The commitment to a weight loss plan should be applauded on multiple levels. Since being overweight can increase your chances of facing a variety of health problems, many physicians will recommend a weight loss plan to patients on an individual basis. That can provide an opportunity to increase one’s overall health.
If you decide to shed some extra pounds, it’s important to keep your dental health in mind during this time of your life. Eating less and moving more can make a big difference in how you feel physically, mentally and emotionally. Lifestyle changes can alter every aspect of your health, including your dental health. Follow these tips to protect your oral health while you lose weight.
Just like fashion trends and music styles, popular diets and foods come and go. If you’re into following trendy new foods, you should be aware of how these foods can affect your whole body. However, some people forget to think about how a new diet or special food can impact their dental health.
There are some “healthy” foods that actually do more harm than good when it comes to your teeth. You can make informed choices about the foods you eat each day, deciding to regularly eat only those foods that will promote excellent oral health now and in the future. Here are some foods to be aware of.Ice Cubes
During the summer, many people turn to ice cubes instead of cooling treats like popsicles and ice cream. In a lot of ways, ice is a much better option. It’s sugar free, cold, and has no calories, so it’s a great idea for cooling off when you’re trying to make healthier choices.
Sucking on ice is typically fine, but an issue comes into play when people decide to chew on ice. Chewing on ice can actually cause damage to your enamel, and if you’ve had dental work like a large filling or crown, the ice can break these tooth repairs, necessitating an emergency trip to the dentist for a replacement.Dried Fruit
Many people turn to dried fruit as an alternative to sugary fruit snacks or candies like gumdrops. From a nutrition perspective, this is a better option. Dried fruit has fiber and vitamins that many sugary candies do not have.
However, dried fruit has the same effect on teeth as sticky candies. Fruit is very high in sugar, and some fruit types, like dried pineapple, are still highly acidic. Many types of dried fruits, especially mangos and cranberries, are sweetened with sugar, making them more like candy than like fruit.
Dried fruit fibers are more likely to get stuck between the teeth, and the sticky texture allows a sugary residue to linger on your teeth after you’ve swallowed. If you enjoy dried fruit, you should brush and floss after indulging in this sweet natural treat.Citrus Water
Many people have the admirable goal of increasing their water intake. After years of drinking juice, alcohol, soda, and milk, focusing on water can be a challenge for many people. To make water more interesting and palatable in comparison to more exciting beverages, many people add flavorings from fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
The most popular additives are lemons, limes, and oranges. Citrus brightens up water without the need for any sweetening, and some people find citrus water more refreshing than water itself.
Unfortunately, citrus juices are highly acidic, and if you sip on lemon water all day long, you are constantly lowering the pH in your mouth. Your enamel will weaken more quickly, leading to decay.
Plain water is the safest choice, but if you must flavor your water, do so with fruit oils diffused from the peels of citrus, like lemon oil. You can also choose less acidic fruits and vegetables for flavoring, such as blueberries and cucumbers.Saltine Crackers
Many parents turn to crackers as a “healthy” snack over cookies, candy, or brownies. However, saltine crackers (and other crackers like fish crackers, thin wheat crackers, and flaky round crackers) are just as bad.
Your saliva has an amazing ability to begin the digestive process in the mouth with the help of specific enzymes that begin to turn simple starches to sugar as you chew. The reason these crackers are so bad is that they are basically all starch, and so they turn into a paste that coats the teeth as you chew.
The paste quickly becomes simple sugar, and any residue left behind feeds the bacteria in your mouth. The bacteria start to break down the enamel, and the starch residue stays until you brush your teeth, giving the bacteria a long-lasting food source if you snack on crackers throughout the day.
If you want to give your child a healthful snack, consider a complex carbohydrate like oatmeal, lentils, or a slice of whole-grain toast.Diet Soda
Diet soda is one of those tools that people can use to wean themselves off of calorie-dense and sugar-loaded regular soda. Diet soda has low or no calories but still offers a sweet taste and the pleasure of carbonation.
Unfortunately, diet sodas are still bad for your teeth. Any soda, including diet soda, is acidic and will contribute to enamel erosion. It’s best to enjoy soda only on special occasions. Never sip soda slowly over the course of several hours.
As you can see, some “healthier” foods are still not healthy for your teeth. You can enjoy treats occasionally, but if you know the dangers, you can remember to swish with water, brush, and floss to keep your teeth as healthy as you can when enjoying these foods. Contact us at Dr. Jerry F. Maymi & Associates for more information about your dental health.
Participating in sports is a great way to engage in the community and stay healthy, no matter what your age. If you and your family make staying active through team or individual sports a priority, you need to make sure you do what you can to prevent injury. While many people stretch, tape, and massage sore muscles to avoid harm, dental health is often completely overlooked.
While the active lifestyle will do wonders for your body, without the right protection and prevention techniques, your teeth will suffer. Here’s what you need to know about keeping your teeth safe when practicing and playing the game.Hydration and Sports Drinks
For best performance, it’s essential to stay hydrated. However, during serious training where you work out for hours, you need more than just water. You need to replenish electrolytes that are lost through sweat. Most people, especially teens, use sports drinks as a quick way to recover lost nutrients from serious training for team sports like soccer, wrestling, or track events.
Unfortunately, most of these drinks are high in sugar and expose your teeth to an acidic environment. It’s best to choose water for moderate exercise; most people don’t need sports drinks for regular workouts. For high-energy games and long-distance events, the story is different. Look for sugar-free electrolyte supplements, or make your own using coconut water and salt additives.
Staying hydrated is also an important part of dental health. When your mouth dries out, your saliva is not able to consistently wash over the teeth, disturbing the bacteria that settle there. Without ample saliva, bacterial acid affects your teeth at an accelerated rate, which could explain the correlation one study found between physical training and cavities. This study was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports.
Drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your workout combats this problem, especially getting plenty to drink before getting started. Properly hydrated athletes will have clear or light-yellow urine and will sweat amply during periods of heavy exertion. Lack of sweat is a sign you need fluids. Never be without water, especially during games or training sessions that last a long time.Breathing
As the exertion of exercise increases, your body compensates by breathing more deeply and more quickly. Many people start breathing through their mouth instead of their nose, taking in as much air as they can, especially if they are getting tired during exercise. Mouth breathing can have the same drying effect on the teeth as dehydration.
It’s important to train yourself to breathe more slowly and with more control in order to protect your teeth from drying out through excessive mouth breathing. If you need to breathe quickly, focus on breathing in through the nose and exhaling quickly through the mouth. The air you release is moister than the dry air of your environment, so it will have less of a drying effect.
The best way to breathe is through the nose as much as possible. As your fitness level increases, you should attempt to breathe through your nose as best as you can.
Try increasing your ability to breathe through your nose by gradually increasing your breathing count using your diaphragm. Start by breathing in for two counts, and out for two counts. Then increase the duration to three and three, four and four, etc. This pattern will not only keep your teeth safe, but it will help you improve your performance, especially if you practice before a workout.Damaging Exposure
Finally, it’s important to reduce your exposure to damaging environmental factors or injury. For contact sports like wrestling, football, and rugby, wearing a mouthguard is essential. For sports that are aggressive or competitive even though they have less physical contact (like soccer or baseball), mouthguards are still a wise investment.
Many lost or broken teeth can be prevented by wearing a properly-fitted mouthguard. For solo sports, you might still consider speaking to your dentist about a mouthguard if the sport has a high incidence of accidents or combat, like judo, mountain biking, or snowboarding.
Your teeth are also protected by wearing a helmet. In case you have a head injury or impact to the side of the head, your jaw is protected. Breaking your jaw permanently affects your tooth health and alignment. Helmets are essential for biking, boarding, skiing, and horse-back riding, but they also a good idea to wearing during training sessions in skating.
Furthermore, if you are a swimmer, take care to brush your teeth carefully after your swim, because chlorinated water can stain your teeth and increase your risk of decay.
If you swim in a private facility, be sure that either you or the caretaker for the pool monitors the pH, as swimming water can easily become too acidic for your safety. You can purchase water testing kits to help you determine is the water is safe for swimming. The ideal pH is 7.4—just slightly basic from neutral.Positive Benefits
All of the above precautions should not discourage you from committing to an active lifestyle. Those who exercise are more likely to have better gum health, with a significantly decreased risk of periodontitis.
For more information on protecting your teeth during sports, contact us at Dr. Jerry F. Maymi & Associates.
Teeth grinding is the repetitive clenching of teeth, a movement that looks as if the person is chewing vigorously without any food in the mouth. The medical term for this condition is “bruxism.”
Bruxism is well known and well documented by doctors and dentists; however, no one is absolutely sure what triggers the condition. There are many recognized risk factors for bruxism, though. There are also several effective ways to cope with and treat bruxism through behavioral modification and the use of mouth guards.Millions of People Do the Daily Grind
The number of children and adults who grind their teeth on a daily (or nightly) basis is estimated to be around 30 to 40 million. Occasional teeth grinding doesn’t normally cause problems. But chronic bruxism often creates trouble for those who have the condition.
Some people clench their jaws ferociously at work or in other stressful daytime situations. Other people do their teeth grinding in their sleep. Many people have no clue they’re grinding their teeth until symptoms begin to show up.Symptoms Vary Among Teeth Grinders
Parents and spouses often observe sleeping family members rhythmically clenching their teeth. There may be associated grinding noises. Jaw pain and headaches upon awakening are often signs that nighttime bruxism is taking a toll on teeth. Occasionally, teeth grinding is so bad that a tooth will chip or crack from the pressure of the jaws being forced together.
Other symptoms include earaches, loose teeth, sore teeth, and discomfort in the face that won’t go away. Teeth grinding can lead to a condition called temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD), which is a painful condition marked by swelling in the muscles and joints around the jaw.Bruxism Can Be Caused by Stress
If you’re on edge and worried, your whole body, including your mouth, may tense up. You have to direct your nervous energy somewhere, and teeth grinding is often the unconscious way people focus their frustration, anger, or fear.
If you find yourself grinding your teeth as a response to stress at school, at home, at work, or out in public, now is the time to find some coping mechanisms to deal with the pressures that are negatively affecting you. Deep breathing, meditation, and exercise often help bruxism sufferers relax and unclench their teeth.Using and Abusing Substances Can Cause Teeth Grinding
For some people, the consumption of alcohol causes them to grind their teeth. Cigarette smoking is also a cause of bruxism. In fact, smokers and drinkers have double the chance of becoming teeth grinders compared to non-smokers and teetotalers.
Overconsumption of caffeine is also a risk factor for developing bruxism. Taking certain anti-depressants can cause teeth grinding in patients, as can the use of amphetamines. If teeth grinding does result from prescribed medications, your doctor may be able to adjust or change your medications to reduce or eliminate the bruxism.Physical Conditions May Lead to Bruxism
Sleep apnea is often associated with teeth grinding. If you suffer from sleep apnea, get it treated as soon as possible to avoid bruxism. If you already have bruxism due to sleep apnea, having your apnea treated should reduce or eliminate the condition.
Physical and mental exhaustion can lead to teeth grinding. Heavy snoring may also cause the condition. Misalignment of the teeth themselves may cause teeth scraping and grinding at night.Mouth Guards Protect Teeth from Grinding
If you have chronic bruxism, your dentist can create a custom mouth guard that you wear during the times you typically experience bruxism. Mouth guards are made of soft, pliable material that conforms to the shape of your bite for comfort.
Mouth guards protect the teeth from chipping and fracturing. They provide a soft cushion to ease the pain and inflammation of TMJD and other jaw swelling. Mouth guards also keep the enamel of the teeth from wearing away due to vigorous teeth clenching.Atmosphere and Positioning Help Nighttime Bruxism
If stress and aggression are the cause of nighttime teeth grinding, it’s important to create new, calming bedtime rituals to lower your stress levels as you fall asleep. Make your bedroom a sanctuary of solitude and peace by leaving your phone, laptops, and other devices outside of your sleep space. Since lack of sleep is often a cause of bruxism, choose an earlier bedtime when possible to get more good slumber.
Snoring and sleep apnea are sometimes worse in those who sleep on their backs. This means teeth grinding may also be worse when you are sleeping in this position. Sleep on your side or stomach instead. Also, be certain pillows aren’t compressing your airway, since interrupted breathing during sleep is associated with an increased likelihood of bruxism.
If you or your child is suffering from bruxism, contact Dr. Jerry F. Maymi & Associates today to schedule a full evaluation and examination of the teeth. We create high-quality mouth guards to help treat bruxism, and we can also get any uneven teeth aligned so they’re less likely to grind.
It’s no secret that strong teeth are better able to withstand tooth decay, discoloration, and other oral health problems than weak teeth. Many dental procedures you may undergo and at-home oral hygiene measures you may take are specifically designed to bolster the strength of your teeth.
However, many patients overlook one of the most obvious tools used to improve tooth strength: dental fluoride. This oversight is usually due to misconceptions about fluoride, such as the idea that fluoride treatments are only appropriate for children. In this blog, we cover the fundamental facts about fluoride and its dental uses.
What Is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral. Natural fluoride is found in drinking water and certain foods, such as potatoes, crabmeat, and citrus fruits. In some areas in the world, including most of America, municipal water may have fluoride added to it as well.
Throughout the day, your tooth enamel gains and loses mineral content. Demineralization occurs when acids and sugars eat away at the outer layer of enamel. These acids can come directly from foods or beverages, such as sugary soft drinks, or from bacteria. If a tooth becomes too deficient in minerals, it is likely to develop cavities and other forms of tooth decay.
To combat demineralization, the body provides remineralization, which helps replace the essential minerals that have been eaten away. Remineralization can come from specific foods and beverages coming into contact with the tooth enamel or from the body supplying minerals through blood flow and saliva.
While teeth need a combination of minerals, including phosphate and calcium, fluoride is the most essential substance in the remineralization process. Not only does dietary and dental fluoride replenish lost minerals, but it also discourages future demineralization. Fluoride repairs mild tooth decay and strengthens tooth enamel so that demineralization and decay are less likely to occur.
Who Can Undergo Fluoride Treatment?
One of the most common misconceptions about fluoride is that the mineral is only helpful for children who have not developed all their adult teeth yet. While dental fluoride is particularly important for children, the mineral is used in patients of all ages to improve enamel strength.
In children, dental fluoride is used to build strong teeth for a lifetime. Before age six, a child’s permanent teeth are still develop and erupting. Any fluoride the child is exposed to during this developmental period is incorporated into his or her permanent teeth, making the enamel stronger overall.
Dentists may also recommend fluoride treatment for patients who are particularly prone to tooth decay, especially those who have other conditions that make it difficult to maintain enamel strength. You may need to undergo fluoride treatment after having a cavity filled, before starting an orthodontics program, or before beginning treatment of an oral condition such as gum disease.
Your need for dental fluoride treatments depends on your oral health, family and medical history, and dietary intake of fluoride.
How Is Dental Fluoride Applied?
Dental fluoride is available in several professional and at-home options. The fluoride solutions used in your dentist’s office or prescribed by a healthcare provider have a much higher concentration of fluoride, which makes these options better suited for patients with existing dental conditions.
Your dentist may apply fluoride at the end of a routine cleaning. This fluoride comes in the form of a varnish, liquid, gel, or foam solution that is applied directly to the surface of the teeth and left on for a specified period of time. After this type of fluoride treatment, you may be asked to refrain from eating or drinking anything for 45 minutes to an hour to give the treatment time to set.
If your teeth are severely demineralized, your dentist or doctor may recommend a prescription fluoride supplement. These supplements come as liquid medicine, rinses, or tablets.
To help maintain an adequate fluoride level between dental appointments, you may decide to use at-home fluoride options as well. Generally, you have the option of either fluoridated toothpaste or mouthwash. These solutions can be used regularly as part of your usual oral hygiene routine.
Before switching to a fluoridated toothpaste or adding a fluoridated mouthwash to your daily routine, consult with your doctor. While fluoride is an important factor in achieving healthy teeth, there is such a thing as too much fluoride. If you drink heavily fluoridated water and have a prescription for a fluoride supplement, for example, you may not need to take the added step of brushing with a specialized toothpaste.
It is particularly important to check with your child’s dentist before using a fluoride solution at home. Early overexposure to fluoride could permanently discolor your child’s teeth or create surface defects in his or her enamel.
Think that regular fluoride treatment could help strengthen your smile? Discuss your treatment options with your dentist during your next appointment.
- Cracks—Cracks can appear in teeth for a number of reasons. Some cracks are caused by biting down wrong on hard foods, while others result from impact injuries to the head or mouth. If the crack is limited to the chewing surface of the tooth, your dentist may be able to repair it. However, cracks that extend into the root of the tooth usually require extraction.
- Decay—Extensive decay can make a tooth unusable and extremely painful. In some cases, the decay can even affect the teeth on either side of the main tooth or the jaw bone. If the decay cannot be excised in a root canal, you may need a dental extraction instead.
- Infections—If you have a serious infection in the inner section of a tooth or if you are at high risk of infection, tooth removal may be a necessary solution. For example, it’s more common for patients with autoimmune disorders to need their teeth extracted than healthy adults.
- Lack of Support—If a tooth’s root and the gum tissue around it become too compromised, the tooth may become loose on its own. This lack of support usually results from advanced periodontal disease and could require tooth extraction if gum grafts and other surgical efforts are no longer viable options.
- Misalignment—Many individuals consult with dental professionals to try and achieve a straighter, more attractive smile. If you have teeth that are severely misaligned or that are too large or too small for your smile, your orthodontist may remove and replace these teeth as part of your smile transformation.
Gum disease can affect individuals of virtually any age. In many cases, individuals develop gingivitis, which can be harmful, but is easy to treat. Other individuals experience periodontal disease, a more advanced gum condition.
In our previous blog, “What It Might Mean If Your Gums Are Receding,” we listed the risk factors and warning signs of periodontal disease. In this blog, we discuss how periodontal disease can affect your health, both in your mouth and throughout your body.How Gum Disease Affects Your Oral Health
As the name suggests, gum disease targets the soft tissues of the mouth, especially the gums. When your gums become weakened, the tissue may pull away from the teeth, exposing the roots to bacteria and decay.
Individuals with periodontal disease may also experience:
- Adult tooth loss
- Gum pain and tenderness
- Increased risk of oral cancers
- Tooth movement leading to extensive misalignment
- Tooth sensitivity to temperature changes or sugar
While you have active periodontal disease, you will not be able to undergo certain dental procedures. For example, you may need periodontal disease treatment and restorative gum grafts before you can enter an orthodontics program. Without these preparatory measures, the movement caused by your braces or alignment retainers could increase your risk of tooth loss.
How Gum Disease Affects Your Whole-Body Health
In addition to the damage gum disease can cause in your mouth, researchers have found a connection between periodontal disease and other serious health conditions. While the causal relationship is somewhat unclear, experts suspect that this connection stems from the fact that periodontal disease is an active bacterial infection that can potentially spread.
Individuals with periodontal disease also have a higher risk of the following conditions.
Coronary Artery Disease
If you have periodontal disease, you are twice as likely to develop coronary artery disease as someone with healthy gums. Research suggests that the oral bacteria that causes periodontal disease also causes inflammation in the heart that contributes to clot formation.
While research into the connection between periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s and dementia is limited, some small-scale studies suggest a correlation. One such study, which evaluated the memory and gum health of 118 participants between the ages of 75 and 98, reported that the individuals with extensive tooth loss were more likely to exhibit dementia.
Diabetes and gum disease often appear together, possibly because diabetes increases an individual’s risk of infections. People with both diabetes and periodontal disease are six times as likely to struggle to control their blood sugar levels as other diabetic individuals. People with both conditions also have a higher risk of kidney disease.
Fertility and Pregnancy Problems
Studies suggest that periodontal disease may affect fertility and pregnancy success. Women who have periodontal disease may take longer to become pregnant. These women also have an increased risk of miscarriage and premature birth.
The bacteria associated with periodontal disease may also endanger your lungs, especially if you have other risk factors of respiratory conditions such as a history of smoking. People with periodontal disease are more likely to develop serious or permanent respiratory infection than those without.
Research suggests that the connection between rheumatoid arthritis and periodontal disease comes from the same cause as the connection between heart problems and gum disease. Namely, because periodontal disease encourages inflammation, its presence also increases the risk of other inflammatory conditions.
In many cases, these conditions and periodontal disease contribute to each other, without one condition being the obvious source of the other. For example, diabetics have a higher risk of developing periodontal disease just as individuals with periodontal disease are more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes.
If you have one of the conditions listed above, let your dentist know during your next appointment. He or she may recommend specific measures to reduce your risk of serious periodontal disease.
Similarly, if you are diagnosed with periodontal disease, discuss how this oral infection may impact the rest of your body the next time you visit your primary care doctor.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Gum Disease
If you don’t currently have gum disease, prevention is simple. Maintain a consistent oral hygiene routine and schedule appointments with your dentist every six months.
If you exhibit the signs of gingivitis or periodontal disease, discuss your options with your dentist. You may be able improve your symptoms immediately by adding a fluoridated mouthwash or specialized toothpaste to your oral hygiene routine.
To eliminate your gum disease, your dentist may recommend specific periodontal disease treatment. Treatment often involves evaluating your condition through X-ray images and cleaning and scaling the affected areas. In some cases, minor oral surgery may be required to restore the elasticity and correct position of your gum tissue.
Discuss your risk of gum disease with your dentist to protect your smile and your entire body.
Many adults think that decay is just for children when in effect, you are at risk your whole life. When dental disease is left untreated in can lead to serious health problems such as infection which can damage underlying bone, nerve damage and tooth loss. When dental infections are left untreated they can spread to other parts of your body that can eventually be life threatening. In pregnant women, infections of the gum tissue can lead to early birth and low birth weight of the child.
The important thing for us to know is that dental disease is preventable and treatable. By instituting good preventive dentistry on yourself, and adopting good oral homecare, you can lead a healthy oral status. It is important to always brush twice a day, floss between teeth at least once a day, eat a balanced diet and limit between meal snacks. Regular dental visits at least once every six months will help you maintain a good dentition and oral health.