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Road Trip!

August 10th, 2022

The bags are packed, the trunk is loaded, the route is programmed into your GPS, the playlist is set, and your destination awaits! Sometimes there’s just nothing more appealing than a road trip. So, to make your trip even more enjoyable, here are some dental tips to help keep you feeling clean and fresh over the long haul.

  • Fuel Up

If you’re bringing some road snacks, be sure to include a few that will help clean teeth and freshen breath. Packing a supply of bottled water helps you stay hydrated, washes away food particles, and eliminates the bad breath caused by dehydration. Carrots and apples are not only nutritious and tasty, they apply a bit of gentle scrubbing action to your enamel as you chew. Traditional travel favorites like granola bars, beef jerky, and chips tend to stick to the teeth and provide cavity-causing bacteria a leisurely feast, so enjoy them in moderation. (If you’re driving, save the snacks for a rest stop—not only is eating while driving prohibited in some areas, it’s a distraction you don’t need on the highway.)

  • Roadside Diners

The occasional sticky, sweet, or chewy indulgence is fine at home, but when you have hours in the car ahead of you, you might want to turn down the pecan pie, the giant pretzels, and the roadside sea salt caramels. Again, cavity-causing bacteria love sugars and simple carbs, and food that finds its way into tooth crevices finds its way onto their menu. And, it goes without saying, passing up garlic, onions, and spicy foods will help your mouth feel fresher longer—and make your travel companions happier.

  • Car Wash

Bring a travel-sized toothbrush and tube of toothpaste with you for a quick cleaning when you stop for a break. A ventilated case will keep your brush dry (bacteria like damp conditions) and away from questionable surfaces. Disposable mini-travel brushes are available that come with a bead of cleaner pre-loaded and ready to use—you don’t even need water for a cleaner mouth and fresher breath. Food particles do not make good travel buddies so don’t forget dental picks or floss. And if you can’t brush right away, try a rinse with water or chew a piece of sugarless gum. Sugar free gum can help stimulate saliva production, which is a good way to wash away food particles and neutralize acids in the mouth.

  • Roadside Repair

Even with the best preparation, accidents can happen. That’s why you have a spare tire and a lug wrench in your trunk. It pays to be prepared for a dental emergency on the road as well. There are dental travel kits available in stores and online, or create one for yourself. Along with your first aid kit, pack dental picks, antimicrobial wipes, sterile gauze, a mirror, and any other supplies you think might come in handy. If you wear braces or a retainer, be sure to include dental wax in case of an uncooperative wire, and a case to protect and keep track of your retainer. And it’s a good idea to keep our Maplewood office’s number on hand in case of emergency.

It’s a big country, and cruising the streets and highways is a wonderful way to explore it! But if you’re having any dental problems, be sure to see your dentist before taking off—after all your preparation, you don’t need a dental emergency to ruin your trip. Then, pack your bags, load your trunk, set your GPS, pick a playlist with something for everyone, and get ready to enjoy happy travels and healthy smiles!

Hot Day? Three Drinks to Leave Home When You’re Packing the Cooler

August 3rd, 2022

Whew! It’s a hot one! And whenever the temperature soars, you need to stay hydrated, especially when you’re outside or exercising. But all cold drinks aren’t equal when it comes to healthy hydration. Which beverages shouldn’t have a prime spot in your cooler when you’re wearing braces or aligners?

  • Soft Drinks

You’re probably not surprised to find soft drinks at the top of the list. After all, sugar is a) a big part of what makes soda so popular, and b) not a healthy choice for your teeth.

Sugar is a favorite food source for the oral bacteria that make up plaque. These bacteria convert sugar into acids, and these acids attack the surface of your tooth enamel. Over time, the minerals which keep enamel strong begin to erode, and weakened, eroded enamel is a lot more susceptible to cavities.

So, what about sugar-free drinks? Does this make soft drinks a better choice? Unfortunately, you can take the sugar out of many sodas, but you can’t take the acids out. Most soft drinks are very acidic, even without sugar, and will cause enamel erosion just like the acids created by bacteria will.

  • Fruit Drinks

Fruit juice provides us with vitamins, which is great, but it’s also full of natural sugars and acids. And blended fruit drinks and fruit punches often contain added sugars and added citric acids. Best to choose 100% fruit content and check the labels before you buy. (And you can always get refreshing fruit flavor by adding a slice of fruit to a glass of water.)

  • Sports Drinks

You might be surprised to see these on the list—after all, they promise healthy hydration while you’re working out. And hydration is healthy—but sugars and acids aren’t. Even when the label tells you there’s no added sugar, that same label will often reveal high amounts of citric acid. In fact, some sports drinks are more acidic than sodas.

We’ll make an exception, though, for thirsty people who participate in sports or activities that require a lot of physical exercise and produce a lot of sweat. When we sweat, we lose electrolytes, those ionized minerals which help regulate many vital bodily functions. Talk to Dr. Osuala about which sports drinks are best for you if you need to replenish your electrolytes when working out.

So, what’s your best hydration choice on a hot day? Water! It not only hydrates you, it cleans your teeth, it helps you produce saliva, and it often contains tooth-strengthening fluoride. But if you only have sports drinks in the cooler, or if you just want to enjoy a soft drink or a bottle of juice from time to time, no need to go thirsty. We have some ways to make sure your teeth are safer, even with this tricky trio:

  • Rinse with water after you drink a sugary or acidic drink. And remember to brush when you get home.
  • Be choosy. Check labels for added sugars and acids.
  • Don’t sip your drinks all day long. Saliva actually helps neutralize acids in the mouth, but sipping acidic beverages throughout the day doesn’t give saliva a chance to work.
  • Use a straw to avoid washing your enamel in sugars and acids.

You need to keep hydrated when it’s hot. When you’re packing your cooler, choose drinks that are healthy for your entire body, including your teeth and gums. Ask our Maplewood team for the best choices in cold drinks to make sure you’re getting the hydration you need—without the sugar and acids you don’t!

Digital X-rays

July 27th, 2022

X-rays are a vital diagnostic tool for any dental professional. X-rays help your endodontist perform a root canal, your orthodontist check the position of a tooth’s root, your oral surgeon discover a fracture. X-rays reveal what we can’t see with the naked eye—and that’s why they are an especially important tool for Dr. Osuala as well.

Why Are X-rays Necessary?

There’s a lot going on below the surface. An X-ray can reveal such conditions as cavities between teeth or underneath fillings, abscesses and other infections in the bone, impacted wisdom teeth, and cysts and tumors. They can also show the size, shape, and density of the bone beneath the teeth, which is essential information for dental implant procedures or dentures.

How Do X-rays Work?

Traditional X-rays, or radiographs, make use of film just like traditional cameras. When you have an intraoral X-ray, for example, the film is sealed in a moisture- and light-proof packet, and placed inside the mouth to capture images of specific teeth and the bone around them.

The X-ray machine is aligned precisely with the film and an exposure is taken. The image at this point is latent, and won’t show on the film, because, just like photo film, traditional radiographs need to be chemically processed before they produce a visible image.

Digital technology, on the other hand, uses an electronic sensor instead of film. For an intraoral digital X-ray, a small sensor is positioned in the mouth just like a film. When the X-ray is taken, a digital image capture device produces an image which is formed by a matrix of pixels instead of a photo-like film exposure. This format allows the image to be sent directly to a computer for immediate display without requiring processing.

Even though these methods seem very similar, digital X-rays offer some significant advantages over traditional films. Let’s look at how they compare, more or less.

  • More Diagnostic Advantages

A traditional X-ray is a fixed image. It cannot be modified or enhanced. Here the digital X-ray offers a clear advantage in diagnosis.

Just as you can enlarge certain types of images on your computer without blurring or losing detail, a digital X-ray uses computer software to magnify images while keeping their details sharp. They can also be enhanced through brightness and contrast applications to make details stand out even more. Both of these benefits are extremely helpful for diagnosis, especially when looking for small cavities, problems in the roots and surrounding bone, or developing wisdom teeth.

There is even digital subtraction radiography software available that can be used to compare recent images to older ones, removing (“subtracting”) all the similarities in the two images to display only the changes in the two—even small changes—that have taken place over time.

  • Less Exposure to Radiation

Dental X-rays expose patients to very low levels of radiation, and modern technology means traditional X-rays expose patients to less radiation than ever before. Even so, digital X-rays have significant advantages. Radiation exposure can be reduced by an additional 10%, 20%, or more with a digital radiograph.

  • More Convenient for Sharing and Transmitting

If you need to share your X-rays with another dental specialist or physician, digital technology allows you to simply have them e-mailed to another office or multiple offices. You no longer need to worry about preserving physical copies, either.

  • Less Waste

Unlike traditional X-rays, digital X-rays don’t need to be processed, so you save time in the office. And while the processing time is not significant (usually several minutes), if you need to repeat some X-rays for a clearer picture, or require different images for several teeth, this time can add up.

Digital X-rays are also more eco-friendly.  The fact that they don’t need to be developed means that the chemicals used to process traditional films are no longer necessary—which also means that there is no need to dispose of chemical waste products afterward.

Our goal is to provide you with the safest, most efficient, and most effective dental treatment possible, and digital X-rays help us do that. If you have any questions about digital X-ray technology, contact our Maplewood office. We’re happy to explain the science—and the benefits—of high-tech radiography.

Dental Emergencies in Children

July 20th, 2022

Dental emergencies are bound to come up when you have young children. Dr. Osuala and our team want to you to be prepared in case you run into a difficult situation. Problems can vary, from minor gum irritation to knocked-out teeth. Take a look at the different possibilities and how you can handle them.

Teething

Depending on the age of your child, there are common things to watch for when it comes to his or her teeth. Starting from a young age, your son or daughter may experience teething pain. This starts at about four months and can last up to three years.

Teething may cause your little one to become irritable and more prone to drooling due to tender gums. This is very common in young children who are teething, and can be alleviated by giving them a cold teething ring or by rubbing their gums with your finger.

Teething pain is as normal as your child’s first set of teeth falling out. On the other hand, if a baby tooth is knocked out in a forceful accident, make sure you bring him or her into our Maplewood office to check that other damage hasn’t occurred in the mouth. On occasion, permanent teeth may grow in before baby teeth have fallen out. This may not cause any discomfort, but Dr. Osuala should make sure the teeth are growing in properly. Catching teeth that are coming in incorrectly can prevent issues from arising in adulthood.

Gum Issues

If you’ve noticed your child’s gums bleeding often, this could result from a number of things. Bleeding gums may be an early sign of periodontal disease, which is caused by poor oral hygiene when it appears in children. Excessive gum bleeding can also occur when children brush their teeth too hard, or suffer an injury to their gum tissue.

If bleeding is continuous, rinse your child’s mouth with warm salt water and apply light pressure to the area. If you become concerned about the amount of blood, contact our Maplewood office and we will schedule an appointment for your youngster as soon as possible.

Depending on what type of dental issue your child is experiencing, you should make sure to treat it quickly and properly. If you have questions or concerns about what you can do to help your son or daughter develop better oral hygiene habits, ask Dr. Osuala for tips during your next appointment.

Don’t forget: As a parent, you can provide the best education to your children on the importance of proper oral hygiene by setting a good example. 

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