Oral Health 101: Why Bad Breath?

It’s the question everyone wants answered, but no one wants to ask. What is the deal with bad breath? Well here’s the hard facts behind it all. It comes back to bacteria and the food that we eat. No surprise there. Bad breath happens when the bacteria in your mouth mixes with certain foods. When these two elements mix together, the protein from the food is broken down and forms amino acids. The bacteria continue to break the amino acid down until it reaches a molecular level and sulfuric gases are released. And there you have it, bad breath is born.

Be warned, not all bad breath is created equal. Different bacteria and food combinations result in different types of smells from rotten eggs to the smell of overripe pineapples and nail polish emergency home solutions. Pay attention to the food you eat, and you’ll soon be able to find the exact trigger for your bad breath.

Normally, temporary bad breath is easily managed. Especially with quick tricks like: brush your teeth, chew sugarless gum or drink water after a meal. But if you do suffer from chronic bad breath, then you might need a stronger approach. Talk to your doctor because there may be underlying health issues manifesting through bad breath.

Tooth Decay and Kids

Dental caries, tooth decay, even plain old cavities. No matter what name you prefer, we seem to be turning a negligent eye to this silent and growing problem. A problem that is currently sweeping the nation and continuing to rise in its targeted group: children and youth. The NIDCR has said that dental caries is the most common chronic disease among youth aged 6-19 with 45.8% of them having treated or untreated dental caries.

There are many factors that contribute to a child’s odds of having dental caries such as the child’s genetics, the environment where he or she is living and/or his or her behavior in regard to personal hygiene and eating habits. Most of the time, the effects of these factors can be mitigated by daily oral hygiene as well as consistent visits to the dentist where they can get more information and regular teeth cleanings.

However, there are other factors that are not so easily managed: economic status and access to dental care. These factors are often overlooked despite the fact that they greatly increase a child’s chance of getting dental caries. Certain demographics cannot afford regular visits to the dentist, restricting their access to necessary information and services. When children have dental caries at a young age it can potentially lead to more dangerous health problems such as gum disease, periodontitis or tooth loss and affect the rest of their lives.

Implementing preventative habits such as brushing teeth daily and flossing is the first step in fighting against dental caries. In addition, limiting the consumption of sugar can lessen one’s chance for dental caries1. We must take an honest look at how to mitigate these factors if this silent epidemic is going to be understood and stopped.

1 Riva Touger-Decker, Cor van Loveren; Sugars and dental caries, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 78, Issue 4, 1 October 2003, Pages 881S–892S, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/78.4.881S

Oral Health 101: Cavities

We brush our teeth religiously hoping we never get the cavities our dentists warn us about, but do we actually know what a cavity is and how it happens?

Simply stated, a cavity forms when a tooth decays and breaks down thus forming a hole in your tooth.

 If it is not caught in time, that hole will continue to grow deeper into your tooth until it hits a nerve ending. This can cause some serious pain so it’s better to be on guard and catch one early.

Cavities are caused by the plaque on the outside of your teeth. How is that plaque made? Most of you were probably told that eating too much candy or sugar would cause your teeth to rot.

Well, it’s not actually the sugar that causes cavities. It’s acid.

The plaque in your mouth is made up of bacteria that produce acid when it breaks down sugar. In the beginning, this acid eats away at the enamel on the outside of your teeth. Although the enamel is supposed to be the outer protective layer, if the acid continues to eat away at it then it can punch through the enamel and create a cavity.

Although the majority of the time cavities can easily be repaired thanks to the handy work of a dentist they can also be easily prevented. Brushing your teeth, using mouthwash and flossing are three hygienic ways to keep your teeth healthy and bacteria acid at bay. But you can also prevent cavities by eating foods that contribute to weakening your teeth in moderation.

Oral Health 101: The pH of Your Mouth

If there was a category about oral health on Jeopardy no one would pick it. Let’s face it, for something that we use every single day to eat, drink and talk we know basically nothing about our mouths. But don’t fret just yet, we are going to talk about everything you need to know to understand the state of your mouth and become an informed mouth owner and user: starting with pH.

Most of us probably remember the pH scale from science class. But did you know that your mouth fluctuates on the pH scale? In case you’ve forgotten, the pH scale goes from 1 to 14, from most acidic to most alkaline. This means that a pH of 7 is neutral. With that in mind, teeth begin to demineralize at a pH of 5.5. When teeth demineralize they are at a higher risk for cavities/tooth decay. In order for your mouth to be healthy you need to maintain a pH level at or above neutral.

Now we put that into action. We know that acid weakens our teeth but where can this acid come from? Food is a main culprit. It’s important that when you eat highly acidic foods it’s done in moderation. Or you sip on some water after to restore the pH balance in your mouth. Maintaining a high pH can actually help your teeth to become stronger and remineralize, which prevents and even reverses cavities.

Oral Health 101: Tooth Decay Process

Ignorance may seem like bliss but it’s definitely not when it comes to your oral health. Being aware of what is happening to your teeth can help prevent undoable damage such as tooth decay. With limited information, people sometimes believe that tooth decay is a road you can’t turn back from. Luckily that is not always the case. If you are aware of the process, then you know when you can catch it and even reverse it.

Yes, you heard me right, you can actually reverse the process and stop a cavity from forming. But you have to know what you are looking for. Tooth decay happens when certain bacteria in your mouth use sugar to make acid which ultimately causes the cavity. Simply stated: acid causes tooth decay.

When your teeth are constantly being exposed to acid, this acid starts to wear away at your enamel. In the beginning, you may see white spots on your teeth because minerals on the outside of the tooth have been worn away. At this point in the process, it can still be reversed. The enamel can repair itself using other available minerals from saliva or fluoride. However, if the enamel is not restored then it will become weaker until it is completely destroyed, and a cavity is formed. Once a cavity is formed, the damage is permanent and needs to be taken care of by a dentist.

Oral Health’s Connection to Gut and Overall Health

From the tip of your tongue to the tip of your toes, the health of your body is a conglomeration of every organ, blood cell, body system and bit of bacteria, no matter where it is found in your body. And despite our societal separation between oral health and overall health those two are a stronger duo than peanut butter and jelly. That’s right, just two ole peas in a pod. And with that, the reasons to take better care of your oral health just doubled.

Good oral hygiene like brushing your teeth daily, occasionally flossing (let’s be real that’s the hardest one) and regularly visiting the dentist are important in keeping your teeth and gums healthy and keeping gum disease and cavities at bay. But wait, there’s more! When we have strong oral health, it is directly manifested through a strong gut and stronger overall health as well. Unfortunately, it’s the same in the opposite case as well.  

There is a clear connection between poor oral health/oral diseases and other health problems. For example, when your oral health is weak and plagued with periodontitis or gum disease it does not remain quarantined in your mouth. Cardiovascular disease has been linked to oral infections, diabetes has been tied to gum disease and research is currently being done to verify problems with pregnancy, premature births and low weight births being tied to periodontitis. The list goes on and the evidence becomes clearer: our oral health is the gateway to our overall health whether for good or for bad.

Through your oral health you can understand the health of the rest of your body. Take your gut for example. Everything that goes to your gut has to pass through your mouth first. A lot of the time, if there is something wrong with your gut it manifests itself in your mouth.

But when your gut is healthy it is also reflected in a healthy and bacterially balanced mouth. Two things you definitely want. Your gums don’t have lesions or ulcers and your teeth are stronger.

When you have problems with your oral health not only does it affect the systems of your bodies, but it affects you mentally. Not being able to eat nutritious foods because of tooth loss or mouth sores can change your mental health and weaken your physical abilities. Not being able to smile and confidently interact with others because of tooth decay can have long-term negative mental repercussions. Taking care of your oral health is the first step in taking care of your overall health.  

Casamassimo PS. Oral and systemic health. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 3, 2016.

Leishman, Shaneen J et al. “Cardiovascular disease and the role of oral bacteria” Journal of oral microbiology vol. 2 10.3402/jom.v2i0.5781. 21 Dec. 2010, doi:10.3402/jom.v2i0.5781

“Diabetes and Oral Health Problems” Diabetes, American Diabetes Association, 9 May 2018, http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/oral-health-and-hygiene/diabetes-and-oral-health.html

Dörtbudak, O. , Eberhardt, R. , Ulm, M. and Persson, G. R. (2005), Periodontitis, a marker of risk in pregnancy for preterm birth. Journal of Clinical Periodontology, 32: 45-52. doi:10.1111/j.1600-051X.2004.00630.x

Daley, Tom D and Jerrold E Armstrong. “Oral manifestations of gastrointestinal diseases” Canadian journal of gastroenterology = Journal canadien de gastroenterologie vol. 21,4 (2007): 241-4.

2 Clear Ways to Know If You Have a Cavity

Most people don’t realize that they have a cavity until they are laying back in that all too familiar dental chair with their dentist hovering over them. A pleasant experience. But how can you know you have a cavity before then and what exactly should you look for?

Here are 2 clear things to be aware of when it comes to cavities. Because the sooner they’re caught the better.

1.How Things Look: Visible holes in your teeth or brown, black or white staining.

I think we are all guilty of trying to multitask while brushing our teeth. Instead, focus on what you are doing and take the time to look at your teeth during and after. Besides the fact that you will brush better and more thoroughly because your full attention is on your mouth; you will also be more aware. Look around and occasionally check to see if there are any holes or discoloration in your teeth.

2. How Things Feel: Tooth sensitivity, pain when you’re eating or drinking something hot or cold or spontaneous pain.

This one will be noticed a lot quicker because we are more attuned to noticing pain than noticing slight aesthetic differences. With that being said, if you start to notice that a tooth is feeling sensitive or hurts don’t discount it and merely brush it off. It might be nothing, but it could also be a cavity that is potentially digging deeper into your tooth towards the nerve. It’s definitely better to be safe than sorry in this instance and you should schedule an appointment with your dentist.

In the beginning, you might not have any symptoms, so it is important to go to the dentist regularly and maintain a regular routine. But if you do have questions, it’s always a good idea to reach out to your dentist.

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