Waterford, MI Dentist
Lloyd H. Alpert, D.D.S.
4025 Highland Road
Waterford, MI 48328
(248) 682-6010

Posts for: October, 2016

Hormones and Dental Health: What Every Woman Needs to Know

Your weight. Your mood. Your sex drive. Your dental health. There’s one thing that can make all these aspects of your health go haywire — hormones.

You may be surprised to learn that hormone surges may make you more vulnerable to gum disease. Here’s why: More female hormones (estrogen and progesterone) cause more blood to flow to your gums, which causes them to become more sensitive and “overreact” to anything that may irritate them. “Women are more sensitive to the presence of plaque and bacteria around the gums when the hormone levels are high,” says ADA dentist Dr. Sally Cram. “This can cause your gums to become inflamed, swell and bleed. If left untreated, ongoing inflammation in the gums can also lead to bone loss around the teeth and eventual tooth loss.”
 
Your hormones are a fact of life, but gum disease not so much. It’s actually preventable and reversible in its early stages. So what’s a woman to do? Start by paying extra attention and taking good care of your mouth during these five times in your life.

Puberty

Raging hormones can leave a teenage girl’s gums red, swollen and bleeding. (In some cases, the gums’ overreaction to plaque may cause gums to actually grow bigger.) Some teenage girls may also find themselves developing canker sores, which usually heal on their own.

The best treatment? Prevention. “Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, floss once a day and see your dentist regularly,” Dr. Cram says. “Removing plaque and bacteria thoroughly every day can reduce the inflammation, discomfort and bleeding.”  

Your Period

You may not notice any change in your mouth in the days before your period. (If fact, most women don’t). But if you have swollen gums, bleeding gums, canker sores or swollen salivary glands, hormones may be to blame. These symptoms should subside after your period stops — but if they don’t, then the increased bleeding by your gums is signaling something else. Talk to your dentist if you have questions about how your monthly cycle and apparent health of your gums are related.

Stay on top of your daily dental health routine, and if you find you have more sensitivity than usual before or during your period, schedule cleanings for about a week after it ends. 

Using Birth Control Pills

Inflammation may have been a side effect for women taking birth control in the past, but today there’s good news for your gums. The levels of estrogen and progesterone in today’s birth control prescriptions are too low to cause any issues with your gums, according to a February 2013 review in the journal Periodontology 2000.  

Still, it’s important make sure your health history forms at the dentist are up to date if you are taking birth control. Here’s why:

  • Your dentist may need to write you a prescription, and some medications can make your birth control less effective.
  • If you’re having a tooth removed, you may be more at risk for a painful complication called dry socket. According to the June 2016 Journal of the American Dental Association, women who use oral contraceptives are nearly twice as likely to experience dry socket compared to those who do not. Of 100 women who took birth control, 13.9 experienced dry socket. Only 7.54 of 100 women who did not take birth control had this complication.

Pregnancy

During pregnancy, your body is in hormonal hyper drive. Some women find they have developed pregnancy gingivitis — a mild form of gum disease that causes gums to be red, tender and sore. It is most common between the second and eighth months of pregnancy, and you can help keep it under control through good daily habits. “Stay on top of your brushing, stay on top of your flossing and be meticulous about the care of your entire body,” says ADA dentist Dr. Alice Boghosian.

Visiting your dentist during pregnancy is incredibly important — and absolutely safe. In fact, your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings during your second trimester and early third trimester to help control gingivitis. If you notice any other changes in your mouth during pregnancy, see your dentist.

Menopause

Menopause is a huge change in a woman’s life and a woman’s mouth, including altered taste, burning sensations in your mouth and increased sensitivity. “They’re all related to hormones,” Dr. Boghosian says.

Still, there are two critical changes to be aware of: dry mouth and bone loss. “Saliva cleanses the teeth and rinses cavity-causing bacteria off your teeth,” Dr. Boghosian says. “When you have dry mouth, your saliva flow decreases and you’re more at risk for cavities.”

Talk to your dentist if your mouth is feeling dry. “If dry mouth is a problem, suck on ice chips or sugar-free candy, drink water or other caffeine-free drinks and use an over-the-counter dry mouth spray or rinse to help reduce the dryness,” Dr. Cram says. “Your dentist may also recommend prescription strength fluoride toothpaste that helps reduce the risk of tooth decay.”

What you eat can also make a difference when it comes to dry mouth. Avoid salty, spicy, sticky and sugary foods, as well as and dry foods that are hard to chew. Alcohol, tobacco and caffeine can also make dry mouth worse. At night, sleeping with a humidifier on in your room can also make a difference.

Losing bone in your jaw can lead to tooth loss. “The decreased estrogen that occurs with menopause also puts you at risk for a loss of bone density,” Dr. Boghosian says. “Signs of bone loss in your jaw can be something as simple as receding gums. When your gums recede, more of your tooth is exposed and that puts more of your tooth at risk for decay. And if your mouth is dry, that’s a double whammy.”

To help reduce your risk of bone loss, work with your dentist or physician to make sure you’re getting the right amount of calcium and vitamin D, don’t smoke and avoid excessive alcohol consumption.

Courtesy of MouthHealthy.org - ADA Association

 


Energy Drinks and Your Child’s Teeth. Should You Worry?

The hard clack of cleats echo about as your “little” sports hero rushes to get out of the house … soon to be late for practice. Armed with all they’ll need for a day in the sun, their equipment bag is packed and slung awkwardly over one shoulder, bursting at the seams with untold numbers of pads and dirty gear. And after making a final beeline through the kitchen to raid your refrigerator of a 64oz bottle or two of rainbow-colored sustenance, they’re off for what will no doubt be another grueling practice session. You’re proud of your kids – they’re growing up. And yet you wonder as you stare at the door that just shut behind them. Are those techni-colored drinks they’re drinking every day hurting them?
 
The truth, unfortunately, is yes. While they may keep your children energized and awake for the next few hours, the bad news is, they’re secretly eating away at their teeth - and fast. 

Why Are Energy Drinks Such a Threat to Teeth?


The crux of the problem is the double-whammy that comes from an exceedingly high sugar content and citric acid pH that can be as low as 2.9. Now, we understand pH can be a tricky thing to understand, so to help put that number in perspective, a bit, consider this: battery acid has a pH of 0.0 (so, a lower number means a higher acid content). Stomach acid (which we can imagine as being quite acidic, at least!) has a pH that fluctuates between 1.0 and 3.0.  A lemon, in contrast, comes in at around 2.0, a grapefruit at 3.0, and tomato juice at 4.0. 
 
The real distinction though is in knowing that with each increase in numerical value, the acid intensity increases 10-fold. So, in the example above, a lemon ends up being 10 times more acidic than a grapefruit, and 100 times more acidic than tomato juice - a sensation you can certainly taste if you bite into one!  In contrast, milk and water have a pH of 7.0, so, it's easy to see the difference in the numbers - they're huge.

The Science


What all this means to your child’s teeth is the real question, though, and precisely what researchers at Southern Illinois University set out to discover in 2012.  The results, which surprised even the research team, showed considerable damage to tooth enamel after only five days of steady consumption. Five days. 
 
To determine the effect of these drinks on our teeth, the research team looked at 22 popular sports and energy drinks, and exposed artificial tooth enamel to the beverages for 15 minutes at a time, four times daily. This schedule was chosen because it mirrors the consumption habits of many users who drink these beverages every few hours - a particularly common habit among those who consume sports drinks, particularly when your kids are involved in sports.  After each 15-minute exposure, the enamel was then placed into an artificial saliva solution for two hours to mimic what would happen once consumption stopped.  After only five days on this schedule, the enamel showed a 1.5% loss with sports drinks, and a shocking 3% loss with energy drinks. 


The Critics


While critics in the beverage industry suggest the time used to expose the enamel to the drinks may have been excessive, it's widely known that snacking, as well as regular sipping of any beverage other than water, creates acidic activity in the mouth that promotes tooth decay. Of course, adults also need to be careful, and if you’re the weekend warrior type, or are pulling shifts and consuming these beverages throughout the day, the time of exposure might actually not be long enough.  The sweet spot is in the middle-ground, and that's basically the advice we're going to offer today.
 
There is no doubt that these beverages are not good for our teeth. They're also not good for our stomach, and esophagus if one is prone to acid reflux.


The Middle Ground -- It's about being Informed


We're not asking you to force your kids to give up their sports beverages and energy drinks. However, it is wise to know the risks, and to understand how you can help your kids combat some of their side-effects. Here are two quick tips that will help if they can't shake the habit:

  • Have them keep water nearby so they sip on it to dilute the acid covering their teeth. This also increases saliva production to help protect tooth enamel.
  • Suggest that they don't brush immediately after consuming such beverages.  Why? Because in the thirty minutes to an hour after consumption, tooth enamel will be slightly softer, and brushing in this window of time literally ends up spreading the acid around to other parts of the teeth. Not good.  If brushing is desired, save it for an hour or so after.

Lastly, here is the breakdown of most caustic to least caustic drinks as found by the researchers.

Sports Drinks:

  • Filtered Ionozed Alkaline H2O – pH: 10.0
  • Water – pH: 7.o
  • Odwalla Carrot juice – pH: 6.2
  • Odwalla Vanilla Monster – pH: 5.8
  • Unflavored Pedialyte – pH: 5.4
  • Vita coco – pH: 5.2
  • Aquafina,Dasani, Smart water – pH: 4.0
  • GU2O – pH: 4.29
  • Powerade – pH: 3.89
  • Accelerade – pH: 3.86
  • Gatorade Endurance – pH:  3.22
  • Monster – pH:  2.7

Energy Drinks:

  • Red Bull – pH: 3.3
  • AMP Energy – pH: 2.7
  • Monster Energy – pH: 2.7
  • Full Throttle  - pH: 1.45
  • Rock Star – pH: 1.5



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