Making good health choices is encouraged year ‘round but March is the month the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has designated for focusing the public’s awareness on what they are eating.
The Academy points out that the foods you eat not only affect your weight and your health, but they have a direct effect on the health of your teeth and specifically on tooth decay. Bacteria rely on carbohydrates to thrive. Paying close attention to not only sweets but highly processed foods like crackers and sugary and acidic drinks can help save your teeth.
Instead, turn to foods that not only taste good but are good for your teeth too. Dairy products, like cheese, for example, provide the body with nutritional items that support tooth enamel. Foods high in protein feature phosphorus, a nutrient critical to oral health.
You can’t really go wrong by adding color to your diet, either. Fruits and vegetables make for a colorful plate and a healthy meal. Some acidic fruits like oranges or even tomatoes should be eaten in moderation because the acid can erode tooth enamel. It is better to include these foods in a meal instead of eating them by themselves.
Remember, good nutrition is something you should worry about all year long, not just when celebrating National Nutrition Month. March just serves as a reminder that eating right is a proactive step in managing your dental health.
Here you are, heading home from your most recent dental visit contemplating why your dentist prescribed an occlusal guard, also referred to as a night guard. After all, you sleep well and certainly don’t notice that you grind your teeth. The fact is, unless your bedmate tells you, you may be completely unaware of your destructive night time habit. It is estimated that 1 in 10 adults grind or clench their teeth regularly in their sleep and most of them don’t realize it until their dentist notices signs of worn down or cracked teeth. Symptoms such as jaw pain, headaches, a clicking sound in your jaw and sensitive teeth have all been attributed to night time grinding. The technical term for tooth grinding is bruxism.
Bruxism can not only impair your sleep quality and damage teeth, but in severe cases it can lead to TMJ (tempromandibular joint) disorders, and can cause gum recession and worsen periodontal disease. Grinding can not only cause damage to your teeth, but can also damage expensive dental work that you have invested in like crowns, bridges and implants.
Luckily there are ways to protect yourself from the harmful effects of night time grinding. Because bruxism can have many causes there is no single treatment to completely eliminate the condition. Stress is a likely factor, so practicing relaxation techniques can help. Smoking and drinking alcohol can also contribute, so it helps to cut back or abstain, at least late into the evening. The main treatment for bruxism is to wear a night guard during sleep. Your dentist takes impressions of your teeth and has an acrylic guard custom made for your mouth. A guard won’t prevent all grinding, but it can redistribute the forces exerted while grinding and protect your teeth and dental work. It may help you get used to keeping your jaw unclenched thus helping during the day while it isn’t being worn. Custom night guards can be costly and often times aren’t covered by insurance, but the protection they offer is invaluable. Inexpensive over the counter night guards are available at drug stores, but being bulkier and not custom fit they are likely to cause additional problems like an altered bite or mouth sores. Discuss such devices with your dentist before using one.
As you have undoubtedly heard by now, the government is lowering the recommended amount of fluoride added to drinking water for the first time in more than 50 years. Since 1962, the government has been advising water systems maintain a level of 0.7 parts per million for warmer climates, where people drink more water, to 1.2 parts per million in cooler areas. The new standard is 0.7 ppm everywhere. Grand Rapid, Michigan, became the world’s first city to add fluoride to its drinking water in 1945. Six years later, a study found a dramatic decline in tooth decay among children there, and the US surgeon general endorsed water fluoridation. But adding fluoride was – and has remained – controversial. Some people have vehemently fought adding fluoride to local water supplies.
Here are some facts you should know about fluoride. Fluoride is a natural element found in rocks and soil everywhere. In fact, waters in and around the United States have natural fluoride levels that range from 0.1 to more than 12 parts per million. Some communities are lucky enough to have naturally occurring levels of fluoride in the optimal range. However, most are not. Adjusting the fluoride level by either adding to or removing fluoride from the supply has helped reduce the incidence of tooth decay by 18-40% among children and 35% in adults.
Despite the evidence that fluoride has helped reduce the incidence of tooth decay in areas that have optimal levels of fluoride there are still those that fear fluoride is toxic. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, “ Acute fluoride toxicity occurring from the ingestion of optimally fluoridated water is impossible. The amount of fluoride necessary to cause death for a human adult (155 pound man) has been estimated to be 5-10 grams of sodium fluoride, ingested at one time. This is more than 10,000-20,000 times as much fluoride as is consumed at one time in a single 8-ounce glass of optimally fluoridated water. The possibility of adverse health effects from continuous low level consumption of fluoride over long periods has been extensively studied. As with other nutrients, fluoride is safe and effective when used and consumed properly. No charge against the benefits and safety of fluoridation has ever been substantiated by generally accepted scientific knowledge. After 50 years of research and practical experience, the preponderance of scientific evidence indicates that fluoridation of community water supplies is both safe and effective.”
While 1.2 ppm is still considered a safe level of fluoride, today people have easier access to other fluoride containing products like toothpaste and mouthwash reducing the necessity for higher fluoride levels in the drinking water .
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.
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!
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!
Q: I was told I have a large filling that needs to be replaced with a crown. Why can’t you just replace the filling?
A: When a tooth becomes structurally flawed from decay, a failing filling or a fracture there is often little tooth material left to work with. A crown becomes necessary because filling material can’t be sculpted to replace large amounts of tooth structure resulting in a quick failure. The tooth must be protected by a crown which encapsulates the remaining tooth to fit like a “cap” to protect and preserve the tooth.
Q: Can’t you just pull my tooth if its bad? Why should I pay to fix it?
A: It is always best to retain your natural teeth as long as possible. Pulling a tooth may fix the immediate problem, but it sets you up for future problems that can be far more costly. The space of the lost tooth will allow adjacent teeth to tip into the hole. This will affect how all your teeth fit and work together. In addition, missing teeth are not esthetically pleasing. In the event you do have to pull a tooth as a last resort, it is best to replace it in a timely manner. Something like a dental implant will maintain the integrity of the surrounding bone structure and will act much like your natural tooth did.
Q: My dentist told me that my tooth ache required a root canal, but it doesn’t hurt anymore. Did it go away?
A: When the innermost part of a tooth is injured or infected debilitating pain can result. The pain is caused by damage to the nerve inside the tooth. Over time the nerve will lose vitality causing the pain to dissipate. During this process, however, toxins are released from inside the tooth and will ultimately result in a painful infection known as an abscess. The only way to resolve the issue is by removal of the nerve during a root canal.
Q: I was told I have cavities but I am too busy to come back for another appointment. What will happen if I just leave them?
A: The short answer is: they grow. The longer a cavity is left untreated, the weaker the tooth will become resulting in a larger filling than would have been necessary, or a crown. If the decay grows until it reaches the nerve a root canal will be necessary. It is always best to address dental issues when they are small and manageable. Allowing treatment to remain un-done almost always results in further pain and expense.
Q: I was told I need a night guard. Is that really necessary?
A: Tooth wear on biting surfaces is very common, and very damaging. People commonly clench and grind their teeth resulting in significant damage to their teeth, the temporomandibular joint and facial muscles. Clenching and grinding may cause teeth to break, become sensitive or infected. Pain in front of the ear and at the side of the face are common. Clicking and grinding noises in the jaw are also noticeable. Commonly a night guard provides relief of symptoms and prevention of further damage or wear.
Q: I have noticed my insurance won’t pay the full amount for white fillings on my back teeth. Is it worth the extra money to have white fillings?
A: The benefit of filling teeth with white (resin) fillings instead of silver (amalgam) fillings is well worth the few extra dollars it will cost you. An amalgam filling requires far more healthy tooth structure be removed, while a resin filling can be done much more conservatively preserving the structural integrity of your tooth. A resin filling will actually help to strengthen your tooth as opposed to weakening it. There is always the controversy over the mercury contained in amalgam fillings to consider. There is some research that suggests the mercury can leak out and can affect your overall health.