5 Common Causes of Toothaches

5 Common Causes of Toothaches

Waking up with a toothache is never a fun experience. From inflamed and irritated gums to acute pangs when you bite down and even dull pains that seem to wrap around your entire head, they can present themselves in a number of ways — none of which are enjoyable. 

But perhaps the only thing worse than actually suffering the pain of a toothache is driving yourself crazy wondering what the cause of it may be. We’ll help you narrow it down below. 

5 Common Causes of Toothaches

Want to know what’s causing your toothache? Well, it could be one of these five common conditions. 

1. Cavity

The most common cause of toothaches is cavities or tooth decay. Cavities are often caused by insufficient oral hygiene, like brushing or flossing improperly or irregularly. However, even if you do stick to a strict brushing and flossing schedule, they may still pop up every now and then. 

See, cavities form when bacteria builds up on the surface of your teeth. At first, they’re barely noticeable, probably just appearing as a tiny brown spot on the very outer layer of your tooth. However, over time, the bacteria can work their way into the inner pulp and nerves of your tooth, which is when pain may start. If cavities are left untreated for too long, they could lead to tooth infections, abscesses, or tooth loss. 

2. Injury

Have a cracked, broken, or chipped tooth? That’s probably your culprit. Even though your tooth enamel is one of the hardest substances in your body, it’s still prone to injury when matched up against very crunchy foods or flying hockey pucks. 

And once your tooth suffers an injury, it can hurt — bringing either dull, achy pains or sharp, shooting ones to your mouth and head. This is especially true if the injury is located above your gum line. 

3. Impacted Teeth

Impacted teeth are teeth blocked from breaking through the surface of your gum. Most people experience this with wisdom teeth. If you’re experiencing pain around your back molars and still have your wisdom teeth, it’s probably time to get them removed

In many cases, your dentist can spot your wisdom teeth coming in on an x-ray before you can associate any pain with them. But there’s always a chance that they get missed because you haven’t been to the dentist or had an x-ray done in a while. 

Either way, if you’re experiencing wisdom tooth pain, act quickly. The pain will only increase as your wisdom teeth continue to come in, especially if they come in at a misaligned or sideways angle. Although wisdom tooth extractions may seem scary, your dentist will make sure you feel as comfortable as possible throughout the process. 

4. Gum Disease

Shockingly, almost half of adults aged 30 years or older have some form of gum disease. There are two common stages of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis — and they can both cause serious pain!

Gingivitis is the milder of the two, mostly just causing your gums to swell and bleed easily. But, if it’s left untreated, it could turn into periodontitis, which is much more severe. Periodontitis destroys your gums and bones, leading to teeth loosening and falling out. 

5. TMJ

TMJ is an acronym for the temporomandibular joint, which is the joint that works your jaw and allows you to open and close your mouth. You use it while talking, chewing, and swallowing. The TMJ is located on each side of your face and consists of a network of discs, bones, ligaments, and muscles that all work together to help your jaw move. But when one of those components is injured or not functioning properly, it can lead to severe toothaches.

Any issue that causes pain or interferes with the function of the TMJ is referred to as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). TMD can be caused by a number of factors, such as misaligned teeth, jaw injury, arthritis, stress, and more. Sometimes the underlying cause of TMD is serious, and sometimes it’s nothing to worry over — but it’s always painful.

How to Soothe a Toothache at Home (Temporarily)

If you have a toothache, your first move should be to call your dentist. However, if your dentist doesn’t think it’s an immediate emergency, you might have to wait a day or two before you can get in. In that case, there are a few ways you can minimize your toothache at home

  • OTC pain medications – Over-the-counter pain medications like aspirin can help temporarily relieve your toothache — just make sure you take them as directed on their packaging. 
  • Saltwater rinse — Salt’s a natural disinfectant, so rinsing your mouth with a saltwater solution can help reduce inflammation and temporarily relieve your toothache. 
  • Ice compress — Placing an ice pack on the area surrounding your sore tooth can help constrict blood vessels, reduce swelling and inflammation, and temporarily relieve your toothache. 

Don’t Wait to See a Dentist

If you have a toothache, schedule an appointment as soon as possible. That way your dentist can determine the cause of the toothache and resolve it before it becomes more serious.

At West Michigan Dentistry, we believe that healthy smiles are the best smiles, and we’re here to help you achieve yours. Our dentists can relieve your toothache or any other dental problem you may have. Contact our office to schedule an appointment. 

10 Foods That Are Good for Your Teeth

10 Foods That Are Good for Your Teeth

You’ve probably heard the phrase “you are what you eat” at least a thousand times. And while it’s most commonly used to describe how certain foods affect your stomach, it’s also applicable to how foods affect your teeth! 

Believe it or not, your diet has a lot to do with how healthy your smile is. So push those chewy candies, sugary sodas, and specialty coffees to the side! Below, we’ve provided a list of foods that are good for your teeth. That way, the next time you’re choosing which foods to put in your shopping cart, you can make a more health-conscious decision. 

10 Foods That Are Good for Your Teeth

There are a number of foods that are good for your teeth — and they’re all pretty yummy options, too! If you want a healthier, brighter smile, try munching on some of the following. 

1. Dairy Products

Got milk? We hope so! 

Foods like milk, cheese, and yogurt (unsweetened or low in sugar, of course!) are rich in calcium and protein — both of which are essential ingredients for maintaining strong teeth. Dairy products also help you produce more saliva and lower levels of acidity in your mouth, which make them good fighters against tooth decay. 

2. Crunchy Fruits and Vegetables

An apple a day keeps the dentist away! Wait, what? 

Yup! While eating crunchy fruits and veggies like apples won’t keep the dentist away forever, it can certainly reduce the frequency of your visits. This is because they generally contain a lot of water, and they increase your saliva production as you eat them. So bring on the fresh celery, carrots, pears, and more!

3. Teas

Yes, we know, tea isn’t a food — but it’s still good for your teeth!

Have you heard of polyphenols? They’re a category of chemicals that are naturally present in many foods and drinks we consume, including tea. They contain a lot of antioxidants, fight cavity-causing bacteria, and reduce inflammation in your gums. 

However, be mindful of which types of tea you choose. Unsweetened white, green, and black teas are the best, but even black teas can lead to some staining

4. Lean Proteins

Lean proteins like fish, chicken, and tofu are loaded with phosphorus — a mineral that’s critical to protecting your tooth enamel. 

More fatty, red meats can be good for your teeth too because they help you produce a lot of saliva as you chew them. However, they should be eaten in moderation, as they’re not the healthiest option for your body overall. 

5. Seafood

Fish, along with other types of seafood, contain a lot of sodium fluoride because, well, they come from an ocean that contains a lot of sodium fluoride! This fluoride source is essential in maintaining a beautiful and healthy smile. 

6. Garlic and Onions

Garlic and onions may not be the best for your breath…but they are good foods for your teeth! 

Garlic contains a lot of allicin, which is a substance that has strong antimicrobial properties, meaning it can fight tooth decay and periodontal disease. And, when eaten raw, onions also have powerful antimicrobial properties that fight against pesky bacteria. So maybe it’s about time we embrace the stinky breath these foods give us!

7. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts are full of health benefits for your teeth — and depending on which one you choose, you’ll probably get a different benefit. Here’s a list of some common types of nuts, and how they affect your teeth:

  • Almonds are high in protein, calcium, and phosphorous — and low in sugar. 
  • Peanuts are high in calcium and vitamin D. 
  • Cashews stimulate saliva production.
  • Walnuts contain a variety of nutrients, such as fiber, folic acid, iron, magnesium, and more. 

8. Eggs

Eggs are surprisingly good for your teeth, as they contain high amounts of vitamin K, vitamin D, and phosphorus. 

However, if you’ve ever been told you can repair your teeth with their shells, beware! That is an old wives’ tale, and will only lead to more damage. If you believe your tooth is damaged in any way, visit your dentist. Tooth repair is not something you can do at home. 

9. Popcorn

Popcorn (with minimal butter and salt) is a natural tooth scrubber. As you eat it, its hard, yet sponge-like texture can clean your teeth. 

However, make sure you complete your daily floss afterward, as the kernels can easily get stuck between your teeth. So, bring on the movie nights — but also bring on the floss!

9. Water

Again, we know it’s not food, but there’s truly no better thing for your teeth than water. Water prevents stains, reduces acidity, washes away food particles, increases saliva production, and lessens damage to your tooth enamel. 

Even better? Drink water that contains fluoride. As nature’s cavity fighter, drinking water with fluoride is one of the best (and easiest!) ways to prevent tooth decay. 

Get More Expert Dental Advice by Scheduling an Appointment at West Michigan Dentistry!

Looking for more ways to keep your teeth healthy? Visiting the dentist should be your first! At West Michigan Dentistry, we’re happy to help you keep your smile in the best shape possible. From regular dental visits, to what you can do to protect your teeth at home, we’ll guide you through with expert advice. Schedule an appointment with us today!

How Long Do I Need to Wear My Retainer?

How Long Do I Need to Wear My Retainer?

Congratulations! You just finished your last day of wearing braces, and your smile has never looked so flawless. 

But, unfortunately, the process isn’t quite over. You’ve put in the hard work of dealing with braces to straighten your teeth, and now you’ll have to wear a retainer to keep them that way. For how long, you ask? Let’s take a look!

What Are Retainers, and What Do They Do?

Retainers are orthodontic devices that are custom-made to fit your teeth and keep them straight after you’ve had braces. Once your braces are removed, your teeth are sensitive to moving around — which puts your straight smile, as well as the time and money you’ve already invested, at risk. It’s your retainer’s job to ensure your smile remains straight and that your orthodontic work brings a lifetime of reward. 

2 Types of Retainers

There are two types of retainers available. Your dentists may recommend one, the other, or a combination of both, depending on your unique orthodontic needs. 

Removable retainers are made with clear plastic, or with wires and resin. They usually fit over the top of your teeth. Although these retainers should be worn as much as possible, they are able to be removed for activities like eating, drinking, and brushing. 

Permanent retainers are usually bonded to the inside of your bottom teeth, and they aren’t able to be removed without a visit to the dentist. Because of this, they’re impossible to misplace, and therefore often more effective than removable retainers. 

How Long Do I Need to Wear My Retainer? 

And now, what you’ve been waiting for — how long do you actually need to wear this thing? Well, the answer is that it depends on your dentist’s recommendation. Everyone’s orthodontic needs are different, and therefore everyone requires different care. 

In most cases, however, you wear your retainer for different amounts of time, depending on which of these three stages you’re in. 

  • The first 6 months – You should wear your retainers all the time, at least 22 hours per day. You should only remove them to eat, drink, or brush your teeth. 
  • The next 1 ½ years – You can start to wear your retainers only while you sleep at night. 
  • The third year and beyond – You can start to wear your retainers less frequently at night. It’s not a big deal if you miss a night or two, but should aim for at least four nights per week. 

Do I Really Need to Wear My Retainer Forever? 

Ideally, your dentist would like you to wear your retainer 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year, forever — but we know that’s not always convenient or feasible. 

After you’ve finished the first 2-3 years of regularly wearing your retainers, it’s ultimately up to you how long you’d like to continue. While most dentists recommend you wear them every few nights for the rest of your life, it’s your decision to make. Just remember that the more you wear it, the better your straight smile will be maintained, and the more you’ll get out of your orthodontic investment. 

If you’ve recently had your braces removed and received a retainer, do your best to wear it as regularly as possible! But on the chance you forget or it gets a little beaten up, the team at West Michigan Dentistry can help. Schedule an appointment with us to get a new retainer that fits your teeth and keeps your beautiful smile straight! 

8 Things Your Dentist Wishes Their Patients Knew

8 Things Your Dentist Wishes Their Patients Knew

As you’ve laid back in the chair, opened your jaw wide, and watched the dentist peer into your mouth, have you ever wondered what they might be thinking about? You’re not the only one. 

Lucky for you, we’re using this article to let you in on a few secrets. Here’s a list we’ve compiled of 8 things that your dentist wishes their patients knew!

1. Your Dentist Can Tell When You Only Floss Before Appointments

Regular flossing is an important aspect of good oral health and hygiene, but for many people, it’s something that only comes to mind the day before or the day of their dental appointment — and your dentist can tell. From inflamed, bleeding gums to spots of tooth decay, there are a few key indicators that show your dentist you might not be a regular flosser.  

The truth is, your gum tissue’s health depends on consistent, ongoing care. It’s important to learn the correct flossing technique, then commit to a daily routine. 

2. Your Dentist Cares About More Than Your Teeth

Sure, your dentist will work to keep your smile looking great — but that’s only one of the many services they provide. From detecting gum disease and oral cancer to correcting complex jaw problems, your dentist is an expert in all things oral health. 

Simply put, your dentist cares about a lot more than just your teeth, and you should too!

3. Healthy Teeth Are More Important Than Beautiful Teeth

In many cases, a beautiful white smile indicates a healthy smile — but in some cases, that’s not true. Some whitening products can actually harm your tooth enamel, leading to an unhealthy oral environment where bacteria can grow and cause decay or disease. While there are many whitening treatments that are safe to use, it’s best to run them past your dentist before trying them. 

4. There Is a Right Way to Use Toothpaste

Most people think of toothpaste like soap, where you quickly scrub some on, then rinse it away with water. In reality, toothpaste is more like a lotion; the longer it stays on your teeth, the more effective it is. 

That said, you should take your time while brushing. And afterward, you can spit out the foam, but you should allow the toothpaste to sit on your teeth for about 30 minutes before rinsing. 

5. You Shouldn’t Wait Until Something Hurts to Visit Your Dentist

Many oral problems don’t cause pain until they’re serious. And, by then, it may be too late to treat them as effectively as possible. It’s important to call your dentist for an appointment as soon as you notice something may be off. 

Better yet, by staying up-to-date on regularly scheduled dental appointments, you allow your dentist to pick up on problems early. This gives them greater opportunity for proper treatment. 

6. Babies Need to Visit the Dentist Too

As soon as your child’s first teeth start to come in, it’s time for you to make an appointment for a visit to the dentist. This is usually before or around their first birthday. 

Bacteria can start to build up early, so it’s important that you get your baby’s oral health off to a good start. And when you start to build healthy habits early, they tend to carry on for a lifetime. 

7. Don’t Let Embarrassment Keep You From Visiting Your Dentist

If you haven’t been to the dentist in a while or you’re ashamed of your current oral health or hygiene, you’re not alone. There are many people who don’t visit the dentist regularly, and there are many people who have dental problems. 

The most important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t be embarrassed to call or visit us. We’re here to help. We’re experienced, caring professionals who work to resolve issues and get your mouth back on a healthy track, free of judgment. 

8. Your Dentist Genuinely Enjoys Cleaning Teeth

Day-in and day-out, we clean patients’ teeth — and we enjoy it! It may not seem like the most glamorous job to many, but we truly love what we do. By understanding the impact of oral health on overall health, we take pride in and get great reward from doing what we can to keep your mouth fresh, clean, and healthy. 

Dentists care a lot about their patients’ oral health, and they work hard to form a relationship of trust with every visit. At West Michigan Dentistry, our staff is here to answer your questions and help you work toward your health goals. To schedule your next appointment, give us a call today.

What Toothpaste Ingredients Do for Your Teeth

What Toothpaste Ingredients Do for Your Teeth

You wake up every morning, head to the bathroom, squeeze a dollop of toothpaste on your toothbrush, and start scrubbing away — but have you ever wondered what exactly is in your toothpaste? 

Toothpaste has many ingredients that make it an effective solution for fighting against plaque and tartar buildup. Below, we’ll give you an overview of some of the most common (and important) ingredients, as well as how to get the best results from them. 

What Ingredients Are in Toothpaste?

Toothpastes can have many ingredients, depending on each brand’s unique formula. However, there are five common ingredients that most cavity-fighting toothpastes share. Let’s take a closer look at them below. 


Fluoride is the #1 cavity-fighting toothpaste ingredient. It’s a mineral that strengthens the enamel on your teeth, which helps to prevent decay. While you can still find toothpastes that don’t contain fluoride, they aren’t the best choice for your oral health. All tubes of toothpaste with an American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance contain fluoride. 


Abrasives are inactive ingredients that are common to many toothpastes. Although they don’t work to prevent cavities or gum disease, they play a critical role in removing food debris and surface stains from your teeth. 

Today’s toothpaste abrasives are usually in the form of calcium carbonate, hydrated aluminum oxides, and dehydrated silica gels. These ingredients have become more gentle over the years, but it’s important to keep in mind that scrubbing them too firmly against your teeth can result in damaged enamel and inflamed gum lines. 


Whether you’re a fan of classic mint or you prefer a sweeter bubblegum, you can find many toothpaste flavors on the market. The truth is, while fluoride and abrasives are great for cleaning your teeth, they don’t taste all that great. That’s why flavoring is needed. 

Toothpaste flavoring comes from sweetening agents like saccharin or sorbitol, which help toothpaste taste sweet without needing any sugar that can lead to tooth decay. 


Humectants are ingredients that help maintain toothpaste’s smooth texture. They trap water in the formula to keep it from drying out and crumbling. The most common humectants used are sorbitol (also a flavoring agent), glycol, and glycerin. 


Detergents are ingredients that make your toothpaste foam up when you start brushing. They ensure that your toothpaste is fully coating your teeth. Sodium lauryl sulfate is the most common detergent used in toothpaste. 

Which Toothpaste Formula Is Best for You? 

When you’re standing in the toothpaste aisle of your local drugstore or grocery store, your options can be a little overwhelming. The shelves are usually stocked with hundreds of different toothpaste brands, formulas, and flavors. While most of them share the five common ingredients listed above, there are a number of add-ins that can be included to treat special oral care needs, such as whitening for sensitive teeth. 

With that in mind, how do you choose which toothpaste formula is best for you? 

While you can start by looking for the five ingredients listed above, you’ll have the best luck asking your dentist for a personalized recommendation. Your dentist will know your specific oral health needs and which toothpaste will help them. 

How to Get the Full Effect of Your Toothpaste Ingredients

The ingredients in your toothpaste are important, but they can’t do all the work by themselves. There are also some actions you should take to ensure they’re giving you the best results. 

Spit, Don’t Rinse

Most people rinse their mouth with water once they’re done brushing their teeth. However, some of the latest research shows that rinsing actually washes away the protective coating our enamel gets from the fluoride in toothpaste. 

Instead of rinsing, you can better help your toothpaste work its magic by simply spitting out excess paste and saliva once you’re done brushing, then letting the fluoride coat your teeth for a while after. You should refrain from rinsing, drinking, or eating for a good 30 minutes after you’ve brushed. 

Maintain a Healthy Brushing Schedule and Technique

A proper brushing schedule and technique also help your toothpaste do its job well. It’s important to brush at least twice per day, for about two minutes each time. Brush gently (preferably with a soft-bristled toothbrush), covering the outer surfaces, inner surfaces, and chewing surfaces of your teeth completely. 

The right toothpaste and proper brushing are only the first steps to achieving a healthy smile. Step three is visiting your dentist for regular cleanings and checkups! Schedule your appointment with our team at West Michigan Dentistry for comprehensive oral care.