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Protect Your Enamel from Dental Erosion

December 11th, 2019

We know that the foods we eat and drink can have a definite impact on our smiles. Staining is an unhappy side effect of many of our menu favorites. That’s why we sip red wine through a straw, rinse with water after a slice of blueberry pie, and cut back on the coffee and tea after a single cup (or two—we’re not perfect!). And sugar is the fuel for cavity-causing bacteria, so we try to substitute water for soda, or replace the hot fudge sundae with grilled fruit. And we always brush carefully after indulging.

So far, so good. But while we’re saving our brilliant smiles from stains and decay, let’s not forget one other source of diet-related damage—acids. Acidic foods and beverages can actually erode the surface of our enamel, leaving our teeth more vulnerable to sensitivity and discoloration.

What Is Dental Erosion?

Enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies—stronger than bone—but it is not indestructible. And acids are one of the major causes of enamel damage. (In fact, it’s the acids produced by bacteria that lead to cavities.) Luckily, our bodies are designed to protect our enamel. Saliva helps clean the teeth by washing away food particles and it neutralizes acidity as well. But a diet that’s too heavy in acidic foods can undo all this good work and upset the healthy pH balance in our mouths.

Why is this a problem? Because acidic environments actually cause the minerals in our enamel to break down, a process known as “demineralization.” This weakening of the enamel leaves teeth more sensitive to heat and cold. It can even lead to discolored teeth, as thinner enamel allows the brownish-yellow dentin underneath the enamel surface to become visible.

Are You Aware of Acids?

We can immediately guess at some of the most acidic foods. Citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes in their many culinary forms, anything pickled in vinegar, coffee, tea, wine—these foods are certainly acidic, but also a regular part of many a healthy diet. You don’t need to avoid these foods altogether, but it’s best to enjoy them as part of a meal or enjoy them sparingly. And balance out some of these high-acidity foods at mealtime with low-acidity choices like bananas, bread, and dairy products.

Other sources of damaging acids might surprise you. Studies have linked sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks to higher levels of tooth erosion. The combination of citric acid, phosphoric acid and/or carbonation raises acidity levels in the mouth. And because we tend to sip them all day long, it’s like a continuing acid bath for our enamel. Water is always a healthy alternative for hydration, but if you do indulge in a soda or sports drink, rinse with water after drinking. And don’t swish—just swallow.

Won’t Brushing Help?

Yes, but watch your timing. Because the acids in foods weaken enamel, brushing right after a big glass of orange juice or a soda can actually be even more abrasive for tooth surfaces. We recommend waiting anywhere from 20-60 minutes to brush. This gives your saliva the chance to not only wash away acids, but to “remineralize” your teeth, bathing them in the phosphate and calcium ions that strengthen enamel.

If you notice any of the symptoms of dental erosion, including pain, sensitivity when you eat or drink something hot, cold or sweet, or yellow discoloration, talk to Dr. Mark Hildahl, Dr. David Keup, Dr. Jock Stevick and Dr. Hensen during your visit to our Minot, ND office about what you can do to help protect and strengthen your teeth. Unfortunately, our bodies can’t produce new enamel. By avoiding foods that stain, by reducing sugars that lead to decay, and by limiting the acidic foods that erode our enamel, we give ourselves the best opportunity for a lifetime of beautiful, healthy smiles.

Using Sippy Cups Successfully

December 4th, 2019

Congratulations! Your child is beginning to leave her bottle behind and has started to use her first sippy cup. And the best training cup is one that makes the transition from bottle to cup an efficient, timely, and healthy one.

The Right Training Cup

While a “no spill” cup seems like the perfect choice for toddler and parent alike, those cups are designed much like baby bottles. The same valve in the no-spill top that keeps the liquid from spilling requires your child to suck rather than sip to get a drink. If your child’s cup has a top with a spout, she will learn to sip from it. Two handles and a weighted base make spills less likely.

When to Use a Training Cup

Children can be introduced to a sippy cup before they are one year old, and we suggest phasing out the bottle between the ages of 12 and 24 months. Use a sippy cup as the source for all liquids at that age, and only when your child is thirsty and at mealtime to avoid overdrinking. The transition from sippy cup to regular cup should be a swift one.

Healthy Sipping Habits

The best first option in a sippy cup between meals is water. Milk or juice should be offered at mealtimes, when saliva production increases and helps neutralize the effects of these drinks on young teeth. And don’t let your child go to sleep with anything other than water—falling asleep with a cup filled with milk, juice, or other sugary drinks means these liquids stay in the mouth overnight. Finally, while a sippy cup is convenient and portable, don’t let your young child walk and sip at the same time to avoid injuries.

When your child comes to our Minot, ND office for her first visit, please bring any questions you might have about training cups. We would be glad to share ways to make the move from bottle to cup both successful and safe!

Ease up on your gums — don’t brush your teeth too hard!

November 27th, 2019

A lot of patients go at their teeth like they were sanding an old floor—that is to say, way too hard! Brushing too hard is probably the most common mistake patients make in their oral care routine, and it can be detrimental to the gums and teeth.

What can brushing too hard cause?

  • Receding gums
  • Bone loss around teeth
  • Loss of teeth
  • Tooth sensitivity, especially to hot and cold
  • Worn down enamel

Brushing too hard wears away at your gums, which can lead to the neck of the teeth being exposed. This part of the tooth isn't covered by hard enamel like the rest of the tooth and hence the soft inner layer, or dentin, is exposed. Dentin is very sensitive to hot and cold and much more susceptible to bacterial decay. Once the gums recede due to improper brushing, it’s usually irreversible.

How to brush your teeth properly

You know you're supposed to brush your teeth twice a day, so why not do it right? First and foremost, you should only ever brush with a soft bristled brush—not medium or hard—unless directed otherwise by Dr. Mark Hildahl, Dr. David Keup, Dr. Jock Stevick and Dr. Hensen. Unless you have braces or specific oral health issues, brushing twice a day for two minutes is usually plenty.

The main purpose of brushing is to remove plaque from your teeth and gums. Plaque is actually soft and is a buildup of bacteria, saliva, and food debris. You really don't need to brush hard to remove it, just make sure you aim your toothbrush at the gum line (where plaque grows) and brush in small circular motions, never a back-and-forth motion.

It's also wise to hold your toothbrush gently. People tend to brush harder the tighter they hold their toothbrush.

Still have questions about proper tooth brushing technique or gum health? Ask any staff member or Dr. Mark Hildahl, Dr. David Keup, Dr. Jock Stevick and Dr. Hensen during your next visit to our Minot, ND office; we'd be happy to help!

Mall Whitening: Why You Shouldn’t

November 1st, 2019

A shopping mall is a great place to get lots of errands done in one trip. Department stores, clothing boutiques, specialty shops? So many tempting options all in one place. But teeth whitening? Maybe not.

Dental office whitening provides you with the whitest possible teeth in the safest possible manner. Your teeth will be checked first for any conditions that might make whitening a bad idea, such as tooth decay, weakened enamel, or gum disease. Dr. Mark Hildahl, Dr. David Keup, Dr. Jock Stevick and Dr. Hensen will make sure your gums and mouth are protected. A gel with a higher concentration of bleaching agents than those available over-the-counter will be applied, and your whitening progress will be monitored. You can also ask about having a custom-fitted tray made for at use at home with professional whitening gel.

What is different about mall bleaching?

  • No dental exam will be provided beforehand. If you have dental issues, the whitening process might cause further problems such as tooth sensitivity or gum inflammation.
  • The amount of peroxide in the bleaching agents can vary from place to place. You might end up with something equivalent to home whitening strips, or you might be exposed to solutions that should only be available in a dentist’s office.
  • Finally, in many areas, mall whitening is actually illegal because it is considered the practice of dentistry without a license. Mall kiosks skirt this problem by having customers insert the trays full of gel themselves—a practice that does not take the place of professional training, licensing, and regulation.

A mall kiosk is a convenient place to select a new phone. Or try an unusual hair care product. Or purchase the latest in fad toys. But when it comes to your dental health, it’s worth a special trip to our Minot, ND office if you want the safest, most effective whitening.

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