

Xylitol is derived from fibrous parts of plants, so it does not break down like a regular sugar. It actually helps maintain a neutral pH level in the mouth, which in turn prevents bacteria from sticking to the teeth. The bacteria are then unable to digest xylitol, which means your teeth won’t develop enamel damage and cavities.

Studies have shown the consumption of xylitol as a sugar substitute or a dietary addition had a dramatic reduction in new cavities and even reversed existing cavities. These effects are long lasting: low cavity rates remained years after the trials were done.

When there’s less bacteria and acid in your mouth due to xylitol, your teeth stay healthier. The more frequently it’s ingested, the more you will prevent enamel damage.

Aim to consume around five grams a day, or one gram every three hours if possible. You can do this by consuming gum, tablets, candy, or mints that have xylitol as one of the first ingredients after your meals. You can find these products in health food stores and specialty grocery stores.

Since xylitol replaces sugar on a one-to-one ratio, it’s used in several common items:

  • Toothpaste
  • Mouth rinse
  • Baby oral wipes, gel, and pacifiers
  • Nasal wash
  • Dry mouth spray
  • Granulated forms for cooking
  • Granulated packets to add to drinks
  • Commercially prepared foods

Make sure to pick up items that contain xylitol the next time you’re at the store! This is an easy way to maintain great oral health. If you have specific questions about xylitol, ask Dr. Mark Hildahl, Dr. David Keup, Dr. Jock Stevick and Dr. Hensen during your next appointment at our Minot, ND office.

Post Oral Surgery: Signs of Infection

November 30th, 2018

Oral surgery can be intimidating, especially if you show any signs of an infection afterwards. Dr. Mark Hildahl, Dr. David Keup, Dr. Jock Stevick and Dr. Hensen and our team want you to be informed about what to watch for after you’ve undergone surgery.

Oral surgery procedures are intended to reduce pain and prevent infection. Sometimes complications occur after your surgery, and if infection ensues, it will require swift medical attention.

People undergo oral surgery for many reasons, such as:

  • Impacted or infected teeth
  • Tooth loss, jaw problems
  • Facial injuries or infections
  • Birth defects
  • Sleep apnea

Symptoms of Infection

  • Pain that won’t go away with medication
  • Steadily swelling of gums, jaw, or face
  • Redness or oozing of pus from the area
  • Fever that doesn't subside
  • Difficulty opening the mouth or jaw
  • Excessive bleeding for 24 hours
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing (emergency situation)

After the initial surgery, don’t become worried right away if you notice any of these symptoms. It’s normal to show some blood and swelling after surgery, but that should stop fairly soon with the help of gauze and medication.

You will most likely be numb from the procedure and we will advise you to avoid hard foods for the first day. Pain medication will be administered, and you should take it before you begin to notice pain. A cold compress can also help with swelling and initial pain.

You will be advised not to brush your teeth in the region where the surgery occurred. You may use a prescription mouth rinse, or you can gargle with warm salt water to reduce the swelling. If you follow these directions, you can speed the healing process for a quick recovery.

Don’t fret: a post-surgery infection is not a common development. It happens most often to people who have a compromised immune system or diabetes. Let Dr. Mark Hildahl, Dr. David Keup, Dr. Jock Stevick and Dr. Hensen know beforehand if you have either of these and we may prescribe an antibiotic to help prevent the spread of infection in the areas of your mouth that get worked on.

If you think you may be experiencing complications after a surgery, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our Minot, ND office for advice.  

Is there a connection between oral health and school performance?

November 23rd, 2018

As a parent, you want the best for your children, and that includes doing their best in school. You can support them by taking an interest in their activities, being enthusiastic about attendance, and helping them with homework. There may also be one more way you can help your children succeed at school. Surprisingly, research suggests that children with better oral health are likely to do better in school.

What the Research Says

One study in North Carolina looked at risk factors for poor school performance among school-aged children. As expected, the study found poor school performance linked to low socioeconomic status, low levels of parental education, and poor overall health. However, it also found a strong link between poor oral health and poor school performance, with children classified as having poor oral health 40 percent more likely struggle in school.

These findings are generalizable to the rest of the country. For example, attendance is an important factor in academic achievement, but dental conditions are responsible for a loss 51 million school hours among schoolchildren each year. Dental pain and infection are linked to poorer performance.

School-Based Programs to Promote Oral Health

In light of the apparent benefits of good oral health for school performance, some schools are taking steps to promote better oral care and health. In Maine, for instance, schools in need can apply for grants through School Oral Health Program (SOHP). The SOHP consists of four components:

  1. Oral health education for all children to support healthy behaviors
  2. A weekly fluoride mouth rinse to strengthen teeth
  3. Dental screenings to identify children who may need dental care
  4. Dental sealants, or plastic coatings, on back teeth to guard against decay

The State of Maine also supports an “Annual Sugar Out Day” to raise awareness of the effects of sugar on dental health and to help students choose low-sugar alternatives.

Oral Health Habits to Adopt

You can help your child improve oral health and do better in school by encouraging good oral hygiene. This includes brushing at least twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, and reminding your child to drink water after eating. Also, regular trips to our Minot, ND office can help prevent serious tooth problems.

Five Things You Should Never Do With Your Toothbrush

November 16th, 2018

When’s the last time you gave your toothbrush any serious thought? Sure, you use it every day (and ideally twice), and you know that with a dollop of toothpaste it waxes up your pearly whites nicely, not to mention preventing bacteria, plaque, and inflammation.

But what are the things you should never do with your toothbrush? Here’s a brush-up on five toothbrush no-nos, from Souris Valley Dental Group.

1. If you have your toothbrush too close to the toilet, you’re brushing your teeth with what’s in your toilet. In other words, keep your toothbrush stored as far from the toilet as possible.

2. The average toothbrush harbors ten million microbes. Many families keep their toothbrushes jammed together in a cup holder on the bathroom sink, but this can lead to cross-contamination. Family members’ toothbrushes should be kept an inch apart. Don’t worry; they won’t take it personally.

3. Don’t delay replacing your toothbrush. It’s best to purchase a new one every three to four months, but by all means get one sooner if the bristles are broken down because of your frequent and vigorous brushing. If you have a cold or the flu, replace your toothbrush after you recover.

4. Store your toothbrush out of the reach of toddlers. The last thing you want is for your toothbrush to be chewed like a pacifier, dipped in toilet water, or used to probe the dusty heating ducts.

5. Sharing is caring, right? Your parents probably taught you the importance of sharing back when you were, well, dipping their improperly stored toothbrushes in toilet water. But here’s the thing: As important as sharing is, there are some things you just don’t share, and your toothbrush is one of them.

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