Our Blog

Educational and Entertaining Enamel Experiments

November 30th, 2022

Let’s talk about the science of our teeth for a moment. Our enamel has a very high mineral content, making it extremely strong.  In fact, enamel just happens to be the hardest substance in our bodies.  But, unfortunately, it is not indestructible! Certain foods we eat can actually damage the surface of our teeth. Some simple and entertaining experiments can show children how our teeth can be affected by things we eat and drink, and how we can help protect them.

If you have a science-minded student at home, there are many activities you can do together, using educational websites, common household products and lots and lots of eggs. (Why eggs? Eggshells are a great substitute for teeth in these experiments. Not only are they various shades of white--like our own teeth, they are also calcium-rich—like our own teeth.) You can find any number of experiments using uncooked eggs, hardboiled eggs, whole shells with the contents blown out, or eggshells alone, so you can find just the right activity for whichever egg treatment works best for you.

Examine Enamel Erosion

One of the ways we protect our teeth is with healthy eating. The bacteria in plaque use the sugars and starches in our foods to produce acids. These acids are the substances that break down the minerals in our enamel and leave the enamel weaker. Weaker enamel is more easily attacked by bacteria and acids, which leads to cavities.

With eggs or eggshells and some carefully selected food products, you can see just how acidity affects teeth. Different websites suggest a variety of acidic liquids to dunk your eggs in, such as vinegar, soda, or citrus juices, so it’s easy to find an experiment that works with your pantry. Always use a plain water sample when you submerge eggs or shells to act as a control to measure differences against. How do the egg shells soaked in acidic liquids differ from those in plain water? It’s also fun to add simple sugar water as a test liquid to see what happens. Is it sugar or acid that causes more damage? And why might that be?

The Fluoride Fix

Fluoride is well known as a mineral that protects the structure of our teeth and helps prevent cavities. And there are actually experiments out there to test the protection fluoride provides using your egg stand-ins.

In some experiments, a hardboiled egg is coated with fluoride toothpaste or rinse for a specific amount of time and then dunked into vinegar. An untreated egg also gets a vinegar bath. You are asked to observe what is happening to each egg as it sits in its vinegar bath—are there bubbles on one egg and not the other? What do the bubbles mean? Other experiments require longer exposure to fluoride and then to vinegar—what happens to the shells of the treated and untreated eggs? What could this mean for our teeth?

Staining Studies

Our diet can do more than help create cavities. Enamel is very strong, but it is not stain-proof! Dark colored foods and drinks can make our teeth appear darker or more yellow. (And teeth that have suffered enamel erosion can pick up stains more easily.) How does food affect the brightness of our smiles?

If this question interests you, find experiments that use favorite beverages as a soak for your eggs. Choose liquids with a range of color, such as coffee, soda, and apple juice. Or choose an experiment that uses different varieties of soft drinks. Will foods the same color cause the same amount of discoloration in your egg volunteers? Do you want shorter or longer soaks in each liquid? Do you want to make use of a recycled toothbrush to see if brushing that discolored shell makes a difference? With toothpaste or without?

Even though these activities are designed for older children, they still require adult supervision. You can find detailed instructions for any of these experiments at many science and educational sites online. With some household supplies, plenty of extra cups, and a quantity of eggs, you and your child can demonstrate some of the basic effects our food choices have on the health and appearance of our teeth. It’s a wonderful way to promote healthy eating and brushing habits, scientific curiosity, and shared experiences!

Don’t forget to let Dr. Roger and Scott Amundson know how your experiments turned out the next time you visit our Grand Forks office!

Balancing Act

November 23rd, 2022

We’re all trying to find a healthy balance in our lives. Balancing work and home life. Eating a well-balanced diet. Balancing our budgets. Maintaining the right pH balance in our mouths for better dental health. Wait, what was that last one?

You probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about your pH levels, but if your oral pH is out of balance it can affect the health of your teeth.

What do we mean by pH levels? In biology and chemistry, the pH scale is a tool used to measure the concentration of hydrogen (H⁺) ions and hydroxide (OH⁻) ions in a solution.  

The higher the concentration of hydrogen atoms, the more acidic a solution. The higher the concentration of hydroxide ions, the more alkaline. The pH scale goes from 0 to 14, with the most acidic reading possible rating a 0, and the most alkaline, a 14.

You don’t have to be a biochemist to use the information provided by pH samples. We use pH readings to discover the ideal acid/alkaline conditions in many everyday applications. Azaleas grow best in very acidic soil. Swimming pools should be just a bit alkaline. Brewers test pH throughout the beer-making process for optimal fermentation—and taste.

When it comes to saliva, a neutral pH range of around 6.2 to 7.6 is generally considered normal. High alkalinity in saliva is rare. High acidity levels? Unfortunately, much more common. And an acidic environment has real-world consequences for teeth.

Plaque contains bacteria, which produce acids. Calcium and phosphate, the minerals that help make enamel the strongest substance in the body, are leached out by these acids. The weak spots left behind make enamel vulnerable to further erosion and, eventually, decay. When saliva has a normal, neutral pH, it helps neutralize plaque acids to reduce the risk of cavities.

But it’s not just bacteria that expose our teeth to acidic conditions—we do it ourselves with our choice of food and drink.

Acidic foods can directly lower the pH level in saliva. Lemon juice, for example, has a pH between 2 and 3. Red wine has a pH between 3 and 4. Blueberries? Around a 3.2. When the pH level in saliva becomes 5.5 or lower, the minerals in our teeth start to “demineralize,” or lose the minerals which keep enamel strong and intact—just the way enamel is demineralized by acids from plaque. This process is known as acid erosion.

Many of our favorite foods are acidic to some degree. Citrus and other fruits, pickled foods, vinegar, wine, coffee, tea—all of them can lower the optimal pH level of saliva. And sports drinks, energy drinks, and sodas? Check the labels and you’ll often find citric acid, phosphoric acid, and/or carbonation, all of which combine to create extremely erosive conditions.

So, no more soda? Or fruit? No. You don’t have to give up acidic foods altogether for healthy teeth. True, you won’t give up much eliminating soda from your diet. But fruits, vegetables, dairy foods, and meats are the source of essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins, and many of these healthy food choices have an acidic pH. How to eat nutritiously while protecting your enamel? Again, it’s a balancing act.

  • Enjoy acidic foods sparingly, or as part of a meal. Saliva can neutralize acids more effectively when they aren’t washing over your teeth all through the day.
  • Use a straw when you drink something with a low pH to reduce your enamel’s exposure to acids.
  • Balance high-acid foods with low-acid choices to help neutralize the acids in your diet. Add a banana to your blueberry smoothie. Pair your wine with some cheese.
  • Rinse with water after eating or drinking. When it comes to balanced pH, pure water is a 7.0 on the scale, a perfect neutral.
  • Chew sugarless gum to increase saliva production.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste—it not only helps prevent cavities, it helps remineralize teeth.

Even with your best efforts, acid erosion can be a problem. You might be experiencing enamel damage if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • Tooth pain or sensitivity.
  • Teeth that appear discolored. This happens as the whiter enamel thins, revealing the yellowish dentin underneath.
  • Changes in the shape of your enamel—your teeth become rounded or have little dents or pits, known as cupping.
  • White spots on your teeth, which could be a sign of demineralization.

If you think you could be suffering from enamel erosion, it’s a good idea to talk to Dr. Roger and Scott Amundson when you visit our Grand Forks office. We can diagnose conditions causing acid erosion, treat you if enamel damage has occurred, and offer suggestions for diet and eating habits to make sure your oral pH—and your dental health—is always in balance.

Dental Fear in Children: Brought on by parents?

November 16th, 2022

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. Roger and Scott Amundson and our team work hard to make your child’s visit at our Grand Forks 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.

Oral Health during Pregnancy

November 9th, 2022

Pregnancy can be one of the most exciting times in a woman’s life, as you eagerly wait for the birth of the new addition. Needless to say, pregnancy comes with a lot of responsibilities. Everything you do to your own body can affect your baby’s health, so you eat right and try to avoid anything that could harm your baby.

You may not realize it, but even your oral health affects your baby. You have a lot to worry about during this time in your life, but it’s important not to let your oral health slide. Maintaining good routines before and during pregnancy can improve the health of your baby.

Gum Disease and Pregnancy

Gum disease includes gingivitis and the more severe condition called periodontitis. Pregnancy gingivitis is a condition that results from bacteria in your teeth. Symptoms include gum inflammation and bad breath. If it progresses to periodontitis, your baby is at higher risk for preterm delivery and low-birth weight. You can also develop pregnancy tumors, or pyogenic granulomas, which can interfere with speaking and eating. Throughout pregnancy, continue to visit Dr. Roger and Scott Amundson at your regularly scheduled appointments to look for signs of gum disease.

Pregnancy and the Role of Our Office

Make an appointment with Dr. Roger and Scott Amundson at our Grand Forks office when you first learn that you’re pregnant, especially if you have unresolved oral health issues. If possible, try not to schedule necessary treatment during the first trimester or second half of the third trimester.

Oral Health Care Habits to Follow

Maintain a normal good oral health care regimen, which includes brushing your teeth at least twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste and soft toothbrush, and flossing daily. If your regular regimen is not up to par, now is a good time to develop good habits. You can use an unflavored toothpaste if you have morning sickness and regular toothpaste makes you feel nauseous. Also, rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash if you experience morning sickness to prevent acid damage to your teeth.

Send Us a Message