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.

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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.

Diabetes and Your Oral Health

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. We are all aware that Diabetes is a growing epidemic in our nation, but do you know exactly what Diabetes looks like? For those that have been afflicted with the disease, they understand that it is more than just an inconvenience, it is a life altering, and in many cases, preventable disease. Diabetes causes more deaths per year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke. Here are just a few of the recent statistics on diabetes from the American Diabetes Association:
• Nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes.
• Another 79 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
• The American Diabetes Association estimates that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States is $174 billion.
Type 1 (formerly known as Juvenile Diabetes) is a genetic disease in which the body does not produce its own insulin. Insulin is the hormone that changes the sugars you eat into the energy that your body needs. Only 5% of people with diabetes have this form of the disease, it is not preventable, but is treatable with insulin injections.
Type 2 diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin. Exactly why this happens is unknown, although excess weight and inactivity seem to be contributing factors. Over 80% of people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese, and those that exercise less than 3 times per week are 3 times more likely to develop the disease. Though the types of food you eat do not actually cause diabetes, what you choose to eat is directly related to your health and  your weight. If your diet is high in calories and unhealthy foods (sugar, saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fats), your diet could be contributing to your diabetes risk. It is a common myth that diabetes is not a deadly disease, but that is far from the truth. Many serious complications such as heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease and neuropathy are associated with the disease. For more information on detection and prevention of Diabetes, visit http://www.diabetes.org.

So what does it mean for your dental health if you are diagnosed with diabetes?
According to the American Diabetic Association, if your blood glucose levels are poorly controlled, you are more likely to develop serious gum disease and lose more teeth than non-diabetics. Like all infections, serious gum disease may be a factor in causing blood sugar to rise and may make diabetes harder to control. Other oral problems associated to diabetes include: thrush, an infection caused by fungus that grows in the mouth, and dry mouth which can cause soreness, ulcers, infections and cavities.
People with diabetes have special needs and your dentist and hygienist are equipped to meet those needs – with your help. Keep your dentist and hygienist informed of any changes in your condition and any medication you might be taking. Postpone any non-emergency dental procedures if your blood sugar is not in good control and make sure to visit your dentist at regular 6 month intervals or more frequently if your dentist recommends that for you.