Sugar Isn’t the Only Culprit When It Comes to Causing Cavities

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What foods or drinks cause cavities? The answer from most people is simple – sugar. But while sugar is a major cause of cavities, all carbohydrates can be a cause of cavities. That’s because carbohydrates contain sugars and starches, and when these stick to your teeth, they lead to tooth decay. And a cavity is what happens when a tooth decays. So when you are eating cereal, milk, bread, soda, fruits, cakes or candy, you are bathing your teeth in sugar.

What is the process that can turn that tasty piece of toast you had this morning into an eventual cavity? It’s a simple process that has five steps:

  • You eat or drink a food or beverage that contains carbohydrates (don’t forget, both sugar and starches are in this category).
  • Bacteria in your mouth digest these foods and turn them into acids.
  • The bacteria combines with acid, saliva and food debris to form plaque, which sticks to your teeth.
  • The plaque’s acids dissolve your teeth’s enamel surface.
  • As the enamel surface dissolves, small holes are created in the teeth – and this is what is called a cavity.

Does that mean that you should completely avoid carbohydrates to reduce the chance of cavities? Not really, because the real problem isn’t the amount of starches or sugars you are bathing your teeth in from a particular food or beverage, but rather how long it stays on your teeth. As an example, foods that stick to the tops of your molars (in the back of your mouth) and don’t quickly dissolve are tough on your teeth. Foods like starchy chips and crackers or gummy candy are examples of these types of foods. Other foods that are major culprits are soda, juice and hard candies, since they douse your mouth with sugar over an extended period of time as you consume them.

How can you head off the five-step process that eventually leads to cavities in your teeth? Try these simple steps:

  • Drink water – lots of water! Drink it every time you eat a meal or have a snack and make sure you vigorously swish it around in your mouth at the end of the meal. By doing this, you’re washing away the acids that formed and remove food debris.
  • Pop a piece of sugar-free gum in your mouth at the end of a meal. This will jump start the production of saliva, which is a natural teeth cleaner, and the act of chewing will also remove food debris from your teeth.
  • Skip super sticky foods that will stick to your teeth for hours.
  • Floss daily and brush twice a day.
  • Be sure to drink fluoridated water to strengthen your teeth.
  • Feed calcium-rich cheese to your kids – and yourself. It’s a wonderful cavity-fighting snack because it stimulates the flow of saliva (a natural tooth cleaner) and neutralizes the mouth acids that wear away enamel.  

Follow these tips and you can still enjoy carbohydrates and reduce the impact on your oral health.

Top Tips to Make Travel Less Stressful on Your Oral Health

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If you travel very often, you probably know how difficult it can be to maintain your oral health routine. But missing a week or two of your regular routine can be tough on your teeth and gums. Eventually, those missed days of brushing, flossing and making good oral health decisions can lead to cavities! So here are five easy tips to follow to boost your oral health when you travel and insure that your smile remains healthy.

Don’t travel if you have a toothache. Be sure to schedule an appointment before you travel if you are experiencing pain or irritation in your mouth. You really don’t want to end up needing emergency care while you are out of town and away from your usual dentist. And just in case you experience a dental emergency without any earlier warning signs, you might want to research emergency dental clinics in the town where you will be staying.

Keep travel-sized oral health products handy. Invest in a travel-size toothbrush, small tube of toothpaste, and floss and keep them in your travel bag. That way, you won’t forget to pack them the next time you take a trip.

Be a fan of probiotics. Research has shown that probiotics help maintain oral health in addition to being great for your gut. Because traveling involves lots of time in communal places that are usually chock-full of germs, taking probiotics can help as a defense against oral health issues.

Replace your toothbrush. It is usually recommended that you replace your toothbrush every three or four months. That’s because the bristles start to wear down, and more importantly, germs build up on your toothbrush that you can’t remove. But on a trip away from home, all those new germs you are exposed to just compound the potential problems. So when you get home from a trip, toss your toothbrush and break out a new one!

Embrace the power of gum. Your oral health can get a wonderful boost from chewing gum. It has to be sugarless, and if it has xylitol that is a bonus. So why is chewing gum so powerful? It tastes good, freshens your breath, and removes food stuck between your teeth (kind of like brushing your teeth). Perhaps the biggest benefit of chewing gum is that it helps produce saliva in your mouth. Saliva washes away bacteria in your mouth that can eventually lead to cavities.

So there you have five easy tips to pump-up your oral health the next time you travel.

SOURCE: American Dental Association

 

Can Chewing Gum Actually Help Prevent Tooth Decay?

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Americans love chewing gum. In fact, the average American chews more than 1.8 pounds of gum a year. But is all that chewing gum wrecking the oral health of millions of Americans, leaving them to deal with a lifetime of cavities and problems with their teeth?

The answer is yes, if that gum is full of sugar. But if that 1.8 pounds of gum chewed annually is sugarless gum, then it is actually a boost for your oral health. In fact, clinical studies have linked the prevention of tooth decay to chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following a meal.

Why is sugarless gum such a plus for oral health? There are two main reasons. The first is linked to saliva, which your body produces in large quantities when you chew gum. Saliva is the body’s natural way of washing away food debris from your mouth, neutralizing acids that are produced by bacteria in your mouth, and providing disease-fighting substances for your entire mouth. Plus, you’ll get additional calcium and phosphate from the saliva, which helps you naturally strengthen your tooth enamel.

The second reason is that sugarless gums use sweeteners such as sorbitol, aspartame, mannitol or xylitol. Because they aren’t sugar, they don’t cause cavities because bacteria don’t use them as food. And when bacteria don’t have a ready food source in your mouth, their population in your mouth declines. That means your mouth is a safer place for your teeth.

Xylitol is especially helpful to your teeth, because it inhibits the growth of one of the main oral bacteria that causes cavities (Streptococcus mutans). Bacteria in your mouth can’t adhere to teeth if there is xylitol present, which slows down the creation of cavities. Plus, if you use xylitol over a long period of time, it reduces the amount of bacteria that can survive in your mouth and cause cavities.

Recaldent is also added to some sugarless gums, which makes your teeth stronger and reduces tooth decay. The Recaldent hardens the enamel on your teeth, thus making them stronger.

Remember, chewing sugarless gum is not a substitute for flossing daily and brushing twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste. But it can do a good job of helping to supplement your oral health care routine.

SOURCES: American Dental Association and Colgate

What You Need to Know About Bruxism

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If you are one of those folks who regularly grind your teeth, then your condition is called bruxism. It can lead to damage to your teeth and other oral health issues.

So why do people grind their teeth? Generally, teeth grinding or clenching is from stress or anxiety and it usually occurs at night when you’re sleeping. You’re more apt to suffer from bruxism if you have an abnormal bite or if you are missing teeth or have crooked teeth.

You probably suffer from bruxism if you have a constant, dull headache or your jaw is regularly sore. Also, your loved one may hear you at night when you are sleeping and grinding your teeth. If you do think that you may have bruxism, consult with your dentist at Lehigh Valley Smile Designs. He will examine your jaw and mouth for signs of grinding and look for abnormalities and/or tenderness in your jaw and teeth.

We see some patients at Lehigh Valley Smile Designs who come in with teeth that have been fractured, loosened or are even missing because of a long-term history of grinding their teeth. Sometimes their teeth have been ground down to mere stumps. The solution? Crowns, bridges, implants, root canals, and partial or full dentures.

Additionally, health issues stemming from bruxism’s impact on your jaw can include hearing loss, worsening of TMD and TMJ, and changes in your face’s appearance.

So what can you do to stop grinding your teeth or reduce its impact?

Have your dentist at Lehigh Valley Smile Designs fit you with a night mouth guard to protect your teeth while you sleep.

Find ways to reduce your stress if that is a contributing factor to your bruxism. Depending on your personal situation, counseling for stress, regular exercise, physical therapy, and prescription muscle relaxants are some of the options you may consider.

Cut back from your diet– or cut out – foods and drinks that have caffeine. These include colas, coffee and coffee.

Skip the alcohol because you grind your teeth more intensely after consuming alcohol.

Avoid chewing anything that isn’t food – thinks like pencils or pen caps. Chewing gum can also be a problem since it makes your jaw muscles more used to clenching and increases the likelihood that you will grind your teeth.

Teach yourself not to grind or clench your teeth. If you position the tip of your tongue between your teeth while you’re awake, you’ll train your jaw muscles to relax. At night, hold a warm washcloth against your check in front of your earlobe to relax your jaw muscles.

SOURCE: WebMD

Six Foods to Pump Up Your Oral Health

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Many people don’t realize that certain foods and drinks can enhance your oral health. From chocolate to cheese, this set of super foods help strengthen your gums and teeth, battle bacteria in your mouth, and wash away or scrub away sugars that cause cavities. Consume these six foods and drinks and you’ll have a brighter and happier smile!

Crunchy Vegies and Fruits

Some vegetables and fruits are high in fiber and act like mini “scrubbers” when you eat them, cleaning your teeth. In addition, they increase the production of saliva in your mouth, helping to wash away bacteria that are attached to your teeth. Plus sugar in your mouth from other foods will have a tougher time sticking to your teeth because of the increased saliva. Fruits and vegetables high in fiber include raw apples, carrots, cauliflower, jicama, celery and broccoli.

Adorable Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate that is at least 70% cacao is a smile helper if eaten in moderation. It contains a compound that helps to harden tooth enamel and prevent cavities. Eat one square per day – but be sure it’s dark chocolate, not milk chocolate, which is higher in sugar and doesn’t contain the compound that helps your teeth.

Pass the Cheese

Cheese is packed with calcium and protein and contains very little sugar – perfect for good oral health. Cheese also lowers the acid level in your mouth, which reduces your odds of developing cavities. Plus cheese helps your teeth remineralize and lowers the chances of decay. Don’t forget milk as an oral health booster – it also contains lots of calcium and protein and is good at washing away sugars in your mouth.

Try Some Tea

Polyphenols are efficient bacteria killers and both green and black teas are loaded with polyphenols. Killing bacteria in your mouth is a good thing, since bacteria produce acids which destroy your tooth enamel. And bacteria’s food of choice is sugar, so if you have a cup of tea following dinner you’ll get a triple assist for your oral health – killing bacteria, washing away sugar, and replenishing your saliva.

Good Food from the Sea

Seafoods are wonderful for your oral health because they are full of protein and contain natural fluoride. Together, they make your teeth stronger and help prevent cavities. They are also chock-full of Vitamin D, which helps you absorb calcium from your diet. You want to encourage calcium absorption, since it helps your gums and teeth battle disease that can impact your oral health.

Go Nuts for Nuts

Another good source of protein is nuts. Loaded with phosphorus and calcium (which tooth enamel loves) nuts benefit both your teeth and gums. And don’t forget, nuts produce saliva in your mouth, which helps to wash away cavity-causing stuff in your mouth.

SOURCES: Colgate.com

 

Do You Know How to Floss Properly?

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Flossing is an important part of the Healthy Teeth Trio – which also includes brushing and regular visits to your dentist for a dental cleaning and check-up. Floss plays a unique role in oral health because it can remove a whole variety of things you don’t want between your teeth - food particles, plaque and bacteria – that a toothbrush usually can’t remove. Leaving all of those items stuck between your teeth can lead to gingivitis, which is a disease of the gums that can produce major oral health problems.

Floss was originally made from silk. However, floss has evolved since the 1800s and is now made from plastic beads. Yes, you read that right – plastic beads. The beads are melted and the squeezed into long, thin strands to make them stronger and very hard to break. The plastic is layered with wax and flavoring to make the process more palatable.

So what happens to your oral health if you don’t have time to floss or don’t think it’s worth the effort? To begin with, plaque will begin to build up between your teeth. The plaque will eventually begin to irritate your teeth and make your gums more sensitive. If you have neglected flossing and then decide to begin, your gums will probably bleed. So be sure you begin flossing slowly. But after a couple of weeks, your gums will get used to the floss and your oral health will begin to improve!

You have several options to choose from in terms of types of floss. Most people stick with regular floss, although there are many types of regular floss – unwaxed, waxed, mint flavored, etc.  The differences aren’t important and don’t improve your flossing effectiveness. What does impact the effectiveness is your technique.

Floss picks are also popular for flossing because they hold the floss for you. That makes it very convenient to floss because you only have to use one hand to floss. However, floss picks are not as effective as regular floss because they don’t give you the opportunity to reach the angles necessary for effective flossing.

So how do you floss properly?

  • Starting with about 18 inches of floss, wind most of the floss around each middle finger, leaving an inch or two of floss to work with;
  • Holding the floss tautly between your thumbs and index fingers, slide it gently up-and-down between your teeth;
  • Gently curve the floss around the base of each tooth, making sure you go beneath the gumline. Never snap or force the floss, as this may cut or bruise delicate gum tissue;
  • Use clean sections of floss as you move from tooth to tooth; and
  • To remove the floss, use the same back-and-forth motion to bring the floss up and away from the teeth

Sources: Colgate.com

 

Gingivitis Is Never A Good Thing to Have

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For many people, the word “gingivitis” sounds like something they have heard but the odds are they don’t know what it describes or how bad it can be if it takes up residence in your mouth.

The reason you don’t want gingivitis camping out in your mouth is that it’s a type of periodontal disease that creates inflammation and infection in your mouth – which eventually leads to the destruction of tissue that provide support to your teeth, your gums, periodontal ligaments and tooth sockets.

So how does gingivitis get started? The initial culprit is plaque, that sticky material created from mucus, bacteria and debris from food you eat. It sticks to the areas of your teeth that are exposed and eventually leads to tooth decay.

Once plaque hardens because you didn’t remove it through brushing, flossing and regular visits to your dentist for a cleaning, it becomes tartar (also called calculus). Tartar is a hard deposit that clings to the base of your teeth. Your gums are irritated and inflamed by both plaque and tartar. Then bacteria moves in to your weakened gums, creating toxins that cause your gums to become swollen, tender and eventually infected.

Some amount of gingivitis develops in many people during puberty or their early adult years because of hormonal changes. The gingivitis will often persist or recur periodically if your oral health is poor.

What increases your risk of developing gingivitis?

  • Improper dental hygiene
  • Certain infections and body-wide (systemic) diseases
  • Pregnancy (hormonal changes increase the sensitivity of the gums)
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Misaligned teeth, rough edges of fillings, and ill-fitting or unclean mouth appliances (such as braces, dentures, bridges, and crowns). Use of certain medications, including phenytoin, bismuth, and some birth control pills

What are the symptoms of gingivitis?

  • Bleeding gums (blood on toothbrush even with gentle brushing of the teeth)
  • Bright red or red-purple appearance to gums
  • Gums that are tender when touched, but otherwise painless
  • Mouth sores
  • Swollen gums
  • Shiny appearance to gums

If you do have gingivitis, how is it treated? The first goal is to reduce the level of inflammation. This is best achieved by making twice-yearly appointments with your dental hygienist for a thorough cleaning of your teeth. Make more frequent appointments if you have severe gingivitis. They’ll loosen and remove deposits of plaque and tartar on your teeth. Of course, in between visits, you need to be sure to brush twice a day and floss daily.

If you are more prone than usual to plaque building up on your teeth, your dentist may recommend special toothpicks, water irrigation, electric toothbrushes, or other devices. Antiplaque and/or anti-tartar toothpastes and mouth washes m