The Impact Of Smoking On Oral Health

 

YOU’RE PROBABLY FAMILIAR with some of the ways smoking impacts our health, particularly lung cancer. However, that’s not where the damage ends. Smoking can harm every part of the body, including our oral health. And the problems don’t end with stained teeth and bad breath.

Gum Disease

Gum disease begins as an inflammation of the gums, which, if left untreated, can lead to serious damage to the gum tissue, tooth loss, and even bone loss in the jaw. It can also give bacteria access to the bloodstream, risking life-threatening infections. Smoking doubles the risk of developing gum disease by introducing hundreds of toxins into the mouth, and it also makes gum disease harder to treat.

Smoker’s Keratosis

One particularly strange effect smoking can have on oral health is that it can produce white patches on the roof of the mouth. These are stomatitis nicotina, or smoker’s keratosis. The condition is not well understood, but the white patches could be the result of inflammation of the mucous glands in the mouth. It usually isn’t painful, but it can be pre-cancerous.

Oral Cancer

Four out of every five people diagnosed with oral cancer smoke or chew tobacco. Oral cancer is cancer that affects any of the tissues in the mouth and throat. Early symptoms include unusual white patches, persistent sores or pain, difficulty chewing or swallowing, swelling, numbness, and the sensation of having something lodged in the throat. The dentist is the first line of defense against oral cancer, as many of these symptoms can be caught early during a regular dental exam.

Secondhand Smoke

Even people who don’t smoke can still be negatively affected by secondhand smoke. Studies suggest a link between cavities (in both baby teeth and adult teeth) and regular exposure to secondhand smoke. The dangers of secondhand smoke are particularly serious for infants and young children. They include asthma attacks, infections, and even SIDS.

It’s Never Too Late To Quit

Luckily, smoking is a very preventable cause of all these different dental problems. All we have to do is quit smoking or never pick up the habit in the first place. Even those with a long history of smoking can significantly improve their chances of avoiding health complications by quitting, so don’t think there’s nothing you can gain from it!

We’re Waiting To Help You!

There are many resources available for smokers who need help quitting. Some of the best ones are supportive friends, family, and counselors. You can also find a lot of great information on the CDC’s website. We, as your dental health specialists, care deeply about your overall health. If you are a smoker, be sure to schedule regular dental exams, sometimes more than two a year, so that your mouth can stay healthy!

We can’t wait to see you!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain 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.

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The Hidden Sugars In Our Food

WHEN WE THINK OF SUGARY FOOD, we usually picture things like candy, cake, pie, ice cream, and soda, but there is sugar hiding in many of the foods we buy at the grocery store — even foods we don’t think of as sweet! This is bad news for our oral health, because the harmful bacteria in our mouths love all that sugar, whether we know we’re eating it or not.

Sugar’s Many Disguises

Unfortunately, finding the sugar in the food we buy isn’t so simple these days, because it hides behind many tricky-sounding names. Here are some of the terms to look for when checking ingredient lists:

  • The “-ose” words: Fructose, sucrose, dextrose, lactose, maltose, glucose. All of these are scientific names for types of sugar molecules.
  • The syrups: Corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, maple/rice syrup, etc.
  • The sugars: Brown sugar, malt sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar, coconut sugar, etc. Whether brown or white, liquid or powder, sugar is still sugar.
  • The “natural replacements”: agave nectar, honey, evaporated cane juice, fruit juice concentrate, 100 percent fruit juice. While whole fruit is definitely a healthier snack than a candy bar, fruit juice isn’t any better for your teeth than soda.
  • Molasses.

While these are the most common disguises sugar may take, there are plenty more. A good clue is in the “added sugars” line on the nutrition labels. Unfortunately, these sugars can be found in everyday foods we often think of as healthy (or at least not unhealthy), like Raisin Bran, fruit-flavored yogurt, ketchup, barbecue sauce, granola, and even most types of bread! This is why it’s important to always read the labels!

Our Recommended Daily Sugar Intake

With sugar hiding in so much of our food, avoiding it entirely can be a difficult task, but our teeth (and the rest of us) will be healthier and happier if we can keep the overall amount to a minimum. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams (6 teaspoons) a day for women, 36 grams (9 teaspoons) for men. That might not seem like much, but the good news is that the longer you go with less sugar in your day, the less you’ll miss it!

Healthy Sugar Replacements

At least east as important as the amount of sugar we consume is how we consume it. The reason whole fruit is healthier than fruit juice is that the sugar in fruit comes with a lot of water and fiber, making it harder for our bodies to absorb. Whole fruit is also more filling, whereas we could drink the equivalent of several oranges in juice and still have room for bacon, eggs, and toast. That right there is the difference between natural and processed sugars!

But what about when you get those sweet cravings and fruit just won’t cut it? That’s when sugar-free sweeteners like Stevia, xylitol, and erythritol or low-sugar alternatives like applesauce, bananas, dates, and figs come in handy. You’ll also have an easier time avoiding those insidious added sugars if you stick to whole foods.

Let’s Check On Those Teeth!

Luckily for all of us, cutting down on sugar isn’t the only way we can take care of our teeth. We can also keep them healthy and bright by brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and scheduling our regular dental cleanings. If it’s been more than six months since your last appointment, don’t hesitate to schedule your next one today!

Our practice has the world’s sweetest patients!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain 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.

Fighting Back Against Oral Bacteria

 

A BATTLE IS CONSTANTLY raging inside your mouth for the fate of your teeth. The only one who can turn the tide and make sure your teeth win this battle is you.

The Defenders And The Attackers

Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body. It’s like the castle walls, protecting the softer dentin and pulp inside each tooth. Unfortunately, it is porous and vulnerable to erosion by acids.

When the enamel loses minerals to acid exposure (a process called demineralization), it weakens the teeth and leaves them more susceptible to decay. However, we can fortify that enamel by getting enough minerals and nutrients, remineralizing our teeth. This is the battle our mouths are fighting every day: demineralization versus remineralization.

The invaders in this battle are bacteria. They feed on sugar and carbs left in our mouths after a meal, and they excrete enamel-eroding acid onto our teeth. Luckily, we have a natural defense against the bacteria, and that’s our saliva. If enamel is like castle walls, then saliva is like the moat. A lot of harmful bacteria falls into this moat and gets washed away instead of being able to attack the castle walls.

To learn more about what harmful bacteria can do, check out this video:

Which Side Will You Fight On?

While our enamel and saliva are built-in defenses, there is a lot we can actively do to make sure the good guys are winning the battle in our mouths. When we practice mouth-healthy habits, we’re fighting on the right side, but when we neglect them, we’re fighting on the side of the bacteria.

One thing you can do to fight back against harmful bacteria is cut back on junk food. Sugar-filled treats and drinks and other processed foods supercharge the bacteria that lead to tooth decay, but foods like apples, cheese, eggs, carrots, celery, fish, and dark leafy greens promote remineralization of your enamel. Choose your snacks with your teeth in mind!

You can also prevent demineralization by brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride remineralizes your enamel too, and it also reduces bacteria’s ability to produce acid.

Never Give Up! Never Surrender!

You are the most important part of the battle for your teeth, so make sure to do everything you can so that your teeth can win the fight. Your reward will be a healthy smile for life. Keep up the good work brushing, flossing, and eating a mouth-healthy diet, and don’t forget that you can always schedule a dental appointment to give your teeth’s defenses a boost!

We’re grateful for our awesome patients!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain 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.

Your Next Dental Appointment

 

 

GOING TO THE DENTIST is something we should all be doing twice a year every year. If you’re already in the habit of coming in for regular cleanings, that’s wonderful! If not, here’s what you can expect from a typical cleaning appointment.

Your Check-Up

When visiting the dentist for a check-up, there are a few things that will typically happen. If you don’t have any existing dental concerns or conditions, the first step is usually dental X-rays. Your medical and dental history, your age, and your current oral health will determine how often you need these. Dental X-rays help dentists to find and diagnose tooth decay hiding between the teeth and other places hard to see with the naked eye. They also identify dental and orthodontic issues beneath the gums.

Next, the hygienist will begin cleaning the teeth. They use a small metal tool called a scaler to scrape away any tartar in between the teeth and around the gumline. Then they’ll polish the teeth using a lightly abrasive paste and a polishing tool. This gives your teeth a nice, deep clean and removes any remaining tartar. They finish the cleaning off with flossing.

Once the hygienist is done, it’s the dentist’s turn. They’ll review your X-rays, check your teeth and gums for signs of decay and gum disease, measure the depth of your gingival pockets, check for swelling and redness, test how well your teeth come together when you bite down, and examine your neck, lymph glands, and mouth for signs of oral cancer. When they finish, they’ll discuss treatment for any dental work you need and give you tips on improving your daily dental care routine.

Why Visiting The Dentist Is Important

Even for people with great oral health habits like brushing twice a day for two minutes and flossing daily, visiting the dentist every six months is crucial to maintaining good oral health. The reason for this is that dental problems don’t go away on their own and tend to get worse, which also makes them more difficult (and expensive) to fix. Regular dental checkups catch problems early so that more intense treatment doesn’t become necessary.

We Can’t Wait To See You!

Whether it’s been six months or longer since the last time we saw you, we’re looking forward to seeing you again! Schedule your next appointment right away, and we can make sure everything in your mouth is healthy and clean!

We have the world’s best patients!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain 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.