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!