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‘Tis the Season—for Healthy Dental Choices!

December 1st, 2021

It might be the most wonderful time of the year, but if you’re dashing through the snow to an emergency dental appointment, you’re not feeling very jolly. And post-holiday, no one wants to start off their New Year’s Resolutions with “Get Cavities Filled.” How to survive the sweetest of seasons with enamel and fillings intact?

Candies and sweets would normally be on the naughty list, but we’re not Scrooges! Indulging in a treat or two is part of the holiday fun, and we have some advice for how to enjoy them guilt-free. But first, some treats are definitely more naughty than nice. Which are the ones that are better as decorations than desserts?

  • Candy Canes

If you’ve ever suffered a chipped or cracked tooth after an innocently biting down on a much-harder-than-expected piece of candy, you know that caution is in order. That’s why we tend to take our time with candy canes, letting them dissolve slowly in the mouth. Of course, the drawback to this strategy is that now we’re slowly bathing our teeth in sugar, encouraging the growth of plaque and cavity-causing bacteria.

Candy canes, peppermints, and other hard candies are potentially bad for your teeth when you crunch away, and definitely bad for your teeth if you let them dissolve slowly.

  • Gumdrops

Glistening, colorful gumdrops. Roofing your gingerbread house, trimming a gumdrop tree, or simply sitting in a bowl, they are one of the sweetest ways to decorate for the holidays. And when we say “sweet,” we mean that literally. Most gumdrops are basically made of corn syrup and sugar—and then rolled in more sugar.

But their sugar content isn’t the only problem. This is sugar in an extra-gummy form that sticks between our teeth and around our gums.

  • Toffees, Caramels, Taffy

They might come in lovely ribboned boxes, but these extremely sticky foods are not a gift to your teeth.

Not only do chewy candies stick to enamel, they stick to fillings, crowns (especially temporary crowns), and orthodontic wires and brackets. No one wants an unexpected trip to the dentist or orthodontist because dental work has been damaged or dislodged!

  • Gingerbread Houses

Nothing says the holidays like a gingerbread house—chewy, sticky gingerbread covered with hard sugar icing, gumdrops, and peppermints. Great for your décor; not so great for your dental health. Eat one gingerbread man if you’re in a spicy mood and leave your architectural masterpiece intact.

  • Fruitcake

If you need an excuse to turn down fruitcake, here’s a perfect one: most fruitcake is not great for your teeth. Candied fruit is, well, candied, and dried fruit is sugary, sticky, and chewy. There are delicious exceptions, of course, but even a delicious fruitcake is very high in sugar.

Well, this list wasn’t very jolly. So as a little holiday gift for you, here are some suggestions to help you enjoy your desserts in the healthiest way possible.

  • Be choosy.

Just like you search for the perfect presents for your family and friends, take the time to choose the perfect holiday treats for yourself. If you are worried about cavities, or have a temporary crown, or wear braces, or have cracked a tooth before, or are just generally concerned with your oral health, stay away from sticky, hard, and excessively sugary desserts.

What can you accept from your holiday hosts with a grateful (and relieved) smile? The occasional soft chocolate should be nothing to stress about—and if you make it dark chocolate, you’ll actually get nutritional bonuses like magnesium and antioxidants. Cakes, cupcakes, cookies, pies—yes, they are made with lots of sugar, but it is the holidays after all. Just be sure to follow our next suggestions to make that slice of cheesecake guilt-free.

  • Eat sweets with a meal.

Saliva does more than keep our mouths from getting dry. It also helps prevent cavities by washing away food particles and neutralizing the acids from food and bacteria, which damage enamel.

Eat dessert with a meal, and you benefit from increased mealtime saliva production. When you snack throughout the day, this acid-neutralizing ability is greatly reduced.

  • Rinse after eating.

Rinsing your mouth with water after a meal or a snack, especially a sugary one, also helps wash away the sticky sugars and carbs, which oral bacteria convert into acids.

  • Brush immediately. (Maybe.)

It’s always a good idea to brush right after eating—well, almost always. If you’ve been eating acidic foods like citrus or colas, the acids in the food can weaken your enamel just enough to cause some potential enamel damage if you scour your teeth immediately after eating. We often recommend waiting about 30 minutes to brush to give your enamel a chance to recover.

But every mouth is different. If you wear braces, or tend to get food stuck in your teeth or dental work, or have any other concerns, ask Dr. Matthew Scarpitti for the best times and methods for holiday brushing.

You don’t want to ho-ho-hope that we can fit you in at our Orlando office to treat a cavity or a cracked tooth. Make your holiday dessert list and check it twice, and make sure you’re brushing and flossing more often if you’re indulging in seasonal treats—give yourself these two gifts, and you’ll be ringing in the New Year with a beautiful, healthy smile. Sweet!

Thanksgiving in North America

November 24th, 2021

Thanksgiving marks the start to the holidays; a season filled with feasting, indulging, and spending time with family and friends are always special. Thanksgiving is a holiday meant for giving thanks, and while this may seem like such a natural celebration, the United States is only one of a handful of countries to officially celebrate with a holiday.

Unlike many holidays, Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, and it is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November in the United States. In Canada, it is celebrated on the second Monday of October, which is, oddly enough, much closer to a time when harvests were likely gathered. In addition to the different dates, the origins of the celebration also share different roots.

Thanksgiving in the United States

Giving thanks for a bountiful harvest are not new, but the modern day holiday in the US can be traced to a celebration at Plymouth in Massachusetts in 1621. This feast of thanksgiving was inspired by a good harvest, and the tradition was simply continued on. At first, the colony at Plymouth didn't have enough food to feed everyone present, but the Native Americans helped by providing seeds and teaching them how to fish, and they soon began to be able to hold a feast worthy of the name. The tradition spread, and by the 1660s, most of New England was hosting a Thanksgiving feast in honor of the harvest.

Canadian Thanksgiving

An explorer of early Canada named Martin Frobisher is accredited for the first Canadian Thanksgiving. He survived the arduous journey from England through harsh weather conditions and rough terrain, and after his last voyage from Europe to present-day Nunavut, he held a formal ceremony to give thanks for his survival and good fortune. As time passed and more settlers arrived, a feast was added to what quickly became a yearly tradition. Another explorer, Samuel de Champlain, is linked to the first actual Thanksgiving celebration in honor of a successful harvest; settlers who arrived with him in New France celebrated the harvest with a bountiful feast.

A Modern Thanksgiving

Today, Thanksgiving is traditionally celebrated with the best of Americana. From feasts and football games to getting ready for the start of the Christmas shopping season, Thanksgiving means roasted turkey, pumpkin pie, and green bean casserole. No matter how you celebrate this momentous day, pause for a moment to give thanks for your friends, family, and all the bounties you’ve received. Happy Thanksgiving from Matthew E. Scarpitti, DDS!

You broke your tooth; now what?

November 17th, 2021

You may have bitten down on a hard food or object, or perhaps you had a cavity that weakened your tooth. Either way, your tooth is now broken, and the steps you take to care for it will determine whether you get to keep your natural tooth or not. Millions of people suffer from broken teeth every year, so you are not alone. However, that does not mean your newly cracked tooth does not need immediate attention.

What is a broken tooth?

A broken tooth is one that has been fractured, chipped, cracked, broken apart, or completely knocked out of the mouth. You may or may not feel your tooth break, depending on the extent of the break and whether your tooth was decaying prior to the break. It is usually very easy to diagnose a broken tooth, because the evidence will be visible. In the case of hairline cracks in the teeth, you may start to note a sensitivity to hot or cold in the neighborhood of the fracture.

The Right Way to Handle a Broken Tooth

As soon as you know your tooth is broken, chipped, or fractured, make an appointment to visit our emergency dental office. Even the tiniest fractures require attention: bacteria can infect the fractured area, which could cause you to lose the tooth altogether.

Until you are in our office, you can manage your pain using over-the-counter pain medication, such as Tylenol, or you can apply a cold compress to prevent swelling and inflammation. Be sure to rinse your mouth with warm salt water after every meal until you are able to visit us.

Keep in mind that while pain medication is an effective way to manage a broken tooth at home, it is only a temporary fix. Broken teeth should not be treated solely at home, and over-the-counter solutions are not substitutions for professional dental care. Failing to make an appointment with Dr. Matthew Scarpitti after breaking or chipping a tooth can place your health at risk.

Treatment

Treating your broken tooth will depend on the type of break you have and how much of the tooth is affected. A minor chip or tiny fracture line may easily be repaired with bonding. On the other hand, a more serious break that exposes the tooth's pulp may require a root canal or extraction to prevent infection. Ultimately, our team here at Matthew E. Scarpitti, DDS will explain to you the best treatment plan based upon our evaluation of the condition and extent of your break.

If you have broken, cracked, chipped, or fractured one or more of your teeth, don’t hesitate to contact our office immediately. We specialize in emergency dental care and are available to serve you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

How does a tooth decay?

November 10th, 2021

When acids are allowed to erode tooth enamel long enough to leach calcium and other minerals from your enamel and dentin, a process called demineralization occurs. This rapidly leads to tooth decay unless reversed by good oral hygiene and professional dental cleanings at our Orlando office. Acids responsible for tooth decay come from the wastes of mutans streptococci and lactobacilli bacteria that thrive in dental plaque, a substance that is the leading cause of periodontitis.

Where do demineralizing acids come from?

Dietary sugars comprise the bulk of tooth-decaying acids, including table sugar, cooked starches, fructose, glucose, and lactose. In fact, as soon as you bite down on a sugary cookie or into a French fry, bacteria start digesting sugars, breaking them down and eventually excreting them as demineralizing acids. As this bacteria colony grows and becomes organized, plaque develops and forms that tough, yellowish coating you often see on the tops of teeth at the gumline.

Plaque is the Problem

Dental plaque is a filmy type of nesting place for bacteria that also keeps acids pressed against tooth enamel. Since plaque cannot be removed by brushing, it is important that a person who suffers tooth decay visit Matthew E. Scarpitti, DDS immediately so we can use special tools to scrape and thoroughly clean teeth.

Signs of Tooth Decay

Early tooth decay and cavities remain asymptomatic until demineralization creates a hole deep enough to reach the tooth’s inner tissues and nerve endings. Eventually, tooth decay will cause tooth sensitivity, toothache, vague pain when biting down on the affected tooth, and possibly pus seeping around a tooth’s gum line if the decay creates an infection. If treatment is delayed long enough, a decaying tooth may loosen, crumble, and ultimately fall out, which leaves an empty or partially empty socket.

Preventing Tooth Decay

Getting regular checkups with Dr. Matthew Scarpitti, brushing and flossing twice a day, and eating fruits or crunchy vegetables at snack time instead of a candy bar or doughnut are the three best ways to keep your teeth healthy, white, and where they should be: in your mouth.

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