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By Browell & Murphy
January 20, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition  
EnjoyThatNibbleofCheese-ItsAlsoBenefittingYourOralHealth

Mystery writer Avery Aames once said, "Life is great. Cheese makes it better." Billions of people around the world would tend to agree. Humanity has been having a collective love affair with curdled milk for around 8,000 years. And, why not: Cheese is not only exquisitely delicious, it's also good for you—especially for your teeth.

No wonder, then, that "turophiles" have a day of celebration all to themselves—National Cheese Lovers Day on January 20th. In honor of the day cheese aficionados would definitely make a national holiday, let's take a closer look at this delectable food, and why eating it could do a world of good for your dental health.

As a dairy food, cheese contains a plethora of vitamins and minerals, many of which specifically benefit dental health. Every bite of velvety Gouda or pungent Limburger contains minerals like calcium and phosphate, which—along with the compound casein phosphate—work together to strengthen teeth and bones.

Cheese also helps tooth enamel defend against its one true nemesis, oral acid. Prolonged contact with acid softens the mineral content in enamel and may eventually cause it to erode. Without an ample layer of enamel, teeth are sitting ducks for tooth decay. A nibble of cheese, on the other hand, can quickly raise your mouth's pH out of the acidic danger zone. Cheese also stimulates saliva, the mouth's natural acid neutralizer.

Because of these qualities, cheese is a good alternative to carbohydrate-based snacks and foods, at home or on the go. Carbs, particularly sugar, provide oral bacteria a ready food supply, which enables them to multiply rapidly. As a result, the opportunity for gum infection also increases.

Bacteria also generate a digestive by-product, which we've already highlighted—acid. So, when oral bacterial populations rise, so do acid levels, increasing the threat to tooth enamel. By substituting cheese for sweets, you'll help limit bacterial growth and these potential consequences.

You may get some of the same effect if you also add cheese to a carbohydrate-laden meal or, as is common with the French, eat it as dessert afterwards. Often a tasty complement to wine or fruit, cheese could help blunt the effect of these carbohydrates within your mouth.

In a world where much of what we like to eat doesn't promote our health, cheese is the notable exception. And our enjoyment of this perennial food is all the more delightful, knowing it's also strengthening and protecting our oral health.

If you would like more information about the role of nutrition in oral health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Nutrition & Oral Health.”

By Browell & Murphy
December 31, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: gum disease  
TroublingDataSaysSmokingMarijuanaCouldWorsenGumDisease

It seems with each new election cycle another U.S. state legalizes marijuana use. It remains a flashpoint issue that intersects politics, law and morality, but there's another aspect that should also be considered—the health ramifications of using marijuana.

From an oral health perspective, it doesn't look good. According to one study published in the Journal of Periodontology a few years ago, there may be a troubling connection between marijuana use and periodontal (gum) disease.

Gum disease is a common bacterial infection triggered by dental plaque, a thin biofilm on tooth surfaces. As the infection advances, the gum tissues become more inflamed and lose their attachment to teeth. This often results in widening gaps or "pockets" between the teeth and gums filled with infection. The deeper a periodontal pocket, the greater the concern for a tooth's health and survivability.

According to the study, researchers with Columbia University's College of Dental Medicine reviewed data collected from nearly 2,000 adults, a quarter of which used marijuana at least once a month. They found the marijuana users had about 30 individual pocket sites on average around their teeth with a depth of at least 4 millimeters. Non-users, by contrast, only averaged about 22 sites.

The users also had higher incidences of even deeper pockets in contrast to non-users. The former group averaged nearly 25 sites greater than 6 millimeters in depth; non-users, just over 19. Across the data, marijuana users appeared to fare worse with the effects of gum disease than those who didn't use.

As concerning as these findings appear, we can't say that marijuana use singlehandedly causes gum disease. The condition has several contributing risk factors: diet, genetics, and, most important of all, how well a person manages daily plaque removal, the main driver for gum disease, through brushing and flossing.

Still, the data so far seems to indicate using marijuana can make gum disease worse. Further studies will be needed to fully test this hypothesis. In the meantime, anyone using marijuana should consider the possible consequences to their oral health.

If you would like more information on marijuana and oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

BrieBellaShowsOffHerSix-MonthOldsBabyTeethonInstagram

If you're aiming for adorable camera shots, nothing beats baby photos. Even the tough guys among us can't resist oohing and ahhing over pics of their friends' and families' newest editions. Even celebrities like Brie Bella, WWE wrestler and now activewear entrepreneur, get into the act. She recently posted photos of her six-month old son, Buddy, for Instagramers. The focus—Baby Buddy's new baby teeth.

For many, a baby's first teeth are almost as cute as the baby themselves. Like the tiny humans sporting them, baby (or primary) teeth look like miniature versions of adult teeth. But aside from their inherent cuteness, primary teeth are also critically important for a child's dental function and development.

For most kids, primary teeth come right on time as they begin their transition from mother's milk or formula to solid food that requires chewing. Aside from their importance in nutrition, primary teeth also play a prominent role in a child's speech development and burgeoning social interaction.

They're also fundamental to bite development, with an influence that extends beyond their lifespan. They serve as placeholders for the permanent teeth, "trailblazers" of a sort that guide future teeth toward proper eruption.

So critical is this latter role that losing a baby tooth prematurely can open the door to bite problems. When a baby tooth is lost before its time, the space they're holding for an incoming tooth could be overtaken by neighboring teeth. This in turn could force the intended tooth to erupt out of place, leading to cascading misalignments that could require future orthodontics to correct.

Although facial trauma can cause premature tooth loss, the most common reason is tooth decay. One form of this disease known as early childhood caries (ECC) is especially problematic—it can rapidly develop and spread to other teeth.

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid early primary tooth loss. Here are a few things you can do to prevent that from happening.

  • Clean your baby's teeth daily by brushing and later flossing to remove bacterial plaque, the major cause of tooth decay;
  • Limit your baby's sugar consumption. In particular, avoid bedtime bottles filled with milk, juice or formula;
  • "Child-proof" your child's play areas to lessen their chances of falling on hard surfaces that could injure teeth;
  • Begin regular dental visits around their first birthday for early diagnosis, treatment and the application of other disease prevention measures.

Like Brie Bella, it's a joy for many parents to show off their baby's first teeth. Just be sure to take these common sense steps to protect those primary teeth from an unwelcome early departure.

If you would like more information about children's dental care, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Age One Dental Visit.”

By Browell & Murphy
November 21, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tmj disorders   jaw pain  
PersistencePaysOffinFindingReliefFromChronicJawJointPain

Tenderness; headaches; difficulty chewing; excruciating pain. These are a few of the symptoms you could endure with a jaw joint or temporomandibular disorder (TMD or TMJ). This group of disorders disrupts the daily lives of millions of people around the world.

This month is TMJ Awareness Month, to shed light on these debilitating conditions and how best to manage them. Although controlling TMD isn't always easy, it can be done with the right blend of treatments.

The temporomandibular joint—actually a pair of joints connecting the lower jaw to the skull on either side of the face—is "ground zero" for TMD. These are ball-and-socket joints similar to the hip or shoulder, but with a unique addition—a cushioning disk that lies between the adjoining points of the two bones that temper the forces generated when you eat, speak or bite down.

Researchers believe TMD can arise from a variety of sources, including traumatic injury, psychological stress or mechanical dysfunction within the joint and cushioning disk. These problems can create blood flow constriction, which in turn causes the accumulation of chemical waste byproducts in the jaw muscles. This in turn and cause the muscles to spasm and become inflamed and sore.

Treatments are also as numerous as the possible causes of TMD. But for the most part, they range along a continuum of conservative to aggressive approaches.

On the conservative end, doctors treat TMD as a joint problem and borrow heavily from orthopedics. These types of treatments include the use of anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxing medications, icing or heating, stretching exercises, physical therapy and massage. Dentists may also provide mouth guard appliances for patients with clenching or tooth grinding habits to decrease biting forces.

On the more aggressive end are interventions like orthodontics or dental work. But, while these were common recommendations 20-30 years ago, it's no longer thought to be necessary for treating most TMD disorders and should not be recommended as a cure or solution for TMD.  At the furthest extreme is actual jaw surgery to relieve symptoms or repair damage within the joints. The latter, however, has not yet amassed a solid track record, and should be considered as a last resort.

Finding the right combination of therapies to give consistent relief sometimes requires a bit of trial and error. Most doctors recommend starting first with the most conservative methods before considering more aggressive measures. You should also undergo a complete dental exam to see if teeth or gum problems are contributing to your symptoms.

TMD can make your life miserable. But with some persistence and patience, you can find what works for a life without pain and dysfunction.

If you would like more information about managing TMD, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Seeking Relief From TMD.”

By Browell & Murphy
November 11, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: teeth grinding  
GetAheadofTeethGrindingtoAvoidHarmtoYourTeeth

We like to think we're more prone to stress in our modern, fast-paced world than those who lived in "simpler" times, but a finding from the recent discovery of Richard the III's remains in England suggests differently. Investigators noted the king had well-worn teeth, perhaps from grinding them out of stress.

We can't be sure this was the cause for the king's dental problems, or if teeth grinding was common in the 15th Century. But we are sure the problem exists today among adults.

Tooth grinding is the grinding, gnashing or clenching of teeth involuntarily when not engaged in regular dental functions like eating or speaking. It can occur while a person is awake, but most often while they're asleep.

The habit regularly occurs in children, but is not considered a major problem as most outgrow it by adolescence, usually with no lingering damage. Not so with adults: Because the habit generates abnormally high biting forces, teeth grinding can lead to accelerated tooth wear. It can also weaken teeth, making them more susceptible to fracture or disease.

People who grind their teeth will typically awaken with sore jaws or the complaints of family members about the loud chattering noise emitted during an episode. If you suspect a problem, you should see your dentist for a definitive diagnosis, and to learn how to reduce its occurrence and effects.

Treatments for the habit vary depending on underlying causes. They may involve lifestyle changes like quitting tobacco, limiting alcohol or altering your use of certain drugs or medications.  Because stress is often a major factor, learning better relaxation techniques through meditation, group therapy or biofeedback may also help reduce teeth grinding.

These treatments, though, can take time, so you may also need ways to minimize the effects of the habit in the meantime. One of those ways is for your dentist to create an occlusal guard that you wear while you sleep. The guard prevents the teeth from making solid contact, thus reducing the potential biting forces.

It's important, then, to see your dentist as soon as possible if you suspect you're grinding your teeth. Finding out as early as possible and then taking positive steps to stop or reduce its effect can save your teeth from a good deal of harm.

If you would like more information on teeth grinding, 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 “Teeth Grinding.”