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This April, Let’s Celebrate National Facial Protection Month!

April 7th, 2021

Poor April. While other months celebrate romance, or giving thanks, or costumes and candy, April has—April Fool’s Day and a tax deadline. We might be forgiven for thinking these two dates seem more like warnings than celebrations.

So here’s a new topic for the April calendar: National Facial Protection Month! Take the opportunity this month to review your safety practices while you’re enjoying your favorite activities.

  • Mouthguards

If you have a mouthguard for sports or athletic activities, wear it! In any activity or sport where humans come into contact with solid objects (including other humans) tooth injury is possible. A mouthguard will help protect you from dental injuries caused by falls, physical contact, or other accidents that might happen in your active life. And it’s not just your teeth—mouthguards protect your lips, tongue, and jaw as well.

You can buy mouthguards in stock sizes or shape-to-fit options, or you can have a guard custom made especially for you at our Lebanon, NJ office. Custom mouthguards fit perfectly and are designed to make breathing and speaking easy and comfortable. And if you wear braces or have fixed dental work such as a bridge, a custom mouthguard can protect your smile and your appliances. Talk to Dr. DeCasperis about mouthguards for some great advice on how to protect your teeth and mouth.

As long as we’re discussing facial protection, let’s look at some other ways to keep safe as you keep active.

  • Helmets

If there’s a helmet available for your sport, use it! Helmets are especially important for protecting athletes from brain injury and concussion, and they help protect the face and jaw as well.

  • Face Guards

If you’ve experienced a puck speeding toward you, or a defensive tackle hurtling your way, or a fast ball coming in at 90 miles an hour, you know the importance of wearing a face guard. These guards can help protect your eyes, face, teeth, and jaws. Many sports now recommend using face guards—it’s worth checking to see if your sport is one of them.

  • Eye Protection

And let’s not forget eye protection. Whether it’s safety glasses or a visor, protecting your eyes and the bones around them is extremely important. You can even get sports goggles or protective sports glasses with prescription lenses to keep you safe and seeing clearly.

We have the training and experience to help treat and restore injured teeth. But we will be the first to tell you, the very best treatment is prevention!

So here are a few suggestions for your calendar this month:

  • If you haven’t gotten a mouthguard yet, now’s the time. Tooth and mouth injuries occur in sports beyond hockey and football. If you play basketball, ski, skateboard, ride a bike—in fact, almost any sport where you can fall or make contact with a person or object—a mouthguard is a must.
  • If you need to replace an ill-fitting or damaged helmet and face guard, do it before your next game. And do replace a bike helmet if you’ve been in a crash—most likely it won’t be as protective, even if damage isn’t visible.
  • Talk to your eye doctor about protective eyewear if off-the-rack products don’t work for you.
  • If you are a parent or caregiver, make sure your child athlete has the proper facial protection—and uses it.
  • If you are a coach, make sure your athletes have the right protective gear—and wear it.
  • It’s also a great time to commit to using your protective gear every single time you’re active.

But, wait—these reminders are helpful and important, but weren’t we promised something to celebrate this April? Good catch! The great news is, using facial protection for sports and athletic activities gives you rewards you can celebrate all year: fewer injuries, fewer visits to the emergency room, and a beautiful, healthy, intact smile. Suit up!

Balancing Act

March 31st, 2021

We’re all trying to find a healthy balance in our lives. Balancing work and home life. Eating a well-balanced diet. Balancing our budgets. Maintaining the right pH balance in our mouths for better dental health. Wait, what was that last one?

You probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about your pH levels, but if your oral pH is out of balance it can affect the health of your teeth.

What do we mean by pH levels? In biology and chemistry, the pH scale is a tool used to measure the concentration of hydrogen (H⁺) ions and hydroxide (OH⁻) ions in a solution.  

The higher the concentration of hydrogen atoms, the more acidic a solution. The higher the concentration of hydroxide ions, the more alkaline. The pH scale goes from 0 to 14, with the most acidic reading possible rating a 0, and the most alkaline, a 14.

You don’t have to be a biochemist to use the information provided by pH samples. We use pH readings to discover the ideal acid/alkaline conditions in many everyday applications. Azaleas grow best in very acidic soil. Swimming pools should be just a bit alkaline. Brewers test pH throughout the beer-making process for optimal fermentation—and taste.

When it comes to saliva, a neutral pH range of around 6.2 to 7.6 is generally considered normal. High alkalinity in saliva is rare. High acidity levels? Unfortunately, much more common. And an acidic environment has real-world consequences for teeth.

Plaque contains bacteria, which produce acids. Calcium and phosphate, the minerals that help make enamel the strongest substance in the body, are leached out by these acids. The weak spots left behind make enamel vulnerable to further erosion and, eventually, decay. When saliva has a normal, neutral pH, it helps neutralize plaque acids to reduce the risk of cavities.

But it’s not just bacteria that expose our teeth to acidic conditions—we do it ourselves with our choice of food and drink.

Acidic foods can directly lower the pH level in saliva. Lemon juice, for example, has a pH between 2 and 3. Red wine has a pH between 3 and 4. Blueberries? Around a 3.2. When the pH level in saliva becomes 5.5 or lower, the minerals in our teeth start to “demineralize,” or lose the minerals which keep enamel strong and intact—just the way enamel is demineralized by acids from plaque. This process is known as acid erosion.

Many of our favorite foods are acidic to some degree. Citrus and other fruits, pickled foods, vinegar, wine, coffee, tea—all of them can lower the optimal pH level of saliva. And sports drinks, energy drinks, and sodas? Check the labels and you’ll often find citric acid, phosphoric acid, and/or carbonation, all of which combine to create extremely erosive conditions.

So, no more soda? Or fruit? No. You don’t have to give up acidic foods altogether for healthy teeth. True, you won’t give up much eliminating soda from your diet. But fruits, vegetables, dairy foods, and meats are the source of essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins, and many of these healthy food choices have an acidic pH. How to eat nutritiously while protecting your enamel? Again, it’s a balancing act.

  • Enjoy acidic foods sparingly, or as part of a meal. Saliva can neutralize acids more effectively when they aren’t washing over your teeth all through the day.
  • Use a straw when you drink something with a low pH to reduce your enamel’s exposure to acids.
  • Balance high-acid foods with low-acid choices to help neutralize the acids in your diet. Add a banana to your blueberry smoothie. Pair your wine with some cheese.
  • Rinse with water after eating or drinking. When it comes to balanced pH, pure water is a 7.0 on the scale, a perfect neutral.
  • Chew sugarless gum to increase saliva production.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste—it not only helps prevent cavities, it helps remineralize teeth.

Even with your best efforts, acid erosion can be a problem. You might be experiencing enamel damage if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • Tooth pain or sensitivity.
  • Teeth that appear discolored. This happens as the whiter enamel thins, revealing the yellowish dentin underneath.
  • Changes in the shape of your enamel—your teeth become rounded or have little dents or pits, known as cupping.
  • White spots on your teeth, which could be a sign of demineralization.

If you think you could be suffering from enamel erosion, it’s a good idea to talk to Dr. DeCasperis when you visit our Lebanon, NJ office. We can diagnose conditions causing acid erosion, treat you if enamel damage has occurred, and offer suggestions for diet and eating habits to make sure your oral pH—and your dental health—is always in balance.

Going Green for St. Patrick’s Day?

March 17th, 2021

Happily for all of us who like to celebrate with friends and family, there’s no need to be Irish to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day. Every March 17th, many of us take the opportunity to display a bit of Gaelic spirit.

  • Green Clothing (it’s tradition!)
  • Green Hat (for a jaunty look)
  • Green Shamrock (always the perfect accessory)
  • Green Hair (for the adventurous among us)
  • Green Grins?

Here’s where we draw the line. Emerald Isle? Delightful! Emerald smile? Not so beguiling.

That traditional St. Patrick’s party fare—green-frosted sweet treats and green-colored pastries and green-foamed beers—is full of green-tinted food dyes, which can leave us with teeth in subtle shamrock shades. Luckily, most of us will have only a very temporary tinge to remind us of our dietary shenanigans, and there are simple ways to rid yourself of the green sheen:

  • Indulge sparingly in colorful cuisine, and drink water afterwards to rinse away green-dyed foods and beverages.
  • Use a straw for green drinks.
  • Brush your teeth. (Not only will you brush away the green, but you’ll brush away the sugars from sweet green desserts and the acids from sour green brews.)
  • Try a whitening toothpaste.

One special note: if you’ve just whitened your smile, best to eliminate strong food dyes from your diet for a few days. Teeth are more sensitive to staining after whitening, because the whitening process temporarily makes them more porous. Give yourself a few days, and your enamel will be back to (stain)fighting strength.

So, celebrate on the 17th and feel secure that on the 18th, your smile won’t be “wearing the green” any longer. But if you find that you’re not happy with the appearance of your smile anytime during the year, if you have more permanent staining caused by natural darkening over time, or workdays fueled by black coffee, or a diet filled with tomato sauce, dark berries, red wine, and other tasty (but discoloring) food, you’re still in luck.

Ask Dr. DeCasperis about professional whitening procedures at our Lebanon, NJ office for a brighter, more confident smile. And with a bright, confident smile, every day’s a reason to celebrate!

What exactly is a cavity?

March 10th, 2021

We all know how discouraging can be it to hear you have a dental cavity. Knowing how cavities form can help you prevent them from popping up in your mouth. If you want to avoid a trip to see Dr. DeCasperis, pay attention to the measures you can take to prevent bothersome cavities.

Did you know that cavities are properly a symptom of a disease called caries? When you have caries, the number of bad bacteria in your mouth increases, which causes an acceleration in tooth decay. Caries are caused by a pH imbalance in your mouth that creates problems with the biofilm on the teeth.

When there are long periods of low pH balance in the mouth, this creates a breeding ground for bacteria. When you get caries, this type of bacteria thrives in an acidic environment.

Depending on which foods and beverages you consume, the biofilm pH in your mouth will vary. The lower the pH number, the higher the acidity. When your intake contains mostly acidic foods that sit on your teeth, cavities begin to form. Water has a neutral pH, which makes it a good tool to promote a healthy pH balance in your mouth.

A healthy pH balance in your mouth will prevent cavities from forming over time. Mouth breathing and specific medications may also be factors that contribute to the development of caries when saliva flow decreases. Without saliva flow to act as a buffer against acid, bacteria has a higher chance of growing.

Don’t forget: Getting cavities isn’t only about eating too many sweets. It’s also about managing the pH levels in your mouth and preventing bad bacteria from growing on your teeth.

If you think you might have a cavity forming in your mouth, schedule an appointment at our Lebanon, NJ office. It’s worthwhile to treat cavities early and avoid extensive procedures such as root canals from becoming necessary.

Keep up with brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash so you can prevent cavities over time.