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Five Things You Didn't Know About Cavities

May 5th, 2021

Most people know when they have a cavity—they can either see it on their tooth or... ouch! They can feel it! But there are certain things that many of our patients don't know about cavities that could save them a trip to our Bradenton or Sun City Center, FL office!

1. Not all sugars are created equal

It's quite well known that eating dietary sugars in excess along with poor oral hygiene leads to dental decay such as cavities. This is due to the fact that the bacteria in your mouth feed on these sugars and excrete acids as a byproduct of that process, thus causing decay. But xylitol, a sugar alcohol derived from birch or corn, actually prevents the bacteria from converting sugars into acids.

Xylitol is available in the form of gum, mints, toothpaste, and even in a granulated form much like regular cane sugar. You might consider trying some xylitol products between meals to keep your mouth clean and fresh.

2. It's not always what you eat but HOW you eat

Are you a grazer, always snacking between meals and never satisfied? We now know that this kind of eating can contribute to cavities and other oral health problems.

Every time you eat anything with carbohydrates in it, you're feeding the bacteria in your mouth, which in turn produce acids. If you're constantly eating, it doesn't allow your saliva time to bring the pH of your mouth back into a more alkaline, neutral state. It takes your saliva about 20 minutes to neutralize the acids in your mouth after eating.

It's especially easy to harm your teeth in this way with soft drinks, sipping all day long. So, it's best to avoid sugary drinks and junk food, and if you need a snack opt for healthy vegetables or what are known as "detergent foods." If you do decide to drink a soft drink or eat something sugary, have it all at once and not over the course of the day.

3. Flossing is one of the most important oral hygiene techniques

Although most of our patients are aware that they need to brush, sometimes they can get lackadaisical when it comes to flossing. And that's a big mistake. Flossing is one of the most important (and we daresay, easiest) things someone can do to help prevent cavities and tooth decay.

You see, as we've already mentioned, the bacteria in your mouth that cause cavities feed on the food you eat. So if you've got pieces of that food stuck between your teeth all day and night, every day, that's asking for a problem.

Flossing clears that bacteria-feeding food out from between your teeth. Floss daily and whenever you decide to do it, morning or night, just do it!

4. A dry mouth can lead to cavities and tooth decay

Your teeth's best defense against cavities and tooth decay is actually your saliva! We've already talked about the pH neutralizing effect saliva has. So if you find you have a dry mouth often, make sure to have some water to sip on. Or why not try some xylitol mints or gum to get your saliva production kicked into action?

5. Over-brushing can damage your enamel

If you brush like a construction worker with a jackhammer, you should ease up! Brushing too hard can scrape away at your teeth's enamel, which leaves them more susceptible to cavities and decay. Brush lightly, with your brush angled at the gum line for two minutes, twice a day. That's all that is required!

Mall Whitening: Why You Shouldn’t

April 28th, 2021

A shopping mall is a great place to get lots of errands done in one trip. Department stores, clothing boutiques, specialty shops? So many tempting options all in one place. But teeth whitening? Maybe not.

Dental office whitening provides you with the whitest possible teeth in the safest possible manner. Your teeth will be checked first for any conditions that might make whitening a bad idea, such as tooth decay, weakened enamel, or gum disease. Dr. Zamikoff, Dr. Klement, Dr. Jungman, Dr. Varga and Dr. Halcomb will make sure your gums and mouth are protected. A gel with a higher concentration of bleaching agents than those available over-the-counter will be applied, and your whitening progress will be monitored. You can also ask about having a custom-fitted tray made for at use at home with professional whitening gel.

What is different about mall bleaching?

  • No dental exam will be provided beforehand. If you have dental issues, the whitening process might cause further problems such as tooth sensitivity or gum inflammation.
  • The amount of peroxide in the bleaching agents can vary from place to place. You might end up with something equivalent to home whitening strips, or you might be exposed to solutions that should only be available in a dentist’s office.
  • Finally, in many areas, mall whitening is actually illegal because it is considered the practice of dentistry without a license. Mall kiosks skirt this problem by having customers insert the trays full of gel themselves—a practice that does not take the place of professional training, licensing, and regulation.

A mall kiosk is a convenient place to select a new phone. Or try an unusual hair care product. Or purchase the latest in fad toys. But when it comes to your dental health, it’s worth a special trip to our Bradenton or Sun City Center, FL office if you want the safest, most effective whitening.

When Is a “Cavity” Not a Cavity?

April 21st, 2021

Is this a trick question? After all, you probably already know quite a lot about cavities:

  • It all begins when bacteria-filled plaque sticks to teeth and starts to attack enamel. How?
  • Because the bacteria in plaque use the sugars and other foods we eat to produce acids.
  • These acids gradually weaken teeth by dissolving minerals which help make up our enamel (a process called demineralization).
  • Over time, a hole, or cavity, develops in the tooth surface.
  • Left untreated, bacterial decay can spread to the inside of the tooth, creating a more serious cavity.

Some cavities aren’t discovered until you visit our Bradenton or Sun City Center, FL office, but sometimes there are clear signs that there’s a problem.

  • You have tooth pain or sensitivity.
  • Your tooth changes color in spots where the enamel has decayed.
  • You might even notice enamel loss when a cavity is large enough.

So, if you have any of these symptoms, it’s a cavity, right? It might be—but it might not. Sometimes, because the symptoms are similar, what we suspect is a cavity is really enamel erosion.

The bacteria-created acids weaken enamel. But it’s not just bacteria that subject our teeth to acids—we do it ourselves with our choice of food and drink. Acidic foods are one of the leading causes of tooth erosion.

Our normal saliva pH level is around a 7, which is neutral. Any number lower is acidic; any number higher is alkaline. Acidic foods have a low pH (the pH of lemon juice, for example, measures between 2 and 3), and can reduce our normal, neutral pH level. When saliva pH levels drop to 5.5 or lower, tooth enamel starts to demineralize, just as it does when exposed to the acids from oral bacteria.

Regularly snacking on citrus and other acidic fruits, wine, fruit juices, flavored teas, sour candies, and other acidic foods can cause enamel erosion. Especially erosive are sports drinks, energy drinks, and colas, because they contain some combination of citric acid, phosphoric acid and/or carbonation.

The symptoms of tooth erosion and damaged enamel can be very similar to those caused by cavities:

  • You suffer tooth pain or sensitivity
  • Your teeth appear discolored, as the enamel thins to reveal the yellowish dentin underneath
  • You notice missing enamel—your teeth become rounded or have little pits known as cupping

You call Dr. Zamikoff, Dr. Klement, Dr. Jungman, Dr. Varga and Dr. Halcomb right away if you suspect a cavity. Be just as proactive if you suspect erosion. Even though your symptoms may not have been caused by plaque and bacteria, acidic erosion from your diet leaves weakened enamel just as vulnerable to cavities and decay.

How to avoid erosion?

  • Enjoy acidic foods sparingly, or as part of a meal. This helps your saliva pH stay in the neutral zone.
  • Balance acidic foods with low-acid choices to help neutralize acids and restore a normal pH balance. (A good reason to pair wine or fruits with cheese.)
  • Use a straw! This simple solution keeps erosive drinks from bathing your teeth in acids.
  • Drink water instead of an acidic beverage, or drink it afterward to rinse your mouth. The pH of pure water? A perfect, neutral 7.
  • And what about brushing right after eating or drinking something acidic? Ask Dr. Zamikoff, Dr. Klement, Dr. Jungman, Dr. Varga and Dr. Halcomb if you should rush for your brush. We may recommend waiting 30 minutes or so after an acidic treat to give teeth time to remineralize after acids weaken them. Otherwise, brushing might cause more wear and tear on your enamel.
  • Finally, while foods are often the source of acid erosion, medical conditions can cause erosion as well. Talk to us about ways to minimize erosion while addressing your medical needs.

There’s no trick to it—watching your diet, brushing and flossing as recommended, using a fluoride toothpaste, and visiting Zamikoff, Klement, Jungman and Varga DDS, PA for regular checkups will help prevent tooth erosion. We can restore eroded enamel with bonding, veneers, or crowns if the erosion is serious. Better still is to catch erosion before symptoms appear to keep your teeth their strongest for a lifetime of healthy, beautiful smiles.

I have halitosis. What can I do?

April 14th, 2021

Halitosis is the fancy, scientific word for “bad breath.” Dr. Zamikoff, Dr. Klement, Dr. Jungman, Dr. Varga and Dr. Halcomb and our team know there are several reasons why you may have halitosis; let’s look at a few:

  • Gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) – There are five main types of gum disease, and each one can range from mild to severe. For example the most common one is gingivitis; it is caused by bacteria in the plaque that has been allowed to build up, usually as a result of poor oral hygiene. A more serious and uncommon type of gum disease is called necrotizing periodontal disease. It is most common in people who have a suppressed immune system.
  • Smoking
  • Dry Mouth – This can be caused by something as simple as a medication you take.
  • Food – Of course, if you eat something that is potent like garlic, it is going to give you bad breath.
  • Diseases of the Body – Some diseases such as sinus infections and diabetes, among a few other types of infections, can also cause you to have halitosis.

How to Get Rid of Halitosis

The most obvious answer to how to get rid of halitosis is to practice good oral hygiene, although, depending on the cause of halitosis it may not be that simple. If you have an infection that is causing the halitosis then you may need an antibiotic to clear up the infection and then the bad breath will go away. Here are more tips:

  • Brush your teeth after every meal and before bed.
  • Floss your teeth. The more plaque you get out of your teeth, the better chance you have of not getting cavities or bad breath.
  • Address any medical conditions that are not related to your teeth that can be causing the halitosis.
  • Ask Dr. Zamikoff, Dr. Klement, Dr. Jungman, Dr. Varga and Dr. Halcomb for a prescription mouthwash that kills bacteria.

Halitosis (bad breath) can be an embarrassing condition to live with, but there are plenty of ways to get rid of it permanently. Start by talking to a member of our team at our Bradenton or Sun City Center, FL office.

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