Tag Archives: cavities

Drink For Your Health

Dry MouthDehydration is a serious problem in America. Depending on the source, somewhere between %60 and %75 of the nation suffers from some form of chronic dehydration. Although plastic water bottles have become a staple in the life of many Americans, consumption is still shockingly low. There are a myriad of health concerns associated with dehydration, aside from sudden problems such as: heatstroke, fainting, etc. there are many problems that can diminish your quality of life, and become serious over time. joint problems, dry skin, poor nails, stomach sensitivity, dizziness, low energy, abdominal bloat, poor heat tolerance, kidney stones, are all common effects of long term chronic dehydration. Proper hydration is also extremely important for dental health. Both the external act of drinking water and the internal body processes that it promotes are imperative in the fight against tooth decay. Before we continue, I feel it is necessary to state that water means water, not soda, not juice, not Crystal Light, I mean pure H2O.

Severely Eroded Teeth

Severely Eroded Teeth

The mouth is the first stage of the gastrointestinal system; therefore it is subject to the influence of diet. The mouth is a complex and changing environment which is subject to many external and internal changes. When certain external compounds are ingested, they can have a positive or negative effect on teeth. Acidic foods and beverages erode teeth. The acid breaks down tooth enamel, leaving the softer parts of the tooth more vulnerable. Acidic foods and beverages include: whole fruit, fruit juice, soda, carbonated water, coffee, wine, and many more. Drinking water with or immediately after acidic foods or beverages will restore a natural PH to your mouth. It is also important to minimize the amount of time teeth are exposed to acid, for example, it is best to drink a cup of coffee in one sitting, than to sip slowly throughout the day.

Man Drinking

Saliva production has been linked to hydration since the early 1900s. Proper hydration is an integral part of saliva production. Saliva comes from three paired major salivary glands (parotid, submandibular and sublingual) along with numerous smaller glands. Their secretions interfere in pathogenesis, (the beginning of tooth decay) in several ways. Quite simply, saliva is known to wash away harmful dietary acid, sugar, and bacterial acid that diminish tooth enamel. Saliva is also filled with ions that neutralize dietary and bacterial acids. These ions also work to remineralize the tooth, bonding with the enamel to support it.  Salivary proteins and glycoproteins form a small layer over teeth to help shield them from acid and bacteria.

Tap WaterThe best part is, drinking water is the absolute least expensive way to improve your oral (and overall) health. If you live in an area with poor tap water, it is best to buy a filter. However, New York City and Long Island are home to some of the cleanest tap water in the world. Long Island gets its water from underground aquifers that have stored glacial water for thousands of years. New York City uses a series of upstate reservoirs that are heavily protected through state regulations. So next time you’re in a restaurant, bar, or even at home, ask for a glass of water. They’re practically giving it away.

 

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Do I Need a Root Canal?

People often have the misconception that root canal therapy is a painful experience and mistakenly believe that having an infected tooth removed is a preferable choice. Also known as endodontic (“endo” – inside; “dont” – tooth) treatment, a root canal will relieve the severe pain that is caused when the tooth nerve has become inflamed. Unfortunately, extracting an infected tooth can introduce many additional problems that could be avoided with a root canal.

A root canal may be necessary if a deep cavity or trauma to the tooth has occurred, causing the inside pulp to become infected or inflamed. Often, pressure develops inside the core of the tooth which is the source of sharp, lingering pain when biting down or when exposed to temperature changes, particularly from hot foods and liquids. Sometimes, a dull ache may be present and the gum may be sensitive to pressure. Left untreated, an abscess may develop and infection can spread from the tooth to the surrounding bone, and even into the bloodstream.

Immediate dental treatment for a suspected endodontic infection is always the best course of action, and the treatment is relatively pain free and is performed under a local anesthetic administered by the dentist. First, the dentist will have to x-ray the suspicious tooth to diagnose the problem and will sometimes test the tooth to determine whether the nerve is in the process of dying. Once it has been determined that an infected tooth requires a root canal, and the tooth and surrounding area are numb, a small opening is made into the tooth, just as if one were having a filling placed. The infected, dying nerve and blood vessels are removed and the root canals are smoothed, cleaned, disinfected and filled with a rubber material. Some patients feel slight tenderness around the tooth for a day or two, but generally aspirin or ibuprofen will provide sufficient relief. After the nerve has been removed a tooth is no longer living, and the lack of blood supply causes it to become brittle over time. Your dentist will almost always advise you to have a crown placed on an endodontically treated tooth to protect it.
Most of the time a root canal can be performed in a single appointment and the crown will require two more visits to complete. The end result is that you will have kept your natural tooth and restored it to full function. Because bone loss and shifting of the remaining teeth often result when a tooth is extracted, the root canal avoids these complications as well.If you are confronted with the recommendation to have root canal treatment, or if you are experiencing unexplained pain when chewing or to temperature, don’t hesitate to inquire about your options or ask for further information about endodontic treatment to restore your smile and comfort. Have you had a positive experience with root canal therapy? We would like to hear your comments… and they may even help alleviate the concerns of others.


A Whole Look At Tooth Decay

nyc cosmetic dentists“You need to brush and floss more.” That sums up most of the advice that American patients receive from their dentist. With advice like that, it’s easy to forget that cavities are not the cause of a problem, but rather a symptom of poor oral health. Cavities are caused by bacteria that live in the mouth on teeth and gums. The bacteria feed on remnants of food stuck on and between the teeth and they leave behind waste. However, their waste is highly acidic. That acid dissolves the enamel surface of the tooth and creates holes in the tooth or cavities.

 

While these bacteria aren’t picky eaters, they have a bit of a sweet tooth. Research shows that they get something like a sugar rush.  They can consume sugar and starch more efficiently than foods lower on the glycemic index. Once the bacteria are well fed, they can reproduce more quickly, and the cycle continues, creating a more acidic environment. An acidic mouth is ideal for bacteria, but not for teeth.

Sugar accounts for roughly 20% of the average American’s diet and according to Michael Pollan, a food journalist, “nearly 10 percent of the calories Americans consume now come from corn sweeteners; the figure is 20 percent for many children.”

  • Regular Visits To The Dentist.
  • Floss.
  • Mouthwash.
  • Toothpaste.
  • New Tooth Brush.
  • A Healthy Diet ?

A great way to fight cavities all day is to consume a diet rich in whole natural foods. The American or western diet is notoriously heavy on sugar and starches, while low in the vitamins and minerals that can strengthen teeth against decay.

Some food can be tricky, so it is best to read the label. The label lists all of a product’s ingredients in order of most to least. Fresh meat and produce don’t have labels because they are considered unadulterated or pure. Even foods that look natural can be hiding high fructose corn syrup and other additives that cavity causing bacteria thrive on. A traditional loaf of bread has about 6 ingredients: yeast, water, honey/sugar, salt, whole wheat flour, and butter/oil, most supermarket breads have closer to 30 including enriched white flour. For decades some NYC cosmetic dentists have theorized that the cause of tooth decay in western society has been a diet heavy in refined grains, including processed corn, wheat, and sugar products.

Make the healthier choice. Switch to a diet of whole, unprocessed foods. Your body and your dentist will thank you.


How Cavities Start

How do cavites start

Sweets are the biggest culprit in causing cavities

Finding a cavity during a routine trip to the dentist is a familiar- if unpleasant – experience for many people; but most don’t realize that tooth decay is actually a disease process caused by bacteria, which can transmitted between people. Properly referred to as dental caries, this common oral disease affects children and adults of all ages… and is mostly preventable if you understand how the disease begins and spreads.

A cavity is actually a hole in the tooth. The hole is the end result of an infection by bacteria that produce acids which dissolve tooth structure. The dentist fills these holes as they are discovered but unfortunately, placing a filling the tooth without reducing the number of harmful bacteria in the mouth doesn’t usually cure the disease, and new cavities are likely to develop. Over 500 varieties of oral bacteria are found in the mouth, including the acid-producing Streptococcus mutans which is largely responsible for cavities. When they are not thoroughly and regularly removed by careful brushing and flossing, bacteria reproduce and thrive in a sticky substance that allows them to adhere to and destroy tooth surfaces. The key to controlling the caries disease process is to eliminate or control the cause – that sticky bacterial colony known as dental plaque.

Citric acid cause cavities

Sugary or starchy foods that are left over in the mouth after eating provide a source of food for Streptococcus mutans, which creates acid as a waste product. Acids in the mouth break down and dissolve the minerals, primarily calcium in the teeth. As you probably are aware, brushing and flossing removes both the leftover food particles and the plaque, and is therefore a first line of defense against tooth decay. However, sometimes even people who have good oral hygiene develop cavities.

What is the explanation?

Flossing helps mouth healthBacteria are too small to be seen and can easily work their way underneath tiny cracks and openings that typically develop over time around old fillings, crowns and bridge work. Furthermore, when the molars are being formed, often deep and narrow grooves develop in the chewing surfaces. These grooves are wide enough to allow acids and microscopic bacteria to enter but too narrow to be cleaned with your tooth brush. That’s why even people who take excellent care of their teeth and have had great checkups for years still need periodic dental x-rays and professional examinations.

Because the risk of getting a cavity is directly related to both bacteria and the acid level in your mouth there are several steps you can take to prevent the caries process from starting:

  • Don’t allow sweet drinks or foods to linger in the mouth over long periods of time. The longer teeth are exposed to these substances the more time bacteria will have to feed on it and produce acids that will bathe and destroy the teeth.
  • Avoid sour candy and limit food and drink like soda, tea, and citrus fruits which increase the acidity of the mouth and harm the enamel.
  • Stay away from anything sweet that sticks to the teeth. Foods like fruit rollups or taffy are obvious problems, but even “healthy” foods like raisins can stick and become be a source of food for decay causing bacteria!
  • Brush twice and floss at least once daily to remove plaque.
  • If you can’t brush after eating or drinking, rinse with water.
  • Maintain regular dental checkups with periodic x-rays to check under fillings and between teeth where the dentist can’t see.
  • Consider placing sealants (a semi-permanent plastic coating) on molars when they first erupt around age 6; this will keep harmful bacteria from invading deep inaccessible grooves.
  • Make sure everyone in the family has had a checkup and is controlling their cavity risk factors when a new baby is on the way. Oral bacteria are transmitted between family members!
  • Fluoride helps to remineralize teeth that have been “softened” with acids. Use fluoride toothpaste and ask your dental professional whether you are at high risk for cavities. Fluoride or another type of mouth rinse may also be recommended in either an over the counter or prescription strength.
  • A one ounce piece of cheese eaten at the end of a meal helps neutralize acids.
  • Xylitol, a sugar alcohol found in many products or sold as a sweeter chemically interacts with bacteria, preventing them from reproducing and reducing the acidity of the mouth. Ask your dental professional how you can incorporate Xylitol products into your diet.
  • Specialized laser instruments are available to detect early cavities that are still too small to see. If detected early, in many cases these can be repaired (remineralized) without drilling and filling simply by adding minerals back into the dissolving tooth structure.

Tooth with cavity Managing dental caries is about more than just filling cavities. Though you may not have been aware of it, your dentist assesses your risk factors for tooth decay, including dietary and oral hygiene habits, family history and sometimes even body chemistry and saliva flow. A variety of techniques can be implemented at home and in the dental office to lower your risk for developing cavities and the dentist can make specific recommendations based on his assessment. Do you have a positive experience with any of the decay prevention techniques discussed in the article? We would like to hear from you!


Tea Time!

Do you have Green tea on your grocery list? If so, you are not alone… it is heavily marketed for its potential health benefits ranging from weight loss to cancer prevention, heart health and more. Recent scientific research supports what Asian medical practitioners have believed for nearly 5000 years: many of the reported general health benefits of tea are genuine, and regular consumption may even improve your oral health!

According to an article that appeared in the Journal of Periodontology, green tea promotes healthy teeth and gums because it contains antioxidants called catechins that interfere with the body’s inflammatory response to the oral bacteria responsible for periodontal disease. Evidence suggests that green tea may have an anti-cavity benefit as well, but interestingly, researchers at the University Of Illinois School Of Dentistry have reported that drinking black tea may also lead to fewer cavities. Black tea seems to inhibit the formation of dental plaque by suppressing the ability of decay-causing bacteria to grow, stick to the teeth and produce the destructive acids that cause decay. This is great news, since about 80% of all the tea consumed in Western countries is the Black Oolong variety.

A few important cautionary notes are in order before incorporating more tea into your diet:

  • When sugar is added to the tea, the anti-cavity effect may be lessened or negated – if you must use a sweetener, consider using Xylitol which is a sugar substitute that has its own anti-bacterial effect.

 

 

  • Tea stains! Like most pigmented liquids, tea can leave a brown stain behind on your teeth. Rinse with water after drinking tea to keep stain to a minimum, and consider using a whitening toothpaste. Remember that regular professional cleanings and perhaps a simple cosmetic whitening procedure available in the dental office can keep your smile looking its best!

Alternative medicine fads come and go, and it can be a challenge to differentiate between the ones that have some real health benefit from those that have little value or may actually be dangerous. As a general rule, it is a good idea to verify claims about products and practices with reliable sources and research before incorporating any supplement or practice into your diet or self care routine. Your dental team is here to help, and a great resource for all of your oral health questions.

Enjoy the many benefits of a perfectly brewed glass of ice tea (or a cup) this summer … with all of its many benefits, and we look forward to hearing from you!


Senior Oral Health: Smiles For A Lifetime

Like the rest of the body, our mouth and likewise our oral health needs change as we get older; and just a few generations ago, oral disease and eventual tooth loss were expected parts of the aging process. Thanks to advancements in medicine over the past fifty years, adults expect to live longer healthier lives… and when seniors and the people who care for them are aware of their unique oral health needs, it is not unrealistic to expect to keep teeth in great shape for a lifetime of smiles!

Normal or not?

Changes in the skin, bones, circulation and immune system that affect the body also affect the mouth; and even the teeth undergo normal changes with age. Do you know what to expect?

A decline in the function of the immune system is a natural part of aging, but it is significant because it makes the body less capable of fighting infection. Everyone has both good and harmful bacteria in their mouth but as a result of the aging immune system, there is a gradual shift toward a greater number of the harmful bacteria which are responsible for gum disease, tooth decay and fungal infections such as yeast or thrush.

  • The Enamel: the outer shell of the tooth is the hardest substance in the body, and it is not replenished over time. Normal wear and tear over the life span causes it to be gradually worn away, which can expose the softer dentin underneath, making teeth more vulnerable to decay. Professional fluoride treatments may be recommended to strengthen the enamel. White fillings protect exposed dentin and cosmetically enhance your appearance… a stronger and more youthful smile is possible!
  • The Dentin: is the yellower, softer layer that underlies the enamel and covers the nerve of the tooth. Dentin is continually produced over the life of the tooth, and over time the tooth will naturally become darker and less sensitive to temperature. Older adults can and do have their teeth whitened with outstanding results. Usually, a cosmetic whitening procedure performed in the dental office is preferable to an over the counter product when the teeth have darkened significantly.
  • The Pulp: is the core of the tooth where the nerve and blood supply are found. The pulp shrinks as we age, making teeth less sensitive overall. Cavities may be much deeper and larger before they are felt. Many people mistakenly believe that dental checkups are less important as we get older but in reality, they are more important than ever!
  • The Bone: that supports the teeth should not change just because we get older. However, a person’s oral hygiene over their life span will directly impact the health of the bone over time. Periodontal (bone and gum) examinations are an important part of a routine dental checkup appointment for everyone. People who have had gum disease should have their bone level monitored more frequently, especially if they have difficulty fighting infections.
  • The Gums: lose collagen and connective tissue with age. Just like the skin of the rest of the body, the gums become thinner, more fragile, more susceptible to injury and infection, and may take longer to heal.

Common problems

Normal physiological changes may leave older adults vulnerable to oral complications… declining eyesight, failing memory and even arthritis may make self-care more challenging and those professional checkups much more critical. Chronic conditions such as diabetes, osteoporosis, and circulatory problems are often associated with aging and these can these have a major impact the health of the mouth as well. Regular checkups can alert your dentist to the possibility of underlying medical conditions that you may not be aware of; and just in case you still need to be convinced, here are some surprising facts about oral health problems commonly experienced by seniors:

  • Among those over 75 years of age, about 50% of have cavities on the roots of their teeth (root caries) and may not be aware of it. Untreated decay can progress into the pulp of the tooth causing pain and serious blood infections, such as septicemia.
  • About 25% of seniors ages 65 to 74 have severe periodontal disease. Research has linked this condition with other serious health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, respiratory illness and pneumonia in institutionalized patients.
  • Oral cancer is diagnosed most frequently in people over age 65. Each year 30,000 new cases of oral and throat cancers are diagnosed and about 8,000 individuals die from these diseases. Early cancers are treatable, but since they are usually painless they often remain undetected until they have reached the later stages. Do you know about your risk factors for oral cancer? There are many… including tobacco and alcohol use, but some oral cancers develop in people with no known risk factors at all. When was the last time you were examined by a dental professional?
  • Dry mouth is a major side effect of over 400 medications, many of which are taken by older adults. Blood pressure medications, cholesterol-lowering drugs, medicines for Alzheimer’s disease and antidepressants are just a few examples. Don’t underestimate the importance of this treatable condition… it contributes to tooth decay, gum disease, denture discomfort and it makes eating and speaking difficult or painful.

No matter what your age, a healthy mouth is important for general health and quality of life… and many older adults are choosing to cosmetically enhance their teeth for a real self esteem boost! Your personal oral health needs might include preventive checkups, fixing or replacing teeth or a brighter and younger looking smile. Whatever the case may be, your dental team has the expertise and the products that will allow you to look your best and love your smile for a lifetime! What types of services would you be most interested in learning more about?


Xylitol: The Magic Bullet

Have you ever wished for a miracle product that cures everything? Xylitol just might be as close as we have come to that “magic bullet”… It doesn’t really cure everything, but this natural sugar alcohol is a truly amazing health discovery with a multitude of benefits!

Where does Xylitol come from?

Xylitol isn’t new. The product was first discovered by a German chemist in the late 19th century, and was popularized in Europe as a safe sweetener for people with diabetes that would not impact insulin levels. During World War II, when Europe was experiencing an acute sugar shortage, Finnish scientists searched for an alternative – and re-discovered Xylitol, the low-calorie sugar alcohol found in fibrous vegetables, fruit, berries, corn cobs and various hardwood trees like birch. The name, in fact is derived from a Latin word meaning “wood sugar”. This natural substance is produced by certain microorganisms; and it even forms in the human body as a result of normal glucose metabolism. We actually make up to 15 grams daily!

Sugar alcohols like Xylitol are commonly used in sugarless products; you will recognize them by names such as such as mannitol and sorbitol. Equal in sweetness and volume to sugar, Xylitol has 40 per cent fewer calories and 75 per cent fewer carbohydrates and the granular form of can be used in many of the ways that sugar is used, including to sweeten cereals and hot beverages and for baking.

The Many Health Benefits of Xylitol

Among the greatest benefits of Xylitol is that it prevents tooth decay by inhibiting the growth of the bacteria that cause cavities. These bacteria (Streptococcus mutans) use sugar to grow and reproduce generating acid as a by-product, which causes the tooth enamel to break down and a cavity to form. Streptococcus mutans cannot use Xylitol the same way so over time, the type of bacteria in the mouth changes- fewer and fewer decay-causing bacteria survive on tooth surfaces, so less plaque forms and the amount tooth-dissolving acid is decreased.

Studies show that Streptococcus mutans is passed from parents (usually mothers) to their newborn children. Regular use of Xylitol by expectant and new mothers has been demonstrated to reduce this bacterial transmission by up to 80% during the first two years of life, resulting in fewer cavities for the child.

Xylitol has been evaluated and recommended by the American Dental Association for the prevention of tooth decay, but studies have demonstrated that it has some other potentially promising medical benefits which deserve further exploration. Xylitol can:

  • Prevent ear infections (Xylitol chewing gum)
  • Prevent upper respiratory infections or “colds” (Xylitol nasal spray)
  • Helps with glycemic (blood sugar) control in diabetics
  • Increase the activity the white blood cells involved in fighting bacteria (neutrophils).
  • Help control oral infections of Candida yeast
  • Help prevent periodontal disease, gastric and duodenal ulcers.
  • Improve bone density and show potential as a treatment for osteoporosis.

The effectiveness of Xylitol is depends on using an optimal dose each day – about 5 grams, or the amount found in gum or mints used 3-5 times daily, is usually adequate. The frequency and duration of exposure is important, so chew Xylitol gum for approximately 5 minutes and mints should be allowed to dissolve. Xylitol was approved for safety the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1963 and has no known toxic levels for humans, although it can be rapidly fatal if accidently ingested by dogs (who frequently have a bit of a sweet tooth!). Large amounts of Xylitol can have a laxative effect, however the dose suggested for cavity prevention is much lower than what typically produces this unwelcome side effect. Most people build a tolerance to the product when used over time in recommended doses, and eventually the laxative effect decreases or disappears entirely.

Xylitol is found most often in chewing gum and mints, but toothpaste and mouth rinses are also available. Health food stores and several internet companies offer are often a good resource for Xylitol products, including bulk packaged. Generally, for the amount of Xylitol to be at decay-preventing levels it must be listed as one of the first three ingredients on the product label.

People at moderate to high risk for tooth decay are most likely to benefit from using Xylitol, especially if it is used as part of an overall strategy that includes a healthy diet and good oral care at home. Ask your doctor, dentist or dental hygienist how using Xylitol may be of benefit to you or your family- you may find that it is the “magic bullet” you have been searching for!