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Fluoride and Cavity Prevention

December 10th, 2019

IF YOU LOOK AT ANY tube of toothpaste with the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance, you’ll see fluoride listed as the active ingredient. Trace amounts of fluoride are also added to the drinking water in many communities to further promote strong and healthy teeth. But what is fluoride and how does it work?

A Brief History of Fluoride in Drinking Water

First, let’s take a look back at the fascinating history of this mineral. It all starts in Colorado Springs at the turn of the 20th century. Dentists in the town encountered numerous cases of “Colorado brown stain” — tooth discoloration that, bizarrely, was connected to a lower rate of cavities. Today, we call that fluorosis. Eventually, they traced it back to the water supply and discovered naturally occurring fluoride to be the cause.

Dentists were curious to see whether it was possible to keep the cavity prevention without any of the staining by lowering the level of fluoride, and they were right! When fluoride was first added to the public water supply in Grand Rapids, Michigan, it reduced the rate of childhood dental caries by a whopping 60 percent, with no adverse effects except for occasional cases of mild fluorosis.

Today, more than half of the U.S. population lives in communities with fluoridated water, and the CDC considers community water fluoridation “1 of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century,” benefiting young and old, rich and poor alike. It’s similar to drinking milk with vitamin D, baking with enriched flour, or even using iodized salt.

Fluoride and Teeth

So how does fluoride actually protect teeth? It does it by helping to remineralize weakened tooth enamel and reverse the early signs of tooth decay. Brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste gives a topical benefit, while fluoride from foods and drinks serves as an ongoing benefit by becoming part of your saliva, where it can provide continual remineralization.

The Right Level of Fluoride: A Delicate Balance

As was the case in Colorado Springs a hundred years ago, it’s definitely possible to have too much fluoride. This is why it’s important to spit after brushing with a fluoride toothpaste instead of swallowing and only use tiny amounts of toothpaste when brushing the teeth of babies and small children, if any. It’s also why fluoridated water supplies maintain the level at a very low 0.7-1.2 parts per million. Using more fluoride than the recommended amounts won’t increase the positive effects, but avoiding it entirely will make it harder to prevent cavities.

Our favorite sight is a patient’s healthy smile!

Sugar, Its Many Aliases, and Your Teeth

November 12th, 2019

WHAT COMES TO MIND when you hear the word “sugar”? Probably your favorite type of candy or dessert, maybe your favorite soda. You probably didn’t picture barbecue sauce, granola bars, flavored yogurt, or fruit juice, but all of these and plenty more foods you wouldn’t suspect are loaded with sugar. That isn’t great news for our oral health.

Sugar Versus Our Teeth

Why are dental health professionals like us wary of sugar? Simple. The harmful bacteria on our teeth and gums like to eat sugar as much as we do. When they’ve enjoyed a tasty meal from the food fragments that remain in your mouth after a sweet treat, they excrete acid onto your teeth. This acid eats away at tooth enamel and irritates the gums, and if we aren’t careful, it can lead to issues like tooth decay and gum disease.

Learn to Recognize the Many Names of Sugar

If sugar is showing up in foods we don’t think of as sweet, how are we supposed to know? One trick is to check the “added sugars” line on food labels, but you can also identify it in the ingredients list, where it hides behind many different aliases.

The Obvious and the Sneaky

Anywhere the word “sugar” appears, from brown sugar to coconut sugar, from coarse to powdered — it’s all sugar. The word “syrup” is another giveaway. No matter what type of syrup it is, whether high fructose corn syrup or rice syrup, it’s still sugar.

The Deceptive and the Scientific

Some of sugar’s disguises are presented to you in a way to fool you into thinking they’re healthy. These include agave nectar, honey, fruit juice concentrate, evaporated cane juice, and 100 percent fruit juice. Sugar will also hide behind intimidating, highly scientific-sounding labels, but a good way to identify them is by the suffix “-ose.” Fructose, sucrose, dextrose, lactose, maltose, and glucose are all scientific names for types of sugar molecules.

How Much Sugar Is Too Much?

With added sugars hiding in so many of the things we eat, cutting down on sugar can be a tricky business, but it’s definitely worth it both for our oral health and our overall health. The recommendation from the American Heart Association is that women consume no more than 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day, and men 36 grams (9 teaspoons).

Healthy Sugar Alternatives

The way we eat our sugar is almost as important as how much we eat. Whole fruit is much better for us than fruit juice, and that’s because the sugar in fruit is trapped with a lot of water and fiber, so our bodies have a harder time absorbing it. Whole fruit is also more filling, so it’s harder to overdo it than it is drinking OJ with breakfast. This is the difference between natural sugars and processed sugar.

If fruit isn’t enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, you can try sugar-free sweeteners like xylitol, Stevia, monk fruit sweetener, and erythritol come in handy. It gets trickier if you want to bake sugar-free, but you can reduce the sugar in your recipes by substituting some or all of the sugar for applesauce, mashed banana, dates, or figs. And a good way to avoid added sugars is by eating more whole foods.

Cutting down on sugar is one way we can help out our teeth and gums, but it’s not the only way! A great brushing and flossing regimen and regular dental cleanings are key to maintaining good oral health.

Our patients are the sweetest!

Making Halloween Healthy For Your Teeth

October 29th, 2019

HALLOWEEN IS ONE OF the most highly anticipated holidays of the year, and it’s almost here! This holiday sees kids, teens, and even adults consuming far more sugar than they would any other time, coming in second only to Easter. The problem with this is that sugar is the favorite food of the harmful bacteria living in our mouths, which means eating all these treats is very bad for our oral health.

Halloween Treats Versus Our Teeth

Any time we consume sugar, that bacteria in our mouths gets a big tasty meal, after which it excretes acid onto our teeth. If you’ve ever noticed an unpleasant sour taste or gritty feeling a little while after eating dessert, that’s why. The acid can do a lot of damage to our tooth enamel, because even though enamel is the hardest substance in our entire bodies, it is very vulnerable to acid erosion.

Fight Back Against The Sugar Attack

We can, of course, do things to minimize the harmful effects of sugar on our teeth. If we eat small amounts of candy throughout the day, then we aren’t giving our saliva time to neutralize the acids and wash away the sugar, so it’s actually better for our teeth to eat all the candy we want in one go.

Drinking water can help get rid of leftover sugars after eating a treat, and there are also other foods that work as natural cleaners and oral health boosters. Apples, bananas, vegetables, and even dark chocolate help scrub teeth clean and also supply important vitamins and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins C and D!

Another essential component of the battle against enamel erosion is a good brushing and flossing habit. Just make sure to wait half an hour after eating candy to brush, so that your saliva has time to neutralize all that acid first.

5 Delicious, Healthy, And Spooky Alternatives

Just because there are ways to minimize the effects of sugar on your teeth doesn’t mean it isn’t still better to choose healthier options for your spooky treats to begin with. Here are a few of our favorite options:

  1. Colby Jack-o’-Lanterns. The cut-out jack-o’-lantern face in the bread and the yummy, calcium-rich cheese in the middle make this one a great, healthy snack!
  2. Monster Apple Bites. Apples are full of fiber and water that help clean our teeth as we eat them, so why not make your apple slices look spooky for Halloween?
  3. Boo-nana. This one is easy. All you need are a few chocolate chips (preferably dark chocolate) and a banana. Bananas are good for the teeth because they are loaded with potassium and magnesium, which help keep teeth and gums strong.
  4. Spooky Spider Eggs. Eggs are great sources of vitamin D and our teeth need it to absorb calcium in order to stay strong.
  5. Clementine Pumpkins. Simply peel the fruit and add a stem! Clementines have a lot of vitamin C, which promotes good gum health.
We hope every member of our practice family has a great Halloween filled with sweets and scares, but oral health should always be a priority. Wishing all our patients a happy Halloween!

Top image by Personal Creations used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

What Kind of Toothbrush Is Right for You?

October 9th, 2019

THE TOOTHBRUSH HAS CHANGED a lot over the last century, and we consider ourselves very lucky that we don’t have to use animal hair as bristles. However, there are now so many different toothbrush options to choose from that it can be a little intimidating trying to find the perfect one.

Bristle Firmness

Conventional wisdom would suggest that the harder you scrub, the cleaner you get. That might be true with household chores, but we need to be a little more gentle on our teeth and gums. Brushing too hard can actually scrape away enamel and damage gum tissue — increasing your risk of gum recession, which can be permanent. This is why it’s typically better to use a toothbrush with soft bristles.

Electric or Manual Toothbrush?

When electric toothbrushes first hit the scene, there wasn’t much difference in their effectiveness compared to that of manual toothbrushes. The technology has come a long way since then. Modern electric toothbrushes actually can do a better job of cleaning the plaque out of hard-to-reach spots.

A good electric toothbrush will reduce plaque levels by up to 21 percent more than a manual toothbrush, as well as reducing the risk of gingivitis by 11 percent. With an electric toothbrush, you’ll also have an easier time brushing for the full two minutes and you’ll be less likely to brush too hard.

Sonic or Oscillating?

Even if you decide you want an electric toothbrush, there are still a lot of options to choose from, but don’t worry too much. Oscillating brushes (the ones with spinning tops) and sonic brushes (the ones that vibrate side to side) are both great ways to get a cleaner smile. And you can always ask us for a recommendation at your next appointment!

Toothbrush Storage

Having the world’s best toothbrush won’t do you much good if you don’t store it the right way, because an improperly stored toothbrush is a breeding ground for all the bacteria you just scrubbed off your teeth. Make sure to store your toothbrush upright somewhere with enough air flow that it can fully dry between uses — preferably far away from the toilet.

In addition to proper storage, it’s important to replace your toothbrush (or toothbrush head, if you have an electric one) every few months. A dirty, frayed toothbrush is nowhere near as effective as a fresh, new one.

Bring Us Your Toothbrush Questions

We want all of our patients to have the best tools for the job of keeping their teeth healthy and clean, but don’t forget that your best resource for good dental health is your dentist! We look forward to seeing you twice a year!

Dental health is all about having good habits, the right tools, and a great dentist!

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