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Canker sores, cold sores, and mouth sores: What's the difference?

May 29th, 2024

At Mendes Family Dentistry, we know many people have experienced some form of mouth sores or irritation. Some mouth sores are harmless and go away on their own after a few days, while others are more serious and should not be ignored. Mouth sores occur for many different reasons, but bacterial infections, viruses, or funguses often trigger them. The best way to tell the difference between a canker sore and a cold sore is that canker sores occur inside the mouth while cold sores occur on the outside the mouth.

The most common mouth sores are:

Canker sores: A non-contagious, small, grayish ulcer with a red border, canker sores appear inside the mouth. While outside factors such as stress, fatigue, or allergies may increase the chances of developing a canker sore, most health experts believe they stem from bacteria or a virus that attacks the immune system. Canker sores typically heal within a week or two.

Cold sores: Also called fever blisters, cold sores are contagious groups of fluid-filled blisters that often erupt around the lips and sometimes under the nose or around the chin. Cold sores are the result of the herpes simplex virus, and once infected, the virus remains in the person’s blood stream.

Leukoplakia: A potential warning sign of oral cancer, leukoplakia is a premalignant lesion that appears as a white patch on the inside of the mouth, tongue, or gums. The lesions, which are caused by excessive cell growth, usually afflict those who smoke tobacco. Drs. Charles and Paul Mendes may choose to have the lesion biopsied if the outbreak appears severe.

Oral candidiasis: Also called oral thrush or moniliasis, this condition is caused by the overgrowth of a type of yeast called candida. Common symptoms of oral candidiasis include white spots inside the mouth and on the tongue, redness or discomfort in the mouth area, sore throat,difficulty swallowing, and cracking at the corners of the mouth. It is important to visit Drs. Charles and Paul Mendes if you have oral candidiasis. If left untreated, it may infect your bloodstream, which can be very dangerous. Healthy adults do not usually get thrush, and the condition is most often seen in infants, the elderly, patients undergoing chemotherapy, or people with AIDS or other diseases that are known to weaken the immune system.

Should you have a mouth sore that lasts a week or longer, we encourage you to give us a call and schedule an examination at our Saint Paul office.

Eco-Friendly Toothbrushes

May 28th, 2024

When it comes to dental hygiene, “going green” is not the first phrase that comes to mind. But if you are brushing properly, you are also replacing your toothbrush every three to four months as the bristles become frayed and wear down. Sure, that’s a tiny amount of plastic from each of us going to our landfills, yet it adds up to millions of brushes a year nationally. If you are concerned about reducing your carbon footprint while reducing your risk of cavities, there are several new toothbrushes designed to make brushing more eco-friendly.

Biodegradable Toothbrushes

Some brushes claim to be completely compostable. These models generally have heads fitted with boar bristles and handles manufactured from sustainable woods or bamboo. Boar bristles aren’t for everyone. Some users complain of the taste of the bristles, and boar bristles might be harsher than the soft bristles we recommend to protect both enamel and gums. There is also some concern about bacteria growth on organic bristles.

Earth-friendly Handles and Bristles

If you prefer the consistency and texture of regular synthetic bristles, you can still opt for a brush with a handle of sustainable wood or bamboo. You can also select PBA-free bristles, bristles made primarily of castor oil, or bristles that use natural ingredients in combination with synthetics.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

If these exotic brushes aren’t for you, there are more conventional choices that will save energy and cut down on waste.

  • Reduce the amount of electricity you use for your electric toothbrush with a model that requires less charging time.
  • Reuse your toothbrush by buying one with a handle made of metal, natural materials or plastic and replace the detachable head every three months.
  • Recycled plastics can be found in the handles of some toothbrushes, and many brushes come in recyclable packaging. Every bit helps!

If you decide to use one of these green products, remember that your dental health is still the primary goal. Be sure the bristles of your brush are soft enough to protect your gums and enamel and can reach all the places you need to brush. The handle should be easy to grip and the head should be a comfortable fit for your mouth. It’s always best to choose products with a seal of acceptance from your local dental association, or talk to us about greener alternatives during your next visit to our Saint Paul office. Luckily, there are several workable options to protect the health of your family's teeth while still being mindful of the health of our planet.

Snack Attack

May 27th, 2024

Should a quick bite between meals make us feel guilty? Or worse, make our teeth suffer a greater risk of cavities? Let’s avoid both those possibilities! We have several tooth-healthy snacking strategies designed to help you keep your enamel cavity-free while preventing snacker’s remorse.

But first, a word or two about why we may find snacking unappetizing.

  • Please, Don’t Feed the Bacteria!

The bacteria in plaque feed on sugars and leave acidic waste products behind. These acids attack enamel, dissolving the calcium and phosphorus minerals that keep it strong. Weakened enamel leaves teeth vulnerable to decay. That’s why Drs. Charles and Paul Mendes and our Saint Paul team recommend avoiding a steady diet of sugary treats.

Even if you’re not reaching for a soda, or grabbing a candy bar, many snack foods are filled with added sugars. Check the nutritional labels before you indulge to avoid sugar surprises.

  • Off Balance?

Bacteria plus sugar equals more acidic conditions in the mouth. This change in the oral pH balance also reduces our natural defenses against cavity-causing acids.

A well-balanced oral environment depends on saliva to keep acids in check. Saliva washes away lingering food particles after meals, and it neutralizes acidic conditions in the mouth over the course of the day.

How does snacking interfere? Immediately after eating or drinking, acids in saliva increase. It takes about 20 minutes for saliva’s neutralizing process to begin. When we snack throughout the day, saliva doesn’t have a chance to reduce acids as long or as effectively.

  • Staying Power

Sticky and chewy snacks tend to stick to the tops of molars and between the teeth. This gives bacteria more fuel and more time to attack tooth enamel. It’s not just candies that are the culprits here. Chips, bread, pizza crusts, pastries—these simple carbs stick to teeth and break down easily into sugars.

But we promised some *positive* strategic snacking ideas. Here are some ways to make sure that snacking doesn’t put you at a much greater risk for cavities.

  • Be Choosy

Avoid processed treats that are high in added sugars. If you’re craving something sweet, fresh fruits provide sweetness with vitamins included.

Crispy fruits such as apples and Bosc pears, as well as vegetables like celery and carrots, provide gentle scrubbing action to help clean teeth between brushings.

Snacking on cheese helps neutralize acids, and other dairy products are high in calcium and phosphorus, helping rebuild the minerals that acids leach out of enamel.

Eat whole grain breads, pastas, and pastries. They offer more nutrients, and don’t break down into sugars as easily.

Finally, when it’s time to indulge in a sugar-rich treat, save it for a meal. There’s a better chance that other foods will balance the acids created by sugar, and you’ll be getting the most out of saliva’s neutralizing abilities. Speaking of which,

  • Stay Neutral

When you’re craving something flavorful without giving bacteria more fuel for acid production, consider sugar-free gum. Sugar-free gum saves you from adding sugar to your diet, and it increases saliva production as you chew. If we give you the all-clear, chewing a piece or two of gum during the day can help curb your sugar cravings and protect your enamel.

Thirsty? Drink water instead of sodas or energy drinks with your snacks. Water washes away food particles, cuts down on acidity, and provides fluoride to strengthen and protect teeth.

  • To Brush or Not to Brush?

It’s always a good idea to brush after eating. But since eating sugary or acidic foods can leave enamel vulnerable to toothbrush abrasion, many dentists recommend waiting 30 minutes after you snack before brushing. Ask Drs. Charles and Paul Mendes what’s best for your teeth.

If you can’t brush, rinse with water after eating or drinking.

If you wear braces or aligners, be sure to check with Drs. Charles and Paul Mendes about snacking, gum, best times to brush, and any other diet questions.

Talk to Drs. Charles and Paul Mendes about your snacking habits. Learning when and how to snack is as important as deciding what to snack on. Finding the perfect balance means you can enjoy a mid-day energy boost without guilt—and without risking tooth decay!

Why are my gums shrinking?

May 8th, 2024

If you’ve noticed that your teeth have appeared to be longer, you may be suffering from gum recession. This is a common problem among adults, and can result from several factors. If gum recession seems to be happening in your mouth, schedule an appointment at our Saint Paul office. We will take a look and figure out the cause, and help you decide on the best treatment.

The first thing Drs. Charles and Paul Mendes will do is take measurements of the recession to see if the cause could be periodontal disease. Based on how much attached gingiva is present on the gums, a varying amount of gum recession will be present.

The less bone support you have for your teeth, the higher the chance of tooth loss will be. If you have a high likelihood of tooth loss, it’s critical to address the problem right away.

Gum recession can also be caused by stress-related issues that lead to jaw clenching and teeth grinding in the night. This added, ongoing pressure puts extra stress on your teeth, which flexes them at the gum line.

If this happens over a long period, microscopic breaks in your enamel will cause your gum line to move away from your teeth. An occlusal guard may serve as a solution to gum recession caused by teeth grinding. Talk to Drs. Charles and Paul Mendes about this option if you consistently wake up with jaw pain, headaches, or uncomfortable pressure on the sides of your face.

The way you brush and floss your teeth may also cause gum recession. If you’re an aggressive brusher, make sure to purchase toothbrushes labeled “soft.” It’s best to brush your teeth in a circular motion in order to sweep over all your gum lines and remove the most plaque. Generally, brushing in a straight line can leave spots of plaque that lead to periodontal disease, which is a common cause of gum recession.

There are several options for treatment of gum recession. Depending on the cause, Drs. Charles and Paul Mendes will talk with you to decide the best treatment plan. Care may involve a deep cleaning or an antibiotic treatment. In serious cases, treatment might involve pocket-depth reduction, a soft tissue draft, or gum regeneration surgery.

These are just a few of the many potential causes of gum recession and how we can treat the problem. Unfortunately, gums do not grow back, and the consequences of ignoring this condition can be painful and time-consuming.

Please call our Saint Paul office to schedule an appointment if you’ve noticed any elongating of your teeth or recurring irritation of the gums. We will work as hard as possible to help rid you of your gum recession and prevent it from getting worse in the future.

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