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Periodontal Health during Pregnancy

September 28th, 2022

Congratulations! Your pregnancy is a time of joy and excitement—and a time to take special care of yourself. You’ve discovered that pregnancy brings many physical changes, but it may still come as a surprise to learn that pregnancy hormones can affect your oral health as well. What should you look out for?

Gingivitis

Beginning in the second or third month of pregnancy, your gum tissue may show signs of gingivitis. Pregnancy hormones can cause an increase in the blood supply to your gums and affect the way your gums respond to plaque. These changes may lead to gums that are swollen, red and more likely to bleed upon brushing. This early form of gum disease should be treated as quickly as possible to avoid a more serious condition called periodontitis.

Periodontitis

Without treatment, the inflammation caused by gingivitis can increase. Periodontitis can lead to gums pulling away from the teeth, creating “pockets” that can be home to infection. These infections can lead to bone and tooth loss, so professional treatment is a must.

Pregnancy Granulomas

If you find a dark red swelling along the gumline or between two teeth, it might be a pregnancy granuloma. These granulomas are thought to be triggered by pregnancy hormones and may be a reaction to plaque or some other irritant. They often disappear once your baby is born and usually don’t cause any bother, but if you develop discomfort eating or speaking, your dentist might suggest removal.

You are looking for every way possible to provide your baby with the best start in life, so it is important to know that some studies have suggested a link between periodontal disease in pregnancy and complications such as pre-term delivery and low birth weight. Here are some important ways to maintain your oral health during pregnancy:

  • Call Drs. Charles and Paul Mendes when you find out you are pregnant. We have suggestions for your dental care that you can use immediately.
  • Keep to your regular schedule of dental examinations and cleanings at our Saint Paul office. If you find your gums beginning to show signs of gingivitis, call our office for an appointment. You might need to have your teeth cleaned more often during your pregnancy to avoid plaque buildup.
  • Maintain your daily dental hygiene. Be sure to carefully brush along the gumline to discourage plaque formation. If you have not switched to a soft bristle toothbrush, now is the time! Talk to us about possible rinses or other at-home treatments.
  • See a periodontist if needed for more serious gum problems.

Your pregnancy is a time to treat yourself and your baby with care. Talk to our office as soon as you find out you are pregnant. Making your dental health a priority can bring rewards both now and in the future, and we welcome the opportunity to suggest the best possible ways to care for yourself and your baby!

How to Subtract Those Added Sugars

September 21st, 2022

Sugars are the simplest carbohydrates, and are found naturally in fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products. Our bodies require these simple carbs for energy. (Even better, we don’t just get energy from fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy—we also get healthy amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and even some protein!)

Problems arise when we get too much of this good thing. Once our bodies have all the sugar they need for immediate energy, they store extra sugars in liver, muscle, and fat cells. Over time, excess dietary sugars can affect weight and blood sugar levels, with potentially damaging results.

And, of course, sugar has an immediate effect on our oral health. The oral bacteria in plaque also need sugars for energy, which they use to make acids. An acidic environment in the mouth dissolves the minerals, which keep our tooth enamel strong. And these weak spots are vulnerable to decay. A steady diet of sugar-filled foods means that your enamel is constantly under acid attack.

So it’s really no wonder we hear a lot about avoiding “added sugars” in our diets, for both our general health and for our dental health in particular. But the concept of “added sugar” can be a bit misleading. If you’re not putting five spoons of sugar on your breakfast cereal, or pouring half a jar of honey in your tea, or using a recipe that calls for a cup of corn syrup, you might think you’re avoiding added sugars altogether. And that’s just not the case.

When dieticians talk about added sugars in our foods, they mean additional refined sugars (like white and brown sugars and corn syrup) that are used in preparing or processing foods.

Unlike unprocessed foods, which have been minimally treated to keep them as natural as possible, processed foods have been baked, or frozen, or mixed with other foods, or somehow changed from their natural state. This is where “added sugars” come in. Both home cooks and commercial processors use sugar to improve flavor, provide sweetness, and extend shelf life when preparing food.

What are some of the worst offenders? Store bought or homemade desserts like cakes and ice cream are prime candidates. Sodas? Most definitely. But it’s not just the obvious culprits. Added sugars are found in many foods we usually think of as healthy, including:

  • Smoothies
  • Fruit Drinks
  • Energy Drinks
  • Granola Bar
  • Power Bars
  • Breakfast Cereal
  • Flavored Yogurt

While eating unprocessed foods is one way to make sure you get no added sugars, you can also eliminate many grams of sugar from your daily diet by trying out low-sugar recipes and choosing processed foods with little or no added sugar.

How to avoid unexpected added sugars? Fortunately, new labelling on food packages lets us know not only how much sugar is in any product, but how much added sugar has found its way into our grocery cart. Take a moment to check out labels, and avoid sugary surprises.

Your body can get all the natural sugar and carbs it needs for energy from a healthy, well-balanced diet. Lowering your added sugar intake won’t deprive your body of necessary nutrients, but it will deprive oral bacteria of their most convenient food source and reduce the amount of acids, which threaten your enamel. In fact, subtracting extra sugars is one of the easiest and most effective ways to add to your dental health!

If you have any questions about reducing your sugar intake, be sure to ask Drs. Charles and Paul Mendes the next time you visit our Saint Paul office.

The Importance of Regular Dental Checkups

September 14th, 2022

When was the last time you paid Drs. Charles and Paul Mendes a visit? If you're like many people, chances are it was more than six months ago. We hear the reasons why people neglect regular dental visits all the time: lack of money or quality dental insurance, busy schedules, and fear. However, your twice-yearly checkups are so important for your dental health and for your overall health as well.

You may brush your teeth twice a day and even floss, and your teeth may feel fine, but regular dental checkups with Drs. Charles and Paul Mendes aren’t about addressing problems and reacting — they are about cavity prevention. No matter how much you brush and floss, there is still a chance that food or other debris can get lodged between your teeth, and there is also a chance that food and beverages can wear down your tooth enamel in between visits, making your teeth vulnerable to decay.

In addition to a thorough teeth cleaning and polishing, these regular visits help us detect and prevent the onset of tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. During your visit, we’ll check the health of your mouth, teeth, gums, cheeks, and tongue. We’ll also check old fillings and restorations, as these can wear away over time from constant chewing, grinding, or clenching.

It's important to know that the majority of dental problems do not become visible or painful until they are highly advanced. And, unfortunately, serious oral issues are painful and expensive to treat. A deep cleaning twice a year by our team at Mendes Family Dentistry is the best way to hit all the spots you may have missed with brushing and flossing and prevent any problems that may have gone unseen.

Make sure your teeth get the professional attention they deserve! If you’re overdue for your next cleaning, please give us a call to schedule an appointment at our convenient Saint Paul office!

Back to School? Remember Your Dental Homework!

September 7th, 2022

It’s a busy time of year. Book lists! Supplies! New clothes! (How did they outgrow those shoes already?) And while you’re preparing your family’s list of back-to-school necessities, here are a few essential reminders to help your child begin the school year with a healthy smile.

  • Review

It never hurts to review the basics before the start of the school year, and that holds true for dental care as well! Make sure your child is brushing two minutes twice a day, and using floss or another interdental tool to clean between the teeth. If his toothbrush has been in use since the end of the last school year, it’s probably time to replace it. Bristles are at their best for about three months—after that, they become frayed and worn, and can’t remove plaque as effectively.

  • School Supplies for Braces Wearers

If your child is going to school with braces for the first time, send her off with the tools she needs. A travel-sized toothbrush and tube of toothpaste are perfect for a quick brushing after lunch, while dental floss and a threader or dental picks will take care of any after-lunch particles lurking in brackets and wires. Orthodontic wax is a great product to have on hand if a wire or bracket is causing irritation. If your child uses clear aligners or a retainer, make sure a protective case is always close by, ready to use every time the appliance is removed. And it’s a good idea to include the number of your dentist and orthodontist in her contacts in case of emergency.

  • Exams

If your school requires a dental exam before the start of classes, be sure to make your appointment at our Saint Paul office now! Regular checkups with Drs. Charles and Paul Mendes are vital for preventing small problems from becoming bigger ones, and a professional cleaning will remove the plaque even careful brushing can miss.

A positive, confident start can set the tone for the academic year, so your homework might include monitoring summer reading, providing required supplies, and making sure your child is well-rested and ready to go. You can also help your child to a positive, confident start by monitoring brushing habits, providing the necessary tools for appliance-wearers, and making sure your child is up-to-date with dental exams and cleanings. Because entering the classroom with a beaming, healthy smile—that’s an A+ way to begin the school year!

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