Posts for: August, 2014
Chewing gum, so much a part of modern culture, actually has ancient roots — humans have been chewing some form of it for thousands of years. While gum chewing is a benign habit for the most part, it does raise some dental health concerns.
The good news for jaw function is that chewing gum is unlikely to cause any long-term problems for your joints if you respond to your body’s warning signals. Our joints, muscles and associated nerves have a built-in mechanism of fatigue and pain signaling to help us avoid overuse. Furthermore, the action of chewing stimulates the production and release of saliva. Among saliva’s many beneficial properties is its ability to neutralize acid, which can soften and erode tooth enamel. It also strengthens enamel by restoring some of the calcium and other minerals lost from acid.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the physical act of chewing gum isn’t without risks. Chewing gum “exercises” your jaw muscles and makes them stronger, so they’re able to deliver more force to your teeth. This could lead to future tooth mobility and excessive wear. It’s important then that you don’t chew gum excessively to avoid this kind of damage to your teeth.
Unfortunately, there’s more bad news involving a key ingredient in many brands. Many manufacturers use sugar (sucrose) to sweeten their product, which is a major part of its appeal. Sugar, however, is a prime food source for oral bacteria responsible for tooth decay. The prolonged presence of sugar in the mouth when we chew gum can negate the beneficial effects of increased saliva.
A sweetener called xylitol, though, could be the answer to “having your gum and chewing it too.” This alcohol-based sugar (which, by the way, has almost half the calories of table sugar) has the opposite effect on bacteria — rather than becoming a food source it actually inhibits bacterial growth. Studies have even shown that products like chewing gum, mints or candy sweetened with xylitol can contribute significantly to a reduction in dental caries (cavities) caused by decay.
The better news: you don’t have to give up chewing gum for the sake of your teeth — just be sure to choose products with dental-friendly ingredients and don’t chew excessively. You’ll not only reduce the risks of tooth decay and damage, you’ll also promote a healthier environment in your mouth.
If you would like more information on chewing gum and its effects on dental health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Chewing Gum” and “Xylitol in Chewing Gum.”
It might seem that adults who play aggressive, high-contact professional sports (ice hockey, for example) have the highest chance of sustaining dental injuries. But for many — like NHL hall-of-famer Mike Bossy — their first injured teeth came long before they hit the big time.
“The earliest [dental injury] I remember is when I was around 12,” the former New York Islanders forward recently told an interviewer with the Huffington Post. That came from a stick to Bossy's mouth, and resulted in a chipped front tooth. “Unfortunately, money was not abundant back in those days, and I believe I finally had it repaired when I was 16.” he said.
You may also think there's a greater chance of sustaining dental trauma from “collision sports” like football and hockey — but statistics tell a different story. In fact, according to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), you (or your children) are more likely to have teeth damaged while playing soccer than football — and basketball players have a risk that's 15 times higher than football players.
So — whether the game is hockey, basketball or something else — should you let the chance of dental injury stop you or your children from playing the sports they love? We think not... but you should be aware of the things you can do to prevent injury, and the treatment options that are available if it happens.
Probably the single most effective means of preventing sports-related dental injuries is to get a good, custom-made mouth guard — and wear it. The AGD says mouthguards prevent some 200,000 such injuries every year. And the American Dental Association says that athletes who don't wear mouthguards are 60 times more likely to sustain harm to the teeth than those who do.
Many studies have shown that having a custom-fitted mouthguard prepared in a dental office offers far greater protection then an off-the-shelf “small-medium-large” type, or even the so-called “boil and bite” variety. Using an exact model of your teeth, we can fabricate a mouthguard just for you, made of the highest-quality material. We will ensure that it fits correctly and feels comfortable in your mouth — because if you don't wear it, it can't help!
But even if you do have an injury, don't panic: Modern dentistry offers plenty of ways to repair it! The most common sports-related dental injuries typically involve chipped or cracked teeth. In many cases, these can be repaired by bonding with tooth-colored composite resins. For mild to moderate injury, this method of restoration can produce a restoration that's practically invisible. It's also a relatively uncomplicated and inexpensive procedure, which makes it ideal for growing kids, who may elect to have a more permanent restoration done later.
If you have questions about mouthguards or sports-related dental injuries, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Athletic Mouthguards,” and “An Introduction to Sports Injuries & Dentistry.”
Water is essential to life. It’s relatively abundant and affordable in the United States, with treated water averaging about $2.00 per thousand gallons. It’s also critical to dental health as part of oral hygiene and as a vehicle for added fluoride to protect against tooth decay.
Water is also big business. We Americans drink an estimated 85 million packaged bottles of water every day. As with any profitable business, there’s no small marketing hype by the bottled water industry, including claims of superiority over community tap water.
These claims should be examined more closely. One advocacy group, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), subjected several brands of bottled water to independent analysis with some surprising results. Many of the samples contained disinfection byproducts, wastewater pollutants like caffeine or drug residue, heavy metals and, in some cases, bacteria. While none of the contaminants found exceeded legal limits, companies weren’t forthcoming with consumers on the possible presence of these substances in their product.
If fluoride is one of those unidentified substances in bottled water it could affect the dental health of an infant or small child. While fluoride is a proven cavity fighter, infants and smaller children can ingest too much for their body weight. For this reason, parents often use bottled water to mix with formula, believing it to be fluoride-free, when in fact it may not be.
Because bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, it isn’t subject to the more rigorous standards for tap water administered by the Environmental Protection Agency. Manufacturers also aren’t required to identify the source of their water, the methods and degree of purification and testing for contaminants. There are independent organizations that seek those answers on behalf of the public. For example, EWG publishes a Bottled Water Scorecard online (www.ewg.org/research/ewg-bottled-water-scorecard-2011) with ratings and information on different brands of bottled water.
If you have concerns about your tap water, you may want to consider another alternative to bottled water — in-home water filtration. EWG also has a guide on various types of filtration methods at www.ewg.org/tap-water/getawaterfilter.
The purity of your water greatly impacts your family’s health, including your teeth. Distinguishing between fact and hype will help you make better decisions about the water you drink.
If you would like more information on water quality and safety, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Bottled Water: Health Or Hype?”