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Dental Veneers

December 10th, 2019

Are you looking to improve the appearance of your front teeth? Dental veneers are widely used to improve the appearance of front teeth and are a much more conservative option than a full dental crown. Veneers can be used to improve the appearance of staining, large gaps, large fillings, chipped teeth, or overall shape. Veneers are a thin covering over the front and biting end of the tooth used to restore the beauty of a smile. Over the years we have helped many patients who opted for veneers and now have the confidence to smile again.

Dental veneers are made in a lab from long-lasting porcelain materials. The shade can be chosen to a desirable color to whiten the appearance of your smile. Dental veneers are usually placed on the anterior, or front teeth, where the chewing forces are not as hard as the back teeth. The process of placing veneers is relatively easy requiring only two dental appointments. In some cases, only one appointment is needed. It depends on the fabrication process.

The first appointment is to “prep” the teeth and take an impression to be sent to a lab to fabricate the veneers. Veneers are fairly conservative in the preparation as it requires a small amount of space to be created on the face (front), bottom, and sides of each tooth to allow space for the veneer to be placed and look natural. You will leave the office with temporary veneers for the next week or two while the permanent veneers are being made.

The second appointment is to place the veneers and make minor adjustments if needed. What a difference it makes in the appearance of the teeth! If you’re interested in learning more, give Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega a call today!

Safety of Dental X-Ray Radiation

December 4th, 2019

We all want to live our healthiest lives. We know that part of keeping ourselves healthy is regular visits to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office for checkups and necessary dental work. And that dental work might require an X-ray. Should the amount of radiation in an X-ray concern us?

First, it is helpful to know that the radiation you are exposed to from a dental X-ray is very small. A set of most bitewing X-rays, for example, produces an amount of exposure about equal to the amount of background radiation we get from our normal surroundings in a typical day. We also take care to minimize your exposure even further by using specially designed equipment and protective shielding, and taking only necessary X-rays. If your child is very young, if you are pregnant, or if you have other health concerns, talk to us about the advisability of X-rays and whether they are essential to treatment.

Second, much of our careful general examination will be done visually. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can check for cavities and other problems and assess tooth and gum health. But sometimes, there are conditions which can’t be detected without an X-ray.

  • Decay that isn’t visible in an oral exam—if a small cavity develops between teeth, or is hidden underneath a filling, an X-ray will catch it before more damage can take place.
  • Infection—An X-ray will reveal infections such as abscesses that can damage both bone and tooth, and gum disease that has harmed bone and connective tissue.
  • Orthodontic and periodontal issues—We might need an X-ray to determine the spacing and development of your child’s incoming teeth and maturing jaw structure, to properly create braces for adults or children, or to place an implant within the jawbone.
  • If you are a new patient, it is helpful to have complete X-rays taken as a baseline of your current dental health and previous dental work. This baseline allows us to track tooth and jaw development, if necessary, and to evaluate any future changes that might be a concern. (If you have had X-rays taken in another office, we can help you have them transferred so we have a background of your dental history.)

Even though the radiation from a dental X-ray is minimal, be assured that we will never request any unnecessary procedure. When we recommend an X-ray, we do so to make sure there is no decay or infection threatening the health of your gums and teeth, and that we have the essential knowledge we need to treat any dental, periodontal, or orthodontic condition. Because we all want to live our healthiest lives—and part of that healthy life is both active and proactive dental care.

What Are Chalky Teeth?

December 3rd, 2019

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 Poolesville and Rockville MD 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 Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega 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 Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega immediately. We want to work with you to treat any current problems and to prevent new ones.

Dental Sealants for Baby Teeth?

November 27th, 2019

Perhaps you’ve heard your friends talking about dental sealants, and how well they prevent cavities. And as soon as your child’s permanent molars come in, you absolutely plan to make an appointment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office for this treatment. But should you also be concerned with your child’s baby teeth? Could they benefit from sealants too?

Even though those beautiful baby teeth are going to be replaced with permanent teeth, they should still be protected. Primary teeth help with speech development, enable your child to develop proper chewing and eating habits, and serve as place holders so that permanent teeth can erupt in the correct place. That’s why you’ve been so careful to help your child brush and floss twice daily, and make regular visits to our office for exams and cleanings.

But some teeth are just harder to keep clean with regular brushing than others. Primary molars, just like permanent ones, have depressions and grooves on the chewing surfaces. These grooves collect bacteria and food particles that are hard for bristles to reach, providing a perfect opportunity for cavities to develop in those little molars.

Cavities are not the only problem which can affect primary teeth. Because baby teeth have thinner layers of protective enamel, a cavity can actually reach the pulp (the center of the tooth) more quickly, leading to pain and potential infection.

While baby teeth can be treated, with fillings, restorations, and even stainless steel crowns, preventing tooth decay is always our first, best choice. And dental sealants are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association as one of the most effective ways to prevent cavities in both baby teeth and adult teeth.

Dental sealants are safe and effective.  Sealants are thin coatings (usually a plastic resin or other dental material) that cover a molar’s grooves and depressions, making it impossible for bacteria and food particles to collect there. Applying them is a simple, pain-free process.

Each tooth will be examined first. If we find any signs of decay starting, we will gently treat that area before applying the sealant. After the tooth is cleaned and dried, an etching solution will be brushed on to the surface area being sealed. This etching roughens the surface so that the sealant will hold to the tooth more effectively. A thin coat of the sealant is then painted on and hardened under a curing light.

That’s all there is to it! Sealants typically last from three to five years, and some last even longer. Keep up your regular careful brushing and flossing, and we will monitor the condition of the sealants at each exam.

Talk to Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega about dental sealants. We’ll let you know if your child can benefit from the procedure even before those baby teeth give way to permanent ones. It’s never too early to prevent tooth decay!

Oral-Systemic Health

November 26th, 2019

Oral-systemic health is the idea that oral health is a critical and interconnected component to a patient’s overall health and well-being. Studies show that people who have poor oral health are more likely to have other health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or a high likelihood of stroke.

Some of the data suggests that oral pathogens may trigger up to 50% of heart attacks, and that the oral bacteria P. gingivalis may cause a 13.6-fold increase in patients’ risk of a heart attack.

Still, the exact relationship between oral and overall health isn't fully known — whether one causes the other or how treating one might affect the other. But it should serve as a warning call to anyone suffering with poor oral health, especially periodontal disease.

More studies need to be conducted to establish the precise link between the two, but whatever it is, one thing is certain: good oral hygiene makes for good oral health. Many dentists and doctors realize the need to work together as a cohesive healthcare team to improve and maintain the health of their communities.

The American Dental Association says oral health is essential to overall health, and not just a luxury. They are setting goals to reduce the amount of tooth decay in low-income communities for both children and adults.

So what is a patient about this information regarding oral-systemic health? Here are some tips to increase and maintain your overall well-being:

  • Have an effective oral hygiene routine. Brush twice a day for two minutes each time, floss daily, clean your tongue, and avoid sugary beverages.
  • Visit your dentist regularly. Regular cleanings and checkups at your dentist’s office will keep your mouth clean and ensure you’re taking good care of it.
  • Eat a healthful diet. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and natural, unprocessed foods contributes to the overall health of your body.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of pure, clean water throughout the day. A good rule of thumb is to drink eight eight-ounce glasses a day.
  • Relax, destress. Stress can play a big role in all forms of disease. Take time during your day to relax, meditate, stretch, and allow your body and mind to rest.

If you have questions about your oral health and how it may be affecting your general health, feel free to ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega during your next visit to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

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Whitening an Artificial Tooth

November 20th, 2019

It’s a bit of a contradiction: you are justifiably proud of your beautiful dental work, but you don’t want it to be obvious when you smile. Dental prosthetics such as veneers and crowns should blend perfectly with your natural teeth. If you have noticed your veneers are a different shade than your other teeth, or have a crown that is visibly darker than the teeth surrounding it, you are probably wondering if there is any way to lighten and whiten an artificial tooth surface. There is no one right answer, but let’s examine a few common scenarios to find the best solution for you.

If You Haven’t Started Your Dental Work and Want a Whiter Smile

If you are planning on getting a veneer or a crown, it’s best to take advantage of teeth whitening before you have the work done. Choosing a shade of bright white for your veneers and then trying to whiten your natural teeth to match it afterward is almost impossible. It’s a good idea to talk to us about whitening beforehand, and, if this is the best way to achieve the look you want, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can match the color of your new prosthetic to your newly whitened smile. The goal is to make your new veneer or crown a perfect match to your natural teeth.

If You Have Existing Veneers, Crowns, or Other Artificial Surfaces

Porcelain veneers cannot be whitened, but the good news here is that they don’t stain the way natural teeth do. Unlike our teeth, porcelain is non-porous, so it is very difficult for typical culprits such as coffee, tea, or red wine to have as much effect. Any surface stains that appear can usually be gently removed with a professional cleaning and polishing, where we will take care not to scratch the delicate surface of the veneer. Porcelain crowns and implants, like veneers, can be brightened with a professional surface cleaning, but their original color cannot be changed.

Composite veneers and composites used in dental bonding are more porous and therefore more likely to stain. They are also immune to whitening, but might respond somewhat to a careful professional polishing at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Finally, if the color of your existing dental prosthetics is a concern, replacement is an option we can consider together.

Whether you have existing veneers and crowns or are planning future dental work, please talk with us about achieving a seamless blend of old and new for a beautiful, natural smile. It’s a bit of a contradiction: the best work is the work no one notices!

When Snoring Becomes More Than Just Annoying

November 13th, 2019

Snoring occurs when the tissues in the throat relax enough to block part of our airways, or physical conditions such as enlarged tonsils or a deviated septum prevent air from flowing freely. This obstruction causes the tissues around the airway to vibrate, producing that familiar, unpleasant sound. But sometimes, loud, constant snoring is a sign of a condition called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). With OSA, the sleeper actually stops breathing for a few seconds at a time, or, in some cases, even longer. The body wakes to breathe again properly, so we move from the deep sleep we need to keep ourselves healthy mentally and physically to a lighter state of sleep or wakefulness—and this disruption of the sleep cycle can happen dozens of times an hour.

The potential problems caused by sleep apnea are many. You could suffer from daily morning headaches, sore throats, and dry mouth (which can lead to tooth and gum problems). You might find yourself moody, depressed or forgetful. Irritability and loss of libido are common consequences of sleep apnea. Any or all of these problems can make getting through each day a struggle.

Even worse, sleep apnea can lead to very dangerous situations. You could fall asleep while working, watching your children, or even driving. Sleep apnea has been linked to very serious conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. And for those who suffer from this disorder, general anesthesia or pain medication can lead to severe or even fatal consequences.

You should be examined for sleep apnea if you or a loved one notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Snoring loudly enough to disturb your sleep or the sleep of others
  • Waking up gasping for air
  • Pauses between normal breathing during sleep
  • Continual drowsiness during the day
  • Waking up with headaches, sore throats or dry mouth regularly
  • Personality changes

If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, talk to Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. We can point you in the right direction for treatment, including the possibility of crafting an orthodontic oral appliance to maintain open airways as you sleep. But whatever treatment you and your doctors decide on, the important part is following through. Don’t let an annoying situation become a dangerous, and even life-threatening, one.

Baby Teeth and Cavities

November 12th, 2019

We know how frustrating it can be to discover your child has one or more cavities when you come to visit Pike & Valega, DDS. There are several ways to prevent baby teeth from forming cavities due to decay. Not to worry: If your child does develop a cavity on a baby tooth, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can help take care of the problem.

Let’s look at how cavities on your little one’s teeth can be prevented from developing in the first place. Most often, children suffer decay from eating sugary foods. You may think, “My child doesn’t eat lots of candy!” In truth, fruits and juices have plenty of natural sugars that can break down teeth if they aren’t brushed thoroughly.

A well-balanced diet that includes calcium and phosphorous is necessary to keep your child’s oral health in a good state. If your son or daughter drinks juice, avoid giving it before bedtime and dilute the juice with water. Good options for snacks include vegetables, low-sugar yogurt or dairy products, and plenty of milk for healthy teeth.

Another excellent preventive strategy consists of scheduling regular appointments with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega for your child. Between your youngster’s annual cleanings, make sure he or she brushes and flosses every day. It’s worthwhile for your little one to brush thoroughly for at least two minutes to remove any decay or plaque that has accumulated in the mouth, especially before bedtime.

Brushing Techniques

  • Move the brush both back and forth, and in circular gentle strokes.
  • Brush the outer surfaces, inside surfaces, and chewing surfaces of all teeth.
  • Place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums.
  • Brush the tongue to remove excess bacteria and keep breath fresh.

It’s not always possible to prevent cavities from appearing in your son or daughter’s mouth. If your child does develop a cavity, our staff will notify you during the regular scheduled cleaning.

The cavity will need to be eliminated, even when it appears on a baby tooth. Our staff will remove the decayed part of the tooth and fill in the hole so your child doesn’t have to experience any pain.

You may wonder why a baby tooth has to be fixed if it is eventually going to fall out. Baby teeth hold spaces where your child’s permanent teeth have to grow in. If the former aren’t taken care of, multiple teeth may shift and the permanent ones won’t be able to grow in properly.

If you still have questions or concerns about your child’s baby teeth, or notice signs of a cavity, please don’t hesitate to contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office and schedule an appointment. Remember, preventive steps can be taken to avoid bothersome cavities from forming in your child’s mouth.

The Perks of Dairy

November 6th, 2019

We all remember hearing this: “Finish your milk, it’s good for your bones!” If you have kids of your own now, you may catch yourself repeating many of the things you were told growing up.

Though parents occasionally exaggerate to get their kids to do certain things (such as eat veggies or behave), they’re spot-on about milk. Consuming enough dairy every day is crucial for growing children, because this can set them up to have strong and healthy teeth for the rest of their lives.

To understand the effects of dairy on your child’s teeth, take a look at tooth structure. Think of it in terms of layers: the innermost layer is the living tissue, the second layer is dentine (a calcified tissue), and the final one is the enamel, aka the white part of the tooth. Keep in mind that 96 percent of your enamel is made up of minerals like calcium.

Now, milk and other dairy products are excellent sources of calcium, so when you consider the need to build strong enamel for the first line of defense, it’s easy to see the connection between dairy and good dental health. When your son or daughter consumes dairy products, the body sends the incoming calcium to growing bones, which includes teeth.

This makes children’s teeth and bones stronger all around. Growing youngsters who do not get enough dairy in their diet are at risk for improper tooth development, as well as other dental problems.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, children under the age of eight should be receiving at least two and a half cups of dairy per day. Children older than eight require three full cups, which is the same amount recommended for male and female adults.

If you’re looking for easy ways to incorporate dairy into your children’s diet, try snacks like cottage cheese, a milk-based smoothie, yogurt, cheese sticks, non-fat milk, and fruit parfaits, to name a few. Once you get a feel for what they like most, furnishing the ideal amount of dairy to their diet should be no problem!

If you’re concerned about your child’s teeth or have questions about a healthy diet, don’t hesitate to contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office and ask a member of our team.

The Secret to Keeping Your Teeth for Life

November 5th, 2019

The secret to keeping your teeth for life involves more than one secret. The first is that there is no secret; and in fact, there really is no difficulty involved. Follow this simple four-step process – brush, floss, rinse, and visit our Poolesville and Rockville MD office regularly – and you will have healthy teeth for life!

Brush

You should brush your teeth twice a day, preferably once in the morning and once at night. Three times a day will not hurt. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and light pressure; you do not want to scrub away your gums or tooth enamel.

Brush for a minimum of two minutes, and carefully clean all tooth surfaces. Three minutes is better. Use quality toothpaste; Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our staff can recommend the best type for your needs. Keep your toothbrush clean and replace it about every three months.

Floss

Make flossing part of your daily routine, at least once a day. Flossing is important for more than just removing food particles between your teeth. The process also helps to remove bacteria that you cannot see. Bacterial build-up turns into plaque, or calculus: a cement-like substance that cannot be removed by brushing alone.

Use floss gently; you do not want to cut your gums. There are many different types of flosses and flossing tools. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our staff will be happy to help you find the style that works best for you.

Rinse

Mouthwash does more than freshen your breath. Rinses help kill the bacteria that lead to plaque formation and gum disease. This extra step can go a long way toward having healthy teeth for life.

Keep your appointments

You should have a professional cleaning at Pike & Valega, DDS twice a year. Some patients benefit from more frequent cleanings. Your hygienist will remove any plaque build-up to prevent gingivitis, which left untreated becomes full-blown gum disease. Periodontitis leads to tooth loss.

You also need to see Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega twice a year for a teeth and mouth exam. We can find problems such as cavities, and treat them before the situation becomes critical. Ask our Poolesville and Rockville MD team any questions you have; together we can make your teeth last for life.

Dental Infections

October 30th, 2019

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS will tell you that dental infections can be very serious; sometimes, they develop into a life-threatening situation. Cavities are caused by acid-generating microorganisms that deposit themselves on teeth surfaces. Over time, acid erodes tooth enamel, compromising tooth strength. The major culprit or cause of cavities is sweets, but even diet soda plays a substantial role in tooth erosion, largely because the phosphoric acid it contains alters the oral pH. Cavities can pave the way for other, more serious infections to develop.

Types of infections

Pulpitis

Pulpitis is an inflammation of the tooth pulp. It typically occurs when cavities get deep enough to allow infection to reach the pulp. When this happens, bacteria travel through the pit or fissure that the cavity created. It can also develop from a fractured tooth. The symptoms may include moderate pain that comes and goes. Pain may intensify when cold liquids touch the pulp.

Periodontitis

Periodontitis is a consequence of chronic gingivitis, which occurs when the supportive bone structure of the tooth erodes, causing the periodontal tooth ligament to detach from the tooth. Kids between the ages of 12 and 17 and adults over age 30 are most likely to develop this disease. In severe cases of periodontitis, a periodontal abscess may form. Symptoms of the infection typically include redness, sensitivity to touch, and swelling.

Pericoronitis

Pericoronitis is an infection that occurs when food particles and other microorganisms get trapped under gum flaps. It typically happens when impacted wisdom teeth erupt. Pain at the site of the infection is a common symptom. You should try to prevent food particles from lodging in the gingivitis flaps.

Dental abscesses

A dental abscess is one of the most serious dental infections anyone can get. It begins at the base of the tooth, but without treatment can spread rapidly. When the abscess is more severe, the bacteria spread, often very rapidly, and cause severe facial swelling, pain, and discomfort.

The best way to minimize the risk of developing a dental infection is by practicing good oral hygiene, making sure that food or other particles aren’t trapped between the teeth for too long, flossing, using oral rinses that bear the ADA seal of approval, and seeing the dentist regularly. If or when there are any symptoms of infection, even if the only symptom is pain, be sure to visit the dentist. Early intervention may prevent the infection from escalating into something far more severe, painful, and costly to treat.

To learn more about dental infections, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, please give us a call at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

Root Canal Recovery

October 29th, 2019

Anyone who has had a compromised tooth knows that the amount of discomfort it causes can be extremely unpleasant. Although no one looks forward to a root canal, this procedure is actually the best way to both eliminate pain and save your tooth. If the pulp inside your tooth is infected or damaged, a root canal is probably necessary.  

The process is relatively straightforward and can take place over one or two visits to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. The area around the tooth is numbed, the pulp is removed from the inside of the tooth, the area is thoroughly cleaned, and a temporary filling or crown is placed on the tooth to prevent bacteria and food from entering the site. A permanent crown will be fabricated and affixed to the tooth at a later visit.

Once your root canal is finished, recovery is usually only a matter of days. What can you to keep yourself as comfortable as possible during that time?

  • The area around the affected tooth might be somewhat sore or sensitive for a few days. Let us know, and we can talk about medication to reduce pain and inflammation. If you are prescribed antibiotics, be sure to take the entire course of medication as directed.
  • Taking an ibuprofen (if this is a pain reliever that is safe for you) before the anesthetic wears off will reduce the soreness in the hours immediately after the procedure.
  • Wait until the numbness is gone before eating to avoid biting down on a temporary filling (or your tongue). Hot drinks are also best avoided.
  • Avoid chewing on the side of the affected tooth until the restoration is complete. A soft diet is recommended for the first several days—chewy, sticky, and crunchy foods should wait.
  • Continue with regular brushing and flossing.
  • Call Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega immediately if you experience severe pain or visible swelling, if you have an allergic response to medication, if your bite feels uneven, or if you lose the temporary filling.

Follow the instructions we’ll give you carefully, and feel free to call us with any concerns. We want to ensure that your root canal is as pain-free and worry-free as possible.

Dental Fear in Children: Brought on by parents?

October 23rd, 2019

Two studies – one conducted in Washington State, and whose findings were published in the Journal of Pediatric Dentistry in 2004, and another conducted in Madrid, Spain, and whose findings were reported in 2012 in Science Daily, reinforce earlier findings that show a direct relationship between parental dental fear and that of their children.

The Washington study looked at dental fear among 421 children whose ages ranged from 0.8 to 12.8 years. The children were all patients at 21 different private pediatric dental practices in Western Washington State. The Spanish study looked at 183 children between the ages of seven and 12, and their parents in Madrid.

The Washington study used the Dental Sub-scale of the Child Fear Survey Schedule. The survey responses came from either parents, or other parties charged with taking care of the children. The people responsible for each child filled out the survey, which consisted of 15 questions to which answers were given based on the child’s level of fear. The scale used was one to five, with one meaning the child wasn’t afraid at all, and five indicating the child was terrified. The maximum possible points (based on the greatest fear) was 75.

Spanish researchers found that like past studies, there is a direct connection between parental dental fear levels and those of their kids. The most important new discovery from the study conducted in Madrid, was that the more anxiety and fear a father has of going to the dentist, the higher the fear levels among the other family members.

Parents, but especially fathers, who suffer from fear of going to the dentist and fear of dental procedures in general pass those fears on to every member of the family. While parents may not feel like they have control over those fears, the best way to help your child understand the importance of going to the dentist is by not expressing your fears in front of them – or around the rest of the family.

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team understand that some patients are more fearful than others when it comes to visitingour Poolesville and Rockville MD office. We work hard to make our practice as comfortable for our patients, both children and adults.

Is a Crown Necessary for My Child’s Baby Tooth?

October 22nd, 2019

Part of the charm of your child’s smile is those delicate, diminutive baby teeth. We enjoy those smiles while we can, because soon enough, primary teeth make way for the adult teeth that will last your child a lifetime. So you might be surprised if Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team recommend a crown for your child’s baby tooth. Is this procedure necessary when the tooth is going to fall out eventually anyway?

Yes, it really is. If a primary tooth is lost before its normal lifespan, several problems can arise.

  • Biting and chewing—a full set of baby teeth is best for proper chewing and digestion. And chewing also helps develop face and jaw muscles.
  • Speech development—primary teeth help guide speech production and pronunciation.
  • Spacing—a baby tooth serves as a place holder for the adult tooth waiting to replace it. If a primary tooth is lost too early, teeth may drift from their correct location and cause overcrowding or misalignment.

When is a Crown Necessary?

The enamel in a baby tooth is thinner than the enamel found in adult teeth, and a cavity can spread quickly throughout a tooth. Within a short period, the tooth’s structure might be too weak for a regular filling. Sometimes the pulp inside the tooth becomes injured or infected and an endodontic treatment is necessary to remove pulp tissue from inside the tooth. The interior will be filled, but the delicate enamel surrounding it will be fragile. Or an accident can leave a tooth fractured or broken, but still vital.

In each of these cases, a crown will protect the tooth from further decay or damage, and will allow the tooth to function normally until an adult tooth is ready to replace it.

What Types of Crowns are Available?

By far the most common choice for a primary tooth is a stainless steel crown. These crowns are prefabricated and can be fitted snugly to your child’s individual tooth. They are easy to place, less expensive than other crown alternatives, and will last until the tooth is ready to fall out in its proper time. If your child suffers from a metal allergy, or a more natural looking crown is necessary, talk to us about other possible options during your appointment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Sure, preserving a baby tooth that was never designed to be permanent seems contradictory. But saving a tooth that helps your child develop proper eating habits, speech production, and correct adult tooth alignment? Those are benefits that will last a lifetime.

Brushing Tips for Kids

October 16th, 2019

You’re all set for your happy morning and nighttime ritual. You’ve provided your son with his favorite action hero toothbrush and your daughter with her favorite flavored toothpaste. You’ve gotten them into the healthy habit of two minutes of brushing twice each day. You’ve introduced them to flossing. You have favorite brushing songs! Stickers! Gold stars! And, best of all, you’re teaching great brushing techniques.

Kids need the same basic brushing tools and skills as adults. What makes for the best cleaning?

Find the right brush

No matter how cute—or heroic—the brush, it needs to have soft bristles to protect enamel and delicate gum tissue. The head should be a perfect fit for your child’s mouth. And if the handle is easy to grip and hold, you have a winner.

Find the right toothpaste

The bubblegum flavor might appeal to your child, but it’s the fluoride that helps to prevent cavities. Talk to us about the right time to start using fluoride toothpaste and the right amount for your child’s brush.

Teach your child the angles

If your child is too young to brush alone, start geometry lessons early. Holding the brush at a 45-degree angle toward the gums will clean bacteria and plaque from the tooth surface and the gum line. And don’t forget the chewing surfaces and the insides of the teeth. When your child begins brushing on her own, coach her as she learns the best way to clean all the surfaces of her teeth.

Easy does it

Teeth and gums should be massaged, not scrubbed. Brushing too hard can damage not only tender gum tissue, but even your child’s enamel.

Learn to let go

No matter how comfortable and appealing the brush, after three or four months, it’s time for a change. Frayed bristles don’t clean as effectively, and making up for it by brushing harder isn’t the answer (see above). Also, toothbrushes can build up quite a collection of bacteria over time (see below), so a fresh brush is a must!

Everything in its place

A toothbrush should dry thoroughly between uses without touching other brushes. Placing a brush in a plastic container doesn’t let it dry and encourages bacterial growth. And a toothbrush needs its own space—touching toothbrush heads means sharing toothbrush bacteria. The best way to keep toothbrushes as dry and as germ-free as possible is to store them upright, without touching other brushes, in a clean, well-ventilated area.

Rinse and repeat

Your child should rinse his toothbrush before and after using it, and be sure to rinse his mouth as well. That should get rid of any leftover food particles brushing has removed.

Finally, keep up the good work! As you teach your child proper brushing techniques, and make sure she uses them as she grows, you are preparing her for a lifetime of great checkups with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. Give yourself a gold star—you’ve earned it!

How Smoking Increases the Risk of Oral Cancer

October 15th, 2019

Cigarette smoke contains more than 6,000 chemicals, and at least 200 of those chemicals are known to be harmful to your health. When smoke is inhaled, moist oral tissues are saturated with excessive amounts of carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, and a host of other known carcinogens. Most oral cancers originate in abnormal squamous cell activity, which are cells found on the lips, inside the mouth, and in the throat.

How Oral Cancer Begins

Cells exposed to consistently high levels of cigarette smoke may eventually suffer abnormal mutations within their DNA. Since deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is responsible for providing cells with instructions about growth, reproduction, and death, these instructions become distorted, which causes the cells to reproduce uncontrollably.

Essentially, that is what cancer is: rapid, unchecked growth of genetically mutated cells that encourages the development of malignant tumors. Unfortunately, the chemicals in cigarette smoke are strongly associated with oral cancer.

Signs of Oral Cancer

Early-stage oral cancer is often asymptomatic, which means symptoms appear only after the cancer intensifies and spreads. Possible signs of oral cancer include:

  • Ulcers inside the mouth or on the lips that do not heal
  • White or dark red patches inside the mouth
  • Lumps inside or around the mouth (a lump could appear on your neck)
  • Bleeding, numbness, and soreness in the mouth
  • Chronic halitosis
  • Loose teeth in the absence of tooth decay

Diagnosis and Treatment of Oral Cancer

Squamous cell oral cancer is the most common type diagnosed in smokers. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our staff often discover squamous cell carcinoma lesions during dental examinations or cancer screenings. Depending on the stage of the oral cancer, treatment may begin with a biopsy or an exfoliative cytology procedure that involves collecting cells from the oral cavity using a scraper.

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, oral cancer patients may need surgery, radiation therapy, a combination of surgery and radiation therapy, or chemotherapy to eradicate oral cancer.

Smoking, Cancer, and Tooth Decay

Not only is smoking the number-one cause of cancer but it is also detrimental to the overall health of your teeth and gums. Yellow teeth, bad breath, dry mouth, and expedited tooth decay are all caused by smoking, not to mention the damage smoke does to the heart, lungs, and kidneys.

In other words, don’t smoke!

Canker Sores and Stress

October 9th, 2019

Canker sores are painful lesions that form in the soft tissues of the mouth, usually along the inner lips, under the tongue, and along the cheek walls. They are usually small and round, and take on a white or yellow hue. Though most are generally harmless and tend to heal on their own within a week or two of appearing, canker sores can be very irritating.

Only about one in five people develop canker sores. Of those who do, many develop them recurrently as a result of external factors. Though canker sores have been connected to allergies and hormonal changes, many people who are prone to developing canker sores find that their outbreaks are stress-related.

A combination of emotional stress and fatigue can be a perfect storm for the development of mouth sores. Some people say they are not under stress when canker sores form, but the sores appear several days after a stressful event or situation instead. Managing stress, reducing anxiety, and getting plenty of sleep may help prevent canker sores from forming and ensure that existing ones heal more quickly.

What to do if you develop canker sores

Do not be alarmed if you develop a canker sore. They are not contagious and are not harmful to your health. Over-the-counter oral numbing products can be used to manage pain, as can ice chips. Canker sores may heal faster if you apply milk of magnesia to them daily and avoid spicy foods that could irritate them.

You should contact your doctor if you find that your canker sores are unusually large or persist without healing for several weeks. Our team at Pike & Valega, DDS also recommends seeking out professional treatment if you experience extreme pain or a fever develops in association with a canker sore outbreak.

For more information about canker sores, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, please give us a call at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

Tooth-Colored Fillings

October 8th, 2019

Once upon a time, silver fillings ruled in dental offices everywhere. For a long time, they were the only option dentists used to close off the spaces on teeth where bacteria could easily enter.

Most patients did not regard a pearly white and silver smile as something to be super excited about. Luckily, we have a range of more aesthetically pleasing options today. The most common material used for fillings now is composite, also known as tooth-colored fillings.

Composite fillings are made to match the shade of your teeth, so they offer a seamless addition to your smile. They even let light travel through them the same way that natural enamel does. Composite fillings are great because they erase imperfections and can even reshape your teeth by minimizing excessive spacing. If you have a gap between your two front teeth, for example, a composite filling is an easy, non-invasive, and most important, cost-effective way to give you the instant fix you desire.

Overall, tooth-colored fillings make an easy choice all around. Easily placed, readily repaired, and well disguised. In a world where a perfect smile seems to have become standard for everybody, why not get composite fillings for yourself?

You can smile with the confidence of knowing that nobody will spot a shiny silver thing in your mouth. Visit our Poolesville and Rockville MD office to get a consult or give us a call! We’re always happy to answer your questions.

Treatments for Tooth Discoloration

October 2nd, 2019

Congratulations! You’re getting married! Wow! It’s your twentieth reunion! New job? Great news! No matter the occasion, large or small, you want to celebrate it with your whitest, brightest smile. How can Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega help? In a number of ways!

Professional Whitening

Because teeth are porous, over time substances in food, beverages, and tobacco products can stain the surface of the teeth. This is called extrinsic staining. If this is your concern, having your teeth whitened professionally is the fastest, most effective, and longest-lasting method of achieving your brightest smile.

We’ll examine your teeth to make sure that there are no pre-existing conditions such as cavities or gum disease that should be treated before whitening. We will use a gel with a higher concentration of whitening ingredients than over-the-counter products, protect your gums, and monitor the entire process. If you want to whiten at home, talk to us during your visit to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office about custom mouthpieces and professional whitening gels for precise application and safe, effective results.

Intrinsic Stains

Intrinsic stains are below the surface of the tooth, and harder to remove. These stains might be the result of an injury to the tooth or exposure to a medication like tetracycline while the tooth is forming.

While some whitening systems and professional whiteners can improve intrinsic staining if it is not too severe, normally bonding or veneers are better options. We can use color matching to make sure bonding or veneers are indistinguishable from your natural teeth. And do consider a professional whitening first, so we can match your dental work to your whitest natural smile!

Treating Existing Dental Work

Again, when you are considering porcelain veneers or crowns, composite veneers, or tooth bonding, choose the color that works best for your whitest natural smile, because these materials cannot be whitened like natural teeth. If you have dental work already in place that you would like to brighten, both composite and porcelain dental work can be polished to remove surface stains. If the color is simply not a good match for your natural teeth any more, replacement of your dental work is an option we can discuss.

There are plenty of good reasons to get your teeth whitened—Weddings! Reunions! New jobs!—but the best reason of all is giving you the healthy, confidant smile you’ve always wanted. And that’s something to celebrate!

Understanding Dental Insurance Terminology

October 1st, 2019

If you have a hard time understanding your dental insurance plan, particularly the treatments and services it covers, you’re not alone. That’s why Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team have put together a cheat sheet to help you through them.

It’s common for patients to get lost in the morass of the terms and phrases that surface when you’re dealing with a dental insurance plan. Knowing the commonly used terms can help speed up the process and enable you to get the most out of your coverage.

Common Terms

Annual Maximum: The most your policy will pay per year for care at Pike & Valega, DDS. It is often divided into cost per individual or per family.

Co-payment: Typically, a small amount the patient has to pay at the time of service before receiving care, and before the insurance pays for any portion of it.

Covered Services: A list of all the treatments, services, and procedures the insurance policy will cover fully under your contract.

Deductible: An amount you must pay out of pocket each year before the insurance company will contribute for any treatments or procedures. The amount can vary according to your plan.

Diagnostic Services: A category of treatments or procedures that most insurance plans will cover before the deductible, which may mean services that occur during preventive appointments with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, including X-rays or general screenings.

Exclusions: Dental services not covered under a dental benefit program.

In-Network: An insurance company will usually cover a larger portion of the cost of the care if you see an in-network provider for treatment.

Out-of-Network: If you visit someone who is not a part of your provider’s network, the insurance company may pay for a portion of the care, but you will be responsible for a significantly larger share out of your pocket.

Lifetime Maximum: The most that an insurance plan will pay toward care for an individual or family over the entire life of the patient(s).

Limitations: A list of all the procedures the insurance policy does not cover. Coverage may limit the timing or frequency of a specific treatment or procedure, or exclude some treatments altogether.

Member/Insured/Covered Person/Beneficiary/Enrollee:  A person who is eligible to receive benefits under an insurance plan.

Premium: The regular fee charged by third-party insurers and used to fund the dental plan.

Provider: Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega or other oral-health specialist who provides treatment.

Waiting Period: A specified amount of time that the patient must be enrolled with an insurance plan before it will pay for certain treatments.

It’s essential to understand the various insurance options available to you. Knowing what your insurance covers can save you major costs in the future.

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our dental staff hope this list of terms will help you understand your dental insurance plan better. Be sure to review your plan and ask any questions you may have about your policy the next time you visit our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Heart Disease and Oral Health

September 25th, 2019

Is there a link between oral health and heart health? This is a question that has been receiving a lot of attention in recent studies. While as yet there is no definitive study that proves oral health has an effect on overall heart health, there is also no definitive proof that oral health doesn’t affect heart health. So, what do we know, and, just as important, what should we do?

What do we know? One clear connection exists between gum disease and endocarditis, a rare, but potentially very serious, infection. When we neglect our gums, they bleed more easily. When gum disease advances, the gums pull away from the teeth. This creates pockets which can harbor more bacteria and plaque, leading to infection and even tooth and bone loss. And this bleeding and infection can be serious not only as a matter of dental health, but for your heart as well.

Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart and the heart valves. When bacteria from other parts of the body, including your mouth, make their way into the blood stream, they can attach themselves to damaged areas of the heart. The resulting infection can become very serious, very quickly. If you have damaged heart valves or artificial valves, have an artificial heart, or have any type of heart defect, it is especially important to prevent gum disease from developing. Regular dental care will help prevent bleeding gums and infections, and reduce the danger of oral bacteria entering the bloodstream. Always let us know if you have any issues with heart health, and we will tailor our treatment for all of your procedures accordingly.

What else might link oral health and heart disease? Because an increased risk of heart disease has been found in patients with moderate or severe gum disease, there has been much speculation as to a possible cause-and-effect connection. For example, the plaque inside arteries which leads to heart attacks has been found to contain certain strains of periodontal bacteria. Other studies have searched for a causal relationship between inflammation resulting from gum disease and inflammation leading to heart disease.  The body’s immune response to periodontitis and its potential consequences for heart health have also been examined. So far, there has been no clear evidence that treating gum disease prevents the occurrence or recurrence of heart disease.

So what should we do? This is the easy part. Keeping your gums and teeth healthy will increase your quality of life in immeasurable ways. And it’s not difficult! Regular brushing, flossing, and dental exams and cleanings at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office are the key to lasting oral health. If this also keeps your heart healthy, that’s the best possible side effect.

HPV and Oral Cancer

September 24th, 2019

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the country. There are over 100 strains of HPV, and, while most of these infections leave our systems on their own with no long-term ill effects, some cancers have been linked to certain “high risk” strains of the virus. One of these strains, HPV16, increases the risk of oral cancer.

HPV-related oral cancer most often appears in the oropharynx. This area of the mouth includes:

  • The base, or back, of the tongue
  • The soft palate
  • The tonsils
  • The back and sides of the throat

While HPV-related oral cancers can appear in other parts of the oral cavity, they most typically occur at the back of the throat and tongue and near the folds of the tonsils. Because of this location, oropharyngeal cancer can be difficult to detect. This is one more important reason to maintain a regular schedule of dental exams. Our examination doesn’t focus only on your teeth and gums. We are trained to look for cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions in the mouth, head, and neck to make sure you have the earliest treatment options should they be needed.

If you discover any potential symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer, call us for a check-up. These symptoms can include:

  • Trouble moving the tongue
  • Trouble swallowing, speaking, or chewing
  • Trouble opening the mouth completely
  • A red or white patch on the tongue or the lining of the mouth
  • A lump in the throat, neck, or tongue
  • A persistent sore throat
  • Ear pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Coughing up blood

Not every symptom is caused by cancer, but it is always best to be proactive. HPV-related oral cancer is rare, but it is on the increase. While HPV-positive oral cancers generally have a better prognosis than HPV-negative oral cancers, early diagnosis and treatment are still essential for the best possible outcome.

Finally, if you are a young adult or have an adolescent child, talk to Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and to your doctor about the HPV vaccine, which is effective before exposure to the virus occurs. Most HPV vaccines, while not designed specifically to prevent oral cancer, prevent the HPV16 strain from infecting the body—the very same strain that causes the majority of HPV-related oral cancers.  Although no studies have shown definitive proof yet, there is strong feeling in the scientific community that these immunizations might protect against HPV-positive oral cancer as well as cervical, vaginal, and other cancers. It’s a discussion worth having at your next visit to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Top Five Dental Myths

September 18th, 2019

Sometimes the line between fact and fiction is easily blurred. This is certainly the case when it comes to dentistry, where myths and misconceptions abound. In a bid to put an end to health hoaxes, here are five dental myths to chew over.

Sugar Is the Number One Culprit of Tooth Decay

Sugar will rot your teeth. If you’re a parent, chances are you tell your children this every time they ask for something sweet. And chances are your parents told you the same thing. There’s no denying that sugar leads to cavity formation, but it's not the number one culprit of tooth decay. Sugar adds fuel to the fire, but it doesn’t light the match.

Going to the Dentist Is a Painful Experience

There are people who don’t go to the dentist because they think it’s going to be a painful experience. It’s time to put this myth to rest. New dental technology, developments in anesthetics and analgesics, and more conservative dental procedures have made visits to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office a more comfortable experience.

Bad Breath Means You’re Not Brushing

Poor dental hygiene can cause bad breath, but it’s not the only thing that will leave you looking for a breath mint. There are many factors that can cause bad breath, including illness, acid reflux, medication, and dehydration. In addition, sometimes what you eat or drink can give you bad breath no matter how many times you brush and floss. Next time you order a sub for lunch, skip the onions and garlic.

Bleaching Products Weaken Teeth

Gels, pastes, strips — there are all sorts of products available to make our pearly whites even whiter. If used according to the directions, bleaching products are harmless. They do not affect the health or strength of the teeth, only the color. At the same time, too much bleaching can cause temporary tooth sensitivity or irritated gums; the enamel, however, is not weakened.

You Will Know When You Have Tooth Decay

This is the type of false information that can lead to serious dental problems. There are no early symptoms of tooth decay. By the time you experience pain, your tooth decay has led to nerve damage, which means your decay is advanced and extensive. The only way to know if you have tooth decay —and to prevent it — is to visit Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega twice a year for a checkup and cleaning.

Mall Whitening: Why You Shouldn’t

September 17th, 2019

A shopping mall is a great place to get lots of errands done in one trip. Department stores, clothing boutiques, specialty shops? So many tempting options all in one place. But teeth whitening? Maybe not.

Dental office whitening provides you with the whitest possible teeth in the safest possible manner. Your teeth will be checked first for any conditions that might make whitening a bad idea, such as tooth decay, weakened enamel, or gum disease. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will make sure your gums and mouth are protected. A gel with a higher concentration of bleaching agents than those available over-the-counter will be applied, and your whitening progress will be monitored. You can also ask about having a custom-fitted tray made for at use at home with professional whitening gel.

What is different about mall bleaching?

  • No dental exam will be provided beforehand. If you have dental issues, the whitening process might cause further problems such as tooth sensitivity or gum inflammation.
  • The amount of peroxide in the bleaching agents can vary from place to place. You might end up with something equivalent to home whitening strips, or you might be exposed to solutions that should only be available in a dentist’s office.
  • Finally, in many areas, mall whitening is actually illegal because it is considered the practice of dentistry without a license. Mall kiosks skirt this problem by having customers insert the trays full of gel themselves—a practice that does not take the place of professional training, licensing, and regulation.

A mall kiosk is a convenient place to select a new phone. Or try an unusual hair care product. Or purchase the latest in fad toys. But when it comes to your dental health, it’s worth a special trip to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office if you want the safest, most effective whitening.

Most Valuable Dental Treatments

September 11th, 2019

At Pike & Valega, DDS, we work to find a dental plan that will work best and most effectively for you. But we’ve found that three treatments tend to be the most common and useful. If you ever find yourself in any of the following situations, we suggest you look at these options.

If you’ve lost teeth due to trauma, fracture, or decay, dental implants are a great choice. With all the technology available to us now, dental implants look and function exactly the way a natural tooth would. They blend in perfectly and are custom made to fit you. They’re a great investment that will restore the balance to your smile.

If you struggle with stress and catch yourself clenching or grinding your jaw, you may want to consider a bite guard. Constant grinding of teeth is dangerous for fillings and crowns, as well as natural teeth. It can cause serious joint inflammation as well as headaches. Luckily, bite guards can be worn night or day (depending on what you need), and are a great way to prevent further grinding.

Finally, there’s teeth whitening. It’s not uncommon for patients to want to brighten their smile, and the best way to do it by far is with in-office tooth whitening. There are many DIY options out there, of course, but in-office whitening has greater benefits.

When the whitening gel is applied to your teeth, we make sure your gums are protected. The results are generally faster and last longer with this approach, as well. Other methods may work, but they typically don’t last as long; sometimes they may not fully whiten all areas of your teeth.

No treatment is as easy and free of challenges as it seems. You still have to care for implants like regular teeth, which means no skimping on brushing and flossing just because they’re fake. Bite guards must be worn regularly to be effective. They also must be customized for your teeth; otherwise, they can be uncomfortable.

Whitening may cause temporary sensitivity in some mouths. For others, genetics may prevent you from achieving the precise shade you want.

If you have additional questions, feel free to call our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. Our team is here to help you achieve your best possible smile!

Dangers of Thumb Sucking

September 10th, 2019

It’s common for children to suck their thumb at a young age. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team want you to understand the potential issues that can surface down the road if the habit isn’t broken early on.

It’s normal for infants to explore the function of their mouths by putting objects like their thumbs inside it. You shouldn’t be concerned if your baby regularly sucks his or her thumb. For infants who are still growing their baby teeth, thumb sucking can help with stimulating growth and development of their baby teeth.

Thumb sucking is not a problem among infants because they generally do it to sooth and comfort themselves. Problems can occur of kids continue the habit when their baby teeth begin to fall out, around six years of age.

If you have a young child whose adult teeth are starting to come in, that’s when thumb sucking can start to be a problem. Most children stop thumb sucking between the ages of two and three years. According to the American Dental Association, if thumb sucking continues as adult teeth come in, this can lead to problems involving improper alignment of teeth and growth of the jaw, gums, and roof of the mouth.

It may also affect your child’s speech after that, by causing a lisp or other speech impediments. As a parent, you may need to begin to regulate and intervene if thumb sucking starts to become a bigger problem for your child.

How to Stop Thumb Sucking

  • Provide comfort to your child if thumb sucking happens when he or she is anxious.
  • Limit thumb sucking initially to bedtime or naptime.
  • Employ positive reinforcement for good behavior.
  • Talk with your child about the potential problems that come from this habit.
  • Distract your son or daughter with activities such as fun games any time you notice it starting.
  • Involve your little one in choosing methods for stopping, like positive rewards.
  • Have Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega talk to your child to reinforce concerns about thumb sucking.

Don’t forget that thumb sucking is a common habit that many children indulge in, and it should not be a concern right away. If you’re worried about your child’s thumb-sucking habit, start to address the issue as soon as possible.

The above techniques can help to reduce the amount of time your child sucks a thumb. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team are here to help you if you have any questions or concerns about this habit.

Feel free to call our Poolesville and Rockville MD office and we will be happy to help you and your child.

What kind of toothbrush and toothpaste should my child use?

September 4th, 2019

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team know that as a parent, you want your child to be as healthy as possible. By now, you probably know that your son or daughter’s oral health plays a huge role in overall health.

When there are so many toothpaste ads and different styles of brush to choose from, it can be difficult to know which will serve your child the best. We recommend you break down the decision process to make it simpler.

First, your child’s age and stage of development are vital to consider. Until about the age or 12, your youngster may not be prepared to brush or floss adequately alone, due to dexterity issues. If that’s the case, it can be easier to use a battery-powered toothbrush to improve the quality of brushing.

Next is to select the right size of toothbrush head to fit your child’s mouth. As a general rule, the head of the toothbrush should be a little larger than the upper portion of the child’s thumb.

Flossers are great for children and easy to use. They have handles and a horseshoe shape on one end with floss in between. Your child can choose a color he or she likes as well as the handle size, shape, etc.

Not only are there many brands of toothpaste to choose from, there are also many different ingredients that offer varying benefits. Kids are at high risk for developing cavities so you want to make sure the following ingredients are in your child’s toothpaste if you wish to avoid problems later on.

Sodium fluoride is the standard ingredient for cavity prevention, while stannous fluoride is anti-bacterial and anti-cavity. Anti-sensitivity toothpastes often contain potassium nitrate, and triclosan can be found in one particular brand for anti-bacterial action.

Fluoride should not be ingested, so if your child can’t spit yet, use a toothpaste that contains xylitol. This is a natural sweetener and should be the first ingredient listed on the tube.

Now comes the fun part: choosing a flavor! Your little one may sample different flavors and select the one he or she likes the best. A youngster is more likely to adopt good brushing habits if the flavor is appealing.

Don’t hesitate to speak with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega if you need to make an appointment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office, or if you have any questions about toothpastes or toothbrushes.

Should You Get Dental Veneers?

September 3rd, 2019

Dental veneers are a popular treatment to improve the appearance of your smile. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team want to help you understand whether this dental option is right for you.

Veneers, also known as laminates, are custom-made shells that cover the front of your teeth. They can change the color, size, or length of each individual tooth. The process can require between one and three trips to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office to complete.

This treatment is usually done for people who want to change the appearance of their smile: they can get rid of stains, gaps, or chips. Here at Pike & Valega, DDS, we know how getting veneers can dramatically change your smile and help improve your confidence.

Your initial appointment entails preparing the teeth and creating an impression. The impression will help us design each veneer to the exact shape and color you desire. You’ll come back in a week or two to have the veneers placed. Your veneers should last about ten years, as long as you practice proper care and hygiene.

There are plenty of benefits to getting veneers, but you should be aware of the potential downsides of this procedure. This process is irreversible and the veneers cannot usually be fixed. If they chip or crack, they’ll need to be replaced.

It is also possible for veneers to fall off due to excessive pressure from nail biting or chewing on ice. If you grind your teeth a lot, you’re more likely to expose your veneers to damage, which can be costly to repair.

In order to know whether veneers are right for you, schedule an appointment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office for a consultation. We can decide what you’re looking to do with your smile and if this is the best option for you.

What is an Impacted Tooth?

August 27th, 2019

You may have heard this term the first time you or a friend got your wisdom teeth. That makes sense, as wisdom teeth are the teeth most often impacted in teenagers and young adults. But other permanent teeth can be impacted as well. What exactly do we mean by “impacted teeth,” and what can we do to treat them?

The term “impacted” means that somehow a tooth has been blocked from erupting properly. A tooth may be completely blocked by another tooth, erupt in the wrong space, or even come in from the wrong direction. Depending on the teeth involved, there are several different options for treatment.

From Baby Teeth to Permanent Teeth

Normally, when children lose a baby tooth, a permanent tooth is right there, ready to take its place. But teeth don’t always behave according to plan. Occasionally, that baby tooth just won’t budge, and the permanent tooth starts to erupt behind it. When this happens, a simple baby tooth extraction will often let the permanent tooth move into its proper position on schedule.

A more complicated situation develops when upper teeth are impacted because there isn’t enough space in the mouth for them. In this case, a device called a palatal expander might be used to gradually widen the upper jaw to allow the permanent teeth to erupt without crowding.

In other rare cases, a tooth (often the canine) fails to erupt and may require oral surgery to uncover it, followed by orthodontic treatment to guide it into position.

Impacted teeth can result from other causes as well, and every impacted tooth should be treated as quickly as possible. Left untreated, the teeth can fail to erupt at all or erupt in the wrong place, crowd other permanent teeth, damage the roots of the teeth near them, and lead to difficulties eating and dental pain.

Wisdom teeth

Wisdom teeth are often a problem because there is simply not enough room in the jaw for them.

Wisdom teeth that are completely impacted (still in the jawbone) can sometimes be left alone if they aren’t causing other problems. But if impacted wisdom teeth develop cysts, affect the teeth around them, or lead to other dental complications, they should be extracted.

Partially erupted teeth, those that have begun to emerge through the gums but don’t erupt fully, can be the source of different gum and tooth problems. Because the gum tissue overlaps the tooth, food particles and bacteria can become trapped, leading to rapid tooth decay and even infection. In this case, extraction is probably the best option.

Be Proactive

The term “impacted” actually comes from the Latin root meaning “pushed against.” But teeth that don’t erupt at the right time, in the right place, can have a different kind of impact on dental health and appearance. And the earlier we can catch these problems, the easier it is to treat them.

Regular exams and X-rays with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office will show the progress of the teeth even before they erupt, and if there will be the space for them to fit in the mouth properly. We may recommend a visit to the orthodontist by the age of seven to see if there are any signs of potential orthodontic problems.

Intervention at an early stage can prevent potential problems from becoming major ones. That is why it’s so important to be proactive when teeth are erupting in children and young adults. After all, a healthy, confident smile makes a real impact!

Losing a Baby Tooth

August 21st, 2019

It seems like yesterday. There you were, comforting your baby through sleepless nights, soothing her with a dentist-approved teether, celebrating as that first tiny tooth poked through her gums. And now here she is running to show you that same tooth, wiggly, loose, and almost ready for the Tooth Fairy. Now what?

Be Prepared

Children normally lose that first tooth somewhere around the age of six, but a year or two earlier or later is not uncommon. If you ever took a business class, you might have heard of the inventory method called “First In, First Out.” Baby teeth operate much the same way! The two bottom front teeth, followed by the two upper front teeth, will probably be the first teeth your child loses. Once you notice some wiggling, let your child know what is going on and reassure her that it is a normal part of growing up.

What to Expect with that First Loose Tooth

Normally, baby teeth become loose when the pressure from the permanent tooth below gradually breaks down the roots of the primary tooth. If your child has a loose tooth, encourage him to wiggle, not pull. Typically, gentle wiggling is all that is needed to free a tooth that has lost most of its root and is ready to be replaced. Avoid pulling or forcing the tooth, because that can cause injury to the root area if the baby tooth isn’t ready to come out. Call our Poolesville and Rockville MD office if you have any questions about loose teeth. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team also have suggestions if the baby teeth don’t become loose on schedule, or if they stubbornly remain in place even after the adult teeth have started to show up. One important note—if your child ever loses a tooth through accident or injury, call us at once. We might need to provide a spacer to give your child’s permanent teeth the proper time and space to come in.

Celebrate this Milestone with Your Child

The arrival of the Tooth Fairy is a familiar way to mark the occasion, and she can leave your child a note, a small gift, even a brand new toothbrush. Or explore other options!

If your child is fascinated by stories and traditions, learn about El Ratón Pérez (Perez the Mouse), a familiar tooth-collector in many Spanish speaking countries, or his French cousin, La Petite Souris (the Little Mouse). In other parts of Europe, Asia and Africa, children throw teeth on the roof, drop them in a glass of water, or hide them in a slipper. This is a great opportunity for you and your child to explore the world!

If your child likes science, look into books that explain the biology of baby and adult teeth in an age-appropriate way. You could print a chart of the primary teeth and take notes on each lost tooth as it makes way for the permanent tooth below. Or track her progress with photos showing the baby tooth, the gap left by the tooth, and the adult tooth as it comes in.

Losing that first tooth is an important moment for your child—and for you. Be prepared to celebrate another milestone together, and always feel free to talk to Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega if you have any questions about this new stage in your child’s life.

The Most Common Causes of Gum Disease

August 20th, 2019

Unless you're aware of the signs and symptoms of gum disease and how it's caused, it's possible that you may have unknowingly developed it. Often painless, gum disease -- or periodontal disease -- becomes progressively more serious when left untreated. As you learn more about the common causes of gum disease, you'll be better-equipped to maintain the best oral health possible.

Gingivitis & Periodontitis: Common Causes of Gum Disease

  • Bacteria & Plaque. Bacteria in the mouth creates a sticky film over the teeth. Good hygiene practices help remove the bacteria and the plaque they cause. When plaque is not removed, it develops into a rock-like substance called tartar. This can only be removed by a dental professional.
  • Smoking & Tobacco. If you're a smoker or use tobacco, you face a higher risk of developing gum disease. Additionally, tobacco use can lead to stained teeth, bad breath, and an increased risk of oral cancers.
  • Certain Medications. Some medications that are taken for other health conditions can increase a person's risk of developing gum disease. If you take steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, certain cancer therapy medications, or oral contraceptives, speak to Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega about how to maintain healthy gums.
  • Medical Conditions. Certain medical conditions can impact the health of your gums. For instance, diabetics face an increased risk of gum disease due to the inflammatory chemicals present in their bodies. Always talk to our team about other health conditions to ensure we take that into account when treating you.

Take a Proactive Stance

Good oral hygiene practices and regular visits to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office can help you eliminate or reduce the risks of developing gum disease. A thorough cleaning with your toothbrush and dental floss should take about three to five minutes. Brush your teeth a minimum of twice per day and floss at least once each day. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be ready to prevent gum disease.

Dental Emergencies in Children

August 14th, 2019

Unfortunately, dental emergencies can sometimes be unavoidable among young children. The good news is Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can help you prepare in case you and your child find yourselves in any of the following situations.

Teething

Starting at about four months and lasting up to three years, your son or daughter may experience teething pain. It’s common for teething children to grow irritable and become prone to drooling due to tender gums. Give your child a cold teething ring or rub his or her gums with your finger to help relieve the discomfort.

Loss of Teeth

If a baby tooth is knocked out in an accident, bring your child to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office to make sure damage hasn’t occurred in the mouth. Permanent teeth can sometimes grow in before baby teeth have fallen out. In this situation, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega should examine your child to make sure teeth are growing in properly. This can prevent serious issues from arising later in adulthood.

Gum Issues

Bleeding gums could mean several things. They may be an early sign of periodontal disease, which results from poor oral hygiene. Gums may also bleed if a youngster is brushing too hard or has suffered an injury to the gum tissue.

Rinse your child’s mouth with warm salt water and apply pressure to the area if bleeding continues. Don’t hesitate to contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office if you are concerned so we can schedule an appointment.

As a parent, you can provide the best education for your children on proper oral hygiene habits. If you some coaching, ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega for tips during your next appointment.

What is a root canal?

August 13th, 2019

A root canal entails the removal of the nerve supply from a tooth. If you know the purpose of a root canal, the process may seem a little less intimidating.

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will explain the steps in person before your scheduled root canal. Here are some reasons why you may need one and how it will be done when you visit our Poolesville and Rockville MD office for your appointment.

Let’s look at the parts of a tooth. Teeth are made up of layers. The outside is the enamel you see, which is composed of minerals. The middle layer is called dentin. It is less dense and made of calcified tissues.

The center of the tooth, also known as the pulp, holds the nerves and blood vessels. When a tooth has decayed or been infected all the way down to the pulp, a root canal is used to remove and replace the root with a filling.

A cavity, sudden trauma, severe cracks, or other events that may cause nerve damage can start an infection of the root of your tooth. You may notice an infection if you experience abnormal pain, swelling, sensitivity, or change in tooth appearance.

Don’t hesitate to contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office to schedule an examination if you notice these symptoms. We may need to take X-rays of the problem tooth to find out if a root canal is necessary.

Once an appointment is scheduled for a root canal and we’re ready to begin the procedure, you’ll be given anesthesia to keep you comfortable. The problem tooth will be isolated and sterilized. We work to remove all the infected area after that.

The treatment will include getting rid of nerve tissue and blood vessels, then filling in the spot where the nerve used to be. A crown is placed over the area to secure enamel from breaking down in the future and prevent the potential loss of the tooth. The root canal can block the possibility of having your tooth extracted due to decay or infection.

If you have further questions about root canals or notice any new issues in your mouth, please don’t hesitate to call our office and speak with a member of our staff. We’d be happy to answer your questions and schedule an appointment for you to come and get your problem tooth checked out.

Don’t forget: You can avoid having to undergo a root canal if we catch the problem early on!

Seven Ways to Repurpose Old Toothbrushes

August 7th, 2019

It’s done a wonderful job for you, but after three or four months, the time has come to retire your toothbrush. Bristles that once easily removed food particles and plaque have become frayed and just aren’t as effective. But now that you’re regularly changing out your toothbrush, what to do with those retired brushes besides add to the local landfill? Check out some recommendations from Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega for some second career options for that old toothbrush.

Make Your Jewelry Shine

A gentle brush with your favorite jewelry cleaner and your old brush will remove dirt from small spaces and filigree that a cloth just can’t reach. Do check that brushing is safe for your jewelry—pearls, for example, are not a good candidate.

Keep Your Woodwork Dust-free

Keep the details on your wood trim dust free with an old toothbrush. Baseboards are some of the hardest places to keep clean—even vacuums have difficulty getting dust and dirt out of trim. But an old toothbrush is perfect for cleaning the top, the grooves, and the inside corners of your baseboards. You can also remove dust from around door trim and inside window tracks.

Polish Sinks and Faucets

Use a repurposed toothbrush to remove build-up where the base of your faucet meets the sink, or around levers and handles. And don’t forget the metal ring around the drain!

Clean Kitchen Gadgets

Those miniature blades in your coffee maker or blender, the tiny holes in your cheese grater, the micro-openings in your microplane—small cleaning jobs need small tools! Try an old brush the next time you have a mini-cleaning problem.

De-grease Appliances

And while we’re in the kitchen, don’t forget your appliances. A toothbrush can clean grease around dials, handles, and knobs where a sponge can’t reach.

Refresh Your Grout

There are special brushes made just for scrubbing grout, but give your old brush a try first. Use your regular cleaning solution or paste for fresh, clean grout lines on your tile floors and counters. 

Keep Your Technology Sleek

Your keyboard has a busy life and it shows! Keep the spaces between your keys dust and crumb free with a clean, dry toothbrush. The next time you’re detailing your car’s interior, try a toothbrush for cleaning around buttons and dials on your dash. And don’t forget your remote controls, or any other place where keys, knobs, and buttons collect dust.

There’s still a lot of life left in that toothbrush! If you choose to reuse, do be sure to thoroughly clean your toothbrush before it transitions to another housekeeping detail. It’s worth the effort—your old brush will prove useful in any number of new ways, and your home—and the environment—will thank you!

Are My Child’s Baby Teeth on Schedule?

August 6th, 2019

Your darling three-month old is crying and fussy—can she be teething already? Or, your happy baby boy has just celebrated his first birthday—with only one tooth in that beautiful, gummy smile. Is this normal? Probably! While baby teeth do typically erupt (come in) in the same order for all babies, and around the same time, there is still a lot of flexibility in the time it takes for a full, healthy smile to develop.

Baby teeth actually form before your baby is born, and those 20 teeth are there under the gums waiting to come out and shine. And even though there are no firm and fast dates for each of these primary teeth to erupt, it’s helpful to have a general overview of typical teething patterns so you know what to look forward to.

Incisors

These little teeth create a charming baby smile, and, if your finger has been in the wrong place at the wrong time, a very sharp one as well! That is because these tiny incisors are made to bite into foods. You might notice this when you introduce solid foods, even if the majority of your child’s “chewing” is done with her back gums. These teeth are the earliest to arrive.

  • Six to ten months old: The lower central incisors (bottom front teeth) are often the first to come in.
  • Eight to 12 months old: The upper incisors (8-12 months) are the next to show.
  • Nine to 13 months old: The upper lateral incisors on each side of the front teeth arrive.
  • Ten to 16 months old: The lower lateral incisors appear.

First Molars

Because these are larger teeth, babies often experience another bout of teething pain at this time. The large flat surface of each molar helps your child to chew and grind food, so he can handle a wider variety of foods and develop his chewing skills.

  • 13 to 19 months old: You can generally expect to see the upper first molars arrive.
  • 14 to 18 months old: The lower first molars appear.

Canines (Cuspids)

Fitting between the first molars and the incisors, the strong, pointed shape of the canine teeth allows your child to grip food and break it apart more easily.

  • 16 to 22 months old: The upper two canines make their way into the space between the incisors and the first molars.
  • 17 to 23 months old: The two lower canines appear.

Second Molars

By the age of three, most children have a full set of baby teeth.

  • 23 to 31 months old: The second pair of bottom molars start erupting—you are in the home stretch!
  • 25 to 33 months old: The upper second molars come in—completing that beautiful set of 20 teeth!

Baby teeth are extremely important, as Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will tell you when you visit our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. They help your child eat and chew, develop face and jaw muscles, assist proper speech formation, and provide space for the adult teeth to come in properly. Now that your child’s smile is complete, keep providing him with the same care and attention you have been giving those little teeth since the arrival of the very first incisor.

It seems that so much of new parenthood is scheduling—when to feed her, when to put her to bed, how many hours between naps. But we soon find out that every baby is not on the same schedule, and the same is true for the arrival of their teeth. We should see your baby when that first tooth comes in, or by his or her first birthday. And if you ever have concerns at any time about your child’s teething schedule or teething delays, always feel free to give us a call.

Recovering from Oral Surgery

July 17th, 2019

If you need oral surgery, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team will use our expertise and training to ensure that you have the best possible surgical outcome. And we want to make sure you have the best possible outcome for your recovery as well. Here are a few of the most common aftercare suggestions for making your healing as comfortable and rapid as possible.

  • Reduce Swelling

Ice packs or cold compresses can reduce swelling. We’ll instruct you how to use them if needed, and when to call our Poolesville and Rockville MD office if swelling persists.

  • Reduce Bleeding

Some amount of bleeding is normal after many types of oral surgery. We might give you gauze pads to apply to the area, with instructions on how much pressure to apply and how long to apply it. We will also let you know what to do if the bleeding continues longer than expected.

  • Reduce Pain or Discomfort

If you have some pain after surgery, over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen might be all that you need. We can recommend those which are best for you. If you need a prescription for pain medication, be sure to take it as directed and always let us know in advance if you have any allergies or other reactions to medications.

  • Recovery-friendly Diet

Take it easy for the first few days after oral surgery. Liquids and soft foods are best for several days following surgery. We will let you know what type of diet is indicated and how long you should follow it depending on your particular procedure. We might, for example, recommend that you avoid alcohol and tobacco, spicy, crunchy, and chewy foods, and hot foods or beverages for several days or several weeks.

  • Take Antibiotics If Needed

If you have been prescribed an antibiotic, be sure to take it as directed. If you have any allergies to antibiotics, let us know in advance.

  • Protect the Wound

Do NOT use straws, smoke, or suck on foods. Avoid spitting.  Part of the healing process can involve the formation of a clot over the surgical site which protects the wound. If the clot is dislodged by suction or spitting, it can prolong your recovery time, or even lead to a potentially serious condition called “dry socket.”

  • Maintain Oral Hygiene

Depending on your surgery, we might recommend that you avoid rinsing your mouth for 24 hours, use salt water rinses when appropriate, and keep away from the surgical site when brushing. It’s important to keep your mouth clean, carefully and gently.

  • Take it Easy!

Rest the day of your surgery and keep your activities light in the days following.

These are general guidelines for recovery. If you have oral surgery scheduled, we will supply you with instructions for your specific procedure, and can tailor your aftercare to fit any individual needs. Our goal is to make sure that both your surgery and your recovery are as comfortable as possible.

Dentin Tooth Sensitivity Treatments

July 16th, 2019

Dentine hypersensitivity can be described as a sharp and sudden pain caused by cold food and beverages. It’s present in more than half the population and result from receding gums that expose the root surfaces of your teeth.

That being said, hypersensitivity can be triggered by forceful tooth brushing, teeth whitening products, gum disease, and erosion from acid reflux, bulimia, or highly acidic foods. Symptoms can range from moderate to severe, depending on the cause and how quickly it’s treated.

Tooth sensitivity begins when the dentin develops some exposure. This layer that surrounds the nerve of the tooth is usually covered by gum tissue, but when recession takes place, the dentin can get exposed and the pain begins. The dentin contains numerous pores that run from the surface of the tooth inward. This direct connection to the nerve and blood supply of the tooth can be affected by external stimuli, such as the triggers cited above.

The good news is there are several different ways to treat dentinal hypersensitivity at Pike & Valega, DDS.

Treatment of dentin tooth sensitivity begins by making an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega. We encourage you to begin treatment sooner rather than later in order to figure out the cause and to reduce the pain you’re experiencing. In most cases, quick treatment options will solve the problem, including the use of desensitizing toothpaste, switching to a soft-bristled toothbrush, starting a daily fluoride rinse treatment, or minimizing teeth grinding with the help of a custom mouthguard.

For more serious cases, we may recommend you get crowns put on problematic teeth, start a gel or varnish fluoride treatment, or even schedule a surgical gum graft or root canal, depending on the cause and severity of your pain.

If you’re concerned about any tooth sensitivity you’re experiencing, please give our Poolesville and Rockville MD office a call and schedule an appointment. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team want to help you identify the cause of your pain, and give you the best possible treatment plan. We look forward to seeing you to help alleviate discomfort and solve your tooth sensitivity.

How Sedation Dentistry Can Help You Overcome Dental Anxiety

July 10th, 2019

Sometimes people feel a tiny bit nervous when they sit in the dental chair. And sometimes it’s more than a tiny bit. If your anxiety over visiting the office leads you to skip regular checkups and cleanings, or, worse, if you would rather suffer tooth or gum pain than give us a call—give our Poolesville and Rockville MD office a call! Sedation dentistry might be just the procedure you need to make dental anxiety a thing of the past.

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team are trained to administer sedation and to monitor your responses throughout. And we want you to have all the information you need to decide on any dental treatment, including sedation. We will tell you of any risks, and describe the procedure in detail. If you have any health conditions or take any medications that might interfere with sedation, we can discuss your options with you and your doctor to make sure you are a good candidate. We will explain any preparations you should take, and let you know if there is a window of recovery time needed in our office while the sedation wears off.

Don’t let yourself suffer dental pain because you suffer from dental anxiety! Please call us to discuss sedation. We are trained to administer the treatment you choose gently and safely. Above all, we want to help you keep your smile the heathiest it can be, and that only happens when you have regular dental care. Let us work with you to make that care as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

The Safety of Dental X-Rays

July 9th, 2019

An article was released to the public stating that dental X-rays contribute to a type of brain cancer. After reading an article like this, your first thought may be to avoid dental X-rays, but you may want to hold off on that quick judgment. As with any treatment we offer at Pike & Valega, DDS, education is your most valuable tool in deciding what is best for you.

How often dental X-rays are taken is based on risk for infection, physical symptoms, and clinical findings. The American Dental Association (ADA) is a governing body over the dental profession. The ADA states, “ . . . healthy adults receive routine mouth X-rays every two to three years. Dental X-rays are recommended every one to two years for children and every 1.5 to three years for teens. Children often require more X-rays than adults because of their developing teeth and jaws and increased likelihood for cavities.”

A "caries risk category" often determines how often dental X-rays are taken. The most recent documented resource to determine a caries risk is Caries Management by Risk Assessment (CAMBRA). This was adopted by the ADA and is used by dental professionals giving interval recommendations for X-rays.

With knowledge of your risk for dental infection, you will be informed by Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega of the interval at which dental X-rays should be taken. You can rest assured that the standards published by the ADA have been researched extensively and are there to protect your personal health and safety.

Dental X-rays are most commonly digital, which significantly reduces exposure. There is more radiation exposure from the sun or in an airplane than in a dental X-ray. It is common practice to use a lead apron with a thyroid collar for protection during X-ray exposure.

Having a cavity means having an active, potentially harmful infection. Diagnosing such infection with minimal exposure through digital dental X-rays at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office does more good than harm.

Summer Sports and Mouthguards

July 3rd, 2019

School’s out and you’ve emptied your gym locker until next fall. But while you’re stowing away the football gear, the basketball warm-ups, the field hockey sticks, and all the other equipment you’ve collected over the school year (that’s where that other shoe went!), be sure to keep one item handy: your mouthguard.

Team and contact sports like football, basketball, and wrestling aren’t the only potential dental dangers. In fact, almost any sport or activity can be made safer when you use your mouthguard.  While you’re keeping active and fit in the summer months, remember to look out for your smile.

  • Sports on wheels

Biking, skate boarding, rollerblading—it only takes one fall to make you realize that roads, sidewalks, and concrete are not ideal landing pads. If you do take a spill, using a mouthguard, along with your helmet, will help protect your teeth and jaw.

  • Court sports

Handball and tennis are not what we consider contact sports, but an unexpected bounce from a ball, or a completely unexpected backhand from your partner, can lead to dental injuries. Ace your workout and wear a mouthguard.

  • Water sports

A fall in the water can lead to a collision with your surfboard or water skis, and water polo often seems to be a game of stamina, accuracy and elbows. Wear your mouthguard on land and sea, and help reduce your chance of dental injury.

  • Team sports

Anyone who has played summer league baseball, softball or soccer knows that occasional contact with other players is pretty much a given. Cushioning your head, mouth, and teeth with a mouthguard will not only protect you, but keep you in the game—and your teammates will appreciate that!

If you already use a mouthguard, keep up the good work! If you don’t, talk to Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega about the importance of protecting your smile with a mouthguard. There are ready-made options available at drug stores and sporting goods shops. These will provide protection to your mouth and teeth, but can sometimes be bulky and uncomfortable and should never be used with braces. If you would like a mouth protector that provides the best fit and comfort, or if you wear braces, we can customize a mouthguard in our Poolesville and Rockville MD office that will be a perfect fit for your teeth and bite.

Whatever activity you choose, play it smart! Don’t gear up without your mouthguard, and you’ll greet next year’s classes energized, fit, and sporting a beautiful smile!

Do You Have A Cavity?

July 2nd, 2019

Sometimes cavities are hard to avoid. Our team at Pike & Valega, DDS wants you to know you aren’t alone when it comes to getting cavities. They can appear in both children and adults, and in order to avoid the pain and hassle, you need to understand how they form and what to do to prevent them from developing in the first place.

Cavities form when bacteria, acids, or sugars build up and form plaque on your teeth, which can destroy your enamel. When you don’t brush and floss properly, the build-up can cause cavities to form. In essence, a cavity is a decayed part of your tooth that cannot be repaired by your body’s immune system. This is why a dentist will need to treat your cavity with a filling. If it grows for too long and manages to infect the root of your tooth, a root canal may be the only solution.

Cavities are often symptom-free; you might not experience any pain at first, other than the occasional irritation when you drink a hot or cold beverage. Other signs of possible cavities include persistent bad breath, pus or discharge around a tooth, black or brown discoloration, small pits or holes in a tooth, and perhaps a sticky feeling when you bite down. It’s crucial to treat cavities sooner rather than later if you wish to avoid excessive pain and the necessity of a root canal.

You can avoid cavities by keeping up with good oral hygiene, eating a well-balanced diet, and scheduling regular cleanings with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega. They can still occur at any time, no matter what age you are, so make sure to brush, floss, and rinse every day. If you notice any of the above symptoms, please contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office and schedule an appointment.

What are dental sealants, who should get them, and how long do they last?

June 26th, 2019

Dental sealants are an excellent way to protect children’s teeth from tooth decay by coating them with a thin plastic material. Their teeth look and feel like normal, but they are protected from plaque build-up and decay early on. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our staff recommend sealants as a preventive measure for children before any decay appears on their teeth.

Who should get dental sealants?

Dental sealants are intended for young children as soon as their first teeth come in. Decay is most common in the molars, so taking your child to Pike & Valega, DDS for sealants right when you see the molars grow in gives your child the best chance to fight tooth decay.

A child’s first set of permanent molars grow in between ages five and seven, while the second permanent molars come in between 11 and 14 years of age. Some teens and adults who don’t have tooth decay may get sealants as well, but it is less common.

How long do dental sealants last?

Once the sealant has been placed on the teeth, it lasts up to ten years. Expect to have Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega check the sealant at every visit to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office, which should be twice a year. We will look at the sealant and determine if it needs to be replaced.

What is the process of getting sealants?

Applying sealants is a simple, pain-free procedure that is done quickly at Pike & Valega, DDS. There is absolutely no effect on the tooth structure from sealants.

For starters, the teeth are cleaned carefully, then dried with an absorbent material. A mild acid solution is applied to them to roughen them slightly. This is done so the sealant can bond properly to the teeth. Then the teeth are rinsed and dried, and the sealant material is painted on and dried with a special light.

Molars are susceptible to decay early on, which is why sealants are an important treatment to get for your children’s first set of teeth.

What are dental sealants, who should get them, and how long do they last?

June 26th, 2019

Dental sealants are an excellent way to protect children’s teeth from tooth decay by coating them with a thin plastic material. Their teeth look and feel like normal, but they are protected from plaque build-up and decay early on. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our staff recommend sealants as a preventive measure for children before any decay appears on their teeth.

Who should get dental sealants?

Dental sealants are intended for young children as soon as their first teeth come in. Decay is most common in the molars, so taking your child to Pike & Valega, DDS for sealants right when you see the molars grow in gives your child the best chance to fight tooth decay.

A child’s first set of permanent molars grow in between ages five and seven, while the second permanent molars come in between 11 and 14 years of age. Some teens and adults who don’t have tooth decay may get sealants as well, but it is less common.

How long do dental sealants last?

Once the sealant has been placed on the teeth, it lasts up to ten years. Expect to have Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega check the sealant at every visit to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office, which should be twice a year. We will look at the sealant and determine if it needs to be replaced.

What is the process of getting sealants?

Applying sealants is a simple, pain-free procedure that is done quickly at Pike & Valega, DDS. There is absolutely no effect on the tooth structure from sealants.

For starters, the teeth are cleaned carefully, then dried with an absorbent material. A mild acid solution is applied to them to roughen them slightly. This is done so the sealant can bond properly to the teeth. Then the teeth are rinsed and dried, and the sealant material is painted on and dried with a special light.

Molars are susceptible to decay early on, which is why sealants are an important treatment to get for your children’s first set of teeth.

Why are my gums shrinking?

June 25th, 2019

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 Poolesville and Rockville MD office. We will take a look and figure out the cause, and help you decide on the best treatment.

The first thing Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega 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 Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega 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, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega 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 Poolesville and Rockville MD 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.

What Are Dental Sealants?

June 19th, 2019

You’re constantly playing defense. Your child spends two minutes in the morning and two minutes at night carefully brushing and flossing with a fluoride toothpaste. You make sure sugary and acidic foods are not a major part of your diets. Your child visits our Poolesville and Rockville MD office for regular exams and cleanings. Really, how can a cavity get past all that?

But even with the best defensive practices, you don’t have a level playing field—literally. The tops of our molars and premolars don’t have the smooth, easy-to-clean surfaces that our other teeth have. If you look at the chewing surfaces, you will notice deep grooves which toothbrush bristles have a much harder time reaching.  

Plaque and food particles can become trapped in these grooves (known as pits and fissures), providing perfect conditions for a cavity to develop. That is why cavities are so common in newly erupted molars. Dental sealants protect these teeth from cavities by providing a barrier which smooths out the surface of the tooth and prevents food and bacteria from reaching the molar’s crevices.

Most sealants are invisible plastic resin coatings which we apply in our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. Usually the procedure is so quick and easy that no dental anesthetic is required. Each tooth will be examined first. If we find any signs of early decay, we will gently treat that area before beginning.

When the tooth is ready, it will be cleaned and dried. An etching solution will be brushed on to the dry surface to roughen the area a bit so that the sealant will hold to the tooth more effectively. A thin coat of the sealant is then painted on and hardened under a curing light. And that’s it!

Once teeth are sealed, they should be cleaned and flossed just as carefully as before. Regular exams and cleanings are still very important, and we can monitor the condition of the sealant and the sealed teeth. Properly applied, sealants can last from three to five years, or even longer.

Who should consider sealants? Sealants are typically recommended when the permanent molars first erupt. Children’s enamel takes a while to become its strongest, and so these just-erupted teeth are more at risk for cavities. Sometimes Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will recommend sealants for primary (baby) teeth if needed. But even adults can benefit—talk to us if you are interested and we will let you know if sealants might be right for you.

Sealants are a simple, safe, and minimally invasive way to prevent cavities. Studies of sealed molars and premolars show a dramatic reduction in cavities compared to untreated teeth. Sealants are one of the most effective ways to defend your teeth or your children’s teeth from tooth decay. And as we’ve all heard—defense wins championships!

Preventing Toddler Tooth Decay

June 18th, 2019

You do everything you can to protect your toddler with safeguards large and small. Installing that complicated car seat. Figuring out which sunscreen is best for delicate skin. Spending weeks childproofing your home. But all the work protecting your child is more than worth it because the rewards are so great. And one more everyday precaution that brings great rewards is protecting your toddler from tooth decay.

  • Start Early

The time to start your baby’s dental care is even before that first tooth arrives. Carefully wiping the gums with a clean, damp cloth after feeding gets your child used to the idea of brushing and removes bacteria that might irritate the gums as the teeth begin to erupt. As soon as those teeth arrive, gentle brushing with soft bristles will keep bacteria and plaque from causing tooth decay and gingivitis. We can recommend toothpastes formulated especially for toddlers and suggest the best ways to brush.

  • Mind The Menu

We know that sugary foods aren’t healthy for your toddler’s teeth. Bacteria in the mouth feeds on sugar, and a sugar-heavy diet results in more of the bacteria and plaque which cause cavities. But sugar is not the only food that is not tooth-friendly. For example, foods like citrus fruits and juices can also be a problem. Acidic foods can actually weaken enamel after eating and leave teeth more vulnerable to cavity-causing bacteria and plaque. We have suggestions for tooth-healthy snacks and the best times to brush after eating if you and your child indulge in a treat.

  • Don’t Misuse Bottles & Sippy Cups

Your toddler might still use a bottle at night or a sippy cup throughout the day. Juices and even milk contain sugar that increases the risk of cavities, and if your child goes to sleep with a bottle or cup, these liquids pool in the mouth overnight allowing bacteria to flourish.  If your toddler wants a drink at night or between meals, water is a much better option.

Those tiny teeth are important for so many reasons. They enable children to bite and chew efficiently, to pronounce sounds properly for speech development, and to save space for adult teeth so they erupt in the right place. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team recommend that your child visit our Poolesville and Rockville MD office after the first tooth comes in, and always by the first birthday. We will make sure your toddler’s teeth are developing as they should be and suggest ways to keep them cavity-free. Your toddler’s healthy, beautiful smile is a reward worth protecting!

Electric Toothbrush Innovations

June 12th, 2019

If you’re happy with your manual toothbrush, read no further. But if you’re looking for more options than “firm,” “medium,” or “soft,” there’s a world of electric toothbrush innovations out there waiting to make your brushing routine not only more efficient, but interactive as well! What does innovative toothbrush technology offer?

A Menu of Brushing Options

Some brushes now offer several different modes to choose from, depending on how you want to use your electric toothbrush. There are options for sensitive teeth, polishing, deep cleaning, massage, or gum care along with the regular cleaning setting. Whether you want whitening action or a gentle massage for teeth and gums, there’s a brush out there for you.

Pressure Sensors

Electric toothbrushes are a great way to avoid brushing too vigorously. Even with soft bristles (which should be your go-to choice), a manual toothbrush can irritate sensitive gum tissue if it is applied with too much pressure. And over time, harsh brushing can lead to enamel damage. An electric toothbrush, on the other hand, provides consistent, gentle brushing with normal use. If you still have a tendency to be a bit heavy-handed, a helpful pressure sensor can provide a warning light or actually reduce the brush’s motor speed to get you back on track.

Smart Toothbrushes

There’s an app for it! Many electric models offer wireless connectivity to an app that monitors your brushing habits. You can track your brushing time, get a reminder when your brush head needs changing, even view a map of the areas you’re cleaning effectively—and the ones you’re missing. Check out individual models to see just what you can learn from your smart brush.

USB Charging

No need to search for outlet space or amass a collection of travel adapters any longer. USB charging cases makes your electric toothbrush convenient and portable.

And more innovations are in the works—fully biodegradable toothbrush heads, toothbrushes powered only by water or kinetic energy, and an app that offers games while you brush. For toothbrush traditionalists, a manual toothbrush will still do a great job. But if you are looking for the latest in toothbrush technology, explore what the newest electric brushes can do for you. Ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega during your next appointment to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. The end goal of toothbrush innovation, after all, is healthy teeth and gums. Make your next selfie something to smile about!

 

How do I clean my baby’s teeth?

June 11th, 2019

Creating good dental hygiene habits early in your child’s life is essential to the health of his or her teeth, even when your infant doesn’t have any. By starting now, you can set the foundation for your son or daughter’s oral health later on in life.

When do I start?

The best time to begin brushing your baby’s teeth is before that first tooth ever comes in. Wipe your little one’s gums gently with a soft washcloth soaked in warm water every day. Not only will this help to get rid of bacteria in the mouth, but it will also familiarize your child with a daily brushing routine.

What do I use?

When your child’s teeth begin to emerge, it’s time to switch to a baby toothbrush. Select one with a big grip for your hand and a small head that’s easy to maneuver in your baby’s mouth.

Your little one won’t need toothpaste until he or she is about a year old; and even then, only a small amount is necessary. Apply an amount the size of a grain of rice and move to a pea-sized amount when your infant is about two years old.

By around six years, your child will probably rinse and spit without your help. At this time, you may introduce a child-friendly fluoride mouthwash.

How do I do it?

Until about age five or six, it’s likely your child will still need your help with brushing teeth. Gently scrub over all the teeth and gums, even where teeth have yet to come in. It may be helpful to explain what you are doing and how you are doing it, so your toddler can learn to brush her or his teeth alone.

Paired with regular visits with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office, proper hygiene habits instilled in your child early on will set up a good foundation for a healthy mouth in the future.

Summer Treats for Healthy Teeth

June 5th, 2019

School’s out for the summer, and it’s great to have the kids home. After all, they deserve a break after all their hard work. And you want to keep their vacation happy, relaxing, and fun—without letting them spend those summer months cooling off with sugary treats. What are some of your options for healthy hot weather snacks?

  • Naturally Sweet Treats

Keep a supply of fresh fruit handy for summer snacking. Crispy fruits like apples and Bosc pears actually provide a little scrubbing action for the teeth with their vitamins, and softer fruits such as bananas, berries, and, of course, watermelon, provide natural sweetness along with vitamins and minerals. Yogurt has valuable calcium for strong teeth and the vitamin D our bodies need to use that calcium. Add some fresh fruit to Greek yogurt for added flavor and sweetness—and even more vitamins.

  • Savory Snacks

Cheese is a calcium-rich snack, and crunchy carrots and celery help scrub teeth while providing vitamins and minerals. Do a little mixing and matching by adding some cream cheese to that celery for extra flavor. Serve up hummus and pita chips or cheese with whole grain crackers. They’re great nutritious alternatives to chips and dip.

  • Blender Blast

Summer’s the perfect time to use your culinary creativity and expand your child’s palate with vitamin-rich smoothies. Toss your favorite fruits in the blender with a little juice, non-fat yogurt, milk, or honey, whirl away, and you have a delicious, healthy snack. You can add a few leafy greens for even more nutritional value. There are many easy recipes online for creating homemade smoothies that will please any picky palate.

  • Freezer Favorites

Ice cream is a favorite summer treat, but it can also provide quite a sugar punch. There are many homemade frozen yogurt recipes available online which combine frozen fruit, yogurt, and honey for your own summer celebration, without adding large amounts of sugar. Or choose to stock your freezer shelves with low-sugar fruit pops, store bought or homemade.

  • On Tap

A soda or a sports drink are often the go-to hydration choices in the summer. You might already be careful about handing these drinks out because they can have such a high sugar content. But they can also create a very acidic environment in the mouth, which is harmful to tooth enamel. Water is the safest, healthiest option for hydrating in hot weather, and can even provide some of the fluoride which helps keep enamel strong.

Whatever is on your child’s summer menu, keep up with all those great dental habits you’ve already established. A limited number of snacks—even healthy ones—is best, and be sure to brush after snacking, or rinse with water if brushing’s not an option. And don’t forget to maintain your child’s normal schedule of brushing and flossing, and regular visits with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Have a great summer, and send your kids back to school rested, relaxed, and with a healthy, happy smile. Then take a moment, relax, and sip that smoothie—after all, you deserve a break after all your hard work!

Dental Tips for Your Summer Vacation

June 4th, 2019

Summer’s here, and it’s time to enjoy a well-deserved break! But even though school’s out, please take a few minutes to learn some tips from Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega to keep your teeth and mouth healthy for a summer of great smiles.

Hydration

When you are active in warm weather, you need to keep hydrated. So choose your drinks wisely. Sodas and sports drinks can contain a lot of sugar, which encourages cavity-causing bacteria to grow. Water is always a healthy, sugar-free choice. If your tap water contains fluoride, you can even fight cavities while staying hydrated. One other benefit of hydration? It helps with saliva production, and saliva is a natural way to wash away food particles and bacteria while providing substances that help keep teeth strong.

Mouthguards

Biking, skateboarding, baseball, soccer—all great outdoor sports, but one fall or accidental contact can cause serious damage to teeth. If you have a mouthguard for school sports, don’t forget to wear it for summer activities as well. And, if you don’t have a mouthguard, now is a good time to think about getting one. You can use a ready-made guard, or we can custom-fit one especially for you. Talk to us about your favorite sports, and we’ll suggest ways to protect your teeth while you enjoy all the physical activities warm weather brings.

Vacation Plans

If you and your family are going to be traveling this summer, let us know! If you need any procedures at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office, we can plan them around your time away. It’s best to get any necessary work done before you travel, and we will be happy to work with your family’s schedule. When you are away, be sure to carry our number with you in case a dental problem comes up, and it’s always a good idea to travel with a dental emergency kit.

Sticking To Your Dental Routine

Unfortunately, the bacteria that lead to increased plaque and cavities never take a vacation. Keep up with your regular schedule of two minutes of careful brushing at least twice a day, and make sure to floss. Come see us if it’s time for an exam or a cleaning, or if you have any dental problems or concerns.

However you spend your summer, we hope it is filled with happy—and healthy—smiles!

Common Emergency Care Visits: Toothaches and Abscesses

May 29th, 2019

You never know when a dental problem may arise. Unfortunately, they don’t necessarily occur during office hours. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can provide you with the proper information and treatment options to prevent the problem from becoming worse.

Abscess

An abscess is a bacterial infection, and will normally cause pain and swelling around the affected tooth and gum area. Though antibiotics are not always necessary, you should be seen by Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega as soon as possible. If left untreated, the infection may grow and cause more serious issues.

Toothache

Toothaches can have many causes. Sometimes it’s as simple as food lodged between your tooth and gums. Rinse your mouth with warm water and try flossing the area to dislodge the particle. If your gums begin to bleed, stop flossing.

Fractures or cavities can also cause toothaches as well as sensitivity to heat or cold. Please schedule an appointment to ensure a minor problem doesn’t develop into a serious one. You may require acetaminophen or another pain reliever before your visit.

If you can’t be treated right away, keep these tips in mind:

  • If you have fractured a tooth, rinse the area with warm water to keep the surfaces clean. Apply a cold compress to the outside of your facial area to reduce swelling.
  • A tooth that has been knocked out should be kept moist, in a clean container, until you can receive treatment.
  • Do not apply aspirin directly to a damaged tooth or gum area, because this can cause tissue irritation.
  • If you suspect your jaw has been broken, go to an emergency room immediately.
  • If you have bitten or damaged your lips or tongue, rinse your mouth well with warm water. If bleeding continues, seek other medical attention right away.

If you experience an emergency, please contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office and provide us with as much information as possible. This way, we can offer recommendations that will assist you until you’re able to arrive for an appointment.

Remember: procrastinating about getting treatment can turn a minor problem into a major one!

Medication Can Lead To Xerostomia in Women

May 28th, 2019

Xerostomia, otherwise known as dry mouth, can be a side effect of many common medications. Drugs used for blood pressure, birth control, antidepressants, or cancer treatments may cause the dry mouth problems you’re experiencing. When you have dry mouth, you’re more likely to experience tooth decay and an increased risk of developing periodontal disease. Medication can sometimes be the cause of dry mouth in women, and lead to an increased amount of cavities.

You may not develop a cavity for years, but suddenly find more than one when you’re on medication for several months. This is due to there being less saliva in your mouth, which normally prevents bacteria from flourishing. When there is a lack of saliva flow, your mouth will be more likely to host tooth decay and be more prone to gum disease.

You may not notice it, but birth control can lead to inflammation of the gums and bleeding because of dry mouth. The condition can also emerge if you’ve undergone cancer treatments such as radiation, because your saliva glands may be damaged in the process.

Boosting saliva production is critical for treating xerostomia. Many over-the-counter saliva products are designed to help manage dry mouth. For women with severe cases of dry mouth and decay, we may recommend in-home fluoride treatments that offer extra enamel protection. This can come in the form of fluoride trays, prescription toothpaste, or a special fluoride rinse.

Other ways to relieve dry mouth include chewing sugar-free gum, limiting caffeine intake, avoiding mouthwashes that contain alcohol, sipping water regularly, using a humidifier at night, and stopping all tobacco use.

If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of dry mouth, contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega. It’s wise to take medications that have been prescribed by your doctor, but it’s also smart to watch for any side effects. If you think a medication is causing you to have dry mouth, let’s figure out how to manage your symptoms as a team!

Keeping Your Teeth Strong and Healthy

May 22nd, 2019

What is the strongest part of our bodies? Do you think it might be our bones, which help us move and protect our brains, hearts and other organs? Or could it be those tough fingernails and toenails that guard our fingertips and toes? Nope! You might be surprised to learn that the hardest thing in our bodies is the enamel which covers our teeth!

Our bones grow with us and can even knit back together in case we have a broken arm or leg. Our toenails grow more slowly, and our fingernails grow more quickly, so regularly trimming is required for both. But our enamel doesn’t grow or repair itself when it is damaged, so it needs to last us a lifetime. How can such a strong part of our bodies be damaged? And can we do anything to protect our teeth? Luckily, we can!

Prevent Chips and Cracks

You might be the fastest on your bike, or the highest scorer on your basketball team, or able to do the most amazing tricks on your skateboard. But even the strongest teeth can’t win against a paved road, or an elbow under the basket, or a cement skate park. If you’re physically active, talk to us about a mouthguard. This removable appliance fits closely around the teeth and can protect your teeth and jaw in case of accident. And protect your enamel even when you’re not being adventurous! Don’t bite down on ice cubes or hard candy, and save your pens and pencils for writing, not chewing.

Guard Your Teeth from Tooth Grinding

If you grind your teeth, you’re not alone! Many other young people do, too—mostly in their sleep. In fact, it might be a parent or sibling who lets you know you are grinding at night. But constant pressure on your enamel can lead to cracked enamel, sensitivity, and even worn down teeth. How can you protect them? Once again, a mouth guard can be a great solution. We can custom fit one to allow you to sleep comfortably while protecting your teeth.

Eat Healthy Foods & Brush Regularly

We all have bacteria in our mouths. Some are helpful, and some are not. The bacteria in plaque can change food products like sugar and starches into acids. These acids actually break down our enamel, which can lead to tooth sensitivity and decay. Making sugars and carbs a small part of your regular diet, and eating meals rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals, will help stop acids from attacking your enamel. And careful brushing and flossing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste can help keep those minerals in enamel from breaking down and even help restore them.

Your enamel is the strongest part of your body, and you can help it stay that way. Protect your teeth from accidents, let our Poolesville and Rockville MD team know if you or a parent suspect you are grinding your teeth, eat healthy foods, and keep up your regular brushing. And remember, we are here to help keep your family’s teeth and mouth their healthiest for your strongest, most beautiful smile.

Thumb Sucking

May 21st, 2019

Learning to suck their thumbs is one of the first physical skills babies acquire. In fact, ultrasound images have revealed babies sucking their thumbs in the womb! Babies have a natural sucking reflex, and this activity is a normal way for your baby to soothe herself.

If your toddler still turns to her thumb for comfort, no need to worry. Most children give up this habit as they grow, and generally stop completely between the ages of two and four. But what of the child who doesn’t? Should you encourage your child to stop? And when?

When Thumb Sucking Becomes a Problem

After your child turns five, and certainly when her permanent teeth start to arrive, aggressive thumb sucking is something to watch for. This type of vigorous sucking, which puts pressure on the teeth and gums, can lead to a number of problems.

  • Open Bite

Our bites are considered normal when the upper teeth slightly overlap the lower where they touch in the front of the mouth. But with aggressive thumb sucking, teeth are pushed out of alignment. Sometimes this results in a condition called “open bite,” where the upper and lower teeth don’t make contact at all. An open bite almost always requires orthodontic treatment.

  • Jaw Problems

Your child’s palate and jaw are still growing. Aggressive thumb sucking can actually change the shape of the palate and jaw, and even affect facial structure. Again, orthodontic treatment can help, but prevention is always the better option!

  • Speech Difficulties

Prolonged thumb sucking has been suggested as a risk factor for speech disorders such as lisping, the inability to pronounce certain letters, or tongue thrusting.

The consequences from aggressive thumb sucking can be prevented with early intervention. What to do if you are worried?

Talk to Us

First, let us reassure you that most children stop thumb sucking on their own, and with no negative dental effects at all. But if your child is still aggressively sucking her thumb once her permanent teeth have started erupting, or if we see changes in her baby teeth, let’s talk about solutions during an appointment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. We can offer suggestions to help your child break the habit at home. There are also dental appliances available that can discourage thumb sucking if your child finds it especially hard to stop.

Work with your Child

  • Be Positive

Positive reinforcement is always best. Praise her when she remembers not to suck her thumb. Make a chart with stickers to reward every thumb-free day. Pick out a favorite book to read or activity you can share.

  • Identify Triggers

Children associate thumb sucking with comfort and security.  If your child turns to her thumb when she’s anxious, try to discover what is bothering her and how to reassure her. If she automatically sucks her thumb when she is bored, find an activity that will engage her. If she’s hungry, offer a healthy snack.

  • Talk about It!

Depending on her age, it might help your child to understand why stopping this habit is important. We are happy to explain, in a positive, age-appropriate way, just how breaking the thumb sucking habit will help her teeth and her smile.

Again, most children leave thumb sucking behind naturally and easily. But if what is a comfort for your child has become a concern for you, please give us a call. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will work with you and your child to prevent future orthodontic problems and begin her lifetime of beautiful smiles.

 

Chipped Your Tooth? Now What?

May 15th, 2019

Accidents happen. Next time you’ll wear your mouthguard when you skateboard, never use your teeth to open anything, and carefully step away from your grandmother’s hard candy dish. But what to do now for your chipped tooth?

First of all, call Pike & Valega, DDS. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team can offer tips on dealing with any pain and how to avoid injuring your tooth further. Make an appointment to see us as soon as possible, where one of the following options might be the best treatment for you:

  • Bonding

If the chip is small, you might be a good candidate for bonding. A tooth-colored resin is applied to the damaged area with adhesive, molded to shape, and then hardened with a curing light. It is then polished and, if necessary, further shaped to match your surrounding teeth.

  • Porcelain Veneer

A veneer is a thin shell of porcelain individually molded for your tooth. If the chip is too large for bonding, or if you would like a more translucent finish, a veneer might be appropriate. During your first appointment, some of the tooth structure will be gently removed to accommodate the size of the veneer. A mold will be taken and sent to a lab for the creation of the veneer, which will be bonded to your tooth on a later visit. Whether a veneer will be successful depends on several variables, such as the condition of the tooth and enamel, your bite, and whether you grind your teeth. We will take all these factors into consideration in discussing possible treatments.

  • Crown

A large chip or pain when eating or drinking might mean that you need a crown. This “cap” will protect your tooth from the pressures of chewing as well as restoring its appearance. On your first visit, some of the tooth structure will probably be removed to make room for the crown, impressions will be taken for the dental lab to make a permanent crown, and a temporary model will be fitted to your tooth. In a following visit the permanent crown will be adhered to your tooth.

If the crack has extended to the pulp of the tooth, you might need a root canal. If this is necessary, we will discuss the procedure during our exam.

No matter the size of the chip, it is important to contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office immediately to help avoid infection and prevent further damage. If your tooth is broken below the gumline or otherwise seriously compromised, more intensive care will be necessary. But when a minor accident happens, prompt treatment can quickly restore your smile to health.

Ways to Prevent Oral Cancer

May 14th, 2019

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, this form of cancer kills roughly one person an hour, every 24 hours. This means that nearly 10,000 people will die this year from this type of cancer.

Often, the cancer is discovered late, which is the main reason the death rate is unfortunately so high. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team want you to know the precautionary steps you can take to avoid oral cancer.

Here are some of the most effective methods:

  • Good oral hygiene is the first step in oral cancer prevention.
  • Visit our Poolesville and Rockville MD office every six months for a dental exam.
  • Quit smoking or using chewing tobacco, if you do.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet.
  • Consume cancer-fighting foods such as vegetables, berries, garlic, green tea, etc.
  • Change how you prepare foods; baked, boiled, or steamed foods are healthier than grilled or fried.
  • Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy immune system.
  • Limit the amount of time you spend in the sun, and be sure to use sunscreen.
  • Conduct an oral self-exam each week.

We know the thought of oral cancer can be frightening, so we hope the above advice can help patients catch it early or prevent it from ever happening. If you notice a negative change in your oral health, contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD location right away and schedule an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega.

If you’re ever concerned or have questions about this common form of cancer, don’t hesitate to ask a member of our team.  

 

Natural Ways to Soothe a Toothache

May 8th, 2019

Toothaches can come in many different forms, but no matter which, they’re always uncomfortable. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team want you to know there are simple ways to cure this common problem.

Toothaches can be caused by infections, gum diseases, teeth grinding, trauma, or having an abnormal bite. Several symptoms may become noticeable when you start to experience a toothache. You might develop a fever, have trouble swallowing, notice an unpleasant discharge, and most often feel lasting pain when you bite down.

If you begin to notice any of these symptoms, try to manage the pain with the simple remedies below. If the pain continues, contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office and schedule an appointment, because a bigger issue might be involved.

  1. First, try rinsing your mouth out with warm salt water. This helps to disinfect your mouth and may soothe the region where the toothache is occurring. Hydrogen peroxide can also help if you swish it around in your mouth.
  2. Applying a cold compress or ice pack to your jaw in area that hurts can help with swelling.
  3. Make sure to floss your entire mouth thoroughly. The problem could be caused by food debris stuck between your teeth.
  4. Certain essential oils possess pain-relieving qualities, including clove, nutmeg, eucalyptus, or peppermint oil. Use a cotton swab and dilute one of these oils, then apply it to the problem tooth and/or gum area. Repeat the process as needed. This can also be done with apple cider vinegar.
  5. Similar to essential oils, peppermint tea can soothe and slightly numb the area. Swish it around in your mouth once it has cooled off for temporary relief.
  6. You may also soothe a toothache by eating Greek yogurt. You might be surprised to know that yogurt contains healthy bacteria that can help fight against pain.
  7. Crushed garlic can be rubbed on the aching area to help relieve pain. Garlic contains allicin, which slows bacterial activity. The application may burn at first but it has been known to help treat inflammation.

When it comes to preventing toothaches, you can take various measures. Always make sure you brush and floss every day, though. If you schedule regular oral examinations by Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, you will decrease infections that may cause toothache from spreading.

If you’ve tried the methods listed above and your toothache hasn’t gone away, call our Poolesville and Rockville MD office and we can schedule an appointment to figure out the cause of the problem and provide a solution.

How Sleep Apnea Can Affect Your Waking Life

May 7th, 2019

We all know that sleep apnea causes many a difficult night. Noisy snoring, gasping for breath, and waking up dozens of times a sleep cycle are the unhappy consequences of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). What you may not realize is that sleep apnea can make your days just as challenging.

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by an obstructed airway. The throat muscles may relax as you sleep and make it impossible to inhale fully with each breath. Or you may have a physical condition such as a deviated septum, enlarged tonsils or excess throat tissue that blocks the free passage of air into your lungs. As a result, you stop breathing for a short time and often choke or gasp for breath. Your body responds by waking every time you need to start breathing properly again, and this can happen dozens of times each hour you are asleep. The result is that, while you may think you have slept through the night, you have never gotten the deep sleep your body needs to restore itself.

How can sleep deprivation affect our daytime hours? You might find yourself suffering from any of these problems:

  • Constant drowsiness
  • Falling asleep at work or while driving
  • Headaches every morning
  • Sore throats
  • Dry mouth (which can lead to gum and dental problems)
  • Memory and attention problems
  • Moodiness or depression
  • Decreased libido

As if these reasons weren’t cause enough to find a solution to your sleeping disorder, the longer term results of sleep apnea can be devastating. High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, dangerous responses to medication or general anesthesia, a higher risk of accidents, and many other serious consequences have been linked to sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea doesn’t just ruin your night. If you suffer from any of the daytime problems listed above, please give our Poolesville and Rockville MD office and your doctor a call. If obstructive sleep apnea is the cause, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can work with you to find a solution that will improve your quality of life 24 hours a day.

Can sealants benefit you?

May 1st, 2019

Molars are difficult to reach when brushing your teeth because they’re full of crevices, caves, and pits that can provide the perfect environment for decay. Sealants are the perfect fix for this.

Sealants are a plastic-like protective solution that bond to the edge of the tooth. The treatment protects you against cavities and could save you from complicated dental issues in the future.

The process for placing sealants is painless and quick. First, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will clean the tooth with a baking soda spray. An acid etch is applied in order to “roughen up” the surface of the tooth and re-mineralize the area. The area is dried with an alcohol-based liquid and the sealant is placed on the grooves of the tooth. A special light then hardens the liquid into a plastic-like material.

Although sealants can last several years, they need to be examined semi-annually to check for breakage. Any cracks or breaks in your sealant can put your tooth at high risk for decay, and repair of sealants is a quick and painless task.

Children often receive sealants, but people of all ages can benefit from them. Adults who have especially deep canyons on their teeth are good candidates for sealants.

An investment in dental sealants can prevent tooth decay and complicated dental problems later on. It’s a no brainer! Call our Poolesville and Rockville MD office today to speak with us about getting sealants on your teeth.

Airplane Oral Health Tips

April 30th, 2019

What’s in your carry-on bag? You’ve got your passport, ticket, and currency, but what about dental floss? Of course! You’re preparing for the trip of a lifetime, and we want to help make sure everything goes according to plan.

Part of your preparation before a long vacation should be a complete check-up at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office well in advance of your trip. If there is dental work to be done, now is the time to do it. No one wants to be stuck over the Atlantic with a toothache, and changes in atmospheric pressure can cause serious problems if you have a severely compromised tooth. Tell us when you are planning on traveling, and we can schedule any procedures that should be finished before you fly.

Now that you have the all clear to travel, what about maintenance once you’re on board for a long flight? Some airlines provide toothpaste and brushes for travelers. If you have questions about the quality of the water in the airplane restroom, use bottled water to brush. There are also single-use mini-brushes available for travelers that come loaded with paste and ready to use without any water at all. Crisp fruits and vegetables can help clean teeth on-flight if brushing isn’t an option, and drinking plenty of water will not only keep you hydrated, but help cleanse your mouth and teeth as well. Be sure to travel with floss, a travel-sized tube of toothpaste, and a brush in a well-ventilated container in case you face airport delays between flights.

Taking your electric toothbrush with you? Usually there is no problem bringing your electric toothbrush in your carry-on, but do check in advance to make sure this is allowed on your flight. Most electric toothbrushes have region-specific battery chargers, so find out in advance if you will need a voltage converter or plug adaptor if you are visiting another country. Check to make sure the head is in good condition before you go and replace it if necessary.

Once you’ve landed, try to keep your dental routine as close to normal as possible while you enjoy your visit. Regular brushing and flossing are still necessary, especially if you take the opportunity to explore the local desserts. We’ve given you some tips to make your flight more comfortable—now that you’ve reached your dream destination, the rest is up to you!

Make Tooth Brushing Fun

April 30th, 2019

The best brushing routine for parent and child is two minutes of gentle brushing in the morning and two in the evening. But if the longest four minutes of your day are spent helping your child brush and floss, here are some suggestions for making that time fly.

Options!

Children’s brushes come in a wonderful variety of colors, patterns, and shapes. Allow your child to choose a favorite the next time you go shopping for dental supplies. Just make sure to choose a soft bristle brush with a head designed for small mouths. And since toothbrushes generally wear out after three months, your child will have plenty of opportunities to pick and choose! You might also explore the many flavors of children’s toothpaste to find the one that your child finds most appealing, and let your young brusher squeeze out a dab on that new brush.

Reward Daily Brushing

You don’t have to go to great lengths to make your son or daughter feel rewarded for a job well done. Allowing children to pick out a story for you to read or posting colorful stickers on a calendar sheet will encourage them to get into the habit of brushing.

Two-Minute Countdown

Time seems to go faster when we’re having fun. Your child might enjoy listening to songs or stories for the two minutes of brushing time. You can make your own playlist, invent a story starring your child, or make use of one of the dental apps that offer children’s music, videos, and stories in perfect two-minute segments.

Do It Together

Spend these two minutes twice a day with your child. You will be doing all the brushing at first, of course, but as your children get older, brush your teeth along with them. You can model proper brushing techniques for cleaning teeth, gums and tongue, and even let your child have a chance to brush your teeth for a change.

Don’t Forget Checkups!

Scheduling checkups and professional cleanings at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office is vital to maintaining your child’s oral health. And, if your son or daughter is keeping up with good hygiene at home, these visits should be a breeze!

The habits your child develops now will be the foundation for a lifetime of oral health. Make these four minutes a day count. And if you can create ways to make them fun, those four minutes will fly by for both of you!

Can children be at risk for periodontal disease?

April 24th, 2019

You want to check all the boxes when you consider your child’s dental health. You make sure your child brushes twice daily to avoid cavities. You’ve made a plan for an orthodontic checkup just in case braces are needed. You insist on a mouthguard for dental protection during sports. One thing you might not have considered? Protecting your child from gum disease.

We often think about gum disease, or periodontitis, as an adult problem. In fact, children and teens can suffer from gingivitis and other gum disease as well. There are several possible reasons your child might develop gum disease:

  • Poor dental hygiene

Two minutes of brushing twice a day is the recommended amount of time to remove the bacteria and plaque that cause gingivitis (early gum disease). Flossing is also essential for removing bacteria and plaque from hard-to-reach areas around the teeth.

  • Puberty

The hormones that cause puberty can also lead to gums that become irritated more easily when exposed to plaque. This is a time to be especially proactive with dental health.

  • Medical conditions

Medical conditions such as diabetes can bring an increased risk of gum disease. Be sure to give us a complete picture of your child’s health, and we will let you know if there are potential complications for your child’s gums and teeth and how we can respond to and prevent them.

  • Periodontal diseases

More serious periodontal diseases, while relatively uncommon, can affect children and teens as well as adults. Aggressive periodontitis, for example, results in connective and bone tissue loss around the affected teeth, leading to loose teeth and even tooth loss. Let Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega know if you have a family history of gum disease, as that might be a factor in your child’s dental health, and tell us if you have noticed any symptoms of gum disease.

How can we help our children prevent gum disease? Here are some symptoms you should never ignore:

  • Bleeding gums
  • Redness or puffiness in the gums
  • Gums that are pulling away, or receding, from the teeth
  • Bad breath even after brushing

The best treatment for childhood gum disease is prevention. Careful brushing and flossing and regular visits to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office for a professional cleaning will stop gingivitis from developing and from becoming a more serious form of gum disease. We will take care to look for any signs of gum problems, and have suggestions for you if your child is at greater risk for periodontitis. Together, we can encourage gentle and proactive gum care, and check off one more goal accomplished on your child’s path to lifelong dental health!

Why Baby Teeth Matter

April 23rd, 2019

Sleepless nights, crankiness, drooling—how can such tiny teeth cause such a big fuss? But all those uncomfortable days and nights are forgotten when your baby’s first teeth make their appearance. Why? Well, certainly because your child is happier, but also because you know baby teeth, or primary teeth, are important for your child’s growth in so many different ways.

  • Chewing and Eating

Your baby might enjoy solid foods at an early age, but real chewing doesn’t happen until all the baby molars appear between the ages of one to three years. This is the time to feed children size-appropriate and texture-appropriate foods so they acquire proper chewing and eating habits for healthy digestion. Chewing also helps develop your child’s jaw and facial muscles.

  • Developing Speech

Pronouncing many of the common sounds used in speech often requires tongue and teeth working together. If teeth are missing or there is a bite problem such as an open bite, it might be more difficult to pronounce words properly. This could be only a temporary delay, or it could require speech therapy when your child is older.

  • Setting the Stage for Permanent Teeth

Baby teeth not only help with speech and jaw development, but they serve as space holders for permanent teeth. If a primary tooth is lost too early, a permanent tooth might “drift” into the empty space. The adult tooth will not have the room to fit where it should, and crowding or misalignment can occur. This might cause orthodontic problems in the future.

  • Learning Healthy Dental Habits

You are your baby’s first dental health care provider! Wiping the gums and erupting teeth with a soft damp cloth after meals, gently brushing baby teeth when your toddler is young, teaching how to brush as your child gets older, helping to establish daily routines for brushing—all these practices will prepare your child for lifelong healthy dental habits.

  • Making the Dentist a Regular Part of Your Child’s Life

Your child should visit our Poolesville and Rockville MD office soon after that first tooth comes in, and definitely by the age of 12 months. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can help with suggestions for your brushing and flossing routine, make sure your child’s teeth are healthy and clean, and ensure that teething progress is on track. In later visits, we will examine your child’s primary teeth and gums, and treat any problems, such as cavities, before they can become serious.

It turns out that baby teeth really are a big deal. Talk to us about suggestions for caring for your toddler’s teeth and about any questions you may have about teething progress, jaw and facial structure, speech development, or any other concerns at any time. We want to have a happy relationship with your child from the very start for a lifetime of healthy and confident smiles.

Oral Cancer

April 17th, 2019

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team want you to have the healthiest possible smile in the healthiest possible body. Oral cancer can affect the mouth, tongue, throat and jaw. Early detection is vital for the best possible outcome when treating this disease. That is why we check for symptoms of oral cancer at every dental examination.

What can you do to reduce the chance of oral cancer?  Reduce your risk factors. You can help prevent oral cancer by adopting these healthy habits:

  • Don’t smoke. Don’t chew tobacco. Don’t use a pipe. If you use any tobacco products, quit. Tobacco use is the single largest risk factor for head and neck cancers. Talk to us—we have suggestions for helping you break the habit.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. Heavy drinkers have a higher rate of oral cancer. More than one to two drinks per day can be considered heavy drinking, depending on factors such as weight, age, and even gender. Check with your doctor to find your personal definition of moderation.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables are a great addition to any menu.
  • Protect yourself from the sun. Help prevent sun-related lip cancers by always wearing a UVA/UVB blocking sun screen or lip balm whenever you are working or playing outside—and reapply frequently.
  • Some forms of the HPV virus have been linked to oral cancer, and those affected are generally younger and less likely to be smokers. Research indicates that the HPV vaccine, known for preventing several types of cancer, might also help prevent HPV-related oral cancers.
  • Schedule regular dental exams. We are trained to recognize oral cancer and precancerous conditions that you might miss.

Of course, cancer can occur even with the healthiest habits. Do come see us if you detect any of these symptoms:

  • A sore or ulcer that doesn’t heal, or persistent tenderness and pain in the mouth
  • Lingering sore throat, hoarseness, or vocal changes
  • Pain in the neck or ear that doesn’t go away
  • A lump, a rough or thickened area, or eroded tissue in the skin lining the mouth
  • Red or white patches in the lining of the mouth or on the tongue
  • Difficulties chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving the tongue or jaw
  • Numbness in the tongue or mouth
  • Changes in the way your natural teeth or your dentures fit together.

Not every symptom is caused by cancer, but it is important to rule out the possibility. We are trained to recognize early signs of oral cancer, and can recommend further tests if needed. Call our Poolesville and Rockville MD office immediately if you have any concerns. Early detection and treatment lead to the most successful outcomes.  

Alleviate Tooth Sensitivity

April 16th, 2019

There’s nothing like the simple seasonal pleasures. What’s more enjoyable than a cup of hot apple cider on a blustery winter day, or a tall glass of ice water in the middle of a summer heatwave? Until, that is, tooth sensitivity makes that hot or cold treat no treat at all. If untimely tooth sensitivity is causing you problems, there are solutions we can offer!

Improving Brushing Technique

Careful brushing is a wonderful habit to get into, but sometimes there can be too much of a good thing. Over-energetic brushing can actually damage our enamel. And underneath that enamel is dentin, a more porous substance which allows heat and cold to reach the more sensitive inner tooth.

But, please, don’t give up on brushing! Switching to a soft-bristled or electric toothbrush and a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth can make a world of difference. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can recommend the most effective and safest way to brush, as well as suggest toothpastes designed to fight tooth sensitivity. Until you recover, now is the time to avoid acidic and sugary foods and drinks (which can also bother sensitive teeth) and home tooth-whitening products as well.

Preventing Gum Disease

When gum disease progresses, the gums can begin to pull away from the teeth. This recession exposes part of the root area, which is much more sensitive to heat and cold.  Regular checkups and cleanings can keep gum disease from developing. Gum disease that is already present can be treated, and we can discuss whether more intensive care, such as a gum graft, is advisable to protect the root area.

Treating Injuries to the Tooth

If you have a cavity, a fracture, or another injury to the tooth or nerve, sensitivity is a good sign that you should call us right away. And, sensitivity is a symptom that can disappear when we restore the compromised tooth, whether it requires a new or replacement filling, a crown, or a root canal. If your teeth are more sensitive as a result of tooth grinding or other orthodontic problems, we can identify those issues as well.

No matter the reason for your tooth sensitivity, we want to work with you to find out the cause of the problem and to find a solution for it. Call our Poolesville and Rockville MD office if you notice any unpleasant or painful reactions to temperature, foods or even wind and air. Whether it’s advice on correcting your brushing style or treating tooth and gum conditions, we are here to help you.

Three Must-Have Dental Treatments

April 10th, 2019

There are numerous options for dental treatments out there, so how do you choose which are right for you? Our experts at Pike & Valega, DDS have handpicked the three must-have procedures that we believe can benefit nearly every patient.

  1. Periodontal Exam: This should happen at least once a year and is quick and painless. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega or your hygienist will carefully probe around each tooth and take measurements that indicate the health of the bone and its supporting tissue. This appointment is worthwhile because of the known fact that gum disease can increase the risk of potentially fatal conditions such as heart disease and stroke. Silent killers like diabetes can show signs in the mouth before the person becomes aware of other symptoms. Did you know adults lose more teeth to periodontal disease than to cavities? A simple screening once a year could save your smile and boost your overall health!
  2. Dental Sealant: For both adults and children, sealants provide a protective barrier from bacteria deep in the pits and grooves of the teeth where cavities often start. Sealants placed in childhood will often wear away in adulthood, so replacing them is useful because it can help prevent tooth decay later on. Dental insurance will likely not cover sealants for adults, but the cost of a sealant for prevention versus the cost of a filling is much lower, and definitely worth it.
  3. In-office Whitening: Most people develop tooth stains. in-office whitening at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office is the perfect way to correct discoloration. It’s safe and produces dramatic results in a short amount of time. In two hours, you could take years off your age. Who wouldn’t want that?

 

What’s an intraoral camera?

April 9th, 2019

One of the greatest features our team at Pike & Valega, DDS offers is the ability to see first-hand how we can help our patients. While X-rays help us detect any problems in your mouth and give us valuable information on what is bothering you, they often don’t give Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega a complete view of everything that is going on inside your mouth. With the use of an intraoral camera, we can see every aspect of your teeth and mouth with incredible detail, uncovering cracked or fractured teeth, excessive wear, carious lesions, cavities, or other issues that may be hidden. When we can discover oral problems early on, your treatment is much less invasive and often saves you money down the road.

An intraoral camera allows Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega to view clear, precise images of your mouth, teeth, and gums and allows us to make an accurate diagnosis.  With clear, defined, enlarged images, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team see details that standard mirror examinations may miss. It’s much easier to understand what is happening in your mouth if you can see the problem on a computer monitor, and it means faster diagnosis and less chair-time for our patients!

Intraoral cameras are small, about the size of a dental mirror, and emit a light onto the tooth. The tooth will emit a color that lets Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega determine if the tooth is healthy or diseased. Intraoral cameras also allow us to save your images on our office computer to provide a permanent record of treatments. These treatments can be printed for you, other specialists, and your lab or insurance companies.

For any questions about the intraoral camera, we encourage you to ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega or our team during your or your child’s next visit or by giving us a call at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Toothache: A dentist or the emergency room?

April 3rd, 2019

Emergency care dentists are equipped to handle any tooth emergency. Seeing us first takes less time than having to sit in a hospital emergency room, only to be told to see a dentist. When dental emergencies occur, seek emergency care with Pike & Valega, DDS as soon as possible. We are prepared and equipped for any type of dental emergency: day or night, seven days a week, we stand ready to advise and treat you with great dental care.

There are several types of dental emergencies, but only one or two should require a hospital emergency room visit. If you suspect you have a broken jaw or nose, emergency medical attention is required. For pain associated with teeth and gums or injury to a tooth, Pike & Valega, DDS is the better choice. Dental pain almost always becomes worse without treatment, and can create other serious health issues.

If a tooth has been traumatized or knocked out of your mouth, our team can treat the sensitive nerves and tissues that could be damaged. If you can replace the tooth quickly enough, chances are it can be saved. There are certain precautions to take during a dental emergency that could help preserve a tooth until you can see our professional dentists for emergency dental care.

Call our Poolesville and Rockville MD office at the first onset of pain. If you have lost a tooth, crown, or filling, try to keep the tooth or restoration moist. Teeth are strong, but they will crack and shift after an injury or the loss of a bridge or crown. If the crack extends to the root, or the loss of a tooth or crown leaves sensitive tissue or nerves exposed, the pain can be excruciating. Our emergency care dentists will always treat your pain immediately upon examination, and fix the problem or advise you of a plan to address the cause of the pain.

Make your appointment immediately if you have suffered an accident-causing tooth injury. If the pain is the result of decay or cavities, medication for infection may be necessary. Depending on the extent of the decay, a filling, extraction, or root canal may be recommended. These treatments are not available in a hospital emergency room, but can be completed quickly and comfortably at Pike & Valega, DDS .

Dentistry around the World

April 2nd, 2019

From the clinical perspective, dentistry is similar around the world. Dentists, like Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, go to school, obtain a license, and work hard to prevent and treat tooth decay, gum disease, oral infections, throat or oral cancer, tooth loss, and other conditions that might limit a person’s ability to smile, bite, chew, or speak. The quality of dental care, however, and the payment method for dental services varies between nations.

Dentistry throughout the World

Developed countries have more dentists per capita than do developing nations, according to the World Health Organization. There is one dentist for every 150,000 people in Africa, for example, as compared to about one dentist for every 2,000 citizens of an industrialized nation. The lack of dentists in developing nations means that dental care is restricted to pain management and emergency care.

Dentistry often reflects the cultural views of a nation. Some cultures acknowledge only the functional aspect of teeth, so dentists focus on preventing tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss. Other cultures emphasize aesthetic appearances, so dentists there provide cosmetic procedures in addition to essential oral care.

Each nation imposes its own education and licensure requirements for dentists but most require some college before four years of dental school. The graduate must then pass local or national exams to practice in that region. European schools and standards are similar to the United States.

From the business perspective, dentistry varies between nations. In the United States, a dentist presents to the patient one bill that includes all of the treatment costs, such as the dentist, his assistant, tools, and labs. This allows the dentist to charge a single, easy-to-pay fee for individual procedures, and gives him an opportunity to mark up items and make a profit.

Across much of Europe, a dentist presents two bills to her patient – one for the dentist and another for the lab. This approach may stem from a cultural belief that profiting from healthcare is unethical and that healthcare should be available to consumers at actual cost; public dental clinics and subsidies ensures all citizens have access to dental care, regardless of ability to pay. In most cases, the government is both overseer and provider of dental care.

While the role of the dentist is nearly the same in every country – to ensure the oral health of the citizens – dental care is different in each nation. Regardless, you can rest assured that the care you receive at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office is held to the highest standard.

Dental-Healthy Snacks for Your School-Aged Child

March 27th, 2019

Kids are constantly active and constantly growing. No wonder they’re constantly hungry! When it’s time for a snack, here are some tips to make between meal treats timely, tasty, and tooth-friendly.

Keep snacks to a minimum

Every time we eat, we’re also providing food for the bacteria in our mouths. Bacteria use sugars to produce acids. These acids weaken our enamel and can lead to cavities. Luckily, we have a natural way of protecting our teeth. Saliva washes away food particles and bacteria, and even provides substances that strengthen our teeth in the hours between meals.

When we eat throughout the day, there is no chance for this recovery period to take place. Small children aren’t usually able to get through the day without a few snack periods, which is perfectly normal. Just try to make sure that snacking doesn’t become all-day grazing!

Avoid foods that contain sugar and carbohydrates at snack time

We know that sugar leads to an increased chance of cavities because bacteria convert this sugar into acids that damage our enamel. But carbohydrates should also be in the no-snack zone. Why? Because carbohydrates break down into sugar very quickly. So while you wouldn’t offer your child a daily mid-afternoon snack of sodas and chocolate bars, those muffins, doughnuts, chips, and bagels should be on the “special treat” list as well.

Dental-healthy snacks

Luckily, we are left with many healthy and convenient choices when your child needs a nibble.

  • Crunchy, crisp fresh fruits and vegetables provide vitamins as well as a gentle scrubbing action to help clean teeth. They are also rich in water, which helps us produce the saliva that naturally washes away food particles and bacteria.
  • Low-fat yogurts and cheeses provide essential calcium for strong teeth and the vitamin D that helps us absorb calcium.
  • Whole grain breads, cereals, and crackers are healthier than products made only with white flour because they retain valuable vitamins and minerals that have been removed from refined grains.
  • Lean meats, peas, legumes, and eggs provide protein that helps build connective tissue and maintain tooth structure.
  • Water helps stimulate saliva production and provides cavity-fighting fluoride. Win/win!

You are constantly looking for ways to make your children’s lives better. Mix and match any of these foods for a snack that’s not only good for their teeth, but rich in the proteins, vitamins, and minerals needed to keep them active and growing throughout their school years. If you have questions about your child’s dietary needs, feel free to ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Airplane Oral Health Tips

March 26th, 2019

What’s in your carry-on bag? You’ve got your passport, ticket, and currency, but what about dental floss? Of course! You’re preparing for the trip of a lifetime, and we want to help make sure everything goes according to plan.

Part of your preparation before a long vacation should be a complete check-up at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office well in advance of your trip. If there is dental work to be done, now is the time to do it. No one wants to be stuck over the Atlantic with a toothache, and changes in atmospheric pressure can cause serious problems if you have a severely compromised tooth. Tell us when you are planning on traveling, and we can schedule any procedures that should be finished before you fly.

Now that you have the all clear to travel, what about maintenance once you’re on board for a long flight? Some airlines provide toothpaste and brushes for travelers. If you have questions about the quality of the water in the airplane restroom, use bottled water to brush. There are also single-use mini-brushes available for travelers that come loaded with paste and ready to use without any water at all. Crisp fruits and vegetables can help clean teeth on-flight if brushing isn’t an option, and drinking plenty of water will not only keep you hydrated, but help cleanse your mouth and teeth as well. Be sure to travel with floss, a travel-sized tube of toothpaste, and a brush in a well-ventilated container in case you face airport delays between flights.

Taking your electric toothbrush with you? Usually there is no problem bringing your electric toothbrush in your carry-on, but do check in advance to make sure this is allowed on your flight. Most electric toothbrushes have region-specific battery chargers, so find out in advance if you will need a voltage converter or plug adaptor if you are visiting another country. Check to make sure the head is in good condition before you go and replace it if necessary.

Once you’ve landed, try to keep your dental routine as close to normal as possible while you enjoy your visit. Regular brushing and flossing are still necessary, especially if you take the opportunity to explore the local desserts. We’ve given you some tips to make your flight more comfortable—now that you’ve reached your dream destination, the rest is up to you!

My gums are inflamed. What can I do?

March 20th, 2019

Inflamed gums are a fairly common dental issue, but unfortunately, many people don't take the problem seriously enough. If you ignore inflamed gums and continue your usual routine, you could be encouraging a much more severe inflammation problem, and the pain that goes along with that. Fortunately, it is quite easy to relieve inflamed gums if you use the tips below.

Use Soft Bristles

A soft-bristle toothbrush - the softest you can buy - is a must for anyone with inflamed gums. Anything that makes contact with your gums can cause you pain, so fine and soft bristles are always the best choice.

Use Sensitive Formula Toothpaste

The toothpaste marketed as “Sensitive Teeth Formula” contain special ingredients to help relieve sensitivity. When your gums are inflamed, even light brushing can cause some pain. Using a special toothpaste will help reduce that pain and make it easier to brush your teeth effectively. The effect becomes stronger as you use the toothpaste more, so use it for each brushing.

Visit Our Office

If your gums remain swollen for more than a few days or a week, set up an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega. There is a long list of conditions that could be causing your swollen gums, everything from gum disease to pregnancy, so you need to find out where your issue is coming from. Most of the time, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can easily treat the swollen gum issue at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office, or can give you an effective treatment to take home.

Electric Toothbrushes vs. Regular Toothbrushes

March 19th, 2019

Convertible or sedan? Downtown or suburbs? Electric or manual toothbrush? As life decisions go, it’s certainly not choosing your next car, or deciding where you want to live. But, even when you are selecting a toothbrush, it helps to make a list of the pros and cons of the contenders before you make that final selection.

  • Efficiency

The most important factor in choosing a toothbrush is finding out which model works best to eliminate bacteria and plaque. And studies have shown that, used properly, both electric and manual toothbrushes do a great job of removing plaque. Some electric models can reach the backs of teeth and the gumline more easily, some manual head designs work better for your individual mouth and teeth, so your particular needs should dictate which style of toothbrush you use. Talk to us about the best methods to brush with your preferred toothbrush, and we’ll let you know if one type of toothbrush or the other might work better for you.

  • Health Considerations

Brushing too energetically can actually harm teeth and gums, causing sensitivity and damage to the enamel and gum tissue. An electric toothbrush should provide a continuous brushing motion without needing any pressure from the brusher. This might be the model for you if you have a too-vigorous approach to brushing, or sensitive teeth and gums.

An electric toothbrush can also be more efficient for older and younger brushers, those with limited mobility, and those with health conditions or injuries that make brushing with a regular toothbrush more difficult.

  • Cost

An electric toothbrush is not a one-time investment. You should change the removable head as often as you change your manual toothbrush (every three to four months, please). But this cost is offset if an electric toothbrush is more efficient in removing your plaque, easier to use, or even if you just prefer it to manual brushing. If you find that you brush better and more often with an electric toothbrush, the added expense is well worth it.

Whichever brush you decide on, the most important part of the brush is the person holding it! A regular appointment with your toothbrush for two minutes of thorough brushing in the morning and two in the evening, daily flossing, and regular visits to our office for checkups and cleanings will keep your teeth healthy and strong no matter which toothbrush you choose.

Questions about your toothbrush choices? Don’t hesitate to ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Losing a Baby Tooth Prematurely

March 13th, 2019

Losing a baby tooth is often an exciting event in a child’s life. It’s a sign your child is growing up, and might even bring a surprise from the Tooth Fairy (or other generous party). But sometimes, a baby tooth is lost due to injury or accident. Don’t panic, but do call our Poolesville and Rockville MD office as soon as possible.

If Your Child Loses a Tooth

It is important to see your child quickly when a baby tooth is lost through injury. The underlying adult tooth might be affected as well, so it’s always best to come in for an examination of the injured area. The American Dental Association recommends that you find the lost tooth, keep it moist, and bring it with you to the office. Call Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega immediately, and we will let you know the best way to treat your child and deal with the lost tooth.

Baby Teeth Are Important

There are several important reasons to look after your child’s first teeth. Baby teeth not only help with speech and jaw development, but they serve as space holders for permanent teeth. If a primary tooth is lost too early, a permanent tooth might “drift” into the empty space and cause crowding or crookedness.

Space Maintainer

A space maintainer is an appliance that does exactly that—keeps the lost baby tooth’s space free so that the correct permanent tooth will erupt in the proper position. The need for a space maintainer depends on several factors, including your child’s age when the baby tooth is lost and which tooth or teeth are involved. We will be happy to address any concerns you might have about whether or not a space maintainer is needed.

It is important to remember that there are solutions if the Tooth Fairy arrives at your house unexpectedly. Keep calm, call our office, and reassure your child that his or her smile is still beautiful!

 

Sleep Apnea: How we can help

March 12th, 2019

At Pike & Valega, DDS, we understand that getting high-quality sleep is vital to maintaining your overall health. Insufficient sleep can lead to an inability to concentrate, motor vehicle accidents, and difficulty performing at work. Since approximately 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, this poses a significant public health problem. If you think you may have sleep apnea, talk to Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team about devices that can help you get a good night’s rest.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a relatively common disorder in which breathing stops or becomes very shallow during the night. These bouts of paused breathing may last a few seconds or as long as several minutes. When 30 or more breathing interruptions occur per hour, sleep apnea leads to dramatic reductions in sleep quality. In many cases, this condition is caused by your airway becoming blocked or collapsed during sleep.

Anyone can get sleep apnea, but there are certain factors that increase your risk. Having small airways, being overweight, being male, or having a family history of sleep apnea increases the likelihood that you will develop the disorder. If you think you have sleep apnea, visit highly encourage you to visit our Poolesville and Rockville MD office for a thorough physical exam, comprehensive medical history, and a sleep study.

Treatment Options

Several treatment avenues are available for people with sleep apnea. One popular option is to wear an oral appliance. For example, a mandibular advancement device (MAD) looks like a sports mouthguard and slightly repositions your jaw, to keep your airway unobstructed. Another option is a tongue-retraining device (TRD), which holds your tongue in place to ensure that your airway stays open during the night.

For individuals with mild-to-moderate sleep apnea, dental devices are a smart option. Many patients enjoy improved sleep, reductions in snoring, and less fatigue during daytime hours. If you’re curious about getting an oral appliance to help with your sleep apnea, please consult our team at Pike & Valega, DDS. After a consultation and examination, we can fit the type of device that works best for your condition.

Ask Us about These Dental Treatments

March 6th, 2019

There are a few dental treatments that Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team recommend for all patients to get if they wish to protect their oral health. Sometimes it’s hard for patients to decide which treatment plan would be best for their teeth. Learn about these three must-have treatments and how they can help protect your teeth in various ways.

Professional Cleanings

First, get a professional dental cleaning every six months. Regular cleanings can protect you from potential gum disease because they enable us to catch it early.

Cleanings also will get rid of plaque and tartar that have collected on your teeth over time. Oral health has been linked to your body’s overall health. We recommend scheduling your appointments in advance: Feel free to contact our practice’s Poolesville and Rockville MD location if you forget when you scheduled your next visit. Our staff will be happy to assist you.

Periodontal Exams

We also recommend that all our patients at Pike & Valega, DDS receive a complete periodontal exam each year. You can ask about this during your regular, scheduled cleanings.

It’s a quick and painless procedure in which our hygienist probes each tooth to make sure the bone and soft tissue are healthy. If there’s a sign of infection, we will be able to treat it effectively before painful symptoms kick in.

Many adult patients are unaware that they have periodontal disease, and they may suffer the loss of a tooth if it goes untreated. Make sure you schedule a periodontal exam each year and save yourself a lot of time and pain.

Sealants

We also recommend dental sealants, particularly to protect your molars. Many people assume this treatment is just for kids to prevent cavities, but it can be used for adults too!

Sealants provide a protective barrier on your teeth that can help block against the buildup of plaque in those hard-to-reach areas in the back of your mouth. If you received sealants as a child, chances are they’ve worn off over time.

So if you want to save dental costs over the long haul, we recommend getting sealants again for cavity protection.

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team hope you take our advice when it comes to your oral hygiene and schedule regular appointments for your dental cleanings. We look forward to seeing you at your next appointment!

The Hazards of Smokeless Tobacco

March 5th, 2019

Many smokers believe that chewing tobacco is a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes. This simply isn't the case! In fact, smokeless tobacco can cause serious health concerns.

Smokeless tobacco comes in many forms and goes by many names: dip, snuff, snus, or simply chewing tobacco. Use of these products usually involves sucking or chewing on shredded or loose tobacco leaves, sometimes flavored, for a prolonged period. There are even products that emulate a dissolvable candy-like consistency which are made of compressed tobacco powder.

What are risks and smokeless tobacco?

Whichever form a tobacco product takes, the dangers of using or consuming them is very real. According to a 2007 study by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer, there are upwards of 28 cancer-causing chemicals in smokeless tobacco that are known to cause cancer. And these products are habit-forming just like any other tobacco product that contains nicotine. Using them will increase your risk for many serious diseases including but not limited to: cancer (especially oral and esophageal), gum and heart disease, cavities, and pre-cancerous mouth lesions.

At the end of the day, long-term use of smokeless tobacco can cause serious health issues. These products really take a toll on both your oral and overall health. They put a strain on your immune system and make it less capable of warding off infection and disease.

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team strongly advise you to stop using smokeless tobacco—or any kind of tobacco product—and not to pick up the habit if you aren't. There is no safe level of tobacco use, smokeless or otherwise.

Need to quit smoking or using smokeless tobacco products?

You can and should always talk to your doctor, healthcare practitioner, or Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega for help quitting. But there are many other resources available today for those who'd like to quit. The National Cancer Institute offers information, support (local and online), and tools to help smokers and smokeless tobacco users quit. They offer live online chat with cessation counselors Monday through Friday and even have a smartphone application available to help people who are serious about quitting.

You can take a look at their website at smokefree.gov or call them toll-free at 1–877–44U–QUIT (1-877-448-7848). There is also help available from your state's quit line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

Make the best choice for your health and well-being; avoid the bad habit of tobacco products. If you have any questions about how tobacco related products affect your oral health and hygiene, please don't hesitate to ask one of our Poolesville and Rockville MD staff members.

How HPV and Oral Cancer are Related

February 27th, 2019

Did you know that Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and oral cancer are linked? This information may prevent you or a loved one from suffering from oral cancer if a diagnosis is made early. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team want you to understand how you can prevent the spread of oral cancer and protect yourself if you have HPV.

People don’t often speak up about this common virus, but we believe it’s important to educate yourself to prevent the potential spread of oral cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 80% of Americans will have HPV infections in their lifetime without even knowing it. Symptoms usually go unnoticed, though it’s one of the most common viruses in the U.S. The body’s immune system is generally able to kill the HPV infection without causing any noticeable issues. If you think you might have HPV, talk with primary care physician about getting the preventive vaccine or taking an HPV test.

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, “HPV is the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancers (the very back of the mouth and throat), and a very small number of front of the mouth, oral cavity cancers. HPV16 is the version most responsible, and affects both males and females.”

Common signs of oral cancer may include:

  • Ulcers or sores that don’t heal within a couple of weeks
  • Swelling, lumps, and discoloration on the soft tissues in the mouth
  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Pain with chewing
  • Persistent sore throat
  • Numbness of the mouth or lips
  • Lumps felt on the outside of the neck
  • Constant coughing
  • Earaches on one side of your head

If you experience any of these side effects, please contact Pike & Valega, DDS as soon as possible.

We hope this information will help you understand the interactions between HPV and oral cancer. Please remember to take precautionary steps if you notice anything out of the ordinary with regard to your oral health. If you have any questions or concerns, contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Been a While? Come See Us!

February 26th, 2019

Guilt is a powerful feeling. It can keep you from doing many things, including going to the dentist. The good news is that Pike & Valega, DDS is a judgement-free zone, and coming back (even after an extended period of being MIA) can be easier than you think. Our goal is to make you as comfortable as possible during your first appointment back with us — so here’s a little overview of what you can expect.

We’ll start with a series of dental X-rays, which are usually taken every three to five years. The set of X-rays will depend on your individual needs and it will help us get a more thorough look at what’s going on with your dental structure and keep an eye out for any prominent dental issues.

Next up will be your hygiene appointment. That appointment will consist of a review of your medical history and be followed by a thorough cleaning of your teeth. This is the perfect time to share concerns you may have about your oral health and ask us questions.

You’ll finish up with a comprehensive exam, which will review everything you covered with the hygienist. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will go over your medical history with you and address any dental concerns that might remain. If any special treatment is needed for such issues as cavities or broken fillings, we will discuss that with you as well.

Once all that is done, you’ll head over to the front desk to talk about payment and scheduling your next appointment. And that’s it! Your first visit back is an important step toward continuing to look out for your dental health.

Just because you slacked for a little while or life got in the way, this doesn’t mean things have to stay that way! We’re happy to help you get you back on track, so schedule an appointment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office today!

How do I handle my child’s dental emergency?

February 20th, 2019

Kids are active, and with lots of activity comes the potential for mishaps. Before an emergency occurs, you’d be smart to stay informed about the problems your child may encounter.

Here are a few things you should keep in mind about teething pain, loose baby teeth, and other common dental issues.

Teething Pain

Discomfort while teething is common for babies from the time they are four months until they are about two and a half. Teething can cause drooling, tender gums, and irritability. To help relieve your child’s discomfort, gently rub his or her gums with wet gauze or offer a cold teething ring.

Loose Baby Tooth

It is normal for a child’s first set of teeth to become loose and fall out. If a tooth is knocked out by a forceful blow, however, you should make an appointment with our office to determine whether any damage may have occurred. You should also book an appointment if the baby tooth that’s on its way out develops a crack but doesn’t fully fall out.

Issues with Permanent Teeth

Sometimes, permanent teeth can come in before the baby teeth have fallen out. In this event, schedule an appointment with us even if your child does not report discomfort or pain. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will need to determine if the permanent teeth are coming in correctly to avoid problems later on.

Bleeding Gums

Bleeding gums can have multiple causes: periodontal disease, rough brushing, or an injury to the gum tissue. If your child experiences heavy bleeding, it’s vital to call our office immediately. Wash the youngster’s mouth with warm salt water and put gentle pressure on the area to soothe it before your appointment.

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team are always here to address any concerns you may have regarding your child’s dental health. Contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office for emergency services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

What to Look for when Choosing a Mouthwash

February 19th, 2019

Mouthwash is important for more than just keeping your breath fresh and smelling great. Combined with other forms of dental hygiene, it can help prevent plaque, cavities, gingivitis, and other gum diseases. But it may be difficult for you to choose the right mouthwash off the shelf. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS wanted to share a few things to look for when choosing a mouthwash.

Fluoride mouthwashes

Fluoride has been the subject of many debates in the oral health community. If you live in the United States, the tap water already contains small amounts of fluoride to promote dental health. You may not need to use a fluoride mouthwash if this is the case. However, if you are cavity-prone, fluoride creates a protective film over the teeth that protects against these buildups. It also helps strengthen the enamel over the teeth, maintain good dental hygiene, and keep your teeth strong for the rest of your life.

Alcohol mouthwashes

Alcohol in mouthwash works as an antiseptic: it clears the mouth of germs and some viral infections. However, if you have issues relating to dry mouth, alcohol can exacerbate the problem. If this is the case, consider using an alcohol-free mouthwash. This will free your mouth from the drying effects of the alcohol base. Also, if you have children, you will want to get an alcohol-free children’s mouthwash, because kids are prone to swallowing the substance, and this can lead to toxic side effects. Even if you are an adult using the mouthwash, if it contains alcohol, you should avoid swallowing it.

Antibacterial mouthwashes

Antibacterial mouthwashes have chemicals to help fight gum disease and other infections. Most mouthwash products contain at least trace amounts of these antibacterials; however, some mouthwashes are made specifically to fight bacterial infections. Remember that mouthwash is prevention, not a cure, so if you are presently suffering from a bacterial infection, you should visit our Poolesville and Rockville MD office right away. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega may be able to recommend a more powerful antibacterial mouthwash that can help you reduce your pain and other symptoms.

Team Dark Chocolate

February 13th, 2019

Valentine’s Day is the holiday to celebrate all the treasured relationships in your life. It’s a time to honor love in all shapes and forms with cards, social gatherings, and sometimes even binge eating of sweets.

It's hard to look the other way when grocery stores and pharmacies are invaded with goodies connected to the Valentine’s Day theme, and especially if you’re on the receiving end of some of these sweets. We get it. In fact, we’re all for it!

However, we also support a cavity-free smile. So in the interest of your dental and general health, and because we think it’s genuinely tasty, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega recommends an alternative to the Valentine treats you may be accustomed to: dark chocolate. 

Yes, Healthy Chocolate Exists

Studies have shown that dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, an ingredient found in the cocoa beans used to make chocolate. Flavonoids can help protect the body against toxins, reduce blood pressure, and improve blood flow to the heart and brain.

By opting for dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate, you get to reap these benefits! Pretty sweet, right? Just make sure to stick to high-quality dark chocolates that have undergone minimal processing.

Dark Chocolate, AKA Protector of Teeth

Not only does dark chocolate provide some nice benefits for your overall health, it also helps protect your teeth against cavities! According to the Texas A&M Health Science Center, dark chocolate contains high amounts of tannins, another ingredient present in cocoa beans.

Tannins can actually help prevent cavities by interfering with the bacteria that causes them. Think of them as scarecrows for bacteria. They don’t always prevail, but isn’t it nice to have them there?

Smooth Never Sticky

Unlike many popular candies, dark chocolate is less likely to stick in the crevices of your teeth. Chewy, gooey sweets are more likely to hang around in your mouth for longer periods of time, which means they raise the odds of your harboring cavity-creating bacteria.

While some dark chocolates have additives like caramel or marshmallow, it’s best to opt for the plain varieties, which are just as delicious. If you’re feeling festive, though, a dark chocolate with caramel is still better than a milk chocolate with caramel, so that’s the way to go!

While dark chocolate has some pretty sweet benefits, the most important thing to remember (whether you go the dark chocolate route or not), is that moderation is key. That being said, we hope you have fun satisfying your sweet tooth and shopping for treats for your friends and loved ones. Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at Pike & Valega, DDS!

I don't brush while I'm at work. Should I?

February 12th, 2019

Yes, absolutely. A recent survey by Oral-B® reveals that despite knowing that a healthy, good-looking smile affects not only their personal wellness but their professional image as well, very few people (only 14 percent) brush and floss at the office regularly. What’s more, three quarters of people who responded to the survey said they ate twice or more a day at work.

Today, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team thought we would provide some tips for brushing at work.

  • Leave a toothbrush at work to increase your likelihood of brushing
  • Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn toothbrush won’t do a good job of cleaning your teeth.
  • Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner; this helps remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line. Tooth decay-causing bacteria still linger between teeth where your toothbrush bristles can’t reach.

And remember to brush for 30 to 45 seconds across visible parts of the teeth. Brushing after breakfast or lunch will eliminate any remaining food particles and odors. We recommend people brush their teeth twice and floss once a day to remove plaque and other harmful bacteria.

To schedule your next appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office, please give us a call!

Is Your Broken Tooth An Emergency?

February 6th, 2019

When you chip a tooth badly, it can be a very nerve-wracking situation. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team want to provide you with some information that can help if you ever suffer a chipped or broken tooth. The most common ways people break their teeth are by biting down on something hard, getting hit in the mouth, falling down, or developing cavities that weaken the tooth and allow it to be broken easily. There are a few things you can do if you find yourself in this situation, however.

First, we recommend that you investigate whether the tooth is partially chipped or completely broken. Unless you are experiencing a lot of pain or bleeding, this should not be treated as an emergency. You may call our office and we will try to schedule an appointment with you as soon as possible. Once we have evaluated the tooth during your appointment, we can start to treat it. For minor chips or cracks, we may simply smooth out the area or fill in the space so the crack doesn’t spread.

If your teeth show severe damage such as a serious break, split tooth, split root, or a decay-induced break, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega may need to take more time to fix the problem. If you need emergency dental care because a tooth has fallen out, call our practice immediately to schedule an appointment for that day. If you’re waiting for an emergency appointment, you can rinse your mouth with warm salt water and apply slight pressure to the area to stop the bleeding. We recommend using an ice pack to reduce swelling, but do not take any aspirin because that may increase the bleeding.

If your tooth has completely fallen out of the socket, hold it by the crown and rinse it under running water. Do not let the tooth become dry; instead, place it in salt water or milk until you get to our office. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will determine whether the broken tooth can be salvaged or will need to be completely replaced.

We know how upsetting it can be to chip or break a tooth, which is why we want to guide you through this process. Most chipped teeth are usually just cosmetic problems, fortunately, but we know that dental emergencies can come up rather suddenly. Be sure to schedule an appointment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office as soon as an emergency situation occurs.

How can veneers improve my smile?

February 5th, 2019

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS believe everyone’s smile should be a something they can be proud of. Most of us aren’t born with naturally perfect teeth, though, so it’s fortunate that cosmetic dentistry and veneers make it possible to achieve the smile of your dreams!

Dental veneers are a great option to improve your smile and are highly accessible to patients around the world. They’re made of porcelain and will be customized to fit the surface of your teeth perfectly. Our team will note your tooth size, color, and shape so your veneers will look completely natural.

Benefits of dental veneers

Appearance: Dental veneers can be undetectable to others because they look so natural. One of the best perks is that they are resistant to stains, so you don’t have to worry about discoloration over time.

Improvements: Not only will your smile look better, but many minor imperfections can be improved with dental veneers as well. Chipped teeth, discoloration, and gaps will be covered by your veneers.

Durability: Veneers are made from long-lasting porcelain materials, which means they are resistant to scratches and chipping. If you take care of them properly, they can look as good as new for years!

Flexibility: Patients have the option of choosing single veneers to repair chips or cracks in teeth or go for multiple teeth to create a completely new smile.

Considerations

Just because dental veneers can cover imperfections, that doesn’t mean your oral hygiene is any less vital. Your teeth and gums should be healthy and disease-free in order to be eligible for veneers.

Set up an initial consultation at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office today, and we can address any underlying issues you may have. Your perfect smile could be just a phone call away!

 

What are the benefits of visiting a dentist regularly?

January 30th, 2019

Your regularly scheduled dental checkups with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega are not just meant to make your smile prettier and healthier. Your mouth’s health has an important impact on your overall physical health as well!

While you may brush your teeth twice a day and even floss, we would like to remind you that dental checkups with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega every six months aren’t just about addressing problems and reacting, they are about cavity and gum disease prevention.

In addition to a twice yearly thorough teeth cleaning and polishing at Pike & Valega, DDS, these regular visits help us detect and prevent the onset of tooth decay and 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.

While Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team always strive to provide unmatched dental care for you and your family, we are also committed to your overall wellness as well! A deep cleaning twice a year is the best way to prevent any problems that may have gone unseen. If you are overdue for your next cleaning, please give us a call to schedule an appointment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

How much calcium does my child need?

January 29th, 2019

When you were a kid, your parents may have told you to drink milk to build strong bones and grow tall and strong. Now that you have children of your own, you may hear yourself parroting those instructions you received years ago. Getting enough dairy is essential for young children whose teeth are growing. A child who consumes the recommended daily serving of dairy will develop healthy, strong teeth for the rest of his or her life.

So, which foods are the best in terms of acquiring the right amount of calcium? Milk and other dairy products are excellent sources of calcium. Milk also contains vitamin D, phosphorus, magnesium, and proteins. Magnesium promotes calcium deposits in your enamel, while phosphorus forms a small but important barrier against acidic foods that cause cavities. Vitamin D and protein are used by a child’s body to build bone tissue and maintain dental health.

According to a recent study, the majority of Americans, including children, do not receive enough calcium. In fact, according to the Academy of General Dentistry, only one in five children meets even the minimum standards for calcium consumption. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that children under the age of eight should receive two and a half cups of dairy per day. Children older than eight need three full cups, the same as adult men and women. In addition to milk, eating yogurt is a great way your child can increase his or her dairy consumption. Drinking sugary beverages in place of milk causes cavities and tooth decay.

If your child does not get enough dairy consumption, they run the risk of improper tooth development and other dental health problems. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS encourage you to monitor your child’s dairy consumption to ensure he or she grows healthy teeth to last a lifetime.

Questions? Give us a call at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

The History and Mythology of the Tooth Fairy

January 23rd, 2019

While the last baby teeth generally aren’t lost until age ten or 11, most children stop believing in the tooth fairy by the time they're seven or eight. Of course, children are more than happy to play along with the game when there’s money at stake! While it is impossible to know what the tooth fairy does with all those teeth (are they labeled and stored like museum pieces in a giant fairytale castle?), it is possible to trace the history and myth of the tooth fairy to several cultures and traditions. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team learned about some interesting myths about the tooth fairy!

The Middle Ages

Legend has it that Europeans in the Middle Ages believed a witch could curse someone by using their teeth, so it was important to dispose of baby teeth correctly. Teeth were swallowed, buried, or burned. Sometimes baby teeth were even left for rodents to eat. Despite being pests, rodents were valued for their strong teeth; it was generally believed a tooth fed to a rodent would lead to the development of a healthy and strong adult tooth.

Eighteenth Century France

The tooth fairy myth began to show more characteristics of a conventional fairytale in 18th century France. La Bonne Petite Souris, a bedtime story, tells the strange tale of a fairy that changes into a mouse to help a good queen defeat an evil king. The mouse secretly hides under the evil king’s pillow and defeats him by knocking out his teeth.

Scandinavian Lore

So, why does the tooth fairy leave money under the pillow? The idea of exchanging a tooth for coins originated in Scandinavia. Vikings paid children for a lost tooth. Teeth were worn on necklaces as good luck charms in battle. While the idea of exchanging a tooth for coins quickly spread throughout the rest of Europe, a fierce, horn-helmeted Viking is far cry from the image of a fairy collecting teeth.

While the tooth fairy as children know her today didn’t make an appearance until the 1900s, tooth myths and rites of passage have existed in numerous cultures since the dawn of time.

Your Snoring Might Be More Serious Than You Think

January 22nd, 2019

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which breathing stops and starts repeatedly throughout the night. It’s most common among middle-aged adults, and the most prevalent symptom is loud snoring.

Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax to the point where they inhibit your natural breathing. It can cause your breathing to stop for anywhere from ten to twenty seconds. In the worst cases, it can even stop your breathing for up to a few minutes.

In addition, people who suffer from sleep apnea wake up feeling tired and unrested. The condition may even lead to depression, high blood pressure, irritability, and memory loss. It puts you at a greater risk for heart attack and lowers oxygen levels in your brain.

All of this sounds scary, but the good news is that sleep apnea can be treated! One of the most common ways Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can treat sleep apnea is by creating an oral device for you to wear while you sleep.

The device brings your jaw forward, which keeps the airway open and lowers the incidence of snoring. Another method is to use a continuous positive airway mask, often referred to as a CPAP. The mask fits over the mouth and forces oxygen through the throat while you sleep.

If you’re unsure about whether you may suffer from sleep apnea, visit our Poolesville and Rockville MD office and let Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega know. We can determine the appropriate treatment if any is needed. Don’t risk losing another night’s sleep over something we can easily treat!

What exactly is biofilm?

January 16th, 2019

Biofilm is a protective home for bacteria that’s composed of microorganisms. Biofilm can be found in wet places such as ponds, sewers, and bathroom drains, and it also grows on metals and minerals.

But biofilm can also be found in your mouth, in either healthy or diseased form. Both are composed of the same compounds, but when they combine with certain amino acids or chemicals, diseased biofilm will begin to destroy your enamel. You might notice this as a slimy yellow buildup of dental plaque on the surface of your teeth.

Biofilm takes form when free-swimming bacterial cells land on a surface and attach in a cluster. The cells begin to multiply and form a micro-colony that promotes diverse bacterial species to grow. To prevent biofilm from settling in your mouth to begin with, make sure to keep up your daily oral routine.

Any mouth appliances you use should also be scrubbed or soaked in cleaner as often as possible. You should pick a toothpaste that has antibacterial ingredients, rinse with mouthwash, and floss daily.

There are many ways to treat diseased biofilm. One is to kill the microorganisms through the use of chlorhexidine, triclosan, and mineral agents that reduce the degree of plaque formed in your mouth.

Another way is to make sure to go to your regular cleanings every six months with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega. During your cleaning, we remove excess biofilm that’s accumulated on your teeth over the past six months.

Don’t forget that it’s also essential to keep a healthy amount of biofilm in your mouth, though. This type of biofilm protects your body from disease and is replicated every twenty minutes. If you have a healthy amount of good biofilm, the chances of your mouth producing harmful bacteria decreases.

Ask about biofilm during your next appointment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office if you’ve noticed any irregular yellow-colored buildup on your teeth. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will make sure your mouth has a healthy balance of biofilm.

The best way to create a healthy environment in your mouth is to stay on track with your oral health regimen. Prevention is the best method when it comes to your dental hygiene and fighting diseased biofilm.

 

Nitrous Oxide Sedation

January 15th, 2019

Some patients may require nitrous oxide to remove pain or anxiety during dental treatments. If you desire any form of dental treatment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega may administer nitrous oxide for its anesthetic/analgesic properties.

Commonly known as laughing gas, nitrous oxide is a gaseous sedative that’s inhaled through a mask over the nose. It was first used in the mid 1800s when practitioners didn’t know they should mix oxygen with the nitrous oxide, which wasn’t healthy alone.

These days, nitrous oxide is administered with at least a 30% oxygen mix, which makes it safe for any dental care.

Some of the effects you may experience while you’re sedated include:

  • Lightheadedness, and tingling in the arms and legs, followed by a warm or comforting sensation
  • A euphoric feeling or a sensation that you are floating
  • Inability to keep your eyes open, so it feels as if you’re asleep

The percentage of nitrous oxide can be easily adjusted if necessary. Let Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega know right away if you feel uncomfortable or sick. The effects wear off quickly after you begin to breathe regular air following your treatment.

If you still have concerns about nitrous oxide, feel free to call our office about it. Our staff can go over other options for sedation and select the best one for you.

How to Choose the Best Mouthwash

January 9th, 2019

As we all know, or should by now, the key to maintaining great oral health is keeping up with a daily plan of flossing, brushing, and using mouthwash. These three practices in combination will help you avoid tooth decay and keep bacterial infections at bay.

At Pike & Valega, DDS, we’ve noticed that it’s usually not the toothbrush or floss that people have trouble picking, but the mouthwash.

Depending on the ingredients, different mouthwashes will have different effects on your oral health. Here are some ideas to take under consideration when you’re trying to decide which type of mouthwash will best fit your needs.

  • If gum health is your concern, antiseptic mouthwashes are designed to reduce bacteria near the gum line.
  • If you drink a lot of bottled water, you may want to consider a fluoride rinse to make sure your teeth develop the level of strength they need.
  • Generally, any mouthwash will combat bad breath, but some are especially designed to do so.
  • Opt for products that are ADA approved, to ensure you aren’t exposing your teeth to harmful chemicals.
  • If you experience an uncomfortable, burning sensation when you use a wash, stop it and try another!

Still have questions about mouthwash? Feel free to ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega during your next visit to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office! We’re always happy to answer your questions. Happy rinsing!

Make Brushing Teeth Fun!

January 8th, 2019

It’s understandable that kids would rather be playing outside or watching their favorite movie instead of doing a “boring” task like brushing their teeth. But there are ways to make brushing fun for your son or daughter, and encourage healthy oral hygiene habits early on! Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team have a few tricks that may help.

Game time

What child doesn’t love a good game? Try to turn brushing time into a game, whether by playing hide-and-seek or singing your child’s favorite song while he or she brushes for two minutes.

Kids also love rewards, so awarding them stickers after a good brushing can encourage them to do a good job every time. You might even tell your child that five stickers will earn a special treat or fun activity at the end of the week.

Fun accessories

Lots of toothbrush options can add something exciting to your child’s daily brushing routine. Toothbrushes that light up tend to be a popular choice with young kids. The same goes for toothbrushes shaped like your child’s favorite animal or cartoon character.

Teaching your kids about how long they should brush each time can also be fun. Let them have the special responsibility of setting a timer for two minutes before they start to brush.

The Great Toothpaste Experiment

Lots of kids can be picky eaters and that can the case with toothpaste flavors. Set aside a time to sample several different flavors, the way they’ve probably tried various flavors at the ice cream shop! Just make sure to be very clear that they shouldn’t swallow the toothpaste.

With your help, your child can easily develop healthy brushing habits over time. If you can find ways to make it fun, it can be an enjoyable experience for both of you!

Call Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office for more fun tips or to make an appointment today!

How do I make my child’s diet safe for his or her teeth?

January 2nd, 2019

The food you feed your child can have a lasting effect on his or her oral health. In fact, diet plays a major role in whether a child develops cavities and decay, which can lead to many dental visits and potential tooth loss. So what should you feed your child to ensure he or she has a healthy smile for life?

Foods to Avoid

It is normal for your child to take interest in many foods -- especially those filled with sugar and carbohydrates. But as tasty as these foods are, they can cause rapid decay when eaten in excess. That’s not to say your child can never have sugar again. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our staff suggest limiting starchy and sugary foods such as candy and potato chips as much as possible.

Remember that some seemingly healthy foods can present the threat of decay too. Some of the most common culprits are sticky foods like peanut butter, raisins, and granola bars, which can stick to the teeth after eating. If you serve these foods to your child, be sure to have him or her brush immediately after eating to remove any lingering sugary residue.

Beverages

Many beverages marketed toward children contain sugar servings that far exceed the daily recommendations from national health organizations. They suggest no more than three to four teaspoons of added sugar per day for young children.

Make an effort to serve only water to your child any time other than meal times. During meals, allow your child to have milk or juice, but in limited serving sizes. Most importantly, never allow your young child to sleep with a bottle or “sippie cup” full of juice or milk. Doing so can cause rapid tooth decay: a condition known as “baby bottle caries.”

A Healthy and Balance Diet

So long as your child is brushing regularly and eating a healthy, balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains, you should have little or no problem with tooth decay. For more questions about how your child’s diet affects his or her oral health, contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office to schedule a consultation.

What is Nitrous Oxide?

January 1st, 2019

Many patients experience anxiety during dental appointments. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team want to help you overcome any fear you may feel when you come to your regular visits.

If you know you suffer from anxiety during your dental checkups, nitrous oxide sedation, popularly known as “laughing gas,” may be helpful during your next appointment. Nitrous oxide can be used during many types of dental procedures.

It has a sweet odor and taste, and gets mixed with oxygen when supplied through a mask. The effects typically kick in within a few minutes and leave you feeling calm and relaxed.

Nitrous is helpful because you will stay conscious and able to move and answer questions the doctor may ask you. The drug is also convenient because the effects go away within a few minutes after the mask is removed.

Nitrous oxide is not dangerous for your body when it’s combined with oxygen. It is non-addictive and non-allergenic. When used properly, nitrous oxide reduces anxiety, while allowing continued communication between the patient and dentist during a procedure. It can also help alleviate pain or discomfort during your exam.

You should know that nitrous oxide may cause nausea in up to ten percent of patients. This drug is not recommended for people who suffer from certain medical conditions. We recommend discussing this method with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega if your dental anxiety begins to interfere with your appointments.

We want all our patients to feel comfortable during their care. Talk with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega at your next appointment to find out if nitrous oxide is the right option for you. If you have questions regarding nitrous oxide, call our Poolesville and Rockville MD location and we’ll be happy to answer them.

 

A Brighter Smile for the New Year

December 26th, 2018

The beginning of a new year is the perfect opportunity for a fresh start for you and your smile. At Pike & Valega, DDS, 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 Poolesville and Rockville MD office to schedule an appointment!

Pregnancy and Oral Care

December 25th, 2018

Pregnancy involves a lot of alterations in your health. Pike & Valega, DDS is here to help you understand the oral health aspects of your pregnancy.

As you may already know, your body becomes more susceptible to bacterial complications. In terms of oral health, you may be at a higher risk for gingivitis and periodontal disease during the course of your pregnancy.

The hormonal changes in your body can create a more welcoming environment for gum infections, including gingivitis. Although you may continue to brush and floss on a regular basis, and maintain your schedule of cleaning appointments, you are still prone to an increased risk of gingivitis. Your gums may feel more sensitive and become more prone to bleeding because of the increased amount of blood flowing through your body. This can also be a side effect of periodontal disease, which nearly 40% of pregnant women have.

In order to avoid painful dental visits, you should attempt to brush more than twice a day and always floss regularly. We recommend investing in a good mouthwash for extra protection against plaque buildup. Other oral conditions to watch out for during pregnancy include oral gingival lesions, tooth mobility, tooth erosion, and dental caries.

Keeping your oral health in top shape will prevent bacteria from circulating to other places in your body during pregnancy. Your immune system is more likely to be compromised, which means you generally face an increased risk for illnesses.

Don’t forget that you share nutrients and pathogens with your baby, so it’s crucial to reduce your risks in every possible way. If you think you may be experiencing an oral health issue during your pregnancy, please call our Poolesville and Rockville MD office to schedule an appointment, and we will be happy to help you.

Electric or Manual Toothbrush: Why It Does (and Doesn't) Matter

December 19th, 2018

You live in the golden age of toothbrushes. Until a few decades people used twigs or brushes made from animal hair to clean their teeth: not very soft and none too effective.

Now, you have a choice of manual brushes with soft, medium, or hard bristles. Or you might choose to go with an electric toothbrush instead.

Have you ever wondered whether manual or electric brushes provide better cleaning? Actually, they both do the job. The key is to brush and floss every day, regardless of the kind of brush you prefer.

At our Poolesville and Rockville MD office, we like to say the best brush is the one you'll use. So if you prefer manual, go for it. If you prefer electric, turn it on.

Both types have their advantages but both types will get the job done as far as removing plaque.

Electric Toothbrushes

  • Provide power rotation that helps loosen plaque
  • Are great for people with limited dexterity due to arthritis or other problems
  • Are popular with kids who think the electric brushes are more fun to use
  • Can come with variable speeds to help reduce pressure on sensitive teeth and gums

Manual Toothbrushes

  • Can help brushers feel they have more control over the brushing process
  • Allow brushers to respond to twinges and reduce the pressure applied to sensitive teeth and gums
  • Are more convenient for packing when traveling
  • Manual brushes are cheaper and easier to replace than the electric versions.

In many ways, the golden age is just beginning. There are already phone apps available to remind you to brush and floss. New apps can play two minutes worth of music while you brush, help you compare the brightness of your smile or help explain dental procedures. Maybe someday we’ll even have programs that examine your teeth after brushing and identify spots you might have missed.

When snoring becomes more than just annoying: The dangers of sleep apnea

December 18th, 2018

Sawing wood. That’s what your wife calls it when you wake her up with your snoring. This type of scenario plays out in homes around the world, and couples have to find a way to make light of the nocturnal annoyance. Snoring can become more than just an irritating nighttime disturbance, however. It can be the first sign of a potentially serious sleep disorder.

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which breathing repeatedly pauses throughout the night. Possible symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring loudly and feeling tired after a full night’s sleep.

Three health problems linked to sleep apnea

Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed and untreated, which puts you at a greater risk of developing health problems. While being robbed of quality sleep can take its toll on you, sleep apnea can also result in the following.

  1. High blood pressure. When you wake frequently throughout the night, it causes your body's hormonal systems to become unbalanced and go into overdrive. This results in high blood pressure.
  2. Heart disease. The disrupted oxygen flow caused by sleep apnea increases your chances of having a heart attack or stroke. The cutoff of oxygen makes it difficult for the brain to regulate the flow of blood in the arteries.
  3. Excessive daytime sleepiness. Daytime fatigue often results in impaired judgment and slow reaction times, and this may increase your risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident.

Lifestyle changes like losing weight, avoiding alcohol, and quitting smoking are often enough to cure sleep apnea. Medical treatment is also a potential solution. Surgery, oral appliances, and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which is a treatment involving a specialized breathing mask, are all possible ways to resolve the problem of sleep apnea.

If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea, or to schedule a visit with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office, please give us a call! Our entire team at Pike & Valega, DDS look forward to giving you back a full night’s rest!

When to Begin Dental Care for Your Child

December 12th, 2018

Children’s oral health differs from that of adults in a variety of ways. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team want you to understand how you can provide the best care for your son or daughter’s teeth. It’s essential to understand what your child will need from you when it comes to his or her oral health in those first few years.

In-home dental care begins when your baby starts to show signs of developing the first tooth. We recommend that you bring your child to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office between the ages of one and two. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will take a look at your child’s tooth development and gums during this first scheduled appointment.

The initial appointment with your little one is designed to get him or her accustomed to our office. We recommend allowing your child to be in the exam room alone with us during the first visit in order to become comfortable with our staff at an early age.

We will go over several general matters during your child’s first visit:

  • Look for signs of decay or other tooth or gum problems
  • Make sure your youngster doesn’t have gum disease or cavities
  • Examine your child’s bite, and check for misalignment that could lead to problems in the future
  • Clean the teeth, and apply fluoride if your son or daughter is old enough
  • Talk to you about proper oral health care for your
  • Give you some tips for brushing and flossing your child’s teeth
  • Answer any questions you may have about caring for your little one’s teeth

Once your child is old enough for his or her first visit to the dentist, you should begin to schedule regular cleanings every six months. If any problems arise before a scheduled appointment, call our Poolesville and Rockville MD location and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Remember, creating healthy oral health habits with your child early on is crucial. We’re here to guide you through this process and make sure your child is healthy and happy.  

Does chronic stress impact periodontal health?

December 11th, 2018

Many studies over the past several years have focused on this question. Since we will all face stressful situations during our life, it is a good question to ask. This question also delves into the mind-body connection—the psychological having an effect on the physical and vice versa.

Studies were performed as far back as the 1940s and continue today. Many of them have shown that stress "downregulates" or hinders cellular immune response. The most common periodontal diseases related to this stress-induced downregulation are gingivitis and periodontitis.

It is believed that stress and depression contribute to a state of chronic inflammation within the body. Stress also raises levels of cortisol in your body, which has been linked in studies to higher levels of tooth loss and deeper pockets between the gums and teeth.

Perhaps the biological side of this equation makes sense, but an important factor is that people who are stressed and/or depressed tend to neglect oral hygiene and other health-promoting activities. The studies seem to support both the behavioral and biological effects as risk factors for periodontal disease.

Here are some things you can do to help prevent stress-related periodontal problems:

  • Daily relaxation –You may consider meditation or yoga. Both have been proven effective at easing stress.
  • Practice good oral hygiene – Don't let your oral hygiene fall by the wayside. Doing so will obviously have a detrimental effect on your oral health. You should also aim to quit smoking if you do smoke.
  • Get regular dental checkups – Getting regular checkups will help you to spot anything that's amiss before it gets out of hand. You can speak with your dentist if you have any pain or concerns and have them take a look.

Stress is something that affects all of us but it can be managed. Each one of us may manage it in a different way. Find what works for you and always make sure to keep up with your oral hygiene routine. For more information about stress-related periodontal issues, schedule an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Post-Procedure Care

December 5th, 2018

As with any surgery, post-procedure care is of utmost importance after getting periodontal surgery. Bleeding, pain, swelling, and other sensations are common and should be expected to a degree. This can manifest as small amounts of blood in your saliva, pain after anesthesia wears off, and swelling around the lips and cheeks. However, these symptoms should start improving after a several days.

Below you'll find recommendations from Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega on what you should do to make your post-procedure experience as quick and painless as possible:

Don't smoke - After your surgery you should definitely not smoke. Smoking will inhibit your body's ability to heal the surgical site.

Don't drink alcohol - If you are taking prescription or over-the-counter pain relievers, don't drink alcohol. And it is a good idea in general to avoid alcohol after surgery, since excess alcohol consumption suppresses immune system function and slows the healing process.

Take pain medication as prescribed or an alternative - Pain is to be expected for at least the first week after your procedure. If you choose to take the prescription medication that is prescribed to you, do so as directed. However some patients have found over-the-counter pain medication works for them. You may also consider natural herbs instead of pharmacological solutions. Try turmeric, arnica, or white willow bark (which is what aspirin is derived from, so the same warnings for aspirin apply to white willow bark.)

Eating with your surgical site in mind - It is best to chew on the other side of your mouth for the first several days so as not to irritate the surgical site. Avoid overly cold or hot foods as well. Softer foods like mashed potatoes, oatmeal, and fruit will be more comfortable to chew.

Avoid brushing the surgical site - You can start brushing and flossing your teeth the day after the procedure but avoid the surgical site.

Don't rinse for the first 24 hours - After the first day has passed you can rinse with a mild mouthwash to keep your mouth, dressing, and surgical site clean.

We're here to answer any questions you have after your procedure and will help you as best we can. Pay special attention to any excessive bleeding or discomfort. Contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office immediately if you have tried addressing the issue on your own but are still having trouble.

Questions on Dental Implants? We’ve Got You Covered.

December 4th, 2018

Whether you’ve lost a tooth from decay, are preparing for dentures, or were born with a gap where a tooth should have been, you could be a candidate for dental implants.

Dental implants have changed a lot since their debut in 1965, thanks to continuing advances in design and technology. Today, you no longer have to worry about whether dental implants might have a negative aesthetic impact on your smile.

So what are dental implants? Pretty much what they sound like: An implant is a replacement tooth that substitutes for a missing natural one. It gets placed through several steps; it’s a process that can take a few months.

The initial step involves the surgical implantation of the implant root, which resembles a small screw. After that’s placed, the top is covered with gum tissue to enable it to heal faster. This is an essential phase in the process, since this portion of the implant will serve as the base of support for everything else.

In the second step, the implant gets uncovered and an implant restoration (or crown) is created and affixed to it. After that, you’ve got yourself a new tooth!

While dental implants require a little special care, it’s all easily manageable. All you have to do at home is make sure you brush and floss your implant daily, the same as you would for any other tooth. Although an implant can’t develop a cavity, if something were to get stuck in it, that could lead to a gum infection.

If you have any other questions about dental implants, give our Poolesville and Rockville MD office a call!

The Secret to Fresh Breath

November 28th, 2018

Bad breath: We’ve all dealt with it. You’ve been around people who have it and, like it or not, you have had it yourself. It can be embarrassing and uncomfortable, but how do you know if you have it? There is actually a simple test you can do to see if you have bad breath.

Wash your hands well, then put your finger in your mouth, way in the back. Scrape a little saliva from the back of your tongue, and then dab it on the back of your hand. Wait for one minute, then hold your hand to your nose and sniff. Is it fresh as a daisy? Or do you need to keep reading and learn how to freshen your breath?

How Bad Breath Starts

There are several ways that bad breath starts. Knowing the causes of bad breath is a solid start toward the cure.

  • The bacteria in your mouth: Bacteria is always in your mouth. It covers your gums, hides between your teeth, and hangs out on your tongue. As it multiplies, it produces toxins that cause the foul odor in your mouth.
  • Your bad habits: If you smoke cigarettes, a pipe, or cigars, or chew tobacco, you are not only harming your mouth and body, you are creating some really smelly breath.
  • Your tonsils: If you still have your tonsils, they can be the cause of bad breath. They are pitted, so smelly substances can collect in the pits and lead to bad breath.
  • Stomach issues: A stomach virus, ulcer, GERD, and other stomach issues could be the cause of your bad breath. A low-carb diet can put your body into a state of ketosis, which causes very bad breath.
  • The foods you eat: Garlic, onion, and other pungent foods will linger with you … on your breath.

Tips for Busting Bad Breath

Achieving fresh breath isn’t difficult, but it does require a little work. Try these tips for fresher breath and a healthier mouth.

  • Brush your teeth after every meal. You can also pick up a tongue scraper to use a couple of times a day to remove any lingering bacteria on your tongue.
  • Floss once a day to remove food particles between your teeth as well as plaque. Your mouth will thank you.
  • Gargle with special mouthwash to banish bad breath. The oxygen in it will kill the bacteria in your mouth that is causing your bad breath, and leave you fresh as a daisy!
  • Drink water to avoid dry mouth, which is a common cause of bad breath.
  • Ease your tummy troubles with antacids and other remedies. Ginger tea is a great tummy tamer.
  • Chew gum that contains xylitol. Saliva keeps your mouth moist, and chewing gum makes you salivate. Bye bye, bad breath!
  • Eat yogurt. It contains “good” bacteria that helps balance your gut and gives you a healthier mouth.
  • Soothe your sinuses. Sinus infections can cause you to have bad breath. Actually, it is the post-nasal drip that causes the foul odor. Cure the infection and your breath will improve.
  • Avoid all tobacco products (cigarettes, pipes, cigars, chewing tobacco, and snuff).
  • Eat a healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains.

And don't forget! Get regular dental checkups at Pike & Valega, DDS.

Breaking Bad Oral Habits

November 27th, 2018

The effects of bad oral habits are something our team sees all too often. You might have bad oral habits that stem from childhood, possibly because your parents did not know about proper oral care or force you to follow it. Or, your bad habits could develop gradually, like slacking on your frequency of brushing.

Bad oral habits can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and consequences such as losing teeth and experiencing bad pain. They may be deeply ingrained and easy to continue, but you can break them with a little effort. Focus on developing good habits to replace your current ones, and eating a diet that is healthy for your teeth.

Replace Bad Habits with Good

Breaking your bad oral habits may not be as difficult as you expect when you focus instead on developing good habits. These new good habits can naturally replace your bad habits.

  • Brush your teeth after each meal or at least twice a day.
  • Visit a dentist every six months for an exam and a professional cleaning.
  • Floss your teeth every day.

These good habits may not seem natural, so you can take steps to make sure you follow these behaviors. For example, make a daily checklist with your scheduled sessions of brushing and flossing your teeth and using mouthwash. You can also set a timer to be sure you brush your teeth for the full recommended two minutes.

Eat Properly

Poor eating habits can be detrimental to your teeth. A common mistake is to let food, especially carbohydrates such as starch and sugar, stay on your teeth for a long time. You can stop doing this by rinsing your mouth with water after each meal or snack. Also, avoid candy and soft drinks between meals, since the sugar sits on your teeth.

A healthy diet provides the nutrients you need to maintain strong teeth. The mineral calcium is key for healthy teeth, so try to get your three daily servings of high-calcium foods, such as low-fat milk or yogurt, canned fish, or fortified soy or almond milk. Also include vegetables and fruits, which have a high water content.

If you need more tips about breaking your bad oral health habits, contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office and speak with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega or a member of our team.

Do You Have an Ageless Smile? Let Us Help You Keep It!

November 21st, 2018

In your golden years, you’ve become a pioneer in tooth care. Yours is probably the first generation in history that can expect to keep most of their natural teeth for a lifetime. You can probably guess the reasons: better oral care, advances in dentistry, improved nutrition, and a lower risk for diseases that could weaken teeth and gums.

As a pioneer, you’re learning with your dentists, and one thing we’ve found is that teeth change with age, just like the rest of the body. Even if your teeth can remain strong and white, here are a few things you may have to cope with:

Cavities: Tooth decay is not just for kids anymore. Seniors often develop cavities on the lower part of the tooth near the root. Thorough flossing and brushing along the gum line is the best preventive measure.

Sensitivity: Gums recede over time, and good dental habits only slow the process. Receding gums leave more of each tooth exposed, and the newly uncovered areas have less enamel. As a result, these teeth may be much more sensitive to hot and cold. If you find your teeth become more sensitive, try a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth and be sure to tell Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega about it at your next checkup.

Difficulty brushing: If you have arthritis or limited motion you may have a hard time brushing your teeth. Consider switching to an electric toothbrush. There are also assistive devices available that make it easier to grip a manual toothbrush.

Other health problems: Diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses can cause symptoms in your mouth. Be sure to let us know if you have any health conditions, or if your condition changes. We can help treat symptoms that affect your teeth and recommend ways to maintain good oral health habits as part of your overall health program.

The Best Snacks for a Healthy Smile

November 20th, 2018

One of the most frequent questions that Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team hear is about what kinds of snacks are best for a child’s dental health. Sugary snacks are inevitable sometimes, but it’s vital for you as a parent to monitor how frequently your child is eating the kinds of snacks that may give him or her a cavity or two down the line.

Unsurprisingly, the best snacks are healthy ones, though they may not always be the most appealing to your little ones. The good news is that healthy doesn’t mean you have to compromise on taste. Once your kids give these tasty snacks a go, they might become open to all things healthy!

  • Fresh veggies and hummus
  • Apple wedges with peanut butter
  • Low-fat yogurt with berries
  • Cubes of cheese and crackers
  • Hard-boiled eggs with a little bit of salt and pepper
  • Celery sticks with cream cheese and sunflower seeds
  • A homemade milkshake with low-fat milk (or almond milk), the fruit of their choice, chia seeds, and cinnamon
  • Lean proteins such as chicken breast, fish, and turkey

These snacks aren’t high in sugar but they contain all the nutrients your children need to have the necessary energy throughout the day.

This is only a sample of all the great, healthy snacks out there for your kids. For more ideas, ask us the next time you visit our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. It’s never too early to create healthy habits; they’re not only good for oral health, but overall health too. That’s a win-win, if you ask us.

Suffer from tooth discoloration? Don’t panic!

November 14th, 2018

Like many other parts of the human body, teeth age. You may look at old photos and realize your smile was significantly brighter in the past than it is now. Many adults experience tooth discoloration and find it embarrassing.

The good news is there are treatment options! The first step to recovering your bright smile and finding appropriate treatment is to determine what’s causing the discoloration.

There are multiple reasons for tooth discoloration. Some are under your control, but unfortunately, others may not be. Glance at the list below and see if you can pinpoint the cause of your tooth discoloration.

  • Poor Dental Hygiene: This one is obvious. There’s a reason your parents (and dentist) always told you to brush and floss three times a day.
  • Genetics: A big part of your dental health is determined by genetics; in other words, what runs in your family. Sometimes people inherit naturally discolored teeth.
  • Diet: Do you eat sugary foods often? Drink lots of soda? Gulp more than two cups of coffee a day? Are you an energy drink fan? We’re not pointing any fingers ... but you should do the math.
  • Tobacco: Because cigarettes contain nicotine, they can readily stain your teeth. So hardcore smokers often develop prominent brown stains.
  • Medications: Medicines such as doxycycline, tetracycline, antihistamines, blood-pressure medications, and antipsychotic drugs can all create tooth discoloration as a side effect. (If you suspect this could be the case for you, don’t ever discontinue your medication without consulting your doctor first!)

Did you find the culprit? Perhaps the easiest way to avoid tooth discoloration in your case might be to make some simple adjustments to your diet and other habits.

Also, when you consume drinks or foods that are high in acid or sugar content, take a moment to rinse your mouth with water afterward. If you’re an avid tobacco user, you may want to reconsider that; especially because it can have deadly effects that go way beyond your smile.

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can also suggest other treatment options. While over-the-counter agents do help, in-office whitening treatments tend to be more effective. If whitening agents don’t alleviate the problem, you may want to consider bondings or veneers.

If you’re worried about discoloration of your teeth, or have any questions about how to treat it, please feel free to reach out to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office! We can help you identify what may be causing the problem and work with you to give you a smile you’ll be proud of.

Is soda really bad for your teeth?

November 13th, 2018

You take a sip of soda – and someone remarks, “That’s going to ruin your teeth!”

Is that true? Is sweet soda the enemy of a healthy smile? The answer, unfortunately, is that one glass might not hurt your teeth, but drinking soda regularly can do some real damage.

Sodas are one of America’s favorite drinks. The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry says about half of us drink soda regularly, averaging 2.6 glasses each day.

That’s a lot of soda considering the drinks are acidic, full of sugar, and have little or no nutritional value. It may surprise you to learn that it’s actually the acidity of cola, not the sugar, which poses the biggest threat to teeth. Over time, repeated exposure to soda wears down tooth enamel, leaving teeth stained and less able to prevent cavities.

As enamel wears away, teeth can become discolored, take on a rough texture, and become highly sensitive to hot or cold. Your teeth may start to tingle, and brushing or flossing can cause pain. If not checked by dental care, teeth may start to erode, becoming thinner and more likely to crack. It’s a pretty high price to pay for a glass of soda.

Of course, sodas are not the only culprits in tooth erosion. Coffee, wine, and some fruit juices are also acidic, though these drinks tend to have less acidity that a typical soda.

So what can you do to protect your teeth?

1. Cut back – way back – on acidic drinks.

2. Add more water to your daily diet in place of sodas.

3. Use a straw when you drink.

4. Don’t confuse diet soda with a healthy alternative. Diet drinks are just as acidic as regular sodas.

5. Rinse your mouth with water after drinking soda. The rinse may remove some acid from your teeth, although abstaining from the soda would do more good.

6. Hold off on brushing your teeth after drinking soda. Brushing too hard can weaken enamel that is already covered in acid.

7. Pay attention to your teeth, both how they look and how they feel. Let Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega know if you see signs of discoloration or erosion, or feel tingling. Make an appointment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office if you feel tooth or gum pain when eating or drinking.

Camping Oral Health Tips

November 7th, 2018

If your idea of camping is a quiet walk through the woods before returning to your rustic hotel, your regular brushing habits will be perfect for your trip. But if you are hiking into the mountains with your tent, backpack, and camp food, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team have some suggestions to adapt your dental routine to the great outdoors.

Water

If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t brush with it! Use bottled water if you have brought it, or make sure the local water is safe by using a testing kit. Boiling, filters and purification tablets are all ways to make sure the water tests clean and safe.

Toothpaste

You aren’t the only one in the woods who finds your toothpaste tasty. Bears, raccoons, and other animals are attracted to the scent of your toothpaste, so keep it safe with the same kind of tightly sealed, odor-proof container that you keep your food in. And if you want to discourage unwanted visitors, don’t spit your toothpaste out at your campground! It’s better to go some distance from your site and bury any paste, and best of all to spit used toothpaste into a container that can be tightly closed and removed from the campsite when you head for home. This practice protects you and the environment as well, since toothpaste can be harmful to small animals and plants.

Toothbrush

While there are disposable and camping toothbrushes available, a regular toothbrush will work as well. Normally, air-drying is the healthiest option for drying your toothbrush, but camping is an exception. Just as animals are attracted to toothpaste, they are also attracted to your toothpaste-scented toothbrush. Keep it in a sealed container that is odor-proof.

Floss

There are websites devoted to the many ingenious ways to use dental floss while camping, but we recommend the original use. Don’t forget to floss regularly, keep it in a sealed container, and do be sure to take used floss out of the area with you.

Even though you are roughing it, stick with your home routine as much as possible. If you are unable to brush as usual, rinse your mouth well with clean water and brush when you can. Have a great trip, and just one more thought—maybe go easy on the s’mores. Let us know all about your trip during your next visit to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

Using Sippy Cups Successfully

November 6th, 2018

Congratulations! Your child is beginning to leave her bottle behind and has started to use her first sippy cup. And the best training cup is one that makes the transition from bottle to cup an efficient, timely, and healthy one.

The Right Training Cup

While a “no spill” cup seems like the perfect choice for toddler and parent alike, those cups are designed much like baby bottles. The same valve in the no-spill top that keeps the liquid from spilling requires your child to suck rather than sip to get a drink. If your child’s cup has a top with a spout, she will learn to sip from it. Two handles and a weighted base make spills less likely.

When to Use a Training Cup

Children can be introduced to a sippy cup before they are one year old, and we suggest phasing out the bottle between the ages of 12 and 24 months. Use a sippy cup as the source for all liquids at that age, and only when your child is thirsty and at mealtime to avoid overdrinking. The transition from sippy cup to regular cup should be a swift one.

Healthy Sipping Habits

The best first option in a sippy cup between meals is water. Milk or juice should be offered at mealtimes, when saliva production increases and helps neutralize the effects of these drinks on young teeth. And don’t let your child go to sleep with anything other than water—falling asleep with a cup filled with milk, juice, or other sugary drinks means these liquids stay in the mouth overnight. Finally, while a sippy cup is convenient and portable, don’t let your young child walk and sip at the same time to avoid injuries.

When your child comes to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office for her first visit, please bring any questions you might have about training cups. We would be glad to share ways to make the move from bottle to cup both successful and safe!

What are Sealants?

October 31st, 2018

Sealants offer many benefits, but the best is their ability to protect your molars. Molars are full of small caverns that can be the perfect breeding ground for tooth decay and plaque buildup.

Use of protective sealants prevents this buildup from happening. Although children often receive sealants for routine preventive care, they aren’t the only ones who can benefit from this treatment. Sealants can also help adults who have deep canyons or grooves in their teeth.

They are commonly placed on the rear molars that tend to suffer the most decay. Because your molars are used substantially as grinding surfaces, food is more likely to be trapped among them.

Sealant solution consists a composite material that contains bonding agents that seal the top of your teeth. The process is quick and painless, which makes it a great solution for both children and adults who have had trouble with cavities and tooth decay. Sealants also last for several years, and repair is a simple process that can be completed by Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega.

The process of putting sealants on teeth starts with the tooth getting cleaned. We clean it with a type of baking soda spray called sodium bicarbonate. Then acid is etched onto the teeth to rough up the surface.

We apply an alcohol-based liquid to dry the area where the sealant is supposed to go. After it completely covers the surface of the treated teeth, the sealant is cured with a light that makes it hard and long-lasting.

Getting sealants can prevent the possible restorative costs that come from cavities. Sealants help to protect your tooth’s enamel from harmful acids and prevent decay, which can be an investment in itself. The whole process is quick, so it should be easy to schedule an appointment at Pike & Valega, DDS.

Feel free to call our Poolesville and Rockville MD location and we can answer any questions you have about this service.

Are thumb sucking and pacifier habits harmful for a child’s teeth?

October 30th, 2018

Depending on how long the thumb sucking or constant pacifier use continues, and how aggressively the child sucks a thumb or the pacifier, it can indeed be an oral health issue. Generally speaking, most children outgrow these behaviors or are able to be weaned off them successfully sometime between ages two and four. When children wean off the behaviors in this age range, long-term damage is unlikely.

Why Kids Suck Their Thumb or Pacifier

Both of these habits are actually a form of self soothing that your child likely uses when he or she is very upset, or feeling stressed, confused, frustrated, or unable to properly express the emotions. If your son or daughters is a regular thumb sucker, or the child wants to use the pacifier almost constantly, it is best to try to taper off these habits at a young age.

If your child continues to suck a thumb or request a pacifier consistently after leaving toddler-hood, this could be a source of concern, and it should be addressed with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our staff. We will be able to evaluate your child's mouth to look for any signs of damage such as palate changes or teeth shifting.

Say Goodbye to Old Habits

In the event that your child is quite reluctant to give up a pacifier or thumb-sucking habit, there are a few things you can do to discourage these behaviors.

  • When you notice that your child is not using a pacifier or sucking a thumb, offer effusive praise. This type of positive reinforcement can be much more effective than scolding the child.
  • Consider instituting a reward system for giving up the habit. If the child goes a certain amount of time without this behavior, award him or her for being such a “big kid.”
  • Employ the help of older siblings or relatives that your child admires. When a child’s role model says that he or she stopped sucking thumbs at a certain age, your child is likely to try to emulate that.

Pediatric Dental Emergency Know-How

October 24th, 2018

Parents are usually expert at taking care of their children’s injuries. You know how to disinfect a cut, soothe a bump on the head, and apply a bandage faster than you can blink.

But what happens if your child suffers a dental injury? Teeth can get broken, knocked out, or displaced from a forceful impact, and parents ought to know what to do in those situations, too. Luckily, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team are here to be a resource for such incidents!

Chipped front teeth are a common injury for young children. First, check to see if the teeth have been broken to the nerve. You can tell this is the case if you see layers and a pinkish center.

Then, wiggle each tooth to make sure it is not loose. If the teeth still feel firmly in place, that’s a good sign. Don’t worry if they are a little loose, because they will tighten again with time.

If your child develops a high temperature or bite sensitivity, treatment is necessary and could include a root canal.

A knocked-out tooth is an injury that requires more attention than just observation. Locate the tooth as soon as you can, and touch only the crown, not the root. Rinse any debris gently with milk or water and place the tooth back in its socket as soon as possible.

According to the American Association of Endodontists, a tooth has a high chance of survival and retention for life if it is returned to the socket within five minutes, and possibly up to 60 minutes, if soaked in milk or saline solution in the meantime.

Say your child is elbowed in the mouth and a tooth gets severely displaced but does not get knocked out. Attempt to shift it back into place by applying light pressure, but be careful not to use too much force. Give your child a cold pack for the swelling and contact our office as soon as possible.

Dental emergencies can be frightening for the child as well as the parent. The best advice we can offer is to stay calm and be assured that we are always here to help! Contact us at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office as soon as you can, if your child encounters a dental emergency.

Dental Emergency? Don’t Panic, We’re Here to Help

October 23rd, 2018

Nobody can predict a dental emergency. That’s what makes them so terribly inconvenient. The good news is that our office is always available to assist you, so there’s no reason you should minimize an emergency.

Among the most common emergencies we see are lost fillings, lost crowns, and broken dentures. Lost fillings and lost crowns are very similar. A key difference, however, is that fillings are used to repair cavities but crowns are used to cover broken or damaged teeth.

Over time, it’s not uncommon for fillings and crowns to grow loose and fall out. If you lose a crown or a filling, hot or cold temperatures will likely begin to trigger pain because of the exposed tissue. The discomfort might seem manageable, but it’s better to get these situations fixed as soon as possible so you can avoid getting food stuck or developing an infection.

Unlike a busted filling or crown, a broken denture is more likely to make itself known constantly, every day. It can make chewing, swallowing, and eating properly difficult. Depending on the damage, you may require a new denture altogether.

If you’re experiencing any problems with your dentures, or suspect that they might be broken, it’s best to contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office immediately to avoid further damage. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team are always here to help, especially when your dental health is at risk.

These things happen, so don’t feel embarrassed and please don’t hesitate to give us a call as soon as you notice or suspect something’s wrong! Get in touch with us … the sooner the better.

Finding the Right Dental Products for Your Child

October 17th, 2018

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team know how overwhelming it can be to pick the right dental products for your children. When you visit the dental aisle at the grocery store, you see too many options to choose from. We want to help you make an informed decision based on your son or daughter’s needs.

First, you should consider your child’s age and where he or she is in terms of development. Most kids are unable to floss properly until around 12 years of age because of the necessary dexterity. If your youngster is under 12 years old, make sure to assist with flossing every night.

Another option is to use flossers for children. This will make the exercise a bit easier for your little one, because flossers have different-sized handles to fit all ages of hands.

When you’re looking for a child’s toothbrush, the head should be a little bigger than the top portion of your son or daughter’s thumb. If a toothbrush is too big, it won’t be able to reach small areas in the mouth properly. Battery-powered toothbrushes are also recommended because they improve overall brushing quality for both adults and children.

If your child is too young to spit, he or she should use toothpaste without fluoride. Small children tend to swallow toothpaste, even when they don’t intend to. Try looking for a toothpaste that has xylitol listed as the first ingredient. This is a natural sweetener that is beneficial to teeth.

You should also try to identify a flavor that appeals to your child. Same as adults, children like to brush more if they enjoy the flavor that lingers in their mouth after brushing.

It’s smart to look at the ingredients in a toothpaste for the benefits your child needs. Some toothpastes contain sodium fluoride, which fights effectively against cavities. If your child has a sweet tooth, or has already had a cavity, we recommend buying a toothpaste with this ingredient.

Stannous fluoride is another popular ingredient that discourages cavities and includes anti-bacterial properties. You should also watch for the ingredient triclosan, which also suppresses bacteria. These ingredients are both recommend for children who have a high risk for cavities.

Anti-sensitivity toothpaste should also be easy to find in the dental aisle of the store. It contains potassium nitrate to help with sore gums and teeth.

If you’re still unsure which dental products your child should be using, contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. Once we have general information about your child and his or her dental health, we can guide you in the right direction.

When it comes to picking the right toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash for your child, Pike & Valega, DDS is always here to help.

What is hyperdontia?

October 16th, 2018

When a child is born, he or she will have 20 primary teeth and 32 permanent teeth. But sometimes kids are born with additional teeth, and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS calls this oral condition "hyperdontia." Primary teeth are the first set of teeth that erupt in your child's mouth, typically by the time they are 36 months old, and are shed by the time your child reaches the age of 12. Permanent teeth then take the place of the primary teeth and are usually fully-erupted by the time your son or daughter reaches 21 years of age. Anyone who develops more than 20 primary teeth or more than 32 permanent teeth has hyperdontia, and the additional teeth are referred to as supernumerary teeth.

While the cause of hyperdontia is not entirely clear, it is believed that there may be a genetic factor. Oral professionals have found that patients with extra teeth often have syndromes like cleidocranial dysplasia, Ehler-Danlos syndrome, Gardner syndrome, or cleft lip and palate. The prevalence of hyperdontia affects between one and four percent of the population in the United States, and the majority of cases are limited to a single tooth.

So, what is the best way to deal with hyperdontia? It really depends on the case. The treatment plan your doctor suggests varies according to the potential problem posed by the supernumerary teeth, as well as their type. Orthodontic treatment may certainly may help, but extraction can also be a good option. We recommend that children receive an oral evaluation or checkup no later than the age of seven. In addition to hygiene evaluation, this helps ensure your child does not experience hyperdontia problems.

If you suspect you or your child may be suffering from hyperdontia, please give us a call to schedule an appointment at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office to be evaluated.

DIY Cures for Bad Breath

October 10th, 2018

Are you afraid to open your mouth because you have bad breath? You’re not alone bad breath or Halitosis happens to everyone, at one time or another. If you have chronic bad breath there could be a number of reasons, including:

  • Gum disease
  • Sinus problems
  • Bacterial infection in your mouth
  • Stress
  • Strong odor from something you ate
  • Dry mouth

The good news is, none of the causes of bad breath are serious, and they can all be treated. There is a long list of DIY home remedies that have proven effective. Before you try any of them you should be evaluated by Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega to make sure you do not have a serious oral infection. Of course, you should also always practice good oral hygiene. If you go a week without brushing your teeth, your bad breath is going to be horrible!

1. Cinnamon Mouthwash

Cinnamon is known to help prevent bacteria in your mouth, and lemon has strong citrus properties that will eliminate your bad breath problem.

Preparation

  • Put a half teaspoon of cinnamon in a jar or bottle that has tight fitting lid.
  • Next add the juice from two lemons freshly squeezed lemons.
  • Combine all of the ingredients in a cup of lukewarm water and pour into your jar.
  • Shake the jar well and set it aside for two to three hours.
  • Before using the mouthwash always shake it well.
  • Gargle and swish one to two tablespoons of the mouthwash for about a minute

2. Tea

Black and green tea are beneficial in prevent bad breath. Black tea aids in controlling plaque and bacteria that can cause bad breath. Green tea contains antibacterial properties that fight off the natural occurring germs in your mouth, keeping your breath fresh. Both black and green tea contains polyphenol, a property that can prevent the formation of the foul odor caused by bacterial growth.

Preparation

  • Steep a black of green tea bag in one cup of hot water and drink one to two cups a day to keep your bad breath away.

3. Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil contains natural antiseptic and anti-fungal properties that help kill bacteria and fungi in your mouth, caused by particles of food left behind.

Preparation

  • You will need one teaspoon of tea tree oil, peppermint oil, and lemon oil.
  • Combine all three in eight ounces of lukewarm water and stir well. Use daily as a mouthwash to get rid of your bad breath.

Suffer from Dental Anxiety? Not a Problem.

October 9th, 2018

If you suffer from dental anxiety, we understand that paying a visit to our office can seem like a nearly impossible mission. Regardless of what the root of that anxiety might be, we’re here to tell you that at Pike & Valega, DDS, you have no need to be nervous. Our office is dedicated to making your dental experience as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

One of the best things to do if you experience dental anxiety is call our office in advance to let us know. By notifying us in advance, you give us the opportunity to provide you with the dental care you need in the way you need it.

We can prescribe a relaxation medication for you. During your appointment, we can provide a little bit of laughing gas to put you more at ease, teach you some behavioral techniques for relaxation, and make sure you’re never in the dark about what’s happening.

If dental anxiety makes you feel embarrassed, please be assured that you’re not alone. Studies show that as much as 75% of adults suffer some degree of dental anxiety! It might be helpful to remember that your doctor’s goal is the same as yours: We are here to keep your oral health in check so you can be your healthiest self. We certainly don’t want to make you uncomfortable in the process.

If you have any questions about other ways in which we can accommodate you during your visits, please don’t hesitate to contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

Does flossing hurt your gums?

October 3rd, 2018

Ideally, it should never hurt when you floss your teeth. But if you haven’t flossed in a long while or don’t do it regularly, you may experience sore or bleeding gums. You should floss every day to avoid pain and maintain the best oral hygiene. In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to make flossing a little more pleasant.

Be Gentle

If your gums are sensitive, take your time and be gentle while flossing. Rough flossing can lead to more irritation and soreness. Also, daily flossing should help your gums become acclimated to the practice, and as a result, irritation should decrease over time.

Use an Alternative Method

If you still feel discomfort after being gentle, an alternative method of flossing may work better for you. A water floss machine or Waterpik can dislodge food particles and plaque without irritating your gums. Also, some brands of floss have a soft coating that make them less harsh and harmful to your gums.

Many people tend to forget or skip flossing, but it is one of the most important steps your dental hygiene routine and shouldn’t be neglected. If you are consistent about flossing, your gums should become used to it and won’t be so irritated in time.

For more flossing tips, schedule an appointment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office and ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega or a member of our team!

Oh no, not the dentist!

October 2nd, 2018

If you or your children suffer from dental anxiety, you aren’t alone. According to the Cleveland Clinic, between nine and 15 percent of Americans admit to feeling sufficiently afraid of going to the dentist to avoid making an appointment. The potential consequences of dental anxiety extend beyond poor oral health. Lack of dental care can cause serious but easily preventable medical conditions.

Dental Anxiety versus Dental Phobia

Dental anxiety provokes a sense of fear in people, typically before they arrive at Pike & Valega, DDS. Those fears or worries are often exaggerated. Dental phobia shares many of the symptoms that characterize dental anxiety. It is a much more serious manifestation of that anxiety, and may provoke a sense of panic or terror in people. While people who suffer from dental phobias know that their feelings are irrational, they are unable to control, stop, or change those thoughts.

People who have dental phobias often avoid going to the dentist, and they come up with every possible excuse to justify not going. The only time a person who suffers from a dental phobia will go to the dentist is when he or she is forced to do so, or because of intense tooth pain. People who have dental anxiety don’t go to such extremes to avoid going to the dentist; anxiety usually begins in anticipation of the appointment.

What We Do to Ease Patient Anxiety

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our staff have many techniques we can use to help patients feel more comfortable at their appointments. Dental Fear Central gives some simple suggestions to help children and adults who are apprehensive about going to the dentist, even if they suffer from the more severe form of anxiety: full-blown dental phobia.

  • The Tell-Show-Do Approach: We help our patients relax by making sure they understand what is involved in the exam and any procedure they may undergo. We tell patients about the procedure, show them the tools and equipment we intend to use, and answer questions before actually performing the procedure. This is helpful for patients who don’t know what to expect.
  • Distraction: We offer personal music players and a collection of CDs that patients can listen to. The relaxing qualities of music may help distract a patient enough to make the process less stressful. In-office televisions allow you to watch TV while waiting for your appointment.

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our staff know that some patients are anxious about dental treatment, and we go to great lengths to make you feel more comfortable. Good oral health is very important, and when your mouth isn’t healthy, you can suffer from many other easily preventable medical problems.

Should Adults Continue Fluoride Treatments?

September 26th, 2018

Many adults wonder if they should continue to receive fluoride treatments. Our team at Pike & Valega, DDS wants to set the record straight about the usefulness of fluoride treatment for adults.

There are several reasons fluoride treatments could be beneficial to you as a grownup. If you have a high risk for cavities, topical fluoride applications can cut down on that risk.

If you’re experiencing gum recession that’s softening your enamel, fluoride treatments can slow down that process. Fluoride treatments may also protect expensive restorative work on crowns or bridges that may be adversely affected by plaque.

In addition, fluoride can also protect teeth in adults who have orthodontic braces or who sometimes neglect to keep up with daily oral hygiene regimens such as flossing and using mouthwash.

Do you have sensitive teeth? Consuming foods that are highly acidic or using teeth-whitening products can lead to irritated gums. Fluoride treatments remineralize your enamel and reduce sensitivity.

If you’ve undergone radiation treatment for cancer, fluoride can help restore any dry-mouth damage that may have developed during that time. Saliva acts as a buffer against the foods we eat, and without enough of it you may be more likely to get cavities.

In general, fluoride treatments are not always necessary for adults, but they can be beneficial to your overall oral hygiene depending on your situation. If you fall into one of the general areas listed above, ask about a fluoride treatment during your next visit at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

We can also go over your options to treat other issues you may experience in terms of your oral health. Until then, make sure to take care of your teeth properly and use toothpaste or mouthwash that contains fluoride on a regular basis.

Fluorosis: What is it?

September 25th, 2018

Many people think dental fluorosis is a disease, but it’s not; it’s a condition that affects the appearance of your tooth’s enamel, not the function or health of the teeth. These changes may vary from tiny, white, barely noticeable spots to very noticeable staining, discoloration, and brown markings. The spots and stains left by fluorosis are permanent and may darken over time.

Dental fluorosis occurs in children who are excessively exposed to fluoride between 20 and 30 months of age. Only children ages eight years and younger can develop dental fluorosis. Why? That is the period when permanent teeth are still developing under the gums. For kids, fluorosis can cause significant embarrassment and anxiety about the appearance of their teeth. No matter how much they might brush and floss, the fluorosis stains do not go away.

Many well-known sources of fluoride may contribute to overexposure, including:

  • Fluoridated mouth rinse, which young children may swallow
  • Bottled water which is not tested for fluoride content
  • Inappropriate use of fluoride supplements
  • Exposure to water that is naturally or unnaturally fluoridated to levels well above the recommended levels

One way to reduce the risk for enamel fluorosis is to teach your children not to swallow topical fluoride products, such as toothpaste that contains fluoride. In fact, kids should use no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste when brushing, and children under the age of two shouldn’t use fluoride toothpaste at all.

Dental fluorosis can be treated with tooth bleaching, microabrasion, and conservative composite restorations or porcelain veneers. Please give us a call at our office to learn more or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega.

I can't stop grinding my teeth! How can a dentist help?

September 19th, 2018

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will tell you that while you are sleep, your mouth may be very active. If you find yourself waking up with headaches, facial pain, neck aches, or a sore jaw, you may have tooth grinding, a condition we also call bruxism.

We see many people who experience some extent of tooth grinding, but a very small percentage of the population actually experiences symptoms severe enough to warrant visiting a doctor. If you continually experience any of the symptoms listed above, we encourage you to give us a call at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office so that we may be able to diagnose and treat the problem.

The most common treatments include:

  • Reducing your stress level to help relax your jaw muscles and prevent grinding
  • A custom-made night guard to cushion your teeth and protect them from damage
  • Changing your eating habits. Coffee, tea, or alcohol before bed can increase your chance of nightly grinding
  • If your jaw or teeth are misaligned, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega may also recommend a brace to decrease grinding.

Grinding your teeth can have serious consequences that, if left untreated, can lead to tooth fractures and damage to the TMJ (temporomandibular joint).

If you think your teeth may not be getting the rest they need at night, we encourage you to give us a call and schedule an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega. Call us today!

Seven Foods that will Give You a Smashing Smile

September 18th, 2018

As the saying goes, you are what you eat. But did you know that what you eat also affects your smile? Chow down on these seven tasty treats, recommended by Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our staff, for a healthier mouth and a smashing smile!

Sesame Seeds

These tiny seeds that you find in some Chinese and Thai dishes (as well as on top of your hamburger bun) are packed with bone-building calcium. They help to preserve and protect the bone that supports your teeth and gums. As a bonus, they also help to build up your tooth enamel while sloughing away plaque.

Kiwi

This funny little fruit has the highest amount of Vitamin C of any fruit, including oranges! What does this mean for your chompers? Well, you need Vitamin C to keep your gum tissue healthy and strong. Without it, they are more susceptible to periodontal disease.

Sweet Potatoes

These are not just for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner! You should add sweet potatoes to your regular diet. These tasty spuds are rich in Vitamin A, which your body uses to form tooth enamel and heal gum tissue.

Onions

You know those strong vapors from onions that make you cry? Well, they come from the sulfur compounds in the vegetable, which gives them a superpower-packed antibacterial punch. Get ready, though: Onions are most effective for your smile when you eat them raw!

Cheese

If you love cheese, you will love this news! Munching on some cheese helps prevent gum disease and cavities. The reason is that cheese is very high in calcium and phosphate, which help to balance the pH levels in your mouth. This in turn helps to preserve your tooth enamel and kill harmful bacteria.

Green Tea

Sipping on some green tea can not only help prevent cavities and gum disease, it can also kill the bacteria that cause bad breath. Score! Green tea has catechins, which actually kill the bacteria that cause plaque. So drink up! Your smile depends on it!

Celery

Have some fun with that crunchy stuff because, guess what? It is great for your smile! When you chew celery you produce saliva. Your saliva neutralizes cavity-causing bacteria. As a little added bonus, while you are chewing, it is giving your gums a little massage and cleaning between your teeth.

So grab some of these healthy snacks and give your mouth something to smile about!

Periodontics and Braces Treatment

September 12th, 2018

Most people think braces are all about their teeth. While it is true orthodontics is meant to move your teeth into proper position, there's more to it than that. To safely move your teeth with braces, you're going to need healthy and stable gums (or periodontium—the tissues that support your teeth).

For this reason it's critical to have your periodontal health evaluated prior to getting braces. This applies particularly to adults, since a 2013 study by the Center For Disease Control found that an estimated 47.2% of adults 30 years of age and older had periodontitis (gum disease). If you do have periodontitis, moving your teeth with braces will only make things worse.

Conversely, there is also risk for periodontal disease if you don't get orthodontic treatment. Malocclusion, as well as crooked and spaced teeth, can all contribute to periodontal disease. In these situations your teeth and gums are more difficult to clean and become breeding grounds for disease causing bacteria. Bad oral hygiene combined with these traits can greatly contribute to the development of periodontitis.

So, periodontics and braces have a tricky relationship. On one hand, you shouldn't get braces if you show signs of developing or have periodontitis, while on the other hand, braces can help prevent the possibility of developing periodontitis by correcting the bite and straightening the teeth.

If you are 30 years of age or older and are considering getting braces, it would be wise to first:

  • Let Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega know about your desire to get braces
  • Get an exam to make sure you're in good periodontal health and a good candidate for braces
  • If you are a good candidate, keep an eye on your teeth and gums and get regular dental checkups throughout your entire course of treatment.

If you are in any doubt about the status of your teeth and gums, it's always best to get them checked before embarking with braces treatment. For more information or to have your periodontal health assessed for braces treatment, please contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Your Options for Sedation Dentistry

September 11th, 2018

Fear of going to the dentist is more common than you may think. That’s why Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team want to make your visit as relaxing as possible.

Your anxiety about pain or routine procedures doesn’t have to stop you from visiting our Poolesville and Rockville MD office; we offer various types of sedation to remove the pain and stress from your dental procedure.

Nitrous Oxide Sedation

Nitrous oxide combined with local anesthetics ensures both pain relief and reduced anxiety for many patients. It’s useful because the dosage can be regulated during treatment, and patients are usually able to drive shortly after the procedure is completed.

Oral or Injected Sedation

With oral sedation, you may be given a pill or liquid to consume several hours before your treatment. Make sure someone will be available to drive you to your appointment, because you will not be able to drive yourself.

An oral liquid is often given to children before any shots or intravenous anesthesia. An intramuscular injection may be given at the office to provide relaxation benefits for 20 to 30 minutes.

Nitrous Oxide with an Oral Sedative

For patients with higher levels of anxiety, an oral or injected sedative can be offered before nitrous oxide begins. This can also be effective for reducing anxiety about the injection of local anesthetics itself. A liquid medication followed by nitrous oxide is beneficial for children to produce a deep sedation level.

General Anesthesia

This type of anesthesia can be offered as an inhaled gas or intravenous liquid. If no oral sedative is given before the general anesthesia is administered, you should wake up quickly after your procedure.

To reduce your anxiety, we can offer a pill or liquid medication before intravenous sedation starts. Intravenous sedation can also be used at moderate-to-deep sedation levels without complete loss of consciousness.

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team are happy to go over your sedation or pain prevention options when you visit. We’re here to ensure all your questions are answered and your procedure is a relaxing one.

The Link Between Dental Hygiene and Your Overall Health

September 6th, 2018

When patients of Pike & Valega, DDS hear any mention of oral or dental hygiene, they probably think of brushing and flossing their teeth. Although these are extremely important, the term dental hygiene encompasses much more than that. Your mouth’s health, including your teeth, has an important impact on your overall physical health. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research published the surgeon general's first ever report on dental health. It is called A National Call to Action to Promote Oral Health. In that report, the Surgeon General states that the 1948 World Health Organization expanded its earlier definition of health to "a complete state of physical, mental, and social well-being, and not just the absence of infirmity."

The Importance of Oral Health to Total Overall Health

One of the most important themes that the dental health report stressed is that you cannot be healthy without oral health. It went on to explain that oral health and general health are inextricably linked, and therefore can't be seen as two separate things. Because oral health is so critical to overall health, it should be included in all community health programs. For individuals, this means that it is just as important to take care of your mouth, your teeth, and your overall oral health as it is to take care of the rest of your body. The two most prevalent dental diseases are caries (cavities), also known as tooth decay, and periodontal (gum) disease.

Ways that Oral Health Impacts Overall Health

One important way in which good oral health contributes to better overall health is seen in the findings of several studies in which the blood sugar levels of diabetic patients were significantly lowered when their periodontal (or gum disease) was successfully treated. Your mouth has roughly 500 different species of bacteria. Many are harmless, and some are even good bacteria that help maintain the balance of your intestinal flora. Harmful bacteria can infect your gums, causing gingivitis. Your body's immune system may try to fight off the alien invaders, but they attack your gums, causing inflammation and bleeding when you brush.

Now that you know how important good dental hygiene is, be sure to see to get your teeth cleaned every six months, have regular dental checkups, brush and floss your teeth at least twice daily, and replace your toothbrush at least every couple of months. Call us to schedule your next appointment at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD location.

The Benefits of a Bright Smile

September 5th, 2018

Having a nice, bright smile can affect the way you look, and in turn, improve how you feel about yourself. With the help of Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega to provide you with a whitening treatment, you won’t have to be afraid to show your smile any longer.

It’s been shown that the first thing people typically notice is a person’s smile. Though many people don’t like to admit it, humans often judge others first on their looks.

Over time, your teeth may become stained from foods and beverages. Teeth-whitening techniques can be an effective solution to restore confidence in your smile and your life. Our team is here to help you regain your smile with brightened teeth that have been affected by wear.

Your smile can affect:

  • Personal and work-related relationships
  • Job interviews and meetings
  • Success dealing with customers and potential clients
  • Your confidence and general happiness
  • Overall outlook on daily interactions

Regaining confidence in your smile can be helpful in all these areas of your life and more. If you think your smile has been holding you back, it may be beneficial to restore your white teeth with the help of Pike & Valega, DDS.

If you’re interested in enhancing your smile, feel free to reach out to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office and we will be happy to go over the whitening options we provide.

Dental Veneers

September 4th, 2018

If you want to fix staining, large gaps, fillings, chipped teeth, or the overall shape of your teeth, this may be the perfect option for you. Many of our patients opted for veneers and have never been more confident in their smile!

Dental veneers are made from long-lasting porcelain materials which cover the front and biting ends of each tooth. At your appointment, you can choose the shade of veneers to brighten up your smile. They are usually placed on the anterior, or front teeth, where the chewing forces are not as hard as in the back. Placing the veneers is easy, and the best part is: It requires only two appointments!

During the first appointment, we’ll take an impressions of your teeth. Then we send them to the lab to make your veneers. Veneers are fairly conservative in preparation because they require a small amount of space to be created on the front, bottom, and sides of each tooth for a natural appearance. You will leave the office with temporary veneers in place for a week or two while the permanent veneers are being made.

Your veneers will be placed during the second appointment, and you won’t believe the difference in your smile! If you’re interested in learning more, give Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega a call at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office today!

Are dental X-rays safe?

August 29th, 2018

YES! X-rays have been used in dentistry for a long time, and the amount of radiation has significantly decreased with advances in technology. While there is risk in every health diagnostic procedure at Pike & Valega, DDS, the benefits must outweigh the risks. Dental X-rays do indeed fall into this category.

X-rays are exposed to a type of film to produce an image. The amount of X-rays required to produce this image differs with film speeds. Speed E or F is highly recommended, and digital X-rays require up to 50% less than speed E or F film. The digital X-ray software can adjust the exposure to produce a quality image. Digital X-rays are becoming a new standard and are most common.

Lead aprons have been used to reduce the amount of scatter radiation. All X-ray units have a cone to focus the X-ray beam so the exposure is highly localized. Lead aprons continue to be worn as a precaution for pregnant women, and a thyroid collar should also be worn. In most cases, this is sewn into the lead apron.

We get radiation exposure from environmental factors as well as healthcare diagnostic and treatment tools. To place this in perspective, in one year a person is expected to have 360mRem per year from the sun, air etc. By comparison, a single set of bitewing X-rays is 0.3mRem. Radiation can accumulate in our body over a lifetime, and additional exposure should be avoided whenever possible.

Top Five Reasons to Choose Veneers

August 28th, 2018

If you notice every imperfection in your smile and you are aiming for a more ideal-looking smile, veneers might be for you. Veneers are common tools in cosmetic dentistry for improving the look of your teeth. They are thin layers, either made of resin composite or dental porcelain, that go over your teeth. If you are considering dental veneers, these five reasons to choose them may help persuade you.

1. They hide imperfections.

The basis of cosmetic dentistry is providing an attractive smile, and veneers are designed to hide imperfections such as chipped, uneven, or badly aligned teeth. With veneers, teeth are even and uniformly colored.

2. They are durable.

Dental veneers can last for a decade to up to 30 years, so you do not need to continually go back to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office to replace them. On average, veneers last longer than standard fillings.

3. You can get the process done quickly.

Often, you can get a full set of dental veneers in a three visits and within a few weeks. The first appointment is a consultation to evaluate your teeth and plan your treatment. At the next visit, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team prepare your teeth for veneers and take an impression of your teeth so the laboratory can custom-make your veneers. During the final visit, we bond the new veneers to the surfaces of your teeth.

4. They can whiten the appearance of your teeth.

Coffee, smoking, excessive fluoride, and certain drugs can yellow your teeth over time. Dental veneers can be colored to have a bright white appearance so your teeth appear noticeably whiter. This can be especially beneficial for individuals whose teeth are naturally off-white and do not respond well to bleach-based whitening treatments.

5. They can fix minor dental problems.

Dental veneers are not solely cosmetic. They can improve a variety of dental concerns, such as teeth with uneven spaces. They can hide the appearance of chipped and broken teeth, and make more even teeth that are worn down, spaced unevenly, or shaped irregularly. Since Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can manufacture the veneers to match your natural tooth color, these thin layers are more attractive than unsightly fixes such as metal fillings.

How do I know when I have a cavity?

August 22nd, 2018

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS frequently field questions about cavities and what causes them. Patients will typically ask, “I brush twice a day and floss regularly, as well as rinse with hydrogen peroxide, so a cavity is unlikely, right?”

Not quite.

When cavities, also known as caries, are in their initial stages, people often will feel no symptoms, and they won’t experience any pain or discomfort. It’s not until the tooth decay has reached a certain level that patients begin to notice the signs. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may want to consider scheduling an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega as soon as possible:

  • Dull or sharp toothache
  • Tooth sensitivity or mild to sharp pain when eating or drinking something sweet, hot, or cold
  • Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
  • The presence of a sticky, tarry feeling when biting down
  • Puss or discharge around a tooth, especially when pressing on your gums
  • Visible holes or discoloration in your teeth (usually black or brown)

Cavities can happen at any time, to anyone, no matter how old you are. Routine dental care is important to prevent cavities or the onset of tooth decay, so it is important to visit Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS for regular cleanings. If you are overdue for a checkup or think you may have a cavity, please give us a call at Poolesville and Rockville MD office to schedule an appointment.

Do adults need fluoride treatments?

August 21st, 2018

Many dentists and hygienists recommend fluoride treatments for their adult patients. You might ask yourself, “Do I really need a fluoride treatment? I thought those were just for my kids.” After all, most insurance plans cover fluoride treatments only up to the age of 18.

What you need to know as a dental consumer is that studies have shown topical fluoride applications performed by a dental professional create a significant benefit for adults who have moderate to high risk for cavities.

There are several circumstances that warrant extra fluoride protection among adults. Many prescription medications reduce saliva flow or otherwise create dry mouth. A reduction in saliva increases cavity risk.

Adults often experience gum recession, which exposes part of the root surface of teeth. These areas are softer than the hard enamel at the top of the tooth, which makes them more susceptible to decay.

In addition, adults often get restorative work such as crowns or bridges. Fluoride can help protect the margins of these restorations, ultimately protecting your investment.

Today many people opt for orthodontic treatment (braces) as adults. Braces make it more challenging for patients to maintain good oral hygiene. Just ask your kids! Fluoride can keep the teeth strong and cavity-free even with the obstacle of orthodontic appliances.

Have you had a restoration done within the last year due to new decay? If you have, that puts you at a higher risk for cavities. Fluoride treatments are a great way to prevent more cavities in patients who are already prone to them.

How is that flossing coming along? You know you should floss daily, but do you? If your oral hygiene is not ideal, fluoride could be just the thing to keep your neglect from leading to cavities between your teeth.

Fluoride can also help with the growing problem of sensitive teeth. Diets high in acidic foods and beverages, general gum recession, and increased use of whitening products all tend to produce sensitive teeth. Fluoride treatments re-mineralize tooth enamel and reduce that sensitivity.

Patients who undergo radiation treatment for cancer also benefit from topical fluoride applications. Radiation damages saliva glands, thus greatly reducing the flow of saliva. Saliva acts as a buffer against the foods we eat and beverages we drink. Once again, less saliva greatly increases the risk of cavities.

If one or more of these conditions applies to you, consider requesting a topical fluoride treatment. Be sure to ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega at your next appointment whether you might benefit from a topical fluoride application.

What should I use to clean my baby’s teeth?

August 15th, 2018

You might think babies don’t need to brush their teeth, especially when they don’t have any. But by starting good habits like brushing when your child is young, you can lay the foundation for them to continue those good habits into adulthood.

When do I start?

The best time to start brushing your baby’s teeth is before he or she has any. Develop the habit of wiping your baby’s gums with a wet, soft washcloth or gauze every day. There is no need to use toothpaste, just wrap the gauze or cloth around your finger, moisten it with a little water, and gently rub it over the gums.

This helps your little one get used to brushing while it eliminates bacteria in the mouth that can harm emerging teeth. You don’t need to apply a lot of pressure or even take very long: just a quick, gentle rub over the gums will do it.

What do I use?

When your child’s teeth begin to come in, you will need to switch from a cloth to a baby toothbrush. Find one that has a grip big enough for your hand, but a head that is small enough to maneuver easily in your infant’s mouth.

You don’t need to use any toothpaste until your son or daughter is about a year old. Even then, though, you’ll want to use just a tiny amount: about the size of a grain of rice. When your toddler is about two years old, you can use a pea-sized amount.

By around six years of age, your child will probably rinse and spit without your help. At that point, you may want to introduce a child-friendly fluoride mouthwash.

How do I do it?

Your child probably won’t be able to brush his or her teeth alone until about the age of five or six. This means that you will need to do it. To brush your child’s teeth, gently use the brush over all the teeth and gums, even areas where the teeth have not come in yet.

As your child grows and becomes more independent, you can allow him or her to hold the toothbrush while you guide your child’s progress. Make sure you talk to your child while you are brushing, and explain why you brush: what you are doing and how you are doing it.

In addition to regular visits with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, instilling good oral health habits in your child early on will ensure a lifetime of good dental health.

Fluoride Use in Adolescents

August 14th, 2018

Fluoride is a mineral that plays an essential role in oral health. In fact, the significant reduction in American tooth decay in recent decades can be attributed to a greater availability of fluoride in public water supplies, toothpaste, and other resources. When it comes in contact with the teeth, fluoride helps protect the enamel from acid and plaque bacteria. In some cases, it can even reverse tooth decay in its earliest stages.

Despite the benefits of fluoride, tooth decay is still common, especially among teenagers. The Centers for Disease Control reports that cavities can be found in more than half of young teens and two-thirds of older teens over age 16. Many of those teens are deficient in fluoride, either due to a lack of public water fluoridation or the use of bottled water. So how can parents ensure their teens are getting the fluoride they need to facilitate strong, healthy teeth?

Monitor Fluoride Exposure

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS recommend you start by measuring your teen’s fluoride exposure. Make sure you purchase fluoridated toothpaste for your household, and find out if your tap water is fluoridated. If your teen primarily consumes bottled water, examine the bottle to determine whether fluoride has been added. The majority of bottled waters are not supplemented with fluoride, but those that are will be clearly labeled.

Fluoride Supplementation

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega may recommend topical fluoride treatments at routine dental exams. These treatments are painless for your teen and may help establish stronger enamel that is more resistant to plaque and tooth decay. If you have a public water supply that is non-fluoridated, we may recommend fluoride supplementation between visits. These can be administered as drops, tablets, or vitamins.

Keep in mind that fluoride is most important for children and teens under the age of 16. Be proactive about your teen’s oral health by speaking with us about your family’s fluoride needs at your next dental visit.

For more information about fluoride, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, please give us a call at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

Good Dental Hygiene Gives You Better Overall Health

August 8th, 2018

What do you think of when you hear the term dental or oral hygiene? Brushing and flossing tend to come to mind, since that is what the terms imply.

What you might not know, however, is that good dental hygiene involves much more than just your mouth. That’s the tip of the iceberg … just a piece of the complex puzzle that is the human body.

Simply put, you cannot be fully healthy if you don’t have good oral health. Studies have shown that oral health and body health are closely linked and in fact almost impossible to define as separate phenomena.

Take gum disease, for example. It’s one of the most common dental infections, but it doesn’t just affect your gums. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, gum disease can be directly linked to more serious complications such as strokes and heart disease. Doesn’t that make you want to floss a little more often?

This goes the other way, too. Many oral events like sores, swollen gums, and dry mouth syndrome, which might seem fairly trivial and even harmless, may be signals of a much bigger problem: possibly leukemia, kidney disease, diabetes, or pancreatic cancer.

Now that you’ve been made aware of just how vital dental health is for your overall health (and vice versa), the best thing to do is what you’re probably already doing: making sure you brush and floss, as well as maintain a well-balanced diet. It’s also smart to keep away from cigarettes and tobacco, because both are known to contribute to periodontal disease.

In addition, be sure to keep getting your teeth cleaned every six months! If you’re due for a cleaning, give our Poolesville and Rockville MD office a call to schedule an appointment at Pike & Valega, DDS.

When do children usually lose their baby teeth?

August 7th, 2018

Many parents worry that their children’s teeth are not falling out on time. A lot of concerned parents want to know: When will my child lose his or her first baby tooth? At what age should the last tooth fall out? Is there a specific order in which the teeth are lost?

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team explain that a child's 20 baby teeth (primary teeth) typically come in by age three and begin to loosen and fall out on their own to make room for permanent teeth, which usually appear by the time your child is six. It is important to know that timing may vary, and girls typically lose their baby teeth earlier than boys. The last baby teeth will likely fall out by the time your child is 13.

So, which teeth do children lose first? Baby teeth tend to fall out in the order in which they came, which means the lower center incisors are usually the first to go when your child is between six and seven years old. The next teeth your child will lose are his or her top center pair, also called the upper central incisors.

It’s important to note that if a child loses a baby tooth early as a result of decay or an unforeseen accident, his or her permanent tooth may erupt early and potentially come in crooked due to limited space. If your child suffers an injury or has tooth decay, we encourage you to give us a call to set up an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega.

While we know some children couldn’t be more excited to lose their baby teeth, we know others are anxious about this childhood milestone. When your child starts to lose teeth, our team at Pike & Valega, DDS encourages you to stress the importance of proper dental care on a daily basis.

Remember to:

  • Remind your child to brush his or her teeth at least twice a day. Supervise and offer assistance as needed.
  • Help your child floss his or her teeth at bedtime.
  • Limit eating and drinking between meals and at bedtime, especially sugary treats and drinks, such as candy and soda.
  • Schedule regular dental visits for your child every six months.
  • Ask about the use of fluoride treatments and dental sealants to help prevent tooth decay.

To learn more about baby teeth, or to schedule your child's next visit with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office, please give us a call today!

Infant Teething Remedies: What Might Help—And What to Avoid

August 1st, 2018

Some lucky babies wake one morning displaying a brand new tooth to the complete surprise of their unsuspecting parents! But your happy baby is irritable and drooling. Or your hearty eater doesn’t feel like finishing her food. Perhaps she finds it hard to go to sleep when she’s usually nodded off before you finish the first lullaby. A small number of children suffer little or no discomfort teething, but for the majority of babies who do, here are some helpful ways to ease their teething pain.

  • Massage--Rubbing your baby’s gums with a clean finger or piece of gauze—gentle pressure is all you need. And do be careful of your fingers once those teeth start coming in!
  • Chewing—there are many colorful and easy to grasp teething toys available, including BPA-free models.
  • Cool Relief—Cool a solid teether in the refrigerator to help ease discomfort. Placing a teething ring in the freezer is not recommended, as extreme cold can be damaging to little mouths and gums.
  • Comfort Food—If your baby is eating solid foods, try cold applesauce or other purees.
  • Skin Care—Drooling is often part of the teething process, but try to keep your child’s face free from rash and chaffing by wiping with a clean cloth when necessary.

And while you are trying to keep your baby comfortable, also be sure to keep her safe!

  • Know what your baby is putting into her mouth. All teething items should be non-toxic and free of harmful chemicals. Teethers filled with fluids may break or leak, so a solid toy is best.
  • Make teething items size-appropriate. Avoid anything small or breakable that might present a choking hazard.
  • Over-the-counter gels and liquids containing benzocaine, meant to reduce pain in the gums and mouth, may on rare occasion lead to serious health conditions in small children. Always check with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega or your pediatrician before buying an over-the-counter teething medication for your baby.

For many babies, teething can be a long and sometimes difficult process. If there is anything we can do to help you and your baby in this journey, please give our Poolesville and Rockville MD office a call.

When do children usually lose their baby teeth?

July 31st, 2018

Many parents have concerns about their children’s teeth not falling out on time. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team are here to answer any questions parents may have about when children lose their teeth.

Children have 20 primary teeth that come in around age three. By about age six, these teeth will loosen and begin to fall out on their own to make room for the permanent ones. It is common for girls to lose their baby teeth earlier than boys. Most children lose their final baby tooth by age 13.

Baby teeth normally fall out in the order in which they came in. The lower center incisors are usually the first to fall, around age six or seven, followed by the upper central incisors.

If a child loses a tooth to decay or an accident, the permanent tooth may come in too early and take a crooked position due to teeth crowding. If your child loses a tooth to decay or accident, call Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega to make an appointment.

Some kids can’t wait for their baby teeth to fall out, while others dread the thought of losing a tooth. When your child begins to lose teeth, you should emphasize the importance of proper dental care on a daily basis to promote a healthy mouth.

Remember to:

  • Remind your child to brush his or her teeth at least twice a day and offer assistance if needed
  • Help your child floss at bedtime
  • Limit eating and drinking between meals and at bedtime, especially sugary treats and drinks
  • Schedule regular dental visits for your child every six months.
  • Ask about the use of fluoride treatments and dental sealants to help prevent tooth decay.

Call Pike & Valega, DDS to learn more about caring for baby teeth or to schedule an appointment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

Why do wisdom teeth need to be removed?

July 25th, 2018

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS get this question a lot. Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to come in, once young people get their adult teeth. Because they are the last teeth to break through the gums, they are often called the third molars. There are four wisdom teeth: two on each side of the top and bottom of the mouth.

There is no hard-and-fast rule that says everyone must have the wisdom teeth removed. There are certain situations in which they either cause problems directly, or create a situation where there is a greater likelihood problems will arise eventually.

Impacted wisdom teeth

If Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team say you have a soft tissue impaction, it means your wisdom tooth is covered by gum tissue that is preventing it from erupting — most likely because your mouth is too small to provide the tooth with the room it needs to emerge.

The term “partial bony impaction” means that gum tissue is covering the wisdom tooth, but part of the jaw bone is also covering it, in which case there is no room in your mouth for the tooth to erupt. The opposite end of this spectrum is a complete bony impaction, where the wisdom tooth is completely covered by gum tissue and the jawbone, which prevent it from ever erupting.

The importance of removing impacted wisdom teeth

Dentists often want to remove impacted wisdom teeth because of the likelihood that they will cause problems, or because a problem already exists. One such problem is pericoronitis, an acute abscess that affects partially impacted wisdom teeth. Food, bacteria, and other mouth debris can become lodged under the gum flap that covers the wisdom tooth, which prevents it from erupting. Pericoronitis symptoms include pain, swelling, and the presence of an abscess.

Regular dental checkups will enable your dentist to keep an eye on your wisdom teeth, especially if they have some type of impaction. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS typically recommend removal of impacted wisdom teeth because of the likelihood that severe infections such as pericoronitis will develop.

If you have any questions about wisdom teeth, or if you would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, please give us a call at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

What are dental sealants and how do they work?

July 24th, 2018

A dental sealant is a liquid that is applied to the teeth. The sealant hardens and provides a protective coating that is designed to reduce cavities and create a smoother tooth surface. Dental sealants are clear or white; they do not take away from the appearance of teeth. You can think about this treatment as being similar to varnish that protects a wood floor.

Sealants are not the same as fluoride treatments. The application is similar, but sealants are a semi-permanent protective coating. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our staff recommend that sealant applications for children begin soon after molars erupt, first molars around the age of six, and second molars around the age of 12.

Simple Application

Having sealants applied is not uncomfortable at all. First, your child's teeth will be cleaned and dried. A gel is applied, which helps the sealant adhere to the tooth, and then is rinsed away. Your child's teeth are dried again and the sealant is applied. A few seconds of exposure to a light source may be used to cure the sealant and make it semi-permanent. Sealants should last for a long time, normally between five and ten years.

Sealant Benefits

The coating on the surface of your child's teeth reduces the amount of acid contact. Normal acids in foods that are consumed can eat away at the surface of teeth. Bacteria also react to plaque formation and create more acid in the mouth. These small pits or weakened areas are prone to caries or cavity formation. Preventing cavities is a much better choice than drilling and filling damaged teeth.

A sealant also helps to smooth the chewing surfaces of your childn't teeth. The smoother surface is not as likely to retain small particles of food and bacteria. Your child's mouth stays cleaner and food is not left behind to form acids. The protective application can also be used on other teeth that have a rough surface, to protect the grooves or pits from decay.

After the sealant is applied, your child still needs to take proper care of his or her teeth. Regular brushing and flossing is required. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega may recommend fluoride treatments to strengthen and protect your child's teeth further.

If you have any concerns about sealants, please discuss them with during your child's next appointment at Pike & Valega, DDS. We want your little one's teeth to stay healthy for life.

Why should I have my child’s wisdom teeth removed?

July 18th, 2018

The wisdom teeth are the last of the permanent molars to emerge from the gums. This can occur as early as age 17 or as late as 21. Though some teens and young adults experience a completely normal tooth eruption with ideally aligned molars that pose no health threat, this is not the case for everyone.

According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), wisdom teeth must meet specific criteria to avoid a required extraction. These guidelines include:

  • Completely erupted and non-impacted
  • Completely functional
  • Painless
  • Free of decay
  • Disease-free
  • Capable of being properly cleaned

If one or more of your child’s wisdom teeth do not meet these conditions, we recommend scheduling an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega; an extraction may be necessary.

Impacted wisdom teeth

One of the most common reasons for extracting a wisdom tooth is due to impaction. An impacted wisdom tooth is one that has not erupted and will not fully erupt from the gums. Usually this occurs because there is not enough room for the tooth to emerge. Impaction can be painful and can also lead to infection if left untreated. According to the AAOMS, roughly 90 percent of the teen and adult population has at least one impacted tooth. Extracting an impacted wisdom tooth early can help prevent future complications, such as periodontal disease, infections, and damage to neighboring teeth.

Extracting fully erupted wisdom teeth

Even if your child’s wisdom teeth are fully erupted, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS may recommend removing them as a preventive measure. Fully-erupted third molars often interfere with a healthy bite. This can lead to problems with tooth and jaw alignment and may also contribute to the development of headaches. Your child’s wisdom teeth may also be more prone to tooth decay and gum disease, because their location in the back of the mouth makes them more difficult to reach for brushing and flossing.

To learn more about wisdom teeth, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, please give us a call at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

Brushing Your Toddler’s Teeth

July 17th, 2018

At Pike & Valega, DDS, we know that brushing your toddler’s teeth can be an intimidating prospect. So we’re providing a few tips in the hope of making the process a lot more easy, effective, and all-around enjoyable for everyone!

Start by getting into a position that gives you control and enables you to see well into your child’s mouth. If you can see clearly, you will be able to maneuver the toothbrush better around your son or daughter’s mouth for a better quality of brushing.

It’s important to choose a time when your toddler is calm. Have your little one sit with his or her favorite stuffed animal, or play a fun movie in the background so your child can focus on something comforting while you’re brushing.

Using a circular motion, brush all sides of their teeth. Be sure to let your toddler have a turn after you’re done, to start getting used to it. This way, he or she is more likely to repeat the brushing and flossing exercise when your youngster is old enough.

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team agree that brushing and flossing need to be performed with kindness and care. To ensure your child learns good dental hygiene habits early on, be gentle and make this time a happy, learning time.

Your child should also have regular appointments at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office for checkups and cleanings to keep on track!

What exactly is periodontal disease?

July 11th, 2018

Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. Our team at Pike & Valega, DDS wants you to know that this common ailment can be fixed with little worry if treated properly.

Periodontal disease is usually identified through dental X-rays, probe depths, and visual exams. If left untreated, it can lead to tooth sensitivity, premature tooth loss, or discomfort and pain in your mouth. Some common symptoms to watch for include bleeding or swollen gums, bad breath, teeth movement, or jaw displacement.

Factors that may increase your risk of developing periodontal disease may include poor oral hygiene, smoking/chewing tobacco, genetics, stress, inadequate nutrition, pregnancy, diabetes, and some medications. Some of these causes are avoidable, but others are not.

If you have diabetes, you may be more prone to periodontal disease due to the greater difficulty in controlling blood glucose levels. Studies have shown that once periodontal disease is treated, glucose levels become more responsive to control as well. If your risk for periodontal disease is heightened by one of these factors, make sure to watch for the signs and keep up with your daily oral hygiene routine.

How can you treat this common disease that affects almost half of the population? Depending on the severity, treatment can include a medicated mouth rinse, antibiotic treatment, laser therapy, or scaling and root planing. It’s useful to recall that this condition can vary from mild to severe, which is why you should make an appointment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office if you notice any of the above symptoms.

 

Oral Cancer Facts and Figures

July 10th, 2018

Oral cancer is largely viewed as a disease that affects those over the age of 40, but it can affect all ages, even non-tobacco and alcohol users. Oral cancer can occur on the lips, gums, tongue, inside lining of the cheeks, roof of the mouth, and the floor of the mouth. Our team at Pike & Valega, DDS recently put together some facts and figures to illustrate the importance of visiting our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Our friends at the American Cancer Society recommend an oral cancer screening exam every three years for people over the age of 20 and annually for those over age 40. Because early detection can improve the chance of successful treatment, be sure to ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team to conduct an oral exam during your next visit to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

  • Symptoms of oral cancer may include a sore in the throat or mouth that bleeds easily and does not heal, a red or white patch that persists, a lump or thickening, ear pain, a neck mass, or coughing up blood. Difficulties in chewing, swallowing, or moving the tongue or jaws are often late symptoms.
  • The primary risk factors for oral cancer in American men and women are tobacco (including smokeless tobacco) and alcohol use. Risk rises dramatically (30%) for people who both smoke and consume alcohol regularly.
  • Oral cancers are part of a group of cancers commonly referred to as head and neck cancers, and of all head and neck cancers they comprise about 85% of that category.
  • Oral cancer is the sixth most common cancer among men.
  • Oral cancer is more likely to affect people over 40 years of age, though an increasing number of young people are developing the condition.
  • Death rates have been decreasing over the past three decades; from 2004 to 2008, rates decreased by 1.2% per year in men and by 2.2% per year in women, according to the American Cancer Society.
  • About 75% to 80% of people with oral cavity and pharynx cancer consume alcohol.
  • The risk of developing oral cavity and pharynx cancers increases both with the amount as well as the length of time tobacco and alcohol products are used.
  • For all stages combined, about 84% of people with oral cancer survive one year after diagnosis. The five- and ten-year relative survival rates are 61% and 50%, respectively.
  • It is estimated that approximately $3.2 billion is spent in the United States annually on treatment of head and neck cancers.

Cancer can affect any part of the oral cavity, including the lip, tongue, mouth, and throat. Through visual inspection, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS can often detect premalignant abnormalities and cancer at an early stage, when treatment is both less extensive and more successful.

Please let us now if you have any questions about your oral health either during your next scheduled appointment, by giving us a call or asking us on Facebook.

When to Begin Dental Care for Your Baby

July 4th, 2018

Children’s oral health differs from the needs of adults in many ways. It’s vital for you to understand what your child needs to keep his or her teeth healthy. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team are here to answer your questions to set you and your little one up for success.

In-home dental care should start as soon as your baby show signs of developing that first tooth. At around age one or two, bring your son or daughter to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will examine your child’s tooth development and gum health.

The initial appointment will focus on getting your youngster familiar with our office and comfortable with our staff. We will go over several general matters during that first visit:

  • Inspect for signs of decay or other tooth or gum problems
  • Check for gum disease or cavities
  • Examine your child’s bite and possible misalignment
  • Clean the teeth, and apply fluoride if your child is old enough
  • Talk with parents about proper oral health
  • Give you tips for brushing and flossing your little one’s teeth
  • Answer any questions you may have about caring for your son or daughter’s teeth

Once your child is old enough for the first dental visit, you should schedule regular cleanings every six months. Call our Poolesville and Rockville MD location if you have any conflicts or questions.

Is it possible to over brush?

July 3rd, 2018

Our team at Pike & Valega, DDS will tell you brushing on a regular basis is critical for a healthy mouth, but you can definitely overdo a good thing. Known as “toothbrush abrasion,” over brushing can lead to sensitive teeth and receding gums, not to mention the wearing down of the protective layers of your tooth enamel. Over brushing can also push back your gums, and in the process, expose the dentin layer under the enamel.

“So, how do I avoid over brushing?”

  • Use a soft or extra-soft bristled toothbrush to prevent gum damage and wear on the soft tooth dentin
  • Keep in mind which direction bristles face when you brush. They should be perpendicular, not parallel. Place the head of your toothbrush with the tips of the bristles at a 45-degree angle to the gum line and brush away!
  • Move the toothbrush with short strokes and a scrubbing motion, several times in each spot – don’t saw back and forth across the teeth with your toothbrush.
  • Apply just enough pressure to feel the bristles against the gums. If you are squashing the bristles, you're brushing too hard.
  • Replace your toothbrush when you notice frayed and bent bristles.
  • Brush for two minutes at a time

If you have any questions about proper brushing techniques, ask us about it at your next appointment or give us a call today!

Nitrous Oxide

June 27th, 2018

Nitrous oxide is a gaseous sedative that’s inhaled through a small mask placed over the nose. Often referred to as laughing gas — because of the euphoric effects it produces — nitrous is used in our Poolesville and Rockville MD office for its anesthetic/analgesic properties.

It will make it so you don’t feel the pain of dental treatment or have an experience that some patients may find traumatic.

Nitrous oxide’s use in the dental field dates back to about the mid-1800s, but when it was introduced, practitioners didn't understand the need to add oxygen. These days all nitrous oxide is administered with at least 30% oxygen for safety (so it forms the compound N2O-O2).

If you need any form of dental treatment, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega may find it necessary to administer nitrous oxide. Some of the effects you may experience while you’re sedated include:

  • Lightheadedness, tingling in the arms and legs, followed by a warm or comforting sensation
  • A euphoric feeling or feeling like you are floating
  • Inability to keep your eyes open, so it seems as if you’re asleep

If at any time you feel uncomfortable, irritated, or sick, let Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega know, so the percentage of nitrous oxide being used can be adjusted. The effects dissipate quickly once you return to breathing regular air.

It’s best to be informed about all aspects of your dental treatment before you arrive. There are alternatives to nitrous oxide, so if you’re at all concerned, please don’t hesitate to ask questions about other options for sedation.

Analgesic (numbing) injections can often be used locally at the surgical site. We’ll find what works best for your particular case.

Crushing the Ice-Chewing Habit

June 26th, 2018

It's a habit many people have and not only can it be annoying to the people around you, it can be detrimental to your dental health. Chewing ice is so common that it even has its own name, pagophagia. We're not talking about a slushy or shaved ice (although those artificially sugary treats should be avoided too!) but more like the hunks of ice rattling around in the bottom of your glass.

Ice chewing can be a sign of emotional problems like stress or obsessive-compulsive disorder, but it can also be a marker for iron deficiency anemia and other physical problems. Then again, some people just like to have something to chew on. For whatever reason you find yourself chewing on it, it's a habit you need to break.

Chewing on ice can cause:

  • Chipped and cracked teeth
  • Damaged enamel
  • Sore jaw muscles
  • Damage to dental work such as crowns, fillings, or other appliances

If chewing on ice is becoming a problem in your life, don’t hesitate to speak with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega about it. But if you find yourself still wanting to chew on something, here are a few alternatives to ice:

  • Baby carrots
  • Celery sticks
  • Sugar-free (xylitol) gum

We know you need to chill sometimes, but chomping down your entire glass of ice is not the way to do it. If you have any other questions on the topic, feel free to talk with a member of our Poolesville and Rockville MD team. It may be beneficial in solving the issue and helping to remediate any damage to your teeth.

Tips for Lifelong Teeth Whitening

June 20th, 2018

Over time, everyone’s teeth can naturally become dull, due to aging and consumption of staining foods such as chocolate and coffee. The good news is that teeth-whitening treatments can help you maintain white teeth that last a lifetime.

Get Regular Treatments

Regular treatments at Pike & Valega, DDS are necessary to keep your teeth white for life, since whitening treatments are only temporary. Bleaching too frequently, however, can wear away your tooth enamel.

The effects of in-office bleaching are safe and can last for several months to a year. You may need to repeat your use of at-home bleaching kits every few months to maintain your white teeth. As far as day to day, whitening toothpastes are safe to use on a daily basis. The American Dental Association suggests you ask your dentist for advice on which treatment is best for you.

Have Realistic Expectations

Everyone’s teeth are different and, according to the American Dental Association, not all smiles can be turned bright white. Teeth can naturally be a light yellowish color that responds well to teeth-whitening procedures, but bleach is not likely to be effective for grayish teeth. Results for brownish teeth fall somewhere in between.

Practice Good Oral Hygiene

Good hygiene is imperative for teeth-whitening efforts. Visible fillings, implants, or bridges that are metallic can be visible against the white color you desire. These treatments can be prevented by maintaining a good oral hygiene routine.

In addition to brushing your teeth twice a day to remove dirt and potential staining agents, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Floss every day
  • Visit our Poolesville and Rockville MD office every six months
  • Rinse your mouth with water after each meal and snack
  • Limit sugary and starchy foods and beverages, especially between meals

 

Easing Your Allergies with Latex-Free Dentistry

June 19th, 2018

Imagine this scenario: you go to the dentist to have a cavity filled, and an hour after the procedure you have a runny nose, scratchy throat, and your arms are breaking out in blotchy, red hives. In other words, you’re in worse shape after the visit to the dentist than you were before you walked in to have the cavity fixed. If you experience any of these types of symptoms or side effects, chances are you have a latex allergy.

What is a latex allergy?

A latex allergy is a hypersensitivity to latex proteins. If you have this allergy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that you avoid direct contact with any materials that contain latex. While latex gloves are known to cause allergic reactions in people with a latex allergy, certain metals, plastics, and other materials used in dental care can also cause an adverse response.

A runny nose and itchy eyes are common allergic reactions to latex. However, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS want you to know it can also trigger more severe symptoms, including asthma, wheezing, and cardiovascular and gastrointestinal ailments.

A latex-safe dental environment

Many dental offices screen patients for a latex allergy. This is only beneficial, however, if you’re already aware you have a latex allergy. The best thing you can do to ease your allergies is to find a dentist who has a latex-safe environment. A latex-safe dental environment observes the following protocols:

  • All patients are screened for a latex allergy.
  • No personnel use latex gloves.
  • All latex products are removed from the patient’s vicinity, including rubber dams and elastics.
  • Work areas contaminated with latex powder are cleaned frequently.
  • Signs are posted to communicate all latex allergy procedures in case of an emergency.

If a latex allergy is part of your medical history, then it’s in your best interest to find a latex-free dental environment. To learn more about latex-free dentistry, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, please give us a call at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

What to Expect if You Haven’t Been to the Dentist in Forever

June 13th, 2018

It’s easy to miss a dental appointment. Life and duties intervene, and suddenly you have to push your appointment back once, then again, or forget about it.

We get that. These days, we all have a lot going on. But what we don’t want is for a lengthy absence to make you anxious about returning. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been, we always love to see you! So let’s take a moment to explain what you can expect when you pay us a visit.

Your appointment will last roughly 60 to 90 minutes, so keep that in mind when you schedule it and plan accordingly. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team want you to feel comfortable.

One of the first things we will ask is the reason for your visit. You’ll have the opportunity to let us know about any concerns or questions you may have. No question is too small, so ask away!

Next, we will go over your medical and dental history to make updates to your file as necessary. This will usually be followed by X-rays to give us a better idea of what is currently happening with your teeth. We will finish with a screening for oral cancer and periodontal disease. If you haven’t visited us in a while, we want to make sure nothing serious is going on.

After that, you will undergo a cleaning with one of our hygienists. Your teeth will be cleaned and checked for such things as broken fillings, cracked teeth, or active decay. Finally, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will come by for a final look and a rundown of your dental needs.

Then you’re ready to go! On your way out, you’ll discuss options for scheduling your next appointment, insurance coverage, and payment plans if applicable. You will also receive a goodie bag with a new toothbrush, floss, and toothpaste to get you started (and motivated) on the path to great dental health!

We always want our patients’ experience to be as comfortable and as easy as possible. From the moment you pick up the phone to make your appointment, our team is here to make sure we always meet your needs.

No matter how long it’s been since your last visit, we hope you’ll give us a call to make your next appointment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Help! My gums hurt when I floss!

June 12th, 2018

By no stretch is it rare for your gums to hurt during and after flossing. Even some bleeding is to be expected. This is especially true if you have not flossed in a long time. However, if your gums do indeed hurt when you floss, and unbearably so, there are some things you can do.

Be Gentle

Perhaps the most obvious way to combat gum soreness and bleeding is to be gentle. One of the most common occurrences of these gum problems is over-aggressive flossing. In other words, if you are too rough on your gums while flossing, either because you are out of practice or because you are in a hurry, soreness and hurting is to be expected. Instead, try taking your time and be gentle. Also, if you are just starting out, be patient and consistent, your gums will become more conditioned over time.

Use an Alternative Method

If being consistent and gentle does not work, there are other alternative methods of flossing that you can try. You can also try a water floss machine, or what is sometimes called a water pick. The device essentially shoots water into the crevasses between your teeth, and in other areas of your mouth, in order to dislodge food and plaque. These oral instruments also come with different attachments that allow you to reach many of the hard to see and reach areas of your mouth. And lastly, you can always buy floss that is not as abrasive to your gums. There is floss that comes with soft and gentle coatings that will do less harm to your gums while they are adjusting to the good oral hygiene habit you are creating.

Flossing is one of the easiest parts of oral hygiene to overlook. When you first start out, it is common that you may want to stop because of the pain it can initially cause. However, if you try one, or all, of the above mentioned methods, you will give yourself the best chance of being success with your flossing, and it won't hurt as much.

For more flossing tips, schedule an appointment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office and askDr. Pike and Dr. Valega or a member of our team!

My mouth is dry. What can I do?

June 6th, 2018

Nobody likes a dry mouth. It is an uncomfortable and sometimes oddly unexplainable sensation that most people like to avoid. It is not a condition that automatically sends you into a panic about your health, however, a dry mouth can be a bother and something you certainly want to change if possible. So, if you find yourself in the unpleasant position of having a dry mouth, here is what you can do.

Chew Sugar-free Gum: Chewing sugar-free gum will stimulate saliva in your mouth. The chewing motion of your jaw and teeth should take care of at least some of your dry mouth problem.

Suck on Sugar-free Candy: Similarly to chewing sugar free gum, if you suck on sugar free candy it should create more saliva in your mouth and moisturize it in the process.

Cut out the Caffeine:Caffeine can contribute to a dry mouth so by limiting, or eliminating your intake all together, you may find that your dry mouth is no more.

Stop Using Tobacco Products: Tobacco is another cause of dry mouth. Whether it is smokeless tobacco products or cigarettes, if you stop using them your dry mouth will likely improve. And not to forget, these products are exceedingly bad for your oral health to begin with, so you will be doing your mouth a favor even more so.

Drink Lots of Water: It may seem obvious, but drinking lots of water will likely improve your dry mouth. This is because dry mouth is usually a sign of dehydration, so plenty of fluids will surely help.

Dry mouth can be unpleasant, but it is often easily solved by either drinking more water, or trying one of the previously mentioned techniques. If the problem still persists you can always visit our Poolesville and Rockville MD office to see Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega. More often than not, doing one of the above will leave your mouth more moisturized than it was previously, and hopefully it will be long-lasting as well.

What is biofilm?

June 5th, 2018

Biofilm, the protective housing for bacteria, is a hot topic in the medical and dental fields. Routinely taking an antibiotic for a bacterial infection has become more complicated because of biofilm. Bacterial infections may become resistant to antibiotics in part because the biofilm allows for communication among the bacteria, allowing the infection to be sustained.

You’re probably wondering, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega , what does this have to do with teeth? Since we’re dental professionals, we can tell you why it’s important and what you should know! There is biofilm in your mouth; healthy biofilm and diseased biofilm. Both are made of the same general compounds, but when combined with certain amino acids and cellular chemicals, the diseased biofilm conquers and destroys.

Periodontal disease, otherwise known as gum disease or pyorrhea, is a biofilm disease. If you are undergoing treatment for gum disease and you do not continue with the treatment plan the disease will progress and/or spread due to the biofilm.

There are several ways to treat diseased biofilm. But remember, antibiotics cannot touch the bacterial infection if the biofilm is established.

When your exam is complete, the Ultrasonic or Piezo Scaler should be used. This method of spraying water disturbs the biofilm and provides an opportunity to treat the infection causing bacteria.

Remember, we all need healthy biofilm. Just as your skin protects your body, biofilm housing good bacteria protects your body. The bacteria in the biofilm replicate every twenty minutes. If your body has healthy bacteria, low levels of hydrogen peroxide are produced by the biofilm, preventing harmful bacteria from residing. Harmful bacteria do not like oxygen.

At your exam, we will take measurements around your teeth checking for “pockets”. The higher the number, the deeper the pocket giving more room for harmful bacteria where there is no oxygen. Ask what your numbers are and be involved in restoring your healthy biofilm.

Teeth Grinding Can Damage Your Teeth

May 30th, 2018

Grinding of the teeth, also known as bruxism, is a serious condition from which nearly ten percent of Americans suffer. It’s a mechanical reflex that often happens during slumber. Unfortunately, most people don’t recall grinding their teeth when they awaken.

This makes it difficult to catch the condition before serious damage occurs. Some people notice soreness in their jaw, shoulder and neck pain, or even headaches. Others aren’t so lucky and don’t feel any pain until a professional notices they have developed cracked teeth, receding gums, and jaw problems.

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team hope to prevent teeth grinding before serious health concerns arise. Let’s go over the reasons for grinding as well as preventive tips to help you feel better fast.

Why do you grind your teeth?

The most common reasons for teeth grinding include:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Poor muscle control
  • Acid reflux
  • Sleep apnea
  • Complications from certain disorders

It’s worthwhile to understand the reason you’re grinding your teeth, but it’s even more vital to treat the issue quickly. You can take measures to alleviate the pain you may be experiencing, such as applying a warm wash cloth to your jaw, taking muscle relaxants, massaging the jaw muscles, visiting a chiropractor, or doing physical therapy.

Prevention

To protect your oral health and jaw bones, try these preventive measures:

  • Reduce the amount of stress in your life
  • Drink plenty of water every day
  • Avoid chewing gum or chewy foods
  • Get plenty of sleep each night
  • Reduce or stop alcohol and caffeine consumption
  • Get a custom mouthguard from Pike & Valega, DDS

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team want to make sure you’re properly treating your teeth grinding issues. Feel free to call our Poolesville and Rockville MD office if you think you may be suffering from this condition, or have questions regarding a treatment plan.

Teeth grinding can lead to far more serious health issues, and should be ended before it becomes a major concern.

Easing the Teething Blues

May 29th, 2018

Every moment of your baby’s first year of life is precious, since every day your child grows a little, develops new skills, and discovers new things. Most of it is wonderful, but parents don’t like to see their babies in pain. That’s why teething can be such a hard experience. However, you can take steps to make it easier for you and your baby.

What to Expect

Most babies begin teething around the age of six months, when the lower central incisors start to appear. Shortly after this time, the upper central incisors poke through, followed by the lateral incisors, first molars, canines, and second molars. Unfortunately, you’ll probably know that your baby is teething not because you see these teeth come in, but because your baby will be in discomfort. These are some of the signs to watch for when you’re expecting your baby to begin teething.

  • Tender and sore gums
  • More drooling than before
  • Being crankier than usual
  • Chewing on hard objects

What You Can Do

As a parent, you want to do everything you can to make your child more comfortable. These are some approaches that Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team recommend:

  • Take a clean moistened wash cloth or use your own washed finger to rub your baby’s gums and provide relief due to the pressure.
  • Provide a firm rubber teething ring for your baby to use, but don't use the type that is filled with liquid.
  • Use a bottle. A bottle filled with cold water can be soothing. Don’t give your baby formula, milk, or juice constantly because the sugar can cause tooth decay.
  • Medications can help for extreme crankiness. Infant Tylenol is an example, but it’s best to check with your pediatrician before giving your baby medications.

You might also want to take special care to dry the drool. It’s not just to keep yourself and your baby dry. Keeping your baby’s skin dry can help prevent irritation.

When to Visit Us

Once your child’s first tooth comes in, it’s time to start thinking your baby’s first trip to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. The American Dental Association suggests that you bring your child to the dentist within six months of the appearance of the first tooth, or at about one year of age. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can do a quick check for tooth decay, and we’ll make sure you know how to take care of your child’s new teeth.

The Purpose of a Dental Crown

May 23rd, 2018

A dental crown, otherwise known as a cap, covers an infected tooth and can vary in function, depending on the position of the tooth. Crowns cover all the visible parts of a tooth and vary in size, appearance, and functionality.

A crown can be used to protect a weak tooth from breaking, hold together an already broken or worn tooth, cover the tooth with a large filling or dental implant, hold a dental bridge in place, or support a cosmetic modification.

Several types of crowns are available, depending on the tooth to be treated. Stainless-steel crowns are used on permanent teeth, usually as temporary measures in children because they’re more cost-effective for baby teeth that naturally come out over time.

Metal crowns are another option that includes gold alloys, or base-metal alloys. Metal crowns are notable for their ability to withstand biting forces, rarely break or chip, and therefore offer the best results in terms of normal wear and tear.

Porcelain fused to metal crowns most closely resemble a normal tooth and are a good choice for front or back teeth. Other, less common types include all-resin, all-ceramic, all-porcelain, and zirconia crowns.

If you’re getting a crown, you can expect a few things during your visit with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega. Crown placement usually requires two appointments. The first entails preparation to get an impression of the tooth, shape it, and place a temporary crown. The impression is sent to a lab where a technician makes the crown to be fitted.

During the second appointment, the high-quality porcelain crown is placed on the problematic tooth.  

If you notice any signs of discomfort in your mouth, always let Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega know by calling our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. We will determine which type of crown is best for your tooth to give it the added strength it needs. Crowns can be very helpful for your oral health if you have any teeth that need extra support.

Curing the Nail-Biting Habit

May 22nd, 2018

Do you ever find yourself gnawing at your nails? Nail-biting is a very common and difficult to break habit which usually has its beginnings in childhood. It can leave your fingers and nail beds red and swollen. But if you think that your nails are the only ones getting roughed up by nail-biting you'd be mistaken—so are your teeth!

According to a study by the Academy of General Dentistry, those who bite their nails, clench their teeth, or chew on pencils are at much higher risk to develop bruxism (unintentional grinding of the teeth). Bruxism can lead to tooth sensitivity, tooth loss, receding gums, headaches, and general facial pain.

Those are some nasty sounding side effects from chewing on your nails. Most nail-biting is a sign of stress or anxiety and its something you should deal with. So what steps can you take if you have a nail-biting habit?

There are several things you can do to ease up on nail-biting:

  • Trim your nails shorter and/or get regular manicures – Trimming your nails shorter is an effective remedy. In so doing, they'll be less tempting and more difficult to bite on. If you also get regular manicures, you’ll be less likely to ruin the investment you’ve made in your hands and fingernails!
  • Find a different kind of stress reduction – Try meditation, deep breathing, practicing qigong or yoga, or doing something that will keep your hands occupied like squeezing a stress ball or playing with a yo-yo.
  • Wear a bitter-tasting nail polish – When your nails taste awful, you won't bite them! Clear or colored, it doesn't matter. This is also a helpful technique for helping children get over the habit.
  • Figure out what triggers your nail-biting – Sometimes it's triggered by stress or anxiety and other times it can be a physical stressor, like having hang nails. Knowing what situations cause you to bite your nails will help you to avoid them and break the habit.
  • Wear gloves or bandages on your fingers – If you've tried the steps above and they aren't working, this technique can prove effective since your fingernails won't be accessible to bite.

If you're still having trouble with nail-biting after trying these self-help steps, it's best to consult your doctor, dermatologist, or Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega. For some, it may also be the sign of a deeper psychological or emotional problem.

Whatever the cause, nail-biting is a habit you need to break for your physical and emotional well-being. If you have any questions about the effects it can have on your oral health, please don't hesitate to ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega during your next visit to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Make Your Smile Dazzling For Your Wedding!

May 16th, 2018

Planning a wedding can be a highly stressful time. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team want to support you in this process by helping you achieve a beautiful, bright smile. Wedding days entail a lot of photographs that will last a lifetime. We know how crucial it can be that you have a smile that makes you feel confident throughout this memorable day.

Whether you’re the bride or groom, a member of the wedding party, or just a guest, a teeth-whitening treatment from Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can give you extra confidence. Even when you’ve made the proper effort to keep up your oral health routine, staining still can appear on your teeth from foods and beverages over time. You can do several things to make sure your smile is in top shape before a wedding.

Our in-office whitening treatment is a good option if you’re looking for an investment that can last. If you’ve tried whitening kits on your own, you may have noticed they have to be used frequently to maintain the bright smile you desire.

Professional whitening treatments done by Pike & Valega, DDS are quite comfortable and have long-lasting effects. You can also use whitening toothpaste and mouthwash to keep your teeth bright between in-office whitening treatments.

Our staff can also provide helpful advice on how to avoid staining between your whitening treatment and the big day. If you’re concerned that you may have to hold back your smile on your wedding day or some other pending event, contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office and ask about our whitening treatment options.

Don’t procrastinate about dental work!

May 15th, 2018

When you have dental issues or just need routine care, you may try to put off making an appointment at Pike & Valega, DDS. Common reasons for procrastination are not having the time or fear of pain. Avoiding Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega is not a good idea, though. Putting off dental care can turn small problems into large ones. Short appointments turn into long ones with significantly more work and expense.

What happens when you wait?

The small cavity that could have been filled easily has turned into a large cavity. The larger the cavity, the more work required to fill it. However, this is only a minor problem compared to more advanced issues. The minor toothache you are trying to ignore could be a small fracture or an abscess. Small fractures can sometimes be repaired, but if you wait and the fracture increases, you may need to get a crown.

An abscess can be treated in the early stages. Ignoring an abscessed tooth may lead to root damage and the need for a root canal. Infection can spread to other teeth, which multiplies the damage. These treatments will require more of your time than you would have spent taking care of the problem early.

Perhaps you are just putting off a routine cleaning. Even if you brush, rinse, and floss the way you are supposed to, you need a professional cleaning at Pike & Valega, DDS. Plaque that is left behind hardens into calculus or tartar that you cannot remove by yourself. A build-up of calculus can also lead to gum disease.

Unfortunately, avoiding appointments due to a lack of time may mean that you have to give up substantially more time later on. You also can experience needless pain from tooth problems. It’s always best to visit Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega for regularly scheduled cleanings and exams to ensure your smile stays healthy and beautiful.

Dental Fear in Children: Brought on by parents?

May 9th, 2018

A study conducted in Washington State in 2004 and another conducted in Madrid, Spain in 2012 both reported findings that support a direct relationship between parents’ dental fear and their child’s fear of the dentist.

The Washington study examined dental fear among 421 children ages 0.8 to 12.8 years old. They were patients at 21 different private pediatric dental practices in western Washington state. The Spanish study observed 183 children between the ages of seven and 12 as well as their parents.

The Washington study used responses from both parents and the Dental Sub-scale of the Child Fear Survey Schedule. The survey consisted of 15 questions, which invited answers based on the child’s level of fear. The scale was one to five: one meant the child wasn’t afraid at all, and five indicated he or she was terrified. The maximum possible points (based on the greatest fear) was 75.

Spanish researchers found a direct connection between parental dental fear levels and those among their kids. The most important new discovery from the Madrid study was that the greater the fear a father had of going to the dentist, the higher the level of fear among the other family members.

Parents, but especially fathers, who feared dental procedures appeared to pass those fears along to every member of the family. Parents can still have some control over fear levels in their children. It is best not to express your own concerns in front of kids; instead, explain why going to the dentist is important.

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team work hard to make your child’s visit at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office as comfortable as possible. We understand some patients may be more fearful than others, and will do our best to help ease your child’s anxiety.

Avoid the Emergency Room for Dental Problems

May 8th, 2018

There are certainly situations when going to an emergency room is the best response for your problem. A severe injury to your mouth, jaw, or face would qualify.

However, when it comes to long-term solutions for other dental problems, an emergency room visit may fall short. If you suffer from a major toothache, cavity, a broken tooth, crown, or veneer, it’s better to go straight to the dentist for treatment.

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can provide you with a treatment plan that will be long lasting. When you visit an ER for a common dental problem, more likely you’ll only be given temporary relief for a serious and ongoing problem.

In many cases, the emergency room will give you pain medication to mask the symptoms until you can schedule an appointment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. That results in a lot of wasted time, as well as two separate medical bills. The ER may give you a temporary crown or filling, but you will still need a follow-up appointment for a permanent restoration.

We recommend you find the nearest emergency dental clinic, or even try a home remedy to relieve the pain until you can schedule an emergency appointment at Pike & Valega, DDS. A warm salt-water rinse or cold compress can be used to sooth tooth and gum pain in the meantime.

If you experience a dental emergency and are unsure about what to do, feel free to contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office at any time. We will fit you into our schedule right away and figure out the best course of treatment for your problem.

How safe are dental X-rays?

May 2nd, 2018

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our staff rely on digital X-rays to help us diagnose oral conditions and process images at incredibly high speeds. You can also view digital X-rays in real time while we examine your mouth with an intraoral camera and upload the images to a software program. A chairside computer monitor lets you see these images as we refine areas of concern to ensure an accurate diagnosis.

But are dental X-rays safe?

Yes! They emit 80 percent less radiation than exposure-type X-rays and provide detailed images to improve diagnosis and treatment. We can now detect dental problems in their earliest stages without subjecting you to unnecessary radiation. The amount of radiation released by digital X-rays is “negligible,” which means the amount is so small, that it can be safely disregarded.

Safe enough for children and pregnant women, digital X-rays detect microscopic pitting in tooth enamel and other abnormalities in the oral tissues that might have remained undetected with traditional X-rays. When Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our staff discover dental caries in their earliest stages, we can initiate treatment measures that will effectively prevent cavity development, tooth decay, and potential tooth loss.

Patient appointment lengths are shortened with digital X-rays as well, because images are immediately viewable and do not require the exposure time associated with old-style X-rays.

How Digital X-Rays Differ from Traditional X-Rays

Instead of using cardboard-contained film, we insert a small sensing device about the size of a pen in your mouth and engage the digital X-ray machine by manually manipulating control buttons. Within seconds, images appear on the monitor that can later be stored in your file or sent to another doctor for further examination.

The increased resolution afforded by digital X-rays means that patients are able to understand the seriousness of their dental issues better, and are more inclined to follow through with procedures recommended by Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega.

Safer, Better and Faster

For detection of cancerous tumors in their early states, digital X-ray technology offers vast improvements over film X-rays because of its cutting-edge image processing capability. Early detection of oral cancer and dental caries is the best way to prevent any type of oral health problem from exceeding the treatable stage.

Why Professional Cleanings are Important

May 1st, 2018

Regular dental cleanings and checkups at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office are an excellent way to ensure everything is A-OK in your mouth. There’s a reason the American Dental Association recommends a professional cleaning every six months!

Here’s what you can usually expect during your visit with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega:

  • Head and neck examination: The dentist or dental hygienist will look for anything out of the ordinary. He or she will check your lymph nodes and lower jaw joints (also known as TMJs).
  • Dental examination: The dentist or hygienist will check for any signs of gum disease, tooth decay, loose or broken teeth, or damaged fillings. We’ll also check your bite, the contact between your upper and lower teeth, and the condition of any dental appliances you’re wearing. Sometimes we’ll also take a set of X-rays.
  • Dental cleaning: Plaque and tartar will be removed and the dentist or hygienist will polish your teeth. Your teeth and gums will be flossed, and we’ll also make recommendations about proper brushing and flossing technique if we think you need them.

When you visit our Poolesville and Rockville MD office regularly, we’ll be able to compare the status of your teeth and gums from one appointment to another. That ensures we will be able to tell where you’re doing great in taking care of your teeth, and if needed, where you’re doing not so well.

If you’re in need of serious help, we might recommend more frequent visits. But remember, the most important factor in your oral health is how you take care of your teeth and gums at home between appointments.

We strive to help our patients achieve and maintain radiant, healthy smiles! If you'd like to know more about exams and cleanings at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office, or what you need to do at home to maintain an effective oral health routine, please let us know.

How effective is whitening toothpaste?

April 25th, 2018

The American Dental Association encourages you to brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to prevent dental problems such as tooth decay, bad breath, sensitive teeth, and gingivitis.

Beyond these health effects, frequent brushing of your teeth with a high-quality toothpaste can keep your teeth white. If you desire a whiter smile without in-office bleaching at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office, use of a whitening toothpaste is a great option for you.

Why Consider Whitening Toothpaste

Whiter teeth are more attractive and can help you feel confident in your smile. Having a whiter smile and greater self-assurance can send the message that you take care of yourself and are confident in your abilities.

How Whitening Toothpaste Works

Although every toothpaste has whitening properties because they all help to remove food particles from your teeth, the American Dental Association says whitening toothpaste must contain certain chemicals that help remove stains.

Unlike bleaching products, which contain carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide, whitening toothpaste only cleans the enamel rather than changing the color of your teeth. To obtain the benefits of whitening toothpaste, you need to use it regularly.

The Effectiveness of Whitening Toothpaste Varies

Due to individual variations in the color of your teeth, certain people are more likely than others to achieve the desired results with whitening. Teeth that are tinted grayish are unlikely to respond well to bleaching, while brown teeth may sometimes respond, and yellowish teeth are most likely to become pearly white in response to bleaching.

If Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our staff believe that bleaching is not a viable option for you, proper oral hygiene and the use of a whitening toothpaste are your best bets for keeping your teeth as white as possible. In addition, avoid using tobacco products, and rinse your mouth after drinking coffee.

The Connection Between Your Mouth and Your Heart

April 24th, 2018

At Pike & Valega, DDS, we know your dental health is closely connected to your overall health. We also know that the mouth can oftentimes be the first place to show signs of other bodily health issues.

Studies have shown possible links between periodontal (gum) disease and heart disease, and researchers have found that people with gum disease have an elevated risk of suffering from a stroke or developing coronary artery disease. Believe it or not, an estimated 70 to 80 percent of North American adults currently have some form of gum disease.

Gum disease, which affects the tissues that surround and support the teeth, is an infection caused by a sticky film of bacteria called plaque that forms on the teeth, mainly along the gum line. In its early stages, called gingivitis, gum disease can be treated by Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and often reversed.

To help keep your mouth and heart healthy, we’ve provided following tips to help prevent problems before they arise:

  • Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day. Make sure you brush gently beneath the gum line around each tooth.
  • Floss at least once a day.
  • Have a dental checkup and cleaning twice a year, or as recommended.
  • Eat a healthy diet. This includes avoiding foods with a high concentration of sugars or starches and consuming more fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid tobacco and copious levels of alcohol. If you smoke, quit. And remember, heavy drinking dramatically increases the risk of developing mouth and throat cancer.

Don’t put off your next visit to Pike & Valega, DDS any longer! If it has been a while since your last visit to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office, please give us a call!

Common Wisdom Teeth Problems

April 18th, 2018

Have you ever wondered why people have wisdom teeth? These are a third set of molars that come in behind the rest of all your other teeth, usually during early adulthood. Scientists and anthropologists believe that wisdom teeth are a result of evolution, because our ancestors needed these extra teeth to handle their primitive diets. Nowadays, the average diet consists of fewer hard-to-chew foods, which renders wisdom teeth largely superfluous.

Most people begin to experience wisdom teeth pain between the ages of 17 and 25. Our ancestors nicknamed them wisdom teeth because they appeared at a time in life when we supposedly grew wiser.

If you’ve already had your wisdom teeth removed, you know how painful they can become if they aren’t taken care of promptly. If not, watch out for discomfort in the back of your mouth and let Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega know right away if you think your wisdom teeth are coming in.

In some cases, people do not experience any problems or discomfort with their wisdom teeth. These patients may keep their wisdom teeth intact if there’s enough room in their jaw to fit them properly. But this is generally not the case, so wisdom teeth can cause several concerns, depending on which direction they grow.

Common problems include:

  • Damage to surrounding teeth due to the pressure from the emerging teeth
  • Infection that causes the surrounding gums to swell and become painful
  • Tooth decay due to the lack of room to clean the teeth properly
  • Impaction (when the tooth is unable to break through the skin)
  • A cyst that may damage the jaw, the surrounding teeth, and nerves

If you haven’t had your wisdom teeth removed yet, there are many symptoms to watch out for when they begin to grow. Symptoms may include:

  • Pain or stiffness in the jaw
  • Tooth irritation
  • Swelling of gum tissue
  • Crowding of other teeth
  • Spread of tooth decay or gum disease on nearby teeth

If you’ve noticed these symptoms, schedule an appointment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. Don’t forget: This is a common procedure that will take some time to recover from. Allow your mouth to heal, and then you’ll be able to get back to a normal routine quickly and be free from pain!

Caring for Your Cat’s Dental Health

April 17th, 2018

While you make sure your family is getting the best care possible, with regular dental checkups and cleanings at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office, there is one family member that might be hiding under the bed when it’s time for tooth care. Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition affecting adult cats—and it is completely preventable!

Periodontal disease starts when the bacteria in your pet’s mouth form plaque. The plaque can harden into tartar, and, if plaque and tartar spread under the gum line, can be responsible for a number of serious problems. Tooth loss, tissue damage, bone loss, and infection can be the result of periodontal disease. Professional dental treatment is important if your cat is suffering from periodontal disease, and your vet can describe the options available to you.

But, like with humans, prevention is the best way to assure these problems never develop, and there are several methods for avoiding plaque and tartar build-up.

Brushing: Yes, there are toothbrushes and toothpastes specifically designed for your cat! If a toothbrush is not working for you or your pet, there are cat-sized finger brushes available as well. Daily brushing is most effective, but try for at least several times each week. The process of introducing brushing should be a slow and gentle one, and seafood and poultry flavored pastes make the process more palatable. (Human toothpaste is not good for your cat due to its abrasiveness, and swallowing the foam might pose a danger to your pet.)

Anti-plaque rinses and gels: If despite your gentle persistence your cat simply will not cooperate with brushing, there are other options! Rinses and gels containing Chlorhexidine are effective and do not usually pose a problem for pets—although they might not take to the flavor. Rinses can be squirted inside each cheek or gels can be applied to the teeth with a toothbrush or finger brush. Talk to your vet to find the safest and most effective products.

Diet: Whether they use a particular shape and texture to simulate brushing or an anti-tartar ingredient, several pet foods claim to reduce the accumulation of plaque and tartar. Your vet is the best resource for nutritional suggestions to make sure your cat’s dental and physical diet is as healthy as it can be.

Whether you try brushing, rinses, gels or a tooth-friendly diet, patience and a gentle touch are the best way to introduce dental hygiene. Talk to your vet at your cat’s next checkup, and find out what you can do to keep your feline friend healthy and happy. An ounce of prevention might be worth a pound of purr!

Top Five Ways to Improve Heart Health

April 11th, 2018

While there is no definite evidence that if your prevent gum diseases, like periodontitis, that you may be able to prevent a heart condition or heart disease. The only thing experts, like Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, know for sure is that if you take care of your gums it can lessen atherosclerosis, (build-up of artery clogging plaque) that may result in a heart attack or stroke.

Could periodontal disease cause heart attacks?

Regardless of your oral health, if you're at a high risk for heart disease, you need to take action.

  • Maintain a healthy weight or lose weight.
  • Consume healthy foods and beverages.
  • Exercise several days the week. Walking is a powerful and lightweight exercise and will clear your head while helping your body get or stay healthy.
  • Control any medical conditions you may have such as high cholesterol, diabetes, or high blood pressure.
  • Reduce your stress. Have lunch with a friend, go for a walk in the park, take a bubble bath, mediate, or do whatever you find relaxing.
  • Get a social life. Laughing reduces stress and “feel good” hormones. Everyone needs to feel like they are a part of something: join a book club or any activity where you can interact with other people at least once or twice a week
  • Be sure to get enough sleep. The recommended amount is eight to nine hours a night. It has been proven that a lack of sleep increases your risk for angina, strokes, and heart attacks.
  • Practice good oral hygiene to keep bacteria in check and your mouth healthy.

Contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office if you have questions about your heart and oral health. If you take practice good oral hygiene, both your mouth and your heart will thank you.

Is Charcoal Teeth Whitening Safe?

April 10th, 2018

Health and beauty trends surface on the web every day, and it can be difficult to tell which ones are worth your time, or even safe, for that matter. Perhaps one of the biggest dental trends recently on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram has been teeth whitening through brushing with activated charcoal.

Unfortunately, charcoal whitening isn’t everything the Internet makes it out to be. Activated charcoal isn’t what you use to grill at a summer barbecue; it’s an oxidized substance made from peat, coal, wood, coconut shell or petroleum heated with a gas.

Toxins and surface stains can cling to charcoal due to its adhesive qualities, which is why some people declare it’s perfect for removing discoloration on teeth. Although it may show quick results initially, charcoal is nothing more than a temporary solution.

The abrasive texture may roughen up enamel, which will make it easier for future stains to stick to the surface of your teeth. They may show stains shortly after you use charcoal on them, and may become even more discolored than before.

It’s crucial to emphasize the results of damaged tooth enamel because it cannot replenish itself, which means any damage is permanent. People with receding gums or sensitive teeth especially should steer clear of charcoal because it can make brushing too harsh and worsen sensitivity.

Long-time use can deplete enamel, which over time exposes dentin: the soft, yellowish layer in the tooth. This puts you at a higher risk for cavities, tooth discoloration, and complicated dental problems such as periodontal disease in the future.

The American Dental Association does not approve of charcoal as a safe means for whitening teeth. If you do choose to use it, do so with caution.

Charcoal should be used once every other week at the most, even if your teeth feel fine. The only proven ways to whiten teeth safely are with ADA-approved whitening products or in-office bleaching treatments overseen by a dental professional.

Before you begin any whitening treatment at home, consult with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega to make sure your teeth won’t be harmed in the process. If you are already experiencing sensitivity, stop charcoal use immediately and make an appointment with our office right away.

If you have questions about whitening or want to schedule an in-office whitening treatment, feel free to give our Poolesville and Rockville MD office a call today!

Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April 4th, 2018

Happy Oral Cancer Awareness Month! We know oral cancer can be kind of a scary topic, but it’s worth using this opportunity to learn about the disease and spread knowledge so everyone becomes more aware. The more we know, the better we can work to prevent it!

Oral cancer is exactly what it sounds like: cancer that occurs anywhere in the mouth. It could occur on the tongue, the lips, the gums, the tongue, inside the cheek, or in the roof or floor of the mouth. Every  year, more than 8,000 people die from oral cancer. It’s a truly deadly disease.

The reason oral cancer scores a higher death rate than other common cancers such as testicular cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, thyroid cancer, cervical cancer, or even skin cancer, is because it often goes undetected until it's become too advanced and has spread to another part of the body.

So what causes this devastating disease? There is no clear answer, but some potential causes have been identified. By being aware of these, we can be alert and promote prevention of this illness:

  • Age: Most patients who develop oral cancer are above the age of 40. If you’re over 40, make sure your doctor checks for signs of oral cancer and that you stay on your dental hygiene regimen.
  • Tobacco: Excessive tobacco use, whether in the form of cigarette smoking or tobacco chewing, can be a substantial contributor and cause of oral cancer. So that’s another reason, among many, you should avoid tobacco.
  • Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption can put you at risk because alcohol converts into a chemical called acetaldehyde, which damages the body’s DNA and blocks cells from repairing the damage. When paired with tobacco, the dehydrating effects of alcohol make it even easier for tobacco to infiltrate mouth tissue.
  • Sun exposure: Your lips need SPF, too! Repeated sun exposure increases your risk of contracting cancer on your lips, especially the lower lip.
  • Diet: Not getting all the nutrients you need, from vegetables and fruits for instance, can weaken your immune system and make you more vulnerable to the disease.

Obviously, many of these causes relate to lifestyle choices, which we have control over. It's all about balance, being aware, and making small tweaks to our habits if we need to.

If you’re concerned that you may be at risk for oral cancer, give us a call to talk about a screening. And if you’ve been putting off a visit to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office, now is an excellent time to schedule one. Regular visits to the dentist can be the first line of defense against oral cancer!

Fluoride Treatment: Do You Need One?

April 3rd, 2018

Over the past decade, most people have been ingesting less and less fluoride. This is not such a great trend, since fluoride has a history of successfully reducing tooth decay and promoting good dental health. Most of us drink bottled water now, so many children and adults are not getting the optimum amount of fluoride they need. Of course, dental needs vary, depending on such factors as age, tooth sensitivity, medical conditions, and risk for cavities, but there are several ways to make sure you get the proper amount of fluoride.

Fluoride can be applied in the form of foam, varnish, or mouthwash. For children, topical fluoride can be useful in the early stages of development to ensure the future strength of enamel. For people who have a dry mouth as the result of medication to treat anxiety, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, or high cholesterol, a daily fluoride rinse is recommended, as well as a varnish treatment. 

If you’ve received or are receiving any form of cancer treatment, that could be affecting your dental health. If such is the case, fluoride varnish treatments are recommended prior to, during, and after chemotherapy. Getting an oral infection during cancer treatment can be especially harmful, so it’s worthwhile to do as much as you can to prevent that.

If you suspect you might be in need of a fluoride treatment or have any questions about the treatments Pike & Valega, DDS offers, please feel free to give our Poolesville and Rockville MD office a call!

Common Causes of Gum Disease

March 28th, 2018

Your gums are responsible for a large part of your overall oral health. So keeping them healthy and knowing how to detect gum disease is extremely important.

Since it’s often painless, gum disease may go unnoticed and can progress when left untreated. Understanding the causes of gum disease will give you the ability to keep your oral health in great shape:

  • Bacteria and Plaque. Good hygiene helps remove bacteria and plaque from teeth. When plaque is not removed, it turns into a rock-like substance called tartar, which can only be removed by a dentist.
  • Smoking and Tobacco. Smokers and tobacco users put themselves at a higher risk of developing gum disease. Tobacco use can also stain your teeth, give you bad breath, and increase the risk of oral cancer. It’s best to avoid using tobacco altogether.
  • Certain Medications. Ironically, certain medications for other health conditions can increase your risk of developing gum disease. Talk with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega if you have concerns about a medication you are taking. Steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, certain cancer therapy medications, and oral contraceptives can be among the culprits.
  • Medical Conditions. Certain medical conditions can also affect your gum health. Diabetics can have an increased risk of gum disease due to the inflammatory chemicals in their bodies. Talk to our team about your health condition so we can take that into account when treating you.

Luckily, there are actions you can take to prevent gum disease. You should make regular visits to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office for regular cleanings. It’s also worthwhile to maintain good hygiene habits at home, such as flossing and brushing at least two times every day.

Good oral hygiene practice and visits to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office can help you eliminate or reduce the risks of developing gum disease!

Why You Should Avoid Energy and Sports Drinks

March 27th, 2018

In a world where everything moves so quickly and teens and young adults find themselves pulling “all-nighters” or working long hours, energy drinks have grabbed the spotlight. You’ll have one (or three) and suddenly you have the drive you need to keep going.

The same can be said for sports drinks. It’s common for people to have one even when they’re not engaged in any strenuous physical activity, which is what they were designed for. People will drink them simply because they’ve grown to love the taste.

Although they might taste great and boost your energy, there’s a serious down side to consuming energy and sports drinks on a steady basis. Studies have shown that these drinks contain so much acid that they start to destroy your teeth after just five days of consistent use.

The acid in these drinks destroys your tooth enamel, which makes your teeth more vulnerable to bacteria. This can progress to staining, tooth decay, and hypersensitivity.

That’s why Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team want to encourage you to try to limit the amount of sports and energy drinks you consume. If you do enjoy either or both of these drinks, you should make it a habit to rinse your mouth with water immediately after consumption, and brush your teeth about an hour later, after the period when acid has a softening effect on your enamel has passed.

If you feel like you’re already experiencing the side effects of heavy energy and sports drink consumption, visit our Poolesville and Rockville MD office, and our team can provide solutions for how to prevent further damage from occurring. It’s never too late to change a bad habit!

Overall Health Can Be Influenced By Oral Hygiene

March 21st, 2018

Keeping on top of your oral health is key when it comes to making sure your whole body stays healthy. The bacteria that occur naturally in your mouth can produce harmful bacteria such as strep and staph, which can lead to serious infections and sickness.

When you follow good dental habits like daily brushing and flossing, and eat a healthy diet, you can discourage harmful bacteria from traveling from your mouth to other parts of your body. Protect yourself and learn more about the link between oral hygiene and a healthy body.

Until recently, tooth decay was more common because of the lack of regular dental care and research behind fluoride. Tooth decay is much less problematic today, due to fluoridated water and toothpastes that contain fluoride.

Nowadays, gum disease has replaced tooth decay as the most frequent dental problem. Periodontal disease is on the rise among adults because people don’t floss regularly and then ignore gum tenderness and bleeding. If left unchecked, periodontitis can cause inflammation that may cause harm to other parts of the body.

Oral Health and Chronic Disease

Many scientists believe inflammation-related infections can trigger systemic disease or intensify existing conditions. Remember, bacteria overgrowth in inflamed gum tissue is able to enter the bloodstream through your eating processes, which is why it’s so vital to visit our Poolesville and Rockville MD office if you notice sustained gum irritation and inflammation in your mouth.

Caring for your teeth and gums every day can prevent the onset of disease and save you trouble in the future with regard to your body’s health. If you think you may be showing signs of periodontal disease, or notice anything else out of the norm, please contact Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and schedule an appointment.

We want you to be proactive about your health!

Your Toddler’s First Dental Visit

March 20th, 2018

It’s common for toddlers to be wary of strangers, but their first experience at the dentist shouldn’t be a scary one. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team have five tips for you to make your child’s first visit to Pike & Valega, DDS easy as pie!

  1. Bringing your child to one of your own appointments before his or her first dental visit can calm your little one’s nerves. This gives your son or daughter the opportunity to get familiar with our office and see a cleaning isn’t very scary.
  2. Our big dental chair can be fun! Toddlers love games, and seeing the chair go up and down can make it seem like an amusement ride rather than sitting down for an exam.
  3. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team hand out cool toothbrushes and stickers to kids after their appointment. Your child will love the fun-colored toothbrush and can look forward to a post-appointment prize at the next visit.
  4. Schedule your appointment for a time that sets you up for success. Bringing your child to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office an hour before he or she is due for a nap may be a tantrum just waiting to happen.
  5. Kids love books! Try reading your toddler bedtime stories about what happens at the dentist before you come in for the appointment. We recommend Dora the Explorer’s Show Me Your Smile, written by Christine Ricci.

Make Brushing With Your Child Fun!

March 14th, 2018

It’s no secret that kids and adults have different priorities: your duty is to raise a happy, healthy child, but your little one’s only priority may be to have fun. When it comes to brushing teeth, it can be hard to combine a healthy habit with having fun. You might fear it can’t be done, but with a little creativity, brushing time can be a great experience for both of you!

Make It a Party

Brushing time doesn’t have to be a chore when you throw a little party! Get Mom and Dad together so the whole family can brush their teeth at the same time.

Let your child choose a song to dance to while you all brush for the required two minutes. Your son or daughter may grow to love this silly routine, especially when the parents are clearly dedicated to brushing their own teeth as well.

Big Kid Decisions

Kids love the responsibility of making “big kid” decisions. Keep a variety of toothbrushes, colors of floss, and toothpaste flavors on hand so they can choose something “new” each time they brush, just like when they visit our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Not only can this help them grow more comfortable with the idea of seeing the dentist, but they’ll love having the responsibility of picking what would be fun at brush time.

Practice Makes Perfect

It’s true that the only way to get better at something is to practice, practice, and practice. Have your child practice brushing on his or her favorite stuffed animal, and use that opportunity to teach your youngster how to hold the brush and use circular cleaning motions. Showing how you brush your own teeth can also be worthwhile.

There’s An App For That

Did you know there are lots of fun apps that encourage good brushing habits among children? Brands like Oral-B and Aquafresh have free apps you can download on your phone.

The child gets to select a character, scenery, and a song he or she would love to accompany the task of brushing. If you have a daughter, she might like to use the Tooth Fairy Timer, which allows her to pick her very own fairy as her brushing buddy.

The important things to remember when you seek to establish good brushing habits is to keep it fun and stay consistent with your routine. It may take some getting used to, but after a while your child will become familiar with brushing and might even look forward to the new dental routine.

How do I prevent oral cancer?

March 13th, 2018

The fact is, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation, close to 40,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year, resulting in more than 8,000 deaths. Men face twice the risk of developing oral cancer as women, and men who are over age 50 face the greatest risk. The American Cancer Society recommends an oral cancer screening exam every three years for people over the age of 20 and annually for those over age 40. The five-year survival rate is only 50 percent, and oral cancer, which is the sixth-most common diagnosed form of the disease, is one of the few cancers whose survival rate has not improved. Today, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team would like to take this opportunity to remind all of our patients about the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene to prevent the disease.

So, what can you do at home to take an active role in preventing oral cancer?

The American Cancer Society recommends an oral cancer screening exam every three years for people over the age of 20 and annually for those over age 40. In addition, we encourage you to:

  1. Conduct a self-exam regularly. Using a bright light and a mirror, look at and feel your lips and gums. Try tilting your head back to look at and feel the roof of your mouth, and pull your cheeks out to look inside of your mouth, the lining of your cheeks, and your back gums. Pull out your tongue and look at all surfaces. Feel for lumps or enlarged lymph nodes in both sides of your neck and under your lower jaw. Please give us a call immediately if you notice any changes in the appearance of your mouth or any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above.
  2. Don’t smoke or use any tobacco products and drink alcohol in moderation.
  3. Eat a well-balanced diet. This includes eating a wide variety of foods from the five primary food groups on a daily basis to meet the recommended amounts of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats you need in a given day.
  4. Limit your exposure to the sun. Repeated exposure increases the risk of cancer on the lips, especially the lower lip. When out in the sun, be sure to use UV-A/B-blocking sun protective lotions on your skin as well as your lips.

Please let us know if you have any questions about your oral health, either during your next scheduled visit, by giving us a call, or asking us on Facebook.

Foods can Wreak Havoc on Your Enamel

March 7th, 2018

It’s possible to develop tooth decay even when you take great care of your teeth. Brushing and flossing may not be enough to keep your teeth healthy, depending on your diet. Cavities, discoloration, and decay are still possible when certain foods feature in your daily intake. Keep an eye out for foods that will damage your enamel and cause the very issues you’ve been trying to avoid.

What causes enamel damage?

Tooth enamel is the hard outer layer of your teeth that is made of various minerals. Tooth decay results when the acids in your food react with the minerals in your enamel. Strongly pigmented foods may also cause unsightly discoloration on the surface of your teeth. Avoid wreaking havoc on your beautiful smile by identifying the foods that can harm your enamel.

Acid

Acidic food is your teeth’s worst nightmare! This is the greatest cause of enamel damage, even if you brush and floss regularly. To avoid damaging your teeth, make sure you can determine whether a food is acidic or not.

The pH levels are a way to determine acidity on a one-to-seven scale. This defines the relative acidity or alkalinity of a food or substance. Foods with high pH levels are not as likely to harm your enamel.

It’s wise to avoid or minimize foods that are high in acids. Highly acidic food can include fruits such as lemons, grapefruit, strawberries, grapes, and apples. Moderately acid foods may surprise you; they include tomatoes, maple syrup, pickles, and honey.

Not surprisingly, eggs and dairy products such as milk and cheese contain the least amount of acid. Red wine and coffee can also discolor your enamel if they’re drunk in excessive amounts.

What can I do to prevent enamel damage?

There are plenty of ways to avoid discoloration and decay of your enamel. The best thing to do is limit the amount of high-acid foods, including sugary juices and soda, in your diet.

Another way is to brush and floss regularly, an hour after each meal. If you can’t make time to brush, an easy solution is to swish your mouth with water or mouthwash to rinse away any leftover acidic particles.

Damaged tooth enamel may be common, but is avoidable when you know which foods to stay away from and the steps to take after you do eat highly acidic foods. Take our advice and you’ll be sure to slow down any future discoloration and decay that happens in your mouth.

For more advice on protecting your enamel, give our Poolesville and Rockville MD a call to learn more!

Diet and Dental Health: What to eat and what to avoid

March 6th, 2018

You are probably aware that guzzling soda and drinking those sugary Starbucks Frappuccinos aren’t particularly good for your dental health. But how much thought do you give to the effects of your diet on your teeth? Practicing healthy eating habits isn’t just helpful for your waistline, it also ensures that your teeth stay strong and cavity-free.

How diet affects dental health

Our team at Pike & Valega, DDS will tell you that your mouth is a complicated place on a microbiological level. Harmful bacteria form dental plaques which convert the sugars in food to acids that wear away at tooth enamel. Meanwhile, saliva washes away some of the detrimental acids, while minerals work to rebuild where teeth are damaged. The foods you eat are important for managing this balancing act between harmful bacteria and helpful rebuilding agents.

Rethinking your diet to prevent cavities

Carefully considering your dietary choices is a smart way to become mindful of the foods you eat and how they affect oral health.

Foods to eat

  • Calcium- and phosphorus-rich foods. We’ve all heard that milk builds strong bones, and your teeth are included in that. Milk, cheese, nuts, and chicken are strong sources of calcium and phosphorus. These minerals are used to repair damage to the teeth’s enamel.
  • Crunchy fruits and vegetables. Biting into an apple stimulates saliva flow, which washes harmful acids from the surface of your teeth. Turn to other crunchy fruits and vegetables, including carrots, celery, pears, and lettuce, to increase saliva production.
  • Sugar substitutes. If you have a sweet tooth but want to decrease tooth decay, sugar substitutes such as Stevia or Equal provide a sugary kick without harming your teeth.

Foods to avoid

  • Sugary snacks. Cookies, cakes, candies, and other sugary treats provide a feast for the acid-producing bacteria in your mouth. Furthermore, these foods often get stuck in the ridges of your teeth, and provide a breeding ground for new bacteria.
  • Acidic fruits and vegetables. Foods high in acidity, such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, berries, peaches, and lemons, wear away the enamel of your teeth. Because these foods can be part of a healthy diet, remember to brush after eating them or swish with a mouth rinse to protect your teeth.

Eating well is an essential part of keeping your teeth healthy. Consult Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega about your diet for tips on food habits that keep your teeth strong and cavity-free. For more information about the link between your diet and your oral health, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, please give us a call at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

How do I overcome my dental anxiety?

February 28th, 2018

Do you feel anxious before every dentist appointment? If the answer is yes, you are not alone—more than 75 percent of Americans feel anxious when visiting their dentist. Today, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team thought we would provide some tips to reduce your stress about visiting our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

The first thing we want you to do is plan ahead. If at all possible, book an appointment at a time when you know you won’t be in a rush to get somewhere else, such as picking up your children from school or an important meeting at the office. We also recommend you avoid caffeine and sugar prior to your visit as too much of either can make you feel even more anxious, not to mention jittery.

Once you’re here at our office, take some slow, deep breaths to relax. Then, try to relax your muscles by sitting back comfortably. If you are still feeling anxious, let Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega or someone on our team know. We deal with nervous patients all the time and may have additional relaxation techniques for you to try. If you’d like, we also encourage you to bring headphones and listen to music of your choice to distract yourself while we work on your teeth.

If you have additional questions about relaxation techniques, or would like to schedule an appointment, please give us a call!

How to Handle an Unexpected Dental Emergency

February 27th, 2018

Regardless of the type of dental emergency you experience, it is important that you visit Pike & Valega, DDS for emergency dental care as soon as possible. A chipped or cracked tooth requires professional attention, as bacteria may gather in these areas, potentially causing infection that could require a root canal. Remember, you may be capable of managing pain, bleeding, and swelling at home, but by visiting our office for immediate treatment, you can fight infections and minimize lasting damage to your mouth, teeth, and gums under the expert care of our emergency dentist.

24/7 Emergency Dental Care

Pike & Valega, DDS is proud to offer emergency dental care around the clock, seven days a week. Dental emergencies do not wait for regular business hours, and if you experience a serious dental emergency, you need immediate treatment. Whether you have a broken tooth or if you have bitten through your tongue, do not hesitate to visit us day or night. Until you arrive at our office, however, there are some helpful steps you can take if you encounter a serious dental dilemma.

Managing Your Dental Emergency

If a toothache is causing problems, you can probably keep the discomfort under control until our emergency doctor can treat you. Start by checking the gums that surround the affected tooth for inflammation, bleeding, or foreign objects. There may be food lodged in the gum that could be removed by flossing. You can control pain by placing a cold compress against your mouth, or by using an over-the-counter oral numbing agent.

More serious situations may be extremely time sensitive, and require immediate emergency attention. For example, if a tooth is completely knocked out, carefully clean it with water. Try to place the tooth back into its socket or briefly store it in a cup of milk if it will not fit back into the gum. Never pick up a tooth by the root or force it into the socket. Come straight to our office, as your tooth will need to be replaced within a short amount of time. Similarly, if you have bitten through your lip or tongue, the American Dental Association recommends carefully cleaning the area before coming as quickly as you can to our emergency dental office for treatment.

Remember, there is no reason you should live with discomfort. By visiting our Poolesville and Rockville MD office immediately in an emergency, you can take control of your oral health comfortably and safely.

When should I floss during the day?

February 21st, 2018

A vital step in your oral health routine is flossing. We hope our patients at Pike & Valega, DDS maintain good oral hygiene, including daily flossing between each visit to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. A toothbrush is not always enough to get to the hard-to-reach areas of your mouth. When food remains between your teeth, bacteria starts to grow and will break down your enamel. This is where flossing comes in!

Should you floss before or after brushing?

Whatever your personal preference, you may floss before or after you brush your teeth. When you floss first, you can brush away any leftover dislodged food debris from your teeth. On the other hand, when you brush first, you will loosen the plaque between your teeth, which makes flossing more effective.

The essential aspect is that you floss thoroughly by using a fresh strand of floss and make sure to get between every tooth. Even if your teeth look and feel clean, don’t skip flossing or plaque will begin to build up on your teeth.

When is the best time to floss?

Although you should brush your teeth at least twice a day, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team recommend flossing your teeth thoroughly once a day. Many people prefer to floss before bed, so that plaque doesn’t sit between their teeth all night.

What kind of floss should I use?

You may choose between interdental cleaning picks or flexible floss strands to perform your daily flossing routine. If you have permanent oral appliances or restorations, be sure to follow the flossing instructions provided to you.

Do you need help flossing?

If you’re having trouble flossing or have questions about which floss is best for your teeth, contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office and we can provide you with support. Be sure to keep up with your daily flossing routine, and we will see you at your next appointment!

Relax with Sedation Dentistry

February 20th, 2018

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS understand that many of our patients have a fear of dentistry. You may be concerned about experiencing pain from sensitive teeth or routine procedures. General anxiety is also common. Do not put off visiting our Poolesville and Rockville MD office; we offer various types of sedation to take the pain and fear out of your dental procedure.

Nitrous Oxide Sedation

For many patients, nitrous oxide, combined with local anesthetics, will both provide pain relief and reduce anxiety. Nitrous oxide is beneficial because the dosage can be regulated during treatment and patients are normally capable of driving shortly after the procedure is completed.

Oral or Injected Sedation

With oral sedation, you may be given a pill or liquid to consume several hours before your procedure. You will not be able to drive yourself to the appointment. An oral liquid is often given to children before any shots or intravenous anesthesia. An intramuscular injection may be given at the office that provides relaxation benefits for 20 to 30 minutes.

Nitrous Oxide with an Oral Sedative

If you experience higher levels of anxiety, an oral or injected sedative can be offered before nitrous oxide is started. This is also effective for reducing anxiety regarding the injection of local anesthetics. A liquid medication followed by nitrous oxide is beneficial for children. This combination can produce a deep sedation level.

General Anesthesia

This type of anesthesia can be offered as an inhaled gas or intravenous liquid. If no oral sedative is given before the general anesthesia is administered, you should wake up quickly after your procedure is complete. An injection, pill, or liquid medication can be offered to reduce anxiety before intravenous sedation begins. Intravenous sedation can also be used at moderate-to-deep sedation levels without complete loss of consciousness.

Do not hesitate to ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega about receiving sedation or pain prevention when you visit. We will be glad to explain the options we have available and answer all your questions to ensure that your exam is pleasant for you.

The Start of Valentine’s Day

February 14th, 2018

Valentine’s Day, also known as Saint Valentine’s Day, has been said to originate with a Catholic priest named Valentine several thousand year ago. Valentine defied the emperor at the time by secretly marrying men and their brides after the emperor had made it illegal to marry. Emperor Claudius II did this because he wanted as many single young men to fight in his war as he could get.

Valentine disobeyed the emperor’s edict by continuing to marry couples until he was sentenced to death. Before his execution, he sent a letter to a secret love and signed it “From your Valentine.” Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team have come up with some suggestions on how you can celebrate this Valentine’s Day, whether you have a valentine of your own or not.

Valentine's Day Ideas

  • Enjoy a tasty treat. There are plenty of options when it comes to cooking and/or baking on Valentine’s Day. Make your significant other his or her favorite meal or sweet treat, or make your own favorite dish to enjoy on this day. Oh, and be sure to make enough for leftovers!
  • Make a personalized card. Instead of buying a card from the grocery store, take the time to make your own for a loved one. People love handwritten notes, especially when it’s from someone special. If you’re single this Valentine’s Day, make a card for fellow single friend to brighten the day and remind the person that he or she is also loved.
  • Watch a movie. We all know there are plenty of romance movies out there. Put on your favorite romantic comedy, or pick up your significant other’s favorite movie to watch together. Even better, if you’re single, pick up your own favorite movies to watch to pass the time this Valentine’s Day.
  • Do nothing! We all know Valentine’s Day can sometimes get a lot of hype. If you’re worried about not making a reservation in time, don’t feel like planning an extravagant night out, or simply not in the holiday mood this year, spend your day sitting back and relaxing.

Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate love and spend quality hours with the people you care about the most. Whether you’re in a relationship or single, take some time today to appreciate those you love in your life.

We wish you a happy Valentine’s Day celebration and look forward to seeing you at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office during your next appointment.

The Origins of Valentine's Day

February 13th, 2018

When we think of Valentine’s Day, we think of cards, flowers, and chocolates. We think of girlfriends celebrating being single together and couples celebrating their relationship. We think of all things pink and red taking over every pharmacy and grocery store imaginable. But what Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team would like to think of is when and how this joyous, love-filled day began.

Several martyrs’ stories are associated with the origins of Valentine’s Day. One of the most widely known suggests that Valentine was a Roman priest who went against the law at a time when marriage had been banned for young men. He continued to perform marriage ceremonies for young lovers in secret and when he was discovered, he was sentenced to death.

Another tale claims that Valentine was killed for helping Christians escape from Roman prisons. Yet another says that Valentine himself sent the first valentine when he fell in love with a girl and sent her a letter and signed it, “From your Valentine.”

Other claims suggest that it all began when Geoffrey Chaucer, an Englishman often referred to as the father of English literature, wrote a poem that was the first to connect St. Valentine to romance. From there, it evolved into a day when lovers would express their feelings for each other. Cue the flowers, sweets, and cards!

Regardless of where the holiday came from, these stories all have one thing in common: They celebrate the love we are capable of as human beings. And though that’s largely in a romantic spirit these days, it doesn’t have to be. You could celebrate love for a sister, a friend, a parent, even a pet.

We hope all our patients know how much we love them! Wishing you all a very happy Valentine’s Day from the team at Pike & Valega, DDS!

What did the first dentures look like?

February 7th, 2018

Remember hearing about George Washington and his wooden choppers? Not his tools for cutting down cherry trees, but his false teeth.

Actually, George’s teeth were made of ivory but were so stained that they appeared to be made out of wood. You might think those were the earliest dentures. In fact, the history of false teeth goes back centuries before President Washington.

Ancient Times

The earliest known dentures consisted of human or animal teeth tied together with wires. Examples of such dentures have been found in Egyptian and Mexican archeological sites. Other ancient peoples use carved stones and shells to replace lost teeth. These early dentures were probably made for cosmetic purposes. The materials they used were not likely to stand up to the pressure placed on teeth during eating.

The earliest surviving set of complete dentures were actually made out of wood (sorry, George). They were found in Japan and date back to the 16th century.

Human and animal teeth continued to be popular materials for dentures until the 20th century in some parts of the world. But the difficulty obtaining healthy teeth (and the risk of disease from unhealthy teeth) led dentists to search for other substances.

Modern Era

In the 18th century, dentists began using porcelain, ivory, gold, silver and even rubber as tooth substitutes. Dentures made with these substances could be used in eating. They were often ill-fitting, however, which may explain why George Washington looks puffy and glum in many portraits.

Porcelain and metals were the most popular denture materials until about 1950, when plastics and resins were developed. Tough and durable, these materials make up most of the dentures Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team use today.

Still, what goes around comes around. Researchers at the University of Texas are looking at using human teeth for dentures once again. Only in this case, the researchers hope to use biotechnology to spur the growth of new sets of teeth to replace those lost over a lifetime.

What causes tooth loss?

February 6th, 2018

When children lose baby teeth, it’s a time to rejoice. But when adults suffer from tooth loss, it may be a sign of a serious problem. That’s when it’s time to give us a call at Pike & Valega, DDS.

What are the reasons for missing teeth?

The loss of permanent teeth can occur for a variety of reasons, ranging anywhere from hereditary factors to tooth decay to traumatic injury. Here are the following reasons why adults suffer tooth loss:

  • Gum disease: The number one cause of lost teeth in adults is gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, an infection of the structures that support the teeth. Once gum disease reaches and destroys the alveolar bone, the teeth begin to loosen and will eventually fall out or need to be extracted.
  • Tooth decay: If cavities are left untreated, they can destroy tooth structure as well as cause infection in the supporting bone.
  • Tooth injury: An injury can either knock out a tooth immediately or cause damage to the root or pulp that will later require extraction. We recommend using a mouthguard if you play sports.
  • Tooth fracture: A fracture in a tooth is often caused by teeth grinding, or what Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team call bruxism. A crown may be the answer, but depending on the location of the crack or fracture and how deeply it extends, the tooth may not respond well to repair with a crown and may need to be extracted instead.

What are the risk factors for tooth loss?

  • Poor oral hygiene: Patients who only occasionally brush or floss their teeth are more likely to develop tartar, plaque buildup, and other bacteria that cause decay.
  • Not visiting the dentist: Seeing Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega every six months for a cleaning and checkup prevents any developing oral health issues, as well as ensures that plaque and tartar do not build up over time.
  • Smoking: Smokers and users of smokeless tobacco are more likely to develop periodontal disease that can cause tooth loss. If you are a smoker it is crucial to visit us on a timely schedule.
  • Various health conditions: Patients with high blood pressure, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and other chronic health issues are more likely to suffer from gum disease.

Scheduling an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office will give you an accurate diagnosis and a variety of treatment options. It’s important to know that periodontal disease is “silent,” meaning you will not always experience pain as a signal of infection. When caught early, treatments are usually successful.

Give us a call today to schedule your next visit!

Headaches, TMJ, and Dentistry

January 31st, 2018

That ache in your head may stem from your jaw. If your jaw falls out of alignment, you could have temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD.

It's not clear what causes TMD. Obesity may factor in. Stress and pressure on the jaw may also contribute. A misaligned bite (that is, where your upper and lower teeth don't fit together when you close your mouth) may cause TMD symptoms, too.

TMD can affect your life and your health by making it painful to eat and hard to sleep. Some people find the nagging pain difficult to bear.

Symptoms of TMD include:

  • Recurring headaches with no other cause
  • Pain along and behind your ears
  • Pain in your cheeks or lower face
  • Clicking noises when you talk or chew
  • Tired or sore jaw muscles after eating
  • Limited jaw movement

If you experience the symptoms listed here, make an appointment with our office. We’ll take an X-ray to look at your bite, and determine if TMD could be the culprit. If you have TMD we can offer a number of treatments, including:

  • Relaxation and stress reduction techniques
  • Pain reduction recommendations, which might involve visualization or medication
  • Jaw joint exercises that can help reduce stress and improve your alignment

Left untreated, TMD headaches and other symptoms can become quite severe. If you suffer the symptoms of TMD, you do not have to live in pain. Make an appointment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office to learn how we can reduce your pain and restore comfort to your life.

How do I know if I’m at risk for oral cancer?

January 30th, 2018

Every year, over 50,000 North Americans are diagnosed with oral or throat cancer, which has a higher death rate than many other common cancers, including cervical cancer, testicular cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and thyroid or skin cancers. The high death rate results from the fact that most oral cancers go undiagnosed until the disease is well advanced and has spread to another part of the body, most often, the lymph nodes in the neck.

Because oral cancer is typically painless in its early stages and often goes undetected until it spreads, many patients aren’t diagnosed until they are already suffering from chronic pain or loss of function. However, if detected early, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS want you to know that early detection of oral cancer improves the survival rate to 80 percent or more.

If you visit our Poolesville and Rockville MD office regularly, you have probably received an oral cancer screening and didn’t even realize it. That’s because the exam is quick and painless; Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team check your neck and mouth for signs of oral cancer such as discolorations, lumps, or any changes to your tissue. Oral cancer is typically found on the tongue, lips, gums, the floor of the mouth, or tissues in back of the tongue.

Factors that may influence your risk for developing oral cancer include:

  • Use of tobacco products. Smoking cigarettes, cigars, a pipe, or chewing tobacco all elevate risk for developing oral cancer. Tobacco use especially is a serious risk factor because it contains substances called carcinogens, which are harmful to cells in your mouth.
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol. Those who drink alcohol regularly have an elevated risk of getting oral cancer. Alcohol abuse (more than 21 drinks in one week) is the second largest risk factor for the development of oral cancer, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
  • Excessive sun exposure. Those who spend lots of time outdoors and do not use proper amounts of sunscreen or lip balm have a greater risk for developing lip cancer. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight may also cause melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.
  • Your age. Oral cancer is typically a disease that affects older people, usually because of their longer exposure to other risk factors. Most patients diagnosed with oral cancer are over the age of 40.
  • Your gender. Oral cancer strikes men twice as often as it does women.
  • A history with viral infections, such as human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • A diet low in fruits and vegetables.

In between your visits to our office, it is critical for you to be aware of the following signs and symptoms, and give us a call if these symptoms don’t go away after two weeks.

  • A sore or irritation that doesn’t disappear
  • Red or white patches
  • Pain, tenderness, or numbness in mouth or lips
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving your jaw or tongue
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth

During your next visit, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will examine your mouth for signs of oral cancer. If you have been putting off a visit to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office for your regular checkup, now is an excellent time to schedule one. Regular visits can be the first line of defense against oral cancer because we can identify early warning signs of the disease. Give us a call today!

Fewer Adults are Visiting the Dentist

January 24th, 2018

Our team at Pike & Valega, DDS recently learned that in the decade between 2000 and 2010, the amount of adults who regularly visited their dentist declined, according to research released by the American Dental Association's Health Policy Resources Center (HPRC). In fact, the HPRC found that the percentage of adults who had regular checkups every six months declined from 41 percent in 2003 to 37 percent in 2010. The largest decline in dental care occurred in the 35- to 49-year-old age group. That’s down from 43 percent in 2003 to just 38 percent in 2010.

There is some good news, however. While adult visits may have decreased, children's visits were on the rise, particularly among low-income families. More low-income children are visiting the dentist now than they were ten years ago. And the HPRC notes that between 2000 and 2010, dental visits among low-income children increased in 47 states.

Have you ever wondered why the American Dental Association and Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega recommend that you come in for a dental checkup and cleaning every six months? While daily oral hygiene habits are essential to good oral health, professional dental cleanings at Pike & Valega, DDS ensure your and your child’s teeth are treated to a deeper level of cleaning. In addition to a thorough cleaning and teeth polishing, regular visits at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office 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 for symptoms of any oral disease. We will also check old fillings and restorations, as these can wear away over time from constant chewing, clenching, or grinding at night.

If you are predisposed to oral diseases due to age, pregnancy, tobacco use, or medical conditions such as diabetes or dry mouth, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega may recommend you visit our office more often than every six months.

If you are overdue for your next checkup and cleaning, please give us a call to schedule an appointment!

Wisdom Teeth Emergencies: Causes and treatment

January 23rd, 2018

When you think of a dental emergency, you may picture teeth that have fallen out or severe tooth pain. But it is not uncommon for wisdom teeth to develop conditions or problems that require urgent care from Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS. Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars that erupt in the late teen years to early 20s. Spacing and crowding problems often cause impaction and infections, which is why many people elect to have their wisdom teeth removed. If you are experiencing discomfort or pain related to your wisdom teeth, call our office to schedule a wisdom teeth consultation.

Perisoronitis and Infections

You may develop perisoronitis if you have a partially-erupted wisdom tooth that has become inflamed. Often, inflammation is caused by food lodged beneath the gum. Here at Pike & Valega, DDS, we can gently search for and remove food debris, as well as clean the affected area and treat it with antibiotics. Do not avoid treatment, however, as untreated perisoronitis can lead to infection, which ultimately places your health at risk.

Crowding and Impaction

When your wisdom teeth erupt, they may cause overcrowding of your teeth, which can have a negative effect on their alignment. This can make it harder for you to clean your teeth properly, and it also increases the chances for developing tooth decay and other oral health problems in the future. For some people, the wisdom teeth never erupt, becoming impacted beneath the gum and causing problems with the neighboring teeth.

If you have an impaction or wisdom tooth crowding, make an appointment with our office soon. We will be happy to evaluate the progress of your wisdom teeth, as well as their effect on the rest of your jaw. Depending on our analysis, we will then discuss your options for treatment and whether extraction might be right for you.

Complications from Wisdom Tooth Extraction

If you have recently had your wisdom teeth extracted, blood clots will have formed in the open sockets the teeth previously occupied. In most cases, the gums heal normally, assuming you follow post-surgical care instructions. However, a small percentage of wisdom tooth extractions do not heal according to plan. If you continue to experience pain or other unusual symptoms following a wisdom tooth extraction, please give us a call. We’ll do everything we can to minimize discomfort and help you heal safely and quickly.

Remember, our team is here to support your dental health in every capacity. We are dedicated to providing excellent service before, during, and after all wisdom tooth procedures, so you can rest assured that your oral health is in good hands.

The Consequences of Sports and Energy Drinks

January 17th, 2018

They’re refreshing and tasty. They’re easy to find and pretty cheap. They help us get through a long day or a long workout. They’re everywhere.

We know it’s hard to say no to an energy or sports drink. That’s why Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team want to make sure you know the effects that energy and sports drinks can have on your smile and overall oral health. You might just think twice next time you crave one.

There’s a common misconception that sports and energy drinks are somehow healthier than soda beverages. None is particularly good for you, but because sports and energy drinks have higher acidity levels, they put you on a fast track to enamel erosion, which can lead to cavities over time. However, studies show that energy drinks may be the worst of the bunch.

In a study published in General Dentistry, the energy drinks that showed the highest acidity levels were 5-hour Energy, Monster, Rockstar, and Red Bull Sugar free. These drinks almost doubled in acidity when compared to sports drinks. The sports drinks that came in second as far as acidity levels go were Powerade, Gatorade, and Propel.

You may be thinking, “What's the big deal; lots of other drinks damage your teeth, too,” and you’re right. Even all-natural beverages like orange juice and other fruit juices, which are advertised as full of vitamins, contain acid that damages tooth enamel. The point here is that moderation is key.

We certainly encourage you to choose a glass of orange juice over an energy drink, but if you feel like you just can’t give up your sports and energy drink habit, then please consider the following tips:

  • Limit yourself to a certain number of said beverages a week and stick to it.
  • Rinse with water after consuming an energy or sports drink.
  • Brush your teeth after an hour of downing the drink, so your mouth has time to return to its normal pH level.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. Shoot us a message on Facebook, or let us know on your next visit!

Sealants: What are they and how do they help?

January 16th, 2018

Molars are made up of canyons, caves, pits, and seemingly endless caverns that are a breeding ground for decay. The protective solution is a sealant. When done correctly, a sealant from Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega of Pike & Valega, DDS can be most effective in preventing cavities.

A sealant is made up of composite (a plastic-like) material that contains bonding agents to seal to the edge of the tooth. Sealants placed on the chewing surfaces of back teeth block food from being trapped. The process in which a sealant is placed is quite precise and painless.

First the tooth is cleaned with a sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) spray. Then an acid etch is applied to “roughen up” the surface. No saliva is to touch the tooth. This will re-mineralize the area, then a repeat etching is needed. An alcohol-based liquid then dries out the area and it must remain completely dry. The sealant is placed and guided through all the caverns, pits, fissures, and grooves. It is then cured with a special light, which makes it a hard, plastic-like material.

Sealants can last for several years. It is wise to have them examined on a semi-annual basis. If there is a break in the sealant, a high risk for decay is common. If a sealant is damaged, repair is simple, painless, and quick to complete.

Who can benefit from sealants? Anyone! Children often receive sealants as routine preventive care. Adults with deep canyons with stained grooves on their teeth can also benefit from a sealant. The process is quick, painless, and does not require any anesthesia. It is an effective way to lower dental restorative costs.

An investment in dental sealants can reap great benefits as properly cared for teeth will remain cavity free. Our Poolesville and Rockville MD location is available to answer your questions so give us a call today!

Is sleep apnea linked to cancer? Studies say, ‘Yes’.

January 10th, 2018

Recently, multiple studies have concluded that people with sleep apnea, a disorder that causes snoring, fatigue, and dangerous gaps in breathing at night due to throat muscles collapsing, are five times more likely to develop cancer. In fact, one of the studies found that people with the most severe forms of sleep apnea had a 65 percent greater risk of developing cancer of any kind.

Researchers believe this could be due to the body lacking enough oxygen, a condition known as hypoxemia. When people are deprived of oxygen, their bodies react by producing more blood vessels, which can feed cancer cells, and as a result cause tumors to grow and spread.

Approximately 28 million North Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with many cases going undiagnosed. This is due to most cancer patients not mentioning any sleep problems they experience unless their physician asks them.

Patients at Pike & Valega, DDS who suffer from sleep apnea can be treated using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which produces a stream of air to keep the upper airways open while you sleep. An oral appliance may be another option if CPAP therapy isn’t an option. If you have sleep apnea, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team will help you understand all of your treatment options, finding one that suits your needs.

If you think you may have sleep apnea, please give us a call at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office to schedule an appointment.

My gums are shrinking!

January 9th, 2018

Have you ever looked in the mirror and noticed that your teeth looked longer? Does it seem like your gums are shrinking? This condition is called recession—many adults have it. Let’s look at some of the causes and what you can do about it.

During your exam at Pike & Valega, DDS, we will take measurements to check for periodontal disease. Dental professionals take recession measurements to see how much attached gingiva is present. This is the kind of tissue that is most resilient to infection.

The more recession, the less attached gingiva. The less attached gingiva, the less bone support. The less bone support, the higher your chances of tooth loss. It is quite a domino effect.

Don’t lose hope. The effect can be halted once you know the cause of your recession.

Do you ever wake up with your jaw clenched, and/or a headache that originates just above your ears? Clenching or grinding your teeth can cause recession. When there is added stress on a tooth, it flexes at the gum line.

Over time this causes microscopic breaks in the enamel and then a notch appears. The gum line is forced to move away from its original position. If this is something you see in your mouth, we can discuss the possibility of an occlusal guard at your next visit.

How do you brush your teeth? Do you brush in a straight line or circles? What kind of bristles do you use? Are the bristles on your toothbrush frayed?

When you brush in a circle, you are sweeping all along the gum line, removing the plaque from most angles. When you brush in a straight line, you may often miss the concave portion of the gums. This leaves plaque behind and leads to gingivitis. Whenever gingivitis occurs, the body attacks supporting structures like bone while trying to get rid of the infection. This is periodontal disease, which can cause recession.

Recession may also result from an irritant on the gums, such as a bar from a partial denture or orthodontic appliance (braces).

Gums do not “grow back.” The most common treatment for advanced recession is a tissue graft. There are many different kinds of tissue grafts.

Other factors can cause recession. If you think recession is happening in your mouth, schedule an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega to discuss your options, so you can make the appropriate treatment choice.

Dental Visits Are Not So Bad

January 4th, 2018

Many people dread going to the dentist. Dental visits have the reputation of being painful and uncomfortable, and it is common for people to compare unfortunate situations such as having a root canal or feeling the dentist’s drill. However, at Pike & Valega, DDS, dental visits are not that bad.

Your regular cleaning and checkup are noninvasive. They require no drilling, Novocain, or needles, and you go home with refreshingly clean teeth. When your hygienist cleans your teeth, you are literally receiving individualized care from a professional as you sit back and relax.

In the days before the use of Novocain or other anesthetics, dental work could be painful. Thankfully, those days are gone! Now you are unlikely to feel a thing, even during the most extensive procedures. In addition, most dental work such as fillings, root canals, and crowns can be performed in one to two visits, so you do not need to keep returning to Pike & Valega, DDS.

An incentive for getting over your fear and coming to the dentist is that getting your dental work done can dramatically improve your quality of life. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can address tooth problems that have caused toothaches or prevented you from eating the foods you like. As a bonus, regular visits with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our staff allow us to identify conditions such as periodontal disease, which can indicate risk for seemingly unrelated health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Amalgam Fillings vs. White Fillings

January 2nd, 2018

Many varieties of fillings are available at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. Most people are familiar with traditional amalgam fillings: those big silver spots on top of teeth.

Made from a mixture of silver, tin, zinc, copper, and mercury, amalgam fillings have been used to fill cavities for more than 100 years. They offer several advantages, including:

  • High durability for large cavities or cavities on molars
  • Quick hardening time for areas that are difficult to keep dry during placement
  • Reduced placement time for children and special-needs patients who may have a difficult time keeping still during treatment

Although dental amalgam is a safe and commonly used dental material, you might wonder about its mercury content. You should know that when it’s combined with the other metals, mercury forms a safe, stable material.

The American Dental Association, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U. S. Food and Drug Administration, and World Health Organization all agree that based on extensive scientific evidence, dental amalgam is a safe and effective cavity-filling material.

White Fillings

Newer, mercury-free, resin-based composite fillings (white fillings) are also available at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. Composite resin fillings are made from plastic mixed with powdered glass to make them stronger.

Resin-based fillings offer several benefits for patients, including:

  • They match the color of teeth
  • Less tooth structure needs to be removed than with amalgam fillings
  • BPA-free materials can be used

Resin-based composite fillings also have some disadvantages, including:

  • Higher cost than amalgam fillings
  • Inlays may take more than one visit
  • Requires more time to place than amalgam fillings

There’s a lot to think about when you have to get a cavity filled. We recommend you do your homework and speak with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega before deciding what’s best for you or your family.

Smile, the New Year is Almost Here!

December 27th, 2017

We’ve been celebrating the new year for a really, really long time. It goes way back, but it started formally in 1582, when Pope George XIII made January 1st the official holiday for ushering in the new year. The idea was to yell, cheer, and blow horns to scare away all the evil spirits of the previous year with the hope that the new one would be filled with happiness and opportunity.

While scaring away evil spirits isn’t what’s on our mind these days, we still ring in the New Year by cheering and hollering with friends and family. It’s a time to set new goals, refocus on old ones, and look forward to all the surprises the coming year will bring.

Whether you’re saying hello to the New Year snuggled up at home on your couch in the Poolesville and Rockville MD area or by gathering your friends for a social celebration, here are some tips to help ensure you welcome this new chapter with a smile.

Tips for a great New Year’s Eve celebration from Pike & Valega, DDS

  • Stay safe. This one’s vital, because nothing puts a damper on your party like an emergency trip to the hospital. Stay responsible and try to plan ahead, whether that means taking a taxi, staying with a friend, or recruiting a designated driver. Do what you have to do to keep yourself and everyone around you safe.
  • Spend time with the people you love most. The way we see it, the whole point of the holiday season is to cherish your family and friends. Regardless of what you’re doing, make sure there’s something for everyone. It’s essential to do something the whole group will enjoy!
  • Smile! Whether you get all dressed to go out or have a quiet gathering with family and friends, make sure you accessorize with a smile. There’s always something to smile about!

We can all agree that change can be scary sometimes, but ringing in the New Year is an observance we all welcome with open arms. We hope you’ll enjoy this transitional holiday in a fun, healthy, and safe way. You have endless possibilities ahead of you!

From Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, have a fantastic New Year!

Things You Probably Didn’t Know About New Year's Eve

December 26th, 2017

It’s no secret that New Year’s Eve is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team love it too. It’s a fresh start, another year of surviving the crazy world we live in, a time to refocus on the things we want for ourselves, a celebration with those we love … the list goes on.

Dozens of countries welcome the New Year with over-the-top parties and celebrations. Because it’s a public holiday, many offices, businesses, and schools close for the day. As you think about your plans for this holiday, here are some fun facts about New Year’s that might surprise you!

Can you guess what the most common New Year’s resolutions are? You may already have one or two of these on your own personal list. The top five New Year’s resolutions are: to quit smoking, get a new job, lose weight, increase personal savings, and return to school. Just remember that coming up with a concrete plan to reach your goals is the surest way to achieve your resolutions!

About one million people brave the cold to watch the New Year’s Eve ball drop in New York City’s Times Square in person. Yes, that’s one million! This event is one of the most iconic celebrations in the world. People travel from all over just to experience it, but you can watch from the warmth and comfort of your living room.

If you’re not a fan of cabbage, collard greens, black-eyed peas, or ham hocks, you might want to revise your tastes. All these foods are all regarded as lucky fare on New Year’s Day. Unless you’re allergic, of course!

For many people in Mexico and Latin America, eating 12 grapes at midnight is a tradition that brings good luck in the 12 coming months. Most people even make a wish per grape!

Whether you’re celebrating in Poolesville and Rockville MD or traveling elsewhere to observe the holiday, New Year’s Eve is a time to enjoy the company of your friends and family. Don’t forget to send warm wishes to your loved ones, and snag a midnight kiss with that special someone if you can!

Tips for Managing Oral Pain

December 20th, 2017

Experiencing tooth or oral pain is not fun. If you cannot get to Pike & Valega, DDS right away, the pain may even seem to increase. The old saying that a tooth will stop hurting once you get to a dentist is not that far from true. However, there are many tips you can try to relieve your oral pain until you can see Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega.

Common Pain Relief Options

First, try to determine the source of the pain. This is sometimes not possible, but it may help. If you are experiencing pain between your teeth or along the gum line, try swishing some warm salt water in your mouth. One teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of warm (not hot) water is all you need.

The pain you are experiencing could be a particle of food stuck under your gum. You can also try flossing as long as bleeding is not present. Salt water soothes other mouth irritations to reduce pain.

You can try over-the-counter pain relievers, including oral medications or topical gels. Avoid taking aspirin; it thins your blood, which could end up being a problem for dental work. Wash your hands before applying any topical pain treatments to avoid spreading germs.

Clove Oil

Clove oil works quickly to relieve most oral pain. Place a few drops of clove oil on a damp cotton ball and place the cotton in your mouth near the painful area. Do not use this method overnight, because you don’t want to swallow the cotton.

Whole cloves can also be used, but try to remove any sharp edges first. Place a few pieces in your mouth and allow your saliva to soften the clove. Some sources say that chewing the clove helps, but you shouldn’t do this if you have a fractured tooth.

Other Household Remedies

If you have cough drops that include benzocaine or menthol, you can try sucking on a cough drop for relief. Placing a warm, wet tea bag against a painful oral area can sometimes reduce the pain as well.

Toothpastes designed to relieve pain from sensitive teeth may work. While these pastes do take time to reach full effectiveness, they can be helpful if you have to wait several days.

Remember that these tips are only designed to provide temporary pain relief. You need to schedule an appointment at Pike & Valega, DDS quickly. Call and schedule an emergency appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega as soon as possible.

How does a tooth decay?

December 19th, 2017

When acids are allowed to erode tooth enamel long enough to leach calcium and other minerals from your enamel and dentin, a process called demineralization occurs. This rapidly leads to tooth decay unless reversed by good oral hygiene and professional dental cleanings at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. Acids responsible for tooth decay come from the wastes of mutans streptococci and lactobacilli bacteria that thrive in dental plaque, a substance that is the leading cause of periodontitis.

Where do demineralizing acids come from?

Dietary sugars comprise the bulk of tooth-decaying acids, including table sugar, cooked starches, fructose, glucose, and lactose. In fact, as soon as you bite down on a sugary cookie or into a French fry, bacteria start digesting sugars, breaking them down and eventually excreting them as demineralizing acids. As this bacteria colony grows and becomes organized, plaque develops and forms that tough, yellowish coating you often see on the tops of teeth at the gumline.

Plaque is the Problem

Dental plaque is a filmy type of nesting place for bacteria that also keeps acids pressed against tooth enamel. Since plaque cannot be removed by brushing, it is important that a person who suffers tooth decay visit Pike & Valega, DDS immediately so we can use special tools to scrape and thoroughly clean teeth.

Signs of Tooth Decay

Early tooth decay and cavities remain asymptomatic until demineralization creates a hole deep enough to reach the tooth’s inner tissues and nerve endings. Eventually, tooth decay will cause tooth sensitivity, toothache, vague pain when biting down on the affected tooth, and possibly pus seeping around a tooth’s gum line if the decay creates an infection. If treatment is delayed long enough, a decaying tooth may loosen, crumble, and ultimately fall out, which leaves an empty or partially empty socket.

Preventing Tooth Decay

Getting regular checkups with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, brushing and flossing twice a day, and eating fruits or crunchy vegetables at snack time instead of a candy bar or doughnut are the three best ways to keep your teeth healthy, white, and where they should be: in your mouth.

When was your last dental checkup?

December 13th, 2017

While Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team tell you daily oral hygiene habits, such as brushing and flossing, are essential to optimal oral health, regular dental checkups at Pike & Valega, DDS ensure your teeth are treated to a deeper level of cleaning.

We recommend for most of our patients to have a cleaning at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office at least every six months. In addition to a thorough cleaning and polishing of your teeth, visits with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega help us detect and prevent the onset of tooth decay and gum disease, also known as periodontal disease. During your visit, we will check the health of your mouth, teeth, gums, cheeks, and tongue for signs of any decay or disease. We will also check old fillings and restorations as these can wear away over time due to chewing, clenching, or grinding.

If you are predisposed to any oral diseases, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega may recommend checking in with us more often than every six months. We want your teeth to get the professional attention they deserve! If you are overdue for your next cleaning, give us a call at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office to schedule a checkup! See you soon!

Five Things You Didn't Know About Cavities

December 12th, 2017

Most people know when they have a cavity—they can either see it on their tooth or... ouch! They can feel it! But there are certain things that many of our patients don't know about cavities that could save them a trip to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

1. Not all sugars are created equal

It's quite well known that eating dietary sugars in excess along with poor oral hygiene leads to dental decay such as cavities. This is due to the fact that the bacteria in your mouth feed on these sugars and excrete acids as a byproduct of that process, thus causing decay. But xylitol, a sugar alcohol derived from birch or corn, actually prevents the bacteria from converting sugars into acids.

Xylitol is available in the form of gum, mints, toothpaste, and even in a granulated form much like regular cane sugar. You might consider trying some xylitol products between meals to keep your mouth clean and fresh.

2. It's not always what you eat but HOW you eat

Are you a grazer, always snacking between meals and never satisfied? We now know that this kind of eating can contribute to cavities and other oral health problems.

Every time you eat anything with carbohydrates in it, you're feeding the bacteria in your mouth, which in turn produce acids. If you're constantly eating, it doesn't allow your saliva time to bring the pH of your mouth back into a more alkaline, neutral state. It takes your saliva about 20 minutes to neutralize the acids in your mouth after eating.

It's especially easy to harm your teeth in this way with soft drinks, sipping all day long. So, it's best to avoid sugary drinks and junk food, and if you need a snack opt for healthy vegetables or what are known as "detergent foods." If you do decide to drink a soft drink or eat something sugary, have it all at once and not over the course of the day.

3. Flossing is one of the most important oral hygiene techniques

Although most of our patients are aware that they need to brush, sometimes they can get lackadaisical when it comes to flossing. And that's a big mistake. Flossing is one of the most important (and we daresay, easiest) things someone can do to help prevent cavities and tooth decay.

You see, as we've already mentioned, the bacteria in your mouth that cause cavities feed on the food you eat. So if you've got pieces of that food stuck between your teeth all day and night, every day, that's asking for a problem.

Flossing clears that bacteria-feeding food out from between your teeth. Floss daily and whenever you decide to do it, morning or night, just do it!

4. A dry mouth can lead to cavities and tooth decay

Your teeth's best defense against cavities and tooth decay is actually your saliva! We've already talked about the pH neutralizing effect saliva has. So if you find you have a dry mouth often, make sure to have some water to sip on. Or why not try some xylitol mints or gum to get your saliva production kicked into action?

5. Over-brushing can damage your enamel

If you brush like a construction worker with a jackhammer, you should ease up! Brushing too hard can scrape away at your teeth's enamel, which leaves them more susceptible to cavities and decay. Brush lightly, with your brush angled at the gum line for two minutes, twice a day. That's all that is required!

What are the five things I should do in between visits?

December 6th, 2017

When it comes to keeping your smile looking its best, good oral hygiene is a must! Good oral health habits should start early and continue throughout your lifetime. Here, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS suggest five habits worth adopting that will help keep your teeth healthy:

  • Brush and floss regularly. Brush gently at least twice a day, paying special attention to the gum line to rid your mouth of food and bacteria that may lurk in between your teeth. Floss at least once a day. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if the bristles are frayed.
  • Make regular visits to see Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega. Regular checkups (twice yearly) will help diagnose any dental problems early on when they can be more easily treated.
  • Stop smoking. Did you know smokers are four times as likely as nonsmokers to develop periodontal (gum) disease? Tobacco, whether in the form of cigarettes, pipes, cigars, or chewable tobacco, increases oral and throat cancer risks, and raises the risk for candidiasis, an oral fungal infection. Smokeless tobacco contains sugar, which furthers your risk for cavities.
  • Limit your alcohol intake. Heavy drinking dramatically increases the risk of developing mouth and throat cancers.
  • Eat healthy. Avoid snacking on foods that contain high levels of sugar or starch. We encourage you to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are known to help stimulate the flow of saliva to re-mineralize tooth surfaces and neutralize cavity-causing bacteria.

To learn more about the habits you should practice in between your visits to Pike & Valega, DDS, or to schedule an appointment, please give us a call today!

Protecting Your Smile with Mouthguards

December 5th, 2017

If you participate in sports or other physical activities, it’s wise to consider getting a mouthguard. Also known as mouth protectors, mouthguards are a device worn over the teeth to lessen the impact of a blow to the face.

This reduces the chance that you might lose teeth or sustain other serious oral injuries. We recommend that all patients involved in a contact sport such as wrestling, football, or hockey wear a mouthguard because of the high risk of such injuries.

However, anyone involved in a physically demanding sport or activity should wear a mouthguard as well.

Can you imagine what it would be like to lose a few of your front teeth? The way you talk, eat, and smile would all change. Potential injuries when you don’t wear a mouthguard include chipped and broken teeth, fractured jaws, root damage, damage to crowns and bridgework, concussions, and/or injury to the lips, cheeks, or gums.

Types of Mouthguards

There are three different types of mouthguards — typically made of a soft plastic material or laminate. You can decide which works best for you in terms of budget, fit, and comfort.

  • Stock mouthguards are prefabricated to a standard size. They offer adequate protection, but you need to make sure you find one that fits properly and comfortably. Stock mouthguards are readily available at department stores, sporting goods stores, and online.
  • Boil-and-bite mouthguards are placed in boiling water to soften them, then into the mouth so they can conform to the shape of the teeth. Boil-and-bite mouthguards are more expensive, but offer a more customized fit than stock ones. You can find these in department stores, pharmacies, sporting goods stores, and online.
  • Custom-made mouthguards are created just for you by Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega. These offer the best fit and comfort of all the options, but they are also the most expensive. Ask a member of our Poolesville and Rockville MD team for more information.

The American Dental Association says a good mouthguard should be easy to clean, fit properly, be comfortable, and resist tearing or damage. It shouldn’t restrict speech or breathing.

Still not sure if you need a mouthguard or which kind is right for you? Ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega or one of our staff members for more information.

What's the best dental floss?

November 29th, 2017

Dental floss is similar to a lot of products that depend mainly on the consumer’s preference. Fact is, floss comes in a wide variety of flavors, coatings, and other variations, but all types of floss essentially do the same thing. After all, that is what is most important: that the dental floss you buy is functional—cleaning the areas in between your teeth. If you want to know what the best dental floss is, the answer is the kind that enables you to successfully and regularly clean those areas. So to help you find the right type of floss for you, here are some options.

Flavored Dental Floss

Many people that floss prefer a flavored dental floss because it freshens their breath even more than unscented floss. The latter can also take on the smells associated with bacteria in your mouth. And we all know how bad that can be. So, if flavored dental floss is what you prefer, and it allows you to floss your teeth regularly, then it is automatically best for your mouth.

Flossers

There are also products on the market called flossers, which usually consist of a plastic instrument with strung floss and a pick on the opposite end. This option can be both effective at cleaning the areas in between your teeth and scraping off plaque. These flossers also come flavored in mint and various other varieties.

Gentle Dental Floss

Some people find that typical dental floss is too harsh on their gums. For that reason some companies make floss with soft coatings that are less abrasive on the gums. For the most part these types of floss are just as effective as regular floss, and for those people that require a more sensitive approach to flossing, especially when just starting out, this is the best option.

Of the aforementioned options, it is difficult to name an absolute best type of floss. However, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team say that the type of floss that works best for you, giving you the greatest chance of succeeding at regular flossing, is the best. For more information on floss, contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Should I use mouthwash?

November 28th, 2017

Mouthwashes are commonly used as a part of a daily oral care regimen. Not only do they freshen breath, but some are capable of improving dental health too. Using a mouthwash daily can rinse fine debris away and out of reach while brushing. It can also make the teeth and gums more resilient to decay and disease.

Types of Mouthwashes

There are several types of mouthwashes available today that Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS want you to be aware of. Some do little more than freshen breath and are known as cosmetic mouthwashes. These are ideal for quickly eliminating odors that linger after eating, drinking, or taking medication. Using a cosmetic mouthwash does not offer any health benefits.

Other mouthwashes offer more comprehensive benefits; they can potentially prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Mouthwashes that contain antimicrobial agents work by preventing the buildup of plaque that can lead to gingivitis and decay of the tooth enamel. However, it should be noted that the use of a mouthwash is never a substitute for regular brushing and flossing.

In some cases, prescription mouthwashes are necessary to treat patients with gum disease or who have undergone periodontal surgery. These specialty mouthwashes are designed specifically for the treatment of gum disease and should not be used outside of their intended use. The majority of mouthwashes require no prescription.

Tips for Choosing a Mouthwash

The choice to use a mouthwash and which one to use is between you and your dentist, depending on your individual oral health needs. If you determine that a mouthwash is right for you, look for one that contains fluoride, if possible. Fluoride provides an added layer of protection for your teeth, and helps them become more resistant to decay. As always, if you have any questions or concerns when choosing a mouthwash, please give our team at Pike & Valega, DDS a call for assistance in selecting the rinse that is best for you. Or, we invite to ask us during your next visit to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

My child has canker sores! How can I help?

November 22nd, 2017

According to the American Association of Pediatric Density, roughly one in five children suffers from canker sores. Canker sores are small sores that appear inside the cheeks, on the lips, on the surface of the gums, and under the tongue.

Even though, canker sores are not contagious, they do tend to run in families. There are several reasons your child may be suffering from canker sores including:

  • Children who have Vitamin B12, iron, and folic acid deficiencies tend to get canker sores more often than children who have normal levels of these vitamins and minerals.
  • Children who suffer from food allergies are also at a higher risk for developing canker sores. It’s difficult to determine what your child may be allergic to. If you feel strongly that the canker sores are related to an allergy, then a visit to an allergist is highly recommended.
  • Biting their lip or cheek can also result in a canker sore.
  • Any injury to mouth, where the skin breaks can cause a canker sore.
  • Brushing their teeth too hard can also be a problem.
  • Your child may be sensitive to an ingredient in their toothpaste. Try switching toothpastes and see if it makes a difference.
  • Emotional disturbances and stress are also factors to consider.

If your child has frequent canker sores a visit to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office will be beneficial. Canker sores are painful and usually last about 14 days. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega may recommend one or a few of the following treatment options:

  • Avoid food that is acidic, salty, and spicy.
  • A toothbrush with soft bristles may be helpful.
  • Avoid mouthwash and toothpaste that contain SLS.
  • Do not feed your child foods that they may be allergic to.

Canker Sore Remedies

  • Eating yogurt that contains Acidophilus will relieve the pain and help the canker sore heal faster.
  • Put one teaspoon of baking soda in an eight-ounce glass of lukewarm water. Have your child gargle and swish it around his or her mouth several times a day. Not only does this remedy relieve the pain, the canker sore could be gone in as little as 24 hours.
  • Place a wet tea bag on the sore and hold it there for a few minutes several times a day. This remedy will help with the pain and quickly heal the sore.
  • Camphor, Benzocaine, Lidocaine, and Orajel are over-the-counter medications that can help.

If you have questions about your child’s canker sore, contact Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega to schedule an appointment.

Five Common Reasons for Emergency Care Visits

November 21st, 2017

A dental emergency can strike anywhere, anytime, and without warning. Perhaps you’re playing a game of touch football on Thanksgiving and your brother-in-law decides to up the ante and tackles you, accidentally knocking out your two front teeth. Or maybe you’re on vacation somewhere in the tropics and decide to go deep-sea fishing, but when you’re climbing onto the boat you slip on the dock, fall, and chip three of your teeth. From misplaced fly balls to bagel seeds causing a painful bout of inflammation, there are all kinds of dental emergencies.

Here are the five most common reasons for emergency care visits.

  1. Somehow you've managed to knock out a tooth. Whether it's the result of a sports injury or because of decay, when you lose a tooth, you need emergency dental care. If the tooth is salvageable, then it can be reattached to the socket, but this needs to be done within a one- or two-hour window.
  2. A chipped tooth is the most common dental emergency. Small chips can be caused by food (chicken bones and nuts have sent many people to the dentist); however, it's usually some sort of accident or injury that more often causes a chip. While you might be embarrassed to walk around with a gaping chip in your front tooth, it is easily fixed with a bond, crown, or veneer.
  3. A broken tooth is more severe than a chipped tooth. When a tooth breaks, it might be due to a small or hidden chip. However, chances are the pain and discomfort will be more severe.
  4. It might seem comical, but getting a piece of food lodged in the wrong place can result in a dental emergency. If something gets stuck deep in a crevice, it can cause pain and inflammation.
  5. The loss of a filling happens more often than you think. When you lose a filling, you need to receive emergency care immediately. If you don’t, you risk further damage to your tooth.

When you injure your teeth or mouth, you need to seek emergency care as soon as possible. In the event of a suspected emergency, don't wait. Contact Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega immediately.

How can I protect my child's teeth during sports?

November 15th, 2017

Sports are great for children for a variety of reasons. Children can develop their motor skills, learn how to solve conflicts and work together, and develop their work ethics. As a parent, you may recognize the benefits of sports, but also naturally worry about your child’s health and safety. Your job goes beyond providing a water bottle and making sure your child follows the rules of the game.

Although you may not think of your child’s teeth first when you think about sports, accidents can happen that affect your children’s teeth. A stray hockey stick, an errant basketball, or a misguided dive after a volleyball are examples of ways a child could lose a tooth. In fact, studies show that young athletes lose more than three million teeth each year.

Becoming a Better Athlete to Protect Teeth

Becoming a better athlete involves refining skills, learning the rules of the game, and being a good sport. These components are not just about winning. They are also about safety. Young athletes who are better ball-handlers and who are careful to avoid fouls and penalties are less likely to have harmful contact with the ball, teammates, or opponents. Children who are better roller-bladers are less likely to take a face plant into the blacktop, and more likely to save their teeth. Being a good sport and avoiding unnecessary contact is one way to protect teeth.

Proper Protective Equipment for Teeth

If your child is in a sport that poses a high threat to teeth, it is essential for your child to wear a mouthguard. Mouthguards fit your child’s mouth and consist of soft plastic. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can custom fit a mouthguard if generic ones are uncomfortable. While children may resist wearing a mouthguard initially, your persistence in insisting that they wear it should be enough to convince them. A helmet or face mask provides additional protection.

While prevention is best, rapid treatment can improve the situation if your child does happen to lose a tooth during sports. Rapid implantation can work in about ten percent of cases. To learn about ways to save a lost tooth, contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

How do I know if I need dentures?

November 14th, 2017

The choice to get dentures is a permanent decision so there are several important factors you should take into consideration. Many people have teeth that are not able to be repaired due to a variety of reasons, but for those who have the option and the money to repair their natural teeth they need to consider every choice they may have.

You have a choice!

Yes, it’s true! We do have a choice about whether we will have to have dentures in the future. Many people don’t realize that just by taking certain precautions they can actually prevent any serious issues from arising. For example, it’s very easy to reschedule that dental cleaning. However, it’s very important that you keep every appointment because Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will be able to catch small problems before you even realize you have them. Also, if there are any signs of gum disease you will know early enough to stop any further damage. One of the main reasons that many people end up needing dentures is because of either gum disease or because severe cavities have cause too many teeth to be extracted.

If you notice any of the following you should make an appointment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office right away:

  • Teeth are moving further apart
  • Soreness or tenderness of the gums
  • Trouble eating hard food
  • Sensitivity
  • You have already lost several teeth
  • Toothaches

The key to avoiding dentures is prevention. Avoiding dentures is not impossible and can be as simple as staying on top of your oral hygiene. However, if you are currently experiencing any dental issues you should see Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega now, because a small problem can quickly escalate into a very large and expensive dental procedure.

How a High-Tech Office Helps Your Dental Treatment

November 8th, 2017

A dental office on the cutting edge of technology offers numerous benefits to its patients. Whether you are in need of a simple cleaning or extensive restorative work, these technologies will help you stay more comfortable and give you better results than the outdated tools used in many offices. Here are some of the technologies that you can expect to see in our modern dental office:

  • Digital radiography – Digital X-rays and imaging expose patients to far less radiation than traditional X-rays. Not only that, but these digital images provide a more detailed and easier-to-view snapshot of what is going on in and around your teeth. They make it easier for patients to see what's going on since we can show them right on the computer monitor. It's also better for the environment because there’s no need for the toxic chemicals used to develop traditional X-ray films.
  • Panoramic X-rays – This digital X-ray gives Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega a more in-depth understanding of the entire structure of your mouth and head than a regular X-ray. The panoramic X-ray machine rotates around your head and takes a 3D image of it, giving us a very complete picture that allows for more effective and timely treatment planning.
  • Bioceramic implants, prosthetic devices, and sealants – Advances in implants and prosthetic devices over the past several decades has led to the creation of bioceramic (nontoxic) materials ideal for crowns, veneers, and implants. These materials allow for more visually appealing dental work since there are no metals used with these high-tech ceramics.
  • Paperless bills and records – We all know the inconvenience of paper bills and receipts; they can create clutter and get lost. Our office has done away with this trouble by going paperless. This means you'll receive all your pertinent paperwork in your email inbox and records will be kept digitally at the office. No more wall full of patient records!

This is just an overview of the many advances that we’ve made to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office to make it cleaner, quieter, more comfortable, and more efficient, helping you spend less time in the chair and more time smiling!

Periodontics and Pregnancy

November 7th, 2017

Periodontal health — which refers to the condition of the structures that support your teeth — is an important part of your oral and overall health. However, periodontal health becomes even more important when you're pregnant. Bad oral health can have detrimental effects on the health of your unborn child and can lead to low-birth weight babies and giving birth to a pre-term baby, according to reports by the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), the European Federation of Periodontology (EFP), and several research studies.

Periodontal disease (gum disease) is a set of chronic, bacteria-induced, inflammatory diseases that attack the gum tissue and in more severe cases, the bones supporting the teeth. Early signs of periodontal disease usually include tenderness, swelling, and redness. Symptoms can also include bleeding gums when flossing or brushing, receding gums, loose teeth, and bad breath. These signs shouldn't be ignored, especially if you're pregnant.

Prevention is the best tool you have to fight periodontal disease. Here are some steps you can take to keep your gums in tiptop shape:

  • Brush your teeth properly twice a day – angle your toothbrush at the gum line to help disrupt the bacterial growth that eventually leads to periodontal disease, and make sure you don't brush too hard.
  • Floss daily and clean behind the back molars on the top and bottom of your mouth.
  • Use antiseptic mouthwash to rid your mouth of the bacteria that can cause gum disease.
  • Get regular checkups at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office to ensure you have no signs of periodontal disease and that your oral hygiene habits are effective.

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team urge women to care for their periodontal health during pregnancy to avoid complications. If you have any questions regarding periodontal health and how it affects you and your baby's overall health, please contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office for more information.

The Importance of Regular Dental Checkups

November 1st, 2017

When was the last time you paid Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega 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 Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega 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 Pike & Valega, DDS 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 Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

I have halitosis. What can I do?

October 31st, 2017

Halitosis is the fancy, scientific word for “bad breath.” Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team know there are several reasons why you may have halitosis; let’s look at a few:

  • Gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) – There are five main types of gum disease, and each one can range from mild to severe. For example the most common one is gingivitis; it is caused by bacteria in the plaque that has been allowed to build up, usually as a result of poor oral hygiene. A more serious and uncommon type of gum disease is called necrotizing periodontal disease. It is most common in people who have a suppressed immune system.
  • Smoking
  • Dry Mouth – This can be caused by something as simple as a medication you take.
  • Food – Of course, if you eat something that is potent like garlic, it is going to give you bad breath.
  • Diseases of the Body – Some diseases such as sinus infections and diabetes, among a few other types of infections, can also cause you to have halitosis.

How to Get Rid of Halitosis

The most obvious answer to how to get rid of halitosis is to practice good oral hygiene, although, depending on the cause of halitosis it may not be that simple. If you have an infection that is causing the halitosis then you may need an antibiotic to clear up the infection and then the bad breath will go away. Here are more tips:

  • Brush your teeth after every meal and before bed.
  • Floss your teeth. The more plaque you get out of your teeth, the better chance you have of not getting cavities or bad breath.
  • Address any medical conditions that are not related to your teeth that can be causing the halitosis.
  • Ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega for a prescription mouthwash that kills bacteria.

Halitosis (bad breath) can be an embarrassing condition to live with, but there are plenty of ways to get rid of it permanently. Start by talking to a member of our team at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

How Missing Teeth Can Affect Your Health

October 25th, 2017

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, an estimated three out of four Americans suffer from gum disease. In milder cases, the disease is called gingivitis. More severe cases are called periodontitis. Despite the prevalence of periodontal disease (and it is very common), only three percent of people who suffer from periodontal disease get treatment for it. Gum disease has been linked to other serious diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

Periodontal Disease Is Common Among Americans

The Journal of Dental Research published the findings of a joint study from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). The study compared the full periodontal exam that participants received for this study against partial periodontal exams participants received for an older study.

The results show the rate of periodontal disease today could be as much as 50 percent higher than earlier estimated. Shockingly, this means that about twice as many Americans as previously believed suffer from gum disease – either moderate or severe.

The Link between Chronic Illness and Periodontal Disease

Many people who have chronic medical problems don’t have dental insurance, or the money to spend on dental care. Not surprisingly, this and a lack of understanding about proper oral hygiene leads to situations in which an initially minor problem turns into something far more severe, and probably preventable.

Gum diseases and cavities are caused by infections. When you get a cavity, the infection develops in the tooth itself. You may never feel anything, so unless you get regular, twice-a-year dental exams, you might not know there is a problem.

With gum disease, the infection occurs in the bones and tissues that form the gums and support the teeth. The tissues that surround teeth, and the bones that lie below the gums, are necessary to hold your teeth in. When those aren’t strong enough to support your teeth, you lose them.

Tooth loss has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and an increased risk for kidney disease. Gum disease and severe infections in the mouth can spread to other parts of the body faster than people realize. A healthy mouth is alkaline. It’s vital for you to maintain an alkaline pH to keep harmful bacteria away.

When people eat, their pH changes, and the environment inside the mouth becomes more acidic. Since the typical American diet is very acidic, harmful bacteria thrive in the mouth. Typical foods include breads, grains, starches, and sweets – the foods people love the most. Since it isn’t always possible for people to brush after every meal, the mouth pH remains acidic, and the acid contributes to faster tooth erosion.

What does all this mean for you? The health of your mouth is more important than you realize. Get those regular dental exams, and make sure that you and your family keep to a regular routine of brushing and flossing. Good oral hygiene can help prevent periodontal disease, and that will lower your risk of tooth loss.

Is Coffee Damaging Your Smile?

October 24th, 2017

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. Many people have a cup, or two, or even three a day. It’s common to drink it in the morning to wake up and get ready for the day, as an afternoon pick-me-up, or just to catch up with a coworker or friend.

These days there are many different kinds of coffee flavors to enjoy, so it’s almost impossible for a person not to like it. But as delicious as coffee is, it’s worthwhile to be aware of the effects it has on our dental health.

Coffee contains a lot of tannic acid, which is what causes its dark color. Tannic acid ingrains itself into the grooves of tooth enamel, and that leads to serious stains. In addition to containing tannic acid, the fact that coffee is generally served very hot makes your teeth expand and contract, which allows the stains to penetrate even farther into the enamel.

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team know it’s not easy to kick the caffeine habit. If you find yourself needing a cup of joe every day, here are some helpful tips to consider:

  • Switch to decaf coffee.
  • Make it a habit to drink a glass of water with your coffee to rinse away the acid.
  • Try enjoying your coffee with a straw so the tannic acid makes less contact with your front and lower teeth.
  • Pop in a piece of gum after your coffee to help prevent a dry mouth.

If you’re feeling ambitious, you might find that setting a limit on the number of cups of coffee you have per week or even per day can be helpful. You are always welcome to contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office to discuss potential whitening options as well. We’re here to help!

Aging and Oral Health

October 18th, 2017

As you age, it becomes even more important to take good care of your teeth and dental health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one-fourth of adults age 65 and older have no remaining teeth. What's more, nearly one-third of older adults have untreated tooth decay.

Oral health, regardless of age, is crucial to overall good health. Ideally, we all want to keep your natural teeth, but whether you're caring for natural teeth or dentures, advancing age may put older adults at risk for a number of oral health problems, including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Diminished sense of taste
  • Root decay
  • Gum disease
  • Uneven jawbone caused by tooth loss
  • Denture-induced tissue inflammation
  • Overgrowth of fungus in the mouth
  • Attrition (loss of teeth structure by mechanical forces)
  • Oral cancer

These conditions may not be diagnosed until it is too late. If you want to feel good, stay healthy, and look great throughout life, you might be surprised what a difference a healthy mouth makes.

Here are some tips for maintaining and improving your oral health as you become older:

  • Brush twice a day with a toothbrush with soft bristles. You may also benefit from using an electric toothbrush.
  • Clean between your teeth once a day with floss or another interdental cleaner.
  • If you wear full or partial dentures, remember to clean them on a daily basis. Take your dentures out of your mouth for at least four hours every day. It’s best to remove them at night.
  • Drink tap water. Since most contains fluoride, it helps prevent tooth decay no matter how old you are.
  • Quit smoking. Besides putting you at greater risk for lung and other cancers, smoking increases problems with gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss.
  • Visit Pike & Valega, DDS regularly for a complete dental checkup.

If you have any questions about keeping up with your oral hygiene at home, please give us a call!

Diet Soda vs. Regular Soda: Which is better for teeth?

October 17th, 2017

When most patients ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega this question, they're thinking strictly about sugar content — cut out the bacteria-feeding sugar that's present in regular soda by opting for a diet soda and it will be better for your teeth. That seems logical, right? Well, there's a bit more to it than that. Let's take a closer look at how any kind of soda can affect your dental health.

Diet Soda – Why it can also lead to tooth decay

The main culprit in these drinks that leads to decay is the acid content. Diet sodas and other sugar-free drinks are usually highly acidic, which weakens the enamel on your teeth and makes them more susceptible to cavities and dental erosion. The level of phosphoric acid, citric acid, and/or tartaric acid is usually high in sugar-free drinks so it's best to avoid them.

Some patients also enjoy drinking orange juice or other citrus juices. These drinks are high in citric acid and have the same effect on the enamel of your teeth.

So what about regular soda?

We know the acidity of diet sodas and sugar-free drinks contributes to tooth decay, so what about regular soda? Like we alluded to earlier, regular soda is high in sugar — a 12 ounce can contains roughly ten teaspoons of sugar — and sugar feeds the decay-causing bacteria in the mouth. This also includes sports drinks and energy drinks, which are highly acidic and loaded with sugar too. So these drinks are a double-whammy of sugar and acidity your teeth and body simply don't need.

The problems caused by both diet and regular soda is exacerbated when you sip on them throughout the day. If you drink it all in one sitting, you won't be washing sugar and/or acids over your teeth all day long and your saliva will have a chance to neutralize the pH in your mouth.

The best beverages to drink and how to drink them

Drinking beverages that are lower in acid is a good step to take to keep your enamel strong. According to a study conducted by Matthew M. Rodgers and J. Anthony von Fraunhofer at the University of Michigan, your best bets are plain water, black tea or coffee, and if you opt for a soda, root beer. These drinks dissolved the least amount of enamel when measured 14 days after consumption of the beverage.

If you still choose to drink soda, diet soda, sugar-free drinks, or juices here are some other tips to lessen tooth decay:

  • Drink your soda or acidic beverages through a straw to minimize contact with teeth
  • Rinse with water immediately after consumption of the beverage
  • Avoid brushing your teeth between 30 minutes to an hour after drinking the beverage as this has been shown to spread the acids before your saliva can bring your mouth back to a neutral pH
  • Avoid drinks that have acids listed on the ingredients label

Still have questions about soda, sugar, and acid? Give our Poolesville and Rockville MD office a call and we’d be happy to help!

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

October 11th, 2017

At Pike & Valega, DDS, 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. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega 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 Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega 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 Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Keep It Cheesy for a Long-Lasting Smile

October 10th, 2017

You’ve heard people tell you to say “cheese” when you’re having your picture taken, probably more times than you can count. There is another reason you should be saying “cheese” … or “YES” to eating cheese.

Although Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our staff routinely encourage our patients to brush their teeth after eating, the one time you don’t want to do that, at least not immediately, is after eating cheese.

Study Finds Important Benefit From Eating Cheese

CBS News reported on the results of a study that was published in the May/June 2013 issue of General Dentistry, a publication of the Academy of General Dentistry. The study showed that cheese increases dental plaque pH, but in this case, the plaque increase isn’t a bad thing. When you eat cheese, you increase the pH of the plaque on your teeth, and create a protective coating that may lower your risk of getting dental caries -- more commonly known as cavities.

An analysis of the story from the General Dentistry journal, including the details of the study and its participants, was published in Science Daily. The study looked at 68 children between the ages of 12 and 15. A similar study was conducted by British researchers who reported their findings in the British Dental Journal in 1999.

How the Study Worked

For the 2013 study, researchers divided kids into three groups. Participants in group one ate cheddar cheese. Participants in group two drank milk, while participants in group three ate sugar-free yogurt. All participants were told to eat or drink their assigned foods for three minutes, after which they swished water in their mouths.

Researchers tested every participant’s mouth at ten, 20, and 30-minute intervals. They found no changes in the mouths of participants in the milk drinking and sugar-free yogurt eating groups, but every time they tested the pH levels in the mouths of the ones who had eaten cheese, researchers saw the levels quickly increased.

They concluded that cheese has anti-cavity properties. That isn’t the only benefit, however. Another study, in which related findings were reported, appeared in the Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice in the summer of 2000. In that study, researchers found that cheese may give teeth a protective coating that helps lessen enamel erosion caused by acidic foods, particularly from sugar-sweetened soft drinks.

So don’t just say cheese for pictures. If you want to have a happy, healthy and long-lasting smile, go for cheese. It’s good for your bones, too!

Oral Health for the Young Adult

October 4th, 2017

Young adults often have the reputation of not taking good care of themselves. You may feel invincible, and not realize how much your behaviors now can affect your health later in life. Oral health is one area that is easy to neglect now, but that can lead to serious financial and quality of life consequences later.

Follow a Good Oral Care Regimen

If you don’t already do so, it’s time to brush, floss, and rinse as Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega taught you. Brush at least twice a day or after meals, and floss your teeth every day. If recommended, use mouthwash to kill germs in your mouth. If you are not able to brush your teeth after eating, swish water around in your mouth to remove the food from your teeth. Leaving carbohydrates in your mouth allows bacteria to ferment it and produce acid, which can destroy your tooth enamel and put you at risk for decay.

Visit Our Office Regularly

Young adulthood can be a challenging time when it comes to medical care. Your parents are no longer paying for your health insurance or taking you to your appointments. You may not worry much about getting regular cleanings and exams, especially if you’re paying for them yourself.

However, young adults have a lot to gain from visiting our Poolesville and Rockville MD office regularly. We can check for signs of problems and fix them early, which can save thousands of dollars and, ultimately, your teeth. These are some examples of what Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our hygiene team can do for you.

  • Get rid of plaque so it does not develop into tartar and cause periodontitis.
  • Identify and fill small areas of tooth decay to prevent it from progressing.
  • Examine your gums for signs of gingivitis, or early gum disease.

Consume a Tooth-Healthy Diet

A nutritious diet is not just for preventing heart disease and diabetes later in life. It also supports your teeth. Make sure to get plenty of calcium, such as from dairy products, canned fish, and leafy green vegetables to allow for strong teeth. Also, limit sticky foods and sugary sweets.

Common Emergency Care Visits: Toothaches or abscesses

October 3rd, 2017

Dental problems do not always wait for normal office hours. Broken fillings or damaged teeth are common reasons for emergency treatment. Toothaches and abscesses can also require prompt attention. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can provide you with the information and treatment you need to prevent the problem from becoming worse. Emergency dental care is only a phone call away, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Abscess

An abscess is a bacterial infection, and will normally cause pain and swelling around the affected tooth and gum area. Antibiotics are not always necessary, but you should seek treatment quickly. Left untreated, an infection can spread and cause serious complications.

Toothache

There are many reasons that you may develop a sudden toothache. The cause of the pain may be a particle of food lodged between your tooth and gum line. One of the first steps you can take is to rinse your mouth with warm water. You may also try gently flossing the area to dislodge the particle. Do not continue flossing if bleeding occurs.

Toothaches can occur from a carie — a cavity in the tooth — or from a fracture. Sensitivity to heat or cold may also cause tooth pain. You should make an appointment to ensure that a minor problem does not become serious. We may recommend acetaminophen or another pain reliever to reduce the pain before your visit.

Additional tips and treatments:

  • If you have fractured a tooth, rinse the area with warm water to keep the surfaces clean. Apply a cold compress to the outside of your facial area to reduce swelling.
  • A tooth that has been knocked out should be kept moist, in a clean container, until you can receive treatment.
  • Do not apply aspirin directly on a damaged tooth or gum area as it can cause tissue irritation.
  • If you suspect that your jaw has been broken, go to an emergency room immediately.
  • If you have bitten or damaged your lips or tongue, rinse your mouth well with warm water. If bleeding continues, call us or seek other medical attention immediately.

Our team at Pike & Valega, DDS is ready to assist you when you have an emergency dental need. When you call, please provide us with as much information as possible so we can offer recommendations that will assist you until your appointment. Do not delay; emergency treatment is available and immediate treatment is the best course of action.

Is periodontal disease contagious?

September 27th, 2017

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of adults age 30 and over suffer from some form of gum disease. Caused by plaque buildup, gum disease is an infection of the tissue that surrounds and supports the teeth. In its advanced stages, it is known as periodontal disease. If left untreated, it can result in the loss of tissue and bone that support the teeth, causing teeth loss. It’s a preventable condition seen far too often by Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega.

Research between periodontal disease and other diseases is ongoing. Some studies have indicated that gum disease is linked to other health conditions such as stroke or diabetes. Furthermore, while most factors that lead to periodontal disease are dependent on the individual (genetics, diet, poor oral hygiene) there is a possibility that periodontitis is capable of spreading from one person to another.

What the Research Says

Periodontitis is a gum infection, and the bacteria that cause the gums to become infected travels in saliva. Researches have used DNA coding techniques to track the path of infection from one person to another. In other words, kissing and close contact play a role in the transmission of the infection, so if you’re married to a spouse with periodontal disease, then your chances of having gum problems are slightly increased. Other studies have indicated that saliva contact is common in family settings through coughing, sneezing, and shared utensils and food. Children with parents who have periodontal disease are at a somewhat higher risk of developing it. At the same time, just because you exchange bacteria with your loved ones doesn’t mean you will get periodontal disease.

It is important to note that the scientific evidence supporting the spread of periodontal disease is limited and ongoing. The best way to prevent gum disease is through proper plaque control, which includes brushing, flossing, mouthwash, and twice a year trips for professional cleanings. Contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office if you have any questions about periodontal disease.

Detergent Foods: Clean your teeth while you eat!

September 26th, 2017

Did you know that there are certain foods you can eat which help to clean your teeth? We call them "detergent foods." In dentistry we look at the impact of food in three ways: the kind of food, how often it is eaten, and when it is eaten. Detergent foods should be the last piece of food you consume during a meal for best results. Think of them as the closest you can get to brushing your teeth.

A healthy diet is important for oral health as well as overall health, but here are some particular foods that can help clean your teeth and mouth:

  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Celery sticks
  • Popcorn
  • Cucumbers
  • Pears
  • Lettuce
  • Cheese

As you can see, detergent foods are usually foods that are firm and crisp. They act like scrubbers on and around your teeth and gums and bring your mouth's pH back to 7.0, which is optimal.

Which foods are the worst for your teeth?

Cookies, cakes, breads, chips, crackers, soft drinks, dried fruit, and candies (what many people’s diets are full of) provide carbohydrates (sugar) to the bacteria in your mouth causing an acidic environment and increasing the chance of cavities and decay. These foods are sticky and don't rinse easily from your mouth. Avoid letting these foods sit on your teeth after eating them.

It also depends on how often you consume these foods throughout the day. For example, if you drink soft drinks, it's best to have it all in one sitting instead of sipping it all throughout the day. Doing so causes the perfect environment in your mouth for bacteria to flourish and your saliva never gets the chance to neutralize its pH.

This is where detergent foods can come into play. When you're about to finish your meal, have an apple, celery stick, or carrot. It will act like a "natural toothbrush." Also, try to make these detergent foods the basis for snacks you have throughout the day.

Always remember, these foods are not a replacement for brushing and flossing. You still need good dental hygiene regardless of what you're eating! For more tips and tricks for ideal oral health, ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega the next time you visit our Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

Proper Brushing Techniques

September 20th, 2017

Brushing your teeth properly removes the food particles and bacteria that can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. However, you do not want to scrub your teeth or gums heavily. A heavy hand can lead to tooth and gum erosion, as Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our staff see all too often.

You should also use a soft bristle toothbrush to avoid damaging the surface of your teeth. Make sure the head of the brush fits in your mouth, because if it is too large you will not be able to reach all tooth surfaces. Follow these steps to ensure you are brushing properly.

  1. Use a small amount of toothpaste on your brush. The recommendation is a pea-sized amount or thin strip on the bristles.
  2. Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the surface of your teeth, angling towards your gums. Use a circular motion on all exterior tooth surfaces, and avoid back-and-forth “scrub” brushing.
  3. Once you have cleaned the outer surfaces, hold the brush vertically and clean the inner teeth surfaces — the side of your teeth that face your tongue. Do not forget the inner surfaces of your front teeth.
  4. Finally, finish by cleaning all the chewing surfaces of your teeth. You need to maintain a gentle touch, but make sure you get into the full depth of your molars. The entire process should take about two minutes.

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our staff recommend changing your toothbrush every three to four months for best results. Do not forget to clean your tongue, which helps remove excess bacteria from your mouth. Special brushes are available just for cleaning your tongue, and they are easy to use.

Proper care of your teeth also requires flossing on a regular basis. Flossing can be performed before or after you brush. Following up with a quality mouthwash will provide you with even more protection. Do not be afraid to ask the Pike & Valega, DDS team for tips on proper brushing and flossing.

Implants: Why it's important to replace missing teeth

September 19th, 2017

The average adult has 32 teeth, a combination of molars, canines, and incisors. By middle age, however, most adults are missing at least one tooth due to an injury, decay, or gum disease. Though many people choose to forgo tooth replacement, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS will tell you that every tooth is important. Each plays a vital role in the structure of the mouth and in relationship to the remaining teeth. Leaving the space where a tooth once stood can have serious consequences. There are many reasons why severely decayed or missing teeth should be replaced as quickly as possible.

  • Speech: A missing tooth can negatively affect the way you speak, depending on its location.
  • Bite changes: The loss of one or more teeth can cause the redistribution of bite pressure onto other teeth. Over time, this can cause the teeth to shift and move into the space the tooth once held.
  • Gum disease: Shifting teeth can make it easier for plaque to accumulate in hard-to-reach places. This can increase the risk of gum disease, which can lead to additional tooth loss.
  • Bone loss: The teeth are place-holders in the jaw. When one falls out and is not replaced, the bone that once surrounded it begins to deteriorate and wear down.
  • Aesthetics: A missing tooth leaves a visible gap between the teeth and can be a source of embarrassment and insecurity.

Advancements in modern dentistry have made it easy to replace missing teeth using natural-looking and functioning prosthetics. Dental implants are permanent solutions for replacing missing teeth with the use of special rods that are anchored in the jaw bone. These implants serve as artificial tooth roots that fuse with the jaw over time. When cared for properly, most dental implants can be fitted to last a lifetime.

To learn more about dental implants, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, please give us a call at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

Diabetes and Dental Care

September 13th, 2017

When most people think of complications of diabetes, they think of an increased risk of blindness, limb amputation, heart disease, and neuropathy. However, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team want you to know that emerging research is revealing a possible connection between uncontrolled diabetes and dental problems. Whether you have type 2 diabetes or type 1, uncontrolled high blood glucose level increases the risk of certain oral health conditions, including:

  • Cavities
  • Tooth decay
  • Gingivitis (early gum disease)
  • Periodontal disease (advanced gum disease)

Diabetes and proper dental care

If you have diabetes, it is more important than ever to take your dental care seriously and practice excellent oral hygiene. These recommendations will help:

  1. Manage your diabetes. First and foremost, it is vital to control your high blood sugar in accordance with your physician’s instructions — not only for the sake of your oral health, but your overall health. With properly controlled blood sugar, you reduce your risk of developing gingivitis and other oral health issues.
  2. Practice good at-home oral hygiene. This means brushing at least twice a day AND flossing. At a minimum, brush your teeth in the morning and at night, but after meals and snacks if you can. Use a soft toothbrush to avoid injuring your gums. Don’t neglect flossing, because it helps to remove plaque below the gumline and between teeth.
  3. Visit the dentist regularly. While it is important to see the dentist every six months even if you don’t have diabetes, it is even more crucial to have a professional teeth cleaning and dental exam if you have the disease. As dental professionals, our team at Pike & Valega, DDS is able to detect early dental conditions before they develop into something more serious and costly.
  4. Tell your dentist that you have diabetes. If you were recently diagnosed with diabetes, be sure to let us know as soon as possible, and remind us at every appointment.
  5. Be conscientious about examining your own gums and teeth. By looking for early signs of gum disease, which can include bleeding gums, irritated gums, gums that are red (versus a healthy pink), or swelling, we can get started on treatment right away.

Managing diabetes takes effort, not only in watching your diet, exercising, monitoring your blood sugar levels, and taking your medication, but obtaining proper dental care.

To learn more about the link between diabetes and oral health, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, please give us a call at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

How Tooth-Colored Fillings Improve Your Smile

September 12th, 2017

Today’s crowns, veneers, and tooth colored fillings are very natural looking compared to early counterparts. There was a time when dentists placed silver fillings exclusively. This material is still used, however the most common material used today in fillings is composite, tooth-colored fillings. Composite fillings can be made to match any shade of tooth and even let light travel through them like natural enamel.

Composite fillings are great in many different scenarios. The most obvious reason is when a cavity is present. This is an excellent way to seemingly erase the imperfection that once was. It is almost as if the cavity was never there.

Placing composite fillings to reshape teeth can also minimize excessive spacing. In the case of a diastema, (a large space between the two front teeth) composite material is a non-invasive and cost-effective choice that provides instant results. It can be an alternative to braces.

Mottled enamel is a symptom of fluorosis, which causes discoloration and imperfections in the enamel. Composites are the material of choice for masking this condition.

Composite fillings are easy to place, easy on the eyes, and easily repaired. With skill and good composite material, a filling can be easily disguised. This look is desired most in our society today, where dental perfection is now standard.

In conclusion, your smile is in good hands with composite fillings. There are some great materials that give a near perfect match to the appearance of natural tooth enamel. Smile with confidence knowing no one ever has to know. Your secret is safe with us at Pike & Valega, DDS!

What was your favorite part of summer?

September 6th, 2017

It's the end of summer, and fall is just around the corner. Soon the temperatures will cool down, the leaves will start to change, and Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS are sure that you’ll soon be thinking about Halloween costumes and Thanksgiving plans in no time. But wait! First, we want to know about your favorite parts of the summer! Did you go on a wonderful family trip? Did you pick up a new hobby? Did you try to spend as much time outside and in the sun as possible?

Share your favorite memories, stories, or photos with us by leaving a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Chewing Gum: Fact and Fiction

September 5th, 2017

Remember all the things your parents would tell you when you were growing up to scare you away from doing something? Like how lying might make your nose grow, misbehaving meant you wouldn’t get money from the tooth fairy, and swallowed chewing gum would build up in your stomach and stay there for years?

Maybe that last one stayed with you well beyond your teens, and occurred to you every time you accidentally (or purposely) swallowed a piece of gum. We don’t blame you. It’s a scary thought.

But is it true?

We hate to take the fun out of parental discipline, but swallowing a piece of chewing gum is pretty much like swallowing any other piece of food. It will move right through your digestive system with no danger of getting stuck for months, let alone seven years.

This doesn’t mean you should start swallowing all your gum from now on, but if it happens accidentally now and then, there’s no need to panic.

Another common gum myth is that sugar-free gum can help you lose weight. Although it is preferable to choose sugar-free gum over the extra-sweet variety, no studies have show that sugar-free gum will help you lose weight.

If you pop a piece of gum in your mouth after dinner to avoid dessert, it could help you avoid eating a few extra calories every day. But the consumption of sugar-free gum without any other effort will not help you shed pounds.

 If you really enjoy chewing gum, we strongly encourage you to select sugarless gum, because it lowers your risk for cavities. Many brands of sugarless gum contain xylitol, a natural sweetener that can, in fact, help fight bacteria that cause cavities and rinse away plaque.

So if you can’t kick the gum habit altogether, sugar-free is definitely the way to go!

If you have any questions about chewing gum, feel free to contact Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Proper Flossing Techniques

August 30th, 2017

Of all the dental hygiene techniques you can use at home to promote clean teeth and good oral health, flossing is likely to be the one that troubles most people. It can be viewed as confusing and time-consuming, but when you learn how to floss your teeth correctly, you’ll find it’s easy to do on a daily basis.

Proper flossing techniques are vital to the health of your teeth and gums. These tips will help you with the correct flossing procedures. Likewise, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team can also help you learn how to floss effectively and efficiently.

Steps to Flossing Your Teeth Properly

  1. Choosing Dental Floss. You can find dental floss in various flavors, as well as waxed or unwaxed. If the floss you use seems to get stuck between your teeth, switch to waxed to make it easier.
  2. Flossing “Helpers.” Beginner flossers who have trouble coordinating the floss and the movements of their hands can use a floss holder to help them get in and around teeth.
  3. Preparing the Floss. Cut an 18-inch piece of floss to use for flossing a few teeth. This allows you to make progress before you must stop and cut another piece of floss.
  4. How to Hold It. Wind the ends around your middle fingers. Hold the floss taut, pinching each side with your thumbs and index fingers. Leave a couple inches free in the middle.
  5. The Process of Flossing. Use your index fingers to guide the floss toward your gum line. Bring it down between the teeth with a zigzag motion. Hold the floss in a C-shape around the tooth, and move it up and down along the side.
  6. Where to Floss. Use a clean portion of the floss to clean around and in between each tooth. Don’t forget about the molars in the back of your mouth, too!

Flossing: A Vital Part of Oral Care

Periodontal disease begins at the gum line; this is where flossing comes in. Regular flossing helps you remove plaque from the gum line and between your teeth to avoid gum disease. In conjunction with daily brushing and twice-a-year visits to Pike & Valega, DDS, floss each day to maintain good oral hygiene and overall health. Gum disease can have an impact on your general health, but it doesn't have to. This easy-to-prevent condition can be avoided with regular visits to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office and daily flossing. Allow our team to partner with you in maintaining a bright, shiny smile and good oral health.

Women's Hormones and Oral Health

August 29th, 2017

At Pike & Valega, DDS, we know that hormones affect a woman's mood, but did you know they can also impact the health of a woman’s mouth? Women are susceptible to gum disease at different times in their lives, and research shows that hormonal highs and lows are part of the problem. According to studies, there are five situations in women’s lives during which hormone fluctuations make them more susceptible to oral health problems: puberty, their menstrual cycles, pregnancy, menopause, and birth control pill usage. So just what happens and how can you help protect your oral health? Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team have outlined the five hormonal situations and provided a few tips and tricks to fending off potential issues.

Puberty - The surge of hormone production that occurs during puberty can increase the blood flow to the gums and change the way gum tissue reacts to irritants in plaque. As a result, a woman's gums may bleed during the act of brushing and flossing.

Monthly menstruation cycle - Hormonal changes (especially the increase in progesterone) occur during a woman’s menstrual cycle. These changes can lead to red swollen gums, swollen salivary glands, canker sores, or bleeding gums.

Pregnancy - Hormone levels tend to fluctuate during pregnancy. As a result, women are at greater risk to develop a condition called gingivitis, the early form of gum disease. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega may recommend more frequent professional cleanings during your second or early third trimester to help reduce the chance of developing gingivitis. Please let us know if you are pregnant during your visit.

Menopause - Women are known to experience numerous oral changes as they age. These oral changes can include greater sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages, a burning sensation in your mouth, or dry mouth. Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, can result in the development of tooth decay and gum disease because saliva is not available to moisten and cleanse the mouth. It is important to know that dry mouth can also result from many prescription and over-the-counter medications. The gradual loss in estrogen that occurs with menopause also puts older women at risk for loss of bone density, which can lead to tooth loss. Receding gums, which expose more of the tooth surface to potential tooth decay, can be a sign of bone loss in the jawbone.

Birth control pills - Some birth control pills contain progesterone, which increases the level of that hormone in the body. Women who take pills with progesterone may develop inflamed gum tissue due to the toxins produced from plaque. Be sure to tell us if you are taking an oral contraceptive during your visit.

To prevent gum disease, we recommend:

  • Brushing your teeth at least twice a day with a toothpaste containing fluoride
  • Flossing at least once a day
  • Eating a well-balanced diet
  • Avoiding sugary or starchy snacks

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS encourage you to visit our Poolesville and Rockville MD office and practice good oral health habits at home.

Hypersensitive Teeth

August 23rd, 2017

It is common to experience dentine hypersensitivity, with symptoms ranging from moderate to severe. Why does it happen and how do you know if this sensitivity is something to be concerned about? The first step is to determine the cause.

The most common cause of the sensitivity is exposure of the dentin. Dentin is the layer immediately surrounding the nerve of the tooth. It is alive and usually covered by the gum tissue. When gum recession is present hypersensitivity is common. Other contributors to temporary tooth hypersensitivity include teeth whitening and dental procedures such as fillings, periodontal treatment, and braces placement or adjustment. These are temporary and should be of no concern.

Permanent hypersensitivity, however, may require treatment. To understand the cause of sustained hypersensitivity, let us explain the structure of dentin and why it serves as a ‘hot spot’.

The dentin contains a large numbers of pores or tubes that run from the outside of the tooth to the nerve in the center. When dentin tubes are exposed, there is a direct connection between the mouth and dental pulp, which houses the nerve and blood supply of the tooth. External stimuli, such as mechanical pressure (tooth grinding or clenching - bruising the ligaments holding the teeth in place), temperature changes, as well as chemical stimuli (sweet–sour) are transmitted to the pain-sensitive dental pulp and activate nerve endings. A short and sharp pain is the result. These external stimuli cause fluid movement in the open tube that is transmitted as pain sensations. Something needs to be placed into the dentin tube to plug it and stop this fluid movement.

The first step in doing something about dental hypersensitivity is to determine the cause; our professional team at Pike & Valega, DDS can help you with this. Whether the sensitivity is due to exposed dentin or an underlying cause such as abscess or decay, corrective measures are needed. Contact us sooner rather than later so Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can reduce the sensitivity, and provide you with some relief!

How can veneers improve my smile?

August 22nd, 2017

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS know your smile is an important part of your appearance; it can be a source of pride or embarrassment. Everyone deserves beautiful, straight teeth that complement their features, but few are born with natural dental perfection. Fortunately, cosmetic dentistry has come a long way in recent years, with veneers making it possible to make over your smile completely.

With dental veneers, the smile of your dreams can become a reality. These thin, wafer-like shells are crafted of porcelain and completely customized to fit your smile. Once your tooth size, shape, and color have been determined, veneers are adhered to the surface of your natural tooth, instantly transforming your appearance. What used to be a secret of the rich and famous is now highly accessible to dental patients around the world.

Benefits of dental veneers

Appearance

Dental veneers are very natural in appearance and virtually undetectable to other people. Their non-porous surfaces make them resistant to staining, which ensures they do not change color over time.

Improvements

Dental veneers can be used to improve the appearance of many kinds of imperfections. In fact, an entirely new smile can be crafted from veneers, to cover up chipped teeth, discoloration, and gaps between teeth.

Durability

Veneers are long-lasting cosmetic enhancements that can survive many years with appropriate care and maintenance. They are specially fabricated to be resistant to scratches and chipping, which makes them a practical solution for the average person.

Flexibility

Dental veneers are highly adaptable. You can opt for only a single veneer to repair a chipped or cracked tooth, or you can modify multiple teeth at once for a smile makeover.

Considerations

Keep in mind that cosmetic treatments like dental veneers are secondary to primary dental care. You must have healthy teeth and disease-free gums to be a candidate for cosmetic procedures. An initial consultation at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office will reveal any underlying decay or other problems that must be addressed prior to getting veneers. Give us a call today!

Is there a connection between oral health and school performance?

August 16th, 2017

As a parent, you want the best for your children, and that includes doing their best in school. You can support them by taking an interest in their activities, being enthusiastic about attendance, and helping them with homework. There may also be one more way you can help your children succeed at school. Surprisingly, research suggests that children with better oral health are likely to do better in school.

What the Research Says

One study in North Carolina looked at risk factors for poor school performance among school-aged children. As expected, the study found poor school performance linked to low socioeconomic status, low levels of parental education, and poor overall health. However, it also found a strong link between poor oral health and poor school performance, with children classified as having poor oral health 40 percent more likely struggle in school.

These findings are generalizable to the rest of the country. For example, attendance is an important factor in academic achievement, but dental conditions are responsible for a loss 51 million school hours among schoolchildren each year. Dental pain and infection are linked to poorer performance.

School-Based Programs to Promote Oral Health

In light of the apparent benefits of good oral health for school performance, some schools are taking steps to promote better oral care and health. In Maine, for instance, schools in need can apply for grants through School Oral Health Program (SOHP). The SOHP consists of four components:

  1. Oral health education for all children to support healthy behaviors
  2. A weekly fluoride mouth rinse to strengthen teeth
  3. Dental screenings to identify children who may need dental care
  4. Dental sealants, or plastic coatings, on back teeth to guard against decay

The State of Maine also supports an “Annual Sugar Out Day” to raise awareness of the effects of sugar on dental health and to help students choose low-sugar alternatives.

Oral Health Habits to Adopt

You can help your child improve oral health and do better in school by encouraging good oral hygiene. This includes brushing at least twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, and reminding your child to drink water after eating. Also, regular trips to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office can help prevent serious tooth problems.

Solutions for Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

August 15th, 2017

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is a common side effect of many medications. It can also be a side effect of cancer treatments, or the result of certain auto-immune diseases. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS will tell you that for most people, discontinuing their medication isn’t an option. The solution is two-fold: find ways to increase saliva production and eliminate specific things that are likely to increase dryness in the mouth.

Lack of saliva creates a situation in the mouth that allows harmful organisms such as yeast and bacteria to thrive. It may also make it difficult to swallow food, create a burning feeling in your mouth, or cause bad breath, among other problems.

Medications that are known to cause dry mouth include:

  • Anti-depressant drugs
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Drugs for lowering blood pressure
  • Allergy and cold medications — antihistamines and decongestants
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Medications to alleviate pain
  • Drugs used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease

Saliva helps people digest their food. It also functions as a natural mouth cleanser. Xerostomia increases the risk you will develop gum disease or suffer from tooth decay.

Solutions for dry mouth

  • Carry water wherever you go, and make a point of taking regular sips.
  • Avoid oral rinses that contain alcohol or peroxide.
  • Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candies that contain xylitol.
  • Limit your consumption of caffeine, carbonated beverages (including seltzer and sparkling waters), and alcoholic beverages.
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day, and use dental floss or other inter-dental products to remove food particles that get stuck between your teeth.
  • Look for oral rinses and other oral hygiene products that bear the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Approval.
  • Brush your teeth and use oral rinses that contain xylitol. Certain gels and oral sprays are equally helpful. Biotene is one over-the-counter brand that makes products designed to treat dry mouth.
  • Make sure you get your teeth checked and cleaned twice a year. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will be able to examine your mouth for problems and treat them before they turn into something more serious.

You may not be able to solve your dry mouth problem altogether, but you’ll be able to deal with it by following these recommendations. You’ll be able to increase saliva production while reducing your risk of more serious dental problems. To learn more about preventing dry mouth, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, please give us a call at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

My child has autism. What should we expect at your office?

August 9th, 2017

At Pike & Valega, DDS, we know that as many as one in 88 children today have some form of autism, a complex brain disorder that affects a child's ability to communicate or form relationships, and makes a child appear distant, aloof, or detached from other people or surroundings. Autism varies widely in symptoms and severity, and some people have coexisting conditions such as intellectual disability or even epilepsy.

That is why Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team are specially trained to provide dental care to the entire special needs community, including autistic children. We know that a visit to the dentist with an autistic child can be difficult. In addition to the common fears associated with strangers, there are also unfamiliar sounds, sensations, bright lights, and tastes with which your child may not be comfortable. We work with parents to make sure visiting the dentist is not so traumatic for our autistic patients.

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team also know that patients with autism may be more interested in equipment and instruments than in us. We show our patients every piece of equipment we are going to use in a way that they can understand. We also allow a patient to sit in a parent's lap in the open bay if he or she is not feeling at ease. We want your child to enjoy getting to know us and to be comfortable while under our care.

A pleasant, comfortable visit at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office builds trust and helps put your child at ease for future appointments. Before a visit, we ask parents or guardians to bring their child's favorite toy, comfort item, music, or other coping device their child requires. We have a caring and compassionate team and know how to help autistic children acclimate themselves to a dental environment. We may not get everything done at the first visit, but we are able to schedule several appointments so that your child can get used to our office, the dentist, instruments, and our staff.

Children, especially those afflicted with autism, are not born with a fear of the dentist, but they can fear the unknown. Our team at Pike & Valega, DDS genuinely cares for our patients beyond their teeth, and are more than happy to discuss any concerns you may have, as well as answer questions about your child's ongoing dental treatment. Please give us a call to learn more or schedule an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega.

Why Visiting the Emergency Room for Your Dental Problem isn’t a Good Idea

August 8th, 2017

Emergency rooms are for emergencies, so before you head to the hospital because of a dental problem, you need to ask yourself this question: Is what you're experiencing really a medical emergency? While emergency room visits for dental related issues are on the rise across the United States , they’re not necessarily the best solution for every problem. Many people don't know about emergency dental care services, many of which are available 24/7, and so they go to the ER.

These types of statistics are common across the country. However, despite the numbers, not all dental problems are created equal. If you've experienced some type of injury to your mouth, jaw, or face, then an ER visit is a good idea, but if you're suffering from a toothache, cavity, or broken crown or veneer, then the ER is not the best place to handle the situation. If you're having a dental emergency, then seeking emergency dental care should be your course of action.

Seeking Long-Term Solutions

The ER doesn't provide a long-term solution to your dental issue; it only gives you temporary relief. There’s a chance they will simply hand you a prescription for pain medication and tell you to call your dentist in the morning. In the end, you’re going to be saddled with two medical bills, and nobody wants that. Even if the ER outfits you with a temporary crown or filling, you're still going to have to make a follow-up appointment our office.

There are numerous homemade remedies that can sooth tooth and gum pain. However, if you're experiencing a dental emergency, the ER is not the place to go. The specialized emergency team at Pike & Valega, DDS is available to take care of every dental problem you may have. In the case of a dental emergency, don't wait any longer than necessary. Feel free to contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office at any time, day or night.

How to Handle a Dental Emergency

August 2nd, 2017

Whether it’s a broken tooth or injured gums, a dental emergency can interfere with eating, speaking, or other day-to-day activities. According to the American Dental Association , you can sometimes prevent dental emergencies like these by avoiding the use of your teeth as tools or by giving up hard foods and candies.

Even if you take excellent care of your mouth, however, unexpected dental problems can still arise. Our team at Pike & Valega, DDS is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assess and resolve your individual situation. When an emergency arises, you should immediately make an appointment with our office so we can put you at ease, give you the best possible care, and help you return quickly to your regular routine.

Damaged Teeth

For tooth damage in particular, don’t hesitate to call and schedule an emergency dental appointment. You should come in as soon as possible. However, if you have some time before your appointment there are a few things you can do to avoid further injury. If you break your tooth, clean the area well by rinsing it with warm water. To ease any discomfort, put a cold compress against your skin near the area with the affected tooth.

A dislodged tooth should be handled carefully in order to keep it in the best possible condition. Gently rinse off the tooth without scrubbing it and try to place it back into the socket of your gums. If it won’t stay in your mouth, put the tooth in a container of milk and bring it along to your dental appointment.

Injured Soft Tissues

For other problems, such as bleeding gums or an injured tongue, cheek, or lip, the Cleveland Clinic recommends gently rinsing your mouth with salt water and applying pressure to the site with a moist strip of gauze or a tea bag. If you’re also experiencing some discomfort, you can put a cold compress on your cheek near the area of the bleeding. If the bleeding continues, don’t hesitate to contact our office so you can receive further help.

A dental emergency may catch you off guard, but Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can provide fast, pain-free treatment. Follow the advice above and set up an appointment with us as soon as possible so you can put your teeth and mouth on the road to recovery.

I haven’t been to the dentist in years; what should I expect?

August 1st, 2017

Time flies when we are not at the dentist! Before you know it, years may have gone by. Let’s take a moment to explain what takes place when a patient comes back to receive care after an extended period of time.

After a while, small dental concerns or issues can grow into an unexpected journey of discovery and expense. Anxiety is common and expected. Let’s discover first of all, “What brings you here today?” It is a good place to start and once the initial concerns are addressed, a comprehensive plan to restore optimum dental health can be arranged. During the first appointment Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team want you to feel comfortable, and establish a confidence allowing you to be open with any questions.

Your visit will take approximately 90 minutes. First, a complete medical and dental history will be recorded and reviewed in one-on-one interview style. This is the time to voice any concern, anxiety issues, worries, etc. Then, X-rays are taken to provide additional information about what is happening beneath the surface of your teeth and gums. Finally, a series of screenings including those for oral cancer, home care evaluation, and periodontal disease are conducted to complete your oral health evaluation.

The hygienist has a great eye for other conditions such as broken fillings, cracked teeth, active decay, and other dental concerns. Then, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will come in for a comprehensive exam and list and prioritize your dental needs. Our treatment coordinator will present scheduling options, insurance coverage, and payment plans.

Our team will coach you and help you gain control of your own dental destiny with good home care habits. You will receive a bag with a toothbrush, floss, appropriate toothpaste, and any other specialized tools for your needs. You will know how often you need to return for hygiene visits or other dental appointments.

Our patients at Pike & Valega, DDS are our most important asset, and we strive to create a comfortable experience, no matter how long it has been since your last visit at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. From phone conversations to financial arrangements to clinical treatment, we want you to feel confident that our team will meet your needs.

Considerations When Picking the Right Mouthwash

July 26th, 2017

A solid oral health routine begins with daily brushing, flossing, and rinsing. Without a consistent oral health regimen, you may begin to experience tooth decay and bacterial infections. Few patients ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega about different mouthwash options, so we’ve put together a list of the conditions that mouthwashes can treat. This should help you decide which oral rinse would be best for you.

Gum Health

Antiseptic mouthwashes reduce large amounts of bacteria on and near the gum line and generally help to decrease your chances of developing gingivitis. The key ingredients of antiseptic mouthwashes are antibacterial and antimicrobial items. Antiseptic mouthwash is a preferable option if you are concerned about the general gum health of your mouth.

Fluoride

Fluoride is a great tool for preventive tooth decay treatment. It prevents tooth decay and is great for oral health in general because it kills germs that can live in your mouth. Fluoride also builds stronger teeth. If you’re a bottled water drinker, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega may recommend that you purchase a simple fluoride rinse to use after brushing.

Bad Breath

Fluoride mouthwash can be used to fight any bad breath issues you may be facing. It’s designed to combat any bacteria that might be building up in your mouth. Most mouthwashes will help eliminate bad breath, but some are specifically designed to address this difficult problem. If you feel as though this might be turning into a chronic problem, please contact Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega to discuss other options that would be effective for treating your symptoms.

American Dental Association (ADA Approval)

The ADA reviews all mouth rinses for safety measures and to prove effectiveness. Any mouthwash approved by the ADA has met strict guidelines according to whether the manufacturer’s claims are supported with scientific evidence. If you’re looking for a quality mouthwash, look for one that has the ADA seal of approval to ensure you have a great rinse for your mouth.

Considerations

When you’re trying to decide which mouthwash to pick, contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD or ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega during your next appointment. If you experience a burning sensation in the soft tissues of your mouth, be sure to discontinue use immediately. Avoid letting children under age six use a mouth rinse, and be sure to keep all mouthwashes out of the reach of children, because they contain alcohol and other substances that could be harmful.

Dental X-Ray Safety

July 25th, 2017

It's easy to be skeptical about X-rays whether we speak of a full-body X-ray or a dental X-ray. Radiation is radiation. It's vital to know all the facts before judging too harshly, though. Dental X-rays can be one of the best preventive tools for your dental health. We offer various treatments at Pike & Valega, DDS, but helping you become better informed is one of the best ways to decide what will be best for you.

According to the AmericanDental Association, healthy adults typically receive routine dental X-rays every two to three years. The timeline for children is every one or two years, and one and a half for teens. Children and teens require more X-rays than adults because their teeth are still developing, which makes them more susceptible to cavities.

In general, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will determine how often dental X-rays need to be taken for each individual patient, taking into consideration physical symptoms, clinical findings, and risk for infection. Most dental professionals use Caries Management by Risk Assessment (CAMBRA) to help them determine how often X-rays should be taken, so you can rest assured that we are making an informed decision.

In addition to that, it should be reassuring to know that these days, most dental X-rays are digital, which significantly reduces your exposure to radiation. In fact, you’re likely to pick up more radiation just from being in the sun! Lead aprons and thyroid collars are also tools that Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team use to keep X-ray exposure to a minimum.

At our office, we believe that diagnosing cavities and other potentially harmful conditions by dental X-ray does you more good than harm. If you have any questions about our X-rays, feel free to give our Poolesville and Rockville MD office a call or bring up the subject during your next appointment!

Top Five Best Foods for Oral Health

July 19th, 2017

Some foods are just terrible for your teeth — think cookies and candy bars — but there are certain foods that are beneficial to your oral health. Below, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team have covered five of the top foods to keep your teeth and gums healthy!

1. Crispy, low-acid fruits and vegetables: Fruits like apples and vegetables such as carrots and celery act like “natural toothbrushes,” helping to clear plaque from your teeth and freshen your breath.

2. Kiwis: These little green superstars are packed with vitamin C which is essential for gum health. The collagen in your gums is strengthened when you consume foods that are high in vitamin C, like kiwis, thus helping to prevent periodontal problems.

3. Raw onions: Onions have long been studied for their antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties. Proliferation of bacteria is what leads to tooth decay and cavities. By including raw onions in your diet, you'll be doing your part to wipe out those little microbes before they can multiply!

4. Shiitake Mushrooms: A specific compound in shiitake mushrooms, lentinan, has been shown to have antibacterial properties that target the microbes that cause cavities while leaving other beneficial bacteria alone. It may also help prevent gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums.

5. Green Tea: Often lauded for its high antioxidant content and many health benefits, it turns out green tea also benefits your oral health! A Japanese study found men who drank green tea on a regular basis had a lower occurrence of periodontal disease compared to men who drank green tea infrequently. It's believed this is due to the catechins in green tea, a type of flavonoid that may help protect you from free radical damage, but more research needs to be done. Either way, drink up for your overall health, as well as your teeth!

If you have any questions about your oral health, or are looking for even more oral health tips, contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

Timing Matters!

July 18th, 2017

Many patients at Pike & Valega, DDS are under the impression that harder brushing leads to cleaner teeth, but that is not true. Gentle brushing is just as effective, and less likely to cause damage. Other good brushing habits include brushing your teeth at least twice a day, replacing your toothbrush after a few months, and brushing for at least two minutes each time. It can be tough to keep track of the time when you are aiming for two minutes, but these tips can help.

Set a Timer

Setting a timer is a sure-fire way to hit your two-minute goal on the dot. Leave a kitchen timer in your bathroom so that it is easy to set each time you start brushing your teeth. Hit each surface of all of your top and bottom teeth, and keep brushing until the timer rings. Many electric toothbrushes have a built-in timer that you can use instead of a kitchen timer.

Entertain Yourself for Two Minutes

Time flies when you are having fun, and you can stay entertained as you brush your teeth for two minutes. These are some ideas.

  • Time your favorite song and sing it in your head as you brush your teeth.
  • Find a two-minute video on the Internet that you want to watch, and start it when you begin to brush your teeth.
  • Do squats in the bathroom as you brush. Go down for three slow counts, and up for three slow counts. By the time you get to 20 squats, your two minutes will be over.

Let Your Children Use Technology

Toothsavers is an app designed to inspire children to brush. The app was developed and released by the Ad Council and the Partnership for Healthy Mouths, Healthy Lives. It includes:

  • A game to fight an evil sorceress who causes cavities
  • A two-player version that lets children interact with friends and parents
  • Real-life reminders to brush twice a day
  • A built-in timer that helps kids brush for two minutes

Sleep Apnea and Snoring

July 12th, 2017

Snoring may not be something you take seriously. You might even laugh or joke about it. But the fact is, anytime you or your partner snore to the point of waking, it could be a sign of serious health problems.

Sleep Apnea and Its Effects

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that is potentially dangerous, and the most common symptom is loud snoring. Breathing repeatedly starts and stops throughout the night, and you wake up feeling tired. Other serious effects from sleep apnea could be potentially dangerous to your health if left unaddressed.

Besides losing a good night's sleep, you may experience difficulty concentrating. Depression, risk of heart attack, irritability, high blood pressure, memory loss, sexual dysfunction, and chances of stroke all increase when sleep apnea is not treated.

Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax to the point of inhibiting natural breathing. The muscles used to support the soft palate relax and the airway closes, causing breathing to stop for ten to 20 seconds. This lowers the oxygen level in the brain. As the brain senses the inhibited oxygen levels it rouses the sleeper awake so the airway can reopen. Normally, the reawakening is so brief the person won't remember it.

If you think you may have sleep apnea, visit our Poolesville and Rockville MD office and let Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega determine what treatment is needed. Without it, you could risk losing more than a restful night's sleep.

Prevention and Treatment

Anyone can develop sleep apnea, but it is more common among middle-aged adults who are overweight. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can help you determine the cause and suggest positive treatment.

A common treatment for apnea is the placement of oral devices that are designed to help keep the airway open. By bringing the jaw forward, the device opens the airway and thereby discourages snoring. We are experienced in sleep apnea appliances, and Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can prescribe a fitted device and monitor its success with follow-up therapy.

A continuous positive airway pressure mask, known as a CPAP, is among the other treatment options. A mask is fitted over the mouth and forces oxygen through the throat while you sleep. The pressure holds the soft tissue and throat muscles open.

Our professionals at Pike & Valega, DDS can advise you of other ways to prevent sleep apnea, including weight loss, avoiding alcohol, or alternative sleeping positions. We can help you sleep return to easy sleep, knowing you are safer and healthier during your resting hours.

Dental Emergencies in Children

July 11th, 2017

Dental emergencies are bound to come up when you have young children. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team want to you to be prepared in case you run into a difficult situation. Problems can vary, from minor gum irritation to knocked-out teeth. Take a look at the different possibilities and how you can handle them.

Teething

Depending on the age of your child, there are common things to watch for when it comes to his or her teeth. Starting from a young age, your son or daughter may experience teething pain. This starts at about four months and can last up to three years.

Teething may cause your little one to become irritable and more prone to drooling due to tender gums. This is very common in young children who are teething, and can be alleviated by giving them a cold teething ring or by rubbing their gums with your finger.

Teething pain is as normal as your child’s first set of teeth falling out. On the other hand, if a baby tooth is knocked out in a forceful accident, make sure you bring him or her into our Poolesville and Rockville MD office to check that other damage hasn’t occurred in the mouth. On occasion, permanent teeth may grow in before baby teeth have fallen out. This may not cause any discomfort, but Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega should make sure the teeth are growing in properly. Catching teeth that are coming in incorrectly can prevent issues from arising in adulthood.

Gum Issues

If you’ve noticed your child’s gums bleeding often, this could result from a number of things. Bleeding gums may be an early sign of periodontal disease, which is caused by poor oral hygiene when it appears in children. Excessive gum bleeding can also occur when children brush their teeth too hard, or suffer an injury to their gum tissue.

If bleeding is continuous, rinse your child’s mouth with warm salt water and apply light pressure to the area. If you become concerned about the amount of blood, contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office and we will schedule an appointment for your youngster as soon as possible.

Depending on what type of dental issue your child is experiencing, you should make sure to treat it quickly and properly. If you have questions or concerns about what you can do to help your son or daughter develop better oral hygiene habits, ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega for tips during your next appointment.

Don’t forget: As a parent, you can provide the best education to your children on the importance of proper oral hygiene by setting a good example. 

Dental X-Rays: Are They Safe?

July 5th, 2017

X-rays have been a function of dental healthcare for a long time. That in and of itself should be good news, because it means we've had plenty of time to improve them. While there is always some risk in exposure to radiation, dental X-ray exposure has decreased significantly due to all the advances in technology. So there’s risk, but X-rays are quite safe.

Think of X-rays as you would about a car. Automobiles these days have all kinds of technology to make them as safe as possible. There's still a chance that you’ll suffer an accident. Would you stop using a car because of that risk? When it comes to dental X-rays, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team believe the positives clearly outweigh the negatives.

X-rays can be done digitally or with film. For film, X-rays require different exposures at different speeds to produce the image. Digital X-rays have software that automatically adjusts the exposure and produces the X-ray in a digital file. Since they substantially reduce your exposure to radiation, digital X-rays are the current standard in dental offices.

In addition to digital X-rays, lead aprons are an essential piece of X-ray safety. They help protect internal organs from X-rays by acting as a shield. They usually come with a thyroid collar as well, since that is one of the most vulnerable areas to X-rays in the body. Lead aprons can absorb up to 95% of any scatter rays that result from an X-ray. Not bad, right?

Although dental X-rays involve some radiation exposure (not all of it can be eliminated), so does everyday life. Getting too much sun, for example, can be dangerous. The truth is, we accumulate radiation in our bodies over a lifetime, so it’s worthwhile to be aware and avoid as much unnecessary exposure as possible. When it comes to your dental health, though, getting an X-ray — especially when your doctor says you need it — offers more benefits than risks.

Ask us about the type of dental X-rays we use during your next visit to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

How do I know if my gums are receding?

July 4th, 2017

Gum recession, a common result of gum disease, occurs when the gum tissue that surrounds the teeth wears away or pulls back, forming pockets between the gumline and exposing more of the tooth. Gum recession occurs gradually, so you might not know that you have it. Left untreated, gum recession can result in tooth loss. In addition, there are several studies that suggest that gum disease is associated with modest increases in coronary heart disease. Here are five ways to know if your gums are receding.

1. Healthy gums are firm, light pink, and very elastic. If your gums don’t fit that description, then it’s time to visit our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. Red, swollen gums are a common symptom of gum disease, and may lead to gum recession.

2. Do your gums bleed easily when you brush or floss? If you have gum recession, even if you brush gently and with toothpaste specifically designed for sensitivity, it may still result in bleeding.

3. When you look in the mirror, do you see more of a tooth than you used to? This is one of the easiest ways to tell if you have gum recession. When gums recede, more of the tooth is visibly exposed. Look for lines or notches along the bottom of the teeth, as this typically indicates areas where the gums have receded.

4. One of the first signs of gum recession is tooth sensitivity. Does it hurt when you bite down or chew? The more gums recede, the more painful it is going to be. However, before you experience tooth sensitivity or pain, you may notice awkwardness when you bit down. When gum recession occurs, teeth can shift slightly, making it feel as if they are not properly aligned.

5. Loose teeth are a symptom of advanced gum recession and periodontal disease. In other words, the supporting bone structure of the teeth has already begun to deteriorate. If left untreated, it will result in tooth loss.

From deep cleaning (scaling) to gingival tissue grafting surgery, there are several ways to combat gum recession and periodontal disease. How gum recession is treated depends on how far advanced it is. Talk to Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega about what options are best for you.

The Effects of Sleep Apnea on Dental Health

June 28th, 2017

Sleep apnea is an increasingly common medical condition, and one that can have a truly devastating effect on the waking life of the sufferer. Those who suffer from the disorder may find that they suffer any or all of the following side effects:

  • Saliva has several important jobs, and one of them is to protect and heal your tongue, your gums, and the inside of your mouth. Snoring and sleep apnea dry out your mouth, meaning there isn’t enough time for your saliva to do all this vital work.
  • Over an extended period of sleep apnea, it’s likely that the sockets of your teeth will begin to dry out overnight as a result of your gasping for air and snoring between breaths. If this happens too frequently over a long a period of time, it can start to loosen your teeth.
  • Those with sleep apnea often also practice bruxism, which is the habit of clenching and grinding your teeth together as you sleep. This can lead to all manner of problems, including TMJ disorder, damage to the enamel, headaches, and toothaches.
  • For obvious reasons, sleep apnea does not lead to a particularly good night’s sleep. This means that sufferers are often tired and irritable, and suffer from the many other ill effects of sleep deprivation.
  • While it is unclear whether the reasons behind this are correlative or causative, it has been suggested there are links between sleep apnea and cardiac arrests, depressive disorders, Type Two diabetes, cancerous tumors, “silent” strokes, and various complications of pregnancy.

While sleep apnea can be a troubling condition, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS will tell you it is eminently treatable. There are a number of ways to combat it, ranging from simple sleep hygiene to use of a CPAP machine. Of course, if it is possible for you to reduce your weight a little in a safe and healthy way, some have found that is also helpful in combating the problem. Sleep apnea is very easy to treat, once it has been correctly identified.

If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea, or if you would like to know more about the condition, please give us a call at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega.

Minimally Invasive Dentistry

June 27th, 2017

As the field of dentistry advances and the use of technology in the field increases, the concept of minimally invasive dentistry has emerged. Preservation of a healthy set of natural teeth for each patient should be the objective of every dentist. Minimally invasive dentistry is characterized by the following core beliefs:

  • Regard original tissue as more valuable than its artificial counterpart.
  • Preserve, rather than replace, original tissue.
  • Focus on the prevention of disease above its treatment.
  • When treatment is necessary, use invasive means as little as possible.

Prevention

  • Prevention begins with good oral hygiene.
  • Dental caries are considered an infectious disease.
  • Early detection of caries and other diseases can prevent the spread of infection and, consequently, further damage to healthy tissue.
  • Infection control can reduce the incidence of restoration practices by as much as 50 percent.
  • Focus on remineralization of enamel and dentin as a preventive effort in treating caries.

Preservation

Our team at Pike & Valega, DDS will tell you the goal of minimally invasive dentistry is to preserve as much original tissue as possible. The preservation of original tissue leaves a tooth stronger in structure than one which has been modified through invasive measures.

When a restoration, such as a filling, must be made to a tooth, a greater amount of healthy tooth tissue than actual decayed tissue is often removed. An estimated 50 to 71 percent of the work a dentist completes involves repair or replacement of previous restorations. The use of durable restoration materials decreases the need for later repair or restoration work.

Treatments

Tooth tissue can be preserved at a greater percentage through the use of innovative adhesive materials. Glass ionomer cements release minerals into the surrounding tooth tissue and help prevent future cavities. Resin-based composite and dentin bonding agents are designed to bond to the enamel and preserve it.

New technology and the invention of small, hand-held tools allow for a less-invasive form of restoration. One such form is air abrasion, a technique that involves using powerful air pressure to direct aluminum oxide particles toward the tooth, which results in a gentler, less-damaging cut to the tooth.

For more information about minimally-invasive surgeries, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, please give us a call at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

Antibiotic Prophylaxis or Pre-Medication

June 21st, 2017

At Pike & Valega, DDS, we know the human mouth contains a lot of bacteria. A bacterium can travel through your body with routine activities that are a normal part of daily living. You spread bacteria when you brush or floss your teeth, when you chew, and when you swallow.

For most people, bacteria don’t cause any problem. For some people, however, especially those who have chronic medical conditions, specific cardiac conditions, or whose immune systems are compromised, bacteria that spreads throughout the bloodstream can lead to much more serious bacterial infections.

The goal of pre-medication or antibiotic prophylaxis, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will tell you, is to prevent bacterial endocarditis, a serious infection of the endothelial heart surfaces or the heart valves. The condition is also called infective endocarditis. A small population of people with certain health problems has a high risk for contracting this potentially deadly bacterium.

The American Heart Association states that people at greatest risk for contracting bacterial or infective endocarditis are:

  • Patients who underwent cardiac valve surgery in the past
  • Those who have suffered past incidents of infective endocarditis
  • Patients who have mitral valve prolapse, resulting in or causing valve leakage
  • People who have had rheumatic fever or any degenerative cardiac condition that produces abnormalities in cardiac valves
  • Patients who suffer from certain congenital heart diseases

For these patients, any dental procedure may cause bleeding, and prophylactic antibiotic administration is recommended as a preventive measure.

Other patients who require prophylactic antibiotics

The American Association of Endodontists extends recommendations to patients who have undergone joint replacement surgery within the past two years, suffer from type 1 diabetes, or have immune deficiencies from diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or HIV; cancer patients whose immune systems are suppressed because of radiation or chemotherapy; people who have had organ transplants; and hemophiliacs.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry also includes people who suffer from sickle cell anemia, as well as patients who suffer from conditions that require chronic steroid therapy.

Typical endodontic procedures for which antibiotic prophylaxis is recommended include root canal therapy (when it involves going deeper than the root apex), surgical tooth extractions, and any other dental, endodontic, or periodontal procedure during which the doctor anticipates bleeding.

Although different medical societies and organizations offer these guidelines as a way of identifying patients for whom prophylactic pre-medication is essential prior to dental procedures, dentists will take each patient's medical history and personal risk factors into consideration. Some doctors may choose to administer antibiotics following a procedure, especially for patients who have previously suffered from oral infections either as a result of dental procedures or that necessitated oral surgery.

For more information about antibiotic prophylaxis, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, please give us a call at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

I chipped a tooth. What can I do?

June 20th, 2017

You just crunched down on a piece of hard food when you suddenly realize there is something hard still in your mouth. Your nightmare is confirmed when you retrieve a piece of your tooth from your mouth. You chipped your tooth; now what?

Obviously, the first thing you need to do is call our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. While we make every effort to see emergent cases immediately, you may have to wait a day or so before you can see Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega. Luckily, it’s easy to take care of your chipped tooth while you wait.

How to Take Care of a Chipped

The last thing you want is for the tooth to become infected or break even more. Let’s look at a few things you can do:

  • If the chipped tooth is causing you pain take an over-the-counter pain medication, like Tylenol. Always follow the directions on the label.
  • You should also rinse your mouth with lukewarm saltwater, as this will help prevent an infection from setting in.
  • If your chipped tooth has a sharp edge, cover it up with a piece of wax to prevent it from cutting you cheek, tongue, or lip.
  • If you have to eat, make sure you eat soft foods and don’t bite down on the chipped or broken tooth.

Treatment Options for a Chipped Tooth

  • Dental Filling and Bonding – If you only have a small chip in your tooth, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will probably fix it with a filling. If it is a front tooth, we may bond the tooth using a tooth-colored compound.
  • Dental Crown or Cap – If you broke a large piece of your tooth, we may grind the remaining part of your tooth and put a crown or cap on it.
  • Dental Veneers – If you chipped or broke your front tooth then choosing a dental veneer may be your best choice. It will make your tooth look completely normal.
  • Root Canal – If you cracked your tooth and the center (pulp) of the tooth is exposed and infected, you will need a root canal. If the center of your tooth is exposed, it becomes vulnerable to bacteria that will cause your tooth to abscess.

Chipping or breaking your tooth is never a good thing, and you should always call our Poolesville and Rockville MD office right away. The sooner you get your tooth repaired the less likely you are to have any problems with it.

Warning Signs of Impacted Wisdom Teeth

June 14th, 2017

When your wisdom teeth start to emerge it can definitely be painful, but it can be even worse if your wisdom teeth become impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth are trying to erupt but are unable to do so because there is not sufficient room for them to emerge. This usually means that your wisdom teeth are painfully lodged in your jawbone.

While you may not see any real signs of the emerging wisdom teeth when they are impacted, what you can’t see can still definitely hurt you. Some of the indicators of impacted wisdom teeth are listed below.

  • Jaw Pain: Pain in the back of your jaw is a common indicator of impacted wisdom teeth. The pain often concentrates in the area around your gums.
  • Changes in the Mouth: You may notice some changes in your mouth when you have impacted wisdom teeth. Reddish gums, swelling in the jaw, bleeding gums, and bad breath can all be indicators that you are dealing with impacted wisdom teeth.
  • Headaches: If you suddenly start having headaches, especially at the same time as some of the other issues mentioned above, they may indicate impacted wisdom teeth.
  • Chewing Issues: Problems with chewing normally can indicate impacted wisdom teeth. If you are having trouble making the chewing motions because your mouth won’t quite open and close as easily as it used to, impacted wisdom teeth may be the culprit.

The Solution

If you are suffering from impacted wisdom teeth, the best solution is usually going to be removal. This is not a problem that will resolve naturally, and in fact, your pain and other symptoms may worsen as your wisdom teeth become increasingly impacted. At Pike & Valega, DDS, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can review the details of wisdom teeth removal surgery with you and help you determine if this is the best solution for your situation.

Tooth Worms? The History of Cavities and Tooth Fillings

June 13th, 2017

Scientists have discovered tooth decay in specimens that are more than 15,000 years old. The ancients once thought that cavities were caused by something called “tooth worms” … Eew! They didn’t exist, of course, but how else could humans explain the holes that cavities make in teeth?

The appearance of cavities on a widespread basis is often traced to the rise of farming. The new diet filled with grains and carbs made our mouths a haven for cavity-causing bacteria. As we added more sugar to our diets, our teeth got worse.

The “tooth worm” idea didn’t completely disappear until the 1700s when scientists finally began to understand the process of dental caries. Once that part of the puzzle was solved, they began focusing on filling existing cavities and preventing new ones.

Dental Fillings Come of Age

Many different materials, including beeswax, cork, aluminum, tin, and even asbestos, have been used to fill the holes caused by dental decay. Sometime in the mid-1800s, however, dentists began to use metal fillings such as gold, platinum, silver and lead amalgams.

The amalgam we use today is mixed from liquid mercury, silver, tin, copper, zinc, and other metals, but some patients still like the look of a gold filling. Newer options include composite-resin fillings, which are made from a tooth-colored mixture of plastic resin and finely ground glass-like or quartz particles that form a durable and discreet filling. Porcelain or ceramic fillings are natural in color, but more resistant to staining.

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can help decide which filling is best for you, based on cost as well as your dental and lifestyle needs. You may not have “tooth worms,” but if you have cavities, contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office so we can take the proper action to protect the health of your mouth.

Healthy Summer Foods

June 7th, 2017

It’s summer—that wonderful time of year when fresh and delicious produce abounds. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will tell you that your teeth, gums, and tissues all rely on an appropriate mix of vitamins and minerals to maintain good oral health no matter what time of year. In previous studies, nutrients in fruits and vegetables such as dietary fiber, potassium, and antioxidants have all been associated with a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease and cancers, including oral cancer.

Here are four foods we want you to enjoy this summer to ensure a healthy mouth:

Watermelons and Strawberries

Watermelons have high water content, which dilutes the affects of the sugars they contain and stimulates the flow of saliva. In addition, research shows that eating foods full of water (watermelon is 92 percent water) helps keep you satiated on fewer calories. Finally, in addition to containing skin-protecting lycopene, eating watermelon can help you stay hydrated during the summer months, which not only keeps your memory sharp and your mood stable, but also helps keep your body cool.

Strawberries are juicy and delicious, and they’re also considered a superfood. Nutrient-rich and packed with antioxidants (such as vitamin C, which can help with cancer prevention), strawberries also promote eye health, help fight bad cholesterol, and regulate blood pressure.

Apples

Did you know consuming apples can help you attain whiter, healthier teeth? It’s true. Biting and chewing an apple stimulates the production of saliva in your mouth, and in the process, lowers the levels of bacteria and other harmful acids, leading to a lower likelihood of tooth decay. Apple consumption can also boost your immune system, reducing cholesterol and helping you avoid Alzheimer’s and Parkinson's diseases. Finally, eating an apple a day has been linked to heart health, including a lower risk of death from both coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a delicious and healthy snack and can help you ward off cancer. The yummy red fruit contains lycopene, which helps protect your skin from sunburn. Tomatoes can also help you fight heart disease due to the niacin, folate, and vitamin B6 nutrients they contain. They’re high in crucial antioxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin A, which work to prevent DNA damage.

Can I use mouthwash instead of flossing?

June 6th, 2017

While mouthwash goes a long way in improving your oral care, it is not a substitute for flossing. Mouthwashes and flossing provide different benefits that you should understand.

Mouthwash Benefits

Mouthwash comes in two categories. Some are considered cosmetic. This type of rinse provides temporary relief from bad breath and has a pleasant taste. These do not actually kill any bacteria.

Therapeutic mouthwashes provide the healthier benefits. These may contain different ingredients including fluoride or antimicrobial agents. This type is used to remove plaque buildup and reduce the potential for calculus formation. Therapeutic rinses can also help prevent cavities, bad breath, and gingivitis. In addition, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can prescribe special rinses to assist patients after periodontal surgery or other procedures.

Flossing Benefits

Flossing is what removes the plaque formation before it can harden and become calculus. While a rinse reduces buildup, only flossing will fully remove plaque, especially between teeth. The bristles on a toothbrush do not get between teeth completely. If plaque is not removed, it hardens into tartar or calculus. When this builds below the gum line, gum disease can start.

Types of Floss

Floss is available in a thin string form or a tape. It can be waxed or unwaxed. If you find flossing difficult, you might want to try a different type of floss. You can buy bulk floss in containers or purchase the disposable type with a plastic handle attached. This style can be easier for many individuals to use. Interdental picks are available for bridgework or other situations where regular floss cannot be used.

If you have questions regarding the best mouthwash or floss, or need tips for easier flossing, please ask our Poolesville and Rockville MD team for advice. We will be glad to give you solutions to help keep your mouth clean and healthy.

Five Reasons for Your Bad Breath

May 31st, 2017

Bad breath, or halitosis, is probably not a matter of life or death. But it can make you feel self-conscious and have a negative impact on your life. The majority of people suffering from bad breath are dealing with oral bacterial. However, there are other causes of this embarrassing problem. Learning more can help you fight this solvable problem.

Five Causes of Embarrassingly Bad Breath

  1. Dry Mouth. A decrease in saliva flow can be caused by several things. Most often, medication or mouth breathing are the culprits. As saliva helps wash away food particles from your mouth, it prevents bad breath. Dry mouth can be dealt with by stimulating salivation.
  2. Gum Disease and Poor Oral Hygiene. Not brushing and flossing well enough or with enough frequency can lead to gum disease, which leads to bad breath. Halitosis can be a sign that plaque is present on your teeth.
  3. Food-Related Bad Breath. Food particles that aren't brushed or flossed away attract bacteria that leads to bad breath. It's especially important to brush after eating strong-smelling foods, such as garlic or onions.
  4. Smoking and Tobacco. Tobacco is bad for your health, and that includes your oral health. Smoking or chewing tobacco can contribute toward the development of gum disease, as well as oral cancer.
  5. Mouth Infections and Other Medical Problems. A mouth infection, sinus infection or even the common cold can cause you to temporarily have bad breath. Even conditions such as diabetes and reflux can cause halitosis. It's always wise to see Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega to help determine the cause.

We are Your Ally

Even if you maintain good oral hygiene, it's important to see Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office to deal with or avoid problems with bad breath. We can help you uncover the cause of halitosis, while also providing solutions that allow you to enjoy fresh breath without relying on mints and breath fresheners. As is the case with all things related to oral health, we are your number-one ally when it comes to eliminating the problem of bad breath.

What is gingivitis, and how can I treat it?

May 30th, 2017

Gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease that results when bacteria in your mouth cause inflammation in your gums. This is a common condition, and you can treat it effectively if you are aggressive. Otherwise, it could develop into more advanced gum disease, or periodontitis, and you could lose one or more teeth.

Watch for symptoms of gingivitis so you can ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega for help as soon as you need it. Strategies for treating gingivitis include thoroughly cleaning your teeth and assessing the scope of your gingivitis and how serious the problem is.

Gingivitis: Early Gum Disease

Your mouth contains many bacteria that form plaque, which is a sticky substance. You can get rid of plaque by brushing well, but if you don’t, it can build up on your teeth and form tartar. Bacteria can make your gums inflamed and cause pain and bleeding, or gingivitis. Other symptoms include loose teeth, bad breath, receding gums, and sensitive teeth. You’re at higher risk for gingivitis if you’re a smoker, if you have a weakened immune system, or if you have diabetes.

Assessment and Diagnosis

If you think you recognize the symptoms of gingivitis, contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office to make an appointment. We will ask you about your risk factors for gingivitis and examine your teeth and mouth for signs of red and swollen gums. We may also measure the pockets around your teeth. If they are larger than usual, your gingivitis may be more advanced. Finally, will take some X-rays to get a picture of the bone structure of your jaw.

Deep Cleaning

You can’t get rid of the tartar on your teeth just by brushing at home. Instead, you need a deep cleaning consisting of scaling and root planing. Scaling involves scraping the plaque off of your teeth, both below and above the line of your gum. In root planing, the rough surfaces of your teeth where tartar is more likely to build up are smoothed. A laser may be used to make the procedure more effective, more accurate, and more comfortable.

Things You Should Know Before Getting an Oral Piercing

May 24th, 2017

Have you been thinking about getting an oral piercing lately? It could seem enticing because they look trendy or cool, but it’s worth know the health risks associated with oral piercing. Even if you already have one, you may learn a few things you didn’t know.

The human mouth contains millions of bacteria. Even without piercings, it’s not uncommon for people to develop an infection every once in a while. By adding an oral piercing, you increase your likelihood of getting an infection.

Many people who have piercings tend to develop the habit of touching them regularly, which is the like opening a door and yelling, “Welcome home, infections!” And because these piercings are in your mouth, particles of all the food that comes through can accumulate and eventually cause a pretty serious health situation.

It’s hard to ignore the presence of an oral piercing, so biting or playing with the site is fairly common. Doing so can lead to teeth fractures, however. While a fracture might be on the enamel of a tooth and require a simple filling, it can also go deeper, which could entail a root canal or even tooth extraction.

Other risks include hindering your ability to talk and eat, nerve damage, gum damage, and even loss of taste.

If you’re still determined to get an oral piercing, at least be aware of the time it will take to heal. It can take anywhere from four to six weeks, and can cause great discomfort during that time. Be willing to give it that time in order to lower your chances of infection.

Make sure you understand that getting an oral piercing will involve adding further responsibility to your daily dental health duties. It’s essential that you commit to regular upkeep on your end, and not just while it’s healing.

Improve your oral health with xylitol!

May 23rd, 2017

Xylitol tastes sweet, but unlike sugar, it is not converted to acid that can cause your teeth to decay. It’s a naturally occurring sweetener found in plants, fruits, and vegetables; even the human body produces it in small amounts. Xylitol is widely used in sugar-free chewing gum, mints, candies, and even certain forms of medicine.

The World Health Organization has approved xylitol because only a small amount is needed for its health benefits. It’s even safe for diabetics, with a glycemic index of only seven. Xylitol has 40% fewer calories than other types of carbs: less than three calories per gram.

So how can this natural sweetener benefit your oral health? Take a look at the facts. Tooth decay starts when bacteria consumes the sugars left in your mouth. When you eat sugary foods, the bacteria on your teeth will multiply and make acid that can destroy your enamel.

Xylitol is derived from fibrous parts of plants, so it does not break down like a regular sugar. It actually helps maintain a neutral pH level in the mouth, which in turn prevents bacteria from sticking to the teeth. The bacteria are then unable to digest xylitol, which means your teeth won’t develop enamel damage and cavities.

Studies have shown the consumption of xylitol as a sugar substitute or a dietary addition had a dramatic reduction in new cavities and even reversed existing cavities. These effects are long lasting: low cavity rates remained years after the trials were done.

When there’s less bacteria and acid in your mouth due to xylitol, your teeth stay healthier. The more frequently it’s ingested, the more you will prevent enamel damage.

Aim to consume around five grams a day, or one gram every three hours if possible. You can do this by consuming gum, tablets, candy, or mints that have xylitol as one of the first ingredients after your meals. You can find these products in health food stores and specialty grocery stores.

Since xylitol replaces sugar on a one-to-one ratio, it’s used in several common items:

  • Toothpaste
  • Mouth rinse
  • Baby oral wipes, gel, and pacifiers
  • Nasal wash
  • Dry mouth spray
  • Granulated forms for cooking
  • Granulated packets to add to drinks
  • Commercially prepared foods

Make sure to pick up items that contain xylitol the next time you’re at the store! This is an easy way to maintain great oral health. If you have specific questions about xylitol, ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega during your next appointment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Ease up on your gums — don’t brush your teeth too hard!

May 17th, 2017

A lot of patients go at their teeth like they were sanding an old floor—that is to say, way too hard! Brushing too hard is probably the most common mistake patients make in their oral care routine, and it can be detrimental to the gums and teeth.

What can brushing too hard cause?

  • Receding gums
  • Bone loss around teeth
  • Loss of teeth
  • Tooth sensitivity, especially to hot and cold
  • Worn down enamel

Brushing too hard wears away at your gums, which can lead to the neck of the teeth being exposed. This part of the tooth isn't covered by hard enamel like the rest of the tooth and hence the soft inner layer, or dentin, is exposed. Dentin is very sensitive to hot and cold and much more susceptible to bacterial decay. Once the gums recede due to improper brushing, it’s usually irreversible.

How to brush your teeth properly

You know you're supposed to brush your teeth twice a day, so why not do it right? First and foremost, you should only ever brush with a soft bristled brush—not medium or hard—unless directed otherwise by Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega. Unless you have braces or specific oral health issues, brushing twice a day for two minutes is usually plenty.

The main purpose of brushing is to remove plaque from your teeth and gums. Plaque is actually soft and is a buildup of bacteria, saliva, and food debris. You really don't need to brush hard to remove it, just make sure you aim your toothbrush at the gum line (where plaque grows) and brush in small circular motions, never a back-and-forth motion.

It's also wise to hold your toothbrush gently. People tend to brush harder the tighter they hold their toothbrush.

Still have questions about proper tooth brushing technique or gum health? Ask any staff member or Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega during your next visit to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office; we'd be happy to help!

Dry Mouth and How to Treat It

May 16th, 2017

In fancy medical terms, dry mouth is known as xerostomia. It’s really just what it sounds like: a condition in which you don’t have enough saliva to keep your mouth moist. Dry mouth can be the result of certain medications you’re taking, aging, tobacco use, nerve damage, or chemotherapy.

Depending on whether you’re aware of the cause of your dry mouth, here are some simple ways to keep it at bay:

  • Avoid drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine
  • Avoid tobacco use, or lower your consumption of tobacco
  • Floss after every meal
  • Brush your teeth after every meal using a fluoride toothpaste
  • Avoid foods that have a high level of salt
  • Stay hydrated and drink water frequently
  • Consider using a humidifier at night

If you have any questions about dry mouth and how it is affecting you, give our Poolesville and Rockville MD office a call or make sure to ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega during your next visit!

The Evolution of the Toothbrush

May 10th, 2017

Oral hygiene has always been an important part of maintaining overall health. For thousands of years, humans have found ways to keep their teeth and mouths clean. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), “early forms of the toothbrush have existed for nearly 5,000 years.” But what exactly did the first toothbrush look like?

Toothbrush Timeline

With help from The Library of Congress, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team have compiled a timeline with some interesting details about the evolution of the toothbrush:

  • 3000 BC – Perhaps the earliest form of the toothbrush, the “chew stick” was used by Ancient civilizations. People would rub this thin twig with a frayed end against their teeth to remove food and plaque.
  • 1498 – The bristle toothbrush was invented in China and had many similarities to the toothbrushes used today. These devices were made by attaching the stiff, coarse hairs from the back of a hog’s neck to handles that were typically made from bone or bamboo.
  • 1938 – Signaling the end of the boar bristle, Dupont de Nemours introduced nylon bristles, and Americans welcomed Doctor West’s Miracle Toothbrush, the first nylon toothbrush.
  • 1960 – The Squibb Company introduced Broxodent, one of the first electric toothbrushes, to the American market.

Toothbrushes Today

Today, there are many brands of toothbrushes that often advertise different benefits. The variety of options may seem overwhelming, but the most important thing is for you to find a toothbrush that you like and find easy to use.

The ADA recommends that you choose a toothbrush that fits comfortably and allows you to effectively reach all areas of your mouth. Whether you decide to use a manual or a powered toothbrush, make sure that you thoroughly clean all surfaces of your teeth twice a day.

Society has come a long way since the days of the chew stick, but one thing that remains the same is the importance of consistent and effective personal oral hygiene.

Common Emergency Visits: From lost fillings to broken dentures

May 9th, 2017

You never know when you're going to experience a dental emergency, but if you do, it should give you peace of mind to know that emergency dental care is available at our office 24/7. Whether you chip your front tooth playing softball, or your child knocks out a couple of teeth in a playground fall, receiving the emergency dental treatment you need is accessible and convenient.

If you're experiencing a dental emergency, our team at Pike & Valega, DDS is here to help you any time of the day or night. Dental emergencies should not be taken lightly, so don't delay. Contact our office as soon as possible. Common dental emergencies include the following:

Lost Fillings and Crowns

Fillings are used to repair cavities. Crowns, on the other hand, are used to cover broken or damaged teeth. Over time, it’s possible for both of these items to loosen and fall out. A lost filling or crown can be painful, because the exposed tissue may be sensitive. Hot and cold temperatures will cause discomfort. While a lost filling or crown might not be as severe a dental emergency as a broken or chipped tooth (most people respond quicker to pain than self-consciousness about their looks), you need to get it fixed as soon as possible.

Broken Dentures

If your dentures are broken, everyday tasks may become trying and arduous. If you can’t chew, swallow, or eat properly, the situation calls for emergency care. Depending on how damaged your dentures are, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega may need to send out a mold of your mouth in order to have the manufacturer make a new pair. On the other hand, if the dentures are not damaged too badly, then we may be able to fix them in-house. If you're having problems with your dentures, you should give us a call as soon as possible.

From chipped and cracked teeth to lost fillings and broken dentures, dental emergencies come in all shapes and sizes. Emergencies are unexpected, but we want you to know that treatment is available, day or night. When your dental health is at risk, we are here to help. In the case of a dental emergency, don't wait; contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office at your earliest convenience.

Early Detection is Key to Treating Oral Cancer

May 3rd, 2017

Every hour of every day, someone in North America dies of oral cancer, the sixth most common diagnosed form of the disease. The five-year survival rate is only 50 percent, and oral cancer is one of the few cancers whose survival rate has not improved.

This grim statistic may make you think that oral cancer is a particularly deadly form, when in fact the high death rate has more to do with how late in its development oral cancer is detected. Routine screening is the key to early detection and survival, and in our continuing efforts to provide the most advanced technology and highest quality care available to our patients at Pike & Valega, DDS, we proudly screen our patients for oral cancer.

So, who’s at risk for oral cancer?

Anyone can develop oral cancer, but some people are at a higher risk. These high-risk groups include those over the age of 50 and men, who are twice as likely as women to develop the disease. Smoking or chewing smokeless tobacco products, consuming alcohol excessively, and constant exposure to the sun at a young age are also risk factors.

How is oral cancer detected?

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS suggest our patients perform a monthly self-examination to check for unusual red or white patches, sores, lumps, or thickenings anywhere inside the mouth, on the lips, or in the throat and neck area.

We encourage you to give us a call at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office if you find any of these symptoms or if you have trouble swallowing or experience a chronic sore throat and hoarseness. During your visit, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will inspect the oral tissues and neck to determine if abnormalities are present.

What happens if oral cancer is detected?

If we discover abnormal tissues during your visit, a biopsy will be required. The results from the biopsy will be sent to a laboratory to determine if the cells are cancerous or precancerous. If a diagnosis of cancer is made, surgery, as well as treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation may be necessary. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team will work closely with your oncologist and other members of your medical team to ensure that you achieve the best possible oral health care both during and after treatment.

Finding out you have oral cancer can be devastating news. If you are concerned that you might be at risk for developing oral cancer, talk to us about screenings and other things you can do to reduce your risk. Through a routine visual inspection, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS can often detect premalignant abnormalities and cancer at an early stage when treatment is both less expensive and more successful, and can potentially save your life. Ask us about a screening during your next visit!

Can my child really avoid tooth decay?

May 2nd, 2017

Great question! Yes, in fact, tooth decay is preventable! Decay, which is caused by sugars left in your child’s mouth, can turn into an acid, which in turn can break down his or her teeth. Children are at high risk for tooth decay for a simple reason: many children and adolescents tend to be lax in their oral hygiene habits.

So, how can your child prevent tooth decay?

  • Start early. After the age of two, brush your child’s teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day. And, if possible, clean between the teeth with dental floss at least once a day, preferably before they go to bed.
  • Don’t allow your little ones to eat after cleaning teeth at bedtime, as salivary flow decreases while they sleep and their teeth become vulnerable to cavities.
  • Do not allow your little ones to nibble food or sip drinks continuously, and keep in mind that a low-sugar diet also helps keep tooth decay at bay. Allow time between meals for saliva to neutralize acids and repair the teeth.
  • Drinking water frequently throughout the day can also reduce the possibility of new cavities forming.
  • Dental sealants can also protect your children’s teeth from cavities. Sealants, which are applied to the chewing surfaces of molars, act as a shield between the tooth and harmful bacteria.

Finally, make sure your child visits Pike & Valega, DDS approximately every six months for a checkup and routine cleaning! Please give us a call at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Are you nervous about seeing the dentist? You’re not alone!

April 26th, 2017

With advances in modern dentistry, a trip to Pike & Valega, DDS these days is pretty routine. But visiting Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team still makes some patients anxious—so much so that they don’t go as often as they should and end up with costly complications down the road, such as tooth decay or gum disease.

When it comes to dental care, prevention is the best medicine. And that begins with regular checkups and dental cleanings at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office. Today, we thought we would offer five tips for taking the pain out of a visit to see Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega:

1. Ask yourself: What are you most afraid of? Is it the sound of the drill? Do you have needle phobia? Have you been traumatized by previous dental visits? Write down your fears, one by one and talk about them during your visit.

2. Don’t wait. The more frequently your visit our office, the less work will need to be done at any given visit. Simply having your teeth cleaned professionally by Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega twice a year prevents many, if not most, problems down the road.

3. Bring a distraction such as music to your appointment. Just plug in those earphones, close your eyes, and get lost in the music. Listening to tunes can also be a pain killer.

4. Unwind. Inhaling slowly and counting to five helps. Try holding your breath for ten seconds, then exhale slowly to the count of eight, and repeat as needed.

5. Ask us. Before any given procedure, we encourage you to ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega or one of our assistants why we’re using the tools we’re using. Ask us what we’re doing, what the tool is used for, and how it benefits you. Also, please ask about anti-anxiety medications we may prescribe to help you relax during your appointment.

If you suffer from dental anxiety, a visit to Pike & Valega, DDS might seem like a daunting prospect. Perhaps you had a bad experience in the past, but whatever the reason, please know that at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office, there is nothing to be afraid of.

Remember, you’re not alone. We understand that going to the dentist isn’t easy for everyone. In fact, the Journal of the American Dental Association estimates that as many as 12 percent of adults suffer from dental anxiety so bad that they avoid the dentist altogether. Many more suffer from varying degrees of dental anxiety, which often results in poor oral health.

If you suffer from dental anxiety, your fears don’t have to keep you from seeing Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega. Our patients at Pike & Valega, DDS are our most important asset, and we strive to create a comfortable experience, no matter how long it has been since your last visit at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. We hope to see you soon!

How many times a day should I floss?

April 25th, 2017

Flossing is one of the most important parts of your oral care routine. Many patients know they need to do it but find it difficult to fit into their busy lives. Well, here's the good news: flossing once a day is enough if you're doing a good job!

Some patients like to brush before they floss and others like to floss before they brush. Some like to floss in the morning when they have more energy, others like to floss at night so they can go to bed with a clean mouth. Don't get hung up on any of this, the important thing is that you floss and floss effectively no matter when you do it.

Effective flossing contributes to oral health in these ways:

  • It reduces the chance of cavities between teeth, since cavities can only form on teeth covered with dental plaque and you're scraping that plaque away when you floss.
  • Along with brushing, it reduces the amount of time the plaque is left on your teeth, allowing them to be in a state of healing and remineralization for longer.
  • It removes plaque that accumulates at or below the gum line, aiding in the prevention of gum disease.

As you can see, flossing offers many benefits for such a simple and inexpensive technique. So if you're still wondering how much to floss, don't worry about it. Don't mistake the frequency of your flossing with the effectiveness of it. Choose a dental floss that you like and one time during the day when you can floss thoroughly and just do it! If you need more tips on how to floss correctly, ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega or any member of our Poolesville and Rockville MD team—we'd be glad to help you pick up this healthy habit!

Anatomy of a Smile Makeover

April 19th, 2017

A smile makeover is usually a combination of one or more cosmetic dental procedures. To achieve your desired result, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega may perform or suggest a variety of options. The entire process is designed specifically for your unique cosmetic needs, and Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will make sure all your concerns regarding your smile are addressed.

Here are some of the most common procedures in cosmetic dentistry and how they work:

  • Tooth whitening – Whiter teeth are achieved through a bleaching process typically using hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. Yellower teeth usually respond well to this procedure, while brown-colored teeth stained by fluorosis or taking tetracycline do not respond as well to whitening. Tooth whitening is not for everyone; if you have sensitive teeth, gum disease, or poor enamel, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega may recommend against tooth-whitening services.
  • Orthodontics – Braces are one of the tried-and-true ways of achieving a healthier smile. Braces are typically worn between 12 and 24 months to reposition the teeth in a straighter and safer alignment. Since your bite is also corrected during this process, it helps ensure you won't have any trouble down the line. There are several different types of braces available these days including: traditional metal braces, clear ceramic braces, lingual braces, and clear aligners.
  • Veneers – Veneers are thin, tooth-colored material (porcelain or resin) designed to be placed on the front surface of teeth to improve their overall appearance. They can be used in cases where the color, shape, size, or length is not as desired. Veneers are usually used in cases where teeth are discolored, chipped, worn down, misaligned, irregular, or have gaps.
  • Implants/bridges – Dental implants and bridges are used to replace missing or broken teeth. Nowadays, both implants and bridges are commonly performed procedures. Implants integrate directly with the jawbone, while bridges are placed over the adjacent teeth to the missing tooth. Implant technology has advanced a great deal in recent years and highly biocompatible ceramic materials are becoming more commonplace.

Getting your perfect smile will take time and patience, but the end result will be well worth it! Please schedule an appointment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office about the cosmetic dental services we offer, and achieve the smile you've always wanted!

Improve Your Overall Health with Regular Cleanings

April 18th, 2017

It’s common knowledge that you should get your teeth cleaned every six months. But do you know why that timing is crucial? Studies have shown that your oral health connects directly to the rest of your body. Over time, an unhealthy mouth can cause trouble in other parts of your general system.

Undergoing a regular cleaning every six months at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office is vital. During your dental checkups, we remove plaque that collects on your teeth and around your gums. If the plaque gets left in place for an extended period, inflammation can develop and may lead to painful gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontal disease.

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, periodontal disease has been linked to increased risk for health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, inflammation, and osteoporosis. Bacteria from your mouth can spread throughout the rest of your body. So a healthy mouth leads to a healthy body.

Regular checkups can prevent issues from arising in your mouth if problems are caught early by Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega. If you have been avoiding the dentist, you could be making issues worse for yourself in the long haul. Generally, a dentist will go over a few routine matters during your checkup. They might include taking X-rays, checking for gum disease and tooth decay, examining your bite, inspecting your head and neck for swelling, and of course performing a thorough cleaning of your teeth and gums to remove built-up plaque and tartar. All of these routine practices are worthwhile when it comes to keeping your oral health in top shape.

Now that you know the importance of getting your teeth checked every six months, you should be sure to schedule your next appointment with Pike & Valega, DDS at our Poolesville and Rockville MD location. Keeping your mouth healthy will prevent any form of bacteria from spreading to the rest of your body. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your oral health, don’t hesitate to call and our staff will be happy to assist you.

Why do wisdom teeth need to be removed?

April 12th, 2017

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. Pike and Dr. Valega 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 Poolesville and Rockville MD office to schedule an appointment today!

Telltale Signs that Your Tooth has a Cavity

April 11th, 2017

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS frequently get questions about cavity causes and prevention. You brush twice a day and floss regularly. You rinse with mouthwash, just like the dentist recommended. In fact, you can’t remember the last time you had a cavity, but you think it was when you were a little kid. In all seriousness, you thought only kids got cavities.

The Signs and Symptoms of a Cavity

It’s believed that roughly 90% of North Americans will get at least one cavity in their lifetime. Those other ten percent, it seems, can eat as much pie, cake, and sugary cereals and sweets as they want. That’s not really true; just a stab at dental humor, and it was as bad as the pain your cavity is probably giving you.

When a cavity is in its initial stages, you will often be symptom-free and experience no discomfort at all. It’s not until the tooth decay has reached a certain level that you will begin to notice the signs and symptoms. While a toothache and sensitivity to hot and cold foods and liquids are surefire signs that you have a cavity, there are lesser-known symptoms as well. If you’re experiencing any of these warning signs, you may want to consider making an appointment with our office as soon as possible:

  • Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
  • When you bite down, there is a sticky, tarry feeling
  • Puss or discharge around a tooth
  • A visible discoloring, usually black or brown
  • Small pits or holes in the tooth

Routine dental care is important. While good oral hygiene, a healthy diet, and regular cleanings will deter the formation of cavities, they do not constitute a foolproof practice. A cavity can occur at any time, no matter what your age. Bacteria causes tooth decay, and no amount of brushing, flossing, and rinsing will eradicate all the bacteria from your mouth. If you think you may have a cavity, please contact our office immediately.

Treatment Options for TMD

April 5th, 2017

Temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD) refers to a diverse range of disorders that relate to muscular function in the jaw and face — the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). That could mean difficulty opening your mouth, pain in the jaw or face, or any sort of problem with the jaw joint.

TMD can be difficult to diagnose because of the varied causes. Whatever the case, an accurate diagnosis from Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega helps make treatment as successful as possible.

Most often, jaw problems will resolve themselves within several weeks or months. Surgeries like arthrocentesis, arthroscopy, and open-joint surgery should be a last resort. More conservative and reversible treatments should come first and are in fact the most critical step in the treatment of TMD.

Less invasive treatments like acupuncture and splints can be helpful, but that will depend on your particular case. It’s worth your while to speak with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office to learn about solutions that could work for you.

A combination of treatments will most often produce the greatest relief for TMJ patients. It’s a good idea to avoid activities that overuse the jaws, such as chewing gum or clenching your jaws.

You can be proactive in finding relief for TMD by trying the following remedies at home:

  • Eat soft food: When you eat soft and/or blended food, your jaw gets an opportunity to rest. Avoid chewy and crunchy food, and food that requires you to open your mouth wide, like apples or corn on the cob.
  • Apply moist heat: A hot water bottle wrapped in a moist towel can help reduce symptoms.
  • Apply ice: Applying an ice pack wrapped in a cloth or towel for no longer than 15 minutes may also reduce pain and promote healing.
  • Do jaw exercises: A physical therapist can help identify the exercises that will work for you. Jaw exercises have been shown to be an effective treatment method that can be performed at home.
  • Relaxation: Actively try to relax the muscles of the face and lips, and let your teeth come apart. Many find meditation, yoga, and slow, deep breathing to be helpful for reducing stress and tension.
  • Avoid wide yawns: Keep your fist under your jaw when you feel a yawn coming on, to keep your jaw from opening too widely.

Do I lose my wisdom if I lose my wisdom teeth?

April 4th, 2017

The third molars have long been known as your “wisdom teeth,” because they are the last teeth to erupt from the gums – usually sometime during the late teens to early twenties. This is a time in life that many consider an “age of wisdom”; hence the term, “wisdom teeth.”

Extracting the third molars does not have any effect on your actual wisdom … and Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our staff are sorry to say that holding on to them can’t make you smarter, either. So if you somehow feel that you became wiser and smarter when your wisdom teeth appeared, chalk it up to age rather than teeth.

In fact, you may just be showing how smart you are by having your wisdom teeth removed. Mankind once relied on the wisdom teeth to replace teeth that were damaged or missing, thanks to a poor diet. But dietary changes and advances in modern dentistry make it possible for many people to hold on to their teeth for many decades, which eliminated the need for third molars.

For many people, wisdom teeth cause nothing but problems: becoming impacted, irritating surrounding gum tissue, or even causing other teeth to become crooked or overlap. By removing them, patients often enjoy a lower risk of decay, infection, and aesthetic complications.

So rest assured that extracting your wisdom teeth will have no effect on your immediate or long-term intelligence.

Care for Your Dentures

March 29th, 2017

Just like natural teeth, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will tell you that dentures have a tendency to get coated with plaque, which is a sticky, transparent film that attracts food and bacteria. When you don’t take care of your dentures adequately and regularly, plaque can build up, harden, and become difficult to remove. More importantly, it can result in dental problems, including gum disease and infection. Proper care for your dentures also helps them maintain their shape, fit the way they are supposed to, and last longer.

Cleaning your dentures

Your dentures should be cleaned with the same diligence as you clean natural teeth.

  • Take out dentures and rinse them after eating. To remove food particles, run water over your dentures.
  • Clean your teeth after denture removal. Once dentures have been removed, use a soft-bristled toothbrush to brush existing teeth, gums, and tongue.
  • Scrub your dentures on a daily basis. At least once per day, gently scrub your dentures with a soft-bristled toothbrush and denture cleanser.
  • Soak dentures overnight. In order to keep their shape intact, many dentures must remain moist. Always use a mild denture solution recommended by our office. Never use hot water on your dentures, as they may warp their shape.
  • Rinse dentures prior to placing them back in your mouth. This is especially important if you soak your dentures in a denture solution.
  • Dentures are fragile and can break when dropped. It’s a good idea to hold them in a soft cloth or towel to keep them from falling and breaking.

Over time, even with diligent daily care, your dentures may form difficult-to-remove tartar. When this happens, our team at Pike & Valega, DDS uses a powerful ultrasonic cleaner to remove stubborn, denture build-up.

Proper care for your dentures can help retain their shape, prevent oral issues, and increase their longevity. Visit Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega regularly at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office to maintain your oral health and keep your dentures in tip-top shape.

Find Out how Your Diet can Cause Cavities

March 28th, 2017

Sometimes food that’s good for your body isn’t necessarily the best for your teeth. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team want you to know which healthy foods can harm your teeth and gums, and what steps you can take to continue enjoying these foods, even when you’re dieting.

When you begin to substitute empty calories with whole foods, make sure you also remember to focus on your dental health. The majority of people tend to switch out sugary foods in favor of fruits and vegetables when they diet.

It’s worth knowing that most fruits are highly acidic and composed of natural sugars. Some of the highly acidic fruits to watch out for include apples, grapes, strawberries, pineapples, blueberries, oranges, and grapefruit. Moderation is key here, as with all other things. Fruits can be a great source of energy to help you through your day, but try not to overdo them.

Often, people also incorporate more leafy greens into their diets, which mean plenty of salads. Salad dressing is another item you’ll want to watch out for. Many dressings are filled with vinegars and sweeteners that include harmful acids, which change the pH of your mouth. When your mouth shifts from alkaline to acidic, your smile also turns to a higher risk for erosion and decay.

Rather than get rid of these foods altogether, simply change what you do after you eat them. Rinse your mouth out with water, brush your teeth, or eat alkalizing foods after consuming these acidic foods. Healthy alkalizing foods include dairy products such as eggs and yogurt, or any type of vegetable.

If you have questions regarding your current diet and its effect on your oral health, please contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office and speak with a member of our staff. If you’ve begun to make changes in your diet toward a healthier lifestyle, we hope these tips can help your make positive changes to your oral health. Our team at Pike & Valega, DDS wants a healthy lifestyle to be a top priority in your life.

How do OTC whitening treatments compare to in-office whitening?

March 22nd, 2017

If you are unhappy with the color of your teeth, teeth whitening may be an excellent choice for you. Many patients of Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega suffer from darkened teeth due to the natural aging process, regular consumption of coffee or tea, or nicotine staining from cigarettes.

Some people may have darkened teeth due to long-term use of medication. Certain medication-related stains on the teeth cannot be lightened, but virtually every other type of teeth stains can be effectively lightened using either professional dental whitening or at-home whitening.

While both types of whitening have benefits, at-home kits are less expensive and less effective overall. Professional teeth whitening is a highly effective option, but it requires a bit more of an investment. Here is the basic info on each type of whitening.

At-Home Whitening

At-home whitening is done in a number of different ways today. Some of the most popular options include:

  • Whitening strips that are applied to teeth and then removed after a specified period. These will typically be used once a day for at least a week.
  • Whitening gels or pastes that are placed in a one-size-fits-all plastic tray. These trays are worn, retainer style, for a set period of time once a day.
  • Whitening toothpaste, which is used daily, and whitening mouthwashes are also available today. These products require constant use to realize results.

In-Office Whitening

In-office whitening is the fastest way to achieve whiter teeth. If you want an almost immediate difference in the color of your teeth and their overall appearance, this is probably the option for you.

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will typically apply the whitening formula directly to your teeth. Following the application, we will have you relax in our office between half an hour and an hour.

Some office-whitening formulas are strengthened with the use of heat, specialized lighting, or laser application. Patients will usually notice whitening results after only one application, but it usually takes at least a few appointments at Pike & Valega, DDS to notice a truly dramatic change in tooth color.

What is hand-foot-and-mouth disease?

March 21st, 2017

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease, or HFMD, is a type of contagious viral illness that causes a rash in the mouth and on the hands and feet of infants and young children, and, while rare, adults. Characterized by sores in the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet, hand-foot-and-mouth disease is most commonly caused by a coxsackievirus, a bacterium that lives in the human digestive tract. HFMD can spread from person to person, typically via unwashed hands.

What are the symptoms of HFMD?

Symptoms of HFMD usually begin with a fever, sore throat, poor appetite, or general malaise. A couple of days after the fever starts, kids may develop painful sores in the mouth. A skin rash characterized by red spots may also develop, usually on the palms of your child’s hands and soles of their feet. It’s important to note some children may only experience a rash while others may only have mouth sores.

Is HFMD serious? Should we be concerned?

Usually not. Nearly all children infected recover anywhere between seven to ten days without medical treatment. Rarely, however, a child can develop viral meningitis and may need to be hospitalized. Other rare complications of HFMD can include encephalitis (brain inflammation), which can be fatal.

How can my child prevent HFMD?

There is no known vaccine to defend your child against HFMD. However, the risk of your child contracting the disease can be reduced by:

  • Making sure your child washes his or her hands often
  • Thoroughly cleaning objects and surfaces (these include doorknobs and toys)
  • Making sure your child avoids close contact with those who are infected

To learn more about hand-foot-and-mouth disease or to schedule an appointment for your child, please give us a call at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

I have fluoride toothpaste and fluoridated water; do I need a fluoride treatment?

March 15th, 2017

Fluoride is a naturally found ion with a history of greatly reducing the incidence of tooth decay in children. However, over the past decade, people have increasingly consumed bottled water, most of which does not contain fluoride, and children are no longer getting the recommended dosage of fluoride. In addition, many areas do not add the optimum amount of fluoride to the town drinking water.

Everyone’s dental needs are different. The amount of fluoride a person needs is determined by age (children), tooth sensitivity, risk for cavities, and medical conditions. When a patient needs additional fluoride it can be applied in a foam or varnish.

Children receive additional topical fluoride because teeth in the early development stages have a higher mineral uptake. The future strength of the enamel depends on this. When a tooth absorbs the fluoride ion, it creates hydroxyapatite, a harder mineral compound than enamel alone.

Those who have a dry mouth from medication also need extra fluoride. A daily fluoride rinse and a semi-annual fluoride varnish treatment are standard. If you are on medicine for high blood pressure, anxiety, diabetes, depression, or cholesterol, you may fit in this category.

Cancer treatments can also greatly impact your oral health. Fluoride varnish treatments prior to, during, and after radiation and chemotherapy can be beneficial. There are other mouth conditions which coincide with cancer treatments which make it difficult to brush and floss daily, and can contribute to an increased risk for decay. An infection during cancer treatment can be especially harmful, which is why preventive measures are important.

Fluoride treatments, administered topically, are highly beneficial in preventing decay. Feel free to call Pike & Valega, DDS to schedule an appointment or if you have any questions.

What is a cavity?

March 14th, 2017

Cavities are the reason why most people fear going to the dentist. But they’re also the reason you should be visiting Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega on a regular basis.

Specifically, cavities are the breakdown of teeth caused by acid from food, bacteria, and plaque that inhabit the inside of the mouth. While many people simply think that cavities only form on top of a tooth, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS want you to know they can actually form on the sides along the gum line and between the teeth, too. This acid will eat away at the tooth, forming a soft hole.

Anybody, either children and adults, can get cavities. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the U.S. alone about 16 percent of all children ages six to 19 have untreated cavities, and about 24 percent of adults 20 to 64 years old have them. This is detrimental to overall oral health, because cavities have a tendency to grow over time, potentially spreading to other teeth and causing increased oral pain, possibly even affecting the nerve.

That's why it's important to ensure that you're visiting Pike & Valega, DDS at least once every six months, so that cavities can be found and filled before they become too problematic and painful. Typically, they're found by doing a routine teeth cleaning, though X-rays or further examination may be necessary to determine the full extent of a cavity. Cavities are treated by removing the area of the tooth where decay has set in and rebuilding the tooth with a metal filling. If the cavity is too large, however, more extreme measures may be necessary, such as placing a crown or performing a root canal.

As we noted above, cavities are why people dread going to the dentist, but also the reason everyone should see the dentist every six months. Additionally, brushing twice daily, flossing, and cutting down on sugar-packed foods can reduce the risk of developing cavities.

For more information on how to best care for your teeth and why it's important to visit the dentist twice a year, please give us a call at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office today!

Avoid Brushing After Every Single Meal!

March 8th, 2017

Here is some surprising yet worthwhile advice you might be hearing for the first time: Brushing after a meal can be incredibly bad for your teeth if you do it after eating certain foods.

Enamel is an extremely hard mineral on the exterior of each of your teeth. It’s actually the hardest substance in the human body: It’s even stronger than your bones! Its only weakness is that acids in the food we eat can easily destroy enamel.

Healthy teeth thrive in an environment that has the proper pH balance. That ensures your mouth doesn’t start the process of demineralization. That’s what happens when alkaline turns into acid, which attacks and softens the enamel on the surface of your teeth. Pores and fissures form, and that’s when the harmful bacteria go to work.

Our mouth’s pH level fluctuates depending on what we eat throughout the day. Examples of the most common highly acidic foods include citrus fruits, soda, and sugary foods. Highly acidic foods tip the balance of pH in your mouth from a healthy alkaline to a dangerous acid.

Can brushing your teeth immediately after a meal lead to even more damage? The answer is yes!

Eating highly acidic foods causes your teeth to be more susceptible. If you brush your teeth when they have been weakened by acids, even more destruction can happen to your enamel. Your toothbrush’s bristles will actually wear away some of your enamel. So it’s healthier to wait at least an hour after eating or snacking to brush.

Good preventive measures to take instead of brushing after you eat include:

  • Rinsing or drinking water
  • Chewing sugarless gum
  • Consuming dairy or non-acidic foods to conclude your meal

These practices help produce saliva, which in turn restores a healthy pH level in your mouth and coats the teeth with minerals they need.

Once you’ve allowed time for your mouth to be restored to a healthy pH level, you may brush your teeth as you normally would. Keep in mind that acidic foods can weaken the enamel on your teeth and take the right measures to prevent spiking pH levels.

Most important, don’t forget to wait to brush at least one hour after you eat!

Still have questions? Call our Poolesville and Rockville MD office and schedule an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega.

Good Nutrition Leads to Healthy Mouths

March 7th, 2017

At Pike & Valega, DDS, we know the most common oral health diseases are tooth decay and periodontal disease (or gum disease), and both are among the easiest to prevent. One of the most common ways we recommend to boost your oral health is by improving your diet, because you (and your mouth) truly are what you eat. A healthy diet can lead to a healthy mouth and body, while an unhealthy diet can lead to the exact opposite.

The Role Nutrition Plays

While diet is not the only factor that leads to periodontal disease, studies suggest the disease may be more severe among patients whose diets lack essential nutrients. Poor diets will generally lead to a weaker immune system, leaving your body susceptible to all kinds of ailments, including periodontal disease.

A Well-Balanced Approach

There is no “magic” diet that we can recommend to improve your oral health, but the most important thing is to seek a well-balanced approach in your eating. While fad diets that emphasize one food group over another may help you lose weight in the short-term, they probably will not provide all the nutrients your body needs in the long run.

Meals should include a balance of lean meats or other healthy protein sources, colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats. Foods containing substantial amounts of sugar and salt should be consumed in moderation.

Soda and Sugar: A Dangerous Duo

Millions of gallons of soda are consumed every day in America, but sipping a cold soft drink can be very harmful to your teeth. Many of these beverages wear down the enamel that protects the teeth, which weakens and even destroys them over time. The American Beverage Association estimates that soft drinks account for almost 30 percent of all drink consumption in the U.S., averaging an annual total of about 50 gallons per person (up from only 20 gallons in the 1970s). For healthy teeth and a healthy body overall, try to limit your soda intake.

Sugar is another ubiquitous treat in our daily lives. When we eat sugar, naturally occurring bacteria in our mouths convert it to acids that attack tooth enamel. Consuming too much sugar can swiftly lead to tooth decay, cavities, and gum diseases like gingivitis. Most people do not even realize how much sugar they consume each day. It’s important to limit your daily sugar intake by reading the labels of all the food you eat, and sticking with natural food sources that are low in sugar, especially ones that minimize added sugar, such as fruits and vegetables.

If you have questions about your diet and how it may be affecting your oral health, talk to Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega about it. See you soon!

March is National Nutrition Month!

March 1st, 2017

While you don’t have to wait to start eating right, March is the month the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics asks everyone to pay special attention to what goes into our bodies. The Academy has designated the month of March for focusing the public’s awareness on what they eat.

What Not to Eat

The academy points out that the foods you eat have a direct effect on the health of your teeth and specifically on tooth decay. Bacteria rely on carbohydrates to thrive. That is why Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS tell our patients to cut back on both candy and sweets. They consist of simple sugars that feed the bacteria in your mouth and enhance tooth decay.

It’s the hidden sugars that will cost you, though. Get in the habit of reading labels on food and looking for products with added sugar. This includes ingredients that end with the suffix “ose.” When it comes to nutrition, these foods offer little value beyond satisfying that sweet tooth.

What You Should Eat

Turn to foods that not only taste good but are good for your teeth too. Dairy products, for example, provide the body with nutritional items that support tooth enamel. Foods high in protein feature phosphorus, a nutrient critical to oral health.

You can’t really go wrong by adding color to your diet, either. Fruits and vegetables make for a colorful plate and a healthy meal. Use some caution with acidic fruits like oranges or even tomatoes, because the acid can erode tooth enamel. It is better to include these foods in a meal instead of eating them by themselves.

Remember, good nutrition is something you should worry about all year long, not just when celebrating National Nutrition Month. March just serves as a fun reminder that eating right is a proactive step in managing your dental health.

We encourage you to give us a call at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office to learn more!

Periodontal Disease Associated with Cardiovascular Risk

February 28th, 2017

We all know that brushing your teeth and flossing regularly keeps your smile sparkly and bright, but did you realize that cleaning your teeth can actually help your heart? Recent research suggests that people with periodontal disease also have a higher cardiovascular risk, which means they are more vulnerable to heart attacks or stroke. It’s probably not time to throw away those running shoes in favor of a new toothbrush, but this is an added incentive to maintain good oral hygiene.

Relationship between Periodontal Disease and Cardiovascular Health

In 2003, researchers from the University of Buffalo conducted analyses which suggested that patients with gum disease were also at elevated risk of cardiovascular problems. Furthermore, people with more severe cases of gum disease have even poorer heart health. Although the exact causes of this relationship remain unknown, scientists continue to explore the impact of oral hygiene on broader health.

One hypothesis is that poor oral hygiene leads to inflammation, which negatively affects the heart. Gum disease occurs when bacteria build up in the mouth, and feed off sugars found in food. These bacteria release compounds that contribute to inflammation and red, swollen gums. The same inflammatory compounds may affect the heart, increasing overall cardiovascular risk.

Protect Your Teeth, Protect Your Heart

Taking a few commonsense measures can go a long way to improving your oral health and your cardiovascular risk. Consider the following:

  • Brush twice daily, and floss at least once per day. Brushing your teeth at least twice a day cleans away the harmful bacteria that contribute to gum disease. Similarly, flossing your teeth ensures that dangerous bacteria that build up between each tooth get swept away. These simple steps are the easiest ways to reduce your risk of periodontal disease.
  • Eat healthy foods. Those sugary snacks that you love so much don’t help your teeth. Whenever possible, stick to a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods. For example, grab an apple or a few celery sticks for a mid-afternoon snack, rather than indulging in that candy bar.
  • Drink water. Staying hydrated doesn’t just help your body – it also swishes bad bacteria away from your tooth and gum surface. Drinking plenty of water improves your overall oral health. It’s particularly helpful after eating a sugary or sticky snack, because water can reduce plaque buildup.
  • Visit Pike & Valega, DDS. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our staff will monitor your mouth for signs of periodontal disease and can make specific recommendations to keep your mouth – and your heart – safer.

Energy Drinks and Dental Health

February 22nd, 2017

Are energy drinks bad for your teeth? Many of our patients at Pike & Valega, DDS ask us this question, so here’s the scoop.

Energy drinks have been on the rise, taking up more and more space on grocery store shelves. Drinks such as Red Bull, 5-Hour Energy, Monster Assault, Rockstar, and the like promise to jump-start your day, give you more energy, and help you feel more alert. But they also do a lot more than that. Turns out, they do a pretty good job of stripping your teeth of enamel, which is a very bad thing.

Many of these energy drinks are loaded with a lot of citric acid. In addition, they are laden with preservatives (not to mention sugar), not only to enhance flavor, but extend shelf life. While enamel loss, tooth decay, teeth sensitivity, and cavities cannot be blamed entirely on energy drinks (improper oral hygiene at home and lack of professional dental care also play a role), they can wreak havoc on the health of your teeth and gums, especially when consumed in more than moderation. Over time, energy drinks can strip enamel, which is the outer layer that protects your teeth.

What can you do?

Although Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team aren't recommending you drink energy drinks at all, if you must drink one occasionally, there are a few things you can do to minimize the damage to your teeth.

  • Drink through a straw.
  • Don’t hold the drink in your mouth before swallowing.
  • Rinse your mouth with water immediately after drinking this kind of beverage. Water helps both to neutralize the acid and to increase the production of saliva.
  • Chew sugar-free gum immediately after, to increase saliva production.
  • Don’t brush your teeth right after drinking an energy drink. Wait at least an hour instead, because the combination of the acid and brushing will further damage tooth enamel.

The best advice is to refrain from drinking energy drinks altogether. One of the best hydrators is water. Water is a natural energy-booster and hydrator, and it doesn’t contain calories.

Give us a call today at our Poolesville and Rockville MD  office if you have any questions or concerns about energy drinks and dental health. We can provide additional tips and a treatment plan to help reduce enamel loss, eliminate tooth sensitivity, and repair cavities and tooth decay as a result of drinking energy drinks.

I’m on a diet and getting MORE cavities!

February 21st, 2017

Health gurus rave about replacing unhealthy food choices with healthy ones in your diet. If you want to maintain your beautiful smile as well as your waistline, choose foods that are good for your teeth and good for losing weight. This article will discuss some of the worst healthy foods for your teeth and gums, and what you can do to continue to enjoy them.

When watching your weight, snacks heavy in sugar and starch are the first target for elimination. You want to trade those empty calories for something with more nutritional value. A healthier snack is fruit and vegetables. When you are substituting empty calories with whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, consider a few implications for your dental health.

The most acidic fruits are grapes, grapefruit, and strawberries. Want to know the number-one worst healthy food for your tooth enamel? Apples! An apple a day may keep the doctor away but you may soon be calling your dentist.

Another healthy food often incorporated into dieting is salads. But consider what you put in those salads. Salad dressings are filled with vinegar and sweeteners. These make a salad very acidic and can change the pH of your mouth from alkaline, which is good for your teeth and gums, to acidic, which puts your smile at risk for erosion and decay.

Last but not least is diet soda. You might be cutting down on the calories but you are still putting your teeth at risk for decay. Though calories are reduced, the acid is not.

You do not need to eliminate any of these foods from your diet. Simply alter what you do after eating these foods to decrease the amount of acid your teeth are exposed to.

During your next visit to Pike & Valega, DDS in our Poolesville and Rockville MD office, we can discuss your diet. We may recommend using certain products to fortify your teeth or change the way you routinely care for your teeth.

Please enjoy the wonderful whole foods that are great for a healthy waistline. A healthy waistline and a healthy smile have a positive influence on your general health. A healthier you is a happier you. The happier you are, the more you smile. Keep your smile brilliant and beautiful with the care your teeth deserve at the practice of Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega.

Dangers of Alcohol and Oral Health

February 15th, 2017

We often have patients who ask, “Can drinking alcohol affect my oral health?” There are, in fact, a few reasons why that martini may not be good for your pearly whites.

In addition to creating an overly acidic environment in your mouth, alcohol severely dehydrates oral tissues because of its desiccant and diuretic properties. Because alcohol saps oral tissues of their moisture so readily, saliva glands can't keep enough saliva in the mouth to prevent dry mouth. In addition, saliva contains antibacterial properties that inhibits growth of anaerobic bacteria, a destructive type of oral bacterial responsible for tooth decay, gingivitis, chronic bad breath, and periodontitis.

What are anaerobic bacteria?

When there is a lack of saliva flow in the mouth and the mouth cannot naturally cleanse itself of oral debris (food particles, dead skin cell, mucous), conditions develop that promote activity of anaerobic bacteria, or bacteria that thrive in dry, airless places. These anaerobes also flourish when an unending supply of proteins (food debris) are available to consume, creating rapidly multiplying layers of plaque that stick to teeth and demineralizes tooth enamel unless removed by brushing and professional dental cleanings.

Oral Cancer and Alcohol

Acetaldehyde is a chemical compound leftover after the liver has metabolized alcohol. Capable of causing genetic mutations, acetaldehyde is also a known carcinogen that contributes to the ill feelings of hangovers. Although most metabolism of alcohol is done in the liver, evidence shows that metabolism also occurs outside the liver and that enzymes in the mouth could encourage accumulation of acetaldehyde in oral tissues.

When combined with poor oral health, smoking, and other detrimental lifestyle factors, alcohol may be considered a primary contributory factor in the development of oral cancer.

Even if you don't drink or drink only occasionally, remaining aware of symptoms that may indicate oral cancer will improve your chances of recovering successfully when you start treatment in the early stages of oral cancer. Signs include red or while speckled patches in the mouth, unexplained bleeding, lumps/swellings, chronic ear or throat pain, and areas of numbness in the mouth or on the face.

If you have any questions about alcohol and its connection to oral health, don’t hesitate to ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega at your next visit to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Valentine's Day History

February 14th, 2017

Valentine’s Day is best known as a celebration of love in all its forms. Pink hearts, red roses, and cute greeting cards adorn every surface you see. What many people don’t realize is that the modern Valentine’s Day celebration arose from a religious holiday.

St. Valentine’s Day was originally celebrated as a religious feast day in honor of early Christian martyrs. Three martyrs named Valentine were honored: a priest in Rome, the persecuted bishop of Interamna (a town in central Italy), and a saint martyred in Africa. This saint’s day was celebrated throughout Christendom, although it was removed from the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints in 1969.

The origin of Valentine’s Day as a holiday for lovers began with Geoffrey Chaucer in his 1382 poem “Parlement of Foules.” Chaucer wrote, “For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate,” and the modern romantic holiday was born. William Shakespeare and other writers mentioned Valentine’s Day as a day of love.

Valentine’s Day as we know it came about in the early 19th century. In Victorian England, printers began manufacturing small numbers of cards with romantic verses, lace, ribbons, and other frills. Anonymous Valentine’s Day card were a popular way for young lovers to exchange romantic sentiments in an otherwise prudish time. As the 19th century progressed, printers began mass manufacturing Valentine’s Day cards. People in the United States give an estimated 190 million valentines every year, and up to one billion if you count children exchanging cards at school! With the rise of the Internet, Valentine’s Day e-cards have become a popular mode of communication, with millions of e-cards sent each year.

The other items associated with Valentine’s Day include chocolate and flowers. The tradition of giving chocolates has been around for decades, and Richard Cadbury created the first box of Valentine’s Day chocolates nearly 150 years ago. Today, purchases of chocolate total over $1 billion in the United States alone, with 35 million heart-shaped boxes sold each year. Loved ones also exchange flowers, with red roses being associated with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. On Valentine’s Day itself, florists sell nearly 200 million stems of roses.

Although many people dismiss Valentine’s Day as a commercialized “Hallmark holiday,” it is beloved to couples and romantics across the United States and other countries. The team at Pike & Valega, DDS wants to remind all patients that no matter what your celebratory plans, February 14th can be a wonderful day to celebrate the loved ones in your life. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Choose Chocolate on Valentine's Day

February 8th, 2017

From a student handing out sweets for her classmates to an older married couple exchanging boxes of candy, Valentine’s Day is the time of year when people like to show affection by gifting sugary treats to their loved ones. Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of Valentine’s Day candy, you can celebrate the holiday in a healthier way by making dark chocolate your confection of choice.

Contribute to Your Health

According to the Cleveland Clinic, studies have shown that the cocoa beans used to make chocolate contain flavonoids, which can help protect the body against damage from various toxins. Flavonoids may also help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to the heart and the brain. Dark chocolates typically contain a higher amount of flavonoids than other types, making them a great choice for chocolate lovers. However, you should keep in mind that many companies produce chocolate that is so heavily processed that the flavonoids are largely eliminated. Your best bet is to look for high-quality dark chocolates and cocoa powders that have undergone minimal processing.

Protect Against Cavities

If you think there’s no way candy could ever be beneficial for your teeth, think again. The Texas A&M Health Science Center has reported that the tannins present in cocoa beans may actually help prevent cavities by interfering with bacteria’s harmful interaction with teeth. Just like with flavonoids, tannins have been found to be present more often in dark chocolates, rather than milk chocolates, giving you another great reason to choose the richer, sweet varieties.

Avoid a Sticky Situation

One more benefit of choosing chocolate over other candies is that it is less likely to get stuck in the crevices and spaces between teeth. Gooey sweets like taffy can stay lodged in the mouth for longer periods of time, putting you at a greater risk for developing cavities. When you choose your chocolate, be sure to avoid types that also contain sticky ingredients like caramel or marshmallow, and instead opt for the plain varieties.

Remember that the health benefits you can receive from dark chocolate are largely based on eating the candy in moderation. With that being said, it’s easy to make this delicious and health conscious switch when you’re out shopping for your sweetheart, friends, loved ones, and yourself. Have fun satisfying your sweet tooth this year and Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at Pike & Valega, DDS!

Best Tips to Make Your Teeth Look Whiter

February 7th, 2017

Your teeth were once naturally white and bright. Wouldn't it be great to keep them that way all of your life? Unfortunately, everyday living can dim our smiles. Food, coffee, some juices, and soft drinks can stain your teeth. Poor brushing and flossing can also leave tooth stains. Injuries to teeth or gums can cause some yellowing as well, and in some cases, medicines can discolor teeth.

So, you may need some extra help to maintain or restore your teeth's natural beauty. Here are some of the best ways to whiten your teeth:

1. Reduce additional staining by drinking with a straw or cutting back on coffee and soft drinks.

2. Brush and floss every day.

3. Try a whitening toothpaste or mouthwash.

4. Visit our office for teeth cleaning and an exam every six months.

We can also help you whiten your teeth with in-office professional teeth whitening at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. These whitening products are much more effective than whiteners you can buy at the store and are completely safe. Since they're stronger, application by a member of our team is essential to achieve the best results.

Some teeth can resist bleaching. If that's the case, we can try several techniques:

  • Deep bleaching that applies whitening agents over several visits.
  • Veneers and bonds that cover existing stains with a whiter, brighter surface.
  • Laser whitening that uses light to clean stubborn stains off teeth.

Take Care!

You may come across “bleaching stations” in shopping malls or at fairs. Avoid using these as the so-called whitening techniques can irritate your teeth and gums, leaving them highly sensitive to pain. Note too, that the operators of these whitening stands will make customers apply the bleach themselves, to avoid charges of practicing without a license. That should serve as a red flag and a caution to seek trained professionals, like Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, instead.

What's the connection between gum disease and diabetes?

February 1st, 2017

People who have diabetes are usually familiar with many of the other health risks they face, including damage to the nerves, eyes, heart, and kidneys. But did you know that if you have diabetes you also have a much greater chance of developing gum disease? It's true, and like other diseases related to diabetes, the risk potential severity of gum disease is directly related to how well blood sugar is controlled.

The Causes

In diabetics, there are two primary mechanisms that increase the risk of developing gum disease, also called periodontal disease:

  • Bacterial growth: Bacteria love sugar including the glucose found in blood and bodily fluids. Elevated levels of sugar in saliva can provide a very hospitable environment for bacterial growth. The risk may be elevated if your gums bleed.
  • Circulatory changes: In diabetes, the blood vessels become thick, making it more difficult for blood to carry oxygen to the gums and to carry away harmful waste products. This decrease in circulation can weaken the mouth's natural resistance to decay. If you smoke, circulation can become even more compromised, significantly increasing your risk of periodontal disease.

Preventing Gum Disease

If you're diabetic, the number-one key to preventing gum disease is to make sure you do all you can to keep your blood sugar under control. In fact, studies show diabetics who have excellent control of their blood sugar levels have no more risk for gum disease than those who don't have diabetes. Here are some other tips to keep your gums healthy:

  • Floss your teeth gently, curving the floss so it can gently reach just below your gum line to remove plaque and food particles. Rinse your mouth when you're done flossing.
  • Use a soft-bristle brush to brush teeth twice daily, using small circular motions. Avoid pressing too hard on tooth surfaces.
  • Brush your tongue gently to remove germs that can hide there.
  • Use an anti-bacterial mouthwash to kill germs that are hard to reach.
  • Keep track of how well your blood sugar is controlled and let Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega know at each visit.
  • Be aware that having diabetes may mean it takes you longer to heal after undergoing oral surgery.

Most importantly, be sure to visit our Poolesville and Rockville MD office for regular checkups and tell Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega about your diabetes so you can be sure to get the care you need. Follow these steps, and you can enjoy healthy teeth and gums for years to come.

Teeth Grinding

January 25th, 2017

If you are waking up with jaw pain, tension headaches, or facial pain, you may be suffering from a condition known as bruxism. This means you could be grinding or clenching your teeth while you sleep. Some people aren’t even aware they are grinding or clenching their teeth at night, until a visit to us reveals significant tooth enamel loss. Fortunately, there is a non-invasive and effective solution for teeth grinding, and the tooth enamel damage it can cause, in custom-fabricated nightguards.

Causes of teeth grinding

Tension, stress, and anxiety experienced during the daytime can carry over to an individual’s sleep, and lead the person to grind his or her teeth together or clench the teeth unknowingly. Sleep apnea is another condition that can result in bruxism. Regardless of the cause, however, frequent clenching and teeth grinding wears down the chewing surfaces of the teeth, reduces tooth enamel, and can result in a cracked or chipped tooth, crown, or filling.

Nightguards for teeth grinding

Custom nightguards are fabricated to fit like a glove and protect your teeth from the adverse effects of bruxism. Nightguards are created through a non-invasive process that simply takes an impression of the bottom and top rows of teeth. The result is a nightguard that is flexible, comfortable, and personalized to your mouth.

Benefits of nightguards

Nightguards are helpful to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of dental damage incurred as a result of teeth grinding. They can reduce the discomfort associated with a sore jaw, headaches, tooth sensitivity, ear pain, and facial pain that many patients experience as a result of clenching or grinding of their teeth. In severe cases of bruxism, patients can develop loss of hearing, jawbone misalignment, and TMJ. Therefore, customized nightguards can help prevent the progression of teeth grinding into these more serious conditions.

At-home tips to reduce or prevent teeth grinding

Although it’s important to wear your nightguard faithfully if you grind your teeth at night, you can follow a few self-care tips to help to prevent your teeth grinding from worsening.

  • Reduce tension and stress. Whether you take a warm bath before bed, listen to soothing music, or exercise, practice stress-relieving activities to wash away the tensions of the day.
  • Avoid alcohol. In some patients, alcohol increases teeth grinding tendencies.
  • Avoid caffeine. In some individuals, caffeine increases the likelihood of teeth grinding.
  • Focus on relaxing jaw muscles. Make a conscious effort to keep your jaw relaxed. A warm washcloth against your cheek, sticking your tongue between your teeth, and avoiding chewing pencils, pens, and gum are all ways to train the muscles of your jaw to stay relaxed.

If you suspect you may be grinding your teeth at night, visit Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS for an evaluation at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Are you at risk for oral cancer?

January 24th, 2017

Nearly 40,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer annually in the United States, with more than 8,000 dying every year from the disease. Oral cancer has a higher death rate than many other common cancers, including cervical cancer, testicular cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and thyroid or skin cancers. The high death rate results from the fact that most oral cancers go undiagnosed until the disease is well advanced and has spread to another part of the body, most often, the lymph nodes in the neck.

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team want you to know that cancers of the mouth and throat, which account for about three percent of all cancers in the United States, are largely preventable. However, we want you to know about certain risk factors that affect the likelihood of developing the disease.

  • Use of tobacco products including smoking cigarettes, cigars or a pipe, or chewing tobacco all elevate risk for developing oral cancer. Tobacco use especially, is a serious risk factor because it contains substances called carcinogens, which harm cells in your mouth.
  • Consumption of alcohol in excess can also increase your risk. If you drink alcohol regularly, you have an elevated risk of getting oral cancer. Alcohol abuse (more than 21 drinks in one week) is the second largest risk factor for the development of oral cancer, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
  • Excessive sun exposure. People who spend lots of time outdoors and do not use proper amounts of sunscreen or lip balm have a greater risk for developing lip cancer. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight may also cause melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.

If you notice unusual lumps, bumps, or red or white patches in your mouth that don’t go away, sores that won’t seem to heal, persistent soreness, or pain or difficulty swallowing please consult Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team immediately.

Other factors that may influence your risk for developing oral cancer include:

  • Age: Oral cancer is typically a disease that affects older people, usually because of their longer exposure to other risk factors. Most patients diagnosed with oral cancer are over the age of 40.
  • Gender: Oral cancer strikes men twice as often as it does women.
  • A history with viral infections, such as human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • A diet low in fruits and vegetables

During your next visit, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will examine your mouth for signs of oral cancer. If you have been putting off a visit to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office for your regular checkup, now is an excellent time to schedule one. Regular visits can be the first line of defense against oral cancer because we can identify early warning signs of the disease. Give us a call today!

Steer clear of that candy!

January 18th, 2017

At Pike & Valega, DDS, we know how tempting candy can sometimes be on our sweet tooth, but it’s important to remember that every candy and sugary treat you consume elevates your risk of developing tooth decay, which can break down your teeth.

While not all bad in moderation, when eaten in excess, candy can lead to big problems, especially if good oral hygiene habits are not followed. We have a few helpful tips if you just can’t stay away from all those treats:

1. Consume candy and other sweets during meals when your saliva can help neutralize the acids that are found in some candies, especially the sour variety.

2. Avoid sticky or hard candies, which can stay in your mouth longer than you think, resulting in acids being constantly exposed to your teeth. That leads to cavities and tooth decay.

3. Make sure the water you drink is fluoridated. Water that is fluoridated has been shown to help prevent cavities.

4. Make sure to maintain your daily oral hygiene habits. This includes brushing twice a day, and flossing at least once.

5. Visit our office twice a year for regular dental checkups and cleanings with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega. During your visit, we can help catch problems such as cavities early to reduce the effects they have on your teeth, as well as give you tips for improving your oral health.

We hope these tips have helped! To learn more about cavity prevention, or to schedule your next visit at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office, please give us a call!

My teeth don't line up any more. Why?

January 17th, 2017

If your teeth don't line up like they used to any more, you may be suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder, often called TMD. This is a term that can actually be applied to any condition that occurs because the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is inflamed.

The temporomandibular joint is essentially the hinge that holds your lower jaw to your skull, and when it is inflamed or damaged in any way, it can be extremely painful. You have two temporomandibular joint, one on each side of your jaw, and it is typical to experience TMD in both sides at the same time.

Shifting of the Teeth

The reason that your teeth may not line up as they once did is that the ball and socket joints are often out of alignment and, as mentioned above, often very inflamed as a result. In order to correct the problem, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega may prescribe dental orthotics such as a lower jaw splint.

Sometimes, the wisdom teeth can play a role in the shifting of the teeth as well. If shifting wisdom teeth is combined with TMD, it may be necessary to have your wisdom teeth removed. Dental splints may follow if your teeth don't shift back to their proper positions on their own.

TMD is certainly a difficult thing to deal with, so if you experience your teeth shifting, scheduling an appointment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office is the smartest course. We want to help you get your smile back, so give us a call anytime.

Is there really a link between my mouth and heart?

January 11th, 2017

Yes, indeed! While brushing, flossing, and regular visits to Pike & Valega, DDS are all key to maintaining a healthy smile and mouth, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team want you to know the state of your oral health has a significant effect on your overall health.

Our mouths are full of bacteria—some good, and some harmful. Some types of bad bacteria can cause cavities, gingivitis and even periodontal (gum) disease. Without proper oral care and hygiene, these harmful types of bacteria are capable of entering your blood stream through inflamed gums, when inhaled through the mouth or through saliva.

Gum disease, in turn, has been linked to a number of health problems, researchers have found. These include:

  • Heart disease: Gum disease may increase the risk of heart disease. Gum disease also is believed to worsen existing heart disease.
  • Stroke: Gum disease may increase the risk of the type of stroke caused by blocked arteries.
  • Diabetes: People with diabetes and periodontal disease may be more likely to have trouble controlling their blood sugar than diabetics with healthy gums.
  • Premature birth: Women who suffer from gum disease during pregnancy may be more likely deliver their baby early, and it is likely her infant may be of low birth weight.

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS are experts in identifying and treating periodontal disease. Give us a call today at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office to schedule an appointment to improve your oral health and your overall health, too!

Four Oral Health Issues Seniors Face

January 10th, 2017

Oral health is an important and often overlooked component of an older person’s general health and well-being. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team know that for many of our older patients, oral health can become an issue when arthritis or other neurological problems render them unable to brush or floss their teeth as effectively as they once did. Today, we thought we would discuss four common oral health issues our older patients face and how they can avoid them:

Cavities: It’s not just children who get tooth decay—oral decay is a common disease in people 65 and older. Ninety-two percent of seniors 65 and older have had dental caries in their permanent teeth, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The risk for tooth decay increases because many older adults don’t go to the dentist as often as they used to, thus cavities go undetected and untreated for longer than they should. Keeping regular appointments with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega is the key to getting cavities treated in a timely manner.

Difficulty eating: Oral health problems, whether from missing teeth, cavities, dentures that don’t fit, gum disease, or infection, can cause difficulty eating and can force people to adjust the quality, consistency, and balance of their diet.

Dry mouth: Also called xerostomia, dry mouth is a common issue for a lot of seniors. Our friends at the Oral Cancer Foundation estimate that 20 percent of elderly people suffer from dry mouth, which means the reduced flow of saliva (saliva plays a crucial role in preventing tooth decay). Many seniors are on multiple medications for a variety of chronic illnesses or conditions. Common medications taken that may cause dry mouth are decongestants, antihistamines, blood pressure medications, pain pills, incontinence medications, antidepressants, diuretics, muscle relaxers, and Parkinson’s disease medications. To help counter this, we suggest drinking lots of fluids and limiting your intake of caffeine and alcohol. We also encourage you to check with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega during your next visit if you think your medications are causing your mouth to feel dry.

Gum Disease: Gum (periodontal) disease is an infection of the gums and surrounding tissues that hold teeth in place. While gum disease affects people of all ages, it typically becomes worse as people age. In its early stages, gum disease is painless, and most people have no idea that they have it. In more advanced cases, however, gum disease can cause sore gums and pain when chewing.

Gum disease, which can range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease, is usually caused by poor brushing and flossing habits that allow dental plaque to build up on the teeth. Plaque that is not removed can harden and form tartar that brushing simply does not clean. Only a professional cleaning at our office can remove tartar. The two forms of gum disease are gingivitis and periodontitis. In gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen, and can bleed easily; in periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces that become infected.

Proper brushing, flossing, and visiting our office regularly can prevent gum disease. Seniors with limited dexterity who have trouble gripping a toothbrush should ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega about modifying a handle for easier use or switching to a battery-powered toothbrush.

Dental Anxiety

January 4th, 2017

If you suffer from dental anxiety, a visit to Pike & Valega, DDS might seem like a daunting prospect. Perhaps you had a bad experience in the past, but whatever the reason, please know that at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office, there is nothing to be afraid of. We understand you may be anxious about receiving dental treatments, and we’re here to help you have a comfortable, pain-free experience that will put your fears to rest.

You’re not alone!

A 1984 study that appeared in the Journal of the American Dental Association reported that up to 75% of all adults in the United States have some degree of dental anxiety. This includes five to ten percent whose dental anxiety is so severe that they try to avoid a dentist’s office at all costs.

Treatment

If you experience dental anxiety, it is important to let our office know in advance, so we can provide you with the dental care you need with an added touch of TLC. We can assist by explaining behavioral techniques for relaxation, by administering nitrous oxide (laughing gas), or by prescribing a relaxing medication prior to your dental procedure.

It's a Wrap: Ending the year with a smile!

December 28th, 2016

People have been ushering in the New Year for centuries but it became an official holiday in 1582 when Pope George XIII declared January 1st to be the day on which everyone would celebrate the New Year. At midnight people would yell, holler, and blow horns to scare away the evil spirits of the previous year so the New Year would be joyous and filled with opportunity. Nearly 500 years later, we still greet the New Year by whooping and hollering, but in a celebratory manner instead. Whether you intend to ring in the New Year quietly at home in the Poolesville and Rockville MD area or have plans to join the countdown at a gala extravaganza, these tips can help you ring out the old and usher in the new with a smile.

Tips for a Happy New Year's Eve Celebration from Pike & Valega, DDS

  • Be Safe. There's no way to predict the behavior of others on New Year's Eve, but you can be responsible for your own behavior to keep yourself safe. If adult beverages will be part of your celebration, plan on spending the night wherever you are or line up a designated driver to bring you home after the party is over.
  • Enjoy Family and Friends. Spending time with the important people in your life is what makes the holidays enjoyable. Coordinate your schedules and choose New Year's Eve activities that everyone in the group will enjoy. You don't have to go to a party to ring in the New Year; some people like to go bowling, see a movie, or have a great meal at home.
  • Accessorize with a Smile. Whether you dress up or have a quiet dinner with family and friends, one of the best accessories you can add to your attire is a beautiful smile.

New Year's Eve is a time to gather with friends and family, reflect on the year that's coming to an end, and look forward to the new one with anticipation. Enjoy this transitional holiday in a way that's safe, healthy, and fun. After all, counting down until the clock strikes 12 marks the beginning of a full year of opportunity ahead of you. From Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, have a great new year!.

New Year's Day Around the World

December 27th, 2016

New Year’s Day marks the beginning of the calendar year in most parts of the world. The holiday is celebrated on January 1st of each year. Customs and celebrations vary by country, religion, and even individual desires. Whether celebrated quietly or with gusto, the day brings the start of new opportunities for those that observe it.

United States and Canada

In both the US and Canada, celebrations begin on New Year’s Eve. At midnight on January 1st the New Year is welcomed with bells, horns, whistles, and other noisemakers. Fireworks are often part of the celebrations. In New York City, Times Square comes alive with revelers. In Toronto, there are large celebrations which may feature concerts, late-night partying, sporting events, and fireworks, with free public transit service during peak party times. Many individuals in North America greet the year by making resolutions for improvements in their lives.

China

In China, many people celebrate two forms of a new year. They may observe January 1st, but the traditional Chinese New Year is based on a lunar calendar. Parades with paper lanterns and dragons made from silk are a significant part of the festivities. Legends say that the dragon spends most of its time in hibernation so fireworks are used to keep the dragon awake.

Jewish Celebration

Jewish New Year’s observances begin with Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the New Year, and end with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This ten-day celebration is held in September or October, based on the Hebrew calendar. The New Year is not marked as much with loud celebrations as with personal insight to mend wrongs and resolve to better oneself.

Other countries and cultures also have different dates for New Year’s Day observances:

  • Vietnam observes the New Year in February
  • In Iran, the day is celebrated on March 21st
  • Islamic cultures often observe the tenth day of the month of Muharram
  • Russian Orthodox observers use the Julian calendar and celebrate on January 14th
  • Buddhist celebrations are held from April 13th through 15th

If you observe New Year’s Day by making healthy resolutions, include dental care in your plans with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega. The health of your teeth and gums contributes to your overall health. Caring for your mouth now can prevent many dental problems later in life. Pike & Valega, DDS wishes you a healthy, prosperous, and happy New Year!

Should I have TMD treated? Why?

December 21st, 2016

TMD occurs when your bite is not properly aligned. It can cause the jaw to experience unnatural stresses and prevent it from resting properly when your mouth is closed. If you have TMD, you may have noticed a clicking noise when you chew, speak, or yawn; you may even experience pain and discomfort during these actions. In some cases, your jaw may feel “locked” following a wide yawn.

TMD can cause pain and discomfort in the jaw as well as headaches that occur when the muscles that help the joints open and close become overtired. But beyond the pain and discomfort, TMD can also cause serious dental problems if left untreated.

Because TMD is associated with a poor bite or malocclusion (which literally translated means “bad closure”), your teeth do not meet properly. As a result, extra tension and stress may be placed on your teeth, resulting in chips and cracks that allow cavities to form and may even result in tooth loss. Over time, TMD can cause teeth to break, which requires cosmetic treatment to rebuild your healthy smile, and ensure the broken tooth and its neighbors are protected from decay.

While treating TMD used to mean expensive and invasive surgery to reposition or even rebuild the jaw joints, today’s approach at Pike & Valega, DDS is much more patient-friendly. By restoring broken, chipped, or cracked teeth, replacing missing teeth, and using braces or other dental devices, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team can help realign your jaw so it’s able to function properly, and eliminate pain and discomfort. And there’s more good news: By restoring damaged teeth and tooth surfaces and straightening crooked teeth, you’re also left with a more attractive smile once treatment is completed.

Every patient is different, and that means your course of treatment will be different too. After a thorough examination of your teeth and jaw, our experienced staff at Pike & Valega, DDS will work with you to develop a treatment plan that will have you feeling better – and looking better – sooner than you ever expected. Don’t let your untreated TMD cause more pain and problems; give us a call at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office today to schedule a consultation.

How do I handle my child’s dental emergency?

December 20th, 2016

With children undergoing developmental dental changes and engaging in rough-and-tumble activities, dental emergencies can sometimes arise. If your child knocks out a tooth or experiences any type of oral discomfort, call Pike & Valega, DDS right away so we can provide you with a quick assessment and pain-free treatment.

Before an emergency occurs, it’s a good idea to stay informed about the problems your child may encounter. Here are a few things you should keep in mind about teething pain, loose baby teeth, and other common dental issues.

Teething Pain

Typically occurring in babies that are between four months and two and a half years old, teething may cause excessive drooling, tender gums, and some irritability. Giving your baby a cold teething ring or gently rubbing her gums with wet gauze or your finger may also make her feel better.

Loose Baby Tooth

It is normal for a child’s first set of teeth to become loose and fall out. On the other hand, if your child’s baby tooth is knocked loose, schedule an appointment with our office so we can assess whether any damage has been done.

Issues with Permanent Teeth

Sometimes a child’s permanent teeth will grow in before the baby teeth have fallen out. Even if this condition isn’t causing any discomfort, you should schedule an appointment with our office so we can determine whether your child’s permanent teeth are growing in correctly.

Bleeding Gums

Bleeding gums can result from a number of factors, including periodontal disease, rough brushing, or an injury to the gum tissue. If your child’s gums are bleeding heavily, call our office right away so we can address the situation. If you have time before your appointment, wash your child’s mouth with salted water and gently put pressure on the affected area.

Regardless of the type of dental issue your child has, you can always consult Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega for further guidance. We make sure our emergency services are available 24 hours a day and seven days a week, so you have ready access to convenient and professional dental care that will have your child feeling better in no time.

Is there a correlation between my dental and cardiovascular health?

December 14th, 2016

YES!  Studies have shown a correlation between gum disease and heart disease, underscoring the importance of good oral health care. Cardiovascular disease remains American’s leading killer, claiming more lives than the rest of major causes of death, according to our friends at the American Heart Association. In fact, an estimated 80 percent of American adults currently have some form of gum disease, also known as periodontal disease.

Studies suggest that people with gum disease are believed to have an elevated risk of heart attack and stroke. Since most patients are not regularly visiting a heart specialist, their regular visits to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office can help detect early warning signs of heart issues, prevent gum disease, or at the very least catch it at its early stage. We’d also like you to know your numbers: blood pressure (less than 120/80), cholesterol (less than 200) and BMI (less than 25).

There are many benefits to visiting Pike & Valega, DDS in addition to maintaining your dental health. If it has been a while since your last visit, please give us a call!

Oral Health Concerns for Teens

December 13th, 2016

You have a lot more freedom as a teenager than you did as a young child. You also have a lot more responsibilities, and one of your jobs is to take care of your teeth. Develop and maintain good dental habits now so you can have great dental health for life!

Tooth Decay

As a teenager, you risk tooth decay, or dental cavities, if you are not careful. In fact, 59% of adolescents aged 12 to 19 have at least one cavity, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our staff recommend keeping your teeth strong and healthy by brushing at least twice a day and flossing every day.

If you suspect that you have tooth decay, do not be embarrassed. Instead, ask your parents to bring you to Pike & Valega, DDS to get it looked at. When you do not treat your dental cavities, they can turn into more serious problems. A severely damaged tooth may need to be treated with a root canal or even an extraction.

You can take easy steps to prevent tooth decay when you are at school or hanging out with your friends. Carry a bottle of water around with you so you can take a sip after you eat any kind of food. Choose water or milk instead of soda or sports drinks, and if you chew gum, select a sugar-free flavor.

Other Oral Health Concerns

You can probably think of many reasons why you should not smoke or use tobacco. Your oral health is another one. Tobacco gives you bad breath and stains your teeth yellow. It also increases your risk for gum disease and cancer of the mouth. Smoking even slows the speed of healing after you have dental procedures done.

Here are a few more tips that can keep your mouth attractive and healthy during your teen years.

  • Drink plenty of milk.
  • Limit candies and sugary snacks.
  • Wear a mouthguard if you play a contact sport.
  • Visit Pike & Valega, DDS twice a year.
  • Reduce infections and avoid piercing your tongue and lips.

You only get one set of permanent teeth in your life, so get in the habit of taking care of them now!

Are you at risk for sleep apnea?

December 7th, 2016

If you are one of the more than 12 million North Americans who suffers from sleep apnea, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team want you to know we can help. Sleep apnea, a disorder that causes frequent disruption to your body’s sleep patterns, is also potentially dangerous, as it causes abnormal pauses in breathing or very shallow breathing during the night.

For those who suffer from sleep apnea, it may seem impossible to wake up feeling rested and energized. You may, for example, sleep for eight hours, but your body might have only received three or four hours of quality sleep.

Besides losing a good night’s sleep, the risk of heart attack and stroke have been linked to sleep apnea. Other conditions associated with sleep apnea include depression, irritability, high blood pressure, memory loss, and sexual dysfunction.

Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax to the point of inhibiting natural breathing. The muscles used to support the soft palate relax and the airway closes, causing breathing to stop for anywhere from ten to 20 seconds, which is dangerous because it lowers the oxygen level in the brain.

Sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age, and CPAP devices (continuous positive airway pressure), among other treatments, are often prescribed for sleep apnea treatment. Another treatment option is an oral sleep apnea appliance, which positions your mouth in a way that brings your lower jaw forward and opens up your airway for unobstructed breathing.

At Pike & Valega, DDS, we truly care about the health and well-being of our patients. In fact, we regularly screen our patients for sleep disorders during their regular checkups, and we will refer you to a sleep apnea specialist if an issue is detected. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office if you think you have sleep apnea or if you have any questions or concerns!

Oral Health Concerns for Infants

December 6th, 2016

Because babies’ teeth don’t appear until around six to eight months of age, it’s a natural misconception that they don’t need dental care. But the steps you take as the parent of an infant can help your baby maintain good oral health and develop healthy dental habits in the future.

It’s easy to take care of a baby’s teeth and gums, especially when oral hygiene for your infant becomes part of the normal daily routine. Learn more about how you can promote good dental health for your baby with these tips and considerations.

Taking Care of Baby’s Oral Hygiene

  • Dental Hygiene for Birth to Six Months. Cleaning your infant’s gums is as important as cleaning teeth will be later. Hold your baby in your arms, and with a clean, moistened washcloth wrapped around your index finger, gently massage his or her gums.
  • Dental Hygiene for Six to 12 Months. After teeth begin to appear, it’s time to switch to a soft, children’s toothbrush for teeth cleaning. New research has shown that fluoride toothpaste is safe and recommended for use once your baby’s first tooth arrives. Gently brush your baby’s teeth after each feeding, in the morning, and before bedtime, just as you did before teeth appeared.
  • Good Bedtime Habits. One of the most important things you can do to protect your infant from tooth decay is to avoid the habit of putting baby to bed with a bottle. Use other soothing bedtime activities, such as rocking and lullabies, to help your baby drift off to sleep.
  • A Note about Dental Decay. Many people are unaware that dental decay is transmissible. Avoid placing your baby’s bottle, sippy cup, or pacifier in your own mouth to test the temperature. Likewise, don’t share utensils with your baby.

Partner With Your Dentist

Your baby should receive his or her first dental health checkup by the age of six months. Even though your infant may not have teeth yet, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can assess the risk your baby might face for oral diseases that affect hard or soft tissues. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can also provide you with instructions for infant oral hygiene, and explain what steps to add as your baby grows and develops.

Pike & Valega, DDS is your partner for good oral health, and we’re here to make caring for your baby’s dental hygiene and health easier and more enjoyable for you.

Women’s Medications and Dry Mouth

November 30th, 2016

Women using medication to treat a variety of medical conditions are often unaware of the potential side effects. One common side effect of medications such as blood pressure medication, birth control pills, antidepressants, and cancer treatments is dry mouth. The technical term for dry mouth is xerostomia.

Xerostomia can lead to undesirable effects in the oral cavity including periodontal disease and a high rate of decay. Many women who have not had a cavity in years will return for their routine exam and suddenly be plagued with a multitude of cavities around crowns and at the gum line, or have active periodontal disease. The only thing that the patient may have changed in the past six months is starting a new medication.

Saliva washes away bacteria and cleans the oral cavity, and when saliva flow is diminished harmful bacteria can flourish in the mouth leading to decay and gum disease. Many medications can reduce the flow of saliva without the patient realizing the side effect. Birth control pills can also lead to a higher risk of inflammation and bleeding gums. Patients undergoing cancer treatments, especially radiation to the head and neck region, are at a greatly heightened risk of oral complications due to the possibility of damage to the saliva glands.

There are many over the counter saliva substitutes and products to temporarily increase saliva production and help manage xerostomia. One great option for a woman with severe dry mouth or high decay rate is home fluoride treatments. These work in a number of ways, including custom fluoride trays that are worn for a short period of time daily at home, a prescription strength fluoride toothpaste, or an over the counter fluoride rinse. If you have more questions on fluoride treatments, make sure to ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega at your next visit to our office.

The benefits of many of the medications on the market outweigh the risks associated with xerostomia, however, with regular exams you can manage the risk and prevent many oral consequences of medications.

Tooth Discoloration: Common causes and what you can do to stop it

November 29th, 2016

Looking back at childhood photos, you may notice picture after picture of yourself with a mouthful of shiny white teeth. When you look in the mirror today, you wonder what happened to that beautiful smile. Many adults struggle with tooth discoloration and find it embarrassing to show off their teeth in a smile. Once you identify the cause of your tooth discoloration, there are treatment options at Pike & Valega, DDS that can restore your teeth and your confidence.

What Causes Tooth Discoloration?

There are a host of factors that may cause your teeth to discolor. Some are directly under your control, and others may not be preventable. Here is a list of common reasons that teeth become discolored.

  • Genetics: Much of your dental health is determined by genetic factors beyond your control. Some people naturally have thinner enamel or discolored teeth.
  • Medications: Several medications lead to tooth discoloration as a side effect. If you received the common antibiotics doxycycline or tetracycline as a child, your teeth may have discolored as a consequence. Antihistamines, high blood pressure medications, and antipsychotic drugs can also discolor teeth. If you think a medication may be leading to tooth discoloration, talk to Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega. Never discontinue the use of a medication without consulting your doctor, however.
  • Medical Conditions: Genetic conditions such as amelogenesis or dentinogenesis cause improper development of the enamel, and can lead to yellowed, discolored teeth.
  • Poor Dental Hygiene: Failing to brush your teeth at least twice a day or regularly floss may lead to tooth decay and discoloration.
  • Foods and Tobacco: Consumption of certain foods, including coffee, tea, wine, soda, apples, or potatoes, can cause tooth discoloration. Tobacco use also causes teeth to turn yellow or brown.

Treatments for Tooth Discoloration

There are a variety of treatments available to individuals with discolored teeth. One of the easiest ways to reduce tooth discoloration is through prevention. Avoid drinking red wine, soda, or coffee and stop using tobacco products. If you drink beverages that tend to leave stains, brush your teeth immediately or swish with water to reduce staining.

After determining the cause of tooth discoloration, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can suggest other treatment options. Over-the-counter whitening agents might help, but in-office whitening treatments provided at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office would be more effective. When whitening agents do not help, bondings or veneers are among the alternative solutions for tooth discoloration.

If you are worried about your teeth becoming yellow or brown, think carefully about your diet and medication use. Talk to Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega to identify substances that may be causing the problem. After treatment for tooth discoloration, you will have a beautiful white smile you can be proud to show off.

Thanksgiving Trivia

November 23rd, 2016

At Pike & Valega, DDS we love learning trivia and interesting facts about Thanksgiving! This year, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega wanted to share some trivia that might help you feel a bit smarter at the holiday dinner table and help create some great conversation with friends and family.

The Turkey

There is no historical evidence that turkey was eaten at the first Thanksgiving dinner. It was a three-day party shared by the Wamponoag Indians and the pilgrims in 1621. Historians say they likely ate venison and seafood.

According to National Geographic, the dinner at the Plymouth colony was in October and included about 50 English colonists and 90 American Indian men. The first Thanksgiving dinner could have included corn, geese, and pumpkin.

Today, turkey is the meat of choice. According to the National Turkey Association, about 690 million pounds of turkey are consumed during Thanksgiving, or about 46 million turkeys.

The Side Dishes

The green bean casserole became popular about 50 years ago. Created by the Campbell Soup Company, it remains a popular side dish. According to Campbell’s, it was developed when the company was creating an annual holiday cookbook. The company now sells about $20 million worth of cream of mushroom soup each year, which is a major part of the recipe.

While there were likely plenty of cranberries for the pilgrims and Indians to enjoy, sugar was a luxury. What we know today as cranberry sauce was not around in those early Thanksgiving days. About 750 million pounds of cranberries are produced each year in the US, with about 30 percent consumed on Thanksgiving.

The Parade

Since Thanksgiving did not become a national holiday until Lincoln declared it in 1863, the annual parades were not yearly events until much later. The biggest parade that continues to draw crowds is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Beginning in 1924 with about 400 employees, they marched from Convent Avenue to 145th Street in New York City. Famous for the huge hot-air balloons today, it was actually live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo that were the stars of the show then.

However you choose to spend your Thanksgiving holiday, we wish you a safe, happy and healthy holiday with those you love.

Thanksgiving in North America

November 22nd, 2016

Thanksgiving marks the start to the holidays; a season filled with feasting, indulging, and spending time with family and friends are always special. Thanksgiving is a holiday meant for giving thanks, and while this may seem like such a natural celebration, the United States is only one of a handful of countries to officially celebrate with a holiday.

Unlike many holidays, Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, and it is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November in the United States. In Canada, it is celebrated on the second Monday of October, which is, oddly enough, much closer to a time when harvests were likely gathered. In addition to the different dates, the origins of the celebration also share different roots.

Thanksgiving in the United States

Giving thanks for a bountiful harvest are not new, but the modern day holiday in the US can be traced to a celebration at Plymouth in Massachusetts in 1621. This feast of thanksgiving was inspired by a good harvest, and the tradition was simply continued on. At first, the colony at Plymouth didn't have enough food to feed everyone present, but the Native Americans helped by providing seeds and teaching them how to fish, and they soon began to be able to hold a feast worthy of the name. The tradition spread, and by the 1660s, most of New England was hosting a Thanksgiving feast in honor of the harvest.

Canadian Thanksgiving

An explorer of early Canada named Martin Frobisher is accredited for the first Canadian Thanksgiving. He survived the arduous journey from England through harsh weather conditions and rough terrain, and after his last voyage from Europe to present-day Nunavut, he held a formal ceremony to give thanks for his survival and good fortune. As time passed and more settlers arrived, a feast was added to what quickly became a yearly tradition. Another explorer, Samuel de Champlain, is linked to the first actual Thanksgiving celebration in honor of a successful harvest; settlers who arrived with him in New France celebrated the harvest with a bountiful feast.

A Modern Thanksgiving

Today, Thanksgiving is traditionally celebrated with the best of Americana. From feasts and football games to getting ready for the start of the Christmas shopping season, Thanksgiving means roasted turkey, pumpkin pie, and green bean casserole. No matter how you celebrate this momentous day, pause for a moment to give thanks for your friends, family, and all the bounties you’ve received. Happy Thanksgiving from Pike & Valega, DDS!

Mouthguard Q&A

November 16th, 2016

Today, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS thought we would talk about mouthguards, what they are, where to get them, and when to use them.

Q: What is a mouthguard?

A: A mouthguard, which is made of soft plastic, is a flexible, removable device that fits in your mouth and is adapted to fit comfortably to the shape of your upper teeth. A mouthguard will protect not only the teeth, but also your jaws, lips, tongue, cheeks, and gums, and should be worn anytime you are participating in full-contact athletic or recreational activities that may result in injury.

Q: How do mouthguards work? Why are mouthguards important?

A: A mouthguard works as a shock absorber to cushion your mouth from the effects of a blow to the face, head, or neck. Mouthguards protect teeth from not only fractures, but also hold the tongue, lips, and cheeks away from the teeth to avoid lacerations. Using a mouthguard as instructed by Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can lessen the possibility of concussion and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dislocation while you are out on the court or field. Increasingly, organized sports are requiring mouthguards to prevent injury to athletes, and research shows most mouth injuries occur when athletes are not wearing mouth protection.

Q: When should I wear a mouthguard?

A: Whenever you are participating in an activity that involves a risk of falling or head contact with other players. This includes football, baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, and other competitive sports.

Q: How do I choose a mouthguard?

A: Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team encourage you to choose a mouthguard that you can wear comfortably. There are several options of mouthguards you may choose from. First, preformed or what we call “boil-to-fit” mouthguards are found in sports stores. But your best choice is asking us for one during your next visit as we can fabricate a custom mouthguard for you at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. A custom mouthguard will be more comfortable to wear and more effective in preventing injuries.

If you have any additional questions about mouthguards, please give us a call or ask us during your next visit!

What's in toothpaste and how does it work?

November 15th, 2016

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team recommend that you brush your teeth two to three times a day, for at least two minutes each time. But have you ever wondered what’s in toothpaste and how it actually works? The mouth is home to more than 500 types of microorganisms that feed on leftover food that gets stuck on and around your teeth. Toothpaste is the best line of defense against all those pesky microorganisms (especially when you brush two to three times a day). Here’s how it works.

Abrasives

Toothpaste contains mild abrasive additives that combat microorganisms and fight plaque. When you brush, the abrasives in toothpaste dislodge food particles and microorganisms more effectively than if you simply brush your teeth with water. The abrasives also work to remove food stains and polish the surface of the tooth. Some toothpastes include ingredients like triclosan and Xylitol. These chemicals prevent the growth of bacteria that produce plaque. Plaque not only causes cavities, but it can also lead to more dangerous issues like periodontal disease.

Fluoride

Fluoride is key ingredient in toothpaste. As the microorganisms in your mouth feed off the leftover food particles, they leave behind acid and sulfur byproducts that wear away the enamel of the teeth. This is the fancy, technical way of saying that the acid on your teeth causes cavities. As for the sulfur byproduct –well, that’s just a fancy, scientific name for bad breath. Fluoride works to fight the acid and help protect the teeth. By brushing, the fluoride is incorporated into the tooth enamel, which in turn makes the tooth more resistant to acid and plaque.

Flavoring and Sweetening Agents

Not all toothpaste tastes the same, right? The type of flavoring or sweetening agents added to the toothpaste doesn't have anything to do with fighting microorganisms and plaque, but taste is one of the most important selling points in finding a toothpaste brand you like. Flavoring agents mask the taste of some of the other ingredients in toothpaste, and without those agents chances are nobody would be brushing their teeth two to three time a day.

How does whitening toothpaste work and how effective it is at whitening teeth?

November 9th, 2016

Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste that has the American Dental Association seal of approval can help prevent tooth decay and relieve other conditions, such as bad breath, sensitive teeth, and gingivitis.

Beyond these health effects, another motivation for frequently brushing your teeth with high-quality toothpaste is to keep your teeth white. If you want whiter teeth but do not want to undergo in-office or at-home bleaching treatments, you might consider choosing whitening toothpaste for your daily brushing.

Why Consider Whitening Toothpaste

Whiter teeth are more attractive, which can help you feel more confident in your smile. Your smile is also one of the main components of the first impression you make on people in your professional and personal life. Having a whiter smile and greater self-assurance can send the message that you take care of yourself and are confident in your abilities.

How Whitening Toothpaste Works

The American Dental Association explains that all toothpaste has whitening properties because they help remove food particles from your teeth. To carry the American Dental Association seal for whitening, however, toothpaste must contain certain chemicals that help remove stains.

Unlike bleaching products, which contain carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide, whitening toothpaste only cleans the enamel rather than changing the color of your teeth. To obtain the benefits of whitening toothpaste, you need to use it regularly.

The Effectiveness of Whitening Toothpaste Varies

Due to individual variations in the color of your teeth, some people are more likely than others to achieve the desired results with whitening. Teeth that are tinted grayish are unlikely to respond well to bleaching, while brown teeth can sometimes respond, and yellowish teeth are most likely to become pearly white with bleaching.

If Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our staff believe that bleaching is not a viable option for you, proper oral hygiene and the use of a whitening toothpaste are your best bets for keeping your teeth as white as possible. In addition, avoid using tobacco products, and rinse your mouth after drinking coffee.

Teeth Grinding: Not just a bad habit, but a dental concern

November 2nd, 2016

Perhaps you don't even know you grind your teeth. Maybe a spouse or loved one woke you up in the middle of the night and made you aware of what was happening.

For many people, teeth grinding is a habit and a mechanical reflex; when they’re awakened and informed they were grinding their teeth, they have no recollection of it at all. According to the American Dental Association, this is the nightly situation for roughly ten percent of Americans. From young children to the elderly, teeth grinding, known in the dental community as bruxism, is a serious concern.

Many people who grind their teeth in their sleep have no idea they're doing it. In fact, when they wake up in the morning they feel no jaw pain and their teeth are fine: if it hadn’t been for someone telling them about it, the teeth grinding would have gone unnoticed.

There are other people, however, who wake up with jaw pain, shoulder and neck pain, and headaches. Teeth grinding can cause a host of dental complications. From cracked teeth and receding gums to a misaligned jaw, teeth grinding is not something to take lightly.

Preventive measures are the key to combating bruxism, and a visit to Pike & Valega, DDS can set you on the path to a healthy and safe night sleep.

The Reasons for Teeth Grinding

There are many reasons for teeth grinding. For some people, it’s a habit they acquired when they were a child and never grew out of. On the other hand, some research claims that the condition is related to stress, anxiety, or some other type of psychiatric issue.

Still other studies point to everything from poor muscle control or over-eating before bed to gastro-esophageal issues. However, the root cause of the teeth grinding is less important than identifying preventive measures against it.

Common solutions to teeth grinding include:

  • Wearing a protective nightguard
  • Stress management techniques
  • Medications and muscle relaxers

When you make an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office, we will assess your situation and determine what the best course of action is. Teeth grinding is a dental concern that can cause serious health issues down the road, so be sure to take preventive measures today.

I have sensitive teeth. What are my options?

November 1st, 2016

At Pike & Valega, DDS, we have patients coming in asking us why a taste of ice cream or a sip of coffee becomes a painful experience, or why brushing or flossing makes them wince or cringe. The answer, usually, is sensitive teeth. Tooth sensitivity typically occurs when the underlying dentin layer of the tooth is exposed in the oral cavity, and most people experience tooth sensitivity at some point in their lives.

So, why do people experience sensitivity and how do you know if tooth sensitivity is something to be worried about? The most common cause of the sensitivity is exposure of the dentin, which is the layer surrounding the tooth’s nerve. Contributors to tooth sensitivity include teeth whitening and dental work such as fillings, periodontal treatment, and the placement or adjustment of braces. These are temporary and should be of no concern.

Permanent hypersensitivity, however, may require treatment at Pike & Valega, DDS. The first step is to determine the cause, and that begins with a visit to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

The reasons your teeth may become sensitive vary, but possible causes include:

  • Tooth decay (cavities) near the gum line
  • Cracked or fractured teeth
  • Fillings that are worn
  • Gum (periodontal) disease, or recession of the gums
  • Worn tooth enamel
  • Brushing too hard
  • Consuming acidic foods

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS want you to know that sensitive teeth can be treated, and the type of treatment will depend on what is causing the sensitivity. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega may suggest one the following treatments:

  • Desensitizing toothpaste, which contains ingredients that seal off the microtubules inside the exposed dentin to reduce tooth sensitivity
  • Fluoride gel, which strengthens compromised tooth enamel, helps prevent tooth decay, and decreases hypersensitivity of the teeth
  • A crown, inlay, or bonding, which is used to treat tooth decay and prevents sensitivity
  • A surgical gum graft. If gum tissue has been lost from the root, this procedure will protect the root and reduce sensitivity.
  • Root canal: If you are experiencing severe and persistent sensitivity which cannot be treated by other means, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega may recommend you undergo a root canal to eliminate the problem.

If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, give us a call today so that Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can provide you with some much-needed relief!

Halloween: Candy, costumes, and more!

October 26th, 2016

All Hallows' Eve, more commonly known as Halloween, is a yearly event celebrated on October 31, and one that is anticipated by the young and young at heart all over the world. Some scholars claim that Halloween originated from Celtic festivals that honored the dead or that celebrated the harvest, while others doubt that there's any connection at all to Samhain (a Gaelic harvest festival.) Regardless of its origin, our team at the dental office of Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega hopes that Halloween is fun and enjoyed by all of our awesome patients!

Trick or treat?

In North America, Halloween is predominantly celebrated by children who dress up in costumes, which range from scary to cute, who then go around the neighborhood knocking on doors asking "trick or treat", and they are given candy in return. Trick-or-treating is a time honored tradition, and though many parents groan at the pounds and pounds of candy collected by youngsters and fear for the health of their teeth, there are a few things you can do to help their teeth stay in great shape until the candy is gone:

  • Limit the amount of candy they can consume each day
  • Have them brush their teeth after eating candy
  • Avoid hard, chewy candies as they can stick in hard to brush places
  • Keep candy out of sight to reduce temptation
  • Don't buy candy too far in advance to limit pre-Halloween consumption
  • Help or encourage your children to floss

Halloween Fun

Halloween isn't just about gorging on candy; there are other events associated with this festive day including carving jack-o'-lanterns, painting pumpkins, decorating sugar cookies, bobbing for apples, going to haunted houses, or just curling up on the couch with a bowl full of popcorn and watching some classic, scary movies.

Halloween Around the World

Some countries, like Australia, frown upon Halloween, claiming it is an American event and not based in Australian culture, while others like Italy have embraced the fun and celebrate much as Canadians and Americans do. Mexicans have been celebrating this fun day since around 1960, and it marks the beginning of the Day of the Dead festival. Some countries in Europe have come late to the party, but since the 1990s, countries like Sweden, Norway, and Germany have started celebrating Halloween as well, and finding children in costumes or having ghosts hanging in windows has become commonplace.

Halloween is about fun; stepping outside our normal lives and donning a costume or gathering with friends to knock on doors and ask for candy is as much a part of our culture as hot dogs and barbecue on Labor Day. Have a safe and happy Halloween from the team at Pike & Valega, DDS!

What exactly is tinnitus?

October 25th, 2016

It’s estimated that about one in every five people is affected by tinnitus, which is a ringing or noise in the ears. But tinnitus isn’t a condition in itself; it’s actually the symptom of an underlying condition. Some of these underlying conditions could be hearing loss, injury to the ear, or some sort of circulatory disorder.

Another common cause if tinnitus is a dental injury or dental issue, whether it involves the jaw or the temporomandibular joint, better known as the TMJ. “Somatic tinnitus” is the term given to the version that is attributable to injuries to the head or neck area. Symptoms of somatic tinnitus may include noticeable fluctuations in sound volume, intermittency, headaches, memory loss or increased forgetfulness, and an increased likelihood of being depressed or sad.

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will tell you tinnitus usually isn’t serious and is more common in older populations. For that reason, many people won’t even seek an answer to what’s causing it. But people can also experience more severe cases of tinnitus that can affect a person’s ability to complete everyday activities, which has a larger impact on their lives. For people facing these more severe cases of tinnitus, treatment may be necessary to increase their quality of life. It’s also worth noting that tinnitus seems to worsen with age, so while symptoms might not be a problem one year, they may be more significant and distracting the next.

If you have tinnitus that is caused by the misalignment of the TMJ or an injury to the mouth, that’s a condition that can be corrected by Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS. We will work to relieve your symptoms by realigning the jaw or adjusting your bite with routine dental care. Sometimes we won’t even have to go this far, because an oral infection or gum infection may be causing your problem. We might also recommend other life changes, such as dietary adjustments and medication.

If you're experiencing tinnitus-like symptoms and have ruled out various other reasons for it, contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office today. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team will carefully analyze your situation and put you on a treatment course so that you can kick the symptoms for good.

Top Five Things to Keep Your Dentist Smiling

October 19th, 2016

Come say hello twice a year. The American Dental Association says two times is the charm. Multiple visits a year lets us keep an eye out for any developing issues. It’s important to remember that this goes for the whole family. Children over one year old should be seeing Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega!

Stay fresh. At Pike & Valega, DDS, we have a virtually unlimited stock of toothbrushes and floss, which means you have no excuse to be using a sad, ineffective toothbrush. As soon as bristles begin to fray, pick up a new one or stop by our Poolesville and Rockville MD office and we’ll replace yours. On average, you should be opening a new one every two to three months.

For goodness sake, floss! Flossing is an efficient way to keep your whole mouth healthy. It not only protects your teeth by removing aggregated plaque, it keeps your gums happy, too.

And brush. Practicing regular healthy habits is essential to keeping your mouth—and us—happy! When it comes to brushing that means two minutes, two times a day. If your kids need some encouragement, try making a calendar or playing a song like this.

Tell a friend. One way you can help us is by spreading the love. Tell your friends about what a good thing we’ve got going here. The more the merrier. And the healthier.

What should I do if my child has a toothache?

October 18th, 2016

Toothaches in children can be tricky ordeals that cause distress for both the child and the parent. You may feel helpless and frustrated because you cannot pinpoint the location of the pain. It is so hard to see your little one experience discomfort and feel like there is nothing you can do about it. But there are ways you can help. Try these tips the next time your child has a toothache.

Zero in on the Painful Area

The first thing you need to do is find out where the pain is coming from. If your child is old enough, ask him or her to point to the painful area. In younger children, look for swelling and redness on the gums and cheek, dental caries (discolorations on the tooth), or broken teeth. Try to get as close to the location of the pain as possible so you can determine an effective course of action to relieve it.

Try to Find the Cause

Not all toothaches are actually toothaches. A child can bite his or her tongue or cheek, have sore gums, or develop ulcers in the mouth. Teeth that are coming in can also be quite painful. If a tooth is discolored, broken, loose, or has spots that are either darker or lighter than the rest of the tooth, those could be causes of pain.

Five-Step Approach to Dental Pain Relief

  1. Floss. Help your child floss to remove any food particles that may be wedged between the teeth and could be causing pain.
  2. Rinse with warm salt water. Use a warm salt-water solution and have your child rinse well by swishing or holding the salt water over the painful area.
  3. Use a cold compress. This can relieve pain and swelling. If there is no swelling, you can try it anyway to subdue the pain. Try it on for about 15 minutes, then off for 20.
  4. Give the child ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Use the appropriate dosage for your child’s age and administer it regularly as directed.
  5. See Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega. If you determine that the tooth or gum is damaged, or if the pain simply cannot be relieved, call our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

If your child is experiencing throbbing pain, fatigue, or fever, you should call your pediatrician as soon as possible. If your child is experiencing mouth pain accompanied by trouble breathing or swallowing, it can indicate a more serious situation and you should take your son or daughter to the emergency room.

Most mouth pain in children can be remedied with the simple steps here. The important thing is that you remain calm, no matter what. You child is taking cues from you and if you panic, he or she will panic.

Quit Smoking to Save Your Smile

October 12th, 2016

You’ve likely heard that smoking increases risk of lung cancer and emphysema. But did you realize that your cigarette habit also has an impact on your smile? Chronic smokers suffer from increased dental problems that make their smiles unsightly. Understanding how smoking affects your oral health may provide the momentum you need to kick the habit for good.

Cosmetic Changes Associated with Smoking

Cigarettes contain more than 600 ingredients that, when lit, create in excess of 4,000 chemicals. Of these chemicals, many are known carcinogens while others have been shown to have serious negative effects on health. The nicotine and tar in tobacco products are absorbed by the enamel of your teeth. The result is yellowed teeth that look unsightly; with heavy smoking, your teeth may eventually turn nearly brown in color.

The chemicals in cigarettes and cigars also cause your teeth to become less clean. Smoking is associated with a build-up of tartar and plaque on the surface of your teeth. Over time, this increases your risk of developing cavities and other oral health problems. Furthermore, pursing your lips while smoking leads to wrinkles around your mouth, which detracts from your smile.

More Serious Dental Conditions

In addition to having unsightly teeth, smoking can cause serious health conditions. Because of the carcinogens in cigarettes, smoking is associated with an increased risk of oral cancer, which can be deadly. Smokers are also more likely to develop gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss. You may experience an increased loss of bone within your jaw, which will cause significant problems later in life.

Treatment for Smoking-Related Oral Health Problems

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS will tell you that the best defense against smoking-related oral health problems is to ditch your nicotine habit. By decreasing the amount of nicotine and other chemicals you consume, you can decrease your risk of oral cancer and gum disease. Remember to mention your smoking habit when you’re at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. We frequently treat smokers and can recommend smoking cessation programs to help you quit. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can also advise you about whitening treatments and gum disease prevention activities that ensure you’ll have a beautiful smile for years to come.

Does smoking affect oral health?

October 11th, 2016

By now, everyone knows that smoking is bad for you. But the truth is its broad-reaching health effects are not all known by everyone. This is especially true of oral health. Smoking can have serious repercussions in this regard. To give you a better idea of how smoking can affect your oral health, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team have listed some issues that can arise.

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer can have steep ramifications for anyone that gets it. Surgery can be required to eliminate the cancer before it spreads to more vital parts of your body. Any type of cancer is about the worst health effect you can get, and this especially holds true to the affects that smoking has on your mouth. The type of mouth surgery required with oral cancer can leave your face deconstructed in certain areas, and it is all due to smoking or use of other tobacco products.

Tooth Discoloration and Bad Breath

At the very least, it is fair to say that as a smoker you will often have bad breath, and while you may try to cover it up with gum or mints, tooth discoloration is a whole other story. The chemicals and substances in cigarettes stick to your teeth staining them brown and yellow colors that are increasingly difficult to disguise.

Gum Disease and Loss of Bone

Another effect of smoking is the increased risk of gum disease. Your gums may start to recede, which can eventually lead to the loss of teeth. Smoking can also increase bone loss and density in your jaw which is vital to the health of your mouth. Gum disease and bone loss are two signs that smoking is definitely bad for your mouth.

When it comes to the health of your mouth, the question is not whether smoking affects your health, it's how does it affect your health and to what degree. If for no other reason than because smoking involves your mouth as its entry point, it is safe to say that it can have long-lasting and detrimental consequences on your oral health.

To learn more about smoking and your oral health, contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega.

What's on your fall reading list?

October 5th, 2016

How better to spend the fall months than inside by the fireplace with a warm cup of cider and a book in hand? Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS encourage you to warm up your mind this fall season with a few great books. Sure it may be easy to put off reading when balancing a hectic schedule, but reading is vital to brain development. Besides, reading is always a blast!

This week, we thought we’d ask what you or your child are reading this fall. Do you have any suggestions for must-read books this year? Out of ideas for great fall reads? Ask us for suggestions, and we would be happy to provide a few. You may also ask a local librarian here in Poolesville and Rockville MD for some ideas.

Happy reading! Be sure to share with us your fall picks or your all-time favorites below or on our Facebook page!

Year-End Insurance Reminder

October 4th, 2016

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, as well as our team at Pike & Valega, DDS, would like to give those patients with flex spend, health savings, or insurance benefits a friendly end of the year reminder that it’s high time to schedule your dental visits so you optimize your benefit.

Now is the time to reserve your appointment with us. Space is limited and we tend to get busy around the holidays, so don’t wait to give us a call at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

Xerostomia: What does that mean anyway?

September 28th, 2016

Does your mouth always feel like it’s dry? If it does you may be suffering from xerostomia. Xerostomia is defined as dry mouth resulting from reduced or absent saliva flow. There are various medical conditions that can cause this type of dry mouth, which you can ask more questions next time you visit us at Pike & Valega, DDS.

Xerostomia can factor into both minor and more serious health problems. It can affect the ability to eat and enjoy food and it can jeopardize one’s dental health. Some of the more common symptoms can include sore throat, burning sensation in the oral cavity or tongue, and difficulty swallowing.

One of the more serious problems associated with dry mouth is an increased risk of tooth decay. Decrease in saliva causes more plaque to form and there is less saliva to act as a buffer to the things we eat and drink. Less saliva also means more food debris is retained in the mouth. These things can lead to an increase in tooth decay.

So, what causes xerostomia?

There are several things that may cause xerostomia. Among the biggest culprits are prescription medications. Some examples are antihistamines, antidepressants, anti-hypertensives, anti-anxiety agents, anti-diarrheals, bronchodilators, and muscle relaxers.

Certain diseases can also cause dry mouth. The more common ones include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, diabetes, hypertension, and thyroid disease. Xerostomia is also common in patients being treated for cancer. Head and neck radiation as well as certain chemotherapy drugs can cause severe dry mouth.

What should you do if you are experiencing dry mouth symptoms? First make sure to hydrate with plenty of water. If you are taking medications that cause xerostomia, make sure to drink water before taking the medication as well as a full glass of water with the medication. Be diligent with brushing and flossing and discuss your condition at your next appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega. We can recommend specific products to help moisten the oral cavity and reduce your symptoms such as saliva substitutes, xylitol products, and certain toothpastes. Another option may be a prescription home fluoride treatment to help prevent new cavities. You may want to try gum or candies to stimulate saliva flow but make sure they are sugar free! Avoid food and beverages that dehydrate such as caffeine and alcohol.

Xerostomia is a common problem that is currently on the rise. Our team can help you to reduce any symptoms and improve your comfort while living with a dry mouth. Contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office today!

Good Dental Hygiene Impacts Overall General Health

September 27th, 2016

There are many ways in which your oral health has an impact on your overall general health. There are naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth. Some of those bacteria, including strep and staph, are harmful, while other bacteria are essential for the balance of intestinal flora. The healthier your mouth is, the less likely it is the harmful bacteria will travel to other parts of your body to infect it and make you sick. There is much more to good dental hygiene than brushing and flossing.

Historical Methods of Maintaining Oral Health

Ancient civilizations relied on natural remedies for maintaining oral health. Around 250 AD, the Kemetic Egyptians used myrrh and other herbs as antiseptics for treating infected gums. Two centuries later, the Nubians, who lived in the Nile River valley, drank beer to ease the pain of infected teeth. That probably sounds crazy, but their beer was effective because they used grains that were contaminated with the same bacteria that produce the antibiotic tetracycline.

Today's Biggest Dental Hygiene Challenge

In the past, tooth decay was more of an issue because there was no routine dental care, and problems that are routinely treated today went untreated. Thanks to fluoridated water, and toothpastes containing fluoride, tooth decay is far less problematic than it was a century or more ago. Gum disease has replaced tooth decay as the most serious dental problem facing people today. According to the American Dental Association, a staggering 80 percent of Americans over age 65 suffer from some form of periodontal disease.

Ironically, if that infection attacked any other part of your body, especially in a place where it was clearly visible, you would head to your doctor for treatment immediately. People tend to ignore gum tenderness and bleeding. When the tenderness and bleeding aren't treated, the inflammation can turn into periodontitis. The longer you allow the inflammation to go untreated, the greater the likelihood that it will affect other body parts. Make sure to visit Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega at Pike & Valega, DDS regularly to be proactive about dental health!

Researchers are now discovering that untreated inflammation in the mouth acts as a driving force for multiple chronic illnesses, including clogged arteries, heart attacks, arthritis, and even cancer. That inflammation is one of many hypotheses that may explain how chronic infections can trigger systemic diseases, and even intensify existing ones. Bacterial overgrowth in the inflamed gum tissue can enter the bloodstream through the food you eat, and from daily brushing.

Caring for your mouth at home is just as important as visiting our office for exams!

Thumb Sucking, Pacifiers, and Your Baby's Teeth

September 21st, 2016

Sucking is a common instinct for babies and the use of a pacifier or their thumb offers a sense of safety and security, as well a way to relax.

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the majority of children will stop using a pacifier and stop sucking their thumb on their own between the ages of two and four years of age. Prolonged thumb sucking or use of a pacifier can have dental consequences and needs be taken care of sooner, rather than later.

Many dentists favor pacifier use over thumb sucking because it makes it easier for parents to control and even limit the use of a pacifier. If thumb sucking lingers, the same strategies used to break the baby from using the pacifier can be used for thumb sucking.

Precautions

  • Try to find "orthodontically correct" pacifiers, as they may reduce the risk of dental problems.
  • Never dip a pacifier in sugar or honey to calm the baby.
  • Give your baby a bottle of water at bedtime, never juice.

Dental Complications

Long term pacifier use can lead to an assortment of dental complications including:

  • The bottom teeth leaning inward
  • The top teeth slanting outward
  • Misalignment of the baby’s jaw

The risk of any or all of these things happening is greatly increased if thumb sucking and pacifier use is sustained after the baby’s teeth start to come in.

Breaking the Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Habit

Most toddlers and children will stop sucking their thumb or using a pacifier between the ages of two and four on their own. However, if intervention is necessary here are a few tips to help your child break the habit:

  • Slowly decreasing the use of a pacifier can be effective for many children. This method does not work very well with thumb sucking.
  • Thumb sucking can be more difficult to break. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega may recommend using an over the counter cream that you put on the child’s thumb; it doesn’t taste good and usually does the trick.
  • Rewards can also help with the process.
  • If these simple commonly used strategies do not work, there are oral devices that will prevent a child from sucking their thumb or a pacifier.

Talk to Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team, as we have many tricks up our sleeves that will be effective in breaking your child’s thumb sucking or pacifier use.

Which whitening is right for you?

September 20th, 2016

Many of our patients at Pike & Valega, DDS have been asking us about brightening their teeth lately, and today we thought we would discuss the options available to you to put the sparkle back in your smile!

Over-the-counter products – You’ve probably seen over-the-counter whiteners such as whitening strips on store shelves. While whitening strips may work for some, they do have certain restrictions. For example, they are not nearly as effective when crowns or fillings are involved. Teeth that are stained gray instead of brown or yellow typically don’t respond as well to these types of whiteners. Whitening strips typically save you money but take longer to work and also require discipline on your part to keep them in place for the right amount of time each day.

Whitening at our office – This type of whitening can be done right at Pike & Valega, DDS. A whitening agent is applied directly to teeth and a special light helps accelerate the whitening process. This may be accomplished in one session or take several appointments. You should expect to spend anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes at each session. If you have a mix of natural teeth and fillings or crowns, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega may recommend bonding or veneers on your natural teeth instead of regular bleaching. Teeth whitening at our office can be used to correct many tooth discolorations which may have been caused by staining, aging, or chemical damage to teeth. Using the latest in whitening technology, we can offer a safe method for creating the beautiful smile you've always wanted.

At-home whitening – If you choose this option, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will take a mold of your teeth and create a custom-fit whitening tray. Gel whitening solution is poured in the mouthguard-like tray, and the tray is worn for a pre-determined amount of time, generally from a couple of hours a day to every day during the night, until you’re back in our office for an evaluation.

Give us a call at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office to schedule an appointment! Whiter teeth are one just one visit away at Pike & Valega, DDS!

Navigating the World of Dental Insurance Terminology

September 14th, 2016

Unless you work for an insurance company, you probably do not spend a lot of your time studying all the terminology that dental insurance companies use to describe the treatments and services they cover. If it seems pretty confusing, here are some of the most commonly used dental insurance terms and what they mean.

A Basic Glossary

Annual Maximum–The maximum amount your policy will pay per year for care at Pike & Valega, DDS. It is often divided into costs per individual, and (if you are on a family plan) per family

Co-payment– An amount the patient pays at the time of service before receiving care, and before the insurance pays for any portion of the care

Covered Services– A list of all the treatments, services, and procedures the insurance policy will cover under your contract

Deductible– A dollar amount that you must pay out of pocket each year before the insurance company will pay for any treatments or procedures

Diagnostic/Preventive Services– A category of treatments or procedures that most insurance will cover before the deductible which may include services like preventive appointments with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, X-rays, and evaluations

In-Network and Out-of-Network– A list of providers that are part of an insurance company’s “network”

  • If you visit in-network providers, the insurance company will typically cover a larger portion of the cost of the care you receive. If you visit someone who is not part of the network, known as an out-of-network provider, the insurance company may pay for a portion of the care, but you will pay a significantly larger share from your own pocket.

Lifetime Maximum– The maximum amount that an insurance plan will pay toward care for an individual or family (if you have an applicable family plan)

  • This is not a per-year maximum, but rather a maximum that can be paid over the entire life of the patient.

Limitations/Exclusions– A list of all the procedures an insurance policy does not cover

  • Coverage may limit the timing or frequency of a specific treatment or procedure (only covering a certain number within a calendar year), or may exclude some treatments entirely. Knowing the limitations and exclusions of a policy is very important.

Member/Insured/Covered Person/Beneficiary/Enrollee– Someone who is eligible to receive benefits under an insurance plan

Provider– Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega or other oral health specialist who provides treatment

Waiting Period– A specified amount of time that the patient must be enrolled with an insurance plan before it will pay for certain treatments; waiting periods may be waived if you were previously enrolled in another dental insurance plan with a different carrier

There are many different insurance options available, so you need to find out exactly what your insurance covers. It’s important to review your plan with a qualified insurance specialist. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the policy so you can understand it fully and be confident that you know everything your policy covers the next time you come in for treatment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Ten Fun Things to Do with Your Old Toothbrush

September 13th, 2016

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our staff recommend that you replace your worn-out, germy toothbrush with a new one every three months. But most people either forget or resist getting rid of something that is still “working.”

Maybe if they had a few ideas for putting that old toothbrush to good use, more people would take our advice? To encourage good oral practices, we offer these ten fun things you can do with your used toothbrush:

1. Let your five-year-old budding Da Vinci create a masterpiece with some paint and your old toothbrush.

2. Scrub oily areas on your face with your toothbrush. The bristles are perfect for removing embedded dirt and oil that clogs pores.

3. Pamper your hamster by brushing his fur with an old toothbrush.

4. Dab a bit of Vaseline on the bristles and comb your eyelashes: instant glamour! Got dry, flaky lips? Slough away by using a toothbrush on your lips.

5. Remove the bristles: instant small plant stakes!

6. Old toothbrushes are great for spot-cleaning just about anything.

7. When nobody is around to scratch an unreachable itch on your back, turn that old toothbrush into your personal backscratcher.

8. Is your dog’s breath so bad that all your houseplants have died? Try brushing his teeth with your old toothbrush so that his kisses (and breath) are more tolerable.

9. Give your fish the cleanest tank in the neighborhood by scrubbing it with your old toothbrush.

10. Did you notice a few gray hairs sprouting from your hairline this morning? Old toothbrushes were made for touch-up dye jobs; works for dyeing your eyebrows, too!

September is National Gum Care Month!

September 7th, 2016

Can you believe it's already September? At Pike & Valega, DDS, we know that gingivitis, the early stage of periodontal disease, can be difficult to recognize. Many people don’t recognize the warning signs, bleeding and swollen gums, as a precursor to gum disease. This month, a national campaign is under way to raise awareness about gum health and periodontal disease, and we wanted to help do our part to spread the word!

Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will tell you early recognition and action are the most important steps to health gums, and ultimately a health body, too! Studies are published every year linking oral health, including the gums, to the health of other areas of the body, such as your heart. One of the most important steps to improving the care of your gums is recognizing the warning signs for gum disease. These can include:

  • Gums that appear red or swollen
  • Gums that feel tender
  • Gums that bleed easily (during brushing or flossing)
  • Gums that recede or pull away from the teeth
  • Persistent halitosis, or bad breath
  • Loose teeth
  • Any change in the way teeth come together in the biting position

If you happen to notice any of these signs with you or your child, please schedule an appointment at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office as soon as possible. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team can take proactive steps to prevent gingivitis and gum disease, while showing you how to improve gum care in your or your child’s daily oral hygiene habits.

Some Benefits to Giving Your Smile an Extra Boost

September 6th, 2016

For many individuals, autumn brings with it a number of new beginnings. Fall is the time that many people return to school, get back to the daily grind after an enjoyable summer, and even get married. As the weather cools down, it’s easier to enjoy the outdoors. And regardless of what fall-related events are on your calendar, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team at Pike & Valega, DDS know you’ll want to look your best.

One of the very first things that people will notice about you is your smile. And if yours has become less dazzling over the years — as teeth tend to do — you know how disappointing it is not to have the beautiful, pearly white look you’re used to.

Benefits to Teeth Whitening

For school-bound students and autumn brides, fall calendars are certainly filled. School and weddings call for large financial investments, loads of social interaction, and a large amount of personal dedication. So the last thing any bride or student wants to think about is a less-than radiant smile.

For many, there is a lack of confidence associated with their smile and investing in teeth-whitening techniques can be an effective solution. Studies suggest that not only can you experience a boost in your level of confidence, but also you may find that other advantages quickly fall into place.

A confident smile can affect:

  • Personal and work-related relationships
  • Job interviews and meetings
  • Success when dealing with customers and potential clients
  • Your personality and general happiness with your age
  • Overall outlook on daily interactions

A Real Effect on Daily Living

All of these benefits can relate directly to how you see yourself. When you are insecure with something as prominent as your smile, it can affect the way that you handle your life, everything from social gatherings to professional situations.

Now is the perfect opportunity to rejuvenate your smile. With the right teeth-whitening product and regular hygienic practices, walking down the aisle or starting the new semester with the utmost confidence has never been easier.

Happy Labor Day!

August 31st, 2016

Labor Day is upon us, and that means the non-official end to summer. Before the kids head back to school and temperatures start to cool down, this is your last chance to barbeque in the beautiful Poolesville and Rockville MD community, head to the lake, and wear your favorite pair of white pants.

About Labor Day

Each year, Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday of September. It is the one day of year Americans celebrate their achievements in work, which the US Department of Labor says has contributed to prosperity and well-being of America as a whole. Americans have been celebrating Labor Day since the 1880s, and today it is an official federal holiday.

Interesting Facts About Labor Day

  • Every year, more than 30 million Americans travel over Labor Day weekend.
  • Canada was the first to celebrate Labor Day, and the US soon followed.
  • President Cleveland made Labor Day and official US holiday in 1894.
  • Labor Day marks the beginning of the NFL and NCAA sports seasons for fans.
  • Labor Day marks the end of hot dog season, when Americans consume seven billion hot dogs.

Thanks for being a valued patient of our dental office. Our staff would like to wish you a safe and happy Labor Day weekend. Enjoy your time off!

Celebrate Labor Day by Getting Away

August 30th, 2016

Labor Day honors the contributions that workers have made to this country, and for many Americans, the holiday is a great time to relax at home with family and friends. But there are quite a few people who celebrate the holiday by getting out of town, with an estimated 33 million people traveling more than 50 miles over Labor Day weekend each year. If you’re dreaming of a great Labor Day escape but you’re not quite sure where to go, here are a few ideas from our team at Pike & Valega, DDS to give you some travel inspiration.

Explore a National Park

On a national holiday like Labor Day, it’s only fitting to experience the beauty of America’s landscapes by heading to the nearest national park. If you’re confined to an office most days of the year, national parks can provide a relaxing and scenic escape, whether you’re by yourself, traveling with a group of friends, or bringing the whole family along. Depending on how close you live to the nearest park, you can stay for an afternoon or for longer than a week. With 58 parks located in 27 states, there are plenty of beautiful areas to choose from.

Chow Down in a BBQ Haven

Barbecuing is a popular Labor Day activity, but instead of sweating over your own grill or oven, try visiting one of the country’s BBQ capitals. U.S. News and World Report names Memphis as the top BBQ destination, with more than 80 BBQ restaurants in the city, most notably Corky’s BBQ and Central BBQ. Kansas City is also known for the sweet taste of its sauces, while central Texas is said to have perfected the technique of smoking tender and flavorful brisket.

Relax on the Beach

Many people think of Labor Day as the unofficial start of fall, which brings cooler temperatures, more rain, and for many people, an end to lazy days at the beach. End your beach days with a bang by taking a trip to one of the coasts or to a lakeside beach. For an added dose of festivity, find a city or town that celebrates the occasion with a fireworks display over the water.

Whether you’re looking to turn your getaway into a full week affair or you simply want to experience a quick escape, make the most of your holiday by changing your surrounding scenery. Happy Labor Day from the dental practice of Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega!

Surprising Ways to Prevent Cavities

August 24th, 2016

There are numerous ways to prevent cavities. Some, like brushing your teeth regularly and visiting our Poolesville and Rockville MD office, are more obvious than others. Beyond the standard methods of preventing cavities there are a number of different ways to keep your mouth healthy that you might also find surprising.

1. Reduce your consumption of carbs and sugar.

The consumption of sugar is ultimately the biggest catalyst for cavities. By limiting the sugar you consume both at meals and while snacking you will in turn be preventing cavities. But this goes for all carbs, not just sugar. See, even more complex, lower glycemic, carbs can lead to cavities in your mouth, so the best way to prevent them is to limit your carbohydrate intake. This is not to say that you have to cut out carbs all together, but by reducing your intake, you will prevent cavities and it can also lead to a healthier body overall.

2. Rinse your mouth with food-grade hydrogen peroxide.

For some people this may seem a little odd, but washing your mouth out with a food-grade hydrogen peroxide is an excellent way to prevent cavities. Doing so will kill harmful bacteria that accumulates in your mouth much in the same way applying the anti-septic to a cut does. That said, when you rinse your mouth out similar to how you would use a mouth wash, you want to make sure you don't swallow the hydrogen peroxide, spit it out instead.

3. Use a straw.

If you are someone that drinks a lot of sugary beverages a great way to prevent cavities is to use a straw. This way the sugar in the beverage does not come into contact with your teeth as much as it would if you were to drink straight from a glass, can, cup, or bottle.

4. Chew gum.

Chewing gum is another viable way of preventing cavities. You, of course, will need to chew a sugarless gum flavored with a substitute like Xylitol, and preferably with a cavity fighting ingredient in it.

5. Eat cheese.

Plain and simple cheese has a protein called casein which helps build calcium in your teeth which is vital to the integrity of your mouth and preventing cavities.

What is nitrous oxide and is it safe?

August 23rd, 2016

Our team at Pike & Valega, DDS understands that the sights, sounds and sensations at a dental office can be unsettling for some patients. One effective technique that we use to comfort you is to offer the gas nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is a common anesthetic used during many dental procedures.

What is nitrous oxide?

Nitrous oxide is an oxide of nitrogen which has a slight sweet odor and taste. During medical or dental procedures, the gas is mixed with oxygen then inhaled through a mask that covers your nose. Within minutes, you should feel calm and experience an overall sense relaxation. You will be able to breathe on your own, move your limbs, and be conscious enough to hear and respond to our dentist's questions. The effects of nitrous oxide disappear shortly after the mask is removed and the drug is quickly eliminated from your body.

Is nitrous oxide safe?

Recreational use of nitrous oxide for its euphoric effects can be dangerous, however, the drug is combined with oxygen at dental offices. This ensures oxygen reaches the brain and prevents dangerous side effects or hypoxia. Nitrous oxide inhalation is a safe and effective technique to reduce anxiety, produce analgesia, and enhance effective communication.

Nitrous oxide is non-addictive and non-allergic, however, it may cause nausea in up to ten percent of patients. The drug is not recommended for people with some medical conditions such as chronic pulmonary disease. We recognize that all patients are different and encourage you to talk with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega about whether nitrous oxide would be a good option for you.

Our team wants to help all patients in Poolesville and Rockville MD to overcome dental anxiety, so please, give us a call at Pike & Valega, DDS.

Regular Cleanings Lead to Healthier Mouths and Bodies

August 17th, 2016

The American Dental Association and dentists everywhere, including our own Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega recommend that you schedule an appointment every six months for a cleaning and checkup. Despite this universal recommendation from the experts, some people believe regular cleanings and checkups are unnecessary unless there is something wrong with your teeth—for example, a cavity or a toothache. In fact, coming in for a six-month checkup and cleaning is one of the most important things you can do for your oral health, as well as your overall health.

Why It’s Important to Visit Regularly

Numerous studies have shown that oral health is closely tied to the overall health of your whole body. In fact, having a healthy mouth can help the rest of your body stay in balance. On the other hand, an unhealthy mouth can cause all kinds of problems for you down the road.

One of the most important things we do at Pike & Valega, DDS when you come in for cleanings is remove plaque that has collected on your teeth and around your gums. If left untreated, plaque build-up can cause inflammation and irritation around your gums, and lead to gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontal disease.

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, periodontal disease has been linked to increased risk for serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, inflammation, osteoporosis, and pregnancy complications.

Most oral health issues will begin with subtle changes before progressing into more serious conditions. If you visit us for regular checkups, we may be able to identify common indicators that could lead to larger issues down the road. If we only see you at our office every few years, it becomes more difficult to catch these conditions before they grow into bigger and more painful problems.

What happens at a dental checkup?

When you come in for your regular checkup, there are several things our dentists and hygienists may do, including:

  • Take X-rays to determine the overall health of your teeth, jaw, bones, and the tissue surrounding your teeth, including a check for early signs of tooth decay, abnormal growths, cavities, and other damage that is not immediately visible
  • Perform a thorough cleaning of your mouth and teeth to remove any excess plaque and tartar, then polish and floss your teeth
  • Check for signs of gum disease or evidence of tooth decay
  • Examine your bite, and look for broken or damaged teeth
  • Identify any changes to your gums or teeth since your last visit
  • Examine your head and neck for signs of oral health problems

Waiting to visit Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega until you already have a problem, like a cavity, is like waiting to put gasoline in your car until after you run out and your vehicle is stalled on the side of the road. Once you have a problem, the ripple effect can cause you a lot of pain, take considerably more time, and cost a lot more money to fix than if you had come in for preventive care and cleanings every six months.

References: American Academy of Periodontology (2012). Gum Disease Links to Heart Disease and Stroke. Retrieved from http://www.perio.org/consumer/mbc.heart.htm

Preventing Periodontal Disease

August 16th, 2016

Periodontal disease is one of the most prevalent health issues in America, with the Centers for Disease Control reporting it affects approximately 65 million people, or roughly 47 percent of the population. People with periodontal disease have bacteria beneath the surface of the gums, which are responsible for tissue inflammation that can lead to pain, bleeding, gum recession, and even permanent tooth loss. Unfortunately, the chances of developing gingivitis and periodontitis only increase with age, with 70 percent of adults over age 65 having at least some degree of gum disease. However, a lot can be done to prevent periodontal disease and keep teeth and gums healthy.

Daily Hygiene

The process you take each day to clean your teeth and gums goes a long way towards preventing periodontal disease. Since gingivitis and periodontitis are caused by plaque build-up, the most important steps you can take to prevent them involve cleaning your teeth each morning, night, and after meals. Start by brushing your teeth and tongue, and follow up with mouthwash to kill any lingering bacteria. At least once per day, take time to floss thoroughly along the gum line to prevent gum infection from occurring in between teeth.

Periodontal Exams

In addition to caring for your teeth and gums at home, it is also important to see Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega for comprehensive exams. We can detect gingivitis in its earliest stages and treat it before it has a chance to progress. Everyone needs occasional periodontal exams, though people with certain risk factors may require them more often. Examples include individuals who smoke or have a personal or family history of gum disease.

Treating Periodontal Disease

See Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega right away if you suspect that you may be experiencing the warning signs of periodontal disease. Symptoms may include red, swollen, or bleeding gums, gum recession, pockets that have formed between the teeth and the gums, and even tooth loss. If you are diagnosed with periodontal disease, treatments are available to help restore your oral health depending on how advanced your gum disease has become. For example, gingivitis may require only a thorough cleaning and topical antibiotic. Periodontal disease that has been allowed to progress may require scaling and root planing, and in some cases, surgery to prevent tooth, bone, and gum loss.

Contact our Poolesville and Rockville MD office to schedule an appointment and learn about the ways we can help prevent and treat periodontal disease.

How Sedation Dentistry Can Help You Overcome Dental Anxiety

August 10th, 2016

Putting off your dental visit to Pike & Valega, DDS because of fear or anxiety only increases the potential for tooth decay or gum problems. At our office, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team offer solutions that allow you to relax, without any pain, so you can keep your mouth healthy. Our solutions can help with many different anxiety issues for both adults and children.

Help with minor anxiety

Nitrous oxide is an excellent choice for most patients. Sometimes referred to as laughing gas, nitrous oxide can be regulated to provide you with the amount of sedation you need. When used before a local anesthetic, the injection will not be uncomfortable and you should not notice any pain during your procedure.

If you plan to use nitrous oxide, you can drive yourself to your appointment. In most cases, you will be fine to drive after your treatment: the sedation wears off quickly. Nitrous oxide can also be used along with other sedation techniques to produce a higher level of sedation.

Oral sedatives are available in a liquid or pill form. If you experience moderate anxiety levels, you can be given a tablet to take before your appointment. This type of sedation will be beneficial in relieving the anxiety that can build before your procedure. However, if you choose this method, you cannot drive yourself to your appointment.

Help with major dental anxiety

If you experience extreme levels of stress and anxiety about dental treatment, you may wish to discuss deep sedation or general anesthesia. With these techniques, you will be barely conscious or unconscious during your procedure. You will not feel discomfort or pain. Once you have experienced dentistry with a sedation technique, your anxiety level may decrease on its own.

People are not born with the fear of a dental exam. Unfortunately, most anxiety issues are due to a bad dental experience or childhood trauma. Sometimes anxiety comes from listening to the tales of others, who may have exaggerated their story. Talk to Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our team about your dental concerns or fears. Let us help you so you can get the dental care you need for a healthy mouth for life.

For more information about overcoming dental anxiety, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, please give us a call at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

Root Canal FAQs

August 9th, 2016

Most people hear the word root canal and panic. With today’s state of the art equipment and improved local anesthetic devices, and some knowledge, a root canal does not have to cause panic. Root canals are a common dental procedure, done quite often at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Why do I need a root canal?

There are several reasons why Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega may suggest a root canal including:

  • An infection in your tooth that has reached the nerves
  • A deep cavity that cannot be filled because the pulp and nerves are also effected
  • Injury to the tooth
  • A deep cracked tooth
  • Broken tooth
  • Repeated fillings of the effective tooth

What is a root canal?

A root canal is a dental procedure that is used to prevent the loss of a tooth and relieve pain. Inside your teeth is pulp which consists of soft tissue blood, connective tissue, blood vessels, and nerves. When the pulp becomes infected, swollen or diseased a root canal is necessary to save your tooth. During a root canal, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega will remove the infected pulp. The tooth’s root canals and pulp chamber of your tooth will be cleaned, so all the diseased pulp is removed and then your tooth will be sealed.

What to Expect During a Root Canal

Your root canal will start out just like any other dental procedure. We will go over any questions you may have, and then numb the area surrounding the tooth. After the area is numb the root canal will begin.

The amount of time it takes to do your root canal varies depending on number of roots that need to be cleaned. Most teeth have one root canal, while others have between two and four. For a single canal, the procedure usually lasts less than an hour. The more canals your tooth has the longer amount of time it will take and in some cases, you will require more than one visit.

How much pain will I have after a root canal?

Once the local anesthesia wears off, your pain can be controlled by over the counter pain medications such as Ibuprofen, Naproxen, or Acetaminophen. In some cases, Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega may prescribe a prescription dose of pain medication. Within two days you should be feeling much better and able to return to your regular lifestyle.

Aging and Dental Health

August 3rd, 2016

As you grow older, your mind may be preoccupied with the health of your bones, heart, or brain. However, our team at Pike & Valega, DDS will tell you that keeping your teeth healthy is an equally important part of the aging process. Older adults are at increased risk for a variety of oral health conditions, which makes it essential for you to speak with your dentist to create a prevention plan that’s best for you.

Oral health conditions associated with aging

Just as the rest of your body continues to change as you age, your mouth changes, too. Certain conditions become more likely to develop as you reach older adulthood, including:

  • Dry mouth. Although your salivary glands continue to produce saliva as you get older, medications and chronic health problems often cause dry mouth.
  • Root decay. Your teeth have lasted you a lifetime, but improper nutrition or cleaning may lead to decay at the roots of your teeth.
  • Diminished sense of taste. Your eyesight and hearing aren’t the only senses affected by aging. The ability to taste naturally diminishes over the course of older adulthood.
  • Tissue inflammation. Are your gums tender, bleeding, or inflamed? Tissue inflammation may indicate gum disease or may be a consequence of wearing dentures that don’t fit well.
  • Oral cancer. Risk for most cancers increases with age, and oral cancer is no exception. Older adults are at increased risk for oral cancer compared to younger individuals.

Ways you can prevent dental problems

Fortunately, many age-related oral health problems are preventable. Begin by improving your diet to include plenty of fruits and vegetables. Choosing water over coffee or soda will keep your teeth whiter and cavity-free. Also remember to practice good brushing habits to prevent cavities and gum disease.

Visiting the dentist at least twice a year is vitally important when you reach older adulthood. Your dentist is familiar with your oral health and may be the first person to notice a sore, discolored patch, inflammation, or other abnormality that indicates oral cancer or gum disease.

If you’re experiencing any problems with dental health, let your dentist know immediately. Together, you can troubleshoot solutions and create a plan that keeps your mouth and gums healthy.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega, please give us a call at our convenient Poolesville and Rockville MD office!

HPV and Oral Cancer

August 2nd, 2016

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is best known as a sexually transmitted infection. In the United States, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease, with 79 million Americans currently infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to increasing risk for cervical cancer, HPV is a contributing factor in some cases of oral cancer. Each year an estimated 1,700 women and 6,700 men develop oropharyngeal cancer, which affects the tongue and throat.

Connection between HPV and oral cancer

There are more than 40 strains of HPV that live in the skin and mucosal areas. Some of these affect the genitalia, while others are found in the mouth and throat. Of the strains of oral HPV, only one, called HPV16, increases the risk of oral cancer, the Oral Cancer Foundation reports. A retrospective study conducted found that oral cancer developed an average of 15 years after exposure to HPV, making it a relatively slow-growing form of cancer.

In general, 80% of Americans will have an HPV infection at some point in their lifetimes, while 99% develop no ill effects. Getting oral HPV is associated with multiple sexual partners and engaging in oral sex; however, even some individuals who have been with only one partner may contract the infection. Although overall risk of oral cancer from HPV infection is low, it is essential to be proactive about oral health.

How to prevent HPV-related oral cancer

Scientists continu