It’s that time of year where sleigh-bells are ringing, children are singing, and the last thing we tend to think about is our oral health. I mean, we’re pretty sure no one is sitting on Santa’s lap and asking for peppermint floss for Christmas. So why worry about our oral health? It is only a few months out of the year, right?
Well, that is where we can get ourselves into a bit of trouble. Many people think of the mouth as an isolated part of the body, but it is anything but that! Oral health affects the entire body, since the mouth is actually a part of the immune system.
So, while we want to wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season, we also wanted to put together some tips you can incorporate to keep your teeth, gums, and body healthy over the next few months and even into the new year.
1. Keep Your Twice a Day Routine
The Holidays can make your schedule crazy, but brushing and flossing your teeth at least two times a day is a must. This is even more crucial if you plan on indulging in some of the wonderful Holiday treats. A simple brushing to remove sugar from your teeth (with or without toothpaste) will go a long way.
Extra Tip: Always keep a toothbrush and floss in your car or purse. That way you can clean your pearly whites while you are out and about enjoying the Holiday season.
2. Have Fruit on Hand
It is inevitable that sugary desserts will be around every corner you turn; there is no avoiding them. While you can certainly partake here and there, we recommend always having a piece of organic fruit on hand. That way, when Grandma’s fresh out of the oven snickerdoodles are calling your name ONCE AGAIN, you’ll be ready to satisfy your sweet tooth with a healthier option.
3. Drink Plenty of Water Daily
Water has so many benefits, especially during the holidays when you are out and about more than ever. One of water’s best perks is that it can clean away freshly formed bacteria with every sip. Plus, water can freshen your breath, aid in digestion, and help with elimination. As a bonus, water can fill you up so you don’t over indulge in the endless goodies.
Extra Tip: Always bring a refillable water bottle with you in the car and take advantage of refilling it whenever possible.
4. Eat More Healthy Fats
What?! Eat more fat??? It is finally time to put aside your fat-phobia because healthy fats are essential to healthy teeth and even overall health. We recommend choosing healthy fats such as olive oil, avocados, and fatty fish like salmon. It is a good idea to work with your dentist or a dietitian if you aren’t sure how to incorporate healthy fats into your diet.
5. Don’t Crack Nuts with Your Teeth
Although it can be a cool party trick, testing the strength of your teeth by shelling nuts is always a bad idea. The hard surface of most nutshells can cause serious tooth and gum damage. Believe us, as we see it every year!
6. Schedule Your Post-Holiday Checkup & Cleaning Now
This isn’t your first Holiday Season, so you already know you’re going to be busy. You probably also realize that, despite all your best intentions and chalkboard notes, there will be times you’ll forget all 6 of these tips. That’s just life. The good news is that you can schedule your post-holiday cleaning and check-up now. So, the moment the Holidays are over, you can make sure your teeth and gums get back on track for the start of the new year.
Despite a rogue news report a few years ago, the benefits of regular flossing and brushing have generally been widely accepted. So, why do only 30% of Americans report flossing daily and even more (32%) admit to never flossing at all?
Most likely it’s because while the obvious benefits of regular flossing are worthwhile – gum health and fresh breath – they’re also relatively intangible. Let’s be honest. Possessing healthy pink gums doesn’t exactly give you bragging rights just yet, but if more people understood the true ramifications of poor oral health it definitely would.
Oral health is much more than pearly whites or fresh breath and lack of good oral hygiene, which includes flossing, can lead to health issues that go beyond your gumline. The human body is well-connected and there’s a strong link between oral health and your overall health. But where does flossing come in? When food particles build up between teeth, they attract bacteria which forms plaque. Plaque leads to tooth decay and gum disease, causing inflammation in the body. Inflammation is definitely not your friend. If you thought dental fillings and bleeding gums were the only inconveniences at stake, then hold on because flossing is about to take a very serious turn.
Regular flossing can help to prevent:
- Cavities and tooth loss: We all have mouths full of bacteria which, while unsettling, generally isn’t of concern, as most are benign. However, two strands of bacteria that are likely to create issues include streptococcus and porphyromonas gingivalis. Both of these types of bacteria lead to tooth decay and loss. Streptococcus feeds on sugars and starches in the mouth, producing acid that erodes tooth enamel and increases the risk of tooth decay. Porphyromonas gingivalis is associated with periodontitis, a painful, progressive gum disease that leads to tooth loss.
- Weight gain: Studies have shown a potential link between gum disease and obesity. The culprit isn’t calories, but inflammation, which puts stress on the body and deregulates how fat is stored. When fat cells are inflamed, their ability to control insulin is impacted and glucose gets stored as fat instead of being used for energy.
- Heart disease: Not only does inflammation increase the risk of obesity, it also increases your chances for developing clots and blockages that lead to heart attacks. In fact, people with gum disease are twice as likely to deal with coronary artery disease. One theory is that periodontal disease may cause inflammation in arteries and brain tissue, generating greater amounts of clotting compounds. A couple of extra minutes added to your nighttime routine doesn’t sound so bad now, huh?
- Dementia: A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s had more of the bacteria associated with gum disease than did those belonging to their cognitively healthy peers. It’s thought that the bacteria associated with poor dental hygiene may spread to the brain through the cranial nerve, which connects to the jaw through the bloodstream.
- Pneumonia: When there’s an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, it can be inhaled into the lungs creating respiratory problems such as pneumonia.
- Joint pain: Regular flossing can also help to ward off those achy joints. In a study of people with gum disease and arthritis, researchers found the same bacteria in subjects’ mouths and joints, leading experts to believe that bacteria in inflamed gums can enter the bloodstream and find their way into joint fluid.
We get it! At the end of the day the last thing you want to do is thread floss through your teeth, but this one is a non-negotiable. Check out the American Dental Association’s video to ensure you’re flossing correctly. If focusing on what daily flossing promotes isn’t enough to motivate you, think of everything it helps prevent. Please feel free to contact our office with any questions.
Let’s see those pearly whites! You hear it all the time, but when was the last time someone wanted to see your healthy pink gums? Though they may be destined to play second fiddle to their white, show-stealing counterparts, gums are really the unsung hero of your mouth. Gingiva (i.e., gums) is the tissue that surrounds and protects teeth, along with the underlying bone. Gums attach to the teeth, forming a seal that protects the underlying bone and provides a barrier against infection.
Like most unsung heroes, gums usually aren’t given much thought until an issue arises. Unfortunately, for many of us that time has come. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost half of Americans aged 30 or older have periodontitis (the advanced form of periodontal disease).
What is gum disease?
Gum disease starts when plaque, a sticky, bacteria-filled film, builds up under and along the gum line. Plaque can cause infections that lead to gum disease and tooth decay, including gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. The bad news is that even at this early stage gingivitis causes your gums to become inflamed, tender, and prone to bleeding. The good news is that since the bone and tissue holding the teeth in place aren’t impacted, the damage is reversible. However, if left untreated, gingivitis can turn into periodontitis. Unlike gingivitis, periodontitis impacts the bones that hold your teeth in place. Without treatment, periodontitis can ruin the gums, bones, and tissues connected to your teeth.
Not all gum disease requires surgical treatment. In fact, professional dental cleanings already include the removal of plaque and tartar (the primary cause of gum disease) from above and below the gum line. Another non-surgical form of treatment is scaling and root planing. This procedure is essentially a deep-cleaning completed under anesthesia, where hardened plaque and tartar are scraped away and any rough spots on the tooth root are smoothed to create a clean surface for the gums to reattach. The use of antibiotics may also be prescribed to control plaque and inflammation of gum tissue.
In some patients, non-surgical procedures are all that is needed; however, surgery is required when tissue around the teeth is unhealthy and cannot be repaired with non-surgical options. In these instances, providers may recommend flap or pocket reduction surgery. During this procedure, a patient’s gums are lifted back so tartar can be removed and damaged bone can be smoothed. This results in a reduction of space between the gum and tooth, limiting the areas where bacteria can hide.
Other surgical treatments include bone and soft tissue grafts. Bone grafts use fragments of your own bone, synthetic bone, or donated bone to replace and regrow bone in areas destroyed by periodontal disease. This procedure restores the secure attachment of a patient’s teeth to the bone. Soft tissue grafts use grafted tissue, most often taken from the roof of the mouth, to strengthen thin gums or fill in areas where gums have receded.
In cases where the bone has been destroyed, guided tissue regeneration may be a treatment option. Done in combination with flap surgery, a small piece of mesh-like fabric is inserted between the bone and gum tissue. This prevents the gum tissue from growing into the area where the bone should be and allows the bone and connective tissue to regrow to better support the teeth.
Do I need to worry about gum disease?
Even if you’re cavity-free with sterling, white teeth, you’re not immune to gum disease. Most people aren’t even aware that anything is wrong, since the early stages are usually painless.
While plaque is the primary cause of gum disease, other factors that can contribute to periodontal disease include:
- Hormonal changes such as those occurring during pregnancy, puberty, menopause, and menstruation, make gums more sensitive, which makes it easier for gingivitis to develop.
- Illnesses may also affect the condition of your gums. Recent studies have suggested a connection between periodontal disease and a number of other diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. Scientists believe that inflammation may be the basis for the link between these systemic diseases.
- Medications can also affect oral health because some lessen the flow of saliva, which has a protective effect on teeth and gums.
- Smoking makes it harder for gum tissue to repair itself.
- Family history of dental disease can also be a contributing factor in the development of gingivitis.
The good news is that gum disease is preventable and good oral hygiene habits play a big role. To help maintain healthy gums:
- Floss regularly
- Brush 2x a day
- Get regular dental cleanings
- Don’t smoke
- Use fluoride toothpaste
- Use a therapeutic mouthwash
You can also improve gum health by increasing your intake of the following foods:
- Onions are a great food for healthy gums because they neutralize oral bacteria. They have microbial properties that target the most common types of bacteria which cause gum disease and cavities.
- Leafy greens, like kale and spinach, are full of healthy vitamins and minerals. This includes Vitamin C, which boosts the production of red blood cells and reduces inflammation. Both of these strengthen your battle against irritation and gum disease.
- Celery, carrots, and apples (among other naturally crunchy foods) are excellent at scraping away stuck-on food and plaque. The hard pieces of these foods get in between teeth and into tooth crevices, which helps keep your mouth fresh between brushings. They also take longer to chew and generate more saliva, which helps to flush the mouth of bacteria near the gum line.
- Dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese, are also great for teeth because they contain a protein called casein, which helps neutralize oral acids produced by bacteria in the mouth.
It is important to remember that even if you have a family history of gum disease, you don’t have to be destined to experience the painful effects. Through good oral hygiene, regular dental check-ups, and increasing your intake of the foods noted above, you can maintain healthy gums. If you have questions about your gums, or are concerned about your oral health in general, please contact our practice.
14 of every 100 individuals age eighteen and over smoke in the United States, according to a 2017 Center for Disease Control report. This means 14% of America is lighting up!
The Surgeon General has been warning people for decades, emphasizing that smoking is bad for your health. But what makes it bad for you? And in particular, what does smoking do to your teeth?
You’re most likely aware of how smoking affects your lungs, but the effects of smoking begin with your mouth.
What Does Smoking Do to Your Teeth?
Your mouth is the first point of entry in your body. When you light up a cigarette and exhale that first puff, you most likely aren’t thinking about how a cigarette will affect your teeth. Cigarette smoking affects both the appearance and health of your teeth overall.
If you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, you are giving up the possibility of maintaining naturally white teeth. It is important to visualize your teeth like a porcelain vase. Essentially, the enamel of your teeth acts just like a porcelain finish, with fine cracks. As you age and use your teeth for several decades, those cracks absorb what you put in your mouth.
When you smoke a cigarette, the nicotine and tar in the cigarette will seep into the cracks and become a fixture there. You cannot brush them away. Stained teeth result from more than just poor brushing habits. You will also experience a build-up of plaque and tartar on your teeth because of the nicotine and tar in the cigarette.
If you’re a chronic smoker, you will require teeth whitening to maintain a pearly white smile.
How Does Smoking Contribute to Tooth Loss?
There are several reasons you have a decreased chance of preserving your original teeth if you’re a chronic smoker.
Delayed Healing Process
Smoking tobacco reduces the oxygen in your bloodstream. It is important to remember that oxygen is necessary for healing processes in your body. When you experience oral disease or dental conditions that require surgical procedures (tooth extractions, dental implants, root canals, etc), this means a chronic smoker will heal more slowly and face a longer recovery time. Smokers are also at a higher risk of infection, because your gums may not be able to heal properly.
Increased Chance of Gum Disease
Gum disease is one of the most common reasons for tooth loss in adults, and smoking is a major contributing factor. Gum disease progresses faster in chronic smokers. As a result, smokers typically not only lose their teeth, but dental implant procedures are less successful with them than with a non-smoker.
Progression of Gum Disease
Whether you smoke or not, it is important to remember that gum disease begins with bacterial growth in your mouth. Some people are genetically more susceptible to gum disease, but smoking will increase your chances because you’re introducing bacteria regularly with a cigarette. As you smoke, plaque begins to build up and bacteria increases. Your gums become inflamed, and you may notice more blood on your toothbrush or in your saliva when you brush your teeth.
This is the start of gingivitis, a common gum disease. When you don’t receive proper treatment for your gingivitis, the gum disease then progresses to periodontitis. With periodontitis, the inner layer of the gum and bone begin to separate from the teeth. Pockets then form between the teeth and the gum. Bacteria begins to collect in those pockets, along with debris, and infection sets in. For a non-smoker, the immune system kicks in full strength at this time to fight the infection. However, a smoker has a compromised immune system, allowing the infection to spread and grow beneath the gum line.
Everything that holds your teeth in place, from the bone to the connective tissue, suffers at this point. The bacteria produce toxins that break down your bone and connective tissue. You may begin to notice loose teeth at this stage, as the bone and tissue are gradually destroyed. Your teeth have no anchor to keep them in place, and they often begin to fall out.
Cigarettes are the “smoking gun” of tooth loss. Teeth do not decay because of cigarettes, but everything that holds the teeth to your jaw does. Your body cannot fight off the infections that lead to this erosion because of its compromised immunity.
Signs of Gum Disease
If you’re a chronic smoker, you should understand the signs of gum disease.
- Gums pull away from teeth
- Excessive bleeding during teeth brushing
- Red and swollen gums
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Painful chewing
It is important to keep an eye out for any of these symptoms and visit your dentist right away if they develop.
What If You Lose Your Teeth?
At this point, you may be thinking, “What’s the big deal? I don’t like my teeth that much, and I can always get implants if I lose a tooth.”
This would be true if you were a non-smoker. However, it is important to remember that dental implants require a healthy jawbone. If you’re losing your teeth because of eroding bone and tissue, you will not have a stable anchor for dental implants.
Furthermore, you will have a regularly changing jaw. This means you can look to obtain dentures, but you will require several regular fittings as your jaw shrinks.
What If You Can’t Quit Smoking?
Smoking affects your teeth and your mouth. So why not just quit? If you have attempted to quit smoking multiple times and not succeeded, then look at the next best option. A commitment to reducing your quantity of daily smoking will dramatically improve your oral health and help save your teeth.
It is also important to plan on visiting your dentist regularly. They can help you find ways to fight gum disease that leads to tooth loss.
Drop the Smoke, Save Your Teeth
So, what does smoking do to your teeth? While smoking certainly has an adverse effect directly on your teeth, the most detrimental impact occurs to the oral structures (gums and jawbone) that hold your teeth in place.
If you desire to maintain your own teeth for a lifetime, stop lighting up! Contact our Colorado Springs practice if you’re suffering from gum disease or any other oral health related issues.
Most people are surprised to learn that the average toothbrush contains over 700 kinds of bacteria. Fungi, viruses, and tiny microorganisms sit on the bristles of toothbrushes around the world, establishing a foundation for diseases to form.
If the thought of bacteria dwelling on the toothbrush you routinely place in your mouth doesn’t peak your curiosity about changing your oral hygiene habits, think about the poor physical condition of your toothbrush. Over time, the bristles on your brush become fanned out and spread apart.
Keeping the threat of oral bacteria and the physical appearance of your toothbrush in mind, the important question is how often should you change your toothbrush?
Where Are the Bacteria on Your Toothbrush Coming From?
The number one source of bacteria on your toothbrush is your mouth. You routinely use your brush to clean the plaque, food, and odor-causing germs from your mouth. Considering the fact that most people don’t use soap or bleach on their brush after using it (which we definitely don’t recommend), there are certainly going to be some bacteria present on your toothbrush.
It’s also important to consider where you store your toothbrush. Many people frequently store their toothbrush too close to the sink, or even the toilet. Brushes placed too close to either of these bathroom fixtures are at risk of attracting some extra unwanted microorganisms.
Lastly, it is important to remember that how you store your toothbrush matters. Placing your brush in unwashed containers and holders can also facilitate the growth of bacteria.
When Should You Change Your Toothbrush?
Despite the presence of bacteria on toothbrushes, the solution here is not to brush your teeth less! That would certainly lead to a variety of other harmful dental conditions. The solution is to regularly replace your toothbrush.
Between the American Dental Association (ADA) and many licensed dental professionals, it is recommended you change your toothbrush every three to four months. Within this time frame, the bristles usually become severely worn and are much less effective. It should be noted that most dental professionals have a general rule that trumps this timeline. If you have recently been sick with an infection or virus, dental providers recommend you change your toothbrush right away.
Children may actually require a toothbrush replacement sooner than adults. Kids usually brush their teeth more rigorously than their grown counterparts, so the wear and tear on their brushes may be more evident before the three month mark.
If you happen to be wondering if it matters whether a toothbrush is manual or electric, the answer is no. Bristles are bristles, and it is strongly suggested you change your brush (or toothbrush head) every three to four months.
Caring for Your Toothbrush
While the average person doesn’t feel a toothbrush requires special care and attention, dental professionals are quick to point out that it is important to follow some important steps:
For starters, after you use your toothbrush it’s important you rinse it off thoroughly with tap water. Rinsing helps wash away any remaining toothpaste, food, and saliva that may still be present on your brush.
Store in a Dry Place
After you’ve finished rinsing your toothbrush with tap water, it’s imperative to store it in a vertical position to air dry the brush. The key word here is “air dry”. It’s important to make sure your toothbrush is completely dry every time you use it.
If you’re accustomed to placing your toothbrush in a closed container after use, it’s time you break that habit. This helps prevent the bacteria buildup that is present in a storage container like that. In fact, it’s best not to even keep your toothbrush in a closed container for traveling purposes. Instead, think about purchasing disposable brushes when traveling away from home.
Be Careful Where You Keep It
As previously mentioned, many bacteria access your toothbrush based on its proximity to the toilet or sink. Splashing water from either one of those sources can result in unwanted germs transferring onto your brush. Therefore, you should find an appropriate place to store your brush where it can remain away from this type of water.
Additionally, it’s best not to store your toothbrush in a place where it’s consistently touching the brushes of your family members. You certainly don’t want additional bacteria from your family members adding to your own. In fact, you should always remember that your toothbrush is yours alone. It’s never a smart idea to share a toothbrush with another person.
Keep a Spare or Two
As you surf the internet or make trips to the store, it’s wise to purchase some extra toothbrushes or toothbrush heads. It’s important to have these extra brushes around the house during those times when you are faced with unexpected challenges (I.e. you get sick, you drop your brush in the toilet, or your young kids get a hold of your brush).
It’s been said that when people know better, they tend to do better. Now that you know you should be changing your toothbrush every three to four months, you shouldn’t rely on your next dental appointment to make an upgrade. Since you’re aware of the importance of keeping your brush in a dry and secure place, you’ll be careful not to lay your brush down an inch away from the bathroom sink.
If you have additional questions about when you should change your toothbrush or oral hygiene routine, be sure to contact our Colorado Springs dental office!