As a dentist, my primary concern for my patients is for the general health and durability of your teeth. Since they get used on a daily basis masticating, the obvious question of their ability to withstand wear, pressure, or damage comes to mind.
How long should my teeth last?
That’s a great question. Those of you who are regular readers probably know the answer to that. So let me put that aside for right now and ask you a question.
“How Long Will You Last”?
Not to be morbid, but of course, it is a legitimate question. In the Global Burden of Disease 2015 Study, dietary factors were the biggest cause of mortality in the U.S. That’s right! In the richest and most prosperous country, the way we eat was the most significant cause of death! In fact, according to a 2013 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, an organization that has been around since 1969, increasing our consumption of fruits and vegetables could save more than 100,000 lives and $17 billion in health care costs each year from heart disease alone!
The foods that age us
Foods that age us are typically acidic. We in the United States can call these fun foods. They are fun and appealing because we have made them the main foods in our diet. Sugary foods and refined grains, processed foods, and red meat. All of these foods are showing up in association with many diseases.
The ‘Epidemic of Plenty’
Our biggest epidemic…the epidemic of plenty has resulted in too many people being too obese. In fact, the medical community has classified obesity as an ailment in and of itself.
Following along the same lines, heart disease and diabetes with their associated problems have changed happy and productive lives to a treadmill of doctor and hospital visits. Daily pills are the norm, not the exception.
Aging better is possible
We can’t stop aging, but we can control to an extent the quality of life as we age. We can see this addressed in many societies around the world who age much differently than we do.
Dr. Michael Gregor, a leading physician who emphasizes nutrition as the best medicine, echoes this sentiment. He discusses and recommends plants and fruit to stave off many diseases. Many plants have an antiplatelet effect on our system. Platelets cause the blood to become sticky and clot. Clots in our arteries cause heart attacks and strokes. One of the reasons that many of my patients take a baby aspirin daily is to counteract this clotting effect. The aspirin reduces the platelet activity and makes the blood thinner. Isn’t it amazing that plants will do this also, without any possible stomach issues as are those associated with aspirin? Strawberries and other berries will lower activated platelets. These activated platelets are loaded with inflammatory chemicals. So just by eating more fruits and vegetables we can potentially reduce or limit many debilitating disorders the ‘epidemic of plenty’ causes.
Your teeth should last a lifetime.
A plant-based diet can make sure of it.
Now we know the answer to our initial question. Your teeth should last your entire life. The reason is obvious. If we want to live a long and vital life, we need to have a diet that is plant-centric.
We need to be filling the majority of our plates with whole grains, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and berries. However, to consume these, we need strong, durable and healthy teeth.
First of all, a plant-based diet eliminates most foods that attack our teeth via their associated stickiness. Sticky foods attract a load of bacteria and the acid that they produce. That’s a fast track to dental cavities. It’s no secret that tooth decay is the number one thing that will compromise the durability of your teeth. Non-inflammatory foods allow our bodies to have greater resistance to disease in general. Including such plant-based foods into your diet translates into healthy gums and strong supporting bone.
Proper tooth maintenance is required
Grinding and chewing these fiber-filled foods efficiently & correctly requires healthy teeth and gums. Therefore, if you break a tooth, you need to have it fixed. In the event a tooth is lost, you need to replace it. Our mouth can be a very efficient device if we take care of it correctly. Unfortunately, many people take care of other machines in their lives better than their mouths. Not only is this disastrous for our oral health, but it is also detrimental to our general health. Proper nutrition can ensure you enjoy both for many healthy years to come.
If it has been a while since you had your teeth checked and evaluated to ascertain their level of health, don’t hesitate to call me. You can reach me at 440.951.7856. Megan will answer the phone and point you in the right direction.
Do you find that you are always having issues maintaining your teeth properly? Have you resigned yourself to always having tooth decay? Do you dread visiting the dentist because of it? “I can’t help it! Soft teeth run in my family” While some factors in keeping your mouth healthy are not entirely left to your discretion, the fact remains, good oral health IS up to you.
“Your teeth look fantastic!”
That’s what I said to a patient last Friday morning as I finished her 6-month checkup and cleaning. This patient was seen all too often for decay, root canals, and crowns. It felt like every few months, she was calling with broken teeth and pain. What was her response to my comment? She showed me a great smile and said: “I started to floss”.
Nutrition isn’t the only consideration for a healthy snack
There’s actually a lot more to the story than that. She is actually a raisin lover. Every morning, it was Raisin Bran. Snacks all day long were raisins. Now don’t get me wrong. Raisins, or dried fruit in general, are great snacks to eat. Raisins are a snack rich in B vitamins, iron and potassium. Low in sodium, and high fiber is some of its other positive attributes. Besides nutrients, raisins are also a good source of carbohydrates for energy. Plus they are not loaded with all types of chemicals that we find in processed foods.
However, it is a sticky food. So all day long it sits and sticks in and around the teeth. This is a formula for disaster. This is especially true if we have a lot of fillings or as we age and expose more root surface. Therefore, removal of the sticky, sugary residue is paramount to reaping all of the health benefits of this great snack while minimizing its downside.
Good oral health is like a three legged stool
Health and particularly oral health is like a “three-legged stool”. You need all three legs for the stool to stand upright. If one of the legs is faulty the stool can not stand. It will topple over. Having a healthy oral environment is dependent on three factors as well. These factors of good oral health are not in any particular order as we talk about them.
Leg 1: Your diet
First of all, we need to watch what we eat. The texture and makeup of foods can promote or deter oral disease. Certain foods are more conducive to creating an environment where bad bacteria can survive and grow. These bacteria are the prime culprits in cavities and gum disease.
These bacteria love the sticky and gooey foods that we all enjoy. As long as the food is stuck in our mouths, these bacteria have a Thanksgiving Day feast. Unfortunately, we are stuck with the bad effects of this feast.
Leg 2: Oral hygiene
Related to the first one, the second leg of our good oral health stool involves oral hygiene. In fact, it helps control the first one if sticky foods are a large part of our diet. It is comprised of those activities and tools that we use to reducing the effect of foods on our teeth. It is our actions that we employ to keep our mouth clean.
Brushing, flossing, using an oral irrigating device are some of those activities that we utilize to attain a clean mouth. Even rinsing one’s mouth with water after eating can be beneficial in certain circumstances. Yes, anything is better than nothing, which means the more you clean, the cleaner and better your oral health can be. So frequency is also an important factor.
Leg 3: Our DNA and predispositions
While the first two legs, we can control entirely. The last supporting leg of our good oral health stool is our own genetic makeup. Our personal DNA composition and how prone we are to decay or gum disease. The reality is you may have a genetic predisposition to ‘soft teeth’ or ‘ bad gums’ which is detrimental to good oral health.
Well, that’s a bum rap! We can not control that at all. I believed that until I recently learned some new facts. I read and listen to a number of physicians. One of the latest trends in medicine is how lifestyle interacts with the cards that we are dealt with, in other words, our genetic makeup. I recently had a conversation with a cardiologist who told me that even though someone may have genes for heart issues, one’s habits and lifestyle may prevent those “bad” genes from ever turning on. In other words, create an environment where your genetic makeup has a minimal influence on bad things happening to you.
Regarding your oral health, this translates to proper diet, brushing well and often, and seeing a professional at the recommended intervals so you can control the age old “soft teeth” or “bad gums run in my family” issues. Staying away from junk and practicing cleanliness will do wonders for our oral health. In fact, that is a prescription for good overall health in general.
Control your dental destiny
So if you are searching for a way to change your dental future and control your dental destiny, please feel free to call me and let’s talk about it. Good oral health is achievable! My wonderful staff and I will do everything that we can to move you along the way to this goal. I can be reached at 440.951.7856 and look forward to speaking to you.
Help! I just started to get food caught between my teeth!
This is an issue that comes up many times during the week. I hear it from patients and I hear reports from our talented hygienists when they give me a report on the status of a patient. In fact, I just heard it this morning as I met a patient on the street and he complained of this also. Food impaction in the mouth is a result of spaces between our teeth. So before we talk about whether or not catching food is a concern, let’s discuss spacing in between teeth.
Our teeth work best when they are all neatly in a row.
In an ideal world, every tooth in your mouth would be lined up like little soldiers in a row. Each one next to its neighbor with no overlapping or crowding. They should touch each other in a firm way. Not too much pressure and not too little pressure. The reason that this arrangement is ideal as a self-protection mechanism. Let me explain.
The main purpose of our teeth, aside from flashing a dazzling smile, is to chew and properly break up food for digestion. The digestive process begins in the mouth with tearing, grinding and chemical breakdown via our saliva. Not all foods are cooperative and simply go down our esophagus. When the teeth are all aligned and touching each other they create a path for the food to actually slide off into our cheeks and not stay on our teeth. This helps to break down the food further as it can be brought back around and chewed a second or third time. All of this makes the food easier to swallow and reduces the work that your stomach has to do. Teeth are protecting themselves when they touch, as food does not get stuck on them. Proper alignment of your teeth is really a self-preservation tool for them.
Different types of spaces require different types of solutions.
Now, let’s return to the issues caused by spaces. In our not so perfect world, people can develop spaces between our teeth. Sometimes we lose a tooth and have a big space. Other times we have a cavity and develop a small space. Last, but not least, our teeth may drift or move a little creating a tiny space.
Okay, so what does all that mean. If we lose a tooth and have a large space, we all know that we have to fill the space and replace the tooth. If not, nasty things can happen to the teeth around the space and even in other areas of the mouth. Our second “space” example is when we develop decay in between teeth. These spaces will become painful as the cavity progresses and can really destroy a tooth. This pain will drive us to get the cavity remedied before it goes too far. Typically a filling will take care of this issue.
The most dangerous spaces are those that occur as teeth shift and drift. These tiny spaces become a place for food impaction. Food gets stuck in between these little spaces and sits against the tooth and gum for long periods of time. The food attracts bacteria. These bacteria then feed on the food and produce acid. This acid is what causes a tooth to decay. Many times this decay, or cavity as it is often referred to, will progress unbeknown to anyone. It shows up under the gum and moves into the tooth. All of sudden we have a toothache and are looking at a root canal or complete tooth removal. Not only do spaces prevent our mouth from working at optimum efficiency in the digestive department, but the spaces are a cause for a lot of dental work and pain – hence the patient complaints.
When it comes to spaces between our teeth, even regular brushing and flossing are not enough.
Some patients believe that they can keep these tiny spaces clean. This is very difficult to do and a challenge, even for the most meticulous of patients who brush properly and floss thoroughly as recommended. We usually can not see the food particles that are caught between our teeth as they are wedged very low on the tooth near the gum. To see this in one’s own mouth is nearly impossible. This is why a dentist is needed to close these spaces between our teeth properly. There are a variety of ways to do this and each situation is different.
So the next time you become aware of these spaces or the dentist asks you if you ever notice food packing in a certain place, your radar should go off and inquire as to how the issue can be remedied. If you notice one of these areas that were not a problem before, give me a call and I will do my best to suggest a treatment for you. Patients can reach me at 440-951-7856 and I look forward to talking to you about this or any other dental concerns you may have.