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How do I clean my baby’s teeth?

December 7th, 2018

Creating good dental hygiene habits early in your child’s life is essential to the health of his or her teeth, even when your infant doesn’t have any. By starting now, you can set the foundation for your son or daughter’s oral health later on in life.

When do I start?

The best time to begin brushing your baby’s teeth is before that first tooth ever comes in. Wipe your little one’s gums gently with a soft washcloth soaked in warm water every day. Not only will this help to get rid of bacteria in the mouth, but it will also familiarize your child with a daily brushing routine.

What do I use?

When your child’s teeth begin to emerge, it’s time to switch to a baby toothbrush. Select one with a big grip for your hand and a small head that’s easy to maneuver in your baby’s mouth.

Your little one won’t need toothpaste until he or she is about a year old; and even then, only a small amount is necessary. Apply an amount the size of a grain of rice and move to a pea-sized amount when your infant is about two years old.

By around six years, your child will probably rinse and spit without your help. At this time, you may introduce a child-friendly fluoride mouthwash.

How do I do it?

Until about age five or six, it’s likely your child will still need your help with brushing teeth. Gently scrub over all the teeth and gums, even where teeth have yet to come in. It may be helpful to explain what you are doing and how you are doing it, so your toddler can learn to brush her or his teeth alone.

Paired with regular visits with Dr. Richard Malek at our Norwalk, CT office, proper hygiene habits instilled in your child early on will set up a good foundation for a healthy mouth in the future.

Invisalign Teen® Treatment Benefits

November 30th, 2018

Many teens want straighter teeth but dread a mouth full of metal. Because of that, Invisalign Teen treatment has become a popular choice among teens. It produces great results without the hassle of traditional braces.

If you’re like most teens at our Norwalk, CT office, you love hanging out with your friends, and you don’t want to look different or have to watch what you eat. If you’re unsure about the benefits of Invisalign Teen clear aligners, we’re here to explain some of the perks.

You can eat what your friends eat

Invisalign Teen aligners can be removed easily for meals and snacks, so you can eat just like you normally would. You don’t need to worry about food getting stuck in your braces or a bracket popping off. Unlike with braces, you can enjoy the following foods with your friends during Invisalign Teen straightening treatment:

  • Popcorn at the movies
  • Trail mix with dried fruit ribs and chicken wings
  • A peanut butter sandwich, apples, and carrot sticks

You can take care of your teeth more easily

Since Invisalign Teen aligners are removable, you won’t have to worry about finding tooth decay once your braces are removed. You can brush and floss your teeth as you normally would, just by taking the trays out of your mouth.

People won’t know you’re wearing them

We’ve saved the best for last: Invisalign Teen aligners are nearly invisible. Chances are, the only people who will know you’re getting your teeth straightened are the people you tell yourself!

Getting straighter teeth can be a massive confidence-booster in the long run. With Invisalign Teen clear aligners, the treatment isn’t that bad! Learn more at our Norwalk, CT office.

Invisalign® and Invisalign Teen® Make You Smile

November 23rd, 2018

Many adults and teens in our Norwalk, CT office would love to have their teeth straightened but are unwilling to go through the long and often embarrassing process of wearing traditional metal braces. Invisalign® and Invisalign Teen® clear aligners offer the perfect solution: They’re the most advanced clear aligner systems in the world!

If you’re considering getting braces, there are several reasons why you might want to consider Invisalign clear aligners. Here are some of them:

  • You can eat whatever food you like, without worrying about it catching in wires or breaking brackets.
  • People won’t likely be able to tell you’re wearing them!
  • The aligners can be removed at any time.
  • You can brush and floss as you normally would, which helps to maintain better overall oral health.
  • Invisalign aligners are made of a smooth BPA-free plastic and are more comfortable to wear than traditional braces. You’ll need to visit our Norwalk, CT office less often: only once every six weeks or so.
  • With Invisalign Teen, you’ll receive up to six replacements for lost or broken aligners.

Before starting treatment, you’ll have a consultation with Dr. Richard Malek to see if Invisalign or Invisalign Teen treatment is right for you. After that, you’ll have X-rays, pictures, and impressions taken of your teeth.

That information will be used to make the 3D models of your teeth that let Dr. Richard Malek see how they will move throughout the entire treatment and approximately how long it will take.

You’ll receive your aligners based on the treatment plan we recommend. You’ll get a new set of aligners every two weeks. All you need to do is wear your aligners 22 hours a day and you’ll be on your way to a straighter smile in no time!

Ask a member of our Norwalk, CT team for more information about Invisalign clear aligners today!

Why Professional Cleanings are Important

November 16th, 2018

Regular dental cleanings and checkups at our Norwalk, CT office are an excellent way to ensure everything is A-OK in your mouth. There’s a reason the American Dental Association recommends a professional cleaning every six months!

Here’s what you can usually expect during your visit with Dr. Richard Malek:

  • Head and neck examination: The dentist or dental hygienist will look for anything out of the ordinary. He or she will check your lymph nodes and lower jaw joints (also known as TMJs).
  • Dental examination: The dentist or hygienist will check for any signs of gum disease, tooth decay, loose or broken teeth, or damaged fillings. We’ll also check your bite, the contact between your upper and lower teeth, and the condition of any dental appliances you’re wearing. Sometimes we’ll also take a set of X-rays.
  • Dental cleaning: Plaque and tartar will be removed and the dentist or hygienist will polish your teeth. Your teeth and gums will be flossed, and we’ll also make recommendations about proper brushing and flossing technique if we think you need them.

When you visit our Norwalk, CT office regularly, we’ll be able to compare the status of your teeth and gums from one appointment to another. That ensures we will be able to tell where you’re doing great in taking care of your teeth, and if needed, where you’re doing not so well.

If you’re in need of serious help, we might recommend more frequent visits. But remember, the most important factor in your oral health is how you take care of your teeth and gums at home between appointments.

We strive to help our patients achieve and maintain radiant, healthy smiles! If you'd like to know more about exams and cleanings at our Norwalk, CT office, or what you need to do at home to maintain an effective oral health routine, please let us know.

Is Invisalign® Right For You?

November 9th, 2018

When patients ask Dr. Richard Malek about who benefits from Invisalign clear aligners, the simple answer is this: almost everyone. Unlike conventional braces, they are removable, which makes eating and cleaning your teeth much easier.

They are molded to fit each patient’s mouth and are practically invisible. Because aligners apply less force in straightening teeth than metal braces, the risk of harm to your teeth is reduced.

Benefits to adults

Traditional braces are associated with children and teenagers. Many adults want to have their teeth straightened but hesitate to wear metal braces. They also worry about having to change their diet and not be able to eat the foods they normally enjoy.

If you are an adult who’s considering braces, our team at The Harmony Dental Group will tell you Invisalign aligners is a great option for discreet teeth straightening. Your teeth will be straightened with virtually invisible braces.

The aligners are easily removable when you eat, so you can enjoy any food you normally would consume. You simply clean your teeth normally after eating and you won’t have to worry about getting food stuck in your braces.

If there is a special occasion during which you do not want to have any braces in your mouth at all, you can remove the aligners for up to four hours without causing any damage.

Benefits to teenagers

Dr. Richard Malek and our team know that teenagers are often involved in sports and other after-school activities, and generally lead pretty busy lives. If your teen plays a musical instrument, you may be concerned that having metal in his or her mouth will interfere with ability to play. Invisalign aligners avoid the damage that can happen with traditional metal braces.

For sports that require players to wear mouthguards, the expense of specially constructed mouthguards to fit over braces is also eliminated. The aligners can be removed during sports activities and teens can easily wear a mouthguard. Teenagers who play musical instruments simply remove the aligners while practicing or playing in the band or orchestra.

Teenagers routinely have trouble flossing teeth between the wires and brackets of traditional braces, but Invisalign allows for easy dental cleaning. Since Invisalign aligners are removable, brushing and flossing are simpler and more likely to be performed.

For more information about Invisalign or Invisalign Teen® treatment, or to schedule an initial consultation with Dr. Richard Malek, please give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office!

I have halitosis. What can I do?

November 2nd, 2018

Halitosis is the fancy, scientific word for “bad breath.” Dr. Richard Malek and our team know there are several reasons why you may have halitosis; let’s look at a few:

  • Gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) – There are five main types of gum disease, and each one can range from mild to severe. For example the most common one is gingivitis; it is caused by bacteria in the plaque that has been allowed to build up, usually as a result of poor oral hygiene. A more serious and uncommon type of gum disease is called necrotizing periodontal disease. It is most common in people who have a suppressed immune system.
  • Smoking
  • Dry Mouth – This can be caused by something as simple as a medication you take.
  • Food – Of course, if you eat something that is potent like garlic, it is going to give you bad breath.
  • Diseases of the Body – Some diseases such as sinus infections and diabetes, among a few other types of infections, can also cause you to have halitosis.

How to Get Rid of Halitosis

The most obvious answer to how to get rid of halitosis is to practice good oral hygiene, although, depending on the cause of halitosis it may not be that simple. If you have an infection that is causing the halitosis then you may need an antibiotic to clear up the infection and then the bad breath will go away. Here are more tips:

  • Brush your teeth after every meal and before bed.
  • Floss your teeth. The more plaque you get out of your teeth, the better chance you have of not getting cavities or bad breath.
  • Address any medical conditions that are not related to your teeth that can be causing the halitosis.
  • Ask Dr. Richard Malek for a prescription mouthwash that kills bacteria.

Halitosis (bad breath) can be an embarrassing condition to live with, but there are plenty of ways to get rid of it permanently. Start by talking to a member of our team at our Norwalk, CT office.

Invisalign Teen®: What Parents Should Know

October 26th, 2018

Parents want the best for their teens and often ask us about the perks of Invisalign Teen clear aligners compared to traditional braces. Invisalign treatment is a style of braces that skips the usual metal and wires, and uses a clear, thermoplastic material to create removable aligners instead.

Aligners are custom-made for each patient and replaced every two weeks to attain gradually straighter teeth.

Is Invisalign treatment as effective?

As long as your child wears the aligners as directed, the answer is yes: they are just as effective as traditional braces. A small blue spot on the back of each aligner will fade after two weeks of proper wear. This enables Dr. Richard Malek to tell whether the child is wearing the aligners.

Can Invisalign aligners be removed?

The recommended amount of time to wear Invisalign aligners is at least 20 hours a day. They can be removed for up to four hours per day to eat, brush teeth, play sports, or play musical instruments. This makes brushing and flossing easier and helps maintain good oral hygiene!

How long does treatment take and what is the cost?

Each patient is different. Dr. Richard Malek can determine how many months your child may expect to wear the series of aligners after a consultation.

Typically, your teen will wear Invisalign clear aligners about as long as traditional braces The cost is also similar to that of other traditional braces; however, there is no set fee. The cost will depend on your child’s unique orthodontic needs.

Overall Success

Invisalign Teen treatment has had remarkable success, and patients love having straighter teeth without the embarrassment of metal braces. As your son or daughter becomes more confident, the patient will actually be more likely to keep up with the treatment and complete it sooner.

Speak with Dr. Richard Malek today to learn more about the benefits of Invisalign Teen treatment. Give our Norwalk, CT office a call!

 

What is Nitrous Oxide?

October 19th, 2018

Many of our young patients experience anxiety during dental appointments. Dr. Richard Malek and our team want to help your child overcome any fear he or she may feel when coming in for regular visits.

If you know your child suffers from anxiety during dental checkups, nitrous oxide sedation, popularly known as “laughing gas,” may be helpful. Nitrous oxide can be used during many types of dental procedures.

It has a sweet odor and taste, and gets mixed with oxygen when supplied through a mask. The effects typically kick in within a few minutes and leave your child feeling calm and relaxed.

Nitrous is helpful because your child will stay conscious and able to move and answer questions the doctor may ask. The drug is also convenient because the effects go away within a few minutes after the mask is removed.

Nitrous oxide is not dangerous when it’s combined with oxygen. It is non-addictive and non-allergenic. When used properly, nitrous oxide reduces anxiety, while allowing continued communication between the patient and dentist during a procedure. It can also help alleviate pain or discomfort during exams.

You should know that nitrous oxide may cause nausea in up to ten percent of patients. This drug is not recommended for people who suffer from certain medical conditions. We recommend discussing this method with Dr. Richard Malek if your child's dental anxiety begins to interfere with his or her appointments.

We want all our patients to feel comfortable during their care. Talk with Dr. Richard Malek at your child's next appointment to find out if nitrous oxide is an option. If you have questions regarding nitrous oxide, call our Norwalk, CT location and we’ll be happy to answer them.

 

Proper Flossing Techniques

October 12th, 2018

Of all the dental hygiene techniques you can use at home to promote clean teeth and good oral health, flossing is likely to be the one that troubles most people. It can be viewed as confusing and time-consuming, but when you learn how to floss your teeth correctly, you’ll find it’s easy to do on a daily basis.

Proper flossing techniques are vital to the health of your teeth and gums. These tips will help you with the correct flossing procedures. Likewise, Dr. Richard Malek and our team can also help you learn how to floss effectively and efficiently.

Steps to Flossing Your Teeth Properly

  1. Choosing Dental Floss. You can find dental floss in various flavors, as well as waxed or unwaxed. If the floss you use seems to get stuck between your teeth, switch to waxed to make it easier.
  2. Flossing “Helpers.” Beginner flossers who have trouble coordinating the floss and the movements of their hands can use a floss holder to help them get in and around teeth.
  3. Preparing the Floss. Cut an 18-inch piece of floss to use for flossing a few teeth. This allows you to make progress before you must stop and cut another piece of floss.
  4. How to Hold It. Wind the ends around your middle fingers. Hold the floss taut, pinching each side with your thumbs and index fingers. Leave a couple inches free in the middle.
  5. The Process of Flossing. Use your index fingers to guide the floss toward your gum line. Bring it down between the teeth with a zigzag motion. Hold the floss in a C-shape around the tooth, and move it up and down along the side.
  6. Where to Floss. Use a clean portion of the floss to clean around and in between each tooth. Don’t forget about the molars in the back of your mouth, too!

Flossing: A Vital Part of Oral Care

Periodontal disease begins at the gum line; this is where flossing comes in. Regular flossing helps you remove plaque from the gum line and between your teeth to avoid gum disease. In conjunction with daily brushing and twice-a-year visits to The Harmony Dental Group, floss each day to maintain good oral hygiene and overall health. Gum disease can have an impact on your general health, but it doesn't have to. This easy-to-prevent condition can be avoided with regular visits to our Norwalk, CT office and daily flossing. Allow our team to partner with you in maintaining a bright, shiny smile and good oral health.

How to Make Brushing Fun

October 5th, 2018

Let’s call it the cranky phase. Let’s call it the “Mom, I don’t want to” stage. When kids are little, getting them to brush can be a challenge. They bite the toothbrush and eat the toothpaste. They make faces in the bathroom mirror, brush for two seconds, and run away. When it’s time to brush, some kids even resort to kicking and screaming, which makes the bedtime chore a lot like, well, pulling teeth.

As a parent, you know the importance of good oral hygiene, so when the dreaded “brushing hour” arrives, if you want to prevent your child from turning into an angry pumpkin, you better have a few tricks up your sleeve to make brushing fun.

Game time

Kids love games, so it’s time to get creative and turn tooth brushing into game time. Whether you’re playing a hide and seek, peek-a-boo game with your child as he or she brushes, or singing the ABC’s as your child brushes for two minutes, Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group recommend turning the process into play. Games are based on a reward system, right? If your child does a good job, put a sticker on the calendar. Tell your son or daughter that five stickers will earn a treat at the end of the week.

Fun accessories

A toothbrush that lights up and blinks when you turn it on is more fun than a traditional toothbrush from the dentist’s office. The same is true of a toothbrush that’s shaped like your child’s favorite animal or features a cartoon character. A fun accessory like a Smurfs or Angry Birds toothbrush might make all the difference. A timer is another fun accessory. Give your child the special responsibility of setting it for two minutes before brushing.

The Great Toothpaste Experiment

Kids can be notoriously picky eaters, so it stands to reason that they would be picky about their toothpaste flavors too. Little Johnny might like strawberry, whereas Suzie prefers mango. Spend a night experimenting with different flavors (yes, it’s another game). Say something like, “It’s just like sampling different flavors of ice cream, right kids?”

Eventually, your child will develop the healthy habit of brushing on a regular basis, and think nothing of the time it takes to clean his or her teeth. Just remember to make it fun, and it can be a great experience for you both!

To learn more about making brushing fun for your little one, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Richard Malek, please give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office!

Ask Us About Invisalign Teen® Treatment!

September 28th, 2018

We know that being a teen is hard, and we know that adding braces to the mix can often elicit a less-than-enthusiastic response. Luckily, teens can now have straighter teeth without the hassle, discomfort, and embarrassment of metal braces!

Dr. Richard Malek proudly offer Invisalign Teen clear aligners to our adolescent patients.

One of the main benefits of Invisalign Teen aligners is that they are virtually invisible. They are also removable, which means teen patients are free to eat anything they choose. The aligners are also easily replaceable, should they ever get lost! The best part? They make it easy to keep up with a healthy brushing and flossing routine. 

The aligners are made from a lightweight, plastic material that fits precisely on the teeth. Invisalign Teen treatment has become a popular treatment here at Norwalk, CT because it helps our younger patients achieve a straight, beautiful smile without undergoing the dreaded metal-mouth.

For more information on Invisalign Teen clear aligners, please feel free to give us a call at our Dr. Richard Malek office today!

Protecting Your Child’s Smile with Mouthguards

September 21st, 2018

If your child participates in sports or other physical activities, it’s wise to consider getting a mouthguard. Also known as mouth protectors, mouthguards are a device worn over the teeth to lessen the impact of a blow to the face.

This reduces the chance that your child might lose teeth or sustain other serious oral injuries. We recommend that all patients involved in a contact sport such as wrestling, football, or hockey wear a mouthguard because of the high risk of such injuries.

However, anyone involved in a physically demanding sport or activity should wear a mouthguard as well.

Can you imagine what it would be like to lose a few of your front teeth? The way you talk, eat, and smile would all change.

Injuries that can be sustained when not wearing a mouthguard include:

  • Chipped and broken teeth
  • Fractured jaws
  • Root damage
  • Concussions
  • Injury to the lips, cheeks, or gums

Types of Mouthguards

There are three different types of mouthguards — typically made of a soft plastic material or laminate. You can decide which works best for your child in terms of budget, fit, and comfort.

  • Stock mouthguards are prefabricated to a standard size. They offer adequate protection, but you need to find one that fits your child properly and comfortably. Stock mouthguards are readily available at department stores, sporting goods stores, and online.
  • Boil-and-bite mouthguards are placed in boiling water to soften them, then into the mouth so they can conform to the shape of the teeth. Boil-and-bite mouthguards are more expensive, but offer a more customized fit than stock ones. You can find these in department stores, pharmacies, sporting goods stores, and online.
  • Custom-made mouthguards are created just for your child by Dr. Richard Malek. These offer the best fit and comfort of all the options, but they are also the most expensive. Ask a member of our Norwalk, CT team for more information.

The American Dental Association says a good mouthguard should be easy to clean, fit properly, be comfortable, and resist tearing or damage. It shouldn’t restrict speech or breathing.

Still not sure if your child needs a mouthguard or which kind is right for his or her smile? Ask Dr. Richard Malek or one of our staff members for more information.

Invisalign Teen® Treatment: Creating confident smiles for teens

September 14th, 2018

These days, fewer and fewer braces show up in school yearbook photos. Invisalign clear aligners have become a popular choice for our adolescent patients because it enables them to display metal-free smiles while straightening their teeth!  

Dr. Richard Malek can help you determine whether Invisalign treatment is right for you, but below are a few reasons why so many teens are choosing it today.

More Free Time

Invisalign Teen aligners require fewer appointments, which is pretty important to teens who value their free time. Invisalign treatment gives you straight teeth without having to miss activities or skip hanging out with your friends. It’s a win-win!

Eat, Brush, and Floss Easily

Traditional braces can make eating, brushing, and flossing both difficult and tedious. Invisalign aligners are easily removable for all these important activities, and give you freedom to live your life as usual.

Metal-Free Braces

Possibly the best perk of Invisalign aligners is that you can’t see them! The Invisalign system uses a clear plastic device that fits directly over the teeth. This means no metal parts to mar the appearance of your smile, so your Invisalign aligners will straighten while allowing your pearly whites to shine through. People don’t even have to know you’re straightening your teeth with Invisalign aligners.

To learn more about Invisalign Teen treatment, feel free to reach out to our Norwalk, CT office!

 

Pediatric Dental Emergency Know-How

September 7th, 2018

Parents are usually expert at taking care of their children’s injuries. You know how to disinfect a cut, soothe a bump on the head, and apply a bandage faster than you can blink.

But what happens if your child suffers a dental injury? Teeth can get broken, knocked out, or displaced from a forceful impact, and parents ought to know what to do in those situations, too. Luckily, Dr. Richard Malek and our team are here to be a resource for such incidents!

Chipped front teeth are a common injury for young children. First, check to see if the teeth have been broken to the nerve. You can tell this is the case if you see layers and a pinkish center.

Then, wiggle each tooth to make sure it is not loose. If the teeth still feel firmly in place, that’s a good sign. Don’t worry if they are a little loose, because they will tighten again with time.

If your child develops a high temperature or bite sensitivity, treatment is necessary and could include a root canal.

A knocked-out tooth is an injury that requires more attention than just observation. Locate the tooth as soon as you can, and touch only the crown, not the root. Rinse any debris gently with milk or water and place the tooth back in its socket as soon as possible.

According to the American Association of Endodontists, a tooth has a high chance of survival and retention for life if it is returned to the socket within five minutes, and possibly up to 60 minutes, if soaked in milk or saline solution in the meantime.

Say your child is elbowed in the mouth and a tooth gets severely displaced but does not get knocked out. Attempt to shift it back into place by applying light pressure, but be careful not to use too much force. Give your child a cold pack for the swelling and contact our office as soon as possible.

Dental emergencies can be frightening for the child as well as the parent. The best advice we can offer is to stay calm and be assured that we are always here to help! Contact us at our Norwalk, CT office as soon as you can, if your child encounters a dental emergency.

What kind of toothbrush and toothpaste should my child use?

August 31st, 2018

Dr. Richard Malek and our team know that as a parent, you want your child to be as healthy as possible. By now, you probably know that your son or daughter’s oral health plays a huge role in overall health.

When there are so many toothpaste ads and different styles of brush to choose from, it can be difficult to know which will serve your child the best. We recommend you break down the decision process to make it simpler.

First, your child’s age and stage of development are vital to consider. Until about the age or 12, your youngster may not be prepared to brush or floss adequately alone, due to dexterity issues. If that’s the case, it can be easier to use a battery-powered toothbrush to improve the quality of brushing.

Next is to select the right size of toothbrush head to fit your child’s mouth. As a general rule, the head of the toothbrush should be a little larger than the upper portion of the child’s thumb.

Flossers are great for children and easy to use. They have handles and a horseshoe shape on one end with floss in between. Your child can choose a color he or she likes as well as the handle size, shape, etc.

Not only are there many brands of toothpaste to choose from, there are also many different ingredients that offer varying benefits. Kids are at high risk for developing cavities so you want to make sure the following ingredients are in your child’s toothpaste if you wish to avoid problems later on.

Sodium fluoride is the standard ingredient for cavity prevention, while stannous fluoride is anti-bacterial and anti-cavity. Anti-sensitivity toothpastes often contain potassium nitrate, and triclosan can be found in one particular brand for anti-bacterial action.

Fluoride should not be ingested, so if your child can’t spit yet, use a toothpaste that contains xylitol. This is a natural sweetener and should be the first ingredient listed on the tube.

Now comes the fun part: choosing a flavor! Your little one may sample different flavors and select the one he or she likes the best. A youngster is more likely to adopt good brushing habits if the flavor is appealing.

Don’t hesitate to speak with Dr. Richard Malek if you need to make an appointment at our Norwalk, CT office, or if you have any questions about toothpastes or toothbrushes.

Fluoride Use in Adolescents

August 24th, 2018

Fluoride is a mineral that plays an essential role in oral health. In fact, the significant reduction in American tooth decay in recent decades can be attributed to a greater availability of fluoride in public water supplies, toothpaste, and other resources. When it comes in contact with the teeth, fluoride helps protect the enamel from acid and plaque bacteria. In some cases, it can even reverse tooth decay in its earliest stages.

Despite the benefits of fluoride, tooth decay is still common, especially among teenagers. The Centers for Disease Control reports that cavities can be found in more than half of young teens and two-thirds of older teens over age 16. Many of those teens are deficient in fluoride, either due to a lack of public water fluoridation or the use of bottled water. So how can parents ensure their teens are getting the fluoride they need to facilitate strong, healthy teeth?

Monitor Fluoride Exposure

Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group recommend you start by measuring your teen’s fluoride exposure. Make sure you purchase fluoridated toothpaste for your household, and find out if your tap water is fluoridated. If your teen primarily consumes bottled water, examine the bottle to determine whether fluoride has been added. The majority of bottled waters are not supplemented with fluoride, but those that are will be clearly labeled.

Fluoride Supplementation

Dr. Richard Malek may recommend topical fluoride treatments at routine dental exams. These treatments are painless for your teen and may help establish stronger enamel that is more resistant to plaque and tooth decay. If you have a public water supply that is non-fluoridated, we may recommend fluoride supplementation between visits. These can be administered as drops, tablets, or vitamins.

Keep in mind that fluoride is most important for children and teens under the age of 16. Be proactive about your teen’s oral health by speaking with us about your family’s fluoride needs at your next dental visit.

For more information about fluoride, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Richard Malek, please give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office!

Tips for a Whiter Smile

August 17th, 2018

Everyday life can take a toll on the whiteness of our teeth: Foods we love as well as soft drinks and coffee can stain them over time. Poor brushing and flossing can also leave behind tooth stains. Even injuries to teeth or gums can cause some yellowing, and in certain cases, medicines can contribute to discoloration.

So don’t get discouraged if you notice your smile has dimmed. You can definitely take action to restore the natural beauty of your teeth. Here are some of the best ways to whiten them:

  1. Drink through a straw or cut back on coffee and soft drinks to reduce risk of stains.
  2. Brush and floss every day.
  3. Try a whitening toothpaste or mouthwash.
  4. Visit our Norwalk, CT office every six months for regular cleanings.

We also offer in-office professional whitening at our Norwalk, CT office. These whitening products are much more effective than whiteners you can buy at the store and are completely safe. Since they’re stronger, application by a member of our team is essential to achieve the best results.

Still, some teeth can resist bleaching. If that’s the case, we can try several other techniques, such as deep bleaching that applies whitening agents over several visits, veneers and bonds that cover existing stains with a whiter, brighter surface, or laser whitening.

If a whitening session is something you’d like to pursue, be careful about whom you trust to perform the procedure. Avoid using “bleaching stations” in shopping malls or at fairs. These so-called whitening techniques can irritate your teeth and gums, and leave them highly sensitive to pain.

Also, operators of these whitening stands will make customers apply the bleach themselves, to avoid charges of practicing without a license. That should serve as a red flag and a caution to seek trained professionals like Dr. Richard Malek, instead.

Good Dental Hygiene Gives You Better Overall Health

August 10th, 2018

What do you think of when you hear the term dental or oral hygiene? Brushing and flossing tend to come to mind, since that is what the terms imply.

What you might not know, however, is that good dental hygiene involves much more than just your mouth. That’s the tip of the iceberg … just a piece of the complex puzzle that is the human body.

Simply put, you cannot be fully healthy if you don’t have good oral health. Studies have shown that oral health and body health are closely linked and in fact almost impossible to define as separate phenomena.

Take gum disease, for example. It’s one of the most common dental infections, but it doesn’t just affect your gums. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, gum disease can be directly linked to more serious complications such as strokes and heart disease. Doesn’t that make you want to floss a little more often?

This goes the other way, too. Many oral events like sores, swollen gums, and dry mouth syndrome, which might seem fairly trivial and even harmless, may be signals of a much bigger problem: possibly leukemia, kidney disease, diabetes, or pancreatic cancer.

Now that you’ve been made aware of just how vital dental health is for your overall health (and vice versa), the best thing to do is what you’re probably already doing: making sure you brush and floss, as well as maintain a well-balanced diet. It’s also smart to keep away from cigarettes and tobacco, because both are known to contribute to periodontal disease.

In addition, be sure to keep getting your teeth cleaned every six months! If you’re due for a cleaning, give our Norwalk, CT office a call to schedule an appointment at The Harmony Dental Group.

Finding the Right Dental Products for Your Child

August 3rd, 2018

Dr. Richard Malek and our team know how overwhelming it can be to pick the right dental products for your children. When you visit the dental aisle at the grocery store, you see too many options to choose from. We want to help you make an informed decision based on your son or daughter’s needs.

First, you should consider your child’s age and where he or she is in terms of development. Most kids are unable to floss properly until around 12 years of age because of the necessary dexterity. If your youngster is under 12 years old, make sure to assist with flossing every night.

Another option is to use flossers for children. This will make the exercise a bit easier for your little one, because flossers have different-sized handles to fit all ages of hands.

When you’re looking for a child’s toothbrush, the head should be a little bigger than the top portion of your son or daughter’s thumb. If a toothbrush is too big, it won’t be able to reach small areas in the mouth properly. Battery-powered toothbrushes are also recommended because they improve overall brushing quality for both adults and children.

If your child is too young to spit, he or she should use toothpaste without fluoride. Small children tend to swallow toothpaste, even when they don’t intend to. Try looking for a toothpaste that has xylitol listed as the first ingredient. This is a natural sweetener that is beneficial to teeth.

You should also try to identify a flavor that appeals to your child. Same as adults, children like to brush more if they enjoy the flavor that lingers in their mouth after brushing.

It’s smart to look at the ingredients in a toothpaste for the benefits your child needs. Some toothpastes contain sodium fluoride, which fights effectively against cavities. If your child has a sweet tooth, or has already had a cavity, we recommend buying a toothpaste with this ingredient.

Stannous fluoride is another popular ingredient that discourages cavities and includes anti-bacterial properties. You should also watch for the ingredient triclosan, which also suppresses bacteria. These ingredients are both recommend for children who have a high risk for cavities.

Anti-sensitivity toothpaste should also be easy to find in the dental aisle of the store. It contains potassium nitrate to help with sore gums and teeth.

If you’re still unsure which dental products your child should be using, contact our Norwalk, CT office. Once we have general information about your child and his or her dental health, we can guide you in the right direction.

When it comes to picking the right toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash for your child, The Harmony Dental Group is always here to help.

Foods can Wreak Havoc on Your Enamel

July 27th, 2018

It’s possible to develop tooth decay even when you take great care of your teeth. Brushing and flossing may not be enough to keep your teeth healthy, depending on your diet. Cavities, discoloration, and decay are still possible when certain foods feature in your daily intake. Keep an eye out for foods that will damage your enamel and cause the very issues you’ve been trying to avoid.

What causes enamel damage?

Tooth enamel is the hard outer layer of your teeth that is made of various minerals. Tooth decay results when the acids in your food react with the minerals in your enamel. Strongly pigmented foods may also cause unsightly discoloration on the surface of your teeth. Avoid wreaking havoc on your beautiful smile by identifying the foods that can harm your enamel.

Acid

Acidic food is your teeth’s worst nightmare! This is the greatest cause of enamel damage, even if you brush and floss regularly. To avoid damaging your teeth, make sure you can determine whether a food is acidic or not.

The pH levels are a way to determine acidity on a one-to-seven scale. This defines the relative acidity or alkalinity of a food or substance. Foods with high pH levels are not as likely to harm your enamel.

It’s wise to avoid or minimize foods that are high in acids. Highly acidic food can include fruits such as lemons, grapefruit, strawberries, grapes, and apples. Moderately acid foods may surprise you; they include tomatoes, maple syrup, pickles, and honey.

Not surprisingly, eggs and dairy products such as milk and cheese contain the least amount of acid. Red wine and coffee can also discolor your enamel if they’re drunk in excessive amounts.

What can I do to prevent enamel damage?

There are plenty of ways to avoid discoloration and decay of your enamel. The best thing to do is limit the amount of high-acid foods, including sugary juices and soda, in your diet.

Another way is to brush and floss regularly, an hour after each meal. If you can’t make time to brush, an easy solution is to swish your mouth with water or mouthwash to rinse away any leftover acidic particles.

Damaged tooth enamel may be common, but is avoidable when you know which foods to stay away from and the steps to take after you do eat highly acidic foods. Take our advice and you’ll be sure to slow down any future discoloration and decay that happens in your mouth.

For more advice on protecting your enamel, give our Norwalk, CT a call to learn more!

Using Sippy Cups Successfully

July 20th, 2018

Congratulations! Your child is beginning to leave her bottle behind and has started to use her first sippy cup. And the best training cup is one that makes the transition from bottle to cup an efficient, timely, and healthy one.

The Right Training Cup

While a “no spill” cup seems like the perfect choice for toddler and parent alike, those cups are designed much like baby bottles. The same valve in the no-spill top that keeps the liquid from spilling requires your child to suck rather than sip to get a drink. If your child’s cup has a top with a spout, she will learn to sip from it. Two handles and a weighted base make spills less likely.

When to Use a Training Cup

Children can be introduced to a sippy cup before they are one year old, and we suggest phasing out the bottle between the ages of 12 and 24 months. Use a sippy cup as the source for all liquids at that age, and only when your child is thirsty and at mealtime to avoid overdrinking. The transition from sippy cup to regular cup should be a swift one.

Healthy Sipping Habits

The best first option in a sippy cup between meals is water. Milk or juice should be offered at mealtimes, when saliva production increases and helps neutralize the effects of these drinks on young teeth. And don’t let your child go to sleep with anything other than water—falling asleep with a cup filled with milk, juice, or other sugary drinks means these liquids stay in the mouth overnight. Finally, while a sippy cup is convenient and portable, don’t let your young child walk and sip at the same time to avoid injuries.

When your child comes to our Norwalk, CT office for her first visit, please bring any questions you might have about training cups. We would be glad to share ways to make the move from bottle to cup both successful and safe!

Cleaning Your Baby’s Teeth

July 13th, 2018

In the eyes of most parents, nothing is cuter than their baby’s smile. Did you know your little one’s smile (that is, his or her oral health) actually plays a huge role in determining the child’s overall well-being? In order to keep your youngster healthy and smiling, you need to know when and how to take care of those tiny teeth.

Baby teeth aren’t just temporaries that will fall out eventually. They help your baby chew and talk, and they reserve space in the jaw for permanent teeth later on. Since they’re so important, the right time to start dental care is only a few days after your infant is born.

Take a soft, wet washcloth or piece of gauze and gently wipe your baby’s gums. The earlier you begin, the more accustomed your child will become to a daily dental hygiene routine.

Babies that are put to bed with a bottle may be at greater risk for developing cavities. Milk, juice, and any other drinks that contain sugar instigate tooth decay while the child sleeps.

If your baby must go to bed with something, a bottle of water is the healthiest option. Remember to wipe your little one’s gums after each feeding, whether it’s formula from a bottle or breast milk.

As soon as your infant’s first tooth comes in, it’s time to start brushing! Twice a day, take a small amount of toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice) and brush your son or daughter’s teeth gently in circular motions. As soon as your toddler has multiple teeth that touch one another, floss up and down the sides of the teeth to remove any plaque between them or below the gumline.

Babies’ teeth are prone to cavities and gingivitis, so you’ll want to be on the lookout for telltale signs. Check regularly for red, swollen gums, because this may be an indication of developing gum disease. Discoloration, white spots, or small pits in the teeth can signal a forming cavity.

As long as you follow these simple guidelines and schedule regular dental checkups with Dr. Richard Malek at our Norwalk, CT office, you can help to ensure your baby has a healthy mouth. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing your happy baby’s healthy smile.

Tell us about your summer!

July 6th, 2018

The dog days of summer are upon us, and what better time for Dr. Richard Malek and our team to ask our patients about their summer!

Whether you visited our nation’s capital, went on a camping trip, or just stayed in Norwalk, CT and relaxed, we want to know how you’re all spending your summer! Please feel free to share your summer plans and experiences with us below or on our Facebook page as summer rolls on!

Five Common Reasons for Emergency Care Visits

June 29th, 2018

A dental emergency can strike anywhere, anytime, and without warning. Perhaps you’re playing a game of touch football on Thanksgiving and your brother-in-law decides to up the ante and tackles you, accidentally knocking out your two front teeth. Or maybe you’re on vacation somewhere in the tropics and decide to go deep-sea fishing, but when you’re climbing onto the boat you slip on the dock, fall, and chip three of your teeth. From misplaced fly balls to bagel seeds causing a painful bout of inflammation, there are all kinds of dental emergencies.

Here are the five most common reasons for emergency care visits.

  1. Somehow you've managed to knock out a tooth. Whether it's the result of a sports injury or because of decay, when you lose a tooth, you need emergency dental care. If the tooth is salvageable, then it can be reattached to the socket, but this needs to be done within a one- or two-hour window.
  2. A chipped tooth is the most common dental emergency. Small chips can be caused by food (chicken bones and nuts have sent many people to the dentist); however, it's usually some sort of accident or injury that more often causes a chip. While you might be embarrassed to walk around with a gaping chip in your front tooth, it is easily fixed with a bond, crown, or veneer.
  3. A broken tooth is more severe than a chipped tooth. When a tooth breaks, it might be due to a small or hidden chip. However, chances are the pain and discomfort will be more severe.
  4. It might seem comical, but getting a piece of food lodged in the wrong place can result in a dental emergency. If something gets stuck deep in a crevice, it can cause pain and inflammation.
  5. The loss of a filling happens more often than you think. When you lose a filling, you need to receive emergency care immediately. If you don’t, you risk further damage to your tooth.

When you injure your teeth or mouth, you need to seek emergency care as soon as possible. In the event of a suspected emergency, don't wait. Contact Dr. Richard Malek immediately.

Dry Mouth and How to Treat It

June 22nd, 2018

In fancy medical terms, dry mouth is known as xerostomia. It’s really just what it sounds like: a condition in which you don’t have enough saliva to keep your mouth moist. Dry mouth can be the result of certain medications you’re taking, aging, tobacco use, nerve damage, or chemotherapy.

Depending on whether you’re aware of the cause of your dry mouth, here are some simple ways to keep it at bay:

  • Avoid drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine
  • Avoid tobacco use, or lower your consumption of tobacco
  • Floss after every meal
  • Brush your teeth after every meal using a fluoride toothpaste
  • Avoid foods that have a high level of salt
  • Stay hydrated and drink water frequently
  • Consider using a humidifier at night

If you have any questions about dry mouth and how it is affecting you, give our Norwalk, CT office a call or make sure to ask Dr. Richard Malek during your next visit!

When do children usually lose their baby teeth?

June 15th, 2018

Many parents worry that their children’s teeth are not falling out on time. A lot of concerned parents want to know: When will my child lose his or her first baby tooth? At what age should the last tooth fall out? Is there a specific order in which the teeth are lost?

Dr. Richard Malek and our team explain that a child's 20 baby teeth (primary teeth) typically come in by age three and begin to loosen and fall out on their own to make room for permanent teeth, which usually appear by the time your child is six. It is important to know that timing may vary, and girls typically lose their baby teeth earlier than boys. The last baby teeth will likely fall out by the time your child is 13.

So, which teeth do children lose first? Baby teeth tend to fall out in the order in which they came, which means the lower center incisors are usually the first to go when your child is between six and seven years old. The next teeth your child will lose are his or her top center pair, also called the upper central incisors.

It’s important to note that if a child loses a baby tooth early as a result of decay or an unforeseen accident, his or her permanent tooth may erupt early and potentially come in crooked due to limited space. If your child suffers an injury or has tooth decay, we encourage you to give us a call to set up an appointment with Dr. Richard Malek.

While we know some children couldn’t be more excited to lose their baby teeth, we know others are anxious about this childhood milestone. When your child starts to lose teeth, our team at The Harmony Dental Group encourages you to stress the importance of proper dental care on a daily basis.

Remember to:

  • Remind your child to brush his or her teeth at least twice a day. Supervise and offer assistance as needed.
  • Help your child floss his or her teeth at bedtime.
  • Limit eating and drinking between meals and at bedtime, especially sugary treats and drinks, such as candy and soda.
  • Schedule regular dental visits for your child every six months.
  • Ask about the use of fluoride treatments and dental sealants to help prevent tooth decay.

To learn more about baby teeth, or to schedule your child's next visit with Dr. Richard Malek at our Norwalk, CT office, please give us a call today!

Gum Disease and Your Child

June 8th, 2018

At The Harmony Dental Group, we know that unfortunately, gum disease can exist in your child’s mouth without you even knowing. In fact, your child may be suffering from the beginning stages of periodontal (gum) disease without noticing any pain or discomfort. Since gum disease can be undetectable, it’s critical to watch for the warning signs in order to prevent the disease from growing worse!

If your child is experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may want to consider scheduling an appointment with Dr. Richard Malek as soon as possible:

  • Gums that are red or swollen
  • Gums that feel tender
  • Gums that bleed easily during brushing or flossing
  • Gums that are receding
  • Persistent halitosis (bad breath)
  • Loose teeth
  • Any change in the way teeth come together in the biting position

If your child is experiencing these symptoms, schedule an appointment right away by calling our Norwalk, CT office. Dr. Richard Malek and our team can diagnose the problem and begin treatment to save your child’s teeth!

Our team at The Harmony Dental Group looks forward to seeing you!

Make Brushing With Your Child Fun!

June 1st, 2018

It’s no secret that kids and adults have different priorities: your duty is to raise a happy, healthy child, but your little one’s only priority may be to have fun. When it comes to brushing teeth, it can be hard to combine a healthy habit with having fun. You might fear it can’t be done, but with a little creativity, brushing time can be a great experience for both of you!

Make It a Party

Brushing time doesn’t have to be a chore when you throw a little party! Get Mom and Dad together so the whole family can brush their teeth at the same time.

Let your child choose a song to dance to while you all brush for the required two minutes. Your son or daughter may grow to love this silly routine, especially when the parents are clearly dedicated to brushing their own teeth as well.

Big Kid Decisions

Kids love the responsibility of making “big kid” decisions. Keep a variety of toothbrushes, colors of floss, and toothpaste flavors on hand so they can choose something “new” each time they brush, just like when they visit our Norwalk, CT office.

Not only can this help them grow more comfortable with the idea of seeing the dentist, but they’ll love having the responsibility of picking what would be fun at brush time.

Practice Makes Perfect

It’s true that the only way to get better at something is to practice, practice, and practice. Have your child practice brushing on his or her favorite stuffed animal, and use that opportunity to teach your youngster how to hold the brush and use circular cleaning motions. Showing how you brush your own teeth can also be worthwhile.

There’s An App For That

Did you know there are lots of fun apps that encourage good brushing habits among children? Brands like Oral-B and Aquafresh have free apps you can download on your phone.

The child gets to select a character, scenery, and a song he or she would love to accompany the task of brushing. If you have a daughter, she might like to use the Tooth Fairy Timer, which allows her to pick her very own fairy as her brushing buddy.

The important things to remember when you seek to establish good brushing habits is to keep it fun and stay consistent with your routine. It may take some getting used to, but after a while your child will become familiar with brushing and might even look forward to the new dental routine.

Suffer from Dental Anxiety? Not a Problem.

May 25th, 2018

If you suffer from dental anxiety, we understand that paying a visit to our office can seem like a nearly impossible mission. Regardless of what the root of that anxiety might be, we’re here to tell you that at The Harmony Dental Group, you have no need to be nervous. Our office is dedicated to making your dental experience as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

One of the best things to do if you experience dental anxiety is call our office in advance to let us know. By notifying us in advance, you give us the opportunity to provide you with the dental care you need in the way you need it.

We can prescribe a relaxation medication for you. During your appointment, we can provide a little bit of laughing gas to put you more at ease, teach you some behavioral techniques for relaxation, and make sure you’re never in the dark about what’s happening.

If dental anxiety makes you feel embarrassed, please be assured that you’re not alone. Studies show that as much as 75% of adults suffer some degree of dental anxiety! It might be helpful to remember that your doctor’s goal is the same as yours: We are here to keep your oral health in check so you can be your healthiest self. We certainly don’t want to make you uncomfortable in the process.

If you have any questions about other ways in which we can accommodate you during your visits, please don’t hesitate to contact our Norwalk, CT office!

Make Brushing Fun!

May 18th, 2018

It’s gratifying to know your child has good oral hygiene, especially starting from an early age. We know it can be difficult to get your son or daughter to brush those tiny teeth, let alone brush them well enough, every day. Dr. Richard Malek and our team are here to give you some tips on how to help your youngster learn excellent oral health habits.

Your child should brush his or her teeth at least twice a day in order to prevent cavities and decay. An grownup may have to assist with flossing or using mouthwash. Always make sure your little one doesn’t swallow toothpaste or mouthwash in the process.

Only buy alcohol-free mouthwash, especially if you have young children in your household. Oral healthcare should be made fun from the start, to create good habits!

Helpful Tips

  • Set a good example. Brush your teeth with your children and make it fun! Pick a two-minute song to play while brushing and dance along to it.
  • Make it a race to the bathroom to see who can get the toothbrush and floss out first.
  • Use a sticker sheet. For every night your children brush well, give them a sticker. After they’ve earned certain number of stickers, they win a reward. Let them pick it!
  • Let your child check your brushwork, or try letting your youngster brush your teeth!
  • Allow children to play with a toothbrush if they want to. They can brush their favorite stuffed animal’s or doll’s teeth before bed as well.
  • Let your child pick his or her own toothbrush or toothpaste from a range of options you provide. Kids might pick one with their favorite cartoon character(s) on it, for example.
  • Get a two-minute brushing timer your child can flip over when he or she starts to brush. Your son or daughter can watch the sand fall until it’s empty, which notifies the kid it’s time to stop brushing.
  • Buy special children’s mouthwash that is colored to stain the areas of the child’s mouth where he or she needs to re-brush for effectiveness.
  • Be gentle when your little one makes a mistake like forgetting to brush, and remind your son or daughter about the importance of good oral health in a fun, loving way.

There are plenty of ways to make brushing your child’s teeth more fun and effective. When Dr. Richard Malek and the parents work together, we can help establish good oral health habits in children that will last a lifetime.

Take the trouble to set a great example for your children, and they will follow in your footsteps. If you’re concerned about your child’s oral health, contact our Norwalk, CT office and schedule an appointment with our team.

Losing a Baby Tooth Prematurely

May 11th, 2018

Losing a baby tooth is often an exciting event in a child’s life. It’s a sign your child is growing up, and might even bring a surprise from the Tooth Fairy (or other generous party). But sometimes, a baby tooth is lost due to injury or accident. Don’t panic, but do call our Norwalk, CT office as soon as possible.

If Your Child Loses a Tooth

It is important to see your child quickly when a baby tooth is lost through injury. The underlying adult tooth might be affected as well, so it’s always best to come in for an examination of the injured area. The American Dental Association recommends that you find the lost tooth, keep it moist, and bring it with you to the office. Call Dr. Richard Malek immediately, and we will let you know the best way to treat your child and deal with the lost tooth.

Baby Teeth Are Important

There are several important reasons to look after your child’s first teeth. Baby teeth not only help with speech and jaw development, but they serve as space holders for permanent teeth. If a primary tooth is lost too early, a permanent tooth might “drift” into the empty space and cause crowding or crookedness.

Space Maintainer

A space maintainer is an appliance that does exactly that—keeps the lost baby tooth’s space free so that the correct permanent tooth will erupt in the proper position. The need for a space maintainer depends on several factors, including your child’s age when the baby tooth is lost and which tooth or teeth are involved. We will be happy to address any concerns you might have about whether or not a space maintainer is needed.

It is important to remember that there are solutions if the Tooth Fairy arrives at your house unexpectedly. Keep calm, call our office, and reassure your child that his or her smile is still beautiful!

 

Top Five Ways to Improve Heart Health

May 4th, 2018

While there is no definite evidence that if your prevent gum diseases, like periodontitis, that you may be able to prevent a heart condition or heart disease. The only thing experts, like Dr. Richard Malek, know for sure is that if you take care of your gums it can lessen atherosclerosis, (build-up of artery clogging plaque) that may result in a heart attack or stroke.

Could periodontal disease cause heart attacks?

Regardless of your oral health, if you're at a high risk for heart disease, you need to take action.

  • Maintain a healthy weight or lose weight.
  • Consume healthy foods and beverages.
  • Exercise several days the week. Walking is a powerful and lightweight exercise and will clear your head while helping your body get or stay healthy.
  • Control any medical conditions you may have such as high cholesterol, diabetes, or high blood pressure.
  • Reduce your stress. Have lunch with a friend, go for a walk in the park, take a bubble bath, mediate, or do whatever you find relaxing.
  • Get a social life. Laughing reduces stress and “feel good” hormones. Everyone needs to feel like they are a part of something: join a book club or any activity where you can interact with other people at least once or twice a week
  • Be sure to get enough sleep. The recommended amount is eight to nine hours a night. It has been proven that a lack of sleep increases your risk for angina, strokes, and heart attacks.
  • Practice good oral hygiene to keep bacteria in check and your mouth healthy.

Contact our Norwalk, CT office if you have questions about your heart and oral health. If you take practice good oral hygiene, both your mouth and your heart will thank you.

TMD Problems and How You Can Prevent Them

April 27th, 2018

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) describe a set of conditions that involve trouble with your jaw and face muscles. They result from a problem in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which is a hinge that connects the temporal bones, in your skull in front of each ear, to your jaw. The joint enables you to talk, yawn, and chew by letting your mouth move.

TMD can be very painful and interfere with functions such as eating and speaking. This what to watch for and how to try to prevent TMD.

Risk Factors for TMD

You are at higher risk for TMD if you are a women than if you are male. The disorder is most common among adults between the ages of 20 and 40 years. Other risk factors for TMJ disorders include the following.

  • Arthritis in the area, making movement more difficult
  • Excessive tooth grinding, because it increases stress on the joint
  • General stress, which can lead you to clench your teeth and strain facial muscles

Symptoms of TMD

Symptoms of TMD can last for just a short while, or for several years. Seeing Dr. Richard Malek is important if your symptoms make it impossible for you to eat regularly or if you have unbearable pain or discomfort. The following symptoms can occur on both or one side of your face.

  • Aching or very tired facial muscles
  • Jaws that are fixed open or shut without you being able to unlock them
  • Grating or popping sounds when you chew or close or open your mouth
  • Pain in the entire area, including the mouth, jaw, neck, or shoulders, that comes on when you chew or yawn

Preventing TMD

You can try to prevent TMD by focusing on reducing risk factors. If you grind your teeth at night, ask Dr. Richard Malek about wearing a mouthguard. If you are overly stressed, look into ways to better manage your stress and relax your muscles. Another strategy for trying to prevent the development of TMD is to avoid chewing gum, since that puts stress on your jaw.

If you have questions about TMD, don’t hesitate to contact our Norwalk, CT office.

Is Coffee Damaging Your Smile?

April 20th, 2018

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. Many people have a cup, or two, or even three a day. It’s common to drink it in the morning to wake up and get ready for the day, as an afternoon pick-me-up, or just to catch up with a coworker or friend.

These days there are many different kinds of coffee flavors to enjoy, so it’s almost impossible for a person not to like it. But as delicious as coffee is, it’s worthwhile to be aware of the effects it has on our dental health.

Coffee contains a lot of tannic acid, which is what causes its dark color. Tannic acid ingrains itself into the grooves of tooth enamel, and that leads to serious stains. In addition to containing tannic acid, the fact that coffee is generally served very hot makes your teeth expand and contract, which allows the stains to penetrate even farther into the enamel.

Dr. Richard Malek and our team know it’s not easy to kick the caffeine habit. If you find yourself needing a cup of joe every day, here are some helpful tips to consider:

  • Switch to decaf coffee.
  • Make it a habit to drink a glass of water with your coffee to rinse away the acid.
  • Try enjoying your coffee with a straw so the tannic acid makes less contact with your front and lower teeth.
  • Pop in a piece of gum after your coffee to help prevent a dry mouth.

If you’re feeling ambitious, you might find that setting a limit on the number of cups of coffee you have per week or even per day can be helpful. You are always welcome to contact our Norwalk, CT office to discuss potential whitening options as well. We’re here to help!

Improve Your Overall Health with Regular Cleanings

April 13th, 2018

It’s common knowledge that you should get your teeth cleaned every six months. But do you know why that timing is crucial? Studies have shown that your oral health connects directly to the rest of your body. Over time, an unhealthy mouth can cause trouble in other parts of your general system.

Undergoing a regular cleaning every six months at our Norwalk, CT office is vital. During your dental checkups, we remove plaque that collects on your teeth and around your gums. If the plaque gets left in place for an extended period, inflammation can develop and may lead to painful gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontal disease.

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, periodontal disease has been linked to increased risk for health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, inflammation, and osteoporosis. Bacteria from your mouth can spread throughout the rest of your body. So a healthy mouth leads to a healthy body.

Regular checkups can prevent issues from arising in your mouth if problems are caught early by Dr. Richard Malek. If you have been avoiding the dentist, you could be making issues worse for yourself in the long haul. Generally, a dentist will go over a few routine matters during your checkup. They might include taking X-rays, checking for gum disease and tooth decay, examining your bite, inspecting your head and neck for swelling, and of course performing a thorough cleaning of your teeth and gums to remove built-up plaque and tartar. All of these routine practices are worthwhile when it comes to keeping your oral health in top shape.

Now that you know the importance of getting your teeth checked every six months, you should be sure to schedule your next appointment with The Harmony Dental Group at our Norwalk, CT location. Keeping your mouth healthy will prevent any form of bacteria from spreading to the rest of your body. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your oral health, don’t hesitate to call and our staff will be happy to assist you.

Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April 6th, 2018

Happy Oral Cancer Awareness Month! We know oral cancer can be kind of a scary topic, but it’s worth using this opportunity to learn about the disease and spread knowledge so everyone becomes more aware. The more we know, the better we can work to prevent it!

Oral cancer is exactly what it sounds like: cancer that occurs anywhere in the mouth. It could occur on the tongue, the lips, the gums, the tongue, inside the cheek, or in the roof or floor of the mouth. Every  year, more than 8,000 people die from oral cancer. It’s a truly deadly disease.

The reason oral cancer scores a higher death rate than other common cancers such as testicular cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, thyroid cancer, cervical cancer, or even skin cancer, is because it often goes undetected until it's become too advanced and has spread to another part of the body.

So what causes this devastating disease? There is no clear answer, but some potential causes have been identified. By being aware of these, we can be alert and promote prevention of this illness:

  • Age: Most patients who develop oral cancer are above the age of 40. If you’re over 40, make sure your doctor checks for signs of oral cancer and that you stay on your dental hygiene regimen.
  • Tobacco: Excessive tobacco use, whether in the form of cigarette smoking or tobacco chewing, can be a substantial contributor and cause of oral cancer. So that’s another reason, among many, you should avoid tobacco.
  • Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption can put you at risk because alcohol converts into a chemical called acetaldehyde, which damages the body’s DNA and blocks cells from repairing the damage. When paired with tobacco, the dehydrating effects of alcohol make it even easier for tobacco to infiltrate mouth tissue.
  • Sun exposure: Your lips need SPF, too! Repeated sun exposure increases your risk of contracting cancer on your lips, especially the lower lip.
  • Diet: Not getting all the nutrients you need, from vegetables and fruits for instance, can weaken your immune system and make you more vulnerable to the disease.

Obviously, many of these causes relate to lifestyle choices, which we have control over. It's all about balance, being aware, and making small tweaks to our habits if we need to.

If you’re concerned that you may be at risk for oral cancer, give us a call to talk about a screening. And if you’ve been putting off a visit to our Norwalk, CT office, now is an excellent time to schedule one. Regular visits to the dentist can be the first line of defense against oral cancer!

Find Out how Your Diet can Cause Cavities

March 30th, 2018

Sometimes food that’s good for your body isn’t necessarily the best for your teeth. Dr. Richard Malek and our team want you to know which healthy foods can harm your teeth and gums, and what steps you can take to continue enjoying these foods, even when you’re dieting.

When you begin to substitute empty calories with whole foods, make sure you also remember to focus on your dental health. The majority of people tend to switch out sugary foods in favor of fruits and vegetables when they diet.

It’s worth knowing that most fruits are highly acidic and composed of natural sugars. Some of the highly acidic fruits to watch out for include apples, grapes, strawberries, pineapples, blueberries, oranges, and grapefruit. Moderation is key here, as with all other things. Fruits can be a great source of energy to help you through your day, but try not to overdo them.

Often, people also incorporate more leafy greens into their diets, which mean plenty of salads. Salad dressing is another item you’ll want to watch out for. Many dressings are filled with vinegars and sweeteners that include harmful acids, which change the pH of your mouth. When your mouth shifts from alkaline to acidic, your smile also turns to a higher risk for erosion and decay.

Rather than get rid of these foods altogether, simply change what you do after you eat them. Rinse your mouth out with water, brush your teeth, or eat alkalizing foods after consuming these acidic foods. Healthy alkalizing foods include dairy products such as eggs and yogurt, or any type of vegetable.

If you have questions regarding your current diet and its effect on your oral health, please contact our Norwalk, CT office and speak with a member of our staff. If you’ve begun to make changes in your diet toward a healthier lifestyle, we hope these tips can help your make positive changes to your oral health. Our team at The Harmony Dental Group wants a healthy lifestyle to be a top priority in your life.

Dangers of Thumb Sucking

March 23rd, 2018

It’s common for children to suck their thumb at a young age. Dr. Richard Malek and our team want you to understand the potential issues that can surface down the road if the habit isn’t broken early on.

It’s normal for infants to explore the function of their mouths by putting objects like their thumbs inside it. You shouldn’t be concerned if your baby regularly sucks his or her thumb. For infants who are still growing their baby teeth, thumb sucking can help with stimulating growth and development of their baby teeth.

Thumb sucking is not a problem among infants because they generally do it to sooth and comfort themselves. Problems can occur of kids continue the habit when their baby teeth begin to fall out, around six years of age.

If you have a young child whose adult teeth are starting to come in, that’s when thumb sucking can start to be a problem. Most children stop thumb sucking between the ages of two and three years. According to the American Dental Association, if thumb sucking continues as adult teeth come in, this can lead to problems involving improper alignment of teeth and growth of the jaw, gums, and roof of the mouth.

It may also affect your child’s speech after that, by causing a lisp or other speech impediments. As a parent, you may need to begin to regulate and intervene if thumb sucking starts to become a bigger problem for your child.

How to Stop Thumb Sucking

  • Provide comfort to your child if thumb sucking happens when he or she is anxious.
  • Limit thumb sucking initially to bedtime or naptime.
  • Employ positive reinforcement for good behavior.
  • Talk with your child about the potential problems that come from this habit.
  • Distract your son or daughter with activities such as fun games any time you notice it starting.
  • Involve your little one in choosing methods for stopping, like positive rewards.
  • Have Dr. Richard Malek talk to your child to reinforce concerns about thumb sucking.

Don’t forget that thumb sucking is a common habit that many children indulge in, and it should not be a concern right away. If you’re worried about your child’s thumb-sucking habit, start to address the issue as soon as possible.

The above techniques can help to reduce the amount of time your child sucks a thumb. Dr. Richard Malek and our team are here to help you if you have any questions or concerns about this habit.

Feel free to call our Norwalk, CT office and we will be happy to help you and your child.

Dental Veneers

March 16th, 2018

If you want to fix staining, large gaps, fillings, chipped teeth, or the overall shape of your teeth, this may be the perfect option for you. Many of our patients opted for veneers and have never been more confident in their smile!

Dental veneers are made from long-lasting porcelain materials which cover the front and biting ends of each tooth. At your appointment, you can choose the shade of veneers to brighten up your smile. They are usually placed on the anterior, or front teeth, where the chewing forces are not as hard as in the back. Placing the veneers is easy, and the best part is: It requires only two appointments!

During the first appointment, we’ll take an impressions of your teeth. Then we send them to the lab to make your veneers. Veneers are fairly conservative in preparation because they require a small amount of space to be created on the front, bottom, and sides of each tooth for a natural appearance. You will leave the office with temporary veneers in place for a week or two while the permanent veneers are being made.

Your veneers will be placed during the second appointment, and you won’t believe the difference in your smile! If you’re interested in learning more, give Dr. Richard Malek a call at our Norwalk, CT office today!

Baby Teeth and Cavities

March 9th, 2018

We know how frustrating it can be to discover your child has one or more cavities when you come to visit The Harmony Dental Group. There are several ways to prevent baby teeth from forming cavities due to decay. Not to worry: If your child does develop a cavity on a baby tooth, Dr. Richard Malek can help take care of the problem.

Let’s look at how cavities on your little one’s teeth can be prevented from developing in the first place. Most often, children suffer decay from eating sugary foods. You may think, “My child doesn’t eat lots of candy!” In truth, fruits and juices have plenty of natural sugars that can break down teeth if they aren’t brushed thoroughly.

A well-balanced diet that includes calcium and phosphorous is necessary to keep your child’s oral health in a good state. If your son or daughter drinks juice, avoid giving it before bedtime and dilute the juice with water. Good options for snacks include vegetables, low-sugar yogurt or dairy products, and plenty of milk for healthy teeth.

Another excellent preventive strategy consists of scheduling regular appointments with Dr. Richard Malek for your child. Between your youngster’s annual cleanings, make sure he or she brushes and flosses every day. It’s worthwhile for your little one to brush thoroughly for at least two minutes to remove any decay or plaque that has accumulated in the mouth, especially before bedtime.

Brushing Techniques

  • Move the brush both back and forth, and in circular gentle strokes.
  • Brush the outer surfaces, inside surfaces, and chewing surfaces of all teeth.
  • Place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums.
  • Brush the tongue to remove excess bacteria and keep breath fresh.

It’s not always possible to prevent cavities from appearing in your son or daughter’s mouth. If your child does develop a cavity, our staff will notify you during the regular scheduled cleaning.

The cavity will need to be eliminated, even when it appears on a baby tooth. Our staff will remove the decayed part of the tooth and fill in the hole so your child doesn’t have to experience any pain.

You may wonder why a baby tooth has to be fixed if it is eventually going to fall out. Baby teeth hold spaces where your child’s permanent teeth have to grow in. If the former aren’t taken care of, multiple teeth may shift and the permanent ones won’t be able to grow in properly.

If you still have questions or concerns about your child’s baby teeth, or notice signs of a cavity, please don’t hesitate to contact our Norwalk, CT office and schedule an appointment. Remember, preventive steps can be taken to avoid bothersome cavities from forming in your child’s mouth.

How HPV and Oral Cancer are Related

March 2nd, 2018

Did you know that Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and oral cancer are linked? This information may prevent you or a loved one from suffering from oral cancer if a diagnosis is made early. Dr. Richard Malek and our team want you to understand how you can prevent the spread of oral cancer and protect yourself if you have HPV.

People don’t often speak up about this common virus, but we believe it’s important to educate yourself to prevent the potential spread of oral cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 80% of Americans will have HPV infections in their lifetime without even knowing it. Symptoms usually go unnoticed, though it’s one of the most common viruses in the U.S. The body’s immune system is generally able to kill the HPV infection without causing any noticeable issues. If you think you might have HPV, talk with primary care physician about getting the preventive vaccine or taking an HPV test.

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, “HPV is the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancers (the very back of the mouth and throat), and a very small number of front of the mouth, oral cavity cancers. HPV16 is the version most responsible, and affects both males and females.”

Common signs of oral cancer may include:

  • Ulcers or sores that don’t heal within a couple of weeks
  • Swelling, lumps, and discoloration on the soft tissues in the mouth
  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Pain with chewing
  • Persistent sore throat
  • Numbness of the mouth or lips
  • Lumps felt on the outside of the neck
  • Constant coughing
  • Earaches on one side of your head

If you experience any of these side effects, please contact The Harmony Dental Group as soon as possible.

We hope this information will help you understand the interactions between HPV and oral cancer. Please remember to take precautionary steps if you notice anything out of the ordinary with regard to your oral health. If you have any questions or concerns, contact our Norwalk, CT office.

Broken Tooth: Is It an emergency or not?

February 23rd, 2018

Have you ever had that sinking feeling after biting into something soft and chewy and feeling something hard and crunchy instead? You’ve chipped or broken a tooth, but what should you do next? First try to assess the damage by determining whether it’s a chip or a whole tooth.

As Dr. Richard Malek will tell you, a broken or chipped tooth is usually not a dental emergency unless you are experiencing a great deal of pain or bleeding, but you should contact us for an appointment shortly afterward. Be sure to mention that you have a broken tooth so we can fit you into our schedule quickly. After a thorough evaluation, we’ll recommend a course of action. If it is a small chip, we may simply smooth it out. For a larger break, the dentist may fill in the space with a composite material that matches your other teeth.

Emergency Dental Care

If you are in severe pain, are bleeding excessively, have a major break, or have lost a tooth, that is a dental emergency and you should contact us. As emergency dental specialists, we’ll be able to schedule an appointment immediately and advise you on the next steps to take.

You can rinse your mouth with warm water and apply pressure to stop the bleeding. An ice pack will help reduce any swelling. Do not take any aspirin as that could increase the amount of bleeding. Should your tooth be knocked out completely, rinse it under running water but do not scrub it. Hold the tooth only by the crown, or the part you normally see above the gum line, not by the root. If you can, put the tooth back into the socket while you travel to our office, or put it in a mild salt solution or milk. Don’t let the tooth become dry, because this can lead to damage. Once you get to our office, our dentist will determine whether the tooth can be saved or if it will need to be replaced.

A broken tooth may not always be an emergency, but it’s best to have it treated with us at The Harmony Dental Group. While it may only be a cosmetic problem at first, if left too long without treatment, you may experience further damage to your tooth and mouth.

Is there a correlation between my dental and cardiovascular health?

February 16th, 2018

YES!  Studies have shown a correlation between gum disease and heart disease, underscoring the importance of good oral health care. Cardiovascular disease remains American’s leading killer, claiming more lives than the rest of major causes of death, according to our friends at the American Heart Association. In fact, an estimated 80 percent of American adults currently have some form of gum disease, also known as periodontal disease.

Studies suggest that people with gum disease are believed to have an elevated risk of heart attack and stroke. Since most patients are not regularly visiting a heart specialist, their regular visits to our Norwalk, CT office can help detect early warning signs of heart issues, prevent gum disease, or at the very least catch it at its early stage. We’d also like you to know your numbers: blood pressure (less than 120/80), cholesterol (less than 200) and BMI (less than 25).

There are many benefits to visiting The Harmony Dental Group in addition to maintaining your dental health. If it has been a while since your last visit, please give us a call!

Team Dark Chocolate

February 9th, 2018

Valentine’s Day is the holiday to celebrate all the treasured relationships in your life. It’s a time to honor love in all shapes and forms with cards, social gatherings, and sometimes even binge eating of sweets.

It's hard to look the other way when grocery stores and pharmacies are invaded with goodies connected to the Valentine’s Day theme, and especially if you’re on the receiving end of some of these sweets. We get it. In fact, we’re all for it!

However, we also support a cavity-free smile. So in the interest of your dental and general health, and because we think it’s genuinely tasty, Dr. Richard Malek recommends an alternative to the Valentine treats you may be accustomed to: dark chocolate. 

Yes, Healthy Chocolate Exists

Studies have shown that dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, an ingredient found in the cocoa beans used to make chocolate. Flavonoids can help protect the body against toxins, reduce blood pressure, and improve blood flow to the heart and brain.

By opting for dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate, you get to reap these benefits! Pretty sweet, right? Just make sure to stick to high-quality dark chocolates that have undergone minimal processing.

Dark Chocolate, AKA Protector of Teeth

Not only does dark chocolate provide some nice benefits for your overall health, it also helps protect your teeth against cavities! According to the Texas A&M Health Science Center, dark chocolate contains high amounts of tannins, another ingredient present in cocoa beans.

Tannins can actually help prevent cavities by interfering with the bacteria that causes them. Think of them as scarecrows for bacteria. They don’t always prevail, but isn’t it nice to have them there?

Smooth Never Sticky

Unlike many popular candies, dark chocolate is less likely to stick in the crevices of your teeth. Chewy, gooey sweets are more likely to hang around in your mouth for longer periods of time, which means they raise the odds of your harboring cavity-creating bacteria.

While some dark chocolates have additives like caramel or marshmallow, it’s best to opt for the plain varieties, which are just as delicious. If you’re feeling festive, though, a dark chocolate with caramel is still better than a milk chocolate with caramel, so that’s the way to go!

While dark chocolate has some pretty sweet benefits, the most important thing to remember (whether you go the dark chocolate route or not), is that moderation is key. That being said, we hope you have fun satisfying your sweet tooth and shopping for treats for your friends and loved ones. Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at The Harmony Dental Group!

Chewing Gum: Fact and Fiction

February 2nd, 2018

Remember all the things your parents would tell you when you were growing up to scare you away from doing something? Like how lying might make your nose grow, misbehaving meant you wouldn’t get money from the tooth fairy, and swallowed chewing gum would build up in your stomach and stay there for years?

Maybe that last one stayed with you well beyond your teens, and occurred to you every time you accidentally (or purposely) swallowed a piece of gum. We don’t blame you. It’s a scary thought.

But is it true?

We hate to take the fun out of parental discipline, but swallowing a piece of chewing gum is pretty much like swallowing any other piece of food. It will move right through your digestive system with no danger of getting stuck for months, let alone seven years.

This doesn’t mean you should start swallowing all your gum from now on, but if it happens accidentally now and then, there’s no need to panic.

Another common gum myth is that sugar-free gum can help you lose weight. Although it is preferable to choose sugar-free gum over the extra-sweet variety, no studies have show that sugar-free gum will help you lose weight.

If you pop a piece of gum in your mouth after dinner to avoid dessert, it could help you avoid eating a few extra calories every day. But the consumption of sugar-free gum without any other effort will not help you shed pounds.

 If you really enjoy chewing gum, we strongly encourage you to select sugarless gum, because it lowers your risk for cavities. Many brands of sugarless gum contain xylitol, a natural sweetener that can, in fact, help fight bacteria that cause cavities and rinse away plaque.

So if you can’t kick the gum habit altogether, sugar-free is definitely the way to go!

If you have any questions about chewing gum, feel free to contact Dr. Richard Malek at our Norwalk, CT office.

Tooth Eruption Timeline

January 26th, 2018

Parents, and even older children, can become concerned about tooth development. Wondering when teeth should erupt, and being concerned when the teeth do not appear on schedule, is common. First, you need to remember that each individual is different. Guidelines are just guidelines, but Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group thought we would pass on this information to help you.

Primary teeth

Children normally have 20 primary or baby teeth. The first two to appear are usually the lower central incisors between six to ten months of age. These fall out between five and seven years of age.

  • Two upper central incisors – eight to 12 months
  • Two upper lateral incisors – nine to 13 months
  • Two upper cuspids or canines – 16 to 22 months
  • Two upper first molars – 13 to 19 months
  • Two upper second molars – 25 to 33 months
  • Two lower lateral incisors – ten to 16 months
  • Two lower cuspids or canines – 17 to 23 months
  • Two lower first molars – 14 to 18 months
  • Two lower second molars – 13 to 31 months

As you can see, all the primary teeth normally have erupted before three years of age, but the timeline can vary by four to six months. Except for the lower central incisors and second molars, upper teeth tend to appear before lower teeth.

Permanent or adult teeth

Adults normally have 32 permanent teeth. However, four of these are wisdom teeth or third molars, which are often removed.

  • Two upper central incisors – seven to eight years
  • Two upper lateral incisors – eight to nine years
  • Two upper cuspids or canines – 11 to 12 years
  • Two upper first premolars or bicuspids – ten to 11 years
  • Two upper second premolars or bicuspids – ten to 12 years
  • Two upper first molars – six to seven years
  • Two upper second molars – 12 to 13 years
  • Two upper third molars or wisdom teeth – 17 to 21 years
  • Two lower central incisors – six to seven years
  • Two lower lateral incisors – seven to eight years
  • Two lower cuspids or canines – nine to ten years
  • Two lower first premolars or bicuspids – ten to 12 years
  • Two lower second premolars or bicuspids – 11 to 12 years
  • Two lower first molars – six to seven years
  • Two lower second molars – 11 to 13 years
  • Two lower third molars or wisdom teeth – 17 to 21 years

Please discuss any of your dental concerns during your visit with Dr. Richard Malek. If there is a problem with tooth development, the earlier we address it, the better the outcome. We specialize in pediatric dentistry and look forward to helping you and your child with all your dental needs. To learn more about tooth eruption, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Richard Malek, please give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office!

Things You Should Know Before Getting an Oral Piercing

January 19th, 2018

Have you been thinking about getting an oral piercing lately? It could seem enticing because they look trendy or cool, but it’s worth know the health risks associated with oral piercing. Even if you already have one, you may learn a few things you didn’t know.

The human mouth contains millions of bacteria. Even without piercings, it’s not uncommon for people to develop an infection every once in a while. By adding an oral piercing, you increase your likelihood of getting an infection.

Many people who have piercings tend to develop the habit of touching them regularly, which is the like opening a door and yelling, “Welcome home, infections!” And because these piercings are in your mouth, particles of all the food that comes through can accumulate and eventually cause a pretty serious health situation.

It’s hard to ignore the presence of an oral piercing, so biting or playing with the site is fairly common. Doing so can lead to teeth fractures, however. While a fracture might be on the enamel of a tooth and require a simple filling, it can also go deeper, which could entail a root canal or even tooth extraction.

Other risks include hindering your ability to talk and eat, nerve damage, gum damage, and even loss of taste.

If you’re still determined to get an oral piercing, at least be aware of the time it will take to heal. It can take anywhere from four to six weeks, and can cause great discomfort during that time. Be willing to give it that time in order to lower your chances of infection.

Make sure you understand that getting an oral piercing will involve adding further responsibility to your daily dental health duties. It’s essential that you commit to regular upkeep on your end, and not just while it’s healing.

How can parents help prevent tooth decay?

January 12th, 2018

Children are born with a set of primary teeth – 20 to be exact – that help them learn to chew and speak, and develop enough space in the jaw for the permanent teeth that will appear several years later. Kids are especially susceptible to decay, which can cause pain and tooth loss – a problem that could interfere with oral development. As a parent, it is important that you take proactive steps to keep your child’s teeth as healthy as possible.

Bottles and “Sippie Cups”

One of the biggest culprits of childhood tooth decay is poor diet. This begins as early as a few months old, when children are often allowed to go to bed with bottles and “sippie cups” of milk or juice. The sugars in these beverages – even natural sugars – can steadily decay the teeth.

Dr. Richard Malek and our staff suggest serving children milk and juice only at meal times, and limiting juice intake to just a few ounces per day. If your child becomes thirsty between meals or likes to go to bed with a bottle, serve water during these times.

Hygiene

As a parent, you can establish healthy dental habits long before your child’s first tooth erupts. Start by gently wiping your baby’s gums with a clean wash cloth during the first months of life. By age one, graduate to an appropriately sized toothbrush with fluoridated toothpaste, and brush at least twice a day.

Dental Visits

Dental visits should start young and continue on a regular basis throughout your child's life. Dr. Richard Malek and our staff recommend parents bring their children to The Harmony Dental Group for the first time no later than the child’s first birthday. Initial visits concentrate on parental education, while later visits may include thorough cleanings and fluoride treatments as your child grows.

For more information about keeping your child’s teeth cavity-free, contact our Norwalk, CT office to schedule a dental consultation and checkup.

Dental Fear in Children: Brought on by parents?

January 5th, 2018

Two studies – one conducted in Washington State, and whose findings were published in the Journal of Pediatric Dentistry in 2004, and another conducted in Madrid, Spain, and whose findings were reported in 2012 in Science Daily, reinforce earlier findings that show a direct relationship between parental dental fear and that of their children.

The Washington study looked at dental fear among 421 children whose ages ranged from 0.8 to 12.8 years. The children were all patients at 21 different private pediatric dental practices in Western Washington State. The Spanish study looked at 183 children between the ages of seven and 12, and their parents in Madrid.

The Washington study used the Dental Sub-scale of the Child Fear Survey Schedule. The survey responses came from either parents, or other parties charged with taking care of the children. The people responsible for each child filled out the survey, which consisted of 15 questions to which answers were given based on the child’s level of fear. The scale used was one to five, with one meaning the child wasn’t afraid at all, and five indicating the child was terrified. The maximum possible points (based on the greatest fear) was 75.

Spanish researchers found that like past studies, there is a direct connection between parental dental fear levels and those of their kids. The most important new discovery from the study conducted in Madrid, was that the more anxiety and fear a father has of going to the dentist, the higher the fear levels among the other family members.

Parents, but especially fathers, who suffer from fear of going to the dentist and fear of dental procedures in general pass those fears on to every member of the family. While parents may not feel like they have control over those fears, the best way to help your child understand the importance of going to the dentist is by not expressing your fears in front of them – or around the rest of the family.

Dr. Richard Malek and our team understand that some patients are more fearful than others when it comes to visitingour Norwalk, CT office. We work hard to make our practice as comfortable for our patients, both children and adults.

Things You Probably Didn’t Know About New Year's Eve

December 29th, 2017

It’s no secret that New Year’s Eve is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world. Dr. Richard Malek and our team love it too. It’s a fresh start, another year of surviving the crazy world we live in, a time to refocus on the things we want for ourselves, a celebration with those we love … the list goes on.

Dozens of countries welcome the New Year with over-the-top parties and celebrations. Because it’s a public holiday, many offices, businesses, and schools close for the day. As you think about your plans for this holiday, here are some fun facts about New Year’s that might surprise you!

Can you guess what the most common New Year’s resolutions are? You may already have one or two of these on your own personal list. The top five New Year’s resolutions are: to quit smoking, get a new job, lose weight, increase personal savings, and return to school. Just remember that coming up with a concrete plan to reach your goals is the surest way to achieve your resolutions!

About one million people brave the cold to watch the New Year’s Eve ball drop in New York City’s Times Square in person. Yes, that’s one million! This event is one of the most iconic celebrations in the world. People travel from all over just to experience it, but you can watch from the warmth and comfort of your living room.

If you’re not a fan of cabbage, collard greens, black-eyed peas, or ham hocks, you might want to revise your tastes. All these foods are all regarded as lucky fare on New Year’s Day. Unless you’re allergic, of course!

For many people in Mexico and Latin America, eating 12 grapes at midnight is a tradition that brings good luck in the 12 coming months. Most people even make a wish per grape!

Whether you’re celebrating in Norwalk, CT or traveling elsewhere to observe the holiday, New Year’s Eve is a time to enjoy the company of your friends and family. Don’t forget to send warm wishes to your loved ones, and snag a midnight kiss with that special someone if you can!

What are mini implants used for?

December 22nd, 2017

The use of mini dental implants (MDIs) is on the rise. MDIs are about the diameter of a toothpick (1.8 to 2.9 millimeters with lengths between ten to 18 millimeters) and are primarily used to secure loose upper or lower dentures or partial dentures.

MDIs are particularly useful for patients who suffer from osteoporosis or otherwise aren't well enough to get the bone grafts sometimes required by traditional dental implants. Their diminutive size also allows them to replace smaller teeth where the placement of a dental implant isn't feasible or called for.

Some of the benefits of MDIs include:

  • The procedure is quicker and less invasive – Since MDIs don’t require the cutting of gum tissue or sutures, Dr. Richard Malek can place the implant quickly, resulting in a shorter healing process. MDIs go directly through the gum tissue and into the jawbone.
  • Lower cost – MDIs run in the range of $500 to $1500, whereas traditional dental implants can cost around $4,000.
  • Less risk of surgical error – Since MDIs don't go as deep into the tissue or jawbone, there is less risk of surgical error, like hitting a nerve or sinus cavity.
  • Can be used in thinner areas of the jawbone – Since MDIs don't require as much gum tissue or jawbone, they can be used in thinner areas of the jawbone, where a traditional dental implant would require a bone graft.

Although there are many advantages to MDIs, they aren't for everyone or every situation. There are some drawbacks, especially when it comes to their durability and stability. MDIs also haven't been studied nearly as much as dental implants.

Whatever your situation, it's best to speak with Dr. Richard Malek about your options, and whether an MDI or a dental implant would work best for your specific case. Schedule an appointment at our Norwalk, CT office to learn more.

Why is replacing missing teeth important?

December 15th, 2017

When we talk about teeth, every single one of yours counts. Whether you’ve lost a tooth due to injury or poor oral hygiene, it’s worth seeing Dr. Richard Malek to evaluate all your replacement options. If you don’t, you could suffer negative effects to your teeth, gums, jawbones, appearance, and self-esteem.

Depending on how many teeth are missing and where they are located, Dr. Richard Malek may suggest an implant, fixed bridge, or a removable bridge.

Addressing missing teeth as soon as possible is in your best interests. If you don't, the consequences might include:

  • Shifting teeth: When you lose a tooth, the space it creates allows the neighboring teeth to drift and move out of alignment. A once-straight smile and correct bite can quickly turn into crooked teeth and a misaligned bite.
  • Tooth decay and/or gum disease: After teeth have shifted, it can be harder to reach all areas around them to brush and floss properly. The buildup of bacteria and plaque can result in periodontal disease and the loss of your remaining teeth due to decay.
  • Effect on jaws: Missing teeth alter your bite and how your teeth and jaws contact one another. This puts added strain on your jaw joint (TMJ) and can contribute to the development of TMJ disorder.
  • Change in face and appearance: When you lose a tooth, your gums and your jawbone are no longer stimulated in that area. A dental implant replaces the root of a tooth or several teeth, and provides stimulation to prevent bone loss. If the root isn’t replaced, this can lead to deterioration of the jawbone and alteration of the shape and appearance of your face. Your face, especially the cheeks, can look older and more sunken.

Replacing missing teeth is an essential step for your physical and emotional health. If they are replaced in a timely manner at our Norwalk, CT office, you’ll continue to have the same wonderful smile you’ve always had.

Healthy Diet for Adolescents

December 8th, 2017

Adolescence is a critical period for oral hygiene. By the teenage years, kids will have lost all their baby teeth and replaced them with permanent teeth. Furthermore, many oral hygiene habits solidified in adolescence carry through to adulthood. Teaching adolescents to follow a healthy diet not only benefits their physical fitness but helps them maintain strong teeth and healthy gums.

Fruits and vegetables

Parents know that eating broccoli is important, but were you aware that it can keep teeth and gums healthy, too? Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group will tell you that eating plenty of crunchy fruits and vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots, celery, apples, and pears, increases your saliva production. Saliva works to brush away bad bacteria that produce dangerous acids that wear away tooth enamel.

It’s also important to avoid acidic foods, which can exacerbate cavities and other dental problems. Although oranges, tomatoes, grapefruit, lemons, and berries are healthy, they can also wear away the enamel of your teeth. To be safe, it’s important to brush after each meal or swish with mouthwash to remove excess acid from your mouth.

Sugar-free foods

Many candies and treats are chock-full of sugar, making them dangerous for your child’s dental health. If you have a sweet tooth, fear not: you don’t have to give up the sweet stuff entirely. Whenever possible, opt for sugar-free substitutes rather than regular sugar. For example, chewing sugar-free gum or drinking sugar-free beverages is better for teeth. These sugar substitute molecules don’t wear away enamel, which makes them safer for dental health.

Watch the beverages

Most adolescents have been told that soda will rot your teeth, but you may not realize that other beverages can be just as sugary. Many fruit juices, even those that boast 100% fruit, contain dozens of grams of sugar per serving. Similarly, popular energy drinks pack a sugary punch. When possible, drink water or milk. If your child is craving a hot beverage, turn to tea over hot chocolate or a sugary latte.

Dairy products

Teeth are like any other bones; they rely on calcium and other minerals to stay strong. To help build strong teeth, have your child drink milk or eat other dairy products to get his or her daily calcium. Yogurt, cottage cheese, and cheese are good options as well. If your child can’t tolerate dairy, consider calcium-fortified soy milk or orange juice to provide that daily dose of vitamins and minerals.

For more information on this topic, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Richard Malek, please give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office!

Invisalign® and Invisalign Teen®

December 1st, 2017

There are so many adults and teens in our Norwalk, CT office who would love to have their teeth straightened but that are unwilling to go through the long and unsightly process of traditional metal braces. Well, that's where Invisalign® and Invisalign Teen® come to the rescue; the most advanced clear aligner systems in the world!

There are several reasons why, if you're considering getting braces, you should consider Invisalign too. Here are some of them:

  • You can eat whatever food you'd like, without worrying about it getting caught in wires or breaking brackets.
  • Most people won't even know you're wearing them!
  • If you need to, you can remove your aligners at any time.
  • The removable aligners let you brush and floss as you normally would, making for better overall oral health.
  • Since they are made of a smooth BPA-free plastic, Invisalign aligners are simply more comfortable to wear than traditional braces. No metal means no more roughed up gums or irritated tongue!
  • You'll need to visit our Norwalk, CT office less often — only once every six weeks or so.
  • With Invisalign Teen, you’ll receive up to six replacements for lost or broken aligners.

Before you get started with treatment, you’ll have a consultation with Dr. Richard Malek to see if Invisalign or Invisalign Teen is right for you. If your case is a good fit, then you’ll have X-rays, pictures, and impressions of your teeth taken. That information will be used to make the 3D models of your teeth that let Dr. Richard Malek see how they will move throughout the entire treatment and approximately how long it will take.

After that, you’ll receive your aligners based on the treatment plan we recommend. You’ll get a new set of aligners every two weeks. Then all you need to do is wear your aligners 22 hours a day and you’ll be on your way to a straighter healthier smile. Don’t hesitate to a member of our Norwalk, CT team for more information about Invisalign!

Avoid Brushing After Every Single Meal!

November 24th, 2017

Here is some surprising yet worthwhile advice you might be hearing for the first time: Brushing can be incredibly bad for your child’s teeth if done right after eating certain foods.

Enamel is an extremely hard mineral on the exterior of each tooth. It’s actually the hardest substance in the human body: It’s even stronger than bones! Its only weakness is that acids in the food we eat can easily destroy enamel.

Healthy teeth thrive in an environment that has the proper pH balance. That ensures the mouth doesn’t start the process of demineralization—the process when alkaline turns into acid, which attacks and softens the enamel on the surface of your child’s teeth. Pores and fissures form, and that’s when the harmful bacteria go to work.

A mouth’s pH level fluctuates depending on what is eaten throughout the day. Examples of the most common highly acidic foods include citrus fruits, soda, and sugary foods. Highly acidic foods tip the balance of pH in the mouth from a healthy alkaline to a dangerous acid.

Can brushing your child’s teeth immediately after a meal lead to even more damage? The answer is yes!

Eating highly acidic foods causes your child’s teeth to be more susceptible. If your child brushes when the teeth have been weakened by acids, even more destruction can happen to the enamel. Your child’s toothbrush bristles will actually wear away some of the enamel. So it’s healthier for your child to wait at least an hour after eating or snacking to brush.

Good preventive measures to take instead of brushing after your child eats include:

  • Rinsing or drinking water
  • Chewing sugarless gum
  • Consuming dairy or non-acidic foods to conclude a meal

These practices help produce saliva, which in turn restores a healthy pH level in your child’s mouth and coats the teeth with minerals they need.

Once your child’s mouth is restored to a healthy pH level, he or she may brush normally. Keep in mind that acidic foods can weaken the enamel on the teeth and take the right measures to prevent spiking pH levels.

Still have questions? Call our Norwalk, CT office and schedule an appointment for your child with Dr. Richard Malek.

Diet Soda vs. Regular Soda: Which is better for teeth?

November 17th, 2017

When most patients ask Dr. Richard Malek this question, they're thinking strictly about sugar content — cut out the bacteria-feeding sugar that's present in regular soda by opting for a diet soda and it will be better for your teeth. That seems logical, right? Well, there's a bit more to it than that. Let's take a closer look at how any kind of soda can affect your dental health.

Diet Soda – Why it can also lead to tooth decay

The main culprit in these drinks that leads to decay is the acid content. Diet sodas and other sugar-free drinks are usually highly acidic, which weakens the enamel on your teeth and makes them more susceptible to cavities and dental erosion. The level of phosphoric acid, citric acid, and/or tartaric acid is usually high in sugar-free drinks so it's best to avoid them.

Some patients also enjoy drinking orange juice or other citrus juices. These drinks are high in citric acid and have the same effect on the enamel of your teeth.

So what about regular soda?

We know the acidity of diet sodas and sugar-free drinks contributes to tooth decay, so what about regular soda? Like we alluded to earlier, regular soda is high in sugar — a 12 ounce can contains roughly ten teaspoons of sugar — and sugar feeds the decay-causing bacteria in the mouth. This also includes sports drinks and energy drinks, which are highly acidic and loaded with sugar too. So these drinks are a double-whammy of sugar and acidity your teeth and body simply don't need.

The problems caused by both diet and regular soda is exacerbated when you sip on them throughout the day. If you drink it all in one sitting, you won't be washing sugar and/or acids over your teeth all day long and your saliva will have a chance to neutralize the pH in your mouth.

The best beverages to drink and how to drink them

Drinking beverages that are lower in acid is a good step to take to keep your enamel strong. According to a study conducted by Matthew M. Rodgers and J. Anthony von Fraunhofer at the University of Michigan, your best bets are plain water, black tea or coffee, and if you opt for a soda, root beer. These drinks dissolved the least amount of enamel when measured 14 days after consumption of the beverage.

If you still choose to drink soda, diet soda, sugar-free drinks, or juices here are some other tips to lessen tooth decay:

  • Drink your soda or acidic beverages through a straw to minimize contact with teeth
  • Rinse with water immediately after consumption of the beverage
  • Avoid brushing your teeth between 30 minutes to an hour after drinking the beverage as this has been shown to spread the acids before your saliva can bring your mouth back to a neutral pH
  • Avoid drinks that have acids listed on the ingredients label

Still have questions about soda, sugar, and acid? Give our Norwalk, CT office a call and we’d be happy to help!

Amalgam Fillings vs. White Fillings

November 10th, 2017

Many varieties of fillings are available at our Norwalk, CT office. Most people are familiar with traditional amalgam fillings: those big silver spots on top of teeth.

Made from a mixture of silver, tin, zinc, copper, and mercury, amalgam fillings have been used to fill cavities for more than 100 years. They offer several advantages, including:

  • High durability for large cavities or cavities on molars
  • Quick hardening time for areas that are difficult to keep dry during placement
  • Reduced placement time for children and special-needs patients who may have a difficult time keeping still during treatment

Although dental amalgam is a safe and commonly used dental material, you might wonder about its mercury content. You should know that when it’s combined with the other metals, mercury forms a safe, stable material.

The American Dental Association, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U. S. Food and Drug Administration, and World Health Organization all agree that based on extensive scientific evidence, dental amalgam is a safe and effective cavity-filling material.

White Fillings

Newer, mercury-free, resin-based composite fillings (white fillings) are also available at our Norwalk, CT office. Composite resin fillings are made from plastic mixed with powdered glass to make them stronger.

Resin-based fillings offer several benefits for patients, including:

  • They match the color of teeth
  • Less tooth structure needs to be removed than with amalgam fillings
  • BPA-free materials can be used

Resin-based composite fillings also have some disadvantages, including:

  • Higher cost than amalgam fillings
  • Inlays may take more than one visit
  • Requires more time to place than amalgam fillings

There’s a lot to think about when you have to get a cavity filled. We recommend you do your homework and speak with Dr. Richard Malek before deciding what’s best for you or your family.

Pregnancy: What should I know about my oral care?

November 3rd, 2017

Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group know this is an exciting time as you anticipate the arrival of your new little one. We want to take this opportunity to provide you with some important information pertaining to your oral health during pregnancy. Just as the rest of your body is changing, the amount of bacteria in your mouth also changes. Scientists don’t understand all the reasons why, but during pregnancy, your mouth is more susceptible to bacterial complications that could result in increased risk for gingivitis or periodontal disease. What researchers do know is the change in hormones creates a more favorable environment for gum infections and diseases when you are pregnant.

You may experience an increase in gingivitis, even while continuing with regular daily brushing and flossing, and routine semi-annual month cleanings. You will likely complain of increased bleeding of the gums with routine daily care and more tenderness in the mouth. This is due, in part, to the increased blood flow and volume that naturally occurs with pregnancy. There is a greater amount of blood flowing through your veins, which translates into slightly engorged gum tissues. If gingivitis prevails, you may also experience pain and tenderness. We can help you navigate through your specific needs.

Brushing your teeth two times a day may not be quite enough. Similarly, if you only floss on occasion, consider making this activity a daily habit. Mouthwash is also advised, or sometimes a mild saltwater rinse may feel better than a commercial brand. Consider other products with xylitol and a WaterPik for additional cleaning.

Finally, we now know that bacteria in the mouth circulate throughout the body. These harmful bacteria compromise your immune system and may increase your risk for respiratory illness and cause other strains on your immune system. Remember that nutrients as well as pathogens are shared with your baby. If you feel tired or tempted to slack on your home-care routine, remember the importance and implications of your daily decisions on how your care for your oral health.

Contact our convenient Norwalk, CT location if you have more specific questions. We’re here to help you!

The Link Between HPV and Oral Cancer

October 27th, 2017

Cancer has become a common word, and it seems like there is new research about it every day. We know antioxidants are important. We know some cancers are more treatable than others. We know some lifestyles and habits contribute to our cancer risk.

Smoking increases our risk of cancer, as does walking through a radioactive power plant. But there is a direct link to oral cancer that you many may not know about—the link between HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) and oral cancer.

This may come as a shock because it has been almost a taboo subject for some time. A person with HPV is at an extremely high risk of developing oral cancer. In fact, smoking is now second to HPV in causing oral cancer!

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, “The human papilloma virus, particularly version 16, has now been shown to be sexually transmitted between partners, and is conclusively implicated in the increasing incidence of young non-smoking oral cancer patients. This is the same virus that is the causative agent, along with other versions of the virus, in more than 90% of all cervical cancers. It is the foundation's belief, based on recent revelations in peer reviewed published data in the last few years, that in people under the age of 50, HPV16 may even be replacing tobacco as the primary causative agent in the initiation of the disease process.” [http://www.oralcancerfoundation.org/facts/]

There is a test and a vaccine for HPV; please discuss it with your physician.

There are some devices that help detect oral cancer in its earliest forms. We all know that the survival rate for someone with cancer depends greatly on what stage the cancer is diagnosed. Talk to Dr. Richard Malek if you have any concerns.

Please be aware and remember that when it comes to your own health, knowledge is power. When you have the knowledge to make an informed decision, you can make positive changes in your life. The mouth is an entry point for your body. Care for your mouth and it will care for you!

Warning Signs of Impacted Wisdom Teeth

October 20th, 2017

You might suspect that your wisdom teeth are starting to emerge, but knowing the signs of impacted wisdom teeth can help you be more proactive about your dental care. Impacted wisdom teeth can be extremely painful and can make your life truly miserable until they are removed. Therefore, looking for the early warning signs listed below, and seeing Dr. Richard Malek if you experience them, can help you conquer the problem before it conquers you.

There are three primary signs of impacted wisdom teeth. While every person may not have all three of these signs, you can usually expect to experience at least one of these if your wisdom teeth are impacted.

Unusual Pain

If you are feeling a type of teeth pain you've never felt before, especially when it is focused in the back area of your jaw, this may be a sign that you have a tooth impaction. You may be fortunate enough to catch it early, before all of your wisdom teeth become impacted, if you see Dr. Richard Malek as soon as you feel the pain.

Swollen Jaw

If your jaw is suddenly swollen and the area feels tender to the touch, you have a high chance of having an impacted tooth. Since the wisdom teeth are set so far back in your jaw, the swelling tends to show itself low in the jaw, towards the ears, when they are impacted.

Bleeding Gums

If your gums are bleeding, something you may notice when you see a pink or red tinged toothbrush, you may be dealing with a wisdom tooth issue. When the wisdom teeth are impacted, they put a lot of pressure on your back teeth and gums, which often leads to bleeding.

Visit our Norwalk, CT office as soon as possible if you have any of the above signs of impacted wisdom teeth. The sooner you get treatment, the sooner the pain will be behind you for good!

Top Five Reasons to Choose Veneers

October 13th, 2017

If you notice every imperfection in your smile and you are aiming for a more ideal-looking smile, veneers might be for you. Veneers are common tools in cosmetic dentistry for improving the look of your teeth. They are thin layers, either made of resin composite or dental porcelain, that go over your teeth. If you are considering dental veneers, these five reasons to choose them may help persuade you.

1. They hide imperfections.

The basis of cosmetic dentistry is providing an attractive smile, and veneers are designed to hide imperfections such as chipped, uneven, or badly aligned teeth. With veneers, teeth are even and uniformly colored.

2. They are durable.

Dental veneers can last for a decade to up to 30 years, so you do not need to continually go back to our Norwalk, CT office to replace them. On average, veneers last longer than standard fillings.

3. You can get the process done quickly.

Often, you can get a full set of dental veneers in a three visits and within a few weeks. The first appointment is a consultation to evaluate your teeth and plan your treatment. At the next visit, Dr. Richard Malek and our team prepare your teeth for veneers and take an impression of your teeth so the laboratory can custom-make your veneers. During the final visit, we bond the new veneers to the surfaces of your teeth.

4. They can whiten the appearance of your teeth.

Coffee, smoking, excessive fluoride, and certain drugs can yellow your teeth over time. Dental veneers can be colored to have a bright white appearance so your teeth appear noticeably whiter. This can be especially beneficial for individuals whose teeth are naturally off-white and do not respond well to bleach-based whitening treatments.

5. They can fix minor dental problems.

Dental veneers are not solely cosmetic. They can improve a variety of dental concerns, such as teeth with uneven spaces. They can hide the appearance of chipped and broken teeth, and make more even teeth that are worn down, spaced unevenly, or shaped irregularly. Since Dr. Richard Malek can manufacture the veneers to match your natural tooth color, these thin layers are more attractive than unsightly fixes such as metal fillings.

Oral Health during Pregnancy

October 6th, 2017

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. Richard Malek at your regularly scheduled appointments to look for signs of gum disease.

Pregnancy and the Role of Our Office

Make an appointment with Dr. Richard Malek at our Norwalk, CT 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.

Zirconia Dental Implants

September 29th, 2017

Since dental implants first started being implemented in the 1980s, they have been primarily made of titanium. Recent advances in implant technology have allowed dental implant manufacturers to shift from all-metal implants, to part-metal and part-ceramic implants, to the newer all-ceramic or zirconia implants.

Zirconia implants are made of high-impact resistant ceramic called tetragonal zirconia polycrystal (ZrO2+Y2O3). They remedy many of the issues and complaints doctors and patients have with traditional metal implants and have several advantages—let’s take a look at some of them.

Advantages of Zirconia Implants

  • Do not cause allergic reactions – Although titanium is considered non-toxic, some people still have allergic reactions to titanium. Zirconia implants are inert, non-corrosive, and hypoallergenic.
  • Have been used for decades in medical applications – Millions of patients have had zirconia used safely and effectively as the base material for their hip replacements. The zirconia used for medical applications also undergoes strict radiation monitoring to ensure its safety for use within the body.
  • They are incredibly strong – Unlike titanium implants, zirconia offers a much higher degree of resistance to scratching, corrosion, and fracture. The aerospace industry even uses zirconia (ZrO2) due to its high resistance to heat and fracture. This all means a safer and more aesthetically pleasing result for the patient.
  • One-piece design is more hygienic – Zirconia implants are a one-piece design, meaning there is nowhere for bacteria to build up or liquids to penetrate like with titanium implants. They are highly biocompatible (how a material reacts with the human body) which leads to healthier gums and no risk of corrosion.
  • Implant margin is at gum not bone level – With titanium implants the margin (or gap between the implant and the tooth) is at bone level, which can lead to bacterial buildup since you can’t brush there. The zirconia implant margin, which is at gum level, allows you to brush and clean your implant and restoration regularly.

If you are in need of a restorative dental implant, it would be wise to consider zirconia due to its many advantages. It might not work in every situation, but feel free to discuss your options with Dr. Richard Malek or one of our Norwalk, CT staff members.

Do I lose my wisdom if I lose my wisdom teeth?

September 22nd, 2017

The third molars have long been known as your “wisdom teeth,” because they are the last teeth to erupt from the gums – usually sometime during the late teens to early twenties. This is a time in life that many consider an “age of wisdom”; hence the term, “wisdom teeth.”

Extracting the third molars does not have any effect on your actual wisdom … and Dr. Richard Malek and our staff are sorry to say that holding on to them can’t make you smarter, either. So if you somehow feel that you became wiser and smarter when your wisdom teeth appeared, chalk it up to age rather than teeth.

In fact, you may just be showing how smart you are by having your wisdom teeth removed. Mankind once relied on the wisdom teeth to replace teeth that were damaged or missing, thanks to a poor diet. But dietary changes and advances in modern dentistry make it possible for many people to hold on to their teeth for many decades, which eliminated the need for third molars.

For many people, wisdom teeth cause nothing but problems: becoming impacted, irritating surrounding gum tissue, or even causing other teeth to become crooked or overlap. By removing them, patients often enjoy a lower risk of decay, infection, and aesthetic complications.

So rest assured that extracting your wisdom teeth will have no effect on your immediate or long-term intelligence.

Why You Should Avoid Energy and Sports Drinks

September 15th, 2017

In a world where everything moves so quickly and teens and young adults find themselves pulling “all-nighters” or working long hours, energy drinks have grabbed the spotlight. You’ll have one (or three) and suddenly you have the drive you need to keep going.

The same can be said for sports drinks. It’s common for people to have one even when they’re not engaged in any strenuous physical activity, which is what they were designed for. People will drink them simply because they’ve grown to love the taste.

Although they might taste great and boost your energy, there’s a serious down side to consuming energy and sports drinks on a steady basis. Studies have shown that these drinks contain so much acid that they start to destroy your teeth after just five days of consistent use.

The acid in these drinks destroys your tooth enamel, which makes your teeth more vulnerable to bacteria. This can progress to staining, tooth decay, and hypersensitivity.

That’s why Dr. Richard Malek and our team want to encourage you to try to limit the amount of sports and energy drinks you consume. If you do enjoy either or both of these drinks, you should make it a habit to rinse your mouth with water immediately after consumption, and brush your teeth about an hour later, after the period when acid has a softening effect on your enamel has passed.

If you feel like you’re already experiencing the side effects of heavy energy and sports drink consumption, visit our Norwalk, CT office, and our team can provide solutions for how to prevent further damage from occurring. It’s never too late to change a bad habit!

Improve your oral health with xylitol!

September 8th, 2017

Xylitol tastes sweet, but unlike sugar, it is not converted to acid that can cause your teeth to decay. It’s a naturally occurring sweetener found in plants, fruits, and vegetables; even the human body produces it in small amounts. Xylitol is widely used in sugar-free chewing gum, mints, candies, and even certain forms of medicine.

The World Health Organization has approved xylitol because only a small amount is needed for its health benefits. It’s even safe for diabetics, with a glycemic index of only seven. Xylitol has 40% fewer calories than other types of carbs: less than three calories per gram.

So how can this natural sweetener benefit your oral health? Take a look at the facts. Tooth decay starts when bacteria consumes the sugars left in your mouth. When you eat sugary foods, the bacteria on your teeth will multiply and make acid that can destroy your enamel.

Xylitol is derived from fibrous parts of plants, so it does not break down like a regular sugar. It actually helps maintain a neutral pH level in the mouth, which in turn prevents bacteria from sticking to the teeth. The bacteria are then unable to digest xylitol, which means your teeth won’t develop enamel damage and cavities.

Studies have shown the consumption of xylitol as a sugar substitute or a dietary addition had a dramatic reduction in new cavities and even reversed existing cavities. These effects are long lasting: low cavity rates remained years after the trials were done.

When there’s less bacteria and acid in your mouth due to xylitol, your teeth stay healthier. The more frequently it’s ingested, the more you will prevent enamel damage.

Aim to consume around five grams a day, or one gram every three hours if possible. You can do this by consuming gum, tablets, candy, or mints that have xylitol as one of the first ingredients after your meals. You can find these products in health food stores and specialty grocery stores.

Since xylitol replaces sugar on a one-to-one ratio, it’s used in several common items:

  • Toothpaste
  • Mouth rinse
  • Baby oral wipes, gel, and pacifiers
  • Nasal wash
  • Dry mouth spray
  • Granulated forms for cooking
  • Granulated packets to add to drinks
  • Commercially prepared foods

Make sure to pick up items that contain xylitol the next time you’re at the store! This is an easy way to maintain great oral health. If you have specific questions about xylitol, ask Dr. Richard Malek during your next appointment at our Norwalk, CT office.

What was your favorite part of summer?

September 1st, 2017

It's the end of summer, and fall is just around the corner. Soon the temperatures will cool down, the leaves will start to change, and Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group are sure that you’ll soon be thinking about Halloween costumes and Thanksgiving plans in no time. But wait! First, we want to know about your favorite parts of the summer! Did you go on a wonderful family trip? Did you pick up a new hobby? Did you try to spend as much time outside and in the sun as possible?

Share your favorite memories, stories, or photos with us by leaving a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Is your child a mouth breather?

August 25th, 2017

Have you ever watched to see if your child is breathing through his or her mouth? Breathing through the mouth instead of the nose may lead to trouble for youngsters. Kids who typically breathe through their mouth—most often children who suffer from allergies—experience problems getting enough oxygen into their blood, a condition that affects their weight, size, sleep, and even their performance in the classroom and daily life.

Mouth breathing as a child can also lead to sleep apnea, behavior and learning problems, delayed speech, dental and facial abnormalities, and even breathing problems as your child grows. There are a multitude of reasons for an individual to mouth breathe, such as enlarged tonsils, adenoids, and deviated nasal septum, but the cause is usually allergies.

As bad as the condition sounds, we want you to know mouth breathing is a treatable condition. Doing so, though, requires early diagnosis and treatment. Since our team at The Harmony Dental Group sees our patients every six months, we may be in a position to identify the symptoms of mouth breathing.

If you suspect your child is a chronic mouth breather, please give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Richard Malek.

What should I use to clean my baby’s teeth?

August 18th, 2017

You might think babies don’t need to brush their teeth, especially when they don’t have any. But by starting good habits like brushing when your child is young, you can lay the foundation for them to continue those good habits into adulthood.

When do I start?

The best time to start brushing your baby’s teeth is before he or she has any. Develop the habit of wiping your baby’s gums with a wet, soft washcloth or gauze every day. There is no need to use toothpaste, just wrap the gauze or cloth around your finger, moisten it with a little water, and gently rub it over the gums.

This helps your little one get used to brushing while it eliminates bacteria in the mouth that can harm emerging teeth. You don’t need to apply a lot of pressure or even take very long: just a quick, gentle rub over the gums will do it.

What do I use?

When your child’s teeth begin to come in, you will need to switch from a cloth to a baby toothbrush. Find one that has a grip big enough for your hand, but a head that is small enough to maneuver easily in your infant’s mouth.

You don’t need to use any toothpaste until your son or daughter is about a year old. Even then, though, you’ll want to use just a tiny amount: about the size of a grain of rice. When your toddler is about two years old, you can use a pea-sized amount.

By around six years of age, your child will probably rinse and spit without your help. At that point, you may want to introduce a child-friendly fluoride mouthwash.

How do I do it?

Your child probably won’t be able to brush his or her teeth alone until about the age of five or six. This means that you will need to do it. To brush your child’s teeth, gently use the brush over all the teeth and gums, even areas where the teeth have not come in yet.

As your child grows and becomes more independent, you can allow him or her to hold the toothbrush while you guide your child’s progress. Make sure you talk to your child while you are brushing, and explain why you brush: what you are doing and how you are doing it.

In addition to regular visits with Dr. Richard Malek, instilling good oral health habits in your child early on will ensure a lifetime of good dental health.

Pacifiers and Your Child's Oral Health

August 11th, 2017

Children are born with a natural sucking reflex. In fact, sonogram images from the womb often reveal an unborn baby practicing by sucking on his or her fingers or thumb. Not only does sucking aid in your baby’s ability to acquire food and nutrients, but it is also a security and possible analgesic outside of meal times.

Though it is both normal and beneficial for parents to soothe their children with pacifiers during infancy, long-term use could interfere with oral health and development. Most children will stop using a pacifier on their own. However, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends halting pacifier use after age three. Prolonged thumb sucking or pacifier use after this time can cause the upper front teeth to begin to lean outward. It can also cause new teeth to erupt crookedly, and it can negatively affect jaw alignment.

If your child is not showing signs of self-weaning by age two, you may begin the process by limiting pacifier usage to specific times, such as nap time or when getting vaccinations. Offer an alternative security item, such as a blanket, and be sure to praise your child when he or she chooses the blanket over the pacifier.

Tips

  • Never under any circumstances should you dip your baby’s pacifier in something sweet. Though it is a tempting way of encouraging your child to take a pacifier when crying, it can also lead to early childhood tooth decay.
  • If your child has not discontinued pacifier use by age three, talk with Dr. Richard Malek about behavioral modifications or appliances that can help your child wean.
  • Never use negative reinforcement to discourage pacifier use. Punishment for pacifier use is not effective for changing your child’s habits.

If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s pacifier usage or which types of pacifiers are best for your child’s oral health, please give our team at The Harmony Dental Group a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office!

Dental X-Ray Safety

August 4th, 2017

It's easy to be skeptical about X-rays whether we speak of a full-body X-ray or a dental X-ray. Radiation is radiation. It's vital to know all the facts before judging too harshly, though. Dental X-rays can be one of the best preventive tools for your dental health. We offer various treatments at The Harmony Dental Group, but helping you become better informed is one of the best ways to decide what will be best for you.

According to the AmericanDental Association, healthy adults typically receive routine dental X-rays every two to three years. The timeline for children is every one or two years, and one and a half for teens. Children and teens require more X-rays than adults because their teeth are still developing, which makes them more susceptible to cavities.

In general, Dr. Richard Malek will determine how often dental X-rays need to be taken for each individual patient, taking into consideration physical symptoms, clinical findings, and risk for infection. Most dental professionals use Caries Management by Risk Assessment (CAMBRA) to help them determine how often X-rays should be taken, so you can rest assured that we are making an informed decision.

In addition to that, it should be reassuring to know that these days, most dental X-rays are digital, which significantly reduces your exposure to radiation. In fact, you’re likely to pick up more radiation just from being in the sun! Lead aprons and thyroid collars are also tools that Dr. Richard Malek and our team use to keep X-ray exposure to a minimum.

At our office, we believe that diagnosing cavities and other potentially harmful conditions by dental X-ray does you more good than harm. If you have any questions about our X-rays, feel free to give our Norwalk, CT office a call or bring up the subject during your next appointment!

Dental Emergencies in Children

July 28th, 2017

Dental emergencies are bound to come up when you have young children. Dr. Richard Malek and our team want to you to be prepared in case you run into a difficult situation. Problems can vary, from minor gum irritation to knocked-out teeth. Take a look at the different possibilities and how you can handle them.

Teething

Depending on the age of your child, there are common things to watch for when it comes to his or her teeth. Starting from a young age, your son or daughter may experience teething pain. This starts at about four months and can last up to three years.

Teething may cause your little one to become irritable and more prone to drooling due to tender gums. This is very common in young children who are teething, and can be alleviated by giving them a cold teething ring or by rubbing their gums with your finger.

Teething pain is as normal as your child’s first set of teeth falling out. On the other hand, if a baby tooth is knocked out in a forceful accident, make sure you bring him or her into our Norwalk, CT office to check that other damage hasn’t occurred in the mouth. On occasion, permanent teeth may grow in before baby teeth have fallen out. This may not cause any discomfort, but Dr. Richard Malek should make sure the teeth are growing in properly. Catching teeth that are coming in incorrectly can prevent issues from arising in adulthood.

Gum Issues

If you’ve noticed your child’s gums bleeding often, this could result from a number of things. Bleeding gums may be an early sign of periodontal disease, which is caused by poor oral hygiene when it appears in children. Excessive gum bleeding can also occur when children brush their teeth too hard, or suffer an injury to their gum tissue.

If bleeding is continuous, rinse your child’s mouth with warm salt water and apply light pressure to the area. If you become concerned about the amount of blood, contact our Norwalk, CT office and we will schedule an appointment for your youngster as soon as possible.

Depending on what type of dental issue your child is experiencing, you should make sure to treat it quickly and properly. If you have questions or concerns about what you can do to help your son or daughter develop better oral hygiene habits, ask Dr. Richard Malek for tips during your next appointment.

Don’t forget: As a parent, you can provide the best education to your children on the importance of proper oral hygiene by setting a good example. 

Are baby teeth really that important?

July 21st, 2017

Your infant’s first teeth will begin to appear around six to 12 months of age. You might wonder how important these primary teeth really are. After all, baby teeth are destined to fall out within a few years and be replaced by a full set of permanent teeth. However, baby teeth have important functions, and proper care can set the stage for excellent oral and overall health.

Promote Better Nutrition

The appearance of your baby’s primary teeth around six to 12 months of age coincides with changes in your infant’s nutritional needs. Beginning at six months, exclusive breastfeeding is no longer nutritionally sufficient; this is the age at which you should introduce solid foods.

At six to eight months, when your baby can start to chew, strained or pureed fruits and vegetables are appropriate. As your little one’s teeth grow in and chewing abilities progress through 12 months of age, you can gradually add cereal, bread, cooked meats, and other adult foods to his or her nutritious diet.

Increase the Life Expectancy of Baby Teeth

Although baby teeth are inevitably going to fall out and be replaced by permanent ones, making baby teeth last serves an important role that can have benefits into the future. Baby teeth serve as placeholders for permanent teeth. If they decay and fall out too soon, permanent teeth are more likely to grow in crooked.

How to Take Care of Baby Teeth

Your baby’s primary teeth are already in his or her mouth at birth; they are just invisible because they have not broken through the gums. Since they are already present, your baby can get cavities if you do not practice proper oral hygiene from the beginning.

  • Do not let your baby fall asleep with a bottle in his or her mouth.
  • Brush your child’s baby teeth twice a day as soon as they come in.
  • Floss your child’s teeth as soon as he or she has two teeth that touch.
  • Visit The Harmony Dental Group for your baby’s first checkup when the first tooth arrives.

Can my child really avoid tooth decay?

July 14th, 2017

Great question! Yes, in fact, tooth decay is preventable! Decay, which is caused by sugars left in your child’s mouth, can turn into an acid, which in turn can break down his or her teeth. Children are at high risk for tooth decay for a simple reason: many children and adolescents tend to be lax in their oral hygiene habits.

So, how can your child prevent tooth decay?

  • Start early. After the age of two, brush your child’s teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day. And, if possible, clean between the teeth with dental floss at least once a day, preferably before they go to bed.
  • Don’t allow your little ones to eat after cleaning teeth at bedtime, as salivary flow decreases while they sleep and their teeth become vulnerable to cavities.
  • Do not allow your little ones to nibble food or sip drinks continuously, and keep in mind that a low-sugar diet also helps keep tooth decay at bay. Allow time between meals for saliva to neutralize acids and repair the teeth.
  • Drinking water frequently throughout the day can also reduce the possibility of new cavities forming.
  • Dental sealants can also protect your children’s teeth from cavities. Sealants, which are applied to the chewing surfaces of molars, act as a shield between the tooth and harmful bacteria.

Finally, make sure your child visits The Harmony Dental Group approximately every six months for a checkup and routine cleaning! Please give us a call at our Norwalk, CT office.

Teeth Whitening For a Bright Summer

July 7th, 2017

Summer brings sunshine and warm weather, and many of our patients begin thinking about brightening their smiles this time of year. A whiter smile is one just one visit away at The Harmony Dental Group!

Teeth whitening is safe, quick, and inexpensive. It can be used to correct many tooth discolorations which may have been caused by staining, aging, or chemical damage to teeth. Using the latest in whitening technology, we can offer a safe method for creating the beautiful smile you've always wanted. Just let us know at any appointment if you would like a brighter smile.

Get your beautiful smile today! Give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office to schedule an appointment!

How often does my child need to see the dentist?

June 30th, 2017

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, checkups at The Harmony Dental Group are recommended for all children two times a year. Children should be evaluated for cavities and other emerging dental issues every six months, because these problems can lead to more serious dental problems and health issues if left untreated.

While it is always good to follow the official guideline mentioned above, it is also important to understand that each child is unique and his or her dental needs are equally unique. If your child shows signs of dental or orthodontic problems, Dr. Richard Malek might recommend more frequent visits.

One way to help your son or daughter maintain good oral health between pediatric dental visits is to monitor brushing and oral care habits, especially if the child is still very young. Children who are two to five years of age will usually still require at least some degree of monitoring during their dental care routine.

The Checkup Visit

During your child’s regular dental care checkups, Dr. Richard Malek will evaluate the current state of oral health and will be able to recognize any issues. The twice-yearly checkup visits are typically the time at which problems like cavities, irregular growth patterns of the teeth, and oral decay are discovered. Thus, making these appointments for your child, and following through with them, is extremely important.

Learning and Maintaining Good Oral Health

Dr. Richard Malek and our Norwalk, CT staff are your partners in terms of your child’s health care. Even when your child is an infant and a toddler, good brushing and other oral care habits can be taught. We will help you to educate your child about how to care for teeth in the most effective way, and you can carry those lessons home and help your child to follow them for the ultimate in oral health.

When should I floss during the day?

June 23rd, 2017

A vital step in your oral health routine is flossing. We hope our patients at The Harmony Dental Group maintain good oral hygiene, including daily flossing between each visit to our Norwalk, CT office. A toothbrush is not always enough to get to the hard-to-reach areas of your mouth. When food remains between your teeth, bacteria starts to grow and will break down your enamel. This is where flossing comes in!

Should you floss before or after brushing?

Whatever your personal preference, you may floss before or after you brush your teeth. When you floss first, you can brush away any leftover dislodged food debris from your teeth. On the other hand, when you brush first, you will loosen the plaque between your teeth, which makes flossing more effective.

The essential aspect is that you floss thoroughly by using a fresh strand of floss and make sure to get between every tooth. Even if your teeth look and feel clean, don’t skip flossing or plaque will begin to build up on your teeth.

When is the best time to floss?

Although you should brush your teeth at least twice a day, Dr. Richard Malek and our team recommend flossing your teeth thoroughly once a day. Many people prefer to floss before bed, so that plaque doesn’t sit between their teeth all night.

What kind of floss should I use?

You may choose between interdental cleaning picks or flexible floss strands to perform your daily flossing routine. If you have permanent oral appliances or restorations, be sure to follow the flossing instructions provided to you.

Do you need help flossing?

If you’re having trouble flossing or have questions about which floss is best for your teeth, contact our Norwalk, CT office and we can provide you with support. Be sure to keep up with your daily flossing routine, and we will see you at your next appointment!

How Computers Help Dental Implants Look Natural

June 16th, 2017

Never before have dental implants looked as natural and aesthetically pleasing as they do today. With the help of computer-aided design and computer aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM), Dr. Richard Malek and our team are able to create implants with impeccable fit and finish. Although these technologies have been in use since the 1980s, it's only recently that they became efficient and cost-effective enough to be useful.

Dr. Richard Malek can also take digital scans of your teeth, providing a much more in-depth and accurate representation of them when compared to traditional X-rays. This scan can be used to create a physical model of your teeth through the use of 3D printing technology, allowing for the utmost in accuracy when planning your implant treatment.

Since each of our patients are unique, these CAD/CAM technologies offer a highly customized approach to implant dentistry that helps avoid the "one-size-fits-all" ways of the past. The goal is to have an implant look and function as closely as it can to the tooth it's replacing. That’s why these implants are typically milled using ceramic or composite resin — materials chosen due to their durability and resemblance to teeth.

Even the planning of your surgery can be aided and guided by computers. 3D CT scans create a digital representation of your mouth including all significant anatomical markers. This data is imported into planning software which, coupled with CAD/CAM implant technology, is able to 3D print surgical guides that snap into place over a patient's teeth. This means less risk for surgical error and much more accurately placed dental implants.

The main benefits of CAD/CAM dental implants are that they:

  • Are extremely accurate for every patient, down to 50 micrometers
  • Have better long-term results and more natural-looking implants
  • Can be manufactured quickly, the same day in many cases

Of course this is just a quick summary of the benefits, and a computer-modeled implant may not always be the best option. If you have questions about the dental implants or the technologies we use to make them look as natural as possible, feel free to contact our Norwalk, CT office.

Alleviating Anxiety before Your Implant Procedure

June 9th, 2017

Does the thought of getting a dental implant put knots in your stomach? There are many people who don't enjoy getting dental work done and there is a myriad of reasons why. For whatever reason you aren't at your best when you arrive at our Norwalk, CT office, we'd like to offer some tips that can help put you at ease for your implant procedure.

Sedation

For lengthy visits like an implant procedure, sedation dentistry may be an option for you. With sedation dentistry you are given sedation medication, usually orally with a pill or intravenously, which allows you to drift through the entire procedure without any memory of it afterward. If you decide on oral sedation, typically you take the medication about an hour before your procedure starts.

To avoid any complications, a complete medical background check is made along with a record of any allergies before any sedation is administered. Your vital signs are also monitored throughout the entire procedure.

If you decide sedation is not the right option for you, there are other techniques that you can benefit from. Some of these include:

  • Communication: This may seem obvious, but communicating any fears or anxiety you may have about your procedure with us is extremely helpful. Not only does this build a relationship of trust but it allows us to try and alleviate your anxiety as much as we can.
  • Herbal teas: Drink some herbal tea (like chamomile or lemon balm) before you visit the office. Many patients find this is a great help in relieving anxiety and putting them sufficiently at ease.
  • Relaxing music: Bring a pair of headphones along and listen to your favorite music during treatment (preferably something low-key). Or why not catch up on your reading when you visit us — some patients like to listen to audiobooks too!
  • Meditate or practice deep breathing: Meditation and deep breathing are good to practice in general, since they relax both the body and mind. They can be effective in the case of anxiety, too!

How do you accommodate a child with special needs?

June 2nd, 2017

Providing dental care for patients with special needs can be a challenge at times, both for the dentist and the family of the individual. Fortunately, Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group have the experience needed to provide optimal care for your special-needs child. Here are just a few of the ways our office works to help those who need a little extra care.

Assistance with at-home dental health care

We understand that sometimes at-home dental care can be extremely difficult for those with special needs. Individuals with physical difficulties, which may prevent them from holding the toothbrush, and those with developmental issues, who may have difficulty understanding the importance of dental hygiene, need extra attention with regard to home hygiene care. Our team at The Harmony Dental Group can provide support and education to ensure your child will achieve and maintain a healthy smile. For example, devising improvised toothbrushes to help patients get a properly grip, creating a specialized meal plan, and establishing a more frequent office visitation schedule to monitor overall dental health are all areas where our office is happy to help.

Coordinating office care

Dr. Richard Malek and our team understand that sometimes special-needs patients feel anxiety when it comes to receiving dental care. In many cases, reliably seeing the same dental health professionals can help to promote a relationship and soothe the patient. We encourage special-needs patients to make appointments at the optimal time of day for them to help everything go smoothly as well. We also encourage preparing your child in advance of the appointment so he or she is not surprised in the office. In certain situations, Dr. Richard Malek may also recommend sedation dentistry. Occasionally, special-needs patients are too overwhelmed by the thought of dental care and exams are best performed with the support of light sedation.

Accommodating physical needs

We also understand that special needs patients sometimes need physical accommodations. Two of the more common examples we face are patients in wheelchairs who need access to the office. We are fully compliant with all accessibility regulations to make sure our patients receive the care they need. Other patients need physical props for their mouth to help keep it open if they are physically unable to do so.

Dental care for patients with special needs requires knowledge and experience of limitations and how to address them. In our Norwalk, CT office, you will find an accommodating staff ready to help, so your child can receive optimal dental care.

Thumb Sucking, Pacifiers, and Your Baby's Teeth

May 26th, 2017

Sucking is a common instinct for babies and the use of a pacifier or their thumb offers a sense of safety and security, as well a way to relax.

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the majority of children will stop using a pacifier and stop sucking their thumb on their own between the ages of two and four years of age. Prolonged thumb sucking or use of a pacifier can have dental consequences and needs be taken care of sooner, rather than later.

Many dentists favor pacifier use over thumb sucking because it makes it easier for parents to control and even limit the use of a pacifier. If thumb sucking lingers, the same strategies used to break the baby from using the pacifier can be used for thumb sucking.

Precautions

  • Try to find "orthodontically correct" pacifiers, as they may reduce the risk of dental problems.
  • Never dip a pacifier in sugar or honey to calm the baby.
  • Give your baby a bottle of water at bedtime, never juice.

Dental Complications

Long term pacifier use can lead to an assortment of dental complications including:

  • The bottom teeth leaning inward
  • The top teeth slanting outward
  • Misalignment of the baby’s jaw

The risk of any or all of these things happening is greatly increased if thumb sucking and pacifier use is sustained after the baby’s teeth start to come in.

Breaking the Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Habit

Most toddlers and children will stop sucking their thumb or using a pacifier between the ages of two and four on their own. However, if intervention is necessary here are a few tips to help your child break the habit:

  • Slowly decreasing the use of a pacifier can be effective for many children. This method does not work very well with thumb sucking.
  • Thumb sucking can be more difficult to break. Dr. Richard Malek may recommend using an over the counter cream that you put on the child’s thumb; it doesn’t taste good and usually does the trick.
  • Rewards can also help with the process.
  • If these simple commonly used strategies do not work, there are oral devices that will prevent a child from sucking their thumb or a pacifier.

Talk to Dr. Richard Malek and our team, as we have many tricks up our sleeves that will be effective in breaking your child’s thumb sucking or pacifier use.

Pediatric Dentistry: The benefits of dairy

May 19th, 2017

When you were a child, your mother may have instructed you to drink all your milk to build strong bones. Now that you have children of your own, you may hear yourself parroting those instructions you received years ago. Getting enough dairy is essential for young children whose teeth are growing. A child who consumes the recommended daily serving of dairy will develop healthy, strong teeth for the rest of his or her life.

Structure of the Tooth

To fully grasp the importance of dairy for dental health, it is necessary to understand tooth structure. Your teeth are made of living tissues covered by a hard outer shell. The inner dental pulp is fed by blood vessels and connects to a nerve bed in your gums. Surrounding the pulp is dentine, a calcified tissue that is less brittle than the tooth’s outermost layer, the enamel. The enamel layer is the white part of your teeth, 96% of which consists of minerals such as calcium phosphate.

How does dairy help my child’s teeth?

Milk and other dairy products are excellent sources of calcium. Your child’s body deposits this calcium into her growing bones, including the teeth. Calcium contributes to bone growth and strength, and it forms an important part of the solid enamel that surrounds each tooth’s fragile inner pulp. Milk also contains vitamin D, phosphorus, magnesium, and proteins. Magnesium promotes calcium deposits in your enamel, while phosphorus forms a small barrier against acidic foods that cause cavities. Vitamin D and protein are used by a child’s body to build bone tissue and maintain dental health.

How much dairy does a child need?

According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Connecticut, the majority of Americans do not receive enough calcium. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that children under the age of eight should receive at least two and a half cups of dairy per day. Children older than eight need three full cups — the same as adult men and women. Supplying your child with nonfat milk to drink and yogurt to eat every day is a great way to increase dairy consumption.

Growing children who do not get enough dairy in their diets risk improper tooth development and other dental health problems. Drinking sugary beverages in place of milk causes cavities and tooth decay. As a parent, it is essential to monitor your child’s dairy consumption to ensure he or she grows healthy teeth to last a lifetime.

Five Tips for Taking Tots to the Dentist

May 12th, 2017

Toddlers are notoriously balky about strangers. But their first dental visit should not be cause for fear and tears. Nor should you assume that getting your toddler to The Harmony Dental Group is going to involve a full-blown tantrum or Mafia-style bribery. “Honey, don’t worry. We’ll go get ice cream after…” sort of defeats the purpose of making that first dental appointment.

These five tips will make your toddler’s trip to see Dr. Richard Malek as fun as a stop at an amusement park.

1. Before you make a dental appointment for your child, take him or her on a ride-along to one of your dental appointments. Let your son or daughter experience the office and get the lay of the land. Toddlers don’t like surprises. But if your little one is already familiar with the big chair that goes up and down, the next time he or she will have no problem taking a seat.

2. About the big dental chair … well, it’s really an amusement park ride. See how it goes up and down? Toddlers love games, and turning the trip to the dentist into a game is among the oldest (and most successful) tricks in the parent playbook.

3. Positive reinforcement is a good thing. That's why Dr. Richard Malek and our staff hand out cool toothbrushes or stickers to children after their appointment. A fun-colored toothbrush with a suction bottom is a good incentive to come back for another cleaning.

4. Timing is everything. Don’t take your child to the dentist an hour before the daily nap. Make the appointment with your child’s schedule in mind. This increases the chances of success.

5. A few days before the scheduled appointment, start reading your toddler bedtimes stories about what happens at the dentist. Dora the Explorer’s Show Me Your Smile, written by Christine Ricci, is a popular dental story that your child might relate to.

Is there a connection between oral health and school performance?

May 5th, 2017

As a parent, you want the best for your children, and that includes doing their best in school. You can support them by taking an interest in their activities, being enthusiastic about attendance, and helping them with homework. There may also be one more way you can help your children succeed at school. Surprisingly, research suggests that children with better oral health are likely to do better in school.

What the Research Says

One study in North Carolina looked at risk factors for poor school performance among school-aged children. As expected, the study found poor school performance linked to low socioeconomic status, low levels of parental education, and poor overall health. However, it also found a strong link between poor oral health and poor school performance, with children classified as having poor oral health 40 percent more likely struggle in school.

These findings are generalizable to the rest of the country. For example, attendance is an important factor in academic achievement, but dental conditions are responsible for a loss 51 million school hours among schoolchildren each year. Dental pain and infection are linked to poorer performance.

School-Based Programs to Promote Oral Health

In light of the apparent benefits of good oral health for school performance, some schools are taking steps to promote better oral care and health. In Maine, for instance, schools in need can apply for grants through School Oral Health Program (SOHP). The SOHP consists of four components:

  1. Oral health education for all children to support healthy behaviors
  2. A weekly fluoride mouth rinse to strengthen teeth
  3. Dental screenings to identify children who may need dental care
  4. Dental sealants, or plastic coatings, on back teeth to guard against decay

The State of Maine also supports an “Annual Sugar Out Day” to raise awareness of the effects of sugar on dental health and to help students choose low-sugar alternatives.

Oral Health Habits to Adopt

You can help your child improve oral health and do better in school by encouraging good oral hygiene. This includes brushing at least twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, and reminding your child to drink water after eating. Also, regular trips to our Norwalk, CT office can help prevent serious tooth problems.

Steer clear of that candy!

April 28th, 2017

At The Harmony Dental Group, we know how tempting candy can sometimes be on our sweet tooth, but it’s important to remember that every candy and sugary treat you consume elevates your risk of developing tooth decay, which can break down your teeth.

While not all bad in moderation, when eaten in excess, candy can lead to big problems, especially if good oral hygiene habits are not followed. We have a few helpful tips if you just can’t stay away from all those treats:

1. Consume candy and other sweets during meals when your saliva can help neutralize the acids that are found in some candies, especially the sour variety.

2. Avoid sticky or hard candies, which can stay in your mouth longer than you think, resulting in acids being constantly exposed to your teeth. That leads to cavities and tooth decay.

3. Make sure the water you drink is fluoridated. Water that is fluoridated has been shown to help prevent cavities.

4. Make sure to maintain your daily oral hygiene habits. This includes brushing twice a day, and flossing at least once.

5. Visit our office twice a year for regular dental checkups and cleanings with Dr. Richard Malek. During your visit, we can help catch problems such as cavities early to reduce the effects they have on your teeth, as well as give you tips for improving your oral health.

We hope these tips have helped! To learn more about cavity prevention, or to schedule your next visit at our convenient Norwalk, CT office, please give us a call!

Dental Implants vs. Natural Teeth

April 21st, 2017

If you're considering getting an implant, you'll most certainly have questions for Dr. Richard Malek. You might be wondering how a dental implant compares to a real tooth. Let's look at some of the differences between implants and natural teeth.

It should be noted that one of the primary goals of implant dentistry is to try to provide the same form and function as your natural teeth. However, with that in mind, know that an implant is not a tooth. An implant does not decay and does not have dental pulp or periodontal membrane like teeth.

An implant won't always work in every case, but they do have some great advantages when they are called for. Some advantages of an implant:

  • Often last for decades without needing to be replaced
  • Create a functional and aesthetically pleasing replacement for your missing tooth
  • Don't require surrounding teeth for support
  • Do not decay like natural teeth
  • Can be fixed or removable
  • Are able to replace single tooth or multiple teeth

There are downsides to implants where natural teeth win out. The disadvantages of implants include:

  • Higher cost compared to traditional dentistry
  • It's a surgical procedure which requires a period of healing afterward
  • Fracturing of fixtures and loosening of screws can occur (only in about 5% of patients)
  • Since there is no cushion between the implant and the bone, fracturing of crowns and bridges is more common with implants than with natural teeth, though this is rare.

It's best to speak with Dr. Richard Malek about your options regarding implants. Let us know what you want to achieve and we'll work with you as best we can to accomplish that. And don't hesitate to contact our Norwalk, CT office for further questions about the procedure.

Anatomy of a Smile Makeover

April 14th, 2017

A smile makeover is usually a combination of one or more cosmetic dental procedures. To achieve your desired result, Dr. Richard Malek may perform or suggest a variety of options. The entire process is designed specifically for your unique cosmetic needs, and Dr. Richard Malek will make sure all your concerns regarding your smile are addressed.

Here are some of the most common procedures in cosmetic dentistry and how they work:

  • Tooth whitening – Whiter teeth are achieved through a bleaching process typically using hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. Yellower teeth usually respond well to this procedure, while brown-colored teeth stained by fluorosis or taking tetracycline do not respond as well to whitening. Tooth whitening is not for everyone; if you have sensitive teeth, gum disease, or poor enamel, Dr. Richard Malek may recommend against tooth-whitening services.
  • Orthodontics – Braces are one of the tried-and-true ways of achieving a healthier smile. Braces are typically worn between 12 and 24 months to reposition the teeth in a straighter and safer alignment. Since your bite is also corrected during this process, it helps ensure you won't have any trouble down the line. There are several different types of braces available these days including: traditional metal braces, clear ceramic braces, lingual braces, and clear aligners.
  • Veneers – Veneers are thin, tooth-colored material (porcelain or resin) designed to be placed on the front surface of teeth to improve their overall appearance. They can be used in cases where the color, shape, size, or length is not as desired. Veneers are usually used in cases where teeth are discolored, chipped, worn down, misaligned, irregular, or have gaps.
  • Implants/bridges – Dental implants and bridges are used to replace missing or broken teeth. Nowadays, both implants and bridges are commonly performed procedures. Implants integrate directly with the jawbone, while bridges are placed over the adjacent teeth to the missing tooth. Implant technology has advanced a great deal in recent years and highly biocompatible ceramic materials are becoming more commonplace.

Getting your perfect smile will take time and patience, but the end result will be well worth it! Please schedule an appointment at our Norwalk, CT office about the cosmetic dental services we offer, and achieve the smile you've always wanted!

Ease up on your gums — don’t brush your teeth too hard!

April 7th, 2017

A lot of patients go at their teeth like they were sanding an old floor—that is to say, way too hard! Brushing too hard is probably the most common mistake patients make in their oral care routine, and it can be detrimental to the gums and teeth.

What can brushing too hard cause?

  • Receding gums
  • Bone loss around teeth
  • Loss of teeth
  • Tooth sensitivity, especially to hot and cold
  • Worn down enamel

Brushing too hard wears away at your gums, which can lead to the neck of the teeth being exposed. This part of the tooth isn't covered by hard enamel like the rest of the tooth and hence the soft inner layer, or dentin, is exposed. Dentin is very sensitive to hot and cold and much more susceptible to bacterial decay. Once the gums recede due to improper brushing, it’s usually irreversible.

How to brush your teeth properly

You know you're supposed to brush your teeth twice a day, so why not do it right? First and foremost, you should only ever brush with a soft bristled brush—not medium or hard—unless directed otherwise by Dr. Richard Malek. Unless you have braces or specific oral health issues, brushing twice a day for two minutes is usually plenty.

The main purpose of brushing is to remove plaque from your teeth and gums. Plaque is actually soft and is a buildup of bacteria, saliva, and food debris. You really don't need to brush hard to remove it, just make sure you aim your toothbrush at the gum line (where plaque grows) and brush in small circular motions, never a back-and-forth motion.

It's also wise to hold your toothbrush gently. People tend to brush harder the tighter they hold their toothbrush.

Still have questions about proper tooth brushing technique or gum health? Ask any staff member or Dr. Richard Malek during your next visit to our Norwalk, CT office; we'd be happy to help!

Does the placement of implants hurt?

March 31st, 2017

If you're scheduled to get a dental implant, it's only natural to have questions about it. The pain involved is usually on the mind of most patients. Of course, some discomfort is possible, as with any major dental procedure. Having a well-defined plan ahead of time, which is carried out by Dr. Richard Malek, reduces the risk of complications or side effects post-surgery.

During the procedure you won't feel a thing, since it is performed under general or local anesthesia that totally numbs your mouth. It's more likely that you will feel some pain or discomfort after the anesthesia has worn off.

There are usually three things that will affect the length and intensity of any discomfort:

  • The complexity of your surgery (for example if you need a bone graft or sinus lift beforehand)
  • How well-trained the dental team which works on your case is (it may be multiple people, including a periodontist, oral surgeon, and/or general dentist)
  • How quickly your body is able to heal itself post-surgery

The pain experienced from an untreated case will usually far outweigh that experienced from a dental implant. Good oral hygiene after your surgery is important to avoid infection. Salt water rinses are generally recommended 24 hours after your surgery. Brush your teeth gently around the implant.

It's also a good idea not to eat any food that is too hot, cold, or hard. Soft or pureed foods will help you to avoid chewing for the first few days after surgery and will help your mouth to heal faster. You'll typically be prescribed pain medication, but some patients find that ibuprofen or acetaminophen work well enough. Just remember, the most severe discomfort is usually experienced within the six hours after your anesthesia wears off.

Getting a dental implant is a big decision, and we want to make sure you get through it easily. Our Norwalk, CT team is here to help if you have any questions about the procedure or post-surgery care.

More Adults Are Opting for Invisalign®

March 24th, 2017

These days it's becoming more and more common to see adults at our Norwalk, CT office getting their teeth straightened with Invisalign clear aligners — that is, if you can see them! Treatment with Invisalign is effective and aesthetically pleasing for all ages, but adults have certainly taken to them.

For some it may be to overcome the stigma that "braces are just for kids," but for others it may be the displeasing appearance and discomfort of traditional braces. According to the American Association of Orthodontics, from 1994 to 2010 the number of adults 18 and older getting braces increased by 58 percent, from 680,000 to 1.1 million annually. Many of these adults opt for Invisalign because of how discreet they are and since they don't need to avoid any foods or make dietary changes like you do with traditional braces.

The benefits of getting your teeth into proper alignment are many, and so are the advantages of Invisalign. By following your individual course of Invisalign treatment, you can expect to enjoy the following benefits over traditional braces:

  • The total treatment time is more precise with Invisalign since your treatment is modeled by a computer, as compared to traditional braces where it is really just an estimate.
  • You'll need to make fewer trips to our Norwalk, CT office since you can change your trays on your own every few weeks or as prescribed.
  • There's less risk to the health of your tooth enamel since there is no need to place brackets on your teeth.
  • Invisalign aligners are clear and practically invisible, so most people won't even know you're wearing them!

If you're interested in Invisalign treatment, please let Dr. Richard Malek know. We'd be happy to help you on your journey to a straighter, healthier smile!

How many times a day should I floss?

March 17th, 2017

Flossing is one of the most important parts of your oral care routine. Many patients know they need to do it but find it difficult to fit into their busy lives. Well, here's the good news: flossing once a day is enough if you're doing a good job!

Some patients like to brush before they floss and others like to floss before they brush. Some like to floss in the morning when they have more energy, others like to floss at night so they can go to bed with a clean mouth. Don't get hung up on any of this, the important thing is that you floss and floss effectively no matter when you do it.

Effective flossing contributes to oral health in these ways:

  • It reduces the chance of cavities between teeth, since cavities can only form on teeth covered with dental plaque and you're scraping that plaque away when you floss.
  • Along with brushing, it reduces the amount of time the plaque is left on your teeth, allowing them to be in a state of healing and remineralization for longer.
  • It removes plaque that accumulates at or below the gum line, aiding in the prevention of gum disease.

As you can see, flossing offers many benefits for such a simple and inexpensive technique. So if you're still wondering how much to floss, don't worry about it. Don't mistake the frequency of your flossing with the effectiveness of it. Choose a dental floss that you like and one time during the day when you can floss thoroughly and just do it! If you need more tips on how to floss correctly, ask Dr. Richard Malek or any member of our Norwalk, CT team—we'd be glad to help you pick up this healthy habit!

Aging and Oral Health

March 10th, 2017

As you age, it becomes even more important to take good care of your teeth and dental health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one-fourth of adults age 65 and older have no remaining teeth. What's more, nearly one-third of older adults have untreated tooth decay.

Oral health, regardless of age, is crucial to overall good health. Ideally, we all want to keep your natural teeth, but whether you're caring for natural teeth or dentures, advancing age may put older adults at risk for a number of oral health problems, including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Diminished sense of taste
  • Root decay
  • Gum disease
  • Uneven jawbone caused by tooth loss
  • Denture-induced tissue inflammation
  • Overgrowth of fungus in the mouth
  • Attrition (loss of teeth structure by mechanical forces)
  • Oral cancer

These conditions may not be diagnosed until it is too late. If you want to feel good, stay healthy, and look great throughout life, you might be surprised what a difference a healthy mouth makes.

Here are some tips for maintaining and improving your oral health as you become older:

  • Brush twice a day with a toothbrush with soft bristles. You may also benefit from using an electric toothbrush.
  • Clean between your teeth once a day with floss or another interdental cleaner.
  • If you wear full or partial dentures, remember to clean them on a daily basis. Take your dentures out of your mouth for at least four hours every day. It’s best to remove them at night.
  • Drink tap water. Since most contains fluoride, it helps prevent tooth decay no matter how old you are.
  • Quit smoking. Besides putting you at greater risk for lung and other cancers, smoking increases problems with gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss.
  • Visit The Harmony Dental Group regularly for a complete dental checkup.

If you have any questions about keeping up with your oral hygiene at home, please give us a call!

Seven Foods that will Give You a Smashing Smile

March 8th, 2017

As the saying goes, you are what you eat. But did you know that what you eat also affects your smile? Chow down on these seven tasty treats, recommended by Dr. Richard Malek and our staff, for a healthier mouth and a smashing smile!

Sesame Seeds

These tiny seeds that you find in some Chinese and Thai dishes (as well as on top of your hamburger bun) are packed with bone-building calcium. They help to preserve and protect the bone that supports your teeth and gums. As a bonus, they also help to build up your tooth enamel while sloughing away plaque.

Kiwi

This funny little fruit has the highest amount of Vitamin C of any fruit, including oranges! What does this mean for your chompers? Well, you need Vitamin C to keep your gum tissue healthy and strong. Without it, they are more susceptible to periodontal disease.

Sweet Potatoes

These are not just for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner! You should add sweet potatoes to your regular diet. These tasty spuds are rich in Vitamin A, which your body uses to form tooth enamel and heal gum tissue.

Onions

You know those strong vapors from onions that make you cry? Well, they come from the sulfur compounds in the vegetable, which gives them a superpower-packed antibacterial punch. Get ready, though: Onions are most effective for your smile when you eat them raw!

Cheese

If you love cheese, you will love this news! Munching on some cheese helps prevent gum disease and cavities. The reason is that cheese is very high in calcium and phosphate, which help to balance the pH levels in your mouth. This in turn helps to preserve your tooth enamel and kill harmful bacteria.

Green Tea

Sipping on some green tea can not only help prevent cavities and gum disease, it can also kill the bacteria that cause bad breath. Score! Green tea has catechins, which actually kill the bacteria that cause plaque. So drink up! Your smile depends on it!

Celery

Have some fun with that crunchy stuff because, guess what? It is great for your smile! When you chew celery you produce saliva. Your saliva neutralizes cavity-causing bacteria. As a little added bonus, while you are chewing, it is giving your gums a little massage and cleaning between your teeth.

So grab some of these healthy snacks and give your mouth something to smile about!

Beat the Brushing Battle

March 7th, 2017

Dr. Richard Malek and our team know it can be a challenge to get our children to brush, brush well, and brush often. Here are some tips that can help you keep those beautiful little teeth healthy.

Make it Fun, Make it a Habit!

We should all brush twice a day. The most important time to brush is at night before bed. When we sleep, our saliva production decreases, and this creates an environment for oral bacteria to cause greater destruction to our teeth and gums. Brushing should last at least two minutes, followed by flossing and mouthwash if you choose.

Here are some ideas to make this nightly ritual more entertaining.

  • Set a good example. Brush your teeth with your children and make it fun! Pick a song to play while brushing.
  • Make it a race to the bathroom to see who can get their toothbrush and floss ready. But don’t make it a race to finish; make sure brushing lasts at least two minutes.
  • Try using a sticker sheet. For every night your children brush well, give them a sticker. (Be sure to check their work.) After a certain number of stickers, they earn a reward. Let them pick the reward! As the child improves at brushing every night without reminders, you can wean her or him from the reward.
  • SPECIAL TIP: Let your child check your brush work!

As parents, we should help our children make health and wellness something to take pride in. Be gentle with your children when they make mistakes, whether forgetting to brush or maybe developing a cavity. Tell them even our team at The Harmony Dental Group gets cavities. Thankfully, there is always room for improvement. Happy brushing!

Periodontal Disease in Adolescents

March 3rd, 2017

Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group know that periodontal disease isn't something exclusive to adults. It can affect adolescents as well. Gingivitis, which is a milder form of periodontitis, is a form of periodontal disease, and a warning that more serious problems may arise. Untreated gingivitis can develop into full-blown periodontitis.

The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) explains that research proves that younger people may develop more severe forms of gingivitis. Gingivitis is linked to periodontal disease. Children and adolescents who have type 1 diabetes or immune deficiencies are more likely to suffer from periodontal disease.

There are three types of periodontal diseases Dr. Richard Malek and our team see in children and adolescents.

Chronic gingivitis

Parents may suspect that their adolescent has chronic gingivitis if he or she shows or complains of symptoms such as redness, swelling, or bleeding gums. Early treatment may prevent gingivitis from developing into a more severe form of periodontal disease.

Aggressive and/or chronic periodontitis

Once called adult periodontitis, the term chronic replaces “adult” because periodontitis can occur in people in their early teenage years, and progress throughout their teens. Chronic and aggressive periodontitis primarily affects incisors and first molars. One of its distinguishing characteristics is bone loss. Curiously, patients who suffer from this form of the disease have minimal dental plaque on examination.

Generalized aggressive and chronic periodontal disease

This form of periodontal disease has many of the same characteristics of the chronic and aggressive form, but this more severe type of the disease affects the entire mouth. Symptoms include major plaque and calculus accumulation, and inflamed gums.

In both forms of more severe periodontal disease, the overall gum structure may change. The severity of these changes may alter gum strength enough to loosen teeth, or even worse, cause them to fall out.

The success of any treatment is largely contingent on early diagnosis. Dr. Richard Malek should conduct a thorough periodontal exam as part of an adolescent’s twice-yearly complete dental examinations.

The mouth is full of bacteria. Some of it is necessary for food digestion. Diseases are more likely to develop if bacteria travel to open places in the mouth, such as exposed gum pockets or cavities. Proper dental hygiene is essential for a healthy mouth, and a healthy mouth offers greater protection against painful dental diseases.

Be sure every member of your family has a complete dental exam and cleaning twice a year, and contact Dr. Richard Malek when you or your young kids or adolescents complain of pain, sensitivity, or other oral problems. Early detection at our Norwalk, CT office leads to treatment of oral problems and prevents them from turning into serious periodontal disease and potentially irreversible problems.

Oral Health Problems: An indicator of overall health problems?

February 20th, 2017

If you are like many people, you might think of your oral health as separate from your overall health. After all, most dental coverage plans are distinct from health care coverage. However, your oral health goes far beyond being able to chew nutritious and enjoyable foods. Oral health problems may be an indicator of a variety of other health problems.

Links between Oral Health and Overall Health

In the late 1980s, researchers noticed a trend among patients who had recently suffered from heart attacks. As the Journal of the American Dental Association reported, they observed that these patients were more likely to have dental caries or cavities, periodontitis or inflammation around the tooth, and other forms of gum disease. Later studies found similar results, and dentists and doctors now recognize poor oral health as a risk factor for a variety of heart conditions, such as heart attacks, atherosclerosis, and coronary heart disease.

There are even more links between oral health problems and overall health problems. Some individuals do not find out that they have Type 2 diabetes until a dentist sees that they have periodontitis. If you have diabetes, worsening periodontitis can indicate that your diabetes is not under control.

Poor oral health is also associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Furthermore, poor oral health puts you at higher risk for respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, because harmful pathogens can enter your body through your mouth.

Take Care of Your Teeth

Keeping your teeth healthy remains important, especially as you grow older. Older adults are more prone to dental caries and other oral health problems, as well as to chronic diseases. While taking care of your oral health might not prevent a specific disease, a healthy mouth is a significant factor in your overall health.

You can take care of your teeth by continuing to brush twice a day and floss every day. Avoid consuming too many sugary and starchy foods, and drink water after each meal or snack to rinse your teeth. See Dr. Richard Malek for regular checkups, and contact The Harmony Dental Group if you have any concerns about your teeth or gums.

Why should I have my child’s wisdom teeth removed?

February 3rd, 2017

The wisdom teeth are the last of the permanent molars to emerge from the gums. This can occur as early as age 17 or as late as 21. Though some teens and young adults experience a completely normal tooth eruption with ideally aligned molars that pose no health threat, this is not the case for everyone.

According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), wisdom teeth must meet specific criteria to avoid a required extraction. These guidelines include:

  • Completely erupted and non-impacted
  • Completely functional
  • Painless
  • Free of decay
  • Disease-free
  • Capable of being properly cleaned

If one or more of your child’s wisdom teeth do not meet these conditions, we recommend scheduling an appointment with Dr. Richard Malek; an extraction may be necessary.

Impacted wisdom teeth

One of the most common reasons for extracting a wisdom tooth is due to impaction. An impacted wisdom tooth is one that has not erupted and will not fully erupt from the gums. Usually this occurs because there is not enough room for the tooth to emerge. Impaction can be painful and can also lead to infection if left untreated. According to the AAOMS, roughly 90 percent of the teen and adult population has at least one impacted tooth. Extracting an impacted wisdom tooth early can help prevent future complications, such as periodontal disease, infections, and damage to neighboring teeth.

Extracting fully erupted wisdom teeth

Even if your child’s wisdom teeth are fully erupted, Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group may recommend removing them as a preventive measure. Fully-erupted third molars often interfere with a healthy bite. This can lead to problems with tooth and jaw alignment and may also contribute to the development of headaches. Your child’s wisdom teeth may also be more prone to tooth decay and gum disease, because their location in the back of the mouth makes them more difficult to reach for brushing and flossing.

To learn more about wisdom teeth, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Richard Malek, please give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office!

Sealants: What are they and how do they help?

January 27th, 2017

Molars are made up of canyons, caves, pits, and seemingly endless caverns that are a breeding ground for decay. The protective solution is a sealant. When done correctly, a sealant from Dr. Richard Malek of The Harmony Dental Group can be most effective in preventing cavities.

A sealant is made up of composite (a plastic-like) material that contains bonding agents to seal to the edge of the tooth. Sealants placed on the chewing surfaces of back teeth block food from being trapped. The process in which a sealant is placed is quite precise and painless.

First the tooth is cleaned with a sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) spray. Then an acid etch is applied to “roughen up” the surface. No saliva is to touch the tooth. This will re-mineralize the area, then a repeat etching is needed. An alcohol-based liquid then dries out the area and it must remain completely dry. The sealant is placed and guided through all the caverns, pits, fissures, and grooves. It is then cured with a special light, which makes it a hard, plastic-like material.

Sealants can last for several years. It is wise to have them examined on a semi-annual basis. If there is a break in the sealant, a high risk for decay is common. If a sealant is damaged, repair is simple, painless, and quick to complete.

Who can benefit from sealants? Anyone! Children often receive sealants as routine preventive care. Adults with deep canyons with stained grooves on their teeth can also benefit from a sealant. The process is quick, painless, and does not require any anesthesia. It is an effective way to lower dental restorative costs.

An investment in dental sealants can reap great benefits as properly cared for teeth will remain cavity free. Our Norwalk, CT location is available to answer your questions so give us a call today!

Easing the Teething Blues

January 20th, 2017

Every moment of your baby’s first year of life is precious, since every day your child grows a little, develops new skills, and discovers new things. Most of it is wonderful, but parents don’t like to see their babies in pain. That’s why teething can be such a hard experience. However, you can take steps to make it easier for you and your baby.

What to Expect

Most babies begin teething around the age of six months, when the lower central incisors start to appear. Shortly after this time, the upper central incisors poke through, followed by the lateral incisors, first molars, canines, and second molars. Unfortunately, you’ll probably know that your baby is teething not because you see these teeth come in, but because your baby will be in discomfort. These are some of the signs to watch for when you’re expecting your baby to begin teething.

  • Tender and sore gums
  • More drooling than before
  • Being crankier than usual
  • Chewing on hard objects

What You Can Do

As a parent, you want to do everything you can to make your child more comfortable. These are some approaches that Dr. Richard Malek and our team recommend:

  • Take a clean moistened wash cloth or use your own washed finger to rub your baby’s gums and provide relief due to the pressure.
  • Provide a firm rubber teething ring for your baby to use, but don't use the type that is filled with liquid.
  • Use a bottle. A bottle filled with cold water can be soothing. Don’t give your baby formula, milk, or juice constantly because the sugar can cause tooth decay.
  • Medications can help for extreme crankiness. Infant Tylenol is an example, but it’s best to check with your pediatrician before giving your baby medications.

You might also want to take special care to dry the drool. It’s not just to keep yourself and your baby dry. Keeping your baby’s skin dry can help prevent irritation.

When to Visit Us

Once your child’s first tooth comes in, it’s time to start thinking your baby’s first trip to our Norwalk, CT office. The American Dental Association suggests that you bring your child to the dentist within six months of the appearance of the first tooth, or at about one year of age. Dr. Richard Malek can do a quick check for tooth decay, and we’ll make sure you know how to take care of your child’s new teeth.

Use Pediatric Dentists to Treat Children

January 13th, 2017

There are many different types of dental specialties out there, so how do you know when you should see a general dentist (your regular dentist), and when you should seek the help of a dentist with specialized training? This article covers the basic differences between a pediatric dentist and a family or general dentist, and why it may be beneficial to find a specialized doctor to work with your children’s teeth.

What is a pediatric dentist?

All dentists, regardless of which specialty they practice, attend a four-year dental school for either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. Once they have completed the initial degree program, some dentists choose to proceed to additional training in an area of dental specialty. Pediatric dentistry is one of those specialties.

A pediatric dentist will study the development of teeth from infancy through the teen years. Babies, toddlers, school-age children, and teenagers experience different growth phases and have different needs for their oral health care from adults. A dentist with post-graduate training in this specialty can often provide a more comprehensive approach to treatment to meet those needs.

Specialized Needs Pediatric Dentists Can Address

Starting with the first teeth that grow in your child’s mouth (usually around six months of age), you need to begin caring for your child’s teeth. However, it’s not as simple as just doing the same things you do for your adult teeth, because children have specific needs and may have concerns and issues that you do not face for your oral health care as an adult.

There are several concerns unique to younger dental patients. Beginning with babies, parents need to be aware of the specific oral care required for children. For example, babies who drink from bottles can develop baby bottle tooth decay if parents do not properly clean their teeth. Young children may develop a habit of sucking their thumb, which can contribute to poor oral hygiene. Children who have trouble with teeth grinding may need specialized care. And children have specific dietary needs that serve their need to develop strong teeth and gums.

All these concerns can be addressed by a pediatric dentist with specialized knowledge of childhood oral health and teeth development. General dentists often know some of this information, but without the specialized training they may not be able to provide the care that is geared toward the needs of your children. In addition, pediatric dentists will often have a practice that is built entirely with children in mind, with décor, staff, and other elements that can help put children at ease when it’s time to visit the dentist.

If you have young children, consider our pediatric dentistry office. At The Harmony Dental Group, our specialized care for young patients features a caregiver with the knowledge and training to provide your children with the best possible care.

How do I handle my child’s dental emergency?

January 6th, 2017

With children undergoing developmental dental changes and engaging in rough-and-tumble activities, dental emergencies can sometimes arise. If your child knocks out a tooth or experiences any type of oral discomfort, call The Harmony Dental Group right away so we can provide you with a quick assessment and pain-free treatment.

Before an emergency occurs, it’s a good idea to stay informed about the problems your child may encounter. Here are a few things you should keep in mind about teething pain, loose baby teeth, and other common dental issues.

Teething Pain

Typically occurring in babies that are between four months and two and a half years old, teething may cause excessive drooling, tender gums, and some irritability. Giving your baby a cold teething ring or gently rubbing her gums with wet gauze or your finger may also make her feel better.

Loose Baby Tooth

It is normal for a child’s first set of teeth to become loose and fall out. On the other hand, if your child’s baby tooth is knocked loose, schedule an appointment with our office so we can assess whether any damage has been done.

Issues with Permanent Teeth

Sometimes a child’s permanent teeth will grow in before the baby teeth have fallen out. Even if this condition isn’t causing any discomfort, you should schedule an appointment with our office so we can determine whether your child’s permanent teeth are growing in correctly.

Bleeding Gums

Bleeding gums can result from a number of factors, including periodontal disease, rough brushing, or an injury to the gum tissue. If your child’s gums are bleeding heavily, call our office right away so we can address the situation. If you have time before your appointment, wash your child’s mouth with salted water and gently put pressure on the affected area.

Regardless of the type of dental issue your child has, you can always consult Dr. Richard Malek for further guidance. We make sure our emergency services are available 24 hours a day and seven days a week, so you have ready access to convenient and professional dental care that will have your child feeling better in no time.

It's a Wrap: Ending the year with a smile!

December 30th, 2016

People have been ushering in the New Year for centuries but it became an official holiday in 1582 when Pope George XIII declared January 1st to be the day on which everyone would celebrate the New Year. At midnight people would yell, holler, and blow horns to scare away the evil spirits of the previous year so the New Year would be joyous and filled with opportunity. Nearly 500 years later, we still greet the New Year by whooping and hollering, but in a celebratory manner instead. Whether you intend to ring in the New Year quietly at home in the Norwalk, CT area or have plans to join the countdown at a gala extravaganza, these tips can help you ring out the old and usher in the new with a smile.

Tips for a Happy New Year's Eve Celebration from The Harmony Dental Group

  • Be Safe. There's no way to predict the behavior of others on New Year's Eve, but you can be responsible for your own behavior to keep yourself safe. If adult beverages will be part of your celebration, plan on spending the night wherever you are or line up a designated driver to bring you home after the party is over.
  • Enjoy Family and Friends. Spending time with the important people in your life is what makes the holidays enjoyable. Coordinate your schedules and choose New Year's Eve activities that everyone in the group will enjoy. You don't have to go to a party to ring in the New Year; some people like to go bowling, see a movie, or have a great meal at home.
  • Accessorize with a Smile. Whether you dress up or have a quiet dinner with family and friends, one of the best accessories you can add to your attire is a beautiful smile.

New Year's Eve is a time to gather with friends and family, reflect on the year that's coming to an end, and look forward to the new one with anticipation. Enjoy this transitional holiday in a way that's safe, healthy, and fun. After all, counting down until the clock strikes 12 marks the beginning of a full year of opportunity ahead of you. From Dr. Richard Malek, have a great new year!.

Relax with Sedation Dentistry

December 16th, 2016

Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group understand that many of our patients have a fear of dentistry. You may be concerned about experiencing pain from sensitive teeth or routine procedures. General anxiety is also common. Do not put off visiting our Norwalk, CT office; we offer various types of sedation to take the pain and fear out of your dental procedure.

Nitrous Oxide Sedation

For many patients, nitrous oxide, combined with local anesthetics, will both provide pain relief and reduce anxiety. Nitrous oxide is beneficial because the dosage can be regulated during treatment and patients are normally capable of driving shortly after the procedure is completed.

Oral or Injected Sedation

With oral sedation, you may be given a pill or liquid to consume several hours before your procedure. You will not be able to drive yourself to the appointment. An oral liquid is often given to children before any shots or intravenous anesthesia. An intramuscular injection may be given at the office that provides relaxation benefits for 20 to 30 minutes.

Nitrous Oxide with an Oral Sedative

If you experience higher levels of anxiety, an oral or injected sedative can be offered before nitrous oxide is started. This is also effective for reducing anxiety regarding the injection of local anesthetics. A liquid medication followed by nitrous oxide is beneficial for children. This combination can produce a deep sedation level.

General Anesthesia

This type of anesthesia can be offered as an inhaled gas or intravenous liquid. If no oral sedative is given before the general anesthesia is administered, you should wake up quickly after your procedure is complete. An injection, pill, or liquid medication can be offered to reduce anxiety before intravenous sedation begins. Intravenous sedation can also be used at moderate-to-deep sedation levels without complete loss of consciousness.

Do not hesitate to ask Dr. Richard Malek about receiving sedation or pain prevention when you visit. We will be glad to explain the options we have available and answer all your questions to ensure that your exam is pleasant for you.

Top Five Things to Keep Your Dentist Smiling

December 9th, 2016

Come say hello twice a year. The American Dental Association says two times is the charm. Multiple visits a year lets us keep an eye out for any developing issues. It’s important to remember that this goes for the whole family. Children over one year old should be seeing Dr. Richard Malek!

Stay fresh. At The Harmony Dental Group, we have a virtually unlimited stock of toothbrushes and floss, which means you have no excuse to be using a sad, ineffective toothbrush. As soon as bristles begin to fray, pick up a new one or stop by our Norwalk, CT office and we’ll replace yours. On average, you should be opening a new one every two to three months.

For goodness sake, floss! Flossing is an efficient way to keep your whole mouth healthy. It not only protects your teeth by removing aggregated plaque, it keeps your gums happy, too.

And brush. Practicing regular healthy habits is essential to keeping your mouth—and us—happy! When it comes to brushing that means two minutes, two times a day. If your kids need some encouragement, try making a calendar or playing a song like this.

Tell a friend. One way you can help us is by spreading the love. Tell your friends about what a good thing we’ve got going here. The more the merrier. And the healthier.

The Evolution of the Toothbrush

December 2nd, 2016

Oral hygiene has always been an important part of maintaining overall health. For thousands of years, humans have found ways to keep their teeth and mouths clean. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), “early forms of the toothbrush have existed for nearly 5,000 years.” But what exactly did the first toothbrush look like?

Toothbrush Timeline

With help from The Library of Congress, Dr. Richard Malek and our team have compiled a timeline with some interesting details about the evolution of the toothbrush:

  • 3000 BC – Perhaps the earliest form of the toothbrush, the “chew stick” was used by Ancient civilizations. People would rub this thin twig with a frayed end against their teeth to remove food and plaque.
  • 1498 – The bristle toothbrush was invented in China and had many similarities to the toothbrushes used today. These devices were made by attaching the stiff, coarse hairs from the back of a hog’s neck to handles that were typically made from bone or bamboo.
  • 1938 – Signaling the end of the boar bristle, Dupont de Nemours introduced nylon bristles, and Americans welcomed Doctor West’s Miracle Toothbrush, the first nylon toothbrush.
  • 1960 – The Squibb Company introduced Broxodent, one of the first electric toothbrushes, to the American market.

Toothbrushes Today

Today, there are many brands of toothbrushes that often advertise different benefits. The variety of options may seem overwhelming, but the most important thing is for you to find a toothbrush that you like and find easy to use.

The ADA recommends that you choose a toothbrush that fits comfortably and allows you to effectively reach all areas of your mouth. Whether you decide to use a manual or a powered toothbrush, make sure that you thoroughly clean all surfaces of your teeth twice a day.

Society has come a long way since the days of the chew stick, but one thing that remains the same is the importance of consistent and effective personal oral hygiene.

Are thumb sucking and pacifier habits harmful for a child’s teeth?

November 25th, 2016

Depending on how long the thumb sucking or constant pacifier use continues, and how aggressively the child sucks a thumb or the pacifier, it can indeed be an oral health issue. Generally speaking, most children outgrow these behaviors or are able to be weaned off them successfully sometime between ages two and four. When children wean off the behaviors in this age range, long-term damage is unlikely.

Why Kids Suck Their Thumb or Pacifier

Both of these habits are actually a form of self soothing that your child likely uses when he or she is very upset, or feeling stressed, confused, frustrated, or unable to properly express the emotions. If your son or daughters is a regular thumb sucker, or the child wants to use the pacifier almost constantly, it is best to try to taper off these habits at a young age.

If your child continues to suck a thumb or request a pacifier consistently after leaving toddler-hood, this could be a source of concern, and it should be addressed with Dr. Richard Malek and our staff. We will be able to evaluate your child's mouth to look for any signs of damage such as palate changes or teeth shifting.

Say Goodbye to Old Habits

In the event that your child is quite reluctant to give up a pacifier or thumb-sucking habit, there are a few things you can do to discourage these behaviors.

  • When you notice that your child is not using a pacifier or sucking a thumb, offer effusive praise. This type of positive reinforcement can be much more effective than scolding the child.
  • Consider instituting a reward system for giving up the habit. If the child goes a certain amount of time without this behavior, award him or her for being such a “big kid.”
  • Employ the help of older siblings or relatives that your child admires. When a child’s role model says that he or she stopped sucking thumbs at a certain age, your child is likely to try to emulate that.

Thanksgiving Trivia

November 18th, 2016

At The Harmony Dental Group we love learning trivia and interesting facts about Thanksgiving! This year, Dr. Richard Malek wanted to share some trivia that might help you feel a bit smarter at the holiday dinner table and help create some great conversation with friends and family.

The Turkey

There is no historical evidence that turkey was eaten at the first Thanksgiving dinner. It was a three-day party shared by the Wamponoag Indians and the pilgrims in 1621. Historians say they likely ate venison and seafood.

According to National Geographic, the dinner at the Plymouth colony was in October and included about 50 English colonists and 90 American Indian men. The first Thanksgiving dinner could have included corn, geese, and pumpkin.

Today, turkey is the meat of choice. According to the National Turkey Association, about 690 million pounds of turkey are consumed during Thanksgiving, or about 46 million turkeys.

The Side Dishes

The green bean casserole became popular about 50 years ago. Created by the Campbell Soup Company, it remains a popular side dish. According to Campbell’s, it was developed when the company was creating an annual holiday cookbook. The company now sells about $20 million worth of cream of mushroom soup each year, which is a major part of the recipe.

While there were likely plenty of cranberries for the pilgrims and Indians to enjoy, sugar was a luxury. What we know today as cranberry sauce was not around in those early Thanksgiving days. About 750 million pounds of cranberries are produced each year in the US, with about 30 percent consumed on Thanksgiving.

The Parade

Since Thanksgiving did not become a national holiday until Lincoln declared it in 1863, the annual parades were not yearly events until much later. The biggest parade that continues to draw crowds is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Beginning in 1924 with about 400 employees, they marched from Convent Avenue to 145th Street in New York City. Famous for the huge hot-air balloons today, it was actually live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo that were the stars of the show then.

However you choose to spend your Thanksgiving holiday, we wish you a safe, happy and healthy holiday with those you love.

How to Care for a Teething Baby

November 11th, 2016

After hours of juggling a wailing baby, you’re probably desperate to address teething pain. If your baby is irritable, drooling, and chewing on hard objects, he or she is likely teething. Although some discomfort while your baby is teething is inevitable, learning a few basic approaches can ease painful gums and soothe your frazzled nerves.

  • Offer your finger. Simply chewing on your nice, plump finger may be enough to ease your little one’s pain. Make sure you clean your finger before placing it in your baby’s mouth.
  • Use a teething ring. A firm rubber teething ring allows your child to gnaw, and alleviates pain. If your baby seems to like sucking on a bottle, replace the milk or formula with water during teething periods. This reduces sugar intake and decreases the risk of tooth decay.
  • Cool it down. Stick a clean, moist washcloth in the freezer (place it on a tray for cleanliness) and offer that to your baby. The cooler temperature of the chilled cloth eases the pain of teeth erupting through the gums. Soaking the washcloth in non-caffeinated tea, such as chamomile, may reduce inflammation associated with teething.
  • Grab some hard foods. Certain foods allow your kiddo to gnaw, and can ease teething pain. For example, frozen bananas, large chunks of chilled carrots, an apple, or frozen bagels make good teething pain relievers. If you’re offering your child solid food, watch carefully to ensure that your infant doesn’t bite off a piece and choke.
  • Try a natural remedy. Years of grandmotherly wisdom suggest that home remedies might help with teething. Try rubbing clove oil, peeled ginger root, or vanilla extract onto your child’s gums. Although there isn’t scientific evidence to prove these remedies are effective, they may help your little one through the painful teething process. Just remember to test the method out on your own gums first to ensure any tingling or numbing is bearable for your child.
  • Use medications. If your baby seems to be especially uncomfortable, over-the-counter medications may be appropriate. Giving an age-appropriate dose of acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) may reduce discomfort. Make sure you check with your child’s pediatrician or our office first to ensure the medication is safe.

If nothing seems to be helping your child’s teething pain, you can always schedule an appointment with Dr. Richard Malek. Our team at The Harmony Dental Group understands the unique health needs of your little one, and are more than happy to help ensure he or she grows up with a beautiful smile.

For more information about teething, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Richard Malek, please give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office today!

What is a pediatric dentist?

November 4th, 2016

Our team at The Harmony Dental Group hears this question a lot. According to our friends at the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), pediatric dentistry is “an age-defined specialty that provides both primary and comprehensive preventive and therapeutic oral healthcare for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special healthcare needs.”

Pediatric dentists, such as Dr. Richard Malek, are dedicated to the oral health of our young patients from infancy through their teen years. Our team at The Harmony Dental Group has the experience and qualifications to care for your child’s teeth, gums, and mouth throughout his or her various stages of childhood.

Pediatric dentists complete at least four years of dental school, including an additional two additional years of residency training in dentistry for infants, children, teens, and children with special needs.

At The Harmony Dental Group, we know children are not born with a fear of the dentist, but they can fear the unknown. And that is why Dr. Richard Malek and our team know how to examine and treat children in ways that make them relaxed and comfortable.

To learn more about pediatric dentistry, or to schedule your child's next visit at our Norwalk, CT office, please give us a call today!

Snacks for Healthy Teeth

October 28th, 2016

Concerned parents often ask Dr. Richard Malek about which kinds of snacks are best for a child's teeth. While most know that candy isn't always the best choice, many parents are confused about which kinds of after-school snacks can actually be beneficial for teeth. Left to their own devices, children might pick the sugary snack that comes in colorful packaging. There are, however, choices that are much better for your child's teeth.

Go Natural

The foods that are best for your children's teeth are also the best for their overall health. Choosing whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, is always the best option for snacks. Try sticks of celery and let your kids dip it into all-natural peanut butter, or a juicy and crunchy apple cut into wedges.

Lean Proteins

Lean protein, such as chicken breast, fish, turkey, and lean cuts of pork also make good snacking options. For the best overall health, avoid giving your child a lot of lunch meats, because such products are often higher in sodium. However, these proteins are also low in sugar, which is always a preferable choice when it comes to teeth.

Avoid Packaged Foods

Sugars are unhealthy partly because they stick more readily to the surface of the teeth. Even foods that appear to be healthy, such as many brands of granola bars, can in fact be loaded with hidden sugars. Sugar can also be found in higher concentrations in dried fruit, honey, and syrups. The rule is that if a foodstuff has been altered in any way from its original state then there are perhaps better choices.

Beverages

Drinks are another murky area. Parents often presume that fruit juices are an acceptable beverage when in reality many of them are loaded with excessive sugar as well. The best beverages for your child's teeth are water and low-fat milk. Milk has the added benefit of containing calcium, which is highly beneficial for the bone structure that supports the teeth.

An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but it is also a great snack to keep teeth healthy. The next time your children are looking for an after-school snack, guide them toward healthier, low-sugar options that are beneficial to their overall health and their teeth.

Tooth Worms? The History of Cavities and Tooth Fillings

October 21st, 2016

Scientists have discovered tooth decay in specimens that are more than 15,000 years old. The ancients once thought that cavities were caused by something called “tooth worms” … Eew! They didn’t exist, of course, but how else could humans explain the holes that cavities make in teeth?

The appearance of cavities on a widespread basis is often traced to the rise of farming. The new diet filled with grains and carbs made our mouths a haven for cavity-causing bacteria. As we added more sugar to our diets, our teeth got worse.

The “tooth worm” idea didn’t completely disappear until the 1700s when scientists finally began to understand the process of dental caries. Once that part of the puzzle was solved, they began focusing on filling existing cavities and preventing new ones.

Dental Fillings Come of Age

Many different materials, including beeswax, cork, aluminum, tin, and even asbestos, have been used to fill the holes caused by dental decay. Sometime in the mid-1800s, however, dentists began to use metal fillings such as gold, platinum, silver and lead amalgams.

The amalgam we use today is mixed from liquid mercury, silver, tin, copper, zinc, and other metals, but some patients still like the look of a gold filling. Newer options include composite-resin fillings, which are made from a tooth-colored mixture of plastic resin and finely ground glass-like or quartz particles that form a durable and discreet filling. Porcelain or ceramic fillings are natural in color, but more resistant to staining.

Dr. Richard Malek can help decide which filling is best for you, based on cost as well as your dental and lifestyle needs. You may not have “tooth worms,” but if you have cavities, contact our Norwalk, CT office so we can take the proper action to protect the health of your mouth.

The Importance of Baby Teeth

October 14th, 2016

Dr. Richard Malek and our team know it can be easy to underestimate the significance of baby teeth. At The Harmony Dental Group, we sometimes meet parents who assume that since their child's baby teeth, also known as primary teeth, eventually fall out and are replaced, they are less important. But did you know baby teeth serve purposes other than biting, chewing, and digesting food properly?

Baby teeth are essential not only for your child’s language development, but they also serve other important functions, like contributing to the normal development of your child’s jaw bones and facial muscles. Baby teeth also reserve space for your child’s future permanent teeth.

So, when do baby teeth fall out?

A baby tooth is intended to remain in your child’s mouth until the permanent tooth underneath it is ready to take its place. Sometimes, either due to a tooth being knocked out accidentally or being removed because of tooth decay, kids lose baby teeth before the permanent teeth are ready to erupt. If a tooth is lost, the teeth on either side of the open space may possibly push into the open space. The result? There may not be enough room for the permanent tooth when it is finally ready to erupt.

If you have any questions about your toddler’s teeth, or if your child is experiencing issues that concern you, please give us a call to set up an appointment at our convenient Norwalk, CT office.

October is National Dental Hygiene Month: A simple oral health routine for your busy lifestyle

October 7th, 2016

Adults are no strangers to feeling like there is never enough time in the day to get everything done. Your alarm clock rings and within minutes you ping pong around trying to spread peanut butter on sandwiches, answer your cell phone, remove the dog hair from your clothes, and make sure your child has completed his or her science fair project. Brushing your teeth can easily fall to the wayside. That is why our office promotes a simple, daily oral health regimen that you can easily incorporate into your busy lifestyle.

The American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA), in partnership with the Wrigley Jr. Company, is celebrating National Dental Hygiene Month (NDHM) during October. The ADHA encourages people to "Brush. Floss. Rinse. Chew...Keep it Clean, Keep it Healthy!" and offers some great tips for a quick and effective home oral health routine, below:

Oral Health Routine at Home

  • Brushing your teeth twice daily is the most important thing you can do to diminish the accumulation of plaque and the potential for other oral problems such as cavities and gingivitis.
  • Flossing once daily removes plaque and food from beneath the gums and between teeth that brushing alone cannot remove. Tooth decay and gum disease often begin in these areas.
  • Rinsing your mouth with an antibacterial, non-alcohol based mouthwash kills plaque and gingivitis germs that brushing and flossing do not catch. We recommend using a mouthwash with the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
  • Chewing sugar-free gum helps produce saliva, which battles cavities. The gum also neutralizes plaque, strengthens enamel, and removes remaining food. It is especially important to chew gum after eating or drinking.

It's easy to put the toothbrush down in order to take care of matters you feel are more urgent, but remember, a good oral health routine at home is the best way to prevent periodontal disease. "Periodontal disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults. An estimated 75 percent of Americans reportedly have some form of periodontal disease," said the ADHA. Periodontal disease also is linked to more serious illnesses such as diabetes and stroke.

Also, remember to keep regular visits with our office. Dr. Richard Malek can help you learn more about proper care for your teeth and gums.

The Thumb-Sucking Habit

September 30th, 2016

At The Harmony Dental Group, we are often asked “should I be concerned with my child’s thumb sucking?” So, our team thought we’d share what our thoughts are on your child sucking his or her thumb.

Infants Who Suck Their Thumbs

As infants begin experimenting with the basic functions of their mouths, from sucking on a bottle to beginning to speak, it is natural for them to suck their thumbs. Parents with young babies who regularly suck their thumbs probably don’t need to feel overly concerned, so long as fingers are kept clean and the habit is kept in check. For most children, the exploratory stage of thumb sucking ends after just a few short years. Problems with thumb sucking occur when infants grow into young children but the habit has not been resolved.

Dangers of Thumb Sucking

One of the main differences between an infant and a child sucking his thumb is the formation of the mouth and teeth. An infant’s mouth is barely beginning to grow and develop, so sucking a thumb might actually help to stimulate the process. For a child with a mouth full of teeth, however, a thumb-sucking habit might cause some serious problems. As a parent, it can be very important to watch your child carefully to make sure the sucking habit is regulated.

As a child grows and develops, baby teeth begin to fall out. A child sucking his or her thumb during the baby teeth stage may not run any great risks. Our team at The Harmony Dental Group often sees that once a child has developed his or her permanent teeth, the problems with thumb sucking can become more serious. KidsHealth.org states that children who suck their thumbs beyond the age of four or five might increase their risk of developing an overbite, infections, and other dental problems.

What You Can Do To Help

Parents who want to prevent possible problems for their child would be wise to begin preventive care early on. While you don’t need to be overly concerned about an infant sucking a thumb, it might be a good idea to help your toddler break the habit before permanent teeth begin to show.

  • Try to use positive rewards for good behavior instead of negativity or threatening behavior.
  • Talk openly with your child about the potential dangers of a thumb-sucking habit.
  • Help your child find other productive things to do with the hands as a means of distraction. Playing a game of blocks, for example, might be a great diversion.
  • Support and encourage your child while he or she is trying to break the habit.

As children develop, they have many things to learn and to think about. By understanding a few simple facts about thumb sucking, you can help your child develop in a healthy and positive way. If you have any other questions, feel to contact us at our Norwalk, CT office, or ask Dr. Richard Malek during your next appointment!

What's on your child's reading list?

September 23rd, 2016

What better way for children to spend their time than cuddled up by the fireplace or out in the yard with a book in hand? Dr. Richard Malek and our team encourage you to inspire your child’s mind with a few great books. Sure it may be easy to put off reading when balancing a busy schedule, but reading is vital to kids’ brain development. Plus, reading is always fun!

This week, we thought we’d ask: What are you or your child reading? Do you have any suggestions for must-read books? Out of ideas for great reads? Ask us during your next visit, and Dr. Richard Malek and our team would be happy to provide a few suggestions. You may also ask a local librarian here in Norwalk, CT for some ideas.

Happy reading! Be sure to share your book picks or your all-time favorites with us below or on our Facebook page!

When should I begin brushing my baby's teeth?

September 16th, 2016

One question our team at The Harmony Dental Group hear all the time is, “When should I start brushing my baby’s teeth?”

You should begin regular cleanings even before your baby has teeth. After each breast feeding (or bottle-feeding) use a clean, damp washcloth to gently rub your baby’s gum tissue. You may wrap the material around one finger to make it easier to remove any food bits from your baby’s mouth.

When your baby’s first tooth comes in, switch to a baby toothbrush. Look for special baby toothbrushes in your drugstore; they have just a few bristles and are very soft. There are even brushes shaped like finger puppets that fit over the tip of your pointer finger! All you need at this point is water (no toothpaste yet).

After a few more teeth appear, you may start using toothpaste, but you only need a tiny bit, and make sure it doesn’t contain fluoride for the first two years. From the beginning, have your little one practice spitting the toothpaste out after brushing. That way, he or she will already have the good habit of spitting when you switch to fluoride toothpaste, which should never be swallowed.

If you have any questions about caring for your baby’s teeth, or to schedule an appointment at our convenient Norwalk, CT office, please contact The Harmony Dental Group.

My teeth don't line up any more. Why?

September 9th, 2016

If your teeth don't line up like they used to any more, you may be suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder, often called TMD. This is a term that can actually be applied to any condition that occurs because the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is inflamed.

The temporomandibular joint is essentially the hinge that holds your lower jaw to your skull, and when it is inflamed or damaged in any way, it can be extremely painful. You have two temporomandibular joint, one on each side of your jaw, and it is typical to experience TMD in both sides at the same time.

Shifting of the Teeth

The reason that your teeth may not line up as they once did is that the ball and socket joints are often out of alignment and, as mentioned above, often very inflamed as a result. In order to correct the problem, Dr. Richard Malek may prescribe dental orthotics such as a lower jaw splint.

Sometimes, the wisdom teeth can play a role in the shifting of the teeth as well. If shifting wisdom teeth is combined with TMD, it may be necessary to have your wisdom teeth removed. Dental splints may follow if your teeth don't shift back to their proper positions on their own.

TMD is certainly a difficult thing to deal with, so if you experience your teeth shifting, scheduling an appointment at our Norwalk, CT office is the smartest course. We want to help you get your smile back, so give us a call anytime.

Labor Day: Our favorite holiday to rest!

September 2nd, 2016

Labor Day, celebrated on the first Monday each September here in the United States, is a holiday devoted to the American working community. The purpose of the holiday is honoring the country's workers and their contributions to the strength of our country as a whole.

How Labor Day Started

There is actually some debate as to the origins of Labor Day. It is uncertain whether Peter McGuire, a cofounder for the American Federation of Labor, or Matthew Maguire, who was the secretary of Central Labor Union of New York, had the great idea. However, the Central Labor Union's plans were what launched the first Labor Day in America.

The First Labor Day

The very first Labor Day was celebrated on September 5th, 1882. The Central Labor Union then held annual celebrations on September 5th for what they called a working man's holiday. By the year 1885, the Labor Day celebration had spread to many different industrial areas, and after that it began spreading to all industries in the United States.

Labor Day Today

Labor Day today is a huge United States holiday during which we honor the country's workers with a day of rest and relaxation or a day of picnics and parades. This holiday is truly one to honor the many people who work hard to contribute to the economic well-being of our great country!

Our team at The Harmony Dental Group hopes all of our patients celebrate Labor Day, and every holiday, safely and happily. Whether you stay in the Norwalk, CT area, or travel out of town, have fun, and don't forget to brush!

Getting to the Bottom of Chewing Gum Myths

August 26th, 2016

It's a moment many of our patients have experienced. One second you're chewing on a piece of gum, then suddenly you forget to keep chewing and swallow the entire rubbery gob whole! It's at this point you remember your mother warning you as a child that if you swallow gum it will stake a claim and take up residency in your belly for seven years. Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group hate to take all the fun out of the mystery, but the truth is that chewing gum, when swallowed, will enter your stomach and move through your digestive system just like any other piece of food. So, if you ever accidentally swallow a piece of gum, there is no need to worry!

That being said, it's important to know that gum does not have any dietary benefits, so while it’s not exactly harmful to swallow, you still want to avoid swallowing it. If you are an avid gum-chewer, we encourage you to chew sugarless gum, especially if you are wearing braces, because gum with sugar can lead to cavities. Sugarless gum still has the same amount of flavor, but has fewer cavity-causing ingredients. In fact, many brands contain an additive called xylitol, a natural sweetener known to fight cavity-causing bacteria. Xylitol is also known to increase salivary flow as it rinses away plaque and acid.

The fact is, when the bacterium in your mouth breaks down sugar, what’s left behind is acid. This acid eats away at the enamel coating of your teeth, causing holes that we call cavities. Cavities can lead to other long-term mouth problems if they are not treated in time, so it is best to try and avoid overexposing your teeth to too many harmful substances!

If you have any questions about chewing gum, please contact our office. Happy (sugar-free) gum chewing!

My gums are inflamed. What can I do?

August 19th, 2016

Inflamed gums are a fairly common dental issue, but unfortunately, many people don't take the problem seriously enough. If you ignore inflamed gums and continue your usual routine, you could be encouraging a much more severe inflammation problem, and the pain that goes along with that. Fortunately, it is quite easy to relieve inflamed gums if you use the tips below.

Use Soft Bristles

A soft-bristle toothbrush - the softest you can buy - is a must for anyone with inflamed gums. Anything that makes contact with your gums can cause you pain, so fine and soft bristles are always the best choice.

Use Sensitive Formula Toothpaste

The toothpaste marketed as “Sensitive Teeth Formula” contain special ingredients to help relieve sensitivity. When your gums are inflamed, even light brushing can cause some pain. Using a special toothpaste will help reduce that pain and make it easier to brush your teeth effectively. The effect becomes stronger as you use the toothpaste more, so use it for each brushing.

Visit Our Office

If your gums remain swollen for more than a few days or a week, set up an appointment with Dr. Richard Malek. There is a long list of conditions that could be causing your swollen gums, everything from gum disease to pregnancy, so you need to find out where your issue is coming from. Most of the time, Dr. Richard Malek can easily treat the swollen gum issue at our Norwalk, CT office, or can give you an effective treatment to take home.

What did the first dentures look like?

August 12th, 2016

Remember hearing about George Washington and his wooden choppers? Not his tools for cutting down cherry trees, but his false teeth.

Actually, George’s teeth were made of ivory but were so stained that they appeared to be made out of wood. You might think those were the earliest dentures. In fact, the history of false teeth goes back centuries before President Washington.

Ancient Times

The earliest known dentures consisted of human or animal teeth tied together with wires. Examples of such dentures have been found in Egyptian and Mexican archeological sites. Other ancient peoples use carved stones and shells to replace lost teeth. These early dentures were probably made for cosmetic purposes. The materials they used were not likely to stand up to the pressure placed on teeth during eating.

The earliest surviving set of complete dentures were actually made out of wood (sorry, George). They were found in Japan and date back to the 16th century.

Human and animal teeth continued to be popular materials for dentures until the 20th century in some parts of the world. But the difficulty obtaining healthy teeth (and the risk of disease from unhealthy teeth) led dentists to search for other substances.

Modern Era

In the 18th century, dentists began using porcelain, ivory, gold, silver and even rubber as tooth substitutes. Dentures made with these substances could be used in eating. They were often ill-fitting, however, which may explain why George Washington looks puffy and glum in many portraits.

Porcelain and metals were the most popular denture materials until about 1950, when plastics and resins were developed. Tough and durable, these materials make up most of the dentures Dr. Richard Malek and our team use today.

Still, what goes around comes around. Researchers at the University of Texas are looking at using human teeth for dentures once again. Only in this case, the researchers hope to use biotechnology to spur the growth of new sets of teeth to replace those lost over a lifetime.

The Secret to Lifelong Teeth Whitening

August 5th, 2016

Have you ever noticed your attention being instantly drawn to peoples’ teeth when they smile at you? Some people have dull and yellowing teeth, while others have teeth that appear bright white. Everyone’s teeth naturally dull over time because of aging and the contact your teeth have with staining foods, such as chocolate and coffee. However, teeth-whitening treatments can help you keep your teeth white for life.

Get Regular Treatments

The effects of teeth whitening or bleaching treatments are only temporary, so regular treatments at The Harmony Dental Group are necessary to keep your teeth white for life. Bleaching too frequently, though, can wear away your tooth enamel. The effects of in-office bleaching can last for several months to a year, while you may need to repeat your use of at-home bleaching kits every few months to maintain your white teeth. Whitening toothpastes do not contain bleach, so you can use them daily. The American Dental Association suggests asking your dentist for advice on which treatment is best for you.

Have Realistic Expectations

Not everyone’s teeth can be turned bright white, according to the American Dental Association. Your teeth may naturally be a light yellowish color that lends itself well to teeth-whitening procedures, but bleach is not likely to be effective for grayish teeth. Brownish teeth fall somewhere in between.

Practice Good Oral Hygiene

Your teeth whitening efforts will not be as effective if your teeth are in poor health. Visible fillings, implants, or bridges that are metallic stand out against the white color you want to achieve. You can help prevent tooth decay and reduce your risk of needing these unsightly treatments by maintaining a good oral hygiene routine. In addition to brushing your teeth twice a day to remove dirt and potential staining agents, the actions below can promote a healthy mouth.

  • Floss every day
  • Visit The Harmony Dental Group regularly
  • Rinse your mouth with water after each meal and snack
  • Limit sugary and starchy foods and beverages, especially between meals

Three Valuable Dental Treatments

July 29th, 2016

In our office, we customize treatment for every patient. Amid all of the fillings, crowns, and veneers, we find there are three treatments that are most valuable when offering our patients options: dental implants, bite guards, and teeth whitening.

Dental implants are a great tool for those who have lost teeth from trauma, genetic predetermination, decay, or fracture. Technology and design have allowed these implants to look and function like a natural tooth. They are a great investment when maintaining bone structure and smile presentation.

In our fast-paced lives, people take their stress and tension out on their teeth. Clenching and grinding, or bruxism, is on the rise. This is traumatic to crowns, fillings, and natural teeth. Headaches are a symptom of bruxism and when not treated, jaw joint inflammation and pain are a result. Bite guards are often worn at night when most of the action occurs. Many are not even aware of this habit until presented with evidence of cracked teeth, broken crowns, and pain.

Last, but most definitely not least, is whitening. Tooth whitening is safe and effective. There are different types of tooth whitening: in-office, custom trays, and over-the-counter strips. Each is effective, though at different levels. First, and your best option, is done in the office. The gums are protected and a gel with high potency is applied to the teeth. Some methods have a light shining on teeth and some have timed intervals without the light. Next are custom trays, which require an impression of your bite. Trays are picked up at a later date. At that point, instructions are given and the gel and trays are delivered. A final option is whitening strips, which can be found in many local stores. They are effective, though the whitening process is slower and some areas may not whiten.

Each treatment has risks and rewards that should always be considered prior to any treatment. Implants must be well cared for. Bite guards must be an accurate fit and worn regularly. Comfort is most important. Whitening causes temporary sensitivity and some people’s teeth whiten better than others.

Consider what your needs are, and then customize your wants to fit into the equation. A little stability from implants, protection from a bite guard, and a brilliant smile may be just what the doctor ordered. And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call our office, The Harmony Dental Group.

I drink a lot of coffee. Could it be hurting my smile?

July 22nd, 2016

At The Harmony Dental Group, we know most of our patients enjoy a cup of coffee or two throughout the day. But what many of you don’t know is that coffee can be especially tough on your teeth because tannic acid (the substance that makes the dark color) etches into the pits and grooves of tooth enamel, staining your pearly whites and being generally detrimental to your smile.

Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world, with more than 50 percent of people drinking a cup daily. Other foods and drinks such as wine, chocolate-flavored beverages, and soft drinks can all cause tooth enamel discolorations. A hot cup of Joe, however, goes one step farther: extreme temperature changes in your mouth can cause teeth to expand and contract. This allows stains to penetrate deep into the micro-cracks of your tooth enamel.

Additionally, caffeine is considered a diuretic, which means it causes the body to lose fluids. So when you enjoy coffee or any kind of caffeinated beverage, it slows the production of saliva and causes dry mouth, which can potentially lead to bad breath and even tooth decay.

If you just can't make it through the day without a cup of java, we encourage you to consider these tips to help make sure your teeth stay in tip-top shape:

    • Drink a glass of water with your coffee or rinse with a glass of water after every cup. Not only does it help neutralize and rinse away the acid left behind from the coffee, but it also helps replenish fluids drawn out of your body by caffeine.
    • Chew gum after you drink coffee. Chewing gum will help keep your saliva production up and prevent dry mouth.
    • Enjoy your beverage with a straw so that tannins don’t make contact with your front upper and lower teeth.
    • Switch to decaf. Each cup of regular coffee you drink has an average of 110 milligrams of caffeine. Decaf has the same great taste with only two to 12 milligrams of caffeine.

Dr. Richard Malek and our team also invite you to visit our convenient Norwalk, CT office for whitening options. We can help bleach your teeth with proven and professional products. To learn more about whitening options available at The Harmony Dental Group, please give us a call!

Fluorosis: What is it?

July 15th, 2016

Many people think dental fluorosis is a disease, but it’s not; it’s a condition that affects the appearance of your tooth’s enamel, not the function or health of the teeth. These changes may vary from tiny, white, barely noticeable spots to very noticeable staining, discoloration, and brown markings. The spots and stains left by fluorosis are permanent and may darken over time.

Dental fluorosis occurs in children who are excessively exposed to fluoride between 20 and 30 months of age. Only children ages eight years and younger can develop dental fluorosis. Why? That is the period when permanent teeth are still developing under the gums. For kids, fluorosis can cause significant embarrassment and anxiety about the appearance of their teeth. No matter how much they might brush and floss, the fluorosis stains do not go away.

Many well-known sources of fluoride may contribute to overexposure, including:

  • Fluoridated mouth rinse, which young children may swallow
  • Bottled water which is not tested for fluoride content
  • Inappropriate use of fluoride supplements
  • Exposure to water that is naturally or unnaturally fluoridated to levels well above the recommended levels

One way to reduce the risk for enamel fluorosis is to teach your children not to swallow topical fluoride products, such as toothpaste that contains fluoride. In fact, kids should use no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste when brushing, and children under the age of two shouldn’t use fluoride toothpaste at all.

Dental fluorosis can be treated with tooth bleaching, microabrasion, and conservative composite restorations or porcelain veneers. Please give us a call at our office to learn more or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Richard Malek.

Why Baby Teeth Matter

July 8th, 2016

The primary teeth are the initial teeth that erupt from a child’s gums in the first few years of childhood. There are a total of 20 primary teeth, most of which will have appeared no later than age three. Because they are only temporary, some parents believe they are less important than the permanent teeth that will emerge around age five or six. However, primary teeth hold a special significance and are important for a child’s long-term oral health.

Function and importance of baby teeth

Baby teeth have several basic functions. Decay can interfere with these functions, and potentially lead to life-long complications. For example, severe tooth decay that causes tooth loss during childhood, perhaps due to sleeping with a bottle at night, can obstruct a child’s speech development. It can also hinder his or her ability to sufficiently chew food.

The primary teeth also serve as place-holders for the permanent teeth. When a primary tooth falls out or must be removed before its time, surrounding teeth may shift into the space the tooth once held. This can cause orthodontic complications once the permanent teeth begin to erupt, which can lead to serious tooth alignment problems and call for extensive orthodontic treatment.

Caring for baby teeth

Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group will tell you it is never too early to begin caring for your child’s teeth. Baby teeth require the same care and attention that permanent teeth do. The American Dental Association recommends that children see a dentist as soon as the teeth begin to erupt from the gums. Early childhood dental visits usually include examinations, cleanings, fluoride treatments, and hygiene education for parents. It is also important to adopt an oral care routine at home that includes daily brushing, flossing, and dietary modifications that support a lifetime of good oral health.

To learn more about baby teeh, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Richard Malek for your little one, please give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office!

Happy Fourth of July!

July 1st, 2016

Happy Independence Day from Dr. Richard Malek and team! The Fourth of July celebrations in America may have changed a lot over the years, but there is no doubt that we Americans love to celebrate the anniversary of our country's independence! Today we're devoting the The Harmony Dental Group blog to some fun facts about the Fourth!

  • My, how we have grown! This year the United States Census Bureau estimates that our country has 313.9 million residents celebrating the Fourth of July this year, but back in 1776 there were just 2.5 million members of the country.
  • Our country loves to show how proud that we are of our independence. Did you know that there are 31 United States places with the word “Liberty” in their names? The state of Iowa actually has four towns with the word Liberty in the name: Libertyville, New Liberty, North Liberty, and West Liberty.
  • The United States loves Fourth of July food! It is expected that around 150 million hot dogs are eaten on the Fourth each year. One of the Fourth's most popular sides, potato salad, goes just perfectly with the hotdogs and hamburgers that are standard Fourth of July fare. Some people choose potato chips instead, but we wouldn't have such a plethora of potatoes if not for the prodigious production of the states of Idaho and Washington -- they provide about half of all the potatoes in the United States today!
  • Americans love celebrating the Fourth outdoors: About 74 million Americans fire up their BBQ grill every Fourth of July.
  • The Chinese contribution: Did you know that Americans have spent more than $211 million on fireworks that were imported from China?

No matter how your family chooses to celebrate the Fourth, stay safe, take precautions, and don't forget to brush after your fabulous Fourth feast!

Best Ways to Prevent Bad Breath

June 24th, 2016

Nobody likes bad breath, and although it can sometimes be difficult to tell if you have it, it is always better to practice good oral health than risk having a smelly mouth. There are many ways to reduce or eliminate bad breath, some are definitely more effective and longer lasting than others. Check out ways to do so below.

Floss Regularly

As difficult as it can be to remember to floss regularly, when it comes to bad breath, flossing is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to freshen your mouth. See, flossing reduces the plaque and bacteria found in areas of your mouth that a toothbrush simply can't reach, and in turn, it rids your mouth of the smell associated with that bacteria. While flossing may not eliminate bad breath on its own, if you do it along with other health oral hygiene habits like brushing, then you may just develop a fresher smelling mouth.

Use Mouthwash

Using some sort of mouthwash can really freshen up your breath, especially if you find it still smells after brushing and flossing. There is a wide variety of mouthwash products on the market, however, you can also create your own by simply using baking soda mixed with water.

Always Brush after You Sleep

Whether after taking a nap, or having a full night of sleep, you will want to brush your teeth in order to reduce bad breath. The truth is, bacteria accumulates in your mouth while you are sleeping (even during a short nap) and that is ultimately the source of bad breath. So next time you wake from a good slumber, give your mouth some brushing and you will find it makes a big difference in the freshness of your breath.

There are many ways to freshen your breath beyond just using gum or mints, the above mentioned are just a few for you to try. Test them out and you will likely find your bad breath problem is solved, or at least considerably reduced. Of course, you can always ask Dr. Richard Malek at your next visit to our Norwalk, CT office.

What's in toothpaste and how does it work?

June 17th, 2016

Dr. Richard Malek and our team recommend that you brush your teeth two to three times a day, for at least two minutes each time. But have you ever wondered what’s in toothpaste and how it actually works? The mouth is home to more than 500 types of microorganisms that feed on leftover food that gets stuck on and around your teeth. Toothpaste is the best line of defense against all those pesky microorganisms (especially when you brush two to three times a day). Here’s how it works.

Abrasives

Toothpaste contains mild abrasive additives that combat microorganisms and fight plaque. When you brush, the abrasives in toothpaste dislodge food particles and microorganisms more effectively than if you simply brush your teeth with water. The abrasives also work to remove food stains and polish the surface of the tooth. Some toothpastes include ingredients like triclosan and Xylitol. These chemicals prevent the growth of bacteria that produce plaque. Plaque not only causes cavities, but it can also lead to more dangerous issues like periodontal disease.

Fluoride

Fluoride is key ingredient in toothpaste. As the microorganisms in your mouth feed off the leftover food particles, they leave behind acid and sulfur byproducts that wear away the enamel of the teeth. This is the fancy, technical way of saying that the acid on your teeth causes cavities. As for the sulfur byproduct –well, that’s just a fancy, scientific name for bad breath. Fluoride works to fight the acid and help protect the teeth. By brushing, the fluoride is incorporated into the tooth enamel, which in turn makes the tooth more resistant to acid and plaque.

Flavoring and Sweetening Agents

Not all toothpaste tastes the same, right? The type of flavoring or sweetening agents added to the toothpaste doesn't have anything to do with fighting microorganisms and plaque, but taste is one of the most important selling points in finding a toothpaste brand you like. Flavoring agents mask the taste of some of the other ingredients in toothpaste, and without those agents chances are nobody would be brushing their teeth two to three time a day.

Happy Gums, Happy Heart!

June 10th, 2016

Medical doctors and dental health professionals, like Dr. Richard Malek, have debated over the connection (or lack thereof) between gum disease and heart disease. While there still is no unanimous consensus on whether there is a link – or the extent to any link there may be – several studies offer some interesting insight into possible correlations that may prove that there are some common factors that point to a likely correlation between the two.

Could there be a link between gum disease and heart disease?

Dr. Simone Ricketts reported on the findings of an Australian study of 80 patients in Profile Magazine. That study showed that 70% of the patients who participated in the study and needed heart transplants also had gum disease. She noted that other studies show a similar pattern, indicating that patients who needed heart transplants or other cardiac surgery procedures, were more likely to have dental problems.

Not Just Heart Disease Linked to Gum Disease

It isn’t just heart disease that experts are linking to periodontal disease, however. More and more evidence is showing that many chronic inflammatory diseases such as diabetes can be linked to periodontal disease. Poor oral hygiene resulting in gum disease was evident in blood tests that showed positive markers for inflammation.

Experts looked at a combination of over 120 medical studies focusing on a link between dental health and heart health. The findings of that research were published in the Journal of Periodontology and the American Journal of Cardiology. While there was no agreement on a definitive link, the research showed some promising results, and offer information that may be helpful to both dental health professionals and their patients.

On its own, gum disease increases the risk of developing coronary artery disease. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) showed that gum disease increases the risk factor for blood vessel and artery diseases when those arteries supply blood to the brain.

This is especially important for strokes because they are a common cause of inadequate blood flow to the brain. Data from another study of 50,000+ people found a higher risk of stroke among people with gum disease and tooth loss.

The study did, however, show two very important connections between gum and heart disease:

  • Both the gums of people with gum disease and the blood vessels of people who had atherosclerosis tested positive for similar types of bacteria.
  • Both patients with atherosclerosis and those with gum disease showed the presence of inflammation in their bodies.

Patients need to understand the importance of taking care of their mouths and doing whatever is necessary to ensure or support heart health – even if there is no guarantee that doing so will prevent either disease.

Women’s Medications and Dry Mouth

June 3rd, 2016

Women using medication to treat a variety of medical conditions are often unaware of the potential side effects. One common side effect of medications such as blood pressure medication, birth control pills, antidepressants, and cancer treatments is dry mouth. The technical term for dry mouth is xerostomia.

Xerostomia can lead to undesirable effects in the oral cavity including periodontal disease and a high rate of decay. Many women who have not had a cavity in years will return for their routine exam and suddenly be plagued with a multitude of cavities around crowns and at the gum line, or have active periodontal disease. The only thing that the patient may have changed in the past six months is starting a new medication.

Saliva washes away bacteria and cleans the oral cavity, and when saliva flow is diminished harmful bacteria can flourish in the mouth leading to decay and gum disease. Many medications can reduce the flow of saliva without the patient realizing the side effect. Birth control pills can also lead to a higher risk of inflammation and bleeding gums. Patients undergoing cancer treatments, especially radiation to the head and neck region, are at a greatly heightened risk of oral complications due to the possibility of damage to the saliva glands.

There are many over the counter saliva substitutes and products to temporarily increase saliva production and help manage xerostomia. One great option for a woman with severe dry mouth or high decay rate is home fluoride treatments. These work in a number of ways, including custom fluoride trays that are worn for a short period of time daily at home, a prescription strength fluoride toothpaste, or an over the counter fluoride rinse. If you have more questions on fluoride treatments, make sure to ask Dr. Richard Malek at your next visit to our office.

The benefits of many of the medications on the market outweigh the risks associated with xerostomia, however, with regular exams you can manage the risk and prevent many oral consequences of medications.

Memorial Day: Parades, remembrance, and the unofficial start of summer!

May 27th, 2016

“The purpose of all war is peace.” - Saint Augustine

Fire truck sirens, baton twirlers, marching bands covering patriotic tunes, colorful floats, costumes, and millions of red, white, and blue American flags being waved in the air on a beautiful day in late May, that is what Memorial Day is all about. It is a federal holiday celebrated with town parades, remembrance, and a sense of unity and community togetherness.

Our team at The Harmony Dental Group wants to take this time to wish you and your family a happy Memorial Day, as well as pause for a moment to reflect on what this holiday means and how it has changed over time. No, this is not a history lesson, but just a couple of thoughts and observances for you to take with you on your way to the next barbecue.

On the last Monday in May, America observes Memorial Day as a time to remember and celebrate the men and women who have lost their lives while serving our country in the Armed Forces. The holiday originated after the Civil War; at that time it was known as Decoration Day. While holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter remain the same from year to year, Memorial Day has changed over time, and in the 21st century we observe a far different holiday than what Americans did after the Civil War, or even the World Wars.

While many people place flags at cemeteries and visit national memorials in order to honor those who have passed away serving the country, Memorial Day is also a time for family barbecues, pool parties, trips to the beach, blockbuster movies, long weekend getaways, and fireworks. In America, Memorial Day has come to represent the unofficial start of the summer – a long, sunny, warm weekend devoted to family togetherness, outdoor events, and community.

It is time to load up the potato salad and the apple pie and head over to the neighbor’s house for their annual barbecue. And yes, contrary to popular belief, we do eat sweets, especially homemade apple pie! Everything in moderation, of course.

So whether you’re in the Norwalk, CT area or beyond, Happy Memorial Day to you and yours from Dr. Richard Malek!

Pediatric Dental Emergency Know-How

May 20th, 2016

First aid training is a must when you are a parent. You can put on a bandage with your eyes closed. Perhaps even apply butterfly tape to avoid stitches. What about a dental injury? Do you have a checklist in mind on what to do when a tooth is knocked out, broken, or displaced from impact? All of these situations happen often and should be in a parent’s emergency training regiment. Luckily Dr. Richard Malek and our team are here to be a resource for such an incident!

Children’s most common dental injury is chipping a front tooth. It is so common that it seems like a right of passage. Say, for example, a two year old trips and hits her front teeth on the tile floor. First, check to see if the teeth have been broken to the nerve. You can tell if you see layers and a pinkish center. Then, wiggle each tooth and make sure it is not loose. If the teeth feel firmly in place, that is a good sign. Even if they are a little loose, the teeth will tighten again with time. If she develops a severe temperature or bite sensitivity then you know treatment is needed, which may include a root canal. If there are minor symptoms that diminish with time, continued observation will be fine.

Knocking out a tooth is also common and requires more attention than observation alone. As soon as possible, locate the tooth, touch only the crown (not the root), and rinse any debris gently with milk or water. Place it back into the tooth socket as soon as possible. The American Association of Endodontists states a tooth has a high chance of survival and retention for life if it is re-implanted within five minutes or up to 60 minutes if soaking in milk or saline solution. Our team at The Harmony Dental Group know many parents are nervous about the thought of doing this alone, but not to worry, our team is here to help!

Here’s another dental emergency example: Your child takes an elbow to the mouth during a basketball game and severely displaces a tooth but does not knock it out. What to do? First, apply light pressure in an attempt to move it back into place. Be extremely careful not to use excessive force. Place a cold pack for swelling and contact our office as soon as possible.

A dental emergency can be frightening. It is often messy and painful. The best initial reaction is to remain calm, and remember that we are here to help! Contact us at our Norwalk, CT office if your child encounters a dental emergency.

Good Teeth Lead to Sporting Success

May 13th, 2016

You already know that taking care of your teeth can help prevent tooth decay and the need for extensive work such as root canals or implants, which can be inconvenient and expensive. But the benefits of good teeth can go far beyond having an attractive smile and being able to crunch carrots and chew meat.

The American Dental Association explains that healthy teeth are linked to a lower risk for heart disease and diabetes. Furthermore, recent research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine states that good teeth can improve athletic performance among elite athletes.

Researchers examined the oral health of nearly 300 athletes in 25 sports at the 2012 Olympics in London. They looked for conditions such as dental caries, gingivitis, dental erosion, and periodontal disease, and asked about recent visits to a dentist.

Study investigators also asked athletes whether their oral health interfered with quality of life or athletic training and performance. The study concluded that poor oral health and fewer dental visits led to interference with preparation for competition.

This can happen for a few reasons. Tooth pain can disrupt sleep, which leads to slower reaction times. Oral health conditions can indicate chronic inflammation in the body, which means suboptimal performances on an elite level. Tooth pain can interfere with focus during training and competition.

Unfortunately, merely taking good care of your teeth won’t turn you into an Olympic gold medalist. However, the benefits can still be worthwhile. Even if healthy teeth provide little if any detectable gain in your athletic abilities, the potential benefits of maintaining a healthy mouth clearly go far beyond an attractive smile.

Practicing good oral hygiene and seeing Dr. Richard Malek regularly can promote your physical health, and maybe – just maybe – you will start to achieve an advantage over your weekend athletic opponents.

Preventing Tooth Decay in Children

May 6th, 2016

Childhood tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, affecting nearly one in three children between the ages of two and five. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry reports that tooth decay can appear in children as young as six months old. As a parent, it is possible to spare your child from early childhood tooth decay, and potentially prevent a lifetime of oral health problems in one fell swoop.

Birth to age two

Good oral health begins before your child’s teeth ever erupt from the gums. During the first few months of life, you should be wiping your child’s gums with a damp cloth after eating. As soon as teeth appear, Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group recommend you start brushing them with a toddler toothbrush and water, and call our Norwalk, CT office to schedule your child’s first visit. Never allow your child to go to bed with a bottle, and try to limit beverages other than water only to meal times. Children who walk around or go to sleep with bottles or sippy cups full of juice or milk are exposed to more sugars and are more likely to develop tooth decay.

Ages two to six

All of your child’s primary teeth should erupt by age three. Brush your toddler’s teeth at least twice daily with a toddler toothpaste and toothbrush. As your child gets older and learns not to swallow toothpaste, you may begin to use oral care products specially designed for preschoolers and elementary-age children. Be sure to maintain regular dental appointments and cleanings as recommended by your child’s dentist, and encourage your son or daughter to begin drinking from a regular cup. This is also the time to teach your child the importance of healthy eating habits, which includes limiting sweets and sugary desserts to mealtime.

By first grade, your child will begin to lose primary teeth. This is the time to start talking with Dr. Richard Malek about dental sealants, which can prevent tooth decay from forming on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Sealants are painless, easy to apply, and undetectable to other people.

Tips

Fluoride is an important ingredient for healthy teeth. Check to make sure the water your child drinks is enriched with fluoride. Also, brush your child’s teeth with fluoridated toothpaste, and talk to our office about whether fluoride treatments could be right for your family. For more information about preventing your child’s tooth decay, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Richard Malek, please give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office!

What are dental sealants and how do they work?

April 29th, 2016

A dental sealant is a liquid that is applied to the teeth. The sealant hardens and provides a protective coating that is designed to reduce cavities and create a smoother tooth surface. Dental sealants are clear or white; they do not take away from the appearance of teeth. You can think about this treatment as being similar to varnish that protects a wood floor.

Sealants are not the same as fluoride treatments. The application is similar, but sealants are a semi-permanent protective coating. Dr. Richard Malek and our staff recommend that sealant applications for children begin soon after molars erupt, first molars around the age of six, and second molars around the age of 12.

Simple Application

Having sealants applied is not uncomfortable at all. First, your child's teeth will be cleaned and dried. A gel is applied, which helps the sealant adhere to the tooth, and then is rinsed away. Your child's teeth are dried again and the sealant is applied. A few seconds of exposure to a light source may be used to cure the sealant and make it semi-permanent. Sealants should last for a long time, normally between five and ten years.

Sealant Benefits

The coating on the surface of your child's teeth reduces the amount of acid contact. Normal acids in foods that are consumed can eat away at the surface of teeth. Bacteria also react to plaque formation and create more acid in the mouth. These small pits or weakened areas are prone to caries or cavity formation. Preventing cavities is a much better choice than drilling and filling damaged teeth.

A sealant also helps to smooth the chewing surfaces of your childn't teeth. The smoother surface is not as likely to retain small particles of food and bacteria. Your child's mouth stays cleaner and food is not left behind to form acids. The protective application can also be used on other teeth that have a rough surface, to protect the grooves or pits from decay.

After the sealant is applied, your child still needs to take proper care of his or her teeth. Regular brushing and flossing is required. Dr. Richard Malek may recommend fluoride treatments to strengthen and protect your child's teeth further.

If you have any concerns about sealants, please discuss them with during your child's next appointment at The Harmony Dental Group. We want your little one's teeth to stay healthy for life.

Every Day is Earth Day

April 22nd, 2016

During the early days of the environmental awareness movement, those who demonstrated against pollution, toxic chemicals, and the general public health were known as hippies. The early 1970s were a time of change, and assertions that we needed to pay more attention to the Earth's atmosphere were generally dismissed. But within a couple decades, it had become clear that the previous generation was right; the citizens of the world needed to become more environmentally conscious.

Many people feel that they can't make a difference if they don't do something big. But caring for the environment doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing concept. In fact, the little things you do can add up to make a great impact, especially in our community. Here are a few ways you can help the environment on Earth Day, April 22nd and all year around.

Four Small Ways to be Environmentally Friendly

  • Recycle Your Textiles. Nearly 21 million tons of textiles are added to American landfills each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Donating your unwanted clothing to a secondhand store or an organization that repurposes fabric helps cut down on solid waste and conserves natural resources.
  • Reduce Usage of Disposables. Plastic bottles and bags, disposable diapers and other things we can use and toss out are convenient, but they're not necessary. Simply choosing to replace one of type of disposable with a reusable product can help you cut down on waste that has a large negative impact on our environment.
  • Conserve Water. If everyone in the United States turned off the water while brushing their teeth, more than 1.5 million gallons of water could be conserved. Turn the water on long enough to wet your toothbrush for brushing and rinsing, and then immediately turn the water off again.
  • Turn Off the Lights. Flip the light switch to "Off" if you're going to leave a particular room for 15 minutes or more. This will conserve energy on incandescent light bulbs and cut down on cooling costs.

It's not necessary to be an activist or install solar panels all over your home to help the environment. Although you can do these things, the little everyday measures make a big difference in helping to conserve energy and the environment, while reducing your carbon footprint. Our team at The Harmony Dental Group wants to remind you to celebrate Earth Day and help the environment, knowing that it will benefit your and your children's generation.

Common Emergency Care Visits: Toothaches or abscesses

April 15th, 2016

Dental problems do not always wait for normal office hours. Broken fillings or damaged teeth are common reasons for emergency treatment. Toothaches and abscesses can also require prompt attention. Dr. Richard Malek can provide you with the information and treatment you need to prevent the problem from becoming worse. Emergency dental care is only a phone call away, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Abscess

An abscess is a bacterial infection, and will normally cause pain and swelling around the affected tooth and gum area. Antibiotics are not always necessary, but you should seek treatment quickly. Left untreated, an infection can spread and cause serious complications.

Toothache

There are many reasons that you may develop a sudden toothache. The cause of the pain may be a particle of food lodged between your tooth and gum line. One of the first steps you can take is to rinse your mouth with warm water. You may also try gently flossing the area to dislodge the particle. Do not continue flossing if bleeding occurs.

Toothaches can occur from a carie — a cavity in the tooth — or from a fracture. Sensitivity to heat or cold may also cause tooth pain. You should make an appointment to ensure that a minor problem does not become serious. We may recommend acetaminophen or another pain reliever to reduce the pain before your visit.

Additional tips and treatments:

  • If you have fractured a tooth, rinse the area with warm water to keep the surfaces clean. Apply a cold compress to the outside of your facial area to reduce swelling.
  • A tooth that has been knocked out should be kept moist, in a clean container, until you can receive treatment.
  • Do not apply aspirin directly on a damaged tooth or gum area as it can cause tissue irritation.
  • If you suspect that your jaw has been broken, go to an emergency room immediately.
  • If you have bitten or damaged your lips or tongue, rinse your mouth well with warm water. If bleeding continues, call us or seek other medical attention immediately.

Our team at The Harmony Dental Group is ready to assist you when you have an emergency dental need. When you call, please provide us with as much information as possible so we can offer recommendations that will assist you until your appointment. Do not delay; emergency treatment is available and immediate treatment is the best course of action.

The Safety of Dental X-Rays

April 8th, 2016

An article was released to the public stating that dental X-rays contribute to a type of brain cancer. After reading an article like this, your first thought may be to avoid dental X-rays, but you may want to hold off on that quick judgment. As with any treatment we offer at The Harmony Dental Group, education is your most valuable tool in deciding what is best for you.

How often dental X-rays are taken is based on risk for infection, physical symptoms, and clinical findings. The American Dental Association (ADA) is a governing body over the dental profession. The ADA states, “ . . . healthy adults receive routine mouth X-rays every two to three years. Dental X-rays are recommended every one to two years for children and every 1.5 to three years for teens. Children often require more X-rays than adults because of their developing teeth and jaws and increased likelihood for cavities.”

A "caries risk category" often determines how often dental X-rays are taken. The most recent documented resource to determine a caries risk is Caries Management by Risk Assessment (CAMBRA). This was adopted by the ADA and is used by dental professionals giving interval recommendations for X-rays.

With knowledge of your risk for dental infection, you will be informed by Dr. Richard Malek of the interval at which dental X-rays should be taken. You can rest assured that the standards published by the ADA have been researched extensively and are there to protect your personal health and safety.

Dental X-rays are most commonly digital, which significantly reduces exposure. There is more radiation exposure from the sun or in an airplane than in a dental X-ray. It is common practice to use a lead apron with a thyroid collar for protection during X-ray exposure.

Having a cavity means having an active, potentially harmful infection. Diagnosing such infection with minimal exposure through digital dental X-rays at our Norwalk, CT office does more good than harm.

Top Reasons People Choose Veneers

April 1st, 2016

Dental veneers are a way to correct and transform your smile by using “contact lens”-thin shells of porcelain or ceramic material and bonding them to the front of your teeth. They are strong and durable, look and feel like natural teeth, and improve your smile immediately. Here are some of the top reasons to consider getting dental veneers.

They Correct Multiple Cosmetic Issues

Dental veneers can help with cosmetic and dental health issues, and treat multiple problems at once. Some common reasons that individuals choose veneers is to close gaps and spaces between the teeth, fix alignment issues, change the overall shape and appearance of a tooth, whiten a smile by covering stained or discolored teeth, and cover chipped or cracked teeth.

If you have teeth that are already worn down and weakened, veneers help prevent further damage by covering them with a thin, tooth-colored shell.

Durability

Dental veneers are also extremely durable. They last several years longer than traditional composite fillings. You’ll have peace of mind when you choose veneers, knowing that you’ll have your new smile for many years. On average, dental veneers last about ten to 15 years. Just like your natural teeth, when you take good care of your veneers, they last longer.

Easy to Clean and Maintain

Keeping your veneers healthy and white is easy: You simply brush and floss them the way you do all of your teeth. Shortly after having your veneers installed, you’ll begin to think of them as your natural teeth because the thin shells lie right on top of your existing teeth. This makes it easy to floss and brush the way you normally would and keep them as clean as possible.

The Process is Simple

Getting dental veneers is a quick and easy process. You have a few short visits at The Harmony Dental Group and see results. On average, it only takes about four weeks from your first appointment to your last to complete the veneer process.

If you are considering getting dental veneers, schedule a consultation appointment with Dr. Richard Malek to find out exactly how they can benefit you.

I’ve lost a filling; now what?

March 25th, 2016

Dental fillings usually protect our teeth, but sometimes they need to be protected, too. If you lose a filling, contact our Norwalk, CT office immediately and let us advise you on the next steps to take.

Fillings serve an important function in oral health by preserving the structural integrity of your tooth. With the materials we use today, dental fillings usually last for many years, but they are subjected to the same stresses as your natural teeth are.

You can wear down, chip, crack, or break your fillings by eating, clenching, and grinding, and sometimes they can fall out completely. While you may not notice normal wear and tear, you should not ignore any fillings that loosen or fall out. Contact us as soon as possible so we can advise you about whether you need to be seen immediately.

If your fillings get damaged or fall out, a timely response can be important. There may be gaps or holes in your tooth which provide an easy access point for bacteria. Once bacteria begin working into your tooth structure, your tooth could become damaged even worse. Since cavities usually form in hard-to-reach places, it will be difficult for you to remove these bacteria through brushing alone.

When is a lost filling an emergency?

A lost or cracked filling is usually not an emergency unless you are in great pain or are bleeding excessively. In that case, contact our office immediately so we can schedule an emergency appointment. Otherwise we will schedule a regular appointment to evaluate and repair your filling. Before coming in for your appointment, try to avoid chewing on that side of your mouth, rinse with warm salt water, and be sure to brush and floss thoroughly after every meal.

Once you come to our office, Dr. Richard Malek will examine your tooth, assess the situation, and advise you of your options. We may be able to replace the filling and can discuss whether an amalgam or composite material would be the best for your teeth. If the filling was large, a root canal or a dental implant and crown may be necessary.

A lost or cracked filling may not always pose a dental emergency, but it’s always important to contact us so our team can help you take the proper action to preserve your oral health.

Kids and Teeth Grinding

March 18th, 2016

Grind, grind, grind… if your little one happens to be a teeth grinder, you may be familiar with this unpleasant sound. Teeth grinding, or what Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group also call bruxism, is common in children. In fact, three out of ten kids grind or clench their teeth, usually in response to stress, jaw growth, malocclusion, losing teeth, or other discomforts, such as allergies. Kids typically outgrow teeth grinding by the time they reach their teenage years.

Many kids who grind their teeth in their sleep have no idea they’re doing it. In fact, when they wake up in the morning they feel no jaw, facial, neck, or shoulder pain. In most cases, if it hadn’t been for a parent or sibling telling them about it, the teeth grinding would have gone unnoticed.

There are children, however, who wake up with jaw pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, and headaches. Teeth grinding can cause a host of dental complications, from cracked teeth and receding gums to a misaligned jaw. Dr. Richard Malek will tell you that teeth grinding is not something to take lightly. Teeth grinding can have serious consequences that, if left untreated, can lead to tooth fractures and damage to the temporomandibular joint, also known as TMJ.

The first step in helping your child recover from teeth grinding is noticing and diagnosing the problem. Symptoms of teeth grinding typically include:

  • Grinding noises when your child is sleeping
  • Complaints of tightness or pain in the jaw
  • Complaints of headaches, earaches, or facial pain
  • Complaints of pain when chewing
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Chipped, worn down, or loose teeth

If you suspect your child is a teeth grinder, Dr. Richard Malek and our team will be able to help. Please give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office! We look forward to treating your child!

Go Green for St. Patrick’s Day

March 11th, 2016

Millions of people, around Norwalk, CT and beyond, wear green on St. Patrick’s Day so they can show their spirit for the holiday and avoid getting pinched. While it may be easy for you to throw on a green shirt, sport a St. Patrick’s Day button, or wear a pair of emerald-hued shoes, if you’re an avid St. Patty’s Day enthusiast you may want to try something different this year. Dr. Richard Malek thought of a few ideas that will help you take your holiday spirit to the next level:

Visit Chicago’s Green River

If you happen to be near the Windy City during St. Patrick’s Day or you’re thinking of planning a trip, don’t miss out on going downtown to watch the large-scale celebration that kicks off when the city dyes the river bright green. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago has been celebrating the holiday with this tradition for more than 50 years, with tens of thousands of people gathering annually to witness the mysterious dying process and the stunning result.

Don Green Face Paint

Just like an avid sports fan on game day, you can use green face paints to showcase your enthusiasm for this holiday. Avoid breakouts or allergic reactions by only using paints that are specifically meant to be applied to the skin. A little bit of face paint can cover a large area, so feel free to get creative and decorate the whole family on St. Patrick’s Day.

Eat Green All Day

Not a fan of green eggs and ham? With the increasing popularity of green smoothies, there’s no better time to get in on this health craze. To create a green smoothie without the aid of food coloring, you can simply blend a generous amount of a leafy green vegetable, such as spinach or kale, with the ingredients that you would typically use to make a smoothie, like fruit, ice, milk, or juice. Keep the trend going throughout the day by using those same vegetables to create a green soup, egg salad, or a batch of bright green pastries. As an added bonus, you’ll get a healthy dose of vitamins without changing the taste of most of these foods.

If your old holiday routine has gotten stale, leave your green T-shirt in the drawer and try one or all of these tips. Don’t be surprised if you have so much fun that you decide to start a new, annual St. Patrick’s Day tradition! Have a happy St. Paddy’s day from The Harmony Dental Group!

Can baby teeth get cavities?

March 8th, 2016

Our team at The Harmony Dental Group knows that every parent loves to hear his or her child say, "no cavities!" when leaving our office. Let's talk about why primary (baby) teeth get cavities, what you can do to help prevent them, and what Dr. Richard Malek can do if your child gets a cavity. It's a team effort!

Prevention is Key

A well-balanced diet high in protein, vitamins, and minerals (especially calcium and phosphorous) is an important part of cavity prevention. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) states that children should eat healthy snacks like cheese, vegetables, and yogurt, and drink milk. Limit hard candy and carbonated beverages, which have acid and can cause tooth decay. Also, do not put children to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, or juice because sugary fluids pool around the teeth and gums, which promotes decay.

In addition to limiting sweets and scheduling regular visits at our Norwalk, CT office, make sure your child flosses once a day and brushes his or her teeth twice a day with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. A good rule of thumb is if children can tie their shoelace, then they should be able to brush their teeth without help. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends the following basic brushing techniques:

  • Place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums.
  • Move the brush back and forth gently in short strokes
  • Brush the outer surfaces, inside surfaces and chewing surfaces of all teeth.
  • To clean the inside surface of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several up-and-down strokes.
  • Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and keep your breath fresh.

These tips will greatly increase cavity prevention; however, if your child gets a cavity, it will not heal on its own and must be fixed. Dr. Richard Malek will remove the decayed part of the tooth and fill the hole where the decay was. You may wonder why it's important to fill baby teeth if they're going to fall out eventually. Baby teeth hold space for permanent teeth to grow in. If one is lost, teeth may shift and prevent a permanent tooth from growing in. In addition, a decayed tooth can become abscessed and cause pain. No fun!

Let’s work together to help your child develop good oral health habits that last a lifetime. Please contact our office if you have any questions about your child's diet or cavity prevention.

It's been years since my last appointment; what should I expect?

March 8th, 2016

Feeling apprehensive or guilty for not visiting a dentist in over a year is common, but coming back to receive dental care is easier than you may think. Our dental team at The Harmony Dental Group provides caring, non-judgmental, personalized service, and knowing this you can truly feel at ease making your first appointment back.

During your first appointment back, we will focus on three prominent dental issues including gum disease, cavities, and wear and tear by utilizing a full mouth series of X-rays, a hygiene appointment, and a comprehensive exam.

The full mouth series of X-rays are taken every three to five years, or as needed. A full mouth series may be a panoramic X-ray and bitewings (a set of four that checks for cavities) or a set of X-rays that views the entire anatomy of every tooth. The set of X-rays will depend on your individual needs.

Your hygiene appointment will begin with a review of your medical history, personal concerns and questions, and an evaluation checking for any infection. After any necessary diagnoses are made, the appropriate level of cleaning is proposed and completed if time allows.

A comprehensive exam serves as a review of what the hygienist has already covered. Dr. Richard Malek will again review your medical history and dental concerns, and confirm any periodontal diagnosis. An evaluation of any decay, breakdown or broken fillings, or areas that are at risk for future problems will also be reviewed.

After the appointment, a team member at The Harmony Dental Group will review any recommended treatments, payment options, insurance coverage, and scheduling. The time spent at your first visit back is an important step in the right direction, and we are committed to making this visit as comfortable and easy as possible! Come see us in Norwalk, CT.

How long do dental implants last?

February 19th, 2016

The average dental implant can last a lifetime if taken care of properly. In fact, studies have shown that the success rate of implants after ten years is about 90%! Of course, Dr. Richard Malek and our team know that the better you care for your implant, the longer it will last.

There are a few factors that must be taken into consideration, when you are considering dental implants. These factors all play a role in how long your dental implants will last.

  • Bone Structure – You must have enough bone in your mouth for the implants to be inserted. Over time, the bone can wear down and become too thin or to short. In cases, where you may have just enough bone for the implants, over the years, the bone will continue to become smaller and thinner and the implants will not last nearly as long as the suggested minimum of ten years.
  • Healthy Gums – Diseased gums will not support dental implants for very long. It is important to maintain regular dental visits to maintain your healthy gums.
  • Good Oral Hygiene – Just because your implants are not your “real” teeth, doesn’t mean you have to take care of them. That means brushing, flossing, and regular professional cleanings.

Bone structure, healthy gums, and good oral hygiene all play a crucial role in the length of time your dental implants will last. Whether you have full dental implants, partial implants, or a single tooth implant. The bottom line is you have to take care of them if you want them to last as long as possible.

For more tips on how to maintain the health of your dental implant, visit our Norwalk, CT office!

The Transformation of Valentine's Day

February 12th, 2016

Did you know the actions leading to the beginnings of Valentine's Day were actually centered on the avoidance of war? A Catholic priest named Valentine defied the orders of the Emperor Claudius II and secretly married young men and their brides after the emperor had declared it illegal because only single, young men could be sent to war. Rather than lose potential soldiers to fight his war, Claudius attempted to hoard them by proclaiming marriage illegal.

Valentine continued to marry young couples anyway and, eventually, was put to death for it in 270 AD. Before his death, he sent a letter to a secret love and signed it “From your Valentine”. Nearly 1,800 years later, people are still signing letters and cards in this manner. This year, carry on the tradition started long ago, while adding your own twist. Here are a few suggestions.

Simple and Creative Valentine's Day Ideas

  • Memorialize it with a Photo. Couples often have photos taken around Christmas, but Valentine's Day photos allow you to capitalize on romance. Famous couple Julia Child and her husband, Paul, had their picture taken together every Valentine's Day and included their sense of humor with silly props.
  • Return to Your First Date Location. Even if your first date together was at a local hotdog stand, its sentimental value can make it a fun part of your Valentine's Day agenda. Be creative and make a treasure hunt with clues that lead your partner to the original date location, where you can express your love with flowers or a gift.
  • “From Your Valentine” Messages. Deliver your message in a creative way to make this Valentine's Day stand out from the others. Bake your partner's favorite treat and write a message on it with a tube of icing, or draw a note on the steamed up mirror so it shows up when your partner takes a shower.

Although Valentine's Day is a day to celebrate love, it doesn't have to be a special day only for couples. If you're single, use this special day to shower yourself with love, because you're worth it! After all, the priest Valentine believed so strongly in the sanctity of love that he was willing to risk his life for it. Whether you're in a relationship or single, young or old, romantic or not, Valentine's Day is for you. Happy Valentine’s Day from the General Dentistry office of Dr. Richard Malek.

Dental Veneers

February 5th, 2016

Are you looking to improve the appearance of your front teeth? Dental veneers are widely used to improve the appearance of front teeth and are a much more conservative option than a full dental crown. Veneers can be used to improve the appearance of staining, large gaps, large fillings, chipped teeth, or overall shape. Veneers are a thin covering over the front and biting end of the tooth used to restore the beauty of a smile. Over the years we have helped many patients who opted for veneers and now have the confidence to smile again.

Dental veneers are made in a lab from long-lasting porcelain materials. The shade can be chosen to a desirable color to whiten the appearance of your smile. Dental veneers are usually placed on the anterior, or front teeth, where the chewing forces are not as hard as the back teeth. The process of placing veneers is relatively easy requiring only two dental appointments. In some cases, only one appointment is needed. It depends on the fabrication process.

The first appointment is to “prep” the teeth and take an impression to be sent to a lab to fabricate the veneers. Veneers are fairly conservative in the preparation as it requires a small amount of space to be created on the face (front), bottom, and sides of each tooth to allow space for the veneer to be placed and look natural. You will leave the office with temporary veneers for the next week or two while the permanent veneers are being made.

The second appointment is to place the veneers and make minor adjustments if needed. What a difference it makes in the appearance of the teeth! If you’re interested in learning more, give Dr. Richard Malek a call today!

What should I do if my child has a toothache?

January 29th, 2016

Toothaches in children can be tricky ordeals that cause distress for both the child and the parent. You may feel helpless and frustrated because you cannot pinpoint the location of the pain. It is so hard to see your little one experience discomfort and feel like there is nothing you can do about it. But there are ways you can help. Try these tips the next time your child has a toothache.

Zero in on the Painful Area

The first thing you need to do is find out where the pain is coming from. If your child is old enough, ask him or her to point to the painful area. In younger children, look for swelling and redness on the gums and cheek, dental caries (discolorations on the tooth), or broken teeth. Try to get as close to the location of the pain as possible so you can determine an effective course of action to relieve it.

Try to Find the Cause

Not all toothaches are actually toothaches. A child can bite his or her tongue or cheek, have sore gums, or develop ulcers in the mouth. Teeth that are coming in can also be quite painful. If a tooth is discolored, broken, loose, or has spots that are either darker or lighter than the rest of the tooth, those could be causes of pain.

Five-Step Approach to Dental Pain Relief

  1. Floss. Help your child floss to remove any food particles that may be wedged between the teeth and could be causing pain.
  2. Rinse with warm salt water. Use a warm salt-water solution and have your child rinse well by swishing or holding the salt water over the painful area.
  3. Use a cold compress. This can relieve pain and swelling. If there is no swelling, you can try it anyway to subdue the pain. Try it on for about 15 minutes, then off for 20.
  4. Give the child ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Use the appropriate dosage for your child’s age and administer it regularly as directed.
  5. See Dr. Richard Malek. If you determine that the tooth or gum is damaged, or if the pain simply cannot be relieved, call our Norwalk, CT office.

If your child is experiencing throbbing pain, fatigue, or fever, you should call your pediatrician as soon as possible. If your child is experiencing mouth pain accompanied by trouble breathing or swallowing, it can indicate a more serious situation and you should take your son or daughter to the emergency room.

Most mouth pain in children can be remedied with the simple steps here. The important thing is that you remain calm, no matter what. You child is taking cues from you and if you panic, he or she will panic.

What are the advantages of dental implants?

January 22nd, 2016

Losing a tooth can affect a lot more than just the look of your smile. Missing teeth affect your ability to chew and can also cause problems for your other teeth. It is essential to replace missing teeth in order to maintain oral health as well as your overall well-being. Dental implants are an excellent option to replace your natural tooth and its root without affecting your neighboring teeth, and are available from Dr. Richard Malek.

Why choose dental implants?

There are many reasons to choose dental implants to replace your lost or damaged teeth. According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, dental implants are often considered more predictable than other treatment options and are known to provide long-term successful outcomes.

Dental implants provide many benefits over other treatments such as bridgework and dentures:

  • Unlike other treatment options for missing teeth, dental implants allow Dr. Richard Malek to replace your tooth without impacting the healthy teeth surrounding the space.
  • Dental implants also protect healthy bone by preventing potential bone loss and deterioration in the jaw.
  • This treatment option allows you to speak and eat normally without worrying about slippery or uncomfortable removable dentures.
  • The closest thing to natural teeth, dental implants allow you to maintain your smile and natural face shape.
  • These implants are built to last, providing you with a long-term solution to missing teeth.

Overall, dental implants are the next best thing to natural, healthy teeth. Choosing to undergo surgery to replace your lost or damaged teeth is an important decision. To avoid the issues caused by lost teeth, consult Dr. Richard Malek or visit our Norwalk, CT office to see if you are a candidate for dental implants.

When should my child start using toothpaste and how much should I use?

January 15th, 2016

As a parent, it is your job to instill good dental habits in your kids, and this starts even earlier than you might realize. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry responds to the “when to start” question with a succinct “The sooner the better!”

From the time your baby is born, you should make sure that your child’s gums are regularly cleaned using water and a toothbrush made for infants. Once the first tooth erupts, you should visit the pediatric dentist for the first time. Dr. Richard Malek and our staff often recommend that if your child is a year old, but has yet to get the first tooth, you should bring your son or daughter to our Norwalk, CT office for his or her initial dental care appointment.

Once your child’s teeth start to appear, you can begin brushing two times per day, using fluoride toothpaste. Choose a toothbrush made specifically for your child’s age group, and one with has soft bristles.

Only a small smear of toothpaste is needed if your child is under two years old. Once the child celebrates his or her second birthday, you can use a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste. Continue this practice until your child is five.

Of course, it is important that you monitor your child’s tooth brushing closely to help educate about proper techniques. Some young children might try to eat or swallow toothpaste, and this needs to be strongly discouraged. Be sure to teach proper rinsing and spitting behavior to round out your child’s early childhood tooth-care regimen.

For young kids, tooth brushing can be made into a fun event, and you can find a multitude of special toothbrushes that appeal to kids. There are even uniquely flavored and colored toothpastes that might encourage your child to get into the brushing game!

Love your new smile? Tell us about it!

January 8th, 2016

At The Harmony Dental Group, we have been creating beautiful smiles for years. Whether you have visited Dr. Richard Malek and our team for a week or for your entire life, we would love to hear your thoughts about your experience! In fact, we encourage you to leave a few words for us below or on our Facebook page!

We look forward to reading your feedback!

New Year's Eve

January 1st, 2016

Watching the clock tick down the final seconds until midnight, many of us- The Harmony Dental Group included- feel nostalgic about the passing year and hopeful about the new one to come. New Year’s Eve is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world, with over-the-top celebrations taking place in dozens of countries. The Gregorian calendar, which is widely used in Western nations and around the world, was implemented in 1582. Since that time, December 31st has marked the final day of the year, with midnight heralding the beginning of a brand new year. In the United States, New Year’s Day is a public holiday; government offices, schools, public organizations, and many businesses are closed for the day. Ponder the following fun facts as you think about your plans for the holiday:

  • Approximately one billion people watch the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square, New York City. This televised event is one of the most iconic New Year’s celebrations in the world. For many years, watching the ball drop meant tuning in to Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve, an iconic television special dear to the hearts of many viewers.
  • The idea for the New Year’s Eve ball came about because of a citywide ban on fireworks. Before 1907, when fireworks became illegal in New York City, celebrations included an elaborate fireworks show. The large, glittering, illuminated ball was developed as an alternative. Although the first ball was heavy at 700 pounds, the modern New Year’s Eve ball is made of Waterford crystal and tips the scale at six tons!
  • The top five New Year’s resolutions are: to lose weight, quit smoking, get a new job, return to school, or increase personal savings. However, approximately 88% of New Year’s resolutions fail. But don’t let that discourage you! Resolutions are most likely to succeed when they are clear, achievable goals. Setting out a concrete plan to achieve your resolution also boosts your chances of success.
  • Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is said to bring good fortune in the new year. Collard greens, cabbage, and ham hocks are also considered lucky foods to enjoy. Just steer clear of the chicken or turkey dinners; eating poultry is a bad omen for the year to come.

Whether you plan to stay in Norwalk, CT, or head out into the crowds to watch the ball drop in Times Square, New Year’s Eve is a time to enjoy friends and family. Send your loved ones well wishes for the New Year, and look for that special someone to share a midnight kiss with for good luck!

How Our Office Makes Your Child’s Visit Anxiety-Free

December 25th, 2015

Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group specialize in pediatric dentistry, and we understand that children can be frightened of things they do not understand. This anxiety is often heightened by an unpleasant dental experience or stories they hear from classmates. We have many methods at our Norwalk, CT office to make your child’s dental visit pleasant and anxiety-free.

Listening

The first thing Dr. Richard Malek and our team do is talk to your child, listen to any concerns he or she may have, and take the time to explain the dental work that will be done. Often children will lose their fears by simply understanding what is happening and why. In addition, you are welcome to be in the room with your child during exams and treatments. When a child is able to see that the parent is relaxed, this is more conducive to the child’s relaxation.

Relaxation

When you arrive at The Harmony Dental Group, let your child to play with the toys we provide. This starts the visit in a positive manner. Taking your child’s mind off the exam is useful. While your child is undergoing an examination or procedure, listening to music or watching a video can support a sense of relaxation. When children understand that we care, their anxiety levels are reduced.

Sedation

Nitrous oxide is a sedation technique commonly used to reduce anxiety and alleviate any pain. It is beneficial partly because the effects wear off quickly. Topical pain relievers can also be useful for children with sensitive teeth, and this will eliminate discomfort.

Deeper sedation is useful for complex dental issues, extreme anxiety, or a fear of needles. A liquid or tablet sedative can be given before your child’s appointment. This type of sedation is also helpful for children with a fear of the masks used for nitrous oxide.

We welcome you and your child to discuss any concerns that you have regarding his or her dental appointment. We want your child to be free from anxiety about visiting Dr. Richard Malek. The earlier your child’s fears are addressed, the less likely the fear will carry into adulthood.

Caring for Your Smile While Wearing Invisalign®

December 18th, 2015

Getting your braces off is exciting. You’ve been working on your new smile for months or years, and it’s time for the trips to our Norwalk, CT office to pay off. Can you imagine how bad it would be to discover that your teeth are straight, but that there’s decay?

Caring for your smile while wearing Invisalign goes beyond just waiting for your teeth to get straighter. It involves cleaning your teeth regularly and thoroughly to prevent tooth decay. That way, your smile will be more beautiful than ever when you’re done with your Invisalign treatment.

Take Your Trays Out

The first difference you may notice between Invisalign and traditional metal braces is that Invisalign aligners are invisible, but there’s another important distinction as well. Invisalign braces are removable. You can take the trays out, and you should. Remove the trays while you’re eating so you don’t get food stuck in them. Also, remove them while you’re cleaning your teeth so that you can have full access to all the nooks and crannies in your mouth.

Brush Normally

The guidelines for brushing your teeth with Invisalign don’t change compared to braces. Brush your teeth at least twice a day using a soft toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste, being sure to get all surfaces of your teeth. If possible, brush after each meal.

If you can’t, be sure to drink some water and swish it around in your mouth when you’re done eating to get rid of the extra food on your teeth. Leaving carbohydrates, such as sugar and starch, on your teeth opens the door to tooth decay.

Floss and Wash

Flossing your teeth gets out the bits and pieces stuck between them. It’s a time-consuming task when you need to navigate the wires of traditional metal braces, but thanks to Invisalign’s removable design, flossing is no problem. Rinsing your mouth with a fluoride antibacterial mouthwash also helps clean your teeth because it gets into all of the spaces. Floss and rinse one or two times daily.

Cleaning Your Trays

Cleaning your Invisalign trays keeps them from getting riddled with bacteria, and it helps keep your teeth free from excess food. You can use the Invisalign cleaning system, which involves placing the trays in a tub with cleaning crystals. The plastic trays are clean after 15 minutes. You can also ask Dr. Richard Malek for other ways to clean your trays.

Hypersensitive Teeth

December 11th, 2015

It is common to experience dentine hypersensitivity, with symptoms ranging from moderate to severe. Why does it happen and how do you know if this sensitivity is something to be concerned about? The first step is to determine the cause.

The most common cause of the sensitivity is exposure of the dentin. Dentin is the layer immediately surrounding the nerve of the tooth. It is alive and usually covered by the gum tissue. When gum recession is present hypersensitivity is common. Other contributors to temporary tooth hypersensitivity include teeth whitening and dental procedures such as fillings, periodontal treatment, and braces placement or adjustment. These are temporary and should be of no concern.

Permanent hypersensitivity, however, may require treatment. To understand the cause of sustained hypersensitivity, let us explain the structure of dentin and why it serves as a ‘hot spot’.

The dentin contains a large numbers of pores or tubes that run from the outside of the tooth to the nerve in the center. When dentin tubes are exposed, there is a direct connection between the mouth and dental pulp, which houses the nerve and blood supply of the tooth. External stimuli, such as mechanical pressure (tooth grinding or clenching - bruising the ligaments holding the teeth in place), temperature changes, as well as chemical stimuli (sweet–sour) are transmitted to the pain-sensitive dental pulp and activate nerve endings. A short and sharp pain is the result. These external stimuli cause fluid movement in the open tube that is transmitted as pain sensations. Something needs to be placed into the dentin tube to plug it and stop this fluid movement.

The first step in doing something about dental hypersensitivity is to determine the cause; our professional team at The Harmony Dental Group can help you with this. Whether the sensitivity is due to exposed dentin or an underlying cause such as abscess or decay, corrective measures are needed. Contact us sooner rather than later so Dr. Richard Malek can reduce the sensitivity, and provide you with some relief!

Are dental implants painful? What You Need to Know

December 4th, 2015

Whether it is the result of tooth decay, gum disease, or injury, millions of people suffer tooth loss. Dental implants provide a strong replacement tooth root for fixed replacement teeth that are designed to match your natural teeth. Of course, there is one question all patients have about dental implants: are they painful?

Dental implant placement is performed under local or general anesthesia and is not considered a painful procedure. However, if the surgery is more complicated and involves bone or tissue grafts, there may be slightly more discomfort and swelling. At the same time, every patient has a different threshold for pain, so what may bother one person may not bother another. If you experience any pain from dental implants, there are several things can do to relive it.

Relieving Pain from Dental Implants

1. The initial healing phase can last up to seven to ten days. Over-the-counter painkillers such as Tylenol, Ibuprofen, and Motrin work well to alleviate any pain or discomfort you may experience. However, only take these if instructed to by Dr. Richard Malek.

2. Once you leave our Norwalk, CT office, you can reduce inflammation and any swelling to your cheek or lip by holding an ice-pack on your face over the implant area.

3. Your gum will be tender for the first few days. We often recommended that you bathe your gums with warm salt water.

4. Steer clear of crusty or hard foods for the first day or two. Ice cream, yogurt, and other soft foods are ideal as your gums will be tender.

5. Dental implants are a relatively straightforward oral procedure. Many people take time off from work to have dental implant surgery, and then return to regular activities. However, if you are feeling any pain or discomfort, there is nothing wrong with taking the day off, relaxing, and putting your feet up.

There is typically no severe post-operative pain with dental implants. When most people return for a follow-up appointment about two weeks later, they often say that getting a dental implant was one of the least painful procedures they’ve experienced.

What is gum recession?

November 27th, 2015

Gum (gingival) recession occurs when gums recede from the tops of the teeth enough to expose sensitive roots. People typically experience increased sensitivity to sugary or cold foods when gums no longer cover and protect teeth roots. In addition, untreated gum recession may lead to loosening of teeth and accelerated tooth decay, something Dr. Richard Malek see all too often.

Causes of Gum Recession

  • Periodontal disease – a serious oral disease arising from poor oral habits
  • Gingivitis – gum disease characterized by bleeding and swollen gums
  • Aging
  • Overly aggressive brushing and/or flossing – brushing hard in a scrubbing fashion will erode gum tissue at the roots of teeth
  • Genetic predisposition to gingival recession – having inherited thin, insufficient gum tissue facilitates gum recession
  • Bruxism – a condition where someone regularly grinds their teeth, usually during sleep
  • Chewing tobacco/smoking – promotes chronically dry mouth and reduced gum health

Periodontal gingivitis may also cause causing drooping of the gums instead of gum recession. A gingivectomy removes excess gum tissue weakened by bacterial decay while a gingivoplasty can reshape gums around the teeth. If sagging or receding gums are left untreated, they may develop pockets (gaps) that provide hiding places for food particles, mucus and other mouth debris conducive to anaerobic bacteria growth. As the most destructive type of oral bacteria, anaerobic bacteria is responsible for tooth decay, cavities, gum disease, and chronic halitosis.

Treatments for Gum Recession

Corrective actions need implemented as soon as possible to reverse gum recession by addressing the cause. For example, people who brush with hard-bristled toothbrushes should switch to a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush more gently. If gum recession is the result of poor oral hygiene, improve oral hygiene habits by brushing after meals, flossing, rinsing with non-alcoholic mouthwash, and getting dental checkups and cleanings every six months. For severe cases of gum recession, soft tissue grafts can add gum tissue to exposed roots by removing tissue from the person's palate and attaching it to existing gums at the area of recession via laser surgery.

If you’re worried about gum recession, visit our Norwalk, CT office and talk to a member of our team.

Thanksgiving in North America

November 20th, 2015

Thanksgiving marks the start to the holidays; a season filled with feasting, indulging, and spending time with family and friends are always special. Thanksgiving is a holiday meant for giving thanks, and while this may seem like such a natural celebration, the United States is only one of a handful of countries to officially celebrate with a holiday.

Unlike many holidays, Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, and it is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November in the United States. In Canada, it is celebrated on the second Monday of October, which is, oddly enough, much closer to a time when harvests were likely gathered. In addition to the different dates, the origins of the celebration also share different roots.

Thanksgiving in the United States

Giving thanks for a bountiful harvest are not new, but the modern day holiday in the US can be traced to a celebration at Plymouth in Massachusetts in 1621. This feast of thanksgiving was inspired by a good harvest, and the tradition was simply continued on. At first, the colony at Plymouth didn't have enough food to feed everyone present, but the Native Americans helped by providing seeds and teaching them how to fish, and they soon began to be able to hold a feast worthy of the name. The tradition spread, and by the 1660s, most of New England was hosting a Thanksgiving feast in honor of the harvest.

Canadian Thanksgiving

An explorer of early Canada named Martin Frobisher is accredited for the first Canadian Thanksgiving. He survived the arduous journey from England through harsh weather conditions and rough terrain, and after his last voyage from Europe to present-day Nunavut, he held a formal ceremony to give thanks for his survival and good fortune. As time passed and more settlers arrived, a feast was added to what quickly became a yearly tradition. Another explorer, Samuel de Champlain, is linked to the first actual Thanksgiving celebration in honor of a successful harvest; settlers who arrived with him in New France celebrated the harvest with a bountiful feast.

A Modern Thanksgiving

Today, Thanksgiving is traditionally celebrated with the best of Americana. From feasts and football games to getting ready for the start of the Christmas shopping season, Thanksgiving means roasted turkey, pumpkin pie, and green bean casserole. No matter how you celebrate this momentous day, pause for a moment to give thanks for your friends, family, and all the bounties you’ve received. Happy Thanksgiving from The Harmony Dental Group!

What can I expect during my implant procedure?

November 13th, 2015

Dental implants are a surgical procedure done by Dr. Richard Malek right here at our Norwalk, CT office. Screw-like parts made of titanium are inserted into your jaw bone and act as the root of your tooth. An artificial tooth will be placed on top of the screw, usually made out of ceramic or layered porcelain. The dental implant will look and feel just like the natural tooth you lost.

How much time will the dental implant surgery take?

There are numerous factors that determine the length of time for the dental implant procedure:

  • If you’re having one tooth replaced or several
  • The teeth that are being replaced
  • If you need a tooth or teeth extracted before the implant placement
  • The amount of time it takes for your IV to be placed
  • Any last minute questions or concerns you may need addressed

All of the above factors will also govern the amount of visits to our Norwalk, CT office you will need to make throughout your dental implant treatment period. For example, a single tooth dental implant surgery typically takes one to two hours from the time you arrive until you awaken from the anesthesia. This also includes the amount of time it takes to put on your gown, hair cap, and other surgical dressing preparations before you are able to enter the sterile surgical environment.

Does getting an implant hurt?

With nearly any surgical procedure, you will feel some sort of discomfort. Whether it is the insertion of the IV for the anesthesia, or discomfort you may feel after the surgery. However, most patients report that their pain was tolerable after their dental implant surgery. In fact, the majority of patients said the discomfort was a lot less than they expected. Dr. Richard Malek will prescribe pain medications to help with any discomfort you may experience once you get home.

How will I feel after the dental implant treatment?

It is normal to have some bruising and swelling in the soft tissue and gum area. Usually the pain or discomfort does not require the use of anything more than an over-the-counter pain medication such as Tylenol or ibuprofen. In addition, you will have the prescription for a stronger pain medication if you need it. You should be able to work the following day.

How do I care for my dental implant?

November 6th, 2015

Dental implants are designed to be strong and durable, able to withstand the everyday rigors of chewing and biting, but to keep them functioning the way they should and looking their best, you need to care for them properly. Luckily, dental implant care is fairly straightforward; in fact, your implants can be cared for the same way you care for your natural teeth, with regular brushing and flossing performed correctly, as well as regular visits with Dr. Richard Malek to ensure your implants, the neighboring teeth, and your gums are as healthy as possible.

Before the actual replacement tooth is attached to the implant post, you may want to avoid harshly abrasive toothpastes, such as those with baking soda or those designed to get rid of significant staining. These abrasives may damage the threads of the posts or irritate the gum and soft tissue surrounding the posts, causing inflammation or bleeding.

As the implant heals and “settles in,” a special kind of protective tissue called “keratinized” tissue will form where the implant meet the gum. This natural development in healing helps ensure the implant post and the soft tissue beneath the gum line are protected from bacteria.

As you care for your implants, always look for signs of infection, like swollen, tender, or bleeding gums – just as you would with your normal teeth. If you're nervous about caring for your implants or you feel you may be reluctant to floss around them, ask our team to provide you with care tips and walk you through the process of flossing.

Your implants represent a considerable investment both in time and money, so it's only natural you'd want to be sure you're doing all you can to keep them in top shape. Remember: dental implants are designed to replace your natural teeth, and they're also designed to be cared for in much the same way as you care for your natural teeth. Although you may be a little nervous at first, you'll soon become as used to your new implants as you are to your natural teeth, and caring for them will become second nature.

More questions? Simply as at your next visit to our Norwalk, CT office!

The Intriguing History of Halloween

October 30th, 2015

Halloween is fast approaching, and Dr. Richard Malek wanted to be sure to wish our patients a happy day, no matter how you might celebrate this holiday. The Halloween that is familiar to most people today bears little resemblance to the original Halloween; back in the "old days" it wasn't even called Halloween!

Festival of the Dead

Halloween started out as a Celtic festival of the dead that honored departed loved ones and signified a change in the cycle of the seasons. The Celtic people viewed Halloween, then called "Samhain," as a very special day – almost like our New Years day in fact, as their new calendar year began on November 1st. Samhain was the last day of autumn, so it was the time to harvest the last of the season's crops, store food away for winter, and situate livestock comfortably for the upcoming cold weather. The Celts believed that during this day, the last day of winter, the veil between this world and the spirit world is the thinnest, and that the living could communicate with departed loved ones most effectively on Samhain due to this.

Modern Halloween

Halloween as we know it today started because Christian missionaries were working to convert the Celtic people to Christianity. The Celts believed in religious concepts that were not supported by the Christian church, and these practices, which stemmed from Druidism, were perceived by the Christian church as being "devil worship" and dangerous.

When Pope Gregory the First instructed his missionaries to work at converting the Pagan people, he told them to try to incorporate some of the Pagan practices into Christian practices in a limited way. This meant that November 1st became "All Saints Day," which allowed Pagan people to still celebrate a beloved holiday without violating Christian beliefs.

Today, Halloween has evolved into a day devoted purely to fun, candy, and kids. What a change from its origins! We encourage all of our patients to have fun during the holiday, but be safe with the treats. Consider giving apples or fruit roll-ups to the kids instead of candy that is potentially damaging to the teeth and gums.

Remind kids to limit their candy and brush after eating it! Sweets can cause major tooth decay and aggrivate gum disease, so to avoid extra visits to our Norwalk, CT office, make your Halloween a safe one!

How much calcium does my child need?

October 23rd, 2015

When you were a kid, your parents may have told you to drink milk to build strong bones and grow tall and strong. Now that you have children of your own, you may hear yourself parroting those instructions you received years ago. Getting enough dairy is essential for young children whose teeth are growing. A child who consumes the recommended daily serving of dairy will develop healthy, strong teeth for the rest of his or her life.

So, which foods are the best in terms of acquiring the right amount of calcium? Milk and other dairy products are excellent sources of calcium. Milk also contains vitamin D, phosphorus, magnesium, and proteins. Magnesium promotes calcium deposits in your enamel, while phosphorus forms a small but important barrier against acidic foods that cause cavities. Vitamin D and protein are used by a child’s body to build bone tissue and maintain dental health.

According to a recent study, the majority of Americans, including children, do not receive enough calcium. In fact, according to the Academy of General Dentistry, only one in five children meets even the minimum standards for calcium consumption. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that children under the age of eight should receive two and a half cups of dairy per day. Children older than eight need three full cups, the same as adult men and women. In addition to milk, eating yogurt is a great way your child can increase his or her dairy consumption. Drinking sugary beverages in place of milk causes cavities and tooth decay.

If your child does not get enough dairy consumption, they run the risk of improper tooth development and other dental health problems. Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group encourage you to monitor your child’s dairy consumption to ensure he or she grows healthy teeth to last a lifetime.

Questions? Give us a call at our Norwalk, CT office!

Ways to Make Brushing Fun for Your Child

October 16th, 2015

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, your child should visit a dentist, like Dr. Richard Malek, when his or her first tooth pops through the gum, or by time they are one year old.

Children do not always want to brush their teeth. In fact, the average child has three cavities by the time they reach their third birthday. However, if you make brushing fun for them, they will look forward to it, and develop a lifelong habit of good oral hygiene.

How to Make Brushing Fun

  • Let them pick out their own toothbrush, like one with their favorite cartoon character.
  • Allow your child to choose their own special toothpaste, as long as it adheres to AAPD guidelines for safety.
  • Brush to a fun song that is two to three minutes long. When the music stops they are done brushing.
  • Brush your teeth with them. Make it a family affair!
  • Toddlers may be afraid of having their teeth brushed or brushing them by themselves. Allow them watch as you brush your teeth; this will help them to see that brushing their own teeth will not hurt them.
  • Reward systems are great incentives for children, just don’t overdo it. You’re trying to instill good brushing habits, not simply reward them for something they need to do.
  • Try an app on your phone; you’ll be surprised how many there are and how much fun your child will have using them.
  • It’s important to make sure every tooth gets brushed, so as you child brushes their teeth, count them. Then when they are finished ask them how many teeth they have. You can switch it up a little by giving each tooth a silly name or make up a short rhyme about each tooth as your child brushes.
  • Use educational tools, such as the movie “The Adventures of Timmy the Tooth.”
  • Read books to your child about brushing their teeth and good oral hygiene.

All you need is a little imagination to help your child learn to love brushing their teeth!

Providing the Right Dental Care for your Children

October 9th, 2015

You already know that The Harmony Dental Group recommends you come in for a checkup and cleaning at least every six months, but do you know what your child’s dental needs are? From the time children are babies and growing in their first teeth, their oral health care needs may be different from adults. It’s important to know what they need, and when, to help them grow strong, healthy teeth.

When to See Our Team at The Harmony Dental Group

While dental care (at home) can begin as soon as your baby starts to show signs of that first tooth, most experts do not recommend you see a dentist until your child is at least one year old. The child will likely be too young at this point to have a full dental exam, but we can take a look at your baby’s teeth and give you tips for brushing and flossing properly.

By the time your child has all of his or her baby teeth—usually around 24 to 30 months of age—we can begin scheduling regular checkups and cleanings.

What to Expect on the First Visits

The first visit to our Norwalk, CT office for a full exam will mostly involve getting to know Dr. Richard Malek and staff members, and making your child feel comfortable. Let us know if you would like to sit in the exam room during the appointment, but keep in mind that it may be beneficial to leave your child alone with Dr. Richard Malek for a portion of the appointment so we can start building trust with your child.

Our team at The Harmony Dental Group will likely do some or all of the following during your child's visit:

  • Look for signs of decay or other tooth or gum problems
  • Examine your child’s bite, checking for misalignment that could lead to problems in the future
  • Clean the teeth, and apply fluoride if your child is old enough
  • Talk to you about proper oral health care for your children
  • Answer any questions you may have about caring for your child’s teeth, which may include topics like fluoride needs, nutrition and diet, teething, and the frequency of future checkups

In most cases, we will recommend that you bring your child in every six months for regular checkups, the same as your recommended frequency.

Understanding your child’s unique dental needs is important for providing the best possible care when it becomes necessary. We look forward to building a good relationship with your child so coming to the dentist is a fun, rewarding experience and not a frightening one.

What's on your fall reading list?

October 2nd, 2015

How better to spend the fall months than inside by the fireplace with a warm cup of cider and a book in hand? Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group encourage you to warm up your mind this fall season with a few great books. Sure it may be easy to put off reading when balancing a hectic schedule, but reading is vital to brain development. Besides, reading is always a blast!

This week, we thought we’d ask what you or your child are reading this fall. Do you have any suggestions for must-read books this year? Out of ideas for great fall reads? Ask us for suggestions, and we would be happy to provide a few. You may also ask a local librarian here in Norwalk, CT for some ideas.

Happy reading! Be sure to share with us your fall picks or your all-time favorites below or on our Facebook page!

Thanks to Invisalign®, you can have a perfect smile without metal wires or brackets!

September 25th, 2015

When it comes to straightening your smile, our team at The Harmony Dental Group knows that having a mouth full of metal braces may not be your idea of fun. Luckily for you, Dr. Richard Malek can offer a cosmetic alternative: Invisalign!

Using a series of clear, comfortable, and completely customized aligners, you can get the smile you’ve always wanted without traditional braces.

Since Invisalign aligners are discreet, they’re hardly noticeable when you speak and smile, and because they’re removable, you can eat and drink whatever you want. Just remember to brush and floss before putting your aligners back in! Treatment with Invisalign is just as effective as with metal braces, and the results are just as amazing!

If you want to know more about Invisalign, contact our Norwalk, CT office to schedule an appointment.

Eating and Invisalign®

September 18th, 2015

One of the greatest advantages to using Invisalign is that it provides maximum results with minimal impact on your everyday life. Invisalign is comfortable, easy to insert, and simple to remove. Because you can remove Invisalign aligners, you can enjoy all your favorite foods and beverages without worries about getting food stuck in the wires and brackets of traditional braces.

Eating and Invisalign

While the aligner is durable and strong, you should remove it before you eat or drink beverages, as the chewing action inside your mouth can break, crack, or distort the aligner. Even minute damage to the Invisalign tray will prevent it from aligning your teeth properly. Furthermore, eating with Invisalign in your mouth can be quite messy.

Beverages and Invisalign

Repeated exposure to hot liquids may also cause the Invisalign aligner to distort. This distortion changes the shape of your aligner in a way that will affect how it straightens your teeth. Contact our Norwalk, CT office if your Invisalign aligner has distorted after consuming a hot beverage.

Fluids can settle inside the aligner to “bathe” the teeth. Bathing teeth in acidic fluids can be especially problematic, as the acids can wear away tooth enamel. Exposure to acidic fluids is not normally a problem, as saliva neutralizes and buffers the acid then washes it away. Wearing an aligner, however, prevents the saliva from doing those jobs, increasing your risk for tooth decay.

Colored drinks may also change the color of your teeth. Most discoloration is temporary but stubborn stains may occur.

To prevent discoloration and tooth decay, brush your teeth after every meal or beverage before putting in your Invisalign aligners. If you do not have access to clean water, chew sugar-free gum to remove bacteria, acid, and food particles from your teeth. As a last resort, you may leave your aligners out for an hour or two until you can brush and floss properly. Before inserting Invisalign, rinse the aligner in lukewarm water or use the Invisalign cleaning kit.

Contact our Norwalk, CT office for more information about eating and Invisalign.

Invisalign® Q&A

September 11th, 2015

It’s estimated that up to four million people at any one time are wearing braces in the United States and Canada. But Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group know that braces have come a long way from the early days of orthodontics, so much so that these days, options are available that are not visible to onlookers. The most popular of these “invisible” braces is Invisalign. Here’s a list of FAQs regarding Invisalign:

Are they really invisible?

Yes, the clear liners are virtually invisible, so they enable patients to feel good about themselves and their appearance, while getting the orthodontic treatment they need.

Are there wires, rubber bands, and brackets with Invisalign?

Nope. Invisalign is truly an alternative to conventional braces. The treatment consists of clear liners that can easily be removed and cleaned throughout the day. There are no wires, so there’s less poking and mouth irritation compared to braces. There’s also no wire tightening at adjustment appointments, so patients don’t have to worry about a sore mouth in the days that follow in-office visits.

I’ve heard that if I get braces, I won’t be able to eat certain foods like popcorn and hard candy. Is this true with Invisalign too?

No. With Invisalign, there are no food restrictions. You simply remove your aligners when you’re eating, and replace them after you’ve finished and brushed any leftover food particles away.

Does Invisalign cost more than braces?

While overall cost varies on a patient-by-patient basis and is based largely on the level of treatment, Invisalign costs about the same as traditional braces, which makes this treatment option a truly affordable alternative.

How does brushing compare with conventional braces?

Brushing your teeth while wearing conventional braces takes some getting used to. Patients have to brush around the metal brackets and floss with a specialty tool to get into the hard-to-reach areas of the mouth. By contrast, Invisalign can be removed at any time to permit regular brushing and flossing.

Every patient is different and Invisalign might not be the best course of orthodontic treatment for everyone, but it's an option that's gaining more and more popularity, and it's an orthodontic alternative that doesn't sacrifice comfort and convenience for results. For more information, or to schedule a consultation, please give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office!

Celebrate Labor Day by Getting Away

September 4th, 2015

Labor Day honors the contributions that workers have made to this country, and for many Americans, the holiday is a great time to relax at home with family and friends. But there are quite a few people who celebrate the holiday by getting out of town, with an estimated 33 million people traveling more than 50 miles over Labor Day weekend each year. If you’re dreaming of a great Labor Day escape but you’re not quite sure where to go, here are a few ideas from our team at The Harmony Dental Group to give you some travel inspiration.

Explore a National Park

On a national holiday like Labor Day, it’s only fitting to experience the beauty of America’s landscapes by heading to the nearest national park. If you’re confined to an office most days of the year, national parks can provide a relaxing and scenic escape, whether you’re by yourself, traveling with a group of friends, or bringing the whole family along. Depending on how close you live to the nearest park, you can stay for an afternoon or for longer than a week. With 58 parks located in 27 states, there are plenty of beautiful areas to choose from.

Chow Down in a BBQ Haven

Barbecuing is a popular Labor Day activity, but instead of sweating over your own grill or oven, try visiting one of the country’s BBQ capitals. U.S. News and World Report names Memphis as the top BBQ destination, with more than 80 BBQ restaurants in the city, most notably Corky’s BBQ and Central BBQ. Kansas City is also known for the sweet taste of its sauces, while central Texas is said to have perfected the technique of smoking tender and flavorful brisket.

Relax on the Beach

Many people think of Labor Day as the unofficial start of fall, which brings cooler temperatures, more rain, and for many people, an end to lazy days at the beach. End your beach days with a bang by taking a trip to one of the coasts or to a lakeside beach. For an added dose of festivity, find a city or town that celebrates the occasion with a fireworks display over the water.

Whether you’re looking to turn your getaway into a full week affair or you simply want to experience a quick escape, make the most of your holiday by changing your surrounding scenery. Happy Labor Day from the General Dentistry practice of Dr. Richard Malek!

Oral Health Concerns for Infants

August 28th, 2015

Because babies’ teeth don’t appear until around six to eight months of age, it’s a natural misconception that they don’t need dental care. But the steps you take as the parent of an infant can help your baby maintain good oral health and develop healthy dental habits in the future.

It’s easy to take care of a baby’s teeth and gums, especially when oral hygiene for your infant becomes part of the normal daily routine. Learn more about how you can promote good dental health for your baby with these tips and considerations.

Taking Care of Baby’s Oral Hygiene

  • Dental Hygiene for Birth to Six Months. Cleaning your infant’s gums is as important as cleaning teeth will be later. Hold your baby in your arms, and with a clean, moistened washcloth wrapped around your index finger, gently massage his or her gums.
  • Dental Hygiene for Six to 12 Months. After teeth begin to appear, it’s time to switch to a soft, children’s toothbrush for teeth cleaning. New research has shown that fluoride toothpaste is safe and recommended for use once your baby’s first tooth arrives. Gently brush your baby’s teeth after each feeding, in the morning, and before bedtime, just as you did before teeth appeared.
  • Good Bedtime Habits. One of the most important things you can do to protect your infant from tooth decay is to avoid the habit of putting baby to bed with a bottle. Use other soothing bedtime activities, such as rocking and lullabies, to help your baby drift off to sleep.
  • A Note about Dental Decay. Many people are unaware that dental decay is transmissible. Avoid placing your baby’s bottle, sippy cup, or pacifier in your own mouth to test the temperature. Likewise, don’t share utensils with your baby.

Partner With Your Dentist

Your baby should receive his or her first dental health checkup by the age of six months. Even though your infant may not have teeth yet, Dr. Richard Malek can assess the risk your baby might face for oral diseases that affect hard or soft tissues. Dr. Richard Malek can also provide you with instructions for infant oral hygiene, and explain what steps to add as your baby grows and develops.

The Harmony Dental Group is your partner for good oral health, and we’re here to make caring for your baby’s dental hygiene and health easier and more enjoyable for you.

How to Care for Your Invisalign® Aligners

August 21st, 2015

Is it possible to straighten the teeth without braces? Yes, it is. Welcome to the world of Invisalign aligners. Invisalign aligners are made from a clear, thermoplastic material that is custom made to fit your teeth. Unlike conventional braces, Invisalign aligners are removable. More importantly, the clear thermoplastic material makes the aligners invisible, which is ideal if the thought of metal braces and elastics make you self-conscious. For the best results, proper handling and care of your Invisalign aligners is important. Follow these steps to take care of your aligners:

1. Do not eat or drink hot beverages while wearing aligners. It's a good idea to get in the practice of removing the aligners before eating and drinking. Because the aligners are made of plastic resin, heat can distort and damage them. Also, eating while wearing the aligners will cause sugar and other food particles to stay on your teeth, which contributes to plaque and tooth decay.

2. Clean the aligner trays regularly. Invisalign aligners are exposed to the same bacteria and plaque that your mouth is, so you need to clean them as regularly as you clean your teeth. However, avoid cleaning the aligners with harsh chemicals. We recommend using a cleaning kit or some other type of specific solution. When it comes to cleaning Invisalign aligners, carefully follow the instructions given by Dr. Richard Malek.

3. Store aligners in a cool, dry, safe place. When you’re not wearing the aligners, store them in the case provided by our office. If you don’t use the case, they can easily be lost. Keeping them out of reach of small children and pets is also a good idea. The last thing you want is for Fido to think your Invisalign aligners are chew toys.

4. Don’t chew gum while wearing aligners. There’s one thing that conventional braces and Invisalign aligners have in common: chewing gum damages both of them.

5. Don’t soak aligners in mouthwash. Many popular mouthwashes contain a color pigment. It’s possible that soaking Invisalign aligners in mouthwash will tint or stain them.

For more tips and tricks for a successful Invisalign experience, contact our Norwalk, CT office!

My child is getting blood blisters; is this normal?

August 14th, 2015

Thanks for the question. The “blisters” you are referring to are actually a normal part of losing baby teeth. Sometimes when teeth start to come through, children experience some bleeding under the skin, which typically causes small blisters or bruises on your child’s gums. The blisters, bluish in color, will disappear once the tooth comes through, and the tooth itself will still come through as it should.

Even though they can look a little frightening at first, there is no treatment required to treat blisters, nor are these blisters preventable. In fact, our bodies do a great job of cleaning up the loose ends of baby tooth loss and permanent tooth emergence, and not too long after, it’s as if no blisters ever happened. It’s important to note, however, that these blisters should not be pricked or cut as doing so may cause an infection in your child’s mouth.

If you are worried about blisters or bruises in your child’s mouth, please give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Richard Malek. We especially encourage you to give us a call if your child has had one of these blisters for more than a month and the tooth has yet to come through.

Proper Brushing Techniques

August 7th, 2015

Brushing your teeth properly removes the food particles and bacteria that can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. However, you do not want to scrub your teeth or gums heavily. A heavy hand can lead to tooth and gum erosion, as Dr. Richard Malek and our staff see all too often.

You should also use a soft bristle toothbrush to avoid damaging the surface of your teeth. Make sure the head of the brush fits in your mouth, because if it is too large you will not be able to reach all tooth surfaces. Follow these steps to ensure you are brushing properly.

  1. Use a small amount of toothpaste on your brush. The recommendation is a pea-sized amount or thin strip on the bristles.
  2. Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the surface of your teeth, angling towards your gums. Use a circular motion on all exterior tooth surfaces, and avoid back-and-forth “scrub” brushing.
  3. Once you have cleaned the outer surfaces, hold the brush vertically and clean the inner teeth surfaces — the side of your teeth that face your tongue. Do not forget the inner surfaces of your front teeth.
  4. Finally, finish by cleaning all the chewing surfaces of your teeth. You need to maintain a gentle touch, but make sure you get into the full depth of your molars. The entire process should take about two minutes.

Dr. Richard Malek and our staff recommend changing your toothbrush every three to four months for best results. Do not forget to clean your tongue, which helps remove excess bacteria from your mouth. Special brushes are available just for cleaning your tongue, and they are easy to use.

Proper care of your teeth also requires flossing on a regular basis. Flossing can be performed before or after you brush. Following up with a quality mouthwash will provide you with even more protection. Do not be afraid to ask the The Harmony Dental Group team for tips on proper brushing and flossing.

How do I pick the right toothpaste for my needs?

July 31st, 2015

With so many toothpastes available in so many price ranges, it can be difficult to be sure you are selecting the right one for your needs. You need a product that not only protects against tooth decay, but also addresses any special concerns that Dr. Richard Malek and our team have raised. Look for the American Dental Association seal and do some research to find the toothpaste that best meets your needs.

Choose a Product Approved by the American Dental Association

The American Dental Association approves dental products such as toothbrushes, dentures, mouthwashes, dental floss, and toothpastes when they meet certain quality standards. Before products can display the seal, the American Dental Association must verify that the product does what it claims to do. Look for the American Dental Association seal on the toothpaste package before you buy it. Also, check to make sure that the toothpaste contains fluoride, which helps protect against decay.

Consider Special Needs

You may be depending on your toothpaste to perform extra tasks beyond cleaning your teeth. These are some common concerns that the right toothpaste can address.

  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Plaque or gingivitis
  • Tartar
  • Yellowing teeth

The American Dental Association’s website has a tool that lets users input their requirements and view a list of the toothpastes that carry the American Dental Association’s seal and address those particular oral health needs.

Make Your Children’s Tooth-Brushing Experience Fun

If you select toothpaste that contains fluoride and has the American Dental Association seal, most types of toothpaste will be fine for your children as long as they have no special needs. Allowing your kids to select fun toothpaste can encourage them to enjoy the brushing experience more, so that they brush more frequently and do a better job.

The following toothpaste characteristics can make brushing more fun for children.

  • Fun flavors, such as bubble gum, berry, and watermelon
  • Sparkles and swirls that make the toothpaste appear more attractive
  • Toothpaste that comes in a pump
  • Toothpaste with a container decorated with superheroes

What do I do if I fall and loosen my teeth?

July 24th, 2015

Although teeth are strong enough to tear through food, they are also fragile. An accident such as a fall may loosen teeth or knock a tooth out entirely. When a child loses a baby tooth in this manner, no permanent damage is usually done. However, adults who loosen permanent teeth may need to visit our Norwalk, CT office.

The Anatomy of a Loose Tooth

The hard external layer of teeth covers a more vulnerable interior. The center of a tooth consists of the pulp, which contains blood vessels and nerves. The entire tooth extends below the surface of the gums into the jaw. Special tissue called cementum and the periodontal ligament hold teeth in place, preventing them from moving.

When a fall or blow to the face loosens a tooth, the tissues anchoring a tooth to the jaw may be damaged. This results in a loosened tooth that wiggles in place. There may be inflammation or bleeding of the gums, which signals dental damage.

Dental Treatments for a Loose Tooth

The range of dental treatments for loose teeth varies by the severity of the problem. If your teeth are just slightly loose following a fall, it may be fine to wait a few days. Teeth often retighten on their own. Simply avoid chewing with that tooth and enjoy softer foods for a few days.

If a tooth is very loose or nearly falling out, call Dr. Richard Malek immediately. Immediate placement of the tooth back into the socket is needed to ensure its survival. In general, a tooth must return to its socket within two hours or it may be lost.

In some cases, Dr. Richard Malek may recommend splinting, in which teeth are joined together to strengthen them and reduce strain on an individual tooth. Tightening or straightening the tooth can restore your ability to chew regularly without stressing the loosened tooth.

Regardless of the extent of the problem, it is essential to keep the tooth clean to prevent decay. Brush carefully with a soft-bristled brush, and use mouthwash regularly to kill bacteria.

Can I use mouthwash instead of flossing?

July 17th, 2015

While mouthwash goes a long way in improving your oral care, it is not a substitute for flossing. Mouthwashes and flossing provide different benefits that you should understand.

Mouthwash Benefits

Mouthwash comes in two categories. Some are considered cosmetic. This type of rinse provides temporary relief from bad breath and has a pleasant taste. These do not actually kill any bacteria.

Therapeutic mouthwashes provide the healthier benefits. These may contain different ingredients including fluoride or antimicrobial agents. This type is used to remove plaque buildup and reduce the potential for calculus formation. Therapeutic rinses can also help prevent cavities, bad breath, and gingivitis. In addition, Dr. Richard Malek can prescribe special rinses to assist patients after periodontal surgery or other procedures.

Flossing Benefits

Flossing is what removes the plaque formation before it can harden and become calculus. While a rinse reduces buildup, only flossing will fully remove plaque, especially between teeth. The bristles on a toothbrush do not get between teeth completely. If plaque is not removed, it hardens into tartar or calculus. When this builds below the gum line, gum disease can start.

Types of Floss

Floss is available in a thin string form or a tape. It can be waxed or unwaxed. If you find flossing difficult, you might want to try a different type of floss. You can buy bulk floss in containers or purchase the disposable type with a plastic handle attached. This style can be easier for many individuals to use. Interdental picks are available for bridgework or other situations where regular floss cannot be used.

If you have questions regarding the best mouthwash or floss, or need tips for easier flossing, please ask our Norwalk, CT team for advice. We will be glad to give you solutions to help keep your mouth clean and healthy.

The Invisalign® Treatment Process

July 10th, 2015

Invisalign is gaining traction as a sought-after solution for orthodontic problems. Unlike traditional braces, which require the placement of brackets on teeth and the connection of unsightly wires, Invisalign works nearly invisibly (as its name suggests). Particularly for those who do not wish to draw attention to their orthodontic work, Invisalign provides an attractive solution.

Consultation with a Treatment Provider

Our practice has received specialized training to work with Invisalign. During your consultation appointment, Dr. Richard Malek will assess your smile needs. In some cases, the type of problem may not lend itself to correction through Invisalign, and we may offer an alternative solution.

Creation of a Custom Treatment Plan

Invisalign works using a series of customized clear trays that fit almost perfectly over the teeth. To create these trays, Dr. Richard Malek will take X-rays and impressions of your teeth. These are submitted to a specialized laboratory that makes a 3D image of your smile. This is used to create a specialized treatment plan that provides an estimate of how long treatment will take.

Arrival of Custom Trays

Once your customized trays have arrived, the treatment begins. For Invisalign to work properly, you must wear the aligners 20 to 22 hours per day, removing them only to eat, drink, and brush your teeth. The trays gently draw your teeth into proper alignment, correcting your orthodontic problems as you go about your everyday life.

In general, you will replace your aligners with a new set every two weeks. This is to encourage your teeth to continue moving throughout the treatment process. You’ll need to check in with our Norwalk, CT office every six weeks or so to ensure treatment progresses smoothly.

Beautiful Smile: Complete!

Once you complete your individualized treatment plan, you’ll have the smile you’ve always dreamed of. Like with traditional braces, Dr. Richard Malek may recommend that you wear a retainer to ensure that your teeth remain in their new positions.

Happy Fourth of July

July 3rd, 2015

Every year, Americans all over the world celebrate the birth of the country and its independence on the Fourth of July. There are countless ways that people celebrate and they range from community parades and large scale gatherings to concerts, fireworks displays, and smaller scale celebrations among family and friends. For some people, July 4th is synonymous with baseball, while for others it is all about the beach of barbecues. However you celebrate, you can be sure that red, white, and blue is visible everywhere throughout the area.

The Beginnings of Fourth of July Celebrations

Although it wasn't officially designated as a federal holiday until 1941, the actual tradition of celebrating Independence Day goes back to the time of the American Revolution (1775 – 1783). At the time of the American Revolution, representatives from the 13 colonies penned the resolution that ultimately declared their independence from Great Britain. The continental congress voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence on July 2nd of 1776. Two days later, Thomas Jefferson's famous document that is now known as the Declaration of Independence, was adopted by delegates representing the 13 colonies.

First States to Recognize the Fourth of July

In 1781, Massachusetts became the first state (or commonwealth) whose legislature resolved to designate July 4th as the date on which to celebrate the country's independence. Two years later, Boston became the first city to make an official designation to honor the country's birth with a holiday on July 4th. In that same year, North Carolina's governor, Alexander Martin, became the first governor to issue an official state order stipulating that July 4th was the day on which North Carolinians would celebrate the country's independence.

Fun Facts About the Fourth of July

  • The reason the stars on the original flag were arranged in a circle is because it was believed that would indicate that all of the colonies were equal.
  • Americans eat over 150 million hot dogs on July 4th.
  • Imports of fireworks each year totals over $211 million.
  • The first “official” Fourth of July party took place at the White House in 1801.
  • Benjamin Franklin didn't want the national bird to be the bald eagle. He believed that the turkey was better suited to the coveted distinction. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson disagreed with him, and he was outvoted, so the bald eagle became the official bird of the United States.

For many, the tradition is something entirely different. Along the coastal areas of the United States, people may haul out huge pots to have lobster or other types of seafood boils. Others may spend the day in the bleachers at a baseball game, or at a park, cooking a great traditional meal over an open fire. No matter how or where you celebrate, one thing is certain: all Americans celebrate July 4th as the birth and independence of our country.

Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group wish you a safe and happy Fourth of July!

Does getting a dental implant hurt?

June 26th, 2015

Getting a dental implant is a surgical procedure and everyone’s pain tolerance level is different. Therefore, what one person may perceive as pain is only a slight discomfort for another person. The general consensus about pain and dental implants is that the majority of people feel discomfort, not pain.

A dental implant is a complex procedure. Let’s take a look at what may cause discomfort:

  • Some people may find that having the IV put in is uncomfortable, especially if the healthcare worker has to try more than once. If you have a fear of needles or if you have anxiety about the procedure, we can prescribe a sedative, which you take before you arrive.
  • Of course, during the dental implant surgery, you will be asleep. Therefore, you will not feel any pain or discomfort at all.
  • When you awake from the surgery, your mouth should still be numb. In many cases, we can give you a “block” – it is basically a 24-hour pain medication, so you will not feel any pain or discomfort at all.
  • We will also provide you with a prescription for a strong pain killer, and you will most likely sleep while you are taking them. If you are still in pain, do not take more than is prescribed without calling us first. You will need someone to stay with you for 24 hours after the surgery, and they will be instructed on how to give you any prescription medication. The anesthesia tends to make people a bit loopy and forgetful the first 24 hours.
  • After the first 24 hours you may feel some discomfort. The most important thing you can do is take your pain medication regularly, whether you are taking the prescription medication or an over-the-counter pain reliever such as Tylenol or Advil.
  • You should not need pain medication for more than the first few days.

Most people do say there mouth is sore and they have to be careful what they eat, so it’s best to stick to soft foods. If you have any additional questions, please contact our Norwalk, CT office and speak with Dr. Richard Malek.

What’s the advantage of Invisalign®?

June 19th, 2015

Dr. Richard Malek and our team know it is natural for you to feel some concern when you need to wear any type of dental device to correct a problem with your teeth. Both braces and Invisalign can produce good results in giving you the smile you’ve always wanted. Both methods can straighten your teeth and alleviate such issues as crowding, spacing, cross bite, overbite, and underbite. Both methods of treatment have a similar cost.

You can take a cross-country road trip in a ten-year-old economy car or you can make the trip in a brand-new luxury sedan. Both will get you to your destination, but you will be far more comfortable traveling in the luxury sedan. Similarly, your journey to a great smile is much more comfortable and convenient with Invisalign as opposed to braces.

Comfort

Some of the discomfort you may experience with braces is greatly reduced with Invisalign. Because Invisalign is custom-fit to your mouth and made of plastic, you will feel less pain, irritation, and soreness. Unlike braces, there are no food restrictions; you can eat anything that is on your diet.

Brushing and flossing

Of course you will want to brush and floss your teeth to prevent plaque buildup, tooth discoloration, and dental decay. If you wear braces, these simple tasks can become quite a challenge. Invisalign aligners are very easy to remove and replace, so you can brush or floss like normal without having to work your way around any metallic framework covering your teeth.

Appearance

You do not have to be embarrassed to show your teeth when you are using the Invisalign system. Since the aligners are practically invisible, no one will even notice you are wearing them! Whether you are a teenager or an older adult, you can live your life normally.

If you want to learn more about Invisalign, or are wondering what your treatment options are at The Harmony Dental Group, feel free to give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office!

The History of Dental Implants

June 12th, 2015

The earliest endeavors for dental implant tooth substitutes on record dates back to the Mayan civilization, to 600 AD. Archeologists recovered primeval skulls in which the teeth had been replaced with materials the ranged from wood, stones, and jewels to small pieces of seashells.

Like most scientific progresses, the finding of what makes todays dental implants so successful was unexpected. In 1952, a Swedish orthopedic surgeon, named Dr. Branemark, placed a very small titanium cylinder into a bone to learn how the bone would heal. What he discovered was that the titanium cylinder had fused (melded to the bone.) Out of this experiment dental implants would be born within two decades.

In 1970s, modern dental implants made their first appearance. Of course, over the past four decades, the original dental implant has undergone several improvements in both structure and design, but has always been based on the original theme.

Dental implants were first made available to individuals who had lost all of their teeth and had difficulty wearing dentures, mainly because they had lost of much of their jawbone were dentures set. Today, most dental implants are used in place of dentures, for multiple teeth that are missing, or to replace a single tooth.

When dental implants were first designed, they were a one size fits all. The original dental implants were all the same circumference, while the length of each tooth varied depending on the type of tooth it was replacing. The dental implants were smoothed out and polished by a machine, but still did not produce the natural looking dental implants we have today.

Now, with the help of state-of-the-art equipment and advanced technology, implants come in a wide variety of sizes and shape to match the teeth that are missing. The surfaces of today’s dental implants give them a more natural look and feel. In addition, the surface of the dental implant also attaches to the bone much easier and for a longer period of time.

Dr. Branemark's discovery has left an impression on dental professionals, all over the world, including Dr. Richard Malek. If you are considering dental implants to improve your smile’s health, beauty, and function, be sure to contact our Norwalk, CT office to schedule an appointment.

Invisalign Teen®: Why Invisalign® is the best choice for teens

June 5th, 2015

Those challenging teenage years are some of the most self-conscious ones of your life, and concern for your appearance definitely plays a large part. Invisalign is becoming a very popular choice for adolescent patients today, but is it the best choice?

The results from teenage Invisalign users indicate that Invisalign is both effective for teeth straightening and for satisfying that urge to avoid the dreaded “metal mouth.” Dr. Richard Malek can help you determine if Invisalign is right for you, but this article will explain why so many people are calling Invisalign the best choice for teens today.

Metal-Free Braces

Invisalign is a clear plastic device that fits directly over the teeth. There are no metal parts to mar the look of your smile, and your Invisalign aligners can straighten while allowing your pearly whites to shine through. Any teen will be the first to tell you that appearance is a top concern, so this is an excellent choice. People don’t even need to know you’re straightening your teeth with Invisalign.

Eat, Brush, and Floss Easily

Another particularly attractive aspect of Invisalign for most teenagers is the freedom it allows. While traditional metal braces can make eating, brushing, and flossing difficult, this is not the case with Invisalign. The aligners are easily removable for these activities, which gives teens the freedom they desire to live life as usual.

More Free Time

Invisalign Teen aligners need to be checked and adjusted at The Harmony Dental Group less frequently than traditional braces. This allows for fewer appointments, something that is really important to teens. Having your teeth straightened is no reason to forgo activities or make room in your schedule for constant office visits when you choose Invisalign.

Learn more about Invisalign Teen at our Norwalk, CT office!

Help! My gums hurt when I floss!

May 29th, 2015

By no stretch is it rare for your gums to hurt during and after flossing. Even some bleeding is to be expected. This is especially true if you have not flossed in a long time. However, if your gums do indeed hurt when you floss, and unbearably so, there are some things you can do.

Be Gentle

Perhaps the most obvious way to combat gum soreness and bleeding is to be gentle. One of the most common occurrences of these gum problems is over-aggressive flossing. In other words, if you are too rough on your gums while flossing, either because you are out of practice or because you are in a hurry, soreness and hurting is to be expected. Instead, try taking your time and be gentle. Also, if you are just starting out, be patient and consistent, your gums will become more conditioned over time.

Use an Alternative Method

If being consistent and gentle does not work, there are other alternative methods of flossing that you can try. You can also try a water floss machine, or what is sometimes called a water pick. The device essentially shoots water into the crevasses between your teeth, and in other areas of your mouth, in order to dislodge food and plaque. These oral instruments also come with different attachments that allow you to reach many of the hard to see and reach areas of your mouth. And lastly, you can always buy floss that is not as abrasive to your gums. There is floss that comes with soft and gentle coatings that will do less harm to your gums while they are adjusting to the good oral hygiene habit you are creating.

Flossing is one of the easiest parts of oral hygiene to overlook. When you first start out, it is common that you may want to stop because of the pain it can initially cause. However, if you try one, or all, of the above mentioned methods, you will give yourself the best chance of being success with your flossing, and it won't hurt as much.

For more flossing tips, schedule an appointment at our Norwalk, CT office and askDr. Richard Malek or a member of our team!

Memorial Day

May 22nd, 2015

Memorial Day is not only a federal holiday in the United States, but it is a day of observance and remembrance of those who died in service. Originally known as Decoration Day, this solemn day has been marked on calendars since the end of the American Civil War as a day to commemorate both the Confederate and Union soldiers who fought and died in the war.

Marking the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers, wreaths, or other tokens has been practiced throughout history, but it wasn't until the mark of the end of the Civil War that a special day was decided upon as the one to spend in remembrance. By 1890, every state in the country was observing Decoration Day. It wasn't until 1967 when the name formally changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day, in order to encompass all fallen American soldiers in all wars and conflicts. In June of 1968, Congress moved the official date of Memorial Day to the last Monday in May in order to create a three day weekend.

Today, while there is certainly an air of remembrance on Memorial Day, it has become more a day of spending time with family, friends, and other loved ones. This day is also heralded as the start of summer, with many schools finishing for the year around this time. Our team at The Harmony Dental Group remembers it as a day to take solace and remembered those lost.

Traditional observances of Memorial Day are still held, and they often involve raising the American Flag then lowering it to a half-staff position until noon, and then raising it once again to its full height afterwards. The flag is lowered to remember those who've lost their lives while in service to their country, and then it is raised to signify our willingness to not let their sacrifice be in vain.

From community parades in the Norwalk, CT area, backyard cook-outs, and fireworks to formal ceremonies, Memorial Day is commemorated in many different ways. No matter how you choose to spend this day, take a moment to remember those who've lost their lives in an effort to preserve our freedom.

Xerostomia: What does that mean anyway?

May 15th, 2015

Does your mouth always feel like it’s dry? If it does you may be suffering from xerostomia. Xerostomia is defined as dry mouth resulting from reduced or absent saliva flow. There are various medical conditions that can cause this type of dry mouth, which you can ask more questions next time you visit us at The Harmony Dental Group.

Xerostomia can factor into both minor and more serious health problems. It can affect the ability to eat and enjoy food and it can jeopardize one’s dental health. Some of the more common symptoms can include sore throat, burning sensation in the oral cavity or tongue, and difficulty swallowing.

One of the more serious problems associated with dry mouth is an increased risk of tooth decay. Decrease in saliva causes more plaque to form and there is less saliva to act as a buffer to the things we eat and drink. Less saliva also means more food debris is retained in the mouth. These things can lead to an increase in tooth decay.

So, what causes xerostomia?

There are several things that may cause xerostomia. Among the biggest culprits are prescription medications. Some examples are antihistamines, antidepressants, anti-hypertensives, anti-anxiety agents, anti-diarrheals, bronchodilators, and muscle relaxers.

Certain diseases can also cause dry mouth. The more common ones include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, diabetes, hypertension, and thyroid disease. Xerostomia is also common in patients being treated for cancer. Head and neck radiation as well as certain chemotherapy drugs can cause severe dry mouth.

What should you do if you are experiencing dry mouth symptoms? First make sure to hydrate with plenty of water. If you are taking medications that cause xerostomia, make sure to drink water before taking the medication as well as a full glass of water with the medication. Be diligent with brushing and flossing and discuss your condition at your next appointment with Dr. Richard Malek. We can recommend specific products to help moisten the oral cavity and reduce your symptoms such as saliva substitutes, xylitol products, and certain toothpastes. Another option may be a prescription home fluoride treatment to help prevent new cavities. You may want to try gum or candies to stimulate saliva flow but make sure they are sugar free! Avoid food and beverages that dehydrate such as caffeine and alcohol.

Xerostomia is a common problem that is currently on the rise. Our team can help you to reduce any symptoms and improve your comfort while living with a dry mouth. Contact our Norwalk, CT office today!

Invisalign Teen® Benefits

May 8th, 2015

You can probably see how teeth straightening can make your smile more attractive, but you might be wary of how Invisalign Teen treatment works. If you’re like most teens at our Norwalk, CT office, you love hanging out with your friends, and you don’t want to be different, watch what you eat, or worry about how you look. Invisalign Teen has several benefits over traditional metal braces that can make your treatment easier.

People won’t know you’re wearing them.

Invisalign Teen consists of clear trays that are virtual impossible for others to see. Chances are, the only people who know that you are getting your teeth straightened will be your family and any of your friends whom you choose to tell. You won’t need to answer to “Tinsel Teeth” and “Metal Mouth” as some of your classmates with metal braces do.

You can eat what your friends eat.

You take your Invisalign Teen aligners out of your mouth for meals and snacks, so you can eat just like you normally would. You don’t need to worry about food getting stuck in your braces or leading to a bracket popping off. Unlike with braces, you can enjoy the following foods with your friends during Invisalign Teen straightening treatment:

  • Popcorn at the movies
  • Trail mix with dried fruit when you’re hanging out together
  • Ribs and chicken wings at a party
  • Eating a peanut butter sandwich, apple, and carrot sticks for lunch

You can take care of your teeth more easily.

It would be a shame if you took the trouble to straighten your teeth and then found out that you had developed tooth decay while wearing braces. This is less of a problem with Invisalign Teen aligners because they are removable. You can brush and floss your teeth as normal just by taking the trays out of your mouth.

Getting straighter teeth can be a serious confidence-booster in the long run, and with Invisalign Teen, the treatment isn’t that bad. You can wear these clear aligners without letting people know that you’re straightening your teeth, and they won’t interfere with your diet or dental hygiene.

What are dental sealants, who should get them, and how long do they last?

May 1st, 2015

Dental sealants are an excellent way to protect children’s teeth from tooth decay by coating them with a thin plastic material. Their teeth look and feel like normal, but they are protected from plaque build-up and decay early on. Dr. Richard Malek and our staff recommend sealants as a preventive measure for children before any decay appears on their teeth.

Who should get dental sealants?

Dental sealants are intended for young children as soon as their first teeth come in. Decay is most common in the molars, so taking your child to The Harmony Dental Group for sealants right when you see the molars grow in gives your child the best chance to fight tooth decay.

A child’s first set of permanent molars grow in between ages five and seven, while the second permanent molars come in between 11 and 14 years of age. Some teens and adults who don’t have tooth decay may get sealants as well, but it is less common.

How long do dental sealants last?

Once the sealant has been placed on the teeth, it lasts up to ten years. Expect to have Dr. Richard Malek check the sealant at every visit to our Norwalk, CT office, which should be twice a year. We will look at the sealant and determine if it needs to be replaced.

What is the process of getting sealants?

Applying sealants is a simple, pain-free procedure that is done quickly at The Harmony Dental Group. There is absolutely no effect on the tooth structure from sealants.

For starters, the teeth are cleaned carefully, then dried with an absorbent material. A mild acid solution is applied to them to roughen them slightly. This is done so the sealant can bond properly to the teeth. Then the teeth are rinsed and dried, and the sealant material is painted on and dried with a special light.

Molars are susceptible to decay early on, which is why sealants are an important treatment to get for your children’s first set of teeth.

What type of toothpaste is right for you?

April 24th, 2015

Toothpaste no longer comes in simple choices of fluoride and fresh breath. Paste is not even the only option! You can choose gel forms and even some with ribbons of color and flavor. With so many varieties available, it may be difficult to know which features or combinations of ingredients are best for your mouth. Dr. Richard Malek and our team are here to help!

Fluoride

The majority of all dental patients should use toothpaste with fluoride. Fluoride helps to strengthen the enamel on your teeth; it makes them stronger and more resistant to cavities. Even if you live in an area that adds fluoride to your drinking water, the fluoride protection in toothpaste is necessary.

Some individuals can have an allergic reaction to fluoride. Fluorosis can occur in children or adults that swallow too much toothpaste while brushing. If swallowing cannot be prevented, fluoride use should be reduced. The American Dental Association has updated guidelines that recommend fluoride be used as soon as the first teeth erupt in children. However, the amount should be minimal and swallowing should be prevented.

Sensitivity Protection

If your teeth are sensitive to temperatures, toothpaste with sensitivity protection can work wonders for your discomfort. Ingredients in these pastes or gels work to block the pathways to the nerves that react to hot or cold. Do not give up on this type of toothpaste after a few days; the full results may take a few weeks.

Plaque, Tartar, and Gingivitis Protection

Everyone has bacteria in his or her mouth, and this bacteria is normal. Unfortunately, some bacteria also cause plaque. If the plaque remains on your teeth, it hardens into tartar or calculus. Tartar is an almost cement-like substance that cannot be removed by brushing alone. When bacteria and tartar are left behind, the deposits will form under the gum line. This leads to gingivitis and gum disease.

Since there is a wide variety of toothpastes and ingredients for preventing tartar and gingivitis, ask Dr. Richard Malek and our staff what the best choice is for your teeth. We can help you select the right combination of ingredients.

Whitening

White teeth are desirable, and manufacturers are heavily marketing whitening toothpastes. Most brands do not contain bleaching ingredients; they use abrasives to polish stains away. Unfortunately, too much abrasive use can be damaging to your teeth. If you’re interested in teeth whitening, our Norwalk, CT team can recommend a number of safe and effective options.

Feel free to ask Dr. Richard Malek and our staff at The Harmony Dental Group about the best choice in toothpaste to meet your individual needs. Remember to look for the ADA approval seal on any toothpaste you are considering.

Earth Day

April 17th, 2015

The idea for Earth Day was the brainchild of Gaylord Nelson, a senator from Wisconsin. He envisioned an Earth Day that would be a kind of environmental teach-in. The first Earth Day celebration took place on April 22, 1970, and a surprising 20 million people participated on that day. Ultimately, it became the largest organized celebration in US history.

Earth Day Over the Years

Over the years, the recognition of the day, and the number of people celebrating it all over the world, turned Earth Day into an international celebration. Because it is celebrated throughout the world, it is not only the largest international environmental observation, but it is also more widely celebrated than any other environmental event in the world. Today, Earth Day is celebrated in 175 countries where over 500 million people participate in celebrations.

The Earth Day Movement

The Earth Day movement is credited with developing the idea that people should “think green”. It encouraged congress to enact laws, including one that resulted in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. It also inspired the passage of the Endangered Species Act.

The Five R's and Their Importance

  • Reduce – Reduce by avoiding unnecessary purchases. Reduce your use of materials that wind up in landfills. Reduce the use of chemicals around your house. Reduce your use of disposable bags, plates, cups, eating utensils, and batteries.
  • Reuse – Instead of using plastic bags for your groceries or purchases, bring your own reusable bags. When you go to buy coffee at Starbucks, take a travel mug so you don't have to get your coffee in a disposable paper cup. Instead of storing food in disposable refrigerator containers, buy containers that can be washed and reused. Don't use regular batteries. Whenever possible, opt for rechargeable batteries that you can reuse.
  • Recycle – Most cities offer a recycling program to collect used bottles, cans, and newspapers. Recycling includes collecting recyclable materials that would otherwise be considered waste, sorting and processing recyclables into raw materials such as fibers and manufacturing raw materials into new products.
  • Re-buy – Make an effort to purchase things that are made through recycling. When purchasing furniture, look for items that are made from reclaimed wood. When buying paper for kids school work, computer printer paper, holiday cards, or anything else, make a point of purchasing recycled paper products. Instead of buying clothing at full retail price, shop for second hand clothing. You will save a lot of money by doing so!
  • Rethink – Rethink the way you do things so that you do them in an eco-conscious way at all times. Instead of driving to work alone, consider taking the bus or going in a carpool. Walk or ride your bike when you're only going a short distance. Plan your shopping trips and errand runs so that you can do everything on one day, and do it in a way where you can save time and gas.

Other ways to "think green" include growing your own food, composting yard waste and food scraps, or by participating in local recycling programs. Join a group like Freecycle so you can share your unneeded and unwanted possessions with people who can use them. Likewise, you'll be able to get things you need or want for free.

Earth Day teaches people that the planet belongs to everyone, so everyone is equally responsible for protecting it. Although Earth Day is an environmental celebration, our team at The Harmony Dental Group wants to remind you that you don't have to wait until then to make changes that will allow you and your family to live a greener life.

Happy Earth Day from the team at The Harmony Dental Group.

What is CEREC® and what are its benefits?

April 10th, 2015

When you are having trouble with your teeth, one of the worst parts of the experience can be making multiple trips to the dentist instead of getting everything done in one trip. CEREC allows you to save time and get better results by taking advantage of advanced technology to restore your teeth with a crown, inlay, or onlay.

What is CEREC?

CEREC is the short term for Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics, or CEramic REConstruction. CEREC uses CAD/CAM (computer aided design/computer aided manufacturing) technology to take impressions quickly and generate a precisely fitted filling so you can leave The Harmony Dental Group sooner.

How can CEREC help you?

One of the biggest advantages of CEREC is its convenience. If you need a crown, inlay, or onlay, you can get your teeth restored during a single trip to The Harmony Dental Group. Traditionally, these procedures require two trips to the dentist.

During the first, the dentist cleans the tooth, makes a mold, and places a temporary restoration onto the tooth. In a couple of weeks, after the permanent restoration is ready, you need to return to the office so that the dentist can remove the temporary fix and place the permanent one.

The CEREC process lets you receive your permanent restoration right here in our Norwalk, CT office, so you do not have to live for weeks with a temporary fix and schedule another appointment. In addition, Dr. Richard Malek and our team use digital impressions to make a mold for the filling. This is more comfortable and accurate than traditional impressions with plaster.

Another benefit of CEREC is that it uses a single block of solid ceramic materials instead of pressed ceramic and metal. CEREC restorations are able to withstand moderate chewing so yours will last for years. The lifespan of a CEREC restoration is longer than similar work with traditional methods. In addition, the color of CEREC ceramic is closer to the color of your natural teeth, which will make your restoration virtually unnoticeable.

For more information about CEREC single-visit restorations, contact The Harmony Dental Group.

Fewer Adults are Visiting the Dentist

April 3rd, 2015

Our team at The Harmony Dental Group recently learned that in the decade between 2000 and 2010, the amount of adults who regularly visited their dentist declined, according to research released by the American Dental Association's Health Policy Resources Center (HPRC). In fact, the HPRC found that the percentage of adults who had regular checkups every six months declined from 41 percent in 2003 to 37 percent in 2010. The largest decline in dental care occurred in the 35- to 49-year-old age group. That’s down from 43 percent in 2003 to just 38 percent in 2010.

There is some good news, however. While adult visits may have decreased, children's visits were on the rise, particularly among low-income families. More low-income children are visiting the dentist now than they were ten years ago. And the HPRC notes that between 2000 and 2010, dental visits among low-income children increased in 47 states.

Have you ever wondered why the American Dental Association and Dr. Richard Malek recommend that you come in for a dental checkup and cleaning every six months? While daily oral hygiene habits are essential to good oral health, professional dental cleanings at The Harmony Dental Group ensure your and your child’s teeth are treated to a deeper level of cleaning. In addition to a thorough cleaning and teeth polishing, regular visits at our Norwalk, CT office help us detect and prevent the onset of tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. During your visit, we’ll check the health of your mouth, teeth, gums, cheeks, and tongue for symptoms of any oral disease. We will also check old fillings and restorations, as these can wear away over time from constant chewing, clenching, or grinding at night.

If you are predisposed to oral diseases due to age, pregnancy, tobacco use, or medical conditions such as diabetes or dry mouth, Dr. Richard Malek may recommend you visit our office more often than every six months.

If you are overdue for your next checkup and cleaning, please give us a call to schedule an appointment!

My child has canker sores! How can I help?

March 27th, 2015

According to the American Association of Pediatric Density, roughly one in five children suffers from canker sores. Canker sores are small sores that appear inside the cheeks, on the lips, on the surface of the gums, and under the tongue.

Even though, canker sores are not contagious, they do tend to run in families. There are several reasons your child may be suffering from canker sores including:

  • Children who have Vitamin B12, iron, and folic acid deficiencies tend to get canker sores more often than children who have normal levels of these vitamins and minerals.
  • Children who suffer from food allergies are also at a higher risk for developing canker sores. It’s difficult to determine what your child may be allergic to. If you feel strongly that the canker sores are related to an allergy, then a visit to an allergist is highly recommended.
  • Biting their lip or cheek can also result in a canker sore.
  • Any injury to mouth, where the skin breaks can cause a canker sore.
  • Brushing their teeth too hard can also be a problem.
  • Your child may be sensitive to an ingredient in their toothpaste. Try switching toothpastes and see if it makes a difference.
  • Emotional disturbances and stress are also factors to consider.

If your child has frequent canker sores a visit to our Norwalk, CT office will be beneficial. Canker sores are painful and usually last about 14 days. Dr. Richard Malek may recommend one or a few of the following treatment options:

  • Avoid food that is acidic, salty, and spicy.
  • A toothbrush with soft bristles may be helpful.
  • Avoid mouthwash and toothpaste that contain SLS.
  • Do not feed your child foods that they may be allergic to.

Canker Sore Remedies

  • Eating yogurt that contains Acidophilus will relieve the pain and help the canker sore heal faster.
  • Put one teaspoon of baking soda in an eight-ounce glass of lukewarm water. Have your child gargle and swish it around his or her mouth several times a day. Not only does this remedy relieve the pain, the canker sore could be gone in as little as 24 hours.
  • Place a wet tea bag on the sore and hold it there for a few minutes several times a day. This remedy will help with the pain and quickly heal the sore.
  • Camphor, Benzocaine, Lidocaine, and Orajel are over-the-counter medications that can help.

If you have questions about your child’s canker sore, contact Dr. Richard Malek to schedule an appointment.

Caring for Your Smile after Invisalign® Treatment

March 20th, 2015

You have done a lot of work to get the perfect smile. You wore your Invisalign aligner trays and cared for your teeth, and now your treatment is done. You still need to take care of your teeth to keep your beautiful smile. Keeps these things in mind when you think about your oral care routine.

Retainers

Many patients do require a retainer after Invisalign treatment. This will be based on your unique situation. If a retainer is recommended by Dr. Richard Malek, use it as directed. Retainers prevent your teeth from shifting back into their original position. You should also avoid hard, crunchy foods for the first couple of weeks as your teeth adjust. For younger patients, retainers are normally used until the wisdom teeth come in or are extracted.

Brushing and Flossing

Brushing and flossing must be part of your daily oral care. Flossing helps remove the plaque, which becomes tartar or calculus. This build up can lead to gingivitis and gum disease. Your gums may be more sensitive for a week or two after your orthodontic work is completed. A warm salt water rinse may relieve discomfort.

Your teeth may be slightly sensitive for a short time. They have been protected by your Invisalign aligner trays and now are fully exposed. You might want to try a sensitive toothpaste to get through the transition. Just ask; we will be glad to recommend the best type for your needs. If your teeth are stained, a professional whitening treatment can be considered.

Regular Dental Checkups

You still need to have regular dental exams. Professional cleanings and X-rays make sure that both your teeth and gums stay healthy so you can keep your teeth for life. If cavities or other problems are found, they can be taken care of quickly.

If you have any questions about how to care for your teeth after your Invisalign program, please ask our Norwalk, CT team. We want you to keep your healthy smile and enjoy the results of your Invisalign treatment.

St. Patrick's Day: Celtic pride, green shamrocks, and lucky charms!

March 13th, 2015

“St. Patrick's Day is an enchanted time -- a day to begin transforming winter's dreams into summer's magic.” Adrienne Cook

Lucky green shamrocks, leprechauns, and pots of gold – it must be St. Patrick’s Day! If you’re not Irish, how do you go about celebrating St. Patrick’s Day? It’s easy: You just put on one of those tall leprechauns hats, dress in green from head to toe, and wear one of those carefree pins that say “Kiss Me, I’m Irish”. On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish, and that is the universal beauty of the holiday. Celtic pride does not discriminate.

Wondering what our team at The Harmony Dental Group is doing to celebrate March 17th? Well, we’ve thought about doing everything from handing out lucky gold coins (you know, the fake ones that are made of chocolate) to shamrock stickers. Maybe we’ll even give away green toothbrushes and floss! You’ll never know unless you come in to see Dr. Richard Malek !

All kidding aside, St. Patrick’s Day is an important cultural and religious holiday. There are lavish parades and church services across Ireland on March 17th. Over time, however, the holiday has developed into a day to observe Irish culture in general. In places like England and the United States, where there is a large Irish Diaspora, the holiday has greater significance than other countries. From the streets of Boston to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, it is a day of celebration, and many Americans of Irish descent will cook up a traditional meal of corned beef and cabbage.

So, to all of you with Irish ancestry, and to all of you who have decided to be Irish for the day, our office wishes you a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Good luck looking for a pot of leprechaun gold, which is said to exist at the end of the rainbow. However, keep away from those sugary Lucky Charms; sweet cereals might taste good, but your kids’ teeth might not be feeling too lucky if they eat it for breakfast every day. Have a great St. Paddy’s Day!

March is National Nutrition Month!

March 6th, 2015

While you don’t have to wait to start eating right, March is the month the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics asks everyone to pay special attention to what goes into our bodies. The Academy has designated the month of March for focusing the public’s awareness on what they eat.

What Not to Eat

The academy points out that the foods you eat have a direct effect on the health of your teeth and specifically on tooth decay. Bacteria rely on carbohydrates to thrive. That is why Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group tell our patients to cut back on both candy and sweets. They consist of simple sugars that feed the bacteria in your mouth and enhance tooth decay.

It’s the hidden sugars that will cost you, though. Get in the habit of reading labels on food and looking for products with added sugar. This includes ingredients that end with the suffix “ose.” When it comes to nutrition, these foods offer little value beyond satisfying that sweet tooth.

What You Should Eat

Turn to foods that not only taste good but are good for your teeth too. Dairy products, for example, provide the body with nutritional items that support tooth enamel. Foods high in protein feature phosphorus, a nutrient critical to oral health.

You can’t really go wrong by adding color to your diet, either. Fruits and vegetables make for a colorful plate and a healthy meal. Use some caution with acidic fruits like oranges or even tomatoes, because the acid can erode tooth enamel. It is better to include these foods in a meal instead of eating them by themselves.

Remember, good nutrition is something you should worry about all year long, not just when celebrating National Nutrition Month. March just serves as a fun reminder that eating right is a proactive step in managing your dental health.

We encourage you to give us a call at our Norwalk, CT office to learn more!

My son is turning one. When should I bring him in for a visit?

January 23rd, 2015

Dr. Richard Malek and our team know that cavities know no age boundaries, and that is why we recommend a visit to our Norwalk, CT office by a child’s first birthday. That also happens to be the opinion of our friends at the American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as the American Dental Association.

Research has shown that more than one in four kids has had at least one cavity by the time they’re four years old. In fact, many children get cavities as early as age two, which is a critical reason why you should pay us a visit sooner rather than later. Your child’s appointment at The Harmony Dental Group also covers topics such as the importance of baby teeth, nutrition, development, and any concerns you may have with your child’s dental health. We believe that your child’s first visit with Dr. Richard Malek should be an enjoyable and positive one, and we strive to teach good oral care that will enable your child to have a beautiful smile that lasts a lifetime.

To learn more about baby teeth, or to schedule your child’s next visit with Dr. Richard Malek, please give us a call today! We look forward to seeing you!

I haven’t been to the dentist in years; what should I expect?

January 16th, 2015

Time flies when we are not at the dentist! Before you know it, years may have gone by. Let’s take a moment to explain what takes place when a patient comes back to receive care after an extended period of time.

After a while, small dental concerns or issues can grow into an unexpected journey of discovery and expense. Anxiety is common and expected. Let’s discover first of all, “What brings you here today?” It is a good place to start and once the initial concerns are addressed, a comprehensive plan to restore optimum dental health can be arranged. During the first appointment Dr. Richard Malek and our team want you to feel comfortable, and establish a confidence allowing you to be open with any questions.

Your visit will take approximately 90 minutes. First, a complete medical and dental history will be recorded and reviewed in one-on-one interview style. This is the time to voice any concern, anxiety issues, worries, etc. Then, X-rays are taken to provide additional information about what is happening beneath the surface of your teeth and gums. Finally, a series of screenings including those for oral cancer, home care evaluation, and periodontal disease are conducted to complete your oral health evaluation.

The hygienist has a great eye for other conditions such as broken fillings, cracked teeth, active decay, and other dental concerns. Then, Dr. Richard Malek will come in for a comprehensive exam and list and prioritize your dental needs. Our treatment coordinator will present scheduling options, insurance coverage, and payment plans.

Our team will coach you and help you gain control of your own dental destiny with good home care habits. You will receive a bag with a toothbrush, floss, appropriate toothpaste, and any other specialized tools for your needs. You will know how often you need to return for hygiene visits or other dental appointments.

Our patients at The Harmony Dental Group are our most important asset, and we strive to create a comfortable experience, no matter how long it has been since your last visit at our Norwalk, CT office. From phone conversations to financial arrangements to clinical treatment, we want you to feel confident that our team will meet your needs.

Is Invisalign Teen® right for my child?

January 9th, 2015

Straightening your teeth with traditional braces used to be something of a public affair. While traditional teeth-straightening methods yielded high-quality results, it was also essentially impossible to wear them undetected as you went about your day. The visibility of braces could be especially troubling to teens in the high-stress environment of high school and even during the early years of college.

With Invisalign Teen, Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group will tell you that many of those concerns are no longer as relevant as they once were. Because Invisalign Teen aligners are constructed out of a plastic that is both smooth and clear, in all likelihood friends and family members won’t even realize the teen is wearing them. The smooth and clear plastic also makes the aligners much more comfortable than traditional braces, which means the teenaged user won’t have to deal with something large and obstructive in his or her mouth.

Additionally, the Invisalign Teen aligners are specifically made to be removable when the need arises. Your son or daughter won’t have to worry about getting food stuck in the alignment trays because they can be pulled out before a meal and popped back in afterwards. Invisalign Teen wearers can remove the aligners before brushing, which allows them to make sure their teeth are free and clear of all obstructions.

Invisalign Teen aligners also allow wearers to keep doing all the activities they have previously enjoyed. If your teen plays sports, for example, he or she won't have to worry about a mouth filled with metal brackets getting injured during play. If your teen plays an instrument, he or she won’t have to worry about traditional braces affecting normal playing techniques. The aligners will remain both comfortable and convenient during all of those activities and more.

If your teen is concerned about physical appearance and worried that braces will adversely affect his or her life for a year or more, Invisalign Teen treatment with Dr. Richard Malek is definitely the right choice. Teens don’t have to be shy about their smile, won’t have to change any of the activities they normally do, and will still get all the benefits of straight teeth when the process is completed.

For more information about Invisalign Teen, or to schedule an initial consultation with Dr. Richard Malek, please give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office today!

Smile with Invisalign Teen®!

January 2nd, 2015

Invisalign Teen is designed with today’s youth in mind. These clear, removable orthodontic aligners can straighten your teeth without the need for metal wires and brackets. Unlike traditional braces, Invisalign Teen aligners are comfortable, nearly invisible, and removable, which allows you to remove them as you eat your favorite foods and brush and floss your teeth. Invisalign Teen motivates teenagers to enjoy life without restrictions while promoting better overall dental care.

Key features of Invisalign Teen

Teenagers are constantly on the move and require special options when it comes to their braces. Invisalign Teen utilizes the same technology as Invisalign for adults; they consist of a series of clear plastic aligners that gradually move the teeth. Extra features designed especially for teens include:

  • Blue wear-indicators on the aligners that gradually fade from blue to clear to help you, and our team, gauge wear time
  • Aligners designed to compensate for the growth of molars and new teeth
  • Customization to fit your mouth correctly and comfortably
  • Removable and nearly transparent to ensure you can eat with freedom and smile with confidence
  • Six free individual replacement aligners in the event that your aligners become misplaced or lost

Conditions improved by Invisalign Teen

Between 70 and 80 percent of adolescents in the United States require braces, according to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). Invisalign Teen uses advanced technology to treat a broad range of orthodontic conditions. These include overbite, underbite, crossbite, widely-spaced teeth, and overly crowded teeth. Injuries and tooth and jaw problems may also require the use of braces to correct jaw and teeth alignment problems.

How does Invisalign Teen work?

Like any orthodontic treatment, Invisalign Teen requires a customized treatment plan created by Dr. Richard Malek. Generally, each set of aligners is worn for approximately two weeks and removed when you brush, floss, eat, and drink. Your teeth will gradually move with the series of aligners, which typically ranges from 18 to 30 aligners in total. You’ll visit our Norwalk, CT office every eight to ten weeks to check your progress and make any needed adjustments.

Invisalign Teen introduces a whole new way to make your smile straight without the unappealing look and hassle of traditional metal braces. This revolutionary method of correcting smiles is being used by teens everywhere, including right here at The Harmony Dental Group, to straighten their teeth with confidence.

New Year's Day Around the World

December 26th, 2014

New Year’s Day marks the beginning of the calendar year in most parts of the world. The holiday is celebrated on January 1st of each year. Customs and celebrations vary by country, religion, and even individual desires. Whether celebrated quietly or with gusto, the day brings the start of new opportunities for those that observe it.

United States and Canada

In both the US and Canada, celebrations begin on New Year’s Eve. At midnight on January 1st the New Year is welcomed with bells, horns, whistles, and other noisemakers. Fireworks are often part of the celebrations. In New York City, Times Square comes alive with revelers. In Toronto, there are large celebrations which may feature concerts, late-night partying, sporting events, and fireworks, with free public transit service during peak party times. Many individuals in North America greet the year by making resolutions for improvements in their lives.

China

In China, many people celebrate two forms of a new year. They may observe January 1st, but the traditional Chinese New Year is based on a lunar calendar. Parades with paper lanterns and dragons made from silk are a significant part of the festivities. Legends say that the dragon spends most of its time in hibernation so fireworks are used to keep the dragon awake.

Jewish Celebration

Jewish New Year’s observances begin with Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the New Year, and end with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This ten-day celebration is held in September or October, based on the Hebrew calendar. The New Year is not marked as much with loud celebrations as with personal insight to mend wrongs and resolve to better oneself.

Other countries and cultures also have different dates for New Year’s Day observances:

  • Vietnam observes the New Year in February
  • In Iran, the day is celebrated on March 21st
  • Islamic cultures often observe the tenth day of the month of Muharram
  • Russian Orthodox observers use the Julian calendar and celebrate on January 14th
  • Buddhist celebrations are held from April 13th through 15th

If you observe New Year’s Day by making healthy resolutions, include dental care in your plans with Dr. Richard Malek. The health of your teeth and gums contributes to your overall health. Caring for your mouth now can prevent many dental problems later in life. The Harmony Dental Group wishes you a healthy, prosperous, and happy New Year!

My child has autism. What should we expect at your office?

December 19th, 2014

At The Harmony Dental Group, we know that as many as one in 88 children today have some form of autism, a complex brain disorder that affects a child's ability to communicate or form relationships, and makes a child appear distant, aloof, or detached from other people or surroundings. Autism varies widely in symptoms and severity, and some people have coexisting conditions such as intellectual disability or even epilepsy.

That is why Dr. Richard Malek and our team are specially trained to provide dental care to the entire special needs community, including autistic children. We know that a visit to the dentist with an autistic child can be difficult. In addition to the common fears associated with strangers, there are also unfamiliar sounds, sensations, bright lights, and tastes with which your child may not be comfortable. We work with parents to make sure visiting the dentist is not so traumatic for our autistic patients.

Dr. Richard Malek and our team also know that patients with autism may be more interested in equipment and instruments than in us. We show our patients every piece of equipment we are going to use in a way that they can understand. We also allow a patient to sit in a parent's lap in the open bay if he or she is not feeling at ease. We want your child to enjoy getting to know us and to be comfortable while under our care.

A pleasant, comfortable visit at our Norwalk, CT office builds trust and helps put your child at ease for future appointments. Before a visit, we ask parents or guardians to bring their child's favorite toy, comfort item, music, or other coping device their child requires. We have a caring and compassionate team and know how to help autistic children acclimate themselves to a dental environment. We may not get everything done at the first visit, but we are able to schedule several appointments so that your child can get used to our office, the dentist, instruments, and our staff.

Children, especially those afflicted with autism, are not born with a fear of the dentist, but they can fear the unknown. Our team at The Harmony Dental Group genuinely cares for our patients beyond their teeth, and are more than happy to discuss any concerns you may have, as well as answer questions about your child's ongoing dental treatment. Please give us a call to learn more or schedule an appointment with Dr. Richard Malek.

Who benefits from Invisalign®?

December 12th, 2014

One problem with trying to answer the question as to who benefits from Invisalign is that the simple answer is “almost everyone.” The see-through, almost invisible aligners for straightening teeth are specifically molded to fit each individual’s mouth. Unlike conventional braces, they can be removed when eating and when cleaning the teeth. Because they use less force in straightening teeth than metal braces, the risk of harm to teeth is lessened.

Benefits to adults

Traditional braces are associated with children and teenagers. Many adults want to have their teeth straightened but cannot decide which is worse: having crooked teeth or wearing metal braces. They also worry about having to change their diet by not being able to eat the foods they normally enjoy.

If you are an adult considering braces, our team at The Harmony Dental Group will tell you Invisalign aligners will give you the best of all worlds. Your teeth will be straightened with virtually invisible braces. You can remove your aligners when you eat so you can enjoy any food you normally would consume. You do not have to worry about embarrassing yourself by getting food stuck in your braces. You simply clean your teeth normally after eating and replace your aligners. If there is a special occasion during which you do not want to have any braces at all, you can remove the aligners for a few hours without causing any damage.

Benefits to teenagers

Dr. Richard Malek and our team know that teenagers are often involved in contact sports or gymnastics. Others find that having metal in their mouth interferes with their ability to play a musical instrument. Traditional metal braces contain wires and brackets that can cause damage to the mouth and gums; this is not a risk with Invisalign aligners.

For sports that require players to wear mouthguards, the expense of specially constructed mouthguards to fit over braces is avoided. The aligners can be removed during sports activity, and a normal mouthguard is worn. Teenagers who play musical instruments simply remove the aligners when practicing or playing in the band or orchestra.

Teenagers often feel they are too busy to spend time and trouble flossing teeth between the wires and brackets of traditional braces. Since the Invisalign aligners are removable, brushing and flossing are simpler and more likely to be performed.

For more information about Invisalign or Invisalign Teen, or to schedule an initial consultation with Dr. Richard Malek, please give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office!

Do adults need fluoride treatments?

December 5th, 2014

Many dentists and hygienists recommend fluoride treatments for their adult patients. You might ask yourself, “Do I really need a fluoride treatment? I thought those were just for my kids.” After all, most insurance plans cover fluoride treatments only up to the age of 18.

What you need to know as a dental consumer is that studies have shown topical fluoride applications performed by a dental professional create a significant benefit for adults who have moderate to high risk for cavities.

There are several circumstances that warrant extra fluoride protection among adults. Many prescription medications reduce saliva flow or otherwise create dry mouth. A reduction in saliva increases cavity risk.

Adults often experience gum recession, which exposes part of the root surface of teeth. These areas are softer than the hard enamel at the top of the tooth, which makes them more susceptible to decay.

In addition, adults often get restorative work such as crowns or bridges. Fluoride can help protect the margins of these restorations, ultimately protecting your investment.

Today many people opt for orthodontic treatment (braces) as adults. Braces make it more challenging for patients to maintain good oral hygiene. Just ask your kids! Fluoride can keep the teeth strong and cavity-free even with the obstacle of orthodontic appliances.

Have you had a restoration done within the last year due to new decay? If you have, that puts you at a higher risk for cavities. Fluoride treatments are a great way to prevent more cavities in patients who are already prone to them.

How is that flossing coming along? You know you should floss daily, but do you? If your oral hygiene is not ideal, fluoride could be just the thing to keep your neglect from leading to cavities between your teeth.

Fluoride can also help with the growing problem of sensitive teeth. Diets high in acidic foods and beverages, general gum recession, and increased use of whitening products all tend to produce sensitive teeth. Fluoride treatments re-mineralize tooth enamel and reduce that sensitivity.

Patients who undergo radiation treatment for cancer also benefit from topical fluoride applications. Radiation damages saliva glands, thus greatly reducing the flow of saliva. Saliva acts as a buffer against the foods we eat and beverages we drink. Once again, less saliva greatly increases the risk of cavities.

If one or more of these conditions applies to you, consider requesting a topical fluoride treatment. Be sure to ask Dr. Richard Malek at your next appointment whether you might benefit from a topical fluoride application.

What’s an intraoral camera?

November 28th, 2014

One of the greatest features our team at The Harmony Dental Group offers is the ability to see first-hand how we can help our patients. While X-rays help us detect any problems in your mouth and give us valuable information on what is bothering you, they often don’t give Dr. Richard Malek a complete view of everything that is going on inside your mouth. With the use of an intraoral camera, we can see every aspect of your teeth and mouth with incredible detail, uncovering cracked or fractured teeth, excessive wear, carious lesions, cavities, or other issues that may be hidden. When we can discover oral problems early on, your treatment is much less invasive and often saves you money down the road.

An intraoral camera allows Dr. Richard Malek to view clear, precise images of your mouth, teeth, and gums and allows us to make an accurate diagnosis.  With clear, defined, enlarged images, Dr. Richard Malek and our team see details that standard mirror examinations may miss. It’s much easier to understand what is happening in your mouth if you can see the problem on a computer monitor, and it means faster diagnosis and less chair-time for our patients!

Intraoral cameras are small, about the size of a dental mirror, and emit a light onto the tooth. The tooth will emit a color that lets Dr. Richard Malek determine if the tooth is healthy or diseased. Intraoral cameras also allow us to save your images on our office computer to provide a permanent record of treatments. These treatments can be printed for you, other specialists, and your lab or insurance companies.

For any questions about the intraoral camera, we encourage you to ask Dr. Richard Malek or our team during your or your child’s next visit or by giving us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office.

Thanksgiving

November 21st, 2014

At The Harmony Dental Group, we love to celebrate the holidays with vigor! Dr. Richard Malek would love to share some unique ways of celebrating Thanksgiving from beyond the Norwalk, CT area to the national level!

When Americans sit down to dinner on the last Thursday of November, the day that Abraham Lincoln designated as the day on which Thanksgiving would be celebrated, they do so thinking that the first Thanksgiving feast was held at Plymouth in 1621. According to National Geographic, the Spanish explorer Francisco Vásquez Coronado and his men celebrated a feast of Thanksgiving in Texas in 1541, giving Texas the distinction of being the first place where Thanksgiving was celebrated.

Different Types of Celebrations

Native Americans had rituals around which they celebrated in hopes of ensuring a bountiful harvest. The Cherokees had a Green Corn Dance that they did for this very purpose. The Pilgrims (not to be confused with the Puritans,) rejected any type of public religious display. They held a three-day long non-religious Thanksgiving feast. Although they said grace, the focus of their celebration was on feasting, drinking alcohol (they did have beer,) and playing games.

The Pilgrims at the Plymouth Plantation celebrated a different day of Thanksgiving in 1623. Plagued by a crop-destroying drought, the settlers prayed for relief. They even fasted. A few days later, they got the rain they so desperately needed. Soon thereafter, they received another blessing when Captain Miles Standish came with staples they couldn't otherwise get. He also told them that a Dutch supply ship was en route. In gratitude for the abundance of good fortune, the Plymouth settlers celebrated a day of prayer and Thanksgiving on June 30, 1623.

The Story of Squanto

No discussion of Thanksgiving is complete without a discussion of Squanto, or Tisquantum, as he was known among his people, the Patuxet Indians. It is believed that he was born sometime around 1580. As he returned to his village after a long journey, he and several other Native Americans were kidnapped by Jamestown colonist, Thomas Hunt. Hunt put them on a ship heading to Spain where they were to be sold into slavery.

As fate would have it, some local friars rescued him and many of the other kidnapped natives. Squanto was educated by the friars. Eventually, after asking for freedom so he could return to North America, he ended up in London where he spent time working as a ship builder. By 1619, he was finally able to get passage on a ship headed to New England with other Pilgrims.

Upon arriving at Plymouth Rock, he learned that his entire tribe was wiped out by diseases that accompanied earlier settlers from Europe. In gratitude for passage on their ship, he helped them set up a settlement on the very land where his people once lived. They called the settlement Plymouth. Since they knew nothing about how to survive, let alone how to find food, Squanto taught them everything, from how to plant corn and other crops, how to fertilize them, how and where to get fish and eels and much more.

After a devastating winter during which many settlers died, thanks to Squanto's teaching, they had an abundant harvest. After that harvest, they honored him with a feast. It is this feast of 1621 which was celebrated between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians that is widely considered the first Thanksgiving celebration.

About the Meal of the Plymouth Settlers

Surviving journals of Edward Winslow that are housed at Plymouth Plantation indicate that the first Thanksgiving feast was nothing like what Americans eat today. The meal consisted of venison, various types of wild fowl (including wild turkey,) and Indian corn. There were no cranberries, stuffing, pumpkin pie, potatoes, or any of the other “traditional” foods that appear on modern menus.

Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, the day that Abraham Lincoln designated as the holiday. It is still a day of feasting, and for some, a day of prayer and thanksgiving. For others, it is a celebration of gathering, especially for families. Still others may celebrate in entirely different ways, including watching college football bowl games, or by playing family games.

If you ever wonder why you're so tired after the Thanksgiving meal, it's because turkey contains an amino acid, tryptophan, and it sets off chemicals whose chain reaction combine to make people sleepy.

Treatment and Diagnosis for Your Child’s Teeth Grinding

November 14th, 2014

The habit of grinding teeth can be both painful and harmful for your children. If you discover that they are frequently grinding their teeth—a condition called bruxism—here is some helpful information on the problem, and how you can find help to put a halt to it.

How to Know if Your Child is Grinding

Sometimes, identifying a child that grinds teeth is as simple as checking in while he or she is asleep. At other times, you may not be able to readily identify the grinding problem. A few of the most common symptoms associated with bruxism include:

  • Frequent teeth grinding or clenching of the jaw (in some cases it may be more subtle; in others it may be loud enough that you can hear it)
  • Teeth that are worn down
  • Complaints of sensitive teeth
  • Pain or tightness in the jaw muscles, or an earache or other jaw pain
  • Frequent unexplained headaches

In most cases, if your children are grinding their teeth, they will do it at night. If the teeth grinding is a result of excessive amounts of stress, it may also happen during the daytime. Some of the most common reasons children grind their teeth involve:

  • Improper alignment of top and bottom teeth
  • As a response to pain, especially for tooth, jaw, or gum pain
  • Excessive stress, tension, or anger

Treatment Options for Bruxism

In many cases, children will grow out of the teeth grinding as their permanent teeth develop, replacing poorly aligned or painful baby teeth. If your child grinds his or her teeth more frequently, or you begin to notice significant damage, it may be more serious and need to be addressed by Dr. Richard Malek before it causes more permanent pain or problems.

In some cases, our team at The Harmony Dental Group may recommend that your child wears a protective mouthguard to prevent grinding, or work with a therapist or other specialist to develop awareness of the grinding. If the grinding is caused by stress or anxiety, it may be helpful for you to sit down and talk to your child each day about how she is feeling, and why, to help her work through the stress.

Teeth grinding can be a painful, problematic condition for some children. However, a combination of parental vigilance and frequent visits for regular checkups at our Norwalk, CT office can help. If you are concerned that your child may be grinding his or her teeth, and it could cause permanent damage before the child grows out of it, come talk to us about strategies for dealing with bruxism, and ways for you to help your child.

What is hyperdontia?

November 7th, 2014

When a child is born, he or she will have 20 primary teeth and 32 permanent teeth. But sometimes kids are born with additional teeth, and our team at The Harmony Dental Group calls this oral condition "hyperdontia." Primary teeth are the first set of teeth that erupt in your child's mouth, typically by the time they are 36 months old, and are shed by the time your child reaches the age of 12. Permanent teeth then take the place of the primary teeth and are usually fully-erupted by the time your son or daughter reaches 21 years of age. Anyone who develops more than 20 primary teeth or more than 32 permanent teeth has hyperdontia, and the additional teeth are referred to as supernumerary teeth.

While the cause of hyperdontia is not entirely clear, it is believed that there may be a genetic factor. Oral professionals have found that patients with extra teeth often have syndromes like cleidocranial dysplasia, Ehler-Danlos syndrome, Gardner syndrome, or cleft lip and palate. The prevalence of hyperdontia affects between one and four percent of the population in the United States, and the majority of cases are limited to a single tooth.

So, what is the best way to deal with hyperdontia? It really depends on the case. The treatment plan your doctor suggests varies according to the potential problem posed by the supernumerary teeth, as well as their type. Orthodontic treatment may certainly may help, but extraction can also be a good option. We recommend that children receive an oral evaluation or checkup no later than the age of seven. In addition to hygiene evaluation, this helps ensure your child does not experience hyperdontia problems.

If you suspect you or your child may be suffering from hyperdontia, please give us a call to schedule an appointment at our convenient Norwalk, CT office to be evaluated.

Halloween: Candy, costumes, and more!

October 31st, 2014

All Hallows' Eve, more commonly known as Halloween, is a yearly event celebrated on October 31, and one that is anticipated by the young and young at heart all over the world. Some scholars claim that Halloween originated from Celtic festivals that honored the dead or that celebrated the harvest, while others doubt that there's any connection at all to Samhain (a Gaelic harvest festival.) Regardless of its origin, our team at the General Dentistry office of Dr. Richard Malek hopes that Halloween is fun and enjoyed by all of our awesome patients!

Trick or treat?

In North America, Halloween is predominantly celebrated by children who dress up in costumes, which range from scary to cute, who then go around the neighborhood knocking on doors asking "trick or treat", and they are given candy in return. Trick-or-treating is a time honored tradition, and though many parents groan at the pounds and pounds of candy collected by youngsters and fear for the health of their teeth, there are a few things you can do to help their teeth stay in great shape until the candy is gone:

  • Limit the amount of candy they can consume each day
  • Have them brush their teeth after eating candy
  • Avoid hard, chewy candies as they can stick in hard to brush places
  • Keep candy out of sight to reduce temptation
  • Don't buy candy too far in advance to limit pre-Halloween consumption
  • Help or encourage your children to floss

Halloween Fun

Halloween isn't just about gorging on candy; there are other events associated with this festive day including carving jack-o'-lanterns, painting pumpkins, decorating sugar cookies, bobbing for apples, going to haunted houses, or just curling up on the couch with a bowl full of popcorn and watching some classic, scary movies.

Halloween Around the World

Some countries, like Australia, frown upon Halloween, claiming it is an American event and not based in Australian culture, while others like Italy have embraced the fun and celebrate much as Canadians and Americans do. Mexicans have been celebrating this fun day since around 1960, and it marks the beginning of the Day of the Dead festival. Some countries in Europe have come late to the party, but since the 1990s, countries like Sweden, Norway, and Germany have started celebrating Halloween as well, and finding children in costumes or having ghosts hanging in windows has become commonplace.

Halloween is about fun; stepping outside our normal lives and donning a costume or gathering with friends to knock on doors and ask for candy is as much a part of our culture as hot dogs and barbecue on Labor Day. Have a safe and happy Halloween from the team at The Harmony Dental Group!

Regular Cleanings Lead to Healthier Mouths and Bodies

October 24th, 2014

The American Dental Association and dentists everywhere, including our own Dr. Richard Malek recommend that you schedule an appointment every six months for a cleaning and checkup. Despite this universal recommendation from the experts, some people believe regular cleanings and checkups are unnecessary unless there is something wrong with your teeth—for example, a cavity or a toothache. In fact, coming in for a six-month checkup and cleaning is one of the most important things you can do for your oral health, as well as your overall health.

Why It’s Important to Visit Regularly

Numerous studies have shown that oral health is closely tied to the overall health of your whole body. In fact, having a healthy mouth can help the rest of your body stay in balance. On the other hand, an unhealthy mouth can cause all kinds of problems for you down the road.

One of the most important things we do at The Harmony Dental Group when you come in for cleanings is remove plaque that has collected on your teeth and around your gums. If left untreated, plaque build-up can cause inflammation and irritation around your gums, and lead to gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontal disease.

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, periodontal disease has been linked to increased risk for serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, inflammation, osteoporosis, and pregnancy complications.

Most oral health issues will begin with subtle changes before progressing into more serious conditions. If you visit us for regular checkups, we may be able to identify common indicators that could lead to larger issues down the road. If we only see you at our office every few years, it becomes more difficult to catch these conditions before they grow into bigger and more painful problems.

What happens at a dental checkup?

When you come in for your regular checkup, there are several things our dentists and hygienists may do, including:

  • Take X-rays to determine the overall health of your teeth, jaw, bones, and the tissue surrounding your teeth, including a check for early signs of tooth decay, abnormal growths, cavities, and other damage that is not immediately visible
  • Perform a thorough cleaning of your mouth and teeth to remove any excess plaque and tartar, then polish and floss your teeth
  • Check for signs of gum disease or evidence of tooth decay
  • Examine your bite, and look for broken or damaged teeth
  • Identify any changes to your gums or teeth since your last visit
  • Examine your head and neck for signs of oral health problems

Waiting to visit Dr. Richard Malek until you already have a problem, like a cavity, is like waiting to put gasoline in your car until after you run out and your vehicle is stalled on the side of the road. Once you have a problem, the ripple effect can cause you a lot of pain, take considerably more time, and cost a lot more money to fix than if you had come in for preventive care and cleanings every six months.

References: American Academy of Periodontology (2012). Gum Disease Links to Heart Disease and Stroke. Retrieved from http://www.perio.org/consumer/mbc.heart.htm

Can children be at risk for developing periodontal disease?

October 17th, 2014

Dr. Richard Malek and our team hear this question a lot. While many people believe periodontal disease is an adult problem, studies have indicated that periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, as well as other serious infections such as gingivitis and periodontitis, are prevalent among kids and adolescents. First, let’s identify the differences between gingivitis, periodontitis, and periodontal disease.

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is a type of periodontal disease in which only your child’s gums are affected. Characterized by swollen and red gums that bleed easily, gingivitis causes an inflammation of the gums, and is the first stage and mildest form of periodontal disease. The good news is that gingivitis is often reversible. Treatment for gingivitis includes having your child come in for a professional teeth cleaning. It also includes daily brushing, which will help eliminate plaque from the surfaces of your child’s teeth. Your child should also get in the habit of flossing daily to remove plaque and food particles wedged in the crevices between his or her teeth.

Periodontitis

If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, the advanced stage of gum disease that can not only damage your child’s gum tissue, but also destroy the underlying bone which supports the teeth. Eventually, teeth can become loose and may have to be removed. In some cases, the bacteria from the ensuing infection may also be distributed to other areas of the body via the bloodstream.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is a chronic bacterial infection of the gums, periodontal ligament, and bone that surround and support your child’s teeth. Periodontal disease causes gums to become red, swollen, and tender, and can even cause the gums to recede (pull away) from the teeth. If left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss.

Having persistent at-home oral care regimen is a critical step in your child’s fight against periodontal disease. But sometimes brushing and flossing are simply not enough. Having your child’s teeth cleaned twice a year, or as recommended, is crucial.

Early diagnosis of gingivitis, periodontitis, and periodontal disease can give you and your child peace of mind. If you are concerned your child is suffering from gum disease, we recommend that you give us a call at our Norwalk, CT office. We look forward to working with you and giving your child a smile to last a lifetime!

The Link Between Dental Hygiene and Your Overall Health

October 10th, 2014

When patients of The Harmony Dental Group hear any mention of oral or dental hygiene, they probably think of brushing and flossing their teeth. Although these are extremely important, the term dental hygiene encompasses much more than that. Your mouth’s health, including your teeth, has an important impact on your overall physical health. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research published the surgeon general's first ever report on dental health. It is called A National Call to Action to Promote Oral Health. In that report, the Surgeon General states that the 1948 World Health Organization expanded its earlier definition of health to "a complete state of physical, mental, and social well-being, and not just the absence of infirmity."

The Importance of Oral Health to Total Overall Health

One of the most important themes that the dental health report stressed is that you cannot be healthy without oral health. It went on to explain that oral health and general health are inextricably linked, and therefore can't be seen as two separate things. Because oral health is so critical to overall health, it should be included in all community health programs. For individuals, this means that it is just as important to take care of your mouth, your teeth, and your overall oral health as it is to take care of the rest of your body. The two most prevalent dental diseases are caries (cavities), also known as tooth decay, and periodontal (gum) disease.

Ways that Oral Health Impacts Overall Health

One important way in which good oral health contributes to better overall health is seen in the findings of several studies in which the blood sugar levels of diabetic patients were significantly lowered when their periodontal (or gum disease) was successfully treated. Your mouth has roughly 500 different species of bacteria. Many are harmless, and some are even good bacteria that help maintain the balance of your intestinal flora. Harmful bacteria can infect your gums, causing gingivitis. Your body's immune system may try to fight off the alien invaders, but they attack your gums, causing inflammation and bleeding when you brush.

Now that you know how important good dental hygiene is, be sure to see to get your teeth cleaned every six months, have regular dental checkups, brush and floss your teeth at least twice daily, and replace your toothbrush at least every couple of months. Call us to schedule your next appointment at our convenient Norwalk, CT location.

Year-End Insurance Reminder

October 3rd, 2014

Dr. Richard Malek, as well as our team at The Harmony Dental Group, would like to give those patients with flex spend, health savings, or insurance benefits a friendly end of the year reminder that it’s high time to schedule your dental visits so you optimize your benefit.

Now is the time to reserve your appointment with us. Space is limited and we tend to get busy around the holidays, so don’t wait to give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office!

The Advantage of Invisalign Teen®

September 26th, 2014

Many teens want to improve their smile without the pain and embarrassment of having to wear metal braces. Just like metal braces, Invisalign works by gently moving teeth into position. Metal braces are worn continuously, however, and need to be adjusted by Dr. Richard Malek regularly in order to move the teeth into proper position.

Invisalign uses a series of clear trays to move teeth into position. When you are done with one tray, simply pop in the next! Invisalign Teen straightens teeth just as well as traditional metal braces, but has several advantages.

Invisible

You’ve probably figured out the most obvious advantage already: the aligners are nearly invisible. Invisalign works by using a series of clear aligners that should be worn 20 to 22 hours a day. Invisalign trays are almost undetectable when you wear them, so you can smile with confidence — even while you are straightening your teeth.

Removable

One of the best things about Invisalign Teen is that the trays are removable. This means you can remove your tray to eat, brush, and floss your teeth, or even to play sports. While Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group require you to wear the trays for most of the day, having the ability to remove your straightening trays means you have practically none of the dietary restrictions that metal brace wearers have to observe.

Teens that play contact sports often experience difficulties with metal braces. Invisalign Teen allows the flexibility to wear a mouthguard, and no metal wires or brackets means less risk of cuts or other injuries while playing a game. Musicians also benefit from being able to remove their trays during rehearsals and performances. You can even remove your tray for your school photo or to snap a quick selfie!

Finally, because you can remove your aligners, you can easily keep your teeth clean through normal brushing and flossing. You can also clean your trays by brushing and rinsing them in warm water. Brushing and flossing with metal braces can be frustrating and time-consuming. Invisalign Teen treatment at The Harmony Dental Group helps you keep your smile white and shiny with very little change to your normal routine.

To learn more about Invisalign Teen, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Richard Malek, please give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office!

Five Tips to Help Kids Overcome Their Fears of the Dentist

September 19th, 2014

Is your child nervous about visiting Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group? Today, we put together some tips to help ensure your little one relaxes before his or her next dental checkup!

  1. Start early. The earlier your child visits our Norwalk, CT office, the better. This will provide your child with a familiarity and ensure that he or she is comfortable with our team, office, and surroundings, whether it’s for a preventive visit or an emergency. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that your child first visit the dentist at age one or when the first tooth is visible.
  2. Choose your words wisely. When preparing for a visit, go easy on the details. Over-explaining and adding more information about treatment such as a filling will lead to more questions as well as add unnecessary alarm. Remember to keep a positive attitude!
  3. Bring a distraction to your child’s appointment. Bringing along music is a great idea. Just plug in those earphones, have your child close his or her eyes, and get lost in the tunes. Listening to music can also be a pain killer.
  4. Consider a “pretend visit.” Before your child’s appointment, try role playing with him or her—you be the doctor and your child is the patient. All you'll need is a toothbrush. The key is getting your child familiar with the routine so that he or she is more relaxed once it’s time for the real visit with Dr. Richard Malek.
  5. Stress the importance of good oral health. Instill in your child that visiting the dentist is a necessity, not a choice, and that visiting the dentist will lead to a lifetime of smiles.

We hope this helps! For more on dental anxieties, ask us during your next visit to The Harmony Dental Group! Or, ask us on Facebook!

Dreaming of a stunning smile without using braces?

September 12th, 2014

Most of us aren’t born with a red carpet smile. And if you’ve thought about straightening your teeth but are apprehensive about doing so with traditional orthodontic treatment, Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group want you to know there is another option – Invisalign®!

Invisalign is an ideal solution for most adults looking for a less noticeable way to achieve a better smile. In fact, Invisalign has increasingly become a very popular choice for adults looking for a more comfortable, convenient and cosmetically-appealing treatment for straightening their teeth.

Our team at The Harmony Dental Group is proud to offer Invisalign, which uses a series of invisible, removable and comfortable aligners that no one can tell you’re wearing, which allows you to smile more during treatment, as well as after. Not only are the aligners invisible, they are also removable, so you can eat and drink what you want; brushing and flossing is easier with Invisalign than with traditional braces.

Invisalign’s aligners are also comfortable, with no metal to cause mouth abrasions during your treatment. And no metal and wires usually means you spend less time at our office getting adjustments. Invisalign also allows you to view your own virtual treatment plan when you start, so you can see how your straight teeth will look when your treatment is complete!

A consultation with Dr. Richard Malek can determine if Invisalign is right for you. We encourage you to give us a call at our friendly Norwalk, CT office if you’re interested in learning more about Invisalign or if you are ready to visit us for an initial consultation! We look forward to seeing you!

Some Benefits to Giving Your Smile an Extra Boost

September 5th, 2014

For many individuals, autumn brings with it a number of new beginnings. Fall is the time that many people return to school, get back to the daily grind after an enjoyable summer, and even get married. As the weather cools down, it’s easier to enjoy the outdoors. And regardless of what fall-related events are on your calendar, Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group know you’ll want to look your best.

One of the very first things that people will notice about you is your smile. And if yours has become less dazzling over the years — as teeth tend to do — you know how disappointing it is not to have the beautiful, pearly white look you’re used to.

Benefits to Teeth Whitening

For school-bound students and autumn brides, fall calendars are certainly filled. School and weddings call for large financial investments, loads of social interaction, and a large amount of personal dedication. So the last thing any bride or student wants to think about is a less-than radiant smile.

For many, there is a lack of confidence associated with their smile and investing in teeth-whitening techniques can be an effective solution. Studies suggest that not only can you experience a boost in your level of confidence, but also you may find that other advantages quickly fall into place.

A confident smile can affect:

  • Personal and work-related relationships
  • Job interviews and meetings
  • Success when dealing with customers and potential clients
  • Your personality and general happiness with your age
  • Overall outlook on daily interactions

A Real Effect on Daily Living

All of these benefits can relate directly to how you see yourself. When you are insecure with something as prominent as your smile, it can affect the way that you handle your life, everything from social gatherings to professional situations.

Now is the perfect opportunity to rejuvenate your smile. With the right teeth-whitening product and regular hygienic practices, walking down the aisle or starting the new semester with the utmost confidence has never been easier.

Happy Labor Day!

August 29th, 2014

Labor Day is upon us, and that means the non-official end to summer. Before the kids head back to school and temperatures start to cool down, this is your last chance to barbeque in the beautiful Norwalk, CT community, head to the lake, and wear your favorite pair of white pants.

About Labor Day

Each year, Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday of September. It is the one day of year Americans celebrate their achievements in work, which the US Department of Labor says has contributed to prosperity and well-being of America as a whole. Americans have been celebrating Labor Day since the 1880s, and today it is an official federal holiday.

Interesting Facts About Labor Day

  • Every year, more than 30 million Americans travel over Labor Day weekend.
  • Canada was the first to celebrate Labor Day, and the US soon followed.
  • President Cleveland made Labor Day and official US holiday in 1894.
  • Labor Day marks the beginning of the NFL and NCAA sports seasons for fans.
  • Labor Day marks the end of hot dog season, when Americans consume seven billion hot dogs.

Thanks for being a valued patient of our General Dentistry office. Our staff would like to wish you a safe and happy Labor Day weekend. Enjoy your time off!

How to Handle a Dental Emergency

August 22nd, 2014

Whether it’s a broken tooth or injured gums, a dental emergency can interfere with eating, speaking, or other day-to-day activities. According to the American Dental Association , you can sometimes prevent dental emergencies like these by avoiding the use of your teeth as tools or by giving up hard foods and candies.

Even if you take excellent care of your mouth, however, unexpected dental problems can still arise. Our team at The Harmony Dental Group is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assess and resolve your individual situation. When an emergency arises, you should immediately make an appointment with our office so we can put you at ease, give you the best possible care, and help you return quickly to your regular routine.

Damaged Teeth

For tooth damage in particular, don’t hesitate to call and schedule an emergency dental appointment. You should come in as soon as possible. However, if you have some time before your appointment there are a few things you can do to avoid further injury. If you break your tooth, clean the area well by rinsing it with warm water. To ease any discomfort, put a cold compress against your skin near the area with the affected tooth.

A dislodged tooth should be handled carefully in order to keep it in the best possible condition. Gently rinse off the tooth without scrubbing it and try to place it back into the socket of your gums. If it won’t stay in your mouth, put the tooth in a container of milk and bring it along to your dental appointment.

Injured Soft Tissues

For other problems, such as bleeding gums or an injured tongue, cheek, or lip, the Cleveland Clinic recommends gently rinsing your mouth with salt water and applying pressure to the site with a moist strip of gauze or a tea bag. If you’re also experiencing some discomfort, you can put a cold compress on your cheek near the area of the bleeding. If the bleeding continues, don’t hesitate to contact our office so you can receive further help.

A dental emergency may catch you off guard, but Dr. Richard Malek can provide fast, pain-free treatment. Follow the advice above and set up an appointment with us as soon as possible so you can put your teeth and mouth on the road to recovery.

How to Brush a Two-Year-Old’s Teeth Effectively

August 15th, 2014

Our team at The Harmony Dental Group would like to offer some tips regarding the sometimes dreaded task of brushing a toddler’s teeth.

Much of the trick lies in the positioning. Before you begin, make sure you are in a position of control. This protects both you and your child from injury. Consider how well you can see. If you cannot see clearly, the quality of brushing drops significantly. For instance, if your child is standing, you are likely to see only the bottom teeth well.

Our team finds that the best position for brushing and flossing a toddler is when your child is calm. Have your child lie down on his or her back with arms out to make a T. Sit down just above the head and lightly place your legs over your child’s arms. Using a circular motion, brush all sides of the teeth.

It may sound odd, but approaching the routine this way can make brushing time a cinch! After you’re done, give your child the toothbrush and let him or her have a turn. The benefit of doing the brushing and flossing first is that it gives an example, which your child is more likely to repeat when you’re done.

Different methods work best for different families and children. These practices need to be performed with kindness and care. Be gentle and make this time a happy learning time. Don’t forget to bring your child to our Norwalk, CT office for regular dental checkups and cleanings. Dr. Richard Malek can advise you on ways to implement portions of these tips in a way that may work bests for you and your child.

What’s the advantage to Invisalign®?

August 8th, 2014

Invisalign, which we happily provide at The Harmony Dental Group, is a great alternative to traditional orthodontic treatment if you've been apprehensive about the thought of metal braces. During your initial visit, the first thing we do is take an impression of your teeth as they are now and digitize it. Using special software, we look at the current positioning of your teeth and compare it to the way your teeth should look.

Invisalign treatment, which consists of a series of aligners that you switch out approximately every couple of weeks, can help patients with crowded teeth, crossbites, overbites, underbites and more. Invisalign gradually shifts your teeth into place, creating the dazzling smile you’ve always wanted. During treatment with Dr. Richard Malek, patients wear the aligners all day and night, except for during meals and when they’re brushing and flossing; cleaning your teeth and eating are a snap since you can easily remove your aligners! And because they’re clear, no one will know that your teeth are steadily straightening!

To find out if you are the right candidate for Invisalign treatment, we invite you to give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office and schedule a consultation.

Who’s afraid of the dentist?

August 1st, 2014

Is the sound of a drill enough to make your child flinch or cringe? Does he or she worry about the twice-yearly dental checkup at The Harmony Dental Group? Trust us when we say your child is not alone!

To help eliminate that distress, Dr. Richard Malek and our team put together five steps to help your child overcome his or her dental anxiety when visiting The Harmony Dental Group.

1. Ask your child what they’re most afraid of. Is it the sound of the drill? Do you have needle phobia? Has your child been traumatized by previous dental visits? Have children write down their fears, one by one, and talk about them.

2. Don’t wait. The more frequently your child visits our office, the less work will need to be done at any given visit. Simply having Dr. Richard Malek professionally clean your child’s teeth twice a year prevents many, if not most, problems down the road.

3. Bring a distraction such as music to your child’s appointment. Just plug in those earphones, have your child close his or her eyes, and get lost in the music. Listening to tunes can also be a pain killer.

4. Remind your child to unwind. Inhaling slowly and counting to five helps. Encourage children to hold their breath for ten seconds, then exhale slowly to the count of eight, and repeat as needed. It’s easier if they’re not focused on the work going on inside their mouth.

5. Ask us. Before any procedure your child undergoes, we encourage you to ask Dr. Richard Malek or one of our assistants why we’re using the tools we’re using. Ask us what we’re doing during your child’s procedure, what the tool is used for, and how it benefits your child. Also, please ask about anti-anxiety medications we may prescribe to help your child relax during his or her appointment.

Remember, our team at The Harmony Dental Group are health care professionals who strive to improve your child’s oral health, and will do all we can to ensure a trauma- and pain-free experience during his or her visit!

We hope these tips help! For more on pediatric dental anxieties, ask us during your next visit to our Norwalk, CT office! Or, ask us below or on Facebook!

The Clear Benefits of Invisalign®

July 25th, 2014

Straighter teeth is something many people desire. A nice smile is one of the most attractive things about a person. However, wearing a mouth full of braces for two, three, or more years can be a major pain, both literally and figuratively.

Luckily, there is another option. Invisalign is an alternative to traditional braces. Learn more about the benefits Invisalign offers and why you should consider this exciting method of straightening teeth.

  • When you have straight teeth, your mouth is healthier in general and there is less chance of tooth decay and gum disease. Invisalign makes it possible for more people to straighten their teeth.
  • Invisalign is essentially invisible. You can straighten your teeth without unsightly metal in your mouth.
  • The average cost is similar to that of traditional braces, which makes it affordable for many families.
  • With Invisalign, the aligner trays are smooth and comfortable to wear. Traditional metal braces can be uncomfortable and cause irritation to the mouth.
  • Invisalign is removable, so you do not have to wear the system during special occasions, or when you’re eating. With normal metal braces, you are stuck with them for the entire straightening process.
  • Brushing and flossing are simple. Since the system is removable, you can brush and floss just like normal.

As you can see, Invisalign is an exciting option we provide at The Harmony Dental Group for those who want straighter teeth. If this is something that sounds interesting to you, talk to Dr. Richard Malek and find out if it would work for your particular situation. Get started today, and before you know it you will be enjoying your straighter teeth.

For more information about Invisalign, or to schedule an initial consultation with Dr. Richard Malek, please give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office today!

My gums are shrinking!

July 18th, 2014

Have you ever looked in the mirror and noticed that your teeth looked longer? Does it seem like your gums are shrinking? This condition is called recession—many adults have it. Let’s look at some of the causes and what you can do about it.

During your exam at The Harmony Dental Group, we will take measurements to check for periodontal disease. Dental professionals take recession measurements to see how much attached gingiva is present. This is the kind of tissue that is most resilient to infection.

The more recession, the less attached gingiva. The less attached gingiva, the less bone support. The less bone support, the higher your chances of tooth loss. It is quite a domino effect.

Don’t lose hope. The effect can be halted once you know the cause of your recession.

Do you ever wake up with your jaw clenched, and/or a headache that originates just above your ears? Clenching or grinding your teeth can cause recession. When there is added stress on a tooth, it flexes at the gum line.

Over time this causes microscopic breaks in the enamel and then a notch appears. The gum line is forced to move away from its original position. If this is something you see in your mouth, we can discuss the possibility of an occlusal guard at your next visit.

How do you brush your teeth? Do you brush in a straight line or circles? What kind of bristles do you use? Are the bristles on your toothbrush frayed?

When you brush in a circle, you are sweeping all along the gum line, removing the plaque from most angles. When you brush in a straight line, you may often miss the concave portion of the gums. This leaves plaque behind and leads to gingivitis. Whenever gingivitis occurs, the body attacks supporting structures like bone while trying to get rid of the infection. This is periodontal disease, which can cause recession.

Recession may also result from an irritant on the gums, such as a bar from a partial denture or orthodontic appliance (braces).

Gums do not “grow back.” The most common treatment for advanced recession is a tissue graft. There are many different kinds of tissue grafts.

Other factors can cause recession. If you think recession is happening in your mouth, schedule an appointment with Dr. Richard Malek to discuss your options, so you can make the appropriate treatment choice.

Toothache: A dentist or the emergency room?

July 11th, 2014

Emergency care dentists are equipped to handle any tooth emergency. Seeing us first takes less time than having to sit in a hospital emergency room, only to be told to see a dentist. When dental emergencies occur, seek emergency care with The Harmony Dental Group as soon as possible. We are prepared and equipped for any type of dental emergency: day or night, seven days a week, we stand ready to advise and treat you with great dental care.

There are several types of dental emergencies, but only one or two should require a hospital emergency room visit. If you suspect you have a broken jaw or nose, emergency medical attention is required. For pain associated with teeth and gums or injury to a tooth, The Harmony Dental Group is the better choice. Dental pain almost always becomes worse without treatment, and can create other serious health issues.

If a tooth has been traumatized or knocked out of your mouth, our team can treat the sensitive nerves and tissues that could be damaged. If you can replace the tooth quickly enough, chances are it can be saved. There are certain precautions to take during a dental emergency that could help preserve a tooth until you can see our professional dentists for emergency dental care.

Call our Norwalk, CT office at the first onset of pain. If you have lost a tooth, crown, or filling, try to keep the tooth or restoration moist. Teeth are strong, but they will crack and shift after an injury or the loss of a bridge or crown. If the crack extends to the root, or the loss of a tooth or crown leaves sensitive tissue or nerves exposed, the pain can be excruciating. Our emergency care dentists will always treat your pain immediately upon examination, and fix the problem or advise you of a plan to address the cause of the pain.

Make your appointment immediately if you have suffered an accident-causing tooth injury. If the pain is the result of decay or cavities, medication for infection may be necessary. Depending on the extent of the decay, a filling, extraction, or root canal may be recommended. These treatments are not available in a hospital emergency room, but can be completed quickly and comfortably at The Harmony Dental Group .

Fun Facts for the Fourth

July 4th, 2014

The Fourth of July is a great time to get together with friends and family members for BBQ, games, fireworks, and other celebrations in honor of our country’s independence. While your fellow revelers eat hot dogs and wave flags, you can impress them by sharing these fascinating facts and historical tidbits about some of our country’s traditions and symbols from the team at The Harmony Dental Group.

The Statue of Liberty

With a torch in one hand and a tablet in the other, the Statue of Liberty is one of the most iconic and recognizable symbols of our country. However, as recognizable as certain parts of the statue are, not many people know that broken shackles, which represent oppression and tyranny, are lying at Lady Liberty’s feet. According to the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, the copper-plated lady weighs in at a whopping 450,000 tons and has been holding her torch up for more than 125 years, which must make for some impressive arm muscles.

Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest

Since 1916, people have been flocking to Coney Island on the Fourth of July to witness what some people call the “superbowl of competitive eating.” Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest challenges competitors to devour as many hot dogs as they can in just ten minutes, with the current record holder swallowing a whopping 68 hot dogs! If you’d like to witness this bizarre and frenzied eating competition but you won’t be anywhere near Coney Island on the fourth, don’t worry. ESPN has been broadcasting this popular event for several years, so you can watch from the comfort of your couch while you eat a reasonably portioned meal.

The History Behind Fireworks

Viewing the nighttime fireworks display is exciting way to finish off the fourth. Many people know that these brilliant displays probably originated with the Chinese. However, many historians also believe that fireworks were stumbled upon when the Chinese roasted bamboo sticks over fires and watched them explode. After many years of roasting the sticks, a group of alchemists created an early form of gunpowder, which they stuffed into the bamboo sticks to create an even more powerful explosion, paving the way for the today’s modern fireworks.

Whether you’re planning on visiting the Statue of Liberty, watching fireworks in Norwalk, CT, or even participating in a hot dog eating contest, Dr. Richard Malek and our team hope you have a safe and fun-filled holiday. Happy Fourth of July!

Five Nutrition Tips for Healthy Kids' Smiles

June 27th, 2014

If your child could have it his way, chances are he would eat Lucky Charms for breakfast, a peanut butter and fluff sandwich for lunch, and chicken fingers slathered in ketchup for dinner.

Kids will be kids, and maintaining a healthy diet is often the farthest thing from their minds. Do you remember the old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Well, that folksy wisdom can be applied to oral health, too. Think of it like this: an apple a day keeps the dentist at bay. Here are five nutrition tips Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group wanted to pass along that will give your child a healthy, bright smile.

  1. Eat a well-balanced diet of fruits and vegetables. We weren't joking about the apple. An apple naturally scrubs and cleans your teeth. The nutrients and antioxidants in vegetables are good for the entire body.
  2. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, calcium is a mineral needed by the body for healthy bones and teeth, and proper function of the heart, muscles, and nerves. Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are good sources of calcium. Dark leafy vegetables and calcium-fortified foods like orange juice and tofu are also healthy options.
  3. Keep snacking to a minimum. Sticky and gummy snacks can increase a child’s risk of tooth decay. Unless a child brushes after every snack (and what child does?), sticky snacks can easily get lodged between the teeth.
  4. Limit soda intake. Drinking large amounts of soda has been linked to childhood obesity. Soda is loaded with sugars and acids, and these ingredients also damage the teeth. Soft drinks have long been one of the most prominent sources of tooth decay. Have your child drink water throughout the day or juice that’s low in sugar concentrate.
  5. Chew sugarless gum. After all those fruits and vegetables, sooner or later your child is going to want a treat. Chewing gum stimulates saliva, which in turn helps keep teeth clean and bacteria-free. Sugarless gum contains xylitol. The combination of excess saliva and xylitol reduces plaque, fights cavities, and prevents the growth of oral bacteria.

For more information on keeping your child’s smile looking its very best, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Richard Malek, please give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office!

Common Emergency Visits: From lost fillings to broken dentures

June 20th, 2014

You never know when you're going to experience a dental emergency, but if you do, it should give you peace of mind to know that emergency dental care is available at our office 24/7. Whether you chip your front tooth playing softball, or your child knocks out a couple of teeth in a playground fall, receiving the emergency dental treatment you need is accessible and convenient.

If you're experiencing a dental emergency, our team at The Harmony Dental Group is here to help you any time of the day or night. Dental emergencies should not be taken lightly, so don't delay. Contact our office as soon as possible. Common dental emergencies include the following:

Lost Fillings and Crowns

Fillings are used to repair cavities. Crowns, on the other hand, are used to cover broken or damaged teeth. Over time, it’s possible for both of these items to loosen and fall out. A lost filling or crown can be painful, because the exposed tissue may be sensitive. Hot and cold temperatures will cause discomfort. While a lost filling or crown might not be as severe a dental emergency as a broken or chipped tooth (most people respond quicker to pain than self-consciousness about their looks), you need to get it fixed as soon as possible.

Broken Dentures

If your dentures are broken, everyday tasks may become trying and arduous. If you can’t chew, swallow, or eat properly, the situation calls for emergency care. Depending on how damaged your dentures are, Dr. Richard Malek may need to send out a mold of your mouth in order to have the manufacturer make a new pair. On the other hand, if the dentures are not damaged too badly, then we may be able to fix them in-house. If you're having problems with your dentures, you should give us a call as soon as possible.

From chipped and cracked teeth to lost fillings and broken dentures, dental emergencies come in all shapes and sizes. Emergencies are unexpected, but we want you to know that treatment is available, day or night. When your dental health is at risk, we are here to help. In the case of a dental emergency, don't wait; contact our Norwalk, CT office at your earliest convenience.

What are the benefits of Invisalign®?

June 13th, 2014

A popular option for straightening teeth at The Harmony Dental Group, Invisalign can be a great method for improving your smile, and can help patients with crowded teeth, crossbites, overbites, underbites, and more.

Invisalign, which is different from traditional braces, works by applying a series of clear, retainer-like aligners in order to eventually move your teeth into their ideal positions. Patients typically swap aligners approximately every couple of weeks.

At The Harmony Dental Group, we have lots of experience using this technology to give our patients the beautiful and healthy smile they’ve always wanted. During your initial visit at our Norwalk, CT office, the first thing we do is take an impression of your teeth as they are now and digitize it. Using special software, we look at the current positioning of your teeth and compare it to the way your teeth should look.

Not only are the aligners invisible, they are also removable, so you can eat and drink what you want, and brushing and flossing are easier. Invisalign’s aligners are also comfortable, with no metal to cause mouth abrasions during your treatment. And, no metal and wires usually means you spend less time at our office getting adjustments. With Invisalign, you can view your own virtual treatment plan when you start, so you can see how your straight teeth will look when your treatment is complete!

Depending on the severity of the problem, Invisalign treatment may take anywhere from three to 18 months to complete. You should be aware that Invisalign is not as effective as traditional braces in treating bite problems, teeth that are lower or higher than others, or severely overcrowded teeth. Both teens and adults are now great candidates for Invisalign, so we invite you to contact our Norwalk, CT office to set up an initial consultation and learn more on how Invisalign can give you the smile you’ve always wanted!

June is National Smile Month: Show off your smile!

June 6th, 2014

The community health awareness group Oral Health America has reported that 82 percent of adults are unaware of the role that infectious bacteria can play in tooth decay or cavities, and almost three out of five children aged 12 to 19 have tooth decay. Since June is National Smile Month, Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group thought we’d remind our patients about the importance of good oral hygiene visits between office visits.

To keep your family’s smiles healthy and beautiful for years to come, be sure to:

  • Brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
  • Floss every day to clean between your teeth
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
  • Reduce your intake of sugary foods and drinks
  • Visit Dr. Richard Malek for scheduled appointments

If you want to know more about healthy home care habits, feel free to ask our team at your next appointment, or ask us on Facebook!

Is dairy crucial to my child's oral health?

May 30th, 2014

Healthy eating, combined with regular physical activity, plays a vital role in your child’s health and well-being. Dairy foods are naturally nutritious, packed with ten essential nutrients that help your child feel good for life. But did you know that dairy is also great for your child’s dental health? Our team at The Harmony Dental Group will tell you that, in addition to providing large amounts of much-needed calcium, dairy products also help fight cavities! Dairy products have a specific role to play in dental health as they contain a unique combination of special anti-decay nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, and the protein, casein. Cheese is especially useful, as eating a small piece of cheese after consuming sugary foods or drinks can help protect teeth and reduce the risk of tooth decay.

If you’d like to know more about the importance of dairy products in your child’s diet, or about any aspect of your child’s dental health, feel free to ask Dr. Richard Malek at your next appointment!

Memorial Day and Getting Ready for Summer

May 23rd, 2014

Memorial Day didn't become an official holiday until 1971, but Americans started gathering annually in the spring to remember those who lost their lives in war during the 1860s, right after the Civil War. Celebrated on the last Monday in May, people still decorate the grave sites of war veterans and hold memorial services, but Memorial Day has also evolved into a day that signifies the beginning of summer.

During the summer months, many people take road trips to visit family members. Some head off to the airport to enjoy a long-awaited vacation far away, while others look forward to spending time with friends and family at home. However you spend Memorial Day and the subsequent summer months, there are a few things you can take care of to ensure your summertime is enjoyable.

Checklist for an Enjoyable Summer

  • Have the AC Checked. During the hottest days of summer, many families find themselves sweating it out due to a broken air conditioning system. Be proactive so you can avoid waiting for hours or days because the HVAC repair person is booked solid. Have your air conditioning system checked before or around Memorial Day each year.
  • Ensure Security While You're Away. When you leave for vacation, the last thing you should have to worry about is the security of your home. Install a home security system, if possible, and put a timer on your lights so they go on and off at normal hours. You can also alert your local police department that you'll be gone, and ask them to drive by your house once in a while to make sure everything is okay.
  • Visit Dr. Richard Malek Before Vacation. Many people put off exams until after summer vacation. Avoid the crowds and make sure your physical and oral health are in top shape prior to vacation time so there are no unpleasant surprises.

Our team at The Harmony Dental Group wants you to look forward to Memorial Day and the days of summer by preparing to spend the time safely and comfortably. As you plan ahead, take care of your health and secure your home, you can place your focus on creating memories with family members and friends while enjoying your favorite Memorial Day traditions.

Choosing the Dental Filling Option that's Best for You

May 16th, 2014

Did you know there are as many types of dental fillings as there are flavors of ice cream? Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. Still, when you visit the dentist with a cavity, there are many filling options. Most of us just sit in the chair, open our mouths, and let the dentist work his or her magic. But have you ever stopped to consider what the dentist is filling and restoring your decayed or broken tooth with?

Five types of dental fillings

There are five basic kinds of dental filing material. The dentist decides which type to use based on the degree of the decay, the cost of the material, and the type of dental insurance you have.

  1. Dental amalgam, or silver fillings, have been used to fill cavities for more than 150 years. Dental amalgam is the most common type of dental filling. It's strong, durable, and less expensive than other types.
  2. Composite fillings, or white fillings, are popular because the color matches the rest of your teeth. Composite fillings are a combination of resin and plastic. They are more aesthetically pleasing than silver fillings, but are also less durable.
  3. Ceramic fillings are durable and visually appealing (tooth-colored), but they are expensive. They are made of porcelain and have been shown to be resistant to staining.
  4. Glass ionomers are typically used on children whose teeth are still changing. Constructed from glass and acrylic, glass ionomers are designed to last fewer than five years. The benefit of these dental fillings is that they release fluoride, which protects the changing tooth from further decay.
  5. Unless you’re a rock or movie star, gold fillings aren’t common. While a gold filling is durable, non-corrosive, and can last more than 15 years, it not only takes more than one dental visit to place, but, as you can imagine, it is expensive.

For more information about fillings, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Richard Malek, please give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office!

Tips for Using Invisalign®

May 9th, 2014

More than one patient has come into our office and asked, “What can I do to help my teeth when wearing Invisalign?”

While everyone’s teeth and dental needs are different, there are certain things everyone can do to make wearing their Invisalign aligners a more rewarding experience. Always follow the list of instructions and tips from Dr. Richard Malek, and add the following advice to your daily routine.

Always ask us about teeth whitening. Our team at The Harmony Dental Group knows how important it is for you to keep your teeth white and stain-free from the foods and drinks you consume daily. If you have attachments to your teeth, they will not whiten properly. Ask our office about teeth whitening when wearing your aligners; it might be best to wait until your treatment is complete.

Continue flossing every day. You should be flossing in any case. But it can be easy to assume that Invisalign will protect your teeth from bacteria. This is not true. Bacteria can get behind the aligners and affect the health of your teeth and gums, so keep up with your flossing schedule.

Follow the 48-hour rule when wearing your aligners. When you insert every new set of aligners, you should leave them in as much as possible during the first 48 hours. Your teeth will move more during this timeframe, and the aligners do the most good during this time.

You may experience slight discomfort while wearing your Invisalign aligners. You can take a pain reliever to help with the discomfort, but if you experience too much pain, please give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office to schedule an appointment!

Summer is Almost Here: Tips for a bright, white smile!

May 2nd, 2014

Summer is almost here, which means a season full of vacations, adventures and great memories is just around the corner for our patients at The Harmony Dental Group.

Everyone wants a glowing and radiant white smile when the sun comes around and we have a few reminders to keep your pearly whites healthy and beautiful over the summer! Try to stay away from drinks that will stain your teeth like coffee, soft drinks, or dark colored juices. Not only will drinks like this weaken your enamel but they will also darken that fabulous smile you're working on! Another tip is to try and focus on brushing your teeth; everyone knows that when busy schedules start picking up, getting a good brushing session in tends to take the backseat! A good tip for keeping your mouth safe from staining and other possible pitfalls is to rinse your mouth with water after any meal you can’t fully brush your teeth after. Your teeth, inside and out, will benefit!

And remember, whether you are headed to a barbecue, a camping trip, or just having fun in the backyard this summer, we want to hear all about it! Make sure to let us know what you’re up to below or on our Facebook page! We also encourage you to post any photos from your adventures!

I have fluoride toothpaste and fluoridated water; do I need a fluoride treatment?

April 25th, 2014

Fluoride is a naturally found ion with a history of greatly reducing the incidence of tooth decay in children. However, over the past decade, people have increasingly consumed bottled water, most of which does not contain fluoride, and children are no longer getting the recommended dosage of fluoride. In addition, many areas do not add the optimum amount of fluoride to the town drinking water.

Everyone’s dental needs are different. The amount of fluoride a person needs is determined by age (children), tooth sensitivity, risk for cavities, and medical conditions. When a patient needs additional fluoride it can be applied in a foam or varnish.

Children receive additional topical fluoride because teeth in the early development stages have a higher mineral uptake. The future strength of the enamel depends on this. When a tooth absorbs the fluoride ion, it creates hydroxyapatite, a harder mineral compound than enamel alone.

Those who have a dry mouth from medication also need extra fluoride. A daily fluoride rinse and a semi-annual fluoride varnish treatment are standard. If you are on medicine for high blood pressure, anxiety, diabetes, depression, or cholesterol, you may fit in this category.

Cancer treatments can also greatly impact your oral health. Fluoride varnish treatments prior to, during, and after radiation and chemotherapy can be beneficial. There are other mouth conditions which coincide with cancer treatments which make it difficult to brush and floss daily, and can contribute to an increased risk for decay. An infection during cancer treatment can be especially harmful, which is why preventive measures are important.

Fluoride treatments, administered topically, are highly beneficial in preventing decay. Feel free to call The Harmony Dental Group to schedule an appointment or if you have any questions.

Make Every Day Earth Day

April 18th, 2014

Earth Day began in 1970 as an event to raise awareness of our environment. What began as a single day in April is now recognized around the world to bring attention and education to global environmental issues. Conserving our natural resources, reducing water and air pollution, and developing green technologies are all ways in which we can improve the environment around us.

Reduce, Recycle, and Reuse

One of the easiest ways to participate in Earth Day is by simply reducing the amount of refuse that ends up in landfills. Many communities have recycling programs for paper, plastic, and metal refuse. By keeping recyclable items out of landfills, we reduce the need for new disposal space and the amount of energy needed for burning refuse. Recycling products also helps conserve the resources that are used in making new products.

You can save money by reducing your consumption of many everyday products. Single disposable water bottles can be recycled but they are costly. By using filtered faucet water, you can conserve your financial resources. Disposable paper towels can also be wasteful. Consider reusable cleaning rags for the majority of your chores.

Reusing items saves both the environment and your finances. A large number of products can be re-purposed to create a new item. Old furniture can be remade into a new piece. Old clothing can be used for craft items. If you are not able to find ways to reuse your old items, donate them to a charity. Remember to continue your positive environmental steps on a daily basis.

Other things you can do to improve the environment

Everyone, young or old, can find ways to participate in improving the environment. Some ideas include:

  • Planting trees
  • Picking up litter
  • Reducing energy consumption
  • Walking, bicycling, or carpooling to work or school
  • Disposing of hazardous waste properly
  • Using rain barrels to conserve water for plants

Earth Day is designed to appreciate and celebrate the health of the earth. Keeping the earth healthy is important, but keeping your mouth healthy is important, too. Healthy teeth and gums contribute to your overall health and well-being, so remember to call our team at The Harmony Dental Group to schedule an appointment. Have a happy and healthy Earth Day, from Dr. Richard Malek!

What is hand-foot-and-mouth disease?

April 11th, 2014

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease, or HFMD, is a type of contagious viral illness that causes a rash in the mouth and on the hands and feet of infants and young children, and, while rare, adults. Characterized by sores in the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet, hand-foot-and-mouth disease is most commonly caused by a coxsackievirus, a bacterium that lives in the human digestive tract. HFMD can spread from person to person, typically via unwashed hands.

What are the symptoms of HFMD?

Symptoms of HFMD usually begin with a fever, sore throat, poor appetite, or general malaise. A couple of days after the fever starts, kids may develop painful sores in the mouth. A skin rash characterized by red spots may also develop, usually on the palms of your child’s hands and soles of their feet. It’s important to note some children may only experience a rash while others may only have mouth sores.

Is HFMD serious? Should we be concerned?

Usually not. Nearly all children infected recover anywhere between seven to ten days without medical treatment. Rarely, however, a child can develop viral meningitis and may need to be hospitalized. Other rare complications of HFMD can include encephalitis (brain inflammation), which can be fatal.

How can my child prevent HFMD?

There is no known vaccine to defend your child against HFMD. However, the risk of your child contracting the disease can be reduced by:

  • Making sure your child washes his or her hands often
  • Thoroughly cleaning objects and surfaces (these include doorknobs and toys)
  • Making sure your child avoids close contact with those who are infected

To learn more about hand-foot-and-mouth disease or to schedule an appointment for your child, please give us a call at our Norwalk, CT office!

April is National Facial Protection Month

April 4th, 2014

The Importance of Facial Protection

Americans from all walks of life should mark April as National Facial Protection Month on their calendars. The American Association of Pediatric Dentistry, Academy for Sports Dentistry, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons have combined forces to sponsor this annual campaign, which aims to educate and remind us of the importance of protecting our face and teeth against impacts and injuries.

Wearing a helmet can save your life and prevent devastating physical damage in a variety of situations, from playing football to riding a bicycle. According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, helmets reduce the risk of various head injuries by as much as 85 percent. Whether helmet laws apply in your area or not, Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group want you to make sure you and your loved ones wear helmets with the appropriate safety ratings for specific activities. (A sticker on or inside the helmet will usually indicate this rating.) Helmets can also help save your teeth if they come with an attached faceguard, an essential addition for football players and others involved in contact sports.

Preventing Dental Injuries

A mouthguard can protect you against a variety of dental injuries, such as cracked, broken, or knocked-out teeth. The American Dental Association states that mouthguards play an essential role in preventing up to 200,000 dental injuries each year, and many states mandate their use for sports activities such as football and hockey. The Academy for Sports Dentistry warns, however, that these mouthguards must be custom-fitted as precisely as possible to prove effective. Have a professional-quality mouthguard molded and fitted by our team at The Harmony Dental Group for better protection than a generic store-bought or “boil-and-bite” variety can offer. These cheaper versions tend to wear out quickly, interfere with proper breathing, and provide uneven degrees of cushion against impacts. Always have a fresh mouthguard fitted for each new sports season.

Choose the right combination of helmet, faceguard, and mouthguard to protect your teeth and face this April, and tell your friends to do the same! To learn more about mouthguards, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Richard Malek, please give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office!

Looking for a Dentist in Norwalk, CT

April 2nd, 2014

Most people are not overly fond of visiting the dentist. Among those reasons most frequently given for this aversion are the smells and sights of the office itself as well as the experience of someone probing inside their mouth.

While visiting the dentist is an important part of maintaining healthy teeth, it doesn’t need to be a completely unpleasant experience. Great dentists in Norwalk, CT recognize the aversion many people have to visiting them, and they take a number of steps to make patient experience as enjoyable and comfortable as it can be.

What They Do

In pursuit of a higher level of service and quality, sterling dentists in Norwalk, CT break the mold and do a number of things that normal dentists generally don’t. They abandon the traditional sterile, impersonal dentist office motif and cultivate a more peaceful, homey atmosphere, and they work hard to get rid of that dentist office smell everyone recognizes. They are able to treat the tooth care needs of your entire family, addressing concerns in every field with expertise and precision.

Checking Around

The best way to get the perfect results you want is to find the best dentist in Norwalk, CT and the best way to do that is to shop around. The internet has become an incredibly valuable tool in this, opening up service providers of all types to a whole new level of scrutiny and transparency. It’s gotten extremely easy to find patient testimonials online, the official credentials of specific dentists as well as photos of work they’ve done in the past, and more. The more you’re informed about specific dentists in Norwalk, CT, the more likely you are to pick a good one.

Great dentists treat their patients like members of their own family, and they do everything in their power to make sure every visit ends to your satisfaction. They make sure the lines of communication between you are kept open, and they are always interested in hearing about the goals and feedback of their patients.

Regardless of the type of work you’re having performed, whether you need braces, a set of dentures, fillings, crowns, or just some routine cleaning, an excellent dentist in Norwalk, CT like the Harmony Dental Group can give you the healthy teeth and great smile you want. Give us a call at (203) 354-3193 to set up an appointment and experience a higher level of dental care!

What is baby bottle tooth decay?

March 28th, 2014

Great question! Baby bottle tooth decay is the development of cavities caused by the frequent and long-term exposure of a child's teeth to liquids containing sugars. These liquids include milk, formula, fruit juice, sodas and other sweetened drinks. The bacteria in the mouth thrive on this sugar and produce acids that attack the infant's teeth and gums. After numerous attacks, tooth decay can begin.

The first rule is to make sure your child does not fall asleep with a bottle containing milk, formula, juice or other sweetened liquids. Giving an infant a sugary drink before bedtime is harmful because the flow of saliva decreases during sleep, allowing the sugary liquids to linger on the child's teeth for an extended period of time. If left untreated, pain and infection can result.

So, how can you prevent baby bottle tooth decay? Be sure to clean and massage the baby's gums once a day to help establish healthy teeth and to aid in teething. When brushing your child's teeth, use a soft toothbrush, as well non-fluoride toothpaste. Once your little one is able to spit, around the age of two, you should begin using fluoride toothpaste. From the beginning, have your little one practice spitting the toothpaste out after brushing. That way, he or she will already have the good habit of spitting when you switch to fluoride toothpaste, which should never be swallowed.

Also, be aware that children should visit The Harmony Dental Group when they are between six and 12 months old. Please give us a call if your child hasn't visited our Norwalk, CT office in the last six months!

Are you a candidate for dental implants?

March 21st, 2014

When you are missing teeth, it is critical to replace them. Without all your teeth, chewing and eating can be challenging, as well as uncomfortable. Missing teeth can also destabilize your bite. Dental implants are a great option for replacing teeth that are missing or are badly diseased. A dental implant at The Harmony Dental Group offers relief, support, and stability to your bite, and often, implants are the most natural and effective option available.

Dr. Richard Malek and our team have helped many patients using implant dentistry at our Norwalk, CT office restore their smiles to look more natural. Each implant is created to fit in perfectly with the look of the rest of your teeth.

Besides making your smile appear more natural, dental implants have other benefits. They include:

  • Restoring your ability to properly chew food
  • Preventing your teeth from shifting and moving
  • Stabilizing your bite, helping you avoid pain or discomfort

If you are missing a tooth or multiple teeth and feel like you are a candidate for dental implants, Dr. Richard Malek and our team at The Harmony Dental Group encourage you to give us a call to schedule an appointment. See you soon!

St. Patrick's Day

March 14th, 2014

On March 17, everyone has a little Irish in them. St. Patrick’s Day is a joyous celebration of Irish heritage. The holiday originated as a commemoration of Saint Patrick, who brought Christianity to Ireland. The saint arrived in Ireland in 432 and earned the reputation of a champion of Irish Christianity. March 17th, the day of St. Patrick’s death, has been commemorated by the Irish for over 1,000 years. St. Patrick’s Day is still observed as a religious feast day by several Christian denominations, but it is better known in the public imagination as a rich celebration of Irish culture.

St. Patrick’s Day has been an official public holiday in Ireland since 1903. Each year, the Irish celebrate with a several-day festival that includes theater performances, music, fireworks, and festive parades. The celebration is also a public holiday in Northern Ireland, Montserrat, and Newfoundland and Labrador. In other parts of the world with heavy Irish populations, it is an unofficial celebration of Irish heritage. Parts of Great Britain, Canada, Argentina, South Korea, Switzerland, New Zealand, the United States, and Australia commemorate the holiday each year. Typical celebrations in these countries include drinking green beer, wearing green, eating traditional Irish foods, parades, and shamrock decorations.

Many people, Irish and non-Irish alike, take part in the “wearing of the green” on St. Patrick’s Day. In fact, the color originally associated with Saint Patrick was blue. His use of shamrocks to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish made the green clover emblematic of the holiday, leading to the traditional green attire worn by thousands on St. Patrick’s Day. Other little-known facts about St. Patrick’s Day include the following:

  • Each year, the United States and Ireland face off in a rugby competition called the “St. Patrick’s Day Test.”
  • Montreal celebrates the holiday with an annual parade, which has been held each year since 1824. The Montreal city flag even features a shamrock in its corner, as a nod to its Irish heritage.
  • The Guinness World Records named St. Patrick’s Day the “Friendliest Day of the Year.”
  • Along with Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day is one of the most widely celebrated saint’s day in the world.

No matter your cultural heritage, St. Patrick’s Day is a great time to let loose and celebrate your inner Irish-ness! Don your greenest attire and exclaim “Erin go Bragh!” (Ireland forever!) to everyone you meet. From Dr. Richard Malek - have a great St. Paddy’s day!

Are your teeth ready for the big day?

March 7th, 2014

Capturing the Moment

At The Harmony Dental Group we know that just about anyone who has taken on the challenge of planning her own wedding could tell you how important the little details can be. Things like having complementary colors, the right location, show-stopping flowers, and delicious food are all a big part of planning your spring wedding. Another little detail that has a big "I do" related role? Your smile.

Whether you’re the bride, or an attendant, looking your best when you tie the knot (or help someone tie the knot) is essential. If your teeth aren’t ready to make an entrance, turning to one of the many available teeth whitening solutions is a great option.

Reliable Solutions

Before the wedding day arrives, you should take your smile into consideration. If diet and daily wear-and-tear have caused your teeth to lose their original luster, our team can help! In-office procedures do cost more than kits you use at home, but with an in-office treatment, you benefit from a professional taking proper care of your teeth.

In addition, relying on our office to handle teeth whitening before the wedding can give you access to trustworthy advice on how to keep your teeth looking their best for a longer period of time. It’s common for someone experienced in assisting people with their oral health to suggest investing in an in-office whitening technique and then following up with a teeth-whitening kit at home.

This is a season of new beginnings and beauty. Take the time to bring out your most beautiful smile before the big day. Don’t let your smile hold you back on your wedding. With our in-office teeth whitening, you can be sure that you’ll be more confident and comfortable interacting with friends and family. So remember, when in need of some quality oral care in Norwalk, CT to think of Dr. Richard Malek !

The Sirona XG3D Our Latest Addition

March 4th, 2014

The machine is called the Sirona XG3D and pictures and info can be found on Sirona.com. Some info can be found on our website.  Keywords for this should include: dental implant/s, 3D imaging, Dental CT-Scan and related terms that you can think of. This new machine will allow us to better diagnose all aspects of dentistry like oral infections, fractured teeth, difficult diagnoses from not so obvious sources, TMJ and wisdom teeth.

The other main purpose is to treatment plan dental implants with precision. Knowing the height and width of available bone in three dimensions allows the clinician to place the proper size implant to avoid and vital structures and avoid complications.  No one should have a dental implant placed without this technology.

Give us a call today so we can show you what our new machine can do for you! 203-354-3193

We proudly offer Invisalign Teen®!

February 28th, 2014

Dr. Richard Malek and our team are excited to offer Invisalign Teen, a clear alternative to braces that’s just for teens! With Invisalign Teen, we are able to straighten your teen’s teeth without the hassle, discomfort, and embarrassment of traditional braces.

Invisalign Teen’s clear aligners are virtually invisible. What's more, they are removable, which means your child is free to eat anything they choose, as well as brush and floss with ease! And best of all, Invisalign Teen uses no wires or metal to straighten your teen's teeth.

Invisalign Teen aligners are made from a lightweight plastic material and fit precisely on the teeth. Invisalign Teen has become a popular treatment here at The Harmony Dental Group because it helps our younger patients achieve a straight, beautiful smile without their friends noticing.

Our team at The Harmony Dental Group is aware that most teens today have a busy lifestyle, and sometimes, they tend to lose things, including their retainers or aligners. But with Invisalign Teen, if your child happens to lose an aligner, let Dr. Richard Malek and our team know as soon as possible and we will have the aligner replaced.

For more information on Invisalign Teen, please give us a call at our convenient Norwalk, CT office today!

They're just baby teeth, right?

February 21st, 2014

“But they are only baby teeth; won’t they just fall out?” Our team at The Harmony Dental Group has had these questions asked many times from parents over the years. Primary teeth, or “baby teeth,” will indeed come out eventually, to be replaced by permanent teeth as the child grows and develops. These teeth serve a great purpose as the child continues to develop and require specific care.

Because baby teeth are temporary, some parents are unenthusiastic about fixing cavities in them. This may be due to the cost or having to force a child undergo the process—especially having to receive an injection. But if a cavity is diagnosed early enough, an injection can often be avoided. More important, failure to fill cavities in primary teeth when they are small and manageable can have lasting consequences in cost and health concerns. Serious illnesses in children have been diagnosed which began as a cavity.

Primary teeth act as a guide for permanent teeth. When decay reaches the nerve and blood supply of a tooth, this can cause an abscess. Severe pain and swelling may result. At that point, the only treatment options are either to remove the tooth or to perform a procedure similar to a baby root canal. When a primary tooth is lost prematurely—to decay or a painful abscess—the adjacent teeth will often shift and block the eruption of a permanent tooth. Braces or spacers become necessary to avoid crowding or impaction of the permanent tooth.

There is nothing more heartbreaking for Dr. Richard Malek than to have to treat a child experiencing pain and fear. To all the parents of my little patients our team strongly recommend filling a small cavity and not waiting until it becomes a larger problem such as those described above.

Prevention is the key to a healthy mouth for our smallest patients. Parents should allow the child to brush his or her teeth using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste and then take a turn to ensure the plaque gets removed from all surfaces: cheek side, tongue side, and chewing edges of all the teeth.

Valentine's Day History

February 14th, 2014

Valentine’s Day is best known as a celebration of love in all its forms. Pink hearts, red roses, and cute greeting cards adorn every surface you see. What many people don’t realize is that the modern Valentine’s Day celebration arose from a religious holiday.

St. Valentine’s Day was originally celebrated as a religious feast day in honor of early Christian martyrs. Three martyrs named Valentine were honored: a priest in Rome, the persecuted bishop of Interamna (a town in central Italy), and a saint martyred in Africa. This saint’s day was celebrated throughout Christendom, although it was removed from the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints in 1969.

The origin of Valentine’s Day as a holiday for lovers began with Geoffrey Chaucer in his 1382 poem “Parlement of Foules.” Chaucer wrote, “For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate,” and the modern romantic holiday was born. William Shakespeare and other writers mentioned Valentine’s Day as a day of love.

Valentine’s Day as we know it came about in the early 19th century. In Victorian England, printers began manufacturing small numbers of cards with romantic verses, lace, ribbons, and other frills. Anonymous Valentine’s Day card were a popular way for young lovers to exchange romantic sentiments in an otherwise prudish time. As the 19th century progressed, printers began mass manufacturing Valentine’s Day cards. People in the United States give an estimated 190 million valentines every year, and up to one billion if you count children exchanging cards at school! With the rise of the Internet, Valentine’s Day e-cards have become a popular mode of communication, with millions of e-cards sent each year.

The other items associated with Valentine’s Day include chocolate and flowers. The tradition of giving chocolates has been around for decades, and Richard Cadbury created the first box of Valentine’s Day chocolates nearly 150 years ago. Today, purchases of chocolate total over $1 billion in the United States alone, with 35 million heart-shaped boxes sold each year. Loved ones also exchange flowers, with red roses being associated with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. On Valentine’s Day itself, florists sell nearly 200 stems of roses.

Although many people dismiss Valentine’s Day as a commercialized “Hallmark holiday,” it is beloved to couples and romantics across the United States and other countries. The team at The Harmony Dental Group wants to remind all patients that no matter what your celebratory plans, February 14th can be a wonderful day to celebrate the loved ones in your life. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Three Must-Have Dental Treatments

February 7th, 2014

In dentistry, there are a wide variety of treatments, everything from elective procedures to those that are necessary and potentially lifesaving. So given the slew of treatment options, how do you choose what’s right for you? Our experts at The Harmony Dental Group have handpicked the three must-have procedures that we believe can benefit nearly every patient.

The first: A complete periodontal exam. If you are going to the dentist for scheduled cleanings, this exam should happen at least once a year. A periodontal exam is quick and relatively painless. The dentist or hygienist will carefully probe around each tooth to take measurements that show the health of the bone and its supporting tissue, all while looking for signs of any active infection. It has been suggested that there is a link between periodontal (gum) disease and the increased risk of some potentially fatal diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Signs of some diseases show up in the mouth sometimes before the patient is aware of changes in the body. Diabetes is one of these silent diseases. Many Americans are unaware that they have the disease until sudden and severe changes in the periodontal health of the teeth lead to a trip to the patient’s physician. And did you know that more adults lose teeth to periodontal disease than to cavities? A simple screening once a year can lead to saving your teeth.

The second treatment our team at The Harmony Dental Group recommends is a dental sealant; it’s not just for kids! Dental sealants provide a protective barrier from bacteria deep in the pits and grooves of the teeth where cavities often start. Sealants placed in childhood will often wear away in adulthood. Replacing a sealant as an adult can also help prevent decay in adulthood. This is a great cost-effective procedure for adults. Dental insurance will likely not cover sealants as an adult, but the cost of a sealant for prevention versus the cost of a filling is much less.

Our third must-have dental treatment is often the most fun: in-office whitening. Who doesn’t want an instantly dazzling smile? In-office whitening is one of the most dramatic and quick ways to brighten a smile. It will take a few years off your age in a two-hour period of time. Whitening is very safe and can give a patient newfound confidence to smile.

Good Dental Hygiene Impacts Overall General Health

January 31st, 2014

There are many ways in which your oral health has an impact on your overall general health. There are naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth. Some of those bacteria, including strep and staph, are harmful, while other bacteria are essential for the balance of intestinal flora. The healthier your mouth is, the less likely it is the harmful bacteria will travel to other parts of your body to infect it and make you sick. There is much more to good dental hygiene than brushing and flossing.

Historical Methods of Maintaining Oral Health

Ancient civilizations relied on natural remedies for maintaining oral health. Around 250 AD, the Kemetic Egyptians used myrrh and other herbs as antiseptics for treating infected gums. Two centuries later, the Nubians, who lived in the Nile River valley, drank beer to ease the pain of infected teeth. That probably sounds crazy, but their beer was effective because they used grains that were contaminated with the same bacteria that produce the antibiotic tetracycline.

Today's Biggest Dental Hygiene Challenge

In the past, tooth decay was more of an issue because there was no routine dental care, and problems that are routinely treated today went untreated. Thanks to fluoridated water, and toothpastes containing fluoride, tooth decay is far less problematic than it was a century or more ago. Gum disease has replaced tooth decay as the most serious dental problem facing people today. According to the American Dental Association, a staggering 80 percent of Americans over age 65 suffer from some form of periodontal disease.

Ironically, if that infection attacked any other part of your body, especially in a place where it was clearly visible, you would head to your doctor for treatment immediately. People tend to ignore gum tenderness and bleeding. When the tenderness and bleeding aren't treated, the inflammation can turn into periodontitis. The longer you allow the inflammation to go untreated, the greater the likelihood that it will affect other body parts. Make sure to visit Dr. Richard Malek at The Harmony Dental Group regularly to be proactive about dental health!

Researchers are now discovering that untreated inflammation in the mouth acts as a driving force for multiple chronic illnesses, including clogged arteries, heart attacks, arthritis, and even cancer. That inflammation is one of many hypotheses that may explain how chronic infections can trigger systemic diseases, and even intensify existing ones. Bacterial overgrowth in the inflamed gum tissue can enter the bloodstream through the food you eat, and from daily brushing.

Caring for your mouth at home is just as important as visiting our office for exams!

Norwalk Dental Practitioners on the Dangers of Gum to Dental Health

January 30th, 2014

Norwalk Dental Practitioners on the Dangers of Gum to Dental Health

Norwalk dental offices like the Harmony Dental Group normally have little to no qualms about people chewing gum as long as the gum is sugar-free. However, a recent study shows that steering clear of chewing gum may be the better, long-term solution. A Tel Aviv University researched established the link between chewing gum and migraines, at least among teenagers.

Of the 30 participants in the study, four out of five reported headache relief, while three out of five said their aches vanished when they stopped chewing gum. When some of them started to chew gum again, they felt the symptoms once more. Study author Dr. Nathan Watemberg cites two possible causes, which are results of past studies.

TMJ Stress

Located in front of the ears, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the cushion-like disc linking the jaw to the skull and helping it to move smoothly while speaking or eating. Normally, people keep on chewing gum even after all its flavor has been expended, and as a result, the chewing action puts unnecessary stress on the TMJ. Being among the most commonly-used joint in the human body, TMJ stress can render the lower jaw unusable.

Aspartame

Common in sugar-free sodas, aspartame is a sugar substitute also used in sugar-free chewing gum. Over the years, this artificial sweetener has become controversial due to its alleged bad effects on the human body. Cases in point, aspartame being tagged as a carcinogen and its link to headaches.

However, Diet Coke has 22.5 times more aspartame than a stick of gum, which normally contains up to 8 mg of aspartame only, making the sweetness dissipate faster. As such, Watemberg explains that diet sodas are more likely to cause headaches than chewing gum. Nevertheless, people who love to chew gum must stop chewing gum the moment it loses its flavor to subjecting their jaw to stress.

Should you feel your jaw aching for some reason or another, pay a reliable Norwalk dental office, like the Harmony Dental Group, a visit. It doesn’t matter if you’re an avid gum chewer or not. A trusted dental practitioner can help determine dental problems like jaw pain and offer effective solutions for them.

Thoughts from a Norwalk CT Dentist on the Importance of Flossing

January 30th, 2014

Thoughts from a Norwalk CT Dentist on the Importance of Flossing

Flossing goes with brushing just as hot chocolate goes with churros. Flossing gets rid of food particles in hard-to-reach areas which the toothbrush can’t dislodge. In recent years, however, multiple studies showed little to no difference between brushing alone and brushing and flossing.

The above revelation doesn't mean that flossing is ineffective and a waste of money and time. Rather, flossing may not be needed as frequent as previously believed. More importantly, perhaps it is best left to a reputable Norwalk CT dentist like someone from the Harmony Dental Group.

Wrong Flossing?

One study cited how children had their teeth flossed by a dental hygienist five days a week for two years, proving the benefits of flossing at the hands of an expert. Apparently, the common way to floss is the wrong way to floss, according to the study, as instead of flossing straight, holding the floss in a C-shaped position and flossing away is the correct method. Doing so allows the floss to reach deep into the crevice where plaque loves to hide, while at the same time prevent any gum damage.

Daily Flossing?

Some people claim that their teeth have fared as well as others who've been brushing and flossing all their lives. In one physician’s testimony though, flossing can be a disadvantage for people with gingivitis as it may force bacteria to enter their bloodstream. Thus, alternatives such as mouthwash, water swishing, and xylitol have been suggested to eliminate most of the bacteria in the mouth.

The Bottom Line

If there’s a silver lining to arguments in the scientific community, it may be the fact that those debates fuel their desire to do further research on the advantages of flossing. For now, studies that disprove the benefits of flossing are few in number. In contrast, studies that hail the benefits of flossing are numerous.

However, flossing isn’t exactly a standalone procedure, let alone a substitute to brushing. It’s part of an oral hygiene system that protects teeth from harmful bacteria, along with a healthy diet and, more importantly, regular visits to a reliable Norwalk CT dentist like a practitioner from the Harmony Dental Group. One thing’s for sure: dentists can safely tell you to “floss right, floss on time.”

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