How to Choose the Right Foods and Drinks for a Healthy Smile

foods drinks healthy teethThe foods and beverages you consume play a large role in the health of your mouth. When you eat foods containing sugars and carbohydrates, bacteria in your mouth convert them to acid that can cause cavities. The more often you eat, the more your teeth are exposed to possible decay.

The best foods for a healthy mouth are cheese, meat, nuts, and milk. These provide calcium and phosphorus that remineralize teeth and help prevent cavities.

Crunchy fruits and vegetables are also good choices. They have a high water content that dilutes the effects of the sugars in them and also stimulate the flow of saliva that washes away food particles and neutralizes acid. Eat acidic foods, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, and lemons, as part of a meal to minimize the effects of their acid on your teeth.

Candy, cookies, cakes, pies, breads, muffins, potato chips, pretzels, French fries, bananas, raisins, and other dried fruits can harm your teeth. They contain large amounts of sugar and/or can stick to your teeth. Cough drops can also contribute to tooth decay.

The best beverages are fluoridated water, milk, and unsweetened tea. Limit your consumption of sugary drinks and avoid drinking them over long periods of time because that continuously exposes your teeth to sugar and acid.

Sugar substitutes, such as erythritol, isomalt, sorbitol, mannitol, saccharin, avantame, aspartame (Equal), acesulfame potassium (Sunett), neotame (Newtame), and sucralose (Splenda) are better than natural sugar. They are digested differently and do not feed bacteria in the mouth and produce acid.

Sugar-free foods do not have sugar added during processing, but they can contain other natural sweeteners that can be harmful to your teeth. Check the label for ingredients that end in “-ose.” Those are usually natural sweeteners.

Chewing sugarless gum can loosen trapped food particles and increase the flow of saliva. Some types of gum have ingredients that can reduce the risk of developing cavities and heal areas where cavities are starting to form.

Study Finds Many Pregnant Women Skip Dental Visits

pregnant women dentist studyA new study conducted by Cigna through M/A/R/C Research found that pregnant women and new mothers often skip visits to the dentist. Many of them are unaware of the importance of oral health during pregnancy or are concerned about the cost of treatment.

The survey included 801 women between the ages of 21 and 45 who were either pregnant or had given birth in the previous 12 months. The group was divided evenly among pregnant women with dental insurance, pregnant women without dental insurance, new mothers with dental insurance, and new mothers without dental insurance.

The survey found that 76 percent of pregnant women had an oral health problem, such as bleeding gums, toothache, and increased tooth sensitivity. However, only 57 percent visited a dentist while they were pregnant.

The participants gave cost as one of the main reasons for not seeking dental care. Women without insurance were twice as likely as those who were insured to skip dental visits during pregnancy. One-third skipped a dental visit while they were pregnant because of the cost.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all women be counseled about the importance of oral health, whether they are pregnant or not. The authors recommend that dentists and hygienists explain how pregnancy can affect oral health and how oral health problems can affect a developing baby’s health.

Oral hygiene and regular checkups are critical during pregnancy. Any infection, including one in the mouth, can affect the health of a baby. Hormonal changes caused by pregnancy can increase the risk of periodontal disease.

Some findings were encouraging. Pregnant women whose healthcare providers discussed the importance of oral health were twice as likely to visit the dentist and twice as likely to read educational materials. Forty-three percent of new mothers visited the dentist after giving birth, but among those whose providers talked to them about oral health during pregnancy, 63 percent visited the dentist.

Consult Your Dentist before Trying a Teeth Whitening Product

teeth whiteningMany people use teeth whitening products in their quest for a beautiful smile. While some of these products are sold over the counter, you should consult your dentist before using one to select the appropriate product and to discuss the results you can expect.

The enamel is the outer layer of the tooth. The softer inner part is the dentin. The color of teeth is determined by reflection and scattering of light off the enamel and the color of the dentin. Genetics affect the thickness and smoothness of the enamel. If the enamel is thin, more of the dentin will show through. The smoothness or roughness of the enamel affects how light reflects off it and the color of the teeth.

Most teeth stains are caused by food and beverages. Coffee, tea, red wine, and caffeinated beverages are some of the most common causes. They contain color pigments called chromogens that stick to enamel. Smoking is the second most common cause of tooth discoloration. Tar and nicotine in cigarettes can stick to enamel and turn it yellow. Brushing can remove some, but not all, stains from enamel.

Stains can also form inside teeth. Intrinsic stains can be caused by exposure to high levels of fluoride as a child. Trauma to a tooth can lead to discoloration because it reacts by laying down more dentin instead of enamel. Medications such as antihistamines, antipsychotics, antihypertensives, chemotherapy, and head and neck radiation can cause tooth discoloration.

Teeth whitening products fall into two major groups. Bleaching agents that contain peroxide remove stains on the surface of teeth and deeper inside them. Dentifrices, or whitening toothpastes, remove only surface stains.

Not all whitening products will work on all stains. It is important to identify the cause of the stains in order to choose the right whitening product. Yellow teeth can be bleached, but brown teeth will probably not respond to bleaching. Whitening does not work on caps, veneers, crowns, or fillings. It also will not work if the staining is caused by medication or a tooth injury.

Peroxide can cause teeth sensitivity, but that is usually temporary. Overuse of teeth whitening products can damage tooth enamel or the gums. Consult your dentist to find out if your teeth stains can be treated with whitening products and to select the right treatment. Follow any instructions your dentist gives you to avoid sensitivity and damage.

Causes and Treatment of Periodontal Pockets

gum disease pocketsMillions of Americans have some form of gum disease. Harmful bacteria create a sticky film called plaque that accumulates on teeth. If it is not removed, plaque can irritate the gums and cause bleeding. Over time, it can lead to bone loss and can cause teeth to become loose.

Gingivitis is an early form of gum disease. It can cause the gums to become red and swollen and bleed easily. If it is left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis. At that stage, the gums can recede, or pull away from the teeth, and form pockets. Debris can collect in the pockets and become infected. The body’s immune system will fight the infection. Bacterial toxins and enzymes can break down the bone and connective tissue holding teeth in place. As periodontitis progresses, the pockets can get deeper, more gum tissue and bone can be destroyed, and teeth can become loose.

A periodontist can use an instrument to measure the depth of the pockets in the gums. If they are too deep to clean with at-home brushing and flossing and a professional cleaning, he or she may recommend a periodontal pocket reduction procedure.

The periodontist will fold back the gum tissue and remove bacteria that are causing the infection. Then the periodontist will secure the gum tissue in place. He or she may smooth irregular surfaces of the damaged bone to eliminate spaces where bacteria can accumulate and cause gum disease. This allows the gum tissue to reattach to healthy bone.

Reducing the depth of the pockets in the gums and removing bacteria can stop the progression of periodontal disease and help keep the gums and teeth healthy. Eliminating bacteria alone may not prevent gum disease from recurring. Reducing the depth of pockets, brushing and flossing daily, and having regular professional cleanings can reduce the risk of tooth loss and other health problems associated with periodontal disease.

How to Overcome a Gag Reflex

gag reflex dentistThe pharyngeal reflex, or gag reflex, is a contraction that is often caused by touching the roof of the mouth, the back of the tongue, the area around the tonsils, or the back of the throat. The gag reflex is the body’s way of preventing a person from swallowing something that shouldn’t be swallowed and choking.

For some people, the gag reflex is a problem when visiting the dentist. Having instruments and the dentist’s hands in their mouth causes many people to have trouble breathing. Some people even find it hard to brush their teeth because of their gag reflex.

Dental anxiety can trigger a gag reflex in many patients. If you are nervous, you can alleviate your anxiety by discussing your fears with your dentist. He or she can explain the procedure and encourage you to let him or her know if there is a problem or you need a break. You may also find it helpful to be given nitrous oxide (laughing gas), to have the lights in the room turned off, to wear dark sunglasses, to listen to music, or to undergo hypnosis.

Another way to prevent gagging at the dentist’s office is to numb the soft palate and surrounding tissue. This can be done with a topical gel or spray, which typically contains Benzocaine. Numbness typically lasts for 15 to 30 minutes. The spray can be repeated if necessary during the procedure.

When having a dental procedure performed, it is important to breathe through your nose. Make sure your nasal passages are clear and take a decongestant before your appointment if necessary.

Some people find that their gag reflex is stronger at a particular time of day. Schedule your appointment for a time when you will be more comfortable.

You might find it helpful to do something with your body to take your mind off your gag reflex. Some people find that it helps to squeeze a stress ball during a dental procedure.

It is possible to unlearn your gag reflex. One way you can do this at home is by brushing your tongue for about 10 seconds per day. Move farther back on your tongue as you get used to brushing it, and you will gradually stop gagging. This will make it easier to brush your teeth and to undergo dental procedures.

October Is Dental Hygiene Month

Dental Hygiene MonthOctober is Dental Hygiene Month. If you or your kids are due for a routine cleaning and oral exam, now is a great time to make an appointment.

Dentists recommend that adults and children have a cleaning and exam twice a year. The dentist or hygienist will clean and examine your teeth and gums and talk to you about tooth decay, gum disease, and other problems. The dentist can perform an oral cancer screening and check for abnormalities in your face, neck, and mouth. If it has been a while since your last dental visit, the dental assistant may take a series of diagnostic x-rays so the dentist can better evaluate the health of your teeth and look for cavities or other problems.

Kids should start seeing the dentist early in their lives to get them used to the dentist and treatment. Toddlers should see the dentist for the first time around their first birthday. The dentist can count and check your child’s teeth and tell you if your child is at risk for developing cavities. The dentist can teach you how to clean your child’s teeth and gums, tell you how habits such as thumb sucking and pacifier use can affect your child’s teeth, and give you suggestions about how to help your child break those habits. As your child gets older, the dentist can teach him or her how to brush and floss and make recommendations about nutrition and treatments such as orthodontics.

Contact your dentist if you or your child has any problems, such as red, tender, swollen, or bleeding gums; loose teeth; changes in tooth alignment; sensitivity to heat or cold; or persistent bad breath. Detecting and treating problems early can prevent serious issues.

Practicing good oral hygiene daily is critical to maintain a healthy smile. Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months. Store it uncovered and in an upright position. Floss and rinse your mouth with mouthwash daily. Don’t smoke or chew tobacco. Eat a healthy diet and avoid sugary foods and beverages. Wear a mouth guard when participating in sports where mouth injuries could occur.

Dental Appliances Can Help with Parkinson’s Symptoms

Parkinson's disease oral applianceParkinson’s disease can cause tremors in the face, jaws, and other parts of the body. The nervous systems of patients with Parkinson’s are easily stimulated. Stimulation can cause jerky movements, teeth grinding, facial pain, and restless leg syndrome. Studies have found that the primary complaint of people with Parkinson’s disease is chronic pain. Patients complain more about pain than about motor disturbances.

According to an article published in the Journal of Neurology Review, 60 to 98 percent of patients with Parkinson’s also report sleep disorders that affect their quality of life. The most common sleep disorder is obstructive sleep apnea. The condition can cause insomnia, chronic daytime fatigue, high blood pressure, GERD, interruptions in sleep, headaches, facial pain, and cardiovascular disease. Light or restless sleep does not allow the body to produce Human Growth Hormone that enables it to heal. Improving the quality of sleep can alleviate many of these symptoms.

There is no cure for Parkinson’s, but treatments have been developed that can reduce pain and make the condition more bearable. Patients with Parkinson’s disease can be treated with oral appliances that can significantly improve their balance, reduce jerky movements, lessen pain and fatigue, and improve sleep. Dentists trained in interdisciplinary approaches can coordinate therapies, triage, and make referrals for care.

When the jaw is aligned properly, it allows blood to flow normally to the brain. If the blood flow is pinched, the flow of dopamine to the brain can be cut off, which can send stress signals to the brain. That confuses the brain and creates symptoms such as tremors. Pinch spots can be relieved by wearing an oral appliance, tremors can be reduced, and pain can be alleviated.

Bone Grafts and Dental Implants

dental implant bone graftIf a tooth is lost, the jaw bone can atrophy, leaving a level of basal bone. When a patient gets a dental implant, it may be necessary to perform a bone graft to rebuild the jaw.

Bond grafts for dental implants can often be performed in an office setting. Processed bone from cows is typically used. It prevents the surrounding tissues from collapsing and is gradually resorbed and replaced with the patient’s natural bone.

When a tooth is lost, the remaining alveolar bone is resorbed unless it is replaced immediately with another tooth, an implant, or a ridge preservation graft (socket graft). This fills the space left by the missing tooth and allows natural bone to fill the space. Cow bone in a granular form is usually used and secured with a pledget of collagen and dissolvable sutures. An implant can be placed three to six months after a ridge preservation graft.

In some cases, bovine bone cannot provide enough bulk to replace the missing bone in the jaw. In that case, the patient’s own bone needs to be used. In an autogenous graft, a block of bone is taken from the lower jaw where the third molars used to be in a region called the mandibular ramus, or from the chin. A block approximately one square centimeter is transferred to the area with missing bone, secured with screws, and overlaid with particulate bovine bone and a collagen membrane. It generally takes four months for the graft to fuse to the jawbone so that an implant can be placed. After the graft has matured, it can house an implant in live bone that will support the tissue and will be aesthetically pleasing and easy to clean.

The maxilla, or upper jaw, has different requirements because of the presence of the maxillary sinus. If a tooth is lost in the upper jaw, there may be very little bone left between the oral cavity and the sinus. A subantral graft, or sinus lift procedure, can be performed in which a small window is made in the sinus above the roots of the teeth in the upper jaw. It takes six to nine months for the bone to consolidate. Depending on the amount of bone present, it may or may not be possible to place an implant immediately after the graft is performed.

Is a Water Flosser Better Than Traditional Dental Floss?

Water FlosserAbout half of all American adults have gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss and can contribute to a host of medical problems outside the mouth. Dentists recommend flossing daily to prevent gum disease, but many people don’t do it because they find it difficult or uncomfortable.

The WaterPik Water Flosser is an easier and more effective way to clean between teeth and below the gum line than traditional floss. You just need to point the flosser tip between your teeth and along your gum line to remove food particles and plaque. Water flossing only takes about a minute per day and removes plaque and debris that can be difficult to reach with traditional brushing and flossing.

Several clinical studies have demonstrated that water flossing is more effective at cleaning between teeth than traditional flossing. Water flossing is 51 percent more effective than dental floss at reducing gingivitis, twice as effective at reducing bleeding caused by gingivitis, and 29 percent more effective than dental floss at removing plaque.

People with dental implants may find it difficult to floss. A Water Flosser can make cleaning between implants much easier. When used with medium pressure, a WaterPik Water Flosser was found to be 145 percent more effective than traditional dental floss at reducing bleeding. Using a Water Flosser with an antimicrobial rinse can help prevent inflammation and peri-implant disease.

It is important to remove food and plaque from between your teeth and below your gum line to prevent gum disease. If you find it difficult to use traditional dental floss, a Water Flosser can help you get a clean and healthy mouth.

Which Denture Adhesive Is Right for You?

denture adhesiveDentures can replace teeth that have been lost and restore your beautiful smile. In many cases, a well-made set of dentures will adhere to your gums on their own. However, in some cases your dentist may recommend using an adhesive to hold your dentures in place.

You may need a denture adhesive if the ridge of your jaw is very flat, thin, or irregular and cannot provide enough support to your dentures. Saliva acts as a natural denture adhesive. If you have a condition like diabetes or take certain medications that decrease your saliva production, you may need a denture adhesive. If you had a stroke or have another neuromuscular adaptation, or if you are wearing dentures for the first time and are concerned about them falling out, you can use an adhesive.

Adhesive is applied to the fitting surface of your dentures. When it comes into contact with the water in saliva, the material swells and adheres the dentures to your gums. This improves the retention and stability of your dentures.

Talk to your dentist about what type of adhesive is best for you. If your dentures are loose, your dentist should figure out the cause and adjust or repair them.

Chronic intake of zinc can be detrimental to your health. Choose a zinc-free denture adhesive.

Cream adhesives generally create the strongest grip, but some people dislike them because they can be difficult to remove. Cream denture adhesive can be removed with a soft but abrasive cloth. If you accidentally swallow it, the adhesive can cause an uncomfortable sticky feeling in your esophagus.

Denture powder is sprinkled onto dentures. Then they are placed in the mouth, where moisture mixes with the powder to form a paste. Powder is less messy than cream, but the grip is less secure.

Wafers or strips have double-stick sides that provide a firm grip. They are easy to use and remove and are not messy. The extra cushion between your mouth and the dentures makes strips or wafers more comfortable. They do not form the same type of barrier as other denture adhesives, so food particles can get trapped between the dentures and your gums.

Read the directions on the package before applying your denture adhesive. Always clean and dry your dentures before putting on adhesive. Don’t use too much. You only need two or three dots of a cream adhesive. Remove and clean your dentures before bed and wipe any adhesive residue from your gums and dentures. Avoid drinking hot liquids because they could dissolve the adhesive material. See your dentist regularly for checkups and adjustments.