Is Sugar the Only Food That Causes Cavities?

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No, All Carbohydrates Can Impact Oral Health

Many people assume that only sugar causes cavities. Reduce or eliminate sugar from your diet, and you are safe from cavities. That’s actually not correct. You see, cavities occur as a result of tooth decay, and tooth decay occurs when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) such as breads, cereals, milk, soda, fruits, cakes, or candy are left on the teeth. So exactly how does that deliciously wonderful slice of bread that you had this morning turn into a tooth-killer cavity? It’s really a quite simple (and deadly) process that involves five steps:

  1. You eat something containing carbohydrates (remember, both sugar and starches fall into this category).

  2. Bacteria that live in the mouth digest these foods, turning them into acids.

  3. The bacteria, acid, food debris, and saliva combine to form plaque, which clings to the teeth.

  4. The acids in plaque dissolve the enamel surface of the teeth.

  5. Once the enamel is dissolved, holes form in the teeth and are called cavities, or caries.

However, the real issue is not the amount of sugar or starch in a particular food, but how long it tends to remain on your teeth. For example, some of the most damaging foods are those that mash into the tops of the molars at the back of the mouth and don't dissolve quickly -- like gummy candy or starchy chips and crackers. Lollipops, juice, and soda are also major offenders since they douse teeth in sugar for minutes at a time.

To reduce the impact of carbohydrates on your teeth and to head off the five-step process that leads to cavities, try these simple approaches:

  • Water, water and more water. Drink water with every meal and be sure to actively swish it around your mouth at the end of the meal. This will wash away the acids that formed and help remove debris.
  • Chew a piece of sugar-free gum at the end of your meal – it helps produce saliva, which aids in naturally cleaning your teeth, and it also will often remove food debris from the meal.
  • Avoid really sticky foods that stay on your teeth for hours.
  • Brush twice a day and floss daily.
  • Make sure to drink water with fluoride to strengthen your teeth – this is especially important for kids.
  • Give your kids calcium-rich cheese. It is a great cavity-fighting snack, since it can actually stimulate the flow of saliva (a natural tooth cleaner) and neutralize the mouth acids that wear away enamel.

Simple Steps to Avoiding Problems with Your Teeth

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Regular Brushing and Flossing Can Reduce Oral Health Problems

It is well established that regularly brushing and flossing your teeth provides an array of oral health benefits, from preventing tooth decay and cavities to freshening your breath. And probably the most compelling reason to make brushing and flossing a regular part of your daily routine is that it can save you money. Getting cavities filled and crowns put in are not inexpensive procedures.

So what are proper brushing and flossing techniques?

Brushing

·       Brush your teeth 2 times a day, in the morning and at night.

·       Use a toothbrush with soft, rounded-end bristles and a head that is small enough to reach all parts of your teeth and mouth. Replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months.

·       You may also use an electric toothbrush that has the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval. Studies show that powered toothbrushes with a rotating and oscillating (back-and-forth) action are more effective than other toothbrushes, including other powered toothbrushes.

·       Place the brush at a 45-degree angle where the teeth meet the gums. Press firmly, and gently rock the brush back and forth using small circular movements. Do not scrub. Vigorous brushing can make the gums pull away from the teeth and can scratch your tooth enamel.

·       Brush all surfaces of the teeth, tongue-side and cheek-side. Pay special attention to the front teeth and all surfaces of the back teeth.

·       Brush chewing surfaces vigorously with short back-and-forth strokes.

·       Brush your tongue from back to front. Some people put some toothpaste or mouthwash on their toothbrush when they do this. Brushing your tongue helps remove plaque, which can cause bad breath and help bacteria grow. Some toothbrushes now have a specific brush to use for your tongue.

Flossing

Floss at least once a day. The type of floss you use is not important. Choose the type and flavor you like best. When you floss your teeth, use any of the following methods:

  • The finger-wrap method: Cut off a piece of floss 18 inches to 20 inches long. Wrap one end around your left middle finger and the other end around your right middle finger, until your hands are about 2 inches to 3 inches apart.
  • The circle method: Use a piece of floss about 12 inches long. Tie the ends together, forming a loop. If the loop is too large, wrap the floss around your fingers to make it smaller.
  • Use a plastic floss tool: There are lots of options available at most drugstores and grocery stores. This often makes it easier for many people to actually commit to flossing daily. Child-size flossing tools are available for parents to use to floss their children's teeth.

Gently work the floss between the teeth toward the gums. Curve the floss around each tooth into a U-shape and gently slide it under the gum line. Move the floss firmly up and down several times to scrape off the plaque. Popping the floss in and out between the teeth without scraping will not remove much plaque and can hurt your gums.

If your gums bleed when you floss, the bleeding should stop as your gums become healthier and tighter next to your teeth

 

Source: WebMD

The 7 Worst Foods and Habits That Stain Your Teeth

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And Three Simple Tips to Minimize Their Impact on A Beautiful Smile

Determined to keep those pearly whites their whitest? If you do, then you want to be sure to use a set of simple tips to reduce the ability these 7 foods and habits have to stain your teeth.

As you might imagine, intensely colored foods and beverages tend to be the biggest offenders. The color in these foods and beverages comes from chromogens, intensely pigmented molecules with an unfortunate penchant for latching on to dental enamel. But the presence of chromogens isn’t the only thing that determines the staining potential of foods and beverages.

Acidity is another factor. Acidic foods and beverages -- including some that are not brightly colored -- promote staining by eroding the dental enamel, temporarily softening teeth and making it easier for chromogens to latch on. And finally, a family of food compounds known as tannins promotes staining by further boosting chromogens’ ability to attach to enamel.

The Top Teeth-Staining Foods and Beverages

1. Wine. Red wine, an acidic beverage that contains chromogens and tannins, is notorious for staining teeth. But white wine, too, promotes staining. In a study conducted recently at New York University School of Dentistry, teeth exposed to tea were stained more severely if they previously had been exposed to white wine.

2. Tea. Like wine, the ordinary black tea most people drink is rich in stain-promoting tannins. Dentists say it’s a bigger stainer than coffee, which is chromogen-rich but low in tannins. Herbal, green, and white teas are less likely to stain than black tea.

3. Cola. Acidic and chromogen-rich, cola can cause significant staining. But even light-colored soft drinks are sufficiently acidic to promote staining of teeth by other foods and beverages. According to leading experts, carbonated beverages have similar acidity to battery acid.

4. Sports drinks. Recent research has found that highly acidic sports drinks can soften tooth enamel -- setting the stage for staining.

5. Berries. Blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, cherries, grapes, pomegranates, and other intensely colored fruits (and juices, pies, and other foods and beverages made from them) can cause stains.

6. Sauces. Soy sauce, tomato sauce, curry sauce, and other deeply colored sauces are believed to have significant staining potential. 

7. Sweets. Hard candies, chewing gum, popsicles, and other sweets often contain teeth-staining coloring agents. If your tongue turns a funny color, there’s a good chance that your teeth will be affected, too.

Tips to Minimize Stained Teeth

Ironically, many of the foods and beverages that stain teeth are loaded with antioxidants, which, of course, have key health benefits. So if you’re worried about stained teeth, you might want to cut back on these foods and beverages rather than cut them out entirely. In addition, consider taking steps to minimize the contact between your teeth and stain-promoting substances. Here are several suggestions:

  • Use a straw. Sipping beverages through a straw is believed to help keep teeth-staining beverages away from the teeth -- the front teeth, in particular. No, you’re probably not eager to use a straw for coffee or wine. But it shouldn’t be too much trouble to use a straw for cola, juices, and iced tea.
  • Swallow promptly. Swallowing stain-causing foods and beverages quickly is also believed to help protect teeth from stains. Obviously, it’s important to chew foods thoroughly before swallowing. And gulping can, of course, cause choking. But don’t retain things in your mouth for long periods of time. In other words, savor flavors -- but not for too long.
  • Swish with water. It’s not always convenient to brush your teeth after having something to eat or drink. Even when it is, it might be better not to: dental enamel is highly vulnerable to abrasion from tooth brushing for up to 30 minutes after the consumption of an acidic food or beverage. So it’s safer simply to swish with water -- and brush later, once the enamel has had a chance to re-harden. Another way to remove stain-causing substances without brushing is to chew sugarless gum after eating or drinking.

And don’t forget the importance of brushing and flossing daily and be sure to see a dentist periodically -- and to avoid smoking or chewing tobacco. These long-term strategies, combined with the simple tips we’ve mentioned, should keep you smiling for years to come.

 

Sources: Lehigh Valley Smile Designs and WebMD

Soda or Pop? By Any Name, It's Trouble for Your Teeth

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Carbonated Soft Drinks Erode Tooth Enamel and Lead to Tooth Decay

It's called "pop" in the Midwest and most of Canada. It's "soda" in the Northeast. It goes by a well-known brand name in much of the South. And in Pennsylvania, “pop” and “soda” are used depending on if you live in the eastern or western part of the state. But however people say it, they're talking about something that can cause serious oral health problems – carbonated soft drinks.

Soft drinks have emerged as one of the most significant dietary sources of tooth decay, affecting people of all ages. Acids and acidic sugar byproducts in soft drinks soften tooth enamel, contributing to the formation of cavities. In extreme cases, softer enamel combined with improper brushing, grinding of the teeth or other conditions can lead to tooth loss.

Sugar-free drinks, which account for only 14 percent of all soft drink consumption, are less harmful. However, they are acidic and potentially can still cause problems.

We're Drinking More and More

Soft drink consumption in the United States has increased dramatically across all demographic groups, especially among children and teenagers. The problem is so severe that health authorities such as the American Academy of Pediatrics have begun sounding the alarm about the dangers.

 How many school age children drink soft drinks? Estimates range from one in two to more than four in five consuming at least one soft drink a day. At least one in five kids consumes a minimum of four servings a day. Larger serving sizes make the problem worse. From 6.5 ounces in the 1950s, the typical soft drink has grown to up to 20 ounces today.

 Children and adolescents aren't the only people at risk. Long-term consumption of soft drinks has a cumulative effect on tooth enamel. As people live longer, more will be likely to experience problems.

What to Do

Children, adolescents and adults can all benefit from reducing the number of soft drinks they consume, as well as from available oral care therapies. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Substitute different drinks: Stock the refrigerator with beverages containing less sugar and acid such as water, milk and fruit juice. Drink them yourself and encourage your kids to do the same.
  • Rinse with water: After consuming a soft drink, flush your mouth with water to remove vestiges of the drink that can prolong exposure of tooth enamel to acids.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinse: Fluoride reduces cavities and strengthens tooth enamel, so brush with a fluoride-containing toothpaste. Rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash also can help. The dentists at Lehigh Valley Smile Designs can recommend an over-the-counter mouthwash or prescribe a stronger one depending on the severity of the condition. They also can recommend a higher fluoride toothpaste.
  • Get professionally applied fluoride treatment: Your dental hygienist can apply fluoride in the form of a foam, gel or rinse. 

Soft drinks are hard on your teeth. By reducing the amount you drink, practicing good oral hygiene, and seeking help from your dentist and hygienist, you can counteract their effect and enjoy better oral health.                         

SOURCE: Colgate