Maintaining the Right Balance in the Fight Against Disease
Imagine a world without antibiotics: The cut on your finger might lead to serious infection; the simplest operation could be a perilous undertaking; there would be no effective cures for tuberculosis, cholera, strep throat or sexually transmitted disease; and bacterial meningitis in a child would likely be fatal. It may seem hard to believe, but a century ago — before antibiotic drugs became widely available — these risks were very real.
These omnipresent drugs have been hailed as one of the most significant medical achievements of the 20th Century. However, in recent years, a disturbing trend has been noted throughout the world: The life-saving drugs we once relied on are now less effective at fighting the organisms that cause disease.
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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How Tongue Scrapers Work
If you suffer from halitosis, or chronic bad breath, you’re probably looking for ways to help manage the problem. If so, consider a tongue scraper. They’re relatively inexpensive and available at most pharmacies. Tongue scrapers are often touted as the way to improve bad breath, but there is very little research to show that they are any more effective than simply brushing the tongue with your toothbrush as part of your toothbrushing routine.
It’s not uncommon for a child to suck his or her thumb, or the lip, or a finger, as a way to self-soothe or to help fall asleep.
Most children outgrow thumb sucking between ages 2 and 4 years, which is the time when the first baby teeth fall out and permanent teeth appear. But it’s important to break a child of a thumb-sucking habit before the permanent teeth start to arrive in order to prevent problems with tooth alignment and development of the mouth.
How intensely your child sucks his or her thumb can make a difference in the risk of problems with dental health later on. A child who sucks the thumb or finger aggressively is at greater risk for damaging teeth than a child who keeps a thumb or finger passively in the mouth.
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Do you remember the old-fashioned cartoons your dentist used to show you as a child, like the one meant to scare you into brushing by showing little men with drills pounding holes in your teeth as you slept? While that may not be the most scientific explanation for this common oral problem, the basic concept is essentially correct. Your teeth do have little enemies that can and will try to destroy them, if allowed. Some of the bacteria that live in your mouth thrive on sugars, and when they’re fed, they produce an acid that can literally eat a hole in your tooth enamel. Those pits and holes in your teeth are called cavities, and if they’re not treated, they can cause you to lose a tooth.
Your tooth enamel is the hardest substance in your body. It can withstand extreme conditions and will probably outlast you, but even it can be worn down by acid. If you have a diet that’s high in the starches and sugars that acid-producing bacteria love, you need to be especially diligent about brushing twice a day and flossing every night to deny them the chance to produce that acid.
The cavity got worse. When she finally did get seen, the dentist told her she would need a root canal. It would cost $1,000, and her insurance would pay nothing.
“He told me to come back when I had the money,” she said. As a baker at Panera Bread, she knew it would be a while before she did. She applied for and received a loan through CareCredit, a medical financing company, but it was a few hundred dollars short. So she waited some more—and tried to ignore the pain that was now shooting through her jaw.
One recent Friday, the wait was over. Or at least, most of it was. She was sitting in the stands of the Xfinity Center at the University of Maryland and looking down on the basketball court, where rows and rows of people were tipped back in dental chairs, getting their teeth fixed as part of a large dental charity event. Adam works at night, so her husband stood in line outside the building from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. to secure her spot. Adam drove over straight from work, taking the orange bracelet from her husband’s wrist. The bracelet meant she was in.
Your toothbrush isn’t the only weapon capable of protecting your teeth — your diet helps too!
In addition to brushing and flossing, a healthful diet (with natural or added fluoride) protects teeth from decay and keeps the gums healthy. Read on to discover how to keep your smile safe and strong.
Tooth decay (cavities and dental caries) and gum disease are caused by colonies of bacteria that constantly coat the teeth with a sticky film called plaque. If plaque is not brushed away, these bacteria break down the sugars and starches in foods to produce acids that wear away the tooth enamel. The plaque also hardens into tartar, which can lead to gum inflammation, or gingivitis.
A well-balanced diet provides the minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients essential for healthy teeth and gums. Fluoride, occurring naturally in foods and water, or added to the water supply, can be a powerful tool in fighting decay. It can reduce the rate of cavities by as much as 60 percent.
If you’re supplementing your diet with calcium and vitamin D to prevent bone loss, you may be more likely to hang onto your pearly whites, according to a report at this week’s meeting of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research in Toronto. Even so, older adults need to floss their teeth and see the dentist regularly because with increased age come increased risks for losing teeth.
“Studies have shown that calcium and vitamin D decrease bone loss in the hip and forearm, but we weren’t sure if they had an effect on tooth loss,” says lead author Elizabeth Krall, MPH, PhD, a researcher at Boston University Dental School and Tufts University Nutrition Research Center. “Now we know that supplementation may also improve tooth retention, along with routine dental care and good oral hygiene,” she tells WebMD.
To explore the role of supplementation on tooth retention, the researchers followed more than 140 older adults for five years. Participants took either a placebo or 500 mg of calcium plus 700 units of vitamin D daily for three years. Both during and after the trial, their teeth were examined periodically.
For those who took supplements, the likelihood of losing one or more teeth was 40% less, even two years later. Tooth loss was also linked to the number of cavities, frequency of flossing, and use of thiazide diuretics, a type of medication that helps lower blood pressure.
Not surprisingly, dentists applaud the new findings. “Tooth plaque is a problem for everybody, but some older adults are getting cavities at twice the rate of teen-agers,” says Boston dentist Richard Price, DMD, a consumer adviser for the American Dental Association. “This is because the root surface becomes more exposed as we age.” Unfortunately, many prescription drugs are also to blame.
“We need saliva to wash away bacteria that causes plaque, but there are up to 400 medications that dry the mouth out,” Price tells WebMD. “That’s why it’s so important for older adults to brush and floss regularly,” in addition to taking supplements.
Swallowing a vitamin tablet is not that difficult to do, but for some older people, brushing and flossing can be a difficult process because of joint pain. If that is the case, Price has these following suggestions:
- Look for dental floss that has a handle
- Get a toothbrush with a bigger handle
- Attach a rubber ball around the handle of your toothbrush
- Switch to an automatic toothbrush
Another reason for tooth loss is that the jawbone loses its mass faster than other bones, according to Chris Rosenbloom, PhD, RD, a professor of nutrition at Georgia State University in Atlanta. “But for many people, it’s hard to get enough calcium through diet alone. And because vitamin D enhances calcium absorption, the two nutrients are often taken together as dietary supplements,” she explains.
As a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, Rosenbloom tells WebMD that you can also supplement too much. “The recommended upper limits are 2,500 mg a day for calcium and 1,000 units a day for vitamin D. Any more than that could be toxic to your kidneys, liver, or heart,” she cautions. In selecting a brand, here’s what Rosenbloom advises:
- Try calcium citrate, it may be easier to absorb than calcium carbonate
- Choose a combination product that contains vitamin D, too
- Look for the USP (United States Pharmacopeia) symbol, indicating that it will dissolve properly
- Avoid bone meal and dolamite, which often contain lead or arsenic
- Consider good-tasting chews that contain both nutrients
Looking for an orthodontist in Beaverton, Oregon? Biermann Orthodontics is a cutting-edge orthodontic practice that serves Beaverton and Molalla, OR, and focuses on providing world-class customer service and efficient treatment. We strive to create stunning smiles in the shortest amount of time without ever sacrificing quality.
17885 NW Evergreen Parkway, Suite 200
Beaverton, OR 97006
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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.