Saliva’s Role in Oral Health

salivaWhen you think about oral health, you probably think about your gums and your teeth. After all, Americans spend about $1.8 billion on toothpaste and $775 million on toothbrushes. We’re serious about our oral hygiene habits! (And it appears we put our money where our mouths are, too!)

So, when you consider your dental wellbeing, do you think about … saliva? Most people don’t think about the role saliva plays into dental care, and how important it is for maintaining excellent oral health. It’s true! Saliva is a necessary component in preventing cavities. It clears away bacteria that cling to your gums and enamel and cause disease and infection.

Saliva is produced by … wait for it … your salivary glands, and it’s made up of 99.5% water. Big surprise, right?  So, what’s the other .5%? Believe it or not, that teeny tiny part of saliva is comprise of several components, including electrolytes, mucus, glycoproteins, enzymes, and antibacterial compounds. Now, you know why saliva is the first step in the digestion process! It helps lubricate your food, making it easier to chew and swallow. Saliva also enhances your taste, not to mention your motor functions, which helps you to talk. Continue reading Saliva’s Role in Oral Health

What is Plaque…and What Can You Do About It?

Run your tongue over your teeth. Do they feel like they have sweaters on them? That fuzzy feeling is an overabundance of plaque. But 40ish-dude-shrugwhat is plaque? Why is it so bad for your teeth? And how can you get rid of it?

Let’s learn all about plaque!

Where does plaque come from?

Tiny bacteria live inside your mouth. Plaque is a sticky substance that contains these bacteria, clinging to your teeth and contributing to tooth decay.

How does plaque cause damage?

The bacteria in plaque eat sugars, creating waste products as they digest the sugars. These waste products are acids, which then break down tooth enamel and cause the dreaded cavities.

Now…how do you get rid of it?

Continue reading What is Plaque…and What Can You Do About It?

Bad Breath 101: Why You Have It and How to Avoid It

837375_98129162SmHave you noticed friends or co-workers stand further away than necessary to talk to you? Do you receive daily offers of gum and mints? Does your dog run away when you bend down and say hello? If the answer is yes to any of these questions … you probably have bad breath, also called halitosis.

How is it possible for you to have bad breath and not know it? Your body uses a process called acclimation to filter out its own scents so you can use your nose to detect outside smells. This means your nose is used to whatever odor is emitting from your mouth. Even if you cup your hand and breathe into it, you probably won’t detect foul aromas. So, how can you tell if you have halitosis?

The easiest test for determining if your breath is rank is to ask someone. Friends or family members will probably be more than happy to render an honest opinion. Another way to test for bad breath is to wipe your tongue with a cotton ball and give it a whiff. Or go to a mirror, stick out your tongue, and see if it looks whitish. Ew! That’s accumulated bacteria, which produces the sulfur compounds that create halitosis.

Why do I have bad breath?

The most common reason people have bad breath is decaying food particles and bacterial growth in the mouth, especially on the tongue. If you have poor oral hygiene habits, the accumulation of food and bacteria will make your breath smell like you ate gym socks for lunch.

Continue reading Bad Breath 101: Why You Have It and How to Avoid It

High Blood Pressure and Oral Health

doc & adminHigh blood pressure, also called HBP or hypertension, can affect your ability to receive oral healthcare. Performing dental treatments on patients with hypertension can be detrimental! If your blood pressure is too high, many dentists won’t schedule procedures until you receive a health assessment from your medical doctor.

What is high blood pressure?

The two forces measured for your blood pressure reading are the blood pumping out of your heart and into your arteries (systolic), and the heart resting between beats (diastolic). Normal blood pressure readings for a healthy individuals who are 20 years and older should be below 120 for systolic and below 80 for diastolic. If blood pressure readings are consistently higher than 120/80 then you’re probably suffering from hypertension.

According to, the website of the American Heart Association, “Untreated high blood pressure damages and scars your arteries.” High blood pressure increases risks of blood clots, organ damage, heart attacks, and strokes. High blood pressure also results increased plaque build-up and weakening blood vessels.

How does high blood pressure affect my dental health?

In a white paper released by the American Diagnostic Corporation, it states: “…elevations of blood pressure can increase a patient’s risk of experiencing a stroke or myocardial infarctions in the dental chair.” Patients with hypertension can also be in danger from local anesthetics that use vasoconstrictors, such as epinephrine, which increase blood pressure and heart arrhythmia.

High blood pressure medications can also affect your dental wellbeing. Some prescriptions cause dry mouth and may also alter your sense of taste. Meds with calcium blockers can also create gum overgrowth, which can affect a patient’s ability to chew and may require periodontal surgery to correct.

Will my dentist still treat me if I have high blood pressure?

Most dentists will not treat patients who have high blood pressure, especially if your numbers are in the Stage 1 or higher range for hypertension. (View the chart at the American Heart Association’s website.) If you’re being treated for high blood pressure, it’s important for you to discuss your condition and your medications with your dentist before beginning any treatments. Most patients being treated for high blood pressure can still have dental procedures, take anti-anxiety medications (often used for oral conscious sedation), and safely receive local anesthetics.

During April, Let’s Focus on Oral Cancer Prevention

April is National Cancer Control Month, and you might not be aware of the fact that incidences of oral cancer are on the rise. Few people think about oral cancer, but it kills more people every year than brain cancer, cervical happy pt w teamcancer, and testicular cancer put together. But the more you learn about oral cancer and its signs and symptoms, the better able you’ll be to get an early diagnosis and more effective treatment should oral cancer happen to you. Oral cancer responds very well to treatment in the earliest stages.

What are the risk factors for oral cancer?

The risk factors for oral cancer include smoking and chewing tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, and human papillomavirus (HPV), although some people develop oral cancer despite having none of these risk factors. It is believed that genetics, too, plays a role in the development of cancers, including oral cancer, as well as dietary factors. Because there are so many various contributing factors, everyone should get checked by their dentist for oral cancer at their dental checkups. Continue reading During April, Let’s Focus on Oral Cancer Prevention

Gum Disease and Heart Health

tooth-heartNearly 80% of American adults suffer from gum disease! Gum disease can devastate your oral health, causing serious dental problems. In fact, the number one reason for adult tooth loss in the United States is untreated gum disease. Worse, though, is the effect that gum disease can have on your heart health.

Research conducted recently found that patients who had suffered heart attacks also suffered from poor oral health, too. And the American Academy of Periodontology notes that people diagnosed with gum disease are twice as likely to have heart disease. Continue reading Gum Disease and Heart Health

How to Keep Your Teeth Happy this Holiday Season

Stuffing, rolls, pies, cakes…the holidays are a time full of carbohydrate-rich, sugary foods. This can really do a number on your oral health, but there are some simple ways you can help combat cavities while still enjoying Grandma’s pumpkin pie (or pecan if that’s your preference!).9831704

If you can, eat those carb-heavy foods such as stuffing and rolls with a balanced meal consisting of some protein. This helps to counteract some of the acids produced when sugars and bacteria in the mouth come together.

Limit your consumption of sticky foods. These foods take longer to chew, meaning they stay in the mouth longer and increase cavity risk.

Carry a travel toothbrush with you to your Thanksgiving meal destination, even if you’re just going for the day. Can’t brush your teeth immediately after eating for some reason? Rinse your mouth out with water to remove as much debris and acid as possible.

And try not to graze so much. It’s easy to spend the entire day walking around a party eating snacks, but every time you pop something into your mouth, it creates acids. Spend some time NOT eating on Thanksgiving day to cut down on the buildup of cavity-causing agents.

By following these simple holiday dental care tips, you can keep your teeth and gums healthy while still enjoying your Thanksgiving goodies. Happy holidays!

Five Reasons Why It’s Worthwhile to Smile

smilesNineteenth century novelist George Eliot once said, “Wear a smile and have friends; wear a scowl and have wrinkles.”

Yet smiling is more than just a way to convince your mother that you really did enjoy that meatloaf surprise. Even the smallest upward lip curve—whether or not it’s sincerely delivered—has far-reaching emotional and physical benefits.

Here are five advantages of turning that frown upside down:

1. Studies have shown that smiling lowers blood pressure. If you need some instant Zen, then all you have to do is smile. Chanting is optional (especially if you’re standing in line at the grocery store). Continue reading Five Reasons Why It’s Worthwhile to Smile

April Is National Cancer Control Month!

checkupWhy are we discussing cancer on a dental newsletter? Because dental health affects your overall health, and your smile is your dentist’s business. Oral Cancer is a little discussed cancer that is on the rise, despite the overall decline in cancer rates. Why? Awareness. Many people simply don’t talk about oral cancer. Your dentist wants to change that.

Every year, almost 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer. Of these cases, 70% are discovered in the disease’s later stages. As many as one fourth of those diagnosed didn’t even participate in the risky behaviors commonly attributed to the disease, such a tobacco use or excessive alcohol consumption.

Continue reading April Is National Cancer Control Month!

All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth!

99322812For a kid, losing baby teeth is the ultimate sign of growing up. They compare notes with their friends on how many teeth they’ve lost and who lost them first. And while your little one is just excited to show off the space where a tooth used to be, you may be wondering exactly what to expect about the departure of those deciduous teeth.

Get Lost!
Baby teeth are usually lost in the order they arrive: the bottom two incisors first, followed by the top two. Your child will probably begin losing his or her baby teeth around age five or six, though it can happen as young as four years old. Essentially, the root will dissolve as the adult tooth pushes out. Though baby teeth generally fall out by themselves, they can also become stuck in food when your child is eating and may accidentally be swallowed (totally harmless, we promise). Continue reading All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth!