How We Breathe Can Affect Our Teeth
YOU MAY HAVE heard the insult “mouth-breather” in recent years thanks to the popularity of the show Stranger Things. There are actually many good health reasons to avoid breathing through your mouth if nose breathing is possible. We should consider mouth breathing an emergency backup, not our main way to breathe. In both the short term and the long term, mouth breathing has negative health effects. The Short-Term Effects of Mouth Breathing There are several negative effects of mouth breathing that kick in either immediately or very quickly. A major one is lower oxygen levels. When we breathe through our noses, we trigger nitric oxygen production, which helps our lungs absorb oxygen. Mouth breathing skips this process, making it harder to get the most out of each breath, resulting in less oxygen absorbed and less energy for mental and physical tasks. Other short-term effects include: Impaired speech: when the mouth is always open,
Your Prescriptions and Your Oral Health
MOST MEDICATIONS come with a list of possible side effects, including side effects that impact oral health. These side effects are common even when the medications have nothing to do with your teeth or gums, so it’s helpful to know what you can do to balance necessary medications with maintaining a healthy smile. Oral Chemistry and Medicine Some medications and even some vitamins are actually directly harmful to our teeth. This is particularly common with children’s medication because they tend to come in the form of sugary syrups and multivitamins designed to be like candy. Sugar is the favorite food of harmful oral bacteria, which will then excrete acid on the teeth. Adult medications are most often in pill form so they don’t interact with the teeth or gums, but something like an inhaler can lead to oral thrush (irritating or painful patches of white fungus that grow on the roof of the mouth, the
How Do Dental Sealants Prevent Cavities?
AS A PARENT, maybe you spend a lot of your time worrying about whether your child’s teeth will develop cavities. Obviously, it’s critical to teach them how to brush and floss and encourage them to do so daily, but there’s something else that can help prevent childhood tooth decay: dental sealants. The Battle Between Your Child’s Teeth and Bacteria 40% of children develop cavities by the time they begin school. This is a result of poor oral hygiene and frequent consumption of sugary drinks and snacks, and it’s why it’s so important to help them build strong oral health habits at an early age. The human mouth contains many species of bacteria, some of which consume the leftover sugar on our teeth and then excrete acid onto them. As tough as tooth enamel is, it’s very vulnerable to acid, so this causes tooth decay. The ways we keep oral bacteria in check
Time for a Lesson in Dental Anatomy!
THERE WON’T BE a pop-quiz later, but we still want our patients to be familiar with the anatomy of their teeth, starting with the crown and going down to the roots. Everything visible above the gums is the crown, which has three layers. Tooth Enamel On the outside is the enamel, the hardest substance in our bodies. It needs to be that hard to withstand a lifetime’s worth of chewing our food, but enamel doesn’t replace itself once it’s gone. That’s why it’s so important to brush, floss, limit our consumption of sugary and acidic food and drink, and schedule regular dental cleanings. Dentin and Pulp Underneath the enamel is the dentin, a more bony layer that is yellow and porous. At the very center is the pulp chamber, which contains nerves and blood vessels. The pulp is how our teeth feel temperature changes and pain if something is wrong. Never
Dental Health in Ancient Cultures
WE TEND TO ASSUME that people from earlier eras (especially the pre-industrial ones) must have had terrible dental health, but that’s not always true. While we get to benefit from modern dental care, braces, and root canal therapy here in the 21st century, the ancient Native Americans did a pretty good job of taking care of their teeth. So did people in ancient China! Diet and Ancient American Dental Health Perhaps the biggest thing ancient Native Americans had working in their teeth’s favor was their diet. The early Native American diet consisted of corn (maize), beans, squash, fish, game, and plenty of fresh fruit and nuts. That kind of high-fiber diet is great for dental health because the harmful bacteria in our mouths need sugar and starch to multiply. High-fiber foods actually help to scrub our teeth clean as we eat them! Ancient Skulls With Periodontitis Tooth decay and gum disease
How Do Swimming and Diving Affect Teeth?
“SWIMMER’S CALCULUS” SOUNDS more like advanced mathematics than anything to do with teeth, but it’s actually the term for yellow or brown stains a swimmer can develop on their teeth after prolonged exposure to acidic chlorine ions in pool water. Tooth enamel is so vulnerable to acid that even mildly acidic pool water can increase the risk of stains. Tooth Squeeze for Scuba Divers For those who prefer scuba diving over swimming pools, the dental health risk is barodontalgia or “tooth squeeze.” The same way pressure builds in our ears when we dive, it can also build inside teeth, particularly any with untreated cavities or faulty dental work. If the pressure grows enough, it can even fracture the tooth. We recommend pre-diving dental visits to make sure no teeth are vulnerable. Diving Masks: One Size Fits…None? A common diving problem is that the so-called “one size fits all” mouthpieces don’t seem
Never Forget That Teeth Are Not Tools
TEETH HAVE MANY different uses, from chewing our food to helping us speak clearly to forming the structure of our faces. They also give us our smiles! These are the uses our teeth are for, but we risk causing serious damage to them when we use them as tools for other jobs. Teeth Do Not Make Good Scissors or Nail Clippers Nail-biting is a habit that can do enough damage to fill its own blog post, but it ties into the topic of proper and improper uses for teeth. The area underneath our fingernails is essentially impossible to properly clean. Germs love to grow there, and they transfer to our mouths when we bite our nails. Nail-biting also causes a lot of unnecessary wear and tear to the front teeth, potentially even shifting them out of place. Apart from biting nails, it may sometimes seem convenient to bite through something like a piece
Cavities: The Most Common Childhood Disease
40% OF KIDS WILL develop at least one cavity by the time they turn eleven, which makes tooth decay the most common disease of childhood. That might seem scary, but parents can make a big difference, and that starts with understanding what causes cavities. Sugary Drinks Cause Cavities One major culprit is sugary drinks. That doesn’t just mean soda. We think of fruit juice as being healthier, but it’s just as bad! And the worst way to drink it is by sipping it throughout the day. It’s so harmful to the teeth that the results are called “bottle rot.” Baby bottle tooth decay can also happen with sippy cups and even breastfeeding! If a baby’s gums and teeth aren’t properly cleaned after feeding, the sugary milk residue left in their mouth increases the risk of tooth decay. So Do Sugary Snacks! Sugar in solid form is a problem too. Most of the snacks kids
Snoring, Sleep Apnea, and Teeth
SLEEP APNEA AFFECTS over 18 million adults and up to 20% of habitually snoring children in the United States alone. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by brief, repeated interruptions to normal breathing during sleep. It can have many short and long-term effects on a person’s health (to the point of being potentially life-threatening) and is also very harmful to oral health. Sleep Apnea Comes in Different Types The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It is caused by a blocked airway, usually the tongue relaxing back until it collapses against the soft palate, which in turn collapses against the back of the throat, sealing off the airway. Less commonly, a person could have central sleep apnea, in which the brain fails to send signals to the respiratory muscles to keep breathing during sleep. Some people have a combination of both types, which is called complex sleep apnea.
What Builds Healthy Smiles?
DAILY BRUSHING AND flossing are essential to keep a growing child’s smile healthy, but we already know that. We hopefully also know how important it is to set regular dental appointments. Cutting back on sugar intake and limiting it to mealtimes instead of little snacks throughout the day is another important way to reduce the risk of tooth decay. These aren’t the only things that go into a healthy smile, however. Certain vitamins and minerals help build and protect them. Important Vitamins for Oral Health Saliva is the first line of defense our teeth and gum have against tooth decay and gum disease, and vitamin A keeps the saliva flowing. We can get it from foods like melon, sweet potatoes, beef liver, and spinach. One powerful antioxidant that helps our bodies fight inflammation and heal is vitamin C. Not getting enough can mean gums that are more prone to bleeding and looser teeth,