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Curing the Nail-Biting Habit

April 25th, 2017

Do you ever find yourself gnawing at your nails? Nail-biting is a very common and difficult to break habit which usually has its beginnings in childhood. It can leave your fingers and nail beds red and swollen. But if you think that your nails are the only ones getting roughed up by nail-biting you'd be mistaken—so are your teeth!

According to a study by the Academy of General Dentistry, those who bite their nails, clench their teeth, or chew on pencils are at much higher risk to develop bruxism (unintentional grinding of the teeth). Bruxism can lead to tooth sensitivity, tooth loss, receding gums, headaches, and general facial pain.

Those are some nasty sounding side effects from chewing on your nails. Most nail-biting is a sign of stress or anxiety and its something you should deal with. So what steps can you take if you have a nail-biting habit?

There are several things you can do to ease up on nail-biting:

  • Trim your nails shorter and/or get regular manicures – Trimming your nails shorter is an effective remedy. In so doing, they'll be less tempting and more difficult to bite on. If you also get regular manicures, you’ll be less likely to ruin the investment you’ve made in your hands and fingernails!
  • Find a different kind of stress reduction – Try meditation, deep breathing, practicing qigong or yoga, or doing something that will keep your hands occupied like squeezing a stress ball or playing with a yo-yo.
  • Wear a bitter-tasting nail polish – When your nails taste awful, you won't bite them! Clear or colored, it doesn't matter. This is also a helpful technique for helping children get over the habit.
  • Figure out what triggers your nail-biting – Sometimes it's triggered by stress or anxiety and other times it can be a physical stressor, like having hang nails. Knowing what situations cause you to bite your nails will help you to avoid them and break the habit.
  • Wear gloves or bandages on your fingers – If you've tried the steps above and they aren't working, this technique can prove effective since your fingernails won't be accessible to bite.

If you're still having trouble with nail-biting after trying these self-help steps, it's best to consult your doctor, dermatologist, or Drs. Grady, Kastner, and Gornick. For some, it may also be the sign of a deeper psychological or emotional problem.

Whatever the cause, nail-biting is a habit you need to break for your physical and emotional well-being. If you have any questions about the effects it can have on your oral health, please don't hesitate to ask Drs. Grady, Kastner, and Gornick during your next visit to our Wexford, PA office.

Sports and Energy Drink Consumption Damages Tooth Enamel

April 18th, 2017

While they may sound refreshing, especially after participating in sports activities or after a jog, recent studies suggest that energy and sports drinks can damage tooth enamel, thus elevating your cavity risk. These drinks are especially popular among our younger patients.

In the study, researchers analyzed the fluoride content and pH levels of 13 sports and nine energy drinks by soaking tooth enamel samples in the aforementioned drinks. The samples were soaked for 15 minutes in each drink, and then were soaked for two hours in artificial saliva four times a day for five days.

As much as sports drinks are harmful to your teeth, researchers found that exposure to energy drinks such as Rockstar, Monster®, and Red Bull® resulted in twice as much enamel loss as exposure to sports drinks such as Powerade®, Gatorade®, and Propel® (3.1 percent to 1.5 percent).

Yes, there are health benefits to consuming orange juice, fruit juices, sports drinks, and flavored waters, which can contain valuable ingredients such as vitamin C and other antioxidants; these drinks can also replenish nutrients lost during a sporting event and lower the chance of heart disease and cancer. But, if not consumed carefully, these beverages can harm your teeth. They are full of sugar, which converts to acid and wears away at your teeth, causing cavities, sensitivity, and eventually tooth loss.

Even one drink a day is potentially harmful, but if you are absolutely unable to give up that sports or energy drink habit, we encourage you to minimize their use and rinse with water afterward or chew a sugar-free piece of gum. Do not brush immediately after drinking them; softened enamel due to acid is easier to damage, even when brushing. Remember, it takes your mouth approximately 30 minutes to bring its pH level back to normal. The best thing to do is to wait an hour, then brush to remove sugar that lingers on your teeth and gums.

There are many sports drinks, energy drinks, and flavored waters out there today. Drs. Grady, Kastner, and Gornick and our team recommend you take the time to read the labels. Check for sugar content and citric acid in the ingredients. If you have any questions, or would like suggestions on the best sports drink options, please give us a call at our Wexford, PA office or ask us during your next visit!

When is the best time to floss?

April 11th, 2017

At GKG Orthodontics, we prefer our patients to practice good oral hygiene between office visits. Part of that process includes flossing, which Drs. Grady, Kastner, and Gornick will tell you, is the process of cleaning between the teeth to remove food and debris from the areas that are hard to reach with a toothbrush. When food is allowed to remain between the teeth, it provides a breeding ground for bacteria, which can cause periodontal disease.

Should you floss before or after brushing?

You can floss either before or after brushing, according to your own preference. By flossing first, you can brush away dislodged food debris afterward. On the other hand, brushing first allows you to loosen plaque between the teeth, making it easier to floss more effectively.

Whichever you choose, the most important goal is to floss thoroughly. That means using a fresh strand of dental floss each day, and carefully pulling it back and forth between all of the teeth. Do not skip flossing because your teeth look or feel clean.

When to Floss

Unlike brushing, you need only floss between your teeth once per day. Although you may choose to do it in the morning or afternoon, many prefer to floss at night to prevent food and debris from remaining in the crevices of the teeth overnight. This could prevent the build-up of plaque too, which is a cause of tooth decay.

Help with Flossing

If you have questions about your flossing technique or what type of floss is best for your teeth, contact our office. Our staff will be more than happy to assist you in perfecting your home hygiene regimen. In most cases, you can choose between interdental cleaning picks or flexible floss strands to perform your daily flossing routine. If you have permanent oral appliances or restorations, be sure to follow the flossing instructions provided to you, and contact our Wexford, PA office with any questions.

Getting to the Bottom of Chewing Gum Myths

April 4th, 2017

It's a moment many of our patients have experienced. One second you're chewing on a piece of gum, then suddenly you forget to keep chewing and swallow the entire rubbery gob whole! It's at this point you remember your mother warning you as a child that if you swallow gum it will stake a claim and take up residency in your belly for seven years. Drs. Grady, Kastner, and Gornick and our team at GKG Orthodontics hate to take all the fun out of the mystery, but the truth is that chewing gum, when swallowed, will enter your stomach and move through your digestive system just like any other piece of food. So, if you ever accidentally swallow a piece of gum, there is no need to worry!

That being said, it's important to know that gum does not have any dietary benefits, so while it’s not exactly harmful to swallow, you still want to avoid swallowing it. If you are an avid gum-chewer, we encourage you to chew sugarless gum, especially if you are wearing braces, because gum with sugar can lead to cavities. Sugarless gum still has the same amount of flavor, but has fewer cavity-causing ingredients. In fact, many brands contain an additive called xylitol, a natural sweetener known to fight cavity-causing bacteria. Xylitol is also known to increase salivary flow as it rinses away plaque and acid.

The fact is, when the bacterium in your mouth breaks down sugar, what’s left behind is acid. This acid eats away at the enamel coating of your teeth, causing holes that we call cavities. Cavities can lead to other long-term mouth problems if they are not treated in time, so it is best to try and avoid overexposing your teeth to too many harmful substances!

If you have any questions about chewing gum, please contact our office. Happy (sugar-free) gum chewing!

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