Helping Patients Make Healthy Choices… Please Call Us Today

  • Bleeding Gums

    Have you noticed blood when you brush? It’s not uncommon for gums to bleed, and it could be something easy to fix. However, bleeding gums aren’t something to be ignored because they can sometimes indicate a major issue with your oral or overall health.

    First, let’s rule out some causes of bleeding gums that aren’t very serious. You could be brushing too hard, using a toothbrush that’s too firm, or flossing incorrectly. Brush teeth gently with a softer brush and try a different flossing technique, and you may fix the problem. If you’re pregnant or taking new medication, that could also be the cause. But if none of these things are a factor, there may be something more serious happening.

    • Gum disease is the leading cause of bleeding gums. It starts out as gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums that causes red, irritated, swollen gums. Gingivitis results from plaque build-up on your gumline, and you can alleviate it by taking better care of your teeth. Brushing twice a day, flossing at least once, rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash, and seeing your dentist twice a year can take care of gingivitis.
    • Left untreated, gingivitis turns into periodontitis. Also called periodontal disease, this is a long-term condition that’s very serious. Gums affected by periodontal disease get infected and inflamed and pull away from the roots of your teeth. This can lead to your teeth getting loose or separating. You may have bad breath, a bad taste in your mouth, changes in your bite, and swollen, tender, red gums. Without proper treatment, you can lose some teeth.
    • There are other illnesses that can cause gums to bleed. Swollen, bleeding gums can be a symptom of diabetes or even leukemia. Thrombocytopenia can cause your gums to bleed without stopping, and so can hemophilia.
    • Changing other habits can help, too. If you smoke, please quit. If you’re under a lot of pressure, find healthy ways to manage your stress.

    If you have bleeding gums for more than a week or two, it’s time to see your dentist. At West County Dental, we provide personalized family dental care using state of the art procedures. Adhering to a standard of excellence, we provide comprehensive treatment, from preventive care to restorative dentistry. When you reserve a visit with West County Dental, you can be confident that our team of highly-trained dental professionals will provide you the care you need for a healthy smile. Call (314) 488-2921 or contact us through our website today!

  • Acid Reflux & Tooth Decay

    You know that chewing is the first step in the digestive process, but did you know that your digestive health can have an impact on your teeth? If you have acid reflux, it could be eroding your tooth enamel. Once it wears away, enamel can’t be restored. However, you can take action before it happens to protect your teeth.

    Before we get into that, let’s talk about why enamel erosion happens in the first place. If you’ve got acid reflux, you know it’s very uncomfortable. Symptoms of acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), include chest pain and heartburn. These symptoms occur because acid produced by the stomach has washed back up into the esophagus. That same stomach acid can reach your teeth and wear away their enamel. Strong enamel protects your teeth against pain and sensitivity, but when that enamel erodes, your teeth become vulnerable to tooth decay and cavities.

    Acid reflux is not the only thing that can erode your enamel. Too much sugar, acidic foods, heavy drinking, brushing too hard, and tooth grinding are among the other culprits. GERD is probably the most damaging of all, so take these steps to protect your teeth:

    • Work on getting your acid reflux under control. Work with your doctor to determine the best way to do this. Your plan may include things like losing weight, eating fewer acidic foods, having smaller meals, sleeping propped up, quitting smoking, and limiting your alcohol consumption.
    • Change the way you eat and drink. This starts with cutting back on acidic foods like soda, citrus, and even tomato sauce, but that’s just the beginning. You can also protect your enamel by not eating within three hours of bedtime and drinking through a straw. Never brush immediately after a meal, because that can be erosive. Instead, swish water around your mouth after you eat or have a piece of cheese or glass of milk to finish your meal and neutralize the acid.
    • Drink plenty of water. This keeps damaging substances from staying on your teeth and can also lessen dry mouth.
    • Chew some gum. Chewing sugar free gum can increase saliva production, which strengthens your teeth and helps protect them against erosion and decay.
    • Choose a fluoride toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth. Talk to your dentist about your best options for toothpaste and mouthwash.
    • See your dentist regularly. Seeing the dentist every six months is something everyone should do, but it’s particularly important for people with acid reflux. Your dentist will notice any tooth erosion and can help you keep your teeth healthy.

    At West County Dental, we provide personalized family dental care using state of the art procedures. Adhering to a standard of excellence, we provide comprehensive treatment, from preventive care to restorative dentistry. When you reserve a visit with West County Dental, you can be confident that our team of highly-trained dental professionals will provide you the care you need for a healthy smile. Call (314) 488-2921 or contact us through our website today!

  • What Kinds of Patients Benefit from Sedation Dentistry?

    Sedation dentistry is a safe and effective way to minimize anxiety and discomfort at the dentist office. If you’re wondering whether sedation dentistry could be right for you, consider the types of patients who benefit the most from this treatment option.

    • Nervous or anxious patients: Millions of people feel nervous about going to the dentist. Don’t let dental anxiety prevent you from getting the dental care you need! Sedation dentistry “takes the edge off,” making your next dentist visit more pleasant than you thought possible.
    • Patients undergoing a smile transformation: If you need several dental procedures at once, sedation dentistry makes your treatment more comfortable. With lower anxiety and an overall feeling of calm, it’s easier than ever to transform your smile with the restorative services you need.
    • Patients with a sensitive gag reflex: You may be nervous about a dentist or hygienist working in your mouth because you have a sensitive gag reflex. Sedation dentistry is the perfect way to combat this uncomfortable feeling, allowing you to relax and receive the care you need.
    • Patients with a low pain threshold: Thanks to modern dental anesthesia, even notorious root canals are about as uneventful as getting a filling. Still, you may be nervous just anticipating the pain you might feel, especially if you had a negative experience with your previous dentist. Not only does sedation dentistry make you feel more relaxed, but it also dulls your sense of pain to keep you comfortable from start to finish.

    If you think sedation dentistry may be right for you, the last step is to decide which one to try. West County Dental offers two options:

    • Oral conscious sedation is a pill that relaxes you but keeps you awake and able to respond. You’ll need to take the medication before coming to the dentist and have a family member or friend drive you to and from the appointment.
    • Nitrous oxide, commonly called laughing gas, is a mild sedative delivered through your nose. It is completely safe to breathe and doesn’t put you to sleep. Instead, you feel cheerful and relaxed while having dental work done. The sedation level is easy to adjust and takes effect within seconds.

    To learn more about the sedation dentistry options at West County Dental, please contact our St. Louis dentist office at (314) 488-2921 or contact us online.

  • 10 Activities That Harm Your Teeth

    Sometimes, dental problems stem from traumatic injuries or poor oral hygiene. Other times, you might think you’re doing everything right, but little, everyday habits may weaken or damage your smile. Make a note of these activities that harm your teeth so you can take steps to avoid them.

    1. Eating sticky food: Do you love dried fruit, taffy, and gummy candies? Unfortunately, the sugar in these treats isn’t the only problem with them. If you have crowns, fillings, or other restorative dental work, these sticky foods should be strictly off-limits.
    2. Chewing on ice or hard candy: Chomping down on hard objects is just as bad as sinking your teeth into sticky foods. If you must eat hard candy or suck on ice, let them dissolve rather than biting into them.
    3. Drinking acidic beverages: Acid is a tooth’s worst enemy. Coffee, soda, sports drinks, and wine can demineralize and etch enamel, the hard outer coating of your teeth. When this happens, the risk of cavities and staining increases.
    4. Grinding your teeth at night: Untreated bruxism, or nighttime tooth-grinding and clenching, can lead to cracked, loose, or misaligned teeth. Wearing a mouth guard while you sleep is the best treatment option.
    5. Smoking: Any product containing tobacco is bad for your teeth and gums, causing everything from stained teeth to bad breath. If you smoke, quit now to avoid an array of oral health problems.
    6. Biting your nails: Fingernails may be softer than tooth enamel, but biting your nails can lead to chipped teeth and sore jaw muscles. Try wearing bitter-tasting nail polish to help you break this habit.
    7. Sucking your thumb: If toddlers suck their thumbs after their teeth start coming in, it could affect their bite. So discourage thumb sucking as soon as you notice your child’s first tooth to avoid oral health problems in the future.
    8. Brushing too vigorously: The harder your brush, the cleaner your teeth will get, right? Actually, brushing too hard can wear down enamel and irritate your gums. The key is to find the middle ground between brushing too hard and not brushing hard enough.
    9. Snacking incessantly: Your saliva works hard to clean out your mouth after each meal. If you snack all the time, you give bacteria a constant food supply, increasing your risk of cavities, gum disease, and bad breath.
    10. Using your teeth as tools: Never resort to tearing tape, opening bottles, or holding items with your teeth. Don’t chew on non-food objects, either. These habits could crack your teeth or cause restoration work to fall out.

    If you have more questions about maintaining good oral health, don’t hesitate to ask! Dr. Spalitto and the rest of the team at West County Dental would be happy to guide you toward a flawless, beautiful smile. We have over a decade of experience providing state-of-the-art dental care to patients in St. Louis. Call us at (314) 488-2921 or contact us online to reserve an appointment today.

  • How Dark Teeth Affect Your Appearance

    Are your teeth stained or discolored? If so, you may look older than you really are. Other people might also assume that you have poor oral hygiene or don’t care much about your appearance. By whitening your teeth and avoiding future stains, you can make sure you give off the right impression!

    What Causes Tooth Discoloration?

    Enamel and dentin are the two parts of your teeth that affect their appearance. Enamel—the thin, hard outer covering of your teeth—protects the dentin beneath it. Healthy enamel is a translucent white, allowing the color of the dentin to show through. Stained enamel and darkened dentin can cause teeth to lose their pearly white glow. Here are some examples of why teeth discolor:

    • Genetics: Every person has a different level of natural tooth whiteness. This largely comes down to genetics, but other factors also affect the color of your teeth.
    • Age: Young teeth generally appear whiter and more luminous. Then, as enamel ages, it begins to take on a dull, grey appearance. It’s important to remember that teeth naturally darken with age, even if you maintain a good oral care routine.
    • Food and drinks: Acidic, dark, or brightly colored food and beverages can discolor your teeth. Examples include tomato sauce, berries, soda, coffee, and wine. Food stains can make your teeth look dirty and uncared for, no matter how diligently you brush and floss.
    • Tobacco: Smoking and chewing tobacco cause some of the worst tooth stains. First, they turn your teeth yellow. And if you don’t drop the habit, your teeth could eventually develop brown, grimy streaks.
    • Injury or disease: If you get hit in the mouth while playing sports, the blood flow to an injured tooth could be disrupted, causing it to darken. Some diseases and medications can also make dentin appear yellower.

    Treating Stained Teeth

    Professional teeth whitening is a popular way to remove stains and transform your smile. You could be a good candidate if food and drinks, smoking, and age have discolored your teeth. It’s possible to lighten your teeth by several shades in a single sitting, leaving you with a younger, healthier-looking smile.

    If your dentin is discolored, whitening products may not penetrate deep enough to provide the desired results. Fortunately, other cosmetic dentistry options are available, including crowns and veneers, which can hide discolored teeth and brighten your smile for years to come.

    Once your teeth are white and beautiful, prevent future staining with these tips:

    • Brush twice a day.
    • Floss daily.
    • Don’t smoke or chew tobacco.
    • Get your teeth cleaned regularly.
    • Swish your mouth with water after consuming staining foods and drinks.

    Ready for those pearly whites you’ve always wanted? Come to West County Dental for help transforming your smile! Dr. Spalitto offers a range of restorative and cosmetic procedures to create the smile of your dreams. Call us at (314) 488-2921 or contact us online to reserve your appointment today.

  • Help Fight Bad Breath

    Chronic bad breath, or halitosis, is an embarrassing condition with several possible underlying causes. Learn what might be to blame for your bad breath, which might give you clues about how to get rid of it.

    What Causes Bad Breath?

    Certain oral bacteria emit unpleasant odors as they feed and multiply. Sometimes, the bacteria in your gut even affect how your breath smells. Here are some of the most likely reasons your breath stinks:

    • Gum disease is a leading cause of persistent bad breath. When your oral tissues become infected, harmful bacteria linger in your mouth and give off an unpleasant odor.
    • An infected tooth, mouth sore, or inflamed tonsils can give you a bad taste in your mouth and cause halitosis.
    • Foods such as garlic, onions, and certain spices create foul-smelling byproducts as they break down.
    • Smoking causes an unpleasant mouth odor. Smokers are also more likely to have gum disease, another source of bad breath.
    • Forgetting to brush and floss allows food particles and bacteria to accumulate in your mouth. If this happens consistently, you could develop oral health problems that produce bad smells.
    • Chronic dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, can lead to all-day “morning breath.”
    • Some medications contribute to bad breath by causing dry mouth. Others release foul-smelling chemicals in the body that can be carried on your breath.
    • Other causes—including certain diseases, metabolic disorders, and acid reflux—can cause your breath to take on a distinctive odor.

    How to Get Rid of Bad Breath

    Gum and breath mints mask unpleasant odors temporarily, but you need a more lasting solution. Take these steps to improve the freshness of your breath:

    • Treat underlying gum disease and oral infections with help from your dentist.
    • Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and replace your toothbrush every three months.
    • Floss at least once a day to remove food particles and odor-causing bacteria and plaque from between your teeth and along the gum line.
    • Brush your tongue with your toothbrush to remove odor-causing bacteria that tend to linger there.
    • Clean your oral appliances—including dentures, retainers, bridges, and mouth guards—thoroughly once a day or as directed by your dentist. Consider using an electric toothbrush if you wear braces.
    • Adjust your diet to avoid smelly foods that cause bad breath. Also, be aware that sugary foods are linked to bad breath, and anything that gives you acid reflux could be a culprit.
    • Visit the dentist regularly for preventative checkups and teeth cleanings. If you have any concerns about bad breath, bring them up with your dentist at your next appointment.

    Dr. Spalitto of West County Dental can offer his expert advice about treating and avoiding halitosis. Whether you have an underlying oral health problem or you simply want personalized ways to freshen your breath, we’re here to help! Call us at (314) 488-2921 or contact us online today to reserve your next appointment.

  • Teeth Cleaning Does Not Increase the Risk of COVID

    Since the pandemic began in 2020, people have wondered whether preventative teeth cleanings were worth the perceived risk of contracting COVID-19. In fact, about 200,000 dentist offices around the US closed in March 2020, a move fueled by concerns that aerosols generated during dental procedures could transmit the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

    Even after dentist offices reopened, many patients suffering from chronic dental diseases and those needing emergency dental care chose not to visit the dentist out of fear of catching this disease. But now, findings from a recent study demonstrate that dental cleanings are not a high risk for contracting COVID. Learn more about how this study busts dental myths so you can reserve your next teeth cleaning appointment with confidence.

    How is COVID Spread?

    The SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads mainly through droplets and tiny respiratory particles called aerosols. When an infected person speaks, sneezes, or coughs, droplets and aerosols exit their nose and mouth. Anyone within six feet may breathe relatively large droplets into their lungs. Then, tiny aerosols can remain suspended for hours, possibly entering the lungs of the next person who enters the room, even hours after the infected person leaves.

    Why Teeth Cleaning Doesn’t Increase the Risk of COVID

    Since dental procedures are known to produce an abundance of aerosols, it has long been assumed that saliva from a patient getting their teeth cleaned could end up high in the air. In reality, this is not the case.

    Researchers conducting the study set out to discover whether aerosol droplets from various dental procedures contained saliva or water from irrigation tools. The study included 28 participants receiving dental implants, restorations, or scaling between May 4 and July 10, 2020. Researchers collected condensate samples that landed on providers’ face shields, patients’ bibs, and surfaces within six feet of the dentist chair.

    Microbes from irrigant (the water-based cleaning solution used to flush out the mouth) contributed to about 78 percent of the organisms in the collected samples. Salivary germs were only detected in eight out of the 28 cases. Of those eight cases, saliva accounted for only 0.1 to 1.2 percent of the microbes distributed around the room. Plus, the SARS-CoV-2 virus was identified in 19 patients’ saliva but was undetectable in the aerosol samples.

    These findings support the outcomes reported in the 2020 Journal of the American Dental Association, which state that less than 1 percent of COVID-19 positivity rates are linked to dentist offices. The results of the study led principal author Dr. Purnima Kumar to draw this conclusion:

    “Getting your teeth cleaned does not increase your risk of COVID-19 infection any more than drinking a glass of water from the dentist’s office does.”

    If you’ve been putting off dental care during COVID-19, you can now lay your fears to rest! Get your teeth cleaned and catch up on other dental work at West County Dental. Dr. Spalitto would love to work with you! Call us at (314) 488-2921 or contact us online to reserve your appointment today.

  • Gum Disease Can Play a Role in Alzheimer’s Disease

    Add gum disease to the list of risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have found that people with gum disease for a decade or more have a 70 percent higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s than people with healthy gums. Understanding the connection between oral health and Alzheimer’s disease can help you protect your overall health.

    What Causes Gum Disease?

    Gum disease is the result of sticky, bacteria-laden plaque buildup on the teeth. Plaque can be removed with daily brushing and flossing, but if left untreated, plaque hardens into a brown substance along the gum line called tartar. Plaque and tartar irritate the gums, causing gingivitis, the mildest form of gum disease.

    Ignoring tartar buildup allows pockets to form between your gums and teeth. These pockets fill with more bacteria, plaque, and tartar, eventually progressing to periodontitis, the most severe form of gum disease. Without help from a dentist, tooth loss may occur.

    What Causes Alzheimer’s Disease?

    In patients with this condition, connections between brain cells—and the cells themselves—slowly degenerate and die. Eventually, memory loss, confusion, and other cognitive difficulties set in. Multiple factors contribute to Alzheimer’s disease, including genetics, diet, environment, and more.

    What’s the Connection between Your Gums and Alzheimer’s Disease?

    Scientists have long suspected that microbial infections of various kinds play a role in Alzheimer’s disease. In a privately sponsored 2019 study, bacteria associated with gum disease were discovered in the brains of living and deceased Alzheimer’s patients.

    Testing on mice confirmed that the bacteria in question—Porphyromonas gingivalis—can migrate from the mouth to the brain. Once there, the bacteria secrete a toxic protein that destroys brain neurons. The bacteria was also shown to boost the production of amyloid-beta, a component of brain plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

    While these findings may sound frightening, further studies on mice have led to the discovery of drugs that block toxic protein production and stop the brain degeneration associated with gum disease bacteria. These additional findings could provide new ways to treat Alzheimer’s disease, which currently has no cure.

    Your Gums Affect Other Aspects of Your Health

    The link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease is certainly alarming, but it’s not the only connection gum disease has with your overall health. Having gum disease may also increase your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, respiratory infections, rheumatoid arthritis, and pregnancy complications.

    It’s clear that if your teeth and gums are compromised, the rest of your body may be at risk. That’s why it’s critical to brush and floss daily, avoid sugary drinks and snacks, and schedule regular dentist visits.

    The dentistry services from West County Dental are the key to protecting your smile—and the rest of your body. We’ll clean your teeth, inspect your mouth for signs of gum disease, and provide personalized tips to preserve your oral health between visits. To request a dental visit with our St. Louis dentist, please call us at (314) 488-2921 or contact us online.

  • Helping Children with Autism during Dentist Visits

    Many children feel overwhelmed at dentist visits, but there’s a whole different set of challenges for kids with autism. Autism spectrum disorder makes it difficult to sit still for long periods, especially in an unfamiliar setting. Children may also experience sensory overload from the bright lights, the sensation of tooth-cleaning devices, and the taste of treatment products. To top it all off, kids on the autism spectrum often lack the communication skills to understand what’s happening or express their feelings.

    These combined factors can make dentist visits downright scary for a child with autism. If your son or daughter struggles to make it through dentist visits, these tips may help.

    Setting the Appointment

    • Choose a time of day when your child tends to be the calmest.
    • Explain to the dentist that your child has autism and what behaviors you expect may arise during the visit.
    • Request a private treatment room, if possible, to minimize distractions.
    • Ask if you can bring your child early to tour the office and see what instruments the dentist will be using.

    Planning Ahead

    • Look up photos of the family dentist and other dental team members and explain who they are to your child.
    • Watch social stories on YouTube about dental visits.
    • Prepare something fun for your child once the appointment is over. Explain the reward in advance to help your child feel excited about going to the dentist.

    Role-Playing

    • Pretend to be at the dentist while you’re at home. Use the couch or a recliner as a makeshift dentist’s chair.
    • Have your child lie down and practice running through the instructions they will receive at the dentist—put your hands on your stomach, put your feet out straight, and open your mouth wide.
    • Ask your child to hold still while you count their teeth, shine a flashlight in their mouth, and even tap their teeth with a rubber-tipped gum massager. Set a timer to help you gradually increase the time in the chair.
    • Talk about X-rays with your child.

    The team at West County Dental provides family dental care to patients of all ages and abilities. If you’re concerned about reserving a visit for your child with autism spectrum disorder, rest assured that we can accommodate your needs. Our goal is to ensure a pleasant visit for everyone! To learn more about our St. Louis dental services, please call us at (314) 488-2921 or contact us online.

  • Gum Disease and its Effect on Heart Disease

    Many people don’t realize the surprising connection between gum disease and heart disease. Study after study shows that people with poor oral health have two to three times the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular event. Learn about the link between your mouth and your heart so you know how to protect your health.

    What Causes Gum Disease?

    Gum disease develops when sticky, bacteria-laden plaque builds up on the teeth. If not removed, plaque hardens along the gum line into a brown substance called tartar. Plaque and tartar irritate the gums, causing gingivitis, the mildest form of gum disease. Pockets form between your gums and teeth, which fill with more bacteria, plaque, and tartar, causing the problem to gradually worsen. Ongoing inflammation and lack of dental care can lead to periodontitis, the most severe form of gum disease.

    What Causes Heart Disease?

    A completely different kind of plaque consisting of fat and cholesterol can build up in the arteries. Known as atherosclerosis, this plaque buildup is the hallmark of coronary artery disease. The most common causes of atherosclerosis are high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, and obesity.

    What Do Your Gums Have to Do with Your Heart?

    Many people with heart disease have healthy gums, and not everyone with gum disease develops heart problems. Still, the connection is undeniable. In fact, both the American Dental Association and the American Heart Association have acknowledged the relationship. Here are some theories as to why gum health may be linked to heart health:

    • The body’s immune response to gum disease is to increase inflammation. This sets off a cascade of chronic inflammation throughout the body, a key contributor to plaque buildup and blood clots that can cause a heart attack or stroke.
    • The bacteria associated with gum disease may enter the bloodstream, causing blood vessel swelling and damage to heart valves.
    • Gum disease bacteria produce chemicals and substances that make the artery walls stickier and more permeable. As a result, cholesterol particles are more likely to get trapped and create plaque deposits.

    Your Gums Affect Other Aspects of Your Health

    The connection between gum disease and heart disease is concerning enough, but studies have also linked gum disease with other health conditions. Your risk of developing diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, respiratory infections, rheumatoid arthritis, and pregnancy complications increase if you have gum disease.

    It’s clear that when your teeth and gums are compromised, the rest of your body may suffer. That’s why it’s so important to brush and floss daily, chew sugarless gum between meals, and reserve dentist visits every six months.

    At West County Dental, we can help protect your smile—and the rest of your body—with our general dentistry services. We’ll clean your teeth, check for signs of gum disease, and offer easy-to-understand home care instructions to preserve your oral health between visits. To request a dental visit with our St. Louis dentist, please call us at (314) 488-2921 or contact us online.