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What Is Toothpaste Made Of?

November 15th, 2022



PEOPLE HAVE USED
some form of paste to help keep their teeth clean since at least 3000 BC in ancient Egypt. Modern toothpaste first appeared in the 1700s and was usually homemade. A dentist first added soap to dental paste in 1824, and John Harris added chalk in the 1850s. 20 years later, Colgate began mass-producing toothpaste in jars.

A Little More Toothpaste History
In 1920, Dr. Washington Sheffield realized it was pretty unsanitary for a whole family to dip their toothbrushes into the same jar over and over, so he developed the collapsible toothpaste tube, inspired by artists’ paint tubes. After WWII, further improvements included emulsifying agents to replace soap, introducing fluoride, adding stripes, and adding whitening agents. Let’s take a closer look at the common ingredients in modern toothpaste.

Active Ingredient: Fluoride
The toothpaste ingredient we spend most of our time talking about is fluoride since it’s the active ingredient. It helps remineralize tooth enamel and protects against tooth decay. Toothpaste must contain it to receive the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance.

Fluoride in Children’s Toothpaste?

Toothpaste containing fluoride is safe for young children if used in the correct amounts (a smear the size of a grain of rice up to age 3, the size of a pea from ages 3-6) and with parental supervision to make sure they spit it out.

Flavoring and Sweeteners
Flavors are the ingredients that make toothpaste taste good. They include sugar-free sweeteners like saccharin or sorbitol. The ADA won’t give its Seal of Acceptance to any toothpaste containing sugar. Children’s toothpaste is often fruity or candy-flavored, unlike the strong mint flavors we tend to prefer as adults.

Abrasives for Scrubbing
Abrasive ingredients (like calcium carbonate, hydrated aluminum oxides, and dehydrated silica gels) help to scrub away surface stains and food debris. Abrasive ingredients are effective with soft-bristled brushes and gentle brushing, so make sure not to brush too hard because overbrushing can cause significant damage to teeth and gum tissue.

Detergents for Foaming
Detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate make the toothpaste foam while brushing so that the ingredients can effectively reach every tooth. (This one is why you rarely see actors brushing with real toothpaste on TV! It would foam and get too messy for their scenes.)

Humectants for Texture
Finally, humectants (including glycol, glycerol, and sorbitol) trap water inside toothpaste so that it doesn’t become crumbly and dry. It also helps it come out of the tube onto your toothbrush in a nice, smooth piece.

Let’s Find the Right Toothpaste for Your Child!
If you aren’t sure where to start looking for an effective toothpaste for your child, we’re happy to offer suggestions. We look forward to seeing their smile (and yours!) the next time it’s time for a checkup at our practice.

Thank you for being part of our practice family!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

We’re Observing TMJ Awareness Month

November 3rd, 2022

AROUND 35 MILLION people in the US are affected by temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD or TMJ), which is why we’re observing TMJ Awareness Month. Our jaws get an almost constant workout throughout the day. We open and close our mouths over and over to talk, chew, and yawn. For most people, all of the anatomy in the joint works the way it should and these are all easy tasks to perform, but sometimes something can go wrong.

The Anatomy of the Jaw Joints
The hinge joint on either side of the jaw, located between the cheekbone and ear, has three components: the socket in the temporal bone, the ball at the top of the jawbone, and a small fibrous disk acting as a cushion between the two. The ball and socket are each covered in cartilage to make the movement comfortable and smooth.

If the fibrous disk shifts out of its correct alignment or erodes, if arthritis wears away the cartilage, or if the joint is damaged in a traumatic injury, the result could be TMD.

Common Symptoms of TMD
The symptoms of a problem with the temporomandibular joint often include:

A grating sensation when chewing, or clicking and popping sounds in the joint
Tenderness or pain in the jaw
Pain in one or both jaw joints
Painful or difficult chewing
Aching pain around the face
Pain in and around the ear
Locking of the jaw joint, making it difficult to open or close the mouth
Quick Tips for TMD Relief
There are several things we can do at home to relieve TMJ discomfort:

Avoid extreme jaw movements when singing or yelling, when possible
Control yawns by pressing a fist beneath your chin
Stick to small movements while chewing
When resting, hold your teeth a little apart instead of fully closing your jaws. (This is the natural resting position of the jaw, whether lips are open or closed.)

How TMD Is Treated
Most cases of TMD are temporary and resolve on their own after a week or so, but not always. If your symptoms persist, and particularly if they get worse, then your jaw likely needs treatment. Treatments we may recommend include ice packs, exercise, moist heat, medication, and splints. If none of these helps, ultrasound treatment, trigger-point injections, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) would likely be the next steps. Extreme cases can be treated with jaw surgery.

Let Us Know About Your TMD Symptoms
If you’ve experienced any of the symptoms listed above, don’t leave the dentist out of the loop! Make sure to tell us about your symptoms when you come in for your regular appointment, and if that’s too far away, schedule one specifically to discuss them with us! We can discover what’s causing the problem and recommend the best steps to take next.

Let’s defeat TMD together!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Weird Dental History Highlight: “Tooth Worms”

September 8th, 2022

PEOPLE HAVE BEEN getting cavities as long as there have been people, and people before modern dentistry had some strange theories about what was causing them. A popular one believed around the world for thousands of years was the idea of “tooth worms.”

Ancient Sumeria Got the Tooth Worms Ball Rolling
As far back as 5000 B.C., tooth worms were listed in Sumerian texts as being a reason for tooth decay. They’re also mentioned in ancient Chinese scripts from 1500 B.C. in text carved from bone. People in the Roman Empire and medieval Europe also believed in tooth worms, which were said to gnaw at the teeth and live in the gums and cavities.

Why Was the Tooth Worms Theory So Common?
There are a few theories about why people all over the world believed cavities were caused by tooth worms:

Guinea worms in drinking water, which people would have seen and may have incorrectly connected to tooth problems
The worm-like structures of dental roots, which could be mistaken for worms by people who didn’t know better
Henbane seed treatments, in which a person would inhale the fumes of burned henbane seeds. Ironically, the ash of the burned seeds looks like worms, and the plant’s narcotic effects would relieve tooth pain. People may have drawn the wrong conclusions.
Other Cavity Myths
Over the ages, people have attributed cavities to a variety of other causes:

Chemical agents
Defective saliva
Inflammed jaw bones
Sudden changes in temperature
Injuries (this one can be true; a tooth cracked by injury is vulnerable to infection)
How Cavities Actually Form
Thanks to modern dentistry, we know that the culprit behind tooth decay isn’t worms but dental plaque, which is a mixture of bacteria, acids, and food debris mixed with saliva. As it builds up, it erodes the outer layer of a tooth, creating tiny holes called cavities. If the bacteria reach the pulp at the center of the tooth, the tooth will become infected and possibly abscessed, which involves swelling and severe tooth pain.

How to Prevent Cavities
Far from the henbane treatments of old, as modern dental health professionals, we can recommend good dental hygiene habits that will actually help prevent cavities, including:

Twice-daily brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste
Daily flossing (use floss picks or a water flosser if traditional floss is difficult for you)
Limiting your sugar intake (especially from soda and fruit juice, which are loaded with sugar and acid)
Scheduling regular dental cleanings and exams
What’s the Takeaway?
As fun as it is to learn about old, debunked dental health practices, the takeaway is that tooth worms are a myth. Dentists have known this for centuries, and we know the real causes of tooth decay that we should avoid and fight against. Keeping up with your daily dental hygiene habits and dentist visits twice a year are the best ways to protect your oral health.

We love helping our patients maintain healthy smiles!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

How We Breathe Can Affect Our Teeth

August 18th, 2022

YOU MAY HAVE heard the insult “mouth-breather” in recent years thanks to the popularity of the show Stranger Things. There are actually many good health reasons to avoid breathing through your mouth if nose breathing is possible. We should consider mouth breathing an emergency backup, not our main way to breathe. In both the short term and the long term, mouth breathing has negative health effects.

The Short-Term Effects of Mouth Breathing
There are several negative effects of mouth breathing that kick in either immediately or very quickly. A major one is lower oxygen levels. When we breathe through our noses, we trigger nitric oxygen production, which helps our lungs absorb oxygen. Mouth breathing skips this process, making it harder to get the most out of each breath, resulting in less oxygen absorbed and less energy for mental and physical tasks. Other short-term effects include:

Impaired speech: when the mouth is always open, it can make certain sounds more difficult to say, particularly for children.
Lethargy, irritability, and inattention: getting less oxygen means sleeping worse and having a harder time focusing at work or school. This can seriously impact kids’ learning.
Dry mouth: breathing through the mouth, unsurprisingly, dries it out. This is a problem because saliva is the first line of defense against oral bacteria. We also need it to use our sense of taste effectively and speak clearly.
The Effects of Mouth Breathing Compound Over Time
The short-term effects are already unpleasant, but a mouth-breathing habit can lead to worse issues if it continues, including serious developmental effects for kids who grow up with this habit.

Increased likelihood of sleep apnea: this sleep disorder comes with a wide range of health complications of its own, including chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as low energy, poor concentration, and a weakened immune system.
Altered facial development: when a child’s mouth is closed, their tongue exerts pressure on their dental arches, helping them to develop correctly. A mouth-breathing habit takes that pressure away and leads to narrower arches, flat features, drooping eyes, and a small chin.
More complex orthodontic problems: that altered facial development will often include a lot of dental crowding and other issues that require orthodontic treatment to correct.
Tooth decay and halitosis (chronic bad breath): over time, these are likely results of dry mouth. Saliva helps neutralize oral pH when we consume acidic foods or drinks or when harmful bacteria produce acid, so without saliva, we tend to have worse breath and become more susceptible to tooth decay.

It’s Time to Break the Mouth-Breathing Habit!
Some people breathe through their mouths because of a problem with regular nose-breathing, like a deviated septum or a sinus infection, but anyone who can comfortably breathe through their nose should try to do that as their default option. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have about mouth breathing and its impacts on oral health.

Our patients are the best!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions