Hard to Resist, Tougher to Avoid — and Devastating to Our Health
Do you enjoy the taste of sweet things?
We all do, to some degree. In fact, it’s evolutionary. A sweet tooth served our hunting-and-gathering ancestors well. They knew that if they ate something sweet, it wouldn’t kill them; nothing in nature that tastes sweet is acutely poisonous. It’s ironic, because in the amounts we currently consume it, sugar is a chronic toxin and it is killing us — slowly. I’m not being overly dramatic here; I’m simply stating what scientific research, my own included, has made impossible to ignore.
We are in the midst of a nationwide health crisis, with implications for both dentistry and medicine. Dentists are seeing an increase in tooth decay — despite the addition of tooth-strengthening fluoride to most municipal water supplies. Physicians like myself are seeing many more obese children — some as young as six months old! Thirty years ago, 1 child out of 20 was obese. Today, it’s 1 in 5. Thirty years ago, there were zero children in America with type 2 diabetes. Today, there are 57,000.
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The Rumor: Using certain toothpastes and mouthwashes can regrow lost tooth enamel
You know that the key to a great smile is keeping your pearly whites in top-notch shape. The best way to do that? By taking really good care of your tooth enamel. Enamel is the thin outer covering of teeth that protects the delicate tissues inside. A lifetime of chomping and sipping can stain, chip and wear away that covering, however — and once that happens, your teeth become extremely sensitive to hot and cold. Even your favorite sugary treats can deliver a twinge (if not a bolt) of pain.
While tooth enamel is actually translucent, teeth start to look more yellow as it wears away, because the yellow dentin underneath begins to show through. Which can leave you wondering: What can you do to get your precious enamel back? Today there are lots of products out there (from toothpastes to mouthwashes to dental guards filled with strange, squishy paste) that allegedly help restore lost enamel. But by making that promise, are manufacturers biting off more than they can chew?
by Dianne L. Sefo, RDH, BA | Featured on Colgate
Not taking care of your mouth can lead to many dental problems: bad breath, gum disease, cavities, sensitivity and even tooth loss. But the good news is these issues are preventable.
For ideal dental health, there are numerous good habits you need to adopt. Here are six dental health facts you should know.
Healthy Lifestyles Make Healthy Smiles
Research from the Journal of Periodontology suggests regular exercise and a healthy diet decreases the chances of developing gum disease. A poor diet filled with sugary foods and liquids can lead to cavities.
Good Oral Hygiene Takes Time
A white smile doesn’t happen overnight. Several small positive changes in your routine will contribute to this gradual process. Plaque, the sticky film of bacteria constantly forming at the gum line and on the surfaces of your teeth, can take time to remove. Brush your teeth two to three minutes at a time, and twice daily. Consider using a timer to help ensure you’re spending enough time at the sink, or play a song of the same length encouraging everyone in the house to do the same. Interdental tools such as floss reach many areas of the mouth that your toothbrush can’t and should be used at least once daily before bedtime. Finish your routine by rinsing with mouthwash according to label directions to help keep your teeth and gums healthy.
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What is tooth enamel?
Enamel is the thin outer covering of the tooth. This tough shell is the hardest tissue in the human body. Enamel covers the crown which is the part of the tooth that’s visible outside of the gums.
Because enamel is translucent, you can see light through it. But the main portion of the tooth, the dentin, is the part that’s responsible for your tooth color — whether white, off white, grey, or yellowish.
Sometimes coffee, tea, cola, red wine, fruit juices, and cigarettes stain the enamel on your teeth. Regular visits to your dentist for routine cleaning and polishing can help remove most surface stains and make sure your teeth stay healthy.
What does tooth enamel do?
Enamel helps protect your teeth from daily use such as chewing, biting, crunching, and grinding. Although enamel is a hard protector of teeth, it can chip and crack. Enamel also insulates the teeth from potentially painful temperatures and chemicals.
Unlike a broken bone that can be repaired by the body, once a tooth chips or breaks, the damage is done forever. Because enamel has no living cells, the body cannot repair chipped or cracked enamel.
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Tooth sensitivity can affect one or more teeth. It’s most common when you eat or drink something hot, cold, sweet, or sour. Sometimes a breath of cold air can set it off. The pain can be sharp and sudden and can shoot deep into the nerve endings of your teeth.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
You get sensitive teeth when your gums pull back and expose the surface beneath, called the dentin. This soft layer makes up the inner part and roots, which have thousands of tiny tubes that lead to the tooth’s nerve center (the pulp). These channels allow the trigger — for example, the hot, cold, or sweet food — to reach the nerve in your tooth, which results in the pain you feel.
Other things that can cause sensitive teeth are:
- Wear and tear. Over time, brushing too hard or using a hard-bristled toothbrush or grinding your teeth can wear down enamel and expose the dentin.
- Tooth decay near the gum line.
- Gum disease (gingivitis). Inflamed and sore gums pull back and expose the roots of your teeth.
- Damage. Chipped or broken teeth may fill with bacteria. The bacteria can enter the pulp, causing inflammation.
- Teeth grinding. Grinding or clenching your teeth may wear down the enamel and expose the dentin.
- Tooth-whitening products. These products may be major contributors to sensitive teeth.
- Age. Teeth are most sensitive between ages 25 and 30.
- Plaque buildup. The presence of plaque on the root surfaces can cause sensitivity.
- Long-term mouthwash use. Some over-the-counter products contain acids that can make sensitivity worse if your dentin is already exposed. Ask your dentist about a neutral fluoride solution.
- Acidic foods. Food and drinks with a high acid content, like citrus fruits, tomatoes, pickles, and tea, can wear down enamel.
- Dental work. Teeth cleaning, root planing, crown placement, and tooth restoration can make teeth sensitive. This should go away in 4 to 6 weeks.
Steps to Reduce Tooth Sensitivity
The good news is there are many ways to control sensitive teeth. You can:
- Brush and floss regularly. Use proper brushing and flossing techniques to thoroughly clean all parts of your teeth and mouth.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush. Brush gently and carefully around the gum line so you don’t remove gum tissue.
- Use a toothpaste for sensitive teeth. Several brands are available. Regular use should make teeth less sensitive. You may need to try several brands to find the product that works best for you. Another tip: Spread a thin layer on the exposed tooth roots with your finger or a Q-tip before you go to bed. Use a fluoridated toothpaste, not atartar control one.
- Watch what you eat. Avoid lots of highly acidic foods and drinks.
- Use fluoridated dental products. Using a fluoridated mouth rinse daily can decrease sensitivity. Ask your dentist about products available for home use.
- Don’t grind your teeth. Use a mouth guard at night.
- See your dentist every 6 months (or sooner, depending on your condition).
If you still have discomfort, talk to your dentist. There may be a procedure that can help. He might recommend:
- White fillings(bonding) to cover exposed root surfaces
- Fluoride varnishes applied to the exposed root surface
- Dentin sealers applied to the exposed root surface
WebMD Medical Reference
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17885 NW Evergreen Parkway, Suite 200
Beaverton, OR 97006
Most of us are aware that poor dental hygiene can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath – but not brushing your teeth could also have consequences for more serious illnesses.
In 2010, researchers from New York University (NYU) concluded that there is a link between gum inflammation and Alzheimer’s disease, after reviewing 20 years of data on the association.
However, the number of participants in the NYU study was fairly small. The researchers analyzed data from 152 subjects enrolled in the Glostrop Aging Study – a study looking at psychological, medical and oral health in Danish men and women. The study spanned a 20-year period and ended in 1984, when the subjects were all over the age of 70.
Comparing cognitive function at ages 50 and 70, the NYU team found that gum disease at the age of 70 was strongly associated with low scores for cognitive function.
The sunshine vitamin’s potential role in preventing tooth decay is the latest on its long list of health benefits.
Vitamin D might help prevent tooth decay, a new review of existing studies published in the journal Nutrition Reviews found.
The review includes data from 3,000 children enrolled in 24 clinical trials published from the 1920s to the 1980s. Overall, the trials showed that vitamin D supplementation led to a 50 percent drop in the incidence of tooth decay, perhaps because vitamin D helps the body absorb the tooth-building calcium it needs.
In the trials, the vitamin was delivered either via supplemental UV radiation or by diet products, such as cod liver oil, which contain it.