Summertime Dental Care

Girl and boy on beach smilingAhhh… it’s summer time again! Time for us to kick back, spend some time enjoying the great outdoors. In Southwest Florida, we’re lucky that there are so many ways to enjoy our natural resources. During the summer months, most people are concerned with their skincare routine—which is extremely important—but what about dental care?

Outdoor activities can pose certain dangers to your teeth. Participating in sports like biking or kayaking means you could fall, have an accident or get hit in the mouth, which can result in a chipped or lost tooth. In some situations, it may be helpful for you to wear a mouth guard or some other protection for your teeth, ensuring you don’t injure your mouth, leaving your teeth untouched!

Grinding your teeth
It is common for people who are playing sports to clench their jaw or grind their teeth under pressure—this can deteriorate enamel and tooth structure, sometimes requiring cosmetic dental procedures such as crowns, veneers, or dentures. This can also cause TMJ, Temporomandibular joint dysfunction. Using a mouth guard can help with this issue.

Using your teeth for things other than chewing
We’ve all done it—you’re laying on the beach, trying to open your snack, and you use your teeth. Your teeth were made for chewing, not for tearing open things. It’s always better to make sure that you bring scissors with you, but if you can’t, use your jaw muscles to help open the bag, not only your teeth!

Fruit & Sweets
During the summertime, we’re used to having treats to help us cool down—ice cream, popsicles, fresh fruit and soft drinks. These types of sugary goodies can actually harm our teeth because the sugar sits on top of teeth, eventually eroding enamel and causing cavities. While it’s not practical to carry a toothbrush with you to the beach, try rinsing out your mouth with some water after eating snacks. This can get some of the sugar off your teeth, as well as keep food from getting stuck in-between them. Apples and pears may cause less decay because these fruits are less acidic.

Don’t forget your dental care essentials
Having fun keeps us busy—so busy we might forget to do our daily dental care routine! When you go on vacation, don’t forget to pack your toothbrush, fluoride toothpaste, floss, and fluoride mouth wash. If you wait until you’re extremely tried to brush your teeth, change up your routine a bit! Try brushing your teeth after dinner so when you’re finally tired, you can go straight to bed.

Wear lip balm with an SPF of 15 (at least)
Lips are more sensitive to burning than other parts of your body, but some people may overlook them when applying sunscreen. Don’t forget your sunscreen, too!

While it’s important to be conscientious about your dental care routine, don’t forget to make some memories and enjoy the summer sunshine! We love seeing our patients happy and healthy, so as this summer comes to a close, be sure to schedule an examination and a cleaning. Contact us today to schedule! 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.