Why Hollywood Needs to Stop Hating on Root Canals

hollywood hating on root canalsRoot canals have a bad reputation they don’t deserve and we think Hollywood is to blame. Movies and television shows often portray root canal therapy as a painful and frightening procedure. The truth is that most root canal procedures are quite painless, and they are one of the most important procedures that dentists perform. That’s because a root canal is a life-saving procedure for your tooth!

Even movies as fun as Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” show root canals as a scary procedure that makes the patient squirm and cry out. When dentists watch scenes like this it has us wincing because it’s so far from the truth!

Many patients find out they need a root canal after they come to us with a toothache. Root canals are necessary when the pulp inside the inside of your tooth (i.e. the root canal) becomes inflamed. This is usually due to infection caused by tooth decay or a crack in your tooth, but it can also be caused by outside injury. A tooth that was injured in an accident can have inflamed pulp even if there is no damage to the outside of the tooth.

Left untreated, an infected or damaged tooth can get worse to the point that it needs to be removed. Hence why the root canal procedure is considered a life-saver for your tooth. Without this dental technique, dentists might have to pull teeth instead of preserving them in your mouth.

Rather than let the infection progress and the toothache get worse, the dentist performs a root canal to stop the pain and strengthen the tooth. This involves removing the inflamed or infected tooth, cleaning the empty canal, then filling it and sealing it. The dentist usually applies local anesthesia during the procedure and any pain you feel afterward is usually minor enough to be alleviated by over-the-counter pain medications like Tylenol or Advil.

So if root canal therapy isn’t painful, how did it get that reputation? Well, for one thing, dental technology and procedures have improved over the years. The other reason is that Hollywood movie writers need a reason to amp up the action in a scene, and they’ve exaggerated the discomfort of root canals for just that purpose!

We know that Hollywood’s nasty portrayal of root canals isn’t likely to stop anytime soon (silver screen myths have a tendency to feed off each other). As dentists, the best we can do is reassure you that if you need a root canal, you have nothing to fear. It’s certainly much better than enduring a bad toothache or losing your tooth.

Now, don’t get us started on how Hollywood portrays dentists!

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Why Your Detox Water Is Bad For Your Teeth

detox water can help cause tooth decayDetox water (also known as skinny water) is promoted as a great all natural way to cleanse the body and lose weight. These do-it-yourself fruit and herb infused water concoctions are supposed to be great for your overall health, but there’s one problem: detox water can be really bad for your teeth!

Perhaps the most common ingredient in detox water recipes is lemons, though other citrus fruits such as limes, grapefruit, and oranges also make an appearance. Citrus fruits are acidic: they contain citric acid. However, what you might not know is that lots of other fruits are highly acidic too, including pineapples, mangoes, peaches, pomegranates and even blueberries. Some recipes even call for apple cider vinegar, which is also acidic.

Acid is one of your smile’s greatest enemies. Acids can eat through the hard outer enamel layer of your teeth, causing spots, cavities, and a great place for tooth decay-causing bacteria to start an infection. (Fun fact: It’s actually acid that links sugar to tooth decay. The existing bacteria in your mouth consume the sugar and excrete acid as a byproduct, right onto your teeth. Lovely, right?)

So, it turns out, depending on the ingredients, detox water is a nice tasty erosion-causing acid bath for your teeth. Okay, that may be a little dramatic, but detox water certainly puts your teeth at higher risk for tooth decay than plain clean water.

The truth is, detox water (like most flavored drinks) are fine in moderation. Unfortunately, moderation is not what a lot of detox water lovers recommend. A lot of instructions for detox water suggest sipping it all day long. That means repeatedly subjecting your teeth to an acidic environment!

Drinking detox water is okay, and will probably benefit your health by keeping your better hydrated (other health claims are dubious, but that’s another story). Your dentist just asks you to be sensible about it. Just like we recommend not snacking between meals, we also suggest not drinking detox water between meals. This will give your teeth “time off” from being covered in acids, sugars, etc. Most dentists will tell you that the only thing you should be sipping on all day is water. Consider drinking a detox water with breakfast, then brushing your teeth and going about your day with a fun, well-designed bottle of fruit-free water instead.

If you have a detox water habit you just can’t shake, there are some steps you can take to reduce its impact on your teeth. One way is to use a straw, which helps keep the liquid from hitting your teeth directly. You can also flush your mouth with plain water every time you drink the detox water, to help wash away the acid and any sugars. However, remember that the primary way that detox water “draws out toxins” and improves your health is by encouraging you to consume more water. When it doubt, regular fluoridated tap water is your smile’s best friend.


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The Truth About Oil Pulling

using oil pulling to prevent tooth decayAmong the many health fads and rumors going around the web, oil pulling is one that we dentists get asked about a lot. The question is, does oil pulling really prevent tooth decay?

Oil pulling is an ancient dental care technique that originated in India about 3,000 years ago. It involves swishing oil in your mouth for about 20 minutes then spitting it out. The rumor is that the oil pulls toxins out of the tissues of your mouth and whitens at the same time. Some people have claimed that it not only prevents but can also reverse tooth decay. Many advocates also mention secondary benefits for your overall health, including improvements to conditions such as diabetes and psoriasis.

In fact, several studies conducted on groups of young adults in India showed that oil pulling did reduce the number of tooth decay-causing bacteria present in plaque. However, some dentists and health professionals have suggested that swishing water in your mouth for 20 minutes would have a similar effect. In other words, there’s nothing special about using oil, in particular, it’s the rinsing action that helps reduce bacteria.

Many dental professionals agree that oil pulling could be a viable alternative to traditional mouthwashes and rinses, but not your normal dental care routine of brushing and flossing. In fact, in studies of the effectiveness of oil pulling on reducing harmful oral bacteria, the control groups were using traditional mouthwash. That means these studies only looked at how oil pulling works compared to regular mouthwash, not to compared to doing away with brushing and flossing.

Some oil pulling advocates claim that it can replace brushing and flossing completely, but dentists do not advise this. From a practical standpoint, the oil can’t clean between your teeth thoroughly like flossing or using a Waterpik. And while it can help prevent the buildup of plaque, it can’t remove it. Plaque can only be removed mechanically, with the abrasives in toothpaste paired with the motion of a toothbrush or a dental hygienist’s tools.

As to the claims that oil pulling can help a wide variety of non-dental health problems, such as asthma, migraines or skin disorders, this may be true, but not directly because of the oil pulling itself. Paying extra good attention to your oral health is bound to impact your general health; the two are closely connected. For example, gum disease has been linked to low birthweight in babies and heart disease and stroke. Tooth loss due to tooth decay often contributes to poor nutrition, which comes with a whole host of health consequences.

Those interested in oil pulling should know that it is only advisable for someone in good oral health. If you have gum disease or are at risk for it, oil pulling could make things worse. If you have questions about oil pulling or any other homeopathic oral care, please talk with us so we can advise you on whether these techniques are a good idea for your oral health situation.

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