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Posts for tag: oral health

4WaysSalivaProtectsYourMouthAgainstDisease

Brushing and flossing daily, and dental visits at least twice a year: These are the essential things you should be doing to protect your teeth and gums against dental disease. But you're also getting an automatic assist from your body through saliva, that humble fluid swishing around in your mouth, to protect your oral health.

It's more than simply “mouth water”: Without saliva and its various components, your risk for tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease would be much higher. Here are 4 ways saliva helps you keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Cleansing. Chewing prepares your food for digestion, but in the process produces tiny particles of food debris. Settling on tooth surfaces, these bits become part of the dental plaque that forms on your teeth and develops the ideal breeding ground for disease-causing bacteria. Saliva helps rinse away much of this debris—particularly sugar, the primary food source for bacteria.

Protection. Saliva is the first line defense against disease-causing microorganisms entering the mouth. The primary source of this protection is a protein-based antibody called Immunoglobulin A (IgA), which directly fights infection-causing organisms. Another protein in saliva, lactoferrin (also found in tears), interferes with bacterial growth.

Buffering. The main enemy of tooth enamel is mouth acid, produced by oral bacteria and the foods that we eat. Saliva neutralizes acid to help the mouth maintain its normally neutral pH range. And it works fast: Saliva can buffer acid and restore balance within thirty minutes to an hour after eating.

Re-mineralization. It's normal for acid to build up after eating, and for it to quickly remove minerals from surface enamel, a process called de-mineralization that can soften and weaken the enamel. But saliva helps restore some of these lost minerals as it's neutralizing acid. This re-mineralization re-strengthens enamel against tooth decay.

Saliva is so important for maintaining a healthy mouth, it's worth your efforts to protect it. Diminished saliva production not only produces an unpleasant dry mouth, it may increase your risk for disease. If this is a constant problem, speak to your dentist about causes and remedies. You'll be doing your teeth and gums a favor.

If you would like more information on the role of saliva in maintaining oral 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 article “Saliva: How it is Used to Diagnose Disease.”

UnpleasantCrackedMouthCornersCanBeTreatedandPrevented

Ever have a paper cut or an irritated hangnail? They're not considered major health problems, but, boy, can they sting!

Something similar can occur in the corners of your mouth called angular cheilitis. It's also known as perleche, from the French word “to lick” (a common habit with this type of sore). It can occur at any age, with children or young adults developing it from drooling during sleep or orthodontic treatment.

Older adults, though, are more prone than younger people for a variety of reasons. Age-related wrinkling is a major factor, especially “marionette lines” that run from the mouth to the chin. Dried or thinned out skin due to exposure from cold, windy weather may also contribute to perleche.

Perleche can also develop from within the mouth, particularly if a person is experiencing restricted salivary flow leading to reduced lubrication around the lips. Poorly cleaned dentures, weakened facial supporting structure due to missing teeth, vitamin deficiencies and some systemic diseases can all lead to perleche. And if an oral yeast infection occurs around the cracked mouth corners, the irritation can worsen and prolong the healing process.

To clear up a case of cracked mouth corners, you should promptly see your dentist for treatment. Treatment will typically include some form of antifungal ointment or lozenge applied over a few days to clear up the sores and prevent or stop any infection. You might also need to apply a steroid ointment for inflammation and other ointments to facilitate healing.

To prevent future episodes, your dentist may ask you to use a chlorhexidine mouthrinse to curb yeast growth. If you wear dentures, you'll need to adopt a regular cleaning routine (as well as leaving them out at night). You might also wish to consider updated dental restorations or orthodontics to improve dental support, and help from a dermatologist if wrinkling might be a potential cause.

Cracked mouth corners won't harm you, but they can make for a miserable experience. Take steps to relieve the irritation and any future occurrence.

If you would like more information on angular cheilitis or similar oral conditions, 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 “Cracked Corners of the Mouth.”

4SimpleThingsYouCanDotoStopBadBreath

When they weren't building pyramids or wrapping mummies, the ancient Egyptians mixed herbs and spices with a little honey to make small lozenges. Their purpose: to fight halitosis, that perennial scourge of polite society. More specifically, they were the first known breath mints.

Just like our ancient forebears, we're still trying to stop bad breath—to the tune of $12 billion annually for breath-freshening products. For the most part, though, fresher breath is still largely the byproduct of dedicated oral care. In recognition of National Fresh Breath Day this August 6th, here are 4 simple things you can do to help eliminate embarrassing bad breath.

Remove dental plaque. Mouth bacteria proliferating within a thin buildup of food particles is called dental plaque—the main culprit in 85—90% of bad breath cases. These bacteria can emit volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs), which have a characteristic rotten egg smell. You can reduce bacteria and their foul odors by removing plaque with daily brushing and flossing and twice-a-year dental cleanings.

Boost your saliva. An inadequate flow of saliva, often a side effect of certain medications, can leave your mouth dry and susceptible to bacterial growth and subsequent bad breath. You can increase saliva flow by drinking more water, using saliva-boosting aids, or speaking with your doctor about alternative medications with less of a dry mouth side effect.

Brush your tongue. Some people find their tongue is “Velcro” for tiny food particles, which attract bacteria. It's always a good idea to brush your tongue (especially toward the back) to loosen and remove any clinging food particles. If it continues to be a problem, you can also employ a tongue scraper for a more thorough tongue cleaning.

Get a checkup. Although bacterial growth from inadequate hygiene is the usual cause for bad breath, it isn't the only one. Dental diseases like tooth decay or gum disease can also create unpleasant mouth odors, as well as serious conditions like diabetes, kidney infections or certain cancers. If your bad breath persists despite diligent hygiene, see us or your doctor for a more comprehensive exam.

During our long war with halitosis, we've learned a thing or two about its causes. We've also learned that practicing good oral habits is the best thing you can do to beat bad breath.

If you would like more information about controlling bad breath, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Bad Breath: More Than Just Embarrassing.”

IrritatingColdSoreOutbreakscanbeControlledThroughMedication

Although normally benign, a cold sore outbreak can be irritating and embarrassing. Understanding why they occur is the first step to minimizing outbreaks.

The typical cold sore (also known as a fever blister) is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Type I, medically known as “Herpes Labialis” because it occurs on or around the lips. This virus is not to be confused with HSV Type II, which causes a genital infection. Unlike most viruses, HSV Type I can cause a recurring sore outbreak in certain people. Most viruses tend to occur only once because the body produces anti-bodies to prevent further attack; it’s believed HSV Type I, however, can shield itself from these defenses by hiding in the body’s nerve roots.

These cold sore outbreaks often occur during periods of high stress, overexposure to sunlight or injuries to the lip. Initially you may have an itch or slight burning around the mouth that escalates into more severe itching, redness, swelling and blistering. The sores will break out for about a week to ten days and then scab over and eventually heal (unless they become infected, in which case the healing process may go longer). You’re contagious between the first symptoms and healing, and so can spread the virus to other people.

In recent years, anti-viral prescription medications have been developed that can effectively prevent HSV outbreaks, or at least reduce the healing time after an occurrence. The most common of these are acyclovir and valcyclovir, proven effective with only a few possible mild side effects. They can be taken routinely by people with recurring cold sores to suppress regular outbreaks.

While HSV Type I cold sores are more an aggravation than a health danger, it’s still important for you to see us initially for an examination if you encounter an outbreak. It’s possible for a more serious condition to masquerade as a cold sore or blister. A visit to us may also get you on the right track to reducing the frequency of outbreaks, as well as minimizing discomfort when they do occur.

If you would like more information on the treatment of cold sores, 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 “Cold Sores.”

ALittleDairyCanGoaLongWayforMaintainingHealthyTeeth

It's National Dairy Month and time to pay tribute to the aurochs, those shaggy creatures who once roamed the Fertile Crescent until people began domesticating them about 8,000 years ago. Today we call them cows, the source of nutritious dairy that can help us, among other things, maintain a healthier mouth.

Since the first auroch roundup, we humans have been drinking milk and eating cheese with abandon—excepting those who suffer from lactose intolerance or who avoid dairy for other reasons, such as the high saturated fat content of some dairy products. However, dairy confers many health benefits, so if you haven't quite made up your mind about this particular food group, you should consider that milk, cheese and other forms of dairy are chock-full of nutrients. And, it just so happens, some of these nutrients are especially beneficial for your teeth.

Calcium. You can get this important mineral from different foods, but dairy is loaded with it. Similar to our bones, tooth enamel absorbs calcium, which in turn strengthens it against decay.

Phosphorus. Phosphorus, another mineral found in dairy, is highly beneficial for overall health. In regard to teeth, phosphorus helps calcium maximize its strengthening ability in enamel.

Vitamin D. This nutrient helps your enamel absorb calcium, whereas a vitamin D deficiency increases your susceptibility to both tooth decay and gum disease.

Casein. This dairy protein can form a protective film over teeth. Coupled with other nutrients, this further reduces your risk of tooth decay.

Eating dairy is definitely beneficial for your dental health. If needed, you can select lactose-free dairy products. And to cut down on saturated fat, you can choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products. You can, for example, drink non-fat or low-fat milk, or indulge in some non-fat Greek yogurt with granola or in a fruit smoothie. Cheese is also an excellent type of dairy for teeth because it reduces decay-causing acidity during and after meals. So try eating a bite of cheese by itself, or experiment by adding it to vegetable dishes or salads.

As in most things, incorporate dairy into your diet in moderation. A little of this popular food group can go a long way toward keeping your teeth healthy.

If you would like more information about nutrition and your dental health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Nutrition & Oral Health” and “Nutrition: Its Role in General & Oral Health.”