Side Effects of Dry Mouth

Are you wondering why you are starting to get cavities when you haven’t had them in years? As we get older, we enter a second round of cavity prone years. One common cause of cavities in older adults is dry mouth. Dry mouth is not a normal part of aging. It is, however, a side effect of more than 500 medications including those used for asthma, allergies, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pain and anxiety.
Dry mouth is more than just an uncomfortable inconvenience. Saliva plays a big role in protecting your teeth from cavities. Saliva not only helps wash away food and plaque from your teeth it also contains substances found to help counter the acid produced by bacteria and can even help repair early tooth decay.
This is just one reason why it is important to tell your dentist about all medications that you are taking. Dr. Glass and Cindie can make recommendations to help relieve your dry mouth symptoms and protect your teeth from cavities.

Here are some common recommendations:

• Use over the counter oral moisturizing gel or rinse such as Biotene
• Consult with your physician on whether to change your medication or dosage
• Drink more water. Carry a bottle with you and don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink.
• Use sugar free gum or lozenges to stimulate saliva production. Products containing xylitol have an added protective element
• Get a humidifier to use at night to keep your mouth and airway moist
• Avoid food and beverages that irritate or further dry the mouth. Coffee, alcohol, soft drinks, and acidic fruit juices are all culprits
• Dr. Glass may recommend a prescription fluoride toothpaste or the application of a fluoride varnish in our office to protect your teeth from decay.

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Are 6 month dental cleanings really necessary?

Your dentist says your teeth look great but wants to see you back in 6 months for a cleaning and check up. Your spouse also doesn’t have any cavities, but the dentist wants to see them 4 times per year. So what gives? How often do you really need to get a checkup?

The fact of the matter is, there is no magic number of visits you should schedule per year. The industry standard dictates that for most healthy patients twice per year is optimal, however if you are prone to periodontal issues you may require more frequent cleanings to maintain optimal oral health. Dental cleanings remove built-up plaque, the daily debris that we keep under control with proper brushing. Plaque can encourage the growth of harmful bacteria that cause periodontal or gum disease, an infection of the tissue that holds your teeth in place. With time, teeth may loosen and be in danger of falling out. Smoking, systemic diseases including diabetes, pregnancy, and the use of oral contraceptives can all increase the risk of gum disease. If your gums bleed when you clean your teeth, or are tender, swollen or red, see a dentist immediately.

Timing of dental visits can also be driven by your insurance plan, if you have one. There are people we want to see every three to four months, but their coverage is lacking so they ask to stretch the check-ups out a bit, but it isn’t wise to let insurance dictate treatment. Periodontal issues can advance quickly if left un-treated and the result can be devastating and irreversible.

With growing evidence linking oral health with general health, only you , your hygienist and your dentist can determine how many visits are best. As a general rule, go a minimum of twice per year, but more frequently if you have specific problems. Our best tip for reducing trips to the dental chair? Keep on flossing.

Do you suffer from Dry Mouth? You are not alone!

Dry mouth, also known as Xerostomia, is associated with salivary gland hypofunction where there is a reduced amount of salivary output. Many people with this condition are un-aware that it means more than just mouth discomfort or bad breath. Saliva is essential to lubricate and protect our teeth, tongue and tissues. It aids in chewing, swallowing and digesting food and also protects our teeth from decay. Saliva is 98% water but the other 2% is made up of essential electrolytes, mucous, antibacterial components and various enzymes. When we aren’t producing an adequate amount of saliva to lubricate the mouth, and neutralize the acids produced by plaque we become more prone to cavities.

Many people are at risk for having dry mouth, but are unaware that it can create an unhealthy environment for your mouth. In many cases, people that suffer from dry mouth are experiencing a side effect from some common prescription medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, anti depressants and high blood pressure medications. It may also be a sign of a disease such as poorly controlled diabetes or other systemic conditions such as anxiety, stress or dehydration. As harmless as dry mouth may seem, it is not a condition to be overlooked. Some common problems with dry mouth include a burning sensation, problems speaking, difficulty swallowing, oral infections, gum disease, bad breath and tooth decay. A dry mouth also irritates the soft tissues in the mouth making them more susceptible to infection. Without the cleansing effect of saliva oral health problems become more common.

If you suffer from Dry Mouth there are ways to manage the ill effects and protect your teeth from suffering decay as a result of lack of saliva production.

• Drink water frequently and sip on water throughout the day.
• Suck on sugar free candy or chew sugar free gum, gum containing xylitol can help stimulate salivary flow while preventing cavities.
• Avoid mouth rinses that contain alcohol and avoid alcoholic beverages because they increase dry mouth. There are mouth rinses on the market that are made specifically for patients that suffer from Dry Mouth.
• Limit intake of salty and spicy foods
• Quit smoking
• Use a soft bristle toothbrush and brush your teeth at least twice a day or after every meal and use a toothpaste containing fluoride.
• Floss your teeth daily
• Most importantly, visit us at least twice a year to ensure your mouth is in good shape. If you are more prone to decay due to your dry mouth, catching and taking care of cavities early can prevent more costly and painful procedures down the road. To ensure maximum protection we may recommend a prescription toothpaste with a higher fluoride content to keep your teeth strong and aid in the prevention of cavities.

The Buzz about Xylitol

Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol found in fibrous vegetables and fruits, corn cobs and hardwood trees (like birch). It is used worldwide as a low-calorie sweetener, and has been clinically proven to reduce cavities and help prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
Our bodies make up to 15 grams (four teaspoons) of xylitol daily. It looks, feels and tastes like ordinary sugar (sucrose), but has 40 percent fewer calories and 75 percent fewer carbohydrates than sugar. Additionally, xylitol is not easily converted to fat and has almost no effect on insulin levels, making it a great alternative for diabetics and dieters and also is considered safe for pregnant and nursing women, babies and children.
We all know eating sugar causes tooth decay by creating an acidic condition in the mouth. Acidity strips minerals from tooth enamel, causing it to weaken and be more vulnerable to bacteria, leading to tooth decay or demineralization.
So, how does Xylitol help? Bacteria is unable to metabolize xylitol and therefore won’t produce the acids responsible for demineralization and decay. Secondly, xylitol interferes with bacterial polysaccharide formation, which significantly reduces the adhesive capabilities of the bacteria. The bacteria literally lose their main mechanisms to cause dental havoc! In addition, xylitol stimulates saliva which is beneficial to the neutral alkaline levels in your mouth.
To help prevent cavities, you need approximately six to eight grams of xylitol taken (chewed or ingested) throughout the day. If used only occasionally or just once a day, xylitol may not be effective, regardless of the amount. Use xylitol at least three times each day – five times is preferable – for at least five minutes right after meals and snacks. Between meals, opt for xylitol-sweetened products that encourage chewing/sucking to keep the xylitol in contact with your teeth. The xylitol effect is long lasting and possibly permanent. So go ahead… chew gum, use breath mints, just make sure they contain xylitol!

Your Evolving Toothbrush

If you are following your dentist’s advice, you are using your toothbrush faithfully twice per day, but how often do you actually think about the tool you are using? We thought it would be fun to explore how your toothbrush has evolved over the years.

It is believed that toothbrushing tools date back as far as 3000 BC when the Babylonians and the Egyptians made a brush by fraying the end of a twig and scraping their teeth. Tombs of ancient egyptians have been found containing “tooth sticks” alongside their owners.

Around 1600 BC the Chinese developed “chewing sticks” which were made from aromatic tree twigs to freshen breath. It was also the Chinese who, in the 15th century, were thought to have developed the first natural bristle toothbrush resembling what we still use today. They attached the bristles from a pig’s neck to a bone or bamboo handle and used the tool to clean their teeth. When it was brought from China to Europe, this design was adapted and often used softer horsehair. Some early European toothbrushes even used feathers as bristles. The first toothbrush of a more modern design with 3 rows of bristles was introduced in 1844 in England.

Natural bristles made way to the more modern bristles in 1938 when DuPont invented nylon. By the 1950’s the bristles became even softer followed by the first electric toothbrush in 1960.

Over its long history, the toothbrush has evolved to become a scientifically designed tool using modern ergonomic designs and safe and hygienic materials that optimize your oral health. Some more advanced electric toothbrushes are so smart they can tell us if we are brushing too hard, or not enough, they can time us and some can even communicate directly with your dentist! Today’s sonic toothbrushes are so powerful they deliver more brushstrokes in 2 minutes than a manual toothbrush can deliver in one month! They are able to remove far more plaque and bacteria from below the gum line and between the teeth than brushing and flossing alone. We offer a variety of models of electric toothbrushes for purchase in our office at a discount to you.
To find out which toothbrush would most benefit your oral health, talk to Cindie or Dr. Glass at your next visit!

Back to School Smiles

It’s that time of year again! Parents everywhere have picked up school supplies, packed lunches and sent their little darlings off for another year of school. Did you remember to include a new toothbrush in that list of school supplies?

Continuing good oral health habits, like brushing and flossing twice a day does more than send your little one to school with minty fresh breath. Studies have shown that kids with healthy pain-free teeth have more success in school because they leave the classroom less and are able to concentrate on their studies and not their bothersome teeth.  Scary as it seems, tooth decay is now the No. 1 chronic infectious disease in children. In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is five times more common in kids than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever.
Parents should realize that a child’s mouth is a gateway for their entire body and overall health. If a child’s tooth decay goes untreated, the child is subject to many harmful infections.

The care of primary teeth is just as important as the care of permanent teeth, so parents should make sure their child’s first teeth are kept healthy. There are many ways that parents can ensure the best dental health of their kids:

  • Brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush; hard bristles can break down the teeth and gums and cause infection. Don’t forget the floss! Many companies make fun, kid friendly flossers now, making the whole process so much easier.
  • Make sure your child is drinking enough water; it contains small levels of fluoride, which protects teeth.
  • Don’t use bottles or sippy cups as a way to keep your child busy as these containers allow sugary drinks to attack the teeth from behind.
  • Choose healthy snacks for your kids. Fruits, vegetables, hard cheeses and nuts are best. Avoid sugary foods and even carbohydrates like crackers which can stick to the teeth giving plaque fuel for causing cavities.

The Bitter Truth About Our Sweet Tooth

As your dental health providers you have heard us talk to you about the effects of sugar on your teeth, but did you know that the negative effects of sugar go far beyond your mouth? We just read an interesting article in the August 2013 issue of  National Geographic Magazine written by Rich Cohen. Cohen tells us that as far back as 10,000 years ago, New Guinea Islanders domesticated sugar, chewing on the stem until the sweet elixir was released, using it as a tonic of sorts to cure all manner of ailments. Sugar slowly spread across the islands until around the year 500 AD when India began processing sugar as a powder. When sugar first spread to the west in the 1400’s it was so rare it was considered a spice and only consumed by nobility. The allure of the sweet plant was enough to entice Europeans to find new ways to produce their own supply and they went in search of tropical territories where sugar cane would thrive, thus changing Jamaica, Brazil, and Cuba into boom colonies with over 100,000 slaves churning out tons of sugar. By the mid 17th century, sugar had changed from a rare spice to a staple, consumed by every class of people. At that point in time people were consuming 4 pounds of sugar per year, but of course our appetite for sugar could not be satiated. Today the average american consumes over 77 pounds of sugar per person, per year! That is 22 teaspoons of sugar per day! Sugar is one of the major components in many, if not most, food and beverage products from obvious junk foods to so-called health foods, and even foods that aren’t considered a sweet.

We know that too much sugar is bad for us, so here are the top 5 reasons we believe it would be beneficial to cut back on sugar consumption.

1.  Sugar is bad for your heart

Research shows that a diet high in sugar is associated with a reduction in HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Further, according to the American Heart Association’s scientific statement on sugar, a high intake of added sugar increases the risk of high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, other risk factors for heart disease and stroke, as well as inflammation, which is also associated with heart disease.

2. Sugar contributes to weight gain

Many foods that are high in added sugar are also high in calories. Consuming too many calories is the primary cause of weight gain and obesity. In addition, added sugars provide calories but no nutrients. Sugar-laden foods, particularly those that lack fiber, can cause carb or sugar cravings that keep you eating nutrient-poor, high-calorie foods and perpetuating a cycle of overeating and weight gain. The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests drinking water instead of sugary beverages and limiting foods with added sugars as a means to promote health and healthy weight maintenance.

3. Sugar can lead to type 2 diabetes

Since consuming too much sugar can lead to weight gain, it can also increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recommends limiting sugar intake and opting for artificial sweeteners as a way to satisfy your sweet tooth, curb cravings and control your blood sugar. Limiting your sugar intake and monitoring your calories can help prevent, as well as manage, type II diabetes.

4. Sugar drains your energy

That energy drink or specialty coffee may sound like the best solution to boost your energy, and you will get a surge of energy, but the high sugar content in these drinks is also going to lead to a drastic energy crash, creating an even lower energy low, once the sugar (and caffeine) is out of your system. You’ll end up more lethargic and even hungrier for something high in sugar or empty carbohydrates. Instead, choose whole foods with natural sugars, such as fruit, plain yogurt or even a raw trail mix for sustained energy.

And of course, nearest and dearest to our hearts….

5. Sugar is bad for your teeth

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), foods and beverages high in sugar can promote cavities and tooth decay. Sugar feeds the bacteria that produce acids that erode your tooth enamel. Frequent snacking or drinking of high-sugar items increases your risk of cavities and eventually dental disease because it repeatedly exposes your tooth enamel to these acids. The ADA suggests limiting foods with added sugars, brushing and flossing regularly and chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after meals to help prevent tooth decay.