Keep your teeth healthier this winter – with a little ray of sunshine!

Keep your teeth healthier this winter – with a little ray of sunshine!

Winter has long been associated with catching the flu, stuffy noses and staying indoors. Trouble is, when you don’t get enough sun exposure, you run the risk of experiencing a vitamin D deficiency – which increases your risk of cavities, especially by late winter and early spring.

Your bare skin is designed to produce the correct amount of vitamin D that you need – when it is exposed to the right amount of sunlight.

But in winter we tend to cover up and stay indoors. By late winter, your body may experience lower levels of vitamin D, which makes your body more vulnerable to a range of health problems, including tooth cavities.

Why does a vitamin D deficiency cause tooth cavities?

Receptors throughout your body absorb vitamin D, which in turn promotes the absorption of calcium. Your body needs calcium because it is an essential component of strong teeth and bones.

When your teeth do not get enough calcium, your tooth enamel weakens, making them more prone to tooth cavities.

How do my teeth absorb vitamin D and calcium?

Your teeth have vitamin D receptors that are located within the cells responsible for forming tooth enamel and dentin.

The vitamin D, absorbed by these receptors, makes calcium and phosphate available to the cells. The cells go on to convert these two minerals into enamel and dentine. This remineralisation process improves the strength of your teeth, and prevents demineralisation from plaque acid.

The benefits don’t stop there.

When vitamin D is absorbed by the receptors in your teeth, “good” anti-microbial proteins are produced also. These proteins fight off the cariogenic oral bacteria that are responsible for creating tooth cavities.

What is the right amount of sun exposure to beat a vitamin D deficiency?

During winter, light skinned Australians should expose their bare skin (about two arms worth) to sunlight for between 10 – 30 min per day for their vitamin D needs. If you have dark skin, you’ll need between 20 min – 3 hrs per day. These times vary depending on your skin type and location in Australia.

Since it is winter and overall UV levels are low, the recommended time of the day is between 10 am to 2pm. Sunscreen should be avoided since it prevents the skin from producing vitamin D.

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Foods that boost your vitamin D levels

If you don’t have many opportunities to bask in the winter sun, try eating more mushrooms, eggs, oily fish (including salmon, mackerel and tuna), cheese and fortified grains for a vitamin D boost.
Vitamin D supplementation is also an option; though consult your doctor first for more advice.

References

  1. Youssef, D., C. Miller, A. El-Abbassi, D. Cutchins, C. Cutchins, W. Grant, and A. Peiris. “Antimicrobial Implications of Vitamin D.” Dermatoendocrinology 3.4 (2011): 220-29
  2. Grant, W.B. “A Review of the Role of Solar Ultraviolet-B Irradiance and Vitamin D in Reducing Risk of Dental Caries”. Dermatoendocrinology 3.3 (2011): 193-98.
  3. Hujoel, P. “Vitamin D and dental caries in controlled clinical trials: systematic review and meta-analysis.” Nutrition Reviews 71.2 (2013): 88-97.
  4. Australian Vitamin D Sunshine Map, Page 2, Vitamin D Consumer guide. Link: https://www.osteoporosis.org.au/sites/default/files/files/oa_consumer_vitd_ed3_09-16.pdf

The 4 types of teeth and their important roles in digestion

The 4 types of teeth and their important roles in digestion

There are four types of teeth in your mouth. Each type has specific functions as you bite and chew through your food. Without them and your natural saliva, we would not be able to process and prepare the food we eat well enough for healthy digestion.

The first crucial step in the pre-digestive process is to chew food thoroughly in order to break the larger food particles down.

Once they have been broken down into smaller particles, they are more easily swallowed, digested and absorbed into your body. This helps your body to obtain nutrients from each meal you eat more efficiently. In other words, nothing goes to waste!

TC-dental-teeth-type-teeth-roles

The four types of teeth and their functions:

  • Incisors

    The incisors are the eight thin, flat and sharp teeth in the front of your mouth. You have a set of four at the top and another four at the bottom.
    Incisors have a sharp biting action that cuts food into a chewable-sized piece.

  • Canines

    You have four sharp and pointed canine teeth, otherwise known as cuspids or “fangs”. There is a canine tooth on both sides of your upper and lower incisors.
    Your canines can help to grip and position food (like an apple) before you bite down. They also assist in tearing food.

  • Premolars

    Next down the line are the premolars, otherwise known as bicuspids. They have a flattened top. There is a pair of premolars situated behind each canine, making up a total of eight premolars.
    Premolars help to tear, split and break up food before sending in down to the molars for grinding.

  • Molars

    At the end of the line, you have a set of three molars behind each pair of premolars, making up a total of twelve molars. They are your largest and flattest teeth.
    Your molars are the workhorses in your mouth. They mash, grind, crush and chew food with saliva and digestive enzymes until it is ready to swallow.

Look after your teeth for life – to experience the health benefits from being able to chew your food thoroughly!

The transmission of cavity-causing bacteria from mother to child

The transmission of cavity-causing bacteria from mother to child

Most parents should already be aware of the main oral health strategies that help promote and maintain good oral health in children.

They include the following:

  • establishing good oral care and hygiene habits at an early age, such as brushing their teeth with fluoride toothpaste
  • setting up a trusted dental home for your child by 12 months of age, where they can feel safe, familiar and comfortable with their dentist, treatment and dental environment.
  • ensuring your child follows a dentist-approved diet that does not contribute to tooth decay.
  • regular dental check-ups and cleans every six months.

But there is one other recommendation that most parents and caregivers (about 90%) aren’t aware of – preventing the transmission of cariogenic (cavity-causing) bacteria.

In other words, if you have active tooth decay, you can pass the nasty oral bacteria associated with it, directly onto your child. And it’s important to keep in mind – baby teeth are very susceptible to decay while erupting because tooth enamel is still very soft at this stage.

Numerous clinical studies over the last 30 years have documented the link between the oral health conditions experienced by the primary caregivers and the risk factor for early childhood caries (ECC) in young children.

One study by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) in 2011 showed that high maternal levels of the mutans streptococci bacteria (MS) correlated with the early colonisation of their child’s oral cavity by the bacteria. The results of the study also showed that the same strains of MS were present in both mother and child.

Choice dental Browns plains dentist Baby kiss

The transfer of bacteria from mothers (and fathers) to their young child occurs mainly through salivary contact. There are a number of ways for this to happen while giving care and socially interacting with the child:

  • kissing an infant’s lips, or “nibbling” on their fingers and toes
  • unhygienic physical contact
  • sharing eating and drinking utensils, including cups and spoons
  • pre-chewing food for infants
  • blowing on a baby’s food to cool it down – just wait a bit!
  • sharing the consumption of the same food item
  • sharing toothbrushes
  • toothbrush to toothbrush contact – when in storage
  • cleaning pacifiers orally

It’s not just the parents who can introduce potentially cariogenic bacteria into their young child’s mouth – family members, daycare staff and other children may all play a part in transmission.

Although salivary contact between a parent and their child is pretty much unavoidable, there are ways to lessen its impact.

To help prevent or delay the initial transmission, colonisation and proliferation of cariogenic bacteria in infants, toddlers and young children – the AAPD researchers recommended the following steps:

  1. Ensure that caregivers and others in close physical contact with the child have good oral health and low levels of oral bacteria. Caregivers should make sure that they are free of active tooth decay, cavities and gum disease.
  2. Prevent or limit activities and interactions where there is a high risk of salivary sharing, transfer or contact – especially with a caregiver who has poor oral health or high levels of infectious oral bacteria.
  3. Chewing citrus-free xylitol chewing gum 2 or 3 times per day (by the caregiver) significantly reduces the oral bacterial transmission rate.
  4. Parents can improve their own dietary and oral care habits to help reduce the risk of bacterial transmission.

And for all those parents (and grandparents) who are habitual baby kissers, try kissing your baby’s belly button – just until you get the all clear from your dentist.

Healing tooth cavities naturally

Healing tooth cavities naturally

Tooth cavities mean a drillin’ and a fillin’!

But imagine no drills, no needles, no anaesthetic and no fillings – just a micro sponge soaked in a special solution which is inserted into the cavity.

Several weeks later the sponge has dissolved, the cavity is gone, and your tooth is fully restored and remineralised.

Imagine no more. Science fiction is now fact. Earlier this month, a team of researchers at King’s College London published research showing that they had discovered the impossible – natural tooth repair.

Granted, your teeth can already self repair – to a degree. In the event of trauma, decay or infection, the soft inner pulp of your tooth can become exposed, and prone to infection. In response, your body produces just enough dentine to seal the tooth pulp and protect it from infection – but not enough to repair the cavity.

But what the researchers at King’s College London discovered is a method that taps into this innate ability of the teeth to self repair with reparative dentine.

The researchers succeeded in further stimulating the renewal of living stem cells within the tooth pulp. This stimulation generated more dentine – a tooth mineral that forms the bulk of a tooth, beneath a protective layer of enamel.

To activate this response, the research team inserted biodegradable collagen sponges (Kolspon) into the cavities, in contact with the pulp. The sponges were soaked in a solution containing Tideglusib – a well-known, clinically-approved drug used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers discovered that small daily doses of Tideglusib stimulated the continuous natural formation of reparative dentine within the sponge over the 6 week test period.

Over time, the carrier sponge degraded, leaving behind a reparative dentine structure that filled the entire cavity site – eventually leading to a complete natural tooth restoration.

“The simplicity of our approach makes it ideal as a clinical dental product for the natural treatment of large cavities, by providing both pulp protection and restoring dentine,” commented lead author of the study, Professor Paul Sharpe.

“In addition, using a drug that has already been tested in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease provides a real opportunity to get this dental treatment quickly into clinics.”

Source:
Neves, V. C. M. et al. Promotion of natural tooth repair by small molecule GSK3 antagonists. Sci. Rep. 7, 39654; doi: 10.1038/srep39654 (2017). Image and image description adapted and edited from original source image format – complies with fair use under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Diabetes and your oral health

Diabetes and your oral health

Diabetes and your oral health

World Diabetes Day will be celebrated this year on 14 November to help raise awareness of diabetes, and to help promote the importance of screening.

Presently, 1 in 2 people live with an undiagnosed diabetes condition. But with better participation in individual screening programs, it is possible to identify more people with undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes, and even those with a higher risk of developing the disease in the future.

If you are diagnosed early, then receiving follow-up treatment can greatly reduce the risk of serious complications associated with Type 2 diabetes. There are a number of well known complications:

  • Neuropathy – nerve damage
  • Nephropathy – kidney disease
  • Heart disease
  • Retinopathy – eye damage
  • PAD – peripheral arterial disease

However, there is one overlooked complication of diabetes and untreated high blood glucose levels – diabetes can put your oral health at risk.

High blood glucose levels and the side effects of some medication for the disease can cause a dry mouth.

If you have a dry mouth condition, it may indicate a decrease in your mouth’s saliva production. Saliva is essential to clean your teeth and gums, and protect against the effects of oral bacteria.

A dry mouth condition can result in further oral health complications:

  • tooth decay
  • cavities/caries
  • gum inflammation
  • gingivitis
  • periodontitis (gum disease)
  • bleeding gums
  • salivary gland infections
  • oral thrush
  • mouth sores

TC Dental Group World Diabetes Day

If your blood glucose levels are uncontrolled or untreated, your white blood cell count is also affected. This can compromise your immune response to oral infections and inflammation, and increase your risk of developing severe periodontitis (periodontal/gum disease).

Diabetics with periodontitis experience double the rate of periodontal disease progression, and an increased risk of alveolar bone loss. Severe periodontitis can drive blood sugar levels even higher, putting diabetics at increased risk for other diabetic complications.

The good news is periodontitis responds well to dental treatment, such as antibiotics and regular dental cleaning, and maintenance of good oral hygiene practices. Research has shown that periodontal treatment of diabetics may result in an improvement in their diabetes condition also.

While dentists are not qualified to diagnose Type 2 diabetes, they are among the first health care professionals to recognise symptoms that are not usually associated with typical oral health conditions.

But the incidental detection of diabetes symptoms and complications by your dentist, doctor or any other health professional may occur when the disease has already progressed.

The key to prevention of diabetes is to take personal action.

As part of World Diabetes Day 2016, IDF (International Diabetes Federation) has introduced a new online screening activity. By participating, you can find out if you are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes or diabetes complications over the next ten years.

Screen yourself and encourage your adult family and friends to take the online diabetes risk assessment questionnaire also. It’s easy, confidential and only takes a few minutes.

Test2Prevent for World Diabetes Day on 14 November.

Use this link: http://www.idf.org/type-2-diabetes-risk-assessment/

Oral health care for dementia patients

Oral health care for dementia patients

Oral health care for dementia patients

An aspect of everyday care for people with dementia, or an Alzheimer’s related condition, that is easily neglected is oral health and hygiene.

While a lot of dementia patients live in nursing homes in a supportive living community, the majority live at home, and are supported by a family caregiver (or care partner for early stage dementia).

There are many challenges that face Alzheimer’s caregivers. Managing their loved one’s health and well-being can be a daunting undertaking and an exhausting role. Caregivers are often uncertain about what tasks their loved ones are still able to perform.

dementia Alzheimer's patients and oral health

While promoting independence for as long as possible is a positive step, caregivers also need to know when to assist a patient in order to prevent injury and keep them safe.

One area of concern that may be overlooked, because the risk of injury may not be immediately apparent, is a patient’s oral health and hygiene.

When older adults with Alzheimer’s disease lose their ability to brush and floss their teeth effectively, they cannot maintain good oral health. As a result, their risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease increases significantly.*

Caregivers can assist a patient to brush and floss their teeth with a number of techniques:

  • Provide instructions using short, simple phrases.
  • Non-specific phrases such as “Brush your teeth” should be avoided.
  • Each part of the tooth brushing and flossing process can be broken down into step by step instructions – from “Put the toothpaste on the brush” to “Rinse your mouth with some water”.
  • Demonstrate how to brush teeth while the patient observes and repeats movements.
  • Hold the patient’s hand, and gently guide the brush over their teeth in the correct brushing motion.

Dementia patients should also be monitored as part of a daily dental care routine. If the patient is unable to describe symptoms of oral pain and discomfort, there are signs to look out for, such as the patient refusing to eat hard or cold foods, or making a pained expression when eating. Dental appliances including dentures should be removed, cleaned and checked.

Lastly, dental visits should be scheduled according to the patient’s needs. Dentists can also help caregivers with suggestions, advice and dental products that can assist in everyday brushing and flossing for patients.

*New research shows that dementia (or Alzheimer’s) patients with gum disease (periodontitis) experienced faster cognitive decline than those without it. The rate of decline can be up to six times faster than normal. Researchers discovered that gum inflammation and the effects of our immune response speeded up the development of dementia.

Which Aussie kids are at higher risk of tooth decay?

Which Aussie kids are at higher risk of tooth decay?

The incidence of tooth decay in children – up to 6 years of age – has been steadily increasing since 2000, according to the 2015 report on oral health and dental care in Australia (released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra). The report presented key facts and figures, drawn from annual data collected in Australia since 1977.

The most recent statistical data, presented in the report, indicate that 55% of 6 year olds had had tooth decay in their baby teeth. While 48% of 12 year olds had had it in their permanent teeth.

So what are the high risk factors that jeopardise our kids’ oral health? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there are a number of risk and protective factors (as well as clinical findings) that need to be assessed, in order to determine if a child is at low or high risk for tooth decay or caries.

The caries risk, in order of priority, includes the following risk factors:

  • The mother or main caregiver has had ongoing decay in the last year.
  • The mother or primary caregiver does not have a dentist.
  • The child continually uses a bottle or sippy cup with drinks (e.g. soft drinks or juice) other than water.
  • Frequent snacking on refined carbohydrates and high-sugar foods.
  • Special health care needs.

The protective factors that can lower the caries risk of a child:

  • An existing dental home (this means the child has the same dentist to care for and manage their oral health over a long term period).
  • Fluoridated water intake or fluoride supplements.
  • Fluoride varnish treatment within the last 6 months.
  • Brushing teeth twice daily.

Dentists can also identify high risk factors from the following clinical findings, (in order of priority):

  • White spots or visible decalcifications in the previous 12 months.
  • Visible tooth decay.
  • Presence of tooth restorations (e.g. fillings).
  • Visible accumulation of plaque.
  • Gingivitis – symptoms include gum bleeding, swelling and/or redness.
  • Health and presence of all teeth.

If your child (or one you know) is at high risk, then referral to a dentist, with follow-up dental care, is essential. And by ensuring that the high-risk factors are eliminated and the protective factors are practiced at home, you can give your child the best start to life-long oral health.

 

 

 

Fun and interesting tooth facts and trivia

Fun and interesting tooth facts and trivia

Here are some fun and interesting dental Q&As, facts and trivia to chew on, for the holidays.

To get things started, let’s take a look at Tooth Fairy payouts – the first regular income that most children can expect to earn and save.

Tooth fairy pay-rates over the years: In the U.S., the average amount of money that the tooth fairy has paid for teeth has changed over the last 100 years. In 1900, it was 12c; in 1950, it was 25c; from 1980, it was $1, for the next decade; and in 2015, it was about $4. All up, a child can expect to earn about $80 nowadays, for trading in their entire set of baby teeth with the tooth fairy.

Did kids from ancient times have tooth decay? No. In anthropological studies, researchers have found little evidence of wide-spread tooth decay among children of the past. Why? According to the American Dental Association, this was because sugar was not included in their diet.

In Britain, at the start of the 18th century (1700s), the average sugar intake (in one year) was 1.8 kg. In the 19th century, it quadrupled. In the first half of the 20th century, it doubled again. Finally, in the last 50 years – the golden age of modern junk food – sugar intake has tripled, which leads us to the next question: What is the annual average sugar intake today? The average is approximately 140 kg!

Do other animals develop tooth decay and cavities? Animals generally don’t experience tooth decay and cavities, because they don’t eat sugar (or refined carbohydrates). That doesn’t mean they don’t have oral health problems. Cats and dogs can develop plaque, tartar and gum disease, just like humans.

How much of your tooth surface do you miss cleaning, if you don’t floss? 35%. Flossing is as necessary for good oral health as brushing your teeth. Floss once a day, before you go to bed. At night, your saliva production drops significantly, allowing oral bacteria to feast (and multiply) on food residue, as you sleep.

How many times do you use chew or bite in one year? 345,600 times, though this figure can vary depending on the kind of food you eat. At any rate, it pays to keep your teeth strong and healthy to do all that work!

Finally, what cheeses have been found to protect teeth and prevent tooth decay? Aged Cheddar, Swiss and Monterey Jack.

To be continued…

How oral health issues can impact on your overall health

How oral health issues can impact on your overall health

How oral health issues can impact on your overall health

How is oral health linked to your body health?

An oral health condition, like gum disease, can complicate a number of other diseases of the body and vice-versa.
Yet most people don’t know how wide-ranging and long-lasting, the effects of poor oral health actually are. People are more likely to worry about the appearance of their teeth.

aaff_logo_wohd_v4The World Oral Health Day 2016 aims to shed light on the association between poor oral health and other health conditions including:

  • Diabetes – Having a dry mouth condition may be a symptom of undetected diabetes. Inflammation of the gums may affect the body’s ability to utilize insulin also.
  • Heart disease – People with a heart condition may be at risk of infection from a dental procedure. This can occur when mouth bacteria enters the bloodstream, so a patient may require antibiotics. Recurrent gum infections can lead to blocked arteries also.
  • Osteoporosis – If your teeth are becoming weak and loose, this may be an early indication of osteoporosis – way before the usual symptoms, such as aches and pains, become noticeable.
  • Malnutrition – When you have missing teeth, or an oral condition that makes it difficult to eat, you may avoid certain foods. If these are foods are important to your health, you may miss out on the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
  • Getting prompt dental treatment for an oral health/cosmetic condition isn’t just about getting a filling or a whitening treatment. It is also crucial to avoid the long term effects of poor oral health on the rest of your body also.

    Don’t forget – If you have a healthy mouth, you’ll have a healthier body.