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  • 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.

  • 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.


    • 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.

  • The Importance of Regular Dental Visits

    Everyone wants bright, white teeth and healthy gums, but even the best oral hygiene may not be enough to meet your goals. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends visiting the dentist a minimum of every six months. Some people may need more frequent visits, depending on their oral health.

    Despite this recommendation, only 58 percent of American adults see the dentist at least once a year. If you’ve been putting off your next visit, learn more about the importance of regular dentist visits here.

    Why Visit the Dentist?

    No amount of brushing and flossing can replace having your teeth professionally cleaned. Consider these reasons why regular dentist visits are so important for good oral health:

    • Prevent cavities and gum disease
    • Brighten your smile
    • Combat bad breath
    • Stop tooth loss in its tracks
    • Promote good overall health
    • Save money on restorative procedures

    What to Expect During a Dentist Visit

    Most routine dentist visits take an hour. However, your visit could take longer if it’s been more than a year since your last dental visit or you need additional treatment for a chronic condition such as periodontal disease.

    Dentist visits consist of several parts:

    • Digital X-rays: Your dentist may recommend X-rays about once a year or as needed. The image produced by a digital X-ray provides a more in-depth look at what’s going on beneath the surface. It can help your dentist detect problems early on, even if you don’t have any outward symptoms yet. This saves you time and money and preserves your oral health.
    • Oral exam: Your dentist examines your jaw, neck, and lymph nodes for irregularities. A mouth exam comes next, where the dentist assesses your teeth, gums, and soft tissues. This includes checking your bite, looking for damaged crowns or fillings, evaluating any dental appliances you have, and checking for signs of oral cancer.
    • Teeth cleaning: A hygienist uses specialized tools to remove plaque and tartar from your teeth. Flossing then removes any debris caught between your teeth or along the gum line. Finally, polishing your teeth leaves your mouth looking and feeling cleaner than ever. You may also receive a fluoride treatment.
    • Personalized recommendations: Perhaps your dentist noticed plaque buildup in a particular area or is concerned about your receding gums or eroding enamel. Your visit concludes with professional suggestions to improve your oral health, such as using a specific toothbrush or mouth rinse, coming in for more frequent cleanings, or wearing a mouthguard while you sleep. Adhering to these expert tips is the best way to keep your teeth and gums in top shape.

    General dentistry is the foundation of the services we offer here at West County Dental. We can help preserve your smile with regular cleanings and checkups. We also provide restorative and cosmetic dentistry to correct any flaws in your smile. To reserve a visit with our St. Louis dentist, please call (314) 488-2921 or contact us online.

  • Benefits of Sedation Dentistry

    Do you dread going to the dentist? Sedation dentistry is a perfect option to consider. While many people think sedation dentistry is just for anxious patients, it can actually be beneficial in several different situations.

    • The most common reason people choose sedation dentistry is dental anxiety. Maybe you had a bad experience with dental treatment in the past, or maybe you’re just extremely uncomfortable with someone putting dental instruments into your mouth. We understand, and we want to provide you with a comfortable, anxiety-free experience.
    • Some people are just sensitive. If you have a sensitive gag reflex or sensitive teeth and gums, sedation dentistry might be the answer for you. Sedation helps you relax, reduces discomfort, and minimizes your gag reflex during your appointment.
    • Complex dental problems can take time to treat. If you need a treatment requires a longer visit, sedation dentistry can help you stay relaxed throughout the treatment. In fact, some dental procedures require fewer appointments when patients are sedated during the treatment.
    • Fidgety patients benefit from sedation dentistry. People who have trouble sitting still often find it difficult to get through a dental appointment. Sedation dentistry helps you stay calm, relaxed, and peaceful.

    If you think you might be a good candidate for sedation dentistry, St. Louis dental practice West County Dental offers two different types of sedation. Nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, is a short acting and easily-controlled type of sedation. Oral sedation involves taking prescription medication prior to your appointment. Your dentist can advise you on the type of sedation that’s right for you, but here are some facts about each:

    • Nitrous oxide is safe enough for children to take it. In fact, it’s great for kids who are anxious or frightened by dental appointments. It’s combined with oxygen and breathed in through a mask, and patients can even drive themselves home after their appointment. There are no side effects from nitrous oxide, aside from mild drowsiness as it wears off.
    • Oral sedation can be used for almost all dental procedures, but only for adults. Patients stay calm and relaxed but can answer questions while under this kind of sedation. The medication is taken before you come to the dental office, and the dentist will decide whether it’s enough or should be combined with nitrous oxide. You will need to have a driver bring you to and from your visit on the day of sedation.

    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 visit our website today!

  • Oral Health: How It Effects Your Overall Wellness

    Do you ever neglect your oral health? You probably don’t mean to, but life gets so busy that before you know it you’ve skipped your regular dental checkup- maybe more than once. It’s easy to let other things get in the way, but oral health is really too important to ignore. In fact, the health of your mouth has a major impact on the overall health of your body.

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  • Don’t Skip Seeing the Dentist During the COVID-19 Pandemic

    You hear it every day: these are unprecedented times. As we all attempt to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s hard to know what’s safe and what isn’t. The good news? The dentist’s office is one of the safest places you can go.

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