Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Do you ever experience dry mouth? Here are some useful suggestions for managing it.

Managing dry mouth

Dry mouth—or xerostomia (zero STOW-meuh)—
may be a symptom of a medical condition,
or it may be caused by other factors such
as medications, medical treatments, or certain
habits, like tobacco use.

Dry mouth can occur along with certain medical
conditions. For example, it is a key indication of
Sjögren (SHOW-grin) syndrome, a disorder in which
the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own
moisture-producing glands, including the salivary
glands. This impairment results in dry mouth due to
a lack of saliva. Certain emotional states, such as
depression or anxiety, also can leave you feeling like
your mouth is dry.

A number of medications can cause dry mouth, such
as those used to control allergies, cold symptoms, or
blood pressure, as well as some pain relievers or antidepressants.
Talk to your physician or pharmacist, or
check the information that comes with your medication
to see if dry mouth is a possible side effect. Some
medical treatments, like head and neck radiation, can
affect the salivary glands and reduce the flow of saliva.
There are personal habits, like mouth breathing,
drinking alcohol, or using tobacco products, that can
dry your mouth as well.

Sometimes you’ll feel like your mouth is dry, even when
you are secreting saliva. In other cases, though, you’ll
notice a decrease in the flow of saliva along with dry
mouth. Saliva is important for a number of reasons.
For example, saliva cleanses the mouth, it helps you
chew and swallow food, and it even helps you speak.
In addition to making it difficult to chew, swallow, or
speak,a low saliva flow can cause the following:

  •          dry, cracked lips;

  •          a rough tongue;

  •          bad breath;

  •          infections on the surface of the tongue, cheeks, or gums.

If you are not secreting enough saliva and you
wear dentures, you might notice that your dentures
do not fit properly. Dentures that fit loosely can cause sores.
Saliva also can help protect your teeth from decay.
Your teeth are coated with a film of bacteria called
plaque. When you eat or drink foods that contain sugar,
these bacteria produce acid that can cause tooth decay.
Saliva affects this acid in a way that makes it less
harmful to your teeth. When you don’t have enough
saliva, you might develop cavities.

If you notice that you are experiencing any of the oral
health changes listed above, speak with your dentist.
He or she can do an examination and will ask you
questions about your symptoms, overall health, and
medical history, including what medications you are

Once you’ve narrowed down what could be causing
the problem, it will be easier to develop a plan to help
minimize the effects, particularly of low saliva flow.
Your dentist may suggest that you use a special gel or
rinse designed to keep your mouth moist. If you are
developing cavities, your dentist might prescribe a
toothpaste or mouth rinse that has fluoride in it to
help protect your teeth. He or she also might apply a
fluoride gel or give you a fluoride-containing rinse
during your office visit.

Other ways you might find relief include the

  •          chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free hard candies to stimulate 
                   salivary flow;
  •          sucking on ice chips;

  •          sipping water with meals to aid in chewing and swallowing food;
  •          using alcohol-free mouth rinse;

  •          avoiding carbonated drinks (like soda), caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol;
  •          using a lanolin-based lip balm to soothe cracked or dry lips.

Most importantly, take care of your teeth. Good oral
hygiene is especially important for people who have
decreased salivary flow and, therefore, are at increased
risk of tooth decay. Brush twice a day with toothpaste
that contains fluoride. Clean between your teeth once
daily with floss or an interdental cleaner. Visit your
dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral

Prepared by the American Dental Association (ADA) Division of Science.
Copyright _ 2015 American Dental Association. Unlike other portions of
JADA, the print and online versions of this page may be reproduced as a
handout for patients without reprint permission from the ADA Publishing
Division. Any other use, copying, or distribution of this material, whether in
printed or electronic form and including the copying and posting of this
material on a website, is strictly prohibited without prior written consent of
the ADA Publishing Division.
For the Dental Patientprovides general information on dental treatments
to dental patients. It is designed to prompt discussion between dentist
and patient about treatment options and does not substitute for the dentists
professional assessment based on the individual patients needs and desires.

A40 JADA 146(2) http://jada.ada.org February 2015

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Beyond tooth decay: why good dental hygiene is important

Most of us are aware that poor dental hygiene can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath - but not brushing your teeth could also have consequences for more serious illnesses.
In this spotlight feature, to coincide with National Dental Hygiene Month, we peer beneath the plaque to investigate what other - perhaps unexpected - health conditions are affected by poor dental health.

Alzheimer's disease

In 2010, researchers from New York University (NYU) concluded that there is a link between gum inflammation and Alzheimer's disease, after reviewing 20 years of data on the association.
toothbrush with toothpaste
The American Dental Hygienists' Association recommend that we should brush for 2 minutes, twice daily.

However, the number of participants in the NYU study was fairly small. The researchers analyzed data from 152 subjects enrolled in the Glostrop Aging Study - a study looking at psychological, medical and oral health in Danish men and women. The study spanned a 20-year period and ended in 1984, when the subjects were all over the age of 70.

Comparing cognitive function at ages 50 and 70, the NYU team found that gum disease at the age of 70 was strongly associated with low scores for cognitive function.

Study participants were nine times more likely to have a score in the lower range of the cognitive test - the "digit symbol test" (DST) - if they had inflammation of the gums.

Although this study took into account potentially confounding factors like obesity, cigarette smoking and tooth loss unrelated to gum inflammation, there was still a strong association between low DST score and gum inflammation.

In 2013, UK-based researchers from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) built on the findings of this study, by comparing brain samples from 10 living patients with Alzheimer's with 10 brain samples from people who did not have the disease.

Analysis showed that a bacterium - Porphyromonas gingivalis - was present in the Alzheimer's brain samples but not in the samples from the brains of people who did not have Alzheimer's. What was interesting was that P. gingivalis is usually associated with chronic gum disease.

The team followed up this research in 2014 with a new mouse study, the results of which were published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. Medical News Today spoke to co-author Dr. Sim K. Singhrao regarding the findings.

Dr. Singhrao says that there is sufficient scientific evidence to show that two of the three gum disease-causing bacteria are capable of motion (or "motile") and have been consistently found in brain tissue.

"These motile bacteria can leave the mouth and enter the brain via two main routes," he explains. "They can use their movement capability to directly enter the brain. One of the paths taken is to crawl up the nerves that connect the brain and the roots of teeth. The other path is indirect entry into the brain via the blood circulation system."

In a patient who has bleeding gums, says Dr. Singharo, the gum disease-causing bacteria will enter the blood stream every time they clean their mouth and even when they eat food.

Monday, March 2, 2015

20 Things That Can Ruin Your Smile (Part 5)

smile-toothbrushBrushing at the wrong time

Although we've been taught to brush after every meal, depending on what you eat or drink, that's not always the best advice.

"After consuming high-acid food or drinks, like wine, coffee, citrus fruits, and soft drinks, rinse with water to neutralize the acids, but wait an hour before reaching for the toothpaste," says Meinecke.

"Brushing teeth immediately after drinking carbonated drinks and acidic foods can cause erosion."

smile-dentistOverzealous whitening

It is not clear whether bleaching erodes tooth enamel, but it can increase sensitivity, especially when done too often.

Even at-home whitening treatments should be used with moderation, as some whitening toothpastes and gels contain abrasive ingredients that can increase tooth sensitivity, which can be painful.

Plus, as you get older, whitening products can only do so much, so after a certain point, using more won't necessarily do anything for your smile.

soda-smileSoft drinks

Soft drinks are chock-full of sugar, which puts you at a risk for cavities, tooth decay, and gum infections, and dark colas can also stain your teeth, leaving you with a lackluster smile.

Meinecke recommends drinking soda through a straw and rinsing with water or chewing sugar-free gum after consumption to neutralize the acids.

She also recommends waiting at least an hour before brushing.


Citrus and acidic food

"Although lemons, grapefruits, and citrus juices don’t directly cause cavities, like soft drinks, they contain acids, which cause erosion of the tooth enamel, weakening the tooth and making it prone to decay," says Meinecke.

Waiting to brush, rinsing your mouth with water, or chewing sugar-free gum can help. In particular, consider xylitol, a natural sweetener found in plants and fruits that was FDA approved as a food additive in 1986.

Found in sugar-free gum, mints, and toothpastes, xylitol can inhibit the cavity-causing oral bacteria. "Dentists will often recommend patients chew at least two pieces per day if they are at high risk for developing cavities," explains Meinecke.

Make sure to check with one of our skilled dentists before you change any of your dental habits. We have three locations around Austin for your convenience.