Healthy Foods for a Healthy Mouth

Posted by on Mar 18, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

Dear Dr. Merchant,

I brush and floss regularly, but I am thinking I can do more for my oral health. Can you tell me some good foods choices to help keep my mouth in shape between cleanings?


Inside Out

Dear IO,

Great question! It’s easy to think that we are doing enough if we simply brush and floss twice a day. Many people don’t realize that what we eat and drink can also have a significant effect on our choppers. Nourishing teeth on the inside is just as important as cleaning the plaque and stains away from the outside.

Water, Agua, H2O, Adam’s Ale

Water is the best thing you can drink for a healthy mouth. It promotes saliva production, which is your body’s natural way of cleaning bacteria from your mouth. Water also cleans away bacteria by rinsing out your mouth with every drink. If you can drink fluoridated water, that is the best. Flouride helps protect teeth from the inside against acids and sugars that can cause cavities. The American Dental Association has some good information on the importance of drinking water throughout the day.

Awww, Nuts!

We all know that nuts have proteins and minerals that are good for our bodies. Well, those same goodies are beneficial for our mouths as well! An added benefit is that like water, chewing nuts promotes saliva production. This helps wash away unwanted bacteria and other erosive crud from teeth.

Got Dairy?

Dairy foods are rich in calcium. Calcium is a mineral that is necessary for strong bone and tooth production. Choose dairy products with little or no added sugar like regular milk, cheese and yogurt. Watch out for dairy products with added flavor and sugar. Ice creams and flavored yogurts are types of dairy best enjoyed in moderation as they have lots of added sugar to make them extra tasty.

Other food choices you can make to keep your mouth in tip top shape include raw and cooked vegetables and crunchy fruits. “An Apple a Day” isn’t just about minimizing trips to your family doctor. Apples can also help keep your choppers healthy! The American Dental Association recommends these and other food choices for optimal oral health.  

Happy Oral Health!

Dr. Christopher D Merchant D.D.S.

New Year Resolution 2019 For My Mouth (Floss?)

Posted by on Jan 14, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

Dear Dr. Merchant,

I am making my New Year’s Resolution list for 2019. Any small resolutions I can add to my list to keep my mouth healthy?


2019 Resolutions  

Dear 2019,

Happy New Year to you and your mouth! You are smart to add small manageable habits to your resolution list. Too often folks go all out and try to implement mega changes at the start of the year. Studies show that modest changes are the easiest and tend to have more staying power. One of the simplest and quickest changes you can make in your oral routine (if you haven’t already added it) is to floss every day. It takes under a minute and has long lasting benefits for both your oral and overall health. You may need to make a conscious effort to get the ball rolling at first, but it is an easy healthful commitment that just about anyone can adopt into their daily routine: 

Brush Twice, Floss Once

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), floss is a fundamental part of taking care of your mouth. Brushing alone cannot sufficiently do the job. Removing plaque that a toothbrush cannot reach is necessary because plaque buildup can lead to gum disease and cavities. There are literally hundreds of bacterial species that can live in plaque buildup. Not all of them are bad, but it is up to you to keep conditions in check so that the yucky ones don’t thrive. Flossing once a day has proven to disrupt the growth of plaque. The ADA recommends brushing twice a day for two minutes with a flouride toothpaste, cleaning between teeth with an interdental tool (such as floss), and regular dental visits.

21 Times or Bust?

It used to be thought that doing something for 21 times would develop into a habit. This theory was based on a book published in 1960 that suggested it took 21 days on average to create or stop habits. Since the book came out, studies have shown that it actually takes on average 2 months or more to turn an action into a regular part of your routine. Habits are an evolving process where you have to commit to the goal, not just make a mental note to change. Making small incremental improvements are much easier to commit to then making giant life-altering changes. Habits are hard to adjust. That is why creating valuable habits is such a good idea. Flossing once a day is a small incremental change that anyone is capable of incorporating into a daily routine. Missing a day here or there does not signify defeat. It’s an easy fix to get back on track, unlike other habits that require bigger effort like going to the gym or drinking a gallon of water a day.

New Year Resolutions can be daunting to commit to. Choosing ones that are simple will make it easier for you to stay the course and follow through. Daily flossing is recommended by the American Dental Association as an important part of your oral health routine. The mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body, therefore taking good care of your teeth and gums can help you manage the rest of your health as well. I addressed this in my recent blog, “Is There Really A Mouth-Body Connection?” Don’t get discouraged if you skip a day, just pick up where you left off the next day. Happy 2019 to you and your mouth!

Happy Oral Health!

Dr. Christopher D Merchant D.D.S.

Help! My Adult Tooth Fell Out!

Posted by on Nov 19, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

Dear Dr. Merchant,

Last year during our holiday family gathering my uncle’s adult tooth was knocked out! It happened accidentally during our pre-dinner football game. No one knew what to do and unfortunately he wasn’t able to save the tooth. If something like this happens this year, what should we do?


Thinking Ahead                                                  


Dear Thinking,

I hope he was able to enjoy some of the feast at least! You are smart to plan ahead for this possibility as it is more common than you might think. Adult teeth can come out for a variety of reasons including direct damage to the mouth, tooth decay, and periodontal disease. An adult tooth can be replaced in certain circumstances with proper care, but the area will need to be professionally evaluated.  If a baby tooth is knocked out, then the tooth can just wait for the tooth fairy provided no other trauma to the mouth has been incurred. Better to be safe with a plan in case one of these situations occurs rather than letting it take over a fun family celebration. Following are some thoughts to consider should you run into this problem again (no pun intended!): 

Take Care!

If the adult tooth has come completely out, gently pick it up at the biting surface (known as the crown) and do not touch the exposed root area. The root area is the part that needs to reattach, and disturbing it severely lessens that possibility. If it’s clean, replace the tooth in the mouth cavity and gently hold in place with clean gauze, or hold in place between the lower lip and gum or under the tongue. If the tooth is dirty, then put it in a clean container and cover it with milk or saliva. This will keep the tooth safe and alive for a limited amount of time until you can see a professional. If the tooth has been knocked loose but not out, use clean gauze or a clean cloth to bite down gently on the affected tooth. This will help stabilize the area until it can be evaluated. A knocked-out tooth is a dental emergency, not a hospital emergency. Your dental provider should have a number to call if it’s after office hours. Medlineplus has an article that talks about this situation in more depth.

Replant or Replace ASAP

The best scenario is where the patient has gotten to a provider in time and the tooth is able to be replanted. Given the limited amount of time a tooth can be stored and saved, this option is not always possible. Still, it’s worth a try considering that replacement options can be a lot more involved. Replacement options should be discussed with a professional to determine what is in the patient’s best interest. A root canal, partial, crown or implant are all possibilities when it comes to replacing a wayward tooth.

You might be thinking,”Why can’t I just leave it alone? No one sees that part of my mouth anyway.” Leaving a traumatized space open can lead to a host of problems. When a tooth is suddenly gone, bacteria have a new place to thrive in the mouth and/or one’s bite doesn’t line up properly when chewing or at rest. As discussed in my last blog, the mouth is the gateway to other body systems. If bacteria and decay set in, they can enter the bloodstream and cause a litany of other health related issues. Knowing in advance what to do if a tooth is damaged or knocked out can help you be in control in the event of an emergency. Hope this helps you plan for a fun-filled holiday gathering!

Happy Oral Health!

Dr. Christopher D Merchant D.D.S.


Is There Really A Mouth-Body Connection?

Posted by on Sep 28, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

Dear Dr. Merchant,

I have been hearing some talk lately about the connection between mouth and body when it comes to overall health. Does my oral health really play a part in how the rest of my body functions?

Signed, Curious                                                                    

Dear Curious,

Absolutely! Your mouth is the gateway to the rest of your body. What you put into it and how you take care of it can directly affect way more than just your mouth. For instance, poor oral health can have links to heart disease and/or stroke. For pregnant women, gum disease can lead to pre-term birth and other complications during fetal development in the womb. Lastly, diabetics should take special care with their oral health as gum infections give bacteria places to thrive, which can lead to blood sugar complications. 

The Heart of the Matter

Poor oral health leads to weakened gums, which can lead to openings for bacteria to thrive and enter the bloodstream. This may lead to inflammation in other parts of the body. It has been suggested that this inflammation may be related to an increased risk of heart attack and/or stroke. Brushing and flossing daily can help reduce inflammation before it creates a portal for oral bacteria to get in and snowball into other health conditions. Colgate has an article that includes this topic on the ColgateProfessional website.


We all know that what a pregnant mother eats affects her unborn child. What many don’t realize is that poor oral health can also affect an unborn child in very drastic ways. Pre-term birth and low birth weight are among the complications that have been linked to oral health issues during pregnancy. It is thought that bacteria that gets released into the bloodstream through infected gums can reach the womb and affect the fetus in multiple undesirable ways.

Link Between Diabetes and Oral Health

Diabetics have enough to worry about without having to add mouth infections to their list. The fact is that diabetics have difficulty regulating blood sugars. High blood sugar can promote an environment that is favorable for infections to grow. Bleeding gums are an ideal portal for bacteria to enter the bloodstream and lead to infection in another part of the body.

The mouth-body connection is very important when it comes to overall health. When you take good care of your mouth, you are taking good care of the rest of your body as well. Folks who are in good health already may not be nearly as affected by issues like bacteria entering the bloodstream through inflamed gums. If your health is already compromised in some way, taking proper care of your oral health is one more step you should take to get your body in optimal working condition. More information on this subject can be found on the American Dental Association website.

Happy Oral Health!

Dr. Christopher D Merchant D.D.S.

Are Back-To-School Dental Checkups Really Necessary?

Posted by on Aug 21, 2018 in Blog, Children, Dental Tips | 0 comments

Dear Dr. Merchant,

Summer is winding down and back-to-school is ramping up. With all the items on my to do list, is it really necessary add a back-to-school dental check up to my growing list of duties?

Are Back to School Dental Checkups Really Needed?


Busy Parent


Dear Busy,

In a word, YES! Number two pencils and a sturdy backpack aren’t the only things your child needs to start the school year off right. A back-to-school dental check up is just as important as a child’s well check at the pediatrician for many reasons. Your child’s overall oral health can have a significant impact on his/her performance at school, and the last thing a busy family needs is to take time away from school to treat issues that could have been prevented. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends these visits to maintain good oral health. Scheduling an appointment now before the school year is in full swing is a great way to put your child on the road to success. Good oral health is all about healthy eating and brushing habits. Setting this stage before school starts is one less thing either of you will need to stress about once September rolls around. Older children involved in sports will want to discuss mouth protection with their dentist. Back-to-school is the time to get fitted for a mouthguard before the games begin. Finally, having a dental emergency plan in place for the ifs and whens is an easy way to spare yourself some panic in the event of a true dental emergency.

Check In On Your Child’s Overall Dental Health

This is a question for your dentist. Knowing in advance what you might see in the future means reassurance for you and your child. Be proactive and schedule an appointment now before the year gets under way. Making a plan with your provider to manage your child’s oral health care will help eliminate future “surprises” and give you some peace of mind with regards to your child’s overall well being. Minor issues such as cavities can cause major discomfort which leads to distraction in the classroom. Taking care of these and other problems before they get out of control may save your child lost time at school.

Good Habits = Prevention                                                                                                                                                 

Smart families start the school year by establishing routines to encourage success. Earlier bedtimes, limiting electronics, brushing and flossing regularly, and healthier eating habits equals victory in the classroom. Remember the old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” It’s never been more true than with regards to a healthy mouth. 3-2-1 is a popular refrain for dental providers. It stands for three healthy meals a day, brushing twice a day, and flossing once a day for optimal dental health.

Emergency Plan? Check!

Children are prone to injuries on the schoolyard, during sports, and physical education. Talk with your provider about whether or not your child needs a properly fitting mouthguard for his/her activities at school. If you’ve ever found yourself in an emergency situation and not known whom to contact first, you are not alone. Be prepared in the event that your child has a dental emergency whether at school or home by keeping several of your dentist’s business cards handy. Grab a few during your next visit to stash in your purse or wallet just in case. Knowing that you have someone to call will spare you some of the anxiety that comes with a cracked tooth or worse.

As you can see, I feel very strongly about the importance of a back-to-school dental visit. My own children will be getting theirs at the end of this month. It’s part of our routine to begin the school year by addressing any issues that have arisen since their last visit and to start the year off with a bright smile. Make your appointments soon, back-to-school spots fill up quickly.

Happy Oral Health!

Dr. Christopher D. Merchant D.D.S.

Help! Tooth Sensitivity Is Ruining My Favorite Summer Treats!

Posted by on Jul 24, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

Help! Tooth Sensitivity Is Ruining My Favorite Summer Treats!

Dear Dr. Merchant, 

Ouch! Frosty summer treats are sooo good, BUT my teeth are sooo sensitive to sweet and cold! This is my favorite time of year for ice cold beverages and delicious fruity treats, but I am unable to enjoy the summer’s bounty due to my tooth sensitivity. Popsicles, daiquiris, even biting into a chilled ripe peach causes a jolt of pain that stops me in my tracks. What can I do so that I can still enjoy some summery goodness?


Cold Bites!                                                                                                                 

Dear Cold,

Your complaint is an inevitable one this time of year. Summer time is the right time for cold sweet treats, unless you suffer from sensitive teeth. Sugar and cold can deliver a wallop that can turn the most delectable goody into a painful traitor. Fortunately there is some good news for folks with tooth sensitivity. After a quick examination to determine the severity of the problem, I would proceed with one of several non-invasive treatments that could significantly decrease pain. Many patients are amazed at how a modified brushing technique along with a sensitive toothpaste can make a huge difference. The next line of defense would involve a topical in-office treatment which is usually immediately effective. If the sensitivity continues to be recurrent and unresponsive, then a more permanent solution such as surgery is a last resort option. Fortunately, in my experience a majority of cases can be successfully treated with modified brushing techniques and minor in-office treatments.

Remember To Bring It Up During Your Yearly Exams

At your next cleaning, talk with your provider about your sensitivity. Make a note on your calendar when and which tooth is affected by eating and drinking. Sometimes patients forget to mention issues that aren’t constant. It’s helpful to have it noted and refer to it when in the dental chair, even if the tooth isn’t aching at that moment. Many issues can be diagnosed with a quick exam during your annual cleanings. For a more extensive list of possible causes, check out this article from Today’s

First Line Easy Fixes

Your provider’s first line of defense will be to try a softer brushing technique coupled with a soft bristled toothbrush. Many patients unwittingly brush too hard in the hopes that harder brushing leads to cleaner teeth. Unfortunately harder brushing can lead to damaged gums, exposed roots and lots of discomfort. An over the counter sensitive toothpaste is recommended for a period of time before moving onto the next level of treatment. After a period of use, these toothpastes can be quite effective in decreasing minor pain. Dietary changes and taking a break from bleaching treatments are also easy first fixes.

Second Line And Beyond….

If sensitive toothpaste doesn’t resolve the issue, the next step would be an in-office topical treatment such as fluoride varnish or silver diamine fluoride. Both of these are applied directly to the affected areas in just minutes. They are both immediately effective and can be reapplied every six months for continual relief. Additionally MI-Paste can be prescribed for home use to combat tooth sensitivity. If significant discomfort persists, then surgery can be discussed as a last resort option. Gum exposure and deeper issues such as root deterioration can cause chronic pain that can only be truly resolved by a medical procedure.

Hopefully I have given you some options so that you can enjoy your summertime favorites. Most dentine hypersensitivities can be easily resolved without invasive treatments. With a little bit of patience and preventative care, you can get back to pain free summer goodness in no time.

Happy Oral Health!

Dr. Merchant

Dr. Christopher D. Merchant D.D.S.

Is It Safe For Me To Drive Home After Getting Laughing Gas At My Dental Appointment?

Posted by on Jun 11, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

Is It Safe For Me To Drive Home After Getting Laughing Gas At My Dental Appointment?

Dear Dr. Merchant,

I am scheduled for an appointment with my dentist for a filling and am considering using laughing gas as a mild sedative. I get a little anxious in the dental chair and just want something to take the edge off. My problem is that I don’t have a driver to drive me home after my appointment, and I am worried that I may be unfit after receiving nitrous oxide. Should I be concerned or will I be safe to drive?


Responsible Driver

Dear Responsible,

Believe it or not, this is a very common question! Many patients want to have the edge taken off but don’t want to go all in with heavy sedation. The more you know about how “laughing gas” works, the more comfortable you will feel about whether or not to use it to help ease your anxiety. I suggest talking with your provider ahead of time about your concerns so that he/she can explain how nitrous oxide is administered in the office. Reading up on the history and effects of “happy gas” will help you understand its’ properties and benefits. Lastly, remember that your dentist wants you to have a safe and comfortable experience both in the chair and when you leave the office. Laughing gas is a great choice to use as a mild sedative because it’s effects wear off within minutes after the gas stops being administered.

Make A Quick Phone Call To Your Provider

Call your provider to get reassurance that this is right decision for you. Your dentist will want you to feel assured about all aspects of your procedure, including activities immediately after your visit. Dental assistants are another great resource for information if you want a second opinion. They are very familiar with administering nitrous oxide and how long the effects last.

Do Some Recon Before Your Appointment

Remember the saying, “Knowledge is Power!” In this case it’s especially true. Reading up on the properties of laughing gas will help you understand how it works and why it is a preferred alternative to sedation during many dental procedures. Dental Fear Central has a great article on inhalation sedation.

Your Safety Is Important To Your Dentist

Your safety in the chair and immediately after your visit should be paramount to your provider. The effects of nitrous oxide wear off within minutes, thus making it a safe and responsible method for the temporary relief of mild anxiety.  Trust me, a good dentist would never send a patient out on the road without making sure that he/she was stable for driving.

Your oral health is a partnership between you and your dentist. As a patient, you have every right to ask questions and receive explanations that help guide you in your oral health decisions. I hope I have given you some reassurance for your upcoming visit.

Happy Oral Health!

Dr. Merchant

Dr. Christopher D. Merchant D.D.S.

How Can I Get My Chicken Husband To Go To The Dentist?

Posted by on May 22, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments


How Can I Get My Chicken Husband To Go To The Dentist?

Dear Dr. Merchant,

My husband is an extremely manly man in almost every sense of the term. He is not afraid of manual labor and tackles all kinds of projects without batting an eye. He does not flinch at bugs or rodents and doesn’t complain when he gets sick. The only thing he is fearful of is going to the dentist!

Is there anything I can do to help him overcome his dental fear?


Frustrated Wife

Dear Mrs. Frustrated,

Let me begin by assuring you that your husband is not alone in being insecure about getting his mouth checked. The mouth is a pretty personal spot on the body, and some people get extremely uncomfortable at the thought of having that space invaded. First comes the fear of embarrassment. What will the dentist find out about me and my personal habits? Next comes the fear of discomfort. The thought of experiencing pain in the mouth is overwhelming for some people. Last comes the worry that the dentist will find all kinds of issues that will need immediate and expensive attention. Some people would rather ignore their oral issues and hope that they go away instead of taking reasonable and proactive action. I have some thoughts to share with your husband so that you can support him in improving his oral health care:

Schedule A Consultation Without Obligation

The first thing to do is to schedule a consultation without obligation between your husband and the dentist. Reassure your spouse that this is just a meet and greet so that the two of them can get to know each other before any treatment plans are made. Your spouse will get to know the dentist’s bedside manner and learn what to expect at a typical appointment.

Poor Oral Health Can Lead To Other Longterm Health IssuesOlympia Dentists

Talk with your spouse about how poor oral health can complicate heart and other systemic diseases. Letting that anxiety determine whether or not one goes to the dentist is unreasonable and can eventually lead to poorer health in general. Fear of discomfort can be alleviated by talking with your provider about your concerns.

Your Dentist Is A Partner In Your Overall Good Health

Your dentist is like a partner in your health care business. He or she is proud to help you achieve your smile success and will work with you to make that happen both emotionally and financially. Your dentist should present options that are reasonable for you in your situation and should help you realize your goals on your terms. A strong relationship will lead to lasting oral health and a positive experience for both you and your dentist.

A healthy smile is a healthy partnership between patient and doctor. The fear of embarrassment, pain, and financial challenge can be alleviated by talking with your provider about your concerns before treatment. Best Health has some good information on this issue. Once your spouse experiences a visit that is pleasant and non-threatening, then getting him (or her!) in the chair for yearly visits will become part of their healthy lifestyle. 

Happy Oral Health!

Dr. Merchant D.D.S.

Dr. Christopher D. Merchant D.D.S.

Q&A: Full Dental Implants

Posted by on Feb 22, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

full dental implantsDental implants are perfect for people who are self-conscious about their missing, broken, or damaged teeth. They replace the old tooth and give you a whole new look. 

About 3 million people already have dental implants and that number keeps growing by 500,000 a year. If you’re one of the people in the market to get full dental implants, you might have a few questions about them. Here are some commonly asked questions about full dental implants. 

Are Implants Painful?
Many people might believe that getting full dental implants is painful. Sure, it’s placing something foreign in your mouth, which might seem extremely painful. However, that isn’t the case. Most of the pain someone experiences is due to inflammation, not the actual bone contact. Anyone who experiences pain can take anti-inflammatory medication to treat it. If the pain persists after a few weeks or so, reach out to your dentist for further instruction.

What Is Used in Dental Implants?
When a person gets dental implants, there are three types of materials that can be used. First, a gold and porcelain combination is used to last a long time. Next, zirconia has incredible strength and looks just like a real tooth. It’s the newest of all of the materials but is growing in popularity. Finally, acrylic is the least expensive of all of the materials. It’s one that doesn’t last as long and isn’t as strong as the others. You can talk to your dentist about which is best for you.

How Long Does it Take?
This is a question that really depends on the person and how their teeth grow. Different parts of your mouth have different growth rates, bone densities, and blood flow. Where you need the implant will be the determining factor regarding how long it will take. When you visit your dental office, have your dentist tell you exactly how long the process will take, since it’s not a good idea to base your experience off of someone else’s.

When it comes to getting full dental implants, there are a few common questions. Read the ones listed above for answers to your potential questions.

Commonly Asked Questions About Invisalign

Posted by on Feb 20, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

invisalign dentistInvisalign can help a person with many different things. Not only can it help to straighten their teeth, but it can also help boost their confidence. It’s a virtually invisible treatment that will transform a person’s smile. 

If you’re looking to work with an Invisalign dentist to use this tool, you might have a few questions. There are many common questions out there that people constantly ask Invisalign dentists. Here are a few you might have as well.

How Long Does It Take?
When many people speak with their Invisalign dentist, they might hope for instant results. However, much like with any braces, the timeline differs for everyone. It all depends on the severity of the person’s teeth misalignment. This is only something that can be determined by an experienced dentist. Although, in most cases, it only takes about 12 months for a person to achieve the results they’re after.

Will It Be Painful?
Many people fear that getting Invisalign from their family dentist will be painful. However, pain isn’t the right word to describe what one will feel when they have the trays in. Mostly, people will experience sensitivity and soreness, something like a pressure. But this will only last a few days or a week. Once your teeth start to adjust to their new “placement,” they will calm down and the pressure won’t be as bad as it was. 

How Does It Impact Speech?
One of the most common side effects of getting Invisalign is that your speech will be a little funky for a few days. When you have the trays placed, you might notice a small lisp as your tongue has to get used to the foreign object in your mouth. This won’t last long, so it’s nothing to worry about. 

How Often Must Invisalign Be Worn?
For the best results, wearing the aligners 20 to 22 hours a day is key. When you are using Invisalign, you’re only supposed to take two hours each day to eat and remove them from your mouth. It might seem hard to do, but the end result will be worth it. 

According to an American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry survey, 74% of adults think a bad smile can hurt them professionally. To fix this, many people turn to Invisalign dentists for help. The tool can help straighten a person’s teeth without the look of metal braces. Plus, they’re removable! Just be sure to wear them for the required amount of time to achieve your goals.

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