Do you think that missing the occasional dental checkup is no big deal? It may surprise you to know that every time your dentist takes a look at your mouth, he or she gets a glimpse of your level of overall health in addition to your oral health. In fact, dentists are often the first health professionals to spot certain medical conditions in their earliest stages. The following are just a few conditions that your dentist can discover during a routine checkup.
Diabetes, Heart Disease and Dementia
When previously healthy gum tissues suddenly begin to swell and bleed, your dentist sees this as a red flag for adult-onset diabetes. The high blood sugar levels, inflammation and impaired healing processes that are characteristic of diabetes make a patient more susceptible to infected gums. Patients with gum disease are also more likely to have heart disease and develop dementia, so the onset of this condition may prompt a visit to your physician.
You may not even realize everything your dentist is doing during a checkup, but one component of the examination is an oral cancer screening. Composed of a manual palpation of the soft tissues of the mouth, face and neck and a visual inspection of the oral cavity, an oral cancer screening can catch this disease in its infancy, which is a key factor in achieving a positive outcome.
Marked by a low red blood cell count or low hemoglobin, anemia shows up in the oral cavity in several ways. As with many health conditions, anemia often raises a person’s risk for developing gum disease. When hemoglobin, which is the substance that gives red blood cells their dark color, is low, the soft tissues of the mouth may take on a pale color. Lastly, patients with anemia sometimes present with an inflamed tongue.
Several oral health conditions can let your dentist know you are under stress. Bruxism, which is an unconscious grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw, is often caused by stress. TMJ disorder, which affects the jaw joints and often causes head and jaw pain, is also a common product of stress. Canker sores or ulcers in the mouth are another clue that the patient needs to look at ways to reduce stress.
The eating disorders anorexia and bulimia are easy to spot upon examining the teeth. Both disorders prevent the body from receiving essential nutrients to keep the teeth strong and healthy, and they will present themselves with rampant dental erosion and tooth decay. Because bulimics induce vomiting on a regular basis, their teeth, especially the back surfaces, are more vulnerable to erosion from frequent contact with stomach acids.
The Importance of Regular Dental Checkups
Your oral health and general health are not mutually exclusive, so you must attend to both regularly by keeping your dental and medical checkup appointments. Not only will seeing a cosmetic dentist near you every six months ensure that your teeth and gums are in great shape, but it can also help detect some health problems early in their development and prompt you to seek the appropriate treatment from your physician.
If you are worried about your dental hygiene, there is a good chance that you already devote a little time in your day to things like brushing, flossing and using mouthwash. While those three things are the cornerstone of great dental health, what you eat on a typical day can also have a big effect on the color, health and cleanliness of your teeth. Here are some of the worst foods for your teeth.
If you think that reaching for dried fruits like apricots or apples is a healthy choice, you’re not alone. While these snacks can be rich in vitamins and nutrients, they also have a lot of natural sugars. Unlike fresh fruit, however, dried fruits are sticky and hang around in your mouth longer than you would like. This sticky, sugary combination feeds bacteria and can even lead to dental erosion over time.
With its combination of acid and sugar, soda is a lethal combination for the health of your teeth. Plus, the prolonged way that most people consume sodas makes it even worse. If you have a sip of a soda every few minutes, you are essentially washing your mouth with a sugary syrup over and over again for an hour or longer. If you choose to drink a soda, drink it all at once to reduce the time that your teeth are exposed to the beverage.
Just like sodas, hard candies are so bad for your teeth because the sugar hangs around for a while. If you suck on a hard candy for 15 minutes, your teeth are exposed to the sugar for quite a while. If you chew it up, the odds are good that small, sticky pieces of the candy will stay on your teeth for even longer. Chewable candies and chocolates, even if they have the same amount of sugar, will almost always be better for your teeth than these hard counterparts.
There are plenty of medical benefits to enjoying a small glass of wine on occasion, but frequent alcohol consumption can bring with it problems for your teeth and mouth. Alcohol can corrode the gums, and those who consume alcohol in large amounts are more likely to have throat or mouth cancer. Since alcohol also slows saliva production, it can lead to bacteria particles building up in your mouth at a faster than normal rate.
When you think of acidic fruits, it is citrus like oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, lemons and limes that probably come to mind. Add tomatoes to that list, and you have some of the most naturally acidic and sugary foods on the planet. Although these fruits have health benefits, they can eat away at your enamel and put you at a greater risk for cavities and tooth decay.
Although some of the foods on this list have health benefits, all can have negative effects on your teeth. You don’t have to skip them entirely, but make sure to brush or drink water after consuming things like soda, acidic fruits, alcohol, dried fruits and hard candies.
Gum disease is a chronic condition—once you’ve got it, you can manage the symptoms, but the damage to the structures that support your teeth cannot be reversed. That is why it is so important to be vigilant with preventive measures. Not only can this incurable condition lead to tooth loss, but it is also linked with several major health problems, including Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure, respiratory disease and diabetes. Fortunately, this condition, which is also called periodontal disease, is easy to prevent if you take proper oral care measures at home and see your dentist every six months for a checkup and thorough professional cleaning.
Best Practices for Oral Care at Home
The following five elements can help you take control of your periodontal health:
1. Flossing: You should floss at least once a day, gently sliding it against each tooth and under the gumline several times to ensure that the plaque is effectively removed.
2. Brushing: At least twice a day, brush all tooth surfaces, the gums and the tongue with a fluoride toothpaste.
3. Using Mouth Rinse: While brushing and flossing alone are usually enough to keep plaque under control, your dentist may recommend that you add an antiseptic or plaque-reducing mouth rinse to your cleaning routine.
4. Eating a Healthy Diet: A diet that is low in sugar and saturated fat and high in antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruits can support the immune system and keep gum tissues healthy.
5. Avoiding Tobacco Products: Over 60 percent of smokers develop gum disease. The harmful chemicals in cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products interfere with the functioning of gum tissue cells, decrease the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the gums and weaken the immune system.
Preventive Dental Visits
Seeing your dentist every six months is important for two reasons: prevention and early detection of oral health problems.
1. Teeth Cleaning: You love the look and feel of your teeth after the dental hygienist removes tartar and polishes the enamel, but there’s more at stake than aesthetics when you have your teeth cleaned. Removing plaque and tartar along the gumline helps prevent the inflammation and formation of pockets between the gums and teeth that are characteristic of gum disease.
2. Examination: Along with inspecting your teeth for decay and screening you for oral cancer, your dentist looks for signs of gum disease at each checkup. Because the earliest stage of gum disease can be reversed with proper treatment, you can’t afford to miss your routine dental appointments.
Signs of Periodontal Disease
The precursor to gum disease is gingivitis, which occurs when a buildup of plaque irritates the gums, causing inflammation and bleeding. If you notice tender, swollen or bleeding gums after you brush and floss, make an appointment with a dentist near you immediately. In most cases, gingivitis can be reversed by stepping up your oral hygiene routine at home and obtaining a deep cleaning of your teeth and gums at your dentist’s office. With proper treatment, gingivitis need not progress to full-blown gum disease.
Every time you head to the dentist, you are probably reminded to brush your teeth and floss on a regular basis. Although most people consider brushing their teeth to be a non-negotiable part of their daily routine, far fewer individuals remember to make flossing a priority. Flossing can dislodge pieces of food stuck in your teeth, sure, but it does a lot more. Here are five of the surprising benefits of flossing your teeth on a daily basis.
1. Flossing Prevents Gingivitis
Gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums, can be a painful condition that includes symptoms like bleeding or swollen gums. One of the simplest ways to prevent gingivitis is by flossing regularly, which can remove the plaque buildup on the gum line that leads to the disease.
2. Flossing Helps Control Diabetes
Most people are shocked to hear that diabetes and flossing are related in any way at all. Yet, flossing can have a major positive impact on diabetes in both children and adults. When you don’t floss, bacteria in your mouth builds up at a fast rate. This oral bacteria can affect the glucose levels of your blood, which is a major problem if you have diabetes. To help stabilize blood glucose levels, make sure to floss at least once each day and remove as much bacteria from the mouth as possible.
3. Flossing Reduces Bad Breath
If you have bad breath, you might have already tried some of the common tricks to get rid of it. Brushing your teeth two or three times a day and using mouthwash can certainly help, but it is the buildup of tartar that causes the strongest smells. You can remove the tartar on your teeth by brushing, but flossing can help remove tartar from your gums and in between your teeth. Those with bad breath who begin flossing regularly typically note improvements in their breath within a week.
4. Flossing Reduces the Risk of Respiratory Disease
Your mouth is a direct channel to the organs of your body. While this is a good thing in terms of food making it to your digestive system, it can be a problem when bacteria from the mouth travels down your throat to the respiratory system. Flossing can eliminate some of the oral bacteria that causes bronchitis and even pneumonia.
5. Flossing Can Prevent Heart Disease
Without regular flossing, you might notice that your gums bleed, which is a sign of gingivitis. One of the problems associated with this is that it allows bacteria to enter your bloodstream and attack your organs. Eventually, this can result in heart disease or blood clots. To significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, especially in men, daily flossing is a simple but effective solution.
Flossing can be a handy way to get rid of food stuck between your teeth, but the benefits don’t stop there. Regular flossing can play a role in reducing heart disease, respiratory ailments, bad breath, diabetes regulation and even gingivitis. With so many positive benefits, everyone should make a habit of flossing daily.
Even if you’re careful to eat foods that are good for your overall health, you could still be doing damage to your teeth. Certain foods and beverages, especially those that are particularly sweet or sticky, have the potential to cause cavities and even damage the enamel on your teeth. However, even some healthy food items can be bad for your dental health. Here are the most surprising food and drink culprits that you should do your best to avoid.
Although dried fruit can contain lots of vitamins and minerals, it is not a smart food choice for your oral health. Since most dried fruits are incredibly high in sugar as well as very sticky, they get stuck between your teeth until the next time that you floss. This constant stream of sugar feeds bacteria in the mouth and can lead to bad breath as well as cavities. If you enjoy eating dried fruit, be sure to brush and floss immediately after eating.
Since pickles are low in both calories and sugar, they might seem like a naturally healthy snack to enjoy at any time of the day. Unfortunately, however, pickles contain large amounts of vinegar. Eating pickles on a regular basis can contribute to the erosion of your enamel, which leads to staining and tooth discoloration.
It is not at all uncommon to read about the heart-healthy benefits of red wine, but there are also some dental drawbacks that might surprise you. The tannins that cause red wine to taste dry also reduce saliva production, which can be bad for dental health. Plus, those same tannins soften tooth enamel and can lead to stains.
After a hot day outside or an hour of physical activity, you might reach for a re-hydrating sports drink rather than a soda. What you might not realize is that many sports drinks are packed with sugar, which can be just as bad for your teeth as a cola. If you enjoy sports drinks, just make sure that you drink them all at once. The worst thing to do is slowly sip the drink over several hours, which gives bacteria a steady stream of sugar.
Any local dentist in your area would tell you to avoid sugary and sticky foods. However, these surprising dental culprits should also be avoided whenever possible.
Yes, flossing is an essential part of proper daily oral hygiene. Although studies have not necessarily shown flossing to decrease cavities, it has been shown to help prevent periodontal disease!
Gingivitis is the initial presentation of periodontal infection, and signs of gingivitis include bleeding gums, inflamed gums, and red gums. Gingivitis is easily reversible by proper brushing techniques and flossing daily. After a week of good home care, all signs of gingivitis will disappear.
Periodontal disease, on the other hand, is a more severe infection of the gums and can lead to bone loss around teeth. This bone loss can result in the loss of teeth! Although periodontal disease can be diagnosed ewrly and halted, its destruction cannot be reversed. The best way to prevent periodontal disease is by visiting your dentist regularly, brushing twice a day, and flossing daily.
So YES, you should floss….but only if you want to keep your teeth!
As described in previous posts, there are many reasons why a person may get cavities, ranging from dry mouth to sugar intake. Below is a list of, in my opinion, 5 of the best ways to keep your teeth healthy and strong:
1. Brush Regularly with Fluoride Toothpaste
Brushing keeps your teeth clean of bacteria. Fluoride helps to strengthen the enamel, as well as stopping bacteria from producing their decay forming acid. We recommend PearlinBrite Mint Fluoride Toothpaste with Aloe Vera.
2. Visit your Dentist Regularly
One of the best ways to catch cavities early and get them fixed, as well as keep your teeth free of plaque and calculus, is to visit your dentist. Six months is the normal recall, but if you are at high risk for cavities, four or even three month recalls are preferable.
3. Reduce Fermentable Carbohydrates
Reduce your intake of fermentable carbohydrates which includes anything with added sugar, and foods that stick in your mouth. For example raisins are one of the worst foods in terms of causing cavities because they stick in your mouth for a long time.
4. Rinse with Water After Eating
When eating foods that do contain fermentable sugars, make sure to rinse with water soon after. You don’t want to let the sugar sit on your teeth. This is why children who sleep with there bottles in their mouths develop such bad cavities, the sugars sit on their teeth all night!
5. Drink Fluoridated Water
Yes, I know all the Internet lies that claim it is dangerous. As a doctor to be, I can tell you there are mountains of scientific evidence showing the benefits of fluoride, and little to no scientific evidence showing any dangers when administered properly. So stop living off bottled water and drink that good old fluoridated tap water to keep your teeth strong and healthy.
Ok, so you have had a mouth full of cavities since you were a kid, yet your friend, husband/wife, brother/sister, has never had a cavity in his/her life! WHY!?! Multiple factors go into forming cavities.
Cavity Forming Factors
A carious lesion (cavity) is formed by acid eating away at the tooth structure. This acid is produced by oral bacteria, usually Streptococcus Mutans or Lactobacillus Casei. These bacteria are in most, if not all mouths. However their quantity differs by person. The amount of these bacteria in the mouth is thought to be transmitted from mother to child. However this link is a bit shaky. One way or another though, certain individuals have more of these bacteria in their mouths, and are thus more susceptible to cavities.
Saliva serves multiple purposes. Digestion of food, keeping the mouth moist, buffering the saliva, and others. The ion concentration and buffering capacity of saliva are essential in the formation, or lack thereof, of cavities. The basic properties of saliva can counteract the acid produced by the bacteria, which prevents cavities. Some people’s saliva is more basic than others, and therefore more effective in preventing cavities. In addition, the more basic the saliva, the more it is able to remineralize and keep tooth enamel strong.
As with most bodily problems, genetics has an influence on oral health, including cavities. Certain people are more susceptible, whether it be by weaker tooth structure, oral and tooth anatomy, or from other factors. One way or another, genetics plays a role in the number of cavities a person has or will have.
One last factor, and probably the most discussed, but possibly the least important, is the amount of sugar in the diet. Sugar, particularly sucrose, is the food oral bacteria needs to create the acid that causes cavities. This is a commonly accepted idea, and most all dentists will tell you not to consume lots of sugar if you don’t want cavities; especially stick sugars (ie caramels). However some studies have contradicted this idea and showed that sugar is certainly not the only factor. In the groundbreaking Vipeholm study from Sweden in 1948, they found that:
- Although all the patients consumed the very popular caramels, which were served between meals in 4 portions of 5 or 6 caramels each, 20% of them had not developed one single caries lesion after one year.
- About 20-30% of the patients did not develop any new caries lesions at all, although they had a frequent intake of between-meal sweets for long periods.
This is far from a detailed, or complete list of reasons why some people get more cavities than others. But hopefully it will help you when understanding the caries process, and how they can somewhat be prevented. Stay tuned for my next post, how to reduce your chances at getting cavities!