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Dental Emergencies while Traveling

January 22nd, 2020

You’ve planned your dream vacation. Your reservations are made. You’re packed and ready. You’ve even scheduled a dental checkup at our Saint Paul office to make sure you catch any potential problems, have finished any major work, and have an up-to-date chart.

But things don’t always go according to even the best of plans. So, what to do if you find you have a dental emergency while traveling? Drs. Charles and Paul Mendes and our team have some recommendations for problems that might arise.

  • Toothache—Rinse your mouth with warm water and use dental floss to remove any food particles. Never put aspirin directly on a tooth or gum tissue. If the pain persists, call a dentist.
  • Cracked or broken tooth—Immediately rinse with warm water to clean the area and apply cold compresses to the face to minimize swelling. Get in touch with a dentist.
  • If you lose a tooth—Keep the tooth moist at all times. Put the tooth back in the socket without touching the root if possible. If that is not an option, place the tooth between the cheek and gums or in milk. See a dentist as soon as possible.

Know where to get help if you need it! If you are traveling in the United States, the American Dental Association offers Find-a-Dentist, a website that can locate a member dentist closest to you. If you are traveling to another country, there are steps you can take to prepare for an emergency.

  • If you are out of the country and need to locate a dentist, your local embassy or consulate, your hotel concierge, or friends abroad can be a useful resource.
  • Before you go, check your insurance to see if you are covered while traveling.
  • If you have travel insurance, find out if it covers dental treatment and can provide information on qualified local dentists and translation help, if necessary.
  • Good dental care is available in many areas internationally, but it is important to know what standards are present in the countries you plan to visit. The Organization for Safety and Asepsis Procedures offers a checklist for safe treatment in their “Traveler’s Guide to Safe Dental Care.”

If you have any questions, Drs. Charles and Paul Mendes and our team are happy to do all we can to answer them. While it’s unlikely that problems will arise, we are always available if you need to contact our Saint Paul office. Bon voyage, and we look forward to hearing about your trip!

What Are Chalky Teeth?

January 15th, 2020

You’ve always taken care of your child’s smile. You make sure thorough brushing and flossing take place twice a day. You serve foods high in vitamins and minerals and low in sugar. You make and keep regular dental appointments at our Saint Paul office. But even with the best dental routines, sometimes conditions can occur that will require additional professional care.

One of these conditions can affect your child’s enamel while the tooth is still forming. When baby teeth or adult teeth appear, you might notice white, creamy yellow, or brown spots in otherwise healthy-looking enamel. These spots are softer and rougher than normal hard, smooth enamel. Because of their texture and color, such teeth are often referred to as “chalky teeth,” but this condition is actually known as enamel hypomineralization.

What is hypomineralization?

Enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies—stronger even than bones. Enamel is largely composed of minerals. If something disrupts the process of enamel development in baby or adult teeth, the result can be abnormally low mineral content in the enamel. This leaves teeth weaker and more likely to suffer decay and damage.

Premature birth, low birth weight, and other pre-natal factors have been suggested as risk factors for hypomineralization in primary teeth enamel. Permanent teeth can be vulnerable to this condition as well. Adult teeth are forming in young children well before they make an appearance. It’s been suggested that certain early childhood factors, such as recurring high fevers, some diseases, even specific antibiotics, can interrupt the formation of the enamel and lead to hypomineralization of adult teeth.

What are the results of enamel hypomineralization?

Children with this condition are much more likely to experience rapid tooth decay because of their weaker, more porous enamel, especially in the molars. Further, they tend not to respond as well to the numbing effects of local dental anesthetics, while their teeth tend to be more sensitive to pain. Cases can be mild, moderate, or severe. In severe cases, teeth might require crowns or possibly extractions, but even mild discoloration and other cosmetic problems can lead to self-consciousness in your child.

How can we help?

Catching this condition early is very important. If your child has had any medical conditions that might affect tooth development, let Drs. Charles and Paul Mendes know even before that first tooth comes in. If you notice anything unusual about a new baby or adult tooth, give us a call. For primary or permanent teeth, the sooner we can begin treatment, the better the long-term outlook.

We might suggest fluoride applications or desensitizing treatments. We can apply sealants to reduce the risk of cavities, and use bonding to restore discolored or weak patches in the tooth. Both of these methods have greater success if the enamel near the affected area is in good condition, so early treatment is vital. If teeth require more protection, crowns are often the best choice. We will design a treatment program to suit your child’s individual needs now and for the future.

How can you help?

Dental hygiene is important for every child, but especially for a child with weak and porous enamel. Because children with hypomineralized enamel develop cavities more quickly that those with strong enamel, it is very important to watch your child’s diet and keep to a regular, careful, and thorough routine of brushing and flossing at home. Be attentive to any sensitivity problems, and be sure to follow any suggestions we might have for strengthening enamel.

Remember, early diagnosis and treatment is always best! If at any time you notice chalky patches, or have any other concerns about the appearance of your child’s teeth, if they seem to be causing your child pain or are unusually sensitive, call Drs. Charles and Paul Mendes immediately. We want to work with you to treat any current problems and to prevent new ones.

Carbs and Cavities

January 8th, 2020

The Good News

Carbohydrates are one of the body’s essential macronutrients (along with protein and fat). We use carbs to convert the food we eat into energy. How does this work? It’s a sophisticated process:

  • Carbs break down into sugars as we digest them
  • Sugars are absorbed into our bloodstream
  • The pancreas releases insulin when blood sugar levels rise
  • Insulin enables sugars to move from our blood to our cells
  • Cells throughout the body use this sugar for energy.

Without the necessary amount of carbohydrates, our bodies lose a vital source of energy. So, why are carbs a dental concern?

The Bad News

Some foods immediately begin breaking down into sugars in the mouth. Sugars are a favorite food source for the oral bacteria that form plaque. They use this sugar to produce the acids that weaken our enamel and lead to cavities. And the more often we eat these foods, and the longer they remain in the mouth, the more damage our enamel suffers.

But there’s a silver lining! We can be healthier physically and get a jump on preventing damage from sugary treats by becoming more discriminating in our choice of carbs and timing our indulgences wisely.

Good Carb/Bad Carb

Unprocessed, complex carbohydrates are found in foods like whole-grain breads and cereals, legumes, and vegetables. They contain the vitamins, minerals, and fibers which are lost when foods are refined. They are composed of larger, more complex molecules, and so they break down gradually for sustained energy.

Some simple carbohydrates break down into sugars more quickly, but also offer important vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fruits and dairy products, for example, are an important part of a balanced diet.

But some carbs are not pulling their nutritional weight. Refined sugars (think candies, desserts, and sodas) and refined starches (white bread and rice, potato chips, pastries) break down quickly into sugar in the mouth. Worse, many of these foods tend to stick around. Sticky sugars and sticky starches cling to our enamel and hide between the teeth and in the crevices of our molars. Not only do these treats provide a sugary feast for acid-producing bacteria, they take their time doing it!

So, What to Do?

If you have a diet filled with healthy carbs (whole grains, fruit and vegetables, legumes, dairy products), you’re already on the right track. Kudos! But does this mean no desserts? Ever?

No! We all need a cookie sometimes. But you can decrease the chance of enamel damage by interrupting the carbs to cavities cycle.

First, if you are indulging in a rich dessert or some salty chips, better to do it as part of a meal. When you eat a full meal, your body produces more saliva. Saliva not only helps wash away food particles, it also helps neutralize the acids that damage enamel.

Secondly, if you eat simple carbs and sugars all day, your mouth and teeth are being treated to acids all day. If you are going for a snack, there are many great options that don’t use refined sugars and starches. Think fruit smoothies (with a big dollop of vegetables) or whole-grain crackers with hard cheese instead of a can of soda and a bag of pretzels.

Carbs aren’t really bad, they’re just misunderstood. Talk to Drs. Charles and Paul Mendes at your next checkup at our Saint Paul office for ideas for the best carbohydrate choices for healthy metabolisms and healthy smiles!

A Brighter Smile for the New Year

January 1st, 2020

The beginning of a new year is the perfect opportunity for a fresh start for you and your smile. At Mendes Family Dentistry, a brighter smile is quick and easy!

Given the latest in whitening technology, whiter teeth are only an appointment away. Teeth whitening is a safe, quick, and inexpensive way to create the dream smile you’ve always desired. We can offer a safe method that corrects tooth discolorations that may have been caused by staining, aging, or chemical effects.

So, start the new year off right and get a whiter smile today! Give us a call at our convenient Saint Paul office to schedule an appointment!

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