Tooth Decay – Something You Need to Know About

Dentist Auburn

Painful, infected teeth are not a pleasant experience, but they are common symptoms of tooth decay. The good news however is that tooth decay is preventable. Your best defense against decay is a daily oral hygiene routine, as well as regular visits to our office. It can be helpful to know more about tooth decay and what causes it so that you are better equipped with the knowledge to prevent it.

More Than Just Sugar

Sugar is a leading cause of tooth decay. Sugar build-up and deposits on your teeth lead to the erosion of the tooth. While it is important to be mindful of the sugary products you are consuming, sugar is not the only culprit in causing tooth decay. Acids can also damage your teeth. Foods that are high in acidic content can speed up the process of decay. Our dentist suggests you avoid drinks and candies with high sugar or acid content. If you find yourself consuming such things, make sure to keep up with your daily oral hygiene routine.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research recommends avoiding snacks between meals, limiting sugary drinks and fruit juices, and not eating or drinking before bedtime after brushing.

You Can’t Always Tell

Decay doesn’t always have noticeable signs. When discomfort is felt, it could be a sign the decay has spread beyond one tooth. In other words, by the time you do feel it decay is far along. This can be prevented by regular visits to our office. Our doctor can help identify potential issues early and you will receive the best possible treatments for your teeth.

Teeth with Fillings Still Need to Be Cared for Properly

Previous fillings do not mean that your teeth are free of decay forever. It is essential you maintain proper daily care of your teeth. It is possible to develop decay around existing fillings, so be sure you are taking extra care especially around fillings. If you feel your existing fillings are giving you trouble, schedule an appointment to see us.

Tooth Decay Not Just a Kids Thing

All age groups are equally at risk of developing tooth decay.  Parents should keep an eye on their children’s sugary snacks and treats, but this advice holds true for everyone. Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable because of certain medications can damage their teeth. It is essential that all age groups are receiving twice-yearly dental examinations.

Tooth decay is a common dental issue. However, with the right knowledge you can prevent damage to your teeth. Watch your diet and make sure you limit sugary candies and snacks. Remember, you won’t always be able to see or feel decay, so contact our office to schedule a regular visit.

For more helpful tips on preventing decay, or to schedule an appointment, contact our office.

5 Tips for Denture Wearers

Dentist Auburn

Taking care of your dentures can seem like an added chore. Don’t worry, with a little effort your dentures can stay clean. Here are 5 tips for keeping your dentures clean and your smile healthy.

  1. Rinse Thoroughly

Prior to brushing, it helps to rinse your dentures off.  Run them through water to help wash away food and other small particles. Be extra careful when handling your fragile dentures. Avoid using hot or boiling water, as that could damage your dentures.

  1. Clean Your Dentures

Just as you would brush your teeth, your dentures need to be brushed as well. Never use cleaning solutions while your dentures are in. Rather, remove your dentures and carefully brush using a soft toothbrush. Avoid using whitening toothpastes or harsh cleaning materials like bleach products. Talk to our dentist about the right type of cleaner for your dentures. Using too strong a solution can cause damage to your dentures.

  1. Don’t Forget to Brush Your Teeth

You still need to take care of your natural teeth. Brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush. Be gentle when brushing and cleaning your gums. Cleaning your gums will help you reduce your risk of developing an oral infection. If your toothbrush is too rough on your gums, an alternative is to use gauze. Be sure to come see us if you are experiencing gum pain and we can make recommendations.

  1. Keep Them Covered

When you remove your dentures for bed, be sure to keep them in a covered container overnight. Use a denture-soaking solution to keep them clean overnight. Water works as a substitute, as your dentures need moisture to retain their shape. If you have any questions about storing your dentures, talk to us and we’ll help you.

  1. Care with Adhesives

It can sometimes be difficult to remove your dentures with an adhesive. If you are having trouble, try swishing warm water or a mouthwash around your mouth. Never use any cleaning solution, tool, or foreign object to remove your dentures. Take special care to ensure the grooves of your dentures that attach to your gums are clean and free of adhesive.

When taken care of properly, your dentures will provide you with a lasting smile. Be vigilant in keeping up with cleaning your dentures. If you have any questions about caring for your dentures, get in touch with our office. We would be happy to work with you to figure out a solution for your denture concerns.

For more tips on keeping your mouth healthy or to schedule your next appointment, contact us today.

Help! 5 Tips to Know When You Can’t Brush

Dentist in Auburn

Dentist AuburnOccasionally you might find yourself in a situation where you won’t be able to brush your teeth, perhaps through a lack of time or your location. Though it is vital to brush twice each day, here are a few steps you can take if you find yourself in a bind.

Drink Water

When you are in a spot where you won’t be able to brush your teeth for a while, water can be your friend. Drink water to help wash away sugars and acids that are in your mouth and on your teeth. Water also helps your mouth produce more saliva, which works to keep enamel strong. Our doctor suggests drinking water regularly, not just when you can’t brush your teeth.

Chew Sugar-Free Gum

Try chewing some gum to help keep your teeth clean. The American Dental Association (ADA) approves certain chewing gum brands with their seal on the package. ADA approved gums are sugar-free and do not contain other decay causing sweeteners. Like drinking water, chewing gum is good for saliva production, which helps to strengthen tooth enamel.

Floss Your Teeth

We suggest always carrying dental floss; it’s usually small enough to fit almost anywhere. Flossing is not a replacement for brushing, just as brushing does not replace the need for flossing, however in a pinch it is essential that you remove any plaque and build up that you can. The ADA suggests flossing once a day. Flossing will help improve your gum health too.

Use a Disposable Toothbrush

If you know you might be out of the house for a while, perhaps because of a long day at work or an overnight stay, we recommend you consider a disposable toothbrush. Disposable brushes usually come with toothpaste already applied and are easy to store and carry. They are an excellent alternative that allow you to still thoroughly clean your teeth.

Avoid Sugary Foods

A helpful step you can take if you find yourself in a situation where brushing isn’t possible is to avoid eating or drinking sugary or acidic things. Acids and sugars are what contribute to decay, as they weaken your teeth’s enamel. If you cannot brush your teeth, then don’t eat foods that lead to decay. Avoid sugary soft drinks, juices, sports drinks, and energy drinks as these drinks will leave behind sugars and acids that sit on your teeth.

For more helpful tips on keeping your smile healthy, contact our office.

You Need to Know About Oral Thrush: Here’s Why

Dentist in Auburn

Auburn DentistEven a healthy mouth is lined with bacteria. Normally, your daily oral hygiene routine helps prevent oral health complications. However, it is possible to develop an excess of bacteria and fungi, which can leading to additional problems. Here’s what you should know about oral thrush and what you can do to prevent it.

What is it?

Oral thrush is caused by a collection of the fungus Candida in your mouth. Bacteria and fungi occur naturally in your mouth, but it is important that they are not permitted to build up. Thrush can appear as white, thick scrapes on your tongue or inner cheek. It may also look like patchy, white sores.

Who Does It Affect?

Young children, infants, and the elderly are at a higher risk of developing oral thrush. If you have a weakened immune system or diabetes, it is even more important that you stay active to keep your mouth healthy and prevent issues like oral thrush. Smokers also tend to develop oral thrush more than other patients.

What can it Do?

Oral thrush can lead to trouble swallowing and tasting. As it develops, it can become painful. Oral thrush can make affected areas feel like they are burning, and slight bleeding can occur if you are scraping your tongue or cheeks. Some describe the feeling as having cotton in their mouth.

Thrush can spread. If you have a weakened immune system, it is possible that thrush moves into your lungs, digestive tract, and even your heart.

How can I Prevent It?

Our best recommendation for preventing oral thrush is a vigilant daily oral hygiene routine that includes a thorough brushing and flossing of your teeth, and includes your tongue. We sometimes recommend a patient use a tongue scraper to clean your tongue. Just like brushing your teeth, your tongue depends on daily cleaning to stay healthy and free of germs and bacteria.

The American Dental Association recommends that for some patients it might be helpful to consider an antimicrobial toothpaste or mouthwash. Check with our doctor to see which solutions might be best for you.

We cannot overstate the importance of regularly scheduled dental exams. If you are a diabetic, it is even more important that you schedule regular visits to our office. By having your mouth checked by our staff, we can work with you to prevent oral health issues like thrush.

For more tips on keeping your mouth healthy or to schedule your next visit, please contact our office.

Maintaining Your Oral Health During Cancer Treatments

Dentist Auburn

Dentist in AuburnBefore, during, and after cancer treatment it is necessary to keep up with your oral health routine. Cancer and cancer treatments can impact your mouth, so talk to our dentist about your specific treatment and what you can do to keep up with your oral health. Here are a few points to consider.

Brush, Floss, and Come Visit Us

You should always brush for two minutes, twice each day, and floss regularly. This is your best defense against tooth decay. You should also be visiting our office for a routine examination regularly, however it is especially important to do so before starting cancer treatment. Our dentist can share recommendations about changes you can make to your brushing and flossing routine to help manage potential cancer treatment side effects.

Practice Healthy Habits

This is true for everyone. Eat healthy and avoid smoking, whether it is tobacco or electronic cigarettes. A balanced diet and regular exercise will keep your immune system working at its full potential. Make sure your diet is full of diverse fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products. Don’t skip out on getting protein through eggs, beans, and chicken.

Keep Your Mouth Clean & Moist

A common side effect of cancer treatments such as radiation is dry mouth. Our teeth depend on saliva to help keep the enamel on our teeth strong, but a dry mouth lacking saliva will leave you susceptible to decay and damage. Drink plenty of water to keep your mouth moist. Rinse your mouth frequently, especially after vomiting, to wash away sugars and acids from collecting on your teeth.

After Treatments, Visit Us

Keep regularly scheduled visits to our office, particularly when you end treatment. Certain medications can weaken your teeth or leave you at a higher risk for developing oral health issues. Talk to our knowledgeable dental team about your treatment plans and how they can impact your teeth.

Cancer and cancer treatments and medications can have a significant impact on your oral health. Make our dental team part of your support group during your treatment, and inform us of the medications and treatments you are receiving. Together we can work towards solutions that keep your mouth healthy, and your teeth strong.

For more information on keeping your mouth healthy, please contact our office.

Men: Here’s What You Need to Know About Keeping Your Mouth Healthy

Dentist in Auburn

Dentist AuburnMen, dental examinations and treatment are important for you, too. Did you know according to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), by age 72 men lose an average of 5 teeth? That number jumps to 12 if you are also a smoker. Here’s what you need to know about keeping your mouth healthy. Follow these tips and you can beat the odds stacked against men and their oral health.

The Basics

Men are more likely than women to suffer from periodontal, or gum, disease. Men also have a higher risk of developing oral cancer and throat cancer, and men tend to lose more teeth than women. A poll conducted by the AGD found that 45% of men who responded felt there was no need for them to visit the dentist. This is a troubling statistic for a group more prone to oral health issues. A visit to our office can help us identify problems early.

Risk Factors

Certain medications can directly impact your teeth. Others can cause side effects such as dry mouth, which decreases saliva. Saliva is important in keeping your teeth’s enamel strong. Smoking or chewing tobacco, including smoking electronic cigarettes, have been linked to increasing your risk of developing oral cancer and other oral health issues. If you play sports, especially football or hockey, get fitted with a mouth guard to protect your teeth from extensive damage. You should avoid or limit energy drinks and sports drinks, as these contain acids and sugars that can lead to decay.

Periodontal Disease

Men are at a higher risk for developing periodontal, or gum, disease. Periodontal disease is caused by a buildup of hardened plaque on teeth and gums. This buildup, known as tartar, can inflame your gums. Studies have linked periodontal disease to increasing your risk for strokes, heart attacks, diabetic complications, and more. If your gums are red, bloodied, or sore, you should make an appointment to see us. Our experienced, professional dental team will assess your gum health and work to find a treatment for you.

Take These Steps at Home

A visit to our office will provide you with a complete dental examination and cleaning, but you should also practice good oral hygiene each day at home. This starts by brushing your teeth twice each day, for two minutes each time. When you brush, use an appropriate toothpaste. Ask our team if you are not sure what kind of toothpaste is best for you. Make sure you are also using dental floss. Taking care of your teeth at home will make your next visit to see us easier.

Men, your teeth are important so take good care of them. Practice good brushing and flossing habits at home. Reduce your risk of developing decay and oral disease by cutting back on sugary or acidic drinks, avoiding tobacco and smoking, and keeping our office up to date on any medications you are using. Get into the habit of coming to our office regularly, your smile depends on it.

For more tips on keeping your mouth healthy or to schedule your next dental examination, please contact our office.

Teeth Don’t Have to Be Afraid of Halloween

Kids love Halloween but it’s the parents who seem to be afraid of all of the candy and the harm it can do to their kids’ teeth. When it comes to Halloween candy, chocolate is one of the best options to eat. It melts quickly and washes off teeth easily so there’s less chance that cavity producing bacteria will grow. (Keep in mind this is plain chocolate; chocolate with caramel in it will certainly stick to teeth!)

It may seem counter-intuitive, but go ahead and let your kids eat the entire candy bar or little package of candy in one sitting rather than having them eat candy all day long. It’s better to eat candy and get it over with so they can then brush their teeth and have a clean mouth, rather than eat little bits of candy continuously throughout the day. If they can’t get to a tooth brush then have them eat an apple or other crunchy fruit or vegetable- it will help to clean their mouth.

Eating apples may help clean and brighten teeth besides being nutritious. The slight acidity in apples can act as a mild astringent. But keep the peel on to get this benefit as the fiber in the skin is an effective cleaner. The fleshy fruit with it’s high fiber content acts as a natural toothbrush, helping to clean away stains and plaque. Other crunchy fruits and vegetables such as celery and carrots can also work as cleaning mechanisms as they brush against dental plaque and bacteria trying to stick to teeth. The less bacteria, the better your breath and the healthier your mouth.

Did you know that potato chips are actually worse for teeth than some candy? Potato chips will cling to teeth sticking in the nooks and crannies making it the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. Parents don’t think of this as most would offer their children potato chips over a chocolate bar. Sugary cereal is another food which can be just as harmful to teeth as candy but one that parents seem to easily overlook.

So don’t be scared of Halloween, just be smart about it. There is already plenty of harmful food out there in your children’s diets, it doesn’t happen to appear only at Halloween. Make smart choices, brush teeth regularly but most of all have fun.
Happy Halloween!!

Dr. Helmkamp’s Quiet Giving

Her face was intact, but her teeth were broken and missing. She was in an abusive relationship. She had the daunting responsibility of raising her children by herself and found it difficult to obtain work due to her broken smile. Learning about free dental care through a local social services organization, she applied to be a potential patient through a program called “Give Back a Smile,” created specifically for victims of abuse and run by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD).

Miraculously, she was selected and directed to a local dentist, who had volunteered through membership with the AACD to donate his time and work. After extensive restorative and cosmetic dental work she had a new smile and was so appreciative and hopeful of the possibilities open to her. As a result, she was able to obtain work, support her family and have a better future. She has since moved away, but once returned to visit the office and thank Dr. Helmkamp for her restored smile and the confidence that it gave her.

Over the past 25 years, Dr. Helmkamp has been involved in charitable dentistry through several national programs. Currently, he is the Maine chair of Donated Dental Services, a national organization that identifies and donates dental care to the elderly, medically and/or psychologically compromised patients. He continues to volunteer by taking new abuse cases through the AACD. He has long donated all proceeds from teeth whitening through the Smiles For Life program, which donates 100% of its proceeds and donations to directly benefit children charities and organizations. Finally, he has opened his doors during Have a Heart Day in which he donates full days of free dentistry to local residents.

Dr. Helmkamp is a quiet giver; he doesn’t seek recognition for what he does. Over the years, he has helped hundreds perhaps thousands of people through his charitable efforts. He believes that people can have better lives through improved health. He believes he can make a difference and that helping others is the right thing to do.

Commitment to Continuing Education

The technology to restore and protect teeth changes as fast as the technology and improvements we see in all areas of today’s fast-paced life. The continual advancements and breakthroughs across so many fields, results in ever-changing professions, specifically dentistry.

Dentistry and dental health care are always evolving; the dentistry of today is much different than the dentistry of 30 years ago,15 or even 10 years ago. Materials, methods, the use of computers, almost all aspects of the field have changed and likewise, that is today’s dentistry.

The result of continual change in dentistry is a necessary, almost obligatory commitment to staying current so patients can benefit most from these improvements. Very often techniques and materials used during a dentist’s or hygienist’s schooling have been improved upon, or perhaps have even become obsolete. Unfortunately, due to time and money, many dental offices do not value or invest in continuing education.

You want your dental home to have a solid commitment to continuing education (coursework as well as clinical, hands-on courses) for all staff. Through continuing education, you, as the patient, receive the best possible care for you and your family from the latest advancements in dentistry. Change is a good thing, especially when it means you’ll have a healthier smile.

NOTE: See “Continuing Education“

How to Choose a Dentist

Choosing a dentist can be overwhelming, particularly when you don’t even know the criteria by which to evaluate a dentist or dental practice. As with everything, there is a wide range in experience, skills and expertise among dentists and likewise, not all dental practices are equal. Fortunately, there are guidelines so you will ask the right questions in order to make a sound choice when choosing your dentist.

Starting with the basics, check that the dentist you are considering is a member of the American Dental Association, or ADA. As a bare minimum, you would want to choose a dentist who is willing to be a member of the ADA. Dentists who are members of the American Dental Association voluntarily agree to abide by the ADA Code as a condition of membership in the Association. (www.ada.org) Hopefully, most dentists will also be members of their state organizations as well, which in Maine is the Maine Dental Association. (MDA)

Once you’ve established the dentist’s basic professional memberships, it’s time to get to the nuts and bolts of how to evaluate a dentist and his or her practice. According to the Crown Council* (www.crowncouncil.com) an independent association of dental practices, there are FIVE KEY QUESTIONS you should consider:

1. How current is the dentist and how much continuing education have they taken in the last year? Dentistry is a continually changing profession with new developments in technologies, materials and treatments emerging all of the time. You will want to choose a dentist who has stayed current through continuing education beyond the bare minimum in both lecture as well as clinical courses. Keep in mind that state requirements to maintain a dental license can be minimal and so you will want to note whether a dentist is doing the minimum just to stay in practice or whether he or she is genuinely motivated to stay current within their profession in order to benefit YOU, the patient.

2. How much time will the dentist take with me during my initial exam? You will want to choose a dentist who spends at least an hour with you during your initial visit in order to give you a complete oral exam and assess your overall oral health. Although you may be eager to get into a new office for your initial dental hygiene visit, it is necessary for you to have a thorough exam and consultation with the dentist to discuss your condition and treatment options.

3. What is included in my initial exam? According to the Crown Council (www.crowncouncil.com )there are four things an initial exam should include:

a). A very thorough exam of your teeth for decay including charting, your existing restorations and the condition of all of your other teeth.

b). A complete evaluation of the health of your gums with a periodontal probe. Six points on every tooth should be checked and the findings charted.

c.) A check of your bite should be made to determine how your teeth come together to see if there is balance, excessive wear, or jaw pain.

d.) You should have an oral cancer exam. If the dentist is up-to-date the office will have either a VizLite or a VELscope. This will allow the dentist to immediately see if there are any abnormal tissue cells in the mouth. You should have an oral cancer exam at least annually.

4. Ask what will occur between the time of your arrival at the office and when the dentist starts the actual exam. A dentist interested in you and your health will set time aside to listen to your concerns during your first visit and not jump right into treatment.

5. Find out when the office last had their Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliance training. OSHA has very clear guidelines for dental offices to follow in order to maintain the highest standard of sterilization and infection control. Every member of the dental office is required by regulation to take compliance training at least once a year.

*What is the CROWN COUNCIL?

The Crown Council is a prestigious alliance of leading-edge dentists around the world who are strongly committed to promoting oral health, fighting oral cancer, and serving their communities through charitable work. Membership is by invitation. These industry leaders in health, wellness, and prevention offer the latest dental procedures in state-of-the-art facilities.

To learn more about the Crown Council, or to find a Crown Council dentist near you, visit: CrownCouncil.com