Oral Health and Beauty

For some people, looking their best is important. Your appearance is your calling card to the world – what people see when they first meet you – and it can affect your life in many ways, including in the workplace. In fact, a recent study found that women who wear makeup earn on average 30 percent more than women who don’t! Makeup and beauty are so prevalent that, according to a 2017 People magazine article, the average woman will spend $15,000 in her lifetime on beauty products alone!

But one thing many people don’t realize is that while spending an arm and a leg on beauty may be a wise investment, if you’re not paying attention to your oral health, you’re not getting your money’s worth. That’s because beauty and oral health are tied closely together – and when your oral health is suffering, the rest of your appearance could, too. Here are some ways your oral health can influence your beauty routine.


Do you suffer from breakouts around the mouth that won’t seem to go away no matter how many products you try? That acne could be the sign of a tooth infection, gum disease or tooth abscess. That’s because the inflammation from inside your mouth could be worsening or causing the inflammation outside and around your mouth.

Dry Skin

Do you have dry skin? Do you wash your face before or after you brush your teeth? If you are brushing your teeth after you wash, you could be drying out your skin with toothpaste residue. Have you ever heard of the wives tale that toothpaste dries out zits? Well, it does – and it doesn’t. Toothpaste dries out the skin but does not heal acne. So, when you use toothpaste on a zit, you are simply creating another problem for your skin, not healing the one you have. If you do have acne, speak to your doctor about which products are safe to use on your skin, and save the toothpaste for your teeth. Remember to brush before you wash.

Sallow Skin

Does your skin look sallow or dull despite makeup, lotions and facial treatments? It could be that the color of your teeth is casting it in a bad light. If your teeth are less than pearly white, schedule regular cleanings with Dr. Lesko and keep them gleaming!

Ready to make your teeth as beautiful as the rest of your face? Call and schedule an appointment with Dr. Lesko at 970-812-0355.

Tips for Treating Sensitive Teeth

If you have sensitive teeth, it can really take the joy out of your daily life. From passing up your favorite foods like hot coffee and ice cream to experiencing discomfort during hot or cold weather, sensitive teeth affect more than just your mouth. This condition can really affect your mood too. But thankfully you don’t have to simply accept the discomfort and inconvenience of sensitive teeth. Here are some lifestyle changes you can make that may go a long way toward lessening the pain of sensitive teeth, so you can get back to enjoying the foods and activities you love without the sensitivity!

Change How You Brush

Yes, there is a wrong way and a right way to brush your teeth. If you are brushing your teeth too hard, brushing your gums, or brushing back and forth, you could be harming the gums and causing gum recession. Gum recession in turn can cause – you guessed it – sensitive teeth. If this sounds like how you’re brushing, try this instead: Hold your brush at a 45-degree angle and brush in small circular motions. If you need a demo, ask Dr. Lesko and her team at your next appointment.

Change What You Brush With

Sometimes we may be brushing the right way, but with the wrong brush. This is an easy fix. Stick with a medium to soft-bristled brush and follow the brushing guidelines above. Save those hard-bristled brushes for your tile grout!

Change Your Toothpaste

If you are experiencing sensitivity but not using a sensitive toothpaste, it may be time to switch. Sensitive toothpaste is made with an ingredient called potassium nitrate, which is used to fill in the tiny pores in the teeth called tubules. These tubules lead to the nerves, so when they’re blocked, you can actually prevent hot and cold foods and air from reaching those nerves. It’s kind of like how the insulation in your walls blocks the outside weather from getting inside your home.

Change Your Diet

While you shouldn’t have to change your diet to accommodate tooth sensitivity, there are certain foods that forgoing may make it easier to live life pain free. Foods that are high in acid such as citrus and soda or foods that are high in sugar may make sensitivity worse, so eliminating these where you can from your diet may enable you to enjoy other foods again.

Ready to make an appointment to talk about your tooth sensitivity? Call Dr. Lesko’s office today at 970-812-0355.

Epigenetics Could Someday Restore Tooth Roots

Imagine someday being able to eliminate missing teeth by restoring the roots of decayed teeth. If researchers at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry at the University of Southern California have their way, that could be possible. That’s because researchers have found a formula that could regenerate those roots, using a process called epigenetic regulation.

Epigenetics is defined as the study of alterations to organisms via modification of gene expression, and epigenetics may be the key to controlling the pattern and formation of tooth rot.

Researchers discovered that tooth rot patterns are controlled by proteins called Arid1a and Ezh2. When these two proteins are in balance, and in certain configurations of tooth roots are in just the right place with the jawbone, a tooth rot pattern can be established.

Dr. Allison Lesko is a Fort Collins-based dentist. She says this type of breakthrough could make a huge difference in how we treat rotten teeth.

“Right now, if a tooth is badly decayed, there’s a chance it may need to be pulled,” Lesko says. “With this discovery, they may someday be able to restore tooth roots, which means even if a tooth is pulled we may not need to rely on dentures or dental implants to replace it.”

That’s because with regenerated roots, the researchers at USC believe they can create enough of a replacement tooth to at least cover it with a crown.

“A crown over an existing tooth is a much better option than a dental implant,” says Lesko. “While dental implants are really the Cadillac of dental prosthetics, there is always a chance of something called implant failure.”

Implant failure occurs when the screw used to anchor a dental implant to the jaw fails to implant itself into the jawbone. This can happen due to bone loss or deterioration, which can occur when too much time passes between the loss of the tooth and the attempted implantation.

“With regenerated tooth roots and a bit of naturally regrown tooth, the risk of implant failure would be obsolete,” Lesko says.

Another benefit to the study that was noted by its authors? The discovery could someday treat cancer, too.

According to the researchers at USC, some cancers can be affected by epigenetic regulators; when these regulators are out of balance, cancer can develop. The key to treating these cancers is to find a way to balance the epigenetics and stop the cancer in its tracks.

“I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about epigenetics in the near future,” says Lesko. “There are some exciting breakthroughs already, and they’re still just scratching the surface.”

Brushing Teeth with Shampoo?!

It’s a safe bet to say we all care on some level what we put into our bodies. With organic food markets springing up around the country and a return to farmers markets and farm-to-table eating, more and more Americans are paying close attention to what they ingest. But a recent controversy about a common ingredient in toothpaste may be misleading to some.

The ingredient, sodium lauryl sulfate, is used in toothpaste to create that signature foaming effect we all know so well. The alleged problem? The ingredient is also used in shampoos and detergents.

“Stop Brushing Your Teeth with Shampoo,” decries one blog, a mindset that dentists like Fort Collins-based Dr. Allison Lesko cautions against.

“Calling toothpaste shampoo is a slippery slope,” she says.

That’s because, though the sodium lauryl sulfate acts the same in all products, it isn’t actually shampoo. It is a surfactant. In shampoo, it ensnares dirt and oil sitting on your scalp and along your hair shafts, making it easier to rinse away. In toothpaste, sodium lauryl sulfate helps to both evenly spread out the ingredients in your toothpaste but, similarly to shampoo, allows you to remove and rinse away plaque and bacteria from the surface of your teeth.

“You want that foaming action to remove the debris from your mouth,” says Lesko. “If it does that, it’s doing a good job.”

Dentists and toothpaste manufacturers believe the uproar over sodium laurel sulfate is much ado about nothing, but some toothpaste manufacturers with natural product lines have still removed sodium lauryl sulfate from some varieties of their products for those who absolutely must avoid it.

Lesko, for her part, likens it to another recent outcry: the brief controversy over flossing.

“A few years ago a study came out and said that flossing wasn’t necessary, but that was proven to be false,” she says.

What we do know about flossing is that in addition to making the teeth look and feel better (and getting that stuck food out), it also cleans the 30 percent of the teeth you can’t reach by brushing alone. It also helps reduce the amount of bacteria that reach the gums, helping to reduce the risk of gingivitis and periodontitis. Periodontitis can cause everything from lost teeth and gum tissue to a long list of diseases. It has most recently been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

“It’s my recommendation that patients not panic when rumors like these are started, but if they really don’t want to brush their teeth with sodium lauryl sulfate, look into ADA-approved toothpastes that don’t contain it,” Lesko says.

Dentistry Toys Make Oral Health Fun!

Do you have a budding dentist at home? A child with a fear of going to the dentist or brushing their teeth? Or maybe you just want to teach your children how to care for their teeth. Whatever your motivation, there are many tooth-themed toys and games out there you may not know about that can make oral health fun!

If you’re looking for a way to make dentistry fun for your kids, check out these cool dental-themed play products.

Thinkmax Play Dentist Set

For the future dentist, the Thinkmax Play Dentist set is available on Amazon.com and contains 15 pieces, including play picks, mirror, toothbrush and even a smiling set of teeth. The pieces come in a cute retro medical bag for storage, so your little one can make house calls without losing all the pieces in the process. This set would be great for kids who both want to be a dentist or are afraid to go to the dentist. Parents can demonstrate how the tools will be used on their child on a favorite toy, showing the child exactly what the dentist does, and how gentle their exam will be.

Crocodile Dentist

This clever and fun game isn’t as educational as some of the other dental toys, but it sure is fun! Kids can press the teeth of the crocodile at each turn, and one unlucky player will get their hand chomped by chance. The “teeth” don’t hurt when they bite, but they definitely can take you by surprise!

Play-Doh Drill’N Fill Set

Another fun game for the orthodontist- or dentist-in-training is the Play Doh Drill’N Fill playset. It comes with a mouth, dentist tools and plenty of Play-Doh to use for making everything from teeth to braces. We let a 4-year-old try it out and it got two thumbs up (they especially loved making green teeth)!

Playmobil Dentist with Patient

Playmobil makes a wide variety of toys for every walk of life, but the company’s dentist with patient playset is great for kids who want to play dentist without having to be the dentist themselves. In addition to the dentist and the patient, the set comes with a chair, dental tools, dental equipment and pretty much everything your child will encounter at their own dental exam.

The Toothless Monster

The Toothless Monster is an adorable plush toy that “grows” teeth each time your child loses a tooth. The toy comes with a book about why it’s important to care for your teeth. It’s not meant to replace the tooth fairy tradition, but it teaches children to help others while keeping the experience of losing teeth positive.

Whether your child loves caring for their teeth and visiting the dentist or is apprehensive about these experiences, these toys can help make oral health fun, and hopefully encourage your child to take control of their own oral hygiene.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Lesko, please call 970-812-0355.

Common Tooth Idioms

Feeling cheeky? Long in the tooth? What does that even mean, and where do these weird mouth-related idioms come from? If you’re scratching your head wondering where some of these popular oral-related idioms come from, you’re not alone. Here are some of the most common mouth-themed idioms, what they mean, and in some cases even their origins!

Long in the Tooth

Long in the tooth is something we say to describe someone who is getting older. It was originally used to describe horses with receding gums, which is a natural occurrence in horses because many do not get their teeth brushed regularly. Incidentally, gum recession is also possible in adult humans for the same reason, so don’t forget to brush and floss!

Chewing the Fat

This one sounds kind of gross, but chewing the fat or chewing the rag is another way to say someone is having a long conversation or gossiping. The origins of this one are unknown, though theories include chewing on fried fat as long as possible, chewing fat to make you look like you’re talking, and even sailors chewing on salt-dried fat. According to Wikipedia, the oldest reference to chewing the fat is in the 1885 J. Brunlees Patterson book “Life in the Ranks of the British Army in India.”

Bite Your Tongue

We’ve probably all literally bitten our tongue at one point or another, so this unpleasant imagery is definitely not something we say to be nice. But bite your tongue actually means to stop talking or saying something that might be regrettable. The phrase is first attributed to William Shakespeare’s 1593 play “Henry VI,” but the phrase was around before then as “bide your tongue.”

Lying Through Your Teeth

The phrase lying through your teeth can be traced all the way back to the 1300s, but its exact origins are unknown. When someone is “lying through their teeth,” it means they are telling an outlandish or brazen lie.

Like Pulling Teeth

Though modern dentistry has made pulling teeth a lot easier (and a lot less painful!), the phrase “like pulling teeth” means having a very difficult time getting someone to do something. The phrase has been around since the 1830s, or possibly longer, though its exact origins are unknown.

If you’ve been “waiting til the cows come home” to schedule your exam with Dr. Lesko, please call 970-812-0355.

The Surfaces of the Teeth

There may be two sides to every story, but your teeth? Way more sides! And all those sides on our teeth mean there are many surfaces that need care. Have you ever heard your dental team calling out strange-sounding medical terms as they check your teeth? Chances are they are calling out the surfaces of the teeth to identify the location of fillings, decay, chips and more. If you’ve ever wondered what exactly they were talking about, here’s a guide to the surfaces of your teeth.

Buccal: The word buccal literally means “cheek,” so the buccal surface of your teeth is the surface that touches the cheek, or the surface on the cheek side of your jaw. The buccal sides of the teeth are smooth with the exception of what is known as buccal pitting.

Occlusal: The occlusal surfaces are the biting surfaces of the back teeth. Misaligned occlusal surfaces give you what is known as a bad bite or, in technical terms, occlusions or malocclusions. Bad bites can cause difficulty chewing, jaw pain and uneven tooth wear. Occlusal surfaces are not smooth and have pitting and grooves along them.

Lingual: The lingual sides of your teeth are the sides that touch your tongue. Your tongue is responsible for speaking and language, hence the term “lingual.” Lingual surfaces are also smooth like their opposites, the buccal sides.

Incisal: The incisal surfaces are the biting surfaces on the front teeth. Incisors are smooth teeth. We have a total of eight incisors, including our “two front teeth.”

Mesial: Mesial surfaces are the surfaces closest to the midline of the face.

Distal: On the opposite side of the mesial surface lies the distal surface. The distal surface is the surface farthest from the face’s midline.

Proximal: The proximal surfaces are tooth surfaces that are next to each other.

Now that you have a better understanding of the names and locations of each tooth surface, you can better understand some of the dental lingo you might hear at Dr. Lesko’s office during your exam. This can help you understand not just what Dr. Lesko and her team are talking about, but it can also help you describe and locate any trouble areas on your tooth to share with the team during your exam.

Ready to make an appointment and get all those sides cleaned? Give us a call at 970-812-0355.

Enamel Heal Thyself?

One of the biggest pitfalls of teeth is that once they’re damaged, they’re damaged. Enamel can’t regrow, cavities can’t heal themselves, and you end up needing painful and costly repairs to your teeth that will most likely need to be repeated somewhere down the road. But a new treatment in the works at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry at the University of Southern California could change all that. Under the leadership of Professor Janet Moradian-Oldak, a new enamel-regeneration hydrogel could be possible in the not-too-distant future.

The USC team found a way to regenerate a compound that is similar to enamel on the surface of the teeth. Made of something called chitosan-amelogenin peptide, which the body creates naturally to grow enamel, the hydrogel has been found to grow a surface coating that could someday replace damaged enamel.

Dr. Allison Lesko of Fort Collins, Colorado, thinks this new treatment could someday make her job a lot easier.

“They say up to 75 percent of all adults have some degree of fear of going to the dentist, which keeps a lot of people from getting necessary dental treatment,” she says. “A lot of that fear is fear of getting fillings, so if we could eliminate the need for fillings, it could encourage more people to go to the dentist.”

The hydrogel could not only heal minor surface cavities, but could also repair enamel damage such as enamel wear, which causes tooth sensitivity as well as enamel chips and cracks.

“Now, if you chip a tooth, the solution is a veneer or a filling,” says Lesko, “and while those treatments aren’t necessarily painful, they’re not permanent, either.”

The average age of a filling is about 10 to 15 years, but they can last up to 20 if well cared for. Regrown enamel would hopefully eliminate the need to replace fillings in or on the teeth.

“Replacing a filling can be a costly and embarrassing experience for some people, especially if their old filling falls out or off,” Lesko says. “They’re not meant to last forever.”

Lesko for one is glad that researchers are choosing to find ways to repair teeth, but she also welcomes research on ways to strengthen fillings in the meantime.

“The researchers at USC say that this type of enamel repair is still not ready for even clinical trials,” Lesko says. “In the meantime, I hope there are ways to strengthen fillings for those who need them.”

The USC research team recently was awarded three grants to continue their research, one of which should help them fast-track their findings to the Federal Drug Administration.

Don’t Try This Dangerous DIY Trend at Home

When it comes to beauty, trends come and go. What’s on trend today may be long forgotten by tomorrow (hello, oil pulling!). But a recent trend in cosmetic oral health care is still going strong, and it could be causing a lot more harm than good. It’s the charcoal toothpaste trend, with the black mineral more commonly associated with summer grilling taking center stage in a number of new pastes and all-natural oral health products. But how safe is charcoal toothpaste, and why are dentists warning people to definitely not try the “do-it-yourself” version at home?

Dr. Allison Lesko is a dentist in Fort Collins, Colorado. She says the charcoal toothpaste trend is bad news for teeth.

“Charcoal toothpaste can scratch the tooth enamel, which is permanent damage to the teeth,” Lesko says.

According to Lesko, charcoal toothpaste grew in popularity when many users discovered their teeth appeared whiter after using the paste.

“Part of it is, I think there is a placebo effect of seeing your teeth black and then rinsing away the paste, seeing how white they look in comparison,” she says. “But charcoal toothpaste, to its credit,.does remove some surface staining.”

That being said, Lesko says that same stain-lifting effect is one you can get from any toothpaste and, yes, even that old standby, oil pulling.

“Almost anything can remove surface stains if you do it long enough,” she says.

So, what’s the problem with using charcoal toothpaste if it is doing what it claims? Not so fast, says Lesko.

“There is a difference between whitening and removing surface stains. The charcoal paste isn’t whitening the teeth, it’s cleaning them like any other, safer toothpaste would do,” she says.

The dangers of store-bought charcoal toothpaste aside, Lesko says there is an even scarier trend making its way around the country: homemade charcoal toothpaste.

“Usually homemade gets the reputation of being somehow safer, but people are using charcoal briquettes like you would use for your grill and making toothpaste with that,” she says.”It’s extremely dangerous.”

Why? For starters, charcoal briquettes contain flammable additives and chemicals that are not meant to be consumed.

“You are essentially brushing your teeth with lighter fluid,” says Lesko.

So, what can you do if you want a natural way to fight cavities and get a whiter smile? Lesko recommends looking for a natural toothpaste with the American Dental Association seal of approval, or to watch what you eat so that food-based staining is less prevalent.

“Avoid smoking and heavy consumption of dark soda, red wine and coffee, and always brush twice a day for at least two minutes at a time,” Lesko says. “That will do more to keep your teeth stain free than brushing with an abrasive or dangerous ingredient like charcoal.”

Teigen Under Fire Over Toddler Teeth

Supermodel and blogger Chrissy Teigen came under fire recently with her social media followers after posting a photo on Instagram of her 3-year-old daughter Luna’s first trip to the dentist. The so-called crime? Many followers are chiding Teigen for waiting so long to take the toddler to her first checkup – a checkup that many experts (and social media trolls) agree should occur between the ages of 6 months and 1 year. But did Teigen really mess up here? When is the right age to bring a child to the dentist, and how big of a deal is it to wait a little bit longer?

“Well, unfortunately, in this case the trolls are correct,” says Dr. Allison Lesko. “Ideally you should bring your child to their first dental exam by 6 months or whenever their first tooth erupts – whichever comes first.”

Lesko is a family dentist practicing in Fort Collins, Colorado, and says despite the general age requirements, it is up to the individual parents to decide when to bring their child to their first dental appointment.

“The sooner you can get your child in to the dentist, the better,” she says, “but many parents end up waiting until their child is walking and talking.”

Lesko says part of the reason parents should consider bringing their child so early is that it helps eliminate some of the odontophobia, or fear of the dentist, that many kids experience.

“When you know what to expect at the dentist’s office, it can be a lot less scary,” Lesko says.

Lesko says the first appointment is generally well tolerated by most children, as it is generally minimally invasive and easygoing.

“We might count the teeth and practice brushing them with the child,” she says. “It’s all very gentle and child friendly, but it helps the child feel comfortable with going to the dentist and with having someone besides a parent’s hands in their mouth.”

According to Lesko, this is very important because it can set children up for a lifetime of excellent oral health habits.

“When your child isn’t afraid to go to the dentist, it will be easier to get him and her to not only go back to the dentist, but to take care of his or her teeth during the rest of the year,” she says. “Oral health never becomes something scary or optional – it just becomes a way of life for the child, and that’s what we want.”

As for Teigen, Lesko says she wouldn’t worry too much.

“Many kids don’t end up in my chair until around that age, and they’re just fine.”