Sports Drinks and Your Teeth

During the hot weather of summer, the energy drinks and sports drinks come out, particularly among youth athletes. The drinks market their benefits as helping athletes to replace water, electrolytes and energy after training or competition.

Many people believe that these drinks are healthier than soda. Their effectiveness, however, has been questioned, and the drinks are also linked to weight gain.

Another problem sports drinks and energy drinks have been linked to is damaging teeth. The culprit is the acid — a problem in sodas too. A study published a few years ago in the journal General Dentistry found that energy and sports drinks contain so much acid that they start eroding teeth after only five days of consistent use, leaving the teeth more susceptible to decay and sensitivity.

The researchers tested 13 different sports drinks and nine different energy drinks for titratable acidity, pH and fluoride of each of the different drinks. Then they submerged samples of human tooth enamel in six drinks and found both types caused damage, with the energy drinks causing twice as much damage as the sports drinks.

There is a double whammy. Not only are the drinks highly acidic, but the sugar from the energy and sports drinks becomes food for bacteria in your mouth, which generates more teeth-damaging acid.

Now, of course, drinking the drinks is different than submerging your teeth in them for 15 minutes. And there are a few ways you can mitigate the potential for damage:

  • Drink water along with your sports or energy drink. This will help wash away the acid covering your teeth and increase saliva production to help protect your enamel.
  • Don’t brush your teeth immediately after consuming the drinks, because the drinks have softened your enamel. Wait one hour and make sure you don’t over brush.
  •  Drink your drink through a straw. This reduces the contact of the drink with your teeth.
  • Just drink water. Sports drinks are expensive and contain a lot of calories and acid you don’t need. Water is always better.

Do you have questions about damage to your teeth? Contact Enlighten Dental Care at 336.765.0904 or send an e-mail to: info@enlightendentalcare.com.

Cavity Fillings — What Type Is Best?

Cavities (tooth decay) are permanently damaged areas of the surface of your teeth that have created tiny holes. If cavities are left untreated, they will grow larger and affect the deeper layers of your teeth, leading to much bigger problems, such as infections, severe toothache and tooth loss.

Cavities that have progressed beyond the earliest enamel-erosion state are treated by removing the decayed portion of the tooth and then “filling” the area where the decayed portion was removed. The “filling” cam be made of one of the following:

  • Resin-based composite, which is tooth-colored, plastic, and glass materials
  • Silver amalgam, which consists of mercury mixed with silver, tin, zinc, and copper
  • Porcelain
  • Gold

At Enlighten Dental Care, to treat the typical cavity, we use composite resin fillings; however, there are some instances in which silver amalgam is the better choice. Gold may also be used when bite forces dictate a stronger, more supportive restoration than a filling, but there is ample healthy tooth to preserve without doing a crown. And as stronger porcelains have become available, they may also be used for this purpose.

Resin-based composite is a natural, tooth-colored material that was used for many years to fill front teeth and is much more aesthetically pleasing. Over the last few decades, with technological advances, the material has been made strong enough to withstand the pressure of chewing in the back teeth; however, it is still less durable than silver amalgam. Resin-based composite has the added benefit of bonding to the tooth structure, which provides further support.

Silver amalgam has been used for more than 150 years to fill teeth and is strong and durable. There have been concerns over the safety of amalgam because of the use of mercury as a bonding agent.; however, no scientific studies have shown that it is a risk. In addition, the American Dental Association maintains that dental amalgam remains a safe, affordable and durable cavity filling choice for dental patients. While silver amalgam is less expensive than composite resin fillings, it can cause the tooth to crack and fracture over time.

When treating our patients’ cavities, we consider the pattern of decay in the tooth before recommending which type of filling material to use. It is extremely important to end up with a tight seal to prevent leaving any space that opens the door to further decay. Other considerations include the patient’s budget and insurance coverage. If you have questions about which material is right for your treatment, we are always happy to talk with you about the pros and cons of the materials, as well as the cost. Please call us at (336) 765-0904. 

Taking Care of and Cleaning Your Dentures

May is designated Older Americans Month, a month in which we recognize older Americans for their contributions and provide information on staying healthy and active. One way in which seniors can stay healthy and active is to take care of their teeth and their dentures if they have them.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 25 percent of adults ages 65 and older no longer have any natural teeth. Missing teeth affect one’s ability to eat, speak and smile, and they can also cause your jaw to lose bone mass.

At Enlighten Dental Care, we can custom craft full or partial dentures for you that will look natural and be comfortable. They will also last for years if you give them the proper care.

Here are some ways to keep your dentures in really good shape.

  • Clean dentures daily by brushing them every day the same way you would brush your teeth except WITHOUT toothpaste. Many types of toothpaste can damage dentures.
  • Use a soft-bristle denture brush designed specifically for cleaning dentures along with water and brush all surfaces of the dentures. Do not bend any attachments.
  • After each meal, rinse dentures with water.
  • Specialized denture cleaner for soaking dentures is OK, but it is not a substitute for brushing.
  • Be careful when handling your dentures. A folded towel in the sink will keep them from breaking should you drop them.
  • Remove your full or partial dentures every night in order to allow the gum tissue underneath to rest.
  • When you are not wearing your dentures, let them soak in cool water (NOT hot water, which can warp them) or a denture-cleaning solution so they won’t dry out. If your dentures have metal attachments, some solutions could cause the metal to tarnish, so talk to your dentist about what is safe to use.
  • See your dentist every six months to check the fit and condition of your dentures, and the condition of your gums. With the proper care, your dentures could last for five to seven years.

 

Can Your Dentist Help You Sleep Better?

At Enlighten Dental Care, we sometimes have patients who fall asleep as we are are working on their teeth. while this could be a result of our relaxing chairs or calm, gentle demeanor while working on teeth, the more likely cause is that the patient is not getting a good night’s sleep.

One of the most common causes for poor sleep is obstructive sleep apnea, a potentially serious discarder that causes a person to have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while he or she sleeps. It is typically caused soft tissue in the back of the throat that collapses while you sleep creating a blockage of the airway, 

This chronic condition tends to seriously disrupt your sleep. How? When your breathing pauses or becomes shallow, you typically move to a light sleep. Thus, the quality of your sleep is poor, and you are tired during the day …

And you can easily fall asleep in the dentist’s chair! (Or at your desk at work.)

A sleep specialist is the only person who can diagnose obstructive sleep apnea. To treat the disorder, a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine is often prescribed to keep the airways open during sleep. The machine includes a device that fits over your nose and mouth, a tube that connects the mask to the machine’s motor, and a motor that blows air into the tube.

If you are feeling excessively tired during the day, have been diagnosed with sleep apnea or would prefer to try an alternative to CPAP, talk to your dentist. Oral appliance therapy may offer you an alternative to the CPAP machine. A device similar to a retainer can help prevent the collapse of the tongue and soft tissues in the back of the throat, and keep the airway open during sleep to promote  adequate air intake. These appliances can also be used in conjunction with  cotter treatments for sleep apnea, such as losing weight, surgery or CPAP.

How do they work? Oral appliances work by repositioning the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate and uvula; stabilizing the lower jaw and tongue; and increasing the muscle tone of the tongue. There are many different types of appliances available, so it is important to work with a dentist familiar with the appliances to fit you and find the right one for your specific needs.

Some of the advantages of oral appliance therapy include:

  • Comfort. Most people find the appliances easy to wear after a few weeks.
  • Convenience. The appliances are small and convenient to carry when traveling.
  • Non-invasive. Oral appliances are a non-invasive way to treat sleep apnea.

Researchers are finding more and more evidence that good sleep is crucial to your overall health and well-being. Untreated sleep apnea can increase your risk of such conditions as heart attack, stroke, obesity and diabetes. Talk to your doctor and dentist if you are excessively tired during the day or your partner tells you that you are a heavy snorer. Oral appliance therapy is just one of many ways to help sleep better.

Does Alcohol Damage Your Teeth?

As we are heading into the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, we thought it was an opportune time to talk about alcohol and your teeth. We discussed the damage soda can do to teeth in an earlier blog, but what about alcohol?

The fact is, alcohol is acidic, too, which means it can damage teeth. Here’s a few noteworthy facts:

  • Alcohol dries your mouth. This reduces saliva, which creates a more acidic environment in your mouth. And that can lead to a softening of your tooth enamel.
  • Alcohol in general, and wine in particular, can soften tooth enamel. Wine’s  malic, tartaric, lactic, succinic and citric acids lower the pH in your mouth to below a critical point. In addition, wine’s mineral content and its calcium binding properties may contribute to its erosive potential.
  • Sugary alcoholic drinks can be the worst, as the sugar also causes tooth decay. The sugar content in beer, sweet wines and, of course, such drinks as rum and coke can wreak havoc.
  • Alcohol can stain your teeth. “Red wine teeth” are caused by a mix of the acids, natural dyes and tannins in the wine. And here’s a fun fact: If you haven’t been to the dentist for a professional dental cleaning, avoid the green beer —  the dyes used in the beer stain the bacterial cell walls in plaque and can show the world that you need a check-up!
  • Excessive alcohol consumption can cause cavities, gum deterioration and tooth loss.

So, how do you best protect your teeth from alcohol?

  • Mix drinks with soda water instead of soft drinks or other sweet mixers in order to help reduce the acidity.
  • After each alcoholic beverage, drink a glass of water in order to dilute the acid.
  • Chewing sugar-free gum can help increase saliva production so your mouth does not dry out as much.
  • Wait at least 20 minutes or up to an hour after drinking alcohol to brush your teeth. It takes the saliva that long to remineralize the tooth enamel that was softened  by acid. Brushing too soon can damage the enamel further. Just don’t go to sleep before you brush.

You don’t have to go alcohol-free to protect your teeth. Moderation is key. And don’t forget to brush!

Dental Implants in Winston-Salem, NC

Do you have missing teeth? Are you wondering whether a dental implant would be right for you?

If you lose one or more teeth, the bone that surrounds the root does not receive any more stimulation from chewing, and it begins to wear away. This can cause your teeth to shift and drift into the open space, and opposing teeth on the top can actually drop down. Traditional methods of replacing teeth, such as bridges without dental implants, partials and dentures do not address the bone deterioration because they only replace the visible portion of the tooth — they do not replace the root. In addition, before the science of dental implants, the only way to replace a missing tooth was with a tooth-supported bridge, which meant healthy teeth had to be ground down to support the bridge.

Whether you are replacing a single tooth or many teeth, dental implants can be used with crowns, bridges and dentures to help prevent bone deterioration. Why? The implant is an artificial tooth root that the dentists at Enlighten Dental Care can place into your jaw in order to hold a replacement tooth (crown),  bridge or dentures.

There are two types of dental implants:

  • Endosteal implants are screws, cylinders or blades surgically placed into the jawbone. This is the most common type of implant.
  • Subperiosteal implants are placed on top of the jaw. The metal framework posts protrude through the gum to hold the prosthesis.

The benefits of implant-supported crowns, bridges or dentures include the following.

  • They help to minimize bone deterioration.
  • They look, feel and function like normal teeth
  • They do not compromise adjacent teeth by grinding them down for a bridge or securing a partial denture to them.
  • They increase stability, making chewing more natural.
  • They eliminate the pain of dentures and partials that fit poorly.
  • They improve appearance.
  • They are easier to clean than traditional tooth replacements.

Getting implants is a common, relatively pain-free procedure at Enlighten Dental Care. You will work with your dentist to create a plan that will ensure the best possible outcome. Your dentist will place the implant and form the gum tissue around the exposed collar of the implant. During the next few weeks, the bone will grow solidly onto the implant, and if the implant is in the aesthetic zone, a temporary tooth restoration will be placed while the site heals. Once healing is complete, your Enlighten Dental Care dentist will remove the cover screw and place the abutment, and take an impression in order to order the final crown, bridge or denture from the lab. When the final crown, bridge or denture is returned from the lab, your temporary will be removed and replaced , so your final beautiful smile will be put into place!

If you have questions about dental implants, please contact us at (336) 765-0904.

Don’t Lose Your Teeth! Treating Periodontal (Gum) Disease

Periodontal disease — also known as gum disease — is an inflammatory condition that affects both the soft and hard structures that support the teeth. The disease is caused by the plaque on your teeth, which contains bacteria that product harmful toxins that can irritate and inflame the gums.

Inflamed gum tissue can pull away from the teeth and form spaces called pockets, which collect more bacteria. Infected pockets that are not treated can damage the bone and other tissue that supports the teeth, and eventually the teeth may fall out or need to be removed. A periodontal infection can also spread throughout the entire body, creating disease in another organ or body part, and it has been shown to have an impact on systemic inflammation. Research indicates that gum disease may contribute to diabetes, respiratory disease, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and it may be associated with premature child birth.

Symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Gums that bleed when you brush or floss
  • Red, swollen or tender gums
  • Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
  • Bad breath that doesn’t go away
  • Pus between your teeth and gums
  • Loose or separating teeth
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bit
  • A change in the fit of partial dentures

There are two types of periodontal disease: gingivitis, which is the milder form, and periodontitis, the more advanced form.

  • Gingivitis makes the gums red and swollen, and they may bleed easily when you brush. Gingivitis can be reversed with better dental care at home (brushing and flossing) and more frequent professional cleanings.
  • Periodontitis is the more advanced form of gum disease. It results in more swelling and redness in the tissues around the teeth, and it causes the tissue and bone to break down.

To determine the extent of gum disease, the dentists at Enlighten Dental Care will evaluate the depth of space between the teeth and gums. In addition, we will take X-rays are taken to see whether the bone has been damaged. Depending on how much damage and disease progression there is, treatment may include:

  • more frequent visits to a dental hygienist
  • a procedure called scaling and root planing in which the plaque and tarter is carefully removed down to the bottom of each periodontal pocket the tooth’s root surfaces are smoothed to allow the gum tissue to heal and reattach to the tooth
  • gum surgery

We may also prescribe antibiotics to control infection.

If you are experiencing any symptoms of gum disease, please make an appointment with the dentists at Enlighten Dental Care by calling (336) 765-0904, or click here to get in touch.

Hope Your Season Is Merry and Bright!

Five Smart Holiday Foods for Healthy Teeth

The holidays can be bad for your waist and bad for your teeth. All of those sticky sweets and carbs can wreak havoc in your mouth, particularly  if you’re not properly brushing and flossing.

Healthy foods for your teethBut that doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun. Here’s five foods you can wholeheartedly enjoy over the next few weeks!

  • Cheese. Go ahead and enjoy the cheese platter (without the crackers). Cheese is low in the bad things for your teeth (sugar and acid) and high in calcium. In addition, cheese contains casein, a protein found in milk that helps fortify the tooth’s surface
  • Raw Veggies. The veggie tray is always a good choice. The fibrous nature of raw, fresh veggies such as celery and carrots promotes chewing and saliva production. Saliva contains proteins and minerals that protect tooth enamel and prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Celery also breaks down into fibrous strands, which naturally clean the teeth.
  • Fruits. Fruits such as apples and pears are also good choices. They have high water content, which dilutes the effects of the sugars they contain and stimulates the flow of saliva.
  • Unsweetened Tea. Green and black teas contain polyphenols, which help to kill or suppress bacteria, preventing it from growing or producing tooth-attacking acid.
  • Nuts. The nut bowl is another good choice for teeth. Many nuts — peanuts, almonds, cashews and walnuts — provide vitamins and minerals that help your teeth. Just make sure you’re not biting down really hard on a difficult nut, and stay away from those covered in sugar.

See, there’s plenty to enjoy to during the holiday season. Chicken, beef, eggs, fish, potatoes, spinach, fortified cereals, tofu, leafy green vegetables, beans and whole grains are also part of a healthy diet for your body and your teeth. And if you do indulge in those sugary carbs, don’t forget to not only walk it off, but brush it off, too!

Worried About Holiday Weight Gain? How About Holiday Tooth Decay?

It’s that time of year  to feast on holiday meals, snacks, desserts and candies.  Holiday weight gain has always been a concern for many, but maintaining good oral health is just as important.

Many holiday foods and beverages contain carbohydrates, which are sugars and starches.  You may be consuming more carbohydrates during the holiday season, so be aware that carbohydrates are responsible for acids that cause tooth decay.  Some of the carbohydrates that you may find at your holiday festivities and on your holiday dinner table include breads such as dinner rolls,  cakes, pies and candy. In particular, atch out for those sugary holiday favorites like candy canes and eggnog, which stick to the teeth.

Why do carbohydrates lead to tooth decay? It is because there are acid-producing bacteria in the mouth that feed on the carbohydrates.  When the acid is not neutralized with an adequate amount of saliva, demineralization of the teeth can occur;  causing them to rot.  It is important to remember that the faster that the food is removed from the mouth, the better. The risk of cavities is decreased because the amount of time that the teeth are exposed to sugars and carbohydrates is decreased.

During the holiday season avoid foods that remain on the surface of the tooth such as pretzels, chips and raisins. Cooked carbohydrates actually stay on the teeth longer than most foods containing sugars.  Some foods to enjoy that don’t cause decay of the teeth are beans, cheese, chicken or other meat, nuts, fish, milk, apples, pears and vegetables.  Foods to avoid are candy, cakes, cookies, breads, muffins, french fries, and bananas.   Brushing helps to remove food residue and starve the plaque-forming bacteria that eats away at the tooth’s enamel.

When you’re at a holiday party where you will be snacking on sweet and delicious treats, carry a travel sized toothbrush and floss to remove excess food particles that cause tooth decay.  In an effort to prevent erosion of the teeth, rinse the mouth with water after consuming wine.

We’re not trying to take away all of your holiday fun! You can still enjoy your favorite holiday meals such as stuffing, rolls, pies, cakes, etc., Just balance them with proteins to counteract some of the acids produced by the carbohydrates.  And, of course, don’t forget to brush and floss!