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Monthly Archives: February 2021

The Role of Saliva

WHAT IS SPIT FOR? It’s a pretty important question in the realm of oral health. People tend to think of saliva in a negative context if they think about it at all, but without spit, we would have a hard time chewing, swallowing, or even tasting our food. We also wouldn’t be able to speak clearly, and our teeth and gums would be much more vulnerable to problems like gum disease and tooth decay.

Healthy Saliva Production

Our saliva is produced continuously by salivary glands in our cheeks and beneath our tongues, and average output ranges from two to six cups a day. About 98% of saliva is water, but the final 2% is crucial, because it’s made up of proteins, electrolytes, digestive enzymes that start breaking down food, antimicrobial factors that fight germs, and even minerals to keep our tooth enamel strong!

Saliva Works in Different Phases

Depending on how far along the digestive process is, our salivary glands produce extra saliva for different reasons. When we smell a mouthwatering dessert, that’s the cephalic phase. Next comes the buccal phase when we start eating, and this helps us swallow food. After that, the esophageal phase kicks in to move the food on down to the stomach.

There’s also a slightly less pleasant phase: the gastric phase. If we’re sick or there’s something wrong with the food we ate and we have to vomit, the salivary glands work overtime to make a protective coating of saliva, which minimizes the damage stomach acid can do to our teeth and gums on the way out. (But we should still swish with water and brush our teeth half an hour later to get rid of any remaining stomach acid.)

How Saliva Protects Our Teeth

Why does an extra coating of saliva help protect our teeth and gums against acid? It’s because one of the main jobs saliva does is keeping the pH of our mouths as close to neutral as possible, which in turn keeps our tooth enamel strong. Tooth enamel might be extremely hard, but it is very vulnerable to erosion from acids in the foods we eat and fluids we drink. That’s why saliva is so important for oral health.

Beyond neutralizing acids, saliva fights harmful bacteria that causes gum disease and bad breath. Saliva is also part of the reason that oral injuries (such as a bitten cheek or a burned tongue) heal faster than injuries elsewhere on the body. Saliva contains growth factors that promote quicker healing!

When There Isn’t Enough Spit…

Given all the important functions saliva performs, it should be no surprise that dry mouth can lead to a lot of oral health complications. Whether it’s caused by stressful situations, mouth breathing, dehydration, a smoking habit, drinking, side effects of medications, or even simple aging, dry mouth is something the dentist should know about.

The Dentist Can Help With Dry Mouth

Dry mouth can include symptoms like difficulty chewing and swallowing and a reduced sense of taste. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, let the dentist know. You deserve to have all the benefits that come with having enough saliva, and the dentist can help!

We love our patients’ smiles!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Pregnancy’s Impact on Oral Health

AN EXPECTANT MOTHER goes through many changes during pregnancy beyond the baby bump and some funny cravings. Unfortunately, some of the changes to oral health are not especially pleasant.

Pregnancy Gingivitis and Hormones

No matter how exciting and hectic pregnancy can be, never let it get in the way of daily brushing and flossing, because pregnancy is a time when the gums are especially vulnerable to gingivitis. As many as two in five pregnant women have gum disease, which leaves their gums tender and swollen. Studies have even linked pregnancy gingivitis with premature delivery and lower birth weights, so fight back with daily flossing and a soft-bristled toothbrush!

Morning Sickness and Enamel Erosion

One of the more common (and certainly more well known) pregnancy symptoms is morning sickness. It’s an unpleasant enough symptom to deal with on its own, but when we aren’t careful, it can have compounding effects on our teeth. Despite tooth enamel being the hardest substance in the human body, it is highly vulnerable to acid erosion, and frequent vomiting due to morning sickness will put the enamel in contact with a lot of strong acid.

A good way to minimize the effects of the stomach acid is to swish with baking soda and water after a bout of morning sickness. Make sure not to brush until after you’ve done this, or you risk additional erosion!

Pyogenic Granuloma During Pregnancy

This one is extremely weird: some pregnant women develop raspberry-like gum tissue growths between their teeth. They’re called pyogenic granulomas or “pregnancy tumors.” They generally appear in the second trimester and vanish on their own after delivery. Pyogenic granulomas are benign, but they can be removed if they’re causing too much discomfort.

Nutrition and Dental Health (of Mom and Baby)

Dental health professionals tend to recommend cutting back on sugary treats no matter what the circumstances are, since sugar is harmful oral bacteria’s favorite food, and pregnancy is no exception. Consuming less sugar will go a long way towards protecting your teeth and gums, and focusing on essential nutrients (particularly vitamins A, C, and D, along with lots of calcium, protein, and phosphorous) will help the development of Baby’s teeth!

The Dentist Is a Great Resource

Keeping up with daily oral hygiene habits and eating healthy are critical during pregnancy, but another factor in maintaining good oral health is the dentist! Don’t forget to include regular dental appointments in your schedule, especially if you have any concerns about your teeth or gums. If it’s been a while since your last appointment, go ahead and schedule one!

Thank you for being part of our practice family!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Eating Disorders Versus Oral Health

WHEN WE THINK of the damage that eating disorders can do, we probably first think of the psychological toll and life-threatening malnutrition. However, eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia can also be very hard on the oral health of those who struggle with them. Healthy teeth and gums require a variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in addition to regular brushing and flossing, so not eating well or enough is a serious problem.

How Malnutrition Harms Oral Tissues

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by extremely limited food intake, which may be paired with compulsive exercising, purging, or even both. The way anorexia harms oral health is through malnutrition. The bones of the jaw can develop osteoporosis without sufficient nutrients, which increases the risk of tooth loss.

Without enough fluids, the salivary glands can’t produce enough saliva, resulting in dry mouth. Dry mouth makes both tooth decay and gum disease more likely because we need our saliva to neutralize acids and wash away food particles. Finally, without the nutrients to keep the immune system strong, the gums become more vulnerable to bleeding.

Bulimia and Acid Erosion of the Teeth

Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by first overeating, then forcibly purging food through vomiting or laxatives. This puts strong stomach acid in frequent contact with the tooth enamel. Even though enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, it is highly vulnerable to erosion from acid. It isn’t uncommon for someone struggling with bulimia to experience tooth discoloration, decay, and even tooth loss due to their disorder.

Protecting Your Oral Health

We all need good oral hygiene routines to keep our teeth and gums healthy, our breath minty fresh, and our smiles sparkling, but it’s especially important for those battling with or recovering from an eating disorder. Anyone whose teeth are frequently exposed to stomach acid can minimize erosion by rinsing with water initially and then waiting thirty minutes before brushing. It’s important to give the saliva time to neutralize leftover acid so that brushing doesn’t cause additional erosion.

Here are a few signs to watch for if you’re worried someone you love might be developing an eating disorder:

You Aren’t Alone in This Fight

An eating disorder is a mental illness, and recovery is often a long road that requires help and support. That could come in the form of sympathetic family members or friends or licensed psychiatrists. Another great resource is the National Eating Disorders Helpline. And, of course, dental health professionals are always here to help patients keep their teeth and gums healthy through mental and physical health challenges they face.

We’re invested in our patients’ overall health!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

How Men’s Oral Health Is Different

MEN AND WOMEN have a lot in common, but they face significantly different challenges when it comes to keeping their teeth and gums healthy. Women are more prone to certain oral health conditions than men, but men have their own disadvantages to overcome, and we’re here to offer them a few tips.

Brush and Floss Like a Manly Man

Women tend to be pretty good at daily brushing and flossing habits, whereas men struggle more with this on average: men are up to 20% less likely to brush twice a day and even less likely to replace their old toothbrushes on a regular basis. Luckily, it’s a simple problem to fix: make brushing for two full minutes a regular part of your morning and nighttime routines! And don’t forget to floss once a day as well.

What Oral Diseases Are Men More Vulnerable To?

Because men are more likely to drink, smoke, and chew tobacco than women are, they put themselves at higher risk of serious oral health problems like periodontitis (advanced gum disease), tooth loss, and oral cancer. By avoiding harmful habits, men can do a lot to protect their oral health, which is why we recommend minimal alcohol consumption and complete avoidance of tobacco products.

Dry Mouth Is Also a Problem for Men

Dry mouth is a common side effect of high blood pressure and heart disease medications, and because men are more susceptible to those conditions, they are also more likely to get dry mouth. Saliva is the mouth’s first line of defense against bacteria, acid, and leftover food particles. When it runs dry, the risk of developing cavities, gum disease, and chronic bad breath becomes much higher.

Be a Real Man and Go to the Dentist

Just as men are less likely to follow a good brushing and flossing regimen than women, they’re also less likely to keep up with their regular dental exams — and they’re more likely to try to tough it out if they’re experiencing toothaches or other symptoms! This strategy is neither safe nor effective for addressing dental health problems. It is not unmanly to go to the dentist, even if it’s just for a regular checkup and you’re confident you have no cavities!

Let’s Work Together for Those Handsome Smiles

The most important piece of advice we have for our male patients is this: don’t try to be a tough guy when it comes to your dental health. Minty fresh breath and regular dental appointments are not weak, they’re signs that your teeth and gums are important to you. Where you should be a tough guy is in the battle against oral bacteria, by keeping up with twice-daily brushing and daily flossing!

We’re here to help our patients keep their smiles healthy!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
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