Review Category : Dr. Jennifer Wallace

Understanding pregnancy and your dental health

By Jennifer Wallace, DMD

Congrats on the soon-to-be new addition to your family. There will be a lot of changes to plan for in the next few months. Let’s see, there’s a name to pick, a nursery to get ready, diapers/blankets/clothes to buy — but don’t forget to also plan to take care of Momma during exciting this time.

The old wives tale that warns a woman to expect a lost tooth for every baby is false. If the mother’s intake of calcium is inadequate during pregnancy, her bones — not her teeth — will provide the calcium her growing baby needs. This calcium loss is quickly made up after breastfeeding stops. However, the demands of pregnancy can lead to particular dental problems in some women.

Ben Franklin said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and that certainly applies to this subject. You are less likely to have dental problems during pregnancy if you already have good oral hygiene habits like flossing, brushing with fluoridated toothpastes, eating a healthy non-sugary diet and visiting your dentist regularly. Pregnancy can lead to dental problems in some women, including gum disease and increased risk of tooth decay from cravings of sugary foods, vomiting from morning sickness and gagging when brushing.

During pregnancy, your increased hormones can affect your body’s response to plaque (the layer of germs on your teeth). During pregnancy, about half of all women (60 to 70 percent) experience a condition called pregnancy gingivitis. Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums that is caused when plaque accumulates in the spaces between the gums and the teeth. The accumulation of bacteria can lead to the loss of bone around the teeth and can eventually lead to tooth decay and tooth loss. Pregnancy Gingivitis is caused by an increase in hormone levels, which can exaggerate a woman’s response to dental plaque in the mouth. This extra plaque may cause swelling, bleeding, redness and/or tenderness in the gums. Changes in the gums are most noticeable from the second month of pregnancy, reaching a maximum in the eighth month.

In women with severe morning sickness, frequent vomiting can erode the enamel on the back of the front teeth. If you are vomiting frequently, contact your dental office for information on how to prevent enamel erosion. It is important not to brush right away after you vomit, since the stomach acid in your mouth will only help erode the teeth as you brush. Wait about an hour before brushing your teeth after vomiting. While the teeth are covered in stomach acids, the vigorous action of the toothbrush may scratch the tooth enamel. DO rinse right away with water, or a fluoridated mouth wash.

Research has found a link between gum disease in pregnant women and premature birth with low birth weight. Babies who are born prematurely may risk a range of health conditions including cerebral palsy and problems with eyesight and hearing. Estimates suggest that about 18 out of every 100 premature births may be triggered by periodontal disease, which is a chronic infection of the gums. Appropriate dental treatment for the expectant mother can reduce the risk of premature birth by more than 80 percent, according to one study.

Another old wives tale is that an expectant mother shouldn’t visit the dentist until after birth. Of course, the best approach to dental care is to see your dentist before you get pregnant for an exam and cleaning. During your pregnancy, the second trimester is the best time to receive routine dental care. During the last trimester, it may become uncomfortable for you and baby to sit or lay for longer dental appointments.

Pregnancy does not automatically damage your teeth. With proper hygiene at home and professional help from your dentist, your teeth should remain healthy throughout pregnancy. So be sure to share the good news with your dentist ASAP to prevent and prepare for a happy, healthy momma and baby.

Jennifer Wallace, DMD, practices on Lady’s Island at Palmetto Smiles of Beaufort, 843-524-7645.

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Do you have plenty to smile about?

By Dr. Jennifer Wallace

Have you always wanted a brighter smile? Well you aren’t in the minority. It’s one of the most popular concerns among patients I talk with these day. Many ask, “Dr. Wallace, how can I get my teeth whiter?”

A recent survey I read had these staggering statistics: Fifty percent of people consider the smile the first facial feature they notice and yet 80 percent are not happy with their smile. Your smile — simple, straightforward, and most important, sincere — can attract more than admiring looks. A smiling face tells people that you’re an outgoing and intelligent person worth getting to know.

How white should your teeth become? Well that depends on a few factors. Bleachers should aim for a color that matches the whites of their eyes. If you bleach your teeth a whiter color than the whites of your eyes, this color will cause your teeth to become your focal point (the place people’s eyes go to first and keep being drawn back to).   If the color of your teeth is a brighter white than the whites of your eyes, this  will not only cause your teeth to look fake, but it may make your skin look dull or washed out next to the very bright white of your teeth.

Well, there’s no reason for those closed-lipped smiles in holiday, vacation or Facebook pictures anymore, due to being self-conscious of dingy teeth, because there’s an app for that! Well, not actually an app, but there are options.  Some people want an instant and dramatic change, while others prefer more gradual whitening such as the type that results from a whitening toothpaste or gel. Surface stains and internal discoloration can be caused with age of course, but as a dental professional we take into consideration habits such as tobacco use, drinking coffee, tea, colas or red wine, and eating pigmented foods such as cherries and blueberries. The accumulation of plaque and tartar deposits, prior trauma or even exposures with the antibiotic tetracycline during childhood tooth development, can also affect the overall color of a tooth to appear gray or brown.

There are many reasons for whitening your teeth, including:

• The boost to your confidence and self-esteem that comes from a great smile

• A younger appearance

• A special event such as a wedding, job interview or class reunion

• To make a positive first impression on others

• To simply reverse years of everyday staining and yellowing.

Whitening is safe as long as people follow the directions and use a product that carries a seal of approval from the American Dental Association. While whitening can occasionally change tooth color nine or more shades, the majority of people who whiten their teeth see a change of between two and seven shades. Each procedure has its advantages and disadvantages. Laser whitening and other in-office bleaching procedures, for example, may produce the most dramatic results, but obviously cost more. Final results depend on your natural tooth color, any prior dental work you have, how stubborn any stains are and the treatment you choose. Keep in mind that a change of just two or three shades can make a noticeable difference in most smiles.

Whitening products work mainly in one of two ways. The first is a “non-bleaching” approach to abrasively help remove surface stains. Drug store whitening toothpastes have polishing agents that provide additional stain removal that regular mild abrasion toothpastes do not. A professional cleaning by a dentist or hygienist also uses abrasion and polishing to remove most external staining caused by food/tobacco and is always recommended before starting any whitening procedures. The second approach to whiter teeth would be those bleaching procedures offered by your dentist to actually change your natural tooth color, usually anywhere from five to seven shades brighter. In-office whitening procedures like Zoom rely on hydrogen peroxide in concentrations of 25% that is applied by a dental professional in a careful, controlled ‘all at once’ application. At-home tray whitening bleaches contain an active ingredient called carbamide peroxide. Both hydrogen and carbamide peroxide professional bleaching techniques help to remove both deep and surface stains. However, after several months or a year of eating and drinking normally (coffee, tea, soft drinks, wines, berries, and red sauces), your teeth can become slightly discolored again and develop new stains. It’s a good idea to plan a maintenance whitening regimen with your dentist to protect your new smile.

Everyone responds differently to different whitening procedures. Some people respond well to whitening toothpastes, while people with gray teeth or other serious discoloration may require porcelain veneers or bonding to achieve the smiles they’ve always wanted. Only your dentist or hygienist can determine what’s right for you.

Dr. Wallace practices at Palmetto Smiles of Beaufort and can be contacted at 843-524-7645 or

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Debunking common dental myths among adults

By Dr. Jennifer Wallace

When it comes to dental health, that “ignorance is bliss” approach should be reserved for children. For adults, dental myths that may lead to a wiser you and a healthier mouth.

“I haven’t seen the dentist in years so I don’t have any cavities.” NOT TRUE. Many dental issues do not cause pain until they have progressed very far, for example, a root canal. Gum disease, on the other hand, may not cause any pain at all. Seeing your dentist regularly is the only way to ensure you don’t have any of these issues. Your visit to the dentist should be based on your individual needs. Many studies have shown that plaque can build up in as little as 90 days, which leads to inflammation and infection that can affect your entire body. So if you want a really healthy smile, and body, having your teeth cleaned four times a year is the way to go.

“I don’t eat sweets, so I don’t need to brush as often.” NOT TRUE. Removing the bacteria from your mouth is important no matter what you eat, because many foods are broken down into sugars. What are the worst offenders for your grill? Foods that stick to the teeth like raisins and fruit rollups, along with foods that have a high acid content, such as citrus fruits.

“Flossing is as important as brushing.” TRUE. Flossing removes almost half of the bacteria and food particles that are found in your mouth after you eat; not flossing means you’re doing half the job.

“Hard bristled toothbrushes clean better.” NOT TRUE (unless you are cleaning the grout on the bathroom tile floor instead of your teeth!) The softer the better for bristles — hard or medium bristles can damage teeth and worsen gum recession due to a traumatic occlusion. Also, studies show that high-quality electric toothbrushes with soft bristles are a great investment because they clean better than manual tooth brushes.

“Mouthwash is the best way to freshen your breath.” NOT TRUE. Most mouthwashes cover bad breath but they do not treat the underlying cause. Bad breath can be caused by bacteria in your mouth, cavities, gum disease, or it may be a sign of other medical issues. Your dentist can help rule out dental issues as the cause. If you like using mouthwash, go with an alcohol-free brand, because the alcohol in mouthwash will dry out your mouth. And while we are talking about fresh breath, sugar free gum with Xylitol is an effective way to get a clean mouth feeling if you can’t brush.

“Avoiding dark liquids and coffees or drinking through a straw will keep your teeth from getting dark.” MOSTLY TRUE. It’s more than coffee, tea and soda that stain our teeth. Teeth that have wear and enamel loss tend to be darker because those teeth have less of a protective layer against those staining liquids. Foods such as berry pies, soy sauces, red sauces and mustards/ketchups can cause teeth to darken over time. The best way to whiten your teeth and keep them white is to visit your dentist and have him do an in office whitening or make you custom trays. There are some over the counter whitening products like whitening toothpastes, but they typically do very little to whiten teeth. Use regular toothpaste with fluoride to keep your teeth looking great and cavity-free.

Dr. Wallace practices at Palmetto Smiles of Beaufort and can be contacted at 843-524-7645 or

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Get the complete picture from your dentist

By Jennifer Wallace

Dental X-rays are necessary to help diagnose problems not visible to the naked eye. They help to locate and expose dental problems such as tooth decay, a tooth abscess, cyst or even a tumor. They also help the dentist to examine the condition of fillings, crowns, dental bridges and root canals. They can also show impacted or extra teeth, and diagnose gum disease and tarter buildup.

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Dental Dangers of Tongue Piercing

By Dr. Jennifer Wallace

Tongue piercing is becoming increasingly trendy among the youth and many are opting for it, without actually caring to know more about the adverse effects on your dental health. Tongues are typically pierced by running a needle through the front third of the tongue, from top to bottom.

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