All Posts in Category: Health Basics

Ramadan and Oral Health: What You Need to Know

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, is the month of fasting for Muslims.

Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, and all throughout the Holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast every day from early dawn to sunset. All physically, mentally healthy and mature Muslims around the world abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and all other physical needs.

When it comes to oral hygiene and dental treatments, what should dental providers and fasting patients know about Ramadan?

What do people gain from fasting?

Fasting allows learning self-restraint from indulgence in everyday pleasures, developing self-control and self-discipline, purifying the mind and the body, and empathizing with the poor and hungry.

Health-wise, fasting involves powerful therapeutic processes that can help people recover from mild to severe health conditions. Fasting can lower blood sugar, cholesterol and (systolic) blood pressure. In fact, Ramadan fasting would be an ideal recommendation for treatment of mild to moderate, stable, non-insulin diabetes, obesity and essential hypertension.

What are your advice on oral hygiene for people who are fasting? Can they still brush, floss and use mouthwash as usual?

Toothpastes are allowed during the holy month of Ramadan, although some scholars of Islam consider the use of toothpaste to be highly undesirable because deliberate or accidental swallowing of them will nullify the fast.

You can always brush and floss thoroughly before sleeping at night and I recommend brushing after Suhoor (pre-dawn meal). Brushing twice daily is sufficient for oral disease prevention.

Mouthwashes are commonly prescribed by dentists as an adjunct to oral hygiene. Some patients may be reluctant to use mouth wash for fear of unintentionally swallowing some. If this is the case, you can use it outside fasting hours as advised by your dentist.

Will dental treatments/procedures and administration of an aesthetic (injections) nullify the fast?

Some patients think that actions that take place during dental procedures will nullify their fast but local anesthetics (injections) are permissible forms of treatments for those who are observing Ramadan. However, when patients are reluctant, it is best to re-schedule or delay treatments especially if there is no acute pain/discomfort.

Are there dental procedures that should be postponed by fasting patients if the treatment dates fall on Ramadan?

Dental treatments and preventative procedure (including restorations, scaling and extractions) do not invalidate the fast, but some patients are unwilling to have procedures done due to difference in their views.

Patients who require immediate or advanced treatment, like those who suffer from deteriorating chronic illness or those who face dental emergencies, could break the fast. If it is possible, the dentist can delay or re-schedule treatments for their patients.

What’s your advice on patients who are taking medications and who want to fast?

Oral medications are not permissible and invalidate the fast. If you fall ill and avoiding medication could result to harm and is life-threatening, it’s allowable to break the fast.

When a dental problem occur during the holy month of Ramadan and medications are needed, you can discuss with your dentist. He or she may be able to adapt your medications and/or the dosage.

What are your health tips for people who are fasting?

Don’t skip Suhoor. Don’t overeat during Iftar (dinner). Avoid eating fried foods, salty foods and high-sugar foods. Drink as much water as possible.

Keep your meals healthy. Whenever possible, opt for steaming, grilling or baking. If you use oil for cooking, settle for healthy options like canola oil.

Drink plenty of water (drink of choice), juices, milk and soups. Cut down on coffee, tea, soda and all other caffeinated drinks – they have diuretic effects and thus dehydrate the body.

 

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How Do You Keep Your Mouth Fresh During Ramadan?

The Holy month of Ramadan is a time for fasting and self-discipline for Muslims. It is also the time for purifying the mind and the body and empathizing with the less fortunate.

Fasting has numerous therapeutic benefits including improvement in blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

What causes bad breath?

  • Poor oral hygiene – Bacterial plaque build-ups are a known cause of bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Improper cleaning of dentures – Like teeth, dentures can retain bacteria, tartar and cause bad breath when they are not cleaned properly.
  • Smoking – including cigarettes, cigars and shisha
  • Nutrition – Some food may aggravate the bad smell, such as onion, garlic and some kind of spices.
  • Dry mouth – Also known as xerostomia, dry mouth is one of the major causes of bad breath. It is caused by an insufficient flow of saliva and is a common side effect of certain medications and a symptom of some medical conditions.
  • Other non-oral conditions – including nose, sinus, throat or digestive disorders

How does bad breath occur during the fasting period?

Saliva plays an important role in protecting your mouth and decreasing bacterial growth. The reduction of salivary flow while fasting is the main reason for bad breath. After Iftar, the salivary glands are soon stimulated and the production of saliva becomes normal.

Is there a way to prevent bad breath while fasting?

Here are some important tips to prevent bad breath while fasting.

  • Practice excellent oral hygiene to efficiently eliminate plaque.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables and avoid salty, fried and sticky food.
  • Cut down on diuretics like coffee, tea, soda and all other caffeinated drinks.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Drink plenty of water during Iftar, rinse your mouth with water during the fasting hours without swallowing it.

What are your top tips for maintaining a healthy oral hygiene routine during Ramadan?

Oral hygiene during the holy month of Ramadan does not differ from your routine dental hygiene.

  • Brush thoroughly before sleeping at night and I recommend brushing after Suhoor (pre-dawn meal) for at least 2 minutes.
  • Floss at least once a day.
  • Clean your tongue using tongue scrapers or separate toothbrush.
  • Use alcohol-free mouthwash.
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5 Oral Healthcare Tips for Moms-to-be

 

A lot of pregnant women skip dental visits thinking that dental treatments during pregnancy can harm their babies. The American Dental Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics all encourage women to get dental and oral healthcare while pregnant.

In fact, studies show that the bacteria from gum diseases can actually get into the bloodstream and target the fetus, potentially leading to premature labor and low-birth-weight babies.

Pregnancy offers an opportunity to educate pregnant women regarding oral health by providing a “teachable moment” in self-care and future child-care.

Here are top five oral healthcare tips for pregnant mothers:

  • 01 Know your facts and risks – Good oral health can reduce your risk of having a premature baby.
  • 02 Oral hygiene – Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Floss daily to keep your gums healthy. Remember, if you have good oral health habits, your child will too!If you experience vomiting, rinse with a cup of water containing a teaspoon of baking soda and wait an hour before brushing to avoid dental erosion.
  • 03 Diet – What you eat affects your baby’s health. Snack on healthy foods like cheese sticks, fruits, vegetables and nuts. Drink lots of water and low-fat milk. Eat high calcium food instead of acidic food, juices and sodas. Avoid drinks and any food loaded with sugar as they might lead to caries and affect your baby’s health. Chewing sugarless or xylitol-containing gum can help minimize your caries risk.
  • 04 Professional oral care – Get a dental check-up, it is completely safe to have most dental treatments while you are pregnant. Do not put off your dental visit until after you’ve had the baby.
  • 05 Book your baby’s first dental appointment as soon as you see his/her first teeth erupt. We offer children a dental home where they can have a long-term friendly relationship with their dentist.

What’s the right age to bring a child in for their first dental check-up?

In order to prevent oral and dental problems, your child should see a pediatric dentist when their first tooth appears or no later than his/her first birthday. Healthy habits start early in life. First birthday = First dental check-up.

Can a mother’s poor oral health status affect her baby’s oral health?

Yes, because the bacteria responsible for caries in a mother’s mouth are related to early childhood caries in their baby’s mouth. The same bacteria are transferred from mum to baby.

Mums and caregivers pass on the mentioned bacteria by sharing saliva, spoons, testing food before feeding it to the baby, cleaning off a pacifier in their mouth instead of with water and through various activities. So, make sure your mouth is healthy and taken care of before your baby is born. It’s important for pregnant mums to have their oral check-up as soon as possible, in order to treat and prevent any oral disease.

Read more at Dentcare blog:

What Parents Need to Know About the Transition From Milk Teeth to Permanent Teeth

What Causes Yellow Teeth in Kids

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Everything You Need To Know About Fluoride

fluoride treatmentsYou hear it all the time: Fluoride is good for your teeth and helps prevent tooth decay. But do you know how it works? We are going to concentrate on how fluoride combats the effects of tooth decay and the different kinds of fluoride treatments you can get to help prevent these problems with your teeth.

From the moment your teeth begin growing as a child, fluoride is helping protect them from plaque and sugar. Fluoride is a natural element, found in foods and water, that mixes with your enamel and makes your teeth much stronger. Take that, plaque! Even after your teeth are formed, fluoride works with your saliva to protect the enamel on your teeth. Stronger teeth get fewer cavities. Fluoride protects your teeth in three different ways:

  1. Fluoride promotes tooth remineralization and helps heal damaged areas on your teeth.
  2. Fluoride makes your teeth decay resistant. The remineralization process also creates a tooth mineral that is harder than the original tooth itself.
  3. Fluoride has antibacterial properties and combats the bacteria that causes tooth decay in your mouth.

Types of Fluoride Treatments

Fluoride is in your toothpaste and drinking water, but some people may need a little extra dose to keep their teeth happy and healthy. We may prescribe treatments based on the status of your oral health.

There are two types of fluoride treatments:

1) Topical treatments are applied directly to the tooth enamel. Typical examples of this topical treatment include prescribed toothpastes, mouthwashes, and gels. We often recommend an over-the-counter mouthwash, for instance. Please follow the directions carefully for those products, which may require a longer swish time than you are used to.

We might also suggest fluoride trays, which you can do at home. We will make an impression of your teeth so that the trays fit well, giving your teeth the most exposure to fluoride. Pour the fluoride gel into the tray and apply it to your teeth once a day for five minutes and then remove the tray and spit out the fluoride. Do not swallow the fluoride. However, if you do, drink a large glass of milk, which will combat the possible side effects of fluoride on your stomach.

2) Systematic treatments are swallowed. Examples of the systematic treatment include the water and food you ingest. These systemic treatments are also available as drops, tablets, and gels that we can prescribe. We often do this for younger children who find it difficult to wear trays.

Note that any extra fluoride treatments are not a substitute for daily brushing or flossing.

Depending on the status of your oral health, your dentist might recommend fluoride treatments every three, six, or twelve months. We may also recommend additional preventative actions if you have a moderate to high risk of tooth decay. If you have any questions regarding fluoride treatments or how we can help improve the quality of your oral hygiene, contact us today.

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Easy Ways To Improve Your Dental Health

We’ve all heard that if we want healthy teeth, we should brush twice a day, floss once a day, and schedule regular dental cleaning appointments twice a year.

Definitely keep doing those things, but if you want to step up your oral health game, here are a few easy ways to do that.

Replace Your Toothbrush RegularlyImprove Your Dental Health - brush

One of the simplest ways you can improve your dental health and hygiene is to replace your toothbrush on a regular basis. Vigorous brushing will make the bristles fray and reduce the brush’s cleaning ability, but that’s not the only reason toothbrushes should be replaced often.

A lot of the bacteria we brush off our teeth stays on the bristles of our toothbrushes. Proper storage–meaning storing the toothbrush upright and letting it dry out between uses–can keep a toothbrush from getting smelly and nasty too fast, but it’s still important to replace your toothbrush at least every 3-4 months.

Use A Tongue-Scraper

Brushing your teeth twice daily is a no-brainer, but don’t forget your tongue! The same bacteria and gunk that flourishes on teeth can hide on your tongue too. Using a tongue scraper or just running your toothbrush over your tongue will leave your mouth feeling much fresher than if you only focus on your teeth and gums.

Improve Your Dental Health - brushing teeth

Don’t Brush Too Hard

Sometimes it seems like we need to really work at those teeth when we brush, to get absolutely all of the food particles and plaque out. However, if we brush too hard, we risk scraping away at the tooth enamel, which is your teeth’s first line of defense against decay. Brush gently or use a toothbrush with soft bristles to avoid damaging your teeth. How to Brush Your Teeth the Right Way

Eat Teeth-Friendly Foods

Many foods are bad for your teeth. Sugar and carbs feed the harmful bacteria living in your mouth and acidic drinks erode tooth enamel. Avoiding some of these foods will help, but there are also plenty of foods you can eat that are actually good for your teeth.Improve Your Dental Health - Apple

Adding more cheese, yogurt, leafy greens, apples, carrots, celery, and almonds to your diet will make your teeth happy, whether by scrubbing them as you eat, fighting bad bacteria, treating gum disease, neutralizing your mouth’s pH, or remineralizing your enamel. Healthy Foods List: Seven Best Foods For Your Teeth

We’d Love To See How Your Teeth Are Doing!

If it’s been a while since your last dental exam, we’d love to see how your teeth are doing, and we’ll be excited to see how adopting these simple habits will affect your oral health by the time we see you again!

We Love Our Patients!

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How to Brush Your Teeth the Right Way

Many people are surprised to learn that, for years, they have actually been brushing their teeth the wrong way. You run the risk of stripping enamel from your teeth and causing permanent damage.Believe it or not, toothbrush bristles can damage to your teeth. Learn how to brush your teeth the right way and you’ll protect them for years to come.

The Wrong Way to Brush

If you’re like most people, you take your toothbrush out and use a back-and-forth motion, similar to sawing back and forth, until you feel like your teeth are clean and slippery.

And, myself included, it always feels like the faster and harder you brush, the faster you can get out of the house and on to work or school.

But the reality is that you are scrubbing away precious tooth enamel when you brush this way. This sawing motion is very abrasive to your teeth and gums, and will age your teeth prematurely.

By using this method of brushing, you also run the risk of stripping the enamel from your teeth. This will make them sensitive to hot and cold much sooner then they normally would be otherwise.

This method is not only damaging to enamel, it also doesn’t clean as effectively. Since the bristles are moving back and forth, they are essentially bouncing from one tooth to the next, missing the spaces in between the teeth.

These spaces need to be kept clean in order to prevent cavities and gum disease. When brushing with a sawing motion, none of the bristles find their way into the spaces in between your teeth to remove plaque and other tiny particles of food. You are missing the entire goal of brushing when you use this method.

How to Brush Your Teeth the Right Way

Proper brushing technique is really easy. It’s so easy that you might not feel as if you are cleaning your teeth to begin with, but that’s okay. Give it time – it’s not easy to relearn brushing after you’ve been using one method your whole life. Try putting the toothbrush in your non-dominant hand to help relearn the habit. Switching over to this simple method will take some getting used to, but the results will speak for themselves.

To begin with, place the toothbrush over your teeth and wiggle it back and forth a little bit, making sure the bristles cover each tooth and work their way around the sides of the tooth. What you are trying to do is allow the bristles of the toothbrush to find their way into the spaces between your teeth. This will ensure that all of the food particles and plaque are removed during each brushing.

Once you finish one set of teeth as described above, move your toothbrush over to the next set of teeth and repeat the same process. Jiggle the brush, gently making sure the bristles work in between your teeth. Then, move on to the next set of teeth and so forth until you have covered your entire mouth. This is the correct way to brush your teeth and doing it this way will yield noticeable results the next time you visit your dentist.

Why Proper Brushing Technique is So Important

The harder and faster you brush might feel more effective, but brushing with this hard, sawing motion actually promotes unhealthy build up between your teeth and gums. Letting particles and plaque build up over time can cause serious problems. The proper method makes sure each tooth gets the full advantage of your toothbrush bristles.

The great thing about this entire process is that it does not matter how long you have been brushing your teeth the wrong way because you can fix it today! Before you go to bed tonight, brush your teeth using the recommended method described above.

Remember: Don’t saw back-and-forth! Use a gentle wiggle motion instead and you’ll save your teeth from damage and sensitivity.
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Healthy Foods List: Seven Best Foods For Your Teeth

When it comes to the health of your teeth, you really are what you eat. Sugary foods, such as candy and soda, contribute to tooth decay. One of the first areas to decline when your diet is less than ideal is your oral health, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Use this healthy foods list to improve your diet and the health of your mouth.

CheeseHealthy Foods List - Cheese

If you’re one of the many people who profess a love of cheese, you now have another reason to enjoy this tasty food. A study published in the May/June 2013 issue of General Dentistry, the journal of the American Academy of General Dentistry, reported at EurekAlert! found that eating cheese raised the pH in the subjects’ mouths and lowered their risk of tooth decay. It’s thought that the chewing required to eat cheese increases saliva in the mouth. Cheese also contains calcium and protein, nutrients that strengthen tooth enamel.

Yogurt

Like cheese, yogurt is high in calcium and protein, which makes it a good pick for the strength and health of your teeth. The probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, found in yogurt also benefit your gums because the good bacteria crowd out bacteria that cause cavities. If you decide to add more yogurt to your diet, choose a plain variety with no added sugar.

Leafy GreensHealthy Foods List - Green Leafy

Leafy greens typically find their way onto any healthy foods list. They’re full of vitamins and minerals while being low in calories. Leafy greens such as kale and spinach also promote oral health. They’re high in calcium, which builds your teeth’s enamel. They also contain folic acid, a type of B vitamin that has numerous health benefits, including possibly treating gum disease in pregnant women, according to MedlinePlus. If you have trouble getting leafy greens into your diet, add a handful of baby spinach to your next salad or throw some kale on a pizza. You can also try adding some greens to a smoothie.

ApplesHealthy Foods List - Apple

While the ADA recommends steering clear of most sweet foods, there are some exceptions. Fruits, such as apples, might be sweet, but they’re also high in fiber and water. The action of eating an apple produces saliva in your mouth, which rinses away bacteria and food particles. The fibrous texture of the fruit also stimulates the gums. Eating an apple isn’t the same as brushing your teeth with a toothpaste that contains fluoride, but it can tide you over until you have a chance to brush. Pack either a whole apple or apple slices in your lunch to give your mouth a good scrubbing at the end of the meal.

CarrotsHealthy Foods List - carrots

Like apples, carrots are crunchy and full of fiber. Eating a handful of raw carrots at the end of the meal increases saliva production in your mouth, which reduces your risk of cavities. Along with being high in fiber, carrots are a great source of vitamin A. Top a salad with a few slices of raw carrots, or enjoy some baby carrots on their own.

Celery

Celery might get a bad reputation for being bland, watery and full of those pesky strings, but like carrots and apples, it acts a bit like a toothbrush, scraping food particles and bacteria away from your teeth. It’s also a good source of vitamins A and C, two antioxidants that give the health of your gums a boost. Make celery even tastier by topping it with cream cheese.

AlmondsHealthy Foods List - almonds

Almonds are great for your teeth because they are a good source of calcium and protein while being low in sugar. Enjoy a quarter cup of almonds with your lunch. You can also add a handful to a salad or to a stir-fry dinner.

Along with adding more leafy greens, dairy products and fibrous vegetables to your diet, pay attention to what you’re drinking. Since it has no calories or sugar, water is always the best pick, especially compared to juice or soda. Your diet makes a big difference when it comes to a healthy smile.

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7 most common dental health pitfalls to avoid

Keeping our oral hygiene high is something few of us actually manage to achieve on a permanent basis. We are all entitled the occasional lapse in our routines but here are the 7 most common dental health pitfalls that you absolutely must try to avoid whenever and however possible.

These 7 tips will help you maintain your oral hygiene:

1. Twice a day brushing

Whilst the most obvious of our tips this is undoubtedly the most important. Nearly a quarter of adults in the UK don’t brush their teeth twice daily. However, regular brushing stops the bacterial build-up of plaque. Studies have shown that even missing one brushing session can start the process of forming cavities. Make sure you brush twice a day for two minutes to keep your teeth plaque free.

2. Incorrect brushing technique

Brushing technique is just as important as brushing. One of the most common mistakes we make is missing areas of the mouth. When brushing you need to ensure that every tooth is cleaned and that we clean the total surface area of the tooth. When you’re in a hurry it can be easy to just skim over areas but this often leaves plaque on the teeth and along the gum line – leading to cavities and gingivitis. In addition also be careful not to brush your teeth too hard as you can damage your gums.

3. Not using the right toothbrush

You need to make sure you are using the right tools for the job. Toothbrushes come with different thickness and strength bristles. Small headed brushes are widely regarded as the best as they allow you to reach everywhere in your mouth more easily. In terms of bristles softer tend to be better – ideally with rounded heads to prevent aggravation of the gums.

4. Not replacing your toothbrush enough

We’ve all used a toothbrush past its best. Once the bristles start to lose their strength and you have a spread it is already past time to replace your brush. Our best tip is to buy multiple brushes and always have one spare in the bathroom cabinet. Using a brush past its sell by date makes it more likely that you will miss areas of your mouth whilst brushing and that plaque will not be removed efficiently.

5. Not Using Floss

No matter how good your brushing is you cannot reach every area between your teeth. Regular flossing helps remove plaque and food that builds up between your teeth. The build-up of plaque along the gum line is one of the leading causes of gum disease. Daily flossing helps remove plaque and prevent gum disease.

6. Too much sugar

Our diets are the leading cause of tooth decay. The big enemy here is fizzy drinks – as many of us now drink these all day. Drink sugary or fizzy drinks irregularly to avoid cavities. Your health and your mouth will thank you.

7. Not visiting the dentist

Even if your oral hygiene is superb you still should visit the dentist twice a year. Visiting the dentist regularly ensures that any problems that do arise can be quickly dealt with. Your dentist can also make sure you are using correct brushing techniques and advise you on the best options for oral care. Make an appointment now…

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Dry Mouth and Your Oral Health

You’re most likely to experience dry mouth (xerostamia) when you’re upset, nervous or under stress. But if you have dry mouth most of the time, you may need to consult your dentist or doctor about it.

Dry mouth is caused by an insufficient flow of saliva. It is not a disease but a common side effect of certain medications or a symptom of medical disorders.  Dry mouth is not a normal part of aging and left untreated, it can lead to more serious health problems.

Saliva does more than keep the mouth moist. It helps digest food, making it possible for you to swallow and chew. It is also one the body’s best defenses against tooth decay. Saliva maintains the health of the soft and hard tissues in the mouth, and provides first-line protection against bacterial and fungal infection.

What are the symptoms of dry mouth?

  • A sticky, dry feeling in the mouth and the throat
  • Sores in the mouth, cracked lips, split skin at the corners of the mouth
  • Difficulty in speaking, chewing, swallowing and tasting
  • Burning sensation in the mouth and on the tongue
  • Sore throat, hoarseness and dry nasal passages
  • Bad breath
  • Mouth infections
Without sufficient saliva, tooth decay and gum disease can occur. Dry mouth is also a known culprit behind chronic bad breath.

What causes dry mouth?

  • Medication side effects – Hundreds of medications can induce dry mouth. The list includes decongestants, diuretics, blood pressure medications, antidepressants, antihistamines, muscle relaxants, drugs used to treat urinary incontinence and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Medical conditions – Some diseases like Sjögren’s Syndrome, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease may cause the salivary glands to make less saliva.
  • Chemotherapy – Cancer-fighting drugs may harm the normal cells in the mouth. Chemotherapy side effects may cause problems with the teeth and gums, soft mouth tissues and salivary glands.
  • Radiation therapy – When exposed to radiation, the salivary glands may get damaged and produce less saliva. This damage can even be a lifelong problem.

What can you do to ease dry mouth?

  • Keep your mouth moist by drinking plenty of water.
  • Caffeine dries the mouth. Avoid drinks with caffeine such as coffee and tea.
  • Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless candy to stimulate saliva flow.
  • Do not smoke or drink alcohol.
  • Use a room vaporizer or humidifier to add moisture to the bedroom air.
  • Ask your dentist, doctor or pharmacist for over-the-counter artificial saliva substitute.

Without sufficient saliva, tooth decay and gum disease can occur.  Dry mouth is also a known culprit behind chronic bad breath. If you’re using any of the medications mentioned above, or you feel like you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of dry mouth, consult your dentist or doctor immediately.

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5 Common Lifestyle Habits That Can Damage Your Teeth

There are a number of habits that can potentially damage the teeth and some of them are a lot more common than we think.

1- Increased intake of acidic food and drink

This can include but is not restricted to citric and acidic fruits and juices, fizzy drinks including sparkling water, vinegar and excessive alcohol consumption. These damaging foods and drinks lead to a condition known as acid erosion which is characterized by thinning and destruction of the top layer of the tooth, known as the enamel. The condition is non-reversible. The enamel is very strong but over time when subjected to all these acidic products degenerates and thins out exposing the inside of the tooth (which can also in turn be damaged) and this can lead to an increase in sensitivity and pain symptoms as well as increased susceptibility to decay. It also weakens the tooth.

2- Grinding and clenching teeth

This is a habit which is increasing steadily and seen much more frequently in many patients who present to us. There are many complex factors which lead patients to grind or clench their teeth and we see it more frequently at times of anxiety and stress. Other factors that play a role are genetics, arthritic changes in the bone and changes in the cartilage of the jaw joint, anatomy and muscular attachments, trauma, etc. Unfortunately, many patients who suffer from this condition are unaware of it and don’t realize they grind or clench (as they are usually doing it subconsciously or in their sleep) until they are informed by a clinician that there are signs of this in their mouth. If left unchecked, this condition can lead to a variety of problems and symptoms for the patient including thinning and wear of the teeth, jaw and muscular pain and headaches, difficulty in opening the mouth and chewing and cracking of the teeth.

3- Overbrushing teeth

This is usually coupled with the use of a hard toothbrush and/or an abrasive toothpaste. This leads to a condition known as abrasion. Abrasion is characterized by recession of the gum line where the overbrushing takes place and when left unchecked leads to an eventual formation of cavities at the neck of the tooth known as abrasion cavities. These can lead to severe symptoms of pain and sensitivity and it is often necessary to restore these teeth with a filling material to reduce the symptoms and effects of the abrasion. Occasionally, if the abrasion has been occurring for several years, gum surgery may be necessary to correct the recession of the gums.

4- Using non-fluoride toothpaste

The use of non-fluoride toothpaste is becoming more and more popular across the world owing to some negative advertising about the effects of fluoride on the body. Fluoride in very large doses can be toxic and can cause systemic problems however the amount of fluoride in toothpaste is minimal and is nowhere near those threshold doses.

It has been well documented with established studies that fluoride is critical in reducing the effects of decay causing foods to our teeth. Fluoride can also help remineralise tooth structure which has already been damaged (when in the early stages) hence reducing the need to fill those affected teeth. The adult dental health surveys and the child dental health surveys carried out in the UK show significant reduction of decay in patients following the introduction of fluoride to drinking water in certain cities with no adverse effects on general health and this, along with other well established clinical studies are proof enough of how effective fluoride can be to create a barrier against decay.

What is less well known is that smoking is directly linked to the progression of gum disease.

5- Smoking

Smoking has a well-known adverse effect on the general health. However, what is less well known is that smoking is directly linked to the progression of gum disease. Gum disease is a very loose term used to describe any disease that affects the supporting structures of the tooth, namely the gums and bone. If left untreated gum disease progresses to a form of the disease known as advanced periodontitis which is characterized by significant bone loss and the loosening of the teeth. There are of course other factors that cause gum disease, mainly poor oral hygiene, however smoking has been linked directly with the progression of gum disease and the disease effects appear to be multiplied in patients who smoke.

Helpful prevention tips and replacement options:

● The effects of erosion unfortunately are non-reversible and when the disease progresses significantly we may need to consider restorative options such as fillings and crowns to protect the teeth. To reduce the effect of early erosion we must consider a change in dietary habits. Limiting our intake of acidic foods will help reduce the effect of erosion. This of course does not mean cutting out on eating healthy fruits, but changing the frequency of acidic intake, instead of 3 oranges or juices a day, consider having one. We can also change our diet from acidic fruits such as oranges, apples, pineapples and kiwi to non-acidic fruits such as pears and bananas. The use of a straw helps reduce the effects of erosion significantly as the fluid bypasses the teeth upon entry into the mouth hence reducing the effect it has on the teeth. Regular sips of still water following an acidic intake can help neutralize the pH of the mouth hence also reducing the effect of erosion. We must also consider when to brush after eating, as brushing immediately after eating or drinking something acidic multiplies the effect of erosion by pushing the acid directly onto the teeth, hence brushing in the morning should be considered prior to having breakfast if the breakfast contains acidic elements such as orange juice.

● Owing to the fact that teeth grinding is usually carried out subconsciously and that there are many factors that cause it, grinding is a very difficult condition to treat.

Treatment is usually confined to a minimalistic approach of:

  1. Awareness of the condition
  2. Physiotherapy exercises
  3. Reduction in local factors contributing to grinding such as high fillings
  4. Construction of a bite guard or shield which can also act as a de-programmer to reduce the effect of grinding
  5. Occasionally a referral to a physiotherapist may be necessary.

● The effects of abrasion can be reduced by changing the hardness of the toothbrush you are using to a soft or medium toothbrush. The finer the bristles the less abrasive they are. There is a fine line between overbrushing and ineffective brushing and this needs to be pointed out to you by your dentist or hygienist. The mode of brushing also needs to be altered from a scrubbing motion to a softer round or sweeping motion. If you are using an abrasive toothpaste (some whitening toothpastes are extremely abrasive) then consider changing to a milder, less damaging one.

● The use of modern electric toothbrushes has really helped combat this condition as they are equipped with sensors known as pressure sensors which identify when you are pushing too hard onto your teeth and reduce the pressure by either slowing down or stopping, or by flashing a red light to alert you to the damage that is being done. The better brushes do both hence minimizing the damage to the teeth. Some toothpastes on the market are made specifically for patients who suffer with erosion and these can help remineralise the teeth, although the remineralisation effect is very minor.

There is no substitute in protecting our teeth more effectively than the use of fluoride toothpaste.

● There is no substitute in protecting our teeth more effectively than the use of fluoride toothpaste. Herbal toothpastes may claim to have an antibacterial effect however these do not help remineralise teeth which are already decaying. The correct use of fluoride toothpaste in the right quantities should have no detrimental overall effect on the teeth or the general health whatsoever.

● Smoking is a very difficult habit to break. Support from the people around you as well as health care professionals will help make the process less daunting and you’d be more likely to succeed. There are many nicotine alternatives on the market such as patches, gums, inhalators and e-cigarettes, however the effects are still debatable as to whether they cause harm to the body. Other ways include the use of tablets taken daily to help reduce the cravings and even hypnotherapy. Ask your medical professional for help and they will be able to point you in the right direction.

Are there any measures to reverse this?

Unfortunately, many of the conditions listed above are non-reversible and the principal aim of treatment is to reduce the damage done and stop any further deterioration. Occasionally, interventional dentistry is necessary to try and reduce the impact of the damage carried out and this can be in the form of fillings, more complex restorations such as crowns and bite guards or occasionally even more complex surgical treatments need to be carried out.

Any further advice?

The best advice that can be given to any patient is to regularly visit your dentist to help identify any of the conditions listed above as well as any other conditions or diseases and minimize the effect early. Early intervention always yields better results and better prognosis long term. Most patients believe that if they are symptom-free then they are disease free and unfortunately this is simply not correct. An asymptomatic mouth is not necessarily a healthy one and problems may be brewing which can be very difficult to treat if left unchecked.

The role of the dentist is not restricted to treating any illnesses but also to give advice to prevent future problems and can be an invaluable source of information on how to keep your mouth healthy and disease free. Remember a healthy smile reflects a healthy body!

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