Childrens Snacking and a Recent School Visit

This month I got the opportunity to join our Dental Therapist, Christina, at a local primary school to give a talk to 8 and 9 year old children about oral hygiene and sugar in snacks. The children completed an activity set out in two parts; the first to divide some pictures of snacks into healthy and unhealthy piles, and secondly take all the unhealthy snack cards and match these with clear bags which contained the amount of sugar in each snack. In particular the children were surprised to learn that one of the savoury cheese baked crisps contained sugar, and how much sugar there was in fruit yogurts. So whilst the children were beginning to gain an understanding of the sugar that may be contained in their diet what can we do on a day to day basis to ensure we aren’t eating over the recommended sugar allowance as set out in government guidelines?

Snacking has become increasingly ingrained in our modern lifestyle, where it is said two thirds of adults have at least one snack a day. In 2014 the sales of sweet and savoury snacks in the UK totalled £5.5billion. The changes in the way we cook, with a reliance on ready meals and take aways, alongside snacking in-between these meals has seen an increase in the amount of sugar we consume on a daily basis. These hidden sugars can be found in surprising items such as; tomato pasta bakes, low fat hummus and falafel wraps and ready made pasta salads, to name a few. Smoothies and juices also contribute to this sugar intake.  As a result Dental Practioners are seeing an increase in children as young as 4 years old with evidence of erosive tooth wear and dental caries.

So what can you do to ensure that you aren’t consuming too much sugar? The government’s Change for Life app can help both young and old become sugar detectives! Providing clear and simple guidance it gives all the information you need to make an informed choice. It also enables you to scan barcodes of products and see how much sugar is contained in a clear and simple format. Grabbing a bite to eat in between meals to keep energy levels up is not a bad thing – it just needs to be the right food; high in protein, fibre and nutrient content.


Dry mouth: everything you need to know

Dry mouth: something you may not have even heard of, but it’s a much more common problem than you might think. It’s something that can affect you at any time of your life, although it is more common as you age – apparently one in five older people will experience a dry mouth. It’s also reported by the Oral Cancer Foundation to be the cause for up to 30% of all tooth decay in older adults, so it’s worth knowing a bit about.

We’ve put together this handy guide to dry mouth with the help of some experts, it covers causes, symptoms and what can be done to help.

What is dry mouth?

‘Dry mouth’ is not an illness in its own right, it’s a symptom that has many causes. As you may expect from the name, it describes the feeling of having a dry mouth (xerostomia) and the actual reduction in saliva in the mouth (hyposalivation).

What are the causes?

There can be lots of different causes for dry mouth, from chemotherapy to nerve damage in the salivary glands, but the most common is as a side effect of medication. Over 400 different medications (including antidepressants, antihistamines, beta-blockers, diuretics and many many more) can affect the flow of saliva. We also hear from lots of people who get a dry mouth after their salivary glands are damaged by radiation during cancer treatment, and there are some diseases that particularly affect the salivary glands, including Sjögren’s Syndrome and diabetes.

What are the symptoms?

Saliva is very important. Normally your mouth constantly produces it to stay moist and to help break down the food that you eat. Importantly saliva not only washes debris from your teeth but it’s also supersaturated with various ions. When you eat or drink, the bacteria in your plaque will break down sugars to produce damaging acids. Your saliva contains ions (including calcium and phosphate) that buffer these acids, neutralising the acidity in your mouth. This process is key to preventing damage to your tooth enamel.

Naturally, if you don’t have enough saliva it’s going to cause some problems. Along with discomfort, it can make chewing, swallowing and even speaking difficult. The chance of tooth decay is also significantly increased as the saliva is not there to wash away bits of food or neutralise acidity. This is particularly important when your gums recede as this exposes the much softer root dentine which decays more readily, meaning holes can develop near your gums whilst the crowns of your teeth remain sound.

People with dry mouth can also notice cracked lips, bad breath, a sore throat and interrupted sleep (due to discomfort or thirst). Plus, the risk of mouth infections like gingivitis also increases.

Are there any treatments?

Ideally, you would be able to treat the underlying cause of dry mouth, however in many cases that’s not possible as there may be no choice but to take a certain medication. If a specific medication is causing discomfort it may be worth speaking to your doctor to see if the dose can be adjusted or if there’s an alternative drug to try.

What about relief for dry mouth?

There are things that can be done to get some relief or to prevent it from getting worse. Here are a few tips…

  • Cut down on diuretics like caffeine as dehydration will aggravate dry mouth
  • Avoid smoking or chewing tobacco as unsurprisingly these can aggravate the condition
  • Keep well hydrated. Take frequent sips of cold water and always have a glass of water by your bedside. Some people find sucking on ice cubes helps
  • Breathe through your nose as much as possible
  • Chew sugar free xylitol gum or suck on sugar free xylitol mints. This can help in a couple of ways:
    • First up they promote saliva which can provide relief and return your mouth to a pH neutral level.
    • Secondly the xylitol gives you extra protection against tooth decay (you can find out how here).

If these tips are not enough, your doctor may be able to prescribe a saliva substitute. These can come in gels or sprays and some (but not all) people find they help.

And finally, if you have a dry mouth please make sure you see your dentist regularly. As we said people with a dry mouth are much more likely to get decay so even if you are having xylitol mints & gum, see your dentist or hygienist as often as they recommend.

Sasha Holt

Toothtastic Tips and Tricks…

Here are a few tips and tricks to help achieve excellent oral health…
You can help keep your teeth whiter by avoiding the following:

  • Smoking (we all should anyway), black tea/coffee, highly coloured foods and Corsodyl mouth wash (the Daily one is fine, the Original contains Chlorhexidine which can cause a build-up of staining on your teeth).
  • Whitening toothpastes can help, but if your looking for a more dramatic effect speak to your Dentist about treatment options.
  • There are a lot of so called quick whitening home treatments online but be wary of these as they often suggest using highly acidic and/or abrasive everyday products/items that can in fact damage your teeth. By placing acidic or abrasive products on your teeth will damage the enamel and once this has gone its gone, what will be left will be the dentine which is darker that enamel and so will give you the completely opposite effect of what you are after.
  • Also, its worth noting that only qualified dentists or GDC registered dental professionals can legally offer teeth whitening treatments using hydrogen peroxide above 0.1%. One in four people (28%) would rather purchase potentially unsafe home kits over the internet or visit illegal beauticians and kiosks than see their dentist for tooth whitening treatment, according to research.
  • Its just not worth it, all being well your teeth will be with you for a long time, be kind to them.

Interdental cleaning:

  • Tepe released an advert recently with a very good point and it was this: You wouldn’t apply 60% of your lipstick. Why would they only clean 60% of your teeth?
    Admittedly this is aimed at people who wear lipstick but the message is the same, if you do not clean between your teeth you are not cleaning your whole tooth.
  • There have also been articles in the media about flossing, they tried to tell us it was pointless, the fact is that this is just not true. Flossing correctly helps clean the surfaces (above and below the gum) of the teeth that a brush just can’t get to.
    Flossing technique: Wrap the floss around your middle fingers, leaving your forefingers free to apply pressure and direction to the floss, place the floss between the teeth sliding it under the gum, curve it around the tooth and with a tight contact slide it up and over the tooth.
    Floss cannot do all the work though, this is where product such as Tepe brushes (like small bottle brushes) or Dentisticks (the rubber tipped tapered brushes) can come in really useful, especially for those who get food debris trapped between the teeth.
    These can be placed between your teeth as part of your daily routine, ideally before brushing to remove all debris allowing the toothpaste to reach all surfaces of your teeth.
    An example of a good daily routine would be:
  • AM – Brush with a fluoride toothpaste, spit out the excess toothpaste and do not rinse. This would ideally be before breakfast, and then to freshen up after, floss and clean between your teeth, rinse with a fluoride mouthwash.
    If the thought of brushing before breakfast is too much then leave it an hour after eating then floss and clean between your teeth, brush with a fluoride toothpaste, spit out the excess toothpaste and do not rinse.
  • PM – leave it an hour after eating/drinking (anything apart from water) then floss and clean between your teeth, brush with a fluoride toothpaste, spit out the excess toothpaste and do not rinse.
    Not rinsing out the toothpaste allows the fluoride in the toothpaste to stay in contact with your teeth for longer thus helping to protect your teeth by helping to strengthen enamel and help keep them cavity free.
  • Mouthwash has a lower fluoride content than toothpaste and that is why it is advised to be used at a different time of day to brushing.

Bleeding gums:

  • Healthy gums do not bleed! If you are finding your gums are bleeding whilst you are brushing or cleaning between your teeth the natural reaction is to assume that you have caused some kind of damage and to shy away, when in fact the opposite is true this is a sign that not all the bacteria in your mouth is being removed and you need to clean more thoroughly.

Over scrubbing:

  • If you are using a manual toothbrush and often find your toothbrush bristles splayed out, this could be a sign that you are over scrubbing your teeth. This can cause excessive wear on your teeth and recession on your gums so best avoided – maybe try an electric toothbrush with a pressure sensor.
    If you have an electric toothbrush the head should be changed every 3 months for best results.

As always, your dental professionals are there to assist you in any way they can, cleaning your teeth is not easy otherwise there would be no need for dentists.

Happy dental health everybody!

7 Signs that Stress is Damaging Your Teeth

It’s that time of year again…..Exams are looming for so many people, and stress levels are high. We know that stress can affect our general health – but it can also play havoc with our dental health too.

Last year it was reported that actress Demi Moore had lost her two front teeth because of stress. Experts have said that the number one cause of tooth loss is gum disease, of which stress can be a factor. Here are 7 other ways stress could be taking it’s toll on your teeth:

1. Translucent teeth

“If you notice that your teeth are becoming translucent or getting shorter this may be due to Bruxism (grinding) of the teeth. You should see your dentist as you may need a bite guard to protect the teeth from wearing further.” This simple treatment is a great way to protect your teeth from pain and damage and can help prevent the need for further, more extensive treatment.

2. Achy jaw

“If you feel an ache or clicking in your jaw joint this may be a sign of stress (caused by tension in the jaw joint and muscles around your jaws). Seek advice from your dentist and you may need a treatment for the jaw, such as a special splint or even Botox to relax the muscle.”

3. Bleeding gums

“If you notice your gums are bleeding more this can be a sign of gum disease (gingivitis or periodontitis), which can be caused or exacerbated by stress. See your dentist and hygienist as you will need some gum treatment such as deep cleaning under the gums.”

4. Dental abscesses

“Dental abscesses can be caused as during times of stress your body can be unable to fight of gum infections. Seek advice from your dentist and you may need antibiotics or further treatment for this.”

5. Root canal problems

Root canal problems can be caused by stress if the grinding becomes so severe that the nerves of the teeth are upset. Root canal treatment may then be needed to remove the nerve from the teeth.

6. Bad breath

Bad breath can be a sign of stress. Stomach acids can build during times of stress and lead to reflux and other compounds that causes bad breath. You will need to see your GP for this and may need treatment with antacids or other medication.”

7. Cheek biting

“Cheek biting is a sign of stress. For some people this is a habit that is developed to cope with stress. Acupuncture or hypnosis are some of the treatments that can be used to help relax and prevent this.”

Nail Biter?? This blog may be all you need to stop this harmful habit!

Nail biting or onychophagia is a compulsive stress relieving habit that can cause pathological changes if it persists for a long period of time. Often people indulge in this habit out of sheer boredom or when they are deeply engrossed in something. Though more prevalent among children and teenagers, it often extends to adulthood. It is mostly regarded as a nervous habit that is unsanitary and harmful for general health. However, few people pay attention to the effect it has on dental health.

Negative effects of nail biting on oral health:

1. Chipped/fractured teeth

Though nails are more brittle than teeth, hard chewing of nails can chip a tooth edge. The primary reason is that when you bite your nails, the repetitive and forceful hitting of the upper and lower teeth leads to chipping. In some cases, it may also lead to more advanced teeth fractures. The repetitive motion the teeth get engaged in also wear the teeth down quickly.

2. Orthodontic treatment interference

The nail biting habit is particularly damaging in people wearing braces. This is because the teeth are already under steady pressure and the additional force generated on teeth due to nail biting may lead to root resorption. It can have a detrimental effect on the orthodontic treatment.

3. Create gaps in between front teeth

This is likely to occur only when children are habituated to nail biting from a very young age. As teeth are not strong at a young age, this habit leads to gaps between the front teeth. Nonetheless, this condition may only arise for kids who continuously bite their nails between the teeth.

4. Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD)

Persistent nail biting is often accompanied by pain in the temporomandibular joint and tenderness in facial muscles. This is probably due to the repetitive force applied during chewing nails.

5. Introduction of bacteria in the mouth

The insides of the nails often harbor germs that get introduced in the oral cavity, thereby increasing the chances of infection. In rare cases, if a small snipped off nail remains in the mouth or between the teeth, it can lead to inflammation of the gums or even gum abscess.

Treatment for nail biting

Nail biting is often observed in conjunction with other oral habits such as bruxing. Though occasional biting of nails is not a matter of concern, chewing of the nails that persists till adulthood cannot be ignored. For compulsive nail chewers treatment becomes imperative due to a risk for damaging teeth and the skin around the nails. The treatment needs to address the cause as well as employ habit reversal techniques.

1. Often with children, it is advised to apply nail polish with a bitter taste over the nails. This serves as a deterrent to the child. Another advice is to cover the fingers with a glove which again serves as a reminder. However, these methods are likely to work only if the child is motivated to give up the habit.
2. For adults, opting for periodic manicure or keeping nails short or trimmed may also help to control the urge to chew nails.
3. Since nail biting is often an outcome of boredom, finding means to keep the hands busy is another option. One can use drawing, writing, playing a musical instrument and so on to keep the fingers occupied.
4. It is worthwhile to have regular dental checkups to deal with the dental repercussions.

The impact of stress on your jaw

The pressures of  life can have a significant impact on stress levels.

Stress can impact on health and wellbeing and manifest itself in a number of physical ways and while a restful night’s sleep is so important for the body and mind, a large number of people due to stress have stress-related sleep disturbance.

However the state of the mouth can also be adversely affected by stress, with people experiencing a condition known as bruxism – the dental term for teeth grinding and jaw clenching.

Bruxing is generally described as clenching or grinding of the teeth, but these are distinct activities that sometimes have different causes and impact on the patients wellbeing. Clenching is characterized by the bracing of the jaws, involving no movement. In grinding the lower jaw is tightened and moved sideways against the upper jaw. Therefore people who clench their teeth are more likely to report aching jaws with hardly any wear marks on the teeth. On the other hand, grinding is likely to leave distinct patterns of tooth wear. However, this can become clear only during a dental examination.

Grinding is more likely to occur in sleep bruxism or at night. For the layman, the most prominent symptom would be the sounds of gnashing and grinding while asleep. Grinding is probably related to the central nervous system with disturbances in neurotransmitters and is thought to be related to sleep disturbances. Though the affected person may remain unaware, bed partners or parents are the first ones to hear the sound. Additionally, night grinders would feel discomfort in their jaws first thing in the morning which gradually decreases during the day.

On the other hand, clenching is more commonly observed during awake bruxism when the person is either under some sort of work pressure, working with intense concentration or feeling stressed. The person is likely to be symptom free in the morning but may begin to feel worse as the day passes. Clenching is thought to be semi-voluntary and is often accompanied by other oral habits like cheek biting, tongue thrusting and nail biting.

We have noticed an increase in the amount of people we see who needing help to manage their clenching and grinding. Lost fillings and loosened crowns are often contributed to the clenching and grindig habit.

At Absolute Dental we can help to lessen the effects of a grinding habit, so please do ask us at your next appointment of the ways in which we can help.

Our Dental Technicians …..true team members.

Great Dental Care is delivered by a team who communicate effectively and share knowledge and skills with other team members. A dynamic that some patients know little about is the relationship between Dentist and Dental Technician.

This relationship is made even more important by the development of new and exciting techniques and materials for patient treatment and appliance construction. Beautiful ceramic restorations which are indistinguishable from real teeth – such as crowns, bridges and dental implants. And well fitting removable dentures that can help restore a patients ability to eat well and give them a natural confident smile. New technology is ever present and the world of dentistry advances at a pace.

Dental technician education is generally taught in specially equipped technical colleges. Student dental technicians take a foundation degree which covers the theoretical aspects and basic practical dental technology. Practical experience is gained in work placement in dental laboratories.

From then on the technician will commit to undertake to regular and lifelong learning and Continuing Professional Development to keep up to date with new technology and techniques.

A good dentist and good technician will learn from each other and share new knowledge.
On occasions the technician may have call to meet the patient directly. Should there be a particularly challenging or extensive treatment required it is helpful to involve the dental technician at an early stage. It is also satisfying for all involved when the technician can share in the pleasure of a great result.

Here at Absolute Dental in Kingsbridge we are fortunate to have wonderful dental technicians so close at hand. Their support and superb skills are much appreciated and help to smooth the path to providing wonderful healthy smiles for our patients.

We like to let our patients know about that other very special team member without whom we just couldn’t provide such great care.

Round of applause for our Dental Technicians please!


Toothbrushing is not a magic wand!

New research has revealed that tooth brushing alone is not enough to protect children from tooth decay caused by snacking on sugary foods and drink.

The study, published in the Journal of Public Health, looked at nearly 4,000 pre-school children and discovered that snacking habits are the behaviour most strongly associated with dental decay

Researchers found under-five’s who snack throughout the day, compared to eating just at meal times, are far more likely to have signs of dental decay and that relying on tooth brushing alone to prevent it is not enough.

Dr Nigel Carter, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation commented: “This research supports messages about snacking being unhealthy; last week it was revealed that 170 children underwent operations in England every day to have rotten teeth removed and this research confirms that snacking on sugary foods and drinks is the key contributing factor.

“It is clear that tooth brushing with a fluoride toothpaste alone is not the magic wand that many people still believe it to be and preventing tooth decay also has to involve changing diet and lifestyle.

“Almost every single one of these operations, and the pain and suffering associated with them, could have been prevented with effective behaviour changes to help protect children’s oral health.

“Snacking throughout the day on sugary foods and drinks means that children’s teeth come under constant attack from acid and can quickly lead to severe problems.

“Children’s snacking should be limited to no more than two a day and unhealthy sugary snacks should be replaced with healthier foods such as fruit and vegetables.

The Change4Life Food Scanner mobile app is a great way of helping to achieve this.

“Even though a child’s first set of teeth is temporary the oral health behaviour children learn early on they take into the rest of their lives, so it is vital that they get into good habits as early as possible.”

Dental decay happens when the enamel and dentine of a tooth become softened by acid attacks after eating or drinking anything containing sugars. Over time, the acid makes a cavity (hole) in the tooth. ‘Dental decay’ is the same as tooth decay and is also known as ‘dental caries’.

The study also identified that children who brushed less than once per day, or not at all at age two, had twice the chance of having dental decay at age five compared with children who brushed their teeth twice per day or more often.

Great Start to my Dental Nursing Career with Absolute Dental

I began my journey at Absolute Dental the summer after I had finished sixth form at Kingsbridge Community College, when I was 18 years old. I was extremely nervous as most of my friends were off to university or going travelling, however, I wanted to get “stuck in” to a career and Dental Nursing has always been a dream of mine as I have been obsessed with teeth ever since my trips to the dentist when I was much younger!

My training with Absolute Dental has been amazing and they have been the most supportive team I could have ever wished for. There was a lot to cover in training but Diane was great and always kept me on top of everything and ensured I had full knowledge of everything I needed to know – and more! She was always there to answer my questions no matter what. As you would expect, I felt anxious about taking these exams but knowing that everyone at Absolute had faith in me and were offering help and support was just what I needed to get through it and kept me calm on the day of the exams. 

The written exam was the side of the examination process was the aspect that I was most apprehensive about – the practical examination I felt I was well prepared for because of my day to day activities at Absolute Dental. Because of this Diane and I scheduled some one to one sessions at the weekends – and I feel these were highly influential in the success that I achieved in the written paper. 

I consider myself very lucky that I had such huge support from the more experienced members of the team here, such as the qualified dental nurses, therapists and the dentists. They prepared me for the practical side of the exam by testing me on a daily basis, and also with the theory to help me with the written exam too.

Overall I found the exam process challenging but very rewarding and am glad I pushed myself to achieve the overall goal and feel that its helped me to be prepared for my future career at Absolute.




Pregnancy – The First Trimester

Early pregnancy can be an exciting time, a nervous time until first scan, or just down right feeling miserable time!

Two common side effects of pregnancy that can affect your mouth

  • Metallic taste. As with most side effects during the first trimester you can blame those pesky hormones. For some, the bitter metallic taste only temporarily goes away after eating acidic foods. If this sounds familiar and Monster Munch pickled onion & Haribo Tangfastics are your new favourite thing; for extra protection rinse your mouth with a fluoride mouthwash at a different time to brushing.

Top tip: eat a small chunk of hard cheese to neutralise your mouth after consuming acidic food & drink.

  • The obvious: pregnancy sickness. Freshen up by rinsing for 1 minute with a fluoride alcohol free mouthwash. (To prevent tooth wear, avoid brushing your teeth straight after, your teeth will have been softened by stomach acid).

Good news, for most, this passes at 12 weeks once your placenta starts functioning & the hormones are less crazy.

Look after your mouth during pregnancy;

  • Brush twice a day & floss or use interdental brushes between your teeth once daily – if this seems an impossible task if you are nauseous or being sick try to find time in the day you feel less nauseous!
  • Spit out but do not rinse your fluoride toothpaste away after brushing.
  • Bleeding gums is a sign of gum disease & this can increase during pregnancy. Gum disease has been linked to miscarriage. It can be managed with correct home care & professional support. Visit your dentist if you have concerns.
  • Keep regular dental and hygienist appointments – healthy mum = healthy baby!