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3ThingsYouCanDotoKeepHolidaySweetsFromInterferingWithYourDentalHealth

In his iconic poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," Clement Moore wrote of children sleeping "while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads." Indeed, sweet treats are still interwoven into the holidays—and a prime reason why we tend to put on pounds during the season. It may also be why your next dental visit might come with some unpleasant news.

The starring actors in much of traditional holiday snacking and feasting are naturally-occurring or added sugars. Carbohydrates like refined sugar in particular can dramatically affect your dental health if you over-consume them, because they can feed the bacteria that causes both tooth decay and gum disease.

There are ways, though, to reduce their impact on your teeth and gums. You can, of course, go "cold turkey" and cut refined sugar out completely, as well as curtail other carbohydrates like refined flours and fruit. It's effective, but not much fun—and what are the holidays without fun?

More in line with "moderation in all things," there are other ways to minimize the impact of carbohydrates on your teeth and gums during the holiday season. Here are a few of them.

Limit refined sugar. While you and your family may not be up for banning sugar during the holidays, you can reduce it significantly. For instance, prepare more savory items rather than the sweeter kinds. If you must go for sweet, opt for naturally occurring sugars in fruit or dairy rather than refined table sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

Eat sweet treats with meals. Constant snacking often comes with the holiday season. And, why not—all those abundant goodies are just begging to be eaten. But noshing all the time never allows your mouth's saliva, which neutralizes the enamel-eroding acid produced by the bacteria fueled by sugar, a chance to finish its buffering. Instead, try as much as possible to limit treats to mealtimes.

Use different sweeteners. There are a number of alternative sweeteners to regular sugar, both natural and artificial. Some work better in baked goods, while others are more suitable for candies or beverages. Xylitol in particular, a sugar alcohol, actually discourages oral bacterial growth. You can also use natural sweetening agents like stevia or erythritol to help reduce refined sugar in your treats.

Even if you normally limit carbohydrates, it's understandable if their consumption rises during the holidays. That's why it's important you don't neglect daily brushing and flossing to help control bacterial plaque, the main driver for dental disease. Both effective oral hygiene and reining in the sweets will help your teeth and gums sail through the holidays into the new year.

If you would like more information about protecting your oral health during the holidays, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Bitter Truth About Sugar.”

By William G. Bender, DDS
February 08, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition  
YourFoodsMicronutrientsMakeaDifferenceinYourDentalHealth

When you were a kid, a plate of green beans or carrots probably seemed less appealing than a handful of cookies or a bowl of ice cream. Mom or dad telling you to “eat your vegetables” was the last thing you wanted to hear.

Hopefully, you've made friends with fresh fruits and vegetables as you've grown up. But even if you're just acquaintances, these foods are nonetheless essential to good health, particularly your teeth and gums. Among other things, they're packed with vitamins and minerals that help prevent tooth decay, gum disease or even oral cancer.

Here's a sampling of dental health-boosting micronutrients and the foods you'll find them in.

Vitamin C. Found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, vitamin C boosts the immune system to fight infections like tooth decay or gum disease. It's also an antioxidant that lowers your risk of cancer.

Calcium. This mineral obtained through dairy products, bony fish, greens and legumes, strengthens teeth and bones. It can also improve nerve and muscle function.

Vitamin D. This vitamin helps teeth absorb calcium to make them less prone to decay. You can find this essential vitamin in dairy foods, eggs, fatty fish or sunlight.

Phosphorus. Like calcium, phosphorus also strengthens teeth and bones. You'll find it plentiful in dairy and meats, especially seafood and poultry.

Magnesium. This mineral helps teeth and bones absorb other minerals and can also help with enzyme function needed to avoid disease. You'll find it in nuts, legumes, whole grains, dark leafy greens, seafood and chocolate.

If you don't think you're getting enough of these and other nutrients, you can obtain them through dietary supplements. But do be careful: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can remove harmful supplements from the market, but only after consumer use has provided evidence that they're unsafe. And, you won't be getting fiber or other elements found in regular foods that your body needs to be healthy and function properly.

Still, if you think you need to supplement a nutritional deficiency, speak first with your doctor or dentist about it and what you should take. If at all possible, though, eat your veggies—your teeth and gums, as well as the rest of your body, will be the healthier for it.

If you would like more information on nutrition's role in dental health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Vitamins & Dietary Supplements.”

By William G. Bender, DDS
November 29, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition  
ThatEnergyDrinkYouTakeforaBoostMightBeHurtingYourDentalHealth

Although energy drinks are but a blip on the historical timeline compared to coffee or tea, they've displaced these traditional stimulants among nearly half of today's adolescents and young adults. But these sweetened “processed” drinks are also controversial among healthcare experts—particularly the effect they may have on dental health.

Besides the added sugar found in many energy drinks—a prime food source for harmful bacteria—many energy drinks and their cousins sports drinks contain significant amounts of acid. High levels of acid soften and erode tooth enamel, which can lead to tooth decay.

During one experimental study, portions of tooth enamel were subjected to a number of name-brand energy and sports beverages. Over the course of a few days, researchers recorded significant enamel loss, especially involving the energy drink samples.

Abstaining from both energy and sports drinks is a sound way to avoid enamel erosion (the best hydrator, it turns out, is simply water). But if you do wish to continue consuming these beverages, here are a few common sense precautions for reduce the risk of harm to your teeth.

Partake only at mealtimes. Among its many abilities, saliva is able to neutralize oral acid and bring the mouth to a neutral pH level within 30 minutes to an hour. But if you're sipping on high-acid beverages throughout the day, your saliva may not be able to compensate effectively. Drinking energy drinks only during a meal helps saliva do its acid-buffering job better.

Rinse with water afterwards. Rinsing with a little water after eating or drinking something acidic can help reduce the pH levels in the mouth. That's because water is by and large neutral on the acidic/alkaline scale. Because it's not adding more, rinsing with water dilutes any concentrations of acid that may still be lingering in your mouth.

Don't brush immediately. Brushing is essential to overall hygiene, but if you do it right after you eat or drink, you could be doing more harm than good. That's because elevated acid levels that naturally occur after consuming foods and beverages can temporarily soften and demineralize the surface enamel. Brushing could remove microscopic bits of softened enamel. If you wait an hour to brush, you'll be giving saliva time to “re-mineralize” your enamel.

If you would like more information on the role of beverage acid in dental disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Think Before Your Drink.”

By William G. Bender, DDS
March 30, 2018
Category: Oral Health
Tags: nutrition  
FoodforThought-WhattoEatforOptimumOralHealth

March is national nutrition month—a good time to look at the connection between diet and oral health. You probably know that sugar is a major culprit in dental problems. This is because bacteria feed on sugars and create acid that can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Avoiding sugary foods and drinks as much as possible is a good rule of thumb, but there are some food choices that actually benefit your oral health. Here are nutrition tips that will help keep your smile healthy for life:

Say cheese. Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt contain calcium and phosphorus to build teeth and strengthen the supporting bone. And cheese neutralizes acid in the mouth to help fight cavities and gum disease.

Choose lean proteins. Lean meats, poultry, fish, milk and eggs help strengthen teeth. They are rich in protein and phosphorous, which is essential for building strong bones and teeth.

Eat a rainbow. Fruits and vegetables provide many key nutrients, including vitamins necessary for healing, bone strength, and healthy gums. Besides being nutritious, fruits and veggies scrub your teeth while you chew and stimulate the production of saliva, which is necessary for neutralizing acid and rebuilding enamel.

Nibble on nuts. Nuts contain protein, fiber and healthy fats. They also contain essential vitamins and minerals to keep teeth strong and gums healthy. Further, chewing nuts stimulates saliva production, lowering the risk of tooth decay.

Go for the grains. Studies have shown that eating too many refined carbohydrates such as white bread and sweet bakery items can lead to chronic inflammation, which is a factor in gum disease, heart disease, stroke and other conditions. In contrast, eating complex carbohydrates such as whole grains may reduce inflammation in the body.

What you put in your body can play a big role in preventing tooth decay and gum disease, so choose foods that provide the right building blocks for optimal dental and overall health.

If you have questions about how nutrition affects oral health, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Nutrition & Oral Health.”

By William G. Bender, DDS
October 22, 2017
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition  
TipsonEncouragingHealthySnackingWhileYourChildsatSchool

Good nutrition is essential for your child's developing teeth and gums as well as the rest of their body. You do what you can to provide them not just nutritious meals but also healthy snacks for other times of the day.

But once they begin school, you can't watch out for them all the time. They could be away several hours where they might be tempted to make unhealthy snack choices.

What can you do to lessen their chances of unhealthy snacking at school?

Engage with the school and their snack offerings. A set of U.S. Department of Agriculture regulatory guidelines called Smart Snacks in Schools sets minimum nutritional standards for snacks offered on school grounds. These guidelines promote whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and limit calories, fat, salt and, of particular importance to dental health, sugar. The guidelines, though, are only a minimum, so join with other parents to encourage your school to exceed those snack nutrition minimums whenever possible.

Educate your child about nutrition. Good nutrition starts at home: it's important not only to offer wholesome foods but to also teach your child why some foods are better for their body (and their teeth) than others. By encouraging a lifestyle of healthy eating both in practice and knowledge, you'll find it easier to set limits on their snack choices away from home.

Send snacks with them to school. If you're unsure your child will make the right choices, especially if they're young, than send snacks with them to school. Be sure, though, what you're sending is as appealing as the school choices. Try a little creativity: popcorn with a zing of cinnamon or cheese; decorative snacks; or easy to eat bite-sized fruit or vegetables. The more they like what you're sending, the less likely they'll choose something else.

In some ways snacking could be the Achilles' heel in providing your child the right foods for good dental health. By following the tips above, though, you can help raise the chances they'll eat the best snacks for strong teeth and gums.

If you would like more information on nutrition and dental health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Snacking at School.”