Tags Posts tagged with "Plaque"

Plaque

10
Weapons of Plaque Destruction
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About five years ago, I was sitting in the first lecture of an Introduction to Dentistry class.  The professor, a local dentist, was talking about how plaque forms on our teeth and how it causes our teeth to decay.  Something clicked inside of me that day, and that lecture helped solidify my desire to become a dentist.

Weapons of Plaque DestructionI summarized that lecture in my first post ever on Oral Answers back in January 2010 entitled What Every Human Needs to Know About Plaque. If you haven’t read it and you’re curious about how tooth decay begins, you might want to take a look at it.

Because plaque can eventually cause you to lose your teeth, it is important to remove it and try to minimize its formation.  Here are 12 easy ways you can do that: The Top 12 Weapons of Plaque Destruction.

Top 12 Weapons of Plaque Destruction

Weapon #1 – Brushing Your Teeth

Brushing your teeth not only removes plaque, but some toothpastes also contain antimicrobials, such as Triclosan in Colgate Total. Toothpaste also contains abrasives which can help mechanically remove plaque from your teeth.

To find out what else is in toothpaste, read The 10 Main Ingredients In Your Toothpaste.

Weapon #2 – Flossing

Flossing helps remove plaque that is stuck between your teeth.  Cavities between teeth are so common that the two fillings required by the most popular dental board exam both have to include a cavity that is between two teeth.

Think you could use some tips on flossing?  Start by reviewing these 10 common flossing mistakes.

Weapon #3 – Fluoride

Fluoride has three different ways that it makes our teeth stronger and more resistant to the bad effects of plaque.  Fluoride is the only active ingredient in most toothpastes sold in the United States.  Fluoride is also added to many municipal water systems.  There is a strong, ongoing debate about whether or not it’s okay to add fluoride to everyone’s water.

Weapon #4 – Xylitol

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that somehow helps fight plaque.  Xylitol is found in many chewing gums and you can also buy it in solid form from many health food stores or from Amazon.  Then you can use it to sweeten drinks like tea and coffee.

To learn more about this valuable plaque-fighting sugar alcohol read the article, Xylitol: What It Is and How It Protects Your Teeth.

Weapon #5 – Anti-Plaque Mouthwash

Many plaque-fighting mouthwashes contain ingredients such as cetylpyridinum chloride (CPC) which can kill the bacteria responsible for causing cavities.

Weapon #6 – Water

Drinking water or rinsing your mouth out with water after eating sugary foods can help wash away food that sticks around in your mouth. Since the bacteria live off the food you eat, you will be starving them by rinsing out your mouth.

Weapon #7 – Saliva

Saliva helps protect the teeth in many ways.  You can read about the six main ways that your spit protects your teeth in the post, How Saliva Protects Your Teeth.

If you suffer from dry mouth, you may be losing the war against plaque in your mouth.  Learn about six causes of dry mouth and 348 medications that can cause dry mouth.

Weapon #8 – Plaque Disclosing Tablets

If you don’t know where the plaque is, it’s hard to destroy it.  Plaque disclosing tablets work by coloring the plaque on your teeth so that you can make sure you’re removing it all when you brush and floss.

To learn more about plaque disclosing tablets, including the best places to buy them, read How Plaque Disclosing Tablets Can Help You Brush Better.

Weapon #9 – Chewing Gum

Chewing stimulates your salivary glands.  Some types of chewing gum are better than others.  Make sure you’re chewing the right type of gum for your oral health by reading about which of the three types of chewing gum is best for your teeth.

Weapon #10 – Your Tongue

Your tongue is a big weapon of plaque destruction.  Your tongue (with the help of your saliva – see weapon #7) can help clean sugary food off of your teeth so that you swallow it rather than letting it sit on your teeth and feed the plaque.

Weapon #11 – Certain Foods

Certain foods can actually help your teeth repair themselves after you eat a sugary snack.  Cheese contains phosphates and calcium that your saliva can utilize to help remineralize your teeth after they get “attacked” by the acid from plaque.  To appreciate this effect, you might want to read about what happens in your mouth every time you eat or drink.

Not sure what to eat for healthy teeth?  Learn about 16 delicious foods that you and your teeth will enjoy.

Weapon #12 – Sealants

Sealants are mainly used on children’s permanent molars.  Sealants are a strong plastic material that dentists can flow into the small grooves on the biting surfaces of your children’s teeth.  By covering up these grooves, you remove a nice, hard to brush place where plaque loves to hide.  Sealants are very effective at preventing tooth decay on the biting surface of molar teeth.

Conclusion

Hopefully this article gave you some good ideas about how you can help win the war against plaque in your mouth and help your teeth to live a long life.

Do you have any questions or anything you’d like to say about oral health or hygiene?  I’d love to hear your comments below, and I’ll try to personally respond to each one.  Thanks for reading!

3
Brush All Sides of Your Teeth
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Not long ago, I did a cleaning on one of my patients and found something very similar to what I find in most of my patients — that this particular patient takes a lot better care of the side of the teeth that he can see in the mirror than the back (tongue) side of the teeth.

Brushing TeethMaybe you do the same thing.  Many years ago, some researchers spied on 85 adolescents brushing their teeth.  They found that people spent the most time brushing the sides of the teeth that you can see, a moderate amount of time brushing the biting surfaces, and the least amount of time brushing the tongue-side of the teeth!  Interestingly, the kids also spent more time brushing the lower teeth than the upper teeth.

Another study videotaped tooth brushing behavior in people aged 5 to 22 and found that less than 10% of the time was spent brushing the tongue-side of the teeth.

Why Do We Not Brush the Tongue Sides of Our Teeth?

I think we spend less time brushing the tongue-side of our teeth for a couple of reasons:

1 – We tend to focus more on cleaning the sides of the teeth that we actually see.
2 – It’s easier to brush the front side of the teeth without the obstruction of a tongue.

It seems that the more difficult something is to do, the less likely people are to do it. I think this goes along with the two reasons most people don’t floss: It’s too hard and they can’t see in between their teeth.

Speaking of flossing, are you making one of these 10 common flossing mistakes?

Do You Really Need to Brush the Tongue Side of Your Teeth?

Brushing the tongue-side of the teeth is very important.  If you don’t brush this surface of your teeth, you let the bacteria in your mouth grow on your teeth.  This can eventually cause cavities or destroy the bone that holds your teeth in your mouth.

If you’re not brushing away the plaque daily, then it can harden.  Once the plaque has hardened into tartar or calculus (click to see a picture of tartar), it can only be removed by a dental professional.  More often than not, we have to spend a lot more time removing tartar from the tongue side of the teeth when patients come in for their dental cleanings.

Conclusion

If you’re not sure if you brush the tongue side of your teeth, you can ask your dentist how you’re doing.  It might also be helpful to get some plaque disclosing tablets (be careful, some plaque disclosing solutions don’t actually highlight plaque!) and a dental mirror at a pharmacy and check for yourself.

Another helpful hint is to time how long you spend brushing the front side of your teeth and then make sure you spend just as much time brushing the tongue-side of your teeth.

Do you have any questions about brushing your teeth or dental hygiene in general?  I’d love to hear your questions, comments, and concerns in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!

76
Tongue Piercing Licking Lips
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Oral piercing is a practice that seems to be gaining popularity in the United States.  The most common places to get a piercing in your mouth are the lips, tongue, cheek, and the uvula (the “hangy-ball” thing in the back of your throat.) Tongue Piercing Can Hurt Your Teeth!People want to get their tongue pierced for a variety of reasons.  One of the biggest reasons is to make them look trendy — people want to fit in, and if they can be seen as cool for getting their tongue pierced, then they’ll go for it. Unfortunately, not many people are aware of the many risks associated with getting your tongue pierced.  I think if people understood the dangers of tongue piercing, fewer piercings would be performed. I’m planning on writing a couple of articles about the risks of tongue piercing.  This first article will focus on ten ways that tongue piercing hurts your mouth and teeth.  The next one will talk about the negative effects that oral piercings have on the rest of your body.

The Risks of Tongue Piercing: 10 Ways Tongue Piercing Hurts Your Mouth and Teeth

1 – Tongue piercing causes chips, cracks, and/or fractures in your teeth. Wearing tongue jewelry can not only damage your teeth, but it can damage expensive dental work that you may have already had done. The effect of tongue jewelry on teeth is especially important when participating in exercise and athletic activities.  When in doubt, take the barbell out!  It is important to note that if you leave out your tongue jewelry for more than a few hours, it may be next to impossible to get the jewelry back in.

Tongue piercings are just one of the many ways you can chip or crack your teeth.  To learn more,read 10 Easy Ways to Chip or Crack Your Teeth.

2 – Tongue piercing causes gum recession, also called localized periodontal disease. If you wear a barbell in your tongue, it can rub up against and irritate the gums on the tongue side of your teeth.  This has led to gum recession in many people who have their tongue pierced.  In older adults, periodontal disease (not cavities) is usually the most common cause of tooth loss. 3 – Tongue piercing can wear down your teeth. Out of habit, many tongue-ring wearers often rub their tongue ring up against their teeth. Over time, this can wear down the enamel. Over time, you could expose dentin or experience increased sensitivity or cavities. If you insist on having a tongue piercing, trying out a shorter barbell may reduce the damage that it inflicts on your mouth — although it would be best to get rid of the tongue jewelry altogether!

Concerned about wearing down your teeth? Learn more about the four ways we wear down our teeth.

4 – Tongue piercing can cause speech impediments. Tongue piercing can make it more difficult to talk.  You use your tongue for making a lot of sounds when you talk.  If you get a tongue ring, it makes it a lot harder to speak correctly. 5 – Tongue piercing can cause nerve damage. An inexperienced piercing parlor worker may inadvertently cause permanent damage to the nerves in your tongue or other areas of the mouth depending on how the tongue is pierced.  The person doing the piercing needs to have a sound knowledge of the anatomy of your tongue.  If you do get your tongue pierced, it’s important to find a reputable, high-quality piercing parlor to cut a hole in your tongue. You probably wouldn’t enjoy having parts of your tongue permanently numb.  Many people hate having their tongue numb for a couple of hours after getting a filling — just imagine how hard it would be to not fully enjoy the taste of your food or constantly have your tongue give you that numb, tingling sensation. 6 – Tongue piercing can cause bad breath. Tongue jewelry is a good place for the plaque in your mouth to live.  It’s harder to brush if you have tongue jewelry.  Also, if you don’t regularly clean your tongue jewelry, it can accumulate bacteria that make your breath smell pretty disgusting! Tongue Piercing Damages Your Mouth! 7 – Tongue piercing can cause a space between your two upper front teeth, also known as a diastema. Although this isn’t very common, it does happen as evidenced by this case report written by orthodontists. 8 – Tongue piercing can cause excessive drooling. Tongue piercing can cause an increase in the amount of saliva you make.  Although saliva is good for the teeth, too much can be a problem.  You probably won’t look too cool with a tongue ring if you leave a puddle of spit everywhere you go! 9 – The metal tongue jewelry can cause a metal hypersensitivity reaction. You could end up being allergic to the metal in your tongue jewelry. If you were excited about having metal tongue jewelry and then end up having to wear a plastic barbell, you may be disappointed. 10 – Tongue piercing can cause pain and infection. The tongue piercing itself could cause pain and other complications.  Many people who have had their tongue pierced say that it was quite painful.  Here’s one story about how much tongue piercing hurts from Yahoo! Answers. You might get an infection depending on how sanitary the piercing parlor is. Most people have some degree of swelling after their tongue piercing. If you have a low tolerance for pain, you may want to reconsider.

More Reading on the Negative Effects of Tongue Piercing

I read a LOT of great articles while researching for this post.  Here are a couple you might be interested in:

Conclusion

Keep in mind that of all of the negative effects listed above, the most common are damaging a tooth and causing gum recession. If you’re thinking about getting your tongue pierced, please re-think your decision.  You may look cool around some of your friends, but the damage that tongue piercing does to your mouth isn’t worth it. Although I didn’t mention this above, because it’s not a huge consequence of tongue piercing, think about how much you love tasting your food —  especially with Thanksgiving tomorrow.  Do you really want to damage some of your valuable taste buds by getting your tongue pierced? For all of the Americans reading this, have a great Thanksgiving day tomorrow!  If you have any questions or comments about tongue piercing and oral health, please leave them in the comments section below.

3
Listerine Agent Cool Blue Review
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A lot of people think that a popular dental health product, Listerine Agent Cool Blue, will show you where the plaque is on your teeth as plaque disclosing tablets do.

Listerine Agent Cool BlueI was under the same impression myself.  I got a bottle so that my son could try it.  Unfortunately, I realized after testing it that Agent Cool Blue isn’t a plaque disclosing solution.

Listerine Agent Cool Blue tints the teeth a very slight blue color.  The product is intended to make brushing more fun for kids.  To use the solution, your child swishes the solution in their mouth before brushing, which tints their teeth blue.  Then your child brushes their teeth and checks afterward to see if any blue remains on the teeth.  In theory, this enables the child to see which surfaces of their teeth were  missed when they brushed.

On the front of the bottle it says that it is a “tinting rinse.”  As you will see below, I find it to be a very poor tinting rinse simply because it is not very noticeable and because it is so easily removed.  I also believe most people are disappointed with it simply because most people assume that Agent Cool Blue dyes plaque, like traditional plaque disclosing solutions.  To its credit, it does have a nice minty flavor and, as a safety feature, the bottle measures exactly 10 milliliters for you as you can see in the picture above.

How Listerine Agent Cool Blue Dyes Your Teeth

Here’s a quick before and after picture I took after rinsing with Agent Cool Blue (the AFTER picture was taken before I brushed my teeth):

Listerine Agent Cool Blue Test

You will notice it does NOT show you where the plaque is.  But, as you can see from the photo above, my teeth did change color slightly.   Since the product is marketed towards kids, I think the color change needs to be more dramatic to really motivate them to brush.

To see a before and after picture with regular plaque disclosing tablets, read the article How Plaque Disclosing Tablets Can Help You Brush Better.

What Agent Cool Blue Claims To Do

Listerine Agent Cool Blue InstructionsTo the right is a picture of the back of the bottle.  I noticed that they never come out and say that it will dye your plaque blue.

Technically, Agent Cool Blue does what it is supposed to do — it tints the teeth blue.

In my opinion, the color change is not enough to really be effective.  I don’t think a 6 year old is going to notice if he got all of the blue off of his teeth since the color is so faint.

The simple fact that people think it should mark the plaque on your teeth has caused Agent Cool Blue to receive some terrible reviews at Amazon.  I couldn’t find one positive review.  Below, I copied some highlights from the reviews.

What People Say About Listerine Agent Cool Blue

Here’s an excerpt from a review that PghYinzer wrote about Listerine Agent Cool Blue:

This stuff does not do what I thought it does. I thought it stuck to plaque and showed the really nasty areas. My brother and I used some red disclosing solution as kids – I thought that’s what this was. Brush your teeth, use the red stuff, see how poor a job you did.

This just dyes everything pale blue. I guess in theory you have to brush everything to get all the blue off but it comes off very easily so it really doesn’t do much good.

Very disappointing. I’m going to purchase something sold as disclosing solution instead. I squeezed all of the agent blue out and poured it down the sink – total waste of money and total waste of counter space.

A Fan “Breezy” had this to say about Agent Cool Blue:

This stuff is useless. The taste is bad and it discolors the toothbrush bristles. It seems that even after a lot of brushing, teeth still retain a slight tint of blue.

The only slightly positive review I did find was from Noname, who said:

It was so pale, I don’t think most kids would notice. Just a slight brushing will remove it. In fact, if I brush one side and not the other, the toothpaste removes it from the whole mouth…The blue tint makes them spend more time brushing, so that earns this product a bump up to three stars.

Was Listerine Agent Cool Blue Ever Recalled?

Listerine Agent Cool Blue was recalled back in 2007 due to contamination with microorganisms.  The Listerine Agent Cool Blue currently on your local shelves should be safe.

If you go to the site above that talks about the recall, you’ll notice that they describe Agent Cool Blue by saying, “the rinse makes plaque show up blue on your teeth in an attempt to encourage better brushing.”  Even The Consumerist thinks that Agent Cool Blue sticks to plaque!

Conclusion

In summary, I wouldn’t recommend Listerine Agent Cool Blue with so many superior plaque disclosing solutions out there.

Do you have any questions, comments, or suggestions on how to better remove the plaque from your teeth?  Leave them below in the comments section.  Thanks for reading!

3
What Happens In Your Mouth Every Time You Eat or Drink
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Did you know that you are the life of the party?  Every time you eat fermentable carbohydrates, millions of bacteria in your mouth shout for joy as they snack on the food that you are eating.

Young Woman Eating PizzaThere’s just one small problem: after they’re done eating, they need to use the restroom.  Since there’s no toilet in your mouth, they just go on your teeth.  All of this acidic waste can start to dissolve your teeth.  Luckily, our saliva protects our teeth by gradually clearing out the acid and laying down new calcium to repair the patches of teeth that got dissolved.

The Stephan Curve: A Graphical View of What Happens In Your Mouth

It can be hard to visualize what exactly happens in your mouth every time you eat or drink.  To make it easier to visualize, the Stephan Curve was invented.

Below, you’ll find a Stephan Curve that shows what would happen in someone’s mouth who eats three meals a day and then a snack between lunch and dinner, and some cookies after dinner.

Stephan Curve

Before I talk about what this Stephen Curve is showing, here are some quick facts that will help you understand the above graph:

  • pH is a measure of how acidic something is.  The more acidic something is, the lower the pH, and the more harmful it is to our teeth.
  • The pH of our spit is usually right around 7.1.  This is slightly basic (as opposed to acidic.)  At this pH our teeth are safe, happy, and healthy.
  • When we eat carbohydrates or sugars, the plaque on our teeth munch on them as well and produce an acidic by-product.  This acid lowers the pH in our mouth.
  • If the pH drops below 5.5, our teeth start dissolving.

What Happened In the Above Stephen Curve

The Stephen Curve above shows a 24 hour period for someone who ate or drank five times:

  • 7 AM – Breakfast
  • 12 PM – Lunch
  • 2 PM – Soda Pop – Luckily it was just root beer.  Had it been a much more acidic soda, the line on the graph could have gone down to a pH below 3.
  • 6 PM – Dinner
  • 9 PM – Oreo cookies – This person started snacking on cookies at 9 PM.  Finally, at 9:30 PM, they stopped eating the cookies and gave their saliva a chance to rinse away all of the sugar and neutralize the acid in their mouth.

In total, this person allowed his teeth to dissolve for two hours during the day.  That still gave him 22 hours where his saliva could repair the damage that was done.  There thousands of things that could have happened to affect this Stephan curve.  What if, instead of eating ten Oreos from 9-9:30 had eaten one Oreo every hour from noon until 10 PM.  He would have created ten different episodes where his teeth were dissolving.  If he kept that up, he’d soon be visiting the dentist to take care of some cavities!

Your Stephan Curve Is Different

Your Stephan curve probably looks similar to the one above, but it is probably slightly different.  The way your Stephan curve looks depends on many factors such as:

1 – How often you eat during the day.  Each time you eat fermentable carbohydrates, your pH can drop into the area where teeth start dissolving.  If you eat enough times during the day, you’ll start to permanently destroy part of your tooth.  This is called a cavity.

2 – Type of foods you eat.  If you snack on foods that are healthy for your teeth, you are much less likely to dissolve your teeth by creating an acidic environment in your mouth.  For example, if you were to eat some cheese, the probably wouldn’t drop much below 7, giving your teeth something to smile about!  If you drink Coca-Cola, which is a very acidic drink, you will immediately drop the pH in your mouth and it will stay down there due to the sugar in Coke.

3 – Consistency of food.  If you drink some fruit punch, your saliva can quickly rinse the sugar away and return the pH of your mouth to normal.  However, if you eat Oreo cookies, it will take longer because the Oreos can get stuck up in the grooves on the chewing surface of your teeth.  As long as the Oreo stays stuck in your teeth, it will be feeding the bacteria and they’ll create acid that will dissolve your teeth.

4 – Your oral hygiene.  If you never brush, the bacteria can create a thick layer of plaque on your teeth.  Since it’s hard for your saliva to neutralize acid through a thick layer of plaque, you’ll spend a lot more time below a pH of 5.5 if you don’t brush your teeth everyday to remove the plaque.

5 – How much saliva you have.  If you don’t have much saliva, the sugar will stick around in your mouth longer because it won’t get rinsed away.  People with dry mouth get more cavities for this one reason.  If you find that your mouth is dry all of the time, here’s some things that may be causing your dry mouth.

Conclusion

Every time you eat something with fermentable carbohydrates, you feed the bacteria in your mouth.  This causes them to produce acid which dissolves your teeth.  Eventually, your body can restore order to your mouth by rinsing away the acid with saliva.  After the acid is rinsed away, your saliva repairs your teeth.  However, if you keep dropping the pH below 5.5, your saliva might not have enough time to repair your teeth and you could get a cavity.  The Stephan Curve is simply a graph that illustrates the pH in your mouth.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below in the comments.  Also, if you know anything about the history of the Stephan Curve or who Stephan is, let me know.  I have tried to learn about the history of the Stephan curve, but I remain clueless.  Thanks for reading!

4
Foods that are Good for Your Teeth
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It seems that dentists and dental hygienists have a bad reputation for naming off a bunch of foods that aren’t very good for your teeth.

Well… to get rid of that reputation, I’ve decided to do the opposite.  Here’s a list of 16 snacks that you’ll enjoy almost as much as your teeth will:

List of Foods that Are Good for Your Teeth

Fruit Can Be Good for Your Teeth1 – Whole Wheat Bread – The rise of processed starchy foods over the past few decades has no doubt caused many cavities.  White bread with added sugar seems to now be a staple in many homes.  Rather than reaching for something with lots of added sugar to get your carbohydrates, try some whole wheat bread – your teeth and your body will thank you.  My wife makes this whole wheat bread recipe – it tastes pretty good, too.

2 – Fresh Vegetables – Celery, Carrots, Radishes, Cucumbers, Broccoli, and the list could go on!   Fibrous foods, like vegetables are able to stimulate the salivary glands to release lots of saliva, which in turn protects the teeth.  Vegetables also don’t have as much sugar as fruits.  An easy way to that we have found to add vegetables to our diet is by mixing some together in a salad.  Our favorite is cucumber tomato salad.

Watermelon Helps Clean Your Teeth As You Eat It!3 – Fresh Fruit – Yes, fruit does have sugar, but it also provides valuable nutrients for the body.  Fresh fruit is a great choice because it is also fibrous, which makes it takes longer to chew, which releases more saliva which helps your teeth.  This makes it a good match for a healthy mouth in spite of the sugars it contains.  Canned fruit is also good, just make sure that it’s not soaking in a sugary syrup.  If it has added sugar, it might be doing more harm than good.

For more info on fruit and oral health, read the article Is Fruit Good or Bad for Your Teeth?

4 – Plain Yogurt with Fruit – Most of the brands of yogurt at the store seem to think that when you add fruit to pure yogurt, you need to add a few teaspoons of sugar to make it taste good.  Try making your own fruit-flavored yogurt by adding fruit to plain yogurt.

5 – Cottage Cheese with Fresh Peaches or Pears – I’ll be honest.  This used to gross me out just thinking about it…  It may not sound too appetizing to you, either.  But, I have to say that after trying it, it’s a pretty good snack.  Try it — you might just like it, but maybe not as much as your teeth will.

Cheese Neutralizes Acids and Provides Valuable Nutrients For Your Teeth6 – Cheese – Cheese is great for your teeth since it contains calcium, and phosphates.  It also neutralizes harmful acid created by the plaque in your mouth.  There are even little snack-sized 100 calorie packs of delicious cheese that you can take with you wherever you go!

7 – Soups – Chicken soups in the winter warm you up and make your teeth happy! A warning –  Be careful with certain soups such as stews and tomato soups that contain lots of sugar.

Popcorn is Great for Your Teeth!8 – Nuts -Nuts are a great source of nutrition that won’t harm your teeth.  Peanuts are a great choice.  Watch out for peanut butter, as it can contain a lot of added sugar.  Just make sure that you don’t crack the shells with your teeth!

9 – Popcorn – Popcorn is a great food for snacking on.  It beats out all of the other snacks such as potato chips and cheese puffs because it’s not made of refined starch.  Just be sure to floss after you eat it or your dental hygienist may find some popcorn remains in your mouth at your next checkup.  It happened to me when I was a teenager.  She asked me if I’d had popcorn recently.  I said, “I think so.”  That turned out to be the right answer.

Cows Can Help Our Teeth
Cows give us milk and cheese. Both help our teeth.

10 – Milk – Cow’s milk has three key substances: calcium, phosphorus, and casein.  All of those are believed to prevent cavities.  Many different studies have even shown that after drinking milk, the bacteria on your teeth don’t really do any harm to your teeth.  Here’s one such study, and another one.

11 – Hard Boiled Eggs – They are extremely portable and even come in a natural hard package.  Mix things up and make it a deviled egg – just don’t add sugar.

12 – Meats such as turkey and chicken.  Better yet, add it to some whole wheat bread and make a sandwich that will delight your incisors.  Some processed lunch meats can contain a lot of added sugar, so be careful when shopping.

Sunflower Seeds Are Great for Your Teeth!13 – Seeds like pumpkin and sunflower seeds.  Make your own when you carve pumpkins this Halloween or buy some at the store.  If you buy seeds pre-packaged, just check out the ingredients first to ensure that they aren’t sugar-laden.

14 – Smoothies made from milk, fresh fruit, and/or yogurt – This is a great treat that does have some sugar in it, but it’s much better to get your sugar from milk and fresh fruit than it is to get it from sticky candy such as caramel, jelly beans, sour patch kids, or toffee.

Trident Gum Contains Xylitol - Good for Your Teeth!15 – Sugar-free chewing gum – Sugar-free chewing gum is a great way to promote salivary flow in your mouth.  Saliva can washes away food, neutralizes acid in the mouth, and can repair damaged teeth.  If you can’t brush after you eat, try chewing a piece of gum.  Some gums, such as this Trident gum contain xylitol, which is a sugar-alcohol that can actually kill the bacteria that ruin your teeth.

16 – Sugar-free candy – Sugar-free candy also promotes salivary flow in the mouth.  Sucking on sugar-free candy is much better than bathing all of your teeth in a hard-candy sugar bath for 15-20 minutes at a time.

What Other Tooth-Friendly Foods Can You Think Of?

I’m sure I missed some.  Are there any snacks that you like to eat that don’t hurt your teeth?  Let us all know about them in the comments section below!

1
Do You Cause Your Child's Cavities?
©Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock.com

It’s sad to see a two year old child with horrible teeth.  At such a young age, children don’t really understand oral hygiene.  Many times, poor oral hygiene in a toddler is the result of parents who don’t understand oral hygiene.  Since most cavities are preventable, this topic fascinates me.  With children of my own,  I have done quite a bit of research on the oral hygiene of toddlers.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry publishes various “policy papers” which inform the world the status of their position on certain issues.  In their paper entitled Policy on Early Childhood Caries (ECC), they spell out five mistakes that parents make that can have a detrimental effect on the oral hygiene of their children.

I’ll list those five mistakes and talk about what you can do as a parent to avoid hurting your child’s teeth.

Smiling Toddler Girl With Teeth

Five Mistakes That Can Give Your Child Cavities

1 – Putting infants to sleep with a bottle that contains sugar. Pretty much any drink that you would give your child to lull them to sleep contains sugar.  Fruit juice and milk both contain sugars that can cause plaque to fluorish and eat away their teeth.

If you must put your child to sleep with a bottle, the only safe beverage to fill it with is water.

2 – Breast feeding on-demand after your baby’s first tooth comes in. The book Pediatric Dentistry by Pinkham states the following:

Infants who are breastfed truly “on demand” may suckle 10 to 40 times in a 24-hour period and are at risk for the consequences of prolonged acid production.  Nevertheless, many feel that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any harmful effects.  Dentists should advise mothers who breastfeed on demand to clean their infant’s teeth frequently, verify that systemic fluoride intake is optimal, and monitor dietary habits carefully.

Each time your baby eats, you expose his or her teeth to the harmful acids that plaque produces.  By setting a schedule to feed your baby, you can drastically reduce the opportunities that bacteria have to cause trouble in your child’s mouth.

3 – Not weaning your child from a bottle after they turn one. The American Academy of Pediatric dentistry says that “Parents should be encouraged to have infants drink from a cup as they approach their first birthday.  Infants should be weaned from the bottle at 12 to 14 months of age.”

When a child drinks out of a cup, they can drink the same quantity of liquid much more quickly than if they were drinking out of a bottle.  By not weaning your toddler from a bottle or sippy cup, you will increase the amount of time that their teeth are exposed to the sugar in their drinks, and increase their risk of getting cavities.

Although it may seem impossible to have your one-year-old child drink out of a cup, it is possible with the right training.   My wife and I began training our daughter to drink out of a small glass when she was 9 months old.  Her first glass was actually a shot glass with a small amount of water.  [Note: Neither my wife nor I drink alcohol, so we bought shot glasses for this very purpose.]  She still used this sippy cup to drink out of as well, but we gradually introduced a real glass, helping her at first.  After a while, she started to catch on.

Now, at fourteen months of age, she can independently drink out of this glass without spilling.  You might wonder why we used a real glass since it is breakable, but after she saw what happened when you drop it on the floor (which we promptly cleaned up) she hasn’t dropped another one!

4 – Habitually giving your child sugar-containing liquids in a bottle or no-spill training cup.

A paper by the American Academy of Pediatrics entitled The Use and Misuse of Fruit Juice in Pediatrics states:

It is prudent to give juice only to infants who can drink from a cup (approximately 6 months or older). Teeth begin to erupt at approximately 6 months of age. Dental caries have also been associated with juice consumption.  Prolonged exposure of the teeth to the sugars in juice is a major contributing factor to dental caries. The AAP and the American Academy of Pedodontics recommendations state that juice should be offered to infants in a cup, not a bottle, and that infants not be put to bed with a bottle in their mouth.  The practice of allowing children to carry a bottle, cup, or box of juice around throughout the day leads to excessive exposure of the teeth to carbohydrates, which promotes development of dental caries.

5 – Giving your child between-meal snacks and prolonged exposures to foods and juice or other beverages containing fermentable carbohydrates.

The Vipeholm Study was able to show us that it’s not just the amount of sugar that someone eats, but also the frequency with which the sugar is consumed that can cause tooth decay.

If you’re not sure what the Vipeholm Study is, you can read the article The Vipeholm Study: Learning About Dental Cavities.

If you can decrease the number of snacktimes that your child has per day, you will decrease the number of times that their teeth are weakened by the acidic by-products of plaque.

Conclusion

By following the above tips, you can ensure that your child will have healthy teeth.  Healthy teeth are valuable to a child’s self-esteem and overall health.  Following these tips can also start a habit of healthy eating that will remain with them throughout their life.

Do you have any questions or comments about your baby’s dental and oral health?  Please leave them below in the comments!

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Dental Plaque Disclosing Tablets Solution
©Rob Byron/Shutterstock.com

Would you vacuum your carpet if it didn’t look dirty?  Probably not. Unfortunately, many people look in the mirror and don’t see anything on their teeth so they assume that their teeth are clean.  If only they knew the truth! There are millions of bacteria that live in our mouths and cling to our teeth.  You can read more about dental plaque here.

Plaque Disclosing TabletsThe problem is that plaque is very hard to see for the untrained eye. Luckily, there are products such as plaque disclosing tablets and plaque disclosing solutions.  This is a type of dye that adheres to plaque in your mouth allowing you to easily visualize it – and remove it. If you see plaque on your teeth, you will want to remove it!  Once you have used plaque disclosing tablets and/or solution a few times, you will figure out where the plaque tends to hide in your mouth, thus increasing your brushing efficiency.

Our Plaque Disclosing Experiment

A few days ago, my wife and I didn’t brush all day.  At the end of the day, we took pictures of our teeth, and then chewed a plaque disclosing tablet and took another set of pictures.  Here’s a photo montage  showing how our teeth looked:

Seeing the Dental Plaque on Our Teeth

My wife didn’t rinse out as well as me, so only the very dark pink areas are plaque on her teeth.  Also, we don’t usually smile like this…we were trying to show more of our teeth for the picture 🙂

Where Most Plaque Lives On Teeth

Pink Dental Plaque on a Single ToothAs you can probably tell, most plaque accumulates between our teeth.  The area between our teeth is an area where plaque are less likely to be swept away by our tongue when chewing or by our toothbrush when we brush.  The best way to remove the plaque between our teeth is by flossing. To the right is a close-up of one of my upper pre-molars, clearly showing all of the plaque living between my teeth.  Pretty gross, right?

Where to Get Plaque Disclosing Tablets

Do you want to find out where the plaque is on your teeth?  Or do you need help motivating your toddler to brush?  Try showing him or her where the “bugs” are living on their teeth. Actually seeing the plaque will motivate children and adults alike. Young Dental Plaque Disclosing SolutionYou can find plaque disclosing tablets at most local pharmacies. If you’re into buying things online, here are a few options from Amazon: 1 – Butler GUM Red-cote Dental Disclosing Tablets Pack of 250 tablets – Name brand chewable tablets. 2 – Young Dental 2 Tone Disclosing Tablets Pack of 40 – Great chewable tablets. 3 – Young Dental 2 Tone Disclosing Tablets Pack of 250 – Large pack of chewable tablets. 4 – Young Dental 2 Tone Disclosing Solution 2 Fl Oz [Pictured] – This is the same liquid that most dentists and hygienists use. You can easily swab it onto your (or your child’s) teeth with a q-tip to find out where the plaque is lurking. Do you have any questions or comments about plaque disclosing tablets or solution? Feel free to leave them below in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

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Ultrasonic Dental Instrument for Cleaning Teeth
©Lighthunter/Shutterstock.com

Recently, an anonymous reader sent me a question asking about the differences between the instruments that dentists can use for cleanings.  It reads: For cleanings, my dentist uses a plaque scraper and the rotating buffer thing. Other dentists in the area advertise ultrasonic cleanings. What is an ultrasonic cleaning? Does it provide any additional advantage, or have any disadvantages?

Hand Instruments Used for Dental CleaningsFirst of all, there are two main techniques for removing plaque and tartar from your teeth – manual and ultrasonic.  A manual cleaning is done using hand instruments such as those pictured to the left.  An ultrasonic cleaning means that the dentist is using a special instrument that vibrates at a very high frequency to remove the plaque and tartar.  The ultrasonic instrument also sprays a stream of water toward your teeth.  Here are two examples of ultrasonic instruments: the Cavitron and the BlisSonic.

Dental Tooth Polishing - Photo Courtesy of Wsiegmund
Polishing the teeth after removing plaque and tartar.

Regardless of the technique your dentist uses, the dentist will still use the rotating rubber cup with dental cleaning paste to smooth out and polish the teeth, as shown in the picture to the right.

Which Is Better, Ultrasonic or Hand Instrument Cleanings?

When I am preparing to clean a patient’s teeth, I consider how much plaque and calculus (calculus is the dental term for tartar, or plaque that has hardened onto the teeth.) that particular patient has on their teeth.  If they have a lot of plaque and tartar,  I will usually use an ultrasonic instrument to remove it.  This is mainly because the ultrasonic instrument can remove tartar much faster and easier than the hand instruments. However, after using the ultrasonic instrument, I always examine the teeth to make sure that I didn’t miss anything.  If tartar and plaque remain, I usually remove it with the hand instruments at that point.  I do this because it is easier to remove very small amounts of tartar with the hand instruments as it is easier to visualize the tartar with. This study suggests that ultrasonic instruments may be better because they have a steady flow of water that comes out of them and that can help to dislodge tartar that may have accumulated below the gumline. That study also talked about micro-ultrasonic instruments and how they are easier to maneuver below the gums due to their small size.  They can also reach down into the grooves better on tooth surfaces to remove more plaque. This study that compared the effectiveness of ultrasonic instruments and hand instruments concluded the following: [emphasis added]:

Evaluation of residual plaque and calculus after instrumentation with hand- and power-driven scalers showed sonic and ultrasonic scalers to be equivalent, and in some cases, superior to hand scaling. When modified ultrasonic inserts were compared with unmodified ultrasonic inserts and hand curets, the modified ultrasonic inserts produced smoother roots with the least amount of damage, better access to the bottom of the pocket, better calculus and plaque removal, less operator time, and less operator fatigue than did hand scaling…

Another thing that studies have looked at is how much good tooth structure the various instruments remove.  When a hygienist is cleaning your teeth and roots, they have to scrape hard to remove the plaque and tartar.  They unavoidably remove some good tooth structure when they do this. The final study we’ll take a look at involved the amount of healthy tooth structure ultrasonic instruments removed compared to conventional hand instruments.  Here’s what the researchers found:

Based on the results of these two comparative studies, the power-driven inserts or the various ultrasonic scalers tested did not remove more tooth substance than conventional hand instruments. They may thus be a useful alternative for the debridement of root surfaces.

They found that the ultrasonic scalers may not remove as much tooth structure as the regular hand instruments. In summary, the ultrasonic instruments do have many advantages when compared to the hand instruments.  When a patient has lots of plaque and tartar build-up, the ultrasonic instruments are great at quickly cleaning the teeth.  However, many dentists prefer to simply use hand instruments when there is only a small amount of tartar on the teeth.

Why Dentists Might Not Use Ultrasonic Instruments for Your Dental Cleaning

Dental Cleaning with Hand Instruments.  Courtesy of Walter Siegmund
Using hand instruments to remove calculus

Many people go to the dentist twice a year to get cleanings.  When I see a patient with excellent oral hygiene and excellent teeth, it doesn’t make much sense to use an ultrasonic scaling instrument for their cleaning because there is such a minimal amount of calculus to remove.  Some patients have very little calculus because they floss regularly and brush with tartar-control toothpaste. When someone has just a small amount of calculus to clean off, I find it easier to just quickly use the hand instruments and then polish the teeth.  Using the ultrasonic instrument requires setting it up as well as sterilizing it afterward, so it makes more sense to quickly grab a tool to take care of a small problem. Perhaps a simple analogy will illustrate this point.  Suppose you use a drinking glass and need to wash it.  You could either wash it by hand or put it in the dishwasher – but you have no other dirty dishes to wash.  You would most likely wash it by hand rather than run it through a cycle in the dishwasher, right?  Well, for similar reasons, your dentist may elect to take care of small amounts of tartar with hand instruments.

A Video Showing an Ultrasonic Dental Cleaning

Here’s a video showing the difference between ultrasonic cleanings and hand instrumentation:

What Do You Think?

Have you had an ultrasonic cleaning?  Did your mouth feel cleaner afterwards?  Did you think it was more comfortable?  Some people prefer the ultrasonic cleaning, some don’t. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments section below!

3
Cookies - Fermentable Carbohydrates
©Farbled/Shutterstock.com

Fermentable carbohydrates.

You may have heard that phrase before and wondered what it means.  In this article, I’ll let you know what fermentable carbohydrates are and how they can hurt your teeth.

What Are Fermentable Carbohydrates?

Fermentable Carbohydrates Cookies and MilkCarbohydrates are sugars and starches.  They are a major source of energy for humans.  When we something with sugar or starch, like white bread, the residues can stick around in our mouth.  These carbohydrates are then broken down by the bacteria that live in our mouth through a process called fermentation.

So, fermentable carbohydrates are simply carbohydrates that can be broken down into acid by the plaque in our mouth.

How Fermentable Carbohydrates Hurt Your Teeth

Fermentable carbohydrates are broken down into acid.  The acid can then dissolve your teeth until it is eventually rinsed away by your saliva.  Luckily, our saliva can repair the damage by laying down new calcium to replace the tooth structure that was lost.

For more on this, read the article Keep Your Teeth Below Freezing.

What Contains Fermentable Carbohydrates?

Fermentable carbohydrates are found in anything that is sweetened with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or any one of 50 other names for sugar.  Many of the starches that we eat are broken down into sugar in our mouth.  If you take a bite of bread and chew on it long enough, you’ll notice that it begins to get sweet.  This is because our spit has an enzyme called salivary amylase (ptyalin) that breaks down starch into sugar.

You might be interested in reading about the five sugars that hurt your teeth.

Conclusion

Fermentable carbohydrates are called fermentable because the bacteria (plaque) in our mouth can break them down into acids that ruin our teeth.  Brushing and flossing our teeth daily can remove the bacteria from off of our teeth and limit the amount of fermentable carbohydrate that gets turned into tooth-dissolving acid.

If you have any questions or comments about fermentable carbohydrates, feel free to leave them below in the comments section.

4
Sour Patch Kids Bad for Teeth
©Tobik/Shutterstock.com

One of my favorite things to eat as a kid was Sour Patch Kids. I remember the first time my mom gave me some; it was love at first taste. I would save up my money and buy them in bulk at the store.

Sour Candy -- Bad News for Your TeethThat was part of the blissful innocence of childhood. If I knew then what I know now, I probably wouldn’t have spent my money creating cavities. Maybe I would’ve bought a new toothbrush, or some floss. Okay, maybe not; but candy might not have been so appealing if I’d known what I was doing to my teeth!

You probably know that candy is bad for your teeth, but when it is not only sugary but also sticky and sour, you get one potent candy product. Candy with all three qualities – sticky, sour, and sugary – can literally wreak havoc on your teeth if consumed often enough.

The Three Ways Sour, Sticky Candy Destroys Your Teeth

We all know that sugar is bad for our teeth. It feeds the plaque in our mouth. The bacteria then produce acid that dissolves the enamel on our teeth.

Sour candy is twice as harmful because it dissolves the enamel directly on contact. Even if you brush all the time and have a small number of bacteria in your mouth, sour candy will still damage your teeth.

2
Keep Teeth Below Freezing
©Igor Stevanovic/Shutterstock.com

Inside of your mouth everyday there is a war going on.  Tiny bits of your teeth become casualties to the acidic weapons of your plaque.

If you take good care of your teeth, the tooth structure that is lost can be replaced and your teeth can remain healthy.

If you don’t take care of your teeth, plaque will grow on your teeth and eventually win the battle by forming a cavity.

The Iceberg Analogy

IcebergThink of an iceberg sitting in the middle of the ocean.  As long as the temperature is right, the iceberg will continue to exist in its regular shape and size.  But what happens if the temperature starts to get warmer and the iceberg starts melting?  If the temperature gets back to freezing quickly enough, then the ice that began to melt can re-freeze and remain part of the iceberg.  If not, it might be lost forever.

A similar phenomenon happens in your mouth.  Imagine for a moment that your teeth are made out of ice.  When you eat something that the bacteria in your mouth like to eat, such as any food containing sugar, then your teeth start to “melt”. You lose tiny bits of enamel from your teeth.  The sugar acts like the  sun.  If you continue eating it, it will keep eroding your teeth!

6
Sugars That Hurt Teeth
©Tobias Arhelger/Shutterstock.com

Did you know that carbohydrates are really sugars?  Carbohydrates are just long chains of sugars hooked together.  Fortunately, the bacteria in our mouths can’t break down those long chains of carbohydrates.

However, the bacteria in our mouths do love to feed on the monosaccharides (simple sugars) and the disaccharides (sugars that are links of two simple sugars.)

There are five main sugars that can feed the bacteria in our mouths.  When we feed these oral bacteria, it causes them to produce acid.  This acid sits on our teeth and causes cavities.  The acid can also literally dissolve our teeth if we let it.

Where are these sugars found?  You may be surprised to find that these sugars are in many “healthy” foods, as well as many unhealthy ones.

The Five Sugars That Hurt Your Teeth

Sugar Cubes1. Sucrose – Sucrose is probably the best-known sugar since it is the sugar that most people use in their house, common table sugar.  It is a sugar made up of glucose and fructose.  Sucrose is the main sugar found in most candy.  It is also the sweetest sugar.  Sucrose comes from sugar cane, sugar beets, and maple trees.

An interesting fact about sucrose is that the main bacteria in our mouths may be able to easily convert sucrose into the glue that holds plaque onto our teeth and makes it more difficult to remove when brushing and flossing.

2. Fructose – Fructose is the main sugar found in fruit, berries, melons, corn, and root vegetables such as beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes.  In general, fructose is not considered as sweet as sucrose.  However, when fructose is concentrated into a substance known as high fructose corn syrup, it does become sweeter than sucrose and is much more harmful to our teeth than regular fructose.

High fructose corn syrup has become almost a universal sweetener since it is cheaper, sweeter, and easier to blend into products because it is a liquid.  Next time you drink some fruit punch or soda pop, look at the ingredients, and you will most likely see high fructose corn syrup as the second ingredient right after water.

3. Glucose – Glucose is the main energy source of the body.  The body breaks down all of the other sugars into glucose.  Glucose can also be found in many of the foods we eat.  Glucose is usually found linked with other sugars such as with fructose to form sucrose.  However, glucose can be found itself in wines and other foods and drinks.

While glucose is harmful to your teeth, it is the main sugar found in your body.  A recent study shows that glucose may be healthier than fructose for your overall health.  Maybe in the future, more foods and beverages will start being sweetened with glucose rather than fructose.

Grains are Carbohydrates that Contain Maltose4. Lactose – Lactose is more commonly known as milk sugar.  It is a sugar formed by the two simple sugars galactose and glucose.  It is found in many dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.  Although lactose doesn’t even taste sweet, it can still be broken down by the bacteria on your teeth to produce acid.

5. Maltose – Maltose is the sugar that is found in grains such as bread, rice, pasta, and cereal.  It can also be found in drinks that are made from grains, like beer.  Beer not only contains sugar, but it is also acidic enough to dissolve our teeth.  It is made up of two glucose molecules hooked together.

Similar to lactose, maltose doesn’t taste sweet, so we may not think that it is harming our teeth.

You Don’t Need to Avoid Eating Sugar Altogether

The calcium dairy products provides in our diet is very valuable.  Just because dairy products contain lactose doesn’t mean that they should be avoided.  Also, breads, grains, and pasta are very important carbohydrate-rich energy sources that shouldn’t be eliminated from our diet just because they contain maltose.

The most important thing to remember is that we need to have moderation and choose our sugars wisely.  The first three sugars, glucose, fructose, and sucrose don’t really provide a nutritional benefit to us.  We should eat them in moderation.

If you find yourself eating a lot of sugar, you can try rinsing out your mouth after eating.  This will do two things: it will help rinse away the sugar that is hanging around in your mouth and it will rinse away any acid that is already harming your teeth.

Lactose and maltose are found in foods that are very good for us.  These sugars don’t need to be avoided; it’s just important to practice good oral hygiene after eating them so that we minimize the harmful effects of these sugars on our teeth.

Do you have any tips on how to reduce sugar intake? Let us know in the comments!