Plaque vs. Tartar: What’s The Difference?

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WE OFTEN GET THE QUESTION from our patients, “What’s the difference between plaque and tartar?” Many people think they are the same thing. There is an important difference between the two, however, and it can help explain just why a daily oral hygiene routine is so crucial, as well as twice-yearly visits to your dentist.

What Is Plaque?

Dental plaque is that soft, sticky film that builds up on your teeth and under your gums throughout the day. And guess what? It contains millions of bacteria! When you eat—especially carbohydrates or sugar—you’re not the only one getting a meal, so are the bacteria on your teeth. After “eating,” these bacteria produce acids that erode your tooth enamel and cause cavities.

That’s why good daily oral hygiene is essential to preventing tooth decay and protecting your smile from the bacteria in plaque. To prevent plaque buildup, remember to brush at least twice a day and floss once a day. Drinking water and chewing sugar-free gum after meals and snacks can also help!

What Is Tartar?

So if that’s plaque, what’s tartar? Tartar is what accumulates on your teeth when plaque is not removed. If plaque is left on your teeth for too long, it will harden into tartar and is much more difficult to remove. In fact, tartar can only be removed by a dental professional–you can’t get rid of it with regular brushing and flossing. Tartar removal is one of the reasons that visiting your dentist every six months is so important!

Plaque buildup that hardens into tartar can cause more than just cavities. It can cause tooth discoloration and sensitivity as well as gum recession and periodontal disease. To reduce plaque buildup and tartar from forming, make sure you are brushing and flossing daily.

Come And See Us Every Six Months

No matter how great your oral hygiene is, plaque and tartar formation are inevitable. So come in to see us every six months! Our job is to help you maintain a beautiful, healthy smile that’s plaque- and tarter-free!

Thank you for your trust and loyalty.

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.

Top image by Flickr user Melissa Wiese used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Smoking Puts Your Oral Health At Risk

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DID YOU KNOW that smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the United States? It’s well known that smoking can lead to a number of lung-related diseases but in reality, the negative effects of smoking can be seen in almost every part of the body, especially the mouth.

Smoking Compromises Your Oral Health

Among other cancers, smoking puts you at a much higher risk of developing oral cancer. In fact, approximately eight out of 10 patients with oral cancer are smokers. Smoking remains the biggest controllable risk factor for this deadly disease.

Tobacco use is also related to severe gum disease. Becausesmoking weakens your body’s ability to fight infection, bacteria build up more easily in your mouth in the form of plaque and tartar. Bacteria in plaque irritate the gums and cause them to pull away from your teeth, resulting in bleeding and sensitivity. This can ultimately lead to tooth and bone loss. Those who smoke are two times more likely to develop gum disease than a nonsmoker.

Other dental problems that can be caused by smoking include:

  • Bad breath
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Coated or black hairy tongue
  • Tooth decay
  • Dulled sense of taste and smell
  • Dry mouth
  • Slowed healing after tooth extraction or other surgery
  • Lower success rate of cosmetic dental procedures

Watch the video below to see how smoking affected Brett’s smile:

A Note About Electronic Cigarettes

Within the past couple of years, electronic cigarettes have gained popularity, especially as a “safer” alternative to smoking. Since e-cigarettes are relatively new, not much research has yet been published about their long-term health effects. What we do know is that while e-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco, most contain nicotine, which is known to cause damage to the mouth.

Because nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, it reduces the amount of blood that can flow to your gums. This means that the gums don’t get the oxygen and nutrients they need, causing gum recession and tooth sensitivity as well as putting you at a higher risk of cavities. The reduced blood flow to the gums caused by nicotine use can also mask the signs of gum disease, making it harder to detect and diagnose. This delays treatment and allows the disease to progress.

Until further research is done, we can’t really know how safe e-cigarettes are. As health care professionals, we advise you to avoid them until their long-term effects are known.

Count Us As A Part Of Your Support System

Our patients are more than just patients–they are friends. We care about your health and well-being and want you to count us as a part of your support system to help you quit smoking. If you aren’t quite ready to quit, continue to see us regularly as recommended so we can help you maintain your oral health as best as possible. Talk to us about quitting today and how we can help you!

Thank you for your friendship and loyalty!

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.

Take Care Of Your Tooth Enamel

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TOOTH ENAMEL IS THE hardest substance in the human body. But don’t let that fool you–it’s far from invincible. In fact, there are things you may be doing on a regular basis that weaken your enamel, which could lead to more frequent cavities, tooth discoloration and sensitivity.

Tooth Enamel Acts As A Protective Barrier

The enamel makes up the tooth’s protective outer layer and is the first line of defense against harmful acids and bacteria. Unlike other parts of the body, tooth enamel cannot regenerate or heal. This means that once damage is done to the enamel, it cannot be repaired. That is why we want to give you some tips on how to best take care of your teeth and keep your tooth enamel in tiptop shape!

Keep Your Tooth Enamel Healthy And Strong

There are a number of things you can do to care for your enamel and protect it from erosion.

Watch what you eat and drink

Sugary, starchy and acidic foods and beverages are the top offenders when it comes to weakening and ultimately eroding tooth enamel. Calcium-rich foods and drinks, however, help to neutralize acids in the mouth and strengthen tooth enamel. You can find calcium in dairy products, dark leafy greens such as kale, soybeans, and sardines.

Our simple recommendation is to try to eat healthier and cut back on sugary snacks and drinks, soda in particular. Soda is especially damaging to tooth enamel due to its high sugar content and acidity. If you must drink something acidic or sugary, even fruit juice, use a straw!

Drink plenty of water

Drink water throughout the day to avoid dry mouth. Rinse your mouth out with water after meals to get rid of food debris as well as stimulate saliva flow. Not only does our saliva contain antimicrobial agents that protect teeth and defend against bacteria, it also consists of calcium and phosphate that remineralize and build up tooth enamel.

Brush and floss properly and regularly

When bacteria in the form of plaque is allowed to remain on the teeth for long periods of time, they produce acids that eat away at tooth enamel. Regular brushing and flossing rid the mouth of plaque and food debris. Be sure not to brush too aggressively as this habit will weaken enamel over time.

See your dentist

Regular checkups and cleanings are vital to maintaining a healthy mouth. When you come in for your biannual appointments we look for signs of tooth enamel wear, such as tooth grinding and cavities, and can help you get them under control early.

Do Your Teeth A Favor

Your tooth enamel works around the clock to defend your teeth. By following the above guidelines, you can return the favor by protecting your enamel from wear and erosion. Do you have any questions about tooth enamel? Feel free to comment below or send us a message on Facebook!

We’re ENAMELED with our patients!

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.

What Are Your Favorite Thanksgiving Foods? Here Are Ours!

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What Are Your Favorite Thanksgiving Foods? Here Are Ours!

THANKSGIVING IS just around the corner! Not only is it a time to share good company, it’s a time to share good food!

It’s Time To Share Our Favorite Thanksgiving Dishes!

Each family has their own signature dish they serve this time of year. Today, we’d like to share some of our team member’s favorites!

From Dr Allen:

“Turkey! I love turkey! Best part of the meal, and great leftovers afterward!”

From Jennifer (front desk):

“I like it all, it’s hard to decide which is best! If I did have to pick a favorite I would have to say Green Bean Casserole. ”

From Lorena (dental assistant):

“My favorite is Green Bean Casserole as well, but with a New Mexico twist. Green chile! Gives it a little kick, but not spicy enough to throw you off.”

From april (dental hygienist):

“I would have to narrow it down to Sweet Potato Crunch, mashed sweet potatoes with pecans and a syrupy top.  Also, mashed potatoes and red chile. It’s the only time I will eat mashed potatoes!”

Do you have a favorite holiday recipe? Feel free to share it with us on our Facebook page or in the comments below!

Have A Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving isn’t just about the food, it’s about expressing gratitude. We’re so grateful for each of you—our valued patients and friends. Because of you, we’re excited to come into work each day. Thank you for your kindness and the trust you place in our practice.

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

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.

Top image by Flickr user lotherington used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Love Pumpkin? Your Smile Does Too

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‘TIS THE SEASON FOR everything pumpkin. As the poster child of fall, pumpkin doesn’t just star in our autumnal decorations, it shows up on our menus too. And as far as we’re concerned, that’s a good thing. Pumpkin is great for your oral and overall health!

Pumpkin: Fall’s Superfood

We’re glad pumpkin has so many health benefits because it sure is delicious! Pumpkins are high in fiber and are a great source of beta-carotene, which are both important for our health in various ways. They’re also full of potassium which can help lower blood pressure. But the reason we dentists love pumpkin is that it’s great for your smile!

Pumpkins benefit your oral health because they are:

  • A great source of zinc. Zinc is considered an anti-plaque agent and is often added to toothpaste to prevent buildup. It also strengthens teeth and bones and boosts gum health.
  • Rich in vitamins. Vitamin A found in pumpkin aids in the flow of saliva, keeping your teeth clean and protecting them from decay. Pumpkin’s vitamin C contributes to a healthy immune system, helping you to fight off oral infections.
  • High in magnesium. In tandem with calcium, magnesium strengthens tooth enamel and prevents decay. Without magnesium, our enamel would be much weaker and more susceptible to cavity-causing bacteria.

Not All Pumpkin Treats Are Good For You

Now before you go running off to Starbucks for that pumpkin spice latte or the bakery for a batch of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, there are a few things you should know. Not everything you encounter with pumpkin in it is going to benefit your health.

A lot of the most popular pumpkin snacks–pumpkin pie, bread and cake, in addition to the aforementioned treats–should actually be considered desserts because of their high sugar content. So when it comes to these sugar-filled pumpkin treats, consume them in moderation.

Here are some healthier ways to satisfy your pumpkin cravings this fall:

  • Baked pumpkin seeds–a guilt-free, vitamin-filled snack
  • Pumpkin smoothie–perfect for breakfast or as a dessert substitute
  • Pumpkin soup–a great way to warm up in the colder autumn weather
  • Roasted pumpkin–make it the main course, use it as a side dish, or throw it in a salad

Enjoy The Fall Season

Nothing says autumn more than the big orange fruit. When you’re eating all that pumpkin this fall, remember that you’re not only satisfying your tastebuds, but you’re also boosting your oral and overall health! So go ahead, eat more pumpkin.

Wishing a wonderful autumn to all our patients.

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.

Don’t Let Your Insurance Benefits Go To Waste!

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THE END OF THE YEAR IS approaching fast! Before year’s end, our team wants to remind you to take a look at your dental insurance benefits!

Insurance Benefits Typically Don’t Roll Over To Next Year

Each year your dental insurance company probably gives you a maximum amount of available benefits. Since those benefits don’t typically roll over into the following year, you’ll want to contact us now to get your appointment scheduled!

We all know how it is, once the holiday season is upon us—hectic! Life can get really busy and some things fall between the cracks. So remember that your dental health needs your attention too—not just for the sake of your teeth, but for your overall health. If you’re due (or overdue) for an appointment, make sure to talk to our office. Take advantage of those dental insurance benefits before time is up!

Dr. Allen and Morrison Add…

Near the end of the year, we are at our busiest. People are trying to get in last minute to maximize their benefits. Calling and scheduling earlier can make sure that you can get an appointment before all our spots are filled up. Waiting until the last minute may not guarantee that we will be able to see you before the end of the year, and you may lose any benefits remaining and delay any necessary treatment you may need.

Do you have any questions about your dental insurance benefits? Call us! We’re happy to work with you to create a dental health plan that works for you!

Thanks for being our valued patient!

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.

Make Your Game Day Snacks More Smile-Friendly

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WATCHING FOOTBALL IS ONE OF AMERICA’S GREAT TRADITIONS. Many families and friends gather together on a weekly basis to watch their favorite teams go head to head. And while people come for the football, we all know what they’re really there for… the food!

Traditional game day snacks may be delicious–think wings, sliders, nachos, pizza–but they are certainly not the healthiest for our bodies, or our teeth for that matter.

Make Healthier Choices On Game Day

October is one of the busiest sports months of the year. For all you sports fans out there, you’re going to have a lot of games to watch and, as a result, a lot of unhealthy finger food you may be planning to eat. Making healthier choices for the big game is easy… and well worth it!

For more smile-friendly snacks, try these healthy alternatives to traditional game day food:

  • Veggie-filled wraps instead of sliders. Leafy greens contain vitamins essential for healthy teeth and gums.
  • Yogurt instead of ice cream. You know dairy is good for your teeth! But watch out for added sugars you can find in ice cream and some yogurts. Make a greek yogurt parfait or a yogurt-based dip for fruit to protect those chompers.
  • Bruschetta instead of pizza. Fresh-made bruschetta, especially with calcium-rich cheese on top, is a great substitute for greasy pizza.
  • Vegetables instead of chips. Refined, starchy foods can be worse for your teeth than sugar. Bake your own kale chips or substitute cucumbers, celery, and carrots for greasy chips. You’ll get that crunch factor you crave as well as protect your teeth from decay.
  • Zucchini or sweet potato fries instead of french fries. Bake your fries instead of deep-fry them. Sweet potatoes have a lot of vitamin C which promotes healthy gums. Zucchini has an extremely high water content which will get your saliva flowing.

You could even try this healthy spinach and artichoke dip at your next watch-party!

Here’s another fun fact: including apples and strawberries in your snack game plan can actually help whiten your teeth! These fruits contain malic acid which removes surface stains from your teeth and whitens enamel.

In addition, nuts, celery, carrots and again, apples, are great finger foods that work as natural toothbrushes. That’s right! Because of their abrasive texture, they naturally remove bacteria and plaque. They also increase saliva production, helping to wash away food particles and bacteria in your mouth. So the next time you want to just eat the wings and leave the celery, think again.

Eat Right For A Winning Smile

We know you want your team to win the big game, but it’s even more important to have a winning smile! What are your favorite healthy game day snacks? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to get some more ideas!

Happy watching to all our football fans!

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.

Top image by Flickr user Abdulla Al Muhairi used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Are You Prepared For A Dental Emergency?

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ACCIDENTS ALWAYS SEEM to happen when we least expect them. When those accidents involve tooth damage, it’s important to know what steps to take. Being prepared before a dental emergency occurs can save a damaged or knocked out tooth, prevent infection and decrease the need for extensive treatment.

Step One: Find Your Dental Home

The most important step to being well-prepared for a dental emergency is establishing a dental home. This means finding a dental practice that is right for you and sticking with it. When the worst happens unexpectedly, it can be a great help to have a dentist and practice you trust by your side.

If you have found your dental home, you will likely be more familiar with their hours and know if and when your dentist provides emergency services. With an already established relationship, you know your preferred practice will be able to provide high-quality care, advice and support.

Step Two: Be Prepared

We all know accidents happen. Being “prepared” simply means knowing what to do in certain situations before a mishap actually occurs. In a dental emergency, time is of the essence–it could mean the difference between saving or losing a tooth.

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), here’s how you should handle these dental emergencies:

When a baby tooth is knocked out…

If this happens to your child, contact their dentist as soon as possible. The tooth will most likely not be replanted because of potential damage to the developing permanent tooth.

When a tooth is fractured or chipped…

Contact your dentist immediately as prompt treatment is required. Rinse out your mouth with water and find any broken tooth fragments. Place the fragments in cold milk or water and bring it with you to the dentist.

When a permanent tooth is knocked out…

Again, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention from your dentist. Most knocked-out teeth can be saved if a dentist is seen within 30 minutes to an hour of the accident. In the meantime, find the tooth and rinse it gently in cool water (no soap), without scrubbing or cleaning it. Replace the tooth back in the socket, if possible, and hold it there with clean gauze or a washcloth. If you cannot put the tooth back in the socket, place the tooth in a container with cold milk, saliva or water.

Also, do not put aspirin directly on the affected area. This could lead to burns and additional discomfort.

We’re Here For You

If you have a dental emergency, call us immediately. We make it our priority to be here for you, rain or shine! We always have a dentist on call, even on the weekends or holidays. Do you have any more questions? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

Thank you to our wonderful patients!

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.

Top image by Flickr user Sebastiaan ter Burg used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

See The Full Picture On Dental X-Rays

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IF YOU COULD HAVE any superpower, what would it be? Would you choose super strength? How about the power of flight? Maybe you’d like the ability to see through solid objects! Although super strength and flight may not come too easily, you don’t have to search far for x-ray vision (in a manner of speaking)!

Today, we want to share with you a little bit about x-rays and how we use them in our practice to spot troublesome cavities and other issues before they have a larger effect on your smile!

X-Rays Were Discovered By Accident!

X-rays were first observed in in 1895 by German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen (1845-1923). Roentgen accidentally made this discovery while conducting an experiment testing whether cathode rays would pass through glass. After covering the glass cathode tubes he was using for his experiment, he noticed a glow coming from a nearby chemically coated screen. He was unsure what rays were causing the glow so he dubbed them “X-rays” for the time-being, and the name stuck!

Roentgen is also credited with discovering the medical use of X-rays. The first photograph of a human body part using X-rays is actually his wife’s hand!

Dental X-Rays Help Spot Problems Early

X-rays have become an incredibly valuable tool in modern medicine—especially for dentistry! We learn a lot from visually examining your teeth, but not everything is visible to the naked eye during a routine dental exam.

Dental X-rays allow us to detect and diagnose tooth decay between teeth, on hard-to-reach surfaces, and under existing dental work. X-rays can even be helpful in identifying dental and orthodontic issues that exist beneath the gum line—something that was impossible without invasive procedures before X-rays became widely available.

We Have Your Safety In Mind

Both traditional and digital X-ray exams are safe. Though low levels of radiation are used to capture the X-ray images, each technique is designed to limit the body’s exposure to radiation. A leaded apron and thyroid collar are often used to minimize exposure to the abdomen and throat during an examination. These protective measures are helpful for everyone, but especially recommended for women of childbearing age, those who are pregnant, and children.

If you are pregnant and in need of dental X-rays, be sure to tell your dentist. They will be sure to use the leaded apron and thyroid collar during your exam to protect you and your fetus from any radiation. Dental X-rays do not need to be delayed if you’re breastfeeding or trying to become pregnant, but talk to your dentist if you have any questions or concerns.

Prevention Is The Key To Healthy Smiles

We want to keep your mouth as healthy as possible and preserve your beautiful smile. That’s why it’s essential that we discover and diagnose the earliest sign of a problem. X-rays are an essential tool in helping spot these problems that might otherwise go unnoticed. If you have any questions about dental X-rays, please let us know! We’d love to speak with you about this or any other questions you may have.

Our patients brighten our day!

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.

Top image by Flickr user Bashar Al-Ba’noon used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

What Is A Dental Assistant?

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PEOPLE ARE COMMONLY CONFUSED about what the exact role of a dental assistant is. What does an assistant take care of vs. a dental hygienist, for example? We want to set the record straight! Our dental assistants are an invaluable part of our team and practice–to be honest, we couldn’t get much done without them!

Dental Assistants Are Specially Trained To Serve You

Our dental assistants are specially trained to serve YOU–our valued patients!

The dental assistants at Rio Rancho Family Dental Care must complete one year of post high school education and receive their certification from DANB (dental assisting national board). Every year, they must also complete and earn 10 CEs (continuing education) for a total of 30 every three years in order to maintain their DANB certification. Their duties include, but are not necessarily limited to, providing patient comfort, setting up the dental operatory for the dentist, taking x-rays, and general assisting of the dentist. Our dental assisting staff here at Rio Rancho Family Dental Care provide steller dental care, and we would not be able to provide the amazing service we do without them. Every member of our dental assisting staff is like a part of our dental family, and we appreciate each and every one of them.

Our Patients Are Our Priority

Our priority is providing the highest quality of care to our patients. And we couldn’t do it without the amazing dental assistants in our office! Do you have any questions for our assistants? Let us know in the comments below!

As always, thank you for choosing our practice. We love our patients!

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.

Top image by Flickr user Véronique Debord-Lazaro used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.