I get these questions all the time. For a long time, dentistry and general healthcare have been treated as separate entities. I am here to guide you and help you to see how the health of your body relies on good dental hygiene. When dentists and hygienists examine patients, we are able to screen you for key overall health conditions based on your mouth health and refer to a healthcare provider who can help you further.

Common Question About Dental Hygiene and Overall Health

“Brushing my teeth can really make me healthier? How can my teeth affect my body?”

Gum disease is something that affects at least 75% of the general population, but what is gum disease? Most people assume that if they had gum disease it would hurt, but in reality, it’s considered a silent and deadly disease. People often ignore the early signs and symptoms, including bleeding every time you brush, bad breath that won’t go away, red swollen gums, loose teeth, pus between the gums and teeth, and even sores in the mouth. Many of you are probably thinking, “I would notice that!” Sometimes it is subtle… until it’s not, and we have to talk about treatment to stabilize your mouth. What’s more concerning is where else that bacteria can go.

The bacteria that causes gum disease can travel through the bloodstream throughout your body and affect other organs and functions. Blood pumps throughout your entire body and your heart is the engine that runs the car. Your heart is one of the most crucial organs, as it allows oxygen and blood to travel throughout the body and keep you running. The inflammation in the gums in the mouth influences inflammation in the heart and plaque build-up in the heart, which can lead to cardiovascular disease or even a stroke. The best way to avoid complications from gum disease is to treat it and then maintain a stable mouth, in addition to seeing your physician regularly for blood work and dental hygiene check-ups.

Diabetes is something that can also link directly to mouth health and oral bacteria. One of the common issues patients with diabetes have is the inability to heal quickly and well. Therefore, people with diabetes are more likely to develop infections, such as gum disease. Gum disease is considered a complication of diabetes (especially uncontrolled diabetes) and diabetes can be difficult to control when gum disease and infection are present, putting patients at an increased risk for diabetic complications.

There’s no bones about it! Osteoporosis can be linked to oral health too! All jokes aside, we examine the bones in your jaw and how they influence your ability to keep your teeth. Over time osteoporosis can affect the density of the bone in your body, including your jaw bones. If the density of the jaw bones decreases enough, you can end up losing teeth.

So who can gum disease really effect?

Virtually, everyone. If it seems like I have already given you enough incentive to take care of your mouth, take a deep breath, because I’m not done yet!

Men with gum disease are more likely than women to develop gum disease AND certain types of cancers. They are 49% more likely to develop kidney cancer, 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, and 30% more likely to develop blood cancers than men without gum disease.  Gum disease in men can also affect prostate health and cause impotence.

Women, you’re not off the hook either. Gum disease can occur with hormonal changes during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, and after menopause, putting women at a higher risk for breast cancer, heart disease (the leading cause for death in women in the U.S.), diabetes, pregnancy complications, and osteoporosis. Women with gum disease have a 3-5 times greater chance of pre-term birth, which often means a low birth weight for the baby. Pregnant women also have a higher risk for cavities, gum disease development, and even development of pregnancy tumors (which are not cancerous). Babies are perfect and wonderful and worth every second of everything we go through to get them… but they sure do a number on the body!

dental hygieneThe saying “you are what you eat,” applies to your mouth as much as the rest of your body. The food and drink you consume directly affect the mouth and, more specifically, the teeth. Eating disorders can significantly affect your oral health. Often times when we do our exams, we see early signs of eating disorders or severe acid reflux wearing away the tooth structure. Bulimia is a condition where someone eats and then vomits up the food. This results in acid from the stomach sitting on the teeth and wearing off the enamel, the hard structure that protects teeth from significant wear and cavities. Anorexia, where someone eats very little, is also destructive. It can deprive the teeth and gums of nutrients they need to stay strong. Our goal as dentists and hygienists is to help guide you on a path to treat these diseases, help prevent the long-term damage, and to repair some of the physical damage that may have already occurred.

Oh yes, there’s more. In addition, people who have gum disease and a history of lung problems can actually aspirate oral bacteria into their lungs and cause infections like pneumonia! There are also links between oral health and Alzheimer’s, dementia, and HIV. Early signs of HIV often manifest in the mouth first, which is one reason why oral cancer screenings are so important. An increase in gum disease bacteria can potentially increase the risk for development of cognitive impairments associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

As you can see, there are so many reasons that dental hygiene is important. So now you know – brushing your teeth CAN really make you healthier, because dental health and general health are not separate entities. They have a symbiotic relationship. We don’t treat just your teeth. We treat you as a whole person.

Begin Your Journey to Whole Body Health with a Trusted Dentist in Richmond, VA

At the Cosmetic and Laser Dental Spa of Richmond, we believe in treating your body as a whole. We want to help you fix the root cause of your issues, not just the symptoms. Book an appointment to get started today, or contact us with any other questions you have.

Over the years I have had numerous questions regarding dental care for babies, infants, and young children from families in our practice. My goal for every patient is to provide comprehensive dental care at all stages in life. So when I can start addressing questions and concerns at a very young age, I am able to educate both children and parents on how important dental hygiene is and start the entire family on a path to perfect dental health for the rest of their lives!

Common Questions About Dental Hygiene for Children

“When should I bring my child in for their first visit?”

First visits for children are such a crucial time to provide a positive experience and start the habit of good dental hygiene. We support the recommendation from the American Association for Pediatric Dentistry that a baby should come to the dentist for their first visit when the first tooth erupts or when they reach age 1 — whichever comes first. At your child’s first dental visit, we try to keep it easy and fun! A dental visit for a little one should be positive and all smiles (from you too, parents)! Typically, what we will discuss includes current homecare habits regarding toothbrushing, gum stimulation, bottle habits, and pacifier habits, and our recommendations if any habit needs an adjustment. My hygienist and I will examine the outside of your child’s face and inside of their mouth to ensure there is nothing abnormal with their anatomy. We both will also check on the health of the existing gum tissue and teeth (if present). When looking at these areas, we want to see pink healthy gum tissue without any red irritation or bleeding. For teeth, we hope to see shiny, smooth, and clean teeth with good spacing. Every mouth develops differently, so I monitor the growth and development of your child’s mouth at each visit.

“It’s just a baby tooth! He’s going to lose it anyway, can we just pull it out? It would cost less.”

dental hygiene for kidsI hear this weekly! In fact, baby teeth are crucial to the development of the bone structure in the mouth for children as they develop physically, not to mention they hold the place in the bone for adult teeth to develop and erupt. In fact, many don’t know that baby teeth are actually softer and more susceptible to cavities than adult teeth and have been identified as one of the top causes of children missing school, due to dental pain. Children should never have to experience this kind of pain, so regular visits at least every 6 months can help to prevent this with baby teeth!

As your child ages, we hone in on good habits for their growing bodies and mouths. The best habits always start at a young age and, as I have learned as a mom of two, children see everything we do! They will watch you for guidance on their dental homecare habits and mimic them without you even knowing. Brushing twice a day for 2 minutes each time helps to remove any bacteria, sugars, and acids from the tooth surface. This prevents long term damage like tooth pain or loss for baby AND adult teeth! And children actually need you to brush their teeth (or at least double check them) until the age of 10, when their dexterity is capable of doing so themselves. My favorite website resource for parents and kids, with tips, tricks, and fun activities is http://www.2min2x.org/

“Well, I can definitely help them brush well—but do I really need to floss their baby teeth?”

dental hygiene for kidsThe answer is YES! Especially when teeth touch, but in general you want to get children used to cleaning the space between the teeth. This is the most common area for cavities to form, and the easiest way to avoid this is to floss regularly. The wonderful thing about toothbrushes, floss and other dental products is that there are so many options now! Between electric toothbrushes that play music, flavored floss picks shaped like dinosaurs, and waterpiks—there are so many options out there to help your child to become comfortable with something that works for their dental homecare. For many small children, it’s so hard for them to wrap floss around their fingers, which makes the floss picks an AWESOME option for them to use! It’s also great for parents to use so your fingers don’t get bitten (ask me how I know!). There are so many fun colors, flavorings, and animals/shapes; I guarantee you will have fun picking them out together!

From toothbrush to toothpaste, you have probably noticed that there are so many products to choose from! For toothbrushes, we recommend a soft or extra soft toothbrush with a small, oval-shaped toothbrush head; soft will not hurt the gums and a small head can reach all the little places in those tiny mouths. There are even some really neat and fun electric children’s toothbrushes that have stickers and music to make them interactive. With toothpaste, it’s hard to pick something that you feel will clean little teeth well but that they won’t just eat right off of the toothbrush. For toddlers, it is often best to use fluoride-free toothpaste until the child understands and demonstrates the difference between spitting and swallowing. Once this has happened, it’s a good time to transition them to a toothpaste containing fluoride. When looking at how much toothpaste to put on the brush, I recommend a dab of toothpaste no bigger than a grain of rice. Once they have reached the age of understanding the difference between spitting and swallowing, you can transition to a pea-size of toothpaste. Goodness knows if you aren’t careful, there will be toothpaste coating the sink and the bathroom mirror (again, ask me how I know)!

When it comes to food for kids, it can be so hard to balance good nutritious meals with what the kids will actually eat. Every parent has that frustration of getting kids to eat their fruits and veggies! However, my general rule is to have juice and sugary treats with a meal. If your baby or child goes to bed with a bottle or sippy cup, make sure it contains only water. Milk, juice, or soda will coat the teeth in sugar and acid and can cause cavities to form. Regular water drinking, in general, can help to keep moisture in a child’s mouth and rinse off cavity-causing bacteria. Sports and energy drinks are often consumed during sporting events and activities, however they contain high sugar and acid levels. These will coat the teeth and leave them susceptible to bacteria and cavities. It’s good to limit these and encourage water intake instead!

Schedule an Appointment for Your Child With a Kid-Friendly Dentist in Richmond, VA

Needless to say, there is so much to consider when it comes to our children and their dental health. Our primary jobs as parents are to protect them and keep them healthy, and the more you understand about their dental health, the easier it is to do! At the Cosmetic and Laser Dental Spa of Richmond, we pride ourselves in maintaining a comfortable and kid-friendly environment for your child. Book an appointment with us today or contact us for more information. 


Brushing and flossing are paramount during the COVID-19 outbreak. Yes, we are telling you that oral hygiene should be a priority during a pandemic. Why? Because when you don’t floss and brush, tartar, and harmful bacteria build up. The bacteria can cause infection or gum and bone disease (gingivitis and periodontal disease). This low-grade infection weakens your immune system, making you more susceptible to catching viruses.

Top 10 Things Dentists Want You To Do For Your Health During The Pandemic:

1. Wash your hands!

Wash them with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before brushing, flossing and eating. Wash them after using the bathroom, going to a public place, blowing your nose, coughing, and sneezing. Washing is preferred over hand sanitizer because the friction from scrubbing with soap and water can break open the coronavirus’s protective envelope, making the virus inoperable. The soap then surrounds the virus so when you rinse your hands, the damaged virus is washed away. Done and done!

2. Use hand sanitizer… but only if soap and water are not available.

The sanitizer must contain at least 60% alcohol and your hands should not be dry until you’ve completed at least 20 seconds of rubbing. Soap is preferable over sanitizer because, while they both kill the virus, sanitizer does not remove it from the skin. (Note: neither soap nor sanitizer kill many bacteria and viruses, such as those that cause meningitis, pneumonia, and the common cold, but the vigorous scrubbing with soap and water removes them from the skin, making this method preferable over using sanitizer).

3. Brush twice a day for two minutes each time

Wash your hands before AND after. If the virus is on your hands, you don’t want to catch it when you touch your mouth, and if you have the virus and touch your mouth, no one wants to catch it from you! Brushing properly with a soft toothbrush in a small circular motion or, preferably, with an electric toothbrush such as the Sonicare Flexcare+, removes the plaque and tartar that cause inflammation and low-grade infection. And if you are sick, don’t forget to change your toothbrush head and toothpaste when you’re better.

4. Floss once a day – at night!

Flossing at night will remove all of the remaining food that sits between your teeth from the meals you consumed that day. If you wait until the morning to floss, the food sits – and the bacteria grows. And don’t forget – wash your hands before AND after flossing… see the trend?

5. Use mouthwash

Unfortunately, salt water, over-the-counter mouth rinses, and even prescription chlorohexidine have been deemed ineffective in killing the coronavirus. The only thing that the American Dental Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend to destroy the virus is a hydrogen peroxide rinse, such as Peroxyl by Colgate or Listerine Whitening Mouthrinse. Swish for 60 seconds and spit. (Note: over-the-counter hydrogen peroxide is too concentrated to use directly in the mouth.)

6. Dab!

Cover your coughs and sneezes, and not with the hands that are going to touch your phone, your food, the door handle, the refrigerator, the coffee pot, the hair brush… Make sure you wash your laundry with hot water and a bleach compound (preferably) and give it some extra time in a hot dryer. The coronavirus can live on clothes for up to 9 days!

7. Do not touch your face mask!

Wearing a face mask actually causes you to touch your face more than you normally would without one, thereby increasing your chances of getting sick. To avoid this, make sure your mask is secure, your hands are clean before removing your mask, and you remove it by grabbing the ear-loops or the back of the mask.

8. If you are sick, stay hydrated – with WATER!

Gatorade, sodas and other delicious beverages contain sugar and/or acid that are detrimental to your teeth AND gastrointestinal tract, which is the tract that leads to overall health.  A damaged GI tract can lead to nutritional deficiencies, leaky gut syndrome, and associated autoimmune diseases.

9. Flatten the curve, practice social distancing, quarantine yourself

Whatever term you prefer to use, avoid close contact with others! The virus has mutated more than once, which is why we cannot build an immunity to it and why it’s twice as hard to develop a vaccine against it. The only way to stop this pandemic is to stay home and stay away from others. And friends, “kind of” and “mostly” social distancing, is NOT social distancing. You, yourself, may not get sick, but you could unknowingly pass the virus to someone whose body is not strong enough to fight it.

10. Be kind to yourself

As dental healthcare providers, our goal is not just to get your teeth healthy. Our goal is to get YOU healthy. The look and function of teeth play an important part in your mental health, which is a huge part of overall health and extremely important to us as doctors. So, during this time when you may feel physically isolated, take care of yourself. Get outside, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water, eat healthy, and stay connected with loved ones virtually. Be kind to yourself, and do things that make you happy. We will all get through this together.

Important COVID-19 Update

Our practice is actively following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Virginia Department of Health, and VCU Health Systems regarding the Covid-19 pandemic. We maintain the highest standard for infection control and cleanliness outlined by OSHA and the CDC at all times, and are now taking additional precautionary measures to ensure the safety of our patients, including an increased frequency of disinfecting public spaces and high-touch items (door handles, pens, counter spaces, etc.). Please note that if you have traveled outside of the country within the last 30 days or are experiencing upper respiratory symptoms with or without a fever, we ask that you kindly call us to reschedule your appointment. Your safety is our top priority, and we are committed to taking any necessary measures to support our patients, staff and community.

Our teeth do more for us than we realize; from chewing the food that we eat to helping us form the words we speak to communicate. When a tooth is out of place, it changes the entire dynamic of your mouth. It can push other teeth out of place, make it difficult to chew, cause pain or discomfort, and more. Invisalign can help keep your teeth in line, providing you with a straight smile you can be proud of.

There are two main methods to straighten teeth: braces and Invisalign. While traditional braces move your teeth with metal or ceramic brackets adhered to each tooth and connected by a wire, Invisalign is a single piece of virtually invisible plastic that covers your teeth and adjusts your smile gradually.

If you’re interested in improving your smile, whether for aesthetics or the health of your teeth, Dr. Sarah Wilmer, DDS can help. Here’s what you should know about the difference between Invisalign and Braces.

What is Invisalign?

As we mentioned, Invisalign uses a clear plastic aligner to gently coax teeth into place. The aligner is customized to your mouth after taking an impression or using a 3D digital scan (as we do here in our office – no goop, no mess!).

The Invisalign is done rapidly because we use Propel to “supercharge” your teeth. Making the teeth move faster, efficiently, and predictably. The treatment takes a minimum of 2.5 months to create lasting changes to your smile, but you’ll be able to notice a difference after a few weeks of wear. When you finish your Invisalign treatment, Dr. Wilmer will give you Vivera retainers to maintain all the work you’ve accomplished on your mouth. We also smooth the edges of worn teeth to give our patients a highly esthetic outcome. 

Benefits of Invisalign

Using Invisalign has more benefits than just straight and beautiful teeth! When compared to natural braces, for example, Invisalign ranks better for:


One of the reasons many brace-wearers are unsure about receiving treatment is because of the way braces look. Beauty should be found within, but the way we look on the outside still affects the way we feel about ourselves. Having metal fixtures on our teeth can make people feel self-conscious. This is where Invisalign really reigns supreme. The Invisalign treatment goes over teeth with no additional rubber bands, metal or ceramic to see.


As most people know, traditional metal braces adhere to your teeth. This means they must remain where they are placed until removed by a dental professional. Invisalign, on the other hand, is completely removable. This makes it easier to eat and drink, allowing you to enjoy all your favorite foods without the restrictions that braces possess.

Wearers of metal braces have a long list of foods to avoid, including marshmallows, chewing gum, popcorn, nuts, hard candy, and toffee. With Invisalign, all you need to do to enjoy your favorite snacks is pop out your aligners and enjoy. Of course, we recommend brushing after every snack. 


Comfort plays a huge role in the reason many braces wearers choose Invisalign over traditional metal braces. Traditional braces work by gradually tightening the metal attachments at each visit. This fixes overbites, underbites, and spacing issues. After an adjustment, teeth and gums feel tender, sometimes leaving the patient unable to enjoy eating food.

Invisalign is a far less invasive treatment than metal braces. Rather than tightening metal pieces inside your mouth, Invisalign uses a series of aligners to further your treatment. Each aligner moves your teeth a little more than the last until your smile is perfect.


No matter how hard you try, or which specialty tools you use, brushing and flossing traditional braces is a pain. There are always spots missed and sometimes bristles from the toothbrush snag on the braces, leaving uncomfortable fibers stuck between your teeth.

For hygiene purposes, there’s no teeth straightening method more beneficial than Invisalign. Remove, brush, floss, replace, forget about it. It’s as simple as that!

Which is Best for Me?

Braces and Invisalign offer a myriad of pros and cons. In the end, it normally comes down to personal preference. While Invisalign is substantially more comfortable, faster, and more predictable, it’s important to note that metal braces have their good points as well. For example, metal braces are sometimes more efficient at correcting extreme cases.

So, which style of braces should you choose?

Get Invisalign with a Trust Dentist in Richmond, VA

Deciding to use Invisalign over braces is a big choice to make. If you’re curious about Invisalign and what it could do for your teeth, speaking to a dentist or orthodontist can help.

If you want to get your teeth healthy and gorgeous in the safest, smartest way, book an appointment today or contact us with any questions. 

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