Our customers ask a number of questions about their mouth and tooth health, and we’d like to share some of our frequently-asked questions in case you’ve ever been curious about the same things.

Is it harmful to chew ice?
The danger of chewing hard substances such as ice, popcorn kernels, or nut shells is that it can damage your tooth enamel. Enamel is the hardest substance in the body, but it can still be broken or worn down by the things you do with your teeth. However, it’s worth noting that the highest risk of tooth enamel erosion comes from excessive soft drink and fruit drink consumption. We don’t recommend making it a habit to chew ice.

Why are soft drinks bad for my teeth?
Soft drinks are the number one product that wears away tooth enamel. These drinks contain high levels of phosphoric and citric acids, which soften tooth enamel. Dentists particularly see high levels of tooth decay in people who regularly drink Mountain Dew, and we would strongly caution parents to limit your children’s consumption of these products. Also be watchful of energy drinks, fruit juices, and candy, because they also wash your teeth with high amounts of acid. In fact, according to WebMD, some acids in fruit drinks are more erosive than battery acid.

If you do indulge in a soft drink, energy drink, fruit drink, or candy, be sure to rinse your mouth afterward with a high-quality dental mouthwash, or at least chew a piece of sugar-free, xylitol chewing gum.

What’s so great about Xylitol Chewing Gum?
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol used as a sweetener. Dr. Colkmire, Dr. Shafi and other dentists recommend gum that is sweetened with xylitol because it helps to reduce the number of acid-producing bacteria in your mouth. Bacteria cannot use xylitol as food, and xylitol even helps to prevent bacteria from sticking to your teeth, cutting down plaque buildup. Look for a brand of gum that contains at least one gram of xylitol per piece, such as Epic Xylitol Gum, ElimiTaste Zapp, Xyloburst Gum, Branam Xylitol Gum, Xyla Gum, Zellies, or Pur Gum.

Are tongue piercings bad for your teeth?
Up to 40% of people with tongue piercings experience a negative impact in their oral health due to their piercing. Tongue piercing rings, studs, and barbells are bad for your teeth, and dentists have seen them cause major problems. For example, they can cause tooth movement, cracking and chipping, and even tooth fractures. They can also cause bacterial infections of the bloodstream, tongue, and lips. Even in the best-case scenario, most people with a tongue piercing leave it in all the time and play with it when they’re bored, accumulating extra wear on their teeth.

What does fluoride do for your teeth?
According to the Colgate Oral Care Center, fluoride helps prevent cavities by helping to harden the enamel on the teeth of adults and children. Also, when your body replenish tooth structure with calcium and phosphorus, the presence of fluoride makes these deposited minerals harder than they would have been without fluoride. However, fluoride is toxic in doses that are too high, so we don’t recommend swallowing fluoridated toothpaste, and we recommend ensuring that if your water is fluoridated, it is at the optimum level of one part per million.

Do you have solutions for tooth grinding?
Yes, Dr. Colkmire and Dr. Shafi can recommend a night guard or other oral appliance to help if you’re a tooth grinder. This will help to alleviate pain in your jaws when you wake up. It may also reduce persistent headache. If you’re grinding your teeth in your sleep (called bruxing), it will damage your teeth by wearing them down, and it can also damage your jaw joints and affect your hearing. Be sure to talk to Dr. Colkmire if you suspect or know that you have been grinding your teeth.

Is an oral cancer screening part of my exam?
Yes! Oral cancer (mouth cancer) can be a devastating, painful, and life-changing experience, and it’s important to catch it early. Dentists and hygienists are trained to detect and treat oral cancer as a standard part of your exam, and by catching it early, patients experience an average 80 to 90% cure rate. If you think oral can’t happen to you, think again. Approximately 30,000 people per year are diagnosed in the US. This is one of the best reasons for you to not miss your regular 6-month teeth cleaning and dental checkup.

I clean my teeth regularly myself. Why do I need someone else to do it?
There’s a difference between dental plaque and tartar (or calculus) that builds up on your teeth. Plaque is a sticky, colorless substance that is essentially a mass of bacteria that adheres to the surfaces of your teeth. Plaque is relatively soft, and you can remove it yourself with a toothbrush or fingernail. However, plaque hardens into tartar, which is a mineralized buildup that a toothbrush can’t remove. Only a dental hygienist can completely clean the tartar off your teeth, because it requires the trained use of ultrasonic tools or dental instruments.

Can my dentist help my TMJ?
Yes! TMJ Disorder is a pain, discomfort, or tenderness around your jaw joint, or Temporomandibular Joint, and there are a variety of treatment options for TMJ. Ask Dr. Colkmire and Dr. Shafi if you’re experiencing symptoms of TMJ, such as jaw pain or stiffness, and he will be able to recommend treatment options for you.