1. Is your mouth taking a hit from e-cigarettes?

    14th November 2016 by harpenden

    When they first came on the scene, unless they were designed to mimic the real thing, e-cigarettes looked rather strange, with their barrels of exotically coloured liquids and mysterious vapour. Now these electronic devices are everywhere and ‘vaping’ has become hugely popular.

    As a dental practice, we are interested in the impact these now ubiquitous e-cigs may have on oral health but, despite the direct contact their emissions have with the mouth, there has been scant attention paid to the potential oral side effects of ‘vaping’, or indeed how it can affect the body as a whole.

    The ins and outs of e-cigs

    E-cigs have appeared in a variety of guises over the years and are now much more technologically advanced than they once were. The ‘first generation’ looked like larger than life cigarettes with glowing LED tips, but they now resemble space age screwdrivers and often have added features such as variable voltage systems and digital displays. Despite external appearances, they all share the same goal – to provide a pleasurable smoke-free experience.

    So how do they manage to mimic conventional smoking? The e-cig solution, containing diluents, flavouring and usually nicotine, is drawn through an atomiser which heats up this liquid concoction to produce a ‘vapour’ that is then inhaled. This process replicates how tobacco is traditionally smoked, which is why e-cigs are so popular with smokers. There is also a dizzying array of flavours on offer, from tobacco and menthol, right through to less obvious choices such as candy floss, bubble gum and pumpkin pie!

    Why ‘vape’?

    Mainly used by smokers and ex-smokers, e-cigs are generally viewed as an effective smoking cessation aid or as a way to reduce tobacco use. Many health experts agree that if ‘vaping’ is used to help stop smoking, it can reduce the risk of developing oral cancer and gum disease, as well as a whole host of other unwelcome health problems.

    Like tobacco products, e-cig liquids contain nicotine, however, it is not this addictive chemical that contributes to the serious health issues associated with smoking, but rather the toxic constituents of tobacco smoke and tar. These are also responsible for unpleasant mouth matters such as bad breath and teeth staining. That’s why ‘vaping’ is considered less damaging to your oral and general health, and preferable to lighting up.

    So are there any known negative effects?

    Toxins have been found in e-cigs but at a much lower level than in tobacco smoke. It’s important to remember, however, that ‘vaping’ is not akin to breathing fresh mountain air and never will be. Most ‘e-juices’ (the flavoured liquids) contain nicotine and this can contribute to oral problems. That’s because it is a vasoconstrictor, which means it reduces the amount of blood that can flow through your veins so the gums (the essential support for your precious teeth) don’t get the oxygen and nutrients they need to stay in tip top condition. This may increase the risk of developing gum inflammation (gingivitis) which can lead to serious gum disease (periodontitis). However, nicotine may actually mask the signs of gum disease because the reduced blood flow means your dentist or hygienist may not be able to spot the typical symptoms of redness and bleeding.

    Nicotine can also inhibit your body’s ability to produce saliva and a dryer mouth means an increased chance of plaque build-up, which can lead to bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease.

    The jury may still be out on the safety of e-cigarettes, but the general consensus is that they are not as dangerous as puffing on tobacco and can help smokers cut down or kick the habit completely. However, if you do indulge in ‘vaping’, you may need to pay a little more attention to your oral health, by making sure you attend regular check-ups and hygiene visits, and developing an effective teeth cleaning routine.


  2. Stop Halloween becoming dental hell for tiny teeth

    25th October 2016 by harpenden

    Of course you want your children to enjoy dressing up and getting into the Halloween spirit but how do you stop this sugar-filled celebration turning into a dental nightmare?

    Take control of the treats

    • Cook up a flavoursome feast before your eager witches and wizards head out on their treat finding quest. A satisfying meal will fill them up and hopefully make them less likely to eat too many of those tempting treats.
    • Try to ration any collected candy by letting little ones enjoy only a small helping each day. It’s also best if you restrict sweet eating to mealtimes.

    Treat teeth kindly

    If you’re handing out treats, safeguard young teeth by trying the following:

    • Give little visitors toys instead of sweets (but make sure they are age appropriate).
    • Choose sugar-free sweeties for a tasty, yet tooth-friendly, treat.
    • Offer to buy back sweets and exchange for a less sugary reward, such as a trip to the cinema or a new toy.

    Protect their pearly whites

    If your children do overindulge, make sure you give their teeth a good brush afterwards. This will help to get rid of bacteria-filled plaque which can create tooth-harming acid when it reacts with sugar.

    Your trick or treaters will probably be well past the baby and toddler stage, so try out these tips for keeping older kids’ teeth clean at this time of year:

    • If a toothbrush is not readily available, encourage youngsters to drink water after eating sweets as it will help wash away the sugar.
    • If still under seven, your children may need a helping hand with teeth cleaning and, even if they’re older, you should still check they are brushing properly. Use a fluoride toothpaste but if your child is under seven, make sure it’s only a pea-sized amount.
    • Brush (or let them brush) for two to three minutes for smooth, sparkly teeth.
    • Make tooth brushing fun by using a novelty timer or singing a Halloween themed song.
    • It’s a good idea not to rinse with water after cleaning teeth as it can wash away all the tooth-friendly fluoride, so encourage your child to simply spit out the toothpaste.

    There are ways you can cope with the onslaught of sweets on 31st October but remember, it is only one day of the year so try not to worry too much. Just keep an eye on how many sweets are being consumed (if possible) and give teeth a good clean before your children head off to bed.


  3. Disease detectives

    7th October 2016 by harpenden

    We all know eagle eyed dentists can spot tooth decay and gum disease but did you know their detective work can also help identify conditions that affect other parts of your body too.

    Also, when your dentist gives you advice, it’s wise to take heed and stay on top of your oral hygiene as poor dental health can increase your risk of developing certain diseases, including:

    Dementia

    Inadequate dental hygiene can suggest that a patient is perhaps not looking after themselves as well as they once were. Neglect of daily routines may be a sign of dementia as this condition can cause memory loss and confusion. Also, studies have shown that older people who brush their teeth less frequently are more likely to develop this disorder.

    Heart problems

    Keeping your mouth in peak condition can help protect your precious ticker. If the bacteria in plaque is left to stick around, it can contribute to the development of heart disease.

    Oral cancer

    Signs of this increasingly prevalent disease can be spotted by your helpful dentist. Oral cancer screening is now routinely carried out during check-ups, which can aid early detection and successful treatment.

    Anaemia

    If the lining of the mouth is very pale coloured or the tongue smooth looking, the dentist may suspect anaemia.

    Diabetes

    Diabetics are more prone to gum disease, so bleeding gums or wobbly teeth may be indicators of this auto-immune disease. A dry mouth can also indicate diabetes, as can slower healing.

    Osteoporosis

    Most common in post-menopausal women, osteoporosis can cause the bones to become fragile and that includes the bone that holds your teeth in place. This thinning of the bones may show up as receding gums and wobbly teeth.

    Acid reflux

    Erosion of tooth enamel, particularly on the upper back molars, can indicate gastro-oesophageal reflux (GERD); a digestive disorder that causes stomach acid to find its way back into the oesophagus and the mouth. You’ll thank your dentist for spotting this damage to your teeth as GERD can cause erosion of the oesophagus and even cancer.

    Stress

    Stress can have a number of unpleasant effects on the body, including teeth grinding (bruxism). This can happen while a patient is asleep, so they may be unaware they have a problem until the dentist notices tooth wear.

    Rheumatoid arthritis

    Jaw swelling and an inability to open the mouth properly may indicate that the patient is suffering from rheumatoid arthritis – an auto-immune disease that can affect people of all ages.

    So, if you want to keep your mouth and the rest of your body in the very best of health, make sure you see us regularly – your next check-up might turn out to be a real lifesaver!


  4. The Natural Advantage

    6th September 2016 by harpenden

    Breastfeeding is a pretty convenient way to nourish your precious tot. After all, breast milk is packed with all the nutrients your infant needs, including some components not contained in formula, and there’s no need for fiddly preparation or sterilising procedures.

    As well as helping to combat infections, reducing the likelihood of developing certain conditions, such as asthma and allergies, and lowering the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in nursing mums, breastfeeding can also be best for you and your baby’s dental health.

    Here’s why breast feeding is great for developing teeth:

    • Babies who are fed on breast milk alone for around six months are much less likely to develop a badly aligned ‘bite’ or crooked teeth. The action of breast feeding can help encourage normal palate formation, optimal teeth alignment and the correct movement of the tongue when swallowing. When breast feeding, your baby also uses the jaw muscles more actively than when feeding from a bottle, producing good muscle tone.
    • Breast feeding is a much better way to help avoid tooth decay than bottle feeding. But beware – breast milk still has the potential to cause cavities as it contains natural sugar, so keep those titchy teeth clean by wiping with soft gauze or use a baby toothbrush with a speck of toothpaste. Clean your baby’s teeth and gums after the last feed in the evening so there is less chance of decay developing while they sleep.

    A biting chance

    There’s no need to stop breast feeding when your baby starts to develop tiny gnashers. If you do want to carry on past the recommended six months, don’t think it’s all over when you spot those miniscule pearly whites. And don’t worry too much about being nibbled because your baby’s tongue covers any new teeth as they feed. It could be an issue when your baby has had its fill and pulls away, but you can prevent this by breaking the seal with your finger when sucking stops or, if they do take a bite, you can firmly say ‘no’ and promptly remove your little nipper.

    Top tips for tiny teeth

    • Stimulate healthy gums and encourage good oral hygiene by giving little gums a wipe with a piece of gauze or damp cloth, even before you spot any new teeth peeping through.
    • After teeth have emerged (usually the first one pops through at around six months), continue to wipe with gauze and when you start brushing, use a tiny amount of toothpaste (with fluoride) and a soft bristled brush for daily cleaning.
    • If you do bottle feed, don’t leave your baby alone with a bottle when they are put to bed as their teeth will be bathed in sugar for prolonged periods and be susceptible to decay.
    • Between four and six months you will probably introduce soft foods such as baby rice, and then pureed fruit and veg into your baby’s diet, and it will become even more important to keep teeth spick and span.
    • Bring your little one to see us as soon as possible, we’d love to see them! We can keep an eye on their dental health and they can get used to coming to see us – setting them up for a lifetime of dental health.

    Also, mums, don’t forget your toothbrush when breastfeeding – nursing a baby can be pretty full-on, which means you may neglect your own oral hygiene – so make sure you try to fit in regular brushing and flossing. And stay hydrated to avoid a dry mouth and increased risk of cavities and gum disease. If you do need dental treatment while you are breastfeeding your baby, please let us know, as we will need to give you medication that’s OK for your little one too.

    If you have any questions about the dental implications of breast feeding or you want to book an appointment for your little cutie, call us on 01582 763420.


  5. A crown to (swiftly) top them all!

    3rd August 2016 by harpenden

    Fancy being king or queen for the day? We might not be able to make you a real royal, but we can certainly provide the crown – and quickly!

    If your decayed, damaged or discoloured teeth are giving you grief, we can help cover them up. And you won’t have to wait around, because we can design, produce and fit a shiny new crown in just one visit.

    What makes it so speedy?

    It’s all done so promptly because we have some super snazzy technology at our fingertips, known as CEREC (this stands for Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics), which, as its name implies, eliminates the lab stuff, and hence the waiting. This clever computer aided system, developed in Switzerland in the 80s, uses a state of the art camera to take 3D pictures of your tooth, once a layer of enamel has been removed. These pics are then used to create a model from which the new crown will be designed. When we know it is going to be the perfect fit, we send your dental data to our on-site machine, and then after all kinds of technological wizardry, a shiny new crown is born.

    After your crown has been created from a colour matched ceramic block, we may make a few little adjustments to ensure it blends in with your existing teeth. When we are satisfied it will fit in perfectly, we’ll fix it permanently to your prepared tooth and – ta da! – you’re free to show off your smart new smile.

    So many beautiful benefits

    • A damaged tooth can be given a new lease with tooth matching ceramics.
    • Everything is neatly sorted in a single appointment. A lab produced crown normally requires two or three visits, so CEREC saves you precious time.
    • Only one lot of numbing injections are needed because it’s a superfast procedure.
    • We oversee the production and fitting of the crown, which can equate to better looking results, as a lab technician will not have met you, or your unique teeth.
    • With no waiting between appointments, there’s no need for a temporary restoration to keep your tooth safe.

    And if you’re worried that a more convenient cover-up for disappointing teeth might be more expensive, don’t be. There’s actually very little difference in price between a conventionally produced crown and a CEREC one.

    And CEREC doesn’t just get snappy with crowns, it can also be used to produce inlays, onlays and veneers.

    So, if you’re looking for a ravishing restoration to top off your tricky tooth, give us a call on 01582 763420.


  6. Guard against toothy trauma

    1st July 2016 by harpenden

    Here at Harpenden Smiles, we are big fans of sport, recognising how it can improve all-round fitness and encourage a sense of camaraderie. We are also keen to promote sporting activity in our community and are proud to be sponsors of Harpenden Hockey Club and Harpenden Rugby Club. We love all that exciting pitch based action but we also love teeth, which is why we recommend players always wear a custom-made mouth guard, particularly when they are involved in contact sports or games with fast moving balls.

    A dental injury can involve a considerable amount of time and money to put right, as well as being painful. A mouth guard is a protective cover made from a tough, rubber like material that fits snugly over your teeth to keep them safe and sound while you get sporty. Our professionally produced mouth guards are specially designed to fit you perfectly for the best defence against injury and they offer much better protection for your prized pearly whites than cheaper mouth guards that you mould at home using boiling water.

    It is so important cushion your teeth with a mouth guard when playing sports such as rugby, hockey, and cricket, as they can be particularly vulnerable during these lively activities. Potential dental damage could include broken or knocked out teeth, as well as injuries to your lips, tongue, face or jaw. A mouth guard should be as much a part of your sports’ kit as your rugby boots or hockey stick and you shouldn’t step foot on the pitch without one.

    And don’t despair if you wear fixed braces, you can still get in the game by having a mouth guard designed to fit over your brace. This will not only prevent dental injuries, but also stop your hard working appliance from cutting into the soft tissues of your mouth and protect it from damage. Remember, your teeth will be moving all the time while you have orthodontic treatment, so it is important we regularly check your mouth guard is still a great fit. Bring your mouth guard to your regular check-ups so we can make sure it’s still in tip top condition.

    Younger players may need mouth guards replacing more frequently because their mouths are still developing, but all mouth guards should be checked for wear and renewed if necessary. Keep your guard clean by rinsing after use or brushing with a toothbrush and toothpaste. When it is not acting as armour for your teeth, keep it in a protective box and out of reach of your pet pooch who may mistake it for a tempting dog chew.

    At Harpenden Smiles, we are mouth guard aficionados. As well as sponsoring Harpenden Rugby Club, we now provide a complete mouth guard service to players, taking fittings and ensuring all mouth guards are expertly manufactured and swiftly received.

    If you feel like proving your prowess on the playing field, but want to keep your treasured teeth safely protected, give us a call on 01582 763420.


  7. Give your untidy teeth some summer loving

    31st May 2016 by harpenden

    Summer is sneaking ever closer, so that invariably means a sunny social whirlwind of weddings, barbecues and general al-fresco fun that you’ll want to look your absolute best for.

    And because the weather’s hotting up, there’ll be no more hiding behind layers of clothing, you’ll have to reveal a little more of yourself. Equally, if you find yourself continually clamping your hand over your mouth to hide your disappointingly crooked, gappy or overcrowded smile, then why not show a little more of your teeth too by giving them a smarter, straighter look.

    And don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you sport a mouthful of metal and look like an overgrown teenager, we can offer a more grown-up alternative known as Invisalign® – a virtually invisible and rather speedy answer to toothy troubles.

    The difference with this clever system is, rather than being a fixed brace made up of blatant brackets and fiddly wires, it consists of a series of clear aligners that are simply placed over your teeth. As well as offering a subtler option, these aligners can also be taken out occasionally, so if you do have to be a bridesmaid, or even the bride, you can smile with confidence on the big day. This also means you can keep your teeth extra clean, which is not always easy with plaque attracting brackets and wires.

    It clearly works …..just like this:          

    First, we’ll check your teeth are suitable candidates for a touch of Invisalign® magic by taking some 3D photos. If they are, we’ll use advanced 3D technology to create a personalised plan, which will even show you the progression of your teeth during treatment and what they will look like when it’s all done and dusted.

    A series of custom-made aligners are then produced in a laboratory and you will wear a different one of these every two weeks for at least 22-24 hours per day. As they are all very slightly different but precisely designed, the controlled force will gradually move your tricky teeth to a more pleasing position.

    How long does this subtle system take?

    Treatment times can vary but, unlike traditional train track braces which can take up to 24 months, most Invisalign® cases are sorted in just 6-12 months.

    After your teeth have been gently teased into line, you will have to wear a retainer to keep your smile in place. After all, you want to protect your orthodontic investment and make sure those neat teeth stay put!

    Here’s a reminder of some of those Invisalign® benefits:

    • Supremely adult friendly
    • You can sort out your smile more discreetly
    • You can eat and drink whatever you fancy
    • No metallic bits or allergy worries

    Interested in a touch of summer straightening? Then give us a call on 01582 763420.

     

     

     


  8. Get mouthy with National Smile Month!

    6th May 2016 by harpenden

    This month sees the start of National Smile Month (NSM) and, not surprisingly, we are huge fans of this high profile campaign that goes all out to promote oral health in communities across the UK. Running from 16th May to 16th June, this is a landmark year for NSM as it will be celebrating its 40th birthday and despite edging towards middle age, there’s plenty of life in this mouthy campaign yet.

    Organised and run by the Oral Health Foundation, it is a fun filled feast of tooth friendly happenings designed to spread the dental health word and improve the nation’s gnashers. It unites dental and health professionals, schools, pharmacies, community groups, colleges and workplaces in a frenzy of healthy dental doings.

    At the heart of the campaign lies a trio of positive dental messages (with which we wholeheartedly agree!):

    • Brush your teeth at least twice a day (especially before you hit the sack)
    • Cut down on the sweet stuff (that includes sugar laden fizzy drinks)
    • Come and see us regularly (i.e. as often as we tell you to!)

    NSM started way back in the seventies when it was known as National Smile Week and has continued to spread its dental health messages ever since. Ten years ago it was reborn as a bigger and better month long event and has continued to evolve with the times. Along with the rise of social media came the introduction of the ‘Smiley’- that red lipped grin on a stick that you hold up to your face to make you look super happy in photos.

    Why bother?

    NSM shouts about oral health because smiles are important, they’re a big part of who we are and often one of the first things people notice. Teeth also have an important functional role, helping us to chew food and speak clearly.

    Oral health can also have an impact on your general well-being as gum disease has been linked to a number of serious conditions including diabetes, strokes, lung disease and heart disease.

    NSM’s dental health boosting suggestions (Harpenden Smiles endorsed of course!)

    As well as regularly brushing and visiting the dentist, here a few more of NSM’s top tips that you’d be wise to follow:

    • Keep teeth clean in-between with floss, tape, sticks or special brushes
    • Quit smoking – it contributes to staining, gum disease and mouth cancer
    • Don’t forget to make friends with your helpful hygienist too
    • Chew sugar-free gum after eating or drinking to minimise acid action
    • Try to wait for around an hour after eating or drinking before you brush as tooth enamel will have softened slightly and could be susceptible to erosion.
    • Round off a meal with a cube of cheese – it’s a yummy way to reduce acid attacks

    NSM has a whole bunch of competitions, educational resources and events to communicate vital health messages and motivate people to take care of their teeth – so why not get involved and help raise awareness of an issue that’s rather close to our heart – we know we will be!


  9. Dental wand casts a soothing spell

    25th April 2016 by harpenden

    What comes to mind when you think about a visit to the dentist? A smiling professional with a comfy chair and plenty of ways to help protect your precious teeth or scary looking equipment, strange sounds and terrifying needles? If your thoughts veer towards the latter then we may just have a solution to help make your dental experience a lot more bearable.

    Many people feel anxious when they visit the dentist, but for some this mild anxiety can develop into teeth chattering terror. This can lead to people not getting the vital treatment they need to protect and preserve their pearly whites. Also some people have a needle phobia and just can’t stand the idea of having an injection, which means receiving essential treatment is out of the question.

    However, we can offer an alternative to the old school syringe with an innovative computerised system called the Dental Wand. This device really is magic as it delivers a slow, steady flow of numbing anaesthetic for a gentler dental experience. Also, it is much less off putting than a spiky syringe as it looks more like an innocent pen.

    The reason the wand offers less painful pain relief is because the flow of anaesthetic is delivered at a constant pressure. It also boasts quicker numbing power and subsequent sensation recovery. All this means the wand not only appeals to those with needle phobias but also to children and busy professionals as the pain relief is much more localised and they can quickly get on with their lives.

    It’s important to see your dentist regularly because taking a rain check on check-ups can be seriously damaging to your dental health. Also the longer you leave any problems, the worse they could get and that may mean much more involved and lengthy treatment.

    Along with our friendly approach and welcoming setting, the dental wand is just one more way we can ward off dental anxiety and help you have a more comfortable time in the chair.

    Give us a call today on 01582 211013 and find out how the dental wand can work its relaxing magic on you.


  10. Give your teeth a clean break

    16th March 2016 by harpenden

    We all know regular visits to the dentist help keep our teeth in tip top condition but to ensure the very best oral health you should also be getting to know our friendly hygienist, Laura; a qualified professional who knows all there is to know about keeping teeth super clean.

    One of her top treatments is a thorough ‘scale and polish’ to remove lingering plaque and tartar that can harbour a whole bunch of bothersome bacteria. This treatment also leaves your teeth feeling beautifully silky and looking much healthier. It will give your breath a welcome blast of freshness too!

    So much more than a wash and brush up!

    Giving your teeth the equivalent of a gold standard car wash isn’t the only thing our hygienist will do for you. She is also fully trained to spot the signs of tooth threatening gum disease, which can sneak up on you without warning and if left untreated can cause real damage and even result in tooth loss.

    Laura can also perform a potentially life-saving check by spotting any signs of mouth cancer – a disease that is on the rise and much easier to treat if caught early.

    Also if you already have early stage gum disease or even advanced periodontitis, Laura can help prevent it getting any worse by providing periodontal therapy.

    Toothy tutorials

    Laura loves sharing her knowledge and giving tons of tips to help you keep on top of your oral health and preserve your precious teeth. She will teach you clever cleaning techniques including how to use dental tools such as interdental brushes and floss to keep every corner of your mouth spick and span. This means you can carry on all the good work at home and play your part in maintaining your dental health.

    She will also offer dietary advice so you know exactly what to avoid when indulging in a tasty treat and will suggest any lifestyle changes to improve the health of your teeth, such as cutting out cigarettes.

    Treating tiny teeth too

    Laura is super friendly, so why not introduce her to your little ones. If children get used to seeing the hygienist, they will learn to be relaxed about visiting the practice and will also be introduced to having protective treatments such as fissure sealing and fluoride varnishes.

    Whole body benefits

    On top of all these oral health benefits, visiting our hygienist can have wider reaching positive effects, as studies have shown a link between poor gum health and other worrying diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

    So it really is worth making friends with Laura and as hygienists can now see patients without referral from a dentist, anyone can treat their teeth and gums to some expert TLC.

    Give us a call on 01582 763420 to book an appointment and clean up at Harpenden Smiles!