New Year’s Resolutions: Smile More in 2017

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Healthy  Smiles by Rita Tempel, DDS – This article was originally published in the Gettysburg Times, January 18, 2017

If your New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight, exercise more, eat healthier, or improve your health in any way—guess what? Chances are, you will also be improving your dental health!

Your overall health is affected by your dental health and vice versa. If you have established good dental habits, then you have a good foundation for your New Year’s Resolutions and additional good healthy habits. Let’s review recommended dental habits:

  • Be sure to brush your teeth twice a day, for at least two minutes each time.
  • Replace your toothbrush every season (at least four times a year).
  • Flossing at least once a day is also the American Dental Association’s (ADA) recommendation.
  • See your dentist at least twice a year for checkups and professional cleanings.

Here’s how your dental health will improve as a result of some of the most common New Year’s Resolutions, according to the ADA:

  • If you resolve to drink more water and cut back on soda: One in four Americans consume at least 200 calories a day from sugary drinks like soda. Most of those calories come from sugar. Water however contains zero calories or sugar and helps keep cavities away by washing leftover food particles away. Water also prevents your mouth from becoming dry. All of these factors create healthier conditions in your mouth and lessen the risk of cavities.
  • Exercising goes hand-in-hand with drinking water: Staying hydrated is essential to healthy physical activity. Instead of reaching for sugary drinks like soda, iced tea, or sports drinks, reach for water instead. The ADA states that “water is the best beverage for your body and teeth” for all of the reasons stated above.
  • Resolving to eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer processed “junk foods:” Fruits and veggies are high in both water and fiber, which help to balance their natural sugars and to clean your teeth. The high water content also helps stimulate saliva production, which washes harmful acids and food particles away from your teeth. Once again, this is a choice that lessens your risk of cavities.
  • If you resolve to cut back on snacking in 2017: Frequent snacking may increase your risk of developing tooth decay, which is caused by plaque—a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on your teeth. The bacteria convert sugar and starch (that may remain in the mouth after you eat) into acid that attacks your tooth enamel. The longer the sugars remain in your mouth, the longer the acids attack your teeth. Cutting back on snacks, or replacing them with vitamin-rich fruits, vegetables, or water, will boost both your oral and overall health.

One huge side effect to all of these resolutions and health practices: You will undoubtedly feel better and smile more! The simple act of smiling triggers additional health benefits in your brain and body. Endorphins are releasing, acting as a natural pain reliever, relaxing you, easing stress away, lowering your heart rate and blood pressure. Here’s to a healthy 2017!

Dr. Rita Tempel is the owner and founder of Gettysburg Smiles/Dr. Rita Tempel & Associates, a family dental practice located at 2018 York Road (Route 30 East), Gettysburg.  She is a Sustaining Member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry as well as a Preferred Provider for Invisalign. For more information, see GettysburgSmiles.com or contact Dr. Tempel at 717-339-0033.

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All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth…

Photo Credit: Mega, Flickr, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: Mega, Flickr, via Wikimedia Commons

Healthy  Smiles by Rita Tempel, DDS

It was back in 1944 when teacher Donald Gardner wrote, “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.” This is probably the number one holiday song in dental offices! Today’s holiday-themed column is going to talk about the importance of our front teeth—starting with the reason Gardner wrote this catchy tune.

“Gardner and his wife, Doris, were helping 22 second-graders in Smithtown, N.Y., compose a Christmas song. He asked them to complete the sentence, “All I want for Christmas is… ” and then began smiling as he heard 16 of them lisping wishes without the help of one or both front teeth. That night, in the space of 30 minutes, the 31-year-old music teacher composed the ditty that would bring him royalties until the end of his life.” This is what the LA Times wrote when Gardner passed away in 2004. (Two more fun facts about Donald Gardner: He was a Pennsylvania native and a graduate of the West Chester University School of Music!)

What Gardner realized is that our front teeth play a vital role in our lives. Most children lose their front teeth, usually one closely followed by the other, when they’re 6-8 years old. It typically takes several months until the new adult teeth erupt through the gums.

Without our front teeth, two of the biggest challenges are talking and eating. It’s difficult to bite into sandwiches and apples, for example. Front teeth are considered the central incisors—teeth that help us cut and tear our food.

I also want to touch on a more serious issue for a moment—accidents involving our front teeth. I have seen a number of patients over the years who have suffered damage to their front teeth—usually as a result of one of two situations: a fall, or a sports-related injury.

In one of the most serious cases, a patient lost his front teeth due to a motorcycle injury. After going without front teeth for several months, he’s on a slow road to recovery with a temporary partial to replace his missing teeth—helping him regain speech and normal chewing habits as well as boosting his self-esteem. Another patient, a young girl, lost both of her teeth after slipping in the shower. Thankfully, I was able to re-implant both teeth successfully within an hour of her accident.

Premature loss of adult teeth in the adolescent and teen years consequently require years of attention by dental professionals since adolescents are still growing, affecting their faces and mouths.

When we smile, the front teeth are truly “front and center.” Cosmetically, working with a dentist to improve the shape, width, or length of your front teeth can dramatically boost your smile—as well as your self-confidence.

In closing, if your child is missing his/her front teeth this Christmas, you just might be celebrating another holiday—the Fourth of July—by the time his/her beautiful new adult teeth have grown in. As the song goes, “Gee, if I could only have my two front teeth… Then I could ‘with’ you a Merry Christmas!”

Dr. Rita Tempel is the owner and founder of Gettysburg Smiles/Dr. Rita Tempel & Associates, a family dental practice located at 2018 York Road (Route 30 East), Gettysburg.  She is a Sustaining Member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry as well as a Preferred Provider for Invisalign. For more information, see GettysburgSmiles.com or contact Dr. Tempel at 717-339-0033.

Dental Insurance: What You Need to Know

Healthy  Smiles by Rita Tempel, DDS – This article was originally published in the Gettysburg Times, November 16, 2016 

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This is the time of year when individuals and employers evaluate new health coverage plans including dental insurance. But many patients are unaware of their coverage limitations. I hope to shed some light on the situation by educating as many consumers as I can through this column.

Dental insurance benefits have deteriorated so badly over the past several years that the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) is asking state officials to investigate. In a recent letter to the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, legal counsel representing the PDA summarizes the current situation: “I write to you regarding a growing and serious concern of numerous dentists regarding actions of certain dental insurers in Continue reading

The Silent Epidemic of Cracked Teeth

Healthy  Smiles by Rita Tempel, DDS

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A cracked tooth in need of a crown

Did you know that cracked teeth are to blame for the third-leading cause of tooth loss?  Cracked teeth are considered a silent epidemic because we often observe these cracks before symptoms begin. In other words, cracked teeth are “silent” until the fracture worsens.

Why do teeth develop cracks? Although there are many reasons, here is one common scenario: A patient may have had a large filling placed in a tooth years ago. This large filling placed because of a large cavity—although necessary—will weaken the remaining tooth structure. This tooth is at risk for developing a crack, simply from Continue reading

Smiling with Confidence

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Healthy Smiles By Rita Tempel, DDS – This article was published in the Gettysburg Times, September 15, 2016

Let’s think for a moment about what a smile is: an expression of happiness. Being happy works hand-in-hand with health; so that when you’re healthy, you’re happy, and vice versa. Your smile is actually a glimpse of your overall health and psyche. That feeling of well-being and confidence is reflected in your smile!

Studies on smiles have revealed amazing, fascinating research behind the power of our smiles.  For example, when you smile, studies show that your body produces chemicals called endorphins. This endorphin rush triggers positive feelings and reduces stress and pain. Try smiling right now to experience it!

Smiling is also “contagious.” Studies have shown that the simple act of smiling at Continue reading

Getting Back to Basics

800px-ToothbrushesHealthy Smiles By Rita Tempel, DDS – This article was published in The Gettysburg Times, August 17, 2016

How much time do you spend brushing your teeth? (Be honest!) See how your answer compares with American statistics:

Nearly seven out of 10 Americans say they brush their teeth at least twice a day, once in the morning and again at bedtime. The other 30 percent confess they brush less frequently—once a day or less. This is according to a study provided to the American Dental Association. Your brushing habits are the very foundation of your dental health.

Many patients, especially those experiencing numerous cavities, tell me they have “soft teeth.” While some people have enamel abnormalities and are prone to decay, the Continue reading