Getting to the Bottom of Chewing Gum Myths

August 15th, 2018

It's a moment many of our patients have experienced. One second you're chewing on a piece of gum, then suddenly you forget to keep chewing and swallow the entire rubbery gob whole! It's at this point you remember your mother warning you as a child that if you swallow gum it will stake a claim and take up residency in your belly for seven years. Dr. John Nguyen and our team at Smile Rite Dental hate to take all the fun out of the mystery, but the truth is that chewing gum, when swallowed, will enter your stomach and move through your digestive system just like any other piece of food. So, if you ever accidentally swallow a piece of gum, there is no need to worry!

That being said, it's important to know that gum does not have any dietary benefits, so while it’s not exactly harmful to swallow, you still want to avoid swallowing it. If you are an avid gum-chewer, we encourage you to chew sugarless gum, especially if you are wearing braces, because gum with sugar can lead to cavities. Sugarless gum still has the same amount of flavor, but has fewer cavity-causing ingredients. In fact, many brands contain an additive called xylitol, a natural sweetener known to fight cavity-causing bacteria. Xylitol is also known to increase salivary flow as it rinses away plaque and acid.

The fact is, when the bacterium in your mouth breaks down sugar, what’s left behind is acid. This acid eats away at the enamel coating of your teeth, causing holes that we call cavities. Cavities can lead to other long-term mouth problems if they are not treated in time, so it is best to try and avoid overexposing your teeth to too many harmful substances!

If you have any questions about chewing gum, please contact our office. Happy (sugar-free) gum chewing!

Periodontal Disease Associated with Cardiovascular Risk

August 8th, 2018

We all know that brushing your teeth and flossing regularly keeps your smile sparkly and bright, but did you realize that cleaning your teeth can actually help your heart? Recent research suggests that people with periodontal disease also have a higher cardiovascular risk, which means they are more vulnerable to heart attacks or stroke. It’s probably not time to throw away those running shoes in favor of a new toothbrush, but this is an added incentive to maintain good oral hygiene.

Relationship between Periodontal Disease and Cardiovascular Health

In 2003, researchers from the University of Buffalo conducted analyses which suggested that patients with gum disease were also at elevated risk of cardiovascular problems. Furthermore, people with more severe cases of gum disease have even poorer heart health. Although the exact causes of this relationship remain unknown, scientists continue to explore the impact of oral hygiene on broader health.

One hypothesis is that poor oral hygiene leads to inflammation, which negatively affects the heart. Gum disease occurs when bacteria build up in the mouth, and feed off sugars found in food. These bacteria release compounds that contribute to inflammation and red, swollen gums. The same inflammatory compounds may affect the heart, increasing overall cardiovascular risk.

Protect Your Teeth, Protect Your Heart

Taking a few commonsense measures can go a long way to improving your oral health and your cardiovascular risk. Consider the following:

  • Brush twice daily, and floss at least once per day. Brushing your teeth at least twice a day cleans away the harmful bacteria that contribute to gum disease. Similarly, flossing your teeth ensures that dangerous bacteria that build up between each tooth get swept away. These simple steps are the easiest ways to reduce your risk of periodontal disease.
  • Eat healthy foods. Those sugary snacks that you love so much don’t help your teeth. Whenever possible, stick to a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods. For example, grab an apple or a few celery sticks for a mid-afternoon snack, rather than indulging in that candy bar.
  • Drink water. Staying hydrated doesn’t just help your body – it also swishes bad bacteria away from your tooth and gum surface. Drinking plenty of water improves your overall oral health. It’s particularly helpful after eating a sugary or sticky snack, because water can reduce plaque buildup.
  • Visit Smile Rite Dental. Dr. John Nguyen and our staff will monitor your mouth for signs of periodontal disease and can make specific recommendations to keep your mouth – and your heart – safer.

What are dental sealants and how do they work?

August 1st, 2018

A dental sealant is a liquid that is applied to the teeth. The sealant hardens and provides a protective coating that is designed to reduce cavities and create a smoother tooth surface. Dental sealants are clear or white; they do not take away from the appearance of teeth. You can think about this treatment as being similar to varnish that protects a wood floor.

Sealants are not the same as fluoride treatments. The application is similar, but sealants are a semi-permanent protective coating. Dr. John Nguyen and our staff recommend that sealant applications for children begin soon after molars erupt, first molars around the age of six, and second molars around the age of 12.

Simple Application

Having sealants applied is not uncomfortable at all. First, your child's teeth will be cleaned and dried. A gel is applied, which helps the sealant adhere to the tooth, and then is rinsed away. Your child's teeth are dried again and the sealant is applied. A few seconds of exposure to a light source may be used to cure the sealant and make it semi-permanent. Sealants should last for a long time, normally between five and ten years.

Sealant Benefits

The coating on the surface of your child's teeth reduces the amount of acid contact. Normal acids in foods that are consumed can eat away at the surface of teeth. Bacteria also react to plaque formation and create more acid in the mouth. These small pits or weakened areas are prone to caries or cavity formation. Preventing cavities is a much better choice than drilling and filling damaged teeth.

A sealant also helps to smooth the chewing surfaces of your childn't teeth. The smoother surface is not as likely to retain small particles of food and bacteria. Your child's mouth stays cleaner and food is not left behind to form acids. The protective application can also be used on other teeth that have a rough surface, to protect the grooves or pits from decay.

After the sealant is applied, your child still needs to take proper care of his or her teeth. Regular brushing and flossing is required. Dr. John Nguyen may recommend fluoride treatments to strengthen and protect your child's teeth further.

If you have any concerns about sealants, please discuss them with during your child's next appointment at Smile Rite Dental. We want your little one's teeth to stay healthy for life.

Help! My gums hurt when I floss!

July 25th, 2018

By no stretch is it rare for your gums to hurt during and after flossing. Even some bleeding is to be expected. This is especially true if you have not flossed in a long time. However, if your gums do indeed hurt when you floss, and unbearably so, there are some things you can do.

Be Gentle

Perhaps the most obvious way to combat gum soreness and bleeding is to be gentle. One of the most common occurrences of these gum problems is over-aggressive flossing. In other words, if you are too rough on your gums while flossing, either because you are out of practice or because you are in a hurry, soreness and hurting is to be expected. Instead, try taking your time and be gentle. Also, if you are just starting out, be patient and consistent, your gums will become more conditioned over time.

Use an Alternative Method

If being consistent and gentle does not work, there are other alternative methods of flossing that you can try. You can also try a water floss machine, or what is sometimes called a water pick. The device essentially shoots water into the crevasses between your teeth, and in other areas of your mouth, in order to dislodge food and plaque. These oral instruments also come with different attachments that allow you to reach many of the hard to see and reach areas of your mouth. And lastly, you can always buy floss that is not as abrasive to your gums. There is floss that comes with soft and gentle coatings that will do less harm to your gums while they are adjusting to the good oral hygiene habit you are creating.

Flossing is one of the easiest parts of oral hygiene to overlook. When you first start out, it is common that you may want to stop because of the pain it can initially cause. However, if you try one, or all, of the above mentioned methods, you will give yourself the best chance of being success with your flossing, and it won't hurt as much.

For more flossing tips, schedule an appointment at our Houston office and askDr. John Nguyen or a member of our team!

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