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Xylitol: A significant factor for improving your oral health

October 17th, 2017

Xylitol is a naturally occurring sweetener found in tree bark, plants, fruits, and vegetables. The human body also produces it in small amounts. It looks and tastes like sugar, so as part of a health regimen, most people require no willpower to use it.

Xylitol is safe (approved by the World Health Organization) because only a small amount is needed for health benefits. With a glycemic index of seven, it is safe for diabetics. It has less than three calories per gram and 40% fewer calories than other carbohydrates. If eaten in extremely large amounts too quickly, it has a laxative effect in humans.

Tooth decay happens when bacteria in your mouth consume the sugars you eat. When you eat food that contains ordinary sugar, it gives energy to the bacteria on your teeth, allowing them to multiply and start making acids that destroy the enamel on the teeth.

Since xylitol is a natural sweetener derived from the fibrous parts of plants, it does not break down like sugar, so it helps maintain a neutral pH level in the mouth. Xylitol also prevents bacteria from sticking to the teeth because they are unable to digest it. That is how it protects the teeth from cavities.

With xylitol, the acid attack is diminished. With less bacteria and acid, your teeth stay healthier. The frequency of xylitol ingestion is important: aim for five grams a day, or one gram every three hours.

Studies of xylitol use as either a sugar substitute or a small dietary addition have demonstrated a dramatic reduction in new cavities. It has also stopped and even reversed some existing cavities. This effect is long lasting and possibly permanent. Low cavity rates persist even years after the trials have been completed.

Xylitol needs to be one of the first ingredients in a product to be effective. It is convenient and easy to use. You can find it in health food stores and specialty grocery stores. Xylitol can be delivered to your teeth in chewing gum, tablets, or even candy and mints.

It also comes in toothpaste, mouth rinse, baby oral wipes, gel and pacifiers, nasal wash, dry mouth spray, a granulated form for cooking, granulated packets to add to drinks, and commercially prepared foods. It can replace sugar on a one-to-one ratio.

Sweet rewards in xylitol are good for the body and the teeth! If you have specific questions please feel free to contact Stephen C. Smith Periodontics, Laser and Implant Dentistry. We look forward to seeing you soon!

What are mini implants used for?

October 10th, 2017

The use of mini dental implants (MDIs) is on the rise. MDIs are about the diameter of a toothpick (1.8 to 2.9 millimeters with lengths between ten to 18 millimeters) and are primarily used to secure loose upper or lower dentures or partial dentures.

MDIs are particularly useful for patients who suffer from osteoporosis or otherwise aren't well enough to get the bone grafts sometimes required by traditional dental implants. Their diminutive size also allows them to replace smaller teeth where the placement of a dental implant isn't feasible or called for.

Some of the benefits of MDIs include:

  • The procedure is quicker and less invasive – Since MDIs don’t require the cutting of gum tissue or sutures, Dr. Stephen C. Smith can place the implant quickly, resulting in a shorter healing process. MDIs go directly through the gum tissue and into the jawbone.
  • Lower cost – MDIs run in the range of $500 to $1500, whereas traditional dental implants can cost around $4,000.
  • Less risk of surgical error – Since MDIs don't go as deep into the tissue or jawbone, there is less risk of surgical error, like hitting a nerve or sinus cavity.
  • Can be used in thinner areas of the jawbone – Since MDIs don't require as much gum tissue or jawbone, they can be used in thinner areas of the jawbone, where a traditional dental implant would require a bone graft.

Although there are many advantages to MDIs, they aren't for everyone or every situation. There are some drawbacks, especially when it comes to their durability and stability. MDIs also haven't been studied nearly as much as dental implants.

Whatever your situation, it's best to speak with Dr. Stephen C. Smith about your options, and whether an MDI or a dental implant would work best for your specific case. Schedule an appointment at our Carmel, Monterey, Morgan Hill, CA office to learn more.

Crushing the Ice-Chewing Habit

October 3rd, 2017

It's a habit many people have and not only can it be annoying to the people around you, it can be detrimental to your dental health. Chewing ice is so common that it even has its own name, pagophagia. We're not talking about a slushy or shaved ice (although those artificially sugary treats should be avoided too!) but more like the hunks of ice rattling around in the bottom of your glass.

Ice chewing can be a sign of emotional problems like stress or obsessive-compulsive disorder, but it can also be a marker for iron deficiency anemia and other physical problems. Then again, some people just like to have something to chew on. For whatever reason you find yourself chewing on it, it's a habit you need to break.

Chewing on ice can cause:

  • Chipped and cracked teeth
  • Damaged enamel
  • Sore jaw muscles
  • Damage to dental work such as crowns, fillings, or other appliances

If chewing on ice is becoming a problem in your life, don’t hesitate to speak with Dr. Stephen C. Smith about it. But if you find yourself still wanting to chew on something, here are a few alternatives to ice:

  • Baby carrots
  • Celery sticks
  • Sugar-free (xylitol) gum

We know you need to chill sometimes, but chomping down your entire glass of ice is not the way to do it. If you have any other questions on the topic, feel free to talk with a member of our Carmel, Monterey, Morgan Hill, CA team. It may be beneficial in solving the issue and helping to remediate any damage to your teeth.

Diet Soda vs. Regular Soda: Which is better for teeth?

September 26th, 2017

When most patients ask Dr. Stephen C. Smith this question, they're thinking strictly about sugar content — cut out the bacteria-feeding sugar that's present in regular soda by opting for a diet soda and it will be better for your teeth. That seems logical, right? Well, there's a bit more to it than that. Let's take a closer look at how any kind of soda can affect your dental health.

Diet Soda – Why it can also lead to tooth decay

The main culprit in these drinks that leads to decay is the acid content. Diet sodas and other sugar-free drinks are usually highly acidic, which weakens the enamel on your teeth and makes them more susceptible to cavities and dental erosion. The level of phosphoric acid, citric acid, and/or tartaric acid is usually high in sugar-free drinks so it's best to avoid them.

Some patients also enjoy drinking orange juice or other citrus juices. These drinks are high in citric acid and have the same effect on the enamel of your teeth.

So what about regular soda?

We know the acidity of diet sodas and sugar-free drinks contributes to tooth decay, so what about regular soda? Like we alluded to earlier, regular soda is high in sugar — a 12 ounce can contains roughly ten teaspoons of sugar — and sugar feeds the decay-causing bacteria in the mouth. This also includes sports drinks and energy drinks, which are highly acidic and loaded with sugar too. So these drinks are a double-whammy of sugar and acidity your teeth and body simply don't need.

The problems caused by both diet and regular soda is exacerbated when you sip on them throughout the day. If you drink it all in one sitting, you won't be washing sugar and/or acids over your teeth all day long and your saliva will have a chance to neutralize the pH in your mouth.

The best beverages to drink and how to drink them

Drinking beverages that are lower in acid is a good step to take to keep your enamel strong. According to a study conducted by Matthew M. Rodgers and J. Anthony von Fraunhofer at the University of Michigan, your best bets are plain water, black tea or coffee, and if you opt for a soda, root beer. These drinks dissolved the least amount of enamel when measured 14 days after consumption of the beverage.

If you still choose to drink soda, diet soda, sugar-free drinks, or juices here are some other tips to lessen tooth decay:

  • Drink your soda or acidic beverages through a straw to minimize contact with teeth
  • Rinse with water immediately after consumption of the beverage
  • Avoid brushing your teeth between 30 minutes to an hour after drinking the beverage as this has been shown to spread the acids before your saliva can bring your mouth back to a neutral pH
  • Avoid drinks that have acids listed on the ingredients label

Still have questions about soda, sugar, and acid? Give our Carmel, Monterey, Morgan Hill, CA office a call and we’d be happy to help!

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