Clean your tongue for better oral & general health!

Clean your tongue for better oral & general health!

Keeping your tongue clean is an important part of oral health care and hygiene. Why? Because oral bacteria can build up on your tongue, just like it does on your teeth.

If excess bacteria accumulate on your tongue, you may experience halitosis or bad breath. But that’s not all. You may also be at higher risk of more serious oral health complications, such as oral infections, periodontal disease and lung infections.

Daily tongue cleaning reduces your risk of gum disease (periodontal disease)

Cleaning your tongue is very important if you want to reduce pathogenic tongue bacteria. Take Fusobacterium Nucleatum for example. It is a highly invasive bacterium that causes periodontal (gum) disease.

F. Nucleatum feed off fermenting carbohydrates and cause dental plaque. These microorganisms live quite comfortably in the mucus on your tongue. They can proliferate into huge colonies within tongue mucus, which can contain 100s of millions of these nasty rod-shaped critters. Now imagine brushing your teeth, but not your tongue.

What happens next?

As soon as you put down your toothbrush and close your mouth, your bacterially coated tongue is going to redeposit millions of bacteria straight back onto the teeth you’ve just cleaned! F. Nucleatum can also infect the head, neck, chest, lungs, liver and abdomen if given the opportunity.

Tongue cleaning may help prevent lung infections

Tongue cleaning is a crucial part of a general health routine to help prevent pathogenic bacteria from spreading to the rest of your body. Many previous clinical studies have shown that you can inhale aspirated oral bacteria from your mouth straight into your lungs. This can lead to health complications if your immune system is under par.

According to a new study published by Japanese dental researchers in August 2018, a bacterial imbalance on your tongue can lead to pneumonia and other respiratory health problems – especially if you are an older adult with missing teeth, high plaque levels and more tooth decay than usual.

The Japanese researchers noted that equal attention should be given to maintaining proper oral care of the tongue, as well as the teeth and gums, for good oral health.

Graphic health labels on soft drinks give drinkers second thoughts

Graphic health labels on soft drinks give drinkers second thoughts

Sugar is the new tobacco. For years, the side effects of excess sugar consumption have stayed under the radar of the Department of Health. Now, it’s finally under scrutiny, since being identified as a contributing factor to rising rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and preventable tooth decay – in Australia and the rest of the world.

The front-of-pack label experiment

Taking their cue from tobacco “front-of-pack” health labelling, researchers from Deakin University wanted to find out if a similar approach could work with consumers of sugary drinks. In their recent study, the researchers asked 1000 participants, aged 18-35 years old, to select from a range of sugary and unsweetened beverages with or without health labels.

While the unsweetened beverages had no labels, the sugary ones had health labels that included front-of-pack graphic/text warnings, the number of teaspoons of added sugar and/or a Health Star Rating.

The results

The Australian researchers found that participants felt dissuaded to choose a sugary drink with a front-of-pack health label or a low Health Star Rating – for health reasons.

Front-of-pack graphic warning labels had the greatest impact – with 36% of participants saying they were less likely to a sugary drink with one. Health Star Ratings labels scored 20%, while “number of teaspoons of added sugar” labels scored 18%.

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Time for action

The lead author of the study, Prof. Anna Peeters, stated that front-of-pack health labelling on sugary drink containers has the potential to: change consumer behaviour; reduce sugary drink sales; prevent excessive sugar consumption; and help people to be better informed and more health conscious about their drink choices.

Since sugary drinks are the largest source of added sugar in our diets, Peeters noted that a front-of-pack health labelling strategy should be introduced as soon as possible, to help reduce the high rates of obesity, type-2 diabetes and preventable tooth decay in Australia.
Peeters also noted that front-of-pack health labels should be designed with children and adolescents in mind, since they represent the highest consumer group of sugary beverages in Australia.

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Snack smart during World Cup 2018

Snack smart during World Cup 2018

If you’ve been binge watching the FIFA World Cup on TV, your teeth won’t be at risk from a direct hit to the face from a soccer ball, unlike the actual players in the game. However, you may be putting your teeth at risk if you binge snack at the same time.

Binge watching and binge snacking often go hand in hand during World Cup time, not to mention other marathon sporting events and streaming services, such as Netflix.

The dangers of binge snacking

Sugary or starchy snacks eaten in moderation are okay, as long as you practice good oral care and hygiene afterwards. But when you watch a marathon TV event all through the night, those rules often fly out the window.

In fact, you may be susceptible to all sorts of abnormal snacking behaviour while you binge watch. If you happen to fall asleep on the sofa with a mouthful of sugary food residue at 2am, another World Cup party of a different kind will start up for the billions of oral bacteria in your mouth.

Within a short space of time, the acidic by-products from the oral bacteria will start to eat away at your tooth enamel, causing accelerated tooth decay and potential cavities.

Plan your snacks the smart way

Take control of your binge snacking by limiting the amount of snacks you consume. If you are watching a game, eat your fill of snacks during the first quarter of a game to get yourself going. At half-time, take an oral hygiene break by rinsing your mouth and/or brushing your teeth.

Once the 2nd half starts up, settle down for the rest of the match with a clean, fresh mouth. If you fall asleep towards the end of the game – no worries! If you watch another match and still feel hungry, repeat the process.

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Smart snack choices

Not all snacks are harmful to your teeth – just the sugary, starchy ones. There are heaps of healthy snack choices, including: fresh fruits and vegetables; unsweetened whole grains; unsweetened dairy products; and meats, nuts & seeds.
The main SMART SNACK tips to keep in mind:

  • DON”T BINGE! – Limit your intake of sugary and/or starchy snacks while watching TV
  • Avoid sipping sweetened beverages for long periods of time
  • Include a variety of foods from different food groups
  • Quickly rinse your mouth out with water after snacking to wash away food residue
  • Brush your teeth just before you finally hit the sack

Dental emergencies

Dental emergencies

Dental emergencies can occur at any time, and usually involve injury to your teeth or mouth, severe toothache, bleeding, oral infections and swelling. During these events, it is important to stay calm and make sure that you take rational steps to minimise further damage and prevent potential tooth loss.

Seeking emergency treatment

In any dental emergency event, seek immediate treatment from a dental professional. Seeing a dentist within 30 min may be a critical window of opportunity if you want to save a severely damaged or knocked-out tooth.

Almost all dentists have emergency slots in their schedules so you can receive emergency promptly. It’s important to call your dentist at the time of the emergency also, because they can advise you over the phone on crucial first aid steps you can take before you make it to the clinic.

If the emergency occurs at night or on a weekend, then look up the nearest clinic or hospital that handles after hours dental emergencies in your area.

Types of dental emergencies

Dental emergencies include the following:

  • Severe toothache
  • Chipped, fractured and broken teeth
  • Knocked out teeth
  • Lost crowns, overlays, inlays and crowns
  • Bitten lips, tongue or cheek
  • Bleeding from lips, teeth and cheeks
  • Trauma to soft tissue
  • Localised oral infection, abscesses, and swelling in the teeth or gums
  • Jaw injury and pain

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Prevention

You can avoid, prevent, or at the very least, minimise the damage from dental emergency accidents – before they happen.

If you engage in contact sports or risky recreational activities, wear the right safety gear. With regard to protection from potential oral injuries and trauma, wear a safety helmet, if appropriate, and a custom-fitted sports mouthguard – even during training sessions.

Don’t use your teeth as a utensil to open packages or plastic containers – you’re asking for trouble. Use scissors instead. Avoid chewing and crunching down on hard foods or objects to prevent tooth chips or fractures, and be wary of some types of chewing candy that can even lift out fillings and inlays.

Last but not least, maintain your oral health by brushing and flossing twice a day, and seeing your dentist twice a year for a preventative check up and clean!

The worst foods and drinks for tooth sensitivity

The worst foods and drinks for tooth sensitivity

The most prevalent factors that contribute to tooth sensitivity are the foods we eat, and the beverages we drink. There are two main effects that food and beverages have on tooth sensitivity:

  1. Foods (and drinks) that are hot, cold, sweet and/or sour can trigger a brief episode of sharp pain because of their temperature and chemical properties.
  2. Consuming refined carbohydrates that are high in sugar and starch, as well as sweetened beverages, can lead to plaque formation, tooth decay and dental erosion – all of which expose tooth roots and pulp, and increase the potential for tooth sensitivity.

In other words, there are foods that trigger tooth sensitivity, and foods that cause it.

But beware, there are also foods that pack a double whammy – foods (and drinks) that cause tooth decay and/or erosion, while triggering and increasing tooth sensitivity episodes at the same time.

By recognising and understanding how to regulate your consumption of these hot/ cold/sweet/ sour combination foods, you can actively keep your oral PH neutral – and avoid subjecting your tooth enamel to destructive high acid PH levels for sustained periods of time.

If you have tooth sensitivity, try to avoid the following foods and beverages to help minimise and prevent the causes and symptoms of tooth sensitivity:

  • Soft drinks (including alcohol and artificially sweetened sports and diet soft drinks).
  • Hot sweet coffee.
  • Hard or chewy candy (especially citrus varieties with granulated sugar)
  • Ice cream and gelato.
  • Citrus fruit (incl. lemons, limes, grapefruit, oranges and grapes)
  • Processed fruit juices (incl. orange and cranberry)
  • Tomatoes
  • Icy frozen drinks or slushies

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It should be noted that natural acidic foods have numerous health benefits for our general health and well-being that you shouldn’t miss out on.

To continue enjoying these foods, brush your teeth with desensitising toothpaste to strengthen your tooth enamel, and protect your teeth from tooth sensitivity. If your tooth sensitivity problems persist or intensify, seek professional advice from your dentist.

What are the treatment options for periodontal (gum) disease?

What are the treatment options for periodontal (gum) disease?

Periodontal disease is all too common in Australia, and chances are, you may have some form of the disease if you are aged over 45. Once you have it, it’s unlikely that you’ll be cured completely, since it is a chronic condition much like diabetes. But with ongoing periodontal maintenance, you can control the condition and prevent a recurrence of its more severe form.

One of the main treatment goals when dealing with gum disease is to control the bacterial infection as soon as possible, and prevent any further damage to your teeth, gums and bone.

There are a number of treatment methods used to treat different stages of the disease.

In its earlier stages, all that may be required is a deep clean, but as plaque, tartar and bacteria penetrate deep below the gum line, more complicated treatment methods may be required. Additionally, keeping up good oral care and hygiene at home is vitally important to prevent plaque and tartar from building up again, and to improve dental treatment outcomes.

The main treatment options for periodontal disease:

  • Deep cleaning is a professional dental clean of tooth surfaces that may include fluoride and polish treatments.
  • Scaling is a method where dental tools are used to scrap off and halt the progression of tartar (hardened plaque) above and below the gum line.
  • Root planing is a deeper cleaning procedure used to remove plaque and tartar from periodontal pockets below the gum line. This method smooths out rough tooth root surfaces, which allows gum tissue to heal and reattach firmly to tooth surfaces, and prevent redevelopment of plaque and tartar.
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  • Antibiotics and medication may be required to treat bacterial infection that has not responded to deep cleaning and oral hygiene treatment.
  • Gingival flap surgery is required if tartar and bacteria are located near the root of the affected tooth. The gums are surgically separated and folded back temporarily from the teeth to allow a dentist to remove plaque and tartar, treat bacteria and repair damage due to gum disease. Then the gum “flap” is repositioned, so that the gum can heal and reattach to your tooth.
  • Bone and gum tissue grafts can be used during flap surgery to promote bone regeneration and replace recessed gum tissue.
  • Dental implants are artificial tooth roots that are used to replace teeth lost to periodontal disease. Once implanted in the jaw, a crown is attached and the damaged tooth is restored to its normal function and appearance.
  • Reassessment and periodontal maintenance care are used to monitor a patient’s periodontal health, and help prevent periodontal disease from reoccurring in patients who have undergone periodontal or dental implant treatment.

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!

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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.

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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.