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Blog of Cawthra Dental

Learn The Importance of Nightguards

Nightguards are used to help protect your teeth from the wear and damage caused by common clenching or grinding habits. The term for these habits is called “bruxism” and is thought to occur in up to 30% of the population. These habits often happen at night as a form of sleep movement disorder and are involuntary. Clenching is when the jaws bite down hard against each other, and grinding is when the jaws move back and forth on each other. Both of these habits can lead to teeth and jaw problems over time. 

Signs & Symptoms of Bruxism 

  • Soreness/ tenderness in the jaw 
  • Jaw clicking/locking/popping while opening or closing 
  • Sore muscles in the cheeks, head or neck 
  • Sensitive teeth 
  • Wear spots on the biting surfaces of the teeth 
  • Gum recession (usually on the back surfaces of the teeth) 
  • Headaches  

How Night Guards Work 

Nightguards help to protect your teeth by taking the pressure and strain away from the teeth and jaw and placing it on the guard. The night guard acts as a cushion between the upper and lower teeth to absorb force. Nightguards can be fabricated to fit on either the top or bottom teeth and can be made from various plastics ranging from soft to hard. 

How Nightguards are Made 

A night guard is made professionally in a dental office/ dental lab. The first step is to have impressions taken of your teeth (both upper and lower.) Next, the impressions are used to make a replica of your teeth and jaw with a plaster model. Once the plaster model is created and set, a machine is used to mould the plastic guard material around the model, which will give an exact fit for your mouth. The night guard will be tried in and adjusted for comfort and fit if needed.  

Important Info 

  • Make sure to wear your night guard every night in order to get the best protection. 
  • Clean your night guard every morning with a separate toothbrush and warm running water, and store it in your night guard case 
  • Don’t use hot water on your night guard as this may warp the material. 
  • If you notice your night guard is beginning to crack, chip or break, the guard will no longer be offering the best protection, and it’s time to have a new guard made.  

If you think you could benefit from a nightguard, or have any questions about them, contact us today to schedule an appointment.  

Why Are Sports Guards Necessary?

A sports guard is a plastic tray that covers the entire upper arch of teeth to prevent tooth on tooth trauma from contact sports. A sports guard acts as a cushion between teeth, absorbing the blow. Sports guards should be worn for any sport where there is a risk of injury from another person or an intimate object, such as basketball, hockey, football, soccer, lacrosse, etc. Two common types of sports guards are boil and bite and professionally made. 

Boil and Bite Sports Guards 

This type of sports guard can be purchased in most sporting goods stores and is relatively inexpensive. The material is heated up and bit into, so an impression of the teeth is left to cool down. A boil and bite sports guard doesn’t offer the best protection because it isn’t designed specifically for each person’s teeth. Boil and bite sports guards are only recommended for children whose mouths are growing and changing. 

Professionally Made Sports Guards 

Professionally made sports guards are fabricated from an impression taken of the upper and lower teeth to get a replica. Professionally made sports guards offer the best fit and the best protection for the teeth and jaw. Professionally made sports guards also last longer than boil and bite sports guards. For any adult playing contact sports, it is always recommended to have a professionally made sports guard over a boil and bite sports guard. 

Important Sports Guard Tips 

  • Wear your sports guard when playing a contact sport, even while practicing 
  • Clean your sports guard after each use with a separate toothbrush and warm water 
  • Store your sports guard in a clean case 
  • Never use hot water on your sports guard, as this may warp it.
  • Your sports guard should fit snug to your teeth, and you shouldn’t be able to pop it out with your tongue. If you can, it is too loose and likely needs to be adjusted. 
  • If you notice chips or breaks on your sports guard, it might be time for a new one as it likely isn’t offering the same protection. 

 If you need a sports guard or have any questions about them, we encourage you to contact us today to schedule an appointment. 


Keeping Teeth Clean With Dental Braces

Anyone who’s had dental braces knows it can be challenging to keep the braces, teeth and gums clean due to many nooks and crannies and difficult-to-reach areas. Braces are recommended when there is crowding, space issues or bite issues, and treatment time is typically between 2-3 years. There are several options for straightening teeth, including clear aligners, lingual braces (braces on the backside of teeth,) and traditional braces. Each option has its pros and cons in terms of treatment length, aesthetics and function. For this article, we will be focusing on how to clean traditional braces adequately. 

Electric Toothbrush 

An electric toothbrush is highly recommended for use during orthodontic treatment. An electric toothbrush does a better job of accessing difficult-to-reach spots and can remove more bacteria than a manual toothbrush. Electric toothbrushes come with either a circular or oval-shaped head and use either an oscillating or sweeping motion, depending on the brand. An electric toothbrush performs more brush strokes in 2 minutes than what you can do with a manual toothbrush. Make sure to brush at least twice a day for two minutes each brush. 

Water Flosser 

A helpful tool to use during orthodontic treatment is a water flosser. This tool is used to spray water between teeth and around brackets to flush out bacteria. Water flossers are particularly good at cleaning out difficult-to-access areas. Make sure to angle your head into the sink during use, and use once or twice a day. 

Floss Threader/ Superfloss 

When using traditional manual floss, either a floss threader or super floss must be used to access the floss underneath the wire and between the teeth. Both of these options have a hard end that helps poke the floss between the teeth. 


This is a handy tool to help clean between brackets, which can be difficult to access because the wire is in the way. A proxabrush is similar to a pipe cleaner and cleans away bacteria with its tiny bristles. It is meant to be angled underneath the wire, between the brackets. 

If you have any questions about keeping dental braces clean or what products will work best for you, we encourage you to contact us today to schedule an appointment. 

Learn What Causes a White Tongue

You may have been startled at one time or another at the appearance of your tongue being white in colour. This is typically harmless and can occur either on the entire top of the tongue or just a portion. In rare occurrences, a white tongue can be caused by something more serious. It is essential to monitor signs and symptoms if you are experiencing a white tongue and see your dentist if there is no improvement after a couple of weeks. 

Typical Causes of a White Tongue 

A common cause of a white tongue is poor oral hygiene. This occurs when plaque and bacteria form on the tongue, giving it a coated appearance. This white coating is easily cleanable with a toothbrush or tongue scraper. Other causes of a white tongue are dry mouth, dehydrating, breathing through the mouth at night, eating a diet high in carbohydrates, trauma to the tongue such as biting it, smoking and drinking alcohol. 

Less Common White Tongue Causes 

Oral Thrush – This is an oral infection caused by a build-up of candida yeast. Those with a weakened immune system are more at risk of oral thrush, such as people with diabetes, HIV/AIDS, or certain deficiencies such as iron or vitamin B. Additionally; oral thrush can be caused by the use of dentures, in particular, if they are not removed nightly or cleaned properly. 

Leukoplakia – Consists of white patches that form on the mouth’s soft tissue, such as the cheeks, gums, floor of the mouth and tongue. The patches are typically thickened tissue and can form into oral cancer. 

Oral Lichen Planus – caused by an issue with the immune system, lichen planus cause appear as white spots that form on the tongue. This is usually coupled with mouth sores and bleeding gums. 

Syphilis – This is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause oral sores. If left untreated, syphilis can cause leukoplakia spots on the tongue called syphilis leukoplakia.  

When to See a Dentist 

It is essential to see a dentist if the white coating stays persistently on the tongue after a couple of weeks, even with cleaning it. In addition, if there is a burning sensation, pain, trouble chewing or talking, open sores, fever or weight loss. 

We encourage you to contact us today if you have any questions about a white tongue. 

Learn Why Baby Teeth Are Important

If you’ve wondered how important baby teeth are (they just fall out anyway, right?), you aren’t alone. Many people are unaware of the importance of maintaining healthy baby teeth until it’s time for the adult teeth to erupt. Baby teeth are vital for a child’s wellbeing for several reasons, and therefore it’s essential to maintain a healthy smile.

The first baby tooth erupts between 5-10 months, and a complete set of baby teeth should be present around 2½ to 3 years old. Baby teeth begin to exfoliate (become loose and then lost) at 6 years old until around 12 years old. Listed below are the key reasons baby teeth are so important. 

Biting, Chewing, Smiling 

Baby teeth help your child with biting and chewing and therefore allow your child to maintain proper nutrition. If baby teeth are lost prematurely, eating is more complicated, and certain foods may be impossible, leading to inadequate nutrition. Healthy baby teeth also help to improve a child’s confidence in social settings. 

Place Makers for Adult Teeth 

Adult teeth use the baby teeth as a guide to erupt into the correct position. If a baby tooth is lost prematurely, the adult tooth no longer has an indicator of where to come through the gums. This can lead to malposition of the teeth in the form of crowding, rotations and tipping. Down the road, there can be issues with the way the teeth bite together, and orthodontia may be required. 

Speaking and Facial Development 

A complete set of baby teeth is essential for proper facial development and learning to speak and pronounce words. The tongue, lips and cheeks press against the teeth to form sounds. If baby teeth have been lost premature, it is difficult, if not impossible, for a child to pronounce some words/sounds correctly. 

Avoidance of Pain 

Lastly, the most critical factor in maintaining healthy baby teeth is to prevent your child from experiencing dental pain. Cavities, trauma and unhealthy teeth can all cause your child to be in unnecessary distress. 

Baby teeth should be cleaned just the same as adult teeth to maintain health. It is also crucial for your child to have regular dental cleanings and check-ups. If you have any questions about keeping healthy baby teeth, we encourage you to contact us today to schedule an appointment. 


What You Should Know About Oral Sex and STD’s

Several different sexually transmitted diseases can be passed through oral sex and can affect the mouth, throat, genitals and rectum. Listed below are the sexually transmitted infections that are transmitted orally. 


  • Does not always cause symptoms, but if it does, they are usually a sore throat, a burning sensation while urinating, discharge from the vagina/penis/ rectum, swelling and pain in the testicles, rectal pain 
  • Diagnosis is made from a urine sample or a swab of the throat, rectum, urethra or cervix 
  • Treatment is a course of antibiotics, but some strains have become resistant to antibiotics, so make sure to see your doctor if the first round of antibiotics doesn’t work 
  • If untreated, gonorrhea can lead to an increased risk of HIV, infertility and epididymitis 


  • Typically chlamydia has no symptoms 
  • If the infection presents in the throat, the symptom is usually a sore throat 
  • If the infection is in the genitals or rectum, the symptoms are discharged, burning during urination, rectal pain, swollen testicles 
  • Diagnosis is made by a urine sample or a vaginal swab for females 
  • Chlamydia is treated by a round of antibiotics 
  • If untreated, it can lead to infertility, epididymitis, increased risk of HIV and passing to a child in pregnant women 


  • The syphilis virus has four stages and each stage has different symptoms 
  • Primary: Small, round sores at the site of infection that can last 3-6 weeks 
  • Secondary: Skin rash, swollen lymph nodes, fever, sores in the mouth and genitals, brown spots on palms of hands and soles of feet, hair loss, headache, weight loss, muscle pain, fatigue 
  • Latent: No symptoms 
  • Tertiary: Damage to internal organs, eyesight problems, numbness, dementia (usually occurs 10-30 years after initial infection)  
  • Diagnosis for syphilis is made through a blood test or from testing fluids taken from open sores 
  • If left untreated, syphilis can lead to a stillborn child, increased risk of HIV, organ damage, blindness 

Human Papillomavirus 

  • The most common STD in the United States 
  • Symptoms include genital and throat warts 
  • There is no specific treatment for HPV. Sometimes a diagnosis is only made when a pap smear comes back abnormal 
  • HPV virus cannot be treated, but the genital/throat warts can be treated 
  • HPV often goes away without treatment but can spread through sexual partners 
  • Some types of HPV can lead to cervical cancer in women 



  • Symptoms for herpes may be mild but can include painful/itchy sores around the genitals/rectum/mouth, headache, fever, body aches, swollen glands 
  • Diagnosis is made from a blood test or a skin sample from a sore 
  • An antiviral will be prescribed to treat the symptoms, but there is no cure for herpes 
  • Herpes can be passed to sexual partners with or without treatment, but the risk can be reduced with daily medication 
  • Herpes increases the risk of contracting HIV, and it can be passed from mother to baby during pregnancy


  • Symptoms include discharge, red/itchy genitals, burning sensation during urination 
  • Diagnosis is made through lab tests as symptom diagnosis is not enough on its own 
  • Treatment is a single dose of antibiotics that also kill parasites 
  • Prognosis is good 

Hepatitis A 

  • A virus that causes inflammation of the liver 
  • Symptoms are fever, tiredness, nausea, loss of appetite, yellowing skin, dark urine and pain in the abdomen, which usually develops 28 days after exposure to the virus 
  • Exposure is usually oral-fecal, so it can be spread through oral sex 
  • Diagnosis is through a blood test 
  • Although there is no cure for Hep A, it rarely causes any complications 

Hepatitis B 

  • Also, a virus that causes inflammation of the liver 
  • Sometimes doesn’t cause any symptoms, but when it does they can include a rash, joint stiffness, fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, yellowing of skin and eyes, dark urine, pain in the abdomen 
  • Diagnosis is made with a blood test, but it takes 3-8 weeks to appear in the blood to make the diagnosis 
  • Hepatitis B is either acute or chronic, and acute has no treatment, whereas chronic will require medication to slow the progress 
  • There is a vaccine to help prevent Hepatitis B 


  • Affects the immune system, making people more prone to other illnesses 
  • There may not be any symptoms in the early stages, but they may include fever, aching muscles, sore throat, chills, tiredness, swollen neck glands and night sweats 
  • With the correct dose of medication, HIV can be undetectable in the bloodstream and passing it on to others can be prevented 

Prevention of STD’s 

  • Use condoms for every sexual encounter 
  • Use a dental dam for oral sex 
  • Be in a sexually monogamous relationship where both partners have been tested for STD’s 

If you have any questions about orally transmitted STDs, we encourage you to contact us today to schedule an appointment. 


Learn About Pregnancy And Your Oral Health

It is crucial to maintain good oral hygiene throughout your pregnancy. Good oral health translates to good overall health. There have been proven scientific connections between poor oral health (such as gum disease) and low birth weight or premature babies. During your pregnancy, your gum tissues may be more susceptible to inflammation due to plaque accumulation, and therefore proper brushing and flossing are necessary. 

What Causes Pregnancy Gingivitis? 

Pregnancy gingivitis is the presence of inflammation in the gums due to pregnancy. This occurs due to the changes in hormone levels in the body, such as estrogen and progesterone. There is an increased response to the accumulation of plaque. The body’s immune system sends more blood to the gums, which can cause swelling, irritation and bleeding. Also, the change in hormones can make it easier for certain types of bacteria to grow.

Signs & Symptoms of Pregnancy Gingivitis 

  • Pain or tenderness of the gum tissues 
  • Swollen, puffy gums 
  • Gums that are most susceptible to bleeding when brushing and flossing 
  • Pregnancy tumours (rare) that appear as bulbous swollen areas of gum tissue localized between teeth 

How To Manage Pregnancy Gingivitis 

It may not be possible to eradicate all pregnancy gingivitis symptoms, but it is possible to decrease them by keeping your teeth and gums healthy. Make sure to brush at least twice a day and floss at least once a day and use an antimicrobial mouthwash with an ADA or CDA approval. Also, make sure to visit your dentist and dental hygienist regularly for check-ups and cleanings. Your dental hygienist may recommend more frequent dental cleanings during pregnancy if you exhibit signs of pregnancy gingivitis. Lastly, do not stress. Pregnancy gingivitis is common and typically goes away on its own if adequately cared for. 

If you think you have pregnancy gingivitis or have any questions about how to manage its symptoms, we encourage you to contact us today to schedule an appointment. 

Learn About Beneficial Toothbrush Techniques

With the numerous types of toothbrushes on the market, it can be challenging to know which will work best for you. There is electric, battery-operated and manual. They come in soft, medium, and hard-bristled. All the options can be overwhelming! It is essential to choose the right toothbrush based on your needs, so talk with your dentist or dental hygienist about which toothbrush will work best for you and your teeth.   

Electric Toothbrush Technique 

Typically, an electric toothbrush does a better job of plaque removal than a manual toothbrush because the electric toothbrush is doing the work for you. Your job is to help the toothbrush by slowly moving it along, tooth by tooth. Spend about 3 seconds on each surface of every tooth (that means top, front, and back.) Electric toothbrushes either use an oscillating motion or a sweeping motion. Some electric toothbrushes come with a pressure indicator to let you know when you are applying too much pressure and a UV cleaning station to sanitize your toothbrush head. 

Manual Toothbrush Techniques 

Circular Brushing Technique 

This brushing technique is the easiest to learn and is therefore great for children. The teeth can either be open (brushing one arch at a time) or closed (brushing both top and bottom teeth simultaneously.) Position the toothbrush directly on the teeth surfaces at a 90-degree angle, and the brush is worked in a circular motion on the teeth and gums. The brush should be pressed gently, not aggressively, onto the teeth and gums. The technique is repeated through the entire mouth on the front surfaces and back surfaces of the teeth. For the biting surfaces, a back and forth scrub technique can be used. 

Stillman’s Brushing Technique 

The following two brush techniques, Stillman’s and Bass, are more suited for adults, requiring more dexterity. For Stillman’s technique, the toothbrush is placed at a 45-degree angle to the teeth and gums. Ensure that the bristles are partially on both the teeth and gums and a slight vibratory motion is used to remove plaque from the teeth and on top of the gum line. Next, a rolling motion is used to flick the toothbrush bristles away from the gums and remove plaque. Use this vibration and rolling stroke on all front and back surfaces of the teeth, and a back and forth scrubbing technique can be used for the biting surfaces. 

Bass Brushing Technique  

Similar to Stillman’s brushing technique, the bass technique uses the vibrating motion at the gum line. The bass technique’s difference is that the bristles are placed slightly underneath the gum line instead of on top. The vibrating motion helps dislodge plaque from underneath the gum line, where it often collects. This brush stroke is best suited for people with gingivitis or gum disease. 

Contact us today to talk with your dentist or dental hygienist about which toothbrush and toothbrush technique will work best for your individual needs. 


Wisdom Teeth: All You Need To Know

What Are Wisdom Teeth?

“Wisdom teeth” is the layman’s term for the 3rd and last molars in the mouth. They typically begin to erupt anywhere between 16-20 years old. There are four wisdom teeth in a full set, one in each quadrant, but for some patients, there may be less than 4, and on rare occasions, there are none at all. In a mouth with all teeth present, including wisdom teeth, there are 32 teeth total.  

Why Might They Require Extraction? 

In many cases, it is recommended that the wisdom teeth be removed. This may be for several reasons. In most cases, the wisdom teeth just don’t fit. If the molars don’t have enough space to erupt entirely into the mouth to be functional, they are considered “impacted.” Impacted wisdom teeth can lead to inflammation and infection because they are difficult to access and clean. In particular, when a wisdom tooth has poked through the gum but is unable to erupt further, bacteria from the mouth can get trapped inside the socket, leading to infection. Wisdom teeth can also form from their tooth buds at the wrong angle. They may be horizontal or tipped into the 2nd molars instead of straight up and down. When this is the case, there may also be damage to the 2nd molars if the wisdom teeth are not extracted. Impacted wisdom teeth can lead to inflammation, infection, cavities and jaw pain. 

How Are They Extracted? 

Depending on the extraction’s complexity, you will either see your regular dentist or an oral surgeon for the procedure. Some factors that play a vital role in the procedure’s complexity include if they are above or below the gum line, what angle they are at, and how close to the nerve they are. If you are nervous about the procedure, an oral surgeon can use stronger sedative medications to either put you to sleep or relax you. Some sedative medications include nitrous oxide (laughing gas), oral sedatives or general anesthetic. During the procedure, several different tools will be used to remove the teeth. If the teeth are underneath the gum, a small incision will be made and stitched up afterward. These stitches dissolve away on their own over time. You can expect to experience a small amount of discomfort for just a few days later.

If you believe you have an impacted wisdom tooth/teeth or have any questions about the procedure, we encourage you to contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Food Stuck After Eating? Treatment Is Available.

A food trap is any area in the mouth, particularly between two teeth, where food debris gets lodged and is challenging to cleanout. Most people have experienced a food trap at some point in their lives. A food trap may arise due to several reasons. 

  • There is space between two teeth naturally 
  • Shifting teeth with age can cause an open area between two teeth 
  • Braces can create an open area when aligning teeth 
  • Tooth chips, fractures and decay 
  • Improper restorative work such as a filling or dental crown 
  • Gum recession around or between teeth 

Food traps can be damaging to the gums and the teeth if left untreated and not adequately cleaned. They can lead to tooth decay, bone loss from around the teeth, gum recession and even gum abscesses. Below are a few treatment options for food traps: 

Can Be Left Alone 

Depending on the size, severity, and ease with which the food trap may cleaned, treatment may or may not be necessary. Essential tools to use for cleaning include dental floss, interdental brushes or proxabrushes. At each check-up and cleaning, the food trap will be checked, and the gums and teeth’ health will be assessed. 

Dental Fillings 

Dental fillings may be used sometimes to close the open area of a food trap. A filling can be placed on either one or both of the teeth in order to build up the gap. Dental fillings are the best option if the food trap is too difficult to keep clean daily or if the food trap is caused by decay/a chip or fracture. 

Dental Crown 

Lastly, a dental crown can be used to close the gap between two teeth. A dental crown is a full coverage cap placed over a sanded down tooth to protect the entire tooth and create a new shape. A dental crown may be used if the space between two teeth is too wide for a filling, if there is a large chip or fracture, or if aesthetics is a fracture (such as front teeth.)

It is essential to discuss with your dentist what option is best for your individual needs. If you think you have a food trap and are interested in treatment options, contact us today to schedule an appointment.