Archive for November, 2013

How Cranberries Protect Your Teeth from Cavity-causing Bacteria

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

1339875_95150591When you’re devouring Thanksgiving foods, the bacteria in your mouth are feasting too.

Our mouths are full of bacteria. Hundreds of different kinds live on our gums, teeth, tongue and cheeks. While some bacteria are helpful, others can cause harm, such as those that play a role in tooth decay.

To say sugar is the main cause of cavities isn’t quite the whole story. While it can do nasty damage to teeth, the leading cause of dental caries is called Streptococcus mutans, or S. mutans, which is a type of bacteria that lives in your mouth. In fact, it falls under the category of anaerobic bacteria, meaning that it can live without oxygen – think of anaerobic workouts, such as weight lifting, which doesn’t consume a lot of oxygen, and aerobic workouts, such as long-distance running, which are known to lead to huffing and puffing.

Let’s take a look at the science behind S. mutans. This troublesome bacterium splits sugars in foods and uses them to build its own little capsule, which sticks tightly to the teeth. The bacteria produce a strong acid that attacks enamel and starts to erode the tooth. If the acids are not removed, it can end up creating tiny holes in the tooth – what we all know as cavities.

So, how do cranberries help protect against dental caries?
When you’re scooping delicious stuffing, turkey and gravy onto your plate at dinner time, don’t forget about cranberries! These red berries have been proven to contain a boatload of antioxidants and can help fight off dental plaque. A team from the University of California at Los Angeles and Oceanspray Cranberry showed that the flavonoids quercetin and myricetin in cranberries prevent S. mutans bacteria from sticking to teeth, thereby reducing the amount of cavities.

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National Diabetes Month

Monday, November 25th, 2013

550152_84366311November is National Diabetes Month, which helps raise awareness for people who face the day-to-day struggles of the disease. If you’re a diabetic, you likely keep an eye on your diet and nutrition. Diabetics are more at risk for a variety of different conditions, especially dental health problems, including gum diseasedry mouth, tooth decay and oral infections. In fact, people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop gum disease than those with normal glucose function.

During this month, the American Diabetes Association wants to put the ever-growing disease in the national spotlight. At the beginning of November, they asked people to submit a personal image to the association’s Facebook mosaic demonstrating what “A Day in the Life of Diabetes” means to them. If you or anyone you know has diabetes, you already understand how life-changing the condition can be. According to the association, almost 26 million children and adults in the U.S. have diabetes. Another 79 million Americans have prediabetes, or impaired glucose tolerance, and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Raising awareness of diabetes
Diabetes is a chronic disease which affects how the body breaks down sugar, or glucose, which is the brain’s main source of fuel. Normally, insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, keeps blood glucose in check. However, those who have diabetes experience insulin resistance, which results in high levels of blood sugar.

There are three main variations of the disease: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. Totaling 90 to 95 percent of all new cases worldwide, type 2 is by far the most common form of diabetes.

So, where does the health of your mouth enter the picture? Diabetes can lead to a spectrum of dental issues, with gum disease and dry mouth at the forefront.

Gum disease
Though periodontal disease, or gum disease, is regarded as a complication of diabetes, the connection is a two-way street; diabetics are more prone to gum disease, and in turn, gum disease can influence the development of diabetes.

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Poor Oral Health Slowed Down 2012 Olympians

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

468230_30211180Winning the gold takes everything. Many Olympians spend decades training for their event to earn the chance to stand above the rest on the podium. While staying in top physical peak is a big priority, is oral health important? Based on the 2012 Olympics, having a healthy smile is a bigger factor than most realize.  

According to a new study led by Professor Ian Needleman at University College London Eastman Dental Institute, more than half of Olympians had poor oral health, and many found it inhibited their performance. Researchers recruited 302 athletes to the dental clinic in the London 2012 athletes’ village during the two-week international event. Those surveyed were from the Americas, Africa and Europe, and represented more than 25 different sports, including track, boxing and hockey. The results were pretty shocking.

Fifty-five percent of the athletes involved showed signs of tooth decay. Cavities, rotting and the beginning of caries were all evident. Of that demographic, 41 percent of the damage was irreversible. More than three-fourths of the individuals suffered from gingivitis, which is the early stage of gum disease. The statistic is dramatically higher than people their same age – around 70 percent, based on the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

“Oral health is important for wellbeing and successful elite sporting performance,” explained Professor Needleman. “It is amazing that many professional athletes – people who dedicate a huge amount of time and energy to honing their physical abilities – do not have sufficient support for their oral health needs, even though this negatively impacts their training and performance.”

While almost one in five athletes said their training or performance was negatively impacted by oral health, nearly two-thirds said their poor dental care was affecting their quality of life.

It is clear that oral health and athletic performance are bound together. Gum disease and cavities often trigger pain and inflammation, which may reduce the quality of life and self-confidence of a competitor and therefore lower his or her ability to rise to the occasion. Stunningly, the researchers said that the dental hygiene of the world-class athletes resembled that of people living in disadvantaged populations. Nearly half of the 2012 London competitors said they hadn’t been to the dentist in more than a year.

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Risks of Chewing Tobacco on Oral Health

Friday, November 15th, 2013

452622_30653429Much has been made about the harmful effects of cigarettes on oral health as well as overall health. But what about the stuff you don’t inhale, such as snuff and chew? In fact, these forms of smokeless tobacco are on the rise among Americans. In a study conducted between 2002 and 2008, there was a 47 percent increase in the number of new smokeless tobacco users.

Snuff is a finely ground or shredded tobacco that users “dip” between the gum and cheek. Chewing tobacco comes in a loose leaf, twist or plug form, which the user places inside the cheek. In the U.S., smokeless tobacco has long been associated with baseball. Players keep a wad in their bottom lips to keep their mouth moist, then spit the liquid out onto the field. Many people know the product simply as chew, spit, dip, plug and chaw. But whatever the name, the health risks remain.

Is smokeless tobacco better for you than cigarettes?
No. All tobacco, including snuff and chew, contains nicotine, which is highly addictive. Though nicotine is absorbed more slowly from smokeless tobacco than a cigarette, the amount that enters that bloodstream is three to four times greater than its smoking counterpart, while more nicotine per dose is absorbed stays in the blood longer. According to the National Cancer Institute, at least 28 chemicals in snuff and chew have been found to cause cancer.

Gum disease
One of the most common triggers from smokeless tobacco is gum disease, also known as gingivitis (in the early stage) and periodontal disease (in the advanced stage). When you put a pinch of chew on the inside of your lip, the chemicals in the tobacco irritate and erode the gum line, causing the gums to pull away from the teeth. Many regular chew users experience receding gums and permanent discoloration of their teeth. If you’ve ever seen a picture of someone who has a history of dipping, their bottom and top rows of teeth are a brownish-yellow. As the level of the gums sink, plaque and tartar find the bigger pockets to stick to and destroy the teeth. Extreme forms of gum disease lead to tooth loss.

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Spotlight on: College Students’ Eating and Dental Hygiene Habits

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Cheese quesadilla“I have six tests this week so I’ve combined all my meals into a massive one around lunchtime called ‘Linnerfast.'”

“Instead of brushing I take my gum with my finger and rub it across my teeth.” “YOLO.”

If you’ve found yourself saying any of these things lately, it might be time to adjust your eating health habits. In college, we tend to shift our attention toward book work and red cups, leaving our eating schedule out to dry. Yet to ace those finals (or come close) and stay up till dawn partying with a toga and laurels, you have to maintain long-lasting energy. Junk food is actually counterproductive. It gives you short-term energy from simple carbohydrates that leave you feeling sluggish and hungry. Notice the marinara sauce congealed on your chin come dawn – those late-night pizza deliveries are a great way to tack on the freshman fifteen in no time. In fact, one might say, the freshman fifteen is for underachievers. Why not go thirty? Wrong, Sir. Sugary foods don’t make the grade.

Since oral health and overall wellbeing are like the overlapping center of a Venn diagram, it’s important to look at how eating habits affect both our mouth and body. You don’t have to be perfect, but take a mental note about what you’re ingesting. This stuff directly affects you and your ability to perform. Indeed, it can be tricky with a floor full of friends and a limiting meal plan, but it can be done.

Here’s a cheat sheet of healthy alternatives to replace your rigid microwaveable mac ‘n’ cheese and cereal diet:

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