Dental Specialists of Maine

National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month

AsthmaAllergy– A reaction to things like pollen, animals, food, medication, or topical agents. Symptoms of allergies include: watery eyes, stuffy nose, skin rash, hives or anaphylactic shock.

Asthma– A lung disease which makes breathing difficult. Symptoms include: coughing, wheezing, tightness in the chest and shortness of breath. Asthma can be hereditary and things like grass, pets, allergies and exercise induce symptoms.

Patients can have both an allergic and asthmatic reaction in dental offices. Allergic reactions can be caused by latex in the office, local anesthetics and by dental materials. Asthmatic reactions can be exacerbated by allergic reactions and/or by stress.

To Prevent an asthmatic or allergic reaction during treatment:

  • Recording a thorough medical history, which is the standard of care before commencing any dental treatment
  • Ask patients to report these conditions to each healthcare provider and physically carry their medications at all times.
  • The ADA states that all dental offices should have and maintain an emergency drug kit, equipment and the knowledge to properly use all items.
  • Emergency drugs, along with their actions and dosages, should be known by the dentist and his or her team.

Is Water Flossing an Alternative to String Flossing?


Growing up as a kid I always saw my grandmother flossing with some “weird device” that spat water through her teeth. I never really knew what it was until I entered the Dental field. This method is called water flossing.

To this day, water flossing is controversial in the dental field. Even though water flossers have been evaluated more than 50 times since they were introduced in 1962, not all dental hygienists are complete believers in the product. More than 20 clinical trials have found that water flossing reduced bleeding and gingivitis. A study at the University of Nebraska found that the water flosser with the Classic Jet Tip was up to 93% more effective when it came to reducing bleeding and up to 52% more effective, reducing gingivitis, than string floss. The study also showed it was more effective at removing plaque than string floss. Another study at the University of Amsterdam compared water flossing with the Classic Jet Tip and the Plaque Seeker® Tip to string floss, and found the water flosser to be twice as effective at reducing bleeding as string floss.

People with Diabetes tend to be at greater risk for periodontal disease and often have more severe gingival inflammation. Those with Diabetes, who used the water flosser for three months, had a 44% reduction in bleeding and a 41% reduction in gingivitis, over those who did not use the water flosser. Another study, conducted in Canada on adolescents with fixed orthodontic appliances, found the water flosser with the orthodontic tip to be significantly more effective at removing plaque and reducing bleeding, than normal brushing and flossing.

Water flossing is safe and gentle to use around orthodontic appliances and implants. Keeping things like braces clean is tedious and challenging. Water flossing makes it easier, but according to some dental hygienists, you still need to use string floss. Adolescents age 11 through 17, who used a water flosser with the orthodontic tip every day, for four weeks, had three times the reduction in plaque vs. those who used a manual brush and floss. They also had five times the reduction than those who only brushed. The water flosser reduced bleeding by 84.5% from baseline, which was 26% better than brushing and flossing, and 53% better than tooth brushing alone. Maintenance of implants is critical to their long-term survival. Using a water flosser does the trick of gently cleaning the entire mouth.

According to studies, not only does it reduce bleeding and gingivitis, but it removes plaque and gets deeper into the pockets compared to string floss. A study at the University of Southern California Center for Biofilms found that a three-second application of water flossing with the classic jet tip, at medium pressure, removed 99.9% of plaque biofilm from the treated area. Findings indicate that using the water flosser with the classic jet tip results in penetration of approximately 50% of the depth of the pocket. An evaluation of the Pik Pocket™ Tip found it delivers the solution to 90% of the depth of a pocket and to 64% of the depth of a pocket. In contrast, floss reaches about 3 mm due to technique and/or anatomical constraints. On the flip side, some dental hygienists say the only way for plaque to be removed is by flossing with string floss because if used incorrectly water flossers are unable to get the pockets clean.

Water flossing has been proven to reduce inflammation. An analysis of water flossing on cytokine production and its relationship to clinical outcomes found that both the water flosser and tooth brushing removed plaque, but only the water flosser reduced the inflammatory cytokine Interleukin-1β. Importantly, the reduction in bleeding was correlated to the reduction in IL-1β, not plaque, providing new evidence as to why the water flosser is so effective at reducing inflammation.

Water flossing is also known to reduce periodontal infection. One of the primary benefits of the water flosser is that the pulsating action creates a compression/decompression phase that expels subgingival bacteria from the pocket. Teeth with no instrumentation for six months or more, that were treated with the water flosser, had reductions in bacteria up to 6 mm. When the water flosser was compared to both tooth brushing and mouth rinsing with 0.12% chlorhexidine (CHX), only water flossing reduced subgingival bacteria. A paper by the American Academy of Periodontology notes that one of the greatest advantages of water flossing is that it “permits patients to participate in maintaining the bacterial reduction that was attained during root planing.” The American Academy of Periodontology also notes in its review that the greatest benefit from water flossing “is seen in patients who perform inadequate inter-proximal cleansing.”

Although studies show that water flossing is a better alternative to string flossing, some dental hygienists, who deal with teeth all day long, disagree over how effective water flossing can be.  They say in order to floss properly; the only way is to use string floss. If you do not properly use water flossers they can cause a negative effect. If not properly used water flossers can push plaque further into your gums, cause irritated gums and excessive bleeding. It is also a bacteria feeding ground if not cleaned properly. Speak with your hygienist and dentist next time you go in for a cleaning to learn their position on water flossing.


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mouth_guardAs spring approaches, it brings many patients who have suffered head, facial and oral trauma. Traumatic dental injuries present difficult challenges for both patients and their dentists.

According to the American Association of Endodontists, dental injuries are the most common type of oral facial injury sustained during participation in sports; the majority of these dental injuries are preventable.

  • The American Association of Endodontists recommends the use of mouth guards during participation in sports , as their use may minimize the effect of impact injuries on the dentition and supporting structures.
  • It is estimated that face guards and mouth guards prevent approximately 200,000 injuries each year in high school and college football.
  • A properly fitted mouth guard reduces the chances of sustaining a concussion from a blow to the jaw. Mouth guards greatly reduce the incidence of tooth fracture and avulsion.
  • The American Dental Association recommends wearing custom mouth guards for the following sports: Acrobatics, basketball, boxing, field hockey, football, gymnastics, handball, ice hockey, lacrosse, martial arts, racquetball, roller hockey, rugby, shot putting, skateboarding, skiing, skydiving, soccer, squash, surfing, volleyball , water polo, weight lifting and wrestling.

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You Loose with Booze: Drinking Leads to Bad Oral Health

alcoholoralcancerAlcohol abuse can be extremely harmful to your oral health, which is not something most people are aware of. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there are approximately 17.6 million adults who are alcoholics or have alcohol problems; approximately 14 million more Americans meet the criteria for alcohol abuse or alcoholism. One in four children in the United States, younger than 18 years old, are exposed to alcohol abuse or dependence in the family, and more than half of the population’s adults have a close family member who has, or has had alcoholism.


People with alcohol problems tend to neglect healthy habits like eating properly and taking care of their daily hygiene. Alcohol abuse can lead to periodontal disease, tooth decay, and mouth sores that are potentially precancerous. It is estimated over 30,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer each year, and about one person will die from this disease every hour. According to the American Cancer Society, about 70 percent of oral cancer patients consume alcohol frequently, and mixed with tobacco smoking, that risk factor continues to rise. The risk of oral cancer is six times higher in those who drink alcohol, compared with non-drinkers. People who abuse alcohol are at high risk of having seriously deteriorated teeth, gums and compromised oral health in general. It is also estimated that 80% will have moderate to severe gum disease and decayed teeth, with more than one-third having potentially precancerous lesions.


Alcohol Abuse Causes:


  • Irritation of the gums, tongue, and oral tissues
  • Poor healing after dental surgery
  • Poor dental health habits
  • Increase in tooth decay
  • Poor compliance with home care regimens to develop and maintain good oral health
  • Increased risk of periodontal (gum) disease
  • Risk factors for higher incidence of tooth decay, periodontal disease, and oral cancer


Drinking is always best if done in moderation, for both your oral and overall health and well-being. If you have a habit of having an alcoholic drink on a daily basis, you may want to consider lowering your consumption in order to lower your risk of cancer.

Brush and Floss at least twice a day and have your teeth and gums cleaned and checked by your dentist at least every 6 months, to help reduce these risks.



Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

baby-bottleDo you put your baby to bed with a bottle full of formula or breast milk? You may be doing your baby harm. The formula and breast milk that you use to comfort and nourish your baby can also cause severe tooth decay. What you are using to nourish your baby also nourishes the normal bacteria in your baby’s mouth. These bacteria turn the sugars found in formulas, milks, juices, sodas and other sweetened drinks into acids that strip away the enamel of the tooth if in prolonged contact resulting in tooth decay.


Every time a child consumes a sugary liquid, acid attacks the teeth and gums. After numerous attacks, tooth decay can begin. Enzymes in the saliva digest sugars cleaning the teeth, but the problem comes when a baby falls asleep. While a baby sleeps, saliva production and swallowing decreases, and any liquids still in the mouth will pool next to the teeth, slowly dissolving the enamel. Tooth decay can also occur if the child is allowed to walk around with a bottle for a long period of time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents only give bottles during feedings, and not allow their children to carry a bottle between meals. Teeth remain damaged until they are replaced by permanent teeth.  If left untreated, pain and infection can result, and severely decayed teeth may need to be extracted. If teeth are infected or lost too early due to baby bottle tooth decay, your child may develop poor eating habits, speech problems, crooked teeth and damaged permanent teeth. Healthy baby teeth usually result in healthy permanent teeth.


Tooth decay can be prevented. Reducing the prolong exposure to acids is the most important step, but helping to strengthen the enamel is also key. A series of small changes over a period of time can eventually lead to better oral health.


  • Gradually dilute the bottle contents with water over a period of two to three weeks.
  • Once that period is over, only fill the bottle with water or give the child a clean pacifier, recommended by a dentist. The only safe liquid to put in a bottle to prevent baby bottle tooth decay is water.
  • Decrease consumption of sugar, especially between meals.
  • Children should be weaned from the bottle as soon as they can drink from a cup, but the bottle should not be taken away too soon, since the sucking motion aids in the development of facial muscles, as well as the tongue.
  • Change the baby’s feeding time so that your baby is awake for 15 minutes after finishing. For some babies, the act of feeding is the only way they become drowsy enough to sleep. If this is the case, it is extremely important to gently brush their teeth within 15 minutes of the baby feeding while they are asleep.
  • The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends starting cleaning babies’ teeth at least once a day, as soon as their first tooth erupts. Gently cleaning your baby’s gums can help prevent gum disease later on as well as soothe your baby’s gums while teething. When brushing a child’s teeth, use a soft toothbrush and a pea-shaped amount of toothpaste. Before your child can spit, be sure to use non-fluoride toothpaste. Once a child is able to spit, use a fluoride toothpaste
  • Parents should first bring their child to the dentist when the child is between 6 and 12 months old


Children with healthy teeth can chew food easily, learn to speak clearly and smile with confidence. Let’s all work together to instill good oral habits to children of all ages.


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Are you stressed out?


Do you feel like you are running around with your head chopped off? Are you getting enough sleep? Do you have anxiety? Are people walking on egg shells whenever they’re around you? If so, you probably have too much stress in your life. We all encounter stress in our lives, some more than others. Did you know stress has a direct correlation to your oral health? Our mouths have just as much of a chance of being affected by stressful situations, as our bodies and mind do. Research has helped us understand what roles anxiety and depression take in developing dental problems.
Stress can cause us to grind teeth at night, leading to severe tooth damage. This damage could cause a need for a root canal or extraction. Canker sores can also be brought on by stress, even though the exact cause is unknown. Stress can even cause our bodies to not produce enough saliva, often leading to dry mouth. 
Other stress related problems linked to our oral health are: Burning Mouth Syndrome (which is identified as a burning sensation on the tongue, lips, gum, or palate), viral infections, causing white lines, sores, and ulcers in the mouth, bad habits such as, biting nails or chewing ice, and TMJ. While many of us know that grinding our teeth can lead to TMJ, emotional factions can also trigger symptoms. In the long-term, stress has also been proven to show effects on our immune system, increasing our susceptibility to periodontal disease.
As you can see, stress and oral health go hand in hand, but stress can also affect us indirectly. Patients who are stressed often tend to neglect their oral hygiene routines. When you have too many things consuming you, you tend to forget to brush or floss, correctly. When you are running from place to place and there is not enough time in the day, you tend to eat poorly. Poor diets usually consist of sugary or carbohydrate foods, which promote tooth decay.
On the flip side, dental problems can increase our levels of stress and anxiety. Our ability to tolerate pain is compromised, as our bodies struggle to adapt to stressful situations, causing extreme tooth pain during times of stress.
April is Stress Awareness Month. Now that you know how stress can cause bad oral health, let’s look at what you can do to de-stress. Slow down and take some time for yourself, and tackle one issue at a time. When feeling stressed, don’t forget about your dental health. Focus on your hygiene regimen and never use smoking or alcohol as stress relievers, as those, too, can cause damage to your oral health. Take proper measures to reduce stress like eating a healthy diet, exercising and getting plenty of sleep.
If you are worried that stress is affecting your oral health, see your dentist. They can help you tackle your oral health issues and start you on a regimen that works for you.

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Oral Wellness and Essential Oils

Lemon-Essential-OilOral wellness is a good indicator of one’s overall health. There are several benefits of using essential oils for oral wellness, both in a dental setting and in your home.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are naturally occurring, volatile aromatic compounds found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants. Not only do they give plants their distinctive smells, essential oils protect plants and play a role in plant pollination. These essential oils are distilled from the plant for our benefits and have been used since the Egyptian times. The Egyptians were some of the first people to use aromatic essential oils extensively in medical practice, beauty treatment, food preparation, and religious ceremony.

Studies have shown great benefits with using essential oils in a professional setting through aromatherapy and during care. Aromatherapy not only makes the room smell more inviting, it has a positive effect overall. Most people associate the  smell of a dental office with discomfort or a bad experience. People react differently to different smells because smell is controlled largely by the limbic part of our brains and our reactions to smell is largely dependent on our memories that have been connected to that smell from our past. When essential oils are diffused in the waiting room people enjoy walking in because the “bad” dental smell is gone and the good memories of the essential oils takes their place.


Suggested Essential Oils for a Dental Office:

  • Immunity Blend 
  • Orange
  • Lavender
  • Frankincense
  • Lemon
  • Clove

Essential Oils are great for daily oral wellness needs in your own home.

  • Cinnamon
  • Peppermint
  • Spearmint
  • Myrrh
  • Clove
  • Rosemary
  • Maleluca
  • Lemon
  • Thyme
  • Chamomile
  • Immunity Blend


These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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Let’s Recognize our Doctors

docsDoctors can be under-appreciated, but March 30th is National Doctors’ Day making it a great time to appreciate the doctors in our lives. Each one of us have been touched at some point in our lives by a doctor’s compassion and professional care. They are committed to our good health and well-being.

Doctors Day marks the date when Dr. Crawford Long administered the first anesthetic for surgery on March 30, 1842. The first Doctors Day observance was March 30, 1922 in Winder, Georgia where greeting cards where mailed to doctors and flowers where placed on graves of deceased doctors. President George Bush proclaimed March 30, 1991, as National Doctors Day encouraging all Americans to observe this day with appropriate programs and activities.

DSM wanted to take a moment to recognize all the wonderful things Dr. Steuer, Dr. Stanley, Dr. Fackrell and Dr. King do in our community:


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March is National Nutrition Month

NNM_Logo_2015National Nutrition Month is a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign is designed to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and making both healthy eating and physical activity habits.

We are talking to our patients this month about food choices for overall health – which includes optimal oral health.

Dietitians, medical doctors and dentists alike agree that balancing meals and reducing sugar intake leads to generally improved health , which starts with improved oral health.  Here are some points we discussing with our patients this month:

  • Vitamins, minerals and foods with balanced ph and reduced sugar will prevent periodontal disease, dental decay and the decline of oral health.
  • A properly functioning dentition can optimize which  fresh fruits and vegetables  a patient is able to chew and enjoy without pain.
  • Discussing liquid sugar intake is a big part of reducing dental decay AND choosing a healthier diet plan.
  • Americans eat about 20 teaspoons of sugar a day according to a report from the 2005–10 NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) database. The highest recommended amount for anyone is 6 teaspoons.
  • Teens and men consume the most added sugars. Average daily consumption for men: 335 calories, women: 230 calories, boys: 362 calories, girls: 282 calories. or 100 calories per day of discretionary sugar intake.

At DSM, we feel that sharing information about general health with patients can help them choose a healthy lifestyle, prevent oral and general health disease. These are some references  which we think are helpful.

American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, 4th Edition by Roberta Larson Duyff, MS, RD, FADA, CFCS. Wiley, 2012.

Includes the most up-to-date Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Offers quick access to timely advice on a multitude of food and nutrition topics. Includes chapters on food for fitness, healthy weight, vegetarian eating and nutrition for every stage of life.

Grocery Makeover: Small Changes for Big Results by Julie Feldman, MPH, RD. Spry Publishing LLC, 2013.

Although there are thousands of foods available on grocery shelves, we seem to buy the same items every week. This book is loaded with charts of nutrient content for common grocery-list foods, as well as substitution suggestions to make meals more nutritious.


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A Day in the Life of a Dental Assistant

IMG_1472Dental Assistants play an important role in a multi-specialty office. They are normally the first one to arrive in the morning and the last one to leave for the day with little breaks in between. In the morning they arrive 30 minutes early to stock new inventory, prep trays and make sure everything is ready for the first patient. Once the patient arrives and fills out the necessary paperwork the assistant greets the patient, seats them and puts the bib on the patient. At that time, they speak to the patient about what brought them into the office today. Once that is done they take an x-ray of the tooth and go over any medical history and consent to treat with the patient. These steps are repeated throughout the day and often there are multiple patients being seen at the same time in different operatories.

Once these first steps are done, the dental assistant informs the doctor the patient is ready. Once the doctor has spoken to the patient and given the patient anesthesia, the assistant then sits with the patient until they are fully anesthetized. The assistant then helps the doctor through each step of the procedure. They suction out extra saliva, provide the doctor with needed materials, record notes and make sure the patient stays comfortable. Once the doctor has completed the procedure, the assistant normally takes the final x-ray to confirm. The assistant makes any follow up appointment, goes over post- op instructions and walks the patient out to checkout. Afterward, they phone in prescriptions, disinfects the operatory and get ready for the next patient.

In addition to preparing for and assisting with the procedure, dental assistants are responsible for sterilizing instruments for the entire office, order supplies and making sure everyone is on schedule for the day. Needless to say, its is never a dull day in the life of a dental assistant.

The dental assistant is the most critical link between the patient and the doctor before, during, and after treatment. The person in this position plays an acute role in the successful delivery of treatment. The ability of the dental assistant to anticipate the needs of the doctor in any procedure and to act on them promptly is a key factor that allows an office to increase its efficiency in treating patients without compromising the quality of care. 

Thank you to all the dental assistants that help Dental Specialists of Maine function each and every day.



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