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How to Subtract Those Added Sugars

July 17th, 2024

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 Dr. Chad Vanourny the next time you visit our Charlotte office.

In the Pink

July 10th, 2024

Our gums cover and protect the sensitive roots of our teeth and the bone around them. While we often think of gum tissue as a rosy shade of pink, that’s not a hard and fast rule. Just as skin tones vary, gum color can vary from person to person.

Healthy gums can range from light pink to darker pink to hues of brown or black. Because your gums are a good indicator of your oral health, what’s important isn’t your normal gum color, it’s noticing any changes in your normal gum color. These changes could be symptomatic of several different dental and medical conditions.

Pale Gums

  • Anemia

If the overall appearance of your gums is paler than usual, anemia is a prime suspect. Anemia is a common condition caused by a low red blood cell count. Hemoglobin in red blood cells delivers the oxygen our tissues need to function properly, and without enough, we suffer symptoms like fatigue, weakness, pallor, faintness, and rapid heartbeat.

Anemia can be caused by an underlying medical condition, or can develop because of other issues, such as iron or vitamin deficiencies, pregnancy, ulcers, certain medications, or heavy menstrual periods. If you have any of the symptoms of anemia, seeing your doctor for a blood test is a good idea.

  • Teeth Whitening

Occasionally, gums can also lighten up after a tooth whitening procedure. This is due to tissue irritation caused by the bleaching chemicals. Usually this condition is very temporary.

Ask Dr. Chad Vanourny for advice if you experience irritation after home treatments. Having your teeth whitened by a dental professional is one way to make sure your gums get the best protection possible during the process.

Red Gums

  • Inflammation

Red gums are a common symptom of gingivitis (early gum disease). Plaque and tartar irritate your gums, and gum tissue reacts to this irritation by becoming inflamed. Left untreated, gingivitis becomes periodontitis (serious gum disease), which can destroy the bone around the tooth and lead to tooth loss.

If you notice signs of gingivitis—redness, swelling, bleeding, bad breath—talk to Dr. Chad Vanourny. Often, gingivitis is easily remedied in the early stages by better attention to dental hygiene. Brushing for two minutes at least twice each day and flossing at least once a day are a good base line for keeping gum disease at bay.

  • Infection

Redness can also be caused by infection. If you’re experiencing redness, pain, loose teeth, swelling, pus, or fever, it’s important to see Dr. Chad Vanourny as soon as possible in case you have an abscess or infected dental cyst. Without treatment, infection can seriously damage gum tissue, teeth, and underlying bone.

  • Over-Vigorous Brushing

Brushing too hard or using the wrong brush can cause gum irritation. Do your gums (and teeth!) a favor by using proper brushing technique—massage, don’t scrub—and always use a soft-bristled brush.

Spots of Discoloration

Sometimes you notice a patch of lighter or darker tissue that you haven’t seen before. A spot that is different from the gum tissue around it can be harmless or need further attention.

Contact our Charlotte office if you have any recent discoloration, sores, pain, lumps, or any differences in appearance or sensation in your mouth. There are several types of oral cancer and prompt diagnosis and treatment is important to prevent the spread of cancerous cells.

You know your smile better than anyone. Any time you see a change in the usual appearance of your gums, it’s important to see Dr. Chad Vanourny. Treating gum problems before they become serious is one of the best ways to keep yourself—and your smile—in the pink of health!

Why do wisdom teeth need to be removed?

July 3rd, 2024

Sometime around the late teens or early twenties, people’s wisdom teeth start to erupt. These are the third and final set of molars. When wisdom teeth come in properly — meaning they are correctly aligned — they offer more chewing power. Unfortunately, more often than not, wisdom teeth are misaligned, crowd other teeth, and need to be removed.

Why do we have wisdom teeth?

It is thought that we have wisdom teeth because — back in the day — we ate a diet that consisted of more rough foods, like roots, leaves, and meat, all of which required more heavy-duty chewing power.

Reasons Wisdom Teeth Need to be Removed

While there is no clear-cut rule that says every single person needs to have their wisdom teeth removed, there are certain situations where one or more wisdom teeth are causing a problem or have a strong likelihood that problems will eventually arise in the future that warrant their removal.

1. Fully Impacted Wisdom Teeth

When a wisdom tooth is “impacted”, it means that the tooth is covered by gum tissue, thereby preventing it from erupting through the gum. This often occurs when the mouth is too small to allow enough room for the tooth to emerge. Because bacteria, food, or other mouth substances can be lodged under the gum that covers the wisdom tooth, it can lead to an acute abscess, known as pericoronitis.

2. Partially Impacted Wisdom Teeth

When a wisdom tooth is partially impacted, meaning the tooth is partially emerged from the gums, it almost always is advised to be removed. Because of its location in the very back of the mouth, a partially erupted wisdom tooth is more susceptible to not only decay and cavities, but also gum disease.

3. Other Reasons to Have Wisdom Teeth Removed

If you experience any of the below dental issues or changes in your dental health, removal of your wisdom tooth (teeth) may be necessary:

  • Pain at or surrounding the wisdom tooth site, including the jaw or cheek area
  • Repetitive infections
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth decay (extensive)
  • Tumors
  • Cysts
  • Damage to surrounding teeth

It is important to know that the decision to have a wisdom tooth removed isn’t always cut and dry. It is essential to talk to Dr. Chad Vanourny about the alignment of your wisdom teeth if they have already erupted, health of your wisdom teeth if impacted or partially impacted, and your overall dental health to determine what is best for your situation. Contact our Charlotte office to schedule an appointment today!

Socket Preservation

June 26th, 2024

Dental implants are a marvel! They look just like your natural teeth, and, even better, they function just like your natural teeth. So, when you’re planning on a dental implant after an extraction, you want to make sure that your implant has the best chance of success—and we do, too. That’s why we might recommend a socket preservation procedure, where socket grafting takes place immediately after your extraction.

What is a socket graft, and what does it “preserve”? Let’s take a closer look.

Socket Preservation—A Logical Choice After Extraction

You’ve decided on a dental implant for some excellent reasons.

  • A missing tooth can change the appearance of your smile.
  • Your remaining teeth might shift to fill the empty space, causing alignment and bite problems.
  • A lost tooth affects the amount, shape, and health of the bone surrounding your teeth.

No one wants to lose a tooth, but sometimes, due to injury or decay, an extraction is the only choice for your oral health. After your tooth is extracted, if the socket bone holding the tooth is perfectly healthy and the extraction is a simple one, we might be able to place an implant post in the socket right away.

But often, bone needs time to heal before placing an implant post, and you risk losing the bone size and density you need to make a future implant possible. How can you lose bone? That’s an unfortunate consequence of losing teeth. Teeth are important not just because they let us eat comfortably—they also help maintain bone health.

Without the stimulation of biting and chewing, the bone beneath the teeth begins a process called resorption. As older cells are absorbed back into the body, new bone cells aren’t produced as quickly to replace them. The alveolar bone, the thick ridge of the jaw which holds our sockets, shrinks in size. As the bone gets smaller, gum tissue shrinks around it, causing a sunken spot where your tooth used to be.

For a dental implant to anchor successfully in the jawbone, you need healthy bone that is high enough, wide enough, and dense enough to hold the implant post securely as it fuses with the bone.

A socket graft at the time of extraction provides two important benefits: grafting material fills the empty socket immediately, preserving the bone and gum area around it, and the graft material acts as scaffolding for new bone growth, creating a firm, dense foundation for your implant.

Grafting materials are gradually and safely absorbed as your new, healthy bone tissue replaces them. The result, after several months of healing, is an alveolar ridge with normal height and width and with the density needed to anchor an implant successfully.

The Grafting Procedure

Grafting material comes in different forms, including allografts (made from donor bone), synthetic grafts (made from synthetic materials which function like bone tissue), and autografts (bone taken from your own body). Growth factors may also be included in the grafting material to encourage new cell growth. Dr. Chad Vanourny will recommend the type of graft which will work best for you.

A socket preservation procedure will frequently involve the following steps:

  • Local anesthesia to numb the area before your extraction. You might choose sedation options as well, which we’re happy to discuss with you in advance.
  • Careful cleaning of the site after the tooth is extracted.
  • Filling the empty socket with bone grafting material.
  • Placing a barrier or membrane over the graft to protect it as it heals.
  • Suturing the surrounding gum tissue.

Aftercare Treatment

Aftercare treatment for a socket graft is a lot like the treatment for a tooth extraction. You’ll need to be careful around the graft area for several days as it heals, and we’ll give you specific instructions for your recovery. Normally, these may include:

  • Don’t disturb or touch the area. Even pulling on lips or mouth to look at the site can put stress on your sutures.
  • Immediately after the procedure, we can give you suggestions for reducing swelling and managing any pain you might be feeling.
  • We’ll let you know when and how to rinse your mouth clean and when you can return to brushing. And no spitting!
  • Eat carefully. We might recommend a liquid diet for a few days before transitioning to bland and cool soft foods. We’ll let you know the best diet for the period after your surgery. Don’t use a straw for your liquid diet, because suction can interfere with the wound.
  • Treat yourself carefully for a few days by avoiding strenuous activities, including workouts.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking interferes with the healing process, and the suction involved does your graft no favors either.
  • Visit our Charlotte office for follow up appointments as recommended. We’ll monitor your healing, and give you a timeline for your future implant.

Preserving your socket now instead of repairing it later has many advantages. Immediate placement of a graft protects bone size and density, eliminates the need for a potential bone grafting procedure in the future, and makes it possible for you to enjoy the natural look and feel of a dental implant as soon as possible. If you have an extraction scheduled, let’s discuss why socket preservation might be your best path to an efficient, timely, and successful dental implant.

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