Oh no, not the dentist!

November 30th, 2022

If you or your children suffer from dental anxiety, you aren’t alone. According to the Cleveland Clinic, between nine and 15 percent of Americans admit to feeling sufficiently afraid of going to the dentist to avoid making an appointment. The potential consequences of dental anxiety extend beyond poor oral health. Lack of dental care can cause serious but easily preventable medical conditions.

Dental Anxiety versus Dental Phobia

Dental anxiety provokes a sense of fear in people, typically before they arrive at Meridian Dental Care. Those fears or worries are often exaggerated. Dental phobia shares many of the symptoms that characterize dental anxiety. It is a much more serious manifestation of that anxiety, and may provoke a sense of panic or terror in people. While people who suffer from dental phobias know that their feelings are irrational, they are unable to control, stop, or change those thoughts.

People who have dental phobias often avoid going to the dentist, and they come up with every possible excuse to justify not going. The only time a person who suffers from a dental phobia will go to the dentist is when he or she is forced to do so, or because of intense tooth pain. People who have dental anxiety don’t go to such extremes to avoid going to the dentist; anxiety usually begins in anticipation of the appointment.

What We Do to Ease Patient Anxiety

Drs. Jeffrey Brus, Jeff Hobson, Aeni Lim, Kwang Hyo Kim, and Jay Park and our staff have many techniques we can use to help patients feel more comfortable at their appointments. Dental Fear Central gives some simple suggestions to help children and adults who are apprehensive about going to the dentist, even if they suffer from the more severe form of anxiety: full-blown dental phobia.

  • The Tell-Show-Do Approach: We help our patients relax by making sure they understand what is involved in the exam and any procedure they may undergo. We tell patients about the procedure, show them the tools and equipment we intend to use, and answer questions before actually performing the procedure. This is helpful for patients who don’t know what to expect.
  • Distraction: We offer personal music players and a collection of CDs that patients can listen to. The relaxing qualities of music may help distract a patient enough to make the process less stressful. In-office televisions allow you to watch TV while waiting for your appointment.

Drs. Jeffrey Brus, Jeff Hobson, Aeni Lim, Kwang Hyo Kim, and Jay Park and our staff know that some patients are anxious about dental treatment, and we go to great lengths to make you feel more comfortable. Good oral health is very important, and when your mouth isn’t healthy, you can suffer from many other easily preventable medical problems.

Thanksgiving Trivia

November 23rd, 2022

At Meridian Dental Care we love learning trivia and interesting facts about Thanksgiving! This year, Drs. Jeffrey Brus, Jeff Hobson, Aeni Lim, Kwang Hyo Kim, and Jay Park wanted to share some trivia that might help you feel a bit smarter at the holiday dinner table and help create some great conversation with friends and family.

The Turkey

There is no historical evidence that turkey was eaten at the first Thanksgiving dinner. It was a three-day party shared by the Wamponoag Indians and the pilgrims in 1621. Historians say they likely ate venison and seafood.

According to National Geographic, the dinner at the Plymouth colony was in October and included about 50 English colonists and 90 American Indian men. The first Thanksgiving dinner could have included corn, geese, and pumpkin.

Today, turkey is the meat of choice. According to the National Turkey Association, about 690 million pounds of turkey are consumed during Thanksgiving, or about 46 million turkeys.

The Side Dishes

The green bean casserole became popular about 50 years ago. Created by the Campbell Soup Company, it remains a popular side dish. According to Campbell’s, it was developed when the company was creating an annual holiday cookbook. The company now sells about $20 million worth of cream of mushroom soup each year, which is a major part of the recipe.

While there were likely plenty of cranberries for the pilgrims and Indians to enjoy, sugar was a luxury. What we know today as cranberry sauce was not around in those early Thanksgiving days. About 750 million pounds of cranberries are produced each year in the US, with about 30 percent consumed on Thanksgiving.

The Parade

Since Thanksgiving did not become a national holiday until Lincoln declared it in 1863, the annual parades were not yearly events until much later. The biggest parade that continues to draw crowds is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Beginning in 1924 with about 400 employees, they marched from Convent Avenue to 145th Street in New York City. Famous for the huge hot-air balloons today, it was actually live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo that were the stars of the show then.

However you choose to spend your Thanksgiving holiday, we wish you a safe, happy and healthy holiday with those you love.

Why Do Molars Seem to Get More Cavities?

November 16th, 2022

Probably because, for many kids, molars do get more cavities. So let’s answer two better questions: Why do molars get more cavities? And, how can we help prevent them?

It’s the Pits. (And Fissures.)

The reason molars are so useful—and more likely to develop cavities—is because of their shape. Unlike our front teeth, which are used to bite through foods, molars are used to grind and chew. That’s why they are so much larger, with a flat surface on top. Well, not exactly flat.

When you look at a molar, you’ll notice that the top isn’t really smooth at all. It’s covered with little indentations known as pits and longer grooves called fissures. These irregular features both trap food particles and make it more difficult for bristles to clean them away. Cavities in molar surfaces are so common that they even have a specific name: “pit and fissure cavities.”

But molar biology does not mean tooth decay is inevitable! There are steps you can take to protect your children’s molars as they grow, while you’re providing them with dental strategies that will keep their adult molars healthy and cavity-free.

Preventing Pit and Fissure Cavities

  • Don’t Just Brush—Brush Effectively

The first step in preventing any kind of cavity is brushing properly. Your child should be brushing at least two minutes, at least twice each day. And while the time we spend brushing is important, technique is also key.

When you’re showing your child how to brush, be sure that the tops of molars, upper and lower, get brushed thoroughly, with special emphasis on cleaning pits and fissures. Make sure the toothbrush is small enough to fit your child’s mouth comfortably and reach all the tooth surfaces. Replace worn-down brushes or electric toothbrush heads after three to four months when they no longer clean as effectively.

Your child will probably need adult supervision from toddler years through the early years of grade school to learn how to brush properly. This is time well spent, as your child learns cavity-preventing brushing techniques which will last a lifetime.

  • Eat a Tooth-Healthy Diet

Plaque bacteria use the sugars in our food to make acids. These acids break down the mineral strength of tooth enamel and eventually lead to cavities. And because pits and fissures are great hiding places for bacteria and food particles (especially sticky ones), molars are even more at risk for cavities. Limiting sugary, sticky foods like sweet treats and simple carbs helps reduce that risk.

Acidic foods like flavored juices, sour candies, sodas, and power drinks also weaken enamel and can leave teeth more vulnerable to decay. Help your child avoid cavities by limiting acidic foods and drinks, making them part of a balanced meal, and/or rinsing with water after eating.

  • Use Fluoride Toothpaste

Fluoride toothpaste not only reduces the risk of cavities, it also helps strengthen enamel that has been weakened by bacterial and dietary acids. Win-win!

  • Ask About Sealants

Sealants are invisible, safe coatings which protect molars by preventing food and bacteria from getting trapped in their uneven surfaces. The top of the molar is first treated with an etching solution to allow the sealant to bond tightly to the tooth, a thin coat of sealant is painted on, and then it’s hardened under a curing light. That’s all there is to it.

Sealants are often recommended when children’s permanent molars first erupt, when they are especially at risk for cavities. Sealants can last from three to five years (or even longer), and studies have shown a dramatic reduction in cavities for patients who use sealants compared to patients with untreated teeth. Depending on your child’s individual needs, Drs. Jeffrey Brus, Jeff Hobson, Aeni Lim, Kwang Hyo Kim, and Jay Park might recommend a sealant for baby molars as well.

  • Regular Exams and Cleanings

It might be hard for you to tell if your child’s molars have been affected by sticky plaque, or sugary foods, or acidic drinks, or inadequate brushing, or any other potential cavity-causers. It’s not a difficult job for Drs. Jeffrey Brus, Jeff Hobson, Aeni Lim, Kwang Hyo Kim, and Jay Park, though! Through regular checkups and cleanings at our Puyallup office, we will discover any conditions that might lead to cavities, and, if necessary, treat small cavities before they lead to more serious decay.

Statistically, childhood molars have a greater chance of developing cavities than incisors and canines. Help your child beat the odds by understanding why these teeth are at risk and by working with your dental team to give your child years of healthy teeth now and a future filled with beautiful smiles!

Healthy Gum, Healthy Mouth

November 9th, 2022

“Shouldn’t that be healthy gums,” you’re thinking? And, of course, you’re correct. Healthy gums are extremely important not only for our dental well-being, but for our overall physical health.

But that’s a subject for another blog! Today, we’re talking about healthy gum—chewing gum, that is. Because choosing the right chewing gum can actually improve your dental health.

Oral bacteria use the foods we eat, especially sugars and simple carbs, as fuel to produce acid. These acids attack our tooth enamel, gradually weakening the minerals in the tooth surface and allowing cavities to develop. Clearly, we want to reduce these acids to help prevent decay. Luckily, our bodies have a natural defense against acid attacks—saliva.

Saliva works to protect our enamel in three ways:

  • It helps neutralize and wash away acids in the mouth.
  • It rinses away the food particles which bacteria feed on.
  • It strengthens teeth by providing the necessary minerals our enamel needs to “remineralize” after acids have weakened the tooth surface.

Studies have concluded that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minute after a meal can help prevent cavities. Why? Because chewing gum increases saliva production. You are actually reducing the effects of harmful acids, washing food particles away from your teeth, and strengthening weakened enamel with every stick! Some artificial sweeteners are even thought to inhibit the growth of the bacteria that lead to decay.

With all that in mind, it’s also healthy to know when you shouldn’t chew gum:

  • When the gum contains sugar. Even with an increase in saliva production, bathing your teeth in sugar as you chew does your enamel no favors!
  • When you wear braces. Gum can stick to your brackets and between your brackets and your wires. And while trying to clean gum from your appliance is no one’s idea of fun, an even more unpleasant possibility is the chance that gum might bend your wires out of shape. Sugarless gum is not quite as sticky as regular gum, but before you open that first pack, check with your orthodontist to see if you might be putting your orthodontic work at risk.
  • When you have jaw problems such as TMD, TMJ or other temporomandibular concerns, or if you develop jaw pain while chewing gum.
  • You should never give gum to a child too young to understand that it should not be swallowed. Beyond acting as a choking hazard, continual gum swallowing can lead to diarrhea, blockages, abdominal pain and other serious problems. Talk to your Drs. Jeffrey Brus, Jeff Hobson, Aeni Lim, Kwang Hyo Kim, and Jay Park about the right age for chewing gum.

While chewing sugarless gum has the potential to improve dental health, remember it should never take the place of regular brushing and flossing—still the best way to prevent cavities at home. Talk to Drs. Jeffrey Brus, Jeff Hobson, Aeni Lim, Kwang Hyo Kim, and Jay Park about the possible benefits of sugarless gum at your next visit to our Puyallup office, and we can make recommendations based on your individual dental history. Because whether it’s healthy gums or healthy gum, we’re here to help.