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Feeding Your Teeth This Holiday Season

turkey, dentist, teethAre you ready to sink your teeth into Thanksgiving turkey? What about the Christmas ham? The meats you enjoy probably won’t make the dentistry news headlines, but all of those delectable sweets just might! You know the old saying, “You are what you eat?” This is true when it comes to the health of your teeth. Drinking and snacking on sweet or starchy things is not just a treat for yourself, but for the plaque building up on your teeth as well. And while we don’t want to become the Grinch that stole your holiday treats, we would like to offer a few suggestions to combat those goodies and promote a healthy holiday smile.

High Fiber Fruits and Vegetables

Fiber is exceptionally good for your teeth, acting somewhat like a detergent in your mouth, helping to scrub off that unwanted plaque. There are a number of fruits and vegetables that have good fiber content, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to include a few more veggies into your holiday menu. At the top of the list are:

● Artichokesplaque, saliva, teeth

● Peas

● Broccoli

● Kale

● Raw carrots

● Avocados

● Asparagus

● Apples

● Bananas

● Blueberries

● Raspberries

● Pears

Not only do fibrous foods act as scrubbers, they also promote saliva flow, which aids in neutralizing acids and enzymes which attack your tooth enamel.

Dairy Productscalcium, enamel, teeth, dentist

Incorporating dairy products into holiday meals is a cinch. Many recipes call for cheese, milk, yogurt, and other dairy products. What makes them so good for your teeth? The calcium in milk helps to build stronger enamel, providing better protection from those less healthful holiday choices.

Green and Black Tea

Do you have a soft spot for a steaming chai latte? A Chai latte actually has a couple of good things going for your teeth – milk and tea. Both green and black teas contain polyphenols, bacteria, teeth, dentist, plaquepolyphenols that work to counteract plaque causing bacteria. Although tea is acid, the acidity is so weak that it does not affect your teeth. Rather, both black and green teas have been making dental news lately because they contain the properties that break down plaque bacteria, making them a good component of your healthy teeth arsenal. Just cut back on some of the sugar in that latte!

Eating for the health of your teeth need not be a bothersome chore; there are plenty of tooth-healthy foods that are delightful to the palate as well. Incorporating a few of these ideas into your traditional holiday fare is an easy step toward promoting a healthy smile.


Dealing with Acid Reflux (GERD)? Watch Your Teeth!

acid reflux, Gerd, tooth decay, pain, diet

So, you have just come home from a great night of Mexican food – the bean dip was fabulous, chips and salsa were great, and the enchiladas, beyond compare! Now you are dealing with that familiar burning pain in your chest, those feelings of regurgitation: the symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). What you may not realize is that the same acid that is causing you such discomfort may actually be eating away at the enamel of your teeth, making you susceptible to tooth decay.

GERD is a common problem today and occurs when ring of muscle between the esophagus and the stomach fails to close, allowing the contents of the stomach to flow back up into the esophagus. The high acidity of the stomach contents is what GERD, acidity, esophaguscauses the burning sensation in the chest. Eventually the acid can eat away at the lining of the esophagus, producing even more serious complications.

What effect does all this extra acid have on your mouth? Saliva in your mouth is designed to maintain the proper pH balance (levels of acidity or alkalinity) in your mouth. For example, eating sugar causes the acid level of your mouth to rise, putting your teeth at risk. The saliva in your mouth works to restore the balance after sugar consumption. Imagine the effect of continual acid coming up from your stomach due to GERD and entering your mouth – the acidic assault should make dental news headlines as much as the warnings about highly acidic foods, drinks, and sugar.

Acid eats at the enamel that protects your teeth. When the enamel begins to wear off, the sensitive inner layer of your teeth, called dentin, is exposed. This can produce symptoms of tooth erosion, which include:

● Toothache tooth decay, enamel, dentin
● Bad breath
● Spots on teeth
● Sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet

Tooth decay can lead to more serious dental issues which could lead to permanent damage or loss of teeth requiring the care of cosmetic dentistry. Because of the serious effects of excess acid in the mouth NY dental professionals recommend following a strict regimen to deal with GERD quickly. Certain dietary and lifestyle choices contribute to GERD, including eating chocolate, peppermint, fried or fatty foods, coffee, and alcoholic beverages. Smoking has also been shown to relax the muscle that contributes to GERD.

If you have been diagnosed with GERD, or you are experiencing the symptoms, you should let your dentist know. If you have already suffered damage to your teeth, you may want to visit a cosmetic dentist. Manhattan area dentists are well equipped both to protect your teeth from damage, and to help you recover your beautiful smile.


What Exactly Are Teeth Anyway?

A look at pulp, enamel, cementum, and dentinWith a few exceptions, teeth don’t heal by themselves. Every cartoon with an elderly character will show them taking out their false teeth. For many Americans, teeth simply don’t stand the test of time. They contain one of the few tissues in the body that is finite. Most people have heard of enamel from toothpaste ads, but that tissue is only 1 of the 4 that comprise a tooth. Enamel, dentin, cementum, and pulp are the four major tissues that round out a mouth full of pearly whites. Most of the previous blog entries talk about a specific dental disorder or problem and offer remedies to it. This one will be a bit of primer, a basic introduction to what teeth are, and what can go wrong for each part.

Dental pulp is soft tissue in the center of the tooth; it contains the nerve, blood and lymphatic vessels, and connective tissue. The pulp forms the main bulk, or core, of each tooth and extends almost the entire length of the tooth. It is covered by enamel on the crown portion and by cementum on the roots. The pulp consists of cells, tiny blood vessels, and a nerve and occupies a cavity located in the center of the tooth. If the pulp becomes infected, it is removed by root canal.

Cementum in the tooth

Cementum is the thin surface layer of bone like material covering the tooth’s root. It is yellowish and softer than either dentin orenamel. The fibers of the periodontal membrane, which holds the tooth in lace, are embedded in cementum. Deposition of cementum continues throughout life, especially in response to stresses. When the tooth’s crown is gradually worn down, new cementum is deposited on the roots so that the tooth can slowly rise to maintain a good bite.

Elephant Ivory is almost entirely made of Dentin.

Elephant tusks (Ivory) are solid dentin. Ivory was the preferred material for billiard balls, as dentin has an elastic quality

Dentin is the yellowish tissue that makes up the bulk of all teeth. It is harder than bone but softer than enamel and consists mainly of apatite crystals of calcium and phosphate. Sensitivity to pain, pressure, and temperature is transmitted via the tubes to and from the nerve in the pulp. Secondary dentine, is a less well-organized form of tubular dentine, is produced throughout life as a patching material where cavities have begun, where the overlying enamel has been worn away, and within the pulp chamber as part of the aging process.

Veneers are often the only solution to severely worn enamel.

Veneers are often the only solution to severely worn enamel.

Enamel is the hardest tissue in the body. It covers part of or the entire crown of the tooth. Enamel is not living and contains no nerves. The thickness and density of enamel vary over the surface of the tooth; it is hardest at the biting edges, or cusps. Normal enamel may vary in color from yellow to gray. The surface enamel is harder and contains more fluoride than the underlying enamel. It is very resistant to tooth decay. Enamel is also finite. Worn enamel is a symptom of most dental problems: erosion, attrition, abrasion, and the first part of the tooth to decay from cavities. A loss of enamel over time can lead to transparent and fragile teeth. Sensitive teeth can be relieved with desensitizing toothpastes, which often contain ingredients such as potassium nitrate, potassium chloride or potassium citrate seem to make the tooth less receptive to pain. In the case of severely worn enamel, veneers are often the only option.

This concludes the reading for dental anatomy 101. I hope that it provides a greater understanding to the past and future blog entries. And if you didn’t much care for the anatomy of your chompers, there is good news. With good dental hygiene, the dentist won’t have to bother you with any of these terms and explanations; you can just take a free toothbrush and be on your way.


Healthy Mouth, Happy Heart!

Heart Disease and DentistryCardiovascular disease claims the lives of about 2,400 people every day.  New medical guidelines published in the American Journal of Cardiology encourage medical and dental professionals to cooperatively diagnose and manage patients who are at risk for heart disease and stroke. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, healthy gums can ward off heart disease and prevent you from becoming a statistic.

Periodontology meets cardiology.

Most people have experienced gingivitis, which is the mildest form of gum disease. If gingivitis is left untreated, it can progress and involve the deeper tissues surrounding the teeth.  Gum disease leads to inflammation and bleeding, which allows oral bacteria to access the bloodstream. Research has suggested that some of these bacteria can cause blood clots in the arteries, which may contribute to blockages that lead to stroke.

Research conducted at several major universities, including the State University of New York at Buffalo, has concluded that inflammation is a common factor underlying both cardiovascular and periodontal disease. What does this mean for people living with heart disease or those at risk? Ultimately, controlling both conditions simultaneously leads to improved overall health for patients.  Don’t be surprised if your dentist refers you to a cardiologist, or if your physician sends you to the dentist’s office for an evaluation.

Are you at risk for developing heart disease? There are a number of steps you can take to positively impact your health:

EKG stethoscope picture

  • If you take Statin – type medications for high cholesterol, take them consistently.
  • Keep up with your medical and dental checkups.
  • Eat a healthy diet. It’s good for your gums and your heart.
  • Tell your dentist if you are being treated by a physician.
  • Brush and floss regularly, and have regular dental cleanings.
  • If your dentist tells you that you have periodontal disease, follow through with the recommended treatment… it could save your life!


Aquafresh, toothbrush, toothpaste

Most people realize that their dental checkups are important, but people who have or are at high risk for periodontal conditionsshould be seen for more frequent exams and cleanings? Sometimes this additional service is covered by insurance and sometimes it isn’t – regardless, rest assured that your dentist is making recommendations that are in your best interests.  We look forward to seeing you at your next visit and would be happy to help answer any questions you may have about managing your risks for cardiovascular or periodontal disease, and improving your overall health.


Grinding and Clenching

Unexplained soreness of the jaw or neck muscles and persistent headaches could be an indication that you are suffering from bruxism, or grinding and clenching of the teeth.  The problem is treatable and more common that you may realize, even though most people are completely unaware that they do it.

Frequently, people who clench and grind their teeth do so during sleep, and learn about it from their sleep partner.    Sometimes bruxism is discovered when clients ask their dentist about pain or an odd sensation that their teeth are loose. However, the habit can create a long list of symptoms from mild to significant and can be quite destructive to the teeth themselves as well as to supporting structures, causing the gum recession and bone loss which can eventually cause teeth to be lost. Among people who chronically grind, fractured teeth and damage to the nerves which can require root canal therapy are common.  Unfortunately, this treatable behavior can exist for a long time before it is diagnosed, because many of the symptoms can be easily overlooked or ignored, and may be thought to have another cause.  Consider bringing to your dentist’s attention any of the following symptoms:

  • Earache
  • Headaches or Migraines
  • Loose teeth
  • Changes in the way your teeth fit together
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Tinnitus
  • Gum recession
  • Neck pain
  • Insomnia
  • Soreness of the jaw or neck

Bruxism is thought to run in families but it is also be a common response to stress, anxiety and depression. Other causes of the habit include bite problems, eating disorders, excessive alcohol use, and medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and obsessive compulsive disorder.  Ideally, treating bruxism involves managing or eliminating the cause but obviously, this is not always possible andtreatment for the behavior and its symptoms often focuses on interruption of the grinding, relieving stress on the jaw joint and and preventing damage to the teeth .

Careful examination of the teeth may reveal fine cracks, wear facets in the tooth anatomy, and otherwise unexplained changes in the bone around the teeth. These findings, along with a thorough medical history will help your dentist diagnose bruxism and suggest a treatment plan.  Most frequently, a hard plastic occlusal splint is custom made to fit the teeth. Worn while sleeping, this “nightguard ”  protects the teeth by covering their surface and enabling them to  glide easily.  The night guard is form-fitting, covers all of the upper teeth and  prevents them from shifting over time which ultimately prevents gradual changes in how teeth  fit together.  A different type of  FDA approved appliance called an NTI(Nociceptive Trigeminal Inhibition system)  fits only over the upper front teeth and prevents the back teeth from touching at all.  Other treatment options including biofeedback, hypnosis, dietary supplements and (rarely) Botox injections are less well known and have had mixed or questionableresults.

People who have been grinding their teeth for a long time may have significantly damaged their teeth;  in severe cases they can even be worn down to the gum line. The damage may have left teeth  sensitive and susceptible to cavities, and may have even caused changes in the shape of your face or the way you feel about your smile. The first step in addressing these issues is always to treat the  bruxism  so that no further damage occurs; and the good news is that there are several cosmetic options that can improve the function of your teeth as well as their appearance.      Your cosmetic dentist may suggest crowns, veneers or bonding as part of your complete treatment  plan.

Unexplained symptoms may not be as mysterious as you think… why not talk to your dentist about bruxism and what treatment options may be right for you?  You deserve a beautiful, pain-free smile!


Dental Anxiety? There is Hope and Help!

How do you feel about making a dental appointment? That may sound like an odd question but for between ten and thirty percent of Americans, anxiety about dental treatment and embarrassment about the anxiety – are major obstacles to overcome.  Although nobody really enjoys dental treatment, if anxiety or phobia is contributing to chronic, untreated dental problems then you should know that your dentist understands why this happens. There is hope and treatment that can help make scheduling and showing up for that dental appointment less traumatic.

A history of one or more unpleasant experiences or perhaps even something unexplained may contribute to their fears, which might range from a mild nervous feeling to excessive fear, complete with a range of physical symptoms that can include nausea, tremors and dizziness.  Unfortunately, too many people in this situation manage their anxiety by avoiding the dental office – and treatment that they know they need – altogether. The result of long term dental neglect can be serious, painful and expensive… but also unnecessary.  There are many solutions available for to treat dental anxiety so that it does not interfere with your good health.

Often dental anxiety is directly related to fear of not having control over what happens to you, which can be  triggered simply by being placed in a physically vulnerable position such as lying flat on your back with someone’s hands in around your face.   A simple and very effective way to manage this kind of anxiety is to simply discuss your feelings with your dentist, who will reassure you that you are in charge of your appointment. Sometimes, just knowing that the dentist or hygienist will not proceed with treatment if you are uncomfortable can alleviate anxiety and make treatment tolerable.

Many patients have learned to successfully manage mild to moderate anxiety by using their favorite music on an I-pod or CD player as a distraction; others have sought relief through learning mediation and relaxation techniques, and research suggests that hypnosis may be a promising treatment.

When dental anxiety or dental phobia is severe, there are several medical options that your dentist may offer. Nitrous Oxide, or “laughing gas” is a colorless and odorless gas, commonly available at the dentist’s office.  The relaxing, sedative effects begin working almost instantly as they are breathed in, and leave the body within a few minutes after removing the nose mask. Patients remain completely conscious and in-control throughout the procedure but without anxiety and no long lasting effects.

Alternatively, some patients benefit from “conscious sedation” in which sedative medications are prescribed by the dentist or a physician; this method is frequently used in pediatric (children’s) dental offices but is also used to help anxious adults. Usually such medications are taken at the dental office before treatment begins, and in some cases they may be delivered intravenously. Conscious sedation makes patients feel comfortable and sleepy without falling asleep; but unlike being “knocked out” with general anesthesia, they continue to breathe on their own and can interact with the dental team. Patients may also opt for an oral anti-anxiety medicine that they can take at home, which has a less profound physical effect.  Both situations require that someone accompany the patient to their appointment and drive them home afterward, because they may still be feeling the effect of the drug.

Technology has its’ place in helping manage dental anxiety as well, and can be a good solution for patients who would prefer not to take medications.   Many people are actually more anxious about needles and injections than they are about dental treatment, and for those patients a painless injection system may be the answer to their concerns. Another wonderful advancement, lasers have been used in dentistry for surgery, fillings and other procedures since about 1994. When a laser is used, often bleeding, swelling and pain are dramatically reduced and depending on the procedure to be performed, little or no anesthetic may be necessary. Lasers have the additional benefit that they do not emit the high pitched whine of the dental drill – a sound that invokes anxiety and sets many patients’  “teeth on edge” so to speak.  Speaking of unpleasant, sounds, researchers in London have recently developed an entirely silent dental drill. The device, which plugs into an MP3 player, actually cancels out that whining sound and as a result, patients feel more comfortable and less fearful.

Ultimately one of the easiest and most painless things that you can do to alleviate anxiety is to prevent dental problems altogether- as always, the keys are good homecare techniques, professional advice and regular checkups that allow the dentist to identify problems when they are small and easily treated…

So how do you feel about scheduling that overdue appointment? Talk to us, and let us help find a solution that will make it easier.  Have you have had an experience with one or more anxiety-reducing technique or product? We would like to hear about it.  What has worked for you, and what might you like to try in the future?


Herbal Supplements: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

    The idea that relatively inexpensive, naturally derived products can be used to prevent disease or improve health and quality of life is intriguing to many people. Alternative medicine including Herbal or botanical supplements have been used for thousands of years and are still popular additions to many a modern, health-conscious person’s daily routine.  But don’t be misled… Your herbal remedy may be a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. Natural doesn’t mean harmless or effective, and most herbal supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. That means it’s up to consumers to do their homework and seek the advice of their doctors … do you know what you are taking?

More often than not when it is time to update the health history at the dental office people omit mentioning the supplements and other over-the-counter products that they consume. However, it is important to realize that it doesn’t matter whether the active chemical substances contained in a product occur naturally in a plant or whether they are synthesized in a pharmaceutical laboratory; the effect may be the same.  As a matter of fact, many commonly prescribed medications include ingredients that derived from the very same plants and natural ingredients that are available for purchase over the counter as a supplement. Familiar examples include:

  • St. John’s Wort contains ingredients chemically similar to many commonly prescribed SSRI antidepressants like Prozac, Zoloft and Celexa.
  • Warfarin (Coumadin) is an anticoagulant or “blood thinner” that contains coumarin, an ingredient found naturally in many plants including sweet clover, licorice, parsley and chamomile.

All drugs (natural or pharmaceutical) that are ingested have what is known as a primary effect (the reason one takes the drug), and a secondary effect (side effect) which can sometimes be harmful. Furthermore, adverse interactions between herbal remedies and prescription medications are common, as are sometimes serious side effects, but we may choose to take these substances anyway when the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.  Vitamins and herbal supplements can cause a variety of effects including bad breath, cardiac and respiratory complications, excessive bleeding, negating or increasing the effects of antibiotics and other types of medications, and more. A few supplements have specific oral effects including these examples:

  • Gingko Biloba and several other botanical supplements can cause throat swelling, bleeding of the gums.
  • Kava Kava:  can cause muscle spasm of the lips and tongue, may increase the effects of anesthesia during surgery.
  • St. Johns Wort:  can cause dry mouth

Botanical supplements frequently do exactly what they are advertised to do, and can be very beneficial; but just as you would not take someone else’s prescription medication, it is important to thoroughly investigate any vitamin or herbal supplement with your health providers before deciding to include it in your health regimen.

Next time you are asked about your medical history at the medical or dental office, remember to list everything you take, including any herbal supplements. The information could be very important when deciding what other medications are prescribed for you, and it may even be a clue to resolving unexplained symptoms!