Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Love Your Smile

10 surprising habits and foods that protect your pearly whites

Save your smile, boost your health

Not only will a radiant smile make you look younger, a healthy mouth is also a good indicator of overall well-being.

We subconsciously connect a dull smile with age—enamel wears over time, darkening our teeth. A bright smile, on the other hand, gives the impression of good health and youth. One quick anti-aging beauty tip: Cut back on teeth-staining habits such as drinking coffee and red wine and smoking cigarettes.

But oral health habits are much more than skin-deep. Every day, it seems like another new study links oral health problems to other big health issues such as heart disease, premature birth, and erectile dysfunction. Of course, taking care of your chompers starts with daily brushing and flossing and regular dentist checkups—something we're not all so diligent about. About 17% of adults admit to never flossing, according to one report, and about 25% of adults ages 35 to 59 have untreated tooth decay. But even if you're a dentist's dream patient, there are other surprising habits to start—and to skip—for a prettier, healthier smile. Here, 10 simple steps to try today.

1. Limit carbs to mealtimes

Even not-so-sweet treats—like a handful of potato chips or a whole wheat roll—can be as damaging to your teeth and gums as a double-fudge brownie, if you're not careful.

That's because all carbohydrates break down into simple sugars, which are ultimately converted by bacteria in the mouth into plaque, a sticky residue that is the primary trigger of gum disease and cavities. Carb-based foods such as breads and crackers tend to have a chewy, adhesive texture, making it easier for them to get caught between teeth or under the gum line, where bacteria can then accumulate.

Smile Rx: Have carbs at mealtimes rather than as a snack: When you eat a larger amount of food, you produce more saliva, which helps wash food particles away.

2. Don't drink and brush

Here's one time when you shouldn't clean your teeth...

Right after you drink a soda or other acidic beverage. Acid in the drink, combined with the abrasive action of brushing, can erode your tooth enamel.

Smile Rx: To protect your pearly whites against the caustic compounds in soda, sip water or chew gum to activate acid-neutralizing saliva—then brush your teeth. It's also smart to follow the same routine if you have chronic heartburn, which keeps your mouth in an acidic state.

3. Increase your C intake

Vitamin C is the cement that holds all of your cells together.

So just as it's vital for your skin, it's important for the health of your gum tissue. People who consumed less than 60 mg per day of C (8 ounces of orange juice or one orange contains more than 80 mg) were 25% more likely to have gum disease than people who took in 180 mg or more, according to a study of more than 12,000 US adults conducted at the State University of New York University at Buffalo.

Smile Rx: Add a daily glass of OJ to your breakfast routine, and make sure your multi meets the RDA for vitamin C.

4. Have tea

The antioxidants are good for your gums.

Black and green teas contain polyphenols, antioxidant plant compounds that prevent plaque from adhering to your teeth and help reduce your chances of developing cavities and gum disease. Tea also has potential for reducing bad breath because it inhibits the growth of the bacteria that cause the odor. Many teas also contain fluoride (from the leaves and the water it's steeped in), which helps protect tooth enamel from decay and promotes healthy teeth.

Smile Rx: Steep a cup every afternoon. Added bonus: a bit of caffeine for a postlunch perk.

5. Sip with a straw

Soda junkies, listen up!

Most sodas, sports drinks, and juices contain acids, such as citric and phosphoric, that can erode dental enamel—even if they're diet or sugar-free versions. Sipping acidic drinks through a straw positioned toward the back of your mouth limits their contact with your teeth and helps preserve the enamel, says a study in the British Dental Journal.

Smile Rx: Stock up on straws in your desk drawer at work and kitchen at home so you always have one handy.

6. Boost calcium consumption

The same way the mineral makes for strong bones, it's also necessary to protect your pearly whites.

People who get at least 800 mg a day are less likely to develop severe gum disease, says a study by the Buffalo researchers. The reason: About 99% of the calcium in your body is in your bones and teeth. Dietary calcium—available in foods like cheese, milk, and yogurt—strengthens the alveolar bone in the jaw, which helps hold your teeth in place.

Smile Rx: The recommended amount is 1,000 mg per day for women younger than 51 and 1,200 mg for those older. A calcium supplement could do the trick, but you should aim to get as much as you can from your diet. You get about 300 mg each from an 8-ounce glass of milk, a 6-ounce yogurt, or a 1.5- to 2-ounce serving of cheese. 

7. Swim smarter

It sounds surprising, but dental researchers have found that excessively chlorinated pool water can erode and stain tooth enamel.

If you're a frequent swimmer, pack a toothbrush along with your towel when you take your next dip. More chlorine in a pool may equal more protection against bacteria, but overdoing it lowers the pool's pH level and makes it dangerously acidic.

Smile Rx: Brush your teeth and use a fluoride rinse immediately after spending more than an hour in the pool. If you're swimming a lot and have any tooth discomfort whatsoever, check with your dentist.

8. Have an apple a day

Yep, it helps keep the dentist away too.

Crunchy foods, including apples, celery, and carrots, act like little toothbrushes when you chew them, and they actually help scrub away stubborn stains over time. The cleansing effect on your teeth may be noticeable—if ever so slightly—especially if you're a coffee drinker who wasn't eating apples every day to begin with. The mildly acidic nature and astringent quality of apples, combined with their rough, fiber-rich flesh, makes them the ideal food for cleansing and brightening teeth.

Smile Rx: If you start eating an apple a day as a between-meal snack and don't get the chance to brush your teeth afterward, be sure to chase it with a glass of water to rinse away the sugar, acid, and any plaque it may have removed from your enamel.

9. Smooch your partner

From the who-knew school of thought: Kissing your mate can also help safeguard your grin.

Although you enjoy a kiss for other reasons, it also increases saliva in your mouth, which cleans your teeth of the bacteria that can cause cavities.

Smile Rx: Consider this a healthy excuse to pucker up! But don't sweat it if you have no one to kiss. Sugar-free gum with xylitol will also do the trick.

10. Go for whole grains

Whole grains are like dental insurance, suggests research from McMaster University, Canada.

Add this to the laundry list of their benefits, which include keeping your heart healthy, preventing diabetes, and more: Whole grains keep teeth healthier longer. Among 34,000 men studied for 14 years, those who ate at least three daily whole grain servings were 23% less likely to suffer tooth-loosening gum inflammation (periodontitis) than those averaging fewer than one. Eating more whole grains helps stabilize blood sugar levels, which has been shown to reduce periodontitis in diabetics.

Smile Rx: Swap white rice and regular pasta for brown and whole wheat versions. Check labels to make sure brown rice or whole grains are listed as the first ingredient.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Can Tooth Enamel Grow Back?

The Rumor: Using certain toothpastes and mouthwashes can regrow lost tooth enamel mmended Related to Oral Health

Oral Health Challenge: 5 Tricks for Dealing With Halloween Treats Children’s Halloween dream -- to get lots of candy -- can be their parents’ nightmare. But pediatric dental experts say Halloween can be a time to teach your children good oral health habits for life, without depriving them of Halloween treats (think moderation). Here are their five best tricks for healthy teeth.Read the Oral Health Challenge: 5 Tricks for Dealing With Halloween Treats article > > You know that the key to a great smile is keeping your pearly whites in top-notch shape. The best way to do that? By taking really good care of your tooth enamel. Enamel is the thin outer covering of teeth that protects the delicate tissues inside. A lifetime of chomping and sipping can stain, chip and wear away that covering, however -- and once that happens, your teeth become extremely sensitive to hot and cold. Even your favorite sugary treats can deliver a twinge (if not a bolt) of pain.

While tooth enamel is actually translucent, teeth start to look more yellow as it wears away, because the yellow dentin underneath begins to show through. Which can leave you wondering: What can you do to get your precious enamel back? Today there are lots of products out there (from toothpastes to mouthwashes to dental guards filled with strange, squishy paste) that allegedly help restore lost enamel. But by making that promise, are manufacturers biting off more than they can chew?

The human body’s pretty amazing: Broken skin heals; cut nails and hair grow back again; fractured bones knit together. But as amazing as the body's ability to repair itself may be, it can’t regrow tooth enamel ever.

Tooth enamel is the hardest tissue in the body. Problem is, it’s not living tissue, so it can't be naturally regenerated. Unfortunately, you can’t regrow it artificially, either -- not even with those special toothpastes. But chin up: Some dental products can help with the tooth-enamel issue; just not in the way you might think. You can’t regrow tooth enamel, but you can remineralize it. "That's what these [toothpastes] actually do... They push calcium and phosphates back into the tooth, and it hardens the enamel." The secret weapon? Good old fluoride. While acid draws calcium and phosphates out of teeth, fluoride captures the minerals from saliva and forces them back into the tooth.

OK, so fluoride works fine when it comes to strengthening existing enamel. But what do you do if your chompers are suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous cavities? Well, your dentist can add a plastic sealant that bonds to your enamel, providing an extra layer of protection. Last year, scientists from Kinki University in Japan adapted hydroxyapatite (the biomaterial that makes up enamel) into a thin film that can be wrapped around the tooth as an enamel substitute. It's a promising start, though many dentists are not convinced it's the right way to go. Hydroxyapatite's a complex crystal; you can't just stuff it onto the outside of the tooth and make it stick there. [Maybe] in the future with nanotechnology we can find a way to grow crystals on the outside of the tooth that are part of the actual tooth or bonded onto it, but at this particular moment we have nothing like that.

For now, your best option is to focus on preserving the enamel you have. Brushing and flossing are important, but so is diet: Carbonated sodas and sweets are obvious causes of enamel erosion, but there are many other overt offenders to watch out for (such as fruit juices -- especially lemon juice). Turns out, adding that healthy splash of lemon" to your cup of tea or hot water increases your risk of enamel erosion because lemon juice (like OJ) is extremely acidic. If it tastes tart, it's an acid -- and that's a problem. We're seeing more abrasion too... When you brush your teeth after drinking orange juice, you soften your tooth with the acid, then add a layer of abrasion on top of that... You abrade and erode at the same time.

The fix? Drink acidic beverages with a straw, which pushes the fluid to the back of the mouth and away from your teeth. And make sure you rinse your mouth with clean water after indulging, to neutralize mouth acid. For added protection, chew sugar-free gum; it boosts the production of saliva, which contains minerals that strengthen teeth. (Bonus if your gum contains xylitol, which counteracts the acid in foods and beverages.)

The Verdict: You can do a lot to protect and strengthen your tooth enamel, but once it has eroded, it’s gone, baby, gone!


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Heart Health Basics for Women

Heart disease is a serious concern for men and women alike. But recent studies reveal that cardiovascular disease affects women's bodies differently. After decades of being overlooked in heart health research, women are finally getting some attention -- and rewriting the rules on cardiovascular health. See how heart disease develops in women, discover how heart attack symptoms can vary between sexes and learn how accurate diagnostic tests really are.

Women's bodies react differently to heart disease.

Not long ago, health experts thought heart disease was something only men had to worry about. Case in point: When the American Heart Association held its first public conference for women in 1964, the name of the event was Hearts to Husbands. The sole objective? To teach wives how to keep their spouses healthy—with no mention of how heart disease might be affecting them.

We've come a long way. Now, there's no mistaking that heart disease is an equal-opportunity killer. In fact, it kills 1 out of every 2.6 American women, making it the No. 1 cause of death for both sexes nationwide.

Yet even as public awareness of female heart disease grows, researchers still are parsing out the particulars. Women historically have been underrepresented in heart studies, partly due to concerns that female hormone fluctuations would distort the results. But therein lies the rub: Women are not just smaller versions of men.

A wave of newer studies reveals that women's unique chemical makeup combined with anatomical differences (such as smaller arteries and veins) affect how heart disease develops in us, how accurate diagnostic tests are, and how well we respond to certain medications.

Women's arteries can look clear -- even when they're not.

Persistent chest pain, shortness of breath, unexplained fatigue. Fully 83 percent of men with these symptoms have deposits of plaque in their major arteries, a condition called arteriosclerosis that's easily picked up by an angiogram.

But in 50 percent of women who report such symptoms, their major arteries appear healthy, according to a landmark 2006 study. That's because women tend to develop deposits of plaque diffusely in the smaller arteries near the heart, an equally dangerous condition known as microvascular disease, which is treatable with medication.

If you're experiencing heart symptoms but your angiogram comes back normal, ask your doctor about having an exercise stress test or an MRI, both of which are better at detecting this problem.

Women have been pushing themselves too hard in workouts.

To ensure a workout provides sufficient aerobic exercise, health experts have long told us to exert ourselves until the heart hits 65-85 percent of its maximum rate (measured in beats per minute). But it turns out the classic formula for calculating peak heart rate -- 220 minus a person's age -- applies only to men, who have a higher maximum than women do, according to a recent study in the journal Circulation.

The updated peak heart rate formula for women: 206 minus 88 percent of your age. For a 40-year-old woman, that's about 171 beats per minute (206 - [.88 x 40]), meaning the
target rate during exercise is 111-145 beats per minute.

This new formula also might prevent false positives on cardiac stress tests, which are designed to pick up on problems by monitoring (among other variables) how closely the heart comes to hitting its max.

Statins warrant a second look.

Roughly 13.5 percent of American women between the ages of 45 and 64 take statins, drugs aimed at preventing harmful LDL cholesterol from building up in arteries.

But when researchers broke out the stats by sex in a large study in 2009, they discovered the drugs significantly lower the risk of heart attack or death only for women who already have heart disease. (Healthy men, on the other hand, do see a preventive benefit.) And the concerns don't stop there.

Statins can cause side effects in women such as:
-- Muscle pain
-- GI distress
-- Memory problems

Women also have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes  while on the drugs than men do. For many women who do not already have heart disease, the adverse effects of statins outweigh the benefits they're likely to derive.

What to do if you've been taking a statin for high cholesterol and are experiencing side effects: Ask your doctor if you need to continue. For some women the answer will be yes (say, because of existing heart disease); if that's the case, ask about switching to a water-soluble type, which might be less risky.

Emotions take a greater toll.

Chronic stress doubles the risk of heart disease by elevating resting heart rate and ratcheting up blood pressure.

And women have special reason to be concerned. Research conducted at the University of Cincinnati suggests that women experience greater levels of acute and chronic stress than men do, and stress-related mental illnesses, including depression, occur at least twice as often among women as men.

Getting control over stress isn't just about your day-to-day happiness; it's critical to your health.

It's wise to rethink an aspirin regimen.

Many women started popping aspirin regularly when their doctors informed them it could help prevent a heart attack, but this recommendation was based on studies of men.

Newer findings from Harvard University show that aspirin does not prevent a first heart attack or death in healthy women under 65. Because habitual aspirin use can cause stomach ulcers, if you're taking aspirin preventively, talk with your doctor about whether you should stop. Bear in mind that some younger women -- such as those with risk factors for heart disease or stroke -- can benefit from a low-dose aspirin regimen.

If you suspect you're having a heart attack: The American Heart Association advises chewing and swallowing one 325 mg aspirin tablet while you're waiting for help to arrive. This can prevent blood from clotting in compromised arteries.   

Drinking is more dangerous for women.

Granted, for men and women alike, one alcoholic drink a day can benefit the heart -- in fact, it can lower a woman's heart disease risk by 17 percent. But beyond that, alcohol seems to affect men and women very differently.

Several years ago, Japanese researchers found that women who drank 2 - 4 drinks per day were 45 percent more likely to die of heart disease than female nondrinkers. On the other hand, men who drank that much were 19 percent less likely than male nondrinkers to die from heart disease. The study didn't look at the reasons for these surprising differences, but it's probably best to imbibe moderately while scientists search for answers.

His-and-hers heart attack symptoms.

In the movies, heart attacks follow a familiar pattern: The actor freezes, clutches his chest, and promptly keels over on the golf course. But for up to 33 percent of female heart attack sufferers, this Hollywood version of events never happens.

Instead, they experience nausea, extreme weakness, lethargy, skin clamminess, upper back pain, and shortness of breath. These subtler symptoms frequently are overlooked by patients and doctors alike, putting lives at risk.

Steven List's Heart Attack Experience

Who: Steven List, male, 57, Austin

Key heart attack symptoms: tingling in left arm, stabbing sensation in chest

His story: "My heart attack happened during my regular after-work karate class. About an hour into my session, I started feeling funny. Just...uncomfortable. This wasn't like me. I worked out at least three times a week. I didn't drink, and I hadn't smoked in 13 years. At my checkup eight weeks earlier, my doctor had given me a clean bill of health."

"I sensed that something was up. I got an odd sensation in my lower chest--it felt almost like a spasm of my diaphragm muscle. I definitely hadn't experienced anything like that before. Feeling that I shouldn't continue exerting myself, I left the karate floor and went into the changing room to relax. I tried sitting. I tried walking back and forth. I splashed some cool water on my face."

"But my chest discomfort only intensified, and within a few minutes it had sharpened into some of the worst pain I'd ever felt--like someone pushing a spear into my chest. By then I was lying on the floor, and my left arm had started tingling. That's when I became certain I was having a heart attack. Scared for my life, I waved down a fellow student and asked him to call 911."

"At the hospital, a team wheeled me straight into the E.R., ran an EKG, and administered several medications. Then the cardiologist came in and said we should proceed immediately to an angiogram to check things out, and then maybe angioplasty or bypass surgery, depending on what he found. In the end, they inserted a stent, which is basically a little support tube that was snaked into my artery to hold it open. It was truly amazing. The entire heart attack experience took just 4 1/2 hours from start to finish, and I came away with no heart muscle damage, no major surgery, and a new lease on life."

Sue Andrew's Heart Attack Experience

Who: Sue Andrews, 53, Cleveland

Key heart attack symptoms: dizziness, intermittent achiness and weakness

Her story: "It happened three years ago, around 9:30 on a normal Monday morning. I had just begun giving a presentation to my colleagues when I noticed I was becoming very dizzy and clammy--almost like you'd feel if you were having an anxiety attack. I also felt pressure in my chest, which then subsided and morphed into a pain across my shoulder blades. That's weird, I thought. I'm not nervous or anxious, so I guess I'm just coming down with something. I went ahead with my presentation, trying to hurry it a bit because I wanted to get it over with. At one point I had to pull up a chair and sit down to alleviate the dizziness. Apparently I hid my distress well because a number of my coworkers later told me they never suspected anything was wrong.

"I finally wrapped up the meeting about 40 minutes later. Still feeling strange, I went to the office
kitchen, got myself a glass of water and made my way back to my desk. When the feeling didn't pass, I called my husband and said, 'I think I must be getting some kind of flu. I'm going to head home and go to bed.' He offered to pick me up instead."

"Fortunately, my husband insisted I see a doctor. So we went to a local walk-in clinic, where the physician on duty listened to my symptoms and performed an EKG. The results were 'slightly off,' he said, so he instructed me to go to the emergency room for some blood tests. No one mentioned anything to me about the possibility of a heart attack.

"I got to the E.R. around 12:30. After repeating my symptoms at the checkin desk, I was informed I'd have to wait my turn. So I tried to make myself comfortable in the waiting room as I watched people come and go. When a man came in with chest pains, they rushed him in ahead of everybody. I looked at him, thinking, I wonder if he's having a heart attack--never believing that I might be, too. Fully three hours after I arrived, they called me in. I repeated everything to the nurse. A team took blood samples and started doing lots of tests. Finally a doctor came in and announced, 'We're going to admit you. You've had a heart attack.' I don't know which is more incredible--that it took so long for me to get a diagnosis, or that I survived the wait."

Get a healthier heart, one day at a time.

Good news: Because women tend to develop heart disease later in life than men do, preventive measures have more time to work their magic. These include exercising regularly, eating a diet that's rich in whole foods, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking. To help meet these important goals, start with a few simple moves.

7 a.m. Sprinkle slivered almonds on your cereal. Research shows that these nuts can lower the risk of heart disease by reducing levels of harmful LDL cholesterol. In addition, antioxidants and vitamin E found in almond skins might prevent plaque from forming on artery walls. Bonus points if your cereal is made with whole grains, which help keep blood pressure in check.

8 a.m. Time your toothbrushing session. Recent studies show a strong association between gum disease and heart disease, possibly because unhealthy gums cause systemic inflammation. So don't rush your morning brush. The American Dental Association says you need at least two minutes to clean teeth and gums thoroughly. Use your wristwatch to time yourself or pick a brush with a built-in timer light.

9 a.m. Distance yourself from your destination. People who take at least 5,000 steps during the day (about 30 minutes of walking total) are 40 percent less likely than sedentary people to develop metabolic syndrome, a precursor to heart disease. So wherever you're headed, try parking down the block or in a far corner of the lot. A few mini-walks can help you hit the target.

10 a.m. Stand up and stretch. Midmorning is one of most productive times of day, when concentration and focus are at their peak. But don't get too attached to your chair: Prolonged periods of sitting are associated with higher levels of cholesterol -- and an increased risk of heart-related death. Aim to unseat yourself for a few minutes every hour.

12:30 p.m. Keep the junk out of lunch. You already know to eat something made with fresh, whole ingredients -- such as a crunchy green salad topped with grilled chicken and low-fat dressing. Just watch out for the "halo effect." This is the sneaky tendency to overindulge in junk food like chips and soda after eating a virtuous entree. Remember: Heart health doesn't end at the main dish.

2:30 p.m. Nibble a high-fiber, high-protein snack. Great choices include hummus with whole wheat crackers and apple slices with a smear of natural peanut butter. In addition to delivering heart-healthy nutrients, snacks with this nutritional profile sate your appetite better than processed foods like
cookies. This makes you less likely to overeat at dinner.

4 p.m. Take a sanity break. Stress often strikes in late afternoon as productive daylight hours dwindle. Don't get frazzled. Take a 10-minute breather and do something relaxing, such as listening to music or e-mailing a friend. Decompressing in stressful situations brings down your blood pressure and helps you feel more in control.

6 p.m. Drink (in moderation). The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than one alcoholic drink per day. At dinner or happy hour, get more bang from your beverage by choosing red wine. It contains antioxidants and compounds such as resveratrol that are associated with lower heart disease mortality.

9 p.m. Power down your gadgets. Surfing the Web, texting on your cell, and watching TV can interfere with sleep by stimulating the brain, so stop screen-based activities about an hour before bedtime. Your heart will thank you. Women who get at least 6 hours of sleep every night have less plaque buildup in their blood vessels than women who sleep less.

10 p.m. Hug your family goodnight. A loving touch--whether it's from a massage, a snuggle session, or a good bear hug--spurs the release of oxytocin, a chemical that can bring down blood pressure by enhancing the flexibility of blood vessels.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

8 Things Your Mouth Reveals About Your Health

Your dentist can tell quite a bit about what's going on with your body.

1. What your dentist is seeing: Or in this case, smelling. You've got funky breath.

What it could mean: The most likely causes of less-than-minty-fresh breath are poor oral hygiene or gum disease, but halitosis can also signal a sinus infection, especially if your dentist still notices the odor when you exhale through your nose. It can also be caused by acid reflux -- a study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found a strong association between gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms and bad breath -- or sleep apnea, because people with sleep apnea are more likely to breathe through their mouths at night, which can lead to dry mouth (another cause of bad breath).

Next steps: If your dentist decides that the problem isn't subpar brushing or gum disease, they'll likely refer you to your primary care physician to find the underlying cause. 

2. What your dentist is seeing: Your gums bleed during the flossing, just like they do at home.

What it could mean: When you get back on the flossing bandwagon after falling off and notice some bleeding for the first few days, that's normal. What's not normal is gums continuing to bleed every time you floss. It could be an indicator that you're pre-diabetic, diabetic and don't know it or, if you've already been diagnosed with diabetes, your blood sugar isn't under control. Though it's not exactly clear why diabetes and gum disease are linked (or whether there's a causal effect to the relationship), the American Academy of Periodontology says that diabetics may be more likely to develop the disease because the condition makes them more susceptible to infection.

Next steps: If you know you have diabetes and your gums keep bleeding, talk to your primary care doc about how to manage the condition better. And if your dentist is the first one to suspect diabetes, he or she will recommend you get a blood sugar test.

3. What your dentist is seeing: White patches on your tongue or inner cheek.

What it could mean: You may have a less-than-stellar immune system. Oral thrush (an overgrowth of the candida fungus, or yeast, in the mouth) can lead to creamy white patches on your tongue or inner cheeks, and it can signal an immune system that's not up to snuff. (We all have some candida in our mouths, but it's kept in check in healthy immune systems). People are much more likely to develop thrush if they're undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer or have serious immunosuppression, such as HIV, but a dip in immunity due to a cold, a course of antibiotics or using corticosteroids for conditions like asthma can make someone more vulnerable too.

Next steps: An antifungal medication can help clear away the patches.

4. What your dentist is seeing: Worn-down teeth.

What it could mean: You're more stressed than you realize. Stress can manifest as teeth grinding, wearing down teeth. In really bad cases, people will flatten them out. Your personality type may predispose you to grinding, too. A 2010 study in the Journal of Research in Personality found that people who rated higher on the neuroticism scale were also more likely to report that they grinded their teeth. Research in the International Journal of Oral Science in 2014 reported that sustained jaw clenching (another characteristic of bruxism, or teeth grinding) can lead to severe damage of the tissue in the joint that connects your jaw to the rest of your skull.

Next steps: Your dentist can fit you for a bite-protecting device like an acrylic mouth guard to wear at night to minimize the damage.

5. What your dentist is seeing: Squeaky-clean teeth but inflamed gums.

What it could mean: It's rare but it's possible for certain types of acute myeloid leukemia to spread to the gums and cause bleeding, swelling and inflammation. What would tip us off is if the gums are bright red and bleed upon touch, but the teeth themselves are immaculately clean with very little plaque. That combined with weakness and weight loss merits a trip to your primary care physician for evaluation.

Next steps: If you meet these criteria, schedule an appointment with your PCP to get it checked out.

6. What your dentist is seeing: Your dental X-rays look a little off.

What it could mean: The bones of the jaw aren't immune to the effects of osteoporosis, and on an X-ray, they may take on the appearance of ground glass. Osteoporosis also puts you at increased risk of tooth loss. Women with the condition had an average of 3.3 fewer teeth than women without it, noted a study in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology.

Next steps: Ask your doctor about getting a bone-density test. If it shows you have or are at risk for osteoporosis, you can discuss medications and other ways to slow the progression.

7. What your dentist is seeing: Your mouth is really, really dry.

What it could mean: Medications like antihistamines can dry out your mouth, but an extremely dry mouth (as in, you couldn't swallow a cracker without water) is a hallmark symptom of Sjögren's syndrome, an autoimmune condition in which moisture-producing glands in the body come under fire from white blood cells. It's most commonly diagnosed in people over 40, and 9 out of 10 Sjögren's patients are women. The lack of saliva can also lead to tooth decay.

Next steps: Refer patients straight to a rheumatologist for testing.

8. What your dentist is seeing: Lesions at the very back of your mouth.

What it could mean: You could have oral cancer, which isn't exactly common, but it's also not rare. The American Cancer Society estimates that 45,780 new cases of oral cavity or pharynx cancer will be diagnosed in 2015, just over half the number of expected skin cancer cases. Cancers at the base of the tongue and tonsils (called oropharyngeal cancers) are most commonly caused by the human papillomavirus infection (HPV). Although the lesions can pop up anywhere in the mouth, they're most likely to develop under the tongue around the base and near your esophagus. Oral cavity and oropharyngeal tumors are twice as likely to develop in men as in women, and the American Cancer Society reports a recent uptick in cases of oropharyngeal cancers linked to HPV.

Next steps: If your dentist notices these lesions, they may ask you about your sexual activity to assess whether you could have contracted HPV, as oral sex is one of the main reasons people get oral HPV. They may then refer you to your doctor or an oncologist for testing.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Effects of menopause on dental health of women

Half of a dentist's patients could lose 40 percent of their total bone mass, putting them at risk for losing teeth -- that is because usually half the clients of a dental practice are women. The cause is menopause and its related effects.

Women tend to lose 40 percent of their total bone mass during perimenopause to menopause. Hormones which are protective to bones, such as estrogen, are lost.

Bone loss that occurs in the spine and hips can also occur to the bone mass in the jaw.

We recommend that you discuss with your dentist if you are going through menopause because dentists need to be aware in order to monitor more closely any changes in gum health and underlying bone, which may prove to be a difficult conversation.

Dentists and hygienists can be on the leading edge of helping women become aware of the effects of different stages of menopause. At the age of 40 years old, almost 10 percent of women may begin to have changes in their menstrual cycles.

By the time that 80 percent of women reach the age of 50 years old, they begin skipping their cycle

Effects on the oral health of menopausal women include the following:

·         The mouth will reflect changes faster than almost any other tissue in the body

·         Therapy needs to be altered depending on where the patient is in her cycle

·         Patients with a menstrual cycle will have increased sensitivity in their tissues about 7-10 days prior to menstruation due to increased levels of progesterone

·         If the patient has had a hysterectomy at an early age, they will be more susceptible to problems created by low hormone levels such as decreased bone mineral density and thinning of the gums

·         Menopausal gingivostomatitis, the condition in which dry shiny gums bleed easily

·         May experience funny tastes and abnormal sensations in their mouths

·         Postmenopausal women with osteoporosis need new dentures more often and lose upper teeth more easily

·         Women with osteoporosis are more likely to have gum disease

Communicating to the dentist is important. Let the dentist know of any family history of osteoporosis. Many risk factors can contribute to osteoporosis and bone loss. Remember to inform the dentist of the medications that you have been prescribed, such as steroids, long-term medications for treating gastric reflux disease, blood thinners, anti-seizure medications and chemotherapy medications.

Are you taking supplements such as vitamins, calcium and Vitamin D, bisphosphonates or any other doctor prescription for osteoporosis.

Screening tests for osteoporosis include the following:

·         Dental x-rays, which can detect bone loss in the jaw, an indicator of bone loss in other areas of the body

·         Comprehensive periodontal exam

If a dentist is aware, measures can be taken to monitor the patient closely and treat the gum disease before it becomes aggressive. There is a link between osteoporosis and periodontal disease.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

10 Silent Signals you’re Way Too Stressed

The occasional manic Monday is a fact of modern life. But if you're under chronic stress—suffering a daily assault of stress hormones from a demanding job or a personal life in turmoil—symptoms may be subtler. If you experience any of the signs that follow, take some time out every day, whether it's to go for a walk or simply turn off your phone. 

1. Stress Symptom: Weekend headaches
A sudden drop in stress can prompt migraines. Stick closely to your weekday sleeping and eating schedule to minimize other triggers.
2. Stress Symptom: Awful period cramps
The most stressed-out women are more than twice as likely to experience painful menstrual cramps as those who are less tense, a Harvard study found. Researchers blame a stress-induced imbalance of hormones. Hitting the gym can soothe cramps and stress, research shows, by decreasing sympathetic nervous system activity.
3. Stress Symptom: An achy mouth
A sore jaw can be a sign of teeth grinding, which usually occurs during sleep and can be worsened by stress. Ask your dentist about a nighttime mouth guard—up to 70% of people who use one reduce or stop grinding altogether.

4. Stress Symptom: Odd dreams
Dreams usually get progressively more positive as you sleep, so you wake up in a better mood than you were in when you went to bed. But when you're stressed, you wake up more often, disrupting this process and allowing unpleasant imagery to recur all night. Good sleep habits can help prevent this; aim for 7 to 8 hours a night, and avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime.

5. Stress Symptom: Bleeding gums
According to a Brazilian analysis of 14 past studies, stressed-out people have a higher risk of periodontal disease. Chronically elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol may impair the immune system and allow bacteria to invade the gums, say researchers. If you're working long hours and eating dinner at your desk, keep a toothbrush on hand. And protect your mouth by exercising and sleeping more, which will help lower stress.

6. Stress Symptom: Out-of-nowhere acne
Stress increases the inflammation that leads to breakouts and adult acne. Smooth your skin with a lotion containing skin-sloughing salicylic acid or bacteria-busting benzoyl peroxide, plus a noncomedogenic moisturizer so skin won't get too dry. If your skin doesn't respond to treatment within a few weeks, see your doctor for more potent meds.
7. Stress Symptom: A sweet tooth
Don't automatically blame your chocolate cravings on your lady hormones—stress is a more likely trigger. When University of Pennsylvania researchers surveyed pre- and postmenopausal women, they found only a small decrease in the prevalence of chocolate cravings after menopause—smaller than could be explained by just a hormonal link. Study authors say it's likely stress, or other factors that can trigger women's hankering for chocolate.
8. Stress Symptom: Itchy skin
A Japanese study of more than 2,000 people found that those with chronic itch (known as pruritis) were twice as likely to be stressed out as those without the condition. Although an annoying itch problem can certainly cause stress, experts say it's likely that feeling anxious or tense also aggravates underlying conditions like dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis. The stress response activates nerve fibers, causing an itchy sensation

9. Stress Symptom: Worse-than-usual allergies
In a 2008 experiment, researchers from Ohio State University College of Medicine found that allergy sufferers had more symptoms after they took an anxiety-inducing test, compared with when they performed a task that did not make them tense. Stress hormones may stimulate the production of IgE, a blood protein that causes allergic reactions.

10. Stress Symptom: Bellyaches
Anxiety and stress can cause stomachaches, along with headaches, backaches, and insomnia. One study of 1,953 men and women found that those experiencing the highest levels of stress were more than three times as likely to have abdominal pain as their more-relaxed counterparts. The exact connection is still unclear, but one theory holds that the intestines and the brain share nerve pathways; when the mind reacts to stress, the intestines pick up the same signal. Because of this link, learning to manage stress with the help of a clinical psychologist, meditation, or even exercise can usually help relieve tummy trouble too. However, if you have frequent bellyaches, see your doc to rule out food allergies, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, or an ulcer.