If you have tartar or calculus, you may be at risk of calcified arteries and heart disease

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Tartar or calculus is an oral condition where a calcified build up occurs behind or outside your teeth along the gum line. Most oral health information will tell you that tartar is the end result of plaque that has hardened because it hasn’t been removed regularly through brushing and flossing.

Once tartar forms on your teeth, only your dentist can remove it during a dental clean via a nonsurgical dental procedure called scaling. This dental technique utilises a special instrument to remove tartar build up from your teeth above, along and below the gum line.

Tartar is a biomarker for calcium build-up in your body

However, whether you have experienced light or heavy tartar doesn’t mean you just have oral care and hygiene issues, it may also be a sign that you have trouble metabolising calcium.

If your body has difficulty metabolising calcium, it may be going to all sorts of places in your body, like your artery walls, joints, soft tissue and saliva. Everywhere it seems except for your bones and teeth where it’s needed most.

How do high calcium levels in your body cause tartar?

Tartar is not just made up of hardened plaque. It also contains a lot of calcium. So where does this calcium originate? It comes from your saliva. The higher the calcium levels are in your saliva, the more prone you are to developing tartar on your teeth.

Why does tartar only form in certain areas of your teeth?

Tartar, or calculus, usually forms on tooth surfaces that are close to your saliva glands. The saliva glands under your tongue are chiefly responsible for tartar build-up behind your bottom front teeth, and the glands in your cheeks can affect the outside surfaces of your molars.

TC-Dental-Group-Upper-Mt-Gravatt-arterial plaque

What are the health risks of high calcium levels in the body?

High calcium levels in your body can build up in all the wrong places which may cause a range of health issues. These include joint issues, coronary calcification, calcified arterial plaque, heart disease, tartar – and very weak teeth and bones.

 

The risks of mouthwashes

The risks of mouthwashes

Are oral mouthwashes doing you more harm than good?

There are mouthwashes and there are mouthwashes.

Some are pro-biotic, some are fluoridated to help strengthen tooth enamel, while others contain alcohol and are meant to zap all the oral bacteria in your mouth to kingdom come – or for at least 24 hours till they regenerate and the bad breath starts up again! However, it’s the latter mouthwash option that has come under increasing scrutiny and been red flagged by oral health researchers in recent years.

Should you use alcohol-containing mouthwash to eliminate “99%” of the germs in your mouth?

Maybe not. While it’s true that certain oral bacteria cause acidic plaque that should be prevented to maintain good oral health, there are other essential oral bacteria that are quite beneficial and extremely important to your oral and digestive health.

Together, this community of “good and bad” oral bacteria make up what is known as the oral microbiome. Using a mouthwash that kills 99% of oral bacteria in your mouth means that you are eliminating not just the bad bugs but the good ones as well.

Additionally, alcohol-based mouthwashes can dry out your mouth and reduce saliva which is essential for oral health.

What is the oral microbiome?

The oral microbiome is a large and diverse ecosystem of microbiota aka oral bacteria in your mouth that is second only to the gut microbiome in size. Within it are well over 700 species of oral bacteria living side by side. When your oral microbiome is in balance, your gut flora usually is also and vice-versa.

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How do good oral bacteria contribute to good oral health?

When your oral microbiome is in balance, the presence of good bacteria outcompetes the pathogenic bacteria and prevents them from accumulating together en masse via plaque and dumping huge amounts of bacterial acid onto your teeth – thus causing bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease.

Additionally, beneficial bacteria can prevent pathogenic oral bacteria from reaching critical mass, after which they may start to invade your bloodstream and other parts of your body.

Good helpful oral bacterial strains include Lactobacillus salivarius, Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus brevis and A12.

Since beneficial bacteria can keep pathogenic bacteria in check, you’ll experience a reduction in:

  • plaque build-up,
  • gum disease inflammation,
  • gingivitis,
  • bleeding gums, and
  • bad breath (halitosis).

Certain beneficial oral bacteria can also help prevent oral infection and oral cancer.

What causes an imbalance of good and bad oral bacteria?

Unfortunately, when your diet predominately consists of refined carbohydrates and simple sugars – i.e. sweets, pastries, white flour products and sweet drinks – bad oral bacteria can take over your oral micrbiome. Pathogenic gram negative bacteria outnumber the beneficial ones and start to wreak havoc on your teeth.

Other factors that may contribute to an imbalance of your oral flora include poor oral care, a weakened immune system, genetics and a reduced saliva flow, aka dry mouth.

Mouthwashes that may be harmful to your oral microbiome

You may take probiotics – as opposed to antibiotics – to improve your gut bacterial flora. So why shouldn’t it be any different for your oral microbiome? Essentially, alcohol-containing mouthwashes act as antiseptics and antibiotics destroying a large part of your oral microbiome indiscriminately.

The most harmful mouthwashes to your oral microbiome include ones containing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and chlorhexidine.

The best way to rebalance your oral microbiome

Eat more fermented pre and probiotic foods, such as raw asparagus and sauerkraut, and fibre-rich vegetables, such as celery, to balance your oral and gut flora.

Include calcium rich foods in your diet such as yoghurt, soft cheeses, kefir and vegetable stalks, such as the stalks of silverbeet or broccoli. Keep in mind that the stalks of any above-ground vegetables often contain higher concentrations of calcium than the leaves or flowers.

Pre and probiotics are also available in concentrated supplements. However, people with weakened immune system should consult their G.P. if they are considering taking them.

Gentler mouthwash options

Listerine, Colgate and other producers of mouthwash are currently researching mouthwash formulas that selectively target pathogenic oral bacteria. However, these products are still in the pipeline.

Fortunately, there are a wide range of probiotic oral mouth washes and rinses available that are alcohol free. These may gentler on your beneficial oral bacteria, teeth and gums. To check out what’s available near you, just Google “oral probiotic mouthwash/mouthrinse” in their Shopping Search bar. Check out product reviews and testimonials to find a product that suits your oral health needs.

Click the following links to check out clinical studies that examine the role of beneficial oral bacteria and the oral microbiome:

When do I need a mouthguard for teeth grinding?

When do I need a mouthguard for teeth grinding?

You may need a mouthguard, known as a nightguard, if you have a chronic teeth grinding habit. If you don’t address the physical/psychological reasons for your teeth grinding habit (i.e. stress), nor use a night guard, you may experience further complications that may put your teeth at risk of permanent damage.

That said, everyone grinds, clenches or gnashes their teeth at one time or another. Most times we don’t even know we do it because teeth grinding, or bruxism, is usually subconscious behaviour, and symptoms aren’t always noticeable at first. It’s not until a partner or carer notices, or one experiences advanced symptoms that you may start to figure out what you’ve been doing with your teeth at night. But when does grinding become a problem that puts your oral health at risk?

The common symptoms of bruxism that indicate you may need to wear a “night guard” mouthguard from your dentist, include:

  • Dull headaches or ear pain – if you wake up with either of these symptoms, the reason could be teeth grinding at night.
  • Sore toothaches – a dull toothache may indicate excess pressure on your teeth from grinding.   
  • Facial stiffness – this symptom may indicate that your facial muscles have tensed for a long period indicating extended teeth grinding.
  • Medication – some medications, such as anti-depressants, cause teeth grinding while you sleep.
  • Non-stop grinding – if you have temporary or chronic stress issues, your teeth may be grinding on them at night.
  • Intense jaw clenching – this may cause your teeth to clench also.
  • Chipped tooth – if you notice a chip on a tooth or wear on the cusps/edges of your teeth – that is not the result of “poor” food choices (e.g. ice cubes) – you may be grinding your teeth excessively.
  • Sore, inflamed jaw joints in the morning – this may be a sign of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD) which can occur from teeth grinding.

If you suspect that you have any of the signs and symptoms listed above and may be grinding your teeth, the next step is to see your dentist for a proper diagnosis and potential treatment options.

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Teeth grinding may arise from a range of physical and/or psychological issues that will need to be dealt with – especially for children who are experiencing stress, anger and/or anxiety issues.  In the meantime, if you (or a family member) are experiencing bruxism, your dentist can help prevent any further oral health complications – such as attrition – by fitting you with a custom “nightguard” mouthguard that you can wear comfortably at night.

Magnetic microbots to become dental assistants

Magnetic microbots to become dental assistants

Above: Sequential images of a magnetic microbot ploughing through a petri dish containing a biofilm (Credit: University of Pennsylvania)

An American research and development team made up of engineers, biologists and dentists at the University of Pennsylvania have created the next generation of dental assistants – teeny-tiny micro-robots.

These micro-robots are capable of cleaning biofilms, such as oral plaque, with great control and precision via an external magnetic field.

What are bio-films?

Bio-films are thin, slimy, highly-resilient films containing bacterial colonies that can be home to several hundred bacterial species. Bio-films secret a glue-like substance and can stick extremely well to any non-shedding surface.

Examples of biofilms include oral, arterial and brain plaques, as well as biofilms in catheters or water lines.

How do dental micro-robots work?

Dental micro-robots are a type of CAR device which stands for Catalytic Antimicrobial Robots. They are able to completely and systematically breakdown and remove biofilms from a range of surfaces, including the curved surfaces of a tooth. At the same time, CARs kill embedded bacteria and all other residual material until there is nothing left of the biofilm but a completely clean surface.
How are dental micro-robots controlled?

Dental micro-robots, or CARs, are controlled and driven by external magnetic fields, in a similar way to how an aquarium magnet cleaner uses a magnetic handle to control a magnetic scrubber on the inside of aquarium glass. CARs, like aquarium scrubbers, are magnetic also, and follow the direction of an external magnetic field.

Pending further technological development, the motion and direction of the CARs will be actively informed by 3D image scans of the dental plaque sooner or later, which will make them more intelligent and effective at targeting dental plaque on a range of tooth surfaces.

TC Dental Group micro-robots

Reference:

Geelsu Hwang, Amauri J. Paula, Elizabeth E. Hunter, Yuan Liu, Alaa Babeer, Bekir Karabucak, Kathleen Stebe, Vijay Kumar, Edward Steager, Hyun Koo. Catalytic antimicrobial robots for biofilm eradication. Science Robotics, 2019; 4 (29): eaaw2388 DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aaw2388

Dental Health Week 2019 – Are you tracking your oral health?

Dental Health Week 2019 – Are you tracking your oral health?

Dental Health Week 2019 starts today and will continue for the next week! So what is Dental Health Week?  It’s Australia’s own annual oral health promotion week which aims to remind Australians adults and kids about the importance of keeping good oral health.

This year event is all about keeping track of the oral health of you and your family. Unfortunately, this is a responsibility that not all Aussies are taking seriously enough.

According the Australian Dental Association’s Oral Health Tracker report card on the oral health habits of child, teen and adult Australians:

  • 65% of Australians haven’t visited their dentist for a check up for two years,
  • Half of Australians only brush their teeth once daily,
  • Approximately 40% of Australians don’t floss or use interdental brushes for the spaces in between their teeth and around their gums, and
  • 73% of teens aged 14 to 18 years are eating too much added sugar.

So, what’s the message to all Australians from the ADA regarding these serious community oral health issues?

  1. Visit your dentist for regular checkups and preventative dental treatment, once or twice a year.
  2. Brush your teeth TWICE a day with fluoride toothpaste – once when you wake up and again before you go to bed.
  3. Make sure you clean the interdental spaces between your teeth at least once a day, using floss, piksters or interdental brushes.
  4. Ensure your child eats a balanced, healthy diet, and limit their intake of added sugars.

Keeping track of your oral health is so important to avoid serious complications to your oral and general health – now and later in life. Happy Dental Health Week from the TC Dental team!

Pro tips for a healthy mouth

✔ Check out ADA’s 2018 Australian Health Tracker Report Card for adults

✔ Check out ADA’s 2018 Australian Health Tracker Report Card for children and teens

How much fluoride is just right for good oral health?

How much fluoride is just right for good oral health?

Fluoride is a natural occurring mineral that is found in the environment in water sources that have filtered through volcanic rocks and soil. There is no question that fluoride is an essential factor to develop and maintain strong healthy teeth. This reduces the risk of tooth decay and other oral health complications.

How is fluoride delivered?

Fluoride can be delivered to the body systemically or topically.

Topical fluorides include fluoride toothpastes, mouth rinses, gels and varnishes. These act by strengthening the teeth directly, and making them more resistant to tooth decay. However, the beneficial effects of topical fluorides, apart from varnishes, wear off easily. This is why you should wait at least 30 min after applying topical fluorides before eating or drinking again.

Systemic fluorides are ingested and integrated into developing tooth structures. Systemic fluoride can be found in tap water, fluoride supplements, and food and drinks such as shellfish, chicken, potatoes, grapes and rice. If these foods have been prepared with tap water, the concentration of fluoride is further increased. Once systemic fluoride enters the body, it can also make its way into your saliva, which provides a continual fluoride wash over your teeth.

How much fluoride is required by the body?

The amount of fluoride your body needs depends on your body weight. As a general rule, children need 0.5mg (500?g) of fluoride daily. This why kids should only use a small pea-sized amount of toothpaste on their toothbrushes, and be taught to spit not swallow. Adults need between 3 to 4mg (3000-4000?g) daily.

The upper limit of fluoride intake is 2.5 times the recommended intake. Beyond this level, fluoride may have negative health effects.

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Too much fluoride can lead to fluorosis

While the right amount of fluoride intake is essential to strengthen tooth enamel and prevent oral health issues, too much can have adverse effects. If a child consumes too much fluoride as their teeth are developing, they can experience an oral condition called fluorosis.
Fluorosis leads to white or brown discolouration or spots on tooth enamel. However, it is only a cosmetic effect and affects the appearance of teeth, not their health or strength. If you are a parent and notice any of these signs, consult with your family dentist. They can determine if any discolouration is the result of fluorosis, and recommend ways to limit your child’s fluoride intake.

On the other hand, your dentist may identify signs of a fluoride deficiency, which should also be avoided as this leads to softer enamel and weaker teeth.

Teens risk tooth damage by using DIY teeth whitening products

Teens risk tooth damage by using DIY teeth whitening products

In a recent joint statement, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) Deputy CEO, Eithne Irving and Melbourne-based dental practitioner, Dr Toni Surace have advised parents and teens that DIY teeth whitening kits and products are unsuitable for children and teens under the age of 18.

Teens under pressure to look “perfect”

In this day and age of social media, too many teens feel pressured to live up to unrealistic standards of perfection, in order avoid negative comparison, criticism and bullying from their peers. As a result, they are experiencing problems with their health and wellbeing.

Along with anxiety, loss of self confidence and eating disorders, teens are now risking their oral health in an effort to look “perfect”. Unfortunately a lot of teens are attempting to achieve a dazzling, bright smile with DIY teeth whitening products that are primarily aimed at the adult market.

DIY teeth whitening products are unsuitable for developing teeth

According to Ms Irving, off-the-shelf DIY whitening kits and products were not only ineffective for maturing teeth, but had the potential to seriously damage a child’s teeth and gums.

Most teens don’t realise that their adult or permanent teeth don’t reach their maximum “whiteness” until lighter coloured enamel develops after several years. But in order to achieve their best smile and gain more “likes”, teens are resorting to “quick fix” DIY whitening products that pose a number of risks to their oral health.

Furthermore, if teens use high concentrations of bleach – that aggressively remove their tooth enamel – they may end up spitting out their “liquefied” teeth down the sink.

Dental problems that teens may experience through using whitening products include:

  • irreversible erosion & thinning of developing tooth enamel
  • ulcerations
  • chemical burns to gums
  • gum shrinkage
  • patchy teeth
  • tooth sensitivity & toothaches
  • oral infection
  • stomach problems from swallowing bleaching products

Teeth whitening products & remedies that teens (under 18) should avoid include:

  • over-the-counter teeth whitening kits
  • LED light treatment
  • whitening strips
  • whitening toothpaste
  • lemon juice
  • charcoal

Cranberries to help in the fight against tooth decay

Cranberries to help in the fight against tooth decay

In March 2019, oral health researchers at the University of Queensland published the results of a study on the oral bacterial fighting properties of cranberries and other dark-coloured fruit berries.
Previous clinical research has shown cranberry polyphenols to have antimicrobial qualities. But the UQ team took another step, and further investigated the effects of cranberry extracts on oral bacteria samples derived from saliva.

What they found was that cranberries are excellent for your oral health!

Traditional benefits of cranberry

There has always been an awareness of the health benefits of cranberries in recorded human history. The American cranberry had been used by Native American Indians for centuries to treat scurvy, and to help heal stomach and liver problems.

Earlier still, the Ancient Romans were well aware of its medicinal value. And in England, cranberries were a go-to remedy for diarrhoea, scurvy, fevers, and skin, urinary and genital infections.

Nowadays, clinical studies have proven that cranberries are indeed medicinally beneficial for many of the same ailments that ancient people experienced. However, science has gone on to discover other health benefits including lowering the risk of heart and neurological disease, regulating inflammation and inhibiting cancer cell proliferation.

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The UQ Cranberry test results.

The UQ researchers’ test results show that the polyphenols, or phytochemicals, abundantly present in cranberries had a significant inhibiting effect on the types of oral bacteria that cause tooth decay and cavities.

After a 12 hour period, oral bacterial bio-film samples treated with cranberry extracts showed a 38% drop in bio-mass, a 44% reduction in acid formation and a 51% reduction of bacterial colony forming units (CFUs).

The UQ researchers now plan to develop an oral care and hygiene product for daily use containing the medicinally beneficial Cranberry extract used in their study.

References

Interview: ‘We intend to ultimately develop a daily use oral care product with a natural substance? (2019, April 4). Retrieved from https://ap.dental-tribune.com/news/interview-we-intend-to-ultimately-develop-a-daily-use-oral-care-product-with-a-natural-substance/

Philip, N., Bandara, H., Leishman, S. J., & Walsh, L. J. (2019). Effect of polyphenol-rich cranberry extracts on cariogenic biofilm properties and microbial composition of polymicrobial biofilms. Archives of Oral Biology, 102, 1-6. doi:10.1016/j.archoralbio.2019.03.026

Philip, N., & Walsh, L. (2019). Cranberry Polyphenols: Natural Weapons against Dental Caries. Dentistry Journal, 7(1), 20. doi:10.3390/dj7010020

Common cosmetic dental problems

Common cosmetic dental problems

Having healthy teeth and gums is important for chewing and breaking down food for better digestion, as well as optimal nutritional intake. If your teeth and gums aren’t healthy, you may experience oral and general health complications as a result. That’s where your dentist steps in, for they can help treat oral conditions and disease so that your oral health stays on track.

However, there is another important job that dentists do – cosmetic dentistry. Cosmetic dentistry refers to dental work that is used to correct and improve the appearance of your smile.

There are a number of smile issues that cosmetic dentistry can fix. Cosmetic dental problems don’t necessarily affect your oral health, but they can have a huge impact on your appearance, “smile” confidence and emotional well-being.

The following include the most common cosmetic dental problems that dentists treat:

  • Tooth stains and discolouration

    Teeth whitening is by far the most common cosmetic dental treatment that people seek to brighten their smile. However, this treatment is mostly suitable for extrinsic or superficial stains caused by long term consumption of certain foods and beverages that stain your teeth. On the other hand, intrinsic stains are usually caused by certain meds and aging, and are deeply embedded in teeth. These require cosmetic options such as veneers or crowns.

  • Teeth spaces

    Spaces between teeth may develop due to developmental or tooth drift problems. This can cause a smile to look uneven and draw attention to the gap. Orthodontic treatments, such as aligners or braces, are the best long term options. They require a lot of patience and potential discomfort on the part of the patient because treatment can take months or even years. For quicker results, cosmetic treatment options such as dental crowns and veneers are quite popular.

  • Misaligned and malpositioned teeth

    A smile can look uneven if your teeth aren’t in their proper positions. As above, orthodontic treatment is the best long term solution. However, more immediate results can be achieved through the use of dental bridges and veneers.

  • Missing teeth

    People tend to cover up or limit their smile if they have a missing front tooth because it’s just so obvious. That’s why tooth replacement options are important to improve the smile confidence of those missing a tooth. Your dentist can recommend the best option for your situation which may be a dental bridge, a dental implant or removable dentures (partial or full).

  • Chipped, damaged or broken teeth

    Teeth that are damaged through accident, tooth decay or wear & tear can be repaired and restored to their original function and appearance via a few dental options, including fillings, inlays, overlays and crowns.

Have you experienced tooth erosion?

Have you experienced tooth erosion?

Most people are familiar with tooth decay but not tooth erosion. Tooth erosion should not be confused with tooth decay which is a type of tooth damage caused by bacterial acidic by-products – however they are similar.

What is tooth erosion and what causes it?

Tooth erosion occurs when you lose tooth structure, namely your tooth enamel, due to chemicals. The chemicals that cause erosion are found in acidic food and drinks, or acid refluxed from your stomach.

If you consume excessive amounts of acidic food and drinks daily, then you have probably already experienced tooth erosion without realising it. For example, soft drinks can contain high amounts of citric and phosphoric acid. Sipping on them as opposed to using a straw can bath your teeth in an acid bath that can wear away your teeth continually.

Other possible causes of tooth erosion include bulimia, GI problems, certain medications and genetics.

How does your dentist measure tooth erosion?

Your dentist measures tooth erosion by comparing the thickness of enamel on each tooth. There are also other signs of tooth erosion that your dentist looks out for, including:

  • darker or yellowish discolouration of your teeth indicating the dissolving of enamel,
  • sensitivity to hot, cold or sweet foods,
  • thin or transparent front teeth tips,
  • shape changes to your teeth that can give them a concave appearance,
  • a glassy appearance on your tooth surfaces,
  • flattened or pitted chewing surfaces of your molars, and
  • the impression that your natural tooth structure appears to be sinking around a filling.

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How can tooth erosion be prevented and treated?

To prevent erosion, limit the amount of acidic foods and beverages that you consume. When you eat or drink them, do so promptly and try rinsing any residue left in your mouth with water.

As far as dental treatment goes, there’s only so much your dentist can do since enamel loss is irreversible. However, your dentist can restore an eroded tooth to protect the inner tooth structure or dentin. Try using a fluoride or desensitising toothpaste to strengthen your tooth enamel as well.