A Guide to Water Flossing

Posted by on Oct 10, 2018 in Cosmetic Dentistry, Dental Hygiene | Comments Off on A Guide to Water Flossing

The ADA maintains that in order to achieve good dental hygiene for the prevention of cavities and gum disease you should ensure you are brushing your teeth twice daily and flossing your teeth a minimum of once daily. For those who dislike flossing, you may be asking, does this mean that traditional flossing is the only viable option? You may be encouraged to learn that there are alternatives to traditional flossing that may be even more effective.

In recent years, water flossing has gained ground as a popular alternative to traditional flossing. This article will discuss how water flossing works and whether it can stand as a viable option for effective tooth cleaning for long term dental health.

What is Water Flossing?

Water flossing is a method of cleaning your teeth that involves a special machine that directs a stream of water through the crevices between teeth and under the gum line to remove plaque, bacteria, and debris that may collect there. The water pressure both massages the gums and pushes food particles out from between teeth. The water flosser reaches the same areas that traditional floss does, without the hassle and challenge of string floss.

If you have challenges or difficulty with traditional flossing (or simply dislike the process of traditional flossing), water flossing may be a great option for you. It is easy to use and can eliminate the challenges that flossing presents for patients with braces or other types of dental work such as bridges.

Are Water Flossers as Effective as Traditional String Floss?

The simple answer is yes, water flossers can work just as effectively, if not more effectively, than traditional floss! The Journal of Clinical Dentistry recently published a study that compared the effectiveness of water flossers vs. stringed floss, both used in combination with a twice daily tooth brushing regimen. The researchers learned that those who used a water flosser experienced a reduction of 74+% reduction in plaque as compared to the traditional flossers who experienced only a 57+% reduction in plaque. This certainly is encouraging if traditional flossing is a challenge for you!

As well, similar studies also revealed that those using water flossers rather than traditional floss experienced a greater reduction in gingivitis and gum bleeding due in part to the massaging action that occurs through the water flossing process.

While some dentists maintain that traditional flossing should not be completely eliminated from your oral hygiene routine, certainly the water flosser could have a place in your flossing routine!

How to Effectively Use a Water Flosser

If you choose to invest in a water flosser for your dental hygiene routine, it is important that you learn how to properly use it for maximum results. There are several different types of water flossers on the market, but all typically work in the same manner. Here are basic tips for proper operation to ramp up your hygiene routine:

-Fill the reservoir with water in preparation for use. Use clean, filtered water when possible.

-Plug in your water flosser or charge the battery according to directions so that it is ready for use.

-When choosing a pressure level, start with a low setting and once you are comfortable with the setting you can increase the pressure for deeper cleaning.

-Use your flosser while leaning your mouth over the sink or in the shower. When using, place the flosser tip into your mouth and press your lips closed around it to prevent mess.

-With the unit on, aim the tip at or just above the gum line in between each tooth. Administer water pressure, starting with the back of the mouth and working forward.

-Pause briefly intermittently to spit out excess water that accumulates during the flossing process.

-Once completed with the flossing process, rinse with mouthwash or water to rid your mouth of excess food particles that are released.

When used properly, a water flosser can be well worth the initial financial investment it takes to get started. Not only can you experience results that are as good, if not greater from water flossing, it can save you time in your daily oral hygiene regimen. If flossing is a challenge or particular hassle for you, consider investing in a water flosser to ensure you are taking the best care of your teeth as possible.

At the end of the day, it is not necessarily HOW you floss, but that you DO floss that makes the greatest difference.  River Valley Smile Center is your partner in long term oral health.

Bleeding Gums? How to Treat

Posted by on Oct 4, 2018 in Dental Hygiene | Comments Off on Bleeding Gums? How to Treat

Bleeding gums is most often a warning sign, an indicator of a deeper dental issue within your mouth that should not be ignored. Most often, bleeding gums are a sign of gum disease which, when left untreated, can lead to serious long term damage to your teeth and gums, not to mention your overall health.

Here we will discuss what causes bleeding gums and what you should do to help stop this symptom from progressing into more significant problems down the road.

What Causes Bleeding Gums?

Bleeding gums typically present when you brush or floss your teeth. As previously mentioned, one of the most common reasons for bleeding gums is gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease. In this stage, excess bacteria and plaque on the teeth and in the mouth cause inflammation at the gum line. In progressively more severe stages of gum disease, gums will continue to bleed as a symptom of infection.

There are, however, other causes for bleeding gums, which can include the following:

-Brushing too rigorously: If you brush your teeth too harshly, this overstimulation of the gum tissue can cause them to bleed even if the gums are in relatively healthy condition. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and use gentle, circular brushing motions when cleaning to prevent tissue disruption.

-Hormonal changes: A shift in hormone levels within the body can cause gums to bleed.

-Infections and Disease: If your body is fighting infection or disease at any level, gums may bleed as a symptom.

-Vitamin Deficiencies: A vitamin deficiency, particularly that of Vitamins C or K, can cause gums to bleed.

More about Gum Disease

Even with these additional causes, there is a high likelihood that if your gums are bleeding, you are experiencing some level of gum disease. It is important that you address any gum bleeding as such until your dental professional rules this out as a possibility so that you are sure to stop the progression of more severe symptoms.

How to Treat Bleeding Gums

Brush and Floss

Although it may seem simple, the first form of defense against bleeding gums and gum disease is brushing and flossing. You should brush your teeth for two minutes a minimum of two times per day and floss your teeth a minimum of once per day. If your gums are already bleeding, using a soft bristled toothbrush and ensuring you are brushing gently along the gum line is important to allow this already compromised gum tissue to heal. If you are just beginning to floss, you may find that simply by initiating a consistent brushing and flossing routine you can see the symptom of bleeding gums subside within a few days to a week after beginning to floss.

Regular Hygiene Visits

See your dental hygienist and receive a dental examination a minimum of twice per year, and potentially more often if you have gum disease. The thorough professional cleaning, combined with at home care, can help you to keep gum disease from progressing further.

Eat a Variety of Whole Foods

Eating a variety of whole foods will ensure you are not lacking in any necessary nutrients required for overall health. When you focus on whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and quality proteins, you give your body the vitamins and nutrients it needs to heal itself and fight illness from a systemic level.

Manage Stress Levels

Stress can be a factor in bleeding gums and in overall poor health, as it increases inflammation within your body. Stress also lowers your immune system function. Handling stress and maintaining healthy self-care routines can increase overall system health.

Stop Smoking

Smoking is not only bad for your overall health, but it is a significant factor in poor oral health. Smoking increases your likelihood of gum disease and prevents your system from absorbing the proper nutrients for fighting illness and infection.

Rinse with Salt Water

A simple salt water rinse can be soothing to your gums and can help relieve inflammation and fight infection. After you brush and floss your teeth, swish and gargle with lukewarm salt water to increase the fight against bleeding gums.

Although bleeding gums are most often a symptom of an underlying oral or systemic health issue, simply by making some adjustments to your routine you can make progress in fighting both the symptom and the cause. If you are concerned about bleeding gums, we at River Valley Smiles are here to help you address this issue and get you back on track to optimal oral health.

Oral Health in the Golden Years

Posted by on Sep 26, 2018 in Dental Hygiene | Comments Off on Oral Health in the Golden Years

Although oral health concerns such as tooth decay may be prevalent at any age, the older you get the greater the likelihood for complications with one’s oral health. Due to many factors such as other health issues that may arise, it is more important than ever to maintain a solid brushing and flossing regimen to maintain proper oral health.

However, for many reasons, seniors and those with disabilities may find that maintaining a traditional brushing and flossing routine can be difficult and problematic. Whether you are in this situation yourself or are caring for an aging adult, here we will discuss strategies for continuing to care for your teeth well into the later years for the best oral health possible.

Brushing Solutions

As is the case at any age, the buildup of plaque that develops from food and bacteria on one’s teeth can lead to tooth decay and gum disease if teeth and gums are not cared for properly. And as is true at any age, the primary frontal attack on this plaque and bacteria buildup is daily brushing. If brushing has become problematic due to issues related to aging, here are a few tips to help you maintain healthy habits for the long term:

-Consider Using an Electric Toothbrush: Electric toothbrushes do much of the work for you. If you have limited hand strength and grip, an electric toothbrush can help you maintain proper brushing without the amount of strength required for traditional toothbrushes. Also, be sure the toothbrush you choose has soft bristles and is easy to hold.

-Toothpaste is Optional: If the taste of toothpaste is challenging, or if you simply struggle with spitting and swallowing, consider simply brushing teeth with minimal paste or not at all. Don’t let toothpaste be the reason why a brushing routine is limited. At most, use a pea-sized amount, but the most important part is simply brushing away plaque and food from the surface of the teeth.

-Consider an Alternate Location: You do not have to necessarily stand in front of the bathroom sink to brush your teeth. If a more comfortable position is necessary, consider sitting at the kitchen table with a bowl and cup of water to conduct your brushing regimen.

Flossing Solutions

As people age, one particular concern in regard to oral health may be the challenges related to flossing. This often occurs due to the limited amount of dexterity one has in their hands. Another reason might be the presence of bridges for tooth replacement. If one of these is of particular concern, there are actually a number of flossing solutions to consider, such as:

-Interdental Brushes- Interdental brushes are small, pointed disposable brushes that can fit between teeth and can be used in lieu of traditional dental floss to access areas between your teeth and under your gum line. They can be much easier to hold and navigate within your mouth than traditional floss, making it a great solution for those with dexterity concerns.

-Flossing Threaders: Floss threaders helps to direct floss through bridges on one’s teeth when traditional floss does not have a clear pathway. These floss threaders help individuals continue to use traditional floss even when bridges are present, and without a great deal of dexterity to navigate.

-Water Flossers: As an alternative to any actual flossing products, water flossers shoot a stream of water in between teeth and under the gum line to clean these areas properly. Water flossers are simple and easy to use, making them a great solution for any dental patient with limited strength or dexterity.-

Floss Picks: Similar to interdental brushes, floss picks are disposable flossers that are easier to use than traditional floss and can be used with one hand.

In addition to these tips, consider asking our dental office about fluoride treatments that may help protect you against tooth decay, which can serve as an extra layer of protection for your teeth.

We at River Valley Smiles are here as your partner in oral health from early age through the golden years. If you have any concerns about your oral health, please call our office so we can help you.

Fighting Plaque

Posted by on Sep 19, 2018 in Dental Hygiene | Comments Off on Fighting Plaque

The Battle for Oral Health

When it comes to dental health, we hear a lot about plaque. What you may be asking is, “what is it, exactly, and what do I do to prevent it?” Here we will discuss what plaque really is, what happens when plaque is not addressed properly, and give you some tips on how to keep plaque from causing issues for your dental health.

What is Plaque?

Plaque is a soft, sticky film that has the potential to build up on the surface of your teeth when they are not properly brushed and flossed. This plaque contains millions of bacteria that can cause tooth decay and gingivitis if not regularly cleaned off of the surface of your teeth through proper cleaning and oral hygiene.

From Plaque to Periodontitis: A Progression of Symptoms

Cavities: When we eat, the sugars in our food are consumed by the bacteria in the plaque on our teeth to produce acids that eat away at the enamel on our teeth. If this cycle continues, the repeated attacks cause the enamel to lose strength and break down. This eventually results in cavities.

Tartar and Gingivitis: Not only that, but if plaque is allowed to remain on your teeth for long periods of time, it can harden into a substance called tartar. Tartar collects and hardens on the surface of your teeth and creates difficulty for brushing and flossing. As it collects at the gum line, gum tissue can become inflamed and eventually bleed when teeth are brushed. We know this as a symptom of gum disease, or gingivitis.

Periodontitis: From there, gingivitis, when left untreated, can advance into periodontitis. Periodontitis is a more severe form of gum disease that breaks down the gums and bone supporting your teeth. This leads to gum recession and bone/tooth loss.

At every stage of this progression, reversal is possible simply by addressing the buildup through good oral hygiene and professional dental treatment where necessary. Avoidance will only cause the symptoms to increase in severity, while addressing them can eliminate them altogether. In the next section, we will discuss how to address them more specifically for the best possible outcomes.

How to Identify Plaque on Your Teeth

Because plaque is hard to see on the surface of the teeth (it is colorless), it can be hard to detect in early stages of accumulation. As plaque strengthens into heavier deposits, however, you may notice them more easily. Watch for what looks like white deposits on the surface of your teeth, similar to what it may look like when food is stuck on your teeth.

If you are uncertain about the amount of plaque found on your teeth there is a simple identification test you can perform at home. This identification test can be performed in a number of ways, but here are two of the simplest ways:

1 – Purchase Plaque Disclosing Tablets: These chewable tablets can be purchased online or at your local pharmacy and are harmless. To use, after brushing and flossing simply chew one in your mouth, swish around, and then spit out the excess fluid and saliva. Examine your teeth for red stains. Any red stains indicate a buildup of plaque that needs to be addressed.

2 – Red Dye: Mix a few drops of food coloring in two ounces of water, then swish around in your mouth after brushing and flossing. The solution will temporarily stain any plaque found on your teeth so you can see it more easily.

For either of these methods, the use of a dental mirror may help to identify areas of staining. Once you have identified the areas of plaque, further brushing and flossing will help remove these temporary stains as well as clean the plaque off your teeth.

Fighting Plaque

Fighting plaque isn’t complicated, but it does require diligence. Due to the fact that plaque is constantly growing in your mouth, you must remain vigilant with proper brushing and flossing daily. Staying vigilant in the fight against plaque will prevent the progression to more severe issues and keep your teeth and gums healthy.

We at River Valley Smiles care about your overall oral health and are here to help you succeed in the fight against plaque. If you have any concerns about plaque buildup in your mouth or any other dental question, please call our office so we can help you get on the right track towards the healthiest mouth possible.  To schedule an appointment, call our friendly office staff at 479.646.0706.

Dry Mouth & Your Oral Health

Posted by on Sep 12, 2018 in Cosmetic Dentistry, Dental Hygiene | Comments Off on Dry Mouth & Your Oral Health

If you suffer from dry mouth, you are not unaware of the challenges it can cause in your daily life. Did you know that dry mouth also has ramifications for the health of your teeth as well? Although some symptoms can’t be avoided altogether, here you will learn what causes dry mouth, how it can affect the health of your teeth and mouth, and also how to combat against the effects of dry mouth for the best oral health possible.

Causes of Dry Mouth

Dry mouth can be caused by a number of health issues, including the following:-

-As a side effect of a medication: Some medications cause dry mouth as a side effect of their use. Sometimes an alternate medication can be prescribed if the issue is severe enough.

-Dehydration: If you are not drinking enough water daily, you can experience dry mouth as a result, as the body does not have enough fluids to create the optimal amount of saliva.

-Tobacco use: Tobacco use slows down the rate at which your mouth produces saliva, leading to dry mouth symptoms.

-Nerve damage: Nerve damage as a result of a surgery or an injury can lead to dry mouth.

-Mouth breathing: Breathing primarily through one’s mouth can cause the saliva in the mouth to evaporate, leading to dry mouth symptoms.

-Infection/Disease: Some particular diseases or infections cause dry mouth, such as Parkinson’s, Diabetes, Strokes, Anemia, and Cystic Fibrosis.

-Stress or Anxiety: Significant amounts of stress and anxiety can lead to dysfunction of bodily symptoms, including saliva production in the mouth.

How can Dry Mouth Affect your Teeth?

The saliva in our mouths serves an important purpose, as it helps to wash away food debris and reduce the amount of plaque on our teeth. A chronic depletion of saliva, or dry mouth, can lead to gum disease as well as severe tooth decay. One study reveals that 30% of all tooth decay (particularly in older adults) is due to dry mouth.

In addition to tooth decay and gum disease, dry mouth can also cause the following health issues when left untreated:


-Problems with chewing and swallowing food

-Difficulty wearing dentures

-Dry nasal/sinus passages

-Sore or scratchy throat

-Oral fungal infections

These symptoms are unpleasant and yet can often be avoided simply by employing strategies to fight against dry mouth and give your saliva glands a helpful boost.

How to Fight Against Dry Mouth

There are many ways to fight against the symptoms of dry mouth and to help your saliva glands in their effort to produce enough saliva to improve your oral health.

To start, we as your dental team can prescribe medications that can help with dry mouth and increase saliva production. If your symptoms are severe and are causing significant issues within your mouth, this may be a great place to start to address your concerns related to dry mouth.

As well, there are other at-home strategies you can try that may help improve your saliva production:

-Consume plenty of water: As a general rule for water consumption, you should drink half your body weight in ounces every day. If you are not drinking enough water, this is a great place to start.

-Use Gum or Mints: The use of gum or mints can help stimulate the salivary glands in your mouth and, as a result, fight dry mouth. Be sure to stick with sugar free options, however, so as to protect your teeth from the effects of increased sugar on your teeth.

-Minimize Sticky Foods: Consuming foods that stick to your teeth, such as processed crackers, candy, and dried fruits can exacerbate the effects of dry mouth.

-Eat Smaller Bites and Chew Your Food Well: This will give your mouth time to produce enough saliva for the digestion process.

-Brush and Floss Regularly: Keep up a solid regimen of brushing and flossing to keep your mouth clean.

There are also some great dry mouth oral products available over the counter that you may want to consider integrating into your daily oral health routine, such as toothpastes and mouth rinses. Such products may offer a higher level of protection against tooth decay for those suffering from dry mouth. Taking care to prevent dry mouth can help you maintain the health of your teeth for the long run, even amidst more challenging conditions.

We at River Valley Smiles care about your overall oral health and are here to help you succeed in the fight against dry mouth. If you have any concerns about dry mouth and its effect on your overall health, or any other dental question, please call our office so we can help you.