Four Ways to Clean Between Teeth

Ruth Mickelson, RDH

Four Ways to Clean Between Teeth

When thinking about cleaning between teeth, floss will probably come to mind. This is a great way to clean between teeth, but it is not the only way! There are other oral hygiene aids that are available and it’s not one size fits all. Below are options with the benefits and uses for each one. 

1. String dental floss. With proper technique, this is effective in removing plaque and reducing gingivitis and risk for non-reversible periodontal disease. There are many types of string floss and between waxed, tape and spongey floss, there is an option suitable for everyone. Waxed floss is great for the average person but may rip or tear. For those with tight contacts, a smooth floss like the Glide Oral B is useful. It’s easier to get into the tooth contact without breaking. Spongey floss like the Glide Super Floss is useful for people with bridge restorations, spacious contacts, or those wearing braces. The Super floss has a stiff end that allows for directing the floss under the bridge or orthodontic appliance. The spongey part of the floss is great for attaching to plaque and removing it from the teeth and gums. Another great point about sting floss is that it is generally inexpensive. For some, sting floss can be difficult to use. It does take practice to feel comfortable using it but after learning, can be done in just a few minutes. 
2. Mounted Floss Picks. Many people love floss picks for their convivence! There are even floss picks called platypus flosser specifically made for patients with braces. These are a great option for people with limited dexterity such as children. Because there is only a small amount of floss being used, it is instructed to rinse off plaque as needed between teeth and then dispose of pick.
3. Water floss. This is great for gum stimulation and removing large pieces of plaque or food that it stuck. This is a good option for those with limited dexterity, those with tight contacts, and those who have a hard time using other flossing aids.
4. Proxabrushes. This come in a variety of sizes and different handle. They are used to clean between wide contacts, around orthodontic braces and in some cases be useful under bridge restorations. 

One person could benefit from using more than one type of interdental aid, depending on the area od the mouth. No matter what oral hygiene aids are used to clean between teeth, it is important to use proper technique in order for them to be effective. Speak with a dental professional for instructions on how to use any oral hygiene aids. 

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How to Clean Your Denture/Partial Denture 

Lindsay Olsen, RDH BSDH

How to Clean Your Denture/Partial Denture 

 Rinse your dentures before brushing to remove any loose food or debris. 
 Use a soft bristle toothbrush and a non-abrasive cleanser to gently brush all the surfaces of the dentures so they don’t get scratched.
 When brushing, clean your mouth thoroughly—including your gums, cheeks, roof of your mouth and tongue to remove any plaque. This can help reduce the risk of oral irritation and bad breath. 
 When you’re not wearing your dentures, put them in a safe place covered in water to keep them from warping.
 Do not sleep with your dentures. Your tissues need to breath overnight. If you do not take out your dentures at night, you are at risk of developing oral fungal infections. 
 Occasionally, denture wearers may use adhesives. Adhesives come in many forms: creams, powders, pads/wafers, strips or liquids. If you use one of these products, read the instructions, and use them exactly as directed. Your dentist can recommend appropriate cleansers and adhesives.
 Visit your dentist once every 6 months for a complimentary oral cancer screening, and to have the fit of your denture evaluated. 


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How To Care For Your Infants Teeth

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Lora Cook, RDH

How to care for your infants teeth.

When to start cleaning your baby’s teeth.

You can start before your baby even has teeth, it is best to incorporate mouth cleaning at bath time.  This routine will help your baby get used to you cleaning their mouth, which can allow a smoother transition when you do begin to brushing their teeth. This will also help you to know when your babies teeth first start to push through their gum tissue.

The bacteria that lives in the mouth is not harmful to the gum tissue, but can be harmful to the teeth.  The enamel on baby teeth are 50% thinner than adult teeth.  Therefore baby teeth are more susceptible to the bacteria that causes cavities.

How to clean your infants teeth.

To clean your babies mouth before tooth eruption use a clean wet wash cloth.  Wrap wash cloth around your finger then rub it gently around your babies gums.

When to transition to a tooth brush.

When the teeth have started to erupt, this will be time to transition from a wash cloth to a baby tooth brush.  Look for a tooth brush specifically made for infants. This will usually start around six months old.  This will also be the time to change from bath time mouth cleaning to brushing two times daily.

It is fine to just dry brush with just tap water, or a fluoridated tooth paste can be used. When using toothpaste, use the tiniest smear.  It is never too early to help create a good brushing routine for your child.

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Why Do I Always Have Bad Breath?

Becky Larson, RDH

Why Do I Always Have Bad Breath?

As a Dental Hygienist, I frequently get asked about bad breath.  Many patients suffer from chronic bad breath, or halitosis, and are constantly seeking a cure!  Here’s the deal with halitosis:

  • Halitosis is chronic bad breath
  • Not cured by mints, mouth wash, or brushing
  • Remains for an extended period of time
  • May be a symptom of something more serious

Possible underlying issues that result in halitosis:

  • Cavities
  • Periodontal disease
  • Mouth, nose, or throat infections
  • Poor oral health
  • Certain foods and beverages
  • Dry mouth
  • Smoking/tobacco use
  • Other chronic conditions

Cavities and periodontal disease are both caused by different types of bacteria.  Infections are also caused by bacteria that feed on mucus produced by the body.  Left untreated, all of these bacteria can cause odors in the mouth that contribute to bad breath.  Poor oral hygiene can leave plaque and calculus on the teeth, also contributing to bad odors.  An obvious cause of bad breath would be a diet of potent foods such as garlic and onions.  Usually odors from these foods can be eliminated after brushing/flossing/rinsing, so if the odors persist, there is most likely a more pressing underlying issue.   Saliva helps rinse the mouth and remove debris after eating.  When saliva flow is decreased the removal of debris is also decreased and leftover food in the mouth could be one cause of bad breath.   Smoking and/or tobacco use come with their own associated odors but can also contribute to periodontal disease, which can be a major cause of halitosis.  Chronic conditions such as gastric reflux, diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, etc. may also contribute to halitosis.  Our mouths are connected to our bodies and chronic diseases may present with signs or symptoms in the mouth.

How to treat and prevent halitosis:

  • Perform frequent and proper oral hygiene at home including brushing, flossing, and mouth wash
  • Visit your dentist and dental hygienist regularly for cleanings and necessary restorative work
  • Avoid smoking or tobacco use of any kind
  • Drink more water to stimulate saliva flow
  • Keep track or change what you eat, eliminating more potent foods like garlic and onions
  • Visit your primary care physician regularly

For specific questions or concerns about halitosis, ask your Dentist or Dental Hygienist.


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Why does my Dental Hygienist or Dentist “Poke at my Gums” Every Oral Hygiene Visit?

Morgan Johnson, RDH

Why does my Dental Hygienist or Dentist “Poke at my Gums” Every Oral Hygiene Visit?

Have you ever wondered why your dental professional “pokes your gums?” Or why they call out numbers such as “2-3-3, 4-2-3” and what those numbers mean? This “poking” is actually a vital step in assessing your gum health and is called periodontal probing. Between each of your teeth and the surrounding gum tissue is a space, or gum pocket. Our instrument, called a periodontal probe, measures the depth of that pocket in millimeters (mm).

What do the pocket numbers mean?

Generally, a healthy pocket depth will range from 1-3 mm. This usually indicates healthy tissue, with no signs of inflammation or disease. Pockets of 4mm or greater can indicate potential areas of concern, including the presence of periodontal (or gum) disease. Unhealthy pocket depths can be the result of poor oral home care, which can cause inflammation, and even bone loss. Periodontal disease is also liked to various systemic diseases including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which is an additional reason to maintain a healthy mouth.

What can I do about my pockets?

After assessing your pockets, your hygienist will have recommendations on what type of cleaning would most benefit you, to either maintain your periodontal health, or help restore it if it is lost. Sometimes a “deep cleaning” may be necessary to reduce pocket depths. To maintain healthy pocket depths, or lower unhealthy ones, it is essential to be brushing for a full two minutes everyday, and flossing at least once a day. Your hygienist will also offer specific, individualized recommendations for your mouth. If you have any questions, make sure to ask your hygienist at your next check up!

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Why would a Dental Hygienist need to know your blood pressure?

Amy Smith, RDH

Why would a Dental Hygienist need to know your blood pressure?

At that first lengthy appointment in a new dental office where all of the x-rays, pictures,
and probe recordings are taken, a blood pressure reading is recommended as well. Some might
question, “what does this have to do with my teeth?” It’s simple, awareness and safety.
As licensed health care providers, it is our responsibility to discuss any medical
conditions, current medications, drug allergies, and chief concerns with our patients. This
knowledge contributes to our understanding of any present infections or symptoms in which
they may be experiencing. In some cases, patients might not be aware of their reading or risks
associated with higher numbers (hypertension). According to the American Dental Association,
the updated 2017 classifications are listed below:


When presenting for a procedure where local anesthetic (or numbing) is administered,
such as a deep cleaning, a blood pressure reading is mandatorily taken. When injecting an
anesthetic containing epinephrine, there is potential for a person’s blood pressure to rise from
their initial reading due to the vasoconstriction of blood vessels. To prevent a medical
emergency from occurring, hygienists obtain a reading. In some cases, it is safer for the patient
to reschedule their appointment if their reading is too high and refer them to see their
physician for further evaluation.

Having high blood pressure threatens your health and quality of life. When left
undetected or uncontrolled, hypertension can lead to heart failure, stroke, vision loss, angina, heart attack, and kidney disease, to name a few. Not only is high blood pressure awareness
important for your health, but the reading is a preventative measure we take as dental professionals to ensure quality and safety of care to our patients.

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Don’t Lose Your Benefits before the End of the Year

Sharma Mulqueen RDH

Don’t Lose Your Benefits before the End of the Year

Many people do not realize if they do not use their benefits they will be gone! While the majority of dental plans run on a calendar year, there are some that run fiscally dependent on different situation. Please call one of our offices and we can help you with any of your Insurance questions.  We have compiled 4 different reasons why using your benefits before the end of the calendar year will save you time and money.

  1. Yearly Maximum

Your dental insurance plan likely has a yearly maximum, this amount is what your dental insurance plan has agreed to pay up to for the year. Most people have an average of $1,000 per year, per person, but this can vary by insurance company. Some insurance plans have Orthodontic (braces) benefits that have a onetime maximum, than amount can vary by Insurance Company.  If you have any unused benefits, they do not rollover to the next year so it is wise to plan ahead before your calendar or fiscal year ends.

  1. Deductible

Most insurance companies requires a deductible to be paid out of pocket to your dentist, before your insurance company will pay for any services. Depending on your plan and the dentist you choose, your deductible can vary in amount, however average deductibles are around $50 per year. When plans roll over to a new year, your deductible will also be reset.  If you have met your deductible for the year and you have pending treatment. It is a good idea to have that treatment completed.

  1. Premiums

You are paying dental premiums each and every month and you should be taking full advantage of them. If you don’t think you require dental treatment, coming in every six months for a cleaning is great for maintaining your oral health and preventing future dental problems. At your cleaning appointment, x-rays are taken and a dental exam is performed.  Any treatment that is needed will be discussed at this appointment.

  1. Dental Problems Can Worsen

If you still have benefits available before the end of the year, book yourself in for an appointment. Delaying treatment can mean that you will encounter more expensive and extensive treatment in the future. Call one of our Dental offices and schedule an appointment now, so that cavities and other minor issues can be treated rather than them turning into larger.  

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Are you a grinder? You may be, and not even know it!

Andra M

Andra Mahoney, RDH BSDH

Are you a grinder? You may be, and not even know it!

Do you ever wake up in the morning with sore teeth and jaws?  You could be grinding your teeth.  Teeth grinding is usually done unconsciously in your sleep, but it can also occur when you are awake.  It is common to find people that clench or grind their teeth occasionally throughout their lives.  However, chronic clenching and grinding can cause long term damage and problems with your teeth and mouth in general.

Why do people grind their teeth?

Although teeth grinding can be caused by stress and anxiety, it is more likely caused by an abnormal bite or missing or crooked teeth (malocclusion/malalignment). It can also be caused by a sleep disorder, like sleep apnea.

How can you tell if you grind?

Because grinding often occurs during sleep, most people are unaware that they grind their teeth.  Here are some common signs that you may be a grinder:

  • Wake up with Headache/Sore Jaw or teeth
  • Significant Other hears you grind in your sleep
  • You notice flattening of your teeth
  • Broken teeth/fillings
  • Increase in teeth sensitiviy

A dental professional, like your Dentist or Dental Hygienist, will be able to tell the last three, as well.  If they haven’t mentioned it to you already, feel free to ask if this is something that may effect you.

Why is it harmful to grind?

Most people clench or grind at night.  When you are asleep, so is the function that regulates the jaw’s power.  In the day time, your brain puts limitations on how hard you can bite or clench.  When you are asleep, so is this part of your brain.  That means you are biting way harder than you are able to while you are awake.  Those that clench or grind while they are awake, are usually doing it subconsciously.  Usually when they are extremely focused or concentrating on something else.

The biggest concern with clenching or grinding is the wear on your teeth.  Once you have worn through the enamel, the hard outer structure of your tooth, the wear will increase!  The dentin, the inner structure of your tooth, is not as strong as enamel and will wear a lot faster.  This will result in wearing your teeth down to stumps.  If the wear gets to this point, and no preventative treatment has happened, it can be a very long and expensive problem to fix.  Your Dentist can talk to you about crowns and other treatment to restore the height and function of your teeth.

Another concern would be breaking teeth or fracturing your natural teeth or restorations, such as fillings, and crowns.  We want to prevent fracturing so that the tooth does not break in a non-restorable way.

As we get older, we will wear on our jaw joint (temporomandibular joint, TMJ), that is a natural process.  However, when we are constantly and continually clenching or grinding, that will accelerate the wear.  The faster the wear, the increase of problems that can occur: jaw pain, clicking, popping, jaw deviation, or locking open/closed.

What can you do about it?

If you are having these symptoms and concerns, schedule an appointment to visit your Dentist.  They can confirm if this is the case.  If so there are options.

If you are clenching or grinding your teeth due to malalignment, the Doctor may recommend Invisalign or traditional orthodontics.  Putting the teeth in their proper spot will help the jaw align properly as well.  It will also prevent fractures or breaks since the teeth will be biting on even surface instead of placing  constant and uneven force on the teeth.

A mouthguard, also know as night guard, is a great help.  A nightguard is a thick, hard material that does not allow your jaw to clench all the way together.  This will prevent advanced wear of your TMJ.  Also, clenching or grinding will occur on the guard, instead of your teeth, thus saving your natural and restored tooth structure.


Is Fluoride safe for my kids?

Maria Ambra, RDH

Is Fluoride safe for my kids?

Parents are often concerned and refuse fluoride applications for their children during their dentist appointment, thinking that fluoride may be toxic or be harmful.

Fluoride is a natural substance found in water that has an important role in the prevention of tooth decay; it can reverse early stages of decay and contribute to healthy tooth development.

Tooth decay is caused when bacteria, found in plaque, produces acids that dissolve the hard enamel surfaces of teeth. Cavities weaken teeth and can lead to pain, tooth loss, and even infection in the most severe cases.

Fluoride prevents tooth decay in two ways:

• When it is ingested it incorporates into the structure of developing teeth

• It protects when it comes in contact with the surface of the teeth.

Fluoride prevents the acids in our mouth from dissolving or demineralizing the enamel, which is the hard, shiny substance that protects teeth. Fluoride can often reminiralize teeth, can reverse low levels of tooth decay and prevent new cavities from forming.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

• more than 25% of 2- to 5-year-olds have one or more cavities

• half of kids 12 to 15 years old have one or more cavities

• tooth decay affects two thirds of 16- to 19-year-olds

For more than 60 years, water fluoridation has proved to be a safe and cost-effective way to reduce dental caries. Today, water fluoridation is estimated to reduce tooth decay by 20%-40%.As of 2012, CDC statistics show that more than 60% of the U.S. population receives fluoridated water through the taps in their homes.

Several organizations have questioned its safety and effectiveness; however, there has been little evidence to support these concerns.

The American Dental Association (ADA), the United States Public Health Service (USPHS), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the World Health Organization (WHO), among many other national and international organizations, support community water fluoridation.  The CDC considered fluoridation of water as one of the 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th century.

At what age and how much fluoride kids should have?

• Kids under the age of 6 months do not need fluoride supplements.

• Fluoride-containing toothpaste with the ADA’s seal of acceptance should be used.

• Kids ages 3 and up should use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.

• Kids under age 6 should never use fluoride-containing mouth rinses, however older kids at high risk for tooth decay may benefit from them.

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I have never had a cavity! Why?

Becky Larson, RDH

I am 34 years old and I have never had a cavity.  I have 4 siblings, none of whom as ever had a cavity either.  It wasn’t because we were lucky or because we cleaned our teeth really, really well.  In fact, I never flossed regularly until I was in dental hygiene school. I was an athlete in high school and college and I was constantly eating, creating the type of environment that caries (cavity) bacteria thrive in.  Combine that with just mediocre home-care and I should have had at least one cavity at some point. But I have never had a cavity! Why?

The answer is simple: fluoride.  My dad is a dentist and my mom is a dental hygienist so naturally, they were concerned with our teeth.  They started giving us fluoride tablets that we would ingest (like vitamins) before our permanent teeth started coming in.  The result was super strong, cavity resistant enamel and no cavities!

There are many views and opinions about fluoride.  In excess, fluoride can be harmful to teeth, but in correct amounts, it is extremely advantageous in preventing cavities.  Nowadays, fluoride tablets are not necessary as many areas contain fluoride in the drinking water. The benefits of fluoride in drinking water include:

  • Prevents tooth decay in all ages – Fluoride prevents at least 25% of tooth decay in children and adults
  • Saves money – It has been said that water fluoridation is the single-most cost-effective way to prevent tooth decay (the average lifetime cost per person to fluoridate a water supply is less than the cost of one dental filling)
  • Fluoride is natural – Fluoride is naturally present in oceans and groundwater.  Water fluoridation includes adjusting fluoride amounts to recommended and safe levels, similar to fortifying foods and beverages with vitamins and minerals

Fluoride works by strengthening the enamel portion of the tooth and making it resistant to acidic bacteria and sugars in the mouth that can cause cavities.  It can sometimes reverse early signs of decay. As previously stated, fluoride is often found in drinking water. If you are like me and like to drink filtered water, you can get the benefits of fluoride in other ways, including using fluoridated toothpastes and mouthwashes, and getting regular fluoride varnish treatments at your dental or dental hygiene visits.  Many times, insurance will only cover fluoride treatments for children, however, everyone can benefit from regular fluoride treatments and they are usually inexpensive. Ask your dentist or hygienist how you can benefit from fluoride today!

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