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Franklyn Alexander, DDS
General & Cosmetic Dentistry

Patients Choice Winner 2016

Archive for the ‘Dental Hygiene’ Category

Dry Mouth Could Harm Your Health

Dry mouth does not rank very high on the list of items people worry about, but when it comes to dental health, dry mouth can considerably contribute to dental health problems.

What causes dry mouth?

Dry mouth, known as xerostamia, occurs when there is not enough saliva being produced to keep the mouth wet. You’ve probably experienced it when waking up in the morning- in fact, the main reason for ‘morning breath’ is that saliva production tends to slow when we sleep, meaning bacteria is not being rinsed away . Beyond natural sleep patterns, many medications can cause dry mouth. Over 400 commonly prescribed medications have dry mouth listed as a possible side effect; these include antihistamines, antidiarrheals, analgesics, and anti-anxiety medications. Diseases like diabetes, disorders of the salivary glands, arthritis, and lupus can also contribute to dry mouth. Since the elderly tend to be on more medications and have more overall health issues than younger adults, they are at the greatest risk for dry mouth.

Why is dry mouth harmful?

Saliva is your body’s natural defense against food residue and debris as well as harmful bacteria. When your salivary glands are working as they should, the constant wash of saliva moving through your mouth and over your teeth helps keep harmful bacteria from settling in and causing trouble. Saliva also helps to neutralize acids in your mouth that can lead to cavities, as well as constantly coating your teeth with phosphorus and calcium. These substances help your enamel stay strong by allowing remineralization, a sort of self-repair process undertaken by enamel. Enamel can’t really be regrown or replaced once it’s worn away, but providing your teeth with the tools they need for remineralization, you help fight the process of damaging and wearing away your protective enamel.

A lack of saliva also allows bacteria to take root and begin burrowing in to your teeth. Bacteria can’t gain a hold on our teeth if they are swallowed or rinsed away. When bacteria are allowed to attach to teeth, they multiply extremely quickly. A layer of bacteria makes it easier for additional bacteria to attach themselves to the area, and it only takes a short time for a visible layer of plaque to form. In addition, your saliva is capable of neutralizing or killing harmful bacteria before they get a chance to do any damage. Who knew your spit was so talented?

What can you do about dry mouth?

If you suffer from dry mouth, it’s important to nail down the cause- see your doctor and/or dentist to figure out exactly why it’s happening. If your xerostamia is due to necessary medications or another unavoidable condition, it’s important to know how to keep it under control. One of the most important things you can do is to stay hydrated- even people whose salivary glands work perfectly well don’t produce as much saliva when they’re dehydrated. Sip on water throughout the day and avoid acidic, sugary drinks like soda or fruit juice. These beverages become much more harmful without the benefit of saliva to counteract the sugar and acid. Sugar-free gum is a great tool in the fight against dry mouth- chewing stimulates the saliva glands, and many sugar-free gums carry additional ingredients to fight gum disease or help whiten teeth. Lastly, avoid smoking and alcohol, as these behaviors lead to dehydration and can cause dry mouth even if you’re otherwise perfectly healthy.

About Sensitive Teeth

Do you avoid things like ice cream and hot drinks because they can send bolts of pain through your teeth and gums? One out of every five people suffer from dentin hypersensitivity, and it can be a real nuisance and even painful to live with. By determining what triggers your sensitivity, you can better manage it. There are also various forms of treatment available that can provide you with relief.

Root Causes

First, let’s break down exactly what’s happening to cause the sensitivity. As the protective enamel coating on your teeth begins to wear away, it leaves microscopic tubules exposed. This allows hot or cold food and beverages to react with the nerves inside your teeth, causing those sharp jolts of pain.

Sensitivity can also result from teeth that are chipped or fractured, or gums that are receding. Take note of the manner, location, and circumstances surrounding the pain so that you can provide a detailed description to your dentist. This will allow him to identify the triggers and effectively treat the problem.

Identify Its Triggers

By identifying your triggers, or outside influences that can bring on your dentin sensitivity, you can work to eliminate them as a means of finding relief.

Many common triggers are related to the type of toothbrush you use, as well as your oral hygiene habits.

  • If your toothbrush if medium or hard, it will wear down your enamel and your gum tissue faster, which in turn exposes the nerves. Purchase a soft toothbrush instead.
  • The same is true if you are brushing too aggressively. You can tell by looking at the bristles on your toothbrush. Are they flared? If so, pay special attention to the way you brush and make sure it is not too hard.
  • Next, check the toothpaste you use. If the tube says anything about tartar control or whitening, the ingredients could be contributing to your sensitivity.

Acid is also a big factor in dentin hypersensitivity. Acid reflux disease or the frequent consumption of foods and drinks that are acidic can greatly increase sensitivity. Foods and drinks to avoid include soft drinks, tea, fruit juices, white wine, and yogurt. Plaque is also acidic by nature, so heavy buildup along the gum line can be a trigger as well. Be sure to brush carefully and visit your dentist regularly for cleanings.

Lastly, clenching or grinding your teeth can make them sensitive. A mouth guard that can be worn at night to stop these unconscious behaviors may be necessary.

Treatments to consider

After you’ve determined which triggers apply to you and made plans to eliminate them, there are also several treatment options you can try. The most common is sensitivity toothpaste, which interrupts the signals between the nerve cells in the teeth to provide relief. Over-the-counter and prescription types work well, but give them about two weeks before expecting to see results.

Your dentist may also offer at home prescription treatments like topical gels. You can always ask to see what is available. In office treatments can also prove effective, such as dentin sealants, polishing agents, or fluoride varnishes.

The severity of your dentin hypersensitivity will dictate which treatments you should use. The good news is that regardless of your individual level of sensitivity, there are effective treatments available to relieve it. There’s no need to live with sensitive teeth.

How To Treat Dry Mouth Condition

Do you have a hard time swallowing? Do you find that you need to drink a lot of water to keep your mouth from drying out? It could mean that you have xerostomia, a condition that causes your mouth to dry out due to a lack of saliva.

Saliva has a variety of important functions. Besides keeping your mouth wet, it helps to digest food and prevent your teeth from experiencing decay. It cuts back on infections and things like gum disease by keeping bacteria and fungi under control. Without saliva, it becomes very difficult to chew and swallow.

Discomforts of Dry Mouth

Because of all the reasons that we need saliva, a lack of it results in a lot of irritating symptoms. Xerostomia can cause your mouth to feel sticky, dry, or have a burning sensation. Your tongue may feel rough or dry, and your throat may be affected too. Your lips can become cracked and sores and infections can develop in your mouth. In addition to trouble swallowing, you might find it hard to chew, taste, or talk.

If you suspect that you have xerostomia, you should make sure you talk to your dentist or physician before doing much else or waiting long. Treatment focuses on identifying the cause of the problem and then fixing it, if possible.

Causes of Dry Mouth

Some of the primary causes of xerostomia include stress, anxiety, dehydration, breathing through the mouth excessively, or trauma to the salivary glands, ducts, or nerves. It can also result from previous radiation therapy or chemotherapy, or as a side effect to drugs, alcohol, or medication. Sometimes it is a natural result of aging.

In certain cases, a dry mouth can be a sign of another problem. Common ones include vitamin deficiencies, Sj”gren’s syndrome, or diabetes that is not managed well. By reading through the list of potential causes and determining which, if any, apply to you, you can help your doctor to better prescribe treatment for your xerostomia.

However, if none of these causes apply to you and your doctor is unable to find one, treatment may focus on alleviating the symptoms instead.

Dry Mouth Treatment

  • Sip water, breathe through your nose
  • Use a humidifier at night
  • Keep 100% Xylitol gum or mints handy to help stimulate saliva production
  • Use over the counter saliva substitutes

You should pay special attention to oral hygiene and the products you use. You can purchase fluoride toothpaste specifically for dry mouth, while avoiding those that contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, or SLS. Be sure to keep up with your trips to the dentist for routine cleanings.

Foods to Avoid

There are also certain foods and products you should avoid, as they contribute to a dry mouth. These include decongestants, antihistamines, sugary food and candy, caffeinated or carbonated drinks, alcohol, acidic foods, smoking, and chewing tobacco.

Despite its annoying symptoms, xerostomia is a condition that has a variety of different treatment options. By talking to your doctor and dentist and making changes to your daily routine, you can combat the symptoms and even find complete relief from the condition.

How to Treat Bad Breath

There is a simple accurate method way to determine if bad breath originates from bacteria on the tongue:

  • Take a plastic spoon and gently scrape the surface of your tongue from back to front. This will collect a small amount of tongue debris on the inside surface of the spoon.
  • Now, smell the spoon. Is there an odor? If so, I’m sorry to say, that is the odor everyone smells when you’re up close and personal.
  • If there’s no odor, have a very close friend or family member smell the spoon. You may be use to the smell and can’t detect the odor.
  • If another person can’t detect an odor, congratulations you have fresh breath!

Bacteria that resides between the teeth can also cause breath odor. Most commonly this occurs in people with gingivitis or periodontal disease. To determine if bad breath is caused from bacteria between teeth, floss a few teeth at a time, then smell the floss. If a bad odor is detected, visit your dentist to begin treatment.

Bad breath caused from periodontal / gum disease can be one of the worst smelling breath odors. In fact, it has a particular odor we call “perio breath.” Only your dentist can determine if you have gum disease. We can treat the infection and give you recommendations for treating any breath problems associated with it.

There could also be other problems creating bad breath from between the teeth such as tooth decay or trapped food. Only your dentist can pinpoint for sure the source of your breath odor.

Finally, keep in mind it is possible to have gum disease and not have any symptoms such as bad breath. Regular visits to the dentist are important to identify the symptoms of gum disease early before they become a problem.