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Healthy Gum, Healthy Mouth

December 21st, 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 Dr. Melissa Dennison Newman 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 Dr. Melissa Dennison Newman about the possible benefits of sugarless gum at your next visit to our Plaistow, New Hampshire 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.

Dental X-Rays: Are They Safe?

December 14th, 2022

X-rays have been a function of dental healthcare for a long time. That in and of itself should be good news, because it means we've had plenty of time to improve them. While there is always some risk in exposure to radiation, dental X-ray exposure has decreased significantly due to all the advances in technology. So there’s risk, but X-rays are quite safe.

Think of X-rays as you would about a car. Automobiles these days have all kinds of technology to make them as safe as possible. There's still a chance that you’ll suffer an accident. Would you stop using a car because of that risk? When it comes to dental X-rays, Dr. Melissa Dennison Newman and our team believe the positives clearly outweigh the negatives.

X-rays can be done digitally or with film. For film, X-rays require different exposures at different speeds to produce the image. Digital X-rays have software that automatically adjusts the exposure and produces the X-ray in a digital file. Since they substantially reduce your exposure to radiation, digital X-rays are the current standard in dental offices.

In addition to digital X-rays, lead aprons are an essential piece of X-ray safety. They help protect internal organs from X-rays by acting as a shield. They usually come with a thyroid collar as well, since that is one of the most vulnerable areas to X-rays in the body. Lead aprons can absorb up to 95% of any scatter rays that result from an X-ray. Not bad, right?

Although dental X-rays involve some radiation exposure (not all of it can be eliminated), so does everyday life. Getting too much sun, for example, can be dangerous. The truth is, we accumulate radiation in our bodies over a lifetime, so it’s worthwhile to be aware and avoid as much unnecessary exposure as possible. When it comes to your dental health, though, getting an X-ray — especially when your doctor says you need it — offers more benefits than risks.

Ask us about the type of dental X-rays we use during your next visit to our Plaistow, New Hampshire office!

Your Snoring Might Be More Serious Than You Think

December 7th, 2022

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which breathing stops and starts repeatedly throughout the night. It’s most common among middle-aged adults, and the most prevalent symptom is loud snoring.

Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax to the point where they inhibit your natural breathing. It can cause your breathing to stop for anywhere from ten to twenty seconds. In the worst cases, it can even stop your breathing for up to a few minutes.

In addition, people who suffer from sleep apnea wake up feeling tired and unrested. The condition may even lead to depression, high blood pressure, irritability, and memory loss. It puts you at a greater risk for heart attack and lowers oxygen levels in your brain.

All of this sounds scary, but the good news is that sleep apnea can be treated! One of the most common ways Dr. Melissa Dennison Newman can treat sleep apnea is by creating an oral device for you to wear while you sleep.

The device brings your jaw forward, which keeps the airway open and lowers the incidence of snoring. Another method is to use a continuous positive airway mask, often referred to as a CPAP. The mask fits over the mouth and forces oxygen through the throat while you sleep.

If you’re unsure about whether you may suffer from sleep apnea, visit our Plaistow, New Hampshire office and let Dr. Melissa Dennison Newman know. We can determine the appropriate treatment if any is needed. Don’t risk losing another night’s sleep over something we can easily treat!

What’s in Your Backpack?

November 30th, 2022

Hiking is a great way to appreciate the beauty of nature, to get away from the stresses of daily life, and, of course, to challenge yourself physically. While you’re packing away your sunscreen and your first aid kit, do your body another favor—take a minute to include some lightweight, dental-friendly items.

  • Snacks

When you’re exerting yourself, snacks that provide quick energy on the go are a must. Granola, trail mix, energy bars, candy, dried fruit—these are the foods we think of as trail food, and we generally get that quick energy boost from the sugars and starches they contain. As it happens, Dr. Melissa Dennison Newman and our team strongly recommend you pick snack options other than sugary and starchy foods. Why? Because many sugars and starches provide oral bacteria the food they need to produce acids. These acids weaken enamel and damage our teeth. And these common trail foods often have the added “bonus” of sticking to the teeth, leaving acids even more opportunity to attack. Don’t give up the energy boost you need for a safe hike, but do yourself and your teeth a favor and look for the healthiest granola, energy bars, and gorp out there.

Other suggestions for trail treats that are also a treat for teeth? If you need a chocolate pick-me-up, try dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has more caffeine that milk chocolate and less sugar. (It has other health benefits as well that you might want to look up after your hike.) If you like nuts and seeds, take softer nuts, or sliced nuts—a good source of energy and not likely to provide as much stress on your teeth when you’re in the field. (Shell them beforehand—don’t ever use your teeth as a nutcracker!) Similarly, if you take seeds, leave the shells at home. If you like crackers, try whole grains. Looking for protein? How about a tuna pouch instead of chewy beef jerky?

  • Hydrate

Water is always the go-to beverage. Pre-hydrate even before setting out, and have plenty on hand for your trek. Many hiking sources suggest two cups of fluids per hour of activity. (And in hot or humid weather or at high altitudes, you could need even more.) There are actually hiking water calculators online, which can give you a good estimate on how much you’ll need for your trip, taking into account your age, weight, level of activity, and other factors. Because water can get heavy, plan a lengthy hike around the availability of fountains or other clean water sources if necessary.

What if you feel the need for more than water? If you are getting a good workout, you’re probably losing electrolytes. Generally, sports drinks aren’t on the dental menu. They tend to be loaded with sugar and carbs—good for energy, bad for teeth. Sports drinks can be as acidic and hard on your enamel as sodas. But if you need those electrolytes on a long hike, don’t feel guilty. There are many options—choose the healthiest one for you and your workout level.

  • Be prepared!

While you are probably already packing a mini-first aid kit for long hikes, think about a lightweight dental emergency kit as well. These are readily available online and in outdoors stores, and usually contain supplies like cotton balls, dental floss, oral pain relievers, even temporary fillings, in a lightweight bag.

And once your hike is done? Rehydrate, and don’t forget to treat your teeth to a good brushing and flossing when you get home.

Got all that? Great! Now, go take a hike!

(603) 382-6976
166 Plaistow Rd, Unit G1
Plaistow, NH 03865
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