5 Tips for Coping with Dental Anxiety

5 Tips for Coping with Dental Anxiety

If even the thought of going to the dentist quickens your heartbeat and makes you break out into a sweat, you are not the only one! Many people share this fear, and in fact, coping with dental anxiety is so common, there’s actually a term for it — dentophobia. We’re not making that up!

Unlike other fears, however, such as being afraid of spiders, you can’t simply avoid going to the dentist like you can run away when you spot a web. Doing so would be detrimental to your oral and overall health. So what do you do? Well, while you might not be able to escape the need for dental care, there are ways to cope with the anxiety that comes with it. 

If you struggle with dental anxiety, follow these tips to ensure a stress-free visit to your dentist:

#1: Ditch Dental Anxiety by Being Upfront

The best way to deal with your fears is to share them with your dental team. There’s truly no need to be embarrassed. Like we said, you are not the first person to stress out over taking a seat in a dentist’s chair!

Have an upfront conversation about your anxiety from the get-go and explain any past bad experiences that may haunt you. A good dental team will understand and accommodate you to help ease your concerns. Whether it’s talking you through the steps being taken, letting you take timeouts if necessary, or periodically asking if you’re doing okay, good communication with your dental team will allow you to feel more informed and in control, and in turn, more comfortable.

#2: Distract Yourself from Dental Anxiety

Sometimes dentist offices offer built-in distractions, from TVs to magazines to calming pictures on the ceiling. However, if these are not enough to preoccupy your mind, ask if you can bring your own dental distractions along. Wear headphones to listen to your favorite tunes, podcast or audiobook. Or, bring a tablet to watch a movie, level up, or keep your binge streak alive by streaming that latest series you love. 

#3: Cope with Dental Fears Using Calming Techniques

Just as with other anxieties, practicing relaxation techniques can help you sit back and, well, relax. Try squeezing a stress ball, concentrating on breathing slowly and relaxing your muscles from head-to-toe, visualizing your happy place, or repeating a calming mantra, like “I love having fresh breath and a healthy smile”. Okay, maybe that’s not the phrase you’d choose, but you get the idea. 

#4: Ask About Sedation to Stop Dental Stress 

During your upfront conversation, be sure to ask if there are sedation options that your dentist may recommend to ease your anxiety and help you relax. Nitrous oxide (a.k.a. laughing gas) is a common go-to choice that can help beyond just making you giggle! Your dentist may also prescribe an oral sedative to take prior to your visit, or use local anesthesia for a stress-free procedure. 

#5: Nix Dental Anxiety with Proper Nutrition

Believe it or not, what you ingest before your appointment can make a big difference in how you feel! Here’s the key: avoid high-sugar foods and caffeinated drinks beforehand which can increase anxiety levels. Instead, stick to options high in protein since these actually have a calming effect. Oh, and don’t forget to brush your teeth after your meal. Sorry, couldn’t help but get that in there!


It’s important not to let dental anxiety get in the way of your good health. Yes, trips to the dentist aren’t exactly fun, but they are necessary, so be sure to use these coping tips to help you stay calm, cool, and collected next time you schedule a visit

Rest assured, at Weber, Mountford, and Ruskowsk, we understand how you feel and are here to make sure your dental visit is as pleasant and stress-free as possible. If you’re worried about coming in for your appointment, reach out to our team. We’ll help you through the process and do whatever we can to keep you comfortable and relaxed. We are here for you!

Plaque vs. Tartar: What’s the Difference?

Plaque vs. Tartar: What’s the Difference?

Plaque and tartar go together like Batman and Robin, but this pairing isn’t exactly on the side of the good guys! In fact, plaque and tartar can wreak havoc on your dental health, which is why it’s good to know the difference between the two, as well as the signs and risks of each. Here’s everything you need to know about fighting this dynamic duo of dental doom.

Plaque vs. Tartar: The Breakdown

What is Plaque? 

Guess what? We all have to deal with plaque. That’s because plaque is a sticky, clear film that naturally builds up on teeth throughout the day as you eat and drink, especially if what you’re consuming contains sugar. Add saliva to the mix and harmful bacteria forms, releasing acid that enjoys hanging out along your gum line and causing damage and disease. If that isn’t reason enough to make sure you brush and floss daily, here’s the kicker: the longer plaque sticks around on your teeth, the greater chance it will harden and turn into, you guessed it — tartar!

What is Tartar?

Because the struggle of plaque buildup is real, it’s common for tartar to accumulate over time. Tartar occurs when plaque remains on teeth too long, allowing it to trap minerals and calcify, thus tartar’s alter ego: calculus (and yes, it’s even more bothersome than the similarly named math class!).

If tartar, a.k.a. calculus, is left unaddressed, it can result in not only discoloration and cavities, but also tooth decay and gingivitis, among other serious dental problems like periodontitis, which can lead to cardiovascular disease.   

Spotting the Signs & Reducing the Risks 

Now that you know the difference between plaque vs. tartar, it’s time to learn what’s behind this terrible twosome and how to spot the warning signs before tooth trouble ensues.    

Signs of Plaque and Tartar:

  • Bad breath
  • Slimy, fuzzy feeling (plaque)
  • Yellowed appearance and roughness (tartar)
  • Gooey residue on floss
  • Bleeding or sore gums

Risk Factors of Plaque and Tartar:

Your Best Defense Against Plaque and Tartar

If plaque is inevitable and tartar is its trusty sidekick, what do you do to fend them off? Well, the good news is, it’s not all that complicated. You can reduce your risks of plaque and tartar buildup by simply following a healthy and diligent dental routine.

  • Brush twice daily – you might want to use a tartar-control toothpaste for extra fighting power.
  • Floss at least once each day – this is important to get to the spaces between teeth where plaque may set up camp, but a toothbrush can’t reach it.
  • Consider an electric toothbrush – this can provide greater scrubbing power to remove plaque more effectively.
  • Reduce your sugar intake – if you are craving something sweet, just be sure to brush soon after you indulge! 
  • Try opting for snacks with natural plaque-fighting abilities such as celery sticks, apples, or cheese.
  • Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings – these are recommended every 6 months.

Remember, if you don’t take plaque and tartar seriously, they can have serious consequences on your dental and overall health. To keep tartar and disease at bay, schedule your biannual dental cleanings with West Michigan Dentistry. You can count on us to keep your teeth safe!

How to Clean Your Toothbrush

How to Clean Your Toothbrush

How to Clean Your Toothbrush

Your toothbrush keeps your teeth clean, but how do you keep your toothbrush clean? Hint: it’s not just by rinsing it alone. 

Toothbrushes tend to be a favorite hangout for bacteria and germs, and a quick swipe beneath a running faucet is just not enough to keep that bacteria at bay. Know what that means? Your toothbrush isn’t as clean as you think when you put it in your mouth. Not a pleasant thought, we know, which is why we’ve put together these guidelines on how to clean your toothbrush, and how to keep it that way.

Tips for Keeping Your Toothbrush Clean 

Store Your Toothbrush Upright and Solo

You might think covering your toothbrush is a good way to protect it from gathering germs, but unless the cover offers plenty of air circulation, it will actually create an environment mold and bacteria love! Instead, store your toothbrush vertically in a holder or cup with the bristles up so they can dry properly. 

In addition, it’s important to keep your brush separated from others. If you store toothbrushes together, they can easily exchange microorganisms, and that’s not good! 

Never Borrow or Share Your Toothbrush

Your mouth harbors plenty of its own bacteria, don’t add someone else’s to the mix! Sharing a toothbrush is a great way to share germs as well, which not only increases the amount of bacteria in your mouth and on your brush, but also increases your chances of getting sick or contracting an infectious disease such as tooth decay

Clean Your Toothbrush Regularly

The only true way to keep germs at a minimum and say bye-bye to bacteria is to include cleaning your toothbrush in your daily routine. In other words, don’t just brush your teeth every day, clean your toothbrush daily too! Here’s how:

  • Rinse your toothbrush under hot water both before and after you brush.


  • When you get done brushing, put your toothbrush head-side down in a cup of antibacterial mouthwash or hydrogen peroxide and leave it there for 3-5 minutes. 


  • Another option? Head to the kitchen and boil some water, then dip your toothbrush in and hold it there for 2-3 minutes.


  • Don’t want to bother with boiling water? There’s another way to clean a toothbrush in the kitchen –  just put it in the dishwasher! Yep, what works for knives, forks, and spoons works for your toothbrush too. Just be sure to use a lower temperature to avoid damaging its plastic handle. 


  • Invest in a UV sanitizer. Sure it’s a little on the pricey side, but it can absolutely be worth the investment when you consider this go-to bacteria buster is so reliable and effective, even hospitals use it!


Know When it’s Time to Replace Your Toothbrush 

Toothbrushes typically last 3-4 months, but you should reach for a new one sooner if your toothbrush is showing signs of wear and tear such as excessively frayed bristles. A toothbrush in such condition can’t do its job of cleaning your teeth very well, so it’s definitely time to trade it in for a fresh one. 

You should also replace your toothbrush if you’ve been ill, or if it’s been near the toothbrush of anyone else who’s been sick. Otherwise, you’re just keeping those germs around that are getting in your way of staying healthy.

Visit Your Dentist!

You know what they say: The best cure is prevention. Scheduling regular dental appointments not only keeps your teeth healthy and clean, but you get the added bonus of a new toothbrush every time! Now you know how to keep that brush in good condition, too, which in turn will keep your smile looking its best. 

Give Weber, Mountford, and Ruszkowski a call today to make your next dental cleaning appointment, and make sure your teeth stay not only clean, but also healthy, and strong.

Can Stress Make Your Teeth Hurt?

Can Stress Make Your Teeth Hurt?

Some days are just destined to be stressful. You wake up late, can’t find your keys, get stuck in traffic, have a hectic day at work, need to pick up the kids (but first stop by the store), get home just in time to make dinner…whew! No wonder you’re totally stressed out. Days like this that seem like a perpetual Monday can definitely take their toll, not only on your physical and mental health but also on your teeth. That’s right, stress can even make your teeth hurt!

Stress and Tooth Trouble

Headaches, irritability, and exhaustion are all typical signs of stress, but living a less-than-calm life can affect more than your mood, well-being, and energy level. Believe it or not, stress and tooth pain often go hand-in-hand. In fact, stress can negatively affect your teeth in multiple ways.


That stress-induced headache could very well stem from unconsciously clenching or grinding your teeth, a condition known as bruxism, which brings the term “the daily grind” to a whole new level. Grinding your teeth is a common response to stress and can occur during the day, though mostly at night while you are sleeping. This can result in a host of dental problems that if left unaddressed, will only add to your stress! Bruxism can damage crowns, wear away tooth enamel, and cause pain, lockjaw, tooth sensitivity, and more. It can even disrupt your sleep, making you even more tired and irritable. 

Eating Issues

If you’re feeling stressed and pressed for time, that can cause you to grab quick meals that aren’t necessarily nutritious and are often high in sugar — not your teeth’s best friend by any means. To make matters worse, eating on the run can lead to acid reflux which can damage teeth by eating away at enamel and increasing your risk of tooth decay. 

Gum Disease

Because stress can wreak havoc on your immune system, it can make you more susceptible to gum disease. Add in a tendency to neglect self-care when stressed — such as skipping dental appointments, brushing less, and forgetting to floss — and your chances of gum disease increase even more. Anxiously biting your nails transfers germs into your mouth as well, piling on to your likelihood of infection.    

Mouth Disorders

High anxiety can also lead to dry mouth, a condition that deprives your teeth of saliva’s oral health benefits like its ability to wash away harmful food particles stuck in your teeth and gums. Burning Mouth Syndrome is another condition that can be triggered by stress, resulting in gum and tooth pain. In addition, this disease is exacerbated by smoking and drinking — two habits often increased due to stress.   

Less Stress. Less Tooth Pain.

While we all get stressed out from time-to-time, it’s important to have strategies in place to reduce your stress levels as much as possible. Identify triggers and try to avoid them. Make sure to exercise regularly, eat a healthy, balanced diet, and take time to relax. Get plenty of sleep and use stress-relieving techniques like deep breathing and meditation. By reducing the stress in your life, you will reduce your risk of tooth pain and problems.

If you are experiencing stress-related tooth pain, it’s a good idea to visit your dentist. Contact Weber, Mountford, and Ruszkowski to book your next appointment online or by dialing 616-842-0822 today. There are plenty of things in life to get stressed out about, your teeth shouldn’t be one of them!  

6 Of Your Most Common Dental Hygiene Questions Answered

6 Of Your Most Common Dental Hygiene Questions Answered

As dental professionals, we get asked a lot of questions. There are a lot of answers out there, but also a lot of contradicting opinions, misinformation, and new technology that has changed the way we understand dental hygiene. We’ve collected the most common dental hygiene questions we receive and answered a few of them here. If your question isn’t listed below, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We love your questions, and more than that, we love talking about dental hygiene!


How often should I really floss?

The American Dental Association recommends flossing once per day. Flossing gets after extra bacteria that hide between your teeth that brushing can’t reach. If this bacteria is left for too long, it becomes plaque and then can harden into tartar which can only be removed by your dentist. Flossing every day will also prevent sensitivity at your next cleaning appointment. Your gums will strengthen over time so flossing won’t be painful or cause bleeding.

A good way to incorporate flossing into your daily routine is to pick a time each day you can stick to. Some people prefer to floss right before bed so they can sleep with a completely clean mouth. 

If you don’t like using dental floss, there are dentist-recommended alternatives that work just as well. A Waterpik, for example, uses a thin stream of pressurized water to clean in between teeth. It’s especially useful for people with braces or permanent retainers, as it can be difficult to thread dental floss around the wires.


How can I avoid long-term tooth stains?

Stains can form from the repeated consumption of certain foods and beverages. Coffee, wine, black tea, chocolate, and berries are common offenders. If you can, eat or drink these things in moderation. Otherwise, consider brushing your teeth after consuming them. Dentists also recommend drinking with a reusable straw whenever possible if you’re concerned about staining your teeth.

Most stains on teeth only affect the enamel, or the surface of your teeth. This type is stain is called an extrinsic stain. Extrinsic stains can be corrected with whitening procedures in your dentist’s office or at home through the use of whitening toothpastes or strips. If you’re concerned about a stain you can’t get rid of, talk to your dentist.


How do I convince my kids to brush their teeth?

The best way to convince your child to brush their teeth is to make it part of your routine together — and to make it fun. Come up with a song to sing with your toothbrushes in your mouths that lasts a few minutes while you thoroughly clean your teeth. Use a fun toothbrush or flavored toothpaste to make your child look forward to using it. 

Most importantly, make sure that brushing your teeth is a part of your routine. If it seems important to you, it will be important to them. Try to set an example early in your child’s life that dental hygiene is a priority. We recommend having your child visit a dentist for the first time at least 6 months after they get their first tooth, or before their first birthday. 

If you need more ideas for making brushing fun, talk with your child’s dentist! More than likely, they’ve had to talk a kid or two into a dental cleaning they were less-than-excited about. They’ve definitely learned a few tricks for making dental hygiene exciting.


Which is better: manual vs. electric toothbrush?

Electric toothbrushes are consistent and easy to use. Some dentists say that electric brushes are more effective at cleaning because they are gentle on teeth and have features like built-in timers that make sure people are brushing for a sufficient time. Electric brushes are more expensive, however, and not as convenient if you’re traveling. 

Manual toothbrushes can be found at almost any drugstore for a low cost. If you have a good brushing technique, manual toothbrushes are just as effective as electric ones. Your dentist may warn against overbrushing, as it’s easy to brush too roughly with a manual brush. Ultimately, as long as you’re brushing thoroughly every day, either is fine.


How can I prevent cavities?

Another common dental hygiene question is about avoiding the dreaded cavity. Cavities form when plaque is left to its own devices and eats away at the protective enamel on your teeth. If not removed by regular brushing or a dentist’s tools, the bacteria will eat its way through your tooth until it causes severe damage, pain, and possibly infection or tooth loss. 

The best way to prevent cavities is regular, twice-daily brushing and once-daily flossing. Brush your teeth for two or three minutes, being careful to clean around every tooth — even the ones in the very back. Limit the amount of sugary foods or drinks you consume, or at least limit when you have them — i.e. once per day. After having sugary foods, brush your teeth as soon as you can to prevent plaque from forming. Be sure to visit your dentist regularly each year to remove plaque and tartar. 

If you do get a cavity, it’s okay. Cavities are one of the most common health problems in the world and they happen to a lot of people. The most important thing you can do is address it right away. Call your dentist’s attention to any tooth pain you might be experiencing before it gets worse.


Why do I need to visit my dentist regularly?

Rather than waiting until you have a toothache or pain in your mouth, visiting your dentist is preventative care. By taking care of your teeth and mouth now, you can prevent decay, tooth problems and pain down the road. Dentists recommend at least two cleaning visits per year, and x-rays to be taken at one of those visits as well as the annual application of fluoride. 

If you’re unsure if you’re due for your next dental appointment, give your dentist a call! It’s better to take care of your teeth now, than wait and be sorry!

Now that you’ve got the scoop on some of our most common dental hygiene questions, make sure your next cleaning is on the calendar! There’s no better way to avoid cavities and keep your teeth healthy than by scheduling biannual dental cleanings.

How to Pick a New Dentist

How to Pick a New Dentist

If you just moved, got new insurance, or had a baby, you might need to find a new dentist to better meet your needs or your family’s. Here are some things to consider when choosing a new dentist:


Specialties and Services

Your situation and needs determine the specialties and services you’ll want from a dentist. If you have kids, a dental practice with a pediatric or family dentistry specialty will ensure that your kids get treatment from people experienced in working with kids and their dental issues and needs. If you want to straighten crooked teeth, you may want to choose a dentist’s office that has an orthodontist on staff. If you’re interested in whitening your teeth, make sure the dentist you choose has cosmetic dentistry capabilities.



This is the biggest factor for most of us, since paying for all dental services out of pocket can be pricey, and you pay for insurance for a reason. If your dentist of choice doesn’t take your insurance, you’re more likely to skip necessary dental checkups. When choosing a new dentist, make sure that they take your dental insurance and that there are no hiccups or hangups.



If you don’t like your dentist, you shouldn’t go to them. It’s important that you find a dentist you’re comfortable with so that you can trust them to listen to and address your concerns, to provide you with the best possible care, and to bill you fairly and work with your insurance company.



Convenience is a consideration for anything we do, because we lead full and busy lives. If it’s not convenient for you to see the dentist, you might dread your visits even more and put off going, which can lead to oral health problems. 

Convenience doesn’t only apply to location (though a good location near work, home, or the kids’ school is always a bonus!). It can also apply to scheduling and appointment availability. For those who work, that means appointments that are available during lunch or before or after work; for families with children, this could mean having enough staff to get all the kids’ appointments in at the same time, so you don’t have to visit separately with each kid.


Are you looking for a new dentist? Weber, Mountford & Ruszkowski Family Dentistry is here to meet your dental needs!