The Hard, Cold Truth about Sensitive Teeth

Most people are familiar with the sensation: you take a sip of hot coffee or dig into some frozen yogurt and experience a unique pain in your teeth. Healthy teeth have a layer of enamel that protects the crowns of your teeth (the part of the tooth above the gum line).

The enamel on your teeth can erode and expose dentin, which is a less dense enamel cementum that contains microscopic tubules (canals).Tooth decay exposes the root of your tooth to irritants, such as cold or hot drinks or acidic foods, causing pain. It is the interaction with the exposed dentin and irritant that causes a painful sensation that makes your teeth sensitive.

Guy in blue shirt with tooth pain

Sensitive teeth can be a symptom of a few different dental issues:

• Tooth decay or cavities
• Fractured teeth
• Worn tooth enamel
• Gum disease
• Exposed tooth root

Good oral hygiene, eating a well-rounded and healthy diet, and having regular dental checkups are the best ways to battle decay and keep your teeth at their healthiest. In most cases, proper oral hygiene is the most important step in alleviating your sensitive tooth pain. Additionally, some treatments include:

Desensitizing toothpaste is type of toothpaste contains compounds that help block the transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve. Most brands take more than a few uses for the desensitizing to actually kick in. A few brands you might find in your local store are Sensodyne and Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief.
Fluoride gel is a highly concentrated fluoride that dentists apply topically to a patients teeth about two times a year. Just a small amount will strengthen tooth enamel and reduce transmission of the senses.
Root Canal therapy is a treatment used to repair and save a tooth that is badly decayed or infected. If sensitivity and pain are severe and persistent, we may need to perform a root canal.

Green Apple and Dental Tools

Every day dental hygiene is very important in combatting sensitive teeth. Always remember to brush at least twice per day and floss once per day. Exposing nerves to certain foods can aggravate tooth sensitivity. We can help design a treatment plan for your sensitive teeth, but in the meantime there are certain types of food and beverages you should avoid:

Extremely Hot or Cold Liquids
While everyone needs to drink beverages, you should be choosing yours carefully. Hot liquids such as coffee or tea can cause pain, as well as very cold foods like iced drinks or ice cream. If you must have something cold or hot, try sipping it through a straw. (If the beverage is hot, be extra careful!)

Acidic Foods and Drinks
Fruits like lemons, grape fruits, and oranges are acidic and may cause pain to your sensitive teeth. It’s also wise to avoid things like lemonade or limeade, soft drinks, or foods with vinegar.

Hard Foods
Be weary of foods that you will need to crunch down on, like candy or ice. This can cause pain, but if your teeth are vulnerable from decay, it can cause a crack and you will develop more complicated dental issues.

If you are struggling with your sensitive teeth, please feel free to contact our office today to schedule a consultation. We can help provide a treatment plan to alleviate sensitivity and fix the problem at the root of the cause! Call us at 239-936-0597.

Frequently asked questions in a dentist’s world

Girl in dentist chairMany patients have similar questions when they come for a dentist visit. So today, we’re going to address some of the most commonly asked patient questions!

Q1. How many times can I floss per day?
You should be flossing your teeth at least once per day to achieve a healthy, gum disease free mouth! I doesn’t really matter what time of day you do it; before breakfast, after lunch or—as long as you are flossing every day. Flossing is important because it removes food debris and bacteria that can cause cavities or gum infections. You can actually floss your teeth more than once a day, but many times may cause the gums to be sore or bleed.

Q2. How many times should I brush per day?
Brushing your teeth at least once a day is recommended. Three times per day after every meal is optimum, but twice per day is the minimum number of times you should be brushing your teeth daily. When you brush your teeth, you should do so for two minutes or more. To make this easier for you, try to play one of your favorite songs that lasts just a few minutes, and brush for the entire song. The time will pass you by!

Q3. How do I get cavities?
When a tooth is exposed to acid frequently (if you eat or drink often) the repeated cycles of acid cause the enamel to lose minerals. An early sign of decay is when the tooth develops a white spot, this means that minerals have been list in that spot. At this point, the tooth decay can be reversed or repaired with saliva, and fluoride from toothpaste or mouth rinse.

If this decay process continues and more minerals are lost over time, the enamel becomes weakened and forms a cavity. From there, the dentist will have to repair the tooth with a filling. The good news is, with new technology, your filling can show up white, and no one will ever notice!

To prevent cavities, you need to protect your teeth with fluoride—this can be found in toothpastes or mouth rinses. When you visit our office and it appears as though the tooth has suffered a small amount of decay, we will apply a fluoride gel or varnish of the tooth surfaces to help seal the tooth.

Q4. Are dental x-rays safe?
May patients are concerned with the radiation associated with getting dental x-rays. Radiation can damage the body’s tissues and cells, and sometimes can lead to the development of cancer. The good news is, there is only a small amount of radiation a patient is exposed to when receiving x-rays. At our advances facility, we have low radiation machines that limit the radiation beam to the small area being x-rayed. We use lead-lined full body aprons to protect the body from possible stray radiation and place film-holders in-between the patient’s teeth.

Q5. What are dental sealants?
Sealants protect your teeth from decay. They are a thick plastic coating that is painted on the surface of the teeth where you chew, which is generally your premolars or molars. Sealant quickly bonds into the depressions of the tooth and serves as a shield over the enamel of each tooth. Those who benefit from sealants are generally children when they receive their permanent molars, and adults who have tooth decay or fillings.

Q6. Should I have an electric or manual toothbrush?
Selecting a type of toothbrush can be a challenge, but when you are choosing between manual or electric toothbrushes, it really just depends on your individual needs and comforts.
Manual toothbrushes are very reasonably priced and accessible. They are also

  • Easy to travel with because of the size and it doesn’t need to charge
  • Doesn’t put as much pressure on your teeth and gums (too much pressure can cause tooth enamel decay, sensitivity, and increased risk of tooth decay)

Electric toothbrushes are a great innovation. The key is to choose one right for you. Electric toothbrushes can sometimes clean harder to reach spots in your mouth, and is good for people with limited ability to move their shoulders, arms and hands because of the larger handle. Electric toothbrushes with bristles rotate together in one direction and then switch and rotate in the opposite direction (known as rotating-oscillating) appear to be more effective than manual brushes, because they spin in other directions, whereas a manual toothbrush only moves in one direction.

Q7. How often should I change my toothbrush?
Your toothbrush should be replaced every three months or when the bristles are no longer straight and firm. When replacing your toothbrush or toothbrush head, be sure it has soft bristles.

We hope this quick fact guide was helpful in answering all of your questions. At Shane McDowell, we are here for you and aim provide the best dental care for all of our patients! If you have any more questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call us at 239-936-0597 or email us at

The Ugly Truth About Canker Sores


What are Canker Sores?

Many people have canker sores on occasion, but most don’t really know what causes them. Canker sores, otherwise known as mouth ulcers, are normally small lesions that develop in your mouth or at the base of your gums. They can be uncomfortable and can cause challenges with eating, drinking, and talking, are not contagious, and usually go away within a week.

Canker sores result from bacteria, viruses, or fungi, which inflame the lining of the mouth, causing swelling, redness, and ulcer formation. The most common locations for canker sores include the inside of the mouth, on the tongue or lips.

What causes canker sources?

There is no exact cause behind canker sores, however, a few causes have been identified.

  • Minor injury from dental work, hard brushing, sports injury, or accidental bite
  • Dental care products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Sensitivities to acidic food, such as strawberries, pineapple, or even chocolate or coffee
  • Vitamin deficiency—lack of essential vitamins like B-12, zinc, folate and iron
  • Allergic response to bacteria in the mouth
  • Stress
  • Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections,
  • Hormonal influxes during menstruation

Types of Canker Sores

It’s a good idea to take a look at the canker sore and decipher what kind of sore it is. Canker sores have three different types:

  • Minor: minor canker sores are small and oval shaped, will not result in scarring, and will heal within 1-2 weeks
  • Major: these canker sores are larger and deeper than minor sores. This type has irregular edges and can take up to 6 weeks to heal
  • Herpetiform: this type of sore is not common. Most often, these sores are located in the posterior mouth, will have irregular edges, and may come with more than one sore. This will heal within two weeks, most likely without scarring.

When do I see a dentist?

If you develop any of the following, please call our office at 239-936-0597 to set up an appointment right away:

  • Large canker sores in your mouth
  • New canker sores before the old one heals
  • A canker sore lasting more than 3 weeks
  • Severe issues eating and drinking
  • Sores that don’t hurt
  • Mouth sores that extend to your lips

How can I treat a Canker Sore Myself?

If you don’t have any of the serious conditions or symptoms above, there are a few things you can do to help your mouth heal quicker.

  • Use a topical paste or gel, such as Orajel Ultra Canker Sore gel
  • Placing damp tea bags on your mouth or sore
  • Take nutritional supplements, such as chamomile tea, Echinacea or licorice
  • Using a rinse of saltwater and baking soda
  • Apply ice to canker sore
  • Placing milk of magnesia on the sore
  • Avoid foods that could irritate your mouth, such as citrus (oranges, pineapple) and spicy foods. Try eating whole grain foods and eliminating acidic fruits and vegetables until it clears up

At Shane McDowell, we care about you and your family’s dental health! If you are suffering from long-term, painful canker sores or have any of the severe symptoms listed above, contact our office or email us at to schedule an appointment.


Why Flossing is Important for your Dental Health

It’s difficult to reach the plaque and food debris that lodge between your gum line and teeth by just brushing alone. A survey conducted by the American Dental Association says that only 50 percent of Americans floss daily, and percent of Americans floss less than daily.

Girl Flossing

We understand that remembering or taking the time to floss can be challenging. But it’s really important for you to make sure you floss! Here’s why:

Reducing Plaque

According to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), flossing is the single most important weapon to fight against plaque. You might think that statement is exaggerated, but floss removes plaque and debris that sticks to teeth and gums. It also polishes tooth services to help control bad breath.  Many people think that flossing is a way to remove food debris from between your teeth, but more importantly it removes plaque, the complex bacterial ecosystem that forms on tooth surfaces between cleaning.

Plaque can cause tooth decay, and eventually, if not properly taken care of, can result in tooth loss or gum disease. Flossing or using an interdental cleaner is the only effective way to remove plaque between teeth.

Tips on how to floss

The American Dental Association recommends flossing at least once a day. Even flossing 2-3 times a week is a better option than none at all, but always try to floss at least once per day. It’s hard to know the right way to floss if no one has ever showed you. Luckily, The American Dental Association outlined some tips and directions on how to floss properly:

  • Break off about 18 inches of floss and wind most of it around one of your middle fingers. Wind the remaining floss around the same finger of the opposite hand; this finger will take up the floss as it becomes dirty
  • Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers
  • Guide the floss between your teeth using a gentle rubbing motion—never snap the floss onto the gums
  • When floss reaches the gum line, create a C shape against one tooth, and gently slide it into the space between the gum and tooth
  • Hold the floss tightly against the tooth, gently rubbing the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum with up and down motions
  • Don’t forget the back side of your last tooth near your molars! The most decay will rest near the back of your teeth

Flossing should not be painful. When you first begin flossing again, you may feel some initial discomfort. With daily brushing and flossing, the discomfort will ease within a week or two. If this pain persists, please contact us for an appointment, for you may be at risk for gum disease.

Choosing Floss

We know there’s a lot of different kinds of floss on the market. How often you floss is actually more important than the type of floss you choose. So essentially, your choice of floss is based on your preference:

  • Multifilament floss: This kind of floss is made of nylon or silk floss. Generally, nylon dental floss will be more common. This type of floss also comes in waxed or unwaxed. Floss is coated in wax to help fit around your teeth. An example of this kind of floss is Johnson & Johnson’s REACH Fluoride Woven Floss.
  • Monofilament Floss: A newer kind of technology, this floss’ fabric is like nylon, but doesn’t rip or tear. Because it’s stronger, more patients feel that it is easier to pull in-between teeth. Some brands like Glide are made with this material (which of course is where it got its name!)

As long as you are taking the time to brush twice daily for two minutes each, and floss at least once per day, you are helping to keep your mouth healthy and free of plaque and potential gum disease.

At Shane McDowell, we love seeing our patients healthy and happy. We are committed to serving you with the best dental health care possible. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, contact us today at 239-936-0597 or email us at

So you have TMJ, what now?

TMJTMJ muscles, formally known as temporomandibular joints, are the joints and jaw muscles that make it possible to open and close your mouth. The jaw muscles are located on each side of your head and work together to help you chew, speak, or swallow and include muscles and ligaments as well as your jaw bone.

TMJ muscles also control the lower jaw as it moves forward, backward and side to side.Each TMJ has a disc between the ball and socket that cushions the load when enabling the jaw to move. Any problem that prevents this complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs, and bones from working properly can result in a painful TMJ disorder.

TMJ disorder can be caused by:
• Arthritis
• Injury
• Stress and teeth grinding
• Tooth and jaw alignment
• Dislocation

Symptoms of TMJ can include pain in your jaw including tenderness, headache, earache, clicking, popping, or difficulty moving the jaw. If you are experiencing symptoms of TMJ, call our office to set up an appointment at 239-936-0597 so we can evaluate you.

In the meantime, here are some tips you can try in your daily life to make your TMJ disorder a little more bearable:
• Eat softer foods that are high in flavonoids (plant-based antioxidants, known to reduce joint pain), such as cooked fruits and vegetables
• Avoid chewing gum and biting nails
• Avoid saturated fats, fried foods, and caffeine. These food can sometimes increase inflammation.
• Practice relaxation techniques like meditation or biofeedback
• Use heat packs to modify the pain

If symptoms persist, we may recommend exercises to strengthen your jaw muscles, medications such as muscle relaxants or analgesics, or a night guard to decrease clenching or grinding of teeth.

TMJ disorder treatment options are on a case by case basis, so if you suspect you suffer from TMJ and are in pain, talk to our office about the best treatment options for you. For an appointment, contact us at or call us at 239-936-0597.

Root canals and treatment information

Root canal

Root canal treatment, also known as endodontic treatment, is a dental procedure in which the diseased or damaged nerve of a tooth is removed so that the tooth can be saved or restored. The procedure generally involves the removal and replacement of a tooth’s pulp (the soft tissue containing blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue).

If a pulp becomes damaged through disease or injury and cannot repair itself, bacteria and their products can leak into the pulp and cause the pulp to die. From there, if a root canal procedure is not performed, an abscess can form at the tip of the root and cause pain.
Causes of an infected pulp could include a deep cavity, repeated dental exposure, injury to the tooth, or a cracked or broken tooth; all of which can be pretty painful.

When you come see us, this is generally what we will do to fix the problem:
• You will receive local anesthesia for comfort
• The affected tooth will be isolated from saliva with a rubberlike sheet called a dam
• An opening is made through the crown of the tooth and the pulp is removed
• We will place a temporary filling is placed in the crown to keep saliva out
• We may prescribe antibiotics if there an infection present and it has spread beyond the end of the roots

On the next visit:
• We will remove the filling
• The root canal is filled and permanently sealed, with either metal or plastic post

How can you avoid a root canal?
• Brush your teeth two times per day with a soft-bristled brush
• Replace your toothbrush every three or four months, sooner if bristles are frayed
• Use an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste
• Clean between teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaner
• Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks
• Visit us regularly for professional cleaning and exams. Click here to set up an appointment, or call 239-936-0597

Remember, even after having a root canal, be sure to take care of your teeth with the steps above to avoid needing another one.

Root canals can be uncomfortable, but so can an infected tooth. If you are having issues with your teeth, please contact us for a consultation so we can determine the cause and resolve the issue for you!

Contact us at or call 239-936-0597 to set up an appointment today!

Smile Makeover: What you need to know

Couple on the beach smiling

At Shane McDowell, we know that your smile says it all, and we want you to be able to say it confidently! If your teeth are discolored, crooked, unevenly spaced, too long or short, or worn down, we’ve got solutions for a healthier looking smile today (Just in time for summer!):

Whitening Teeth can become stained for many reasons, from the beverages we drink to smoking or even just from aging. We use a variety of different teeth whitening methods, including Zoom to get your teeth their whitest and brightest! We also have available in-home whitening kits which are easy to use, and achieve great results in 4-6 weeks.

Veneers are thin, tooth-colored shells that are bonded to the front of your teeth. Veneers are customized to look like natural teeth, and can be used to fill spaces between teeth, or to cover teeth that are stained, poorly shapes or maybe even crooked. Veneers are a great alternative to braces, and can give you the smile you’ve always dreamed of!

Crowns, also known as caps, are used to restore broken or cracked teeth. We offer a new, metal-free crown that eliminates the unsightly black line you may have seen next to the gym line on older crowns. With newer porcelain covered crowns, these crowns are very natural looking.

Tooth Colored Filling We have all experienced a time when we received a filling, and embarrassingly enough, you could see the silver filling in your mouth. These new tooth-colored restorations look completely natural and typically require that far less of the tooth be removed.

Invisalign New techniques in orthodontia can sometimes align your teeth in as little as ten months! Invasalign is designed to transform your smile without wires, comfortably and less noticeably than traditional braces. Dr. McDowell has advanced training and participates in many hours of post graduating study pertaining to orthodontics and invisible braces, so if you have any questions, please be sure to contact our office.

Bridges A bridge is a dental restoration, also known as a fixed partial denture that is used to replace a missing tooth by joining it permanently to adjacent teeth or dental implants. The great part about bridges is that it can reduce your risk of gum disease, and can help correct some bite issues, and perhaps even improve your speech and appearance.

Getting a smile makeover is a lot to decide, and can sometimes be overwhelming.We know that you deserve the smile that you have always dreamed of! Call us today at 239-936-0597 for a consultation, or email us at, and we will help find the right solutions for you!

All About Dentures

All About DenturesDid you know that the average adult between the ages of 20 and 64 has three or more decayed teeth? Today, we’re going to be talking about dentures. Why would someone need dentures? Well, there are a myriad of reasons why an adult might lose their teeth.

They might lose them from gum disease, tooth decay or injury. Replacing missing teeth may benefit you; making it easy for you to speak, eat—things that some people take for granted! It also helps you with your overall appearance. When you lose teeth, facial muscles can sag, making you look older. Dentures can help fill out the appearance of your face, and they can be made to closely resemble your teeth.

Types of dentures:

  • Conventional: This type of denture fully removable, and is placed in your mouth after the remaining teeth are removed and tissues have healed. Sometimes the healing process can take up to several months.
  • Immediate: This type of denture is also fully removable, but is placed in your mouth the same day that the remaining teeth are removed. To fit you for this denture, we will take your measurements and make models of your jaw during your first visit. You don’t have to be fully healed in order to use these dentures right away, however, you might have to have the denture relined or remade after your jaw has healed.
  • Over-denture: An over-denture is made to fit in-between your existing, natural teeth.

Getting used to your dentures can take some time. They may feel awkward for a few weeks until you become accustomed to wearing them, and sometimes they may feel loose while the muscles of your cheek and tongue learn to keep them in place. Some patients find that their saliva flow temporarily increases, but as you become more used to wearing them, these issues should go away. It problems such as irritation or soreness, be sure to contact us.

Even though you wear dentures, it’s still important to take the time to practice good dental hygiene. Brush your gums, tongue and roof of your mouth every morning with a soft bristled brush before you insert your dentures. This helps to stimulate circulation in your tissues and helps remove plaque.

Here are a few other tips to keep your mouth healthy with dentures:

  • Rinse your dentures before brushing
  • Use a soft bristle toothbrush and non-abrasive cleaner and gently brush all the surfaces – be careful not to scratch them
  • When you aren’t wearing your dentures, be sure to put them in a safe place, covered in water to keep them from warping
  • When brushing, be sure to clean your mouth thoroughly, including your gums, cheeks, roof of your mouth and tongue to remove plaque
  • If you use adhesives, be sure to read the instructions. There are many different forms: creams, pads/wafers, powders, strips or liquids. We recommend using adhesives that have the ADA Seal of Acceptance, these products are evaluated by the ADA for safety and effectiveness.

If you are considering dentures, or have any questions about your existing dentures, please contact our office. We look forward to serving you! To schedule an appointment with us, please visit our website at or call (239) 936-0597.