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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The Truth About Hookah

Lindsay Olsen, RDH BSDH

The Truth About Hookah

Myth: Hookah smoke is better for you than cigarette smoke and not addictive.

Reality: Hookah smoke of various fruity flavors, tastes and aromas can be even more harmful than cigarette tobacco smoke. Also, hookah smoke contains four times more nicotine (an addictive drug) than cigarette smoke. Some people can become addicted to nicotine after using any form of tobacco just a few times, this includes hookah.

Myth: Smoking hookah is less harmful than cigarettes because the smoke passes through water, which filters out the chemicals and other carcinogens.

Reality: When hookah passes through water at the base of a hookah pipe it cools the smoke, but does not filter any chemicals out of the smoke. This “cooling” process forces a hookah smoker to inhale twice as deeply as a cigarette smoker, which causes chemicals, cancer causing agents, and other harmful elements to penetrate deeper into the lungs. The charcoal that is uses in hookah pipes adds even more carbon monoxide to the higher levels that already exist in this type of tobacco.

Myth: Smoking hookah is fun, and I only do it socially with friends, its not like I do it every day.

Reality: The reality is 45-60 minutes of hookah smoking is the same as chain smoking 15 cigarettes. Even if you are only smoking hookah for an hour, twice a week, it can lead to nicotine addiction. Something also to consider, when you share the mouthpiece with others you are at risk of getting colds, viruses such as herpes simplex one (cold sores), oral bacterial infections and tuberculosis.

Need help quitting? Speak with your dental hygienist, dentist, or call

1-800-55-66-222, or visit http://www.ashline.org

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Asotra, Kamlesh. Hooked on Hookah? What You Don’t Know Can Kill You. Burning Issues: Tobacco’s Hottest Topics. Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program Newsletter 7, no 3 (2005) 1-10.

 A Closer Look at Tooth Enamel

Lora Cook, RDH

 A Closer Look at Tooth Enamel

Tooth enamel is one of the toughest structures of the human body: however, it still needs protecting.  What exacting is tooth enamel?  It is the outer layer of your tooth and the hardest substance in your body.  Enamel is translucent and can stain from the food, drinks, smoking and chewing tobacco. Enamel cannot be regrown by our bodies.  Once it is chipped cracked or eroded or worn away it cannot be replaced naturally.

Signs of enamel problems.

Darkening:  As enamel wears away this can cause the tooth to become darker. 

Sensitivity:  Your teeth may become hypersensitive to hot, cold, sweets or sour foods.

Notching:  There may be notching at the gum line

Cracks and chips:  Irregular or jagged tooth surfaces, also fracture lines can appear.

Protecting your enamel.

Custom night guard:

The power of our bite is incredible.  Out incisor can have 55 pounds of pressure or biting force, while our molars have 200 pounds of pressure.  Clenching and grinding your teeth during times of stress or at night while sleeping experts excess force and wear on your teeth. Over time you can literally grind away your enamel layer.  Ask your dentist about a custom night guard to protect your enamel for a lifetime.

MI Paste Plus:

This is not a tooth paste to brush your teeth with.  This is a paste to coat your teeth with in order to put minerals back into your enamel to help remineralize the enamel. MI Paste plus contains calcium, phosphate and 900ppm of fluoride.

 “MI Paste and MI Paste Plus contain RECALDENT™ (CPP-ACP); Casein Phosphopeptide (CPP) are natural occurring molecules which are able to release calcium and phosphate ions and stabilize Amorphous Calcium Phosphate (ACP)”

These minerals help to strengthen and remineralize the enamel.

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Early Interceptive Orthodontic Treatment

Amanda O

Amanda Orvis, RDH

Early Interceptive Orthodontic Treatment

Often time’s orthodontic treatment is recommended before all of your child’s primary (baby) teeth have even fallen out. Early orthodontic treatment can alleviate future, possibly more invasive, orthodontic corrections.

Here are a few reasons for early interceptive treatment:

  • Corrective positioning for a better prognosis of how the permanent teeth with develop.
  • To correct any oral habits that cause developmental problems such as thumb sucking, pacifier use, and tongue thrusting.
  • To correct malocclusions, or poor bite relationships, such as overbites, under bites, open bites, cross bites, crowding, spacing, teeth erupting out of sequence, or missing teeth.
  • To correct growth problems such as narrow palates.
  • To guide the growth of the jaw bones to a more favorable position for permanent tooth eruption.

“The American Association of Orthodontics (AAO) recommends that all children receive an orthodontic screening by the age 7. Permanent teeth generally begin to come in at age 6 or 7. It is at this point that orthodontic problems become apparent.”

If you are unsure about the need for early interceptive orthodontic treatment for your child, it is a good idea to visit with an orthodontist to familiarize yourself with treatment options. If you are concerned with the appearance or development of your child’s teeth, or if you have questions please do not hesitate to call our office and schedule an appointment to discuss treatment options and referral information.

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What Causes White Spots on Teeth?

Lacee Hogle, RDH

What causes white spots on teeth and how do I get rid of them?

Have you ever looked in the mirror and noticed irregular chalky white patches on your teeth? If so, you’re not alone. This is a common concern for many patients. There are several possible causes for white spots on teeth including dental fluorosis, enamel hypoplasia, poor dental hygiene, and eating too many acidic or sugary foods. There are also many ways to treat white spots including enamel microabrasion, teeth whitening, dental veneers, MI paste, and composite resins. In this article, we will elaborate on the possible causes for white spots and the different ways we can treat it.


Dental Fluorosis– Fluorosis is caused by ingesting large amounts of fluoride while the permanent teeth are still forming but have yet to erupt. A major cause of fluorosis is the inappropriate use of fluoride containing products such as toothpaste and mouth rinses. In addition, fluorosis can be caused by a high level of fluoride in the drinking water. A mild form of fluorosis is characterized by small, opaque, white areas scattered irregularly over the tooth.

Enamel Hypoplasia – Hypoplasia can be either a distinct spot on a tooth (sometimes called Turner’s tooth, which might have been caused by trauma or other unknown disturbance to the area during the mineralization of that tooth), or diffuse streaks or cloudy opacities on all the teeth which was some kind of systemic disturbance over a long period of time. Hypoplasia also results from nutritional deficiencies, high fever and medicinal side effects while the tooth is forming.

Poor oral Hygiene– Poor oral hygiene is the most common cause in the formation of white spot lesions. The adherence of plaque to the enamel surface is what initiates the decalcification process. In a matter of four weeks, chalky white spots could develop. Fortunately, this is easily prevented just by brushing and flossing daily.

Eating too many acidic or sugary foods– Another thing that can cause you to get white spots on your teeth is having too many acidic foods such as sour candy and lemons. Acidic drinks, such as lemonade, can also cause white spots. These acidic foods and drinks will work to remove the enamel on your teeth which will result in white spots.



Dental Veneers– A dental veneer is a thin, protective covering that attaches to the front surface of a person’s tooth. A veneer can conceal white spots and other blemishes very effectively.

Remineralization/MI Paste– MI Paste is a product that restores the minerals that cause the white spots.

Composite restoration– The white spots on your teeth sometimes sink below the surface of the enamel creating a sunken area. If this happens, then a composite restoration is a way to deal with the problem. Composite restoration is dental procedure that uses a special type of resin.  The resin is applied to your teeth over the white spots. The resin can be colored to match the rest of the teeth.

Teeth whitening– Whitening or bleaching teeth can help to reduce the appearance of white spots.

Enamel Microabrasion– This procedure involves gently removing a thin layer of surface enamel. This professional treatment is typically followed by teeth bleaching, which can make the teeth appear more uniform in color.


If the white spots have been present since childhood, your white spots are likely due to fluorosis or interruption during the formation of the enamel. If you’re an adult and your just noticing white spots, it’s likely they’re a sign of plaque buildup known and decalcification. Regardless of the cause, treatment options are available. Please discuss this concern with your dentist so that both you and your dentist can determine what treatment is best for you.


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