Summer Food and Teeth

Summer is finally here, and that can mean only one thing: It’s summer food season. But not all summer treats are created equally. Some are better for us – and our teeth – than others. Here’s a list of some of the best and worst foods you may encounter this summer.


Summertime means outdoor time and outdoor time means outdoor cooking! And what’s better for outdoors cooking than barbecue? This Southern favorite may be delicious, but that sticky barbecue sauce that’s often laden with sugar is pretty dangerous for your teeth. But don’t put down those ribs just yet. Just make sure you brush well after eating, and if you do eat some of the stringier meats like ribs, be sure to floss afterward, too!

Fresh Fruit

School may be over, but fresh fruit gets an A+ for summer snacking. Summer means all the seasonal favorites are back, like watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries and more. And while in some cases these delicious fruits do have a high acid content, their health benefits outweigh their acidity. Should you decide to snack on fresh, delicious summer fruit, follow these guidelines: Drink water after consuming, and wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth to allow your tooth enamel to re-harden. But do remember to brush!

Ice Cream

Ice cream is delicious and refreshing, but it can also trigger tooth sensitivity. If you find yourself wincing in pain when eating ice cream, give Dr. Lesko’s office a call for a checkup. There are many possible reasons for sensitive teeth, and some of them are relatively easy to correct. Sensitivity aside, remember that ice cream is usually full of sugar and carbohydrates – two things that cavity-causing bacteria love to feast on. So, make sure that when you indulge in that cone of black raspberry this summer to brush your teeth afterward. Should you add any sticky or sweet toppings or choose a flavor with candy mixed in, remember it’s that much more important to floss afterward, too.

Carnival Foods

Summer is carnival season, which means it’s time for those once-a-year epic carnival foods like cotton candy, candy apples and caramel corn. All delicious, and all terrible for your teeth. We’ll let these slide since they are a once-a-year treat, but make sure you brush really well when you get home. If you do want to opt for healthier fair-fare, swap out the sticky sweets for kettle corn, corn on the cob or maybe even one of those giant turkey legs. Ultimately, though, one bag of cotton candy won’t wreck your smile, so go to the carnival, the barbecue, the pool or the beach and have a great summer, no matter what you eat!

Want to give your smile a summer checkup? Give us a call at 970-812-0355.

Oral Health Linked to Better Drug Treatment Outcomes

Data have shown that a staggering estimated 38 percent of American adults suffered from a substance abuse problem in 2017, and with a looming opioid crisis and many small towns across the nation dealing with drug epidemics, those numbers don’t seem like they’ll shrink anytime soon. But there finally may be some good news from the field of dentistry about treating substance abuse – and it’s all about oral health.

It all began when the University of Utah reached out to two local drug rehabilitation programs called First Step and Odyssey House. The initial goal of this partnership was to allow university students to work on the teeth of the patients coming through the two drug rehabilitation programs, benefiting both the students who needed the experience and the patients who desperately needed the dental care.

Program directors noted that the program was a success but soon began to realize the program was having some unintended benefits, too.

Dr. Allison Lesko is a dentist in Fort Collins, Colorado, who did not participate in the program, but who says its outcomes are nothing short of astounding.

“Program administrators at both treatment facilities began reporting to the university that patients in the dental program were staying in drug rehabilitation twice as long as those not in the dental program,” says Lesko. “They also noticed an 80 percent increase in the number of patients who completed the substance abuse program.”

But that’s not all. According to researchers at the University of Utah, not only did these patients stay longer, but their substance abuse treatments were also more effective.

“Patients in the dental program were two to three times more likely to stay sober following their treatment than those who did not participate,” says Lesko.

Another benefit? The dental program participants were also two to three times more likely to get jobs, and those who were homeless prior to treatment were able to secure housing.

But all this success just from fixing their teeth? Lesko believes it.

“Your teeth aren’t just tools to help you chew. The way they look can make or break your confidence, and when your teeth hurt it can be hard to focus on anything else,” she says. “Furthermore, for someone who is in constant pain to have that pain alleviated can eliminate at least some of the need to self-medicate. So there’s an element there that may help motivate them to stick with the drug treatment.”

Whatever the reason may be, the University of Utah has decided to continue and expand the program so that more patients can get the oral health care they need and hopefully benefit from the same impressive results as those in the initial study group.

Toothbrushes Causing Trash Crisis

Brushing your teeth. We all do it, and with few exceptions we all do it with the same tool: the toothbrush. Virtually unchanged for centuries, the toothbrush is a convenient and ergonomically designed way to clean the plaque and bacteria that discolors our teeth and causes cavities. But the toothbrush as it stands today has one major flaw that scientists are trying to correct: the trash problem.

It began back in the 1930s with the development of two new materials: plastic and nylon. Toothbrushes, which were a rarity at the time, were still being made with wood. Soon, that wood was replaced by cellulose, and finally plastic with nylon bristles. The plastic and nylon combination proved to be a safe, effective and durable way to clean the teeth – and with time it was relatively affordable, with the price of a brush coming down as plastic became more commonplace.

But all those durable brushes may be a little too durable. Did you know that a recent study found that the average person will use 300 toothbrushes over a lifetime? Or that Americans use so many toothbrushes each year that if laid out, they would wrap around planet Earth four times? That’s a lot of toothbrushes being used – and a lot of toothbrushes being thrown away. In fact, because the materials used to create toothbrushes are unrecyclable and non-biodegradable, according to National Geographic most of the toothbrushes created since the 1930s are probably still around somewhere, whether sitting in a landfill or floating in the ocean, washing ashore onto beaches around the world.

So, what can be done to stop these toothbrushes from clogging landfills and waterways? That’s what scientists are trying to answer.

Dr. Allison Lesko is a dentist based in Fort Collins, Colorado. She said there are already some alternatives to plastic and nylon toothbrushes, but they still have a long way to go toward solving the problem.

“There are bamboo brushes now and even some metal brushes, but they still use nylon bristles,” says Lesko. “They don’t quite go far enough.”

So, what about electric brushes – are they any better?

“Theoretically an electric brush will last longer and stay out of landfills longer, but they still eventually make it to landfills, and they can’t be recycled, either.”

Another problem? They still use plastic and nylon heads that need to be replaced just as often as regular toothbrushes. Though it’s less plastic, scientists are still not satisfied with how much plastic these brush heads leave behind.

So, what can you do to reduce your own toothbrush’s carbon footprint? Dentists like Lesko say swapping to a greener toothbrush such as a bamboo, metal or reusable-handled brush may not go as far as environmentalists want them to yet, but they are still a more viable, greener option than traditional plastic brushes.

Bacteria and the Brain

A new study conducted by researchers at several major universities and published in the medical journal Science Advances has revealed that bacteria have the ability to release toxins that can make their way into the bloodstream and into the brain. Worse yet, these toxins could be responsible for the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

With over 700 different species of bacteria colonizing in our mouths, it’s actually quite impressive that only about 24 of them can cause problems throughout the rest of the body – but those problems are big problems, says Dr. Allison Lesko, a dentist from Fort Collins, Colorado.

It all starts when those nasty bacteria that hang out in our mouths get swallowed or pulled into our bloodstream.

“Your teeth and gums are supposed to stop the bacteria from leaving your mouth, but if you have inflammation or gingival pockets due to receding gums, these create easy entrance points for these bacteria to enter the bloodstream and cause damage in the body,” says Lesko.

One of the worst offenders is bacteria known as Porphyromonas gingivalis, or p. gingivalis for short. P gingivalis is not only dangerous in its own right, but it also has the power to change good bacteria into bad bacteria, which is very bad news for your body. In fact, p. gingivalis has been found to cause everything from pneumonia to heart disease and even esophageal cancer. Now, it’s also being linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Thankfully, now that a link between p. gingivalis and Alzheimer’s has been established, researchers can set to work determining what – if anything – can be done to sever the link and hopefully treat Alzheimer’s disease. One such attempt at severing this link is treatment with a drug called COR388. This experimental drug has been found to eradicate p. gingivalis proteins called gingipains, which have been found in excess in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients postmortem.

Thanks to this success, COR388 is currently undergoing clinical trials, and development of other drugs that would target the gingipains is currently under way.

In the meantime, Lesko says your best weapon against Alzheimer’s disease, gingipains and p. gingivalis bacteria are the same thing: one simple step that many Americans admit to not doing regularly enough.

“Brushing your teeth,” says Lesko. “That’s the key to preventing a lot of this.”

Lesko says brushing twice a day for two-minute intervals and flossing at least one time per day can help ward off not just cavities and bad breath, but also periodontal disease and the entrance of bacteria into the bloodstream and brain.

Researchers are quick to note that not all cases of Alzheimer’s disease appear to be caused by p. gingivalis bacteria, so treatments like COR388 may not be the answer for everyone. But Lesko is optimistic that with improved oral health initiatives, we may see a reduction in Alzheimer’s cases in the future.

Protect Teeth While Swimming This Summer

It’s fun, it’s refreshing and it’s one of America’s favorite summer pastimes: swimming in the pool. Swimming provides the body with heart-pumping yet low-impact exercise that’s gentle on the joints. It also can improve muscle tone and body strength and constitutes a full-body workout. But for all the good swimming does for our bodies, it could be doing harm to one particular area of the body: the mouth. Here’s why swimming can be dangerous to your oral health, and what you can do to protect yourself while making a splash this summer.

Swimmer’s Calculus

No, its not a special math class for pool lovers. Swimmer’s calculus is a type of buildup that occurs on the teeth from the raised pH of chlorine and chemicals found in pool water. Swimmer’s calculus builds up over the summer, especially if you spend more than an hour in the pool at a time. Swimmer’s calculus appears as deposits of yellow on the teeth. Though it may be unsightly, thankfully swimmer’s calculus is temporary and can be removed by going to the dentist for your regular cleaning

Chlorine and Your Teeth

Chlorine can be a useful chemical when it comes to keeping the water in your pool clean and free of germs and bacteria, but it can also take a toll on your skin, causing it to dry out. It can even discolor and dry out your hair, irritate your eyes, and burn your lungs. But it can also cause problems in the mouth – namely sensitive teeth.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, pools with a pH of lower than 7.0 pose the highest risk to your teeth, including enamel erosion. Enamel erosion occurs when the enamel of the teeth wears away, exposing the lower layers of the tooth known as the dentin. Aside from being unsightly, this can cause tooth sensitivity. Worse yet, enamel does not grow back, so fixing enamel erosion may require sealants, veneers or even a procedure called gum grafting, which can help raise the gumline and reduce sensitivity along the gums.

An Ounce of Prevention

So how can you prevent swimmer’s calculus and enamel erosion due to chlorine? Try to not ingest or get pool water in your mouth. Keep your mouth closed while swimming, diving or standing in the water. When you are done in the water, rinse your mouth out with fresh tap water or bottled water, and apply the same rules as you would to brushing after eating an acidic food. Wait at least 30 minutes after exiting the pool to brush your teeth so the enamel has a chance to reharden.

For questions or concerns or to schedule an appointment, please contact Dr. Lesko’s office at 970-812-0355.

Caring for Braces

If you or your child just got braces, congratulations! You’ve taken the first step toward a straight, beautiful smile. If you are new to wearing braces, you may not realize that caring for braces is different from caring for “naked” teeth – it requires special tools and extra steps. But don’t get overwhelmed with braces care. Here are the tools you need in your orthodontic care toolbox.

Toothbrush and Toothpaste

You will never not need a toothbrush, no matter if you have braces or not. The challenge with braces is cleaning around the brackets as well as cleaning the brackets themselves. Failure to properly clean the teeth while undergoing orthodontic treatment not only increases your risk of tooth decay, but can also cause white spots on the teeth called orthodontic white spot lesions, or WSLs. After spending all that time getting your teeth aligned, the last thing you want is for them to be discolored.

Floss and Threaders

Floss is essential to a healthy mouth. In fact, if you’re not flossing you’re missing about 30 percent of the surface of your teeth. But flossing can be difficult even under the best of circumstances, let alone with braces. That’s why we recommend using a disposable device called a floss threader, which will allow the floss to be threaded underneath the wire in your braces to reach the gumline.

Water Flosser

You may wonder why you need a water flosser if you’re already using dental floss or threaders. But water flossers are a great complement to traditional floss and can help remove some plaque and debris from between the teeth. For braces wearers, a water flosser is best used to clean away the plaque and debris from your braces brackets.

Dental Wax

Because the teeth shift with braces, they can often cause pain weeks after adjustment in the form of poking wires. These wires can rub against your cheek, causing injury. That’s where dental wax comes in. Dental wax is soft, pliable wax that can be put directly onto a poking wire to insulate that wire from the rest of the cheek. Of course, this is just a temporary fix, so if you find yourself needing to use wax to avoid pain, call Dr. Lesko’s office and schedule an appointment to have the wire adjusted.

For more information or questions or concerns about your braces, call Dr. Lesko’s office at 970-812-0355.

Dental Terms, Defined

Though we do our best to put you at ease, sometimes dental appointments can be a little bit scary – even for adults. The fear of the unknown, the sounds of dental tools, and those big, scary-sounding words we sometimes use can all make people a little bit tense. But there’s no need to fear complex dental vocabulary. Here are a few scary-sounding words you may have heard around the office that really aren’t that scary after all.

Bruxism: Bruxism means to grind or clench your teeth. Bruxism can often occur without you even realizing you’re doing it, making it harder to stop doing. Dr. Lesko can usually tell if you have bruxism by the condition of your teeth. People with bruxism often have cracked, chipped or worn teeth and may experience frequent jaw soreness due to the pressure of their jaw clenching together.

Occlusions: An occlusion is a word used in many ways, but when it comes to dentistry, an occlusion is simply the part where two teeth – one from the upper jaw, the other from the lower – meet.

Malocclusion: A malocclusion is a dental term that means the incorrect positioning of the upper and lower teeth. Another term for malocclusion is a bad bite.

Caries: Dental caries is another way to say “cavities” or tooth decay. It occurs when acids break down the teeth, causing the tooth to decay away. Caries must be repaired by fillings before they worsen, or they can cost you your entire tooth!

Amalgam: Amalgam is a metal composite used to fill cavities in teeth.

Abscess: A dental abscess is an infection that occurs at the ends of the roots of the tooth. It appears in the form of a pocket that is full of pus. Most likely if you have an abscess, you will need a root canal to repair it.

Calculus: No, it’s not the math you struggled with in high school. Dental calculus is the term we use to describe the hard buildup that occurs on the roots of teeth, dental implants and crowns.

Xerostomia: Believe it or not, this is a very complex-sounding word for the condition dry mouth! Dry mouth can occur for many reasons, including dehydration, sleeping with your mouth open and some medications. Xerostomia is not a condition but a side effect of other conditions. Still, it is dangerous as the lack of saliva can increase the instance of cavities.

Want to learn more about dental terms? Make an appointment with Dr. Lesko today! Call 970-812-0355.

Can Kombucha Kill Healthy Smiles?

If you are one of the many people who have jumped on the kombucha trend in recent years, you may want to think twice about how you drink the trendy fermented tea drink. That’s because, according to recent studies, kombucha – for all its purported health benefits – may be bad for your teeth.

Before we get into the why, let’s take a step back and look at what – what is kombucha, exactly?

Kombucha is a fermented black tea drink that is made by fermenting sugared tea with yeast and bacteria. This creates something called acetic acid and osmophilic yeast, which are probiotics. If you haven’t already heard of probiotics, they’re tiny microorganisms that boast some pretty big health benefits. So when you drink something like kombucha that is chock-full of probiotics, you’d think you’d be gaining some of those benefits, right?

Well, not so fast. For all the supposed medical claims made about kombucha (it has been said that it treats everything from AIDS to diabetes and cancer), there is no proof it helps with any of these conditions. Not only that, but thanks to its acid level, it’s dangerous for your teeth – and some say worse than soda!

But before you pour your cup down the drain, there are some things you should consider.

First, if you like kombucha and feel like the probiotics are helping you, continuing to drink it probably won’t hurt you – provided you protect your teeth. If you are going to continue with kombucha, keep in mind that the acid in the beverage is harmful, and act accordingly. When you do drink it, make sure you drink water either while you are drinking your kombucha or immediately after drinking it. Also, experts recommend you drink your kombucha quickly, as this will minimize the amount of time it is in your mouth and subsequently on your teeth.

As with any acidic food or beverage, make sure you do not brush your teeth immediately after drinking kombucha. The acids in the drink can soften the tooth enamel and leave it vulnerable to permanent scratching from your toothbrush. Rinse with water, and then wait at least 30 minutes before brushing so your tooth enamel has time to re-harden.

If you have any questions or concerns about drinking kombucha or other probiotic beverages, speak to your doctor or call Dr. Lesko at 970-812-0355.

These Beauty Trends Can Destroy Smiles

If you’re searching for a whiter, brighter smile, there are many trendy products out there that claim to be able to help you reach your goals. But what you don’t know can hurt you. That’s because many of these so-called oral “health” products aren’t so healthy after all. In fact, they can be doing more harm than good to your teeth and gums. Before you reach for those white strips or that designer toothpaste, check out these surprisingly dangerous oral care products.

Trendy Flavored Toothpastes

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to change up the flavor of your favorite paste from time to time. Basic mint can get boring after awhile. But beware some of the newer, trendier toothpaste brands that have sprung up in stores and online. They may taste great, but many don’t contain the recommended daily amount of fluoride, and thus aren’t doing as much for your teeth as they could be. Always check the packaging for the American Dental Association seal of approval, and if you’re not sure if a product contains fluoride, read the ingredients on the packaging.

White Strips

White strips have been an affordable, reliable way to whiten teeth for years, but a new study has found that they could be very dangerous to your teeth. That’s because researchers found that when hydrogen peroxide (the active whitening ingredient in white strips) was left on the teeth, it was able to penetrate the enamel and destroy the dentin of the teeth by causing it to crumble apart. While it is not yet known if this dentin can be revived or if this is problem is isolated to the pulled, dead teeth used in the study, for now we’d advise you to avoid these products until more conclusive evidence is reported.


No, not teeth pulling – oil pulling. Though this ancient ayurvedic practice seems pretty safe, there are safer ways to rinse the teeth. First of all, it’s important to note that oil pulling with essential oils only removes surface stains. If that’s all you’re trying to do, you can achieve the same results using mouthwash, saltwater and, yes, even plain old tap water – all of which are proven safe for your teeth. Meanwhile, pulling with some varieties of oil has been found to cause pneumonia if the oil makes its way into your lungs!

Bottom line, you don’t need trendy oral health care products to maintain a healthy, beautiful smile. Just brush with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day for two minutes at a time and floss once a day. This will keep your smile looking as white and bright as possible – without the risk.

Ready to make an appointment with Dr. Lesko? Call 970-812-0355 today.

3 Signs It’s Time for a Dental Checkup

When you begin to feel something is amiss in your mouth, it’s probably due to an underlying issue and it may be time to get help ASAP!

You shouldn’t wait and hope it will go away on its own as it could turn into something much more serious. Most times, it’s very much advantageous to tackle the problem at the earliest possible stages. Here are three signs it’s time to schedule a dental checkup right away:

1. Dry mouth

We all have experienced this “cotton mouth” feeling at some point. However, a chronic dry mouth is a more serious condition that, when left untreated, can have consequences.

Dry mouth was by far the most commonly reported oral ailment in a recent survey conducted by the American Dental Association of 15,000 adults in the United States. Dry mouth was especially reported by older people. In cases like this, the salivary glands are usually unable to produce enough saliva to fight mouth diseases and neutralize mouth acids.

This condition at times can be caused by changes in medications as well as some other systemic conditions. You should seek treatment as soon as possible so you don’t put yourself at the mercy of tooth decay or periodontal disease. If you feel like your mouth feels abnormally dry on a regular basis, talk to your dentist and book a dental checkup right away.

2. Tooth pain

About one-third of the people surveyed by the ADA pointed out tooth pain as their greatest oral problem. Most times, this is caused by an abscessed gum, a decayed tooth or similar conditions.

This won’t go away on its own, and in most cases delaying treatment may complicate things even further as well. If your tooth suddenly begins to cause pain, consider getting a dental checkup immediately.

3. Chewing difficulty

If you’re finding it difficult to bite and chew, you’re not alone. Many of the ADA survey respondents revealed this as a major dental problem.

Like the case with tooth pain, chewing difficulty could be caused by a decayed tooth, a cracked or loose tooth, as well as the jaw joint disorder temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJD/TMD.

TMJD can make it quite difficult for sufferers to bite and chew, which can also impact nutrition.

Regular dental checkups have huge benefits. Many times, your dentist may be able to identify problems before they even manifest or become a more serious problem.

If you have any of these oral health issues affecting your comfort, make an appointment right away for a proper dental checkup. You can schedule a visit or contact us today at 970-812-0355 for more information.