Posts for: December, 2015
Saliva is a true workhorse among bodily fluids — it breaks down food for digestion, keeps harmful bacteria in check and neutralizes acid that is destructive to tooth surfaces. So when saliva flow is chronically diminished, it’s more serious than the uncomfortable feeling of “dry mouth” — it can have a detrimental effect on your overall health.
It’s normal to experience temporary mouth dryness: in the morning (because saliva flow slows during sleep), when we’re under stress, or after smoking or consuming certain foods and beverages like onions or coffee. But chronic dry mouth (“xerostomia”) is different — the mouth remains dry for extended periods, leading to problems like tooth decay caused by inadequate acid neutralization.
Medications are one of the most common causes for xerostomia. According to the Surgeon General, there are over 500 medications — both prescription and over-the-counter — that can cause it, including antihistamines, diuretics and antidepressants. Radiation or chemotherapy used for cancer treatment may also cause dry mouth, sometimes permanently. There are also systemic conditions that affect saliva flow like diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and many autoimmune diseases.
Treating chronic dry mouth will of course depend on the underlying cause. If drug-related the first approach should be to find a substitute medication that won’t as readily cause reduced saliva flow. If that’s not possible, then it’s helpful to drink more water when taking the medication (a few sips before and a full glass afterward). You can also cut back on caffeinated, acidic or sugary foods and drinks as well as alcohol, and refrain from tobacco use.
A saliva stimulant might also help. Besides prescription medication, there are other products like xylitol, a natural alcohol sugar found in chewing gum, toothpaste or rinses, that help increase saliva flow — and xylitol also inhibits the growth of decay-causing bacteria.
The most important thing for chronic dry mouth is maintaining consistent daily hygiene through brushing and flossing and regular dental cleanings and checkups. Helping to increase your saliva flow and making every effort to prevent dental disease will help keep this condition from harming your teeth and gums.
If you would like more information on the causes and treatment of dry mouth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dry Mouth.”
Fans of the primetime TV show The Middle were delighted to see that high school senior Sue, played by Eden Sher, finally got her braces off at the start of Season 6. But since this popular sitcom wouldn’t be complete without some slapstick comedy, this happy event is not without its trials and tribulations: The episode ends with Sue’s whole family diving into a dumpster in search of the teen’s lost retainer. Sue finds it in the garbage and immediately pops it in her mouth. But wait — it doesn’t fit, it’s not even hers!
If you think this scenario is far-fetched, guess again. OK, maybe the part about Sue not washing the retainer upon reclaiming it was just a gag (literally and figuratively), but lost retainers are all too common. Unfortunately, they’re also expensive to replace — so they need to be handled with care. What’s the best way to do that? Retainers should be brushed daily with a soft toothbrush and liquid soap (dish soap works well), and then placed immediately back in your mouth or into the case that came with the retainer. When you are eating a meal at a restaurant, do not wrap your retainer in a napkin and leave it on the table — this is a great way to lose it! Instead, take the case with you, and keep the retainer in it while you’re eating. When you get home, brush your teeth and then put the retainer back in your mouth.
If you do lose your retainer though, let us know right away. Retention is the last step of your orthodontic treatment, and it’s extremely important. You’ve worked hard to get a beautiful smile, and no one wants to see that effort wasted. Yet if you neglect to wear your retainer as instructed, your teeth are likely to shift out of position. Why does this happen?
As you’ve seen firsthand, teeth aren’t rigidly fixed in the jaw — they can be moved in response to light and continuous force. That’s what orthodontic appliances do: apply the right amount of force in a carefully controlled manner. But there are other forces at work on your teeth that can move them in less predictable ways. For example, normal biting and chewing can, over time, cause your teeth to shift position. To get teeth to stay where they’ve been moved orthodontically, new bone needs to form around them and anchor them where they are. That will happen over time, but only if they are held in place with a retainer. That’s why it is so important to wear yours as directed — and notify us immediately if it gets lost.
And if ever you do have to dig your retainer out of a dumpster… be sure to wash it before putting in in your mouth!
If you would like more information on retainers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “The Importance of Orthodontic Retainers” and “Why Orthodontic Retainers?”
Do you know just how dangerous tobacco can be on your oral health?
You’ve seen the ads and you’ve heard about the dangers of chewing tobacco, but do you really know why you should ditch the habit? From the office of your Lawrence, KS dentist Dr. Paul Herrera, find out why chewing tobacco is so bad for your oral health.
It wears away tooth enamel: the grit that’s in chewing tobacco can easily wear away healthy tooth enamel and leave teeth weaker and more prone to damage.
It causes gum recession: Having chewing tobacco placed in a certain area of the gums can cause irritation and can also cause the gums to pull away from the teeth. This not only causes the tooth to loosen, but it can also expose the roots of the teeth to increase sensitivity to hot and cold.
It increases your chance of tooth decay: You may not even know this, but sugar is often added to chewing tobacco to make it taste better. Besides what you already know about chewing tobacco’s negative effects on teeth the sugar can also cause serious decay and eventually cavities.
And if you are already dealing with receding gums there are now openings between the teeth and gums that are more susceptible to decay and infection.
You’re at an increased risk for cancer: Some people may think that chewing tobacco is actually better than cigarettes, but unfortunately this is a myth. While chewing tobacco may not have the same rates of lung cancer as smokers do they are still more susceptible to oral cancer. Besides oral cancer, those who chew tobacco are also at a greater risk for throat cancer.
Discolored teeth and bad breath: It should come as no surprise that the chemicals in tobacco can cause some serious stains and discolorations for teeth, which normal brushing may not be able to remove. Your general dentist in Lawrence can help you choose the best cosmetic option to treat your dental stains.
And as if a yellowing smile wasn’t bad enough, the chemical in tobacco can also linger on the mouth and cause pretty offensive breath. Fortunately, bad breath can certainly be vanquished when you quit tobacco.
Don’t let chewing tobacco ruin your smile. Turn to your dentist in Lawrence, KS for all of your oral care needs. Rockledge Dentistry is here to promote the healthiest smile you can possibly have.