Thanksgiving is fast approaching and while others are thinking about what great foods will fill our bellies; we as dental professionals ponder things such as "how did Native Americans and Pilgrims keep their mouths healthy?" or "how did they get all of the turkey out from between their teeth?" and "who had healthier teeth, Native Americans or Pilgrims?"
Such important questions have puzzled philosophers for years.
So, lets think about this objectively.
Native Americans had a very healthy diet that consisted of fruits and veggies, nuts, wild game and fish, foods high in fiber, and only natural sugars. They had access to clean drinkable water and used twigs with splayed bristles to chew on after meals. All in all not too bad.
Pilgrims on the other hand had access to dried fruits; which have a different type of sugar compound, salted meats and fish, highly acidic pickled foods, and processed wheat. Also, Pilgrims were traveling on ships for extended periods of time without access to fresh clean water. They knew that distilling the water into other drinks actually killed the bacteria in the water. So wine and beer, were in abundance; which makes for a more enjoyable cruise but can be detrimental to the teeth. Both wine and beer are very acidic and wine has a high sugar content which leads to enamel erosion and tooth decay. Another way that Pilgrims knew to stay healthy was to drink lime and lemon juice to prevent scurvy, which is a great idea, but its not part of a optimal dental diet. Pilgrims also lived in such close cramped quarters that bacteria, illnesses and infections were running rampant.
On that note.....who has a healthier more kissable mouth..........Drum Roll....
Native Americans hands down!
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at New England Dental Associates!
Have you been told that you brush too hard? Do you feel that you have to "scrub" your teeth to get them really clean?
Plaque is a very soft biofilm that forms on the teeth, and is removed very easily with thorough gentle brushing. Think of plaque sort of like dust in your home; you wouldn't scrub or scour your furniture to remove dust. You would only have to gently wipe it away. The same rule applies to plaque in your mouth. After about 24 hours the plaque starts to harden on the teeth and is more difficult to remove, but if you are removing the biofilm on your teeth twice a day it is still very soft.
Brushing aggressively, too fast, or a back and forth motion can damage the gum tissue causing it to pull away from the teeth. This wearing of the gum tissue is called recession. When the gums, or gingiva, recede it exposes the root surface and can cause temperature sensitivity and discomfort. Also, the exposed root surface is not as strong as enamel and can decay very easily.
Once the gingiva has receded and left the root surface exposed now the tooth is at risk for having abrasion. Abrasion is when the tooth brush wears a notch in the tooth. Think of this like chopping down a tree; you slowly create wear on the root surface of the tooth that can weaken the tooth structure and cause pain.
When brushing, always use a soft tooth brush and use a gentle circular/sweeping motion. If using and electric toothbrush place the toothbrush on the tooth and let it do the work for you. Do not go back and forth or brush in circles while the electric toothbrush is brushing; that is like brushing twice.
Certain treatments can be done if there is an area of recession that has pain or sensitivity, so having regular dental exams is very important, but preventing recession and abrasion is key.
Another school year is right around the corner and with that comes preparing lunches and snacks. A major part in keeping your child's teeth healthy is actually diet. What we ingest can is actually just as important as how we clean and take care of our teeth.
Here are some things to keep in mind when packing lunches:
1. The closest our food is to its natural form the better it is for us.
An apple is better than apple juice. Juice has additives and is a processed form of an apple. The more a food is processed the more cariogenic (able to cause Caries - decay) it becomes.
2. Juices are VERY high in sugar.
Even if the juice is "natural" or "organic" or if you cut the juice with water, the body still recognizes the sugar in the juice. Our body doesn't really care HOW MUCH sugar and acid it recognizes but more of how frequently we are exposed to it. Having a cup of juice with a meal isn't terrible because our body is already producing acid to get rid of the food we are eating. Having a cup of juice in between a meal that takes a long time to drink is worse for the teeth due to how much acid we have to produce over a long period of time.
3. Frequency of sugar, acid and starch is actually more important to be aware of than quantity. When we put almost anything in our mouth the body has to produce acid for about 20 minutes to break down sugars, acids, and starches.
For example if you eat 1 M&M every 20 min for 3 hours you have only had 15 M&M's, which isn't an extreme amount but your body has been producing acid for 3 straight hours! This can reek havoc on your teeth.
If you just sat down and ate a bag of M&M's in 5 min (you would more than 15 M&M's - just saying) and after about 20 min of your body producing acid to break down the sugars your PH of your saliva would return to normal and your teeth wouldn't be under attack.
4. There should be periods of the day between meals and an occasional snack that you aren't putting anything in your mouth except water. This includes gum, candies and mints. Having time where you aren't putting anything in your mouth allows your saliva to be at a more neutral PH thus reducing the acid that breaks down sugar, acid and starches and ultimately your enamel.
People who "graze" throughout the day are at higher risk for decay. Like previously stated having small amounts of food or sugary drinks all day creates a long acid attack. If you or your child is someone who needs to eat more frequently, having fruits and veggies won't cause a problem because they have a natural source of raw sugar. It's only when we have altered foods by processing them and changing their original composition do that cause us harm.
For a quick recap:
Drink mostly water, have other drinks as a treat.
Limit how often we eat, snacking all day is not a good idea.
Eat foods that are close to how we find them in nature for the healthiest option.
Did you know that mouth guards are not just great looking, they actually serve a bigger purpose. Mouth guards are recommended for ANY sport that there could potentially be any physical contact with another person or object. That includes more sports and activities than you may think.
Field Hockey Hockey
Injuries that can be prevented or lessened by wearing a mouth guard:
Fractured Maxillary bone (Jaw Bone)
Displacement of injured tooth
Tooth getting knocked out
Injuries to orthodontic appliances
Root damage to teeth
*Most people don't realize that concussions can be caused by the lower jaw slamming into the upper jaw and causing the brain to be jostled around. A mouth guard will not stop the lower jaw from moving but instead of the force being transferred to the upper jaw, most of the impact is absorbed into the mouth guard thus lessening the force of trauma to the brain.
There are different types of mouth guards. The 2 main types are, custom made mouth guards or over-the-counter guards, that can be bought at any pharmacy or sports store. Custom made guards are much more comfortable to wear, are less bulky and they can protect the teeth better because they are made to be a perfect fit. Over-the-counter guards are less expensive but research has shown that if the guard is uncomfortable to wear they might not get used enough or properly. If the mouth guard is just sitting in the athletes gym bag it's less likely to protect their teeth.
You should see a dentist if any of these following issues pertain to you: