Tooth decay doesn't appear out of nowhere. It begins with bacteria, which produce acid that softens and erodes tooth enamel. Without adequate enamel protection, cavities can develop.
So, one of our prevention goals is to decrease populations of disease-causing bacteria. One way is to deprive them of carbohydrates, a prime food source, most notably refined sugar. That's why for decades dentists have instructed patients to limit their intake of sugar, especially between meal snacks.
Ironically, we're now consuming more rather than less sugar from a generation ago. The higher consumption impacts more than dental health — it's believed to be a contributing factor in many health problems, especially in children. Thirty years ago it was nearly impossible to find a child in the U.S. with type 2 diabetes: today, there are over 50,000 documented juvenile cases.
Cutting back isn't easy. For one thing, we're hard-wired for sweet-tasting foods. Our ancestors trusted such foods when there was limited food safety knowledge. Most of us today still have our "sweet tooth."
There's also another factor: the processed food industry. When food researchers concluded fats were a health hazard the government changed dietary guidelines. Food processors faced a problem because they used fats as a flavor enhancer. To restore flavor they began adding small amounts of sugar to foods like lunch meat, bread, tomato sauce and peanut butter. Today, three-quarters of the 600,000 available processed food items contain some form of added sugar.
Although difficult given your available supermarket choices, limiting your sugar intake to the recommended 6 teaspoons a day will reduce your risk for dental and some general diseases. There are things you can do: replace processed foods with more fresh fruits and vegetables; read food labels for sugar content to make better purchasing decisions; drink water for hydration rather than soda (which can contain two-thirds of your daily recommended sugar allowance), sports drinks or juices; and exercise regularly.
Keeping your sugar consumption under control will help you reduce the risk of tooth decay. You'll be helping your overall health too.
If you would like more information on the effect of sugar on health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Bitter Truth about Sugar.”
If you’re considering a dental implant as a replacement for a lost tooth, you’re looking at a restoration method with an amazing 95% success rate after ten years. But that being said there’s still a risk, albeit quite low, the implant might fail.
And if you smoke, the risk is slightly higher. In a recent study of implant patients, twice as many of the failures occurred in smokers compared to non-smokers. If you’re a smoker, you can increase your chances of a successful outcome if you quit the habit.
Nicotine, a chemical within tobacco, is the primary cause for this higher risk. Besides its effect on the pleasure centers of the brain, nicotine also restricts smaller blood vessels that are abundant in the mouth and skin, causing less blood flow. As a result, the mouth doesn’t have as many antibodies and other substances available to fight infection and help traumatized tissues heal.
Because of this, as well as reduced saliva flow due to the habit, smokers have an increased risk of dental disease and are slower to respond to treatment. This can be especially problematic if the gum tissues around an implant become infected, which could lead to a catastrophic failure. Slower healing also impacts the post-surgery period when bone cells in the jaw are growing and adhering to the implant surface, forming a stronger bond.
To avoid these potential risks you should stop smoking before you undergo implant surgery. If you can’t completely kick the habit, you should at least stop a week before surgery and for two weeks after. It’s also critical that you practice good oral hygiene — both brushing and flossing — to minimize the occurrence of dental disease and see us for regular checkups and maintenance appointments.
Taking these steps will greatly increase your chances of being in the vast majority of people who continue to enjoy success with their implants for many years.
If you would like more information on the impact of smoking on dental health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implants & Smoking.”
Winter is the time for snowy landscapes, hot cocoa and flannel PJs, but for some 'tis the season for tooth trouble. What can you do to keep your teeth from becoming a pain this winter?
Tackle tooth sensitivity. Does crisp winter air on your teeth give you a jolt? A study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association found that 1 in 8 people (over 12%) suffer from tooth sensitivity, particularly to cold. Sensitivity can result from receding gums, erosion of tooth enamel, tooth decay or other dental problems. If you experience tooth sensitivity, use toothpaste that is specially formulated for sensitive teeth and breathe through your nose to protect your teeth from extreme cold. Most importantly, schedule a dental exam to determine why your teeth are sensitive.
Stay hydrated. In winter, we spend more time with the heat on and we tend to drink less water. A dry mouth can result, which can lead to bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease. Staying well hydrated keeps your gums and teeth moist and helps you produce more saliva, which is key to good oral health and fresh breath. Saliva helps wash away food debris and bacteria, neutralize decay-causing acid and repair weakened tooth enamel. For healthy teeth and gums, be sure to drink plenty of water this winter.
Safeguard your teeth on the slopes. Are you planning to hit the slopes this winter? Be sure to wear a mouthguard to help protect against injury. Beginning skiers and snowboarders are more likely to suffer falls that could result in dental injuries, while experts may fly over bumps and jumps, causing the upper and lower teeth to knock together with force. Even backyard sledders are at risk of dental injury. Mouthguards help protect against chipped, broken, or knocked-out teeth as well as soft tissue damage. So before you enjoy wintertime sports, make sure your teeth are protected. For the best fit and comfort, ask us about a custom mouthguard.
If you have questions about these or other dental issues, please contact us or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Treatment of Tooth Sensitivity” and “Dry Mouth.”
A woman as gorgeous and funny as Sofia Vergara surely planned to be a model and actress from the get-go, right? Wrong! Sofia’s first career choice actually was to be… a dentist! That’s right, the sexy star of TV’s Modern Family actually was only two semesters shy of finishing a dental degree in her native Columbia when she traded dental school for the small screen. Still, dental health remains a top priority for the actress and her son, Manolo.
“I’m obsessed,” she recently told People magazine. “My son thinks I’m crazy because I make him do a cleaning every three months. I try to bribe the dentist to make him to do it sooner!”
That’s what we call a healthy obsession (teeth-cleaning, not bribery). And while coming in for a professional cleaning every three months may not be necessary for everyone, some people — especially those who are particularly susceptible to gum disease — may benefit from professional cleanings on a three-month schedule. In fact, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to having professional teeth cleanings — but everyone needs this beneficial procedure on a regular basis.
Even if you are meticulous about your daily oral hygiene routine at home, there are plenty of reasons for regular checkups. They include:
- Dental exam. Oral health problems such as tooth decay and gum disease are much easier — and less expensive — to treat in the earliest stages. You may not have symptoms of either disease early on, but we can spot the warning signs and take appropriate preventive or restorative measures.
- Oral cancer screening. Oral cancer is not just a concern of the middle aged and elderly — young adults can be affected as well (even those who do not smoke). The survival rate for this deadly disease goes up tremendously if it is detected quickly, and an oral cancer screening is part of every routine dental visit.
- Professional teeth cleaning. Calcified (hardened) dental plaque (tartar or calculus) can build up near the gum line over time — even if you brush and floss every day. These deposits can irritate your gums and create favorable conditions for tooth decay. You can’t remove tartar by flossing or brushing, but we can clear it away — and leave you with a bright, fresh-feeling smile!
So take a tip from Sofia Vergara, and don’t skimp on professional cleanings and checkups. If you want to know how often you should come in for routine dental checkups, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor articles “Dental Hygiene Visit” and “Dental Cleanings Using Ultrasonic Scalers.”
The food we eat not only provides us energy, but it also supplies nutrients to help the body remain healthy. The most important of these nutrients are minerals and tiny organic compounds called vitamins.
While all of the thirteen known vitamins and eleven minerals play a role in overall health, a few are especially important for your mouth. For example, vitamins D and K and the minerals calcium and phosphorus are essential for strong teeth. Another mineral, fluoride, helps fortify enamel, which can deter tooth decay.
Other vitamins and minerals serve as antioxidants, protecting us against molecules called free radicals that can damage cellular DNA and increasing our risk of cancer (including oral). Vitamins C and E and the mineral selenium fall into this category, as well as zinc for DNA repair.
We acquire these nutrients primarily in the foods we eat. But for certain people like older adults or pregnant or nursing women a healthy diet may not be enough. Any person who can't get enough of a particular vitamin or mineral should take a supplement to round out their nutritional needs.
If you don't have a condition that results in a nutrient deficiency, you may not see that much benefit from taking a supplement. In fact, taking too much of a dietary supplement could harm your health. For example, some studies have shown ingesting too much supplemental Vitamin E could increase the risk of heart failure or gastrointestinal cancer. And some dietary supplements can interact poorly with drugs like blood thinners or ibuprofen.
The best way to get the vitamins and minerals your body — and mouth — needs is to eat a healthy diet. Dairy products like fortified milk are a good way to get vitamin D, as well as calcium and phosphorus. Fruits and vegetables are a good source of Vitamin C. And while you can take in fluoride from toothpaste or other oral hygiene products, you'll also find it in seafood and tea.
While good oral hygiene and regular dental visits are necessary for dental health, your diet can also make a difference. Be sure you're getting all the nutrients your teeth and gums need.
If you would like more information on the role of diet in oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Vitamins & Dietary Supplements.”
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