The Best Way to Treat Gum Disease? Avoid it!

healthy gums
But how do you go about doing that?

You can start by not adding fuel to the fire:

  • If you smoke or use tobacco, quit. It’s the number one risk factor for periodontal disease and tooth loss.

  • Make sure you get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night. If you brux (clench or grind your teeth) during sleep or suspect you may have sleep apnea, talk with your dentist about solutions so you can get a good night’s sleep. Research suggests that lack of sleep may be second only to smoking as a risk factor for gum disease.

  • If you eat a lot of sugar, flour-based foods, and other refined carbs, cut back on them. Gum disease is marked by chronic inflammation, and these foods make inflammation worse.

  • Evaluate the stress in your life and take steps to bring it under control.

Then there’s the matter of oral hygiene.

According to new research in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, even just tooth brushing can make a difference. Participants who reported brushing at least twice a day were found to have deep periodontal pockets on about two fewer teeth, on average, than those who brushed less.

Those pockets deepen as the disease process causes the gums to pull away from the teeth. With healthy gums, the natural space between the gums and teeth – the sulcus – is one to three millimeters deep. Neglected, the spaces get even deeper, allowing more room for harmful bacteria to colonize and thrive.

Once this happens, tooth brushing can only be a partial help. At this point, additional tools such as floss and oral irrigators are needed to control the pathogens harbored within the pockets.

All of these are also tools that you can use right now to keep gum disease from developing in the first place.

Flossing is basic, but it needs to be done correctly in order to make a difference. And if your gums bleed, that’s all the more reason to get diligent about flossing. That bleeding is a sign of gum disease.

If you don’t like to floss, try cleaning with interproximal brushes instead. These small brushes fit between your teeth and are great for cleaning at the gum line.

You can also use these “proxy” brushes to apply ozonated oils to your gums. These oils are commonly made by infusing medical grade ozone into an organic oil such as olive, sunflower, coconut, hemp, or castor. Ozone is a powerful disinfectant that’s ideal for controlling oral pathogens. (We use it in a wide variety of ways here in our office!)

Oil pulling can be a helpful addition to your daily hygiene routine. A simple swish of a tablespoon of coconut oil every morning for 10 to 15 minutes before you brush can have a positive impact.

Oral irrigators such as Waterpiks have also proven quite helpful for keeping the gums healthy. Antimicrobial botanical tonics can even be added to the water to enhance their cleaning power. (The Dental Herb Company’s Under the Gums Irrigant is one good option.)

In addition to amped up hygiene, a few nutritional changes can have a big impact, as well. It’s not just about avoiding the harmful stuff but making sure you get the full complement of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your body needs to function as designed.

Also look to getting more movement into your daily routine. Research has consistently shown that exercise helps lower your risk of gum disease, as well as reduce chronic inflammation in general.

Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet against gum disease. But working a variety of the above tools into your daily health routine will take you far in keeping perio problems at bay, keeping your smile healthy and whole.

As We Head into the Holidays, a Look Back at 2017

man holding tabletAs the year winds down, it’s natural to get a little reflective, thinking back even as we look forward to the new year and the promise it holds.

So for our last post of the year, we thought we’d take a look back at what you all were looking at most on this blog through 2017.

And as we looked over our top 10 posts, we saw some trends. Many of the posts dealt with home hygiene and oral care. Others explored the relationship between oral and systemic health. Many focused on prevention.

Check it out:

  1. A New Paste that “Heals Cavities”: Too Good to Be True?
    A popular Facebook post focuses on an “amazing” new dental paste from Japan that’s said to “heal” cavities without drilling. But does it? Read more

  2. The Meridian System: A Map to the Body
    Problems in the mouth can have big time effects elsewhere in the body – and not just physically, but energetically, as well. Read more

  3. With Oral Cancer, Early Detection Is Key
    Because oral cancer is often diagnosed late in the disease process, its death rate is higher than for many other cancers. But caught early, it’s often readily treatable. Read more

  4. Easing the Pain of a Toothache
    When you’ve got a toothache, two thoughts crowd out most all others: how much it hurts and how much you want it to stop hurting. Which home remedies are best? And when should you contact a dentist? Read more

  5. The Power of Ozone
    Ozone is a super-charged form of oxygen that helps eliminate bacteria, fungi, viruses – even parasites – that can create disease and dysfunction. Because of this, it has a lot of roles to play in holistic and biological dentistry. Read more

  6. Theobromine Toothpaste May Encourage Tooth Remineralization
    Research suggests that a compound found in cocoa beans may help with remineralizing tooth enamel. It may also decrease tooth sensitivity. Read more

  7. What’s in YOUR Toothpaste?
    While ingredients like theobromine may be helpful in your home care, there are other ingredients you don’t want to see listed on the packaging. Read more

  8. Overgrown Gums & Other Dental Anomalies
    Teeth and gums can sometimes develop in unique ways – and cause some unique challenges. Read more

  9. When Face Pain & Depression Happen Together
    Research suggests a link between face pain and depression. How to go about addressing the situation? Read more

  10. Is Erythritol Really All That?
    Xylitol might not be the only sugar alcohol that appears to prevent caries. Read more

All of us here at Pride Dental hope your holiday season is truly wonderful and wish you a happy and healthy start to the new year! We’ll be back to blogging in January…

Bad Breath: Why You’ve Got It & How to Get Rid of It

open mouthHear “bad breath” and chances are you can instantly think of a person or two with this problem – maybe even yourself.

It’s a common issue, after all. One new review of the science in Clinical Oral Investigations found that it afflicted more than 30% of participants – nearly one in three people. What’s more, those numbers seem to be on the rise.

Our results demonstrated that the estimated prevalence of halitosis was 31.8%, with high heterogeneity between studies. The results suggest a worldwide trend towards a rise in halitosis prevalence.

Why so much halitosis (the clinical term for bad breath)? It’s not just from eating stinky foods such as garlic, onions, and strong spices. In fact, most cases spring from oral conditions.

Although halitosis has multifactorial origins, the source of 90% cases is [issues in the] oral cavity such as poor oral hygiene, periodontal disease, tongue coat, food impaction, unclean dentures, faulty restorations, oral carcinomas, and throat infections.

The mouth provides ideal conditions for the growth of harmful bacteria. It’s dark, moist, and contains hard-to-reach, low-oxygen areas such as periodontal pockets in which these pathogens can thrive.

There are hundreds of bacterial species that live in even the cleanest mouth. Many are helpful. Some are harmful. And according to the paper quoted above,

most of them are capable to produce odorous compounds which can cause halitosis.

The answer, of course, starts with better hygiene: brushing (including your tongue), flossing, rinsing, and thoroughly cleaning any appliances or prosthetics you wear.

Essential oils such as cinnamon and lemongrass can be quite helpful in controlling oral bacteria, yeasts, and other pathogens (“bad bugs”). Such oils can be found in many natural mouthwashes, but you can also make your own at home quickly and easily.

That said, there are some cases in which bad breath is a sign of more significant issues that should be addressed by a dentist or physician. These include oral infections, respiratory problems, GI disease, metabolic conditions, and more.

If ramped up hygiene isn’t enough to help your breath, do talk with your healthcare providers.

More tips for taming bad breath

Image by Allsha Vargas

When Technology Tackles Teeth

triple-headed toothbrushesA new toothbrush doesn’t guarantee better brushing habits or even that you’ll get a better cleaning. Technique matters. But what if you have movement challenges, say, that make it hard for you to brush effectively?

One technology developed for such folks is the triple-headed toothbrush. The idea is that the three heads together maintain contact with all surfaces of each tooth at the proper angle. So you also see it marketed for children who have trouble with proper brushing, as well.

Marketers insist that a triple-headed brush will get the job done faster, easier, and better than a standard brush. But recent research in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene suggests that may only be the case when caregivers are doing the brushing.

Evaluating 15 clinical trials including 18 relevant comparisons, the authors found that

Of the 14 comparisons with self-performed brushing by the participants, the majority showed no difference between triple-headed and single-headed toothbrushes, with a few favouring the triple-headed. In the comparisons in which a caregiver performed the brushing, three of the four showed that the triple-headed toothbrush performed significantly better on the reduction in plaque scores.

Less is known about the efficacy of some new toothbrush designs for the general public, most of which aim to make brushing so quick and effortless, it becomes a cinch to do it regularly.

As if two minutes each morning and night – the duration and frequency we recommend for toothbrushing – were such a terrible sacrifice to make for supporting your oral and overall health.

But we digress.

The latest entry in the speed-brushing category is Amabrush, which has raised over $2.3 million through its highly publicized Kickstarter campaign. The device fits in your mouth and automatically brushes all the surfaces of your teeth with tiny silicon bristles in just 10 seconds.

But speed doesn’t come cheap. Not only do you pay a bit over $90 for the unit and charger but $7 every three to six months for a replacement mouthpiece and roughly $3.50 a month for the special toothpaste the device requires.

BlizzidentIt seems a lot like an automated version of the Blizzident device that came onto the market a while back. The makers of that device claim it cleans all tooth surfaces in just six seconds as you bite on the bristled mouthpiece. They also say it flosses your teeth and cleans your tongue – all for an investment of a few hundred dollars every year.

Amabrush stops short of the flossing claim. And the company’s founder and CEO offers an important caveat:

“It’s really hard to compare it to regular toothbrushes, manual or electric, because a toothbrush is just a tool, and tools are only as good as the people using them,” he said. “If a person already uses his regular toothbrush in a professional way, then Amabrush will definitely be no better than a regular toothbrush.

And you still need to floss – the part of hygiene that most people are most irregular about. We’ve yet to see any gizmo addressing that.


At Risk for Prediabetes or Diabetes?

pricked finger

Not sure if you’re at risk of developing type 2 diabetes?  The American Diabetes Association (ADA) wants to help you with its “Alert Day,” slated for March 28.

The ADA has a free, quick, and anonymous risk test available you can use to find if you’re at risk for type 2 diabetes. If you are, their site can help you learn how to decrease your risk. Certainly there are many outlets, that offer good information, tips to help you maintain a healthy weight, make better food choices, incorporate exercise and ways to maintain motivation. To reclaim and maintain your health you’ll need to identify what works best for you. Could be a supportive friend who will take a daily walk with you or a one day a week dinner party with friends interested in healthy cooking–let it be unique to you.

Whether you take a holistic approach or a more traditional one, we believe Alert Day serves a critical function in bringing a much needed awareness to the diabetes epidemic. The CDC estimates that 29 million Americans have diabetes yet only 21 million have been diagnosed. That means that 8.1 million remain undiagnosed.

If you’re concerned that one of them could be you

  1. Schedule a dental exam and hygiene visit.
    The latest science indicates that dentists can play a vital role in diagnosing diabetes. If you have gum disease, science now indicates it could mean you already have diabetes or that it’s immanent.

  2. See another health care provider.
    A health care provider can evaluate and monitor your level of risk. They can also support you in developing a lifestyle that may improve your disease profile. This is critical because diabetes is a disease of chronic inflammation. As such, it affects the entire body. Systematically, it has been linked other diseases of chronic inflammation, such as

    • Cardiovascular disease.
    • Obesity.
    • Stroke.
    • Some cancers.
    • Periodontal disease.
  3. Do your research and make necessary changes.
    There is good information out there. Through the years, we’ve put together our own library on health and wellness. Much of it is geared toward eating better, exercising more, and improving diseases of chronic inflammation. Since the health of your mouth is vital to your overall health, we’ve made it easy to search our blog by topic anytime. Here’s a sampling of entries that can help you learn more about the systematic nature of diabetes. Check them out, because whether it’s  March 28th’s Alert Day, or any other day, we think it makes for some pretty good reading:

    Image by Alisha Vargas

A Look Back at…A More Comprehensive Approach to Prevention

Updated from the original post for October 9, 2014

young girl smilingA 2014 report from the Centers for Disease Control shows that less than half of all children in the US are getting “preventive dental services” – particularly older teens and the very young. “In 2009,” reported Dr. Bicuspid,

more than half (56%) of children and adolescents did not visit the dentist in the past year, and nearly 9 of 10 (86%) children and adolescents did not receive a dental sealant or a topical fluoride application in the past year.

Dental visits, fluoride and sealants? That’s a pretty narrow definition of “prevention.”

Fluoride’s benefit is arguable, especially in light of its risks and, where there’s fluoridation, the ease with which you can overdo it.

Sure, regular dental visits are important, but getting your child’s teeth professionally checked and scrubbed once every 6 months isn’t enough to override poor diet, oral hygiene and other factors.

Absolutely, sealants can be helpful in preventing cavities in deep grooves and crevices, but they, too, are only a partial solution.

Effective prevention happens mostly outside the dental office. As one physician put it in his keynote address at the 2014 Oral Health Conference in Alabama,

“Prevention is the word….” [A]nd it shouldn’t fall to just the dentists and dental hygienists. Other health care professionals, including nurses, physician assistants and pediatricians, can be part of prevention interventions; so too can daycare workers, teachers and Head Start personnel.

But most of it happens with you. At home. Above all, it takes a daily commitment to making healthful choices.

There’s so much you can do to prevent cavities and other oral health problems – for yourself and by teaching your children healthy habits.. Here’s a quick list:

  • Eat well. It’s no secret that eating too many sugars and refined carbohydrates – the stuff that so many hyper-processed foods is made of – raises your risk of cavities and periodontal disease. The World Health Organization recommends that no more than 10% of your daily calories – about 50 grams – come from sugar. But to prevent tooth decay, new research suggests a 3% max.
  • Brush and floss regularly, making sure you clean every surface.
  • Relax. Stress makes us more prone to disease and dysfunction of all kinds. Make sure you take some time to relax each day, whether it’s doing yoga, writing in a journal, or chilling to your favorite music.
  • Avoid drugs – all kinds, including tobacco. Tobacco has an especially pernicious effect on the mouth, contributing to gum disease and, ultimately, tooth loss.
  • Get enough sleep. Sleep rejuvenates your body and replenishes your energy levels. Without enough sleep, your body can’t do everything that it needs to do to keep you healthy.
  • Exercise. Just as a car won’t run well if it’s not used, so, too, your body. We were designed to move! (And yes, we’ve seen those headlines insisting that exercise is bad for your teeth, but the vast majority of people don’t exercise enough to experience the problems that some elite athletes do.)

All these suggestions should sound familiar. They’re the stuff that promotes a healthy mind, spirit, body and mouth. (The mouth is connected to the rest of you, after all!) Whenever you take these steps, you are committing to yourself. Your body will reward your for smart choices.

Image by suzi quiban

Your Mouth Is the Gateway to Your Body

In honor of October’s designated status as National Dental Hygiene Month, we’d like to share an excellent video we recently ran across – “Gums to Guts: Periodontal Medicine,” Professor Mark Ryder’s talk on oral health and its relationship to the body’s systematic health.

It not only offers great visuals and useful info on markers of health and disease; it supports the importance of seeing the mouth as an integrated part of the body, not a separate feature.

If it’s been awhile since your last hygiene visit and exam, remember this key message: The mouth is a gateway to the body and has much to do with what’s going on in your body. Good oral health not only supports good body health and wellness; it’s a key factor in it.

Theobromine Toothpaste May Encourage Tooth Remineralization

toothpaste in tubeOkay, so you don’t really neeeeed toothpaste.

Yes, you read that right. In fact, in many cases, you’re better off without it – especially if your only “option” is the average toothpaste you find in your average big box or drug store.

In our opinion, that option’s no option, due to the potentially toxic ingredients conventional toothpastes typically contain.

Take sodium fluoride, for instance – a drug under the jurisdiction of the FDA. It’s the ingredient that merits the poison warning you see on every box.

Whether from hygiene products, “supplements,” or fluoridated water, too much fluoride during the first eight years, while teeth are still developing, can cause dental fluorosis. In severe cases, the teeth turn brown, with rough and pitted surfaces. It’s a clear sign of too much fluoride.

If only the concerns were “just cosmetic,” right? But fluoride has also been linked with many chronic conditions. These include arthritis, neurological issues, cancer, cardiovascular disease, pineal gland problems, thyroid disease, kidney disease, and endocrine disruption – to list but a few.

And for all this, it may not even prevent decay. (It certainly doesn’t address the cause.)

Other problem ingredients include sodium lauryl sulfate, triclosan, and FD&C blue dye 1 and 2.

So if that’s what’s available, then ditching the toothpaste is a good thing. You don’t neeeeed it. After all, the main reason we use it is just to provide a little grit to help remove plaque more easily – and for the pleasant taste and clean feeling it leaves.

And for that reason, most of us probably don’t want to do without.

Fortunately, there are great nontoxic alternatives available. One of our favorites, as we’ve mentioned before, is Theodent. It’s an option you can feel good about.

cocoa Theodent’s active ingredient is theobromine, a natural compound derived from cocoa beans. Research suggests that this alkaloid may encourage tooth remineralization by restoring minerals to the tooth’s structure – all without relying on fluoride.

Even more promising research has published of late, further supporting theobromine as a safe and effective alternative to fluoride.

One study serendipitously found that theobromine causes the formation of large hydroxylapatite (HAP) crystals. Hydroxylapatite is the main mineral in tooth enamel. While small crystals were seen to increase demineralization during acid exposure, large crystals did not and were associated with less decay. Because of this – and its safety – the authors consider theobromine “a better ingredient than fluoride.”

We believe that theobromine can be used as an ingredient of dentifrices and even if swallowed accidentally, there are no adverse effects.

A second study pitted Theodent classic – in both fluoride-free and fluoridated forms – against Colgate Regular (containing fluoride) and a prescription remineralizing paste. The goal was to compare their effectiveness at decreasing tooth sensitivity. Theodent did so more quickly than the others. Colgate fared the worst. Clearly, the theobromine made a difference.

If you want to decrease sensitivity, prevent decay, freshen your breath, and avoid a whole host of toxins, Theodent is definitely worth a try. Even though you don’t really neeeed it, we think you’ll waaaant it.

Images by Adam Minter & Carsten ten Brink

The “Essentials” for a Healthy Smile?

Soon, little ghouls, witches, and werewolves will go door-to-door asking for treats – and parents will deal with the trick of managing their sugary haul. So maybe it’s appropriate that October is also National Dental Hygiene Month.

To that end, the American Dental Hygienists’ Association has put forth their four “essentials” in fighting tooth decay:

  1. Brush twice a day.
  2. Floss daily.
  3. Rinse with mouthwash.
  4. Chew sugar-free gum.

That last point might only surprise you until you learn that Wrigley – of gum fame – is a sponsor of the event. But is that enough to make chewing gum “essential” to good oral health? Will it be somehow less than it could be were you to forego the gum?

While there is some evidence that chewing sugar-free gum may remove and even kill bacteria in the mouth, even the lead author of the study demonstrating that stated that it’s still no replacement for brushing and flossing.

Similarly, while research has shown that artificial sweeteners such as xylitol and erythritol may help prevent decay, there’s been at least some suggestion that it’s the action of chewing itself that’s really responsible, in so far as it generates more saliva. Among other things, saliva helps neutralize acids, washes the teeth, clears bacteria, and aids remineralization.

Again, sugar-free gum is no replacement for the brushing and flossing and healthful eating that are the foundation for good oral health. But in most cases, it can be a fine support for it. (The one case in which we recommend no gum chewing at all: if you have “silver” amalgam fillings. All the extra chewing means extra release of mercury from those fillings.)

And it’s a great alternative to candy for Halloween trick-or-treaters.

Happy National Dental Hygiene Month and Halloween (a little bit early) from Pride Dental!


Choosing the Best Mouthwash

Rinsing after you brush and floss is a good idea. It washes away bacteria and other microbes you’ve just spent the last few minutes removing from your teeth. And if you use an antimicrobial rinse, you get a little extra protection from that, as well.

mouthwash on store shelvesBut not all mouthwashes are created equal.

Many mainstream brands, for instance, contain alcohol – partly for its antiseptic qualities, partly because it’s a good solvent, allowing the manufacturer to better blend the other ingredients. Yet when it comes to oral health, it may not make much of a difference according to new research in the British Dental Journal.

More than 300 people with mild to moderate gingivitis participated in the study. One group just brushed. One group brushed and rinsed with alcohol-free chlorhexidine. One group brushed and rinsed with chlorhexidine containing alcohol. Both rinse groups showed perio improvements that the brush-only group lacked. There was no significant difference between the alcohol and non-alcohol groups.

Naturally, this raises the question: If it doesn’t make a difference, why use alcohol at all?

For it does have its downsides – especially in that alcohol tends to dry out the soft periodontal tissues. If the dryness becomes chronic, it becomes more than just an annoying feeling. It becomes a real problem. Chronic dry mouth raises your risk of a whole host of oral health problems, including enamel erosion and caries (cavities), gum disease, oral infections and bad breath – all of the problems you were trying to prevent.

Plain chlorhexidine has its problems, as well. Many participants in the BDJ study reported both staining and discomfort.

A high proportion of subjects in the chlorhexidine mouthrinse groups reported TRAEs characteristic of those known to be associated with prolonged chlorhexidine use including discoloration of the tongue and oral tissues, alteration of taste sensation, burning sensation of the mouth, dry mouth, oral desquamation and loss of sensitivity to sensory stimuli in the mouth.

And as we noted before, research has suggested a number of potential negative consequences from changing the balance of oral flora (bacteria and other microbes) as dramatically as chlorhexidine can.

Fortunately, there are healthier, more natural options available – options that can be at least as effective as chlorhexidine but without its side effects. Research has shown some particular essential oils commonly used in natural dental products may be especially effective. For instance, one study in the Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice found that “cinnamon oil, lemongrass oil, cedarwood oil, clove oil and eucalyptus oil exhibit antibacterial property against S. mutans” – the major bacterium involved in tooth decay. A study in Acta BioMedica found that cinnamon oil inhibited “all the ten test bacterial species involved in dental caries.”

Powerful, effective and side-effect free? Sounds like the ideal choice to us!

Image by jchwhite