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Foods that Can Harm Enamel

July 20th, 2018

Many people who are careful about brushing and flossing their teeth wonder how they still end up with cavities or tooth decay. Several factors affect wear and tear on tooth enamel. Diet is a major factor, with certain foods increasing the likelihood that your enamel will become discolored or decayed. Pay close attention to the foods you eat to keep your pearly whites looking healthy and clean.

What causes enamel damage?

Tooth enamel refers to the hard, semi-translucent, whitish part of the tooth that shows above your gums. The enamel is primarily composed of minerals that are strong but susceptible to highly acidic foods. When acid reacts with the minerals in enamel, it results in tooth decay. Strongly pigmented foods can also damage enamel by discoloring the surface of the tooth.

Foods that harm enamel

Acidic foods are the greatest source of enamel damage. To determine whether a food is acidic, look up its pH. Scientists use pH, on a one-to-seven scale, to define the relative acidity or alkalinity of a substance. Foods with low pH levels, between a one and three, are high in acidity and may damage your enamel. Foods with high pH levels, such as a six or seven, are far less likely to cause enamel harm.

So which foods should you avoid? Many fruits are high in acidity, including lemons, grapefruit, strawberries, grapes, and apples. The high sugar and acid content in soda makes it another huge contributor to enamel decay. Moderately acidic foods include pineapple, oranges, tomatoes, cottage cheese, maple syrup, yogurt, raisins, pickles, and honey. The foods that are least likely to cause enamel damage include milk, most cheeses, eggs, and water.

Beverages such as red wine and coffee also damage the enamel by discoloring it. Although stains do not necessarily undermine the integrity of your teeth, they can be unsightly.

What can I do to prevent enamel damage?

Fortunately, there are several measures you can take to prevent your enamel from discoloring or decaying. The easiest way to avoid decay is to steer clear of high-acidity foods. This may not always be possible, but eliminating sugary fruit juices and soda from your diet is a good start. Brushing your teeth after each meal and flossing frequently also preserves your enamel. Another good idea is to rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash after eating to wash away high-acidity particles.

Although enamel damage is common, it does not have to be an inevitable occurrence. Knowing the foods that harm your teeth gives you the tools to prevent discoloration and decay. With some easy preventive measures, your teeth will stay strong and white for years to come! Give us a call at John B. Witte, DDS, PC to learn more!

Anxiety, Phobia, and Fear of the Dentist

July 13th, 2018

Not many people look forward to going to the dentist, especially if you already know that you need dental work done. A small amount of anxiety is one thing, but dental phobia, or odontophobia, is something else entirely. It is an irrational fear of going to the dentist. If you have it, you might be unable to force yourself to go to the dentist, even if you are suffering from bad tooth pain. The effects of dental phobia can be serious, but there are ways to overcome your fear of the dentist to help you achieve and maintain good oral health.

Causes of Dental Phobia

You can develop dental phobia for a variety of reasons, including the following.

  • Fear of pain, which you might acquire based on others’ horror stories of their trips to the dentist.
  • Fear of needles, such as those used to provide anesthesia.
  • A previous bad experience, when something went wrong and pain was intolerable.
  • Lack of control from not knowing what is happening or how uncomfortable a procedure might be.

Consequences of Dental Phobia

Avoiding the dentist can have long-term consequences. When caught early, tooth decay is easily stopped with a minor filling. If you let the decay go, you can end up losing your tooth and have chronic pain. A dentist can also check for early signs of gum disease, which, if left untreated, could lead to losing one or more teeth.

Even if you do not have a particular problem, going to a dentist for regular cleanings is a good idea because the hygienist can point out where you need to brush better and remove the plaque from your teeth.

Getting Over Fear of the Dentist

Most patients with dental phobia can get over their condition. These are some approaches that Dr. John Witte and our team recommend:

  • Explain each step of the process
  • Let you know that you can stop the procedure at any time
  • Encourage you to come with a family member or friend
  • Help you with deep breathing techniques

Sports and Energy Drink Consumption Damages Tooth Enamel

July 6th, 2018

While they may sound refreshing, especially after participating in sports activities or after a jog, recent studies suggest that energy and sports drinks can damage tooth enamel, thus elevating your cavity risk. These drinks are especially popular among our younger patients.

In the study, researchers analyzed the fluoride content and pH levels of 13 sports and nine energy drinks by soaking tooth enamel samples in the aforementioned drinks. The samples were soaked for 15 minutes in each drink, and then were soaked for two hours in artificial saliva four times a day for five days.

As much as sports drinks are harmful to your teeth, researchers found that exposure to energy drinks such as Rockstar, Monster®, and Red Bull® resulted in twice as much enamel loss as exposure to sports drinks such as Powerade®, Gatorade®, and Propel® (3.1 percent to 1.5 percent).

Yes, there are health benefits to consuming orange juice, fruit juices, sports drinks, and flavored waters, which can contain valuable ingredients such as vitamin C and other antioxidants; these drinks can also replenish nutrients lost during a sporting event and lower the chance of heart disease and cancer. But, if not consumed carefully, these beverages can harm your teeth. They are full of sugar, which converts to acid and wears away at your teeth, causing cavities, sensitivity, and eventually tooth loss.

Even one drink a day is potentially harmful, but if you are absolutely unable to give up that sports or energy drink habit, we encourage you to minimize their use and rinse with water afterward or chew a sugar-free piece of gum. Do not brush immediately after drinking them; softened enamel due to acid is easier to damage, even when brushing. Remember, it takes your mouth approximately 30 minutes to bring its pH level back to normal. The best thing to do is to wait an hour, then brush to remove sugar that lingers on your teeth and gums.

There are many sports drinks, energy drinks, and flavored waters out there today. Dr. John Witte and our team recommend you take the time to read the labels. Check for sugar content and citric acid in the ingredients. If you have any questions, or would like suggestions on the best sports drink options, please give us a call at our Arlington, TX office or ask us during your next visit!

Chewing Gum: Fact and Fiction

June 29th, 2018

Remember all the things your parents would tell you when you were growing up to scare you away from doing something? Like how lying might make your nose grow, misbehaving meant you wouldn’t get money from the tooth fairy, and swallowed chewing gum would build up in your stomach and stay there for years?

Maybe that last one stayed with you well beyond your teens, and occurred to you every time you accidentally (or purposely) swallowed a piece of gum. We don’t blame you. It’s a scary thought.

But is it true?

We hate to take the fun out of parental discipline, but swallowing a piece of chewing gum is pretty much like swallowing any other piece of food. It will move right through your digestive system with no danger of getting stuck for months, let alone seven years.

This doesn’t mean you should start swallowing all your gum from now on, but if it happens accidentally now and then, there’s no need to panic.

Another common gum myth is that sugar-free gum can help you lose weight. Although it is preferable to choose sugar-free gum over the extra-sweet variety, no studies have show that sugar-free gum will help you lose weight.

If you pop a piece of gum in your mouth after dinner to avoid dessert, it could help you avoid eating a few extra calories every day. But the consumption of sugar-free gum without any other effort will not help you shed pounds.

 If you really enjoy chewing gum, we strongly encourage you to select sugarless gum, because it lowers your risk for cavities. Many brands of sugarless gum contain xylitol, a natural sweetener that can, in fact, help fight bacteria that cause cavities and rinse away plaque.

So if you can’t kick the gum habit altogether, sugar-free is definitely the way to go!

If you have any questions about chewing gum, feel free to contact Dr. John Witte at our Arlington, TX office.