Ask a Hygienist: Stress and Your Oral Health

Lately we’ve been seeing a wave of new oral health concerns from patients.

“I’ve been so stressed that I feel like I am clenching my teeth all the time.”

“I have been working from home and sometimes I forget to brush my teeth in the mornings”

“My self-care has been lacking due to depression.”

So many of us are far from our “normal” and out of our regular routines. We are stressed, tired, and just trying to make it through this strange time.

Our body responds to stress down to a molecular level. Stress affects the immune system and can cause an imbalance in inflammatory reactions in the body and increase vulnerability to illness, oral ulcers, infection, and decreased wound-healing.

Stress can also cause people to neglect their oral health, especially since poor mental health often correlates with a lack of self-care. Eating habits are often altered, with an increase of sugar and snacking which can increase your risk for cavities. Alternatively, one may be eating less often or eating softer foods – taking away the mechanical movement of chewing and therefore increasing plaque accumulation. Many people cope with harmful habits such as smoking (which increases your risk for periodontal disease, cancer, and cavities), nail-biting (causing wear and chipped teeth), cheek and lip biting (resulting in painful sores or ulcers), and teeth clenching (causing tooth wear and fatigue in the TMJ).

Okay, so now that I have thrown all these stress-inducing scenarios out there, what can you do? Do your best. Meticulous oral care might be the last thing on your mind lately, we get that. Make an appointment for routine, preventative care – especially if you have seen an increase in bleeding gums, tooth sensitivity, or have increased jaw pain.

It’s our job to assist you in finding ways to personalize your oral hygiene regimen during these unprecedented times.  We understand, and we’re here for you.

Do you have a dental question for Lauren? Email clinic@fivepinesdental.com and let us know what’s on your mind.


All Are Welcome Here

A note from Dr. Zeller and his wife Catharine:

These past months of protests against racial injustice across the country have had a powerful impact on our family. They’ve led to lots of soul-searching for us as healthcare providers, as business owners and as humans. We feel strongly that this is an opportunity for positive change in this country – starting with change within ourselves. You might not be concerned about your dentist’s opinion on all this, and that’s fine, but we wanted to write this blog post to make one thing abundantly clear:

We are committed to treating all patients justly no matter their race, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Sure, we wish this was already a universal truth and didn’t need to be made into a “statement”. But that is not yet the world we live in. These past few weeks we’ve been humbled by the stories of people who have experienced social injustice in this country – including within healthcare settings.

We want to be better for our community. We want to recognize areas where we fall short of being anti-racist. We pledge to:

  • Keep the discussion going. We’ve added an agenda item to all monthly staff meetings going forward to check in on this commitment. We want our team members to be able to share, be heard and feel comfortable discussing topics such as this as a team.
  • Educate ourselves. We’re making a commitment to participate in continuing education courses on inclusivity in healthcare, unconscious bias training, and other pertinent topics at least twice a year.
  • Listen to others’ voices. We’ve added a form on our website where our patients and community can send us feedback directly (and anonymously if you choose). And while we understand the responsibility to educate ourselves lies with us, if you’d like to share any tools or resources from which we could benefit, we would be both open and grateful.

This has been a challenging time for so many. We hope you are doing okay. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Richard and Catharine


New Protective Measures

COVID-19 has changed a lot here at Five Pines, but our top priority remains the same: the health of our patients. Here are some of the changes we’ve implemented to ensure our clinic is as safe as possible for our patients and our team members: 

  • Social Distancing. Our waiting room has been rearranged and new floor markings have been added to encourage social distancing. Please wear a face covering to your appointment. Extra masks and hand sanitizer are available at our check-in counter.   
  • Daily screenings. Patients will be texted a COVID-19 screening form to complete on their cell phone prior to their appointment. Once in the office we will check your temperature. Our staff is also screened daily!
  • Decreased patient traffic. We are limiting the number of patients in the office at a time and staggering appointment start times. We encourage you to come alone to your appointment if at all possible.
  • More touchless options. Patients can complete forms on their own cell phone instead of our iPads. Touchless payment options are now available as well. 
  • Hourly disinfecting. We are cleaning high-contact surfaces and common areas every hour. As always, our treatment rooms are disinfected using Universal Precautions between each patient.
  • Additional PPE. In accordance with state and federal guidelines, our clinical team will be using N95 masks, face shields and gowns during procedures that commonly produce aerosols. 
  • New air purifiers. All treatment rooms are now equipped with HEPA air filters.   

We will continue to monitor and follow regulatory guidance and will update this list as appropriate. Reach out anytime with any questions.


Hygiene at Home: Water Flossers

If flossing has been your New Years Resolution for the past 30 years and you still haven’t got it down, but you also care about your teeth, we’ve got a solution for you: flossing with a water flosser!

A water flosser uses pressure and water to get in and around the surfaces that your toothbrush won’t reach. The most well-known and studied brand of water flossers is called the Waterpik.

Some studies have shown that a Waterpik is even more effective at reducing bleeding and removing plaque from treated areas vs traditional flossing. Now, we’ll note here that traditional flossing is effective if done correctly and consistently. Traditional flossing is also very technique sensitive and may be extra difficult if you have issues with hand dexterity, have a lot of dental work that shreds and breaks your floss, aren’t using an effective product, or because, well, you aren’t flossing at all. In that case, a Waterpik could be a potential game changer.

The very first use, you’re probably going to make a mess. A video of your first attempt at a Waterpik would be good content for TikTok if you’re into that. In all seriousness, you’ll get the hang of it – start on a low power and work yourself up to a comfortable pressure. Slowly follow your gumline along all front then back surfaces of your teeth. The Waterpik website also has a helpful how-to video here.

The Waterpik models our hygienists typically recommend are called the Aquarius and the Sidekick:   

  • The Aquarius comes with a standard tip in addition to a variety of interchangeable tips of different sizes indicated for specialty use. The Pik Pocket tip is great for those with diagnosed periodontal disease and deep gum pockets. The Plaque Seekers tip is for people with large fillings, crowns, implants, bridges, or braces.
  • The Sidekick is excellent if you need something compact for travel and have limited sink space. It only comes with a standard tip and unfortunately the other tips do not fit on this model. If you do have extensive dental work or gum disease to maintain, we recommend the Aquarius!

If you purchase a water flosser, we’d love to hear about it at your next appointment. Although you probably won’t even need to tell us – your hygienist will take one look at those healthy gums, gasp and say, “Wow! Your teeth look incredible!” and you’ll say, “Yes, thank you” but then you’ll go home and into your bathroom and whisper to your water flosser, “No, thank YOU.”


COVID-19 Update

Update 05/14/2020: We are open! Read about our procedural changes for future appointments. We are looking forward to seeing our patients again soon. In the meantime, stay safe and take care of yourselves!


Update 05/12/2020: We have officially reopened for restorative treatment and are hopeful hygiene will be added soon. We are still limiting the number of patients in the office at one time and prioritizing urgent treatment – but if you are interested in getting on the schedule please call 503-482-2160.

Things look quite different around the office and we’re working on a post outlining all the changes so you know what to expect when you come in for an appointment.


Update 05/04/2020: We will begin to see a limited number of patients this week for urgent treatment. If you are interested in getting on the schedule please call 503-482-2160 or email frontoffice@fivepinesdental.com.


Update 04/24/2020: We are aware of Governor Brown’s announcement that dental offices can reopen as soon as May 1 but we’re still evaluating guidance from the CDC and ADA and are in the process of acquiring PPE and other supplies to ensure the safety of our team and patients. So while we cannot commit to a reopening date yet, we are working hard towards that goal. In the meantime we can still treat dental emergencies so please call if you need us.

Hope everyone is staying safe and well.


In accordance with Governor Brown’s Executive Order 20-10 mandating health care providers postpone all elective and non-urgent procedures, our office will be closed until further notice. 

We are still equipped to treat dental emergencies on a case-by-case basis so if you are experiencing dental pain please call 503-482-2160 and when prompted, press 1 to reach Dr. Zeller.     

If you have an appointment coming up, we ask for your patience until we know how long the closure will last. Once we have a reopening date set, we will contact you to reschedule.

In the meantime, the best way to reach us is by email: frontoffice@fivepinesdental.com. Reach out anytime with any questions, just note our response time will be slower than usual.

We are working on some fun updates for you on social media during the closure so please consider giving us a follow:

We hope you and your loved ones are staying healthy. We can’t wait to see you again soon in better days.