Dental Health and Diabetes

The key to overall health lies largely in your mouth. The emphasis that dentists and doctors place on good dental hygiene is not only for the sake of your teeth, gums, and appearance, but also for the health of your entire body. A healthy mouth looks great and makes everyday tasks like eating, talking, and smiling a breeze, but the mouth is also a direct passageway into the rest of your body. If bacteria builds up in the mouth, it can easily make its way into the bloodstream, the digestive tract, and the respiratory tract, which can be dangerous.

This connection works both ways—meaning that keeping your body healthy is also important for the health of your mouth. A perfect example of the mouth-body connection is the relationship between oral health and diabetes. According to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC), diabetes raises your risk of gum disease, and having gum disease raises your risk of complications with diabetes. The reason behind this correlation comes down to blood sugar. Both gum disease and diabetes impact your blood sugar levels and having one or the other can make those levels hard to control.

When your blood sugar levels are high, the amount of sugar in your saliva is also high, which makes a perfect breeding ground for plaque to grow. As plaque builds up, the risk of infection, cavities, and decay increases. Knowing this, patients with diabetes should be especially conscientious about removing plaque twice a day by brushing to prevent oral infection.

Failing to take good care of your teeth can cause cavities, gum disease, periodontitis, and more—especially if you have high blood sugar. As you eat, the starches and sugars in foods and beverages interact with bacteria that naturally grows in the mouth to form plaque. Those with diabetes have a lower ability to resist infection and aren’t able to fight bacteria in the same way someone without diabetes would. This puts them at greater risk for diseases like gingivitis.

Gingivitis, or swelling of the gums, occurs when plaque, tartar, and bacteria build up and harden on the gumline and cause the gums around the base of the teeth to swell. Another disease that those with diabetes are especially susceptible to is periodontitis, which can appear if gingivitis goes untreated. Periodontitis destroys the soft tissue and bone that support your teeth, which can lead to the loosening or loss of teeth, even if the teeth themselves are healthy.

Tooth and gum disease are not the only oral health issues that patients with diabetes might face, especially without proper treatment. According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetics are more likely to suffer from dry mouth, or xerostomia, which allows bacteria and plaque to cling onto teeth for longer without getting washed away by normal amounts of saliva.

Another possible result of poor oral hygiene in patients with diabetes is thrush—a fungal infection caused by the yeast “Candida albicans.” Thrush causes painful white or red patches inside your mouth, but can be prevented by practicing good oral hygiene.

Brushing twice a day, flossing, and monitoring your blood sugar levels as recommended by your doctor work hand in hand to keep you healthy. By controlling blood sugar, patients with diabetes are taking an important step in sidestepping gingivitis and other dental problems.

The most important step in the maintenance of diabetes and oral health is the patient making sure his or her dentist knows that they have diabetes. If you have diabetes, be sure to remind us when you visit, and confirm that we have the current contact information for the doctor who helps you manage your diabetes.

In every mouth, especially those of someone with diabetes, you should be on the lookout for early signs of gum disease. Those signs include redness, swelling or bleeding gums, dry mouth, loose teeth, or mouth pain. Let us keep an eye on the window to your body by coming in for regular checkups and cleanings. Need to schedule an appointment? Give us a call now at 408.227.1404.

Happy Teeth, Healthy Heart

It’s the holiday season! And for many, that means indulging in all of life’s delicious treats. Enjoying a festive sugary snack alongside family and friends every now and then is no crime—unless you lose track of your hygiene routine.

Forgetting to brush is an easy way to slip into dangerous territory, not only for your mouth, but for your entire body. The cleanliness of your mouth has a direct connection to the healthiness of the rest of your body, including essential organs like the heart.

We know this to be true from a study that surveyed 161,000 South Koreans between the ages of 40 and 79, with no history of heart failure or atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm disorder. When participants began the study, they were asked about their lifestyle habits as part of a medical exam, including how often they brushed their teeth.

During a median follow up of nearly 11 years, researchers gathered that those who brushed their teeth at least three times a day had a 10% lower risk of atrial fibrillation, and a 12% lower risk of heart failure.

The study (published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology) noted that age, sex, wealth, exercise, alcohol consumption, body fat, and blood pressure were completely independent of the identified reduced risk.

It’s also been observed that failing to brush and floss regularly causes bacteria to build up in the mouth, which can lead to the bloodstream, and can eventually cause other conditions like heart disease.

While it’s too early in the research to declare that brushing your teeth regularly—especially during the holiday season—will prevent atrial fibrillation and heart failure, it certainly does not hurt. So when you’re decking the halls and sipping hot chocolate this month, don’t forget to brush, floss, and make your first hygiene appointment of 2020.

Myths of the Mouth

With so much information right at our fingertips, it can be hard to know what to believe. The wealth of information we’re exposed to—especially online—has caused us to be cautious and remind ourselves that “just because it’s on the internet, doesn’t mean it’s true.”

Have you ever experienced a mysterious symptom and looked to the internet to find out what it might be? If so, you are not alone. Looking for medical answers online can seem effective, but more often than not you will find yourself scrolling through information that may not be factual. The same goes for dental diagnoses and oral health.

When we have questions about our body, friends and family seem like trusted sources to consult. But with so many dental myths swirling around about how to best care for your smile, it’s better to go straight to your dentist. To help you understand what to believe and what to be cautious about, we’ve outlined some of the most common dental myths to look out for:

 

Myth #1: A white smile is a healthy smile

Let’s make that, a white smile looks like a healthy smile—but it won’t mask anything going on beneath the surface. While whitening your teeth to achieve a bright sparkling smile looks great, it doesn’t improve the health of the teeth themselves. Disease typically begins in the gums and down in the crevices of the teeth, unaffected by their shade. If germs and bacteria make their way into your gum line or the nooks and crannies of your enamel, boosting their whiteness will not have a healing affect. If your oral health needs a makeover, we’ll work with you to get them in tip-top shape, ready for whitening.

 

Myth #2: Stop brushing right away if your gums start to bleed

Let’s make that, keep brushing! If your gums bleed, it often means you’re not flossing enough, causing your gums to miss out on essential blood circulation. Bleeding gums could also be a sign of gum disease, which should be addressed right away. If you know that you need to up your flossing game, make a point to do so every night to keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy. If you think the problem may be more serious, schedule an appointment right away so we can address the cause of bleeding.

 

Myth #3: Sugar is the biggest cause of cavities

Let’s make that, sugar may contribute to cavities, but it’s not the biggest offender. Cavities are caused mostly by not brushing your teeth after meals. The bacteria that naturally occurs in your mouth feeds on food particles that are left over from meals and snacks. As the bacteria eats, it dispenses acidic waste in your mouth, which forms plaque. That plaque buildup is what eventually leads to decay and disease. Neglecting to brush your teeth leaves a feast for harmful bacteria to enjoy, so brushing your teeth regularly after eating will help protect your teeth and gums.

 

Myth #4: You don’t need to floss if you brush well enough

Let’s make that, flossing is the perfect complement to brushing. No matter how religiously you brush your teeth, the bristles just won’t be able to clear out the hard-to-reach nooks and crannies on and between each tooth. Bacteria and infections thrive in hard-to-reach spots in your mouth, and allowing food particles to fester between your teeth can lead to infections, gum disease, gum recession, and bad breath. Lots of people find flossing tricky, so we’d be happy to provide some tips and techniques to make it a breeze.

 

Myth #5: Brushing better fixes bad breath

Let’s make that, brushing better can help with bad breath, but the cause may be deeper. If you follow a strict hygiene regimen every day but still have bad breath, you may be dealing with an infection or a collection of bacteria that should be addressed by a dentist. If you follow a strict regimen but the dentist doesn’t see signs of infection, the bad breath could be caused by changes in your body somewhere other than your mouth, such as the result of a new medicine.

 

Myth #6: Dental implants may not be around for long

Let’s make that, dental implants have been around a long time! The technology that makes dental implants effective continues to evolve, but their basic function has been consistent for over 50 years. Implants are designed to fill gaps in your smile, improve the condition of your jawbone, and keep your bite pressure healthy so you can talk, eat, smile, and breathe comfortably. If you are hoping to fill a gap in your teeth, or you would like to leave dentures behind, ask us about the possibilities of dental implants.

 

We love when patients ask questions. When patients come directly to us, we can rest assured that they are getting accurate information and taking actions that are best for their oral and overall health. Call us today or make an appointment to answer any questions you may have!

 

Baby on Board? Don’t Forget to Brush!

There’s a lot to keep in mind when you’re expecting a little one. Understanding the ins and outs of prenatal care is crucial every step of the way, and your doctor will check in to make sure you’re on track. One aspect of your overall health that gets less attention during pregnancy but deserves just as much is the health of your mouth, teeth, and gums. Just like the rest of your body, paying close attention to your oral health while you’re pregnant is critical in ensuring a healthy pregnancy and eventually a healthy baby. Being pregnant causes women to be more susceptible to oral health problems because changes to the body can end up affecting the teeth and gums.

One of those changes is increased hormone levels, like progesterone and estrogen, which can elevate your chances of experiencing oral health problems you haven’t worried about previously. Your eating habits may also change during pregnancy, and introducing new foods to your mouth may cause it to react in a negative way. With all of these changes at work, there’s a good chance you’ll get tired and not brush and floss as religiously as you once did. There’s also a chance that brushing or flossing makes you feel nauseous. Whatever the reason, brushing less frequently increases the chances that you’ll experience potentially harmful buildup. This buildup can lead to a number of dental problems, including cavities, gingivitis, loose teeth, periodontal disease, pregnancy tumors, and tooth erosion.

Cavities, a form of tooth decay, are small, damaged areas on the surface of the tooth, and being pregnant makes you more likely to have them. Cavities form when bacteria develop on the tooth, and if not properly treated, that bacteria can be passed to the baby. The surface of the tooth can also be impacted by vomiting that often accompanies morning sickness. The acidity can cause erosion to the enamel and leave your teeth unprotected from further damage.

Gingivitis, on the other hand, is inflammation of the gums that can be brought on by pregnancy hormones. If not cared for, gingivitis can be a precursor to gum disease which has been linked to premature birth. In the same way that hormones may cause gingivitis, they also may temporarily loosen the tissues and bones in your gum that keep your teeth in place, creating spaces for bacteria to settle in. If too much bacteria makes itself at home in your mouth, plaque can form, and eventually cause pregnancy tumors. These tumors are red, raw, and appear like lumps on the gum.

While the risk of oral health problems is higher during pregnancy, you may not experience any at all. If you notice signs including bad breath, loose teeth, new spaces between your teeth, swollen gums, mouth sores, tooth pain, or receding gums, call your dentist right away.

Taking good care of your mouth, teeth, and gums during pregnancy can help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. When it comes to dental health and pregnancy, the best place to start is with the basics: make sure to go to your regular dental checkups during pregnancy, and that you brush twice a day, as always.

Spit Happens!

When it comes to bodily fluids, saliva is an unsung hero. We typically think of spit as something gross and germy, but the saliva that’s in our mouths is helpful for way more than just the action of spitting. Our saliva is an essential tool that allows us to chew, swallow, and digest comfortably. It also fights off infection, washes away potentially damaging food particles, and helps us taste wonderful flavors we enjoy every day.

You might be wondering what’s in our spit that makes it such a powerful tool. While saliva has a reputation of being less-than-hygienic, it’s actually about 99 percent water. The remaining 1 percent consists of electrolytes, digestive enzymes, small quantities of uric acid, cholesterol, mucus-forming proteins, and other organic substances. Much like your heartbeat, the production of saliva is controlled unconsciously by the autonomic nervous system, and healthy adults accumulate between two and six cups of spit a day.

Perhaps most importantly for overall health, spit is full of infection-battling white blood cells. In fact, recent studies show that neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) are most effective at killing bacteria if they come from saliva than anywhere else in the body. Just like the saying “lick your wounds” suggests, adding saliva to a wound provides additional bacteria-fighting power.

Similar to how it fights bacteria, saliva also helps your body fight off cavities. Spit contains tooth-strengthening calcium and fluoride, has the power to wash away particles of food that could get trapped, and can neutralize plaque acids, which reduce tooth decay and the possibility of cavities. If you want to maximize your spit production, chewing gum will increase the flow of saliva to further protect your oral health and keep your mouth sparkling clean.

Speaking of chewing, saliva is responsible for transporting dissolving food to your taste receptors. Without saliva, those receptors may dry out and affect the mouth’s ability to taste, or lead to longer term problems like dry mouth, or xerostomia. It’s possible that you may have experienced a dry mouth sensation in times of stress. During these times, the body’s main concern becomes eliminating that stress—not with eating—so the digestive system (including saliva production) slows down.

In its normal function however, salivation has five distinct phases, mostly triggered by food passing through the body:

  1. Cephalic: When you see or smell something delicious
  2. Buccal: The body’s reflexive response to the presence of food in the mouth
  3. Esophageal: The stimulation of the salivary glands as food moves through the esophagus
  4. Gastric: When something irritates your stomach—like when you’re just about to get sick
  5. Intestinal: When a food that doesn’t agree with you passes through the upper intestine

 

Next time you notice an increase in saliva production, think about which phase it might be, and be thankful for all of your spit’s beneficial qualities!

Happy National Smile Month!

There’s nothing happier than a healthy smile, so it’s important to build good dental hygiene habits in children early on. Those habits can be as simple as brushing and flossing for the recommended length of time every day and visiting your dentist for regular cleanings.

We’re taught early on that brushing is key to maintaining a healthy mouth and a sparkling smile. Brushing reduces the bacteria in the mouth that can eventually cause decay, so it’s best to wash as much away as possible. To do that, children should brush for at least two minutes, twice a day. As soon as teeth are visible in the mouth, parents should begin brushing them for their child. It’s recommended that an adult help children eight years old and younger to make sure it’s done thoroughly every time, until they’re knowledgeable enough to do it on their own.

To make sure brushing is most effective, using a fluoride toothpaste will increase the benefits of twice-daily brushing, especially in children. Children under three only need a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste across the brush, and three to six year old’s can use a pea-sized amount. By brushing the fluoride toothpaste on all surfaces of the teeth, the child’s teeth will be protected from tooth decay early on, and during the crucial early growing stages of their adult teeth.

To be especially effective, children shouldn’t eat or drink for at least 20 minutes after brushing. Waiting will allow the fluoride to stay on the teeth longer and fight off any early decay. For this reason, brushing right before bedtime is best, so they go to sleep with a clean and protected mouth.

Flossing before bedtime, on the other hand, may not be necessary in children under four years old. As adult teeth grow in, they typically don’t touch each other right away. Since you only need to floss teeth that touch each other, a thorough brushing by an adult should be enough to rid the little one’s mouth of debris and plaque. Just like brushing, an adult will need to help with flossing at first to make sure it’s being done correctly.

Brushing and flossing early on in a child’s life is not only important for good dental health, but also for proper development in other areas. A healthy mouth allows kids to learn to speak properly, interact confidently with family and friends, chew their food thoroughly, and easily chew healthy fibrous foods like vegetables and fruits that will positively impact their overall health. It’s important that kids’ diets are filled with these healthy foods instead of sugary or starchy foods, because the latter will feed bacteria in the mouth that causes decay.

Missing brushings, eating sugary foods, and neglecting to brush for the recommended amount of time can cause poor oral health problems for kids. These problems can escalate in ways that make children miss school more often and can lead to lower grades as a result. If a student is suffering with untreated tooth decay, they may be in pain that distracts them from paying attention in class. The discomfort may also make it difficult for them to sleep at night which will also hurt their performance in school.

Another way to make sure kids stay healthy and happy in school is by carefully monitoring what they eat, and when. The chances a child will get a cavity increases significantly if they eat or drink snacks or sugary beverages more than five times a day, and especially right before bedtime. The production and flow of saliva slows down when we sleep, so bacteria isn’t washed away as quickly after our head hits the pillow.

One source of sugar that’s often overlooked and often consumed right before bed are liquid medications. If your child is sick, it’s best to give them their cold medicine before they brush their teeth. Even following the medicine with a glass of water will help wash the sugar away.

The key to a happy kid is a happy mouth so start teaching these habits early for a lifetime of sparkling smiles!

World Oral Health Day – Feed Your Teeth

We know that regular brushing and flossing are necessary when it comes to keeping your teeth free of plaque and tartar build up. But your diet can help take your quest for oral health one step further. When you follow a well-balanced diet, your body—including the mouth—gets the nutrients it needs to stay healthy, fend off infection, and keep your smile beautiful.

Foods that are high in sugar, carbohydrates, and starch are also high in plaque acids. These acids are abrasive and cause the tooth enamel to weaken. This breakdown of enamel is often the cause of cavities, which can lead to bigger problems including gum disease and tooth decay.

Realistically, it’s hard to avoid food that contains some form of sugar: even go-to healthy foods including milk and vegetables are culprits. So instead of cutting sugar out completely, it’s most important to consume added sugars in moderation to limit the effect on your enamel and gums.

Packing on sugary treats like candy and soda can wreak havoc on your oral health and may cause a decline in your overall health. To combat those foes, we recommend the following healthy foods to keep your mouth happy and your wellness optimal.

 

Cheese

If cheese is one of your favorite indulgences, you’re in luck. Cheese contains enamel-strengthening nutrients like calcium and protein, but it doesn’t stop there. Chewing this (sometimes stinky) snack creates a surplus of saliva in the mouth, which in turn increases the pH levels. That high level of pH is great for fending off tooth decay and keeping the tooth surface clean.

 

Yogurt

The calcium and protein in yogurt, like cheese, aid in the strengthening and health of your teeth. Additionally, the good bacteria in yogurt (probiotics) benefit your gums by outnumbering the bad bacteria that causes cavities. There are a lot of yogurt options on the market, so we recommend plain yogurt with no added sugar or flavoring to gain the maximum benefit.

 

Leafy Greens

Lush and leafy greens are a key part of a healthy diet. The folic acid they contain is a great source of vitamin B, which is known to treat gum disease, especially in pregnant women. Whether you put them in a salad, on pizza, or in a smoothie, leafy greens are an easy way to pack your diet with vitamins and minerals you may be missing.

 

Apples

Like cheese, even the action of eating an apple is beneficial to your mouth because of the saliva it produces. Apples also contain a lot of water that aids in washing away bacteria and food particles that may otherwise build up and cause future damage. They’re also high in fiber which stimulates the gums and scrubs away leftover germs.

 

Carrots

Crunchy carrots have the same saliva-producing element of apples, helping to wash away the chance of cavities. High in fiber and vitamin A, carrots are the perfect accent on top of a salad, and they’re also easy to grab and go when you’re on the move.

 

Celery

Though the strings in celery can be annoying, they also act as nature’s toothbrush. The crunchy vegetable increases saliva production while simultaneously scrapes food particles and bacteria away from your teeth. Celery is also good for your gums, giving them a boost of vitamins A and C.

 

Almonds

High in crunch and calcium, almonds are low in sugar. They also have an abrasive texture which can work like an exfoliator for your teeth to remove surface stains and bacteria.

 

Drink up!

If you incorporate all of the above into your diet, you should still pay attention to what you’re drinking. Water is always the safest, healthiest option since it doesn’t contain calories, sugar, or anything that isn’t natural.